Day 83: Last night in Alaska

Day 83: Tuesday, August 6, 2013. Valdez to Tok, ALaska. Tok RV Village Site 705. 255 miles traveled.

Our last night in Alaska was spent back on the Alaska Highway in Tok, 90 miles from the Canadian border. The drive was beautiful and I am not going to bore you with pictures. As soon as we arrived at the campground we spent about an hour washing the truck and fifth wheel to try to remove a month’s worth of dirt and mud.

Our last meal in Alaska was a feast of Red King Crab legs we bought at a fish market in Valdez and cooked on the stove in our kitchen. Eaten under a tree on our picnic table it was absolutely the best meal we have had on this entire trip.

Alaska by the numbers:

Number of nights on the road                 83
Number of nights in Alaska                 50
Total miles driven so far             9,249
Number of different campgrounds so far                 37
Farthest North location traveled  Coldfoot, Alaska
Farthest West location traveled  Anchor Point, Alaska
Number of pictures taken  thousands!!

Day 77: Dall Sheep watching in Glacier View, Alaska

Day 77: Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Williwaw Campground to Glacier View, Alaska. Grand View RV Park Site 1. About 150 miles traveled.

The drive to our RV park along the Glenn Highway was scenic with no wildlife sightings. I am still constantly on the lookout for moose and bears. We passed through areas where caribou are sometimes seen but there were none to be found today.

The Grand View RV Park advertises “Dall Sheep Viewing” so we stopped there hoping to see some Dall Sheep on the mountains across from the campground. While I did laundry all afternoon we got out the binoculars and spotting scope in hopes of seeing the sheep. We weren’t disappointed. Four of the Dall Sheep (big horn sheep) were grazing high up on the mountain late in the afternoon. They were too far away for photos but they were fun to watch.

Day 57: Searching for Mt. McKinley

Day 57: Thursday, July 11, 2013 Teklanika Campground to Talkeetna, Alaska. Talkeetna Camper Park Site 34. 182 miles traveled.

The sky was still overcast as we drove the 30 miles from Teklanika to the Denali National Park exit. Our chances for a clear view of Mt. McKinley on our drive south on the Parks Highway were looking pretty slim. Mt. McKinley, at 20,320 feet tall, is the tallest mountain in North America. On a clear day there are overlooks along the highway between Denali National Park and Talkeetna where the mountain can be seen. We were keeping our fingers crossed the sky would clear.

The views were spectacular as we drove along.

Our first view of Mt. McKinley from a Parks Highway overlook
Our first view of Mt. McKinley from a Parks Highway overlook

Then finally, parts of Mt. Mckinley came into view at one of the overlooks.

Stops at a couple of other overlooks were disappointing with clouds completely covering the mountain. Finally, as we drove into Talkeetna, we were rewarded with spectacular views from the Talkeetna overlook.

Happy happy happy! We checked into our campground and watched the Alaska Railroad trains load and unload passengers right behind our campsite.

We enjoyed a great dinner on the outside patio at the West Rib Cafe and Pub which was featured on an episode of The Travel Channel’s Man vs Food. An Alaskan Crabcake sandwich for me and Halibut and Chips for Henry hit the spot.

Day 51: Denali at last

Day 51: Friday, July 5, 2013. North Pole, Alaska to Denali. Denali RV Park and Motel, Site 5. 194 miles traveled.

With all our chores and shopping in Fairbanks completed it was time to continue our Alaskan adventure. We left North Pole behind and traveled the Parks Highway to our RV park 8 miles outside the entrance of Denali National Park. Our reservations at Teklanika River Camp inside the national park aren’t until Monday so we will be exploring different areas of the park until then.

We made it!
Denali at last

As soon as we were set up in our campsite we drove to Denali National Park. A quick stop at the Visitor’s Center to get our National Park Passport stamped and to purchase my Senior Pass or Geezer Pass as it is often called. I officially became a senior when I turned 62 a couple of weeks ago. The National Park Service offers a Senior Pass to those of us who have reached that ripe old age. For $10 you receive a lifetime pass which gets you into any national park or monument for free and a discount for camping in many of the federal campgrounds.

With that chore completed, we stopped at the bookstore to search for a guide book to the plants and animals of Denali so we’ll know what we are looking at.

It was finally time to go explore the park. In Denali, private vehicles are only allowed on the first 15 miles of the Denali Park Road. To travel beyond that point everyone must travel on a shuttle or tour bus. The only exception is campers going to Teklanika River Camp where we will be going on Monday. More about that later.

As we traveled along the highway marveling at the beauty around us we had to stop a few times when a shuttle bus in front of us stopped. If the shuttle bus stops there must be something good to see.

At the 15 mile mark we stopped at the Savage River overlook to enjoy the view and then turned around to make our way back to the park entrance. We were hoping to get a glimpse of Mt. McKinley. Like most days, clouds were covering the peaks. At one of the overlooks we got out binoculars and searched along with a couple from Texas and a couple from Toronto. Henry spotted the peaks above the clouds first. As he pointed out where to look the excitement grew among the crowd. One by one we heard “I see it!”.

On our way back out of the park, we stopped again as the shuttle bus in front of us stopped. A moose was right beside the road not bothered by us at all.

Mt. McKinley and two moose on our first visit to Denali! What a great introduction to the park!

We stopped at the Wilderness Access Area to find out information about what to do when we check in on Monday. The lady helping us was from Georgia. She told us we could go ahead and check in so we did. With all the necessary parking and shuttle passes in hand we headed back to our campground.

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to make some crab stew with some of our Dungeness Crab from Haines. The weather here is windy and cold and it was a perfect night for stew. Out of this world delicious if I do say so myself.

Day 43: Going to North Pole

Day 43: Thursday, June 27, 2013. Tok, Alaska to North Pole, Alaska. Riverview RV Park Site 123. 200 miles traveled.

Despite the smoke from forest fires covering the road for much of the day, it was a good driving day on paved, mostly flat roads all day.

We had our first view of the Alaska Pipeline at the Tanana River.

A nice rest area along the shore of Birch Lake was a perfect place to stop for lunch.

Twenty-six miles south of Fairbanks the highway passes through Eielson Air Force Base. Signs posted announce no stopping and no photography. Seeing the runway beside the highway took me back to my childhood growing up as an Air Force brat.

I apologize for three posts at once. I am almost up to date!