Much to the protests of those who care about me most (Hi Mom!), I've been traveling the country and sleeping in my car for years. For a cash strapped (read: poor) college student, it meant still being able to explore the country on a tight budget. It was also the perfect solution for the wandering soul in me.
If I was lucky, this meant a tent at a campsite, but usually it just meant the back seat of my vehicle in a random parking lot. Even now, in a better place financially, I tend to prefer this method of rest when traveling. It's ingrained in my head now and opens up a lot more adventures. So when buying Clif nearly two weeks ago, it dawned on me how comfortable it was going to be to sleep in my new Jeep. (I had even asked the salesperson if he minded my putting the seats down and stretching out. He thought I was joking, until he walked out of the dealership and found me stretched out across the back. Despite being a friend of Brian's, he clearly doesn't know me.)
So my first free night, Bosco & I took off for Denali National Park, equipped with all the goods for a quick overnight adventure. We drove as close to the park as we could manage before the lack of sleep started winning, and pulled into a turnout in my favorite valley in all of Alaska for the night. Never have I slept so safely, comfortably, or soundly in my car travels. I drifted away to the sound of rain gently falling on the roof of the Jeep while the stars and northern lights occasionally peeked through above.
I awoke to the sunrise starting to come up at 5:30 the next morning. It was 20 degrees out, which of course meant that despite wanting to get my day started, I did not want to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag. I begrudgingly lifted my arm out of my cocoon of warmth and snatched up my keys from their safe spot. From there I laid my head back down and relaxed for another few minutes. Before long, my car was toasty warm and I was feeling incredibly spoiled by my new auto start. Before the sun crested the Alaska range, Bosco and I were back on the road.
Unless you're lucky enough to win a pass for the fall road lottery, you usually have to take a bus down the road into the park. However, for just a few days each spring (the exact dates depends on the snowpack that winter) the road opens up for a few extra miles before the busses start running. During that window, you are able to drive further into the park than normal. The entire purpose of this trip was to take advantage of that window.
We were driving down the part road by 6am; just as the sun was starting to creep over the tops of the mountains. We had the park to ourselves the entire length of the drive, which ended at about mile 30 on the Teklanika River.
I never saw another person until driving out the second time. Yes, it was so awesome to have the 'whole park' to myself that I drove the 60 some odd miles in and out.
As the weather starts warming in Alaska, I can't help but get excited for the upcoming adventures to be had...