June 28-29, 2009 – Eagle River and Anchorage

On Sunday, 28th, we left Denali National Park in the rain and headed down the road.  After about 30 miles, the rain stopped and the skies cleared so we were able to see the mountain one last time:

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And our last look at the Alaskan Range:

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We arrived at Eagle River State Campground, set up, went to Wal-Mart, and then made a stop at the Elks – nice lodge and had a wonderful time.  Back at the campground, we enjoyed another campfire for a short time (it was raining off and on – :-().

Monday, 29th, we went into Anchorage to the post office for my package (thanks, Tina) and then we just did a little walkabout downtown. 

I had to get a picture with a moose – :-). Isn’t he cute:

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We bought reindeer sausage sandwiches from one of the street vendors and listened to some local musicians:

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What a nice afternoon.

This is our last night here – we are off to Seward tomorrow.  Our plans are to head back this way and spend some time in the Anchorage area.  And of course stay at this campground.

Our site:

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And another wonderful CAMPFIRE!:


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And a view of the Chugach Mountains:

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Stay tuned for more!!


June 27, 2009 – The Taiga and Horseshoe Lake Trails in Denali

This morning we decided to take a ranger led hike to Horseshoe Lake.    We first went on the Taiga (or Boreal) Forest Trail and she explained how plants and animals (including humans) can and have survived in this type of environment.

Here is the trail: 

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And the Aspens:

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And all the wildflowers – oh my!

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And this little one checking us out – :-):

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Our first view of Horseshoe Lake:

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The lake and the Beaver Dam:

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And our busy Beaver:

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What a great hike.

It rained off and on in the afternoon so we made some phone calls and then finished the evening with another great campfire…

Tomorrow we are off to our next adventure.

June 26, 2009 – Hanging out in Denali

This morning we slept in and did it feel good after the long day yesterday.  We just did odds and ends this morning and then decided to have lunch at the visitor center.  We walked up the back trail – some scenes:

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Then watched the train to Anchorage, load up and head out:

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We had lunch, then went to the movie at the visitor center – Heartbeats of Denali – scenes/videos of the different seasons throughout the park.  From there we walked to the Wilderness Center to watch their movie – Time and Tundra – on the history of Denali and then walked back to the MH.  We drove to town to pick up a few items and then back for a wonderful CAMPFIRE – LIFE DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!!!

We have talked about staying longer here but they are booked for Sunday night so we will be moving on.  Who knows, we may be back – :-))  Tomorrow we may take one of the ranger led hikes if the weather is good so stay tuned.

June 25, 2009 – The Kantishna Experience

What an exciting day!!  We booked a tour called the Kantishna Experience and at 7 AM we were ready to board our bus:

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Just a little background.  In Denali, you can only drive on the road for 15 miles.  To go any further you need to be on a bus.  There is an option to go to the Teklanika Campground that is 29 miles in but you must have a ticket and reservations.  A few years ago, we took the Wonder Lake tour bus to mile 85 and this trip I wanted to go to the end of the road – mile 90 where there is the historic mining town of Kantishna.

The scenery and wildlife settings – WOW and more WOW!! Our bus driver Laura told us so much about the park and some of the people that shaped the park.  We picked up a Ranger at Wonder Lake who gave us more information about the Lake, Kantishna and some of the historic buildings and stories of Kantishna.   I took over 300 pictures and it was so hard to decide what to post and what order.  Some of these pictures were taken thru the bus window so there is a slight reflection.

Come along with me for a short version (the tour was 13 hours long).

Our first view of Denali – notice how clear the skies are.  (FYI – This is North America’s highest mountain and is growing 3/4 inch per year.)  Because of it’s height, it produces it’s own weather and is visible only 30% of the time so today was a great day for us to see this.

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This is the Teklanika River (notice the car on the bridge):

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Our first Grizzly sighting:

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Another view of Denali:

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Most of the soil here is permafrost.  When it melts the mountain falls off.  This caving just happened 3 days ago.

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How about this fox checking us out?

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It is hard to describe the vastness of this land.  Notice the bus about halfway up on the right side.  Hopefully that will give you some perspective.

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The road – Yikes!!  This is heading toward Polychrome Mountain and the valley was a LONG way down.  They also called this area Poison Pass – one drop will kill you.

06-25-09 Kantishna Experience Tour 067 The Toklat River:

06-25-09 Kantishna Experience Tour 085 Another good view of Denali.  This mountain has two peaks – one is rounded and the other is sharp.  The distance between the two is about 1.5 miles.

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Another view of the Toklat River.  Andy and I have decided to hike this river bed when we come back – it is just such a magical place.

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In the center of the picture you will notice white specs on the mountain – they are a Dall sheep herd.

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And another view of the mountain  - notice the clouds coming in.  This is from the Eielson Visitor Center Overlook.

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More views from Eielson Overlook:

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Andy and I – he just has a hard time smiling – :-((((

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06-25-09 Kantishna Experience Tour 168a Reflection Pond with a swan:

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Wonder Lake:06-25-09 Kantishna Experience Tour 179

And this, my friends, is the end of the road – LOL and our bus!!  Actually from Wonder Lake to here we did get off the bus twice and followed the Ranger thru a number of areas and heard all about the gold mining and history of Kantishna. I did take some pictures of the newer buildings in Kantishna, however, they were from the bus and did not come out very well.  Most of this town is still privately owned with only a few sections leased by the park service.

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And this is Fannie Quigley’s house.  Fannie was a colorful character in Kantishna’s history.  I need to get a book on her life – she is truly one of Alaska’s pioneers. (I don’t really remember all the ranger told us about her life – sorry…. short term memory loss has started – :-(()

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More views on our way back:06-25-09 Kantishna Experience Tour 214

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Another Grizzly – the little brown dot to the left of her is a cub.

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The next three pictures are of a wolf.  The bus was stopped and we watched this wolf come up from the valley, go across the road, hang out a while there, then come back down on the road and go right past the bus.  It was fascinating!!!

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Me trying to be a moose – :-))  Those antlers were HEAVY!!!

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The Toklat River – When we come here again, we have decided to hike this river bed – just a magical place (did I say that before):

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Pictures from Polychrome Mountain:

06-25-09 Kantishna Experience Tour 300 And even more Grizzlies!

06-25-09 Kantishna Experience Tour 308a Caribou on the snow:

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A Hawk Owl:

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Today was one of the days that we felt so blessed!!

And of course we finished the day with another great campfire – :-)))

Here are the stats for yesterday:

Miles Traveled:  122 miles

Routes Traveled:

Alaska: AK-3 – George Parks Highway