Sunday, May 19, 2019

Denali Day Two - More Bears, Some Ducks, Weather Change

We've been comparing how little snow there was this year compared to last year.  But now that I've checked last year's posts, it's clear.  Yes, last year was a heavy snow year and this year it was lighter and warmer.  But last year we were there May 3 and  May 4  and this year May 17 and 18.
You can go to the links to see the differences.

After Friday's magnificent day, Saturday gave us a contrast.  Clouds started coming in and by the time we were walking back up from the Teklanika bridge, the first drops began.  But even a rainy day in Denali is a treat.  So here are a few more pictures.

After a few caribou driving to Savage River (where the paved road ends) we (and many others) got to watch this bear fairly close to the road.

There were lots more caribou throughout the drive.  Saturday we were pretty much headed for Teklanika.  This is a campground 30 miles into the park with an overview and lots of bathrooms.  It's a stop for the tourist buses, which don't start running until tomorrow.  Well, that turns out to be not completely true.  There were tan guided tour buses that were running pretty frequently.  In any case, the Denali road is normally closed to private cars at Savage River.  But in the spring, as they clear the road of snow and repair any damage from winter, they open the road - up to Teklanika.  So it's a chance to drive in and stop where you want and watch animals, hike, bike, picnic.  Whatever.  Friday we'd hiked the short Savage River trail (one mile each way.)  It's a loose, but we only did the west side because there was a big glaciated spot that blocked the trail on the east side.  We met people who'd climbed around the ice, but we aren't that young any more.  

We did stop at a pullout about mile 25 and I rode the bike a couple of miles, until there were trees on both sides (and it's harder to spot nearby bears.  Though I don't think there's ever been a biker attacked on the road, but I'm not sure.  Very few people - under five I believe - have been killed by bears in Denali.

So after the bike ride we got to the first small pond before the Teklanika campground which had a Northern Shoveler floating around.  (I'm having trouble focusing my Canon Rebel on objects in the distance, so that's why this bird is so small.  If you enlarge it, you'll see how out of focus it is.  I need to work on this problem.  The manual is challenging and I haven't found good sites on this particular problem online yet.)

The next pond, just past the campground, had a bufflehead pair and a pintail duck.

The Teklanika overlook area was packed with cars - so much so people were parking on the road.  And lots of people had their bikes.  And on the hill not far from the bridge (about a mile away) there was a wildlife ranger (Jake) monitoring a bear sow with two cubs that was about 150 yards below the road.  Well, he said, that they try not to intervene with the wildlife, leaving them as free as possible.  Normal distance to be kept between people and bears is minimum of 300 yards, but since the bears were down below in the river bed and they'd been there for several hours, he wasn't concerned.  Though earlier there'd been about 40 people including barking dogs (they can be on the road on a leash) so he had to quiet down the people.

They were digging for roots he said.  The vast majority of their diet is vegetation in the park.

Here you can see the mom digging.

She had her head down and her claws in the earth most of the time.

Jake noted that the cubs were making noises.  Eventually they get hungrier than roots satisfy, and they wanted to nurse.  I wouldn't know that that is what they are doing in this picture if he hadn't told me.  She's lying down and they're on top of her.

As we headed back up the hill to the car, the first drops began to fall.  Here are some contrasts to yesterday's pictures.

Here's from the viewpoint where I took the pictures of Denali.   This was an idea I had 40 years ago after our first several trips to the park - a postcard of what Denali looks like to most tourists.

Here's yesterday's view from the same spot.  You can't even see the foothills.

It wasn't all just a grey mass, mostly we could see more.

And for a contrast with yesterday's ptarmigan picture, here's one whose feathers are still more in the winter than summer phase.

And here's yesterday's ptarmigan picture again.  Much more brown, less white.

Here's one from yesterday.  I didn't put it up because she was mooning me.  But so you can see the contrast I'll post it here.

We only saw one moose yesterday - while I was on the bike and didn't have my camera.  And it was so close to the road I didn't want to dawdle.  And we see moose often enough in Anchorage, even on our street and chewing on the trees in front of our house, that moose are not that big a deal.  In fact, Friday, the first animal we saw on the tip was a moose beside the Glenn Highway still in the Anchorage city limits.

Nevertheless, they're still magnificent animals, and seeing them in more natural settings like this is still a thrill.  And this rain-dulled picture is pretty much what it looked like up on the hill.  There were a couple other moose with it.

We're back home with lots to do

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