Tuesday, June 30, 2009

the old denali highway...

had a great weekend trek with my friend kelly. i have always wanted to drive the old denali highway. it's a dirt road, built in the 50's i believe. it was the only road that took you to denali national park at the time. the road is 134 miles long, not much services available. it's known to take out tires on the potholes as it's not one of the most well maintained roads in alaska.
i hope i don't lose all of this. i saved pictures while i slept and have all these error messages on the page. computers can be so annoying to me, but i do enjoy the convience. the blog is a great way to share pictures. kelly and i were able to stop along the way and take advantage of many of the trails along the road. if you've never traveled by road in alaska you must and do take a copy of "the milepost" with you. it's the alaskan road bible. the guide will tell you mile by mile what you will be seeing. it was originally made as a guide for driving the alaskan highway from the lower 48 up, it now includes all the major roads of alaska.
the above picture is me, rio and blossom on a hike we took after stopping on the side of the road to eat lunch....it was probably 3-4 pm when we stopped. days are long and you lose track of time.
the scenery is spectacular. i don't think my pictures do it justice at all. the scenery is grand and goes on forever seemingly. there are huge glaciers carving out the mountain valleys seen in the distance. i have my new camera and i need to learn more of how to alter the settings to get better contrast on my landscape pictures. i'm learning. lots more to learn though. it's not as simple as click and shoot on my new slr...well it is, but it has many more options and i want to improve my ability to share what is up here in this beautiful place.

had to get a picture of one of the few mile markers left over from the 50's when the highway was created. the markers note the mileage from paxson headed into cantwell and the national park. the book tells you what mile you are on going either direction and what you will find there. gps would probably be helpful as the markers are few.

our actual animal sightings were few. there were many swans seen and a few porcupines. i figured all the animals have so much land to wander, why would they chill near the road. really it's just a matter of luck seeing wildlife anywhere. you are always hoping and one time my friend got all animated screaming for me to stop...i was sure she's spotted a bear with cubs and just stopped in the middle of the road. (there is very little traffic so i pull over whereever most of the time). anyway...she'd seen a porcupine. for as slow as porcupines are this guy was pretty fast escaping our cameras. i think i have a few pictures though. we also saw a fox on a hike, but that guy was really quick so no picture of him.
the mosquito's were thick, especially on the eastern side of the road. i'm wearing my ski hat above, not because i still felt that chilly, it was protecting me from the mosquito's. at times we'd rush to get in the car and then spent a few minutes swatting all the mosquito's that had entered with us. my car has blood splatters and mosquito bits all over. it will need a good wash. it felt great to get home and wash all the deet off of me. a friend said they did the road in the fall, which would be beautiful. i love fall colours, and the bugs would be much less densely populated.

below is kelly eating lunch with the dogs all in a rare state of calm.

below is the hoofprints of a caribou. there is supposedly a small herd of 30-40, but this was as close as we got. hoof prints and poop. we discussed the possibility of making a "poop of alaska" book. you get so you can recognize all the various poops you run across and guess as to freshness. this is especially important with bear poop. steaming, you best move and keep your eyes pealed, old poop is yesterdays news though.
not much as far as services along the road, so we brought food and gear. i had a spare tire,but we had no vehicle issues. we did see one person on the side of the road changing a tire and our first night we assisted a cute austrailian who had fallen asleep in his car and ran down his battery. i towed him out and then we ended up giving his car a jump start. that is my second time using my jumper cables in a week. we figured it was good to build up positive kharma in case we needed assistance along the way.

we both brought our ipods so we had plenty of good music to entertain. those things are great on a road trip. my element has the little plug in so you can hook it right into your stereo. radio coverage...well we didn't bother trying. doubt you'll get much out there.

rio, the brindle dog is quite neurotic. she is obsessed with me, gets anxious in the car and panics whenever i leave the car. so everytime you stop to get out and take a photo she can freak. she tends to jump into your seat and before you can return to the car you have to open the back window and trick her out of the front seat. we then run to the front before she can get there and jump in. we got pretty good at it by the end. she just looks so pathetic here.

this bridge goes over the susitna river. the river comes down from the susitna glacier in the alaska range . the alaska range was seen through much of this journey. the river flows over 250 miles to the cook inlet, down near anchorage.

there is the river with the range in the back ground.

these lovely wildflowers were found all along the side of the road. the wildflowers are starting to bloom which really adds to the beauty and colour of the landscape. i'm sure mid to late july the pinnacle of bloomes will be reached.

below is one of several glaciers moving through the mountains.

the beginings of the sunset on night one. since the sun doesn't totally set and it's late at night, i went to bed. i'd worked the night before and slept very little. on night two the dogs were beat and they had crawled into the car by 9 or 10 pm to crash. it was tough to find a spot in the back of the element where the dogs weren't sacked out. kelly and her dog mandee settled into thier tent outside the car.

more later...i really hope this works. i'd hate to have loaded all these and wrote and then have it all disappear. when i got back my friend maria had just returned from dutch harbor ferry trek so she was giving me pointers. i'm getting excited for next alaskan adventure. i do have a few days off this week now before i head back to work since we thought this trip would take longer. will have to decide what to do. garden, hikes or take off to kenai. hmm....should spent some time planning dutch though so i'm not just wandering around without any plan.


  1. Great pix! Glad you had a nice trip! Dad and Smiley camped overnite on the Mclaren River road there.
    Wesley and John (from dogster)

  2. thanks...there were so many camp spots. we picked the official sites...i prefer outhouses to mosquito ridden woods for my bathroom privledges. i was also concerned since another friend did the road and was setting up camp in one of the off road sites and she and her boyfriend found human bones. too freaky...my friend and i had no desire to find any other human remains.

  3. Was the road condition OK? Did you encounter any problems with your vehicle? What kind of vehicle did you drive? Did you see any RV driving on the Old Denali Highway?