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Denali National Park

August 11, 2009    Hurriedly departing Fairbanks due to the heavy smoke, we decided to stop at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.  The museum is a awesome combination of natural history, science and art and we wound up spending several hours exploring.  Saw a film about the Northern Lights (visible Dec. - May), which visitors miss when visiting this part of the world in the summer.   You also miss minus 40 degree temperatures and dogs sledding over the snow,  but I could do without the minus 40 degree stuff. 

Headed south toward Denali in the rain , which stayed with us for the next day as we entered the park.  Not great for camping or sightseeing but very good for the fires and the smoke.  We went out the next two days with clearer skies on buses that go further into the park.  At 30 miles in, we were camped at the final destination for any personal vehicles--from that point on you can only hike, bike or take the camper buses.  The bus rides provided spectacular overlooks.  The narrow gravel road and sharp turns over Polychrome Pass made us feel as though we were flying out over the edge.  Alan was generally clinging to the seat on the opposite side of the bus due to his fear of heights.  Saw many Dall Sheep, caribou and several grizzlies,  all from a safe distance.  We did some short hikes in the park but the way to really see this immense and beautiful park, is with extensive backpacking into the wilderness.  Just need to be in outstanding physical condition and well versed in bear defense tactics.  (My favorite is to roll up in a ball and play dead as a bear with 4-5 inch claws bats you around.)

Mount McKinley hid from our view throughout the visit.  At over 20,000 feet, it creates its own weather pattern-- and it was creating clouds of us.  As we exited the park, we were able to take a hot shower at Riley Creek before we hit the road south. 

Driving toward Anchorage, we stopped at a small bait and tackle and got the inside scoop on a hot fishing area.  Sheep Creek was not on any of our references, but it was a Fish and Wildlife park that was crowded with locals.  We found a quiet,  private site (free) tucked away in a corner.  Settled in, had dinner and roasted our few remaining marshmallows over an evening fire.  At 6 AM the following morning, Alan headed down to the creek.  A few hours later, he returned with four silver salmon fillets and a photo snapped by a fellow fisherman.  The salmon are running now and most of Anchorage, it seems, has emptied out into the wilderness to catch some.

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