Day 3 - A Big Day at Denali
We started the day getting up at 5:00am. We arrived at Denali National Park in time to catch our 6am shuttle bus to the Eielson Visitor's Center, located at mile 66 on the Park Road . Although it was only 66 miles away, it took nearly 4 hours to get there. The shuttle drivers will stop the bus whenever wildlife is spotted.
We had exceptionally good luck in seeing wildlife. It began with a bull moose right alongside the road. Not long after that there was a grizzly bear going up the hill by the road. He moved too quickly and was soon behind trees, so we did not get a picture of him. But luckily we spotted bears two or three other times and were able to get pictures.
We also ran across the state bird several times. I mean we really almost ran across them, as they were right in the road. It is called a ptarmigan (the ‘p' is silent.)
We spotted caribou several times, with many of them sporting their very large antlers. We were very close to some dall sheep at a rest stop area. We also spotted them several times climbing alongside the mountains.
I'm not sure if they were the same animal, or very similar, but we saw what we thought were prairie dogs. Only here they are Artic ground squirrels.
The scenery was of course beautiful. We were so afraid that the smoke lingering from nearby forest fires may hamper our views today. But we were blessed with a wonderful clear sky and the atmosphere did not seem smoky at all today. Even more of a blessing was the ability to see “the mountain” come in view as we approached Eielson Visitor's Center. Our view of Mt. McKinley was better than most people get to experience.
We arrived at Eielson around 10am. The trails there were closed because of recent bear activity near them. But luckily they opened the trail up to Mt. Galen just after we arrived. This had a climb of about 1300 ft. (Why can't we find a nice level hike!) It took us about an hour to reach the top, where we took a nice break and ate lunch. We dined with no one else in sight and no sounds outside of nature. Mt. McKinley was in our background with no clouds around it until after we had finished eating. We headed back down and caught another shuttle back to the main park entrance.
One rest stop was at the Teklanika River where we took some pictures by the water. Like most rivers here, they are created by melting snow and glaciers. The water of course was very cold. The river was just more than several streams flowing through the gravel bars. In the spring melt the water is much higher and wider.
We returned to the Denali park entrance near 6pm. After spending a little time there we left and looked around in some nearby shops and ate supper. Quite a successful day with lots of beautiful memories and some achy muscles from our adventure.
Tomorrow morning we will check out of our room at the White Moose Lodge and head to Homer to visit with Sherry, Jerry and Frank. This will be approximately 9 hours of driving, not including a stop to see Portage Glacier and anything else of interest on the way.
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