Cool hats, I know
Jason's looking through the binoculars and he swears he sees a moose. Now, he's been trained nearly his whole life to spot wildlife from far away so I don't doubt that he saw one. He passes me the binoculars and casually tells me to look "over there..past the tree"...like there aren't a thousand trees?? How in the world am I supposed to know which one he's talking about?!? Anyway, after about 5 minutes of back and forth between us ('oh, you mean over there?' 'No, over there!') I finally convince myself I've found the moose. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I was just staring at a tree stump. Needless to say, I don't really count this as an animal sighting. And unfortunately, that was as close to an animal as we got on the ATV. Jason did decide to climb a big mountain of natural sand and gravel, so that was fun :-)
Fortunately, Jason and I have the rest of the day to hike in Denali and really get into the wilderness. The interesting thing about the park is that there are buses that run up and down a 15 mile road (the only road in the entire park) and at any point you can ask the bus to stop and just get off to camp or hike. It seems a little odd for as large of a park as Denali is (more than 6 million acres) to just drop someone off and leave them. Apparently, quite a few people do it but Jason and I decide to go the safe route and actually stay on a trail. We hike up Mount Heely for about 30 minutes and finally get to a clearing with a beautiful view. We sit down for a bit and rest because at this point, we're pretty tired. It is so quiet and peaceful...we haven't seen a single person the whole time we've been hiking and it's nice to enjoy a quiet that I rarely get to experience.
As we're taking in the scenery, Jason and I are trying to figure out whether this is the end of the trail. It's certainly not the top of the mountain, but there's no signage anywhere to indicate whether the trail goes further or not. We're leaning towards just going back down the mountain and to the hotel when we hear a rustling in the woods. Could this be it? Our long-awaited animal sighting? We stand still and wait as the noise gets closer. Finally, we come face to face with....an elderly couple. Something that we had already seen plenty of on this trip. We say our 'hellos' and come to find out they are on their way down from the very top of the mountain. They carry on about the beautiful view of Mt. McKinley and how it's only another 30 minutes to the top. Not to be outdone by an elderly couple, Jason has already slung on his backpack and headed up the mountain. And I'm so glad he did...the views from the top were even more beautiful then what we had already seen.
A view of Mt. McKinley, about 120 miles away
And you know what? We finally spotted an animal! This guy:
Alright, so not exactly what I had in mind but whatever. I'll take what I can get. On our way down the trail, we take this video of Jason walking on the ground. It's the craziest thing I've seen and it's due to the permafrost being partially melted underneath the ground. Kind of freaked me out a bit walking on it.
Back at the hotel, Jason and I eat dinner at a seafood joint across the street. And would you believe I actually ordered halibut for dinner? Those that know me well know that this is a big deal. And I liked it. Major breakthrough here, folks.
On the agenda tomorrow: 8 hour train ride from Denali to Anchorage