Denali and Fairbanks, Alaska

 Wednesday July 20, we left Anchorage at 8am with Acey’s mileage at 89,564.7 and Thor’s at 104,781. There actually was some traffic this morning as we got underway.

More rain again today.

And more road construction on the way to Denali.

We arrived at Denali Rainbow Village RV Park at 1pm.

The RV Park is behind a hotel and a “strip mall” of sorts. We had to wait for delivery trucks to finish making deliveries so that we could get into our spot. We thought the last park was tight – but this was probably the tightest spot we have EVER stayed in! It was just barely long enough with Acey parked at a bit of an angle, and there was no place for many of us to park our toads near the motorhome. We have a full hook up spot with 30 amp electric and cable TV as well.

We had some strong winds last night that shook our rig, but we slept well anyway! Thursday July 21 was a busy day! It is our 43rd wedding anniversary, and we found out that the traditional gift for the 43rd anniversary is travel – looks like we got that one covered!

After breakfast, we drove into Denali National Park to the visitor center

This model shows how Denali really is so much bigger than the surrounding mountains! The south peak has an elevation of 20,310. We hope to be able to see the mountain; apparently only 30% of the visitors to Denali actually see the mountain!!

We drove along the park road to mile 15 – as far as cars are allowed. This roadside sign indicated what we might see

– if we could see through the clouds…

We saw a moose!

Her calf was not far away

It began to drizzle so we went back to the RV Park to have lunch and came back later with our group. We had a guided bus tour at 4pm to go further into the park. The buses are the only vehicles allowed into the park past mile 15. A landslide washed out a section of the road, so right now, buses will travel no further than Mile 43 of the 92-mile long Denali Park Road

The park encompasses a vast amount of wilderness in its 6 million acres!

We got off the bus for a short stop.

Teklanika River – notice the “braids”

The scenery in the park is amazing!

A caribou was spotted!

And another 2 — way off in the distance.

We spotted a grizzly bear — it was very far away!

The bus had video screens that the driver could show live photos from his camera

Beauty is found everywhere you look!

And another grizzly bear – closer to us this time!

Another Caribou!

We had a short stop on the Mountain Vista Trail. This photo taken in 1938 was fun to compare to today’s scene

Ground Squirrel

Our guide did a fantastic job telling us many details about the park. He mentioned the story of Christopher McCandless (The book and movie Into the Wild are based on his life) He graduated from Emory University in May of 1990 and tells his parents he wants to spend the summer traveling in his old Datsun – he has many adventures, distancing himself from his family. He ends up in Alaska by April 1992 and lives in the wilderness in Denali but tragically dies in August ’92.

He also told us some history of Alaska flag. It was designed by Benny Benson, a 13-year-old living in an orphanage. A contest was held in 1926 for a design of a flag for the Alaskan territory. Benson combined the blue background representing the blue sky and forget-me-nots and added the Big Dipper – the Great Bear – and the North Star. When Alaska became a state in 1959, the flag became the state flag. (Read more here)

Our bus tour ended after 9pm – it was a long but enjoyable day in Denali!

Friday July 22, after lunch, we went back to the park – to see the sled dogs. We happened to have good timing for our visit – they hold demonstrations at 10, 2 and 4 which we did not know about – and got there in time for the 2:00. The ranger gave us some history of the Denali sled dog kennel. The first dogs were purchased in 1922 by Harry Karstens, the first employee at McKinley Park & Preserve. The 7 dogs he bought were brothers. Sled dogs are still used today, 100 years later, for the same purpose he bought them – to patrol and preserve the pristine wilderness of the park.

The dogs were SO excited to be hooked up for a run – they were jumping up and down and barking – the ranger compared their excitement to a group of teenagers getting ready to see their favorite band in concert!

They came back from their run and got a treat!

These are the only sled dogs in the US that work in a national park!

The dogs ae chained to their house and seem happy with their accommodations.

The younger dogs are kept in a fenced area.

The puppies! They must be cuddling with their mom…

You can read more abut the Denali sled dogs here!

We tried to make reservations for dinner out for our anniversary (since we couldn’t go out last night) and ended up at 49th State Brewing – we went with Lee and Kimberly. It was raining again, go figure!

The restaurant had outdoorsy décor. A handsome moose,

and a caribou.

This is NOT wallpaper – but real trees!

We had a good dinner but didn’t take photos of us!

Saturday July 23, we left the RV Park at 9:40 with Acey’s mileage at 89,801.5 and Thor’s at 104,834. Paul got a great shot of Denali this morning as he headed out just 45 minutes before us.

We had not been able to see the “tall one’ during our 3-day visit due to cloud cover. This is what we saw at the same place Paul took his photo. The clouds had moved in… If you didn’t know to look for the mountain, you wouldn’t see it for the clouds!

We had good weather for driving to Fairbanks today.

More folks traveling on bikes!

Riverside RV Park in North Pole, AK is probably one of the nicest RV parks we have stayed at – full hookups and a bit of lawn between the sites.

Several of us went to HooDoo Brewing.

We sat around a fire in the evening – strange to still have bright sun at 7:30!

Sunday was a full day. We got up early to have breakfast and to Zoom with our Sunday School class at 6:30 Alaska time!

