Thursday, September 11, 2008

Alaskan Wildlife

When Hub 1.0 and I started doing the "50-by-50" trips, we didn't even own a camera. Well, I have a Pentax K1000 SLR -- like the old kind that takes film and is fully non-automatic? -- but we didn't bother with photos. Our thinking was, having a camera means you're seeing what you're seeing always in terms of what sort of picture it will make, which isn't quite the same as actually being there and seeing it.

With the ease of digital cameras, of course, a lot of that issue has evaporated. Starman owns one, and it's teeny tiny, easy to use, and presents negligible interference with the experience. It also doesn't take high-res telephoto close-up shots of wildlife. So, trust me, there was wildlife in Denali, and we even took a couple photos of it. But the best photos were taken on our way out of town -- here's a grizzly grubbing for roots by the side of the highway:

By contrast, here's a grizzly in Denali, grubbing for roots a bit farther away:

And now for what we mostly saw when we looked for wildlife:

I forget what those two blobs were when we saw them -- moose? caribou? more bears?? We knew at the time, that's for sure, but the landscape is a bit free of memorable landmarks, so it's hard to remember what we were looking at when we took this picture.

There is one landmark: the mountain. You can't see it from every vantage point in Denali, which seems incredible when you think that it's 20,320 feet high. And you also can't always see it even when it's in the vista because of its propensity to shroud itself in clouds. This is what we had on the day we were in Denali:

And here you also see the most prevalent wildlife on our trip: other tourists! Oh, we were outnumbered by the bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, foxes, snowshoe hares, ground squirrels, eagles (golden & bald) and lynx that reside in the park, but we saw more humans than animals. Even so, we saw a lot -- everything on that list except the lynx, and even a harrier (we think). We just couldn't photograph them all.

On the cruise, where people were eager to spot sea lions and whales, we overheard a wonderful response to the cry of the overexcited spotter. When the spotter exclaims, "I just saw a whale," the reply is, "Of course you did." Well, c'mon -- it makes sense. A flash of black in the water might as well be a whale fluke; everyone's happier that way. So trust us that those blobs are something WILD! and HUGE! (if you got close enough) and EXCITING!

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