EPDM Coatings
rvupgradestore.com Composet Products Custom Yacht Interiors

Author Topic: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013  (Read 28427 times)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« on: May 31, 2013, 11:52:01 AM »
Departed Greenwood Village today (Tuesday, May 28) after having 2 emergency visits by a plumber. Last night as we eased into our final tasks, with the thought of leaving quite early this morning, Murphy's Law kicked in big-time. The garbage disposer(s) threw a tantrum--clogged and stopped working. Then everything backed up....dirty water full of garbage began bubbling up through both drains, but even worse, that same awful stuff began pouring by the gallons out of the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink onto the cherrywood floor.  Yikes! 25 sodden towels later the flood had abated.

First visit by the plumber at 8 am seemed to fix the problem(s). But a few minutes after he left, Don was doing dishes and the whole scene repeated itself. Called plumber to request he return immediately. Long story short: Despite using a 50 foot snake 4 times, pipes far away in the basement remained clogged. We'll have to have things fixed properly when we get home.  Until then, I taped 6 warning signs everywhere around the sink & faucet: DO NOT USE!

So we finally launched our Rollin Home northward at 12:25 pm, 3 hours after we had planned to leave. YAHOO, we're embarked on The Great Alaska Adventure!! Feels soooo good to be on our way, finally.

We zipped up I-25 to Casper, Wyoming, and rolled into our campground at exactly 6 pm. Not bad. We just finished having cheese & crackers w a bit of caviar to celebrate...and wine, of course!...followed by a green salad with chunks of grilled chicken/maple sausage. 

We never had rain along the way today, but drove under intermittent black clouds several times. As we drove north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, i could see in the rear view mirror a splendid full rainbow, very broad and colorful. What a good omen for our 110-day trek.

The sun is out and the skies are clear. Breezes are lovely. We're alongside the river near Casper at River's Edge RV Park. Good place! Decent price, gorgeous showers, very clean. I'm going to get busy unpacking "stuff" that I still have in duffel bags, and stowing it away in cabinets. Don is disappointed he can't get the NBA Miami-Indiana playoff game on cable TV here. But we've settled in, taken walks, and it's mellowing-out time. Yawn.

Everything unpacked...and would you believe it?...we still have 1 totally empty cabinet over the driver's seat and 2 large empty bins in rear cabinets. Miracles DO happen! Don swore I was taking enough clothes and accessories for 8 months on the road. Who, me?  This Itasca Reyo has an enormous amount of storage space in it...I'm really impressed!  I love this Rollin Home...best vehicle we can imagine. Even all the "extra" food I brought packs away neatly in cabinets above and below. Amazing. And of course we always carry 4 gallon-size bottles of fresh water with us , just in case!

Night all! More news tomorrow from Dubois, Wyoming, on our way to the Tetons. (Pronounced due-boys, by the way...no Frenchie stuff up here in cowboy country.

Klondike Susie (aka Salty Adventurer)
« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 11:55:27 AM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2013, 12:16:12 PM »
Lovely drive from Casper to Dubois, WY for 2 nights in Dubois. At first I thought, How silly to have planned 2 nights in Dubois this early in the trip! But it was a good thing we had 2 days here...Life Lesson #1 on this trip: NEVER EVER have the heater plugged in when I turn on the teakettle to heat water for tea in the morning! All power throughout the vehicle went off. Ugh! Blew out the GFI for the entire vehicle. 

We thought it was a circuit breaker or a fuse...DH knew where the breakers were and the fuses, and he tested everything. Fuses were OK. Still no power anywhere. Winnebago guy said it oight be the GFI switch.  Oh, yeah! First we had to locate the GFI switch...a call to Winnebago headquarters helped us on that one. No RV repair places anywhere close, though. Ugh Ugh. No local electricians answered their phones. DH left messages. Then DH did his walkabout thing, talked to several RVers here at the CG, and then had a conversation with the maintenance fella here at the fabulous Longhorn Ranch RV Park in Dubois. AHA! Maintenance guy agreed to stop by our rig and see what he could do...he's a trained universal technician from Wisconsin who can troubleshoot like a master! Less than 2 hours later, everything is fixed and working fine! What luck, what a find, what a sweetheart!

A late lunch at The Cowboy Cafe in Dubois, and a quick look through the 2 art galleries in town, and we went back to Longhorn to hang out, take walks, read for the evening. Sun is out, but the winds are ferocious. Very blustery. Snow is predicted tonight in Jackson Hole and possibly here as well.  The winds are literally rocking the Rollin Home...maybe it's a good thing we have my oversized hips and butt as ballast, huh?

Longhorn Ranch Resort and RV Park reviews:  Fabulous place! This is the way ALL RV parks should be!  We have a back-in spot right on the Wind River...flowing fast and deep, in minor flood stage right now but not up over the banks anywhere yet. Gorgeous setting, with high palisades across the river to watch at sunset.  Lots of trees here in the park, shady settings for RVs, big spaces, probably the nicest shower-rooms I've ever seen in an RV park!  All for $35/night for the "premium" spot. Wow.  We'd come back here in a blink! 

Not much to do in Dubois, though, and we decided not to drive to Jackson Hole today...just another chi-chi ski town. Yawn.  And it's pretty cold to do much long hiking anywhere. Gave me time to finish organizing all my Alaska Adventure itinerary materials, and resume reading Michener's "Alaska", which I started about 2 months ago. Had to quit in order to read books for my book club...

We're ready to start unhooking in order to take off...it's 11:15 am....pretty typical for us, I must say. We must be on vacation!  Another post tonight after we're in Colter Bay Village RV Park, in Yellowstone NP.  Hope the weather warms up a bit. 
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Railroadpastor

  • Posts: 2
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2013, 12:24:52 PM »
WE made the trip north last year. Left early May and returned in August. We also had problems. Seems that one of the grandchildren dropped something in the commode and never told us. We found out after we were on the road for a week. Then the dog broke my wife's arm in Yellowstone. I wish you luck on the journey. If you get to Homer, check out a campground about 2 miles away called Deep Creek. Watch the boats being launched and watch all the Eagles. Great place to camp.

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 07:55:52 PM »
Snow is predicted tonight in Jackson Hole and possibly here as well. 

Longhorn Ranch Resort and RV Park reviews:  Fabulous place! 

resume reading Michener's "Alaska", which I started about 2 months ago.

 Hope the weather warms up a bit.

Dean and i found a nice place to eat on a corner in Jackson Hole, which had a small in size salad bar, but it was filled with small quantities (4 cups?) of FRESH, bite-size of probably 20 different ingredients.  As you go north, you will find less and less good-quality, fresh ingredients, so you may want to have lunch in Jackson Hole.

Thanks for the info on Longhorn Ranch Resort.  I will add that to my files because i can see us going back to WY.

Amen, sister, warmth is a good thing.  However, when we were in Fairbanks in '09, we had 90° and forest fires, so just don't hope too fervently. 

See the note on my log re Calgary.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2013, 09:31:14 PM »
June 1, 2013…
It’s 5:50 pm and I’m utterly exhausted, but such a pleasant and exhilarating exhaustion it is. Don and I headed out for a walk at 10 am and ended up taking a trail that went along the shore of Jackson Lake and then inland quite a ways to Heron Pond. We returned to the Rollin Home by 3 pm, with a total of 4 miles under our belts For me, this was a true miracle. My first real hike in more than 6 months of healing my broken upper-femur following a skiing accident Dec. 21, and endless exercises and physical therapy.

Many times I’ve wondered (and worried!!) whether I’d ever be “normal” again, and if I’d ever be able to walk distances and do the hiking I so love. I’ve had so much continuing pain around my knee joint, in the thigh area (quad muscle) and groin/pelvic area that I knew I’d torn all the tendons, ligaments and soft tissue really badly. All the predictions were good: It’ll heal, just give it time. Six months? A year? More? By the time I returned today from our hike, I was tired and achy, and now, at this hour, I’m quite stiff and lame. But I’ll do it again tomorrow, by gosh! Because today proved that I’m coming back to my old self! Yee hah!!!

The trail we took today was gorgeous, the first half with constant views of Jackson Lake’s little coves and bays, with Mt. Moran and the Grand Teton across the lake as a backdrop. The second half of the trail was through forests of old-growth trees, many of them well over 90 feet tall, pointing to the clear blue sky. A very few wildflowers were blooming…tiny yellow 5-petal things in sunny patches, and tiny white 3-petal elfins. Too early yet for any others to show their faces. In a few areas where warm meadows had turned lime green with lush grass, bunches of yellow daisy-like flowers were abloom, faces to the sun.

This is one of the first relatively warm days in the Tetons this year…the high was about 65. And, for once, very little wind. Lots of people were renting kayaks on the lake, and about a dozen powerboats were headed out onto the lake from the Colter Bay Marina.
A lady from Florida working on her boat at the marina dock said it costs $1,800 a season (June through September) for their boat’s dock space. The lake, 20-some miles long, is 400 feet deep at its deepest point, and has good anchorages for overnight stays. Her husband catches trout, which they fix for dinners.

We had intended to take that trail we walked to Swan Lake, and then loop around to return where we started, but several posted warnings about a mother elk (cow) and her calf on the trail encouraged us to inquire of oncoming hikers whether they’d seen the elk or not. Several had, and Mama Elk was been taunted enough yesterday by hikers to be agitated today…feeling very protective of her young, she aggressively attacked one young woman who played dodge-em’ with the elk by hiding behind trees before she retreated to safety and backtracked. So we decided to go as far as Heron Lake, rest up a bit, and return the way we came.

We had a picnic lunch outside at our picnic table when we reached the Rollin Home…a few crackers, Havarti cheese chunks, a sliced tomato, homemade cucumber pickles I brought with us, liver pate, and large-grain mustard with Guiness. A sliced apple for dessert. Just right.

Then a 45-minute nap. Both of us down for the count. Felt good. When I awoke, I immediately plowed into Michener’s “Alaska”…feels good to be reading it as we head for Alaska. And most of the Alaska I’m reading about are in the northwest part of Alaska, which we won’t even see. Alaska is such a huge landmass, and we’re seeing only a tiny part of it.

Don just got back from a walkabout among the RV campers…he talks to absolutely everybody. He just met a guy from Florida, 62, sold his business 5 years ago, owned a dock and seawall-building company in the Tampa-Orlando area. Knew the brother of a longtime friend of ours. More small world experiences!

A beautiful day in every way! Weather is perfect. Surroundings are gorgeous. People are friendly. Campground is only about half full. And my body is cooperating, finally.

Have to go out for another walk, down to the Lake, before the sun sets. G’night all.

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2013, 09:33:09 PM »
Sunday June 2, 2013 Post:

We were both dead tired last night, Don from having walked about 6 miles, me from having trundled 4 miles yesterday on our trail hikes. Slept like babies, except for the perspiration-inducing heat at about 1 am inside the Rollin Home.

I was tossing and turning, throwing off all the covers, waking intermittently but not enough to take action. Don, however, resolved the problem, getting up to turn down the dials on the small ceramic heater we use at night when it’s quite old outside. It’s incredibly efficient, and very quiet, so we use it instead of the RV’s noisy furnace, which heats all right, but also wakes us up each time it switches on. In any case, Don had set the ceramic heater’s thermostat much too low before coming to bed last night. Hence, the heater was running almost continuously while outdoor temperatures were still quite mild. Oh lordy, did it get broiling hot indoors.

After things finally cooled down a bit, we slept well, restoring achy bodies for our anticipated walks in Yellowstone today. We headed for Old Faithful fairly early, stopping along the way as we entered the broad section of the ancient volcanic caldera at West Thumb, to walk the half-mile boardwalk past the many bubbling pools, paint pots, and sulfur-blue ponds, down along the glittering Yellowstone Lake. At one spot, we watched as 9 ducks (3 different species) dove deep into the lake for food just offshore…a fertile spot for their efforts because bubbling hot water emerges at that spot from an underwater “pipe.”

The weather today has been perfect – sparkling and cool, with clear blue skies this morning turning cloudy this afternoon. Temperatures in the 50s and low 60s until midafternoon when they rose to near 70, then cooling off as the day ended with cloudiness.

After our long walk at West Thumb’s attractions, we stopped for a brief picnic further along the road to Old Faithful at Scaup Lake, on our way down from one of the high mountain passes. We decided to eat outdoors on the shore of the small, sparkling lake. Don jumped out to get the chairs and a table set up, while I made lunch. But within minutes, Don changed his mind about our plan…he quickly tossed the chairs back into the rear storage bay and folded up the table and pushed it inside. Bugs were everywhere…hatches were taking place, and various kinds of flies were smotheringly thick. Inside was better, with windows open for breezes! We dined on fresh coleslaw with pieces of sliced sugar snap peas in it, a sliced tomato, some pickles, bits of cheese, and a few chunks of grilled sausage. Just right.

On to Old Faithful, where I took a short walk and then went into the gorgeous timber structure, Old Faithful Inn, for a dish of ice cream, and to try to find a Weekend WSJ and The New York Times while Don walked the mile-long boardwalk around all the pools and geysers at that site, and climbed the 200 steps to the overlook as well. We planned to meet at a bench by Old Faithful for the 3:08 geyser show. I learned no newspapers were available…only the Bozeman paper and USA Today. Yuck. Don did the walk and climb in exactly an hour, returning to our meeting spot just before the big blow.

Faithful was off by about 10 minutes, but it was a good blast when it finally took place.

We ended our day just outside the little town of West Yellowstone, at a KOA campground that is lovely….great views of mountains in all directions, and far enough off the highway to be quiet for sleeping. A nice 2-seater swing at every RV site. But lousy wifi and phone service. Verizon does itself and its customer an injustice by having such poor service up here…and of course, Don is quote nuts without knowing what’s going on worldwide. Being out of touch for 3 days without good tv / cable channels and Internet for Don is real torture!

The wifi and Verizon issues are enough to cause us to cut short our planned 3-day stay here to only 1 night. Tomorrow we’ll move on to somewhere…maybe Mammoth Hot Springs, maybe elsewhere. We’re improvising at this point, which is fun.

I am insisting that we north and east through Yellowstone from here to the northeast corner of Yellowstone Park and on to Cooke City, MT. We just have to drive the fabled Beartooth Hwy (Hwy 212) between Cooke City ad Red Lodge, MT, which Charles Kuralt called the most beautiful drive in the world, where the rocks are so ancient that it is the closest we will ever be to the beginnings of time. Don has grudgingly agreed to do this, but I’m going to have a devil of a time finding him any place with good phone reception and/or good wifi connections. We ARE in the boonies!

Hot showers are beckoning tonight. I’m planning to make us an omelet for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2013, 09:34:37 PM »
Monday June 3, 2013 Post:

We have winter conditions here in Cooke City, MT. Lows tonight expected to be in the mid-20s. And we are in a motel…not an RV park in sight for 100 miles with any hookups. And by gosh, we’re not going back to West Yellowstone for love or money!

We were driving merrily along the Beartooth Highway 212 toward Red Lodge, MT, this afternoon as the skies turned gray and ominous. Temp was dropping, but, hey, we were going over mountain passes at about 7800 feet so that was logical, right? The scenery was so splendid it took our breaths away. Tall, jagged, pointy peaks in the west, granite and gneiss cliffs in another. Sandstone palisades in the third, and pinyon pine-covered high mountains frosty with snow in the fourth. Amazing. I can see why Charles Kuralt years ago called this stretch of highway the most beautiful in North America.

We climbed and climbed toward the pass to get to Red Lodge, and as we rounded a curve ahead of us was the big snow removal equipment. And a closed gate blocking the road. Hey, two signs we saw earlier in the day said the road was OPEN all the way to Red Lodge. What’s the deal, guys?

Mr. Snowplow Driver had just closed the gate seconds earlier. Only one car was ahead of us, getting an explanation of why the road was closed. Big snowstorm coming in, and winds were building. Drifts were already building at the pass, too. No-go tonight! Too dangerous. Maybe tomorrow. Oh, rats!

So we lumbered back to Cooke City (or Silver Gate, a tiny place with about 10 buildings, where we’d had a great lunch at the Log Cabin Café). Staying in the RV without electricity in the predicted cold wasn’t an appealing option. We decided to seek out “the best of the worst” places in Cooke City, population about 125, which has three saloons, a gas station, six restaurants including a “bistro” of sorts, and eight motels and lodges….most of them pretty 1940s and 50s-looking, and shabby. One has tiny vacation cabins. Ruled it out. Super 8 had seen better days. Alpine Lodge & Motel said it had ESPN and Wi-Fi. Aha! Best bet. Don can at least watch the NBA playoff game on TNT between the Pacers and the Heat. He’s happy!

Actually, Don has not been a happy camper today. He threw out his back somehow this morning as we were getting ready to leave West Yellowstone KOA. Not good. He can hardly move. I drove all day…fine with me! I had a blast! 

A few more comments about our day: Neither of us had ever been in the northeast quadrant of Yellowstone NP. It is definitely “the roads least traveled.” We passed a lot more geyser and bubbling pool areas on the way to well-developed and mighty busy Canyon Village. Then we turned north to Tower-Roosevelt, where we turned right and headed east, to exit from the northeast corner of Yellowstone. The roads are older, narrower and less improved on these routes. But the scenery is far more beautiful. It reminded us of when we were here in the early 1970s…Don said it even reminded him of when he visited Yellowstone with his family in the 1950s.
We saw several elk along the way, and some cars were stopped to watch some deer on a hillside. But as we moved along the Lamar River into the Lamar Valley, our experience turned magical. A huge herd of bison lead by a big bull was ambling down the middle of the road towards us. A very long line of vehicles was backed up, coming from the opposite direction. We were about fifth in line going in our direction. The bison were clearly heading for the lush fertile meadows we had just passed.

There were probably 50 to 75 cows, with at least 30 or 40 frisky, ginger-colored calves, come of them very young, maybe just days or a week old. They wandered at will between cars and RVs, going in whatever direction their moods moved them to follow, as if we tourists weren’t there at all. We watched as a cow licked her young calf with her huge tongue, and he licked her back. The bedraggled winter fur on the bison, some of it hanging off in long tangled shreds as spring moves in, reminded us of the dirty, matted dreadlocks we see on so many youngish street people in urban areas of the nation.

We had been given a wonderful gift…a great opportunity to watch bison doing what bison ordinarily do. After about a half hour, they had passed and we moved on.

What came next took all the remaining traffic off the road. We entered the luscious, fertile, lime green Lamar Valley, an enormous meadow rich with flowing water and grass. Hundreds of bison – perhaps as many as a thousand -- were scattered across the landscape. Sun shone in patches. Some bison were laying on the ground, being lazy. Others were walking toward some unknown destination. Fuzzy calves were frisking and jumping the way young ’uns do when they’re loaded with energy. This must be the kind of scene Native Americans saw hundreds of years ago when they hunted bison in the summer, when valleys like this were filled with tens of thousands of bison. It was spectacular!

Every pullout was filled with cars and RVs. So we didn’t stop. But we passed a narrow point in the road and entered the next section of the Lamar Valley, defined by the Lamar River and crisscrossed by fast-flowing creeks. There, the bison were even more plentiful! And the pullouts were empty. We moved slowly toward a viewpoint.

Suddenly, Don and I both saw action to our left, uphill on the mountainside. Two huge bison were running full speed down the steep hill just ahead of us, clearly having no intention of stopping at the road for any traffic. We stopped to watch, all by ourselves witnessing this show. We saw it was two full-grown bulls with enormous heads and big horns. They bounded across the road at full speed, and continued on down into the valley floor. About 30 yards from the road, they suddenly stopped and faced each other, heads lowered, snorting, as if they were about to charge each other and fight. Then one bull shook his head violently side to side about eight times as if clearing his senses after such a fun run. They started quietly eating grass alongside each other, calm as can be. They were just playing a game!

Along the entire drive from then until we exited Yellowstone we saw hundreds of bison in every meadow and valley.
So here we are, watching basketball and figuring out where we’ll go tomorrow because of our unexpected detour. I don't think we’ll try to get to Red Lodge after the snows. It seems smarter to go back west a bit toward Mammoth Hot Springs, and out the northern gate of Yellowstone, headed for Glacier NP next. I’ll have to make a few phone calls to cancel reservations and make some new ones because of the change in plans, IF I can ever get some phone reception anywhere in these parts. We’ll see.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2013, 11:17:46 PM »
What an interesting read!  I wish I could send you some sunshine and good luck.  You're great problem-solvers.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

ArdraF

  • ---
  • Posts: 9779
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2013, 12:49:07 AM »
X2!  You're a good writer with very descriptive words.  Thanks for the info on the bugs at Scaup Lake.  We'll be there in a couple of days and will avoid having lunch there!

By the way, Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone has Verizon which I'm using right now with an excellent signal.  As with all communications, just going over a hill can kill a signal and we've found that KOAs and similar campgrounds often are just enough off the beaten track that there's no signal.  We stay at one in Pennsylvania where we drive about a half mile to make phone calls.  They're just in a "dead" area.  Does you poor hubby know he'll lose his satellite TV on the way to Alaska?  On our return the first place we got it again was at Soldier Summit on the Alcan, but that was only because of the higher elevation there.  Lost it again and finally got it closer to the U.S.

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2013, 03:18:59 PM »
Tuesday June 4, 2013

Backtracking through Yellowstone NP’s northern sector this morning was lovely, but we definitely won the lottery yesterday when we saw all the bison herds in action. This morning, huge bison herds were far off in the hills, mostly lying down in the grass, sleeping off their hangovers, I guess. We saw a few distant elk herds too, but almost nothing up close and personal like yesterday’s adventure.

Waiting for the Beartooth Highway 212 to open all the way to Red Lodge after heavy snowfall in the pass last night would have cost us half a day, and would have put us to the east of where we wanted to go today, so we eschewed that trip for now. We’ll just have to come back later in the summer sometime to take the entire drive along 212, over the pass, when snowstorms are no longer a threat.

Don’s back is a LOT better today…he’s using his walking pole so he doesn’t twist and strain it again. But things are looking up. He and I both drove today, through spectacular country, through gorges and valleys with huge mountain ranges on either side of us, sometimes close, sometimes distant.

We traversed the north end of Yellowstone to Mammoth Hot Springs, where we were finally able to get good phone connections. I made a bunch of calls, changing RV park reservations. Now we’re all set until after we visit Glacier NP and head north into Canada.

From Mammoth, we headed north to Gardiner, MT, and Livingston, following the Yellowstone River for a good part of the day. The weather was cold, with lots of low-scudding heavy clouds, but sun came through for part of the day. Temps stayed in the high 40s and low 50s all day…the whitewater rafters we saw on the Yellowstone River were hardy souls! They must have been freezing their butts off!

The views in Montana are as gorgeous as those in Wyoming…literally and proverbially. We were in deep gorges and on high passes many times today as we headed for Boseman and Butte. The fertile valleys heading west along I-90, interspersed with rolling ranchlands, were a feast for the eyes. Green, lush, limey in color, spotted with bright yellow flowers in many places.

We had a picnic while parked along the Yellowstone River as we changed drivers, snacking on sliced ham, bits of Tillamook cheese, and juicy, cold sliced apples that were very crispy and crunchy. Perfect lunch!

By midafternoon, we arrived in the little town of Anaconda, west of Butte, and pulled into our pot at the Fairmont RV Park. Nice place! Almost nobody here, but this is a big park in big, wide open spaces. Ranchland. Cattle strolling the field alongside our site for the night. Very clean bathrooms and huge showers…we definitely will take good hot showers in the morning while here. But, of course, the usual irritations and frustrations  with the Wi-Fi that every park promises to be wonderful but NEVER is! Signal is weak, and we keep getting kicked off our Internet connection about every 3 minutes. Don’s My-Fi is working a little bit better, but it too is fluky. Dang.

We took a nice long walk tonight around the park, as the sun was going down. Of course, by day’s end, the skies had cleared and the sunset was beautiful. Natch. Isn’t that always the way?!

Tomorrow we go to Polson, MT, at the southern tip of Flathead Lake, for the night. Then to Glacier NP for 3 days, where I hope to be able to do more long walks/hikes to get my leg & hip into better shape for Alaska.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2013, 03:35:08 PM »
Wednesday June 5, 2013

Wow, Internet access!!! What more can I ask for? We stopped for lunch at Famous Dave's in Missoula and they have a great wi-fi connection...not busy, so no one minds if we sit here and doodle the afternoon away on our computers.

We had a couple of little shopping errands so we took Hwy 93 south to go to Target, Walmart and a camping warehouse...found the O-rings for the hose hookups at Walmart. Man those spraying leaks drive us nuts when we hook up.  Got a small folding stool for Don to use while his back is bad, when he needs to "get down reeeeeal low" when hooking/unhooking and putting hoses & electrical cords away....the only thing that is illogical about RV design is that you practically have to get your ears on the ground to do backwater/graywater handles, sewer connections, etc. Dumb, and dumber....every mfr HAS to know that it's us grayhairs who have the big bucks to buy these things and live our dreams by traveling in them. And our bodies don't particularly like bending so low to handle all the "stuff".

Funny, though, we never did find the kind of re-usable camping water bottle with spigot that we wanted....a few years ago we bought a heavyweight plastic gallon-jug that was a large FLAT rectangle....had a huge opening for filling it, spigot worked wonderfully, and it was perfect for boondocking and carrying freshwater for drinking/washing etc. Nobody makes them anymore. Ours sprung a leak the other day and had to be discarded. I was sure we'd find another, and I would have bought 3 of them....3 would actually fit nicely under our kitchen sink in the Reyo.

The scenery this morning was terrific as we caught I-90 and headed northwest to Missoula from Anaconda. Sweeps the cobwebs away. On to Polson tonight. 

We can't say enough GOOD THINGS about FAIRMONT RV PARK in Anaconda...absolutely heaven on earth for RVers. Huge showers with fabulous showerheads. Impeccably clean. And a great value for us at $38 with the Good Sam discount. A terrific park in a great location...perfectly quiet and rural.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Oldedit

  • ---
  • Posts: 426
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2013, 04:03:38 PM »
X2!  You're a good writer with very descriptive words.  Thanks for the info on the bugs at Scaup Lake.  We'll be there in a couple of days and will avoid having lunch there!

By the way, Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone has Verizon which I'm using right now with an excellent signal.  As with all communications, just going over a hill can kill a signal and we've found that KOAs and similar campgrounds often are just enough off the beaten track that there's no signal.  We stay at one in Pennsylvania where we drive about a half mile to make phone calls.  They're just in a "dead" area.  Does you poor hubby know he'll lose his satellite TV on the way to Alaska?  On our return the first place we got it again was at Soldier Summit on the Alcan, but that was only because of the higher elevation there.  Lost it again and finally got it closer to the U.S.

ArdraF

Hi, Ardra,

Sorry we missed you and Jerry. We're sitting at Famous Dave's in Missoula using their free wi-fi. Works great, and the food's good too. Chili for me, pulled pork for Susan. We're going to Polson after we finish posting and surfing the Internet.
2014 Newmar Ventana 4037 12.17-
2013 Itasca Reyo T 2012-12.12.17
2006 Roadtrek Adventurous Mercedes (Freightliner)
Colorado 2009-2012
Toad: 2016 Jeep Patriot Stick with Blue Ox

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2013, 10:45:53 PM »
Wednesday June 5, cont'd

The KOA in Polson, which is attached to the Polson Motorcoach & RV Resort, is at the southern tip of Flathead Lake, a magnificent body of water 30+ miles long and 10+ miles wide in places, surrounded 360 by fabulous mountains. Polson itself is said by many people to be "nothing" but we thought it was a great little town. Quite the resort!

The KOA is certainly one of the fanciest RV parks we've stayed in anywhere in the US...the bathrooms are accented by granite countertops. And the price is very reasonable...$34 with our KOA discount. We were sorely tempted to cut our Glacier time a bit short and stay another day at Polson, believe me.

When we pulled in, the day was sunny and the tempo at 75 degrees...our first real taste of summer camping. We cooked out on our grill, ate at the picnic table, and sat outdoors reading until nightfall. A lovely evening. Slept with the windows open, for once. How quickly we've gone winter and snowy with freezing temps to warm summer nights! 

Before hitting the sack we decided to stick with our plan after all, and go on to Coram, just west of the Glacier west entrance. It's been many years since we've visited Glacier, and we'd like to see the park and do some hiking. So on we go tomorrow, up the east side of Flathead Lake towards another national park, prepared to oooh and aaah our way north, again.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Wigpro

  • ---
  • Posts: 1298
    • Capt Jim Lucas
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2013, 10:53:44 PM »
Did you happen to go by the National Bison Range right down there near Polson, a very worthwhile visit. Glacier is one of my favorite spots and I manage to spend time there every year on my way South in the Fall and on my way North in the spring.

You have time in the morning to back track a few miles down to the Bison Range and do a drive through of at least the lower road....tons of up close and personal antelope and Bison....also have seen fox there and coyotes!! Lots of birds also...all from your car they don't want you out walking around.

Worth the back track from Polson it would only be 31 miles to the gate....

Enjoy,

Jim

Full time traveler, fishing guide and photographer!

Travel Blog: http://captjimtravelblog.blogspot.com

Website: www.captainjimlucas.com

Photo Site: http://captjim.smugmug.com/

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2013, 11:07:28 PM »
Thursday June 6, 2013

Night is falling, and we're parked in the North American RV Park in Coram, MT, a few miles outside Glacier NP. I'm learning that we're WAY early to have worried at all about making any reservations...here at N. American, we're one of 6 RVs in the entire place, and it's good sized. We're parked in the back corner of the park, as far as possible from the road, which I asked for when I emailed them a while back. No problem, mon!

Again, the weather has been so nice today....warm, sunny, conducive to cooking out on the grill again. In Polson, we stopped at the locally-owned Super Foods and found wonderfully fresh, wild caught Copper River salmon for dinner. Yum!
Along the way as we drove the scenic route up the east side of Flathead Lake toward Kalispell, we stopped at the little resort town of Bigfork, which is quite the artists' colony. A friend had recommended it to us. Very good art galleries, and a great local artists co-op. A nice find! And a good way to stretch the legs for an hour or two. Looked as if Bigfork had some good restaurants, too, but we had bought fresh sweet cherries in Polson, and we snacked on those and turkey jerky for lunch.

it's been a restful day. Despite the heat, we benefitted from beautiful breezes after pulling in here. Watched the first game of the NBA finals and now we're ready to sleep. The mosquitoes have suddenly appeared from nowhere...we haven't had any bugs so far on this trip, until tonight. Skeeters are thick here! And the evening air is cool but not cold. No heaters needed, just our warm comforter. And we can hear the trains passing by in the distance, so I jsut have to leave a window open for air and the sound of the train.

Tomorrow, we drive into Glacier and hike a few nice easy trails, up near Lake McDonald, then at Trail of the Cedars, and finally north of Apgar Village.

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2013, 11:15:44 PM »
Dear Jim/Wigpro...
You are making me feel really bad right now! We wanted to stop at the Natl Bison Range, and had intended to, but it was getting late as we were heading for Polson, and we both know we get tired and cranky after too long a day. So we skipped on by the Bison Range and went on to Polson. And now we're in Coram, going to Glacier. Darn!  It wish it were as easy a backtrack as you say.  Our only consolation is that we have seen lots of antelope on this trip so far, and we've spent much time up close and personal with bunches of bison, thank goodness! 

Next time we'll do it for sure. We love Montana so much, I just know we'll come back here.  Have you ever been to a place called Smash-Your-Face Buffalo Jump (or something like that)? We spotted it on the map today, and thought it would be quite interesting...maybe it explains why bison have such flat faces! Just joking...
Thanks for the suggestion that the Bison Range is a great place to visit, though...now I have another thing to add to my bucket list...which I thought would get shorter,s but instead is growing longer!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

ArdraF

  • ---
  • Posts: 9779
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2013, 12:36:21 AM »
We stopped at the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump in Alberta and really enjoyed it.  Very nice museum in an interestingly-constructed building that is on several levels on a hillside.  It's actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site so worth a visit.

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

Wigpro

  • ---
  • Posts: 1298
    • Capt Jim Lucas
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2013, 10:04:57 AM »
Dear Jim/Wigpro...
You are making me feel really bad right now! We wanted to stop at the Natl Bison Range, and had intended to, but it was getting late as we were heading for Polson, and we both know we get tired and cranky after too long a day. So we skipped on by the Bison Range and went on to Polson. And now we're in Coram, going to Glacier. Darn!  It wish it were as easy a backtrack as you say.  Our only consolation is that we have seen lots of antelope on this trip so far, and we've spent much time up close and personal with bunches of bison, thank goodness! 

Next time we'll do it for sure. We love Montana so much, I just know we'll come back here.  Have you ever been to a place called Smash-Your-Face Buffalo Jump (or something like that)? We spotted it on the map today, and thought it would be quite interesting...maybe it explains why bison have such flat faces! Just joking...
Thanks for the suggestion that the Bison Range is a great place to visit, though...now I have another thing to add to my bucket list...which I thought would get shorter,s but instead is growing longer!


Thanks sorry I got to you a little late on the Bison Range, hit it on your way South...it is a beautiful place and worth the visit. My summer plans have somewhat fallen apart due to weather the job I had in Alaska has ended....ice too late and then warm too soon caused flooding, so I am leaving Denali area and heading to Haines for some work there....I am excited about the change after a month in Haines I just may head back down to Montana and spend the remainder of my summer there....

Have a great trip and I will look up the smashed buffalo thingy...might be a good stop going South.

Will be following along, if you get to Haines look me up.

Jim
Full time traveler, fishing guide and photographer!

Travel Blog: http://captjimtravelblog.blogspot.com

Website: www.captainjimlucas.com

Photo Site: http://captjim.smugmug.com/

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2013, 01:43:08 AM »
Thanks sorry I got to you a little late on the Bison Range, hit it on your way South...it is a beautiful place and worth the visit.
I would second Jim's view on Bison Range.  We had lots of fun there.  Also, don't miss the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, in the top 5 of the museums we've visited in the 6 years we've been traveling half-time.  It is amazing!
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2013, 02:05:12 PM »
Saturday June 8, 2013

Such a wonderful Saturday morning! We're sitting around relaxing, enjoying spectacular weather, perfect breezes, and watching the prairie dogs doing their work ( and running around like busy little guys!) in the wooded areas alongside our Rollin Home. We're at North American RV Park in Coram, MT, just outside Glacier NP.

We went into Glacier yesterday toward the Fish Creek CG, since we had been directed to a trailhead near there by a natl park employee who gave us a trail map at the Fish Creek Visitor Center. Took the gravel road just before the CG uphill to a parking lot, backed into a nice space alongside some horse trailers, and went for our hike on the Lake McDonald trail, up and down and around til we got to the lakeshore. Gorgeous trail, very easy, flowers in bloom everywhere. Perfect! And not too many bugs, tho we had put our Repel on beforehand. When we got to the lakeshore, the winds had come up and there were small whitecaps on Lake McDonald. Weather was still warm and nice, though. Going back, we took the cutoff toward the campground in order to stay along the lake for a while more, then walked the CG roads back to our vehicle. Because the campgrounds aren't even open yet, it was quiet, deserted, and very nice. Along the way, we met only 2 other hikers, and a couple of ladies on horseback. Two perfect miles of hiking!

Then we drove higher in Glacier past Apgar Villg up toward Polebridge, though we knew we wouldn't go that far in our vehicle. There's still a lot of fire damage from the vast fires of 2003, although the new growth of conifers is lush and thick and velvety nearly everywhere. We were ready for a picnic, and stopped at the junction where the road to Polebridge turns to gravel for our lunch of apples, cheese, homemade pumpkin bread (gluten-free!), and buffalo jerky. As sleepiness began setting in, we drove back to our campground, stopping along the way at the KOA just to take a gander and see if it is nicer than North American...

Our decision: Probably six of one and a half-dozen of the other. KOA is farther back from the main hwy to Glacier (3.4 mil into the woods) and looks a lot newer and fancier. But the sites have no trees at all, and no shaded areas. There is a pool, however, which would be great for families. Makes no difference to us. And the bathrooms/ showers at North American are to die for...no fancy, but impeccably clean and the BIGGEST a shower stalls I've ever seen. Because there's almost nobody here, I had a private bathroom for my shower...very nice! The laundry room here is small but very nice, with brand new commercial washers, vending machine for soaps etc, and a change machine that takes $1s and $5s. I will do laundry later today so we have clean clothes & towels until we get into Alaska. We've been forewarned about the campgrounds and laundry facilities on the way through Canada.

Last night the winds were blasting and we had three tiny spurts of rain. Wish it had rained longer to wash all the dust off the Rollin Home...it's looking a bit frowzy right now. No such luck. Then the skies cleared and it was a beautiful evening...of course, we had done our grilling of lamb chops in the howling winds WITH the spurts of rain, before everything cleared. Oh well. We had a nice dinner anyway. We're working hard to finish off our store of wine before we hit Canada, since we're limited in what we can take in...hard work, but somebody has to do it.

Just a note for the future since I'll surely forget...I added a whole bunch of fresh basil along with sliced sugar-snap-peas to the coleslaw last night to finish off the peas and basil before they went bad. Best coleslaw we ever ate! Have to do this in the future! Our new propane grill, bought after much research on which grills work best for RVers, is just super...it cooks HOT, which means I can time things properly, heats up quickly, cools off quickly, and packs up in its own bag efficiently. It's an Iroda O-Grill 1000....costs a pretty penny, but well worth it and 100% better than the cheapie, flimsy camping propane grill we had before. Threw that darn thing away it was so terrible. Used tons of propane, cooked cold so it took ages to get food cooked nicely, and it was impossible to time anything right. This one's a gem!

We are planning to take 2 shorter hikes this afternoon in Glacier, along the Going-To-The-Sun Road at Avalanche Creek. Trail of the Cedars is nice, and it connects to the Avalanche Lake trail...we'll see how much our bodies will take, but I'd like to do about 4 miles round trip. Sun Road isn't open to our length vehicle...21 feet is max...and it's not open yet, anyway for summer traffic all the way through. Tomorrow, we'll take the southern road around the end of Glacier to Browning, fill up with fuel, then go to the KOA in St. Mary for one night before heading into Canada.

While there, we're planning to take the road to Many Glacier, by far the most scenic of all the roads in the park, and there are a couple of nice trails up near Many Glacier Hotel that we want to take.  Enough for now...we're off on another adventure! See ya!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2013, 10:09:03 PM »
9 pm on Saturday, June 8, 2013

Just as we predicted, about every 10 days to 2 weeks, we need a day off, without going anywhere. No driving for a whole day. Today was the day, in spite of ideas we had for places it would be nice to hike. We read books, picnicked, did the laundry, and just puttered around for the day. Fixed a nice dinner of grilled chicken breasts that had been marinated in buttermilk and ranch dressing mix (very juicy and tender!) and now I think I'm headed for an early-to-bed night. My eyes are itching so badly from allergies...is it cottonwoods or something else with lots of pollen?...that I'm practically scratching them out of my head. Sleep is the only answer...even my Rx Patanol drops aren't doing much good.

We walked around the RV park a bit, and I visited the General Store here and bought a couple more bags of buffalo jerky, locally made. Support the local economy, which is anything but robust! I'm making great progress with the book, Alaska, by Michener. Great book. He's such a good writer and storyteller.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #21 on: June 09, 2013, 02:11:02 AM »
I'm making great progress with the book, Alaska, by Michener. Great book. He's such a good writer and storyteller.
I read Alaska in '09 and am halfway through re-reading it.  Very enjoyable as well as informative.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

Henry Wishard

  • ---
  • Posts: 376
  • Gone Crazy*** Be Back Soon
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #22 on: June 09, 2013, 12:16:22 PM »
 I love your reading your post, as for meeting up we will be around Alaska all Summer. No hurry on this trip.
Henry & Margaret Wishard
12625 Lake Vista Dr
Willis, Texas 77318
2017 Tiffin Open Road

2012 Jeep Rubicon

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2013, 11:02:07 PM »
Sunday June 9, 2013

We tried to leave our campground earlier than normal today, figuring that the drive from Coram MT around the southern tip of Glacier NP over to Browning MT and then to St. Mary at the east side of Glacier would be prettier early in the day. And we also wanted to do the drive into Glacier NP on the Many Glacier road, since the scenery is said by many to be the most dramatic of any of the roads in the park. Well, we pulled out at 10:30 instead of noon, anyway! That’s early for us!

The sky was sunny, with bunches of small puffy clouds whizzing along…you can tell the winds were blasting. Again. And my eyes are so red and itchy from the cottonwoods in heat everywhere, in great numbers, that Don drove because I could hardly keep my eyes open. After about 45 minutes with the air conditioner on, the air inside the Rollin Home was somewhat filtered, and I was better, but it’s still pretty miserable going. I always say that during this season, allergy medication is worthless and my 3 different types of eyedrops are similarly worthless…kinda like I want to commit suicide. And with blasting winds, life is even worse.

Enough complaining already. Every mile of the drive was spectacular. Around every curve was a new and more dramatic view of Glacier’s towering, jagged giants, some as pointy as spears, others looking like a set of dinosaur teeth, still others huge squared-off cliffs dropping directly to the floor of a valley. One particularly memorable view was of a huge tapering pile of rock with a very long, razor-thin jaggedy ridge stretching the entire length of the very top…makes you wonder how the forces of wind, water and a gazillion years of erosion could forge such a strange shape.

We stopped in Browning MT to fill up on diesel fuel, as we had been advised to by many an RVer who had warned that prices were drastically higher elsewhere, especially a short way north in Canada. Browning is on the Blackfeet Tribe’s reservation…we had read about and heard about the Blackfeet for years and were so anxious to stop at the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning. One guide told us it was open 7 days a week; another said it was closed Sunday and Monday. Drat, it was closed, as was the Blackfeet Trading Post just down the street. Not much else in Browning, so we moved on to St. Mary, our trip to Many Glacier, and our KOA campground.

The roads on the eastern side of Glacier are narrow and far more primitive than on the western side. Lots of “rough road ahead” signs, and the rough patches were so rough that at times we went 5-10 mph because we were being thrown around so much. We stopped in St. Mary to have lunch at The Park Café on Hwy 89…I had read many RVer journals that old of the fabulous food and homemade pies there. St. Mary is a tiny place, almost nothing here, but it has an amazing number of restaurants, supposedly very good ones.

The Park Café does a land-office business, and has a whole bunch of college students who come in from around the country to work as waitstaff and kitchen staff. We learned within minutes of sitting down that our waitress was from Grand Rapids, MI, my ome town. Small world, again. The place is very small and is a throwback to days of yore…classic little roadside café, seating maybe 30 at the most, if you count the 5 old-fashioned twirly-stools at the counter up front near the kitchen.

Great food, and unbelievable homemade pies. Today the list of fresh homemade pies totaled 13 (would have been 14 except they were out of the fresh strawberry pie). Don had a big bowl of the homemade chili (with beef and beans)…definitely outstanding. I had a “small” order of the fish & chips, which was 3 good-sized pieces of hand-battered fresh salmon with fresh sweet potato fries, and a small side salad. Perfectly done, and perfectly delicious!

We absolutely couldn’t leave without trying some pie…Son had banana cream, which he said was probably the best banana cream pie he’d had since high school days in East Peoria, IL, back in the late 50s. I had rhubarb pie, which blew me away…chunks of fresh rhubarb cooked perfectly so they still had their shape and a tiny bit of crunch…honest to gosh like my Gram used to make when I was a kid in the 50s!  We both said we’ll probably go back there for breakfast tomorrow morning, and have pie & coffee! (Later in the day, we spoke with a number of people at our RV park who said they’re going to do the exact same thing!)

Speaking of the RV park…the KOA in St. Mary is a real gem! Great owners, beautiful views, wonderful bathrooms with Corian countertops, a very well-equipped little store, and a terrific ice cream stand with REAL ice cream that gets dipped out of big containers (not just the frozen bars piled in a freezer bin like most campgrounds). Susan and her husband have owned the place for 18 years, and they really work hard to make this place nice.

Our drive into Glacier NP on the Many Glacier road was terrific. Mind-blowing beautiful. We intended to take several short hikes, but the winds were ferocious…there were sizeable whitecaps on Swiftcurrent Lake and people were really bending against the wind as they walked. As we drove back out of the park, a ranger’s car was stopped, heading towards us, and he put his warning lights on to make us stop as we approached. I slid my driver’s side window open and asked him what was going on…he pointed and said, “Well, I have a big black bear here, right off the side of the road, and I don’t want anyone to hit him.” Yep, there he was, a very big guy with amazingly glossy fur that shone in the dappled sunlight, chomping away at the lush forage of dandelions in bloom along the road. He started ambling towards the road, clearly aiming to walk in the road. By this time, several oncoming cars had stopped and were also watching the show. The ranger got out of his car, grabbed his can of bear spray, and walked halfway across the road toward the bear, clapping his hands and saying, “Get out of here!” Mr. Bear very compliantly turned on his heals and scampered down the hill away from the road. Our first bear sighting on this trip…up close and personal!

Night all! Time for bed. On to Waterton in Alberta, Canada, tomorrow…maybe high tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel. And then to Calgary!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Frank Hurst

  • ---
  • Posts: 581
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2013, 11:42:19 PM »
We visited The Museum of the Plains Indians two years ago. Was one of those "Been there/Done that" things. I would not go out of my way to go back again. Just north of St. Mary there was a restaurant called The two Sisters that we really liked.

Frank
Frank & Hilda Hurst
2003 Phaeton
2004 Malibu
Semi Retired Relief Veterinarian

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #25 on: June 10, 2013, 09:00:13 AM »
Well, we pulled out at 10:30 instead of noon, anyway! That’s early for us!

. As we drove back out of the park, a ranger’s car was stopped, heading towards us, and he put his warning lights on to make us stop as we approached. I slid my driver’s side window open and asked him what was going on…he pointed and said, “Well, I have a big black bear here, right off the side of the road, and I don’t want anyone to hit him.” Yep, there he was, a very big guy with amazingly glossy fur that shone in the dappled sunlight, chomping away at the lush forage of dandelions in bloom along the road. He started ambling towards the road, clearly aiming to walk in the road. By this time, several oncoming cars had stopped and were also watching the show. The ranger got out of his car, grabbed his can of bear spray, and walked halfway across the road toward the bear, clapping his hands and saying, “Get out of here!” Mr. Bear very compliantly turned on his heals and scampered down the hill away from the road. Our first bear sighting on this trip…up close and personal!


We also are late risers, but we're out today at 7:15 in hopes of having wonderful bear experience like you had, or a moose experience.  Reading your bear story was like I was there.  You are wonderfully descriptive.  Thanks for the joy!
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #26 on: June 12, 2013, 11:25:57 AM »
Sunday June 9, 2013

We tried to leave our campground earlier than normal today, figuring that the drive from Coram MT around the southern tip of Glacier NP over to Browning MT and then to St. Mary at the east side of Glacier would be prettier early in the day. And we also wanted to do the drive into Glacier NP on the Many Glacier road, since the scenery is said by many to be the most dramatic of any of the roads in the park. Well, we pulled out at 10:30 instead of noon, anyway! That’s early for us!

The sky was sunny, with bunches of small puffy clouds whizzing along…you can tell the winds were blasting. Again. And my eyes are so red and itchy from the cottonwoods in heat everywhere, in great numbers, that Don drove because I could hardly keep my eyes open. After about 45 minutes with the air conditioner on, the air inside the Rollin Home was somewhat filtered, and I was better, but it’s still pretty miserable going. I always say that during this season, allergy medication is worthless and my 3 different types of eyedrops are similarly worthless…kinda like I want to commit suicide. And with blasting winds, life is even worse.

Enough complaining already. Every mile of the drive was spectacular. Around every curve was a new and more dramatic view of Glacier’s towering, jagged giants, some as pointy as spears, others looking like a set of dinosaur teeth, still others huge squared-off cliffs dropping directly to the floor of a valley. One particularly memorable view was of a huge tapering pile of rock with a very long, razor-thin jaggedy ridge stretching the entire length of the very top…makes you wonder how the forces of wind, water and a gazillion years of erosion could forge such a strange shape.

We stopped in Browning MT to fill up on diesel fuel, as we had been advised to by many an RVer who had warned that prices were drastically higher elsewhere, especially a short way north in Canada. Browning is on the Blackfeet Tribe’s reservation…we had read about and heard about the Blackfeet for years and were so anxious to stop at the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning. One guide told us it was open 7 days a week; another said it was closed Sunday and Monday. Drat, it was closed, as was the Blackfeet Trading Post just down the street. Not much else in Browning, so we moved on to St. Mary, our trip to Many Glacier, and our KOA campground.

The roads on the eastern side of Glacier are narrow and far more primitive than on the western side. Lots of “rough road ahead” signs, and the rough patches were so rough that at times we went 5-10 mph because we were being thrown around so much. We stopped in St. Mary to have lunch at The Park Café on Hwy 89…I had read many RVer journals that old of the fabulous food and homemade pies there. St. Mary is a tiny place, almost nothing here, but it has an amazing number of restaurants, supposedly very good ones.

The Park Café does a land-office business, and has a whole bunch of college students who come in from around the country to work as waitstaff and kitchen staff. We learned within minutes of sitting down that our waitress was from Grand Rapids, MI, my home town. Small world, again. The place is very small and is a throwback to days of yore…classic little roadside café, seating maybe 30 at the most, if you count the 5 old-fashioned twirly-stools at the counter up front near the kitchen.

Great food, and unbelievable homemade pies. Today the list of fresh homemade pies totaled 13 (would have been 14 except they were out of the fresh strawberry pie). Don had a big bowl of the homemade chili (with beef and beans)…definitely outstanding. I had a “small” order of the fish & chips, which was 3 good-sized pieces of hand-battered fresh salmon with fresh sweet potato fries, and a small side salad. Perfectly done, and perfectly delicious!

We absolutely couldn’t leave without trying some pie…Son had banana cream, which he said was probably the best banana cream pie he’d had since high school days in East Peoria, IL, back in the late 50s. I had rhubarb pie, which blew me away…chunks of fresh rhubarb cooked perfectly so they still had their shape and a tiny bit of crunch…honest to gosh like my Gram used to make when I was a kid in the 50s!  We both said we’ll probably go back there for breakfast tomorrow morning, and have pie & coffee! (Later in the day, we spoke with a number of people at our RV park who said they’re going to do the exact same thing!)

Speaking of the RV park…the KOA in St. Mary is a real gem! Great owners, beautiful views, wonderful bathrooms with Corian countertops, a very well-equipped little store, and a terrific ice cream stand with REAL ice cream that gets dipped out of big containers (not just the frozen bars piled in a freezer bin like most campgrounds). Susan and her husband have owned the place for 18 years, and they really work hard to make this place nice.

Our drive into Glacier NP on the Many Glacier road was terrific. Definitely the MOST beautiful road into Glacier NP, and much less-traveled. Better than my memories of Going-To-The-Sun-Road! Mind-blowingly beautiful. We intended to take several short hikes at the end of the road in the heart of Glacier, but the winds were ferocious…there were sizeable whitecaps on Swiftcurrent Lake and people were really bending against the wind as they walked. Not good.

As we drove back out of the park, a ranger’s car was stopped, heading towards us, and he put his warning lights on to make us stop as we approached. I slid my driver’s side window open and asked him what was going on…he pointed and said, “Well, I have a big black bear here, right off the side of the road, and I don’t want anyone to hit him.” Yep, there he was, a very big guy with amazingly glossy fur that shone in the dappled sunlight, chomping away at the lush forage of dandelions in bloom along the road. He started ambling towards the road, clearly aiming to walk in the road. By this time, several oncoming cars had stopped and were also watching the show. The ranger got out of his car, grabbed his can of bear spray, and walked halfway across the road toward the bear, clapping his hands and saying, “Get out of here!” Mr. Bear very compliantly turned on his heals and scampered quickly down the hill away from the road. Our first bear sighting on this trip…up close and personal!

Night all! Time for bed. On to Waterton in Alberta, Canada, tomorrow…maybe high tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel. And then to Calgary!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #27 on: June 12, 2013, 11:26:46 AM »
Monday June 10, 2013

What a day! Surrounded by beauty part of the day, as we headed north, then back to urban traffic in Calgary, then an evening get-together with new friends from the Calgary Winnebago-Itasca Travelers (WIT) Group whom I had contacted on the Internet.

We decided to bypass Waterton NP north of the border after leaving St. Mary, only because we stopped at the Park Café in St. Mary for fresh pie & coffee for breakfast, and going to the Prince of Wales Lodge in Waterton for lunch would have been an overload of food too early in the day. Another time, another visit…we’ll make it there, just not this time. Another item for the bucket-list!

Sticking to the main roads, we headed to someplace near Calgary for the night. As we neared the city, we looked for the shopping malls I had spotted when I used my Google maps earlier today before leaving St. Mary…we wanted to find a bank to change some US $$ into Canadian $$, and we wanted a Telus store in order to buy a Telus Wi-fi card to use while in Canada, and an inexpensive Telus cellphone so we can communicate woth the outside world while here, on this segment of the trip, and toward the end when we are on Vancouver Island for a week or more. We found both, right away. Get our transactions done was easy, but a bit time-consuming, so our plan to be at Bow Rivers Edge RV Park outside of Calgary, in nearby Cochrane, was smashed.

Rush hour traffic on the main N/S highway through Calgary was crazy nuts wild! These people drive like idiots! And hey, we lived and drove in NYC, and in Chicago for almost 30 years, and I’ve driven in London and LA and everywhere. So we’re not easily intimidated, and we’re pretty aggressive ourselves. But here drivers are really bizarre. You never saw so many people weaving back and forth from lane to lane in your life, going 70 mph in 50 mph zones, and tailgating every minute of the way…absolutely wild. We were glad we weren’t staying in Calgary longer, believe it or not…the Olympic Park, the Calgary Zoo, some museums are all worth seeing here, but the driving, oh my gosh!

Calgary West Campground located right in the city, had been recommended, but we decided our very-rural and in-the-wilds trip didn’t lend itself to an urban RV park. So we found Bow Rivers Edge, located in Cochrane, a town just southwest of Calgary, in a guidebook and headed there. It is literally in the middle of a huge industrial park, in the most unlikely location in the world….but it is a wonderful place to stay! Easy to get to and get out of, beautifully landscaped, reasonably priced (a Good Sam park!), with terrific amenities!  And the Bow River is big, fast and beautiful. We recommend it highly to anyone who’s going to Calgary in an RV.

There’s another RV Park in Cochrane also, which we passed on the way to Bow Rivers Edge…but Springhill RV Park turned out to be very full of “permanents” (people who live in their RVs and coaches and trailers FT), and is basically in the middle of a big open field. Not pretty, not nice…conveniently located, but right on a main highway and a thumbs down for anyone vacationing. We figured the permanent residents there were probably oilfield workers who have moved in to do the drilling and pump installations in the area…we were amazed as how many oil wells were being drilled and BIG oil pumps being installed in the farm fields all around Calgary. Lots of money being made up here!

We hooked up the Rollin Home at Bow Rivers Edge, made a quick dinner because our stomachs were growling mightily, then called the folks from the WIT group up here that we had emailed with a month or so ago. Sid & Lorraine, the top officers of the Calgary Wild Rose WIT group, drove from their house not too far away, picked us up and drove us to a nearby Tim Horton’s for fabulous coffee and a sweetroll. The four of us clicked, and it felt as if we’d been friends for 25 years! What a lovely evening, chatting with folks we had really wanted to meet. They made us want to come back to Alberta in a few years and stay much longer…Lorraine brought us a whole bag of tourism guidebooks to help us on our journey north to Banff and Lake Louise, and they really did help a lot!

RVers are very special people, especially the ones in the WIT groups! It is so much fun to share funny stories about our trips, and share tips on where to go next, and what to see.

We tumbled into bed, exhausted but energized for the next phase.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #28 on: June 12, 2013, 11:27:33 AM »
Tuesday June 11, 2013

Tonight we are in Hinton, just north of Jasper NP, and the KOA. Really nice place. I think we'll stay tomorrow night, too, since it was a long drive to get here today, and we're worn out.

We stopped at Banff, and walked through the Fairmont Banff...I wanted to see the art gallery in the hotel, because they sell the work of some great Canadian artists whose names I know pretty well. Great gallery...Mountainside Gallery, with VERY good art!

Bison jerky served as our lunch snack while we drove north to Lake Louise, where we parked and took the short hike in to the "emerald lake." So gorgeous! Friends of ours who've been to Lake Louise a half-dozen times just rave about its beauty and its relaxing qualities, and I can really see why! They’ve stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise a bunch of times in the winter...such a view, such serenity, such grandeur! Makes me want to do the sme thing sometime in the future. Today the sun was out, casting huge shadows over the mountains and the lake because of puffy clouds scudding overhead. The clouds were perfect puffs over the Victoria Glacier, and the lake really was the most beautiful shades of blue-green I've ever seen. Made me want to sit and paint the scene right on the spot...but alas, we had no time for that nonsense. Some other time. Another “new” item for the bucket list!

During our drive from Lake Louise up to Jasper and then to Hinton, I said about six times I'd love to come back here in 2-3 years and stay 2-3 weeks in Alberta...there's so much to see and do that we're not able to take time for right now! I want badly to go to Drumheller and visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, east of Calgary, but it's a long detour out to Canada’s badlands, and there’s absolutely no place to camp with the RV out there. But the dinosaur and mammoth discoveries out there have been extraordinary, and it’s really an amazing place, I’ve heard and read. I decided after extensive research that we just can't fit that 180 mile RT into this adventure, darn it! I also want to spend a lot more time at Banff and Lake Louise, and also go to Yoho NP for a day, to see the Burgess Shale, the world’s foremost site for deposits of ancient invertebrates.

We didn't stop and hike today at the Columbia Icefields, either, though it had been highly recommended to us by friends. The sky was beginning to close in once again by late day and we thought we'd better get on to Hinton. Things were looking rainy, and the sky was spitting. We also rationalized that we are going to be seeing a gazillion icefields and glaciers in Alaska, so that skipping these in Alberta might not hurt us too much. But reading about the icefields here was interesting…the ancient ice is as deep into the crevice between the mountains as the Eiffel Tower is tall. So it would have been interesting to see and explore there. We saw hordes of people (tiny as ants in the far distance) hiking up to the fields of ice.

Hinton turned out to be a good deal farther away than we had thought it was. We finally pulled in here to register at 7 pm. Then we went and fueled up right away, and had wonderful fish & chips at Joey's right alongside Hwy 16 in Hinton.

Without a doubt, Hwy 1 north from Cochrane (west of Calgary, where we stayed last night) up through Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper is one of the 2-3 most beautiful drives I've ever taken in my 68 years. A feast for the eyes. The mountains along most of the road are very closeup, and ferociously massive. They jut straight up from the water-filled valleys and meadows, sometimes tree-covered and rounded but mostly huge piles of rock, with dramatic cliffs, pointed peaks, jagged spines, and upthrust ridges, with frequent huge waterfalls streaming like ribbons of satin down their sides.

Late today as we neared Hinton, we saw small groups of mountain goats, bighorn sheep, three caribou and lots of deer close to the road. Very fun...this was the first time we'd ever seen caribou in the wild.

Early to bed tonight. Tomorrow we'll wash the Rollin Home at a nearby truck wash place with big bays…our buggy is really buggy (pardon the pun!) and we’re absolutely covered with fine, sticky dust…I think the stickiness comes in part from all the pollens in the air. We also want to fix and adjust a side mirror that has been jarred loose a bit. We were on a stretch of road today for nearly 2 hours that was pure washboard...slowed us down to 30-35 mph, and even to 20 in a couple of spots. Good practice for Alaska roads, right?!

We’ll pick up a few groceries so we don’t have to buy anything in British Columbia or the Yukon Territory for the next 7-8 days between here and Tok, Alaska. Canadian prices are shockingly high…we stateside types take for granted what great food we get for such reasonable prices. Easy to spend $15-$20 Canadian on 3 items up here.

DH (that is, Don the Darlin Husband!) is busy figuring out mileage tomorrow to go north to Grand Prairie AB and on to Dawson Creek BC, and the start of the Alaska Highway.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #29 on: June 12, 2013, 11:35:47 AM »
Oops, sorry about having posted my June 9 story twice...duh! The second version is probably edited a bit and rewritten a bit. I'll try NOT to do that very often...the duplicate postings, that is!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Gord N.

  • ---
  • Posts: 231
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #30 on: June 12, 2013, 06:17:31 PM »
Please do stop at a Canadian Tire Store somewhere (Grand Prairie, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John or the Walmarts there on the way north, and check for your plastic water jugs that you talked about earlier.  I'm sure I have seen them still for sale in "shockingly high priced Canada", but they won't be as much as the food.  ::)

Gord

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #31 on: June 12, 2013, 07:07:22 PM »
 Wednesday June 12, 2013

A day of leisure…a gift we gave ourselves after a long day of driving and travel yesterday. We stayed in Hinton an extra day, just to rest up before a couple of long days of driving tomorrow and Friday…to Dawson Creek BC tomorrow through Grand Prairie, and then to Fort Nelson the following day. At least 6 hours of driving each day.

We like the little town of Hinton…population 10,000. Nice place with some fun restaurants, lots of hotels/motels, this KOA RV park is wonderful, a big WalMart and three big grocery stores, decent fuel prices…and several large truck/RV wash spots to get the grime off before getting even grimier farther north.

So we slept in a bit this morning, and headed off after our oatmeal breakfast (our favorite!) to the Visitor Info Centre for some better maps of roads north of here, and a suggestion for a good hike so we can get exercise. Clouds are heavy, though, and it looks like storms later. It rained fairly hard overnight, and washed the Rollin Home quite well, so we set aside plans to wash the vehicle this morning. Decided not to waste the money right now. We’ll wash when we get up into Yukon Territory…we’ll be good and muddy then, we expect.

Our hike was at the Beaver Boardwalk, about 10 blocks from the Visitor Center. A large marshland and creeks are below Maxwell Lake in Hinton, with a number of beaver dams and beaver houses. Birds were singing, butterflies were fluttering, bugs were skittering across the ponds. But we saw no beavers. Darn. The boardwalk and paths are splendid, taking visitors nearly 1.5 miles around the area. There’s a great raised observation deck near one end of the park, where we patiently watched for some movement of critters for maybe 10 minutes…nothing at all but a couple of mallard ducks. Nonetheless, what a quiet, serene, beautiful place, in the middle of very nice residential neighborhoods. I was so surprised, though, to find NO frogs anywhere…no tadpoles either, in any of the shallows. Strange. A sign near the very end of the hike told us there were wood frogs in abundance, as well as several species of toads, but we saw none. I would have thought we’d see or hear at least one frog jumping into a pond from a log or plant near shore as we approached.

It’s a mildly cool day…probably about 50-52 degrees on our hike, with a bit of breeze…and you would have laughed seeing how differently Don & I were dressed. He’s always cold, so he had on a t-shirt, long-sleeved sun-protection shirt, many-pocketed vest, and a down-filled parka on top of it all. And as always, a hat with a wide brim. I was in a short-sleeved light cotton t-shirt, with bare arms, bare head, capri pants, and was happy as a clam feeling the coolness on my arms…perfect weather for me, and I take a fleece with me, but almost never end up wearing it. I guess I’m a real warm-blood!

Hinton has a neat little coffee house/restaurant called The Old Grind downtown on the main street…strangest main street we’ve ever seen, one block east of Hwy 16 that runs through town…that beckoned to us. We had terrific espresso…decaf latte for Don, which I took sips of, and chai tea latte for me…and shared a wonderful fresh salad of romaine, baby spinach, and other baby greens with feta cheese, sliced strawberries and chunks of fresh orange, with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The perfect lunch.

We went to a bank after that to convert some more cash into Canadian currency, and shopped for food at the IGA to take us from here all the way to Tok, Alaska, coupled with our supplies in the RV. We’re set.

Tonight I’m making a fruit-laden green salad with chevre (goat cheese) much like we had for lunch, to which I’ll add some leftover chicken that needs eating. And for dessert, a frozen raspberry fruit bar that we got at a specialty meat store here called M&M Meats, part of a franchise chain of 400 meat stores in Canada. Interesting assortment of products.

Our agreement is to get up at 5 am, and start out early tomorrow so we see wildlife along the “scenic route” on Hwy 40 north to Grand Prairie, and arrive at a reasonable hour at Dawson Creek. I’ve got the RV Park reserved and confirmed, so no worries there. But we hate being brain-dead if we’re arriving at dinnertime or after. Hope we see some more caribou along the way! I love their huge fuzzy antlers.

Just FYI for those who are reading my Daily Journals…I am now posting them on my Facebook page, too…go to Susan Alt on Facebook and you’ll find them…a few people said they disliked having to scroll all the way down to the end of my thread every day on RVForum.net to get to my latest post(s). So I thought this might help solve that problem.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Oldedit

  • ---
  • Posts: 426
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #32 on: June 12, 2013, 07:35:26 PM »
Our idea of relaxation is to sit and post on RVForum, twitter and FaceBook, etc. Just killed 2.5 hours. I am getting a real kick out of reading DW's journals. Need to catchup.
2014 Newmar Ventana 4037 12.17-
2013 Itasca Reyo T 2012-12.12.17
2006 Roadtrek Adventurous Mercedes (Freightliner)
Colorado 2009-2012
Toad: 2016 Jeep Patriot Stick with Blue Ox

Wendy

  • Forum Staff
  • ---
  • *
  • Posts: 12486
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #33 on: June 12, 2013, 07:48:11 PM »
Our idea of relaxation is to sit and post on RVForum, twitter and FaceBook, etc.


That's our kind of relaxation, too :)
Wendy, Mike, and Gordon
~We can't be lost because we don't care where we're going~
Here's where we are http://map.datastormusers.com/user2.cfm?user=2276
2015 Allegro Ooen Road
1973 Sunshine Yellow VW Bug

Betty Brewer

  • Forum Staff
  • ---
  • *
  • Posts: 4587
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #34 on: June 12, 2013, 08:08:26 PM »
Wednesday June 12, 2013

…a few people said they disliked having to scroll all the way down to the end of my thread every day on RVForum.net to get to my latest post(s). So I thought this might help solve that problem.

All anyone has to do is to click on Show unread posts since last visit at the top of the RVForum messages and  that will take you to the most recent message within a thread that you have not read. No need to scroll through anything!
« Last Edit: June 12, 2013, 08:10:40 PM by Betty Brewer »
Betty Brewer

see where we are

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #35 on: June 13, 2013, 09:37:29 PM »
Thursday June 13, 2013

True to form, I slept fitfully last night, which I’ve always done prior to a “big trip” the next day for which I had to arise early and get going quickly. I awoke at 4:30 am, boing!, eyes wide open. So I got up, without waking Don.

The twin mission of getting out early today: Make it to the RV campground in Dawson Creek BC reasonably early, and see lots of wildlife on the way by driving early in the morning. Faced with a 6-hour drive, mostly on 2-lane roads north of Hinton on the way to Grand Cache and Grand Prairie and finally, Dawson Creek, we thought this was the best strategy. I was brain-dead by 3:30, needless to say, and a bit cranky by dinnertime. Oh well…

We gulped our protein smoothies, ate our bananas, had big cups of fresh hot tea at our elbows, unhooked & dumped, and drove out at 6:29 am. Wow! For us that is history-making! Made a quick stop at the local IGA to get 2 things I had forgotten, and were on our way. Fortunately, a large construction truck was just ahead of us, and I stayed in back of him all the way to Grand Prairie, to let him hit the deer or elk or caribou on our behalf! We had spits of rain, lots of low-hanging clouds to drive through when visibility went to 5 feet, and finally, heavy rain as we neared Dawson City. Wildlife? Four deer scampering close to the road’s shoulder early in the day. We struck out.

Stopped at Grand Prairie to fuel up, and had brunch and coffee at 11:15…eggs & bacon for me, oatmeal for Don. Then, back on the road.

Dawson City is Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway. Not a thrilling town, but an interesting one. There were a few pretty views of hills and valleys along the way, but nothing breathtaking. Fertile farmland. Lots of trees in places. And lots of timbered-out (clear-cut) areas stretching for miles, since this is big lumber country. Plenty of oil and gas wells. Dawson City itself has a pioneer village, which we skipped due to heavy rain. Instead, we dashed into the town’s Art Gallery in the converted grain elevator. A few good pieces, vastly overpriced for what they were, but mostly low-grade student-quality work on exhibit. Ho hum. Next door was a cute little bakery for which we had a 1-%-off coupon, so we zipped in and bought a couple of very good oatmeal-raisin cookies and 4 fresh-made granola bars to put in our backpacks for hikes.

The rain had tapered to drips, so we went to the downtown Alaska Highway House, a small museum dedicated to the Army troops who constructed the Alcan in 1942 and 1943, against all odds, literally moving heaven and earth to push through the wilderness to establish a vital connection so Alaska could be protected from the Japanese. It is a great place! We spent the rest of the afternoon there, watching the movie, reading everything, and deciding to stop at critical points along the highway in coming days to do a bit of hiking and celebrate the remarkable feat that was accomplished for the country’s protection, in the astonishingly short time of only 8 months!

Perhaps I had once known that the Japanese actually attacked and conquered 2 of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska, during 1942, but I had long forgotten that fact. We retook those islands from the Japanese in 1943, after the highway was completed. But by then, other war news had completely eclipsed news of the wondrous accomplishment of the Alcan Highway’s construction and usefulness.

Caterpillar bulldozers were as much the stars of the heroic Alcan effort as the men who built the highway. Reading the wall plaques and watching the video recounting the massive project, Don my DH proudly said, “Peoria made this highway possible! We could never have done this without Caterpillar equipment!” As the son of a career Caterpillar engineer…a Cat-Brat, as they say in Peoria…Don was mighty impressed with the critical role of dozens of enormous, indestructible and powerful Caterpillar bulldozers that forced their way through hundreds of miles of thick forests, over mountains and through valley bogs to create a 2-vehicle-wide trail that could carry military supplies and munitions.

Northern Lights RV Park is very nice. Good price, great bathrooms and showers (although the showers cost $1 for 3 minutes), and fairly level gravel pull-throughs. It’s outside of Dawson City a couple of miles, on a hill, and most sites are well away from the main highway. Good breezes. Naturally, the skies are clear and sunny now that we’re parked for the night. Quick picnic-style dinner tonight…going to bed early. Don is a happy camper watching the NBA finals, with the Spurs and Heat tied right now at the end of the first half.

Tomorrow, on to Fort Nelson BC, another fairly long day. Today and tomorrow are our 2 longest drives of this trip. Supposedly after we pass Fort St. John at about the halfway point, we’re out of cultivated farmlands and into the wilderness, and “the adventure really begins,” according to the guidebooks. We’ll see about that. Yeah, I’ve agreed to get up early again tomorrow, but I guarantee it won’t be 4:30 or 5 am! I’m retired, for heaven’s sake, and I shouldn’t have to do that any more!

We spoke to some folks from Minnesota today who are RVing it, also, and who never make any reservations anywhere on their trips. I’m just not comfortable doing that…I like to know where I’m ending up, and not end up having to take some lousy site at a lousy RV park just because it’s late in the day and I didn’t plan ahead. If we want to stop for a hike, or a lunch, or an afternoon nap along the way, I want to be able to do that without worrying that I won’t arrive at my destination by 3 pm to get a decent site for the night at the place where I’d prefer to stay.

On that note, I confirmed our RV park reservations for all nights from the 15th through the 20th…We can always cancel if we want to go with the flow and change our minds while on the move.

Night all!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Oldedit

  • ---
  • Posts: 426
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #36 on: June 14, 2013, 07:41:15 PM »
If you like to drive at 50 to 60 mph through trees, that's mostly the trip from Dawson City to Ft. Nelson. We love the boring drives, but not the worrying about fuel. We should have topped off in DC, but we didn't. We bought 12 litres for over $6.50 at Pink Mountain's Husky station. That got us to Ft. Nelson where we filled at Fas Gas for abt $5.55/gal. Had four gallons to spare when we got here.

At the campground, we were told we bought from the highest priced joint in town. Oh well. More to come from Susan who is happily visiting with neighbors.
2014 Newmar Ventana 4037 12.17-
2013 Itasca Reyo T 2012-12.12.17
2006 Roadtrek Adventurous Mercedes (Freightliner)
Colorado 2009-2012
Toad: 2016 Jeep Patriot Stick with Blue Ox

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #37 on: June 15, 2013, 01:45:55 AM »

Dawson City is Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway.  we went to the downtown Alaska Highway House, a small museum dedicated to the Army troops who constructed the Alcan in 1942 and 1943, against all odds
Yeah, I’ve agreed to get up early again tomorrow, but I guarantee it won’t be 4:30 or 5 am! I’m retired, for heaven’s sake, and I shouldn’t have to do that any more!
 I confirmed our RV park reservations for all nights from the 15th through the 20th…We can always cancel if we want to go with the flow and change our minds while on the move.

I'm so glad you got to the Alaska Hwy House.  I meant to tell you about it because it was our favorite place in Dawson Creek, which is a whole different place from Dawson City, the beginning of the Top of the World Highway--the world's most awful highway, in my opinion.

We aren't early risers either, but getting up  early is so worth it if you get a fabulous wildlife day.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could talk those wild critters to sleep in, but, alas, we can't.

To reserve or not reserve is always the question.  I do all the planning of our trips.  We usually reserve one or two nights ahead, and we haven't had any awful experiences.  On this trip, however, I felt it was imperative to make a reservation at Denali a year ahead because the  RV parks outside the National Park sounded horrible.  Dean yelled at me, a big no-no, so he's doing all the planning on this trip.  I sure hope I was wrong.  We'll see in less than a week.  Not all places are willing to change your reservation if you change your mind while on the move.  Some will charge you for one night's fee.

Happy trails, Linda
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

Marsha/CA

  • Former Staff
  • ---
  • Posts: 4533
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #38 on: June 15, 2013, 12:02:53 PM »
I love Lamar Valley!  If I've got my info correct and remember correctly, the most Grizzlies are in that area.  They also have a couple of tucked away campgrounds where only your 25' RV would fit.  They are fun campgrounds as lots of wildlife is in that area.

We'll be in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone at some point this summer, just not sure when.

Marsha~
2017 Heartland Mallard IDM231 Travel Trailer....Small but mighty.

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #39 on: June 15, 2013, 11:12:37 PM »
Friday June 14, 2013

Long drive today…300 miles of delightfully boring wilderness. This REALLY sweeps the cobwebs out of the brain! After a few miles of rolling farmland north of Dawson Creek BC, we were in real wilderness. Nothing as far as the eye could see, except for a few logging trucks coming from logged-out areas and a few oil & gas fields with wells and some workers.

As the troops who were building the Alaska Highway in 1942 said, “just hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles of thick trees, with some big valleys and rivers cutting through.”

Every couple of miles we saw signs warning of elk and moose and “Danger! Wildlife!” but other than a couple of scampering deer we saw no wildlife except ourselves…and we ARE wild, but not THAT wild! Drat.

We left early and arrived early at Fort Nelson BC, pulling into the Triple G Hideaway RV Park for the night. And the sun came out! Whattdya know! We had driven through 9 rainstorms during the day, with heavy clouds and spits in between. Some of those were hard downpours, which we hoped would wash the grime off the Rollin Home, but no luck. It picked up as much mud and grime as the rain washed off. In either Watson Lake or Whitehorse, we’ll wash the buggy and get ready for Alaska.

We learned yesterday what all the books about the Alaska Highway mean when they say to slow down a LOT when you see a sign telling you to slow down. The downhill grades into the river valleys are often 9% and 10%....and though we live in the mountains and are quite accustomed to steep grades of 6-8%, I gotta tell you, grades of 9-10% are really steep, and fast. The Rolling Hoe with its Mercedes diesel engine, has a wonderful downshift capability, and going down to 2nd gear really holds the speed in check, even on steep grades like this. Good vehicle…we’re glad we got it!

The Triple G Hideaway fees are reasonable for overnights, but the charges for laundry are $3 a load, and for showers $1.50 for 3 minutes. Glad our clothes don’t need washing and our bodies are clean! The Triple G’s little restaurant was offering a prime rib “special” for $23 a plate…sounds pretty outrageous to me. I think I’ll cook at home tonight.

The RV park is right alongside the visitor information center, though, which is great, and the little Fort Nelson Museum, which is a kick. While the sun was out and the weather fresh and beautiful, we walked next door to see what we could see. Tons of old stuff from the gold rush days of the late 19th century through to the roadbuilding days of the 40s…ancient typewriters, iceboxes, saws, sewing machines, clothes washers, ancient iceboxes, even outboard marine motors from the 30s and 40s. Lots of wonderful old cars and buggies, ranging from an old Model A Ford and a surrey with fringe on top, to a bunch of Studebakers from the 40s and 50s…some in terrific condition. A shiny black 1954 Packard touring car much like the one my parents went to Europe in in 1955 with some relatives from Grand Rapids MI.

AND, best of all, some of the original Caterpillar tractors used to build the Alcan Highway during WWII…had to get pictures of them, and pics of Don standing by these behemoths.

It was easy to imagine these giant machines plowing through the thick forests, taking down huge old-growth trees as if they were toothpicks, after seeing the movie in Dawson Creek about the Alcan Highway construction. It was also fascinating the imagine them stuck in 20-foot deep “muskeg”…thousands of years of piled-up moss, needles, leaves and foliage that turns into a kind of quicksand soup in these parts when the snow and permafrost melts in the spring…and tons of sticky mud. Those poor guys who were building this road! What a heroic job they did!

We had met a couple from Minnesota with a fifth-wheel trailer at Dawson Creek…Dale and Jane…and saw them several times along the way yesterday while stopping for fuel. They are at the Triple G Hidewaway alongside us, and we compared notes and plans last evening after dinner. We had planned to have Happy Hour and dinner together outdoors at our picnic table, but the skies clouded and heavy rain was pouring down (again!!) by dinnertime after we had gone through the museum. They might join us for 2 days of dry-camping at Muncho Lake, which is said to be absolutely gorgeous.

Don filled the water tank halfway last night before we tumbled into bed at 8 pm…get that, 8 pm??!! We’re acting more like campers now, aren’t we?!

We’re going to be up early tomorrow to drive the 3¼ hours to Muncho Lake…the Provincial Park campgrounds tends to fill up and it’s first come, first serve so we’d like to be there early to get a decent spot.





Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #40 on: June 15, 2013, 11:13:40 PM »
Saturday June 15, 2013

Ahhhhh, a short drive today. Well rested are we! Took off by 7 am…got lots of good sleep.

We fell asleep shortly after 9 last night to the sound of hard rain once again pelting the roof of the Rollin Home, a lovely white noise. A dozen rainstorms in a single day. Amazing. Volatile weather, indeed. One minute the breezes are gentle and the sky is bright blue; the next, winds begin blasting, heavy clouds boil above, thunder threatens, and rain pelts -- sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes an hour or more.

I almost always start the day driving, then we switch off when we stop for a pit break or fuel or both. Yesterday, we spoke with folks who had driven south to Fort Nelson and had seen dozens of bison in the road and alongside it, some elk, quite a few large bull and cow moose, bighorn sheep (Stone sheep, as they’re known in this part of BC) as well as black bears and brown bears (grizzlies) on the sides of the road. They had dozens of pictures to show for it. Hopefully, we set out, carefully scanning the roadsides where trees ended and grass began.

As always, splendid scenery. Big vistas. Bigger mountains up ahead, dark and tree-covered at first, and quite rounded, but steeper, more jagged and raw granite as we proceeded north toward Muncho Lake. Suddenly we began seeing small white signs, neatly printed, alerting us to warm, fresh-baked, buttery cinnamon buns a couple of kilometers ahead. Got me hooked instantly! Took 2 signs to hook Don! Third sign said “Irresistible Gift Shop!” Aw, nuts, I can resist that, just not the notion of hot fresh coffee and fresh-baked cinnamon buns at this early hour of the morning!

The stop at Tetsa River Services & Campground for warm buns and java was well worth it! Coffee was freshly dripped and buns were definiteldy homemade, large and gooey, with tons of cinnamon and not much frosting, just the way I like em! Knife-and-fork buns, to be sure! With our cups and plates, we asked to join a fellow sitting at one of the 3 or 4 small tables in the place – looked like a local, dressed in hunters camo garb. Turned out that his brother-in-law owns the campground/fuel station/restaurant we were at … he and his wife were “watching over the place” and doing the cooking/baking for a few days as a favor.

His wife delivered the warm gooey buns to us with the announcement, “Here’s your Ultimate Experience!” Mmmmm, yeah! The place typically bakes 4 or 5 large batches of rolls per day in the summer months when tourists are driving to/from Alaska on the Alaska Highway…serving 200 to 300 Ultimate Experiences a day! Worth a stop!

The nice fella we sat with told us there was a local fishing derby going on for 2 days at Muncho Lake, which would make it tough for us to get an RV site at the lake in the Provincial Park campground (dry-camping) we wanted. Oh well, there are 2 other campgrounds available, both commercial parks, that we’ll try.

Muncho Lake is known worldwide for its enormous lake trout, up to 35 pounds and larger. Natural. No stocked fish in this lake, which is 7 miles long, flanked by huge mountains, and is a gorgeous turquoise color as the result of copper oxide leaching into the water and being suspended as fine powder in the water. When the suns rays hit the suspended flecks of powder, the reflected color is blue-green on the spectrum, and produces this gorgeous lake, almost as if it’s make-believe. Muncho Lake is jewel-like, surrounded 360 degrees by high mountains, those at the south end jagged and pointed and with rivers of snow running down their sides.

Our cinnamon-bun Tetsa Lake table-mate and his wife live in Fort St. John, just south of Fort Nelson, and have lived there since the early 1960s, moving north from Calgary. He changed careers in the 70s and began learning the oil and gas exploration business, from the bottom up. While moving working many different jobs and earning promotions in the gas pipeline biz, he found a niche where there was a need for contract vendors, so he launched his own business 10 years ago and now has 5-6 employees. He talked at length about the difficulty of hiring employees (particularly young ones) willing to learn the critical steps in his part of the pipeline business in a way that would ensure safe operations and no life-threatening explosions. The business he’s in poses major risks if someone inadvertently creates a spark -- and he was in at least one huge explosion years ago that could’ve killed him -- so he’s careful to teach each employee the safe way of doing each task.

Minutes before reaching Muncho Lake, stopped in the road ahead of us was a truck camper we assumed was watching some wildlife. Hooray! Two moose, both big shiny-brown cows, on the wide of the road eyeing our vehicles suspiciously. The vehicle ahead of us crept one tiny inch forward, spooking the moose, which stepped immediately into the forest and disappeared instantly, blending in with the foliage and the trees in a split second. No time for a picture. But we saw them, at least!

We pulled into Northern Rockies Lodge at about 12:30. This is a very nice with a big log-cabin lodge building up front. Built in the 1950s, it sits on the eastern shore of Muncho Lake and has RV sites right on the shore as well. Got a 10% discount on the price of diesel with our registration, so we filled up at an effective rate of $1.799 per liter, which was pretty good for these parts (equal to $6.57/gal). Bad, but not as bad as some places, which were $1.999/liter. There aren’t many places to get fuel along this road, so we don’t quibble about prices. Monday when we leave, we’ll top off again at Contract Creek, which apparently has the best fuel prices any place around here.

We’re staying here for 2 nights, just to enjoy the lakeshore and walk a bit, as weather allows. The last thing we wanted was another day or two of driving 6-8 hours in a day. Too tiring. It isn’t cheap – we’re paying $50/night for 30 amp electric and water hookups. But the views are wonderful, and the place is very uncrowded. Lots of places to walk and hike right from here. Basically, 2 days off.

When we leave Monday morning, we’ll stop at Liard Hot Springs (pronounced leerd) about 60 miles north of here, where there are 2 big warm pools for public use right in the river. Using this noteworthy hot springs doesn’t appeal to Don one bit…his skin is so sensitive it would probably cause a horrible rash or something that would torment him for the rest of this trip. But I think it sounds terrific…and I’m absolutely determined that I will put on my suit and go sit in the Liard’s hot pools (104 degrees) for a while, turning myself into a limp noodle. I’ve always wanted to do this… I’ll be the first driver of the day, as far as the hot springs, then Don will have to take over because I’ll turn into a puddle of jello.

While I’ve been writing this, we’ve gone from sunny skies to dark and gloomy and a brief squall, causing whitecaps to sweep down the length of the lake, accompanied by driving rain and winds. Now, 20 minutes later, we’re back to sunny skies and calm waters on the lake. You would have laughed aloud to see Don when we pulled into our site for the night…he pulled out my blue nylon easy chair so I could read, then the skies blackened and he put it away again. Then the skies cleared and he took it out again, then the skies darkened again and he quickly stowed it again. And this was all in the 20 minutes before lunch!

Don also did a bit of maintenance on the Rollin Home today…a few squirts of liquid wrench on the automatic steps to keep them lubed up in all this dust and dirt, refilled the windshield washer reservoir, and checked the DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) to make sure that reservoir didn’t need refilling yet.

We’ve snacked, talked, and rested up. We’re thinking about going up to the Northern Rockies Lodge restaurant tonight for dinner to have fresh trout for dinner…pretty pricey at $26 a dinner, but you only live once…if not, I’ll fix chili and beans for us, and another fruit & greens salad.

Time for a walk. Mosquito repellent is definitely in order…we’ve entered man-eating mosquito country!

Okay, Don just earned the Boy Scout star-of-the-day for his rapid problem-solving skills! It’s 6 pm, we’ve been sitting inside the Rollin Home writing and reading for several hours (also, we had to quickly close all the windows and the door an hour ago because of another rapid squall with thunder, lightning, and lots of hard rain!) A large muddy puddle several inches deep greeted us was we opened the door of ol RH. Yikes, I’ll never make it across that from the bottom step, without getting good and wet (and probably falling on my face in the process)!

Chivalrous Don sprang into action. He leapt from the door, black-and-yellow CAT(erpillar) gloves in hand. Sprang across the puddle, feet still dry. And scooped up about 8 large handfuls of well-rounded river rocks, large gravel-sized, and constructed a nice little footbridge across the big puddle for us to use. Don, parting the waters! Here I was, rubbing my chin, thinking “Hmmmm. Maybe a wide plank would work. Where can I find a wide plank?” And he had the problem solved in a flash. My knight in shining armor. My Boy Scout par excellence. What a guy…he’s more of an engineer than he ever thought.

“Infrastructure,” he pronounced happily as I stepped daintily onto the footbridge and proceeded to dry land. “I just built infrastructure!”

Now we’re headed up to the Lodge to see if we can get someone to turn on the NBA finals game tonight. And inquire why the WiFi here isn’t working. I tell ya, WiFi at RVParks is a joke! Any park that advertises it has WiFi is whistling Dixie. When you tell them you can’t get on it no matter what you do, they all say the same thing: “Yeah we’ve had a lot of problems with it. We’re trying to get it fixed.” Might happen when hell freezes over.

Oops, Don just found out that the sports channel here at the Lodge is on rugby, not b-ball. Oh rats. BUT the Lodge’s owner just came over and said the NBA game is tomorrow night, not tonight! So we can watch it tomorrow during dinner…oh, goody!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Marsha/CA

  • Former Staff
  • ---
  • Posts: 4533
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #41 on: June 15, 2013, 11:49:35 PM »
I am really enjoying your write-ups...good stuff.

FYI and to add to Betty's information, you can choose to see the most recent message on top instead of scrolling through all the previous messages.  Just go to the profile, click "modify profile", then click "look and layout".  There you will find a place to choose "most recent on top".  This means the most recent messages will appear first and go backward, that way you won't have to read old messages first.

Marsha~
2017 Heartland Mallard IDM231 Travel Trailer....Small but mighty.

ArdraF

  • ---
  • Posts: 9779
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #42 on: June 16, 2013, 12:51:52 AM »
Susie, now that I know you and Don like museums, I'll tell you that every little town up there seems to have one.  You'd think every one would repeat the others, but it's amazing how much new stuff each one has.  The reason I'm mentioning this is that one of those little museums - town name now forgotten - had wonderful Gold Rush materials and we really enjoyed reading letters from the Gold Rushers to those left back home.  One was a diary and very interesting.  If you come across a little museum that specializes in the Gold Rush be sure to look for those diaries and letters.  Somehow I think you'd both really enjoy reading them.

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

Lorna

  • ---
  • Posts: 1174
    • Our itinerary
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #43 on: June 16, 2013, 12:21:51 PM »
Ardra, I think that might have been Skagway.
Lorna
Better to drive thy closet than pack thy suitcase
Want to know where we are?
http://whereis.nedreiter.com
Follow our trip of the USA at http://blog.usabyrv.us

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #44 on: June 16, 2013, 01:41:44 PM »
Saturday June 15, 2013
And inquire why the WiFi here isn’t working. I tell ya, WiFi at RVParks is a joke! Any park that advertises it has WiFi is whistling Dixie. When you tell them you can’t get on it no matter what you do, they all say the same thing: “Yeah we’ve had a lot of problems with it. We’re trying to get it fixed.” Might happen when hell freezes over.


I'll start including a WiFi evaluation in my park statistics, and that may help you out.  In Alaska, we use libraries a lot, and many cafes advertise their WiFi.  We loved Don's "infrastructure" episode.  Happy, safe trails.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

ArdraF

  • ---
  • Posts: 9779
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #45 on: June 16, 2013, 09:01:20 PM »
Lorna, that sure sounds logical.  I thought it was one of the small towns along the Alcan but maybe not.  As Mother used to say, "Too much water has gone over the dam!"

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #46 on: June 17, 2013, 08:15:14 AM »
Sunday June 16, 2013

Such a quiet day, spent in relaxed splendor, on the shore of Muncho Lake surrounded by high mountains, reading our books for nearly the entire day. Splendiforous. Heavenly. Just what the doctor ordered on our day off from driving.

We’ve taken a couple of short walks. Talked with a few folks who were getting ready to pull out and continue their trips north. Watched as both seaplanes tied to the docks here at the Northern Rockies Lodge took off, one with a group of 6 for a day of fishing for walleye, pickerel and golden trout in lakes to the north, the other with a few folks wanting an air tour of a nearby waterfall. It’s fun and funny seeing people run from their RVs and from the lodge to the lakeshore with their cameras to watch the planes take off…as if a small seaplane taking off from the water is the biggest deal in the world. When there’s absolutely nothing else happening, however, I guess seaplane takeoffs are a big deal!

There is cotton flying from the bushes around us here…blizzards of it!...my allergies are rambunctious and again I’m scratching my eyeballs out of my head. It’s also very sunny and warm today, with a clear sky for once…in fact, it’s downright hot and nearly airless, with the surface of the lake mirroring the mountains on its glassy surface.

Our early-morning breakfast of oatmeal with raisins accompanied by some Jimmy Dean sausages was delicious. Sunday morning breakfast. I brought along a pound of Starbuck’s fine-ground decaf Sumatra coffee and a single-cup drip cone, so I made myself a good cuppa joe today. Don had his usual herb tea with some honey.

A few motorboats are zipping up and down Muncho Lake, but not enough of them to disturb the peace. Although we see dozens of cars and trailers with kayaks on top, there are no kayaks being used on this lake at all, even on a relatively benign day like today. Many other days, I read, pose some dangers for kayakers because the weather is so volatile here and can change very quickly from calm and windless to squalls and thunderstorms.

Lunch was easy: A few bits of cheese, a couple of crackers and a cut-up apple for each of us.

At no point from midmorning through late day were we able to get on the Internet…more excuses from the lodge’s owners, of course.

After we took a few more walks as the breezes came up a bit, we went to the main lodge to watch the NBA Finals game at 5, in the bar over dinner. We ended up splitting a schnitzel dinner – very good BUT also very expensive for what it was, at $23! – because they told us we couldn’t order burgers or their schnitzel-burgers for dinner, only the dinner entrees priced from $22 to $35 were available after 5 pm. As we watched the game, the fishermen returned, cleaned up for dinner. Near the end of the 1st quarter of the game, one of the waitstaff informed us that we would most likely be unable to watch the remainder of the game because the TV gets commandeered in order to show everyone’s digital pictures of the day’s fishing trip. In point of fact, we were told abruptly at the end of the 2nd quarter that they were going to start using the TV for their pictures, forcing us out.

Our reaction was irritation. This is maddening! Is this how a professional resort owner should treat paying guests who’ve just had dinner, and who paid for 2 nights’ stay at their RV park @ $50 a night and spent another $100 or so on their diesel fuel? We got the message…we’re just chopped liver, because we’re not paying multi-thousands of bucks for their elite private fly-in fishing tours.

As an aside…the fishing guests had just been seated for dinner when we were told the TV would soon be taken over. We wondered why the staff didn’t at least wait until the fishing group was done with their dinners before we were shooed out. Most of the fishing group guests, in fact, had their backs to the TV while eating dinner, so it was obvious the picture show wouldn’t start until after coffee and dessert, anyway. We weren’t disturbing anybody sitting in our quiet corner watching the game with the volume very low. What’s more, I wondered why in the world they put the high-paying fishing guests at a tight little table in a dark corner of the bar for their dinner, instead of at a really nice table out in the main dining room, where there is lots of light, a lovely sunset to watch and a gorgeous view of the lake from a picture window, and then bring them into the bar later for coffee to circle around the TV and look at their pictures of big fish caught that day. Makes no sense, does it?

Up to that point, we were inclined to put glowing reviews of this place on RVForum.net…forget that! These people are downright rude. Don’t bother to stay here in your RV unless you like being treated like 2nd class citizens who aren’t worth anyone’s time. And unless you like paying $50 a night but not getting what you’ve been promised…no WiFi, lapses in the so-called 30-amp power supply, pay showers, a noisy generator nearby that runs all night, and being evicted from the bar when the fishing-tour guests arrive for dinner to tell tall tales of their day. The owner is less than nice.

The evening breezes are cool and we’ll hit the sack early so we can stop at Liard Hot Springs in the morning.

« Last Edit: June 17, 2013, 08:28:08 AM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #47 on: June 17, 2013, 02:40:28 PM »
Quote
Up to that point, we were inclined to put glowing reviews of this place on RVForum.net…forget that! These people are downright rude. Don’t bother to stay here in your RV unless you like being treated like 2nd class citizens who aren’t worth anyone’s time. And unless you like paying $50 a night but not getting what you’ve been promised…no WiFi, lapses in the so-called 30-amp power supply, pay showers, a noisy generator nearby that runs all night, and being evicted from the bar when the fishing-tour guests arrive for dinner to tell tall tales of their day. The owner is less than nice.

The evening breezes are cool and we’ll hit the sack early so we can stop at Liard Hot Springs in the morning.

I have to admit that I believe in "payback"--both good and bad.  If you really want to hurt them, post a review on rvparkreviews.com.  The truth...the whole truth....and nothing but the truth.  There's no excuse for this treatment.  Did you propose a solution to him?  If so, I'd sure go for it.  I would also have told him what my complaints were and that I would be posting them, giving him a chance to remediate the situation.  You can also post on TripAdvisor.  I've forgotten the sub-topic; it's something like lodging.  Just hit the copy button when you finish the first one, and post the same review a second time.  If it makes you feel better, do it a third time on Yelp.   I'll bend over backwards to help people, and I'm very giving.  But....if you wrong me, there is a price to pay!  And, for sure, he wronged you.

 I hope the team you favored won.

Edit: Fixed quote.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2013, 02:47:07 PM by Tom »
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

Frank Hurst

  • ---
  • Posts: 581
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #48 on: June 17, 2013, 09:59:56 PM »
When we stopped by Liard Springs there was a Grizzly Bear swimming in the springs. They had call a Game Warren to get rid of the bear and the springs were closed for the day, so we went on down the road.
Frank & Hilda Hurst
2003 Phaeton
2004 Malibu
Semi Retired Relief Veterinarian

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #49 on: June 18, 2013, 05:28:54 PM »
Monday June 17, 2013

Up early, out early, hooked up at our RV park west of Watson Lake (Yukon Teritory!!) early. More traffic on the road today than any other day on the Alaska Highway…nearly all day we were within eyesight of someone in front of us and to the rear of us.

Watson Lake YT, for all the hoopla, is zippo in terms of things to see & do, and real interest. Am I jaded as heck for thinking The Signpost Forest is the most overhyped tourist sight in the world? Yeah, it has some 70,000-plus city & town signs from all over the world tacked to a veritable forest of hundreds of packed-together telephone poles, but what’s the big deal? If we were into taking pictures of everything we see along the way, we surely would have stopped, hunted for an interesting city sign (Grand Rapids, Michigan or East Peoria, Illinois, perhaps??) and taken a pic of one of us standing in front of it.   

The Signpost Forest is located “in beautiful downtown Watson Lake!”, surely one of the misnomers of all time. There IS NO downtown Watson Lake! Hwy 97 (the Alaska Highway) passes through the town, and yes, there are a couple of buildings a block off the highway as well as maybe a dozen ramshackle places straggling along the highway, but a downtown? No way, Jose!

One place that sounded moderately interesting to us in Watson Lake was the Northern Lights Centre, an information center dedicated to explaining the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, with presentations every hour and a movie that projects onto a domed ceiling. Okay, maybe. It’s in what turned out to be by far the newest and freshest-painted building in town…bright blue with inviting signs. Show just starting when we enter. $9 per person, please…and that’s the senior discount rate, for heaven’s sake! Not worth it. Easy decision.

Baby Nugget RV Park is 15 miles west of “town” on the highway going to Whitehorse YT. Nice location, close to the highway, The signs promoting Baby Nugget lacked distinction, and that’s an understatement. Clearly they hadn’t been painted or replaced for 10 years at least. Not promising. But the place itself has had some money invested in recent years. There are a whole bunch of quite new log cabins for rent, and the general facilities look good. Moreover, our site is in some trees (not that we need them…it is raining again!).

Bathrooms are impeccably clean. Showers cost $1 (a “looney” in Canadian parlance) for 2.5 minutes…most expensive pay showers so far. And the nightly price here is good…$36 with the Good Sam discount, $37.80 including tax. OK deal. Gravel pad is very level, hookups good. One hour of complimentary WiFi (but only up near the office, sitting at the picnic tables where the mosquitoes are feeding with a frenzy, filling their big tummies very nicely, thanks!). The place has TV but we didn’t bother to hook up. We’ll read tonight instead.

Okay, enough about the town and the RV park. The drive today was really fun. Rough roads much of the way, but fun! Not terribly long, and that was good…going on to Whitehorse today would have made for a very long haul.

North of Muncho Lake, we saw big bison along the sides of the road. A number of them, grazing on the glorious lime-green grass. One smallish bison cow maybe a couple of years old was meandering along the shoulder of the road all by her lonsesome, and we slowed way down for her…she just gave off the vibes of an animal that would do something foolish, like change course unexpectedly. Righto! The second we were within a foot of her, she turned and dashed across the highway in front of us at a little trot. No problem, we were anticipating her move. If we’d been going even 5 mph we would’ve hit her broadside. We saved the life of a lovely girl-bison today…and ourselves, probably.

Liard Hot Springs were just as wonderful as I anticipated. It was about 50 degrees outside, cloudy, and the rain was dripping when we arrived. We paid $10 to get into the Provincial Park for a day pass (2 adults). There’s a huge parking area…you can tell this attraction draws tons of people in the busiest times. One a Monday morning at about 9 am it was fairly deserted…a few overnight RVers and tenters were there, and a few cars had pulled in.

I changed into my suit in the Rolling Home, slipped some easy-drying clothes on over it, grabbed a towel and headed out to the boardwalk for the quarter-mile walk to the springs. Kind of like taking the boardwalks at Yellowstone over and around and across the hot-pools bubbling up within vast swampy spots. People who passed us said the evening before there had been moose close to the boardwalk, eating shrubs. Lots of wildflowers in bloom along the forested areas…lush bunches of wild roses everywhere, mountain bluebells, cinquefoil, alpine forget-me-nots, and bunchberry (aka ground dogwood). And ferns, huge patches of big healthy ferns.

At the pools, there are very nice new buildings with benches for clothing, and changing rooms. The pools are surrounded by forests and the scene is very unspoiled and serene, despite the modern, fresh buildings, deck and boardwalk. The changing room buildings have slight overhangs that protected us and our clothes from the rain.

Getting into the pool in the cool air with cold rain falling was absolutely divine. I felt as if I could stay for a month and not tire of the experience. Centered in the pool were about 5 large concrete benches where bathers could sit and enjoy the warm waters flowing past them to the cooler end, where it flowed over a dam into the cool pool below. Within minutes, I started a conversation with a young girl of about 8 or 9 who was having a grand time dunking herself, with her goggles on, and scooting from side to side in the pool. Then her two brothers joined her, and her mom, so before long we were all talking up a storm.

The 3 kids and their mom were headed home to Palmer, Alaska, after a road trip to Chicago, where they’d spent a day at the Museum of Science & Industry, and to her hometown south of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where they visited her parents. She had driven to Alaska for a visit after finishing college, in 1988, she told me, and had loved Alaska so much she never left. She had settled in the Anchorage/Palmer area and loved living there. In the intervening years she had worked as a mental health counselor, director of several HeadStart programs, started and run a program for criminals being released from prison, and had done a variety of other things; Now she was spending her time homeschooling two of the kids while two others attended public school.

Important tidbits gleaned for our coming weeks on this trip: Anchorage has recorded unexpectedly HOT temperatures very early this year, in recent days setting a record of 97 degrees…as my new friend put it, “A bumper crop of hot days!” Ugh! And what’s more, there is A BUMPER CROP OF MOSQUITOES this year, too….she said her husband went outdoors a couple of days ago with a long-sleeved shirt on, walked perhaps 25 yards, and before he reentered the house, he swept his right hand down his left arm to remove a solid sheet of mosquitoes that covered his arm! OMG!

While I soaked in the hot pool and turned into a limp noodle, with cold rain falling gently on my head, Don chatted with the park ranger about the reconstruction of the entire boardwalk last year, beginning the project in fairly warm weather during the autumn but ending it in 25-below freezing snowy weather when winter moved in early.  There’s a very nicely-designed wide deck at the pool to accommodate the crowds, with great stairways down into the water at the hottest end, at midpoint (medium-hot) and coolest end. The hot pool itself is about 75 feet long and roughly 30 feet wide at its widest point. Just below the hot pool is another smaller pool that is the cool pool.

Don took over driving after our Liard Hot Springs adventure. We stopped in the café across the highway from the hot springs for a coffee and Don had his oatmeal with raisins. We bought a bag of ice for $4 before leaving…support the local economy! The waitress in the café was a real sourpuss. I’m sure she could sell a heck of a lot more food to customers if she gave them just one smile and was less grumpy about everything.

In a few miles we saw a brown bear along the road…medium sized, no hump on its back. So I think it was really a brown-colored black bear, not a grizzly. A bit later, I spotted a black bear off to the side of the road as well…Don missed seeing it because he was busy avoiding a major pothole in the road.

For the entire drive today, every 2-3 minutes we’d see a sign warning of rough road, so we’d slow down in anticipation. In several places, road repairs were going on and single lanes of traffic were led by pilot cars for a distance. Average speed for the day, probably 45 mph. Much of the road was corduroy; going any faster than 40-45 shakes the daylights out of the vehicle and us. Hey, we’re not in any great hurry, so we poke along.

Now it’s 5 pm, the sun has returned, and I’m trying to convince Do that we should use the RV wash here in the campground to clean off our despicable Rollin Home. It’s really grimy. The RV Wash is about the best value at this place…$2 for 4 minutes of wash. One fellow already told us he did a great job on his RV AND his tow car for a total of $4. Such a deal.

Twenty minutes of sunshine, and the clouds returned. Then rain. Drips, then hard rain. No luck getting Don to hunker down and wash the Rollin Hoe. He figures with this much rain -- and mud -- washing it will do absolutely no good anyway. He's right, of course...I just hate seeing it this way. Hear that? I admitted he's right, guys out there!
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 05:32:15 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #50 on: June 18, 2013, 10:18:13 PM »
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cold morning…temp had fallen to 42 degrees overnight. Turned the furnace on to heat the buggy at 6 am and snuggled in next to Don for another hour of sleep.

During Don’s evening walk last night he wandered through the Nugget City Gift Shop (he pronounced it a very nice shop) and the Nugget City restaurant that’s on the property, announcing when he returned that the restaurant would be open at 7 am and have fresh baked goods ready early. We decided hot coffee and a bun were in order.

The little restaurant was open, but we learned that NO ONE in the northlands brews decaf coffee in the morning. We heard the “No decaf” song yesterday morning too, but thought it was just a phenom of that one place. Not so. Folks up here only want fully-leaded, thanks. I had a cuppa, and thankfully didn’t buzz too much later, but Don had tea…he just can’t handle java with caff any more.

No really fresh baked goods were ready at 7:45, so we had a fresh-cooked bowl of oatmeal with raisins, and wheat toast, with a side order of 4 great pork sausages, nicely browned. The young man who lives at Nugget City and holds down the fort for the owners…waitstaff, cook and cashier all rolled into one…is very chatty and personable. He is in the process of completing a log house of his own, on the Nugget property, because he plans to stay, long-term. He’s been there 3 ½ years already and likes it. He’s a small-town guy originally from somewhere in Manitoba – grew up in a town of 14 people – so he is comfortable with the isolation in the winter. He’s very pleased with his new cabin of 16 x 16, which has a sleeping loft with a high, steeply pitched ceiling that allows him to stand up fully when upstairs.

All in all, we’d go back to Baby Nugget RV Park west of Watson Lake. It’s the nearest thing there is to true wilderness camping while still having electric and water. There’s a central sani-dump at the park…conveniently situated, clean, water handy, etc. The owners have definitely put quite a lot of money into the place. Now they just need some better, newer signs to replace the scruffy ones along the highway, and they’ll be all set.

Leaving early and getting in early are becoming a habit for us, and it’s nice. I had made a reservation long ago at Hi Country RV Park in Whitehorse, but had we not arrived quite early we would have been stuck (and I do mean stuck!) with a 20 amp site, water & electric only. No TV, which Don really wants because of the 5th NBA Finals game tonight. Somehow my reservation for a full hookup got misconstrued…but we are in a full hookup site tonight. Tomorrow we may have to move…the place is full tomorrow night. Before even driving to our site, we hauled the laundry in and put 2 big loads in, and got all the clothes clean. Nice laundry room here…and reasonable prices.

After laundry hour we headed to downtown Whitehorse to one of Sarge’s favorite places…the Klondike Ribs & Salmon place at 4th and Main. We knew that the line of customers waiting for seats could stretch around the block by the real dinner hour, so early was for us. What a GREAT place! Gotta tell ya…their halibut chowder is to die for! Creamy, full of fish…as good as any outstanding fresh clam chowder or lobster stew in Maine! We shared the House Special of ½ rack of BBQ ribs and 2 skewers of fresh BBQ salmon. Absolutely perfect. Delicious, both the salmon and the ribs. We quickly decided we may have to return there tomorrow for more chowder and an order of halibut & chips that the place is also known for. A big wedge of fresh foccacia bread baked in-house, full of fresh herbs, comes with the chowder…scrumptious. Fresh bumbleberry pie for dessert is outstanding. (Also mighty tempting was the gigantic plate of sourdough bread pudding, which we were told is a real house specialty, but a single helping looked like enough for 4 people, and we were too full to even think about it.)

No wildlife today. Zip. Some ravens, a few gulls as we passed large bodies of freshwater. But nothing else.

Great WiFi here at Hi Country RV Park, by the way. Lots of shade trees too. Nice level sites…gravel. We’re packed in close together, but this is a nice place. Don is thrilled to have cable TV hookups…he’s watching the San Antonio Spurs try to run away with the series. Glad I chose it over a couple of others…showers are free (included in the price of the stay). Tomorrow we’ll explore Whitehorse, and we’re going to go to The Frantic Follies tomorrow night. We need a hike tomorrow, regardless of the mosquitoes.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #51 on: June 19, 2013, 01:14:04 AM »
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
 We heard the “No decaf” song yesterday morning too, but thought it was just a phenom of that one place. Not so. Folks up here only want fully-leaded, thanks. I had a cuppa, and thankfully didn’t buzz too much later, but Don had tea…he just can’t handle java with caff any more.

After laundry hour we headed to downtown Whitehorse to one of Sarge’s favorite places…the Klondike Ribs & Salmon place at 4th and Main. We knew that the line of customers waiting for seats could stretch around the block by the real dinner hour, so early was for us. What a GREAT place! Gotta tell ya…their halibut chowder is to die for! Creamy, full of fish…as good as any outstanding fresh clam chowder or lobster stew in Maine! We shared the House Special of ½ rack of BBQ ribs and 2 skewers of fresh BBQ salmon. Absolutely perfect. Delicious, both the salmon and the ribs. We quickly decided we may have to return there tomorrow for more chowder and an order of halibut & chips that the place is also known for. A big wedge of fresh foccacia bread baked in-house, full of fresh herbs, comes with the chowder…scrumptious. Fresh bumbleberry pie for dessert is outstanding. (Also mighty tempting was the gigantic plate of sourdough bread pudding, which we were told is a real house specialty, but a single helping looked like enough for 4 people, and we were too full to even think about it.)


Susie, keep asking for decaf.  We have found it at every restaurant, which is important because I'm allergic to caffeine.  I've tried to cook in to save my $ for Anchorage, where I plan to eat out almost every night.  However, sometimes it has been the best option, and meals have been mediocre.  We will be going through Whitehorse again on our way home, and with 2 recommendations for Klondike Ribs & Salmon, we'll definitely stop there.  My grandfather, who I adored, was a chef, and he made the best bread pudding in the world (he added a special ingredient--LOVE).  I have to try the bread pudding anywhere I see it because it evokes strong memories.  So, we may eat there more than once.  Thanks for the wonderful descriptions!
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #52 on: June 19, 2013, 09:39:57 PM »
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The weather has turned warm enough that we actually slept with windows open last night, without freezing to death by morning. Took showers too – unlimited hot water without paying extra for it is a joy! – so we are feeling much more human today. Clean hair, clean bods, Don has scraped the fuzzy stuff off his face for once.

Good bathrooms and showers combined with strong WiFi has us hooked…we highly recommend Hi Country RV Park in Whitehorse!

We had noticed while driving yesterday that when I tried to use the windshield washers, only the left one worked properly. The right one simply sent up a tiny spume of fluid at the very bottom of the windshield. Did no good at all. So Don inspected the wiper blades and the little hoses that run up through each blade from the washer fluid reservoir. As he was checking them, the other one broke, too. Definitely a Winnebago design flaw. This type of windshield washer is not standard on Mercedes diesel Sprinter vans…this is a feature unique to the Winnebago Via and the Itasca Reyo. Great idea to thread these little hoses right up the center of the windshield washer blades, so the washer fluid sprays out of the upper half of each blade when you press the button for fluid to wash the windows. BUT, the hoses were both slightly too short and when the washer blade is lifted to wash the windshield, or just to inspect the hose or the blade, the brittle hose instantly breaks.

As soon as we get into Alaska and can use our iPhones again, Don is going to call Winnebago and notify them of the breakages, ensuring we’ll get warranty coverage of the replacements. What we did to solve the problem until we get back home (crossing our fingers!) is get out the…you guessed it, Duct Tape! I tore off little strips of tape and wound them neatly around the little hoses as Don held the broken ends together. Seems to be pretty solid, and both windshield washers work just fine now.

Soapy’s Car Wash up the road a bit has extra high bays for RVs, enticing me to drag Don to the place to try and wash the Rollin Home, with soap. Hi Country RV Park has a free RV Wash spot, but we watched people washing their rigs yesterday using just water and big long brushes, and lots of buckets. Not appealing. Soapy’s presented the possibility, I thought, of a somewhat better wash.

Well, we were partly successful, anyway. The soap wand didn’t have a long enough hose to go over the top of our buggy, so only half of RH got lathered. The high-pressure water wand went all the way around, at least, so the whole rig got a good rinse, anyway. Unfortunately, neither the soaped side nor the rinsed side(s) looked much better for the effort, and the $8 in twoneys (two-dollar Canadian coins, as opposed to the one-dollar coins known as looneys). The dust and dirt did, indeed, layer itself into an effective mudpack…I worried about that, and kept saying to Don that the surface grime seemed to have a kind of gumminess to it that probably wouldn’t wash off easily. I was right. Oh well, at least the headlights and the windshield are clean, and the side windows.

From there, we doubled back about one block along the Alaska Highway to visit the Beringia Interpretive Centre, a very fancy modern place that intrigued me the most of any place in Whitehorse. The center has terrific displays, a reconstruction of the largest wooly mammoth yet discovered in the Yukon, the full skeleton of a 27,000-year-old horse, a reconstruction of the saber-toothed tigers that roamed the land that joined Asia with North America, models of the pre-Ice-Age sloths and beavers. We watched a 20-minute movie about the lost sub-continent of Beringia that was well done. The center’s guides were very attentive, cordial and well-informed about their subject. They do an excellent job.

Amazingly, Don and I were 2 of only 4 people in the center for the hour or so that we visited. Apparently, most visitors passing through Whitehorse are more attracted by the tour of the old SS Klondike, a sternwheeler that plied the Yukon during the Gold Rush, going from Whitehorse upriver to Dawson City, or the downtown Whitehorse attractions. The Beringia Centre deserves much more attention than it gets, I would say. A marvelous place, and a beautiful structure to boot.

After Beringia, we headed downtown to have the glorious food again at the Klondike Rib & Salmon joint. Don got the halibut fish & chips lunch, and I had a bowl of the delicious halibut chowder. Afterwards, we wandered around town visiting a wonderful deli named The Deli, where we bought some reindeer smokies (sausages) and some bison sausages that I saw advertised. Then we walked to a large outdoor outfitters store a few blocks away, to see if I could buy a set of rubber tips for my walking poles (one was lost long ago) so I could stop sounding like Miss Thunk and Clunk as I walked using both poles. Voila! $4.99 for a set!

Enough shopping and museums for the day. I get OD’ed fairly quickly. The day has been sunny and warm, with nice breezes, so we sat at an outdoor table and enjoyed a Starbuck’s coffee. Back at the Rollin Home, we waited for the clock to move past 5:30 so we could move the rig 4 blocks closer to where the Frantic Follies is performed, without having to feed the meters. We had parked free for the entire afternoon in the RV lot of the Visitor Information Centre a block away from where the SS Klondike is parked, along the riverfront.

We thought of going back to the Klondike Ribs & Salmon for a quick bit before the show, but at 5:30 there was already a long line of people waiting to be seated. Now we’re in the local Tim Horton’s, sharing a chicken Panini and enjoying what they call fruit smoothies (which I would call slushes…just ice and fruit flavoring, whirled in a blender). We’ll wrap up in a couple of minutes and go get in line for the Follies. Doors open at 8 for the 8:30 show, and since seats are not reserved I’d like to get a decent seat where I can see well.

I’m looking forward to the laughs and jollity that we’ve heard the show offers. See ya!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #53 on: June 21, 2013, 12:34:05 AM »
Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thank goodness our friends Marion and Tom told us to stop at the Da Ku Cultural Centre and Visitor Information Centre in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, when we passed through on our way to  White River, and then Tok, Alaska. Marion and Tom are about a week ahead of us in their motorcoach, going to Alaska as well, from Summit County, Colorado. They stopped at this brand-new center on their way through, and spent several hours there…emailing us and a few other folks later to be sue and see it, because it is wonderful!

They are so right! The new Visitor Center combines two other older visitor information centers, as well as a First Nation center for 2 tribes of Yukon aboriginals, the Raven tribe and the Wolf tribe of Athapascans, known as the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations --  who have lived in the area for thousands of years. One section of the center is devoted to Haines Junction itself and the Kluane National Park (pronounced kloo-AH-nee), which encompasses Canada’s largest natural lake and several enormous mountain ranges with peaks of 18,000 and 19,000+ feet, as well as gigantic icefields with glaciers that date to the last Ice Age and extend to a depth of almost 3 miles. These are the world’s largest sub-polar icefields. And the highest mountains in North America. And the world’s most active and fastest-growing mountain ranges.

Kluane National Park is an amazing place. No way to get into it, period!, without hiking or flying. No roads at all. It’s all preserve, and the icefield mountain range, with the biggest mountains and tallest peaks, sits far behind the fore-range, which is the only visible part of Kluane from any roads. Kluane’s Icefield Range sits in the very center of the park, isolated and desolate. Several hundred hikers and mountain climbers enter the park each year with the goal of reaching and climbing Mount Logan, the largest and tallest mountain, but only about 12% of those ever reach their destination, I was told.

When we walked through this display, and read all its descriptions, I couldn’t help but think of Josh and Emily, our young hiker & mountain-climber friends, who literally run up 14-ers in Colorado and who would adore Kluane! Kluane NP on the Canadian side adjoins the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park just to the south, on the US side. The Wrangell-St. Elias NP dwarfs Yellowstone – it is by far the largest of all US national parks, six times the size of Yellowstone. It’s a heck of a long haul to get here, but what a magnificent place this is.

The Da Ku Cultural half of the new Visitor Centre is equally remarkable. The histories of these First Nations people are extremely interesting. They have lived as hunters and by fishing. Their arts and crafts, utensils and containers, clothing and carvings are beautiful.

I couldn’t resist buying a piece of artwork at the center, a print by Richard Shorty, an accomplished artist and member of the Champagne First Nation who now lives in Vancouver. The print depicts several hummingbirds hovering together, with Athapascan symbols cleverly woven into their wings. Graceful images and a fabulous graphic design.

Driving further northwest toward our destination for the day, we stopped at tiny Burwash Landing, a tiny place that’s little more than a dot on the map, to take a walk through the Kluane Museum of Natural History. It too is tiny, but contains a collection of taxidermied wildlife of the Yukon in the space of some 600 square feet that is mind-blowing. Even if we see absolutely NO wildlife along the roads while driving, at least we’ve seen the best of the best collection of wildlife in this museum.

And, indeed, today was another zippo day in terms of wildlife. Oh, I almost forgot…we did see a good sized black bear while we were inside the Da Ku Cultural Center. Mr. Bear ambled up to one of the big picture windows as we stood looking out. Onlhy 2 inches away from us, but with glass between us, he looked in at us for a few moments, then turned and ambled away across the parking lot and into a wooded area. The kids who were around us looking at the Kluane National Park displays were very excited!

Stomachs were growling as we left, so we heeded the advice of The Milepost and sought out The Village Bakery a couple of blocks away in Burwash Landing. Hey, there are only about 4 blocks of anything IN Burwash Landing, so it couldn’t have been very far. A very cute little place with counters full of wonderful baked goods…quite the surprise to find this little gem in a town that is only a wide place in the road.

We each had a warmed-up Bison-Cheese Dog – basically a bison sausage wrapped with fresh-baked bread stuffed with cheddar cheese. Yum! Perfect finger-food! Much better than a corn dog ever dreamed of being. As an afterthought, while paying our bill I asked what the ingredients were in some delicious-looking “Bungie Bars” they had on the counter in a basket…I was told “Well, they have some oats and some seeds and some nuts and raisins and cranberries…they’re for taking along when you go hiking, like trail mix or something.” Looked interesting, and at $2 each seemed a good value for bars about 3” x 3” each, so I bought a couple for tomorrow’s lunch while on the road to Tok, Alaska.

The roads today were pretty ragged. Many times we slowed to 15 or 20 mph for gravel patches under construction, for “extreme dust conditions” that signs warned of, or for small waving neon-pink flags at the side of the road signaling permafrost heaves and rough roads. There were also hundreds of heaves and bumps and rough patches that had no flags or warnings at all. Very slow going. White River, where we would spend the night in an RV Park I had read about, was supposedly 198 miles from Whitehorse. We figured about 5 hours, give or take, plus our time doing a bit of shopping in Whitehorse before leaving town, the stops at Da Ku Centre and the Wildlife Museum, and lunch at the bakery. Well, okay, maybe 6 or 7 hours all told.

Odometer showed we’d gone 218 miles and we STILL hadn’t gotten to White River RV Park. Dang! Clock showed 6:30. Stomachs were again growling. Aha! The Bungie Bars…lifesavers! Lordy, those things were out of this world. Gotta figure out how to make Bungie Bars like that when I get home! Wish I had bought about 10 of them. The Village Bakery in Burwash Landing could make a million if they marketed those bars far and wide!

White River RV Park has just changed its name to Discovery Yukon Resort and RV Park. Amanda, its owner, is from Ireland and is a splendid host. Back in Ireland, she worked as an accountant. She loves to grow and arrange flowers as a creative outlet, which she does in Vancouver, where she lives when she’s not here at the park running things. The park’s claim to fame is the park’s former owner, Bob, who is Amanda’s partner and SO, who is known for building a big communal fire every night and telling tall tales of the wild Northland late into the night. He’s quite the character, Bob is!

I was so revved for this event! But storm clouds were rolling in and a dump of rain looked quite certain. So we’ll gather instead at 8 am, Bob promised, and he assured us he’ll have plenty of great stories to accompany our morning cups of java around the campfire.

We ate a couple of the reindeer smokies that we found in Whitehorse, for dinner tonight, with a salad. Mmmm, those sausages are great! Reindeer is very tasty indeed. I think I’ll heat up the other 2 sausages tomorrow morning to nibble on while at the campfire.

Don keeps asking me if I’m writing a novel. No, just a journal. This is fun. Without doing this I’d surely forget most of these details. It’s still bright daylight at 10:20 pm…hard to go to bed when the sun is still shining, for heaven’s sake. But I have to do it. Have the campfire thing early tomorrow, and then the 150 mile drive to Tok, Alaska, on roads that we’ve heard are really awful. Slow going, again.

But tomorrow we hit ALASKA! At last! At least 6 times already I’ve said, “This is really the beginning of the BIG adventure.” Well, tomorrow, I’ll say that for the 7th time.

The biggest surprise to me so far in our 24 days on the road is how much I LOVE both British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. Both of these provinces fascinate me, and I’d dearly love to return to each of them to spend at least a month in each province. Great places, great people, great things to do and see. Wilderness at its best.


Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #54 on: June 25, 2013, 02:17:02 AM »
I am missing reading your logs.  Hope all is well with you.
  Happy Trails, Linda
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

workingtorv

  • ---
  • Posts: 459
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #55 on: June 25, 2013, 10:25:10 PM »
I am missing reading your logs.  Hope all is well with you.
  Happy Trails, Linda

I am missing them also and I too hope all is well.
2004 Georgie Boy Pursuit
2008 Saturn AuraXR
Ontario, Canada

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #56 on: June 26, 2013, 01:58:38 AM »
Friday, June 21, 2013

(AHHHH, it's so goods to have Internet service again...near Talkeetna on Tuesday June 25!)

Today we went from Discovery Yukon RV Park at White River (an absolute GEM of a place…we recommend it so highly to anyone and everyone taking an RV to Alaska!!!) to Tok, Alaska. Finally, we’re in Alaska…whattdya know!

We rose early and headed for the showers, so we’d be sure to be ready for Bob’s campfire magic at 8 am. Now I have to tell you, the bathrooms and showers at this RV park are as good as being at home…Amanda, the owner, has remodeled all of these in the last couple of years so they are fresh and new and very very nice. But alas, we had no Canadian dollar coins left in our wallets…had spent them all because we knew we’d be leaving Canada the next day…best bathrooms yet, but couldn’t take showers, because we had no loonies! And it was only 7 am or so, and no one was up yet to make change for us.

Bob’s usual MO is to take all the guests for a ride to the river and into the forest, and tell his stories along the way, either in his restored 1942 Dodge truck or in The Mule, his 4-seater ATV if there are too few people to take the Dodge. Only 2 of us were interested in taking the ride, which makes the whole experience much less fun, so we simply decided after sharing a few laughs and such to get on the road.

