We left Fairbanks with the weather still not the best. Everywhere we go the “narrators” of our tour will tell us that they only get 11-15 “ of precipitation a year. Okay, I’m thinking they are evidently getting it all at one time --- while we are here. It seems it has rained almost every day since we left Chicken, Alaska. A little rain doesn’t usually bother me much but after a few days of it --- I’m ready for some sunshine. The temperatures have been ranging from the mid 40’s to high 60’s but with the cold winds and the rain it has felt a lot colder --- think we have to factor that wind chill/no sun into the equation. LOL
But again, we cannot complain!!
We left Chicken, Alaska on July 10th (Saturday) and the next day (Sunday) the rains totally washed out the roads to and from Chicken (only 2 roads, 1 each way). Several people were stranded there for days and we heard of one vehicle that was found washed off the road and to date no one from that vehicle has been found or heard from. Scary --- I repeat, I will not travel that “Top of the Highway” road again ---- a long leisurely trip around Chicken sounds wonderful to me.
So, all that to say, it rained all the way to Denali Park --- beautiful country, the scenery continues to boggle my brain, so much to take in. Even in the rain the magnificence overwhelms me. We made a few quick stops to get better pictures but basically covered the 102 miles pretty uneventful except the one moose we saw in a pond alongside the road. We did not see it soon enough to stop and get a picture.
We mentioned the frequent fires and the one that the tour bus mentioned while in Fairbanks. Driving to Denali we caught sight of a fire, the smoke reaching out for miles. They say that some of these fires smolder under the ground for a long time, even through the winter, and then re-spark months later. These next two pictures are of that smoldering fire.
We arrived at the Denali RV Park, set up the rig and got everything organized. The rafting trip on the Nenana River was planned for 6PM. By now you probably have read Bill’s post on the rafting, but figured I’d share some thoughts on it also. Now I had been totally excited about this trip but a little nervous. First of all, I had never rafted before. Secondly, we did not know how to dress it was so cold. In Bill’s previous experience he had worn shorts or pants with a T-shirt. The Denali Outdoor Adventure Center provides “dry suits” but we weren’t sure what would fit under there. A swimsuit? (OH NO – Too cold!) We were told to where regular clothes so we wore jeans, socks, T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. I was very close to backing out of this experience. Then I remembered how I almost let the rain/cold stop me from the “Hotsprings” in Liard…..so I stiffened my resolve and set out. There were 11 of us that went in spite of the weather. They zipped us into the suits & boots (seriously, you could not get it on without help) and I realized I had no hood to mine. I was thinking how glad I was that I wore the hooded sweatshirt when the guide told me it had to go inside the suit or it would not be airtight and keep out the water.
OUR GROUP WITH THE GUIDES
OUR GROUP WITH THE GUIDES
Just a day or two earlier Bill had asked me of all the things we had seen and done what was my favorite. I told him then that everything had been fun and different, I had enjoyed them all but could not pick out a favorite. NOW, I can --- RAFTING IS AWESOME!! I absolutely loved it. I was in awe of the tremendous beauty surrounding us while we sat in the middle of the Nenana River. It was wonderful. Then you add in the excitement of the rapids, WOW! Yes, I was freezing, my hair was wet (thought there must have been icicles by the end of the trip), my hands were numb, my feet were cold --- but I could have done that all night. It was great. Now I am ready to try some that are 4-5 levels. LOL. Next time I raft in Alaska, I will wear two pair of socks, take a stocking hat & have hand warmers in my life vest!! But, I am looking forward to trying it in the sunshine! That could be good!
BILL AND I WERE IN THE BACK, DIDN'T GET QUITE AS WET THERE BUT THE GUIDE, JP MADE SURE WE DIDN'T MISS OUT.
THIS WAS A GOOD ONE!!
We enjoyed our hot chocolate upon the return and looked forward to the electric heater, warm throws and the electric mattress pad!! It only took a couple hours to thaw out with all that.
We arrived back at the RV around 10PM and were to meet the bus the next morning at 6:00 AM (seriously I had to get up at 4:30 AM) for a full day in Denali National Park. Now this sounded like fun, “Full day Tundra tour & endless spotting grizzlies, elusive moose and perhaps a peek at Mt. McKinley (the highest mountain peak in North America at 20,000 feet). Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well it was basically 7 hours on a bus with a tour guide driving on crazy narrow roads on the edge of the cliff. We stopped 4 times for bathroom breaks (at outhouses) with only one stop being picturesque.
THIS WAS THE ROAD THE TOUR BUS TOOK US ON -- IF YOU CLICK ON THIS PICTURE YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SEE THE BUS COMING AROUND THE BEND...WE TRAVELED THAT BOTH WAYS WITH BUSES COMING ALONG SIDE OF US. YIKES!
THIS ROAD SEEMS A LITTLE NARROW FOR TWO FULL SIZE TOUR BUSES TO PASS DOESN'T IT? IT WAS A LITTLE "NERVOUSING"!
YES THAT LITTLE WHITE LINE ON THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN IS OUR ROAD
Now we did spot 6 grizzly bears (3 adult & 3 cubs – 3 different sightings), a couple herds of caribou, a group of Dall Sheep, a few Snowshoe Rabbits, different type squirrels and a couple different birds. From the bus they looked like little brown or white specks on the mountainside – we could see them move but could not distinguish anything really. The bus had a video and monitors so as we spotted something she would zero in and we could see it on the monitor. I couldn’t help thinking we might as well have stayed in the RV and watched an Alaskan wildlife video. The scenery was beautiful, we were right in the middle of the mountains, right on the edge of some of them!! But trying to see it through the rain/mud splattered bus windows was difficult. It’s not like we were actually “in” the wild. Not sorry we went, but don’t plan on going that route again. Problem is, Denali does not allow personal vehicles past a certain point. They only allow tour buses and shuttle buses. They feel this preserves the park as it limits “human” intrusion. I hope all National Parks do not decide to go this route.
IF YOU BLOW THIS UP YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SEE THE THREE (MOTHER & 2 CUBS) GRIZZLIES IN MIDDLE, TOWARDS BOTTOM. WE DID SEE THEM REAL WELL ON THE VIDEO SCREEN ON THE BUS. LOL
We were ready to leave Denali and head on to Anchorage, Alaska 263 miles. It was going to be a long drive the next day. Looking forward to the next stop on the tour.