Wow! What a day. We didn't see the High One, Mt. McKinley, Denali, whatever you want to call it. But our round trip to the Eielson Visitor Center, 66 miles into the park, showed us so much wildlife. With 6 million acres, most of it wilderness, Denali is just a little smaller than Massachusetts. There is only one 92 mile-road into the park, leaving the rest as true wilderness. Private cars are largely limited to the first 15 miles of the road. There are not picnic areas along the road and we were asked to be quiet when the bus stopped for wildlife. That way, the animals don't get used to humans.
With all that said, our driver, Mike, said that close-up views of wildlife were unusual. We saw no wildlife for the first 15+ miles and the first animal was a porcupine. I don't think either of us have every seen one in the wild, so it was fun. But not what we came for. This is what we wanted to see--grizzly bears.
Then we saw three individual bears followed by two sows with twin cubs. The first set was fairly close to the road. How cool.
Later, we saw a mother bear and a yearly cub that had been swimming. They were right next to the road, then decided to really give us a treat and walked across the road, then next to the bus before going down on the other side.
Several times we saw small herds of caribou a long distance from the road. Twice there were several close by.
They even provided us with a closer look by slowly walking in front of the bus. This bull led the way.
At one of the rest stops, there were several sets of antlers visitors could handle. This woman wanted to see what she would look like as a caribou.
At the Eielson VC, we saw this red fox. I know it isn't red, but one of the Alaska Geographic staff told me it truly was a red fox, but in a different color phase. John took this picture.
He also took a picture of me with my camera. You can tell it was a cloudy and cold day. But we didn't have any rain during our stops.
There were lots and lots of buses on the road. I think the shuttle runs every 15 to 45 minutes with turn-arounds at 53, 66, 85 and 90 miles. The 90-mile bus takes 12 hours, round trip. We were tired after 8 hours. That was enough for us. There are also four types of narrated tours, ranging from 5 to 12 hours. Those are more expensive and don't stop as often or as long when wildlife is spotted. Our main objective was to view wildlife and we certainly were rewarded on the shuttle bus.
We were due back where we had parked at 2 pm. The one large animal we hadn't seen during the trip was a moose. But even that animal came into view about 1:40. We have seen cow moose before, but never a bull with a large rack. But look at what we spotted along the road!
We watched this magnificent animal eating plants for at least 10 minutes. Sometimes he would lift his head so we could see his face and not just his antlers. What a treat!