Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Flying High

Cantwell, Alaska
Cantwell RV Park

Bill and I have had an exciting life and been able to do a lot of things that some people dream of because they won't take that first step.  Yesterday was one of those days.

Those of you that know Bill, know he's always agreeable with most anything.  The surprising thing is he's the one who said he wanted to take a flight around Denali and land on the glacier.  

Once he said he really wanted to do this, I sat down at the computer and checked on flights that left from Talkeetna.  I was able to extend our stay at Trapper Creek so we could take the 2 pm flight.

Talkeetna Air was rated #1 on Trip Advisor.  As I read the websites I noticed that  Talkeetna Air had 3 different flights and we chose the Mountain Voyager which was the middle length of time and price.  When I booked it, I asked about any discounts and they gave me 10% AARP.

The weather forecast for Talkeetna  at 2 pm was for a 60% chance of rain and wind.  The morning was very cloudy and not much improvement from when we took the Wilderness jet boat ride.  

The good news is that Talkeetna Air would refund your money 100%.  If it's too cloudy to fly, at least we'll get our money back.

Harry and Carlena left in the morning to go back to Palmer for the day.   No point in sitting around moaning about the weather conditions so we took a walk to check out Wal-Mikes.    

Mike has been around for 65 years and been in Alaska for 52.

He's quite a character and we really enjoyed chatting with him.

While we were in the store, someone called him and asked if Walmart was suing him for using their name.  He said "no" but that the Princess bus drivers keep telling their tourists that he is.  He said he wished they wouldn't lie about him. They also stop the bus out front, but don't let the people off so they can take photos.  That's just not right.

The inside of the store was crammed from floor to ceiling with merchandise.

The outside had stuff everywhere.  You name it, he had it.

He also had a great sense of humor and was very enterprising.  I didn't think to ask how much he made on the naked ones.

It was fun and somehow made us feel better about the weather conditions.  

It's amazing how large an area this encompassed. 

Well worth the walk over to see this place.

We walked back home, and I remembered I had a card to mail so walked back over to the post office.

We hadn't received a call that the flight had been cancelled so we decided to grab our cold weather gear--parkas, hats, gloves, ear muffs and long johns and take the 45 minute drive back over to Talkeetna.  If nothing else, maybe we could reschedule. 

We were impressed with their building.

I've flown in a few small planes, but it wasn't something I liked and enjoyed.

There was a lot of commotion going on inside the building. One lady was asking a small group if that was agreeable.  I figured they were rescheduling their flight.  

When we got up to the counter, she said that they weren't able to land on the glacier and because of that they would upgrade us at no additional charge from the Mountain Voyager to the Grand Denali tour which would have cost us $50 a piece more.  Well that was a no brainer, at least it sounded like they might fly and we have a much longer and better flight.  She told us that if by chance they would land on the glacier, we'd need to come back in and pay the $95 per person charge for the glacier landing.  

Here's what the Grand Denali includes:
     Includes the features of the Southside Explorer Tour and      the Mountain Voyager.
     Cross over the Alaska Range and witness the arctic          alpine tundra on the north side of Denali's National Park's    remote interior.
         Wickersham Wall of Denali--the greatest continual    vertical relief in the world.

We went out and sat on the patio where you waited for your flight.  It was still cloudy but not quite as bad as earlier.  About 1:30 the sun came out a little and we were asked what size shoes we wore, as they supplied the gore-tex glacier boots.  The girl told us, just in case things change you'll have the boots on.  

Aren't they glamorous?  Nothing like what we wore at the Reindeer Farm.  

I asked Bill to take a photo of the plane he thought we'd be going in.  This is what he took.

There were about nine other people on the deck waiting to ride so we figured this might be our plane.  They had plenty of planes.

I noticed all the planes had the combo tires and skis.  

Yes, that was our plane and this is our pilot.  He's giving the safety talk and telling us that we'll be flying high enough that we might need the oxygen.  After my helicopter flight at the Grand Canyon many years ago, I did ask if they filled the tank with gas.  I was told that it had gas, with just enough for an extra hour in the air. 

Everyone had a window seat and Bill was on the right side and I was on the left side directly behind the pilot.  We were all weighed before we got on the plane, but we could choose the seat we wanted.

Since it was a full plane, one girl had the seat beside the pilot.  Notice the short sleeves on the pilot.  We were told we didn't need any other "cold weather gear".  

The pilot had a microphone and we all had head phones.  He said he was sorry that we probably couldn't land on the glacier but no one had been able to do it the entire day.  

This was our first glimpse of the three mountains.

We're getting closer, but we are above the clouds.

It's quite an experience as we get closer.  These photos were all from the left side of the plane.  We have almost 500 photos, so this is difficult trying to give my readers different mountains and views.

The entire time, the pilot is telling you all kinds of stories and facts and figures, which I didn't retain.  All I remember is the beauty.

I'll tell the rest of the story and then I'll just post a few photos.  The pilot spotted a group of climbers that looked like ants.  They were pulling their sleds behind them, with their gear.  He flew by the base camp where the climbers stay and told us that was the glacier is where they land in good weather.  He flew to other areas and all of a sudden he banked the plane.

The next thing I knew, I heard the pilot say to someone on the radio, that he was landing.  The next thing I knew he turned that plane around and we were coming in for a landing.  
Everyone on the plane was cheering.  The pilot got out this ladder, which wasn't easy climbing down in our glacier boots.

It wasn't cold at all.  

