Alaska by van
Vacation Log May 17, 2003 to July 11, 2003
Grand Tetons Yellowstone British Columbia Alaska Yukon - Jasper Banff
54 Wonderful Days in Class B RV
by Joanne and Leonard Sackett, Berkley, MichiganArea Covered by Log Page
- Trip Summary Information: the Good, the Bad, and Ugly 2
- Amana, IA to Kearney, NA 3
- Laramie, WY to Riverton, WY 4
- Yellowstone National Park, WY 5-9
- Livingston, MO to Spokane, WA to Cultus Lake Prov Park, BC 9
- 10 Mile Lake Prov Pk, BC to Seeley Lake Prov Pk, BC 10
- Kinaskan Lake Prov Pk, BC 11
- Rancheria, YT to Skagway, AK 12
- Haines, AK via Aurora Ferry to Destruction Bay, YT 13
- Tok, AK Area: Porcupine Creek Rec. Site 14
- Valdez, AK 15
- Valdez to Columbia & Meares Glaciers to Valdez 16
- Anchorage Alaska Native Heritage Center 18
- Seward, AK to Bings Campground in Alaska State Park 19
- Homer, AK 20
- Anchorage, AK to Denali National Park and Preserve 21
- Denali: Eielson Shuttle, Savage River Campground 22-23
- Fairbanks, AK 24-25
- Tok, AK to Taylor Highway Boondocking to Dawson City, YT 26-27
- Dawson City, Twin Lakes Prov. Pk., Whitehorse 28-29
- Laird River, Fort Nelson, McLeod Lake Prov. Pk, Tudyah Lake, BC, Valemount, BC 30-31
- Maligne Lake and Canyon Drive 32
- Jasper 33
- Banff 34-35
- Saskatchewan, Duluth and Ely Minnesota 36
- Germfask Michigan and home 37
Trip SummaryTrip Actual Distance: 12,058 Miles
Trip Planned Point to Point Distance: 10,499 Miles
Misc. Side Trips: 1,557 Miles
Future Trip Estimate Adjustment: +13%
Trip Duration: 54 Days
Gasoline Consumed: 807.6 Gal.
Trip Average Fuel Economy: 14.93MPG
Trip Average Gasoline Price: $1.902 per Gal.
Trip Average Lodging Cost: $17.66 per Night
Trip Average Food, Restaurant,
Sundry, Ice, Laundry, RV, Showers
Etc. Supplies Purchased: $27.38 per Day
Places/Things That Went WellCassiar Hwy in Late May - Stewart Hwy and lunch and chocolate treats at the Stewart Bitter Creek Restaurant - Valdez Stan Stephens Boat Tour on Prince William Sound
- Walk on the Worthington Glacier - Anchorage Alaska Heritage Center -
Seward Alaska Sealife Center
Denali National Park - Ester (Fairbanks) Malemute Show with Dinner - U of A Museum
All the Canadian Provincial Parks Clean and Beautiful
Having a quite soak in the Laird Hot Springs
Deluo GPS Sensor w MS Streets and Trips on Laptop
Digital Camera with daily downloads to Laptop and picture editing
First 44 Days use of Triplite 500 watt Inverter - OFF! Mosquito Lamp: Worked like magic
Places/Things That We Could Have Done Without or ImprovedTop of The World Drive Joanne - Fairbanks River Boat Tour: Gag, Too sweet
Looking too close at the water quality of the Chena River while canoeing near Fairbanks
Last 8 Days with fried Triplite 500 watt Inverter (450 operating hours and it was toast!)
Window Coverings Not Adequate for 3am Daylight How can I sleep??
Windshield Stone Chip -That pop-up camper idiot driving like a bat out of hell on the Top of the World Hwy May God grant him many flat tires
References That We Really UsedThe Mile Post, Jorden, Peters,Tarkin RV Forum Trip Logs, Scenic Driving: Alaska and the Yukon by Eric Molvar, Scenic Driving: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by Susan Springer Butler,
Vacation Log May 17, 2003 to July 11, 2003
Grand Tetons Yellowstone Alaska Jasper Banff
Saturday May 17, 2003 Day 1 Berkley Mi. to Amana, IA.Todays Mileage: 533 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.499/Gal. At Davenport Ia.
We had a beautiful day as we began our journey to Alaska at 7:30 this morning. The weather was cool and hazy as we drove across Michigan, but a little haze makes for easier driving on the eyes. As we drove west on I-80 the sky cleared at times, then clouded over slightly again. By the time we arrived at Amana Iowa, it was clear again with a delightful breeze.
We camped at the Amana Colonies RV Park which is a corn field planted over with grass. Theres a dog show going on so the campground host kindly assigned us a site far removed from the doggie campers.
The seven Amana Colonies (Amana, Homestead, East, West, South, Middle, and High Amanas) were started in 1855 by German immigrants seeking religious freedom as a communal living community. All land and buildings were owned by the community; families were assigned living quarters and dined at the community kitchens. The community grew to 26,000 acres and lasted until 1932 when the residents voted to end the communal life (roads, cars, the outside world how you going to keep them down on the farm after theyd seen Broadway?). The communal kitchens are now several very good family style restaurants. The seven villages are all within a 5-mile area and range from sleepy, picturesque farming communities to the larger Amana village with its excellent furniture shop, smoke house, refrigerator plant, and several restaurants. Dont be fooled, the real Amana Colonies are 7 short miles north of I-80 at exit #225.
After a drive to West Amana for a handmade broom, we went to the Ox Yoke Inn for a delicious German dinner. We cant go by the Amanas without stopping for some of their wonderful food and for whatever reason the Ox Yoke is the one we always go to. We wanted to get some fresh bread, but everything but the restaurants were closing up at 5:00pm when we started our quest.
Driving all day makes one lethargic so we have vowed to take at least a 30-minute walk every day after setting up. We did that and looked at some of the dogs along the way. We also saw 2 horned larks, which I can add to my life list. We also heard several killdeers around the camp.Rummikub has become a regular event to finish off a camping evening and this is no exception.
Sunday May 18, 2003 Day 2 Amana, IA. To Kearney, NA.
Todays Mileage: 425 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.449/Gal at Omaha, NE
On leaving Amana we had to stop and pay our respects at a very little one-plot cemetery. It is on the north side of 151/US6 on a little rise, surrounded by a low white painted wood fence and can be just seen from the road. It is the well kept grave of a one year old girl named Mary E. Wright who was laid to rest there in 1855 by her parents on their way west. Thirty-five years ago the tourist information would refer to it, but we could find no reference of it in todays publications. If my memory serves me right her parents were westward bound Mormons.
It was another beautiful day and we took turns driving to Ft. Kearney, Nebraska. We stopped for lunch at a rest area in Nebraska and made ham sandwiches. Were surprised how warm it is. It was rather chilly just a couple days ago at home and now in the high 70s and breezy.
Were camping at Ft. Kearney St. Recreation Area and its loaded with birds! Two robins are caring for their young in a tree next to our site. Several Orioles are flying from bush to tree to bush around us. We also saw a kingbird, many common grackles, and robins and can hear house wrens and tufted titmice. We took a short walk and saw a blue jay, mourning dove, northern flicker, red headed woodpecker, and yellow warbler. Id like to come here at the time of the large bird migration!
Len was tired after our walk and lay down for an evening nap while I recorded all my birds. And we got into bed early with the side doors open and screen door in place because its pretty warm.
Monday May 19, 2003 Day 3 Kearney Na. To Laramie Wy.
Todays Mileage: 319 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.359/Gal at Laramie, Wy
I was awakened by voices at 1:00 this morning. Three young men were out looking for the ultimate fire log. I woke Len because I wasnt sure of what they were up to and felt very vulnerable because we were so open with our screen door and screens in the front windows. When they brought their car over, tied a log to it, and dragged it away, I was relieved to know that was all they were doing.
Then later about 2:30, I was awakened again, this time by lightning. I woke Len again and we took the awning down and closed up the doors and windows. We made it just in time as the rains really came down. It lightninged, thundered, and poured for quite a while.
It was cloudy and very windy this morning, but the rain has stopped. When we got to Kearney, we stopped at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. We arrived before the regular business hours, but because there was a school group there, we could go in. It was very interesting! We wore headphones while walking through a display of scenes of the early pioneers traveling west. It was well worth the hour spent.
We gained the hour back when we passed into Mountain Time and we saved more time when I fixed lunch while Joanne drove rather than stopping.
The prairies are so beautiful and vast. They certainly make me feel small as we drive and drive across them. They also look rugged and unforgiving if you are not prepared as you travel through them. We saw our first pronghorn antelope here. They, of course, are taking this huge prairie land in stride.
Our first sight of the mountains came as we were approaching Laramie, Wyoming this afternoon. We could see snow capped peaks AND snow in patches on the ground around us! Our big adventure is really beginning now. We stopped at an information / visitor center to see if the Snowy Range Scenic Byway is open yet, but it wont be plowed out until next week at the earliest. Scratch that one off our itinerary. But, hey, were flexible well go shopping instead. It even started snowing a little while we were at the visitor center.
The Laramie KOA is home for the night. Not exactly the kind of camping we usually do, but its a quick stop and tomorrow its on into the mountains. After supper we took a walk (I wore my winter jacket, Len his polartec), then snuggled in for the night. Its going down to the low thirties.
Tuesday May 20, 2003 Day 4 Laramie Wy. To Riverton Wy.
Todays Mileage: 273 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.389/Gal. Ath Riverton, Wy.
The clouds are gone today and its a beautiful, if a bit windy and chilly, day. The overnight low was about 32 degrees and it is expected to get up into the 50s-70s depending on elevation. The remaining snow in the mountains is beautiful too.
As we continue to head west, we are climbing in elevation. We crossed the Continental Divide shortly after leaving Laramie at 6270 ft. We saw another herd of pronghorn antelope resting close to the side of the road and more later on so that we stopped counting. We are taking scenic Wyoming 287 north from Laramie towards Yellowstone, with a stop at Riverton to visit cousin Janet and her husband David. This is a scenic highway with some historical significance too. We saw split rock which was an important landmark to the pioneers traveling west as well as to the Native Americans traveling across the west. The high desert is very colorful with rock formations in shades of red, yellow, tan, blue-green, and gray.
