Its all about hiking, when in Denali

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If you have more than one day of visit to the park, hiking  is one way to enjoy and explore it.

Our bus/tour driver commented that summer in Alaska is an illusion and winter is the reality. Having heard that made us smile for that is exactly what we had been experiencing since we arrived here. It is summer  yet we have not worn our shorts and tank tops!  So when the sun came out we traversed some of the many trailheads that are near the Visitor Center and the ones inside  the park. With the sun blazing we chose the trail that is labeled strenuous, the Mt Healy overlook trail which was very rewarding once we arrived at the top.  This was a 4.5 miles roundtrip hike that climbs 1,700 feet and up to 25 percent grade. It began easy but steadily  kept  climbing up and the last third was the toughest where we used our  hands for it was rocky and steep. But the reward at the top was well worth the challenge. What we saw at the top was a dramatic view of the valley with the Canyon Village, Nenana river, the visitor center and panoramic views of the  mountain ranges. On our way down we encountered a Moose on the wayside busy eating his lunch.

Mt Healy

We are aiming for the top of Mt Healy!

Mt Healy

The reward a the top

Mt Healy

Come on, lets go!

Moose

Moose grazing along the trail

Beautiful butterfly

MT Healy

Are we there yet ?

MT Healy

Lets keep going

Moose Bark

Check the bark, Indication that a Moose is around

The following day we were scheduled to go back inside the park for another hike. The day started sunny but as we neared the Eielson Visitor center  which is at mile 66, four hours later,  the clouds gathered and it started to  drizzle but we pressed on. We went up to the Alpine trail, a 1010 ft climb gain on a ridge trail and quite steep. There were no bushes or tress but  an unobstructed view of the mountain ranges including Denali if there are no cloud cover. This trail is considered a hike on the dry tundra for it is on the higher alpine areas, interspersed with scree (small loose rocks). Oh my, the climb began at the trailhead and just kept on ascending. To catch my breath I made several stops and admired the many spectacular  wildflowers along the way. They were beautiful ! The view at the top was again awesome and just incredible. On our way down we got a glimpse of Denali for a few moments and then it was covered with clouds again.

Denali National Park

Alpine Trailhead

Denali National Park

On our way down

Wildflowers on the trail

Denali National Park

Pose at the top

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Scree Rocks, can you spot the hikers?

As expected, Steve wants to do more exploring and would like to walk on a gravel bar, the gravel remains of a moving glacier. We did follow the Glacier trail for a while and then there was no more trail. It just suddenly ended and there was no trail towards the glacier. So Steve was feeling adventurous and searching for his own trail. After a few minutes of exploration and discovery, he found himself in the midst of wilderness, tall trees and nowhere to go. He saw a moose trail and upon seeing it he decided that its time for him to come up and get back to the top. On this trek, he found two pair of sunglasses. Yeah that would be a replacement of the sunglasses I lost while also being adventurous on a no-trail hike.

Denali National Park

Can you spot Steve? The gravel bar up ahead is where he wants to go, but there was no trail and he has nowhere to go.

Denali National Park

Lost in the wilderness

Since we were back inside the park, we rode the green bus again and surely enough we stopped at all wild animal sightings. We found mama bear and cubs resting.

Sleeping Bears

Sleeping Bears

During our seven day stay in Denali we wanted to go biking and water rafting as well. Both activities have to be postponed. The weather did not cooperate, wind with a gust of 35 miles per hour descended and rain came  pouring. Oh well, maybe in some other town we can enjoy these activities.

Next stop, Talkeetna.

Mountains, multiple gondolas and our first bear sighting!

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We’ve been getting around during our week in Vancouver doing touristy things. We spent one day touring the city, Stanley Park, the Lion’s Gate bridge, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge/Cliffwalk attractions.  We took a tour for this, since we didn’t want do drive all over the city and miss the knowledge we gained from our guide.  It was worth the extra money.

We went to Grouse Mountain on our own, and it was a lot of fun.  We took the Skyride gondola trip which climbs to 1,100 metres (3,700 feet) in just 8 minutes. You’ll dangle above the piney mountainside while taking in the cityscape and views of neighbouring peaks, the Pacific Ocean, inlets and bays.

Skyride Gondala at Grouse Mountain

Then we took a ski lift and went up to experience the Eye of the Wind, which is a very cool glass room at the top of a functional wind turbine that offers fantastic views of Vancouver and everything else in the area. We told the park attendant that we have hundreds of them in California but none are like the Eye of the Wind  that provide a 360 degree view and enclosed in glass.

Eye of the wind

Just another day hanging out in the wind turbine…

Clear glass viewPOD at the top of the tower

We also watched a pretty good show featuring lumberjacks and some of the chopping/throwing/climbing things they do. Then, as we were walking around we saw a group of people going crazy with their cameras and discovered two bears playing in the snow!  We will probably be sick of bears by the end of this trip, but the first sighting was pretty exciting. Check this short clip of log rolling.

Log Carving

Lumberjacks face off

Bears at Play

Since Whistler Mountain is so beautiful but not on our path of travel, we drove there in the car.  Getting there is thru the scenic sea to sky highway  frequently rated up as one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world.  Along the way are a number of scenic viewpoints where we stopped and enjoyed the views. We also admired  two waterfalls along the way,  Shannon Falls and Brandywine falls.  Whistler is best known as a ski resort but is more known as the host of the Winter Olympics in 2010.  We also strolled along the shops at the Whistler Village.  There is so much to do and see and say about Whistler, but we will talk only of the highlights of our visit.

Brandywine Falls

Yes, you may use this as your screen background, no charge! At Shannon Falls

A choo-choo truck

Whistler Village

The Village Square

To go to the Whistler peak  we road on the first enclosed lift which  lasted almost 30 minutes, the longest we’ve ever been on.  That was just to get to the next gondola which took us between the highest elevation of Whistler mountain at 7,160 feet to the highest elevation of next door Blackcomb mountain at 7,494 feet.  This ride is called  Peak-2-Peak  aboard a huge gondola!  This one is truly remarkable, and worth every penny.  It’s like taking a helicopter trip between the mountains (the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb) except that you are dangling high up on a gondola. This gondola breaks many world records for length and height above elevation (1420′ plus).  Don’t miss this one if you are in the area.

This gondola took us to the Whistler mountain peak

This is quite an awesome machine, as you might expect for the world’s longest gondola. This will take us to the highest peak of Blackcomb Mountain

Ahhh, June is our favorite month for warm, pleasant weather – wait a minute, where are we?

Inching our way up to Blackcomb

That’s 1,427 feet below, and a distance of 2.73 miles between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and the longest unsupported span is 1.8 miles !

Enjoying the scenery

Over 1400′ to the bottom – very cool! thru our glass bottom gondola

Playing in the snow at the top of Blackcomb Mountain

Having fun at the mountain peak.

We will be accelerating our travels now, since we have some catching up to do and there aren’t many “touristy” things to do except enjoying the scenery until we arrive in Alaska.  Our internet access will be spotty due to this remote part of our travels, but stay tuned!

Once in a while friendly tourists offers to take our picture.  Taken at Shannon falls