Today we didn’t get in a big hurry as we were only traveling from Wasilla to Eagle River which is approximately 40 miles. I took a few photos, but with rain on the front window and glare off the other windows, there was nothing worth uploading to the blog. We stopped at Fred Meyer to take advantage of our July fuel discount. With the $.10 per gallon discount we paid $4.199 per gallon instead of the posted $4.299. I started to post it as $2.199 (Oh, how we wish!). After getting fuel, we continued to Ian and Jennifer’s house where we will only stay one night. Tomorrow we have an appointment at the Cummins shop in Anchorage. Hopefully they will have researched and found a solution to the problem and we’ll be on our way back to Kenai for 2-3 days. That’s it for now.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
We got going somewhat early this morning and packed things up and drove a short ways down the road to K2 Aviation for our scheduled flightseeing tour over Mount McKinley/Denali. When we arrived there, we were informed the mountain had clouds surrounding it and offered another flight over Knik Glacier. Since we were more interested in McKinley, we declined the offer and got a refund and continued on our way south.
Look both ways before crossing the road. That’s something my parents always told me and Ken’s parents always told him. This young moose obviously did not get the same warning from her parents. Thankfully for us (and her), we saw her before she ran across the road and had time to slow down to avoid hitting her. This happened shortly after leaving the campground this morning.
Other than the moose crossing, it was an uneventful day. We arrived at the Palmer Elks lodge located in Wasilla and headed into town to pick up a few groceries and returned for the remainder of the day. Tomorrow we will be driving back to Ian and Jennifer’s house to spend the night prior to our Cummins appointment on Monday morning.
Friday, July 29, 2011
This morning we left our site in Teklanika Campground in Denali National Park. Although we never got to see Mt McKinley/Denali, we had a wonderful stay and saw lots of wildlife so it was well worth the stay. There are advantages and disadvantages of staying at Tek. The advantage is that you can ride the bus as much as you want on a space available basis in addition to your paid trip. The disadvantage is that quite often the bus is very full when it arrives at the Tek bus stop and you may not get a window seat. But overall, it worked out very well for us. As we drove the 30 miles back to the Parks Highway, we got to see more of the Denali “Big Five.” We saw these large caribou grazing quite a distance from the road.
As we continued down the road, oncoming traffic was stopped for a wolf in the road.
Yum-O…I think I see some fresh roadkill.
I’ll just do the park a favor and clean up the road for them.
It sure has a lot of bone left in it.
Oh, barf! This stuff isn’t fit for a wolf.
I’m having a good time holding up traffic. I’ll just take my time and walk down the road for a while.
Don’t go getting snippy with me…I’ll just take my sweet time.
This is so much fun.
Oh…I’m on film..okay…big smile!
Our next stop was for a moose down in a pond.
We stopped at Riley Creek to dump our tanks. There was a lineup so we patiently waited our turn. I found it a little bit entertaining when I heard one rental Rver asking someone “how do I tell the black from the gray?” Okay…so we got that task completed and headed south on the Parks Highway. We stopped at MM 134.8 at the South Denali View rest stop for lunch. When we finished our lunch, we took a walk to the upper viewpoint. Along the trail was this interesting sign about bald eagles which we didn’t remember from our last trip here.
We ended our traveling day at Talkeetna Camper Park where we stayed last week in the same site. We’re catching up on laundry once again. We met Ashley (Ian’s friend) and his other Alaska Railroad coworkers for dinner and a beer after their train got back into town. Tomorrow, we’re hoping for clear skies to take our flightseeing trip over McKinley/Denali. After that, we’ll be headed to Wasilla Elks lodge for a night.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The weather seemed to be taking a turn for the better this morning, so we decided to take advantage of it and take one last bus ride further into the park. As we were waiting at the bus stop at Teklanika Campground, we saw that several people from a eastbound camper bus were outside looking at something to the side of the road. It wasn’t long before a lynx crossed the road.
About 30 minutes later the lynx crossed the road again about 100 yards west of the bus stop.
We saw another golden eagle and Ken was able to get a photo this time.
We saw numerous dall sheep again today including this one that was close to the roadside.
One of the pamphlets that we picked up about Denali National Park has a list of what they call the “Big Five” Denali mammals. That list includes: grizzly bears, Dall sheep, caribou, moose, and wolves. Up until today, we had seen all but the wolves inside the park. Here is a photo of the first one we saw down in the canyon below Polychrome.
We continued on to Toklat River rest stop. At the bridge before turning into it, a grizzly bear was spotted in the river near the bridge. A bear was also seen across the river from the rest stop. This next photo is of the grizzly with her two cubs that was across from the rest stop.
While mom went back into the brush to graze, the twins had some fun playing around a bit.
This is the first of three red fox we saw today.
We saw a lot of caribou again today and this was a large one with impressive antlers.
Here is our second red fox sighting.
And this is our third red fox sighting today. Notice how much more colorful it looks.
Here is another caribou we saw and this one had a tracking collar.
After leaving Toklat River rest stop on the return trip to our campground, the grizzly and her twins were headed to another spot.
This is the wolf we saw on the way back to camp and it had a tracking collar.
