August 1, 2006 - Wonder Lake Bus, Part 1

Boarding the Wonder Lake shuttle bus at 9:15AM on August 1st.  This bus goes 85 miles into Denali National Park and makes an 11 hour round trip.  We had to bring our own food and water.   The shuttle buses are green, the tour buses are beige.  You get a boxed lunch on the tours, but they cost a lot more money.  The weather was not going to help us see the mountain today, but should help us see animals.  There is only one stop further out on the road, the Kantishna Roadhouse at mile 89, but only some early tour buses go there and have lunch.   The Wonder Lake shuttle was $33.25 each, the tour bus to Kantishna Roadhouse was $130 each. 

We started out by seeing some snowshoe hares, but didn't get good pictures.   We did get good pictures of the hares the day before.

Some of the pictures of animals were not very good because they were at extreme distances.  We also have a nice pair of 8x25 binoculars that we used and many of the animals in these pictures that look like a blob were very clear in the binoculars.

Here are some Willow Ptarmigan, the state bird, which we also saw the previous day.

Nice scenery:

Our first rest stop was at Teklanika, where we could barely see the bridge over the river in the distance.  We could see another shuttle bus was stopped at the bridge and looking at something.  We all hoped whatever it was would still be visible when our bus got to the bridge.  At the Teklanika River bridge we found out what the other shuttle bus was watching, a mother grizzly bear (brown bear) with one cub:

Denali adult grizzlies are almost always light colored, but the cubs can be dark.  The bears are eating roots and the mother bear showed how strong she was when she dug:

The cub coming into view:

Momma decided to start moving to the other side of the road and they came closer.

Once the bears moved to the other side of the road the other side of the bus had the better views.

Dall sheep at extreme telephoto.  Unlike their Stone sheep subspecies in Canada, which we saw on the road in June, the Dall sheep stay high up and are mostly seen from the distance.  We could see them better through the binoculars:

A caribou:

More nice scenery, but notice the small white dots in the middle?

More Dall sheep:

Some caribou decided to use the road:

Our second stop was at Polychrome:

We could see further on the road the buses were stopped for something:

Look at how the snow blended into the clouds. 

Here is what the buses were stopped for, a mother bear with three cubs:

As we drove above the Toklat River we all saw a light colored female wolf that was radio collared, it was the alpha female of the pack.  We didn't get a picture due to everyone blocking our view.

At Toklat we stopped again at the rest area where they had antlers for people to examine:

Further on we saw more wolves at an extreme distance.  In this picture there are at least two laying down along with the one on its feet:

We think this bird was begging at another stop:

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