Thursday, June 21st - Denali Bus Trip:
We had tickets for the 9:15am bus to Wonder Lake - 11 hours roundtrip. We got up early, packed our lunches, filled our water bottles, and set off for the park. We were the first people in line, and took the two front most seats on the bus. Steve sat on one side by himself, and Donna and I shared a seat on the other side. This strategy ensured that we'd have someone on both sides of the bus in the event wildlife made an appearance. It's much easier to climb over someone you know, than someone you don't!
We had the same driver that we had last year when we took the bus into Wonder Lake with Dee. Her name is Nancy Russell and she's an excellent, and knowledgeable driver. We enjoyed talking to her about the park, the state, and the wildlife. She was well-informed about many things, and also knew her wildflowers which was a nice perk.
As soon as we left the Wilderness Center, we came upon a mama moose and a young calf. Nancy stopped the bus and allowed us to photograph the adorable baby moose. I think moose are quite adorable, and the youngest members are quite cuddly! Look at that cute face (at left)! How can anyone say these creatures are ugly?!
When we approached mile 9 - which is the first place you can see Denali on the park road - I kept my fingers crossed that the mountain was out for us again. McKinley was there, but shrouded in haze. The bus driver decided to stop and let us take photos then, because she didn't think the mountain would be visible when we reached the usual stopping place. She was right.
A little further down the road, we had a porcupine come out of the brush beside the bus and waddle down the center of the road. We drove slowly behind him until he decided that he best get off the road. It was my first close encounter with a porcupine ever, and he gave me a great 'over the shoulder' glance before toddling off.
I don't remember where we saw the subsequent wildlife in the park, but it was a full day of sightings. I was so happy for Donna as she was getting the opportunity to see animals that some people never get a chance to see - and in their natural habitat, not some zoo.
We saw caribou, moose, bears, fox, golden eagles, a hawk, sheep, snowshoe hares, ground squirrels, and a pika. We also saw a variety of birds, to include ptarmigans and magpies. Our favorite sightings, hands down, were those of the babies. Fox kits and bear cubs were at the top of our list, with moose calves and lambs coming in at a close second. I'll tell the rest of the story in photos:
We all fell into bed exhausted and happy. It was definitely a great day in the park!