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Wilderness and Wildlife in Alaska's Denali National Park

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Then suddenl, the cry went out. Waves of "wows" traveled along the bus as a mama and two bear cubs came into view.

"Hallelujah!" cried one excited passenger.

"Thank goodness, we paid $5,000 to see that critter," noted another.

Miller admitted he was getting quite nervous -- only 20 times in 18 seasons had he failed to see a bear. It was far away and it clearly wasn't catching any fish, but I did feel some sense of vindication.

At the end of the trip he played back the video that captured the highlights of our bus trip from hare to bear and all the other denizens of Denali in between: the many Dall sheep, mama moose with twins, caribou, golden eagle, ground squirrels and ptarmigans (the state bird). We just missed Alaska's Big Five by one wolf. Not surprisingly, the tour ended at the gift shop, where the video was for sale.

Denali was only one stop on the Gray Line escorted Alaska Explorer Tour. It also included glaciers, mountains, gold-mining history, native cultures, whale-watching tours, frontier towns and backcountry plus myriad experiences I've had nowhere else. In the process I learned to appreciate not only America's Last Frontier but also the hardy, independent-minded people who inhabit it.

 

Still, next time I hope to see more bears.

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Fyllis Hockman is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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