Denali National Park:
One of the Most Amazing Places I Have Ever Visited!
I have just completed the trip of a lifetime!! Since school is out for the summer, and I have nothing to currently share from my classroom, I thought I would share a bit of the biology of Alaska. I apologize if Science Stuff becomes more of a travel blog than a science teacher's blog.
This is my second post about the land of the midnight sun.
The first can be viewed by clicking this link.
What I quickly realized about Alaska is the diversity. As you travel about the state, it changes so much. If you plan a trip, you must not go to a single location. If you do, you will see only a fraction of what Alaska has to offer. On our trip, we moved from Fairbanks to Denali National Park to the Mount McKinley area to Anchorage and finally to the glacial areas of the inside straits passage. Each location was completely different than the one before.
All of the photos of this blog post are from Denali National Park. We were blessed with fantastic weather on this trip. In 17 days, we had only one day of rain. All of our days were filled with sunshine (a little unusual for June in Alaska) and temperatures ranged from 60 - 75 degrees each day. We could not have asked for more perfect weather! The mountains were absolutely gorgeous, and these pictures do not do them justice.
Wildlife was abundant ..... but my ability to capture the wildlife on camera, not so good!
There are four caribou in this photo, but my photo is more like a "seek the picture" type of puzzle. Snow was still plentiful, but was quickly melting. It was very common to see a bright green meadow right along side a huge snowbank.
Thankfully, my daughter is a much better photographer than I. She captured the caribou perfectly!
You are not allowed to drive a car in the National Park. There is only one road into the park, and to enter you must take one of the park buses. There is a driver/guide on each bus. Our guide, Lindy, was especially knowledgable, entertaining, and had the patience to endure my many questions. The rules are simple and strictly enforced and are designed to protect the park and all of its many plant and animal inhabitants. You cannot stick anything out of the bus window. This includes arms, cameras, etc. You may not speak in a loud voice while viewing animals. And, of course, there is no feeding of the animals.
I was very pleased at the behavior of the park visitors. Everyone went out of their way to follow the rules, making a wonderful experience for all.
The animals were plentiful. We saw moose, caribou, bear, and eagles. While the caribou were easy to photograph, the moose were not! Usually the moose would leave before I could get my camera ready. This was the best moose picture I could get! You'll just have to take my word for it...it is a moose!
I had much better luck photographing the moose food! This is a willow bush/tree and is the favorite food of the moose.
The lichens were beautiful. I love the lichens and look for them wherever I go. Good, healthy lichens are a sign of excellent air quality. As expected, the lichens in Alaska were very healthy!
I initially thought this (see photo below) was a type of liverwort. It was in a very damp, boggy area. But i was told that it is a lichen and is called Frogs Pelt Lichen.
I love to identify wildflowers. Unfortunately, most of the wildflowers had not bloomed during our trip. Evidently, Alaska had a very late spring this year.
This flower is called Pasque flower....and it is beautiful!
This is wind flower.
Here are some facts about Denali National Park that you might find interesting:
- The park is 6.2 million acres bisected by one single road.
- As you enter the park you travel through taiga forests that gradually give rise to tundra.
- The park is home to Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America.
- Denali National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife, but the most striking inhabitant is probably the wood frog-- the only amphibian to call the park home. Denali's wood frog is different from the others of its species by virtue of it evolutionary adaptation that causes it to actually freeze solid during the winter. The frog's heart stops beating and its lung do not breathe again until the spring thaw.
- 400,000 people visit the park each year.
- The only road into the park is 91 miles long. The first 15 miles are accessible by private vehicles. If you wish to go further into the park, you must use one of the park buses. Only a small fraction of the road is paved.
I will leave you with a few final photos...