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Denali National Park, Alaska

06 September 2010 - Sue's turn to ride the old green school bus

It was COLD this morning BUT that was because the sky was clear and blue!  And it was my turn to take the bus.  I really looked forward to that! 

Tazz & Steve walked me to the bus stop to wait for the bus to arrive.  I had my lunch, all my camera gear, and the GPS. 

Dall Sheep in Denali
Dall Sheep - the first wildlife on my bus trip

Denali National Park bus tour
First view of a snow capped peak from near Igloo Creek

Twenty five minutes later, this view of the East Fork Toklat River valley ...

Denali National Park, Alaska
East Fork Toklat River

The sun was so bright it was difficult to take good shots in some instances.  The driver stopped the bus to let folks view some mountain sheep on a ridge.  However, the sun was directly behind the sheep.  Most folks didn't attempt a shot, but I figured why not?  It's digital ... doesn't cost anything!

First I attempted to expose on the sheep, which washed out the sky.  The sheep were also very dark and the image required some heavy editing in Photoshop to bring out the details.  Even so, it looks a little rough.  Sorry about that.

Denali National Park bus tour
Heavily edited image to show the sheep; sun was directly behind them

Then I took some shots with the camera determining the shutter speed after I closed the aperture as much as possible.  The result was some nice silhouettes!

Denali National Park bus tour
Sheep in silhouette

There wasn't much wildlife today.  Certainly nothing like Steve saw the day before.  Likely the bright and warm sun discouraged the wildlife from getting out and about.

The next stop the driver pointed out an eagle on a distant ridge. 
The zoom lens worked hard to get a decent image out the bus window. 

Denali National Park bus tour
Eagle on a ridge

Next stop was what the driver called, "Polychrome".  Later I learned that meant we were near Polychrome Pass.  The driver was worried that THE mountain might have clouds around it when the bus arrived at Eielson Visitor Center, so he let everyone out to enjoy the view and take pictures.

Denali National Park bus tour
Denali / Mt McKinley in the distance, with Denali Park Road heading westward in the foreground

Denali / Mt McKinley, Alaska

There was a lot of juggling and shuffling as folks tried for the best shot. 

Denali National Park bus tour
Everyone jumps out of the bus, takes a shot, and jumps back in the bus a few minutes later

The Eielson Visitor Center is a main stop.  The bus pulls in for a while so folks can get out, walk a bit, take some shots. 

Denali / Mt McKinley, Alaska
Denali / Mt McKinley on a clear day from the Eielson Visitor Center - N63 25 51.4 W150 18 39.3

Denali / Mt McKinley, Alaska
Denali / Mt McKinley with the zoom lens - 53 km (33 miles) away

My ticket was for Wonder Lake, so I made sure I was back at the bus.  Many people had enough by this point and caught another bus back. At Wonder Lake there were numerous folks wanting to get on to head back out.  Only tents allowed at this campground.  It is popular with professional photographers wanting to capture Denali in the dawn or dusk. 

Wonder Lake Campground, Denali, Alaska
Sign at the Wonder Lake Campground at Mile 85

At Wonder Lake we had about 45 minutes.  Some folks headed to the outdoor amphitheater to eat their lunch, some wanted to find the magical Mirror Lake, some to hike.  I headed off on my own on the tundra to get some shots. 

Denali / Mt McKinley, Alaska
Denali / Mt McKinley viewed from near Wonder Lake - 45 km (28 miles) away

Back by the bus, I took a shot of Wonder Lake in the distance. 

Denali / Mt McKinley, Alaska
Wonder Lake

Then we were loaded and off again.   

Green school bus tour of Denali Park
Green tour bus rounding the corner on the way to Wonder Lake

Back at Eielson Visitor Center, I headed off on my own again.  There are numerous walking trails and people were scattered here and there.  The sun was very warm and the colours brilliant!

I found a sunny slope to sit and enjoy my lunch in solitude while I gazed at the mountain. 

Denali / Mt McKinley, Alaska
Working the zoom even more -- couldn't see any footprints though!

Looking a different direction, south into the Thorofare River valley, I saw another snow capped mountain with some whispery clouds floating by.

Denali National Park, Alaska

It was time to hike back to the visitor center, or I risked falling asleep in the warm sun.  On my hike back, climbing the hill, I noticed a flower struggling to enjoy the sunshine.

Flower in Denali National Park, Alaska
Landscape near Eielson Visitor Center

Then I saw another critter out in the sun's warmth. 

Ground Squirrel at Denali National Park, Alaska
Ground squirrel in the hills near Eielson Visitor Center

Looking south on the Thorofare River the valley was captivating. 
Yesterday Steve hiked to the river and was lucky enough to see rutting moose. 

Bald Mountain & Sunset Peak seen from Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park, Alaska
Looking south towards Bald Mountain and Sunset Peak from Eielson Visitor Center

I kept trudging up the hill to the visitor centre. 

Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park, Alaska
Looking up at the Eielson Visitor Center - N63 25 43.9 W150 18 38.2

Back at the center, I checked in for the next bus.  I had about a 30 minute wait for a bus with an empty seat.  And that bus was almost empty - only a handful of us on it!  Apparently it was a filler bus and not scheduled to be on today. We had a quick stop at the Toklat rest area.

Toklat River, Denali National Park, Alaska
View across the Toklat River from the bus rest area - N63 31 19.0 W150 02 36.0

At Toklat there is a ranger to answer questions.  Also some antlers lying on the ground. 

Toklat River, Denali National Park, Alaska
View south from the Toklat River bus stop - N63 31 19.0 W150 02 36.0

I arrived back at Teklanika tired but happy.  It had been a brilliant day that went well.  I looked forward to reviewing my pictures to see if any were worthy.

Steve told me Tazz had stressed most of the day without me around.  He also noted her left eye was red.  I thought she may have scratched it on a bush, maybe got a bug in it.  So I put some eye drops in and let it settle.  She relaxed with me back at camp.

Tonight we enjoyed a nice campfire after our BBQ steaks.  It was a nice way to end our stay at Teklanika. 

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