Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde
(Pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, his wife Ardis and son David in their Avion Camper on a 1968 GMC Utility Body Pickup. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 16.”)
Part Seventeen: Fairbanks, Alaska to Mile 65.5 Denali Highway, Alaska
Thursday, July 15, 1971: Fairbanks, Alaska to Donnelly Creek State Campground, Richardson Highway, Alaska
The day started sunny and progressed to clouds and rain. At 7:00 am the sun was brightest when Malcolm Lockwood left for work as site photographer at NASA’s Gilmore Creek Tracking Site. By 9:00 am when we left Malcolm Lockwood’s home, storm clouds were already gathering. After grocery shopping and gas pumping we drove out of Fairbanks a ways. We passed Alaskaland, then decided to turn around to take David through. Alaskaland combines an amusement park with museums, kids activities, restaurants, shops, educational shows and more. After eating lunch we ventured inside. David liked the paddlewheel river boat and the army helicopter most. At last he had a ferris wheel ride that he and Philip took together. When we got back onto the Richardson Highway and passed through Delta Junction. On leaving Delta Junction, the road became much more interesting than the flat country of the Alaska Highway. The terrain along the Richardson Highway, though also open, presented many wooded rolling hills with small lakes between. We had dinner at a turnout, then dropped down to the broad tree strewn Delta River bed at the base of the Alaska Range peaks. The fireweed and pea vine bloomed in mats out into the river flat. Philip took some photographs along here in the late light. We stopped to look at Black Rapids Glacier. We drove several miles beyond, then returned to Donnelly Creek State Campground. This way we could do that stretch again the next day. The air turned cold and the clouds were solid. We were out of the mosquitos. The temperatures dropped into the 50’s. We heard on the radio that it was 36 degrees in Anchorage.
Friday, July 16, 1971: Donnelly Creek Campground, Richardson Highway to Mile 65.5 Denali Highway, Alaska
We rose at 6:45 am. It had been raining hard in the earlier morning. When Philip looked out the back door of the camper he exclaimed, “Wow,” seeing the Alaska Range peaks visible through a lifting veil of clouds with fresh snow on the lower slopes. We left hurriedly to get down the road for pictures. First Philip made some 2 ¼ Hasselblad photographs before we pulled away, then a short way down the road he brought out the Baby Deardorff 4X5 camera. He drove on and stopped again near the Donnelly Inn Hunting Lodge log and sod cabins. He made more photographs at Darling Creek. At Black Rapids, he made photographs of Black Rapids Glacier upstream of the river flat. He also pulled over at Rainbow Mountain for more pictures. We drove off the main road into Fielding Lake. Fielding Lake was larger than other lakes along the way and surrounded by low brushy slopes and very wet meadows. Philip photographed the abundant wildflowers including Monkshood, Valerian, Mertensia, and Groundsel. On our way back out of Fielding Lake, the rain began again and soon increased to hail. We ate our lunch before reaching the main Denali Highway. Once back on the highway, we soon could see the Gulkana Glacier at a turnout. We also stopped shortly after at the Summit Lake Lodge for gas and propane. We watched a floatplane take off from Summit Lake. We did not stop again until Paxson, Alaska for more gas. We picked up two ladies who needed a ride about 20 miles with a repaired tire for their camper. The Denali Highway started and continued with attractive views of a beautiful alpine setting. The highway stayed high along the ridges, where we were above everything and could see in all directions. We saw rolling mid green tundra accented with darker spruce trees. Lakes and ponds lay in all the swales. The distant snow covered high mountain peaks with snow clouds and mist in veils crowned the scene. Philip made frequent picture stops. Showers continued. We stopped at Tangle Creek Campground to let our ladies put on their tire. We continued to McClaren Summit where it rained hard, but we could still see what a flower garden it was at the roadside. Beyond a short distance, after we looked down at the McClaren River Valley, we stopped for dinner and hoped for the rain to abate to enable photographs. The many ponds below were catching the light. The rain abates and the mosquitos become fierce. After we eat dinner, Philip and David go out on the Tundra for more pictures, both 4X5 and 35 mm. With David in bed we drove on along a moraine top, and stop abruptly for images of a cow moose browsing in the brush close to the road. We made it to Denali Highway Mile 43 by 7:30 pm. Our next stop was at a small pond on the roadside with grass growing in it. A Wilson’s Snipe sat on a post and “cheeped” continually. Driving along the road a few minutes later, Philip suddenly stopped and pointed out the high snowy peaks of the Alaska Range visible almost due west. He was sure we were looking at the slopes below Mount Denali. The light was just right to make Philip a show and having him hopeful that the clouds would part. More pictures at Mile 62 around 8:30 pm. We go on a short distance to Mile 65.5 where we pull off on a track dropping below the main road on the left side and still in view of the distant Alaska Range, which was less clear of clouds every minute. The mosquitos were terrible all night even though the low went down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Continued in the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 18.”