Tundra Wilderness Bus tour

Denali National Park Travel Blog

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Sunrise in Alaska

Bus Tour today!  To get everyone in the shower we began waking up at 4:45am (Someone actually was up in time to see a sunrise in AK!).  We had to meet Denali’s Wildlife Access Center by 5:45am and the bus would then leave at 6.  We let the secret out that bus tickets cost $80 and since nobody else planned the trip they began the morning pessimistic.  Couldn’t believe we would spend that much money for a bus ride.  We took the “Tundra Wilderness Tour” which is suppose to be good for wildlife, the ride lasts about 7 hours (depending on animal sightings), allowed for a few stops to stretch the legs, small boxed lunch (more of a snack) and a booklet about the park.  We picked up subway sandwiches the night before in case we got hungry, we didn’t get back until 2:oopm.  When the bus arrived it was already half full!  Apparently it picks up riders from the Princess hotel lodgings first so when we got on we were stuck in the very last row, being stuck shoulder to shoulder.

Willow Ptamrigans
  This is not helping with everyone’s first impression.  We are crammed in pretty tight for a total of $560 (7 of us), people are not happy.

                I was a bit nervous with the start and people’s attitudes.  I couldn’t blame them, but if we saw some good wildlife it would all be worth it.  And it didn’t take long for the bus driver to slam on the brakes, quiet everyone down and turn on his video camera.  Up in front of us was a snowshoe hare . . . a rabbit.  Are you kidding me?  We stopped for a fricken rabbit!?!  First impression continues, Denali is not doing so good.

mom and two year old

                A little more up the road we stopped for some Willow Ptarmigans.  A small bird that stays on the ground so not necessarily a huge find, but it’s the Alaska state bird so it was starting to be interesting considering we don’t have those in Wisconsin.  Then almost one hour into the park we saw our first Grizzly Bear.  He was down in a river valley so he/she was hard to see without binoculars or the zoom of our camera.  We continued on feeling better about the trip.  People are becoming optimistic when we enter another valley and find three more grizzly bears!  1 mother and 2 cubs about 2 years old.  Throughout the day we will find 17 grizzly bears!  (We were told there was only a little over 300 Grizzly Bears in the park so we did pretty good)  Our third sighting was a mother and two spring cubs.

Don't you want to take this guy home.
  Very Cool!!!  They walked right up to the bus and our window, crossed the road and fed on the shrubs right outside our window.  Turned out we had the best seat on the bus.  This easily became the highlight of the day.

                We also saw about 13 caribou and one with a huge set of antlers.  But our other big sighting was a moose.  We are almost back, we hadn’t seen one yet and people are getting restless anxious to be back when Ruth shouts out to stop.  The bus stops, nobody can see it and people are beginning to doubt her when all of a sudden we see the moose with two baby calves.  We even were able to watch them nurse for a little while.

caribou

                The other big destination of this bus ride was to get a good view of Mt. McKinley, which is not always a guarantee.  The majority of people who go to Alaska will not see it because it is clouded in.  However we were quite lucky and were able to see most of the mountain from only 30 miles away.  It looked amazing. 

                The ride through the park had beautiful view;  awesome tundra valleys, braided rivers, high & steep cliffs to make us hold our breath for awhile, and some great evidence of past glaciers with erratic boulders, kettle lakes etc.

  Great for a geography/geology nerd which I’m not, but close J.  All in all the trip was great.  People were anxious to get back for the last 1.5 hours but they all said it was worth it.  We did have a little bit of high winds sweeping through the valley that day which put a lot of dust/soil all over our clothes without us realizing it.  But when we were done we could pat each others clothing and see dust puff off our clothing.  These strong winds also started bringing a smoky haze and taste which was carried from some forest fires southwest of the park.

                When we returned Brenda and I made a few trips to the visitor center and wildlife center to purchase car passes and a senior citizen pass (for Grandpa).

The wind is picking up in the valleys
  It was a little bit of a hastle but we were able to get refunded $70.  The rest of the day was low key, some naps for everyone, a game of Yhatzee, shopping, church just north in Healy (Lady of Guadalupe church).  It was a very small parish, small enough for everyone to recognize the visitors which was great because they were quite friendly and were willing to share stories with us about what it is like living in Alaska by Denali and the frigid winters when all the tourists are gone.  Most members of the town work in the open pit coal mine, which gives free tours (they just don’t advertise but you can call to set it up).  Something I would have liked to do if we had one more day.  But we had to keep the group moving.  Alaska is a big place and in ten days, we would only see a small fraction of it.

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Sunrise in Alaska
Sunrise in Alaska
Willow Ptamrigans
Willow Ptamrigans
mom and two year old
mom and two year old
Dont you want to take this guy ho…
Don't you want to take this guy h…
caribou
caribou
The wind is picking up in the vall…
The wind is picking up in the val…
The group infront of Denali
The group infront of Denali
Grandpa and best picture in front …
Grandpa and best picture in front…
First Grizzly sighting
First Grizzly sighting
Grizzly digging for some food
Grizzly digging for some food
Griz snacking on the shrubs
Griz snacking on the shrubs
great scenery
great scenery
mother bear coming to check out th…
mother bear coming to check out t…
fuzzy looking griz.  How can he gr…
fuzzy looking griz. How can he g…
Mother bear checking us out.  Inti…
Mother bear checking us out. Int…
Braided stream and kettle lakes fr…
Braided stream and kettle lakes f…
a few more bears
a few more bears
Some mountain goats on super zoom.…
Some mountain goats on super zoom…
Denali is starting to peak out.
Denali is starting to peak out.
End of the road for Tuner wilderne…
End of the road for Tuner wildern…
wind is starting to bring in some …
wind is starting to bring in some…
The bus that took us there
The bus that took us there
dangerous roads
dangerous roads
An erratic boulder left by a glaci…
An erratic boulder left by a glac…
first moose sighting
first moose sighting
nursing moose
nursing moose
follow the leader
follow the leader
great view of a braided stream val…
great view of a braided stream va…
Huge rack!
Huge rack!
Moose #4
Moose #4
Denali National Park
photo by: Vikram