Saturday, July 2, 2011

More of Three Rivers Trip

Since today was a rainy day, Don took advantage of the on-site laundry early this morning to wash our spare sheets (I bought an extra set recently) and other things in the hamper. We don’t have a sewer connection in this RV park, so we can’t us our on-board washer/dryer, and we didn’t want to let too many dirty clothes pile up. Plus, he ran out of clean socks!

Mary Olson called a few minutes before noon to see if we wanted to join them and others at Latitude 62 restaurant for lunch. We had enjoyed our dinner there last night, and planned to eat there again tonight but said “Okay.” I wanted to try their seafood chowder (really good!), and it’s always fun to be with the group. Eight of us took over a small room and had Josh as our waiter. Dennis and Josh have formed some kind of ‘joker’s bond’ and are fun to watch sparring with each other. Josh lives in Alaska and knows lots of history, enjoys the outdoors and was planning an overnight trip to a remote cabin after he finished work today. It was good food and good fun.

At happy hour, we had to get serious about choosing activities and days, to call for reservations for the next couple of weeks.


Several of us took responsibility for finding out details and making arrangements for a river raft trip through the rapids (Pat & Jim), an ATV excursion (Marilyn & Larry), drive-your-own Jeep 4-wheeling (me), a covered wagon ride and dinner (Mary & Gary), and a cabin dinner theater (Pat). Everyone was able to complete their assignment except me – the reservation office for Jeep tours is only open 7 am – 4 pm M-F, so it was closed today and probably will be closed this Monday due to the holiday. We’ll try again on Tuesday. We should have lots of adventures to report in future blogs!

Later, Pat & Jim joined us at Latitude 62 for the Saturday night special prime rib dinner. Only $20 for a big, thick cut of really good meat, done to our satisfaction (Don & I like it rare, Pat & Jim medium rare), accompanied by a huge baked potato, good vegetables and a nice salad. We’ve gotten used to paying a lot more for eating out in Alaska, so this was a bargain and really delicious!

As promised, here are some more pictures from our Three Rivers Tour yesterday. We’ve had a few experiences with this wild animal.


The trip was on the Talkeetna, Chulitna, and Susitna Rivers. As we moved from one river to another, we could see a marked difference in the color of the water and even the amount of current. It was difficult to capture by camera.

An eagle chick was barely visible in the nest next to the mom leaning left. I couldn’t get a really clear picture of both.


We stopped at one point to take a nature hike, where Arris warned us about dangerous and/or poisonous plants in the area.


We visited a Dena'ina Indian Encampment. Arris described how they cleaned their fish, then dried them on racks near a smoldering fire. The smoke kept mosquitoes away from the fish.


Below is a fish cooling/storage pit. After the fish were cleaned and dried, they were placed on the branches in the pit, where air was cooler than at the surface above. More branches were layered, with more fish, then big logs were placed on top to discourage bears from stealing the contents. The branches allowed cool air to circulate.


Examples of lean-to’s, firepits and pelts from animals indigenous to the region. Posts on the roof of the lean-to were burned to the right length, since there were no saws to cut them.


A unique beaver trap, made of a heavy log kept straight by two birch branches and supported by a small birch branch that would be easily moved by the unsuspecting beaver.


A cache with the ladder in place – it would be kept elsewhere when not in use to prevent animals from getting to the stored food.


Below is a trapper’s cabin similar to the one used by the owner of the boat tour company, Steve Mahay. He and his wife homesteaded across the river from this site for 5 years, raised enough money to start a fishing charter business, then started the boat tours. When Steve’s wife became pregnant, she insisted they move into a regular house! All of the furnishings and equipment here were used by Steve and his wife. Steve personally greeted us at the beginning of our tour. Note the sod roof, to help weatherproof and insulate the interior. And the door opens outward to discourage bears from trying to push their way in.


Can you imagine living here for 5 years?


The home of a bank beaver, built on the bank of a river too wide to build a dam. The beaver swam by but he was too fast to capture.


This is a typical salmon-spawning creek. Imagine the tenacity of fish that are spawned here, swim out through rivers and lakes to Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Alaska hundreds of miles south, then miraculously find their way back here to do their own spawning the following year!


Our captain took us up the Chulitna River for the last leg of our trip. Here, he carefully moved the boat up to the bank to allow 25 of the passengers to disembark for the Princess McKinley Lodge where they would stay one night then return to their cruise ship the next day. Most of them were in Alaska for only 7-10 days. I’m so glad we have lots more days to explore this beautiful land! And we get to sleep in the same bed every night, with all our familiar and comfortable surroundings.


The remainder of us spread out for our trip back to the original dock.


Eli was able to move the boat much faster with fewer passengers and going downstream. He enjoyed it – we did, too! He even gave people on the local beach a spray with a sharp left turn in front them. This is looking out the front of the boat.


Seconds later, the beach is on our right.


Claudette and Jean enjoyed the ride!


And so did Don! Whee! Whee-eeee!


Our final river view was of a successful fishing trip. That’s one big salmon!


Back on land, we saw some kids playing in the mud. What fun!


On a sad note, we learned today that the climber who was missing on Mt. McKinley was found dead yesterday and his body was recovered today. Here’s a news article on the tragedy. We ran into the ranger who gave the talk we attended as we left the restaurant tonight, and he told us the news. This has been a deadly season, with 6 fatalities on Mt. McKinley and 3 on nearby peaks in Denali Park. As reported by the article, “The most fatalities were recorded in 1992, when 11 people died on McKinley and two others on associated peaks in the park.” The article went on to say, “The McKinley climbing season generally runs from late April to mid-July, and the mountain usually attracts 1,200 to 1,300 climbers during that period. There were still about 250 climbers on mountain as of Friday.”

