Denali National Park

Sept. 3 (Tuesday)

[Photo of Mt. McKinley from Stony Hill]
Mt. McKinley from Stony Hill
where is the closest point to the mountain visited by the wild-life tour.

The wild life tour, I participated in, is the seven hours bus trip from the hotels around the Alaska Railroad station to Stony Hill (round trip), and it was a part of two-day trip to the Denali National Park from Anchorage.

The bus departed the hotel at 06:00 (before dawn).
At the beginning of the tour, the guide (bus driver) gave us some attentions.
If you see any movings except humans, please say "sto-----p"
But don't talk loudly at rest to avoid surprising animals.
Don't leave foods out of the car to avoid that the animals will know the taste of human foods.

At first the bus went in a forest with the low but over 100 year-old woods as tall as my height, because the severe Taiga climate had been preventing the smooth growth.

[Moose, poke antlers each other] 06:50 (It had already become light.) I could see a male and two famale moose at the right of the bus. The guide said that the moose lived isolately in summer, and that made a harem in autumn. Therefore, plural moose often could be seen in autumn.
For most animals, of course including moose, autumn is a busy respite during which they must garner most of their annual food supplies. However, the master of the harem is too busy by quarrel to eat much, and cannot survive the long season of deep cold.
The bus went forward or backward to watch them best. Since all the passenger moved to the right side, I was afraid that the bus would turn over (^_^;). A pair of binoculars was useful (and necessary) to watch them, however, my camera with a focus length of 110mm could not take them clearly.
After five minutes, I could see two male moose competed each other with their antlers.

The guide said "it is very lucky and rare to see eight moose in a day. The chance to see animals is less than that at safari of Africa because of the severe climate, few animals, small flock of animals, and only a road in the park."

07:25 The bus crossed the Savage River. The vehicle without the permission cannot pass beyond the river. There was a small house for the guard.
[a row of ptarmigan] 07:33 A short rest. About ten rock ptarmigan paraded in a row. Their feather was changing to white to prepare the life in winter. The guide taught me their species were slightly different from those in Japan (willow ptarmigan). I regretted that I did not have any picture book about animals and birds.

After the rest, the amount of trees seen from the bus became less because the severe climate, Alpine tundra, avoid the growth of them.
Denali's lowlands and slopes consist of two major plant associations, taiga and tundra. Around the place I saw moose, it is taiga and small tree in which moose hide themselves can be observed. Above the tree limit, taiga gives way to tundra.

Big 4 of the Denali Park

-- Animals to wish to meet if possible --
There are 37 mammal species and 160 birds species recorded in the park and preserve, and the following ones are most popular among them.
The guide told us difficult to meet them in a day since the ecology of the them is quite different.
08:13 The bus crossed the Teklanika River and went the uphill road to the Sable Pass. "Teklanika" means braided stream in Indian. The white-turbid river due to laden pulverized rock has a glacier upstream.

08:38 Just when the guide said "Since there live many grizzly bears here, the trekkers are phohibited to walk out of road", a parent and a child grizzly bears were found to descend a hill. They might search berries. The guide taught us there were many kinds of berries, such as blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, wild strawberry, ....
Grizzly bears are omnivores, eating small plants, berries, ground squirrels, etc. They fatten up in summer and prepare for a torpor or deep sleep most of the winter.
Dall sheep were also observed at the top of hill, however, I could not watch them clearly even through a pair of binoculars.

09:00 [Polychrome Pass]Polychrome Pass
We had a rest here for twenty minutes and enjoyed a scenery of bleak mountains and plains in wonder.
Cups and packs of instant coffee, cocoa were delivered after departing the Polychrome Pass to enjoy them at the Stony Hill.
09:40 Our bus crossed the Toklat River where the bus would return in the case of bad weather. A red fox walked by the roadside.

10:02 We reached the Stony Hill apart from the Mt. McKinley only by 57km.
The divine summit covered with snow and ice occupied most of the field of view. Denali, the "High One," is the name Athabascan native people gave the massive peak 20,320-foot tall.
[Coffee break at Stony Hill]After the coffee break for twenty minutes, we left the Stony Hill and returned to the ARR station along the coming road.
On the return trip, I could find a holly marmot and a bear against sleepiness. I felt Taiga had become brighter than in the morning.

13:45 We arrived at Denali National Park Hotel

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Last Modified : June 18, 2000