Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dease River to Smithers BC

Friday July 25, 2008 Big travel day again today. Over the last two days we’ve travelled over 700 miles and some of that at 25-35 mph. When we got back on the Cassiar Hwy this morning we were pleasantly surprised with good roads after about 50 miles. That sure made travel easier and a lot more fun. Saw a few black bears, and the backside of moose as they ran along side the highway. I wouldn’t post any, but this one was just too cute.

Have you ever in your life?

Pulled into a city park and are going to check it out on Saturday. There appears to be a lot of hiking trails and a farmers market in the morning.

Traveling this far south has brought warmer temps – no jackets when we pulled in, people wearing shorts!! And…… they have darkness at night!! The little things in life are such a pleasure.

Whitehorse to Cassiar Hwy

Wed 7/23 While in Whitehorse we did housekeeping stuff ie laundry and groceries. We also checked out Miles Canyon that was just a short distance from our campground.

While waiting for MM to come out of the bank I was entertained by this street performer

He was playing his guitar like there was no tomorrow. Heavy rock stuff. Wild, what’s on the streets in large cities.

Thurs 7/24 today we left Whitehorse and did a lot of travelling. We saw one black bear on the Alaskan Hwy and then when we got on the Cassiar Hwy it was animals everywhere. Got a good picture of this Brown Bear.

He was BIG!!
The Cassiar Highway was just beautiful…. I get tired of saying that lol.

But isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?
We saw a couple more Black Bear, one posed, the other two were playing shy today. And how about this shot of a grey fox

Looks like he has dinner in his mouth. Eew
After lots of tiring hours of driving we pulled into Dease River Camp.

It is positively the most serene, beautiful setting. The proprietors are Dennis and Lana and they moved here from Wisconsin. They were cattle farmers and sold the farm to come out here. They have 5 children and their 15th grandchild will arrive in December. The oldest grandchild is only 7! No wonder they left Wisconsin lol. Charming couple with a beautiful park.

This park too, had every variety of camping available. From renting one of their cabins

To tents and then two unique vehicle tents.

to the pickup camper

And of course the fifth wheel.
Unusual to see all of them in such a small campground. Strange, what I find interesting these days lol.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Valdez Alaska

Took the toad into Valdez today. We travelled the Richardson Highway from Glennallen to the end – Valdez. You won’t find prettier scenery. Snowcapped mountains, glaciers, lush green slopes, river, streams and waterfalls. The two waterfall pictures I had to get were Bridal Veil and Horsetail.

This tunnel was hand cut in the solid rock of Keystone Canyon and is all that is left of the railroad era when nine companies fought to take advantage of the short route from the coast to the copper country. However, a feud erupted progress a gun battle was fought and the tunnel was never finished.

We found lots of facts about Valdez that make it a true success story. The whole town was destroyed by fire before it became a state. It rebuilt better and stronger. Then the earthquake of 1964 again totally destroyed the town. A couple of townsmen that owned property just four miles in that was on more solid ground donated the land for everyone to rebuild. The town was moved 4 miles. Then they had the Valdez oil spill that again was a huge setback. And in 1980 they showed their true colors when a ship sank off shore and they help rescue all the people on board. They increased their population by 10% overnight and donated whatever was needed. This year Alaska is celebrating their 50th year of Statehood!

We toured a couple of museums in Valdez and then drove around seeing which houses had probably been moved after the earthquake and which ones were rebuilt. Very pretty town.

On the way back we decided to stop at the Worthington Glacier. It is one of the few that you can walk on.

We were able to walk right into a cravass. We were standing on ice and had ice all around us.

After hiking back down we were resting and a lady asked us if we had a camera. I was thinking huh? You want us to take a picture of you, then what? She said you look so relaxed that I think I should get a picture of you. Hehe

Don’t know how relaxed we look, but we sure were hot after hiking in and out of there.
Another thing we noticed on the way back is the Alaskan sense of humor showing again.

In case you can’t see, it’s a snowmobile on the rooftop with a blood stain. Anyway, we’re glad we made this daytrip to Valdez and glad we took the toad because this is the road with a lot of frost heaves. Not too bad in a car, but yuck in the rv

Mon & Tues 7/21&7/22
Travelled from Glennallen Alaska to Whitehorse Yukon Territory. The roads were horrendous to say the least. Most of the trip was at 20 to 35 mph and even that was rearranging the cupboards. There were about 5 miles of construction where you had to follow a pilot car through to the other end. Very time consuming. We made it through, enough said.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Whitehorse for Nuremberg Bayern

I'm getting several hits from Nuremberg Bayern for the Whitehorse post. The only thing I can figure is that they know someone on that orange bus/camper or they like the camper. Either way, I thought I put on a couple more pictures in case it's about the people. These shots aren't too good, remember I'm taking most of them through the laundry room window so as not to be nosy lol. I found the whole thing very different and interesting okay?

