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Author Topic: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure  (Read 35303 times)

Wavery

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  • Fallbrook, California.......... (San Diego County)
Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #90 on: June 23, 2014, 11:12:12 AM »
If you want to get some fishing in..... I HIGHLY recommend "Homer Spit"..... the halibut fishing is unbelievable. I used to fly up there with my dad about once every other year. We never left with less than 100# of halibut meat (after filleting). One year, my dad caught a 180# halibut. They call them "Barn Doors".

We tried trout fishing on a few occasions and found the trout to be quite elusive  :-\. They'd gather around and laugh at our bait..  :-[
Wayne
Wife, Carolyn...... 5 kids.... 19 grandkids.
1998 33' Winnebago Adventurer ('97 Ford 460 V8, F53 chassis) 33WQ -Banks PowerPak, Roadmaster Reflex Steering Stabilizer, Monroe Gas-Magnum RV Shocks
Retired GM Service Manager driving a Ford....What's the world coming too??

lucierenee

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #91 on: June 25, 2014, 04:02:13 PM »
Wow!
I just read all the posts from the last few days....which appear to be very eventful, thrilling, even.
I was laughing out loud reading about the scary campsite and how happy you were when more humans
joined the campground.  I imagine things feel extremely remote at times.
These reports are very colorful....good job.
Later,
Renee

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #92 on: June 25, 2014, 11:46:39 PM »
June 23, 2014 – Day 34

Slow start to the day yet again.  I am so glad we aren’t in a mad rush every day.  We headed north on the Richardson Highway to Paxson.  From there we turned west onto the Denali Highway to Tangle Lakes Campground. Total mileage today was 94 miles but it was slow going.  Lots of frost heaves, gravel breaks and expansion joints.  We decided the worse part of driving to Alaska was driving the roads in Alaska, not the getting here. Oh well what can you do but enjoy all the interesting people you meet and the beautiful scenery. Heavily treed and brush covering the foothills of the Alaska Range up ahead.  If it would have been clearer we might have seen the Alaska Range in front of us, the Wrangell Mountains to the southeast and the Chugach Mountains to the southwest.  We did have wonderful views of the Alaskan Range which includes Mt McKinley.  We need to go a bit further northwest to try and get a glimpse though.
We did stop at the Sourdough Roadhouse for some baked goods, cinnamon rolls and a loaf of sourdough bread.  Can’t wait to dig into them. That means an extra-long walk too.  We finally caught a glimpse of a bull moose, the first one of the trip. Had to go to the Sourdough Campground which just happens to sit beside the Gulkana River.  We let Jim go fishing for a bit, he did catch 2 grayling with his BlueFox lures. He was happy.  Back on the road to Paxson and then turn off onto the Denali Highway. Rough, bumpy, frost heaves, potholes, well, you name it and we drove through it.  Lots of heavy thick brush up on the hills and lots of snow still on the north facing side. At about mile 16 of the Denali Highway we entered Tangle Lakes Archaeological District- “within this 226,000acre area, more than 500 archaeological sites chronicle man’s seasonal reliance on the local natural resources.  For more than 10,000 years, hunter-gathers have dug roots, picked berries, fished and hunted big game (most likely caribou) in this area”(per the Milepost).  Tangles Lake campground sits on BLM property and I like the price of a site.  Normally $12 but because Jim had the Senior Pass it was $6 a night.  There is a down side, there are no hookups. Started to unhook the Blazer when the hail started to come down.  Thank goodness is was small.  Set up WeBe in the rain and occasional hail/sleet. No shade in this campground but we are in site #18 and it was level.  Jim took off to fish and Megan and I took a short hike up the Lookout Trail.  Beautiful scenery all around us, mountain peaks with snow and all shades of green on the hillsides.
Walked down to check on Jim and he was a happy camper, he was catching fish (I think 14 was the final count).  When it started to thunder he headed back just in time for the downpour.  Fixed dinner while it rained, then it cleared up and the sun was shining brightly for us to make a campfire. Enjoyed that for a good long time and decided a short drive, to see if there were any critters out, was in order. Headed west on the Denali Highway (by this time is it a dirt/gravel road).
 A little history on the Denali Highway- it is 134 miles long going East to West or from Paxson to Cantwell.  It was opened in 1957 as the only road link to Denali National Park until they completed the Parks Highway in 1972. It is very scenic and they say if you drive it you have a good chance of seeing wildlife (per The Milepost).
The only wildlife we saw were a group of women on bicycles.  One was having some difficulty and the rest were trying to help her.  We stopped to see if we could offer some assistance.  They asked if we had a bike pump, and yes we did.  But unfortunately it didn’t fit their bike.  They did say they had someone coming to help soon or later.  We were handed back the pump and on with our drive.  No wildlife but Jim did want to try his fly rod on Rocky Creek.  No luck there but he only made a few cast.   On the drive back the ladies were riding along, so the bike was fixed.  Back to WeBe and thought it was time to get ready for bed.  It is amazing that you can floss your teeth without using a light.  Still really light out.  I think I will go read a few pages of my book.  TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #93 on: June 25, 2014, 11:47:43 PM »
June 24, 2014 – Day 35
Cool, very rainy start to the day. Jim went down to the Tangle River again this morning, caught 29.  He was pretty happy.  Since it was still raining in the afternoon, we all took a nap.  When we got up Jim and Megan went to get Megan a fishing license up at the Inn about a mile up the road.  They headed down to the lake for some father/daughter time.  When they came back they were both laughing hard.  They told me that Megan had caught this huge grayling and they pulled out the camera.  There was the picture of Megan hold the rod with a fish about maybe 3-4 inches long.  I was stunned to silence.  The main point is they had a good time.  Jim headed back to the river for another hour of fishing.  He caught another 17 grayling.  Some were small and a few were good size, about 15-16 inches.  He said there were so many that it wasn’t difficult to catch that many.  We had some dinner and Jim & I took a hike up the Lookout Trail.  The same one Megan and I did yesterday.  It is really pretty with views of green mountains streaked with snow, several lakes (one right after the other), low gray clouds and a few swirls of smoke from campfires below.  Quiet and peaceful. After returning from our walk, he and Megan headed to a new part of the lake to try some more fishing.  I meandered down for a bit but gave up and went back to read my trashy romance novel.  They returned with smiles on their faces, Megan had caught 6 more fish and Jim 2 more. Jim explained that Megan was quite funny when she catches fish, he told her to hold it up so he could get a picture but she was squirming around and told the fish she was sorry and telling her dad to hurry up and put it back in the water.  She feels sorry for the fish and doesn’t want to see it hurt. They had a really good time.  It is wonderful to see them together, laughing and having fun, nothing better to end a great day. TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #94 on: June 26, 2014, 11:50:52 PM »
Pics of the Alaskan Range and Megan's huge fish.

