No lions or tigers, just bears…

I remembered there were two guys working at the bridge on the way in. I also remembered seeing a construction trailer, a piece of heavy equipment and maybe an outhouse or portapotty. I figured if the bears caused any trouble maybe I could scramble on top of the trailer or backhoe.

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The scale of the place…

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More sheep tracks

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You can’t see it, but I’m smiling ear to ear.

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I made it to the bridge without meeting the bears, too bad.

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This is Joe, he works construction. He and his buddy are rigging to jack up the bridge. They are replacing the steel roller bearings with elastomeric “pads”. He sort of smiled when he said it. I had to congratulate him on his “office”. Joe said the bears had come through about 15 minutes before I got there. They sniffed around, crossed the road, descended to the river and wandered off.

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Their walkboard, to be suspended under the bridge to set the rig and jacks.

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Joe’s “office”. I decided to sit here to wait for the next bus. A retired construction worker feels right at home in the shit.

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Joe gets back to work under the bridge.

The next bus I caught had a warning dash light that was bothering the driver. He tried several times to radio dispatch with no answer. Finally after several miles he decided to shut it down and wait for confirmation to continue. Most of us got off and boarded another bus.

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My new ride.

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Visible one out of three days, on the way back Denali raised her skirts.

Get off the bus

I chose taking the shuttle bus to Tolkat over the more “specialized” tours because the shuttle only cost $27 bucks AND you have the option of getting on and off anywhere along the road. The shuttles run every half hour and you are free to flag down a subsequent bus at any time, You can even get off multiple times if you wish, just don’t miss the last bus back or you’ll be stranded overnight in the Park.

I chose to get off at Polychrome Pass because it is an expansive area and the walk down to the river is ALL DOWNHILL. I had a day pack with water, a down vest, some snacks and a pair of gloves. Fe didn’t want to hike, she later told me she thought I planned to walk ALL THE WAY OUT to the Wilderness Center, 46 miles!   I made sure she knew where the RV was parked and got off the bus.

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Which way to go?

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You see things hiking that you can’t on the bus

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Something walking bearfoot…

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The “poly” in polychrome

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more fresh tracks,

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Mountain sheep slowly feeding down the mountain

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About this time a pickup truck drove by with a warning, a sow grizzly with a year old cub were walking down by the bridge across the river. If I continued walking I would likely run into them.  I assumed it was the two bears we had seen from the bus (same general area.) Though I wasn’t overly concerned, I proceeded cautiously, whistling, singing and mumbling to myself.

DENALI

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making friends outside the visitor center

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Looking over the animal displays

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The next morning Fe and I waited at the “Wilderness Center” to board the 9:00 shuttle to Tolkat, 56 miles into the park. 

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A school bus, our driver, Cheryl,  was very personable and had been driving the Denali Road for 13 years. She couldn’t guarantee, but assured us if there was any wildlife near the road she would stop for pictures. Chery seemed to have a “second sight” locating the critters. 

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Sorry for the bad picture, but there’s a moose and calf under the tree. 

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After crossing Savage River this cute young Ranger came aboard to welcome us to the Denali Road. Love her hat!

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The bus stops for all critters!

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Cheryl spies a roadblock ahead.

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a grizz strolls right by the bus.

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And another close on her heels!

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Polychrome Pass area

 

Denali

Up and off by 7:30. After refilling water and dumping tanks (Sourdough Fuel, Airport Way, FREE) we started south on the Parks Highway for Denali, only 147 miles today! I was looking forward to a short driving day. 

The area just south of Fairbanks is unimpressive. Low, rolling with distant mountains. A few hardscrabble houses, cottages and cabins. Some with their junk all on display. (Does every Alaskan own several junk pickup trucks, cars and heavy equipment?) 

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Finally, nearer the Park, we see snow covered peaks.

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Thanks to the “Senior Access Pass” I purchased last year while paddling the Buffalo River in Arkansas we enter the park free and our campsite is half price, $11.00 PER NIGHT. 

One glitch is even though I had reserved 2 nights at Savage River Camp 12 miles up the road into the park the recent snow storm has covered all the sites and we have been relocated to Reily Creek Camp, which is at the entrance. Not quite the “wilderness experience” I was looking forward to.

