I went for a hike on The Bare Trail today. It goes for 3 miles through the “Clothing Optional” area here in Quartzsite. I’m wearing my backpack to get in shape for hiking more of the Arizona Trail.
It has been almost a month since I last blogged and a lot has happened in that time. I’m not going to go into long detail of everything I did in those weeks because it was with family – personal and interesting mostly to us. I just want to tell all my siblings, children, grandchildren, and every relative and friend that it was a wonderful time of bittersweet memories I will forever remember.
In February of this year, my Mom passed away in her home in Mesa, Arizona. All five of her children, along with Richards wife, Dianna, Daryl’s wife, Gisele, and Mom’s grand daughter, Heather, returned her ashes for burial in a small cemetery in Western New York where she grew up. It was a sad time of final goodbyes but a happy, nostalgic time of visiting all the places where we lived when we were young. After her burial, twenty five family and friends gathered at the lake house we rented to celebrate Mom’s life through remembrance of her.
My three children live within a few hours of Mom’s final resting place so I spent a few days with each of them. I first flew into Pittsburgh and stayed with my daughter, Karen and her husband, Damon. It was a wonderful time of being together again. They spent one night at the lake house and moved to a motel the next night. Poor Karen came down with a bug overnight and was sick the day of the burial.
While we were all gathered together in Cuba, New York, we drove around town and looked at places of our childhood – the house my Dad built, the homes of Grandparents, our school and hospital where Mom worked as a nurse, our favorite cheese store, and all the parks and fields and woods where we used to play when we were little.
The weather was cold and rainy but we found things to do every day. One day we visited Corning Glass and afterwords ate dinner at a favorite restaurant that featured many meals spiced with maple syrup. The time we spent together was very special. I can put it no other way. When we parted everyone wondered when we would all be together again. Mom was the tie that brought us all together, and things would change as we all went back to our dispersed lives.
After the lake house I spent a week with Jen and Louie in Franklinville, NY. It was a fun time catching up on their lives and seeing all the grandchildren again. Grandchildren grow up so fast that in just a couple years they change from kids to young men and young ladies. One afternoon Louie took me with him to the YMCA where we worked out on the exercise equipment. Afterwards, I got to watch grandaughter Lucy practice gymnastics with her club. She is really getting good at all those flips and balance manoeuvres.
I next spent a few days with my son David and his wife, Lisa. They have three precious little girls all under the age of 5. They are the sweetest things, but full of energy and ready to run circles around their tired Grandpa. One evening I took them out to Cracker Barrel, my favorite restaurant, and the next day we went to the Toy Museum near where they live in Rochester, NY.
After a whirlwind trip to New York, I am now taking it easy in Quartzsite, Arizona. It was wonderful to see and spend time with my kids and grandkids. I love them all very much.
I moved to Cherry Creek today. This area of dispersed camping is a lot nicer than Thousands Trails. There are only a few other RVs parked here so it is a lot quieter and cleaner. My friend John has been here for a few days and it was nice to hook up with him for a good visit. We will probably go walking tomorrow morning for some exercise.
The officials around the Sedona/Cottonwood/ Camp Verde area are closing some of the dispersed campsites down. It’s probably a combination of reasons why they are trying to move people out, but it usually comes down to a few people that spoil it for the rest of us.
This area seems to be a magnet for the homeless. A few years ago, homeless people were living in the Walmart parking lot and a confrontation actually ended in shots fired. The Walmart quickly put an end to any overnight parking.
The campground by Thousand Trails has also become a haven for degenerate types. All around the desert is trash left by people that are stupid or that just don’t care. Abandoned tents, pieces of junk RVs, broken chairs, and bags of garbage are just some of what litters the camping area.
I’m sure the RV parks in the area don’t like to lose the business, and some people don’t like the idea of even seeing RVs parked in a tourist area of scenic red mountains, but you can hardly blame the Forest service for moving people out that make a mess and destroy the land.
I’m back in Cottonwood for a few days. I really enjoyed the two weeks I spent in Payson, but I felt it was time for a change. That’s the nice thing about living with wheels. When you want a new view or neighborhood, just pack up and find a new place to stay.
Payson was almost perfect in temperature. The nights were a little cool sometimes but the days were usually great motorcycle riding weather. I rode several back roads around town and near Star Valley to places I have stayed before, mostly to check on cell signal with my new carrier, and also to see how many had found my secret campsites.
I was only five miles from Walmart so it was quick for supplies, and I found a water spigot just three miles from my camp.
When Richard and Dianna took me to explore new places to camp we ruled out the spot I ended up staying because the road looked to rocky to drive my rig on. When I arrived later I decided to check the road again. I got out and walked back to a beautiful secluded site beyond the bad section of road. As I looked the road over I realized that straddling a couple ruts and dodging a couple rocks would get me back with no problems. It was easy as pie!
I stopped at McDonalds for lunch today on my drive to Cottonwood. They had several workers there helping people use the kiosk to order. She offered to go through it with me so I said OK. It’s a little different than I thought, because you order, then take a GPS device with a number on it, and they bring the food to your table. I don’t see how this will be more efficient because now they have to have workers bring the food to your table. It seems like all the retired people there felt the girl running the food was their waitress, and they would ask for extra supplies which they could have picked up at the condiments counter. It seemed like it took longer to get my food, too.
The trip from Payson to Camp Verde always makes me think of my hike on the AT. You start at the bottom of the Rim, drive 2000′ up to the top, then come back down the same side to the same elevation. There should be a road that goes straight across. The AT was like that in places, too, making us climb the mountain and come back down the same side. We would always exclaim, “Come On!!!”
There are a couple people here in the Cottonwood area that I know. I may look them up tomorrow.
I’ve been almost a week in the Coconino National Forest, 40 miles north of Payson, Arizona. It’s a beautiful area of tall pines and grassy meadows, situated at 7000′, high on the Mogollon Rim. The best part about the area is that it is only two miles from Richard and Dianna, and it has been great to see them after a summer traveling in the far north.
The monsoons seem to be over so we have not had any rain since I’ve been here, but this step into Autumn has brought some chilly nightime temperatures. I have had three nights that have dropped below freezing, and a jaw-dropping reading of 18 degrees this morning.
It has been quite a bit warmer at Richards home two miles away. He is a little more protected than I am and lives in a small community. I am in an open meadow that sits in a valley of sorts. Even with the difference in topography the variance of our readings has me wondering if my thermometer is accurate. We may do a double-blind test with our instruments tonight to get to the bottom of this.
