Day 47

Day 47, 7/15/15, Wednesday

Weather:  Sunny in the morning giving way to rain showers in the afternoon and clearing by early evening.  Temperature was in the 60-70s all day.

We had a leisurely beginning to the morning as we prepared to leave the campgrounds and return to Soldotna.  Paul spent some time checking the email and sending out a few messages.  One of the messages was to a high school classmate letting him know that we might not be back home in time to attend the scheduled class reunion.

Our drive into Soldotna was not long but as we approached the town we noticed the traffic was very heavy.  Our first stop was to the visitor center were we found out that today was the usual beginning of the salmon run up the rivers to spawn.  As it turns out, no one told the salmon because the run had not begun.  By the official count that was being taken, only ten salmon an hour were swimming up the Kenai River.  If the actual salmon run had begun, the count would have been approximately one thousand per hour.  Maybe we should have something like this back home when the anticipated Striped Bass season is due to begins.

One of the important pieces of information that we received from the hostess was the printed location of all of the fishing spots along the Kenai River.  There was a boardwalk-like path constructed from the rear of the visitor center down to the river bank.  Once down there we were able to watch the fishermen using their casting rods.  Fishing the rivers here is not at all like fishing at home.  The river currents are unbelievably fast moving carrying the fishing lure downstream so fast it pulls the line back to the river bank quickly.  It doesn’t take long before the bank is wall-to-wall fishermen.

Everyday seems to bring something new.  Tomorrow will change the fishing scene for a brief time because it is the opening of the dip-netting period.  Dip-netting consists of Alaskan resident using an aluminum long-handled fishing net.  The fishing net would be similar in appearance to our crab net at home but the diameter of the net’s opening is about four feet wide.  The fisherman simply steps into the river with his waders and scoops up fish as they swim by.  To us, this takes the sport out of fishing.

Following this experience at the visitor center, Paul dropped Gail off at the Wednesday market.  Because of the amount of traffic in town due to the expected salmon run, parking was limited and almost impossible for our twenty-five foot RV.  It was left that Gail would telephone Paul when she was ready to leave and he would come back and pick her up.

At this point in the afternoon, we realized that with the volume of traffic in town, it was best to go to a local camping area (N 60° 29’ 27”  W 151° 02’ 54”, elevation 147 ft.) and enjoy some down time.  The area was mobbed with campers of all descriptions, from a car towing an open trailer with a freezer in it to 40+ foot RV’s with towed cars.

G & P

Fish Counter For The Kenai River
Fish Counter For The Kenai River
Look At The Size Of Those Fish Nets
Look At The Size Of Those Fish Nets
Salmon Fishing In The Kenai River
Salmon Fishing In The Kenai River
Who Is Going To Blink First?
Who Is Going To Blink First?

Day 48

Day 48, 7/16/15, Thursday

Weather: Intermittent rain. Temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s.

At 8 am this morning we brought the RV in to have the brakes inspected. The brakes were acting fine but Paul was concerned that he may have used them too much on the severe downgrades in the mountains even though he was primarily using lower gears. He remembers the time we were driving our previous RV through northern California and competing with the large lumber trucks using the same road.   By the time we had reached Crescent City, Ca., the brakes had to be replaced. This morning the verdict by the mechanic was that they still look brand new.

While we were waiting for the brake inspection, we stopped into the Buckets Sports Grill for breakfast. The food was good and the waitress very interesting to talk with.

Soldotna was again crowded with fishermen who were here for the opening of the dip-netting salmon run. And the salmon still were not in and the streets were clogged with fishermen.  We decided to continue our journey back toward Anchorage.

The drive back on the Sterling Highway began uneventfully but within an hour a weather front began to expand and the winds on the now mountain roads were reaching gusts of twenty to thirty miles per hour. The winds made the driving somewhat nerve wracking with the swaying of the RV.  By the time we reached the community of Cooper Landing we had decided to pull into a campground run by the US Forestry Service (N 60° 28’57”    W 149° 53’ 00”, elevation 482 ft.). What a beautiful campsite, truly in a forest! We were lucky to find a spot available because the campground had many campers already there and other sites reserved for arrivals due tomorrow.

During the early evening, the park campground host came to alert us that a bear had been injured nearby and could be somewhere in this area with two of her cubs. She had originally climbed a tree but then came down. We are 0.1 mile from the occurrence. If we see the bear, we are to call the Troopers or him. And yes, we have cell service.

The weather front is expected to pass during the night and we will continue our drive in the morning.

G & P

Bench At Visitor Center, Soldotna
Bench At Visitor Center, Soldotna
Fishing On The Opposite Bank Of The Kenai River
Fishing On The Opposite Bank Of The Kenai River

 

Day 49

Day 49, 7/17/15, Friday

Weather: Gray and rainy all day. Temperature was in the high 50s to low 60s.

Upon leaving the campground this morning we headed north again toward Anchorage. We wanted to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center at mile 79 on the Seward Highway. This center takes care of injured and orphaned animals. We had read and heard about its existence and the work they do in providing a habitat for the animals and, if possible, returning them to the wild.