We saw this bus many more time on the road. While camped in the Denali I saw it go by a couple of times one afternoon. Remember, they can't camp just anywhere, they need public showers. Anyway, I hope whoever is looking from Bayern finds this interesting. Leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

McCarthy Adventure

Saturday 7/19/08 Have you ever had a day at a go cart raceway? You know the place, fast cars, curvy roads, obstacles, a few dips in the road maybe. Now make that a whole day, rally roads, washboard roads, single lane bridges, road described as "roller coaster" turns, and my favorite that the locals call "hug a boulder bend". We decided to go through the Wrangell-St Elias National Preserve. So we travelled down the Richardson Highway about 30 miles

Next we got on the Edgerton Highway to Chitina. This was a 30 mile stretch of blacktop that has a lot of "frost heaves". In layman terms that means dippy dips, if you know what I mean. Like "tickle bellies" only shorter and more often so they are just dips. A few we were close to bottoming out. Maybe we should have brought one of the boys "rally" cars.

So, when that ends the next 60 miles is called the McCarthy Road. This is where the fun really starts. The first 10 miles or so we go pretty slow because these roads are BAD! Then MM starts thinking like people that live on dirt roads "maybe if I just hit the tops of the bumps". Besides that we wanted to make it a "day trip" not a full vacation. There were at least 3 or 4 one lane bridges over rivers. I really like the one over Kuskulana River. This bridge is 525 feet long and 238 feet above the river.

that's a long way down.

After a while MM starts enjoying this, I can tell by the way he's holding onto the wheel and leaning into the curves, you girls with car guys know what I mean. He says he was just pretending he was driving his Corvette. We're counting down the miles and finally get to mile marker 60. Can't wait to see what's at the end. It had better be good!

Another visitor center and we learn that we can walk across the footbridge into McCarthy and then take a shuttle to Kennicott. I'm starved by this time so we decide to walk to a little place that the gal at the visitor center told us about in McCarthy. Did I mention that it's raining now and the temp is in the 40's? So, a half mile walk into McCarthy to "Potato". Interesting place. Good food.

Notice in the picture below the "potato heads" on the ledge.

We learned that before there was a footbridge visitors had to haul themselves across the river on the tram. They put their goods on the platform and then pulled the cable to draw themselves over the river. Talk about work. Don't think I'd have done it for a day trip. Here are remnants of the old tram.

There was a note in the "Milepost" book that says "Pet owners note: If you bring your dog, bring a leash. There are many loose local dogs in the McCarthy/Kennicott area." And there were many loose dogs. Just hanging out.

Anyway, some of the facts about this National Park. It is the largest being 13,175,901 acres or 20,587.3 square miles. It has 6 of 10 highest mountains on this continent. Some parts of the mountains receive 60 feet of snow per year, average annual snowfall in 50.4 inches. Twenty five percent of Wrangell-St Elias is covered by glacial ice. It is a huge, beautiful park. We sure did make a good investment when we brought Alaska into the United States.

The McCarthy/Kennicott towns were a copper mining area in the past with the mines being in Kennicott and the town of McCarthy growing into quite a miners' and railroaders' town. They were booming towns providing services to more than 800 people. The falling copper prices closed the mines in 1938. In November of that same year, the last train left Kennicott for Cordova taking most of the remaining people with it.

Just a few more pictures that I want to share with you. This one we can only guess about.

There are several landing strips along the roadway. We found this sign stuck in the back of a truck. It says "Caution yield for approaching aircraft".

This one was way too appropriate. There was one at either end of the 60 mile McCarthy Road.

We saw a lot of this ornamental grass along the highway. Especially the Old Edgerton Highway.

It was only about 12 inches high and the soft pink plumes were blowing softly in the breeze. Just beautiful.

Not what we had originally planned for today, but I'm sure glad we are on the trip that we are and we can just change our plans without much hassle. Tomorrow Valdez...maybe.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Palmer-Wasilla to Glennallen

Arrived in the Palmer, Wasilla, Willow area on Wednesday the 16th and got a couple of nights at the city campground. Did the local farmer market in Wasilla upon arrival and toured the old historic district. Thursday we woke up to another all day rain. We decided to go up and travel the Hatcher Pass. It is a pass through some mountains from Palmer to Willow. Not recommended for big rigs and I can see why. It is much like the road up in Denali for shuttle buses only. Very bumpy, narrow, and steep. It was an interesting drive up into the snow line with lots of streams coming out of the mountains.

Still raining so a museum was a good idea. We went to the Transportation and Industry Museum of Alaska. It had a variety of interesting collections. Phones, sewing machines, tractors, airplanes, trains, dog sleds and a few quilts.

