Saturday, May 2, 2009
Hard to believe that I'm here. The scenery is surreal. The weather has been incredible. The photo ventures have been awesome. In the photo above you can see Denali in the background and a Willow Ptarmigan in the foreground. What are the chances, one the mountain be in view so clear, two that a ptarmigan be there and then then that the ptarmigan be up in a willow in the same frame with Mt. McKinley!
For those of you who don't know anything about park, Denali National Park and Preserve is located 240 miles north of Anchorage within the interior of Alaska and contains Mount McKinley (Denali), the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 ft. The word "Denali" means "the great one" according to the native Athabaskan language. The mountain was named after president William McKinley of Ohio in 1897. The photo above is of Denali from the road with a telephoto lens.
The park is 6 million acres large and bigger than Massachusetts. The park is only accessible by an 80 mile road which runs east to west, north of and parallel of the Alaska Range. Only a small portion of the road is paved due to permafrost and the freeze-thaw cycle. Only the first 15 miles of the road are available to private vehicles. To see the rest of the park you have to take one of the concessionary buses. To get to Wonder Lake at MP 80, you have to take a six hour bus ride from the Wilderness Access Center. Right now during the spring shoulder season you can drive to Milepost 30. During the few days I have been here it has taken me about 4.5 hours to do a round trip to MP 30.
After park arrival and orientation, I got settled rather quickly because I was so anxious to drive the road. You can see my living quarters above. The little cabin has has a fridge, heater, kitchen and desk area. Will not have running water until sometime in mid-June, after the freeze date. The bonus is that my cabin is close to the rec hall where there is a wifi, so I can use the internet from my room. I will be sharing with someone who has not arrived yet. Everyone starts a two week training period on Monday. The park begins bus tours on May 19th.
I have driven the road to MP 30, 4 times. I have seen lynx, caribou, moose, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares and red & ground squirrels. The weather has been unseasonably mild during the days up to the mid-60s and when I start in the mornings it has been in the mid-20s. Friday morning I woke up before 5:00 AM due to hearing a wolf pack crying out. Snow is still along the road at heights above my truck in the higher elevations. The above photo is a scene in the lower elevations at approximately 2,000 feet.
Well that is a quick update. My next post will feature some images of the Willow Ptarmigan in winter plumage.