Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Antler Update

Man, I cannot believe how far we have come already!

The first night was spent at Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico. This place is very nice! We awoke in time to see the sunset before we set out on our next leg of the journey. We coursed our way up through central Colorado and the eastern side of Wyoming. Rolling hills of golden grass and deep purple mountains followed us most of the way.

We are now in Billings, Montana. Quite a lot of travel in one day! Our next break will be in Canada probably in Calgary. I am awake early and eager to type up some things. Pictures may come along the journey if I am not too tired. Also, internet is a bit scarce up here, as you can imagine.

Thanks for all of your prayers!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Antler Roadtrip

It looks like this might actually happen!

I have tied up most of the loose ends here, and have begun the series of goodbye's. There's a new top-of-the-line camper shell on my truck now. This protects my things and will keep the snow out of the bed during the winter months. Black wasn't available, but the silver isn't bad.

The drive should take around five or six days depending on how hard we push through. I think that we will try and push through the USA and spend more time in Canada. I have two companions traveling with me. They wanted to have a little adventure, and who can blame them? Its the greatest roadtrip ever!

Thanks for all of your support and I will leave little progress reports along the way with pictures and maybe some video.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Part VI: The Conclusion

The bus continued to climb and snake its way along the loose gravel road hundreds of feet above the valley floor. Another bus was coming towards us on the narrow road. We held our breath. 

Inches away to our left, we saw our scared faces mirrored by the people on the other bus as we crawled past. Whew! Thankfully, the road widened and journeyed away from the ledges and into rolling hills. An empty riverbed sat at the foot of a tall hill with small shrubbery between us. Alongside the road there stood two dusty campers staring off into the grass and shrub.  

They began to signal our driver with hand-gestures that were well-known to park staff. We came to a stop and saw a pack of wolves trotting along together. The familiar shutter clicking began. Then, the lead wolf stopped cold, standing almost like an English pointer. A huge brown shape suddenly grew out of the shrub and towered above them. It was a large grizzly bear.  
We all gasped as we awaited the result of this showdown. It was unclear at first, but it soon became apparent that this was a territorial dispute. The wolves surrounded the bear and the ones behind began to inch closer and even bite at the bear’s large ankles. They were cautious, however, when the beast swung his giant head around and glared at them. He was a stubborn bear!  
He even had the courage to sit down and rest while the wolves paced about him, clearly agitated by his brevity. Finally, the wolves became more aggressive and he saw that he had out-worn his welcome. He got up and trudged away down the dry riverbed. Our driver, a veteran of the park, said that he had never seen a bear/wolf encounter in all of his time there. Sweet!  

We reached the end of our route and the center facing Mount McKinley. The view was obscured completely, but we rode back still satisfied with all of the wildlife we saw along the way. Being only a couple of hours away from Denali, I am confident that I will eventually see Mt. McKinley up-close and stripped of icy clouds. 
The End 


Friday, July 2, 2010

Part V: Denali - The Cliffhanger

           Cloud-wrapped mountains and misty trees stood sentinel as we pulled into Denali National Park. There would be no seeing “The Great One” on this trip.

Heidi had agreed to come along with my parents and I. She had spent a summer working as a guide in the park and knew the area well. We bought our bus tickets and waited patiently inside as the cold drizzle continued to fall. Suddenly, a feeling of dread came over me because of a familiar sound coming from a corner of the building. It sounded like the horrible child that was on the train to Fairbanks.

Gathering up my courage, I walked over cautiously to investigate. It was the very same beast! Quickly, I alerted my parents much to their dismay. It seemed that we were doomed to repeat our journey but in bus form. As the minutes fluttered away, so did our hopes of having a decent day in Denali. Now, the wait for the bus held a weight of burden on all of us.

I tried to talk to Heidi to make the wait more bearable. In doing so, I almost missed the couple and their demon-spawn exit the building never to return. We all breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we had avoided catastrophe. Boarding the hunter-green bus, we all sat down and began our journey through Denali.

Everyone on the bus clung to the windows on the sides of the bus as the driver provided some narration along the way. Our first wildlife encounter was a few Caribou on a misty mountain slope. The bus stopped and all was silent for a few moments save the sound of camera shutters clicking away. I was, of course, one of those noisy shutterbugs.

As we continued around the corner, one of the passengers yelled out, “Dall sheep, eight o’clock!” We could see on the top of the ridge two rams lying in the patchy grass and rocks. They seemed to take no notice of us, probably because of their superior proximity to us. The bus reached the bottom of the valley, and there were a few composting toilets near a great mountain river. Bathroom break! I went straight for the frigid river in search for interesting rocks.

I had just enough time to come back to the bus and clean my mud-stained window before we were off again. This next stretch of “road” had to have been the scariest I have ever been on. It snaked along the mountain’s side with no support, pavement (only gravel in Denali), or railing. Thankfully, we clung to the mountain side when another bus had to pass us because there was only enough room for two buses to graze past one another.

On our way back, however, we would be the ones on the loose talus side. One weird passenger asked the driver if they had ever lost a bus over the side. The wry driver responded, “No. We have always been able to find them!” He then said that no bus had gone down the couple thousand foot drop to our right. Heidi then spoke up and recounted an incident she had heard of during her time working at the park. The driver thought for a while and then took back what he said. Comforting.

Photo by: Tom Wright
Part VI: The Conclusion