Friday, June 30, 2006
The important accomplishment today was getting the RV serviced. Expressway Lube in North Pole was suggested to us. We checked it out and found a neat clean knowledgeable service facility. Changing the air filter was tough as the hoses connecting were stuck by time and heat. The air filter was expensive, maybe we can find a source, as it is not to be cleaned or reused and looks as if it may need regular changing under dusty conditions. After service, we moved to Pioneer park where camping is allowed in the large parking lot.
The fun thing was panning for gold at El Dorado Gold Mine, which is a family owned, working gold mine. Our mining train took us through a tunnel, where we learned some mining techniques and saw prehistoric bones that had been dug up. At the mining area we saw the placer method which involved water running from a cliff into the pile of "paydirt" and washing it down a narrow trough or sluce box lined with astro turf, intending to wash away the rocks and dirt, leaving nuggets and flecks of gold. Dexter and his wife, Yukon, demonstrated how to pan, then gave us a small sack of dirt and a pan. It was amazing to see the flecks of gold in our pan after we correctly worked it. We couldnt help thinking how much gold was inadvertantly spilled into the panning tanks by inexperienced tourists!!! Getting rich is hard work. We were excited to collect our gold into our containers and take it in to be weighed. Herb's was four and a half grains worth $9, and Wilma's was two grains for $4. While feasting on the complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, we found souvenir baseball caps we had to have, and paid a total of $16. I don't think our catch of the day covered the cost!
Returning from gold mining, we stopped at a view point for the Alyeska Pipeline. This pipeline carries our oil from the North Slope at Prudhoe Bay to Valdez AK. Where it is loaded on tankers for the rest of the journey to our refineries and then to our fuel tanks. Approximately 1 million barrels of oil per day move through the pipeline at about 4 miles per hour, cooling from 114d F. to approximately 65d F. at Valdez. It takes about 9 days to make the trip. The pipeline must be above ground in areas where thawing of the permafrost would cause instability in the soil. In cases where it has to be buried in these areas, elaborate procedures are taken to insulate and even cool the soil to keep it from thawing. Approximately half of the 800 mile pipeline is above ground.
Back to Pioneer Park for Greek food and ice cream, and many, many hugs and pettings for Jake. Tonight's entertainment at the park was a storyteller at the gazebo. As we were leaving and he was packing up to leave, Jake spied one of his props. It was a duck. Jake broke away and retreived it for Herb. Everyone laughed as Jake stole the storytellers prop, now he will have a new story to tell.
Pictures are here.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
We spent some time exploring and getting organized, had lunch at a family restaurant at North Pole AK, which was decorated for Christmas, complete with large unwrapped toys under the Christmas tree. In keeping with the season, they had a Nativity Scene displayed. It is interesting to note who they included at the right side of the scene..... Lunch was good and more than we should eat!
Later we visited Pioneer Park, previously named Alaskaland, and which was created in 1967 as the Alaska Centennial Park to commerate the 100th anniversary of US territorial status, and provide a taste of Alaska history. We saw the railroad car President Harding rode in when he nailed the gold spike. There are many historic log houses which were moved here from downtown Fairbanks, and are now shops for gifts, native crafts, food vendors and exhibits. In one store where Wilma bought gifts for great-grandchildren, the shopkeeper commented on how much the children would enjoy them, but Wilma had to confess that the stuffed moose was for herself.
Pictures are here.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Our day ends at the Riverview RV Park between Fairbanks and North Pole AK. As we walked to see the river, Jake looked over the edge which was straight down to a swift current. Since we now know from Homer AK that Jake has NO FEAR of cliffs and water, we encouraged him to remain in the grassy area up top. He found canine friends and had a good play.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Not the best day for viewing wildlife in Denali National Park -- two moose, one squirrel, one rabbit, one gull, one magpie, two green free shuttle busses, and 85 tour buses. But the sun came out!
The Visitor's Center had a very well-done and enjoyable film, which in the first five seconds told Wilma why she would not live too far North in the winter-- heavy snow weighting down treetops and whistling, blowing snow. Then a wonderful presentatin of wildlife and plants. Seeing them and hearing the sounds of the ducks and other animals made us glad we are here. A native Athabascan woman and two children were picking blueberries, which she said they share with the bears, then they slowly walked away singing as the grizzly came for his breakfast of berries.
Late afternoon with the sun still high, Jake romped in last night's puddles. Our next project was a major cleaning and freshening of the carpet for the happy dog.
Pictures are Here
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Monday, June 26, 2006
We began the day by heading out for church at a local unnamed Episcopal church in Anchorage. We arrive on time for the 9 AM scheduled service to find that they had neglected to change their service time on the web site. They suggested we drink coffee for over an hour until the next service begins. No thanks, I have had parish hall coffee before, no thanks. We decide to continue our daily office back in the motorhome. Wilma gets some video footage at the downtown market and finds us a cappucino...uhm good. We hook up and head north for Denali and a few stops in between.
Lots of excitement for the day began with a visit to the Iditarod Trail Headquarters on Knik-Goose Bay Road near Wasilla, Hwy 3, which is the "Restart" of the annual Iditarod race. It is called "restart" because the symbolic start is now in Anchorage. The original run was during the gold rush, when in 1925 Leonhard Seppala used his dog Togo as lead dog to bring vaccine from Seward to Nome during a diphtheria epidemic. This trip became the inspiration for the annual Iditarod. Wilma's dream came true: after petting all the sled dogs as they were resting by their individual water bowls, we climbed aboard the sled and the Mr. Redington, the musher set the dogs to running. He told us to hold on, as the dogs (being race dogs) only knew one speed. It was fast. Round the wooded trail only wide enough for the dogs and sled, no seat belts, and a thrilling ride! One dog who was not working today (they only use eight for this demo) escaped and an employee ran for him. Mr. Redington told him not to bother, that he would never catch the dog. The dog came back shortly thereafter. Mr. Reddington told us he ran the race with these dogs plus the other eight in 2001, and his son Ryan ran this year.
