Wow. Another great day in Denali.
This hike, which I did solo, was
one of the highlights. Jim's bike ride on the park road between Teklanika
River and Sable Pass was another.
Once again, I've got
a bunch of photos to share so I'll spread them out over several pages.
Here's a sneak
preview of "Jim's bears." While riding he came up to this shuttle bus
that was blocking the road at Sable Pass so a mama grizzly and her two cubs could
safely cross the road. Jim stayed back approximately the recommended distance (100
yards for bears and wolves) to take a series
of photos of the bears as they crossed the road and ambled up into the
willows to browse:
I'll show close-ups of "his" bears
on the last page of this five-page entry.
I got up at 6 AM. It was warmer
outside than it was yesterday morning (49 F. today) -- and sunny.
Yay! I just hoped it stayed sunny till I got out to Eielson.
I re-set the alarm for Jim at 7:30 AM, said goodbye, and left for the bus stop at 7:05.
Jim decided 7:30 was too early to get up, shut the alarm off, and
continued sleeping. < wink > He did get up in time for a
memorable bike ride, however.
Today I got a "free" ride on the shuttle bus.
One big advantage of a Tek
Pass is being able to ride any day you're camped at the Teklanika River
Campground for the price of your first bus ticket (as long as you don't
go farther than you initially paid for). Subsequent trips are
stand-by, based on seat availability, but folks are usually able to get
on an outbound bus fairly soon.
The first two shuttle buses were running late this morning because there
were several critter stops before they got to Tek. This was a very good
day for bear, Dall sheep, and caribou sightings on the two buses I rode
(one out to Eielson Visitor Center, a different one back).
I expected the first bus, bound for Kantishna at Mile 92 on the park
road, at about 7:25 AM per the bus schedule. The next one, to Eielson
(Mile 66), was due at 7:40. Both were about 20 minutes late.
I highlighted where we went today -- Jim to Sable Pass and back (bike),
Sue to Eielson and back (bus)
When I got out to the bus stop seven young Belgian tourists camped at
Tek were already there. They had reserved tickets on the Kantishna bus. Two American
couples arrived after I did, with reservations on the Eielson bus.
All of them had first dibs on their respective buses since it was their
first ride. I hoped to ride stand-by on one bus or the other since this
was not my first trip.
Alaska Range from park road in the Polychrome area
The driver of the Kantishna bus had room for me but asked me to wait for
the Eielson bus in case some campers at the next pick-up spot, Igloo
Campground, wanted to go all the way to Kantishna. There were only two Kantishna buses
today and twenty bound for Eielson! (I mentioned in an earlier
entry that Eielson is the most popular bus destination at Denali
OK. The Belgians got on the Kantishna bus and the other five of us
waited for the Eielson bus. We all got on it and there were a few seats
Colorful mountain in the Polychrome area; interesting clouds, too!
Shot taken through emergency window of another
I sat in an aisle seat next to a personable woman who has lived in
Anchorage for 21 years. Eight of her family members from UT and MN were
also on the bus. I was in the third row, right side. Since I took so
many photos from the bus yesterday I didn’t need a window seat or the
left side this time. (I think the better views are to the south, which
is the left side outbound on the park road.)
Our female bus driver was great. She pointed out things and gave history
that Jim and I didn’t hear on the Wonder Lake bus on Thursday. I could also
hear better since I was closer to the front today.
BEARS & SHEEP & CARIBOU, OH MY!
I quickly learned that the folks who started at the park entrance had
already seen some bears, sheep, and caribou before reaching Tek at Mile
29. Those are three of the Big Five animals that park visitors most want
to see; the others are wolves and moose.
In the next 37 miles to Eielson we saw a bunch more, too – several
caribou, Dall sheep ‘way up on the hillsides several places, and a bunch
of grizzly bears, some lone males and two sows with two cubs each. All were
pretty far away but I took pictures with my 16-megapixel, 16x zoom
digital compact camera anyway.
The first Big Five
animal I saw after boarding the bus was a light brown grizzly bear in
this tundra setting:
We didn't stop long enough for me to get a shot of his face. It was
harder to take pictures of animals this morning since I didn't have a
Another good place to look for bears (and other Big Five critters) is
the broad riverbeds full of gravel. We saw another grizzly bear in the East
Fork of the Toklat River this morning:
I'm guessing those two bears were males since there were no cubs nearby.
Caribou can often be seen along river bars, too. One of the passengers
spotted this one at the edge of the Toklat River this morning just before we
reached the Toklat rest area:
The next set of
photos shows several pairs/groups of Dall sheep, which can often be seen on rocky hillsides and
cliffs along the park road. These were all in the Polychrome area:
I have a much closer shot of a Dall sheep from my return trip;
it's on a subsequent page.
AND DECENT VIEWS OF DENALI, TOO
“The mountain was mostly out” before 11 AM but not as completely as on
Thursday when the sky was perfectly clear for several hours in the
morning. We had more clouds today and they built up throughout the
morning and afternoon.
An early but distant view of Denali this morning
from the Sable Pass area
My first glimpses of Denali on the bus were 95% clear and about 90% by the
time we got to Eielson at 10:30 AM.
I took this picture at Stony Hill at about Mile 60:
has a few clouds in it so it isn't as perfect as the one I took two days
ago -- but it's still a better look at Denali than on most days.
When I got off the bus at Eielson I tipped the bus driver, thanked her
for all the information, and let her know I wouldn’t be going back on
her bus because I’d be hiking.
Neither she nor the driver whose bus I took back to Tek later this
afternoon asked to see my
pass (or the dispatcher when I was ready to leave Eielson). I guess they
assume if you’re at Tek or beyond, you have a valid ticket. They do
check if you're on your first trip, though.
Above and below: Denali from the roof of the
Eielson Visitor Center
I took these last three photos of Denali from the visitor center before
beginning my alpine hike up the mountain across the road.
I was glad I was able to see the mountain that clearly again from this
location. As the day progressed Denali became less and less visible.
Continued on the
next page: photos of my ascent of Thorofare Ridge
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil