Locations: Denali National Park, Alaska
Date: 8/29/2013 & 8/31/2013
After our morning of hiking and wandering around the visitor center area, we boarded our bus for the 92 mile trip that would take us deep into the park. There is only one road into Denali National park. The first 15 miles are paved and open to all traffic. After that it turns into a dirt road and only park vehicles and tour buses are allowed on this section. Our bus was run by the same company who owns the Denali Backcountry Lodge. This is where would would be staying for the next several nights.
On our way into the park we didn’t have any rain, but it was overcast. So, we did not get a chance to see the mountain, but we did get to see a good bit of wild life. Our driver on the way in was adequate, but we felt that he was on too much of a timeline. He skipped several stops and didn’t give much commentary about the park and animals.
All the buses that travel into and out of Denali are old “Blue Bird” type school buses we used to ride as kids. Most had bench seats and the old windows that are difficult to get up and down. It was fairly cold, so you wanted to keep the windows up while driving, but get them down quickly to take pictures when you saw some animals.
Within five minutes of starting our trip we spotted a bull moose on the side of the road. He was feeding on some of the trees and getting a good picture was challenging. This was the best picture I could get, which includes what looks to be like someone’s hat. This guy was fairly close to the road and so we were able to get a good feeling of his size. It was amazing how large he was.
Soon after we came across several caribou running across the tundra. I’ll probably say this several times in this post, but the colors in Denali was amazing. I think we may have been a week or so early, but there was still plenty of color in the low plants that cover the ground. You can see some of the color here when I was able to get a picture of the caribou sprinting by the bus.
We also encountered several grizzly bear and their cubs. I was able to get a few decent pictures. All the bear we saw were very focused on eating. Trying to fatten up for the winter.
On the bus ride out of Denali (two days later), we had a much better bus driver. He had so many interesting stories of the park and the people who work and live in the area. Plus he was really good at finding the animals, definitely a bonus!! He told a long story about these two sets of moose antlers and how they are locked together. This happened when the two animals were sparring and trying to become the dominant male of the group. I won’t go into a lot of the details (as it’s somewhat gruesome) but it did cause the two animals to perish. This was all witnessed be a wildlife photographer who was in the park at the time. You can see a short video explaining these antlers here.
Also, you can see that we didn’t have the best weather on our bus ride out of the park. For most of the time when were at the higher elevations, we had snow. I would say we had about 1 – 2 inches which cut down on our visibility, but did make it a little easier locating animals since they stand out against the white.
Here’s a momma grizzly with her two cubs scouring the the hillside for berries. When we hiked in Denali, most areas were covered with blueberry and other assorted berries. These bears were eating as much of them as they could as they prepared for winter.
As you can see from the picture below, the ride out of Denali was a muddy affair. Luckily Julie and I were able to get a front row seat in the bus, so we were able to see out the front window and search for animals. I’m sure many people in the back had a difficult time since the windows got muddied over very quickly. At every stop our bus driver would get out and clean every window to allow those on the bus to see better. He did his best to take care of everyone on the bus, but with the muddy roads the windows didn’t stay clean for long.
We again found several caribou far off in the distance. They are hard to see in this picture, but there is a line of them in the center of this picture.
Another pictures showing the beautiful colors of Denali. Some of the caribou had the velvet still on their antlers, but it looks like this guys had already shed the velvet.
We spent two nights in the far reaches of the Denali road. Our lodge was within walking distance to where you can find this sign. With only a few lodges existing in the heart of the park, you were truly out in the middle of nowhere with only a small number of other people around. It was a very unique experience which I will blog about in my next post.
Here is the GPS track of the 90 mile bus ride on the Denali Park road.Denali National Park - Park Road Bus Trip at EveryTrail
Once again, I took too many pictures to fit in one blog post. So, here is a link of all the pictures of this trip.
On 9/20/2013 added some YouTube Vidoes