Day 53 Klondike Highway

– we began with another ride across the Yukon River on the ferry George Black. If we hadn’t noticed it there wouldn’t have been a problem because the truck suddenly blurted out “ferry ahead!”  Okay, thanks. It is quite another experience driving The Whale aboard than just being a walk on. Somehow I felt more vulnerable. There is no official road or dock. The ferry puts down a ramp which digs into the dirt and on or off you go. It’s pretty rough and there was some concern about scraping something underneath but we cleared just fine. 

– in our wanderings yesterday we found a fuel station in town with diesel and plenty of clearance so we headed there for fuel. 

– there are lots of people staying in town who are on tours. A few of these were walking past while we were fueling. A long conversation followed. They were flying to Fairbanks this afternoon and would miss riding on The Top of The World. 

– we saw a bald eagle perched in a tree beside the road. Handsome thing. 

– since it’s raining, we stopped at a rest area and brewed a pot of coffee. Nice treat for a chilly day. Love the combo of batteries, inverter and propane to get the job done. 

– the drive is through the Yukon River valley so we’ve been able to get a sense of what it must have looked like when traveling by stern wheeler. The mountains are smoother and not as tall as others we’ve been around. 

– we are spending the night at Carmacks, AK at the Carmacks Hotel and RV Park. Its positive points are that it is directly next to the Yukon River and has full hookups (I really need to wash my hair). There is supposed to be 60 minutes free wifi so I might get some blog entries posted.  

– today marks our official retuning home portion of the trip. We are southbound and heading for the Seattle area in order to visit Lowell. But it will be many days before we are anywhere near. 

Day 52 Dawson City Places and People

– the day dawned misty and chilly but finished with a temp in the upper 60s I think. And we didn’t get rained on so I will go with fine weather. 

– it was another start when you have ambition day so some sleeping in was in order. 

– we left fairly early to walk over to the ferry but were waylaid when we said good morning to our neighbor. His name is Brian, he’s about our age, a bachelor who lives on his boat near Vancouver and travels quite extensively in his pickup truck. We asked for campground recommendations. He grabbed a handful of maps, we invited him in and had a wonderful hour or so chatting with him. Our ideas of a satisfying trip seemed to coincide – staying in beautiful spots, paying not too much and meeting interesting people. He qualifies in my interesting people category. He told us a great story about visiting a town in Nevada. A couple of locals he met at a restaurant offered to take him in to see the courthouse where people also were hanged. One of the fellows insisted he sit at the judges bench to have his photo taken. Brian was nervous about this because it was still an active courtroom but the men had his camera so he had little choice. As they were leaving a lady saw them and inquired “what are you doing here on your day off judge?”  Brian and the judge have remained friends for years. 

– we said our good byes finally and caught the ferry to Dawson City again. Today we toured the SS Keno which is the smallest and the last stern wheeler to ply the Yukon River. When you go aboard you get your own guide who will talk you through the details of the boat. There was also a 20 minute film documenting the last trip up the Yukon. The ship’s smoke stack had to be removed in order to fit under the highway bridge. Because we can’t help but converse, we soon learned that our guide used to date a man from Cherryfield, that she’d been to Maine and liked to call Mainers armed newfies. Parks Canada does a wonderful job with their historic sites and they’ve got some really great interpreters. She was one of them. As we were leaving we asked for lunch recommendations. She at first did the “all the places are nice” but then suggested we try a little orange trailer called Aloha Taco. This is where she likes to eat and she said she likes to support the new, young business owners. We told her we’d be going there. 

– Aloha Taco was wonderful. It is just a teeny little orange trailer manned by a handsome young man and a young lady who looks like she could use a sandwich. We had pulled pork tacos, beans, rice, salad and an herbal iced tea. It was excellent. They had one picnic table outfitted with an umbrella. We sat there and enjoyed a nice lunch. As we were finishing, I noticed a car pull up next to us. Out popped the SS Keno lady. She walked over and asked us if we liked it, then waved and drove away. I’m still smiling. 

– when we were heading back to the ferry much later in the day we heard someone saying “is that my friends from Maine?”  It was her again, waving and wishing us safe travels. 

