Take the Highway, Denali Higheway that is
Macy and Cooper doing the Denali Highway
We left a little late. There's a first. My work tends to get in the way sometimes. We got on the Parks Highway, Alaska Route 3 about 7pm, so that means we'd get into Cantwell real late. Traffic wasn't bad after we got past Willow. Lots of hunters on the road. We made a few potty stops but we were making good time. It'll be dark when we get to Cantwell.
We pulled into the Chevron gas station in Cantwell about 10:30pm. We weren't alone, there were plenty of RV’s lining up to gas. We gassed up and cleaned the windshield and lights and then headed for the Denali Highway, Alaska Route 8. They repaved the road at the entrance and painted the lines since we were here last month. Looks nice, but deceiving. If you hadn't been here before, it’s only paved for two miles.
We passed where we camped on our first last trip. I pointed it out to the pups. Someone was already camping there. I wanted to see if the spot we camped at the second night about mile 98 was open. We passed a lot of people pulled off into the nooks and crannies to camp. Sorry, I don't like it right next to the road. However, it is hunting season so there are lots of people out here parking wherever they can. You see some really neat rigs. We crossed the Nanana River, the Brushkana Creek, but it was fairly dark.
I pulled over several times to let people pass. 55mph is the speed limit but 35 mph is as fast as I go and then some parts are washboarded pretty bad, so I slow to 25 mph. I'm tired and ready to camp and so is Macy. She's been giving me that “pay attention to me nudges”. We got to mile 98 and everything is full, so we’ll head on for a bit.
We made it to mile 90 and there's several pull outs that are empty, so I pulled into what I thought was best. We’ll move on tomorrow afternoon and find another spot up the road. I got out to check the spot and the northern lights were out big time. I parked the motor home and got the pups out to go potty and we enjoyed the lights for a while. Time to feed the pups and me and then get ready to crash. I'm tired.
Joy woke me at about 3am needing to go potty. I got all the pups up and out we dashed into the chilly night. The northern lights were putting on quite the show. It's been a long time since I've seen them out like this. It's hard to describe how really cool it is. I wish we had got here earlier so I could have my camera gear ready for them. I'll be ready tomorrow night. I hope they come back.
Silly me left his alarm clock on his cell phone, so we were up at 6am. There's no cell phone service out here but the alarm works just fine. Puppy parade time and a chance to get a daylight look at where we’re at. Ahhh, I remember why we came and why I live in Alaska. What a view of the Monahan Flats and the Alaska Range with the Susitna and West Sustina Glaciers way off. OK, coffee and breakfast time.
So after breakfast we took a short hike. It was chilly when we started out. I put on a hoodie and my Carhart jacket. I was carrying them both on the way back. The sun was out and everything was warming up. The fall colors are gorgeous. We were on top of a valley way above the tree line and could see all around. Most campers had moved on and I figured we would also.
The highway went from good to bad to worse and all over again. You could tell it hadn't rained in a bit because the vehicles were making a lot of dust on the road. The roads through here are built atop glacial eskers. The pups did real well, trading out the copilot seat from time to time. We crossed the Susitna River (1000 foot single lane bridge), Maclaren Summit (4800 ft) and Glacier Gap. We found a good spot to pull into before we got to the Tangle River.
We set up camp and I got a fire going. Fed and watered the pups and sat down for a bit. All of a sudden these pesky little flies were every where. I put on some bug dope and the flies seemed to like it. The citronella candles weren't any good either. So we retreated to the motor home. After a break we decided to take a hike. It be short because it's hot out. I don't know the temperature because there no cell service, but it's hot. Well it was short like I said but mainly because of those pesky flies. We did see some moose prints, blueberries and current. We again retreated to the motor home ( I really need to name it). Time to just chill and prep my camera gear in case the northern lights are out tonight. The pups are crashed as I write this.
Good Night Mrs. Calabash, where ever you are
Well the northern lights came out, but very sporadic. Nothing like last night. We watched for a while but then called it a night. There was no argument from the pups. There were no pesky flies out. They must have went to bed. Copper crashed on the dinette seat, Macy jumped in the drivers seat and Joy hopped in bed with me. I think Macy wanted to keep an eye on people who were tent camp a little ways from us.
My alarm was Cooper this morning. He said everyone wanted to go potty. It got chilly last night but it made for good sleeping. No flies this morning. Time for coffee and breakfast. As I sat and drank my coffee while listening to the crunch, crunch, crunch of the pups eating their breakfast, the sun came up and the whole place lite up fast. An eagle flew from the Tangle River area and was almost overhead. I couldn't tell if it was an adult or not. The sunrise back lite it and all I could see was its outline. Sure was a beautiful sight with the Amphitheater Mountains in the background. It's going to be a good day.
Got the camp torn down and squared away. While doing my walk around before taking off I hear an eagle calling from across the road. I couldn't see it, but I heard it.
We got to Tangle River and the paved road began. Nice to have asphalt again. Traffic was next to nonexistent but lots of campers in different pull outs. The Tangle River Campsite had a "Campground Full" sign posted. We weren't stopping anyways.
We’re passing through the Tangle Lakes Archeological District and found Rusty Lake and it said there was a trail, so I asked the pups and they said they wanted to check it out. Well there wasn't much of a trail, but we made it to the lake. It was a gorgeous day and it made for some good photography. They say the ancient people had lived here up to about 10,000 years ago.
Back on the road and we found several empty pull outs with awesome views. The pups watched from the motor home while I took some photos. We made it to the only rest area and it was the nicest I've seen in the state. It also has a great view.
We made it to Paxson Lodge where there was a steady drizzling rain coming down. The lodge has been closed a long time. We headed towards Glennallan on the Richardson Highway, Alaska Route 4 looking at all the beautiful fall colors all along the way and sometimes a view of the pipeline. Once in Glennallan we got on the Glenn Highway, Alaska Route 1 south towards Anchorage. We stopped at the Tessoro gas station to fill up and ran into one of the national park rangers we met a few weeks ago at the Wrangell Saint Elias National Park Visitor Center. She was done for the season and headed home. We were kind of doing the same thing.
Back on the highway it started to drizzle again. We went through Tolsona, Nelchina, Eureka, Sheep Mountain and Glacier View with it raining most of the way. We did get some photos of the fall colors though. We got as far as King Mountain Campground when it started raining harder so we decided since we were only about 2 hours from home, we would head there. So we did.
Some of the Glenn Hwy around Caribou Creek
What a fantastic trip it was. We will do it again, but we’ll avoid hunting season. Maybe in August when we can get some blueberry picking done also. The colors and views are something to experience. I think the pups will agree.
Joy enjoying naptime