Denali National Park, Alaska

Latitude 63.63333°N Longitude 149.81666°W

Thursday, August 22, 2002

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We were up at dawn and scrambled to the Visitor's Center at Denali National Park entrance to get our Camper Bus tickets for the ride out to our campsite, Wonder Lake. The Park Road is closed to all private traffic after Mile 15 and anyone wishing to travel further into the park (other than by foot) must use the Park's bus services.

At the bus stop we met Lynsey and Arnoud who were also going camping at Wonder Lake. They were both visiting Alaska from Leiden, Netherlands, and our paths ended up crossing so many times after Denali that we became friends by the time we parted company. (By the way: Lynsey and Arnoud, if you read this, please drop us an email! Shortly after we left you all the data in Nick's Palm Pilot was completely erased, including your contact details!)

One thing about Lynsey and Arnoud we discovered quite early on was their "animal magnetism". By this I do not mean some irresistable, attractive force they may (or may not) have had on members of the opposite (or the same) sex. (That premise was not actually explored). But animal magnetism in their ability to attract, and detect, wild animals of all shapes and sizes, whether on land, over water or in the air. This talent of theirs made them very popular travelling companions in Alsaka, which is positively teeming with all manner of wildlife such as bears, moose, caribou, salmon, halibut, puffins, marmotts, harbour seals, sea otters and whales - just to name some of the animals we spotted.

The weather was still being unkind and visibility was very poor as the bus made its way slowly through the park to Wonder Lake. Despite this we saw several Grizzly bears, some with cubs, ambling close to the road, as well as caribou and moose sporting some serious antlers. It was pretty cool to see these animals so close.

At around 3pm the bus arrived at Wonder Lake and the dozen or so passengers got off and claimed their campsites. The Wonder Lake campground consisted of perhaps around thirty improved tent sites and several sheltered areas for cooking, bearproof food storage rooms, washing rooms and toilets. Thus it was not exactly the wilderness experience we were expecting. The tent sites were situated so close together that noises were clearly audible everywhere, this concept being best demonstrated by an Isreali couple who had thoughtfully brought to Denali their one year old toddler - who, judging by its incessant screaming and crying throughout the day and night, was not being a happy camper at all. Needless to say, this couple did not win any popularity contests while at Wonder Lake.

As the day slowly ended, we ate our freeze-dried dinners and relaxed in the peace and quiet(!) of the campsite, occasionally glancing into the distance to where we believed the Alaska Range should be, hoping for an appearance. But the low clouds did not clear before darkness enveloped the campsite and beckoned us to our tent and sleeping bags.

Photos: (click on images to see full size)

Yikes! Grizzly bears!This is Not a Grizzly Bear!Beautiful Denali sceneryBear spottings draw an immediate audience throughout the park
any many documentary crews were present to film them
The peaks of the McKinley Range

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