We spent time yesterday afternoon at the Denali Visitors Center which has some excellent exhibits, loads of information about what to see and do, and a great little bookstore and gift shop. It was sunny and 68 degrees when we sat outside for a beer just before dinner. We’re in a nice campsite surrounded by plenty of trees and privacy.
And then it rained all night! This morning dawned (though it doesn’t really do that here) with heavy clouds and 44 degrees, but the rain abated. We’re told the mountain is obscured by clouds 2 out of 3 days during the summer, so it appears we may have a fairly traditional visit to Denali.
We headed out in the truck to the Savage River Loop Trail at the very end of the paved road in Denali Park, the last point private vehicles are allowed to go. Any further and you’re required to ride a park shuttle or tour bus. We took a beautiful hike along the shore of the Savage River through a glacial valley lined by rocky tundra, and terrain rising steeply on the east side, and less steeply on the west.
We saw our first two caribou feeding not far off the roadside, and 4 more Dall Sheep (3 female, 1 horned male) high on the rocky slopes above the trail. Sadly, too far away for good photo’s.
We also saw a woodchuck, a Willow Ptarmigan (a bird which turns solid white in winter, but is cinnamon, brown and white this time of year) and one rabbit. Of the “Big 5” animals people are supposed to most want to see in Alaska, we’ve now seen all except a wolf; the others include a moose, grizzly bear, caribou and dall sheep. Just as we were completing our hike, it began misting and the temperature dropped further. So we headed back to camp to warm up and have an early dinner. Next, if it doesn’t get cancelled due to weather, we’ll be off for a flight tour of the summit of Denali and a glacier landing. We checked with the flight operator a few minutes ago, and this morning’s flights were cancelled, but at least it’s getting brighter this afternoon, so we remain hopeful.