When we drove into the center, it was more expansive in size than we imagined. The animals that were being housed there included brown and black bear, moose, bison, musk ox, lynx, elk, Sitka deer, fox, caribou, owl, and eagles. What was very impressive was the extensive amount of space provided for each animal species. A center-owned bus provided a shuttle through the entire area. Finally, they had a well-stocked gift center with much nicer items than in the typical gift shops. Because the weather was rainy and cold, we did not venture too far along the paths. We do plan on returning with grandchildren SOON!

We wanted to see the port town of Whittier that was not too far from the Wildlife Center. This turned out to be an unexpectedly interesting trip. Whittier is located on the coast but it is completely surrounded by mountains except for the protected port. To reach the town, you have to travel a one lane, 2 ½ mile tunnel through a mountain. Yes, a one lane tunnel through which vehicles travels in both directions as well as the one train track, also in the single lane of the tunnel. When you arrive at the tunnel entrance there are six lanes designated for cars, trucks, RVs. Every hour on the hour the vehicles leaving the town pass through the tunnel. Then every hour on the half hour those entering the town pass through. Depending on the timetable for the train the tunnel is closed to vehicle traffic to let the train pass. It was a very interesting experience travelling through, maintaining a specified distance between vehicles and at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour. The town of Whittier did have some small tourist type shops but it was primarily an old port area. With parking being extremely limited and essentially nothing of interest we did not stay long.

On returning to the civilization side of the mountain, we stopped briefly at the information center for the U.S. Forestry Service. They have a display highlighting that the Christmas tree for the US Capitol this December will be provided by the Chugach National Forest. They are selling all sorts of mementos to capitalize on this event.

By this time it was now late in the afternoon and we opted to spend the night in the Portage Creek Campgrounds in Girdwood (N 60° 48’ 12”       W 148° 56’ 06”, elevation 52 ft.). Again, a gravel area for RV’s as we have found throughout the state. This one had a campfire area in a pavilion. It also had charcoal and propane grills for tenters and those staying in the small cabins (a few cabins are a frequent site here). Many campers gathered to cook dinner or marshmallows for several hours. Good conversation- and interesting too. We stayed til around 10:30 before calling it a night.

G & P

Bear
Bear
Elk
Elk
Entrance To The One-Lane Tunnel
Entrance To The One-Lane Tunnel
Interior Of The Tunnel
Interior Of The Tunnel

Day 50

Day 50, 7/18/15, Saturday

Weather: Sunny with the temperatures in the 70s. J

This morning, we found water leaking from the RV. In doing a check of the interior it was clear that there was no problem with the piping. We called the dealer, Wilkins RV service from which we purchased the motorhome. After explaining the circumstances of the leak it is believed to be a pressure valve that is malfunctioning. This can be managed until a repair can be made.

We left the campgrounds and drove back to the Forest Service information center. We did not have the opportunity yesterday to view the video presentation “Voices from the Ice”. This video traces the emergence of the glacial lands and the history of their ever changing evolution. Very interesting!

Following that, we took one of the trails up to the nearby glacier. This was a two mile hike rated as moderate over a gravel covered trail. The climb was spectacular not only for being so close to the glacier but also for the varied colored flowers along the path. By looking closely at the underbrush as we walked, we were able to discern specific areas where animals crossed the path to reach the swift flowing river. The bear spray was in the backpack at the ready! When we arrived at the area of the glacier, Gail decided to hike the remaining distance over rocks and boulders to get even closer. Since it was a good day there were many other hikers who were here as well.  Throughout the trip, Paul has opted to avoid hiking the very rocky trails.

Needless to say, we had spent quite some time hiking the glacier trail as well as viewing the presentation. By now it was late afternoon and we decided to drive on to the Alyeska Resort also located at the foot of a mountain in Girdwood. The interest in going on a tram was that it goes up the mountain. In the winter this location is a ski resort. The summit elevation is 3,990 ft., the top tram terminal 2,300 ft., There are two restaurants at the top of the tram as well as a bar overlooking the valleys below. Unfortunately, the restaurant that we wanted to eat in was closed so we just stopped at the bar for some spiritual uplift.

By the time we arrived back on the ground, it was about 7:30. However, located near the Lodge was a small chapel.   We wanted to visit this chapel since our parish church in Blue Point was also named Our Lady of the Snows. The church rents space to the Mormons and also hosts community events and weddings of any denomination. Still needing to eat, we chose a restaurant in the town of Girdwood. The restaurant was “Chair 5”, so named because when the place opened there were already 4 chairlifts on the mountain, so this was Chair 5. Although the dinner was very good, the service was slower than Friendly’s and we still had an eighty mile ride ahead of us to reach Anchorage. We reached the Anchorage campground at approximately 10 pm and called it a great day.