– after lunch we visited the Dawson City Museum. They had great exhibits documenting life during the gold rush. We also attended a presentation on gold panning, watched another film called City Of Gold (it was nominated for an Academy Award, narrated by Peter Berton – a famous Canadian actor/writer from Dawson City), and finally visited the train shelter to see the few remaining engines from the unsuccessful Klondike Railway. The young guides here were also excellent. The young man had relatives in Maine but couldn’t remember where. 

– we’d run out of milk so stopped at the general store for some along with an apple and a bottle of seltzer water (for wine spritzers because nothing complements watching the Yukon roll by like a wine spritzer). 

– while on the ferry we chatted with a couple from Arizona, comparing trip notes and wildlife sightings. They’ve got more bears under their belt than we do. Poor Brett keeps trying to talk to folks only to be deterred by French or German (he speaks neither). But we found plenty of English speakers and my ears are happy when I hear lots of different languages.  

– I must read Call Of The Wild again, and Pierre Berton’s Klondike and Laura Berton’s I Married The Klondike.   

Day 50 I’m On The Top Of The World

– we begin the day with road described thusly:  “Expect stretches of narrow, winding road with hairpin curves, steep drop offs and soft shoulders. Do not risk a tip over by putting a wheel into the shoulder. Stop for oncoming traffic in narrow spots.”  Gulp. 

– and ” CAUTION:  approximately 1000 foot drop offs, no guard rails”

– the description is accurate

– the gold panners were up early this morning getting their all terrain vehicles ready to go out for the day. Everybody was attired in rubber waders and had rubber gloves. It must be cold work. 

– breathe. 35 bumpy, narrow, hilly, muddy miles later we have reached the Canadian border and are waiting our turn. We’ve come up above the tree line and are afforded a very, very long view. 

– the border crossing involved lots of questions about firearms. Did we have any aboard? Did we have any at home? What kind? How many? Have they ever been aboard? How much money do you have with you? Where is it? For a second I wondered if a heist was being planned. 

– we did encounter one big rig, a few trailers and several cars along the stretch but all went well. And Brett was a good doobie to stop a couple of times to let a few cars pass us. It took us almost 2 hours to go a little more than 43 miles. 

– The Whale is not looking her loveliest at the moment. She is encrusted with mud up to her elbows. What isn’t mud is dust covered (endusted). 

– just saw a small herd of caribou grazing uphill. And another herd running along beside us. This spotting seemed really special because it was just us and the caribou; not another person or vehicle in sight. This differed slightly from the Denali bus where any passenger could yell “stop” when an animal was spotted and everybody stormed to that side of the bus. 

– taking a break for a few minutes, sitting on the top of the world, enjoying the sweeping vista, listening to a Beethoven symphony. Life is good. 

– got a good chuckle when we saw the young woman standing up in her open sunroof taking photos. She was smiling. Hope we didn’t hit her with any stones flying from the truck. 

– we soldiered on and headed straight for Dawson City without stopping for lunch. We changed to Pacific time zone at the border so stomachs and clocks don’t line up. But also we wanted to try to get a spot at the Yukon River government campground. It’s first come first served so earlier is better. It is a real bargain at $12 Canadian a night (about $10 US). No hookups but an awesome location and lots of wooded space between sites. 

– we weren’t sure if we’d get lucky or not. This is the last day of the Dawson City music festival so there are a lot of people in town. Also a lot of caravans come up here but those folks tend to like full hookups. 

– we found a dandy site with the Yukon River as the view out the back window. We are right next to the water. I’m thrilled. This sort of wraps up my Yukon River experience. I had Whitehorse at the furthest navigable upstream location on day 29. Now I have the most important downstream port as part of the experience. I love the Yukon River. It evokes mystery and adventure to me. We’ve got The Klondike and Sergeant Preston of the Mounties. Mush you huskies!

– while walking around the campground we came upon a man who was walking a cat which was wearing a harness attached to a leash. Well we needed to talk to him didn’t we?  The cat was named Scratch and the man was here because he needed to refile his gold  claim for the year. He has a stake on the Eldorado River and is digging a mine with shovels and buckets. And he loves his big orange cat. 

– this evening we are experiencing a big thunderstorm complete with hail. If you’ve never been in an RV in a hailstorm you might not know that it is very loud. 

– there is no bridge across the Yukon at Dawson City. Rather, there is a ferry going back and forth almost 24 hours a day. We were told that at busy times you might need to wait up to 3 hours. The campground is just next to the ferry dock. Our plan is to walk on and go over to Dawson City on foot thereby having two full days without any driving at all. 

