Anchorage towards Denali National Park, Alaska, USA

4th - 7th August 2014

Driving through Anchorage was a serious brush with regular US city life after our peaceful time down south. Eager to escape the bustle, we made our obligatory stops for supplies and fuel and were ready to hit the road out of town when we spotted THE LIGHT.

A mysterious light had illuminated on Harvey's dashboard, apparently warning us about “ECT PWR”. Having absolutely no idea what this meant and whether it was safe to drive, we considered our options. Christine buried her nose in the owners manual whilst Phil did some displacement fishing for flies. Finally the source of the light was determined and Christine hurried into the Bass Pro Store to share the news with the anxious Phil.

Naturally as she passed through the cavernous entrance foyer of the store, Phil had sneaked out the exit room, leading to a farcical game of hide and seak.

Finally reunited, Christine broke the news with a cheerful, “I fixed the engine!” Phil perplexed needed more explanation. “Somebody must have accidently pressed the big button on the dashboard, clearly marked “ECT PWR”, a button which in over 80,000 miles neither driver had noticed, causing the light to come on.” Once the button was pressed again the light went out as ECT was apparently disengaged. Now all we had to figure out was what ECT was, ejector seat perhaps or maybe eggs, coffee and toast?

Greatly relieved we moved on, calling at the Alaska Native Heritage Center on our way out of town. The museum gave a fascinating insight into the lives of Alaska's native indigenous tribal people but as we arrived only half and hour before closing, we only managed a glimpse. The kind receptionist however did allow our glimpse to be free of charge!

A night at Palmer's campground left us much refreshed after our trauma, mostly because of a long overdue hot shower!

Next morning we were on the George Parks Highway, headed north in search of more fishing before the Alaska licence expired.

We stumbled upon Montana Creek, a spot which boasted a state campground and a private campground and seemed to be overrun with fly fishermen. Heading to the fly shop at the campground, we were pointed to a different spot on the river, much more peaceful despite being only a quarter mile from the hubbub and a spot where we could overnight free of charge, in company with the girls of the Fish and Game department, who were busy trying to count the salmon headed upstream.

Phil back in his element on Montana Creek.

Alaska's state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan in his summer colours.

Naturally it was when Christine decided to explore the area's gravel backroads on her bike, taking the camera with her, that Phil landed a beautiful 23” rainbow trout, so he wasn't able to record it for posterity.

On the bike ride Christine encountered a cheeky, feathered friend who was happy just to stand in the road and give her a hard stare. It was later determined to be the state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan, whose plummage turned snow white in winter.

An afternoon of bush-whacking along the river give us the chance to watch the huge salmon struggling upstream through the shallows in order to spawn. Phil managed to land one, releasing it to continue its tough journey.

Salmon struggle upstream to return to their birthplace.

Back on the Parks Highway, we observed a strange looking cloud, high in the sky. It resembled a huge mountain. Suddenly we realised it was actually Mount McKinley, known by the natives as Denali. Neither of us having seen a mountain so high before, our brains had convinced us it was a cloud for a while. We were lucky to be among the thirty percent of people who actually get to see Denali when it was not entirely enveloped in thick cloud.

Denali's vertical rise was actually higher than Everest's we later learned, as Everest rises from a plateau many thousands of feet high.

Our next stop was at the beautiful Byers Lake where an afternoon hike around the water didn't bring very productive fishing, despite the teeming salmon swimming by. The sodden trail, however, offered quite a fungus fest.

We survived our trip across the very rickety suspension bridge to the far side of the lake, where we spotted Trumpeter Swans and a Loon with its fluffy chick, providing the soundtrack to our walk, with its haunting, distinctive cry.

Next day we paddled the lake in our inflatable canoe, not catching any trout but enjoying the tranquility, watching the salmon leaping from the water and even catching another glimpse of Denali as we explored the upstream creek as far as the dodgey bridge.

Byers Lake


Trumpeter Swan.


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