Bill is having the time of his life.  Can you imagine being in the middle of this base camp where the climbers have their tents?

Bill in the snow without a coat or gloves.

The climbers hurried over to the plane and they handed up their gear to the pilot who put it in the back.  I never saw anyone load that fast in my life.

Bill even started throwing snowballs.  

Yes, we did.  We were able to land and walk on a glacier.  

Can you see the cloud cover coming in?  We were told the clouds were 200 yards away and coming in fast. 

We were told that we had to leave now.  Everyone could see the weather changing and didn't question why.  All passengers were on board in no time and off we went. 

The rest of the trip went smoothly and we were gone longer than the trip was scheduled.  When we landed we were greeted by employees and the lady who upgraded us was there too.  She handed us decals and postcards and told us the glacier landing was on them, because we didn't stay long.  

Not only were we upgraded but we got the glacier landing at no charge.  It doesn't get any better than that.  

It's was truly an unforgettable experience.  We highly recommend Talkeetna Air if you want to experience this.  

I'll post some photos small to save data.  You can click on the ones you want to enlarge.  


Turtle Safely..........

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rescued from the Wilderness--Dog and Moose

Trapper Creek, Alaska
Trapper Creek RV Park

By the time we returned home, I was way too tired to write about our adventures for yesterday.

Well, it was almost a relax day.  There wasn't anything going on until our 6:30 pm wilderness excursion.  

I forgot that we did do laundry in the morning.  While we were doing laundry I noticed a missing dog flyer in the laundry.  The dog was 11 years old and deaf.  There was a photo of the dog.  I can't imagine losing one up here in the wilderness.

Since we only played three games of rummy cube the day before yesterday, we didn't give Carlena a chance to win. Yesterday we took the game up and played on the patio.

From the patio you can see Denali (Mt. McKinley) when the clouds cleared out.  We were told that there is a pull out 3 miles down the road, that is great for photo shots.

Harry drove everyone up the road to the South Denali Park overlook.

As always the photos aren't the same as being there.

There was a path that went up into the forest and a very steep climb.

Most people wouldn't hike up the hill, there was only one other couple there.  

Besides the better views from this point, there weren't people playing with their phones or kids screamings.  It was nice and quiet.

Another beautiful day, and beautiful views.  I think Boo even enjoyed being up there.

There were benches but I think these were for people who tired on the climb up, not for people coming down to straighten their socks.

Carol had told me on Facebook to try the steak sandwiches at the cafe here.  We decided to go up and try their food before we left to go to Talkeetna for the cruise.  Thanks, Carol for the recommendation.

We arrived a little early for our jet boat adventure so we walked across the street and walked through the gift shops.  

We boarded the bus a bit early but it looked like everyone was there.  It was clouding up quickly and the wind started blowing a little.  

Bill and I took a jet boat ride on the Snake River one time and it was so cold the toilet froze solid.  I was hoping this wouldn't be the same kind of experience.

The boat was full, there wasn't an empty seat.  We all had to take an aisle seat.

It rained lightly, but the sky was cloudy.  Our tour guide was so knowledgeable and handled the boat very well.

Weatherwise it wasn't great, but the experience was.  At least we were dry if we stayed inside the boat.

We were told about all five varieties of salmon and how they spawn.  We were shown the creeks were the fish laid their eggs.

There were a lot of eagles spotted but I didn't get any photos.  Harry got some awesome photos and he'll post them on their blog--Red, White and Boo.

As our tour guide was telling us how people homesteaded without utilities or roads, along came the flag train.  People can flag the train down when they need to get to civilization.  Of course it only runs once a month in the winter and four or five times in the summer.

This homestead had 75 yards next to the home before the ice jams took away that land.

We stopped at a replica of Alaska life and had about a 1/4 mile hike.  Notice our tour guide is armed with a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun.  She told us she had extra ammo and was a good shot.  If you've been listening to the news you've probably heard about all the bear attacks.  She also told us moose are worse than bears.  

The rain was a slow light drizzle but it was nice that they had umbrellas for everyone.  They must be used to a lot rain in this area.

The natives stayed here when they were fishing. 

This deep hole is where they smoked the fish.

I can't believe we were walking through those woods and we didn't apply mosquito spray.  We've been so lucky so far, but I'm sure we'll be needing some before we leave Alaska.  

The owner of the jet boat company actually homesteaded.  These were the trapper cabins he recreated that he used in the winter.

These bear traps are illegal today, but are allowed for demonstration purposes only.

I wouldn't crawl in that small doorway.

At least Bill would so I could see what was in there.

The vegetation on the roof insulates it when it is covered with snow.

Our tour guide had told us about two baby moose that he rescued when the mother was killed by a train.  The moose were drowning in the water.  The moose were saved and transported to Anchorage until they were able to be released into the wild.  

As we got back onto the boat, he announced that the other boat just rescued a dog that was hung up on a bank. He showed us a picture of it.   It was deaf and had a collar.  They called the name on the collar and the women was crying she was so happy.  It seems the dog got away on June 11.  It was the one we had seen the flyer on earlier in the day.  She was leaving immediately from Anchorage to pick up her dog.  

By the time we got home, we were exhausted.  Now that I've told you about yesterday, I'll wait until tomorrow to tell you about today.  

I checked the weather for Talkeetna today and it was forecasted to be cloudy and rain.  At 2 pm it was calling for 60% chance of rain, wind and cloudy.  

Turtle Safely......