Alaska Part I; 31 July – 10 August – Summer 2017

Update-165
Chicken, Alaska

So we made it to Alaska, we are in Chicken Alaska!

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This is on the way to Chicken, Alaska.  Pretty barren looking in spots.

 

 

 

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We had lunch at a restaurant in Chicken.  Guess what we had ?  BBQ chicken, chicken pot pies and potato salad, as you can guess they serve a lot of chicken.  It was good food but the restaurant was kinda dumpy…… yet unique.  The floor is like rolling hills, someone needed to use a level whilst building.  We drove across the road to the other Chicken gift shop and bought a chicken sticker.  They have giant chickens all over so of course we got photos with the chickens.  It has to be seen to be believed, maybe not THE weirdest place I have been but probably in the top five.  How many times have I used the word Chicken in this paragraph?  Don’t chicken out, tell me.

Back on the road and construction right away !  Another truck/trailer was ahead of us and about 20 km down the road a caribou came onto the road and ran alongside this other truck/trailer and then crossed in front and gone !  It was something to watch.

Oh yes and now we are 4 hours behind Ontario.

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We kept driving through to Tok to find a campground. We stopped at Stone Oven campground which was self-serve and got a nice spot at C2 for 26$ with hydro.  Not much here so we didn’t even unhook, we are off tomorrow to Fairbanks.  This park is nice though.

 

Off to Fairbanks, the roads were okay, a little wavey from frost heave but okay.  The drive was somewhat boring until we saw what we think were the Wrangell Mountains.

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We drove by Eielson Air Force Base .

 

 

Well what do you know ?  We ended up in North Pole AlaskaYes they also have a town called North Pole, not just in Canada.  Who Knew?  Everybody has year round Christmas stuff decorating their businesses and the streets.  Pretty cool.  I know two photos below look the same but they aren’t !  In one photo Trum is sitting on Mr & Mrs Claus and Digby is in the other photo.

We weren’t sure about the campgrounds in Fairbanks.  We read some pretty scary and negative reviews and so we decided to stay at Riverview Campground located in the town of North Pole.  It’s only about a 15 minute drive from Fairbanks.  After we set up, it was late in the day but we wanted to drive to Fairbanks to have a look around and get our bearings.  Yup pretty tight quarters but it was a nice, clean, safe park so at the end of the day, that is what matters.  Plus we had good neighbours.

There is a park called Pioneer Park just outside of Fairbanks and it’s a pretty big and fun place to go.  It is set up like an old town with boardwalk sidewalks and there is a building full of dioramas which are really well done.  There is a lot to do here, particularly if you have children. Lots of museums and historical displays. Splash pads, train rides etc. The first photo below is one of the many dioramas they had on display, wonderfully done.

We drove through Fairbanks and on to the town of Fox.  Why? well let me tell you, they had a Brewery that was supposed to be very popular !  Popular or not, I’m  going to visit it and it’s called  Silver Gulch Brewery . 

However, on the way there, we stopped at the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Tourist spot.  You can see the pipeline itself and also read about the history of it and see some of the “pigs” they used to clean and inspect the pipes.  This is quite something and quite an accomplishment.  It took 70,000 construction workers and billions of dollars to build and it winds its way through 800 miles of Alaskan wilderness to reach the refineries. Approximately 420 miles of the pipeline is elevated and every hour more than a million dollars of oil flows through.


So on to Silver Gulch !!  The ambience, the beer, the food, people, everything was great, we loved it all.  We had cheese and beer soup and seafood hushpuppies !  I’m still not sure what a hushpuppy is but I ate them.  We had the bartender fill up one of our growlers; we keep empty growlers in our truck on the off chance we go to a brewery.     I think we got the Copper Red which is a red ale.  They had so many beers we liked; like the old famous saying – too many beers, not enough time……..

When we left we noticed across the road a kinda dilapidated building called the Howling Dog Saloon, we weren’t sure if it was still open or not.  So we just went past it.   There was another dilapidated building with the word SHOWGIRLS in big white letters.  The day after we left Fairbanks area, Clint read in a newspaper that it had burned down.  I don’t even think it was open.  Anyways, back to the North Pole !

The next day it was raining but we drove to Fairbanks and went to the Morris Thompson cultural and Visitor Centre. (free admission) Wonderful displays and exhibits.  There was one interesting exhibit about the evacuation of the Aleutians in WW2 which was very interesting and sad at the same time.

We talked to one of the Rangers at the Visitor Centre about staying at Denali National Park but the campground was already full so we had to find another campground.  If you are going to Denali, the park fills up super fast, so plan ahead.  We did not.

