August 2 – To Denali National Park


Dropped Kensi our granddaughter off at the airport at 6 AM and she was tired but ready to go – her remembrances of Alaska will be the cooler weather and the hiking – plus the time spent with her grandparents.

Able to get the slide in on the coach without too much coaxing and we were off to Denali. Did stop at Wasilla so Brenda could pick up her free quilting pattern.

The scenery along the way was nothing to brag about – mountains in the way far background and it was overcast.

Arrived at Talkeetna DSC_0022and found a campsite at Talkeetna Camper RV Park – small park with lots of trees and we did get water and electric only.

Talkeetna sits near the base of Mount Denali and was the inspiration for the television show “Northern Exposure”. An old gold mining town started in early 1896.

Went into town (only 4 blocks away) and walked the town – interesting small hippie type town – little shops with art and crafts and a few restaurants and even a brewery. Lots of adventure businesses located here.

We did walk to the river’s edge and enjoyed the rushing of the water – seemed like a lot of water but it was at the confluence of three rivers Chulitna, Susitna and Talkeetna.

DSC_0044The rain came down and we were soaked – including the dogs and we headed back to the car and the coach to warm up and dry off.

Later I did stop at the Denali Ranger’s Office here in Talkeetna (this is where those who are going to climb Denali start) and watched the movie and got my stamp. That is quite the treacherous and difficult climb – 1100 people start and only 400 finish on average each year.

Since we are only staying one day we decided to go out and eat and would you believe there is a brewery in town that had good reviews on their food. Headed over to Denali Brewing Company and had their stout (cold out tonight) and reindeer meatloaf and pork belly gourmet. It was tasty!

Thursday we are off to Denali National Park. Note to self; next time stay longer.

Sure enough more rain and rained all morning. The scenery from here to Denali wasn’t anything to stop and take a picture of – could not see any of the mountains because of the clouds and fog.

We arrived at Denali about noon and registered for our campsite – D4 (45)she then said go pick out your site and hang this sign on the post – do you know what it is like driving a motorhome and tow car around the inside of a campground looking for a site – Not Fun!

We found a huge site and grabbed it. We can’t even see our neighbor or they us. No utilities so we are boon docking for a week – should be interesting without all the pleasures of life – we are self-contained so we should be okay.

Did make a visit to the Visitor’s Center to get acclimated – saw the movie and got my stamp and my magnet. To get around the park they have a shuttle system – you pay.

Denali NP was created in 1917 to provide a nature reserve for the Dall sheep and other animals and has been expanded to include a preserve area to include more environment and nature. In 1980 it was expanded to 6,000,000 acres including the preserve.

Did drive north from the park to see what was there and what commercial enterprises were available – yes there is a grocery store and a few restaurants and lots and lots of adventure trips.

Walked the dogs to the amphitheater and was going to listen to the Ranger Talk at 7:30 PM but he didn’t show – oh how the dogs were disappointed – lol.

Friday is our planning day and evaluate what are we going to do in this huge park. Did buy tickets for the bus ride (only way you can see the entire park on the road – shuttles only). We are going separate days because it is a 12 hour tour and we don’t leave the dogs alone for that long. And it gives us two chances to see Denali.

Today is overcast and about 55 in the early morning – not bad.

I did venture out for a bike ride and only made it 5 miles – you can tell I am so out of shape – besides the climb was a 10% rise and I didn’t see me doing it at this moment.

Did take Brenda to the Historic Dog Sledding Kennel in Denali – dog sledding has been used over the years to protect the wilderness from poachers and to haul material in and out of the park during the winter.

Great show by the rangers and got to pet the dogs and see them up close.

Found out they use the Alaskan Husky which is not an official breed recognized by the Kennel Association.

One of the dogs (Clove)  had a litter (7) while we were there.

Brenda did get her Jr Ranger badge today.d1 (65)

We hit a high of 71 today – finally got to sit outside in the lounge chairs and enjoy a beer.

We did go to the amphitheater and listen to a Ranger Talk on Tourism in Denali – interesting how and why people came here years ago.

As I was letting the dogs out to do their thing before bed, I noticed a group of people hanging out nearby. Curious I stopped by and sure enough there was a moose munching on small willow branches. She stayed quite a while and we all took our pictures.

Saturday woke up to 45 degrees – oh burr! But the sun is shining – did get up into the 70’s today.

We did take a field trip with the dogs to Savage Creek. The road within Denali NP is 92 miles long but personal vehicles can only travel to milepost 15 – Savage Creek. Pretty mountains along the way and lots of trees – but wait – what is that brilliant white peak? As we traveled further the mountain got bigger and bigger – was this Mount Denali?

Oh yes – finally came across a kiosk and it had a picture of the mountain range in front of us and sure enough – there was Denali – oh what a wonder!

Now remembering that we are about 80 miles from it I can’t wait to see the whole thing up closer – hoping tomorrow (my bus trip on the entire road) is as clear as today. They say the mountain is only visible 1 out of every 3 days and not everyone who comes to see it – sees it – that’s why we are here a week.

Did get to Savage creek and walked the dogs on the road (no pets on the trails) and enjoyed the scenery.

On the way home we stopped at the dog kennel and got my stamp for the NP passport book.