G & P

Arrived Back Down
Arrived Back Down
A Lower Part Of The Larger Glacier
A Lower Part Of The Larger Glacier
View From The Top Tram Stop
View From The Top Tram Stop
Our Lady Of The Snow Chapel
Our Lady Of The Snow Chapel
Inside The Chapel
Inside The Chapel

 

Day 51

Day 51, 7/20/15, Monday

Weather: Sunny with temperatures in the 70s.

This morning we drove into downtown Anchorage to the National Forestry Office. Gail wanted to pick up National Forests / National Parks passports for our visiting grandchildren. The impetus for this is that as they travel to these national sites they can have their passport stamped by the Rangers. In some instances they can earn a Junior Ranger patch if the program being offered is completed. Hopefully each will enjoy collecting the stamps and visit many National Parks in the future. Our first encounter with such passports was many years ago when we traveled around Canada. Beth, Paul, Kevin, and Tim each had their own Canadian Parks passport. At some U.S. Parks, some of the children completed the Junior Ranger programs while at Yellowstone and Yosemite.

From downtown we drove out to the Alaska Botanical Gardens just outside Anchorage. Gail enjoys flowers and admires such gardens and since we were moseying today this was one of the planned stops. Paul remained in the RV to relax while awaiting an important call and also to make some calls of his own.

Costco was a later stop where we needed to pick up a few supplies. Gail enjoys the “grazing” that is offered there-nothing good today though. On the way back to the campgrounds we passed one of Paul’s favorite restaurants, Golden Coral. This was our dinner location for the late afternoon.

G & P

Alaska Botanical Garden
Alaska Botanical Garden
Gail
Gail
Lupine 5-6' Tall            (Wonders Of 20 Hours Of Sun)
Lupine 5-6′ Tall (Wonders Of 20 Hours Of Sun)

 

Masterwort cum Bee
Masterwort cum Bee
Spotted Bellflower
Spotted Bellflower

Day 52

 

Day 51, 7/21/15, Tuesday

Weather: Sunny all day with temperatures in the 70’s.

This morning we were delayed getting started while waiting for a telephone call from a local RV service center. We had detected a leak in the water system outside the camper but no water in the interior. However, we later realized that this situation had stopped as mysteriously as it had begun. This led to the conclusion that it was directly related to the action of the pressure valves. When we are traveling, we use water that we have stored on board in a special water tank. When we are in the campgrounds we are hooked up to their water system through a hose. At times the pressure valves within the RV do not completely respond properly to the change of water pressure.

When we finally left the camping area, we went to get our propane tank topped off. This afternoon Paul, Jen, and the children will be flying in to join us. Tomorrow, our first stop will be Denali National Park about a four hour drive north of Anchorage. The federal parks do not provide hookups for camping so we wanted to be sure to have a full capability of this fuel. We use the propane for the stove, oven, heater, water heater, and fueling the generator.

Next we went to a Cosco that was located near our campground to place an order for pizza that would be ready when we arrived back from the airport. By noon we registered in the Golden Nugget campground (N 61° 12’ 28” W 149° 48’ 07”, elevation 168 ft.) and proceeded to do the supply of laundry.

By 5 pm we were on the road to the airport. The plan was for us to wait in the cell phone parking area until we received word that the plane had landed. We arrived there in plenty of time and found that the river area adjacent to the international airport was the location of the largest float plane airport in the state of Alaska. We witnessed all types of float planes from new to vintage craft flying in and out. When you looked out to view the bank of the river the familiar scene of tie down pilings were clearly visible. However, instead of boats tied up there were airplanes in each of their slip areas. It was amazing to see how many small aircraft assembled in one concentrated area.

At 6:15 pm the plane landed carrying Paul and the family. They had been travelling since about 10 this morning.

Back to the campground where we had an enjoyable dinner and, shortly after to bed for the tired visitors.

G & P

Largest Float Plane Airport In Alaska
Largest Float Plane Airport In Alaska
Float Planes At Their Tie Down Slips
Float Planes At Their Tie Down Slips
Coming In For A Landing
Coming In For A Landing
Katie Is Here
Katie Is Here
Sean Is Here
Sean Is Here

 

 

Day 53

Day 53, 7/22/15, Wednesday

Weather: Cloudy in the morning turning to rain in late afternoon and evening. Temperatures were in the high 60s to low 70s.

After breakfast this morning, we left the campgrounds and headed for the nearest Fred Meyer Supermarket. The shopping needed to be done for the next three days that we will be spending at Denali National Park.

Now on to the Seward Highway, north bound, to Denali two hundred thirty seven miles. We fueled up at a station about twenty miles before the Park. This was the last available fuel station before entering the Denali and we wanted to be sure we had a comfortable amount for the return trip. The travel was fairly leisurely with no mountain climbing until we were one hour prior to entering the park. At this point, we did have the typical climb up to the Reilly Camp area.

Of course, along the trip we did make a few stops to see items of interest. One of the towns that we passed through was Willow. It had suffered a severe wild fire a month ago and many of the homes were destroyed. The rebuilding was already in progress. We stopped in the town of Talkeetna. This was listed as a place to visit while on the drive to Denali. When leaving Talkeetna, we visited the Flying Squirrel Donut Café and had our share of the delicacies.