On to the University to see the Museum of the North which was $10 each to get in.  It was also very informative and we were there a good long time.

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If you are in Fairbanks and you are an automobile lover or a fashion lover, you HAVE to go to the Fountainhead Antique Car and Fashion museum.  $10 each to get in and they will give you a handheld audio device to listen to descriptions of the different cars and outfits.  Oh My !  What an incredible place.  The cars were endless and so well done, whoever worked on these cars put in an awful lot of work and love into them.  There were mannequins by most cars depicting the clothing which corresponded to the year of the car.  Fantastic place.  Really well done.  They have an old car and some costumes so you can dress up and get a photo of you in the car.  Highly recommend this place.

We left for HooDoo Brewery because I’m sure you realize by now that museums make us thirsty.  Shared a taster tray of six of their beers and neither one of us liked them.  That’s pretty sad I think.  We met a girl from Red Deer Alberta travelling with her two black Labs and her brother is a LCol in Winnipeg, I think he’s an engineer but I forget his name.  We sat with her and a couple of other people at a big round table and enjoyed the company; sadly not the beer.

Update-164

 

The next day it was still raining but we headed back into the town of North Pole.  We went to the North Pole house and got a photo with Santa, even the monkeys got a photo.  This store is filled with all things Christmasy, everything you can imagine.  So Santa wanted all of us in the same photo, note Trum and Digby sitting on the floor.  They also had their photos taken separately.  Santa thought they were a hoot and enjoyed the story of the two monkeys travelling with us.

 

We decided to leave there and head back to Fairbanks to the Alaskan Bowl Company.  We watched them through a window in the store for a long time making bowls from scratch.  Very interesting to watch.  And they can laser any image you want into the bowl, if you want an image.  Unique items here.

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We drove to the Discovery boat cruise place where they have a huge store filled with clothes, souvenirs and everything in between.  They also have a huge dining hall which is where they feed the cruise line people.

 

Update-168

 

Back to the University to walk around the botanical Gardens.  We walked for about an hour and got lots of photos.  Clint was able to capture a pic of 2 dragonflies fighting and one dragonfly eating a bee.  I got to see the biggest cabbages in the world.  I can’t get over the size of these guys, they are Huge.

 

 

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We went to the Brown Jug, which is their version of an LCBO, and we purchased a Coleman Growler so we would have a spare.  This place is huge and there is a bar in the back if you want your growler filled up.  They have taps of different beers.

We went into another store, can’t remember the name, and it was chock full of weapons and aisles upon aisles of ammo.  We aren’t used to stores like this and we don’t hunt so it was quite interesting to walk around this store; scary yet interesting.  They had the guns hooked on the walls just like tools.

We talked to the people next to us at the trailer park, she is going to Prudhoe Bay, lucky her.  I think she said the cost was about $1000 for one night.  She will fly up and drive back in a small tour bus.  It’s a very long drive but would be cool to do that.

Friday, 4 August, we packed up and headed out to go to Denali National park.  We tried to get a site in the park without success  so we booked in at Denali Rainbow RV Park, site 65.  They were pretty booked up as well, I think they only had 2-3 sites left.  So the park is right downtown and in behind the main street.  Privacy goes right out the window here !  lol  but it was all good.  We were backed right up to a log cabin which you could not enter from the back but it was an Adventure Tour business so we could see them and hear them from our trailer site which was literally right outside their window.  They were funny, whenever we would cook something or have a beer, they would yell out and ask if they could join us.  Pretty cute.  We did have hydro and water and we were only a five-minute drive to the park which is awesome; and that’s why we are here, for the Park.

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So we finished setting up and drove to the Park and of course got photos of the boys with the Park sign.  We went into the Wilderness Access Centre which they call the WAC, and we bought tickets for tomorrow to take a bus tour.  You can only drive in for the first 15 kms and then you cannot take your own car, you have to take a tour bus.  It was $35 each and we leave at 630 and it is an eight-hour drive, round trip.  We packed water and snacks and our lunch for the day.  There is not much out here and by that I mean, no stores, no restaurants, just beautiful landscape and Denali Mountain at the end of the drive.

So after we got our tickets for the next day’s adventure, we drove the 15 kms, that you are allowed to drive,  and parked at the Savage River Trail and went for a walk, about 90 minutes along the river.