One really interesting things we learned from Bob and Amanda is that the enormous, 1-ton piece of solid copper we saw in Whitehorse outside the McBride Museum was discovered only about a mile from Amanda’s RV Park in White River, by the fellow who lives next door. It took days to haul it out from the mountain bed where it was found. Amanda has a piece of solid copper found in roughly the same location that she keeps in a locked case at the park. It’s extremely heavy, a beautiful color with its oxidized patina, and is about 12 inches long, maybe 6 or 7 inches wide, and flattened like a big piece of thick pita bread.

Rough roads most of the day. Slow going. Tunnels of trees. No moose! Or caribou. Or bears. Or elk.

Through US Customs within 1 minute at most. When the customs agent asked if we had any apples, I said yes, I still have 3 apples that I bought in Calgary that we haven’t eaten yet. He asked to see them, took a look at the sticker on one, handed them back and said, okay go ahead. Easy.

Is 25 days long enough to reach Alaska? We feel as if we’ve been on the road forever, already. Now the Alaska adventure really begins.

We approach a Wildlife Center. Books say to stop, it’s good. Don and I look at each other. Burwash Landing’s Wildlife Museum was terrific…and every visitor center we’ve been in has lots of info about wildlife and some stuffed animals in dioramas.
Every shop, too. How many wildlife museums and wildlife centers do we need? We whiz on by.

Aha. An interesting possibility…a little side trip to the Indian Village of Northway 7 miles down a side road. Book says it’s authentic. “Want to do it?” asks Don. “Sure! Let’s!” Maybe we’ll find a place to stop and picnic.

So we hang a left and head to Northway. Road is good, but very narrow. No shoulders at all. Major dropoff at edge of road. There’s a yellow line in the center of the old asphalt & gravel pavement, but it is as if the line is dividing the equivalent of one lane into 2 halves. We’ll have to stop and nearly fall off the cliff to allow another vehicle to pass if someone approaches us from the other direction. But thank goodness, it’s pretty deserted.

About 2 miles down, we pass a large airport. Huh? An airport, out here in the middle of nowhere? I hauled out my books…explanation is that this is the airport of entry for planes coming into Alaska from Canada. A LOT of federal money went into building and maintaining this place, believe me. Book says several hundred planes a year land here to go through Customs. Onward to Northway.

The road passes over miles of very swampy area, built up above the water. Kind of like driving the roads in the Florida Keys. Suddenly we start seeing ramshackle houses. And a few kids on the street. Rusted-out old cars and pickups in driveways. Then the road comes to an end. A big round area to turn the vehicle. No real town, nothing to see. Maybe 15 houses total that could be seen from the road. Hmmmmm. Authentic? Yikes. Why is this written up as a place to see? I wonder.

As we travel the road to Tok, our excitement builds. Wow, it’s really Alaska. The road gets a LOT better, for some period of time, at least. Makes you proud of US roadbuilding and maintenance. For a while at least, then the road returns to what you were on in the Yukon and elsewhere.

We’ve read so much about Tok, the first town in the REAL Alaska, that we think somehow it’s going to knock our socks off. It doesn’t. Tok is very small. A string of widely-spaced buildings stretched out maybe a mile along the highway. What did I expect in Tok, anyway?

We stayed at Tok RV Village…very nice place. Trees. Nice sites. Great showers. Met up once again with the friends we made in Dawson Creek, Dale & Jane from Minnesota. There were so curious to know how we had liked Whitehorse’s Frantic Follies. When they were in Whitehorse after us, they drove by the Klondike Ribs & Salmon restaurant, but there was a long line of people waiting outside for seats at dinner, so they decided not to do it. After I told them about our 2 visits to the place and the outstanding halibut chowder, they were sorry they hadn’t stayed.

Dale had been determined to take the side trip to Atlin on the way north, after reading about it in guidebooks. Supposedly a very picturesque place, very special. Boy, was that a bummer, Dale said. Atlin is zero. Zip. Only 2 buildings in the town are anything more than falling down. Every else is decayed. Anything but picturesque.

We’ve all come to the conclusion that all the guidebooks in Canada, and The Milepost, and every other book that talks about The Alaska Highway, do a great job of hyping absolutely anything along the road(s) that varies from the norm of tunnels of trees, large mountains, lots of water and grass, areas of burn, utter isolation and desolation, etc. Next thing you know, we’ll all be urged to take side trips to see 12 x 12 tumbledown log cabins that were built by trappers and gold-rushers before they completely decompose.

Nice to have iPhones working again, see signs with miles on them (and not have to multiply every km shown by .6 to translate into US miles), and use US currency again. But all in all, I sure loved Canada. AND the respectful way Canada and Canadians refer to, explain the cultures of, and promote their native peoples, the First Nations.

We walked next door to Tok RV Village to Fast Eddy’s and had a very good pizza as an early dinner, as many people have recommended on the RVForum. Nice night, went to bed with all the windows open.



Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #57 on: June 26, 2013, 01:59:31 AM »
Saturday, June 22, 2013

We changed our plans today, on the fly. Decided we were in no mood to drive 250 miles, and spend probably 8 hours on the road to spend 2 nights in Valdez. We were pretty sure we’d have to drive quite slowly in many spots because of roller-coaster roads, gravel patches where repairs are taking place.

All of our reading about permafrost and what it does to the roads up here in Alaska left us curious more than informed about what the reality would be. The reality is this: When you’re lucky enough to even have a white line painted along the outer edge of your lane, you are astonished to look ahead of where you’re driving and see a verrrrrrry wavy white ribbon ahead of you…yeah, you slow down to 45, then 35, then 30, then 20, then 15 or even 10 in spots, hoping to never feel your vehicle “bottom out” on the humps and bumps and swerves. One fellow at our RV park the other day said it so well: Permafrost is really a misnomer. The deep layer of underground ice throughout most of this area, that never really melts but that softens in warm weather and wreaks havoc with the roads built above it, is really a constantly moving underground glacier.

Driving in the Yukon and Alaska is an exercise in self-preservation. We feel everything shake violently at times if we fail to slow our speed quickly enough, or if the “heave” is sharper than we expected. We don’t want to break an axle, ruin the suspension, get flat tires, or jar every single bolt loose in the Rollin Home. We already lost a hubcap somewhere along the way on rough roads. Interestingly enough, the frequent shuddering several days ago on highways in the Yukon shook loose the tiny little 4-amp fuse in our bathroom ceiling fan, causing it to fall on the floor from its housing. Don located it and pushed it back into place, making the fan work once again. But that gave us a real sense of how much vibration is really taking place each day.

 Yes, some people have loved Valdez and urged us to go there. Others said it was ho-hum. We decided Valdez required too much time on the road to be worth it, for us. We’d probably just be tired. Too tired to visit another museum or two or enjoy much of anything during a very short stay.

Part of the value of doing all my research in advance is having a good sense of our options when/if we decide to veer from our itinerary. Glennallen would be an easy drive, about 120 miles, with good scenery…even if we were forced to go slowly because of rough roads and permafrost heaves. So we decided to head there for tonight, get in quite early, spend the afternoon exploring and reading. Then we’ll be refreshed to drive north a bit and do our wilderness dry-camping along the 135-mile stretch of the unpaved Denali Highway.

We were right, the road to Glennallen (the same one that goes to Valdez) was full of ice heaves, fresh tar patches, humps & bumps, and short gravel patches. Our average speed was about 40. There were very few miles that we were able to drive 50-55 continuously for any length of time.

Nearly our whole drive consisted of tunnels of trees, bordered on our left (south) by a mountain range of medium sized mountains, mostly covered with thick spruce, making them appear covered with dark green velvet all the way to their tops. As we neared Glennallen we began seeing the very high mountains of the Wrangell Range, some of which were completely covered in snow, such as the behemoth Mt. St. Elias.

Glennallen is in the Copper River region of Alaska, famous for its fishing and the Copper River Salmon. It’s such a surprise that delicious fish can be caught in these fast-flowing rivers so brown with mud and so gray with volcanic ash that they look positively viscous. But we’ve already spoken with a fisherman who comes here every year and catches his limit (3 per day) of Copper River salmon each day (most are in the 6 to 12 lb. range) for about 2 weeks. No, they don’t taste muddy or ashy…they are fabulous, he says.

By 2 pm, we pulled into the RV park we had selected, registered, and headed for the local supermarket, a great little IGA, to pick up some fresh fruits and salad makings – and a couple of steaks to grill -- to last us for the next week or so. That done, we asked at the Visitor Center where we might find a nice breezy spot, secluded but with a great view, where we could picnic, read our books and maybe take a hike or two for the rest of the day. Aha! A mile out of town, there’s just such a spot…and that’s where we’ve been for the remainder of this afternoon.

Our plan was to pull over, get out our comfy blue chairs and sit outdoors in the wind and shade. But…

The bugs outside are thick, and pesky…so we’re inside the Rollin Home with all the doors and windows open to catch the breezes. Very comfy seats in here, too. It’s hot outside today, probably in the 80s, but the wind is gorgeous. This “scenic viewpoint” is far enough off the highway that it is quite quiet. We are perched atop a bluff where our views of the entire Wrangell Range close-up and trailing way off into the distance for perhaps 100 miles away from here are simply breathtaking.

A few people drove in here during the afternoon to take in the view and snap a few pics. Maybe 6 cars. Mostly they took a quick look and left within minutes, hurrying to their next spot. It was nice not to be hurrying anywhere!

It’s so lovely that we’ve decided to stay here until 8 or 9 pm and grill our steak for dinner here. How can life be any better than this? To us, this is about the best way to experience Alaska…not always racing off to some museum or show, but just living and breathing the open spaces with gorgeous views all round, the wildness of it all. Bliss.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #58 on: June 26, 2013, 02:00:47 AM »
Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our plan for today: Drive north from Glennallen to Paxson on the Richardson Highway (the one that goes to Fairbanks), turn left at Paxson and head West on the Old Denali Highway to Tangle Lakes CG (BLM) and dry camp (no hookups). The CG is about a third of the way along the old Denali Highway, most of which is gravel and pretty rough.

Don has been skeptical about this “Alaskan boondocking adventure” since I first mentioned it, not least because of my plan for 3 or 4 nights of dry-camping in isolated areas where there are known to be plenty of bears, but I finally got him to go along.

“Please, Don, we won’t have to go fast. I’ve given us 4 days to do only 135 miles. We can take our time. This is our ONLY real chance to be in the Alaska wilderness on this whole trip. Since we’ve decided not to take that excruciating bus trip into Denali NP, this is our one chance to see LOTS of wildlife in Alaska…I’ve read it’s out of this world! And we’ll be headed straight AT Mt. McKinley (Denali) while we’re on this road, so if it’s not obscured by clouds, we’ll have a great chance to actually SEE the mountain and experience its grandeur! Please!”

He capitulated.

A brief aside: Downtown Glennallen is completely torn up for road repairs right now. There is a 6 block stretch of very bumpy, loose gravel repair work along the main highway through the center of town. Really bad! The owner of Northern Nights RV Park in Glennallen, where we stayed, complained that although the work was supposed to be done long before July, the town isn’t going to be able to have its BIG July 4 parade with all the floats this year…some people, she explained, spend hundreds of hours and a lot of $$ making fancy floats every year for the parade, but the roads will still be torn up! What to do?? July 4 is a big deal in Glennallen!

At about 9:30 we set out, and took the wrong road at first, making our way verrrrrry slowwwwwwly through the bumps, ruts and heavy dust through town on the torn-up road. After 12 miles, we realized we were going the wrong direction, and were heading for Anchorage instead of Paxson. We retraced the 12 miles, bouncing through the dust on the torn-up road once again (was that #6?) then headed north on the Richardson Highway toward Paxson, the start of the Denali Highway.

Mind you, the OLD Denali Highway is the road that everyone used to have to take to get to Denali NP, before the Parks Highway opened in 1977 between Anchorage and Fairbanks, giving access to Denali National Park on a 2-lane paved road for the first time. So how bad could it REALLY be if everyone used to have to take it?

Got to Paxson…I had first considered that for the start of our “great adventure” in the wilderness on the Denali Highway, we should stay at the RV Park at the Paxson Lodge (an old roadhouse with a few RV spots…electric and water) the first night. While there, we’d fill our water tanks, empty waste tanks, and ready ourselves for 3 or 4 days without any hookups. The lodge, however, turned out to be decrepit! Glad we’re not staying there…I had already formed a Plan B because when I called ahead to the lodge yesterday, the person who answered sounded pretty indefinite about everything and pretty confused about everything, too. So I had already decided we’d bypass that place, heading straight onto the old highway. We had already filled our water tank halfway in anticipation of that strategy, thank goodness. (Plus, we always carry 4 one-gallon jugs of fresh water with us in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, just in case.)

The first 20 miles of the old Denali Highway is paved…not terrific, but paved. Some rough patches from permafrost heaves, but decent. After that, my god, it’s horrendous! They call this gravel? Yikes, it's the Rocky Mountains spread down as road bed! More like cobblestones combined with mountain rockfall. Bouncy is an understatement. 20 mph is too fast! 10-15 mph is all you can do, and sometimes you have to slow to 5 mph. Where in the world did anybody writing these darn guidebooks get the idea you could go 30-50 mph on this road? They must’ve been smoking something!

Took us almost 4 hours to go 30 miles, where we stopped and had chili at Tangle Lakes Lodge. Our overnight destination, Tangle Lakes campground, was another mile down the road…a BLM CG with 60 sites in two separate sectors, mostly back-in but some pull-throughs for big rigs. No hookups, but well-designed with nicely finished gravel roads and pads, a very very clean privy with vault toilets, and a hand pump providing potable water. Wonderful sites…the CG overlooks Tangle Creek and Round Tangle Lake – a large, gorgeous lake with mountains beyond. The mountainsides are scattered with many mini-glaciers of thick snow that haven’t yet melted. Beautiful setting. There are only about 10 other RVs and campers in here with us. Very quiet…nothing to be heard but birds and the nearby fast-flowing creek.

Don spoke with a single lady camping nearby in a truck camper who said she comes to Tangle Lakes to camp every year. She’s from Anchorage, a retired college professor. She told of how a grizzly had attacked and killed twin moose calves last year, angering the mother (cow) so much that the cow attacked the grizzly and beat him up badly enough that he took off after having eaten only part of one calf he’d killed. She also said that although the Tangle Lakes area is the on the migration route for a very large herd of caribou (usually migrating in August and September), she has seen caribou in the area this year for the first time in over 20 years. A good sign, she said.

Incidentally, because this area is on the caribou migration route, native populations have hunted and lived here for at least 10,000 years, according to archeological finds all around the Tangle Lakes region of Alaska.

When we had stopped for lunch, the folks who run the Tangle Lakes Lodge told us they have a moose (cow) with twin calves in their back yard right now. Wily critter, she disappeared the moment we went to the window to look. We were also told to be on the lookout at Tangle Lakes Campground where we were staying, because there’s been a moose cow sighted there also, with twin calves. She was nowhere to be found while we stayed there.

After settling in at our place, we grilled a steak and had rare ribeye and a fresh green salad with tomatoes. We then walked down a good footpath to Round Tangle Lake to watch our camper neighbors flyfish for native grayling. As we reached the shoreline, the man caught a nice fish of 10-12 inches and landed it beautifully. He released it after his wife took a pic. We cheered. The two of them were having a lot of fun, standing in thigh-deep water with waders on, flycasting into the pools where Tangle Creek emptied swiftly into the lake. Great setting. SWARMS of mosquitoes!

We hit the sack at 8:30, thinking we’d wake up early and get on the road at dawn to catch some wildlife. Hah! Slept like babies until 7:30 and finally pulled out at 9 am…early for us but not for the wildlife.

Alaska…and especially the “wild” Denali Highway…is for vistas, not wildlife. All day with nary a break and little variation, we stared at huge expanses of treeless tundra covered with low-growing willow scrub 3-5 ft tall, lush and velvety green, interwoven with creeks, streams, small and large lakes, rivers, and “kettles” filled with glacial water as far as the eye can see, in all directions. Mountains in the distance, in all directions. The vistas are especially grand when the Alaska Range comes into view, with its huge snow-covered mountains.

We spent 8 hours on the road today…not intentionally but because we could only go 10-15 mph most of the time. Whenever we got had a slightly smoother patch that allowed us to “speed” up to 20 mph, we’d hit washboard road and/or loose gravel and cobbles with large sharp stones appearing everywhere. If we didn’t hit the brakes fast enough, everything would vibrate and shudder violently. Ugly. This is an exercise in trying to get out without having our Rollin Home disintegrate underneath us.

At first, taking this road and getting off the beaten track was a great adventure. After 3-4 hours yesterday, we felt beaten to death. Today, before midday, we were ready to be done. And I mean DONE! We stopped at the McLaren River Lodge about 40% of the way along the Denali Highway for whatever…coffee, tea, who knows what. Support the local economy, I always say. Anything for a break from the road, the jouncing, the noise, and the endless tundra.

It was 11:30 am and a member of the staff was just lettering a sign showing what kinds of fresh pies they were serving today…7 kinds. Pretty enticing. But then we spotted a large batch of fresh homemade chili and decided to have bowls of chili for lunch, accompanied by owner Susie’s homemade wheat bread, which was scrumptious! Learned they were expecting 3 busloads of tourists between noon and 2, so we ate and left, hoping to avoid the stone-throwing, dust-raising 50-mph buses roaring by us on that dreadful road.

About 6 miles farther down the road, we came upon 2 bicyclists off their bikes on the side of the road who clearly had problems. Todd and his daughter Marley, a HS freshman, from Phoenix, were in Alaska on a 5-week cycling trip. Todd’s bike had just broken…the bolt holding his seat in place had broken. He could still ride the bike, but only if he stood and pedaled the whole way…and they were expecting to ride another 30 miles today to a place called Gracious House for overnight. He probably could not have made it, given the condition of the road and the hills that lay ahead.

We tried to find a bolt in our toolbox that would fit, and then tried solving the problem for Todd in other ways (a tent stake, or an awning stake maybe?), but nothing worked. So we loaded his bike and Marley’s into our rear storage compartment, with the wheels taken off, took the wheels off his tow-trailer loaded with their supplies and eased it carefully, tipped sideways, through the doorway of our Rollin Home, and plopped the 2 of them on our couch for the slow ride west to Gracious House. Marley promptly fell asleep for most of the journey.

About 5 miles down the road, coming at us was a large van carrying 6-8 bikes on its roof. I immediately started waving my arms at them to stop, hoping they would have a bolt for Todd’s seat. Hooray! They stopped, they had the extra part, which they gave to Todd at no charge. Very nice! Todd and Marley continued to ride with us another 10 miles to Gracious House, where they would stay, and fix the bike for the next leg of their journey.

I had read in several guidebooks that Gracious House had closed in 2011, but apparently it reopened this year. Todd had called them earlier and learned they were open for business. Supposedly Gracious House offered a few motel rooms, an RV park (no hookups, just dry camping), a full-service restaurant, a bar, WiFi, a bathhouse for tent & RV campers, etc. Don and I thought we might stay there too, because we were feeling very tired of the shake-rattle-and-roll routine on that road. Another 15 miles to Brushkana Creek CG (BLM) – estimated 1 ½ hours more time on that road -- was not appealing.

That is, until we drove into the yard at so-called Gracious House Motel & CG. When you think Gracious House, you think refined, pretty -- well, English-cottage-y. This place was flea-bitten, ramshackle, a dump if ever I saw one. The name, clearly, is less related to “gracious” as in lovely, refined than to “Oh, good gracious, what a pigsty!”

About 10 old buildings sat widely scattered around a rutted, dusty acre of very bumpy, hilly land, interspersed with rusty old equipment and junked cars. Restaurant – big sign saying CLOSED. No WiFi. A few so-called parking places for RVs, anything but “improved” sites…I couldn’t imagine getting any vehicle parking level at that place. Yikes! Yes, a bar…housed in a very rusty old trailer with wooden steps up to the door…hand-painted faded old plywood sign slapped on the side saying The Sluice. I despaired to think what the “bathhouse” looked like. I certainly understand people trying to make a living in the wilds of Alaska, but this was a rip, especially for the $20 they wanted to charge us for the use of the bathhouse for one night. No way.

The swarms of big mosquitoes that assaulted us as we unloaded Todd and Marley, their bikes and equipment were overpowering. Don & I decided to move along and head for Brushkana Creek CG after all. Added time on the road-from-hell going 10 mph seemed less bad in the context of possible accommodations at Gracious House.

By 6 pm, we were parked at beautiful Brushkana Creek, out in an open space but with spruce forests close by, on a level gravel pad, listening to the creek 20 yards away. Tuckered out. Mosquitoes, yes, but not nearly as many as there were at Gracious House. $12 a night. Good deal. And real wilderness.

Tonight we finally opted for one of our dried camper meals…add boiling water, stir, wait 10 minutes, eat. Chili mac with beef…I added some chopped sugar snap peas for crunch, then topped the whole deal with a few globs of sour cream. Delicious!

Dessert: An Effie’s Oatcake. Simple. Delish.

Breezes are wafting in our windows. We’ve swatted all the skeeters that snuck in today while the door was opening and closing. To bed!

I can hardly bear the thought of more hours of washboard gravel tomorrow. We still have 30+ miles to go before hitting pavement at the very end of this road. Ugh. It’ll probably take us at least 3 hours – maybe 4 -- to get to Cantwell at the western end of the Denali Highway.

Okay, I’m definitely conceding the point: My great adventure idea is for the birds. Don was right…and I’ll always have to eat a little crow! The old Denali Highway is torture. We’ve surely jarred loose every nut and bolt in our Rollin Home. Not a good thing. Enough to kill anybody, even the most patient traveler. Now we KNOW why all the idiots in pickups, old cars, large buses, roar along this road at 60 mph, no matter the danger or cost or discomfort…they can’t bear the thought of how boring it is to do it slowly and safely! So they create huge clouds of dust, throw rocks at us from all directions, swerve dizzily down the road because they have no control of their vehicles.

As an afterthought, we wondered if maybe the big tour buses going along at 60 mph on that dang road have such wonderful suspensions that the passengers just don’t FEEL any of that jouncing that we got. Do you think?

(PS We met a couple in Talkeetna a few days later who told us they had taken one of those bus tours on the Old Denali Highway, to McLaren River Lodge for lunch…the bus had indeed gone whizzing along at 50-60 mph. BUT it was not comfortable for the passengers…they were beaten to smithereens after the 3 hour trip in and the 3 hour trip back to Talkeetna. Ha! So much for fabulous suspensions in buses masking all that rough road!)

We’ve now “bought” ourselves an extra day or two to do something else, because we are only camping along this highway 2 nights instead of 3 or 4. Hmmm. Go into Denali, after all? Take a flight to the Arctic Circle and back from Talkeetna? Try to book a night or 2 at Kantishna at the end of the road in Denali, and fly in to stay there?

Tomorrow is another day…I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Derby6

  • ---
  • Posts: 674
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #59 on: June 26, 2013, 11:44:13 AM »
As I read, I think your screen name should be Chiliadventurer....lol
If I ate that much Chili, the DW would have me strapped to the roof....
2015 Ford Explorer (Wifes Ride)
2011 Ford F350 4x4 Lariat Crew Cab/Long Bed/SRW
2011 Honda Civic-- (Beater with a heater)
2007 28' Desert FOX Toy Hauler             
TOYS:
01 Yamaha Kodiak 400
09 Yamaha Grizzly 550
12 Yamaha Grizzly 450
13 Yamaha Rhino 700 (Wifes Ride)
13 & 14  144" & 155" SKI DOO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #60 on: June 26, 2013, 04:23:59 PM »
We went out that way in our Jeep for 40 miles.  I'm sorry we didn't do it our first day in Denali so I could have warned you.  One thing I've found with RVing--those dreadful experiences do make great stories.  And, I have to say the part of the Old Denali Hwy. we were on (the 40 miles closest to Cantwell) is not even 50% as bad as the Top-of-the-World Highway.  Hard to imagine--but it could have been worse.

The Cedar Creek Bakery in Cantwell and the Pizza place also are highly recommended by several visitors we met on our Denali bus.  The bus is also bumpy, but the drivers know where the ruts are, and they know where the animals are.  We saw tons of animals, just a few really close up--everything but fox, lynx, and wolf.  Several people on our tour bus saw a fox right by Eielson Center on the bus trip, but we hadn't gotten off the bus.  There were quite a few mosquitoes, but if you keep the windows open, they don't like the wind, so they don't come in.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #61 on: June 27, 2013, 12:25:52 AM »
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good grief, I’m all confused. That means the vacation, i.e. our road trip of a lifetime, is successful, right? I’m in a state of limbo, f-l-o-a-t-i-n-g and not even registering the passage of time. I don’t even know what day it is. I bet I’ve asked Don 6 times today what day it is…

And I just posted my Daily Journal for Sunday June 23 that is all mixed up with what actually happened on June 24. So I’ll just jump right to today…

Last night (yes, Monday night…at Brushkana Creek Campground along the Old Denali Highway) was evil. Really. Evil. Somehow, mosquitoes snuck inside the Rollin Home. How and when we have no idea. Don tried his best to kill all of them before we bedded down after a very tiring day on the road-from-hell, the Old Denali Highway. We were hot. Sweaty. Skeeters whined in our ears and dive-bombed us. I must have slapped my face – HARD –trying to kill biting bugs, about 2 dozen times during the night. Don was up and down about 10 times during the night putting Repel on his hands and neck and ears, then putting Sting-Ease on the bites all over his hands and arms, then getting the flyswatter to try and kill more skeeters. I was semi-conscious, wearing my sleep mask (hey, the sun is still shining at midnight…you HAVE to wear a sleep mask in order to get to sleep!) but not sleeping, really. I’d scratch my hands where they were bitten, then pull the sheet over my head to block the skeeters from buzzing around my hair and ears…but it would get too hot and sweaty and I’d throw the sheet off and get bitten some more.

I had those on-the-surface-of-sleep dreams about tiny holes in the sides of the RV letting clouds of mosquitoes creep silently into the Rollin Home. Clouds of bugs were enveloping me. Nightmarish. I turned my book-light on for a while and read Michener’s Alaska. Tried to sleep again. Talked to Don for a bit…he got up to chase more bugs…Don the Dragon Slayer! He was doing all the heroic work! I was just trying to block out the buzzing, the biting. SLAP!

I finally gave up and crept gently out of bed at 4:45 after maybe 3-4 hours of sleep, total. Dressed silently, closed all the windows because it had gotten cold overnight (finally!), killed more skeeters and sat down to read, hoping Don could sleep in a bit and get some rest at last. But he woke up at 5:30. Let’s get the hell out of here, we both said at the same time. We had a quick breakfast and hit the road, our earliest departure yet, by far. Well, we coasted out onto it at a verrrrrrry slow pace, anyway. Maybe the moosies would be out for us! Maybe bears! Maybe elk or caribou! Maybe fox or wolves or just marmots! That might be the only compensation for my bad decision to put us ON this road in the first place!

Tundra. More tundra. Endless tundra. Hundreds of streams, creeks, lakes and kettles filled with glacial water. And tundra. Perfect moose country yet nary an animal to be seen anywhere. Not even ducks. We did see two big white trumpeter swans on a very distant lake this morning after about 15 miles had gone by, slowly oh so slowly. They were tiny pin dots of white in the distance. And lots of little birds flitted across the road in front of us swooping from a bush on the right to one across the road. That’s all, folks. Little birds.

I certainly know what sub-polar tundra looks like now…I see it in my sleep.

Milepost 124 on the Old Denali Highway is supposed to be “the view” of Denali, But suddenly at Milepost 110 or so we rounded a curve as we climbed a hill and THERE she was in all her splendor: DENALI! Pink and glowing in the early morning sun, that lovely pale peachy-yellow color with pale blue shadows, showing fully, no clouds enshrouding her at all!

Many people never get to see The Great One, because she is so often banked in clouds and weather of her own making. As we drove west and then south, our views got even better. We stopped at one place and hiked up to a high bluff overlooking the deep river valley in Denali National Park, and the view of The Great One was breathtaking. That is one enormous chunk of granite. Stupendous.

As we drove south on the Parks Highway from Cantwell, we stopped at a major Denali View pullout, and hiked up to a high rock overlook. Gorgeous view of the mountain. Met and talked with people there, took their pictures and they took ours…the Christmas card picture parade for 2013. The hike was perfect: Long enough and steep enough to make you puff but not enough to make you stop to rest. Probably a quarter mile straight up. Nice walk! Farther south along the highway there were a number of other fabulous views of Denali. We stopped, took pics, gazed. What was best was that there was virtually no traffic…at one point a guy stopped his car and stood in the middle of the highway and took pictures. No cars in sight.

Our conclusion: No need whatever – WHATEVER – to take the Old Denali Highway for great views of the 20,300-foot Denali. You can see it very very well, thank you, from pullouts along the Parks Highway that goes from Anchorage to Fairbanks. So we need not have suffered the torture machine of the Old Denali Highway to get “the best views.” Live and learn.

Pulled into Trapper Creek RV Park (between Denali NP and Talkeetna) by about noon, registered for an overnight spot, then drove into Talkeetna for lunch. Cute little town, and enough folks had told us to go there that we knew we’d like it. The cottonwoods along 3 different rivers have begun to throw their seeds (cotton) and it is a veritable blizzard, at times so thick you can’t see anything but cotton. I expected my eyes to start watering and itching uncontrollably any second. We kept the air conditioner going and drove directly to The Roadhouse, walked in quickly and joined a bunch of other folks at the long family-style tables.

We ordered two different things the Roadhouse is famous for – knowing we’d each eat half of our order, then we’d switch dishes. This is the way we do things…we each get to taste the best of the best that way. Don ordered a large bowl of their reindeer chili (mixed with a portion of their bean chili), topped with a big pile of chopped onions and cheddar cheese. I ordered a “half order” of the sourdough pancake, which is one enormous pancake that overflows its plate by a full inch or more all around. By far the best sourdough pancake I’ve ever eaten! Sarge was right when he wrote this on the rvforum.net site…it is out of this world!

After lunch we hunted around a bit to see if any of the air services take passengers into the Arctic Circle, which we were interested in doing. Nobody does those flights any more. Rats!

We avoided walking around the cute little town of Talkeetna because of the cotton blizzard and the hordes of cruise-ship passengers who had descended on the place. It was pretty crowded, pretty hot, and awfully cottony.

So we spent the afternoon catching up on various things back at the Rollin Home. Reading. Bills. The News. They have great WiFi here! It’s really great to be in a place with excellent connections to the Internet and strong phone signals. It feels as if we’ve gone months without decent phone and Internet service. Are we spoiled?

Grilled a steak for dinner. Finished off our fresh plums with some Greek yogurt for dessert.

To bed. NO mosquitoes to eat us alive. Cool air. It’s heaven.

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Henry Wishard

  • ---
  • Posts: 376
  • Gone Crazy*** Be Back Soon
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #62 on: June 27, 2013, 12:57:40 AM »
    Hello from the Texans, We are staying in Cooper Landing for the next 4 nights and will be back in Anchorage to pick up Son and grand kids July 11th. Then off to Homer. Sorry we didn't get to meet you guys the other night but I feel like our paths will cross somewhere on this great adventure.
                                                                                                  Henry And Margaret
Henry & Margaret Wishard
12625 Lake Vista Dr
Willis, Texas 77318
2017 Tiffin Open Road

2012 Jeep Rubicon

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #63 on: June 27, 2013, 01:10:06 AM »
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What a great night of sleep we both got last night. I can tell we’re just not made for dry-camping. Hving electricity is really a pleasure, and water etc. We like having air conditioning when it’s hot (or even just to have the fan on so the air is moving, and the fan masks the sounds of trucks on the highway nearby.)

Today, the first order of business was laundry. Two big loads. I also have to say we’re really spoiled by having very nice RV parks available with nice laundry rooms…I love having huge commercial washers available and super-large commercial dryers, too. I had a small-world experience while there…jabbered a long time with a super-friendly gal from Michigan who lives here in Trapper Creek. She attended Hope College in Holland, MI, and often visited many of the same places I did while growing up. We had such fun. She gave me some great pointers for the weeks ahead on our trip, too…

I reorganized my drawer containing all my silverware and kitchen utensils (and a million other things as well…scissors, string, superglue, tacky adhesive, museum gel, knives, tongs, mixing spoon, measuring cups, knife sharpeners, rubber bands, wine opener, can opener, and on and on.) You know the drawer…the one we all have with everything in it…the kitchen junk drawer…except that in an RV, that one drawer weighs a ton because it has so much stuff in it.

By 11 we were ready to take off for Talkeetna to eat at the Roadhouse again, and take a walk around town. We were thinking that maybe later in the day we’d go have wine and appetizers on the outdoor deck of The Alaska Lodge outside Talkeetna, where there is an unparalleled view of Denali from the deck. The first thing we noticed as we drove south, however, was that the haze was thick and Denali was barely visible. Although there were no clouds in the sky, it wasn’t a clear enough day for the mountain to be out. We really lucked out yesterday!

The cotton blizzard in Talkeetna had abated. Hooray! Brunch at the Roadhouse was great. The town was much emptier today…the tour buses with cruise passengers  had not yet arrived. It’s easy to see everything Talkeetna has to offer within, oh, maybe 25 minutes. And that’s generous. Most interesting place other than the Roadhouse is Nagley’s General Store, a real dive of a GS, where I picked up a couple bottles of vino at decent prices.

We spent the afternoon doing nothing. Back at the Rollin Home we just hung out. A very nice day, indeed. Capped it off by having an ice cream cone…real, “scooped” ice cream!

Don did a couple little RV maintenance things…added DEF to the diesel engine, and stuff like that. I shook out all the rugs, swept and double-washed the floors throughout the rig, wiped all the fine dust off every horizontal surface, and cleaned some squished mosquitoes off the insides of the windows. Normally I hate housecleaning chores (except for kitchen chores). But things are easier in an RV. Smaller, for sure. You can have ALL the cleaning done in about a half hour. Just right.

Tomorrow, we go to Palmer for a couple of nights. We’ll stop and do some hiking in Chugach State Park on our way, and visit the MuskOx Farm, among other things. Then do some food shopping at the big Fred Meyer grocery store in Palmer.

Oh, I forgot to include in yesterday’s diary that I made the ostensibly effective “Homemade Mosquito Trap”. Water, brown sugar, and yeast…chemical reaction gives off carbon dioxide, supposedly attracting every skeeter within a wide area, causing the blood-suckers to fly into the jar, get trapped, and die. Hah! I’ve had this thing on the dashboard, and then on the counter for a full day now…not a mosquito in the jar yet. And lord knows we’ve killed an entire army of mosquitoes today with our hands and the fly-swatter. No shortage of mosquitoes, I guarantee.

Today, interestingly, I came across a recipe for a homemade insect repellant you put on your skin…more effective than DEET, the little article claimed. I hate DEET and the repellants with DEET in them…it gets in my eyes and burns like crazy, and irritates my skin a lot. I think I’ll try making this homemade skeeter-beater…alcohol, whole cloves, and baby oil. Pretty simple to make. We’ll see. Do I seem awfully gullible because I’m so darn eager to try these new remedies?
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Marsha/CA

  • Former Staff
  • ---
  • Posts: 4533
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #64 on: June 27, 2013, 11:11:57 AM »
Susie you mentioned wanting to take a flight trip to the Arctic Circle and could not find one.  Not sure you are going to Fairbanks or have already been there; but there you can take a tour flight to the Arctic Circle.  However, I'm kinda remembering you don't like long car rides.  The tour consists of driving one way up the "Haul" road crossing the Arctic Circle then flying back home or vice-versa.  It was a very different trip for us and we really enjoyed it.  It's a long day.  We saw very few animals, but did get to put our feet into the Arctic Circle.  Lots of tundra which you have seen quite a bit of on the Old Denali Road and views of the Alaska Pipeline.  The Haul road is much better than the Old Denali road.

We also took a float plane from Anchorage out to Redoubt Bay, had lunch, took a boat ride to see bears then flew home.  On the flight back home, we flew over Beluga whales.  The pilot circled back around, flew low and we got a great view of them.

Marsha~
2017 Heartland Mallard IDM231 Travel Trailer....Small but mighty.

Derby6

  • ---
  • Posts: 674
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #65 on: June 27, 2013, 11:38:25 AM »
Salty,
  Fred Meyer is Wasilla is much bigger and has a better selection.  Not sure what all you need, just wanted to pass that along. ;)
2015 Ford Explorer (Wifes Ride)
2011 Ford F350 4x4 Lariat Crew Cab/Long Bed/SRW
2011 Honda Civic-- (Beater with a heater)
2007 28' Desert FOX Toy Hauler             
TOYS:
01 Yamaha Kodiak 400
09 Yamaha Grizzly 550
12 Yamaha Grizzly 450
13 Yamaha Rhino 700 (Wifes Ride)
13 & 14  144" & 155" SKI DOO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #66 on: June 27, 2013, 12:35:08 PM »
PS This morning for breakfast we heated up one of the "world famous" cinnamon buns from The Roadhouse in Talkeetna. The claim that they're "the world's best" is justly deserved!!! Surely one of the finest cinnamon buns we've ever eaten! We've passed at least a dozen cafes/bakeries and roadhouses since Calgary that claimed to have "world famous cinnamon buns" and "the world's best" buns...we've not succumbed to most of these claims, recognizing quickly that hyperbole is the name of the game up here in the northlands. We bought one bun down in Alberta or BC, took 2 bites and threw the rest away. Not great, not worth the carbs. But THIS one from The Roadhouse, ooooh la la! They really know how to bake!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #67 on: June 27, 2013, 12:48:31 PM »
Thanks, Derby6, we'll stop at Wasilla's Fred Meyer to shop on our way today!

Also, thanks, Marsha, for the advice about the flight to the Arctic Circle. I went online last night and learned that we could only get one of those trips from Fairbanks...I guess that's off our bucket list for this trip. But the Redoubt Bay trip sounds pretty appealing...I'll check into that!

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #68 on: June 28, 2013, 11:26:09 AM »
Thursday, June 27, 2013

The weather, the scenery, the quietude could not possibly be any better than tonight. It’s 9:25 pm and the sun is getting a bit lower in the sky, casting gorgeous shadows on the VERY high mountains very close to us. Out the side window of our Rollin Home we see a half-dozen huge, jagged peaks of solid granite rising sharply, covered in green tundra about two-thirds of the way to the top, then just pure rock from there skyward. Snow patches dot the crags and avalanche chutes.

We’re relaxing in Mountain View RV Park, just a bit east of Palmer, AK, about 2 miles off the Old Glenn Highway. We weren’t planning to stay in Palmer, but I decided we needed time here to see the reindeer farm just down the road a bit from this park, and most particularly the musk ox farm a bit more to the northeast.

The weather was much cooler today, and the sky a very hazy type of sunshine. Lots of moisture building in the air, but the breezes kept the heat down and the day was simply perfect. A few dark clouds rolled across the sky at one point, but they’ve disappeared and it really doesn’t seem like storms will appear overnight. We have all the windows open and Don has been sitting out at the picnic table reading the news.

Our only complaint about this place is that the Internet is horrible. What else is new, huh? Don says we’ll just have to go back to Starbuck’s in the morning to get on the Internet and do our things…we just love being “in civilization” again. Yes, there are stoplights and plenty of traffic as we get closer to Anchorage. But also shopping centers, real supermarkets, and Starbuck’s! I guess wildness is nice for a change, but the bugs and inconveniences make us appreciate city living all the more. So much for being “country kids.”

A sled dog center is located near the town of Willow, on the way south from Trapper Creek to Palmer. Vern Halter’s “Dream a Dream Dog Farm” sounded interesting from all the writeups, and close enough to the highway that we wouldn’t have to detour 20 miles to get there. Very nice place, but as we drove in and parked at about 12:30, a member of the staff came over and told us the tours were already done for the day, and walk-ins “aren’t what they do” at Dream A Dream. We would have to reserve in advance, at $69 a person, and take the full 2-hour tour, “because anything less doesn’t do justice to the dogs and help with your understanding of what they’re all about.” Oooooookay. So we have to come back another time? Yes, absolutely. Well, forget that, we’re not driving 75 miles back north from Palmer tomorrow or ever to go on a mandatory 2-hour tour of kennels, even if they do have 5 cute little husky pups it would be fun to see.

“Can’t we just see the dogs?” Don asked, courteously. No, Dream a Dream doesn’t allow people to just see the dogs. In other words, they wanna make money on every single person who comes there. Riiiiiight. We drove away.

We did a bit of food shopping in the famous town of Wasilla at a big Fred Meyer store, then went across the street to Colorado-based Sports Authority and found me some new hiking poles…one of mine has stopped working and can’t be tightened any more when it is lengthened from its collapsed state. I use my walking poles a lot…they help me distribute my weight evenly and not limp. Better than using a cane, by far.

Starbuck’s was calling to me…decaf mocha frappuccino, the sirens whispered. Ahhhh, civilization! Neither of us resisted, even momentarily.

After pulling in and hooking up for the night, I collected my 3 ingredients for the Homemade Insect Repellant that I read about online and had purchased at Fred Meyer. Don thinks I’m totally crazy. Took ages to get all the little whole cloves into the bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol. Then when I re-read the recipe, I realized I should have bought 2 cans of whole cloves instead of just one. Oh well, Fred Meyer is right near Starbuck’s so I’ll go back for more in the morning. Then, 4 days of fermenting, and we’ll see.

We talked with a couple of people who live in Alaska and they said they can’t live without the battery-operated bug zappers that look like little tennis rackets. So we bought 2 of them today. I quickly fried a whole bunch of those dang skeeters that were hanging out with us as we drove toward the RV park. Oh, this is gonna be fun fun fun!

Tomorrow we’ll find a credit union and get some cash, and visit the reindeer farm and the musk ox farm.

Tonight we’re just mellowed out after dinner and several glasses of wine. Mmmmm. Took a good long walk around the park, hoping to see the moose that everyone says hangs out here, and usually appears around dusk. Now, early to bed.

Yikes, Don was just “making the bed” for the night (i.e., flipping down the kingsize memoryfoam mattress topper and transforming the twin bunks into our gigantic king size bed) and when he leaned over to close the window on my side, he royally jammed the wide pulldown screen at a cockeyed angle while trying to raise it. Those pulldown screens and pullup blackout shades are fairly fragile, fitted carefully into aluminum runners; they have to be moved quite gently and squarely in their frames or they jam easily. Oh, man, did Don do a job on this one! I hear a bunch of cussing from the back. I’m going to try my best to keep my mouth shut, for once. I guess tomorrow is also going to involve a visit to the local Winnebago dealer to see if we can get the screen fixed.



Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #69 on: June 28, 2013, 11:33:12 AM »
PS It's morning and all is well. I got the darn screen fixed last night before bedding down...you have to firmly but gently raise one side of the screen and hold the other side low, move the high (non-working) side out of its runner and fit the bent plastic slider back into place, then lower that side into place. Whew. It worked. So we had air, and darkness, and we are happy campers. No visit to the Winnebago repair shop in Anchorage today.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #70 on: June 28, 2013, 06:32:31 PM »
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Today, interestingly, I came across a recipe for a homemade insect repellant you put on your skin…more effective than DEET, the little article claimed. I hate DEET and the repellants with DEET in them…it gets in my eyes and burns like crazy, and irritates my skin a lot. I think I’ll try making this homemade skeeter-beater…alcohol, whole cloves, and baby oil. Pretty simple to make. We’ll see. Do I seem awfully gullible because I’m so darn eager to try these new remedies?

If your recipe works, let me know.  Today, we breakfasted with an Anchoragite (?) or Anchoragorian who heads up an environmental agency here.  I asked her what she uses for mosquito repellant, expecting a great recipe.  #1 -- she avoids going outside when they're bad  #2 -- she avoids going to places that have a lot of them  #3 -- if she can't do the first two, she uses 100% Deet.

 By the way, we were having breakfast at a bakery that specializes in healthy foods, and she rode her bike there.  She practices what she preaches.  However......She says that Deet is the only thing she's found to be effective.  And I agree with you.  I hate to use it.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #71 on: June 29, 2013, 12:46:21 AM »
Friday, July 28, 2013

A whole day of just putzing around, seeing things, doing whatever the mood moved us to do, which wasn’t much. The sky was leaden gray today, with heavy misty-rain coming down, the kind your skin just loves. Temps in the low to mid 50s. Moist enough to wet the hair after a while, but cool and lovely to walk in. Just right for me, but you can’t see any mountains at all for all the heavy clouds hanging low.

As we drove toward Palmer on our first errand, we saw a sign for the Reindeer Farm that’s here, so we took a turn and went there first. Nice looking farm on the edge of town, with corrals full of riding horses –they are a riding stable, too – but it was hard to find the reindeer herd. We drove slowly by the place, and spotted about 50 reindeer lying down in the grass in a far corner of their pasture, huddled together for warmth. No one was moving. They sure weren’t going to come eat out of anyone’s hand on a day like this.

So we turned around, went back past the farm for one more look at the small forest of antlers, and set out for the Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union in downtown Palmer – all of about 12 square blocks in size -- to cash a check for spending money. It was very easy to find. My advance research before we left home convinced me the easiest, least expensive and best way to have access to cash while gone for a long time was to join a credit union in Colorado that had extensive affiliations with other National Credit Union Assn. (NCUA) members in Alaska.

By going to one of those affiliates (some 300 of them in Alaska and the Northwest having reciprocal agreements with Bellco CU in Colorado) I’d be able to use many ATMs or go to CU branch offices and pay no fees at all to cash checks or get cash from a machine. Long story short, Bellco did an extremely poor job of providing customer service. After tying up a Matanuska Valley FCU senior teller, Christy (who was a saint!) for 45 minutes while I was put on looooooong holds with 3 different people in Colorado when I phoned to see why my account was blocked for any withdrawals, I finally got my money. But Bellco is going to hear from me, big time.

While I waited, Christy and I talked about lots of stuff. We had become good friends by the time the whole mystery of the account blocks was solved. She suggested we go a few blocks down the street to the historic Valley Hotel on Palmer’s main street to the “Open Café” for breakfast, saying it’s a terrific place and is her favorite. What a hoppin joint the Open Café is! It’s open 24/7 and is always busy, we learned. Great halibut fish & chips (the chips are homemade potato chips, sliced very thin and fried very crispy), and 4-egg omelets. I took half my omelet, with reindeer sausage, home in a container for tomorrow.

After eating, we walked 4 blocks to the Friday Farmers’ Market, at which there were only 2 vegetable stands (it’s early in the season yet), 2 flower/plant vendors, and a couple dozen jewelry and crafts vendors with white tents strung out in a line about a block long, by the old Palmer train depot (no longer in use). Fun and interesting. I bought a jar of local honey…the lady’s bees gather pollen from the fireweed, mostly, so it’s very herbal.

On the way back to our RV, I stopped in at the local bookstore and asked if by any chance they had the Wall Street Journal for sale. The bearded guy behind the cash register looked at me and just laughed. That was my answer.

Fred Meyer was next, for a couple of lemons and some more whole cloves to rev up the anti-mosquito dope. Quick trip.

Thinking the weather might possibly clear in a few hours, we drove to the local library to read the papers and some magazines, use our computers, etc. Within minutes, the lights blinked and we heard an announcement that the library would be closing in 15 minutes, at 2 pm. On a Friday? Strange. Aced out on that one.

The best-sounding attraction in Palmer is the Musk Ox Farm, which everyone we know who has come to Alaska recommended highly. We paid our money for a tour that would start in about 20 minutes, and went through all the displays and read all about the farm, the musk oxen, and the attempts to propagate and domesticate the species after it very nearly became extinct in the 1800s. Musk oxen are remnants of the Ice Age. Neither do they produce musk nor are they oxen -- they are definitely misnamed! The species is much more closely related to goats than to any other mammals.

The warm and very silky layer of inner fur that these animals grow for cold weather protection is the rarest fur on earth, even more than vicuna. This special hair, called quiviut (pronounced kee-vee-ute) is collected each spring, washed, carded and spun into yarns by Native Alaskans living in very remote villages in Alaska, who knit hats, scarves, stoles, tunics and other items for sale through the Oomingmak Cooperative of musk ox producers. The items are very pricey, as you’d suspect, but are so soft to the touch and so special that the temptation was great to buy something. Most items are a natural ash-brown color.

Forty-five minutes after we had paid, the tour still hadn’t been announced. I asked the attendant why things were so slow and was told that one of the musk ox calves had gotten loose and had to be caught. “We’re a working farm,” she said. “These things happen and we have to attend to them before we can allow anybody out into the pastures. We don’t know how long it will take to catch the little fellow.”

I’m a really suspicious (cynical???) person, I guess…her whole demeanor and her explanation seemed pretty phony to me. I think the REAL reason they were waiting so long was to get more people in the door and collect more money before taking anyone on the next tour. After nearly an hour, they still weren’t ready to go, but we were. We walked out, after telling them this was a waste of people’s time. I didn’t want my money back…I just didn’t like someone taking for granted that my time was worth nothing and that I would gladly wait for hours to meet Goliath, the dominant bull of the musk ox pack. Chalk it up as my donation to the farm and the good efforts of these folks to preserve the species and provide work to Alaskan Natives using traditional tribal skills.

Back in downtown Palmer, we went to the Vanguard Blues coffee shop 2 blocks from the Valley Hotel to sit and do computer stuff and read our books for the remainder of the afternoon. Also quite a hoppin little place! Moms and dads came in with their babies and little kids for coffee and bowls of soup. High schoolers came in and hung out for a while. Tourists arrived. Old friends used the place as a rendezvous for catch-up chats. Lots of happy voices could be heard all afternoon. At about 5 pm a couple of fellows who play guitar sat and riffed, whipping out some very competent jazz duets on their instruments. Nice background sounds.

Guess what? We walked back to the Valley Hotel’s “Open Café” for supper. Don ordered a small bowl of clam chowder, which he said was very good, and I had the halibut & chips this time (giving Don 2 of my 5 halibut fingers, the whole little container of coleslaw, and some crispy chips!). Their halibut is divine!

A very nice day of just hanging out. Put all of 6 miles on the Rollin Home today. We’re being very energy-efficient! If the weather is a bit nicer tomorrow, we’ll go to Chugach State Park nearby and hike several trails. We need a good long walk.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #72 on: June 30, 2013, 01:41:09 AM »
A fun read!  I didn't think about pre-planning to join a credit union.  Shoot, I could have even done that with one up here.  Good thinking!  So sorry it didn't work more smoothly, though.  Those good ideas should pay rewards.

I get really mad if I think someone is cheating or deceiving me.  You're a better person than I.  I would have asked for my money back, and if I really wanted to support them, later on I would have sent them the same amount as a donation.  I just hate to see wrong actions win.

It was such fun meeting you guys and chatting tonight.  What a nice surprise!  We're looking forward to seeing you for dinner of halibut cheeks on July 2.  I'll call Anchorage VC tomorrow and try to get more info on July 4th activities.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #73 on: June 30, 2013, 10:43:16 AM »
Saturday June 29, 2013

Another wet, heavy-cloud-cover morning. Off to Target in Wasilla to buy a couple of extension curtain rods that will keep our drawer shut while we travel, given that the stupid (cheap!) plastic latch has stopped working. The bungee cord I’m using right now isn’t doing a very good job.

As we leave the Mountain View RV Park to go to Wasilla, we turn left instead of right onto the Old Glenn Highway. Oops, before we know it, we’re in a little burg named Eklutna, far south of Wasilla. Oh, well, who wanted to go to Target anyway? We’ll find a WalMart or Target somewhere on the way to Anchorage where we can buy the curtain rods.

We decided to cut our stay in Palmer short by one day. We’ve seen everything there is to see, and the weather isn’t conducive to taking the several hikes I’d like to take. Nature Center is one. Bodenburg Butte is another. Darn. So we’re off to Anchorage. We’ll stay at the Golden Nugget RV Park one night, then move to the downtown park where I’ve reserved for 5 days, through July 4.

The Scottish clans in Alaska are holding their Highland Games in Eagle River today, and it’s on our way to Anchorage, so we got off the highway and drove into Eagle River thinking we’d stop and participate a bit. Drove past 3 auto parts places within a city block…O’Reillys, NAPA and AutoZone. Don suddenly remembered he wanted to buy some tubing to replace the broken tubes in our windshield wipers…we whipped around with a New York U-ee. NAPA didn’t have the right size tubing, but AutoZone did. Don fixed the first wiper right in the parking lot of the store to ensure the tubing he bought would work. Then he bought extra tubing for the other wiper, and for the future in case this happens again.

The Scottish Games and the WalMart store were in the same direction in Eagle River. It turned out that in fact the Scottish clans were celebrating at a big park right across the street from Eagle River’s WalMart, so the parking lot was overflowing; no one could get in or out. What a mess. We were foiled in our attempts to shop at WalMart and to attend the Scottish Highland Games in Alaska.

Continued on to Anchorage, got a spot in the RV park for the night, and went looking for the local WalMart nearby. A big Barnes & Noble was very close to WalMart, so Don was in heaven…while I got the curtain rods to hold the drawer closed, he bought the NY Times, which he’s happily reading right now. And we’ll go back to Barnes & Noble early tomorrow to get the Sunday NY Times.

It was getting late and we hadn’t eaten lunch, following a breakfast of only a protein shake and a banana. Stomachs were growling. We headed for the Snow City Café in downtown Anchorage, hoping that the odd hour would mean we could get in without a wait, having heard great things about the food but horrible things about the long lines of people waiting for seats. We found a parking spot only 20 yards from the door, a good sign…and free! No need to feed the meters on Saturday, thank goodness. Walked in and got excited that there were tables available…no wonder, the placed was closing for the day! It was just after 3 pm and the Snow City Café is open for breakfast and lunch only.

I quickly studied my notes about Anchorage, and the map. The Snow Goose Restaurant, a local brewpub that gets rave reviews, was very close by. We walked a few blocks and sat at a table overlooking the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet, at low tide so the mud flats reached far out into the bay. Anchorage is a very busy commercial shipping center. The food and the wide range of prices at Snow Goose were excellent. Great menu. They have a Seafood Chowder that has no shellfish but has 3 types of fresh Alaskan fish – salmon, cod and halibut – so I had a bowl of that and an iceberg wedge salad. Don ordered the daily special, a beautiful piece of fresh wild King Salmon, grilled, with smashed potatoes and fresh sautéed vegetables. Expensive but well worth it ($26.95)

Both dishes were absolutely superb! The chowder was to die for! As good as I can make, which is saying something. And the king salmon was cooked perfectly and was delicious. The salad was huge, topped with loads of bleu cheese crumbles, sliced seedless red grapes and candied pecans. At $7.50 it was a terrific value and delicious too.

It was a bit too late in the day to head for the Anchorage Farmer’s Market a couple of blocks away. We’ll go there tomorrow.

Dean and Linda, with whom we’ve been communicating on RVForum.net about our trips to Alaska this summer, are staying in this RV park. We met them in person for the first time and had a wonderful evening gabbing about our RV adventures.

Don is hounding me to come to bed so we can get the NY Times before it sells out tomorrow. OK, I’m coming, honey. G’night all.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #74 on: June 30, 2013, 10:16:25 PM »
Sunday June 30, 2013

Ah, we got good exercise today, and it feels just great! The only problem with trips, especially long ones, is they disrupt our normal routines and we don’t get as much regular daily exercise as we do when we’re home. At home we take long daily walks and bike rides, and often do several hours of strength training at the local health club as well.

Here, our routine is quite different, usually rising later, getting started later, and if the weather isn’t cooperating fully we don’t take the hikes we planned for or the 2-3 walks a day that we typically enjoy.

We rose early this morning, well rested and chipper. I took a shower at the RV park’s shower room, which was very clean and nice…the shower felt great. Despite the huge number of RVs and campers they jam into that park, close together, the place is quite nice. It is about 5 miles from downtown Anchorage, so you have to drive everywhere, but that’s okay. We pulled out at 8:45, headed for Barnes & Noble to get the Sunday NY Times, then go to breakfast somewhere. Just for the heck of it, I called the Snow City Café to see if there was any chance we could get in. No way. Already a 1-2 hour wait for walk-ins, and no reservations were being taken until after 12:30 pm.

So we went to Kay’s Family Restaurant, south of downtown on Spenard at 36th St. Good place. No wait! Good coffee! And a wonderful special: Corned beef Benedict. Yum. We set and drank coffee, read papers and tourist guides for Anchorage, and generally lollygagged for hours. Typical Sunday morning for us.

At the nearby REI store, we found Don a pair of hiking pants to replace his favorite old Orvis’s, which have developed big tears in the fronts of both legs. They’re probably just disintegrating from age. Also bought a couple of “bug bonnets” which consist of brimmed hats with large attached bug nets that hang down to your shoulders, to keep the swarms of mosquitoes off your face and out of your hair when outdoors.

We drove to the RV park where we’ll be for the next 5 days: Ship Creek RV Park in downtown Anchorage. It’s within walking distance of all the downtown activities of Anchorage, so we wanted to park and walk everywhere, particularly to the Weekend Market and Festival. Ship Creek RV Park is in quite an unusual location, a corner of the city that is semi-industrial, alongside the railroad tracks near the water – the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet.

Upon checking in, we were warned not to leave any food outdoors because a medium-sized brown bear has been hanging around, rattling the garbage containers looking for food. That makes Don anxious. I promised not to make him go out for snacks in the middle of the night!

We took a strange, roundabout route to get to the downtown market from here, about a mile walk. Just right. Hung out at the market looking at all the craft stuff for a couple of hours, then walked down the hill again to the Ulu Factory before returning to the Rollin Home. Yes, I succumbed to the promotions and bought one of the unique Alaskan Ulu knives and a chopping bowl/board to go with it. I like them a lot and they seem practical. I think I’ll use it quite a bit. The only other thing I bought at the market was some smoked king salmon very nicely done by some local folks.

We were tired by the time we got back at 3:30, a bit over 2 miles round trip. The rain never did materialize, though the skies were quite dark all day. The rain probably never came because we had our rain jackets with us…always good insurance.

By 5 pm, the skies began to clear and overall things became brighter. I guess that’s what every day, practically, is like in Anchorage…mornings are rainy, damp, cold and very cloudy and by late day spots of sun shine through and the day brightens. It’s backwards! By the time we walked back to the RV park, we could even see some of the high mountains encircling the city that had been completely invisible earlier.

A bit ago, a strange red bus contraption pulled into this RV park. It’s extra long and the rear half is a kind of double-decker, with smallish 2-foot-square windows on one side but not on the other. Never saw anything like it before. After it had pulled into its spot here, all the passengers got out and went to work opening up one whole side of the bus, extending side panels to make a kind of stage platform, stringing a long curtain over the open side, putting steps in place for people to climb up to their “bunk slots” inside. Hmmmm. A big “camper-bus” is what it is, with sleeping compartments of a sort.

Don, ever the reporter (and detective type!), was out taking a walk and spoke with a German lady who is a passenger on the bus, one of 15 Germans on holiday out of Vancouver doing a 2-week camper-tour of Alaska. They drove up the Alaska Highway (the Alcan), and at the end of their trip, they fly out of Fairbanks to Frankfurt. The bus can take up to 22 passengers on such trips. Each night, the vacationers do all the setup of the bus for sleeping, and they put tables and chairs outside for dinner and socializing.

They’re apparently going to be here for several days. A few minutes before the German campers pulled in, another long bus hauling a big trailer pulled in and parked, too: A gospel singing group of young people from Wisconsin. Boy, they’ve sure had a long haul! These two groups should tie up the bathrooms and showers for days on end, I suspect.

And just now, 6 cars of college-age kids have pulled up alongside the Rollin Home…I see kayaks and paddles, duffel bags and tents being unloaded. “Oh, good,” Don says, “our bear protection has arrived! Could be an interesting night, and a noisy one!”

Oops…one of the kids just ran over to the others and read them the bear warning that’s posted on the office and bathroom doors, and we see all of them hurriedly toss all of their stuff back into the cars, slam all the doors, and drive off. Wow. Fast departure. Nope, they’re not really leaving; they’re just driving down to the far end of the park where there are a bunch of additional tenting sites. They were just parked and setting up in the wrong place.

64,000-dollar question: Are we relieved or disappointed that we won’t get to experience that old college hoopla of the holiday party during the week of July 4 in Anchorage?

Gotta get some dinner ready. Or we’ll munch ourselves to death on potato chips, Hershey bars, wine and other sinful stuff.

As Don says, this place is sure a lot more interesting and exciting than other quiet campgrounds we’ve been in!

« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 10:18:20 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #75 on: July 02, 2013, 02:11:05 AM »
Monday, July 1, 2013      Day 34

Rain, rain. Heavy rain, then light rain, then heavy again. Nonstop. Makes you want to stay indoors all day. We awoke to a heavy downpour at about 6 am and felt sorry for all the folks in tents around us, and the group traveling together in the big bus-camper contraption – they’re going to have to get up early and get out in the rain to close up their shelters and get on the road. Yuck.

The German couple next to us have a really nice big rented truck-camper (the slide-in kind, where you enter from the rear) that they’ve traveled in for a month. They have to return it to the rental agency today in Anchorage, and were out scrubbing energetically to remove all the bugs, sticky-dust and mud from the thing so they get all their money back for turning in a clean unit. They fly back to Germany later today. Yes, the euro is strong against the dollar and there are many Europeans traveling in Alaska this year.

But overall, tourism is pretty slack this summer. Take, for example, the RV park we’re in right now. This is the holiday week, with July 4 on Wednesday, so the days before and the days after should be really busy for everybody in the tourist/travel business. Out of perhaps 100 RV & tent sites here, only about 30 are taken. Pretty poor business. Must be hard for any of these camp operators to make a living. And they tell us it’s been this way for 6 years or so. That’s why we’ve seen so many really run-down RV parks and restaurants along the way, with many of them closed, boarded-up and biodegrading.

Our plan is to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center today, then hit the Anchorage Public Library for a few hours of reading and computer time. I’m trying to find out if the Center involves lots of outdoor exhibits, which we wouldn't’ be able to enjoy in heavy rain. If so, we’ll opt for the Anchorage Museum instead, which has the renowned Smithsonian Center for Arctic Research. Definitely an indoor activity.

We took off at an odd hour, 10:45, and I figured we just might get into Snow City Café for brunch/lunch if we were lucky. Don worried we wouldn’t find any kind of parking places on the street, since it’s a workday and downtown would be buzzing. Ha! Drove right into an open space a block from the café. What luck. Fed the meter for 2 hours and dashed to the café. There was a bit of a wait, but we put our names in and walked a block to Simon & Seafort’s to make a dinner reservation for tomorrow night, July 2, when we’re meeting our RVing friends Dean & Linda for dinner there…to have the world famous “halibut cheeks” of course. Then we walked 2 blocks north to Elderberry Park and the Resolution Point Overlook, which looks out on the harbor of the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet. It’s just a beautiful overlook…we’ve been there 3 times already.

Returning to the Snow City Café, we noticed there was a line of twirly-stools by a counter near the front. Can just anybody take the stools without waiting, if they’re available? we asked. Sure, said the host. Two people were leaving just then, so we grabbed the stools and eliminated the wait for a booth or table. We also had 2 coupons for freebies from our Northern Lights coupon book, which paid off. Don ordered a tuna melt sandwich with a cup of their tomato soup. I ordered Snow City’s stuffed French Toast (stuffed with mandarin orange cream cheese, and served with raspberry butter, along with REAL maple syrup! Yum!) We also both had large decaf mocha lattes. My breakfast was a freebie (coupon) and one coffee was free (coupon). Such a deal. Surely that was the best stuffed French toast I’ve ever had. Our meal was so inexpensive using the 2 coupons, we decided to finish off by sharing an extra-thick vanilla shake. And I bought 2 of their oatmeal-raisin cookies to take with us, for dessert tonight and Wednesday.

Off to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, to visit the Smithsonian Center for Arctic Research and also the exhibit on Northern Art that is on right now. Both are spectacular. The Smithsonian Center, however, has so many items of great quality and interest that I rapidly felt OD’ed and was overwhelmed, because I tend to pay attention to every detail and read every word. I also watched all the movies about the Native Tribal Cultures…Inupiak, Gwitch’in, Aleut, etc., and their languages, their oral histories, their arts and dances and clothing and weaving and snowshoe making and what all else I can’t even remember. It was absolutely riveting.

Looking at the exhibits of artifacts and clothing on display was nothing less than mind-blowing. Such innovative methods of making clothing and boats and tools. Such gorgeous handiwork! The weaving and knotting of sinews for snowshoes is so intricate and beautiful. One ceremonial winter coat, for example, was made up of literally hundreds of perfect little feather hides from crested aurak birds, stitched together in slightly overlapping fashion in perfect straight lines, row upon row upon row. The feathers of slightly larger birds were used at the shoulders, as epaulets in effect. The cuffs, edges of the hood, and front opening were finished in light-colored fur from various animals – fox, wolf, caribou -- with wolverine fur closest to the face, since wolverine hair does not freeze or form ice at the ends in extremely cold weather. This long coat was absolutely magnificent. It must have taken some masterful woman a thousand hours or more to complete this garment. I could hardly take my eyes off of it.

Also incredibly wonderful were the lightweight, waterproof garments that fishermen and whale hunters and seal hunters would wear over all their other clothing during rainstorms and heavy snowstorms. These transparent “long tents with hoodies” that tie tight around the face are tissue-paper thin, made of the intestines of whales and seals and caribou. Processing the intestines involves many hundreds of hours to prepare them for making into garments…rinsing each body piece hundreds of times until the water ran clear, then curing, drying, bleaching, cutting, shaping, and sewing with special sinews and needles. Then putting ornamentation on each one. These were absolutely water-impervious, would never stretch or shrink, and would last many lifetimes. They could be folded tightly and stuffed into a small bag or compartment for easy transport by the hunter until needed. And we 21st century types think we are so dang smart with our man-made fibers…these people really knew how to make extremely advanced, useful items for survival. In some ways, they were way ahead of the rest of the Western world in their knowledge of how to make use of the resources that were available.

In a movie I watched, some Tlingit women spoke of making beautifully-designed ceremonial robes woven using mountain sheep wool. All of the wool from 5 Dall sheep would be needed to hand-roll on a woman’s leg enough yarn just for the warp strands of one section of the garment. And the weaving of the patterned sections is not done on a loom…it’s done with the fingers, so that the patterns are quite intricate. One lady said the made one robe “quite fast” in only 800 hours or so. Another Tlingit weaver said she spent more than a thousand hours making one robe.

The Art of the North exhibit was small, about 40-50 large paintings done between 1870 and 2010, and another 50 or so pencil and ink drawings, most done before 1950. It was outstanding. Most of the large paintings were traditional landscapes done by native and non-native artists living in Alaska. Several contemporary pieces however were quite noteworthy: A Cubist-style landscape done in recent years; a watercolor of a boat’s bow with water reflections and a dock; an oil painting of whale hunters in a traditional boat painted in the 1960s.

The Anchorage Museum was so excellent I could go back there 3 more times and enjoy it just as much as I did today. I have to take exhibits like that, however, in very small bites. The rain had stopped by the time we left the museum, but the weather has turned cold enough for 3 layers. Brisk and delightful. Still gray and cloudy, though.

Our return to the RV park in late afternoon was just in time for us to take naps. Lovely way to end a terrific day. After our delicious lunch at Snow City, a small salad for dinner was all we needed. And our “heart medicine” of red wine, naturally. I had arugula available, some Boston lettuce, cut up a few sugar snap peas for crunch, added chunks of cantaloupe, some sliced grape tomatoes, a few pieces of the outstanding smoked salmon I bought yesterday at the outdoor market, and a few crumbles of bleu cheese to top it all off. Then some fresh lemon juice & olive oil dressing. Perfect.

My list of things to do tomorrow the 2nd, Wednesday July 3 and Thursday July 4 is very long, and most of it involves walking and bicycling. I want to walk the Ship Creek Trail down here along the shoreline of the inlet, where lots of people fish for salmon. And I want to bike the Coastal Trail from downtown Anchorage out to Kincaid Park, also along the shore to the south of the city. Hope it doesn’t rain!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #76 on: July 03, 2013, 04:53:01 PM »
Tuesday, July 2, 2013      Day 35

Up early. Heard hard rain again overnight, but none right now, thank goodness. I hear only train whistles in the distance as early morning tourist trains head out for Denali up north. Dozens of these trains go north each day, coming back late into the night. People told us we wouldn’t like this RV park in the center of Anchorage because of the trains, but they haven’t bothered us at all. In fact, the sound of trains is muted and very nice.

I’ll read a few pages of Michener over coffee this morning, then head out for a walk before we go to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Also, I’ve fermented my cloves in alcohol for enough days now, so it’s time to strain the cloves out and add some baby oil and see if my concoction works to repels mosquitoes. It smells wonderful, I must say. Much nicer than the repellants with all the DEET in them. Still a bit alcohol-y but very nice clove odor. Mosquitoes must hate cloves. Let’s hope!

We set out early for the Alaska Native Heritage Center, arriving just when it opened at 9. Don headed for all the displays and exhibits while I sat down and listened to presentations by natives: Explanation of native cultures, demonstration of native athletic prowess and “games”, drumming and dancing, and finally, storytelling. The narrator this morning was a young Yupik woman who grew up in Anchorage, attended college at the Univ of Anchorage, and is in the process of learning her native language from her grandmother and aunts, some of whom still live in Tetlin, the village of her ancestors, near the Canadian border.

I’m really fascinated by the varied tribes in this vast land, consisting of 11 distinct cultures speaking 21 different languages: The Native Heritage Center organizes these into 5 cultural groups: The Yup’ik and Cup’ik (pronounced choo-pick) in the central western coastal areas of Alaska; the Inupiaq & St. Lawrence Island Yupik in the far north of Alaska (where we in the south generally think of the Eskimos as living), who have always been and still are the renowned whale and seal hunters, using their magnificent invention, the kayak (spelled qayaq in their language); the Athabascans with their 5 or 6 different cultures and 11 completely different dialects, who occupy the enormous inland areas of central Alaska, live off the land as hunters and gatherers and are the ancestors of the Apache and Navajo tribes that migrated south; the Tlingit, Haida, Eyak and Tsimshian fisherpeople who occupy the southeastern islands and coastal areas of Alaska, and carve the well-known huge totem poles that tell great stories and are adorned with magnificent carved and painted designs; and the Unangax and Alutiiq (pronounced ahl-ee-yoo-teek --more commonly known as the Aleuts) who occupy the Kenai peninsula, Kodiak Island and the string of volcanic islands jutting far out into the Pacific ocean, known as the Ring of Fire, had no trees at all and depended entirely on whales, seals, fish and driftwood for food and life. The Unangax and Alutiiq, too, used kayaks, but theirs were distinguished by an advanced design feature called a split bow that aided in navigation.

Watching the Alaska Native Games demonstration was amazing. Different cultures have different athletics, depending on how the group obtains its food and traverses the land, the rivers, the oceans, or the mountains. Children are taught to play these games from infancy, and many old people also still play them, kicking their legs high into the air to kick a tiny ball on a string, for example. Four high school and college age youths, 2 girls and 2 guys, showed how the emphasis on power, strength, balance and focus enables people such as the Inupiaks or Cup’iks who live on the Bering Sea or the Arctic Ocean to jump with great agility from an outcropping of one ice chunk to another when the northern seas are frozen solid in winter while hunting seals, without falling into the ditch between the bergs and possibly drowning instantly in the freezing water, never to be seen again. The enthralling act of standing on one hand while holding one foot in the air and kicking high overhead with the other foot to touch the ball suspended 8 feet in the air is breathtaking – the skill and balance involved exceeds what I’ve witnessed in many Olympic sports. Very impressive!

Dancing by both men and women resembles closely Hawaiian dancing, in both hand and foot movements (on non-movements). Dancers use symbolic moves as well as storytelling moves, very graceful for the women, strong and aggressive for the men. Meanwhile, drummers and singers chant story-music that is hauntingly beautiful. Most songs are very short. The sauyaq (drum) is a long piece of bent wood over which is stretched an animal skin. Note how the word for drum – sauyaq – resembles qayaq, for the boat made of bent wood pieces laced together and covered by animal skins to make it float. These drums were about 28 inches in diameter, and were beaten with whale baleen sticks in the old days (bamboo sticks now). Very powerful sounds.

The Center has six representative villages constructed around a small lake to show how the various cultures lived. At least 6 of the cultural groups constructed shelters partly underground for insulation, and covered with earth or with sticks covered by animal hides, furs and skins. The Athabascans and the Eyak/Tlingit/Tsimshian/Haida groups often built wooden and log houses, since their areas of the land had many trees. One of the narrators at the earlier presentations had told us that all of the natives now live in modern houses, whether in cities or in their native villages. No igloos or hide-covered shelters used any more…they were all destroyed. Ridiculously, the Bureau of Indian Affairs came in during the 1940s-50s and required all native Alaskans to live in modern frame houses, usually built on stilts in their towns, but our narrator pointed out that these houses in native villages are almost always very drafty, poor at retaining heat, and not nearly so effectively insulated as were the earthen homes built partly underground. Makes little sense in a sub-arctic environment where temps drop to minus 70 degrees F pretty often.

We headed downtown and walked around a bit, visiting a few shops and feasting on a wonderful reindeer hot dog served up at an outdoor stand just outside the downtown Anchorage Visitor Center. M&As Reindeer Dogs has been written up, which is what sent us there, and rightly so. Deeeee-licious! They top their juicy reindeer dog with a heap of sautéed carmelized onions. (Their secret of carmelizing the onions is to add Coke to them!) Yum! We sat outside in the brief sunshine (though cold, blustery winds) eating our dogs, just as if we were in New York or Chicago. Fun city stuff.

Back at the ranch, we napped, read books, showered and changed, preparing to meet our friends Dean and Linda at 5:30 for dinner at the upscale Simon & Seafort’s to have their famous halibut cheeks. Probably will be the only time on this trip that we “eat fancy”…we are enjoying not doing anything fancy, in fact. A lifelong friend, Dave, told us we just had to have the halibut cheeks at Simon & Seafort’s in Anchorage…he just loves them. They are indeed, the actual cheeks of halibut…they come off the fish in long thick strands, more like the grain of a pork roast than the typically flaky meat of a fish. Quite tasty, fixed with a bread-crumb-and-cheese coating and sautéed til crispy. Fun to have had such a unique dish while in Alaska, but not sure I’d go back 6 more times.

Our waiter at Simon’s told us that when people come here and go halibut fishing on charters, they often have NO idea that they have to specify to the charter owner that they want to keep their halibut cheeks when the fish is processed for the customer, to ship home or to take along in a freezer. Hence, most charter operators are accustomed to keeping the halibut cheeks and selling them to restaurants like Simon & Seafort’s, with the person who caught the fish never knowing the difference.

Well, I can tell you that if I go fishing for halibut, I will definitely specify that I want to KEEP my halibut cheeks! Nice piece of information to have!

The winds had calmed and the sun was out by the time we left the restaurant at 8 pm. Typical day in Anchorage: morning rain/cold/clouds; afternoon more clouds and brisk winds, sometimes sun breaks through for brief moments; dinnertime, some blue sky, clouds break up, wind dies a bit, sun comes out more clearly, mountains are visible, temperatures quite nice for the first time all day. Interesting patterns.


Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #77 on: July 06, 2013, 02:19:57 AM »
Wednesday July 3, 2013       Day 36

Drove nowhere today. Read our books. Just hung out. Talked to other folks in the RV park. By late afternoon, of course, the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing. We walked quite a long way along the nearby Ship Creek Trail, which leads out to the mud flats along the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet, just north of downtown Anchorage. This is where the cargo ships berth and unload their containers. We watched a big crane move shipping containers around for a while. Grilled fresh fresh fresh sockeye salmon for dinner, outdoors on our little propane grill. Just perfect.

Thursday July 4, 2013         Day 37

The plan: A nice breakfast at 8 in the Rollin Home. Go find parking within 20 blocks of Anchorage’s “Park Strip” just south of downtown at 9. Attend Anchorage Independence Day Parade at 10 am to honor servicemen and women serving abroad and who’ve returned home. Wander around the 50+ “festival” booths at the park after the parade. Then maybe rent bikes and ride the Coastal Trail out west to the end and back.

Foiled again. Rain, and lots of it. Cold. Leaden gray. Stayed in bed. Forget the dang parade, it would be miserable.

Succeeded with the nice breakfast: Melted a bit of butter in my little saucepan, put a layer of hash browns on top to get them really crispy, put a layer of eggs on top of that, some salt & pepper, then a layer of grated Havarti to top it off. Covered the pan, let it puff up and cook til done. Fried up a few frozen sausages to go with, and voila, a terrific feast for a gloomy day.

Some neighbors here in the park came back drenched from somewhere. We asked if they had gone to the parade, and they told us they couldn’t get within 2 miles of it, the traffic was so tangled. A hopeless situation. No parking available anywhere. People walking around in a lot of mud. So they gave up and returned.

Headed out to REI to use our ginormous $20 dividend that has an expiration date of July 15. Don went in to find something to use the dividend on while I researched coin-op laundromats in the area. Best thing to do on a rainy day like this is wash clothes. Indoor activity. Found one within a few blocks, nice and clean, with giant washers and dryers. Perfect. An hour later, everything is clean and ready to go to the Kenai Peninsula tomorrow.

We stopped at the Snow Goose Restaurant on the way home to have that delicious fish chowder again. Changed our minds once inside, however, and ordered the salmon & chips instead. Bad decision. We both got indigestion from dinner that lasted all night. A bummer.

Friday July 5, 2013      Day 38

The Seward Highway south from Anchorage lived up to its reputation as a gorgeous drive. High mountains on all sides, quite close to the road, covered most of the way to their tops in many hues of velvet green. A long part of the drive is along the shore of Turnagain Arm, which runs off the Cook Inlet. Quite the views.

I had read that Potters Marsh on the way south was a good place to stop and walk the boardwalks in this acclaimed bird-watching preserve. Don missed the turnoff, though, and the traffic was so heavy going north and south on this 2-lane highway there was no way we could turn around and go back. On toward Seward!

The turnoff to Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort (also the major ski area in Alaska) offered a café/bakery, an ice cream shop and a store named “Alaska’s Greatest Tourist Trap.” Such candor! The bakery had wonderful apple fritters and very good coffee.

While there, a very attractive young couple at the next table were looking anxiously out the window watching for something or someone, and the young woman began pacing back and forth. Piled near them were 4 suitcases, a small duffel bag and another soft-sided bag. The young woman was dressed in very non-Alaskan garb – a floor-length slinky knit skirt and matching top (very summery!), with a tiny little lightweight 1-button jacket in a cute print fabric, and – get this – open-toed beige patent platform-sandals with ankle straps and 4-inch skinny heels about the size of a kebob skewer. In contrast, other people in the shop had  layers of long-sleeved shirts, fleeces and rain jackets on, with jeans and hiking boots, or high rubber galoshes. It was 50 degrees outside, raining on and off, not exactly pleasant and certainly not summer weather.

I just couldn’t resist asking this young lady what she was doing there, dressed as she was. “Oh, we just got off the cruise ship!” she exclaimed. A shuttle had driven them from Seward where the ship docked to the Girdwood turnoff, dropped them off and drove away. Completely confused, they called Alyeska Resort, where they were to attend a friend’s wedding, and requested the Alyeska’s shuttle come for them. It came, drove through the parking lot rapidly without stopping, and headed back up the hill to the resort. So they called a second time, and were determined not to miss the shuttle a second time, and to run out and wave the driver down if they had to. From New Jersey. Right. Very clearly they weren’t from anywhere near Alaska!

A second stop along this road was supposed to be the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a state and federal project to preserve and restore native species in Alaska. It is 500 acres of drive-through park and wild animal viewing in natural settings. The line of cars and RVs lined up in the driveway waiting to enter was enough to give us indigestion again, so we drove on. We saw as we passed, however, that the AWCC has a large herd of extremely scraggly, scrawny bison in a large pasture. They did not look healthy or well-fed like those in Yellowstone NP or Canada.

I have read The Milepost on this trip everywhere we’ve gone, and was hard at it again today. Oh, good, there’s a nice little grocery store at Moose Pass, Alaska, where I can pick up some butter, honey and tea…and see their water-wheel from 1909 in the process. The third generation of the Estes family runs the store now, and they’ve rebuilt the old water-wheel 3 times since it was first constructed by old Mr. Estes so he could mill his lumber for his cabin. The water-wheel now is used to provide power for a fine old grinding wheel. Two guys were there sharpening their axes when we arrived. Made for some interesting pictures.

The Estes Brothers Store at Moose Pass is long on character and history, short on inventory. Virtually nothing on the shelves. A few barrels of ice cream in the freezer is all. On to Seward!

Glad I made a reservation for the RV park near Seward. The place is jammed full, because of the holiday I guess. We drove into Seward and found our Colorado friends Marion and Tom in their coach parked at the municipal RV park, facing the shore of Resurrection Bay and the mountains beyond. They get to watch cruise ships go in and out, as well as fishing and tour boats of all kinds whizzing by. No water or electricity or sewers, but fabulous views. We took a quick walk together around downtown Seward, and returned to their coach for conversation and dinner just as the rain started pounding. Don and Tom grilled the fresh halibut, standing under an awning to keep dry, while Marion and I fixed corn on the cob and salads. Fun dinner and super-fun being with friends.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #78 on: July 07, 2013, 12:39:01 PM »
Saturday July 6, 2013      Day 39

We went to sleep to the sound of hard rain pounding our roof. Nice noise to sleep by.

We awoke to the pitter-patter of light rain falling on our roof. Within minutes, it had turned to pounding hard rain. What else is new?

Our thick hiking socks have taken 1½ days to dry hanging on the shower rod after we did the washing, because it’s so damp. I can tell it would be difficult to NOT get moldy up here. What a dramatic change from the brittle dryness of Colorado. In Colorado, those socks would have been bone-dry after 3 hours. My skin likes this moisture. And we’re not constantly craving water here…we drink much less water during the day than when we’re home, where we are never without a full bottle of water in our hands, always sipping from it. I’d bet I gulp at least 70-80 oz. of water a day when in Colorado; yesterday I drank only 2/3 of a 24 oz. bottle here. Plus the usual cups of tea and glasses of wine, of course.

We are almost creeped-out at how jammed full this RV park is, after being in parks that were nearly empty from the time we left home. Because it’s a holiday weekend, and the Kenai Peninsula gets a lot of Anchorage crowds on weekends, it’s full here…about 85 RV sites and it’s packed.

Today’s plan: Visit the Sealife Center aquarium, walk around town (there are some nice shops and galleries here), go to Safeway for tea/butter/honey/lettuce, maybe sit and have coffee in a coffee shop. Cross our fingers that the weather clears for at least one day while we’re here so we can go on the Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.

10 pm and headed to bed. Didn’t do any of the things I planned for today. Hard rain all day. No letups. A few times the rain changed character and turned into thick sheets of falling mist, though. That’s when Don took walks and I left the Rollin Home to walk to the bathrooms, talk to people and get out of our teeny tiny apartment for a bit.

I am nearly finished with Michener’s Alaska, though. That’s a good thing. The book gets better and better, also a good thing. Otherwise, any sane reader would give up on it long before finishing. So I’ve been absolutely riveted to it during rainy days.

Oh, one final thing…at 8 pm our neighbors next door, 2 couples from Loveland, Colorado camping in a huge 5th-wheel trailer pulled by a big fancy pickup truck, returned from a long day of flyfishing on the Upper Kenai River. They had 2 gorgeous sockeye salmon, which they filleted and cooked for dinner, along with sweet corn. But I gotta say, that was one helluva long day of fishing for 2 fish! They left very early in the morning, maybe 7 am, and returned at 8 pm, had dinner at almost 9 pm sitting outside at a picnic table in the cold and heavy rain (though covered by a nice tent/canopy on stilts). Not my idea of heaven. They’ve been here 2 weeks already and are staying another 2 weeks, Don learned.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #79 on: July 07, 2013, 10:37:39 PM »
Saturday July 6, 2013      Day 39
We are almost creeped-out at how jammed full this RV park is, after being in parks that were nearly empty from the time we left home. Because it’s a holiday weekend, and the Kenai Peninsula gets a lot of Anchorage crowds on weekends, it’s full here…about 85 RV sites and it’s packed.
Today’s plan: Visit the Sealife Center aquarium, walk around town (there are some nice shops and galleries here), go to Safeway for tea/butter/honey/lettuce, maybe sit and have coffee in a coffee shop. Cross our fingers that the weather clears for at least one day while we’re here so we can go on the Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.
Same situation at our park in Homer--108 spaces, sold out--all spaces are $73/night!  But this evening, we see empty spaces.  The Sealife Center is fun, but not huge, so you didn't miss a big event.  But...the Kenai Fjords NP cruise--the marine life cruises are the #1 thing in my book about Alaska.  I know you're not doing Valdez, so unless you are going out of Whittier later on your itinerary, you might want to skip something else and do at least one marine cruise, especially since we should see the sun for the next couple days.  I'm not saying where to go, just try to put at least one marine cruise in. They make my heart sing.  We've discovered that we should have planned fewer days in Homer since I couldn't fish and they have a 32' change in height of pier with the changing tides, so the ramps are way too steep for me to even do the birding cruise.
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

ArdraF

  • ---
  • Posts: 9779
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #80 on: July 08, 2013, 12:28:38 AM »
We did a 26 glaciers cruise out of Whittier and one in Prince William Sound out of Valdez.  Both were wonderful!  The one from Valdez was the last of the day.  The captain had been talking with a shrimper and asked if anyone had to keep a schedule because we could go out to the shrimper and buy just-caught shrimp.  We all jumped at the chance and those were the best shrimp we've ever eaten.  They handed across one pound bags of shrimp in nets and we returned the nets with payment.  Our only problem was that we only bought one pound!  Makes my mouth water thinking about it.

We really liked Valdez.  It's in such a beautiful setting.  There's a campground right on the water and it was such fun to eat meals and watch the sea otters floating by on their backs and eating clams.  They're not only cute but clever little critters.

ArdraF
ArdraF
:D :D

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #81 on: July 08, 2013, 02:25:56 AM »
Sunday July 7, 2013      Day 40

Today is my best friend Emmy’s birthday. I hope she is having a great time back in Illinois. We’ve been friends since we were born, literally. Our moms were best friends for years. We grew up within 4 houses of each other, close to Grand Rapids, MI.

This is the first day in what seems like weeks that it hasn’t been raining HARD when we got up. (But it was raining HARD an hour earlier!) Our picnic table is almost dry, with only a few puddles on it! Yahoo!

Despite no rain right now, the clouds are hanging down very low over the mountains at either end of the park. Can’t see a thing behind the nearest row of spruce reaching tall into the sky. Lots of people have already pulled out of the RV park and headed for home at the end of the holiday weekend. The place is looking much emptier this morning.

Off we go to do things today!

Ah, it’s almost time for bed now, and we’ve had a wonderful day. The sun never popped through the heavy cloud cover, but it tried. So there was brightness at least, and little or no rain, until evening. Makes life seem good, and it was such fun to be out and about. The winds were brisk, though, and temps very cool, so it was a 3-layer day.

As we drove towards town, we saw that another big cruise ship is in the harbor. Not as big as the last one, so there won’t be quite the hordes of people as there were a few days ago. A different ship must arrive about every 36-40 hours. Despite the ship, the streets were far emptier than previous days, and parking was readily available everywhere. We stopped at Safeway and bought a few things we had run out of, such as teabags, honey, etc., along with some fresh apricots and more bananas.

The Alaska Sealife Center here in Seward is billed as Alaska’s premier aquarium. Welllllll…it was okay, mostly because it’s in Alaska. But the polar bear exhibit at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo far outdoes almost anything at the Sealife Center. And Chicago’s Aquarium is vastly better than this center. But, okay, we did see a fantastic stellar seal swimming around in his tank. And the “Life of the Salmon” exhibit is terrific…from movies about the spawning process, to a view of fertilized eggs, and tanks showing salmon at every stage of life. Loved it. Especially since I just read the section of Michener’s Alaska about Nerka the salmon and his quest for survival. Good story, good exhibit.

One thing Alaska has that no place else has, though, is puffins, which are about the cutest critters on earth. And the Sealife Center has only a couple of puffins in its tanks….they need lots more puffins, for heaven’s sake! I heard people around me saying the same thing…where are the puffins?

Our friend Marion had told me about which of the town’s gift & souvenir shops were best, so we wandered up the street to visit a few. A local working in a shop told us the best fish place in town is Thorn’s Bar on 4th Street, so we headed there for lunch. It’s where all the locals go for fish, we were told. When was the last time we had lunch on a Sunday afternoon sitting in a dark, smoky bar watching the Chicago Cubs play the Pittsburg Pirates, if ever? Well, there we were. Don was immediately engrossed in the game, ordered a beer, and settled in. We ordered Thorn’s “special” which is a bowl of fresh halibut – about 12 2-inch-square sized chunks of fish – very lightly battered and flash fried for about a minute. Served without fries or anything, just lemon and tartar sauce. Good price. Delicious. Perfect!

There are a couple of shops here that have nice quality Alaskan-made stuff, at prices that don’t seem totally outrageous. But I quickly get bored with shopping and seeing the same stuff over and over, no matter how nice it is. I actually would like to have a nicely carved totem pole about a foot tall, maybe painted, maybe not…but it’s hard to know as yet what is good quality and decent value. Some of them are priced above $100 and seem to be a rip. I’m still in the decision-making mode on that purchase. I bought a nice memento of Seward though…a 2014 calendar for $10 full of terrific Alaska wildlife photographs. The one of the moose with his head in the water is better than I could ever see in reality. Next year it’ll remind me throughout the months of this wonderful adventure.

Don stayed at Thorn’s Bar until the game ended…the Cubbies lost, again…then joined me. We topped off our Seward adventure with a dish of very excellent gelato at the ice cream store that is part of Brown & Hawkins, Seward’s general store in business since 1900.

Cruising to the Kenai Fjords National Park seemed fruitless with the sky laden so heavily with thick clouds hanging low over all the mountains. We weren’t anxious to waste a ton of money seeing nothing but clouds, especially on a day that was so windy and cold. When I go on a cruise, I like to stand at the bow railing and have the wind blowing in my hair and the water spraying on me…today was not the kind of day for that exercise! Cruises will have to wait for another day.

Don decided we should take a drive out to Powell Point for the heck of it. Our neighbor in the RV park had told him about the place and said there is another RV park out at the end of the point, along the bay. The road goes along the shore, just above the water of the bay. On the land side, a steep mountain rises straight up inches from the side of your vehicle; on the bay side are large rocks and a steep dropoff into the bay. The road, if you can call it that, is gravel and narrow and filled with potholes, some small, some quite large and deep. This was quite the adventure! In several places, vehicles have to pull over and wait for an oncoming vehicle to pass, because the road is too narrow for two vehicles to be abreast. There are two one-lane bridges along this road, as well. Several times I wondered if there would even be a wide enough place for us to turn around farther out towards the point.

If I had suggested to Don that we do this drive, and had tkane our precious Rollin Home out there, he would have gone ballistic, and never forgiven me. But since this was HIS idea, he was quite determined to see it through! There were a few times when it was impossible to weave our way through the maze of potholes with enough agility, and at several places we were really rockin and rollin! People coming towards us who were waiting for us to pass were watching us with amazed looks on their faces – and laughing when we finally got by them.

Good grief, this was certainly as punishing as being on the Old Denali Highway! We reached Powell Point after about 5 miles of this. Can you believe, there’s an actual residential suburb (of sorts) of Seward way out there? I cannot believe in my wildest dreams that people living out there actually have to take that road twice a day (or even 4 or 6 times a day) in any season, much less in winter! The state recreational area and RV park are pretty interesting…lots of RVs and tent campers, probably because it’s very cheap! And windswept, for sure!

Upon our return to Seward, we parked the Rollin Home in the municipal day-use RV parking lot facing the shore of Resurrection Bay to watch boats going in and out, and people taking walks, and the activity of the town. Waves were lapping barely 4 feet from the front of our vehicle. The wind was high enough that they were decent sized waves too…the bay was covered in whitecaps all afternoon. The wind was whistling and buffeting our side, so we felt a bit like sailors out on the water. I saw perhaps 20-30 sailboats, large and small, out for the day. Brave souls, I must say. This is real cold-weather sailing, for stout hearts and well-bundled bodies.

As I sat looking out at the bay watching dozens of seagulls dipping and gliding in the winds, suddenly a very large bald eagle flew gracefully by our window, not even 4 feet away, down at my eye level! My first Alaska eagle, close up and personal! He landed nearby on a dock piling and sat there a while, then flew off. Made my day!

Don took a long walk while we were parked in Seward by the bayshore. I read my book and stared at the “big water” to get my water-fix. After returning to our park for the night, we took another walk around the park and along Stoney Creek, aptly named because it certainly is stony. The creek-bed is wide and looks as it a bulldozer created it….or maybe it was dredged for gold back in the day? We asked at the office and were told that the creek-bed is naturally that way, made so by a huge flood that swept through 3 years ago, which turned a little narrow stream into the big wide creek it is today. Apparently the creek has never been dredged for gold, but quite a few locals pan for gold regularly along this creek. No one divulged whether anyone who pans has found any gold specks or nuggets.

Tomorrow, we head for Kenai. Should be an interesting drive.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #82 on: July 09, 2013, 12:03:28 PM »
Monday July 8, 2013      Day 41

What a day! Good, yucky, then better, then ugly, then fabulous!

Sunshine makes a world of difference, to be sure. Yes, it was a bit cloudy at first, and a bit drippy, but bright enough to see that at some point the sun would actually shine. Hooray!

I got up about 7; Don had a fitful night and slept in until about 8:30. We both felt rested and eager for the day, excited to be going, finally, to the real Kenai Peninsula where fishing is a big deal. We only had about 120 miles to drive today, and though it would be on 2-lane roads most of the way to Kenai from Seward, we assumed the traffic would be fairly light on a Monday. We buttoned up the buggy, and went to the central “dump station” at the RV park to empty our so-called black water and gray water tanks, and had a minor disaster…all my fault.

I am flexible enough that I can easily bend down and hook the sewer hose we use to empty the tanks onto the outlet. The hose has 3 little hooks that latch onto 3 little pegs sticking out of the fitting on the vehicle’s outlet pipe. Trouble is, my hands aren’t as strong as they need to be to get a good lock of the hose to the fitting. When I put it on, my hands encased in our handy-dandy nitrile gloves from Costco, of course, I always give it a tug to make sure I have it tight enough. I did that routine this morning, naturally, and it was secure. I thought. So I proceeded to pull the black handle to empty the black water tank (ie, toilet waste) and whoooooosh, the sewer hose detached from the outlet pipe and you can guess what happened. Oh shit. Literally. What a dreadful mess.

Enough said. I cleaned everything up, which took a while. Neither of us got hit with the cascade, fortunately. Finally we set off for Kenai, going north once again toward Moose Pass, beyond which we would find the turnoff for the Sterling Highway, aka Hwy 1, toward Soldotna and Homer. Along the way are supposed to be some really great walking trails and wildlife viewpoints. About a half-hour into the trip, the sun popped through and the day turned clearer. Terrific scenery. As we went west on the Sterling Highway toward Soldotna, we drove along the head of Kenai Lake, and got our first glimpses of the gorgeous, turquoise-colored Kenai River that everyone raves about. Wide, deep and fast-flowing with waves cresting in whitewater plumes as it passed over rocks, this jewel of a river looks every bit as splendid as its fishing reputation.

At one point, I spotted a golden eagle perched on a rock on a small island in the river and asked Don to slow down, and turn around, please. A pullout was just ahead; New York U-ee is easy. He kept on going. And speeded up to 60 mph from 55 mph, because he said he had a big Class A motorcoach on his tail. I said, So what? Ignore him. Turn around, please. I want to go back and see the eagles at the river. This is what we came to Alaska for. He kept on going, fast. Whizzing past trailheads, pullouts, parking spots, everything. You can guess what I was saying. Not very quietly or nicely, either.

Needless to say, I was furious. And Don knew it. He was being obstinate just to be obstinate and prove some idiotic point. Men. Such numbskulls at times.

At a bridge over the Kenai River, a big bunch of fishermen and guides were loading themselves and their gear into 4 or 5 rafts to float the river and fish along the way. Everyone was stopped to watch the goings-on. Not Don. Didn’t even slow down. Whizzed on by.

Finally at Soldotna, a good sized burg, he slowed down and turned into the lot at the big Fred Meyer store, to buy fresh bottles of water and a bag of ice that we needed. Oh, goody. I also wanted to buy a spray bottle of Clorox household cleaner with bleach, to clean off the soles of our shoes after the morning’s dump-station mishap. So we began speaking again. It’s hard for me to stay angry for very long. Thank goodness.

We also had a mission in Soldotna: Find the amazing BBQ guy that our friends Linda and Dean said makes the finest smoked ribs and pulled pork they’ve ever eaten, bar none. Black Jaxx BBQ. Located at about Mile 1 of the Kenai Spur Road, so it’s right on our way! We found it all right, but had to turn into a lot just past the place and retrace our route a bit to get back to this little joint. Well worth the effort!

I know we’re really here for the fish, but Black Jaxx has been smokin’ his meats up here every summer for 20-odd years, and man, is this stuff great! This Texas guy knows his stuff about doing Southern-smoked meats and very-southern baked beans full of chunky meat and bacon. Juicy pulled pork. Fall-off-the-bone ribs. And, of all things, smoked pure-beef BOLOGNA! Just had to try that…I have always adored bologna…especially fried bologna sandwiches as a kid in Michigan. And the baked beans…yum!  Bought some ribs for our lunch. Some pulled pork and a container of beans for dinner. And a bit of smoked bologna for me, for tomorrow sometime.

Beluga Lookout RV Park in Kenai sits on a bluff overlooking the beach and the mouth of the Kenai River, looing out to sea over the Cook Inlet. In the far distance are the huge volcanoes that herald the start of the Aleutian Islands chain…The Ring of Fire, as they’re known. This is a wonderful RV park…vehicles close together, but a great location. I was glad I had made my reservation ages ago and had assured us of a front-row seat. We face the water on the edge of the high bluff, wind blowing at us quite briskly and rocking the vehicle a bit. Somewhat like being on our sailboat back in the day. I like it! I’ll sleep well tonight.

We walked through the old town of Kenai, which is within a couple blocks of our location and is only a few blocks in size, but has some interesting historic buildings. The old Russian Orthodox church, a frame building with two onion-dome-shaped steeples in sky blue, is from the late 1800s. I’m planning to go back tomorrow to see the inside. Several historic houses are built in a style with squared logs and hand-hewn dovetail joints at the corners…quite the task back in the 1800s, I’m sure. But they lock together extremely well and are very solid structures that have stood the test of time admirably.

As we turned toward the RV park, we spotted the cliff path down to the beach. Of course we had to take it. The tide is rolling in fast and it was just so tempting to stroll the beach for a while toward the mouth of the river, maybe find a good stone and a nice piece of driftwood as mementoes. We met and talked with a nice couple from the Seattle area whose 10 year old son was digging a giant hole in the sand, took their family picture and they took one of us, then headed back up the hill. Great path over 2 nice humped bridges, and very good exercise.

Okay, gotta clean up the Rollin Home and disinfect the floors after our morning mishap. Roll up the dirty rugs, put em into big garbage bags to be washed later. Sweep the RH floor thoroughly, then wash the floors 3 times, with bleach and disinfectant. Don thinks we should just throw the rugs away and buy replacements at WalMart tomorrow. I’d go for that.  Then I sprayed and disinfected the soles of our hiking boots with Clorox cleaner & bleach. I should have remembered that bleach does awful things to my hands…when will I ever learn to wear gloves when I do bleach jobs? I now have a bunch of sore cracks on my palms that will need lots of lotion and maybe Neosporin repairs.

After all that housecleaning activity, I was hot and sweaty and headed to the showers to bathe. Wonderful clean showers here. Lovely. Oh it feels great to be squeaky clean!

Throughout the remainder of the evening, and through dinner, we sat in the driver & passenger seats of Rollin Home and looked out at the sea, watching literally hundreds of small and medium-sized commercial fishing boats coming in from their day at sea…hundreds of them kept appearing from out of the mist, endless strings of them!!! At first we thought maybe these were charter boats that took paying passengers out to fish for halibut and flounder, but we could see through the binoculars that there were no passengers on these boats, just captains and crew…only 2-3 people on each. A few boats had tall rigging for hauling in large nets…they must be shrimpers. Most others just had heavy-duty winches in their sterns with big cables…they must be halibut and flounder fishermen that haul fish up from the bottom in hundreds of feet of water. They kept coming, and coming, and coming. A never-ending stream of boats. Sometimes I could count 35 or 40 at a time.

As the tide flowed rapidly in and met the river’s outflow, some steep waves built at the channel entering the river, and the boats plunged their bows deeply into the troughs of waves, never slowing. Later in the evening as the tides receded once more, the waves lessened and the entrance was much calmer. My gosh, it’s now 11 pm and the sun is very low in the sky and fishing boats are still coming in, final stragglers in singles instead of big groups.

This is the most action we’ve had on the whole trip. Such fun to watch. The clouds in the far distance to the southwest periodically lift and we can see the huge volcanoes poke their heads out, pale yellow and pinkish in the evening light. The biggest of them, some 11,300 feet, is completely snow-covered.

We absolutely LOVE it here! I so wish I hadn’t decided to shorten our stay in Kenai to only 1 night, on the advice of a friend who said there’s very little to see or do in Kenai. That’s probably true…the town itself might not be much, but I adore all this harbor activity. I could stay here a week or more and love every minute! I’d walk that cliff path 2 or 3 times a day, and stroll the beach endlessly. Don too!

Oh my gosh it’s a few minutes after 11 now and a big golden eagle just flew gracefully and quite slowly past our windshield, with a bunch of screeching gulls hot on his tail. The eagle must have just caught a fish and the gulls want it! We continued watching attentively, and a couple of minutes later 2 golden eagles flew past, wing-tip to wing-tip. As they got just beyond us, they turned and headed south over the mouth of the river, so we could watch them for quite a while. Is this great or what?

It’s turning a bit darker now, 11:30 at night, and 4 more fishing boats are straggling in. The tide has swept out again, and a very large oval-shaped area below us has turned into a big mud flat. Hundreds of gulls are gliding in big circles up here at our eye level. We can see that a similar big mud flat to the south of us is covered with thousands of wading gulls milling around.

In 2 days, on July 10, the dip-net fishing for salmon starts as the 2nd salmon run of the year gets underway. Some eager-beaver dip-netters started staking out their beach spots below us tonight, one of them even pitching his tent near the dune on the beach, trying to “reserve” his spot. But some officials who look and act like cops come along and tell these folks they are breaking the rules, whatever the rules are, and people then leave. Not sure these officials are really cops…maybe BLM rangers. They even took the tent down and hauled it away. On Wednesday, we understand, the beach below us at the mouth of the river will be lined solid with hundreds of fishermen wielding giant dip-nets with long handles catching hundreds of salmon before they head up the Kenai River to spawn.

Alaskan Natives have dip-netted for salmon for thousands of years here at the mouth of the Kenai when the salmon run starts. They need hundreds of fish to dry and eat during the cold winter months. We’re not sure whether only Natives are allowed to dip-net for fish, or anybody can do it if they’re willing to purchase a license. Our RV park has a whole stack of huge dip-nets available for sale or for rent. I wish we were staying to watch this.

To bed now. Want to get up early and see if the fishing boats go out early in the morning. Will there be more eagles? Will I be able to see the volcanoes in the distance?
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #83 on: July 10, 2013, 02:09:27 AM »
Monday July 8, 2013      Day 41
 Oh shit. Literally. What a dreadful mess.

Needless to say, I was furious. And Don knew it. He was being obstinate just to be obstinate and prove some idiotic point. Men. Such numbskulls at times.

I know we’re really here for the fish, but Black Jaxx has been smokin’ his meats up here every summer for 20-odd years, and man, is this stuff great!


Susan, don't feel too bad about your "dump" mistake.  Anyone who's been RVing for a while has probably had a similar story.  For us, it was when Dean had two hoses together and the joint failed.  You've now had your baptism by ____.

You're right on about men being numbskulls.  And, of course, they think we are, too!  That's part of RVing, too.  You get to love the things you love about your spouse even more--like Dean's tenacity in getting our satellite up.  Of course, a few minutes before he achieved success I was thinking, "How many hours are you going to continue to invest in this thing??? Your time has value, and I'm tired of hearing that grrrrrr sound going off over my head.  IT DOESN'T WORK! "  Until it did...

We came into Black Jaxx just a couple of hours after you.  We missed each other because you got to the Kenai turnoff before we did. They told us you'd been in and sampled their wares.   I've never had fried bologna, but it sounds sinful.  I didn't try their bologna, but if I'm back up here again, I will.  Dean and I reminisced about how we ground bologna with sweet pickles for his lunch when we were first married, but it's been at least 30 years since we ate any bologna. When we were growing up, our parents made two kinds of sandwiches--PB&J and bologna, and rarely tuna salad or egg salad.  Now, when we make sandwiches, it's  usually turkey because it's healthier.  It's interesting how we change without even realizing it.

While in Kenai, check out the Burger Bus (Dean loved it!) and if the Art Fair is going on at the Chamber of Commerce, I'd pay the money go to see it again.  They had some of the finest art we've seen in Alaska.  Also, when we were in Kenai, we were told not to photograph the Russian church, that the members found that offensive.  Visiting is fine, except during services, but pictures not so fine--in fact, there was a sign by the parking area. 

Happy trails and "eagling"!
« Last Edit: July 10, 2013, 02:19:05 AM by Dean & Linda Stock »
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

Marsha/CA

  • Former Staff
  • ---
  • Posts: 4533
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #84 on: July 10, 2013, 12:12:18 PM »
These logs are so fun to read!!!

Linda, I grew up on fried bologna (baloney) sandwiches and to this day it still makes my mouth water to think about them.  I loved them.  Did you know you are supposed to cut little slices around the ousides of the bologna so that it lays flat when you fry it and doesn't curl up.  Little trivia info for ya. 

SaltyAdventure, Ahhh, a "slapping my forehead" dumb move re the dump station event.  Welcome to RVing. 

We loved the Kenai Penisula. And tell Don he is lucky he's not married to me, he would not have gotten off so easy for not turning around so we could see the golden eagles.... :P   When we were in the Kenai last year, we hired a fishing guide, fly fished the Kenai River and saw a young grizzly eating salmon on the banks.  That is such a beautiful river.  BTW, eagles are very lazy, they steal the fish and anything eatable that every other bird catches.  When we were camped in Seward along the bay, some sea gulls had retrieved the insides of a fish that a fisherman had discarded.  Smart eagles just flew in...swiped the goodies and flew away.  Poor Sea Gulls.

Also, just for the record, Puffins are also in Newfoundland, not just Alaska.  When we saw them in NFL, it was on a very high bluff.  They would dive a 100 feet into the waters below, be under water for several seconds then pop up like "bobbers" on a fishing line.  Cute! 

Enjoy the rain....it rained almost continually the 2 months we were there.  We did everything in the rain.

Marsha~
2017 Heartland Mallard IDM231 Travel Trailer....Small but mighty.

Derby6

  • ---
  • Posts: 674
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #85 on: July 10, 2013, 12:37:40 PM »
And Don knew it. He was being obstinate just to be obstinate and prove some idiotic point. Men. Such numbskulls at times.
Go Don Go….lol
My dad has made some long travels with me to and from AK and always wanted to stop.  I was driving and had a schedule…


At a bridge over the Kenai River, a big bunch of fishermen and guides were loading themselves and their gear into 4 or 5 rafts to float the river and fish along the way. Everyone was stopped to watch the goings-on. Not Don. Didn’t even slow down. Whizzed on by.
As you crossed that bridge you were at the mouth of the Kenai river.  On your left was Kenai Lake and on your right was Kenai River. Check it out on your return trip.  Where your camped now is the other mouth!
If Don is a Big game guy you can get him to stop there on the return. ;)  In the parking lot where you saw them launching boats there is a board walk with tele-scopes that you can use to see the sheep up in the mountain across the river! 


Alaskan Natives have dip-netted for salmon for thousands of years here at the mouth of the Kenai when the salmon run starts. They need hundreds of fish to dry and eat during the cold winter months. We’re not sure whether only Natives are allowed to dip-net for fish, or anybody can do it if they’re willing to purchase a license. Our RV park has a whole stack of huge dip-nets available for sale or for rent. I wish we were staying to watch this.
Only Alaska Residents can Dipnet.  Permits are free, but you must record/report what you catch.  Limits vary depending on the fishery, but that one in particular is 25 fish for the head of household and 10 more fish for each additional person/dependant. (Family of 3 limit is 45; Family of 4 limit is 55; etc..)
Limits are much different and higher for Natives in remote areas that truly use the fish to survive.  They even use ‘fish wheels’, which is a pretty neat process.  Come to think of it I believe some residents place fish wheels on the Chitna river; not just ‘Natives’.
2015 Ford Explorer (Wifes Ride)
2011 Ford F350 4x4 Lariat Crew Cab/Long Bed/SRW
2011 Honda Civic-- (Beater with a heater)
2007 28' Desert FOX Toy Hauler             
TOYS:
01 Yamaha Kodiak 400
09 Yamaha Grizzly 550
12 Yamaha Grizzly 450
13 Yamaha Rhino 700 (Wifes Ride)
13 & 14  144" & 155" SKI DOO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #86 on: July 10, 2013, 06:08:18 PM »
Tuesday July 9, 2013      Day 42

A gorgeous, perfect, sunny day in Alaska. They do happen. Rarely, maybe. I can’t say. But it sure does perk me up and make me want to be outdoors all day!

I took my trusty little coupon for a 15% discount of all purchases from the Beluga Lookout gift shop and went shopping early today…I wanted a couple of gifts for very special people, and I had discovered yesterday that the Native Alaskan carved figures of whale bone, whale baleen, jade, caribou antlers, walrus tusks, etc. were far less expensive here than at the souvenir places along the streets of little Alaskan towns. And they’re nicer quality, too. Aha!

I found the absolute cutest little Inupiak tribe (Eskimo) “Billikin” carvings for these two people…little cherubic figures with round cheeks and round little bellies that are fetishes to bring good luck, especially when the holder rubs the little round belly of this billikin thing. It’s carved out of walrus tusk, and is only about 3 inches tall. Quite charming. And there’s a neat little poem…more like a jingle, really… that goes with it: “As a blues chaser, I’m a honey – To bring good luck just rub my tummy.”

Naturally I couldn’t resist buying a great little carving for myself, too. Kind of like Christmas shopping – One for you, one for me! The carving I bought is of whale bone, whale baleen and walrus tusk, depisting an Inupiak seal hunter of the far north in a kayak holding a harpoon above his head, with a ring of sealskin fur around his face and the “rope” attached to the harpoon made of whale sinew. This whole scene is perched on a big green soapstone rock base, at an angle that makes it look as if the seal hunter is riding a big wave. The kayak is about 10 inches long. It’s very artistic and nicely done. About a third of the price I saw for similar carvings in Anchorage, Seward and other places.

We walked down the cliff path to the beach again. We walked down the path with a local guy who was going fishing. He pointed out a number of interesting birds to me while we walked…a cute little yellow bellied “wobbler” as he called it. Warbler, maybe? Across the marsh he spotted a herrier (member of the falcon and eagle family) going after small critters. Don spotted the same bird later as we walked back up the path to the top of the bluff.

The tide was out, allowing me to walk far out on the flats looking closely for interesting rocks, pieces of driftwood, feathers, maybe even some sea glass. Oh how I love to do the beachcombing thing! I didn’t find any sea glass (darn it!) but I soon had a good pocketful of polished egg-shaped agates, a nice chunk of lava, some marble-sized stones full of copper in a burnished turquoise color. And an eagle feather!

Fine of the late stragglers among the commercial fishing vessels entering the harbor after a long day in Cook Inlet had become grounded in the channel at low tide late last night. They were running their engines, probably to keep the fish refrigerated in their holds. But it looked as if they would be sitting there til at least 2 in the afternoon today. Seems like a costly mistake because of extra fuel consumption.

We walked a couple of blocks to visit the old Russian Orthodox church. I wanted to see the original icons inside the church, which was built in 1840. Along the way, we happened upon Veronica’s Coffee Shop & Café, in a very old frame building of logs with dove-tailed joints, surrounded by absolutely gorgeous gardens. The globes of purple flowers topping the bunches of chives were huge; the brightly flowered stems of pink and yellow snapdragons planted in old barrels were about 16 inches tall! Soebody here really knows gardening! We ordered coffee and a goodie, and went to sit outdoors at a picnic table for our little snack.

Don’s 3-berry cobbler, freshly made this morning, was outstanding. I ordered something that looked somewhat croissant-like that turned out to be fluffy and incredible croissant bread pudding with dried cranberries in it that had puffed up like giant raisins…toped with drizzles of their homemade caramel sauce. OMG! Was this delicious or what? The place does quite a big lunch business, we could see.

Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption church proved to be quite fascinating, for me at least. Don could have cared less. It has been beautifully restored; the large icons (painted images) of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are lovely paintings that have been cleaned and restored as well. There are at least a half-dozen other smaller icons of the Virgin Mary and events from the New testament. Father Thomas, the pastor, was there to tell visitors about his church. He is an extremely handsome man of 55, grey at the temples, who looks very Japanese. He is  Native Alaskan, of the Yu’pik tribe from the western part of Alaska, who attended Russian Orthodox seminary in Kodiak, Alaska. He is married and has 4 grown children, all of whom still live near Kenai and of whom he is very proud.

Father Thomas’s parish consists of only 12 people now, all of whom are older folks. The diocese he’s in has 99 parish churches in Alaska and northern Canada. Father Thomas has a wonderful, exuberant sense of humor and is so patient with all of us from The Lower 48, most of whom know absolutely nothing about the Russian Orthodox church or its role in the settling of Alaska, its doctrines, its priests or its traditions.

I know a lot about the Russian Church from my past reading and studies, its similarities and contrasts to the Roman Catholic Church, and having just read the excellent section of Michener’s Alaska about the Russian Orthodox Church in this vast country, I felt I could ask semi-intelligent questions at least. It was also fun reading some of the ornate Russian Syrillic documents in the church, several of which were protected in enclosed cases because they are hundreds of years old…Bible excerpts beautifully designed and painted by hand, probably by monks or priests, and done in hand-lettered script with old quill pens. Lots of red ink and gold leaf. Hanging above and in front of nearly all the icons in the church are highly ornamented gold censors used with lighted incense inside when in procession while blessing the church, the people, and during the Mass. Before leaving, I tossed $20 into the pot for the upkeep of the parish.

As we walked around the corner to go back to the Rollin Home, we met Father Michael Orlikovsky (very Russian, yes?!) being pushed by his young companion in a wheelchair. Father Michael, slim and ancient with white hair and a neatly trimmed white pointy beard, must be in his late 90s, has had strokes and can’t speak much. But his eyes twinkled when we greeted him warmly and remarked what a gorgeous day it is, prompting his companion to introduce him to us and tell us he was pastor of this church for many, many years. We thanked him for keeping the church up so beautifully, and restoring all the artwork. He shook his head as if to say, “It was my pleasure!” and we walked on.

The western coastal shoreline of the Kenai Peninsula has many towns with Russian names and picturesque Russian Orthodox churches perched high on hills overlooking Cook Inlet. One such town is Nikiski…we took the “less traveled path” along the river to “Old Nikiski”, down close to the shore. A few newer houses are visible, but the Old Nikiski is a picture-perfect jumble of flowing river, tall weeds, wildflowers, fallen-down buildings in weathered grays, junked rotted old fishing boats with blue and red paint peeling off, rusted old fishing gear along the road. And, amazingly, a parking lot with an RV park right down next to Cook Inlet at the end of the road that runs through Old Nikiski.

The highway runs very close to the Inlet most of the way south. There’s scattered population all the way down to Homer, nearly every residence with a travel trailer, rv or 5th wheel for camping parked in the yard. And almost every house has a boat parked in the yard, too…sometimes large, sometimes small, but always a boat for Inlet fishing.

Oddly, the quality of houses varies considerably. One house will be a small frame place about 30 years old with junk scattered around the yard and driveway. Next one will be a recently-sold parcel with a larger, fancier house on it…clearly the “new rich” of Alaska who stepped themselves up or who recently built a vacation home as a second home and who fly in for long holidays (my suspicion). Small space of treed area, then a double-wide mobile home that is poorly maintained, has probably been there 20 years or more, and maybe belongs to a subsistence hunter or fisherman or someone who moved to Alaska many years ago to get away from civilization. And now civilization is once more encroaching, isn’t it?

As we continued down the Sterling Highway towards Homer, I wanted to stop as a place called Timberline Creations that is written up in The Milepost. Michael Lettis and his wife make jewelry, carve antlers and tusks, and sell a zillion different kinds of artifacts out of a cute log cabin. They used to be located in Soldotna, but when the highway was widened it went right through the middle of their store, so they moved farther down the peninsula and have been there for 10 years now. Michael is a really great fella, grew up in Anchorage and has been in Alaska most of his life. Not a native, but close. Definitely a country guy – hunter, fisherman, boater.

Michael does his “harvesting” of caribou and moose antlers to carve every year when he goes hunting in the fall & winter, gathering up the racks that have been shed in the late fall by the animals as part of their seasonal renewal. He has stacks of huge antlers in the far corners of his store waiting to be cut and carved, or made into something.

I bought some pieces of woolly mammoth foot bones he had in a basket, that are between 12,000 and 40,000 years old ($20 each or 3 for $50). The Natives up here find them when ridges near rivers erode following winter thaws or rainstorms, causing the old preserved bones to fall out of the bluffs into the rivers and creeks; the Native Yup’iks and Dena’ina people who live here on the Kenai supply Michael with these things. (It’s all legal, by the way…I wouldn’t buy anything that’s illegal or that endangers any archeology or paleontology.)

I also found a fascinating big bone from an ancient steppe bison, an enormous beast about double or triple the size of today’s bison. Steppe bison are also a log-extinct species, and Michael think the bone is probably about 30,000 years old. Don’t know what I’ll do with these, but I like having them…like the jewelry I bought a while back that contains ancient walrus tusk pieces, it feels as if it ties me to our ancient past. Somehow a good reminder of where we came from, in case urbanization ever threatens to transform us into weak, shadowy images of what we once were, hearty souls who could survive in even the cruelest environments. Do you think we’ll ever need those skills again some day?

We passed the turnoff to The Russian Village of Nikolaevsk, which I want to visit, but I think we’ll go in there on our way back up the peninsula as we return north and head for Whittier on the 14th of July.

Michael carves a spectacular little caribou scene using teeny-tiny drills and knives into a slice of caribou antler that is 2-3 inches in diameter. The only ones he had in the case were marked NFS, though, and he said he is planning to do several more in the next few days if I would care to come back. His pendants typically are used as jewelry, but I can picture this lovely piece hanging in my kitchen window over the sink on a tiny chain or some copper wire, either in Silverthorne or in Greenwood Village…with sunshine coming through it. Each day it would remind me of this fabulous trip and the places we have loved… This is quite close to Homer, so I said I would most certainly be back! For $40, this is a great memento, and a wonderful piece of art.

In the course of our long conversation, I had mentioned to Michael that I was a watercolor artist and he told me of a very special place that I should definitely stop to see on our way south to Homer. A well-known Alaska artist named Norman Lowell homesteaded here in Alaska many, many years ago. He is now in his 80s and does beautiful paintings, Michael told us…the gallery is stupendous! Be sure to stop there! So we proceeded down the road, pulled in at Norman Lowell Road and met white-haired Mr. Lowell watering his spectacular gardens at 5:30 pm. The gallery and shop had just closed, but he was so gracious and said his staff had just left minutes ago. I said we’d come back the next day. Mr. Lowell started as a watercolor artist many years ago, and works in all mediums at different times. He said he “returned” to watercolors about 8 years ago for a period of time; he does mostly oils these days. I just can’t wait to see his work!

The drive into Homer is gorgeous, coming in on the high bluff. The first view of Homer down below on the shores of the Inlet and Kachemak Bay is breathtaking. Sterling Highway into town has turned into a bit of a “strip” however, loaded with inns, motels, souvenir shops and burger franchises. It’s discouraging that every town in America, whether up here or in The Lower 48, fails to retain its unique look – its character -- any more as burger franchises move in. I’m certainly NOT against commerce in all its forms, and I can understand every fast food place, bank and gas station wanting to be on “the strip” entering town, BUT….is there possibly a way to do the zoning and/or land-use regulations that would avoid the homogeneity that is so depressing? I guess not, really.

Nonetheless, as we drove out onto Homer Spit to our RV park, bordered on the southwest by Cook Inlet and on the northwest by Kachemak Bay, we could see that this is indeed unique! Lots of wind, quite cool and brisk as stiff breezes come off Cook Inlet, which is covered in whitecaps. The waves are probably 2-3 feet. We registered at Heritage RV Park about 1/3 of the way out the spit, positioned alongside to the north of what is famously known as “the fishing hole”, a little lake that forms every day at high tides and gets full of wonderful fish, then becomes landlocked as the tides recede and the fish can’t escape. We want to walk tomorrow to the hole and around it to inspect the fishing scene there.

Our spot #83 in the park, a pull-in on the shorefront, faces north towards Kachemak Bay and an enormous glacier…I think we’re looking at Grewingk Glacier straight ahead of us across Kachemak Bay. I can vaguely discern Glacier Spit down low to the water across the bay too. We can see two other big glaciers to the right of us across the bay – the Wosnesenski Glacier and the Doroshin Glacier. I think I can see Ismailof Island and the headland of Peterson Bay, which are the points of land behind which is well-known Halibut Cove. This RV park is worth every single penny of the high cost, $73 a night. We’re here for 5 nights. I’m in heaven!!

We drove toward the end of the Spit and parked easily in a free lot to walk around, find some halibut for dinner and finish the day off with a beer & wine at the Salty Dawg Saloon! Not very crowded right now, thank goodness. The tide is in, a few people are wandering around. Our park is only about 2/3 full. This is such a delight! Smells like ocean, feels like ocean air, looks like big water. Perfecto!

We had the famous cod fish & chips and halibut fish & chips at The Boardwalk café. Don’s cod fish & chips were substantially less expensive than my halibut. Both were good, but I have to say I’ve had better halibut! This was okay, very fresh, but battered a bit more than I prefer and a little bit dryer than I like…could have been more succulent and juicy considering the high price. Not worth the $18.95 they charge out here.

We spent dinner hour at an indoor table at The Boardwalk talking with a wonderful young man originally from Colorado who owns a private hunting & fishing lodge far north of here, west across the Cook Inlet and inland a ways north located at Lake Clark, adjacent to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Preston and his wife Stacie have been out here in Alaska for 13 years, and they’ve owned the lodge 10 years. They can handle up to 12 hunting and/or fishing guests who fly in and land on Lake Clark. Most of his guests stay for 2 weeks. Each year, Preston gets some of the very limited number of brown bear (grizzly) hunting permits that are granted in his area of Alaska. Preston flew down here from his lodge to pick up a newly-purchased 18-foot jetboat (shallow draft, no prop, fast) that was just trailered to Homer from Anchorage. He would cross the water with it to get it “home” to Lake Clark taking quite a complicated route, taking several days to get there, hoping the weather would remain clear and stable for his run. He was eating dinner, sitting with a sailor’s charting compass and an atlas, figuring out his course while waiting for the day’s winds straight out of the north to die down, followed by the settling down of the waves so he could start out for the north. We asked if we could join him at his table and he graciously said we could.