After paying our campsite and shuttle fees we picked out a site in Reily. Even here, the snow covers almost everything and one loop out of three is still closed while the middle loop is open, but barely passable.  

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Snow covered second loop of campsites.

After hanging our reserved sign I decide to take a drive up to Savage River to see what’s up. This early in the season that is as far as they will allow private vehicles to go. 

We climb the first hill and find snow everywhere. 

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Back at Savage Rive we can see why they were unprepared for campers. Probably will be 2 more weeks before it’s open. 

We decide to spend the rest of the day seeing the Visitors Center and maybe driving into the town, a tourist trap. 

Fairbanks deuce day

Today we started with the University of Alaskas Museum of the North. An amazing structure sitting on a hill overlooking Fairbanks.

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Impressive architecture.

Offered are films on the Alaskan experience, a large gallery containing artifacts, animals and history. Two more galleries are committed to Alaskan art, both contemporary and classic. A third which we regretfully missed, “The Place Where You Go to Listen” links sights and sound to create a unique artistic display.Image

 Goretex be damned, I want a seal gut anorak. 

ImageKayak and Umiak for hunting seal and whales.

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Athabaskan canoe

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Warm clothes, hand hunted and handmade

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The requisite dead critters, RRRRRRROOOOWWWWWW!

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Fe and I spent all morning watching the filma and touring the first gallery. We decided to have lunch in the RV and stay the day at the Museum. There was so much to see. 

to be continued…

 

Fairbanks

 

 

 

 

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I had wanted to stay at state run Chena Wayside Camp in Fairbanks. Not full service, but less expensive that the commercial parks. Be aware, they changed the entry to Geherety St behind the string of retail that runs along Airport Way. The host said they had problems with RV’s turning off of University and since Geherety is almost a frontage road with no traffic it’s better. 

The hang was the Park didn’t have good signs and wasn’t open yet and the “In” gate was closed. After driving around the block a couple times I decided to go in the “out” side of the gate. I located the host. He said the water was frozen, the RV dump inoperative and the electricity spotty, but if I wanted to stay he would open a spot just for us. Looks like we were the first RV customers of the season 2013. (I did see two tents in the walk in sites.)

Another “Spring Adventurer” came in as I was chatting with Dave, the Host. 

A word about Chena Wayside. Though it’;s in the middle of the city you would never know it. The Park has lots of trees and the Chena River runs along one side. we didn’t experience any bugs, being so early in the season. There was still snow in the pullouts!

Dave did get us electricity and water and with the “air” TV channels available we had an enjoyable evening. 

Beaver Creek and back in the USA

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I had wanted to bookdock in a Yukon Govt Caqmp but the only open one was Squanta and it was too far from the border. The next two were still snowed in so we end3ed up at Beaver Creek, the last Canadian town before the border. I had some Canadian money to get rid of anyway. 

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The Westmark RV Park another gravel parking lot. Full service, except the water was frozen. Still full price though…

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Grouping celebrating the pioneers of the area. @ miners and 2 First Nations people…

Another cold night in Canada. Vic, at the visitor Center told us that two days earlier they had been hgit hard with the snow storm. The RV park was full of stranded travelers, A couple trucks slid off the road and one driver had to be airlifted to Anchorage. 

We were lucky to sit out that storm in Whitehorse.

The next morning it’s a short drive to the Border. 

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The US custom agent was easy compared to our welcome into Canada. He asked a few questions, made us sign our passports, (our bad) and confiscated an apple. He asked if we wanted to eat it and give him the core but we passed.

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We ate Bfast at Fast Eddys in Tok, it’s an Alaska Highway tradition. 

Topped off the tank, $4.229 a gallon

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Spied an American moose on the road. 

Except for Tok, the area into Fairbanks isn’t as spectacular as Kulane. Mountains in the distance, with rolling foothills. Could be West Virginia, except all the lakes were frozen. 

We pulled into North Pole Alaska to see what we could see. 

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Fe met the man himself!

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Kluane Lake reprise

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Kluane Lake, 78 miles from end to end, and all frozen.

It’s a big Big, BIG land. To imagine the Native People living here, following the seasons. Fishing, hunting, berrying.

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Sophie Watt, Tschone, in her warm,  gopher skin coat.