We left our RV park with all the “amenities” by 7:30am. We are headed to Denali National Park today and to get there we are taking the Denali Highway. The Denali Highway is 85% gravel and 15% concrete and opens mid May or when the snow leaves. This is the scenic route and due to the road you are to go only 30 miles an hour for the whole 120 mile road. We are up for it because when are we going to do this again? Hoping to see some beautiful sights and hopefully a bit of wild life.
The gas stations are now becoming less frequent so we stop at one of the two that are available until we finish the Denali Highway. Nice little stop. One lady working there in the shop that was built in 1902. The back of the store was a little museum about the lady who lived there since her birth in 1902. They had so many neat little nick-knacks and mementos from her life as well as the moccasins that she would make and bead, a caribou head mounted on the wall and lots of items from the surrounding area. Nice stop and fun to chat a little with her. She said she was sad that it was the solstice because then the days begin to shorten again. On December 21st they get about 3 hours of twilight before it is totally dark again and its 40 below. Not my kinda place to live at all. Scott laughs at me at how much light I always want. When we renovated our kitchen I was all for more light 🙂
We made it to the turn off to the highway and started in. Really just lovely from the very beginning. We stopped at an overlook right away to take in a vista that was stunning. You could see for miles! The Alaska range curved in front of us with lakes and tundra below.
The roads were really not that bad for the first half of the drive. There was some construction that we had to stop for a few times. I did spot a cow moose on the hillside and it ended up coming closer to the road and we were able to get some great pictures of her! The really neat thing about this highway was that we only saw a hand full of other cars. It felt like we were the only ones on earth much of the time.
The fun came about half way thru our 120 mile trip when the pot holes started. Whew…those are some pot holes and there were soooo many!!! It felt like a real life video game dogging in and out trying to miss these small craters in the road. We must have looked hilarious…a big bread box bobbin and weavin all over the road. We were lucky to be going 25 miles and hour thru this area. At times the road would improve and Scott would get up to 35 miles and hour and it felt like we were risking it…living on the wild side 🙂
We made a stop at Alpine Creek Lodge because Scott and Dad needed a rest from all the defensive driving and because their ad in the MilePost said that they always offer free coffee 🙂 Like Ben says “you can’t keep a person from their coffee” when the girls said they are not wanting to stop. We park in the lower lot and head up the driveway to the lodge. Its a big log building and inside we are greeted by the owner and the kitchen cook. We looked around and had a cup of coffee then headed out onto the deck to take in the sweeping views. Wow! They even had a little glassed in area for a game of ping pong in inclement weather…outside of that they had a Seahawks Adirondack chair (good people 🙂 ). We still had at least 2/3rds of the highway to conquer. The roads continued to be bad for about 10 more miles but got increasingly better as we went on. We enjoyed lunch at one of the many turn outs along the road. The really neat thing about this highway is not only the views, the quiet and the immensity of the area but the fact that you can just pull off anywhere and camp…for free.
You are allowed to pull off on any BLM Land and stay. Such freedom. There were groups of 4wheelers at sites along one of the lakes or rivers here and there. There are so many lakes its crazy! If you ever get the chance to drive this highway you should plan to stay a night here…just bring bug spray 🙂
By the time we hit pavement it was a welcome feeling. Dad and Scotts arms were tired from all the shaking! The next 30 miles were a breeze as we made our way to our camp ground in the National Park. The Riley Creek campground is the first government one in the park. We stopped for a quick picture by the Denali Sign then found our sites after checking in at registration. We ended up being able to find two just across from one another which was great. The sun was out and it was over 70 degrees! I feel like that is a huge blessing because I had been following the weather before we left and it didn’t look very nice. We feel so blessed! We made dinner and a fire and the girls made up a fun hoola hoop show for us.
Tomorrow we are planning on checking out the visitors center and then catching one of the Denali buses into the park at 5pm. The only way you can go into the park (past the 15 mile post) is to pay to ride one of the buses to certain stops or pay to take a tour bus into the park which is a bit more but narrated. Our ride only goes 53.5 miles into the park out of the 92 mile road and it will take us 6.5 hours to complete the bus ride. We are hoping to see lots of wild life. They say that because they do it this way it stays way more wild.