7/28/15 – 8/1/15 (7,095 miles)
Tuesday we spent most of the day in the car, driving from Soldotna to Talkeetna. Like Homer, Talkeetna is a weird small town, inhabited by artists and adventurers. Most of the attempts to climb Mt. McKinley depart from here, and the Ranger Station that approves the climbs is here. In clear weather, there are beautiful views of Mt. McKinley from near Talkeetna, but we were not blessed with clear weather.
We spent some time roaming around Talkeetna, had a beer (of course) and did a bit of shopping.
On Wednesday, Valya and Volodya took a flightseeing tour over Mt. McKinley, with a landing on the Kahiltna Glacier. As they donned their glacier climbing boots, Stephen explained that take-offs are optional, but landings are mandatory. They were not dissuaded from the trip. Although the air wasn’t completely clear, they were able to get a view of The Tall One from the air. Their pilot was fun and competent, and they arrived back safe and happy.
From Talkeetna we moved on to Denali. All along the highway, vistas of Mt. McKinley were advertised. All we saw were clouds. In the evening, Valya made shashlik. We always gave Volodya credit for sashlik, but today we discovered who is really responsible!
The RV park where we stayed offered a dog-walking service, so we abandoned Gus in the trailer and drove into the park to get on the bus that departed at 7:30 a.m. for Kantishna, 92.5 miles down a gravel road to the end of the national park development. We still had hopes of seeing Mt. McKinley, and we also had hopes of seeing some of Alaska’s wildlife. David, the bus driver, told us that he had not seen the mountain for three weeks, and he had not seen any bears in the same period. We began to be sorry for our choice of activities for the day, but, having paid for the tickets, we set out.
Very quickly we changed our minds and were happy we had made the choice.
David, a retired park ranger, made the trip fun, and we saw a number of animals, many near the road. It was an enjoyable way to spend 14 hours and some dollars.
The next morning we had a bit of a lie-in, followed by breakfast of pancakes and sausages. We showed Vladimir Ben’s favorite way to eat these foods: Pigs-in-a-blanket. Vladimir thought this was a good solution that reduced dirty dishes.
After breakfast we drove back into the park. Stephen, Valya and Volodya took a hike, while Donna and Gus cooled their jets in the truck. They walked along Horseshoe Lake Trail, where the Ranger assured them they would see beavers. They saw a beaver dam, but they saw no damned beavers.
Only 30% of visitors get to see the top of Mt. McKinley. The Dolgikhs saw it from the air, so they are part of the 30% club. None of us saw it from the ground,