Sunday, July 20, 2014

Alaska Journal #30: Denali National Park, Part One

We received this Wilderness Tour Companion:  Denali:  A Living Tapestry when we boarded the bus.  I will use the information in this booklet in several of my photo captions and will place this information in quotation marks. 

The Park Road is the only road in Denali National Park.  
Our TUNDRA WILDERNESS TOUR begins now.  All of the people in our traveling group participated in this adventure.

"Gaze across a broad expanse of Denali National Park and Preserve, and you will see a living tapestry."

"Nature's loom never rests."

"What makes this living tapestry most remarkable is that it is intact."

"'An ecosystem is a tapestry of species and relationships,' observes nature writer David Quammen in The Song of the Dodo.  'Chop away a section, isolate that section, and there arises the problem of unraveling.'" 

"In Denali, the weave holds.  Ripening blueberries in the fall tundra provide feasts for grizzly bears and voles alike.  The well-fed voles become food for wolves.  Basic ecological patterns repeat undisturbed."

"In the continued weaving of its wilderness, Denali is a living masterpiece."

"By riding the tour bus, you are helping to protect Denali's wilderness ecosystem.  The bus program, which emerged in 1972 as an alternative to private car traffic into the park, minimized visitor impacts, allowing many to experience a park that belongs to us all without destroying it."

"Water, soil, rock, and air.  Fungi, plants, and animals both big and small.  The seen and the unseen.  Their connections and interactions yield a sum that is greater than its parts." 

"Adjust your eyes and ears to wilderness.  Look and listen carefully and you may see or hear signs, like wolf tracks or a bird call, that reveal the presence of the unseen."

"Park pioneer Charles Sheldon first came to the Denali area in 1906 to hunt the Dall sheep that most often appear from the road as white dots moving on mountain ridges.  By the time he left, the love he felt for Denali was more important than the sheep he'd bagged.  Sheldon became one of several early conservationists who fought to preserve Denali."
"In 1917, in response to these efforts, Congress passed a bill to establish Mount McKinley National Park.  Renamed Denali National Park and Preserve and expanded more than three-fold in 1980, it is now larger than the state of New Hampshire."

"The 91-mile park road was constructed between McKinley Park Station and Kantishna, a mining camp, from 1923 to 1938."

The bus stopped occasionally for photo shoots and a chance to move around.

Hi, Lon!!

Our bus driver, a trained interpretive naturalist, was full of information and humor.  I never saw anyone have so much fun while "working."

"Where can you find a 1,800-pound herbivore that looks impossibly awkward, yet vanishes into a meager stand of trees with quiet grace?  An owl that hunts during the day?  Squirrels that fly and shrubs that cure?  Ancient trees that look like mere saplings?  All in the taiga, or northern boreal forest."

"This is a forest of oddities and adaptations, where struggle is a fact of life and quirkiness a badge of honor."

"The growing season is short here, no more than 100 days.  Soils are acidic, nutrients are poor, and leaf litter takes years to decompose."

Nice facilities for a "pit" stop.

"Where the ground is soggy, black spruce dominate.  Many are stunted, no taller than six or seven feet, though they may have struggled for decades against wind and cold just to attain that modest height."  
"Some 'drunken' trees lean at crazy angles, their roots disturbed by the freezing and thawing of discontinuous permafrost--pockets of frozen ground--inches below the forest floor."

"Braided rivers wander back and forth, filling only a small portion of their gravelly streambeds, even at high water.  These rivers carry huge sediment loads--rocks, mud, and glacial flour--eroded by glaciers at the rivers' headwaters."

Rae and Charlotte appear to be having the time of their lives.  I'd venture to say, we all were.  

Mary and Twink posed for a photo and I took advantage of the opportunity to sneak one of my own.
Our driver was an upbeat character.  He'd get to laughing so hard that I occasionally feared he might not keep the bus on the road!!  Deep down, I knew he was in control.  (I can say that now).

"As the park road climbs, gaps open between the stunted trees.  Forested taiga yield gradually to treeless tundra at about 2,500 feet, where cold temperatures and moisture-sapping winds prevent trees from growing."

Come back for Alaska Journal #31.  You'll be glad you did.
Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.


Cap Chastain said...

WOW .. AGAIN .. WOW !!! This is simply a phenomenal post !! I know what it takes to put up such a post ..

No comments until this comment?? Come-on-People ..

Shaddy .. this is as-good-as-it-gets !! What a job you have done here. Your friends Cap and Patti ..

Cheryl aka Shaddy said...

CAP & PATTI: Thank you for your support and compliments. The tour companion was so well-written, it was a pleasure to share it as captions to my photos.