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  1. #51
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,052

    Default Tok Cut-Off. Glenn Highway and Anchorage.

    Next day I headed straight for Anchorage, via the above highways. Once again, these were spectacular drives, and not the sort of road you just use to get from point A to B. Truly these magnificent highways are destinations in themselves.

    The Tok Cut-Off runs north of the Wrangel Mountains. One is tempted to stop... continuously... to fill that SD card, once more. It was such a beautiful day. Here are a couple.




    The best glacial valley I have seen.


    There are more in my album - US 2012.

    Glennallen is known as 'The Hub of Alaska'. On my last trip, this is where I paid the highest price for fuel, in the US. However, on this ocassion, I passed straight through. It was at this point also, that my camera got a well deserved rest.

    The Glenn Hwy for a large part runs along the Matanuska River. That particular stretch of the highway is two lanes, up and down and winding along beside the river. It is incredibly scenic, and I would highly recommend that if you are up this way, that you not bypass it. Unfortunately all the turnouts and rest areas are along the east bound section. The west bound section has a couple of spots to allow faster vehicles to pass. As the only highway east out of Anchorage, it is used by all truck traffic and numberous motor homes.

    Since I was heading west, there was not an opportunity to take any pictures. It seemed too dangerous to cross over the double lines to the turnouts on the other side. It really is quite a busy road, especially for such a narrow winding road. (A week later I had the opportunity to drive it east bound.)

    It was well before dinner time that I arrived in Anchorage and made my way to the hostel where I have stayed on my previous two trips.

    The Spenard Hostel is on 42nd avenue. I remembered it as a clean and friendly place. And even though having changed hands, the culture is still the same. It is everything a hostel should be. I stayed for the recommended maximum of six nights.

    Besides the two kitchens and three fridges there is ample room to store one's food. The bedrooms are clean and comfortable, though not excessively big. The beds are comfortable. I always choose a top bunk, so that I have enough light to read in bed. On this occasion I had the four bed room to myself for most of the time.

    Their knowledgeable staff can help with information on travelling and local attractions and services. There are pay computers for use and free wifi. Unfortunately I had great difficulty getting a good connection, although all other guests did not have a problem. When I logged on to the hostel's wifi, instead of it coming up 'connected', it came up 'validating identity'. Much time was spent trying to find out what this meant and how to overcome it. Not even the local computer shop was able to help. Neither was the hostel's ips. (If any of you know what that meant, I am all ears.)

    Much of my time was spent at the library, where I had a good wifi connection. But this did not allow me to catch up as much as I had hoped. Meanwhile I attended to necessary chores. After 7K miles, the Ford needed a service. It did not yet need my new air filter. The local Ford dealer was impressed with the vehicle.

    In fact, talking about being impressed.... so far I have had many campers envious of my set up, especially those who are tent camping. And three folk have asked if/when I was willing to sell it.

    All my time in Anchorage, I did not take any photos, but just spent my time roaming around town, stocking up on supplies and attending to personal needs. That is besides loafing at the hostel.

    What I particularly like at this hostel is that there is no television... but there is a roster for chores. When checking in guests are asked to sign up for a 7 minute chore. I chose folding the laundry. Everyday there are sheets and towels to be folded, and it never took me all of the 7 minutes. But gave a great opportunity to interact with the management and other guests.

    For those on a budget, there is the opportunity to sign up for three hours work a day (cleaning, vacuuming, scrubbing, etc.) and receive a night's free accommodation. Besides the three or four dozen dorm beds ($25/night), there is also the opportunity to tent camp on the lawn next to the hostel, and use the hostel facilities ($20/night). Even this early in the season, there were those who preferred to camp in tents.

    Yeah! I would recommend the Spenard for a real hostel experience.

    While in Anchorage I had the opportunity to attend five Toastmaster's meetings. At three of those there was an opportunity to speak. I had a great time sharing my story and my travels with fellow Toastmasters.

    My seventh night in Anchorage was spent with a most gracious host from Couchsurfing. Austin is a school psychologist and a most interesting young man. We had many long conversations covering ever so many topics. Originally from Chicago, this is his first summer in Alaska. Before I left, rather late on Tuesday 22nd, I took him out to lunch.