The little Rock Squirrels were there, they are so cute.  Standing up and doing their little sounds, probably telling all the other squirrels, “Stranger Danger, Stranger Danger !”  haha

We left the Park and drove down to ………………wait for it………………a MICROBREWERY !   Yup, even in the middle of nowhere, I mean everyone loves beer right?  It was called 49 State Brewery and was a very cool place in, like I mentioned, in the middle of nowhere.  Those are the best finds, when you least expect it.  It was a big place and packed with people, great music playing and the beer was good.

We then drove around the town of Healey ,which is where the brewery is located, the drive took about 90 seconds.  Yes Healey is a small town, also in the middle of nowhere.  We went back to our site and walked to the Thai restaurant that is on the boardwalk and ordered some takeaway food.  Supposed to be free WiFi at this campground but Nope, nothing.  I wish parks wouldn’t advertise it when they don’t have it.  You would be surprised how often this happens, it’s just to sucker you in lol.

The next day was hot and sunny, a beautiful day to go to the Park and see Denali Mountain, the tallest mountain in North America.  FYI it used to be called McKinley Mountain.  We were up by 5 and drove to the park to catch the 630 bus at the Eiselin Visitor Centre.  Grant was the name of our driver, he was really nice and friendly and the bus was packed full.

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Right off the bat we saw a mom grizzly and two cubs.   I used my 300mm lens but they were pretty far away so this is as good as I could get.  But it’s my first grizzly so good enough I suppose!  Then we saw two other bears, caribou and a moose with two babies and a male moose.

 

Grant, our driver, told us that anytime on the drive if someone saw something and wanted to stop, he would stop.  He told us that you can sometimes see white dots on the mountains and that would be sheep.  And I mean literally a white dot.  At one point a man yelled out “Oh My God I see some white dots !  Stop the bus !”   So Grant stopped the bus and it’s a wonder we didn’t tip over as everyone rushed to that side.  Well everyone except Clint and I.  Then the man yelled out “Oh My God, I think those white dots are MOVING.”  I couldn’t help myself, I had to laugh,  it was pretty funny.  People had their cell phones out and no way, no how, were they going to know what that photo is when they get home.  I had my 300 mm lens and I forget what big lens Clint had with him and we didn’t even bother.  The grizzlies were super close to us compared to those sheep and I couldn’t get a decent photo.  But it made us laugh and it made most of the other people happy so that’s all that counts.  Anyways, I still laugh about that but I digress……………on with the rest of the blog.

We made various stops and had 30 minutes at the Visitor Centre which is the end of the drive and then we head back.  Grant told us he would stop whenever and wherever we wanted, beyond the usual spots.  He was a great guide and driver.  He told us only 30% of the people who come to see Denali Mountain actually see it due to clouds, fog, whatever.  Well we saw it today.  And it was spectacular.

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Denali Mountain

Even Grant was excited as he said he had been working there 2-3 months and had never seen the mountain.  It’s a beautiful thing.  You get really good views from the Visitor Centre and different spots on the drive.  We could have stayed at the Centre longer and taken another bus back but we chose to leave.  The road was gravel and narrow and sometimes scary !   These photos were taken out of the bus window.

There were only a dozen of us on the way back but we picked up some backcountry people on the way back.  One guy used to live in our city, how strange is that?  Meeting someone on a bus in Alaska that lived in Belleville Ontario Canada.

We finished our tour and then stayed in the Park to go to the Dog kennels to see the patrol huskies.  The Ranger talked to us about the Husky Patrols and the dogs but we were not allowed to see the puppies.  (even though they advertise that you can, they probably advertise free WiFi too lol) It was interesting and those dogs sure love what they do.  They love to run and I’m pretty sure other than dinner time, that’s all they think about.

 The next day we decided to do the Horseshoe Lake Trail, only about 4 km.  It was a beautiful lake and walk and a lot of uphill coming back.  Just a wonderful hike.

We went back to the Visitor Centre and watched an 18 minute movie, then drove the road again and we saw one lone caribou and we were able to get lots of photos of him.  We went back to town and drove up this big hill to Denali Resort.  What a winding, gravel road with some really neat signs along the edge of the road.

We went to the Bake for a beer, it’s a local bar and fish and chip place. Its Clints Birthday today so we had to have a beer. Happy Birthday Dear Husband!   The photo below depicts what the small town looks like.

 

So now it’s Monday 7 August and we are leaving for Talkeetna.   On the way in to Talkeetna we stopped at Denali Brewing Co (they also have a restaurant in the town) and we tried some beers.  It was really good and we purchased a growler of Stout and one of IPA.  Nice place and also in the middle of nowhere !  Those are the best places.  We only paid $46 for 2-64 ounce growlers, a 12 pack of beer and a tasting.  I’m moving here.

