Saturday August 26: Denali Park to Trapper Creek
The weather forecast for Trapper Creek was for 100% chance of rain, so we were in no hurry to get over there. Because of the late night before, and since we were in no rush, we slept about an hour later, and then repeated the same breakfast routine as the previous day.
It had been spitting out, but it wasn’t raining. Check-out time wasn’t until 11, so Amy and I went for a short “hike” on the oxbow trail across the river. This was a short 2 mile loop.
Then we packed up, raided the gift shop, and checked out. I actually rather liked the coffee that I had gotten for breakfast, so I got one for the road.
Then we drove over to the town (the town of Denali?). We wanted to check out the Grand Denali. This was a large hotel/restaurant perched very high up above a cliff face. It was the most obvious thing you could see from the park. The way up was a steep series of sharp switchbacks. We were entertained by a series of unserious road signs posted along the road. These said things like “no passing on curves” (as if that was even possible), “watch for low-flying aircraft”, and an intersection sign that looked like a Martian hieroglyph.
We wandered through the restaurant. They had a wrap-around deck, with a Plexiglas panel above the railing, to keep people from going over the edge. It was probably a couple of hundred feet to the bottom, so it rather got my fear of heights going. I wanted to get close enough to the railing to take a panorama, but it was hard between my fear of getting too close to the edge, and my fear of fumbling my phone and dropping it over the edge.
We went back down and got gas. As we were heading out of town, just before a big bridge over a sizable river (the same one that ran next to our cabins), there was a scenic pull out, so pulled into it to look at the sights over the river. There was a sign that there was no parking along the river side of the lot, as that was reserved for raft launching. We found that somewhat surprising, as we were probably 50 feet above the river. But we found that two places along that side, there was a carpet-covered ramp going down to the river.
I don’t know if they put people in the raft and then lowered it, or if they lowered the rafts empty, and had people enter them at the bottom. The former seems rather dangerous, as the ramps were rather steep, but I couldn’t see any other way to get people to the bottom.
Then we left Denali and headed south. Shortly after we passed the village, the rain began. The clouds were low, so that even the small hills near the highway had their tops in the clouds. It looked like a cold, damp, miserable place to be if one were slogging through the boggy countryside.
We passed Trapper Creek and headed back up the spur towards Talkeetna. Our destination was the Flying Squirrel cafe/bakery for lunch (even though it was about 2:30). We got some sandwiches, and some root beers. Afterwards, we continued a few miles to Talkeetna proper and spent a little time shopping in its gift shops.
Then we drove to Trapper Creek to the Princess Lodge. Our first attempt with the GPS sent us to nowhere, but then we found the lodge in the GPS, and found that it was about 10-15 miles further north.
When we got there, we were amazed at the size of the place. I was expecting some sort of medium-sized dive. Instead, this is a rather large resort sort of place. It is more of a campus, with a few main buildings, and about 15 or more lodging buildings. It is large enough that they have an “on site shuttle” driving along the loop road.
The main building is large and nice, with a sort of art gallery, a half dozen lounges (one of which is where I am typing this at this exact moment), 2-3 restaurants, and a game room. Definitely not a dive.
We made dinner reservations, but the earliest they had was 8:30. Our trend of late dinners continues! We unloaded our stuff to our room, which was nice but otherwise unremarkable. There is about a half dozen Princess resorts throughout Alaska, including one at Denali. I wonder if a room there would have been cheaper than at the village.
It had stopped raining, and we had about 3 hours to kill before dinner. Amy wanted to check out the state park lake. Sam stayed in the room, but Amy and I drove to the lake. It ended up being further than we expected (about 15 miles up the highway). When we got there, we found a campground and a rather unremarkable lake. Interestingly, next to the boat launch (where the start of the dock was under about 5 inches of water), there was a rack of life jackets/PFDs. Apparently, they really wanted boaters to wear them. If you didn’t have your own, you could use one of theirs, and then just leave it on the rack when you left.
As we drove back to the lodge, we figured out that we had gone to the wrong lake. There was a closer lake which was the one that we had intended to find, but it wasn’t at all clear how we could get from the highway to the lake. We just returned to the Princess.
Amy and I went to the main lodge, and we fiddled getting Wi-Fi access. Then I found a nook and started writing up the previous day, while Amy (I think) worked on a jigsaw puzzle. Just before dinner, I went back to the room and got Sam. After we ordered, and while we were waiting for the food, I continued to write up the previous day’s events. I finished that day, put away the iPad, and shortly afterwards, the food arrived.
After dinner, I stayed at the lodge and wrote up that day’s activities. I think I am now caught up, so I can head back to our room, get ready, and hit the sack. Tomorrow is our last full day in Alaska. The main task is driving back to Anchorage. Based on the weather and our inclinations, we can spend more time here, or more time in Anchorage.