The day after our friends, Brian and Abby, left Alaska happily engaged, I headed back into Denali National Park! I just had to go back on June 1 to get to go to Eielson! The shuttle buses start heading to Eielson Visitor Center on June 1! I headed down on May 31, checked into the Riley Mercantile to get my campsite pass, and then drove into the park to see what was out! The first thing that was out was Denali! The mountain was 100% out in all of her glory!
My goal for the evening was to see and photograph a pika! I got out at mile 15 and walked around the rocks. It didn’t take me long to start hearing the little chirps! Pika are pretty adorable!
While watching and listening for pika, I met a very nice man who works in the park over the summer. He loves the park just as much as I do. He travels into the park after work just to get to experience more of the epic wilderness that surrounds you in Denali. One real positive to the Alaskan interior in the summer is that there really isn’t much darkness, which means more time to play in the park! After a great conversation and pika viewing, I headed back out. I needed some rest before my shuttle bus trip out to Eielson Visitor Center.
Seeing Denali out of my rearview mirror, I just had to stop few times for some more photos!
I was almost back to mile 3 when I saw something prickly near the road! This porcupine didn’t seem phased by me at all! I sat a ways from it but it kept walking closer and closer to me and ended up walking right by me. Another vehicle came through and spooked the porcupine. It turned out the other vehicle was the nice man from before! We chatted some more before I continued out of the park.
At mile 1.5/2 of the park, I got to see three moose!!! One moose was a cow and had an older calf. The other moose I believe was also a cow but I didn’t see a calf with her.
When I did finally get back to my campsite, I was able to use an actual bathroom! I have camped so many times at Riley Creek it is hard to count and this was the first time that the flush toilet bathroom was working! I slept in the back of my car and my alarm came way sooner than I had hoped it would!
It was officially Day 38! I got to the wilderness access center thirty minutes prior to my shuttle departure. There were some people a little upset because they missed their bus due to road construction. I remember my first few years traveling to Denali from Fairbanks and all the road construction. Road construction is huge in the summer in Alaska. We have so much permafrost under the road that it shifts and cracks every year. I always recommend, when you have the opportunity to, stay the night in or around the park the night before your shuttle! It will alleviate some stress and the park is pretty amazing in the evening, as I just shared with you! You get some great wildlife, more mountain viewing, and less people in the evening! If you can’t stay the night before your shuttle, then leave early. Leave earlier than you think! So from Fairbanks, I would like 3.5 hours prior to my shuttle. It takes about 2 hours without construction to get from Fairbanks to Denali National Park.
I got on the bus and my driver was Jeremy! I have had the opportunity to ride with him a few times in the past. The highlight of the day was the mountain. Denali was 100% out the entire day that I was there! There were a few clouds coming in towards the end, but what a day! Animals seemed to want to pose in front of the mountain today too, or at least at the beginning of the trip! Another fun occurrence was my friend Miles, who is an intern helping with the k9 rangers was being driven in the park with a ranger and other employees. I got to see him at different stops!
In sable pass I saw some caribou cross the snow. We saw some hoary marmots before polychrome pass and then the female caribou herd with some little calves near stoney dome.
We turned the corned on Highway Pass and got one of the very best views in the park you can have…
I spent some time at the Eielson Visitor center, looking at the exhibits and enjoying the view of Denali. It was such a beautiful day that I did a little hiking around as well.
We left the visitor center and got to see a sow with two cubs before we got back to the Toklat visitor center. Just before Polychrome Pass we saw a little closer of a bear munching on something. In Polychrome Pass we saw the dall sheep ewes and lambs! Back in Igloo Canyon we saw a moose, which was traveling pretty quickly!
I decided to go for a quick hike around Igloo Creek Campground. I heard a hawk owl but didn’t end up seeing one. A bus picked me up, which ended up being Omar’s bus! I got on and we saw three more moose on our way out of the park! When I got back to my car at the Wilderness Access Center I had to pretty much drive right back to Fairbanks. I had to pack and do laundry before I left the next morning to meet up with my Dad and Julie in Ketchikan! Back to Back to Back trips this summer! Stay tuned for trip 2 featuring photos and adventures in Ketchikan, Juneau, Gustavus (Glacier Bay National Park), and Fairbanks!