We were pretty exhausted after biking the 5 consecutive days out of the park. I had to be home for work that Friday but the original plan was to head back to the park Friday night. Josh had work and I was just really not wanting to drive down alone when Josh could come and drive the next morning. So we ended up not coming back to Denali until Saturday morning. We had bus tickets that Sunday for the earliest bus available and a campsite at Riley Creek.
The first stop for wildlife on Day 70 was about mile 4. We were driving on down the road and then saw feathers smash into the ground. Josh stopped the RV and we looked over and saw a Northern Hawk Owl. It immediately flew up to a tree and I watched some Gray Jays attacking the owl. The owl didn’t seem too bothered.
We carried on and saw, yet another, Northern Hawl Owl. This one was closer and posed a little before flying off.
This stop was also one where we saw our first moose of Day 70. The moose were SUPER far away but it looked like a cow and an older calf. We pressed on to find a little closer moose, a nice bull. The colors were still pretty nice and it was amazing just watching the tundra go by with the rich orange, red, and yellows.
We went to mile 15 and then decided to head out to get a camping spot. On our way to Riley Creek we saw a cow and two calves. I didn’t spend a lot of time watching them, they were being pretty harassed by other people. People were getting out of their cars and walking right up to them. I didn’t want to stick around and see someone get attacked, again.
We picked out our camping spot, let the dogs out, and then headed back into the park. We didn’t get far before we came across the cow and two calves again. A ranger vehicle was ahead of us and I thought this moose viewing would be more ideal with less people walking up and almost petting them. It started out that way but when the ranger vehicle left people walked right on up.
We drove a little further to see the backend of the bull moose viewing, literally. We went a little further to see a little bull, one of the smallest I have seen with a rack. A cow moose was also around and crossed as people lined up across the road.
We left the chaos to find some more. I mostly found rainbows though. I am always a fan of rainbows. On our way back the action seemed to be in a lull. The sun was setting fast and we ended up heading back to our campsite. We needed to head to bed early so we could wake up early and catch our bus! We ate some delicious Rotel Dip before heading off to bed.
It was rough, but worth it getting up so early. We got to the bus with time to spare. They had run out of bus tickets so they were having to hand write all the passes…
We didn’t see much in the first twenty or so miles, but around mile 22 we saw two nice moose. One of which was a nice looking bull moose. The cow also looked to be of a nice size. We watched the moose for awhile before heading on down the road. I was already pretty satisfied with Day 71!
We traveled on and before mile 30 we also saw about 7 or 8 caribou! Most of them had some pretty impressive racks. We got a quick look at them before they went into the woods and then another look as they came into a clearing and then up a hill. I hadn’t seen a lot of caribou lately, so this was a great surprise.
Onward we went into the Igloo Canyon. Right when I thought we were skunked for animals in that canyon a sow and two cubs rounded the corner in the road. The bus stopped and was turned off. We watched the sow come towards us, then back towards the corner. We figured there were other buses coming towards us, which may be what was pushing the bear family to us.
At that thought the two cubs got spooked and ran up the hillside above us. One of them even kicked over a rock that fell by the bus. The cubs were super fat and adorable. The sow rounded the corner back to us, she must have then realized her cubs were not following her. She looked for a few seconds before finding them up on the hill. She climbed up the hill after them. It was great to see them so close.
The whole bus was pretty excited after that, but how could you not be seeing such an incredible animal so close. We continued on to see a far away bear from Polychrome Pass and another bear family crossing the road by Toklat Rest Stop. We were about 15 minutes from missing the bear crossing at Toklat.
On our way to Eielson we saw another caribou, this time a female. She was running really frantically. We looked around for a reason for the running but never did see one. We hung out at Eielson and ended up not seeing the female caribou on the way back. Instead, we saw a perched golden eagle.
The scenery was beautiful, as it always is. I even got to see another rainbow!
On our way through Sable Pass we saw some ptarmigans. They are beginning their transition back to white. I am going to be able to see the full transformation here soon! We saw some Dall Sheep dots up on the red hillside. The colors were unbelievable. The rain really brings them out. Speaking of rain, towards the end of the trip a very wet bull moose crossed the road in front of us.
It was another quick, but fun weekend in Denali National Park. I have officially reached 70 Days! I have only 1 month to go! On our way back to Fairbanks we talked about the different things we had the opportunity of viewing today. We have been able to view SO many hawk owls! I was very surprised at how many I have seen. In years past I had seen Great Horned Owls in the park, but not Northern Hawk Owls. We got home and less than an hour later, Josh opened our living room door, “LAURA, come out NOW, get your camera!” I grabbed my camera and there, right in our yard was a Great Horned Owl with half a hare in it’s talons. Alaska is a pretty impressive and incredible place no matter where you are!