We started our tours with a stop at the Gold Dredge 8 in Fairbanks.

The Alaska Pipeline ran right through this area, between the parking lot and the Dredge area. Since it was kind of “the elephant in the room” our tour guide told us a bit about the pipeline. It ran above ground here.

With permafrost and earthquakes, there were many considerations of how to run the Alaskan pipeline!

TAPS = Trans Alaska Pipeline System

We boarded a train to take us to the dredge site.

We were shown some ways folks worked to mine gold – this sluice box was a little better than panning.

This contraption was pretty big – and not all the parts are shown – a winch was used to pull the dirt out of a mine – and then the prospector would go through the dirt to look for gold.

The train continued on and soon we saw the dredge!

What a monstrosity! We were able to walk thru the dredge – and it was much like the one we saw in Chicken, but this one has the digging buckets attached on the front.

We had an opportunity pan for gold! And between the 2 of us, we got what they said was $32 worth!

On the ride back, we passed a “graveyard” of sorts with motors and other parts in disuse.

Our next stop was lunch at Discovery Dining – before we boarded the sternwheeler Discovery III. The diesel-powered boat was built in 1987 and has a draft of only 3 ½ feet of water! It can seat up to 900 passengers – but we were glad for a much smaller crowd today!

Looking down at the paddlewheel reminded us of being in Nashville, riding on the Cumberland River on the General Jackson but we are in Alaska on the Chena River today!

We couldn’t help but notice a yellow seaplane on the river.

Turns out that our tour guide and the pilot of the 1969 Piper Super Cub know each other and can communicate over the boat’s speakers. The pilot did a couple of takeoffs and landings for us.

As we went down the river, we passed some pretty large homes!

We came to Trail Breaker Kennel which was started by 4-time Iditarod Champion Susan Butcher and is carried on by her family. Again, our guide was able to talk to them over the boat’s speakers.

They talked about the puppies and told the story of Granite – a pup that was the runt of the litter but amazingly led Susan to all 4 of her victories. (Read about it here)

They hooked up the dogs to demonstrate of their skills; the dogs were happy to go for a run!

Next, we saw some reindeer! These are domesticated caribou – and both male and female sport antlers.

We came to the confluence of the Chena and the Tanana Rivers – the water here was interesting; the milky water of the Tanana did not mix well with the darker water of the Chena! We were told that the Tanana is the longest glacial river in Alaska.

We headed back up the river and stopped at a (replica) Alaskan Native village. This gal is showing a parka made of many different types of animal furs. It weighs about 40 pounds – it must keep a person quite warm!

Here she showed us several animal pelts and what they might be used for. She is sitting on an elevated cabin of sorts that would have been used to keep meats and such safe from bears.

A stuffed Moose was hanging out nearby!

The reindeer were also at the village.

Some sled dogs from the kennel were there too.

Soon it was time to board again. Interesting how they tied so many things together at the village stop!

From the boat, we could see a tall peak in the distance – not sure what mountain it is.

The tours made for a fun day – and we got another view of the tall mountains in the distance!

On the way back to the campground, we stopped off at Santa Claus House In North Pole, AK.

There is a GIANT Santa Claus to greet visitors.

And of course, a giant gift shop/store!

We sure packed a lot into one day! Tomorrow we go back thru Canada to begin our journey to Skagway with 3 overnights along the way.


7 thoughts on “Denali and Fairbanks, Alaska”

  1. what an amazing journey. The four decker paddle-wheeler looked like loads of fun. Good catch on the moose-head mounted between a fork and spoon. Ha-ha

  2. Can’t wait – our family is doing an Alaska cruise in late August, and we will go to Denali as well. Thanks for the preview of the beauty of the park. Keeping my fingers crossed that Denali will not be shy and let us see her beauty! While in Japan, Mt Fugi was gracious enough to uncover herself for us! Your blog is really entertaining, and Wendell and I are enjoying it a lot!

    1. Thanks Lucy! We were glad we got a small glimpse of Denali – the park is amazing and HUGE! The sled dogs wer so fun to watch and we got such a kick out of how excited they were to go for a run. Be sure to get to one of the demos if you can! I have a short video i=on my Facebook page!

  3. Thank you. This is the only way I will ever see the beauty of alaska. You are a great writer and make it come alive. I have learned alot. Oh, and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.

    1. Thanks for keeping up with us Marion! We are happy to have our virtual travelers along on our journey! We found it amusing to discover that the 43rd Anniversary gift is “a gift of travel” – we sure covered that one 🙂

  4. Beautiful! Did you know John Avery has assigned me a nickname: “Moose.” After seeing these pictures I’m not sure it is a compliment though. His nickname is “Buck” so I guess he felt obligated to give me something similar. Looks like you are having a great time! We miss you.

    1. We have been having QUITE an adventure in Canada and Alaska! The moose is a majestic animal, the photo on the blog may be a bit uncomplimentary – they are quite large and powerful and something to be respected! It may not be a bad nickname after all! We need to catch up on worship services – we seem to move on Sundays or have a tour – we catch our Sunday School class almost every week as long as we can connect – at 6:30 here! We’ll be back in October!

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