Denali Park Visit and Artic Circle Tour
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06/25 - Today we occupy a campsite inside of Denali Park. We were fortunate to get 4 nights in the Riley Creek Campground. Campsites are not assigned, allowing you to pick any unoccupied site. Then you clip your tag showing the date you are leaving to the post and it is yours for the duration. So, I went looking without the trailer and someone had left early that morning from a perfect spot and I claimed it. Back to get the trailer from the Parking Lot RV Park. Went first to the dump station in the park, four lanes with plenty of parking nearby and dumped and refilled with fresh water. No waiting, no hassle. Much better than any commercial RV Park I have seen. Slipped the trailer into our new home and off to see the sights. The visitor center is brand new this year and provided an excellent introduction to the park. Afterwards to see the Alaska Railroad Denali Depot. The train came in (one train northbound and one southbound daily) and dropped off and picked up many eager passengers. Amtrack should take lessons from this railroad. Clean, well staffed and attractive. Several of the cars were owned by various tour companies and cruise ship lines. All aspects of this railroad are first class. Had a quick lunch and drove the allowed first 15 miles of the park road. No private vehicles past mile 15. Although it was sunny, Mt McKinley was not visible due to clouds. Seems that seeing her may be unusual. Hoping for at least a quick view while we are here. Back to the campground for a pot of coffee and a fine BBQ steak dinner. Surprise! Didn't see a single mosquito. (not complaining)
06/26 - Still in 'rest up' mode, so doing an easy day. Stopped at the gift store for some goodies and drove the allowable 15 miles again. Different time of day so different views. Took the trip to the Denali dog kennels where they have the teams of sled dogs used for the winter patrols. They had a very good demo and excellent presentation on the history and current activities of the dog teams.
06/27 - Drove the 15 miles again and were able to find parking in the turnaround at the end. Stopped for a while and enjoyed the view. Off to bed early as tomorrow we get up at 4AM (probably just after sunset) for a day on bus to the backcountry.
06/28 - 4 AM and the sun is up. Blue sky and hardly a cloud. 43 degrees. On the bus a 6AM and off to a trip that will return a 8:30 PM. The road to the backcountry starts where the pavement ends at the 15 mile point. Hard packed dirt and gravel with a really decent surface. Much construction along the way as Mother Nature tries to reclaim her territory every winter. Saw quite a few animals from the road. First sighting was a wolf and then some caribou, moose and bears. No foxes were ever seen. We stopped for every animal sighted and got pictures where possible. Contrary to the propaganda for visiting Alaska, there are not really many animals to be seen. According to the official park census there ar 92 wolves, about 350 grizzly bears and about 3000 combined moose and caribou in the 6 million square mile park. We saw 1 wolf, 8 moose, and 2 bears. The tour guide said it was an excellent viewing count. What we were lucky to see was Mt McKinley. Only 5% of the park visitors are fortunate enoughf to see view the mountain. It is normally 100% covered with clouds. About 3% of the time it can be partially viewed covered with clouds at the top or bottom. Only 2% of the time are there no clouds and the full view is available. THIS WAS ONE OF THE PERFECT DAYS! I will not try to describe the beauty. The pictures do it better. We had lunch at the lodge 92 miles in and returned tired and satisfied that the journey to the end had been productive.
06/29 - Traveled to Fairbanks. Pleasant trip on a very good two lane highway that became a freeway just outside of Fairbanks. Checked into Riverview RV Park and ran over to check Santa at the North Pole. Will return Monday for pictures and a good visit.
06/30 - Visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North. Many excellent displays of animals and remains of prehistoric times. Some of the 'Art' was, as usual, hard to understand. However the native culture was well documented. Then over to the Eldorado Gold Mine for a very well done demo of commercial Placer Mining. Did the gold panning thing and between the two of us we got 13 grains of gold. About $26 worth. Don't think I want to move to Alaska and become a miner. They were promptly stored inside a pair of gold earrings for Elena. This was done inside the 'REAL' working gold mine. The GIFT SHOP!!
07/01 - Another day to roll out of the sack at 4AM. We are off on another adventure. The bus tour to the Arctic Circle leaves at 6. I have been told that it is not wise to drive. All sorts 0f horror stories about flat tires, broken springs and speeding big rigs. Finally got under way at about 7 due to them waiting for someone. Stopped for visit of the town of Joy. 1 house. (gift shop attached) complete with a couple of outhouses. What looked like a TV antenna was attached by 2 1x6 boards to a 40 ft mast made from a thin spruce trunk. No phone, power, indoor plumbing or internet. On to see the Alaska pipeline close up. Then to the Yukon River to pick up box lunches. (and visit the gift shop). Stopped at finger mountain, and old navigation aid for pilots before electronics. FINALLY, we arrived at the Artic Circle about 4PM. Took some pictures, got back in the bus and headed for the Yukon River Camp for dinner. Excellent food. Our pre-ordered meals were waiting when we arrived and served promptly. Back on the bus, and on to re-visit JOY (the gift shop and outhouses). Finally got back about midnight.So far as driving the road is concerned, I considered returning the next day with the trailer just to prove it is not that bad. Yes, it is a long trip. You have over 100 miles of gravel road. Some construction and there are big rigs that drive fast. Overall it could be driven in 5-6 hours with no problem so long as you SLOW DOWN FOR THE BUMPS. Also the big rig has the right of way. (DUH) but they all seemed to be courteous and actually were driving safely. Much better than they drive on HWY 99! It was definitely and interesting trip. Glad we did it. Wish I had driven and stayed overnight in the trailer. Well, next time.
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