Ended up back at camp in the late afternoon for a movie and popcorn.
Left Palmer on the 18th and headed for Glennallen on the Glen Highway. We arrived early afternoon and the sun was shining. It was warm so long as the sun was out, but if the sun went away it got cold quick. Guess that’s just Alaska. We’re going to stay a couple of nights here and take a day trip in the car to Valdez. We’ve heard a lot about Valdez.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Homer AK

Sunday July 13 – While travelling to Homer we stopped at a beautiful turnout just south of Moose Pass and got several mirror reflections pictures. It was hard to decide which one to post, I loved them all.

Arrived in Homer the ”Halibut Capital of the World” and found a nice City campground out on the spit on Cook Inlet. Walked around town to get a lay of the land. It’s really a small town with shops like these on both sides of the road.

One of the most photographed sights on the Homer Spit is the Salty Dawg Saloon.

I’m finding it interesting that there seems to be a need to leave part of ones self in these places. Here at the Salty Dawg people leave dollar bills signed and dated. There have to be hundreds of them.

Back at Watson Lake we too left our name plate in the Sign Post Forest, then in Chicken, the little tavern had signed hats tacked up everywhere. I don’t mean a few, the place was covered, just like the dollars at the Salty Dawg and the sign at the Sign Forest. Guess lots of us want to let others know that we were there.
We found a nice fixer upper for our son-in-law. I’m sure it even has a bedroom and bathroom. What do you think?

Did you see the view we have?

Is that gorgeous or what? I’m still amazed at how much the tide goes out or comes in. Didn’t even look like the same place.
We signed up for a half day Halibut Charter for Monday morning. Had to be dockside at the Born Free by 5:45. Are we crazy? The boat was 43’ with twin 300 CATS (that’s supposed to mean something to the sil). There were 15 fishermen signed on and 1 captain and 1 crew. Those guys were going to be kept busy baiting us up and helping reel them in. We rode out about an hour and a half which they said was 17 miles out, and were fishing at a depth of about 175’. Aaron (the crew guy) cut a bunch of herring into thirds that became our bait. He baited everyone up and we dropped our lines. One of the first catches of the day was a sting ray. Definitely a catch and release.

I finally got my first catch about 20 minutes into fishing (I thought you just dropped a line and they jumped on). Fishing is not easy.

This was what they consider a small halibut, but I thought it was a keeper and so I kept it. MM threw three back before keeping his first one. Here’s his catch of the day.

And mine.

We saw lots of sea otter out at sea. They are so fun to watch. They just float on their backs with their front flippers (whatever they call them) crossed over their chests. Then when they tire of that they flip over and dive. When you get several of them doing it it can be very entertaining.
Everyone got their limit of two each and we headed back into shore. That too was interesting because Aaron fillets and bags all of our fish right there while cruising in. Did you notice the yellow tag on our fish? Well, as you catch a fish you give him one of the tags he gave you when we started out, he then tags the fish and drops it in a huge container. When we started going back in he pulled the plug on the container and started sorting the fish by the tag color. He then grabs two of the same color and puts them on the surface he’s working on. He makes about 3 or 4 cuts and has two fillets off one side, he flips the fish and makes the same cuts on the other side and that fish is done. He drops the fillets in a bucket as he cuts them along with the color tag. Once he has a few colors done he stops and bags up each color seperately. This kid worked hard!! Once all the filleting was done he had to clean the boat for the next charter scheduled to leave as soon as he dropped us off.

We got back after a total of 5 ½ hours and it was a long day. Dropped our fish off at a processing place where they flash froze and vacuum sealed it into 1 pound packages for pick up the next day. Back at camp we were exhaused and starved. We hadn’t eaten breakfast because it was too early and once on the boat we were too busy or just not interested in the food we brought, whatever the reason we were starved by 12:30. We stayed close to camp that afternoon and enjoyed the view of the Cook Inlet. There was even a sea otter that came to entertain us at camp.

This place sure is full of surprises.

Tues 7/15 MM was rewarded with his early rising by seeing an eagle in front of our coach. We had actually seen one the night before, but this one was right there asking us to photograph him.

Next we headed over to pick up our processed fish. We had to eat a few popcicles to make room, but it all fit in our freezer. While down a the dock again we found Scooter & Co next rig.

What do you think Al? I think Sue could do a lot with this place, she is good.
We drove over to Old Kenai and strolled around. All of these towns are so interesting in their own right. Old Kenai has a distinct Russian flavor. They had a beautiful old Russian Church along with many other similar buildings. Out on Bulega Point there were a lot of fisherman fishing from shore. We also found a cool snowmobile for Sis and her Hubby.

What do you guys think? It’s a Ford, and it looks pretty clean.

