Skip to content

denali

I am going to back track a little in my travels to add a post about Denali National Park. (For my attitude to linear narrative see my post on retro-blogging.)

Denali National Park is one of Alaska’s wilderness areas that is relatively easy to access and consequently it receives thousands and thousands of visitors during the summer. It is a large area that has a single unmade road running through it and to limit the amount of private vehicles entering the park, in order to preserve it to some degree as a genuine wilderness area, there are regular buses running the length of the road. These buses offer a range of tours to different points of interest and drop campers and hikers off at the more distant camp sites.

I spent my first night in Denail camping at Reily Creek Camp Ground, a large camp ground near the entrance of the park – this camp ground has everything to make a camper forget they are away from home, including wi-fi internet!

Camping in the States is something different to what I am used to: people have huge RVs (recreation vehicles), which they tow their car, generally a hefty 4-wheel drive or pick-up truck, behind. I saw one RV that was towing not only a car but also a trailer full of ATVs (all terrain vehicles).

ATVs are ubiquitous. The purpose of these small four wheeled machines is primarily recreational, I presume, and they serve to allow their users to avoid walking anywhere at all. ATVs make a mess of bike tracks, camps grounds and the land in general. They spread gravel on the paved bike paths that run alongside some major roads, they make camps sites noisy unpleasant places to be and they cause erosion and vegetation damage. They are banned in some areas but evidence of their presence is almost everywhere. That said, however, I didn’t see any in the Denali Park where they are prohibited.

The Reily Creek campground was full and so after an ‘unofficial’ conversation with a park official I wandered the camp ground looking for some friendly looking people with a bit of spare space. Going straight to the ‘walk-in’ sites, I came across Phillip, a German biologist who had been attending a conference in Fairbanks, who agreed to let me squat on a vacant area of his site. We sat up talking about things for a while.

Next day, I moved on to Sanctuary Creek, 29 miles into the park. I unloaded my bicycle and set up camp and then took off on my now blessedly unburdened bike to explore. The gravel road winds through forest, along rivers and creeks and above huge glacial valleys. Forest fires both north and south meant that despite clear weather Mount McKinley was shrouded from view. I rode 40 miles as far as the Polychrome Overlook where three glacial rivers meet in a huge river valley.

I had intended to leave Denali the following morning to continue my journey south but at the entrance to the park I suddenly made a spontaneous decision to go back, further in, all the way to Wonder Lake. I threw my bike on a bus for the 89 mile journey to the campground at the lake and sat back to enjoy the five hour trip and to make the most of the possibility to concentrate entirely on the views and to look for wildlife. I was rewarded with an exceptional bear sighting – a young grizzly bear browsing close to the road was curious when the bus stopped and walked straight past us and down the road. If I’d stretched my arm out, I could have almost touched it as it walked past.

The next morning I woke early, broke camp and loaded my bike to ride a 20 mile section of the road back towards the entrance. The area around Wonder Lake is marshy and wet (which explains all the mosquitoes at the camp site), the perfect habitat for moose and I saw several cows with their calves. It was really beautiful riding in the morning watching Arctic terns, ducks and swans and other aquatic birds in the series of small ponds and lakes beside the road.

Other animals I saw in the park include snow-shoe hares, squirrels, foxes, moose, ground squirrels and lots and lots of birds.

Bear.

Bear.

Fox eating.

Fox.

Ground squirrel.

Ground squirrel.

Grouse.

Ptarmigan.

Grouse family crossing the road.

Ptarmigan family crossing the road.

Snow-shoe hare.

Snow-shoe hare.

Moose cow with her calf.

Moose cow with her calf.

Pond in the sky.

Pond in the sky.

Polychrome Overlook.

Polychrome Overlook.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *