Friday, July 17, 2015

Day two in Denali

Thursday morning we decided to hike from the campground into the park, where we did a little hiking along some of their trails and saw some incredible videos at the visitor center.  Just hard to improve on yesterday, so we didn't get too many more pictures.  It was some clear, and then some cloudy and it got cooler and some pretty heavy duty winds set in.  We were planning to come back after hiking and ride our bikes back into the park, but the winds were so high, we just decided to take a nap instead!!

We did find another wonderful quilt shop, Granma's, in Healy just north of Denali where Trisha found some wonderful patterns and kits to take home.  This summer there is a quilt project called Row by Row Experience, going on in participating shops in the 50 states and throughout Canada.  We didn't know about it until we went in a shop the first evening we got here and saw the beautiful Row pattern this shop is offering.  You have to go to the participating quilt shop to get the free pattern and they also offer a kit including the pattern and fabric for sale.  The 2015 theme is water, so there are mountains, animals, fish and always water represented in the Row pieces, which Trisha plans to use to document our Alaska journey this summer.  There is a contest for best quilts put together creatively with at least 8 Rows!  Trisha's not interested in the contest, but rather having this quilt pieced together with great memories!!!  This sweet little grandmotherly lady owns this shop and we can kick ourselves for not taking pictures of her shop or of her.  It was a little hard to find, as Healy is just a tiny little place and there were few street signs.  It took us two stops to ask directions before we actually found it, a cute little log cabin.  When we first walked in there was a small front room with  yarn and the cash register.  A young woman was in that room and while Trisha was looking at the yarn, I started toward the back room where the quilting things were.  About this time Granma came around the corner and asked me if she could help me--she didn't see Trisha at first and when I said my wife would be in there in a minute, she said, "Oh, I thought you were the quilter!"  Anyway, it was the cutest little shop, and the back room where she had her quilting materials was just a cozy, comfortable little room with a couple of work tables, a pot bellied stove, two cushioned chairs and lots of quilts all over the walls and ceiling.  She said to me, now the way this works is you can sit in one of the chairs and you and I will talk while she (Trisha) shops--I have lovely talks with lots of men who come in with their wives; we talk about just about anything, moose hunting, fishing, gardening, you name it.  She was so cute and reminded Trisha of her great-grandmother.  And her quilts were just beautiful.  So Trisha got her pattern that was designed by a woman in the area that is her contribution to the Row By Row project. Plus, I noticed a beautiful red quilt hanging on the wall that had gold stars and snowflakes, and a window pane like panel in the center that had a Christmas tree, all in gold.  It was subtle, and took a minute to discern the tree, but once you did that it was just gorgeous!  So we're both excited about this piece, Trisha can't wait to do it, and you know Santa just goes bonkers about anything to do with Christmas!!  Just remembered that at the quilt store on the boardwalk in Glitter Gulch here where we learned about Row by Row that we also got a lovely little Santa--can't pass up a new Santa for the collection.  But these are all done by a local artist and they are "Faceless Santas,"  with no facial features.  Her info cards said she does this intentionally so you can just imagine the face of someone dear to you on this Santa--such a neat idea!  And they all looked so much like Alaska, with fur-trimmed hats that are so typical for the subarctic winters here.  Anyway, it was a good find today, just sorry we don't have pics of Granma!

As the afternoon wore on it got progressively colder and it looks like some rain or storm is coming in.  Tomorrow we travel to Anchorage, and it's predicted to rain most of the way.  Hope it holds off so I don't have to do all the unhooking of the motor home and the hooking up of the tow car in the rain.  But if it does, I'll just go back in my mind to yesterday's incredible sunshine and the views of Denali and, like Julie Andrews sang about her favorite things, "then I won't feel so bad!"