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #95 on: June 26, 2014, 11:52:06 PM »
June 26, 2014 – Day 37
Yeah, we were going on an excursion today up to Chena Hot Springs!  The road was very nasty for about the first 15 miles, lots of frost heaves and expansions. It was like being on a roller coaster and Jim hates roller coaster.  Megan and I were okay with them and I was driving.  The trek out to the hot springs is about 60 miles and the road ends at the hot springs.  We were questioning why they maintain a road back there.  Well, on one of our tours today we got our answer.  The hot springs were found in the early 1900’s,  one person went back to town (Fairbanks) and put a claim on it to find out someone else had put a claim on it.  There were 2 brothers who took a boat up the Chena river after they heard a surveyor talking about steam rising. The brothers came back to Fairbanks to file a claim to find out there was a claim on it for agriculture purposes.  Well, the brother find out it is being developed commercially and filed a law suit. This went back and forth in the courts and the state finally stepped in and took the property over as an Alaska State Park.  This is why the road was built. After many years of the State being in the red they sold it to a couple by the names of Connie and Bernie.  Some of the original builds from 1905 are still being used. There is an outdoor hot spring pool, probably about the size of a 25 meter pool, temp around 104 degrees. Indoor pool round 88 degrees, a few other hot tubs.  Hotel rooms, horse stable, Ice Museum, huge greenhouses and a geothermal generator and about 50 chickens, 4 goats, and 5 reindeer.  We took a tour of the greenhouses and the geothermal generating plant.  They generate a lot of their own power.  Bernie believes in sustainability.  The generator also heats the greenhouses and they grow their own lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers.  The tomato plants had to be 6-7 feet tall and they keep the temps in the building at 75 degrees year round.  James, our tour guide, said the tomato plants last up to 12-14 months each. I wonder how long my little plant will last. They use the produce there at the restaurant and for the 60 staff members, the rest is sold at the Farmer’s Market in Fairbanks. We took in the waters and had nice conversations with some folks from Ohio, Florida and Washington.  Had some lunch at the restaurant, I had a salad of their fresh greens and then we headed over for the Ice Museum. We donned parkas for the trek into the museum which is kept at 25 degrees in summer and 20 degrees in winter.  There are 2 ice carvers, a husband and wife team, and they compete all over the world.  They have 3 guest rooms, if you want to stay overnight, just a mere $600 a night, it does come with its own ice outhouse. Beautiful sculptures of jousters (full size), polar bear, flowers, wedding chapel (yes, someone got married 2 weekends before) an ice bar with bar stools with reindeer hide on top of seat.  Megan and I enjoyed an Appletini in a carved ice martini glass at the bar, pretty cool. We got to keep the martini glass too!  But we were told to take the glasses outside and break them with a wish and the wish would come true.  So we did.  Now back safely in WeBe, still cloudy and we had some good rain today, but we have memories too.  Baked some cookies and time to have a few, TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #96 on: June 26, 2014, 11:54:31 PM »
The polar bear bed and Megan and I making our wish and breaking our martini glasses. And an ice sculpture.

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #97 on: June 28, 2014, 02:05:27 PM »
June 27, 2014 – Day 38
The day started out with grey clouds and light rain again.  I think the end of the world might be coming because we have not had any sunshine in quite a while.  We took a trip out to Mary Shields place.  Don’t recognize the name, she is the first woman to finish the Iditarod in 1974 and the Yukon Quest.  She is currently 69 and still mushes but just for fun now.  Her place is about 9 miles north of Fairbanks about ¼ mile off a dirt road, that is off a dirt road, that is off a dirt road.  I think you might have gotten the picture she is out by herself.  She made a comment that she has a cabin about 28 miles away where she goes to get away from the hustle and bustle.  I thought Megan was going to die with that comment.  She told wonderful stories of herself, the dogs and life racing in the Iditarod.  She was one tough lady.  In 1974 it took her 28 days to complete the 1000 miles. Now they complete it in 8 days. There wasn’t a staged beginning in Anchorage, when you started that was the beginning.  Finishing up in Nome.  You race with a team of 16 dogs, your load of food for yourself and the dogs, tent, sleeping bag, a few clothes and lots of booties for the dogs.  There were checkpoints were you reloaded your sled with provisions, slept for a few hours and headed back out.  Throughout the race the dogs always came first. There are vets at each checkpoint to check the dogs, if one is determined unable to race, your team of dogs shrinks, no fresh dog.  One time Mary finish a segment and set the dogs up for the night and went into sleep, when she woke up several hours later she went to check on the dogs and found them gone.  Panic set in and she searched some more to find them where she had left them but they were covered by fresh snow.  How she found them was there was an air hole and their noses were sticking out.  The dogs were quite content to be under the snow.  Her dogs are a mix of breeds, they are outside dogs year round. She used to go and train as long as the temp was -30 or warmer, since she has gotten older she doesn’t go out if temps are lower than -10. There was play time with her 4 dogs and the 3 puppies on loan for socialization.  Jim and Megan really enjoyed that, if you know me, I could have cared less to play with dogs.  I pretty much stayed behind Jim or Megan and tried to stay out of the way. Mary was very fascinating, we all ended up at her kitchen table having tea, coffee, or hot chocolate and some muffins she had made.  The muffins are similar to ones she would have eaten on the Iditarod, high in protein and nutrients.  They were tasty.
Back to camp, rain really coming down now and we decided to do some laundry.  We needed dry towels.  Went out for pizza and drive around town.  Back to WeBe, Jim went one campsite over to check out the river, which was running fast and high.  He ran into another couple who had been with us at Mary Shields house.  They came in and visited till about 10:30 PM.  After they left we all headed to bed with the sound of raindrops on the roof.  TTFN

zigmarie33

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #98 on: June 29, 2014, 01:32:42 PM »
Megs,  I can see you got your dad's genes for fishing.   I bet that was a record setting fish!  Great talking with you Mick last nite.  I hope you get some sunshine and fair weather.  Love you all

