Day 13: Anchorage to Denali National Park, Alaska
This morning Dan and I slept in and lazily packed our bags, ate breakfast, and bid farewell tot The Alyeska. On the recommendation of my friend Karin, a co-worker from San Francisco who now calls Alaska her home, we made the short drive down to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, Alaska. For a small fee, we were allowed to drive and walk the two miles loop of the Conservation Center to meet some of the amazing animals that call the Alaskan wilderness their home. The Conservation Center serves as a home to hundreds of orphaned and rehabilitated animals that can no longer live their lives in the wilderness due to their inabilities to defend and feed themselves. We had been itching to lay eyes on some bears, eagles, and moose and we got our wish. Meet some of our friends!
This little beauty was stunning, and loved posing for the camera.
Fun fact...maybe you already know this...but moose shed their antlers each year. So that means that every Spring, they begin growing a brand new pair of MASSIVE antlers. These antlers can grow up to an inch a day! Cray-cray!
Nice rack! Sorry, I couldn't resist! This here my friends, is Rudolph's brother.
And Rudolph's nephew.
This is Kuma, and orphaned Black Bear who lives in the Conservation with his sister. Kuma has massive anxiety and paced back and forth, swinging his head, the entire time we watched him. Anyone have a spare Xanax or Kuma?
This big boy is named JB and he is 10 years old. JB and his sister are Coastal Brown Bears that were rescued by the Conservation after their mama was shot for being aggressive towards a homeowner and his family in their front yard. Little did they know, she had stashed her brand new cubs in the bushes in their front yard and she was trying to protect them. JB is apparently a model, and you can see him in many Alaska advertisements, recognizable by his floppy ear that his sister gave to him by chewing on the cartilage.
This little Grizzly, pictured with JB, is 14 years old and was found as a young bear with hundreds of porcupine quills in her snout leaving her in pain and severely malnourished. JB is quite fond of her and was trying to get her play while we watched him.
These are two lynx sisters, rescued by a fireman who placed them in his backpack after finding the babies in a forest fire.
Baby bison...maybe the cutest thing I have ever seen! Except for Dan's beard that is.
Speaking of Dan's beard...these Wood Bison had some beards themselves. The Conservation center has worked hard to repopulate this nearly extinct species and will release some of the bison into the wild next year.
After we said goodbye to our animal friends, we visited the guys at The Motorcycle Shop to pick up the Ducati. I have to give props to these guys one more time! Dan literally called them the morning before we rode into town to ask about having his tire changed, and these guys were happy to accommodate him and send him off quickly and safely. Then we hit the road for Denali National Park. It felt good to be back on the bike after a few days and we quickly got back into a nice rhythm.
Dan representing MotoCorsa with the Kenai peninsula mountains behind him!
All of those little specks sitting in the muddy banks are bald eagles waiting to snatch some fish from the low tide waters. Absolutely incredible to see so many of these majestic creatures.
Our route from Anchorage to Denali
We saw some insane scenery on our way to the visit the tallest mountain in the country. However, being as tall as she is, Mount McKinley hid behind the clouds and did not allow us to gawk at her 20,000+ feet! We checked in to our campsite at Savage Lake Campground on the property of Denali National Park, set up camp, drank some beer and roasted some hotdogs before crawling in our chilly tents for some rest.
Rick gives new meaning to photo-bombing at the entrance to Denali
Day 14 Denali to Fairbanks
Alright, it's time to kick this up a notch! Today was filled with a boring tour, lots of crazy people on a school bus followed by pilot cars and finally a stop at Skinny Dicks! The best part was the last stop, weird. Anyway, give me some time to elaborate....
We woke up this AM at Savage River Campground in Denali. Amanda and I had booked a bus tour (6 hours long, 60 miles) into denali national park. We woke up slightly hung over from staying up and drinking too late the night before, but man, how are you supposed to fall asleep at 10pm when the sun is still good enough to work on your tan?!
Rick headed out early that morning so he could get to Fairbanks. I think he had been hitting up Tinder or something the night before and had something planned for that evening. Who knows with that guy!? Amanda and i walked over to the bus stop and hung out waiting for the "big green bus". Felt like my old days, waiting on the corner of Froud and Brook street waiting for Uncle Nick to pick me up to go to school at Whittier.
