Denali National Park

Our trip to Denali National Park, an optional "Extension" to the Inside Passage trip we took the week before, was wonderful!

So many animals and spectacular sights and views. We spent a day in Fairbanks, and then met our group (different folks from those on the Inside Passage portion of our trip) for dinner at our hotel. We were pleased that our Lindblad guide was the naturalist Doug Gualtieri, who was with us for the Inside Passage trip, and whose insights we particularly enjoyed.

Our destination in Denali was the North Face Lodge, which is within the park, and which is wtihin a few miles of the end of the only road into the park. (Located here, for those of you with Google Earth. And close to Wonder Lake, which is in this beautiful photo by Ansel Adams.) Although there are a few other places to stay within a few miles of North Face Lodge, it is the only establishment with grandfathered rights to lead hikes within the park.

All of the North Face Lodge staff were great! Including the (very knowledgeable!) naturalists Jan, Anya, and Martha, each of whom led us on excursions into the park during our three full days there. And Herthel Stephens, the (very!) welcoming host and manager.

And just like on the cruise, the food at the lodge was great!

And the "good" weather (good for tourists; a bit dry for the plants) continued for most of our visit. (Often the Denali mountains are completely obscured by clouds; we were lucky and had many good views of the majestic mountain itself.)

June 13, 2010

Fairbanks

Went to the University of Alaska Museum, which we enjoyed. We liked the way -- in one of their exhibits, in particular -- they mixed the old and new Native Alaskan art. Cool architecture, too.

An Okvik Madonna.

Okvik Madonna

An Inupiak baleen and walrus ivory basket, made in 1961.

Inupiak baleen and walrus ivory basket

A Yu'pik wooden spoon, circa 1900.

Yu'pik wooden spoon, circa 1900

Two exterior views of the museum.

Univeristy of Alaska Museum, exterior

Univeristy of Alaska Museum, exterior

We met Doug Gualtieri, our Lindblad guide, and our Lindbland group for dinner at the hotel. (Not everyone who stayed at North Face Lodge wtih us did so through Lindbland.)

June 14, 2010

North Face Lodge, Denali National Park

Before driving south toward Denali National Park, we took another (brief) tour through the UA Museum. Then, via bus, we drove south to the entrance to the park.

At the park entrance, we switched buses, and were driven approximately 90 miles into the park by Drew McCarthy, a very knowledgeable naturalist from the North Face Lodge, who described the geology and other features we saw. What an impressive place!

An arctic ground squirrel.

Arctic ground squirrel

Magpies engaged in aerial battle (for some sort of red food as the prize).

Magpies engaged in aerial battle

A Gyrfalcon - the world's largest falcon, and not commonly seen.

Gyrfalcon

And, Mount McKinley (Denali) was visible, which is not always the case. A treat!

Mt McKinley

The Mount McKinley south peak (20,030 ft elevation) to the left, slightly shrouded in clouds, and the shorter north peak to the right.

Mt McKinley

A Grizzly cub among the wildflowers.

Grizzly cub

June 15, 2010

 

Today we took our first "foray" in the park, led by the naturalist Jan Tomsen, from the North Face Lodge, who was great. We drove, and walked, and saw and heard many animals. And endless amazing views. (Jan also helped me to identify some of the waterfowl in the photos on this page -- thanks, Jan! And any errors that might remain are all mine, and not hers!)

A White-Crowned Sparrow.

White-Crowned Sparrow

Long-Tailed Ducks.

Northern pintails

Northern pintail

A Common Snipe, probing in the mud with its long beak. Well camouflaged!

Common snipe

Common Loons.

Common loons

Moose.

Moose

June 16, 2010

 

Morning views of Denali from North Face Lodge.

Denali

Denali

Today we took our second "foray," this time lead by Anya Schwartz. A different environment this time, farther from the lodge. Another fantastic intro to a different section of park.

Many views of the mountains as we drove along.

Denali Range

Denali Range

Denali Range

Denali Range

A meadow with "auf ice."

Denali

Denali Range

Denali

A peak in the Denali Range

Denali

Denali

Pleaks in the Denali Range

And many beautiful little wildflowers on the walk we took.

Wrestling Grizzly cubs. Right in front of our van on the way back to the lodge!

Wrestling Grizzly cubs

Wrestling Grizzly cubs

Wrestling Grizzly cubs

Mom's back; time to act serious!

Momma Grizzly and her cubs

Grizzly, munching

Grizzly

Lesser Yellowlegs.

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

In the evening, after dinner (sunset is late this time of the year!) we took a "flightseeing" tour of the 20,320-foot Denali peak and its glaciers. Wow!

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

A big glacier!  Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

A close-up of the above edge, with footprints barely visible.

Denali flightseeing views

Denali flightseeing views

June 17, 2010

 

And today was our third, and final "foray," this time led by Martha McPheeters, with Doug along as well. Once again, a great day!

Green-Winged Teal.

Blue-Winged Teal

Northern Shoveller. Big beak!

Northern shoveller

Northern Pintail.

Northern Pintail

These Northern Pintails are a bit blurry, but what wonderful shapes!

Northern Pintails

Northern Pintail

White-Crowned Sparrow.

White-Crowned Sparrow

Dramatic clouds, rolling over the mountains from the south.

Coulds rolling over the Denali range

Lesser Scaup.

Lesser Scaup

A far-off grizzly, digging. Most likely foraging for arctic ground squirrels by digging up their burrows.

Far off Dall Sheep. During this time of the year they stay high up, and hard to spot. (Without binoculars or a zoom lens these are just "little white spots.")

Dall Sheep

Moose

Moose

June 18, 2010

Driving out of the park, & the train to Anchorage

Drove from North Face Lodge to the entrance to the park, where we boarded the Alaska Railroad for a trip south to Anchorage. Saw many, many animals on the drive out of the park. What an incredible place!!

Moose

Horned Lark, along the edge of the road.

Horned Lark

Grizzly and her cub.

Grizzly and her cub

Looking up into the mountains, from across the valley.

Mountain view

Sleeping.

Sleeping fox

Awakening.

Fox

Two young foxes, at the opening to the den. The one on the right has something that the one on the left wants!

Two young foxes

A third youngster.

Young fox

Young fox

The above photo, cropped.

Young fox

Young fox

Fox

Mom and her youngster

Mom and her youngster

I think the little one wants to nurse, but mom says "no!"

Mom says "no!"

Fox

A Golden Eagle.

Golden Eagle

Far-away Caribou.

Caribou, far off

A Grizzly and her two cubs.

Grizzly and two cubs

Dall Sheep, way up high and far away.

Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep

The train was cool! We were in a glass-domed car (the "Gold Star Luxury Dome"!), with an open viewing platform at the rear of the car.

View from the train

View from the train

Our trip continues... On to Anchorage.