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #99 on: June 30, 2014, 12:58:01 AM »
June 28, 2014 – Day 38
Quiet start to the day.  THE SUN WAS SHINING!!!!!!!!!!!!!  One of the new tires on the Blazer seemed to be leaking air.  Jim took it over to Sears and they said it was the stem valve.  They repaired it and we were on to some chores, I got my nails done and Jim got a haircut.  After lunch went to the Morris Thompson Culture/Visitor Center.  Nice display of Alaska during their 4 different seasons and what different animals do during those seasons.  On a wall they had some sayings about “you know it is summer when…” and one said “beat Beethoven”.  I guess they do this 5K run in the summer and you see if you can finish the race before the end of Beethoven’s 5th symphony.  I am going to have to make a special effort to listen to that one.  Some beautiful displays of bead work.  I am too ADHD to have been able to sit and work with all the small beads.  I love to look at them though. The Culture/Visitor Center is adjacent to the Chena River.  A nice wide walking/bike path.  So many of their flowers are just coming out.  The lilacs were so fragrant, wild rose bushes everywhere.  Nice walk, we even saw a lady watering her flowers, even after all this rain.
 We ventured into the industrial district in search of a fairly new microbrewery, HooDoo.  Found it and Jim and Megan had what they call a taster.  There is about 4 oz of the 5 different types of beer they currently have on tap.  Bobby is the owner and he conducted the 4 PM tour of the brewery (it is very small).    He majored in business in college and then went to brewery school in Chicago and Germany.  Worked for several breweries learning as much as he could and about 2 years ago he opened his own.  There is a lot of money tied up in one of these things.  He brews a 3 part process and tends to gravitate towards more German style of beer.  He brews about 1000 gallons a week.  Rotates his beers and so far has brewed 13 different kinds. Jim and Megan agreed they liked the 3 beer in the taster which had some banana in it.  Megan walked out with a growler to enjoy this evening. 
After the beer they were hungry and Megan convinced us that she hadn’t had a Wendy’s in over 4 years and could we go.  So we went and I think it will be longer than 4 years before I have any more, yuck.
Back to WeBe and a movie were on order for the night.  Jim and Megs went over to check out the river first and a couple in a canoe dropped off a guy who was drunker than a skunk and had fallen in the river off on the shore, along with his wet sleeping bag and other worldly possessions.  The drunk wandered around the campground and we assumed he fell asleep somewhere.
Watched the movie “The Importance of Being Ernest”.  It had its funny parts and gave an evening of entertainment.  Now it is off to bed, hoping to go down to Denali in the morning.  TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #100 on: July 01, 2014, 11:39:06 AM »
June 29, 2014 – Day 40
Happy Birthday to my oldest, Ryan!  Hope you had a great day in Portland. 
Got up early so we could head down to Denali.  We would like to give Megan a good chance of seeing Mt McKinley. From Fairbanks we saw what we think was the mountain but then clouds moved over it.  Didn’t see it when we got to the park. Mostly clear blue sky with just a few white clouds.  It is about 120 miles from Fairbanks.  Left the campground around 9 AM.  Nice drive down, a few stretches of road construction, and yes they were working today.  Saw a moose ran across the road right by the town of Nenana, just as a car was passing another car.  Thank goodness everyone was safe.  Just a few small towns on the way down.  Reached Denali National park around 11 AM.  Stopped in the Visitor Center, looked at the exhibits and watch a video.  I have to tell this story.  One of the exhibits was explaining about mosquitoes. There was an enlarged replica of a male and female mosquito. It explained the female is the one that bites to get protein for the eggs.  Now you need to understand this replica was about a foot long. We turned to look at another exhibit and I hear behind us “I never knew that mosquitos could get that big, I know everything is bigger here in Alaska but I don’t want to run into any of those”.  I thought I was going to die laughing.  I could see messing with a youngster but this was a grown man in maybe his 40’s.  That is a gene pool that shouldn’t reproduce.
Had some lunch and went out to Savage River which is the farthest a private vehicle can drive on the Denali road.  When we go in to camp we will have to leave the Trail Blazer at the entrance and only drive in WeBe to the campground and use the park’s transportation.  We saw a park bus pull off the road a short distance ahead of us.  Then the car in front of us was stopped and the driver was pointing out his window down in a river bottom with a lots of vegetation.  Where we spotted a big grizzly running and then pounced on something.  He was far enough away we couldn’t see what he had.  Watch him for a while and finished driving to Savage River.  Stretched our legs on the Savage River Trail. We saw some beautiful flowers and the trees were just starting to leaf out.  I was thinking about the sounds of a river as we walked by. The gurgling, the rushing sound as it goes faster. And as you got used to hearing these sounds the trail would move about 15 feet away from the river and how quickly it got quiet. Then just turn back towards the water and walk a few feet and the rushing of the water was back.  It entertained me for a while.  We crossed paths with a young family hiking the trail.  The dad was leading, a little girl of maybe 6 yo, then a boy about 9 yo followed by mom with a 3-4 yo on her shoulders. Jim commented that she got the tough part and her comment back was “just the whining”.  Megan encouraged us to turn around and have look at them walking away and all you could see was the little one’s bare bum hanging out for all to see.  They were all totally unaware of the full moon arising.  Finished walking the trail and on the way to the car spoke with a ranger who said that a sow with twin cubs took down a moose calf this morning in the same area we had just seen the grizzly.  We started to think that maybe we shouldn’t be wandering in an area with grizzly’s less than a mile away.  Jumped back in the car and headed back towards the Visitor Center.  Cars parked along the same stretch we were stopped at before.  The grizzly was closer and still walking towards us, this was one big bear.  Watched with others and a ranger before the bear turned and walked into the river gravel bed.  Now it was time to head back to Fairbanks with one little stop in the tourist trap outside the park, I had spied a popcorn shop on the way in and I thought that would make the trip home more pleasant.  While locating the popcorn shop I saw a quilt store.  Jim went to the popcorn shop (which was closed on Sunday’s, dang it) and I went to the quilt shop.  Small place but I could do some damage in that place.  We will stop when we come down to camp.  My mind was reeling with a couple of ideas.  I love when the juices flow and the creativity comes out.    Let’s see if the quilt actually happens.  Usually the drive home goes faster than the drive going, but not today.  It seemed like it took forever to get back.  Saw 3 more moose on the way home and a team of dogs pulling a sled on wheels.  Had dinner and took a walk in the campground, watch floating debris go down the river. The cottonwood trees are letting their pollen fly, it is snowing in June in Alaska.  It’s been a long day and time to turn it.  TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #101 on: July 01, 2014, 01:40:06 PM »
A couple of pics from inside Denali.  There is a bear picture and if you know how to enlarge the pic you should notice he has something under his paws. 
And the moon arising.

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #102 on: July 01, 2014, 01:42:12 PM »
June 30, 2014 – Day 41
Partly cloudy skies, let’s see what today brings.  Our first stop was to the North Pole.  Cute little gift shop and usually a visit with Santa, but he was off today.  So I sat on Jim’s lap and told him everything I wanted.  Checked out the reindeer that like to hang around, took a few pics and headed back into town.  North Pole was originally a small town about 15 miles from Fairbanks.  The hope was a toy company would settle there and the packaging would say it was made at the North Pole.  No such luck, but they are a cheery sort of folks.  Candy canes are the street lights and candies might be a mailbox decoration and they have an Elf Den Café.  About 2,200 people call the North Pole home.
Back to WeBe for some lunch before we make our way to the Riverboat Discovery III.  This will be the afternoon entertainment.  This is a large sternwheeler, which can hold up to 900 passengers, today there was maybe 400-500 people on board.  Your trip takes you along the Chena River, we got to see a bush pilot take off and land very quickly on the water, and we went by Susan Butchers dog kennel.  She won the Iditarod 4 times before she died of leukemia in 2006.  Her husband is still training dogs but I don’t think he races any more.  He spoke with the passengers and demonstrated how much the dogs like to run and pull.  He had dogs harnessed up to an ATV with the motor removed and he got on and the dogs took off. There is a lot of work to do with the dogs to have them ready for a race.  He does have several handlers to help him. We continued down the river past some beautiful log homes and so not so   want on the actual house.  Paddled past The Pump House, the restaurant we are planning on eating at tonight. And on to an Athabasca village.  There were 4 different areas you could go and listen to a native speak about animal clothing, farming, fish wheels and fish camp and living off the land.  Very interesting and these young people giving the talks are all attending the University here in Fairbanks and getting degrees in nursing and business.  They want to still have the culture they grew up in and live in a worldwide culture too.
Went to dinner at the Pump House, Megan enjoyed her King Crab legs, Jim had salmon and I had a seafood risotto.  We were all happy campers.  Back home we played another couple of games of Snarf, I didn’t totally lose but I didn’t win either.  Oh well, no more Snarf till we are home again.  When we finished Jim went to check the river and then headed back to fish for a while.  He caught 3 grayling.
So off to bed, Megan leaves in the afternoon tomorrow. TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #103 on: July 02, 2014, 12:54:40 AM »
July 1, 2014 – Day 42

