We settled in at Big Bear Campground in Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley by midday Sunday and spent most of the day running errands, including getting my hairy tail trimmed at Smart Style. I always strive to be a well-groomed rat! We had a great chat later that evening with our good buddies Stephanie and Curtis from the M.O.C. (Montana Owners’ Club).
We began on Monday visiting some of Chugach State Park. This place is huge and quite spread out, so today we focused on hiking/taking in the lovely views at Thunderbird Falls and Eklutna Lake. There is some nice boondocking at the Lake campground, something we noted for a future visit to Alaska.
View from the Trail to the Falls
On Tuesday, we hiked in Anchorage at Kinkaid Park, whose 1500 acres of land include the old Nike missile storage site and parts of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Along the way we spotted a mamma moose and her babe taking a siesta and watched a porcupine forage for food. And of course, we admired more gorgeous wildflowers.
Wednesday was so exciting—it was the highlight of my entire Alaska trip! We visited Twin Lakes within Lake Clark National Park, home to Dick Proenneke’s cabin in the wilderness. It was in 2004 when PBS first aired a documentary on this naturalist’s life in remote Alaska, entitled “Alone in the Wilderness.” Since then, it has been rebroadcast numerous times (I've watched it at least 5 times personally!) A book entitled “One Man’s Wilderness” was also published chronicling his thirty years of basic, simple, pioneering life, which began in the summer of 1967 when Dick was 51 years old! The place is a wonderful hidden gem, seen by only about 125 people each year (the highest number of attendees was 850 in 2004 when the PBS special aired). From the cabin, to furniture, to cookware—everything was designed and crafted by Dick, using only hand tools and made from materials found right at Twin Lakes! White spruce from the trees surrounding the property was used to build the cabin, a sled, tables, chairs, and cabinets. He would cut metal from old gasoline cans to make baking tins and lids for pots! Everything was simple, but fully functional. He would hunt, pick berries, and fish for sustenance, truly living off the land. Add to this his eloquent writings AND homemade films through which he shared his daily activities, and you have one remarkable story! (you can read more at http://www.aloneinthewilderness.com/ or https://www.nps.gov/lacl/learn/historyculture/proennekes-cabin.htm)
We got a terrific tour from Monroe, the National Park Service Volunteer who, along with his wife, is the caretaker of the property. Monroe met Dick in 1982, and meticulously restores and repairs artifacts following Dick’s methods. We hiked up to Teetering Rock, walking the same path Dick would take to film wildlife and pick berries! Dick passed away at age 86 in 2003, but his legacy and spirit live on. As I sat in his chair outside his cabin, I could feel his presence. I silently thanked him for teaching me that the most precious gifts of life don't come wrapped with bows for birthdays or holidays. They are around us each and every day, if we just take a moment to admire the magnificence of nature.
Aerial view of Twin Lakes
Me Outside Dick's Cabin
View from Dick's window--that's our float plane
Dick's desk from which he penned his journal and letters
Bakeware, pot lids, and table handcrafted by Dick
Meat cache built by Dick
View from Teetering Rock Trail
And did I mention we enjoyed flightseeing as well, since the only way to access the property on Twin Lakes is via float plane. Bruce Moroney of Rust’s Flying Service was absolutely terrific. His aviation skills are unsurpassed, having more than 40 years of flying experience. I felt completely safe, even when going through Lake Clark Pass and the more turbulent Merrill Pass on our return trip! More importantly, he was personable and knowledgeable, and shared great info with us. We flew over glaciers, volcanoes, spires and chimney rock formations. How cool is that!
Gorgeous colors in these rocks
What a spiritual experience. I shared a oneness with the Almighty while riding the highways of the skies. Brings me to tears—of gratitude and joy for being given this chance of a lifetime. I am one lucky Rambling RV Rat!
We visited Talkeetna on Thursday, which is the base camp for climbers of the great Denali. Would you believe they were expecting 6-12 inches of snow to fall on the mountain on Thursday! The high temperature would only reach 0 degrees Fahrenheit at elevations above 14,000 feet. This year there were 1,137 climbers registered, and to date they have a 60% completion rate. Talkeetna is pretty cool—you step back in time with its quaint buildings along the Susitna River.
I now have a moose fetish!
Talkeetna Road House Snow Village
We wanted a taste of what travel would be in yesteryear, so we took the Alaska Railroad from Talkeetna to Hurricane and back. This is the only flagstop train left in Alaska. There were a few pretty sights along the way, but we didn’t feel it was worth the $100 per person fare. Fortunately, we had a B-O-G-O in our Tour Saver book for my parents, so they only paid $50 each and I stowed on board in the luggage box car! We did, however, meet some really nice folks, which made the train ride much more enjoyable. We topped off the evening with a couple of brewskies and dinner at Twister Creek Restaurant, home of the Denali Brewing Company, and we were all pleasantly surprised by the tastiness of our meals!
Denali view from train
View of Hurricane Gulch from railroad trestle
We couldn’t visit Anchorage without stopping in at Wild West Guns of cable reality TV show fame. They had some gorgeous custom guns there! Made us immediately think of our wonderful friend Jeffrey in South Carolina! Couldn’t leave without picking up some shirts for him, Dad, and me! And eureka, we struck it rich--not with gold, but with wild game meat! Indian Valley Meats had caribou, elk, venison, and buffalo! They even had reindeer stew meat. Don’t tell Rudolph, but we will be having Prancer for dinner real soon! We were so far down Coastal Highway 1 that we visited Turnagain Arm for some photo ops. It was a fun day—until we got stuck in construction traffic. Brought back some bad memories of summer Friday evenings waiting hours for Dad to arrive home from his horrendous work commute.
Dad got some bad news today--his scheduled King Salmon fishing expedition in Copper Center has been canceled due to a change in fishing regulations. No problem, he thinks. We’ll get some fishing done today. We stop at three different fishing places north of Wasilla—the Fish Warden strikes again. No fishing for ANY type of fish at Willow Creek; can only do boat fishing from Deshka Landing (no dock fishing), and cannot enter the public access area of Thompson Lake because of nesting birds. You can’t make this stuff up! Dad’s getting a crazed look in his eye--no telling what he might do if he doesn’t get to fish sometime soon! Stewey and Dewey are starting to get a bit nervous!
I'm protecting my brothers from Dad
To add insult to injury, our trek down to Beluga Point and Bird Point within Chugach State Park to see the bore tide turned out to be a total bore. Must have been about 35 of us numbnuts standing around waiting for some tidal phenomenon that never happened (or happened so gradually that none of us noticed). Oh well, it was a pretty area to visit nonetheless, and we got to see Bird Creek, another place where you can’t fish this time of year!
On our way to Seward now, where we are looking forward to seeing some RVillage friends! Talk to you soon!