Summer Trip 1, Seward, and 100 Days of Denali: Day 33, 34, 35, & 36

This blog technically starts on the 100 day of Denali number 32! After seeing the totally adorable twin moose calves I nicknamed Weeble and Wobble, we headed down to Anchorage to pick up our friends who were flying in from Iowa!  I met Brian my first year in college.  I remember his poofy hair and how he would wear his drag suit up to his belly button!   He became Josh’s best friend and one of my closest friends in college.  He talked a big game but then would deliver only giggles.  This was his third year up to Alaska and this time he was bringing his girlfriend Abby! We met her at my brother’s wedding and were excited that he could date such a great, friendly, and smart girl! We were pumped to see them at the Anchorage airport.  I don’t remember much of the drive from Denali to Anchorage because I slept…

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We picked them up and headed to Moose’s Tooth, a delicious brewery and restaurant.  We enjoyed some craft beer and some artisan pizza!

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After our beers and pizza we started the journey down to Seward. Although Brian had been to Alaska twice before, he has never been south of Denali.  We traveled down the Seward Highway. It was a partly cloudy day and the scenery was as pretty as it gets down there. We saw a few Dall Sheep on the side of the cliffs and some distant glaciers. We made great time, even with the stops.

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After arriving in Seward, we took a walk to the pier. On our way we saw some otters, which were what Brian had his heart set on seeing.  In the harbor we saw numerous otters playing and splashing around. We also saw a few harbor seals and sea lions. We walked around enjoying the incredibly lucky weathered day we were having in this southern coastal rainforest town.

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We decided to eat at the Seward Brewing Company. Food, as always, was delicious! I love their beer cheese and pretzel. I would recommend eating there if you had the opportunity in Seward. We had a full day small boat tour the next day but we couldn’t waste the epically non-rain filled evening.  We made a fire on the rocky beach and drank a cold beer, well Josh tried his Jalapeño infused tequila that was consuming a hand full of Jalapeño seeds!  Brian was a good sport to have some, but it was pretty bad.  With the fire and great friends, it was the perfect way to spend a great night!

We woke up to overcast skies and rain.  Not exactly what one would want, especially after seeing all of Seward’s beauty the day before. Even with the rain, this boat trip was planned to be a very eventful and exciting trip. Not only was it Brian and Abby’s first trip to Seward, but Brian had secretly planned to ask Abby to marry him on this boat trip in front of the Holgate Glacier. After we got to the meeting spot, one of the ladies helping out on the tour expressed that she wasn’t 100% sure we would even be able to make it to Holgate Glacier with the 9 foot swells that were being forecasted.  I was hopeful we would be able to make it but it put Brian’s plan on hold.

When we got to the boat we saw a mature bald eagle fly right by the boat. We also got to see a great otter right in the harbor on our way out.  At the beginning of the tour we ended up seeing some great otter interactions between two of the otters. The otters rolled around together. One otter wanted the other otter on their belly and would kind of hug the other otter. It was super fun to get to watch their interaction!

After the otters we realized how foggy it was. Mountains and glaciers that were visible the day before were now hidden behind dense fog. It was raining to misty out and hard to see at times. We saw lots of mountain goats, which was great because this is really the only time I get to see them! We even saw some with kids, or a little baby mountain goat.

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The more open ocean was pretty rough and Abby was feeling a little queezy and just off. Abby sat outside for awhile watching the horizon and never did seem to come anywhere close to being sick. This did make Brian think maybe waiting to ask her to marry him was a good idea.  By the time we got to the glacier she seemed to be more upbeat and feeling a little better. It was just exciting we got to go see it after the uncertainty at the beginning of the day.  Brian gave Josh and I the thumbs up that he was going through with the plan! We were so excited, not only because one of our best friends was so happy and going to marry a great girl, but also that we got to be there and be a part of the special moment.

We got up near the glacier and I informed the other boat mates about the plan.  Brian asked me to take a photo of the two of them in front of the glacier, which was the cue, and then turned toward Abby. It was adorable.  He expressed how much he loved her and then got down on one knee of the boat. The ring was gorgeous, everyone was emotional, and of course, she said YES! Even with the kind of crappy weather, it was the best boat trip we have had!

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On the rest of the trip we got to see some humpback whales and some orca whales. I was excited to get to see the orcas, they are not always a given on boat trips.  We saw more sea lions, puffins, and a harbor seal as we headed back to Seward.