    The Middle Cafe serves some really nice sandwiches. I had the Tuna and salad. But the real killer was the store next door. Ended up spending another $30 on second (or 3rd, 4th, or 5th) hand true crime books. (Just as well I am going home in July, to drop off all this excess luggage. :))

    My only 'low-lite' in Anchorage is a parking ticket. Wanting to get a little more information on conditions up north, I sought out the Alaska Visitor's Centre - rather than the Anchorage Visitor's Centre. I had the address and as I approached the building saw the large sign high up on the side announcing my destination. There was also a huge sign right across the front of the building. There was no mistaking I was at the right place. I duly parked and placed two hour's worth of money in the parking meter. I figured I wanted time to ask as many questions as I had... and more.

    On entering the building, I was not able to find the said offices, and there were no direction boards of any kind. When people came out of the lift, I asked where to find it. It was then that I was told that they closed down a while ago... and yes, they were aware that there were still signs all over the building... and no, they were not aware that there was nothing to say that they had closed. In fact, on the internet they still showed as being open. I was advised to go to the Anchorage Visitor Centre, a couple of blocks further up the street.

    Too far for me to walk, and unable to get my money back out of the parking meter, I parked at the Anchorage Visitor Centre without paying for my parking, fully aware of the risk I was taking. It was a good while later that I saw the officer place a ticket on my vehicle. Whoever it is that is in charge of parking in Anchorage, is going to receive a nice letter very soon.

    Next, heading further north... in a roundabouts way.

    Lifey

  2. #52
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,052

    Default Heading North... slowly.

    At the Anchorage Visitor's Centre they really did not have any information further north. They had little enough about Fairbanks, let alone further on. But there was one lady who was prepared to go the extra mile (while the officer was writing my ticket). She contacted a tour operator in Fairbanks, who runs trips for small groups, up the Dalton. Then she gave the phone to me.

    This was on the 19th May, and the lady informed me that she had just spoken with a couple who had just been to Prudhoe Bay in their 27' RV. She said not to hesitate, but June would be more reliable, weather wise. June had been my plan, so I felt good. She suggested I keep an eye on the 7 day weather forecasts, and just go for it. This gave me another two weeks. I was going to take my time getting to Fairbanks.

    Two things came to mind. Here was another opportunity to drive the Glenn Highway, and maybe an opportunity to drive the Denali Highway, another road which I had not travelled.

    When I bade my Couchsurfing host goodbye on that Tuesday afternoon, I headed for Palmer. There was a Toastmasters meeting on in Palmer that evening, and I figured it would be nice to attend. After the meeting I headed for the Fred Meyer carpark, where I joined other RVs. We were told that they did not have any objection, but the authorities might move us on. I figured with all of us, it was worth the chance.

    Next morning I headed up the Glenn Highway... but not too far. I had read about Hatcher Pass, and figured it may be a nice place to check out.

    The turn off to Hatcher Pass is only a few miles from Palmer. It is a good sealed road. For the first eight miles or so it is scenic with a sprinkling of businesses and farms along the way. Then, right there is the Little Susitna River bridge, and the large interpretive wayside stop.


    There was a sign which mentioned that this river originates in the Talkeetna Mountains at Mint Glacier, and flows some 110 miles to Cook Inlet. It is a gold bearing river, and it is possible to go gold panning in the area.


    These boulders, which are strewn all along this river, are far too heavy to be moved by water. They could only be moved and deposited here, by ice. They are the evidence that mint glacier once reached all the way to this spot.... and beyond.


    Not much further on is Government Peak Picnic Site...


    and even though it is called a 'picnic site', the fee station states $5 for day parking; $10 for camping in one of these lovely spots.


    This is a dry camping area with basic pit toilets. However, there is no shortage of water right next to the campsite, and probably a meal or two as well. There were people fishing in many places.


    And then wake up to this magnificent vista.... all for $10!


    A short way further up the road is Gold Mint Trailhead parking area and once again the fee station mentioned $10 camping.


    Here the camping areas are at the edge of the car park, and right above the river. A most glorious spot. Here there is water on tap, straight out of a well. It is to this spot that I returned on my way back, and stopped to make some lunch.


    Just beyond those tables it drops down to the river.

    It is at this point that the road turns west, away from the river, right by this lodge.


    The road climbed steadily from here, to the pass. Nonethelss, it is a good road.


    Capable of taking large vehicles. RVs would not have a problem.


    And then it all came to an end... just 17 miles up the road.


    We could see the mine building in the distance, and were told we could walk, through the knee deep snow, if we wanted to go there. I didn't see anyone follow that suggestion, though there were quite a few people at this point.


    Just that we could not 'enter'.

    All over the snow covered hills we could see animal tracks, both large and small; recent and old. Ground squirrels were darting back and forth. This little fellow came right up to my shoes.


    Looking back whence we came, a very nice little side trip.


    Lifey

  3. #53
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,052

    Default So long!

    It had been my plan and wish to bring this thread right up to date before I move on, but alas, such is not the case. Not that that should surprise anyone, I have a long history of plans going awry.

    The weather north of Fairbanks promises to be good over the next seven days or so. A chance I do not wish to miss. So tomorrow morning, Monday 4th June, I will head up the Dalton. I have allowed myself four to seven days, depending on how much I want to see, and how often I want to stop.

    So far I have acquired a handheld CB radio and a gadget which will allow me to charge my camera and computer from the battery (while I am driving). I have a good spare, and a can of Fix a Flat. As well as that, I have been monitoring the NOAA site's forecasts for the area.

    I have been to the Bureal of Land Management, told them what I have in the way of maps, literature and equipment. Then asked what they can tell me that I do not already know. I was pleased to hear the man say, that is all there is, we do not have anything else. You are set to go. (Would have liked some topo maps of the area though.)

    In the morning I will stock up on fresh supplies before I head out. If I'm not back on here in eight days' time you might like to send out a search party. There is no cell coverage till Prudhoe Bay, and I would be most surprised if there is wifi.

    Lifey

  4. #54
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,012

    Default Good luck !

    Have a wonderful and safe journey to Prudhoe Bay and I will look forward to the updates !

    [Search party on alert ! lol ]

    Dave.

  5. #55
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,052

    Default Glenn Highway and the Matanuska Glacier

    Once back on the Glenn HIghway it is only a very short distance to a turn-out... a pretty non-descriptive, rustic turn-out. Most folk would not give it a second glance, and just speed on by. But those who are curious enough to stop, and follow the ramp to the top of the river bank, are rewarded with the sight of a magnificent glacial morain. It is here that the river, which has been cascading down the mountains, slows down and deposits its cargo... pebbles and silt.


    Looking east.


    Looking west.

    For many miles the road curves around with the river, as it climbs. The higher it gets, the faster (and deeper) it flows.








    This is the only highway east out of Anchorage, and really very busy for such a narrow road. Barriers are few and far between, mostly there are not any at all. And all the turnouts are on the river side of the road. The other side barely has a shoulder.


    Once again, an incredibly scenic route.


    Long after it has been visible in the distance, and before one gets to the glacier overlook, there is an interpretive way side stop. From here it is a relatively easy one mile round trip walking track to the glacier - or so it says. I did not do the walk. A little further on the glacier can be seen from the road.


    Matanuska Glacier.

    By now it was getting late, and time to think about a camp for the night. When I saw the roadside sign to Glacier Park, I figured it may be a neat place to stay. The roadside office was closed so I followed the road (track) down till I came to a little one lane bridge over a very fast flowing stream.


    I did not feel comfortable with what I saw at the other side of the bridge... none of which resembled a campground... or even indicated that there may be one nearby. I decided to head back up to the road.

    This little track made me think that perhaps the Moki Dugway is kindergarten stuff. From what I have seen, it would certainly be wider. No way could an RV go down this track. (Which should have alerted me right at the start that it may not be a campground.)




    I would hate to think what I could have done if a vehicle had come the other way... especially on the way down. When I got back up to the road, I noticed all these letterboxes.


    There must be a lot of people who live down there.

    Continued on to Glennallen, where I joined a couple of others at the truck stop... The Hub of Alaska.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 06-10-2012 at 11:31 PM. Reason: typo

  6. #56
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,052

    Default Denali Highway

    Not really on my initial plan. But I had some time to play with, and having spoken with folk who had travelled same, I set off that Thursday morning, with Paxson as my first destination. The day was fine, the sky was clear and promised to be a great day.

    At Paxson there was no sign of life. Not a soul to be seen. Oh sure, there was a large building which I guess I could have entered, but I chose not to. So, whoever it was that asked for me to check on the population numbers... sorry! I didn't.

    Curious as to how much fuel costs at this point, I checked out the bowser. There was a note saying sorry, no fuel available at the moment.... or words to that effect. I had filled at Glennallen. But it was yet another reminder that when you get to these parts, you fill up wherever and whenever you can get fuel... regardless of price.

    The first warning after turning onto the Denali Highway is that you are travelling this road 'at your own risk'. Right from the start the road went up with a vengeance, up onto the Alaska Range.

    Once again, it was breathtaking. But look at that sky... ominous!




    Probably around half way to Tangle Lake (where the paved road ends), was a most informative interpretive wayside stop, telling the history of the highway, as well as a geological interpretation of the surrounding mountains. This road, the only road to Denali, was not completed till 1956. Not until the Parks Hwy was built, was it possible to get to Denali NP any other way.


    I spent some time here, and sure hope the person who is responsible for this bench, realises how much it was appreciated.


    Sitting here amid the glaciers, the lakes and mountains was a most relaxing and inspiring time. (I know we rave about the Trail Ridge Road, but really, it is minor compared with the wonders up here.)

    By now of course, those clouds had caught up with me, as it started to rain. Very lightly at first, but soon it came down by the bucket full. At Tangle River Inn I had an opportunity to re-assess my plans. I stopped for lunch and was able to charge my camera battery... which had started to show 'low'. And wonders of wonders... even in this remote location, they had wifi. It was a most enjoyable lunch - hamburger made exactly to my specs, just the way I like it (none of this prepackaged, reheated fare), and a pot of tea made with boiling water. All this, while I was able to check my email and attend to some urgent issues. And then they charged me less than $8. (How can they make a living with prices like that, in this remote area?) It was worth much more than that to me, and paid accordingly.

    After long discussions with my hostess and other guests, I decided to push on. And am so glad I made that decision. This rocky, muddy dirt road, with steep grades and narrow bridges is what I imagined the Dalton probably was like in its early days - and the Alcan too, for that matter. Over the 130 odd miles, I probably saw 10 vehicles - and two of them were motor bikes.

    The rain let up on a few occasions, but basically it rained most of the way to Cantwell. Not photo taking weather, yet through the rain and the mist, I could see how grand a vista this road would give on a clear summer's day. It is said that from high up one gets a magnificent view of Mt McKinley / Denali.


    At Maclaren Pass I stopped to take in what view I could.


    Looking towards Denali.

    I had been told that there are great views over the range from this point. But alas!


    (Most of these photos were taken through the windscreen. It was just raining too much to open the window. Tried taking the photos in between wipes of the blades.)


    Right by the Maclaren River was this house, high up on a hill. I couldn't help thinking what a magnificent view from up there. But then, completely exposed to extreme weather.


    Between the Susitna and Maclaren Rivers - both of which flow from glaciers in the mountains to the north - the road takes one over several mountains and then along the valley floors in between. I really need to come back and drive this road in summer. But somehow, I don't think that is going to happen.




    When I got to the Susitna river bridge, it was raining heavier than ever. Right there by the river, in a very small pull off, barely a foot above the water level, were these campers. I did not stop, nor see anyone, but I sure hoped they had a 4 wheel drive.


    Truly a great drive, and despite the rain, wouldn't have missed it for quids.

    At Cantwell I took the Parks Highway north to Denali and Healy. The plan had been to stay in Healy, but two campgrounds were not yet open, and the third did not look like the sort of place I would want to spend the night. Then I saw a trooper filling his car at the service station... and I asked him for suggestions. He told me to go up to milepost 269, some 20 miles up the road, where there is a nice rest area, with a track leading to a small clearing / picnic area. A really lovely place. There was already one RV there. I happily joined it.

    Lifey

  7. #57
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,133

    Default

    What a wonderful adventure you are on!

    Enjoying the tale!

    Mark

  8. #58
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,052

    Default Fairbanks

    When I awoke that Friday morning, my companions at the wayside stop, had already departed. I must have been tired. I never heard a thing.

    It was a relatively short run into Fairbanks, and there, right on the outskirts of town was a service station with a big banner -
    Fuel up Friday
    Save 10c gallon

    I wondered how the competitor opposite ever did any trade on Fridays.