At any rate, I know it was cold last night. My furnace came on several times in the night even though I have it set at 50 degrees. When I checked outside this morning, the water in my solar shower was half frozen and the tube running down from my roof was solid ice. I’m thinking that tomorrow I will migrate a few miles lower in altitude to save on my propane bill.
With Richard and Dianna working and making trips to the Valley for Dr. appointments, it’s been a challenge to spend a lot of time together. We have gone out to eat a couple times, and of course Dianna makes delicious meals when I’m up there. We are taking a trip to Payson this afternoon to check on some camping places and find a restaurant to share a meal. I’m looking forward to it.
I like to blog at each place I stay to keep a record of where I’ve been. It seems like the older I get the harder it is to remember what I did two days ago. Why is that?
I have been camping in the Coconino National Forest for a few days. I knew from reading blogs that three friends I met last winter were in the area of Flagstaff, so when I arrived in town I emailed John to see if I could drop by for a visit. He replied back that he, Nancy, and Jeanne were all camped north of Bellemont, about 10 miles west of Flagstaff. He said there was lots of room where they were staying, and to come on out and camp with them.
It has been nice to see them again. We go for walks in the morning and catch up on all the news of places we have been this summer. Yesterday, John drove us all to McDonalds at the end of the road where we all enjoyed a breakfast. They have been saving their receipts and going online for a coupon for free food. I thought you would have to give out your email address but they said no.
This afternoon I drove 8 miles north of here to a lava tube cave. The Lava River Cave is almost a mile in length. It has not been improved in any way, and in fact the forest service tries to remove any trash or graffiti left by humans. It is really kind of a nice place to go.
Because it was a Saturday, there were many people there to hike the cave. There is only one entrance to the cave so everyone has to walk two miles to do the whole length. The entrance is quite technical with large, jagged, slippery boulders, where you scramble down a steep slope for about 50 feet. Then the cave levels out for the rest of the way. There are still piles of rocks to climb over that sometimes roll around under your feet, and low ceilings that don’t move if you forget to duck. Ouch!
A lot of the walking is on a floor of bubbles, seams, and lava flow, turned to rock. It is quite easy to twist an ankle or lose your balance in the dim light of a headlamp. I saw a few kids that moved too fast over the uneven rock, trip and fall.
As I traveled further back into the cave, the crowds thinned and there were even times when I was all alone and out of flashlight flicker from people ahead and behind. When I reached the end of the cave, there was a group of young people playing band instruments. I not sure what kind of celebration they thought they were doing, but to each his own. The noise ruined the affect for me.
I was pretty tired by the time I got back to the entrance. I had already walked 4 miles that morning, and the additional two of the cave left my legs pretty rubbery. I would like to do it again someday when there were not so many people.
I’m going to leave in a couple days and travel down near Richard and Dianna. They are leaving to travel to Texas in a couple weeks and it will be nice to see them before they go. Then it will be time to find a lower altitude to camp – it has been down to freezing the last two mornings! Brrrrrr!
After a relaxing two weeks in the Monti-LaSalle National Forest above Moab, I have moved further south into Arizona. I’m presently camped at a free campground in the Navajo National Monument about 30 miles west of Kayenta, Arizona.
I really liked the camping spot I found in the Monti LaSalle National Forest. My site was secluded and pretty, I had a stream nearby for cleaning and washing, I had some shade trees behind my RV, and I got pretty good cell signal.
There were also a couple of things that were not nice. Even at 7500′ the weather was warm in the middle of the day. I would take walks early in the day or late in the afternoon and sit in the shade through the hot part of the day. The road up the mountain was under major construction, so to miss long waits for the pilot car, I had to time my trips to town during the weekend. When I left camp yesterday, I drove to another forest road past the construction zone after all the workers had parked their yellow machines and went home. I parked just before dark and left early this morning.
When I drove the road to Navajo National Monument I noticed several vehicles parked alongside the road and the people crawling around under the trees. This morning as I waited for more construction, I asked the flagman what they were doing. He told me they were gathering Pinyon Nuts. I didn’t Google it to see if he was right, but he said the trees only bare nuts every few years. They roast and sell them along the road for pretty good money.
I traveled south from Idaho and and spent the night in a town park near Burley. The park had hookups for $25, which was nice because it was hot and I could run my A/C.
The next day I drove to a campsite in the Cache National Forest. Unfortunately, my favorite spot was taken so I parked in a site across the road. If my site was open, I would have stayed a few days.
The next day I drove further south to Strawberry Reservoir and found a nice place to camp for a few days. I stayed at the reservoir for a week and then drove to Salina and found a campsite high on a mountain road in the Fishlake National Forest. Fishlake was just another overnight stay.
As I set up camp I noticed a smell of propane. Further investigation found that my propane regulator was leaking. I shut off the tank, removed the bad regulator, and transferred most of my food into my 12 volt fridge. I have had three propane regulators go bad since I bought Minnie. I think I will carry a spare from now on. That’s one way to make sure it never fails again.
The next morning I drove to Moab, Utah. I found a new regulator in a little farm and home store. It was twice as much as the last one I bought but little else could I do. I headed south of town to find a campsite in the Monti-LaSalle National Forest where I could install the new regulator.
About half way up the mountain I ran into construction. I had to wait 15 minutes for the pilot car and then drive 10 mph for 6 miles of construction. The road to my favorite campsite was blocked off, so I went down another road until I found a place to camp. I will be here at least through the weekend.
You can tell by my travels that I like national forest campsite. This time through I have not had good luck finding a place to stay. A few times I have passed up a previous camp because I had no Verizon where I had AT&T before. One place had washed out roads that left me leary of driving down. But most of the good campsites have been occupied by a trailer left to reserve it like a summer home. It’s not fair to take a good campsite and not be there except on the weekend. I want to make a sign to tape to the door of these rigs:
WARNING!!! THERE HAVE BEEN BREAKINS OF TRAILERS LEFT UNATTENDED IN THE FOREST IN THIS AREA. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR TRAILER FOR VANDALS TO DESTROY YOUR PROPERTY!!!
This will be my last post of my Alaska trip. I will always remember the great time I had on my trip into Canada and Alaska, and to sum it all up in one post seems impossible. Every day there were new experiences and feelings and thoughts as I traveled 8000 miles from Arizona to the Arctic Circle and back. I crossed wide rivers, drove through majestic mountains, hiked and flew to glaciers, touched permafrost at the Arctic Circle, saw a glacier calve in Prince William Sound, watched grizzly bears catch salmon in Fish Creek, and met some very nice people along the way. Alaska is a vast and beautiful land. I’m very glad that I went.
