After a couple of days of moving the camper, doing laundry, stocking up and relaxing, we drove to Denali National Park. We made a quick side trip to Talkeetna. It is a very small town that has some cool stores, artists and lots of planes. People that are going to climb Denali start their adventure from here. They had all kinds of decorated moose that were very cute. As we drove, we noticed that the fireweed was going to seed. Uh oh….summer must be over in the interior of Alaska.
As we were driving toward Denali, we stopped at the Denali State Park overlook and were lucky enough to get a picture of Denali (pictures 3 and 4). Only 30% of visitors get to see the entire mountain. Good thing we got to see it on the ride up because when we went into the park, we were not as lucky. The next two pictures show braided rivers. The glacier fed rivers have so much silt, that they cut different channels which can change as often as daily.
Denali National Park and Preserve encompasses Mount McKinley (Denali), the highest mountain in North America at 20,300 feet. The park and preserve protects more than 6 million acres. The original park, Mt. McKinley National Park, was established in 1917 to protect the wildlife, particularly the Dall Sheep, in 2 million acres around Mount McKinley. In 1980, it was increased to its current size and renamed Denali National Park.
The park service is working very hard to keep Denali wild, so to get more than 15 miles into the park you have to go on a bus or have a special permit. We took the shuttle bus option. The bus drives you in 4 hours and out 4 hours. We had a great bus driver who was funny and gave us great information. If someone saw wildlife, we yelled “Stop” and he would pull over so we could get a picture. We saw 12 caribou and 15 grizzly bears. We actually saw one bear run and jump in the air to catch some kind of animal. The bears in the park have an 85% vegetarian diet, so it is rare to get to see them hunting like that. We also saw some smaller animals like the ground squirrel in the 9th picture.
The 11th picture shows how beautiful and colorful the park is. A lot of emphasis is on Denali, but the park has some very interesting geology. The 14th picture shows the road as it winds through the park (Denali is in the background). Our best bear sighting was actually outside of the park when we were leaving in the morning. We saw a young grizzly very close to the road. He was looking for berries. It was very exciting.