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First on the agenda for the day was to get some exercise and take a nice hike. I took the McKinley Bar Trail which started just a half mile from Wonder Lake. Nice quiet trail. A bit muddy in places, but a perfect way to start the day.

Not the longest trail in the world, but very nice. It ended up here.

On the way back, the sky started to clear a bit. If you look hard you can see some blue sky.

Then suddenly a mountain appeared. Could this be Mt. Mckinley?

I thought to myself, well ok, this is cool, but its not quite as big as I though it would be. Still impressive. But then I realized I wasn’t looking at Mt. Mckinley at all. This was just a foot hill. I needed to look a bit to the left.

My god, this thing is fricken HUGE!!!

Never got the perfect Ansel Adams view, but I could make out the top and bottom at different times.

There is a catch all bus that runs back out of the park. It starts out empty and picks up anyone that needs a ride. I jumped on this bus for the trip out. Again, just a few people on board, and plenty of room to move about. While taking the camper bus in to the park may be easier said than done without a camp reservation, taking this bus out is not a problem. This will get you off the crowded tour buses.

One of the more comical parts of the bus ride is the animals you see. The bus would stop and the driver would point out caribou. They were nothing more than tiny dots off in the distance. They could have been elephants for all I know. Nevertheless cameras clicked away non-stop. The guy next to me must of have taken a dozen photos of these dots. Later we some some mountain goats. The same things, tiny dots in the distance.

But then finally we did see a grizzly and her cub up close.

Another angle on the merging of the two rivers.

There was this individual on the bus that I could not make out if it was male or female. Either a really feminine guy, or an extreme tomboy girl. Later I talked to the individual, but still could not make out gender. I figured it would be rude to ask.

And then I was back at the entrance. Here is my little camp spot.

And one last pic of the Denali sign to prove that the bike was there.

So Denali was great. Got to see the big mountain, and some wildlife. But I think that visiting this place in the Winter would be better. Everyone told me that in the Winter time the skies clear, and the mountain comes out of the clouds. Those incredible shots of the mountain you see on post cards were taken in the winter. Will have to put that on the to do list.


Wonder Lake

Filed Under Alaska 'O8

I decided to spend the night at Wonder Lake for the sole purpose of finding some solitude. This is much easier said than done on a motorcycle. The irony being I travel alone, and you would think that isolation would be the norm. Far from it. I needed to get away from it all, so why not camp at one of Denali’s most remote camp spots.

I took a camper bus all the way to Wonder Lake. This is definitely a much better way to travel in to Denali. Every tour bus I saw was packed, while the camper bus had just a few people. I had a bench seat to myself, and you could move around the bus very easily. The bus driver was full of information about the park, and would stop the bus whenever we wanted for photos as well. I could see the people in the packed tour buses look at us with envy.

Here are some pics on the ride out. Unfortunatly, the weather did not cooperate and it was overcast and rainy.

Two rivers of different sediment combine.

Full size bus, and only a handful of people:

Part of the road had a very steep drop off. Kept thinking to myself, what if the driver is on the verge of losing it. Day after day of the same route with tourists asking him the same questions. It would be too easy. Just turn a bit to the left….

At the visitor center, we saw Mt. Mckinley in all her glory:

There was this very nice quilt hanging on the wall. Lot of detail. I used my imagination and it was like seeing the real thing. Mt. Mckinley is very impressive indeed.

Afterwards we traveled through dense fog, and couldn’t even see the road ahead of us. But in the end, we made it to Wonder Lake.

Just what I was looking for. Surrounded by untouched wilderness in all directions.

Camp spot:

After setting up camp, I walked around a bit.

About 10 minutes after taking this shot, the same raggedy fox showed up again with half a rabbit in its mouth.

Went to sleep that night in heavy rain. Didn’t let up at all. But I was in my warm cozy sleeping bag, and with the taps of the rain on the tent, I was out like a light.


Today I finally got back on the road, and left my comfy little dorm room. Can’t believe I was here for a whole week.

FYI: If interested in staying here, you want to go to Bartlett Hall. There are people here 24 hours a day, and can set you up with a room at any time. Cheap!

I headed south toward Denali. Wanted to spend a few days there and explore it a bit. Camp in the back country and do some hiking as well.

Backtracking does suck a bit, but fortunately there were still things to see that were missed earlier. Stopped at the rail road museum in Nenana and checked it out.


Back on the road.

Than I was back in Denali. You can ride about 13 miles in to the park. After that you have to take a bus.

Stopped at the Savage Patrol Cabin. Made every effort to avoid the herds of people traveling on the tour buses, but that was an exercise in futility.

The girl who gave the talk about the cabin did something very cool. She play acted like a young school girl from that time period and told us about the daily living routine in the cabin. I could tell that this park was a bit different. Afterwards, a man told us about how you could get medicines from just about every plant in the surrounding area. Aspirin, anti-biotic wraps, upset stomach medicine, laxatives, even stuff for cramps during a ladies monthly friend (given to men too if they got too cranky we were told). I had no idea.

Notice the nails on the window shutters to keep away the bears.

I setup camp while this little guy kept me company.

Later that night I went to a campground talk given by a ranger, and learned about the Arctic Ground Squirrel, the most important animal in all of Denali. Afterwards the ranger setup a game board, and we played a round of Jeopardy to see how much information we retained. Sounds a bit corny, but was really a lot of fun.

This park is quite a bit different from anything Ive been to before.


North Pole

Filed Under Alaska 'O8

Getting coffee this morning, I ran in to George the BMW mechanic at the coffee shop. He recognized me immediately.

“Hey what happened to you?”

I told him how I went to the Walmart parking lot and did all the bike maintenance there. He thought that was a smart thing to do, and we ended up hanging out and talking for an hour. He is literally an encyclopedia of information. Im glad I ran in to him again.

Decided to take a day trip to the North Pole after finishing the day’s nonsense. Perhaps get a picture of me with Santa for my nephew.

Everything in the town of North Pole is about Santa and Christmas. The street poles and fire hydrants are painted like candy canes. Christmas slogans are draped over everything. Id imagine that this is what a bad acid trip must be like. Has this town gone mad?

Went inside Santa Land to get a picture of Santa and me.

But he was gone for the day.

Every winter they get over run with letters to Santa from kids with their Christmas wish lists. This is just a tiny sampling:

Inside Santa Land they played Christmas carols all day. If I worked here, I think I would go postal in time.

Outside they had some reindeer. Rudolph looked a little beat up. That’s what you get for being the favorite.

An interesting place to visit for sure.


I hung out with the crew from Venezuela while in Fairbanks. One of them had ridden down to the southern point of South America as well. They were now all heading south toward Venezuela back home. Man, how tempting to ride with them all the way to South America. Really good people, and fluent in Spanish as well. But they are excellent riders, far exceeding my skill level. It would be tough to keep up. They got speeding tickets on the Dalton doing 120 mph in one of the dirt sections. They had proof on their GPS. That’s insane! I didn’t know that a GS could even go that fast.

They were riding the same bike as me, and one of them had some serious electrical problems. After switching out the computer the problems persisted. Finally they discovered that it was a faulty relay on the fog lights causing all the issues. Who would have ever guessed that?

A friend of theirs wrote a little poem for them. They translated it to English for me, and I thought it really captured the motorcycle travel experience. I asked permission to show it, and was told that would be fine.

Won’t translate it to English, but for all you Spanish speaking people, enjoy.

They took off the next day, while I needed to stay in Fairbanks for a few more days for work. Looking forward to visiting their part of the world some day.


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