We arrived back in Denali today around lunchtime and quickly grabbed a bite to eat by the visitor's center so we could head out into the park.
But not before we saw this little guy munching on a crust of fallen bread. Isn't he a cutie?!
After lunch, we decided to take the RV as far into the park as we could go, which is mile 15; the remainder of Denali is only accessible on foot or by park bus.
Mile 15 turns out to be right at the Savage River, which is clearly misnamed, at least at this part of the river as it is more like a lazy creek than a raging river.
The big kids, mostly Paulie, instantly spied this rock formation and decided they had to climb.
But then their attention was captured by the Willow Ptarmigan, the Alaska state bird. I was so proud that the kids saw and identified these birds just based on the literature and video preparation we'd done for the trip. They are pretty identifiable once you see and hear them for the first time, but these were the first we've seen in the wild since coming to Alaska.
Paul decided to head up the rock with the kids, but since I, being the pack mule, was laden with snacks and water, I decided to wait at the bottom.
You can see the tiny spec of red and blue to the center right of this photo which is Paulie and Philip up on the rocks. Finn and Elizabeth weren't far behind, I'm sure!
So when Karen suggested a short hike beside the river for the non-climbers, I happily followed along.
This shot is looking back at the park road from the trail we were on. The paved road ends just to the right of the bridge and is the end of park traffic except the park busses.
We walked quietly along the lazy river looking for wildlife, wildflowers and listening to the melodic sounds of the water and birds.
This is a look back at the rocks my kids were climbing on from about a quarter mile down the trail.
Soon thereafter, the trail became a little steeper, rockier and the water began rushing and crashing through certain parts (still not quite Savage though).
Once we got that far down the trail, we just couldn't turn around, so we continued, mesmerized by the gorgeous scenery.
I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the lack of Dall Sheep. I thought the craggy cliffs along several of the mountains would have been the perfect place to spot one, but no such luck.
We did find lots of lichen. (It's not Dall Sheep, but it's pretty interesting in it's own right.)
We saw several patches of bright orange lichen. I didn't edit the color of this lichen at all. Isn't it amazing?
When we finally arrived at the bridge which marked the halfway point of our hike, Karen offered to take a picture of me on the bridge. Apparently this little Arctic Ground Squirrel couldn't resist being in the shot.
What a friendly and cute little fellow he was!
Back down the other side of the river we wandered.
The number of wildflowers up here is simply breathtaking.
I did manage to find a few today that I haven't seen so far. I think this one might be Northern Jacob's Ladder.
Siberian Aster, being smothered by a bee
As the river began widening and slowing down, we began to hear sounds of children. (Or more accurately, sounds of Finn.)
playing along the river
and in the near freezing river
Including one little boy who walked through the river in his tennis shoes, ahem.
I'm so grateful we were able to experience both the entrance and 15 miles into Denali. It made me extremely curious what Denali is like even further into the park. Maybe one day...
About the weather up here, I've gotten several questions about the temps so I'll attempt an accurate reflection. The weather has been great some days and downright cold other days. Anchorage was gorgeous, upper 60s and sunny. The first day we were in Denali was 50s and cloudy then it rained the next morning (and was freezing!) so we headed out straightaway to Fairbanks. Fairbanks was low 60s and cloudy the first day then upper 60s after that. Today we returned to Denali early and it was partly cloudy and upper 60s perfect weather for hiking! The difference between the low and high every day is about 10-15 degrees and it starts cooling off around 7-8 pm even though the sun doesn't set until almost midnight. Mornings are cool too, but warm up a bit around 9-10 am (despite the 4 am rising of the sun). Tomorrow is supposed to be another lovely day, with some sun even, and we intend to enjoy it!