Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Memorial Day weekend in Denali, part 2

Sunday morning we woke up to another rainy day. We decided to drive back into the park on our way home. As we drove down the park road and noticed a few cars behind us. Since we were in no hurry, we turned down a side road to let them pass. We were making the loop from the trail parking lot and we were headed back to the main road. Suddenly, Greg noticed some movement in the forest beside the road. After a brief second, he spotted a lynx stalking amongst the trees. We couldn't get a picture from our spot so he got out of the car to try to get a better photo of the lynx. We followed him all the way to the other side of the wooded area but lost track of him. Greg was on foot and I was in the car and we both continued to look for the elusive cat. I finally saw it and pointed it out to Greg. As the trees were so thick, he had a difficult time trying to photograph it. Finally, it stopped under a big spruce tree and Greg got one shot off before it sprang straight up into the tree.
 You could hear it clawing the bark as it climbed, but our view was blocked from seeing the cat. It jumped down a few minutes later and headed out the other side of the woods. As it crossed the road in front of us, Greg got a few quick photos.
Greg did follow it a few hundred feet into the dense brush and willows but a good photo proved to be as elusive as the lynx. Greg finally decided trying to be stealthy in this area, without bear spray, might not be the smartest thing in the world so he returned to the car. We continued our drive to the Savage River area without seeing much of anything else. As we headed back out of the park, we noticed a tour bus stopped in the road. Everyone was looking out one side of the bus and taking pictures. We assumed it was a moose since we had seen many in that area before. After a few minutes, I saw that it wasn't a moose but was a pretty good-sized grizzly bear.
 As it made its way down the small hill, we noticed it only had 3 paws! Its front right paw was missing just below the elbow.

 We later found out this bear had been dubbed "Tripawed" by the Park biologist. It seems he showed up last year after surviving some nasty injury that cost him his paw. It was even thought at one point of having him put down. The park decided against it and by the looks of him, he seems to be doing well. Our drive into the park turned out to be a good decision. We turned toward home, finishing off a great weekend. Hopefully, our next post will have some more awesome pictures. We are flying into Katmai National Park this weekend to go on a bear-viewing adventure!

Memorial Day weekend in Denali

We did manage to get a close-up look at a ptarmigan.

You can see that the bird is changing into its summer colors and some of its feathers are still white. We also spotted two porcupines

and managed to get some close pictures of one of these animals. It had started to get late so we headed back to the lodge for the night. Saturday morning we down into town for lunch and pick up a few shirts. We drove back into the park to catch the 1:00 bus for the Toklat River. This is as far as buses are presently going into the park. The stops farther into the park will open later in the season as the snows melt and clear the roadway. Interestingly enough, we didn't spot any wildlife until we saw a herd of caribou grazing near the Teklanika River basin.
This is quite out of the ordinary on the bus rides. You usually at least see several moose before reaching the Savage River.
We wondered if the late arrival of spring may have been a factor in the lack of animal sightings. No other animals were spotted until Polychrome Pass. Here, several dall sheep were foraging on the mountainside.

It had been a rainy and overall nasty day and by the time we reached Toklat River, the temperatures were quite cool. Our ride back was pretty uneventful.

We did spot several more sheep and caribou but the driver chose not to stop for them! Although people we talked to on other buses did see a sow bear and her two cubs, our bus didn't see any bears. This is the first time that has ever happened. Watch out in our next post, because we had a unique bear viewing the next morning.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday, Seward Trip Part 2

We headed back to the hotel and warmed up for a short time before going to the Apollo for dinner. We were quite full so we decided to call it a night and turn in. Once we got inside, the snow began to fall. Flakes were huge and at times the snow showers were very heavy. Fortunately, the temps were slightly above freezing which prevented any accumulation in our area. Folks in the higher elevations of town did see several inches of accumulation. After seeing so much snow over the winter, we finally lost interest in watching it snow and went to bed. The next morning, we noticed many cars coming in to town were covered in snow. In fact, it was snowing on us as we loaded the car with our luggage. As we left town and drove north, the fresh snow was very evident along the roadside and in the yards of homes. We turned off and drove toward Exit Glacier but after only a mile the road was closed due to the heavy winter snows still covering the road. We decided to visit some of the Forest Service areas along the main road as we made our way back to Anchorage. We soon discovered that all these roads were also still closed due to the thick snow that had yet to melt. By the time we got to Tern Lake, where this bald eagle picture was taken, the snowfall had gotten quite heavy. When we turned down Portage Glacier Road, the combination of wind and snow was a nasty reminder of winter. This glacier valley area was still heavily blanketed in snow. Portage Lake was just beginning to break up. The parking lot to Byron Glacier was still filled with snow higher than the car! We did see some wildlife and many beautiful wintry scenes as we made our way back to the big city and reality after a lovely and restful, but cold, weekend.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Saturday, May 12, Seward Trip Part 1

Got up Saturday and left on our annual trip to Seward for my birthday. It was somewhat overcast when we left and the weather forecast for the weekend didn't seem too promising. The further south we got, the more accurate the forecast became. By the time we reached Turnagain Pass, it had begun to snow. As you can see from the photos, there was quite a bit of snow from the winter still on the ground. From there to Seward it alternated between snow and rain showers all the way.These 2 moose seemed to be enjoying the afternoon grazing for grasses. This moose wasn't even bothered by the waterfowl swimming near it. Once we reached Seward, it basically rained on and off for the rest of the day. We did take advantage of one of the breaks in the rain to take a stroll on the beach. I hunted for sea glass while Greg ran off to chase a bald eagle that flew from one tree to another. Once it decided to stay perched for a minute, Greg was able to get several great shots. The clouds were quite heavy and once it began to sprinkle rain again, we headed for the car. Before we reached the car, we happened to see 2 eagles perched in the a tree and Greg happily took more photos.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday, May 9th

Although today started with a little rain, it turned out to be quite a nice afternoon. I can't remember the last time I'd seen rain. I'd gotten used to watching the frozen precipitation! The small shower didn't last long, hardly enough to settle the dust. It did seem to make the grass a bit greener. As you can tell in these pictures from the park strip, the grass still has a bit of brown in it.
Thanks for all my birthday wishes. It was great! We walked over to 5th Avenue Mall and did a bit of window shopping. For my birthday dinner I wanted Chinese food. We left there way too full so we walked on over to City Market. The night was just right. We had on light jackets and it felt so nice. Unfortunately, our skies were cloudy so we couldn't view the supermoon.
I'm having to do a bit of physical therapy on my shoulder. Looks like my reign as Wii tennis champ is over for awhile. I called Greg when I left the physical therapy office tonight and he met me at Gumbo House for dinner. I had a delightful shrimp po'boy sandwich. Yum. As we walked home along the park strip, we noticed a ballgame being played. The mountains behind this field are gorgeous! It really does look like a painting in the background. They can probably play until late even without lights because it doesn't get dark until around 11.
We are leaving for my annual birthday trip to Seward this Friday. Couldn't go last weekend on the actual birthday because I was taking finals in my master's classes. Thank goodness that is over for the summer. Hopefully, I got A's in all three classes. Now I will be able to enjoy the trip to the quaint seaside town of Seward. We should get some nice photos of the beach and maybe even Exit Glacier. Can't wait!