We stopped for lunch at a rest area near Sweetwater Station. After lunch we back tracked a mile to a one lane gravel road, named Bison Basin, that looks like it goes nowhere. We drove south on it for two miles and stopped where the two - rutted Oregon Trail crossed it. MS Streets and Trips 2002, and our GPS made it very easy to find the right spot! MS Streets has lot of detail on it, including the Oregon Trail. There is a cement marker at the crossing point. You really have to respect and admire the families who traveled this trail on foot with ox wagon and pull cart 150-165 years ago. They covered only 8-15 miles per day and we cover that distance in 10-15 minutes. As we continued on, the white snow covered Wind River Mountains continue to loom in front of us and are always getting just a little bit bigger.
We discovered Riverton to be a very nice modern town. Again using the GPS we found Jan and Daves house. We made one small mistake by going to the next house, but fortunately the owner came home and pointed out Jans place. Dave built it himself a solar house. Its really neat, they have a gas Franklin stove in the living room for extra heat, however, the solar heat very adequately does the majority of the heating. Jan cooked elk steaks for supper and they were delicious! We had a great time visiting and getting caught up on whats going on with our families.
Wednesday May 21, 2003 Day 5 Riverton Wy. To Yellowstone National Park Wy.
Todays Mileage: 230 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.759/Gal at Old Faithful park stations
After a good nights sleep, Dave made his special sour dough pancakes and Jan made a great breakfast casserole with chili peppers in it. Another delicious meal to keep us going for the day. The birds get good eats there too and while watching out the kitchen window we saw lots, including a horned lark. We hated to say good-by, but they had to go to work and we had to continue with our travels.
What a beautiful country this is! The colors were even more sensational and were all in layers closer together than yesterday. Then after going through Dubois (which looked like it came right out of a cowboy movie) we came to the pine forests and the Grand Tetons. We stopped at a scenic overlook named Togwatee that was only partly plowed out, climbed over several feet of snow and took our first pictures of the Grand Tetons. We took the scenic drive at the foot of the Tetons. That is, we took U.S. 26 towards Jackson Hole, then turned onto the Teton Drive at Moose Junction. We stopped at most of the roadside stops and really enjoyed the great views. After the Tetons we really wanted to get to Yellowstone and get a campsite. The old west still lives. We met highway robbers at the Yellowstone Fishing Bridge RV Park. Campsites cost thirty-five dollars a night and showers are on top of that at three dollars each! On the plus side the campgrounds are centrally located in the park and at this time of year they really are the only game in town.
After getting a site and relaxing for a bit, we took a two-hour tour along the road that goes between the campgrounds and the Canyon Village. We saw almost 100 buffalo and some of them 10 yards or less from our van. We took a 45-minute boardwalk tour of the Mud Volcano area and had a brief look at the Yellowstone Upper Falls. The temperature today was quite warm (high 60s) and now only down to the mid 50s. Still lots of snow around and several side roads are still closed. We had a late 8:00pm dinner back at camp now are making plans for our first full day at Yellowstone.
Wildlife is very abundant here! We saw so much today: while in Grand Teton N.P. more pronghorn antelope, a marmot, 2 moose, and 5 snow geese; then in Yellowstone: lots of gray jays, 10 or so elk at West Thumb Geyser Basin, the buffalo, 4 great blue herons, a yellow rumped warbler, some American white pelicans, and lots of ravens. One raven followed us when we were at the Mud Volcano area, probably used to getting handouts from tourists.
Thursday May 22, 2003 Day 6 Yellowstone National Park Wy.
Todays Mileage: 90 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.759/Gal at Old Faithful park stations
Yesterdays clouds are gone and its another grand day. Len cooked sausage and eggs for breakfast, and then we cleaned up camp and went to take showers. They charge $3.00 each for them! We thought they might have unisex showers at that price, but there were mens and womens so we each had to pay and go our separate ways.
Our first stop was at West Thumb Geyser Basin. What an interesting place! The colorful hot geysers were all fascinating. The different heat loving microorganisms cause the different colors and make for a very vivid display indeed! Some pools were close to the boiling so few of the microorganisms grew there and the water was a clear blue. Bluebell Pool was such a pretty blue, it made you want to touch it, but you wouldnt dare because youd cook your finger!
Next we drove on to see Old Faithful and the geysers near it. We really lucked out because we decided to grab a quick lunch in the van in the parking lot before walking over to the geyser. When we did walk on over, Old Faithful went off within about 4 minutes! We watched it, got some pictures, and took the Geyser Hill loop trail. This landscape is so strange! The geysers here were fascinating too, but not as pretty as the ones at West Thumb. We sat by one called Beehive Geyser to wait for Old Faithful to go off again it did. Just when it was going off again, several elk walk by over the geyser field and on down to the river. I didnt know which to watch! I wonder how those elk can walk in that area without burning their feet.
Our wildlife sightings of course included lots of buffalo and elk again. We also saw 2 mountain blue birds (very pretty) and more gray jays.
Friday May 23, 2003 Day 7 Yellowstone National Park Wy.
Todays Mileage: 102 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
Today started off on a bit shakier note. We are hearing some noise in the brakes and had to decide what to do. Len thinks a shoe may be wearing so weve changed our itinerary a bit. Well go to Livingston, Montana on Monday for a Tuesday morning appointment at a Chevy dealership. Well extend our stay here a day because we cant get into the dealership on Memorial Day. Thank goodness for our GM road service that we could call and get an appointment and thank goodness for our little cell phone.
We can still go sight seeing and we saw some magnificent views today. We took the Canyon Rim Drive and saw the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with its Upper and Lower Falls. Awesome!! I see why Artist Point got its name: The canyon walls are very colorful and the falls stunning. At Inspiration Point and Grandview Point we watched ospreys flying around and nesting. Fantastic!! Brink of the Lower Falls trail was quite a walk down the switchback trail, but well worth it when reached the very edge of the roaring falls. Len got a neat video clip of it.
We also went to Norris Geyser Basin and saw several more geysers. Each one is different and interesting. We sat by one for an hour or more waiting to see if it would erupt, but it didnt. Probably went off right after we left. Oh well, we had fun talking to the people who came and watched and waited too. We walked the rest of the trail and felt like we were on another planet. We especially liked Pearl Geyser because of its color and it kept spewing and spouting.
On the way back to camp we saw more buffalo and elk. This time we saw 2 bull elk with antlers and a herd of buffalo running across a meadow. We also saw more pelicans and 2 mule deer. Theres a pair of Great Blue Herons that have a good fishing spot in a shallow river because weve seen them a few times now as we drive past. Earlier Len saw a bald eagle and we saw another one at the Lower Falls. After a very simple supper, we rode our bikes up to register for another night and then took a short ride around the campground before coming in for the night.
Saturday May 24, 2003 Day 8 Yellowstone National Park Wy.
Todays Mileage: 102 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
Today was a day for a leisurely start. We took our time getting up and Len cooked a very nice breakfast. Weve been hurrying out so much and so busy in the evening that we wanted time to sit around a little. It was about 11:00 when we headed out for Fountain Paint Pot. We didnt go far when we had to stop to look at the beautiful view of the mountains across a glassy Yellowstone Lake. The view was spectacular! Just as we were going to move on, two college girls said they were having car trouble: their car wouldnt start. Len offered to help and found a very corroded battery terminal. He jump started them and advised them to go directly to the car repair shop at Fishing Bridge to get someone to clean the terminal. Our sightseeing got off to an even later start, but we were glad to help the girls.
On the way again to our first planned stop of the day, we had to stop briefly for a bison crossing the road. There was a good size herd all around the area there and were just wandering close to the road. Fountain Paint Pot Trail was really neat. Silex Spring was a very pretty azure blue and a very hot 166 degrees. Fountain Paint Pot was a huge vat of bubbling mud. Sometimes a bubble would squirt way up. We watched Clepsydra Geyser for a while because it was erupting a lot.
The summer crowds are beginning to build because Fountain Paint Pot Trail walk was fairly busy with people. This being Memorial Weekend officially starts the tourist season. One jerk went off the walkway and a ranger ran over and chewed him out. Threatened him with a ticket, but let him go. It must be a mad house in July!
Our next stop was Firehole Lake Drive. There were much less people there and most of those who came stayed in their cars, just taking a quick look before driving on. Len and I got out and took our time. I really liked Firehole Spring. Great huge bubbles came up from the depths of the bright blue spring and looked like flashes of light. While standing there, we saw White Dome Geyser erupt. Farther down the drive Hot Lake was really hot! Steam rose constantly and the streams flowing from it to the next lake steamed all the way, too.
Our last scenic stop was Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. The colors were really beautiful here. Azure blue, yellows, oranges, reds. Its amazing!
We came back to camp then and had time to sit around and relax before making a light supper again. A walk around the camp finished our day. It started sprinkling and looks like more might come along. Hope it does it overnight and not tomorrow.
Sunday May 25, 2003 Day 9 Yellowstone National Park, Wy.
Todays Mileage: 82 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
Another sunny day and another trip out to look at the geysers. Today we went back to Old Faithful, watched it go off again and took the trail to Morning Glory Pool. We stopped at several along the way: Daisy was worth the 20 minutes we waited for it to erupt. Grotto kept spewing and spewing; it never stopped while we were on the trail. Another one, Sawmill, was fun to watch too: it would shoot way up, then down low, then go way up again. Another very small one close to it looked like it was the kid brother trying to show its stuff too as it shot up with a smaller stream.
It was a long enough walk to see all of the ones we saw today and quite long enough to be in the sun so we came back to camp. As it was we got back about 4:45 to have supper.
Monday May 26, 2003 Day 10 Yellowstone National Park Wy. to Livingston Montana.
Todays Mileage: 120 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.569/Gal at Livingston, My.
