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:
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
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
This is part of our "yard." There is also a picnic
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 . . .
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.
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.
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 entry: cycling on the Campbell Creek bike path
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil