Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 15 – Park Road in Denali National Park

A lot of pictures today. We took about 500 and it was hard to trim them down.

Yesterday we had booked our bus trip to almost the end of the park road. From the park entrance it is 90 miles in and an 11 hour round trip. Since we are already part way in it was only 8 hours total for us.

Our ticket said to be at the bus stop at 8:25. We got there early but the bus didn’t arrived until about 8:55. Since they will stop at any wildlife to take any pictures the schedule is kind of flexible. They had stopped for some moose and caribou before they got to us.


Our chariot. It is basically a school bus.


There are two types of buses. Our was a green shuttle bus. The drivers are just paid to drive but they will give a bit of commentary as we go along. You pay a bit more to take the tan coloured tour buses. They have nicer seats and the driver do a running commentary. They also don’t go as far into the park. However one blog I read said that they took the tour bus and after 8 hours of the driver talking they wished he would just stop and give them some peace and quiet.

About every hour they have rest stops and scenic areas so you can get our a stretch after sitting on the school bus seats. Since we were the last ones one we got the last choice of seat. We were over the wheel well which was OK for Jennie because it acted as a foot rest. At one stop some people got off to hike so I moved to a better seat.

The first stop was only a few minutes from our campground but everyone else needed it.



Our first wildlife stop was our first grizzly bear, a mama and her yearling cub. To our eyes they were just faint brown smudges way up the hill.

Then some tiny dots that we couldn’t tell were Dall Sheep even with the zoom.

The next ones were a bit closer.


Most of the road is single lane, up one side of a huge river valley with the mountains one the far side. Lots of hairpin turns and very steep drop off. They have to drive very slowly which is why the trip takes so long.






We walked a short path at the visitor’s center at mile 60. Here the stop was for 1/2 hour. Most were only for 10 minutes.



Up to now the weather had been cloudy with a lot of sunny breaks. Off in the distance, where we were going, towards the mountain Denali we could see the rain coming down.



Our destination for the day was a place called Wonder Lake. It is about as close as you can get in the park to the mountain. Unfortunately the weather and the clouds did not co-operate. With the low clouds this is the best view we got from there. Everyone was a bit disappointed. It was not unexpected because it is said only about 15% of people that come to the park get to see most of the mountain. The mosquitoes were also vicious here. Everyone got off the bus, took a quick look around and sought refuge back in the bus.



The top of Denali was blocked by the clouds.


As we headed back we moved out from beneath the rain clouds.



Low and behold, the top of the mountain was visible back at the visitor’s center. There was still a band of clouds in the middle but we took what we could get.







Denali is even more impressive than just being the tallest mountain in North America because at 20000 feet it is about 10000 feet taller than anything around it and even better most of that height is visible. The ground at the base is only around 2000 feet above sea level so you can see 18000 of mountain. Mount Everest by comparison is taller but the base is much higher above sea level so you can only see about 1/3 of the mountain. I wish we could have seen Denali closer at Wonder Lake but it was still amazing.

I love these views where the road snakes off into the distance.







At one of the stops they had antlers for you to try on.  The caribou antlers could easily be lifted but the moose ones were so heavy, Stuart could hold only one side and not for long.  Can you imagine how strong a moose’s neck is, having to carry around two?



Just after that we saw the caribou to match them. They were walking up the riverbed in the picture above. Another mark on our checklist.



More views of one of the meandering rivers from high up on the road.




We saw some more sheep, a moose that was too fast for us and another herd of caribou.



This is what happened every time someone saw an animal.  The windows went down the bodies tilted the bus to one side, every time.


It was a long but enjoyable day. I am just glad we didn’t have to do the extra hour ride back to the entrance.

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