We got an early start for Livingston, Montana this morning anxious to get the mountain driving over with and find the Chevy service station. We made one stop at Roaring Mountain that was steaming and hissing. We missed Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, but thats OK, because it meant more braking on curves and downhill runs. We babied the brakes by using 3rd, 2nd, and 1st gears as much as was practical. We found the service station and a motel, then went to look around town.
Livingston used to be a real railroad town, but the passenger trains stopped in the 1970s. We went through a museum in the old train depot and learned a little bit about the train service. Also saw that a few movies were shot here, The River Runs Through It being one. Some movie stars live here, too. It is beautiful wide-open country and probably very attractive to people wanting some privacy.
Tuesday May 27, 2003 Day 11 Livingston Mo. to Spokane Washington.
Todays Mileage: 427 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.599/Gal. At Spokane, Wa.
The Chevy service station was open when we got there at 7:45 so we went right in. The service manager walked in just before us and wasnt quiet oriented immediately, but remembered as soon as he put our name into the computer. It all took about 3 hours to replace the brake shoes, turn the rotors, repack the wheel bearings, flush the transmission, and change the fuel filter. They said we caught the brakes just in time and no damage was done. While they worked, we ate breakfast and walked around town: a very nice place.
On the road again we drove through beautiful Montana (Id like to come here again to see more of it including the Lewis and Clark historical sites.) and across the mountainous Idaho panhandle with its ups and downs and very curvy roads. I made a mistake in map reading so we didnt stay in the St. Joe National Forest because I thought it was something else. We ended up in a Spokane Washington KOA. Oh well, it gets us a little caught up on the miles were behind.
Wednesday May 28, 2003 Day 12 Spokane Washington to Cultus Lake Prov. Park BC
Todays Mileage: 436 Miles Todays Gas Price: $41.76
We were up and out by what we thought was 7:30 this morning, but found out later that were in Pacific Time now and an hour earlier. No wonder no one was up.
It was a surprise to both of us to see that Washington is so arid. Not exactly a desert, but close to it until we came to the mountains again. Once on the western side of them the land became lush and green. It was neat crossing the Columbia River and thinking about Lewis and Clark. Also driving through Seattle and Bellingham was just like home: busy, busy, busy!
We made it into British Columbia, Canada and to Cultus Lake Provincial Park: an absolutely beautiful park with old growth trees. They are awesome! Some have thick green moss growing all up and down them giving them a soft velvety appearance. Some are all gnarly with lumps and bumps on the trunks that look like huge green warts. Then there are the giant ferns growing everywhere. And the thimble berries in bloom. And the enormous rotting tree stumps and fallen trees, all soft and spongy under foot. It gives me the feeling of a forest primeval. Or a Hobbit forest. We have a site right on the lake among huge northern white cedar trees and some kind of maple with gigantic leaves as big around as basketballs. Its very bear-y here so we must be careful with all food. Maybe well see one tonight!
Thursday May 29, 2003 Day 13 Cultus Lake Prov Pk BC to 10 Mile Lake Prov Pk BC
Todays Mileage: 371 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.18/Gal at Quesnel BC
Well, we didnt see any wildlife last night, but thats OK. The place was neat enough on its own. The mountains just north of Cultus Lake are beautiful too. I drove first and through part of them. Stunning! When we got passed the Fraser River and the Thompson River and over the mountains, the land became very arid again. Just like Wyoming. Then it was back to farmland: all big.
I cant get over the number of people who live up here. I thought the towns would be really tiny, but theyre not. And the road so far is very good. Of course, theres still a long way to go!
I saw a large beaver lodge on a pretty little pond and later we saw a bear as it loped across the road. First one of those!!
We camped at 10 Mile Lake Provincial park just north of Quesnel, BC., a nice campground, but not with the huge trees like last night. This one has a lot more people in it too. We walked around the campground before supper and afterwards looked at maps to plan tomorrows drive. Finished off the evening with a little Rummikub and reading in bed.
Friday May 30, 2003 Day 14- 10 Mile Lake Prov Pk BC to Seeley Lake Prov Pk BC
Todays Mileage: 372 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.18/Gal at Houston, BC
Loons are here! I heard one at 6:00 this morning. I always say a vacation needs a loon call or sighting. These provincial parks have coin operated showers so we went into a family one. Its amazing how fast you can wash in 4 minutes! It felt good though. Driving out of the camp at 8:00 we saw a moose UP CLOSE crossing the road. Later we saw some sandhill cranes in a field, and a deer crossing the road. Good start for the day!
When we arrived at Vanderhoof, we stopped for about 45 minutes to look around at the museum of the 1920s town. We didnt realize there were several more building down a trail until we got back into the car and looked at a tour brochure Len picked up. Oh well, what we saw was interesting.
At the Hazelton visitor center we picked up some info about the area, especially where to see totem poles. We took the short drive to Kispiox, passing over 3 one lane bridges along the way. One bridge was 300 feet above the river. Yikes! In Kispiox we saw about 13 totem polls -- Quite a job making them. What stories do they tell??
Seeley Lake Provincial Park is home for the night. Its a small lake at the foot of a mountain in the Coastal Range a pretty little fishing camp. Its mosquito-y, but we have a candle that has an insect repellant insert that lasts for 4 hours and it seems to really help. Len cooked out, but we ate inside. After a walk around the campground, we went in to check the maps and info for tomorrow.
Saturday May 31, 2003 Day 15- Seeley Lake Prov Pk BC To Kinaskan Lake Prov Pk BC
Todays Mileage: 332 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.29/Gal. At Stewart, BC
What a way to start the day! As we ate breakfast we watched a hummingbird outside the window. Then we walked down to the lake and saw an osprey land on a tree across the lake -- from the smallest to one of the largest birds.
We started our drive by going to Gitwangak to see some more totem poles. We also saw a tiny Anglican church and old bell tower that were built in 1893. The church looks like it is still in use. The totem poles looked pretty old too, they had birds nesting in them in holes that they had made.
Today was the day of the Stewart Highway, which was by far the most beautiful road weve ever driven on. The snowcapped mountains with the snowmelt runoff forming countless waterfalls were breathtaking! I want to keep the memory of them sharp in my mind because even though we took pictures, something on paper cannot do them justice. Bear Glacier was on the route too, another fantastic spot. The ice had a blue tint to it, just like the tour book said. We saw several small icebergs in the lake. As the road continued to the town of Stewart, it passed through a very narrow canyon with the river running furiously next to it. Every stream and creek we passed was tumbling franticly over the rocks. The town, although very small, was quaint and brightly decorated. We had lunch (or dinner) at the Bitter Creek Café. It was really a gourmet restaurant: we both had salmon, which was delicious! Then some homemade chocolate for dessert, also delicious! We drove into Hyder, Alaska, made a u-turn, and came back to Canada. Going through Canadian customs took longer than we were in the USA. But we can say we were in Hyder.
Today was also a day of bears! We saw seven as we drove along the Cassiar Highway to our campsite in Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park. What a beautiful place. Our site is right on the lake where we can see mountains all around it. We even saw a pair of loons out swimming and fishing. When we walked around the campground, we saw 4 spruce grouse! Something the birders of Michigan have high on their birds to see list. What a way to end a perfect day! Its 10:45 P.M. and time to go to bed, but its still light out. We must be in the land of the Midnight Sun!
Third Week ---
Sunday June 1, 2003 Day 16- Kinaskan Lake Prov Pk BC To Rancheria YT
Todays Mileage: 287 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.58/Gal. At Dease Lake, BC
It was a little chilly last night without heat, but we were OK. Len put the lantern on this morning and I put my fleece vest on to warm up before getting up. Once up and dressed everything was fine. There was a very light misty sprinkle, too, this morning, but it didnt last long. We both washed our hair at the picnic table, an invigorating way to start the day!
There was a duck in the water just off our site, which I identified after a bit of searching in the bird books, as a Barrows Golden Eye: A very pretty black and white bird. It was just swimming around and occasionally diving down for his breakfast. When we drove down the road a while, we saw our first Dalls Sheep right next to the road on a small rock ledge. It was cute!
We got on the road about 8:30 and basically just drove the Cassiar Highway today. The scenery was beautiful as usual, and the roads better than we expected. We did have some dirt roads and some construction areas, but they were relatively smooth. Canada seems to take care of their roads and their provincial parks.
We stopped at Jade City that is an area with lots of mineral mines, including jade. The store had some beautiful pieces of jade work as well as several other kinds of semiprecious stonework. I bought some earrings. The woman there was interesting too. Shes been living in the mountains near there for 3 years now. She and her husband raise their own livestock for food and have no phone or electricity because there are no lines to the area. They generate the electricity they use with a generator. In October they go into Smithers or Prince George to stock up for the winter.
When we arrived at the intersection of the Alaska Highway, we stopped at the Junction 37 gas station / laundry mat and washed clothes. After two weeks, we have run out of some of the essentials. It took about three hours and some hanging of damp things all over the van, but it wasnt bad and were done for two weeks again.
We drove on to Rancheria and camped at the private RV park there. The people were so friendly that we decided to eat supper in their restaurant instead of cooking. It was very good, especially since we skipped lunch. Back in the van we put clothes away, looked at the maps and info for tomorrow, and got ready for bed. It confusing when its time for bed because it doesnt get dark. My bath towel does a good job darkening my window and tonight I was so tired, I dropped right off. Len can go to sleep easily anytime of day.Monday June 2, 2003 -Day 17- Rancheria YT to Skagway AK
Todays Mileage: 289 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.44/Gal. At Teslin, YT
We were up and out quickly today, deciding to have breakfast down the road. It turned out that we didnt eat until we got to Skagway. Then while Len cooked brunch, I called Heather. We called Jay, Sunny, Mom, and tried Dad. Now that were back in the States, we can use the cell phone again. Must get all our calls in before we go back into Canada.
The drive down the Chilkoot Pass was another beautiful, if forbidding ride. The mountains seemed scrubbed bare of most vegetation when we got to the top. There were mounds of snow all around and small ponds of melt water everywhere. There was a slight mist blowing in the brisk wind. Not a place youd want to be outside in for very long! How did those stampeders do it in the winter back in the 1890s?? The whole area had a feeling of awesome power.
