Denali National Park and Preserve

Location: Denali National Park

Ryan woke up at 2:00 AM last night to be on the lookout for the Northern Lights. This would have been the middle of the “night”, but with extreme latitude it never actually gets dark this time of year. So with the twilight, the mostly cloudy skies and the inferior Kp<.33, Ryan didn’t bother to leave the hotel room to look for the aurora, and instead went back to asleep.

A few hours later we both woke up, packed up the car and left for Denali National Park. We arrived about 15 min later and waited for the Wilderness Access Center to open. Afterwards, we retrieved our tickets for the Toklat shuttle, got stamps for our national park passport book, and watched a short movie on the history of the park.

At 7:15 we boarded the shuttle (converted school bus) and made our way into the park. Our driver and defacto guide was Wendy, who has been driving this route for years. While the shuttle drivers are under no obligation to narrate or stop for wildlife, most do. We were fortunate that Wendy loved to look at the wildlife and provide great information to everyone on the shuttle.

Our ride took us about 60 miles deep into the park, to the Toklat stop. Along the way we saw four of the Denali Big Five (bear, sheep, moose, caribou, and wolves). We didn’t see the wolves, whose numbers are in great decline in the park.

We did see plenty of moose though. About 8-9 over the course of the day. These are somewhat rare to see, with only about 25% getting a chance to see them.

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A baby moose
A baby moose

We got to see three grizzly bears, only one of which was in a good position to get great pictures.

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We also saw plenty of sheep

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…and caribou.

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We also saw the state bird of Alaska, the Willow Ptarmigan.

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The weather was rainy, snowy, and overcast for most of the day, so we didn’t take many landscape photos.

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After the tour we drove back to Anchorage. We stopped at the northern Denali overlook again. We were clouded out of seeing any of Denali.  So instead we took this photo of a bear safety poster presented at the site.

Tomorrow we go down to Seward and take a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park.

Today’s weather: High 50, Low 30, rain/snow

Sunrise: 4:09am, Sunset 11:34pm

Total steps: 4,819

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