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Published: October 3rd 2019
Just returned from an amazing 10 days in Alaska. What a beautiful state! We were so lucky with the weather with only 3 days of rain. And when the sun shines in this state, it is gorgeous! I've loaded quite a few pictures and hope that tells the story. But a short summary of our itinerary below.
Arriving in Anchorage, we flew to Barrow or Utqiagvik, the Northern most place in the US. A small community, 300 miles N of the Arctic circle with a population of 4800. It is flat with permafrost tundra, only 12" below the surface. The houses are built on piers sunk into the permafrost. We enjoyed a walking tour of the town, and later joined Mike Shultz's, (a gentleman who moved up in 1972 and never left) car tour of the area. No polar bears were found, but we did see a couple of beautiful white foxes and snowy owls, and the 'other' blue football turf..
Back in Anchorage the next day, we stumbled on Pirates Pub Crawl, a fun raiser for the Blood bank of Alaska. There were at least 500 pirates and scalawags, dressed in the roles, roaming
the downtown streets, armed with a map, and collecting stamps at 12 of the local pubs.
The next day we picked up the rental car and headed north to Denali NP. High clouds, but no rain. And our first view of Denali, coming round the corner, clear and cloudless. Stopping along the way to enjoy the fall colors as the aspen and alders had turned a beautiful golden color, complimenting the snowy mountains and the blue sky.
Driving Parks highway, about 60 miles south of the Park, we see on the edge of the road a black bear and her 2 cubs. The mama bear crosses in front of us, the cubs hesitate and are almost hit by one of the oncoming cars. Safely across, we watch as the 3 bears feed on berries and the cubs play in the trees.
We arrive into the park by 3:30. The park runs a shuttle bus from mid May - mid Sept. After then, private cars are allowed to drive the first 30 miles into the park, until it snows. During the 2 days we drive, the most # of cars at any
Mom crossing the road, 2 cubs on the other side
thankfully, the vehicles did stop, as they ran across the road
time is only about 5-7 cars. So, we truly feel as though we have the park to ourselves.
We spot a grizzly bear lumbering in the dirt, we are later told that is 'Primrose'. Surprisingly, a lack of birds in the Park. We spot quite a few moose, scanning the hillsides with binoculars, and often getting help from the other people already parked. But, too far away to get any decent pics. We drive to the end of the 30 miles, and on our way back, we see about 6 cars stopped on the side of the road, always a promising sign on safaris. There are about 12 female moose and 2 bulls within 50 feet of the road, just munching on the grass and oblivious to all the large camera lenses snapping away.
It is getting dark, (8pm) when we finally tear ourselves away. Arriving in alaska, the end of Sept, we knew we would be traveling offseason. Being able to drive, and pull over anytime you saw something interesting was definitely a benefit of the off season. But, the downside, we were surprised at how many things were shut down for the
season. That being said, we were staying in Healy, @ 8 miles North of the Park, and as we were told, 'the only place in town still open'. Afraid we might miss dinner, and not having eaten lunch, we call into the Bar. A very harried bartender, Mark tells us, the cafe is closed, because there is not enough help, but the bar will serve food. We arrive at the bar, with 15 mins to spare and are quite grateful for the 'not bad' hamburgers and fettuccini. The bar is quite busy, filled with construction workers. Sitting there, you definitely felt you were getting a slice of the local life. It was 'the only place to be'.
The next day, another full day in the park. It is even clearer today, and beautiful view from the North side of Denali and the mountain range surrounding it. The day includes a short hike along Salvage river where there are multiple signs warning of bears in the area. We spot more moose and Primrose, but a relatively quiet day. Later in the day, we crest a hill and there are about 5 cars including a larger camper with about
5 people standing outside, along the road. And just behind them is a large bull moose quietly and slowly crossing the road. None of them saw it! They told us, they had been waiting for @ 2 hours, watching a couple of moose high up on the hill.... The luck of it all!
We left Tues morning for Talkeetna, a small town about 2 hours south of Denali. A very small rustic town, described as 'tiny, funky hamlet with about 800 people living in it full time. It's claim to fame is it was supposedly the fictional community from the tv series Northern Exposure. It also is where all climbers of Denali need to register, so there are quite a few displays of the climbing community. It was a fun town to just waunder around in the rain.
Anyway, after Takeetna, it was on to Valdez. Found a great cabin just outside of town. We were told, in Valdez - if it is raining, its ok, but if you get a clear day, it is spectacular. Arriving in the rain, it wasn't until morning we were able to see the beautiful glaciers. Unfortunately, all
the glacier tours were finished for the season, so we settled on a canoe trip with Zach. A long canoe that easily fit 6 people. It was very windy, so all of us helped out with the paddling. We almost made it to the turn, until Zach informed us, once we made the corner, we would be into a headwind. So, we cut the trip short and enjoyed meandering among the iceburgs that had broken off from the glacier.
Quickly summarizing, we spent the last 2 nights in Seward. The weather was overcast and rainy at times, but we did manage to take a day tour out to the glaciers, and see some sea otters and a couple of orcas whales.
It was a great trip!!
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