Lonnie and Sue - Traveling North America

2009 Alaska 6 - Travels to Paxson, Chitnia, Valdez, Palmer, and Tok

 My campground rating system is on a scale of 5/5 with the first number being the levelness of the site and the second being the appearance.  A 3/3 would be an average site.

 I have left the prices in for comparison and to give a general idea of what to expect.  Depending on when you read this, factor in inflation.

You can read it through or select specific locations below.

 Travel Log - August 10 to September 2, 2009        [Tab 2009 Alaska 6]

08-10-2009     Mon     Day 118      Trip Meter:   94.3    

Weather:  No smoke today but cloudy with high of 55.  A little sun with light sprinkle in the evening. 

Fueled Coach:   At Badger Gas in North Pole.  $3.649. 

Driving Directions:   Took Badger Road to North Pole then AK 2, aka Richardson Highway, south to the campground at Delta Junction. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 11:00 AM.  Sue drove to North Pole for a few groceries and I took the coach for propane and diesel. 

We saw 1 moose feeding on the side of the road. 

  • Campsite:   Smith Green Acres RV Park, Delta Junction, AK - 2 nights - site 24 - gravel pad - back-in (but I pulled thru) - 30 amp, water, sewer, picnic table, grill, WiFi (FREE) - Good Sam Park - Cost $32.40 per night - Saved $7.20 - Rating 4/3 - Got setup at 2:30 PM. 

08-11-2009     Tue     Day 119      

Weather:  Cloudy most of the day with a little sun in the afternoon.  High of 55. 

Fueled Pickup:   At Tesoro in Delta Junction, AK.  $3.349.  Also put 2 gallon in the spare can. 

Days Activities:   We took a drive around the countryside and around the Tanana Loop.  There are a lot of hay fields in this area.  We saw several vegetable farms where it was “pick your own” for 50 cents a pound.  The Milepost said that is quite common around Delta Junction. 

We stopped at the bridge that crosses the Tanana River, about 10 miles north of Delta Junction, and ate sandwiches for lunch.  I took pictures of the pipeline that crosses there on a suspension system.   

We drive through the Clearwater SRA and the Delta SRS and looked at the campgrounds.  The Delta SRA is by far the best and is located on the highway just a mile north of Delta Junction.  We could get the motorhome in at least half of the 25 sites, but no services.  We had planned on staying there but since our next 5 nights will be dry camping decided we needed services for this stop. 

I topped off the tank in the pickup because we will be driving the Denali Highway next stop.  Also filled the spare can because it will be over 300 miles. 

Drove the pickup 56 miles today.  Drove pickup 66.6 miles . 

08-12-2009     Wed     Day 120      Trip Meter:   96.5    

Weather:  Clear with partial clouds and sunshine.  High of 59. 

Fueled Coach:   At Delta Junction, AK.  $3.609.  

Driving Directions:   Took AK 4 out of Delta Junction and got off at mo 175 to the campground.  Note – The Richardson Highway is AK 2 from Fairbanks to Delta Junction then AK 4 on to Valdez.

This section of AK 4 was good narrow road.  There is about 10 miles of narrow shoulder in the vicinity of Paxson. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 10:45 AM.  Topped off the diesel tank and bought groceries.  The motorhome was setting on a slope so got a lot of fuel.  Got some really good looking rib eye steaks for $6.59 a pound – believe they were priced wrong.  Back on the road at 11:20 AM.

Snow fell on the mountains last night and a great drive became a magnificent drive.  We stopped several times and took pictures of the Alaska Range mountains.  

We saw at least a dozen glaciers on both sides of the road when we went through a pass.  I got pictures of 3 from one turnout.

  • Campsite:   Paxson Lake Campground, Paxson, AK - 3 nights - site 12 - gravel pad - pull thru – NO services, picnic table, fire ring.  BLM Campground - Cost $4.00 per night - Saved $12.300 - Rating 4/5 - Got setup at 2:45 PM.  Lots of tall trees and can see the lake.

08-13-2009     Thur     Day 121     

Weather:  Light rain in the early morning hours.  Cloudy and foggy with light rain all day.  High of 47.

Days Activities:   We left home at 9:10 AM to drive the Denali Highway.  A light rain started as we left the campground and continued all day.  The campground sets 1½ miles off the highway with an elevation drop of 350 feet.

The pipeline crossing the Tanana River, about 10 miles north of Delta Junction.
Alaska Range.  Mountains on the Richardson Hwy.  We took a lot of pictures.

