Mar 11, 2021 at 9:20 am #3703744
I’m considering spending a few days of r&r somewhere in interior AK around July 4 weekend following a Brooks Range trip. However, if mosquitoes are horrendous, casual hiking, birding, and enjoying a glass of wine with a view doesn’t sound very relaxing. Before I commit to any plans, I figured I should look into the mosquito situation. Currently I’m considering traveling in the area between Fairbanks and Denali, maybe doing a driving/car camping loop with Denali Hwy. Thanks!Mar 11, 2021 at 9:56 am #3703747Elisa UmpierreBPL Member
Anywhere there is still water in AK during the middle of summer you are sure to have tons of flying insects to contend with. There’s a reason people joke about Alaska’s state bird is the mosquito.Mar 11, 2021 at 12:28 pm #3703770Dena KelleyBPL Member
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
In my experience as a lifelong Alaskan, it varies but basically anytime that it’s not winter there are mosquitoes and the more standing water the worse they are regardless of month. There is a LOT of standing water in Alaska- lakes and ponds are everywhere. Mountain ridgelines usually aren’t bad, both because there’s often less standing water, and more of breeze to blow them away.Mar 11, 2021 at 9:09 pm #3703878
Depends somewhat on the snow. Right now in the interior we have quite a bit, but if it all melts off and gets hot and dry in May, the bugs tend to disappear by end of June. Last year we had the skeeter year from hell and we were cursing them into early August. It was the worst one I remember for more than a decade! Brooks range in June you will contend with a lot of bugs; bring your headnet or even a bug jacket. Early July in the interior, could go either way; most years I don’t use Deet after June. Stay out of the woods and it’s usually better. No guarantees!Mar 12, 2021 at 11:20 am #3703955
In my 23 years here, I’ve observed that one year can vary dramatically from the next.
The biggest factor seems to be how many freeze-thaws happened the previous winter. Like a piece of meat being repeatedly thawed and refrozen, mosquito eggs don’t over-winter as well when we have a winter like that.
The second biggest factor (but the one people notice more) is how bad “Break Up” is. If the ground is frozen deep (due to minimal snow cover early in the winter), then melt water doesn’t percolate in, there’s lots of standing water, and the standing water remains for a long time.
My forecast for this summer: It got cold and stayed cold (-8F at my house this morning) this winter so I expect more eggs to survive. A positive note is that the snow came early and often. We’ve had the 2nd or 3rd biggest snow year in the last quarter century. So the ground underneath won’t have frozen very deep and Break Up should be more benign as a result.
On balance (more surviving eggs but better drainage), I’d expect there to be an average to somewhat above average number of mosquito Summer of 2021.
I found it striking how consistent mosquitos are across the state. When it’s a bad year in Kenai, it is also bad around Anchorage, Denali, and in Fairbanks as well. A good year tends to be good all over.Mar 12, 2021 at 11:34 am #3703960
On my one trip into the Brooks Range, I don’t remember any mosquitos. Certainly nothing at all bothersome. I never applied any DEET or used a head net.
I always bring a head net (and a compatible hat underneath to keep it off your skin). In the worst year during my time here, we did a family trip, were incredible thankful for the head nets but wished we’d brought some bug-proof gloves as well.
I’d suggest you ping Dena, Karen, Philip, me, etc again in a new thread shortly before your trip for more up-to-date reports on how 2021 shapes up.
Also sometimes there are trail-angel possibilities: I’ve left bear spray buried next to milepost marker 100 for folks to pick up on their way to Denali, I’ve got butane fuel stashed on Adak (only jet flights there), I took Manfred&Sons 300 miles to start their Books Range trip, and sometimes I’ve got a car parked at the Anchorage airport which only saves someone $29/day in winter but $500-600/week in summe.Mar 12, 2021 at 3:45 pm #3703992
<p style=”text-align: left;”>What Dave says.</p>
Side note, you might consider his backyard on the Kenai for car camping. It would be a big change from Brooks range scenery. However the Denali Highway is nice (bring a spare though!).Mar 13, 2021 at 7:25 pm #3704477
Thanks y’all. I’ll post again shortly before departure to get your take on current conditions. I’ve reserved a 4×4 for a few days and am looking forward to exploring some new-to-me places, mosquitoes be damned! (But I’ll have plenty of deet, head net, and permethrin treated clothes)…Mar 13, 2021 at 10:05 pm #3704494
July 4th, that far north, also bring eye shades. It’ll only be sorta dark for 3-4 hours a night.
You know how your zipped-up tent heats up so much when the morning sun hits it and you wake up all sweaty because of that greenhouse effect? That can happen at midnight and 4 am at 63N and 64N. Zipped up for the bugs, but it’s warm and sunny and bright. Ugh.
It doesn’t sound very wilderness-y (cause it’s not) but sometimes I’ll just recline the car’s front seat, jam a full-sized pillow off my bed at home between the seat and door, and run the car’s climate control to keep it cool. It only uses 1/4 of a gallon per hour, so 8 hours of sleep is only 2 gallons = $6 which is a lot less than a hotel room or campground fee.Mar 13, 2021 at 10:09 pm #3704495
“bring a spare” – definitely worth checking the rental car for jack and inflated spare before signing it out. If a lug nut is too tight to get off, just wave the tiny factory lug wrench in the air while looking helpless, and the 2nd or 3rd car along will stop and help.
