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Published: August 11th 2013
View along the drive
Fairbanks to Denali National Park 124 miles
Days 18-19-20 August 3,4, and 5 (Saturday, Sunday Monday)
We had another delicious country breakfast in a little diner with some friends we have met in the group before hitting the road to Denali National Park. The drive was beautiful crossing several bridges, one over the Tanana River and catching glimpses of Mt. McKinley, North America's highest mountain (elev. 20,320 Ft.). We unhooked the car 2 miles out of town in a pullout beside the Nenana River then crossed the Hornet Creek Bridge. We stayed at the Denali Rainbow Village. It was so exciting when we arrived because Stan and Georgann our friends from Lago were waiting for us. They have been on a tour of Alaska also with three other coaches. They have taken a different route than us and this is the only night that we will cross paths. They head to Fairbanks Sunday. Owen, one of their group is a certified aqua hot technician so he and Stan took a look at the unit to see if they could tell what was going on. They couldn't fix it but were a huge help in telling us what to ask
for in Anchorage. We had cocktail hour with their group and shared stories of where we have been. We went to dinner with Stan and Georgann, it was so great to visit with someone from home. We ended the evening with ice cream on the board walk marveling at the views that surrounded us.
Day 19 Sunday
We met across the street at the pick up zone at 6am for the Denali bus tour titled Tundra Wilderness Tour. It was a 7-8 hour tour through the park for 53 miles, passenger cars are only allowed in the first 15 miles. Denali is the Athabaskan Indian name for Mt. McKinley it means "The High One". Denali National Park and Preserve is 6 million acres. We all sat glued to our windows and were instructed to shout "Stop" if we saw something we thought was wildlife even if it might be a rock. We would all pull out binoculars and cameras and check it out. If in fact it was an animal the driver turned on his movie camera and zoomed in on it and it displayed on the bus monitors for all to see. At the end of the
tour they provide a video of the overall park and what was spotted for the day (for a small fee). We were able to see: 10 Moose, 13 Grizzly bears with 4 cubs, 5 Dall Sheep, 5 Caribou, 1 red fox, 5 blue spruce grouse and 12 ptarmigan. One of the scariest parts of the road was going over the Polychrome Pass. It was literally on the edge and to add to the excitement we would pass other busses as big as ours. The hills were a beautiful array of colors. The wildlife photos are courtesy of Connie, who has a zoom lens.
We went to a family style dinner theater that night with halibut, ribs and the trimmings even home made mixed berry cobbler. We enjoyed the musical story of the first people who settled Denali.
Day 20 Monday
We had booked a 12 noon raft trip down the Nenana River named by the Indians, Nenana means "a good place to camp between the rivers" and there was no turning back now. This was the first raft trip for Pat and I, and I was very apprehensive. We chose an oar raft, for 2 reasons I
Pat unhooking the car before we pull into Denali
wanted to just enjoy the ride and I was afraid that I might mess up and knock someone out if we did oar. It was the Nenana River Half Day 4 hr combination of the wilderness float stretch with the class III and IV rapids of the canyon hitting over 10 major rapids. First we got into a one piece rubber suit from our feet to over our heads. Only our faces and hands were exposed. I had dressed in at least 4 layers, then the suit and a life jacket I could barely move. Before, we got in the boat we were given a safety talk which scared me to death if I fell out. The water was a very chilly 37 degrees. There were 4 more from our group and we were placed in the front of the boat and sat on the edge only holding on to the "Chicken rope" stretched around the boat. Somewhere in my imagination I thought we would be in seats in the boat. I took a wet camera and got some great shots on the float part and hung on for dear life to get some on the rapid part. It was
Stan and Georgann at Denali Rainbow Village and RV Park
an exhilarating excursion and we will go again someday, we loved looking at the scenery from the perspective of the water. Pat and I celebrated our successful trip (not falling in) over pizza and beer.
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