A caribou ran across the road in front of us about 3 miles before the Denali turnoff.   

The Denali Highway is 134 miles long and the first 20 miles is paved.  At the end of the pavement is the Tangle Lake BLM Campground.  We drove through it – dry camping – really large sites – very rough interior roads – sets on the south end of the lake. 

We saw an eagle in a tree next to the road.  Sue got a good picture before it flew away.  I got a picture of it in flight.  We followed the eagle about 5 to 6 miles as it paralleled the road.  It would light in a tree then take off again when we got even with it. 

We saw a caribou in a valley.  Sue got a picture but it was far away. 

We saw 4 caribou walking down the road.  Two of them went into the brush.  The other two, a mama with her calf, stayed on the road.  We followed them for about a half mile at a trot then they started a flat out run.  I got a picture by sticking the camera out the window and taking random shots in their direction.   

The weather never cleared so we turned around at MP 85 and returned to camp.  Did not see any animals on the way back but did stop and take some pictures of a picturesque water pond. 

It was a muddy trip.  Drove the pickup 202.5 today. 

08-14-2009     Fri     Day 122    

Weather:  Light rain until mid-morning then cloudy the rest of the day.  High of 54. 

Days Activities:   Had planned on driving back about 30 miles on the Richardson and then drive out to a glacier in the morning but decided to wait until the afternoon and see what the weather did. 

Left at 4 PM for our drive.  The drive was back north on the Richardson past Summit Lake.  It seems there are a lot of Summit Lakes in Alaska – at least one on nearly every highway.  We had passed it on the way in Wednesday.  It is 6 miles long and the highway runs right next to it – a lovely drive.   

Our campground was at MP 175.  Paxson is at MP 185.6.  The south end of Summit Lake is at MP 190.5 and the north end at MP 196.5.  The road to the Gulkana Glacier is at MP 197.5.  We drove out the road over 2½ miles but the clouds were so low over the mountain we could not see the glacier.  It was a really rough road. 

We returned to the hwy and drove on out to MP 200.4 and drove 1.7 miles on another rough roads to the Fielding Lake SRA.  There were 17 dry sites there and no fee.   

We stopped at a salmon spawning overlook at the south end of the lake.  Saw 6 salmon in the water and they had already turned a bright red.  It looked like they were spawning there instead of going further up stream.   

Both Summit Lake and Paxson Lake are on the Gulkana River – believe the headwaters start at the Gulkana Glacier.  The Gulkana River Fish Hatchery is midway between the south end of Summit Lake and the community of Paxson but it is not open to visitors. 

Drove the pickup 65.4 miles today. 

A note about the road into the campground.  There has been a road crew working on it the past 2 days.  The roads was in really good condition and this crew has managed to really screw it up.   

We stopped at the restaurant in Paxson and I had another $10.00 hamburger.  That has been the going price in most places. 

Ran the generator 8 hours. 

Drove pickup 273.0 miles . 

08-15-2009     Sat     Day 123      Trip Meter:   101.9    

Weather:  Cloudy and misty in the morning.  Clear and sunny in the afternoon with high of 68. 

Driving Directions:   Continued south on AK 4 and got off at the campground. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 1:10 PM.  Stopped in Glennallen for a few groceries.  Stopped at the Wrangell-St Elias National Park Visitor Center and looked as some exhibits and a film.

  • Campsite:   Squirrel Creek Campground SRA, MP 79.6 Richardson Hwy - 2 nights - site 5 - gravel pad - pull thru – NO services, picnic table, fire ring – Alaska SRA - Cost $15.00 per night - Rating 3/5 - Got setup at 5:10 PM. 
We are parked right next to the creek.  Had a fire, set next to it and read, then grilled steaks.  The creek is running so fast we can hear it inside the motorhome.  Very soothing. 

08-16-2009     Sun     Day 124  

Weather:  Started raining in the morning and rained all day.  High of 56.  Note about the rain.  It has not rained hard while we have been here, it is just a steady drizzle.   

Fueled Pickup:   At a Tesoro at Kenny Lake Mercantile and RV Park at MP 7 on the Edgerton Highway to Chitina.  $3.669.  I dumped the gas in the spare can in first. 

