This morning we started our journey into Denali at 7:00 a.m. We drove the RV over to a hotel where the tour started from. The bus was actually a little better than a school bus, but not much. The seats did have some cushion which was a pleasant surprise. Also, our driver was an anthropologist and she reminded both of us of our good friend Ann Hall. She knew a lot about the tundra, food chain, and you could tell by the way she described everything that she’s devoted to the park and the preservation of the wildlife. So here’s a shout out to our friend Ann Hall. We’d heard stories about the long difficult day inside the park so we were somewhat prepared. Because Don and Sandie had already done the Denali Tundra and Wildlife tour, they opted to move around the park on the shuttle service.
We packed our backpacks with plenty of water and snacks. There was a box lunch in our seat as we boarded the bus. It’s a wonder what they can prepackage these days. In the box were a sandwich roll, a CAN of chicken salad (that’s a first), crackers, and a little prepackaged item of carrot sticks and ranch dressing, and a cookie. There was a hand wipe and a spoon inside the box as well. Actually at lunch time, we were tired and hungry so it tasted pretty good. The chicken salad was in a can similar to a can of tuna, and it had a peel back aluminum lid, much like applesauce or some of those other individual servings of jello, pudding, etc. At any rate it was pretty good.
The park is difficult to describe. It is a vast area of some 2 million acres of designated wilderness. A single 92 mile road offers the only access through the park. No vehicles are allowed past a certain point except the tour buses. There are no power lines or buildings. The roads are dirt and gravel and make for a rough ride. On top of being rough roads, they are also scary roads (for me anyway). They are very narrow, and one side drops off at such a level it looks as though the bus will go flying off the edge at any minute. The roads are curvy and go up and down the entire day. But the weather was perfect for looking for wildlife. We saw caribou, moose, grizzlies, elk, and dall sheep. The problem is the wildlife was so far away it was difficult to see with the naked eye. But we all had binoculars, and the tour bus driver had a fancy video cam that she could get close ups of the animals. At intervals in the bus there were small dvd screens, similar to the ones used in vehicles for children to watch movies. We could view live video close-ups of the animals anyone spotted on the trip. So viewing the close up of the animals on the dvd screen was better than trying to find them with binoculars. The down side of this was we didn’t get good photos. We actually saw more wildlife close up while driving in British Columbia and Alberta than in Denali. If there was any disappointment of the day it was that we did not get to view Mt. McKinley. The mountain was covered with clouds although our day was beautiful. The mountain makes it’s own weather, and only about 40% of the visitors ever get to see it. But we have another couple of chances to view it on our way to Talkeetna tomorrow.
We did not get back to our drop off point until nearly 5:00 p.m. Before we headed back to the campground we had a quick pizza in the bar and grill at the hotel. It was delicious, partly because it really was delicious and partly because we were so tired and hungry.
We really enjoyed our excursion, but we think we will not do any excursions in the next few days. We plan on being in Talkeetna tomorrow night, and then on to Anchorage for Saturday and Sunday evening. Talkeetna is a small unique village off the “beaten path” which is our favorite kind of place to visit. We will just visit some of the artisan shops there and chill. We will visit the Ulu (Alaskan knife) factory while in Anchorage. I’ve learned to only visit the native artisan shops in these villages. In the more tourist shops, all articles are made in China!!!!
Stay tuned. Bonnie