Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thursday, July 15th

Remember to click on the pictures to make them larger.

Left Anchorage around 10:30 and hit the highway toward Denali. We made a brief stop in Wasilla for snacks. Continued on the Parks Highway and ran into a little road work, this slowed us down a bit. We stopped at the Visitor's Center right off the highway and decided to visit Talkeetna. This is one of the towns that the TV show "Northern Exposure" was based upon. It is a nifty little artsy town. There are many unique little shops offering anything from paintings to crafts made by local artists. We walked in the light rain and explored many of these quaint and eccentric stores. Anne was able to buy some Band-Aids at the General Store. She needed these for her foot blister that she got yesterday on the 10 minute walk. I shouldn't be so hard on Anne- she's no spring chicken- and I'll be old myself some day! We watched a movie at the Talkeetna National Park Service Ranger Station about climbers and their adventures on Mt. McKinley. This is where you need to stop if you are insane enough to attempt a climb on Mt. McKinley. They assess your skill levels and preparedness before your climb. After purchasing a few souvenirs, we were back on the road. We checked in at our hotel in Healy for the night and then headed to the Black Diamond Grill for dinner. Our server, Veronica, was a hoot. She considered herself to be living the "ghetto-fabulous" lifestyle. She was waiting tables for the summer in order to pay for her travels throughout the year. Anne and I were chomping at the bit to get into Denali. We had to beg Greg to drive over there. I'm sure he's glad we convinced him to go because we had a close experience with a mom griz and last year's cub. Our goal was to drive down to the Savage River and walk along the Loop Trail for awhile. We stopped several times to enjoy the scenery. At one point, a gull perched on the car and became friends with Greg. It rode on top of the car for almost half a mile before flying off. Right before the entrance to the Trail we saw about 4 cars on the side of the road and people pointing over the edge. They were snapping pictures like crazy. We decided to pull over and see what all the fuss was about. When we walked up we couldn't anything down the steep side into the valley. A lady told me there were 2 grizzlies romping around down on the valley floor. We heard people yelling from the bridge about 200 feet away. Suddenly, the Ranger pulled up in her personal truck and yelled for us to get back in our vehicles. People scattered but we still didn't understand what was happening. We turned around in the parking lot and headed back to the area where people had congregated. When we got there, maybe a minute later, two grizzlies came up the embankment from below and walked onto the road. Not believing our good fortune, Anne and I readied our cameras and began snapping photos. As cars moved on ahead of us, we found ourselves side by side with the mother grizzly and last year's cub. They were both slightly wet from the rain but still majestic and awe-inspiring. We took countless pictures of them walking, digging for grubs or roots, and generally being oblivious to all of us. We don't know what happened but at one point the mother's ears pricked up and she jumped to her feet- ready for action. I guess she decided it was not a threat and settled back down. We could have stayed there for hours, enjoying the show. Since there were 2 cars behind us that hadn't been right beside the bears, we decided to bow out gracefully and share this rare opportunity with others. Greg says perhaps others in parks could follow this example so we can all share in these rare experiences. We left still shaking and in disbelief that we were able to get that close to the grizzlies. We drove back to the Healy for beverages at the mini mart. As we were getting back into the car, a fox ran across the road. On the road back to the room we briefly saw a full rainbow in the sky. A perfect ending for a delightful day.

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