Lonnie and Sue - Traveling North America

2013 Alaska 4 - Travels to Willow, Anchorage, Wasilla, Willow, and Talkeetna

 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 - July 12 to July 25, 2013        [Tab 2013 Alaska 4]

07-12-2013      Fri      Trip Meter:   307.5      

Fueled Coach:   At Sam’s in Fairbanks.  $4.129.

Driving Directions:   Back towards Anchorage on AK 3.  Stopped in Willow at the campground.

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 8:50 am.  Stopped at Sam’s for diesel and back on the road at 9:30 am.

Got some great pictures of Denali.  Got shots from MP 205 then more at MP 203.   Then got a 3rd set from the Denali View South Pullout at MP 134.5.  This was our first trip going in this direction.  Didn't realize the great view the southbound traffic had of Mt. McKinley.

We stopped at Denali Park and checked with Lost and Found for Sue’s camera but it still had not been turned in.  The young man at the counter said it may be at the bus barn.  He will check and we are going to stop again when we return to Fairbanks in about 2 weeks.

Also stopped at the gift shop at the Wilderness Center and got Patrick a T-Shirt.

At MP 101.2 took pictures of a moose and 2 calves. 

  • Campsite:   Willow Creek Resort, Willow, AK - overnight - site 25 - gravel pad - pull thru - 30 amp, water, sewer, picnic table, fire ring, WiFi (FREE), Commercial - Cost $31.40 per night - Rating 5/2 - Got setup at 5:00 pm.  Have 3G Service.   

I drove out and located the place we are to go tomorrow for our float trip. 

Drove pickup 22.9 miles.

Mt McKinley in the distance.
Mt McKinley.  I zoomed in for this one.  Same place on the side of the road.
Mt McKinley.  Regular photo.

07-13-2013      Sat      Trip Meter:   71.6         

Driving Directions:   Continued south on AK 3.  It ended and merged with AK 2 to Anchorage. 

Days Activities:   We went and took our float trip.  We were the only passengers in the raft.  The river was full of debris i.e. many many trees and tree stumps.  The river had gotten really high this year because there was flooding upstream.  However, it had dropped and at one spot we had to get out of the raft so the guide could drag it over the river bottom.  He also had to drag it 4 other times with us in it.  The reason for some of this was because trees were blocking the main stream of the river.  Took a lot of pictures and one video.  The cost was supposed to be $200.00 but the lady said “does $150.00 sound good?” and of course I said “yes”. 

Departed the campground at 12:35 pm, headed for Anchorage.   

  • Campsite:   Golden Nugget Campground, Anchorage, AK - 4 nights - site 202 - gravel pad - back-in - 30 amp, water, sewer, picnic table, WiFi (FREE) - Good Sam Park - Cost $43.20 per night - Saved $19.20 - Rating 4/2 - Got setup at 2.20 pm.  Have 4G Service.
The guide really earned his pay today.  

Had only planned on 3 nights but found some good stuff in the library so stayed over another night and returned to the library.

I took Patrick to Alaska Wild Berry Products to see the chocolate falls, then to see Ship Creek, and finally to Elmendorf where we watched the salmon swim up the falls.

07-14-2013     Sun 

Days Activities:   We went to the downtown market.  They have a lot of nice stuff but no place in the motorhome for any of it.  We ate lunch there.

Then we went to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.  Cost $15.00 each but used a TourSaver coupon.  Not as good as we had expected and not much there.  Very disappointing.  Did take a few pictures.

07-15-2013     Mon               

Days Activities:   Took Patrick to lunch at the Olive Garden, then dropped him at the airport.  We really enjoyed have him with us.

Then we went to the library and worked on genealogy.  They only have a small genealogy section but had books we have not seen before.  Decided to stay over another day and return tomorrow.  Worked there 7½ hrs today.

07-16-2013     Tue    

Days Activities:   I registered for another day at Golden Nugget.  We returned to the library after lunch.  It is open until 9 am.  We worked there for 8½ hrs.

Drove pickup 85.1 miles.

07-17-2013      Wed      Trip Meter:   48.3         

Driving Directions:   Took AK 1 north.  At the jct took AK 3 north.  About 6 miles north of Wasilla got off for the campground.

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 10:45 am.   

  • Campsite:   Alaskan Trails RV & Camper Park, Wasilla, AK - 3 nights - site 32 - gravel pad - pull thru - 50 amp, water, sewer, WiFi (FREE but was never able to connect - Passport America Park and Good Sam Park – Average Cost $17.10 per night - Saved $29.70 - Rating 4/1 - Got setup at 12:25 pm - Have 4G Service. 

