Thursday, August 30, 2012


Fall has 'fallen' and quite literary here at Denali in the form of the first snow on the lower foothills!
Can you believe it! It's August!
The berries are ripening:

And everything is turning colors:


We celebrated our 12th anniversary on the 19th! Wow, ....where did those years go?
After a nice coffee and blueberry muffins we hiked a small trail near the entrance of the Park towards Horseshoe Lake.

Around the lake you see some evidence of beavers who apparently live here. They created some small dams and many of the small tree stumps in the area showed telltale teeth marks! Unfortunately they didn't show themselves.



We did see a hedgehog though! At least, I'm almost sure that's how the 'shroom' on the bottom right is called :)

 See the green blurr under the big one? Leprachaun, if you ask me....!
We treated ourselves to dinner at the nearby Black diamond Bar & Restaurant. Well, actually, the 'kids' did. And no, we don't all of a sudden have a bunch of offspring running around but that's how we call the 3 Bulgarian students who make up the cleaning crew and the 3 American youngsters who work the lobby.
They surprised us the other day with a $120 gift certificate as a thank you for shutteling them around to and from the post office, the grocery store and various other destinations around here.
Isn't that sweet?

       Not our best shot ever..... and that's just desert

We had a salad with grilled (alaskan wild) salmon on top and a nice New York steak. A sort of 'surf and turf'. Delicious!

 Do you remember the yellow caterpillar I showed you a while ago? Well this is how their cocoons, and what emerged from them (the Tussock moth), look like. Just in case somebody was wondering?
James is in a race against the clock to finish the 'traincar project'. It looks like a true work of art! He ran out of white primer and is now using a red anti-rust something. Wild, huh!

He recruted some Bulgarian 'apprentices' as you can see. They wanted extra hours to make some more money and he needed help so there you are.
They're having a ball although the temperatures are frigid and there's a stiff wind blowing!

Miles, one of the lobby workers, made us all an end-of-the-season dinner. He's a good cook and we enjoyed some great pasta Alfredo with fried chicken. Sherry donated the delicious garlic bread and the girls made a nice salad and margarita's!

I wish I could end with some pictures of my own of another highlight of our stay here that we wittnessed in the middle of the, finally dark enough, night the last week. Yep, we saw the aurora borealis!
Every night when I go to the bathroom I look out of the little window if anything is happening and got lucky two nights in a row.
One time at 3.30 and the other time at 1.45.
The difficult part is to go out in the freezing cold and watch it. It takes some firm talking-to-self!
But it was wonderful. What a unique, mysterious and beautiful experience! Both times we saw mainly green and yellow lights and they were dancing, flickering and whirling accross the sky for about half an hour long!
My camera just doesn't pick it up :(

This picture I stole from the Internet somewhere, it comes close to what we saw.

aurora image

But even the sunset seems to have some fantastic fall colors lately and that I can capture although it's much better 'live'.


Well, I thought that was a nice 'the end' but I'll let Merlin have the last 'word', he's just too funny: 

                                      Yes, I shop at Walmart. So what?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Last week we finally made it into the Park proper! Yahoo! Not very far, I have to admit, only 17 miles, which is how far you can go in with your own vehicle, but I think it's far enough for us.

Actually, we've been listening to the guests that came back from the bus rides into the Park and a lot of them found them way too long, very uncomfortable and off course it kind of depends on luck if you'll see any animals or not.
For bears and wolves we do need to go in farther but honestly we've seen so many bears on the way up through Canada that we're fine with missing a few.

The landscape is stunning wherever you are:

This is a typical tundra 
The wide river bed of the Savage River
Caribou like to hang out around the rivers where it's cooler and windier so they have a little reprieve from the mosquitoes and black flies. 
Which is exactly where we spotted this beautiful male. Look  at  that  RACK!!!
Yeah, go ahead, show it off a little better...! 
  Did you know ... ... that Alaska has almost twice as many caribou as people? Alaska's human population numbers around 600,000, while there are over one million caribou in the state. ........that caribou are almost constantly on the move? Some caribou migrate more than 3,000 miles each year—farther than any other land animal.  ......and that their large, concave hooves hold them up like snowshoes—both on winter snow and on the soggy summer tundra. In water, those hooves become enormous paddles and the hollow hairs of their coat help keep them afloat. 

