Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde
(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 14.”)
Part Fifteen: The Alaska Highway, Mile 1129 to Mile 1337, Alaska
Sunday, July 11, 1971: We awoke to an overcast sky and poor conditions for photographs. Philip wanted to make a Hasselblad picture of St. Elias Range, but decided on a close-up of the fireweed with the 4X5 Baby Deardorff instead. (Not the widely published and printed image, “Tundra, Fall Color, Willow, Dogwood, Fireweed, Denali National Park, Alaska.”) Then our route continued on uneventfully due to the poor and glary overcast lighting. The heat increased until we made a gas stop at Beaver Creek, Alaska Highway Mile 1202. At mile 1211 we stopped for pictures of a burned spruce forest carpeted with fireweed. The magenta tones of the fireweed, we could see from a distance. Up close the fireweed was quite beautiful accented with the black upright spruce snags. We stopped at the Alaska—Canada border to read signs. We stopped again not far away at the Border Station to mail some cards and letters. We made our lunch stop off the highway in a large cleared area, originally for an old mill. By then it was very warm and humid. Philip napped and I wrote more letters. We drove on without stopping as the sky continued grey and the photography possibilities were not good. We passed through a continuous dwarf spruce forest mixed with birch. We passed the Central Plateau of Alaska sign around Mile 1270. We stopped for pictures of roadside flowers, bladderwort in water and camus lily. I napped while Philip and David told me that they had jumped out at the scenic viewpoint at Mile 1272, but found the light too poor for photographs.
We had gained a total of two hours by crossing time zones. We crossed the Tanana River bridge and began looking for a dinner spot. We stopped short of the Tok River on a side road. We drove in and found a cemetery at the end of the road adjacent to a spruce and aspen forest teeming with mosquitos. Rain set in with a general sultriness. After dinner David opted for a ballet performance instead of a story. Earlier in the afternoon he and Philip had a long talk about the float plane they are going to build back at home. David was doing most of the talking. I napped in David’s “Studio” (above the cab). After dinner with David down for the night, we stopped at Tok Junction for water and high priced gas at 61.9 cents a gallon. We were glad to leave that tourist trap. Pressed on to the town of Tanacross, Alaska. We turned there at Mile 1324.5 and drove out on a rough gravel road to Tanana Ridge. The most interesting feature of the Indian settlement was one old log house with a sagging sod roof beside a pond with the Alaska Range in the background. Philip made photographs of the scene. We also noted some long narrow canoe like river craft that the Indians powered by outboard motor. We drove back out toward the road and looking more closely at the airport noticed that the numbers on the runway were 1324, matching the Alaska Highway mile markers. After one more stop for a photograph of Sanguisorba or Great Burnet Bloodwort, we turned into Moon Lake Campground, but left promptly as it was already too crowded. A short piece down the road we turned into a huge open area perhaps cleared in the past for road construction. We found a perfect camping spot behind a mound of gravel inhabited by nesting cliff swallows. It was all a clean openness around us. The woods was at a distance affording us a broad view of the nearby Alaska Range. The clouds were sometimes low on the mountains, sometimes rising above the peaks. The mosquitos were not a problem here. So with a total of 204 miles traveled for the day, we turned in at 9:30 pm while it was still 61 degrees Fahrenheit.
Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 16.”