As we entered the park area, we were happily surprised to see a large Bull Moose grazing just off the road. Of course, we had to stop to take the required pictures. The last miles into the park was in heavy rain making the drive a mess on the RV. We set up at our camp site at 8 pm and proceeded to have dinner and an early evening.

G & P

On The Road To Denali
On The Road To Denali
Bull Moose At The Entrance To Denali
Bull Moose At The Entrance To Denali
Katie & Sean At The Campground Main Bldg.
Katie & Sean At The Campground Main Bldg.
Grannie & Pop Upon The Bear
Grannie & Pop Upon The Bear

 

 

 

 

Day 54

Day 54, 7/23/15, Thursday

Weather: Sunny giving way to light rain showers in late afternoon and evening. Temperatures in the low 70s.

The first item on the agenda on this the beginning of the first full day in Denali was a leisurely breakfast followed by a bus ride to the campground center. Here at the center we viewed the displays that they had showing the history of Denali including the history of the park’s evolution since its official establishment.

We attended a presentation by one of the National Park Rangers who discussed the wolf, its place in the park, and the misleading beliefs that have been held about wolves. There are only 50 wolves in the park. As always the Ranger presentation was very informative. In his talk about the wolves he also included the lifestyles of the other park predators and where they all place in the overall balance in Denali.

A quick lunch and we were now off for a three mile hike to the sled dog training habitat. The hike was led by another Ranger. We did not realize that although the hike was listed as moderate challenge, there was considerable climbing involved. With the uneven pitch of the path, Paul was having a challenge with the length of the climb. However, when we reached the area where the dogs were kept it was worth it. We visited the dogs; some were classified as “Please pet me” while others were kept in concreate-floored areas because they are rock eaters. Thirty minutes following the completion of the hike, the Rangers provided a demonstration of the dog sledding by having a team of five dogs pull a sled around a track through the woods. When time came close and the dogs saw the rangers bring out the sled they all started yelping and getting excited at the prospect of “working” with the sled. All of the dogs that were housed there were available for everyone to see including eight puppies that were born this spring.

We returned to the RV where Gail and Jen prepared dinner. The meal was being eaten under the canopy as the rain began to fall. After dinner showers were taken followed by Katie and Sean going to bed tired after a long day. Gail, Jen, Paul, and Paul ended the evening with a game of Cribbage. Gail and Jen won.

Tomorrow the plan is to take a bus tour of the park with a Ranger narrating information as we go. We hope to have the opportunity to encounter some bear, moose, and any other wild life that is in the area. So far we’ve seen squirrel- and they yelled at us!

G & P

Katie And Sean With A Sled Dog
Katie And Sean With A Sled Dog
Sled Dogs Getting Ready
Sled Dogs Getting Ready
The Only Friendly Bear In Denali
The Only Friendly Bear In Denali

Day 55

Day 55, 7/24/15, Friday

Weather: Sunny all day with a few light sprinkled of rain and temperatures in the 70s.

We had an early but leisurely beginning to the day. Early except for Katie and Sean who were tired and slept a little later in the morning.

Once everyone was up and had breakfast, there was a trip to the Murie Science Center as the last requirement of Katie and Sean’s Junior Ranger Certificate program. Then to find a ranger to sign off on their books and both Katie and Sean were sworn in as Junior Rangers.

By 2 pm we were at the Wilderness Access Center ready for the bus and the Tundra Wilderness Tour, a 7-8 hour tour going about 60-65 miles into the park. The bus was driven and directed by a naturalist, Tom Richards, provided by Aramark, a company contracted to run these tours. It is understood that once you begin the trip there is no guarantee how much wild life you may actually see. However, in our case today we were very fortunate to have multiple sightings of grizzly bear, moose, caribou, snowshoe hare, gyrfalcons, magpies, Dall sheep, and ptarmigan. Even the naturalist was pleased and somewhat surprised with the numbers that were seen. Unfortunately, we were not able to get a clear view of Mt. McKinley. Only a portion of the northern snow covered side of the mountain was visible through the thick cloud cover.

The views of the mountains and valleys were breathtaking. The realization that most of the six million acres of the park have such limited incursion of civilization is amazing and the vastness is difficult to grasp as it unfolded before us. Roads were narrow and unpaved. In some distant portions they were only wide enough for 1½ vehicles to pass with periodic pull-offs for one bus give way to the passing buses.

Before we left for the trip, Gail and Jen made sandwiches that we would have while on the tour. Although we were being given a light snack by the company, it was and excellent idea to have brought our own. The trip ended when we finally returned to the park at 10:45 pm. and walked back home, arriving by 11:15pm.  A wonderfully full day!

Tomorrow we plan on leaving Denali and heading south toward Seward.

