Monthly Archives: July 2012

Alaska, Day 3: Exploring Denali

Sunday, July 22, 2012

hiking near Savage River

This was our first full day at Denali National Park, and we started it off by going on a hike near our campground at Savage River. There are actually very few man-made trails within the national park, so we found ourselves searching for a route through the shortest brush or over the calmest river crossings. Walking through brush is much more tiring than a regular trail, which explains why our book on camping in Denali usually estimated an hour per each mile on their recommended hikes. The ground near Savage River was also very spongey with moss, giving you the feeling of walking on pillows. We went out for about 2 hours and didn’t spot any wildlife but did encounter a giant bear paw print and many piles of moose droppings.

what big feet you have

After our lunch break, we took the roadside trail from the Visitors Center to the kennels for the sled dog demonstration. Before the talk started, we got to pet the dogs and explore the kennels. The sled dogs each had their own little dog house and seemed excited for people to visit them. One of the younger dogs, just past puppy age, got ahold of my watch strap and didn’t want to let it go.

“I loved you in Snow Dogs!”

We also finally spotted some wildlife–ravens the size of footballs were flying and squawking throughout the grounds.

The ranger asked the 4 of us to help her with a human demonstration before the dogs were brought out. Bob and Amy were ‘swing’ dogs, helping the lead dogs maneuver the pack, and Kurt and I were lowly ‘team’ dogs doing the grunt work. When the staff went to select the dogs that would get to be a part of the demonstration, all of the animals went nuts, barking like crazy to get selected. They really like their job.

On our way home, we had a wildlife sighting: caribou! It was pretty far from the road, but our shuttle bus driver pulled over so we could take pictures and check it out with binoculars.

just the butt

Back at our campsite, we had a much closer animal counter when a sneaky bird pulled a raw steak halfway off a plate; Amy and I saw it just in time to scare him off but it did get away with a good bite.

A ranger invited us to a presentation he was giving about wolves at the amphitheater right by our site. I’m pretty sure we were the only drunk attendees. He told us that he spends his summers at Denali and works in Hawaii for the rest of the year, which sounds like the most awesome living situation ever.

Afterwards, we went back to our Alaskan beers and Bota Boxes, made some s’mores, and went to bed to re-energize for our next day, which was a big one.

“Nevermore!”

Wildlife Sightings: ravens, moose
Domesticated animals petted: sled dogs

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Alaska, Day 2: On the Road to Denali

Saturday, July 21. 2012

We woke up and got breakfast at Snow City Cafe, a cute place in downtown Anchorage. I ordered reindeer sausage to keep it local, plus it’s delicious. Afterwards, we walked around and checked out some souvenir shops, received an ulu knife  as a free gift with purchase, and stopped into the Visitors Center (which I was banned from entering because I totally forgot the ulu knife was in my bag and tried to pass it through the government-operated building’s security screening.)

Finally, we were able to pick up our RV and get started on the 5-hour drive to Denali National Park. We stopped at the most scenic Wal-mart I’ve ever seen to pick up provisions for our 3 days in the Savage River campgrounds.

most scenic Wal-mart ever

The drive to Denali was wooded, gorgeous, and lined with a surprisingly large amount of fireworks stores. It rained throughout most of the day, and we didn’t see any wildlife during the drive minus some dogs running free near the street.

parked at our Savage River campsite, first night

inside view

After having dinner and drinks inside the RV while playing Cards Against Humanity, the rain finally stopped. We emerged from the RV during the bright midnight hour, and Kurt and I walked down to Savage River to check out the scenery. I don’t think we used our headlamps once during the entire trip. Seeing the vast open sky and mountains looming along the horizon, I realized that no camera was ever going to capture the true awe of being there, a feeling that I’d experience pretty much constantly through the rest of the trip.

this photo was taken at 12:30 a.m. with no flash

Wildlife count for the day: 0

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Alaska, Day 1: Anchorage

Anchorage, AK

Friday, July 20, 2012: Our trip begins!

After a long day of flying, including a semi-ridiculous layover in Dallas-Fort Worth, Kurt and I arrived in Anchorage at around 8 p.m. We dropped off our backpacks at the hotel and immediately set out to explore a little bit. Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska, with its population of 300,000 about roughly half of the entire state. We ate dinner (halibut tacos) and got some beers at Humpy’s Ale House in the downtown area.

After dinner, we walked around a little bit more, already thrown off by the daylight sky still bright well past 10 p.m. Considering it was later than 1 a.m. Chicago time, I was ready to head back to the hotel to go to bed. Our good friends and travel buddies, Bob and Amy, arrived from Houston about an hour or so later, so we called it a night to get some rest for the next big day.

 

 

 

 

 

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Seward Highway, AK

20120728-133405.jpg

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Alaska, Here We Come

We leave in 4 days for Alaska! For 8 days, we are going to be exploring the Interior and Kenai Peninsula in an RV. The planning for this trip started way back in late January, so just the fact that it is finally so close is incredibly exciting. After hours of online research and pouring through travel books, we are actually going to start our adventure soon. It feels unreal. I am eager to start packing my backpack tonight.

A few of the RV sites that we’re staying at later in the trip have wi-fi, so I will do my best to post some blog updates from the road. For the first several days, we will be in Denali National Park so I don’t expect to have any cell phone reception. After we get back, I’ll post extensively about our itinerary, adventures, wildlife sightings, how many baby animals I try to take home with me, how many times Kurt has to say “No you cannot have a pet fox”, and of course plenty of photos. For now, here’s our rough schedule:

Friday, July 20: arrive in Anchorage
Saturday, July 21: pick up the RV and head to Denali National Park
Sunday, July 22: hiking in the park
Monday, July 23:  more exploring, maybe visit Talkeetna
Tuesday, July 24:  drive to Seward
Wednesday, July 25: kayaking and boat tour in Resurrection Bay/Fox Island
Thursday, July 26: back to Anchorage area
Friday, July 27: Soldotna/Kenai area
Saturday, July 28: get in our last bit of exploring, drop off the RV, fly home overnight
Sunday, July 29: back in Chicago

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