Sunday, July 6, 2014

Denali National Park & Preserve.

Wednesday morning marked the start of our 3rd day in Denali National Park.
Like the previous two, it was dark and raining but the weather forecasts 
were promising some clearing weather over the next 48hrs.

My primary hope was seeing the clouds clear away in order to see the Big Mountain.
We’d also had three full days of reduced solar production and my batteries were down 
about 130 amp hrs of my 480ah bank. (240ah considered the max you should use)

I am always trying to see if I can keep from running the generator so - as our power generation decreases we go into corresponding conservation mode.

I hate those noisy stinky things plus I think they are obnoxious,
especially in a campground setting so it’s this little game that I like to play...

How long can we go without using a generator.

So far this whole trip since April we have not yet started the generator… 
Not once. 
I’ve even been able to run the ice maker numerous times - keeping us in cocktails.
All powered by our solar panels alone… and these wonderful long long days.

We are quite satisfied with that accomplishment.

Wednesday was also our moving day.

We moved 30 miles into the park to the Teklanicka Campground,
driving the park road in a constant rain.

The road in changes to dirt at the 15 mile point when you clear thru the ranger station 
and show them the pass that allows you to drive further into the park. 
The condition of the road was rough. Lots of pot holes and spots where
we ran 5 or 10 miles per hour to keep from getting rattled. 

The road was muddy and we became coated with a good layer of 
this thick concrete like muddy goo.

No doubt that goo is the "rock flour" - the fine silt left over from the glaciers
pulverizing the rock to dust as they carved the earth.

It took us a good hour or so to do that last stretch and we arrived at the campground 
around the 11am checkin time.

We found 3 nice sites near to each other and set up camp just as the 
skies slowly began to brighten just a bit.

The view from in front of my rig...

Teklanika Campground

John is straight ahead, Ron on the left.

Soon the panels were putting amps back into the batteries while we went for
a short hike down to the Teklanika River which runs right behind
this lovely peaceful campground.

Teklanika River

Generally I’m not a big fan of National Park Campgrounds.
I think they were built as an afterthought. They usually seem have small campsites,
are crowded, and noisy... but this one is a gem!

I particularly loved that even during generator hours, only a couple
of units would run for a short time.
Unlike other places where the generators start up at the first allowable
time and run for hours on end, this place was different.

Our site - #20

Teklanika Campground Denali

They seemed to run the generators for only short periods as needed.
Otherwise it was peaceful and serene.

It might be that the restrictions in getting to this campground tend to limit
the campers to like minded people who really appreciate the peace and tranquility.

What ever it is… it worked and I love it! We’ll be back for sure.

We had purchased our bus pass - the Tek Pass - which would give us unlimited rides further
into the park and Thursday morning was our first trip further in to try and
see Denali plus whatever wildlife the park chose to dish up to us.

The park road is very scenic

It winds its way for about 90 miles to a dead-end thru some interesting places
with large drop offs right next to your tires.

Hope that driver stays alert.

While the big one did not come out fully on Thursday,
he (or she) did offer us some teases to keep our interest piqued.

Along the way we saw some Caribou

A Grizzly Bear
(he's in center of photo - click to enlarge)

We stopped for this self portrait.

We saw a Green Glacier... 
Yes a Green Glacier!

In the center of the photo you see a bumpy area that extends
from the left side of the photo to just past the middle where it ends by a grove of trees.
This is actually the end of a Glacier.

It is green because over the eons, the wind has blown tons of dirt onto the glacier
and the plants of the tundra has taken hold.

If you were to dig down you would find that this is merely a thin veneer
and underneath lies the river of ice that is a living moving glacier.

We took the bus all the way out to Wonder Lake - a scenic and remote lake
about 85 miles into the park and only 5 miles from the end.

Leaving camp around 0830 it was a 9hr day and well worth it
even though we did not Denali as it remained shrouded in Clouds.

It is said that only 30% of visitors ever get to see the mountain
and even then it is still mostly hidden.

They are known as the 30% ers.

Denali does not give up it’s face without persistence.

Tomorrow is another day…

You need to put in the time hunting to bag the prize.

So.. at the end of our bus ride, Kate, Ron, and I arrived
back at camp around 5:30pm or so.

I had put together a beef stew early in the morning before we left
and put it into our Wonder Bag powerless cooker for cooking.
So… when we arrived home, we had delicious hot meal waiting for us…
cooked on it’s own all day without power.

Sure enough…. Tomorrow was another day.

Folks have been intrigued about the endless days here
and I’ve received a number of emails asking about that facet of our travels.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words,
I got up this morning at 0245 to take a picture of the night… or lack thereof.