We had planned on taking the ferry today to Haines, but it had mechanical problems and wasnt running. So we got tickets for tomorrow, rented a site at Pullen RV Park right in town, had our brunch and walked around town. Skagway is like Mackinaw Island except with cars. There are 6 cruise ships in the harbor so lots of people in the souvenir shops. Len got a Tee Shirt for someone at church and I bought postcards. This evening I wrote out 8 cards and theyre ready to mail tomorrow. We took one more walk around town after supper looking for an ice cream place. Everything was closed so we bought a pint of Ben & Jerrys at the grocery store and had that back at camp for a bedtime snack.
Tuesday June 3, 2003 Day 18- Skagway, AK to Haines, AK via Aurora Ferry
Todays Mileage: 22 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
We didnt need to get up quickly today because check out at the RV park was at noon and our ferry line up time wasnt until 2:45. When we finally got up and going, we rode our bikes around town and bought some souvenirs. I got a neat leather thimble, Tee shirt, and Alaska cross-stitch pattern. Len got a Tee shirt and coasters, AND some new tie down strapping for the canoe. We took the van over to the boat docks at 12:30pm and were the first in line. We walked to the Stowaway Café and ate a halibut sandwich lunch. The food was good and we ate out on deck where we had a good view of the harbor. Lunch plates and two beers cost us thirty-two dollars.
The ferryboat that we took to Haines was the Aurora. Because of the no-show on Monday the boat was full and there were half a dozen vehicles waiting on stand-by. There was one 40 foot (?) class A loaded onto the boat with some difficulty. His trailer hitch dragged while going down the loading ramp and planks had to be placed under the rear wheels to get it to the lower dock. After getting half way onto the Aurora, it had to back off, turn around and go on backwards. All the stand-by vehicles got on. One, a car towing a trailer had to load onto the ship backwards so he could off load at Haines. He had to back up the loading ramp and then maneuver within the ships hold backwards!
The ferryboat ride was really nice. Saw some glaciers in the mountains and lots of very long beautiful waterfalls. We sat right in front of the lounge so we could see out front. I wanted a turret so I could see all around. When we arrived at the Haines dock, we turned right and drove further up the fjord to a state park. We have a beautiful site in Chilkoot Lake State Park right on the lake. The park has 30 heavily wooded sites including 6 pull through sites overlooking the lake. Its another picturesque lake surrounded by mountains and only 7 of the parks sites were occupied. It is more a tent and B class park, but one large fifth wheel did come in and stay. We had a pull through overlooking the lake and could see and hear a snowmelt waterfall on the other side of the lake. Saw a bald eagle soaring 50 feet above the lake on his way to the river mouth. Its brown bear country so we must be careful with our food. I want to see one when were all safe inside.
Wednesday June 4, 2003 Day 19- Haines, AK to Destruction Bay, YT
Todays Mileage: 210 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.049/Gal. at Haines, AK
Chilkoot Lake looked like glass this morning and it reflected the snowcapped mountains like a mirror. Its a campground we could really spend some time at, but new adventures were waiting. We left the park at 8:30 this morning and saw 6 adult and 4 juvenile bald eagles feeding on carrion at the fjord edge. Some flew off and looked so majestic as they soared wings outstretched over the fjord. We stopped for breakfast along the fjord where we also watched a huge flock (at least 200) of surf scoters swimming and herding little fish or something. All of a sudden they would all start diving down into the water and come up with a bill full.
Haines is smaller and sleepier than Skagway and its harbor takes only smaller cruise ships with two decks of cabins (i.e. w/o pools, climbing walls, 6 levels of cabins, and netted tennis court). The cruise ship people even looked different. Moved slower, dressed for the north and didnt seem to be walking around with their eyes focused on the shop 100 yards down the street. There is a small RV park on the waters edge with hook-ups (but we were very glad that we traded that for the view at Chilkoot Lake). Jo went to the village museum for $3 dollars and thought that it was worth it for town support. We needed ice and I got a 10-pound block at the IGA store for $3.50 and I didnt think the town needed that much support! The lady at the Canadian customs booth was surprised to see use. One Alaska ferry had a fire and another had just hit a rock (small 50 gal. leak) near Haines. We told her we came in yesterday (but a day late).
Saw several more bald eagles soaring above the trees across the Chilkat River at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and in the mountains behind them we could see some small glaciers. There were also some Arctic terns flying around the river where we parked. Farther down the road, south of the Million Dollar Falls, we came upon two young bears enjoying the sun and the fresh spring grass at the side of the road. As we passed Dezadeash Lake, we saw 12 or 14 swans swimming on it. The area around Haines Pass provided lots of scenic views. The park at Million Dollar Falls looked very clean and flat, but did lack shade. Good for a night. Stopped at Haines Junction for milk and bread. The local RV Park there looks flat, but consists of an open gravel lot.
Were back on the AlCan Highway and the mountains to the west are impressive. Very craggy and snow covered. A glacier, however, had eroded one down. It looked odd having the only rounded top when all the others were so pointed. When we arrived at Sheep Mountain, we stopped at the visitor center to see if we could spot some dalls sheep. Sure enough, there on the mountainside we saw dozens of them. We had to use the binoculars and the scope to really see them, but they were definitely there! Len saw some farther down the road on a ledge so we drove on to see if we could get a closer look. We got more than a closer look! Three sheep had come down to the road and we had to almost stop for them as they crossed back over to the mountain. Its amazing how they can jump up those rocks and not fall!Tonight were boondocking for the first time. We came to a pull off next to Kluane Lake, just beyond the Sheep Mountain Visitors Center, where three large motor homes have stopped. We pulled in, too, to try it out. We had mugs of soup for supper so we wouldnt have to get out the stove because it looks buggy outside.
Thursday June 5, 2003 Day 20- Destruction Bay BC to Tok AK Area
Todays Mileage: 309 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.70/Gal. at Beaver Creek, YT (Near Border)
$1.859/Gal in AK, Within 10 miles of Border
Destruction Bay got it s name from a strong wind that blew down both buildings and trees in the local forest. IT IS A WINDY AREA. Last night I had to get up at 1:00 a.m. because our windshield cover had come loose on the windward side and was REALLY flapping. One of the three class As pulled out at 6:00 a.m. this morning, I think he had enough of the wind. We checked out the Congdon Creek Provincial Park on our way past and it is nice with 39 large, fairly flat sites and only about 10 sites were occupied. It also has many large trees to break the wind and free firewood.
Theres lots of road widening work going on in the Destruction Bay area. Looks like it will be a very nice wide road when completed. The 12-mile construction gravel road is in good condition and we could drive along at 35-40 mph; and 6-miles of rougher, muddy gravel at 15 mph. And, and, and, AND . Main thing is watching out for road equipment and workers on foot.
Another thing to watch out for on the Alaska-Canadian Highway is wildlife. Today I saw another eagle sitting on the very top of a spruce tree in a burn area. We also saw two more bears, one of them running at least 20 miles an hour along the road. We spotted our first bull moose with a rack of antlers walking across a river flat way down below us. Finally, I saw another black-billed magpie at a rest stop.
We entered Alaska again in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge area and will be in Alaska for about two weeks. A stop at the log and sod roofed refuge visitor center was interesting. Two Athabaskin ladies were making beaded mukluks. They were beautiful! We ended our driving today not far down the road at Porcupine Creek Recreation area; not a bad little campground with 12 sites. We also had our first daytime rain. At first it didnt come down very hard so we could still go out without getting very wet. Later it became more steady, but we were already settled inside looking at information for tomorrow.
Friday June 6, 2003 Day 21- Tok AK Area: Porcupine Creek Rec. Site to Valdez
Todays Mileage: 198 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
The rain stopped sometime during the night and everything seemed fresh and clean this morning. We had a good start to our drive too: as we came out of the park we saw a cow moose and her calf! They were right at the side of the road nibbling on some bushes. Even though they moved into the cover of the woods before I could get the camera ready, we got a good look at them.
The drive was shorter today, but again very beautiful. We finished the Tok Highway and continued to Valdez on the Richardson. We saw some glaciers from a distance in the Wrangle Mountain range; then the one on Mt. Billy Mitchell closer and the Worthington Glacier very close. Cool! The summit was snowy and blustery with more snow than some of the other summits. Keystone Canyon reminded us of the drive to Stewart: narrow and lush with lots of waterfalls along the way. Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls were awesome! -- Really high and right next to the road. I saw some trumpeter swans in a small lake; later in Valdez an eagle flew right over our heads!
We arrived at Valdez at 1:30 p.m. and picked the Bear Paw RV Park to stay in. When we paid for our site, we also signed up for the long glacier/wildlife tour tomorrow. It is centrally located and the people are very friendly. We had lunch at Mikes Palace and supper at the Totem Inn Restaurant. Mikes was O.K. and the Totem .well if we ever get back this way again we WILL be eating supper at the Totem Inn again.
You are seeing this so it is clear that the free data port line at the Bear Paw RV Park works. We have programmed in our telephone card information into our Compuserve program and get connected for 3.5 cents a minute. The park is over 80% empty. They say the crowds start to hit the middle of June. Great for us; and tomorrow looks clear for the glacier tour.Saturday June 7, 2003 Day 22- Valdez to Columbia & Meares Glaciers to Valdez
Todays Mileage: 110 Miles Tour Cost: $119 each
There were sea otters all around the harbor, just resting in rafts. They were really cute with their paws sticking up to keep warm. Later we saw more of them, some with babies on their bellies. After we passed by Anderson Falls and Glacier, we encountered a humpback whale cruising around for food. We stayed for quite a while to watch it and took several pictures. We could see its mouth as it came up sometimes and opened to have the water pass over the baleen. It dove several times too, so we saw the fluke. Father on we came to a bouy that was a favorite spot for several steller sea lions. They were just lounging around unconcerned about our boat coming slowly by them. Next it was Dalls Porpoises. They raced all around the boat. My goodness! They are fast!! They seemed to be playing with our boat. At another point we saw a flock of pigeon guillemots fly by. They have black and white bodies with bright orange feet. Those feet certainly stand out!
