Of course, one of the main reasons to come to Alaska is to see the wildlife. Today on the way from Seward to Talkeetna, we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Center, which is a refuge/sanctuary for orphaned, injured, etc. animals. They have fairly spacious, naturalistic enclosures for animals representing the full spectrum of Alaska's wildlife.
Unsuprisingly, I guess, when you consider its size, Alaska has a wide range of climates and habitats -- from the temporal rainforest down in the "Inside Passage" area near Sitka and Juneau through the Alpine forests of the Denali area to the tundra of the Arctic region. The wildlife center captures this variety with tiny Sitka deer, elk, bison, moose, caribou (aka reindeer), black bears, and musk ox, which are weird wooly-mammoth looking creatures prized, apparently, for their extremely warm fur.
We enjoyed looking at and photographing the animals -- it was striking to get so close. We made the rest of the scenic drive through the funky climbing town of Talkeetna to the lovely McKinley Princess lodge where we admired the views of the lower part of the highest mountain in North America (the top was shrouded in clouds, as it apparently usually is -- maybe we will see it tommorrow, or maybe not -- 2/3 of the visitors to the park don't), had a nice dinner, and soaked in the outdoor hot tubs (I nearly wrote "under the stars," but of course you don't see any stars, because it's still daylight at midnight).
After Joy and Paul turned in, I headed back up to the main lodge with the laptop for e-mail checking and blogging. I decided to walk along one of the nature trails on the property and had just started out when I looked maybe 100 yards ahead and standing right in the middle of the path was A BEAR! A BEAR! Before it fully registered (but not before I got a good look) he (she? I didn't get an introduction) turned and bounded into the woods. I turned and headed back for the road. Before I came up here I hoped to see bear, but I didn't really mean quite that up-close-and-personal.