Additional info:   Passport good for Mon thru Thur @ $13.50 per night.  Good Sam good for other 3 nights.  Regular site cost is $27.00 per night.  This is without a doubt the trashiest campground we have ever stayed in and the interior road is made of large rocks with huge holes you could lose a VW in.

Our campsite at Alaskan Trails RV & Camper Park, Wasilla, AK.
The view out our front window.

07-18-2013     Thur    

Fueled Pickup:   At Tesoro in Wasilla, AK.  $3.969.

Days Activities:   Sue has been unable to get Newsweek downloaded to her Kindle.  She has spent over 2 hours on the phone with different people from Amazon and Newsweek but they could not get her connected.  The last suggestion was to take it back to Best Buy and see if there was anything wrong with the Kindle.  We drove back to Anchorage and one of the Geek Squad reloaded the factory defaults on the Kindle but it still will not receive the Newsweek.  She will call Newsweek tomorrow and cancel the subscription and then reorder it. 

Have not been able to get the grill to light since I had the propane bottle filled in Soldotna.  There was a plastic seal broken in the fuel gauge.  I have not been able to find one to date.  However, that is not the problem but I still need a new gauge.  When I hook the hose direct it still will not light.  I pulled the regulator and hooked it to a small propane bottle I purchased at Wal-Mart.   It worked fine.  Believe a very small piece of the plastic seal has gotten into the hose.  Will buy another one tomorrow. 

The rear furnace stopped working a couple of days ago.  I pulled the cover, moved the wiring around, and it is working now.  Will have to see if that actually cured the problem.

07-19-2013     Fri    

Days Activities:   We stayed in and worked on genealogy.  Then drove over to Palmer for a late lunch, about 3 PM, at La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.  Too many mosquitoes to sit out and also this is a real ugly campground.

Drove pickup 169.1 miles.

07-20-2013     Sat      Trip Meter:   24.2         

Fueled Coach:   At a Holiday, about a ½ mile north of the campground. 

Driving Directions:   Back on AK 3 north.  Got off at Hatcher Pass Road in Willow and went ½ mile to the campground. 

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 12:40 pm, heading for Willow.  As we were waiting at the campground entrance to get on the highway we had to wait for a long line of motorcycles as they passed.  There were at least 60 to 70 of them but there was no indication as to what their affiliation was.  Then there were at least 50 to 60 vehicles backed up behind them.  It took us over 5 minutes to get out of the campground. 

  • Campsite:   Hatcher Pass RV, Willow, AK - 4 nights - site 5 - gravel pad - pull thru - 50 amp, picnic table, fire ring, Commercial - Cost $22.00 per night - Rating 5/4 - Got setup at 1:40 pm.  Have 4G Service.  Water and sewer is available at the campground entrance. 

Worked on genealogy and read.

Our campsite at Hatcher Pass RV, Willow, AK.

07-21-2013     Sun 

Days Activities:   Went to lunch at the Willow Trading Post Bar & Grill.  The service was really slow.  They only had one person waiting the bar and tables.  The cook was also new and waitress was having to help him.  She gave us a 20% discount for the slow service.  Worked our OK for us because we weren’t in any hurry.  Then we headed out over the Hatcher Pass Road.   

We went west to east.  Had made the trip twice, both times east to west.  The east to west route is pretty but no comparison to the magnificent view going west to east.  Highly recommend the west to east route for scenic viewing and picture taking.   

Entering off the Park Hwy the altitude was about 400’.  Summit Lake is about 3,825’, with the highest point at 3,950’.  Then it drops down to 3,200’ where it intersects with Fishhook Road, the east entrance. 

The road is 32.3 miles long.  Going west to east, enter it off the Parks Hwy in Willow.  There is 11.3 miles of good flat paved road.  Then there is 21 miles of gravel and rock surface.  The first half of the unpaved section was graded and really smooth, with real fine gravel, and was fairly level.  The second half was rock and gravel, with rocks sticking up in the road as much as 4 inches, and pot holes as much as 4-6 inches deep.  They were easy to miss and we saw a lot of cars on the road.  That said, it was still a fairly easy drive because it is up and down with numerous sharp curves that turn back on themselves as much as 160 to 180 degrees.  The speed limit is 25 mph.  There are many places to pull off for pictures.  Summit Lake is about 28 miles into the trip, or about 4 miles from the east entrance.   

Going west to east you start seeing magnificent views right after leaving the paved section.  Going east to west you lose the view about 5 miles west of Summit Lake and all you have is a drive with trees on both sides of the road.    

However, if you only want to go to Summit Lake, then east to west from Palmer or Wasilla would be the better route.  Since we were staying in Willow, we drove it in both directions today.  

