A Special Memory in Denali

For some reason, we generally save Denali NP for the end of our trip.  Perhaps it’s to let the crowds thin out a bit, or maybe allow more time for the big bulls to arrive for the moose rut, or we like to end on a high – a definitive one pleasing for both wildlife and landscapes.  As soon as we arrived and saw the snow on the landscape and the trees, we knew that it was going to be a special week of Denali.DSC_0889As we made our first pass on the 15-mile public road within the park, while looking for moose, we spotted a bear … actually 3 bears walking the gravel bed of the braided Savage River.  What a great omen.DSC_0952We did find the moose as well … always fascinating to find them drinking near the kettle ponds._DSC6511_DSC6556Our arrival into the Denali NP was timed perfectly … for on August 31st, the Park Service officially gave back the name of Denali to the nations tallest peak – standing a proud 20,322′ tall – out for all to witness in all of its glory.  Not a cloud in sight … amazing!  Well once again we were inducted into the 30% club (seeing the mountain at all) and even the 10% club (seeing the mountain unobstructed).  Yes, we were blessed and quite proud to witness this historic moment of pride to the native Americans, Alaskans, and others who never understood why it was known as Mt. McKinley for so long._DSC3553If you look closely, you’ll see us at the summit of denali waving … LOL.IMG_1058Sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get when you venture into Denali’s interior.  For some strange reason, the sightings on this particular morning were few and far between, so when we arrived at the Eielson Visitor Center, the arctic ground squirrels running around in the deep fresh snow, got lots of unusual lens time._DSC3579_DSC3582_DSC3578Cute little guys too.  It reminded me that it’s not just bears, moose, wolves, caribou, and dall sheep – aka The Big 5 – that call Denali NP home.DSC_1286-2Of course though, I was there for bears, especially in the snowy landscape, so I was quite excited when this one came along, though I pretty much had too much lens.  For those of you who might wonder … we’re in the safety of the shuttle bus and this wasn’t cropped!DSC_1356An unusual sighting were these dall sheep ewes and their young traveling on the river bed.  In our 8 previous trips, I had never seen them that low.  DSC_1416Now when you arrive into Denali in early Spetember, you’re really there for two things … the fall colors and the moose rut.  Sometimes, you get both.  🙂DSC_1562DSC_1679These guys were out in full force for the rut and congregating together, sizing each other up I would imagine, and following the estrous cows in the area.  All of their antlers were clean, already shed velvet for the most part.  If you’ve only seen moose in the lower 48, you really need to see them in Alaska to appreciate their size.  It’s not just those giant vegetables that grow bigger in Alaska.  LOLDSC_1701DSC_1876A favorite of mine are the ptarmigan, especially this time of year when they’re transitioning from their usual rust color to white to aid in their camouflage from predators in the winters snowy landscape.  Quite unusual to find it perched in a tree … such beautiful birds.DSC_2052More landscape images of Denali looming in the distance, still roughly 33 miles away (as the crow flies).  There’s no denying the grandeur of Denali.DSC_7132Grizzly bears were out and about during the week – solo adults, as well as sows with cubs, and sub-adults too.  These bears can get quite big, but remain smaller than the coastal brown bears that feed on salmon.DSC_2351Caribou posing in the fall colored landscape is always a sight that takes your breath away.  Also primarily free from their velvet cover on their antlers, they are quite striking when their head is lifted and those antlers stand out proudly.DSC_2482Of course, just because their velvet-free doesn’t mean that they don’t itch, as you can see this one thrashing its antlers violently in the brush.DSC_2432One evening, while out looking for bears, we watched this bull caribou take off at full throttle over the braided river landscape and up the Savage River.  Not sure if something was after it or it simply got spooked, but it was amazing to see the territory that they could cover in pursuit.  Poor guy was exhausted and took a bit of a breather as he simply pranced about.DSC_2589Before long, off he excellerated again up towards the road and over the hill.  DSC_2593Yes, Denali is impressive … both the mountain and the national park.DSC_7144Next Up:  More from Denali

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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2012 Review: Part 4 – Denali National Park & Other AK Areas

Off to Denali we went for another week or so – actually we loved it so much that we returned to Denali for another 4 day stint when Kelli & Mitchell flew out to join us in Anchorage.  Hoping to see the moose rut, it seems that we were still a bit too early to see the real jostling that goes on, but we did see some early “practice sessions”.  We did see many sightings of grizzly bears this year – many times they were sows and their cubs.  As they frolicked in the amazing autumn-kissed tundra or sometimes even in the snow covered landscape, they thrilled me to no end, as I clicked off images to my heart’s content.  Wolf sightings were achieved, as well as coyotes, caribou, golden eagles, harriers, dall sheep, just to name a few.  Conspicuously absent for us in 2012 was the lynx, though I tried really hard… new found friends of ours were successful in seeing one, so I lived vicariously through their sighting.

When we first arrived, we were treated to a vast array of autumn’s best colors.

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Cow moose feeding

Cow moose feeding

Then the weather began to change, as the fog and rain rolled in
Where's the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Where’s the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Then it happened ….. SNOW  (remember, we’re quite excited – being from FL and all)
The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The next day, it was beautiful!  The snow had stopped, the skies were clear, the weather was cold, but plenty of sunshine to help warm us up.  Even the wildlife seemed to enjoy it.
Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

What a fabulous day!

What a fabulous day!

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

Not a cloud in the sky - viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Not a cloud in the sky – viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Having some fun along the way!

Having some fun along the way!

A mother-daughter moment of happiness  :-)

A mother-daughter moment of happiness 🙂

We also traveled to other areas of Alaska, of course, as we always do.  There’s never a shortage of experiences or sights/animals to see and photograph.  I encourage everyone out there that has never visited AK to do so … you won’t be disappointed.

Hatcher Pass vista

Hatcher Pass vista

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point - yes, we did see the belugas!

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point – yes, we did see the belugas!

And our most favorite of all sights, though very different viewing in 2012, is the spectacular aurora borealis.  First experienced by us in 2007 in Chena Hot Springs, outside of Fairbanks, it continues to be sought after by us when we visit AK in the later summer.  This year, the aurora didn’t “dance” across the sky like a blowing curtain, but rather made it’s presence know with an almost glow in the sky.  Not much movement at all, though still very beautiful.

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

What a wonderful place … ever-changing, awe-inspiring …. warms the heart and soul  🙂

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 5