Thursday, June 23, 2022 was a day of small maintenance and housecleaning chores for us, but mostly relaxing watching the latest episode of Star Trek-Strange New Worlds and reading. We wanted to take Bella for a nice, long walk but the surrounding area wasn’t all that conducive to an enjoyable activity for her. It was mostly gravel and rock and we had already walked her over that the previous two days, so we decided to wait until we arrived at our next stop.
Friday morning we were up and leaving the Tanana Valley Campground in Fairbanks by 9:30am for a 2 hour drive south to Denali National Park for a seven-night stay at the Riley Creek Campground in the park. Although we had a reservation, it was on a “first-come first-served” basis, so the earlier you arrived after 11am the better your chances of landing a nice site.
The drive was a little longer than scheduled, sometimes due to poor visibility caused by wildfires in the area and sometimes due to road repair construction along the route. Plus (and we still can’t figure out how because the nearest vehicle was 25-30 feet away) we took a rock to the windshield and have a little spot…again…on the windshield. I won’t be taking it to Safelite if I can help it because I don’t want my windshield wipers being sliced. We bought a little DIY kit for these tiny spots before we left so I’ll try that out first. Still, we arrived a little after 12 pm, got checked in and went looking for a site we liked. We started at the first loop, the Bear Loop, and made our way through about three-quarters through it when we found a really nice site. Very spacious, very level, with a nice tent pad as well (works great for our screen room), and a decent buffer of trees between most other sites around and behind us.
We got Nomad set up then went to “town” which is just a strip of tourist attractions about a mile and a half before the park entrance and only about a mile long. We had reservations the next day for the Wilderness Tundra Tour and the email Cindy received said we might want to order a box lunch for the 5-hour tour. The folks at the campground sent us to the “town” but there was no such place when our GPS took us there so Cindy called. Turns out they don’t do that box lunch anymore, but they still have the suggestion on their website and in their emails.
We were hungry anyway so we stopped into the Denali Doghouse, which also served hamburgers. Two hamburgers, one order of fries and two drinks later set us back $43 for food and then I added $8 for a tip. I thought that was crazy but I’d find out later it wasn’t. This is, after all, a tourist “town” and the prices reflect it. Plus, as Cindy remarked, they have to make their year’s income in about 4 months so there’s that.
There is no grocery store so we had to shop for the eggs and milk we needed at the gas station/convenience/liquor store (liquor is a popular item here as we counted about 8-10 places selling it on that mile-long stretch of retailers.
Cindy was craving some ice cream so we stopped at the only ice cream shop on the strip and the line was out the door. Run by a young Russian couple (they can see Sarah Palin’s yard from their yard…just kidding) they were hustling like crazy. But, it reminded me of the old John Belushi skits on SNL; “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, no Coke, Pepsi!” because Cindy wanted Chocolate Chip Mint but they were out so she said do you have just Chocolate Chip and he said they did and then proceeded to make her cone with plain chocolate. When I pointed out to him that it was supposed to be Chocolate Chip he said “No Chocolate Chip, just Chocolate.” And that was the end of that!
We got back to the campsite, took a short nap (Man, I love being retired and able to take naps ANY day I want, lol), then got up and put up the screen room on the tent pad and took Bella for a walk on the nearby trails.
I think we finally went to bed around 11:30pm and the sun was still out like it was 4 in the afternoon. It’s going to be an adjustment when we get back to the lower 48 later this year.
Next up: Denali Wilderness Tundra Bus Tour.
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