Google says it takes eight hours eleven minutes to make the 356 mile drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks. We had breakfast in Anchorage Tuesday and a late lunch in Fairbanks today, Sunday. A little longer than the Google estimate. OK so we stopped along the way.
We spent about an hour in Wasilla. We didn’t see Sarah; we visited the Iditarod headquarters. It is certainly not a destination type thing but if you are in Wasilla and have an extra hour it is interesting.
Our next delay in that eight hour drive was Talkeetna. This little tourist town kind of stole my heart; it just doesn’t feel like a tourist town. The residents act like they are proud you are there just because you are you.
We did a little “flightseeing” the first day we were there. We joined a young pilot and four other people on board a ’53 Dehaviland Beaver equipped with normal wheels and some little ski things. We flew out to Mt. McKinley, I think about 60 miles, landed on a glacier, got out , played in the snow a bit and came back.
That was the short version because I am not nearly talented enough to put the sheer beauty and excitement of the entire experience into words.
The view from our hotel was superb. Both days we were there it was perfectly clear with McKinley clearly visible. The local opinion is that! because of weather, only 30% of the visitors to the area actually get to see the mountain. Patty and I qualify for membership in the Thirty Percent Club.
Our second day we were just enjoying the town and kind of impulsively we decided it might be fun to ride a raft down the river; no white water, just a lazy ride, all we had to do was get in sit down and enjoy the trip. We did twenty seven miles down the Chulitna River. KiKi drove and we just enjoyed the trip, we didn’t see bears like the ones in the brochure but we saw several eagles and some beautiful scenery. The conversation with the other rafters and KiKi coupled with the relaxing environment resulted in a very enjoyable afternoon.
Thursday (I think) as we were leaving Talkeetna I glanced in the rear view and said good bye, I wish it was see ya later, but I’m sure it was good bye.
On a trip that consumes 35 or so days and includes eighteen different places of lodging, some bad weather and lodging surprises can be expected. Our stop at Denali provided us with both.
I won’t provide all the details, just trust me the cabins were nothing like the brochure/website depicted them. We survived and the stay there made us appreciate all the others especially the one here.
It rained a lot and was cloudy while we were at Denali. No McKinley sitings. We are a little over half way on this run; I’m sure we can expect more weather and lodging surprises or maybe we get lucky.
Even with the weather issues Denali is an awesome experience. We explored the part of the park accessible by private car and some of the surrounding area the first couple days. The last day there we took a bus ride 92.5 miles to the back of the park. I was in awe of the expanse and sheer beauty of the place.
We saw several moose and a lot of caribou. The highlight of the wildlife experience was a Mama grizzly bear and two cubs just enjoying life, we were a few hundred yards away but clearly visible for a long time; down the road a few miles we found papa bear a pretty large grizzly. He was working his way down a riverbed looking for food, again not real close but he stayed with us for a long time.
If beautiful mountain countryside and wildlife viewing is something you enjoy, put a visit to Denali on your bucket list.
The run from Denali to Fairbanks was almost an extension of Denali for viewing the countryside. It is very sparsely populated.
The highlight was a stop in Nenana a small community about 50 miles south of Fairbanks. We got a good feel for small town pride and lifestyle. They were having a boat race, 50hp max, to Fairbanks and return. I think they had about ten entries, everyone was having fun.
Life puts all of us in daily contact with people who provide a service for a living. This trip has taken that contact to another level.
The the waiters, hotel clerks, trip guides etc. we have met in our 49th state beginning with the staff on the boats, employees of the state of Alaska, all of them just leave a good taste in your mouth.
Our contact with most of them was brief, however we got to spend a little time with a few of them.
Mike, the pilot on our McKinley flight was less than half the age of his plane, didn’t ask but I think late twenties. He was from Florida. Patty asked how long he had flown. His response: legally since I was fourteen but I remember sitting on my dad’s lap.
John worked for the rafting company. He grew up in Mississippi and Alaska. He has a degree in Health Care admin. He left the corporate world to come to Alaska live in a cabin without indoor plumbing, ride a bike to work hauling people and rafts up and down the river.
KiKi, like the other two, in her twenties. A very personable young lady from Montana with a Mechanical Engineering degree. She left a good job in Salt Lake to come to Talkeetna and haul old guys like me down the river in a raft. She lived in her car.
I’m sure John and KiKi will return to the corporate world someday but today they, like the others, are where they want to be doing what they enjoy and it is evident in the way they do their job.
I promise more pics when the WiFi improves.
Dave and Patty