– today was our Kantishna Experience bus tour day. A drive over the full 92 miles of the park road and back.
– Left on our tour at 6:37am having waited for the Princess Cruise group to arrive. Rude beginning since our pick up time was 6:00am. One particular passenger would become the bane of our existence for the day. She was a very loud Indian lady with a very large camera, a very pushy attitude and a blind husband who she mostly abandoned.
– no motorized vehicles are allowed in the park in the winter so rangers travel using dogs. Some of the park service employees adopt a sled dog for the summer and we saw them out walking their dogs.
– this is boreal forest land but there are deciduous trees growing as result of forest fires. They are the pioneer trees that restart a forest after a fire.
– this is also tundra which is treeless and excellent for spotting wildlife
– our bus driver remarked that wildlife was generally found outside the bus. We had a good spotting day: 4 grizzlies, several moose, several caribou, ground squirrels, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares and Dall sheep
– in the small world category, there is a group from Houlton on the bus
– the bus is a converted school bus and it is transporting 37 of us today. A bit cramped for full grown folk and their stuff. But the outing was so special that the cramp could be forgiven.
– we each got a snack bag with water, juice, cheese, apple, cereal bar and granola. And there were sandwiches at lunch time. There were bathroom breaks about every hour and a half at visitor centers spaced within the park. Feeding and watering were well taken care of.
– I loved seeing the animals but the star for me was the scenery. We made it to within 14 miles of Denali and it was crystal clear. Just amazing! I feel so lucky to have seen it on 3 separate occasions.
– climbing season is over on Denali by the end of June. Once it gets warm it is too dangerous to be up there because of avalanches and crevasses and other bad mountain things. There are no climbers on Denali now. When expeditions are mounted, they are flown from Talkeetna to base camp at 7000 feet (the mountain is 20,237 feet high). It is considered an easy climb but the weather often makes conditions difficult.
– the sporting goods company North Face is named for one of the features on Denali. The mountain is their logo.
– at Wonder Lake, a ranger joined us to take over commentary. He talked a lot about the park history and the mining activities taking place in the Kantishna area in the early 1900s.
– before we were allowed off the bus we got our animal safety lecture. If you meet a bear, act casual, speak to it softly and slowly move away. They are near sighted. If you run it will likely mistake you for a tasty moose calf and come get you. If you meet a moose, run. They are mean, and strong and the most dangerous animal in the park.
– then we got out of the bus and walked with the ranger. He pointed out many plants and tried to get us a bit more in touch with where we were. The group spent some time happily picking blueberries and cranberries. He asked everybody to be quiet for a couple of minutes and just listen. We were all absorbed in the sounds of nature. Except Brett who insists he heard a chainsaw.
– cousin Kim suggested that we should ride on the driver’s side of the bus as this would afford the best views of the valley on the way into the park. We took her advice. She was correct.
– some of the road is very close to the edge of very steep mountain drop offs. I did not enjoy this portion of the ride and looked away for a good deal of it.
– at one rest stop I had grown tired of being around the bus group. So I walked down a trail on my own until I could no longer see people or the building. Then I sat in peace and admired the view. I was restored.
– on the way back we were treated to a spectacular rainbow that stretched the entire width of the valley. Even the bus driver got out of the bus to take a photo. I am a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see a whale.
– there are special days and there are very special days. This one will surely be a memory.