Jim and I rode the green shuttle bus from Teklanika to Eielsen Visitor Center and/or Wonder Lake almost daily. We would take short trips together and on the longer trips we would alternate and one of us would stay behind with Hailey. I could have traveled on the shuttle bus every day all day long and never tired of the ride. Good weather, bad weather, it didn’t matter, this park has so much to offer.
One of our drivers reminded us that when we go to the zoo the animals are caged so that we can see them in a re-created habitat, not even close to their real habitat. Here in Denali, we the humans, are caged on the Green Shuttle Bus and the animals are looking at us. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we can’t but you know they are out there.
The best tip I can give you is try to stay longer than 1 day-that’s the average length of stay-crazy isn’t it ? If you can ride the shuttle at least 2-3 times your chances of seeing wild life are greatly enhanced. And if you can stay at Teklanika then ride the shuttle between the campground and Eielson Visitor Center-that’s where we found most of the of the wildlife. And if you have the time, get off the bus at Sable Pass (with bear spray) and take your time walking down off the pass down to Tattler Creek. Lots of grizzlies hang out in this area and it’s one of the areas where you must stay on the road. No trail blazing or hiking off road in this area. You can always hop on another bus to get back to camp.
Be respectful of the wildlife and encourage your fellow riders to do the same. The drivers try to keep everyone quiet when they stop but there’s always someone who wants to shout at the bears to get their attention. They don’t realize that 1. Shouting is going to frighten them off and 2. Bears start to acclimate to human voices and that’s when they start to lose their wildness. Remember this is their home, you are just a visitor so treat their home with respect.
Be prepared at all times for that picture of a lifetime. Try and sit on the same side of the bus as the bus driver-at least that is the side most of the animals were found on (with the exception of the Dall Sheep) and that’s the side that has those heart stopping views over the edge at Polychrome Pass. You will be taking all of your photos out of the bus windows- so try to position yourself so that you are sitting next to a window that opens easily. If you have a small rice bag, take it with you to balance your camera on to prevent movement.
You will probably see lots of caribou-we did, to the point that most people on the bus didn’t want any more photos of them-I just kept shooting away!
Sometimes you will get really lucky and the bears will be so close you won’t need to blow up the photo to see the bear-but most times the bears are little spots in the wilderness-so be prepared with your telephoto lens.
The absolute best advice I can give you is to just enjoy the journey. If you get a ton of gorgeous shots of wildlife or scenery it’s icing on the cake. Sit back and take in the wildness that is Denali National Park, enjoy the silence and enjoy the incredible beauty that will surround you.
Happy Trails and safe travels, and remember Burk Uzzle who was the youngest photographer ever hired by Life Magazine, he said: “Photography is a love affair with life.” Love on my friends, love on.