Of course, the scenery was gorgeous as usual, part of the trips purpose being to see the mountains, Prince William Sound, and glaciers. We saw several and went up to the Columbia. We couldnt go all the way up the fjord because there were too many icebergs so we looked at it from about 14 miles out. Its 3-mile width looked huge! The icebergs were big too. I was surprised we could go through the area like we did.
It was quite a ways to the Meares Glacier then and they served a very tasty sea- food pasta al fredo lunch on the way. Again we had to pass through the bresh, chunks of ice that covered the water, to get to the glacier. This time we went right up close. The captain turned off the engines and we just watched for a while. I never knew that glaciers were so loud! It sounded like thunder sometimes. Eerie! It didnt seem that any calving was going to take place, so he brought us in a little closer. All of a sudden it started to happen. WOW! We saw several slides and huge chunks fall off. The glacier is about 200 feet high and pieces at least ½ the height fell. It was awesome! Even though we were about ¼ mile away, the wave from the splash was still a good size when it reached us.
Another fun thing about the Meares Glacier was the large group of Harbor Seals. There were dozens of moms and babies on the smaller icebergs. Some werent bothered by us driving by, so we were able to take a couple good pictures.
On the way back to Valdez we passed a cave area where cormorants were roosting, then saw puffins in a spot where they feed. At Bull Island more steller sea lions were basking in the sun on the rocky shore. All along the way we kept seeing Bald Eagles, even saw one sitting on a nest. Len saw another on a nest, but I missed that one. In all, I think we saw about 20 eagles today. The humpback whale we saw on the way out was still eating when we were coming back and really put on a show. It was diving and rolling and blowing all along the channel. We stopped to watch for about 20 more minutes. Sooo neat!
All good things come to an end and we returned to dock at about 6:45. It was a wonderful, exciting day. The wind was cold out on the deck of the boat, but we had warm clothes and it was well worth the chill. Besides we could go inside to warm up as needed.
We walked back to camp where Len fixed the leftovers from our dinner at the Totem Inn last night. A delicious end to a delicious day.
Fourth Week --
Sunday June 8, 2003 Day 23- Valdez to Anchorage
Todays Mileage: 307 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.979 at Valdez AK
$1.639 at Fred Meyer in Anchorage
It was a nice day again so Len set our breakfast up out on the picnic table while I was in taking my shower. Unfortunately a rather unpleasant man walked over to talk. His language was very crude and he kept telling us the places we should go to. We tried not to encourage conversation, but he didnt need any anyway. He just kept talking so we went ahead and ate. He sort of made an exit statement several times, but would go on talking. Finally, I went inside the van and called Len in to help with something. He left at last. Phew!
The drive back through Keystone Canyon and over Thompson Pass was pretty again, nice without the rain we had coming in. We even saw a Trumpeter Swan on one of the small lakes. Our first stop was at Worthington Glacier. We walked up to and on to it. It was really neat. There was an ice tunnel with a river of melted glacial ice flowing through it. We climbed up to it, being very careful not to slip and fall into it. It wouldnt be a very fun rescue, even if you made it out alive! It was pretty to look at though, all icy blue.
We drove on and stopped once more at Sheep Mountain. They were yellow and orange gypsum stained with iron oxide. Looking through the binoculars we saw the Dalls Sheep way up the mountainside. The information sign said the sheep come there for the calcium and other minerals found in the rock.
The next section of our drive was over road under construction. We had to wait for a pilot car to lead us (and several others) through the area. We werent slowed up too much, maybe because its Sunday. Theyre widening the road; blasting the side of the mountain away.
As we approached Anchorage the highway turned into a four lane divided expressway, something we havent seen in several days. Even so, all of a sudden there was a huge moose running along the inside of the high fence we assume is meant to keep them out. I sure hope it doesnt get hit!
Using the GPS and The Milepost, we found the Anchorage RV Park. Its a Good Sam one and very nice. Our membership got us 10% off each night. We then went to Fred Mejers for groceries and really stocked up. Its a small world: the man camping next to us is from Michigan. Hes very nice and we had a long conversation. Hes a miracle on two feet: 11 years ago he was working on his farm and a tree fell on him driving him into the mucky ground. Two weeks later he woke up in the hospital, three years later he could walk again. God was sure watching him! Most people would have died from that.
Len sent and received e-mail in the lodge office before turning in for the night. Its nice to be in touch with loved ones.
Monday June 9, 2003 Day 24- Anchorage: Alaska Native Heritage Center
Todays Mileage: 6 Miles by Bike Todays Gas Price: NA
Well, it was another interesting day. We right across the road from the Alaska Native Heritage Center so we rode our bikes there. It was raining slightly when we went, but stopped not long after we got there. There was a schedule of many things going on all day and we went from one to another. We listened to a story teller, watch native dancers several times, took a guided tour around the village sites, listened to a talk on clothing and listened to another talk on kayaks. It was all very good and the people working there were all very nice: A very worthwhile visit.
When we got back to our camp, Len rode his bike to the store to get some salmon for supper. He cooked it on the grill and it was delicious. Oh! Yum! After supper while he did some stuff around camp, I walked over to do a load of laundry. Talked to a young woman, Christina, from Kodiak Island. She and her husband, Matt, are from Missouri and decided to try coming up here to teach school for a while. We had a very nice conversation and then she offered us some salmon! She and her husband stopped at our site with not only a beautiful frozen vacuum-packed salmon fillet, but a halibut one as well. How nice!
Tuesday June 10, 2003 Day 25- Anchorage to Seward
Todays Mileage: 137Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
Today we took the Seward Highway to Seward. It was another very scenic road, and even though it was raining much of the day, it was very enjoyable. We stopped first at Potter Marsh. We watched a tree swallow as it sat on the fence post and were able to get quite close to it. Ive never seen one up close its a beautiful bird the blue back feathers have an iridescent look to them. It was also fun watching the arctic terns flying and diving for insects.
We stopped at several scenic turn-outs to look at Cook Inlet, but didnt see any Beluga Whales. The mountains on either side were gorgeous though, and there were several glaciers to see also. When we arrived in Seward, we had lunch at our campsite, I took an hour and a half nap and Len went for a couple bike rides. I was tired, but didnt realize I was that tired! We both rode around town then, and got gifts for Carolyn and Zoe: Eskimo dolls. The halibut from Christina from Kodiak Island made a very delicious supper and another bike ride in the rain that started a couple hours earlier to an ice cream shop provided dessert.
Our campsite neighbors are from Germany. They speak some English and we had some interesting conversations with the man.
Wednesday June 11,2003 Day 26- Seward to Bings Campground in Alaska State Park
Todays Mileage: 103 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
It was still raining this morning and low clouds were hanging below the mountains across the fjord. They looked like you could reach out and grab them. We talked to our German neighbor for about an hour I think. He seemed to really enjoy talking in English: practice. It would have been nice to talk longer, but we all had things to do.
After breakfast we packed up and drove to the Alaska Sealife Center. What an interesting place! They are studying the sea animals and trying to improve environmental conditions for them. There was a large caged in area for puffins, kittiwakes, oyster-catchers and long tailed ducks. They were really fun to watch. Im afraid I went a little nuts with pictures there. There were several very large aquariums with salt water fish, a sea lion, a harbor seal, star fish, etc. It was another very good stop.
As we were driving out of town, Len saw the sign to Exit Glacier so we went to check it out. It was one he read about when preparing for the trip. It was a national park with a fee, but we had our new membership card so didnt have to pay. We walked up a .7 mile long trail to the glacier which looked bigger than the Worthington. It was pretty neat. When we got back out, I wanted to go into the park office/gift shop as usual. The young ranger (Mike Nattress) there was from Michigan, went to Michigan State and had Kate Thompson for a teaching assistant. Small world!!
We drove on towards Homer passing more beautiful mountains and scenery and stopped for the night at an Alaska State Park called Bings Campground near Sterling. I took another nap after we set up. We thought there were going to be mosquitoes, but we were lucky again. Len cooked the salmon from Christina for supper.
Thursday June 12, 2003 Day 27- Bings Camp to Homer
Todays Mileage: 168 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.829 Soldotna Kenai Spur Hwy
The rain stopped and we really slept in. Didnt get going until after 11:00. Were slowing down. Today our first stop was at a log carving store. They made huge statues of bears, moose, eagles, etc with chain saws. They were really cool. Fun stuff!
Next we went to Kenai to the cultural center that had wildlife paintings and historical artifacts about the area. We drove up to the Kenai State Park, but didnt find the access to Cooks Inlet. We then drove back to the town to see the Russian Orthodox settlement. The church still has services as well as a gift shop. I found a couple Russian hand painted pins for the girls there.
The road to Homer was very scenic with many parking areas to stop for a better look and a picture or two. There was also a fish packing company (Deep Creek) where we got some cans of smoked salmon. Its supposed to be very good there.
We arrived in Homer in time to get a campsite and walk to the restaurant to meet Tammy Ackerman. She drove up just as we were walking up. We had a very nice dinner together at the Lands End (recommended by Tammy). She and her partner do a lot of salmon and halibut fishing. They can it as well as freeze it. She said she had lots of extra from last year and gave us 10 jars of canned salmon. Well take it to the family reunion to pass out. She noted that Homer has just put into place building codes for private residences in an effort to upgrade the towns housing. Also that many homes in the town hill area do not have running water and fill jugs at a tap provided outside the Safeway store. Fred Meyers wanted to build a store in town but the town fathers nixed it by putting in a 20,000 square foot building limit. She does her main shopping in Anchorage once every month or two.
Our campground is very colorful. In fact, the entire Homer Spit area is very colorful. It all looks like a gypsy carnival just hit town and were all a part of it. All the little shops are of different shapes and colors and are placed helter-skelter along the spit. There are lots of Alaskan fishermen campers who live pretty rough and are proud of it. Were right on the water and can see an otter swimming back and forth. A couple Bald Eagles flew over and hundreds of ducks that I cant identify. An O.K. spot for a one night visit of Homer as long as you can face Cooks Inlet and not all the helter-skelter.