Days Activities:   We drove out to Chitina and had lunch at the Chitina Hotel.  Then continued through town to the Copper River and looked at the fish wheels.  I talked to a man that had a wheel operating.  He said that the fishing season runs from June to September.  Upstream of the bridge (north) is “subsistence fishing” and the limit is 500 fish per year.  Downstream of the bridge (south) is “personal use fishing” and the limit is 30 fish per year.  Dip nets may be used downstream but not fish wheels.   

We took a road out of Chitina that went 2.7 miles downstream and saw quite a few people dip net fishing.  Dip nets are about 2½ to 3 feet in diameter on the end of long pole handles.  

On the way back we stopped at MP 15 and took pictures of something that looked like a cross between cattle, buffalo, and musk-oxen.

Our campsite at Squirrel Creek Campground SRA, MP 79.6 Richardson Hwy

Also took pictures from an overlook of the Copper River, fish wheels at the Copper River Bridge, the entrance to the McCarthy Road, and mountain scenes in Chitina. 

Drove pickup 90.1 miles . 

08-17-2009     Mon     Day 125      Trip Meter:   84.5 

Weather:  Rained all night but slacked off this morning.  It started again after we got back on the road and was intermittent to within 5 miles of Valdez then it got to be a heavy shower.  Had sunshine at Thompson Pass.  Cleared in the evening with high of 58.  

Driving Directions:   Continued on AK 4 south.  Got off at the campground in Valdez. 

Days Activities:  Departed campground at 11:40 AM.  We took pictures of the Worthington Glacier as we passed it.

  • Campsite:   Bayside RV Park, Valdez, AK - 7 nights overnight - site 15 - gravel pad - pull thru back-in - 50 amp, water, sewer, WiFi (FREE), cable (FREE) - Good Sam Park - Cost $225.00 for the week - Rating 5/3 - Got setup at 1:40 PM.  Very narrow sites. 

08-18-2009     Tue     Day 126      

Weather:  Fog and light sprinkle all day.  High of 56. 

Days Activities:   Because of the bad weather today we stayed in and watched a John Wayne marathon on TCM.   

Watched a small black bear in the field in front of the motorhome.  It was too far away for pictures. 

08-19-2009     Wed     Day 127      

Weather:  Cloudy in the morning with clear and sunny in the afternoon and evening.  High of 58. 

Days Activities:   We drove around town today.  It included a drive up Mineral Creek Trail – a rough 4-wheel drive road.  We were only able to go 2.4 miles up the road to a washed out area.  The drive included several creeks we had to ford.  At 1.9 miles we took pictures of a real nice waterfall.  It took 20 minutes to make the drive out driving just as fast as the road allowed. 

Then we took a drive out to the Valdez Glacier.  Could not see the glacier but saw ice chunks in the glacier lake.  On the way back we stopped at the salmon spawning area located one mile north of town and took pictures of the fish.

Our campsite at Bayside RV Park, Valdez, AK

08-20-2009     Thur     Day 128      

Weather:  Mostly cloudy with a faint appearance of sunshine.  High of 56. 

Days Activities:   We took a glacier cruise today on the “Glacier Spirit” operated by Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises.  We had a coupon so total cost was $112.00 for the 6½ hour cruise. 

As we were leaving the harbour we passed the Alaskan Legend coming in to port.  It is owned by BP, is double hulled, and holds one million barrels of oil.  When we returned from our trip it was tied up at the dock and being loaded. 

We took a lot of pictures today.  I deleted a lot of mine – not sure how many Sue kept. 

We didn’t see much today in the way of wildlife: 

  • 2 sea otters
  • About 300 Stellar Sea Lions
  • Lots of Sea Gules
  • A few Puffins
  • One eagle far off in the distance
  • Humpback whale 

The stellar sea lions put on quite a show.  They were jumping and playing like porpoises.  We have seen a lot of sea lions but never any playing like these. 

We could only get to within 10 miles of the face of the Columbia Glacier.  The ice that had calved off was hung up on the terminal moraine.  The captain said he had managed to get in twice in 2007 but none in 2008 or 2009.  The ice is backed up all the way from the moraine to the face of the glacier.  See the log for 08/24/2005 for a description of the glacier.  We got to within ¾ mile of the face then. 

There was a tour group from North Africa on today so we got the commentary in 2 languages.  It was a pretty day and a very pleasant cruise.  Same menu for lunch as 2005 and still the best clam chowder I have eaten.  Got the name of the company and looked it up on the web site and bookmarked it – Ivar’s. 

