Denali National Park

Denali National Park (7,408 square miles) is the 3rd largest national park in the USA after Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve (13,005 square miles) and Gates of the Arctic (11,756 square miles).

 

Denali has wonderful animals (grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, arctic ground squirrels, lynx and golden eagles) in addition to breath taking scenery (Denali and Polychrome Pass).

 

Denali is the tallest mountain in the USA and in North America. At 20,310 feet, Denali has the distinction of having the greatest elevation gain (18,000) feet from the surrounding area of any mountain above the sea.

 

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Eating Grass

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Caribou

Denali National Park

 

Caribou

Denali National Park

 

Denali

Denali National Park

 

Mount Mather

Denali National Park

 

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Denali National Park

 

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Denali National Park

 

Black-billed Magpie

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Grizzly Bear

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Moose

Denali National Park

 

Caribou

Denali National Park

 

Caribou

Denali National Park

 

Denali

Denali National Park

 

Caribou

Denali National Park

 

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Denali National Park

 

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Denali National Park

 

Black-billed Magpie

Denali National Park

 

Denali

from Reflection Pond

Denali National Park

Soon will have heart rate 1 beat per minute and body temp 27 degrees!

 

This cute little animal is an Arctic ground squirrel. They are somewhat alike our black-tailed prairie dogs in that they are low on the food chain and they live in burrows in affectionate group communities. However, the Arctic ground squirrel hibernates from August/September to April during which their heart rate drops to 1 beat per minute and their body temperature can drop below freezing. This is how they can survive the long and brutal -40 degrees F Alaskan winters

Boreal breakfast!

 

This is a boreal chickadee eating an insect for breakfast, photographed in Denali National Park. These chickadees are found in Alaska and Canada and are named after boreal climate, a climate characterized by long winters and short, cool to mild summers. Although this may sound like North Dakota weather, our summers can get quite hot. The boreal chickadee stores thousands of insect larvae in spruce trees to hold them over during the long winters. A delightful song bird!

Massive Antlers!

 

This is a caribou (subspecies barren-ground caribou) of the Denali National Park herd. In the 1920s, there were over 20,000 caribou in the park but due to over hunting, their numbers had decreased to 1000 by the 1970s when hunting in the park ceased. There are now more than 2000 caribou in this large park. Their antlers can weigh up to 35 pounds (10 percent of their body weight)- they have the largest antlers relative to body size among living deer species (only moose antlers are larger in size).

Crimson Caribou Antlers!

 

These bright red antlers are from the velvet falling off, revealing the blood tissue that allows the rapid caribou antler growth. In just 120 days, caribou antlers go from just nubs to 35 pounds in weight. Antlers are among the most among rapidly growing tissue of any animal or plant. Soon the rains and snow of Denali National Park will wash off the blood revealing brown to gray bone. This was a first for me to see red antlers and I hope to go back one day and do some photography of these caribou with sunlight.

As luck would have it, the day I left Denali National Park in Septeber 2018, the weather turned nice. I was able to photograph Denali in sunlight. The mountain is 20,310 feet tall, the tallest in North America. I once aspired to climb Denali and actually took a mountaineering course on Mt. Rainier in Washington where I camped for a week on a glacier and learned mountaineering skills. I realized then that I was too old and not strong enough to climb Denali so I gave up on this dream and am now content to look at this impressive mountain!

Fireweed's lovely pink-purple blossoms!

 

There are several reasons to go to Denali in September when it is cold; less people, less bugs and the tundra is awash in color- orange, red, yellow, and, in the case of fireweed, purple. Fireweed is named not just for its red color of leaves. Fireweed often reaches 5-6 ft tall and the top fourth is covered in quarter-sized, pink flowers. Its name comes from its ability to mass produce on recently burned over areas. Fireweed requires lots of sunlight to grow so once larger species take this away the plant dies. However, its seeds stay in the soil and are viable for years so the next time a fire burns over the area and sunlight is restored to the forest floor, fireweed appears once again.

"That's my Mom!"

 

This grizzly bear cub turned to look at me and let me know that Mom was nearby by in Denali National Park. A grizzly bear mom is very dedicated to her cubs and will fight off a much larger male bear to protect her babies. She will nurse her cubs for over two years and show them where to find food and how to be successful bears.

You can't outrun a grizzly bear and it is not wise to try!

 

Grizzly bears can run up to 40 mph, amazing for such a large animal. This female bear was not running after me but from another large male bear. When I am hiking with a camera or backpack, I average 2 miles an hour, no match for a grizzly bear. It is best to give them safe distance or to photograph from the safety of a vehicle. They deserve their space!

Phew, What's that Smell?"

 

Actually, it was me! I was driving out of Denali National Park in my rental car when I spotted this grizzly bear. As I opened the window to take some photos, the grizzly lifted its head and began to sniff. I had not showered in 6 days and had been sleeping in a tent. Since grizzly bears can smell food 20 miles away, I am not sure what an stinky visitor smells like at 20 yards. In any event, the grizzly had no interest in me and resume eating thousands of blueberries and I went on my way out of the park and back to civilization. Until we meet again!

Hello Moose!

 

I am was able to photograph this female moose when driving into Denali National Park. I saw several different moose during the trip but most were far away or in deep forest and difficult to photograph. This moose, however, was very cooperative and was not concerned with me. Adult males can weigh 900-1400 pounds and females can weigh 700-1100 pounds. They have extremely long legs and stand 5-6 ½ feet at the shoulder. A very impressive mammal, very majestic!

Northern Hawk-owl!

 

This is my first photograph of a Northern Hawk-owl, taken in Denali National Park. This bird has an unusual name with hawk and owl because it is an owl that flies like a Cooper's hawk. The Northern Hawk owl is unusual in that it is active only during the day. It is found in Alaska, Canada and Northern Europe. The Northern Hawk-owl is one of the least studied and poorly understood birds in North America. I was pleased to make this acquaintance!

 

Raining Pine Cones!

 

I was walking in a spruce forest in Denali National Park and it had been raining for 2 days but had now stopped briefly and there was some blue sky out. I heard what sounded like rain drops and I sighed and put my hood on. After realizing that it doesn't rain with blue sky, I looked around and saw pine cones falling from a spruce tree. It was a red squirrel knocking down hundreds of cones from 40 foot spruce trees. The squirrel then came down, picked them up and took them to its burrow for storage. Winter is coming!

Family!

 

I saved my favorite photo from Denali for last, my first photograph of wolves in the wild! This is an adult and baby wolf of the Tolkat pack of 2 adults and 5 young wolves born this spring. There are only 70 wolves in Denali compared to 350 grizzly bears, 1700 caribou and 1800 moose. I have been to Denali 4 times and this is the first time I have seen two wolves together. The lighting was bad and the wolves were some distance from me so this is the best I could do. Another amazing species able to survive extraordinarily harsh conditions!

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