We had a really early morning – 6:30 alarm for a 7:40 shuttle into the park. Paul went jogging in the morning and had to climb a tree and wait for a grizzly sow with her 2 cubs to pass! (First, and last time running without bear spray!) (This picture is from the bus, not the ones Paul came across.) We made it on the 7:30 am bus and got out to Eilson VC, mile 66 on the park road (in relation, our campground was at mile 29.5). On the way out, we saw 3 grizzly bears and 3 cubs, many caribou, dall sheep (ewes and rams), a female northern harrier, owls, spruce grouse, golden eagles and other birds (thanks to the keen eyes of the "birders" on our bus). We hiked the tundra trail at the Eielson VC down to the gravel bars and jumped back on the bus to Wonder Lake (mile 85), the furthest you can go without staying at Kantishna (mile 90). Walked down by the lake and around the campground before getting another bus back to our campground. Unfortunately, we had partly cloudy weather all day, no views of Denali. We arrived back around 8 and had an easy dinner of charcuterie, carrots and blueberries. Got to bed relatively early (10:15) to try and get another early start on Friday.
Slept a little bit later (7 am alarm) (no bears for Paul running this morning) and caught the 8:25 bus out to Eielson. On the way we saw Caribou, Dall Sheep, 2 grizzly (one with a cub), and a red fox. We still haven’t seen any wolves even though there are 2 wolf packs nearby – the Teklanika River wolf pack and the Igloo forest wolf pack. We actually had a peek-a-boo view of a sliver of Denali on the bus ride (the super white part of the picture is Denali). We hiked the Alpine Trail at the Eeilson VC, a .8 mile hike with 1020 feet of elevation gain (thank goodness for hiking poles), and had great views of the 10-14K peaks in the forefront of Denali - Wedge Peak, Mt. Silverthorne, and Mt. Brooks. Headed back to our camp and got off the bus at the Teknalika River and followed it back to the campground. We found quite a few bones in the riverbed on our way back to camp. About a month ago, some wolves had taken down a caribou in the Teknalika River area. After killing it, a grizzly bear came in and sat on it for a few days (until it was full apparently) and then the wolves came back to finish off what was left.
Upon arriving at camp, we were told by several of our neighbors that a grizzly was in the area feasting on soapberries! We didn't see this particular grizzly but did see evidence of its scat. It is 6:00 pm and we are getting ready to make dinner (our earliest yet). Sandy, our bus driver today, told us about an Athabascan legend that when the fireweed, which blooms from the bottom to the top, drops their top petals, it is time to start preparing food for winter. We also learned that the while both the male and female caribou have antlers, the males drop their antlers in late fall but the females keep their antlers just prior to giving birth. Tomorrow we move down to Savage River campground.