Not all the trip was easy and some things were not enjoyable. I worried sometimes that I would break down and bankrupt my savings with a astronomical tow and fix. I didn’t like the mosquitos when I tried to camp, or the roads that were filled with frost-heaves. And I’m not sure I would like to live in a place that never gets dark in summer and never light in winter. But with all things taken into consideration, the trip ranks right up there as the second best thing I have done since I retired.
At the end of my trip, I met my sister Donna, my brother Daryl, and Daryl’s wife Gisele, in Idaho for the total eclipse. It was an awesome experience! Words cannot describe what it feels like to watch such a beautiful and alien sight. No picture I have seen captures the image of totality, with the ring of vivid corona blazing spectacular from the dark center. That it happens so quickly and then is over, makes it all the more special. You wish it would last longer but you know it cannot. It leaves you craving for more. We all came away with a sense that we will have to travel to the next US total eclipse in 2024.
As I write this I got a text from my son, David. He and wife, Lisa announced a new baby daughter, born tonight at 9:12 pm. Her name is Olivia. She is my 9th grandchild. My Mom is smiling!
I crossed back into the US Sunday morning and spent the night in Cascade, Montana. They have a town park where travelers can stay for free. There is also a dump station on site. I found it on the way up to Canada three months ago and knew I wanted to stay again. The park is right next to a cell tower and I knew exactly where to aim my dish for TV.
The next morning I drove west and spent the night in Lolo National Forest a few miles from Missoula, Montana. The wind across Montana was brutal so I stopped early to find a campsite. I knew it would set me back a day to arrive at ground zero for the eclipse but I still had several days before the event. I had TV but no cell signal.
Today I drove Highway 12 into Idaho. Highway 12 is about the only way to get across Idaho without going way north or south. There is a huge area of mountains and wilderness smack in the middle of the state, and they aim to keep it that way. There was talk of damming the Clearwater River years back and the idea was scrapped and they turned thousands of acres into wilderness.
The road is narrow and twisty for almost a hundred miles. It parallels the same route that Lewis and Clark took in 1804 to explore and map a Northwest Passage to the Pacific. Lewis and Clark kept such detailed records of there path through the mountains that today we know almost exactly where they went. Many signs along the road at pullouts tell information such as – “Lewis and Clark crossed the river here and with their Shoshone Indian guide headed up the steep slope of the mountain over there.” It’s pretty cool! The sad part of the story is when Lewis and Clark were caught in the snow of the mountains and almost starved, the Nez-Perce befriended them and nursed them back to health. Seventy years later the US army chased the Nez-Perce indians into South Dakota and all but wiped them out.
Donna told me about a campsite she stayed at in the Nez Perce National Forest below Grangeville. I found the campground but had no cell signal, so I drove up the road and found a dispersed site that had a little LTE signal and was open to the sky for my dish. I should make it to her campground near Cascade Lake tomorrow.
The Icefields Parkway through the Canadian Rockies between Jasper and Banff National Parks was beautiful. The National Parks in Canada are free this year because it is the 150 year celebration of the park service. With the parks being free this year, and then get a weekend of gorgeous weather, everyone in Canada was headed to the mountains. I had bumper to bumper traffic at all tourist towns, and turnouts at scenic places along the Parkway were filled to capacity with vehicles.
When I was way back at Denali in Alaska I met a nice couple while I was parked in a BLM campsite. For a while we leap-froged each other and then they got ahead of me while I was in Anchorage. They would text me from time to time to let me know where they were and give me information on nice free campsites they found. I eventually caught them in Whitehorse Walmart and left before they could get on the road. We met again at the overflow parking at Lake Louise and traveled together to the Stony Nakoda Casino, fifty miles before Calgary, last night. All in all we spent six nights camped at the same place.
His name is Henri and her name is Yen. Yen is from Vietnam and Henri is a retired salesman from Montreal. They even invited me to eat with them the last two evenings. We had some nice conversation about our adventures and planned to try and meet again in the southwest this winter.
When we were at the overflow parking at Lake Louise, we took a good 5 mile hike along the river. We had to drive 4 miles to find a parking place to take a hike. The first place we wanted to hike was filled to the max with cars and they wouldn’t even let us in. We finally found a back parking lot with a couple RV places. The town was running shuttle buses to events but Yen has a dog that wasn’t allowed to ride. We agreed that a dog can be a good travel companion but it limits you on a lot of activities.
Tonight I’m alone at the Walmart in Lethbridge, Alberta. Henri and Yen are heading east across Canada and I am headed south into the US. The first thing I did when I got here was look for a car wash. I found one that took a credit card, and I’m sure I spent too much getting some of the grime and bugs off both Minnie and Honda.
On my way back from the car wash I saw a Jiffy Lube with a special price advertisement. I don’t want to tell how many miles it has been since my last oil change but I’m happy to say Minnie now has clean oil. It is pretty warm here in the Walmart parking lot but I think it will cool off later on. At least I am getting some dark at night, now!
I had a great time in Hyder. The last night there I saw two more large grizzly bears come out and catch fish in the river. Before the grizzlies arrived, a small, cute, little black bear tip-toed out and scavaged scraps left along the bank. When the little black saw the first grizzly, he hightailed it into the woods! I stayed until almost 10 pm watching the bears fish.
The next morning I broke camp and headed out. As I left Hyder and drove south, the roads became wider and smoother. I was beginning to see suggested maximum speeds of over 100 and had cell service on a lot of the highway, so I knew I was getting near civilization. The driving was maybe a little more relaxed, but soon I started to see many semi trucks loaded with logs. Truck drivers up here quite often pull double trailers, and they don’t slow down for anything.
I made good time on the major east west highway – Route 16 – and drove over 200 miles to a place called Burns Lake. It was not burning at the lake but there are many fires up here. I could smell smoke for a long stretch of the road today.
Burns Lake Recreation Area has a small campground, a maintained trail system for mountain bikers and hikers, and a lake for canoes. I drove back in about three miles to the campground, but it was blocked off with a sign that read closed for a mountain bike event. I found a little day-use area on the way out and parked for the night.
A little while later a young guy stopped at the parking area and I asked him if he thought I would be OK parking here for the night. He said no one would care. He showed me the bike he rides the trails with – a unicycle! I thought he would ride around the lake where it was level, but he took off up through the woods. I wish I would have thought to take his picture.
Today I drove into Prince George and stocked up on groceries at the Walmart. When I got out of the RV I thought I had a black tank leak, but then realized it was probably the smell from the paper milI
I was thinking that reading books, magazines, and newspapers online is hurting the paper business, but I’ll bet Amazon is helping out the paper and cardboard business. Not only does almost everything you order from them come in a cardboard box, but that box is packed in another box. I guess I help too. I buy a lot of paper plates, bowls, and paper towels to save on washing dishes.
