Another circle in Alaska: Denali Highway, an aerial view of the Kluane Icefield and the long way to British Columbia, Canada.
Talkeetna, 4th July
The glacier walk on McCarthy’s Root Glacier is history. The crampons are off and were back in the village.
The next day still beautiful weather. Something must be wrong with Alaska – at least concerning the weather.
A visit to the Kennicot Copper Mine. Nowadays just another industrial complex waiting for Uncle Don’s greatification program. As there’s no ore left, probably there will be a deal with Zambian Government on copper import to supply Kennicot. And the local miners will be happy again.
We propose to reward the Zambians by cooking classes for wobbly all-American burgers. What a deal.
Maybe just nothing will happen. Who knows.
In the meantime – until they’re deployed to a newly opened coal mine – US National Park employees maintain the whole stuff in Kennicot.
Later on to Glennallen.
On the way a Moose cub learning underwater eating and …
… a last glimpse of the Wrangler Range.
The next morning. It’s 4th of July – Independence Day. As all proud Americans are so keen to see the parades organised in each and every village we’re pretty sure to be the only 1s on Denali Highway.
Once, this road was the only way to reach the eponymous national park. Nowadays it’s 1 of the last remaining gravel roads in Alaska and an opportunity to admire some of the State’s greatest landscape along the Alaska Range.
Indeed, the whole morning rarely we see another car. They’re all celebrating. And we’re enjoying the road’n’landscape.
Well, in the afternoon it slightly changes. We assume there’s a law in Alaska obliging everybody after the 4th of July parade to drive the Denali Highway and to camp somewhere on the way. And there are 1000s of lawful citizens.
A nice old bridge crossing Susitna River,…
… just towards the end of the gravel road some sports and …
… finally a glimpse of Mount Denali – well just a little of it.
In the evening we arrive in Talkeetna. Maybe not the overlander’s dream destination. But pretty interesting on 4th of July.
The center of the village slightly crowded.
Everybody celebrating and enjoying Independence Day. Some lazier by sitting along the streetside, waving a flag, supposedly watching the President’s incredible speech on the phone, …
… while others are considerably more active. Decorating their beautiful hair with a flag, enjoying a sumptuous dinner at the village’s al-fresco eatery, a couple of beers and then go back home – probably happy and visibly well nourished.
Enough of this. At the roadside we already discover a clear indication that now we’re driving southwards. Thus, approaching the better side of the great Mexican-Friendship-Wall.
Tok, 6th July
The next morning: happily this year’s 4th of July belongs to the ash heap of history. We head southwards. To Anchorage. On the way a spa for Prado, a fix for its tire and an oil change for its engine.
Everywhere still the hell a lot of people. Finally, we discover that they all take leave until next week – a kind of Independence Day extension.
Whatever. In Anchorage the opportunity for another visit to the 49th State Brewery. And for another couples of Indian Pale Ales. And to admire the crowd in this watering hole.
It’s time to leave Alaska. Next to all roads driven except to Prudhoe Bay.
We head to Tok. Some 500km. A rather old ‘n’winding road …
… along the Chugach Range.
On the way we pass Manatuska Glacier. 1 of the top destinations for Alaska’s cruiseshippers and hence 1 of the top tourist traps. Should you have seen another glacier somewhere in the world or even on TV you may easily avoid the exorbitant dollar migration required to visit the place. Anyway the glacier is visible from the road.
Later some colourful mountains and …
… some more km to cover. Late afternoon we arrive in Tok.
And here a serious warning. If in Tok most people visit Fast Eddie’s Restaurant for a real American dinner. Be warned. Well, maybe the picture is enough.
Americans consider this delicious gourmet lasagne al forno cheesy’n’melty. Non Americans usually have considerable problems to munch this kind of greasy stuff.
Haines Junction; Canada, 8th July
Well, our last drop of Armenian Ararat Konyagi could sort out our dinner.
The next morning we drive on to Haines Junction in Canada. Another 400km. Now on the Alaska Highway. It’s rather hazy today. Later we learn that it’s smog of distant wildfires. Seems pretty early this year.
Soon we reach the border. Some last pictures of Alaska. Discover our 1st South American overlander, and …
… then the Canadian customs – easy as usual. Surprisingly only a few cars waiting.
On along huge rivers, …
… and the mountains of Kluane National Park and Lake Kluane.
Our expectation to have a better road in Canada seems just wishful thinking. As they don’t need funds for a friendship wall we expected them to invest more in the Alaska Highway. Way off.
In the evening we arrive in Haines Junction. Just on time for a sundowner at the only al-fresco watering hole.
The next morning. Still nice weather. Time for a splurge. Initially we’ve planned to make a sightseeing flight around Mt. Denali. Arriving in Talkeetna we immediately realised that we have to queue up with 2000 Independence Day addicted holiday-makers. We gave up. But now is our chance.
