Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stop at Talkeetna

Internet access has sucked up here. I am trying to catch up as we are actually in Homer in the middle of July and are staying at a commercial campground with wifi. Our MiFi hasn't worked at all. Anyway we left Denali and turned off the Glenn highway to stay a few days at Talkeetba. We stayed at a commercial campground, Talkeetna Alaska RV Park and Boat Launch. They had sites by the water but with much foliage between so you couldn't really see the water. We took a spot on a row with lots of trees around us. Talkeentna is a cute little town that is very busy. Many take a flighseeing tour to Mt McKinley from here. We were thinking of doing that but weather seemed to iffy with rain and lots of clouds in the forecast. We did actually get a little afternoon sun. We walked around the town and had lunch at a few breweries. I had a raspberry beer at one place and a blueberry beer at another. the food was good too.

We didn't eat at the AirStream but looked interesting

 Below is one of the places we ate at. It is the first time in a long while since it was warm enough to eat outside.

Savannah enjoyed going to lunch as well
Our next stop is the Anchorage area.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Denali Adventure

We decided to take an early morning tour at Denali National Park. Last time we were here we took a shuttle with a driver that didn't give any information on the area. It didn't help that we had a crying baby for the first few hours of the trip. Plus we didn't see any wildlife at all though it was pretty scenery. The tour was a much better way to go and our driver/tour guide, Peter, was very interesting. He gave all the usual info on Denali history plus some personal info as well as he has lived in the area for a number of years.

Of course, it centers around Denali, the highest mountain in
North America.
The name of Mount McKinley National Park was subject to local criticism from the beginning of the park. The word "Denali" means "the high one" in the native Athabaskan language and refers to the mountain itself. The mountain was named after newly elected US president William McKinley in 1897 by local prospector William A. Dickey. The United States government formally adopted the name Mount McKinley after President Wilson signed the bill creating Mount McKinley National Park into effect in 1917 [7] In 1980, Mount McKinley National Park was combined with Denali National Monument, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act named the combined unit the Denali National Park and Preserve. At that time the Alaska state Board of Geographic Names changed the name of the mountain to "Denali." However, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the change and continues to denote the official name as Mount McKinley.[citation needed] Alaskans tend to use "Denali" and rely on context to distinguish between the park and the mountain.  Wikipedia

The Park is over 6 million acres. There is a 91 mile long road through the Park. You can only drive your car through the first 15 miles. You need to take a tour or shuttle bus to go farther. The tour guides all say you will most likely see wildlife and we have read blogs or talked to people who saw 4 or more times of animals on the tours. We haven't been so lucky. As I said before we saw none last time. this time we saw the Caribou. However, the only reason we saw them was that some people had eagle eyes and good binoculars and were able to see them though they were quite far away. I was able to get some pictures with the long lens.

There are a number of rivers through the park and lots of wild flowers.We stopped at Kodochrome Pass and walked around for awhile.

Nice of this Ground Squirrel to Pose for us

It was another rainy day. Wouldn't you know it, about an hour after we were done with the tour, the sun came out and we had nice warm weather for the evening. We did enjoy the trip and though Peter, our guide, was excellent. He even told a story about when Sean Penn came up to the area and came into Healy, a small town near Denali,to research the area for the movie Into the Wild, about Chris Candless, a young man who was traveling the country after graduating from college. He decided to live int the wilderness of Alaska and met a tragic end. Anyway, Sean came into the bar and was asking Peter and his girlfriend about the area. Soon word got around and soon the whole town was there and everyone partied with Sean and his team. At the end of the night, Sean wrote down Peter and his girl friends full names in a book he was writing in. They thought for sure they would be in the credits of the movie. They were excited when the movie came out and watched all the credits.Then right at the very end of the credits, there it was. We thank the citizens of the town of Healy, for all their help. Dang, Peter said. That is the last time I buy Sean Penn a beer. It was a cute story.
We also drove the 15 miles into the park a couple of times and saw a little more wildlife.

 Our next stop is Talkeetna and then on to the Anchorage area where we want to find a spot for the July 4th weekend.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Staying in Denali

Our next stop is a return to Denali. Last time we stayed at a commercial campground but this time we were able to get two nights at one of the National Park campground, Riley Campground. In fact, by checking on their site frequently we ended up getting a third night. The campgrounds are very popular. One of the campgrounds is farther in the park but you have to stay 3 days and there weren't 3 days in a row available. The reason for the 3 day minimum is you are actually staying past the point in the park where you can drive to. To go farther you have to take a tour or shuttle bus. Anyway we were happy to get a few days in this lovely park.

