Part 1: San Diego, CA to Summit Lake, AK


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The Experience

Driving anywhere far is a hassle.  Flying can be somewhat better, but not always.  We all got tickets on Alaskan Airlines and by luck of the draw ended up in the same flight which allowed for car pooling to the airport, but not much more since we could not sit together.  But, being together as a group made the overall logistics easier.

Dan lives in Fairbanks and met us at the airport.  We drove directly from the airport to his mountain cabin at Summit Lake near Paxon, AK.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Roberto has a Canon 7D with a 28-300mm L lens and was sitting in a window seat, so he was able to get the photo above.  Since I did not take the photo, I am not sure where, exactly, we were but it is clear that this is a really big mountain.

Alaska has huge mountain ranges that are both long and high.  The further north you go, the more ice and snow you see covering them.  The central valley in the photo above is a glacier.  A glacier is nothing more than an ice river that flows slowly to the sea, bulldozing everything in its path.

The weather could have been a bit clearer but we were thankful that the flight was smooth and uneventful.  This is another large peak on our path into Fairbanks.  Again, since I did not take the photo I am not sure of the name of the mountain, but my guess is Denali given the size of the mountain.

A clear view of one of the glaciers below us.  Glaciers move a large volume of rock with them as they flow to the sea.  That rock is not visible here, but is rather covered by a thick layer of snow that renders everything pristine white.  This view is of course the reason that BMW has a color named Arctic White.

Dan picked us up at the airport and we headed directly to the mountain cabin.  From the highway we had a nice view of the Alaska Range.  We stopped at a viewpoint for a photo.

As I was taking a photo, Roberto took a photo of me.  During the spring and summer, the entire valley below would be a swampy riverbed filled with mud bogs and mosquitoes.

We had to make a "supply stop" en-route to the cabin and the location of choice was a liquor store/growler bar where we could get our growlers refilled.

Continuing on the highway south from Delta, we passed quite a bit of game on the road.  Dusk was coming and the animals were coming out to feed.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAP) parallels the road (or more correctly, the road parallels the pipeline as the road was built to support the pipeline) and our stopping point gave us a view looking south.

The odd-looking objects on the posts are thermal radiators that help vent heat from the oil passing in the pipeline.  Unless the heat is vented, the temperature will melt the permafrost and the structure will collapse.

Dusk was approaching and the setting sun highlighted the distant mountain ranges.

We followed the Delta river south toward Paxon.

Dusk brought out the animals; above are moose.

We also saw caribou on the roadway.

This young male caribou is growing antlers in anticipation of mating season.

More moose, this cow had her calf at her side.

Still more moose; there were many of them but not running as a herd.

We arrived at Dan's cabin at Summit Lake just after sunset.  Note the wind turbine on the tower.  The wind turbine in combination with the solar cells on the side of the cabin provide the bulk of the power needed for the cabin.  Fuel oil is used for heat.

Dan has a set of snowmobiles.  These are powerful machines and require substantial skill to operate (as I was to soon find out)

Like all the other cabins in the back-country, there is no electric service.  Dan has a set of large 6V lead-acid batteries and an inverter to provide electricity for the cabin.

The house batteries are charged by a combination of this diesel generator, the wind turbine and a solar array on the side of the house.  The generator is used only when necessary.

The first order of the day was to top off the batteries with the generator and then fill the water tank from the well.  It is left empty to prevent freeze damage.

Our sleeping quarters were downstairs; Roberto and I shared the bunk bed.

The upstairs kitchen had a nice living area.

The fading sun showed some of the other cabins at Summit Lake.

There are a number of glaciers in the nearby mountains.

The travel day was long and was the better part of 8 hours of plane travel followed by several hours in the car.  But, the whole process went smoothly.

Next, we explore the Gakona Glacier.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2014, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.