Haircuts, Walk Around Town and Three Rivers Jetboat Trip

Pat Livingston was a professional hairdresser in a former life, and she still loves cutting hair. So we provided two more heads for her to work on. Both Don and I were pleased with the results.


We then went to lunch with Pat and Jim at the Wildflower Café, where we found really good food and wonderful warm sunshine.


We walked around town and checked out several places including a local brewery, an antique stretch Checker cab, gift shops, the food market, the historic hotel and finally the Historical Museum.








We attended an informative ranger talk about climbing Denali (aka Mt. McKinley.


The jetboat trip was 3.5 hours starting around 3:15 pm. Here are a few pictures (out of over 150 that I took), but I’ll save most of them for my next blog. The boat held 50 people, and we started out with 46.


Our captain was Eli.


Our guide was Arissa.


Both of these young people were extremely skilled, knowledgeable and friendly. They obviously enjoy their jobs!

We saw eagles, seagulls and a beaver (no picture – he was too fast).



We even caught a glimpse of the top of Mt. McKinley (Dennis got better photos). Only 30% of visitors ever see the mountain because it’s almost always covered with clouds.



For more details on the trip and some great pictures, check out Dennis and Carol’s blog. Be sure to look for a picture of Don saying “Whee!” I’ll write more about the trip tomorrow.

We got back around 7 pm and had a light dinner with Pat and Jim at Latitude 62 restaurant across the street from our RV park. When we returned to camp we discovered the rest of the gang was enjoying happy hour.


Cindy and Phil Devonshire had arrived earlier in the day, and they joined our Last Frontier Gang.


We joined the group for awhile and went to bed around 10 pm, then learned the party went on until about 11 pm. That’s way past bedtime for most of us ‘old’ folks!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Today began with our departure from Fort Richardson with Jean and Claudette, stopping for fuel and propane on the way out. Before we left the campground, I walked our Shadow over to tell the other Shadow goodbye, along with her people Gloria and Frank, and Star’s people Judy and Luke. Star didn’t get to stay outside long because the little dogs were intimidated by her size, even though she’s a very gentle German Shepherd.


I’m so glad people don’t have to get the ‘scent’ of each other the same way dogs do!


Gloria and Frank, Judy and Luke will be heading south as we head north.


Our 108-mile drive today was fairly easy, except for the annoying traffic on two-lane roads with lots of stoplights through Wasilla. We stopped at the WalMart Supercenter and ran into Gary and Mary. After shopping for some essentials and eating a sandwich in our rig, I resumed driving because Don felt a nap coming on. Most of the roads were smooth, even through the construction zones.

Talkeetna is a very small town with less than 1,000 residents. It boasts great views of Mt. McKinley on clear days. We hope we’ll have one while we spend 5 days here. It was sunny and pretty in our RV park for happy hour, where Paula and Tom joined us.


It’s great to have our group of 12 together again, plus 2 this afternoon.


The Talkeetna Camper Park is on the main road into town, next to the railroad station where busloads of passengers from cruise ships arrive, and the airport is nearby. How’s the phrase go – planes, trains, and automobiles? Add to that busses, trucks, and helicopters – we’ve got ‘em! Here’s a passenger train cruising through the other side of the trees.


A cargo train followed a short while later, carrying some really big rocks!


I barely caught the helicopter landing near us.


Don found a place to hammer in the rebar to support the flagpole since we’ll be here over the 4th of July American Independence Day holiday. And July 1 (tomorrow) is Canada Day, and we’ll honor that with our Canadian friends as well (although we don’t have a Canadian flag).


Some of us went to dinner in town. While the ambience is eclectic and interesting, the dinner at West Rib Deli & Pub was a different story.


Our group of 10 was seated promptly and our orders were taken, Dennis and Carol first.


However, Larry and Marilyn, who ordered second, got their food first.


Then Don and I got ours. Then Jean and Claudette. Then Gary and Mary. Dennis and Carol still didn’t have theirs. When they asked about it, the waiter said it was coming right up. When the rest of us were all finished with our meals, and after a couple of more requests, Dennis canceled their order. As we were waiting for our checks (which never came, and we had to go up to the bar to try to pay) their food finally came. They said they’d take it to go, but they weren’t paying for it. The waiter refused to give it to them free. So Dennis refused to take it.

We all decided the service was so bad (no refills of water, no checking to see if everything was alright, Jean had to ask twice for the hot tea he ordered, to name a few of the problems) on top of Dennis and Carol’s problem, that we weren’t paying a tip. They couldn’t figure out how to deduct the automatic 17% tip that was added to all our bills. Finally, the owner appeared and listened to our complaints and said, “Just leave.” So we did.

Too bad. The place had a lot of promise but didn’t come through. We would have been happy to pay for the food, even though it wasn’t great, but this restaurant just doesn’t have its act together. The owner was wise to cut his losses and get us out of the building to avoid causing more customers to leave. I think Dennis and Carol ended up having a reindeer hot dog at a food stand across the street. They took the situation well, but I know they were unhappy.


We’re scheduled for a river jet boat ride tomorrow. It should be fun.