Day 347: Seward and the Exit Glacier

We started the day by practicing for M’s bar mitzvah Torah reading portion.  We use Kol Koren software to practice:

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We headed East today, seeing great views along the road:

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When new reached the junction of the Sterling Highway and the Seward Highway, we followed the Seward Highway south to the end of the road, at Seward, Alaska.  Seward is the access point for Kenai Fjords National Park, which is mostly reached by water, so the town has an extensive marina:

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Not a bad view from our parking spot while in Seward:

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We stopped in at the Kenai Fjords visitor center in Seward, then headed back up the Seward Highway to the Exit Glacier Visitor Center.  Here, visitors can hike up to the Exit Glacier.  We received our Junior Ranger workbooks and headed up the trail.  We had also checked out a green “discovery backpack”, which had as one of its activities to measure the water temperature of the creek flowing from the toe of the glacier.  We measured the temperature at 35 degrees, which makes sense:

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The kids pulled this chunk of ice out of the water as it floated by:

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We continued up the trail:

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Eventually, we reached the toe of Exit Glacier.  The glacier is four miles long, and is hundreds of feet thick along its center line.  It’s amazing to think that this massive flow of ice is made up of snow that fell on the Harding Icefield long, long ago.  This viewpoint was adjacent to the glacier a few years ago, but the glacier recedes hundreds of feet a year, so the glacier is no longer accessible from this point:

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The hike down was beautiful as well:

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Back at the visitor center, the kids completed their Junior Ranger workbooks:

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They also did additional activities from the discovery backpack:

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The ranger insisted on swearing the kids in outside next to the flagpole, much to M’s chagrin:

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The kids received their badge, as well as a “Junior Glacier Ranger” patch for their discovery backpack work:

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It was getting late, so we decided to overnight at a pullout on the access road to Exit Glacier.  Not a bad view!

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More views from the pullout:

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M and I did some math on his wall, which is floor to ceiling whiteboard:

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I finally finished the wall by diving the bookcase in the rear of the bunkhouse:

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See the trip map for driving details.

Day 339: The Elusive Mount McKinley

True to its reputation, Mt. McKinley was not easy to spot.  It’s hiding somewhere in the clouds:

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We saw it clearly while driving down the highway, but by the time we pulled over it was concealed again.  This the best I could do, it’s the large white mass in the center of the photograph:

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Continuing South, we arrived in Wasilla and visited the Iditarod headquarters.  Sled dogs pull tourists on a wheeled cart around a short track in the summer:

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Tonight we’re overnighting at the Walmart of Wasilla.  I found some time to diagnose and fix our rear stabilizers, which refuse to come down with either the motor drive or the manual override.  I suspected the motor was seized, and indeed that was the case.  The solution was to remove the motor entirely, which at least allows the screw drive to spin freely so the stabilizers can be raised and lowered manually:

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Yup, she’s done:

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See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 337: Denali National Park

This morning, Trish laid out M’s Junior Ranger badges and patches on the fabric that she is going to use to display them.  We’ve been to quite a few National Parks and Monuments:

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We drove South to Denali National Park, where the kids got to work on their Junior Ranger books:

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Another badge for the collection:

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We stopped by the kennels.  The Park Service mushes sleds in the winter through the park for perimeter patrol, search and rescue, scientific research, and trail and facility maintenance:

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The sled shed had some displays:

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There are about 40 dogs here at the kennels:

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A boy and his dog:

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The dogs are quite regal:

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Stop staring at me!

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The tack room, which features the nameplates of dogs no longer at the kennel:

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The main attraction of Denali National Park is Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America.  From base to summit, McKinley is taller than Everest, and it is the largest mountain by volume of any mountain situated entirely above sea level.  Sightings of the mountain are infamously elusive, as McKinley is so tall it generates its own clouds.  There’s only a 30% chance of sighting McKinley on any given day.  Today was very cloudy, so we drove South to overnight at a roadside free campground just North of where the best roadside views of the mountain can be had.  Hopefully the weather will be good after Shabbos and we can see the mountain as we continue South.

This afternoon I replaced a couple of the cell antenna members that had been broken off by low hanging branches.  This is the smallest diameter aluminum pipe Lowe’s had, hopefully it doesn’t affect the antenna’s tuning too much:

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Good Shabbos from near Denali National Park!  See the trip map for driving details and our current location.

Day 332: North to Fairbanks

This morning, we drove West to Fairbanks.  While we did see two moose on Thursday’s drive, today we did not see any.  After reaching Fairbanks and having lunch, we went to the visitor center which had an extensive exhibit area:

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The kids completed their Junior Ranger books for the center and received their badges:

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You know you’re in Alaska when…

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From the visitor center, we went to Arctic Bowl and played a game.  Here I am coaching B:

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Not that I know what I’m doing myself:

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M gives it a throw:

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In the end, I narrowly avoided defeat by M, who had two strikes and a spare!

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When we fill up the fresh water tank, water sometimes spills back into the “water closet” through the smaller overflow line or the larger vent line when we park at an angle, making a mess.  I added hoses with shutoffs to these two holes so that this won’t happen anymore.  I just have to remember to open them up again when we’re done driving for the day.  This is only a problem when the tank is completely full:

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Tomorrow, we will drive to Coldfoot, where we will leave the RV the following morning as we drive with just the truck to Prudhoe Bay, dip our toes in the Arctic Ocean, and drive back to Coldfoot in one day.  The day after that, we will drive back down to Fairbanks.  It’s a grueling 1,000 miles over 3 days, 75% of it on gravel roads, but we figure if we came this far, we might as well go as far North as we can by car.  See the trip map for the driving legs to the Arctic as well as today’s drive and our current location.

Day 323: (Mud) Flapping in the Wind

A lot of water and mud gets thrown up onto the underside of the fifth wheel.  The front compartment is leaking a bit as a result:

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I’ve added monster-sized mud flaps, hopefully that will help:

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After the mud flap installation, we drove into downtown and visited the MacBride Museum of Yukon History.  The museum had an impressive collection of native animals:

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Sam McGee’s cabin was also on site.  Robert Service, a bank teller at the time, met Sam and asked to use his name in the now-famous poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee.

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Old stagecoaches that used to travel between towns during the gold rush:

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Is this a compliment?

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This is the first electric generator that served the area.  Pressurized water was shot into the cups on the left, which turned the generator:

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Tourist fun:

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White Pass, makers of the first shipping containers:

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A local freight train:

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Back at the RV, we spoke to the driver of this contraption, a 24 passenger tour bus with 24 sleeping births in the back.  The hallway for the sleeping births slides out on the passenger side, and the passengers find their birth and climb a ladder if necessary to get in.  Looks a little tight to me, but it’s pretty neat:

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Before dinner, I finally got around to pulling out the over-range microwave oven and installing in its place a medicine cabinet door salvaged from the bathroom remodel:

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Behold, over-range storage:

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Despite encouraging the kids to not play with their food….

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We hope to get an early start tomorrow, visit the SS Klondike, and then head North.