Tonight I’m at another recreation area near McBride, BC. It’s hot here but at least I found a shady spot. I should be in Jasper National Park tomorrow. No cell here so I will post tomorrow.
Hyder is a little town on the southern tip of Alaska. Mining kept the town alive back in the early 1900’s, but the few businesses along the run-down main street have all closed, and junk is piled in front and between the delapitated buildings. About the only businesses in town are an RV park, a gift shop, and a little girl across the road selling lemonade.
Tourist come here to visit Fish Creek, a feeding ground for bears when salmon are swimming upstream to spawn. The forest service has built a walkway high above the stream for people to watch the bears fishing. It costs $5 for a pass to use the walkway.
I traveled up to the viewing platform last night and stood at the railing with a hundred other visitors, waiting in anticipation of a bear fishing show. For an hour nothing happened, and then, one at a time three black bears came out of the bushes and tried their luck at catching a salmon.
The first one jumped into the stream but the fish were too quick and he came up empty. The next two just walked along the river bank and never tried to catch a fish. There was a lull for quite a while and many people gave up and left. Just as I was ready to leave a large grizzly stepped out of the reeds and into the water.
The ranger said he was a regular to the area and they even had a name for him – Dogbear. Dogbear walked up the stream and caught a fish on his second try. He carried it to an island and tore flesh from the salmon while the prey continued to thrash and flop. It was all quite gruesome to watch, even though you know the salmon are destined to die after they spawn. After he was done with the fish, two bald eagles flew in to scavenge what was left.
While the grizzly was fishing, no black bears came around. I asked the ranger if they chased the other bears away and he said a grizzly will kill and eat black bears. Momma black bear will send her cubs up a tree when a grizzly is about. Grizzlies are bad-tempered and mean! I asked if any bears had ever come up on the walkway. He said one time a small black climbed a tree and stepped over onto the platform. They took people down the emergency exit and then chased the bear off the walkway.
Hyder, AK and Stewart, BC are both on the same body of water, seperated by a natural fjord. Stewart has a few more business and seems to be prosperous. You can drive into Hyder without going through customs but on the way out you have to clear customs. I asked a local why they check one way and not the other. He told me that years ago Canadians would come to Hyder to buy cigarettes and liquor and bring them back into Stewart. The officials didn’t want to be cheated out of duty on things bought in the US so they put up a border crossing. That’s what he told me but who knows if that is true.
I took a ride on Honda to Stewart this morning and then rode up to Bear Glacier in the afternoon. I’ll go up to Fish Creek again tonight and head out in the morning.
I was in for a pleasant surprise when I turned off the Alaskan Highway at Watson Lake and headed down the Cassiar Highway. In Richard’s blog, he tells about the terrible condition of the road, filled with frost heaves and dips so bad that he was only able to drive 35 mph a lot of the way. I was dreading the road conditions of the 400 mile drive to Hyder, AK, and reconciled in my mind that it would be a long, slow couple of days.
A lot can change in 10 years. Almost all the Cassiar Highway now is new. It is still narrow in places, but the first 100 miles were smooth as glass. After that there were a few gravel spots that were being fixed but no badly damaged areas at all. The road is narrow in places with sharp dropoffs so I took it easy and still made good time.
I realize that I haven’t talked much about the condition of some of the awful roads up here, and I want to chronicle my opinion before I forget the punishment poor Minnie and I have gone through. The joke is that the Yukon and Alaska get 9 months of winter and 3 months of road construction. Roads up here are always in battle with the brutal temperatures of the north, and Mother Nature will make you pay when you try to put a road on her frozen ground.
I’m not sure why they call them “frost heaves”, they are more like “frost sucks” in my mind. To me, a heave is something sticking up, and these imperfections are mostly dips and holes. It happens when the black asphalt heats up from the sun and melts the frozen ground, causing the asphalt to sag into a depression of great depths.
To be fair Minnie has a couple disadvantages over other vehicles driving the Alaskan highways. For one thing, she has a short wheelbase. I guess someone designing Winnebagos figured it would be easier to drive an RV if you could cut corners like a car. The trouble with that theory is that it leaves a long section cantilevered behind the rear tires to bounce and swing like a dinosaur tail. Now add a motorcycle hanging on the back and you have even more instability.
When you hit one of the frost damaged sections of road with a little too much speed, the first thing that happens is the front end falls as if the road has disappeared into an abyss. Then you are rocketed up with bone crushing force into a brief instant of zero gravity, before being slammed back to the road in a test of the integrity of your tires and front suspension.
And as all this is going on, your back tires have already entered this dip to mimic the front end in a much less graceful way. But it’s not over yet! Imagine several dips in a row! When you finally come out the other side, you have been on the roller coaster ride from Hell, and you probably have a mild case of whiplash.
I think the worst road damage I have seen is when one side of the lane has sunken, causing Minnie to drop wheels on the same side and set up a side-to-side rocking. At first you feel like you might roll over and you overcorrect to bring the rig back to a straight line. In the next second, the tires on the other side hit the dip while the first side is bounced back up, tossing everything back the other way. When you stop for the night, you find out how secure things are in the cabinets.
There has been no cell signal along this highway. I’m camped just off the highway in a nice, hidden campsite. I should be in Hyder tomorrow.
I made it to Hyder. Staying at the Camp Run a Muck RV park. I paid for two days and may stay longer. Little bit of Wi-Fi.
I have been scooting south quicker than I originally intended. I decided to put in a couple of good driving days and maybe save a little time for the Cassiar Highway and the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper.
I’m back in Whitehorse tonight after driving the Tok Cutoff and Alaskan Highway that I missed on the way up. I stopped at a few pullouts to read signs and take in the views of the Saint Elias Range – Canada’s highest peaks. The weather today was gorgeous and I could see every mountain crystal clear.
The Tok Cutoff road was one of the worst roads I have been on and the first section of the Alaskan Highway past the border of Canada was not much better.
I texted with a couple I met up here that were going to Hyder after I told them about the bears feeding on salmon. They were there yesterday and saw plenty of salmon swimming upstream but no bears. I hope I will see bears.
My visit to Valdez Alaska turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I have had so far on my trip. On the Stan Stevens Glacier and Wildlife Cruise, we witnessed the greatest calving event that anyone on our boat had ever seen. Crew members on our boat who have been coming to the glacier for years said they have seen nothing like it. But let me back up a bit…
Valdez is one of those seaport towns that gets a lot of rain from clouds trapped by the coastal mountains. It would rain off and on for the two days I spent in town, but there were two museums to wander through when the drops would fall.
