Fondest memory: Another beautiful view of the Alaska Range. There had been a fresh snowfall overnight and it made this area look even more spectacular! You will most likely not see it, as it is a very tiny dot here in the photo, but there is a grizzly bear where the flat land meets the base of the mountain. We were following it for some distance but it continually went further away from the road.
Fondest memory: These arctic ground squirrels are found all over the park. They are very inqusitive and this often puts them in danger of becoming prey. We often saw them stand on their hind legs when we approached in the shuttle bus. They naturally do this to access if we are a threat. Wolves, fox, and grizzlies have become wise to this and wait in ambush for these little guys to show themselves when a bus comes through. They are a major food source for these predators.
Taking a shuttle bus is one of your only options to get in to see the park, unless you go by bike or on your own two feet. This is to limit the disturbance of traffic on the wildlife. The level of traffic going through is limited to 1984 levels. You may have to wait 2-3 days before you can get on a bus.
A fantastic thing about the shuttle bus is that the driver gives narration about the area, it's geographic features, flora and fauna. When wildlife is spotted, the driver stops and everyone has the opportunity to take photos and watch the wildlife in its natural environment.
The park promotes getting out into nature and making your own path. You can ask the bus driver to stop anywhere on the road to let you out (except when wildlife is present) and you can hike off into the wilderness. Just pick a mountain top or a river drainage that appeals to you and go. This is an awesome opportunity to explore areas which may never have been explored before! When you are ready to return, get back to the road (anywhere) and flag down the next bus coming through to take you where you want to go. Unless they are full, they will pick you up. Just make sure you have your ticket with you!
Fondest memory: We saw this sow with her 2 cubs while on our shuttle bus heading to the Eielson Visitor Center. Eielson was our turn-around point. I and two others from my group decided to hike up a rather steep mountain and head back in the direction of the bears. We hiked up and enjoyed some spectacular views. There was no trail of course, so we just made our own way. At the top we watched several Dall sheep rams below us as they climbed in our direction. They kept a watchful eye on us. After an hour and a half or so, we spotted these 3 bears once again far below us. Eventually they made their way onto the road as we descended the mountain. At a certain point we stopped and just watched. We were keeping our distance. :-) There was nothing preventing these bears from changing direction and heading towards us...
Fondest memory: Here's the same ptarmigan. I took this shot at the Savage River checkpoint at mile 14 on the park road. From here, the road becomes unpaved and is closed to private vehicles. If you're not continuing on from here with a shuttle bus, this is a good spot to watch for wildlife or venture out on a hike.
Ptarmigans are one of the few birds that remain here in winter. This one was already starting to change color to white to camoflauge itself against the coming snow.
Denali has recorded 159 species of birds. Most of these birds migrate long distances between their nesting grounds here in the park and their wintering areas. Wheateaters migrate to Africa, arctic terns to Antarctica and southern South America, and jaegers spend Alaskan winters at sea in the southern oceans. Ptarmigan, Lapland longspurs, and various shorebirds may be spotted on the open tundra. Short-eared owls and northern harriers can be seen soaring low in search of prey. Golden eagles soar at higher elevations. Hawk owls and goshawks are found in the spruce forest. Plovers, gryfalcons, mew gulls, and snow buntings are some of the other birds you may see here.
Fondest memory: It was amazing watching these animals! We didn't get very close (these pics were taken with a 300mm lense). Moose can be dangerous animals and will charge you. I did not want to mess with those antlers! This is the time of year when the moose and caribou lose the velvet on their antlers and they become hardened. This is to prepare them for the battle over females. After the rut and mating with the females, the antlers fall off, only to begin growing again the next spring. These bulls were the first and only bulls I had seen all summer. I had seen many cows and calves. It seems the bulls are more out of view until the rut approaches. Consider yourself lucky if you see one!
Fondest memory: Photo: It was a rainy day at the end of August and we found two bull moose foraging in this spruce/taiga forest. They were strengthing up for the fast approaching rutting season when they would be competing for mates. These moose were not seen from the park road. We hiked in through exactly what you see; dense underbrush. There are very few trails in this park. It is encouraged that you find your own path! You could be the first person ever in any particular spot. I wasn't properly outfitted at the time. I was wearing a light rainjacket, jeans, and non-waterproof boots. What a mistake! As you can see, this brush was at least hip high. Pushing through this wet undergrowth left me soaked to the bone. I have since bought myself a complete gortex outfit - jacket, pants and boots. You want to do this as well for any trip to Alaska. You will be much more comfortable and willing to hike in the rain where you may get an opportunity like this to see some wildlife! Rainy days are often better for wildlife viewing as the animals tend to rest and seek shade on sunny days. It may not feel that warm to you, but these animals are used to cold temperatures and if they are very active on a warm sunny day, they can overheat. It rains here a lot in summer and gortex will definately make you a happy camper and hiker! :-)
Favorite thing: During hiking in the park, you will get to see lots of pristine naturally scenery such as the one shown on the photo.
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