A Strange Haze

Smoky 1With the mudslide delay, our previous day was over 14 hours again. We were sleep deprived, but somehow still had lots of energy. So we headed out shortly after 6 a.m. The morning was cloudy, which was forecast, but there was also a strange haze in the air, making it tougher for photography. So this day was presenting Hector with a different type of challenge.

Smoky 2The Teklanika River was still lovely, though, and we got a glimpse of a soft, pretty, smoky sunrise.

Smoky 5Smoky 4Then a beautiful scene appeared ahead of us. There were three gyrfalcons perched in a tree right by the road. Birds, when they are so close, frighten easily, so Hector could not get out of the car. And it was pretty dark with the haze. So he turned the car off, rolled the car downhill and rested the camera on the door to shoot the photos.Smoky 11

Smoky 10The gyrfalcon were still for a while, then one decided to fly away, and then a second. When the last one flew away, they started flying around and “fighting” in the air. One would “attack” the other in mid-flight and the other sometimes fought back.Smoky 9

It did not seem that they were hurting each other, so we are not sure about the behavior but it was an eerie scene in the hazy weather.

The mountains around the passes had a mysterious look.

Smoky 14Smoky 13Smoky 12We proceeded cautiously across Polychrome Pass with the skinny dirt road and no guardrails.  By far the scariest part of the park road.

Smoky 15More caribou appeared. There are 2,200 caribou in the park. Since both male and female have antlers, sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart.

The females’ antlers are usually smaller, but so are the antlers of young males. This looked to be a Mr and Mrs …

Smoky 17Smoky 16Next we came across yet another animated grizzly bear. This one was walking purposefully along and then stopped to enjoy a long scratching session.

Smoky 19As fall gets closer, the bears will be even more focused on eating and bulking up for winter. We have been fortunate to find some that are not feeding, because when they feed they do not even stop to raise their heads.

Smoky 21Smoky 23Then we saw a caribou mama with a beautiful calf – this was the first caribou calf we saw this summer. The calves were born in the spring, so he/she was several months old, confirmed by the very tiny antlers (they are born without them). We enjoyed watching mama and calf for a while.

Smoky 24Smoky 22Smoky 27Denali was hiding today, it was the first time in five days that we did not see her at all. Once again we found ourselves all alone at the Eilson Visitor Center where we found out that the haze was due to fire “somewhere up north”. Perhaps ignited by the lightning the day before.Smoky 26

This day we were going to need to get gas once again. 60 miles round trip. Aaaaaaaargh!

Smoky 25

Bear scat

Bear scat

Hector stopped near a couple of little streams and crawled around to capture some images. I missed an opportunity not getting a photo of him doing that.

Smoky 32Then we found a bull moose that we had been looking for up on the hillside. We had heard that he was bedded down somewhere in this area, and returned various days to look for him. He was way uphill, so Hector captured only one useable image, but he looked like a king up there surveying his kingdom.

Smoky 33Smoky 36Smoky 34With the hazy day, Hector turned back to the little things; an adorable arctic ground squirrel munching on flowers, and some blueberries and other berries. The bears have been munching on the berries nonstop, and maybe the squirrels too!Smoky 35Smoky 39Smoky 38Smoky 43Smoky 42

Smoky 40

Munch munch munch

Munch munch munch

More caribou appeared. To think we had not seen any caribou in Alaska and now we see them every single day!

We made our usual quick stop at the now spooky looking Toklat River for Angel to stretch her legs.Smoky 44

Smoky 45Smoky 47On Sable Pass, we saw two grizzly bears up on the hillside. It is so interesting how the grizzly bears vary in color, from very blonde to dark brown. The fact that some are pretty dark in color sometimes makes it difficult to tell them from the black bears. But the grizzlies have a prominent hump on their backs, much larger claws, smaller ears and a dish-shaped face.Smoky 46

We got back home, dropped Angel off, and both went to town to get gas.

Smoky 48

Smoky 50On the way to town, we found two caribou bulls that we had seen together earlier. They were tucked in the brush sitting close together. A ranger told us that these two bulls have been hanging out together all summer, which is unusual. I wondered if these two males will fight each other in the fall.

Two sets of salad servers

Two sets of salad servers

Since it was still hazy, we decided to only go out for a very short evening drive after dinner.

Smoky 53Smoky 54And a good thing that we went out , since Hector spotted our first Dall’s sheep. They generally stay up very high in the summer and have been very elusive. These males too will engage in battle in the fall, crashing their horns together.

Smoky 56Smoky 55Smoky 57Smoky 58We watched a pretty and smoky sunset and called it a day after 10 hours on the road. And the shining Teklanika River welcomed us home as always.

~ Brenda


16 thoughts on “A Strange Haze

  1. I sure enjoy your blogs, Brenda and Hector. I feel as though I have been to Alaska too! The pictures are just breathtaking! Thank you folks for what you do.
    Sincerely, Jane

    • We work really hard to find wildlife, but even then we don’t see any at times that we expect to. We have really been fortunate this year.

  2. We hear a LOT about fires in the (further) West, including Alaska, and had been musing at your not having mentioned them… Loved the regal bull moose shot and the grizzlies’ shots. Keep well, Dear Friends! xo

    • Yes, there have been a lot of fires, which is very sad. But we have been fortunate to be in areas where there are no fires, or after the fires have been extinguished. Thanks!

    • Let’s do it! We do work hard to find the wildlife though. You do a great job with the birds, though, even the little ones.

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