Day 9 … Seward to Denali

The drive to Denali had amazing scenery almost all the way.

The drive to Denali had amazing scenery almost the entire way.

Today, Friday was the end of the cruise portion of the vacation.  We were in Seward by 5:30 am and we were scheduled to be on our bus by 7:30 for the 1o-11 hour drive to Denali National Park.  We met our tour guide Jonah and our bus driver Hannah and off we went by 7:32 …. talk about on time!

Back in Vancouver I mentioned something about the luggage that I wanted to expound on a little more.  Once we got in the taxi at the airport the only place I had to handle our luggage was putting it out of our room when we were going to the next place.  The morning we left the hotel in Vancouver the bellhops took the luggage to the ship for us … it was in our rooms an hour or so after we got on the ship.  I put it outside the door the last night of the cruise and the next time we saw it was in our room in Denali and the next time I touched it was at the airport flying home … amazing.  Celebrity did a wonderful job on both the cruise portion and the tour part of the trip.  I was very impressed and would highly recommend this way of seeing Alaska.

Potter's Marsh

Potter’s Marsh

The trip from Seward to Denali is only a couple of hours and went by fairly quickly.  It really isn’t very mountainous so much of what we saw were wetlands and forests.  We passed Potter’s Marsh which is one of Alaska must go to spot for birdwatchers.  During migration there can be millions of ducks, geese and shorebirds passing through.  Terri got this shot as we flew by at 65 mph!

Anchorage ... There were beautiful flower baskets all over town.

Anchorage … There were beautiful flower baskets all over town.

We stopped in Anchorage for an hour and a half for lunch and the mandatory … wait for it … gift shopping.  This did seem to be a theme for the trip.  We didn’t pass up very many gift shops and I enjoy them about as much as I enjoy flying.

Terri ... You can see from her beautiful smile that she doesn't feel the same about gift shops quite like I do.

Terri … You can see from her beautiful smile that she doesn’t feel the same about gift shops quite like I do.  She just got those new earrings … Alaskan made!

Walking between gift shops was interesting.  Most of the alleys and many of the other buildings had murals painted on the walls.  It was really nice to see instead of typical graffiti.

Alley Murral

Alley Mural

Anchorage Murral

Anchorage Mural

After we left Anchorage we were traveling north along the Turnagain Arm river when our guide Jonah mentioned that occasionally  Beluga Whales could be seen as they migrated up the river.  He told us to look for what would look like big white boulders that disappeared.  We had traveled quite a ways when we passed a park called Beluga point and sure enough we saw a couple of Belugas way, way out.  About a mile or two more Hannah wa able to pull over as we had a pod of 4-5 Beluga’s right next to the road.  Mostly what we saw was white backs but I did get lucky and catch a tail on one of them!

Typical view of Belluga Whales

Typical view of Beluga Whales

My second whale tail of the trip ... Lifer mammal for everyone on the bus!

My second whale tail of the trip … Lifer mammal for everyone on the bus!

Hannah and Jonah both make this same trip dozens of times each Summer and both said they had never seen Beluga’s that close to the road.  The 49 people on the bus would be with us for the next 4 days and we had a great group.  As you’ll see in the next couple of days Jonah and the other guides would over and over say how we were the luckiest group they’d ever had …

About half way to Denali we stopped for Ice Cream (fantastic) and … you guessed it more gift shops!  If my memory serves me correctly we were about 120 miles from Denali and got our first look at Mount McKinley.  Click on the picture to enlarge!

You can just see Mount McKinley just above the clouds in the center of the pic.

You can just see Mount McKinley just above the clouds in the center of the pic.

We finally got to McKinley Village, our home for the next couple of nights around 6:30pm.  The rooms were fantastic with the exception that our room backed up on the road where ALL of the busses and cars were passing by.  Terri, exhausted from the long day on the bus decided to take a nap while I went on a hike to see what birds were around.

The lodge sits on the Nenana River and Jonah told me there were some trails just across the river so off I went.  Before I left Jonah gave me the standard warning … if you see a Bear wave your arms and talk loudly and pray he’s not hungry and if you see a Moose run … run fast!  The trails were very nice, not very birdie at first but incredibly beautiful.  Of course every squirrel I heard jumping around had me looking around for a Bear or Moose which fortunately I didn’t encounter.

Dark-eyed Junco ... I probably saw a dozen or so of these guys on my walk.

Dark-eyed Junco … I probably saw a dozen or so of these guys on my walk.

American Tree Sparrow ... This guy was another "Lifer" and I only wish he would have hung around for a few more pictures.

American Tree Sparrow … This guy was another “Lifer” and I only wish he would have hung around for a few more pictures.

I made it back to the lodge just before dark and after showering fell quickly asleep.  Tomorrows tour was to be one of the really super highlights of the trip.  We were scheduled for an 8 am bus ride into Denali National Park looking for the “big five” … Grizzly Bears, Moose, Dall’s Sheep, Caribou and Wolves and as you’ll read our groups “luck” just kept getting better and better!

Thanks for visiting and stand by for the excitement that was Denali National Park!!!

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About sheriffsmith

I have worked for the Broward County Sheriff's Office the last 13 years and spend most of my free time birdwatching / naturewatching and photographing the birds and nature that I encounter. I believe God has blessed us with a world that is so absolutely fascinating and wonderful and I'm doing my best to discover and show others all that he has provided us with in nature.
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