We encountered a rather significant number or caribou as we drove the Top of the World Highway. The herds have names, this herd is called the Forty Mile Herd. We enjoyed seeing these beautiful beasts, as we saw none to this point on the trip (well, a few very far away in Denali)
Not many of the "Top of the World Highway" miles are paved. Most of it is gravel - and quite muddy this day. I understand the reason for the gravel roads -vs- paving. The permafrost is very hard on paved roads - making them terribly potholed.
One of my most influential images from the trip is that of the Fireweed that we saw virtually everywhere we went. It was along every roadside for 8000 miles! So bright and colorful! It really made the gray skies tolerable!
I took lots and lots of pictures of the fireweed with the idea that somehow it will be showing up in some of my future artwork!
Chicken was our last stop in Alaska. This place really is in the middle of nowhere. It is an old gold mining area, but it is still active.
People in this picture were learning how to pan for gold. We met and visited with a guy from Helena, Montana here. It was his second year visiting Chicken and he said he had already found several ounces of gold in just a week. He was working for the gift shop to earn his camping spot - and he was panning during every spare moment.
We drove through many hundreds of miles of Black Spruce forests. I grew very fond of the special shape of the Black Spruce. This section of burned forest - I found especially interesting. I took quite a few pictures with the idea that eventually some of these images might make it into some of my art.
We left Denali early on account of the weather and spent a night camped just outside of Anchorage. We drove early on a Monday morning to Delta Junction to visit Joe's school mate, Joyce. She is the librarian at Delta Junction. She served us a fabulous breakfast and gave us a tour of the library before we went on our way.
Below, the pipeline crosses the river via its very own suspension bridge.
This was our single decent wildlife sighting on the bus trip through Denali National Park. There was a mama griz feeding near the road while her three cubs napped in the bushes. We did not get any very good views / photos. We were sitting in the back of the bus and the bus driver parked so he could watch, never taking into consideration that people in the back could not see as well. We had to keep quiet, so did not ask him to move forward to give us a chance at a good shot. I never did really see the three cubs, but am taking it on faith they were there. I realize this is a rare sighting. I am just disappointed our view was so poor.
There is only one road into Denali National Park. Visitors cannot drive (except to Teklanika Campground). One must ride these school buses into the park to see wildlife or mountains, etc. This was my third time doing this trip. It was by far the WORST experience I have ever had riding one of these buses! It was a steady drizzle all day long. There was not much visibility outside the windows. We would stop occasionally for restroom breaks. Everyone piled off and got wet, and when they came back in the windows would get all steamy. Totally fogged in, and they stayed that way. School buses do not have a way of defogging passenger windows. No way to see anything. The road is rough. The bus is uncomfortable and crowded with steamy people. We saw a little wildlife. But not much. I would have to say that this was by far the worst part of our trip. Trapped for an entire day inside a foggy bus on a rough road with a bunch of strangers and an obnoxious bus driver.
I made a reservation for us to camp at Teklanika Campground, located 28 miles inside of Denali National Park. Camping here allowed us to save an hour each way on the daily bus ride into the interior of the park. Most people park somewhere on the edge of the park and catch the bus into the park interior from the outside edge. We were able to drive our vehicle into the park and camp. We were booked onto the first bus to Wonder Lake - the furthest point inside the park accessible to park visitors.
The sun came out of the clouds a couple of times during our first day at Denali. This day we hung out at the campground. We could drive no further than the campground and our first bus reservation was for the next day. It was super windy. Hard to sit outside and read (although we tried). Hard to cook. Hard to eat..... We envied people with RVs.
is a very small town located at the confluence of three rivers, the
Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna. This historic little town (no
pictures of the town) is quite a tourist stop. The place was swarming
with people brought in by tour buses, probably off cruise ships docked
in Anchorage. We chose the solitude and peace of a hike along the river
(we thought - until we discovered they take very noisy jet boat tours
out of Talkeetna. They seemed somewhat interesting, although rough and
very loud smelly rides. If the weather had been nicer, we probably
would have taken one of the trips in the hopes of catching sight of
Denali Peak. But, it was completely overcast the entire time we were at Talkeetna (we camped there). We had no opportunities to see Denali Peak.