30 June 2014

A Day Back On the Water

We spent a few days at Denali State Park after leaving Denali National Park.



It was a bare bones campground on Lake Beyers.
We did some hiking and relaxing and even rented some kayaks to paddle Lake Beyers.  BJ & I left our kayaks in FL so it has been a while since we were on the water.  The last time was in the Keys last November!

The lake was surrounded by the mountains so was literally glass smooth and the sun was shining bright after several days of rain so we could not have asked for better conditions. The young man at the paddle shop told us to paddle directly across the lake without looking back or we would turn to salt! Actually he said we would be amazed when we turned around!

The site when we turned around! Mt McKinley - Denali in the vernacular!
Gary and Floy on Lake Beyers
Mt McKinley, aka Denali, was beautiful on this bright sunny day.  It was much more impressive to see it all at once rather then incrementally as we crossed the lake (.6 mi at that point)!

Trumpeter Swans are regal!
BJ's first sighting of them

Gary & Floy on the trail!

A cascade along one of the trails!

We enjoyed some hiking around the lake and one evening after a beautiful day we enjoyed HH outside and cooked dinner over a real fire rather then a grill!

Join us for HH!

A suspension bridge on the trail around the lake

Always home, no matter where we are!!

27 June 2014

It Just Goes On & On & On & On & On &...

The Birding Traveler is BJ's blog you should check out!

We are a Denali National Park and Preserve this week.  What a magnificent national treasure we have.  It just goes on and on and on and on!

You can only drive into the first 15 miles of the park.  So on Monday we took one of the bus tours into the interior of the park - we went 44 miles to the Eielson Visitor's Center and then turned around and came back.  It took 4+ hours to go in and about same coming back.  We saw Dall Sheep way up on the mountain tops where they hang out to make it hard for predators to get to them. We saw bears snoozing on rocks near the road.  Another mamma bear with her cubs feeding along a stream.  Caribou hanging around ice patches because the mosquitoes bothered them less there!  And, miles and miles and miles and miles of beautiful scenery including majestic Mt McKinly, the highest peak in North America.  In this area they refer to it as Denali Mountain, the Native American name for it!

The original park was Mt McKinley National Park, but in the 1970's it was tripled in size to 6+ million acres and renamed the Denali National Park and Preserve.  The original park is now designated a wilderness area where human impact is minimized to the greatest extent possible.   The road we took Monday remains unpaved to help minimize the impact.

Here are some magnificent scenes we have seen. Pictures are worth a 1000 (or more) words but even pictures do not do this wonderful place justice!

Denali Mountain - before the clouds obscured the view!

A fox that was backlit by the reflected light from the damp bushes behind

Polychrome Valley and the road we traveled!  Note no guardrail!

Another view of Denali across a valley

A Ptarmigan, BJ got to add it to her list of first in her life bird sightings!
 The town of Chicken AK we visited on the Top of the World road way last week was going to be named Ptarmigan in honor of the this bird which is readily found there! But, nobody was sure how to spell it, but some did know how to spell chicken, so that is what they named the town - or so they say!
A Dall sheep in protected space!
Some more Dall sheep
However, the females and the lambs spend some time in lower, greener pastures because they needed the better nutrition there!  Of course some of them became nutrition for somebody else!  

The caribou shedding the last of his winter coat

Some more caribou

A moose enjoying some salad

Our guide said the caribou lay in the ice patch to avoid the mosquitoes.  If they got too bad the caribou would stick their snout in the snow to keep the mosquitoes from flying up into their nostrils!

Mamma bear and her cubs on a morning outing near a stream!

Pappa bear was looking for a quite spot to nap!
Our road crossed Savage River on the bridge.  
The scenery just goes on and on and on and on!!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

26 June 2014

We Were Not Promised a Rose Garden

Well we are really enjoying Denali National Park and Preserve and I am working on the post for that.  However, I am taking a moment to tell you of our recent downturn in weather! 

It is late June and temp in barely 50 degrees today and it was in the 30’s overnight!  It started raining early yesterday and rained steadily all day yesterday and until early this AM.  Then we had intermittent showers for a while.  Travelers arriving from the Anchorage reported seeing snow flurries and we could see new snow on the tops of the mountains around us!   And, the wind howled all night – so bad we pulled in one of the bedroom slides about 3AM! 
Our suddenly waterfront site!

Interestingly, we noted that road construction projects in the area continued on despite the rain.  At home they would shut down because of the constant rain, but here the time frame for road work is bracketed by severe weather so they will not let rain nor wind delay the project!

Road construction and traffic delays continue, despite the rain!

Nenana River is much more active today!

This was a barely noticeable roadside trickle until yesterday

The Nenana River is a bigger raging waterway today.  The weather service has posted a small stream overflow warning (Nenana is a river, not part of the warning).  The campground drainage system is lacking and mud puddles are a mess but no danger of flooding is apparent! 

But, it is cold and wet!   We are heading south tomorrow for a few days at Denali State Park.  Then a few days at Talkeetna for a few more days. Brother Gary and I are planning of taking a flightseeing plane while there to see Denali from the air!
We will stop for a day or two in Anchorage and then get to the Kenai on 4 July.  Will stay at a campground on the water for a few days then head toward Soldatan and Homer and other locations!   

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

Land of the Midnight Sun

Don't forget to check out BJ;s current blog at The Birding Traveler

 It is, of course, common knowledge in the lower 48 that an important characteristic of Alaska is long days in the summer and long nights in the winter in AK and why it is that way.   In my case I even experienced longer days and longer nights when stationed along the northern tier of the lower 48 while in the USAF.

HOWEVER, knowing about those long days and experiencing them are really two different things!  By the time we reached Tok, AK we were further north then we had ever been!  And the "midnight sun" came to be more then an abstract thought!  It does not get dark this time of the year.
Near sunset at 12:05AM!!
Fortunately, we can darken the bedroom as much as we want/need to.  But, I don't normally go to bed until shortly after 11PM.  And it is disconcerting to look out the window as I am getting ready for bed to see it look like noon time!  There is about a 2 inch crack at the top of the bathroom door into the bedroom and no matter what time I may wake up during the night, 2AM, 3AM, 4AM there is always daylight streaming in about the door!  Not enough to be a problem, but in the lower 48 you don't even notice that crack!

No limited vision after midnight!  
It appears the sun is so little below the horizon that a very bright twilight lasts from sunset to sunrise.  Now in late June sunset is about 12:19 AM and Sunrise is about 3:25 AM!  Of course it changes a minute or two each day.

My experience is that Solstice is a day on the calendar that most of us do not pay much attention to!  Well not so in AK!  Summer Solstice was last week and it was a BIG event.  Had a Midnight 5K Marathon  in Fairbanks, Run to the Sun!  There was a carnival downtown all day and any number of parties, private and public, all in honor of Summer Solstice!  Unfortunately we left Fairbanks the day before and it rained most of the day - but I doubt that dampened the spirits much!

Another picture after midnight and the sun still shinning brightly!
It the midnight sun experience has an interesting experience!  Maybe one night when we have a clear unobstructed view of the horizon I will stay up and watch the transition. I expect the bright sunset twilight will move from the western sky across the southern horizon and become the bright twilight of the sunrise!

If I do I will get some pic of the transition!  But, don't hold your breath.

I am glad we are here in the summer as I don't think I would like the reverse of this in the winter.

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

18 June 2014

Alaska Highway

Don't forget to check out BJ's blog The Birding Travel

Driving the AK Highway was an interesting experience in many ways.  The beautiful north Canada scenery was only the beginning!  The interesting people and places of the area added another level of enjoyment to the trip.   The history behind the highway was especially interesting to me.

The idea was not new. There had been earlier discussion of the military need as war clouds formed.  After Pearl Harbor the need was revisited but an alternative was developed - the Northwest Staging Route was a series of airfields across the Yukon Territory and Alaska that pilots used to move aircraft from the manufacturing point to Fairbanks where they were turned over to Russian pilots under the Lend-Lease agreements of WW II!

