From Palmer, Alaska, Clara and I drove north to Fairbanks.
It was a gorgeous drive that offered a stunning view of Mount Denali—the highest mountain peak in North America. With a summit elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level, the top half of the mountain is almost always covered with clouds. It is said that only one out of every three visitors see the mountain in its entirety. We got lucky!
We made a stop in Denali National Park. I was so excited to be inside this epic country boasting six million acres of wild land. We marveled at the low-elevation taiga forest as it gave way to high alpine tundra, eventually touching the sky through snowy mountains. Being in such an untouched landscape full of beauty and wildlife was an extraordinary opportunity. Unfortunately, we arrived 3 days after the beginning of the bus tours into the park.
“This just means we will have to come back to Alaska one day,” I said to Clara after we snapped a photo in front of the “Welcome to Denali,” wooden sign.
Before settling in Fairbanks, our point of departure for this journey, Clara and I took a drive up to Chena Hot Springs. This is a gorgeous natural hot spring and lodge situated just north of Denali National Park.
“This is the way to rest before a long journey,” Clara said to me while we soaked in the warm water.
The natural, hot-spring lake offered a stunning view of the surrounding forest and mountains. After enjoying our time in the hot water, we turned the temperature down, way down, inside the Aurora Ice Museum.
“This is the world’s largest year-round ice hotel and bar,” our guide said while we put on our heavy winter jackets.
The museum, completed in 2005, stays a cool -7 degrees Celsius all year round. You can visit the ice structure for an apple martini and a tour of the ice sculptures, or go all out and spend a night inside, sleeping on an ice bed.
With the tips of my fingers frozen and feeling well rested and revitalized from the hot spring, we drove south to Fairbanks. With the horses arriving in a few days, there was a lot to get done before I started riding south.