Monday, July 20, 2009

On the way to Fairbanks

In my last post, I failed to make it clear that after church on Sunday the 12th, we drove back up to Elmendorf AFB to camp in their FamCamp. This allowed us to restock the refrigerator and pantry and, generally, regroup. We did a bit of grieving for Missy, too. While back in Anchorage, we made an Al-Anon meeting and an open AA meeting – both very good meetings.

On Thursday, we left the FamCamp at Elmendorf with a full battery, full fresh water tank, and empty gray and black water tanks. We knew we would be camping in self-contained mode for a few days. Our path took us up the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Wasilla (home of former Gov. Sarah Palin), then North toward Fairbanks. However, we stopped at Byers Lake State campground for a few days of fishing. This is on the southern edge of the Denali National Park.
Byers Lake is what you think of when someone talks about an Alaskan fishing lake – clear, dark blue-green water, surrounded by snow capped mountains. White spruce trees stand sentinel around the shore. Byers Creek feeds into the lake from the north end. We camped at a site near the west bank of the lake. Early Friday morning, Brenda and I gathered up our waders and hiked about 2 miles to get to the north creek entry. We were greeted by a single, eerie loon call. Presently, however, we heard the unmistakable blast of a boater's air horn. Sigh. A flotilla of kayaks – red, blue and yellow – were touring down the eastern shore. They gleefully chatted to one another, splashed about, and tooted their several horns. Fishing completed for the day, we returned to camp.

A short hike away from our campsite is a Veterans Memorial, in honor of the five military branches. Bob Cooper would be upset with anyone who could name only four. The “forgotten” branch is, of course, the Coast Guard. The memorial has interpretative kiosks about some of the little known facts concerning Alaska and WWII. For example, the Battle for Attu was remarkable in that the Japanese had landed and taken US soil. The North American mainland actually was invaded! The interpretive site was very well done. The reason for the location in Denali park is, of course, the nearby presence of “the big one” – Denali Peak/Mount McKinley. On Thursday, we arrived at Byers Lake shortly before a rain shower arrived. Needless to say, the mountain remained invisible. Heavy overcast continued throughout Friday. I was sure the mountain is there, because I could see the base beneath the mists.

On Saturday, we had misty rain and full overcast. We drove a few miles south on the highway to a bridge crossing Byers Creek. This was a few miles from the lake. The water was swift and clear. I caught a nice rainbow. I didn't know if this was a catch and release stream or not (most are), so I released him. Later in the day, the sky cleared and Brenda and I trekked back to the Veterans Memorial. There was the mountain! I took a photograph, which I'll upload in a day or two. An hour later, the overcast was back. During our entire stay at the Byers Lake site, that was the only opportunity to see Denali. We were blessed.

Sunday morning dawned to misty rain. Our battery was showing 50% power, the fresh water tank was down to a third, and the black water tanks said we were full of...well, we were full. We broke camp and drove 120 miles to a campground with hook-ups in Tatlanika on the Nenanan River. Glory be! They have WiFi, so I am posting this.

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