Friday, June 21, 2013
Staying ahead of the crowds
In my usual style I am travelling whilst trying to stay away from the crowds. This is tricky especially with places like Denali National Park. It's one of the reasons I left the Bay Area and headed north a little earlier.
In Denali especially it is particularly difficult to avoid the crowds as there is only one road into the park. Most people have to take the park buses to enter so there tend to be groups of people around. This of course makes it much trickier to see the wildlife. Being by myself I'm not so keen on hiking a long way away from the road.
I figured out that the cyclists can go anywhere along the road. So the first day I got there, I drove as far in as I could then jumped on the bike. Almost as soon as I got away from the car I started seeing much more wildlife. Dall sheep, mountain goats and then a grizzly. Fortunately he was a long way away. Too far for a photo.
Then it turns out that the buses will take bikes. So I popped my bike on the front of one and went as far as it would take me. (The road wasn't open all the way to the end then.) Then I jumped on the bike and went further along the road.
I was treated to the wonderful but scary sight of these guys...
They look very cute, but that is probably the most dangerous combination in Alaska. Another agressive mother and her cubs. When I first saw them they were on the other side of a small gulley, but they headed off downhill out of sight and I had to figure out whether they were coming back up my side. A little tricky when out of sight. Then of course I had to figure out whether to continue along the road or beat a hasty retreat back to the car park. A park ranger assured me I'd be okay continuing as long as I kept my eyes open. I don't think they could have got any wider.
I hung around a little longer and got the photo above and many other good ones, until they headed off in the direction of blocking off my route home. Then I headed off further along the road to have lunch near a beaver pond. When I came back again later they'd completely disappeared.
In total, that day, I saw 5 grizzlies, 2 moose, 30 Dall sheep (including loads of lambs), 1 red fox, and a few caribou.
I must've burnt up alot of nervous energy that day as that evening I ordered a huge rack of ribs. I finished them before the waiter returned - he said "Wow, Proud of you Man!".