On the drive from Denali National Park to Anchorage, Addie and I saw an unusual arrangement for a small airport. On one side of the highway was the typical airport you might find outside of any small town with a runway and a couple of hangars. On the opposite side of the highway, on the edge of a lake, was a facility for float planes and amphibians that had docks for float planes and a hangar or two. It seemed unusual to us that there was a plane crossing across this busy highway so that planes could taxi back-and-fourth between the facilities. You would surely flummox your insurance agent if you reported a collision with a de Havilland Beaver!
Even the rear-view mirror views while driving across Alaska are distracting! We somehow managed to turn a 3.5 hour drive (according to the GPS) into an all day drive. Too many spectacular sights to blow by. Tried to capture some in photos, but as always, they don’t even begin to do the scenery justice.
Prevalent along the roadside from British Columbia to Alaska is a wildflower called Fireweed. It is the territorial flower of the Yukon Territory. We were told that Fireweed got its’ name because it is the first plant to reappear after a forest fire. In Alaska, the initial blooming of Fireweed is considered a sign the middle of summer has been reached. The flower blooms from the bottom to the top and it is said when the fire reaches the top summer is over.
After having seen Denali by land and air, we rafted down a 22.5 mile stretch of the Nenana (rhymes with banana..so fun to say) River which runs along the eastern border of the park. The Nenana is glacier-fed, meaning ~24 hours before it arrived at the stretch we were riding down, the water was ice. Nothing more refreshing than a face-full of glacier water first thing in the morning! Luckily, we were well-outfitted. I had on everything in my suitcase (anyone who knows me, knows this is not an exaggeration), plus they gave us full-body dry suits to pull on over everything else. I had a smile frozen to my face the whole time. Such an amazing experience. Made even better by the world’s best guide, Tim. He not only let me “ride the bull” (sat on very front of raft with feet dangling over water and rode rapids), but he also treated us to a very well-delivered, well-timed rendition of a song from Charlie and the Chocolate factory as we cruised down Train Wreck Rapid. Check out video clip!!
After lunch at the Kantishna Lodge, at the end of the road into Denali National Park, we had a choice of two optional activities, panning for gold or watching a presentation on dog mushing. Frankly, neither particularly appealed but, loving dogs, we chose the latter. Fate favored us once again; Emmitt Peters, Jr.’s presentation on dog mushing was a highlight of the trip. Emmitt, a competitive dog musher himself, is the son of an Iditarod hall-of-famer, who smashed the previous record of 21 days by winning his first Iditarod race in 14 days, changing the way the race has been run ever since. Emmitt, the father, Started the Iditarod thirteen times and finished in the top 10 ten times.
Emmitt, the son, has been mushing since before he can remember. His knowledge of the subject is encyclopedic. Even better, his comedic lines, delivery and timing are as good as any stand-up comedian you have ever enjoyed. He is knowledgeable, engaging and hilarious! The subject proved most interesting.
The embedded video is crude, the audio distracting and the videographer apparently dozed off towards the end. Stick with it, though, to see the dogs straining to get going.