Thursday, June 21, 2018

ALASKA TRIP-MAY 2018 - MAY 19TH AND 20TH, 2018 - ANCHORAGE ON FRIDAY AND DENALI ON SATURDAY



When I can remember to do this, I add a paragraph at the beginning of my vacation posts.  It is for those who don't know that we have been back home since the end of May. I am sharing my daily journals and photographs of our time in Alaska.  Many places we visited I will share more photos in the future.  If you have missed any of the ones I have published and would like to take a look, you can go to the bottom of this post and click on "Alaska Trip-May 2018".

A two-day post today.  I didn't write much on the 19th as it was mostly a travel day.  We had lunch in Anchorage and walked around a market where the bus dropped us off.  

We browsed briefly then it was back on the bus until we reached our hotel for the night, the Talkeetna Lodge.  If you go here and scroll down the page a little, you will see a video on the right.  It is well worth watching just for the scenery.
I was hoping to see a real one of these.  
The fireplace reached all the way to the ceiling, a very impressive construction made of river stone.  Below you can see a close up of the open flames.  
Sunday, May 20th, 2018
Denali National Park and Preserve

We drove an hour-and-a-half from the Alkeetna Lodge to Denali.  The place we stopped at had a cafeteria and a gift store, and it was near the entrance of the park, but I don't remember the exact name.  It may have been the Denali Park Village Resort.  You can see a link here.  Our nephew took most of the photos here today.
 These are my fellow travelers. They are a very special group of ladies I feel privileged to have shared this holiday with, my family. They made traveling all those miles one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had.
This little guy was very cute but we didn't invite him to come along.  Besides, he was too busy scrounging for scraps of food people were eating on the bench opposite ours.  He was happy they weren't doing a very good job of picking up their crumbs.
Due to a mix-up we got two tickets for a four-hour tour and six tickets for the eight-hour tour.  Gregg and my brother-in-law volunteered to go on the shorter, and the rest of us went on the longer, all-day tour.  It suited them fine as they were thinking that four hours was long enough, and truth be told I was wondering about that myself.  As it turned out that eight hour version was the best decision we ever made.  We saw so much wildlife and the bus ride went fast.

We walked down the road to wait for the bus.  There is link here for you to look at.  

When the drive began the first thing our driver pointed out was the Willow Ptarmigan.  We saw them all throughout the day. You can look at this link to get more information.  It is the state bird of Alaska and they are an arctic grouse.  It changes color from a snowy white in the winter, to a light brown in the summer, which is an effective camouflage from predators.

A first sighting of a grizzly.
The driver said we were very lucky that day.  We ending up seeing several grizzly bears.  It was very cool to see two young bears rooting at the side of the road.  As the bus approached on the other side and stopped, they did not seem that bothered and continued eating.  I thought at first these were a mother and cub, but am not so sure now.  It did seem that the one was a little larger than the other.    
There were also Dall Sheep.  I had never seen them before except for in books and on nature shows, so I was delighted at the sight of them.
and nephew got closer shots than this.




 Caribou in the distance. 

I cropped as far as I could go.  
Do you notice the scar over this one's eye?  He is a scrappy one and when I tell you what happened next, you may agree with me.
A heart-stopping and extraordinary incident happened when a cyclist was chased by this grizzly.  Our nephew spotted the bear's first sighting of our cyclist coming down a steep hill.  The bear was moving in from the left-hand side of the road, still a ways off just ambling along.  And then when he saw the cyclist he picked up his pace, almost to a gallop.

We had already stopped to look at the bears and the driver could immediately see that the cyclist was in a very precarious position.  He opened the door.  I saw the cyclist throw his bike down and  quickly jump onto the bus. The driver closed the doors as fast as he could.  Several of the passengers talked to him, this young man who had just jumped on board.  He was relieved we were there because, as he was making his way down the road, he saw the bear coming. They were basically on a collision course and the cyclist could see what was coming.

Once the cyclist disappeared from the bear's view, he seemed to give up the chase.  

The bear crossed the road at a fast trot, then walked up the hill and eventually disappeared out of sight.  
While all this was going on another bus had stopped on the other side of the road.  Its driver had also witnessed the encounter and was ready to help if needed.  We were just that bit closer.  You can see from the looks on those two ladies faces looking out their windows, that they saw everything that had happened.

Last year I remember looking at a  photo of a similar circumstances, and at the time I said oh that can't be real.  I don't think that way anymore. In the photo below the cyclist retrieved his bike and we wished him well as he disappeared around the corner.

Bears are coming out of hibernation and very hungry.  A fact that Gregg picked up from his driver, was that they have to consume 300,000 berries every day during the month of August, the prime berry month in Denali.  They need this to survive the winter.  

A few more miles down the road we saw the three bears on the hillside.  I have more bear photos that I will share at a later date.  


So, today we saw a lot of grizzlies and experienced a bit of excitement we could have all done without (the cyclist), and so glad it turned out okay.  This incident reminded all of us that we are visiting their territory.  They were here a lot longer before we were and they deserve our respect.  They might look cute and cuddly and I may be preaching to the choir here but they are wild animals, and I love that they are wild.  I want them to be around for a very long time, in their own natural habitat so that our children can see them one day, and our children's children. 

Not only do you see all this breathtaking scenery, but there was the most amazing wildlife all throughout our 8-hour tour.  So, if you have occasion to go to Denali, don't be put off by the length of it.  You just never know what you will see. It was an exciting day for animals, especially for bears.


Gregg passed on one more bit of information. Their driver had already told him they have a name for cyclists, "Meals-on-Wheels".  Insert 'startled face' here. We passed more cyclists on our tour, and several hikers, and a lot more bears in various places along the tour.  It was a busy day for bears.  
To finish up.

We met a very nice people on the bus.  A couple from Louisville, Kentucky, a couple from Olympia, Washington and another couple from Miami, Florida.  The people behind us were celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary. 



When we got back to our hotel and were sitting at a table near the fireplace, a couple asked if they could share as the other tables were taken.  We had another delightful conversation, and I thanked them for giving me permission to put their photo on my blog. I have already sent it to them.  

The husband told us that he was in Alaska in 1964 when they had the 9.2 earthquake.  He told some extremely interesting, first-hand accounts of what it was like. The epicenter was located in the general vicinity of Seward.  If you are interested and would like to learn more, you can find an interesting article here.  

Off to bed now.  Tomorrow we take a train ride from Denali to Anchorage.