Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Denali to Willow ~Alaska Trip Day 23

There are working sled dogs at Denali National Park. We could pet some and watched them demonstrate a pull with a buggy instead of a sled. One mama, named Annie, had a litter of 4.5 week old puppies. This is the National Park's 100th birthday so they named them party, cupcake, happy, etc.

The visitor center had interesting displays. We learned that mosquitoes are beneficial for the berries, hence for the bears. (Who knew they pollinated? My children have often asked why God created mosquitoes!) A humorous blueberry pie recipe was preserved including the killing/butchering of a bear for fat in the pie crust, picking gallons of wild fruit and the yield was humongous (3 dozen pies maybe) that were kept outside, frozen naturally, to use all winter.

Jr. Ranger badge earners
Speaking of blueberries, we found another patch as we drove south on the Parks Highway. These were more difficult to pick than those on the hillside, but we gathered a few more to sweeten our weekly pancake breakfasts.

Still no display of Mt. McKinley, so we stopped at a turnout close to a supposed nice viewing spot, walked down the 4-wheeler path to Sheep Creek, and found an animal skeleton in the water before going to bed.

We have filled our gas tank up 15 times in the 3 weeks of our trip! Many, many miles!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mount McKinley and The Turner Family ~Alaska Trip Day 24

Denali came out after we left the park! We had hung around on the Parks Highway checking out each place the Milepost book said you can view the mountain and on our third day (last chance) we saw Mount McKinley in it's glory. We stopped three times at different places to get photos. Each stop showed more of the majestic white-topped Alaska Range.

Soon after the grand display of this elusive 20,000 plus feet "tall one", we arrived in Wasilla. The Wednesday farmers market had beautiful produce and other assorted market items, including wool
painting, and chaga, a medicinal birch bark growth.

playground time near the farmers market
We finally arrived at the Turner residence at 3:30 p.m. The children met us at the end of the lane on bikes, a very warm welcome! That evening Shane smoked red and silver salmon for a delicious Alaskan feast.

After supper we walked a skip & a hop behind their cabin to a very cold stream where the chums were swimming and splashing at the end of their life's journey to spawn and die. It was amazing to see these big fish in such shallow water. It was amazing to see so much water and cool air and tall meadow growth and spongy muskeg. It was amazing that the children could reach down and pick up the dog salmon, when they got brave enough.

Sunny skies, clear day, longtime friends, the great outdoors; it was a beautiful day in Alaska!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Denali National Park ~Alaska Trip Day 22

Our bus to Eileson Visitor Center left at 11 a.m. We had a fantastic driver. He gave us a lot of park information and told some humorous stories. If we weren't captivated by the scenery, his monologue entertained us well during the 8 hour roundtrip.

We stopped for almost any animal that was spotted; not talking, no body limbs hanging outside the windows. We took the same (only) road in that we traveled out, so we may have counted some animals twice, but per spotting it was 23 caribou, 16 bears, 5 moose, and 3 Dall sheep...a great day for wildlife even though Mt. McKinley did not come out.

Near the end of our bus tour, we hopped off at Savage Creek Campground amphitheater for a ranger program on wolverines. The next green bus we caught had room for us all except 1. It was 11p.m. until we all got back to the Wildlife Access Center, ate a quick bite, and found a turnout to spend the night.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nenana and Denali ~Alaska Trip Day 21

Nenana, home of the Ice Classic, a tradition since 1917 when the black & white tripod sitting on the frozen Tanana river moves 100 feet to signify the water's thaw. It's a lottery for those who want to buy a ticket and guess the time of spring's arrival in interior Alaska.

Ice Classic Watch Tower and tripod
Behind me is the railroad bridge that was the final link on the Alaska Railroad.
There the golden spike was driven by President Harding in 1923

The altar cloth inside this 1905 Episcopal Church is a beaded bleached moosehide.
We wandered through the small town a bit, meeting a friendly airforce veteran. He had a lot of stories to tell about himself and the area. I think he is homeless and know he is carless as he hitchhikes to Fairbanks to fly to the vet hospital in Anchorage. Interesting characters in these parts of the country!

Railroad depot built in 1922

Back on the road again, we drive south toward Denali National park, stopping for beautiful vistas (and road construction) along the way.

We enter the national park, reserve our bus tour for tomorrow, and hop on the shuttle to Savage River.
moose! caribou! Wildlife is worth stopping for!
Mt. McKinley is on the left hidden by the thick clouds.
You can see one slope poking above the clouds, but blending because it is white with ice.
Savage River
The campgrounds were full in the park, so we drove out a few miles to a turnout beside Nenana Canyon. First we walked the path by Nenana River and went down to the raft access. Caroline cut her foot on the large rocks sticking out of the water and bled a frightening amount, but once cleaned & bandaged she soon healed.