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June 28, 2010

This, That & Bears


Currently I'm sitting in the car at the Aleyska Resort in Girdwood logging on via their wi-fi. Since the battery is almost dead on my computer I'm going to post this as quickly as possible and download the pictures when I have more time and battery life.


The plan was to stay in Denali National Park but plans have a way of changing and we ended up south in the charming railroad town of Talkeetna. Most of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places and full of log cabins and railroad buildings. Talkeetna has served for decades as a staging area for Denali climbers. There are many outdoor eateries and since it was a sunny day we tried two of them, the brew house for sweet potato fries and spicy mayo dip washed down with a sampler variety of Alaskan beer. After a stroll down Main Street we ended up at West Rib for their famous hamburgers. It was featured on the Food Network so I was anxious to give it a try. However, they weren’t as lenient about letting the dogs on their patio so we finally had to settle to take out and eat back at the campground.

But first, to backtrack just a bit and how we ended up here. The plan was to head to Denali National Park after we left Fairbanks but after a camping neighbor mentioned that we may wish to make a reservation in Denali first because they couldn’t get in on the date they wanted, we decided to make a phone call. I was told that while camping sites are assigned on a first come, first serve basis, reservations are made in advance (during the busy summer season) and when I called the reservation center listed on the website I was told the campground we desired to stay in was full until July 8th. The campground is called Teklanika (Tek for short) and located 29 miles within Denali Park. You can only drive your car 15 miles into the park but you can drive your motor home 29 miles in if you stay at this particular campground, the only RV campground within the park, and you are required to stay for a minimum of three days. If you are towing a car you must leave it at the Wilderness Access Center, which is located at the entrance to the park, for the duration of your stay. Once you are in the campground your motor home must not leave the site you are assigned until you are ready to leave the park. Upon making a reservation you can also purchase a shuttle pass, which is good for the duration of your stay. Here’s how that works: you are guaranteed a seat on the shuttle the first time you use it, usually the day you arrive or the next day. You figure out the farthest point of interest you might wish to see; if they have room on the shuttle for that location, on the day and time you want, it’s all good. If not, you pick the next farthest point of interest – in our case, Wonder Lake happened to work out for availability so we got a shuttle pass to Wonder Lake-just in case we want to go that far. I say this because in our case, Wonder Lake is the farthest we’re allowed to travel within the park unless we purchase another park pass – which you don’t really want to, do since they’re almost $31 a piece. After your reserved shuttle tour you may take a shuttle based on availability and only to points of interest between Tek and Wonder Lake.

So- back to our reservation. I was told we couldn’t get into the park for a three day consecutive stay until July 8th and since that’s two weeks away we needed to revise our plans a bit. So we decided to head south toward Anchorage and The Kenai Peninsula for the next two weeks. Okay….if I’d known then what I know now about the absolute beauty of the Kenai, I may have taken my chances on finding a campsite in Denali when we drove through because I’m not sure the next two months would be sufficient to take in all this beauty and we have only two weeks! So far it’s topped my list as the most beautiful place on my trip. More about that tomorrow.


I am Bearfooting in the Eden of Alaska – The Kenai Penninsula. “Bearfooting” is a verb that means having a good time on the road but it’s also a state of mind – when your journey becomes more important than the destination. You know you are bearfooting when you wake in the morning and you don’t even remember what day of the week it is, and what’s more – you don’t even care! I am so there!!!

Today we drove south of Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm on the Seward Hwy in the Chugach National Forest to the Portage-Wittier Access road. Four miles down that road is a campground called Williwaw and that’s where we’ve decided to park our rigs for the next two weeks. It doesn’t have hookups but it does have very spacious, well maintained sites. In fact, we’re both parked in a double site(which we got a great deal on, due to dad’s Golden Age Passport) and still have plenty of room. You can’t see your neighbors, only the mountains and glaciers that surround you. It’s very quiet except when I decide to turn on my generator like now, when I need to charge up my camera batteries and work on the computer!!

There are numerous hiking trails right outside my door. With each hike I become a little less timid about the possibility of meeting up with a bear or moose. I carry my bear bell but prefer listening to the sounds of the birds, the waterfalls and the streams I walk beside.

We plan to make this a base camp and then venture to other areas of the Kenai by car. This evening we went to a charming ski resort town called Girdwood to celebrate my birthday. Mom and dad treated me to a lovely dinner at Chair 5, a local favorite. After dinner we drove around town up to the Alyeska Lodge where they have a tram that takes you up the mountain to a ski lodge. I hope the weather clears up enough that we can take that trip. At the lodge they serve you halibut and chips and Alaskan Amber. Sounds worth the trip to me!

The weather has been cool and rainy and I still find it beautiful. I wonder what will happen when the sun comes out. I won’t be able to stand it!!


Yesterday we drove the car to the small unhurried community of Hope, located 88 miles south of Anchorage on the South side of the Turnagain Arm. We explored town a little (doesn’t take long in a town with the POP of 130) and then decided to eat lunch at Tito’s Discovery Café. What a great choice! The food was delicious and the pies are legendary. Of course we had to try the Creamy Chocolate Pecan pie for dessert. We drove back after lunch, full and satisfied.

Today we drove into Anchorage because we heard the weather was supposed to be better in Anchorage and we wanted to go to the Weekend Market, which is like a Farmer’s Market with vendors selling their produce, crafts, local fare. As we drove farther north the weather was getting worse rather than better. Unlike yesterday when I was decked out in full rain gear, today I opted for a t-shirt, sneakers, and fleece jacket. After all, it wasn’t raining at the campsite and I’d heard it was supposed to be even better farther north. Big mistake – first rule of Alaska – prepare for everything! It was cool and rainy the whole time we were there. Lucky for me, mom had an extra raincoat that I borrowed which kept me relatively dry and I did end up buying an “Alaska” souvenir baseball cap. In talking to one of the local vendors I was told that 50-60 degree weather was fairly normal for summer temperatures in Anchorage and if it reached 70 they considered it hot (as she shows by fanning herself). Another vendor I talked to is planning a move to Oregon because he gets a lot of supplies shipped to him from the lower 48 and then the majority of his product (Maple Syrup) he ships back out again. Since he’s getting tired of the long, (8-9 months) of cold winters (30 degrees below zero) and it’s more cost effective for his business to be in the lower 48 he is opting to move.

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and even though it has its fair share of tall buildings it still retains a small town feel. I enjoyed the market and a small stroll around town, stopping in a few local gift shops along the way. I wanted to get some local Halibut to ship home but the shop I was looking for ended up to be closed on Sundays. It’s another great excuse to head back to Anchorage another day – maybe sunnier next time – for a little sightseeing and shopping. They have so many trails to explore.

After driving back to the campsite I took Cooper for a leisurely walk around the campground. It’s a fairly large campground and I was about half way around when I was stopped by the camp host asking me if I’d heard about the bears that were roaming the campground. He said there were two of them and a camper’s dog chased one into a tree and then the bear chased the dog right back to his owner (which dogs are prone to do) and the owner ran for his motor home. I said I would be on the lookout, as I kept a tight hold on Cooper. Sure enough, I rounded the next corner and what did I see but a small black bear crossing the road in front of me. I casually had Cooper sit and kept my distance and the bear nonchalantly walked into the trees. How exciting and dang it – I forgot the camera – again! I was told by some other observers that the other bear was along the direction I was headed so as I took off I was singing and making lots of noise and thankfully making it back without another encounter.

Skipping ahead a few hours: I decided to watch a little TV. One way to do that without hookups is with an inverter which converts AC into DC and lately I’ve been having trouble with that whole thing. I keep blowing the 15 amp fuse that controls my battery charging panel, my refrigerator (very important) and the DC receptacle that my inverter plugs into. So I thought I’d solved the issue by turning off the fridge when watching TV so I wouldn’t draw as much current, but this time I couldn’t even get enough current to turn on the TV. Looking at my battery panel, the current had dropped to almost 7amps which is way over in the red zone. Not good. So plan B fell into place, which is to turn on the generator so I can watch TV and charge my batteries. After watching a few episodes of 24, the First Season (I’m hooked) I turn off the generator and my batteries are still in the red zone and after turning my fridge back on the solenoid won’t fire either. Scratching my head….. Okay, big trouble. Back to knocking on dad’s door. Thank God he takes pity on my electrical inaptitude. First, check the voltage on the batteries….checks out good….so that’s not the problem. Check the battery panel…..take battery panel apart…..go up on roof and check solar panel……check fuse box for voltage……all check out. Well, we could try putting a 20amp fuse in the fuse box. Dad explains the electrical consequences of that move so I’m aware of what to look for in electrical overload. We put a 20amp in, plug in the inverter and pop…another blown fuse. Scratching heads again at this point…. Well okay……long story short - to make it simple and not bore you to tears – it turns out my inverter is bad and causing my fuses to short out. (I’ve gone through about 8 fuses so far) I’m jumping for joy that it’s just the inverter because at this point I was thinking ahead to how I was going to buy a cooler to store all the stuff in my fridge and freezer until I got home (and where in the heck I was going to put it) and then money flying out of my pockets once again to fix whatever the problem might be this time! Poor dad….I keep knocking on his door, pulling him out of the warm comfort of his motor home to help me solve my electrical problems. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Thankfully, I always learn in the process but each time something goes wrong it’s a little different than the time before – another curve ball thrown my way. One of these days I’m gonna figure it out on my own, darn it! I’m going to learn about all this electrical mumbo jumbo converting AC to DC, amps, voltage, wiring, etc. and not be INTIMIDATED!!!

Well….I happen to have another inverter on hand and a new extension cord (all thanks again to dad) and I plug everything in, cross my fingers and wait for another fuse to blow…..nothing but the sweet sound of 24. Whoopee! Now it’s not that I’m a big fan of TV – I’ve enjoyed not having it on most of the time but I’ve just gotta see how Jack Bauer’s day is going to end! So….I’m all settled back in….laying on my sofa bed with Cooper curled at my feet and I happened to look out the window and what do I see? You guessed it – a black bear sitting not four feet away from me. I take a double look and sure enough, it’s a bear alright. I very calmly get off the bed, trying not to alert Cooper to what’s right outside the window and reach over to get my camera. I turn it on and take aim just as the bear saunters off into the trees. I never could get a good shot of him. I suppose I can go hunting for the good shot tomorrow….that is if I ever get up the guts to go outside the motor home!

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