A flight over the icefields of Kluane National Park. Quickly we find our plane – there’s only 1 offer available. And off we are.
Up towards the mountains. The flight: pretty shaky as there’s strong wind. Well, we’ll see later if it improves.
Westwards. Along the valleys with colourful mountains and huge rivers.
The snow-covered mountains still pretty far away.
Then the 1st glaciers. And we’re high above.
Ascending to the icefield. The biggest 1 outside the polar region.
The flight remains bumpy. Strong winds shake the plane. Despite the passengers’ skin turning into a faded yellow-greenish colour the pilot seems to be used to that. At least, he doesn’t show any inconvenience.
Then we’re above the icefield, …
… Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest mountain not far away.
Some clouds from the nearby Pacific.
A series of small glacier lakes, …
… a last glimpse of the high mountains and …
… we’re already on our way back …
… overflying again the glaciers and …
… their lakes and …
… a little later we’re approaching Haines Junction’s tiny airport.
1,5h – an incredible flight. Landscapes you cannot imagine – and a continuously shaking plane. Definitely a slightly bumpy affaire. We descend. Happy to be back on firm ground. And time to recover from this strange feeling in the stomach – at least most of us. But now we know it: flying a small plane in strong winds sucks.
In the evening, to overcome the latent nausea we only know 1 solution.
Whatever, it helps.
Watson Lake, 10th July
Now we’re ready for the long way back to the Lower 48 – continental US, without Alaska. Some 160km to Whitehorse.
An opportunity to replenish foodstuff and to wait a long time for a table at Klondike’s Rib&Salmon. At least it’s for a delicious dinner.
And of course, the next morning to have breakfast at 1 of these ugly A&Ws.
Then on to Watson Lake. Quite a distance to drive. The Alaska Highway southwards.
Not too much traffic. Mainly RVs, northwards, on their terrific adventure trip to Alaska.
For a change a bear on the roadside munching some flowers.
In the evening in Watson Lake. The place has not really changed since our last visit. But ok as an overnight stop and to munch a greasy burger.
Stewart, 13th July
The next morning some diet diesel for Prado – low calories, sulphurless and without gluten.
Then we’re on the way to the Cassiar Highway. Towards Dease Lake.
After a few km the border to British Colombia.
Unfortunately sunshine turns into rain.
Gusty winds and rather low temperature.
On the way we find some accommodation. Protected from the weather. The Red Goat Lodge near Tatogga. Well, nomen est omen.
The next morning towards Stewart. Some 300km. Weather – still the same. But who bothers, they promised brilliant sunshine for tomorrow.
Arriving in Stewart weather already starts improving. Slightly. At least for optimists. Whatever. A sightseeing tour thru historic Stewart. Not really an issue lasting for days.
A few restored houses and not much more.
A look at Stewart’s beach – the end of the Portland Canal. Very muddy water.
Nevertheless, we find an idea on how to improve Prado’s 4×4 capabilities. Something to remember should Prado ever plan to drive us from Vladivostok to Kamchatka.
Then we leave Canada. We cross the border to the US. To Hyder. There’s no border post. Simply because you can go nowhere further within the US if you’re in Hyder. A kind of prison surrounded by Canada and the sea.
And somehow that’s the way it looks. A real outpost of Alaska. The home of a few lost souls, a few souvenir shops, an empty motel or 2 and probably a kind of shop. And not to forget the US postal service. The place where odd tourists send their postcards from if too lazy to drive up to real Alaska.
Well, somehow a sad looking, lousy place you would even not send to exile Washington’s current politicians.
We drive on. Along the Salmon River …
… to visit a bear viewing platform. That’s the ultimate place to see a great number of bears fishing salmons. Of course only once the fish arrive. And that’s what they haven’t done, yet.
What a pity. According to local statistics they should have arrived – or not yet. Maybe tomorrow – or in some weeks.
So we drive back to Stewart, Canada. Now of course we have to pass the Canadian border control. Even if you cannot reach this border from anywhere else in the world than Canada enclosed Hyder.
The next morning nicest weather you can imagine. The opportunity to visit the famous Salmon Glacier. Again we cross the border to Hyder, Alaska. Drive the steep valley along Salmon River. On a road constructed and maintained for the still active Granduc Mine some 50km away in British Columbia. Sorry Uncle Don, that’s in Canada not in your own country. No chance for these coal shippers who voted for you.
A 1st glimpse of the glacier’s toe, …
… still further up and, …
… then we’re on the top. What a fantastic view.
A hike up the hill to the icefield opposite Salmon Glacier.
The view on Salmon Glacier even gets more impressive.
We drive on – towards the glacier’s toe on the other side.
And then we’re on the way back to Stewart – passing thru Hyder, US.
So far the present post. The next 1 about the way towards the Lower 48 will follow. Soon.