hiking

A Great View of “The Great One”- Denali: Talkeetna, AK

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The historic town of Talkeetna is nestled at the base of North America’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley- also known as Denali, meaning “The Great One”. Talkeetna also has an outstanding panoramic view of the Alaska Range that can be enjoyed and photographed from several places as you wander through the town. This fortunate location with its breathtaking views of Denali and the Alaskan Range combined with the colorful, quaint town and the mystique of the mountain climbing community explains its enormous popularity.

Talkeetna is the jumping off point for the majority of climbing expeditions to Denali.  The Denali National Park Rangers present an outstanding program on preparing and climbing Denali.  We were fascinated by the presentation and left in awe of such an undertaking. The ranger related that most expeditions fly to the Kahiltna Glacier at about 7200 ft. to begin their climb to the summit of the South Peak at 20,320 ft.  The climb itself takes approximately 3 weeks and only 2 or 3 days to descend! Each year, 9-12 climbers on average lose their lives on this majestic mountain.  The day of our talk, the rangers aboard a helicopter were rescuing 3 Danish climbers who had become injured from an avalanche.

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Talkeetna has the last flag-stop train in Alaska, called the Hurricane Turn.  This train runs between the Talkeetna depot and Hurricane.  People who live in the Bush, as well as hunters, hikers, fishermen and tourists use this 115 mile train which runs parallel to the Susitna River. Our ride on the Hurricane Turn afforded us the opportunity to meet and to talk with true locals that use this train for their everyday life.  One woman uses the train on week-ends to go to her cabin that has been in her family for many years and after she “jumped” off of the train she was going to hike 4 or 5 miles and then inflate her kayak and go down the river the remaining 5 miles to her cabin!  Helping her with her gear was a man that was her “neighbor”- meaning they would hike the first 5 miles together and then he would split off and hike to his cabin while she kayaked to hers! The train also gave us our best view of Denali as we were blessed with a clear, sunny day. The conductor stopped the train for everyone to get their photos and we were told this was the first day this season that all of Denali was visible and that it only happens about every 3 weeks in the summer; as all of the locals were also taking photos it must have been true.   This was a truly interesting train trip and was a great way to end our stay in Talkeetna.

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Categories: Airstream, Alaska, hiking, National Park | 2 Comments

Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula

Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula

Our “bearfooting” continued in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula- home to Cooper Landing, Seward, Homer, Soldotna and Kenai which make up 45% of the state’s population.  This south central, Gulf coast peninsula is comprised of high mountains and broad river valleys. The climate is maritime- rain & fog with mild temperature fluctuations. This variable terrain and climate provide an outstanding habitat for a wide assortment of plants and animals.  Our digital cameras really got a workout!

Cooper Landing is a thickly forested wilderness community on the startling blue Kenai River.  We were fortunate and camped at the Kenai Princess Campground Imagewhich provided us with all the services of their Lodge!  We were truly pampered during our stay there.  Hiking above the river was a feast for the eyes as the spruce, birch, alder and aspen densely populate the river’s banks along with wildflowers.  Surrounding the Lodge were gorgeous plantings of wildflowers and annuals. Training our binoculars to the mountains revealed Dall sheep and Mountain goats- although truth be told, they appeared as moving white dots, but we were assured by the staff that is what we were viewing.Image

Seward is framed by the Kenai Mountains on one side and Resurrection Bay on the other making it a picturesque seaport. Our not to miss experiences in Seward were the Exit Glacier & the Alaska Sea Life Center.Image

Named by explorers because of its suitable “exit” from the Harding Ice Fields, Exit Glacier is a fabulous example of how our climate has changed. Driving up to Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park, signs are posted to show how far the glacier has retreated in the last few hundred years. The most drastic retreat has been in the last 75 years.  The rangers at this wonderful park were very informative and maintain an amazing 1.5 mile uphill, trail to the very edge of the glacier. Image

Something wonderful did come out of the Valdez oil spill- the Alaska Sea Life Center, a $56 million marine life and rehabilitation center that is the only cold- water marine science facility in the western hemisphere. Many of their resident animals are temporary, as the Center rescues abandoned, sick or injured animals from all over the coast of Alaska. Large aquariums display the many aquatic cold water habitants of Alaska’s waters, and a 21-foot deep exhibit with tall windows allows us humans to marvel at the speed and grace of puffins and other seabirds as well as rehabilitating harbor seals as they dive and glide underwater.Image

On our departure from Seward, we got our opportunity to see some Trumpeter Swans again.  This time we stopped and were able to capture their beauty and grace. John was even able to get a photo of their mating dance!Image