This is about how dark it gets here at the darkest part of the night.

The morning was shaping up crisp and clear.
The promise of seeing the mountain was high.

As I roamed about early this morning
I just knew it was going to be a great day…

I tried to wake the troops and was successful in getting Ron to join my expedition,
so at 0730 we were back on the bus under cloudless blue sky headed
to the Edelson Visitor Center.

Dave was off on a hike as well and not far behind us.

At the Tolkat River Rest stop I spotted this Dall Sheep high up on a mountain side.
(click to enlarge) Its the white dot in the center of the photo.

Unlike our early season travels up the Alcan - the sheep have headed to higher ground
and they are no longer on the side of the road.

Continuing our journey west into the park I kept a close watch on the skies.
I noted some thin high altitude clouds forming and was worried
that any moisture in the atmosphere would start to condense around the mountain
and spoil my plans. I kept my fingers crossed.

Every now and then as you travel the park road you get a glimpse
of the top of the mountain if it is visible.
These glimpses continued to confirm that the atmosphere was still clear.

Cresting a hill about 4 miles east of Edelson,
you get your first view of the entire mountain and there it was….

Denali - The Big One!

We got what we had come so far for!

Not only had we become 30% ers - we had far surpassed that.
Our guide said that this type of perfectly clear day only happens a few times a season!
We were actually 5% ers!

At approx 20,300 feet - Denali (or Mt McKinley)
is the highest peak on the North American Continent.

It has been formed by the uplift from collision of the Pacific Plate
with the North American Plate. It is still growing about 1mm per year.

It takes climbers about 3 weeks to make an ascent.
Time must be spent getting acclimated to the thin air.

It was for us - a perfect 4th of July!

Denali on 4th of July 2014

And the setting for another self portrait of Ron and I.

At the Edelson Visitor Center there are is a collection of Denali
inspired artworks. Among them is this amazing quilt that depicts the
mountain and surrounding countryside.

On the ride back to Teklanika we still saw more wildlife.
First was this Red Fox on the side of the road.
He was intently watching something on the other side of the road.

Soon I spotted the object of his interest.. 
Dinner in the form of an Arctic Ground Squirrel.

The Arctic Ground Squirrel is unique among mammals in that when
it hibernates it can reduce its body temperature below freezing.

We waited to see the Fox make its move but when
hunting squirrels (like hunting Denali) patience and perseverance is the key.
The fox had more time than we so we had to leave before we saw this
drama played out on the tundra.

Further along we saw this herd of Caribou right along side of the road.
In North America they are called Caribou.
In Scandinavia they are called Reindeer.

They are perfectly suited for life in these extreme latitudes where summer lasts
but a couple of fleeting months before winter and endless night returns.

We are now in Fairbanks.
Today we did some canoeing on the Chena River.
If you check out our interactive map you can see our path down the river.

More about our visit in the next post.

A footnote to our visit here:

While spending our time out of touch in Teklanika, we did have Satellite TV
and we learned that a hurricane, the first of the Atlantic season,
 was bearing down and taking aim on our house.

It turned out that Hurricane Arthur made landfall about 3 miles from our house.
and we learned this while unable to contact anyone to see how our house
or those of our friends, had fared.

All we knew was that it was a cat 2 storm and that the eye had made a bulls eye
for the second time in a couple of years.

This morning as we left the park we once again entered into an area of cell
coverage and both Kate and my iPhones began dinging endlessly as emails and texts
started flooding in.

Fortunately we rode the storm pretty well.  
No house damage this time, just another tree that split and came down
and the usual debris that a storm like this leaves behind.  

Some of our neighbors had greater damage but overall nothing
that was life changing and thankfully no one was hurt.

By the time I had heard the what had transpired our landscaper was
already cleaning up the debris at home.

Thanks to everyone - especially Bob, Margie, and Sarah for keeping an eye on
things, taking stuff off of the porches, and keeping us posted.

It's easy to be off line knowing that we have such good neighbors watching our backs.


  1. The suspense was killing me, whether or not the weather was going to be your friend or foe! Congrats on seeing the Big One! AND congrats on escaping yet another hurricane in NC! WHEW! Photos blew me away, thank you soooooo much!
    xoxox Kristi

  2. Great post today! Lot of nice pictures and of course, plenty of wildlife sprinkled in (my favorites)! T

  3. Next time you take a trip during the summer make sure there is some grenadine in the liquor cabinet. Tough making Hurricanes without it.


  4. Gorgeous pics! Getting up early was worth it, you're now a 5%! We made it through the storm. A tree of house fell in the Davis' driveway, but other than that we are good. Have a great trip! Be safe



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