Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde
(Pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, his wife Ardis and son David in their Avion Camper on a 1968 GMC Utility Body Pickup. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 18.”)
Part Nineteen: Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park, Alaska (Formerly McKinley National Park) to Toklat Road Camp, Denali National Park, Alaska
Sunday, July 18, 1971: At 4:00 a.m. Philip woke up and slipped outside for 2 ¼ Hasselblad photographs of the sunrise and sky full of pink, puffy clouds. He came back in to bed until 6:00 am when I got up for a shower. The sun was streaming in through the now more stretched out wind blown clouds. It promised to be a clear day. We got away from the campground by 7:30 a.m. Our first stop was on the pass between Denali Park Station and Savage River. It was glorious to watch Mount Denali come out from behind the brown slopes of Double Mountain in absolute clear and total white form. Rolling shrubbery covered the foreground interspersed with some spruce. As Philip took pictures toward the west of Mount Denali, clouds came across the mountain’s face. He had going both his 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera and the medium format Hasselblad with the 250 mm lens on it. More views and photographs to the east for the lovely clouds. As we left this spot, South Peak was cloud swathed. At the next stop, just past the Savage River Bridge, Philip pointed the view camera east again where zeppelin clouds sailed over the peaks.
About Mile 18, we stopped for 35 mm photographs of cloud wrapped Mount Denali. He also made large format photographs of bar type zeppelin clouds to the east at the next stop near the Sanctuary River. We drove past the Teklanika River Campground to a small pond on the left with bent grass. The air was very cool with a stiff breeze blowing. We had lunch on the far side of Teklanika Bridge. After lunch we passed through the narrowing Igloo Canyon bounded by grassy slopes. The road narrowed and roughened as it climbed to Sable Pass. Before getting that far, we stopped behind a procession of cars looking at and photographing a young bull caribou. After we passed the caribou crowd, we drove on to the top of the pass and stopped for pictures of Tundra and flowers called Mertensia. Philip made a 35 mm photograph of a ground squirrel too. Just beyond David said, “There’s old Mount McKinley.” Sure enough, (now called) Mount Denali rises here above the colorful volcanic hills. Our next break from the road at 2:00 p.m. came at a road cut flower garden down from Sable Pass a little further. The road cut flower garden contained Arnica, Bush Cingul Foil, Spotted Saxifrage, Anenome, all captured with Philip’s 35 mm camera. Just before the East Fork Bridge we turned onto a service road for photographs of a braided stream flowing out of the colorful volcanic ridge gully. Once we crossed East Fork Bridge and climbed up the dug way that looks out over the alluvial fans of the Polychrome Hills, we stopped against the cliff. Philip walked on around the bend for view camera photographs. He also spotted the young caribou again, without the observing crowd and photographed him with the 35 mm.
At the top of Polychrome Pass we parked again while Philip took photographs of the view with the Hasselblad. The clouds had become almost solid and it looked like rain. We approached the Toklat River and halted by the bridge. With the binoculars I detected an animal on the distant side of the riverbed and a row of people at the road edge with cameras and binoculars. We moved on across the bridge where we could see it was a grizzly bear flaked out for a nap in the gravel. Shortly we saw there were also three caribou lying down, but with heads up watching the bear in the gravel beyond the grizzly. All three caribou were males, ranging from a young one with immature antlers to a bull with a very large full rack. For the next half hour we watched Philip photographing the bear with both small and medium format cameras. David was right along side his father with his “play” defunct camera. David looked over at me and said, “Mom, isn’t this fun?” The grizzly finally stood up, pawed around in the stream, then ambled into the brush in our direction. Philip made a few closer pictures, then into the camper to head on up onto the Toklat Campground slope. The campground turned out to be very small and congested. We had dinner and watched David’s “Eskimo Demonstration” igloo complete with a broom. David wore his nappy jacket and called himself a bear, then he became an Eskimo hunting in his skin boat and so on. Philip packaged up roll film while two Golden Eagles soared over the ridge top above the campground. During the night about 2:00 a.m. while it was still twilight, we heard a horn blowing and dogs barking. It turns out that the grizzly had come to visit the campground. A man from Quebec in a small car near us asked Philip as he stuck his head out the camper door, “Did you see the bear?” Philip shook his head “no” in surprise. “He was shaking my car,” the Canadian said. Just then, the Park Ranger came to the rescue and drove off the bear with a gun firing blanks.
Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 20.”
What kind of bear encounter(s) have you had?