Part 11: Fairbanks to Kenai, AK.


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The Trip

We spent several days with our friends Dan and Janet and took care of truck chores. Then we headed south to Anchorage for a few days and then on to the Kenai Peninsula.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

On the way out of Fairbanks, we spotted this small fire on the hills to the south of town. It was not that big and there did not appear to be an organized response (yet) so we assumed it was a trash fire and drove on.

On the ridges south of Fairbanks, we were offered a view of the Tenana River valley to the south.

The Tenana River is large enough to support barge traffic and therefore required a large bridge to span it.

Just past the bridge was the barge landing area were cargo barges were unloaded. This site was also next to the Alaska Railroad so I am sure that it served as a transshipment point for cargo that came north on the railroad and was then taken upriver to the destination.

That person on the middle of the bridge over the Nenana River is Kathleen. Her hat flew out of an open window as we crossed the river. Luckily for her, it landed on the bridge deck rather than blowing over the edge to the river hundreds of feet below. The river canyon is quite deep (but narrow) at this point.

We went through Denali Village which is a mecca for mountain-bound tourists. All manner of junk food and tours were available here.

South of Denali Village, we spotted this young moose within the boundary of the park. Kathleen shot him as we drove past, but I was stopping at the pull-out anyway. The shot of herself taking the photo was unintentional and an artifact of the wide angle setting of the lens.

The moose was way, way to casual about crossing the road. Cars were blowing through the area at the full posted speed limit and it is just a matter of time before something bad happens.

The moose came by the pull-out and this fellow had clearly lost his sense of danger as he turned his back on the animal when very close. I guess he got his video and therefore dismissed the fact that there could be a second, more exciting scene to the video if the moose charged.

South of Denali Village, the Nenana River was running strong.

Further south, the Nenana widened and slowed down.

We spent the night in a wide spot in the road called Cantwell. The RV park there had all the amenities: hot water showers, electrical and wifi. The next morning we continued south and were soon presented with an overlook that offered a clear view of the south flanks of Mt. Denali. The peaks above are just the foothills for Denali and are to the south and west of the main peak.

Denali is hidden in the clouds which sadly is a frequent occurrence. We were lucky enough to see it on our last trip to the area. In fact, we were able to land on a glacier on the south flank of the peak.

We motored on south into Anchorage and went to the home of a unimog buddy and his wife. From Charlie and Martha's place, we had a clear view of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet. The weather was degrading and the wind was substantial and despite the cold waters, this fellow was going to make the best of the windy conditions.

Between Charlie's place and the water was a game preserve and a very large mud flat. He told us that every year folks venture onto the mud flats and get stuck in the quicksand. The lucky ones get rescued before the tide comes in. The unlucky ones drown in the icy waters.

Charlie has a wood-fired sauna and the lighting process did not go well. The excess smoke caused a minor panic because we all thought that the structure had caught fire. In reality, the stove was simply not drawing the smoke way correctly due to the high winds.

Charlie has a fully-configured U500 with a Unicat camper. This rig is big -- about 27,000 pounds (MOGHEVN and camper weigh in at about 14,000 pounds). This rig has all the bells and whistles: generator; diesel heater; hydraulics; front and rear winches; large battery array; working and crawler gears. He and Martha have traveled Europe and Morocco with the unit as well as executing many trips in the states and in Mexico.

The rear winch is hydraulic and is a big unit. The structures on the left and right sides are twin 60 gallon diesel tanks.

The rig has a large bull bar and front hydraulic winch.

A front quarter view of the unit.

We spent a couple of days in Anchorage addressing repair issues and getting supplies. Based on Charlie's suggestion, we set our destination as the Captain Cook State Park on the Kenai Peninsula. On the way out of Anchorage near Potter's Marsh, we spotted this Alaska Railroad crew doing track-side maintenance. This machine has hydraulically driven clippers that cut brush.

The tide was low in the Turnagain Arm as we passed. You can clearly see the mud flats and the sediment suspended in the water.

The road follows the Turnagain Arm for many miles and offers some of the best scenery that we have encountered so far in the trip.

Many glaciers were visible from the road to Kenai.

While I have not been to Norway, the fiords there must look very simi liar to this.

The glaciers have carved deep canyons in the mountains.

The railroad line runs in the foreground of this view; I cropped it out of the photo.

From one of the rest areas, you can see the road to Homer and Kenai as it winds it's way through the valley.

The green hillsides were a stark contrast to the white snow and clouds.

Out on the Kenai Peninsula on our way to the state park, we passed a number of petroleum facilities. Indeed, there were drilling rigs in the Cook Inlet that were visible from our camp.

The camp was nice and was surrounded by some of the densest vegetation we have encountered. Cook Inlet is visible through the trees.

The beach next to camp was either gravel or tidal flat mud but not much sand. The boundary between the gravel and mud is clearly visible in the photo above.

In the distance, blurred by the marine aerosols, you can see one of the drilling rigs.

On the beach we ran into a local gal that told us that the steam cloud from Mt. Redoubt was visible. The volcano itself was not due to the clouds, but she pointed out the actual steam. It is the tall cloud in the center of the photo above. It is perhaps 50 miles away from the camp site.

Alaska is a big, big place and it only takes a road trip to prove that point. The really scary part is that roads only span a very small portion of the state!! The Kenai Peninsula is an interesting place and thanks to suggestions by Charlie and Martha, we were able to score a camp site with an ocean view.

Many thanks to our friends Dan and Janet in Fairbanks and Charlie and Martha in Anchorage for opening your homes to Kathleen and I. Mi casa es su casa, you are welcome in our home anytime. Tomorrow, we will head on to the Homer area and see the sights.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2009, all rights reserved.
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