In spite of that, the road that runs through the Sustina River Delta gives nature, round and about the Denali Highway, an aura of perfection. Especially if you leave the road and go cross country.
Between Paxon and Cantwell this 134 mile road meanders through the landscape, of which 120 miles consists of gravel. Washboards, pit holes, coarse stone chippings and drifting sand means that with a camper one has to drive very slowly, approximately 15 miles per hour. As a result of this, you can thoroughly enjoy nature’s beauty and see if you can spot any large game on the tundra or in the delta. Consider it as a journey with a post chaise. In the middle ages one travelled just like this through Europe.
There are no towns or villages along this road. Not even a small village. Only one or two roadhouses where travellers can freshen up, take a breather, stay over night or even have a meal. No mobile phone appliances. Nice and peaceful. You can phone by the roadhouses with a satellite telephone. It’s quite expensive though.
When driving from Paxon to Cantwell you will see the Alaska Range on your right hand side during the whole journey. This mountain range has peaks of up to 4200 meters. Sometimes glaciers descend from the high plateaus. These delta’s, that were the bases of the immensely large glaciers, stretch out some 19 to 28 miles, sometimes lightly mountainous, then again flat, sometimes also broad and then filled with a meandering river. Mountain streams and lakes have filled these glacier pits for centuries. Clear water surrounded with a lot of light green, and dark willows in the background gives some of these places an aura of intimacy. Nature rarely presents itself like this. The road will regularly take you over the masses of rubble left over from the glacier. It must have been an immense glacier.
During good weather conditions you can see, on the south side, at a distance of 80 air miles, the Wrangler peaks. The Mount Sanford, 4600 meters high, is the main mountain top. Following that, there is a chain of medium sized mountains of up to 2000 meters and thereafter, the Talkeetna Mountains with mountain peaks of up to 3000 meters.
Early in the spring the landscape colouring is brown-white. Brown from the willows and the withered grass land and white from the left over snow residue or flats. At the beginning of June a glowing light greenish tint appears that gives the whole landscape a young, lively and undepraved aura.
From the end of May the nights are no longer dark and round the 21st June the sun does not set. You can see the sun for a few hours sliding behind the mountain tops and that produces spectacular images.
From Paxon you immediately ascend to a height of 1500 meters. The Alaska range prominently shows itself and will lead you further. Because the road over the high plateau keeps on going, you will regularly see snowy flats. In spite of it being the summer season, the landscape looks a lot like winter.
In this vast region you could come across the entire wildlife of Alaska. In August the hunting season is open. Hundreds of Alaskans go trekking for their spoils. Even though there are strict regulations, hunting should be banned in such an area. Hunting has been the reason that the bears and wolves have largely disappeared from the plains. The moose, the caribou, and a diverse amount of water fowl, as well as the porcupine are plentiful and give the landscape an appealing picture.
Enjoy every now and then the atmosphere in a roadhouse. Talk with the travellers along this route, but most essentially: Enjoy.
We have recorded our adventures and experiences of this journey in photo form. Feel free to look and hopefully you will enjoy it just as much as we have.
Rika and Harry Houthuijsen.