Travel Tuesday (er, sorta): Delta Junction

Travel Tuesday (er, sorta): Delta Junction

(Oh it’s not Tuesday? Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of living thousands of miles away in Alaska…)

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On Saturday I made the hour and a half drive to the Delta Junction / Fort Greely area to visit my husband. He’s been in the field for two weeks at Fort Greely – located about 5 miles past Delta Junction – but had a free Saturday. The catch? He had to stay near Fort Greely to keep on an eye on equipment since they still had a week left to train. Since he couldn’t visit me, I decided to visit him.

The drive from Fairbanks to Fort Greely is gorgeous. Pretty much any direction you drive out of the valley where Fairbanks & North Pole reside becomes beautiful rolling hills that turn into stunning mountain ranges. Being stuck in the valley most of the time, I forget how beautiful Alaska is if I just take a 30 minute drive.

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Salcha, Alaska. Only about 25 minutes out of Fairbanks.
Arriving in Fort Greeley was, as always, a rush of excitement to see my husband after weeks away. We’ve done five months before so two weeks ain’t nothing, but it’s always an exciting affair. I’m pretty much head over heels, 16-year old teen heart-throbbing on him whenever we reunite. Call me crazy. I love that guy.

Our first adventure of the day was to hike Donnelly Dome.

This turned into quite the fiasco (for me any way). I had read online of a trail head and an easy hike right up to the top and right back down. 2 or so hours is how the article described the hike. We’ve done much longer hikes so when I forgot my water bottle and didn’t notice until 15 minutes in, I shrugged it off. I could definitely make it another 1 hour & 45 minutes instead of losing a half hour.

Well…

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My husband captured my feelings about the hike stunningly well. That’s a small section of Donnelly Dome behind me.
It turns out there was no trail head. We searched and searched before opting for our own path because it looked seemingly straight forward and Michael is fairly well-versed in bush hiking.

Insert muskeg and tree brush taller than us and thick as could be. We spent easily 1.5 hours battling the sinking ground and then fighting our way through this brush. It was miserable. I mean we were together and laughing and joking about how terrible of an idea this was on my part, but it was not fun.

A little snippet of the brush...
A little snippet of the brush…and me trying to make my way through it.

When we finally made it to an overlook above most of that terrible vegetation, we realized we still had quite the climb and I was getting thirsty. Note: I had also just recovered from my cold with some minor coughing still present so my energy levels were at rock bottom.

At the two hour mark, I gave up. I’d been forced to stop for a 1-minute breather about three times because the current state of the climb was a steep up-hill scramble. I was begin to get anxious and was uncertain of how my body would handle the continued climb.

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Hands on the hip. All sass at this point.

I HATE giving up on hikes. One of the first hikes we ever took together I didn’t climb the last little section to reach the highest point because I felt “tired” and I’ve always regretted it. But on the Donnelly Dome hike this weekend, I was getting scared. Scared that I’d get too dehydrated or light headed or short of breath to finish the hike…and we still didn’t have a clue how we’d find the car besides sort-of, kind-of going back the way we came.

So I made my way down to a ledge and waited, meditated, and ate an apple while Michael finished the hike with my camera and got some shots from the top.

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We finished the hike down which was much easier, but still a pain in the ass considering we’d deviated from the originally path and had traded most of the brush for slippery snow and rocks. We each fell about four times before we hit the base. Since I was headed towards water instead of away from it though, my sense of humor had returned.

3 hours and 45 minutes later we got back to the car and each demolished a bottle of water before vowing to 1) Never try to make our own trail again and 2) Always bring our camelbacks (WHAT WAS I THINKING).

Delta Junction 

A tiny little town between Fairbanks and the Canadian border, known for being the end of the ALCAN (Alaska-Canadian Highway). There is not a whole lot to see or do in Delta Junction, but it does offer up stunning views of the Alaska Range from pretty much anywhere in town. If you’re driving through (because you’re more than likely not visiting Delta Junction) here’s what I’d recommend.

TO EAT: 

1. Taste of Europe – a cute little restaurant that looks incredibly out of place in this blue-collar, predominantly caucasian town. The food was pretty good for such limited options in town, with unique Russian & Ukrainian dishes I haven’t seen before. I would highly recommend the Tiramisu for dessert!

2. The Alaskan Steak House – I’ve eaten there the only other time I’ve visited Delta Junction and it was your typical small town diner, but the breakfasts were hearty and delicious (likely soaked in butter, but I’m not one to complain!).

3. Pizza Bella Restaurant – This review comes via word of mouth in Fort Greeley. The families stationed here seem to love this one!

TO DO: 

1. Anything outdoorsy. The area is surrounded by gorgeous lakes and rivers, lush forests, and wonderful hiking opportunities. Take your fishing pole and head down to Clearwater River or Quartz Lake just out of town. Apparently moose hunting is quite good around the Fort Greeley area and considering I saw a big brute leaving town on Saturday, I’d have to agree. Kayaking any of the beautiful bodies of water in this area would be a lot of fun. Hike any of the domes, overlooks, or nearby mountains. Embrace nature here in Delta Junction, because that’s about all you’re going to find.

2. Continue on down the Alaskan Highway or the Richardson because the views are supposed to get only bigger and better as you head south from Delta Junction!

3. See #1. No really. The museum & visitor’s center seemed pretty bland from the few minutes we spent there. The town ends if you blink twice so I don’t think I missed anything else. GET OUTSIDE!

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Us cheesin’ it up at Clearwater River

It’s a quaint little place, and great for anyone road tripping through Alaska. Whether you’re making the loop around the Parks and Richardson Highways, or whether you’re driving the ALCAN, you’ll quickly discover stopping at every opportunity to get gas & food is wise. Delta Junction is a great place that offers both to the weary traveler.

Despite our hiking fiasco I had a great day with my husband. We followed the hike with a huge plate of nachos at Fort Greely’s community center, a few rounds of pool, touring his hangar, exploring town, hanging out by a sweet little river, a nice dinner at Taste of Europe, and snapping pics of the views with my new camera.

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Watching the sunset from Fort Greely

“Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”

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