Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Monday, May 25th Healy

Lakeview Inn offers rooms that have a view that one doesn't even want to look away.  There's even a little deck but the Mosquitos could carry you off here. Romance in the evening is lost with the buzzing of Mosquitos and their hovering in hordes, just waiting for their turn to land on your skin. Deet is a main ingredient here, pretty lotions are useless, and only the best bug begone candles are burnt. Some joke that the state bird is the mosquito. ( it's not though, the Willow Ptarmigan has that title).
       I went on a lovely jog, exploring the many trials Black Diamond has through the trees and brush. Up here near Denali is where the trees are especially scraggly. Old trees do not gain the girth and height here with the permafrost and super dry environment. there is still dense foliage for any animal to be comfortably concealed. I explored the trails and really just enjoyed cruising around. I'd slept in- so there was plenty of time for the ATV tours to scare away the morning animals. They recommend clapping occasionally when walking or hiking alone. Since clapping is awkward when running,  I was told to ( by the Iditarod runners who owned the B&B as well as another runner ) to talk to myself or sing a song. If the bears don't leave me alone hearing me sing and mumble to myself- at least the humans will be scared off by the crazy tuneless girl.

     We went on the covered wagon tour, since that is what Lydia will be doing up here this summer.  They have Belgian and Percheron draft horses here to pull the wagons in teams of two. S, her friend, drove the wagon while another employee gave a tour. It was interesting winding down the road -one mile of it has carpet underneath. There was a fellow who lived off the road that was owned by the railroad. He went along and picked up carpet that people and businesses had thrown out on the side of the road in order to put it down on the dirt road to his place. Having the carpet in place under the dirt and rocks helped maintain the road, and though it seems crazy, it was actually ingenious because now companies specialize in material to put down beneath gravel. After all his hard work he then patrolled with a loaded potato gun - ready to use on anyone trespassing, even though it was not a private road.
We arrived at the turn around point, a lodge where a lunch was set up for the group. The cook had grilled chicken, salmon, ribs and a variety of sides. It was one of the favorite meals on the trip. Then the cook made  peach cobbler for dessert! When on the road going from place to place, one only has one chance to find a good meal; Sometimes you miss it, and sometimes the only place available just isn't that good. So our delight in this meal was pretty high ranking.

   The backdrop to our wagon ride consisted of the mountains to one side, the coal mine, and a moraine. A moraine is where two glaciers are next to each other, carving their own separate valleys, and push together between them a large gravel mound. ( and by mound picture a very large and steep hill). this one is actually the largest gravel moraine in Alaska! After finding a full sized mammoth bones while excavating, they stopped stripping for gravel.
After a break we went to Denali national park and drove the 15 miles in that is open to public traffic. After that there is restricted public access. You can go farther with a permit or a pass, so good if you want to bring an RV or popup camper. Otherwise, one can hike in, or take one of the green park shuttle buses in and out of campgrounds farther into the park for tent camping or hiking.
We chose a brief mile long trail to go on that follows the Savage River.

On the drive down we saw a one moose, three bears, and three Caribou! The Caribou was most exciting because they were less then a hundred yards from the trail! They were laying down calmly, observing us with casual interest, perhaps gloating in their knowledge that we could not hunt anywhere near them. Of course, Lydia pulled out the Caribou jerky sticks we had bought in Anchorage and we laughed at the irony of our snacking in front of the creatures whom provided the snack..

The bridge allowed us to return on the other side of the river, because there was a snowy pile that had been obstructing the trail until very recently. This trail was just lovely to wander through. A glacier had carved out the valley we were walking in and had dispensed it's gravel and boulders against the cliff sides.
We ate in the Glitter Canyon, so nick named for its sparkling newness and gleam of a fancy shops. After meandering through the shops we headed back for an early evening that ended up being spent in, going up and down the three flights of stairs trying to convince the washing machines and driers to work. ( only had to switch the load once and run it 3x as long. Success!!)