I forget how many miles Preston said his trip would be. In good weather and light winds (with correspondingly few waves) he could make the trip across Cook Inlet in about 3+ hours; if winds picked up unexpectedly and waves rose, the trip could take as long as 8 brutal hours. His trip would require heading straight west across Cook Inlet past Augustine Island to land at the foot of a bay where there’s a short stretch of road leading to Illiamna Lake, a large freshwater lake located between the Aleutian Range and the Taylor Mountains. The boat will require trailoring once again overland between Cook Inlet and Illiamna Lake, on the short stretch of road that the map shows is available there. Then Preston would take his new boat on water again across Illiamna and to the north again (on a map it looks like this might be another 20 miles or so), where there’s a long river he can take (maybe 10 miles?) that gets him up to Lake Clark. Lake Clark is a very long, narrow lake that looks to be more than 75 miles long, maybe 5 to 10 miles wide. His lodge is at the northwest end of Lake Clark, so his journey is far from finished once he reaches Lake Clark.

I can’t wait to tell my old friend Dave about Preston’s place…I know Dave would just love going there to hunt bears and caribou.

Following dinner we strolled toward the small boat harbor and watched people, fishing boats unloading their day’s catch, and the general activities of the Homer Spit. We went into the famous, grungy old Salty Dawg Saloon to have our beer & wine for the day’s finale. It’s a rough log cabin, grey with age and sea mist, with very low-slung doorways where guys bang their heads about every 5 minutes. Inside there are long heavy wooden tables carved with about 55 years’ worth of names and places, long log benches on either side for family-style groups. A big bar with old stools. And dollar bills pinned, mailed, and tacked to every rafter, stud and wall, some very old and yellowed, all with markered messages and names on them. Must be at least 5,000 bills papering every inch of the place.

Good people-watching in there too. It’s a hangout for locals…a bunch of 5 fishermen laughing up a storm with at least 25 empty beer bottles crowding their table. More locals wandering in as the evening progressed.

Happy and mellow, we headed for home. Next door, I was happy to see, is the Salty Girls gift shop, bookstore, etc. That’s me Salty Susie! Home and to bed we go. Nice day! Lots of walking and activity! We’re exhausted.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #87 on: July 11, 2013, 02:42:53 AM »
Wednesday July 10, 2013      Day 43

Very late to rise today. Went back to bed for several hours after getting up to pee. It’s just one of those days (nights?!) that I need a ton of catch-up sleep. As I get older, I need one of these 10-hour jobs about every 2 weeks, it seems. I feel so rested, not groggy at all. Ready to tackle the world! Another beautiful day here, sunny but with cloud cover that makes the air feel silvery and sparkly rather than clear and bright.

When I opened the door I thought it would be warm. Oh no! Quite cold, though little wind. Fixed oatmeal, made our tea, cut some fresh apricots. And set to work finishing my daily diary from yesterday. Each time I thought I was nearing the end, I thought of one more thing, or more details to add to earlier anecdotes. In the meantime, Don was out walking and talking with all the neighbors, getting all the dope about where they’re from, how long they’re staying here, where all they’ve been in Alaska. I have all the doors and windows open, but the wind it making it pretty chilly in here. I think I’ll start closing up a bit.

Kept writing. This is surely going to be 10,000 words by the time I’m done. I’ll bore everybody to death. Oh well, I’m writing it because I love doing it…it’s for myself, I guess. I probably won’t bore myself to death.

My seat was turned toward the Kachemak Bay beach while I was writing. The tide was out so the beach extended far in front of me as mud flats. Gulls were everywhere, swooping and swerving in the sky. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a larger darker bird settle onto the beach directly in front of me at water’s edge. Grabbing the binoculars, I checked it out…yes! A golden eagle! Caught a fish and was pulling it to pieces. The gulls started getting aggressive…jockeying for position if/when the eagle took off and left the carcass for someone else to pick clean. We’ve read that eagles are lazy and quite often eat only the head of a fish and a few other fatty parts, leaving the fish almost whole for other birds to come in a finish off. This eagle stayed about 5 minutes and then took off…I got pictures of the feasting eagle and the flying eagle. Fun. Nature at its best.

Don came back at 3 pm. I heated up 4 of those gorgeous smoked ribs we got from Black Jaxx for lunch, put heated BBQ sauce on them, made some good slaw using the last of my shredded cabbage, put out the carton of cottage cheese to finish off. What a delicious feast. Each rib is full of meat. Tender and so juicy. As good as salmon or halibut any day! Might have to stop at Black Jaxx and get more of those as we go back through Soldotna next Sunday or Monday. But I have to remember not to have anything left in the freezer or refrigerator, because the Rollin Home will be without power for more than 24 hours on the ferry out of Whittier, and I want to be able turn the frig off and defrost the freezer while we are on the water.

Now we are both on our computers. At 4:30 we decided to bundle up and go out walking, north along the beach to the end of the RV park, then back this way and to the Fishing Hole to see if anyone’s catching fish today while the tide is in. Then to the small boat harbor to watch the fishing boats come in and talk to the fishermen while they clean their catch.

The tide lines along the beachfront are loaded with stones. Some kelp and seaweed but not much. I would think there would be interesting “stuff” to gather, but not so. Just a LOT of round black rocks. Can’t find any sea glass pieces at all. Lots of open and broken mussel shells today. Some bigger clam shells too. A few crabs, shells picked clean by gulls. And rarely, a perfect small 50-cent-sized cockle shell…I found 8 of them. And saved them, naturally.

Don, of course, thinks I’m totally crazy for even picking up anything from the “dirty” beach, much less shells of any kind since I’m allergic as heck to shellfish. He refused to be convinced by my arguments that these shells have been open and dead for a long long time, and have been washed by ocean water for weeks or months or even years before coming to rest on this beach. I’m sure they won’t trigger any allergic reaction, but he’s fearful to say the least. “My gosh, Don, I’m not going to put the thing in my mouth and suck on it, for heaven’s sake!” I declare. “I just don’t want to have to spend a whole night in a hospital with you again when you have an anaphylactic reaction,” he hollers.

At the Fishing Hole a bit farther south on the Spit, we spot 2 small harbor seals swimming happily around and “raiding” the fish, as an old-timer tells us. Those seals are having a feast! Naturally, the fishermen aren’t catching anything.

We walked past the Pier One Theater on our way to the small boat harbor. There’s a performance tonight, but it’s a musical performer, Johnny B on the piano, doing songs and stories and music in a revue called Rhythm of the North. Sounds pretty interesting. We met the founder and artistic director of the theater who started this up 41 years ago, Lance Peterson. He’s a former humanities professor at the Univ. of Alaska at Fairbanks. His performance venue has had a lasting impact on the life of Homer Spit. We decided right away to come back and buy tickets for the 7:30 show.

A few fishermen are hauling their fishing boats out of the water onto trailers after a day on the Inlet halibut fishing. A couple of the guys tell us the fishing today was pretty poor. They are both professional fishing guides, out fishing on their day off. They caught only 3 small halibut, and kept the largest of those, only about 15 lbs in size, letting the other 2 go. It got quite rough with both rollers and chop on the Inlet about 15 miles out where they were fishing, they said.

The municipal RV park (very cheap, no water or electric, just dry-camping) was on our way to the theater, and we shared comments with the folks staying in a travel trailer along the road we were strolling. Somehow I happened to mention Michigan in one of my smart-ass remarks as we threw one-liners back and forth…and the young woman says “Michigan? Are you from Michigan?” I say, Yeah I grew up there. She asks, Where? I say, in the country outside Grand Rapids. She says, Oh my gosh that’s where my Mom is from, and calls inside the trailer for her Mom to come out right away. Where in Grand Rapids exactly did you live? She asks. On the West side, in what was then Walker Township, I answer. Her Mom comes out and tells me that’s exactly where she is from…West side of GR, lived over close to Leonard Street, part of the big Polish Catholic population in GR, member of St. Adalbert’s parish where she attended elementary school, graduated from West Catholic high school. She’s quite a lot younger than I am, but I would put $50 on the fact that if we talked 10 minutes longer, we’d figure out that we know a bunch of the same people or are related somehow.

Another of these incredible small-world experiences! I love it when this happens! Norma’s daughter and son-in-law are both in the Army and are stationed in Alaska, which is how they happen to be here right now. As we left them to attend the show, she and I gave each other a big hug, as if we’d been friends forever.

Johnny B’s musical show was very fun…funny, clever, nicely put together and entertaining. He may not be the world’s finest musical composer but he’s a damn fine performer and can really play the piano! Johnny B, 60, has played the piano since he was a kid, and was a street performer in The Lower 48 for many years (darn hard way to make a living…he’s an ex-Hippie type, for sure). A native California, he’s been up here in “the country” since 1981. He has a grown son and some darling grandkids, who we saw in pictures he showed us s part of his computerized slide shows. Johnny B reminded me of John Denver, a kid in adult clothing and with some gray hair who never really grew up.

At 9:30 when we left the theater, the sun was still shining brightly. The sky was the clearest it had been all day. We stopped at the fish-cleaning table by the small boat harbor to watch 3 guys filleting their halibut catches. Turns out 2 of the guys are here from the Madison, Wisconsin area to go fishing this week; 3rd guy is a relative who lives in Anchorage, who was their “guide” and took them out in his boat for the day. They caught 6 small but nice halibut (15-30 lbs each), and about a dozen decent-sized “reds” (salmon). Only 1 of the halibut was even large enough to have “cheeks” worth cutting out. I was interested to see what halibut chees looked like. They ended up with large bags containing probably 15-20 lbs of really nice halibut fillets. Nice day’s work.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #88 on: July 11, 2013, 03:16:22 PM »
Susan, if you are in Homer on Saturday, go to the Farmers Market.  They sell the halibut cheeks for $15/pound, and I bet there in Homer if you go to Coal Point Fish Market, across the street from Captain Patties Restaurant, you could see them there in his fish case.

I'm glad you're enjoying Homer and Black Jaxx ribs.

Happy trails!
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #89 on: July 12, 2013, 05:24:46 PM »
Thursday July 11, 2013      Day 44

Rose early today, well rested and bushy-tailed. Good day to do the laundry…they have really great washers and dryers here, and don’t charge a fortune for them! The laundry room will be empty this morning. Then we’ll have clean sheets, clean clothes and clean us for coming days and weeks.

Beautiful day, the clearest yet of any we’ve been on this trip. No wind at all. People are down wandering the beach looking for heaven’s knows what, same as I do, walking with their heads down, picking up a stone or a seaweed scrap or a precious shell of some kind every now and then. Usually tossing it back on the ground and moving on. Sometimes bagging it or putting it in the “precious stuff” pocket of a jacket.

I head for the showers, taking the laundry soap along. Don will bring the sheets from the bed and the big heavy bag of laundry. One reason this RV park is so nice…and costs a pretty penny…is they have an attendant at the door of the laundry room and showers/bathrooms who makes sure outsiders don’t use their facilities, and who goes in every shower room and mops up the floor and cleans the shower stall after each person finishes. Such a nice service!

In so many RV parks, even the ones with clean, nice bathrooms and showers, you go into a shower room and get your clothes sopping wet getting undressed when the floor is full of water from the shower’s previous user, because the curtain wasn’t pulled all the way across or because they stepped out of the shower and dripped all over, then didn’t wipe up. Yuck! Very few people ever wipe up after themselves when they’re done with the shower. I actually carry a spare microfiber towel with me to put on the floor of the shower room…to keep my clothes dry and to step out onto when I’ve taken my shower.

Don and I learned early on in our RVing lives that we don’t like using the microfiber towels one bit for drying our bodies after we’ve showered…they seem to just move the water around rather than drying anything. So we carry regular terry bath sheets to use for ourselves. But I take all the microfiber towels along for other uses…floor mats, dishtowels, etc. They’re so lightweight, dry quickly, and take up very little space in the Rollin Home, or in the washer for that matter. Good for almost anything other than bathing.

This is a great day to sit outdoors in the sun and look at gorgeous glaciers in the distance, reading issues of Alaska magazine, while waiting for the washer to finish and the dryer to be done. I’m getting quite tan. Crows are cawing, gulls are squawking, it’s a perfectly splendid day.

The laundry/bathroom attendant, I found out, is teaching herself to draw and paint. We discussed art and watercolor painting and learning to draw for a quite a while, showing each other our paintings on Facebook. Frankie, blond and emergetic, was born and raised here in Homer, the granddaughter of a couple who emigrated from Switzerland to Homer in 1950. She looks very young, but has grown children who are married, and she gleefully shows me pictures of her adorable toe-headed grandchildren who have huge blue eyes. “Well, I started young,” she tells me.

She asks if we’ve been to see the Norman Lowell Gallery up the road a ways, and I say that we stopped there after it had just closed the other day and are planning to visit it today. She tells me a lot about Mr. Lowell, and says her father-in-law, an artist, actually taught Mr. Lowell how to use acrylic paints many years ago. Her father-in-law is now 93, still vigorous, but doesn’t paint or draw at all anymore. She has begged him many times to teach her things and show her how to use acrylic, but he just won’t go there. She doesn’t know why. She says we really DO have to go see the Lowell Gallery up the road, that it is amazing, as are Mr. Lowell’s paintings of Alaska.

By noon, we’re all done with laundry, we have some lunch, and head out to the store for more paper plates and to visit Norman Lowell’s gallery on Sterling Highway. Highway repairs are creating long long long lines of waiting traffic on the 2-lane road. Yuck. We hook a NY-u-ee and go back to Safeway to do our shopping. Maybe things will start moving by the time I’ve gotten paper plates. I also couldn’t resist our first yellow-and-red Rainier cherries of the year.

When we’re done at Safeway, traffic is indeed moving somewhat better so we decide to risk heading north to the gallery. We notice at the other end of the backup, the north end, that the line of cars and RVs is miles long, stopped dead, waiting for the pilot car to lead them through the one-lane section. This may have been a bad idea, after all. Oh, well, we’re committed now.

Norman Lowell’s gallery isn’t advertised anywhere. There’s simply a signpost along the road. It’s free; anyone can come in and look. And buy, if they want – and have a lot of money to spend! Mr. Lowell is 85 now, and is totally self-taught, according to a couple of newspaper and magazine articles I read while at his gallery. He and his wife Libby homesteaded here in 1958 after coming here from the Lower 48, living in a tiny log cabin after buying 140 acres of land. He has been a diligent painter of Alaskan landscapes and has clearly made a great deal of money doing so. He built a larger house and separate studio in the 1970s, then finally a really beautiful house in the 1990s, followed by “the gallery” on which he spent $400,000, to display his paintings, many of which are in the Albert Bierstadt tradition. A good many paintings are very large, wall-sized canvases that are maybe 14-feet square or larger, painted in oils or acrylics depicting nearby mountains, the Cook Inlet, winter scenes, Mt. Redoubt erupting in the early 90s, etc. A few paintings have people in them, usually children, but most are simply depictions of Alaskan nature at its most gorgeous. Quite a few of his works include images of his early homestead cabin.

I would characterize Norman Lowell’s style as that of 19th century American Romanticism. Many people came here over the years, saw and liked what they saw -- and bought from Mr. Lowell. Prices on his paintings run from $3,000 to $45,000; prints of many of his most-popular works are available for $350 up to $750, unframed. The huge gallery building, measuring 40’ x 100’ and then with an L that is another 30’ x 40’, contains about 6 large rooms filled with Normal Lowell originals of all sizes. Probably 5,200 sq ft in all, absolutely chock-full of paintings and drawings. Behind a railing I noticed a half-dozen additional paintings leaning against the railing because there was no space to put them on the walls. This is a remarkable body of work! And these are the ones he hasn’t sold…  Very fine quality work, too, and taken as a whole, this is about as good an exhibit as you’ll see in any major art museum of the world.

At one point I notice a small hand-lettered sign that said a limited selection of Mr. Lowell’s original paintings are now for sale this summer that have never been available before. I asked the attendant if we could see the paintings that are for sale right now at “special prices.” She led us into a small back room called the “sales room”…lining 3 walls were about 40 smaller paintings, all in very beautiful frames, ranging in size from 3”x 5” up to about 10”x 12”. Near the door was a very nice little 6”x 8” mountain landscape done in oil, framed in an ornate gilt wood frame, for $6,000 (that’s a $1,400 discount from the original price, the pricetag says). I’m not sure why Mr. Lowell is selling these pieces during this summer period…maybe he needs to raise money for medical care, or just wants to get rid of some things before he dies, or doesn’t have room to display everything he’s done.

In the L that runs off the far end of the gallery is a room where prints of Mr. Lowell’s work are sold (by the thousands, I can only guess, judging from the huge inventories of prints). We learned there that Mr. Lowell has lost most of his eyesight in recent years and is legally blind. In order to be able to continue his beloved painting every day, he rigged up a system of 24 LED color-corrected spotlights that enable him to see images and continue painting. One entire wall of this L room, the print gallery, is filled with his most recent paintings. They look very different from his classical works -- brighter colors, less subtle composition and content, some a bit neon-y in tone and quality. If I had an opportunity, I would suggest to Mr. Lowell that he depart from trying to paint in his typical impressionistic/romantic style and go to a completely abstract style, given his loss of eyesight. I would be willing to bet that the results would be stupendous! After so many years of painting realism, his abstracts would be gorgeous because he can see the images in his head, and just paint what is in his head, using no references at all.

What makes Normal Lowell’s gallery all the more remarkable is the enormous collection he and his wife Libby have amassed of Native Alaskan artifacts and carvings, also on public display in the gallery, on tables, in cases, on pedestals, on the floors, everywhere. Gorgeous, intricate carvings the likes of which were only available in “the old days” up here in Alaska…for example, there is a carving of walrus tusk depicting an Inupiak trimmed in furs driving a dog sled with 7 dogs pulling it…showing incredible detail…this is about a foot or 16 inches in length overall, and is perched on a long polished walrus tusk for display. These kinds of large, detailed carvings are rare and are almost never created any more. Few Native carvers have the skill these days to do such work, and most want to do small carvings that sell for $30 to $300, so they can make a lot of money; few artisans anywhere have the patience nowadays for the kind of complicated, time-consuming works that were more commonplace a hundred years ago.

The Norman & Libby Lowell Collection of Alaskan Art & Artifacts is, by itself, enough reason to visit the gallery numerous times. This is Smithsonian-quality work Alaskan art , as well as wonderful ancient artifacts – knives, spears, tools, bones, ivory, clothing, you name it, the Lowells have collected it.

The traffic problems had corrected themselves by the time we returned to town, thank goodness. We zipped through the repair section, now open for 2 lanes instead of just one, and we went looking for the Two Sisters Bakery in Old Town Homer, near Bishop’s Beach. A quaint little section of Homer. We wandered through a little Arts Center linked to Maura’s Café. Nice places. Down the street farther is Two Sisters, which we’d read and heard was a good place.

Two Sisters Bakery is quite terrific. Clearly this is a VERY successful business! Housed in a big old cabin, this coffee shop, lunch café, and bakery has a comfortable front porch with a couch and a couple of tables and chairs, as well as a few tables and chairs inside. Approaching the front steps, we passed a big picnic table and walked across a large pea-gravel play-yard scattered with toys, hula hoops and large, rusted yellow models of earth-moving equipment…aha! Caterpillar trucks, loaders, graders, you name it. And 3 or 4 darling little kids playing with all of this stuff, their moms sitting on the steps or in chairs chatting with each other and sipping their coffees.

Even at 4 in the afternoon, the place was fairly buzzing. Two Sisters has a big display case of fresh baked breads. I immediately decided I’d get an oval-shaped loaf of the sunflower-oat bread, which felt delightfully heavy and dense, just the way I like it. We both ordered decaf espresso drinks, and Don got a chocolate-chip brownie to go with his coffee, while I got a lemon bar. Both were delicious! We decided we have to return to Two Sisters tomorrow for our afternoon coffee and goodie!

We had a couple of good conversations while at Two Sisters. I asked a gentleman sitting on the couch near us having coffee if he was a local, and he said he is. He moved here from California 20 years ago, he said. I asked if he’d ever been to the so-called Old-Time Burlesque show that’s performed at Champagne Alice’s, and if is worth going to. I’d seen a sign advertising the show somewhere, and thought we might try to attend it tomorrow night (Friday). He said it’s very good, very funny and always good entertainment. He goes to it every year. Don is ambivalent about seeing the show; I think it would be fun. We’ll see.

Our other conversation, a much longer one, was with a young woman named Carolyn whose little boy, 2 ½, was one of the cute kids playing with the Caterpillar truck toys, and pouring loads of pea-gravel into a model-house with a hinged roof on it, using a big scoop. Carolyn is also a native of Homer, born and raised here. She works 3 days a week for a non-profit based here, run by the gentleman we’d just been speaking to. This is her day off. We talked for a long time about the joys and the difficulties of living in a really small town life Homer, where everybody knows everyone else’s business…the good, the bad, the ugly. She was such fun. She’d like to live in a larger city sometime, she said, just to try it out, but her partner, the father of her little boy, is “absolutely determined to stay here for his lifetime, for the hunting and the fishing. He wants no part of city living, ever,” she said. “So for at least the foreseeable future, I’m destined to be here in Homer,” she laughed.

Dinner was late today. At 9, I made fried baloney sandwiches out of the smoked bologna (baloney!) I bought from Black Jaxx in Soldotna -- with ketchup on them, of course! Mind-blowing memories of youth! Yum! Then Don went for another long walk while I read Michener…I’m very close to the end. It’s still really great reading. I want to finish it and move on.

At 10 pm the sun is still shining brightly. It’s very hard to go to bed when the sun is still up…once I’m IN bed with my mask on, I know it’s night and I know I am tired and supposed to sleep, but the temptation is just to keep going practically around the clock up here when the days are so long.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 05:26:52 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #90 on: July 13, 2013, 02:02:12 AM »
Friday July 12, 2013      Day 45

Another perfect day, sunshine, blue sky, light winds, a few whitecaps on the bay. Sat and wrote, read books, hung out until 2:30. Saw eagles on beach.

Breakfast was a one-pan deal of sautéed (frozen) chicken maple sausages that I had brought from home, fried in a tiny bit of butter until browned and crispy on the outside, then cut into half-inch slices and covered with 4 beaten eggs, covered and set on low til cooked through. Turned out very puffy and delicious, crispy and browned on the bottom. Accompanied by a toasted piece of sunflower-oat bread purchased at Two Sisters Bakery yesterday. A mighty fine breakfast and a good way to finish off some of our food.

I brought along on this trip 4 packages of those frozen chicken-maple sausages, and they’ve sure made wonderful meals. Extremely tasty little guys. They stay frozen really well in our RV’s freezer, too.

When we left the RV park to head for town, we both saw a low-flying large object as we drove north on Homer Spit. We both thought it was a plane at first, coming in for a landing as it headed in our direction…though this was a mighty strange place for a plane to be landing! Nope, a very large golden eagle, swooping very close to us. Nature at its best here in Homer. I’m almost beginning to take golden eagles for granted!

Two Sisters Bakery is an outstanding place here in Homer. Everything in the bakery cases was different today from yesterday. Don had an excellent oatmeal raising cookie, I ordered a decadent-looking sticky bun, which turned out to be about the best sticky bun I’d ever eaten. And great coffee. We met one of the owners as she was deadheading plants in the hanging baskets all around the porches, and told her what a wonderful business she runs. A transplant from Pennsylvania, she’s been running Two Sisters for 21 years.

We sat on the Two Sisters porch and watched the world go by. Just drifting, drifting, and floating…enjoying watching the people around us. Kids playing in the yard of pea-gravel, loading the trucks with gravel and then dumping them. Reloading, dumping. Reloading, dumping. Remember those days?

I made a reservation for Sunday night at the Kenai Princess RV Park in Cooper Landing, on our way to Whittier for the ferry on Monday. Wanted to make sure we had a place to stay on our way north.

We walked to the end of the road where Two Sisters Bakery is located, and walked on Bishop’s Beach for quite a while. Very blustery and quite chilly. People can drive their cars and trucks right out onto the beach and park on top of the storm berm. When the tide is out, that is. Most of them haul ATVs with them, on trailers or in the backs of their trucks. They drive ATVs all up and down the wide, rocky beachfront. We watched as one guy unloaded 2 ATVs and took off on his larger one holding his little blond-headed 3 yr old daughter on his lap, while racing and bouncing alongside him was a mini-ATV being driven by his 6-7 yr old son being jounced around as they paralleled their way up the stony beach. This beach is completely open to the winds off Cook Inlet, and to the massive numbers of rocks and stones being washed ashore. Piles and piles of them, miles and miles of them.

My stepsister Jana would love this beach open to Cook Inlet because it’s loaded with piles of gorgeous, graceful strands of seaweed and kelp, and huge leaves of underwater plants that she softens, then cuts and shapes and weaves into fabulously creative baskets and artifacts, for sale at craft fairs.

Back in the Rollin Home, Don instantly fell asleep while I read more of Michener, racing toward the end. Gangs of people from town arrived for an after-work cookout and wine party at the covered picnic spot near the beach. They were having a rollicking good time.

I suggested we drive to the local Elks Lodge about 3 blocks away to have a beer & wine and meet some more locals who might be there. The 2-story lodge is large and faces onto Cook Inlet…a simply gorgeous location! It has a large lawn and is on a beautiful piece of property. And what a view! Across the water are the jaggedy Chigmit Mountains at the north end of the Aleutian Range, with all the big glaciers very visible, especially from the big deck on the top floor. About 15 people were at the bar, and maybe another 20 ofr so were having dinner. We talked with a few people, had a nice time. Decided not to stay for dinner…have to empty our refrigerator!

Don drove out to the end of Homer Spit again, just for the heck of it. We parked and walked for a while, past a bunch of fish processing plants, out toward the ferry dock and Land’s End. Though it’s Friday night and things ostensibly get really busy here at Homer Spit on weekends during the summer months, it sure wasn’t busy out there tonight. It was virtually deserted, in fact. We found a local ice cream place and bought an ice cream…oh, good, they had pralines & cream, my favorite! Don had Death by Chocolate, so his ears will ring all night from the caffeine and he’ll complain about it!

While eating our ice cream, we struck up a conversation with a couple from Boise, Idaho who are up here with their 5th wheel trailer. We spoke with them at length. Then as we were leaving, a man & woman were looking at our RV as we got close. We told them all about our Rollin Home, and learned they were from Traverse City, Michigan, traveling in a truck camper parked a few feet away from our parking spot. Turns out they both taught school for years and years in Grand Rapids and lived on the west side of the city, close to where I grew up. Both of them are German, too. We had such fun talking about our trips, our families, about Michigan, about GR, about everything. Ted and Dottie Meier.

End of day. Home. Sun is still shining. It’s 10 pm already. We’ve had lots of wind in our hair today during our walks. We’ll sleep well tonight!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #91 on: July 14, 2013, 01:37:15 AM »
Saturday July 13, 2013      Day 46

I am utterly exhausted after taking a loooooooong walk in late afternoon / early evening along the Homer Spit, north towards the town of Homer. Each time we’ve driven out onto the Spit we’ve passed a couple of “boat boneyards” where fishermen have abandoned their old wooden fishing boats from eras gone by. They sit at tip-tilted angles, paint peeling off old rotted hulls, windows broken out, old cables and lines left in their sterns to decay along with the aged tools of the seamen.

They sit alongside a small lagoon that is a mudhole at low tide, but would float a boat at high tide. Some boats are on old rusted trailers, some on rotted cradles, some simply propped up on rotted blocks of wood. Each one murmurs that it has a complicated, interesting history…the stuff of novels, no doubt.

One small fishing boat in particular fascinates me. It harkens back to an age long gone, built maybe in the 1920s or thereabouts: Its name is Virginis and it is about 25 feet long, has a very narrow beam (width) of only about 5 or 6 feet, with a red-painted hull of fine wood lapstrake, topped by a very nice white, quite tall pilot house that nearly fills her hull bow to stern and port to starboard, leaving only enough space on deck for the width of one man’s foot to scramble to the bow when necessary. It carries tall wooden spars either side of the pilot house, with ropes and pulleys and halyards attached to them – she was a shrimper or a fish-netter back in the day, I’d bet. She’s built for just 2 men, a captain and one crew member. Somebody has using her as recently as the 1970s, looks like, because there is a fairly modern radar scope attached to the top of the pilot house. No room for anyone else. Did her owner die? Did her owner build this lovely little boat himself or have her built custom? Was it someone’s life dream to own a boat of these dimensions and design? Did he go broke and have to give her up at some point? Or did he simply grow old and all the kids left home and moved to the big cities (or abandoned Alaska entirely) so no one was left to go out fishing with the old man?

That was the end of my day. The boneyard. Taking pictures, walking in the salt air and strong breezes. A gorgeous day.

The Homer Farmer’s Market on Saturdays is quite good. Probably 50-60 vendors, many selling gigantic, luscious homegrown vegetables, a few selling spectacular baked goods, two selling jarred and canned and smoked salmon, the rest crafts of various kinds, everything from soaps to aromatherapy junk to the usual jewelry and tote bags. Because we’re going on the ferry in 2 days, I didn’t dare to buy any veggies. I did buy a couple of hand-crocheted dishrags, though, for $4…I love those things! And I bought a fresh rhubarb sour cream streusel coffee cake for tomorrow morning and Monday morning from a very demure Amish girl. Couldn’t resist.

We drove out East End Road in Homer, almost to the end, having heard of some interesting stuff out there. Not a place many tourists go, apparently, but quite a great ride. The road climbs along a ridge as it heads north to the far end of Kachemak Bay. At the very end is an old Russian village, but a Homer guide warned us not to drive all the way to the end because the final descent into the valley is extremely steep and the road is unimproved. Darn. The views across the bay toward the Chigmit Mountains and the Aleutian Range, with about a dozen huge glaciers in clear sight, are spectacular. And because of our height toward the north end of the bay, we could see down to where Seldovia and Halibut Cove are located, as well as the inlets of Kachemak Bay State Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve. Much oohing and aahing.

Guess where we went next? You guessed it…back into town to Two Sisters Bakery and Coffee Shop! For the 3rd day in a row. We really like hanging out there! The place was buzzing with weekend business. As before, we chatted with some locals, and then started up a conversation with a retired couple at the adjoining table and learned they had just yesterday bought an RV quite similar to ours, but were mystified about how some things on it were supposed to work. They live just a bit north of Homer, in Ninilchik, and had come down to camp for the weekend to break in their new toy. After much discussion of theirs, ours, and so on, Don took them on a tour of our Rollin Home, then went with them to their unit and tried to show them how some things worked. They never were able to figure out how the awning works, so they’ll have to visit Anchorage’s Winnebago dealer to have everything checked out and put in working order.

There’s a good carwash place along the main road here, so we stopped and gave the buggy a good washing, which it badly needed. I do the high-power spray to start, then Don scrubs with the brush, then I return with the high-power spray some more. We had to put in enough quarters for 3 full cycles of washes. The RH looks gorgeous and shiny now!

After returning to our RV park and settling into our spot (we have to drive our Rollin Home up onto stacks of 3 large-size Lego-style “blocks” to get us level), Don went walking while I was reading Michener and fell fast asleep for an hour. Then we both went walking to the boat boneyard. I was practically ready for the boneyard by the time we returned from our 4-5 mile walk along the shoreline of the spit. Could hardly get dinner ready before collapsing.

I’ll sleep well tonight! Tomorrow we head north again, stopping at Timberline Creations for Michael Lettis’s pendant; then at Ninilchik to browse through a good store called The Peddler where Catherine whom I met today has some of her artwork for sale; then at Soldotna for some jugs of water; then to Cooper Landing where we are staying for the night at the Kenai Princess RV Park right on the Kenai River, at the confluence of Kenai Lake and the Kenai River.

To allay Don’s anxieties about all the ferry legs we’re doing starting Monday night out of Whittier, we went over all of the dates and times of ferry trips and where we’re staying from here on out. Basically the next phase of our Alaska Adventure consists of a month weaving our way through what Alaskans call The Southeast, or what most of us know as The Inside Passage. It should be tons of fun! Lots of boat rides, lots of really nifty things planed. Maybe we’ll even get to see a moose in Alaska yet!

We saw “our” golden eagle about 6 times today, once flying practically alongside us at door-handle level as we drove toward town this morning for the Farmer’s Market. He hangs around out here most of the time, it seems, and has perhaps staked out the territory near the RV park here as his own. He often sits atop the tall pole out in front of the RV park office. And he perches atop the tall light post just north of here by the Marine Terminal. And on our way back from our walk tonight, he sat atop a tall crane at the Marine Terminal, just lookin around and having a good ol time.

Homer is a super place. I could live in this town happily. We both like it a lot. Not a big place, not a lot happening, but a very nice comfortable spot on the map. We learned that Homer is a bit of a Banana Belt in Alaska…temperatures here in the winter are often more moderate than, say, in Anchor Point only 15 miles away. What that means is it might be zero here, but 15 below zero in Anchor Point. Not warm, but a bit less cold than elsewhere. And summer weather here is just perfect – almost always a slightly cool edge to the air, so it’s never hot hot.

G’night all.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Henry Wishard

  • ---
  • Posts: 376
  • Gone Crazy*** Be Back Soon
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #92 on: July 16, 2013, 02:22:45 AM »
   We have been in Homer the past 3 days and sorry we keep missing you guys. We will be leaving Tuesday morning for Cooper Landing. For the third time staying at Princess RV Park for 5 or 6 days.
Henry & Margaret Wishard
12625 Lake Vista Dr
Willis, Texas 77318
2017 Tiffin Open Road

2012 Jeep Rubicon

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #93 on: July 22, 2013, 01:39:12 PM »
Saturday July 13, 2013      Day 46

I am utterly exhausted after taking a loooooooong walk in late afternoon / early evening along the Homer Spit, north towards the town of Homer. Each time we’ve driven out onto the Spit we’ve passed a couple of “boat boneyards” where fishermen have abandoned their old wooden fishing boats from eras gone by. They sit at tip-tilted angles, paint peeling off old rotted hulls, windows broken out, old cables and lines left in their sterns to decay along with the aged tools of the seamen.

They sit alongside a small lagoon that is a mudhole at low tide, but would float a boat at high tide. Some boats are on old rusted trailers, some on rotted cradles, some simply propped up on rotted blocks of wood. Each one murmurs that it has a complicated, interesting history…the stuff of novels, no doubt.

One small fishing boat in particular fascinates me. It harkens back to an age long gone, built maybe in the 1920s or thereabouts: Its name is Virginis and it is about 25 feet long, has a very narrow beam (width) of only about 5 or 6 feet, with a red-painted hull of fine wood lapstrake, topped by a very nice white, quite tall pilot house that nearly fills her hull bow to stern and port to starboard, leaving only enough space on deck for the width of one man’s foot to scramble to the bow when necessary. It carries tall wooden spars either side of the pilot house, with ropes and pulleys and halyards attached to them – she was a shrimper or a fish-netter back in the day, I’d bet. She’s built for just 2 men, a captain and one crew member. Somebody has using her as recently as the 1970s, looks like, because there is a fairly modern radar scope attached to the top of the pilot house. No room for anyone else. Did her owner die? Did her owner build this lovely little boat himself or have her built custom? Was it someone’s life dream to own a boat of these dimensions and design? Did he go broke and have to give her up at some point? Or did he simply grow old and all the kids left home and moved to the bigger towns or cities (or abandoned Alaska entirely) so no one was left to go out fishing with the old man? Makes for such interesting speculation.

That was the end of my day. The boneyard. Taking pictures. Walking in the salt air and strong breezes. A gorgeous day.

The Homer Farmer’s Market on Saturdays is quite good. Probably 30-40 vendors, many selling gigantic, luscious homegrown vegetables, a few selling spectacular baked goods, two selling jarred and canned and smoked salmon, the rest crafts of various kinds, everything from soaps to aromatherapy junk to the usual jewelry and tote bags. Because we’re going on the ferry in 2 days, I didn’t dare to buy any veggies. I did buy a couple of hand-crocheted dishrags, though, for $4…I love those things! And I bought a fresh rhubarb sour cream streusel coffee cake for tomorrow morning and Monday morning from a very demure Amish girl. Couldn’t resist.

We drove out East End Road in Homer, almost to the end, having heard of some interesting stuff out there. Not a place many tourists go, apparently, but quite a great ride. The road climbs along a ridge as it heads north to the far end of Kachemak Bay. At the very end is an old Russian village, but a Homer guide warned us not to drive all the way to the end because the final descent into the valley is extremely steep and the road is unimproved. Darn. The views across the bay toward the Chigmit Mountains and the Aleutian Range, with about a dozen huge glaciers in clear sight, are spectacular. And because of our height toward the north end of the bay, we could see down to where Seldovia and Halibut Cove are located, as well as the inlets of Kachemak Bay State Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve. Much oohing and aahing.

Guess where we went next? You guessed it…back into town to Two Sisters Bakery and Coffee Shop! For the 3rd day in a row. We really like hanging out there! The place was buzzing with weekend business. As before, we chatted with some locals, and then started up a conversation with a retired couple at the adjoining table and learned they had just yesterday bought an RV quite similar to ours, but were mystified about how some things on it were supposed to work. They live just a bit north of Homer, in Ninilchik, and had come down to camp for the weekend to break in their new toy. After much discussion of theirs, ours, and so on, Don took them on a tour of our Rollin Home, then went with them to their unit and tried to show them how some things worked. They never were able to figure out how the awning works, so they’ll have to visit Anchorage’s Winnebago dealer to have everything checked out and put in working order.

There’s a good carwash place along the main road here, so we stopped and gave the buggy a good washing, which it badly needed. I do the high-power spray to start, then Don scrubs with the brush, then I return with the high-power spray some more. We had to put in enough quarters for 3 full cycles of washes. The RH looks gorgeous and shiny now!

After returning to our RV park and settling into our spot (we have to drive our Rollin Home up onto stacks of 3 large-size Lego-style “blocks” to get us level), Don went walking while I was reading Michener and fell fast asleep for an hour. Then we both went walking to the boat boneyard. I was practically ready for the boneyard by the time we returned from our 4-5 mile walk along the shoreline of the spit. Could hardly get dinner ready before collapsing.

I’ll sleep well tonight! Tomorrow we head north again, stopping at Timberline Creations for Michael Lettis’s pendant; then at Ninilchik to browse through a good store called The Peddler where Catherine whom I met today has some of her artwork for sale; then at Soldotna for some jugs of water; then to Cooper Landing where we are staying for the night at the Kenai Princess RV Park right on the Kenai River, at the confluence of Kenai Lake and the Kenai River.

To allay Don’s anxieties about all the ferry legs we’re doing starting Monday night out of Whittier, we went over all of the dates and times of ferry trips and where we’re staying from here on out. Basically the next phase of our Alaska Adventure consists of a month weaving our way through what Alaskans call The Southeast, or what most of us know as The Inside Passage. It should be tons of fun! Lots of boat rides, lots of really nifty things planed. Maybe we’ll even get to see a moose in Alaska yet!

We saw “our” golden eagle about 6 times today, once flying practically alongside us at door-handle level as we drove toward town this morning for the Farmer’s Market. He hangs around out here most of the time, it seems, and has perhaps staked out the territory near the RV park here as his own. He often sits atop the tall pole out in front of the RV park office. And he perches atop the tall light post just north of here by the Marine Terminal. And on our way back from our walk tonight, he sat atop a tall crane at the Marine Terminal, just lookin around and having a good ol time.

Homer is a super place. I could live in this town happily. We both like it a lot. Not a big place, not a lot happening, but a very nice comfortable spot on the map. We learned that Homer is a bit of a Banana Belt in Alaska…temperatures here in the winter are often more moderate than, say, in Anchor Point only 15 miles away. What that means is it might be zero here, but 15 below zero in Anchor Point. Not warm, but a bit less cold than elsewhere. And summer weather here is just perfect – almost always a slightly cool edge to the air, so it’s never hot hot.

G’night all.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #94 on: July 22, 2013, 01:41:00 PM »
Sunday July 14, 2013      Day 47

I was actually sad to leave Homer. I love the town, and the feel of the sea on both sides out on the Homer Spit. Very much my big-water fix, with hundreds of gulls screeching and gliding in circles, lots of interesting “stuff” rolling up onto the beaches at high tide for good beachcombing later on, and the sound of waves lapping…in the case of Homer, a loud sound since the sea-bottom consists of gazillions of tiny rocks being tossed and pushed by currents and waves, back and forth, back and forth. The rivers, streams, creeks and big bodies of water up here are SO rocky that the sounds of water flowing and waves lapping on the shore are virtual rumbles. You can even feel the sound of the moving rocks in the water down in the pit of your stomach.

We heard it again tonight while standing far far above the fast-moving Kenai River, on n observation deck at the Kenai Princess Lodge. Yes, you know it’s water, flowing, but you can also hear the low-pitched rumble of many underlying rocks being pushed by the water. Very interesting, and quite different from the mild sound of flowing riverwater in other parts of the world.

We’re here at the Kenai Princess Lodge and RV Park, Cooper Landing AK, for the night. Cooper Landing is world famous, because it is positioned at the confluence of the spectacular salmon & trout fishing river, the Kenai, and the Russian River. Also at a point just up the road a mile or so from where we are parked, the wide, deep, fast turquoise-hued Kenai river joins with the upper part of Kenai Lake, a very large, long body of big-water where we head the fishing is also spectacular during the “runs”. This is a very small park of only 30 RV sites, and although we’re parked close together, there’s lots of grass and we’re surrounded 360 by dense forests, with big views of high mountains at each end of the park. Can’t complain about this…almost too picturesque for words. Very good value, too, at $36.50 for the night, for full hookups and wonderful bathrooms. (The Kenai Princess Lodge and this park are owned by the Princess Cruise line…the hired help at the lodge live here during the summers in the RV park in their campers and in a string of cabins at one end of the park. Very smart plan by Princess Cruises since this is quite an isolated area of Alaska and the labor pool is thin.)

Our drive from Homer to Cooper Landing occurred in spurts of short trips, with lots of stops on the way…too many stops in Don’s book! First we stopped at Timberline Creations for me to see the new caribou antler carvings Mike Pettis had done since I was there. Yes, I gave in to temptation! Mike’s wife Sandy was working the store this morning, watering her hanging baskets of lush fuschias. Then as we drove past a couple of ramshackle stores with “interesting” fronts on them, I asked Don to hook a U-ee and take me back for some pictures…they were the only “wilderness” places I’d seen so far that were unique in appearance…very Alaska, not like any storefronts you’d see anywhere else. Don thought one of the storefronts was just “junky and cluttered” and not worth pics; the second one, though, was a tiny log-cabin cubicle of a fly shop (you know, flies as in fly-fishing!) that was just too cute to believe…not cutesy-cloying, but rugged and hand-hewn and weathered. Looked as if it had been there since about 1915. Definitely worth some pics.

Traffic was very heavy headed north from Homer…people going home to Anchorage after being down in vacation-land fishing for the weekend, I suspect. Loads of cars with crazy drivers passing strings of campers and RVs on 2-lane roads despite everyone moving at about the speed limit of 55. Some locals who think they know the roads well enough apparently feel quite confident about passing other vehicles on hills, curves and other dangerous places. Oddly, the traffic headed south toward Homer was also remarkably heavy, because of the fishing season and the so-called “second run” that everyone is waiting for right now.

A view of Mt. Redoubt came into sight and we stopped twice at pullouts for pics of this gorgeous cone-shaped volcano far across the Cook Inlet, looking pale blue and pink in the morning haze, very much like the Japanese prints you see of Mt. Fuji. So beautiful I literally wanted to haul out my paints on the spot and sit right there to do a watery watercolor painting. But Don wanted to keep going, so we continued on.

Next we watched carefully for the little shop in Ninilchik called The Peddler that we heard about yesterday while talking with people who live in Ninilchik. Kathryn Kennedy wanted me to stop and see her watercolor paintings there. The shop’s sign is barely visible from the road, so at first we whizzed on by and I spotted it as we passed, so Don hooked a U-ee and returned, so I could amble through and look at “stuff.” Isn’t he sweet?

Great little shop, I must say… a real jumble of excellent quality gift items, native carvings, and fur/leather boots and slippers in a quaint old building. The Peddler represents about 20-30 local artisans who make a wide assortment of things, from needlework to paintings to photos to turned-wood bowls and some apparel items. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t in my “shopping mode” so I didn’t buy anything, but I would recommend the shop highly! They need a bigger sign that is far easier to see, so more people would stop, though. It’s directly across the Sterling Highway from A Fish Hunt fishing charter office, and right alongside the Ninilchik Community Library, a large gray steel building.

On to Soldotna, where we will stop at the Fred Meyer store for jugs of water and a new “basin” that will fit in my freezer to put the bag of ice in. On the way into Soldotna I want to go into one of the local campgrounds to walk along the town’s boardwalks bordering the Kenai River, to watch the salmon coming upriver and see the fishermen lining the banks trying to catch them. Quite a show and we want to see it. Well, I gotta tell ya, a million people were in Soldotna, and half of those were lined up on the narrow, gravel 2-lane road we turned onto to get into the Centennial Campground. Yikes! We sat and sat and sat…the line was moving very very very slowly. Most inefficient gate process we’ve ever seen! If there had been any way at all the turn around and make a dash out of there we would’ve done it, but the road was too narrow, bordered on either side by ditches and dense trees. When we finally got to the entry gate we said we were giving up and turning around and leaving…attendant was so happy to have an “easy” entrant that she grinned as said “Go for it!”

After exiting the park, we quickly saw that practically every car, truck, camper and RV we had seen on the road north was trying to turn into the Fred Meyer parking lot. Everybody loves Freddie’s, as they say here in the northland. Double yikes! We could see that if we simply went to the far entrance driveway, we’d whip right into the lot with nary a slowdown, so that’s what we did. And pulled into a nearby parking space that was just right for us. Thank goodness for this 25 footer, it fits into any space! I went in to find the jugs of water and a bin for the freezer, Don stayed home to guard the family jewels.

Met Lynette and Rick Merrill…both work on the North Slope. Loved our Rollin Home and came over to see it while I was in the store. They pulled in while Don was parking, and Lynette was doing sign language and waving madly at Don, and at Rick while he was driving; Don had no idea what she was indicating, but they quickly pulled into a parking spot and dashed over to our rig, and introduced themselves and began exclaiming that this was EXACTLY the kind of rig they’d been searching for, and wanted to know all about it. When I returned after shopping, there was a reg’lar party goin on!

Don had been talking up a storm with them for 25 minutes already. I invited Lynette inside to see the layout, storage, etc. She just loved everything. And believe me, we were both talking so fast we covered a WHOLE lot of ground before we finished with the tour. We talked with them for over an hour. Lynette and Rick live in Soldotna. Rick is Lynette’s 3rd husband; she moved to the teeny-tiny town of Glennallen from Ft. Lauderdale FL back in the 70s. Glennallen had a population of 60 and was very primitive then. Lynette hauled water from a well, used an outhouse. Talk about culture shock!! . She now has a “great job” keeping records for an oil co on the North Slope. Makes a ton of money. Rick is a materials engineer, also working at the North Slope, but on a completely different schedule from Lynette’s They both go there 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. Both are very intense, intelligent people. Lynette is clad in a sequined top, rhinestone-studded flipflops and a fancy belt…I can’t for the life of me picture her living in Glennallen hauling watr from a distant well in buckets to wash dishes and clothes.

After finishing our “meet new friends party,” we fill up with diesel at Freddie’s and drive to the Kenai Princess RV Park in Cooper Landing, where we’re parked alongside Mel and Linda Burrowes in their 5th wheel, whom we met in Anchorage at the Ship Creek RV Park. They’re from the east coast and have kids in Lakewood CO they’re visiting in early Sept…we might see them again then there. I took a bottle of cold chardonnay over, we all had happy hour together. Really fun sharing our funny stories about where we’d been and what all we’d done in each town we’ve visited.

After having crackers and Rondele cheese with Linda and Mel, we didn’t need much dinner, so we cut up an apple for sharing, then took a long walk before bed. Though this RV park is advertised as “riverside” it is hardly that! Lovely, yes, but not exactly “on the banks of the famous Kenai”…it sits far above the beautiful Kenai River partway up a mountain. The overlook decks give a great view of the roaring river far below. You can hear it, bit it’s hardly the nearby sound that lulls you to sleep.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #95 on: July 22, 2013, 01:43:38 PM »
Monday July 15, 2013      Day 48

On to Whittier this morning. We were uncertain as to whether we should drive into Whittier right away or kill a few hours along the way; we’d read that parking is extremely limited in Whittier, a tiny landlocked place with high mountains encircling the town and little flat area. Yet some friends had told us they loved Whittier, so we wanted to go in and walk around for a while. Hmmmm, what to do?

While driving there, we were in no hurry at all. For once, Don pulled off at virtually every vistapoint and camera opportunity. We watched birds, saw some eagles as well as sandhill cranes and swans and ducks. No moose, though we were in prime moose country and were on the road early. Before we knew it, we were at Portage for the turnoff to Whittier. Although we watched for a good pulloff to while away the hours reading and kill some more time before going into Whittier, the distances were much shorter than we thought and before we knew it we had already arrived at the Whittier Tunnel.

We left the Kenai Peninsula after 9 days seeing all 4 of the distinctly different parts of the peninsula. We just loved every bit of it! I could easily live in Seward, Kenai or Homer…great little towns! Small but not backwards, great mix of people in each place, friendly folks everywhere – cheechakos (newcomers) as well as sourdoughs (long-timers) -- and interesting weather patterns. We never got to see the “real” Kenai Fjords because of the overcast weather, rain and dense clouds at Seward that made a cruise out to the Kenai Fjords Natl Park worthless, but we’ll live. At least now Don has a sense of what fjords really are…high steep rocky and forested mountains rising directly from the ocean, creating narrow passageways and ethereal vistas. We’ll see a LOT more fjord-like areas as we cruise on the ferries on our 9 legs to the southeast and down the inside passage. So I’m not at all worried.

New adventures lie ahead. As we pondered our strategy for Whittier suddenly we were at the tollgate leading into the Whittier Tunnel. Oops! The one-lane tunnel would open for our passage through to the east, at 2:30; it was only 1:30 when we were there, so we hooked a U-ee and went for a quick lunch at the nearby “lodge”…ha! Hardly a lodge, more like a tourist ripoff spot with prepackaged (somewhat soggy) sandwiches for sale. Oh well. We split a sandwich and a coffee. Then drove through the tunnel at 2:30. 

The Whittier Tunnel is a railroad tunnel carved through a very large mountain. At more than 2 miles long, it is the longest tunnel in the US and one of the 3 longest in the world. A few years ago, the tunnel was “modified” so that it is now a 1-lane car/truck tunnel as well. Every half-hour a line of cars, RVs and trucks is allowed to go through, in one direction only. If there’s a train, it gets priority.

But the tunnel’s modification doesn’t mean it was turned into a real road! They left it “rustic,” perhaps for the tourists; most likely because of the enormous cost of building a concrete road alongside the train tracks…so, it consists of wide wooden planks set on either side of – and between – the railroad tracks. Instructions are to stay 100-150 feet away from other vehicles ahead of and behind you, and to go 25 mph. And the tunnel is black, wet, blasted rock overhead and alongside you…no fancy well-lit corrugated tunnel material added to cover the sharp, jagged and chiseled rocks of the mountain or prevent waterfalls in here! It’s black as pitch except for vehicle headlights, and absolutely running with water everywhere, rivers of it. Water drips on the windshield. Wheels and tires wobble and swerve as they move along the spaces between planks and join the railroad tracks at times. Surely one of the more interesting tunnel experiences of all time! The trip through the tunnel takes all of 6 ½ minutes if there are no stoppages or slowdowns.

My friend Linda wondered when we talked by phone several days later how it is that they don’t get lots of black mold forming in that tunnel, creating hazardous conditions. I wonder! It must be very slippery in there, given the water that constantly runs everywhere. Does somebody hose the tunnel down periodically with bleach? Or do they just let nature do its thing? I suspect the latter is true.

The City of Whittier is nearly a ghost town. Travel brochures say Whittier has “small coastal town charm” combined with fascinating WWII history. Hardly. It is grey, bland, devoid of any charm at all. Fishing and fish processing are the only things in Whittier any more. Takes maybe an hour to see everything there is to see. Big cruise ships pull in almost daily, disgorging hundreds and thousands of passengers who walk the tiny town…there are a very few (crummy) shops and (poor) restaurants along the sidewalks near the cruise-ship dock, and a very few more shops and restaurants 5 or 6 blocks north where the ferry dock is located. Not much here, to say the least. But the town has “gentrified” itself with some nice park benches along the new concrete walkway along the small boat harbor, where there are commercial fishing boats, some pleasure boats and sailboats, and a bunch of charter vessels that take people on sightseeing tours, fishing tours, and island tours, to the south along the Kenai Peninsula as well as around Prince William Sound and to the east toward Cordova.

Whittier’s entire population lives in a single highrise apartment building on the side of a mountain, sitting far below a huge glacier /icefield that produces massive waterfalls and ribbons of streams running down the steep embankments above.

Along the waterfront I stand along the railing looking down at the small boat harbor; a cruise ship is in. A few passengers wander around town, and a few of them sit on the benches by the harbor. The only significant activity in town and along the small harbor  docks seems to consist of a half-dozen attractive young people ages 22-32 carting huge white coolers of perishable food, drinks and ice, plus wagonloads full of potatoes, onions, beets, squash, bottles of drink mixers, etc. to load them aboard a large private yacht tied at the end of a dock out near the cruise ship. This white yacht is old-fashioned, probably from the 1940s and most likely a restored wooden boat, about 70 feet long with a lovely sleek hull and a long single-story cabin with a flat roof, trimmed in green paint. The cabin was lined with square windows all the way around to the rear deck. I’ll bet if I had walked down there to look, it would have had beautiful mahogany doors leading from the “main salon” out to the rear dock, as these kinds of old yachts often had.  While reading about Alaska, I had noticed that there were quite a few of these older “luxury yachts” available for charter, as well as some new ones – with captain and crew of 3-5 people -- to cruise the coasts of Alaska for anywhere from a week to 10 weeks, whatever the passengers were willing to pay. I noticed that Whittier’s harbor contained at least a half-dozen of these large yachts ranging from 60-100 ft in length that probably take paying passengers on private charter trips. In only one other harbor we’ve been to – Seward – did I see any large luxury yachts like this tied up at the docks.

While standing at the railing of the boat harbor watching the passing parade, I got to talking with a lady of 82, from Ohio, who had brought her 2 married daughters on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate a special family event. They were from the Island Princess ship that was in port, and only 3 hours ago just prior to pulling into Whittier had learned from the captain of their ship that their 6-day land excursion portion of their cruise had been inexplicably cancelled. They had paid for the land portion already and apparently weren’t going to get their money back. They were angry, and were uncertain what to do.

No reason was given for the cancellation, and they were given no alternative land excursion package. They were told they could always “find and pay separately for a different private land excursion, but once you leave the ship, you are responsible for everything. You can’t leave any belongings on the ship if you leave, and if you fail to show up exactly on time the day you’re supposed to meet with the ship in a different port, it might leave without you.” Oh, nice, huh? So they decided to just stay with the ship. But they were so disappointed that they won’t get to see any of the things they had planned on seeing, such as Anchorage or Denali.

After walking soe more, we took Rollin Home and got in line for the ferry to Juneau, then went to get dinner at a nearby place that has fish (halibut or cod) & chips. Outside tables were available, but had 1 or more people at each, so I asked a fellow sitting by himself if we could join him for dinner. Never have I seen anyone so overjoyed t being asked if we could share his table! We get to talking while he eats and we wait for our fish & chips. Ben Hausmann turns out to be the principal oboist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He is such a joy! Taking a solo vacation by ferry. We gabbed about music, symphonies, conductors of symphony orchestras, the lives of musicians, his life in Seattle, a BMW he just bought, and before long 2 hours had passed in lively fashion. He’s taking the same ferry we’re on, se we’ll see him again over the next 2 days. Ben’s a graduate of Juillard and was at the Aspen Music Festival 5 years ago…he did that instead of coming to Breckenridge and spending the summer with the National Repertory Orchestra.

Our ferry is 2½ hours late getting here from Kodiak but when it finally pulls in and docks, the crew swings into action and makes up much of the time we’ve lost… we leave within a half-hour of the scheduled departure. Clever how they organize the vehicles by destination, size, shape, etc to fit everybody on. A real jigsaw puzzle. They’re really good at this. Some very long RVs and trucks with trailers and semis have back onto the boat (yes, in reverse!). We go on head-first and then back into our lane ¾ of the way toward the bow of the ship, guided expertly by a fella who clearly has helped thousands of RV drivers and truck drivers onto the ferry into its narrow lanes.

It’s really late by the time we get underway, so we head for our cabin and hit the sack at 12:45 am.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #96 on: July 22, 2013, 01:46:43 PM »
Tuesday July 16, 2013      Day 49

Aboard the SS Kennicott, AMHS…306 ft long, full load of vehicles, not a full load of passengers though. To sleep at 12:30, my eyes boing wide open at 7. We’re far out at sea…no land visible out window on port side, which is the side where we’d see land if it was within sight. We’re in cabin 74A, with a large window about 5 ft x 6 ft in size. Nice. I got us a 4-berth cabin on the advice of friends, so that we would both have “lowers” and we could pile our bags of stuff up top. Good idea…berths are narrow. Blankets very very thin, so we turned up the heat a bit in our cabin to avoid freezing overnight, and I wore my fleece to bed.

As it turned out, it was fortunate we got this 4-berth cabin, because Don would have killed himself hitting his head on the upper berth if he’d had to use one of the standard upper-lower berth beds…after he bonked his head 3 times in rapid succession on the upper, we decided I would sleep on the lower berth of the upper-lower set, and we would make up the “couch” into a berth for Don…clever gadget, you pull a lever and yank the bed down from its locked position on the wall. It’s slightly wide than the other berths, too, so he was happy.

At 7 when I awoke, I took my pillow and crawled in with Don…now this is really snuggling! Very close quarters! We slept another hour. Got up, took shower, dressed, went for a hike around the ship to find everything and get the lay of the land, so to speak. 1 deck up is the café and all the lounges for observing, reading etc. Some kids and campers are in sleeping bags on the upper deck, stretched out on long white plastic lounge chairs, the folding kind. But there are no cushions for these plastic lounge chairs…looks pretty uncomfortable to me. One set of campers pitched a tent in the upper deck solarium…the “stakes” used to hold their tent in place are taped to the ferry’s deck with neon green duct tape. In one of the forward lounges with upholstered reclining seats and many windows, some young’uns are stretched out on the carpeted floors between the longer rows of chairs, covered by thin blankets or unwound sleeping bags. Signs on the walls say there’s no “camping” in these forward lounges, but nobody is enforcing the rules. The ferry provides large bathrooms with nice clean showers for people who sleep in tents and on chairs for the long trips, and don’t have their own cabins. Definitely the way to go if you’re traveling cheap.

Oatmeal and fruit for bkfst in the cafe. Hot tea. There’s a microwave available for anyone to use, no charge…ah, we can have our snacks and heat water for coffee and tea without paying a fortune! The cashier just told me there’s no charge, either, for hot water when you bring your own cup and teabag. Great! I thought everybody would be up early, that it would be a mob scene in the café…not so, however. There are only a few people here yet. A few more straggle in every few minutes. It’s 8:45.

I talked to a staff member who is clearing tables and washing them. She lives on an island near Ketchikan, gets there by boat. Born & raised in Anchorage, she was a young child when the Big Earthquake hit Anchorage in 1964. She remembers certain details of that day, she says, with amazing clarity: Her mom had a large pot of stew simmering on the kitchen stove, and the pot flew across room with food streaming out of it when the quake hit. The images in this woman’s mind consist of a series of “photographic stills”…she can see the pot in midair, the food hanging suspended in the air and the pot’s cover floating in the air above the food. She even remembers the color of the paint on her home’s kitchen cabinets, and the cabinets’ green trim. She recalls her mom running to her, grabbing her by the waist and taking her outdoors where they lay on the ground. She still sees in her mind’s eye all the trees in the yard “rolling back and forth”. And she remembers an entire family who lived nearby being swallowed up by the earth and never seen again…the house and all the people were simply gone, disappeared. Not a trace of them was ever found.

Don and I strolled the deck when we finished in the café…how I love to go stand on the bow of a moving ship. Not really the bow on this ferry…they don’t let passengers go down to that level, but only 1 deck above. Same thing. Weather gray, overcast, but mild. Too chilly to stay out for long without a fleece or coat though. Indoors, found comfortable places to sit and read for the day, use computer. Talked for a long time to AMHS (Alaska Marine Highway System) staffer who cleans the galleys during the night, as he was relaxing and finishing his coffee before heading for his bunk to sleep for the day. He’s been 18 yrs in Alaska, 16 of those working for AMHS doing the Ketchikan to Kodiak run, stopping in Homer, Whittier, Yakutat along the way. He has never tired of it! His work for the ferry system is 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, Ketchikan to Kodiak and back. The seas are generally calm is the summer months, but in winter high winds and high seas occur.

When the fog is thick and the seas are high, this must be a real challenge for the captain and the crew! I’ve read that the coasts and inlets of Alaska are littered with wrecks of ships. There are maps showing locations of all the shipwrecks, and it is literally dotted with points. We’re approaching an island that is a big rock outcropping, cliffs about 200 feet high, some trees and green. Just offshore of this cliff is a very tall, large, pointy rock to the south, lighthouse perched atop it.

A tugboat is approaching us from far off, hauling a big barge full of shipping containers piled 3 levels high with a large cable. The barge is probably a quarter mile or so behind the tub, way off to the side because the wind and current blows it sideways. Another ship of some kind appears off in the distance. And a couple of low-lying rock islands slightly to the north and way east as well.

