Denali

Our drive from Fairbanks to Denali National Park was easy though we had some worries about the weather. As we neared the park the sky looked very dark but it turned out to not be rain but smoke. We had heard of fires farther south on the Kenai peninsula but didn’t expect to be affected until we were in that area. As it turned out winds had brought the smoke north and it was very thick around the park. Visibility was very poor and the smoke smell was very strong.

We had planned on a whitewater raft trip that afternoon but decided to cancel it due to the smoke. Instead we drove around the area, checked out the park visitors center and found another great place for lunch (The CreekSide Cafe.)

By the time we had checked into our hotel we were glad we had canceled the raft trip as visibility was growing worse. Instead we wandered around some shops near the hotel and just took it easy. The following day we were scheduled for a 13-hour long bus tour of the park and we were worried that it would be a complete bust due to the smoke.

That night it rained and in the morning (06/23) the air was clear of smoke. Our bus picked us up on time and we were on our way. As we got farther into the park the weather continued to improve.

The first wildlife we spotted were Dall Sheep. I find it hard to believe how they can manage these rocky, steep crags.More Dall Sheep

Not much later we spotted our first bear. This one was just snoozing out in the meadow, completely oblivious to the busses on the road. Our driver explained that the Grizzlies in Denali are much lighter in color than those in other areas. He described them as the “Marilyn Monroes” of Grizzly Bears.Snoozing Grizzly Bear

Around the next bend in the road we came across a herd of Caribou. They were ambling over the hill in the direction of the bear above. Grizzly bears are a major predator on Caribou so they are careful to stay away from them. The bus driver stopped and we watched while the Caribou discovered the bear in their path. Here is a picture of the herd after they changed direction away from the bear (to the right of the photo).Caribou notice the bear.

Our destination for lunch that day was the Kantishna Roadhouse, as far into Denali as you can go by road. This was a beautiful place and I would have loved to have been able to stay there for a few days. Kantishna Roadhouse

One of the things happening at Kantishna while we were there was sled dog training. The method struck me as a little odd but the dogs seemed to love it. Unfortunately, this picture was taken through the bus windshield so not the best image. Still, you can see the basic idea.Dog Training

On the return leg we saw things we missed on the trip in. One thing that I found interesting was a beaver lodge. Our driver said that, in Denali, the beaver don’t usually build dams but just build their lodge in one of the many small lakes and ponds. Beaver Lodge

We were also fortunate to see a mother Grizzly with two cubs. The first picture shows them wandering over the meadow. Moma and cubs 1

Shortly after we spotted them the momma bear decided to just lay down and let the cubs nurse. Cubs Nursing

At one rest stop we saw a Golden Eagle just coasting on the wind. These are huge birds with wingspans averaging seven feet.Golden Eagle

One of the great attractions of Denali is Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America. We were constantly being to told that only 30% of the visitors to the area get to see the mountain due to weather conditions. It turned out that we were some of the lucky ones and got a wonderful view. Mt. McKinley

We saw many more beautiful and interesting things in Denali. I took a lot of spectacular photos on that day, too many to show here. I would suggest that anyone who is going to Alaska should put Denali high on their list of must see places.

3 comments on “Denali

  1. WOW, hon, your picture of Mt. McKinley really looks great! For any readers of this blog considering going to Alaska, Denali is definitely a MUST with taking in the wilderness tour like we did but stay overnight at Kantishna and come out the next afternoon…the place had great hiking, biking, fishing, and general relaxation. A way to get away from the absolute ZOO of the town by the Denali Park entrance…it was much worse than West Yellowstone at its busiest.

  2. I finally took some time to just sit and enjoy your blog from the Alaska trip. I am sure that the two of you enjoyed yourselves immensely. It was really great of you to take the time to share the sights and the commentary with all of us. I have always thought that it would be an interesting adventure but Leo seems to think the cold temperatures would be a little prohibitive for him. After looking at your photos, it really doesn’t seem that the climate at this time of year is as everyone expects Alaska to be. (Maybe you could do a little convincing, for me!) 🙂 If I ever get him convinced, we will have to get in touch for a little(lot) of travel advice!

  3. Brenda (posting as Leo), the weather was beautiful nearly every day. We had a couple of rainy, overcast days but, even up above the Arctic Circle, it was never all that cold. Don’t miss Alaska for fear of the weather. Anyone who likes natural beauty should go there at least once.

    I promise I’ll get back to posting about the rest of the trip soon. I have been rather busy with Other Stuff ™