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Days 46-47 – Smithers to Calgary

August 17, 2017

The plan for the next two days was to get to Calgary, which would set me up for entry into Banff National Park.

Instead of heading directly out from Smithers, I backtracked a bit to Moricetown so that I could pick up the Telkwa High Road, a scenic bypass of sorts that runs through the hills a few miles to the north. The dismal gray skies that have been dogging me found me again, so the scenery wasn’t as nice as it could have been, but… whatever.

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Moricetown Canyon

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Days 42-26 – Anchorage to Smithers

August 15, 2017

As I was leaving Anchorage, finally, I had a decision to make: Continue on with m y trip as planned, taking a circuitous route back to LA with many stops along the way, or acknowledge that I’m a week behind schedule and several thousand dollars over budget and just get home as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I decided to compromise and stick with my itinerary, but put it on fast forward. For the time being, where earlier on I would have lingered somewhere 2-3 days, I’ll stop by for a half day, and where I was driving 6-8 hours per day, I’ll be going for more like 10-12. After I gain back some days and get closer to home, I’ll reevaluate.

The last several days have taken me East out of Alaska, through Yukon, and south to the small town of Smithers, British Columbia.

First, with some trepidation, I got back on Glenn Highway. Thankfully, I did not encounter any moose this time along.

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Heading East on Glenn Highway.

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Days 38-41 – Setbacks

August 11, 2017

Well, if I didn’t want to deal with major problems and unplanned expenses, I suppose I should have stayed home. I had a slight moose problem a few days ago.

But first, picking up up where I left off:

After Kenai Fjords National Park, I got up late in Seward, the last town on that particular highway before the road ends. I could have spent the better part of the day there, but I wanted to get close to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park by end of day. So I just drove around a bit, taking a few photos of the seascape and the city.

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Day 37 – Kenai Fjords National Park

August 10, 2017

On my itinerary, I have myself stopping of in Anchorage for a half day, just enough to get a shower and a hot meal, before moving on. After spending nearly three days in a hotel, I finally got moving again this morning. Seriously, I should have taken two months off just for a rigorous training regimen before taking these two months of for the trip.

During my convalescence, I was looking over a map of Alaska and noticed two national parks I somehow had never heard of, Kenai Fords National Park and Wrangell–St. Elias National Park.

From the name and the five minutes of research I did, it seemed that the proper way to experience Kenai Fjords is by tour boat or kayak, but that wasn’t something I wanted to sink my teeth into. Still, there’s a nature center with a few hiking trails a 2½ hour drive from Anchorage, so I thought it was worth a day trip before heading out and onward.

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On the way to Kenai Fjords, along Turnagain Arm, part of Cook Inlet.

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Day 33 – Denali National Park – Day 3

August 10, 2017

My original plan for Day 3 in Denali was to use the transit bus system to start a handful of 1-3 hour back country hikes at various points off Park Road. Part of the reason for cycling the road on Day 1 was to scout out promising spots along to road for hikes.

However, as I boarded my early morning bus into the park to Wonder Lake, the weather had turned sour overnight, and I was still wrecked from my overnight exertions on Day 1. Wandering around the backcountry didn’t seem nearly as appealing as it had a few days ago, so I stayed on the bus most of the day.

2017-08-02_2050_Denali

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Day 32 – Denali National Park – Day 2

August 10, 2017

As mentioned, I was non-plussed on my first day in Denali National Park that Denali itself was obscured by cloud cover the entire day.  My flightseeing tour on Day 2 more than made up for that.

After my 8am flight was rescheduled for 3pm, I mostly ate and napped to kill the time between.

When I got back to the airstrip just before 3:00, the weather had indeed cleared up and the flight was still on. Unfortunately, the glacier landing zones where still fogged over, or “socked in” in pilot speak, so the glacier landing was ruled out. Bummer.  They did give a $100 discount for the change.

Even without a glacier landing, the flight was still pretty spectacular.  The flight plan went through the park, mostly over the road I’d struggled with for much of the previous day, and into the heart of the Alaskan Range, getting within a quarter mile of Denali, which with a mountain that size, is kissing distance.

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One of Fly Denali’s several planes.

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Day 31 – Denali National Park – Day 1

August 10, 2017

I spent three days in Denali, and got into just the right amount of trouble.

In terms of facilities, Denali comes somewhere between the thoroughly developed national parks like Yosemite and the more austere parks like Gates of the Arctic. A major highway runs adjacent to the park, and near the park entrance you’ll find all the facilities you’d expect: campgrounds, visitor centers, book stores, general stores, etc.

Things drop off pretty quickly after that. Where Yosemite has over 800 miles of hiking trails, Denali has less than 40, mostly short trails clustered near the park entrance. When it comes to hiking, the idea in Denali isn’t to follow provided trails, it’s to strike out on your own, whether for a few hours or a few weeks.

Other than backcountry hiking, the only way into Denali other than single engine aircraft is Park Road, which runs 92 miles from the park entrance to Kantishna, a former mining town and current home to a gravel airstrip and several private lodges. The first 15 miles is paved and open to all traffic. The remaining 77 miles are gravel and open only to transit buses, tour buses, and cyclists. The transit buses are hop on, hop off, so you can take a bus into the park, get off 60 miles in, scale a mountain or two, get back to the road, and flag down a returning bus to get back to your car. The transit buses have bike racks as well, so you can ride Park Road however far you legs will take you and then take a bus back. Just make sure you don’t miss the last bus back to the park entrance. If you do, you’re going to be in a for a long night in the wilderness. (That there was foreshadowing)

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