There is a lot of history that took place in Valdez. It started as Gold Rush town where thousands of Stampeders landed to start their trek to the goldfields. The miners had to hike over the treacherous Valdez Glacier before facing the pass through the mountains.
In March of 1964, Valdez was hit by a massive earthquake of 9.2 magnitude, turning the ground to liquid waves, that heaved and broke for a terrifing five minutes. The town was injured so badly that it was decided to move everyone to a new location where the ground was more stable. The old town of Valdez lasted two more years as a new town was built four miles away on bedrock.
In 1977, Valdez became an important seaport for the Alaskan Pipeline terminus. The natural deep water of the port allowed easy access to oil tankers to load millions of barrels of oil on ships bound for refineries in California. Perhaps the most famous event to occur off the Port of Valdez was the grounding of the Exxon Valdez in1989. The tanker leaked 10 million barrels of oil into the waters of Prince William Sound before they could contain the spill.
All these events and more were on display in great detail in the museums in town. I spent several hours looking through the memorabilia and then wandered through town looking for a cruise boat tour. I found a company that offered a cruise to Columbia Glacier and booked passage for the next morning. Then I headed a few miles north of town and found a secluded spot to camp for the night.
The weather the next morning was total fog until we motored out of the bay into Valdez Arm. Then the fog lifted and we had great views for the rest of the trip. Our boat was only one-third full so everyone had room to move about and see the sights. It was quite chilly outside the cabin area when the capitan would bring the boat up to cruise and everyone would scurry inside out of the wind. You were allowed to go anywhere on the boat and I enjoyed spending some time up in the wheelhouse talking with the capitan and asking questions.
We saw sea lions, sea otters, Dall Porpoise, Harbor Seals, Orcas, and several different birds. Even though we couldn’t get real close to some of the animals, it was great fun to watch them in their natural habitat. I didn’t get many good pictures of the wildlife but I will have the picture in my mind always.
As we came closer to Columbia Glacier, the capitan had to weave in and out through the icebergs. He would even push through some of the smaller pieces of ice until we were about a quarter mile from the massive face of the glacier. Everyone on board waited in hushed anticipation to see if we would be privileged to see the glacier calve. Some days the glacier is quiet and many tours never get to see any activity on the face of the glacier. We were about to witness a spectacular show.
It started with several small slides every minute or so, and then we could hear loud cracking and rumbling as huge sections of ice broke from the face and plunged into the sea. It seemed like the whole face of the glacier kept breaking and falling, pushing up large waves, and sending ice flying into the air. As the largest pieces broke into the water they would bob up in slow-motion, towering high above the face of the glacier and then turn over and crash into the water. When it was over it seemed the face of the glacier had retreated the length of a football field and house-sized icebergs floated towards us on rolling waves.
The crew were as awestruck as the passengers! In all their years of coming to Columbia Glacier they had not seen any calving like that. A couple of people got it on video and said they will post it to YouTube. It was a great time. I’m really glad I went.
After the tour I decided to drive up through Keystone Canyon and over Thompson Pass to look for better weather and maybe miss the road construction by Worthington Glacier. I made quick stops at the old Valdez townsite to read some plaques and stopped to marvel at Bridelvail Falls. The construction workers were gone and the traffic was light so I made a good choice to drive in the evening.
My next move will be towards Tok and then down the into Canada on the Alaskan Highway again.
Alaskans love their weekend toys! If you live up here for any length of time, you probably have some combination of the following adventure vehicles: airplane, RV, fishing boat, ATV, snowmobile, mountain bike, and maybe a lesser chance because of the weather, a dirt bike.
It was quite evident to me as I left Anchorage and joined the Glenn Highway on my way to Valdez that ahead lay a popular area for off-roaders. I met trailer after trailer of vehicles pulling ATVs.
The road passed through some very pretty mountains and was quite smooth for most of the way. I stopped to take a picture of Motanuska Glacier, a long river of ice and snow that reminded me of Ruth Glacier in Denali. I added a little gas in Glennallen and found a scenic pullout a few miles south on the Richardson Highway headed to Valdez.
I just wanted to mention again what a good time I had visiting with Kleenex in Anchorage. She went out of her way to take me hiking in Whittier, drove me all over town to shop and show me the sights, and include me in a hike and outdoor potluck with people from her church. Thank you, Renee!
On Friday, Kleenex and I traveled an hour south of Anchorage to hike a trail to Portage Glacier and visit the town of Whittier. The weather was cloudy and misting for much of the day, but the skies cleared and the rain held for most of our hike. It was a fun day.
Because it was a day trip, and we knew we would have to pay to got through Whittier Tunnel, Kleenex drove us in her car. Our first stop was at the Boggs Visitors Center where they had some information about points of interest in and around Portage Valley. We also went to check out the price of a tour boat that took you up to the face of the glacier. If it was better weather we may have taken the boat ride but voted to just enjoy a hike this day.
We proceeded on through the two-mile tunnel and drove on into Whittier. The tunnel is a marvel in itself. Blasted through solid rock and completed in two years, the one-lane tunnel was originally made in 1941 for train travel to connect the port with interior points. Sometimes the wait for your turn can be a half hour or more. We were lucky to hit the line as cars were being let through just as we arrived.
Kleenex told me that weather in Whittier is almost always rainy. Because the coastal mountains trap the moisture from the bay, it can be sunshine in Anchorage and raining in Whittier. We saw a sign for a museum and decided to browse there for a bit and wait for the weather to improve.
The museum had many displays of pictures about early ocean explorers, building the tunnel, and the war of the Aluetian Islands. We read articles for about an hour then had lunch before driving to the trail.
The trail to Portage Glacier was only 2 miles up and 2 back but there was a steep hill to climb up to the pass and then a knee punishing decent down to the lake. When I start climbing hills I realize how out of shape I am. As we neared the lake where Portage Glacier entered the water, the clouds lifted and we had great views of the glacier and icebergs in the lake.
On the hike back from the glacier it rained some but we didn’t care; I was so hot and sweaty that the light rain felt good.
We had to wait 30 minutes to get back through the tunnel. On the drive home Kleenex took me to see the hippy town of Girdwood. There were lots of artsy places, a luxurious resort hotel, and a classic ski slope. We stopped for ice cream and arrived back in town about 6:30 pm.
I had a wonderful time with a great friend. We even made a date to go see a movie later that evening. By the time the movie let out I was ready to crash. On Saturday I will help Kleenex move some of her belongings to a room where she will be staying and then go with her to a pot luck meal with people from her church.
