From Denali to Palmer 7/16

One must stay in Denali a while to feel it.  It’s wet, cold and drizzily but the Rangers say we hit it at a GOOD time and I am sure if this was the beginning rather than the end of our journey we would have tolerated it better.  There are many guided walks, hikes and trails for all levels of conditioning but we were limited in our activities because we didn’t know that domesticated animals are only allowed on paved roads outside the park boundaries.  In order to really explore, it’s not a very good place for large pets to be.  We would have stayed longer but I was worried Mocha would begin to show signs of stress, even though she adapts well, it just was not worth it.

Somewhere around mile marker 134 we are supposed to be able to view Mt. McKinley but all we see are dense clouds no viewing in Denali here.  It is said that Mt. McKinley creates it’s own weather patterns and that is why it is infrequently seen.  When we went to Switzerland we couldn’t view the Matterhorn either, so what else is new?

Passing through Cantwell on the way to Palmer we see endless patches of white flowers, we think are snow drifts but are called cotton grass, a favorite snack for bears.

Crossing the Tenana bridge we enter the little town of Nenana, best known for it’s “Ice classic” an annual event offering cash prizes to the lucky winner/s who guess the exact minute the ice break-up occurs on the Tenana river, which is one of Alaska’s largest rivers that has followed our route since Fairbanks. This Ice Classic is a big deal in Alaska, something like our lottery.  The contest is a spring highlight and has been going strong since 1917.  We stop to take a quick look as we still have a long journey ahead. We see a variety of “tripods” of various sizes; some were actually used to judge the exact timing of the cracking of the ice, others considered local sculpture!

Just around the corner off main street, stood a cute little chapel with intricate beadwork on its alter and interesting stained glass windows.  At the towns end was a quaint old-fashioned train depot, a grocery store, bar and a little blue house.

Whole Salmons were hanging on drying racks, we think to feed the sled dogs.

dried salmon

After Nenana, we pass through low white and black spruce forests on one side of the road where permafrost or tundra conditions exist, spotted with little lakes and ponds then just on the other side thick boreal forests where huge spruce intertwine with birch and aspen. One of the rangers explained that the low trees that appear to be seedlings are actually 5-10 years old but do not have the nutrition or root system of the larger trees living in softer, richer soil.

We decide to make a rest stop in the town off Talkneeka Spur road for another small town experience, just a few hours outside Denali.  The Milepost directs us to the “Flying Squirrel Café and Bakery” and to our surprise it was an organic/vegan spot with choices of two soups, 4 salads, one sandwich and a scant selection of muffins.   What a treat, GREENS real greens featuring: Bok choi, apples, something else crunchy and a lime vinaigrette dressing, yum. My fresh vegetable deprived body was happy at last.

Refreshed, we are on the road again and shortly see signs for WASILLA and pass through it unscathed, no sign of Sarah and no sign of Russia either.

Palmer is a tiny city about 45 minutes from Anchorage. In need of a shower a shave, and some down time we need to begin planning our return route, we check out an ad for Mt. High RV Park, once again never judge a park by it’s flyer or something like that. The ad stated laundry and private bathrooms with showers. Well that was true but what they didn’t advertise was “to be used at your own risk.”  One must sit down gingerly or fall off the potty, as the seats were not securely fastened. Good Sam missed the mark on this one.  The up side, there was an enormous grassy area for Mocha to race around.  Needless to say, there were no photos taken at this spot.

On our way out of Palmer we stop at the visitors center hoping it would be informative and less crowded than in the big city, Anchorage.  Reminiscent of the series “ Northern Exposure” where there was more silence than conversation and never a definitive answer was given. A lovely young Native Alaskan woman tried to help us but the best she could offer were travel pamphlets.  We were trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B by car or by Ferry? Can we take the dog? Where is the ULU factory? But it was an exercise in futility; chalk one more up to the adventure.

The next day we go to Anchorage, the largest population in Alaska, to restock before entering Kenai where we will be staying in municipal or government campgrounds which means no water or electric but lots of nice scenery and fewer “big rigs”.  I realized I could use my laptop in the car while keeping it charged with a gizmo called an inverter. I called the apple store in downtown Anchorage and they had one, yay!  Negotiating a city in this rig was challenging.  Our GPS took us around in circles trying to locate the RV parking area, which we did eventually find.  But, the apple store DID NOT HAVE AN INVERTER!  Half the day lost in traffic, Bill’s jaws are tight and many more chores were on our to do list.  Radio Shack had the inverter, it was inexpensive and it worked! Eventually, we found the ULU factory for the authentic ULU knives rather than the knock offs made in China, sold at all the gift shops. Now we are ready for the Kenai.