Dashing Denali NP!

Denali National Park Travel Blog

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If it's just 90 miles from Fairbanks to Denali on the fast Parks Highway, why did it take us until 5 pm to drag into Denali? 

Well, there were chores to do and fun things along the way:

Chores- We needed:

  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Propane (not easy to find in Fairbanks, and I'll bet a lot more challenging in Denali!)

(All of which we could have done ahead, but forgot to)


Fun Things:

We had to eat:

  • Lunch camp along the beautiful mountains outside of Fairbanks
  • Pizza for a scrumptious snack in Nenana
  • Smoked Salmon Chowder- purchased in Tatlanika's cool gift shop at Mile 276, which we had for dinner in Denali- YUM!


Nenana deserved a visit!  http://fairbanks-alaska.

com/nenana.htm  It is a delightful town along the way with many interesting features in the short walk down Main Street:

  • It is an authentic, year round village camp- total population around 400


  • Transportation of both river and railroad makes this a hopping commerce site.  In Texas, we found things were settled around railroads and a water source.  In Alaska, it is all about the rivers because that is the best mode of transportation in summer (by boats) and winter (by sled dogs on the iced rivers).


  • Nenana Ice Classic:  this is the town with a $2.50 lottery guess for when the ice is going to go out (break up and float down the river)- a town game since 1917!  This is a worldwide guess for the exact minute that the river breaks up.  A special tripod is placed on the river and iced in place in February.
      There's a 50-yard wire going to it and when it passes a certain mark, it triggers the a blade that cuts the cord to the town clock.  The last lottery was over $300,000!  We went in to make our guess, but got distracted and did not, but I'm going to state here that we were going to guess:  May 20, 2009 at 2:03:46 pm!  www.nenanaakiceclassic.com  (Follow up note-  Fortunately I was off:  May 1, 2009 at 8:41 pm was the 2009 official ice breakup, with a jackpot of $283, 723!)


  • Train museum with town history, including old books of the guesses for the tripod time.  The nice lady running this area is from Texas!


  • Two plaques commemorating the 1923 visit by President Harding to drive the golden stake in there to complete the Alaska Railroad.
      The golden stake is missing in action.  We previously saw the train (in Pioneer Park, Fairbanks) from which Harding stepped to commemorate the occasion.


  • An old church from 1905 that has hand-beaded moosehide alter covering.  It is small, intimate, and feels like a very special place in which to worship.


  • You know the Iditerod Dog Sled Race?  www.iditarod.com/ Well, Nenana was actually the place upon which this race is based.  Wikipedia says it best: "Nenana was the starting point for the Nome" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1925_serum_run_to_Nome">1925 serum run to Nome, where diptheria antitoxin was transported by rail from Anchorage, and continued by dog sled to Nome.


  • There are gift shops, salmon drying on a rack, a few cute lodges (including a "Bed and Maybe Breakfast" place- haha!), and of course the pizza place. 

When we went back to the Visitor's Center log cabin, a woman in there mentioned she was selling her own cookbooks and she was so earnest and nice that we bought one for Jazy.  We'll have to look up to see if it really is "the best selling book in Alaska right now!" as she indicated.  Regardless, Jazy seemed interested in the recipes and we got the author's picture with the book, so that was fun.

Then today we also got white fur for Lia to craft her own mocassins (they cost well over $100 a pair for the finely made ones we've seen) and we were assured the fur is fake (solved that ethical delimna), but it sure feels real.

  Jazy got an Alaska jade polar bear necklace (the Jade is really from AK).  Charles got some binoculars and I got an igloo-inspired wooden bowl and an eye-spy monocular for wildlife sightings.  It is critical for everyone to have a pair.  Ned and I learned that detail the hard way on our anniversary trip to Alaska years ago.  :)

We're in Denali at a dry campground ("dry" means no electric, water, nor sewer hookups), which is beautiful.  We've scoped out the transporation center for the shuttles tomorrow, etc.  We enjoyed about 5 minutes in the Visitor's Center before it closed, but will be visiting the Eielson Visitor's Center way inside Denali on the shuttle tomorrow.

Since we learned the hard way in Big Bend, we spent about an hour tonight preparing EVERYTHING for our trip tomorrow.  The kids took turns being the "leader" to direct progress.

  Then we talk about who was the best leader and why.  It's interesting to see them motivating their troops! 

There is no food or drink in the park, but they said we could refill water bottles.  Wow.  Really barren, it sounds like, but lots of fun.  It's hard not taking the RV with us!  We're not used to that.  So we've made the food, packed the fanny packs and backpacks- we used the list we made in Big Bend after we were lucky to make it back from that late, hot hike.

The weather has not been the warm, sunny summer that they expect here in the Interior, and the Alaskans are not pleased with it.  I feel sorry for them, since they have such a long winter, I'd like them to enjoy their summer.  But it has rained to the point that Nenana was under a flood watch.  It's cold too and I'm so grateful for the heat (and that we remembered to fill the very low propane tank this morning!).

  It is maybe 60 degrees high during the day with a chilly wind.  Definitely long pants and several layers (including a jacket) on top.  I'm starting to wonder if it is us, as last summer it would rain everywhere we went, even in long-stricken drought locations.  We don't mind as Alaska is beautiful no matter what the weather.  We also remember that we could be in Houston in July...


susandent says:
Can't begin to tell you how much we enjoy your travel blogs - they are so interesting!!! Glad Ned was able to visit ya'll. Isn't it funny that after 6 nights in one place, that urge to travel and see what's down the road takes over. We're enjoying a typical very hot summer, but I'm restless - got RV fever! Looking forward to hearing about Denali NP.
We have racoons visiting nightly - mom, dad, and an adorable baby :)
Love to all, Mom
Posted on: Jul 31, 2008
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Pipeline visit
Pipeline visit
Ladies at the Pipeline Info Booth
Ladies at the Pipeline Info Booth
Denali National Park
photo by: Vikram