October Denali Hike

Outdoor_Fool

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My wife and I were able to break loose for a night so we headed to Denali NPP to camp and spend a day in the Park. We were treated with a beautiful and relatively warm night and a stunningly beautiful following day. We drove to the Road Closure at Mile 30, stopping a few times to watch moose go about their day. We then drove back to hike along a ridge near where we had seen a couple of bull moose and cows.

With few clouds in the sky, Denali was out in full glory.
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We spotted one bull caribou quite a ways from the road, but a caribou nonetheless.
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We parked and started off on a game trail through the brush.
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This trail eventually led to an old hiking trail that took us up onto the ridge and beyond. There is no sign for this trail and it looked to be abandoned.
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Shawna on the trail.
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As usual, there was wolf scat along the way.
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A partially excavated arctic ground squirrel burrow.
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Recent damage to a couple of spruce saplings either by a bull moose or caribou.
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Another view of Denali with some clouds rolling through.
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The trail heading up onto Primrose Ridge.
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After reaching the top of the ridge in the previous photo, I looked over and saw this fat(!) sow griz.
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She was feeding pretty intently on some plant that she was scooping out of the ground pretty easily. Not sure what (wild onions, some member of the carrot family?). I have mentioned in other TRs how they feed on Hedysarum in the spring and fall but this is not typical habitat for Hedysarum, so I don't know. Guess that gives me an excuse to hike back up next year and see.
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Occasionally she would look around.
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While watching the grizzly, we could see that at the top of the next ridge north, there were 3 Dall sheep rams feeding. I suspect they were the same 3 I had seen the week earlier about a mile southwest of here.
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Meanwhile the sow continued to feed.
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... and scan her surroundings.
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And feed.
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Shawna and I were sitting about 80-90 yards from her, with the sun mostly at our back. After about 15 minutes, it appeared that she might have noticed us. If she did, she wasn't too concerned and immediately went back to feeding.
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At one point, a raven flew over us, squawking as it went.
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I looked back up at the sheep through my binoculars. Three hikers that we had seen earlier were "stealthily" harassing them.
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Eventually, the grizzly moved off and disappeared in the terrain. We had been watching her for about 45 minutes. What a treat!
Shawna along the top of the ridge, we were seated down the slope to the left of where she is now.
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After the grizzly left, we hiked back to the van, staying on the trail the whole way back to the road.
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We headed back to the park entrance but along the way, our progress was halted as we passed this cow moose about 20 yards off the Park Road.
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She was nonchalantly feeding on the willows and birch shrubs. I love her golden cape.
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Thanks for looking!
 

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scatman

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Just Beautiful! My jealousy meter went way up on this one. :) All your wildlife shots are tremendous - except of course the ones of you. ;) Thanks for sharing @Outdoor_Fool. Loved it.
 

Ugly

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Really nice seeing these TRs from Alaska. The photos are excellent as well.

Question about the meese. I know the ones in Utah/Colorado are a smaller subspecies, I did see one in Quebec, others in Banff/Jasper and then one massive bull up near Yellowknife. Are the subspecies near Yellowknife the same as those in Alaska?

The one in Quebec was dark and slim, but the Yellowknife was quite the specimen, even more bulky than any from further south in Alberta.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Great question @Ugly ! We have the Alaska-Yukon subspecies which can be nearly twice the weight of the Shiras moose of the Rockies (Colorado to central BC/Alberta, northern WA). The Shiras is the smallest of the North American moose. The Eastern moose is a bit larger than the Shiras moose. The western or northwestern moose ranges from eastern Yukon on down through Canada to Minnesota, Wisconsin & Michigan as well as western Ontario. It is a larger moose but still only 2/3 the size of the Alaska-Yukon subspecies.

The Yellowknife moose should be the western subspecies. Lots smaller than ours but much bigger than Shiras. The Quebec is the eastern, the Alberta was likely the Shiras.
 
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kwc

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Alaska is amazing. Thanks for sharing your adventure @Outdoor_Fool !
Our son had two bull moose in his driveway Thanksgiving week, a rare occurrence as they usually see cow moose in the yard. He entertained the idea of getting one with his bow but was voted down by his wife and kids.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Our son had two bull moose in his driveway Thanksgiving week
That's a rarity, we usually don't have bulls in the yard until spring, but we're in town. Not many guys I know would have listened to their wives or kids with that opportunity. It must have killed him to pass that by.
 

kwc

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That's a rarity, we usually don't have bulls in the yard until spring, but we're in town. Not many guys I know would have listened to their wives or kids with that opportunity. It must have killed him to pass that by.

yeah, no doubt it did!
 

Kmatjhwy

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Great Trip Report with Great Photos of the Grizzly! Happy for you both! This brought back memories of when I visited the park several years ago. Wishing You The Best!
 

zionsky

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Awesome pictures! Love Alaska!! I wanted so bad to get some good moose pics when I was there but they were all hiding from me.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Awesome pictures! Love Alaska!! I wanted so bad to get some good moose pics when I was there but they were all hiding from me.
They do that to me every hunting season.

For photos, I have finally figured out that it's best to jump on the chances that come along. Seeking them out isn't very effective for me. There are some areas I know I can go to to improve my chances but beyond that, it can drive a person nuts.
 

wsp_scott

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A couple days ago I was researching about bike packing the Denali Road. I thought I read that you could only drive to Mile 30 if you had a campground reservation? Or was this late enough in the season that anyone could drive the road that far.

Great photos of the grizzly and the moose. Out of curiosity, what are you shooting with?

A return to Alaska is moving higher up my list with your recent trip reports :)
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Pre- and post-tourist season, you can drive to Mile 30. I forget the exact dates but it's on their website.

Canon 6D and Canon 400 mm f-5.6 L series, also a Canon 24-105 f-4
 

Rockskipper

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You have the same camera kit I have, but I'd kill to have a shot like your first one of Denali. Gorgeous! And that bear - wow, that was way cool, beautiful animal. And that moose!

OK, I'm moving to Alaska.
 

Tim Valentine

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Thanks so much for posting. We were in the state this August and never had any views of Denali. So glad you posted those clear and stunning views of the mountain. Spring and Fall are probably better times to see the mountain. Great animal encounters in you had in October! You are inspiring me to assemble some of my pics and post.
 

zionsky

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Thanks so much for posting. We were in the state this August and never had any views of Denali. So glad you posted those clear and stunning views of the mountain. Spring and Fall are probably better times to see the mountain. Great animal encounters in you had in October! You are inspiring me to assemble some of my pics and post.
My wife and I were there several years ago and commenting on the gorgeous views when a guide came up to us and congratulated us on being members of the 30% club. I asked what that was and he told us only 30% of visitors see the mountain. I guess I should have gone and bought some lottery tickets as the skies were crystal clear for three straight days
 
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