However, after the Japanese invaded US Territory in 1942, a secure land based supply route to AK was considered imperative.  Visions of the Japanese moving from the Aleutian Islands to the mainland were real concerns.  Remember our control of the sea and air lanes was not secure in that time frame!

The Canadians of course were equal and they agreed to provide the land if we would build the highway. The US Army Corp of Engineers was the lead agency and they starting moving men and equipment in immediately.   Dawson Creek, British Columbia (BC) was the end of the rail line and became the beginning of the AlCan Highway as it was initially called.  It stretched thru BC and the Yukon Territory (YT) to the border of the Alaska Territory and into Alaska to Delta Junction, where it joined the existing Richardson Highway from Valdez to Fairbanks!  About 1200 miles across the Canada and 200 miles in AK!

The Army assembled a mix of Combat Engineer units and civilian contractors and they started on the Pioneer Road in a very short order.  The Pioneer Road was the original path of the road and was constructed in less the 9 months.  It was started at multiple points along a proposed route and they were joined together to form the completed route.
The season for road work is short and it is very prevalent along the highway!

This initial route was meant to "show the way" for the combat engineers to construct the final road.  The pioneer road was passable for military vehicles but not for a regular parade of supply vehicles needed to supply our distant outpost.

As stipulated in the original agreement, 6 months after the war the US turned the Canadian portion of the highway over to the Canadian government.

Newer wider bridges help

Lots of good turnouts are part of the new highway!

Over the years the highway, now known as the Alaskan Highway, has undergone improvements, bridges upgraded, ascents/descents modified, switchbacks eliminated and improved materials.  It is all paved now and is open year round.

Beautiful and interesting views and sites are never in short supply along the AK Highway!

There are numerous historical points along the highway that recall the history of the construction effort.  And, in the Summer there is a constant stream of tourist (like us) making the trek along the highway.

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

14 June 2014

Friday the 13th is Almost Over

and we are at the FamCamp at Eielson AFB outside Fairbanks.  We had an uneventful trip up from Tok today.  I wanted to come here as I thought I could get a new tire to replace the one destroyed on the road to Dawson Creek at the BX. Wrong-they are too busy!

At any rate I went on into Fairbanks after getting the RV set up and BJ comfortable and managed to find what I needed at Gene's Chrysler-Jeep.  Everyone was nice and I got what I needed but I don't need to go back there again.  They seemed very disorganized.  They kept bouncing me between the service and parts department and I never knew what it was going to cost until it was all over.  But, I got what I needed and price was reasonable so alls well that ends well!

Before leaving Tok I managed to get a few geocaches with BJ's help (she was birding mainly, I was geocaching).
BJ on a geocaching trail!
But, this AM we left Tok on the last stretch of the Alaska Highway until we return to Tok in late Aug to begin our return to US of A (lower 48)!! The offician end of the Alaskan Highway is in Delta Junction, about half-way to Fairbanks which is 200 mi NW of Tok.  BJ drove much of the way.  In Delta Junction we joined  the Richardson Highway which runs between Valdez and Fairbanks.

BJ watching the road!

Road was good all the way, but of course construction was evident in many places as the Summer is road repair time in AK!
Summer is road repair time!
Our first sighting of the Alaskan Pipeline, just north of Delta Junction!
We got to Eielson AFB not long after lunch and got set up before I headed off to find a new tire!  As I left BJ headed out to check out the birding situation.
Red-necked grebe's 

Two families of Canadian Geese!

Bear Lake at Eielson AFB Famcamp 

BTW, I failed ot add a link to her new blog last time so here it is!  She does a beautiful job with pics especially with birds and animals/  Check it out by clicking anywhere on this sentance!

It will be worth your time and you can sign up by clicking to the icons on the right to be a follower! You will receive updates anytime she makes a post!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!