We pull into the landlocked village of Yakutat about 7:30 tonight…might be there just long enough to get off the boat stretch our legs, walk to the coffee place and the little store up the street in Yakutat before reboarding and moving on towards Juneau. Even though the boat arrived 3 hours late last night from Kodiak, the crew did a fast turnaround, made up almost all of that time getting loaded…we left only a half-hour late, at 12:15 am instead of 11:45 pm, and this morning we’re back on schedule. We get into Juneau at about 2:30 tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, the 17th). Long trip across the Bay of Alaska…

The maintenance guy tells me a story about some really heavy weather they were in last February…on this boat, in 50 knot winds, 15 ft waves, really listing and rolling, while heading for Kodiak from Whittier. Really unusual weather for that run. Cooks couldn’t get meals ready because of how rough it was. So most people were seated or in their cabins. This guy was in his bunk sleeping, it was daytime, but had to hang on tightly to the sides of his mattress to keep from pitching out of his bunk, with the rolling. Had the feeling that the boat was rolling in a way that didn’t feel normal…suddenly a 50-ft rogue wave rolled in and hit the Kennicott broadside, pushing it over nearly to the point where it couldn’t recover. But it did come back up…only after a tremendous amount of damage was done to the ship…big vending machines yanked right out of the walls everywhere, every chair not bolted down flew through the air, people flying everywhere, big firehoses came unrolled and flew out of their enclosures. Dishes broke, floors were littered with food, dishes, glasses, silverware, boxes, cans, teabags, sugar packets.

A guy who saw the wave coming and who had never been in a rogue wave before said to himself, “Oh my god, this is the end. We’re all going to die!” The officers told him that the wave was above the height of the bridge and was the scariest thing they’d ever seen. They couldn’t do anything to dodge it, it came at the boat so fast. After it hit and the ship pitched to the side so dramatically, it lost both engines and wallowed in the heavy seas for hours, disabled. Workmen got the engines running again after about 6 hours, and when the ship pulled into Homer as an emergency measure, the Coast Guard impounded it and said it couldn’t sail anywhere because so many safety shutoff valves throughout the ship had operated properly that the ship couldn’t function safely until those valves were turned on once again. It took 2 weeks for repairs to be made so the ship could go to sea again.

We pass the day talking to people, reading, walking the decks for exercise. It’s blustery outside. Naturally, as evening approaches, the weather clears a bit and the sun pikes through as we near Yakutat, a native village with only one store and one little coffee shop. Yakutat has a harbor filled with every size of commercial fishing boat, and has a large fish processing plant on the docks where the ferry pulls in. It’s a tiny place with a population of only about 250 people, mostly natives. Lots of people exit the ship, just to stretch their legs. We decide not to, but to stand at the rail and watch the fascinating process of the crane aboard the ferry put a huge steel platform in place for vehicles to use to leave and enter the boat. Very cleverly done. Massive crane and massive platform, moved around as if they were toys.

The ferry is only in Yakutat for a bit over an hour, so everybody comes streaming back pretty quickly, some carrying sacks with a few groceries. Interestingly, quite a few natives who live in Yakutat come aboard the Kennicott and buy hot meals in the café of the ship to take out…everything from pizza to hamburgers to fish & chips. A ferry crew member tells me that some of the Yakutat locals buy 6 or more meals each time the ferry stops…so basically their whole week is “ferry food.”

Don does his walkabout and meets more people aboard. He talks for quite a while with a fellow from Phoenix who is on a looooooong motorcycle journey throughout Alaska with his 11 year old daughter, who rides is an enclosed sidecar the whole time. They had helmets equipped with Bluetooth so they talk to each other a lot while riding. She is a real cutie, already almost 5 ft tall with a head of wonderfully frizzy light-brown hair that flies about her head like a halo. She dresses in jeans that graduate in color from bright neon pink at the bottom to yellow at the top, and then tops the outfit off with a pale yellow T-shirt. Sparkly pink sneakers on her feet, and a sparkly pink thing about her neck. I compliment her on her wonderfully bright and coordinated colors, and she grins broadly and says, “You’re the very first person who has noticed or said anything about my outfit on this whole trip.” She’s obviously pleased that I noticed. I tell her she’s an artist with a great sense of color, and she tells me, “Well, maybe not an artist, but a musician anyway.” She plays the piano and the violin…I tell her again, she’s an artist! She beams!

“Is this your Trip of a Lifetime?” I ask. “Oh, yes, it definitely is,” she responds. She tells me they are having a really wonderful time together, staying in roadhouses, B&Bs, and motels along the way most of the time. “Whose idea was this trip?” I ask. She looks at her dad, and says to him, “Dad, whose idea was this? Didn’t we both have the same idea at the same time?” They converse together so wonderfully. He says he had always wanted to come to Alaska, and she says, “So Have I, from the time I was little I always wanted to come here.”

Before long, we’re at sea again headed for Juneau, at the foot of the Lynn Canal. Don and I read for a short time, then retire to our cabin for night #2 at sea. We will sleep a lot better tonight, having adjust to the vibration and noise of the engines.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #97 on: July 22, 2013, 02:16:18 PM »
Wednesday July 17, 2013      Day 50

Short diary today. Got to Juneau in afternoon. Went to Spruce Meadow RV Park and checked in. Found our spot, left to go to Fred Meyer for a few groceries.

On the way back to RV park, stopped by the small boat harbor to have a late lunch/early dinner of fish & chips we’d heard about…a little place the locals love called Hot Bite. Sorta fast food joint with a few tables indoors and a few outdoors. A bit chilly outside with the wind so we eat indoors. They offer a halibut cheeks sandwich…oh, goody, I will have one of those! Don has his usual cod fish & chips. The halibut cheeks, I must say, are vastly overrated…these are overcooked, not tender. Not only stringy in texture but a bit rubbery too. I think I’m done forever with halibut cheeks. Don’s cod is delish.

We decide not to go into downtown Juneau today…we’ll be back here later and we’ll go then, probably on the bus since downtown Juneau is very tight for parking, especially larger vehicles like RVs. For now we’ll just enjoy the outskirts. Less traffic, very lovely.

It’s a bright sunny day, quite warm really. We go for a walk around the harbor before leaving. The parking lot here is very very very tight…we’re lucky someone in a corner spot was pulling out or we never would have gotten the Rollin Home parked in this little pie-shaped lot. A good omen.

Back at the RV park, we take another walk around the park and talk to some folks who are staying there. Nice place. I feel good about leaving the RV here when we go to Gustavus later on. The weather is so mild, this would be a great place to sit outside and read, but there are mosquitoes and black flies. Yuck. So we read indoors with the screen closed and windows open.

Clearly we are back in “the south” where it actually gets dark at night…late, but at least the sun is not shining brightly at midnight. We have a very old favorite, small liverwurst sandwiches with mayo, for a late dinner, with some wine, and then hit the sack early in order to be up at 4:45 am to get to the ferry dock on time for our trip to Skagway tomorrow morning. Nice day…unhurried, very coastal, gorgeous fjord scenery.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #98 on: July 22, 2013, 03:11:23 PM »
Thursday July 18, 2013      Day 51

Arrived at the ferry dock at 5:45, got our tickets and drove into our lane to wait. Loaded at 7 am, ferry departed on the dot of 8 am, per schedule. Such efficiency! While waiting in line, we ate breakfast in the Rollin Home. We’re getting this down to a science…set alarm, rise, get dressed, go to ferry, check in, get in line, then eat breakfast and have our tea. Good system.

This system also gives Don plenty of time to do his walkabouts. He has such fun talking to everybody in the RV lanes at the ferries. And everybody is always really interested in our RV…nobody has ever seen one like it, so they all want to ask questions. Today, Don brings only 1 couple in for “the tour”. Lots more vehicles in line to get on the ferry today than at Whittier, but the loading is much speedier. The difference I learned later, is that the vehicles don’t ALL have to get a 4-point strapdown to prevent movement…On the MV Kennicott we were crossing the Gulf of Alaska where there is greater chance of rough weather and movement of vehicles and cargo; now that we’re sheltered by offshore islands, the waters are almost always calm and vehicles are unlikely to shift. So it speeds the loading process considerably.

The trip today was 4 ½ hours to Skagway from Juneau, stopping at Haines along the way The population is much greater in this part of Alaska…I can see cabins along the coastlines and on some islands as the MV Malaspina chugs on by. We are cruising the Lynn Canal almost the entire way to Skagway, the primary route of the gold rush Klondikers as they rushed to the gold fields almost a thousand miles to the north. The Lynn Canal is a huge body of water with countless little islands, some with marine markers and lights on them. One that we pass has a 1-story octagonal white stone lighthouse perched atop it. Looked more like Maine or Massachusetts than Alaska. Sometimes we’re very close to “shore” on one side of the ship…shore being where a giant tree-covered piece of rock rises straight up out of the water. Other times the shore is far away on both sides.

Looking ahead up the canal to the north, I see layer upon layer of high mountains rising in the misty distances, faintly blue and getting lighter and lighter as they recede. We’ve come out of the morning fog and clouds now and the sun is shining. Good day for sunburn, I can tell. The water of the canal is very blue-green. At times I can see a huge waterfall where a river or creek grey with volcanic ash silt pours into the Canal, turning it milky.

At timers the Malaspina passes another ferry going the other way. The Malaspina is the oldest ship in the Alaska Marine Highway System, launched in 1964.

As we pull into the dock at Skagway, 3 huge cruise ships are in the harbor. The winds are blasting but temperatures are mild. We’re one of the last vehicles off the Malaspina, though we were one of the first on board.

As we drove off the ferry, we took a quick right and were in Pullen Creek RV Park instantly. Now this is nice! Owner told us our spot and to go ahead and park, and check in later…he had an RV caravan arriving and needed to get them settled in.

NOTE: Anybody staying in Skagway and intending to stay at Pullen Creek RV Park should definitely make a reservation several weeks beforehand! The owner tells us that he is getting 3 calls an hour from people wanting a space, saying to him “Oh we never make a reservation ahead of time, we always just call in when we get there!”  Well, he declares to me and Don, “They’re certainly NOT staying here then!” He’s full every night, and anybody who doesn’t make a reservation a long way ahead for this time of year is out of luck. PS There are 2 other RV parks in town, 1 fairly large, 1 small. Neither as good as Pullen Creek, nor as convenient. Pullen Creek park is where most of the RV caravan tours stay, we understand. 

Incidentally, we went and did our laundry while in Skagway for 3 ½ days at the laundromat in in the other RV park, the one at the north end of town…best laundromat in town, the locals told us. We agree…lots of big washers and big dryers! Affordable too.

While at Pullen Creek RV Park, Don met Beth who is driving a Winnebago Via, very much like our RV, also a Mercedes diesel Sprinter van. She’s from Florida, a great talker. She’s part of the big RV caravan that came in just after we arrived…24 RVs traveling together on a Fantasy Tours trip for 48 days. They’re staying in Skagway 4 nights, then going back into Canada, heading south then they split up at Smithers BC. 

Beth, traveling by herself, is a widow of 78 who has had every kind of camping experience with her late husband over the years they were married…from tents to pop-ups to truck campers to big Class A coaches. So she really knows what she’s doing, more than we do. She loves her “downsized” Winnebago Via 2010 as much as we love our Itasca Reyo. One of the latches on her basement storage cabinet wasn't working, so Don tried to help her fix it. The guide of her RV caravan finally was the one who got it fixed and working for her.

We took a walk into Skagway in the blowing winds, and found most stores and shops already closed by 5-6 pm. This town rolls up its sidewalks early in spite of cruise ships or other visitors, for gosh sakes! But we were able to go into the local bookstore/newsstand and, BEHOLD! We found the NY Times AND the Wall Street Journal! Hurrah!  The papers are flown in daily from Juneau…so needless to say we’ll buy them every day we’re here!

Dinner in the RV consists of Susie’s little French picnic and wine. A bit of reading, and off to bed. I’m beginning to dream every night of fjords and other Alaskan scenery. The spectacular country is imprinting itself on my mind’s screen.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 03:15:08 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #99 on: July 22, 2013, 05:28:58 PM »
Friday July 19, 2013       Day 52

Slept in…pitter-patter of rain through the night and into this morning. Good sleeping sounds.  No wind this morning, clouds are lifting a bit, but still gray. Walked into town about 11:30 to look around a bit, do a little  shopping (of course, we need absolutely nothing!), and pick up our tickets for the Days of ’98 show at 2:30, which I reserved about 3 months ago for today, thinking it would be crowded and I might not be able to get in. Ha! Hardly the case. The place is deserted, except for the actors, dressed in goldrush days garb and barking their come-on lines in front of the Old Eagles Hall where the show is performed daily (since 1923!!!). the actors have changed, obviously, but not the show…

When it started, there were about 20 of us in attendance, enough to make it interesting with the hoots and hollers, but anything but packed. The place seats about 250 and on days when several cruise ships are in, it is packed. But today is a “quiet day” in Skagway. The show is about Soapy Smith, the con man from Chicago who controlled the town of Skagway much like a Mafia don during the gold rush days of 2897-98, until a vigilante by the name of Frank Reid (incidentally, another two-timing crook!) took him out…both men died in the gunfight that took place on the docks just about where our RV is parked.

Skagway is loaded with historic buildings dating from 1880 to 1915 that have been rescued and restored, as well as some tumbledown shacks and crumbling wood buildings that are either in the process of being restored or are just deteriorating. We walked the main street, Broadway, and some of the side streets, after the show ended. At the visitor center, several hosts told us NOT to try driving the Dyea road (pronounced Dye-eee) out to the mud flats and to the trailhead of the Chilkoot Trail, where the gold rushers went when they started their horrendously long hike up over the White Pass through snow and ice and carrying a thousand pounds of supplies to get to the Yukon River for their trip to Dawson City to find treasure 800 miles north. On nearly impassable terrain. We were told the road to Dyea and the Chilkoot Trail was gravel all the way, one-lane and very narrow in places, with many blind curves and jutting rocks that would prevent us from seeing or avoiding oncoming traffic.

Don has his heart set on going out to see the Chilkoot Trail, after all we’ve read and are reading about the Klondike gold rush years. We can either rent a jeep to drive ourselves out there, or find a guide to take us there. We find out that renting a jeep will cost us $120 for a day. Suddenly I spot a large 24-passenger shuttle van labeled Dave’s Dyea as it rumbles past us…exactly the same size and length as our RV, and clearly it drives the horrid road out to Dyea, so why can’t we? Don runs to catch the driver and see if he/she would take us out there, but the driver has disappeared along with all the passengers as we round the round where it has parked.

Frustrated, we stop in at the Visitor Center (again) and ask for the phone number of Dave’s Dyea Shuttle & Tours. Don is on the phone with Dave himself as I stand outdoors waiting. Dave says to look out the window for a white van that happens to be parked 3 steps from where I am waiting, driven by a lady named Ruth. He says she’ll be glad to take us out to Dyea. When? Don inquires. Right now, Dave says.

Don steps outside to find and speak with Ruth, and finds her and me inches apart. Ruth says she’s waiting for a couple of hikers to arrive on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad train, who she is going to shuttle out to the Dyea campground to pick up their cars. She says she’ll charge us $15 each for the round trip to Dyea, and she’ll show us everything on the way…what a deal!!! WE scramble aboard. It is 5:30 pm…who cres if this is a late-day tour? It’s light until at least 9 so we’re in luck!

Turns out Ruth Craig is 72 and hails from Tipton, Michigan, south and a bit west of the Detroit area in the very southern part of the state. It is such fun hearing Alaska stories from a fellow Michigander. And such stories she tells us! She is Dave’s sister and has been here 18 years, moving here after 30+ years in Arkansas after leaving Michigan and raising 6 sons there. She is an absolute fountain of information about everything and is a salt-of-the-earth lady, rugged and unpretentious and friendly. She leans her head out the window to call to everyone we meet along the way, calling each by name. Rush is a delight. She reminds me so much of some of the rural women I knew outside Grand Rapids, folksy of talk and manner, and quite Southern in her speech patterns after so many years in Arkansas. She calls everything a “booger”, ranging from her old car, to an unfriendly dog, to an eagle, to a problem situation she once faced.

Incidentally, the Dyea Road is pretty lousy, but it certainly would be driveable by us in our RV. There are some even larger camping vehicles parked out at the campgrounds …like a 26-foot 5th wheel trailer hauled by a large long-bed truck. And as we return from this adventure we see a 40-foot Class A coach headed out there…now that, I would NOT want to be driving, but our little 25 footer would do just fine! And there’s really no places on the road that someone couldn’t back up enough or pull over to let a passing vehicle get by.

The 2 hikers have spent a week hiking the Chilkoot to Bennett, in Canada. (Bennett is the small town where gold rushers built small Gerry-built boats out of packing crates and other “found” lumber pieces, to float down the Yukon River from its headwaters toward Dawson in 1897 until 1902, mostly long after the real gold was long gone.) The young woman, in her 30s, is from Switzerland and left her hiking partner in Skagway while she picks up their truck; the young man, in his 40s, is from Anchorage. Ruth regales all of us with stories of Skagway and hunting and eagles and salmon runs and floods and old villages on the way out to the Chilkoot Trailhead lot.

After dropping off the hikers at their cars, Ruth drives us out onto the mud flats at the head of the Lynn Canal, where the chum salmon and the pinks salmon are just beginning to swim upstream through the rapids toward their spawning grounds. These heavy gravel stream-bottoms are where they love to swish their tails and scoop out the streambed nest in which they lay their eggs, she announces. Don and I both get out to walk in to see one of the streams where fish are swimming and resting. The flies and mosquitoes are thick. It’s not pleasant…if we were to camp out here at the state park campground, we’d be wearing mosquito nets for sure. We see some very nice salmon…the pinks…coming upstream.

We drive slowly through the state park campground…the sites are very nice! Each with a picnic table and a fire ring, and a nice level gravel parking pad. But no hookups of any kind. About 10 of the sites are taken, by truck campers and tent campers. They must like bugs a lot.

On our way back toward Skagway on the Dyea Road, Ruth points out where the eagles always are…and a big bald eagle is sitting right there on a sandbar eating a fish. Slowly and deliberately. Picking it clean, despite what we’ve heard and read that eagles often eat just the head (with all its fat) and leave the rest of the fish for the scavenger crows and gulls. We sit there for a good 20 minutes watching and taking pictures. The first eagle is joined by a 2nd. Then a young bald eagle – brown and white spotted, so definitely about 2 years old – flies in an lands, but is quickly rousted and sent off the reservation by the adult eagles protecting their territory and their fish.

When we returned to town, Ruth drove us all round town showing us everything, include the old carved stone McCabe College building from 1880 that is now a government building. She drove us past each person’s house and told us who lived there, who had gardens, who had kids,, who does what, where, when and how. What a kick! She even drove us past her own house with its raspberries growing up the fence and its vegetable garden.

That was SO special….a really wonderful experience with a wonderful lady. I gladly paid her more than she said she would charge us, and Don threw in another $20 for her. We had asked her if we could take her to dinner after this wonderful and she declined, so we took it to mean she’d rather have the money. She’s had a very tough life. I gave Ruth a big hug, and we walked back to our Rollin Home, totally satisfied that we’d had the BEST of all tours of Dyea and the trailhead of Chilkoot.

One more thing: We came here thinking we would hike the very beginning of the Chilkoot for maybe an hour, just to get a feel for what the horrors of it were for the mean and their pack animals back in the day. But the trailhead at the bottom of the Chilkoot is absolutely nothing like the pictures you see of the steep “ice steps” section of the trail. The trailhead is actually on the flats, and you have to go 13 miles before you get to the really tough stuff. The trail has many sharp rocks and lots of roots to trip on, and goes mostly through forested areas along muddy paths. Lots of bugs. Can you guess? We didn’t hike for an hour!

Back at home, another Susie French picnic dinner of cold cuts, cheese, apple, and bread plus some wine, and off to bed. The best day ever!  We really got to see and feel and experience what we wanted to see….the Chilkoot Trail’s beginning, and the ferocious distance the gold rushers had to hike with all their stuff …20 miles out of steep, narrow rocky trail that is now the Dyea Road…before they even GOT to the Chilkoot Trail. I can’t even imagine what spurred these men on.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Wigpro

  • ---
  • Posts: 1298
    • Capt Jim Lucas
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #100 on: July 23, 2013, 02:32:18 PM »
Say Hello in site #3 -Camp Host at Oceanside RV....

Jim


Full time traveler, fishing guide and photographer!

Travel Blog: http://captjimtravelblog.blogspot.com

Website: www.captainjimlucas.com

Photo Site: http://captjim.smugmug.com/

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #101 on: July 24, 2013, 01:12:45 PM »
Saturday July 20, 2013      Day 53

Drove 23 miles north on Klondike Hwy today from Skagway to satisfy Don’s burning desire the retrace part of the rugged Klondike Trail that thousands of men (and many women too!) hiked in 1897-1902, driven by their desire for riches.

Got just barely north of downtown Skagway and stopped at the Jewell gardens to make sure their restaurant would be open for a late lunch on our return to Skagway later in the day. To our disappointment, we learned that it would not be open later that day…a big Alaska garden club convention is coming into town today, and will be taking over the entire restaurant for its annual dinner tonight. Oh darn. So we decided to stay and eat lunch there right away…after all, it was almost noon!

Skagway is known as the Garden City of Alaska, but by the 1950s had no gardens left in it, except for individual home gardens, as the town continued to shrink and decay. So a lady named Jewell approached the city council and proposed to renovate a home north of town and put in beautiful new gardens that would be a major tourist attraction. They responded with some financial assistance for her and thus was born this lovely setting, with a renovated home, extensive acres of gardens, a huge model train setup that winds through a large garden area, and most recently, a glassblowing factory that makes very high-quality glass products. The gardens are largely “edible gardens” growing greens, herbs and vegetables that it supplies to the Poppies restaurant at the site.

Don ordered a pulled pork sandwich that arrived with a beautiful pile of fresh greens on the side that were so inviting he ate the whole salad before tasting the pulled pork, which was also delicious. I ordered fresh beet pasta sautéed with fresh vegetables (summer squash, zucchini, sweet peppers, onions, mushrooms) in white wine…and topped by an incredibly fresh piece of lightly grilled salmon that was so succulent I was blown away. This lunch was by far the very best quality food we’d had on the entire trip…the prices were very reasonable and it outdistanced Simon & Seaforts in Anchorage or any other place we’d eaten at since leaving home on May 28!

This is a BIG recommendation: Anyone visiting Skagway should go 1 mile north of town to Jewell Gardens for lunch or dinner, and be sure to allow time to walk all around the terrific gardens. Glassblowing demonstrations are excellent, as is the Jewell Gift Shop.

After a surprisingly wonderful lunch, onward and upward on the Klondike Highway. This is an Ooh and Aah road every inch of the way. At one point, an enormous waterfall drops 40 feet immediately adjacent to the highway…worth a stop and a picture, of course! Gorgeous views & scenery…the mountains are so rugged that it is literally unimaginable that tens of thousands of gold rushers climbed through huge jagged rocks along the steep path now followed by the White Pass & Yukon Railroad (affectionately known as the WP&Y), which wasn’t put in until after 3 years’ worth of gold-seekers and pack animals had lugged countless tons of food and equipment up those mountainsides – many perishing along the way from falling off ledges and/or starving to death. The gulch below the pass is called Dead Horse Gulch for good reason.

The road we drove was only put in during the 1970s, an indication of how difficult the terrain is. What a trip!  We drove almost to the Canadian border, then turned around and went back to Skagway. A very interesting day.

The rest of our day was spent taking walks, eating a tiny dinner at home, and reading.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #102 on: July 24, 2013, 01:15:31 PM »
Sunday July 21, 2013      Day 54

Today we take the ferry to Haines. We like Skagway quite well, and we could easily spend a couple more days here taking 3 of the hikes that are easy to do from our RV Park. But it’s been raining and spitting a good part of the time we’ve been here, so I guess we’re ready to hit the road and move on.

But Skagway has interesting history, lots of very old buildings, nice people, and interesting things to do. Too many cruise ships and hordes of tourists moving through a town of 2-dozen jewelry shops, though – odd that Skagway streets are lined with jewelry shops, but I guess there’s been lots of demand for gold nugget jewelry every since the gold rush days ended. Many if not most of the shops are owned/staffed by Asians, I noticed. And many of them sell very expensive stuff…the Monte Carlo of Alaska?

Our ferry is at 5 and we need to get our tickets and be in line by 3 pm. Easy. We walked to town and picked up the newspapers…so nice to have been able to read the Friday WSJ and now to get the Sat-Sun WSJ! Yeah! We stop for Starbucks at a local shop that serves my favorite java. We prop ourselves on tall stools at a counter and sip our coffee, surrounded by cruise ship passengers who’ve invaded the town again -- and read papers before heading back to the RH to check out of our space.

Our plan was to get a fair amount of activity in early in the day today, then get on the ferry and eat lunch in the cafeteria. Then nap or read. Worked out well. We were one of the first vehicles to drive aboard – surprise!! – so we headed for lunch before sailing. Only an hour to Haines today. Don had a big bowl of the ferry line’s good chili and I had a big salad of very fresh crispy greens. We shared a bowl of watermelon cubes.

In Haines, once again our RV park is right on the water’s edge, this time a few miles from the ferry dock. It’s also at the edge of downtown Haines, so everything is within walking distance again. Nice. We’re at Oceanside RV park, which is just terrific! It’s a small park and RVs are packed in fairly tight, but we face the water and the mountains across the Lynn Canal, so the views are spectacular. The park’s picnic tables are across the driveway on the edge of the bluff overlooking the beach…a wonderful place! Perched on the rocks are herons, and perched on some nearby posts are bald eagles! Every so often the eagles take off and fly by, then come back and sit on the rocks or the poles.

We learn that tomorrow night the owner of the park will host a Crab Feed Potluck…fresh Dungeness crab right off the boat! We sign up for it, though I can’t eat shellfish so I’ll get salmon somewhere. I’ll make my special coleslaw to take to the feast.

After getting parked and hooked up, Don’s fills the water tank in the RV for the first time…the water pressure is very high here, and any RVers without the high-priced water-pressure-regulators are warned to use water from their tanks instead of hooking up to water while here. Hence, we decide to read our big manual and figure out for the very first time how to get water into the water heater, heat it up, and take real showers in our RV. Usually we just use the RV park showers, and that’s fine with us.

Off to bed. Can’t wait to walk the town and see Haines tomorrow.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #103 on: July 24, 2013, 01:16:45 PM »
Monday July 22, 2014      Day 55

At 9 am we’re off to the coffee shop up the hill that we have read offers free WiFi. Hooray! Only place in town that offers free internet. Cute little place too. Rather strange baked goods, but oh well…we shared a raspberry chocolate chunk scone. We ended up spending many hours there writing and having more coffees…their internet works well! We’re happy happy campers.

While there we meet a friendly family of East Germans with 2 very cute smart teenage daughters. Fascinating that one of the girls speaks colloquial English with no accent at all…she sounds as if she’s straight out of a US high school!

I tried to get caught up with my daily journals…so far behind! I got a couple of them done and posted them online, but I’m still about 4 days behind. Yuck.

Haines also has a very good IGA grocery store right at the top of the hill above the RV park and beach…well stocked store and decent prices. I load up on my cabbage slaw, dressing, can of pineapple chunks and can of mandarin oranges to make coleslaw for the potluck dinner. Later in the day, close to dinner hour, Don plans to walk to Big Al’s and get me some salmon fish & chips in lieu of the crab.

We’ve already met a bunch of the RVers at Oceanside…nice folks!  Also, Jim who is Wigpro on RVForum.net is here as camp host…we’ve been communicating with Jim since last spring about our trip to Alaska and his planned trip up here. We were to meet up with him in Cantwell after driving the Old Denali Highway, but his summer job there didn’t work out, so he ended up coming down here to work as camp host. It was such fun meeting up with Jim at long last…he has given us so much help in the planning stages of our trip.

Don immediately struck up a friendship with Rick and Marie from Evergreen Colorado, traveling in a Class A coach parked near us. He is having tons of fun talking with them. Marie teaches accounting at Regis Univ. in Denver.

Joyce owns this place and works very hard. She has a house north of town but moves down here and lives in the RV park’s apartment during the summer months. Her grandkids are here…2 teenagers from Vancouver…and they are so funny and cute. Typical teens! Watching them drive Joyce’s golf cart like a hotrod around the park is a riot. Joyce tells Don she gets the fresh crabs for $6 each…large ones!...and charges RV customers $8 a crab. Well worth it! Don only ate half a crab…he liked it but he’s not crazy for crab the way I used to be or the way everybody else was.

We sat at dinner with 4 college-age summer interns from the Bald Eagle Foundation, 1 from Oregon, 2 from Georgia, 1 from Louisiana. This summer the foundation has 26 raptors in residence…bald eagle feedings are at 10:30 and 2:30. I’d like to go tomorrow.

After dinner, I move over to talk to the folks on Don’s left, Colin and Nyree from Aukland, New Zealand.  Colin lived in Whitehorse YT for 18 years before moving back to New Zealand; this is his first trip back to Alaska in a long time. Nyree and I get to talking and I immediately feel a great connection to her…she loves good food, is quite the reader, and is tons of fun. She’s a New Zealand indigenous Maori (pronounced Mah-ree) and is gorgeous. Her dark brown-black eyes twinkle as she talks, her whole being smiles when she smiles, and her skin is the most splendid cinnamon brown I want to steal it and make it my own. They’re traveling the Yukon, BC, Alberta and Alaska with a travel trailer and their kayaks.

Before long, Joyce had a big fire crackling in the fire ring and we all moved over to roast giant marshmallows on sticks that her grandkids had whittled and prepared for us to use. Memories of youth! We had such fun roasting those marshmallows!

Rick and Marie had departed to drive out to Chilkoot Lake to see bears as night falls…the pinks are coming up the river to spawn so the bears are out, up there. Later we learn they saw one bear.

The rest of us sit around the fire and gab until after 11, then wander home.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #104 on: July 24, 2013, 01:18:31 PM »
Tuesday July 23, 2013      Day 56

Good intentions don’t always work out, especially when we sleep in late! Missed the eagle feeding t 10:30 am at the Eagle Foundation!  Oops. Sunny, beautiful day! Warm!!

We had a good breakfast of oatmeal and tea, then drove south on the Chilkat Peninsula south of Haines, out to the Haines Processing Co. to buy fresh and smoked salmon. The processing plant has an interesting walking tour that enables you to see the fish arrive by boat, get unloaded from the big bins onto processing tables, have the heads and tails chopped off, get de-gutted, then get finely trimmed for packaging, then have all the bones pulled out by hand using tweezers, then go through another washing, get put into packages, run through a machine that sucks all the air out of each package and seals it, then into a flash-freezing chamber, then into big freezer bins for shipment to restaurants and retail stores.

I bought a fresh half-salmon fillet to grill tonight. Less than 1 hour since it was caught…splendid! And 5 packages of smoked salmon. I already bought smoked salmon a bit earlier today at Dejons Delights in Haines too. They do their own processing and we had eaten smoked fish from Dejons in Skagway and found out their main store was in Haines. Their fish is delish! We’re set!! 

We stopped at the Native Alaskan Arts Center…open daily 9-5…it was closed!  But went to a tiny art gallery on the next street over and loved it…Debi Smith is the artist, has been up here 15 years. Very good art…clean designs, carves wood, makes sterling jewelry, carves blocks and makes prints, does serigraphs, paintings. A talented woman!

As we drove out the Chilkat Peninsula to the fish processing place, nearly every turn in the road produced a perfect vista. I kept wanting to stop and spend 2-3 hours painting at bout 8 difft places…this was literally the very first time on this whole trip I wanted to stop and paint paint paint…I could hardly bear to drive on past these perfect scenes. Paintings were forming in my head one after another. It turned out that we couldn’t make it all the way out to the point at the end of the peninsula…the drive out to Chilkat State Park (the point) turned out to have a 14% grade leading to the end of the road. We decided to skip it! Darn! The view at the end of that road is supposed to be mind-blowingly fabulous!

On our way back toward Haines Processing Co. from that side road leading to the State Park, we stopped to buy lemonade from 3 darling little girls with a lemonade stand at the end of their driveway…their mom offered to let us drive her car to the point but I thanked her and said it was OK for us to not see it, that we were pretty much OD’ed on spectacular vistas on this entire trip.

The fish processing plant was set alongside a beautiful little bay out on the Chilkat peninsula…the whole scene is so picturesque it looked like it was staged! A perfect fishing boat was sitting in the perfect spot on the perfect water with perfectly-proportioned red buildings to the right, a couple of low red houses left and behind, snow-capped jagged-topped mtns beyond. Too beautiful to believe.

Then we drove the other direction completely, back through the town of Haines and to the north, out to Chilkoot Lake to see the bears, if they were out today. We saw mama bear and her little cub crossing the road going to the lake to fish. The cub was quite skittish and every time he herad a sound he would dash back into the forest. Then she’d coax him out again and try to get him down to the river for fishing. He was scampering around…very young cub, probably only about a month old. She looked to be a cinnamon black bear…not a grizzly. No hump that we could detect. While out at the lake, we visited Colin and Nyree at their campsite …they had checked out of the RV ark that morning and were planning to stay for a few days up at the lake dry-camping. They were in one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever seen, set in a grove of old-growth spruce trees, breezy so there were no bugs, in dappled sunklight so it was no too dark, with a worn path down to the lake that they were planning to pull their Kayaks down to go paddling for a few hours around the lake.

After the visit at the lake and seeing the bears, we still had some time and energy left so we drove out to the west of Haines to see and visit the bald eagle preserve. The road out there, Haines Highway, follows the Chilkat River, which is very wide and a chalky grey from volcanic silt.  We drove into tiny native town of Klukwan, the main town for the Tlingit Indians. I was hoping to see if we could arrange a tour for tomorrow morning, but absolutely no one was around anywhere. At the preserve, we saw a couple of eagles sitting in trees.  This is the kind of river the Yukon must have been for the thousands of people during the gold rush…very very very wide, a hundred channels, some deep, some shallow, in flood stage right now flowing big, heavy and fast…thousands of sandbars and snags (tree trunks, branches and roots piled high where the flowing water has deposited them).

Grilled our super-fresh salmon for dinner, with organic greens bought yesterday at the coffee shop…perfect dinner!

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Terry A. Brewer

  • ---
  • Posts: 1416
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #105 on: July 24, 2013, 07:21:41 PM »
>>They’re certainly NOT staying here then!” He’s full every night, and anybody who doesn’t make a reservation a long way ahead for this time of year is out of luck.<<


Things must have changed since 9-1-2006 when we were there & had no problem getting a space for two days....We are also people who never make reservations except for Rally's.

Oldedit

  • ---
  • Posts: 426
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #106 on: July 26, 2013, 12:22:08 PM »
>>They’re certainly NOT staying here then!” He’s full every night, and anybody who doesn’t make a reservation a long way ahead for this time of year is out of luck.<<


Things must have changed since 9-1-2006 when we were there & had no problem getting a space for two days....We are also people who never make reservations except for Rally's.

Things opened up after a couple of days even though a 24-unit caravan was there.
2014 Newmar Ventana 4037 12.17-
2013 Itasca Reyo T 2012-12.12.17
2006 Roadtrek Adventurous Mercedes (Freightliner)
Colorado 2009-2012
Toad: 2016 Jeep Patriot Stick with Blue Ox

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #107 on: August 01, 2013, 12:38:17 PM »
Wednesday July 24, 2013      Day 57

Today we’re taking the ferry to Juneau from Haines at 5 pm so we have practically a whole day to putz around and see more of Haines. We figure we’ll head out on the road to the ferry in the early afternoon and park somewhere on a pullout, read and nap until we need to check in and get in line by 3. It’ll only be a 3-5 minutedrive to the ferry dock from where we’ll be…and it’s not exactly rush-hour traffic here!

We’ll eat lunch in the Rollin Home while we’re in line for the ferry and that way we won’t have to fight crowds and pay high prices in the ferry’s dining room, given that the 4½ hour trip starts right at dinnertime. We have leftover grilled salmon in the frig (YUM!) and enough remaining organic greens for a great salad…sounds perfect. Good planning on my part, huh?

Despite getting to bed late last night, we awaken at 6 am and get up, get dressed, and head out, taking our computers to the coffee shop for a roll and the free internet hotspot. Good grief, nothing, absolutely NOTHING, is open in Haines early in the morning…it’s 7 am and nothing is stirring in downtown Haines! What a surprise. I thought every tourist town opened early for the hordes of people to move in…and a big cruise ship did arrive last night, so there will be some crowds later But not Skagway or Haines, that’s for sure…things open up at 10 am and the sidewalks in these 2 towns roll up by 6 pm.

It’s rainy-drippy this morning so my skin is happy happy. Don has the computers in his backpack underneath his fleece. As always, I’m using my “sticks” to stay balanced…walking with my hiking poles is SO much better than trying to hobble along without them. I mention to Don that I noticed another coffee shop/bakery over at the health food store about 5-6 blocks away from this as we drove around yesterday, so we head there, thinking that might be open. We need the walk anyway.

We notice as we pass tourist sites, stores and the library…the library of all places!...tht many places don’t even open until 11 am! Lordy! We notice instantly as we near the other coffee shop that plenty of early-morning traffic is puling into the gravel lot around the health food store…aha! We’re in luck. This is indeed the early-morning java-haven for the real people.

Don has a raspberry muffin…enormous!...and I order a slice of banana-walnut bread that looks good. The “slice” turns out to be a full 1-inch+ thick and it’s enough for 3 people for heavens’ sake. I get a couple of butter pats to go with, and we head to a table with our stuff to kill a couple of hours.  I get caught up, at last, with my daily journal posts. When we’re done here, we’ll go back to the other coffee shop and use their free Internet to post our stuff, and Don can read the news for a while. Of course, we’ll have to buy more coffee etc there to compensate them for their free Internet. I’ll be sloshing by noon!

We chat for a while with a nice gray-haired lady at the next table who leans over and begins talking with us, asking questions about where we’re from and so on. Turns out her son, in his 60s now, lives in Haines part of every year. He has lived in Alaska since the 1960s, so he was one of the early arrivals…probably a Hippie…John McPhee wrote about in his book Coming Into the Country back in the 70s. She is 88, from Southern California near San Diego, and still runs 5K races 4-5 times a year. Each year she and her son take a long adventure trip somewhere fun….this year, in late August, they’re headed for southern France where they’ll spend 4 weeks hiking across the Pyrenees into Spain. Last year they climbed Machu Picchu and other parts of Peru for a month. She asked me about my hiking poles because she noticed I take them everywhere…I told her about my broken femur in December, while skiing, and when we finished talking, she said I had convinced her that using a good pair of hiking poles all the time is great for keeping the body balanced, preventing limping, and making one conscious of where you’re putting your feet with each step. She has one bad knee and a replaced hip, so she runs much the same risks I do (pardon the pun), favoring one side of her body and tending to toddle a bit when she’s feeling weak or tired at day’s end.

When I’m done being verbose with my daily posts, we hustle uphill past the late-opening library and down Main St. to the coffee shop with Internet, to post my journals and for Don to read some news online. He’s feeling news-starved! At the Rusty Compass coffee shop & bakery, most seats are already taken by people sitting with their computers, fingers moving rapidly on keyboards. Amazing how silent a great coffee shop can be these days! Used to be abuzz with conversation, now machines and silence all round. Don orders coffees for us (smaller ones this time!) and I do my posts quickly. While Don reads the news, I look around at all the stuff Kathy has for sale, hoping I find something I like that is reasonably priced, so I can support her a bit financially for providing us with the service of free internet.

Darn. I can’t find anything I want to buy among the gift items. Decent prices for things, but not anything I want or could give as gifts. Lots of little pottery items I don't want to have to pack carefully and keep from breaking while we drive. Some native carved things, also very breakable. A few fishy things…already have enough of those. Aha…here’s something! A wonderful pair of handcarved birchwood “giant hands” for tossing and serving salad…in the shapes of fish. Extremely lightweight, nicely designed and finished. Very cute, unique. I’ve seen these “hands” things all over Alaska, but none in the shape of fish. Price is great too…I ask if she has more sets available. Nope, just one set left, Kathy replies. OK, I’ll buy the one set then. Either for us to use in the RH or as a gift, haven’t decided.

While buttoning up the Rollin Home to head towards Chilkoot Lake for a couple of hours before the ferry trip, Rick & Marie come over to gab, and Jim/Wigpro, and Joyce the owner, and her grandkids. Takes us forever to get ready to roll. We’ve made good friends here and it’s been tons of fun!

Chilkoot Lake is virtually deserted today, so we find easy parking at a good vantage point to watch for Mama Bear and Lil Bear if they come to visit. Only about 6 fisherpeople are in the river today in their waders, chest-high in the fast-flowing waters, trying to get the salmon running upstream in large numbers now. At “the weir” that stretches across the river, a naturalist sits and counts spawning salmon, the old fashioned way: He is bundled in many layers of warm clothing, out at the center of the river on a slightly raised platform, with a counter in his hand pressing a button each time he sees a spawning salmon swim upriver towards home. A person does this for approximately 12 hours each day this time of year, in 3 shifts, in order to determine the total size of the salmon school coming to the small streams far above Chilkoot Lake. This will determine the size of the allowable “catch” for the next year, and helps indicate whether the total number of salmon is increasing or decreasing or staying the same year to year. We note as we drive by the weir that the wipe-board says the count today so far is 293, with the total count so far in this second “run” of the year at about 23,000, and we’re only in the very stage of the second run so there are many days yet to go. What we’ve heard and read is that the sockeye runs on a big river like this will typically be in the range of 150,000-230,000 per run.

A few Wildlife Tour vans and small busses roll in and take a turn around the circle, looking for bears. A truck pulls up in back of us and parks…it’s Colin and Nyree coming to say hello (and goodbye, again). Colin says his kayaking tour of the lake yesterday was wonderful…we went to 3 waterfalls and sat and watched as salmon pooled and rested in the basin below each waterfall, then after resting did the fast-tail-wagging thing that big salmon do and literally flew straight up in the air to the top of the waterfall. He was surprised any fish could make it that far, but most did. A few fell backward and had to wait and try a second or third time, but it was amazing to watch large fish generate the power and momentum to fly upwards in the heavy flowing water coming straight down at them. Colin said the pool at the bottom of each waterfall was thick with hundreds of waiting salmon, large and small…the large ones are the sockeyes, smaller ones the pinks. He spent several hours watching the show of furious tail-swishing by the big red salmon climbing toward their home spawning grounds.

Colin and Nyree said that as they took a late-day walk near their campground yesterday they watched fishermen catching salmon yesterday in the river, one after the other using lures. One guy kept tossing each fish he caught back in the river and they asked why he wasn’t keeping any. “Oh, these are just the pinks,” he said. “They’re okay but I really want the sockeyes.” Much harder to catch, he told them. Finally he caught a good sockeye for dinner and left, happy. Colin and Nyree wished he had offered the one of his throwaway pinks, which they would have cooked for dinner!

No bears today. Before long, our sittin time had elapsed and we got into Lane #5 for the Malaspina ferry to Juneau, only a hour. The ship arrived late, but the crew made up the time once again, loading fast and efficiently. We found seats in the forward lounge but soon moved to the lounge one deck above because our seats were surrounded by laughing, fast-talking Germans who all knew each other and were really whooping it up.

We didn’t want to stand outdoors today…lots of wind and with the ship’s forward motion, people were getting blasted on all sides of the ship. Also quite cloudy and misty-rainy so not pleasant for too long outdoors. In the upper lounge, a young baby was squalling nonstop and a young couple with a live-wire blond 2 year old boy were trying to get him to sleep. We ended up talking with the young couple whose little boy just didn’t want to go to sleep…they were travelling with their Mom from Whitehorse and with a sister and her husband who have a 9 month old baby…quite a tribe. As we chatted, I asked the Mom of this traveling group if she had lived in Whitehorse YT very long…25 years, she told me. “Did you know Colin Land when he lived there?” I inquired. “Yes, I did…he was in the construction business with my husband,” she responded. Small world!

She asked all about Colin and Nyree and said she would enjoy seeing them again some day. But, darn, I forgot to get her name…thin, about 5’9”, reserved but friendly, short salt-and-pepper hair, very pretty with a wide thin mouth and a smile that makes her whole face crinkle up.

Times passes quickly and the sky clears as we get to Juneau. We know right where to go this time…our parking spot awaits us at Spruce Meadow RV Park along the Mendenhall Loop Road. Easy. We zip off the ship in back of a black-painted old school bus that a guy bought for $1,600 in Skagway, licensed and registered it and drove it to Haines, and is using to move himself, his furniture and all his belongings to Juneau from outside Haines “because no movers at all were available to get me to Juneau and I had to move here by a certain date to take a job.!” He is probably better off in the long run doing it this way…I would bet it saves him a good deal of money moving himself.

A bite of dinner and to bed with us.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #108 on: August 01, 2013, 12:40:57 PM »
Thursday Aug 1, 2013

Sorry I haven't posted my journals for quite a few days, folks! I'm just SO darn busy having SO much fun!!! There aren't enough hours in each day!  I'll try to get a bunch of journals written and posted today and tomorrow...we're in Sitka right now and it's fabulous here!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #109 on: August 08, 2013, 10:47:16 AM »
Thursday July 25, 2013      Day 58

Another delightful day in Juneau. We love the RV park we’re in…Spruce Meadow, on the far outskirts of Juneau, feels like semi-wilderness and it’s easy to get everywhere from here. So glad we’re not staying closer to downtown, where the tiny, curvy very narrow streets of “old Juneau” go straight up the mountain. Driving an RV in downtown Juneau is nasty, and there’s very little parking anywhere close to restaurants or shops. And the milling hordes from cruise ships are awful. All the shops are junky. I would say the cruise business has absolutely ruined Juneau.

The outskirts of Juneau, however, are wonderful. Auke Bay, Mendenhall Glacier, and End of the Road are beautiful, relatively deserted. Eagle Beach, where we plan to hang out for a good part of today, is spectacular as the tides recede. Dozens of bald eagles of all ages descend onto the gravel sand spits and watch for fish. A lot of times they just sit there and look around, probably waiting for some other sucker to catch a fish that they can then try to steal. Eagles are quite lazy and they do a lot of stealing from each other. At one point we counted a dozen big eagles on one long spit of gravel.

I had never before seen huge eagles frolicking in the water, taking baths in shallow tidepools and throwing water thither and yon. Until we came here. Eagle Beach is a good place to just sit and watch eagles do what eagles do. Including play in the bathtub! They flap their fully extended wings and fling water into the air, fluffing their whole bodies up, exactly the same way our parrot did years ago when we sprayed her and the way our little sun conure did when he bathed.  To see such large birds do this is amazing. They may look serious and majestic, but bald eagles are just kids that play in the water, after all!

The road that goes up north of Juneau is known simply as The Road. Driving it to the farthest north end of Juneau – End of the Road, it’s called – is gravel for a long way. But we did it anyhow, going all the way out to Echo Bay, where we watched some people fish, tramped the beach a bit, then observed a small metal barge-ferry big enough only for a single vehicle or small load of cargo pull into the beach, lower its front gate, and unload a small truck, which drove away. After a few minutes, a different truck came barreling along and drove down to the beach and up onto the barge. We learned that the barge and the trucks belong to a remote Bible camp about an hour away, up around the point and across some water on a nearby island.

A young family with two cute little kids came to the beach and played around for a bit. We learned they had moved to Juneau several years ago from a smaller, more remote town, but planned to return to the town they came from. They found Juneau to be quite unfriendly and just not a place they wanted to raise their kids.

I wanted to drive out to Point Bridget State Park at a turnoff from End of the Road road, but Don is wary of bears being out and the possibility of encountering them. The state park has 4 really good trails going out to the beach; they’d be a perfect length for us. But Mr. Risk-Averse is being very stubborn.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #110 on: August 08, 2013, 11:16:54 AM »
PS Thursday July 25, 2013

Just looked at notes I made in my iPhone…forgot to put a couple of things into my post for yesterday. When we were sitting out at Eagle Beach north of Juneau watching the big birds eat, fish, bathe, Don turned around looking inland and saw the proverbial “white golfball in the green trees”  (e.g. a mature bald eagle with his white head showing clearly) as he was sitting there just watching all the goings-on at the beach, where 5 or 6 young eagles were fighting over a fish one of them had caught. (You can tell a young eagle from a mature one because the young ’uns are brown-and-white mottled in color until they are 4 years old, when they develop the characteristic white head and white tail, and their bodies become darker brown.)

Suddenly, the mature eagle spread his (or her) wings and flew down to where the youngsters were dancing around fighting over the fish, and quickly took control, shooing all the kids away and eating the fish himself. Ha, so much for giving the food to the young ones so they’ll survive! No way, Jose! Dad (or Mom, whichever) was eager to teach the kids a lesson, that being: Nothing comes easily in this life, kiddo…ya gotta fight for it if you want to keep it!

We took a drive into downtown Juneau to go to the famous Red Dog Saloon to tip a beer in honor of our next door neighbor, Jim and his deceased wife Ruby…they had visited the Red Dog several times when they visited Alaska years ago, Jim told me, and Ruby had so much fun at the Red Dog, a local dive with sawdust on the floors, big animal heads on the walls and a reputation for good ol waterfront brawls.

The crowds from the cruise ships were back aboard the ships by the time we entered the Red Dog, fortunately…except for 6 guys at the bar we were the only ones there. But I could readily imagine the place stuffed with people elbow-to-elbow having a good ol time! We ordered two things to share -- an appetizer of salmon spread with crackers (delicious, lots of salmon and very tasty! But high-priced!) and a burger, which was way overpriced and awful. Wish we had gotten 2 orders of the salmon spread!

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #111 on: August 08, 2013, 11:42:13 AM »
Friday July 26 through Sunday July 28, 2013      Days 59, 60, 61

I called Gustavus Inn yesterday and talked to Dave Lesh, the owner, to confirm that we would arrive today and make sure our flights hadn’t been changed. Good thing I called…Dave checked with Air Excursions and they had made a mistake and didn’t have us down for our flight today. So he did a switcheroo and we flew out of Juneau to Gustavus at 10:45 am instead of 11:30. OK by me!

Gustavus Inn has been written up by Gourmet, Sunset and Bon Appetit! magazines, all of which have raved about the comfortable inn and the wonderful food. So I decided way last December that Don & I would celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary there…44 years deserves something really special, I figured! Although our actual anniversary isn’t until August 30th, we can start now and celebrate for a month, right?!

Check-in at the Juneau airport for the short bush flights in Alaska is such a breeze that it almost might be worth living up here full time! No tickets needed…they just have your names on a list. No removing shoes, coats, belts or any of that stuff…you just throw your bags onto the cart designated “Gustavus”, walk out the door and climb into a little 6-seater Cessna parked about 20 yards away. Our pilot, Ralph, introduces himself to us and tells us what’s up. He’s a gray-hair with a pot belly who’s been flying here for many years, which reassures Don – Don’s been reading that many bush pilots in Alaska are brand-new at this game and have only recently migrated here. Ralph instructs each of the 4 of us where we should sit during the 25-minute flight to Gustavus.

It occurs to me as we’re waiting at the end of the runway that if flying were this simple and uncomplicated in the Lower 48, I might actually be able to get Don to fly somewhere with me anymore…he just hates all the fol-de-rol of airports since 9/11…such nonsense and CYA maneuvers, he is convinced. For him, the hassle-factor makes traveling by air anywhere unpleasant.

Juneau isn’t socked in with fog and low-hanging clouds today, but it’s not exactly clear, either. Our pilot tells us he’s decided to take an alternate route that goes over some deep valleys, rather than go up over the highest mountains on his way. The route he’s chosen is better for visibility on days like this, he tells us. No worries!  Gustavus is on mainland Alaska, but there are no roads to it. You get there by air or boat only. It is located at the extreme southeast point of Glacier Bay. It is home to a very few hardy souls…population about 250 I think…and everything needed to sustain life has to be hunted, fished, grown in one’s own garden or shipped in. The Gustavus Inn is renowned for its magnificent kitchen gardens, which also are full of spectacular flowers. All of the fruits, vegetables and salads served at the Inn are grown in its gardens. Main courses basically consist of fresh fish and seafood. Desserts are fantastic homemade delicacies that have been on the Inn’s menu for years and years!!!

The trip over is excellent. The light and weather improves as we head north across Icy Strait toward Gustavus. The tides is out and has to be a -4 or something like that…it’s very low and the moss and lichen rings around the shorelines and rocks are colorful and vivid. At one point we are fairly close to the ground as we pas over a high mountain meadow. Close enough that I can spot a large brown bear sow and her 2 cubs as she scurries behind some bushes as she hears the plane overhead. There’s been a fair amount of clear-cutting of timber in wide swaths across these mountains, and I can see the delineations where new growth has arisen. A few patches of old-growth trees appear…it’s easy to see which sections of forests are old-growth -- they are much less uniform in size of trees, color and spacing of trees, and they’re strewn with what I call “toothpicks”,  very tall grey-white dead trees with spindly branches reaching outward in squiggly sprawls, bereft of any green.

At a certain point in our flight over Icy Strait, the water becomes crystal clear and is bright turquoise-green near the shorelines of islands. I can see a bright rusty-orange outline around each island showing the high tide line. Very close to the shoreline the water drops off quickly at a precipice into an abyss of deep turquoise-blue that morphs to deep emerald green. The edge of the precipice is a strip of brilliant yellow-green. It’s easy to see from above that the islands and even the shores of the mainland are nothing more than the tops of mountains extending above the ocean’s ceiling. The patterns and colors are spectacular -- I find myself wishing I could paint from above what I am seeing right now. Photos won’t do it justice at all.

Dropping lower as we near Gustavus, we pass over a spit of land extending out from an island in Icy Strait. The surface of the spit as it extends out into the ocean is brilliant lime green, with a bright yellow rim, then orange, then rust, then the faintest purple as it goes into the sea. The forests inland are deeper greens interspersed with yellows and neutrals. The irregular shoreline is so gorgeous, so vividly yellow-green in this grayish light of day, that I am positively stunned by the beauty of it. I try to take a mental picture of this glorious abstract design of green spruce and deciduous trees, outlined by a wide yellow-gray beach with mosses of yellow-green in parallel stripes defining some big triangles and semicircles, with a narrow strip of copper-red at their outermost edge nearest the mud flat. Stripes of yellower and yellow-brown mud an gravel are closer to the water’s edge, then where the water starts light turquoise strips morph into turquoise-blue wider strips, then to blue-green, then to emerald green. This is so mesmerizing!

I recalled right then that Don’s brother Al gave us a wonderful book of photography years ago of the earth from above, which I found enchanting as I viewed the geometric forms and flowing colors and abstractions. That’s exactly how I felt today!

All of a sudden, we’re on the ground, instantly at the gate, engines off. We’re told to grab our bags off the cart no more than 10 steps away “around the corner in the garage.”

Adrian, a college student home for the summer, picks us up in the Gustavus Inn van. A few minutes’ drive and we are at the Inn, painted a light gray with dark trim, and with a huge wraparound porch hung with baskets of flowers. This reminds me so much of the old resorts on the coast of Maine or Massachusetts, old but not dumpy; refined but anything but stuffy. We are taken to our room, at the end of the hall on the main floor. It’s big, full of light, has lots of windows. The curtains are blowing in the breeze as we enter – the room is aired out for us on this perfect day. There’s an easy chair near the foot of the bed and a separate twin bed in a corner. A nice tall highboy dresser in another corner so I can unpack, even though we’re here for only 2 nights. Nice desk alongside the queen bed, with its own chair. A small sitting room adjoins the bedroom, containing another desk, a couch, and a bay window looking out toward the gardens. The sitting room has its own door leading to a deck with pots of flowers on it and steps down to the yard. The sitting room also has a little kitchenette sink, some dishes and cutlery in the cupboards and a corkscrew in a drawer. Nice suite.

A knock at our door and we’re told lunch is ready for us in the dining room whenever we’re ready to eat. We’re instantly ready to eat! The table is set for only the two of us…everyone else is “out playing” we’re told. We meet Dave Lesh, the owner, who is in
the kitchen cooking, getting ready for dinner. I remind him of my serious shellfish allergy, and he says there’s always an alternate food available if/when shellfish is on the menu. 

Lunch consists of 2 cheeses – a beautiful Swiss and a cheddar – along with thick slices of homebaked bread and Manhattan-style fish chowder. Mmm, perfect…nothing better! As we ate our soup, we were brought a huge wooden bowl of fresh salad greens with only some mild oil on them with a bit of lemon juice, topped with a sprinkling of fresh-grated parmesan cheese. Nothing could have been more perfect!!! The salad was so tasty, so fresh, so tender and delicious that we ate every single leaf of it…too good to let anything go to waste. Fresh cookies for dessert.

We were told the meal schedules and when we had to be ready to leave tomorrow morning for the all-day Glacier Bay Cruise. Don is in heaven…the WiFi is good here, so he can read the news, follow his stock market stuff and catch up on everything he’s been missing for weeks. He immediately claims the table in our sunlit sitting room as his own.

TO BE CONTINUED…
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #112 on: August 09, 2013, 02:39:08 PM »
CONT’D. Friday July 26 through Sunday July 28, 2013      Days 59, 60, 61

As we climb into the Gustavus Inn van, Don asks Adrian how far it is to the inn from the little airfield. “Well, maybe about four-and-a-half minutes,” Adrian laughs. “Nothing in Gustavus is more than about four-and-a-half minutes away from anywhere else. It’s pretty small.”

In a jiffy we are there, turning into a drive and passing 2 enormous old spruce trees. Along the covered porch that makes an L around the frame cottage-style building are an assortment of bent-twig chairs with high backs and wicker sofas, all strewn with bright floral cushions. Everything looks so comfy I could live right there on that porch!

Adrian’s little tour of the Inn includes showing us the coffee counter in a corner of the dining room, with its big drawer of every conceivable kind of tea and a jar of local honey…coffee and tea are available 24/7.

After lunch, I head out to the gardens to inspect everything. My gosh, there’s a huge patch of 9-foot tall delphiniums! Holy cow! The dahlias and nasturtiums and sweet peas are big and gorgeous. The smells are heavenly. The rows of many kinds of lettuces look good enough to eat right out of the ground! Positioned all round the Inn are old barrels filled with flowers, along with an old brass samovar potted with flowers and an old rowboat filled with flowers. The railing of my little deck is held up by an old wooden wheel from a pioneer wagon, and off to the side of the deck is an old rusted horse-drawn thresher entwined with bright orange and yellow nasturtiums. Everywhere I see 5 or 6 different kinds of poppies, marigolds, huge snapdragons, asters, cosmos and roses.

Dave and his wife Jo Ann have owned the Gustavus Inn since the 1980s when they bought it from their parents, Sally and Jack Lesh, who moved here and ran the Inn since 1964. The Inn has been in business since the 1950s. The walls contain many old photos of the Lesh family and the Inn in its bygone days, as well as wonderful watercolor paintings by local artists and by Jo Ann Lesh…she’s a very accomplished artist.

Okay, I looked at my notes…lunch consisted of halibut chowder, fresh seed bread, that exquisite tender salad of 5-6 kinds of fresh greens with oil & vinegar dressing & grated parmesan cheese, topped off with a little plate of fresh frosted cupcakes. What a pleasure!

After lunch, we walked “to town,” which is all of 1 block away…called “the hub”…there’s an old gas station that sports ancient museum-quality pumps and that also houses the local museum, and at another corner a newer building that has a tiny general store and a combination art gallery & café.  About 20 yards beyond one corner is the Sunnyside Market, a tiny grocery. And about 50 yards beyond an opposite corner pretty much hidden in the woods, is the local liquor store, where I buy a bottle of cab for us to drink in our room.

Cocktails are at 5:30 with dinner at 6:30. We meet lots of wonderful people who’ve returned from their Glacier Bay cruises and from their days of fishing for salmon and halibut. In addition, we meet some folks who will be with us tomorrow on the glacier cruise, who arrived this afternoon. The Inn, which holds 26 people in 12 rooms, is full. Appetizers consist of pickled kelp salsa (a yummy treat made from freshly-harvested kelp gathered at the nearby cove!) with crackers. Dinner is fresh king crab for those who eat crab.  Hooray! I get fresh halibut fixed the Inn’s special way…an old Sally Lesh recipe called Halibut Caddy Ganty which I will surely fix many times in the future! Mashed garlic potatoes and fresh salad. We get a choice of brandy alexander pie or berry cobbler for dessert. Both are delicious.

After our leisurely dinner, some folks head into the library to play games. There’s another Scrabble fanatic here who wants to play Scrabble, but I’m bushed and not in the mood for games until late at night.  So I head to our room with a couple of the Inn’s books…one is an Alaskan photography book, the other is about Rie Munoz’s art, which I’ve loved for many years! Rie Munoz is a Juneau resident and has a gallery in Juneau, which I plan to visit when we return there.

Tomorrow is our Glacier Bay Cruise. I can’t wait. And so a wonderful day ends.

Saturday we’re up at 5, have a breakfast of eggs, bacon, thin little sourdough pancakes (incredibly delicious, almost like little crepes) with real maple syrup, plus orange juice and coffee at 6. The Inn also makes its own nicely roasted oat granola and has homemade rhubarb sauce and homemade yogurt to put on it. I’ll try that tomorrow.

Seven of us pile into the van at 6:40 heading for the dock inside Glacier Bay for our day-long cruise to see the glaciers at the head of the bay. The boat leaves at 7:30. The boat holds 50-60 people total; there are about 35 of us going today. Nice. Leaves room to move and see everything.

As we pull out we learn that the glaciers in the Fairweather Range get about 100” of snow each year. The glaciers in this area have retreated and returned 5-6 times in Glacier Bay over the last 600 to 700 years. The sun is out today (again!) so we’ve lucked out! Things are sparkling.

Along the way, our skipper clearly knows where the good places are to see wildlife, and she pulls into coves to check out the shorelines. A grizzly sow and her cubs are foraging on a shore. At another place we see a large male grizzly turning over gigantic 300-500 lb boulders at low tide to get at the crabs and other tiny edibles beneath. We see another sow and her cubs who head into the woods as they spot us. Above us, high on a rocky headland we spot 3 nanny mountain goats lying peacefully on high narrow ledges, each with a small fuzzy kid alongside.

