On July 16 we drove to Denali State Park. This park is one of the 200 greatest American State parks which we try and visit whenever we can. Our timing was such that we didn't have the time to camp here but we did hike around the 4.8 mile lake. After the hike we changed our wet clothing ate breakfast and continued our trip to Denali National Park where we had previously made reservations.
After settling in to our campsite we were treated to a view of Mt McKinley which is usually cloud covered. They don't tell you that in the tourist brochures. We also were treated to an owl family hanging out in a tree opposite the rest room.
The next day we went to the Visitors Center and took a short hike where we saw a mother moose and its calf before taking the 12 hour, 176 mile round trip buts ride to Wonder Lake.
On the way back from the hike Debby got a phone call.
We saw some wildlife from the bus We saw several grizzle bears including cubs at a distance as well as Caribou, Dall Sheep, one male Moose and several ptarmigan. We saw a fox with a squirrel but by the time I got the window open and my camera out all I got was his backside. The picture from the visitors center shows what the front looked like. We had hoped to see more wildlife but didn't and the ride was grueling so the next day we canceled our other two days of bus reservations and spent the remainder of our visit hiking the trails near the visitors center and our campground.
We were very disappointed in our bus trip as we later found out some of the drivers explain things about the park and are quite chatty but ours was a complete dud. We also went on the 11 AM trip which may not have been the best time of day to see wildlife. although the animals are always out there some people say they rest up during midday. We had made our reservations on line and that was a mistake. We later learned that some reservations are held back for walk ins and even what is available on line turns out not to be neither accurate nor representative of all the options. I would strongly recommend that anyone planning a trip to Denali not use the internet. The phone would probably be better. Heck walking in might even be better. I am not sure it would probably depend on what time you arrived. The earlier in the AM is best.
Despite the setbacks and disappointments we really enjoyed our visit. The campground was nice and the only one with a view of Mt. McKinley that didn't mean you saw the mountain all the time but on one or two days the clouds cleared and we saw the mountain from the campsite. I even got on the trailer roof for a better view. Debby on the other hand doesn't do ladders so she saw it from the ground.
One of the highlights of a trip to Denali National Park is the dog sled demonstration at the kennels near the Park Headquarters. Except for the area around the entrance and the road to the private village of Kantisha motorized vehicles are not allowed in the park. During the Spring, Summer and Fall Rangers patrol the park on foot but in Winter they rely on their dogs as the only way to get around. Rangers use dog sleds to patrol this 6 million acre park. For the demonstration they hook up a team to a sled with wheels as well as runners for a short trip around a track in view of the tourists in the bleachers. After the explanations the dogs were released to run back to their kennel all but one did so that one stopped to relieve him/her self. Before and after the demo people can visit with staff and the dogs some of whom are approachable.
About 500 ft from the Savage River campground where we were camped 13 miles into the park is the Savage River Ranger Cabin. During Winter the Rangers use this cabin as an overnight stop while on patrol. During the tourist season however the tour company has a tour stop complete with costumed interpreter. We managed to catch the tail end of one of the tours but when they left we had a private conversation with the interpreter a real Alaskan resident and homesteader.
He told us about a trail at Savage River that the the Park Service built but denies it's existence. We of course hiked it and were glad we did because we saw a Dahl Ram at a distance. On that same hike but near the ranger station we saw what might have been a baby ermine in its summer fur.
I believe they turn white during the winter as do the ptarmigan otherwise it was a baby squirrel. On the other side of the campground was a dry wash that was frequented by Caribou Unlike Caribou on the tundra up North Caribou in Denali are more solitary. I was told that it had something to do with food availability. As a result one doesn't see the large herds of Caribou just single animals or small groups.