I left Fred Meyer in Soldotna and drove northeast until I reached the turn to Hope, Alaska. The highway to Hope runs along the south side of Turnagain Arm, crossing many rivers that feed into the tidal basin. It was a pretty drive with views of Turnagain Arm in several pullouts along the road.
The Sixmile Creek that Hope Highway follows for a few miles is popular with rafters for its Class IV and V rapids. Only experienced river runners attempt the adventure. The company that offers the rafts and shuttle sometimes require participants to demonstrate they can swim across the river before they can sign on.
Hope is a ramshackle sort of town of 150 residents. Many of the old cabins have been preserved and the only new buildings are the post office and a well maintained bed and breakfast. It has a couple of cafes’, and of course, bait-n-tackle shops.
The main reason to come to Hope this time of year is to fish for salmon in Resurrection Creek. I saw many fishermen standing in the water as I crossed the creek. I’m not a fisherman and I don’t want to do a Class V rafting adventure so I went to the local museum for my afternoon entertainment.
The museum had many pieces of mining equipment on display along with preserved cabins that some of the first residents used in the early gold rush. I spent quite a bit of time talking with the lady that runs the museum. She has lived in Hope for the last 40 years, and explained in more detail than I wanted, extensive history of the town. I don’t think she get a lot of people that stop and visit for a while.
When I left the museum, she told me of a camping spot six miles out of town on the Resurrection River where it is legal to pan for gold. I drove up and settled into a spot for the night. I asked the Forest Ranger at the parking area if I was alright to camp here. She said that technically it was not for camping but no one would say anything about me staying a couple nights.
I took my pan down to the river after dinner and found several flakes of gold in my first two pans. I wanted to play gold-miner a little longer but the water was ice-cold, the bugs were out, and it was starting to sprinkle. I jumped back into Minnie just as a heavy rain started.
A while later a couple drove up on quads. The man was pulling a dredge on a trailer so I went over to talk to him. He said they own a claim up the river. He puts on a wet suit and crawls around in the river with a suction hose attached to the dredge. I figured it wasn’t any of my business so I didn’t ask him if the make much money dredging the river. I would like to know, though.
I packed up this morning and headed Minnie back towards Anchorage. It was almost 1pm before I left the campground on the Spit, and I will truly miss the wonderful time I spent, walking the beach, riding Honda to town and along the East Road, watching eagles feast on morsels brought in by the surf, and most of all, I will miss the friends I met there.
We all said our goodbyes this morning with the hope we will meet again down the road sometime. Diana is from Ontario, traveling full-time in a 28′ class c, with a destination of Western BC where her son lives. She was planning on just traveling through Canada, but when she ended up in the Yukon, reasoned she may as well continue into Alaska.
Rick and Dena are from the San Bernardino area. Rick is a recently retired fireman. They are traveling like so many of us adventurers – going where we want and spending as much time as we want in each place. Rick, Dena, and Diana were all going to stay another day, but when the weather forecast for the next couple days was looking rather rainy, they decided to move on, too. We have all decided that Quartzsite for the Big Tent Show will be a good place to meet again.
The wind was blowing strong as I drove up Highway 1, but it was mostly a tailwind that helped me along. The traffic was not nearly as bad as the trip down the Peninsula. As I neared Soldotna, I turned towards the town of Kenai, looking to see if anything caught my fancy. There was mention of a lighthouse on my Google maps but I think it was just the name of a small community. There were a few places to drive out to the bay to look for animals, but the gloomy, cold weather wasn’t very inviting. If you are into it, one wildlife area was advertised as as a good place to see all kinds of birds. I think a high-power spotting scope would be a great tool to watch wildlife here in Alaska. Even through binoculars it is hard to see the birds sometimes.
I didn’t stop to see any Russian Orthodox Churches. I did, however, find an old Russian community on a motorcycle trip east from Homer while I was staying on the Spit. The settlement is called Voznesenka. I didn’t see much there, but I did walk around in a cemetery and puzzled over the pronunciation of the deceased names.
Tonight I’m at Fred Meyers in Soldotna. I have no idea where I will stay tomorrow, but there is no hurry to get to Anchorage for a couple days. Kleenex has Friday off so we will probably find a hike in the area.
One of the best parts of hiking the AT was the people you meet. This trip to see Alaska has been like that in some ways. In campgrounds, tourist attractions, beautiful scenic places, and all along the highway, you run into people with the same pilgrimage – to explore this great and beautiful land of ours.
When I was in Seward I ran into a fellow traveler and we became instant friends. We had such a good time talking about our adventures on our journey, we decided to meet up in Homer and spend a few days together enjoying the Peninsula.
I arrived in Homer a day before Diana and the next morning reserved two spots out near the water on Homer Spit. After spending the night at Fred Meyers in Soldotna, Diana joined me here in the Mariner City Campground.
In the afternoon we rode Honda down the Spit to walk around the many shops and tourist haunts scattered like an Atlantic City Boardwalk along the ocean. Diana bought a couple of souvenirs for her kids and I found a fleece jacket with a Homer logo that will always remind me of the good times here. We stopped at a fishing trip place where they were weighing the Halibut caught by the guys on a recent trip. One of the fish weighed 148 pounds and was over 6′ long. Diana has the picture and I will post it when I can get it, so no one thinks it is just a “fish story”.
Later on we took a walk along the beach as the tide went out. The water was surprisingly warm. We thought it would be quite chilly this far north. Diana’s dog Carter loves to retrieve a stick thrown into the water and we watched him play fetch whenever we found something to throw.
On the way back we ran into another couple we had met earlier and joined them at their camp for good conversation until after 11 pm. The sun finally set and the air grew chilly, so we all retired to our RVs for the night. It was a good day with nice people on Homer Spit.
After several days of rain and gloom, Friday dawned bright and clear. I was camped in the same parking area as last night and enjoyed a very restful night. One other camper pulled in late and was gone early this morning before I even got up. With the promise of clear, sunny skies, I packed quickly and headed for Homer.
The drive through the Chugach National Forest was splendid. I stopped at most every pullout to take in the rugged and colorful landscape. The traffic was not bad until I turned on to Highway 1 and headed for Cook Inlet and points south.
The traffic turned into a steady stream of cars and campers that became quite concerning in the narrow stretch along Coopers Landing. I have a feeling that some of the foreigners that come here and rent RVs are not prepared for narrow roads. The guardrails were tight up against the narrow blacktop and I met several motorhomes over on my side. Eventually the road widened and the driving was normal to Soldotna.
Soldotna is a big city. I pulled into Fred Meyers and noticed about 50 RVs in the parking lot. Fred Meyers welcomes RVs for 7 days and they even have a free dump, water, and garbage dumpster. It’s no wonder the travelers love it there. I was on a mission to make it to Homer so I just bought a couple of supplies and headed out.
