Saturday, September 18, 2010
Our Day in Denali
I'm going to skip a day that includes playing golf near Denali because I don't have access to my scorecard while we're marooned here in the hotel. Instead we'll segue right into our excursion into Denali National Park.
Our bus driver/guide for the day was Joe, a marine biologist by trade. Our trip into Denali was only a drive of 62 miles of its total 92 mile length, but it would take us all day to travel that distance due to the gravel roadway and the many stops for photo opportunities. When I say stops for photo opportunities, this is not getting off the bus and walking around, because when wildlife is near you may not only not get off the bus but you are not supposed to talk because the park staff doesn't want the wildlife becoming acclimated to the sounds of humans. So on a misty and sometimes rainy day our pictures were mostly taken from inside the bus, leaving the quality of the shots somewhat lacking.
Factoids: There are six million acres of land in Denali National Park. The trees are within the boreal forest, the northernmost treeline on the continent, and are comprised of alders, poplar and spruce. There are no pine trees in the boreal forest.
While most of the road within the park is gravel roadway, near the entrance the road is paved and has an underlay of styrofoam as a base to protect the permafrost. Also near the entrance a five mile section of the road is closed to any and all foot traffic during the moose rutting season as a protection both for the moose and humans.
There are 35 species of willow in the park, the dwarf willow being a favorite of caribou. In my pictures you will see a very red plant--that will be dwarf birch although dwarf willow is also red.
In the park there is only a three month period of lush plant and tree growth for the animals to eat before the winter season starts and the plants begin to lose their nutrients. Therefore Denali NP can't support a lot of animals as there is would be too much competition for food for the animals. Nature's way of keeping the animal population under control.
Charles Sheldon watched as Dall Sheep were being hunted to extinction in this area of Alaska and so he lobbied for the area to be made into a national park. He also worked with Theodore Roosevelt and many others to form the Boone-Crockett Club, dedicated to preserving wildlife.
The horns of a Dall Sheep take 7 to 8 years to grow into a full curl and the horns have rings like a tree.
There are currently 2000 caribou in the park.
The only fish in the rivers within the park are the Arctic Grayling, which are the only type of fish that can survive in the glacier silt-filled waters. Therefore there are no bald eagles in the park because they don't eat grayling. There are, however, golden eagles because they eat mammals.
The mineral rhyolite is found in the mountains here. It is also found in Nevada and Arizona.
Scientists come from all over the world to study Alaska and Denali National Park due to its unique climate, animals and topography.If you click on the above picture to enlarge it, you will see the bloody area on the center antler where this male caribou has just finished rubbing the velvet from his antlers.
And now it's time to get out of the room and hit the Shipshewana Flea Market, famous in this area of Indiana. More pictures of Denali to follow. Internet connection willing, that is.