Tuesday, August 28, 2012

been to chicken...

had thought about a road trip with the dogs. saturday i woke, tossed stuff in car and took off. all was a bit haphazard and i forgot a few things that i picked up along the way. luckily, i've done enough traveling in alaska to sort of be able to pack without really having to ponder it all. would have been nice if i'd tossed the full spare on top of the car, toothpaste is a nice thing to have and food other than cheese and carrots is key. no worries though.
the first day i didn't leave until close to 2pm and then got stuck in state fair traffic. it's 405 miles from anchorage to chicken. glenn to the tok cut off to the taylor highway. so the first night i got to a campground along the tok cut off. it was actually lovely and dog friendly. they had dogs, great pyrennes. blossom and the puppy hit it off. we stayed at the grizzly lake campground. had a site right on the lake. pitched the tent on the grass just off of the lake. beautiful views of mount drum in st elias national park.
these first pictures are in chicken. had to toss them in first. it's a small community. it was an old gold mining town and the structure behind the chicken is an old dredge. would like to carry on to eagle, but didn't bring the spare and it's a dirt road. one of these days i'll hit eagle then cross over to canada into dawson, then down to whitehorse and re-enter alaska further south.
chicken has a pretty small population with only about 6 people carrying on through the winter. the road out isn't maintained in the winter so those people are locked in. there is a runway for small aircraft so that would be their only way out. summers see a swell in population into the 20's, mostly to run the campgrounds and services.
chicken is proud of it's chicken name and you can see chicken decor scattered all over. the story is the old minors wanted to call the town ptarmigan but couldn't agree on how that was spelled so they went with chicken. i suspect some alcohol was involved in the name deciding. anyway, it's always fun to say you went to chicken. i saw several ptarmigan crossing the taylor highway as i slowly drove out. it's paved for the most part til right before chicken. lots of rough bits out there though. not tons of traffic so i stop a lot. huge fire ran through there in 2004 so it's interesting to see how nature rebuilds after such a huge catastrophe. 1.3 million acres burned. probably a bad summer for chicken. after i went last time flooding took out the road out to dawson for some time. i think a guy died when his truck got caught in the flooding.
i tooled around in chicken for a few hours before driving back down the taylor and heading to tok again. i wasn't sure of my next move. the joy of traveling alone is indecisiveness. if you travel with others it's probably expected you have a plan. i made a snap decision in tok to head north instead of heading back down the tok cutoff road. i took a bit of the alaska highway headed up to delta junction.
dogs entertain me with photo ops a the dredge in chicken. don't they look thrilled.
i drove into the darkness up the alaska highway. i made a few stops to check out stuff. i opted out of moon lake as the lake side spots were all taken. eventually the rain began. i got to delta junction and headed back south along the richardson highway. i figured i'd just find the next campground and crash. in the morning i'd decide whether to cross over the denali highway or keep going south on the richardson to get home. weather would be the deciding factor.
fall colours are begining to show up. it's mixed, pockets nearly untouched by fall and other pockets in full fall colours. of course, after i'd passed delta junction my main goal was to find a place to sleep. delta looked much bigger than i expected but it does have a military base there. night driving and driving in general was easier this trip with the aid of my new driving glasses. they really do help. haven't taken to wearing them any other time though.
as i drove south the wind picked up. it was quite blustery at times.
at 11 pm i finally hit the donnelly campground. i started to get prepared to set up the tent, but bailed and just settled in inside the element. took a few minutes to get all sorted out, but i think all three of us slept pretty good. in some ways better than i had in the tent the night before.
in the tent i must have set myself up on a slight incline so i kept sliding down through the night. i finally just moved my sleeping bag to the bottom and finally was able to sleep. at 6am the local trumpeter swans began to sound off. i can't say as i've ever heard the calls of these swans, but they were quite loud and i totally understand how they came to be called trumpeter swans. impressive. there was a pair on grizzly lake. also several muskrats out there.
i let blossom use my sleeping bag in the car to make her bed area larger and i slept in the liner. in the tent i had been cold, in the car with two dogs for heat it was quite toasty. i had to open the back window a few times. rio snored happily and in the morning blossom had found a way to lay on her back all spread out. by morning it was raining pretty good. i figured i'd pack it up and head to paxson and see if weather improved any.
old dead, fire damaged trees with new growth in fall colours.
i usually stop in paxson for breakfast. not that it's the best food ever, but they are always very nice there and the food ain't terrible. the report i heard there was that the rain cleared off once you hit the macleran summit so what the hell, right?
while at the paxson lodge i met an unfortunate couple from asia someplace who were a bit off course. in alaska a wrong turn will take you not a few miles off course, but hundreds of miles off course. those poor souls had the largest most detailed map of alaska ever made. i felt badly for them. i believe they had accidently taken the richardson highway south from fairbanks instead of the parks highway. they wanted to be at denali national park.
i tried to explain to them as best i could that they could take the denali highway across and then turn right and get to denali national park but that it was a dirt road and it would take several extra hours to cross over. still probably shorter than going back north or heading south. i remember also trying to explain that there were many hunters on that road and they'd need to be careful of that. i tried to look like a caribou and said bang, bang. it was pretty funny. the lady went to use the restroom and i went to grab my milepost from the car to get them some better maps but they were gone when i returned from the car. hope they made it to denali.
this is the taylor highway. mostly paved.
but not as much as you would assume.
i actually thought the denali highway was worse potholes and conditions than i've seen. it could just be that i had done a ton of driving. towards the last bit i was totally done with the dirt road and so hoping they had miraculously paved more miles on the cantwell side. they hadn't. it's only paved maybe 7 miles on that side. the paxson side has closer to 30 miles paved. it's mostly paved that way to the tangle lakes campground. nice campground, it was my back up plan if i didn't find any other campground coming down from delta junction.
heard today that some woman got attacked by a bear in the tangle lakes area. i saw no warning signs out and i did a short hike with the dogs there. apparently, a tourist doing back country camping in denali national park was killed and partially eaten out there. the officials weren't too forgiving of him. his camera seems to show him staying a bit too close taking a few too many photo's. i think it's the first death by bear in the park.
some sections had such amazing colours. i do love fall! it's not a long season here though it is awesome so i like to extend it with little road trips this time of year.
lots of cool reds out there. like i said it was hit and miss. some brilliant with colour, some are's barely getting started. the air has cooled though and it's starting to feel like fall more. anchorage is warm and sunny today. i slept in. wasn't my plan really. i set the alarm, but forgot to turn it on so it was after noon before i was awake. the dogs seemed happy to have a lazy day.
we just walked up patterson and tossed the tennis ball at the park.
later i met friends for dinner. i tried to hit the gym and do laps, but the pool is empty as they are doing cleaning on both alaska club pools. won't be open til the third. i'm guessing it will be pretty cold water those first days. so i'm on break. could hit the apu pool, they left a schedule out for us swimmers.
had a post roadie massage planned. my hips get a bit sore from driving, but i stopped and stretched a lot and i actually didn't wake up with any aches. the massage felt great though.
these are from the campsite there on grizzly lake. pretty sweet, right? the volcano mount drum is reflected in the lake.
firewood was included in my $18 fee. a shower was available for $3 in the morning. i didn't hang by fire too long. was ready to crash for the night.
took pictures of the lake and the swans...to be posted later. these are from the little powershot camera.
blossom got to play with "sweetums". such a cute puppy. i guess he's only 4 months old...almost as big as blossom already though.
i'm pretty sure he came out to the tent in the morning to try and get blossom to come out and play. i figured i wouldn't reward him for circling the tent. they did get another chance to play on the grassy area before i headed out. there were some other campers out there who seemed to enjoy watching the dog activities. one couple from switzerland and another couple sounded to be from germany?

