On a Clear Day…

I forgot to mention the heatwave here! It has been record breaking temperatures since we arrived. Nearly 90 in Fairbanks (need I say we took the room with working a/c) and high 80’s here at Denali Park. Who would have guessed we’d need our shorts for this leg of the trip? Well, we aren’t wearing shorts because the mosquitoes are so thick. Today we are especially glad to have multiple cans of OFF. We were told that the lead story in Anchorage was that the state is in a mosquito crisis and shelves are bare of all bug repellent. For those who remember before we left I had asked about the best repellents. For what it’s worth we have decided that only the real toxic stuff keeps those pesky mosquitoes away more than five minutes. Alaska mosquitoes are impervious to anything less.

That is Mt Mckinley in the background. Still 70 miles from the mountain.

That is Mt Mckinley in the background. Still 70 miles from the mountain.

For the bus tour we chose to ride a shuttle bus rather than the tour bus. The tour bus charges more than three times as much and doesn’t go the whole length of the road. The shuttle bus drivers are not ‘professional tour guides’ but our driver was super. He talked most of the ride and pointed out any wildlife, stopping to let us take pictures.We, or I should say Matthew, also made friends with a couple on the bus with us. Daniel and Margriet are visiting from the Netherlands. I think they said they have now been to all 50 states. As you can imagine one bit of attention from them turned into a whole day of Matthew showing off all his treasures. New friends, a well seasoned bus driver guide and $$ saved… I say, use your savings for a night at the lodge and ride the shuttle bus.

As I said, we took one of the earliest shuttles, hoping to see more wildlife. It turned out to be a great choice. We saw caribou, moose and a fox and of course, the scenery was amazing. But to our great delight, the haze of yesterday that limited visibility to McKinley was gone today. It turned out to be a picture perfect day. I think, not only were we in the 30% but in the 10% who really see the highest peak completely without clouds. It was truly amazing. We had super views of the entire mountain from the first moment until we headed back. But by the time we reached the park center clouds were rolling in and once again the mountain was at least partially covered.

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What a super day! We celebrated by roasting marshmallows over the fire which the kids had been waiting to do.

Rebecca and Matthew checking out moose antlers.

Rebecca and Matthew checking out moose antlers.

PS I think we’re at page 13 of Harry Potter.

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Next: We forget the Boy Scout’s motto of ‘Be prepared.’

Onward to Denali Park

Today we needed to stock up on groceries and discovered the beauty of Fred Meyer. They are part of the Kroger chain, of which our local Fry’s is also part. However, this Fred Meyer was nearly twice the size of our Fry’s store and complete with a clothing and garden department. I’ll just sum it up with: WOW. Yes, we were very surprised to find such a large store in the relatively small city of Fairbanks. So we bought our groceries and a ton of souvenirs and then headed over to see one of the original paddle wheel boats along the Chena River. The sun was shining and the day beautiful and if we’d had more time we would have taken one of their river cruises. It looked like lots of fun. Instead we had to be content with looking at everything and then managing to finagle a photo op with an Iditarod winner and his top sled dog.

Then it was off to reach Denali National Park. It was only a two hour drive, but as we are discovering, summer means road work in Alaska and this stretch was no different. Several stops waiting for a pilot car with no real idea how long the delays would be. All I can say is at least were able to contain ourselves and didn’t have to jump out of the car to pee in front of the tree in front of us like one lame guy.

More road construction.

More road construction.

So we finally made it to the park. When I was very young (no, I won’t say how long ago, suffice it to say Alaska was already a state…) we camped at Wonder Lake at the end of the park road. Back then you could drive out there but today only select few are allowed to drive the road. The rest of us have to take a bus. We had reserved a spot because I read that, while they take walk-ins, one might have to wait a couple days to get in. I recommend making the reservation. After we got checked in we took advantage of the daylight and drove out to the farthest point we could go in the hopes of seeing McKinley. Though the day was bright it was too hazy to see so I am worried about our tour tomorrow. They say only 30% of the visitors actually get to see the top of Mt. McKinley.

Sorry, I am really rambling. My point is that because it was so light we drove out the road and guess what we saw? Yes, a giant moose. And, super close up.

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Okay, an early morning so that we can catch our 6:45 bus. It seems like we’re sleeping in daylight but each night we’re tired enough that we all fall asleep within minutes. (Did I tell you Rebecca isreading Harry Potter? So far I’ve only hear the first three minutes each night before zonking out.)

A little warm here.

A little warm here.

Tomorrow: Will we see the mountain???