Sunday, May 24th Healy and Denali

Breakfast was served hot and fresh and delicious. The stories continued to be shared while we passed around homemade strawberry jam. Rhodi had been living far north raising her three kids, where she made and canned everything. She ordered her groceries once a year, and those ordered foods would last the whole year. She made it sound like nothing, no big deal...plan ahead, get the sugar and the flour. But I cannot imagine that, especially with a family. The place is for sale, and they are looking forward to buying somewhere they can do substance farming. Green houses are actually rather popular here. Because sunshine isn't always in short supply, but warm weather and fresh vegetables are.

We were off down the road again! chartering a course on the map for Denali and intrigued by anything along the way. Talkeetna was qualified as just such a place. The Talkeetna store is apparently a much advertised location. I completely missed the draw but did not miss the comfortable smells and creek of the old wood floors. Reminds one of Baldingers candy store, but without the dark chocolate and old fashion candy. The stairs were lined with animal furs; coyote, fox, wold, lynx, caribou. We trailed our fingers along these great pelts, marveling at the feel and color, and exactly people kept warm wearing animals skins and furs! I mean seriously! it sounds exotic and exciting, but you hear about -50F and -75F temperatures and suddenly it begins to feel insufficient in a multitude of ways. Upstairs in the store, there are other basic supplies.  Gloves, a few books, socks, undershirts, underwear, and other odds and ends.
Let's take a moment and rewind. When you see packages of undershirts, socks, boxers, and panties-they came in packs of 5 or 7 or some odd number. Here, they have been removed from those prepackaged bags, and placed in individual zip lock baggies. Each baggie is labeled neatly with the item, it's gender, style, and size. Minimum supply, and maximum distribution!
We did not stay long in the town. There was a open air market we strolled through with artists, a jewelry maker who specialized in porcupine quills, bamboo socks, and organic herbal lotions and soaps. Continuing along the main street, which is easily identified because it is the only street, are a collection of other shops and stores. In the short hour or so we were there, the amount of people increased to a crowded level. On sidewalks, in storefronts, sitting inside restaurants and spilling onto patios. Either we missed a few tour buses or people came out of the woodwork.

The tourbuses are annoying because the stops are so restricted to stores that are specific cruise brand tours, and they leave out the areas many other restaurants and shops as options.  They also take a quiet afternoon and turn it into a crowded mass of humanity.
Healy was next! Just a few minutes away from Denali National Park. The town had just opened up last week. Stores were opened for the seasons and the traffic lights were turned back on. We headed for the Black Diamond Resort, where Ms. Lydia will be working this summer! This small town of a population of about 800 swells to est. 3000 with college kids and seasonal workers for the tourist season. We stopped at the barn and continued back to to the area were most of the employees live in the provided...housing. Thankfully Lydia is in one of the better trailers! It's not a dry cabin ( one without running water), but has hot water, wifi, and first/surplus food is delivered there too! Due to them being "the girls" trailer, excess food and the maintenance guys give them extra assistance for their frequent needs. Once they get some curtains up, they won't even have to change hunkered over or on the sly! Seriously prime real-estate.

We settled into The Denali Lakeview Inn, a charming B&B right on top of the lake, with the mountains proud centaurs on the horizon. The names of the peaks surrounding us were Mt. Healy, Black Diamond, Sugarloaf, Jumbo Dome; and below them an extremely productive coal mine.
This area is rich in coal, and contains some gold still and, the biggest payout-platinum!
For dinner we ate at the 49th State Brewery. For the area, I can see why it is a big deal. Seriously overpriced with a mid-sized plate at best. However, their whiskey bourbon, and scotch selection made up for what the menu lacked. There were also microbrews on tap, but honestly they were mundane and flavorless in comparison to the distillery options.
We headed out to the Salmon Bake with a crew from the resort and area. It was a really fun time! It's got a couple floors, and each night there is some kind of special music or theme. Despite the sparse crowd, it was 80's night! We talked we laughed we told stories. The only thing to complain about would be the large table that made it hard to hear, so we either had to stretch across the table or cluster around on a side.
Beer enjoyed: Alaskan White. Whiskey: Johnny Walker