G & P

Bear Feasting On Berries
Bear Feasting On Berries
Doll Sheep Grazing In The Mountains
Doll Sheep Grazing In The Mountains
Don't Mind Me I Am Just Passing Through
Don’t Mind Me I Am Just Passing Through
Moose In The Pond
Moose In The Pond
Ptarmigan-The State Bird
Ptarmigan-The State Bird
The Evening Mountains And The Glacial Rivers
The Evening Mountains And The Glacial Rivers

Day 56

Day 56, 7/25/15, Saturday

Weather: Sunny all day with temperatures in the 70s

As a matter of interest, the temperature in the course of the day fluctuates quite a bit. This morning at 7:30 the temperature was 40°, by late morning/afternoon it was in the 70s, and now at 11 PM it is 57°.

Everyone rose relatively early this morning. When breakfast was over a hike was taken on the McKinley trail to the visitor center. Sean and Katie returned their Park backpacks that were issued to them with the project materials needed to get their Junior Ranger status yesterday. Everyone then returned to the RV for the final packing and departure from the campground. On the way toward the Park exit the children asked to make one more stop at the sled dog kennels to see the dogs once more.

We reached the Parks Highway on leaving the Park and took it south. As we approached the vicinity of Talkeetna we began to pass participants in a hand bicycle marathon. Each participant was followed closely by a safety car. Because of the slowness of the participants and the ever inherent danger when trying to pass, it posed a poorly thought out program to be conducted on the only major highway heading south to Anchorage.

Our total travel distance for today was approximately three hundred miles. By dinner time we entered the Fox Run Campgrounds in Palmer, AK. (N 61° 33’ 07” W 149° 13’ 45”, elevation 129 ft.).

Tomorrow, our plans are to continue to the town of Seward.

Because of the fact that there were so many pictures that we took of Denali, we are going to include additional ones as a part of this blog.

G & P

Getting Ready For A Trail Hike
Getting Ready For A Trail Hike
Katie & Sean Being Sworn In As Junior Rangers
Katie & Sean Being Sworn In As Junior Rangers
Denali Views 1
Denali Views 1
Denali Views 2
Denali Views 2
Denali Views 3
Denali Views 3

Day 57

Day 57, 7/26/15, Sunday

Weather: Rain all during the night and into late this afternoon. Temperatures were in the 60s.

We departed the camp grounds at about 9:45, a little later than we had wished. However we were back on the Park Highway within the hour and on our way to Seward. A brief stop as we passed through Anchorage at the Golden Donut store for a late morning snack.

Since it was raining, the travelling could have been difficult but for the fact that much of the traffic was going in the opposite direction. Our drive was taking us toward the fishing and boating areas while others were heading back north earlier than usual because of the weather.

We stopped at the Chugach National Park for the family to view their information on glaciers and also to take the hike to the glacier. All hands enjoyed the presentation and the ability of seeing a glacier up close. It is one thing to read about a glacier but another to actually see one up close.

We were on the road again for another hour and one half to finally reach Seward at 5:30 pm. Jen and Paul went to the tour office to book a sightseeing trip tomorrow. Their trip will be through the Resolution Bay to see the ocean’s wildlife in its entire splendor. We setup the RV in the campground and then took a short walk into town.

Tomorrow, we anticipate spending the entire day and evening in Seward with a departure back to Anchorage on Tuesday.

As a point of interest, our speedometer crossed ten thousand miles today.

G & P

At The Glacier
At The Glacier
Glacial Ice Near Portage
Glacial Ice Near Portage
Glacial Ice
Glacial Ice
Standing On The Ice
Standing On The Ice
Sea Otter Floating Past Our Campsite.
Sea Otter Floating Past Our Campsite.

 

 

Day 58

Day 58, 7/27/15, Monday

Weather: Partly sunny with some light afternoon sprinkles. Temperatures were in the low 70s.

There was a leisurely beginning to the day today. Jen, Paul, and the children were scheduled to take a sightseeing cruise through Resurrection Bay into the Alaska Sound. By 11 am they left the RV and walked the short distance to the docks and boarded the boat.

While they were gone we took the motorhome and drove to the fresh water station to add water to the holding tank. We wanted to keep half tank only because our task tomorrow includes driving back to Anchorage where the family will board an 8:50 pm flight back to the lower forth-eight. The amount of water in the tank will directly affect the weight of the vehicle. We drove to the Safeway at the other end of town to pick up a few supplies for tomorrow’s lunch and then went back to the campground.

About 5 pm, Paul called to let us know that the boat was about fifteen minutes out and they should be docking soon.   All of the returning troops were enthused about the trip and didn’t hesitate to tell us all about the sea life that they had spotted. What a great opportunity for the children to experience this adventure.

It was decided that this night would be a good time to go out to dinner. We walked to one of the local restaurants . We naturally knew that the main feature on the menu would be fish, and so it was. The view out of the restaurant window was the fishing, party, and private pleasure boats tied up in their slips. Beyond this was a Coast Guard Cutter and the “ Norwegian of the Sea” cruise ship.

