There’s only one road in and out of Denali National Park Alaska. We headed back out the way we had come in along the narrow and at times precipitous route till we reached the park entrance.
Since we had a long stop for lunch at Denali Backcountry Lodge (see here for Part 1), we didn’t linger long on the return journey, though we had a couple of short breaks including another chance to see the excellent Eielson Visitor Centre.
The Visitor Centre is situated on a high plateau called the Eielson Bluffs and was named after a pioneer Alaskan aviator named Carl Ben Eielson. It was originally set up in 1934 but was just a tent camp back in those days. Since then it has been remodelled a couple of times and now has evolved into a proper building, which tastefully blends into the surrounding countryside so as not to detract from the beautiful scenery. It is only open during the summer months and naturally there have been added restrictions with the Covid Pandemic.
The Centre houses some artwork inspired by nature, information about the environment and wildlife and there are also opportunities for hiking tours guided by local rangers. I don’t remember seeing a cafe there as such but I do recall getting some hot drinks, which helped to warm us up as it was very cold and damp outside. We were certainly not going to get views of the Denali mountain peak that day!
On the way back as the afternoon wore on we were treated to glimpses of some of the local residents – I realised then that I should probably have acquired a zoom lens for this trip. Some of our bus party seemed to have professional equipment with them but these were the best photos I could get!
First out of the mist came the caribou – the close up photo was taken by our friends so I can’t take credit for it!
Then after our earlier sighting of the mother grizzly bear and her cub in the morning, we had the thrill of seeing another pair later in the day – hopefully you can just about spot them? Obviously we were some distance away in the safety of the bus!
We had managed to see Grizzly bears, Dall sheep and caribou but as yet no moose on our Alaskan trip apart from one at the side of the railway track as we sped along from Seward to Anchorage (and I only got to see a brief glimpse).
The next day we left the Denali area and headed off to drive further north to our last stop in Alaska, Fairbanks. By the side of the road I spotted what looked like a large horse – we turned the car around, came back and there in a small clearing at the side of the road was a mother moose and her calf. The calf quickly took fright and scampered back into the coverage of the dense forest but “mum” stayed around for quite a while, seemingly unperturbed by our presence (at all times of course we stayed in the car!).
Apart from our short stay in Fairbanks, which I’ll post about next time, I’ve finally come to the end of our Alaska trip. Despite the inclement weather Denali was an amazing experience and one of the highlights of our trip.
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