Alaska Camping 2008
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For our first ever trip to Alaska, Karen and I flew to Anchorage, rented a car, and drove, camped, and day-hiked around the state for two weeks.  Our plans were flexible - our only reservations were for two nights camping at Wonder Lake in Denali National Park, which fills up well in advance.  We wanted to see some of the glaciers in the coastal areas and take a cruise if the weather was okay.  We also definitely planned to visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park along with Denali National Park.  We hoped to do some hiking each day.
The scenery and sense of vast wilderness was magnificent, but the weather was a disappointment: mostly cold and cloudy and often misting or raining.  Some locals did remind us of the good side of the cold and rain - it kept the mosquitos down.  Bugs were only a nuisance one night.  As the weather deteriorated, we added a side trip up to Fairbanks in search of some warmth and hopefully sun - but with little luck.  
In all, we drove over 2,000 miles and hiked about 45 miles.  All the roads, including the gravel McCarthy and Denali Highways, were in excellent condition.  Major highways were amazingly little traveled - we would often go 10 or 15 minutes seeing no other cars. The few trails we found were well made and some looked like “pork-barrel” projects with elaborate boardwalks.  But mostly it is a vast trail-less wilderness.
The map below shows an overview of the areas we visited in Alaska.  The roads we traveled are highlighted in yellow.
Alaska Camping Trip, July 9-23, 2008
Phil and Karen Farrell
We saw at least one of nearly every “mega-fauna”: grizzly bear, moose, caribou, fox, dall sheep, sea otter, duck, sandhill crane, bald eagle and golden eagle - but not wolf.  But overall, we did not see a lot of wildlife.  The bus driver at Denali pointed out that in mid-July, the mammals are mostly in the higher country.  Very early and late summer are apparently better times to see wildlife.
Although we considered “treating” ourselves to a motel room or cabin now and then, we ended up camping every night, many of them in the rain.  The campgrounds always had plenty of empty spots and many had showers.  The long days are well suited to camping.  Although we never actually saw it happen because of the clouds, sunset was around 11:30 pm and sunrise about 4:30 am.  We could spend a long day sightseeing or hiking, and then roll into the campground at 8 or 9 pm and still have plenty of time to set up camp and make a late dinner.  Sometimes we hiked after dinner until 10 or 11 pm. I took an extra dark brown tarp to put over our tent to make it darker - that helped us sleep well.  I generally woke up at least once each night because it was so light, only to look at my watch and see that it was only 1:30 or 3 am.
The following pages show photo albums of our trip, with commentary, organized by days spent in the same general area.
Start with Days 1 and 2, or use the menu on the top right.
Comments?  Mail to account "comments" at the domain "".
All materials Copyright Phillip Farrell.
Last revision August 10, 2008.