Just as we were getting ready to go to bed, I noticed the sandy area of the beach disappearing. The tide was coming in. We havent seen that in years, I think since we were in California in 1969. Phew! How time flies! Anyway, it was fun watching the water gobble up the sand with each new wave. When we went back in to go to bed, we had to hang more towels on the windows: its really bright here at 10:30 p.m.
Friday June 13, 2003 Day 28- Homer to Anchorage
Todays Mileage: Miles 238 Todays Gas Price: $1.639 at Fred Meyer in Anchorage
The tide was all back out this morning allowing people to walk along the sandy shoreline again, and there were a few folks out already. Although the campground was interesting, we decided to eat breakfast down the road. The spit was a little quieter this morning at 8:00, but still as colorful. We drove around Homer to see where Lens cousin, Tammy, has her CPA business and found a very nice little office building. She seems to be doing quite well.
We drove to a turn out along Cook Inlet to have breakfast. We could see the snow capped Mount Redoubt in all its glory from where we were parked. The views are all so amazing here. Our drive back to Anchorage was beautiful too. Every curve and every crest of a hill brought a new scenic view. Now the land is really starting to green up and look alive again. The only sad thing is all the Spruce Tree blight. Thousands of trees are dead or dying from the spruce beetle. I hope everyone is VERY careful with campfires or the state of Alaska will go up in smoke!!
At another turn out we stopped to switch drivers and look for Beluga Whales, which we didnt see. We started talking to some folks from Colorado, when another man came up to tell us that there were Mountain Goats behind us on the hill. We hurried over to where we could see them and found two snow-white goats grazing on the hillside. Another addition to our wildlife list!
We stopped at Fred Meyers for groceries and gas when we got to Anchorage and then gave the van a quick wash. After setting up and having a quick lunch at the Anchorage RV Park (just off the expressway as you come into town from the Glenn Hwy at Muldoon Road), we did two weeks worth of laundry and had showers. Of all the parks we have stayed at over the last month, this one is the nicest and cleanest. The showers and laundromat are also bright, clean and well maintained.
Saturday June 14, 2003 Day 29-Anchorage to Denali National Park and Preserve
Todays Mileage: 241 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.009
We got on the road at 10 this morning. It really is starting to show that we have been on the road for a month now. Didnt need the heat last night, indeed kept the front window open all night and the temperature was 65° F inside this morning. Summer weather and the summer tourists are coming. Also, on the Cassiar we basically had the road and the parks to ourselves, now traffic (and RV traffic) is much heavier. Of course we are now also going between the population centers.
On the way into Denali State Park we saw a moose munching grass at the side of the road. It didnt seem frightened by the cars passing by. Farther down the road there was a Red Fox carrying a dead bird. She also didnt seem to be concerned with all the people stopping their cars to snap pictures. I say she because we assumed it was a female taking food to her kits.
And now we are at Denali and all I can say is, We are having one FANTASTIC trip!! This is the superlative of superlatives of grandeur! The sky is just partly cloudy so we had a perfect view of Mt. Denali (McKinley). It is so majestic! We stopped at a few scenic turnouts to look and take pictures. I cant believe our luck in seeing it so well. Usually its visible only one day in seven, and when some people in Anchorage said that they saw it yesterday, I was sure we wouldnt. Its all covered with snow, of coarse, and seems to glow next to the other mountains around it. It also seems to dwarf the other peaks we can see. Now we know what people mean when they say how beautiful it is.
We drove right to the visitor center and were surprised at how busy and crowded it was. Since we were actually in Denali, we wanted to try to stay in the park, however everything was full for tonight. We made reservations for tomorrow and the next night at Savage River Campground, though, and also bought tickets for the 8 hour shuttle ride tomorrow morning. Everyone we talked to said that one is long enough and you see as much as on the 13 hour trip. Its also much cheaper. It leaves at 6:30 a.m. so we found the closest RV park we could. Were staying at the Denali Rainbow Village RV Park about three miles from the visitor center. Its a charge all the traffic will bear ($25 for just electric) kind of dusty parking lot. Theres a small bathroom/shower/laundry building and showers cost extra. There was a maintenance man working on the washing machine to turn off the hot water to it because every time someone takes a shower they use all the hot water anyway. However, if someone washes clothes with warm or hot water, anyone taking a shower would have a very brisk one!
We met some folks from the Grand Rapids area of good ol Michigan and they came to our site for a nice long chat. Its fun comparing trip notes with people who have come the opposite way. We all pick up some good pointers about what to look for and do next. Then since tomorrow will be a very early one for us, we packed our lunches and got to bed a little early. Its so hard to do because its so light out! At 10:00 p.m. it looks like 4:00.
Fifth Week --
Sunday June 15, 2003 Day 30-Eielson Shuttle and Savage River Campground
Todays Mileage: 72 Miles mostly shuttle Shuttle Cost: $22.50 each
As I said yesterday, We are having ONE FANTASTIC TRIP! Getting up at 4:30 a.m. was hard, but we did so we could be in line at least a half hour early for our Eielson Shuttle Bus tour. We had good seats on the bus and another spectacular day. Our driver gave an excellent narration along the route about some of the geology and many of the animals we expected to see. He said there is a list of the Big Five animals most frequently seen: Caribou, Dall Sheep, Grizzly Bear, Moose, and Wolf. Although I would have been happy seeing the first three, during the course of our trip we saw all five! We saw dozens of Caribou in several places and a dozen or so Dall Sheep. We later saw a Grizzly Bear way down a slope. I was happy there and the trip would have been complete, but a little later we also saw a mother grizzly with three cubs. They nonchalantly walked across the road in front of us. Farther down the road we saw another mother grizzly nursing her single cub. That was a tender scene. We never expected to see three adult and four cubs today. We then saw a huge bull moose as he slowly crossed the road in front of us. My goodness! His antlers were big! To top it off, when we were almost back, there was a wolf walking down one of the river flats. He crossed the road behind us and continued down the river on the other side. We also saw some neat birds: four Golden Eagles, some Long-tailed Jaegers, and a Gyrfalcon.
Those were just the big animals to look for. We also saw Mt. McKinley again in all its splendor. It was clear again early this morning so we had another good view of it and the whole chain of mountains with it. Talk about being lucky! The people going on later busses didnt have such good fortune seeing it, because by then clouds had formed and the top was gone. The other mountains in the area were pretty too. Mt. Polychrome is true to its name: its very colorful with reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. Some of the ride along the mountain roads, especially Polychrome, was a little scary because it was one lane with no shoulder, but well worth it. Its another reason to keep the road open only for busses and staff workers. The views we had of the river valleys were so expansive. They seem to go on forever. The rivers looked like tiny threads from up high, but when we got down to them, they were rushing torrents. What a trip! What a day!
We needed ice and milk so picked up some ice (milk was over $4 a quart!!) before driving the thirteen miles back into the park to our campsite. We have a nice pull through on a fairly wooded site. I really needed a nap so I slept while Len downloaded pictures from the camera. Soon he lay down to take a snooze too. After taking a walk down to the Savage River, we had supper and settled in for the evening.
Monday June 16, 2003 Day 31- Savage River Campground
Todays Mileage: 0 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
Today was a rest day. We slept in until after 8 a.m. and then had a breakfast of scrambled eggs with diced ham, onions, and cheese in it. Joanne worked on her bird lists and bird identifications. She is using her computer program again. Thayer Birding Guide had crashed about a week into our trip and I could not get it going again. I was able to download a fix from Thayers web site while at the Anchorage RV Park. It was a 45-minute, 9Mb download but no one else was using any of their e-mail lines that evening. The download patched the program bug, added new features and brought us up to the latest software level. Aint the internet wonderful.
We took a two-mile walk this morning and got a clear view of Mount Denali for the third day. As we mentioned, normally you only have a clear view one day in seven!! Joanne heard an owl late this afternoon. That got me up from reading my book and her away from the computer. Joanne found the tree and I spotted the owl about two thirds of the way up. It was a Great Horned Owl and it just sat there and looked at us with its large yellow eyes whenever we made a noise.
One of the rangers came to invite campers to the evening presentation at the amphitheater so we grabbed a quick bite to eat, some bug spray, and went. She spoke about moose in Denali and was quite interesting. We were glad we had bug spray on (sprayed our hats too) because the mosquitoes were out in force. It was the first time they were really bad. Several people had mosquito net hats on. After the talk we spoke to some of the people there and met a young couple from Germany who are living in Ann Arbor. Theyre doing research for U of M. Small world.
Tuesday June 17, 2003 Day 32- Savage River Camp, Denali to Fairbanks
Todays Mileage: 156 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
It was cold last night, and this morning it was only 38° outside, 45° inside. We ate, packed and left camp by about 10:00 this morning. On our way out we saw Mt. Denali one more time. It sure was a surprise to us to have been able to see it every day that we were here! Since we hadnt seen the gift store at the visitor center, we stopped in before hitting the road. Another surprise: there was a moose on the entrance road as we drove into the parking lot. Several people were out walking to see how close they could get to it. Dumb!! We got a good picture of the moose, but not the people.
The first part of our drive today was through a very narrow canyon. We understood why the signs warned of falling rock. The canyon walls were bare of vegetation and it was obvious that rocks, huge rocks, fell down frequently. They had very heavy-duty barricades along the roadways too. We drove through a valley between two parts of the Alaska Range and gradually came out into a vast prairie land. Thats the thing up here: everything is so big. Theres so much of everything and so much beauty. Part way through this prairie we started seeing ponds and in one next to the road, there was another moose, a really big one! It was doing what I imagined all moose do: pulling plants from the bottom of the pond. It would come up, nose dripping with water and chew a bit, then go back down for more. Before coming here, I didnt realize they ate alder bushes and other dry plants. You learn things all the time!
Fairbanks seemed like a bustling city after the quiet solitude of Savage River. We drove right downtown to have lunch sitting outside on the deck of Soapy Smiths. It had warmed up to 75 degrees. We saw our first Spruce Beetles here: big ugly things that fly. These are what are killing the trees. Yuck!
