Sunday, August 23, 2009

Clear skies in Denali...

A night at the Denali Hotel, $99. These two rail cars are actual homes. The third one you can't see is the "lobby". I highly recommend it; clean, friendly, fridge and microwave, wi-fi and close to the Park.

Wilderness Access Center at the entrance to Denali National Park. Entry point to fabulous travel through an amazing place!

Bus ride on Toklat Shuttle $14 per person...who needs the fancy tour bus when you get to see all this from the regular shuttle?

Digging up roots for lots of energy...

Caribou don't cool off very well. This one's trying to catch some shade.

This one is just a little guy. He's got some growing to do.

Destination reached...Toklat River. Only thing there is some outhouses and a National Geographic Bookstore sent up in a big tent.

Brenda and I tried to make a set of antlers but they are from the same side of a head. Don't quite match up.

To the left in this picture is a caved out little valley with a cabin in it. Adolph Murie spent 6 years in that cabin researching the wolf population in the park. His wife, Margaret, wrote about much of their time in AK doing research. Some of my favorite books about the state. This is the East Fork River.

Don't eat these ones, they are toxic...
Lunch at Subway cost us about $7 a piece.

Not a bad place to stop and eat it, uh?

After getting off the shuttle to eat at the East Fork River we decided to just hike up the road until the next shuttle came by. It was a beautiful day!

We got on the next bus and not a mile up the road was this momma grizzly with two cubs eating berries. Amazing...


Wait Mom! We are coming?

Last stop before calling it a day was to hike the river walk along the Salvage. 2 miles round trip...

Just taking a little break, she made the whole loop!

And the best part of the entire day? Clear skies to see THE mountain....Mount McKinley in all her glory...PRICELESS!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Riverboat Discovery

After a lazy day at home and a morning ride out North Pole, the three of us gals took an afternoon trip down the Chena River to the mouth of the Tanana. Before leaving, Brenda posed for a shot on the back of Susan Butcher's Iditarod winning sled.

We couldn't have asked for nicer weather when we rolled out on the paddle boat.

A bush pilot takes off from the shore line of the Chena next to the boat.

Several dogs from Susan Butcher's famed sled dog line. Unfortunately, Susan is no longer with us, after passing away after a battle with leukemia. Her kennel is alive and well though.

This is the confluence of the Chena and Tanana Rivers. One is glacier fed and therefore comes with a great deal of sediment in the water. When they meet it takes a while to dilute out.

Mouth of the Tanana River.

The inside of a portable fur lined tent.

A local woman still practices the art of fur work. This is a beautiful woman's winter parka. The patterns, furs, and stitching all tell a story about the woman, her family, and her tribe...

This is a close up of the "sunshine ruff" around the hood of the coat...

The back of the parka. Again, the distinct patter is specific to the tribe.

Hitchin' a ride...

A salmon wheel used to catch fresh fish off the river throughout the salmon run.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Alaska Adventures continued at home

The first week of the trip was pretty wet and rainy but we headed back to Fairbanks at the end of the week and caught clear skies along the way. This is the Nenana river valley just north of Denali National Park

Once we got back to Fairbanks we had one day of just being lazy. We slept in late, went to work related picnic and overall just didn't do much. The following day though we had to head to the North Pole! Santa was on vacation that day but we still did a bit of exploring.

Aunt Brenda and Susan posing with the elves.

Susan made friends with a polar bear!

Brenda and I played Santa and sat in his chair for a bit.

A trip to the North Pole isn't complete without a ride in the sleigh!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Kenai Penisula: Day 4

5:30 am came really early on day 4 of our trip but this was waiting for us.

We joined a group of other eager morning people (after I took off my "I don't do morning" pj's and dressed in sweats and a water proof jacket!). This nice fellow was from Iowa. His wife stayed at the hotel to sleep in and then update their travel journal. Susan was ready to go though!

Capt Justin, born and raised in Wasilla, was swift with the bludgeon. One of my 6 salmon that I caught in 30 minutes did this to him! Nice look, don't ya think?

The command when we caught one was "Fish on!". Brenda had a fish on about the same time four other people did. Rule...just don't reel in more than the 18 inches of lead you got and leave the fish in the water or it will break your line!

Not a bad day for silver's on Resurrection Bay. 6 silver salmon per person, total time from first catch to last catch...1 hour 10 minutes.

After a fast morning of fishing, we came back in for some halibut and then a scoop of Maui Waui! Super yummy!

The next stop was at the Iditaride experience at the Mitch Seavey place. Mitch's father helped Joe Reddington, Sr found the Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome in memory of the famous Serum Run. That day his son Travis showed us around the place. Future racer right there!

This little blonde stole everyone's heart. How can you not love a face like that?

Susan and Brenda are strapped in for our 2 mile sled dog ride!

Travis is hooking up a team of 16 dogs to lead us through their flooded woods. The day prior the place had to close because severe floods took out their road. These dogs were so ready to run. You should here a lot of 85 dogs howl when they want to be picked for the next ride!

And we are off! Susan accused me of looking like a little kid in a candy store....I think she was right.

Good run, team! Back to the dog lot for a rest and treats!

In spite of the rain and mud, these dogs get hot even with a short run like we did. This guy has already accomplished an Iditarod run. This past year dad Mitch, son Dallas, and Dallas' wife Jen all raced in Nome. I saw Mitch and Dallas cross and then helped Dallas size out a vest he purchased for his wife. She finished the day I flew home. This year Danny and Travis, the younger boys, will be racing qualifiers to compete in future Iditarods.

We made one last stop before heading up to Anchorage. The Seward Sealife Center is a beautiful facility. This seal was playing in front of his "fans". He really wanted the fish that was being handed out in the pond next to him :)

The puffins were my favorite creatures on our sea cruise the day prior but getting a picture of one is quite difficult. The avairy at the Sealife Center is set up like a rookery (where sea birds come to mate before returning to their life on the water after giving birth). This is a horned puffin. Very funny, little bird!