A few minutes later, we spot 2 large humpback whales in the distance, their “blows” are visible but only the tip of a fin or tail. Minutes later, our skipper turns to port, approaching a large bunch of piled rocks on which are dozens of big stellar sea lions basking in the sun. Many birds are circling above and swimming around the rocks, including about a dozen wonderful orange-beaked puffins. Floating in the clumps of kelp on the water’s surface are dozens of sea otters, some with their little pups sitting on their bellies. Others are cracking shellfish on their chests, a characteristic behavior that is so fun to watch. It doesn’t get any better than this!

Proceeding to the glaciers at the north end of Glacier Bay, we spot another pair of puffins swimming in a small cove…this time the much-rarer horned puffins. Tarr Glacier is indeed tarry…absolutely pitch black with volcanic ash and glacial dirt churned to the surface of the glacier as it rolls downhill to the sea. This is surely NOT the way any of us picture glaciers…the photos always show the big glaciers as whitish with fresh snow and bright blue where the weight of the heavy snows has compressed the glacier into blue ice over hundreds of years.

The Grand Pacific Glacier is similarly quite dirty, though not black. This one is known for its size and its curious behavior of receding across the Canadian border then advancing again into the US over periods of ten years or so. It is one of the few glaciers in the world that is advancing in size and area right now.

Cruising over to the Margerie Glacier’s 200-foot-high snout wall, we get to view a glacier full of the vivid blue ice for which glaciers are known. We learn that it takes 150-200 years for the compressed snowfalls to move downward and reach the bay. The water is full of chunks of ice, large and small. No real icebergs of any great size, though. The boat’s crew uses a big bucket to retrieve 4 or 5 big chunks of clear blue ice from the water, which everybody handles to verify the extreme density of this ice, which takes many hours to melt.

We observe that one of the spiked towers of ice at the forefront of the glacier’s snout is beginning to lean forward more, so we’re eager to see and hear the glacier calve, as an enormous chunk of its ice breaks away and crashes into the sea with a huge roar, causing a large wave. We’re fairly close to the glacier, maybe a quarter-mile offshore. Minutes pass, the ice leans farther away from the snout, and we’re all holding our breaths. Suddenly, in a blink, the entire 300-foot-tall spire and the huge block of ice on which it rests collapse forward into the sea, the roar reverberating around the bay and causing a large underwater wave of above 6 or 8 feet that rolls broadly beneath our boat. Now there are 3 new big icebergs floating at the edge of the impressive Margerie. Pretty dramatic.

Our return trip to Gustavus has another adventure in store for us. About halfway down the bay, our skipper pulls into a cove along the west side of the main arm to pick up a group of 10 kayakers with a guide who’ve been out paddling and camping for 10 days on an adventure tour. The boat bumps directly onto a sandy beach, tosses out a line, and the campers plus guide fly into action loading their kayaks and duffel bags onto the bow of the boat. Interesting assortment of people. Don immediately starts working the new crowd to find out all the details of their trip.

During the all-day cruise, I spend a good deal of time at the railing of our boat with the wind in my hair and chatting with a lady frequently at the bow as well, who is at the Gustavus Inn with us. I met her last night during cocktails. We were both fascinated by the kelp salsa and how it’s made. Margaret P. turns out to be an absolute fountain of information about Glacier Bay and, in fact, all of Alaska. She lives about 8 miles north of Haines and is visiting the Inn for the first time in many years, in the company of her niece Diana and Diana’s husband Bart, both physicists who live in Alberta, Canada. Margaret is 88, single, and one of the most adventurous people I’ve surely ever met in my life.

Margaret has lived many different places, is largely self-educated, has worked at many different kinds of jobs, built houses to live in, grown her own food, written a well-respected book about early child development, hiked and paddled and hunted throughout Alaska, and has the twinkliest, liveliest eyes and personality I’ve ever encountered. She’s a jewel! Margaret migrated to Alaska in the late 1950s after getting her master’s degree in Calgary. Originally from Wales, she lived in London for a long time and then in the Highlands of Scotland (near Ayr) for 10 years, so she has a lilting brogue left over from the early years of her life.

Our chats while standing at the bow rail of our boat reveal that Margaret once spent an entire summer “paddling” the entire Glacier Bay and its East Arm in a kayak BY HERSELF, tent camping on beaches at night! That was in the early 1970s, for heaven’s sake, long before kayaking became a popular sport and long before long-distance camping “adventures” became the craze they are today. She tells me she never gave one second of thought to the possibility of bear attacks or to fears of being in the wilderness by herself. What a gal! What a pioneer! What an inspiration!

Margaret tells me she had the most wonderful time that summer she paddled Glacier Bay, both its large main channel and the long narrow East Arm, meeting lots of natives and sometimes staying with them in their villages, watching wildlife on land and sea, and fishing for her food plus eating berries and root-plants that she collected and prepared for herself. She began and ended her “paddle” at the Gustavus Inn…she was friends with Sally and Jack Lesh, parents of the Inn’s current owner. She had met Sally in Haines when Sally was visiting friends there.

Margaret had a stroke 2 years ago and as a result has a bit of difficulty thinking of and articulating certain words when she is conversing. No problem for me…I figured out right away how to coax Margaret to remember the right words, because she is aphasic exactly like my Mom was after her strokes years ago. We had such a great time together!  When Margaret was telling me a story about her past and couldn’t think of or say a word she wanted to say, she’d smack her forehead with the palm of her hand, and I’d do a free-association game type of thing with her until we figured out the word, and she’d go merrily on with her story. Worked like a charm. (After a while, even Diana and Bart figured out how to play this guessing game with her, which was a comfortably way to get everybody to relax and josh their way through these frustrating moments, and which facilitated their conversations a lot, too.)

To support herself over the years, Margaret has worked as a commercial fisherman for 8 years, doing long-line trolling for salmon by herself in Icy Strait “in an old wooden boat that was always sinking,” she laughed. She would often stay out for 15 to 18 hours at a stretch, until her lines were full of fish and she could reel them in and return to Haines. At other times, she drove a bus, and hiked the entire Chilkoot Trail taken by the gold-rushers in the 1890s.

When I joined Don in a conversation with two of the young kayakers who had come aboard, I learned both of them are artists who hope to make a living at creating art. Caius (pronounced Kie-uss—as in the name of Caius Caesar) is Greek, and has a classic Greek profile and curly hair that makes me want to do a drawing of his head and face. His girlfriend Jenna is a cute blond. We have fun talking art for a while.

On the way home, the van that picked us up at the cruise dock drops Don & me off along the road leading to the Gustavus Inn at a spot where a short road leads to Carole Baker’s little gallery. The gallery is open today from 3 to 5, a sign said, and I’m determined to take a look at Carole’s watercolors despite the clock warning us that it’s 4:55 pm when we jump out of the van. The Leshes have a half-dozen of Carole’s paintings hanging at the Inn, and they’re very nicely done, so I want to see her gallery nearby. We hustle down a dirt road towards Carole’s house, finally coming a very small wooden building about 10 x 10 in size, weathered grey cedar with a green metal roof and peeling red paint in a few places. A tiny carved sign hangs by a narrow chain over the steps, saying Gallery. The door is locked. Oh darn!  Don says “I told you so! This was a dumb idea so late in the day.”

I notice right away a woman is picking berries in the field behind this little cabin. To Don’s dismay, I call out to her, asking if by any chance she is Carole Baker who does watercolors. She answers with a big smile on her face that no, she is not Carole, but she’ll give Carole a quick cell-phone call to get her back here, because she locked up and left only minutes ago for her house. Carole, who is my age, quickly returned, opened her gallery, and I took a look around, chatting with Carole all the while. She and Jo Ann Lesh have been friends for years, and have painted together many times, she tells me. Carole is self-taught and has been painting most of her life, nearly all of which has been here at Gustavus. She does lovely watercolors, mostly landscapes, in a delicate hand. I bought one, plus a couple of cards containing prints of her paintings.

This was a long day of cruising, walking and seeing. Our walk back to the Inn left us perspiring…the sun was bright and the weather quite hot, a rare event at Gustavus we hear. The hot shower before cocktails and dinner felt awfully good! Appetizers our second night were baked flatbreads with homemade pesto made with basil and roasted garlic from the Inn’s garden, plus marinara sauce for anybody who wanted to add it. The roasted garlic pesto by itself was super-tasty on those crunchy flatbreads. Dinner was grilled rockfish with family-style dishes of sautéed fresh kale and roasted new potatoes. A fresh green salad was also served. Dessert was a choice of grasshopper pie or wild-strawberry chocolate torte (wild strawberries in fresh whipped cream, spread between two layers of chocolate sponge cake and then slathered on top as well…the bottom layer of chocolate cake had a layer of dark chocolate buttercream that made the whole concoction even dreamier!).
Sunday -- Our pillow-top bed with its fluffy down comforter felt especially good after 15 hours of activity. We slept in the next morning, making it to the dining room just in time to beat the 9:30 am deadline for breakfast. Others did the same thing, we noticed!  We headed out for some long walks to get our exercise before lunch at the Inn followed by our 2 pm flight back to Juneau.

Lunch was creamy thick kale soup, once again with a big basket of fresh-baked bread and cheeses on the side, plus a huge bowl of fresh fruit salad with sprigs of fresh mint in it. Fresh cookies for dessert.

We’re off in the van to the airfield and our short flight back to Juneau. I’m sad to leave the Gustavus Inn. Sally Lesh made this place comfortable and memorable, with great food, and David and Jo Ann have succeeded marvelously at continuing the tradition! I wish I could stay 2 weeks. I’d paint every day. It’s glorious here. I purchase both of Sally Lesh’s memoirs before leaving, knowing I’m going to love reading them. (Lunch at Toad Road and All My Houses.)

Anybody who gets to Juneau, Haines or Skagway should come here for at least a few days! It fits like an old loafer, and is so incredibly friendly. Gustavus Inn is a throwback to “the old days”…the real sign of that is guests don’t receive any room keys! Rooms are never locked! It’s as if you’re at a favorite old cottage. Sally Lesh said years ago that she wanted a visit to her Inn to feel as if it is a visit to granny’s cottage. Yes!

And for a foodie like me, Gustavus Inn is heaven on earth! Everything is impeccably fresh, prepared simply and perfectly, served family-style and just perfect! I can see why many of Dave and Jo Ann’s guests return year after year for a week or two at a time. I’d come back here in a blink, preferably for two weeks…I’d paint every day, and take long walks. That’s all, and that would be enough!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #113 on: August 10, 2013, 10:46:47 AM »
Afternoon of Sunday, July 28 and
All Day, Monday July 29 and Tuesday July 30, 2013      Days 62 & 63

Back in Juneau after our blissful stay at Gustavus Inn, we knew we needed to avoid fattening food for a while…carbs are out, fish and salads are in for Don & Susie. OK with us!

My research notes showed that the drive to Mendenhall Glacier from our RV park would be worthwhile, so after taking a taxi back to Spruce Meadow from the airport, we unhooked Rollin Home and headed up the mountain to the glacier viewing area for a late-day adventure. We have only one more day in Juneau before moving south on the ferries.

Each day, dozens of packed tour buses take groups to Mendenhall, so the roads and the walkways are mobbed. We were headed there at 6 pm… parking lots were empty and walking paths virtually deserted. We explored a bit, tramping out to the lake to view icebergs floating lazily on the chalky-blue water, which was mirror-calm. Several of the bergs were enormous, with lots of vivid blue ice crevices. Bigger and better than we saw at Glacier Bay, near Margerite or any other the other big glaciers there.

A few families of local folks were walking the boardwalk paths out along the Mendenhall River, so we followed them to see what we could see. Before long, everyone stopped and was looking up…two fuzzy black bear cubs up high in a nearby tree, each one cuddled into a crotch, paws hanging down, sleeping peacefully. Turning the other direction and moving a few steps farther along the walkway, we saw mama bear, a big black sow, fishing for her dinner. She was flopping, stomping and eagerly going after pink salmon swimming upstream to spawn. She missed a few, kept trying, and got a big salmon, probably a good sockeye, holding it in her mouth and going ashore to hold it on a rock surface and chomp away.

She repeated this show several more times, then disappeared for a few minutes, re-emerging on a path that passed only two feet away from the walkway’s railings, extending her nose into the air and sniffing curiously, I think in an effort to locate her cubs sleeping in the tree about 30 feet away from us. She made a few sounds and down they came, at which point she led them home for the night. What a good nature show!

Our final days in Juneau, we went to the Rie Munoz Gallery close to where we were staying…a very unpretentious location and unassuming building, given how famous Munoz has become over the years for her colorful depictions of lively Native life in Alaska. I spent a good 2 hours looking at everything and conversing with a guy who has worked for Munoz since 1987. I ended up buying a book of her designs, and a couple of small prints that were well-priced.

We filled up with diesel fuel at Fred Meyer and got our usual 15-cent discount from the asking price, using the points we had accumulated on our Value Card. That would be the last reasonably-priced fuel we’d see until getting to the Lower 48, and maybe until returning home, we knew. We stocked up with a few more jugs of water and some staples for the larder to hold us over while taking the ferry through the Southeast…I didn’t expect grocery stores in Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell or Ketchikan to be any great shakes in terms of great produce or reasonable prices, given their need to import everything from Outside.

We also ran an errand to Fred’s Auto, where Don wanted to talk with a guy, and had him change our Rollin Home’s air filter, since we’d driven through so much mud and dust along the way. A good thing to have done at this point in our trip. Also stopped at the Western Auto store, for some “stuff” we needed…little jobs to cross tasks off our To Do lists.

Then, at end of day Tuesday, we hustled back out to Eagle Beach, where we took our easy chairs out of the back storage, started the grill and grilled fresh sockeye salmon for dinner. We ate like royalty while sipping our wine and watching a most-gorgeous sunset far into the evening. All the while, we got an eyeful seeing eagles do what eagles do, on the beaches and in the air! At last, after 68 years of wanting to see eagles, I am beginning to feel as if I’m getting my “eagle-fix”.

This was a fitting end to our on-and-off stays in Juneau. We may not like downtown Juneau – the “old Juneau” – very much, but we sure like the north side of town, out The Road!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #114 on: August 10, 2013, 10:49:25 AM »
Wednesday July 31 through Friday August 2, 2013      Days 64-66

The alarm woke us at 5:30 so we would have plenty of time to shower, fix breakfast, eat and have our tea, and do the emptying tanks /unhooking tasks before getting in line at the ferry dock by 8:30. Our ferry to Sitka leaves at 10, for a 4 ½-hour cruise to Sitka, where we’ll spend 3 nights.

This is really the beginning of our exploration of Southeast, as Alaskans call the archipelago of coastal islands extending from the Glacier Bay area all the way south to Canada. Skagway is the farthest northern part of the “Alaskan temperate rainforest,” as its known, though Skagway gets the least rain and feels very little like a rainforest. As we move south to Haines, Juneau and now Sitka, we’ll feel increased humidity and experience much more fog and drippiness and mist every day.

Although we have many more experiences ahead of us, I feel sad to be starting this fifth distinct phase of our 2013 Great Alaskan Adventure. I don’t want this wonderful trip to end, ever! My senses are alive, I’m “floating” the way one should on a great journey/vacation, and we’re simply experiencing Alaska in a way I hardly thought possible.

In my mind, Phase 1 was the US National Parks up through Montana and Wyoming, and up into Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Phase 2 was the Alcan, aka the Alaska Highway, driving for miles and miles through tunnels of trees in utter desolation, mountains and lakes in view at times, very few towns ever, while imagining the troops and construction workers during WWII plowing through the muskeg and bulldozing a million trees as they forged their way to “the top,” fighting off clouds of mosquitoes, wading through hip-deep mud and enduring punishing weather all the way. Every one of them deserved a Bronze Star for their efforts!

Phase 3 was our drive around Alaska, entering at Tok, exploring the central part of Alaska and going to Anchorage, then down to the Kenai Peninsula and all around Alaska’s jewel of ocean fishing. Phase 4 started when we took the Alaska Marine Highway ferry from Whittier to Juneau, a long cruise across the Gulf of Alaska, and our ferry trips to Skagway and Haines, plus our flight to Gustavus and our stay at the Gustavus Inn. Now we’re embarking on Phase 5, to experience the “old Russian” part of Alaska in Sitka and Petersburg, then proceed on to Wrangell and Ketchikan.

In Sitka, we’re staying 3 nights at the Sitka Sportsman’s Association RV Park practically adjacent to the ferry dock, so it’s a quick trip from the ferry and into our spot. Somehow I had the idea that this would be close to downtown Sitka, which it's definitely not; and I hoped there might be a local shuttle we could use, which there’s definitely not. A bus runs infrequently and costs $2 per person per ride, coins only. Almost as bad as having to do laundry, with a bunch of quarters at the ready.

We are parked looking directly out at the water, with a green lawn in front of us. The RVs are very close together, and the park is small, but it’s okay. Nothing special. But there are people here whom we met at an RV park in Haines, so it’s fun reuniting with them and sharing stories of our adventures.

My research notes say that a meal at the Larkspur Café is in order, for their superb creamy salmon chowder. So that’s where we go at midafternoon, for late lunch / early dinner, on the waterfront, downtown. We’ll also take a walk around town, see the old Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the center of town, get the lay of the land, and decide what we want to return to another day. The super-creamy chowder, at $8 a bowl, turns out to be all potatoes and chunks of veggies, and almost no salmon. Clearly these folks are not acquainted with making good fish stock as the base for their chowder…what we eat has virtually no salmon taste at all. This place is living on its past laurels. And it doesn’t live up to its billing at all.

We have very good weather the whole time we’re in Sitka. We visit a few shops and galleries. We drove out to the Sitka Totem Park at Totem Point, and spent several hours walking all the trails throughout the point to view the old totem poles throughout the park. Along the trail, we stop to view the river where salmon are running…the water is literally black with layer upon layer of salmon, a veritable carpet of salmon, so thick is each pool of the river that a person could almost walk across their backs. It’s amazing to see this “black puddle” of salmon waiting to go upstream, so thick and packed together you wonder how they can even breathe or get enough oxygen to stay alive.

Another day in Sitka, we drove out to the Raptor Center and spent several hours there, viewing the raptors being rehabbed following injuries. It’s particularly interesting watching the eagles flying from branch to branch in the large Raptor Flight Retraining Center. They have quite a collection of owls, too.

Almost nobody bothers to take the nature trail at the Raptor Center outside of Sitka. Too bad. Most people leave right after the tour has ended, but Don and I took the whole nature trail and had a wonderful time. The trail goes through a very old-growth forest with enormous trees, and some rotted stumps 15 to 20 feet in diameter that are acting as “nurse stumps” for new growth. The place is full of beautiful moss and lichens.

We wanted to visit the Fortress of the Bear as well, but road construction deterred us. We opted not to drive gravel roads and wait a long time for pilot cars to get us through one-lane work stretches on the way out there. People told us it was wonderful. But we don’t feel we need to see everything and go to every tourist attraction. We just wander around, “float” in our own fashion, and experience the feel of each place.

We drove out past the ferry dock toward End of the Road to see what was there. Interesting trip, nice views. Don was reluctant to hike any of the trail I had directions for because of bears along all the trails while the salmon are running.

Sitka has some interesting commercial fishing harbors. I definitely like commercial fishing harbors right downtown…they give a place character! The one place we didn’t go that I wanted to visit was Tommy Joseph’s totem carving studio behind the Russian Cathedral…he’s one of the most famous younger Tlingits doing terrific carvings…we just ran out of time.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #115 on: August 10, 2013, 12:41:01 PM »
ADDITION TO SITKA, JULY 31 THROUGH AUGUST 3:
I forgot to report that we tried our best to have lunch or dinner at Ludvig's Bistro along the waterfront by the cannery docks in Sitka while we were there...my friend Margie and her husband Kent so loved Ludvig's (Mediterranean fare) when they visited Sitka last year that they ate there 3 times in 3 days. Hence, I had made a special note to eat there while we were in Sitka! But alas, each time we tried to go there, it was closed...doesn't open until 4:30, and we were usually headed back to our park by then. We did eat at Kenny's Wok a few doors up the street, though, and the sweet-and-sour Chinese reminded us of our days back in the 60s shortly after we met in downtown Chicago, chowing down at our local neighborhood Chinese joint, Wing Yee's. I guess we'll have to visit Petersburg again sometime to eat at Ludvig's.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #116 on: August 10, 2013, 01:16:45 PM »
Saturday Aug. 3 and Sunday Aug. 4, 2013      Days 67 & 68

Up at 5 am again, to check in and line our Rollin Home up for the ferry from Sitka to Petersburg by 6:30. Ugh. I’m loving these ferry legs of the trip, but I’m beginning to hate these early departures. Feels like getting up in the middle of the night, now that we’re retired and accustomed to rising at 7 or 8 or even later. How did we ever get up at 5 or 5:30 every day to go to work?

This ferry trip is almost 13 hours long, so I got us a 4-berth cabin, thinking we’d go back to bed and sleep for a few more hours. On each ferry trip, especially the long ones, I pack a goodie-bag for us with snacks, stuff for a real meal (some cold cuts, cheese, bread, mustard), apples, etc. For these long trips, I also always take along a couple of bowls, a jar of our pre-mixed oatmeal (old-fashioned oats, oat bran and raisins), spoons, and some teabags, so we can have tea without spending a fortune. We’ve learned quickly that obtaining unlimited hot water in the cafeteria for fixing cereal and for tea costs nothing. For the trips when we have cabins, we throw together a bag with pajamas and pillows as well, along with clean underwear and sometimes a change of T-shirts so we can feel fresh after napping and taking a shower. When we get cabins, it’s the shower that really feels good!

We hit the sack immediately upon getting on the ferry and reaching our cabin, and slept soundly for a few more hours. Nice. Showered and went up to walk the deck for a while…we did 9 laps (3/4 of a mile) and it felt great. We saw lots of humpback whale spouts (“blows” of air as the whales surface to gulp oxygen before they dive again).

As we completed our walk around the deck, we spoke with a couple of crew members who were taking a break. It turned out that one of the guys was at the wheel of the Matanuska ferry 7 years ago when it was bound from Kodiak to Whittier and encountered the two huge rogue waves! Hearing him tell the story made it even more real for us!

The experience literally scared the crap out of this guy, who swore afterwards he’d never take that route again, especially at the wheel of a ferry! He immediately asked for a transfer and is now on much more sheltered runs of the ferries, in narrower channels where there are islands and a lot of land within sight. He said there were 2 huge rogue waves that followed each other by about 3 minutes, each about 50 feet tall and both big enough to sink the ship. He said the hours without any power after the safety switches cut all power and closed all hatches and doors were very frightening, as the ferry wallowed in the high seas.

Petersburg is on Mitkof Island, a very small fishing community that retains its character as part of the old Alaska. The ferry terminal is about a mile from the town’s center, which isn’t much, really. A lot of churches along Church St., as usual…the old Lutheran church, the old Catholic church on the hill, the old Presbyterian church, the old Russian Orthodox church, the old Mormon church, the old Baptist church…all the religions were here and must have scrapped mightily to win over the Tlingit natives to their various sects.

Our RV park in Petersburg is about 10 miles out of town to the south along Mitkof Highway at The Trees, a very nice place where we feel as if we’re in the wilderness. Quiet at night, and not many bugs, either, despite being in the rainforest. This is a Good Sam park with pretty big spaces and good hookups…I’m glad we’re staying here.

The Trees, by the way, is small…only about 13 sites…so if you’re planning to come here it's a good idea to have an advance reservation. Larry and Becky Dunham, the owners, have put a lot of money into this place in recent years. Their nice little General Store is used by a lot of locals, and they have a liquor store as well, so we bought a 6-pack of beer for Don and I was able to replenish our snack supply.

Petersburg is known as Little Norway, and has lots of blond-haired folks living in it. I also knew from my research that you can get smoked fish here that is some of the best in all Alaska, at some of the best prices, from the canneries and smokeries along the waterfront, since few if any big cruise ships come here.  Hence, the town is uncrowded, has nice little shops, including the Hammer & Wikan empire that includes an entire city block consisting of about 6 different stores, hardware to gifts to clothing to Norwegian stuff.

Hammer & Wikan’s clothing store had a great sale going on hand-knit Norwegian ski sweaters, ornamented with the traditional silver clasps and front zippers. But I resisted…we don’t have any space in which to put more clothing, and I just knew Don would freak out if I succumbed to the lure of those beautiful sweaters.

I stopped and priced the packages of smoked fish at Tonka Seafoods along Sing Lee Alley, which is lined with historic old places. Crossing the wooden bridge, there is a huge building with fancy painted shutters and a big old Viking ship sitting on the plaza alongside – the historic Sons of Norway hall. Very picturesque.

We had smoked salmon and halibut burgers for lunch at Coastal Cold Storage on the main street, very good! And I bought a couple of very large halibut filets, frozen, to grill when we’re in Olympic National Park with Al & Susan…Coastal’s prices on halibut were very good. We also ate a late breakfast one day at Coastal, toasted bagels with cream cheese topped with a heap of nicely smoked salmon…a delicious combo!

Petersburg has a really nice bookstore along Sing Lee Alley, where we stopped, never able to resist a bookstore! They didn’t have either of the books I was looking for, but I bought a book about Ada Blackjack, an Eskimo woman who was the only survivor of an Arctic Expedition in the 1930s.

No hordes of cruise ship people here, which is nice.  We liked Petersburg quite well. Outside Coastal, we met a couple who have lived here almost 40 years. He is a fishing skipper who was recruited as a young man to work for the local fishery/cannery. They’ve loved raising their kids in Petersburg and have done well here.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Dean & Linda Stock

  • ---
  • Posts: 1195
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #117 on: August 10, 2013, 07:23:08 PM »
We haven't had WiFi for a few days, and I really enjoyed catching up with you--especially your wildlife adventures.  I'm so glad you are having a wonderful time!
Dean and Linda Stock
and Sherlock (the cat)
Cypress, CA
2006 Airstream Motor Home
2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #118 on: August 12, 2013, 04:24:50 PM »
Monday Aug. 5 through Thursday Aug. 8, 2013   Days 69 through 72

Monday, Aug. 5 we have a few hours to kill before taking the 3:15 pm ferry to Wrangell, a 3 ¼-hour trip that gets us in about 7:15-7:30 in the evening. I’ve read in several places before we left Colorado that this ferry journey from Petersburg to Wrangell is one of the most beautiful routes in the world, and certainly THE most beautiful in all Alaska, through island-studded channels, narrow fjords, and straits filled with whales and other wildlife. So we are eager.

I take another walk around Petersburg to get my 4 lbs of cold-smoked salmon at Tonka Seafoods, since I’ve decided they have the best salmon at the best prices. I also wander into a little place called Diamante, a strange little store that has some new stuff for sale, some used stuff, some collectibles, a few antiques and generally quite an interesting collection of junk. I end up buying a great T-shirt with Tlingit symbols on the front and back designating “The chief of the seas.” Oh good, I like that! Black shirt with nice color of brown symbols front and back. Not too gaudy, nothing saying Alaska all over the place, and made by the Natives. I also find, of all things, a set of 6 hand-painted Marion Hadley pottery coasters there, at the ridiculously low price of $20 for the set…they match a couple of big casseroles I have from my Mom that are Marion Hadley pottery, and my old “Susan” mug from Hadley that I was given at birth by a friend of Mom’s (so it’s 68 years old now!). I bought them, making the store’s owner very happy indeed. Anywhere else, these probably would have cost $75, and they’re in perfect condition. Who would’ve thunk it?

We returned to Coastal Cold Storage, the fish joint, to have a salmon wrap and a halibut burger for lunch and got in line for the ferry.

The Great Alaska Adventure has so far surely lived up to our expectations. Today on the ferry we saw dozens of whale spouts along the way, prompting passengers to rush from their seats to one side and then the other to see the humpbacks. We saw tails come up, but no good breaches or playful antics. The views are spectacular, but I have to say I’m becoming somewhat jaded…perhaps I’ve OD’ed on spectacular vistas, and wildlife. Maybe I’m just getting tired of being on the road, moving from place to place, instead of in one spot for a week or more. Strangely, when someone sees a whale spout and calls out, I no longer jump up eagerly to see it through my binoculars. Another whale spout is just another whale spout, that same as a bear on a beach became just another bear doing its thing on a beach. However, I never seem to tire of seeing eagles, and my head swivels constantly when we are anywhere near places where the eagles might be roosting in nearby trees.

The sense both Don and I have at this point is that with this type of RV travel we have gained a real and lasting sense of the incredible vastness of Alaska, which never seems to end. Everything in Alaska is bigger than you imagine it could be before coming here.
Everywhere you look, you see gigantic mountains of rock, volcanic and upthrust. In the distances, everywhere you gaze, are layers upon layers of high mountains receding in the mist. The forests are thick and endless, their verdancy almost smothering with layers of green lushness. Meadows are brilliant colors of orange, yellow and green, strewn with huge old logs left from the days when these same meadows were resting beneath glaciers Alaska reaches out and touches you with the tangible sense of the hundreds of thousands of years it took to form this land. You literally feel its antiquity and wildness as you walk in Alaska. It makes you feel very small and at the same time gives you a powerful sense of your place in the vast circle of nature and time.

The ferry trip was made all the more interesting when we saw another large Alaska Marine Highway ferry approaching from the south just as we were entering the narrowest part of the strait, where the ferry literally zigzags back and forth about 15 times from marker to marker. I’m sure this is a mistake having another ferry here at the same time…the strait is too narrow for 2 large boats to pass each other safely. I mention this to the Forest Service Ranger who is aboard offering commentary and she exclaims that this has never happened before in her years taking this route! I go outside and question a crew member about this coincidence, and he says it’s never happened in his 20 years working this route for AMHS, either.

Everyone is outdoors along the railing watching what will happen when the 2 ships try to pass each other…at low tide, yet! My view through the binocs indicates the other ship has sped up to full hull speed and is coming on as quickly as possible, making unusually large bow waves. Meanwhile, we’ve slowed down, and I suddenly notice our skipper tucking us in behind a big red marker where he apparently knows there’s a deep pool of water big enough to hold our ship. He uses the bow and stern thrusters and holds us in place with great skill, and we see the ongoing ferry slow down a bit as it zigzags through this thread-the-needle passage between islands, where the shoals probably change weekly as the result of heavy currents and tides.

The other large ferry ship slips by us just a couple of yards away from our starboard rail. No problem, man! The entire crew is outdoors waving madly at us, as are the passengers. Everybody aboard our ferry responds in kind with whoops and waves. The skippers salute each other with short blasts of their horns. What a fun event!

The remaining trip seems boring after that bit of excitement. We pull into Wrangell at about 8 pm. Wrangell, we are told, is “the friendliest little town in the Southeast.” Whether or not that is true, we’ll have to find out later, but it is surely one of the prettiest towns to come into by ferry. The ferry dock is right downtown; the houses on the whore and uphill seem freshly painted and are a range of bright and pastel colors. For a fishing town, Wrangell seems much less ramshackle than other places we’ve been. A huge new house is framed and unfinished on a hill just north of the ferry docks.

We drive the 5 miles or so to our parking spot for the night, north of town at Shoemaker Bay, a tiny spot for RVs that is offered by the city of Wrangell. This is the only RV camping spot here, other than one commercial rv park which we’ve read is really the pits, so we’re avoiding that one. At this place, we’ll have Electric hookups only, no water or sewer. We had put about 2/3 of a tankful of water into our RH this morning, knowing that we’d need it tonight. This is certainly an unconventional RV spot…about 6 half-gravel, half-lawn sites at angles along a little bluff at water’s edge, with some big spruce trees, some lawns between the sites, and old rickety picnic tables. Hmmm.  Two sets of friends with trucks towing fairly long trailers are with us and it’s quite apparent they will need the 2 spots towards the top of the hill, which are long enough for their trailers to fit into. So we move on down the hill to look at the other 4 sites…none looks level, all look a bit worse for wear. We pick the one that looks least bad and I get out to direct Don into the site; we are sure we’ll have to get the blocks out and use them to level our RV for the night because of the slope.

Twice we get Rollin Home backed into place; twice we put blocks under her front wheels to level her. Strange. It doesn’t work…she doesn’t get level, she gets more un-level. Hmmm.  This is a very strange site with strange opposing slopes. So we pull her out again, take her down the hill a bit farther to park for a bit, while Don & I walk the sites to get a good sight-line of where we could best park our rig for a couple of days here. Before long, we’ve figured out where things look smoothest, get her backed in again, and she’s actually the most level we’ve been able to achieve, even without any blocks under any wheels. Great! Not perfectly level, but close enough! We go outside to find some little “markers” in the form of twigs or stones or pieces of plastic or something to place alongside each of the 4 wheels so that we can get her back into position again each time we return here. This is a good exercise for us, believe it or not! We’ve had it so easy all the way along.

This place is cheap enough…$25 a night for the 30-amp electricity, which is fine. We are instructed to go to the city-operated marine next door to the south for garbage dumpsters, fresh water if we need it, outhouses if we need them, and to dump sewage after our stay. Unfortunately, the marine is anything but fancy, and the gravel areas need the sewage dump and the fresh water hose are ungraded, and filled with water from recent heavy rains…i.e., huge mud-puddles. Yuck. Four nights of this?  Oh well, we’ll try to enjoy the fact that it’s quiet and relatively secluded.

Middle of the first night, we awaken to heavy pounding rain on the roof. All night and into the morning. Colder, too. Still raining heavily in the morning when we’re dressed, have eaten and are ready to go somewhere.

Interestingly, paying for our site at the town-operated RV park entitles us to use of the town’s Olympic-sized swimming pool at the local high school, located on our way into town. Oh good, I thought! BUT…it turns out the pool is closed for 3 weeks in August for cleaning and repairs, prior to school starting again. Oh, bad! Foiled again.

We decide to head downtown to walk around, case the place, confirm our trip to all-day boat trip to Anan Wildlife Observatory to see bears tomorrow, and float from there. It’s still raining hard as we walk around town, noting that most of the stores are empty or boarded up. There are a couple of tiny restaurants. Two good-sized supermarkets quite close together, which is quite odd for a small town like this.

There’s a nice little art gallery I wander through, near the dock where the ferry pulls in, owned by Brenda Schwartz, an artist whose work shows u in quite a few shops around Alaska. She has done some very good watercolors, and found a style that sold well years ago when she began doing paintings on sailor’s navigational charts of Alaskan waters. Her daughter is staffing the shop today. I buy a couple of cards with prints of Brenda’s paintings.

We find a clean, good-sized laundromat down past the local fish cannery. Because we had nothing really planned for the day, and we have a big bag of dirty laundry, I told Don I’d take the clothes to the laundromat while he went to the town library to use the Internet if he’d like. A deal! I made lunch in the RH, we shared a picnic, then Don dropped me off. He’ll come back for me in a couple of hours. I’m happy reading my book.

As I unload our laundry bag and sort the clothes for 2 washer-loads full, a thin gray-haired woman pops her head in the door to let me know there’s some kind of big Native Tlingit ceremony or celebration taking place at the native meeting hall about a half-block away, in a half-hour. Hmmm. I’d like to go but don’t want to leave my loads of clothes unattended, and I have no idea how long this event will last. So I decide I’ll skip it.

At the Laundromat, I meet a lady named Sheila from Palmer, Alaska, who has just moved to Wrangell with her husband. He is a commercial fisherman and recently bought his own long-line trolling boat, to fish for salmon and rockfish. Sheila and her husband Tom have 4 grown children and have worked at office jobs their whole adult lives, until now. Tom decided he really wanted to be out on the water. So they sold their house in Palmer to pay for the boat. They’re living aboard the fishing boat here in Wrangell and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future when they’re here. Tom plans to keep his job on the North Slope for at least 3-5 years; his job on the Slope takes him there for 2 weeks at a time; he and Sheila will be in Wrangell for the two weeks following his return. She’ll fish with him as his assistant on the boat. So far, she says, she likes this new life.

With Sheila doing big bags of laundry is Lily, a young woman who is “the girlfriend,” as she says, of Sheila’s youngest son. Lily is petite and has huge brown eyes, long auburn hair and a light, high, lilting voice that rings throughout the room as she hums continuously while loading washers, unloading dryers and folding clothes. She’s home for a year working to save money to go back to college in Florida, she tells me, where she’s majoring in vocal performance. She’s here for a few days with Sheila and Tom’s son, staying on the boat, helping Tom with some heavy-duty mechanical tasks on the boat’s engine. Then they’ll return to Anchorage where they live and work.

Lily tells me she has no idea at all what she’ll do with her degree in vocal performance in Alaska if and when she gets it. Her boyfriend, Sheila and Tom’s son, isn’t attending college. They’ve been living together for two years, minus the time she was at college in Florida. She’s part native Athabascan, but grew up outside Anchorage in a family that “lived modern,” as she put it.

Don and I distribute our clean and folded laundry among our various drawers and bins. It’s always so nice to have clean clothes and clean towels for the next 2-3 weeks. It’s still grey and drippy when we get back the Rollin Home back to the RV park, but we take a walk anyway, around the marina next door. The rain jackets are coming in handy.

The sun is shining and air is clear the following morning when we open the curtains. Oh great!! No rain!  But we hear big semis roaring past, up and down the adjacent road. We spot graders, flagmen, rollers, the huge equipment that lays down asphalt. Yipes! Road repairs are taking place all day today right where we are, which either means lots of sticky asphalt on our vehicle plus long waits for single-lane passage for 5 miles, or we stay put here and go nowhere, with plenty of noise for most of the day. Well, we need a day of sitting and reading, and walking around, anyway. What the heck.

Don goes out and talks to the guys doing the roadwork. They started at 6 this morning a mile out beyond where we are parked, and they intend to work until dark tonight, to get as much roadway repaved as possible. The season for repairs is really short in Alaska, you know. These guys work incredibly hard all day, with almost no breaks, and they are magnificently efficient. A small crew of guys repaves a single lane of more than 3 miles of road in a day, removing old pavement, fixing shoulders and repairing culverts, putting down new pavement, rolling it and finishing it.

At dinnertime, we head out…only to find that everything in town is completely shut down. Wrangell gets the ferries of AMHS but gets no large cruise ships and only a rare few smaller cruise boats. Hence, shops and cafes are open only intermittently, and when they are, only for the hours cruise passengers are invading the town. Then they close, unable to afford to remain open if there’s little customer traffic. We’ve seen this in every town of the Southeast, from Skagway south. Everything is quiet by 6 pm when passengers are back aboard their ship for dinner; every town just goes to sleep. The only place open for dinner is the Stikine Hotel dining room, which has a nice deck looking out over the water. People are there…we decide to have dinner on their deck. Price are the usual exorbitant amounts for burgers ($10-$12) and very high for any salmon or halibut ($22-$32). We share a burger and a caesar salad.

We have to be up early tomorrow morning for our boat trip out to the Anan Wildlife Observatory (pronounced Ann-Ann, with the emphasis on the first Ann), so we head back and hit the sack by 9.  We heard a repeat of the pounding rain all night, but hoped it would end by morning.

It didn’t. The weather is not very cold, but boy, is it wet! We take a number of layers of fleeces, etc. for warmth if we need it, and put our rain gear on over everything. The boat leaves late…10 am instead of 8:45 am, because of the heavy rain and lack of visibility on the water. Anan, we learn, is an hour away from Wrangell by jetboat. It is staffed by National Forest Service naturalists and biologists. Only 60 permits a day are available for visitors to Anan.

The Anan River was a Tlingit native fishcamp site for a thousand years, as the pinks and sockeyes swam upstream each summer to spawn. The natives coexisted with the bears there, which also fish madly to fatten themselves for winter. This is the only place in the world where black bears and brown bears (grizzlies) share territory and share a fishing stream. The two types of bears hate each other, and generally the brown bears will kill all the black bears that try to come into their territory. At Anan, blacks and browns are almost never at the river’s prime fishing pools at the same time, but each species is there part of the time.

Our so-called jetboat is a 22-foot heavy aluminum skiff with a roof and cover on it, 2 benches along the gunnels for passengers, and an inboard engine. It’s noisy but does the job, and keeps us relatively dry during the ride over. Our skipper drives the boat right up onto a gravel beach, and a crew member jumps out to hold the boat while the 6 of us paying passengers scramble out…the trick is to sit on the edge of the boat’s bow, swing your feet over and jump off the boat onto the beach…without going into the water and getting good and wet (or wetter!). We’re informed there is an outhouse available down here near the beach that we can use if we want to, before going up the boardwalk, or we can use the outhouse available at the top of the boardwalk.

There’s a hitch…it’s a long hike up the boardwalk to the viewing platforms. And another hitch…if you choose to wait and use the “upper outhouse” you will be taken to the outhouse by a guide carrying a loaded and cocked rifle, and you might get stuck in the outhouse for a while if a bear happens to come along and stand on the walkway for a while. No one disturbs the bears! This is their territory, not ours! Needless to say, everybody uses the lower outhouse before heading out on the trail.

The boardwalk is a marvel of engineering for more than a mile up and over and down and around and across and through an incredible rainforest. But, luxurious and easy, it ain’t! And it IS very tricky, especially for somebody like me with past injuries and walking sticks who doesn’t dare to slip and fall, or make a misstep. The boardwalk is a mere 12 inches wide and because it is constantly wet, it is covered with extremely slippery moss. The Forest Service added a layer of wire mesh 8 inches wide along the boardwalk and on all of its steps a few years ago, but it remains a bit treacherous. The most steps we ever had was about 10 up or down in a singe place, but every few feet along the way there was one, two or three steps down or up, or both – separated by a few feet of level walkway.

Thank goodness our guide, with his loaded and cocked rifle on his shoulder, was willing to take it slow for me. The walk of a bit more than a mile out to the viewing platform, took us about 20-25 minutes, with constant commentary along the way about what we were seeing…mushrooms, nurse trees, lichens, mosses, liverworts, ferns, many “excavations” by bears that had been made inches from the walkway as the huge animals dig out the clay they crave. Bob, our guide, pointed out many places where there were large paw-and-claw prints as bears had come down, waked the boardwalk, and then took off up a hill through the mud.

About halfway in, Bob spotted a brown bear (grizzly) in the far distance, alongside a pond filled with salmon heading upstream to spawn. Just one bear, at the edge of the pond.

We continued on to the observation decks above, at the falls, where there is a covered viewing platform, plus a lower-level photographer’s blind immediately adjacent to the river, right at eye level. The Forest Service sees to it there are never more than about a dozen or 15 people at the platform at one time; individuals sign up to go down to the photographer’s blind to watch the bears fish in the river.

We were there at the platform for almost 5 hours, and it rained almost the entire time. Hard rain. Which the guides kept telling us was a good thing, because it kept the temperatures lower, and more bears come out to fish when it is cooler than when it is very warm. The bears we saw that day were all black bears, or all sizes and ages, it appeared. A sow with a very young little fuzzy cub came walking down the long trunk of a fallen cedar that slanted down toward the rocks lining the river…she took the cub into a small cavern below us, in the rocks, for safety, while she fished.

About a half-dozen black bears two to four years old fished much of the day below us. One of them was so totally incompetent that he could do little but pull dead fish carcasses from the river, or scrounge among the leftover carcasses laying on rocks to see if a few tasty bites were still available, because each time he tried to catch a fish for himself, he failed miserably. His mama apparently had not taught him well, or he was too stupid to pay attention to her techniques.

Most fun of all was watching a gigantic male the rangers have named Zeus, who fished immediately below us, at the best little pool imaginable, catching literally dozens of big sockeyes, one after the other, and eating every single morsel of them before tossing the bones away and catching another, moving his big butt only inches off his rock to snatch another biggie from the pool below a rapids. His technique was impeccable, his aim deadly, his eye accurate. This guy never missed…no wonder he was so huge, so glossy, so healthy. This was survival of the fittest in action…an unparalleled performance. No other bears even came close to what Zeus could do in an afternoon!

Probably a dozen or more black bears came and went at the falls the Friday we visited Anan. Sometimes they would come for 45 minutes or so and fish a lot, often biting off only the head and the gut to get at a female’s roe, and then casually discarding the entire remainder of the large bloodied carcass, letting it float downriver through the falls, where it would often catch on a rock or swirl away in an eddy on its journey back to the sea from which it came. We learned that this is what black bears and brown bears do as fall approaches and the salmon are running thick in the streams…the bears instinctively know that the fattiest, richest parts of the fish are the brains and the roe, which help the bears gain the most weight, the fastest, as they prepare for winter hibernation.

After a half-hour of 45 minutes of fairly steady fishing and eating, a bear will seem bored – as opposed to tired – and will wander away into the woods for a while. After 15 minutes or another half-hour, that same bear will then reappear and find a new pool and start fishing again.

A large sow black bear fished the same pool for almost 4 hours, steadily, catching fish after fish, standing in fairly deep water and swinging her head back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, watching intently for large salmon that would try to jump up the high whitewater fall she was standing in, and as a large fish fell backwards, unable to make the leap up the falls, she would grab it. She’d ignore smaller fish and just go for the bigger ones. She was very efficient at doing this job. Her coloring made her very recognizable when she left for short periods, then returned to the same pool a bit later. The ends of all her hair were very black, but where the hair parted along her spine, she was reddish-brown in color. And the ends of her legs were also reddish-brown, near her claws. Very distinctive coloring.

Each time she caught a fish, she’d step sideways to a big, flat black rock with the fish clamped in her jaws and flapping like crazy to try to escape her clutches, put the fish down and slap her big brownish paw on top, and start chomping away, biting into the salmon’s fat belly first, and then picking virtually every piece of meat off each fish before turning back to her pool to catch another fish within just a few minutes.

We knew she was a sow because at times 4 different young bears would climb down the rocks near her, causing her to raise her nose sharply into the air, sniff to determine who was approaching “her pool”…bears are very territorial about their chosen fishing spots…if the interloper were another sow, she’d give a growl, bare her teeth and scare the newcomer away. If the approaching bear were a dominant male, she’d run away, scurrying as fast as possible up the rocks and up the tree trunk to escape the male. But in every instance we watched, she stayed right where she was after doing her sniffing, allowing the 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds to come close to where she stood. Each time, the younger bear would know right where to stop, perched on a slightly higher rock above the river, about 3 feet away from the rock where she would place her fish to eat.

Each time one of these adolescents came near her, one at a time, she’d eat only the head and roe of her fish, and shove the remainder away, to the far edge of the rock, where the younger bear would grab it and eat the remainder of the salmon she had caught. These were clearly her cubs from previous years…she would never have allowed any bears other than her cubs to come close like this, and she’d never give fish knowingly to any other bear who wasn’t a close relative. Interesting interplay to watch between a mama bear and her young’uns from pervious years, whom she had cast out of her nest but whom she also appeared willing to care for.

Periodically while we were on the observation decks at Anan, the rain would stop so we could dry out a bit. About 15 minutes later, it would start again, first as a downpour of tiny droplets (heavy mist) then as bigger drops soaking everything. This area has experienced quite a drought this year and badly needs the rain, so we won’t complain.

The hourlong boat ride back to the town of Wrangell was uneventful, fairly calm. Our skipper said the trip the previous day had been a real butt-pounder, as winds and currents kicked up small waves for the entire length of the long north-south strait, causing the boat to crash continually on the tops of the whitecaps. Very uncomfortable, he said. Nice having a calm day today! We arrived back at our dock at 5:30 pm.

At one point I asked about a huge clear-cut area that had recently been logged out, creating an expansive ugly scar on the sides of mountains that extended for at least 10 miles. Because this side of the island we’re passing by is the “dry side” that receives much less rain, 25 or more years will be needed just for undergrowth and brush to spring up and cover the brown ugly scar with greenery, to say nothing of the hundred years or more it’ll take for new-growth forest to replenish itself. The timber that was recently cut was probably 300 or more years old. Ugh.

If I lived here, I might become a tree-hugger, despite being an ardent capitalist and believer as I am that stringent restrictions on logging do more harm than good by depriving people of necessary jobs. There’s got to be a happy middle-ground somewhere, but when you see the scars left on these magnificent mountains when relatively old forests are clear-cut for lumber that gets sent to Japan, it makes you sick. Later that evening, I spoke with a gentleman vacationing in Alaska with his wife, who took a flightseeing trip a week ago that went over neighboring Price of Wales Island…he was shocked to see from the air that virtually the entire HUGE island had been clear-cut and logged out over a period of 5 years in the early 2000s, except for one wide band of trees left that encircled the island along its rocky shores. All the timber from Prince of Wales had been contracted for by Japan and had been shipped there, he was told by the pilot of his plane. This exactly follows the storyline of the final chapter in James Michener’s “Alaska”, I remembered. That timber was a thousand years old or more. It’ll be easily 300 years or ore before enough forest grows back to be cut again…is clear-cutting an entire island full of timber even realistic? Desirable?

The same set of issues faces Alaskans regarding the fish in the seas as with forestry…halibut, salmon, rockfish and all the species here might face future dangers. In at least 6 towns we’ve visited where there is a tremendous amount of sportfishing and subsistence fishing (natives who depend on fishing for their food) we have heard people discussing the pitiful lack of “big fish” being caught this year. In Homer, there was endless discussion – and complaints -- about the halibut catches being 15 pounders up to 50 pounders instead of the real biggies. Fisherman and experts worry that so many of the really large halibut (over 100 pounds each) and large king (coho) and sockeye salmon (over 10 pounds each, up to 30 pounders and larger) are being caught by sportfishermen going out on the hundreds of daily charters that the “gene pools” of large fish of many different species are being altered irreversibly. The upshot could be that 10 years from now, there won’t be any large fish left, so only the little pinks (keta salmon, aka dog salmon), humpies, kings (coho), and sockeyes will  come upstream in the runs.

What can you do about it? Should the number of charter boats be limited to a few per day? In what towns of Alaska should this happen? Should the number of fishing permits be cut to a bare minimum to protect these fish? If so, in which locations? Should the catch be limited even more than it now is, per fisherman? What about the jobs and economic benefits of sportfishing that have sprung up in places like Soldotna, Kenai, Seward, Homer, Ninilchik, over on the Kenai peninsula and all throughout the Southeast?

The development of oil and mineral resources presents another set of thorny concerns: Economic versus preservation issues abound up here, and it’s easy to see why and how these are not easily resolved. The land is vast, the resources plentiful. But it may not always be this way, especially if the earth’s despoiling continues unfettered and unabated. I may become a half-greenie before we’re done with this trip. I’ve always understood the issues confronting us, but it’s easier to understand the conflicts when one travels a country like Alaska that is so primitive, so wild, so underdeveloped, and so un-urbanized.

I sure loved the day at Anan, even with the rain. While everybody else took a zillion photographs, and ran around looking for the best angles and the best shots, I just stood in the same place all day, watching a few bears do what bears do.  Absolutely fascinating. Wonderfully wild. Beautifully managed by the National Forest Service. The rangers do a great job. It cost us $251 per person to come here on our charter trip with Alaska Vistas out of Wrangell…worth every single penny! Sylvia, who owns Alaska Vistas, is great; John, our skipper, was great; Bob, our guide, was excellent and a very nice guy. It was unhurried and we stayed as long as we wanted to, which was the best part of it all.

This is a sanctuary that I am so glad the government has established and protected. When Ronald and Nancy Reagan visited Anan and watched the bears feeding in the last year of Reagan’s presidency (1988), they walked the mile-long trail through the rainforest when it was muddy, rocky and unimproved in any way. Toward the end, the story goes, Nancy said, “Ronnie, these people need a boardwalk!” Because of rain, many streams and muskeg underfoot, it was very boggy, mucky and slippery all the way in those days. Less than 30 days later, we were told, the money had been appropriated in Washington and plans were being made for materials to be shipped and a boardwalk to be built and maintained at Anan. Good move, Nancy! Thank you very much, Ron!

Tired and still damp from our rainforest day, we went to the Diamond C Café for dinner, and had a pizza. Very good. Another family we had seen and met at Anan, from Denver, were there too…they had been on a different charter and had left a lot earlier than we did. Tumbled into bed early, with the alarm set for 5 am, so we’d be at the ferry in line by 6 for our 8 am departure for Ketchikan.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

4ducksrus

  • ---
  • Posts: 814
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #119 on: August 12, 2013, 06:24:39 PM »
Don & Susie,
I am really enjoying following your adventure as we are planning on making our "Great Alaskan Adventure" next summer.  I love that you're giving recommendations on restaurants and RV parks too!  I wonder if you'd mind letting us know what your tours are costing?  Someone on another thread said that they were very expensive and so they chose to forego them and you're making me think I want to partake!!!

Thanks in advance, I'll be looking forward to the  rest of your daily journals!!

Mikie
Jim & Mikie

2011 Itasca Meridian 40U
2013 Jeep Rubicon
2003 HD Ultra Classic
WIT WI54011

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #120 on: August 12, 2013, 10:52:51 PM »
Mikie,
Glad you're following along. Don and I are not big on taking every charter trip, every tour, every-everything, on any trip. We visit a select few museums only, not every one. We pick & choose what we want to see in any town, but we like to just walk around, find a little plastic-table cafe where locals hang out, or a coffee shop everybody goes to, and just sit around meeting people and talking. That's our idea of "experiencing" a place. And we often do a fair amount of driving out of town in several directions if there are parks, trails, or things to see way out of town. WE prefer not to go where the milling hordes go, to be honest. On this entire Alaskan Adventure, we have done only 2 "big deal" tours...the all-day Glacier Bay Cruise out of Gustavus, which I think was a rollicking $300 per person; and the nearly-all-day visit to the Anan Wildlife Observatory out of Wrangell with Alaska Vistas, costing $251 a person. Both were worth every penny! Our decision was not to do fishing charters, boat rides out of Homer over to a small town built on stilts with lots of art galleries, or to see 26 glaciers in one day on a super-fast catamaran. Oh, I forgot, we did find a driver to take us in her van out to Dyea from the town of Skagway, because we wanted to see the start of the Chilkoot Trail that the gold-rushers took--cost us $60 total...she was only going to charge us $15 each($30 total) but we thought it was worth a good deal more than that. We prefer to walk, talk and hang out at places, getting the feel of the town. That's about all I can tell you...If you do lots and lots of the tourists-specials, you can easily drop $5,000 just on bus tours, fishing things, boat tours, etc.  The only thing we haven't done, either because the weather wasn't right or we had to move on, was an all-day kayaking guided tour at one of the towns of the Southeast. Oh, well, another time, another trip.

Don & Susie,
I am really enjoying following your adventure as we are planning on making our "Great Alaskan Adventure" next summer.  I love that you're giving recommendations on restaurants and RV parks too!  I wonder if you'd mind letting us know what your tours are costing?  Someone on another thread said that they were very expensive and so they chose to forego them and you're making me think I want to partake!!!

Thanks in advance, I'll be looking forward to the  rest of your daily journals!!

Mikie
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #121 on: August 12, 2013, 11:34:00 PM »
Friday Aug. 9, 2013      Day 73

Waiting around a lot for the ferry to arrive from Petersburg…very foggy, thick as pea soup out there. Ferry had to anchor along the way, then got caught at low tide and couldn’t move for hours. Finally arrived 3 pm, only 5 hours late. We finally got to Ketchikan at 8:30 pm.

At least we didn’t spend any money on the ferry…we had our water bottles, and I made sandwiches using stuff from our goodie bag that we took along with us – bread, cold cuts, cheese, mustard. It was dark by the time we drove 15 mi north of the ferry dock to Clover Pass Resort and got into our parking spot… Not enough exercise today. Lots of reading aboard the ferry, some walking around.  Too much waiting and sitting, though. Nice sunny day once the fog lifted. Waters very calm, thankfully…it can get quite rough on that passage south.

Saw a few humpback whale spouts in the distance along the way, and a dolphin. Lots of fishing boats, including a seiner boat with its big yellow purse-seine strung out far behind it, with another fisherman in the small skiff that always goes with a seiner pulling around to the port side of the bigger boat ready to pull in the “purse” full of fish at day’s end. I hadn’t had a chance to really see one of those at work before. A bit later, a young woman came by looking out the windows near our chairs for a bright blue seiner working these shores, with a yellow net extending behind it…it was her husband, whom she had not seen for a month!  And she had just found out minutes earlier that he was fishing somewhere near where the ferry was. I told her we had already passed that boat, about 10 minutes earlier, and that I had paid special attention to it because I hadn’t really seen a seiner at work before. She was so disappointed that she had missed seeing her husband’s boat!

I am getting my fill of ferry rides on this trip, that’s for sure! And we’re learning that it involves a LOT of hurry up and wait…lots of sitting around waiting for ferries to arrive, unload, re-load, and get where they’re going, then sitting and waiting to unload again. Quite efficient operations, but still, it’s just a lot of sitting and waiting. I don’t think we’ll ever take 11 ferry legs again in our lives on a single trip! Five or 6 is fine, after that you’re tired of it. Remind of that, please, when I’m planning our next Great Adventure!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

55cruisers

  • ---
  • Posts: 7
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #122 on: August 17, 2013, 02:38:18 AM »
Susie,  We have been following your report since you started and have really enjoyed reading your very descriptive stories.  We are planning to make this trip next year so we have been following a few blogs to glean information and have taken copious notes on things to see and do (and what not to do!!)  First hand information is so much better than "tourist" information. 
Enjoy the rest of your trip home. 

Diane
 

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #123 on: August 18, 2013, 10:19:05 AM »
Saturday Aug. 10, 2013      Day 74

We needed a lot of walking and activity today in Ketchikan, in anticipation of a looooooong ferry trip of 12+ hours to Prince Rupert BC tomorrow morning.

At the RV park, I asked if there was a good place on our way to town for breakfast – Don and I are both in the mood for bacon and eggs for once. The owner’s 13-year-old son was lounging in a chair by the front desk and offered: “My Dad always takes me to the Best Western, just down the road. The Landing is in there…it has good breakfasts.”

So we headed out, looking for the Best Western, opposite the waterfront, along the roadway where all the canneries and industrial stuff is located. The breakfast was good, and the Landing is definitely where the locals hang out…lots of truckers, fishermen, boaters there discussing weather, fishing conditions, yesterday’s catch, etc. I had made  special note to visit Totem Bight Park in Ketchikan…a whole bunch of wonderful totems in one location, and a nice walk. But we are OD’ed on totems after the gorgeous park a few days ago in Sitka.

So we headed for downtown Ketchikan where the junk and souvenir shops for the milling hordes of cruise ship passengers line a dozen streets, the avenues are narrow and at weird angles (must be another waterfront town built up against mountains during the Gold Rush days, huh??), the hills are very steep, and the parking scarce. We want to park and walk all the way up Fish Creek to see the ancient fish ladder from the 1800s, and go on up to the spawning grounds. The day is beautiful and sunny, quite warm. Very humid. I am feeling sticky-damp and moldy all the time now!

Aha, we found on-street parking in an out-of-the-way spot two blocks above all the tourist places, but close to the walkway up the creek where the salmon are running. Good omen! This creek is absolutely black with salmon, mostly smaller pinks and some keta (dog salmon). Every pool is thick and boiling with layers of salmon fighting for air and space, in a holding pattern until they recover enough strength to leap up the next set of riffles and steep whitewater to get to their spawning grounds.  There are about 20 sets of waterfalls and whitewater for the salmon to conquer on their way home before spawning…hard to believe any fish could go the distance and survive to do the procreation work at the end of it all. An amazing annual show, and we never seem to tire of witnessing it!

Clearly, many fish don’t make it to the end…we see a few silvery dead bodies at the bottom of nearly every pool, and some salmon who lost the battle going upstream caught in notches of the rocks they have to leap over on their way. We also see quite a few extremely large salmon carcasses along the way, mostly near the edges of the creek…they’re pretty well decayed and coming apart at the seams. Must be the king salmon (Chinooks) that ran in late spring and early summer upstream to spawn…they die after spawning and most float back down the river or creek to the sea. These carcasses are probably the leftovers from the very end of the run. They’re huge – some of them a good 2 feet long or more, and probably ranging in weight from 10 to 30 pounds.

At the very top of the creek is a shallow, gravel-covered area where the salmon do their mating dances, use their tails to swish out a shallow depression and law their eggs, where they are fertilized by the males who discharge their sperm in milky clouds atop the little hollows where the eggs rest. Quite a show!

I was furious, though, as I watched some idiotic tourists taking off their shoes and wading out in the shallow waters trying to scare the fish and catch them with their hands, as the fish tried to spawn. A family with a bunch of kids was disturbing the whole process, and I felt like screaming at them…Don convinced me it was really none of my business, but gosh I was upset with them! Can't they read the signs posted everywhere that say NOT to disturb the fish or go into the water when the salmon are spawning? Duh! Sometimes I think people have absolutely no common sense at all.

After several hours of watching fish climb the formidable falls to their last hurrah, we walked along the old Creek Street, which has been preserved and gentrified a bit…Ketchikan’s old red-light district with tiny frame buildings on stilts.

For the remainder of the day we decided we wanted to simply “feel” the life of Ketchikan, so we drove south of town 8 miles to Rotary Beach, where we parked in a pullout for several hours, looking out to sea, watching kids play in the (very cold!) water and climb among the moss-covered rocks along the beach, watched the passing parade of fishing boats and skiffs roaring up and down through the channels. The water was sparkling in the sunlight, and the breezes were wonderful. It smelled like ocean and fish and kelp and wonderful stuff!

What’s interesting, too, is that the teenage girls come to the rock-covered beaches, spread out their colorful towels atop the rocks, and lay their bikini-clad bodies out to get tans, the same as at any sandy beach in the Lower 48. What a hoot! It must be very uncomfortable lying on those rocks, though!

