Today 10 of our group took the Denali Black Diamond ATV tour. I was a little reluctant to go, since our friend Susie Orr had such a bad accident on one, but the others assured me it would be safe and fun. They were right!
After checking in at the Black Diamond Resort, we were given a safety briefing and watched a video about Polaris ATVs, the brand we would be riding. We all got helmets, some also zipped rain pants over their own pants, and a few got gloves, all provided as part of the tour. We had a sunny day, and it was nice and warm.
Who’s this handsome devil?
The guides were very capable, first giving instructions about the machines, helping us get them started, and we rolled off in single file. They tested our skills by taking us through a series of traffic cones on the course to be sure we were comfortable in making turns. We then went up a few inclines, through some rough terrain, then down some inclines. We stopped to take in the view and learn about the terrain, and the fauna and flora of the area.
The scenery was gorgeous.
This area was first seen from afar. It looks like someone blasted out the side of the mountain.
(Note: some of the following pictures were taken by Larry Forbes, or by the guides with Larry’s camera. He generously shared them with the rest of us.)
We later rode down close to it and learned that it’s the second largest gravel berm in the world. The largest is in Siberia.
It was created by a glacier carving a turn past the area and pushing the gravel up, creating the mountainside you see, with new striations every year.
A granite peak in the distance just barely shows itself above the closer mountain, looking like it has snow on it, but it’s just the white color of the granite that we see.
We saw distant clouds, some puffy and white, others dropping rain.
The group took several breaks.
Larry loaned his camera to one of the guides so he could take pictures while we splashed through some water. I put my feet up while I went through.
Don made a little bigger splash.
The guide pointed out some recent markings made by a bull moose. They mark their territory by scraping bark off the trees, and the females bring their calves to the area.
The cow moose breaks small branches to bring the leaves down where the calves can eat them.
Fireweed is quite beautiful even though it’s a weed, especially when there’s a large patch of it. Our guide explained that when the last buds at the top of the stalk bloom, it will snow soon. The reason It’s called fireweed is that it’s the first plant to grow following a fire. There are still several buds yet to bloom, indicating that it will be awhile before the snow falls here. Hurrah!
We saw one of the covered wagons that we had considered riding until we learned that they took a similar route to the ATV. It might have been an interesting ride, but we had way more fun!
We stopped at a muddy spot where moose often leave footprints. Most of them weren’t fresh, but a few were, and some were quite deep, probably made during or just after the rainstorm that hit a few days ago.
Then we took off for a muddy spot of our own. Carol was pretty gutsy!
So was Mary.
Pat was courageous, too. I couldn’t identify her in the mud, but here she is afterward.
Jimmy’s performance wasn’t too shabby, either.
Dennis started out looking fairly clean and dry earlier in the day.
He got a little wet in the water puddle.
Then he decided to go for it through the mud puddle!
The guide, who was spending his second summer in the U.S. but his first in Alaska, was from Bulgaria. He spoke English pretty well, and declared Dennis his own personal “prize” for getting the muddiest!
Thanks for sharing the pictures, Larry. He’s having a great time with his bride Marilyn.