Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Alaskan Adventure - Day 8 - Denali National Park

So far we have had great luck with weather, but the forecast for Wed was for rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon so we tried to make the most of the day early on.  Tom and I got on the 9 am shuttle to the National Park and hiked the Meadow View trail and the Horseshoe Lake trail.  Note to future hiking self - something "view" trail means you will be hiking *up* to look out on that something, not hiking *around* that something. 2 hours and 4 miles later we had 10,000+ steps, 3 mosquito bites, and lots of great views.  Along the trail, we crossed Pete and John who took the Mt. Healy Trail.

Getting great use out of my new pack with Camelback insert

John and Pete took a great photo from the top of the Mt. Healy Overlook Trail
Although we chose to go hiking, we had the option to go on a 5 hr bus tour into the park.  People said this was a great chance to see wildlife, but with all the busses we are riding this trip we opted not to do it.  The people who went really enjoyed it, but as I sit on the 9 hr bus ride writing this up the next day, I am happy with my decision to go hiking.

Ellen and Carl slept in and answered some emails from work and we met them for lunch at the King Salmon restaurant at the lodge.  We have been very impressed and happy with the food served at the restaurants on property at both lodges so far.  I enjoyed a seafood Cobb salad with fresh crab.  Pete and John were just coming off the trail so we got wraps to go for them and met them at the main lodge to board the bus for our rafting adventure.

Although we encountered some light rain, there was no lightning so we were able to go rafting on the Nenana River.  They offered two options for trips. - Ellen, like Cleopatra, opted to have the guide ferry the raft down the river with long oars so she could enjoy the sights and take photos.  The rest of us did paddle rafting, rationale being that if the glacial water is 35°, we would rather be moving to stay warm when you get hit by the waves.  They outfit everyone in dry suits that cover you like a turtle neck at the top and have booties for your feet.  You wear regular clothes underneath, with socks, and then put your river shoes on top, capped with a helmet.  Overall they kept us fairly dry, as proven by Carl who rode up front and got hit by almost every big wave.  I chose to sit in the back left and although I got splashed a good bit, my head never got doused (which I was totally OK with).

Ellen tried to get a good shot of our raft, but we were spaced apart on the river for safety

Ellen's guide to ferry her and 5 others down the river
We rafted for about 2 hours, mostly class III+ rapids.  No flips and no one fell out!  The rivers vary greatly year to year, based on the glacial flows, so the guides have to learn the rapids again every summer.  At a calm stretch, our guide said we could jump in if we wanted, but none of our crew opted for it.  One person in our boat did and he regretted it instantly because his neck gasket was loose and filled his suit and clothes with icy water!  Overall we really enjoyed the rafting, and look forward to doing it again in Copper River.

After rafting we all showered and changed for dinner.  Everywhere in Alaska is casual attire, so changing just means clean clothes and non muddy shoes.  We heard good things about the Salmon Bake restaurant across the street, from our rafting guide, so we went there for dinner.  Ellen and Carl had the Red King Crab special and it came out with two of the largest crab legs imaginable.  The were pulling out pieces of crab the size of twinkies!  Tom and I split halibut and salmon.  Pete tried the cod tacos.  We enjoyed beers from the local 49th State Brewing Company which is located in the next town over.

After dinner, we found a deck outside of a bar at the lodge and enjoyed Irish coffee and blueberry mojitos while watching the sun glide behind the mountains and a rainbow appear.  Turned in a little early because we have to put bags out at 630 and we depart at 730 am for Copper Center.

Not a bad way to end a great day of adventure

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