– since we got the wine through customs just fine we are having spritzers this evening as we watch the Yukon go by. 

Day 51 Ferries and Footwork

– our communication while driving is becoming more efficient. When I saw a motorhome coming at us on the goat path I said “big!”  That worked. When I saw the caribou herd I said “moving!” And pointed. That worked too. 

– we had no particular schedule to keep today so I fixed bacon and eggs for breakfast. Those were easy enough to prepare with the propane cooktop. The toast was a bit trickier. I held the bread with tongs over the open flames which gets it toasty. But the danged smoke alarm doesn’t care if I’m lightly burning the bread on purpose or setting the carpet on fire by accident. It just starts screaming and expects you to sort it out. So Brett stood under it waving the fly swatter to move the air around while the bread continued to toast. Fortunately, the neighbors had already decamped. 

– later this morning we walked over to the ferry and floated across to Dawson City for a recon mission. It was much faster to walk as the vehicles were about 10 deep and the ferry only takes a few at a time. 

– Dawson City features gravel streets, false fronted buildings and boardwalks. It houses many Klondike National Historic sites and is described as having authentic history, curiosity and winsome charm. 

– we went first to the information center for maps and information. They offer a dizzying assortment of passes to buy for entrance to the various attractions. We got the list and will decide for a more focused touring effort tomorrow. For today we just strolled some of the streets and went to CIBC bank to exchange some money (the rate was an excellent 1.26 today). We got lunch at a spot the bank teller recommended (Cheechakos Bake Shop). I had a delicious roast turkey and cranberry sandwich while Brett had a hot roast beef sandwich. Finally we walked along the riverbank enjoying the scenery and took the ferry back just before the skies opened for a rainstorm. 

– the Yukon River is headed at a glacier so the water is the typical brown/gray milky stuff full of glacial silt. The Klondike River is rainwater fed so it has clear water. The Klondike flows into the Yukon at Dawson City. There is a most unusual convergence of the two waters. Because of the difference in source, you can actually see the two waters as they mix together and make their way downstream. 

– interesting to me is the fact that the flowing River makes no sound at all. I expected a hiss or a swoosh or something. Nope. It’s like watching a silent movie.  

– this afternoon we walked north along the riverbank in the part that the river isn’t using for water just now. It consists of a hard, dry mud and lots of largish round rocks. Some distance away is a stern wheeler grave yard where four of them were left to just decompose. Brett loves this stuff. We got lots of pictures and I would have been happy to stop there. But suddenly I heard a voice say “I’m not a bear” and a young man wearing shorts and flip flops came out of the woods. He said it was worth following this little trail into the woods around a mud pit to see the rest of the boats. Brett couldn’t resist. I followed. First, remember this IS bear country. I talked non stop. Second, that mud pit was more like a swamp and the only way we could find around it would have involved walking over a very unsafe looking wreck. Even though Brett reminded me that I said I wanted to go hiking up here, I declared that i’d had enough and he was to get me out of here now. A few hundred mosquito bites and very wet feet later we were back at the river and still taking in air. I was glad for the Yukon River driftwood walking stick that Brett had just made for me and glad when we got back home. Another adventure. 

– Yukon campgrounds provide free firewood. Brett is working on a campfire as I write. I believe it will be a weenie roast tonight. 

Day 49 Playing Chicken

– the Porcupine Creek site was such a nice camping spot. I walked down to the creek this morning, sang for the moose and bears and blissed out listening to the water flow past. Then I wiped the dishes. 

– yesterday we came upon a motorhome that had the roof tearing away. The group traveling with them was helping to duct tape it back in place. We saw them later and the roof was still holding on. 

– Glen Highway drive completed. We arrived back at Tok around 10:30 and headed over to the information center for some more maps and info about the drive up to Dawson City. Also called the Klondike Loop, this drive will take us on the Top Of The World Highway (sometimes called the goat trail). It is a narrow stretch of gravel road that has inspired a little angst but we are keen to see the views from there. So we decided that would be our route. We will stop in Dawson City for a few days and then do a return visit to Whitehorse before repeating a section of the Alaska Highway  to get to the Cassiar Highway which should lead us out towards Seattle (unless there is a forest fire in the way). 

