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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Midnight snack

7/19 Friday
Friday morning we took a drive out to see the small village of Hope.  The drive down the Hope Hwy off of the Seward Hwy follows the Six mile Creek and the Turnagain Arm taking you to Hope at the Resurrection Creek, just before it empties into the Turnagain Arm.  It was a beautiful drive on a good windy but paved road.  Hope is a small village with dirt streets and lots of old buildings and a couple of small campgrounds.  There were a couple of little restaurants, stores, gift shops, library and a museum.

The Hope - Sunrise Historical Museum was filled with memorabilia of life in Alaska and the gold mining of years gone by.  There were several buildings which had narrated information.  Under a covered area was a collection of old mining equipment.  Very nice collection in this small town.

My dad lived in a quonset like this in the Aleutians during WW2

The Resurrection Creek empties into Turnagain Arm at Hope.  The road in this little old town ends at the creek which is a great fishing spot.  We watched several people fishing right in and on the edge of the creek, and they were catching.

It was a nice side trip with more beautiful Alaska landscape.

We returned to Girdwood and after a quick lunch, hooked up the truck and rolled on down the Seward Hwy to the Sterling Hwy taking us to Soldotna where we pulled in at the Fred Meyers for a grocery stop.  The last time we passed thru and stopped at Fred Meyers we easily found a place to park, this time the parking lot was packed.  This is peak fishing season on the Kenai which runs through town.  We slipped into a spot just the size we needed.  We loaded the fridge and pantry and even found room in the freezer for unlicked ice cream (had not been able to buy ice cream in a long time).  Then we squeezed back out of the parking lot and back onto the Sterling moving south to Ninilchik.

Ninilchik is another little fishing village along Turnagain Arm.  We found All Seasons Campground there which is a Passport America Campground.  GREAT!  Dry camping in a state park typically costs about $15-20 per night, with our Passport America discount we pay $21 per night for a full-hookup site.  What a bargain!  The campground is only 3 miles from the highway, not a bad location and we like the smaller campgrounds.  We will stay a few days and make this our home base.

After checking with the campground host Saturday morning, Forest washed the dust off of the coach while Cindy caught up on laundry.  After lunch we took a ride out to the small boat harbor to see if there were any eagles to be found.  The timing was not right,  we were after low tide so none were feeding.  Someone told us the best time to see the eagles here is at High Tide which would be about 7pm.  We will come back later.

We turned down another little road taking us into Ninilchik Village where we found Mission Ave Gallery & Gifts.  The owner, Jim Lee is a local artist who does fossil Ivory carvings.  His little shop is filled with carvings, jewelry and Moose Antlers all made by him and other local artists.  We will be back to purchase a special piece to take home.  His work is some of the nicest we have found on our trip.

We found the St. Peter Catholic Church in Ninilchik which has a Saturday Vigil Mass at 8:00 pm!  We found this to be such an odd time but when you remember the sun does not set until almost mid-night it is not unusual for this area.  We had a snack in the afternoon to hold us until after Mass for supper.  

After Mass we visited with a local couple who asked where we were from.  He is a Viet Nam Vet and has a couple of good friends from Lafayette and Abbeville.  We had a nice visit with Mark & Liz.  When we left the church after mass we drove back down to the small boat harbor to see if the eagles were feeding.  There were 6 or 7 eagles and several sea gulls.  The local charter boats dump their fish carcasses on the beach.

As we were leaving the harbor we met Liz and Mark, the couple from church, driving in.  He rolled down his window and they invited us to come to see their house.  WOW, we said yes and followed them home.  They have a beautiful log cabin and property along Deep Creek.  She is very proud of her garden and beautiful flowers.  They have been living in their log cabin for many years where they raised their three sons.  He is originally from Illinois and she is Native Alaskan.  We enjoyed our visit with them.  When we realized it was 11pm it was time to go.  Hey we still made it home before dark!  Had a quick ham sandwich before we went to bed.  What a nice day.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Not so wild-life, and ice

Today we decided to take a short drive to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  After parking we did a 2 mile walk around all of the exhibit habitats which were set up nicely.  We saw elk, wood bison, black bears, grizzly bears, a porcupine, sitka deer, reindeer, and a few others.

