Published: June 17th 2009June 15th 2009
In the cloudy gloom when I arrived
When I left Seward, I intended on driving the Glenn Highway to the east from Wasilla to the Tok (pronounced Toke) Cutoff Highway and start heading closer to the Alaska Highway, which runs through Tok. I spent the night in a campground in a place called King Mountain State Rec. Area. It was about 1:00 AM when I pulled in there. The Glenn Highway drive is another very scenic area. But I didn’t get to see a whole lot of it since it was rainy with low clouds obscuring the mountains all around me. This is the second straight day of rain. A few people have told me that Valdez is a real nice spot, so I figured I’d head down there.
Valdez is the seaport city where the Alaska pipeline ends. It’s also called Little Switzerland because it’s almost completely surrounded by pretty mountains. It’s located on Prince William Sound and several boats offer glacier viewing trips to see Columbia Glacier. With the rainy, gloomy weather when I arrived I really couldn’t see much of it.
Well, the next morning the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining again. Now, I could see Little Switzerland. It really
The next day when it cleared up
is pretty. When I was gassing up the burban to head north, I asked a kid if there were any brown bears around. He told me to drive about 5 miles down Dayville road where I’d have a pretty good chance to see a bear. I still haven’t seen a brown bear in Alaska. I have now seen 4 adult moose and 1 calf so the brown bear and the caribou are the only animals I’ve missed. I actually started thinking about driving back to Anchorage and taking a day flying trip to the Brooks River in Ketmai Park to see the bears fishing for salmon. That trip costs about $600.00. They fly you from Anchorage to the spot where you see the bears catching salmon. This is the place you’ve all seen those pictures. But, I decided I would save that idea for the cruise with Jan.
Drove Dayville road-no bears. So, I resisted the temptation to backtrack to Anchorage and headed north. I stopped to eat a late lunch at a scenic overview on the Tok Cutoff and a German couple on a rented Harley stopped, too. We talked a bit and they said they were staying
Town Was Moved
In the 60's an earthquake just about wiped out the town and the Army Corps of Engineers had them move the town about a mile to where it is today.
at the Gakona Lodge down the road. When I got going, 2 miles down the road I saw the sign—historic Gakona Lodge. It looked cool and had a tavern so I stopped in. In the tavern, the Trappers Den, I met an interesting old guy who moved here 25 years ago when he saw the mountains here. There are 2 huge mountains both over 16,000 feet; Mt. Sanford and Mt. Blackburn in the Wrangells, creating a goregeous view from Gakona. Buck Brown is currently 81 and was a true Alaska character.
This is where the story gets a bit long.....and I'm shortening it as much as I can, there actually was more to it.
I was telling the owner, Greg, who was tending bar that I hadn’t seen a brown bear. He proceeded to tell me that there’s a great bush pilot, Harley McMahan who lives right across the highway and he’ll take you out and find brown bear in the Wrangell Saint Elias National Preserve-cut the engine and fly right down by the bear-for $180. That got my adrenaline going so I went over to Harley's house and his wife Fran said he would
Gunther & Elona, the German bikers.
be back around 7:00 PM and give me a call. Harley said that he had 2 possible jobs in the morning, one that could take all day and one that he could be back by 1:00 PM and take me flying. Good chance, so I slept that night in the Burban outside the lodge.
I called Fran in the morning and good news, Harley will be back around 1:00. With about 4 hours to kill, I went to Glenallen for breakfast. While resting at the overlook and about to take a nap, Fran called. Bad news. Harley got caught in some bad weather and had to fly somewhere else and won't be back today. I asked Fran about anyone else in the area and she gave me Dave Parmenter's number at home, but no one there, so I headed to his airport in Gulkana. When I got there, Wendy behind the desk told me that Dave was out flying a job and wouldn't be back till late.
Now, most of you know that when I make up my mind to do something I don't give up easily, so now I'm on a mission. I asked Wendy for any
other possibilities. After thinking for a minute, she said, "maybe Nabesna." So, she called and said yes they'll take me out for $200/hr from Devils Mountain Lodge in the Wrangell National Preserve. She asked what I was driving and when I told her a suburban, she said that I could probably do it. She said it's a forty mile drive on a dirt and gravel road to get there and you might have to cross a couple streams. So, off I went. In addition to the 40 miles of gravel, the road to Nabesna was near Slana, 50 miles up the Tok Cutoff, but at least it was on my way north toward home.
To be continued in the next entry when I can get another internet connection.
There are more photos below