What can I say, we went to bed with rain on the roof and it is still raining.  At one point today we saw someone pumping out the parking lot that was flooded. Jim was worried about our surge protector sitting so low to the ground out at the electrical box that he disconnected it and we will take our chances tonight that the campground doesn’t have a major power surge and we blow the electrical system in the coach.  Either way we could be toast, but I don’t want to find out how the emergency window works in my PJ’s.  I might scare a few people.  Locations that are in a drought should hire us because we always bring rain.  We even did it last February in Los Angeles.
Lazy day today.  Megan is going back to Denver and we rearranged suitcases and she left a few things with us to bring back.  Her flight was on time and as I write this she should be making her final descent into DIA.  We hope she had a good time with us.  We really enjoyed her company and that we could share our love of traveling with her.  We wish that Scott, Elizabeth, Mason, Chantal and Ryan could have joined us too.  I actually dropped Megan off at an airport and didn’t cry, but then she isn’t going to live 10,000 miles away again.  After the airport we hit the local Walmart for Tide and other boring stuff.  We went to Northern Threads a quilt and knitting store here in Fairbanks.  Nice place but not much was speaking to me today but I didn’t leave empty handed.  We tried to find another quilt shop but we ended up making a big circle of Fairbanks but never finding it.   Stopped at the grocery store for a few things and back to WeBe.  We had a phone message from Scott to give him a call.  We hoped all was well at home.  He wanted to let me know that I had been summoned for US District Court Jury Duty to be available for the month of August.  We discussed the particulars and if I couldn’t figure out how to fill out the request to be dismissed for a hardship case, he would fax up the form.  I think I was successful in completing the online survey and request to be dismissed.  I offered to fulfill my obligation after we return home.  Watch them change the dates to be the same as when the Holman’s from Australia are here in the US for a visit.
  After dinner we decided to do a load of laundry so we wouldn’t have to do any while we are at state/national park campsites over the next 10 days.  Bill and Robin, who we met at the dog mushers and are in the same campground, stopped by to tell us about their trip up to Barrow, AK.  We are doing this trip tomorrow.  They really enjoyed it and I won’t tell you a thing so you will come back tomorrow night to read what we experienced.  Well, we chatted about everything and before you knew it was 9:30 and too late to do laundry.  Laundry will have to wait until tomorrow night.  Jim is still trying to dry out his rain jacket from switching up the electrical.  Hope it dries before morning.  I think I might just have to start my new book by Janet Evanovich- Top Secret Twenty-One.  And yes sissy’s you can have it when I am done. TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #104 on: July 04, 2014, 12:37:28 PM »
July 2, 2014 – Day 43
Where do I begin!  Woke several times throughout the night to steady, sometimes heavy rain.  I don’t where all the moisture is coming from.  Not sure if Northern Alaska Tours will cancel our trip to Barrow.  We are to meet them at the campground office at 6:45 AM.  This is unheard of for us.
Up way too early, no call from the tour company so far, up we go to the campground office in the pouring rain, luckily we stood outside for less than a minute and our ride had arrived.  About a 10 minute drive to the tour’s office at the small aircraft side of the airport.  Office folks were nice, gave us a flier of what to expect for the day.  Met our fellow travelers, 2 couples from Madrid, Spain.  Very nice.  Todd was our pilot, he was very good.  The tour called for a stop in Coldfoot to refuel the plane and pick up box lunches (about 1.25 hr flight).  Todd kept telling us the weather was great in Barrow, balmy 40 degrees, steady wind and partly to mostly cloudy, which adds to Barrow’s high rate of suicide and alcoholism.  You are very limited to the liquor you can buy there.  It is very expensive, about $100 for a bottle of wine and expensive to buy a drink at a restaurant.  Flight was pretty smooth considering the clouds and rain, we were in a 10 passenger piper twin engine.  Coldfoot was too socked in for us to land, so we headed for Bettles.  Bettles is only accessible by plane or dog sled.  This was great, I had always wanted to find a way to get there.  The National Parks headquarters for the Gates of the Artic National Park and Preserves was there and just a minute or two walk across the gravel runway and in I was.  Got my stamp (YEAH!!!!), checked out a couple of exhibits and walked back over to Bettles Lodge to meet Jim.  The plane was gassed and box lunches, really sack lunches, in hand and another 2 hours to Barrow.  Lots and lots of lakes, streams and trees.  From the air it looked marsh like.  Many of the lakes were still iced over but the ground was just starting to green up.  Looked for wildlife but so far only Minnie, the blonde lab at Bettles Lodge.
Landed in Barrow after munching part of our lunches as we flew.  We were met by Christina of Tundra Tours.  Made a quick bathroom stop at the Top of The World Hotel, the only one in Barrow.
We did it, we are On Top Of the World. 
The tour included stops at the Inupiat Heritage Center- this is a location with a small museum to help preserve the Inupiat history for younger generations. The Inupiat people believe that you use what you catch and you use it all. Nothing is wasted.  During whaling season in the Spring and Fall, the men go out on the ice flow to spear the whales.  There is a limited amount of strikes that each village can have (so if you throw the harpoon and miss, you have used up one strike), for all the whales.  When a whale is killed the captain of the boat puts up his flag and villagers come out to help bring the whale in.  Only the men can do this part and the women are there to help clean and cook at the captain’s house because he will host the celebration.  Anyone who helps with the butchering of the whale will get a portion.  The whale meat is kept in an Ice House which is dug down about 15 feet in to the ground.  Some meat has to be saved for Christmas, Thanksgiving and the celebration.  In the Center there was also a craft room where several men were working on jewelry, scrimshaw on baleen and hand carved knifes.  Jim loves scrimshaw so he picked up a couple.  Whale bones all over town and these are not small.  We stopped at a site with white fences around an area with white crosses, we were told in the old days when someone died they left them where they died and so the fences were erected to mark the place of death.  We saw several of these.  Now they are buried in a Christian cemetery, but we didn’t see one of those.  The population is about 4,000 people, homes are built on pilings because of permafrost (which is ground that stays frozen for at least 2 years).  Christina told us she didn’t have running water until she was in the 3rd grade.  They use to take baths in their old wringer washer. Lots of ATV’s, snow machines and broken down cars and trucks.  She said that several barges come in during the spring with supplies.  Everything has to be shipped or flown in. 
There were a number of old Army huts.  The Army wanted to dismantle them when they moved out of Barrows but were asked to leave them.  They currently house the Community College.
No tour of Barrow is complete without putting your toe in the Arctic Ocean and we weren’t going to challenge the tour books so we took off our shoe and sock and dipped our toes in.  And BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR it was cold!!!!  There really isn’t a beach per se, lots of gravel.  The ice starts about 15 feet away from shore and it doesn’t melt much, just moves around.  In the spot we stopped at Christina told us that on Monday, today is Wednesday, there was a polar bear around, so she told us to be on the lookout.  But no polar bear, dang it.  She also showed us this mound of land and that it was the landfill when she was growing up.  The story goes that she and her cousin went to the landfill with a tool box and her cousin came out with a 4 wheeler. Waste nothing.  She also showed us an area with several smaller mounds and told us this was the original location of the town and this was the remains of sod homes maybe 400-500 years ago.
We finished our tour back at the airport. Everyone buckled in and ready to head out and the control tower tells us to look over towards these buildings and what looked to be a pile of snow was really a snowy owl.  Pretty cool.  Todd takes off and shortly after we left he requested from the tower to fly lower than normal and we found out why.  There was a herd of caribou down below.  He flew the plane at about 700 feet and circled around to make sure we all saw them.  The rest of the flight was uneventful.  But what a great day.  I am so glad we spent the money and went.  When we got back to Fairbanks the rain had finally stopped.  But we did here a few sprinkles later.
So within a 3 month period we have been to the furthest north of the US (Barrow) and the furthest south (Key West).  Not bad for checking things off the bucket list.  TTFN
Pics -Barrow whale bones, the instrument panel in plane when we flew over the Arctic Circle and putting our fingers in the Arctic Ocean

