Sunday, July 24, 2016

Denali National Park

Okay, so the main draw here is the peak.  Denali's south peak is the tallest in North America, a shade over 20,000 feet tall.  It's also visible an average of 2 days during any give July.  We missed those 2 days!  Oh well, they say you can see it from Anchorage on a clear day, so maybe we'll get lucky later in the trip.  Since we hit Fairbanks, it's been pretty much cloudy and rainy all day every day.  However, we took the Eielson Visitor Center shuttle bus 66 miles into the park and saw some awesome wild life.  I saw a moose, but it disappeared into the brush before I could snap a picture.  Those things are easily spooked.  You can only drive 15 miles into the park in your own car, and there's only one possible viewpoint that far in.  If you want to explore further into the only road in the park, you have to take a tour or shuttle bus.  Ours was a great ride.  They stop anytime you see wildlife, and our driver Elton had been driving buses through the park every summer for 24 years.  There are times when the road is right on the edge of the cliff, no surviving a blown out front tire.  I was happy to leave the driving to a pro.  We spent 4 days here at campground just outside the park entrance.  Besides the nature tour, we ran into friends Eddie and Lois from McDill.  They flew up and rented a car to tour some before cruising south down the inside passage.  Here are some pictures:

Gotta get the park name in a picture

We had dinner and a nice visit with Eddie and Lois.  We ate at the round fireplace in the background, really nice with it being so cool and rainy outside.  The weather is finally starting to feel like Alaska.

A panorama from inside the park.  These stream beds all originate at glaciers higher up in the mountains.

One of the steeper portions of the park road.  I'm sure we'd stop rolling at some point down there...

I've been told before that I have a nice rack...

Dall Sheep, sort of like Big Horn.  Apparently the horns get larger in the fall when it's time to crack heads for the girls.  This herd of 10 weren't there when we made the return trip, lucky to see them.

A family of ptarmigan crossed the road right by us.  They turn white in the winter.

Small herd of caribou making their way through the valley.

We saw 5 grizzlies total.  The best was a mother and cubs that were feeding right beside the road.  They were there on the way in, and nearby on the other side of the road on the way back.  They walked right in front of us, spectacular luck.

Several caribou were feeding right next to the road.

Mom and cubs.  They were adorable.

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