Denali Park Road – Mt McKinley

This post is part of a series on the Traveling the Denali Park Road – to read the series from the beginning, click here.

By 11:15am we are ready to be out of the bus again. The National Park Service has graciously given us the opportunity to step out on the lower road edge below Stony Hill lookout.  When the big mountain is out you can practically feel the power and energy coming off of it even though it’s still 33 miles away! Back in 1906 on an clear early spring day Charles Sheldon probably saw very nearly the exact same view. He was so inspired that he spent 9 years of his life and part of his personal fortune to have the region protected.

Denali was formed beginning 60 million years ago as a volcano. Unlike the Polychrome mountains it erupted and hardened underground. It is technically a granite pluton. Over the 60 million year period, because of pressure from the tectonic activity of the pacific plate sub ducting under the continental shelf, it has been forced skyward. One theory put forward is that the pacific plate, called the Kula plate, abruptly turned 90 degrees and butted up against the continental shelf, accelerating the rise of the McKinley massif. That’s how some geologists explain the fact that the mountain rises 17’000 feet higher than the surrounding foothills. That’s one of the highest rises of any mountain in the world, not the highest though. On a clear day it can be seen from Fairbanks, almost like it’s floating above the surrounding plane.

By now everybody knows how to play the game. “So what are those green buses looking at?” someone shouts. Could it be? More bears. Indeed, momma and cubs holding court, and off we go.

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