Day 16: July 1, 2016
Caribou, I See You

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This is Canada Day. The day I thought I might actually celebrate in Canada. But the drive through Canada was quicker than expected and that obviously isn't happening. It's also obvious that one part of Wednesday's planning was the Arctic Circle excursion. A second part was a bus ride in Denali National Park. Wednesday was the first time I had a firm date to visit the park and by then all bus tours were sold out through Sunday the second. So I reserved a seat on the Eielson Visitor Center shuttle. I reached the park in plenty of time, picked up my pre-paid ticket, and before long was boarding the bus and plopping down in a window seat.

Most of the day would be cloudy and there would be rain, usually light, for much of it. Lots of rain had fallen over the last few days as well. The larger waterways in Denali are braided with many of the braids empty and dry on any given day. Only once or twice a year is there enough water to make them appear as normal single channel rivers and streams. Today was one of those times.

Almost all of today's animal sightings would be at a distance. The first two pictures are of Dall sheep. The third is of a sleeping bear that I find it hard to believe someone spotted. It's not all that easy to pick out in the photo. This might help. The last three photos are all of the same fox. We moved closer to each other then the ox walked right by the stopped bus.

This trip's unseen large animal list is now empty. I've now seen caribou and plenty of them. These pictures are of two different herds.

These interlocked moose antlers stand outside the Eielson Visitor Center. Their story is here. Inside a white board has the answers to some frequently asked question. Rangers are on hand to answer others and there are several informative exhibits including a 3-dimensional map of the area. A window facing Denali has the mountain's outline etched on it so that, by standing in a spot marked for your height, you can locate it. I don't doubt that works great on clear days bit today the etching was the whole show.

On the return trip, my moose count doubled.

The return trip also gave me a chance to capture some glimpses of the road. The rain is rather apparent in some of these pictures, too. Although tickets are sold for specific departure times, the shuttle buses allow stepping off an on along the route. I had intended to do that on the return portion and do a little walking but the rain talked me out of it. Like me, most people stuck with the same bus for the entire 132 mile (66 each way) 8 hour trip.

Before leaving the park I spent a little time at the Visitor Center. In addition to giving out lots of information, the center is filled with some really nice displays. I was stopped briefly on the way out by the train delivering new visitors.

Visiting my and the nation's forty-ninth state deserves a stop at the 49th State Brewery.

Cassie, our Arctic Circle guide, had suggested the 49th State Brewery and she also suggested the Golden Eagle in Ester. I certainly enjoyed the Eagle and would go back in an instant but it would probably take a couple more visits before I felt comfortable snapping pictures inside.

Dinner was some excellent halibut & chips at The Pump House in Fairbanks. A bear on the inside and a carved and painted tree on the outside are just two of the things that make this place interesting.

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