Denali Natural History Tour
Although we could have upgraded to a longer Wilderness Tour (6-8 hours), we elected to take the tour that came with our package (4-5 hours.) We thought even that sounded like a long time on a bus, and it was, but the bus driver/naturalist was very interesting and we made a few stops.
The first stop was at the park wilderness center to view the park film Across Time and Tundra. Interesting, but what I really thought was cool was this set of windows depicting the park animals.
At the next stop, a short walk led to Savage Cabin, originally occupied by the cook in the park's first tourist camp and still used as a ranger patrol cabin. The ranger who met us there gave his talk in character as the first park ranger.
The nails in the shutters are to discourage bears from breaking in!
Our naturalist told us that moose are plentiful in this area. We didn't see any moose, but there was plenty of proof of their existence.
This area is called taiga forest and populated predominately with black spruce. The new cones add a splash of color.
The good news is that we saw the one animal I had never seen in the wild and never would if we had missed them this trip - caribou. They were very far away and we had to take our pictures through the bus windows, but you can certainly identify them.
Now for the bad news, other that some white dots on the mountain that our guide claimed were Dall Sheep, those are the only animals we saw.
And the bad news didn't stop there. Here's where Mt. McKinley should be.
Nancy and Joe (of Streamin with Joe and Buddy) were much luckier. You can see their pictures of the mountain and the animals they saw here.
Our final stop was for a talk by an Athabascan Alaskan Native who talked about the changes her family has seen. That was very interesting to me. Imagine that just a few generations ago, her people were living in tents. Now she has an apartment, cell phone, and computer.
On our way back, we asked to be dropped at the visitors center where we saw what those white specs on the hill would look like up close.
Needing to stretch our legs, we walked from there to Glitter Gulch, which I just noticed is called Nenana Canyon on the map. It was a nice walk, maybe 2 1/2 to 3 miles.
On the way, we happened to pass under the train trestle at just the right time.
We were told that Alaska does not have rabbits, so this is a hare that posed for a picture.
And they have the cutest little red squirrels, although this one doesn't look too red in the shade.
We joined back up with our group and ended the day with a dinner/show called Cabin Nite. After serving us an all-you-can-eat, family-style meal, the waiters and waitresses entertained us with stories, song, and humor. The food was good (especially the berry cobbler) and the entertainment was excellent, but the price was steep, even for Alaska.
When we arrived back at the lodge, we finally saw Mt. McKinley.
Although I was a little disappointed with the mountain's non-appearance, I was prepared for that. I understand most people who visit for just one day have the same problem.