This photo blurred a little, but this big caribou was on the hillside on our return trip.
Tomorrow morning we will be leaving Denali and driving back to Talkeetna where we hope the weather improves enough for us to take the flightseeing trip on Saturday morning.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
It had been raining during the night and was not looking like a good day for travel in the park. The weather seemed to settle down a little later in the morning, so we decided we would take a bus into Toklat and back. We knew we didn’t want to have the same bus driver as the last two days as he seemed to be more concerned about keeping his schedule and didn’t really seem alert to wildlife. He had been driving the Eielson bus, so we were going to avoid that one and take the Toklat bus instead. However, when the Eielson bus pulled up to our stop, it was a different driver, there was room on the bus, so we went with it. Altogether today, we probably saw at least 7 different grizzly bears throughout the park, and the sightings started early with this one.
The bus stopped by the caribou antlers left by the wolf kill from a few days ago. A raven was feeding off what was left.
A herd of dall sheep was high on the hillside.
Our next grizzly bear was running around frantically. As quick as it was moving, Ken thought that it’s mother may have abandoned it to fend for itself while she goes on to conceive her next cub or cubs.
Here’s our third bear to cooperate for the camera.
I wish the photo of this next bear would have turned out better, but it stayed in the brush a little too much. It had much darker coloring than the other grizzlies we’ve been spotting in the park.
This grizzly photo turned out pretty good.
We also saw several caribou today. This photo shows a couple of them and the big fellow on the hill has a large set of antlers.
We continued to Eielson Visitor Center where we looked around a little, but didn’t get a view of the mountain as it was cloud covered once again.
On the way back to the campground, we saw the herd of dall sheep again and got a better photo than earlier in the day.
We also saw a golden eagle but it wasn’t close enough to get a good picture.
And finally, this is a photo of Ken posing with our bus driver Anna. She has got to be the best bus driver in the 2 years that we have explored in Denali National Park. She has a terrific outgoing personality and is very knowledgeable of the park’s wildlife. She also talked quite a bit about the wildflowers and described their appearance, and gave their common name as well as the Latin name. If in the future you visit the park and see her driving, you’re in for a good ride.
Tonight is our third night at Teklanika Campground and tomorrow will be our last day in the park.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Our bus ride today took us to Eielson Visitor Center where we did not get a view of Denali. The weather here has not been that great and it is probably unlikely we will see the mountain while we’re in the park. We are so glad that we had so many wonderful views of it from other locations in our travels in Alaska. Shortly after getting started on the trip a grizzly bear was spotted, but it remained more or less in hiding.
Someone at the bus stop told us about caribou antlers in a field, the remains of a wolf kill. They had seen a grizzly working on the carcass yesterday.
We had an unusual sighting today as several dall sheep were very close to the road. Here are a couple of photos of them.
Here are a couple of photos of a huge bull moose grazing in the field above the road.
Further down the road, this red fox was lying along the side of the road. It sat there for quite a while, then quickly ran off.
We saw numerous caribou again today and this one had a very large rack.
As we got closer to our campground, someone spotted a grizzly bear across the Teklanika River. It never really came out of the brush to get a good photo though. That’s it for today.
Monday, July 25, 2011
We got an early start this morning as we wanted to try to get a campsite in Teklanika that would give us our satellite internet. We were only able to bring the motorhome in on the special permit road which goes in about 29-30 miles. Private vehicles can otherwise only go as far as mile 15. We drove to the Visitor Center where we left the pickup and we were soon on our way west to the campground.
We got to the turnoff into the campground (the road going right before the bus stop).
The site we used 2 years ago was occupied. We found another site near that one, tried the satellite, it locked on, and we were set to go. The weather was okay when we got situated, so we packed a lunch and headed to the bus stop to catch a ride further into Denali National Park. Once on the bus, our first stop was Teklanika Rest Stop. In addition to it being a rest area, there is also a viewing area to the mountains across the Teklanika River. Ken spotted 3 dall sheep near the top of one of the peaks.
The sheep seemed to be spooked by something that we didn’t see, and they ran to the left.
After a short break, we got back on the bus and continued further into the park. There is about a 5 mile area on Sable Pass that is restricted and people are not allowed to walk the road in that area due to grizzly activity. The bus driver going into the park was not really tuned into finding the wildlife, and it was a passenger that yelled for him to stop for our first grizzly bear.
Getting close to the end of the restricted area, another passenger shouted out for the driver to stop for another grizzly. This one was a sow with two cubs.
We had another short break at Polychrome where we looked down to the Toklat River.
Before too long, caribou were spotted below the road.
In addition to these two, we saw about 15 caribou in the area between Polychrome and Tolkat. Since we have a scheduled bus ride tomorrow into Eielson Visitor Center, we decided to have our lunch at Tolkat and catch another bus back to camp. We had a much better bus driver on the way back and she was very informative of things along the route. She spotted a grizzly that none of the passengers would have seen, and she decided to wait and see if it would move. It did move and we got some great photos as it was much closer to the road than the other we saw earlier in the day. Here are a couple of photos of our 5th grizzly bear for the day.
After getting back to camp we walked around the campground a bit then returned to the motorhome for the rest of the day.