It is what it is: Still trying to spot a lynx

Well, we still haven’t spotted a lynx, but we did enjoy our most recent trip to Denali National Park.

On one of our past trips to Denali, when my now-13-year-old daughter was 7, I was repeatedly shushed by her for speaking while she was trying to spot the elusive lynx — nevermind that her constant stream of chatter was most likely what was alerting any wildlife in the area to our presence.

This time around, while we had the opportunity to watch a couple of bears, some caribou, Dall sheep and some very friendly ground squirrels, I think our most entertaining viewing came while watching other park visitors.

We were on teenager time for this trip, which meant I had a couple of hours to myself each morning before dragging the kids out of their bunks for a 10 a.m. breakfast. I’d fix myself a cup of coffee and wander down to the stream where we were staying (we split our week between Savage River and Teklanika River campgrounds). At Savage River, I spotted a tour group on the interpretive trail, listening to a guide before hopping back on their bus.

I always enjoy seeing how people prepare for their “wilderness” outing — lots of his and hers matching head-to-toe denim outfits and brand-new, bright white walking shoes. Coincidentally, it’s the same wardrobe my parents have adopted since they’ve mostly retired — they even wear matching T-shirts on a regular basis. Since I seem to be wearing outfits eerily similar to what my dad wore around the house when he was in his 40s, I’m assuming I should make some room in the closet for some more denim in another 20 years or so.

On another of our excursions, we passed a family of six decked out in gear from a certain outdoors retailer. I was impressed and little jealous — I’ve never been able to afford a complete matching outfit for myself, nevermind for my whole family. Instead, my gear is a hodgepodge of pieces collected over two decades, one item at a time. We’ve quite literally passed that on to our kids; at one point we noted that my 15-year-old son was wearing my hiking pants and a tech shirt he swiped from during ski season, while my daughter was wearing my wife’s hiking boots, lycra tights and fleece sweater (none of which matched).

One evening while we were eating dinner, some folks in a very long RV arrived to the campground and attempted to back into the campsite just across from us. I know those land yachts are hard enough to maneuver, and these folks appeared to be from Europe — it sounded like they were speaking German — where they don’t typically drive very large vehicles. What first attracted our attention was the crash when they backed into a trash can, which in the park are heavy-duty and bolted down to prevent bears from getting into them.

While we didn’t quite understand the language, it was pretty clear what the person attempting to back the rig up and the person attempting to direct him were saying. It reminded of why my parents sold the camper we had when I was growing up — backing it up the steep driveway and maneuvering it around the side of the garage was going to be grounds for divorce.

In any case, after four or five attempts, the folks in the RV gave up on that spot and found one with an easier approach.

Speaking of finding the right spot, my wife always gives me a hard time because I insist on making at least one complete loop of any campground, sometimes two, before settling on a campsite. I mean, while you’re only going to be there for a few nights, there’s still lots to consider — the view, the proximity to the restroom (not too close, but not too far) and water source, the neighbors, not to mention the degree of difficulty of backing our camping trailer into it.

On a different night, we sat and watched while a family took the site selection process to a whole new level. For starters, they made at least four laps of the campground in their vehicle, then came around on foot before finally selecting the site next to us.

But they weren’t done yet. After finally picking the site, and parking their camping trailer, they re-hitched and re-positioned it another three times before settling in. I was impressed. Later, the dad told me that once they got the trailer where they wanted it, they found it was the only spot that wasn’t level.

By the way, I’m not looking down my nose at any of these other folks. I well aware of my own quirks, and am sure there were plenty of park visitors thinking just that when they saw me. I’m glad to see people getting out and experiencing things with their families. For so many of the people we saw, just arriving at the park was the trip of a lifetime, something I’m fortunate to be able to do on a regular basis.

And I bet a few of them were lucky enough to spot a lynx.

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in Life

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Would I do it again?

I ran across some 20-some year-old journal notes rambling on about a 268-foot dive I took

A copy of Prince Harry’s “Spare” sits on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion office on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Prince Harry gets candid about ‘gilded cage’ in new memoir

“Spare” undoubtedly succeeds in humanizing Harry

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Triumvirate swings into the year with ‘Tarzan’, Dr. Seuss and fishy parody

The next local showing of the Triumvirate Theatre is fast approaching with a Feb. 10 premiere of “Seussical”

This vegan kimchi mandu uses crumbled extra-firm tofu as the protein. (Photo by Tressa Dale / Peninsula Clarion)
Meditating on the new year with kimchi mandu

Artfully folding dumplings evokes the peace and thoughtful calm of the Year of the Rabbit

A promotional poster for the first event in the Winter Film Series. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Film Group)
Movie buffs to debut local film series

This first entry is centered on short films

Mashed potatoes are served with chicken breast, green beans and pan sauce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Mashed potatoes for a chef

They are deceptively hard to get right

Photo 210.029.162, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum 
Emma Clark feeds the Clark “pet” moose named Spook in 1981. At the urging of state wildlife officials, Carl Clark had agreed to care for this calf at their home in Hope.
Emma Clark: Becoming a Hope pioneer

For 50 years, Emma and Carl had been central to the story of Hope

A copy of “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” stands on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion office on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Coffee shop time travelers leave reader cold

“Before the Coffee Gets Cold” is the debut novel of author and playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Josiah Burton and Jaylee Webster rehearse "Something Rotten" on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
School productions bring SpongeBob SquarePants, Sherlock Holmes to the stage

Nikiski and Soldotna drama programs prepare for April productions

Ultra-fast, protein-packed miso soup is a mild and comforting broth for sick days. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Soothing soup for January ills

It’s probably a novelty to have experienced my child’s infancy without a single sniffle