After lunch we got a site at Rivers Edge RV Park and signed up for the Fairbanks Bus Tour tomorrow and the Steamboat Discovery ride for Thursday. We were getting low on a few things so, we went to Fred Meyers to stock up again. We also went to JoAnn Fabrics for some vinyl to cover the windows. We cut it up, put Velcro on the corners and stuck it up. It does help to make the van darker. This midnight sun does make it hard to sleep all night. Then we were able to settle in for the evening at the camp.
Wednesday June 18, 2003 Day 33- Fairbanks
Todays Mileage: 33 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
Our bus tour started at 8:30 and took us all around Fairbanks, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the U of Alaska nature reserve (where we saw Musk Ox) and the U of A Museum. It was a good way to see what there is in town, however, Len and I would like to have been able to spend more time in the museum. Forty-five minutes just isnt enough for us.
We spent the afternoon shopping around downtown Fairbanks for souvenirs. Len wanted to add to his collection of college foam beverage can holders so we went to the U of A bookstore, but they didnt have any. Too bad! He was disappointed. We also went back to the museums gift store for some other souvenirs.
This evening was a lot of fun. We drove to Ester, Alaska (6 miles back toward Denali) for dinner and a show. Of course, before dinner we had some time to visit the two shops in the camp. We ate at the Ester Gold Camp Lodge. It was an all you can eat buffet, including, among other items, halibut and reindeer stew. Everyone sat at big long tables and helped themselves. Everything was delicious. And the atmosphere was fun! After supper we went their show at the Malemute Saloon. The floor was covered with a thick layer of sawdust. There were small round tables set up and we crowded in with 6 other people. What a fun show! Singing, Alaska poetry, and lots of Alaska jokes. It was strange driving back to camp to go to bed at 10:30 in the light.
Thursday June 19, 2003 Day 34- Fairbanks
Todays Mileage: 0 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
We took the Steamboat Discovery this morning. It lasted from 8:00 when we got the bus at the RV Park Office until about noon. It was OK, but a little too canned and stilted. There were TVs everywhere so you could see and hear from wherever you were in the boat. At various spots we came close to shore to see and hear about the area. At one place someone chased some reindeer out for us to see. At another the boat stopped at Susan Buchers home and dog kennels and that was interesting. She had a microphone and spoke from the shore about her sled dogs and racing while we watched from the boat. An Athabascan Lady talked about the fishing wheel and catching fish for the people and their dogs. Dogs have always been important to them so are well fed and taken care of.
The hour long stop at the Athabascan Village was OK, but you knew that the guides memorized their lines and werent able to talk naturally. However, they did have some interesting things to share. The Athabascan lady was there too to demonstrate her needlework. She does beautiful work and one of her mans ceremonial coats is at the Smithsonian Institute. We were on the Discovery III with about 300 people and the boat has seating for 900! I really would not want to be on it with more than were on our tour. I judged that 90% plus of the people were from cruise ships and the focus was to keep them entertained with light and constant talk/chatter. Not our style but they seemed to enjoy it.
We did see some wildlife along the way: there was a beaver by his lodge along the river, and a golden eagle flew over in search of food.
We spent the afternoon at the campsite relaxing and doing odds and ends. Those are always good times. Then about 5:00 we went for a canoe ride up the Chena River. Although it had a fairly swift current, it was calm and we were able to paddle upstream to town. When we turned around to come back to camp, it took half the time to get home.
Theres a soccer tournament in town because the campground is FULL of soccer kids. The middle school aged ones were wild and crazy, running through the campground and through everyones campsite. They got to be annoying as they charged through our site and we had to keep telling them to stop. No parents seemed to be around, then about 10:30 a van load of women drove up and suddenly it grew quiet.
Friday June 20, 2003 Day 35- Fairbanks to Taylor Highway
Todays Mileage: 262 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.639 Fred Meyer at Fairbanks, $1.729 Three Bears at Tok
It was another nice day. Pleasantly warm and pretty for driving the Richardson Highway. We left Fairbanks after getting a few groceries, some cash and gas for the car. Right away not too far from town we saw a moose. Part of the drive reminded us of northern Michigan with all the pines and birch trees. But the flats of the Tanana River sure didnt. All the large rivers weve seen here have these huge gravel flats: areas where the river braids through the gravel beds and creates a lacework affect. The course changes all the time and thus keeps any plants from growing.
Fairbanks is at a pretty low elevation, but we came to mountains again. The Alaska Range is all around again, but with a little less snow on the tops than we saw last week, although Mt. Hayes looked pretty awesome with its snow capped peak. Big heavy clouds were all around it and the other mountains and they all looked rather ominous in sort of an exciting way.
We paid a visit to the Tok Visitor Center, a beautiful log building. Its the largest single floor log building in Alaska. There are some very nice displays there as well. We then moved on to the Taylor Highway that goes up the mountains to Chicken. Some of the road feels a little narrow because the shoulder is very narrow at the drop off down the mountain side. The scenery is different up here. In places were above the tree line and we can look down at the enormous rolling hills covered with trees. We boondocked again, staying at a turn off where three other campers are. We overlook some of those large hills or small mountains. Len saw a porcupine down the hill from our site. Were a little south of Fairbanks, maybe well get a few more minutes of darkness tonight. Probably not much, though, because were still north of 63° latitude.
Saturday June 21, 2003 Day 36- Taylor Highway to Dawson City, Yukon Territory
Todays Mileage: 146 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.61 per Gal. at Dawson City Shell
Our second try at boondocking was much better than the first. This time there was no great wind and we were able to sleep well without being awakened by the flapping of anything on the van. We continued our drive over the Taylor Highway and on to the Top of the World Highway. The scenery was beautiful, but I couldnt look at all of it because the roads were rather narrow and there was little or NO shoulder. Len enjoyed it very much, I, however, did not. I looked down at a book and clutched the armrest. We were really up on top of the world and mountains. There were places where I could look, and I felt like I could see forever. WOW! We could see a snowy mountain range in the distance that must have been 90 miles away, but seemed so much closer.
Going through Canadian customs at the top was very easy. I was expecting them to ask and want to see things we bought, but the agent asked only a few questions and we were on our way again. The road in Canada was a little better than the Taylor in Alaska because it was blacktop much of the way. The Taylor is all gravel and very dusty. Top of the World has stretches of gravel, but at least you get a break for a while.
There is a small, free ferry at the Yukon River to cross over to Dawson City, Yukon Territory. Although it had just left for the other side when we arrived, we only had to wait about 15 minutes for it to return with a load of cars coming our way. We got on with the next load and were glad we werent going the other way. There were lots of cars waiting; there were only 4 cars, two of us van size and one motorcycle to go to Dawson.
Dawson City is a bustling dusty town. One thing we can say about the Dawson City area is that it sure is dusty. Everything is completely covered with dust. I even feel like its in my mouth. However, the all dirt roads in town along with all the gaily-painted false front buildings and wooden boardwalks gives it a festive pioneer atmosphere. Since today is Summer Solstice, there are lots of activities going on. The Native Americans are celebrating Aboriginal Heritage Days and everyone is celebrating the longest day. We did some more souvenir shopping, got a campsite at Googleville RV Park (another relatively nice Good Sam camp). We then visited the Jack London cabin and museum. We celebrated our 35th Anniversary by having a very nice dinner at the Jack London Grill, on the deck. We had an appetizer, 6 and 8-ounce buffalo steaks, salads and a glass of medium good quality Chilean wine each. The food was very good, well presented, service was good and the restaurant was not crowded. The meal cost only $54 U.S. including tip and I would go there again.
We had planned to spend two nights at Dawson City, but after spending eight hours in the town we decided that we would move on to Whitehorse a day early.
Sixth Week --
Sunday June 22,2003 Day 37- Dawson City to Twin Lakes Campground,YT
Todays Mileage: 256 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.43 at Carmacks
To celebrate our anniversary a little more we went back into Dawson City for a just O.K. breakfast at Klondike Kates. We got on the road around 11:30. It was another day pretty much for just driving. This time we had some periods of fairly hard rain. We did stop in Pelly Crossing to go in to a Tuchone Indian Heritage Center. It had some very beautiful artifacts in it as well as some interesting Native American people.
As I have already said so many times, this is an awesomely beautiful country. At different times we drove along the Yukon and Nordenskiold Rivers. They were sometimes very braided, full of treed islands or gravel sandbars; other times they simply ran deep. At all times their currents ran very fast. Wildflowers are now in bloom everywhere and the roadsides are a bright mass of color. Purple, pink, lavender, yellow, blue: its so good to see everything alive again.
We saw more wildlife again today, thats always fun. A fat porcupine was waddling along the shoulder and farther down the road a cinnamon colored black bear was eating the plants. On the lake at our camp for the night we saw and heard two common loons, and Len spotted two Bald Eagles with a young Eaglet in a nest on a small island. We watched them for quite a while. Every so often a Black billed Magpie would harass the eagles. The loons also put on a show for us. They were diving for fish near us and the minnows would cause the surface of the water to boil as they tried to escape the loons. Sea gulls would then come diving in and feed on the poor minnows. The loons would surface and then start the show all over again. Everyone but the minnows had a good time.
We are camped at Twin Lakes, a Yukon Government campground (free fire wood, pit toilets, pump water) with 18 sites. Ten sites are in the woods and five of those overlook the lake. The other eight are down at the boat ramp and at the waters edge. Eight of the eighteen are occupied tonight by pick-up campers, two Bs and a small C. Its a very nice picturesque place on the lake. What a lovely way to spend and end our 35th anniversary!
Monday June 23, 2003 Day 38- Twin Lakes to Whitehorse
Todays Mileage: 109 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
What a beautiful place to wake up! Wild roses in bloom surrounded our site, the lake was like glass; the loons (7 of them) were calling and diving for fish, the eagles were calling too and attending to their chicks. Every so often the male would fly around, we assumed to look for a fish. The air was cool, the wind calm. Its no wonder we took all morning to pack up and leave.
It wasnt very far to Whitehorse, about a two-hour ride. Along the way we saw some Arctic ground Squirrels standing guard outside their holes. And, we saw a Gray Fox! We hadnt seen one of those yet! They are very pretty animals.
