Denali National Park
We arrived in Denali on the 13th June and camped at "Riley Creek" by the park entrance. The way the park works is that there's a dirt road that runs across the wilderness, which ferries people to the various campsites along its route and takes people on wildlife spotting (and Mount McKinley/Denali spotting) trips. The bus also stops whenever a passenger spots wildlife, or wants to get off and hike around the wilderness, or wants to get back on. One initially off-putting thing about the park is that there are no trails: you just get a contour map and take off! When someone gets on after a couple of days hiking in the 'back country' they are full of wildlife encounter stories, and desperate to have people to talk to about them!
We took the bus out to Igloo Creek campsite on the 14th, stayed three nights and spent the time bussing up and down and walking around various places. Throughout this time we were surrounded by absolutely spectacular scenery, and as time goes by the sheer scale of it all started to seep in.
And then there's the wildlife. Bears, caribou, foxes, marmots, pica, gyrfalcons, golden eagles, you name it. The best thing of all is that the animals you do see are completely wild, doing their own thing. So the fox we saw was carrying a recently killed ground squirrel in its mouth that it proceeded to bury. The bears are playing, or eating, or whatever. And so on. It's a stunning experience and one to put you off zoos forever.
David had lunch with Dall Sheep wandering around him and an eagle landing on a log nearby; during a hike we encountered a flock of caribou and then on the bus we had 2 young bears cavorting around the bus.
The whole area is heavily glaciated with lots of reminders of O-level physical geography - braided rivers, U shaped valleys, cirques, kettle lakes. You name it, I forget exactly how it was formed! One area we hiked in was the Toklat river full of coloured rocks. Highlights here were the attempts to cross the rivers - rock hopping never was Jan's forte so she ended up wading across the shallowest bit available.
Along with the wildlife to view and the magnificent scenery, there are also the bus drivers. We experienced many of them as we took several buses during the few days, and they were all great - especially Scott. They were great wildlife spotters, told us interesting stories, where to look, where to walk and to a person seemed to love their jobs. Some of them drive buses in Hawaii during the summer. Billie is now thinking of signing up for next year!
And finally, we sent to see a short exhibition of dog mushing. The alaskan huskies who pulled the sled were beautiful if a bit too wolf-like for my tastes. They certainly were very keen to pull the thing - apparently in winter (60deg below is not unknown here) they wear little foot booties to protect their feet from the ice!
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
Test-driving all the camping gear
Scenery (it doesn't really do it justice)
David and Jan with fearsome Husky troop