Sunday, August 10, 2008

Denali Highway and Beyond

We woke up to the sound of light rain. Prepared breakfast, paid for the parking, and set out on our way. It was raining and so we gave up on the idea of a hike near the river. The road left the river and climbed up to high open country with views far away.

Views of the river



After a while we entered a region that was a big glacier valley with tundra around us and many pools throughout. The pools were at different heights, and apparently the remains of old chunk of glaciers that sank in and made an impression that later formed a pool. Thus,
they were not in the place you would expect a pool (e.g., before a waterfall).


The road run between these and for large part of the way was on a ramp 10-30 meter above the pools, with flat land around. Turns out that these structures are not man made, but rather the result of glacier activity as well. Large "rivers" below the glaciers opened channels
where debris can settle and the glacier does not grind the rock. So the land below the river was actually higher than the surrounding land. So when the glacier disappeared they left these high tracks along the valley. From up above we searched for life. We saw ravens,
eagle, swans, and caribou. We also saw something that seemed to us a beaver mound, but we didn't see the owners.


After crossing another river, the road started climbing up and passed through a high and narrow valley. We saw some cars stopping on the side of the road, and so searched for what they were looking at. There was a big herd of caribou up above us on the ridge. It was hard to see the herd, except for the ones that were outlined against the ridge skyline. These seemed dotted like a long line of ants. This according to one of the women in another car was the flank of a very large herd
that is known to roam this area.

Caribou herd on ridge

From here we reached a region with large lakes. The kids where asleep at this point, so we skipped stopping there. We reached a paved road again.

The winding road

There was a stop over that marked the end (or start if you are going the other way) of the highway. We switched drivers (before that Yael was driving and I was navigator/photographer) and planned to take the long drive south. Yael packed the camera in its case I started
driving. Two minutes later I notice about 100m ahead of us a mother bear and cab crossing the road. The mother was very big and brown I hit the breaks and Yael started getting the camera out. By that stage they disappeared into the bush, and we didn't see them again :-(

We reached the end of the road, which was supposed to be the town of Paxton. Turns out that the town is just a gas station and a diner. We turned onto the highway (the oldest in Alaska). Although it is called a major highway, it was still just a two lane road running through
forests and next to lakes. It was faster than the Denali highway, but quite deserted. At some point we saw a moose crossing the road ahead of us. We stopped on the side, and a car that came from the other direction passed us, did a U-turn (middle of so called "highway") and
came to see it as well.


As we continue we started nearing the intersection of two of Alska's main highway, the one we were on that marked the road from Valdez to Fairbanks, and the other that started at Anchorage and reached Canada at the Yukon river. To our East lay a range of mountains that form a
huge national park that we decided to skip (due to accessibility problems).

Faraway Mountains

When we reached the intersection, we fueled the RV, found a big supermarket to replenish our stocks, and the continued south for another hour, passing the historic town of Cooper Center (nothing much there as far as we could tell), and settled in RV park for the night.


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