A lot and not much happened today. For the most part, it was a a driving day. It was the start of the two day drive to Denali and of course, it was today when we found out that someone had gotten killed by a bear for the first time ever (in Denali) over the weekend. Perfect timing! Thankfully, they only closed a small section of the huge park and it was nowhere near where we were going. No way would they close the major tourist area in peak(ish) tourist season. But the timing was crazy. It was after this story broke that the half of the group that still wanted to see a bear, kind of got over that urge. We read tourism packets a little differently going forward (Cartoon bears with the caption “Come play with us!” took on a new meaning. And you wonder why this happens? Even though they do pound it into your head to stay 300m back from a bear (vs. like 25m for a moose)) and we were more aware to stay back, if we saw a bear.
Since we had 60 miles of dirt road coming into Wrangell, we had 60 miles going out. This was the day I left my camera in my bag, which was a bit of a disappointment. For the first time ever, we were running early and our guide told the coffee hut family we would be passing by around 10a and hopefully they would be open. We got there around 9:40 and of course, they weren’t open so we kept on trucking. On the road out of the park, stopped at the bridge we stopped at on the way in, but this time, some of the group went underneath it. Since I didn’t have my camera, I didn’t go and just got out to stretch my legs. We made another stop and then we were out of the park! We stopped at a burger shack in the town of Chitna for lunch and we had our first moose sighting! It was crossing the road, but unfortunately by the time we piled out of the van, it was pretty much gone. But still really cool! We walked through town to the burger stand and when we were waiting for our orders, it started to rain. TM and I chatted with some locals, who made the mistake of coming to order lunch when all 14 of us had placed our orders, but it was really interesting talking to some locals. They wanted to give us more fish they had back at their hour, but we were moving on, so we didn’t get any, which was fine by me. We backtracked to Glenallen and got cell reception for the first time in 3 days and had to refill the van with gas and food and to pick up thai dishes for dinner (chicken #2, here we come!). We unloaded the coolers to clean them out and some of us weeded through the food to see what was still eatable while the guide drove the van over to the gas station to fill up. I called my sister and said I would watch the coolers while some of the group took the food to the dumpsters and as I was talking to her, it started to pour! At first, I thought I would wait it out, but then it got so bad, that I just left the coolers and the good food out and ran into the supermarket for shelter. Of course, seriously, like 5 minutes later, it stopped and the sky turned blue and since half the group was in the market, they came out and didn’t even know what happened. At first, I didn’t want to leave the coolers and food alone in the rain, but then I remembered where I was. I was in Alaska, no one was going to take it, duh. The rain stopped when the van returned and the guide and I had a laugh because both of us, in our heads, debated leaving the bags we pulled out to rearrange for the food in the parking lot and THANK GOD we didn’t or they would have been drenched! We got so lucky there. After another repack, we were on the road.
We stopped a few more times and it was getting colder and colder, that at one stop, I broke down and put my shoes on (since it was a travel day, I decked out in flipflops, but always pack a pair of socks and have my sneakers handy, just in case) because I was so cold! It was very windy when we arrived at our stop for the night in the Tangle Lakes region. We got out and it was so cold and windy! The guide told us about canoeing in the lake to our campsite, but only one person wanted to do it and it was so windy, so she didn’t get to and we drove on to our campsite. I can’t even describe how cold it was. It was clear and beautiful, but because it was now cloudless, it was even colder! Funny enough, the Swiss girl and Russian girl both opt-ed to stay in cabins that night. What the hell, shouldn’t they, of all people be used to this kind of weather? Whatever. It was pretty miserable, but I didn’t want to pay $40 and it’s not like it was raining. There were no showers, drop toilets only and they were a bit of a walk. It made for an interesting night. For the first time ever, I slept with my sweatshirt on and socks, which I hadn’t done up to that point, as having two people in the tents kept them nice and warm. But not tonight. It also sucked to throw up our tents for just one night, that was annoying. As TM and I were putting our tent up, I commented that we only had to put up the tent one more time after this! YAY!!!
The night was freezing and we just huddled around the campfire for most of it, but I went to bed when the dust from the fire got to just be so bad. This was probably my least favorite night. I was so ready to get on to Denali!