08-21-2009     Fri     Day 129      

Weather:  Cloudy with light sprinkle in the evening.  High of 54. 

Days Activities:   Went to “Anne’s Place, Sugar & Spice” and saw two free movies – one 45 minutes about the 1964 earthquake and the other a 30 minute on the construction of the pipeline.   

08-22-2009     Sat     Day 130      

Weather:  Cloudy in the morning and afternoon with sprinkle in the evening.  High of 59. 

Days Activities:   I called Fox Run Campground in Palmer and changed our arrival time to the 25th.  That will give us a week there now.   

We went to the Valdez Museum.  There is a second museum called Old Valdez and admission gets you into both.  Saw a 35 minute video about the establishment of Valdez and resettlement of Valdez after the 1964 earthquake.  Cost $5.50 each. 

08-23-2009     Sun     Day 131   

Weather:  Bad weather all day with intermittent sprinkle.  High of 54. 

Days Activities:   Stayed in today.

Drove pickup 43.7 miles.

08-24-2009     Mon     Day 132      Trip Meter:   171.4

Weather:  Cloudy with light sprinkle all last night and all day.  High of 54.

Fueled Coach:   At Tesoro in Valdez, AK.  $3.799.  The coach was setting on an incline so didn’t get it full.

Driving Directions:   Took AK 4 north to the jct of AK 1 and took AK 1 west.

Days Activities:  We went to a seafood outlet and purchased some salmon and halibut.

Our next door neighbor is from Washington.  He has been going salmon fishing everyday and I was outside when he returned yesterday.  He had caught 3 fish with one of them weighing 16 pounds.  He hauls a freezer in the back of his pickup and said it was half full of fish so he intended to smoke the ones he had just caught. 

Well he smoked them and gave me some this morning.

Broke came in a light drizzle.  Departed campground at 10:15 AM.  Got fuel and back on the road at 10:35 PM.  

Had smoked salmon for lunch.

I called and verified the motorhome tires were in – set appointment for Wednesday morning at 9 AM.

  • CampsiteLittle Nelchina State Recreational Site, MP 137.6 on Glen Highway - overnight – NO site xx - asphalt pad - back-in site but pulled in facing the river – NO services.  FREE parking.  Got setup at 2:55 PM.  Campground is on the Little Nelchina River.  The site is very unlevel but we had enough blocks to level it.  The river water is very muddy and very swift.

Drove pickup 0 miles .

08-25-2009     Tue     Day 133      Trip Meter:   96.0   

Weather:  Light sprinkle all night and lasted until noon.  Cleared with some sunshine in the afternoon.  High of 65.

Twenty miles east of Palmer is a 30 mile stretch of hwy that is very scenic with a lot of 35 mph curves.

Driving Directions:   Continued on AK 1 and got off at the campground west of Palmer.

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 11:40 AM. 

  • Campsite:   Fox Run Campground, Palmer, AK - 7 nights - site 1 - gravel pad - back-in - 30 amp, water, sewer, picnic table, loose stone fire ring, WiFi (FREE) - Commercial Campground - got the weekly rate - Cost $22.86 per night – Regular rate is $26.00 - Rating 4/3 - Got setup at 2:10 PM.  Have 5 local station on the antenna. 

08-26-2009     Wed     Day 134      

Weather:  Sprinkle all night and through noon today.  Rain cleared in the afternoon and cloudy.  Slight sprinkle again in the evening.  High of 62. 

Days Activities:   Departed at 8 AM for Anchorage.  Got to Wingfoot at 9 AM.  Got 6 new tires and departed at 12:05 PM.  I kept the best looking tire for a spare. 

Sent an email to the UPS Store to forward our mail to Hyder. 

08-27-2009     Thur     Day 135      

Weather:  Party cloudy with some sun.  High of 68. 

Days Activities:   We went to the State Fair.  It opened today and since the weather was nice decided to not wait.  Regular admission price is $10.00 but is only $5.00 if over 60.  However, opening day admission was $2.00 between noon 12 PM and 2 PM.  We got there at 1:40 PM. 

  • We watched a singing act for 30 minutes – music was too loud and vocals was to low.
  • Watched a lumberjack show.
  • Ate some fair food.
  • Wandered around the grounds.
  • Viewed an exhibit of crafts.
  • Viewed an exhibit of bonsai trees and flowers.
  • Saw a 1½ hour film on the settlement of Palmer in 1935.
Our campsite at Fox Run Campground, Palmer, AK

Discovered the settlement of Palmer was though the insertion of 200 farm families by the New Deal.  There were between 500 and 600 children in the families.