After we pulled back into the harbor it was celebration time! We got changed and took a shower in the RV before heading out to a nice dinner. We celebrated the special day and drank our nice bottle of Barley Wine from Hoodoo Brewing Company in Fairbanks.  After dinner we played cards and then went to bed. What a day!!!

we woke up to another one of those rare partly cloudy, mostly sunny day in Seward! We took advantage of the morning by taking engagement photos of Abby and Brian.  They were excellent models!  After an amazing photo session we ate lunch at the Paradise Cafe, which is under new management. It was still pretty darn yummy. After we ate and had more fuel we started round 2 of engagement photos on the pier.  it was so much fun getting to take photos in Seward! We had some great ideas and I truly love how they turned out!

…well Abby was! Brian probably needed to watch a few more episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

After the photo session we headed back to the rv and started to head up north to Denali National Park.  I spent most of the time trying to edit some of the photos from the engagement shoot. I was just so excited to edit and process them. My computer died earlier than it should though which was annoying.  That’s one big negative of RV living.  I need more power!!!  Brian and Abby got to see their first moose in between Seward and Anchorage!

we stopped in Talkeetna for some shopping, beers, and dinner.  Another day, another brewery! Denali Brewing Company was also delicious.  While shopping in the historical Nagley’s store, I found the Last Frontier Magazine that my polar bear photo is on the cover on!!! Super cool!

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We left Talkeetna and heading on up to Denali. It was raining pretty hard at times. Denali was not out.  We did get to see a black bear on the side of the road! By the time we saw it, it saw us and it ran away very quickly.  I wasn’t able to get a photo but it was cool to see a black bear!  We did get to see two more moose on the side of the road on our way to Riley Creek Campground in Denali National Park.

We checked into the campground and turned the corner to head into the campground and right there were the same cow and little twin calves I saw a few days ago, at least that is what I am telling myself due to location and markings on the cow!!! The calves were larger now.

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Josh went to find a campsite and get the RV set up and Brian, Abby, and I sat in the car watching the moose. They were about the most adorable creatures ever. They had figured more out about their legs but were still pretty wobbly. At one point they hung out right next to a sign that was warning people about moose in the area!  Silly moose!

we watched the moose family walk around the different campsites.  After the moose left the Riley campground we went to find Josh, only to have the moose family reappear! We left the family alone and continued on our journey to find Josh.  He was in the middle loop and we jumped out with excitement. It is always fun to see wildlife in the park!

We had two bus trips into the park.  Our first was an 8am bus ride in.  We woke up and got to the Wilderness Access Center a half hour prior to departure, which is what is recommended. We bought some pastries and snacks and waited in line for our bus.  We had a new driver that was not super talkative.  The shuttle bus drivers are not required to talk or narrarate the drive into the park. Of the buses we have been on about 70% or so tend to narrarate or provide quite a bit of tidbits of knowledge about the park.  A little sliver of the mountain was out and we did see some caribou within the first 15 miles of the park.

We went rather slow on the first 30 miles because they were holding buses up at mile 30 due to snow! The park had quite a bit of snow dump throughout over the past few days. When we got to Teklanika we were good to continue on.  I praise and appreciate all that the rangers and road crews do to help visitors get to see as much of the park possible!  The snowy landscapes were truly beautiful and reminded me of when I went into the park earlier in the year.

There were some Dall Sheep in Igloo Canyon.  The winds were blowing pretty furiously, which made some cool photos on the snow dusted mountains.

Our way into the park looked pretty different than the way out.  We had quite a bit of snow coming in and then it melted pretty quickly.  On the way in we saw both Dall Sheep lambs and ewes and the rams.

We got to Toklat and Brian and Abby became members of the caribou herd!

One of the most rare animals of all was spotted at the Toklat rest stop!

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On our way back to the entrance we didn’t see a whole lot until Igloo Canyon other than the dall sheep rams and a golden eagle.  I was looking out my window and saw a grey wolf!!! It is so exciting to get to see more of these magnificent animals!  The once tired, mostly asleep bus passengers were now buzzing and wide awake.

We turned the corner almost back to Teklanika and a grizzly bear was right on the road!  Everyone again was buzzing. It was an exciting few miles. I was pretty pumped that Brian and Abby got to see that wolf and a close bear!  Although he was on the road, he was not the most photogenic bear.  I did get a photo when we were stopped at the Teklanika rest stop of the bear though.

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The last thirty miles we saw two moose and two caribou.  It was kinda fun watching the caribous crossing the Savage River.

While driving back to our campsite, we saw the cow and twin calves again!  They quickly went into the woods.  The cow seemed very agitated.  We parked the car a ways from the cow but there were people parked right along side her.  Some people even parked across the street from her and then got out of their car to get a better photo of her.  While we were parked we actually saw her charge two different groups of people.  One group of people turned the corner and didn’t know she was there.  It was very scary.  Someone knowing the situation passed the two that turned the corner and seemed to not know what was going on.  I know it is exciting to see a moose and you want good photos, but at some point it becomes dangerous.  The stress on these animals adds up and then they charge or attack.  Some people do not know the true dangers of moose.  They look so dangly and cute in their own way, but these animals are very dangerous.  They show agitation such as pinning back their ears or having their neck hair raise.  When moose do that it is time to not be outside near them and probably time to move on from the sighting.

After the stressful viewing of people almost being trampled by moose, we went back to the campsite to cook out!  We had brats and burgers.

After dinner we decided to head back into the park to see what was out later in the evening.  We ended up seeing the cow and calves again!  This time there were 25 cars surrounding them and they seemed way less stressed out.  We checked them out for a few and then went in to see some snowshoe hairs.

We went back to camp and straight to bed, have to get ready for day 35!  It was good we were prepared for Day 35 because it was gorgeous!  Denali was out with just a few wispy clouds.  On our way out to the Teklanika rest area we saw two moose.  On our way to Toklat we saw some Caribou and a sow bear with a spring cub!

On our way back we saw a moose.  While looking at the moose, we saw a bear behind the moose!  Then looking around further there was yet another bear!  So in one small area was a cow moose and two grizzly bears!

We stopped up on Polychrome Pass and did a little hiking.  We ended up seeing a few dall sheep!  We had a quick brew, watching the clouds roll in, and then caught a bus back to the entrance to the park.

On the way back we saw a hoary marmot, caribou, and two moose.  It is great to see all these hoary marmots!

We got back to the Wilderness Access Center and to our surprise, the cow moose with twin calves were right off the deck!  We safely stood on the deck with a ranger watching the family eat grasses.  At one point people decided that walking a trail that the moose was on was a good idea.  I don’t know if they really knew about the moose, but they sure found out when it charged them!  Some visitors did know about the moose and choose to go on the trail to get a closer look.  Not a smart move.

After we viewed the moose, we headed back to the RV.  It was time to get ready for more engagement photos!  Can’t have a better background than Denali National Park AND Seward in the Sun!

After a windy and fun session with Brian and Abby, we went to 49 State Brewery for Dinner, which meant more beer cheese and pretzels!  We saved room for desert which was s’mores at the campsite!  On our way back to our site, the cow and calves were out yet again.  The cow and calves walked right by our vehicle.  We got a video of it!  The video has gotten a lot of attention, which is very cool!

While preparing the fire we had a fun series of events all surrounding Brian attempting to cut up wood for the fire.  It started with Elias laying on a PVC pipe.  Elias farted and it echoed pretty loud through the pipe!  It was pretty silly.  Then Brian got his ax stuck in the wood.  As most people know who cut wood, this does happen.  What usually doesn’t happen is then the person getting the ax out but them getting their finger stuck!  This happened to Brian and his reaction was beyond hilarious!  Then after the finger fiasco a giant bird of prey flew through our tent area! It was an eventful evening.  As if it wasn’t eventful enough, our RV ran out of propane so we had no heat or lights that night.  Day 35 was pretty awesome!

The bird I believe is a juvenile Northern Goshawk (if you think it is something else – let me know!)  We slept in a little on Day 36.  We decided to relax and then go to the dog sled demonstration.  We went early to pet the pups. This is Piñata! The pup was born last year during the National Park Service Centennial birthday!  Piñata is a little shy, especially around men.  He sure is gorgeous though!  The demonstration was great and then we drove into the park to mile 15.

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On our last trip with Brian and Abby into the park this year we got to see some close caribou cross the road.

Our way out of the park we saw a little moose on the side of the road!  Lots of wildlife to see in just a short time on day 36!

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After another great day in Denali, we ate a the Denali Dog House.  It has changed since last year but still yummy.  When we went they didn’t have water though, which we found a little odd.  I had the corndog, fries, and chili!

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What a week!  I was on the road for almost two weeks!  I was able to see Seward, Denali, Talkeetna, a wolf, lots of baby moose time, and, best of all, our friends get engaged!

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Brian and Abby (36 of 54)

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