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Published: July 10th 2017
Weren't we so lucky to have the 3 best days for sunny weather when we drove to Denali National Park. The mountain Denali ( its Native Alaskan name "The High One " ) or as previously named Mount McKinley is rarely seen by visitors as it is usually wreathed in cloud. About 1 in 3 get to see it but there is was looming ahead of us like a huge iceberg on the road as we drove up North. In fact we were so surprised that we missed the turn outs so never go a photo so you have to take my word for it ! Denali is the tallest mountain in the USA at 20,310 ft , and since it starts from a lower base level,it is said to be taller than Everest.
Back in 1908 Charles Sheldon looked around at this wilderness and had a dream that there could be a National Park here like Yellowstone ..a place to be preserved and protected for future generations and eventually in December 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed into law legislation that established over 100 million acres of new National Parks, preserves and wildlife refuges in Alaska.
And thanks to
careful planning the one road into the park is restricted to private vehicles , they're can only travel the first 15 miles but there is a bus which you can take to the Eileson Visitors Centre at mile 66 and that's what we did. WHat an amazing road and what an amazing driver ... it's a 4 hour journey there and 4 hours back. Our driver told us lots about the park, the flora and the wildlife and drove so carefully round tight bends with sheer drops on one side and sheer rock faces on the other which looked like there could be a landslide any time!! One time I was certainly glad I wasn't driving.
The wild flowers were so beautiful everywhere. The mountains ranges with glaciers were AWESOME . The spruce forest rolled by and up the mountainsides to the tree line then as we got higher there was tundra and taiga. We trundled over ever so wide braided river systems where melt water and rocks from the glaciers is transported down the valleys. And this was the day the sun shone ... how blessed we were.
The driver made some scheduled stops for a rest
break, delivering people to campsites or picking up hikers. The system was that you would shout stop if you wanted to get off the bus and hike , then hail another bus later as they came along quite frequently. Or you shouted stop,if you spotted wildlife . But having listened to the " advice for bear encounters " talk we were not so sure that we wanted to get of the bus in this wilderness and run the risk of meeting up with a grizzly. What to do depends on what kind of bear it is ....
Here is BEAR ADVICE
Avoid bears if you can.
If you see one never run ! They can run faster and climb trees!
make a noise let it know you are a human and wave your arms and make yourself look bigger.
don't throw your back pack at it ( in one story they people did that and the bear ate their food and now thinks humans are good for a snack ... that bear had to be shot !)
If it charges at you stand your ground !!!! It might be a false charge .
Grizzly bear sighting
Yes white dot is the bear!
If it charges again and makes contact ... FIGHT BACK if it's a black bear
PLAY DEAD if it's a grizzly / brown bear , covering the back of your neck . This has saved several people we we're told!
The main problem with this is that sometimes it is hard to identify what bear it is ... some black bears are lightish brown and some brown bears are dark.... so can you imagine standing there in those moments thinking do I fight or play dead.
Best plan was stay in the bus !!!
However we were lucky enough to spot at a distance.... one light coloured very large grizzly lying resting and snoozing and then another time two of them roaming around in some bushes . I was very pleased to have my binoculars with me, the driver would stop the bus for several minutes while we all got a look at the animals . WE also saw Alaskan squirrels, ground hogs, several sightings of caribou , a Dall sheep , which is a bit like a mountain goat ,and finally a well camouflaged moose. You would really need to have a zoom lens for
good photos .... my photo of the bear looks like a white dot. But we can say we have seen these wild animals in this amazing wilderness where they freeely roam. So happy to have had this opportunity to travel here .
Oh one last sighting was Beeny rabbit sitting on a rock.
We had two nights at Denali Village and enjoyed some great local beer and food ... very nice caribou burger one night and bison meat loaf another. The Visitor centres had some very interesting exhibits and films about Alaskan life so we really felt we had enjoyed every minute there.
On our way back to Anchorage we visited the small town of Talkeetna, previously a mining town and base for mountain climbing . It was buzzing with lots of visitors enjoying walking along Main Street viewing the cute wooden buildings sampling the beer and the gorgeous pies.... and there was also a great little local museum there. We have found these small local town museum to be so interesting.
9 July .... So that's about it , our two weeks are almost over ... today is Sunday and we had our last walk
in the Eagle River Valley Reserve this morning, yes !!!! we hiked about 3 miles on a trail and although bull moose and black bears had been spotted early this morning and yesterday we were brave enough and completed the hike.
Tomorrow it's bye bye Alaska , and I have to thank Rosalind for inviting me to come along with her and our hosts Nick and Lita for their hospitality and inviting us to share their lovely home.
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