Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friday, July 16th

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We had to get up soooo early to ride the Denali Park bus. We had stayed up late last night and it was hard to get going. The cold air woke us up when we went outside. We drove over to the Wilderness Access Center in Denali National Park and boarded the bus about 7:30. The bus barely got moving on the road when we saw a mother moose and calf along the roadside. This was Anne's second moose sighting as we had seen a moose last night. Our next wildlife sighting happened on a grassy hillside a little further into the park. The bus filled with ohhhs and ahhhs as we saw 2 large grizzly bears. These bears were quite a bit bigger than the ones we saw last night but they were at a safer distance away. The bus was abuzz with excitement at the chance to see the bears at this distance. Remembering last night's encounter, the 3 of us looked at each other, smiled, and didn't say a word. As the bus continued to climb and make its way deeper into the park, we began seeing an assortment of wildlife including a couple of marmot on Marmot Rock. When we stopped for a rest at the Toklat Visitor's Center, Anne modeled some caribou antlers. At Eilson Visitor's Center, the air was so cold you could see your breath. The wind was more than brisk, and we all wished we had brought heavier coats. We could see bits of Mt. McKinley in the distance. The upper part was hidden by the clouds. This Visitor's Center is really a state of the art facility. We experienced the only running water and flushable toilets we would have access to all day. This Center has solar power and it environmentally friendly. The spring water comes from a nearby stream and is delightful and cold! At the end of the road in Kantishna, water rushing over the road was one of the only sounds you hear . The only predators we saw here were squadrons of mosquitoes. This is as far as any road goes into Denali National Park- to continue you must fly, walk, or raft. There are a couple of private lodges at the end of the road. They are kinda expensive and we found several other more beautiful and just as remote accommodations on the Denali Highway. We will write about the Denali Highway in the next blog. On return trip, we stopped at Wonder Lake. We saw a loon nesting in the grasses on the edge of the lake. We boarded the bus and saw a caribou resting on the gravel riverbed. Several Dall sheep were spotted far up on the mountainside. There were several rams close to the road. Check out the ram almost hidden from view as he rested. When we stopped at Toklat again, we were able to see 2 blonde grizzly bears ambling up the mountain. They were slightly out of camera range, but fun to watch through the binoculars. That brought grizzly sightings up to 4 for the day. Having been on the bus for about 9 hours at this point, Greg and I struggled to stay awake as we rolled on. Anne was too excited to doze. We left the park and headed to Rosie's Diner in Healy. After 12 hours of nothing but snacks on the bus, a good burger would top off this great day. Greg decided to attempt the Grizzly Burger Challenge. It is a one pound burger topped with a fried egg, ham, lettuce, cheese, tomato, and served with a huge stack of fries. He was able to devour it all and his photo is now on the Grizzly Burger Wall of Fame. Check out the link at Full and tired, we made it back to the room and fell out after a great day.

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