Day 17 – Fairbanks to Denali

We stayed overnight in a Walmart parking lot. The advantage is that there are bathrooms and good WiFi AND we can do some shopping before we leave. Since the visitors center did not open until 10AM, we decided to head over to the Large Animal Research farm for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks because they have Muskox and Reindeer that they study. We tried to get a look at them and found they did not open until 9:30 so we waited 15 minutes. They have tours so we decided to join one so we could get some good information and get to see some of the animals.

We learned that the Muskox were extinct in Alaska from disease and hunting (I think) in the late 1800’s. Someone decided to get 30 babies from Greenland and transport them to a location in the Aleutian Islands. They returned many years later and found the herd had grown to the thousands. So they were reintroduced to Alaska. Their winter hair is incredibly fine and can be made into extremely warm clothing.

Caribou and Reindeer are of the same family but from different classes. Reindeer are much shorter than caribou. Reindeer and Caribou can interbreed to make Reinbou or Carideer. I’m not making that up. Caribou number around 2 million in Alaska. All in all it was a fun tour… and there were Muskoxen babies and reindeer babies.

We then went to the main visitor’s center and got some information. FYI, the visitor’s center in Fairbanks is very good and has a lot of great exhibits form early settlers, to indigenous people, to mining, and dog sledding. Very informative. We left and had lunch and then I went to the local community pool to use their showers; it has been some days. Then we fueled up and headed to Denali.

We stopped at the 49th State brewery to look at the bus that Christopher McCandles lived and died in, as told in the book and movie “Into the Wild” . Apparently they moved it from the site across the river because too many folks were going back there to take a look and one lady died trying to cross the river. Its a simple but informative display and there is beer afterwards.

Carl and I headed up the road to find a spot outlined in iOverlander and found two folks already camped there. We crossed the road and stumbled onto a much better site. Carl cooked steak, onions, and potatoes over coals (delicious). I took a hike back up the road and saw two moose run into the forest. I found a lake back in the woods and a float plane parked on its shore. Free Camp in a great spot.

Tomorrow I’m riding the bike in Denali and Carl is doing a hike.