All of these things are true. But it's also true that I spent a good bit of time just staring out the windows, thinking and writing pages in my journal. Erica's cabin is a cozy secluded place at the bottom of a very steep hill; you can walk to the Nenana River within minutes and pick blueberries to your heart's content. She pointed out to me that plenty of people would pay a lot of money to sit in a cabin in Alaska and write, and I tried to take advantage of that as much as possible. I tried to go slow, to let things happen without trying to push them into happening, and I ended up having a great time that way. I used to push my vacations to their limits and generally spent the whole time massively stressed out, and it feels so much better to just let it go. I needed some alone-in-the-cabin time and some drinking-wine-with-friends time and some mountaintop time, and I got all of those.
But I did manage to take some pictures in between. This is more wildlife and mountains and such, and maybe there will be a post later with some flower and plant pictures. (I didn't do as well with memorizing my plant names this year, so I have to do some spot-checking with Erica before I post things.) Anyway. We saw a lot more wildlife than I recorded, but I usually don't get pictures because they're far away and I'd rather watch and actually have the experience of seeing something than spend the encounter fumbling with my camera to end up with a picture of a spot of brown. But I saw a number of bears (all from the bus, mostly sow and cub pairs or trios), the occasional caribou and moose, and a juvenile golden eagle that landed in Erica's yard one night while C and I were making dinner.
A beaver! Make all the jokes you want. We certainly did. This was during an elderhostel hike and the hikers got a huge kick out of this beaver trying to drag an entire branch into an underwater entrance. Then I thought an old man was going to tell me a beaver joke. (He didn't.) Uncomfortable.
A wolf, my first sight of one. I was surprised at how long he looked, how pointed and lean. He walked along the road near our bus for a while.
The view up where we began our hike, just past Stony Dome near mile eighty-something on the park road. We hiked up Gravel Mountain.
I believe this is where we ended up, or one of the places we ended up. It was high and gravelly, big surprise.
Erica, partway up.
Erica in front of Denali (aka Mt. McKinley). The mountain is only seen by something like 25-30% of visitors, but I've seen it all three times I've been here, which is kind of ridiculous. It's a gorgeous accompaniment to a hike.
Denali again, from farther up. I wish I knew how to fix the contrast in such a way to make this come out more, but a picture can't really capture it anyway.
Clouds coming over during my second hike, a short trek up Mt. Healy.