We’re kind of backtracking now because Alaska has only one road into or out of a town. So, if you head down from Anchorage on the Seward Highway. That highway takes you to Seward. Makes sense right? But, that is the only road to get into Seward. Part way down the Seward Highway you can turn west onto the Sterling Highway to go to Homer. On the way to Homer there are a lot of other towns like Soldotna, and Kenai, but it ends at Homer and then you have to go back the same way. The only other option would be to take a boat, if you’re driving you have to turn around and go back. Unusual for us city dwellers, but a fact of life out here. Guess that’s why so many have their pilots licenses. Where we are parked for the night (Summit Lake) we just saw a float plane take off. Way different way of life.

Primrose Campground in Chugach National Forest

Friday July 11 – Primrose campground was so nice that we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. We had a true “camping day” today and just sat by the river and read books then did some hiking in the afternoon. It was nice to take a break from a moving vehicle.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Whittier then Kenai Penninsula

This morning (7/8/08) we headed further south on the road to Whittier and are in another national park for the next two nights. Plan on doing some hiking while here… more bears??? We’ll keep your posted.
Wednesday 7/9/08 Drove toward Whittier AK, a small fishing village. To get there you have to drive through a 2.5 mile tunnel that was originally built for train travel. Karen, you wouldn’t like this.

The tracks are somehow closed up for car travel, but trains still use it too. As a matter of fact, there are several lanes of traffic waiting to go through, two car lanes, a pickup lane, an RV lane, a bus lane and another lane for commercial trucks. Going to Whittier the traffic goes through on the 30. So at 8:30 they let the train go through first then the other lanes as indicated by a traffic light on each lane. It was a quaint town

With lots of boats including a tour ship

Coming back there were a lot more cars lined up at 10:00. Again, the trains traveled through first then they did the buses (there were a lot of them from the cruise ship) then the cars. Hope all of the traffic made it through in their 15 minutes, because there sure was a lot.
That afternoon we did a 2 mile hike around the Portage Glacier area. The glaciers here are higher in the mountains and visible from just about everywhere in the campground. I’m still amazed by all the wildflowers. On our hike there were field of fireweed surrounded by mountains.

I never thought that Alaska had flowers everywhere. We spent a second night at the Williwaw campground in the Chugach National Forest then headed for Seward.
MM found a really beautiful camp in a camping book we got for Christmas from our son and dil. This one was the Primrose Campground again in the Chugach National Forest.

There are only 8 campsites here and when we got here only one was taken and there was only one that could accommodate our length – it was open. Headed for Seward next and got off track while looking around. Went down a road named Bear Creek Road, and you guessed it. A Grizzly Mom and Cub

There were lots of people standing around taking pictures and videos. One of the video clips we got was of the mama leaving some bear scat hehe. Amazing, how we ended up in that spot for no reason other than wandering. We could have stayed there longer, cause the bears did, but back on track to Seward.
We headed straight to the Kenai Fjord Tours. Signed up for a six hour dinner tour that started at 3 p.m. The town of Seward is very neat and friendly. Only stopped one mural, but it was interesting.

The town’s main business here is also fishing and tourism. There were many anchors and bouys dotting the landscape.
Three o’clock came around fast and we boarded the Aialik Voyager. The Captain looked for and found lots of wildlife for us. He was very entertaining and reminded me of my cousin Tom. We saw lots, got photos of many, and videos of some. Here’s a Steller Sea Lion.

There were lots of Tufted Puffin

The Humpback Whales were plentiful and put on great shows for us.

We also saw what they called Dahl Porpoises. They were fast and we have some video. Too bad I don’t know how to put video on here, but then again, maybe it’s just interesting to us hehe.
The Harbor Seal were plentiful

We stopped for a while at the Aialik Glacier.

It is about a mile wide at the waters edge and constantly in motion. While it moves you can hear it popping and like gun shots, then suddenly you’ll see the glacier “calve” or break away. The crew got some ice and offered to take pictures.

You can see how “layered” we are. I look huge, but I have on a fleece jacket under this new jacket. While walking in town earlier we were looking for something a little warmer and each bought these jackets. They were so warm and allowed us to stand outside on the boat moving at 25 knots for most of the 6 hours. The Captain says we travelled 125 miles. We were only inside long enough to eat dinner then back outside to marvel at the beauty. Dinner consisted of the salmon that we brought onboard at a brief stop at Fox Island.

Most people had the salmon, a few had chicken or vegetarian fare. There was salmon, salad, rice and the sweetest corn on the cob you’ll ever taste. The crew also baked some chocolate chip cookies for later on the cruise. Yum!
This is a trip that I would highly recommend to anyone planning a trip to Alaska.
Friday July 11 – Primrose campground was so nice that we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. We had a true “camping day” today and just sat by the river and read books then did some hiking in the afternoon. It was nice to take a break from a moving vehicle.