Finally some Alaskan wilderness!
First off, my fellow Georgia travelling friend, Cliff, and I wanted to make the hike to the infamous bus of Christopher McCandless‘ adventures. I got to the end of the road / start of the trail first and set up camp. Initially, I was all alone, but being the weekend some locals showed up later for their own wilderness adventures, mostly hunting. Before Cliff arrived, when it was just me and a fellow Airman parked ~20 ft from me, we had a crazy experience.
Rustling in the bush turned out to be a moose storming in between our cars. Not storming out of anger, but fear. As its’ hinder leg was torn and bleeding. It looked around for a minute, as if looking and asking for help, and then disappeared into the dense foliage around the campsites, leaving behind a trail of blood. Almost immediately the moose disappeared a black wolf emerged searching for its scent. It was in the Airman’s campsite, within 10 feet of him, and totally unaltered by the human presence. After catching the scent it was off. No one knows the fate of the moose, but that’s Nature, raw and true. Afterwards, around midnight, the Airman disappeared down the trail on his ATV, dressed in camo and strapped with a rifle.
The following morning, while discussing the previous night’s events, I discovered the gentle had disappeared into the “night” to hunt grizzlies, being the last day of bait season. Lets just get this out of the way, I think baiting is cheating, cowardly, lacks the true fortitude of hunting, and I can’t believe it’s legal. That being said, the hunter didn’t make a kill that night, but shot only footage with his cell phone. The footage revealed two large grizzlies plundering in his bait containers, two 55 gallon drums filled with food, and even gnawing on his ATV. One of these bears had to be 800 lbs+. I didn’t tell the Airman, but I much more enjoyed seeing the footage of the live bears than a prized carcass strapped to his ATV.
After talking to the hunter about the current conditions of the rivers we would have to cross, and as hard as it was to do, I called off the hike to the bus I had ventured so far to see. Each year travelers die, and many more need airlifts, due to the river crossings to the bus. That being said, between Cliff and I, all of our supplies, experience, and drive, I very strongly believe we could have made it. I was willing to risk my safety, but not that of my dogs, which certainly wouldn’t be able to cross. Cliff felt the same about his two pups. Leaving them behind meant spend over 24 hours in our cars, or tethered at the first river crossing for hours. Neither of us were willing to offer ours dogs to the neighbor bears or wolves, so we found an alternative solution.
Just down the road there is a restaurant, 49th State Brewing, that has the bus used in the filming of “Into the Wild.” Locals who have been to both say the bus at the restaurant is a better experience, which after seeing it I don’t doubt, it’s not the same as making the treacherous hike out to the bus. That’ll have to be saved for another day though.
We then ventured into Denali park, which was “eh”, actually rather lame, but then again I didn’t pay for a bus ride. Mainly because they’re expensive, don’t allow dogs, and I know I can find a better experience myself, and I was right.
After the park Cliff headed to Anchorage and I headed down the Denal Hwy, a dirt road that most “typical ” tourists don’t drive, but a guaranteed way to venture into the wilderness. Perfect, exactly what I am looking for.
The highway proved to be amazing. Great hiking, camping, sights, and experience all around. After spending a few days on it, and being absolutely blown away by the sights on the Glenn Hwy heading to Anchorage (no pics due to rain, just drive up and see it yourself anyways), I am now in Anchorage. Will probably hang around here for the 4th, I don’t know why, but will give me a chance to do housekeeping before I head South to the Kenai Peninsula.