And if you're lucky enough to travel on the Parks Highway --
the name most commonly used -- when the weather is clear, you can
see all that grand scenery! Just sayin'.
We're back at Denali for the second time this summer, with
reservations at Riley Creek Campground for eight days.
The weather forecast of rain and snow for the next week at Denali is not
conducive to being outside doing all the things we want to do, however,
so we'll take it one day at a time. Since we've done all the "inside"
activities here that we want to do in three previous visits to the park
-- twice in 2012 and once this July -- we will leave early
if it's just too miserable to hike, bike, and sightsee.
Our new site, the best one all
summer! We got a tiny bit of blue sky this evening.
In addition, with no electricity and limited generator hours in the
park campgrounds it's difficult to keep the camper comfortably dry and
warm when it's cold and wet outside for long periods of time.
One day at a time . . .
LEG #1 FROM ANCHORAGE TO DENALI
We've driven this route several times and this was one of the more
miserable times because of rain and/overcast skies on both Saturday and Sunday.
I'm glad we've been able to enjoy the gorgeous mountain scenery,
including views of Denali, a couple times previously. Yesterday we
couldn't see it from the south viewpoint on the Parks Highway but we
caught glimpses of it at the north viewpoint and a little past that.
Arrow marks Denali's peaks from
This is just a tease; I'll show
closer views later in this entry.
The total distance from JBER to Denali was 234 miles. We drove most
of that yesterday (Saturday) and stayed overnight at a large pull-off
ten miles south of Denali so we could get to the park early this morning.
We drove north from MP 8 on the Glenn Hwy. (JBER's Richardson Gate)
for several miles to the intersection with the Parks Hwy. We were on
that road the rest of the way to Denali.
Here are two map sections from
The Milepost website; read them
from the bottom up. I highlighted our route in yellow. The green dot on
the top map is about where we stayed Saturday night.
We just missed getting to drive
over the new bridge across the Eagle River near the town of Eagle
in the north metro area;
it opened a few hours after we passed that area.
Traffic was rather heavy on Saturday from Anchorage to Wasilla, then
pretty light the remainder of the way.
Richardson Hwy. heading north toward the Talkeetna
Crossing the broad Matanuska River before it
empties into Cook Inlet
The Parks Highway was in better shape than we expected on the part we
drove yesterday, although there were some wavy bumps north of Willow and
just south of Cantwell. It was rougher on our first trip to the park
in July so we really appreciated the new pavement in areas that were
under construction then.
We took our time getting ready to leave yesterday morning. Jim topped
off the tank with $3.27/gallon diesel on base. The average price in the
Lower 48 is $2.62. With gas prices continuing to fall, we hope to see
even better prices when we get down there sometime in September.
We left JBER at 12:25 PM and arrived at our overnight parking
area at 5:10 PM with two stops at Denali viewpoints (MP 134 and
162). We couldn't see the mountain at the south viewpoint because of
but it was visible at the north
Mountains in the foreground blocked most of Denali at the north
We got a few other brief glimpses of The High One and other mountains in
the Alaska Range from the Parks Highway but not as many as on a clear
It was mostly sunny when we left
Anchorage, with increasing clouds to Broad Pass, our high point on this
rain to the west (above), long lake to the east (below)
It was raining by the time we got to Cantwell
(MP 210) and a little farther north to the pull-off where we stayed
Most fireweeds are done blooming north of Anchorage and they have a lot of
fluffy white seed material. Seen against the red stems, the clumps of
fireweed look pale pink now:
At higher elevations above 2,000 feet the low shrubbery leaves are
turning red like I saw on my last hike to Eagle Lake. Aspens and/or
birch leaves are still green in Anchorage but turning yellow and orange
farther north and at higher elevations. We got up over 2,400 feet on
STAGING FOR DENALI
Back in 2012 we
quickly learned a few tricks about getting an appropriate site at Riley
In addition to making
our reservation for an "A" site, the larger ones, at the first
opportunity (December 1 of the previous year), there are some tricks to
employ on the first day of arrival. They worked in July of this year and
we didn't have to modify them much for this visit.
medley at our overnight stop: pine cones, red and
leaves, red berries, moss, lichens, and more.
One thing we did
differently was to park overnight about as close to Denali as possible.
We didn't like staying at the costly RV park in Cantwell in July so we
scouted out free options along the highway for this trip.
The spot we picked in
July was vacant when we arrived late yesterday afternoon so we parked
RV pulled in later in the evening but it was so far back we didn't
even notice the occupants.
This pull-off has been recently graded and
graveled. It was designed for horse trailers, although there were none
here this evening. A nice perk we discovered is a wide dirt horse trail
back into the forest where we could walk the dogs when it wasn't
raining too hard:
The white stuff on the ground in
the picture above isn't snow, although snow fell on nearby mountain
peaks overnight when it was raining down at our level. The white is a
type of lichen.
there was some road noise this pull-off is far enough off the highway
that it wasn't a problem when we were sleeping. Not a bad deal for
And our MO
for staying here overnight worked well because we could easily (?) arrive
at Riley Creek Campground early enough this morning to get our very
favorite site -- we had it one time in 2012 -- with minimal
driving to get there.
THIS MORNING'S SHORT DRIVE
Short distance, for sure -- only ten miles
-- but plenty long on time. It took us an hour.
We were mostly pleased with road conditions yesterday.
This morning was a different thing entirely, with more rain, puddles,
and mud through major construction on the stretch for several miles
south of Denali, including a new bridge right before the entrance to the
What a mess. We really hoped they'd have gotten more of this done
since we were here in July . . .
Note the new
snow on the mountaintops.
It was slow going over muddy gravel breaks
following the pilot vehicles. In addition to two stops for the road
work, we got the truck and camper absolutely filthy again and can't wash
them properly at the park campground.
Perhaps what surprised me most was watching them
pour new asphalt in the rain!
Good thing they can, since the window of
opportunity to do road work is so short up here and it rains a lot in
RILEY CREEK CAMPGROUND
Our plan to park nearby overnight worked again to get to the
campground early for the best choice of sites. If we hadn't seen one
already vacated, we could at least see the dates on the posts to know if
other suitable sites (i.e., large enough for our rig and truck) would be
vacated this morning.
Fortunately, when we drove through the Bear Loop at 9:15 AM our very
favorite site was already empty and available!!
I took the two sunny photos the
We didn't need to look any farther. We checked in and I went back to
hold the spot while Jim took the Cameo to the dump station for fresh
water and a partial rinse.
This is our fifth
time at Riley Creek. We had this site for a few days in 2012 and loved
We still love it
double width, deep, plenty of room for the truck, great big "back yard"
(forest) to walk the dogs, lots of privacy from nearby sites, and fairly close
to a bathroom. Jim loves it for all those reasons and also because it's easy to
RV site in every campground was this big and private!
Lots of room in back of our site to walk the dogs;
they aren't allowed on park
trails but it's OK to walk them all over the campground,
bike path, and park roads.
Lots of pretty red berries around the campground, too;
we have to watch
Casey because she likes to swallow those -- not
good for her!
The whole campground was full last night and again tonight. Although
several sites were vacated this morning there weren't very many open
when we came in. We totally lucked out getting this site.
It's good to be back at Denali!
Next entry: two drives back to Savage River today
to see moose and colorful fall scenery
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil