Destinations Magazine

Friday Lens Affair #161

By Marysia @mytravelaffairs

Today I’m featuring a superb photo from Denali National Park taken by Joy Sheehan from A Jaunt With Joy Blog.

Joy is a travel blogger and agent, as well as a seasonal cruise staff and wildlife biologist. Do follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Denali National Park

Photo Story: Denali National Park

I’ll never forget my first solo trip to Denali National Park. I had chosen a stunning campsite at Wonder Lake near the base of Mount Denali and set up my tent. The drive into the campsite from the park entrance was nearly 6 hours one way, but the ride to get there was gorgeous! Views of incredible fall foliage and snow-capped mountains surrounded us, and the wildlife sightings were plentiful.

The next day, I hopped on a bus back to the rest of the park to see the other campgrounds. My sister was flying into Fairbanks in a few days and I was trying to decide on a campground closer to the entrance. I got off the bus at Igloo Creek campground to wander around the campsites and take a few photos of the nearby mountain goats.

When it was time to head back, I walked up to the bus stop and waited for my ride back to Wonder Lake. The posted bus schedule said there would be 2 more buses coming within a few minutes of each other and that they were the last ones headed that way for the day. I saw a bus coming and waved at it. To my shock, the driver waved back and KEPT GOING! As I calmly sat on the bench to wait for what I thought was the very last bus, it started to drizzle rain. Minutes ticked by and no bus came. I had a sinking feeling that the buses were off by a few minutes and that the driver who passed me by was actually the last bus back to my tent — a 5 hour drive away!

It quickly dawned on me that I was stranded on the roadside in the wilderness of Alaska with nothing but a daypack in the rain. And I had just seen a grizzly a couple miles back. I’ll admit I started to panic. My degree is in wildlife biology and I’ve had a few chances to work with black bear research, not to mention my job training in bear safety and protocol. I should not have been panicking. But what’s a girl to do when she finds herself in this situation?! My mind was racing as it tried to come up with a game plan.

Luckily, before I had to spend the night curled up in a ball in the nearby port-a-potty where surely that bear would come back for me, a bus came cruising down the road in the opposite direction. I flagged it down for help and 7 hours later, after a whole lot of radio chatter and one angry bus driver, I was back in my tent dying in laughter over my own stupidity. Lesson learned. Alaska 1, Joy 0.

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