On our third day of activities I felt more comfortable walking on the spongy tundra. I don’t think I will ever become a hiker, but it was fun. On the outing we saw a bear and later a fox sitting right on the road. When the fox finally decided to get up, she rubbed her face on the road just like Niki does, marked her territory, and then traveled further down the road. The animals have learned that walking on the road is much easier than the bush or spongy stuff.
At the end of our outing we went the other direction from our lodge and came to the end of the park road which is 92 miles into the park. There we saw the cabin of a Fannie Quigley who came to Alaska during the gold mining days. She was something. One story they tell about her is she had just killed a moose when a blizzard came up, so she finished dressing out the moose and crawled inside to keep from freezing to death. The area where she lived is down in the valley which is colder than up higher on the hills. When the entrance to the park road is at negative forty-five, the valley areas of the park can be negative sixty.
To many Alaskans, Fannie is no different than how they live today. There is a large number of Alaskans who still live in cabins without electricity and running water. Many of our naturalist guides who live in Alaska year round believe that having a bathroom in your house is gross. In fact one of them drove us out of the park and when we stopped at a park rest stop and all got out to use the restrooms, she went into the woods. Keep in mind that the people I am talking about are highly educated. It is just a different way of life.
In addition, Tom, I and the rest of our group are redefining the meaning of exercise. If our naturalists where not driving one of the busses out of the park, it was considered their day off because it is a day between guests. We were leaving and the other group of guests would not arrive until around 8:00 that evening. So what do the naturalists do? The first two rode to the first park visitor center which is about 27 miles from North Face Lodge. Off comes their bikes and they ride back to the lodge. Now we are talking mountain biking with very steep inclines. OK that is nothing, one naturalist rides 45 miles from the lodge and then rides her bike back to the lodge alone. Keep in mind that yesterday people saw a bear on the road. So not only is the biking extremely challenging, it could be quite dangerous.
I have decided that the difference between these naturalists and our Antarctica guides is that the naturalists in Antarctica were all working scientists. Here, all but four of these naturalists, although also extremely well educated, just float from one place to another never really knowing where they will go next.
Yesterday when we left North Face Lodge, Mt. McKinley was clear. Not a cloud in the sky. I think Tom enclosed a photo in one of our emails. Only one out of three people are able to witness this sight and it is spectacular.
On the way out of the park, we had a good sighting of caribou, a snowshoe hare, and lots of ground squirrels. When you stop at a visitor center there are quite a few squirrels. The squirrels here love to eat through the break line and suck brake fluid. Boy am I glad our Florida squirrels have not learned that trick.
Then we boarded the Alaskan Railroad to ride to Anchorage. From the train we saw moose and lots of beavers.
“A frontier is never a place; it is a time and a way of life.” – Hal Borland
More to follow,
Tom & Holly