It took us a few days to see “real” wildlife in Alaska. A few birds and the insects that live in old men’s beards doesn’t really cut it. But we almost missed the chance to see grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and wolves in their natural habitat in Denali National Park, Alaska.
The Wilderness Tundra Adventure was part of our rail tour, which you can read more about here. We were told to meet at the entrance of the lodge at 5.30am promptly. 5.30am on a Saturday. That’s important, okay? We went to bed around 10pm and turned on a previous 5:15 alarm we had.
We slept and dreamed of spaceships and whatever the hell else it is people dream about (I never remember mine!) and then we woke up.
We woke not to an alarm beeping. We woke up to some birds chirping outside our window. Huh. I guess our bodies did that thing where it wakes you up before the alarm because it knows you’ve got something weird happening today. We looked at our respective phones.
Shit shit shit. We had 4 minutes before the bus was due to leave. We yanked on some clothes, underwear on our heads, shoes on our hands, and we sprinted across the yard and into the main building. I fell up the main staircase and thwacked my knee real hard on some not-soft-enough carpet but managed to hop the rest of the way. This was the first – and last – time on our trip that an excursion left exactly on time, and we were last to board. We squeezed in at the back and tried to stop panting.
Then the adventure actually started.
The main goal of the day was to see as much wildlife as possible. Grizzlies, moose, wolves, we wanted it all. At first we didn’t see anything. As we headed into the park in our school bus (only school buses are allowed), the scenery was pretty – of course – but the animals weren’t biting.
Then, all of a sudden, we hit the big time.
We saw this little fella. A ground squirrel. Everyone oohed and ahhed and took a million photos. We looked at each other and were like “does it have fangs we’re not seeing? It’s just a squirrel isn’t it?”
Nature would have to offer up a better bounty than that.
Next up was this, umm, bird. Woo.
A willow ptarmigan, Alaska’s state bird. Okay, moving on…
See them? Little white specks on the mountainside? To the left? Halfway up and higher? Those, are, allegedly Dall sheep. You’ll have to take my word for it like we had to take our guide’s.
Moose! Okay, that’s actually pretty cool. A lone moose grazing on the hillside with snow-capped mountains behind it.
Then, after much chatter and excitement about it when a school bus passed us and told us where to look back up the road, we saw this mother and child:
Two grizzly bears wandering over the tundra looking for food. Sure, they were far away, but come on, grizzly bears totally in the wild, going out their day like you’d go to the grocery store. So cool.
We also saw some wolves but they were so hard to get a clear photo of that I won’t waste your eyesight on them. Instead, here’s a couple of final pictures of the stunning Alaskan scenery.
I’m writing this in New York, where the smell of our garbage drifts up into our apartment, where it’s stiflingly hot and humid, and where there are preciously zero bears or moose. Oh Alaska how I miss you.
For more info on our overall rail tour, check this out.