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #105 on: July 04, 2014, 12:38:32 PM »
July 3, 2014 – Day 44
Checking out of the campground today and heading up the ridge to our B & B for the next few nights. We didn’t even have breakfast till 10 AM.  We were really lazy.
13 years ago when we were here we stayed at the Aurora Express B & B. It sits above Fairbanks on the Chena Ridge overlooking the confluence of the Chena and Tenana Rivers.  This B & B is restored Alaskan Railroad cars.  We stayed in the caboose, the Golden Nellie. 
Cleaned up WeBe since we would be at the B & B. Arrived and we were met by Susan Wilson, the owner, with a big hug.  She had us come down to the Dining Car for tea and some delicious blueberry cake.  We chatted for the longest time, we felt like family. Decided to check out the University of Alaska at Fairbanks Museum.  It did not disappoint us.  I actually went into over load, too much information for this poor brain to absorb.  Back to the golden Nellie, sat and looked out at our view and marveled at how lucky we are.  Chinese food sounded good and were told the best place around was in the North Pole, go figure.  So we drove the 15 miles to the North Pole and had wonderful Chinese.  Now I am trying to catch up on my blogging.  Still need to upload and resize photos to share.  Need to get to bed early, this B&B serves breakfast at 8AM and I hate to miss a meal.
TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #106 on: July 04, 2014, 01:02:55 PM »
Pictures are of a distance marker in Barrow
ice flow where we dipped our toes in the Arctic Ocean
marshy looking land we flew over
the "haul road" or the Dalton Highway- gravel road up to Prudhoe Bay and above the road is the Alaskan Pipeline

ArdraF

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #107 on: July 04, 2014, 04:05:35 PM »
Thanks for including the Haul Road photo.  I've watched Ice Road Truckers ever since it started.  Those drivers have guts!  I cannot comprehend driving a heavy truck ON the Arctic Ocean!

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #108 on: July 06, 2014, 01:42:23 AM »
July 4, 2014 – Day-45

Happy 4th of July to everyone.  Woke up to beautiful blue skies and after a wonderful breakfast here at the Aurora Express we headed to the North Pole for their parade.  We got a spot with a rock to sit on and we were not sure where on the parade route we were.  Shortly after 11 AM the Police car with lights and sirens came down the street to signal the parade was to begin, it seemed we were about the middle of the route.  The Grand Marshall was a soldier from Eielson Air Force Base, then came Mr. and Mrs. Claus, they were in an antique car.  There were several political candidates in the parade, jump roping group, Girl Scouts, Rainbow girls and a few others. All in all it was a typical small town parade, cute and fun.  We went back into Fairbanks to Pioneer Park. Various old cabins brought from varying parts of Fairbanks, a huge playground, different venues for bands, and air museum. The park also has an old paddle wheeler, Nanana.  On the main floor were dioramas of Alaskan villages.  We over heard an elder woman ask a child, we assume was her grandchild, if they wanted to see where granny lives and do you want to see Ruby.  That diorama was real to that woman, it was where she lived, you don’t hear those things in Denver.  Because it was the 4th we had a hot dog for lunch and later in the day we had a shaved ice. The temperatures continued to climb and we started to wilt, so back to the B&B for a quick power nap. Woke up refreshed and read for a little bit.  Looking for Mt McKinley from the cupola of the caboose, there she was even from a distance it was grand. Heated up our left over Chinese for dinner.  Drove down to the University and took a nice walk, really hot after that and went to Hot Liks for an ice cream and back to take a shower and finish my book.  Since the sun was supposed to set around 12:30 AM the town chooses not to have a firework display.  They wait for New Years.  We did hear some people shooting off some things but not enough to keep us up.  It did seem strange to not watch fireworks, maybe we come back for New Years.
TTFN
We are going to have very limited internet for the next 10 days, I hope you all can wait for the next big story.

zigmarie33

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #109 on: July 06, 2014, 12:57:49 PM »
Hey Mick   what was the dark spot in the second picture? A person, boat?  Have fun and hope the sun stays out.
Love you

ArdraF

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #110 on: July 06, 2014, 02:31:49 PM »
Quote
Looking for Mt McKinley from the cupola of the caboose, there she was even from a distance it was grand

You were very lucky to see that majestic mountain.  We've talked with people who had been there for weeks and never once saw it.  We also were lucky on both visits to the area.  I found myself constantly looking in that direction to make sure it was still visible!

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

bhamlyn

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #111 on: July 06, 2014, 07:24:56 PM »
I am really enjoying this...I don't want to wait 10 days...you spoiled us :-)  I must say, your writing style are very good.  I live in Arizona,  we are hot and humid with thunderstorms but I got so cold after reading about all that rain I had to go fix myself some hot tea and a muffin.  Thanks for posting!!!

