After getting set up at Riley Creek Campground this morning we took
the dogs and ourselves for two drives back the park road as far as we
could go -- 15 miles to the Savage River parking area,
highlighted in yellow on the park map below.
Savage River, near the bridge and
trailhead parking area
Very few park visitors can drive their own vehicles beyond that,
mostly just those who are camped at the Teklanika Campground at Mile 29.
Farther than that, up to 92 miles at Kantishna, visitors basically have
to take one of the tour or shuttle buses -- or get there under their own
power (foot or bicycle).
You can see a lot in those first 15 miles if you keep your eyes open.
And today, despite low clouds and some rain, there were lots of moose about.
According to park literature, about 2,500 moose reside in Denali and
we've often seen a few between the entrance area and Savage River.
It was easy to spot their locations
today because other folks were already stopped along the roadway
observing them, with binoculars, tripods, and long camera lenses ready
to shoot when they came into view:
It's rut season:
Unfortunately, it was hard for me to get good photos
of some of the moose because they were busy eating (not mating) and often
hidden behind leaves. We'd watch them for a few minutes and if they didn't
come out into the open, we continued on. Others were less concealed and
easier to photograph.
These are the best pictures I got of nine
or ten different moose on two trips back to Savage River today.
We wouldn't have seen the first three, two bulls and a cow, if
several vehicles weren't stopped along the road. It took keen eyes to
spot the antlers on the males while they were in the brush. They finally
came out more into the open for a little bit:
Both had impressive racks.
Zoomed in, you can see the
velvet on the antlers.
I didn't get any decent shots of the female in their
company but we saw this one, apparently by herself, a little while later:
We saw several more moose on our second trip out to
Savage River after supper.
This cow was easy to spot in a riverbed:
A butt shot is better than
no shot at all . . .
We saw three solo females in three other locations
this evening but the pictures didn't turn out very well because they
were farther off the road and/or in the brush.
The last moose we saw tonight was this bull:
That's the most moose either of us has ever seen in
one day at Denali, even when we've ridden all the way out to Wonder Lake
(82-6 miles) or Kantishna (92 miles). I guess mating season really brings 'em out!
Note that it rains and/or is cloudy a lot at Denali. The beautiful Alaska
Range and foothills are one big cloud magnet.
While that makes hiking and sight-seeing less enjoyable some days, it
shouldn't discourage visitors from taking tour and shuttle buses back
into the park.
Bus drivers swear that overcast or even rainy days are
often when they spot the most Big Five wildlife as they drive by --
moose, grizzly and black bears, caribou, wolves, and sheep. That was
certainly the case today with all these moose.
On the way back to the campground we saw two park employees
exercising the sled dogs along the roadway. This fella was running, the
other was walking:
The sled dogs reportedly get more exercise when snow is on the ground
because they help rangers patrol the backcountry in the park during the
long winter season.
THREE SEASONS IN THREE MONTHS
Speaking of long winters, at the 61st Parallel the warmer seasons
are compressed into a very short time frame.
From what we've observed, June = spring, July = summer, and August =
autumn. The snow starts flying even before the end of August and the
hours of daylight shrink rapidly.
New snow frosts low mountain
peaks along the park road before Savage River. (8-24-15)
The reason we wanted to come back to Denali in late August is for the
brilliant fall colors that we remembered from our visit here at the same
time three years ago.
I included many colorful fall photos in the 2012 web journal. This
link is for the
topics page that year -- scroll
down to the August entries for examples. We were here longer in 2012 so
there are many more fall leaf photos in that journal than there are in
this year's entries.
Here are three examples from 2012:
Park road near Savage River
Eielson Alpine Trail, with Denali
in the background (8-29-12)
Healy Ridge (9-2-12)
I am disappointed with the fall colors today because they
aren't as vibrant as they were three years ago at this time. We're here
before the peak color this time.
However, we've seen only the first part of the park road where the
elevations are lower. I'm guessing there is more color farther back into
the park at higher elevations. In addition, today's clouds and mist may
just be hiding some of the color.
This morning when we drove to the park we could see fresh snow on the
higher mountain peaks. The clouds were too low this afternoon to see any
snow when we drove back to the Savage River. We could see the peaks on
our second drive this evening -- the clouds had lifted a bit higher
by then -- and we could see some snow on the nearby mountains.
The temperature got up to only 50 F. today at our campsite and it was
chillier at the higher elevations where we were driving.
Good day to take an afternoon nap
. . .
By bedtime it was overcast again.
Next entry: rain or shine, we're doing the Savage
Alpine Loop hike tomorrow!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil