Thursday, June 7, 2007

Day 10: Denali National Park

Bouncy Bear Cub

Today, we started in the morning by taking a round-trip bus tour into the body of the park. Private cars are only allowed a few miles into DNP, largely just in order to access campsites. In order to reach further in, you have to take a bus. Fair enough, and not uncommon these days in the NP service (Zion, Bryce and others do the same sort of thing). It soon became clear the reason why this rule was in place here: although the road is in good shape over the first part, it soon turns into an unmade track that narrows in places to one lane. Despite that, the surface was in pretty good condition but I can see that if they opened it to cars the punishment it would take in a season would be considerable; the access would get blocked as people stop to take pictures etc.; and there were a number places that had sharp drop-offs that would require a lot of extra expenditure on crash barriers etc. if the road were open to all-and-sundry.

There were around three rest stops that were available (the whole trip was about 8.5 hours all told) and as we drew up to the second one there was clearly something going on. We could see an excited huddle on the small viewing platform they'd built overlooking a river about 30 feet below. Turns out, a mother bear and her cub were on the ice right in front of the stop, completely ignoring the humans, staying intent instead on looking for food and enjoying the lovely sunny weather. Junior was frisky so we got some great shots of them playing together, with the mother bear taking time to teach her cub how to get ready for life in the Alaskan wild. ("If it moves, eat it.")

On the way back we got off the bus early and hiked a couple of miles down to a lake before heading back to the park visitor’s centre and via a shuttle back to the hotel.

Denali (aka Mount McKinley) was actually clear for part of the day and easily visible as we drove into and out of the park. A full round-trip expedition to climb this peak takes around three weeks and is classified as a challenging climb. Looking at it, even from afar, this seemed understating it somewhat ...

No comments: