Click here for more pictures.
The next day we spent the morning reorganizing and packing our stuff. It was Friday, and the firemen were having a potluck for lunch and they invited us. We cleaned up the firehouse and arrived early for the potluck.
After lunch, we were on our way again. We stopped by the North Pole Coffee Roasting Co. to pick up some coffee for gifts. We then headed south toward Denali.
We had seen Denali a few days before from Fairbanks – it was very clear, and we could just make it out on the horizon. Now it was cloudy and raining. This mountain has a reputation of hiding behind clouds most of the time. We were planning to hike up and camp on Kesugi Ridge that night, so the rain was disappointing.
We arrived at the trailhead about 8:00 p.m. All the bushes were wet, and it was still heavy overcast. Ben decided he was going to camp in the car, but Matt and I decided to stick to our original plan. We were hoping it would clear up overnight so we could get some pictures of the mountain.
We had about 4 or 5 miles to hike, mostly uphill, so we took off at a fast pace. I was wearing rain gear, so I took the lead to get most of the water off the brush. Matt and I go about the same speed on flat ground, but once we start gaining elevation I can’t keep up. Matt took over lead and just went like crazy up the hill. He would wait every once in a while for me to catch up.
We reached the top of the ridge about 10:15 p.m. It hadn’t rained while we were hiking, so that was nice. However, one of my “waterproof” boots was full of water from the bushes.
There were no trees or bushes on the ridge, just rocks and grass. I had a tarp for my tent, so I picked out a nice rock to rig it up next to. Matt set to work laying out his bivy sack. He was smirking at me trying to set up my tent, and suggested I just “burrito it,” by rolling up in the tarp like a bivy sack. I kept working on my tent, as that is the way I’m used to doing it.
I finally had it all set up, almost weather proof. Matt was setting up his stove to cook dinner. It was very windy and cold, so we were wearing just about all our clothes from long underwear to stocking caps and coats.
It started to rain and I let Matt move under my tent to fix his dinner. He decided my tent wasn’t so bad after all. We boiled water for instant soups and had a warm dinner under the tarp. We sat up late talking about different things while the wind and rain kept going outside. At one point we discussed why we were out here being miserable anyway. Is this what we really like to do?
We went to bed around midnight.
It rained all night and blew in and got my sleeping bag a little wet. We got up about 5 a.m. as we had to meet Ben at 8:00 at the trailhead. I had only brought one pair of socks up, and they were still soaking wet. What fun to put on wet, cold socks right before a hike. It was still raining, with Denali not even close to visible.
We packed up our stuff the best we could, trying to stay dry for the most part. We made good time all the way down and arrived just in time to see Ben driving up the road to pick us up. We changed into dryer clothes and cranked up the heater.
We backtracked a little bit to the north to visit the Denali National Park Visitor Center. We also drove a little ways into the park, until they told us we could go no further unless we were on a tour bus. We couldn’t justify buying a tour since it was still cloudy and we wouldn’t see the mountain anyways.
We drove back to the main road and headed south. Tonight we would be staying with the Buckingham/Hale (Pilgrim) family near Anchorage. I had met the Hales a few years earlier when their family had played music in Ridgefield. Later, I had seen Joshua and Sharia and Matthew and Elishaba when they were down on their honeymoons and had stopped by Mattila’s. Joshua had told me I would be welcome to stay with them anytime we were in Alaska, so we were looking forward to seeing them again.
We arrived at Buckinghams about 6:00, just in time for dinner. There were about 25 people in the house, ranging in age from under 1 to 50-something. After dinner, they had devotions and sang favorite hymns, which we enjoyed. Mr. Buckingham played all the hymns on the guitar. After that, we hung up our wet sleeping bags and other gear and everyone got ready for bed. We had a room in the basement where all the boys sleep, and so we visited with them for a while before going to bed.
At 7 a.m., we got a knock on the door, “Time to get up in there.” Mr. Buckingham used to be in the army and keeps everyone on schedule around here. Everyone had chores to do to get ready for church, and then breakfast at 9:00, so we busied ourselves getting our stuff all packed into the Jeep. About 8:59 and some odd seconds, a boy ran through the hall yelling, “Breakfast in 20 seconds” Man, the schedule really is strict here – but it’s nice, too. Breakfast was pancakes and fruit.
Church was good. It was a home church, meeting at the Buckingham’s today. This was their monthly “open” Sunday, so all the men had a chance to share what the Lord had been teaching them recently. We also sang more hymns.
After church we headed out as we wanted to do a lot more things and our time in Alaska was running out. The time at Buckinghams was very good and it was great to meet the rest of the families. I wished we could have stayed longer.
Next, we were headed for the Kenai to do some salmon fishing.We stopped in Anchorage and bought some gifts for people back home. We also stopped at a tackle shop and got the latest fishing reports and bought some tackle. The latest report was that people were catching their limits of 3 salmon each in 15 or 30 minutes on the Russian river.
By late afternoon we were at the Russian river. Man, this is city slicker fishing. Big parking lots, stair steps down into the river, tables to clean your fish on etc. We had all rented waders and Matt had rented a fishing rod.
We didn’t see many people with fish. Apparently the run had died down a day or two before and it was hard to catch anything now. What a bummer. We just missed it. We fished for a few hours and then gave up. We returned the rental gear and headed for the Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, a 10 hour all night drive.
Click here for more pictures.