I may have mentioned earlier that when we first got here, the people in the site next to us were quite unfriendly and upset that we were in this spot--apparently the night before they had no one in our site so they had a lot more room.  Anyway, they complained to the owner about how they could not open their van door, etc., but we had already moved the picnic table and fire ring in our site to the back and crammed our car as close to the side of our rig as possible, effectively giving them half of our site.  The manager came out and looked and told them we had done all we could, but these turkeys still just parked their van so close to our car we could hardly open the door.  Needless to say when they left yesterday we were not unhappy!  A lovely young couple with a precious little two year old girl came into the site and we've enjoyed having them here.  They have a unique Honda Element that has a hinged pop up roof, sort of like the old VW campers, and they had a couple of tent frames that they set up with tarps on the other side of the car for shelter, though they all slept inside the vehicle.  I had never seen this style Element before, quite intriguing.  Anyway, the little girl, Frances, is just adorable, and she and Santa became fast friends.  When her parents were setting up their tent frames she came up to me with a little Lego house and started talking up a storm to me about it.  Today I went out and she came running over to show me her owl sticker on her hand, her new tennis shoes, her little plastic bead necklace and her airplane.  She was just a chattering, and her parents were worried that she might be bothering me, but you know there's never a situation when Santa doesn't have time for a child!  When she showed me her owl I asked if she had the book Owl Babies, one of our favorite children's books and she and her Mom enthusiastically nodded yes.  She didn't have this book with her, but Frances wanted to go into the car and get the book she did have--Lady Bug Girl Goes to the Farm.  I had never seen this book, but she and I read part of it together, she showed me all the animals whose names she knew and we had the best time.  They are headed to Anchorage tomorrow as well, so maybe we'll see them again!

They really cram in as many RVs as possible in this campground.  There are two or three other RV campgrounds on the highway that have a bit more room than this one, but this one is so convenient to all the shops and restaurants in Glitter Gulch and the hotels where you catch the tour bus that it makes it worth it to stay here.
 On the trail to the park entrance

 Looking down on the footbridge across the Nenana River

 Someone's rock messages by the river bank

 I know we'll come back here someday!

 Little arctic ground squirrel, chowing down on what looked like a willow branch

 How beautiful!  The trees and the mountains too!!
 These black spruce trees grow so slowly and have such short branches due to the permafrost close to the topsoil and the short growing season
 Love these dwarf dogwood blossoms
 A willow, with many of the leaves stripped off, probably by a moose.

 The Grand Denali Hotel, set way up the mountain.  We didn't go there, but talked to a shuttle bus driver who said they have fantastic views, but they didn't do such a good job constructing it, so it's gradually sliding down the mountain.  They've apparently had to shore it up several times--not sure I would want to stay there!!
 These little ferns were so delicate--their needles looked almost as fine as dill weed.

 Inside the visitor center in the park, a beautiful quilt by a local artist
 And this felted piece that is a rendition of the park itself with all its braided streams
Believe it or not, these rocks were all felted!

 As Trisha was looking at this painting, she said she was just struck with memories of her grandmother, Mamie Lyons, and guess what--when she looked at the name of the artist, she saw that it was done by a woman named Linda Infante-Lyons!! Can you believe that??  Must be some connection there.

 A ranger with part of a moose antler rack
 This piece was done by taking all these brilliantly colored fall leaves off the ground, arranging them in this pattern and then photographing the whole thing, and then "returning the leaves to their natural setting."  Just striking!
 Rendition of a baby Dall sheep.  The Dall sheep were the primary reason Denali National Park was formed.  Charles Shelton, a hunter and naturalist, first came here in the early 1900's, and was distressed by the overhunting of these and other wildlife.  So he moved to Washington, DC, where he embarked on a mission to get Congress to create a national park, which finally happened in 1917.  His only regret was that he was not able to convince Congress to change the name back to Denali, as it had been dubbed Mt. McKinley by a prospector who was supporting McKinley's run for President.
 And an eagle's nest
Our sentiments exactly!

Hiking after we left the visitor center

Driving to Healy to Granma's
This was the Healy Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, where we stopped for the second time to try to find directions to the shop
A small little log building, with one truck there!
Some scenes from our drive Granma's back to the campground--it was along the same stretch of the highway we had come into Denali on day before yesterday, but it sure looked different with sunshine!!

Silt-filled Nenana River

Evening shot from outside the RV, taken about 9:00 PM.  Remarkable how much sunlight they have here in the Land of the Midnight Sun--but then, only about 4 hours of it in the cold, cold winter!


  1. Jack I continue to enjoy your pictures and blog.

  2. Looks like a great time. We were there in May 2011 and there was still lots of ice on the river.

    1. Chuck, hard to believe that the ice stays that long. I've been saying I didn't want to come in the harsh winter, but our visit to the Yukon Quest winner's kennels has me excited about coming back one year in March to spend some time learning dog sledding!