Homer

Homer is affectionately known as, “the quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem.”  And, although they had enough pubs & fishing boats to live up to that name, it is also an artists’ colony with 8 galleries. While there, we dined at a delightful, organic restaurant, the Sourdough Express Restaurant & Bakery.  Not only were the seafood cakes and Kodiak brownies delicious, the owner and staff were so welcoming that they made our dinner there memorable.Image

Exploring the overlook above the Kachemak Bay in Homer, we discovered the Wynn Nature Center, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the Bay’s natural habitat and to educating people to appreciate the native plants and wildlife.  Comprised of about 26 acres, we spent a wonderful couple of hours wandering their trails, marveling at the preserved beauty of this coastal regionImage.

Homer was also home to the largest number of seaplanes we have seen in Alaska.  On the clearest day, we ventured down to the lake to watch them take off and land.  One friendly pilot let Joy take his picture with his pride and joy.Image

While in Homer, we found ourselves camping next to a couple from Port Charlotte, FL. -talk about a small world. Karl & Annette were enjoying their second trip to Alaska in an RV and generously shared some great tips and information with us.Image

Soldotna & Kenai

On the western Kenai Peninsula, Soldotna & Kenai stretch along the Sterling Highway and the Kenai River.  There are numerous unobstructed views of Mount Redoubt across the Cook Inlet. While we couldn’t see Russia from this coast, we did get to see a few of the historic buildings left by the Russians!Image

These towns get extremely busy during fishing season. We found ourselves here at the beginning of the Red Salmon run.  Dipping for “Reds” with huge nets is an activity limited to Alaskan residents.  This is considered “subsistence fishing” vs “recreational fishing.”  It was quite the spectacle as we watched the residents dip netting off of the beach while the drift netters and the recreational boaters floated by at the mouth of the Kenai all vying for the salmon. ImageImage

One gregarious Alaskan, Carolyn, told us how the state government uses sonar to record the number of Reds coming up the river- the day before they recorded over 250,000!  She also shared the card each resident is required to turn in recording their catch at the end of the Run. The head of the household is permitted to keep 25 fish and 10 additional fish for each dependent.  The Run varies day to day and usually lasts between 7 to 10 days

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As a welcome gift to Soldotna, we were graciously given two canned jars of red salmon from Karen Dorcas, a local resident artist, who Joy became acquainted with while they were both participating in an online jewelry making class!  Thanks to Karen’s local knowledge, we were able to easily access the beaches, parks, fishing walks, historical sites and even the local Cariboo herd in Kenai. Thank you, Karen!ImageImageImage

                                          

Categories: Airstream, Alaska, art, hiking, National Park, Uncategorized, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting Our Dreams on the Road: Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument

 

 

 

When it was time to depart Yellowstone to put our dreams on the road again, the Silver Manatee headed for Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho.  After a stop ‘n go in Idaho Falls for a night, we traveled further west and about halfway to Ketchum we made two unique, brief stops- one was the site where the country’s nuclear reactors are made near Arco, ID and the other unusual stop was to view the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The Navy established the site where the nuclear reactors are created and is the largest plant making nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes in the world. The Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of volcanic rock and sagebrush. More eruptions are predicted to occur as the recurrence interval for eruptive activity in the Craters of the Moon Lava Field averages 2,000 years and it has been more than 2,000 years since the last eruption. Both sites seemed so other worldly and definitely gave us pause for thought.

We arrived in Ketchum with brilliant blue skies and the sun shining on majestic mountains with picturesque horse ranches at their base.  As picture postcard as Yellowstone was with its dusting of snow, the sunshine and the sapphire blue sky were welcome visitors to our journey. Located in central Idaho, Ketchum and the adjacent resort, Sun Valley, sit below Bald Mountain or “Baldy” as it is often referred.  Known as a world class ski resort in the winter, this area also offers fishing, hiking, biking, golf and tennis during the remaining seasons along with a summer concert series.  During our stay here we were able to take advantage of a short hiking trail right from downtown Ketchum which offered a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.  We meandered to Sun Valley and explored the Sun Valley Lodge and the adjoining multi-use complex.  The ice rink adjacent to the Lodge was being renovated for the upcoming summer Show on Ice season, but was still open for lessons and we had some enjoyable moments watching a young boy learning to skate.

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Between the lush, green mountainscape with its crisp, pine scented air and the wealth of outdoor & art related activities, Ketchum, Idaho is on our must return list!

Categories: Airstream, art, hiking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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