Luke: I drive past each end of the Denali Highway most every month but rarely go down it. Does it have really sharp rocks like the Dempster in YT does? I had two flats on the Dempster and it didn’t seem uncommon for that to happen. While the Alcan and even the Haul Road aren’t so bad anymore.Mar 13, 2021 at 10:39 pm #3704503
I haven’t driven the Denali Highway for about 4 years now, but i used to drive it every year. I have never had a flat on it. But I don’t go anywhere in Alaska without a decent spare. It’s a gorgeous drive, plenty of wildlife, and great hiking and boating.Mar 14, 2021 at 8:08 pm #3704645
Good to know, Karen. I always toss the mini-spare and put in one of the full-sized winter or summer tires, and, rarely, two of them.
Once the Denali Highway opens up again, I should cross it one way when heading to Fairbanks next. It would never be the most direct route, but I don’t have to bill for all of my miles and hours.Mar 14, 2021 at 8:56 pm #3704650
I believe I’ve dealt with 4 flats on the Denali. I have driven it many times though so it’s not every trip. I believe the problem is that they grade it occasionally and that can break rocks or leave metal pieces that chip off the grade. The section from Clearwater Creek to the Susitna seems to be the worst. I believe most of the flats happened there. At any rate a spare and a plug in tire inflator are good.
Mcclaren Lodge will fix tires usually if you can limp in. Mcclaren Lodge had a deal where they’d jet boat you up the river to a “Glam Camp ” near the glacier.
Alpine Creek lodge is a fun place to stop for a burger. Nice folks who might tell a story or two if they aren’t busy.
Tangle Lakes lodge has canoes to rent. You could paddle down the lakes for a day or an overnight. I had an epic caribou chase there with local kids but in July they are probably up higher.
Once you’ve done the Denali you might as well head back to Anchorage via the Glenn Highway its very scenic. Along the way you can stop to see the Matanuska Glacier.Mar 15, 2021 at 1:22 pm #3704749
Thanks for these tips! I’ve reserved a Jeep from Alaska 4×4 in Anchorage and I just landed a night at the Caribou Creek cabin off Nebesna Rd in Wrangell-St Elias. I’m still not sure how many extra nights I’m adding onto the trip but plan to do the loop with Glenn, Denali, and Parks hwys. There are many hikes that look excellent and will only be able to do a small handful. I’m debating going up Hatcher Pass, considering overshooting a bit on Richardson to hike to Gulkana glacier, and wondering if I should go into Denali (with my limited time is it worth the mess of shuttle bus or save that for another trip?).
Getting excited!Mar 15, 2021 at 1:29 pm #3704750
I’m biased, but I think Denali is always worth it; I lived there for 6 summers/1 winter and never, ever get tired of it. You can skip the buses this time, visit just the east end, drive in the first 14 miles, and see a lot. There are a bunch of short hikes at the east entrance too, that are worthwhile (on actual trails) and give you a taste of what you might find further out. I think Denali is the jewel in the crown of Alaska, and that hasn’t changed no matter where I’ve gone. Others here have traveled more widely in Alaska though. You can’t do it all! But driving less and getting out of the car is so much better than seeing more from behind the windshield.
I don’t think Hatcher pass is all that great. I would think after the Brooks range it would be a let down. I have not driven the Nabesna road; it’s on my list! There’s just too much to do. You won’t go wrong. Valdez is spectacular, and not too far off your loop. Also some great hiking up in the pass above town.Mar 15, 2021 at 3:22 pm #3704771
Caribou Creek cabin is nice. I’d suggest an off trail day hike up the mountains around it.
Gulkana Glacier is nice. The creek might be too high to Ford in July though.
Hatcher Pass is pretty but nothing special by Alaska standards (especially after the Brooks).
Worthington Glacier is okay at the bottom but hiking the ridge above it is spectacular (hope you don’t get vertigo).
Make sure you have time to enjoy things. Alaska is a big place, you don’t want to spend all the time driving.Mar 15, 2021 at 4:28 pm #3704810
I agree with the other Alaskans – Hatcher Pass is fine and close, but since you’re striking further out, spend more of your time out there.
If this a survey trip, and you’ll be back, you could plan on Denali NP next time. But for someone’s only Alaska trip, I’d put Denali on the top of the list. It’s a long day on the park bus out to Eielson Visitor’s Center and back, but you’re guaranteed to see grizzlies, caribou, and Dall sheep, likely to see moose, fox, and golden eagles and it’s possible you’ll see wolves. Bring good binoculars and a bag lunch.
It wouldn’t be wrong, on a first trip, to only spend one day at Denali and take the bus out the park road. It could really help you get your head around returning and getting a backpacking permit which is very different experience than in other national parks – everything is off trail and you get an entire section of the park to yourself. Chat up the backcountry desk about what’s involved, should you return to do that.Mar 15, 2021 at 10:43 pm #3704894
Luke (or anyone else) can you get a good look at Matanuska Glacier from the road or does it require a hike? I’m working out my itinerary now and I won’t have a lot of extra time on Glenn Highway, but if it’s recommended I might be able to squeeze in a power hike up Lion’s Head (which looks like a good bet for glacier viewing). Thanks!Mar 16, 2021 at 12:09 am #3704897
Lisa, Lion’s Head is the best view of the glacier. Great hike, I have done it with kids from work and my parents. You could probably do it in 2 hours.
If you want to get on the glacier you drive down to the visitor pay a fee and go hike along a marked path. Crampons are handy but not mandatory.
You get a descent view of the glacier from the road but not as good imho.Mar 16, 2021 at 4:12 pm #3704956
Lisa, I drive the Glenn Highway about once each month and 60-70% of the time, the glacier is clearly visible from the highway (if it’s daylight). Not during a snow storm or really heavy rain, but usually.
I have a slight preference for going around the ANC-Tok-FAI-ANC loop counter clockwise because there are more potential views of Denali from the north and, during the summer, more likely clear weather north of the Alaska Range than to the south. Still, most of the summer, “The Mountain” isn’t “out” – a reason to come back sometime in winter.
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