Exploring the Denali Highway
Even though the weather was not ideal, I decided to drive the motorhome 30 miles east on the Denali Highway to the boondocking spot I had scouted the other day. From there, if it didn’t rain too hard, I could take the Prius in another 60 miles east to see what I could see.
As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.
This site along the road is a pretty decent spot to spend the night, one of the nicer views out the window I have had in a while. This is just a pull off right along the road, so what traffic there is, and there certainly wasn’t much, whizzes right by your window, but the view out the other side is something else indeed. Though it didn’t happen, I kept looking out there expecting to see moose, or wolves, or a bear, but no such luck, just a great view of the Alaskan wilderness.
As the skies continued to darken, I became aware of just how exposed I really was, atop this esker and prayed there would be no lightning tonight. Thankfully, there wasn’t.
Early the next morning, I headed east on the Denali Highway in the Prius. The weather was not cooperating, more gray skies and intermittant rain, with very limited visibility, so sorry, no great landscape shots today.
The gravel road, though washboarded in sections, is a fairly well maintained road, wide with no serious grades over the first 67 miles in heading east from Cantwell. I hope to explore the rest of the road when I go through Paxton, the western terminus of this highway, on my way south from Fairbanks.
Not much of anything in the way of wildlife today either, just a pair of swans feeding on one of the ponds along the road …
… and an industrious beaver out working on repairs to his dam. No large animals spotted whatsoever, so kind of disappointing.
Tomorrow I head into Denali National Park for my camping reservations at Teklanika Campground, 29 miles into the park, so I turned around at MM67 on the Denali Highway and headed back to my boondocking site to break camp and make my way north a little closer to the Park.
As seems to happen way too often, once I was back on the road in the motorhome, with the Prius in tow, now of course I run into the wildlife I was looking for when out in the Prius. Fortunately, the Denali Highway is wide enough that I could pull the motorhome over to the side of the road and park, get out and spend some serious time with this cow moose feeding on underwater plants in a kettle pond along the highway.
I watched for over an hour as she would submerge, grab mouthfulls of plant material, then surface noisily, to devour her meal.
Sometimes she would remain underwater for as much as a couple of minutes and I could see plant material floating to the surface. Then she would come up, kind of rake in all the floating plants and begin browsing.
Those large ears obviously collect a lot of water and often she would do this violent head shaking to clear the water out.
Every few minutes, she would stop and scan the water’s edge watching for her calf, making sure he/she was still safe and not wandering too far away from Mom.
The calf showed no signs whatsoever that it had any desire to join Mom out in the water, mostly just browsing amongst the willows and taking short naps.
On to Denali N.P.
Rejoining the Parks Highway in Cantwell, I headed north to a pull off around MM 222 for a nice boondocking site along the river. Since I still had a few hours of daylight, I unloaded the Prius and headed up into Denali NP and once again drove the first 14 miles of the Park Road into the Savage River checkpoint station.
As I was heading in, I spotted this moose and calf coming up one of the riverbeds toward the highway. I get a kick out of how closely these calves follow mom, learning the ropes and staying very close to the protective hooves of mother.
Fortunately this bus driver was paying attention and not driving too fast, for this protective mom was serving as a bad example for her impressionable young calf, never even slowing down, much less looking both ways, before crossing the road.
But they made it safely across. Tomorrow, I dump the tow dolly and Prius in the Visitor Center parking lot, and drive in the 29 miles of the Park Road for my stay at the Teklanika Campground. Stay tuned!
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