When most people think “vacation,” they think shopping, beaches, lots of sun. When I think vacation, I imagine the wilderness, scenic landscapes and wildlife. Alaska fit my idea of vacation perfectly.
A place of natural beauty virtually untainted by human civilization, Alaska is abundant with gorgeous scenery, a peaceful atmosphere, and wildlife perfect for a nature lover. Kicking off our search for the landscape unique to Alaska, my family and I took a bus ride through Denali National Park, a park spanning a whopping 6 million acres of land. Denali is home to 39 species of mammals and over 169 bird types, all of which I was excited to see.
Denali only has one 92 mile-long road stretching throughout the park where buses take visitors on a journey into the park. Boarding our bus, I could barely contain my excitement. As our bus left the stop, I gazed out the window and took in the beauty of the park. Trees grew in rows, and mountains rose high in the distance, capped with snow. Within minutes of departing, there was a commotion on the left side of the bus. The bus halted and people gathered against the window, craning their necks and readying their cameras, eager to see the first of Alaska’s Big Five: the moose!
The Big Five are Alaska’s prominent animals that are on every tourist’s must-see list: the moose, bear, Dall sheep, caribou, and wolf. We had already checked one of those off the list! I stood on a seat to get a better look at the moose, and I was in awe by what I saw. Standing between trees, the moose was huge, with a bulky brown body and curling antlers. It was the first amazing sighting of what would be a great day.
As the moose lumbered behind some trees and out of sight, the bus started up, people again on the lookout for some more animals. As the day went on, we saw Dall sheep, grazing high in the mountaintops, and some grizzlies, including a momma bear with two cubs! One of the highlights of this trip through the wild was a rather memorable sighting of a herd of caribou. Dozens of the beautiful, antlered animal were spotted running harmoniously through the tundra. That marked the fourth Big Five sighting of the day!
The wildlife wasn’t the only thing I enjoyed seeing in Denali; the scenery was spectacular! Mountains jutted high in the air, blue-gray with snowy tips. Rivers zigzagged at the feet of the mountains, the overcast sky making them appear a grayish-blue. The most majestic mountain was Mount Denali, previously called Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America. Over 20,000 feet tall, Mt. Denali towered over the park, a magnificent summit covered in snow, its height astounding.
Despite Denali’s scenery, the most extraordinary experience of the day was the red fox encounter. We spotted the fox right next to our bus, crouching unnaturally on the grassy slope, and I couldn’t understand what it was doing. Then, in the blink of an eye, the fox pounced and a collective gasp ran through the bus. Then, it hit me: the fox had been hunting an Arctic ground squirrel! We had just witnessed one of the essential acts of survival! My mind was racing while I watched the fox, and I knew that this captivating moment was one I would remember forever.
As the day came to a close, the wonders of Denali left me wonderstruck, and Alaska’s striking animals and impressive scenery made this family vacation one that I would truly never forget!
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