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Author Topic: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013  (Read 26626 times)

Gord Nelson

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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

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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

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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.
2013 Itasca Reyo T 2012-
2006 Roadtrek Adventurous Mercedes (Freightliner)
Colorado 2009-2012
Toad: 2016 Jeep Patriot Stick with Blue Ox
Member Colorado Columbines WIT Chapter

Wendy

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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
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Here's where we are http://map.datastormusers.com/user2.cfm?user=2276
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Betty Brewer

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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

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SaltyAdventurer

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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

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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.
2013 Itasca Reyo T 2012-
2006 Roadtrek Adventurous Mercedes (Freightliner)
Colorado 2009-2012
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Member Colorado Columbines WIT Chapter

Dean & Linda Stock

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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~
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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
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Re: Great Alaska Adventure - 2013
« Reply #43 on: June 16, 2013, 12:21:51 PM »
Ardra, I think that might have been Skagway.
Lorna
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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
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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
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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

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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
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2006 Jeep Liberty (Towed)

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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
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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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  • Posts: 672
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)
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