– we headed to a fuel station to get diesel, dump our tanks and fill a propane tank. We needed 5.4 gallons of propane and that should hold us for the rest of the trip. We wanted to get everything topped up so that we could do more dry camping if the opportunity presented itself. 

– dry camping (boondocking) will help keep expenses down too. The average full hookup is $30-40 a night. Water & electric averages $30 and dry ranges from $9-20. Plus it is free and permissible to camp by the road in Alaska unless it is posted “no camping or overnight parking”. We are averaging about $148 a day for expenses. This includes everything: fuel, camp, groceries, restaurants, admission, tours, souvenirs, etc.  Some years ago we were told to budget $1 a mile for such an expedition. We thought it sounded high but it is fairly accurate. 

– deciding on today’s route did involve a little grumpiness. I asked one too many times why we were parked in the middle of the driveway, then I was unceremoniously driven to another parking lot and asked if that suited me. One fairly quiet lunch later and all was well. We began our drive on the Taylor Highway to Chicken, AK. 

– the highway rises up over mountains to a beautiful valley vista. The scars from a 2001 wildfire are still in evidence but even with thousands of acres of charred trees the views were stunning. 

– our campground (Chicken Gold Camp) is situated in a gravel pit which I think may have been a tailings area from the old gold mining operations. There is a gold dredge next door which I imagine we will explore. And I need to go take a photo of the giant chicken statue. 

– quite a few of the people staying here are panning for gold. There is still gold in them there hills. Also staying here is a large RV caravan. We asked one couple why they liked to caravan and they mentioned the convenience. But also they said they liked that at the end of the day when they were camped they had friends. 

– every year in June the town has a music festival. It is called Chickenstock. I’m sorry we missed it. 

– the first residents of Chicken wanted to name their town Ptarmigan but they couldn’t agree on how it was spelled. Everybody knew how to spell Chicken. 

Day 48 Check Out The State Parks

– just stopped at one of those wow overlooks for a few minutes. Had a nice chat with a man from Texas who moved to Alaska. He’s an ocean surveyor who has recently done the survey work for a Rhode Island wind farm. 

– at least today when I saw the mountains in the distance I understood that we would soon be driving in them. 

– those rock slide area signs are not kidding. We just went around a rather recent large rock in the road. 

– this road is one we will be glad we took but only after we aren’t on it anymore. Holy doodle! The scenery is stunning, the drop offs are steep and there are rocks in the road!

– ho hum. Just another coffee break stop with a glacier view. 

– I stopped reading the highway descriptions in the morning because they are scary. So I had no idea that today’s drive featured the Matanuska glacier. Up close and personal like. The base of the glacier is 4 miles wide and is close enough to the road that there is a great view of it. You can see that it is sitting up against the forest. 

– the road finally flattened out and offered easier driving. Alaska will be fixed in my mind as miles of the spiky black spruce trees surrounded by ice covered mountains. This was today’s scene. 

– we decided to try an Alaska State Park for tonight. Porcupine Creek State Recreation Site was a 223 mile drive from Palmer. We did some research and learned that it has 12 campsites at least 60 feet long on a loop road. So we figured it should be possible to get out even if it was full. We arrived at 3pm and not a soul in sight. So we looked at every spot and chose a pretty one right next to the creek, put our $20 in the envelope and we are camping. If the ranger has to collect the fee it costs $25. 

– I noticed that one of the vent covers on the roof looked crooked. Brett climbed up and discovered that 2 of the 3 screws holding it on had shaken loose. As usual, he was able to set things right. 

– ugh. Somebody else has arrived and they are playing very loud music. Since there are no attendants here I’d say there goes our wilderness experience.  Brett has gone over to ask if they’ll turn it down. We will see. So they did turn the music down and had a friendly chat with Brett. It doesn’t appear that they will be camping but rather getting a head start on their beer drinking. They left peacefully a short time after that. Only one more rig has come in since and they are very quiet. 

– took an evening stroll and chatted with the other campers. They are a young couple from Switzerland who have a rental camper and have been traveling around Alaska for a month. What an adventure. 

– the insects are in evidence here. My ankles were getting chewed up so I came back in. Brett is off by the creek investigating something or other.  A nice end to the day. 

 

Day 47 We Leave Denali

– We are heading south on the Parks Highway for one last time as we continue our loop around Alaska. 