I did the Ranger Program at the amphitheater this evening and listened to how the animals survive in Denali with minus 60 degree weather in the winter – some migrate south which sounds like the best idea and some (Wood Frog) even allow themselves to freeze until all functions stop and unthaw in the spring.

Sunday is my bus trip down the Denali Road – only way to see most of the park. Arrived at the bus station and with 38 others found our seats on the bus – please note that this trip is 12 hours from beginning to end – and we never changed seats. We did get off at different times.d2 (43)

Had a great driver – Anna – she has been driving this route for 10 years. d2 (265)She was so cordial and informative and willing to please her passengers by stopping at every animal siting. All you did was yell “stop” and she would stop in the middle of the road – remember this is only 1-1/2 lane gravel road. She gave us time to look, photograph and move about the bus so we could get the best pic.

We had numerous wildlife sitings and I will summarize in the end without boring you with each one.

We stopped about every 1-1/2 hour for restroom breaks and scenery shots. We were told to eat on the bus so as to not drop crumbs outside for the wildlife.

First stop was at Teklanika River for a restroom break and then we picked up people at Camp Teklanika. This campground you are required to stay a minimum of 3 days and you cannot go out to the entrance in your own vehicle until you are done camping.

Stopped at Polychrome Vista.

We stopped at Toklat at mile 53 and on the Toklat River. It has a visitor’s center to explore.d2 (264)IMG_3592

We stopped to see Mount Denali in its fullest – every stop it got bigger. Remember only 30% of the people that visit this park get to see the mountain without cloud cover – this is my second day to see it.

We stopped at Eielson Visitor center and Denali is the backdrop for this center. d2 (168)Great Visitor’s Center and exhibits – lots of hiking from this point. A great quilt of the park was inside.d2 (169)

We continued on to Kantishna an old mining community. It is at the end of the road – milepost 92. This is all private land and there are a few lodges and an airport that was included in the park when it was expanded.

We then turned around and did the return trip – anytime during this trip you could get off and hike and linger longer and then catch the next bus – no one in our group did that – I was originally going to do that but as time lingered on I was content with seeing the wildlife and letting someone else do the driving.

I will have to say I am glad I didn’t have to drive because a lot of these curves (without guard rails) had steep slopes and were very narrow and sharp.

We stopped at Wonder Lake

and she encouraged us to walk through the bog and pick blueberries – and they were good. Did you know that all berries in Alaska are good to eat – some not so tasty but there are no poisonous berries.

Did I tell you we saw Denali? In fact on the way back you could not see it – the clouds rolled in.d3 (51)

We got back to the beginning in exactly 12 hours – 8:45 PM and it’s still daylight.

Monday is Brenda’s day to ride the bus – her trip is only 11 hours.

Spent part of the day trying to solve an electrical problem – why isn’t the bathroom receptacle working? Made a few phone calls and removed the GFI and breaker and spent about 5 hours evaluating the issue. Finally discovered that the outlet does not work when we operate off batteries only versus being hooked up to shore power. (Note: next day I called Winnebago (after two calls the day before) and they admitted that outlet and only that outlet is not connected to battery power – couldn’t answer why but they said that’s the way it is) problem solved.

Brenda had a great day on her bus trip – closer shots of animals than I did.

We did attend the ranger talk at the amphitheater to hear about natural medicines the Indians discovered by watching the actions of animals.

Tuesday is souvenir shopping – left the dogs and enjoyed our morning browsing thru gift shops.

Picked up the dogs and hiked the area by the Nenana River. Warm today about 75 – found the 49th State Brewing Company.

Did the ranger program tonight and listened to the 1905 Gold Rush at Kantishna.

Wednesday we did the Ranger hike along the McKinley Station Trail. She explained the different fauna and encouraged better conservation of resources in Denali.

Every gathering with a ranger includes the hazards and avoidances of wildlife. By the end we surely knew what to do about BMW – bear moose wolf encounters.

Visited the Murie Science and Learning Center – they do research and teaching at this location. Had special displays and a quilt to die for according to Brenda.

Attended the special showing of a movie on Dog Sledding in Denali – ranger shared stories and facts before the movie to help us understand how important dog sledding was and is at Denali – it was the only means of transportation in the winter in this area.

Summary of all our animal sitings while at Denali NP.

Bear – nine (9)

Caribou – seventeen (17) plus more we did not stop for.

Moose – four (4)

Wolf – zero (0)

Dall Sheep – three (3)

Small animals – many

We celebrate this week that we lasted 7 days without any utilities. We made it with the water we had on board and the storage tanks for grey and black water did not overflow. The hardest part was only being able to operate the generator during their posted hours which didn’t agree with my electrical need. We needed extra power at 6AM for the coffee pot and legally we weren’t allowed to run the generator till 8 – we cheated for 10 minutes.  Getting used to being frugal with utilities takes a little getting used to but we did it – celebrate because that opens up more doors in the future to boon-dock that we have avoided.

All I can say is Denali NP is the place to visit and enjoy our great creation.

Thursday we are moving to Fairbanks as our repair part has not come in at Anchorage.

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1 comment

  1. WOW you got some great shots. We didn’t see anything when we were in the park it was so cloudy. It sounds like we did the same tour, it was by far my favorite. Did you stop and see the Lodge in Talkeetna, the grounds are so beautiful. Safe travels

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