Incredible Denali

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We've just spent the better part of three days deep inside Denali National Park. There is only one access road into the park, and it goes for 90 miles—most of that on gravel. At the end of that road is an old mining village called Kantishna, and it is home to a few lodges, including the Kantishna Roadhouse Lodge, a Native American-owned lodge where we spent three nights.

The 90-mile drive is on a school bus and takes about six hours, in part because we stop anytime there's a wildlife sighting. This caribou would be a good example of a wildlife sighting. :-)

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Along the way in, we saw not only this caribou, but a moose (very close to the bus but only fleetingly, and then he disappeared into the bushes), some Dall sheep (little white specks way up on the hillsides), and a number of bear. The closest bear was this guy, who spent a good 20 minutes vacuuming up berries not far from our bus.

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Our bus driver, Kirsty Knittel, was a New Zealander who has been working in Denali for 20 years—mostly, I think, driving the bus back and forth every day during the summer. She is a great photographer as well; you can see her stuff at http://www.naturalalaska.net/. And she is incredibly knowledgeable about the park, its history, and its flora and fauna. We learned about things like precocial versus altricial animals, and about the difference between Alaska brown bears and grizzlies (they are the same species, but the former are twice as big because they live along the coast and eat a lot of fish, whereas the ones in the interior live mostly on berries and vegetation). She told us about how the wood frog survives the brutal Alaska winters by freezing solid: Its body produces sugars that surround and insulate its vital organs, and the frog then just turns solid.

You learn a lot of weird stuff on a six-hour bus ride through Denali.

We did some hiking the next day, and also saw a little sled-dog demonstration—apparently a pretty common tourist activity in Alaska.

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On our last full day at Kantishna, some of us took a flightseeing plane to Denali—the Mountain Formerly Known as Mount McKinley. We got to fly right up into and around the mountain. It was indescribable. I'll try to write more about it later, but for now, here's one photo of one little piece of the mountain:

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It's not so much a mountain as a "mountain complex," in that it's got all kinds of parts: the North Peak, the South Peak, Wickersham Wall, the West Buttress, nearby sub-peaks, glacial valleys, and so on. Anyway, more on all of that later.

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1 Comments

David said:

Looks like another of your amazing adventures. We're jealous! Keep the pictures coming!

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This page contains a single entry by TINA HAY published on September 3, 2007 10:47 AM.

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