We parked the truck in the parking lot at the beginning of the Savage River Loop trail and hiked the beautiful, easy 0.6 mile along the winding river.


It was a beautiful quiet evening and although we didn't come across any other wildlife we spotted these whitish gentians that I still haven't found the name of. Anybody? 


The bridge halfway the loop brings you to the other side where the trail continues.

On the way back the sun started to set:

The end of another beautiful day here in Denali Park Alaska!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

May I present to you....Mount McKinley...... or Denali, as the Atabascan Indians call it, which means  "The High One". It is the highest mountain peak in the United States and in North America, with a summit elevation of 20,320 feet (6,194 m) above sea level. Measured base-to-peak, it is the tallest mountain on land. Measured by topographic prominence, it is the third most prominent peak in the world after Mount Everest and Aconcagua.

We finally saw the mountain, and how...!
We managed to get 2 seats on a 'flightseeing' tour with glacier landing,... as a Denali-business-employee-comp, ...yep, as in...for FREE!
Is that awesome or not!
We were on standby already several times but the flights always filled up with paying costumers but finally we got lucky and went up in the air on a beautiful clear, windless and warm evening at 6 pm.

The blue one was 'ours', a classic deHavilland "Beaver", and besides us there were 5 other people, and the pilot of course. We all got a headset so we could communicate with each other and hear the pilot as he told us everything we needed to know and than some about the Park and all the mountains and glaciers we flew over.

This is the Nenana River.. 'as seen from above'....

And these are some images of the Parks Highway and the Denali 'village' or 'canyon' as it is called.

Soon we started to see the colorful foothills from the

'Alaska Range', a relatively narrow, 650-km-long (400 mi) mountain range in the south central region of Alaska.
It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and the Denali Fault that runs along the southern edge of the range is responsible for a number of earthquakes a year.

Because of the various different metals and minerals in the rocks and soil the lower hills and mountains came in a beautiful range of colors.

They were quickly  followed by the first snow capped mountains

And a whole bunch of beautiful glaciers and gorges, one of them being the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier – the World’s deepest gorge:

Than finally the really big guys appeared:

Mount Hunter,  or Begguya, the third highest major peak in the Alaska Range (13,965 feet). "Begguya" means child (of Denali) in the Dena'ina language. 

                Mount Foraker, the second highest peak in the Alaskan
Range at 17,400-foot


And Mount McKinley who as you can see has two significant summits,  the South Summit is the higher one, while the North Summit 'only' has an elevation of 19,470 feet.
Isn't it a beauty?!

Finally we landed on this glacier, close to Mt Mckinley's base camp at 7200 feet, where climbers start their adventure to the top. Only 58% make it and since the early 1900's the mountain has claimed more than 100 lives:

I was a little nervous about the landing but it went without a hitch and after a smooth turn while sliding around on the planes' skies we stepped out into about a foot of pristine snow (fallen last week when we had such nasty weather that they had to skip the glacier landings for 5 days in a row!)

The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny, not a cloud in the sky and no wind. They had warned us it could be chilly up there but it was so warm, we actually didn't even need a coat.

Its hard to put into words how beautiful it was up there, I'd say it was definitely one of the highlights of our travels so far! If you ever get the chance, do not pass up on it, it's money and time well spent (although the $449 pp is probably not in everyone's budget), we will never forget this place nor will you once you see it.

Just breath taking.....

On the way back it started to cloud up a little as it does so often around these mountains, they sort of create their own weather. Mount McKinley is very often in the clouds and if you are so lucky to see it from the ground somewhere along the Parks highway or from the various viewpoints in the Park itself you may call yourself the proud member of the 29% (that actually see it) club!

I'll end with this shot of a herd of white dots......  :)

They're Dall Sheep. Honestly!