2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   BACK AT JBER IN ANCHORAGE:
SUNSETS, MOOSE, & MORE

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17

"Remember what Bilbo used to say:  It's a dangerous business, Frodo,
going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet,
there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

~ JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

 

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to Denali National Park and returned to the Black Spruce Campground on the Fort Richardson side of JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson) in Anchorage.

This is the third time we've stayed in this nice campground this summer:


View of trees, clouds, mountains, and other RVs  from our back bay window

In this entry I'll summarize our road trip from Denali to Anchorage and some of the things we've been doing the last two days.

Ironically, this afternoon I saw three times as many moose within a few feet of our campsite as I saw in eleven days at Denali National Park -- but no bears, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, or lynx!

More about Mama Moose and her twins later (the calves are bigger than they were when we saw them back in June).

YESTERDAY'S DRIVE FROM DENALI TO ANCHORAGE  

Here's a AAA map section covering the route we took:

We got on the George Parks Highway at the entrance to Denali National Park and drove south to its juncture with the Glenn Hwy. in Palmer. Then we followed the Glenn Hwy. from MM 35 south to MM 8, where there is an entrance gate for Fort Richardson.

It took us less than four hours to drive 236 miles. We had two stops (one for road construction) and Jim pulled over a couple times to let fast tour buses pass.

There were a lot of rental and other RVs headed north, presumably most on their way to Denali NP. Traffic was pretty light until we got to Talkeetna, then increased in volume as we approached metro Anchorage.


 Lots of clouds just outside the park as we crossed Riley Creek


View from the Park Hwy. to part of the Alaska Range in Denali NP

Jim paid $4.35/gallon for diesel again in Healy yesterday. He got just enough to safely get us to Anchorage, where itís $3.83/gallon on base. The least expensive diesel we saw on our route today was $3.93 at Tesoro at the Talkeetna Jct. Itís about $3.99 in the Wasilla-Palmer-Eagle River area.

Since we seldom buy gasoline when traveling in the Cameo (only for the generator) I don't keep up with gas prices.

The weather was cool (50s-60s F.) with some rain and some sun. There was only one brief glimpse of a couple of Denaliís peaks from Broad Pass, then no more.

 

With all the clouds we didn't stop at any of the Denali viewpoints along the way.

We saw more flowers along the roadway as we drove south; most are done blooming near Denali NP.

BACK AT BLACK SPRUCE

We arrived at the campground a little before 1 PM. Don and Alice, the campground hosts on duty, checked us in.

We got a pull-through site in the back of the first loop, the last full hookup site available today. Itís more isolated than the two previous sites we had so we'll have less traffic and more chance of bears or moose wandering through.

There are several piles of rather fresh moose-poo in our ďyard." Good -- we know they're still hanging out here.

 

We paid for only four nights initially. Although the weather is beautiful in Anchorage today rain is predicted this weekend and Jim doesnít want to stay if itís going to be wet all next week.

I counter that Iíd rather be in Anchorage than about anywhere else in Alaska if itís going to rain. There is more to do here in the rain, we have TV and internet (although ironically our phone signal is weaker than the one we had at Riley Creek CG at Denali National Park), it's very convenient to have full hookups again, and there are lots of stores and restaurants and places to ride/hike.

Iíd like to be here at least a week and maybe do one or two day trips before we head to some other parts of Alaska. We have lots of options, from Valdez to the Kenai Peninsula to Fairbanks or even Denali NP again -- we loved it there.

 
This is part of our "yard."  There is also a picnic table.

After we got the camper set up we went to the PO for our latest mail package, ran some other errands on base, cleaned the interior and exterior of the truck and camper, gave Cody a bath, took him for a couple walks, updated my journaling, and caught up on news and e-mail.

Itís been interesting to see the progression of flowers and foliage since we first arrived in Anchorage in June.

Now the bunchberries have bright orange or red clusters of berries instead of pretty white ďdogwoodĒ flowers:

The lupines, which peaked in late June and were past-peak in mid-July, are just leaves and furry ends of stalks in mid-August.

Fireweeds are almost done blooming here, with a few blooms at the very top. The leaves are beginning to turn red Ė not as totally red and flower-less as they were at Denali, but perhaps a week behind:

The aspen and birch leaves arenít turning gold yet, at least in the urban valley. They might be in the surrounding Chugach Mtns.

TODAY'S ACTIVITIES

We will be eternally grateful for the eleven magnificent, mostly sunny days we enjoyed at Denali National Park. Now we have to readjust to the more cloudy, rainy, cool weather that is typical of Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska.

Most of today was a mix of a little sun and a lot of clouds with some light rain this morning. Temps reached only the low 60s F. in the afternoon when the sun was out. Because of the clouds it was a little warmer overnight than at Denali, 54 F. when I got up at 7:15 AM.

We didnít let the morning clouds or sprinkles ruin our day. You can't when visiting Alaska, or you'll be inside much of the time!

 
By evening it was much prettier today.

