Monday, June 23, 2008

a "beary" nice day in Denali !!!

So, any guesses about where we are now, based on my hint from Saturday??? We took the Alaska Railroad north from Anchorage to Denali National Park and Preserve.....and the hint referred to the fact that we explored deep into the park, all the way to Wonder Lake. Aha!


But before I get into the details of our first day in Denali, I'd love to share the details of our ride on the rails. The railway is a great option when traveling in central Alaska, you get a scenic journey and the fun/novelty of a train ride.
We opted (i.e., splurged) and went for first-class so that we'd have seats in the upper deck of a domed, all-window car. And it was so worth it!

Also included was access to an open-air platform at the back of our car, where you can step outside and take great (unobstructed) photos and feel the crisp mountain air blowing on your face.

And a bit of serendipity......Sal and I happened to be sitting near a couple speaking Italian, so we introduced ourselves and Sal enjoyed chatting with them in Italian during our ride. I joined in with my limited Italian.....it didn't occur to me that perhaps I should brush-up on my Italian before leaving for Alaska!

While here in Denali, we're staying at Denali Crow's Nest in an adorable little cabin; it's comfy but not plush. But it has everything we need (even WiFi !!!) and is close to the park. We have a little "porch" and a nice view of mountains and forest.

Our first day in Denali Park was absolutely spectacular, I can hardly describe it! I think the best word is LUCKY. Let me explain. The park doesn't allow visitors to explore the park by car, to protect the park and its wildlife residents. Instead, you can hike or take one of the park's green shuttle buses, which are actually converted school buses, along the park's one unpaved road....it's an attempt to keep the park and preserve pristine. We chose to take it 86 miles into the park, the furthest route (all the way to Wonder Lake), so that we'd have the most opportunity to view wildlife and take in the scenery. That was a great idea.....except that Sal and I have been fighting colds for the past week (we think the 40-degree temp difference between Florida and Alaska got to us), and we were quite exhausted to get up at 5:00 AM to catch our 11-hour park shuttle bus tour. But we were determined not to miss our park tour, so we downed some Nyquil, got some sleep, and despite our colds and fatigue, we got up early and did it.....and oh boy were we rewarded !!! I can hardly describe the sheer luck that we had in seeing wildlife throughout the park. Keep in mind that sometimes wildlife is hardly visible in Denali, it's completely a matter of luck and timing. But we saw a total of 10 (yes, ten!) grizzly bears! Even our bus driver was amazed. And 2 of them came very near our bus......we first spotted them at a distance, munching on grass or berries, and as we all sat staring at them from the bus, silently waiting, they sauntered over and walked behind our bus....it was incredible!


We also saw moose, foxes, rabbits, caribou, owl, and dall sheep.....most of which were too distant to photograph, or scampered off too quickly.

We were also lucky to get a view of 2/3 of Mt. McKinley, which is within the park and is 20,000+ feet high. Again, our bus driver was amazed because she said that only about 30% of park visitors get any glimpse of it at all, it's typically shrouded in clouds. That's it between my and Sal's heads:


Saturday was also a special day here since it was the summer solstice. There were about 22.5 hours of daylight here, with darkness starting around 2:30 AM and the sun rising again by 4:00 AM. Different! And the darkness is not the complete black that I'm accustomed to, the sky still seems to be slightly lit here during the "night". We're certainly in the Land of the Midnight Sun!

Our second day in Denali Park was spent hiking and checking out the amazing park Visitor Center. We had an experience during our hike that I will NEVER forget, but I'm getting sleepy now, and will have to sort through our more than 1,000 Alaska photos (!!!) in order to compile a blog post about it. I'll be back here soon to share that experience with you, but here's a hint: it was as if we were on the set of a nature documentary about the largest species in the deer family.

On Monday, we're departing Denali and heading even further north to Fairbanks, again by train. While there, we're taking a tour to a unique place, here's a hint: it's "invisible", it's in a cold place, and it's the parallel of latitude that runs 66° 33′ 39″ north of the Equator.

We're heading home on Wednesday, but I hope to have a WiFi connection between now and then so that I can post to my blog again before we leave. If not, I'll catch you back here later in the week! Bye for now!

1 comment:

Claudia said...

It's amazing to me that you planned all this on your own!!! It seems to be the trip of a lifetime! It must be such an honor to see all the wonderful creatures and beautiful nature that God made:) You and Sal are so blessed to have had this opportunity to see all these wonderful things. And it's so nice of you to share them with others through this blog...thank you! I hope that you enjoy these final days of your trip...feel better:)