Thursday, June 20, 2013
We spent the Wednesday on a bus in Denali. We had reservations on the 9 a.m. shuttle bus back to the Eielson Visitor Center. The round trip is only 66 miles, but it is almost 8 hours! The trip takes you 90 minutes to a scheduled break stop. . . basically a view and a potty break. Then another 90 minutes to another view and potty break. . . then 40 minutes to the Visitor Center where you get a great view of the mountain.
The road is paved for the first 13 miles, then you enter the gate into the park and you either have to have a camping permit or be on a bus to get back there. You can take your RV back to the camp at Teklanika but if you want to camp in the areas past that, you must tent camp and travel there on the special "Camper Bus." The road was bumpy, terribly dusty and looooong. We were rewarded with several wildlife sightings. We were told not to expect much because with the heat of the last week or so, animals were staying in the bush, trees, and higher areas to stay cool. But we did see animals. We started with some Dall sheep. They were up high and I had to get them with the zoom lens, but it does show them clearly. We saw several moose and one was really up close. He was almost to the road and the bus driver stopped the bus and shut it off. After a while, she started back up and the moose got mad and really agitated. But he did turn and move back into the bush. We saw a juvenile golden eagle, but I didn't get a shot of him. He was by me before I could get the camera on him. Tab said he got a shot of him though. We saw grizzlies. Several. One was a momma with cubs. We saw at least two cubs, but I couldn't get a shot of both of them, or all three together. They were quite far away, but it was still pretty cool to see them. We saw caribou. One fellow was hot and the bugs were bothering him so he was sitting in snow. I guess the bugs don't bother as bad then.
The scenery is wide and varied in the park. There are hills, valleys, glacial moraines, streams, glacial rivers which have no fish because they are glacial runoffs, dry washes, forests, snow, tundra, mountains, etc. The park is very, very large and you only get to see a small part of it. The shuttle system is pretty cool in that it allows you to get off anywhere you like and hike. Yeah, like I want to do that. But we did pick up hikers and backpackers, including some rangers, who had been out for several days. The park is largely unspoiled and conducive to the kind of wildlife preservation they hope to encourage. There are wolves, coyotes, snowshoe hares, etc., and they all have cycles of life that are responsive to the elements and the populations of the other animals and plants that fluctuate with weather and environment.
When we got back to the Eielson Center, we were treated with views of Mt. McKinley, aka Denali. Denali is the ancient Indian word for "Great One" or "High One." Years later, the mountain was named in honor of President McKinley who was assassinated. Now they intend to rename the mountain Denali and the park service already now refers to it as such, but the legal process has yet to be completed to make it official.
We took numerous pictures of the mountains. It wasn't a perfect day to photograph. We were excited because there were no clouds and we knew we would have a rare opportunity. . . and we did. However, that view was tempered a bit by smoke from wildfires that are burning to the south. So there was a haze, but the peaks of the mountain were out and that is the part that is normally obscured. So we did get to see it. Later on our way back we could see the mountain extremely clearly as the smoke had moved out of the area. But by the time we were back at the very first viewpoint near the entrance to the park, clouds had moved it and she was gone! But our day of viewing was extremely successful!
We got back to the motorhome at about 6 p.m. and had to move our rig. These sites are postage stamp size and the lady next to us, who is actually an employee, asked us to move our rig over as she was having a party and needed more room! LOL We moved, but when she started building a fire within 6 feet of our coach, Terry asked her to move the fire ring. She said she would, then sent a young boy out who started the fire where it was. So we asked to be moved and the office complied even giving us a refund on the full hookup site. So we are snug in another site and just across the road from Tab and Deanna.
Today we are doing some shopping this morning and this afternoon headed back to the park to see a sled dog demonstration.
Still having fun. . .
Till next time. . .