Mr. Redington's father, Joe Redington Sr., ran the race many times and distinguished himself time after time when he finished in the top five, even as late as 1988 at the age of 71. In celebration of the bicentennial in 1976, he organized the largest dog team which pulled a tour bus filled with passengers up Knik Road. The bus driver panicked only slightly when, with full brake pressure applied, couldn't stop the bus. A momument of Redington Sr. has been erected on the grounds. http://www.iditarod.com/2-0.html
We stopped at Mile 135 for a viewing of Mt. McKinley, (the peak is called Denali, or "the high one," in the local Athabascan language), and the park ranger showed us the tiny part of the mountain that was visible and not hidden by clouds. It was very warm and sunny for us. He said this was the best area along the Parks Highway for viewing but rarely is the whole mountain seen. Because it is so high, it makes its own weather and predictions are for snow, freezing rain, or rain for tonight. We are glad we are in the warm sunny area.
Next was the Alaska Veterans Memorial with a panel for each branch of service. One interpretive panel was surprising to us, and being southerners we were pleased to know that during the Civil War, Yankee whaling ships sailed around South America to the Bering Strait, and the Confederates sent the ship Shenandoah to disable them. The South flew its flag six months after the actual end of the war. We also got our best view of Denali from here, as the clouds had lifted a bit. A very rare occasion that allowed us to see most of the mountain including the peak. A treat indeed.
Things to be thankful for: many things. And noteworthy today is the fact that we made it to McKinley RV Campground and got set up just before the cold rainy downpour and BB size hail fell -- from Mt. Denali??? So much for warm and sunny.
We had another free dinner -- $500 for the halibut charter in Homer last week, tips for the Captain, granddaughter who fileted the fish, and dog walker at the RV park, free chef Herb who grilled the fish tonight, free salad fixings that we found in our refrigerator from grocery shopping, butter pecan ice cream from the grocery aisle Wilma was forced to walk when she went into the store to buy only milk -- a most pleasant dinner and the sound of softly falling rain = priceless!
Pictures are here
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Today's highlight was the Downtown Anchorage Market. We load up human and dog water and take a path through the back of the rv park. As you can see from todays pictures, Jake probably has more fun than anyone. He had to say hello to every dog and kid at the market. We must have had 20 adults come up to pet him also. Most of the adults were tourists missing their dog that was left at home. Jake was happy to provide the service. The market is held in a large downtown paved parking lot. Plenty of local artists and craftsmen. Including the Eagle River Knife Company We finally find Meryl's knife, and a couple of our own. Lunch is cabbage rolls and meat pies from a Russian vendor. Gerald and Jenny, he made the cabbage rolls just like Mama used to make them.
Back at home, we repair a flat tire on Wilma's trike. Wilma takes pictures of the Alaska Railroad train that passes just a few feet from our motorhome several times a day and night. We did not hear it at all last night.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Thursday June 22, 2006 Seward AK Log 0 Miles
We had a tour of downtown Seward, including Hotel Seward with some incredible stuffed wildlife. Can you believe Chinese for lunch? We searched in vein for an Eagle River Knife www.eagleriverknife.com but none of the shops had any knowledge of them.
Wilma was disappointed in the weather for the first time, as it just didn’t seem like a fun thing to take the Ididaride (get it?) www.ididaride.com with the rain setting in again. She had been excited about going, as it is a dog sled ride by Mitch Seavey, who is a former champion of Iditarod race who lives in Seward. Another day.
Friday June 23, 2006 Seward AK to Anchorage AK Log 126 Miles
From Seward we turned north again headed for Anchorage in search of Eagle River knives, ULU knives, Wal-mart, Sams and other excitement. It was a thrill to see the wonderful bike path alongside the highway near Turn Again Arm, and we longed to get off the schedule that we are not on, and ride while viewing the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
We visited the ULU knife factory and were given an orientation of the history of the knives and how they are still made right there on both sides of the gift shop. Automated, yet much hand work goes into them. Some of the more expensive ones have jade handles, which, I suppose, makes them work better. We did not get one of those. It has been 38 days since we left Texas, and today Herb bought HOT SAUCE -- at the Ulu Factory -- Screaming Santa from North Pole, AK -- two bottles: one to use and one to display!
Wandering around, we near the Elmendorf Air Force Base and find a salmon hatchery. They had a salmon viewing area along by some falls on the river. Although it was early to see many going up the falls, we did see a few trying to swim upstream near the banks of the stream.
We saw in Milepost that there is a Saturday/Sunday market in Anchorage where we may find that special knife for Meryl, and chose an RV park near it, so we could walk and take Jake to the 300 booths it featured. We clearly saw on the map that there was a railroad track by it, but that is where our intelligence left us. After parking and setting up for the evening, we were visited by the first train, which had a loud whistle. Neighbors said the last train of the day runs at 11:45 P, and no more until morning. Fair enough. However, 3:30 A is actually morning.......... We slept well.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Thursday, June 22, 2006
We are at the Stoney Creek RV Park. Today we decide to take a glacier wildlife cruise suggested by Sam and Inez. Sam agrees to watch Jake while we are gone. We take the Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise. It is a 6 hour trip during which the Captain and a National Park Ranger narrate the sights we see.
