You can’t get there from here

One of the disappointments of our stay in Denali National Park was not gaining closer access to the fabled peak via the Park Road. Climate change has a number of disadvantages, including the story of this road.
Currently, visitors may only travel to mile 43 of the 92-mile access towards Denali. The road was built atop permafrost, and warming temperatures caused the roadbed to slip every year until it finally gave way entirely.
It was not an overnight slip, though.
Climate change, warmer winters and rain impacted the bit of road near the formation dubbed “Pretty Rocks” on “Polychrome Pass.” The area, according to park information has been subject to rock slides since “at least the 1960s,” but only required major maintenance every two to three years as the roadbed started to slip. Initially, in the 1990s, landslides below the high road caused cracks in the road’s surface. By 2018, the road slipped at a rate of almost a half inch a day, increasing to three-and-a-half inches by August of 2020. In early August of 2021 rains lubricated the whole area, the land moving at more than 10 inches per day.
There are some pretty cool time-lapse photographs at https://www.nps.gov/dena/learn/nature/pretty-rocks.htm.

The photo looks over the landslide area from one side of the former road to the other.

Meanwhile, we were able to glimpse the famous peak numerous times, thanks to warm and dry weather that kept clouds from covering the snow-capped Denali. The Mat-Su Valley blog has information on ways to see the mountain, but the season is rapidly drawing to a close. It’s Alaska, folks.
Several bus rides were available when we were at the park, to take us to the interior, one route of taking riders to mile 42ish of the Denali Road. From that roadblock, one was able to hike a pretty good incline (two-plus to three miles or so) to one edge of the collapsed section of road. There, we were able to see the dramatic drop.
We speculate we picked up our minor cases of COVID while riding (masked) on one or another of the bus rides we found. We were fully immunized and boosted.
In the photo, in the background, is the other section of road. Each side has instrumentation to further monitor slippage, if any, as park officials decide what to do about road restoration.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s