Rivers and Tides and Bears, oh my!

So here we are in Alaska (yay!). The first thing we did upon arrival at Chris’ mom’s house is promptly set out for a little rafting trip. I had no idea what to expect but assumed it would involve intense rapids, waterfalls and bouncing off boulders. However, it was so windy we had to get into the river further downstream from all of the exciting stuff andraft shot instead we just slowly floated down a beautiful blue-green glacial river. The water looked like the Caribbean, but definitely felt like the Arctic.

We saw some a pair of eagles, some redhead ducks and a whole bunch of salmon. The water was shallow and you could just look down and see bright red, huge fish all swimming around.  Apparently they’re dying. Which makes sense because a lot of them were quite slow.

The river that we floated down was the Kenai River, and to get there we drove down the Kenai Peninsula and around Turnagain Arm, which is a very unique geographical formation.  It is a very long, narrow inlet that flows from the Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Alaska. It is one of only a few inlets in the world that are so long and narrow, and flow from a much bigger bay. Because of its weird geological shape, it has the biggest tide range in the United States (fourth biggest in the world). On average, the range is thirty feet! It gets even bigger with the moon cycles and the equinoxes. Luckily, we happened to be here at a very big tide range. For a few days this week the low was negative three feet and the high was over 30 feet. Because the tides are this dramatic combined with the unique shape of the arm, it creates another amazing phenomenon: a tidal bore. When the tide is at its lowest, the bed of the arm is completely exposed and mud flats a
re visible all the way across the inlet. As the water rushes in it forms a wave up to ten feet high and traveling between 5 and 15 miles an hour usually (but up to 25 mph!). As it comes in, so do all the animals, seals and Beluga whales among them! I know there are a lot of exclamation points in this paragraph, but it’s really exciting. I can’t load the video I have onto this stupid WordPress blog, so you’ll have to settle for a picture and take my word for it that it was cool. boretide still 2

I’ll Instagram the video and edit a link in here at some point.

The next exciting place we went was Denali National Park. It was totally amazing. It rained on our way up and all night Friday, as well as all of Saturday. Everything was still really pretty, but nothing compared to Sunday, when the sun came out, the skies were bright blue and there wasn’t a cloud around. I can’t describe how epic it all was, so I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures with captions.

Foggy Saturday:

denali saturday fog selfie

Sun coming out in the afternoon for a moment:

denali selfie fun

Me being a caribou because we didn’t see any actual caribou:

caribou head

So the way the park works is that you can drive in about 15 miles and that’s it, unless you have a permit to camp at one of the interior camping spots, in which case you are allowed to drive into and out of your camp spot once. Only once. So you drive in, camp for three days (at least), and drive out. The only other way to get around the park is by foot, or by the park buses. The buses drive in on the only road in the park and you can get off whenever you want to and walk around, unless there are bears around. Then the drivers don’t let you off.

Here are some tracks we saw on the river bed behind our camp site:

bear prints

We went on a little hike around the camp and also saw some wolf prints. They might have been large dog prints, but I think they were wolf prints. Especially cause some lucky obnoxious kids saw a pair of them hunting a caribou in the river bed. Very unfair. But the hike was fun. We went by a pretty little stream that I had to forge because I didn’t have waterproof shoes on. It was cold.

stream

Then we went up this hill. This is where I saw the wolf tracks. Dogs wouldn’t go up here, right?

hill top

So we walked along this ridge for a while and enjoyed the woods. I saw this fungus:

fungus

We decided we had walked enough, but we didn’t want to turn around and go back the way we came so we went down to the river and figured we could follow it back. And then the path we were walking along next to the river got smaller. And the steep trees to our left got steeper, and turned rockier. And then we realized we were back at the little hill we had climbed up to begin with, but we were on the steep rocky edge of it. The front of the hill that faced the river was made up of bigger, chunky dark rocks; the side of the hill was more orangey shale, and it looked very slippery. I thought it would be fun to climb up the rocks. Like rock climbing. Chris figured he would try the less steep, but potentially slippery shale side. So the big, chunky rocks actually flaked off quite easily. But I only realized this was a terrible idea when I was half way up and thought I was going to die. So I scrambled to the top and pulled myself up by my fingertips because every spot I placed my foot fell off into the river. Meanwhile, Chris was walking up the shale side with very much ease. Turns out, it wasn’t slippery.

chris scaling mountain zoe scaling mountain

So I went up the black side. See how it looks like a cliff? It’s a cliff.

We survived and got back to camp. Thankfully, the night cleared up and the next day was beautiful. We woke up to crisp frost all over, but a clear blue sky and the sun shining. This time, when we took the bus, we turned a corner and there was Denali.

denali sunday perfect shot

Thankfully Obama came to Alaska a couple of days before this picture was taken and gave the mountain its rightful name back. It’s 20,310 feet. There are seven glaciers on it. It’s big and white and pretty.

Here we are standing in front of Denali:

denali sunday couple shot

Then we took a hike up a little trail that went to the top of a little mountain.

hike

So when we were on the Top of the World Highway freezing our toes off, it was snowing tons of feet in Denali. There was still quite a bit left a week later. Turns out my Salomon Speedcross 3 space boots are awesome for hiking in snow.

Here’s a pano from most of the way up:

pano hike

And here we are at the top:

top of hike

top of hike 2

And here I am standing on the sky and holding the mountain up. Oh wait, that’s upside down:

handstand

After the hike we took the bus back to camp and saw a few more bears.

bear 1

I can’t remember how many bears we saw in total, but two of them walked right around the bus which was pretty awesome. Another one just stood around digging up grubs and roots right next to the road. And the coolest one was a little bit away from the road, maybe 100 feet out, and he was diving up into the air and down into the ground. We thought at first he was just aggressively digging for roots, but then he ran left, ran right, pounced, and came up with a ground squirrel, and started chomping away. It was awesome. The End.

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