As we camped at the hot springs, we were one of the first into the water. There is an indoor swimming pool and 2 Jacuzzi’s. Outdoor is the main hot spring. It has a fine gravel bottom and on the side some underwater benches to sit on. And a water fountain in the middle to cool down if it gets too hot. There is only a mild sulphur smell but enough to keep the mosquitoes away. We spent a relaxing 2 hours in the pool and in the Jacuzzi before driving on to Fairbanks.
In Fairbanks we first looked for a carwash with a high pressure hose so we could clean the camper again. Thereafter we dropped into a windscreen repair shop to get the star in our windscreen repaired. From there we drove to the town centre and stopped in at the visitors centre where they have a large exhibition with diorama’s of Alaskan life through the 4 seasons. Very informative. The downtown area is along the Chena river. There is not much going on and not much to see. Therefore we took some pictures of the many statues they have in the park along the river as well as the catholic church where a mass was being read. The night was spent at Wal-Mart with an official camper overnight place. We met several campers from Argentina there too. They were interested in our maps. Most of them had been travelling for over a year to get here and will still be travelling for time to come.
On 11/8 we left town towards the main tourist attraction of the state: Denali National Park. But first we stopped at the Museum of the North at the university of Alaska. The museum has a large collection of First Nation utensils and also gives an explanation of the local geology, flora and fauna. For the first time we also saw how the Russians in the area lived between 1790 and 1876 as well as the location and habits of the different First Nation people.
We arrived at Denali just in time to catch the 16:30 tour bus into the park, the only way to see the park further in from the visitor centre. We had an excellent driver who more or less explained his life story as well as all the different animals we saw. Each time a critter was spotted the bus stopped and we could take pictures out of the bus windows. The bears and Dall sheeps we only saw far in the distance so the tele-lens came in handy. The caribou were sometimes a lot closer by and the one moose we saw was so close by that he disappeared into the woods before the bus could stop. We were lucky because the sky was clear and we could see Mt. Denali (6190 m) in the distance. The following days he was hiding in the (rain) clouds. It was 21:30 when we came back from the tour. Jamaliah had found a bush spot, on the ioverlander app, some 27 km south of the park along the fast flowing Nenana river. There were several other campers there too.
The following day we had a relaxing drive going south on hwy. 3. The road is good so we made easy progress. Most of the way it was raining and at the 2 stops we made to see the mountains, Mt. Denali was not visible. We turned off hwy. 3 towards Talkeetna. This is a very touristy old town with sandy/muddy streets and old buildings converted into tourist shops. It is one of the stopover points for the tourist train and buses carrying passengers from the cruise ships in Anchorage. We spent quite some time strolling the streets and talking to shop owners and visitors and listening to the late afternoon music performance. Once you see through the tourist facade, the town becomes much more friendly. Along the Susitna river we tried to spot salmon swimming up river to their spawning grounds. The water was very murky but we managed to see a few. To be able to see them better we drove back to the main highway and pulled off the road to camp along the Montana creek. There is a large gravel parking area. It was clear that fisherman camped at this area. Some came by during the evening to see if the salmon were running here. They did not see them and neither do we.
It was not far anymore to Anchorage. The city lies on the Cook Inlet. As in many cities, it is a rectangular street plan. However since the city is not very old, the streets are wider and there are planned parking places and also some green blocks. Because it was raining (been raining since we entered the city), we decided to visit the modern Anchorage Museum which a.o. goes into depth of the First nations cultures with artefacts and historical telling by natives (on video). At the National Park service we bought a Passepartout (America the Beautiful pass) for free entry to most the national parks in the USA. We will be visiting many of them on our way down south.
The Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage, which flows into the Cook Inlet, has 2 bridges and a dam where you can see the salmon swimming up river. In the water there are a lot of fisherman trying to catch the fish. Salmon comes in 5 types. Each type goes up the rivers to their spawning grounds at a different time. Most of the eatable silver salmon had already passed. As a result the fisherman threw back many of the fish they caught. Apparently not a good quality. As we wanted to spend another day here, we camped for the night next to a sport complex on the south side of town, close to the airport. Hopefully not too many airplanes flying over so we can get some sleep.