Delta Junction to Tangle Lakes, Denali Hwy, AK
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Overcast, cooler and breezy, low 60s
Coffee was on early at The Garden B&B, which is good. And, then, breakfast was excellent with eggs, pancakes, bacon, home fries, juices and coffee.
Soon after breakfast we got a call that the camper repairs were finished and Bill went to pick it up. The job looked first rate with new welds that looked like they’d been put down by a machine. While the fellow said he wouldn’t add any new bracing he actually did put in a few strengthening pieces that he carefully cut and fitted for the purpose. So, the cracked frame was certainly a bump in road but it turned out to be an overall positive experience. Well, except for the additional expense part.
With everything taken care of, we were back on the road by 11:00. Heading south beyond yesterday’s 40 miles, we were treated to nice views of the snow covered peaks and glaciers of the Alaska range.
We stopped in the area where the pipeline crosses the Denali Fault, one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Sound risky? I guess. Well pipeline designers dealt with the situation by resting the pipeline supports on horizontal slides so that the pipeline can withstand horizontal ground movements of more than 22 feet and 5 feet in the vertical plane.
Rainbow Ridge along the Delta River displayed multicolored layers, reds and greens that are volcanic in origin and yellow and pastels that were composed of siltstone and sandstone. It was shortly after passing that area that we experienced one of the most common damage types in Alaska. A passing pickup truck kicked up a stone that chipped our windshield. And, after all the gravel roads we’d driven, we were on nice macadam road!
At Gulkana Glacier we stopped and unhooked trailer so we could drive in a couple of miles closer to the terminal moraine. The road got too rough for us to feel comfortable continuing but the view was still pretty cool.
Shortly after that side trip we turned into paved portion of the Denali Highway. Given the problem with the camper frame we’d decided that we would not drive any more long stretches of gravel road. Still, our intended campground at Tangle Lakes was at the end of the first 20 miles of the highway which is paved. So we went there and set up camp just above the lake. Pretty place!
Since the weather was good and was predicted to deteriorate we immediately drove just the car about seventeen miles further in on the gravel portion of Denali Highway to the Maclaren River bridge. Along the way there were beautiful views, Summit Lake with reflections of mountains and clouds, many kettle or pot-hole lakes, the Maclaren River valley and Maclaren Glacier which feeds the river. Bill took lots of pictures but they don’t begin to do justice and all that. We were amazed at just how many lakes and ponds there are in the area.
The evening became windy as Bill worked to prepare a ham stir-fry with the wind blowing the heat away from the fry pan.
Tangle Lakes to Lake Louise, AK
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Rainy, overcast mid 50s
We woke up to rain and heavy clouds on the mountains and were glad we drove a section of the highway the day before while the weather was good! With little to do there on a rainy day, we were on the road, headed back to the Richardson Highway by 9:30.
We left the Richardson Highway where it intersects the Glenn Highway at the town of Glennallen to head west in the general direction of Anchorage. They were rebuilding the portion of the Glenn Highway that runs through town and we had to wait for one of the pilot vehicles to lead us safely through construction. We stopped at the Caribou Restaurant in town for a bite to eat and then continued on the highway to the side road that would carry us to Lake Louise.
Looking back just after turning onto the Lake Louise road we had a wonderful view of Tazlina Glacier. Now, although the area is “popular”, this paved road is only lightly used. Good thing! It was the most frost-heaved road we have ever encountered and we had to drive pretty slow.
Arriving at the state park campgrounds we found that the toilets were being replaced and the only working facility they had was a single, rough-looking portable toilet; not exactly what we like to see. Abandoning the state parks, we continued in on the road to where it effectively ended for us at a boat launch ramp. The road did, indeed, continue but only if we were willing to ford a creek. Not! However, right there was a parking lot with campsite-like provisions along one side. There was a clean vault toilet and a couple of empty spaces. And there was no charge to camp there. Worked for us! So, we set up and took off to explore the area.
There are actually a string of connected lakes in the area. And, people have seasonal and vacation homes along the shores. There are no roads to most of the homes. You can only get to them by water during the summer and by snow machine in the winter. Visitors can stay at one of several lodges and inns along the portion of the lake serviced by roads. We visited two of them. Evergreen Lodge is a modern B&B. We visited with the caretaker and toured the facility. It’s a very nice place, big enough for, maybe, a dozen guests with cozy lining and dining rooms, hot tub in a gazebo and docks for boats.
Lake Louise Lodge was our next stop. This is more of an inn with a public restaurant and bar. People also use the place as a marina in summer and can store boats under sheds over the winter. The building is of log construction like most buildings in the area. It was interesting to notice that the lobby area appeared to be a log cabin completely enclosed by the current building. Indeed, that was the case expansions over the years completely enclosed the original building. The place is a family affair and the second generation purchased it six years ago from their parents. It appears to pretty successful. We decided to have a drink and ended up staying for dinner.
The rain showers we’d encountered all day continued through the evening.