Monday, June 26, 2006

Alaska Day 41

Sunday June 25, 2006 Anchorage AK to Healy AK Log 259 Miles McKinley RV Park
We began the day by heading out for church at a local unnamed Episcopal church in Anchorage. We arrive on time for the 9 AM scheduled service to find that they had neglected to change their service time on the web site. They suggested we drink coffee for over an hour until the next service begins. No thanks, I have had parish hall coffee before, no thanks. We decide to continue our daily office back in the motorhome. Wilma gets some video footage at the downtown market and finds us a cappucino...uhm good. We hook up and head north for Denali and a few stops in between.

Lots of excitement for the day began with a visit to the Iditarod Trail Headquarters on Knik-Goose Bay Road near Wasilla, Hwy 3, which is the "Restart" of the annual Iditarod race. It is called "restart" because the symbolic start is now in Anchorage. The original run was during the gold rush, when in 1925 Leonhard Seppala used his dog Togo as lead dog to bring vaccine from Seward to Nome during a diphtheria epidemic. This trip became the inspiration for the annual Iditarod. Wilma's dream came true: after petting all the sled dogs as they were resting by their individual water bowls, we climbed aboard the sled and the Mr. Redington, the musher set the dogs to running. He told us to hold on, as the dogs (being race dogs) only knew one speed. It was fast. Round the wooded trail only wide enough for the dogs and sled, no seat belts, and a thrilling ride! One dog who was not working today (they only use eight for this demo) escaped and an employee ran for him. Mr. Redington told him not to bother, that he would never catch the dog. The dog came back shortly thereafter. Mr. Reddington told us he ran the race with these dogs plus the other eight in 2001, and his son Ryan ran this year.

Mr. Redington's father, Joe Redington Sr., ran the race many times and distinguished himself time after time when he finished in the top five, even as late as 1988 at the age of 71. In celebration of the bicentennial in 1976, he organized the largest dog team which pulled a tour bus filled with passengers up Knik Road. The bus driver panicked only slightly when, with full brake pressure applied, couldn't stop the bus. A momument of Redington Sr. has been erected on the grounds.

We stopped at Mile 135 for a viewing of Mt. McKinley, (the peak is called Denali, or "the high one," in the local Athabascan language), and the park ranger showed us the tiny part of the mountain that was visible and not hidden by clouds. It was very warm and sunny for us. He said this was the best area along the Parks Highway for viewing but rarely is the whole mountain seen. Because it is so high, it makes its own weather and predictions are for snow, freezing rain, or rain for tonight. We are glad we are in the warm sunny area.

Next was the Alaska Veterans Memorial with a panel for each branch of service. One interpretive panel was surprising to us, and being southerners we were pleased to know that during the Civil War, Yankee whaling ships sailed around South America to the Bering Strait, and the Confederates sent the ship Shenandoah to disable them. The South flew its flag six months after the actual end of the war. We also got our best view of Denali from here, as the clouds had lifted a bit. A very rare occasion that allowed us to see most of the mountain including the peak. A treat indeed.

Things to be thankful for: many things. And noteworthy today is the fact that we made it to McKinley RV Campground and got set up just before the cold rainy downpour and BB size hail fell -- from Mt. Denali??? So much for warm and sunny.

We had another free dinner -- $500 for the halibut charter in Homer last week, tips for the Captain, granddaughter who fileted the fish, and dog walker at the RV park, free chef Herb who grilled the fish tonight, free salad fixings that we found in our refrigerator from grocery shopping, butter pecan ice cream from the grocery aisle Wilma was forced to walk when she went into the store to buy only milk -- a most pleasant dinner and the sound of softly falling rain = priceless!

Pictures are here

Walldog, Willie and Jake

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