Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vast and Approachable Alaska

Remember #1? Alaska is huge. They like to ask you where you are from and then tell you how many times bigger Alaska is to your state. I swear they teach Alaskans that in grade school math class. "Now class, how many times does Alaska divide by Texas?" "That's right Jimmy, 2 times." I can hear it now. I'll ask Mandy about that since she is a grade school teacher.

The vastness of Alaska makes birding and wildlife viewing a challenge. While there are many species to see, you have to drive (or fly) a long way to see them all. You may appreciate our trip by looking at our driving route. We covered 1400 miles in just that little section of the state. (In 8 days!)

Alaska Map
You can imagine that the girls were squirming after our trip across the Denali highway. Our butts were sore from being bounced around in the van. And the van was taking a beating too.

Barbara trying to escape the van
We did see wildlife. Sometimes in the distance and sometimes up close. For instance: this is our first encounter with a Golden Eagle. Can you see it? Its that little pimple on the cliff ridge. We found this bird on our first bus ride in Denali National Park.

Golden Eagle near nest
Here is the view we had on our second (and much better) bus trip in Denali. Can you see the difference?

Golden Eagle
How about this example. These are the Grizzly Bears that we saw on the first bus trip. A mother and 2 cubs wandering in the grass.

Grizzly Bears
On the second trip, we saw these bears. First this guy. This photo isn't cropped. That's how close the bear was to the bus. Poor Todd. His camera lens was so big that he couldn't fit the entire bear in the frame. This is one time that my inferior lens came in handy.

Grizzly Bear
Barbara shot this video on her iPhone when he walked past the bus. He was so close that we could hear him breathing.



Here is a shot of him wandering off. Check out the size of that paw!

Grizzly Bear
We were so excited. Our bus driver told another bus about it but he told her about other bears just up the road. A mother and 2 cubs.

Grizzly Bear - Mom and cub

Grizzly Bear cub

Grizzly Bear cub
You really don't get closer than that. Or cuter! The cubs pretty much laid around and ate every blade of grass and every flower that they could get to and then moved and did it again. Wow.

Another example of wildlife that you can see far in the distance or up close and personal. Remember the Moose that we saw on the first day? Well, we saw many other Moose on the trip including this gal along the creek.

Moose
But then we saw this mother and calves on the side of the road. We stopped the van and they didn't care at all.

Moose and calves
The calves stayed close together.

Moose calves
These next photos are cropped. But really, look how adorable.

Moose calf
 Totes Adorbs (that's slang for Totally Adorable).

Moose calf
Some wildlife never got close, like these Dall's Sheep. You take what you get with these high mountain sheep. Lori and Tara did have closer looks on a hike one day but these are the only views that I got.

Dall's Sheep
Same with the Caribou. We saw plenty, but never really close. Here is a video of the herd moving across the mountain slope.


On the other hand, this is the only view of Hoary Marmot from the trip. He was hanging out at the Visitor's Center. While everyone else was inside peeing, Todd, Laura and I were snapping photos. Never saw another one on the trip.

Hoary Marmot
The bottom line is that you have to get out there to see wildlife. Sometimes they keep their distance and other times you get up close views. but you are guaranteed to see nothing if you stay home.
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