Alaska Day 1 - Denali

Trip Start Jul 24, 2010
1
6
12
Trip End Jul 31, 2010


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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Sunday, July 25, 2010

via Angela:
 
Slept in.  Until 6:00 am.  Perfect.  Almost right back on schedule.  I realize that is kind of sad, but there you have it.  The morning involved cup after cup of coffee.  I didn’t actually make this coffee.  I woke Paula while trying to figure out where everything was to make the coffee.  Then woke my parents while trying to figure out where everything was to make the coffee.  Mom to the rescue with coffee, huge breakfast, and quite consistent reminders to get ready……because we only had 3 hours.  


I should probably let you know, if you don’t already, that we flew here to meet up with my parents, who are on their annual summer trek to cooler climes.  They chose well, as it is currently 50 degrees, with an expected high of 65 degrees.  We are “camping” with them.  I say “camping” because their “camper” is nicer than any apartment I have ever lived in.  I can’t speak for Paula, but I would say that she believes this IS a camper…..that this is roughing it.  


On to Denali National Forest.  Boarded the bus to take us 66 miles into the park.  In 4 hours.  Yes, you heard that right.  4 hours.  Upon learning about this (our parents booked this before we arrived), Paula and I were skeptical.  4 hours in and 4 hours back out is EIGHT total hours.  IN A BUS.  Which was really a school bus.  But we took 2 aspirins each, and sallied forth.  On a bus, through the park service, is the only way you can get that far into the park unless you hike or bike.  


Our driver told us he had a Grand Slam the day before:  grizzlies, moose, caribou, wolves, and dall sheep.  So we put our order in for that.  The bus was full, yet somehow Paula and my dad (Paul) managed to sit alone.  


Everyone was intensely focused, looking, watching, trying to spot something.  Our driver told us to just yell “Stop!” whenever we saw something.  I thought this watching, watching, watching might get boring, but it was impossible to get bored, as the park is BEAUTIFUL!  I read that Alaska is “dominated by thundering glaciers, vast forests, wild rivers, and island-studded seas and fjords….undoubtedly one of America’s most scenic states.”


I will have to agree.  And clarify that driving through the park, waiting to spot wildlife, was not boring.  It was breathtaking.  The landscape, the scenery……just amazing.  About 15 minutes in, someone spotted 2 dall sheep perched high on a cliff.  My parents spotted them, but Paula and I could not.  The only way we even knew they were there was by looking at a picture a man next to us took.  Maybe we need glasses.  Shortly thereafter, we saw a mother grizzly with her cub through the trees.  Hard to see, so no good pics.  Then we saw another grizzly with 2 older cubs, 4 wolves, a group of ptarmigans by the side of the road, a golden eagle, 3 sightings of caribou, and another mother grizzly by the river with 2 baby cubs (this was my sighting), and 2 sightings of caribou.We got to our destination, the Eielson Nature Center.  This is where we saw the ground squirrels (oh so radically different from tree squirrels) and the really awesome view of Mount McKinley.  There were also some cloud formations that just didn’t seem possible.  Paula and I agreed that they looked like undercover space ships….the Enterprise or the ship in Aliens.  But I digress….


We headed back out, and after a few minutes, those of us that were still awake decided that we would only yell stop for a moose or any up close sightings.  Sure enough, we saw some grizzlies way in the distance and didn’t stop.  We came upon a red fox and got super close.  More of us, and by “us” I mean me, fell asleep.  Someone yelled “Moose!  Stop!” so I woke up, and just spotted the antlers going over a ridge.  The driver pulled forward, and we were all a little disappointed at first to discover that it was a caribou.  But it was CLOSE.  So we stopped and took dozens of pics.


More sleep.  Paula sees a bunny and wisely decides not to yell stop.  Then another “Moose!  Stop!”  So I woke up – again - and, sure enough, way down in the valley, next to the river, was a huge brown shape.  We stopped.  I found it with my binoculars and confirmed that it was, indeed, a big bull moose.  Paula gave me the camera to take a picture (since I was standing up, facing the correct direction), and I panicked!!!!!  I was trying to find it, focus, then find the button to push.  I ended up getting a great picture of a brown blob, blending in with the bushes.

With all the excitement, no one slept again.  We had experienced a grand slam plus one.  Plus three if you count the bunny and the ground squirrel.

 via Paula:
I slept not one wink in the bus.  I am fairly certain I was the only one.  I'm not sure how anyone could sleep surrounded by that much beauty.  I also took 344 pictures.  I think over 100 of them were just of the grizzlies.  I've only posted the best 74.  And still need to download video and post it.

 
 
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