July 6, 2009
Denali National Park has one road that goes into the park 90 miles but private vehicles can only drive the first 30 miles. The park has a great bus system that gives you a variety of tours of the park. We took the bus to Wonder Lake which is 85 miles into the park and takes between 10 and 11 hours. We had a great day and got to see the “big 5” of the park’s animals. First we saw a caribou (finally a live caribou in the wild!). We also saw another caribou later in the day.
Next we saw a grizzly bear sow with her cub. She actually started nursing her cub while we were watching. We couldn’t see much of the cub but it was really great to see. Our bus driver who has driven a bus for 10 summers said this was a first for her. On the way back we saw them again playing on the hill.
About a mile further up the road we came across a wolf laying on a hill beside the road. On the way back we found it standing in the road.
A little further on we saw another grizzly sow with one, maybe two cubs, sleeping. You can see one cub behind her back and we think there is another one by her sholder. She did not move the entire time we were watching.
Later on the way back we saw a moose and her baby – the baby is hidden in the willows behind the mama in the picture.
We saw Dall sheep in a couple of places but they were too far away to get any pictures.
We stopped at the Eielson Visitors Center 66 miles into the park where you can get a good view of Mt. McKinley on a clear day. Here is the view we got – Mt. McKinley is lost in the smoke. Rex took a picture of the model in the visitors center in case we don’t get to see the actual mountain.
Our turnaround point was at Wonder Lake which is 2.6 miles long and 280 feet deep – it was beautiful but also had a lot of mosquitos.
We had a great trip despite not being able to see Mt. McKinley. The downside was spending 10-11 hours on a hot dusty school bus with hard seats. This part of Alaska is experiencing some unusually warm, dry weather, the temperature today reached 85.