Thursday, November 29, 2007

Denali Highway

The Denali Highway is one of my favorite roads in Alaska. The road is always bumpy, and is either dusty or muddy. Rarely is there a happy medium. I prefer the ride from the Paxon side to the Glenn Highway side. This report is from a ride we did in September 2006.

We had no urgent work for a few days so we decided to make a two day mid-week trip down the Denali Highway. We left Anchorage on Wednesday about noon and gassed up in Palmer. For those of you not familiar with the Glen Highway, it runs along the Matanuska River and offers some spectacular views of the river as well as of the Matanuska Glacier. There are also some nice twisties to keep you entertained when you don't feel like just admiring the scenery. We ate a late lunch at Sheep Mountain Lodge, and spent the night in Glenallen.

Thursday we rolled out around 9:00 in the morning in heavy fog. The thermometer in Glenallen said 38 degrees. Brrrr..... Thank goodness for Gerbings! Just outside of Glenallen we turned onto the Richardson Highway heading up toward Fairbanks. The fog was still heavy, and this is caribou migration time, so we had to keep the speed moderately in check.

The fog had burned off by the time we hit Paxon and turned off onto the Denali Hwy. We were stopping for LOTS of photos, so we weren't making the best of time. The first 21 miles of the Denali is paved, and thank goodness there wasn't much traffic. I spent so much time gazing at mountains and the fall colors I probably wouldn't have made it on gravel.

We stopped for an early lunch at Tangle Lakes, right at the end of paved road. The lady there told us it had been down to 28 degrees that morning. By the time we came through it was almost 50. I hadn't been over the Denali Hwy in about 5 years, then it was in horrible shape, ruts, potholes, you name it. This time it was much better. Cages were still doing the 20 mph thing, but we were able to go much faster, just slowing down when we hit the BIG loose gravel.

The views on the Denali are awesome, and always changing. I don't know how many times I've been over this stretch of road but there is always something new to experience. Anyone traveling Alaska who misses riding this road, has missed what would have been a high light of their trip. The Denali Highway isn't the easiest ride, nor is it the hardest, but it will stand out as one of the most memorable.

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