As I write Anchorage is well behind us. Actually so is Talkeetna and Denali NP. I will try to summarize a nine days of activity. the connection here is so bad that I cannot get out a notice of the posts I have put up, “The 4th” and “Leaving Kenai – on to Anchorage”. I have lots of pictures but that will have to wait until Fairbanks where I hope we will take some time and have adequate connection to post them.
Anchorage: On our first afternoon walking around the tourist area we came across Cyrano’s a local theater group which was putting on “Putnam County 25th Annual Spelling Bee”. I am a snob an generally will not attend “amateur” performances, but this seemed intriguing and we had not attended theater since Ashland OR. Tickets were $23 each and available for Saturday night, Friday was the opening. Curtain was at 7 PM so a light snack and off to theater after a day of wandering the shops in Anchorage. This was some of the finest theater we have attended. The performances were strong, the voices were well trained and wonderful and the hall was tiny. The audience was 150 – full house – and it was great. We left the performance exhilarated and happy. Finding no place to satisfy both of us at 9:30 at night we went back to Eagle River CG and made a light dinner on board.
The next day we decided to take the bikes and ride the path from Earthquake Park to downtown, about 11 miles. At the park I pulled the bikes off the roof and mounted the front tires and asked Carol to fetch the seats from the back of the car . . . long silence . . . where are the seats? It is hard to miss two bicycle seats in the RAV4. They were a dozen miles or more back on the coach. I forgot to put them in the car. We took a nice walk and looked at the park, it is the remains of a neighborhood that slid into the inlet during the earthquake of ‘64. Several hundred feet of bluff slid down into the inlet carrying homes and lives to oblivion. I will post pictures when I can.
We left Anchorage with some regrets, but grateful to leaving relative civilization behind. We headed out to Talkeetna. Those of you who know me well have heard me talk endlessly about the wonderful meal of halibut I had in Talkeetna in 1997. All things must change. The place we remember is now a chocolate shop, not bad actually, and the town, as we pulled in, was overflowing with tourists. Driving the motorhome and tow’d through the throng was a challenge, especially since the directions to “free camping” that I had were wrong. Somehow I got the coach onto Avenue B in front of the Ranger Station as described, although the directions said Avenue C. No small difference as the town is divided by an airstrip that predates statehood and is a protected historic site, also still in use. It runs between C and D the entire length of the town and stops just short of Main Street which is the only way around it, if you don’t count the alley.
We parked across from the Range Station on B and there we spent the night. The Alaska Rule is simple, if there is no sign saying you can’t, you can! There were plenty of no camping signs in other places in town, but this stretch of road had no such sign. By six PM the place was almost deserted. All the Princess and Holland America groups had retreated to their lodges and all that was left were some mountain climbers and us, oh yes a couple of hundred locals too. Dinner was at West Rib and my “Homer Split” (a nice piece of halibut and an equally nice piece of Salmon for those who can’t make up their mind”) was wonderful. Carol ordered a bread bowl of spinach warmed in a sauce for us to share, she ended up enjoying that as her main course.
Our objective was to take a flight up to land on Ruth Glacier on the flank of Denali. It was not to be. Our arrival day was cloudy and reports were that warming had softened the glacier so that landing was not advisable. The following day was overcast and raining, no point in trying to fly unless you enjoy looking at the inside of clouds. We left for Denali National Park saddened. We may have to return.
I will keep this going although we start a new part here. The Parks Highway which runs through Denali State Park and Denali National Park is named for Mr Parks and has nothing to do with the fact that it runs though the parks. From Palmer, outside of Anchorage it runs through Wasilla, a town we in the lower 48 were not aware of until 2008, and on to Denali and Fairbanks. I have left out several lesser towns that make it an interesting drive. A reminder, Alaska’s population is on a par with Monroe County, NY and Anchorage has about the population of Rochester, without the county. Fairbanks is about 70,000. A village of 900 is a population to be noticed in this state. Most of the places I have mentioned are far smaller than that, for example Talkeetna has a resident population of between 400 and 500.
We pulled out of Talkeetna and headed for Denali. We were getting desperate for a luandry facility and after a couple of weeks with no reliable hookups good electric and running water seemed like a great idea. We stopped in Cantwell, pop 245, at Cantwell RV for two nights so we could clean up a bit and spend time in Denali, only 27 miles further down the road. I got on line while Carol was doing laundry and booked us on a shuttle bus back into the wilderness as far as Eielson Visitor Center (66 miles in from the the Wilderness Access Center) with a 6 AM departure! We got up at 4 and staggered around finishing assembling our kit and arrived by 5:30 to get in line for our bus. I did not have time to get tickets, all I had was an acknowledgement of reservation which I printed out and carried with me. I guess they are used to this, because the on duty dispatcher took my printout and returned with tickets in a matter of minutes. Here is where I will insert the pictures of our trip. We saw two bull Moose, 3 brown bear, a small herd of caribou and other animals I could not get in the camera frame. At the Toklat rest stop Carol and I left the bus and began to walk up the road toward Eielson Center, 15 miles away. We had no intention of walking all that way. The rule is any walker can flag down a shuttle bus for a ride to the next stop as long as it is not past the point you have bought the ticket to. Also any out bound bus with space will pick up any hiker for return to the Wilderness Access Center. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we did not see any large mammal wildlife while we were walking along the road.
We returned to Gee 2 late and had dinner and fell into bed. the next day we packed up everything and returned to Denali with the whole rig which we were able to park in the RV parking lot and we road the free bus in to Savage River. This is the furthest point we could have driven our own vehicle with no special permit had we chosen to do so. We left the whole rig in the parking lot and took to the shuttles for transportation. While were sitting eating lunch in the parking lot, there was a knock on the door and Roger and Susan who we met in Homer were standing there. They had recognized us as we passed them on the road. We are hard to miss, as there are not a whole lot of NY plates up here and we have Orange and Silver bikes on the roof of the RAV4. What fun!
By 5 we were on the road on the Parks Highway to bring us to MP 269, The June Creek Rest Area. We do recommend it to passing RVers who want a neat place to send a lunch, dinner or night. Tomorrow we plan to be in Fairbanks at the Elks Lodge #1551.