After that we drove down the Portage Highway, stopped at a pullout for a short hike through the woods along a creek.  There were 2 college guys from Texas A&M who I talked with for a bit.  Oops, forgot the bear spray so Cindy went back to the truck for it.  While there she talked with the 2 Texans a bit more.  She told them we were from Louisiana and one of them said "yeah, I heard".  Huh? guess we do have an accent....
Then we drove down to the boat dock to get tickets for the Portage Glacier cruise.  Short cruise, maybe 15 minutes to the glacier which is on a landlocked lake.  The Park guide said the lake is sterile due to the opacity of the water from all of the glacial silt.  We spent about 20 minutes drifting along the glacier taking pictures.  Didn't see any calving but the day was beautiful with no clouds.  
Which they say is unusual for the Kenai.  Their usual weather is rain.

Tomorrow we'll head over to Kenai City for a few days then further down either to Ninilchik or Anchor Point.  We still want to take a bear viewing flight to see the bears feeding on salmon in the creeks and rivers.  We'll either do that from Soldotna or call Mark again in Homer.


Well after spending a week in Denali and only seeing a small piece of the Great One we left the campground heading south towards the Kenai peninsula once again.  Nice cool day for a drive when we come upon a couple vehicles on the side of the road and people taking pictures.  One of the guys had a white Canon telephoto lens so I figured they saw a moose or something.  Nope, Denali! Cindy yells.  So I pull over as fast as I can and we climb out and walk back to a clearing through the trees.
Yep, there she was in all of her glory!

It was fascinating to watch as the clouds would form up around the peaks and hide the mountain only to open up again.  We watched for a while then hopped back in the coach and continued our drive.

Continuing our drive through Anchorage we remembered that a couple weeks ago Cindy had asked me what was a bore tide?  A bit of research and we found out that Turnagain Arm inlet just south of Anchorage was one of the few places in the world that has the phenomena of a bore tide.  The bore tide is a huge wave or series of waves that advance down Turnagain Arm in a wall of water up to 10-feet high.  The bore tide is a rush of seawater that returns to a shallow and narrowing inlet from a broad bay. Bore tides come in after extreme minus low tides created by the full or new moon.
Bore tides occur all over the world—there are around 60 of them—but only a few are large enough to make a name for themselves. One in China, for example, stretches almost 30 feet tall and travels more than 20 miles per hour. Alaska’s most famous bore tide occurs in Turnagain Arm, just outside Anchorage. It climbs up to 6 – 10 feet tall and can reach speeds of 10 to 15 miles per hour. It takes not just a low tide but also about a 27-foot tidal differential (between high and low tide) for a bore to form in Turnagain Arm.
What's So Special About the Turnagain Arm Bore Tide?
Well, it’s huge—one of the biggest in the world, actually. Also, all other bore waves run up low-lying rivers in more southerly latitudes. The Turnagain Arm bore wave is the only one that occurs in the far north and the only one bordered by mountains, making it the most unique and most geologically dramatic bore tide in the world. It’s also amazingly accessible: you can see it by road along its entire 40- to 50-mile length. And it’s a wildlife-spotting opportunity: harbor seals often ride the tide into Turnagain Arm. Beluga whales may come in a half hour or so later once the water gets deeper.  Unfortunately we didn't see any.

After that we drove down to Girdwood for the night.  After parking and unhooking the truck we drove to the Double Musky Cajun Restaurant.  Cajun in Alaska?  Actually it was pretty good.  Walking in it was decorated with New Orleans and Mardi Gras memorabilia.  Cindy had the shrimp scampi and I had the halibut stuffed with crab.  Cindy's was nicely done served over pecan rice.  No not Konriko pecan rice but rice with pecans.  And plenty of barely sautéed celery.  My halibut was very good but the crab stuffing wasn't up to our standards as cajuns.  Good but not enough seasoning or crabmeat.  Still a very nice meal.

