Monday, September 5, 2016

Postcard from Alaska: Denali National Park

Sunday morning we boarded a green school bus in Denali National Park for an eight hour tour.  Unlike Yellowstone and Yosemite, which are jam-backed with cars and people, Denali has very strict access rules.  You cannot drive your own vehicle through the park.  You must ride one of the shuttle buses, you cannot hang out of the window and call to the animals, and you cannot go off chasing bear and moose ( don't laugh, people do it in Yellowstone and they don't often live to talk about it).  We loved how wild the wilderness remains.  Our shuttle bus stopped a few times to pick up hikers, backpackers and campers on their way in or out of the park.  You can do all those things in the park.

Clouds increased during the day as we rolled along the gravel road.  Eight hours, on a gravel road, in a school bus wore us all out.  If I had it to do again, I would take a shorter shuttle tour and spend the rest of the time hiking.

The fall colors are about over, snow is expected tonight and tomorrow.  But, the the birch trees are brilliant yellow against the dark green spruce.

And the tundra is a carpet of orange, yellow and red.  I loved the tundra.

Denali was shrouded in clouds all day so we didn't get another view of it.  We did, however, see some wildlife.  The caribou are migrating to the west for the winter and we saw a couple small groups, picking their way across the gravel glacier beds.  They were too far away for a picture; binoculars were required to see them well.  We also saw Dall sheep up on the steep sides of the mountains, they looked like little white bits of cotton on a field of brown.  On the way out, we saw a grizzly bear in the distance.  On the way back in, we saw another.  The grizzly bear like the tundra, where the landscape is wide open and the berry bushes plentiful.  They are busy filling their bellies and building their fat reserves before retreating into their dens for the winter.

The closest animal we saw (other than the Arctic ground squirrels that ran in front of the bus) was a moose that was making its way through the forest.  Moose don't like the open tundra and prefer to be in the forest and shrubby areas where they can eat their fill of willow.  I wasn't quick enough to get a picture though.

Today, we woke to rain.  We put on our rain jackets and went for a long walk -- I was determined to get in my "hike" in Denali.  This afternoon, we board the train again and head further north to Fairbanks.


  1. Absolutely stunning. Alaska is at the very top of my to-see list. I am loving these entries.

  2. Oh, how fun! Enjoy your time in Alaska.

  3. Your photos look like paintings. Gorgeous!!

  4. What a gorgeous place! I'd love to see it in person myself with all the wildlife and scenery.

  5. Last time we planned a vacation in America, I wanted to see Alaska, finally. Then I read all the tourist websites and found out it's virtually exactly like Washington state, my home. Of course, that's why Northern Exposure, the TV series, was filmed in Washington but set in Alaska. My husband and I love that show.

    So we took a tour of the North Cascades highway on our last visit, and, well, it's not Denali, but it was awesome. Oh, and we went to "Cicely, Alaska" while we were there.


    1. I would put Alaska back on your list; LOL. We've spent a lot of time in Washington State (Brett's daughter lives there) and the northern interior of Alaska is much different than both Washington and the coastal inside passage area that is cruised a lot. The tundra was very cool -- probably the most interesting part for me because it is so different.

  6. My youngest lives in Juneau. Went last year & have plans to go back next year for his first wedding. Can't wait


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