Better With Friends
After our drive from Fairbanks down the Richardson and across the Denali Highway, Camilla is excited to see the park itself.
Tickets purchased at 7am. First buses sold out. Our bus isn’t until 9am. We drive 13 miles of park road. Fog, intense colors, moose.
A five mile stretch of park road near the entrance is traditional moose rutting territory. Since this is rutting season, right now spotting moose is as easy as (pick your favorite overused cliche). Perhaps they have an exhibitionist streak. Or not.
On the bus. Fog is lifting. For a few minutes at least, then it settles in again. We roll by a particularly beautiful scene, as all the drivers do. Thirty passengers are trying to capture the scene from a moving bus. I ask the driver to stop. He responds “I’ve got a great place just up the road.” Wrong. The scene is nowhere near as good.
The bus drivers are amazing about spotting and stopping for wildlife, terrible about stopping for a beautiful scenic. Such is the nature of bus travel I suppose.
Teklanika rest stop. Usually I avoid the overlook since it’s overloaded with tourists, and nowhere near the best scene on the road. But I’m with a Denali newbie, so we look. We take a photo of a fellow tourist and his friends. He reciprocates by doing the same for us and barely managing to get us in the frame. Later, I crop 50% of the picture to make it usable.
Onward. Toklat. Polychrome. The usual scenes. It’s fun re-learning the park through the eyes of someone new. A bear is spotted. Too my eyes, too far away to get excited anymore. Camilla reminds me that it’s still a grizzly bear, which is pretty exciting. True. But an advantage of living here is that I can be snobbish about my wildlife spottings.
Pulling up to Toklat, Dall sheep on the cliffs and hillside. They are amazing; I never get tired of them. A bus driver last year said that the number one cause of death for Dall Sheep is falling. I tried verifying that through an exhaustive 5 minute online search, but no success.
Still it makes sense. Surely they fall sometimes.
Eielson Visitor Center. Truly a spectacular scene. We go for a short walk below the visitor center. Fall colors. Fresh snow. Beautiful.
Thirty minute rest stop is over. Back on the road. Driving east to the entrance. More animals. Caribou. They are out of place at this time of year, most of them have migrated to the western end of the park. Early in the season it’s rare to not see caribou. This late in the season its a rarity to see them. I’m pleased, glad that my friend got to see them. All the way from the Netherlands, she should be able to see caribou!
Back to the entrance area. More moose. Fog has lifted. The colors don’t even seem real. My third season in the park and I still can’t believe the colors.
Back home, we each call it a night. Camilla goes in the the park the next two days. She gets to see a wolf, which I haven’t seen all season. No fair! I get to work. No fair.
Oh wait, I live here. So perhaps I still get the better end of the bargain.