The campground hosts notified us that we needed to either stay inside this morning between 8-9 AM or leave the area because of mosquito spraying. That kept mosquitoes at bay quite nicely when we were here before so we were glad to hear they were going to spray again.

We decided to go run some errands. After Jim got breakfast at the Subway on base we shopped at Walmart, Samís Club, and REI. Jim bought some Merrill hiking shoes like the ones I got a couple weeks ago. We were back home by noon.

After lunch we remained on base the rest of the day.

Jim and I shared laundry duties, I walked Cody for an hour on gravel roads and paved bike trails near the campground (one is shown above), and Jim rode his bike 13 miles. He noted how much easier it was than at Denali, but not nearly as much fun. 

THERE ARE OUR CAMPGROUND MOOSE!

When Jim left after supper for the BX (free WiFi and a better Verizon MiFi signal) he called to tell me that folks parked closer to the campground entrance had just seen a moose.

Our phone signal at the camper is very poor so I wasnít sure where the moose was/were seen or how many there were. I went out about 40 feet from our door through the woods to the more open area where there is an old RR track going past (itís no longer used) but couldnít see a moose.

I did have my moose antennae up, though. While I was reading things on my computer I kept one eye out the windows toward the tracks and up/down the campground road in case it/they came by.

About an hour later I saw movement along the RR track Ė it was a large female moose! She heard me go out the door but kept walking slowly up the tracks (and toward the sun, making photos more difficult).

 

I went into the woods, then next to the tracks, to get a better photo of her as she continued walking to my left.

I was surprised by two calves coming from my right, really close. I didnít even think to look that way! (Same thing I warned readers about re: the caribou on the park road two days ago.)

The larger of the two calves crossed the tracks and continued following mom, no more than 25 feet away from me:

The smaller calf was less afraid (more curious?) and passed within 10 feet of me before also crossing the tracks briefly:

 

I just talked quietly to both of them and told them to keep following mom. They did.  <wink> 

After walking past some railroad equipment being used to tear the old tracks out, the family crossed back over into the campground woods:

I assume these are the three moose we saw our first two times here in this campground this summer.  All of them look healthy and the calves are definitely getting bigger now.

That was very cool. As I joked with Jim later, I saw three times as many moose this evening (and much closer) than I did in eleven days at Denali! Unfortunately, he didnít see any at Denali or the ones here today, but he's seen plenty of moose in his time.

EARLIER SUNSETS  

About the only downside, in my opinion, of having so many hours of daylight during the Alaskan summer is not seeing sunsets and/or sunrises for a couple months because it's already light when we get up and it's still light when we go to bed.

Tonight we finally got to enjoy a colorful sunset again.

We had more sun in the evening than earlier in the day. That's typical of the time we've spent in Anchorage this summer. We've been frustrated more than once when it's been cloudy or wet for a ride or hike during the day, then sunny in the evening when we're ready to hunker down for the night.

There were some interesting cloud formations over the Chugach Mountains this evening before sunset. I noticed them from the camper and got some photos from our site while Jim was at the BX:

Jim was also impressed with the dramatic clouds over the mountains when he drove back from the BX at 9 PM.

He didn't have a good camera with him, however, and he knew I'd want to see the clouds so he drove me out Richardson Rd. to get a much wider view of the clouds over the mountain range:

 

 

Note that it was about 9 PM and still quite sunny.

Sunset came pretty soon after that, though. It's been so long since we've seen sunsets regularly that I haven't been paying much attention to the increasingly waning light near our usual bedtime between 9-10 PM. By now Alaska is losing several minutes of light each day.

At 9:45 Jim pointed out the rear camper windows at the now-pink clouds over the Chugach Mtns. They had been white earlier. I got some photos as the colors were fading:

Rain is predicted for the next few days. I hope the sun comes out again while weíre here so I can get more sunset photos. Itís hard to remember the last good sunset we saw; I think it was somewhere in Canada in early June . . .

ALWAYS FLEXIBLE

Just about every day our ideas morph about where to go in our remaining time in Alaska and what route to take back to the Lower 48 states. We want to stay up here as long as possible without running into freezing weather either here or on our way back through Canada.

We've considered going back down to Valdez, since it was so snowy and chilly when we were there in mid-June. We've also thought about Fairbanks several times, since it tends to be warmer and drier than the Southcentral Region of the state and we haven't been there yet.


Part of the Alaska Range as seen from the Park Hwy. yesterday

Now we're thinking about some more days at Denali National Park! We absolutely loved it there, mostly because the weather was so very good while we were there. It was hard to leave yesterday.  

Today I spent a couple hours reading the web journal of a woman who lives in the Yukon and has written about her and her husbandís RV travels through western Canada and Alaska. Her colorful fall photos from Denali NP are enticing. They are just the incentive we need to make our plans more firm.

The colors are already turning at Denali in mid-August. If it looks like the weather will be nice in the park in another week or two, we'll probably go back up there to see it when it's even more colorful and leave the state via Fairbanks and Tok sometime in September.

Next entrycycling on the Campbell Creek bike path

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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