– the Riley Creek campground at Denali is certainly well outfitted. Although there are no hookups, our site was large enough for The Whale and the truck. When we left, we just pulled up to one of the 5 dump stations to empty the tanks and then to fill the fresh water. 

– I finally got a few more post cards written and put them in the box at the Denali post office this morning. I considered walking over (it’s right next to our campground) but there’s a rather mean mama moose hanging out around here and I wasn’t interested in meeting her. 

– we encountered another example of shockingly high food prices. A loaf of bread at the park Mercantile was 7.69! I did not buy the bread. 

– I haven’t photographed any mountains today. I’m not feeling jaded but I got amazing views in Denali so didn’t feel the need to keep snapping. 

– there’s more construction stoppage today than on the last 3 drives down this stretch. They all involved waiting for pilot cars. So far, the instant I get out of the truck to go back to use the bathroom it is our turn to move. I have magical powers. 

– one benefit of traveling the same stretch of highway several times is that I knew where to get fuel for the lowest price and least parking woes. We ended up parking there for lunch. After lunch we happened upon a couple dumping their tanks and compared trip notes. I recommended Williwaw campground to them too. The place will be very crowded if everybody I told actually goes there. 

– we will be traveling the Glen Highway for the next few days. It goes back over to Tok where we pick up the Alaska highway for a bit again. 

– we’ve stopped in Palmer for the day. It’s not too far from Anchorage (45 miles) but not a big city (population 5900). Palmer was started as a trading post in the 1800s. The government got interested in the early 1900s because of the Matanuska coal mine and after WWI the land in the coal fields was distributed to war veterans and opened to homesteading. We chose it because The Musk Ox Farm is here and we wanted to visit. 

– this is an organization dedicated to the domestication of the musk ox for the betterment of native peoples. A man named Teal started the whole thing when in the late 50’s he was given permission to capture some musk ox. He took these to Vermont and started to learn what makes a musk ox tick. After 10 years he moved the operation to Fairbanks and it is now located in Palmer. We encountered very earnest young people leading tours, soliciting donations and doing the work to further the domestication efforts. Our tour began with a big bolt of lightening and immediate thunder. They never get lightening here!  I am a jinx. After I was convinced that I wouldn’t be killed, I enjoyed seeing the animals and learning more about them. They courteously posed for many photographs. 

– I also did my part to further their cause by purchasing 1 ounce of qiviut yarn. This is the softest fiber I have ever felt. I am thinking of some sort of lace weave with silk as the warp. It is incredibly yummy. I met some gloves made with it and they felt like air. 

– we needed to make a grocery run and located a store called Fred Meyer. It’s a chain and must be associated with Kroger as they carry that brand. I sent Brett off to get the deli meat for our sandwich “kits”. When I caught up with him I could hear talking and laughing; Brett had made 2 new friends. One was a man who’d been to a kids camp in Maine to talk about dog training. 

– then found a fuel station. It’s so much easier when The Whale is resting at the campground. 

– Brett suggested dinner out (musk ox viewing really works up an appetite). So we drove into Palmer and parked so that we could check Yelp for recommendations. Turkey Red came up and it was right across the street from where we parked. So that was our choice. Very friendly staff and very good food. The place filled up moments after we arrived and there was a waiting line when we left. 

– we are staying at a small RV park right next to the Glenn Highway. There are fishing enthusiasts here (as evidenced by all the fishing gear) and some more permanent residents. One is a family waiting to close on a house. Another is a family waiting to have a house built. And we are passing through. 

– I the grocery store parking lot we saw a vehicle pulling a trailer with a snowblower and with a car packed to the gills with stuff. The owners were giving up on Alaska and moving to Louisiana. Brett informed them that they wouldn’t need the snowblower in Louisiana. They actually knew this and were planning to drop it off in Minnesota. 

– now we are doing the laundry and getting a little R&R in. Should be refreshed for another day of travel. 

Day 46 Denali 3

– today was our Kantishna Experience bus tour day. A drive over the full 92 miles of the park road and back. 

– Left on our tour at 6:37am having waited for the Princess Cruise group to arrive. Rude beginning since our pick up time was 6:00am. One particular passenger would become the bane of our existence for the day. She was a very loud Indian lady with a very large camera, a very pushy attitude and a blind husband who she mostly abandoned. 