It was a very pleasant day. 

08-28-2009     Fri     Day 136      

Weather:  Cloudy with high of 58.  Windy and cool. 

Days Activities:   Went to Wasilla for groceries.  Stayed in for the rest of the day. 

08-29-2009     Sat     Day 137      

Weather:  Cloudy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon.  High in the upper 60’s. 

Fueled Pickup:   At Tesoro in Palmer, AK.  $3.169. 

Days Activities:   Drove into Palmer and went to lunch at the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.  It is on the corner of West Evergreen and South Bailey.  

Drove out to an overlook about 2 miles east of Palmer and took pictures of the Matanuska River. 

Then we headed out the Old Glenn Hwy.  About 1 mile out of town drove through the Matanuska River Park.  It is a municipal park with 80 sites – 35 with electric only and could take any length and 45 dry that could take up to 30 feet.  Electric $15.00 and dry $10.00.  Really nice campground. 

Two miles out, where a bridge crosses the river, there is a lot of room for dry camping.  We drove out on the rocky beach.  Saw a couple of class “C” units and several tents.

After the fireweeds shed their pedals the stalks collect the cotton from the cotton weeds that float around in the air.  It makes an attractive plant.   

Took a side road out 11 miles looking for the Knik Glacier.  Took some pictures of 2 swans on the way.  Finally found a place to view the glacier at a tour boat dock and took pictures. 

Drove through Mt. View RV Park.  It is not a bad looking park but there are no trees – has a nice view of a mountain though.  

Dry camping is also available at the Knik River Bridge on AK 1 north of Anchorage. 

08-30-2009     Sun     Day 138   

Weather:  Alternating cloudy and sunny.  High of 66. 

Days Activities:   Had tickets for the Beach Boys concert at the fair.  Went in early and toured some of the exhibits.  We saw a pumpkin that weighted 335 lbs, a watermelon at 133 lbs, a mushroom at 12.5 lbs, and a turnip at 15 lbs.   

The concert was great.  However, I had to move from really good seats close to the stage because the amplification of the drums were so loud all of the other instruments and vocals were drowned out.  The stage was out doors at the base of a grassy bunker.  I moved way back to the top of the grass and from there it sound real good. 

We did not take any pictures either day we attended the fair. 

08-31-2009     Mon     Day 139               

Weather:  Sunny with high of 65. 

Fueled Pickup:   At Tesoro in Wasilla, AK.  $3.219. 

Days Activities:   We didn’t do much today.  Drove out to Willow and had one of those good hamburgers we have discussed previously. 

In Wasilla there was a bit of excitement at the Tesoro station.  Just as we pulled up to the pump a very fat young person collapsed.  His buddy tried CPR but to no avail.  Another customer called 911 but they hung up on her.  A station attendant called the police and it took about 10 minutes to get emergency services there.  They were able to revive him and it took 5 people to lift him onto a gurney.   

Drove pickup 247.2 miles . 

09-01-2009     Tue     Day 140      Trip Meter:   284.6

Weather:  Light sprinkle in the morning and sunny in the afternoon.  High of 64. 

Driving Directions:   Took AK 1 to Tok, AK. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 8:50 AM.  Gas and diesel both took a 10 cent jump this morning.   

On the Glenn Hwy we saw 1 moose but didn’t have time to get a picture – it was too fast.   

On the Tok Cutoff we saw a porcupine. 

  • Campsite:   Tok RV Village, Tok, AK - overnight - site 82 - gravel pad - pull thru - 30 amp, water, (sewer for additional charge), picnic table, WiFi (Cost $6.95 per day), cable (FREE-only 7 channels) - Good Sam Park - Cost $35.10 per night - Saved $3.90 - Rating 5/3 - Got setup at 3:50 PM.

Drove pickup 1.9 miles.

09-02-2009     Wed     Day 141      Trip Meter:   238.3    

Weather:  Sunny and beautiful.  High of 71.

Fueled Coach:   At Three Bears in Tok, AK.  $3.769.  Price was $3.669 when we arrived last night.

Driving Directions:   Took AK 2 east.  At the border it became YT 1.  

AK 2 was a good road – 90 miles of it from Tok to the border.  I estimate 80% as good, and 20% as excellent.  There were no noticeable breaks in the road surface.


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