Joe and Nancy

Joe and Nancy
Our Home on Wheels (Click on image above for our web albums.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Denali National Park, Alaska Part 1

Our RV Park wasn't much to brag about here, but with such beauty all around us, how could we even think about spending any time in the RV.  What can I say about Denali?  It was just awesome!
From Wiki:  Denali National Park and Preserve is a national park and preserve located in Interior Alaska, centered around Denali (Mount McKinley), the highest mountain in North America. The park encompasses more than 6 million acres, of which 4,724,735.16 acres are federally owned. The national preserve is 1,334,200 acres, of which 1,304,132 acres are federally owned. The park is serviced by a 91-mile (146 km) road from the George Parks Highway to the mining camp of Kantishna. It runs east to west, north of and roughly parallel to the imposing Alaska Range. Only a small fraction of the road is paved because permafrost and the freeze-thaw cycle would create a high cost for maintaining a paved road. The first 15 miles of the road are available to private vehicles. Beyond this point, visitors must access the interior of the park through concessionary buses. Wonder Lake can be reached by a six-hour bus ride from the Wilderness Access Center. Eielson Visitor Center is located four hours into the park on the road.
Now, enough of the wiki stuff.  How about some pics?  And I have a lot, so it may take two blogs to get them in.
Caribou (aka reindeer) were everywhere.
The mountains & valleys & streams were just so awe-inspiring and relaxing.
The video inside the visitor center was just spectacular:  Very large projection-like screen (movie theater type) with HD picture & sound.  Gorgeous!  And what a nice book selection. We always try to support thr NP System by buying things from their shops.
 
Our bus ride into the park began at 6 AM at the McKinley Chalets.  Everyone was there, but not all were bright-eyed & bushy-tailed.  :-)
We were all very glad to be on this early bus into the park, and I'll show you why a little later.  We made several stops along our way, 53 mles into the park, and then back-tracked back to the Chalets around 3:30.  A long day on a school bus.
Above, a long shot with my 300mm at a Dall Sheep, a long way up this mountain.
Polychrome Mountain Pass.  Hold your breath during this little 6 minute narrow road.  This was really scary.  However, if you just stayed focused on the scenery, you were ok.  Even the bus driver, both ways, got off the microphone to concentrate.  Meeting another bus was a close-your-eyes event.
Above pic of a caribou was taken from Poychrome, 300mm telphoto.
And now, the reason we were happy to be out early this morning.  The bus driver said that Mount McKinley usually clouds over or gets skewed in smoke from the several fires this time of year, but the morning are the best time to see the mountain.  Even though we really never got more than 35 miles or so as a crow flies, the views were just awesome.  Below was out the window.
It's almost mystical, like in a storybook.  Below, zoomed all the way out, 300mm, and then cropped a little with Picasa.  And because of our perspective-location, coupled with the low clouds, we are viewing only the top 8,000 feet.
Above, look at how high and the treachorous cliffs these Dall Sheep are walking around on.  They were nearly vertical, but feel very comfy here, and safe from predators.
And we got to see Brown Bears, (aka Grizzlies).  Above, a quick-fire series of three pics from my Nikon D600, again at 300mm.  Two-year old cubs and Mama.
Zoomed out a little and cropped to highlite Mama Bear.
Wonder what these two young caribou are looking over their shoulders at?  Mama Bear and her two cubs.  They wanted to make sure Mama Bear kept walking over that hill away from them.
 
Above, yet another Dall Sheep.
Lorraine & Nancy at one of our bus stops, this one being at another visitor center about half way through the 53 miles.
This was our last stop, at 53 miles, and what a photo op it was.  Mount McKinley in all her glory.  So majestic, and revered by many Native First Alaskans throughout the land around her.
Above, our driver (holding the bag) was a wealth of knowledge during the all-day tour.  He let us stay 30 minutes at mile 53. 
Nancy asking the ranger a question at the mid-visitor center.
Here are a few pics of Mt McKinley with a little "fixing" in Picasa.
I could have stayed all day looking at this mountain.  Wish we could have been a little closer though.
Above, another multi-pic account of Mama Bear.  Below, out the front window at the return drive thru Polychrome Pass.
Another view of Mama Bear.  Note how blonde these bears are.  Their cousins over on the coastal regions, are larger because of their diet of high protein fish.
Right across the river from the mid visitor center, and lounging around on top of this grassy hilltop were these Dasll Sheep.  Pretty neat!
Well, I am only about halfway thru my Denali pics, so I think I'll stop here for now and continue this story in part 2 of our stay in the Denali area.  I have so much more to show & share.  Till then, RVing Beach Bums from Tok, Alask, Aug 22.