Denali Highway

As part of Andrew’s quest to drive every highway in Alaska, we took a day trip down the Denali Highway.  Not to be confused with the Parks Highway or the Denali National Park Road, the Denali Highway is a gravel road that runs from Paxson (on the Richardson Highway) to Cantwell (on the Parks Highway).  Until the 1970s, this road was the original access to into Denali National Park. 

The view from the highway offers some picturesque views of the Alaskan Range, including some glaciers and snow-capped mountains. Andrew and I agreed this road is truly the boondockers paradise with many places to pull off and park it.  Towards the Paxson end of the highway, Tangle Lakes offers a few hikes and archeological sites. 

The road has many places to pull off and park it for a little seclusion and beautiful vistas.  If we had more time, we’d definitely be back with Rosie.

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View from Denali Highway
View from Denali Highway
View from Denali Highway
View from Denali Highway
View from Denali Highway
View from Denali Highway
View from Denali Highway
View from Denali Highway
McKinley Creekside Cafe
McKinley Creekside Cafe
Andrew and Ame at MacLaren Summit
Andrew and Ame at MacLaren Summit

Vintage Love – Fairbanks Style

For our final day in Fairbanks, Andrew treated me to a date at Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, indulging my love of all things vintage.  This large warehouse museum houses a divine collection of refurbished vintage cars and clothing from early 1900s to 1940s.

Check a few of my favorites

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, Fairbanks, AK
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, Fairbanks, AK
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Ladies Custom Car,  Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Ladies Custom Car, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Backseat Driving, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Backseat Driving, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Early Alaskan Snowmobile, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Early Alaskan Snowmobile, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Early Alaskan Snowmobile, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Early Alaskan Snowmobile, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Hood Ornament, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Hood Ornament, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Hood Ornament, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Hood Ornament, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Hood Ornament, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Hood Ornament, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Vintage Dresses,  Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Vintage Dresses, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Vintage Dress, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Vintage Dress, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Vintage Dress, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Vintage Dress, Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Gates of the Arctic & Kobuk Valley

*Warning:  Extra Long Post!

We’ve arrived back safe and sound, a little weather-worn, suntanned and mosquito bitten, from our nine day journey through Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley National Parks.  These two parks are among the most difficult to access, and least traveled in the National Park system.

To help us maneuver the parks, we contacted Arctic Wild, who created a custom itinerary involving four days of canoeing the Noatak and a day of hiking the Kobuk Great Sand Dunes, in between would be 3 days for travel and camp set up/break down days.  Arctic Wild supplied us with Emilie our guide, ALLY pack canoes, canoeing gear, and dry sack backpacks.

The day before the trip we met up with Emilie and Michael, co-owner of Arctic Wild, for a briefing and gear check/pack.  Then, early Monday morning we (the intrepid journeyers) began our trip.  First was a commercial flight from Fairbanks to Bettles, then float plane to Pingo Lake on the north side of the Brooks Range.  Our trip was far from our usual ultralight backpacking trips (check out the picture of all our gear).  Once landing at Pingo Lake, we unpacked the plane and set up camp for two nights.  The plan was to explore the area and scout the closest route to the Noatak River, where we would porter our canoes and camping gear on day three. 

On our second day at Pingo Lake, Emilie and I went for a hike up the closest mountain, where we came face to face with a group of Dall sheep.  From the mountain top, we had fantastic views of the Noatak River and sighted another rafting group (NOLS), the only other people in this remote area.  Our evening included a stroll to a nearby pingo, which is a hill or mound pushed up by a layer of frozen ground, and combatting the endless mosquito population.

Soon it was time to make waves by moving down the river.   For four days we moved along the Noatak River towards Lake Matcharak and beyond (a little over 45 miles).  Overall, the river was calm and easy to paddle.  Andrew and I joked about bring inner tubes and float down the river next time. I could just imagine a large swan and flamingo float in arctic Alaska.   Each “night” we stopped and set up camp along a gravel bar.  One morning we were awakened by roars and banging (my first instinct was to think bear), which turned out to be two juvenile musk ox rutting and head-ramming about 50 feet from our tent.  Between the musk ox horn ramming and wolves’ distant baying, nature is definitely a better alarm clock than any mechanical buzzing or beeping. 

On day seven, a small planed shuttled us from a gravel bar near Douglas Creek to Kobuk Valley National Park’s great sand dunes, where for two nights we camped along the edge of the sand dunes overlooking a creek and boreal forest.  By day we explored the dunes, which is sand/silt ground by glaciers that once covered the Kobuk Valley.   The dunes, scattered with animal tracks and bones, offered us a glimpse into the various fauna, caribou, moose, wolf, and bear, who travel the area. 

After nine days of beautiful weather and remote landscape, it was time to head back to civilization.  Our bush plane retrieved us from the deserted dunes and carried us on the coastal town of Kotzebue.  From Kotzebue, we flew back to Fairbanks, where we were delighted to see Ame and Rosie, especially our shower and bed.

Pingo Lake, Gates of the Arctic
Pingo Lake, Gates of the Arctic
Our Gear on the Plane
Our Gear on the Plane
Flying through the Brooks Range
Flying through the Brooks Range
Our Gear at Pingo Lake
Our Gear at Pingo Lake
Pingo Lake at Sunset
Pingo Lake at Sunset
Noatak River
Noatak River
Dall Sheep near Pingo Lake
Dall Sheep near Pingo Lake
Along the Noatak River
Along the Noatak River
Noatak River
Noatak River
Rainbow over the Noatak River
Rainbow over the Noatak River
Musk ox visiting us
Musk ox visiting us
Along the Noatak River
Along the Noatak River
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
Fire at Kobuk River
Fire at Kobuk River