– no motorized vehicles are allowed in the park in the winter so rangers travel using dogs. Some of the park service employees adopt a sled dog for the summer and we saw them out walking their dogs. 

– this is boreal forest land but there are deciduous trees growing as result of forest fires. They are the pioneer trees that restart a forest after a fire. 

– this is also tundra which is treeless and excellent for spotting wildlife

– our bus driver remarked that wildlife was generally found outside the bus. We had a good spotting day: 4 grizzlies, several moose, several caribou, ground squirrels, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares and Dall sheep

– in the small world category, there is a group from Houlton on the bus

– the bus is a converted school bus and it is transporting 37 of us today. A bit cramped for full grown folk and their stuff. But the outing was so special that the cramp could be forgiven. 

– we each got a snack bag with water, juice, cheese, apple, cereal bar and granola. And there were sandwiches at lunch time. There were bathroom breaks about every hour and a half at visitor centers spaced within the park. Feeding and watering were well taken care of. 

– I loved seeing the animals but the star for me was the scenery. We made it to within 14 miles of Denali and it was crystal clear. Just amazing!  I feel so lucky to have seen it on 3 separate occasions. 

– climbing season is over on Denali by the end of June. Once it gets warm it is too dangerous to be up there because of avalanches and crevasses and other bad mountain things. There are no climbers on Denali now. When expeditions are mounted, they are flown from Talkeetna to base camp at 7000 feet (the mountain is 20,237 feet high). It is considered an easy climb but the weather often makes conditions difficult. 

– the sporting goods company North Face is named for one of the features on Denali. The mountain is their logo. 

– at Wonder Lake, a ranger joined us to take over commentary. He talked a lot about the park history and the mining activities taking place in the Kantishna area in the early 1900s. 

– before we were allowed off the bus we got our animal safety lecture. If you meet a bear, act casual, speak to it softly and slowly move away. They are near sighted. If you run it will likely mistake you for a tasty moose calf and come get you. If you meet a moose, run. They are mean, and strong and the most dangerous animal in the park. 

– then we got out of the bus and walked with the ranger. He pointed out many plants and tried to get us a bit more in touch with where we were. The group spent some time happily picking blueberries and cranberries. He asked everybody to be quiet for a couple of minutes and just listen. We were all absorbed in the sounds of nature. Except Brett who insists he heard a chainsaw. 

– cousin Kim suggested that we should ride on the driver’s side of the bus as this would afford the best views of the valley on the way into the park. We took her advice. She was correct. 

– some of the road is very close to the edge of very steep mountain drop offs. I did not enjoy this portion of the ride and looked away for a good deal of it. 

– at one rest stop I had grown tired of being around the bus group. So I walked down a trail on my own until I could no longer see people or the building. Then I sat in peace and admired the view. I was restored. 

– on the way back we were treated to a spectacular rainbow that stretched the entire width of the valley. Even the bus driver got out of the bus to take a photo. I am a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see a whale.

– there are special days and there are very special days. This one will surely be a memory. 

 

Day 45 Denali 2

 

– we are camping at Denali National Park!!  Two nights of a bucket list activity. It took 45 days to get here and I am so excited!

– we were up early so that we could get packed up, dump the tanks and be on the road with time to spare. There is so much construction on the Parks Highway this season you can’t be sure if you’ll be waiting in line for a pilot car forever or not. 

– conversed with one of our campground hosts while doing tank duty. He was a state park supervisor in Florida and his wife used to be a park ranger. We compared notes about the nice Florida parks that we love. Myakka River and Collier Seminole are two that he worked at. 

– the traffic situation this morning was fine and we made it to Denali checkin by 9:30. Official checkin time is 11am but they processed us then and told us to find a site we liked. Their computer system has been down for 4 days. Imagine trying to manage a wildly popular national park reservation system without your computer. They were immensely pleasant given the situation. 

– we took our tag and walked over to the campground loop we liked. Then walked the loop and found 1 A site open (meaning it was big enough for The Whale). Clipped the tag to the post, walked back over for the rig and parked in the site lickety split. 

– the campground is already posted as full; they all have been for weeks. We really, really lucked out being able to be flexible enough in our schedule to get this spot for 2 nights. Hooray. 

– Brett really wants to try out our solar panel but the batteries are fully charged from being plugged into shore power for 2 days. 

