Denali National Park

by Sunita

No first trip to Alaska is complete without a visit to Denali. Seeing the mountain (if it lets you and doesn’t shroud itself in clouds) and visiting the park are both unforgettable experiences. On my first trip well over a decade ago the day was misty and rainy so I don’t remember all the topography but I definitely remember the bears. We saw two and they were huge.

For the most part private cars aren’t allowed beyond the first fifteen miles, so the most common way to travel inside the park is on the buses. You can take a bus about 70 miles in, which takes eight hours round trip. And did I mention these are school buses? Made by Blue Bird and everything. You will feel 12 again.

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But it’s well worth the time and discomfort. We saw amazing scenery, including Mt. Denali itself, taiga and tundra landscapes, glacial rivers, and boreal forests. And of course animals. We started small, with a Ptarmigan. This is a mama giving us the evil eye. She had just hustled her chicks into the brush.

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Denali Park has its own caribou herd. Unlike the other Alaskan herds they don’t really migrate, they just stay within the park. Like this:

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Yes, those little white dots are caribou. Just hanging out on the tundra. Why wander hundreds of miles if you don’t have to? Even caribou aren’t that dumb.

We also got to see an arctic fox. This isn’t a great photo but my angle and opportunity were only OK. Visitors aren’t allowed to leave the bus or even hang themselves or their cameras out of it. The animals are what matter and we have to do as little as possible to disturb them.

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We also saw lots of arctic ground squirrels, dall sheep, and a golden eagle, but I didn’t get photos of those. The pi√©ce de resistance, however, was seeing three bears. Two of them twice. This one is sitting in the brush contentedly munching on a caribou carcass. We know what it’s eating because the antlers are to the left of him. He was very far away so it’s as ggod a photo as I could get with my camera, but it’s definitely a grizzly. Note the honey color, which is typical of the Denali bears.

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It was an amazing day. I have more photos, needless to say, but we’re about to go into the Land Beyond Mobile Connectivity so there may be a break in our current programming.

Have a relaxing and fun weekend!