The evening drew to a close back at the RV where the packing of the travelling bags was done. Paul checked in to their flight and Katie and Sean got into their bunk. To bed quickly to be ready for an early departure from Seward.

The photos attached were taken by Paul and Jen.

It is hard to believe how quickly this week absolutely flew by and how much enjoyment we had.

G & P

Bald Eagle With A Salmon
Bald Eagle With A Salmon
Humpback Whale Tail
Humpback Whale Tail
Puffin
Puffin
Sea Lions
Sea Lions
Sea Otters
Sea Otters

 

 

Day 59

Day 59, 7/28/15, Tuesday

Weather: Rain in the morning changing to partly cloudy in the afternoon. The temperature was primarily in the high 60s.

As planned, everyone awoke early and by 8 am we were on the road. This was the last day of Paul, Jen, and the children’s visit. Our target was to be back at the Golden Nugget campground by 4 pm so there was time for showers, packing, and dinner.

After leaving Seward, we drove to the Forrest Ranger Office in Portage so the children could complete the requirements for another Junior Ranger status at that location. Unfortunately, after arriving there we were told that this location did not participate in that activity. The plan was now made to go to the Ranger station when we arrive in Anchorage.

While we were in the Portage area we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center so the children could see the wild animals that were being cared for due to injury or abandonment. Katie and Sean enjoyed this visit even though it was raining lightly and the bears were nowhere to be found.

Back on the road again and this time we did not stop until we reached Anchorage at 2 pm. We located the Federal Ranger station and the children successfully completed the challenge activity and earned the Junior rating. This is the third such recognition that they received while in Alaska. Similar programs are offered at every National Park and as the children travel in future years they can continue in the challenges.

Unfortunately, the time came when we had to leave for the airport. This was a fifteen minute ride and went all too quickly as did the whole week.

After saying our good byes, Gail and I left the airport. We weren’t more than ten minutes from the airport when Paul called us to see if we felt the earthquake. We did not feel it because we were in the vehicle driving. However, a 6.3 earthquake had hit the area of Redoubt Volcano and was unmistakably felt in Anchorage. Paul indicated that this was the last memorable thing that was left to experience for them in Alaska.

Gail and I returned to the campground and began our preparations for a week’s visit from Beth, Bill, Meghan, Emily, and Ryan.

There are no pictures attached with today’s log because most of the time was spent in driving all day.

G & P

Day 60

Day 60, 7/29/15, Wednesday

Weather: Partially cloudy with the temperature in the high 60s.

Today was a needed work day. Laundry had to be done, compartments had to be rearranged in the RV to make more room, and the RV cleaned inside. A check was done on some of the mechanics to be sure everything was working well.

We went to the supermarket to replenish some of the staple food supplies that had run low. With Beth and family arriving this evening, we had the propane tank topped off to be sure it would be plentiful enough to provide for our needs for the three days that we will be at Denali. Since there are absolutely no such supplies at this park, it is important that we have everything with us that is necessary.

With all that had to be done, the day went by very quickly.

By 5 pm. we were on our way to the Anchorage Airport. The plane arrived at 6:15 and Beth, Bill, Meghan, Emily, and Ryan were waiting for us at the arrivals area. We were all anxious to see one another since we had not seen them since attending Emily’s last high school concert in late May. A quick dinner on arrival at the campground and then to bed.

Our plan for tomorrow is to drive to Denali.

There were no pictures taken today.

G & P

Day 61

Day 61, 7/30/15, Thursday

Weather: Heavy rains all night. The morning and afternoon were pleasantly dry and partly cloudy. This turned out to be one of the warmest days since we have been here. However, the late afternoon and early evening was rain again by the time we reached Denali. Temperatures were in the 70s.

We left the Golden Nugget Campground at 10 am and went to the supermarket where Beth and Gail purchased supplies for the three days in Denali. Then it was on to the Seward Highway north to Denali. The drive took approximately four hours with one stop in Talkeetna. Talkeetna is a quaint town and definitely an attraction for tourists. It is also one of the first locations where a person can see Mt. McKinley in the distance, if the weather is clear.

We arrived at the Riley Camping area in Denali at 7:15 pm. After checking in, we filled the fresh water holding tank since there is no water available at the sites. When we arrived at the actual camping area, we had to drive around to find a site that was available at this late hour and suitable for occupancy. Due to the rain, there were many large puddles on the roads including one that was so deep that we bottomed out. This did not make Paul a happy person. Finally, we found a camp site at 7:50 pm and began to set up. Setting up requires a hookup to an electric source or the generator to be run to provide power to the slide-out, the stabilizers, and the electric barbecue. Promptly, the local area manager showed up to demand the generator be turned off because there is an 8 pm curfew. Even with a polite explanation of the need for the use of the generator, he would not show any consideration and, if we persisted he would call the Park Ranger. This did not help to improve Paul’s humor. Naturally, we complied with the directive and dinner was simple and cooked on the gas stove top.

Since everyone was tired from the trip, sleep came early.

Tomorrow, Beth and the family will be taking the seven hour trip through the Park.

