Alaska Report

Well, my brother and wife just got back from Alaska and here's a trip report from them.

Subject: Alaska

Date: 08 Jul 96 12:10:30 EDT

Hi there, everyone

We just got back from a week in Alaska, so this is my "one size fits all" catch-up e-mail message. We had a great trip, spent a week in a camper, put 1000 miles on the truck, saw lots of neat stuff, and fed a few mosquitoes. The highlights:

The camper - Our accommodations/travel mode for the trip was one of these big campers mounted on a pickup truck. That worked out fine once we learned a few rules, like "only one person can stand up at a time", "don't forget to light the pilot if you want a hot shower in the morning", and "the big handle is the black water, the little handle is the gray water". The truck was 3/4 ton and had plenty of power so we weren't leading a parade everywhere we went. The camper had a stove, fridge (it even had a freezer), toilet/shower, and a bed. It was nice being able to break camp in the morning by washing a few dishes, closing the door and driving away. The only shortcoming was that it had 24 gallons of fresh water and only about 10 gallons of "used" water storage. We did use the facilities at gas stations on occasion, but not 14 gallons worth.

The travelogue -

Went south first out of anchorage, to a place called portage, where they have a glacier. Took a boat ride on portage lake to get right up next to the ice. Some small calving was happening, which was very neat. Saw a couple of bears high on the local mountain. Couldn't get the captain of the boat to dip me some ice for a martini. Continued south on the Kenai peninsula and stayed overnight at a place called Hope where we parked at the edge of a meadow near the water of Turnagain sound. We took a nice walk on the meadow in the evening, about 1/4 mile from the water. When we woke up in the morning, the tide had come in, and the meadow was under water. We were about 50 feet from the edge. Very glad we didn't park in the meadow. This is as far south as we went.

Turned north, went back through anchorage(where we ate lunch at a city park and saw 3 foot salmon in the creek - no fishing!) then headed east on the Glenn highway, through some beautiful mountain country. Stopped at the Matanuska Glacier (27 miles long!). This one doesn't end in a lake, so we could walk right up to it, which we did. Brought an axe and got a few big chunks for that martini. Put them in the freezer 'til cocktail hour. Stopped at every road house we saw, but nobody had any gin ("folks don't drink that 'round these parts, how 'bout some whisky 'nstead?"). Camped by a creek.

Got to a big city (2 gas stations) the next day and found that gin, but kept driving because it was early morning. Hit another highway and headed north towards Fairbanks until we got to the Denali highway, a 130 mile dirt road. From 1957 until 1972, this was the only way to drive to Denali national park. Prior to 1957, you had to take a train. This road snakes along through high tundra (tundra = looks dry, but is soggy and mosquito infested). Lots of geologic formations from glaciers, small lakes, big piles of gravel, etc. Incredible mountain views. Saw lots of beaver dams and small streams teeming with fish that weren't hungry. Camped by another stream and finally made that martini. Turns out that clear glacier ice has quite a few strange floaters in it, so I had a beer, threw out my glacial blocks, and filled the ice cube trays with fresh water.

The next day we got to Denali National park and made a reservation for the bus ride. In case you didn't know, this park is dedicated to the preservation of wildlife, so access is very controlled. To get all the way to Mt McKinley, you need to take the park bus. This bus ride was incredible. We saw lots of wildlife like we've never seen before. With the controlled conditions (meaning the animals don't get harassed), the animals didn't run from us. We (in a big old school bus) followed a fox with a squirrel in it's mouth for about a 1/2 mile up the road. We stopped an watched grizzly bears with their cubs foraging in high meadows, caribou walking around and moose wallowing in lakes. Saw a few eagles, one with something big in it's talons. When we got to the mountain, it was mostly behind clouds, but we did catch a few glimpses. On the way back out of the park, we followed another fox, and this time we saw it hunting and catch a mouse, which doesn't sound like much, but was amazing, like being on the discovery channel. Got off the bus (did I mention it was an 11 hour round trip?) and headed back to camp.

Finally headed back towards Anchorage and camped at a place called Big Lake, where that forest fire happened a few weeks ago. Thought our last night would be at a serene lake, but it turned out to be too close to civilization. Lots of boaters, jet skis, and local town losers. Finally had that martini.

Next day we flew home. Only regrets - we didn't take two weeks (or 2 months).

Oh yeah, the days were LONG. The sun went down around 12:15 am and came back up 2 hours later. While it was down, it didn't get dark, just twilight. Didn't stop us from sleeping, but we could have left the flashlights at home.

That's it for now!