Yesterday Travalon and I had to get going really early to catch our shuttle bus in Denali National Park, but fortunately they have coffee at the visitor center. Cars are not allowed to drive very far into the park, and after this trip we could see why! The bus drivers have to have nerves of steel to drive the road, which has a sheer drop-off on the driver's side on the way out... and of course that was the side I had heard you should sit on, so I spent most of the ride being terrified. Also fascinated, because the scenery is beautiful (a lot of taiga, or scrubby spruce forest, besides the mountains), and we saw several moose, a grizzly bear, lots of caribou, and a bunch of Dahl sheep that were far away on the face of the mountain. Unfortunately Denali was shrouded in clouds, but we went for a lovely hike at Wonder Lake, sampling the fresh blueberries along the trail. Because I was so terrified of being eaten by a grizzly, we hiked with another couple who were from Houston. On the way back, we had a very knowledgeable guide who told us stories about the wolves in the park, and then we saw a grizzly right by the bus! It ran across the road and slid down the hill on the other side. It takes hours to get through the park, so by the time we got done, it was dinnertime. We went to Prospectors Historic Pizzeria and Alehouse and had an elk pizza - delicious! Then we went to our hotel, a charming place called the White Moose Lodge deep in the taiga, and we waited to see if the sky would ever grow dark so we could see the stars and maybe Northern Lights. However, by a quarter to midnight it was still not that dark yet, so we just went to bed.
This morning we got on the road to Fairbanks and got there around noon. We took a walk along the Chena River and went to the Visitors Center, where some musicians were playing what sounded like Cajun music as Native people did traditional dances. We were only 100 miles from the Arctic Circle, so we found information about visiting it, but it takes too much time and money for this trip. Maybe in the future... We were delayed almost an hour by road construction, then we went to the McKinley View Lodge for dinner, but we still couldn't see Denali. The waitress told us it has barely been visible for the last few weeks. This would have been the place to stay - $79 per night with views of the mountain! We stopped in Wasilla to take a walk by Wasilla Lake and through the underpass to Lake Lucille, which was painted with a colorful mural. In the lake we saw salmon swimming around with their dorsal fins sticking up like tiny shark fins. Now we are staying at a charming bed and breakfast.
Here are photos. Travalon has better shots of all the animals.
Famous Hat at Denali National Park
Travalon at Denali National Park
This is the wildlife I got the best shot of - a ground squirrel!
Delicious blueberries on the trail
Grizzly in the upper lefthand corner
Antler chandelier at the Prospectors Pizzeria
View across from the pizzeria
Photo of a photo of a white moose
The White Moose Lodge at almost midnight - notice the sky isn't dark yet
Scene from the White Moose Lodge
Travalon at the Antler Arch in Fairbanks
Historic Immaculate Conception Church in Fairbanks
Mural on the underpass in Wasilla
And finally, here is a short movie of the salmon swimming in Wasilla Lake. Their dorsal fins look like tiny shark fins.