Last tune we were here we didn't see any wild animals except a few moose near the campground. We saw a little more this time but not much. Again we did see moose a few times, again near the campground.

We drove out to the 15 mile point in the Jeep ouir first day there. Tomorrow we are going to take a tour farther into the park. Below are some pictures of our first day drive.

As you can tell from the pictures we are still having very cloudy days with at least some rain most days. That's Alaska for sure. I am just doing a short blog to catch up a little. We are getting ready to go to our next stop which doesn't have internet or wi fi and so not sure when I'll get to post again. My next post will be our tour of Denali.

Friday, June 19, 2015

There's Gold in Them There Hills - Fairbanks

We spent a few weeks in the Fairbanks overall the last time we were in Alaska. We decided to stay at Chena Lake's Recreation Area again. There was a hugh disaster in 1967 where Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska was almost completely floodedby the Chena River. Major flood control projects were undertaken and the reservior build by the Corp of Engineers was one of the projects. There are actually two campgrounds, one River Park and another Lake PArk, which is where we stayed.

We are only staying three nights this time. We decided to take two tours, one a new one for us and another we took before but really liked a lot. We had bought a tour book again which includes many of the tours in Alaska on a buy one get one free basis. The two trips we took paid for the book and we know we will be using it over the next 6 weeks or so. The first trip was to Gold Dredge 8 which is a 2 hour tour to the gold fields in the Tanana Valley. The tour begins right by part of the Alaskan Pipeline, which products 15% of the nation's oil production. It goes from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

We then hoped aboard a replica of the Tanana Valley railroad, where we listened to a short talk on the way to the Dredge. The narrator also was a musician and sang a few tunes. Gold Dredge 8 extracted millions of ounces of gold from the frozen Alaska ground. It is now a National Historic Site that pays tribute to the hard working miners who built Fairbanks. The train made stops while we listened to demostrations and talks about mining in Alaska. Gold mining was a big part of Alaska's history and towns grew and some turned to ghost towns when the gold was no longer available.

We then stopped and everyone got to try their hand at finding gold. We were given a poke of pay dirt which we put into a pan and told how to tip the pan into the water washing away the dirt and rocks until only gold is left. I think everyone got a little gold. Of course there is a store there where you can find out how much your gold in worth and then have it put into a necklace or earring. Joe only got 7 dollars worth and I got 19 dollars worth but I combined them into a necklace. It was a fun trip though it isn't anything we would do a second time.

Atrip we did do for a second time was the Riverboat Discovery. Besides being just a nice boat ride on the Chena River, the three hour tour was filled with Alaska history. It started with a bush pilot taking off and landing near the boat. The pilot talked about the importance of planes in the bush country.

We passed a lot of interesting looking homes on the river side. No cookie cutter houses here.

We passed the Pump House which is a restaurant we went to later that night.

We also stopped to see the Susan Butcher Kennels. Susan was a four time Iditarod Champion. She died a number of years ago but her husband and family carry on the tradition and train the champion sled dogs.

We watched a dog mushing demo and then watched the dogs happily play in the water.
We continued on with a stop to see a demo of an Athabascan Indian filleting and drying salmon. We also took a walking tour of an Athabascan Indian Village. There were talks on the construction of log cabins, a primitive spruce bark hut, how some animals such as fox and beaver were used for food and protection in the harsh artic winters.

They also had some of Susan Butchers dogs there to pet and hear about their life in Alaska.

We  headed back enjoying a nice warm day on the water. Fairbanks has some of the warmest weather in Alaska. They get some of the hottest days but also some of the coldest in the winter at 60 below zero.

We headed back to our campsite and later that evening drove all the way back to the Pump House. If we had known it was right near the Discovery Boat area we would have taken the tour later in the day and went right from there to dinner. We had a reservation but weren't able to see outside as it was full. We ate in the atrium room which was still nice as we could see some of the rivr. We didn't have a good start as we sat there for almost 20 minutes without a waiter coming over. Joe had to finally go complain. They said there must have been a mixup though you would think someone would have noticed us sitting there without anything but water. When we finally got someone to wait on us he did go out of his way to make up for it with good service. The food was very good. We had a oyster shooter each and shared some steamed clams. Joe had a bacon wrapped meat dish and I had seafood risotto with shrimp, crab and scallops. All very good.

Next we are on our way to Denali where we are staying at one of National Park's campground.