The views along the Inlet were gorgeous. It was so clear you could see all the Chigmat Mountains across the water. One turnout told of an active volcano named Redoubt Volcano in the Clark National Park. It stood out clearly and ominously across the bay.
Tonight I’m in Mariner Campground on Homer Spit. I’ll probably stay for a couple days to do some exploring. I already unloaded my motorcycle, signifying not just an overnight stop. I hope the weather stays like this for a few days.
The weather turned rainy and chilly two days after I arrived in Anchorage. I was reaching for a jacket most of the time but the residents up here didn’t seem to mind and continued their activities in t-shirts and shorts. Even the two days when it didn’t rain were socked in with low clouds and fog, so I have not been afforded good views of the spectacular scenery that surrounds Anchorage.
On Tuesday I found a place to fill both my propane tanks and then went to the Aviation Museum located near the Anchorage airport. The museum was good but I thought a little pricey. A lot of the aircraft displays had some connection to the war with Japan in 1942. I never realized before what a significant role Alaska played in WWII and the many battles that took place in the Aleutian Islands.
Later in the afternoon when Kleenex got off work we went out for ice cream. We both agreed that with her hectic schedule for the next week, I should do some exploring for a few days until she had a couple days off. The next morning I set out for the Kenai Peninsula.
I drove through a light rain most of the morning, and I’m sure I missed a lot of beautiful scenery along Turnagain Arm and through the Chugach National Forest. I could still see many snowcapped mountains through the swirling clouds and fog and I hope that on my return trip it will be clear and I have good views at the many turnouts along the road.
I arrived at Seward early in the afternoon. Seward is an interesting little seaport town. Besides having a rich history, it has the northernmost ice-free port in Alaska, the starting place for the Historic Iditarod dog sled race to Nome, and is a mecca for tourists tours, sightseeing, fishing trips, and souvenir shops. Of interest to me this morning was the camping along the waters of Resurrection Bay.
The campground was $40 for electric/water hookups and $20 for just a place to park. I kept the option open but still hoped to find a free place to stay the night. The lady at the welcome center told me that I should find a spot at the campground soon because they fill up fast. She also mentioned that some people park along side the road going to Kenai Fjords National Park.
The national park is 8 miles north of Seward on a nice highway that ends near Exit Glacier. I found several good pullouts along the road that didn’t have “No Camping” signs on them so decided to stay in one for the night. I continued on to the park and walked the short trail for views of Exit Glacier. The light rain made hiking uncomfortable but at least it kept the mosquitos away.
Tomorrow I will hike further up the glacier if the weather cooperates. I would love to hike all the way to the top to see the Harding Icefield, a vast sea of ice and snow that feeds some 40 glaciers in the Kenai Mountain Range.
After enjoying a relaxing week along the Susitna River near Talkeetna, I decided to drive to Anchorage to start my exploration of the coastal area. The morning was a little drizzly but I managed to get everything loaded without taking too much of the wet river sand with me. It was only 120 miles south on good road with cheaper gas along the way to the sprawling city of Anchorage, and I arrived at Cabelas shortly after noon.
Cabela’s allows RVs in their parking lot for 48 hours and they even have a dump station. I took care of the regular chores whenever I get to a big city – laundry, groceries, dump, and water – and gave Renee( who will always be known as Kleenex to me) a call to let her know I was in town. We agreed to meet later and go out to eat.
It was such a joy to see my friend and trail companion. It has been 5 years since I last saw her and we both agreed the time has in some ways flown by. Kleenex has spent the majority of her time since the trail as councilor and mentor to young adults in an organization called Service Adventure, an organization that helps kids with a positive start in life. Alaska has really taken hold of her heart and I think it will be her permanent home for the foreseeable future.
Kleenex has a Costco membership so she took me in her car to purchase the much needed staple of maple syrup. I have been looking for good fruit here in the north but so far been disappointed with what I have purchased. She said that Costco here in Anchorage has the best fruit so I stocked up on that too.
I told her I have been hungry for pizza. I usually go to fast food places when I go out to eat and frozen pizza that you cook at home doesn’t cut it. She knew of a couple good places to get pizza. The first place was pretty crowded but we only had to wait 20 minutes to get a seat at the next one. It was a great time of catching up and reminiscing about the trail. After dinner she drove us to Earthquake Park and we walked around reading the signs and looking out at Cook Inlet until the mosquitos chased us back to the car.
Kleenex has to work and “house sit” for the next two weeks so we can either spend a little time together between her commitments or maybe I will continue on down the coast and come back when she has a couple days off. Once again my plans are set in jello.
I rode into Talkeetna this morning with the idea of checking on the price of an airplane ride to a glacier below Denali. I parked Honda and walked to one of the buildings selling air tours and talked with the guy about a flight. I really wasn’t prepared to take a flight today. The weather was pretty hazy with thunderstorms moving in later. I was mainly interested in the price, but you know how it goes, the salesman said he could get me on a flight that left in an hour and he would give me a 10% discount – yeah, right. The price was a little more than I wanted to spend but I would never get a chance like this again.
I checked in at Talkeetna Air Taxi 40 minutes before the flight. The salesman said that I could request the right seat if I got there early. The girl checking me in said I would have to ask the pilot. There were 5 of us on the plane, a family of 3, a young guy from Georgia, and me. The young man asked the pilot first but said he would switch after we landed on the glacier.
The plane we flew was a 6 place Beaver. The company has 9 planes so you can imagine how many people are flying into the mountains everyday. Most of the airplanes are Otters, which carry more passengers. I think our Beaver has a better view than the bigger planes.
We took off and crossed the George Parks Highway and many rivers before we saw the mountains to our north. The pilot called out the names of the rivers and told us about the glaciers where they originated. The pilot said there was about 10 miles visibility but it didn’t seem that good to me.
We soon saw the mountains and followed the Ruth Glacier for several miles. Several granite peaks came into view and at last a look of the South Peak of Denali.
We made a slow turn and landed uphill on Ruth Glacier. There were already two Otters on the snow when we got there. Everyone got out and took thousands of pictures and walked around on the snow.
We got to see the other planes take off. The downhill slope of the glacier helps with the takeoff but I remarked to the pilot that we had a tailwind. He said it is almost always like that.
I sat in the front seat with the pilot on the way back. The view was not any better up there because of the haze and the engine cowling, but I got to watch the instruments and the pilot handle the plane.
We followed the glacier for several miles until the landscape turned to muskeg, rivers and lakes. The glacier we landed on was over 1000 feet thick, but all the glaciers are retreating over the last years.
