Thursday, February 7, 2019

Journey to the North Pole

We left Anchorage early yesterday morning and quickly discovered we had a small rumble in the rear of our SUV. Felt like one of the tires was out of balance. We stopped at the Walmart in Eagle River to grab lunch supplies and bear spray and checked in with Avis to see what they could do for us. Unfortunately, their best option was to send a guy with four new tires to replace the ones we had. Not knowing how long that process would take and wanting to get on the road, we declined.

Our destination for the day was the town of Fairbanks, with several stops planned to break up the monotony of driving 7+ hours in the snow. We did our best to do most of our driving during daylight hours, as our friend Joe had warned us that the road to Denali is also known as "the bloody corridor" because of the number of moose involved crashes. We did see quite a few moose, including one standing stupidly in the left hand lane. Joe had warned us about this. "Moose are stupid. They're hard to see at night because their eyes don't reflect and they'll just stand in the middle of the road. You'll be going along at 65 MPH and all of the sudden you're staring one in the shins."

Downtown Talkeetna

Our first stop of the day was the small town of Talkeetna - where Seth's parents had told us we might be able to get a view of Denali, if we were lucky. We pulled into town, and, after exploring a few dead ends, found our way to a riverside park. We were amazed to find we had an incredible view of Denali and the associated smaller mountains, with only a few clouds obstructing the view. The river was also frozen solid, so we could walk (or run) out on it. We stopped visited Nagley's general store and picked up a couple of pastries at the Talkeetna Roadhouse before continuing north.

Frozen river
Byers Lake
Our next destination was Denali State Park, located below Denali National Park. We made this our lunch stop (delicious peanut butter and jelly) before hiking down to Byer's Lake - also frozen solid. This vista was amazing - and almost completely silent. We were literally the only ones there, and except for the occasional passing car out on the main road, the snow absorbed all of the environmental noise. We ran out to the middle of the lake, and, because this America, we still had LTE coverage, so Seth Facetimed his mom.
Beautiful vistas

When we arrived in Fairbanks, we raided our second Walmart of the day to purchase dinner supplies for the next two evenings. We split up responsibilities - Adam, Katy, and I were in charge of tacos, and Seth, Tanner, and Jocelyn were in charge of spaghetti for tomorrow night.

We arrived at our cabin in North Pole, Alaska around 8:00 PM. A few of our group were confused about the Christmas decorations still up, before realizing - of course, Santa lives at the North Pole year round!

The only visitors at Byers Lake
Our final outing was to the Chena Lake Recreation Area, hoping to see the Northern Lights! We stood watching for about an hour at different spots, but, unfortunately, we think the cloud cover and low solar activity prevented any spottings. We have another chance tomorrow night, though! That being said, we did get some cool long exposure pictures.

Northern Lights hunting
Now, for a corner of the blog moms in the audience might prefer to skip. We'll call this "Times We Almost Died in Alaska."

As we were traveling north from the state park to Fairbanks, I informed Tanner that he had made up two minutes on the GPS's estimated arrival time. He fist pumped, looked over at Adam, then back to the road just as we started to spin out. He recovered it expertly, but after that, I told him he wasn't getting any more stats until we arrived.

As we were leaving the recreation area, Seth was trying to help Tanner navigate. Before we got a good GPS lock, we took a turn down towards the lake. We all realized about the same time - we were about to drive onto the lake! Tanner quickly stopped as we all yelled, and we very slowly backed our way out. Granted, we did see a Jeep driven out to one of the many ice fishing shacks also on the lake, but it wasn't something we wanted to risk with the rental vehicle.

When we arrived home (well after midnight), I went to unlock the digital lock on the front door - and found we had also accidentally locked the handle (which we didn't have a key to) on the way out. Out of all the moments that day, this was the one that made me think, "Oh, crap." Luckily, we had opened and forgotten to lock the back door, so we were able to get in. That could have been bad.

Cumulative Moose Count: 20
Cumulative Bear Count: 0
Moose Involved Incidents: 0

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