Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alaska RV Tour - Denali, Alaska

We left as a caravan from the RV park in Fairbanks around 10 AM and made the 118 mile drive to the Denali area without any flat tires, broken windshields or bad wheel bearings. Looks like our spate of bad luck is over!

After a brief stop in Nenana for a look around, our group rolled into the Rainbow RV park around 2 PM. This park is only a couple miles from the Denali National Park entrance. We stayed in the Denali area for two nights, from Monday July 19th to Wednesday, July 21st. The Rainbow RV park has very tight sites and a lot of industrial-looking junk laying around.  On the upside, this RV park is right in the middle of little tourist area with restaurants and various shops.  While it is not the most attractive RV park we've seen, it was fine for a couple nights.

Spike told me that the RV park manager is married to a Barbadian woman and so I went to meet her to see if we knew each other.  Unfortunately, she and her husband were gone on a fishing trip and would not be back until after we left. Oh well...

Anyway, the next day (Tuesday) we split into two groups and each group took the 6.5 hour shuttle bus through the park as far as the Toklat River Rest stop, and then back. Lynda and I went on the first group, with the second group a couple hours behind us.

Riding this shuttle bus was a great way to see the park!  Our bus driver was very good about helping us spot wildlife and stopping the bus anytime someone saw something, or thought they saw something - we had a couple false alarms. Our bus driver had been running shuttle buses through Denali for 11 or 12 years and she was knowledgeable about the park and the animals and so we had our own tour guide as we went along! 

Denali, often referred to as Mt. McKinley, is the highest mountain peak in North America with a summit elevation of over 20,000 feet, and this huge mountain is the centerpiece of Denali National Park. Although we did not expect to get a good view of Denali because "the High One" spends most of his time covered in clouds, we were hoping to at least get a decent glimpse. As it turned out, we did better than that!  As we drove through the park, the clouds came and went and so did the sunshine but there were several instances where we could clearly see Denali and he is impressive!  Thousands of visitors leave Denali National Park without having seen the mountain and so I count myself lucky.

We also spotted numerous animals including a Grizzly sow and her two cubs, mountain goats, caribou, and even a Lynx!

Denali park is beautiful with a variety of topology and lots of flowers and other flora. We really enjoyed it!

Our group planned another potluck for Tuesday evening. It was Spike's birthday and we wanted to have a surprise celebration for him. As always with our potlucks, the food was plentiful and very good, and I think Spike really enjoyed the gathering.

After the potluck Val Frye gathered up some folks and they performed a skit to entertain Spike and the rest of us. Here is a photo of Don Braucher playing the role of Spike - notice the little stuffed animal? That would be Skippy, Spike's little Maltese dog. We all laughed at the good natured fun they poked at Spike, parodying his endless patience, optimism and sayings such as "away we go" and "does anyone need a moment?"  Years from now, we will remember these things I'm sure.

Click here to see more photos of our Denali trip.  Next, on to Anchorage!

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