Haines Junction and Fairbanks
Denali and Denali National Park
June 8 to June 21, 2008

State and National Parks and Monuments Visited:

Kluane National Park (Canadian)
Denali National Park

Denali State Park

Haines to Haines Juntions and Kluane NP

After Haines, we drove up the Haines Highway (through the Alaskan Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve) to Haines Junction---where we rejoined the Alaskan Highway. Our drive up the Haines Highway was typical of many of our days in Alaska---the weather kept changing. We started off with a lot of clouds and a fairly cool breeze, by the time we got to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve it was sunny and very warm, and after we went over the Chilkat Pass and passed the U.S./Canadian border, we found ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm!

In spite of the crazy weather, we did see lots of bald eagles in the preserve, a lonely little baby moose running up the road near the Chilkat Pass, and mountains and landscapes that were breathtaking!

bald eagle preserve
Part of the Alaskan Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
baby moose
Our little baby moose...looking for his Mom

Haines Highway
Getting warmer and sunnier along the Haines Highway
Haines Junction
The next morning our Pursuit and car in Haines Junction

Needless to say, we didn't expect snow....but traditionally our vacations have included more rain and clouds than any historical norms, so why not a little snow on June 8th! Fortunately, the next day the snow more or less melted away, and in Haines Junction,YT, we rejoined the Alaskan Highway. (Between Haines and Haines Junction, we crossed the border back into Canada and the Yukon Territory.)

Our first stop on the highway was the Kluane National Park's Visitor Center in Haines Junction. Kluane NP is part of the largest protected area in the world covering over 37650 square miles and recognized by UNESCO as a "World Heritage Site." The four neighboring parks which make up this internationally protected area are Glacier Bay National Park and Wrangles-St. Elias National Park (both US),and the Yukon's Kuane National Park and British Columbia's Tatshenshini-Alsek Park. It's too bad we saw of a lot of Kluane NP covered in clouds, but hopefully on the way home we'll pass through this section of the Alaskan Highway and the weather will be clear!

Crossing into Alaska again and the end of the Alaskan Highway in Delta Junction, AK

After crossing the border back into Alaska, we stayed a night in Tok and then drove onto Delta Junction, AK... the official end of the Alaskan Highway. Much like at the beginning, the end was a time for celebration and pictures!
Welcome to Alaska (again)
Our second welcome to Alaska

The end of the Highway
The official end of the Alaskan Highway
mileage sign
A few miles from home!

Just north of Delta Junction, we also saw the Alaskan pipeline for the first time. It was quite a engineering project, and to see it "in person" was interesting. We saw another section of it north of Fairbanks and at both locations they have "interpretive" information describing the pipeline's history, how it was designed and why certain parts had to be built the way it is, and the obstacles that had to be overcome during its construction. It is huge---it's a four foot wide pipe that just goes on and on!

The Pipeline
The Alaskan Pipeline (crossing just north of Delta Junction)
The Pipeline
The Alaskan Pipeline (just north of Fairbanks)

Fairbanks, Alaska

We enjoyed Fairbanks a lot! The weather was warm, as a "city" it's small and very managable, and it has some wonderful museums. And eventually we spent five nights there. We didn't take many pictures because we spent most of our time in museums (Pioneer Park and the Museum of the North), at the botanical gardens at the University of Fairbanks and its experimental agricultural center, or the Large Animal Research Station (also part of UofA). We also spent a relaxing day at the Chena Hot Springs just an hour outside the city.

Throughout Alaska, the revenues from oil seem to have helped support local museums, libraries, and government offices. The Universtiy of Alaska in Fairbanks is a good example---it has an entire part of its campus which is all new and has a lot of construction still underway. The Museum of the North is part of the new campus, it's brand new...and it's very, very good! In fact, we started there at 9AM when it opened, went home for lunch and a brief nap, went back and stayed until it closed at 9PM!

The University helps sponsor the Large Animal Research Station which does research on some of Alaska's large animals like the Musk Ox, caribou, and reindeer.

And for anyone interested, at Chena Hot Springs the current owners have installed one of the more fascinating and significant alternative energy projects in the country, if not the world. Essentially it's a "low temperature" geothermal project where they are generating electricity for the entire resort from geothermal temperatures as low as 165 degrees. They are able to generate enough electricity to heat the buildings of the resort all year, supply all its hot water requirements, provide enough heat for a year- round greenhouse,(in a place where average winter temperatures hover around zero, and are frequently known to drop to -20 degrees or lower), provide enough cooling to keep an ice museum from melting in the summer....and they still have enough left over which will soon be used to generate hydrogen gas for cars and other vehicles!

