June 15 we (John and Terry) flew from Dayton to Anchorage via Chicago and
San Fransico airports. Unfortunately, our sleeping bags didn't show up
at the baggage claim area. So much for the friendly skies! The first night
we stayed with Terry's cousin, Scott Powell, who is a ranger at Camp Gorsuch
Boy Scout camp. We found sleep to be pretty difficult when the sun was
blazing brightly. We spent June 16 touring the Boy Scout camp, eating in
their dining hall and packing our backpacks in anticipation of our trip
to Denali National Park. The camp staff is gearing up for their summer
camp program and Scott is keeping himself pretty busy. The mosquitos here
are everything we heard them to be. They are everywhere and can make a
mess of your face and arms pretty quickly!
were up early on June 17 to catch the Alaska Railroad out of the Anchorage
depot. Scott was kind enough to take time out of his busy day to give us
a ride there. The train was crowded! We gave up our seats to another couple
so they could sit with their children. The steward eventually found us
a seat in the baggage car - no just kidding - in the dome car.
loved the beautiful train ride and spent a lot of time in the open vestibules
between the cars taking pictures. Unfortunately, there is no good place
to take pictures aboard the train. The dome car's windows were pretty dirty.
Taking pictures from in between cars is better, but the car's edge still
blocks part of the picture. Leaning out makes for a slightly better picture,
but a more nervous conductor.
lunch time so let's head to the dining car and see what's cooking. We found
lunch to be pretty expensive and it was tough paying $1.00 for a can of
soda. John's hamburger and potato chips was $3.50 while Terry's tuna sandwich
and chips set us back $2.25. However, the service was good and the scenery
was absolutely outstanding. This is living, this is style, this is elegance
by the mile!
We arrived at Denali National Park at 4:00 p.m. Number
3015, a GM EMD GP40, was the locomotive that brought us in. They unloaded
our baggage and then everyone disappeared. It was kinda like an episode
from the Twilight Zone. There was no sign showing where Denali National
park campground was located. So we went over to the train depot to get
No one was working in the train depot and we found all
the doors to be locked. Not a very friendly welcome! We spent over two
hours getting oriented and searching around for a person to ask or a sign
to read. After walking down one of the trails for quite a ways, we found
the park office. It was like a scene from Land of the Lost! The train depot
has since been torn down and a new one constructed.
chose to spend our first night in railcars outside the lodge. The accomodations
were cramped, but suitable for $33.00 a night. The next morning (June 18)
we made our backpacking reservations and then took the shuttle bus into
the park. It took 5 hours to get to Wonder Lake and back, a journey of
83.6 miles. Unfortunately, there was not much wildlife to see. We again
spent the night in the railcars. Today, these cars are no longer in the
park. They were sold for $1.00 each.
19 was the start of our backpacking execursion. We took the bus to Savage
River bridge and said good-bye to civilization of the next couple of days.
The park service doesn't have trails so as to reduce the impact on the
environment. Basically, you are given an entire quad to hike in and can
roam as you please. Walking on the tundra is similar to walking on marshmellows.
It is very spongy with lots of scrubby plants and some very beautiful flowers.
We were lucky enough to see a Ptarmigan, Alaska's state bird.
were lucky enough to see a Toklat grizzly too! However, the real threat
was the mosquitos. There were a bazillion of them and they seemed to love
the smell of Deet! If it weren't for our head nets, we won't have been
able to set up camp. We set up camp, ate dinner, washed our dishes in the
river (which the park service told us to do) and went to bed. The next
day we spent roaming the countryside and taking in the beautiful Alaska
landscape. We caught a bus back to the lodge and spent the night in Marino
campground. The next day (June 21) we went to a park service demonstration
on dog sleds. We then went to the train station and waited for over three
hours. As it turns out, six people were killed in a car the day before
so all trains were moving pretty slow. We didn't make it into Anchorage
until 11:00 p.m.
June 22 we went to Independence Mine and Hatcher Pass, two very beautiful
trips. June 23 was Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula, Portage Glacier and an overnight
stop at Land's End motel in Homer. On June 24 we headed to Seward and stayed
in Mrs. Simpson's Bed and Breakfast. We took a side trip to Exit Glacier
(shown here) and had a blast. We spent three hours climbing all over the
glacier. On June 25 we took the Kenai Fjords ferry tour which took us to
islands where we saw bald eagles, puffins, oyster catchers and sea lions.
We then returned to Anchorage.
June 26 we headed to Valdez, the Switzerland of Alaska. John got a speeding
ticket ($14 total), but was able to get to the visitor's center in Valdez
before it closed. We took in the sights of the city (including the Alyeska
Pipeline and Marine terminal) and returned to Camp Gorsuch by 5:05 a.m.
On this return journey we almost hit a moose! On June 27 we did some more
sightseeing in Anchorage including the earthquake park. On June 28 (our
anniversary) we tried our luck at gold panning at Crow Creek Mine. We had
fun, but no luck. We returned our rental car to the airport (we put 1767
miles on it - thank goodness for unlimited mileage!) and only paid $169.95!
We caught a 6:30 p.m. flight and returned to Dayton by 9:10 a.m.
Return to Combs Family Trips Page
Page created 12/10/97 and last updated 12/10/97