After stuffing ourselves and still bringing back doggie bags we retired to our coach for a nice quiet night. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Denali, aka Mt. Mckinley

Tuesday morning we took care of having the coach ready to roll and about 11am we drove about 10 miles south to grab lunch (good burgers) at Miller’s Market @ Mile 57.5 Parks Hwy in Houston.  Just as we were finishing our burgers Forest received a message that the package was delivered.  PERFECT timing!  We continued our drive south to the UPS Store and retrieved our package and made a quick return to the campground.  It did not take us long to unplug and hook up the truck to make our 195 mile drive from the Willow Creek Resort to Teklanika River Campground in Denali National Park.
Saw this on the way, don't think it's the original....

The drive to Denali took about 3 hours.  The time to check in and then drive to the campground and get parked took another 2 hours.  The drive up the Park Highway past the Savage River Trailhead is on a dirt road with lots and lots of wash board surface and curves.  Since it is a restricted road only the park buses and people with reservations to stay in the campgrounds are allowed to drive this road.  The TEK Campground consists of two loops with a total of 53 sites (SOME can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet) which are first come first serve.  We were guaranteed a site with our reservation.  We entered the first loop and found only 3 vacant sites, one was a handicap site and the other two looked too small; on to the second loop.  The second loop had lots of kids all around and only a couple of small sites available.  So back to the first loop, guess we may have to take the handicap site and hope no one deserving of that site comes in later than us.  As we entered the loop we looked again at site #1 which looked small but found that it was situated parallel to the road and actually just long enough for us to get into.  It was a little narrow, so a tight fit but we did fit.  All of the other sites were perpendicular to the road and most were way too short for us to fit.  When we visited with our neighbor across the road he told us he did not think it was possible for us to fit in our site.  That is what a good driver can do.  It is entertaining to watch some people work their way into campsites.

FINALLY made it and got settled in at TEK in Denali!!!!

Now, back to the AquaHot.  Forest decided once the coach had cooled down (and after supper) he would tackle the re-installation of the diesel AquaHot unit.  AND he DID!  After so many times IN and OUT of the basement previously to work on it, he had all he needed, organized and ready EXCEPT we forgot to grab the camping pad he used to lie on while working in the basement (it stayed in the back of the truck).  SO unfortunately it was even less comfortable to work on it this time. 
Looks like we are back in business.  Once again… Forest and his screwdriver to the rescue!  Now we will have hot water and heat as needed without running the generator.

Wednesday we took a couple of walks and joined in on the Ranger program after dinner.  The walk down to the river was not bad and pretty close.  We saw a track or two but no wildlife.  Wednesday was a day of rest.  The smoke was a little thicker in the afternoon and we could smell it for the first time late Wednesday.  We saw 6 or 7 people leave out in the morning and it was very surprising to not see anyone come in all afternoon.  Late in the evening there were a couple of new sites occupied.  We expected to see a full campground the entire time we were there.  I guess the smoke from the wild fires has many people changing their plans.

Thursday we decided to rest again.  Forest was still pretty sore from his basement work.  We walked down the river a bit before lunch.  It was a nice peaceful walk.  Again a few footprints but no wildlife sightings.  We expect some rain Wednesday and for a couple of days.  We are hoping the rain will clear the smoke and give us clear skies again (hopefully no more fires from lightning!).  About 3pm we began hearing some thunder.  Later we had a light rain, about a teaspoon full.  Cindy decided to join in on the Ranger Program again at the Amphitheater.  Before long the rain began again and everyone scrambled over to the bus stop, which is covered, for the continuation of the program.  The rain continued lightly on and off all night.

Friday morning we woke to the light rain.  Decided to take the bus ride up to the Eielson Visitor Center at mile 66.  Our ticket is for the Green Bus and is for any available space on the bus.  The first Green Bus to arrive did not have 2 seats available.  We were able to board the second bus.  The bus is no more than a school bus painted green but does have two seats on each side rather than a bench seat, so a little bit more comfortable, and overhead racks for your gear.  There were five stops before we reached the Eielson stop.  We sat on the passenger side of the bus, only seats available, and of course everything to see along the way was on the driver’s side.  The rain continued the entire trip so taking pictures was a waste of time. The round trip was about 6 1/2 hours.   Forest’s back was really hurting long before we reached Eielson so as soon as we got there we put our names on the list for the next available seats home.  He was hurting too much to enjoy anything there.  We boarded the next bus and were on our way back to TEK about 11:45.  The rain did finally stop on our way back.  We picked up 5 back packers on the way along with their gear, which was too large to fit in the overhead racks.  They had evidently been camping for a few days, phew!