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We arrived at Talkeetna Camper Park and for 40$ we were put on site 27.  This is an okay park, the sites are quite small but okay.

 

 

We drove to the Look Out just outside Talkeetna to see Mt Denali but there were lots of clouds.  Still impressive though.

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Denali Mountain
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Yukon River at Talkeetna

 

After we drove around more of the area we headed to the riverfront in Talkeetna.  The water is worse looking than the Yukon River – this water is grey and yucky looking.

 

But Talkeetna is a cute little town and you can walk from one end to the other.  Lots of old buildings; gift shops, restaurants etc.  We went into a couple of shops and then headed to the Denali Brewing Company restaurant.  After having dinner, accompanied by a beer, we left and stopped at the Mahay Jet Boat tours – the cheapest was $75 USD for a two-hour ride.  We just didn’t think we wanted to do that and so we didn’t .  I love canoeing but I’m not a fan of boats generally speaking………..

There is a museum consisting of 3 buildings and it was $5 each to enter.  One building was on mountain climbing, one on railroad and mining and the main building had a bit of everything.

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It was a nice way to spend time and they had the cutest old ski-doo, looked like he had a smiley face. Pretty adorable really.   Talkeetna is also a pretty cool place.

 

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Another sunny day and we headed out to drive to Wasilla.  We ended up at Big Bear RV Park, nice site #24 at the back and very private.  Very nice park.

 

After we set up we headed out to do Hatchers Pass, Beautiful scenery and we stopped several times for photos.

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The Little Susitna river runs along the road, very nice.

 

 

We took a dirt road to the Independence Mine.  It was $5 a car with driver plus 3 people.  Parked and walked around all the buildings.  Some are restored, some are in shambles.  Interesting place.  After WW2 it was turned into a ski resort for a bit – now State Parks has taken it over.

We left and went back on Hatcher Pass road.  Holy cow – can you say washboard?  and narrow and winding.  They have some unusual roads here.  There was a yellow sign that stated :  “There are no warning signs posted”  Say what?  What aren’t they warning us about?  lol   We stopped a couple of times to admire the views of mountains and valleys.  Finally the road turned into an oiled dirt road, much better.

The next day, Wednesday was cloudy and cool but we wanted to head out for Iditarod Headquarters.  This is the Headquarters for the famous 1,161 miles (1,868 km) Dog Sled Race.  It goes from Willow to Nome and takes about 2 weeks.  We got to sit in a cart on wheels and the dogs pulled us through the forest on a trail.  It was pretty impressive.  I could not get over how these dogs LOVE to run, I mean that’s all they want to do and then they are happy.  They had two – 12 day old husky pups.  Well I’m not gonna lie – they were super cute and I got to hold them.  Adorable.  They have a nice museum and gift shop and we watched a good movie on the history and other facts of the Iditarod and the husky dogs.  Nice place.

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Then we headed to the Musk Ox Farm and went through the museum which was small but interesting.  You could pay $11 a person to go into the field and see the Musk Ox up close but we decided to leave for the Reindeer Farm.

 

 

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MuskOx Farm

 

 

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The Reindeer Farm was $9 each and Aneesha took us on a tour and we were able to feed the reindeer and pet them.  There were all ages of reindeer in the field, even babies.

 

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We also saw a buffalo and elk and you can feed the elk through the fence.  They had trail rides and a gift shop and some other animals.  This place was built in the 1930’s.  It was also interesting.

 

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We left there and drove to the Knik river which is surrounded by mountains.  People were camped all along the gravel shoreline for fishing.  On the drive back to Wasilla we saw a bear and he was without a doubt the prettiest, cleanest bear we have ever seen.  I know, that sounds weird but this bear’s muzzle was a beautiful tan color and he was just perfectly groomed. lol  We got a few crappy photos out the window but I won’t forget him, or her, that was one beautiful bear.

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We went to Bear Paw River Brewing Company and it was a nice place so we filled up a Growler with a Frontier IPA.

 

 

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Which is a funny,  because we left there and headed for the Last Frontier Brewery.  They also had nice beer so we shared a taster tray and some potato skins.  Clint decided to order a bowl of loaded potato soup.  Everything was good at this place.  We kept getting asked for ID’s which is flattering as we are both on the slippery slope to age 60 but yet still weird !  So we asked them and it is because on their Alaskan Drivers License they have a blue strip on the side if you were convicted of a DUI or something else. If you have the blue strip then you do not get served.  I wonder if that’s only in Alaska?  I have never heard of it in Canada.

We were in Alaska for three weeks so this will be a long blog post.  I decided to separate it into two parts.  This is the end of Part I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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