Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 5. We took the 12 hour bus ride through Denali National Park yesterday on the only road in the Park which goes 92 miles into the 6 million acre park and ends at Kantishna. We paid $46 each and it was probably the best money we have spent on this trip. We saw 13 brown bears (here you’re a tourist if you call them grizzly.) All but one grizzly was blond. The grizzly diet in Denali is 80% vegetarian, because there are no salmon here. Because of the low protein diet they weigh a couple hundred pounds less than other Alaskan grizzly bears. In Denali the bears only weigh 500 pounds! We even saw a momma bear and her twins stretched out in the grass snoozing in the warm sun.
We saw 6 Wolves {including one pup,} The wolves were much taller than I expected. There are only 59 adults in the park, so seeing 6 was really cool. And talk about a lean mean fighting machine. I would have worried about how thin they looked if it hadn’t been for how lush and shinny their fur was. Even though they look rail thin, they average 85 to 145 pounds.

We got a great look at a Lynx when he crossed the road right in front of us! The Lynx are so cool, they hide in the bushes by the roadside waiting for sweet, cute, innocent little hares, squirrels and pica (little rabbits) to walk out onto the road and become dinner. Lynx are very secretive and hard to spot, so we were really lucky to get a good look at one.

We also so saw Dall Sheep, Caribou, Golden Eagles, Snowshoe Hares and Moose. Pretty cool!

The drive through the park takes you through three different climate zones. Because of this, the scenery constantly changes. This drive was every bit as beautiful as the Dempster and Dalton Highways. We crossed streams of crystal clear water, and rushing rivers opaque with gray glacial flour.

Of course the main reason for taking the bus ride was to see Mt McKinley. Typically in July you get a clear view of the mountain only one day out of the entire month. We saw it early in the morning and then again at the end of the day. In between it was obscured by clouds and terrain. Completely covered in snow, at 20,320 feet it towers above the 600 mile arc of the Alaskan Range. In winter, temperatures on the mountain at 14,500 can plummet to below – 95 F! While McKinley is a granite and slate mountain, it is covered by ice that is hundreds of feet thick.
We boarded Maggie at Denali Doggie Daycare for the day. It’s a family environment, where they walk all the dogs together a couple times a day. Maggie also got to play with the dogs in the doggie wading pool. When we got there to pick her up at almost 10:00 pm, she was yodeling for us (recognized the truck.) You would not believe how she baroo’d when she saw us. Scared the heck out of another couple who were there to pick up their elderly poodle! The kennel owner, Sarah said Maggie was so cute and fun; she took a bunch of photos of her and will email them to us. We are off to Talkeetna, jumping off point for mountaineers climbing McKinley.

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