Winter is the time for dreaming, and planning, the following summer's vacation, which makes Bill Sherwonit's book on Denali National Park a good resource to turn to.
True, many of us might never make it to Alaska to visit Denali. But Denali National Park: The Complete Visitors Guide To The Mountain, Wildlife, And Year-Round Outdoor Activities entices us not only with details on campgrounds and hiking trails, but digs deeper to provide history of the area dating back to the Ice Age and helpful information on wildlife.
The author comes to the task with more than a little experience. He's a wilderness advocate and nature writer in Alaska whose resume lists a dozen books and a wealth of articles and essays. Back in 2011 he graced Traveler's pages with a column concerning sport hunting of brown bears in Katmai National Preserve. That piece examined the ethical aspects of sport hunting in the preserve.
In this, Mr. Sherwonit's latest book, the author serves up a rich resource for visiting Denali National Park and Preserve not only in summer, but also in winter. After all, as he points out, "For most of the year, the Denali experience is defined by snow rather than mosquitoes, darkness rather than daylight, subzero cold rather than warm sunshine, mushing rather than wildlife viewing or hiking."
"Spanning more than seven months - from late September or early October into May -- the subarctic winter is in most ways a more intimidating season to humans. But its possibilities and beauties are no less alluring: adventuresome dog sled travels, sparkling clear skies, luminous auroral displays, and vast expanses of white."
To help you enjoy that season in Denali, this book provides information on camping, food and lodging in winter, as well as access into the park and trails, plus a gear list for winter essentials.
But most of us think of Denali as a summer destination, and that's where this book lives the most. Along with sections on the natural resources -- ample attention is given to bears and how to avoid them, wolves, caribou, raptors such as bald and golden eagles, even ptarmigans and mew gulls -- we're given the tools to explore Denali from its Park Road, the main corridor travelers take into the park.
Maps point out where the park campgrounds are located, and supporting text details each campground. We're also provided details on the available bus tours, how to reserve a seat on them, and what to watch for.
On their ascent to Polychrome Pass, bus passengers are presented one of Denali's most spectacular vistas. Upon reaching a designated overlook site, they're allowed to briefly exit the bus and breathe in the sweeping panorama, take photographs, and/or explore a small trail, uphill of the road, that loops among tundra wildflowers and presents additional views of more distance Outer Range mountains. Far below the road, and to the south, broad lowlands once covered by glaciers and now dissected by stream channels flow from the Alaska Range foothills toward Polychrome Mountain. Six branches of the East Fork River flow across these alluvial plains, which range up to 5 miles wide.
Thumb to the middle of the book and you're treated to 16 pages of full-color photos from the park: shots of climbers on Mount McKinley, grizzlies grazing in berry fields, a pair of snow-white dall sheep on rock outcrops.
It's more than enough to create dreams of visiting Denali one day.