Wilderness Tour

    While in Denali I decided to take a 6-hour wilderness shuttle bus tour to the Toklat Station over 53 miles into the park. The school bus driver acted as our tour guide and was very knowledgeable. He informed us the Denali National Park and Preserve consists of over 6.2 million acres - larger than the state of Massachusetts! The Preserve was originally established to protect the Dall sheep in the early 1900s, whose population was being threatened due to hunting and were close to going extinct.

    Denali Park
    Me standing in the middle of Denali National Park. Absolutely breathtaking!

    During our tour our drive, the roads were not pave and were mostly only one lane. The roads followed the curves of the mountains and reminded me of the roads and buses in Costa Rica. The road hugged the mountain and it was pretty tricky when another bus was coming from the other way and had to pass. On one side of the bus you looked straight down the mountain and the other side looked straight up at the mountain. Generally, we were inches or a few feet from the edge of the road. The driver even told the story of one of the other drivers who recently passed away. He said the driver passed away quietly in his sleep as the rest of his passengers died screaming as their bus flipped and plunged down the mountain! Everyone quietly chuckled at his humor and looked to see how close we were to the edge. The bus traveled through 2 different biomes (environments). We passed through the taiga and then into the tundra. There are different plants and animals in each of the biomes. The taiga generally has trees with needles and animals such as moose and caribou.

    The first animals we came across were a family of willow ptarmigans (mom, dad, and 4 chicks) in the middle of the road. The ptarmigans are the Alaskan state bird. The interesting thing about the ptarmigans is that they have hairy feet and their feathers will change color depending on the season. In the summer they are brown and in the winter they are white - to camouflage and hide from predators.

    Willow ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska. In the winter the bird is white and in the summer the bird is brown - to camouflage with its surrounding to avoid predators. Notice the hairy feet to keep them warm!

    Then, a couple of kids in the back of the bus spotted a moose close to the road! We backed up and watched the moose for close to 5 minutes! He was so close to the road and was acting like he was posing for our pictures!

    This moose posed for 5 minutes while I took pictures!

    Moose Crossing
    The moose crossing the street. The

    Further along in the taiga we passed 4 caribou, but they were pretty far away from the bus. Caribou and reindeer are considered by some to be one in the same. Both males and females lose and grow antlers every year.

    Caribou by the river. Both male and female caribou grow and lose their antlers each year.

    Also, as we traveled along the one-lane road, we passed a herd of Dall sheep. At one point, we passed a small mountain/hill right next to and level to our road and there were over 11 sheep on the summit! The sheep stay on the top of the rocky mountaintops to stay away from wolves and bears.

    Dall Sheep
    Pair of Dall Sheep - they look like clones! They were sitting on top of the rocky mountaintop to avoid being eaten by the wolves and the bears!

    Dall Sheep #2
    Check out that eye of the Dall sheep!

    Finally, we saw 2 GRIZZLEY BEARS!!! I was so excited. I didn't care that they were far away and I was pleasantly surprised the detail you can see in the pictures. I really didn't think the pictures were going to turn out due to how far away they were from the bus.

    Grizzley Bear
    Grizzley Bear Sighting!!!! It wasn't a polar bear, but pretty close!

    The only animal I wanted to see that we did not see was a wolf. I really didn't think we would see one; maybe on my next trip to Denali. After the shuttle bus tour I visited the Science center, which highlighted the science research currently being conducted in the Park. Also, there is a great visitor's center with a lot of helpful information about the animals and the historical past of the Park and Alaska.

    Fact of the Day

    Today's Fact of the Day Question: When Alaska was approved for statehood, out of the current 50 states, what number was Alaska? Hint - It wasn’t the first state approved!!

    Beautiful stream & waterfall right next to the bus in Denali National Park and Preserve

    Inuit Word of the Day

    Yesterday's Word: ikajunga = Help! Hint: A good word to know if you are in distress! Did you get it right?

    Today's word: kaakpunga - Hint: A statement when you haven't ate all day!!! What is the word of the day?

    Please take 2 seconds and reply with your guesses to the fact of the day or Inuit word of the day in the "Ask the Team" section link below: