Talkeetna, Up, Up and Away- Denali, Fairbanks Here We Come,
Jul 15, 2007
|Thursday, July 12th 2007 Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks Here We Come.
We were at Muffler City and Brake before 8AM, dropped off the RV and Bo said, he'd let us know what the problem was and get back us on road. After checking the rear axle leak, Bo said it was from a damaged axle seal that was improperly installed and spring retaining clip that was missing. The oil leak had soiled the brake pads, "baby needs a new pair of shoes." So $300.00, an axle seal, a new pair of shoes and a few hours later we're on our way looking for adventure.
While leaving Anchorage and reflecting on the trip a lot of things come to mind. Aside from the journey, it was nice having the "Welcome" sign from Tristan. I couldn't believe that Cody remembered I collected Jiminy Cricket. The boys, Cody, Noah, and Tristan gave me a miniature Jiminy Cricket Christmas tree ornament. It's hard to find Jiminy's, it's even harder to find one I don't have. They did and I want to thank them for it.
A few years ago Wally and Lil decided to add on and remodel, they took what was the ground and raised it and built on/down underneath and now have a beautiful split level home. It more than doubled their living space. There were several obstacles that had to be overcome, like plumbing and electrical service but it's a great place with a beautiful 12 by 40 foot patio over looking the backyard. They leave their Christmas Tree up all year long and just change the decorations with the seasons, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween/Fall, and Christmas. It's really very nice. I just had to take a picture of their Red, White, and Blue Christmas Tree. Next stop Talkeetna.
Talkeena is referred to as the "real" Alaska and known for it's views of tallest Mountain in North America, 20,320 foot tall Mt McKinley. Several Flightseeing tours make their home there. All of the 1,200 to 1,500 people who attempt to climb McKinley are flown to the base came from Talkeetna. On average, about 49% of those climbers actually reach the pinnacle. It's also known for the Annual Moose Drop Festival, full of activities, including a parade and Moose Droppings. It's being held this year on July 14-15, so we'll just miss it.
While walking down Main St. we saw K2 Flightseeing tours. Diane and Danny had suggested we use them if we wanted to see Mt. McKinley and the glaciers from the air. It was the perfect choice. K2 offered four tours, with or without glacier landings, from $200.00 to $400.00. Two of the flightseeing tours were grounded because of bad weather, and the other two were wait and see, we booked an hour and half flight and headed for the airport.
As we arrived there was a "Flying Moose" to greet us, I knew we made the right choice! After checking in we were cleared for take off. They gave us a chance to go or wait for better weather. While waiting to board we were visiting with Greg Nowolsky, he was organizing his fishing tackle box. He builds, restores and fly's his own aircraft, a very interesting guy. He was from Fairbanks but didn't like the minus 72 degree winters, so now he lives here in the summer and Sacramento, Ca in the winter.
It turned out Greg was our pilot. He said we should go, there would be plenty to see even if we couldn't see Mt. McKinley. After a brief orientation we were ready to board the Dehaviland Beaver. I was lucky enough to get the co-pilots seat. The flight was indescribable!! There was a storm coming in and we flew just under the clouds. You could literally reach out and touch them. Greg said we couldn't fly into them because they were full of rocks. It was very exciting, at times it looked like there was no way out, he was really threading the needle.
We actually found pockets and climbed to 9.000 feet. The clouds, peaks, icefileds, glaciers, and bears wear absolutely, awe inspiring. I can't believe all the great pictures we got from the inside of the airplane flying at 60 to 100 knots or about 35 to 65 miles per hour. We flew into Sheldons' Amphitheater, it's where the glacier landings take place. It's named after Don Sheldon, he homesteaded 5 acres in the 1980's and is the only private land owner in the 500,000 acre Denali National Park. He recently passed away and his wife rents out the 6 walled cabin for $130.00/night and airfair. In case you're interested there's a 3 and a half year waiting list.
The flight plan took us over around Mt. Foraker, Mt Hunter near Mt McKinley and one glacier after another, unbelievable. The main glacier is the Ruth Glacier and it runs for miles thru The Great Gorge. They must have missed Ruth too and felt sorry that Ruth didn't make the trip and named the best glacier after her. The canyon walls thru The Great Gorge were 5,000 to 6,000 feet above the Ruth Glacier floor. It's estimated that the glacier is 4,000 feet thick, making the canyon 10.000 feet deep, the deepest canyon in the world. Scientists put a stake in the glacier and charted the movement by GPS and in 30 day it had move approximately 100 yards, so the Ruth Glacier is moving at a rate of 2 to 4 feet per day.
There were areas of the glacier that had dirt deposited on it and trees were growing on the glacier. In some places it looked just like a dry riverbed from a distance but it definitely was a glacier. You could look down and see the blue ice crevices. We also flew over 3 black bears playing in the sun, and saw a fourth as we headed back to Talkeetna. What an experience, it was definitely worth the trip. It should be in your "top list of things you want to do before you die". We drove to within a few miles of Denali National Park and can't wait to see what Denali has to offer.
Friday, July 13th, 2007 It is Friday the 13th....Oops, We did it again!
Not to worry, my good friend Regina with the Huntington Beach group that I went to the Nascar Races in Sonoma with gave me a horseshoe for good luck. This was no ordinary horseshoe. She brought me a horseshoe taken off of an Amish horse back in Indiana. I have it hanging on the closet doors so the luck doesn't run out... I'm sure glad we had that lucky horseshoe. I'd hate to think where we would have been with out it...
Denali, the "High One" is the name Athabascan native people gave the massive peak that crowns the 600 mile long Alaska Range. It was originally named Mt. Whitney National Park but was renamed "Denali" in 1980. We were up early as not to miss anything and beat the crowds, it turned out that was a wise decision. People come by trains and are bused into Denali all day long. The visitor center was magnificent. After watching a movie of the Denali National Park we headed off to the access center to see what tours were available. Most of the tours were to the interior of the park and were anywhere from 5 to 12 hours and ranged from $40.00 to $100.00. The public could only drive 15 miles into the park to the Savage River.
The parks service had a free shuttle that would take you to the same place. We figured with our track record and good luck we'd let somebody else drive and use their vehicle for a change. It didn't really matter. We made it about 6 miles and you guessed it, our RV wasn't the only vehicle to break down and be in need of repairs. One of the passengers said, "It is Friday the 13th", Pamela Shields, our bus driver said thanks for reminding her. After a brief explanation of what to do if we encountered a bear and rather than sit in the broke down bus and wait for the replacement, Larry and I started walking toward the Savage River. Pamela assured us she'd pick us up along the way in no time at all. Larry wasn't sure but he thought it must have been my fault!
We saw hawks, rabbits, moose, even a beaver dam, but no eagles or bears. I have to admit it was a very nice drive/walk in the park. I was impressed to see a sign just outside the visitor center saying the park was open to the public and you could walk/hike on the marked trails which there were plenty of, or make your own. There were very few places that were "off limits" it just so happened that the left side of the road where we broke down was one of those places. But we could go as far as we wanted on the right as long as we could the keep in visual sight of the bus. We still didn't get a glimpse of Mt. Whitney.
As we were heading to Fairbanks, the exhaust noise I noticed several days earlier was getting louder and felt we should have it looked into before we started our 3000 plus mile journey home. After spending some time on the phone with Rob in Redding at All Wheel Alignment he provided us with potential repair facilities that would honor the Napa Service warranty contract. We spoke with Sue at Diesel Doctor. She wanted to know if we knew it was Friday at closing time? I assured her we knew what time it was and we just wanted to know if it was safe to continue on our way home or if we needed to have it repaired. We were just around the block and she said come on over but they were closing for the weekend, but she would have someone take a look.
Sue's son, James crawled under the RV and assured us we had a broken exhaust, the same one we had replaced in Redding. Sue said, she should change the name to include Diesel Doctor and RV Park. There were 2 other vacationers stranded here, one was couple in their 80's, while they were having a new engine put in their RV. At 5PM they did find an exhaust manifold in Anchorage. It will be in Fairbanks on Saturday and delivered here first thing Monday morning. James thought he could adjust the schedule and move other appointments around to fit us in and get us on the road again. This is very nice, another family business taking great care of us. So here we are hooked up, with in and out privileges and looking forward to sightseeing this weekend.
Saturday, July 14th, 2007, Fairbanks, AK, The Land of the Midnight Sun.
We're only a 10-15 miles from North Pole, Ak. I'm going to ask Santa for a new Rv, one that won't break down so easily. On the Summer Solstice, June 21st, the longest day of the year, Fairbanks had over 21 hours of daylight, you have to make sure you have on SPF 30 at midnight!!! In the height of the Gold Rush days, 9 million pounds of gold a year was taken out of Fairbanks. In the summer the sun rises in the North and sets in the North. In the winter it rises in the North and sets in the South, I think I have my notes right, I can't write my own reading.
Fairbanks has the Annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game, played without the benefits of artificial lights to a sell out crowd. This year is the 102nd Anniversary, and is on The Baseball Hall of Fames must see list of Top 10 Attractions. The Fairbanks team the Alaska Goldpanners hosted the San Diego, Ca. Oceanside Waves. The Waves beat the Goldpanners 6-1. Hall of Famers on the list of collegiate and pro players who have played in this game include Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield.
We spent the biggest part of the Day at the University of Alaska, Museum of the North, located on the Fairbanks UofA campus. The Museum featured 2 film presentations, one "Dynamic Aurora", on the "Aurora Borealis" and one on "Winter" in Alaska, both we interesting and informative. The northern lights are seen in late August in Fairbanks so we'll miss them. I saw the "northern lights" in St. George, Utah several years ago, like so many of the things we've seen on this adventure it's indescribable, you have to see it to believe it. It's created by the electrical discharges in the gases 60 to 500 miles above the earth in the upper atmosphere. The colors range from neon reds and greens to magenta. White is the only color of the spectrum not found in the Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights are on the must see list of just about everyone. The Japanese has them second only behind the Pyramids' in Egypt.
The Museum of the North's highlights are artwork for over the last 2000 years. Major attractions include Blue Babe a 36,000 year old mummified Steppe Bison and a large display of gold and minerals. The museum featured a copper nugget found in 1936 weighing in at 5,495 pounds and a 7 pound gold nugget found in Nome, Ak. Another interesting fact, the only places you can find Jade in the U.S. is in California, Wyoming, and Alaska, and in AK it's only found in a 10 by 30 square mile area...
There was also a tribute to local Fairbanks Musher, Lance Mackey. He's the first person ever to win both the 1,000 Mile Dog Sled Races in the same year. He did it this year. Both trophies are on display in the Museum. He first won the Yukon Quest International Dog Sled Race which is touted as the "Toughest Dog Sled Race in the World." The journey runs from Fairbanks, AK to Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory, CN. It begins or ends in Fairbanks, depending on the year. Lance then won the "other" 1,000 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, known as the Iditarod. He's won the Yukon Quest several times. He wore Jersey # 13 in the Iditarod and won it in his sixth attempt.
We've reached the farthest point North on our adventure and will be heading South from here. The problem is we have yet to decide which route we want to use on our return trip home. I'm looking for the one with the least amount of repairs.
Love Ya, Miss Ya, Wished You Were Here, Charles and Larry