Pro Pho in Denali
This is also grizzly bear country!
These grizzlies were safely photographed from the inside of our RV. Frequently the bears were too close to photograph from outside the vehicle (regulation distance is 300 yards), and in some cases so close that my camera lens would not focus. One crossed the road right in front of our bumper, and another trotted down the road in front of one of the buses.
As exciting and as menacing as a grizzly can be, the most dangerous animal in Denali is the moose. Alaskan moose are the largest in the world (a bull can be 7 feet tall at the shoulders, have antlers 6 feet across, and weigh 1500 pounds). Many people are fooled by their docile demeanor and approach too closely, leading to more incidents of moose attacks than bear attacks.
Driving over Polychrome pass in an RV, on a dirt road that is 1.5 lanes wide with no guard rails, that must be shared with the tourist “school buses” around blind curves, is a sweaty-palm, white-knuckle experience for this photographer. At one point we had to back up to allow a tourist bus to pass. The buses always get priority! The reward was waking up the next morning to a spectacular alpenglow sunrise and reflection of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali – the tallest mountain in North America) that, up until then, I could only dream about.
I have been inspired by the work of Tom Mangelsen (www.mangelsen.com), whose photographic print of the alpenglow reflection of Denali has haunted me since the day that I first saw it years ago. It has taken me 3 trips to Denali before luck finally struck. The probability of seeing any part of Denali is 30%. The probability of seeing the full mountain is 16%. The probability of being able to photograph the sunrise alpenglow reflection is less than 5%.
View my video panorama of Denali and the Alaska Range taken later that morning:
My lucky day!
For the travel blog of our “Denver to Denali and Back” road trip see: