The drive in to Denali National Park started as a typically overcast Alaskan day. The rain drizzled down the bus windows as we made our way from the park’s entrance into the interior. But the rain didn’t dampen our spirits. Our eyes were glued to the landscape, scanning for anything that moved. This park is the most likely place to see Alaskan wildlife in its natural habitat, the reason 30-some strangers had boarded a bus to spend four days together in the wilderness. “It’s snowing!” the bus driver announced. We readjusted our focus and discovered that, indeed, those raindrops had turned into fat, icy snowflakes. The first of September and the first snow of the season on the park road (approximately 2000 feet above sea level).
As the skies cleared through the afternoon, we could see a thin dusting of snow–termination dust, they call it–on the Alaska Range foothills. The powder on the donut, so to speak. Some day soon these hills, and the tundra below them, will be a white wonderland.
By the time we stopped for our picnic dinner, around 4:00, the sun was shining so brilliantly we had to don hats and sunglasses and remove layers of jacket. We gazed across the east fork of the Toklat River at the frosted foothills, a stunning backdrop against the reddish glow of the tundra. We had been so intent on finding wildlife that we neglected to notice the beauty around us. Mother Nature had to wake us up a bit. I’m sure she had a good laugh over that one.