Muskox at the LARS
Caribou at the LARS

Ice Sculptures at Chena River
Ice Sculptures at Chena River Hot Springs Resort
Sara in the Ice Museum
Sara in the Ice Museum

Denali National Park and Denali State Park, Alaska

From Fairbanks we drove to Denali National Park....a very special place!

Originally Mount McKinley National Park was created in 1917 to protect the Dall sheep that were being slaughtered to feed the many prospectors and gold stampeders that had come into the area. Later 4 million acres of land was added to the original 2 million acres, and the name was changed to Denali National Park---the original Athabascan name for "the great one." (Although the park's name was changed, and even though the state of Alaska has officially changed the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali, the "official/ Federal" name of the mountain is still Mount McKinley.)

Today, Denali National Park is among the busier national parks in the National Park part because it's so huge with over 6 million acres of protected land (9430 sq. miles ---larger than the state of New Hampshire) and in part because Mount McKinley is the highest mountain in North America (20,320 feet). What's so amazing about Mt. McKinley is that it just rises up so much higher than the surrounding mountains and the surrounding countryside! It just rises up out of nowhere and surprises you. It's obviously not as high as Mt. Everest, but the distance from its base to its peak is much greater!

While in the national park, we enjoyed visiting the dog sled kennels, taking the shuttle bus out to the new Eielson Center on another day, and went on a Ranger led hike on our third day. Unfortunately, Mt. McKinley was covered in clouds the day we were at the Eielson Center, but the day we left for Denali State Park we could see it as clear as ever....and then saw it again the next day. Since the mountain usually is covered in clouds...we were unusually luckly!

After leaving Denali National Park, we went to Denali State Park. Since the National Park was created originally as a wilderness preserve to protect the Dall sheep and other animals, it really isn't the best or easiest place to actually see Mt. McKinley. From its Vistor Center, for instance, the mountain can't be seen, and the only really good view of from within the park requires a very long (8-12 hour round trip)bus ride into the center. Consequently, to really see the mountain, it's often better to see it from the Park Highway south of the National Park or from sections of Denali State Park. And for us, that was the case.

From within Denali State Park we had our best views of the mountain. We also took a hike around Byers Lake which would have been just amazing if it wasn't for all the mosquitos---millions and millions of them. In fact, they were so thick that even Oliver was swatting them with his paws during his morning hike!

Denali in the clouds
Denali (Mt. McKinley) in the clouds
Denali (Mt. McKinley)

Dog Sled
Sara trying to get her dog sled team to "mush"
at the National Park's Dog Sled Station
Wild Dog
Oliver swimming in Byers Lake (Denali State Park)

After four-five days in Denali NP and State Park, we celebrated the summer solstice in the small town of Talkeetna. Talkeetna is where the National Park Service maintains a Ranger Station for those who want to climb to the top of Mt. McKinley and from where most hikers leave. It's also a very picturesque and quaint town...and it is rumored that it was the setting which inspired the 1990's TV show Northern Exposure.

After a day in Talkeetna, we headed south towards Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.

Bruce and Sara--Travels in 2008 (Opening Page)

Jan to April 2008---The SAM Shortline in Cordele, GA

April 1st to April 13, 2008---Driving from GA to Big Bend NP, TX

April 14 to April 23, 2008---Driving from Carlsbad Caverns NP to Mesa Verde NP

April 24 to May 4, 2008---Snow in Yellowstone, a Change in Plans, and a Detour to Zion NP

May 4 to May 11, 2008---From Zion NP to Salt Lake City and Glacier, and then to Canada

May 12 to May 16, 2008---Kootenay, Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks Yoho)

May 16 to May 25, 2008---The Alaskan Highway---From Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Skagway, Alaska

May 25 to June 7, 2008---Southeast Alaska--Skagway, Sitka, Juneau, and Haines

June 8 to June 21, 2008---Haines Junction, Fairbanks, and Denali

June 22 to July 4, 2008---The Kenai Peninsula: Portgage, Seward, and Homer

July 5 to July 22, 2008---Whittier, Anchorage, Palmer, Valdez Prince William Sound and Wrangell-St. Elias NP

July 23 to July 28, 2008---Driving Down the Cassier Highay: Steward and Hyder

July 29 to August 14, 2008---Driving Home after 13,600 Miles

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