25 July 2008

July 01 - Denali National Park, AK

A composite in miniature. This little dude is about 4 inches tall (10.16 cm).

Follow along with our walk again: we caught the Taiga Trail out of the visitor's center, Horseshoe Lake Trail to the north end of (what else) Horseshoe Lake, and went off trail down the Nenana River, which found us back at the Wilderness Access Center ... which found us back on the bike path, and then the red (Jones) shortcut back to the hotel.

- The Crow's Nest is okay, but there are some things I'd do differently ... fix the toilet that shudders while the tank is refilling, put in one (new) queen size bed and a cabinet rather than two fulls with a nightstand, and offers some DVDs for borrow along with the horrible five channel and DVD combo mini TV player provided
- hard to believe that the best hotel we stayed in was our first night in Tumwater, WA
- This place near Denali is $200/night; anywhere else I wouldn't pay more than $80/night
- this morning dawns chilly and wet ... I will need to stay warm
- BH admonishes me to be honest and explain that we have out very own log cabin to sleep in with our very own bathroom, sharing nary a wall but the bathroom wall of our neighbor
- we catch a van transport (hotel provided) down to the visitor's center; on the transport with us is Caleb and his family, they were heading home to Michigan starting via the railroad depot ... should BH and I ever decide to reproduce, a Caleb would be our curse (uh, blessing); he isn't necessarily busy, nor is he hyperactive, he is just very talkative and we knew how many miles he'd walked and what his parents have done and all he's seen on his trip (we also saw him on the first day while his parents checked-in as well as in the dog sled demo where he was very active during the question session)
- Catch the Taiga Trail out to the Horseshoe Lake Trail (2.5 miles so far), about ten minutes in the rain begins to patter down softly, we watch two little ground squirrel's gathering food, but wouldn't you now that neither of them will stand still long enough for a decent photo
- we see lots of moose track along the way, but no other wildlife save humans, gulls, and an inquisitive little scrub jay like bird that kept close-by throughout our tea and lunch stop ... methinks this little guy has been hand-fed in the past (rain stops during our lunch break)
- after a warming recharge, we follow the creek and beaver dams to the river and then decide to follow the river back to the roadway ... seems simple enough by the map ... btw, I would not have attempted this but for the really good GPS unit we've got (including an extra set of batteries); BH has an excellent sense of direction, but getting off trail can turn anyone around ... and two hikers got lost not long ago
- off trail/trail is interesting, we see a lot more animal tracks, and the fairly worn pathway is easy to follow ... for the most part ... the area is spongy beneath our feet, and parts of the path seem likely to crumble into the river, we finally reach a sticking point where we have to throw ourselves off the hillside or head straight up to the west and hope we find an easier way on the other side, by this time our dried pants had been re-soaked by the underbrush, and we reached the hilltop exhausted, with trembling leg muscles ... and run right into the wilderness access center (ha) ... getting off trail is nice, it gets one away from the crush of humanity, and it is good exercise
- we walk back to town, circle a princess/aramark joint that has over a six hundred rooms, with half of them guaranteed a pitiful view (BH points out that we have a good view from our log cabins ... I agree), and trudge up the hill to our place, where we down some chocolate, drape our wet things, and I curl up for a well deserved nap, the cold saps me more than BH (for a while there following lunch, I wasn't sure my gloves would dry, guess I need water-resistant gloves for the next trip)
- we've reached vacation saturation/away from home saturation (we miss pups, we don't like the Aramark/Princess takeover, and we miss media of choice) ... so we've been away too long at two weeks, five days
- dinner is two cans of soup over pre-cooked noodles ... Annie Chung soup bowls wash and re-use well, though the Miso gives BH a headache and I don't like the way it tastes ... we prefer the teriyaki ... but, of course, when the food box was packed, only Kira food went inside, so BH has slowly chipped away at my food stores on this trip and we will desperately need to hit the grocery store when we get back to the abode ... maybe Sunday
- we like our little MSR pocket rocket stove and plan to look for more titanium ware, our little mug has done well, but the soups overwhelm the mug size
- I've got loads of flower pics ... if just half of them come out I will be happy
- we are getting back into pack and go mode, and prepping for the Anchorage return ... another six hours by train ... I hope we are rested enough to enjoy the return trip, we slept through half of the first one
- most of the food is gone, we are down to energy bars and water and chocolate and tea and oatmeal and granola
- we shower for the night, and as the water runs to warm up, it keeps shutting off, and then starting back up, a very strange experience
- A recently realized twist on this Denali experience, Denali is really only open four months out of the year, they get a thousand winter visitor's each year, everyone else (500K visitors) arrives May through September ... even the local town closes up during the winter ... no wonder the buy push is so strong, and you are not encouraged to bring your own food (no coffee pot, no hot plate, no microwave ... they want you to buy $3 milk and $6 oatmeal instead)

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