    I gave her a nice big drink.

    After quite a lot of driving around Fairbanks, I eventually made myself comfortable at the River's Edge RV Park. Apparently, it was its first day open. There were quite a few RVs parked already. And soon I met up with Claire, her husband and mother, from Texas. We were parked back to back. They had picked up the RV from Winnebago in IA, and were dropping it off in Anchorage, in a few days' time, then flying back to IA where they had left their car.

    I queried them on the extra expense of the one way trip, etc. It is then that they told me that they were relocating the rig for Winnebago; no one way drop fee; all bedding and kitchen packs included in the peppercorn rental; 22 days for the trip and something like an allowance of 4000 miles. I figured this was one of those specials one reads about from time to time.

    It was on the following day, when I arrived back from messages, that they said to me, I should have been there an hour ago. Apparently 19 RVs rolled in, all at once, each with two Australians on board, and each to be delivered to Anchorage by 31st May.

    Tell me more!

    Seems that there were something like 75 or 150 (I heard both numbers mentioned) RVs to be relocated from the lower 48 to Grand Alaskan Holidays in Anchorage. (They had been saturating the airwaves in Anchorage, promoting RV holidays.)

    One of the travel agencies in Sydney was obviously aware of this, and organised a budget tour of Canada and Alaska to relocate 19 rigs. After dropping off the RVs, the Aussies went on a bus tour down to Seward, before catching the ferry back to Bellingham. They had picked up the RVs in Seattle.

    Furthermore, I learned, that this happens every year... and again in reverse, at the end of the season, around Aug/Sep. Apparently offers are made to those who have rented from them in the past. And then the word gets around. From what I gather, some years they do not have enough folk to relocate all the RVs, other years they have held ballots. I don't know if these are all Winnebagos, or if there are other companies involved. Nor do I know the exact specifics, I can only relay what I heard and was told.

    But hey!! if you're interested, do your research, and see if you can get onto their list.


    Sunset over River Edge RV Park

    It was also during this time that I finally caught up with Giles, from Surfers Paradise, and his Lotus. He had been to Coldfoot, and found the road quite good. Apparently raised a bit of interest among the truckies. He was tent camping at the Riverview RV Park, some 8 miles out of Fairbanks, on the way to North Pole. When I mentioned how iffy the wifi was where I was staying, he said he had really good wifi, and that it was a nice, clean and quiet campground.

    I decided to relocate.

    I spent a further 7 nights at the Riverview RV Park, while I attempted to get this thread up to date, see some local sights and stock up on supplies. I visited the local BLM office and Visitor centre many times, getting updates and information for my trip ahead. It was also during this time that I had an opportunity to attend more Toastmasters meetings, and meet up with members whom I had met three years before.

    My little van sorta looked a little out of place among the large variety of RVs whose owners sought the quiet solace of the Riverview RV Park.


    At more than 72' (overall) it is over 4 times longer than my van.
    The truck is actually a garage including a motor vehicle.

    It was a relaxing week. Being that far out of town, one tends to plan better for shopping trips, and not drive off everyday. The wifi at Riverview is quite good most of the time. There is also a small 'phone' room (where the phones don't work) which has a table, four chairs, books, magazines and ample power outlets. It has been a comfortable place to sit and attend to my posts... check email and catch up on those other little things one neglects, when one is enjoying oneself.


    Storm clouds gathering over Riverview.

    A campground I can highly recommend.

    Next move - up the Dalton!

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 06-11-2012 at 09:15 PM.

  9. #59
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,012

    Default Oh boy !!

    This is great !! My 'Wanderlust' spirit is well and truly awake and ready to roll ! [What a shame I am not] Thanks for keeping the torch burning in between trips though.

    Love that big rig ! I can see myself in that with a nice Shelby Cobra waiting to be fired up in the 'garage'. Yeah, dream on buster !! lol

    Dave.

  10. #60
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,819

    Default

    We stayed for two or three nights in Riverview in North Pole, AK. It was a nice park! Back then, during the height of tourist season, they had "mobile windshield repair" trucks that would roll through the park. If you flagged it down, they'd give you an estimate to fix your windshield. We had to have ours done there (my parents had one done in Whitehorse). We had a giggle when one of my daughters suggested that he should have music going like the ice cream trucks do!


    Donna

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