Friday, June 26, 2015

AUWPS 1 - Fairbanks to Kantishna (Deep inside Denali)


We ambled out of Fairbanks' Springhill Suites and into our bus motor coach to Denali. The air was still hazy with smoke as we motored down the (George) Parks Highway (AK-3). Our first stop was in the wee town of Nenana, where the Nenana River flows into the Tanana River. (Rivers known by their native names end in "na", an Athabaskan suffix for "river".)

Nenana holds the annual Ice Classic betting pool wherein one can purchase bids on the date when the winter ice on the Tanana finally breaks up, allowing the river to flow freely. A large, four-legged "tripod" is placed at the midpoint of the river and is tethered to a clock. When the structure sinks, the time/date is recorded. Winners (with the correct date) can walk away with significant sums of money.

Our next stop was in Healy, sometimes known as Glitter Gulch. It's a border town outside Denali National Park with accommodations for a sizable number of travelers. Seemed larger than Zion's Springdale and much larger than the area around Ruby's outside Bryce. We lunched at a The Grande Denali Lodge. Amusing road signs on the switchback road up to the lodge and spectacular views once there.

Then it was into Denali and onto a bus bound for our Kantishna accommodations: The North Face Lodge. No, it's not affiliated with the outerwear company; it has a view of Mt. McKinley's (Denali's) north face when there is visibility.


We saw many things along the way, including a wolf who posed beside the road. Wolf sitings are rare, and this one appeared at Mile 7 (of 90), well before the pavement turned to dirt. We learned a new word from our driver/guide: the washboard sections of the graded dirt road were referred to as "stutter bumps". We arrived at North Face after 8pm. It was a long day of travel.

Fairbanks to Kantishna

After all the guests left the lodge building and were nestled in their rooms, I set up a time-lapse to record the weather overnight. It was Alaska in the summer, so it wouldn't be dark for too long between midnight and 3am. Unpredictable microclimate! And look for an early-rising member or our NatHab troupe: half of "Team Swede".

Kantishna North Face Overnight Time Lapse

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