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Alaska - Day 12 - Denali National Park & Ruth Glacier
July 2010
Day 12 was the only day on the land portion of our trip that we spent the whole day in one place because our tour had 2 nights scheduled in Denali. We took the Tundra Wilderness Tour through Denali National Park. It was eight hours long and full of some of the most spectacular sights we’ve seen. We saw bears, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, a lynx, golden eagles, mew gulls and more. We also got to see Denali (aka Mount McKinley) which apparently only 30% of visitors get to see.

Eight hours and a boxed lunch later our time in the park was over and we headed back to the lodge just in time to catch our shuttle to Healy State Airport for our glacier flight. At long last we finally made it off the ground and we were on our way to land on a glacier. We flew over the very rugged and beautiful terrain of Denali National Park to reach Ruth Glacier. After landing on the glacier we spent 30 minutes walking around on top of 20 feet of snow and more than 1000 feet of glacial ice. It was an amazing experience. We ended the night with a flight back to Healy and dinner at the lodge in Denali.

(click any photo for a larger version)

DAY 11 | ALASKA INDEX | DAY 13

004 Denali National Park Landscape 006 Moose 010 Moose
Denali National Park is over 6 million acres of mostly unspoiled wilderness.
Not long after entering the park we saw moose
Not long after entering the park we saw moose
012 Moose 014 Mew Gull 017 Denali National Park Landscape
Not long after entering the park we saw moose
A mew gull takes off from an overpass on the Park Road.
Denali National Park includes many various landscapes
019 Fireweed Flowers 021 Glacial & Mountain Water Merging in River 023 Lynx
Fireweed is abundant in Alaska
Mountain water and glacial water merge together in a river.
This lynx crossed in front of our bus.
026 Caribou 032 River 033 Denali National Park Landscape
A caribou on a ridge a few miles away
The rivers in Denali are called braided rivers. They never fill to their banks.
There are beautiful landscapes everywhere you look in Denali.
034 Golden Eagle 036 Edge of Park Road 037 Park Road
We're finally out of the habitat of bald eagles, but we are now starting to see golden eagles.
Looking down off the edge of the Park Road
That road along the cliff is the road we're on, the only road in the park aptly named the Park Road.
043 Denali 047 Brown Bears 049 Denali
We were one of the lucky 30 percent who get to see Denali (aka Mount McKinley)
These were the only bears we saw. Unfortunately, they were over 5 miles away!
It's hard to believe the summit of Denali (aka Mount McKinley) is almost 4 miles high.
050 Denali 051 Denali 052 Mom & Michael
We were one of the lucky 30 percent who get to see Denali (aka Mount McKinley)
One of the iconic green park buses drives the Park Road.
We were lucky enough to be there on a day when you could see Denali (aka Mount McKinley)
060 Denali Wilderness Tour Buss 066 Dall Sheep 068 Dall Sheep
This was the type of bus we spent 8 hours on.
A dall sheep wanders on the side of a mountain
A dall sheep wanders on the side of a mountain
070 Caribou 072 Caribou 078 Caribou
A caribou heads toward the Park Road
I'm gonna guess this is how a caribou waves.
The caribou like to wander the Park Road where there are fewer bloodsucking mosquitos.
081 Caribou 083 Fly Denali Glacier Plane 084 Mom
We got a great view of the caribou as they caused a traffic jam.
We finally boarded a plane in clear skies.
Ready for take off at last!
085 Taking off from Healy River State Airport 087 Pilot 089 Mountains
Taking off from Healy River State Airport
Like riding in the backseat of a car but a few thousand feet up.
The haziness is smoke from wildfires to the north of Denali.
091 Cantwell Glacier 093 Cantwell Glacier 095 Mountains
Cantwell Glacier
Cantwell Glacier
Flying over Denali National Park
102 River 108 Glacier 113 Glacier
Flying over Denali National Park
One of many glaciers in Denali
One of many glaciers in Denali
117 Denali 121 Glacier 122 Glacier
Denali (aka Mount McKinley) poking through the clouds
Snow covered glacial ice
Glaciers come in all shapes and colors
123 Mountain 126 Mountain 128 Ruth Glacier
I can't imagine why the plane's collision alarm was freaking out.
I can't imagine why the plane's collision alarm was freaking out.
Blue glacial ice pokes through Ruth Glacier
131 Ruth Glacier 134 Fly Denali Glacier Plane 137 Ruth Glacier
Coming in for a landing on Ruth Glacier
One of the planes in our group lands behind us on Ruth Glacier
Standing on the glacier is indescribable
140 Mom & Michael 141 Mom & Michael 144 K2 Glacier Plane
Proof that we finally made it onto a glacier!
Proof that we finally made it onto a glacier!
One of the planes from the first company we tried to fly with lands on the glacier
147 Ruth Glacier 150 Mom & Pilot 152 Mom
It's hard to believe we're on 20 feet of snow and over 1000 feet of ice.
My mother with our pilot, Jim. He gave us a good tour and a smooth ride.
My mother standing on Ruth Glacier
156 Glacier 159 Plane Skis 161 Don Sheldon House & Outhouse
Another glacier looms above us
It was the first time we've flown in a plane with skis
I don't think I'd want to walk to that outhouse in the middle of the night.
164 Glacier 166 Talkeetna Air Taxi Glacier Plane 167 Don Sheldon House Outhouse
Another glacier looms above
Another plane takes off from Ruth Glacier
I don't think I'd want to walk to that outhouse in the middle of the night.
170 Michael 172 Michael 173 Fly Denali & K2 Glacier Planes
I'm standing on Ruth Glacier
I'm smiling because after 3 tries we FINALLY made it to a glacier!
Like an icy airport
174 Pilot 176 Ruth Glacier 178 Glacier
Taking off from Ruth Glacier
Taking off from Ruth Glacier
We flew through some tight passes
179 Glacier 181 Mountains 186 Mountains
One of many glaciers we flew over
The scenery was spectacular
Thankfully it was a clear night
191 Forest Fire Smoke 195 Grande Denali Lodge 196 Alaska Railroad & Susitna River
There were wildfires to the north so we saw occassional smoky areas.
Our lodge (The Grande Denali Lodge) seen from the air. Note the insane 1 mile long driveway that climbs 500 feet in elevation.
The Alaska Railroad & Susitna River
197 Mom
Back on the ground in Healy, AK

GO TO DAY 13

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