Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An Incredible Day at Denali

We had an incredible time on a 12-hour bus ride through Denali. Still no view of Mt. McKinley but it truly did not matter. We saw so much wildlife, even the bus driver was impressed. Today's blog is going to be all about what we saw, since that's what the day was all about.

Here is the big green bus we drove through Denali.
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You are only allowed to drive in to the park about 15 miles in your own vehicle. After that you have to be on a tour bus or have a special permit. There are campgrounds inside the park so you can get permission to go to those. The road is unpaved once you go through the "Wilderness Access" gate.

Our bus driver's name was Jeremy. He was a big, tall guy with a deep voice. He had a kind of childlike manner, very eager to please and share his knowledge of the park.

One of the first animals we saw was a lynx. I have never seen a wild cat before. Unfortunately he was too quick for our cameras but both Randy and I got a good look at him through the trees. Very cool, and a very rare sighting.

Another rare sighting was a wolf that crossed the road in front of us. I was the only person on the bus who got a photo of him. The guy at the front desk of our B&B had told us to sit behind the driver and he was right; it was a good seat.

Several times we saw caribou (or "cari-bou-bou-bou" as my dad would say).

And here are two of the many bears we saw. These two were up on a hill above the road.

I like the way the hair on this one's back kind of shone in the sun.

Here are Randy and I at the visitor's center inside the park. It was extremely windy, and quite cold. I was glad to have my scarf and hat.

This is a panorama of the mountains surrounding the visitor center. You can also hear the wind.

A mountain that we thought might be McKinley, but, no, it's about half its size.

At the center they had some marks on the floor to stand if you were different heights, with markings on the window showing the peaks of Mt. McKinley. Here are my 6 ft. marks.

I stood and wished for the clouds to part, but that really was the only time not seeing the mountain weighed on my mind. By the time we got to the center I already felt like the day was awesome even if it had ended right then. I was humming hymns the whole time, so many thoughts of God's beautiful creation. (Don't worry, the bus was loud, no one could hear me!)

Randy by one of the huge antlers on display. Caribou are the only species where both the male and female grow antlers.

A beautiful quilt at the center. I thought of my sister-in-law Kathy, who is director of a quilt museum.

A caribou crossing the road. This caribou stood in the road scratching himself for quite some time, oblivious to all of us sitting in the bus waiting. The woman behind us said, "We're on caribou time."

Some moose. I was surprised not to see more of these, but maybe we will as time goes on.

Oh, and speaking of surprised not to see, we only saw a couple dall sheep and they were so far away there was no use including a photo. They were just 2 little tiny white dots up on the mountain. What happened to all the dall sheep, I wonder??

Some ptarmigan crossing the road. Alaska's state bird.

This is the end of the road. Our tour went all the way to the end of the road and back.

We picked up several backpackers on the trip. They just stand on the side of the road and lift their hand to be picked up. Hearty souls. One guy said his trip had been "rerouted by grizzlies." I guess he saw a bear with cubs and decided not to go that way. Good decision, I'm sure.

This was the highlight of our trip. A mama bear and her two cubs crossed the road right in front of us, then settled in to eat berries right beside us.

Don't you love the cub's teddy bear face?

The cubs would stand up every so often to reach higher berries or check things out. Randy took a good video of all three of them.

So that was our day. When we got home we were pooped but happy. We'd look at each other and say, "What a great day," something similar. The photos and my feeble descriptions can't do it justice. I can't come up with adequate adjectives, but it was so awe-inspiring to sit and look out the window at these wild animals and see them going about their business -- eating, walking, running, resting.

Today is a quiet day. Right now Randy is fishing in the park and I'm playing on my computer sitting in the cafe where there's a stronger signal.

Tomorrow we leave for Fairbanks.


  1. Mavis, these pictures are incredible! What an amazing day! I am enjoying your posts SO much and with each one, I get more excited for our trip!

  2. Awesome, Mom! Your pictures remind me of that movie (that I can't remember the name of). I think I would be saying "He says, good idea." all day long.

  3. Thanks, Emily & Cori. Emily, I know you're going to have a great time.

    Cori, I thought of that movie, too, "Never Cry Wolf." (I found it in Wikipedia - When I wrote that line about the hiker's decision I wanted to write, "He says, 'Good idea.'" but I figured only a few of us would know what I was talking about. :)

  4. Just amazing! I wouldn't be able to contain myself if I saw bear cubs that close. How exciting. I'm so jealous. :)

  5. Hi Des, it was hard to contain myself! Everyone on the bus rolls down the window to watch the animals and take pictures and the driver tells everyone to whisper. Even he whispers over the microphone. So I'd be whispering, "Wow!" "Look at that." etc. Pretty funny.

  6. It's fun to hear your AK stories! Denali truly is amazing. I took the bus two hours in, hiked for four hours, then caught the bus just as you describe. Very cool that you saw all this wildlife--especially the bears--and at least glimpsed the mountain from a distance!
    Susan Buist

  7. Thanks, Susan, so you are one of those hearty souls, too! :)