On the way back, in the Summit Lake area, we saw 59 vehicles parked – 58 of them from Alaska and 1 from Oregon.  Looks like a gathering place for Alaskans on a weekend.  Also saw at least 50 on the road, nearly all from Alaska. 

We stopped and took pictures and a video of Willow Creek. 

Got back home at 4:45 pm.

Little Willow Creek on Hatcher Pass Road.
Summit Lake on Hatcher Pass Road.

07-22-2013     Mon               

Days Activities:   Had only planned to stay here 3 nights but decided to stay over for one more.  It is really a nice campground.  I gathered wood on our drive yesterday so we are going to grill steaks tonight. 

I called Talkeetna Camper Park and made reservations for 2 nights, 24th and 25th.  We are planning to ride the train roundtrip from Talkeetna to Hurricane on the 25th.

I called the train station to make reservations but they told me none was needed because that train was never full.   

We sit outside and read in the afternoon.

07-23-2013     Tue    

Days Activities:   Never left camp today.  Worked on genealogy and read.  In the evening sat outside around the fire, read, and grilled pork chops.

Drove pickup 75.0 miles.

07-24-2013      Wed      Trip Meter:   41.9        

Driving Directions:   Back on AK north.  At the Talkeetna Spur took it to Talkeetna.

Days Activities:   Departed campground at 12:50 pm.  We arrived at the campground at 2 PM but didn’t setup when we parked.  We went to the Flying Squirrel Café & Bakery for lunch first.  I was not impressed with the menu.  We did purchase a delicious looking slice of cake and took it home with for later - the cake tasted awful. 

  • Campsite:   Talkeetna Camper Park, Talkeetna, AK - 2 nights - site 2 - gravel pad - pull thru - 50 amp, water, sewer, WiFi (FREE), - Commercial - Cost $38.00 per night - Rating 5/2 - Got setup at 3:30 pm.  Have 4G Service. 

Additional info:  This is a very small campground, area wise, but packed with 33 sites.  The RV’s are packed in like sardines, but if you want services in Talkeetna, then this is the only campground in town.  The campground is right next to the railroad tracks and it is just a short 75 yard walk to board the train.   

There is a parking lot next to the campground where you can dry camp for $10.00 a night.  Also, there are 2 nice turnout about 3 miles from town that is available for dry camping for free.  You will pass them on the way in, one on each side of the road, 

I went to the train station and purchased tickets for a round trip ride to Hurricane tomorrow.  Cost $96.00 with the TourSaver coupon.

Our campsite at Talkeetna Camper Park, Talkeetna, AK.

07-25-2013     Thur    

Days Activities:   I called Prudhoe Bay Hotel to see about reservations but they are booked up for the next 10 days.  They do not book reservations more than 10 days in advance so I will call again in a couple of days.

Got to the boarding platform at 12 noon.  The train was supposed to board and depart at 12:15 pm but it didn’t arrive until 12:30.  That's odd because it parks in Talkeetna at night and only has to come less than a mile to get here.  However, we all boarded and departed by 12:35.

The ride to Hurricane is 55 miles.  As you would expect, it is the same distance in both directions.  The train is a “whistle stop” train which means it stop wherever anyone wants to get off or get on.  There are quite a few people living out here and a lot of hikers and hunters.  It stopped at least 15 times during our trip today.  One of the people getting off was hauling lumber and insulation for his cabin. 

The train had an engine on each end and in between were 2 passenger cars and a baggage car.  All departures and entries at the “whistle stops” are through the baggage car. 

We were all invited to the baggage car all during the trip.  Both doors were kept open, with webbing across them to keep us from falling out, and we were able to get great pictures.  We were also able to use the loading platforms on both of the passengers for pictures.  I spend most of my time on one of them because it was less crowded. 

We went past Hurricane about 1½ miles and stopped on the Hurricane Gulch Bridge and sat for about 10 minutes.  It crosses Hurricane Creek and flows into the Chulitna River.  The river was visible from the bridge.  This was the last bridge constructed on the railway. 

Oh yes.  No food or refreshments on the train or at Hurricane.  Take what you want or do without.  I purchased a corn beef sandwich from the local grocery story to take.  Sue said she didn’t want anything but she did take a fiber bar.  By the time we got to Hurricane she decided she would share half of my sandwich. 

The weather was cloudy when we left and by the time we got to Hurricane it had started to sprinkle.  Had moisture all the way back to Talkeetna.  Still, it was a very pleasant trip and we highly recommend it.  Got back to the station at 6:30 pm.  Took a lot of pictures. 

Drove pickup 9.6 miles.

Waiting for the train.
One of our "whistle stops".

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