Skip to comments.(Vanity) My Trip to Alaska, Part III: The Road To Denali
Posted on 07/18/2006 10:11:25 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
Summer in Alaska, Part III : The Road to Denali
The continuing escapades of the Feckless Feline, grey_whiskers, and her people: myself, my wife, The Cubs (teenage offspring), and Auntie Em, touring the scenic beauty of Alaska.
For Part I, click here.
For Part II, click here.
The absolute best way to travel from Alaska to Denali is by the Alaska Railway. The second best way is a new, comfortable, large gas-guzzler with your cat at your side. Since the Alaska Railway does not accept kitties, even Viking Kitties, we opted for the second method. And unfortunately, this is where I am going to put a little bit of bad news about Alaska:
1) The fast-food restaurant we stopped at, to pick up sausage biscuits for the road, only to find the restaurant closed. At 10:00 AM. And they wouldnt open until 11:00.
2) the driving takes FOREVER. Jeep Grand Cherokees beware!
Fortunately, as experienced travelers, we had a solution for the first problem: listening to the teenagers complain until our hunger pangs seemed trivial by comparison. And even more fortunately, we had a solution for the second problem: We ended up stopping in Eagle River, where we fueled both ourselves and the gas guzzler. So now we had fuel, and food to much to while away the time. By the way, Eagle River looks like an incredible place to live, and I wish we had time to explore it. There is what appears to be a military base, and a LONG bike/hike trail adjoining the road for many miles.
The road to Denali was (as all of Alaska) breathtakingly beautiful. As the driver, I did not get to appreciate it as much as the passengers, because I was constantly having to hit the brakes to slow down for the ever-present motor homes doing their constant 45 mph, even in 65 zones. But that was good, it whetted my appetite for Denali proper. You ge to cross the Nenana river twice on the way. How DO you pronounce Nenana, anyway?
When we arrived in Denali, the first thing we did was visit the sled dogs. There is a group of working sled dogs kept in Denali for use by the Park Rangers as transport during the winter. The kennels are available to tour during the summer season, and one of the rangers gives an interesting talk about the dogsthe dogs eat about 5000 calories per day, each, during the winter! The highlight of this talk was when a team of five or six of the dogs were hitched to a sled and driven around a loop in the access road. The dogs were so excited at the chance to pull the sled, they were all barking and (literally) trembling. As soon as the ranger gave the sign, and simultaneously released a tether keeping the sled fixed, it was GO!!! And all I could think of was the old saying, If youre not the lead dog, the view never changes.
After seeing the dog sled exhibit, we drove out of the park into the town of Denali proper. The town looks like it has a small strip of local Alaskan shops along one side of the road-clothes, souvenirs, some foodand a bunch of resorts for the cruise-ship transplants and guided tour bus visitors across the street. We opted for the local-looking side.
Dinner was at The Crows Nest. This is a restaurant a ways up one of the hills overlooking the main road. (Grey_whiskers proved her true worth as a driving companion while we were going uphill, by nestling in between the parking brake and the gearshift and switching the car to neutral in mid-climb. I think this was her form of revenge on us for daring to fraternize with dogs...) Although I believe buffalo burger was available, we opted for the Russian burger. No, not made from Russians, just a marketing gimmick. The burgers were enormous half-pound monsters topped with a perfect mixture of sour cream, spinach, onion, and other guy-type treats. The restaurant is famous for having 74 different beers on its menu, and I used the burger as an excuse to order two of them. (Alaskan Amber Ale is definitely worth it, by the way.)
Then it was time for bedwe stayed at the Denali Lakeview Inn, about 15 miles out of town towards Healy. Space limits me from saying all that this place deserves, but they are open year round (Northern Lights in the winter). If you get a chance to go, DO IT. We didnt see them, but two sets of guests, in the week before we went, saw a Mother Moose and her Moose-ettes swimming in the lake about 100 feet from their room. Hint: Look on tripadvisor.com which is where I found out about them. And, oh, yes, they dont welcome Viking Kitties either. Grey_whiskers was *not* pleased with being left in the car.
Of course, the main reason anyone comes to Denali national park is to see its namesake mountain, Denali (aka Mount McKinley). We went to one of the tourist type lodges and dropped off Auntie Em, to take a tour bus deep into the heart of the Park (forty miles or so, private cars are NOT allowed so far in except by a limited lottery). The idea was to try to get an unobstructed view of Mt. McKinley, which is only completely visible 20% of the time, due to clouds and such. We opted to take one of the trails at the entrance of the park, Mount Healy. The guidebook said it was 600 vertical feet, but I honestly think it was more. My wife and I are both cyclists, and the Cubs are no slouchesand it took us a good two hours at least to reach the summit. By the way, if you make the climb, be prepared for a hot sweaty slog until about halfway up, when you reach the treeline. Then the humidity and mosquitoes disappear like magic, and a brisk breeze pushes you up the switchbacks. We stopped for Powerbars, and shared a few minutes with other climbers, including a young couple from Duluth, MN, who were training for Grandmas marathon. (It is odd that most of the people we met traveling Alaska were from the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Michigan ) And of course my daughter made fast friends with a local gopher by feeding it half of her food. Did we see Mt. McKinley? We saw the lower half of the peak, it clouded up in the last 20 minutes of our climb.
Of course, Auntie Em had the time of her lifeon the bus tour, she got a rare view of the peak, and the driver took them miles closer than normal to allow them to take pictures. So much for the advantages of being young and spry.
Dinner was at the Cabin Nite Dinner Theater, which was a family style dinner of ribs, salmon, corn, and beans, with coffee, tea, soft drinks, and a cash bar. The entertainment was a audience-participation sing-along / vaudeville / musical, and VERY entertainingand family friendly, occasionally reaching as naughty as PG. I cant give any more details since thatd spoil the surprisesbut it is highly recommended.
By the way, all during our trip through Denali we noticed those white-water rafting rides by people strapped into the giant rubber rafts, on the Nenana river. It would have been $400 extra, leaving Auntie Em behind. If any other Freepers have been on it, I would love to hear more. ..
Tomorrow: The Kitty Goes to Kenai
30yr ago I spent a summer in my teens in Anchorage working at a Pizza Parlor on Spenard.
It was right next to a nude type club.
A greek guy named Gus owned it.
Boy did I make the tips when the drunks came over to eat pizza from the club. Downside was when one would puke on the floor. My job.
I ate alot of pizza that summer.
Probably niether place exists anymore.
Sorry it's late, I was reading about Iran's latest threats.
Hey since we are Global time...
We have been filling our time with the Best of Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue.
Gooood ole Cowboy tunes.
I have to love my family for great "geek" tunes.
Whoopie Ti Yi Trail....
hello! I hope your trip is a memorable one, I have been living in Alaska since 1992 just north of Anchorage in the Mat-Su valley and I have yet to tour Denali, I have heard the Princess train tour is top notch. Hopefully you will have clear days as july tends to be cloudy and the rains are almost daily.
We drove through Alaska in a Jeep Cherokee. One only can imagine how big Alaska is, and how undeveloped / underpopulated it is until you actually go there.
My brother and I backpacked through Denali.
Unlike Yosemite, after two hours I might as well been backpacking through my swimming pool.
But the place is fantastic, and Amber Ale makes it even better!
There are two military bases, Elmendorf is the Air Force, and I think Fort Richardson is by Eagle River..
Always like to see the tourists enjoying themselves. If ya can, get out and do some day hikes up to where the sheep are. I use to take friends from lower 48 up to Sutton waterfalls and they really liked that, also several glaciers you can hike out on, and some fishing too. Do the drive down to valdez, and down chitna. Nabessna Road is a special place too, but have to get out 30-40 miles till it gets real nice (sportsman paradise, won't meet better people than Doug & Judy).
We get alot of Euro's doing the great white explorer thing down the Yukon and they have a good time at it. We're up here at end of the Taylor (Eagle). Alaskans know it's great country but wonder when its minus 55 in feb too. Then there's quite a few Alaskans that look at Denali and say: ya its nice, but you can't eat it.
Anyway, have a nice trip; I got to go pick my fish net. Maybe if king run heats up, I'll get my smoke house filled.
I'm reading backwards.....loving your narrative.
Nenana.....knee nana (accent on nana)
Tanana.....ta (as in tack) na gnaw (accent on ta)
Thanks, now try this one:
GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRr.....IE just quit on me and I lost my reply to part 2......
I'm glad you enjoyed Gwennies. It's a great place to take guests, and just as enjoyable to visit with locals. Amd the walking tour downtown sounds like it agreed with you.
Elmendorf AFB and Fort Richardson are the north end of town. If you didn't veer off to the east for Eagle River you would run into the bases. They share some facilities. The Blue Angels will be here August 12 and 13.
I've always wondered about Puyallup....even hearing someone say it, while looking at it is a toughy.
bookmark to study for my trip to Denali in 374 days
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