Denali NP – report 2

The day we took the bus, and saw part of Denali, then onto Wonder Lake – was a warm, clear day. Gorgeous, gorgeous weather. The bears were out, as were bull moose grazing in ponds, caribou meandering, snowshoe hares hopping along, golden eagles soaring (boy are they huge birds!) on the thermals – it was a wonderful day!

The next two days were cold, windy and rainy… we bundled up and still took walks out to the Teklanika River, in hopes of seeing some sort of animals. Found caribou tracks, but not much else. Most of the rivers in Alaska are braided and Teklanika is no different.  Where our path led out to the river, it seemed like a straight shot to the main body of water. One always needs to keep an eye out for how one arrives at any given spot when out hiking in the wilderness. And this was true for this river, as our paths quickly hid/blended in in the rocks/willows. So each day, we tried to walk up or down the river.  Each time, we forded the little water ways off the main body of the river to keep walking. We chatted, watched for animals, followed caribou footprints and before we know it, we would be surrounded by water that seemed to be too deep to cross. Mind you, this is frigid, fast moving water. So we backtracked, chatted less and looked for our footprints. Interesting how quickly we could have gotten in trouble if a wolf or a bear would have shown itself, as one can’t backtrack easily when its raining. Each day, we tried different paths, different streams to cross – all had the same end result. We couldn’t go very far from our original path from our campground. Perhaps a mile or so either way. Interesting hikes nonetheless…  I have iBird Pro on my iPhone and we often stopped to identify some bird we saw. Saw two different raptor type birds – names are eluding me at the moment, but was exciting to see in real life.

We would have stayed at least one more day in the park, if we hadn’t miscalculated how far it was to Tok, Alaska via Fairbanks from Denali NP. So reluctantly, we left the park on the 5th and headed toward Fairbanks. Had originally planned to stop in Fairbanks and do some shopping at the local weaving yarn store, but the traffic was such a royal turn-off, we bypassed Fairbanks and kept going. Bummer, as I haven’t seen my Fairbanks friends for quite some time. Will just have to return one day.

My friend Julie, who was to drive my car to meet us in Tok on the 6th, called the night of the 5th to say there was an urgent change of plans of a co-worker and she would not be meeting us. Bummed by this…but understood why. There are just some things in life one has no control over and one of which is death. One of her co-workers lost a family member. Julie could not leave, as someone needs to cover the office.  So… I am awaiting word on when I will see my car and my possessions once again, it may be next week before this happens.  One can’t plan on these type of changes, but I must say, I should have planned for this possibility when packing the car and the RV. I didn’t… so am in a pickle on a few things… life’s little challenges…

We stayed the night of the 5th just north of Delta Junction, then the morning of the 6th, headed out, took Highway 2 out of Delta Junction and stopped early at the Delta Junction Bison place. I didn’t grab any bison from my freezer when I moved out, so was delighted to get some bison meat. Don’t have alot of room in my RV freezer, but managed to get one bison steak (NY Strip), some bison meat sticks, reindeer sausages and one Bison summer sausage. I will order from them in the winter to get more bison meat.  My former neighbor raised bison, so we were privileged to get 1/2 a bison every other year or so. Will miss that.

Onward to Tok, had breakfast at Fast Eddy’s – a tradition we always stop there coming and going thru Tok – great food out in the middle of nowhere!!!  Cheri & I decided to not stay in Tok, but to keep heading for the border. We hoped to get thru the frost heaves before we would stop for the night. As it turned out, the frost heaves were minor issue (a true first!!!), but the wind was a nightmare in driving. But first we had to deal with customs. I knew I would be stopped and possibly searched, but I lucked out in more ways than I thought possible. Normally, Canadian customs asks about whether or not one is carrying fruit, animals, weapons, liquors, etc.  We got a young custom agent! I believe I took him off guard by presenting him with a piece of paper with the facts on my “weapon”. Now I’m sure I’m the last thing he expected to be carrying.  I had my Grandfather’s old Royal Gunworks, a double barrel shotgun with me. Its not possible to load or shoot with it, but its still classified as a weapon. So I gave them the info. I had to fill out paperwork, pay $25.00 for a permit to carry it thru Canada and that’s it. They didn’t ask about our fruit, my cats, nothing else. And we weren’t searched either. Going thru the American side of the border, just gave them the copy of the weapon permit, answered questions about the health of the cats and wa-la we were back into Alaska. The easiest time.

After the border, the frost heaves, filled up for gas in Destruction Bay. The wind was howling!!! Very hard to walk… really seriously considered stopping along side the road and to wait out the wind, but I decided to push a little further. Destruction Bay is at one end of Kluane Lake (pronounced “clue-on-e”) and I was hoping a bit further around this huge lake we could get out of the howling stiff wind and I was right. But to get to that shelter…egads, it was white knuckle driving in slow speed just to keep that rig on the road. My surgery hand hurt big time that night from gripping the steering wheel so tight. We lucked out in finding a space at Cottonwood RV Campground, the last space they had and we ended up staying there 2 nights as the wind was relentless. The crashing waves on the beach was awesome to see and hear tho – so it was a soothing stay after driving in it.

We left early on the 8th, still breezy but nothing like the last 2 days. We saw first a single brown grizzly just strolling along side the road. Then a few more miles down the road, a sow and cub, watched them feasting on grasses for awhile. Then we started seeing, then counting piles of bear scat on the road for miles. Sometimes there were be a pile every 3-4 feet on both sides of the road for miles and miles.  I have never seen this before, it was like potty land for the grizzlies. Something else I noted and I now wonder if they aren’t tied together with potty-ville. Water.  All the streams and rivers were out of there banks everywhere we traveled thru Canada. They also had record snowfall like we did here in Alaska and they still have a ton of snow left on the mountains. So flooding is rampant thru out the Yukon. Is that why we saw all that bear scat on the road? Could be. Interesting, if that is why.

Another favorite haunt of ours as we travel thru Canada, was Kathleen Lake. This time, we just drove in to see if it was out of its banks, then turned around to leave. Right in front, a rig turned out in front of me… I stared and my excitement grew, then as I passed the road that rig came out of, another rig pulled out behind me. I was so darn excited, I was jumping up and down in my seat and sure enough – they stopped at the stop sign, turned off their engines and all piled out of their rigs to greet us. Oh my gosh, how is it possible to have two other Lazy Daze RV’s come out of the woods in Canada to surround me????  Oh what a wonderful welcome from other Lazy Daze folks to the world of Lazy Daze RV’s.  And what fun to meet them and now can’t wait until we meet again – hopefully more time to get to know each other. Just a wonderful, wonderful end to a fabulous trip, as we headed into Haines a couple of hours later.

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