"Back up to the Denali Highway" Personal Page by PA2AKgirl
I really love this road. It's like going through Denali National Park without the crowds. In some places, it's more difficult than the Haul Road/Dalton Highway because it's not maintained very well. There are a few services but for the most part, you can be totally alone. People put up tents pretty much anywhere, you can have your own lake, hike your own trail and not get annoyed that people are in your pictures. Lots of rental cars are not allowed to take the Denali Highway...so for us, it's a perfect getaway. In the winter, the road is closed down and on the fringe, it's travel at your own risk. Excellent:D
Like I said, the road is quite difficult at times. Bobby is a master of navigating washboard, potholes and frost heaves. At least the Denali Highway isn't a truck route and most people take it very slow. However, the scenery can be distracting.
When Amy and Lou were visiting, we took them about 30 miles in on the Denali Highway from the Cantwell side. Our first thought was to drive the length, end up at Paxson and head back to Anchorage from Glennallen but a nighttime closure of the Glenn Highway prevented that. They still got to see a pretty portion of the road and while we were stopped for a few minutes, a moose wandered across. Unfortunately, the sun was in our eyes and in the camera. I'm sure they got better pictures but still, moose on roadway pictures are always fun;-)
The first time we took this road, it was only to see what it's like. We didn't expect to see all the caribou we did. The second time, we wanted to show Amy and Lou our favorite Alaska road and saw a moose and some other animals/birds. And on the third trip, we went for the caribou and didn't see any. I was so focused on spotting the big guys, I almost missed smaller, but equally cute, wildlife. This road, as it goes from taiga to tundra, is home to many creatures and the higher up you get, the lower you have to look (it seems). Up at the summit, there were lots of arctic ground squirrels and some pika. Bobby spotted them, I did not. He got this guy with his mouth filled...he looks so funny:)
We've gotten pretty lucky with weather on this road...it was kinda cloudy the first day when we camped but after the fog lifted the next morning, the visibility was incredible. We saw Mt. Hayes and then over to the Wrangell Mountains.
I'm using this picture to show how quickly things change up here. This picture was taken on Aug 10th. Everything is green and other than the lack of blooming fireweed, there are no signs that fall is very close. On Aug 27th, there was little green. To me, this part of Alaska is incredibly beautiful no matter the season. I love the flowers that cover the tundra and I love reds and yellows of late August...I even love the snow against a deep blue sky and the signs that spring isn't far. Winter is long but the other seasons are so short...if you get to see them up here, you'll realize it's worth waiting for.
Another thing that happens quickly in August is the time when there is no real sunset to darkness. It wasn't long ago we needed those sleeping masks while camping. This time, we had a normal period of night. The sunset did last a long time...so long we didn't get to stay up for what was supposed to be an active aurora night and a lunar eclipse. It was too freaking cold by 11pm! The point is, from our campsite we got a great view of the sun setting behind the mountains and then a nice long dusk.
In the morning, we could see nothing. It was cold and we wanted to get up early to see some animals but we couldn't see 1/4 mile ahead of us. The tent was soaked on the outside, our hands hurt after we packed up (from the cold) and we still didn't have coffee. We made our way to the Tangle River Inn, had a good breakfast and decided to continue on despite the fog. I'm so glad we did...we saw this fog bow. I never even heard of one before but Bobby told me that's exactly what this thing was. It was really amazing...
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