John's Adventures

Hello! I'm John Grayson and I hope you enjoy reading of my adventures as much as I enjoy participating in them. I am one of those technology professionals whose interests lie outside of technology. Instead of checking out techie stuff, I check out history, nature, sports, and alcohol. Have Fun!

Friday, June 17, 2005

 

Views of Denali

We woke up fairly early on our first full day in Alaska. It was a bright and sunny morning. The only thing planned for this day was dinner with The Team in Training people at 4 in the afternoon. Julie turned on the TV and switched the channel that advertises things to do around Anchorage. One of the advertisements was for a lodge up in Talkeetna. The lodge was built on a hill overlooking the town, but it also had a pretty good view of Mt. McKinley.

Julie and I had discussed hanging around Anchorage this day, but after seeing this ad I suggested taking a roadtrip to Talkeetna. We picked up JimmyG at his hotel and I suggested driving up to Talkeetna. He was game because he hoped he would get to see Mt. McKinley while in Alaska and this seemed to be his best chance.

We started driving north. The scenery is pretty good most of the time. Once north or Anchorage you drive past a lot of snow-covered mountains. Then you get an area between two mountain ranges (Chugach to the south and Alaska to the north). At this point you begin to see Mt. McKinley. Still way off in the distance though.

After about 2 hours you get to the road to Talkeetna. We discussed visiting Talkeetna for a few minutes to see what was there before heading to the lodge for lunch so I drove right by the driveway to the lodge. Just after passing the lodge the road began to go down a hill, but smack in front of you is Mt. McKinley. I pulled into a parking area to get a good look thinking this would be the best view I would have.
The three of us posed for several pictures. There were lots of other tourists and one old wood carver. His wood carvings were intersting, but we left the parking lot without buying any.

The town of Talkeetna is small and easily visited in a couple hours. We went into several stores where we bought postcards and Julie bought some jams to bring home to friends.

JimmyG wandered over to a store with a model airplane in front. I joined him there and found that he was discussing an airplane ride around Mt. McKinley. Julie joined us and immediately expressed her interest in taking the tour. I had never done anything like that before and really never thought I would do something like that, but I also am not someone that will back out and cause others to not have the ride.

We signed on for the ride. The trip was scheduled to begin at noon and go for 2 hours. Perfect timing. That would get us back to Anchorage right about 4 for the dinner.

We drove out to the Talkeena airport. All small planes. One or two propellers. Ours was this little orange one. Not much room in it. You could probably get 6 small people in, but it would be a tight squeeze. JimmyG sat in the way back, Julie had the middle pair of seats to herself, and I rode shotgun. My seating was uncomfortable. While I had some legroom, I didn't want to use it because there were flight controls all around me and I wanted no part of touching one and causing trouble.

The ride was incredible though. The pilot taxied down to the runway, and then got the little plane accelerating. He then jiggled the steering wheel and the plane nosed down so that the back wheel left the ground. Then he pulled the wheel toward him and the plane left the ground. I've been in a lot of airplanes, but this was a lot of fun. Usually I would take a nap while flying, but not this time.

The tour took us from Talkeetna to the Alaska Range. We passed over some rivers and a glacier on our way. When got up to the mountains, and then flew over some and around those taller then 10,000 feet (this plane should not go above that because of thin air for breathing). We then passed over base camp for the mountainers climbing the various peaks in the area. During the tour I picked out a group climbing one of the smaller mountains. We also got a close up view of Mt. McKinley.

Towards the end of the tour we flew along a glacier and out over a meadow with little rivers and lakes. While passing over one of lakes our pilot said that he usually sees moose down there. Sure enough, he pointed to what he said was a moose. He then radioed back to the airport that he was leaving Moose Meadows and heading back in. From a few hundred feet I guess it could have been a log positioned there so that all of the tours get to see a moose.

Anyway, the tour was complete and worth the $175. If I get back I would do it again, and I would opt for landing at base camp to wander around for a few minutes in the fresh air.

We then headed back to Anchorage. The air conditioner in the car didn't work, and with temperatures in the mid-80's I was sweaty. I didn't expect to be sweating up there but I sure was. We made it back to Anchorage at about 5 PM, but still had time to eat the free dinner.
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