One of the most exciting things we witnessed was the calving of some areas of the Aialik Glacier. Our captain parked us near it, turned off the motor, and we heard what sounded like lightening strikes as some of the ice broke apart. Then it sounded like thunder as it came crashing down into the water. When we saw the humpback whales, there was a large male on one side of the boat, and a cow and calf diving to feed on the other side. We were glad to see the Orca, or killer whales, this time because of their nature, but they were deceivingly less spectacular because they resemble dolphins. Nevertheless, we were glad we were not in the water with them.
A guy on a small fishing boat was trying to land a salmon while the whales were performing near his boat. We were relieved to see they did not capsize him.
As on the previous cruise, we saw many bald eagles -- this time two fighting for territory, -- stellar sea lions, harbour otters, and an incredibly dangerous starfish (orange in color) on a rock, which our Park Ranger got excited over. At one point she likened the voices of the Orca whales to a southern twang, and we later asked her how she could recognize that twang. Taken aback, she laughingly told us that even tho she was born and grew up in Alaska, she dated a boy from just outside New Orleans for five years. His mother was a great cook, but the family never liked the opinionated Yankee girl from the North!
We were fortunate enough to see bears in two different places and had time enough to video, as well as taken some zoom digital pictures. The boat was three tiered, cozy inside, but they kept us running inside and outside when there were things to photograph. Lunch was ample with smoked salmon entree, with no end to cappuccino to warm our hands after being outside.
Back home to the RV park and tired, we contributed to dinner with fresh halibut, which Sam deep fried to go with the vegetables Inez prepared. No one cared for dessert today!
Pictures are here.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Tuesday June 20, 2006 Homer AK to Seward AK Log 168 Miles
We reluctantly tore ourselves away from an early morning visit with our new friends, Bobbi, Duff and their Shepherd Willie, and headed for Seward, promising to meet again, and singing Arrivederci Homer - Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. We encountered a real rain (not a Homer sprinkle) for a short time, then amazingly the weather cleared!
Great scenery again, and the salmon fishermen were crowding into the Kenai River at Russian Ferry near Cooper Landing.
We arrived at Stoney Creek RV Park that the Churchills had recommended, and that Sam and Inez has come to yesterday. Dinner was skillet halibut prepared with mayonnaise, as we had been instructed by Captain Dave. LINK
As we were walking Jake, we were visited by three neighborhood dogs, one of whom was a beauty that we named Iditarod. Those two frolicked for a time and ended up running Wilma over, but she only dropped the video camera, and did not sprain both ankles this time. The campground host was with us and handed her the camera, saying, "I'm sorry I could not put it on pause, so it captured the whole event."
Sam had been given a tip by his cruise captain to see Exit Glacier at night, and what better time than near Summer Solstice, so we headed north in the Jeep. At the choice of the 7.7 mile hike to the top, the .7 mile to overview, or .2 mile to the bottom of the glacier, we chose the middle path. Suddenly as the path narrowed, we realized that we were the only ones who took it, and possibly there were bears around, and it was as near dusk as it would get, and Roxie would be so disappointed that we had not thought to bring the bear spray. So we began to talk loud and hope the cubs were far up the hill.
We lived to write this.
We met a couple of guys who had come up the lower path to touch the glacier, then unsafely climbed their way to our path for a better view. So we did this in reverse. Awesome scenery and quite cool. As we fjorded the stream or tried to cross on the rock "bridge," we remembered the brochure had recommended waterproof shoes. Concentrate! On your steps!
Then to warm us on our return to the RVs, Inez served us bowls of Bluebell Homemade (just kidding), but it was great ice cream!
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
At Senior Citizens Center lunch today we met a lady who lives in the assisted living attached to the center. We overheard her exitement over the election of the new Episcopal Bishop. We spoke with her and found out she is 84 years old, was originally from Dallas and spent most of her adult life in San Diego for 50 years. She invited us to her apartment and we had a most pleasant visit overlooking the bay and the mountains. Her name is Mary Euncie Oliver and she has a treasure trove of memories. She was the last woman NOTseated at Episcopal House of Deputies. The next year she was seated. She told us of Hudson Stuck, American missionary and explorer who was Dean of the Episcopal cathedral at Dallas and later became Archdeacon of the Yukon. He and three companions accomplished the first ascent of Dinali (Mt. McKinley). He was a champion of Native American rights in Alaska.
After lunch we visit the Pratt Museum here in Homer. They have quite a collection of artifacts from early Alaska history focusing on the Kenai Peninsula. There is a vivid display of the Valdez oil spill which directly affected the people and wildlife of Homer. Now 17 years later we do not see anything that mars the beauty of this area, but we are told that the environment still has lingering damage from the spill. In the same note they had an extensive display of an area that will be impacted by a large strip gold mining operation that will be conducted across the bay from Homer. Most of the people shown in the display are in favor of the operation if they can be careful not damage the environment. It appears that the economy of this area can use the boost that the gold mine will provide.
Later in the day we meet Duff, Bobbi and Willie (their dog). They are Escapees with a South Dakota address. We have a great time letting Jake and Willie play on the beach below our rv park. During happy hour we exchange email addresses and pictures of the day. We leave Homer tomorrow, but hope we see Duff and Bobbi in Fairbanks later this month.