– the temp has turned so nice that we’ve been able to sit outside today and we enjoyed lunch at the picnic table. 

– since it was such a clear day, Brett agreed to drive some way into the park so we might enjoy the view. The clouds are building but we got a fantastic view of the mountain and were able to get some photos from outside the vehicle. I am a happy camper. We went in about 9 miles of the 15 allowed. Tomorrow we get all 92 miles on the tour but the weather forecast isn’t as good. 

– we walked over to the Mercantile to see if I could get my national parks passport stamped there. No go. I’ll get one somewhere tomorrow.  

– life currently involves a glass of Reisling and a book. We are living large. 

Day 44 Denali 1

7005 miles in

– bumper sticker seen in Anchorage: Jesus died for you. Allah wants you to kill for him. I am appalled. 

– I miss the dark. I thought I’d miss cell phone service or broadband the most but it’s the dark that I want. Some natural rhythm seems broken and I seriously cannot work out time. We eat dinner around 6 at home, it was 8pm yesterday when dinner hit the table. I guess my stomach tries to follow the sun too. I wonder how I’d feel in the dark of winter here. 

– blunder of the day: while wiping the dishes I inadvertently placed a full cup of coffee in the kitchen cabinet. I store the water glasses in the coffee cups so they won’t fall over during travel. I wiped the glasses and attempted to place them in the coffee cup. To my surprise, coffee went everywhere. My slippers are soaked, the laptop bag is soaked, the carpet is soaked. Aargh!

– the outing for today was a 30 mile reconnaissance trip up to Denali Park. I took “the photo” with the big sign to prove that we were really here because one must. Even Princess cruises knows this. There was a bus full taking their pics as we were leaving. 

cross this off my bucket list 

– then we checked out the campground, scouting out the proper route and a few choice sites. We will arrive by 11am tomorrow and hope we can score one. 

– a trip over to the mercantile was next. This is where you check in for camping, take a shower, do your laundry, use the restroom, buy a souvenir, buy overpriced groceries and watch out for moose. Big caution signs warn of a cow with 2 calves who has been coming by and charging people (kinda like the stores). We did not see the moose. 

– visitors center was up next. They’ve got an interesting movie and lots if great exhibits about flora, fauna, geology and history of the area. The park service really knows how to do interpretive displays. 

this is a statue, NOT a dead stuffed thing 

– there is a restaurant at the visitors center complex. It was lunch time. Lunch was had. Reasonably priced and tasty is my verdict. There was outside seating and some inside but it was only 52 degrees today so inside seating was popular. My ill behaved tourist of the day award goes to the woman who took a seat at a table for 4, got out her phone and talked on it for the entire time we were there. She wasn’t eating and people were looking for places to sit with their food. 

– Denali has its own post office. I got some more stamps and will put cards in the mail from here. 

– there is also a book store. I bought A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska The Story of Hannah Breece. It his her story of 14 years teaching in Alaska in the early 1900s. 

– we walked on a few paths and then returned to Cantwell. We will drive the 15 miles of park public road tomorrow and on Wednesday take our 92 mile tour. 

– tourists are a captive audience up here. Diesel was 4.24 a gallon today vs. 3.31 in Anchorage. If you want to make a mint, start a mini mart grocery. I paid $15 for 1/2 gallon of milk and 1/2 gallon of ice cream. The saddest part is that I paid it instead of leaving the stuff on the counter but there’s nowhere else nearby for supplies. 

– there is a tow truck afoot in the campground. Brett has gone to investigate because that is what one does. If you can’t critique the parking you simply must find out why a rescue vehicle is needed. Note:  it was a Class C with 2 flat tires  

– it was a laid back day. Denali Park is not what I expected (how many times have I said that this trip?). When I hear crowded I think Disney World at Christmas. Maybe because there’s so much space I’m not feeling the crunch. There are people, the campgrounds are full but there’s plenty of elbow room. 

Alaska is big too! 

– there is a 30% club and we are members. Only 30% if the visitors to the park ever actually see the mountain owing to the weather conditions. We’ve got a verified sighting!  This is bucket list stuff. 

– I also had to clear this up. The natives call the mountain Denali but the legal, map name is Mount McKinley. I’m going to call it Denali because I think it makes me sound hip. 

a serious camper 

– I’m looking forward to getting my own elbows into the mix again. 

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