Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
June, 2019 - Mount Denali, Alaska

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Alaska, Anchorage and Seward

We left Denali to travel to Anchorage via a domed rail car on the Alaska Railroad. It was an eight hour trip with a bartender and dining car to make it a very comfortable way to travel and admire the scenery.

All the way the scenery was amazing. There were eleven moose sightings as well as trumpeter swans and eagles. It was hard to get pictures, but I did manage to get this moose.

Here is some of the scenery along the way, mountains, rivers, lakes and beauty everywhere we looked.

We arrived at our very nice hotel in Anchorage late in the afternoon. Since it is light out so long, we were able to book a trolley tour at 7 pm. It was a nice overview of the city. After the tour, we wandered around the downtown area for a bit, and had dinner at a local microbrewery.

Flowers grow in amazing abundance all over Alaska. With the long days of sunshine, the flowers go crazy.

The next morning we boarded a coach bus for the scenic trip to Seward. The Seward Highway is one of the most scenic drives in the state. Unfortunately, it rained all the way, so it wasn't as scenic as hoped for.

That evening the rain stopped for a bit, and we were able to go on our scheduled dog sledding tour without getting too wet. The Seavey family has been raising sled dogs for four generations. The dad Mitch has won three Iditarod races, and his son Dallas has won four. They have about 200 dogs of which 14 will become race dogs. It is quite an operation with lots of hard work required.

In the summer, the dogs train by pulling tourists on wagons. As soon as the trainers began preparing the dogs for the ride, pandemonium broke out. The dogs were SOOO excited to run. They are Alaskan Huskies bred for this purpose, and they love it.

Once we returned, the dogs were ready for a rest. We were able to pet them.

We also had the opportunity to hold some puppies. So cute!! We enjoyed the tour, and learned a great deal about this sport. It sure takes a tremendous amount of dedication to participate.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Alaska, Denali National Park

We left Fairbanks via motor coach for the 3.5 hour trip to Denali National Park. We spent two nights at the McKinley Chalet Resort on the outskirts of the park. Our entire trip was with Holland America land and sea package. We were surprised to find out that they own the hotels we stayed at, the buses, and train cars we were in. It is quite a smooth and well run operation.

We were in Alaska at the summer solstice time. I never did get over the fact that there was 22 hours of daylight. Here is the scenery from our hotel at 10 pm. The sun is still shining on the mountains.

The next day we took the 8 hour Tundra Wilderness tour with the National Park Service. Our driver was great, and found lots for us to see. As we came around a corner, he pointed out the first chance to see Mount Denali. At first, I didn't see what he was referring to. I thought it was clouds, but it was actually the mountain in its full glory. At this point, it was about 80 miles from us.

He told us he hadn't seen it in almost a week. The mountain is 20,310 feet above sea level, the highest point in North America, and creates its own weather system. It is only seen in any part about 30 percent of the time. We were so lucky to see all of it, which only happens about 5 percent of the time.

We had several more opportunities to see it on the route. We also saw the four big wildlife animals; grizzly bear, moose, Dall sheep, and caribou. Some of them were at quite a distance. Our bus had a camera that could zoom in on the animals, and then the driver put it up on screens inside the bus.

Here's a grizzly mom and her cub we saw twice as we made our way to the turnaround and back again.

Next up were caribou. We had several sightings of them. They are the most likely wildlife to see on the tour.

As we got closer to the turnaround, we saw Mount Denali a few more times. Our driver was pushing to get to the turnaround, which would be the closest view of the mountain, about 40 miles away. He said the weather could turn in a few minutes, and it would disappear.  As you can see in this picture, a few clouds were already creeping in.

We agreed to skip one of the stops, and catch it on the way back. When we got to the turnaround, there were already clouds beginning to obstruct the view. We still had a great view, and took lots of pictures.

Here are Kevin and myself with the mountain to the right behind us.

Buses that arrived about 15 minutes after we left reported that the mountain had disappeared. We were so fortunate to see it as much as we did. On the way back, we spotted Dall sheep twice.

And this moose was sitting on the ice by himself.

At one of the stops, they had moose and caribou antlers to examine. There was only half of a moose antler, and it was so heavy, I could barely lift it.

The caribou antlers were much lighter. I'm glad I don't have to carry that rack around on my head.

We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks. The scenery in Denali is magnificent. Pictures definitely don't capture the overwhelming beauty of it all.

We had dinner at one of the McKinley Chalet complex restaurants that evening. Both of us tried a caribou burger. The waiter told us they add beef fat to counteract some of the gaminess of the caribou. It tasted like a beef hamburger to us.

Our stay at Denali was everything I had hoped for and more. It was my favorite place on the trip. Actually, my favorite part was the scenery all over Alaska. Each day brought more beauty. It is impossible to describe or capture in pictures, but it is a memory that will stay with us forever!

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Alaska, Fairbanks

Our first view of Alaska mountains from the plane was breathtaking.

Our friends Myra and Richard picked us up at the airport. We met them in Yuma a few years ago, but they have both lived in Alaska all their lives. When we told them we were coming to Fairbanks, they invited us to come a day early and stay with them at their beautiful home.

After dinner, they took us out on their boat on the Chena River which runs right past their home. We saw two eagles and a beaver home.

We stopped at a local establishment for a drink.

