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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!

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