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Published: June 27th 2011
The lodge provides a full day “Wilderness Safari” via bus, through part of the 6.2 million acres of Denali National Park. The park is mainly open to buses for tourists. They limit the number of campers to just a few spots and cars are only by special permit only, mainly for researchers, photographers, and workers. Not tourists. So even if you had your own car, you’d probably have to take the tourist shuttle. There is only one road going into the park and you have to turn around and go out the same way you came in. This keeps people from tromping through the wildlife habitats and makes it truly a preserve.
Denali, means “Great One” and refers to Mt. McKinley. McKinley is the highest point in North America: 20,320 plus feet above sea level. It’s not considered to be the highest mountain because it starts at a higher elevation than Everest. But it is the highest point…a destinction Alaskan locals are very proud to point out. It’s still getting higher and grows a little each year. This is due to the cooling and subsequent hardening of volcanic magnum beneath the earth’s surface and also due to the movement of
After we started spotting the animals, the bus trip became a lot more fun. We were encouraged to keep a lookout for animals and call out if we saw something. “ Bears at 3:00”, “caribou at 9:00”, became the normal cry. Then everyone would scramble to drop the windows and get positioned for their photo. We quickly got to know the people around us and everyone had a lot of laughs. We were in search of the big 5: bear, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, and wolves. We saw all but a wolf.
We also saw hoary marmots, ground squirrels, bald eagles, a snowshoe hare, a red fox, magpies and lots more caribou. Caribou lose their antlers every year after mating and then grow them back. Their antlers are made out of bone whereas a deer keeps their antlers and they are made from keratin.
I was surprised how much our guide talked about what isn’t in the park. There are only 30 types of mammals, and only about ten different types of trees and shrubs. There are no snakes, no possum, no raccoons, no deer, no poison ivy, and no salmon. None of the
typical things you’d expect to see in a wildlife preserve. This is because it is an extremely harsh environment. The grizzly bear are smaller here because they don’t get to eat salmon. They’re mostly vegetarians and eat the blueberries and willows. In other places, where salmon are abundant, grizzlies can grow to about 1200 pounds, but here they are just between 300 and 600 pounds.
Yeah, Yeah, I know, this is borrrring. Okay, enough information.
On our way out of the park, we were talking about having seen all but one of the big 5. I called to the driver to “find us a WOLF”. Well only the last word was hear by most on the bus, so the driver immediately slowed and everyone jumped up and dropped their windows. I wanted to crawl under the seat. It was pretty funny though, and now everyone refers to me as the girl who cried wolf.
Dinner! I had grilled salmon on wild risotto. Mike had halibut and Cheryl had osso bucco, the best I’ve ever seen.
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