Dream Trip To Yukon and Alaska By Road, To Anywhere Else By Any Means At All

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Aug 26 - To Denali Park -- (Dream Travel Trip Anywhere; Yukon-Alaska Road Trip)

Alaska and Back: Did The Guides Work? > What Actually Happened > ...Coming Home FROM The Arctic

August 25-26, 2006...from the
...Arctic to Denali Park

August 26, 2006

Hi Everyone!

This is a combined email, for Aug 25-26, and it is likely to be coming to you only on August 27, as there is no wireless internet at the cabin where I ’m staying – and there ought to be none, either.

This small collection of cabins, called Earthsong Lodge, lies in an open expanse of tundra just north of the Alaska – Denali Range, with just a few log homes in the far distance belonging to residents of Healy – the small town about 8 miles from here.

I am writing this on Saturday evening, at about 9:30 pm. It takes about three hours AFTER the sun sets for it to get close to dark – never quite there.

As the mist rolls in, the sounds of this silence are overwhelming … and beautiful.

You’ll get a sense from the photos of what I can see from my cabin porch during the day, but there is no way to convey the sounds of the evening – of moose calling, the sled dogs howling in the eight or nine kennels within hearing, the horses in the corral just east of us.

That big old black momma moose was right outside my cabin as I drove off this morning.

It looked at me as if asking: “What the heck are you doing up so early?”

“What’s it to you, Moose?”, I answered, and it just shrugged and went back to its breakfast.

The kid just stuck its tongue out at me. Such manners!

I spent the rest of the day on a bus tour of the interior of Denali Park.

That’s the only way to get past the 16 mile mark on the sole Park interior road and to go in about 60 more to see Mt. McKinley plus about seven gazillion other snowcapped peaks … and moose … and grizzlies … and mountain sheep … and red foxes … and black foxes .. wait til you see all the pictures.

Yesterday’s (Aug 25) ride here from Coldfoot (60-70 miles above the Arctic Circle) went faster and better than the ride up there, probably because I knew what to expect on the road – the Dalton Highway.

Still, it was a rugged ride, and a trek that doesn’t allow for ANY mistake in judging the highway surface when you’re traveling on the non-paved stretches – some of them 70 miles or more long.

Non-paved does NOT include regular gravel, folks – those are “improved” surfaces ‘round here.

The fully paved two-laner from the south end of the Dalton Highway to Fairbanks was pure paradise, and the four lane divided highway from 10 miles out to the Starbucks and downtown Fairbanks was like … well, think of Tomorrowland at Disney World when you first saw it, and you’ll get the idea.

So now I’m on my way back to Washington DC, heading south towards my four-day ferry cruise from Skagway AK to Bellingham Washington.

Tomorrow I leave here (the environs of Denali) for Beaver Creek in the Yukon, where I will overnight at Buckshot Betty’s (her real name is Carmen, but don’t say that I told you!).

To see pictures, click LARGE arrow BELOW the map-3rd icon from left. For BIGGER images, click white circle (1st icon). For more info, see menu: Begin Here/User's Guide

The route ... click below to start the slide show ...

From there, on Tuesday, I’m off to Skagway, and on the ferry by 4 pm for a 5:15 pm sailing.

Everyone I’ve talked to says this is the best ferry ride in the world.

They say that I’ll enjoy meeting not only the tourists but the “real” people of the region, who use the less-expensive ferries rather than the cruise ships to get from here to there up and down the SE Alaska and British Columbia Coasts.

By the way, those tour buses that seem to appear in the oddest places on the most out-of-the way roads are but extensions of the major cruise lines.

They carry folks from the ships to wherever and then back to the cruise ships.

And, the area just outside Denali Park, which itself is a vast, unspoilt land, is thick as a forest with hotels also owned by the cruise lines – a sort of soup to nuts setup for those who prefer seemless ship-land tours.

To a businessperson running an independent “resort” such as Coldfoot Camp, being one of the Grey Line, Holland America Line, or Princess Line overnight stopovers is to have guaranteed income during the tourist season – in many cases “making” an otherwise make-or-break existence. It’s really quite something to see.

I did get my share of scoffs from people who though I was nuts for driving a BMW up to Coldfoot.

But I got my share of praise, too. And every so often, a teeny-tiny Kia sedan or a Ford Focus would show up, as if they were safer or more sturdy than what I was driving.

There was even one guy in an Alyeska Pipeline-owned Ford Taurus (Alyeska runs the actual Alaska pipeline for BP and the others) who jumped out of his car when I parked (on the return trip) at the café at the Yukon River (halfway point to/from Coldfoot), shouting: “You’re not going to drive that car to Coldfoot, are you?”

“No, I answered, I’ve already done that, and I’m on my way back down.” Yes, his jaw dropped.



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