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #112 on: July 09, 2014, 01:01:02 PM »
July 5, 2014 – Day-46
Wake up to breakfast of apple French toast, yum.  Our last full day in Fairbanks, we decided to go to Gold Dredge 8.  The tour was to begin at 10:30 AM and our host Susan said to allow 40 mins to get there.  So we started out not really knowing where to go but figured it out. We went the back way and it was a very pretty drive up the Old Steese Highway.  We pulled into the parking lot with mostly Princess and Holland American tour buses.  We were going to be tourist for the next couple of hours.  The tour began next to the Trans Alaskan Pipe Line that is 800 miles long and traverses Alaska from Prudhoe Bay in the north to Valdez in the south.  The pipe is 48 inches in diameter with 12 pumping stations along the route.  Weekly a section of pipe gets cleaned with a smart pig and a dumb pig.  The dumb pig goes along and scrapes the walls of the pipe and gets the buildup off, a lot like a scraper used in a kitchen.  Then the smart pig goes through to scan the pipe for any structural defects.   Some sections of the pipeline are above ground and some areas are below ground.  From where we were standing we could reach up and touch the pipeline.  Pretty cool to think about it.
We then moseyed down to the replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad for a ride through the gold field and learned about mining techniques.  The Fairbanks Exploration Company knew from talk that the previous miners didn’t do a very good job of mining the valley, so they bought up the 36,000 acres.  They then went in with drills which took core samples down to the bedrock.  After taking thousands of samples they knew where to put the dredge. They knew where the riches paydirt was. They dug the Davidson ditch to carry water down, stripped the over burden (dirt, rock and gravel that laid over the pay dirt) using high pressure water cannons. The dredge was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company in San Francisco and taken apart then shipped up to Fairbanks and then by train to the Goldstream Valley (this is what they called the valley), and reassembled.  Next they dug a hole, used the water from the Davidson ditch to flood the hole and float the dredge.  The dredge had a big arm on the front with big buckets (weighing 1,500 lbs each) that scooped up the dirt, pulled it into the dredge where the dirt was sifted to separate the dirt from the gold.  All the unwanted rock and dirt was dumped out the back of the dredge to fill in the pond.  During the lifetime of the dredge (30 Years) it only moved 4.5 miles and recovered, at today’s prices $1300 an ounce, 2 million ounces of gold worth 2.6 billion dollars.  They also panned for gold.  We each were given a poke (bag of dirt) and taught how to pan.  Gold is heavier than the dirt, so remove the big rocks, add water and start swirling around, slowly letting the dirt wash out with water.  I wasn’t doing so well and one of the employee gold panners helped me.  I had some flecks of gold there in the bottom of my pan. They conveniently had an area to have your gold weighed and made into jewelry.  Our combine total was about $30 and we made it into a charm for my bracelet.  We toured the dredge which was pretty cool.  6 men worked the dredge that weighed about 1,000 tons and was bigger than your typical McDonald’s.  Rode the train back to the entrance and tried to beat the bus traffic back to Fairbanks.  Went to the grocery store to gather provisions for the next few days in Denali. Finished the night with a good glass of wine with Mike and Susan, the owners of Aurora Express, cheese and crackers and beautiful views of the Chena River.  A great way to say goodbye to Fairbanks.
TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #113 on: July 09, 2014, 01:02:32 PM »
July 6, 2014 – Day-47
On to Denali.  We are loaded up, especially after our breakfast of reindeer sausage, potato’s and peach croissants, extra yummy.  I did get the recipes from Susan. Said our goodbyes and headed south on the Parks Highway.  The road construction we hit a week ago with Megan was non-existent because of the holiday weekend, plus they had finished paving several areas, yeah.  Ride down was boring, only 1 moose, but we did have 4 idiots in motorhomes.  There were 4 rigs together, driving 40 in a 65 zone.  They drove very close together making passing very difficult.  Their gift to those passing was to pull partially on the shoulder.  Other cars and trucks were trying to pass all 4 at a time even passing with a solid yellow line. Extremely frustrating.  This went on for 10+ miles before they finally pulled off and we could pass.  Into to Denali to empty and then fill tanks. 
Checked in at Camper Registration and encouraged to stop at the Visitor Center to get our new Annual Parks Pass.  So over to the Visitor Center we go but to be told we don’t need to get the annual pass because Jim is considered a senior citizen, he already had the Interagency Senior Pass (which can save you 50% on federal camping fees).  So we were legal.  The first 13 miles of the Park Road is open to all vehicles, after that you are on a shuttle bus, tour bus or using your vehicle to get to a campground further in.  We had to leave the blazer in the long term parking and could only bring in WeBe.  Savage River Station is where you have to get the Ranger okay to go further.  We got the green light so on we go to mile 29.1 to Teklanika Campground.  We were told to find any open campsite, we chose #37.  Set up camp and set in to enjoy the park.  The sun is shining but some clouds are building and it is hot today. Campground is heavily forested but none of the trees are real tall.  Get out on the flats of the river and you can see lots of mountains, some with of snow.  We did see McKinley from Fairbanks but the closer we got more clouds covered it. Still better than I have seen before.
Relaxed for a bit and then took a walk around the campground and onto the flats of the Teklanika River.  It is a pretty shallow river and glacier fed, so lots of silt.  Probably not too fishable.  Jim says there is very little fishing in the park.  Back to WeBe and made dinner, think we will go to the 7:30 PM ranger talk about scat.  Ranger Emily did a very interactive and education program, mostly talking about how the researchers and rangers can gather information about the animals from their scat, what they been eating or if they are stressed. She mostly spoke about moose, wolf and bear scat (Poo) tonight.  The kids love this type of program. Depending on the shape, size and content you can tell the animal and  usually the time of year the scat was deposited.   I can hardly wait for tomorrow night’s program.  Well I need to get my things together for our early morning shuttle bus to Wonder Lake.
TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #114 on: July 09, 2014, 01:06:34 PM »
July 7, 2014 – Day 48
Had to set the alarm this morning.  We had to be out at the park road by shortly after 8 AM for our shuttle to Wonder Lake.  Chatted with folks at the bus stop, you could feel some excitement growing.  Denali is a place that holds magic for those who look. Mostly cloudy and windy as we waited.  Our bus was running late, we later learned it had stopped for a couple of moose before arriving at our stop.  Several of us boarded at Teklanika Campground.  Our ride today should be about 8-9 hours.  Saw a few Dall sheep before we entered Polycrom Pass.  They were up high enough that our cameras couldn’t get a good shot. Lots of vegetation, mostly low shrubs but some pine trees. Because of the short growing season it takes a really long time for trees to grow. Polycrom Pass is some of the most colorful area in the park.  It cuts across the mountain slopes high above the river with greens, gold’s, rust, grays and brown. The Toklat River runs down below.  Alaska Range with lots of peaks with snow off to the south. My guess is we will not see McKinley today.   Made a quick stop at the Toklat Visitor Center, enough for a stop at the restrooms, snap a few pictures with caribou or moose antlers and to get 1 of 6 passport stamps you can get in the park.  Saw 4 grizzly bears, golden color on top with a dark brown in their legs and belly. Beautiful vista’s of the mountain range and a sneak peak of either the north or south peak of McKinley. Came into some heavy fog as we approached the Eielson Visitor Center at mile marker 66. Looked at the exhibits, watched the video, no views of anything but fog.  Back on the bus, saw 3 moose, 2 cows and a big bull.  I am not sure how they carry those antlers on their heads.  Saw a couple of herds of caribou.  We made a stop for what one person said was a lone caribou but then someone else thought it was a wolf.  I think you should be able to tell the difference.  Jim wasn’t sure what he saw and I didn’t see anything. Munched on our lunches that we had made before we left. There was a rumor going around the bus that Wonder Lake had clear skies.  Don’t know where that came from.  We did have some lifting of the fog and began to see the terrain better.  Wonder Lake is mile marker 84.4.  Beautiful area, green hills, lots of vegetation around the lake.  It is 4 miles long and up to 300 feet deep in spots, some grayling and lake trout, but tons of mosquito’s.  We had plenty of our Alaskan all natural insect repellant, it works pretty well, no bug nets. We had some time so we wander a bit, but at one point we noticed there weren’t any buses in site.  It made our hearts race some because our driver was a little quick to leave a stop, if he said it was a 10 minute stop, he left at 9 minutes and 30 seconds.  Made a few stops tough when you are at the back of the bus like we were.  The skies had gone to partly cloudy by this time. 
Now for the ride back. It was fun to watch all the heads sagging and bobbing.   I could have used a nap but I was reaching the point of no return, if I slept now, I wouldn’t tonight.  Watched the scenery go by, it is easy to do.  Our bus driver not as talkative on the way back.  All told, I think we had a good day animal watching: 4 grizzly’s, 3 moose, herds of caribou, maybe a wolf, fox, geese, ducks, golden eagle, pika and a ptarmigan.  And we saw part of Mt McKinley. Shortly after 5 PM we are back at our campsite. Had some dinner, a bike ride up the park road a ways and to the ranger talk about the monsters of the Denali Rivers, a talk about fishing (Jim was happy).
What a great day, I shall finish it off with a glass of wine.
TTFN
   