There are no pictures attached today.

G & P

 

Day 62

 

Day 62, 7/31/15, Friday

Weather: Rain during the night. The morning was overcast but became partly cloudy as the day progressed. Temperatures were in the high 60s to low 70s.

This is the first day into the third month of our vacation to Alaska.

There was a leisurely awakening this morning with a refreshing breakfast of bacon and eggs. Beth, Bill, and the kids had to be ready to take a shuttle bus to another part of the park in order to meet the tour bus that was leaving at 11:30.

While everyone was on the tour, we took a shuttle bus to the Visitor’s Center. Due to the experiences of last night’s arrival at the campgrounds, we wanted to meet with a Park Ranger Supervisor as well as the Superintendent of the Park. We were able to meet with the Supervising Ranger, Elizabeth Bear, and discussed with her the situation of needing the use of the generator for the setup of the RV. We expressed the fact that only a short period of time was needed to get settled and this would not be accommodated by the campground host because it was the Rangers’ rule. There is a need for some local flexibility when individual and unexpected situations arise. We requested that this be seriously considered for the future visitor needs.

We then brought up the grounding of our RV while driving along the campground road. This particular incident happened the previous week when we were entering with Paul and Jen. Last week this was personally brought to the attention of the company, Aramark, that is contracted to provide maintenance of the roads. When we found ourselves faced with this situation again yesterday, there was no way to avoid passing through because it was impossible to back out of the distance we had already travelled. We also felt that since this had been reported the week prior the problem would have been rectified. Obviously, it was not addressed and now posed an obvious case of willful negligence. Since we had requested that this incident be considered an accident, a legal Ranger was called to respond so our charge could be filed and record. If it turned out that mechanical or structural damage resulted to our camper then Aramark and the National Park Service would be held responsible.

In talking with the Ranger, we were surprised that the National Park Service has contracted out practically all operations in Denali to this company. This includes bathroom maintenance, road maintenance and repair, bus transportation services, etc. Unfortunately, it is very obvious in witnessing the condition of this Park that no one is at the helm supervising either from the Park Service or Aramark management. Denali is the oldest park in our entire national park system and if we weren’t here to see it for ourselves we could not believe that it would be so poorly managed.

Beth, Bill, and the kids returned from the tour at 8:30. They were very enthused with the sights that they had seen and found the trip well worth the time.

Tomorrow, the young ones plan on doing one of the many posted hikes. We will also visit the sled dog kennels and view the demonstration that we had seen last week when Paul and Jen were with us.

G & P

Day 63

Day 63, 8/1/15, Saturday

Weather: Clear and cool all day. Temperature in the high 50s to low 60s

This morning was an unexpected late sleep-in. However, by late morning Gail, Bill, Meghan, Emily, and Ryan left to do a four mile hike. Beth and Paul remained at the camper. Beth had broken her foot a few days before the flight to Alaska and has it in a removable support.

At about 2 pm, Beth and Paul took the shuttle bus to the visitor center where they viewed the artifacts that were on display. There was also a live video screen showing the condition of Mt. McKinley. Amazingly, much of the mountain was visible. Under normal circumstances McKinley is usually totally obscured because of cloud cover. Unfortunately, we have not had the fortunate experience to see the mountain clearly for ourselves.

When the hikers completed their hike, they joined Beth and Paul at the center. We were all going to go to the sled dog kennel and sled demonstration at 3 pm so it was decided to have lunch in the center’s cafeteria.

The visit to the sled dog kennel and eventual demonstration was very interesting to all. This was a second run for Gail and Paul since they saw it last week when Paul and family were here but, it remained a good opportunity to see and understand the working and care of the dogs. Actually, this is the only park in the national system to have sled dogs. The dogs provide transportation in winter months for Rangers on patrol and assisting with the movement of equipment for scientific endeavors.

The next item on our agenda was to take a bus ride fifteen miles out into the park in search of more wild life. By this time a light rain began to fall and this tended to obstruct clear vision through the windows. However, we did come upon a large female moose with her calf walking not too far off the road. This became a photo opportunity for anyone with a camera. A picture of this sighting is attached. This encounter could have been an unfortunate meeting for four careless adults who were shadowing the animals on foot too closely. If the moose wanted to take the offensive move to protect her calf, the four could have been attacked.

We finally arrived back at the RV at 7:30 pm and had dinner.

The plan for tomorrow is to begin our trip south toward Seward. We expect to drive as far as Portal and spend the evening in the same campground that we were in a couple of weeks ago. Then on Monday complete the remaining one hour drive to Seward.

Although this is the beginning of August, Denali is already showing the approach of fall. The trees are starting to change their colors. Winter will not be too far off and the length of days is also changing. Sunrise is now arriving at 6:36 am and sunset is 8:07 pm. This is a significant change in time from when we first arrived here on Fathers’ Day.

G & P

Moose And Cub
Moose And Cub

Day 64

Day 64, 8/2/15, Sunday

Weather: Sunny and clear all day with NO RAIN! Temperatures in the 60s.

