Alaska – Denali National Park – Day 1

This was the end of the Alaska trip with friends. AsA, SA and kids had left really early in the morning for Denali National Park (DNP) as they were making a day trip and then heading back home the next day. AmA, PA, PG and CG were taking an easy day making the trip to the outskirts of Denali by end of day and then heading inside the National Park the next day for a day trip and back home. NG, SG and M were heading home that evening. D and I were spending 3 nights inside the national park camping at Wonder Lake campground which is the last place inside the DNP that you can camp.

Cars are not allowed beyond a certain point inside DNP. There are buses that run inside DNP that we had a booking for. Since our bus was to leave at 2:00 in the afternoon we packed all the stuff we were taking to Wonder Lake in our rucksack and heading out at 9:00 in the morning to make the 3 hours drive to DNP. It was an uneventful drive with stops for gas, restroom breaks (those were for me, pregnancy makes such breaks a must) and to click pictures.

We got to DNP well in time for the bus so we checked in and then went to find a place to grab a bite to eat. Sandwich, fries and soup later we headed to the parking lot to park the car for the upcoming three days and then walked with all our gear to the bus stop. The bus came in and about 10 or so people got in. Once we had boarded the bus we were told that there were 5 official stops that the bus would make at various campgrounds and visitor centers but we could ask the bus to stop anytime if we spotted any wild life or if we wanted to hike or were backpacking to some remote part of the park. And once done could flag any bus going back and forth. Our tickets were valid inside the park for multiple days so we were not bound to this one bus. But there was only one bus after this going to Wonder Lake so needed to be on time for that if Wonder Lake was our destination. D and I quickly decided to stick to this bus for the day (backpack and all, did not want to risk not getting to Wonder Lake).

So off we went. And almost immediately the bus was stopped because there was a Moose eating on the side of the road. The driver told us that this was a young male moose looking at its size, height etc.

Moose youngling
Moose youngling

After much excitement, cheering and photographs we started out again and soon spotted another Moose. More cheer when suddenly saw four ears peeping from the greenery. A few seconds later saw two little faces as well. Oh what a sight. Everyone was grinning ear to ear. What a beginning to the four and half hour trip.

Mama Moose with her two little ones
Mama Moose with her two little ones

Things were quite after that. About 45 mins after we started and a couple of stops later we were passing through small hill on both sides when the driver told us that this was Dal sheep habitat and to keep our eyes out for them. Dal sheep stay up high in the mountains, feeding on small grass that grow on that elevation, where the bears cannot reach. Their small hoof feet allow them to move even further up swiftly if they sense danger. So they generally are just specs of white and need an expert eye to spot. But spot one we did.

Dal sheep
Dal sheep

Finally we got to a visitor center where we had a 15 min break to stretch our legs. Once out of the bus, there was this small mound where we though the view would be nice, so walked up the stairs and then took this little trail to click some pictures of the view around. While walking on the trail we saw a few people super excited pointing towards something, so of we went to investigate. Saw a Caribou grazing a little further along. D, being the brave soul he is, swiftly took to the path for a closer shoot of the wild beast. He was soon followed by more brave ones. Me not so brave one stood at a distance just watching in wonder.

Carab
Caribou

15 mins up we got into the bus and started onwards. We were soon flagged down why two hikers who had just spotted a bear some distance away, so we kept our eyes out for them. We finally saw this bear way out in the distance. You could make it out but just about and that too with binoculars and lot of pointing. We would take it as a sighting if that was all we were getting. Not great but it was what it was. Suddenly another 1o mins into a bus ride the driver braked hard. We were asked to be real quite. There was a bear on the road and human noise is suppose to be kept to a minimum. The things is, if while hiking you encounter a bear you are suppose to increase your size as much as you can (raise you hand up, puff your chest etc.) and make a lot of noise, but if the bears get use to human noise in normal situations like when everyone is safe inside a bus and not fear the sound when out in the wild, it would cause a lot of human injury and death in the park. So we kept super quite and clicked pictures as the bear came off the road and on to the side actually hunting for food. A lot of other buses stopped there as well.

Finally proper bear sighting
Finally proper bear sighting
I spy something
I spy something
Mad dash
Mad dash
Done eatting. On to next thing
Done eating. On to next thing

As we moved slowly past the stopped buses around the next bend we spotted something moving again. Lo and behold a Mama bear and her two cubs. Mama busy eating berries or whatever it was and the little ones generally playing around. This was the best thing ever. One cub was name ‘Curious George’ as he would run off investigating and then would find something and come running back to Mama. The other one stuck close to Mama for most parts.

Mama bear with her two cubs
Mama bear with her two cubs

After about 10 mins watching the cubs and their mama we headed out to stop at the next visitor center for a 15 mins break. We were stretching our legs and clicking pictures when we met AsA, SA and the kids on their way back on their break as well. It was good 15 mins spend telling each other about the animals we saw. Our bus number was called so we slowly got in for the last leg of our trip inside the park. Everyone was quite, tired after all the wild life we had seen. And then as we took a turn D and another guy on the bus spotted something. A call out and the bus was stopped. We saw this lone wolf in the valley below, which is surprising because wolves generally are seen in packs and can’t survive by themselves for long.

Lone wolf
Lone wolf

After that no stops were made. We made our way to Wonder Lake. Got out of the bus to be welcomed by swamps of mosquitoes. Thankfully we knew about them so had come prepared. Out came the net hats and the repellent. My OBGYN had asked me to avoid the repellent if I could because of the chemicals in it can harm the baby so I stuck to stuffing my hands inside my waterproof jackets (these mosquitoes can bite through normal cloth so gloves would not work). We quickly set up our tent, cooked dinner (Maggi what else?), ate dinner (you can’t eat inside your tent for the fear of the smell attracting wild animals so there is special place to cook, eat and store all food stuff) and I crashed for the day (tent being the best mosquito net ever) while D sat clicking pictures of Mount Denali in the setting sun.

For those who are waiting for any mention and pictures of Mount Denali..well wait for the next post.

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2 thoughts on “Alaska – Denali National Park – Day 1

  1. Wow! This is cool .. u got to spot so many animals .. we waited for 5 hrs .. pin-drop silence while waiting for the tiger on our safari last time 🙂 Lucky u 🙂

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