Friday, July 31

1st Day in Denali

Today we were out and about in Denali for a little over nine hours, managed to hike/walk 6+ miles, took a guided ranger hike, attended a talk on the eagles of Denali, visited the sled dog kennel, tried out the shuttle system and saw both moose and caribou. It was a very full day.

A red squirrel had this mushroom drying before storing it away

 

At the sled dog kennel. All these dogs are Alaskan Huskies even though they may look quite different. They are K9 Rangers and are work dogs (they haul everything from Rangers on patrol, to scientists and their equipment, and construction material). During the winter work season they will average 3000 miles doing their thing.

 

Just in case, I've labbled these next two pics.

Moose
Caribou

 

 

Just a pretty rock

 

Thursday, July 30

Denali National Park and Preserve

We're here! Arrived around noon, got settled in at Riley Campground and stopped by the Visitor Center and the Wilderness Access Center (most of the 6 million plus acres in this park is wilderness and you move around either by hiking, biking, or by using a shuttle bus) so we could figure out our "plan" for our stay. As is typical (for us) we don't do things the "normal" way - we will stay in all three of the park's campground that accept vehicles and two of those allow us to drive into the park (most other visitors must use the shuttle bus) so we wanted to make sure we understood the "system" before we started wandering around.

Today's weather was alternating sun and rain showers, typical for this part of Alaska. The "Tall One" (Mount McKinley) was obscured by clouds and the only wildlife we've seen is the squirrel that is sharing the campsite with us, so photo opportunities were limited. Hopefully more exciting/interesting stuff will follow over the next week.

 

Wednesday, July 29

Can I Give You A Hand

On the road to Denali we made one of our patented side trips on a dead end road - destination Talkeetna. It's a small town (pop 700) that is the starting point for almost all of the climbers who attempt to climb Mount McKinley (this year 1200 tried, 650 reached the summit) and also offers tours and activities for those that aren't into mountain climbing.

First stop - Birch ice cream with birch Carmel Sauce
The the Roadhouse for a late breakfast

Then we headed to the Talkeetna "beach" and encountered this young entrepreneur who was offering a hand to anyone that needed a little help crossing the creek. She had her tip jar out and pitch ready for the steady stream of potential customers - she was doing quite well.

 

Back on the road we stopped to get our first glimpse of McKinley. It's out there somewhere behind all the clouds - maybe we'll have better luck (and a better photo) later on in the week.

 

 

Tuesday, July 28

Shaken Not Stirred

The van did a little shaking this afternoon - earthquake! Need to wait and see what magnitude is reported but it was interesting for about 15 seconds or so. Don was out walking at the time and felt nothing - maybe the vans suspension magnifies the quakes effect?

After picking Don up at the Anchorage airport we drove a few miles to Eagle River and got settled into the campground at two in the morning - first time we've actually been up when its been dark since arriving in Alaska. This morning we hit the backroads and headed to Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains. Back in the early 1900s the area had several very productive gold mines - today it's a major recreational area managed by the state. It rained for most of the day but the views were still impressive.

Thunderbird Falls near Eagle River
Summit Lake at Hatcher Pass (3,886 feet)

 

Monday, July 27

Taking Care Of Business

I've been here in Anchorage for the last four days and have enjoyed the little break from traveling. On the mundane side I got the van serviced, did the laundry, and stocked the van with groceries - not very exciting, but necessary. But I also managed a concert, a couple of museums, a film on the Northern Lights, and found several very good restaurants.

Also had a first for the trip - a blog reader offered the use of their driveway for overnight parking, so my campground expense for the five nights in Anchorage was a whopping $15. Rick and Phyllis also had me over for dinner - thanks guys, I really enjoyed your hospitality.

While I managed to stay pretty busy, I didn't take many photos - so you're stuck with two more airplane pics. More exciting stuff soon as Don returns tonight and we are off to Denali.

 

 

Saturday, July 25

Celebration

Spent today walking around downtown Anchorage, went to the Saturday Market and then over to Delaney Park where the City was celebrating its 100th birthday. Music, food, and lots of Anchorage history on display - plus the sun was out, so everyone was having a great time.

Here are a few interesting facts about Alaska's biggest city.

 

 

 

Friday, July 24

Birds Of A Different Feather

With very few roads the airplane has always been important in Alaska. For many it's the only way they can travel - to work, to shop, to school, even for medical care and then there's all those tourists wanting to experience wild/remote Alaska. They all depend on the legendary Bush Pilot and his "bird" to get them there. A good number of these bush planes are equipped with floats that allow them to land and takeoff from the thousands of lakes and rivers in the state and on a gorgeous day today I camped out at the edge of the "runway" at Lake Hood which is the world's busiest seaplane base, handling an average of 190 flights per day. It is located on Lakes Hood and Spenard, next to Anchorage International Airport.

Typical floatplane
The ramp (parking area) nearly 1000 floatplanes are based here
The runway - notice it even has edge lights on the bank
and, of course, a windsock

 

 

Thursday, July 23

Combat Fishing

When the salmon are running it seems like everyone in Alaska wants in on the action and with prime fishing locations at a premium the competition for the good spots is referred to as "combat fishing" - things can get testy between the participants vying for the limited space. Today I stopped by one of the prime fishing spots near Anchorage, Bird Creek, to watch the action - not a lot of fish being caught, but plenty of action.

Just a portion of the participants
Same stretch of creek shortly after arrival of this Grizzly Bear

 

Another bear pic - this one a small Black Bear. Notice the coller, a local told me that it was a "nuisance bear" that was relocated from Anchorage to the wilds near Hope.

 

Guess this is a suitable time for an Alaskan bear joke. First some background info (very complicated joke) - there are two types of bear in Alaska, the Black Bear and the Brown (Grizzly) Bear. The common advice given to visitors when in bear country - make lots of noise (you don't want to surprise a bear) talking, singing and even wearing little bells are common suggestions. Also, carry Bear Spray (high powered pepper spray) in case all that noise you're making doesn't work. Now for the joke: When you're on the trail and find some bear poop how do you tell if it's a Black or Grizzly bear that is nearby? Answer: If the poop has lots of berries in it, it's a Black Bear. If the poop contains little bells and smells like pepper spray, it's a Grizzly!

 

Tuesday, July 21

Water Water

Will be leaving the Kenai Peninsula tomorrow so thought I would just post some random photos from the last ten days.

Kachemak Bay
It's Alaska, planes park at the side of the road all the time

 

A couple of bonus (no water) pics.

 

Saturday, July 18

Halibut Cove

I'm still in Homer and decided I'd take a little sea voyage - destination Halibut Cove which is across Kachemak Bay from Homer. Lucked into calm seas and sun for the short (45 minutes) trip aboard the Danny J (a 75 year old wooden vessel orriginally built for the U.S. Navy) that now serves as a ferry for residents and visitors to Ismailof island in the cove. Ismailof has fewer than 25 fulltime residents and no roads (you get around via kayak or boat) so it's the perfect place if you like peace and quiet. After arriving I hiked to the overlook above the lighthouse, visited two art galleries, had dinner at The Salty, then boarded the Danny J back to Homer. Nice way to spend the evening.