8/7/15 – 8/10/15 (8,260 miles)
We departed Fairbanks for Tok and stopped at an old-fashioned drive-in for lunch. The parking lot was gravel, so the carhops were not wearing roller skates, but Vladimir was fascinated with eating in one’s car with a food tray dangling from the window. We couldn’t get our lengthy vehicle into the drive-in bay, so we ate at a table on the lawn. The food was okay, but probably not quite as good as what we had at Costco.
We spent one night in Tok (No trees fell on us.) and then moved on to Tolsona to what has become our favorite RV park. Although Tolsona Wilderness RV Park is a commercial park, it feels more like a state park with large sites, each one adjacent to the river. Stephen went to the office to get firewood, and I thought he was also getting supplies to make S’Mores, so I went to the next trailer and invited the residents there to our campfire and S’More roast. Then I discovered that we had nothing with which to make S’Mores. Fortunately, our new friends did have the ingredients, so they brought marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers and joined us. As we so often find, our world is incredibly inter-related, and Pat and Lana Murphy are good friends with our friends, Mike and Susan Andresen. They were delightful, and we had fun roasting marshmallows and chatting.
On Saturday we decided to visit America’s largest National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias. We really had no idea what to expect, but we drove the 81 miles south to the entrance in Chitina (pronounced Chit’ na) and headed into the park. From Chitina to the end of the road near McCarthy is 61 miles of mostly washboard gravel road. One interesting part of the road crossed the Kuskulana River over a 1910 one-lane w bridge, supported by wood and iron tresses and with a wooden deck that was 238 feet above the river.
There is no park headquarters, but there was a “visitor center” in Chitina in a 105 year-old log house. There were few other visitors, but we persevered. The road ends at a pedestrian bridge connecting to a one-mile pathway into McCarthy, population 252 hardy souls. We planned to eat in McCarthy, but the two restaurants there were both closed. There was a small bakery that made sandwiches, which was a good thing as we had brought no food with us.
Sunday took us to Anchorage down the Glenn Highway that is beautiful, if only we could have seen it. Weather during most of the Dolgikhs’ visit was rainy, smoky or hazy. They were able to see the Matanuska Glacier, but the photos were not good with visibility severely limited.
At the Athabascan village, we had learned to call moose (“Here, moosey, moosey, moosey.”), which we did along the way, although we were not optimistic of success. Suddenly, Stephen spotted a female moose and brought our truck to a stop. Vladimir got out to take a picture of her, and, as he watched, she listened and sniffed and then called her baby to join her. After all our scanning, it was fun actually to see two moose.
We spent most of Monday shopping in Anchorage for souvenirs, food, gifts, clothing, etc. And then, suddenly, it was time to say farewell to our Russian friends. After having waited for months to spend time together, the time was over, and we had to take the Dolgikhs to the airport for their long flight back to Moscow. We had a wonderful time with them and regretted only the fact that the weather had not been more cooperative.
As we left Anchorage on Monday morning, we had beautiful sunny skies, and Mt. McKinley was out in all its glory. One day too late for Volodya and Valya who were in an airplane somewhere over mid-America.