Pictures of the dogs (and humans) at play on the beach are here.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Monday, June 19, 2006
The day starts with Sam showing up at our front door with a King Salmon. He left early this morning and went up to Anchor Point a few miles north of Homer. This was a very nice catch. Sam and Inez fileted the salmon and Herb grilled some of the filets for lunch. Now you cannot get it any fresher than that.
We get a couple of weeks mail from the post office after lunch. We do not even want to open the box, because we know it means work. So we spend a litlle while at the farmer's market before returning to deal with our mail.
Sam and Inez show up with nachos for happy hour.
Sunday June 18, 2006 Homer AK Log 0 Miles
We are up early to walk Jake and dress warm and dry for our charter fishing trip. The lady in the office of the rv park agrees to come by and walk Jake while we are fishing. She like dogs and this works out very well.
After carefully walking down the steep ramp to the docks, we meet Captain Dave, our host for the charter. The ramp is steep, because the tides here in Alaska rise and fall as much as 21 feet. So the ramp has to pivot and the dock float up and down as necessary. So at low tide the ramp is really steep and at high tide not so much. So far we have only entered and exited at low tides. It seems that the Homer harbour has several Captain Daves. One of his "friends" comments that maybe they should start spraying to control the number of them. The journey to the fishing grounds takes about an hour and a half, during which time we see much wildlife. Ducks, sea otters and many others. We even spot the tail of whale in the distance as he dives. The overcast day keeps us from seeing the beautiful mountains surrounding the bay and Cook Inlet. When Cook explored this area, he thought the inlet was a river because the current is so strong here.
We stop to fish in 130' deep water. Captain Dave rigs our gear and we drop the two pound sinker with half a herring on the round hook down to the bottom. Almost immediately, we start getting bites and Lowell from Las Vegas, the 4th member of our party of 4 catches the first halibut. The first ones caught are small so they are released in hopes of catching some a little larger to fill out our two per person daily limit. After an hour or so of fishing, we lose half of our fishermen to the scourge of landlubbers everywhere, seasickness. That leaves Sam and Herb the task of continuing to haul in the halibuts. That 2 pound weight gets very heavy after a few hours. So it is almost with relief when Captain Dave brings Herb a fresh herring and informs him that this is the "Last Bait". He must be a Floyd Cramer fan. We return to Homer with our limts, a nice string of halibut, which you can see here.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Well, the sunshine was short-lived, and we had a "gray-out" most all day. Light rain most of the day. We took advantage of the downtime to receive business calls and catch up on some paperwork, brochure reading/trip planning and convincing ourselves that on vacation you can be happy in spite of the weather. We ventured out for the daily trip to the Post Office to see if our forwarded mail had come, and to the Senior Center for another nutritious lunch. We bought red sweatshirts "Homer Senior Citizens' Center -- Alaska."
We booked a halibut charter for Sunday, the only available day they had, began to make plans for it.
Friday June 16, 2006 Homer AK Log 0 Miles
Light sprinkle of rain all morning, but after lunch we had an opportunity to take a trike ride. With Jake heeling, we rode the bike path to the beginning of the Spit, and then brought him back to rest. We saw a Discovery with Texas plates, and stopped to introduce ourselves to Bud and Betsy Estes, who grew up in Pecos. This is their tenth year to spend three months in Alaska, and the rest of the year in Midland Odessa and traveling. We gave them the latest Discovery newsletter, guest pass and applications. We may see them later in the year at a Discovery Texan Rally.
A trip to the super market found a bell pepper less than $4.99, so we bought it. As well as supplies for the fishing trip. We have a real concern, tho -- what will we do with the halibut we catch? Like Blue Bell, we'll eat all we can, stuff our freezers, then give the rest away.
Sam went claming with his friend Tony, and Inez made clam chowder for dinner. Herb bought some sourdough loaves to cut open for bread bowls, and what a treat we had!
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Today is a day for housekeeping, picking up some medicine for Jake, shopping, and rearranging some of our equipment in the motorhome. We start the day by driving the Jeep into Palmer to pick up some medicine for Jake at the Palmer Vet Clinic. Then it is off to Anchorage only 35 miles south of our location at Homestead RV Park. 99 maps of Anchorage in the coach and we leave without a one of them with us. That's OK since we have the navagation system built into the dash. Wrong. It also does not have Alaska maps. If I run the zoom out to 350 miles, I can see just a little bit of BC in the corner of the screen. No problem, they sell Chrysler Jeep products here in Anchorage, so we just pop into the dealership and ask for an updated DVD for the navigation system. The salesman says that he also would like one but none of the navagation systems that come in Chrysler Jeep products from the factory work here in Alaska. Amazing that for a simple software change, they would ignore customers from Alaska plus the customers that visit here. Anyway the next stop is a motel to pick up a city map and brochures so we can shop and see some of Anchorage. We find a copy of Microsoft's Streets and Trips with GPS. Works great on our laptop. Microsoft at least does not ignore its Alaska customers.
Wilma notices a Pizza Inn and immediately starts going into Pizza withdrawal. So it looks like nothing else will be on the menu for lunch today. We do not make it back to Pizza Inn, but find a Sicily's that serves Pizza and pasta for a way too big lunch.
We finish up our shopping and head back to Palmer for the evening.
Tuesday June 13, 2006 Palmer AK to Homer AK Log 272 Miles
The light rain has ended and it is cloudy as we leave Palmer. The water and mountain views as we follow the coast along the Turnagain Arm are just gorgeous. When the weather forecasts that winds may be light in Anchorage it will be 25 to 30 or greater out here. It must be the venturi effect as the wind passes through the channel formed by mountains on both sides as it narrows near the north end of Cook Inlet. One of the beautiful sights was at Cooper Landing by a lake with mountains in view and pink wild roses and yellow dandilions along the turnout where we stopped to walk Jake. We, and many others stopped to take pictures. As we neared Homer we began to see fishermen in the streams, and at one point the salmon fishermen were in a line wading in the water. A hot spot!
