Jul 19, 2015
Tundra Wilderness Tour
Breakfast, today, was not exactly dining in style, but it did the job. We ate at Morino's Cafe in the visitor center complex of Denali NP. We had lots of time to kill, since our bus tour of the park road didn't leave 'til almost 2:00PM. The WIFI at the cafe was good, allowing me to post yesterday's blog very quickly.
After breakfast, we headed into town looking for a charm for my granddaughter's bracelet. This was one of the several things we did when the grand kids traveled with us. The National Parks Passport was another thing the kids loved. If you're traveling with children, the passport is a way to keep up their interest. Most NPs, Monuments, etc. have a place where they can stamp their passport, like when we travel abroad. Unfortunately, charms appear to be a out of date as last month's newspaper.
At 1:40 PM we boarded the Tundra Wilderness Tour bus at the Wilderness Center. The tour lasts 7-8 hours and takes you over 50 miles into the park on the only road. The road actually goes about 90 miles into the park, with several stops (campgrounds, rest areas, etc.) along the way. OBTW, the bus ride includes a box lunch... almost as tasty as the box, itself (note pack a sandwich, a piece of fruit, an a drink or two). If you want to go on a tour bus, or one of the shuttles, make your reservations well in advance on the web site.
The tour starts out on a 15 mile stretch of paved road, that you can drive on, that traverses through areas frequented by moose. After the ranger checkpoint, it's all dirt road. A bit later someone claimed to have spotted a moose. The driver stopped the bus, and we all scanned the hillside. It may have been one, but I never saw it. As we proceeded into the park we stopped for several bear sightings, mostly very far away. At one point I spotted a small herd of caribou on the hillside. When the bus stopped we learned herds of the beasts were rare this time of year, as they're pretty solitary in the mid-summer. At one of the rests, a visitor center on the Toklat River, someone spotted a pair of critters on the mountain, above. With binoculars, and two spotting scopes installed at the center we could see that they were Dahl Sheep. They were tiny specks on the green hill to the naked eye. After driving to the turn-around point, we returned to the Toklat River stop. This time, the sheep were still up on the hill, but we also spotted a grizzly across the river on another hill. When we departed the rest area the driver stopped the bus near the bear for a much better look.
The rest of the return ride was mostly viewing the magnificent countryside that is Denali NP. Stopping at the top of Polychrome pass, we could easily see why it got its name. The rocks take on many vibrant colors. The view is spectacular. As the clouds thinned we could catch glimpses of the snow-covered mountains of the Alaska range. Awesome!!! In case I hadn't mentioned it, its been raining a lot this summer in Denali. We did not get a reprieve. Most of the high mountains were totally obscured from view. Up here that have a thing called the 30%-ers. Less than one third of people who come to Denali ever see the mountain because of clouds.
As we returned towards our point of origin, someone spotted a moose browsing on willow tree. The bus stopped for a better look. We then realized it was a large male. Moments later a second moose, also a large bull, appeared out of the woods behind the first. We watched for several minutes as they peacefully munched on willow leaves. This was the best moose sighting I've ever experienced.
Today's photo is, what else, the two jumbo moose.