Monday, July 18, 2011

Saturday July 16 - Denali National Park to Chitina, Alaska via the Denali Highway

We woke up at 6am to the steady beat of rain on our tents.  Russ got on his SMART phone and found out that it was to clear at 9am for an hour, so we decided to sleep a little longer.  Just as Russ said, the rain tapered off about 9 to merely sprinkles.  We broke camp rolling up our soppy tents, hoping tomorrow that we could dry them out.  As we traveled the Denali Highway, it rained on and off, mostly on, for the first part of the day.  As we approached the halfway point, things started to clear and we began to see amazing sites.  Another moose standing in a lake, snow capped mountains and glaciers.  As we drove further, looking out the window, I saw a huge sheet of ice cascading through the mountains.  We decided to stop at the Maclaren River Lodge for lunch.  As we walked in the door, I asked the hostess, "Please don't ruin our day by telling us that is not a glacier over there."  She said that that was indeed Macluren Glacier and their lodge and the river that runs past is is named for it.  She said the glacier is only 10 miles away and their web cam is pointed at it all the time.  The owner came over and said  with our nicely set up Jeeps we could likely go see the glacier on the BLM road that went right up to it with just a few conditions.  1. We had to cross the river which is running a little high and a little fast today and 2. The beavers built a dam and we would have to break it down to continue on the trail.  We decided to go see the glacier, along the way, we saw a number of beaver dams, beaver lodges and beavers swimming around watching us closely.  After several miles of bumpy pot-holed road, we arrived at the river crossing and things didn't look good.  There were 2 dirt bikers that came back to cross the river and decided to turn back because of the water level.  The river looked to be about 2 feet high and would have to be crossed near a little island.  Since my Grand Cherokee had the most lift and the highest ground clearance, I thought I should give it a try.  Everybody got close to shore with their cameras in hand and at about at the half way point, the waters were rushing pretty good.  After giving it a little gas, I started to feel  it sink and decided I should abandon this quest.  Unfortunately, a trip to the Maclaren glacier will have to wait till the next Arctic Expedition.  We then got back on the Denali Highway and saw several more glaciers before we reached the end at Paxson.  At Paxon we proceeded South to our final destination that night, the Hotel Chitna.  The Hotel China was built in the early 1900's during the gold and copper boom and it has had some extensive remodeling, but maintained the charm of a vintage hotel with lots of antiques.  We got there just before the dining room closed at 10 pm, where we had yak burgers, which was very good.  We had seen those hairy beasts on a farm near the hotel.  Afterward, everyone settled down for a good nights rest to prepare for our next days adventure to the Kennicott Mine and Glacier.  Pictures to be posted as soon as internet is available.

The Denali Hwy the only road to Denali until 1971
Glaciers along he way
 McLaren Glacier
 McLaren River Lodge
 Road to McLaren Glacier
 Road crosses river to get to McLaren Glacier
Halfway across river,  water up to bumper and current starting to push Jeep..................
 Views along the Denali Hwy
Playing along the way
Another wooden bridge
Another Moose
Chitina Hotel since 1907

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