Friday, July 1, 2016

RVing in Alaska...Day 1

Our first day...We had picked up our Coachman Freelander 2015, 27 foot RV in Anchorage and decided to pick up a few groceries before heading out. It was late in the afternoon, heading towards evening, and our plan was to drive till we got tired. We had our Milepost atlas, and we knew of several stopping points that would be all right for our first night. We stopped at a Fred Meyer grocery store which was a really nice store, it had a terrific deli to stock up a bit. The rig had basic utensils, a toaster, a frying pan but very little silverware and dishes. There was no dish towel or dish soap, but there were plenty of linens and blankets for the cool Alaska nights, so we were happy about that. And off we went...

Remembering that in early June, sunset in Alaska was around 10:00 PM, we were not worried about driving after dark! After about 96 miles, however, we were pooped! We stopped in Talkeetna, a small town with a Tesoro gas station ( very common chain in Alaska) which had a little side RV site area with full hookups. There were about 7 or 8 sites. The mileage marker was 98.8. We would not recommend to anyone staying at this RV site even though the sites themselves were asphalt and level and had trees in between them. The gas station was a truck stop and in the middle of the night, rigs were pulling in and parking directly behind us in the long lane leading to the gas station. So it was very very noisy. We complained the next morning and the staff apologized. They said truckers were not supposed to pull in for the night behind the RV sites. Yeah, right! Try telling some burly truck driver not to park behind an RVer! We pulled out and headed for Denali, our only definitely planned stop for the nine day trip. We had reservations for three nights at Riley Creek Campground which was dry camping, no hookups. To get there, we traveled the George Parks Highway, or the "Parks" highway, a 327 mile highway from Anchorage to Fairbanks. It's a National Scenic Byway and passes through some of the most amazing scenery we have ever seen. It's a good two lane highway and has had improvements made to it recently. It's the most direct highway access to Denali National Park.

On the way to Denali, we started seeing views of Mount Mckinley, or Denali, in the distance. Denali is 20, 310 feet high. Some of the best views along the way are in Denali State Park, which you pass through on your way to the national park. We were really lucky to see the summit, it's rare to have completely clear views we learned later. We stopped off at the Denali Viewpoint South,  at milepost 134.8 and saw this.... First you see the mountains, and then, the BIG ONE!

The Denali Viewpoint South has a beautiful walking trail up to a better view of the mountain, and a glacier gorge below. There are restrooms here and RV spots to spend the night for a fee of 15.00. All along the drive, Sparky was consulting the Milepost 2016 atlas, getting great tips for driving and viewing wildlife.

Here is an example of how great this atlas is. The "A" refers to Anchorage, the 185.6 means that you have traveled 185.6 miles from Anchorage:
 "A.185.6 East Fork Chulitna Wayside to east, 0.5 male paved loop to rest area and overnight       parking with picnic tables, concrete fireplaces, picnic shelter, toilets. Popular stop for RVers. This wayside is located in a bend of the East Fork Chulitna River amid a healthy growth of Alaskan spruce and birch."  We stopped here for a picnic lunch, and it was wonderful!

And here's another one from the atlas, this notation was found on the Seward Highway section of the atlas. The numbers designate 109 miles out from Seward, and 17.8 miles from Anchorage:
"S 109.2  A 17.8  small paved turnout to the west. Fresh water spigot out of rock wall across the highway. (A dangerous spot to cross the highway on foot; lots of fast moving traffic.)"

And can you stand one more? (113 miles from Seward, 13.9 miles from Anchorage)
"S 113.1 A 13.9.  The first of several informal gravel turnouts used by rock climbers on the east side of the highway. Watch for rock climbers practicing on rock walls alongside the highway for about the next six miles southbound."
Riley Creek has a nice campstore, and the sites are level. There are three loops, we stayed in loop A. No complaints about our site...It's shady all over the campground, and the camp host told us there were at least two mama moose with calves roaming the campground, and if we were lucky, we might see them early in the morning or at dusk. The camp host also said she had been charged by the mamas several times when she was just out checking out the camp sites! Sparky was a little nervous about that, but during the whole time we were there, we never saw the moose until the last day. Our plan was to take the Denali bus trip the next day deep into the park so we settled in to the campground and decided to explore the nearby town of Healy. You can walk to town from the Riley Creek Campground in less than half an hour if you don't want to try and find a parking place for the RV, which can be problematic if you have a rig over 25 feet. We found a great place to eat called Prospector's Pizzeria and Alehouse. Terrific atmosphere, and the pizza was great! Sparky loved the antler chandeliers, and the whole place definitely had the Alaskan vibe. AND--they had 52 craft beers!

Come back and see us for the trip of a lifetime to the interior of Denali...Sparky hopes to speed up the events and blog more often to cover this trip.  Bye for now....


  1. Great start. Pleas include s much as possible about where you stayed because a trip to Alaska is on our list for 2017. Include which ones it is necessary to make reservations at. With gas prices low, there are more and more people out RVing! I will be following your adventure carefully!

  2. Sounds like that milepost atlas was a very good investment.
    You gotta watch out for Mama Moose with a calf. Our car was charged once years ago, we got off with very minor damage.

  3. looks like everything is a "GO"

  4. What a great idea to rent an RV. Those pictures of Denali are enough to make me swoon. Didn't this make you want to get back to full timing? Glad you got to see the moose. David would be in heaven with 52 craft beers and here we thought Denali was the middle of nowhere.