Day 17: July 2, 2016
The Parks Highway

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This has been my home for the last three days. The Golden North Motel is far from luxurious but it was sufficient and reasonably priced for the area.

The road from Fairbanks to Anchorage is called the George Parks Highway. Notice that I didn't say "main road" or "a road". No, this is "the road" because, like most roads in these parts, there really is no alternative. Maybe that has something to do with the tendency of residents to call their roads by name rather than by number. This is also AK-3 but Alaskans rarely call it that.

As I neared Denali, this railroad bridge caught my eye and I stopped for a few pictures. A short distance later, I spotted rafters on the Nenana River and grabbed an over the guardrail shot without stopping.

There is a cluster of buildings near the entrance to Denali National Park that people call Denali Village or McKinley Village or Summer Village. That last name comes from the fact that almost all of the businesses here close down during the winter.

I recognized the Salmon Bake building from a friend's photos and began taking pictures of its various odd components. A shuttle bus has just pulled in and, as I snapped away nearby, its driver, Joe, asked if I'd like to go inside. It wasn't open yet and I could take some pictures without worrying about people. I accepted the offer, of course, and grabbed several shots of the interior. As I did, I couldn't help thinking of my friend's description of his 2008 visit: "We had a delicious meal here in a very funky setting." So, after the activities in the next two panels, which were partially designed to keep me in the area until the 11:00 opening, I came back to this funky setting for my own delicious meal. David Reese, this is your doing.

A large rest area, more or less connected with Denali Village, provides some nice views of the Nenana River. Outfitters slide their rafts down the steep banks here. The beached rafts in the third picture can be seen in the lower right portion of the first. I watched as wet-suited adventurers climbed into a pair of rafts and floated off into the distance.

Most of the Denali Park Road is restricted to park busses and other official vehicles but the first dozen or so miles can be driven by anyone. I hadn't gone far when I encountered cars stopped while a pair of moose crossed the road. Once across, the huge animals almost instantly vanished into the woods.

The area beyond the signs was closed to hikers when we passed in the shuttle bus yesterday morning but was open when we returned in the afternoon. The closure was the result of some unusual bear encounters. The bear involved had been driven away with rubber bullets and the area reopened after five days without sighting. But shortly after the reopening, the bear attacked a hiker and the area closed once again. The woman who was attacked suffered some scratches and is doing well. The bear's future is not so promising.

The bridge view was pointed out to us by our driver yesterday but there was no way to get a picture from the bus. Today I took advantage of the front row seat and the lack of rain.

When I saw this deteriorating building I assumed it was a once operating hotel that had fallen on hard times but a little searching revealed that it is really just a shell that was never completed. I can't imagine that anyone exists who is both crazy enough and rich enough to restore/complete it but...

I can add one more moose to the count. This one is simultaneously eating and bathing.

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