Kate's parents, Dave and Sandi are in town and we took a little trip and tour in Denali National Park the other day. I'm not sure what I think the highlight of the trip was. We started at a little before 4 in the morning. Kate and I were at the hotel a little after 4:30 and just a few minutes later we were on the road. The Sun was already up and we saw a moose within a minute of getting on the Parks Highway. We saw another moose a few miles down the road. At 6:45 we were at the park and right after 7:30 we were on the bus into the park.
Our first stop was at the Teklanika rest area on the Park Road. This is where Jason, Kate and I drove to during the Spring opening. It's closed to public vehicles in the summer. We saw a bear from really far away; just a little dot down in the river bed. It wasn't that exciting, but we had no idea if we would see anything else so I tried to soak it in as good as I could. Then a mile down the road we saw our second bear of the day:
So now we were all pretty happy to have seen a grizzly pretty close up. Then we saw another. Then another, and another with cubs.
So, rounding a corner we see some stuff on the hill to the south of us. It looks like wolves. We get excited about wolves. It is a wolf pack eating a caribou that they killed earlier in the day. The alpha male was working pretty hard on the rib cage while a couple of others fought over the head and antlers. We watched them for about 15 minutes before we had to move on.
A little ways down the road there were some Dall Sheep sitting on a little ridge.
At this point I think we were all feeling a little overwhelmed with all the animals we had seen. It was hard to even notice sometimes that we were in a place that looked like this:
There were also a lot of sleeping bears on the hills.
There was a willow ptarmigan family crossing the road. I hadn't seen any this summer yet, only in the winter when they are all white.
Coming around a corner and some dips in the road there was a bus stopped in front of us by a pond. There were some ducks in a pond. Mallards. We were stopped for a while. No one could figure out why they had stopped for ducks. The other driver made an 'L' sign with her hand and our driver shouted lynx. Sure enough, stalking the ducks on the other side of the pond was a good sized cat. It walked around in the bushes and I really wished I had a 500mm lens:
The summit of Denali was covered in clouds, but we still saw quite a bit of it:
There was a pretty good sight of a moose in a pond:
After getting to mile 92.6, we got to walk around a bit near wonder lake and Kantishna. A park ranger gave us a history tour of the old gold mining town and people from the area and then it was time to head back. On the way back there was a little more Sun poking through the clouds so the scenery was even cooler.
There were more sheep,
and there was still one wolf left on the kill.
Right when it seemed like it couldn't possibly get any better, out pops a grizzly bear on the side of the road eating soapberries.
After 12 hours it was all over and we were heading back home. Our driver said that he has been doing this for 17 years and this was by far the best day he has ever had in the park. I think we were pretty lucky. Kate and I were definitely smiling the whole time.