This post is part of a series on the Traveling the Denali Park Road – to read the series from the beginning, click here.
The broad valley we now enter through Thoroughfare Pass was, like the others we have come through created by glaciation. The classic example of a glacially carved valley is U or bowl shaped. On the grand scale of things here in the park it becomes easy to discern. Gently sloping hillsides with broad valley floors. The valley floor of Thoroughfare is particularly good grizzly habitat because of the fresh green grass shoots in the spring. There are some older mother bears who know this and dominate the valley. Surprising to many people Denali’s bears eat mostly vegetation. For most bears about 85 percent, roots, grass, and berries make up the majority of the diet. Another big surprise is the color of their coats. Blonde. I call the lightest Marilyn Monroe bears. Actually it’s probably an adaptation most likely developed to allow extended feeding in warm weather. The light color reflecting more sun, the bear feeds more rather than sleeps during the heat of the day, grows fatter and has a better chance of surviving the long winter.
At certain times during our trips we sometimes have to ask, “Are we all beared out yet?” Time to stretch our legs.
At just the right time we pull into the new Eielson Visitor Center. The National Park Service has spared no expense in creating this state of the art building. Several years in construction, the building is set into the side of the mountain. Using all of the latest solar, and hydro technologies suitable to the sub-artic environment, the building demonstrates how careful planning and detailed execution can create a model structure, functional on the mass level, yet artistic and appealing. Everybody likes it.
It’s time to get out and look around. Inside, a small art galley, artwork created through the Artist in Residence program. Many interacting displays, knowledgeable park naturalists to answer those stumping questions, a large topographical map of the region, an incredible hand sown quilt, make sure you find the mosquitoes. Outside, 2 trails to hike and if that’s not enough, hoist those caribou antlers on your head to see if you would like to carry 25 pounds of solid bone around on top of your neck all summer! The Alaska Range is our backdrop here with a broad glacial valley and Denali out, on a clear sunny day, there is not a more glories place on earth.
Time flies by at the visitor center, we don’t want to overstay, anyway, we still have a lot on our plate.