Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fairbanks and Denali National Park!

We hit Fairbanks and checked into the River's Edge RV Park. It was right on the Chena River in the downtown. After doing the laundry, we had a gourmet dinner at their restaurant on a deck next to the river – salmon and halibut! We visited a museum and stocked up for our trip to Denali.

We reserved four nights in the campground at Denali National Park. This is the second largest national park at 6 million acres of area. (The seven largest national parks are all in Alaska). The next morning it was cold and raining when we took the road into the interior. We traveled 90 miles into the park. The round trip took eleven hours. We immediately saw wildlife – two cow moose near the road. All in all, despite the bad weather, we saw six moose, including two bulls, about two dozen caribou, five grizzly bears, a porcupine and an arctic ground squirrels and ptarmigan.

The weather was too cloudy to see Mt. McKinley ( only about 20 percent of the park visitors actually get to see the mountain since it is often obscured by clouds). The next day, the sun was shining as we drove back into the park and it was we were lucky to see the mountain and take some pics. It is an amazing sight since most of the surrounding peaks are about 5 to 7 thousand feet high, but McKinley is over 20 thousand feet high! After seeing the peak, I panned the the telescope around to some of the lower ridges and we saw a group of eight Dall Sheep on a high meadow. I tried to photograph them, but they were at least three miles away. So we saw four of the Big Five in Denali, moose, caribou, bears and mountain sheep. We did not see any wolves, but we attended an excellent ranger program about them.

We also watched a sled dog demonstration that was very interesting. I couldn't believe how fast the dogs pulled the sled and it was on dry land! We hiked some of the trails leading out of the campground and enjoyed the improving weather.

Tomorrow, we will head south towards Anchorage. We plan to stop at Wasilla ( maybe Sara Palin has room in her driveway for us, otherwise we plan to camp at one of the nearby lakes and take the truck in for an oil change ( we've gone 6,000 miles so far). After that, we will continue south to the Kenai Peninsula.

Monday, July 22, 2013

We're in Alaska!

We left Prince George and made our way west on the Yellowhead Highway passing through the town of Smithers, British Columbia. We turned north on the Cassiar Highway and spent the night at a rustic campground at a beautiful lake where we had our first encounter with the voracious mosquitoes of these parts. This road as a reputation for being narrow with long drop offs and no shoulders. Our rig handled it with no problems. We got a pic of a small bear foraging on the side of the road. We passed through Jade City, which is a family run jade mine and store. We were amazed to learn that 92 percent of the world's jade is produced in this area. We entered the Yukon Territory and camped at the junction of the Cassiar and the Alaskan Highways. We met a young Swiss couple that were riding bicycles from Columbia, South America all the way to Anchorage! We saw dozens of bicyclists loaded with packs on the Cassiar and Alaskan roads. The road from Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon, is good pavement with some short gravel sections until the last 80 miles or so, where there was a lot of frost upheavals, long gravel sections and construction waits. We camped at Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon and there were warning signs about grizzly bears. The weather which had been nice for most of the trip turned very bleak with temps in the forties and cold rain. The lonely campsite was rather spooky and with the rain and bears and all we decided to stay in the camper and watch a (creepy) movie. We finally made Alaska yesterday and camped at Moon Lake in a rustic deserted campground and rolled on into Fairbanks today. After all of the rough camping, we are set up in a very nice RV park next to the Chena River practically in downtown Fairbanks. I finally have good WiFi, we are charging the camper batteries and Debbie is doing the laundry. Tomorrow we will hit a grocery store, top off our water and diesel tanks and head for Denali National Park for at least a four day stay. I am hoping to finally do some good hiking and biking.