Homer is a nice family town, and we found the spit to be flat, very commercial and wildly lively. We chose the Oceanview RV park back in town, which had a hillside view of four volcanoes, one of which (Mount Augustine) had erupted in January. Sam recalled that he had seen the activity live on webcam from his home in Fayetteville AR.
Sam's friend Tony from AR has a summer home here.
Wednesday June 14, 2006 Homer AK Log 0 Miles
We had a light rain or heavy dew all day and chose to drive the Jeep, rather than ride the trikes. After a great and surprising lunch at the Senior Citizens' Center (which Tony had taken Sam to), we explored the area, heading out on East End Road, which was billed as going to the end of the road. We never got there, as Wilma was watching the gas gauge, but we did see a great view from up on the mountain of the volcanoes.
After such a big lunch, we opted to skip dinner as we know it, and go straight to dessert. A lady at the Senior Center gave Sam more fresh rhubarb than he knew what to do with, but Inez knew. She had in her memory a rhubarb pie, so we had that with vanilla ice cream. We don't know if rhubarb is a fruit or vegetable, but we don't feel guilty.
A welcome sight was weather clearing and the sun shining on the volcano peaks.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
We start the day having a telephone interview with a search committee that is considering Fr. Bob Blessing, our former priest at St. Michael and All Angels in Longview Texas. All through the Yukon and in Skagway, our Verizon phones have not worked. So we thought that we would have to postpone this interview and already had done so. During our boat trip to Juneau, Verizon turned on their service in Skagway. This must have been a "God Thing", as we were now able to do the interview, but again lost service as we left Skagway and did not get it back until near Anchorage. We bid Skagway goodbye and vow to return. Three nights here was time well spent. The Garden City RV Park ($25) is a great base to see the Skagway area. If we were in awe of the scenery coming into Skagway, we are doubly in awe at seeing it in reverse. More frozen lakes and small glaciers than we remember. We bypass US customs and a few miles later stop for the Canadian customs officer. A few questions and we are on our way back in BC for a few minutes and then into Yukon Territory for the rest of the day's travel.
The roads we travel today have gotten progressively worse in condition. Frost heaves in the road bed during the winter really tear up the road surface. We pass a place called Destruction Bay and think that it is aptly named for this part of Yukon Territory.
We stop for the night at at the Kluane River Overlook rest area. Dry camping in the Discovery is really not roughing it. We still have all the creature comforts, as we have plenty of fresh water, power for the microwave and TV, hot water and heat if necessary. What else do we need? There are three other "campers" that spend the evening in this area. Jake and Herb play fetch on a grassy area near the woods. We were sure hoping that the bears don't check out Jake's training dummy. Herb wakes near midnight and sees a beautiful sunset over the mountains. He walks to the other side of the coach and sees just as beautiful a sunrise from the other windows.
Sunday June 11, 2006 Kluane River Overlook, YT to Palmer AK Log 487 Miles
We leave our free campsite and continue on the Alaska Highway north. Much more road destruction, er I mean construction and repair, along here. We travel over a stretch of washboard gravel that is absolutely the worst of the trip so far. We slow to less than 15 mph and still the clothes closet is wrecked, the microwave almost comes off the wall, many things that normally travel on shelves find their way to the floor. Finally we come to the Alaska line and a few miles later stop at USA customs. Wilma is busy snapping photos of the guard shack and two BMW motorcycles ahead of us. We see the customs official watching us through binoculars. After successfully clearing customs with only a couple of questions, we read in the Milepost that taking photos at this point is prohibited. This brings to mind a question I have concerning the laws in this part of the world. All through Northern Yukon Territory and all of Alaska, I have searched in vain to find a road sign that does not have a bullet hole in it. Most have many, in fact one near Anchorage has several plus a shotgun blast. Yet every customs official in both Canada and the US has asked us if we are carrying any firearms with us. We do not carry firearms with us, but it looks as if we are in the minority in both countries.
Our first stop back in Alaska is Tok. Here we stop for diesel ($3.079) and brochures at the welcome center. After Canadian diesel, I am pleased to pay the cheap?? price here in Alaska. We paid upwards of $4 per gallon in Canada. We leave Tok heading in the Anchorage direction on a great road. Only a few miles out of town, we see a sign that says "Pavement Ends". Duh. Is it dirt and gravel the rest of the way? For how long does it end? Not a clue. We drive for several miles, even considering going back and heading for Fairbanks instead, when finally we see smooth road ahead. We continue for the next 150 miles with bits of repair work along the way, but beautiful scenery. As we pass through Glenallen, the road gets better and so does the scenery. Some of the most majestic mountains of the trip along this stretch. Also along here we find that our North America GPS does not consider Alaska as in North America. We have no roads on our screen....bummer. We resort to paper maps and the Milepost. Grins. At a rest stop, we dig out the old Delorme GPS for the laptop and hook it up. We are back in business; now we know exactly where we are at all times. Big Grin.
We have seen numerous signs warning about rock slides, but fortunate not to be at that place when one happens. Today we did see a small slide ahead of us, but off to the side of the road and no harm done.
We decide to make this our longest traveled day of the trip and arrive, at Elsie and Leon Sikes' friends' rv park in Palmer AK. We arrive and get settled in about 9 PM Alaska time. Of course, it is still broad daylight, so no trouble seeing how to get to our site here at Homestead RV Park ($12 Passport America).
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Saturday, June 10, 2006
We began the day by visiting the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park visitor center in downtown Skagway. After gathering a supply of maps and information, we struck out on the jeep road to Dyea and the start of the Chilkoot trail. This trail was the start of a long hard journey to the Klondike gold fields near Dawson City Yukon Territory. After making many trips hauling the Canadian government required supplies up and over White Pass from Dyea and Skagway, the early prospectors reached tributaries of the Yukon River. Here they had to build boats and rafts to carry them and their supplies on to the Klondike. Most of them never found an ounce of gold. Many died, among them 45 killed in an Avalanche and buried near Dyea. Dyea currently is a ghost town, Skagway has 892 permanent residents, but swells to several thousand each day in the summer when the residents mine the gold brought by the two to three cruise ships that dock here each day.
After returning from Dyea, we rode our trikes through the crowded streets of Skaqway and found a nice halibut lunch at the Bonanza Bar and Grill. An afternoon of riding around and exploring Skaqway brought us to dinner at the Fish House near the Small Boat Harbour for some more halibut. Are we enjoying the fish?? You bet we are. We made arrangements with John, the proprietor of the Garden City RV Park, for our excursion to Juneau tomorrow on the Fjordland Express, a diesel powered catamaran which will take us down the Lynn Canal to Juneau. John agreed to walk Jake several times during the day while we are away. We were lucky to find such an accommodating host.
Friday June 9, 2006 Skagway to Juneau to Skagway
The day begins early, as we need to walk Jake, get ready for the day and board the Fjordland Express by 7:45 AM Alaska Time. The people who track that sort of thing tell us that we are having nearly 19 hours of daylight. But it never really gets dark even when they say it is not daylight. At two o'clock in the morning, it is still plenty light enough to walk around without a light. We go to bed at 10 or 10:30 and still can see sunlight glinting off the mountain peaks.
The sail to Juneau began with seeing the different colored watermarks on the rocks lining the channel, which showed the levels of the tide. Our Captain Mark explained that there could be 22 ft difference in high and low tide in a day. The change today was 17 ft. The trip was a wealth of viewing wildlife, beginning with loons and eagles. We slowed and even stopped many times so we could film the action. Eagles were resting in the trees, on tops of pilings in the Haines Harbour, on buoys, and we were fortunate to see a beauty in flight just over the boat.
On the rocks there were several "communities" of sea lions resting and sunning themselves, and making lots of noise as they communicated with each other -- or us! One even looked over his shoulder cunningly, like Jake does. The excitement built as we began to see the humpback whales spray and spray and spray, then surface partially. It will be interesting to see if we got that part on video. More eagles along way.
After a great lunch of halibut (Wilma's sister Meryl's favorite fish -- it must run in the family) in Juneau and (Myrna picture this!) a BIG cone of pecan praline ice cream, we shopped the touristy stuff, then were taken to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center to see a glacier up close. Temp was cool, but some people were sunbathing on the beach, and children wading in the water. One lady found a basketball sized piece of glacier and brought it to us for photographing. It was very cold and much denser than refrigerator ice cubes. The beautiful blue color of the ice is from compression, which lets only the blue light rays reflect to our eyes.
Our daughter Roxie will be interested that the rangers all had bear spray containers attached to their belts. One of them magically appears in a photo we took.
On the return trip to Skagway, we saw another glacier, Eagle, in the distance, and encountered some black and white porpoises frolicking in the water. No pictures on the blog, as they were too frisky and fast. We slowed the boat to allow them to catch us, as they like to go all around and under the boat. They were playful as six-month old puppies.
It must be a God thing. We need to do a telephone interview with the search committee for Fr. Bob Blessing. The committee wants to interview Herb at 9 AM tomorrow. Our cell phones have not worked since Fort St. John several days ago. While we were in Juneau today, Verizon must have turned their system on in Skagway as when we returned, as we now have full service including internet on our aircard. Now we can keep our appointment with the search committee that we thought we would have to postpone.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Friday, June 09, 2006
Wednesday June 7 - Watson Lake Yukon Territory to Skagway Alaska USA
We began the day by Inez giving Wilma her favorite "cake," fresh banana pudding that she had made after breakfast. What a treat for tonight's dessert.
As we left Watson Lake in the sunshine, we noticed an area where travelers had made rock messages alongside the highway, a craze started by Ft. Nelson Swim Team in 1990, much the same as the signs at Sign Post Forest. We were able to get a picture of one, which read, "The Franks." Another read "Jesus is the Way." Many had only their initials, as they probably got tired picking up rocks and arranging them. Sister Meryl: WHERE IS YOUR ROCK MESSAGE?
We saw more views of snowcapped mountains as we drove, even though the elevation was only 3300. It was a fairly good road, some potholes, and frequent short stretches of gravel. Tank trucks load water from the river along the road to pour over the gravel; then the grader comes, then the oil.
We crossed the Teslin River bridge, third longest water span, which was built with a very high clearance for steamships. Then leaving the Alaska Hwy, we turned south toward Skagway at Jake's Corner onto Hwy. 8. There were bicyclists pulling small trailers with their supplies. Brave ones! Then the real excitement began, when we saw two bears on Hwy 8, Tagish Hwy, and one crossed in front of us. There being no traffic, we were able to slow enough to zoom in for a good photo. The road is narrow with no good turnouts. It is interesting that all the wildlife we have seen do not get scared and turn back and run from traffic. They watch you, then continue crossing, sometimes a little faster -- much like the deer in Texas.
After the Tagish Hwy, we connect with the Klondike Hwy at Carcross for our climb to the White Pass and our descent to the USA border crossing and on into Skagway. We thought after Creede Colorado, we would never see more impressive views. After the Icefields Parkway in Alberta Canada, we thought surely we had the views of all views. Wrong!! The views of snow and ice covered mountains were the most fantastic of our journey so far. The ice and snow was not viewed on distant peaks, it was up close and personal. You could at many points reach out the window and touch the ice as we drove by. At one point we noticed the lake along the side of the road was mostly still ice with air temperature about 59 degress F. The officer at the border crossing was business like and thorough as he checked our papers and asked required questions before welcoming us to the USA. Upon arriving in Skagway at the Garden City RV Park, we met a neat couple from California in a Chalet trailer, who are on their way to Kenai to househunt.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The excitement of the day was SNOW - flurries - at Milepost 332 n, Steamboat Lodge. Muskwa Valley, and we were fogged in. Elevation is 2,842, there is ice in the river at 42 degrees. (It is 59 degrees inside the RV.) A warning sign on the road cautions about ice; flurries increase at elevation 4000. Stone sheep are seen from time to time.We stopped for the day at Toad River Lodge and RV Park. Electricity was from their generator and TV station was Spokane. Nice WX they are having, while we are having cold and rain. The park was on the Toad River, of course, and picturesque. Jake had a good romp with his fetching dummy around the small rv park besode a beaver damed pond. Plenty of grass to play in. He made friends with a cat next door.who lives in a similar coach from Tuscon. The café here at the rv park had homemade bread along with split pea and ham soup -- ummm!
Great cell phone and internet service all through Alberta. Absolutely none since we left Fort St. John. The rv parks and serice stations and cafes along this stretch of road to Watson Lake are "Off the grid". They use diesel generators for power.
Tuesday June 6, 2006 Toad River BC to Watson Lake Yukon Territory
We were confused as to whether we woke at 4:30 or 5:30 AM, as we heard BC does not change for Daylight Savings. Does it matter?
Today we will be at Watson Lake to post Wilma's sister's sign at the world famous Sign Post Forest.
Lots of wildlife on the Alaska Highway today leaving Toad River and heading to Watson Lake. We saw a baby moose at one point, adlt moose at aother, several sheep in the road past Wilderness and bears at two places. One mother bear had her cub. A clue to wildlife along the road is the vehicles stopped on the side or just seeing their brakelights. No snow today, but it rained off and on all day, was as low as 38 degrees in the morning. A special treat was the soak at Liard Hot Springs Park. There is a half mile boardwalk from parking to the pool, which is in the running stream, with a wooden deck and benches along side. Air temp is 41 and the water temp is 108+plus and varies as the spring feeds into the stream. The Provencial parks pool was crystal clear with a sandy pea gravel bottom, well maintained and clean.You get used to the sulphur smell, and it is well worth it to enjoy the heat of the water. Invigorating!
At Watdson Lake we were pleased to find the Downtown RV Park, who serves a menu of steak or salmon every night. Most attractions are within walking distance, but we took the Jeep to the Sign Forest, as it was raining. It took several minutes to find a vacant spot to nail Wilma's sister's sign, and then quite a bit longer to locate her son's sign from their 2000 trip. There are over 200,000 signs posted now -- lots from Germany and lots from all over Texas, the southernmost one we saw was Port LaVaca. Jake's new friend the cat from Tuscon also is staying at this park tonight.. We find that now we are seeing the same rv's along the way. As we are all heading for Alaska. Tomorrow may finally be the day we cross into Alaska, as we plan to go to Skagway, Alaska for a few days.
Dinner was Salmon steaks at the mess tent here at the rv park in downtown Watson Lake. It was our last dinner with Sam and Inez for a while as they are going a differnet direction tomorrow. We will meet in a few days at Homer on the Kenai Penensula.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Monday, June 05, 2006
Sam and Inez caught up with us at Wal-mart. Since it was still early afternoon, we decided to make a few more miles. After the obligatory photos at Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway, we actually and finally drove on the Alaska Highway. The road to Fort St. John was wide and smooth. Some 7 to 10% grades. During on of these grades, a Discovery pulling a racecar trailer passed us on an uphill grade. He did not have enough room and forced us to the rough shoulder. We of course yielded and lost our hill clilmbing momentum. A very dangerous and rude driver. We found out later that he also forced Sam to the shoulder as he passed him.
Sam again fed us with trout he caught last night and this morning. I never get tired of this delicious feast.
We parked for the night at Sourdough Pete's. Wilma's cousin whom she had never met and his family joined us after dinner for a nice visit. You will see his wife, Shelley, and daughters in the pictures -- there is Jess (14), Danielle (7), Alexis (4), and Samantha (3). We really enjoyed getting to know them in a short period of time, and asked how they deal with the winters in Fort St. John. They told us that sometimes it is pretty warm (we asked HOW warm?) and found out it can be as high as MINUS 30 in the winter. They are used to it, know how to dress, drive, and keep warm. A good life in a beautiful province!!! Mike drives a heavy winch truck for a company that moves drilling rigs here in the oil patch. He was very helpful to help Herb find a loose fitting on the air hose that had taken on some grit and was beginning to give us cause for concern. If Jake had been suffering from lack of love on the trip, he got lots of petting from the girls. We plan to stay in touch.
