Sunday August 15, 2010 – Day 10 – “Denali”
Today is the “turn around day”. After messing around here in this beautiful north country I’m turning around and starting the trek home. As I got in late last night I end up sleeping in a little, plus I need to get some laundry done. A quick stop at a car wash ends up in a chance meeting with another F800GS rider. He has a 2010 model and found some neat tires that I hope to try. Its 11:15 am and I’m finally packed up and heading south from Fairbanks toward Denali.
Leaving the forest fire smoke around Fairbanks it is a clear day and I’m enjoying the sunshine. The road has some nice views of the forested valleys.
As I get closer to the park, the mountains are getting larger and more rugged. I stopped for gas and see a rider on a CBR with full gear. Talking with the air force serviceman, I find out he has just come from Denali Park, and there were clouds all around but Denali was in full view.
This is the end of the line for the private vehicles. Looking at this bridge I have this funny picture in my head of Gandalf in forest service uniform standing at the end saying “You Shall Not Pass”. Chuckling to myself I take a few pictures.
An outhouse with a sod roof is a little unique, and the rocky valley behind it is striking.
Down by the river, a caribou is grazing. Its getting later in the day and I need to keep moving. “Fly you fools” echoes in my mind as I load up and head back out of the park.
It appears that the clouds have moved in and Mount McKinley is hiding again. Like many tourists, I get to point to the clouds and say, “it would be right there behind that tree”. For those not aware of geography Mount McKinley, or Denali in the native dialect, is the tallest peak in North America at 20,320 feet.
The mountains around the park are still striking and I stop for one more picture before leaving the park.
Out on the highway the aspen are starting to change color out on the mountain sides.
I’m taking the highway south to the junction of the Denali Hwy. I stop at this little café along the road. This was a very nice little find as the food was excellent.
They had an amazing halibut steak with rice and fresh beans, and I had the blueberry crisp and ice cream for dessert.
The Denali Highway is a gravel road that goes from Cantwell to Paxton. It provides access to the valley and rivers that drain off of the glaciers on the flanks of Mt Hayes. I’m not sure I would designate this road as a “highway”, but it is going to provide a nice trip for me.
The clouds are moving in behind me, but these mountains are green and stand above the boreal forests in the valley the road winds through.
The road breaks out of the mountains and winds around the ridge on the south side of the valley. To the north Mt Hayes stands out and the sun lights up the slopes while the valley is shadowed by the grey clouds. It was a pretty striking effect.
Hunters were out in force looking for critters. Campers and tents were parked along the approaches and turnouts beside the road.
The road is just a three track and the hunters and myself are travelling along at a fair clip. As I near Paxon it is getting darker, and the clouds are moving in. There is enough light to take one more picture.
I hit the Henderson Highway at Paxon and head north a little ways to find a campsite.
Stats for Day 10: 328 miles, 6.8 gallons of fuel, 8.75 hours