Myra let us try on some fur coats they own. Kevin is wearing wolf, and I am wearing a seal coat.

The next day we went golfing at Chena Bend Golf Course on Fort Wainwright. The weather in Fairbanks was in the 70s and sunny. Even though we were much further north than the rest of the trip, the weather was the nicest in Fairbanks. They have been as hot as 99 degrees in the summer, and minus 66 in the winter. That's quite a swing.

Myra and Richard treated us like royalty. We so appreciated their hospitality. Myra dropped us off at the hotel, and we began our official tour with Fox World Travel. The next day we began with a tour of the Historic Gold Dredge #8. Gold mining put Fairbanks on the map in the early 1900s. This massive dredge was used to mine gold.

Part of the tour was panning for gold. We ended up with $15 worth between the two of us. Not going to get rich that way!

We also saw some of the Alaskan pipeline which runs 800 miles through Alaska, and was completed in 1977 at a cost of $8 billion.

In the afternoon, we took a three hour ride on the Discovery Riverboat tour.

The boat docks right next door to Richard and Myra's house. They were out waving to us with their grandsons as we went by. As you can see, the river is really low right now.

While on the boat, we had a float plane demonstration.

We stopped to meet the dogsled teams of Susan Butcher. She won the Iditarod race four times before dying of cancer. Her husband and daughter continue her legacy.

We got off the boat at a reproduction of a Native Chena Village. We learned about how the native people survived and lived many years ago. This ceremonial robe was gorgeous.

Our first three days in Fairbanks were amazing. Our next stop will be Denali National Park for two nights. More Alaska adventures in the next post.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Three New RV States For Us

On Monday we drove from Provo to Meridian, Idaho; a suburb of Boise. Idaho was one of just a few states we haven't been to. We stayed at the Meridian KOA, a very nice, clean RV park in the middle of the city. The pleasant lady that checked us in said the city grew up around them.

Our main purpose for stopping here was to visit our wonderful friends, Everett and Nancy. We met them a few years ago in Yuma at the RV resort we now live at. They lead the hiking club, and have a park model two spaces over from ours. They have become good friends of ours.

They invited us over for a delicious dinner on Monday. Nancy is a great cook. They have a beautiful home on a golf course in Meridian. Everett is quite the hunter and showed us his sheep trophies in his office. I know one is from Alaska, another from the Yukon, and I don't remember the rest. The hide is from a goat.

It is high on my bucket list to see Big Horned Sheep in the wild. Over the years, we have hiked in several areas where they can be seen, but no luck. Maybe this is as close as I'll get.

On Tuesday we golfed with them at the course they live on, Lakeview Golf Club. We had a fun time, and really enjoyed the company and hospitality of such a great couple. In fact, we were having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures. That's a shame, as their house and yard are beautiful.

Wednesday morning before we left, we did a quick drive into Boise to visit the Idaho State Capitol building. We don't go out of our way to tour capitols, but if we're nearby, why not.

Although the Idaho Capitol is an impressive building, it was pretty much a ghost town. It was eerily quiet and empty. We found the visitor desk, but it was unmanned. There was a brochure that said a free tour booklet was available at the gift shop. The sign on the gift shop door said they open at 9:30 am. We were there ten minutes after, but it was closed up tight.

We wandered around on all four levels. The rotunda is impressive with a huge Idaho flag hanging from the top. No paintings or murals though. Most other rotundas we've seen are more decorated.

The walls, stairs, and floors are made of four types of marble. The 219 pillars look and feel like marble, but are artificial. Really pretty and impressive. I did a little research and discovered this building was completed in 1920 at a cost of $2 million. It was restored in the early 2000s. The bronze eagle on top is nearly six feet tall.

Wednesday was another new state for us. We have never been to Oregon. One thing I really noticed in both Idaho and Oregon were the many rose bushes. Absolutely beautiful!!

We drove to Farewell Bend State Park in Huntington, Oregon. Although we had a pull through site, it was tight getting out of it because the end of it was on a turn in the road. There are seven foot tall bushes all along the sides of the roads. This park is on the Snake River and was a wonderful setting. However, it was very much in the middle of nowhere. At our site we had no TV or cell signal. That rarely happens. No problem for one night. I was amazed at how mountainous Eastern Oregon is, part of the Cascade Range.

Thursday we arrived in Washington State. We spent a week in Seattle in April of 2010 with our boys on a family vacation, but this is the first time we'll be here with our RV.  More hills and mountains. We stayed at Yakima River RV park in Ellensburg, west of Yakima. The views of the Stuart Range were fantastic. This was a no frills, very clean, park; but perfect for an overnight.

A short walk down the entrance road is the Yakima River.

Yesterday we arrived at Pleasant Lake RV Park in Bothell, Washington where our fifth wheel will be until July 8th. This afternoon we put it in storage here at the park, and begin our Alaska adventure. This park caters to RVers travelling to Alaska, allowing you to park in the storage area and keep your refrigerator plugged in for $10 per night. We return from Alaska on June 23rd, and then plan to explore northwestern Washington State for 2 weeks.

I must say that the scenery all the way from Yuma to Bothell has been amazing. So many beautiful sites all the way, with hills, mountains, lakes, rivers, open range and forests.

We are very excited for our Alaska trip!! I will probably do some Facebook posts on the trip, but no blogging until we return.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!