On our way up we saw 2 moose, some Dall Sheep, and Caribou.  On our way back we saw a Mama bear and her cub and a Caribou.  Unfortunately these sightings were at a much farther distance than the wildlife we’ve seen so far.

The bus tickets we have allow us to ride the bus as many times as we wish.  There is only one route and the round trip ride to the very end takes about 10 hours (not counting any extra time you may want to spend looking around).  After our first trip we were not sure about how many more times we would ride.

Saturday Cindy took the bus again to the Eielson Visitor Center but Forest stayed home.  Rules in the park of course call for “Do NOT feed the animals” and they do encourage you to eat on the bus.  The Visitor Center is very nice and there are a few tables and chairs inside the building as well as several displays.  There are a couple of observation decks and viewing scopes.  When it was time to wait for the bus for my return, I sat outside on a large boulder and decided to eat of couple of peanut butter crackers while waiting.  It did not take long for a little ground squirrel for find me, he came right up to my boot.  Of course I followed the rules and did not give him a bite.
The air had cleared after the rain so time for a few pictures.  We saw several Caribou, a couple of Foxes, a Hawk and a Golden Eagle.  On these bus rides if anyone spots an  animal they yell STOP and the driver will stop as quickly as they can.  They will then do their best to position the bus for everyone to see the animal.  On our way back someone yelled STOP “a black bear” “there, down by the river.”  So we all began searching for the bear, the river was pretty far down.  Finally we spotted her “black bear” that turned out to be a porcupine.  Oh well, it was still wildlife. 

When I returned we went for a short hike down to see how the sore back would do.  Sunday we went on a longer hike down a little creek.

Monday afternoon Cindy rode the bus again to Polychrome Overlook (about 3 hours round trip).  On our way up the driver alerted us to the location to get a glimpse of “The Mountain” as they call Denali Mountain.  He stopped the bus for us to see.  There were a whole lot of white clouds ahead and he said “you can just see her at 11:00”.  Well all I saw was clouds so I asked “where?”  The man in front of me said “there, you see it, just above that V.”  I still could not see it but took pictures of the “clouds” so that we could enlarge the photo and hopefully see Denali.  The air was clear with a few clouds here and there along the way, so a few pictures at Polychrome and a few animals.  We saw Caribou and a Grizzly bear.  Not too much to see but it was a short trip.
(Denali mtn. pics)

Look closely and use your imagination and you'll see Denali!

7/16 Tuesday
We left our site at the TEK Campground about 9am and drove to the Riley Creek Mercantile parking lot to give a call to the Denali Rainbow Village RV Park where we were moving to.  Their check-in is noon but said check out is at 11:00.  So about 11:40 Forest drove the coach to Rainbow Village and got checked in and parked.  I followed in the truck.  The sites are narrow in the campground and we are in a back-in site without enough room to park on the side of the coach.  So I parked in front of the coach as close as I could and walked over to the office to see if that was good or should I park somewhere else.  I was told that is FINE, no need to move.  I told her that I would gladly move it needed, just let us know.  

When we called for the reservation we were told they had a caravan coming in and all they had available was the back-in 30amp FHU site.  Sure enough, mid afternoon the Fantasy RV Tours Caravan began rolling in.   The tour Ambassador was guiding each member into their sites.  

NEVER A DULL MOMENT!  A little after 4pm we were sitting in the coach reading when a 5th Wheel was pulling in to park one site over and across from us.  The Ambassador was guiding him in.  All of a sudden we heard him yell STOP STOP and crash… the 5th Wheel was jammed against our truck!  He cut too sharp and the back of the 5th Wheel swung wide and crashed in to our truck.  His rear driver’s side caught our rear passenger corner and broke the tail light, bent the bumper, damaged the rear fender and the tailgate.  WOW!  We ran out right away.

After taking pictures, Forest pulled our truck forward a bit so that he could finish pulling into his site.  Part of our tail light glass was caught in the lower front of his rear side compartment door.  We exchanged vehicle registrations and insurance information.  What a way to end our day.  Will call the insurance in the morning.  Oh and my dash cam caught the entire thing, paid for in one incident!