blossom was pretty happy that there was a lake right there. that would be her dream home with a lake or the ocean right there.
would have been fun to take those little boats out on the lake. what a beautiful spot.
i discovered here that i had forgotten my toothpaste. the camp toothbrush usually isn't that cleaned off so i brushed with whatever was left over...beats brushing with camp suds. the next day i made a stop in tok for some toothpaste.
a few more lake shots.
a few from the first days drive out.
it's always just so relaxing for me to get away and drive. not sure what it is about a road trip. the music on the ipod and singing til you nearly lose your voice. eventually, you forget all the little crap you ruminate about in your daily life. i'm sure i stop tons more when i'm alone too, snapping photo's.
another shot of mount drum. obviously a prominent sight along the stretches of highway in that area.
dogs stop for a meal on the road. plenty of food for them. they have gotten used to road trips. rio has to get re-used to it each summer, but she does so more readily with each year and tolerates it better with each year.
closer up of mount drum
the rivers up here are huge. i grew up in california and things we called rivers there are tiny creeks here.
some lake out there. just thought it looked pretty.
beautiful day to be on the road. i was happy to finally get past the fair traffic and get moving.
the matanuska glacier is another prominent sighting. it's on the glenn highway. that thing goes on for miles and the river coming off it as well.
the fair. i go every few years. i used to love hitting the fair in los angeles county, but this one lacks a bit for me. still worth a visit on occasion...not this week though.
i'll post more road trip pictures tomorrow. as always, i took a ton so many to post.

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