Set off from Anne's house, 10 people in two cars, and headed north. I traveled with Anne and her two children, Corbin 4 and Harlow 14 months. The cars were crammed with cool boxes full of camping stoves, utensils and an assortment of bear defences ranging from bells through pepper spray to a tazer. We drove for about an hour before stopping at a giant roadside stall of fireworks. There are a whole series of these at this point as it is just outside the city jurisdiction where it is illegal to sell or let off fireworks. There were a couple of old split screen VW Combis, a double decker bus with a scoreboard dated 1776 and the score USA 1: UK 0.
Having resisted the temptation to buy giant rockets and multiple mortar launchers (Mike couldn't and bought a whole load of pyrotechnics), we continued on to Byers creek camping ground at mile 144 and set up camp with two large tents and my little one, with a large tarp set up over the camp table next to the fire circle. It rained, and rained, and rained, and rained but food was produced and the whole crowd fed and watered with hot chocolate or tea.
I woke at 06:15 as the rain finally stopped and considered getting out of my warm sleeping bag but instead snuggled in for a few more mins after which the rain started again! We stuck to the plan of going on a hike and all donned our wet weather gear and set off for a 5 mile hike round Byers lake stopping for lunch at a little cabin which had a fire going in it. There are public use cabins available in many forest areas. This had been donated by Friends of the Parks and consisted of a single room with table and benches, wood burner, and bunks to sleep 6. There was a small covered verandah overlooking the lake and a cleared area large enough to put up several tents as well being where a miniature cabin containing the long drop was.
The people renting the cabin turned up as we were leaving and kindly gave us two bundles of firewood as we had not managed to bring any with us. We later discovered that the caretake of the site was selling bundles for $5 but had missed this when we drove in the day before. We headed of knowing that we would at least have a fire to gather round tonight!
Some time was spent on our return trying to figure out how to stop the girls tent from leaking and the situation was improved but not after Alex and Hannah had elected to sleep in the car. Alex didn't get much sleep before 01:30 when I heard her outside my tent asking me to tell her a story! My story must have been very boring as she was asleep after less than 5 mins!
Next morning we packed away wet tents in the noticeably cooler air and drove on to Denali where we bought passes and drove in 12 miles to Mountain view picnic area. From here we followed an interpretive trail which end up at a log cabin with a live exhibit of a 1920s ranger who talked us through the practicalities of living in the park with temperatures ranging from +40 to -50C. Next we walked the Savage river trail which takes you down a narrowing valley down which a increasingly strong, and cold, wind was blowing. It was getting late and the hordes were hungry so we went into the town and had halibut and chips at the Smoked Salmon before heading to the Denali Park Hotel about 15 miles North of Denali town.
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