Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


Savage River | Last Trip for 2012

There are many different shuttle bus options within Denali National Park.

Most, however, require quite the time commitment. We’re talking 12+ hours to go the full 92 miles out to Kantishna, with shorter journeys out to Wonder Lake or the Eielson Visitor Center taking 8+ hours.

Most of the time, I simply do not have it in me to sit on a bus for that long–even with the beautiful scenery surrounding me to pass the time.

Sure, I take at least 2-3 long trips into the park each season (OK, I only did 1 this summer, but who is counting?), however, the majority of my bus jaunts into the park are out to Savage River.

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A Sobering Reminder

Toklat River–NPS photo

Early this morning I got an email at work with a press release from the National Park Service in Denali:

Denali Park, AK: Denali National Park and Preserve officials confirm that a solo backpacker was killed by a grizzly bear along the Toklat River the afternoon of Friday, August 24.A wallet with probable identification of the victim was found near the kill site, and NPS rangers are working to make positive confirmation and notify next of kin.

Friday afternoon, three dayhikers first discovered an abandoned backpack along the Toklat River approximately 3 miles south of the Toklat River Rest Area.Upon further investigation, they saw evidence of a violent struggle, including torn clothing and blood.They immediately hiked back to the Rest Area and notified the NPS staff of the findings at approximately 5:30 pm.

Park rangers launched a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft from park headquarters at 8:00 pm.Searchers on the aircraft located the scene at 8:35 pm.At least one grizzly bear was still at the site, although there may have been multiple bears.The bear(s) moved away when the helicopter approached and landed.Two rangers on board the helicopter got out and confirmed the location of the victim’s remains.

Initial evidence indicates that the attack occurred proximate to the river’s open braided gravel bar, although the bear subsequently dragged the remains to a more secluded, brushy cache site.After conducting an initial surveillance of the site, the rangers determined that the recovery of the remains would need to wait until daylight due to the presence of bears and the waning light.

Park officials believe that there are no other registered backpackers in the immediate vicinity.An emergency closure has been put in place, prohibiting all backcountry hiking and camping in that backcountry unit until further notice.

Park rangers will return to the incident scene on Saturday morning, August 25, to secure the site, recover the remains, and attempt to locate the predatory bear.Wildlife biologists estimate that roughly 12 grizzly bears have been residing in the vicinity of the kill site this summer.

This incident is the first known bear mauling fatality recorded in Denali National Park and Preserve. All backpackers in the park receive mandatory ‘Bear Aware’ training prior to receiving a backcountry permit, including a 30-minute safety video, a safety briefing from the backcountry ranger staff, and all backpackers are required to carry a Bear Resistant Food Container (BRFC). (

More details on this fatal incident will be released as the investigation continues.

An update from this evening is here.

(More details: The hiker was far too close to the bear; taking photos for at least 8 minutes from no more than 50 yards away. Park Rangers still haven’t been able to recover the body, and a suspect bear was shot and killed.)

Denali National Park is an amazing place filled with incredible wildlife. This incident should not put people off from visiting the park and venturing into the back country. What it should do is serve as a reminder that these are wild animals, in a rugged and unforgiving environment,  and no photo is worth losing your life over.

Not only did a person lose their life for simply being careless, but a bear had to lose its life over following its natural instincts.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of the hiker.





Running Low on Steam

With just over 6 weeks left in the summer season, the general feeling in Denali these days seems to be one of excitement for the end mixed with a small dose of apathy. My recent trip home for my grandmother’s funeral certainly did not help things in my case. Being back in Utah felt strange and uncomfortable for the first few hours, however, I soon adjusted and being back in the company of my family felt great (even though the circumstances of our gathering were unfortunate). After a few summers away from Salt Lake, I had forgotten how beautiful the city could be—even in the oven-like temperatures. It was extremely hard to head back up to Alaska. My family is grieving and in need of some support and I hated having to leave so soon after arriving. But Denali (and work) was calling my name.

Now I am here and trying to get my head back in the game. It isn’t proving too difficult, thank goodness. Fall is quickly upon us here in the interior and that makes me happy. The autumn colors in Denali are a sight to behold.

With lots of exciting (and scary!) adventures and life changes looming on the horizon, I keep reminding myself to live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes. I am so incredibly lucky and blessed to be where I am and I never want to take that for granted.

Thanks for sticking around!


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Wild Denali

On my recent trip into Denali National Park, I saw some incredible wildlife.

And of course I had to share it here!

My trip began with a flight over the park, around Mt. McKinley, to Kantishna. From there it was a 5 hour bus ride back to the park entrance.

Along the way we were were lucky enough to spot some of the parks most famous inhabitants.

A mother Grizzly with two cubs, waaaay far away.

I spy a Dall sheep

wandering caribou

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229 Parks: Another Go-Round

Last season, after hearing all of the rave reviews, I visited 229 Parks with some friends.


I have been meaning to go back since the season started, but its location (about 20 miles from where I live) coupled with the relatively high prices prevented me from going…until tonight.


229 Parks is an incredible restaurant and tavern located at mile 229 on the Parks Highway, just outside Denali National Park.

They specialize in offering only the freshest organic and sustainable ingredients, most of which are grown in the owners’ own gardens.

Think fresh edible flowers, micro greens, and perfect herbs served alongside grass fed beef, duck, and lamb. Their fresh Alaska seafood is also a big draw.

Their website is bare bones and they don’t post a menu online because it changes daily and depends largely on the ingredients they have on hand. It’s not a flashy place. They rely on their unique food, fresh ingredients, and cozy atmosphere.

I played the part of tourist tonight (much to the chagrin of my co-diners, I am sure) and took photos of each course.

I had to start things off with a yummy wheat beer.

For a starter I had fresh Alaskan Rockfish tacos

Handmade soft corn tortillas, pan-seared rockfish dusted with cumin and lime, shredded local greens, creamy adobo sauce, house made salsa, fresh avocado, and lime.

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Wordless{ish} Wednesday: A Healy Walkabout

I am happy to call Healy, Alaska my home for a third summer. This small town of about 1,000 people sits just 15 minutes from the entrance to Denali National Park.

Healy is one charming Alaskan destination and I hope that shows in some of these photos!


Princess Homestead (my home in Healy)

The site of a really scary fire a few years ago.


Happy Wednesday!

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Last Day

In just a few short hours I will be saying goodbye to Denali.

Like the summer of 2008, I am leaving with mixed feelings. After nearly 5 months away from home, I feel it’s time to move on, yet I know I will miss it dearly when I am gone.

I love Alaska and more specifically, Denali. It will always hold a special place in my heart. And I will forever tell anyone who will listen that they must experience it for themselves. It’s nearly impossible to describe the connection one can feel with a place like this.

So until I can return, I will have to make do with memories and photos.

(I started a new Flickr account and uploaded lots of AK photos-take a look!)

Tonight we’ll be in Anchorage then it’s off to Las Vegas early Friday morning. We all know what’s happening there! 😉

Wishing everyone a final goodbye from beautiful Denali, Alaska!