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Three highlights of the day -- We did not see a bear in Tunnel Mountain RV Trailer Court in Banff National Park, the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park with its glacier (even in June) is awesome, and we did see a black bear along the Icefields Parkway. Saturday seemed to be the day a hundred or more runners did a timed run the entire length of the Parkway, with runners on the left shoulder and their swag cars on the right shoulder. It became quite congested from time to time. When we saw the bear on the left on the highway right of way calmly eating grass, we noticed there were no runners nearby, because they had smartly moved to the right side and were laughing their heads off. (Probably joyful at their escape.) There was some construction on Trans-Canada 1 at Bow River, where they were widening the highway. The elevation rose to over 8800 feet from 4000 at Banff. It was 55 degrees with a wind chill. Farther on we saw a field of big horn sheep and some moose.
We got the last RV site at Marv Moore Municipal RV Park in Grand Cache, Alberta, and were happy to get it, as it was about 6 PM, and we were ready to stop for the day. The park was beautiful with lots of trees and brush close up to the RV. There was a firewood supply bin next to our site, and we saw a guy pick four logs to haul in his little red wagon to his campfire ring, but they were too long to fit, so he had to carry the logs in one arm, and pull the wagon with the other.
At 10:30 PM it was still daylight. We slept soundly. This day is one of the shorter write ups, but the most pictures. We took close to 200 pictures, it was hard to select the 90 or so we put in our online album that you can see here.
Sunday June 4, 2006 Grande Cache Alberta to Dawson Creek British Columbia
On our drive from Grande Cache we noticed a power plant with a coal mining area very nearby. This is also oil drilling country, as well as logging. The road was very rough because of the large trucks using it, and compared to the drives we had up to now, became very boring. The only excitement was seeing some deer cross the highway in front of us (which we can see in Texas), and seeing the statue of a beaver in Beaverlodge, Alberta. We crossed into British Columbia and a new time zone -- now two hours earlier than home. No more Super Wal-marts? Just Grocery Shelves?
Walldog, Willie and Jake
Saturday, June 03, 2006
We left Great Falls MT through the farmland with rolling hills and a view of snowcaps to the West, and anticipating the views of Alaska. North of Shelby we saw a moose, and both of us did a doubletake before we realized it was a metal moose sculpture. At the Canadian border at Coutte, we were asked about firearms and mace, so we had to confess that we had the bear spray our daughter Roxie had given us. The officer asked to see it; however it was in a compartment that could not be opened with the slide in. He asked if it would be too much trouble to put the slide out and get the spray for him, and our answer was that we were glad to. He spent a minute or two examining it, then explained to his trainee that it was OK to have -- what they would confiscate was the small pocket-size containers. How do you spell relief?
After we passed Monarch, we saw the beautiful Livingstone Mountain Range and the Continental Divide. We had labor pains -- OK, labour pains -- getting to the RV park for the night, but it was well worth it to finally arrive. George Lane Park Campground is beautiful with cottonwood trees which were shedding their fluff. It looked like snow flurries. We discovered a bike and walking path, and some local bikers explained where it went and that it was about 10K. The town itself, High River, is small, clean, sleepy, yet alive with civic pride. We found the residents to be friendly and helpful. We chatted with several of the locals as we made our way around town on our trikes.
Today is our 32nd wedding anniversary.
Friday June 2, 2006
Our morning exercise was a real treat, first taking Jake on a three mile trike ride; then taking him home to take a nap, we embarked on the 10K ride. The path was broken in a few places, but we enjoyed exploring to see where it picked up again, and visiting with neighbors along the way, who would point us in the right direction. We would have liked riding the path again, but needed to move on.
We skirted the south of Calgary on 22X, heading west for Banff. Arriving at Tunnel Mountain Campground, we were strictly warned about the bears. Wilma immediately got out her bear spray. Herb told her to put it away, as he did not want to make the bears angry. As we set up camp, we very quickly met our neighbors for the stay, Terry and Janice from Okanagan Falls BC. During happy hour, they gave us many tips on this part of the world. A tour of their beautiful fifth wheel home was a treat. Sam and Inez arrived about dinner time after getting lost in Calgary and passing the campground twice. They arrived here a day earlier than we expected.
Pictures for the past two days are here.
Walldog, Willie, and Jake
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Wednesday May 31, 2006 Cody Wyoming to Great Falls Montana
We got our two weeks of mail from Escapees around noon and headed north from Cody.
"The One That Got Away" -- No, we didnt go fishing; we just came really close to Bear Tooth Pass between Wyoming and Montana, but were advised that it was not motor home passable yet. They had just plowed for travel and snowdrifts were 16 feet high, so we opted to simply remember the trip we took on the motorcycle a few years ago. Undoubtedly, the most beautiful and breathtaking pass we have even driven, except maybe for one in the Alps. We followed the Lewis and Clark route through lush green meadows and rolling hills. For nearly 100 miles we had a view of the "Crazy Mountains" in our windshield or side windows. These were gorgeous snow covered peaks that just seemed to pop out of nowhwere after the views of the Beartooth range. After the Crazy Mountains view we entered lush green pasture land in rolling hills criss-crossing the Yellowstone River several times. The pictures do not do the windmills justice. These guys are mamoths. I have seen windfarms before, but this one comes right next to the road, so you can see just how big they are. Taking the 87 bypass around Great Falls Montana to the Wal-mart, we drove along side Missouri River. Nice bike paths and a beautiful water fall at a lock and dam. The Black Eagle Dam.
On to Wal-mart for a nice restful evening......Cross into Canada tomorrow.....and its only taken 16 days from Texas.....Big Grins.
Todays pictures are here.
Walldog, Willie and Jake