We rose early this morning so that we could leave Denali by 8 am. Our objective was to reach the Portage Valley Campground (N 60° 48’ 12” W 148° 56’ 04”, elevation 35 ft.) by mid-afternoon a distance of 285 miles. We did depart the camp site on time but, had to stop at the Visitor Center to turn in the accident report. We did discover that one of the hydraulic arms was not providing the weight stability and must have been damaged by the camp road condition. Once this was accomplished, we exited the Park and headed south on the Park Highway.

The morning was unbelievably sunny and clear. Probably, the first such day since we have been in Alaska. As we continued some distance down the highway we began to see the outline of the crown of Mt. McKinley. Eventually, we reached an overlook turn-off and had a clear view of the top portion of the mountain. This was another first. We have not been able to see any part of the mountain except a limited portion of the side one day when Paul and Jen were with us.

By 3 pm we reached the outskirts of Anchorage. We set the GPS for the Golden Donuts, a shop that we discovered last week with Paul and Jen. This gave us a respite to break the journey for a short time.

Another fifty miles later we reached the campground, promptly set up, and had a fine dinner. Emily took some time to do a seven mile run as part of the routine that is preparing her for the track and cross country team that she will be part of at Fredonia.

Our plan for tomorrow is to complete the short trip to Seward.

G & P

Mount McKinley
Mount McKinley
Beth, Bill,  Beth, Bill, And Family With Mt. McKinley In Background
Beth, Bill,
Beth, Bill, And Family With Mt. McKinley In Background
Gail With Mt. McKinley In The Background
Gail With Mt. McKinley In The Background

 

Day 65

Day 65, 8/3/15, Monday

Weather: Clear all day today with the temperature in the low 70s.

We left the campground about 10:30 am and headed for the near by glacier. It would be about a twenty minute walk from the parking area to the glacier itself. Meghan, Emily, and Ryan decided they would hike over the outwash rocks and boulders to get as close as they can to the ice field. The ice field can not actually be reached because the thawing ice creates an ice river that forms a barrier to the field. Grannie decided she would head off as well but went in a different direction. Beth, Bill, and Paul remained at an overlook area until they all returned.

An hour+ went by before any of them returned. They all enjoyed the hike. However, the time that elapsed delayed the two hour drive to Seward. It was important to reach Seward so Beth and Bill had time to book trips for tomorrow. Bill and Ryan plan on going out fishing while Beth and the girls plan a boat tour to see whales, glaciers, etc. It was also important to get there as early as possible so we would be able to secure a camp site on the shoreline.

We finally arrived in Seward at 3 pm. and checked the campgrounds. Unfortunately, we were not early enough to get a desired site. Beth, Billy, and the kids walked the two blocks to the tour offices while Gail and Paul went to the supermarket to restock with supplies.

When Gail and Paul returned with the RV it was then leveled and set in place for the rest of the day. A half an hour’s rest and then preparations for dinner were begun. Today was a pleasant day with sunshine. These two days were the only days that we have had in Alaska without any rain.

Plans for tomorrow will be the two planned water trips while Gail and Paul will put in some time relaxing.

G & P

 

 

Day 66

Day 66, 8/4/15, Tuesday

Weather: Clear and sunny all day with temperatures in the 70s.

Just before 6 am, Bill and Ryan left for their half day fishing trip. They returned shortly after noon having had a successful morning. Each of them reached the prescribed legal limit of 6 Silver (or Coho) salmon, 3 in the bay and 3 in the Gulf, as prescribed by the extremely specific and detailed fishing regulations

Beth, Gail, Meghan, and Emily left at 11:30 for wildlife boat tour of Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska. This gave Paul some needed time to accomplish a few jobs. We had received a ding that put a crack in the windshield. What’s new? Everyone we’ve met has gotten dings, cracks or shatters of their windshields. By using a repair kit the crack was filled and hopefully will help to prevent the damage to expand. There was also a screen that had pulled loose from its frame and needed to be reattached.

As Beth’s boat was on its return trip, Gail called to give us an idea of how long it would be before docking. She took a picture of the RV from the water. Unknowingly, it also captured a sea otter floating by. We arranged to meet at the dock and from there walk to a restaurant. We had a delicious dinner at Chinook’s overlooking the harbor.

The evening came to an end with a fire in the fire pit at our campsite. It is hard to see the day come to an end because this is our last night together. Tomorrow the family leaves Anchorage to fly back to New York.

The plan for tomorrow is to leave early in the morning stopping shortly for a hike to the Exit Glaciers just outside of Seward, then a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see the animals. Eventually, on to the campground in Anchorage for everyone to shower, have dinner, and then the drive to the airport.

G & P

Gail, Emily, And Meghan
Gail, Emily, And Meghan
Our Camper To The Left, Sea Otter To The Right
Our Camper To The Left, Sea Otter To The Right
Puffin
Puffin
Sea Otter Staring At Meghan
Sea Otter Staring At Meghan