After a few hours reading and watching at this site, we drove on farther south around a southern tip of land called Mountain Point and headed north on a little peninsula toward Herring Bay. At one spot, I looked through a wide opening in the trees at the waters of Carroll Inlet and suddenly witnessed two huge mature bald eagles come down out of the sky, fighting over a good-sized salmon one of them had in its talons…I hollered to Don to slow down, but before he could even look, the eagles locked their talons together and fell smack into the water, one on top and the other upside down, only a few yards offshore. At this very moment, a third large mature bald eagle flew by, right at my eye level, between where we were driving and where the other 2 had smacked into the water.

This all happened very quickly and very close to us. Must be that when those two locked-together eagles actually hit the water, their talons released, because they both took off immediately. We were already past the spot where there were no trees, so I lost my view! The whole things happened in just seconds, but what a show of nature! Two immense birds in a wild plummet into the sea…they made quite a big splash! We had learned earlier from a forest ranger at some location where we watched eagles that they are unable to release their talon-grip on a fish or on each other once their talons have closed around “prey”…in this instance, I think they must both have locked their talons around that salmon during the fight for it.

We parked a second time near Mountain Point, fixed a small dinner for ourselves with the doors and windows open, and spent another hour or two watching the world go by. When the time came to head for the ferry terminal to get in line we drove back toward town. Our plan is to get in line for the ferry at 8:45 pm, sleep overnight in our Rollin Home and set the alarm for 5:45 for we’re ready for an 8:30 am departure for Prince Rupert BC.

We’ve learned this neat little trick from other RVers along the way on this trip: When there’s a really early-morning ferry to be caught, instead of having to get up at 3 or 4 or 5 a.m. at your RV park, get unhooked and then drive to the ferry dock, you find out a day ahead what time you can pull in and park overnight in the ferry’s lot (already in your assigned lane!) and you go there after dinner, get a good night’s sleep, rise and dress just before the ferry starts loading! Voila! Well rested, time for a good breakfast and coffee or tea, and everything! This way you’re not wasted for days afterward because of only a few hours’ sleep. A very good plan…we’ve really learned the tricks of the trade on this trip!

The clock showed we still had an hour remaining before we wanted to get in line at the ferry and bed down for the night, so we parked in the nearby Safeway lot, facing out to sea, watching more “life of Ketchikan” drift by. Many ocean kayakers came paddling by close to the shore in front of us as light of day turned to dusk. Huge barges piled 6 layers high by 5 rows across and 8 rows long with shipping containers floated by, pulled on very long cables by hardworking tugs. Dozens of sailboats motored past, without enough wind to sail and being pushed by opposing currents in the ebbing tides. Many floatplanes taking off and landing on the calm waters just north of us, around the bend a bit. A fascinating panoply of seaborne activity…parked in a supermarket lot, of all places!

Wanted to mention that I’m completely “shopped out” so nothing in any galleries or shops really catches my eye as we toodle along in these towns. Same old, same old. I’ve seen it all a million times already, though the native designs up here really fascinate me and I’m very drawn to them! Today, the only thing I saw that was really really really good was some native Tlingit art by Marvin Oliver, whose wife was selling his stuff in a little gallery along Creek St. He has a BA and an MFA in fine art from Univ. of Washington and has been the university’s curator of native American art for some years…his work is fabulous! His ancestry is a blending of 3 major Indian tribes, including Tlingit and Pueblo. He melds traditional Tlingit moieties and spirit images with bright colors and very contemporary design – absolutely fabulous design! Man, I really wanted to buy one of his pieces! He creates a perfect bridge between the ancient and the modern…much the way Doug Cranmer of the Kwakiutl tribe did in the 1970s with his interpretations of traditional tribal images. I have to look Oliver up on the Internet when I get home, he is so good!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #124 on: August 18, 2013, 10:20:31 AM »
Thanks, Diane! Glad to provide useful info. I read 3 different Alaska journals on reform.net before planning our trip...it has been wonderfully helpful, and I feel as if I've made great friends among the Alaska travelers!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

Wigpro

  • ---
  • Posts: 1298
    • Capt Jim Lucas
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #125 on: August 18, 2013, 01:21:51 PM »
Saturday Aug. 10, 2013      Day 74

So we headed out, looking for the Best Western, opposite the waterfront, along the roadway where all the canneries and industrial stuff is located. The breakfast was good, and the Landing is definitely where the locals hang out…lots of truckers, fishermen, boaters there discussing weather, fishing conditions, yesterday’s catch, etc. I had made  special note to visit Totem Bight Park in Ketchikan…a whole bunch of wonderful totems in one location, and a nice walk. But we are OD’ed on totems after the gorgeous park a few days ago in Sitka.



The Best Western is good - but the ultimate Locals Breakfast place in Ketchikan is downtown and called the Pioneer!

Best breakfast in SE Alaska by far. Glad you had a good time in my old home town!!

Great meeting you in Haines, hope the rest of your trip is uneventful or at least fun events.

I head South on Monday and will do a trip log on my way to Montana via the Cassiar Highway!

Enjoy,

Jim
Full time traveler, fishing guide and photographer!

Travel Blog: http://captjimtravelblog.blogspot.com

Website: www.captainjimlucas.com

Photo Site: http://captjim.smugmug.com/

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #126 on: August 25, 2013, 12:41:54 AM »
Yes, I've been AWOL! Yikes, it's so easy to fall behind -- WAY behind!! -- when you are trying to do a daily journal! I don't know if I'll ever commit to doing this again. I've enjoyed the experience, but gosh it's a lot of pressure to perform, daily!  OK, i'm going to skip over some day, and post a couple of things fro our latest events, then I''ll go back later and fill in some blanks, from Sunday August 11 through the 17th...


Sunday August 18 thru Wednesday August 21, 2013   Days 82-85

We drive south into Victoria, 3 pm ferry to Port Angeles on Black Ball; find out there’s a BIG Robert Bateman exhibit right next door to the Black Ball Ferry that we don’t have time to visit before our departure, darn! Bateman’s my all-time favorite wildlife artist…a real master! Have to look up info about that exhibit later on the internet.

We grab a quick lunch across from ferry dock in a little bistro that is part of the Grand Pacific Hotel…nice little lunch! 90 minute ferry trip…Great Alaska Adventure has ended. I feel sad. We meet up with Don’s brother Al and his wife Susan at the Olympic National Park visitor Center outside Port Angeles … We’re staying in a nearby RV park, and they are staying at a B&B not far away, and out plan is to explore Olympic Natl Park and do some hiking together, have meals together in the evenings at their place.

Our spot for 3 days is the Elwha Dam RV Park, a really really nice place! Lots of grass, shaded sites, beautifully kept up, lovely gardens, good laundry room, impeccably clean bathrooms, showers and laundry!

The next morning, as we talk about our day’s plans, I realize I need a day to sleep some more and recover from a head/chest cold I came down with a few days ago. I’m hacking my head off and have a full chest. So I stay home on Monday while Don, Al and Susan go hiking on Hurricane Ridge in ONP….I spend the day doing a bunch of laundry, putzing around, napping, reading, wandering around a bit, talking to myself! A very welcome bit of time off! 

I fix halibut marinated in white wine for dinner night, and prepare some breadcrumbs, some sauce, and some carmelized onions to go with it…using the recipe for Halibut Caddy Ganty from the Gustavus Inn…it turned out fine, but wasn’t as good as if the halibut had been fresh, tho…this fish was okay, but had been flash-frozen…it just wasn’t as tender, succulent and flaky as fresh halibut is when baked!   

Al & Susan’s B&B…the Elwha Ranch B&B… is quite the remote, wonderful place! Just one cabin on a property with the owner’s main residence, on a mountain in the woods. Very secluded, very wonderful!

Tuesday we drive to Neah Bay, the Makah tribe’s village that is along the way to the northwesternmost point of the contiguous 48 states of the US…we walked the wonderful trail out to the headland. Sunny when we started, and very warm, got very foggy and cool along the way, was quite damp and muddy, but wonderful. At the headland, the seas churn and there are spectacular sea caves below the cliffs…out at the end of the trail, there are sheer, vertigo-inducing drop-offs.

Had to visit Kimm Brown’s Take Home Fish Co in Neah Bay….it’s been widely written-up and gets rave reviews! Just a tiny shack, really, a block off the main road…and Kimm fixes the very best smoked salmon (kings!!!) I have ever tasted in my entire life! Bought $50 worth…got his card to buy from him in future…I send money order, he send salmon!  Kimm charges $16/lb for the biggest “white kings” you’ve ever laid eyes on! He smokes more than 300# of fish a day…in a very high-tech cooker…a rusty old oil drum with a door cut into the bottom into which he shoves wood to stoke the fire. He sets a 2-tier welded wire rack filled with big fish thick fish steaks down into that drum…Kimm uses only good alder wood for his smoking!  He offers all of us a taste of his fresh hot smoked fish…a nicer big chunk of fish for each person…it is out-of-this-world delectable! I swoon at the beauty of this product.

Neah Bay’s Makah Museum is outstanding …it contains wondrous exhibits of the archeological wonders that have been excavated in the last 10 years …the fishing village of Neah Bay was completely buried 500 yrs ago by a colossal mudslide following an earthquake. Among the amazing discoveries…the Makah tribe was using hand-knotted fishing nets as far back as 500 yrs ago!!!

We tried to visit the town’s one little local art gallery but it was closed…

On our way back to Elwha Dam, we stopped in at Lake Crescent Lodge, a Natl Park lodge on the shores of sparkling huge Lake Crescent…as beautiful as any lake we saw in BC!!!  Not shockingly cold…lots of ppl swimming, wonderful dock out into the lake for swimming. Lots of boating and kayaking too. Oldest lodge in ONP, built 1916, frame with cedar shingles, painted gray with white trim, felt like you were visiting grandma’s cottage! Has lots of little cabins for rent…would be well worth going back to and staying for a week! Lots of trails there!

Gorgeous drives to and from Neah Bay from our campsites…for dinner that night, smoked salmon chowder with lettuce salads. And Susie’s dessert concoction…oatmeal cookies in a cup!

Wednesday we pulled out of Elwha Dam RV Park, met Al & Susan at Hoh Rainforest along the western edge of the Olympic National Park to hike 2 trails inside Hoh…the Hall of Mosses trail and the Spruce Nature Trail. Wonderful. Total of about 2.5 miles…took us quite a while because I just had to keep stopping for pictures…the rainforest is amazing! Huge trees, spectacular scenery.

Then we drove south 21 miles from Hoh River Rd. and met up with Al & Susan again at Kalaloch Lodge (pronounced Clay-loch!) for lunch in the lodge. Kalaloch has an absolutely beautiful RV park overlooking the ocean at the north end of the lodge. The lodge itself is lovely, with a wonderful view overlooking the ocean, situated above the outlet of a river. Below, huge snags (piles of bleached logs) litter the beach, looking as if they were thousands of toothpicks thrown there by the seas and winds.

Kalaloch has two rows of wonderful rental cabins overlooking the ocean…what a perfect site for a vacation retreat! The rates aren’t really that bad, and they go down by 60% on Oct 1…would be well worth going back there and renting a cabin for 1-2 weeks! The lodge’s food was very good…I had a Seasonal berry salad that contained lots of local blueberries, spinach, arugula, nuts, bleu cheese, vinaigrette. We shared a Flatbread pizza piled high with Oregon mushrooms, fresh basil pesto, goat cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, leaves of fresh spinach and basil. YUM!

Left there to drive down near Mt. St. Helens, to Silver Lake, to stay in Silver Cove RV Park for the night. We pulled in at 6, hooked up, put water in the tank and then Don did his usual Walkabout to meet and greet everybody, learn where everyone is from…about 50 yards from our site, he met up with an old friend of mine from Denver, Joe Moody and his wife Dona!!!

Such fun…Joe and I hadn’t seen each other in about 7 yrs! So we had Happy Hour times 2, and quickly killed 2 bottles of good wine yakking into the night! Decided to extend a day and spend tomorrow together and have dinner together.
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #127 on: August 25, 2013, 12:42:57 AM »
Thursday August 22 thru Saturday August 24, 2013      Days 86-88

Extended our stay at Silver Cove RV Resort and Silver Lake OR…really a great place! Air is hazy from all the fires everywhere in the West, but we can see Mt. St. Helens at a couple of points along the road to this placed. We decide not to take the 50 mile drive up to the volcano, however…to much time on the road for too little reward. We know all about the big blast, we read about it at the time. And we know all about the fact it is still spewing pyroplastic lava and is spouting little bits of smoke and steam and is still churning away.

Spent the entire day with old friends Joe and Dona…they came for breakfast at 10:30, we talked till 4:30, went our separate ways and took 2 hours off for naps etc, reunited at 7 at our place, fixed grilled porkchops that had been marinated all day in Triple Ginger Teriyaki sauce, had some leftover salmon chowder and fixed a quinoa & brown rice dish to accompany the meat that also included goat cheese and peas…excellent dinner …Killed 2 more bottles of good wine!

Pulled out of Silver Cove at 11 am (our usual!) and drove into Portland, registered for our spot at Jantzen Beach RV Park on Portland’s north side. Went to Camping World for “stuff” and to get quotes on things like new hubcaps to replace 2 that we lost in Alaska. Had dinner with nephew Sam & his spouse Ellen at Papa Haydn restaurant near their house in SE Portland….absolutely terrific restaurant with excellent food! Desserts to die for!  Salted caramel gelato, raspberry tart, raspberry panna cotta the creamiest, smoothest and best panna cotta I’ve ever eaten!

Saturday drove south to Eugene OR & got together with relatives at the fancier more chi-chi 5th Street Public Market…definitely has gone upscale! 40 years ago, for heaven’s sake, the 5th Street Market was a hippie hangout, with funny little hippie stalls where things like feather earrings could be bought for $4! Inn at the Fifth really nice! Met at the fountain, lower level, got food from Provisions bakery/deli on main level, delicious!!! Finished up with honey lavender gelato; lemon sorbet and chocolate sorbet; raspberry sorbet…outstanding!  Great coffees too!

Tonight we’re at the Oceanside RV Park in Charleston OR, very near Coos Bay but closer to ocean…our RV park is about a 3 minute walk from the ocean beach on a little trail out of the park. We can hear the Coos Bay headland foghorn blowing away in the fog…the night is very cool, the air still. Lovely!!! 

Contrary to what I expected a week ago, the adventure definitely continues!
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #128 on: April 03, 2014, 08:08:53 PM »
Okay, I deserve to have a lot of angry folks chiding me because I simply "fell off the cliff" once we got to Oregon and headed south toward Brookings to visit family there. Our Great Alaska Adventure continued for another 30 days, and YES we had a wonderful time. The land we travelled, however, was "old ground", which we'd pretty much covered before. While it was gorgeous, and fun, it was nowhere near as exciting, revealing, stimulating to every nerve-ending as the trip to Alaska, through Alaska, and down to Victoria from Alaska.

We arrived home several days after Labor Day, delighted to be back in Colorado and constantly ooooh-ing and aaaaaah-ing over the natural beauty of our home state, even in comparison with BC, Alberta, the Yukon Territories, Alaska, and even the Olympic Peninsula. Colorado is to die for!

It's fascinating to both Don and me that not once did we become irritated or impatient with each other in the 100 days we spent on the road living in a space less than half the size of our walk-in closet in our Greenwood Village, Colorado, patio home. We were definitely ready to be HOME at the end of this wonderful journey. Yet coming down off the continual highs of our adventure…constantly seeing new things, meeting new people, finding new places and exploring them, experiencing the primitive nature and undeveloped gazillions of acres in northwestern Canada and Alaska…left both of us feeling a bit deflated. Lethargic. And we even got a bit snappish with each other during the week or two after arriving home.

There were wonderful parts of being home, of course…taking long walks and bicycling for hours on the nearby Highline Canal path every day, going swimming every day, seeing familiar faces (at long last!), and just BEING HOME in our favorite "nest." Nevertheless, we both went through a bit of a crash for a couple of weeks.

I went into a true "nesting mode," believe me. Yes, I went for walks and I swam daily. But I felt as if I didn't want to even leave the house…I wanted to sit on the patio, read books, talk to friends, pick fresh veggies from my dilapidated garden And cook good dinners. There are phases in life when we humans just want to crawl into our cocoons and stay there! This was one of them. It was literally months before I felt like going anywhere…that's what  3 months on the road did to me.  We went to our mountain house in Summit County, of course, and stayed for extended periods. I painted outdoors en plein air with my watercolor buddies in the mountains, feasting my eyes on the brilliant flaming mountainsides of flashing liquid gold aspens at the height of their glory, leaves shimmering in the winds. Aaaaah, Colorado! It felt good to be engaged in familiar routines once again.

Would I do the Alaska Adventure again? YOU BET I WOULD! WE would! Don agrees, it was the best trip of our lives. I loved every single minute of every single day, and so did Don! 

Would I do the trip the exact same way as in 2013? Probably not….We'd dearly LOVE to return to BC/Alberta/Yukon and spend 3-4 weeks just in Canada, exploring all the national parks there, and staying each place 4-5 days. We loved Banff and Lake Louise, would love to return there. I'd give my eye teeth to visit the famous dinosaur museum in Alberta and have 3-4 days to wander there. We'd love to spend more time on Vancouver Island, too….the RV parks there are magnificent…and we had NO time at all the see any of the primitive, wild, wester half of the island, where roads are scarce and RV parks nonexistent….but there are, we hear, some luxurious cabin-stye resorts hidden in the western wilds of Vancouver Island that make one's heart go pitter-patter. MMMMMM. Would love to visit those.

I intentionally planned our trip differently from the way most folks go to Alaska in RVs….from all my reading, I learned that most people head for Seattle, then do a quick trip up The Southeast by Marine Hwy to get up into AK, then they start driving to see as much of the state as they can pack in. I'm VERY GLAD we went up through Canada and took our time going to Tok, doing the whole trip "up over the top" the way we didm. Yes, it's a long haul. But well worth it! Don totally agrees. Then we did the 15 or so Alaska Marine Hwy ferry legs afterwards with our 25' RV through The Southeast, staying each place for 2-5 days. Perfect!!!

Having done or first Alaska foray that way, if we were to go back to Alaska, I think we'd do the reverse trip of what we did in 2013 … we'd drive
directly to Seattle or Vancouver, take the Marine Hwy north to Juneau, skipping Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka. We liked many of those places a lot, but we don't need to return the them (well, maybe Ketchikan, to take a couple of side trips that we missed out on!)…and avoiding places with tons of cruise ship passengers would be a major goal, especially if the RV park is near or alongside the cruise ship docks. We adored Juneau (not the downtown…but the outlying areas to the north of the city, north of the road to Mendenhall Glacier!) And we loved Haines, parked 5 feet from the shoreline, watching the moonrises, the ships cruising up the straits, the eagles sitting on dock pilings and diving for salmon every few minutes!!!

Our FAVORITE places and things in Alaska? Gustavus and the Gustavus Inn, definitely!!  Homer, for sure. We could spend weeks there, and not tire of it. (If we went back, we'd take some of the day trips by boat to nearby tiny villages across the bay.) Kenai…the town is a delight, as is
 the entire Kenai Peninsula.  We would definitely MAKE TIME to go to Valdez…we were sorry to miss it last year, and we wouldn't make that mistake again…and we might take the ferry to the sea-locked town of Cordova. We'd love to spend much more time in/around Seward too.

Speaking of the Kenai Peninsula, it would be well worth going to Kodiak Island to visit the city of Kodiak and the National Wildlife Refuge on Kodiak Island…most efficient would be to fly there and stay at a lodge for 3-5 days to explore the area. Fishermen I've spoken with who have stayed in and near Kodiak for periods of time say it is the most beautiful part of Alaska, to their ways of thinking. Probably because the population is small, the nature unspoiled, the quiet remarkable. I learned while staying in Kenai that Kodiak is the base for the Russian Orthodox seminary…its history is fascinating. I'd like to visit there.

And lordy, I still have this HUGE unfulfilled desire to see Unalaska, far far out near the southwestern end of the Aleutian chain, closer to Russia and China than to the US. Unalaska, where it is said the eagles are as numerous everywhere in this godforsaken little village as are the pigeons on the streets of New York…eagles by the dozens and hundreds, perched on power lines, trees, roofs throughout the town, on fishing boats, and docks! Taking a ferry there means a week or more each way, from Homer. We'd need to figure on living in Alaska for a year to have the leisure time to make that trip. So we'd probably fly there, either from Homer or Kodiak, for a couple of days.

It's impossible to get into the Wrangell/Elias National Park & Preserve without spending weeks hiking in very high mountains…but we'd surely take the one road into the Wrangell mountains and spend 4-5 days exploring what we could without doing major mountain trekking. The mountains within Wrangell/Elias are heavily glaciated, so trekkers have to be extremely hardy folks, even in the depth of "summer"…maybe all 2 days of it! The mountains are simply enormous, so primitive and jagged that it's a wonder people could actually live in the area and survive the arduous conditions. I just have to see it, closer up!

We would definitely go to Fairbanks if we were in Alaska again, probably to stay near there and explore for a week or more. Without a doubt we'd make arrangements way ahead of time to take our RV into Denali ( the national park) and camp…if possible traveling on by bus and staying at Kantishna for an additional 3-4 days at the lodge.  Kantishna is hard to get reservations for, but friends who've been there say a stay at the lodge is a heavenly experience.

It's hard to believe that even after spending a full 50 days actually IN Alaska, we only saw a tiny fraction of the state! As I look at the map of Alaska, I realize that if we went back I'd love to fly to 3 or 4 remote villages in the "interior" and/or "far north" and/or "southwest" of Alaska, just to experience them, meet the people who live there, and get the feel of the places.  I believe the name of the tiny Inuit village in the Northern Yukon Territories I'd like to return to is Nunavik…I've read about the town, and the whole experience of meeting natives (First Nations people in Canada and all the various tribes in Alaska) pulls me strongly. I love everything about the native lore, the customs, the fetishes and symbols, the totems, he stories (such as the different creation tales, involving Raven and the Box in which sunlight was locked). I'd go for a lot more of that.

One of our all-time favorite spots during this trip was a tiny resort/RV park in the Yukon (Canada), between Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek, shortly before crossing into Alaska and getting to Tok. The couple who owned the place were delightful. Every night they build a roaring outdoor council fire, during which everyone sits around and tells tall tales (and these are real WHOPPERS!) of the old days, the Yukon, the mineral resources, the wild animals, and the winter hardships. The lady proprietor has owned the place for about a decade…in the early 2000s, she took a sabbatical from her high level corporate job for a long road trip to Alaska, stopped at this little resort in the woods, fell in love with a bearded Mountain Man while staying there, and never went home. Yes, they're a couple, and yes, they make the place very, very interesting. Bathrooms and showers in the main building have been renovated, but the front room, where guests register and linger over their morning coffee while using the wi-fi. The old glass retail cases are filled with chunks of jade found in the area, with fossils and historical items from when the Alcan Highway was constructed during WWII. It's a mishmash of wonderful stuff, and the company is intelligent, stimulating, and wonderful. A full week there would be a delight.

I'd really love to fly up into the Arctic Circle, maybe even as far as Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay. Why? Simply because I want to see the far north! I'd love to go to Barrow for a few days…I want to see towns where people still hunt seals and whales. Point Hope sounds interesting, and someone who lives in Kotzebue tell great stories of her life there. Let's go!Seeing those places would show me un-civilization, people who live close to the earth, their lives rules by the seasons. Yes, I want to experience it!
 
You get the gist, huh? If / when we go back to the frontier state, we'll need another 3 months, at least!  So much to see and experience, so little time!

We were very selective about the museums we chose to visit. I read about every museum in every town, and made decisions on the spot about whether we'd use up any time hanging around a specific museum. Many folks visited every single museum, large and small, in every single town. Yuck! How many old wringer washing machines, ancient rifles, and handmade snowshoes can you find interesting? Every old beaded gown looks like every other after you've seen three. Several museums stick in my memory as outstanding…1.) The big Alaska Museum in Anchorage has the most incredible native artifacts and clothing I've ever dreamed of! Full floor-length hide capes covered with thousands of tiny white bird bodies of perfect feathers…mind-blowingly gorgeous. Absolutely garb fit for a chieftain! It took years and years to create. It's the equivalent of ancient silks from China, silk-stitched tapestries from Tibet, statuary and bronze and tile work from Greece and Italy. 2) The Beringia Center in Whitehorse, Yukon, is outstanding. Worthy of at least three visits. Full of ancient history. It is so well done that it provided the links for me of the modern world of the north to the ancient world of the north, when the land bridge existed. I began to understand the heritage of all the Native Americans, related to the various tribes of Alaska, particularly the Athabascans of central Alaska. who migrated east and south.

That's all, folks! Our trip was a glorious adventure. Every minute of every day. We didn't take a single fishing charter, and didn't feel cheated at all!
We took only ONE expensive boat tour…on Glacier Bay. It was fabulous, worth every penny and more. The flight from Juneau to Gustavus was exhilarating and spectacular, and our 4-day stay at the Gustavus Inn was to die for! Accommodations, service and FOOD unparalleled. We are people of the land, let there be no doubt…we must have said a hundred times that we were so glad not to be on a cruise, and not to be flying in and out in the space of a couple weeks. Don and I are farmers at heart, so we found the wildlife, the undeveloped land, the vast stretches of forest and muskeg and rivers and lakes spectacular.

Oh, one more thing….I would do a lot of kayaking if I returned to Alaska. Don isn't fond of kayaking at all; I love it! I would sign up for a half-day kayak tour at nearly every town, leaving Don to have coffee and read the papers while I'm paddling away. If I did go kayaking on Glacier Bay, maybe I could commune at length with my favorite birds on earth… winged puffins! Cutest critters ever created.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2014, 04:32:06 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

SaltyAdventurer

  • ---
  • Posts: 142
Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #129 on: April 03, 2014, 08:16:46 PM »
OUR ITINERARY…This was done in January, 2013 and has had so many viewers that I'm re-posting it here so people can find it! It was buried and was difficult to locate for those who still want to use it!

Our Alaska Adventure...summer 2013: The planning is underway!
January 23, 2013


Hello All!  The planning is progressing....I'm posting our entire ITINERARY here, for your information...I've now added a possible visit to the Fish Creek sanctuary by the Tongass Natl Forest near Hyder in Southeast Alaska to our plans, for when we are in Wrangell or Petersburg, whichever turns out to be closer to the bear-visiting place....thanks for the suggestions, one and all!  I know some of you have said not to write off Fairbanks, but other friends of ours said Fairbanks was "just another city, and not a very interesting one at that"...so I do think we are going to eliminate the time and distance of driving there and going into Denali. For those of you who don't live in some of the world's most gorgeous mountains, going into Denali NP is surely something very special...but we live in one of the world's most beautiful places and are in/near many 14'ers all the time.  So....   

One of you asked what the $$ damages are for all of our ferrying with the RV from Whittier back across to Juneau, and then Ferry-hopping with the RV throughout Southeast Alaska....total cost $3,634.  On only one of those trips (from Whittier to Juneau---nearly 2 days) did I reserve a cabin...I got us a 4-person cabin so we would have extra beds on which to poe cases & clothes, plus an in-cabin bathroom (per advice from friends who RV'ed to Alaska in summer, 2011).  There's one additional ferry cost that I don't have at my fingertips right now...that is from Prince Rupert BC to Port Hardy BC....will give that to you later on. It's very reasonable, however....and I didn't get us a cabin for that rip of 15 hrs....the BC Ferries agent suggested a first-class lounge seat, instead...less expensive, more comfortable than economy class, and lots of cabin-like conveniences without the cost of a cabin.  So that's what I did for that leg.

All told, considering the enormous amount of driving time, miles on the road, and fuel cost savings, I think the ferry is very cost effective for us! Would be much less so, of course, if we had a coach of 30-36 feet or more.  But that's really the joy of having our 25 foot-er. Easy in lots of ways.

Here's my plan so far:

ALASKA ITINERARY:

May 29   RAWLINS WY (2 hrs/125 mi)
      --RV World CG (no cable tv, okay, clean,  but road noise) 307-328-1091
      --Rawlins KOA CG (unfriendly, it’s okay, but not great) 307-328-2021

May 30   LANDER WY 2.75 hrs/ 160 mi)
--Sleeping Bear RV Park (best of anything available, immaculate facilities, great showers, very quiet!) 307-332-5159

May 31   JACKSON WY…2 nts (2.25 hrs/95 mi)
June 1   --Virginian Lodge RV Park (best available but not fabulous, expensive, has tv and wifi, clean) 800-262-4999

June 2      YELLOWSTONE NP…3 nts (2.25 hrs/95 mi)
June 3      --Yellowstone Park KOA, West Yellowstone MT 406-646-7606, 6 mi fr
June 4      west park entrance; $60/nt x 3 = 180

June 5      BUTTE MT (3.5 hrs/193 mi)
--there’s a crummy KOA in Butte, best place is Fairmont RV Park & CG, Fairmont MT, 15 mi west of Butte  406-797-3505

June 6      MISSOULA MT (2 hrs/120mi)
--definitely stay at Jim & Mary’s RV Park!! Abso the best around! Has TV. Very clean. Great facilities. Get spot farthest from train noise. 406-549-4416

June 7   GLACIER NP…4 nts  (Whitefish 2.5 hrs/136 mi, Glacier is another .75 hr/126 mi)
   --In Whitefish, MT, Stock up on some frozen veggies & frozen fruit for  Canada travel…eggs? Milk? (NO WINE, FRESH FRUIT OR VEGGIES!)
--stay at North American RV Park & Yurt Village, Located only 5 miles west of Glacier National Park's West entrance between Mile Markers 147 & 148 (rec’d by rvforum buddy) Coram MT Good Sam. full hooks $35/nt 800-704-4266
--OR if going to the east side of the park, stay at Johnson’s CG & RV Park in Browning MT. 406-732-4207. Excellent place. $42/nt. Good Sam. Fabulous views.
June 8
June 9
June 10

June 11   BROWNING MT (1 hr/68 mi)/ ST. MARY MT (0.5 hr/29 mi)/ WATERTON PROVINCIAL PARK AB CANADA (0.75 hr/41 mi)
--FILL UP WITH GAS in Browning…30-40 cents cheaper!
--EAT for sure at the Park Place Café in Browning…everything homemade. Out of this world.
--FUEL UP in Browning or St. Mary, ABSO before crossing into Canada!!! (Gas is cheapest in Browning!)
      --Get $250 Canadian cash right after we cross into Canada.
      --Buy a Canadian USB Modem Card (TELUS?? Card) right away ….
--Townsite CG (Parks Canada) in the town of Waterton has full hookups, nice place according to reviews. 403-859-5133

June 12   CARDSTON AB CANADA (0.5 hr/28 mi)/ BANFF AB CANADA (3.75 hrs/226 mi)
--stay in Cardston overnight if necessary, at a city park rt downtown called Cardston Lee Creek CG (city park, very nice according to rvforum guy)
--Banff has Tunnel Mtn CG (a public park) with Full HUs, only a mile from downtown Banff, $38.20/nt  403-762-1550
--a private RV park close to Banff is Spring Creek RV CG in Canmore, 14 mi from Banff $37-$40  403-678-5111

June 13   LAKE LOUISE AB CANADA (1 hr/36 mi) / JASPER AB CANADA (3.5 hrs/145 mi)
   --Just West of Lake Louise, off Hwy 1/93, beyond the turnoff of Hwy 1 to the west, is Yoho Natl Park, home of the famous Burgess Shale, the finest paleontological deposit of soft invertebrates in North America…would be well worth going to!!
   --Hinton/Jasper KOA, 1.5 mi west of Hinton 780-865-5061 $36.65

June 14   PRINCE GEORGE BC CANADA (4.5 hrs/233 mi)
      --Bee Lazee RV Park & CG, $28 for full HUs, 250-963-7263
--stop in Prince George for a COUPON BOOK! Good visitor center..in old part of town. Interesting city…
--stay in Southland RV Park (South Park RV Park??) south of Prince George on Hwy 97…nice place…Sarge

June 15   CHETWYND BC CANADA  (3.5 hrs/190 mi) / FORT ST. JOHN BC CANADA (2.25 hours/108 mi)
   --Our LONGEST DAY—5.75 hrs!!
   --Ross H Maclean Rotary RV Park, at Charlie Lake just north of Fort St. John. Good Sam park. $33-38 for full HU. 250-785-1700
   --IF we go to Dawson Creek (interesting town, nice place…), sty at Northern Lights CG, has good restrooms! Says Sarge…does he mean Dawson City???
   --June 9-10 in Chetwynd is the Intl Chainsaw Championship!

June 16   FORT NELSON BC CANADA (4.5 hrs/237 mi)
--Bluebell Inn & RV Park, old, mud & puddles, behind a gas station and motel w a convenience store; $27 for full HU. 250-774-6961  a dump!
--OR Triple G Hideaway, $37 full HUs. Best available. 250-774-2340
--Sarge says none of the RV parks in Ft Nelson is very good…he stayed at Triple G Hideaway CG, 130 sites.
--FUEL UP ABSO in Fort Nelson, before leaving!!!
--FILL UP WITH WATER FOR MUNCHO LAKE!!!

June 17   MUNCHO LAKE BC CANADA (3.5 hrs/150 mi)…2 nts
--Muncho Lake PP / Macdonalds CG NO hookups but gorgeous fabulous dry-camping!! Everybody loves this place! 250-776-7000 $16
--Northern rockies Lodge RV Park, private CG, at Mile 462 on Alaska Hwy, $42-50/nt    800-663-5269
June 18   --Sarge says to definitely FILL UP on gas in Contact Creek, on the way to Watson Lake!!

June 19   WATSON LAKE YT CANADA (3.25 hrs/170 mi)
--Baby Nugget RV Park, abt 15 mi west of Watson Lake just before the Cassiar Hwy turnoff. Fairly decent…best available. $36 for full HU. Has an RV wash. Restaurant is expensive/overpriced, but some ppl liked it.
--Sarge says all the RV parks in/near Watson Lake are icky…he stayed in Downtown RV Park
--Is KLUNE LAKE somewhere nearby?? Cottonwood RV Park…rec’d by rvforum guy…best of the worst.

June 20   WHITEHORSE YT CANADA --Summer Solstice!!! (5 hrs/272 mi)
--Hi Country RV Park $35 for full HU. Lots of shade trees, best available park. Clean facilities and good laundry room. Has tv. 867-667-7445
--Sarge says OK to stay at Pioneer RV Park…he stayed there.
--Caribou RV Park is OK, 30 amp + water, nice laundry & bathrooms! (rvforum)
--Sarge says to definitely go to The Frantic Follies in Whitehorse…hilarious! In the Westmont Hotel in downtown Whitehorse…really fun! (doesn’t perform on Mondays…this is a Thurs!)
--Sarge says there’s a fabulous restaurant in Whitehorse, “BarbBQ and Salmon” is the name, also good is the Klondike Rib & Salmon restaurant.
--visit the Beringia Museim in Whitehorse…fun, & the café there is good!
--the 2-hour boat ride on the Yukon River is really a good trip!!
--Guffeys loved Whitehorse…a really neat place!!
--Guffeys say to SKIP Destruction Bay…BUT that it’s well worth considering driving north & west from Whitehorse to Dawson City, then to Chicken, THEN to TOK….that’s really the best route!!!

June 21   DESTRUCTION BAY YT CANADA (4 hrs/162 mi)
--Sarge says Destruction Bay is the pits…a yucky place…no good RV Parks there! HOWEVER, halfway betyween Tok and Whitehorse is White River…White River RV Park is a nice place with excellent views!! Better to drive on to White River, he says!
--Cottonwood RV Park, fabulous views! Unparalleled! Only 15 amp power tho, from a generator. No tv. $32 for full HU. 867-841-4066
--Destruction Bay Lodge & RV Park, no tv, $33 for full HU  867-841-5332
--about halfway between Destruction Bay and Tok is Deadman’s Lake Campground. Free…boondocking, no hookups. 1.2 mi off the Alaska Hwy.

June 22   TOK AK / CHICKEN AK (4.75 hrs/225 mi)…2 nts
--Stay at Sourdough Campground in Tok!! RESERVE AHEAD if you want full HUs!!!
--Three Bears RV Park & Campground is ok…rvforum guy…$26/nt for full HUs, wanted to stay at Sourdough but there were no full HUs available. Sourdough is the preferred spot!
--Sarge says Tok RV Village is nice, $45/nt full HUs, has shade with pine trees.
--Gary & Eileen Guffy loved Chicken…a 75-mi drive away, but I think it’s a gravel road…town is related to the book Tisha…interesting place. Sarge liked it too…Sarge says the drive on Taylor Hwy up to Eagle is just gorgeous.

June 23   ?? Moveable day!! Extra day in Tok to drive to Chicken?? or go on to Glennallen??
--From Tok, drive south to Paxson, then go west on Denali Hwy (gravel) across to Cantwell, then south toward Anchorage…fabulous views, great wildflowers, very little traffic (almost no oncoming traffic!), outstanding wildlife!
--If we go to Gakona, the Gakona RV Park on the Copper River is really nice, says Sarge. $28/nt

June 24   GLENNALLEN AK (3 hrs/179 mi)
--Possibly stay 1-2 nights at Majestic Valley Wilderness Lodge at Glennallen??
--rvforum guy said Northern Lights campground is fine…$38 CASH for E+W…LOTS of mosquitoes!!!
--Between Glennallen and Palmer, the Glacier View RV Park is just beautiful!!! It’s 60 mi from Anchorage.  (Be SURE to go to Palmer…Guffeys just loved it. The musk ox farm in Palmer was so great, they spent a whole day there!!)

June 25   PAXSON to CANTWELL VIA DENALI HIGHWAY (1.25 hrs/74 mi)
--stay at the CG along the Denali Hwy!!...Sarge says the McLaren River Lodge is the GREAT place to stop along the Denali Hwy!! Do they have RV sites??
      --Frommers says Denali Hwy drive is one of the best in the state!

June 26   TALKEETNA AK (2 hrs/127 mi)
--Gary & Eileen Guffy: Be sure to go to Talkeetna…took a flightseeing tour from Talkeetna to Mt McKinley / Denali…that’s definitely the BEST way to see the mountain and the area around it!
--Sarge says he had the BEST sourdough pancakes for lunch he’d ever eaten, in Talkeetna

****ARE WE GOING TO VISIT VALDEZ??? 2 ppl on rvforum said Valdez was one of their favorite 3 places in all of Alaska…Marge & Tim adored Valdez. Bear Paw II RV Park. LuLuBelle cruise was great. Eat at Totem Inn in Valdez…wonderful. Sea Otter Campground is also OK. Best prices for salmon & halibut in all Alaska are across street from Sea Otter CG at the cannery…go upstairs!****

June 27   ANCHORAGE AK (2 hrs/112 mi)…4 nts
--RESERVE at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood AK for 1-2 nights??? (3/4 hr/38 mi fr Anchorage)
--Sarge says the Golden Nugget RV Park in Anchorage is OK, not great…MUST RESERVE AHEAD!!!
--or at the Hotel Alyeska in Anchorage?
      --Another place that’s interesting is Hotel Captain Cook!!
      --Guffys loved Anchorage, especially the MUSEUM there…
--might want to take a flightseeing trip to Denali from here??…best way to see the park & mtn
      --Check out the Anchorage Theater & music scene while we’re there…
--Sarge & wife liked the Snow Goose restaurant, and the Sleeping Lady Brewery in Anchorage
--the drive from Anchorage to Seward is absolutely gorgeous, but a real WHITE-KNUCKLE DRIVE!
--Be SURE to drive to Palmer, near Anchorage…go to the Musk Ox Farm at Palmer…Guffeys just loved the musk ox farm! Spent a whole day there!

June 28   
June 29
June 30   

July 1      HOPE AK (1.5 hrs/88 mi)
--Guffys: Be SURE to go to HOPE AK, just off the road that leads to Whittier…Hope is a really interesting town.   

July 2      SOLDOTNA AK
--The road between Soldotna & Anchorage is really crowded abt July 15 when the red salmon run starts…
--There’s a big Fred Meyer store in Soldotna!

July 3      KENAI AK (2 hrs/104 mi from Hope)…4 nts
      --***RESERVE RV PARK ABSO!!!!
-- MOOSE PASS AK??
NIKISKI AK??
ANCHOR POINT AK??
SELDOVIA AK??
YAKUTAT AK??
--Guffeys: Be SURE to go to the WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTER near Kenai…off the Seward Hwy…lots of great wildlife there, a fascinating place!!
--The fishing trips for salmon & Halibut from Kenai are great
July 4
July 5
July 6     

July 7      HOMER AK (1.5 hrs/82 mi)   …4 nts
--RESERVE at Heritage RV Park, way out on Homer Spit!! Site #82 is fabulous! $60/nt: Sarge
--Also really nice is the Oceanview RV Park in Homer, on the bluff..full hookups, really great: Sarge
--If you want to boondock on the Homer Spit, go to City Park Beach and park for 2 days!! Sarge
Guffeys: Very very scenic place, several great little towns along the way. This is the place to get a boat tour if you want one.
--Eat at the Broadway Inn on the Homer Spit..great fish & chips! Sarge
July 8
July 9
July 10

July 11   SEWARD AK (3.5 hrs/168 mi)…3 nts
--Waterfront (City) Park (RV Park), good hookups! says Sarge
--Guffys: Seward is really worth going to, for the scenery and the history
-- Try to stay in Seward 2-3 days at least, and drive the Scenic Glenn Hwy to Valdez…along the way, stop & hike the Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords Natl Park
--Frommers P 7 says Exit Glacier is one of the best in Alaska…short gravel path (chapt 7)
--SEWARD HWY between Anchorage and Seward, through the Chugach Mtns, is the most beautiful drive in Alaska, says Frommers (pg 7)     
July 12
July 13

July 14   WHITTIER AK (2 hrs/88 mi)
      --Stay in Whittier only 1 afternoon, not much to see there.
--Gary Guffy…Whittier is a really neat city, very unique.

July 15      WHITTIER AK…Ferry to Juneau, departs 11:45 pm
--Be there be 8:45 pm ABSO!!  PICK UP ALL TICKETS AT OFFICE FOR ALL FERRY TRIPS!!
      --Ferry trip is 1 day/13 hr/ 15min
--we have a 4-berth cabin!!!
--CORDOVA AK….does Whittier ferry stop here?? If so, what time? We would enjoy seeing Cordova, I think!!

July 16      all day on FERRY to Juneau!

June 17   JUNEAU AK…arrives 1 pm in Juneau (terminal is at Auke Bay!)
--Can we park near or at the ferry dock when we arrive, to catch the ferry the next morning…have to be at the ferry by 6 am??? (terminal # is 907-789-0066)
--RESERVE ahead at Auke Village CG, only 1.75 mi north of the ferry dock…vault toilets and running water only!! Only 11 sites tho! $10/nt.
--terminal is 14 mi from downtown Juneau…
--Shuttles operate from the ferry dock to downtown Juneau, but times are changeable. Ask at ferry dock, or call visitor center 888-581-2201
--Eat at Hot Bite, located at the Auke Bay boat harbor…a locals’ secret…fabulous halibut burgers & shakes!!
--DEFINITELY eat at the Red Dog Saloon, at 278 South Franklin St…rec’d by Jim Strain!! Really famous, lots of great memorabilia from the heyday of the old mining days!  Good fish, salmon wraps, burgers!
--
Tracy's King Crab Shack
 
265 Reviews
Juneau, AK
 
Sandpiper Cafe
 
84 Reviews
Juneau, AK
 
 
Sand Bar and Grill
 
27 Reviews
Juneau, AK
 
The Rookery Cafe
 
22 Reviews
Juneau, AK


July 18      FERRY to SKAGWAY AK...3 nts  (Ferry departs 8 AM-be there by 7A)
--RESERVE AHEAD!!! Pullen Creek RV Park www.pullencreekrv.com  907-983-2768  is near the small boat harbor, right on the water’s edge, coin-op showers, sites have E & W $38/nt. (HINT: Park facing the docks!)
--Get a Skagway Trail Map at the visitor center…town has good hikes…(Frommers Pg 207)   
      --eat at Skagway Fish Co…good fresh fish and beer.
--eat at The Stowaway Café..in a right blue bldg. overlooking the boat harbor…best rest in town.
--with a population of only 900, there’s not much here! The Canadian border is 14 mi north at the top of the pass…one of the MOST spectacular drives anywhere in Alaska! Do it in clear weather only…in cloudy weather, you’ll see nothing.
--Skagway is a great place to walk everywhere, or to bike…Sockeye Cycle, 5th Ave off Broadway.
--Go see the Days of ’98 Show…$22/person, good show abt the history of the town. Has been running since 1927.
--SMART bus is $2/ride, around town or also out to the Klondike Gold Dredge…$5 all-day pass.
--The Whitehorse Yukon train trip is really fun, one person said.
--Drive to Dyea, find the Chilkoot Trail that the miners took, and hike part of it! A hoot!
July 19
July 20

July 21      FERRY to HAINES AK…3 nts (Ferry departs 3 PM…be there @ 2 PM)
      --Go the Haines Visitor Center!!
      --Oceanside RV Park is rec’d by rvforum folks
--there’s a campground in Haines ¼ mi from the center of town, with GREAT views!...Guffeys stayed at the RV Park in Haines that’s right ON the bay close to the ferry dock…it’s just GREAT, Gary said! Overlooks the water, u can watch all the ships and ferries coming & going.
--The Lighthouse restaurant right near the campground is great!
--Guffys: We went to Resurrection Bay from Haines, where we watched dozens of grizzlies feeding on salmon during the run. We were on a walkway, and safe, but were actually very close to the bears. It was the experience of a lifetime…I’d go back there in the blink of an eye!
--Frommers see Pg 189 etc.
--Fort Wm Seward is here, and Alaska Indian Arts Native Cultural Center.
--Eagles are everywhere in Haines!!
--Along Haines Hwy is the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Viewing esp good from Miles 18-21!! Spectacular alpine terrain!
--visit the American Bald Eagle Foundation site…rvforum folks said it is wonderful!
--rvforum folks LOVED watching the salmon and the eagles at the FISH LADDER in town!
--Worth driving to Klokwan from Haines??
--Take the train from Haines to the Klondike Gold Rush Historic Park…quite fun!
--Might be a good place to bike…Sockeye Cycle, $35 for 8 hrs, just uphill fr Port Chilkoot Dock at 24 Portage St in the Ft Wm Seward area  877-292-4154
--Haines is a good place to hike, too…Battery Pt Trail is 2 mi along a beach, starts at the end of Beach Rd.  Seduction Pt Trail 7 mi long, starts at Chilkat State Park at the end of Mud Bay Rd, south of town…goes thru forest and along beaches to end of Chilkat Peninsula…great views of Rainbow Glacier. Check the tides!!!
--Eat at The Bamboo Room…famous for its halibut fish & chips!
July 22
July 23

July 24      Ferry to JUNEAU…2 nts…Ferry departs 5 PM (Be there @ 4 PM)
      --trip is 4 hr 30 min
----RESERVED RV CG AHEAD!! DONE!!  Spruce Meadow RV Park, 10200 Mendenhall Loop Rd 907-789-1990 is best..$37 for full HU. Wooded and open sites in forested area near the glacier. Cable TV and wifi. Also on the city bus line!! Don’t take the RV into the city of Juneau…it’s tight!  www.juneaurv.com  SENT RESERVATION FORM IN 11/16/12…talked to owner twice, all arranged!!! We can leave the RV there, with electric for a partial fee, while we go to Gustavus!! We can get a taxi from there to the airport on the 26th…
--((ALTERNATIVE place wd be Auke Village CG, only 1.75 mi north of the ferry dock…vault toilets and running water only!! Only 11 sites tho! $10/nt. ))
--Only abt 1 mi from the ferry docks, the Auke Village Recr Area, northwest of the city on Glacier Hwy, is great for picnics and beach walks…only about 1 mile from the ferry docks.
--24 miles out the Glacier Hwy (rd turns to gravel) past Auke Bay is Pt Bridget State Pk, which has a beautiful 3.5 mi flat path thru forest, meadow and marsh to the shore…sea lions, humpback whales, eagles.
--Eat at Hot Bite, located at the Auke Bay boat harbor…a locals’ secret…fabulous halibut burgers & shakes.
July 25

July 26      Fly to GUSTAVUS AK …2 nts Air Excursions flight @ 11:30 AM
--RESERVED/CONFIRMED at Gustavus Inn for 2 nights, all meals included, incl lunch the day we leave. (See Frommers Pg 188)
--Do we want to take the all-day boat tour from Gustavus to see Glacier Bay Natl Park?  Frommers says the Grand Pacific Glacier is the most beautiful in Alaska (Chapt 5)  YES!!! I arranged this already with
Dave Lesh at the Gustavus Inn!!!  Jim Strain said the glacier is by far the most amazing, beautiful in all of Alaska..no other even compares to it.
July 27

July 28      Fly to JUNEAU AK…3 nts     Air Excursions flight @ 2:25 PM
--RESERVE RV CG AHEAD!!! DONE!!!  Spruce Meadow RV Park, 10200 Mendenhall Loop Rd 907-789-1990 is best..$37 for full HU. Wooded and open sites in forested area near the glacier. Cable TV and wifi. Also on the city bus line!! Don’t take the RV into the city of Juneau…it’s tight!  www.juneaurv.com  SENT RESERVATION FORM IN 11/16/12…talked to owner twice, all arranged!!! We can leave the RV there, with electric for a partial fee, while we go to Gustavus!!
--Otherwise, Mendenhall Glacier CG, public but very good, 9 full HUs, +9 partials with E & W. $28    907-586-8800  Frommers calls this place the best public CG in the entire state of Alaska!!!
--Check out POSSIBLE HIGH WINDS in Juneau…esp at RV park close to harbor…winds often go to 100 mph! Is RV safe while we’re gone??
--Go to Angoon and Pack Creek from Juneau…they’re neat places! Pack Creek is fabulous for bear viewing, but it’s on Admiralty Island and costs $600/person to get there in a 5.5 hr tour by plane…reserve ahead if we want it. 907-790-2120
--Excellent bear viewing at the edge of the parking lot at Mendenhall Glacier, which is Juneau’s best attraction. Drive north out of Juneau to the head of the valley…good trail leads to the edge of Mendenhall Lake…bears are within a few yards of the viewing platforms near the visitor center. Try the East Glacier Loop Trail, 3.5 mi RT with a few steep parts, but relatively easy…thru a forest to a waterfall high above, the glacier’s face is quite close.
--The Auke Village Recr Area, northwest of the city on Glacier Hwy, is great for picnics and beach walks…only about 1 mile from the ferry docks.
--24 miles out the Glacier Hwy (rd turns to gravel) past Auke Bay is Pt Bridget State Pk, which has a beautiful 3.5 mi flat path thru forest, meadow and marsh to the shore…sea lions, humpback whales, eagles.
--Bald eagles are everywhere in Juneau! Most common on the shorelines…esp at the hatchery.
--Perseverance Trail goes up the valley behind Juneau (city) into the old mining district…4 mi of easy walking on the mtnside above Gold Creek. Trailhead is 1.5 mi from town on Basin Rd.
--Whale watching is reliable from Juneau…many small boats are available for tours
--Tracy Arm is as gorgeous as Glacier Bay and easier / cheaper to get to…$150/person for Harv & Marv’s Outback Alaska Tours…long, narrow twisting passageway into the coastal mtns with mile-high peaks rising straight out of the water, big waterfalls, and several big glaciers at its head. Whales and other wildlife along the way. Jim Strain did this trip and said it’s OK but not nearly as good as Glacier Bay cruise!
      --Alaska State Museum at 395 Whittier St. is good…
--Eat at Hot Bite, located at the Auke Bay boat harbor…a locals’ secret…fabulous halibut burgers & shakes.
--IF a clear day, take the Mt Roberts Tramway at 490 S Franklin St., 6 min ride to 1760 ft high…can hike the 2.5 mi back to town. $27/person RT
July 29
July 30   --Late afternoon of the 30th, should we drive to the ferry docks and park there to sleep? We have to be at the ferry docks at 3:15 AM!!   NO NEED TO, says the owner of the Spruce Meadow RV Park…only about a 15 minute drive to the ferry!

July 31      Ferry to SITKA AK…3 nts Ferry departs 8:30 AM (Be there @ 7:30AM)
      --Ferry trip is 9 hr 30 min
--Sitka Sportsman’s Assoc RV Park, adjacent to the ferry dock 7 mi from town, has E & W HUs…907-747-4712…under $22..heated bathrooms, showers  RESERVE AHEAD!!
--Alternate RV Park is Sealing Cove RV Park, abt ½ mi walk to town, adjacent to marina. E & W only. Under $25. 907-747-3439
--Take a boat tour to Punchbowl Cove in Misty Fjords, south of Ketchikan…fabulously high cliffs, gorgeous!  Allen Marine 877-686-8100 $159 each for 4.5 hr trip…boats are fast, quiet (Frommers p 110)
--St Lazaria Island  off the coast of Sitka sounds really interesting, too!!
--Sitka is great for hiking…a dozen good trails from town
--Eat at Ludvig’s Bistro (Meditteranean) first-rate food, 256 Katlian St….Margi and kent Klute just loved this place…ate there 3 times in 3 days.
Aug 1
Aug 2

Aug 3   Ferry to PETERSBURG AK…2 nts Ferry departs 7:45AM, be there @ 6:45 AM
   --Ferry trip is 12 hr 45 min
   --We have a 4-berth cabin on this trip
   --Trip from Petersburg to Wrangell is one of the MOST beautiful in all of Alaska!!
   --Ferry terminal has a big lawn, & is really nice! About a mile from the town center. Petersburg is on Mitkof Island
   --For fresh take-out fish, go to the counter at Coastal Cold Storage…fried halibut & chowders!
   --RESERVE AHEAD!! Twin Creek RV Park is 7.5 mi out of town on Mitkof Hwy, $30/nt for full HUs. Has a laundry and showers. 907-772-3244
   --Definitely go to Fish Creek, next to Tongass Natl Forest, near Hyder…. Fish creek is located in near Hyder, Alaska, the only mainland accessible town along Alaska’s southern portion of the panhandle. It is a tiny place and accessed from the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia, Canada. Fish creek is a popular destination for bears who come in search of the salmon that lay in its clear waters. The Tongass National Forest borders the area and it was in classical form during my short visit, which was misty, rain filled clouds that would come and go through the mountains. –highly rec’d by RVforum folks!!
Aug 4   

Aug 5   Ferry to WRANGELL AK…4 nts Ferry departs 3:15 PM, be there @ 1:15 PM
   --Ferry trip is 3 hr 15 min
   --Ferry terminal in Wrangell is downtown.
   --STAY AT Shoemaker Bay Recreation Area, ABSO!!! Has 16 RV sites w electric HUs, no water. 5 mi south of town by the road overlooking the boat harbor. Just pick any spot, hook up, and pay at the office or put check in the little box!!! $25/nt, fee includes use of the town swimming pool (indoor) and its showers. No advance reservations, hardly EVER full! Swimming pool is ½ mi south of the ferry docks/harbor…Operated by Wrangell Rec & Parks Dept 907-874-2444
   (**DO NOT STAY at Alaska Waters RV Park…reviews say it’s a dump!)
--Eat at Alaskan Sourdough Lodge family style, no menu (reservations required for non-guests), great food. 907-874-3613
--Great halibut & chips at the Stikine Inn at 107 Stikine Ave.
--Diamond C Café is good, incl fresh halibut, as is Zak’s Café, with lots of fresh fish! Both on Front St.

Aug 6

Aug 7   4 PM ABSO!!! Call Alaska Vistas at 907-874-3006 to get a pickup tomorrow morning at 8:30 for the Wildlife Observatory trip!!! Sylvia is the owner with her husband John…she’s Great!!
     
Aug 8   --Alaska Vistas trip 9 AM to Anan Wildlife Observatory!!!  9am to 4-4:30 pm…RESERVED and confirmed!   $251.45/person. 907-874-3006  Located @ 106 Front St, at City Dock.  Reservation includes 50% deposit, pay rest when at office. Cancel 30 days before to get full refund of deposit!
--Anan Wildlife Observatory is great for bear-viewing…peak of salmon run is July 15-Aug 20…Alaska Waters & Alaska Vistas offers boat tours, $210 to $265/person for 1-hr ride out and a few hrs with the bears. (Frommers Pg 122)  --A MUST-SEE near Wrangell, according to Margi Klute, is the Anan Wildlife Observatory…MUST RESERVE FAR AHEAD!!!!...take abt a 1-hr boat ride, 6 people at a time only, then go with 2 guides (each armed with a rifle) along viewing platforms that re only a few yards away from the bears feeding on spawning fish…incredible!!! She said they were there for 4 hrs and it felt as if the time passed in 20 minutes, it was so fantastic!!

Aug 9   Ferry to KETCHIKAN AK…2 nts Ferry departs 10:00 AM, be there at 8: 00 AM
   --Ferry trip is 5 hr 45 min…arrival at 4 pm
   --RESERVE AHEAD!!! at Clover Pass Resort & RV Park…get TourSaver coupon, 1 FREE night!!! This is the only full svc RV Park in the area, 15 mi north of Ketchikan, 35 sites, full HUs incl tv, $34/nt. Laundry. Has a shuttle to town!! (see email from owner!)
--Take a boat or ferry to visit METLAKATLA AK on Annette Island south of Ketchikan for a day??? Guffys said it is fabulous! It is the ONLY Indian reservation in the state of Alaska…Tsimshian Tribe, but with lots of other tribes represented as well.
--Can we drive to Hyder AK from Ketchikan? The bear viewing there, near Stewart BC, is incredible, says Sarge

Aug 10

Aug 11   Ferry to PRINCE RUPERT BC CANADA…Ferry departs 7:30 AM, be there at 6:30 AM ABSO!!!!
   --Ferry trip is 7 hr 30 min
   --Kinnikinnick RV Park is a 5-min walk from Port Edward in Prince Rupert…only has 15 amp power tho…do NOT do laundry here!!
   --visit the Northern Pacific Cannery Historic Park…10 minutes outside of Port Edward…has a great little café with fabulous seafood chowder! Nearby is a great hiking trail that goes down to the rapids…abt 6 mi RT.
   --I checked with the AMHS abt a ferry on the 12th instead of the 11th, but there isn’t one!

Aug 12   

Aug 13   Ferry to PORT HARDY BC CANADA…BC Ferry departs 7:30 AM, be there @ 5:30 AM ABSO!!
   --Ferry trip is 16+ hrs…arrival Port Hardy is 11:30 PM
   --We have reserved seats (recliners) in the 1st Class Aurora Lounge for that trip (take books, extra jackets, overshirts, small blankets!)
   --RESERVE AHEAD!!...stay at Port Hardy RV Resort, 8080 Goodspeed Road, Port Hardy…250-949-8111…1.2 mile N of Bear Cove Junction where the ferry docks are located…Resort is just off Hwy 19
   
Aug 14   drive south on Vancouver Island… 50 minutes, 33 mi to Telegraph Cove
--Take ferry to ALERT BAY BC CANADA to see Christine?? Alert Bay has the tallest totem poles in the world!
   --Stay at Alder Bay Resort…Telegraph Cove BC 250-956-4117 reserved/confirmed for 1 night, Space #39, Full HU, 30 amp, pull thru, $32 + tax    no TV   30-day cancellation policy. (Near Port McNeill BC)
--from Alder Bay Resort, be sure to drive into nearby Telegraph Cove, a rustic place where with really interesting history and a great little restaurant!
   
Aug 15   drive south on Vancouver Island…2 hrs 13 min, 109 mi to Browns Bay Resort
--Stay at Browns Bay Resort/Ripple Rock RV Resort, 12 mi N of Campbell River, BC. Emailed on 12/6/12 requesting 1 nt, $35-40/nt for Full HU. 250-286-3135

Aug 16   drive south on Vancouver Island—1 hr 32 min, 76 mi to Resort
--RESERVED for 2 NIGHTS at Qualicum Bay Resort, 1 hr N of Naniamo/2 hrs N of Victoria…Conf # 1-201300297, RV full HU w TV $34/nt; 250-757-2003; from Hwy 19 headed south, exit 75, to Hwy 19A, turn left go 0.6 mi to resort, just beyond Big Qualicum River bridge.

Aug 17      @ Qualicum Bay Resort

Aug 18   Lv 7 am to arrive in VICTORIA BC CANADA by 9 or so… 2 hrs 14 min, 83 miles…requires FERRY SERVICE!!!  (Going directly to the Ferry Dock  in downtown Victoria from Qualicum Resort is 2 hrs 14 min, 101 miles…no ferry)
--go to Butchart Gardens in Victoria @ 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay BC…to ferry docks fr Burchart is 15 mi, 40 min
Ferry to PORT ANGELES WA…Black Ball Ferry departs @ 3PM, be there @ 1PM
   --Ferry trip is 90 min

Aug 19   PORT ANGELES WA…go immediately to the Port Angeles Visitor Center for trail maps in Olympic Natl Park…there’s a great trail 25 mi west of the visitor center…get its location!
   --Where is Hyder BC?? Close to Stewart WA?? Great bear viewing there, supposedly

Aug 20      OLYMPIC NP…3 nts...camping with Al & Susan
Aug 21
Aug 22

Aug 23      Astoria WA

Aug 24-26   drive down OR coast    RESERVE RV PARKS???
                        --Canyonville OR, Seven Feathers RV Resort, really great…rec’d by RVforum person
                        --Yachats OR Sea Perch RV Park…rt on the ocean..rec’d by Sarge…terraced, so don’t pay highest price for oceanfront!
                        --Stay in Bandon 1 night?

Aug 27      BROOKINGS OR…4 nts
Aug 28
Aug 29
Aug 30

Aug 31      KLAMATH FALLS OR
Sept 1      WINNEMUCCA NV   
Sept 2      SALT LAKE CITY UT
Sept 3      RAWLINS WY
Sept 4      HOME!!!

Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO
« Last Edit: April 03, 2014, 08:19:35 PM by SaltyAdventurer »
Klondike Susie aka Salty Adventurer
2013 Itasca Reyo (25', no toad)
Married to oldedit
Resides in Denver CO area & Silverthorne CO

 

Hosted by Over The Network