As we were sitting at our breakfast table yesterday morning (Monday), Eddie noticed something moving outside, between us and the next campsite (which was empty at this point). He grabbed the camera and headed outside. Wow, it was a mother Moose and her calf. That baby was jumping and playing like any toddler would do. The next hour or so was spent taking pictures. We got eye to eye contact with Mom, but so long as we kept our distance and gave her some roo m, she seemed to be happy to pose for us with no problems. Eddie saw a park ranger who had also seen her, and he said the baby was probably less than a week old.
Moose are interesting looking animals. It is like they are parts of many other animals. They have really long legs. Obviously, I didn't get close enough to measure against myself, but just take my word for it, they are long. Her head is rather like a horse, and her body seems like a cow in some ways. All in all, I think if you gave a 5 year old some play dough and some toothpicks and told them to make an animal, I think that is about what a moose looks like to me. But she seemed like a good momma and her baby was adorable. What a treat to get to be so close to nature.
Our schedule for the day included the Tundra Wilderness Tour, a bus ride into Denali that promised wild animal viewings and hopefully a visit to Mt. McKinley. Denali Park is six million acres of pretty much untouched wilderness. Our government and the forefathers that settled this area made it mandatory that it not become a modernized tourist trap. Cars can only go in for 15 miles without a permit, another 15 with a permit. Campers and hikers are required to do clean camping. Anything that goes in must come back out. From the looks of the park, this is strictly enforced and works very well. Buses go into the park, but no one is allowed to get off the bus except for designated areas, and we were told to be quiet if animals were spotted. There is only one road into the park with two rest stops on our part. In a few weeks, more of the road will be opened and the buses can go a little further. We went about 53 miles, round trip stopping for rest stops and animal viewings, was about 8 hours. The scenery was spectacular! At this point, I am thankful for my digital camera, as I will let the pictures do the talking for me.
The bus driver put us on alert to watch the sides of the road to find animals, at which time he would stop and let us photograph if we chose. Probably the highlight of the animal spotting for me was another mother moose and her calf that she was teaching to navigate the river. Eddie got some of it on video and hopefully we will be able to download that onto this site. We saw bears, caribou, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, foxes, wolves, and several more moose.
Just to refresh your memory, on Sunday, it was drizzling rain as we walked to the church building, was raining as we left, and rained all day on our drive. There were "chances" of rain for the week. Mt. McKinley is visible only on totally clear days from the vantage points we were able to use yesterday. We are told that she can only be seen on 10% of the time from there, so the day has to be near perfect weather. She is so tall that she creates her own weather, which totally mystifies me. But she can be clear one minute and clouds cover her the next. Seeing her is a goal of most who visit Denali. We were blessed. The day was clear, no clouds in sight as we started the day, but the tour didn't start until 2:00, so those hours could make a big difference. You had to drive about 10 miles into the park before you could see her. As you drive you keep expecting every turn to reveal her splendor. Finally, she was there. Beautiful!!! Just beautiful. But I have to admit I didn't think she seemed as tall to me at that point that I expected. She was white as could be, for sure, since her snow never melts, but not as tall. After all, this is the tallest mountain on our continent! I was quickly informed that she was 70 miles away from that point. That explains things a little better. As we traveled into the park, we saw her several times, and each time, she was a little closer and clearer. HER MAJESTY, Denali (or Mt. McKinley as she is otherwise known.) Each time we saw her, the driver would warn us take our pictures as the next time we saw her the clouds would probably dominate her. But we were doubly blessed. She was as clear as we saw her the last time as she was the first time.
Obviously, I have never made this tour before, but to be able to see all the animals we did and become some of the few that actually got to see Denali so clearly, we felt very blessed. Besides, today, it is raining again!