For the past week, we have been relaxing in Fairbanks, purposely not driving too far in order for us to catch our breath. Fairbanks is probably the least scenic city of our summer stay in Alaska, so we are itching to get out of the city and see some wilderness. Our next destination will be the famous Denali National Park.
As we inched closer to Denali, we saw a sign for 49th State Brewing Company and pulled off the highway for a chance to stretch our legs and fill our bellies. Besides being known for their brews and food, the brewery is home to the bus from the movie Into the Wild.
The kids were probably thinking why the heck are their parents dragging them a broken bus but hopefully someday they will understand.
They are always good sports about new places. We get asked all the time when we are planning to stop adventuring. Our answer is always ‘not sure’. If the kids are still into traveling and if the adults are too, then we’ll keep going. It’s a group decision and this group still votes for adventure.
Finally got our name called. Time for some food and brews.
Since the sun doesn’t really set during the summer months in Alaska, we just keep driving in the daylight to our next destination.
Hello there, moose!
We don’t make reservations. It’s the choice we made pretty early as a full-timers because it’s actually less stressful for us to not have a schedule to maintain. Being flexible is the key to our survival on the road. We are okay with not getting to stay at a first choice campsite because of our lack of reservations. And this was the case in Denali National Park. So, we went with Plan B: a boondocking spot a few miles down the road outside the small town of Cantwell. Our buddies, Tim and Kerri were already here and confirmed speedy enough internet for the work week.
The next morning, we headed to the Denali Visitor Center to pick up some junior ranger books and to see what the park had to offer.
Sometimes we spend our day in a warm and dry visitor center so the kids can complete their roadschool and so that Dan can borrow a fast wifi connection. I love the looks people give Dan when they see him on his laptop in national parks. Working on vacation?!?!?! How dare you! Haha. If they only knew that the road is our home.
After work hours, we loaded onto a bus to visit one of the things we were super excited about for months. SLED DOGS!! It was a surprise, that there is a range of places where you can buy a variety of commercial buses.
All the dogs were super friendly. They are bred not only for their long legs and large feet but also for their awesome temperament.
All the Alaskan Huskies that wanted to be pet could be pet.
The huskies all look so different from each other. Some look like our old Siberian husky.
And some looked even more wolf-like.
The rangers demonstrated how the huskies pull their sled several times a day. We were lucky to catch one of the presentations. The excitement of the dogs getting to pull the sled was palpable in the air. There was nothing more that they wanted to do.
The other huskies not in the demonstration were going nuts. They wanted to be part of it too.
And then as if our day wasn’t awesome enough… puppies!!!!!
It was hard to leave this place.
The kids were starting to complain that it was too cold and it was our queue to leave.
Getting to spend time with these huskies pulled on my heart strings. It’s been about 7 years since we lost our husky but it still stings. Someday we will get another pup. Not now, but someday.
While in Denali, we got a message from a new Instagram friend. We got a chance to spend time with them at the kennels and continued the party at a delicious pizza spot just outside the park.
During our stop at the visitor center, we also got to finally meet up with the Bodeswell crew. They are an overlanding family of three who spent years driving down to the tip of South America in their ’71 bay window VW bus and are now on their way to complete the northern most road in North America.
We convinced them to come join us at our boondocking spot down the road. The kids got along great with their 10 year old son Bode.
And the adults got along just as great. Our first night together was a loooong night. The kind of night where the bottle of Jim Beam got busted out at midnight and we had to force ourselves to go to bed… because it never gets dark here! Haha.
Our camp spot sat on a small river with a beaver dam.
It took a few days but eventually saw the beavers swimming late at night once the dogs and kids weren’t being loud outside.
What? Kids are loud?!?!
Yes, they are loud and make big messes too.
But they are super awesome too!
Being back in the wilderness, boondocking with old and new friends, is exactly what we needed.
Here are the kids on an island in the middle of the river. Chairs, umbrellas, laughter and books. I am so proud of my baby hobos!
On the 4th of July, we decided it was the day to commit to the 8 hour round trip bus tour of Denali National Park. Yes, you read that right. 8 hours! And that’s not even the longest choice they had. We chose the bus that drove 60ish miles down the park’s dirt road of the 90 miles available.
We were a bit scared to how the kids would do but they did fantastic. They were entertained by the novelty of being on a bouncy green bus in addition to one lady that was an excellent wildlife spotter and yelled “STOP” at the top of lungs every time she saw something.
STOP! Seat belts off, stand up and look outside!
Bears! Grizzly bears!!
We ended up seeing 5 grizzly bears just outside of the bus during our tour. It was amazing to watch them frolic and chew on some antlers in the grass. We thought we would see more bears during our summer in Alaska but these ended up being the only bears we saw up here during our 10 week stay.
The bus was on a tight schedule. We got to step out at different viewpoints, use restrooms, but only had a few minutes to so.
And there she is. Mount Denali (formally known as Mount McKinley). The tallest mountain in North America (somewhere under that one cloud.)
At the end of the 60 miles dirt road, we got a half-hour break to eat dinner and stretch our legs.
And take more pictures.
Then it was time to turn around and head back to the entrance.
Another grizzly bear.
When we got back to camp, we decided to hitch up and make our way towards the next destination.
On our way out of Cantwell, we stopped at the closed down Igloo Hotel.
It’s seen better days but that’s okay. We have a thing for run down and abandoned places.
Thanks for reading,