Day 71 - Monday, June 10 - Milepost 6105 - Birdcount 265 - Byer's Lake & Denali National Park, AK

(BF's Journal). The serene mirrored surface of Byer’s Lake reflects the rocky barren mountains striped with snow-filled crevices. It’s the kind of lake that endures hours of watching and still offers fresh images. A half mile from my vantage point a Trumpeter Swan hugs the opposite shore as he wings towards his nest hidden behind a small green island. Two fisherman are unlucky on casts that hit the calm water with lures that fail to attract fish. Along the water’s edge the path I walk is spongy soft from years of accumulated needles and moss. Spring flowers sprinkle red, yellow and pink in the dense deep green of the forest floor; a few purple Alaska Iris surprise me since I thought they only grew in domestic gardens. The water is so clear the pebbles sparkle from the lake bottom and decaying logs lean from the shore, break the surface and descend into the depths. Near one of them a Brown Creeper flies in front of me and dances up and down the trunk only four feet in front of my eyes, oblivious to my presence. Reluctantly, my internal alarm clock tells me its time to return to our campsite for breakfast.

We head toward Denali National Park and make reservations for camping starting tomorrow, but tonight it’s KOA. At Denali we take the park road as far as permitted; the rest we’ll see from the shuttle bus later this week. On the way back a park ranger spins his Cherokee around in a pull-out where we are parked. A mile down the road we encounter him again in a cluster of cars pulled off the road. To our surprise he gets out of his jeep with a rifle, aims into the underbrush and fires several rounds. Looking in the direction of his shots I see a round white face something like a fat German Shepard, but it disappears so quickly I’m not sure what it was. We pull up toward the other cars and one driver reports the creature was a Grizzly Bear that had come too close to the camping area and the rangers were driving it out with rubber bullets. A few feet further on we get a good look at the white grizzly 500 ft from the park road. I take a few shots of my own, but with my camera and telephoto lens. The grizzly pauses long enough for the ranger to prod it further with a few more rubber bullets bouncing off the bare ground ten feet behind where it stopped. Reluctantly it lumbers off into the wilderness.

(SF’s Journal). Bang! Bang! Bang! So went the rangers gun as he took aim and fired into the brush at a big white Grizzly Bear who had come too near the road in search of the moose calf he had killed two days earlier and had not finished eating. We were fortunate to be on the road as it was happening and got a close up view of the action and of the bear as he reluctantly retreated into the woods away from the road but only after being shot at another three times. We had reached Denali National Park at 12:30pm and took our place in the line for campground reservations. The camps were full today but we did get spot 77 for the next five days. We also tried to reserve a spot on the bus (the only way one can travel past mile 14 in the park) but Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday buses were full. We are told to come back at 7 AM tomorrow for Thursday’s buses. We decide to stay at the KOA in Healy. It could be better and it could be worse. I guess the tourist season has started, even the KOA got full by 7 PM. It is cold and rainy and dreary now at 9:45 as I sit in my cozy R TENT writing my journal. I often think what it would have been like if we had taken our van like we had originally planned. I would have wanted to go home by now and would have had enough of the elements and now the mosquitos. Mosquitos were first apparent yesterday. They are very large and at least not very quick so are easily seen and then swatted. I have not been bitten yet but expect it is only a matter of time since they sure buzz around a lot.

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