Monday, June 13, 2016

June 10 -12, 2016 Days 41 – 43 Crossing the Alaskan Border – Fairbanks - Denali

“We are each an expression of the earth.
 When you pray for my life,
 You become Nanook,
 And Nanook becomes man.
Someday we shall meet in this world of ice,
And when that happens it does not matter
Whether it is I who shall die, or you.”
Michio Hashino, Nanook’s Gift

Nanana, Alaska
Abigail and Jaime Landrum
 Family owned Nenana RV Park and Campground
After crossing into Alaska the roads improved dramatically giving us relief from the bone jarring travels of the last two days.  The only causality that we could immediately detect was the loss of the propane hot water system.  Our system employs propane (for self-contained camping) or electric (when external 110 V is available) to heat water for washing dishes and personal hygiene.  Somewhere over the innumerable number of bumps we hit, we must have knocked something loose.  We now have only the electric system working…still very “cushy” when compared to tent camping.  Licking our wounds, we kept a steady pace, traveling over 350 miles in one day, until we arrived in Nenana, Alaska.  Situated 65 miles north of Denali National Park, this will be a good jumping off spot for our stay in Denali.

Nenana RV Park and Campground
Miles Martin - Holding his stories
Nenana RV Park and Campground was a lucky find for us.  The Traveler’s Guide to Alaskan Camping alerted us to the presence of this campground (it had been closed for a time).  We had intended to travel all the way to Denali but we simply were too tired.  Nenana RV Park and Campground is family owned and they treated us like family.  We had a few minor RV issues which they graciously helped us resolve by lending us the few tools that we did not carry on this trip.  The restrooms were immaculate and they even supplied little homemade bathmats to step on when leaving the shower.  Use them and then simply toss them in the laundry basket…very nice touch!  The next day we unhooked our Dingy (Yaris Toyota Pull Vehicle) and drove on to Denali.  We wanted to see if we should pack up and stay at one of the commercial campgrounds at the Denali entrance until our reservation date (June 13) at Teklanika River Campground 29 miles inside the park.  Access is strictly limited and we were very lucky to secure reservation when we called ahead the week before.  The commercial campgrounds at the park DO NOT HOLD A CANDLE to Nenana RV Park and Campground.  If traveling north to south on the Parks Highway and need a place to stay…. THIS IS IT!  Our recommendation when visiting Denali by RV would be to call ahead, arrange to stay in the park, and use Nenana as a base camp until your reservation date.  It is within driving distance to both Fairbanks and Denali.  In addition to this, on Saturdays there is a farmer’s
Andrea with Marge Riley - Marge is holding a Picture of
her husband Jerry Riley, 1976 Iditarod Winner
market and craft sale that is small but outstanding.  We met Miles Martin, a self-described “city slicker” who, after leaving the service in the 70’s, was “flown into the wilderness with no arrangements to get picked up and walked out 8 months later.”  He loved the experience so much that he maintained this life style and wrote a series of five books about his experiences.  After chatting, I ended up buying all of his books.  He is a true modern day mountain man, articulate, self-depreciating, and great company.  We also met Lee Hulcher who makes a living fashioning unique hand-carved ice age art from mammoth ivory she has collected and from gold that she has panned.  Others sold rose petal jelly, dandelion jelly, baked goods, hand crafted knives, etc.  These Alaskan folks are an interesting lot… self-sufficient, independent, and free thinkers.  We enjoyed them immensely.

Beau Hawkins next to copies of his mother's books

Nenana - On the Iditarod trail
A quick visit to the Nenana Welcome center introduced us to Marge Riley who has lived in Alaska for the last 50 years.  Her husband, Jerry Riley, won the Iditarod in 1976 and she was a great wealth of both fact and lore for this area.  It was Marge that recommended we visit the train museum on the other end of town…a 5-minute walk.  There we met “Beau” Hawkins who shared his family’s history in the area and later took us through some of his family’s cabins.  His mom, Joanne Hawkins who recently passed but lived a rich, full, exciting life, wrote Alaska M&Ms “Men & Money (another book we were unable to resist). 

Nenana, at first glance, seemed a typical small Alaskan town but, like so many small towns as I have discovered, it has a rich and varied history.  We planned to stay overnight and ended up staying for 3 nights and would have stayed longer if we could.  What a great visit!


  1. Steve and Andrea-
    Enjoyed reading your blog post! We enjoyed your visit so much at our campground. Travelers like you make it bittersweet- a joy to get to know but feels like family leaving when you go! We hope the remainder of your trip is full of good encounters and trouble free. Maybe one day you will be back our way again, please say "HI" if so. Blessings, Jaime Landrum, Nenana RV Park & Campground

  2. So nice to talk to you the other day. I'm looking forward to the Denali pics. It sounded amazing!