Friday, June 20, 2014

Denali - Part II -- Talkeetna

We had seen many animals and got a great look at Denali so for the remainder of our stay we had time to look for more animals and do a couple of day hikes.  We got up early and drove the park road looking for more wildlife and maybe another look at the mountain. 
We were rewarded with a close up look at this mama moose with two babies.  They just walked slowly up the road until one of the little ones bolted across the road and into the brush.  Mama and the other baby quickly followed.
One thing not to be missed in the park is the dog sled demo and kennels.  As you can see they are very friendly.  They seemed a little lethargic, but we learned they do not like the warm, 60 degrees, weather.  The dog teams are used in the winter to carry supplies and research equipment into the wilderness.  Other than planes, the park is a total wilderness in the winter, no snow machines, only dogs for transportation.
We even got to pretend.  I do think it would be a thrill to ride behind a team of dogs through the snow.  Guess it will never happen as we do not do snow anymore.
They hitched five dogs to a summer sled, which has two wheels, and let them run.  It was amazing how excited all the dogs got when they went to pick the ones they were going to let run.  They were all barking and jumping, pick me, pick me, very neat.  An interesting volunteer job in the park is being a dog walker.  All the dogs, there are over 30, are walked three times a day. 
Some more Denali wildlife.
We would have walked right past these two in the campground if someone had not warned us.  They are like slow moving eating machines.
Another cow with two babies in the campground.  It was their home long before humans were here.  I'm not sure if this was the same family we had seen a couple of days before.
WOW!!!! We got yet another look at the great one shrouded in clouds on one of our early morning drives in the park.
One of the hikes took us to this beaver dam.  We have seen many since we started up the Alaska Highway, but we still have not seen a beaver.
This fossil dinosaur footprint was found in the park a few years ago and has started a whole new area of research. 
One of the trails was along Riley Creek near the campground.  We really did not see a lot of wildlife on our hikes.  Bear in mind, this is not a bad thing.
We left the park and headed down the road to Talkeetna.  We had several glimpses of Denali through the breaking clouds.  You can see the top of it sticking up into the bit of blue sky left of center.  This really shows how much it towers over the surrounding mountains.  The clouds were moving quickly so we were hoping for an even better view as we traveled down the road.
We got it.  When I taught school I had a picture of the Alaska Range and Denali on the back wall so I could see it while teaching. I often thought how great it would be to see it in person.  Now I have seen it and it is fantastic.
We stopped at the Denali State Park south view area and watched for an hour as the summit became clearer and clearer.  Seeing the mountain backed with blue skies was not something we ever expected to see in the summer.  What a treat.
These pictures were taken from about 40 miles away and you really get a good look at how Denali towers over the range in front.  By the time we got to Talkeetna where there is another viewpoint the clouds had covered the mountain.  We were very lucky to get this wonderful view.
Talkeetna is the take off point for Mount McKinley climbers so there are a lot of interesting people and places here.  Beautiful downtown Talkeetna, two short blocks on Main Street, has several old restored log buildings including the Roadhouse (top right) where you can order your eggs any way you want but they will always come out scrambled.  Of course, we had to check out Denali Brewing, another winner with both food and beverage.  Several old buildings are now shops catering to the hundreds of tourists and climbers who pass through each summer. 
We had booked two days in Talkeetna with the intent to fly for a close up look at Denali and to land on a glacier.  The morning of the flight we awoke to overcast skies and a no fly day.  We kept rebooking for later in the day but it never cleared.  The RV park was full but they put us in overflow with only a power hook up for another night.  As you can see it worked out, we were able to fly the following day. 
The closer we got to the mountain the cloudier it got until we were above the clouds and could see Denali towering above them.  How very neat.  We both had cameras so these are only a few of the three hundred plus pictures we took.
We were so close it was like you could almost touch the mountains.  From her side Nanc saw climbers.
A lot of my pictures have the prop sweeping by because I got to sit in the co-pilot's seat.  That was really cool, to say the least.
Banking through a turn.  The flight was very smooth especially over the mountains because there are no thermals coming off the cold snow covered ground.
We turned away form Denali to find a hole in the clouds so we could land on a glacier.  There were  two other Talkeetna Air Taxi planes on the glacier ahead of us.
My view of the landing.....
.....and Nanc's.  The touchdown was so smooth it was like landing on a cloud.  We actually got to land twice because our pilot decided to clear a take off path through the fresh snow for all the planes.
We did it!!!  This has been on our Alaska bucket list since reading blogs of others who did it.  It met and exceeded all expectations.
No yellow snow here.  We were the first people to be here in two days so the snow was fresh and pure.  We were surprised at how calm it was on the glacier.  You could have lit a match and it would not have blown out. 
Our pilot, Paul, who is not only a pilot, but a climber who has climbed Denali and many other Alaska Range peaks.  Talking to someone in town later in the day we also learned he owns Talkeetna Air Taxi.
One of the planes that was ahead of us taking off and climbing over the mountains.
Another big glacier we flew over on the way back to Talkeetna.
On the return trip we were further away from Denali and the skies were clearer.  We crossed many old glacial valleys and snow covered mountains.
Then it was over forest and lakes.  There were many cabins on these waters.  This flight was the high point of our Alaska trek so far.  If you are here don't miss the chance to fly to the mountain.  It was FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!
We ended a perfect day the perfect way with a pizza at Mountain High Pizza Pie that is run by Pittsburgher, Todd Basilone.  He came to Talkeetna to visit a buddy and the rest is history.  If you are in Talkeetna check it out.  Great pizza, great local beer on tap and great wine too!!!  Don't miss Talkeetna, it is a great little town.

1 comment:

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Yup we have to go back for the flight, what a great post