I’m glad I didn’t save the money and miss all the fun of a glacier landing.
I had some excitement driving south on Alaska Rt. 3 this morning. I left my campsite about 9:00 am and stopped at Denali National Park to dump and take on water. I was following a Class C pulling a toad about an hour later when I noticed smoke coming from the tow car. All of a sudden a tire flew off the car and rolled across the road and down into the ditch. I had slowed down when I saw the tire come off so I was quite a way behind the motorhome. I figured he would realize something was wrong and would pull over but he kept on down the road. I sped up to catch him and flashed my lights and blew my horn. He finally pulled off the road and I pulled in behind him.
Most of the front right tire was gone. The rim looked okay but was probably ruined. He said he never noticed a thing; it drove normal. He was going to put on his spare, doughnut tire and try to get it fixed in Talkeetna. I told him to go slow and he should be okay. I asked him if he needed any help and he said no. There was nothing else I could do so I continued on.
A few miles later I came to Denali State Park and pulled in at the Mountain View Point. There were several people lined up along the railing, studying the mountain photo, and trying to figure out which one was Denali. One man that seemed sure he knew where it was pointed out the snow-covered base with the peak covered in mist. This is the second time I have seen the bottom slopes of Denali, but the top still evades me.
I’m camped along the Susitna River in a nice campsite on the sand and gravel beach. There is a large forest behind me with tall Aspens and Cottonwood trees. The only drawback will be if the ATVs come out and race up and down this weekend
I met a nice couple back at my last camp and they have joined me here. I will tell more about them in a future post.
Tomorrow I will visit Talkeetna and check into the Denali scenic flight. Richard has often said it was one of the highlights of their trip and to do it if at all possible. I would love to take the flight but it will depend on the price.
This note is just to continue the chronicle of my time in Alaska. I have taken three days to do little of nothing other than to hide from the rain, wind, and cold. I’m still 10 miles north of Denali at the little spot of BLM I found on the web. It looks like tomorrow will be a good travel day so I’m planning to drive down near Talkeetna to find a camping place.
Rain is predicted to settle in for the next few days so I rode to the park for one last activity. Denali is known for its generous stance as a wilderness area. In a wilderness area, man is a visitor that does not remain, no mechanical vehicles can be used, and nature is left pretty much alone to do its thing. If I remember right, fires cannot be fought by firefighters with machines or chainsaws.
The one theme that fits with the wilderness area of the park in winter is dog sleds. Denali park employees and volunteers maintain a kennel of 33 Alaskan Huskies for transportation through the park in the winter. Of course the dogs have to be cared for and exercised all summer, too. One of the most popular attractions is a sled dog demonstration offered free by the park.
I rode to the visitors center and stood in line for the 2:00 pm show. The show is so popular that there were enough people to fill two large busses. We were bussed only two miles to the kennels and got to walk around and meet the dogs for a half hour before the demonstration started. Most all the dogs are friendly from being handled by different trainers and having visitors around petting them.
The Alaskan Huskies used as sled dogs are bred for their long legs, wide paws, bushy tails, powerful lean bodies, and intelligence. They are highly trained athletes and they love to run! Any temperature above 20° is too warm for them so they sleep outside in the snow all winter.
The demonstration consisted of hooking 5 dogs to a wheel cart and watching them race around a circular track. Then the narrator/park ranger told the story of the dogs while the crowd watched. It was interesting to learn the different positions the dogs are harnessed in the line, and how they are chosen for their position.
When the show was over everyone could go back to pet the dogs some more or wait for the bus. There was a nice path back to the visitors center that was only 2 miles, so I walked. I probably will hang out at camp for a few days until this rain system moves on.
Yesterday I rode to Denali and purchased a ticket to ride into the wilderness area of Denali. The bus trip I purchased, 53 miles to the Toklat River, was the shortest excursion they offered into the heart of the park. Some of the tours were over 90 miles and lasted all day. I figured that 6 hours on a school bus would be long enough.
During the night it rained and rained. My bus ride was scheduled for noon so I was hopeful the rain would stop before I had to leave for the park. If it was still raining in the morning, I would have to pack everything and drive Minnie instead of Honda. Luckily, the morning was dry but still very cloudy. I could ride Honda but a peek at Denali’s peak was not going to happen.
The seats on the bus were a lot better than I feared. They were actually quite comfortable with adequate leg room. The bus driver was very knowledgeable and personable, too. Several people said we were lucky to get him. The bus driver is not actually required to narrate the tour back into the park but we received lots of information from a nice guy. Our driver ( whose name is Dale, but that doesn’t have anything to do with this) has worked as a driver for the park for 35 years, knows a lot about the park, is an avid Denali backpacker, and has a great personality. Every time he would ask us if he should stop talking and let us enjoy the park in silence, we would all exclaim that he should keep telling us stories.
If you see the tallest mountain you are lucky. Most that come to the park only see clouds, and we would be amoung the many. We saw a few Caribou, a bald eagle, a moose, a snowshoe hare, and a tarm… patr… part… tparm… chicken. But the one animal that evaded us all was the mighty Grizzly.
It was a fun day with a good group of people. I took lots of pictures but it is one of those places that can’t be captured with a camera. The mountains are too grand and the animals too far away to photograph without a telephoto lens. I’m going to go back over tomorrow and try to catch the sled dog demonstration.
The George Parks Highway that runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks is by far the best road I’ve been on here in Alaska. There were very few dips and potholes. It is probably maintained well because it is such a major highway.
I retrieved my mail at the post office, dumped and filled my water for free, stocked up on groceries at Safeway, and headed out of Fairbanks. It was only 120 miles to Denali. I had a couple of camping places I wanted to check on before I went into the park, but one place had signs up for no camping and I couldn’t find the other. I ended up going all the way to the Park Visitors Center looking for good pullouts to spend the night. I figured I would end up paying for an RV park.
The visitors center was packed with people. I wandered around looking at displays and then watched a movie about sights and sounds of Denali. I was more concerned about someplace to stay than looking at the park so I left after an hour or so.
I headed back to Healy, ten miles north of the park entrance, and searched again for the BLM camp I read about on freecampsites.net. As I drove past the point where the directions ended, I saw a motorhome down a dirt road and went to check it out. There were only two sites on the road but the guy in one of the motorhomes came out and told me they were leaving in a few minutes. And that’s how I scored this free site.
My Minnie does not take up as much space as the Class A and his toad, so when someone came down the road in a Class C, I told them to park in beside me. Then about an hour later a van came in and parked here too. I will probably be here a few days to see Denali.