So we boarded the bus...we were probably 2 of the youngest on the bus. I'm pretty sure it was elderly discount day at the park. Actually I think it was probably lots of retired people on vacation. But as amanda says, "I dont know, maybe" (most worthless response to a question EVER!).
As we sat on the bus, we tried for the life of us to keep our eyes open. Dont get me wrong, the scenery was beautiful, but we have been seeing beautiful scenery since we left San Francisco. Sitting on a tour bus, listening to the bus driver tell us about how a bear will attack you if you get between the bear and the cubs was torture. It wasn't 5-10 minutes until we encountered our first "animal sighting"! And boy was it a doozie! About 2,000 yards away, an old lady spotted a caribou. Suddenly the bus was roaring! People jumping out of their seats, an asian lady yelling "Stop Stop!", old people jumping over other old people, the bus driver slamming on the brakes. It was like somebody saw a winning lottery ticket on the ground right outside the bus. Amanda and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Not 10 minutes in and the bus is going bonkers over a caribou that looks the size of a mouse from our distance. We knew it was going to be a long 6 hour bus ride...
We kept seeing these little birds around the park and camp site. They had a ton of extra fur (or should i say feathers) to keep them warm in the -40 deg cold winters they get there.
We did have a few good wildlife sightings though. The first was that caribou I told you about and the second was a grizzly bear! Check them out!
They are so cool aren't they? What? You can't see them?
That's ok, neither could I. Let's continue...
We took the bus all the way to Toklat. I'm not sure what that means, but that's the area we turned around on the bus. We jumped out to take some pictures.
Check out this Grizzly bear outfitted in Patagucci!!
We took a walk down to the river bed where Amanda proceeded to jump RIGHT INTO the creek. Foot soaking wet. She ain't no Dall Sheep, that's fo shizzo!
Speaking of Dall Sheep...how 'bout these? Exciting! I know, keep your arms and legs in the bus!
So let's get back to the grizzly's, because I know you all wanted to see the grizzlys. So on our way back, we passed that same area (picture i posted earlier where you couldn't find the bears) and this is what we found!
It was a mother bear and 2 cubs. They were pretty cool. They dont look like the grizzly bear you think of when you think of a grizzly. These are actually more tan in color. The bus driver says he looks for "balls of hay" to try to find them. He was right. This momma bear was a big one. I wouldn't want to run into her in a dark alley. They were tearing the snot out of what appeared to be the carcus of a baby caribou or moose. They were doing some serious rippin' and tearin' because i could see the leg flying up in the air!
Here's some more pictures on the day.
The moose was a nice treat at the end. Big guy he was. And the start of a big rack. Much bigger than the one we had seen earlier in B.C. and at the conservancy.
The drive to fairbanks was miserable. There was so much traffic and so much dirt. Tons of "Pilot Cars, Follow Me!" Enough so that I dont want to ever see a pilot car again. When we got north towards fairbanks, there looked to be a storm brewing. Think of the darkest, scariest gray clouds you can imagine. That's basically what we ran into. We stopped at this bar called, "Skinny Dicks" to avoid the rain. When we pulled in we saw this sign:
You may have to zoom in to see this, but it's worth it. Also, note that's 2 bears next to the sign, not 1. Take a closer took... I knew this was going to be interesting. When we walked inside, my first though was to turn around and walk out. But something made me stick around. Maybe it was all the dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceiling, maybe it was the straw penis's on the bar, maybe it was the dude behind the bar wearing a T shirt that said something totally foul, or maybe it was just because some other dudes told me YOU HAVE TO GO TO SKINNY DICKS!
Anyway, I don't want to ruin the experience for any other people wanting to go, but let me tell you, dont judge. Sit down and have a beer and wait for the entertainment to start. Adults only Please. We left with a couple dirty T Shirts, a few stickers (I <3 Skinny Dicks!) and a couple coozies for Big Mike Peterman. We rolled into fairbanks, found a hotel and bedded down. We ended up at the Westmark hotel after realizing the dorms at U of Alaska, Fairbanks only has single beds. The day was tiring and we were ready for a beer and bed. Now only if it would get dark so i could sleep...
Oh, I lied, we didn't see BigFoot.