Trapper Creek, Alaska and the drive north to Denali National Park

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To see several of Alaska’s most notable attractions, it’s almost inevitable.  You’ll have a day, or two, or more, that are devoted entirely to getting from point A to point B.  On this trip, and on this day, I needed to go from Seward to the Denali National Park area.  That’s about 375 miles of driving, and most of it is on two-lane roads. Making the trip more exhausting, rainy weather had moved in — rain that didn’t stop the entire way.

I made the entire drive with just a handful of stops. I tried to look for Sarah Palin’s house in Wasilla.  Then I stopped at the Wasilla Dairy Queen for lunch, thinking that she might bring the family by for Blizzards.  When that didn’t happen, I ordered a Blizzard to go, and started driving again.

After my visit to Wasilla, a friend told me the best way to see Sarah Palin’s House (which is featured prominently on her Alaska reality show).  Her home is on Lake Lucille, which is just south of the Parks Highway.  My friend suggested I take a drive around the lake, and look across the lake to see her house.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get back to Wasilla to give it a try.  

My next stop was unexpected, but looked interesting enough that I did a u-turn and went back.  I was in Trapper Creek, Alaska, and when one is in Trapper Creek, it would be inexcusable not to stop in at Wal Mike’s.

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You might think that Wal Mike’s is a junkyard or a perpetual yard sale.  Maybe it’s an antique store or a flea market.  None of those assumptions are incorrect.

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I seriously doubt if Mike is the one unfriendly person in Trapper Creek, Alaska, but I can’t say for sure.  He was away, at a funeral, on the day I visited.  The woman running the place (his wife?) told me all about him, and the store, and just about everything.

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Just walking up to the front porch is an adventure.  Inside, you’ll find…

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… things like this…

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… and this.

Ohkayeee.

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I can’t say that the prices at Wal Mike’s qualify as “bargains”.  I mean, a black-and-white TV with manual tuning knobs for $39?  I guess that is about a third of the price of a 32-inch high-def flatscreen.  But still, a bargain?  Not quite.

Truth is, a lot of Wal Mike’s prices were higher than I expected, which finally led me to the conclusion that this was more of a junk museum than a junk store.

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It’s also a personal museum for Mike.  One wall is covered with various memorabilia, including a picture of him with Glenn Beck.

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But, if you spend too much time at Wal Mike’s, you’ll never get a head on your journey up the Parks Highway.

I didn’t buy anything at Wal Mike’s, but I did drop a couple of dollars in the donation jar. Mike asks that people who take photographs of his store/museum make a small donation.
A few miles south of Trapper Creek, there’s a turn-off to the town of Talkeetna. It’s about a 32-mile round-trip detour off the Parks Highway, and on a day when I was already driving nearly 400 miles, I decided to skip it. But, it’s a neat little town that’s well worth a visit, if you have the time.

Headed north from Trapper Creek, my next stop promised a view of Mount McKinley, or Denali.

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It didn’t deliver.  This is the “Denali South Viewpoint” inside Denali State Park (as opposed to Denali National Park).  There is also a north viewpoint, but I didn’t bother with it, because it was obvious that the mountain wasn’t going to show itself on a rainy day like this.

As you continue north, the next town is Cantwell, and the next interesting thing to see is the Igloo.  I’ll talk more about that weird landmark, and the interesting changes in the landscape as you head north, on the next page.

Location

From Seward, take the Seward Highway (AK 9, then AK 1) north to Anchorage.  In Anchorage, the Seward Highway becomes the Glenn Highway.  Continue north, and shortly after crossing the Knik River, the Glenn Highway (AK 1) turns east.  Take the Parks Highway (AK 3) towards Wasilla, Willow, Trapper Creek, and Denali National Park.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the drive from Seward to Tern Lake (Junction of AK 1 and 9)…

… Tern Lake to Anchorage…

… from Anchorage, through Wasilla, to the Willow area…

… Willow to the Igloo near Cantwell…

… and Cantwell to the Denali Park entrance area:

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