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #115 on: July 09, 2014, 01:07:56 PM »
July 8, 2014 – Day 49
What a lazy start to the day.  It was close to 9 AM when we pulled ourselves out of bed. Cloudy skies this morning.  Had a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast.  We had an option to ride the shuttle buses today but decided we needed a do nothing day.  Went for a nice walk on the gravel bar next to the river.  Didn’t see any critters but we did see some footprints, we think it was a moose.  Read for a bit and just enjoyed the quietness in the campground.  Pop some popcorn this afternoon and enjoyed it sitting at the picnic table, a few people still in the campground during the day.  We played a great game of dominoes and decided to keep score (which we never do) and I won.  It seems to make a difference when you are keeping score.  Made a great dinner of Plaza Steak Soup.  It was good after the afternoon rain cooled things off. Walked over to the amphitheater for the ranger talk tonight.  It was about animal life in the park.  She was very interested in cognitive ability of animals.  She told some really good stories.  One was about a bear in a park on the east coast that not only figured out how to open a bear proof contain with her tooth and twisting her head.  But when they added a second place to press down and twist on a container, the same bear, who was tagged, figured that out also.  It was very interesting it was also very buggy tonight and just at the end of the talk, the rain came.  Good thing we had taken our rain jackets. On our way back to WeBe we saw a rainbow. Now it is time to get everything ready to move out tomorrow morning.  But we aren’t going far so it should be easy.
TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #116 on: July 10, 2014, 11:34:47 AM »
July 9, 2014 – Day 50
Hard to believe we have been gone for 50 days.  We tried to go back and name stops and things we did there.  So much seemed so exciting and then we do something else equally exciting.  Well, today was not terribly exciting.  We did have a great picture of Mt McKinley as we were exiting the park.  No animal sighting except for stopping for a family of ptarmigan.  The little ones crossed the road and then had to come back again, all fluffy.  Jim headed to the dump station to empty tanks and then refill fresh water for our next stop at Byers Lake Campground.  I went into the tourist trap right outside the park to pick up some fabric I had seen early.  Hadn’t found the same quilt fabric in Fairbanks so had to pay the price here, but I think it will be a really cool quilt when it is done.  The drive down to Byers Lake in Denali State Park was uneventful.  Cantwell the only real town and that was being generous. Roads were go for the 124 miles only a few frost heaves.  But once we left the park the clouds came in and it was difficult to see the Alaskan Range while driving.  We are in Site B-9.  This is an Alaskan State Park so no hookups and the water is a pump only.  Good thing Jim filled up in Denali National Park and Preserve.  Had some lunch and took a power nap.  Got up and went to check out a couple of streams for Jim to fish.  Visited the Alaskan Veteran Memorial right at the entrance to the Denali State Park, it is nicely done and reminded me to thank our men in uniform. Checked out the lake, it has a nice trail that we would like to try. Had dinner and tried to plot some possible travel plans later in the trip.  Went for a walk in the campground and when we went the next loop we saw a 5th wheel, the truck had 2 orange kayaks, did it have Georgia plates?  Yes it did, that had to Hap and Rita.  We first met them at the campground in Lake Louise and then again at Liard River Hot Springs.  Jim called out and we set in for a long conversation.  It was good catching up, they had gone south out of Tok and we had gone north.  We trade some interesting things to do and places to stay.  Their dinner was ready and we need to finish our walk but not before we decided to have dinner tomorrow night. Then the gentle rain started. We can catch up more and share some pictures too.  Early to bed tonight, we are heading in to Talkeetna to take a flight seeing tour of McKinley.  I hope we survive that one.
TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #117 on: July 14, 2014, 12:22:59 PM »
July 10, 2014 – Day 51
Rained all night and still is as I write this at 9 PM.  What a gloomy day.  Usually I like a good old cool, rainy day, but I have about reached my limit.  I need sun.  Oh well, my rant is done, Mother Nature is calling the shots.  But the rain did stop us from our big trip today.  We drove to Talkeetna and we were supposed to fly with K2 Aviation to view Mt McKinley.  After driving the 60 miles we kind of knew the weather would cancel our flight and to think we go up early to have an 8:30 AM flight.  Well, we headed over to The Roadhouse to check it out as a possible laundry stop and try to wait out the rain and maybe get our flight in.  Did a couple of loads and people watched.  Finally after watching group after group eat breakfast our stomachs decided to join them.  It was kind of family style dinning, find any open seats.  I was not impressed with their food and it is hard to mess up breakfast.  Made one last stop at K2 and rescheduled for Saturday, hope the weather is better.  Went to the Talkeetna Ranger Station and watched a movie on climbing Denali.  The ranger had a live feed on Lake Clark National Park where the bears were standing in the falls trying to catch salmon.  That was impressive. Back 60 miles to WeBe, took a power nap.  Jim walked over to Hap and Rita’s to finalize dinner tonight.  We are on for 6 PM.  Made some sugar cookies for desert.  Jim did the taste test and approved.  We made chicken and rice to take over with a bottle of wine.  Fun time, they had gone south in Alaska while we went north, so good getting the scoop from them and giving them some ideas on Fairbanks.  Sadly we had to say goodnight, we had to get up at 4:30 AM for our drive to Denali.
TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #118 on: July 14, 2014, 12:25:20 PM »
July 11, 2014 – Day 52
Rained all night but stopped about the time we had to get up at 4:30 AM.  We are taking the Kantishna Experience Tour offered by the Park Service.  This is a 12 hour tour to the end of the road of the park.  Only a few buses are allowed to go back there.  Some of it is private land.  Originally Mount McKinley National Park was only 2.2 million acres back in 1917.  Kantishna was a mining town to start but really didn’t pan out.  In 1980 the park added another 4 million acres, changed the name to Denali National Park, which did include Kantishna.  Since some of it was already privately owned, there were a few court battles. The land owners can keep the land but the park service has access to it.  The land owners, now lodges, are allowed to drive a limited number of buses back there daily.  The end of the road is mile 92.5.  It is a dusty, bumpy ride back.  Mostly cloudy, windy to start the day, a few rain showers off and on, but the sun did come out later in the day and finished the day with mostly cloudy skies.  We did get pretty good glimpses of the south and north peaks of Mt McKinley, but not the whole mountain and not at the same time. We saw a total of 7 bears, one was a sow with twins, 3 moose (a cow with twins), ptarmigan,  caribous herds, lots of mosquitoes, but no wolf, dang it.  Jim was really hoping to see a wolf.  When Eric, our driver and the bus arrived there were bags with water, orange juice, cookies, Nutrigrain bars, chips and a piece of fruit.  These were part of our lunch and snacks, there was a cooler with turkey and ham wraps in the back of the bus that we dug into when we left Kantishna.  There were stops along the way at Teklanika, Toklat, Eielson, and finally Kantishna where we picked up Ranger Kate.  She spent 2 hours with us, relating history of the mining, stories of those that tried other pursuits, like farming fox. And most importantly about Fannie Quiggley. 
Fannie came to the US from Bohemia and learned her English working in railroad camps as she worked her way across America.  You can guess it wasn’t the best English.  Made her way to Alaska in about 1905, met Joe Quiggley and married.  Joe was a miner and so they heard about Kantishna and decided to try.  They ended up with several mines.  Joe worked the mines and Fannie kept the house, which included hunting for food.  She became a pretty good cook and when miners came through she made some extra money cooking meals for them.  Her blueberry pie was supposed to be really good. Joe brought in supplies once a year on dog sled.  She figured out how to grow vegetables on the hillside and stored in a tunnel that Joe had dug.  She also used the permafrost to her advantage, after she made her pies (mostly blueberry), she would freeze them in the permafrost until company came, and she would thaw and bake and really impress the company. In the late 1930’s Joe was severely injured in a mining accident, eventually moved to Seattle to rehab, fell in love with another woman, sold the mines, split the money and left Fannie.  Fannie stayed on in Kantishna until her own death in 1944.  Her cabin was there for us to tour as it was the day of her death.  She had willed her property to the National Parks.
We dropped off Ranger Kate and slowly made her our way back to the entrance of the park.  Our longest stop was at the Eielson Visitor Center.  It has been rebuilt since our visit in 2001.  Beautifully done into the hillside.  If only McKinley would have cooperated.  Too cloudy. Lots of people on the bus were snoozing but Jim and I were still on high alert for animal life.  One of the bears we saw was walking down the road and walked right past our side of the bus.  Held my phone and videotaped it as best I could while watching through the window.  Didn’t turn out too bad. Long dusty drive back.  Arrived at the entrance about 7:30 PM almost exactly 12 hours after we left.  Went into town and had a burger, then the 90 miles back to WeBe.  You know that bone weary, almost shaky feeling, we had that.
Washed a little grit and dirt off and time to fall into bed. TTFN

