Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Anchorage

Weather was cloudy but not raining so we walked around town some.
Visitors Center. Grass roof.

Someone had a sense of humor.After some shopping at a local native carving store we took a trolley tour.
I rented a bike and took off on the 22 mile out and back Coastal Trail. I didn't see a nice bull that's in the link, but I did see this gal.

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Wasn't in any hurry to move along, just stood there and stripped popple saplings while I stood there and took pictures.

Unsanctioned singletrack or Moose trail?.....better watch the trail as you rip down it. I stayed on the bike trial as I had a cruiser not a mountain bike, plus the trails were quite wet.

Last year they had issues with Black Bears on the bike path, I didn't see any.

Some random pics of Cook Inlet and the Chugach Range with the City below.


Off to Whittier in the AM.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Denali to Anchorage

Travel day to Anchorage by coach as it's substantially cheaper and faster than by rail. Leaving at 3PM.

Still got in some mountain biking in the AM.
Lynn hung out at the cabin we stayed in and read and just relaxed.

Mountain biking doesn't appear very popular near Denali, it seems. We saw a few folks riding in the Park yesterday. There is no singletrack for mtb bikes, in or out of the Park. Only one rental place that I could find.

Riding the Park is interesting. For starters, you're pretty low so seeing wildlife must be tough. Our bus driver/guide through the Park said that even the professional photographers will follow tour buses a lot of the time as the bus sits higher for a better angle to see wildlife and with 75 sets of eyes or so, a better chance to spot animals. A couple we rode on the bus to Anchorage said that when they were in their bus, about the same day we were in ours, a sow griz and her 3 cubs walked down the road right past their stopped tour bus and climbed up the bank next to the bus. The driver positioned the bus directly across from them and they took pics as the sow and the cubs played. Very rare, based on the drivers comments, but it does happen.
These bears are not like the Yellowstone bears that are looking for food. They are totally wild but the buses don't bother them, as long as the people don't talk too loud or they don't hang out the windows.
There is section of the Park right next to the road, where humans haven't been allowed to enter since the 1950's. The bears seem to congregate in that area.

Then there is the fact that it's a narrow dirt road and with tour buses going back and forth there is a lot of dust generated.

So, I went north of the Park about 20 miles near Healy and biked on what I think is Alaskan single track...ATV trails.
Heading for the grassy ridge on the right.


The top of the grassy ridge.

This is all near where a young man tried to get Into the Wild but died trying.

Put in about 3 hrs. which included a good hike-a-bike to the top of the ridge. The wind was blowing 30-40 mph up there, so didn't stay there long.

Started out from the far tip of Otto Lake. View from the top of grassy ridge.

Fireweed.
After the ride found a restaurant that served a good local beer and also Alaskan Sea Scallops....yum, yum!
Saw this in the restaurant, a painting of Mckinley under a full moon.

After lunch we got on the coach for a 4 hr. ride to Anchorage. Got to see some neat mountains near Wasila and Anchorage.
Didn't see Sarah anywhere!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Denali Park

Up at 5AM to catch our 6AM bus ride into the Park. 90 miles in, then lunch and then 90 miles out. 13 hrs. expected for the round trip.
Mt. Mckinley is only visible 20% of the time, so we beat those odds and our bus driver of 19 years said we had a view of the mountain only seen by 8% of the 20% that do see it. I figured things can go bad in a hurry, as he stopped so we could take pics of very faint peak 70 miles away. The pic below as at about 40 miles out.

About 20 miles out.

Looking across Wonder Lake.
Saw grizzly bear (3), lynx (1), fox (2), moose (1), family of ptarmigan, geese and swans and caribou (6-8) heading in. Not as many animals as normal. Speculation is that the day was too sunny and warm and most of the animals were seeking shade.

Grizzly bear.
The driver told us of a bicyclists in the park that came up on a bear in the road. He got off his bike to get closer for pictures and when the bear advanced, he ran off...leaving his bike. The bear chewed on the handle bars (sweat/salt?) and took the water bottle filled with Gatorade. The bear was now conditioned, look for humans, chase them away and get rewarded.
This is exactly what Denali Park is trying to avoid. Even when we stopped for a break with cookies and coffee, we could not eat outside the bus. All the cookies had to stay in the bus. They want zero food in the park that can be found by the animals.

Another reason when I bike tomorrow I think I'll stay out of the Park.

Red foxes.Video of Lynx. The magpie was on it like crazy. I wonder if the Lynx was after it's young. Very rare sighting but with the hare population up for the past few years, there are more Lynx than normal in the park.
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There were plenty of views not of Mt. McKinley that were of interest. Glacial stream.

Locked antlers of 2 moose.
After lunch, they were looking for folks that wanted to fly out. One person was signed up and they wanted at least 4. I asked how many the plane could take and he said 5. So, I asked for a special deal if we could get 4 more and we got them.
We figured if the day was that special based on the weather, we needed to take advantage of it. Also, we had seen enough animals and the bus ride back would be 5 hrs. vs. a 1 hr. flight and that included buzzing Mt. Mckinley for 30 minutes.

IT WAS AWESOME! See the pics and vids below and judge for yourself.

Aine (Irish for Ann) our pilot.
20 miles out.

A little closer.
Down to hundreds of feet, the peak staring at us.Glaicers.
Brooks Glacier.


Other side of the plane.
The peak from the side.
Been there, done that! Rafting.

Take-Off.

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Coming up to the peak
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THE Peak
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Glaciers
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Landing.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fairbanks to Denali by Train


Up at 6 AM, on the bus to the train by 7:25 and pulled out of Fairbanks at 8AM. 4 hr. ride to Denali Park Entrance.

Bloodies anyone?
Had a nice breakfast on the train. I spotted 2 moose from the train but no time for pics, that will come in the Park.

Went from basic tundra and swamp to mountains and canyons in this 120 mile stretch. The only thing that remained the same was the glacial flour present in both the Tanana River that we left behind in Fairbanks and now the Nenana River that borders and drains part of Denali Park.
That's the end of the same train we're on.
Looking straight down from the train car, not a lot of room to spare.

We'll be doing this soon!
Heading to the river with dry suits on. Water temp, 36 degrees. Air temp, 64. 5-10 minutes before hypothermia sets in if we were to get thrown out of the boat without them.

Ronald McDonald gloves....hard to press those tiny buttons on the camera with 'em.Some action on the Nenana. The yaks were there as a safety measure as only one raft went out, plus I think they wanted to play some.

Water level was ok, but not great. Still, a fun 11 miles down the river that took 2 hrs.
Mitchell, from South Africa, who moved to WA when he was a senior in high school, was our guide who did a great job and was a lot of fun.

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