jmfreas5

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Re: Our Grand Alasakan Adventure
« Reply #119 on: July 14, 2014, 12:51:26 PM »
July 12, 2014 – Day 53
Able to sleep in today, we really needed it after yesterday.  Cloudy with rain but ended before we had breakfast. We are going to head to Talkeetna again to see if we can get our flight in.  60 mile drive and the skies have gone to partly cloudy.  We discussed on the way down what we would do if K2 couldn’t get us up to see McKinley.  I know that I have gone on and on about McKinley.  Living in Colorado I am use to seeing mountains, but ours start at about 5,000 feet and go to above 14,000 feet.  McKinley starts about 2,000 feet and goes to 20, 320 and still growing about ¼ inch per year.  Those that try to climb it, around 1,200 per year, only 50% make it to the summit. Your climb up will take 2-3 weeks starting at 7,000 feet.  You have a backpack weighing 40 pounds and then a sled with 60 pounds of gear and food.  Some climbers have had to wait up to 2 weeks for storms to clear before finishing their climbs.  Just think of being 5 feet tall and standing next to someone that is 6 ½ feet tall, making McKinley heads above all the other mountains surround it.  That’s what it is like to be Mount McKinley.  The north peak and south peak are separated by about 2 miles.  The south peak being about 900 feet taller than the north. Making the true summit the south peak.
So we get to K2 and they can’t get us up to see the mountain, only a lower elevation trip to see glaciers.  The mountain is too overcast.  Good thing we discussed this happening and our decision was to not go.  If we can’t see the mountain then we would wait for another day.  We still have some days the first of August with nothing scheduled, maybe a trip back up here then.  Sadly we headed for WeBe, Jim can get some fishing in.  Still mostly cloudy but no rain on the way back.  Jim gathers his gear and is going to fish The Troublesome Creek area.  I took a power nap and set up my sewing machine to work on a quilt.  Started the generator since we didn’t have any shore power.  Made some good progress when Jim comes running in the motorhome yelling at me to get camera’s and hurry “the mountain is out”.  I about killed myself trying to get shoes on and out the door.  On his way back from fishing he stopped at the rest area/Veteran’s Memorial just outside our campground to see if the mountain was out.  Well yes it was.  A couple of minutes later we are standing there, sun shining on the whole mountain with just a little cloud over the south peak summit.  There were light clouds but she was glorious.  We snapped about a gazillion pictures, we will bore you with those later, and spoke with a couple from Vermont who had been standing there for over 90 minutes just watching.  As the sun shone on some parts, others were in the shadows, deep glaciers were shining.  We are in awe.  This is an honor to see, most people never get a chance like this.  McKinley only partly visible 1 out of every 3 days.  I have waited a long time to see this.  Don’t be surprised if this is our picture for our Christmas card.
Back to have some dinner after watching the mountain for about 45 minutes.  Dinners done, dishes cleaned and we decided to take one last look.  The skies are almost totally overcast but what the heck, it is only 8:15 PM.  Believe it or not, McKinley is still visible and the cloud over the south summit is gone.  But the sun is mostly behind the clouds and behind the mountain.  She is pretty much shrouded in shadows.  Looking through the binoculars you could see the snow flying over the north peak and just a small thin cloud right above the south peak. Nothing else to say, it turned out to be a fantastic day.
TTFN

 

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