When we arrived at the Whitehorse area, we drove down a side road to see the Takhini Hot Springs, but it was incorporated into a swimming pool and rather expensive to get into. We said so much for that; and drove on. We found a nice campsite next to the creek at Wolf Creek Government Park, set some stuff up and went back into town.
The Log Church was very interesting. There were stories about the early Anglican missionaries, one who ate his boots when he was walking the wilderness because he ran out of food. He said the soles were better than the uppers. While in town, we walked around to see some of the shops and got a few groceries.
Since we had lunch in town, we had a small supper over the campfire. We made grilled cheese sandwiches and blueberry pies in the pie iron.
Tuesday June 24, 2003 Day 39- Whitehorse
Todays Mileage: 30 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.43 Whitehorse Petro Canada
Well, we had our first discouraging event today. We went to town and had a nice time, but when we came back to our site, discovered that someone had stolen our pie iron! What jerks! I hope we can find a new one like it.
Today we spent two hours at the Beringia Museum. It was enlightening and fascinating, well worth the time and money. A real highlight at the museum was the atlatl demonstration. Ive read about them in several of my books and always wanted to try one. Today I did! Len took several pictures of it so maybe we can make one. Then we went to the S.S. Klondike Paddlewheel Steamboat tour. That was also good, but the tour guide talked so fast, he tripped over his words. We felt very rushed. We next went to the fish ladder. There werent any fish going up it because its too early in the year. The month of August is when the ladder is really busy.
We walked around town to souvenir shop and found a few more. Finally we came back to camp. It sprinkled a little, though not enough to bother about. We sure have been lucky about the rain! Mosquitoes made their presence known here this morning, however, and we had to hurry to get things done outside before going into town. They didnt seem as bad in the evening for some reason.
Wednesday June 25, 2003 Day 40- Whitehorse to Laird River
Todays Mileage: 396 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.38 at Watson Lake
The drive was very smooth and pretty today, but not as spectacular as the mountains weve already been through. We were out of the big mountains and instead went by some large hills covered with trees for most of the way. They all look so green and lush now its as if they were covered with green velvet. We passed some beautiful waterways; Teslin Lake and Laird River were especially scenic. As we got closer to the Laird River area the mountains started getting bigger again.
We stopped in Watson Lake to see the Signpost Forest. My goodness, it is a forest! We didnt realize there would be so many posts! We were kind of sorry we didnt bring a sign for Berkley next time.
Wildlife became more abundant again as we neared the Laird River area. We saw a juvenile Bald Eagle, three bears (got some good shots of a cinnamon colored black bear) and two buffalo lying down in a very dusty construction area.
We looked at Laird River Provincial Park for a site, but it was full so we went to the RV park across the road. It wasnt a bad place to park, although the shower didnt interest me. There was only one and it didnt look very inviting. We drove back over to the park for a look at the hot springs. Several people were bathing in the 104° water. It looked good, but we decided to wait until tomorrow because we were hungry and tired, and just wanted to get settled. We met a couple, Walter and Gabriele, from Kitchner, Ontario. We talked for a bit and ended up playing cards after supper. They showed us a new game to us called Sequence and we showed them Rummikub. It was a fun way to spend the evening. Theyve been to a lot of the same places weve been in Ontario. We do meet the nicest people along our way!
Thursday June 26, 2003 Day 41- Laird River to Fort Nelson
Todays Mileage: 197 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.62 at Fort Nelson
We had a very refreshing start this morning. After packing up and filling up with water, we went to the Laird Hot Springs for a soak. The water temperature varies from 104° F to 120° F depending on how close you get to the spring source. It really takes all the aches and pains away.
Were back in the mountains today: the terminus of the Rocky Mountains to be exact. More spectacular scenery! Theres something about these gigantic mountains that inspires awe in us. We came in at Muncho Lake Provincial Park. The lake is a beautiful turquoise and darker blue green color. And its huge. Again, as we learned about the rivers and streams up here, the glacial flour causes the color of the water. We stopped at several turn outs to look and take a few pictures. Once we passed the lake area, we saw lots of small ponds and a moose in one of them eating pond weeds. It was a good sized one too. Then a little later an elk just getting nubs of antlers was right next to the road licking salt from it. We had to slow down for that one! The elk wasnt the only one licking salt from the roadway. We came upon a herd of about 20 Stone Sheep all over the road doing the same thing. They stopped all kinds of traffic. Of course, no one minds because we can all get more pictures. The kids were really cute.
Its quite windy today so when we decided to have a quick campfire for lunch to cook hotdogs, we were very careful. It was a fun impromptu stop by the Racing River. It was plain to see that people often stop here because of the stone campfire rings that were made. Im sure lots of people boondock here. As we drove on, we could see snow again so we were back above the snow line.
We saw two more black bears today: one was quite comical as he sat scratching under his front leg. The other was going across the highway and walked along the road a short way then crossed right behind us. Never expecting to see so many animals today, I jokingly started calling, Here Moosey, Moosey! To our surprise a very large moose came out of the woods and ran across the road about 50 feet in front of us. What a sight!
The Westend Campground in Fort Nelson was rather ho-hum. Half the sites are in an open gravel field but the other half are in shade. The site behind ours looked like a permanent site and was very junky looking. Our site was shaded electrical only but it had only a single 220-volt receptacle and we needed a 110-volt connection. We will have to get our own 220 to 110 connector. The facilities were small compared to the 175 sites in the park. On the positive side, the price for a shower and RV pressure wash were very reasonable.
Friday June 27, 2003 Day 42 Fort Nelson to McLeod Lake Provincial Park
Todays Mileage: 431 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.06 at Hudsons Hope FAS Gas
Rather than driving Highway 97 from Charles Lake to Dawson Creek to Chetwynd, we took the shorter windier route from just north of Charles Lake to Chetwynd on 29. The scenery was very good, but there were also 10% grades through the hills into and out of several valleys with hairpin turns. I think this route should be considered by small RVs only (Bs, pickup campers and some Cs). The forest looks more lush than the ones farther north and west. Perhaps the land is less arid. We dont see the skinny black spruce either; instead there are fuller evergreens and more deciduous trees. Of course, it is now later in the season and more trees have leafed out.
The town of Hudsons Hope on this route has a VERY nice free municipal campground. It has: 10 shaded, grassy sites with fire pits and tables, as well as a picnic shelter, and the clean restrooms have one pay shower each. Hudsons Hope was first discovered in 1793 and is the third oldest community in BC.
I saw two more black bears today and we saw two sandhill cranes. I expected those to be beyond this point by now; perhaps theyre stragglers. We are also back in deer country because we saw four at different times. We think theyre Mule Deer because of their big ears. Finally, we saw a large cow moose and her calf and pulled over and stopped the van. They were at the edge of the brush fairly close to the road. The calf got confused started running toward us, then turned around and ran into the bush. In a second or two mom followed. We got a good look at them though.
We found a nice site at Tudyah Lake Provincial Park. Its a little different because all the sites seem to be set up for groups. They are very large grassy areas with two tables and one fire pit. There are some groups down by the lake so we have one up close to the woods. I could hear a Hermit Thrush singing and a hummingbird visited a few times. Even though it was rather mosquito-y there, it was good to be in the woods.
Friday June 28, 2003 Day 43- Tudyah Lake, BC to Valemount, BC
Todays Mileage: 275 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.18 per Gal.
It was raining a little when we got up this morning. When Len went outside to pick up and heat some water, I could see that it was also very mosquito-y. We have been washing our hair outside, but today I decided no way. I tried it once before and could do it again: I put a bath towel around our sink to catch the water splashes and washed there. Len saw how I did it and followed suit. Clean hair and no bites!
There was a funny smell a couple times as we drove down the road. We wondered what it was, but couldnt see anything. Len thought maybe someone was burning trash. About an hour later the computer started beeping that it was out of battery power. I checked the inverter and it was switched on, but wasnt on. Len pulled over to check it out and the fuses were both blown. He put another set in and it flashed and immediately blew out. Guess that does it for the inverter. Now we cant use the GPS; we have to use a regular map! Oh No! And well need a place with electricity to do pictures and journals. I guess well get along somehow.
At our lunch stop we talked to a young couple from Germany. They are traveling in a camper van made in Italy that they brought with them. They are taking 2 YEARS to travel from the east coast of Canada to Vancouver to California all the way down to Argentina! They can stand up in their camper when they raise the back of the roof, but it is smaller than ours. Two years in that. Wow! More power to them!
It was another pretty drive today through some farmland, heavily forested areas and into more mountains as we approached Jasper National Park. Were almost there staying at Irvins RV Park near Valemount. We got here about 4:00 so we could do laundry 6 loads. Phew! Im glad we hurried right in because I got all four machines and then the two extra large dryers before anyone else came. I was almost done when others started coming around 5:30. Then there was a line up and people waiting. Its good to go early! Now we wont have to do it again until we get home.
We didnt see much wildlife today. Len saw a moose and we saw a couple deer. However the view here at our campground is very pretty. We are surrounded by the snow-capped Canadian Rockies. And we are actually going to have a sunset before midnight.
Sunday, June 29, 2003 Day 44 Valemount BC to Whistlers Campground, Jasper
Todays Mileage: 189 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.08 per Gal. at Valemount
On the Compuserve RV Forum there was an article once explaining how to keep things sanitary. The recommendation was to have a spray bottle of disinfectant and use it on anything you handle at the dump stations. This morning while we had an early breakfast, we watched a man near us empty and clean his port-a-potty. He dumped it down the sanitary drain, but then proceeded to clean both the outside and the INSIDE of the port-a-potty at his site water fill! He did not have gloves on and was using his water fill hose! I think from here on we will spray all of our site sanitary and water connections prior to hooking up to them. His wife came out in a short time also and then cleaned some dishes at the same water fill and used the same hose. She dropped the hose on the ground right where he cleaned and rinsed the toilet. To top things off she came out again later and filled her coffee pot there. God protect us all.
After all that it was good to get going again and see some more good clean country! We werent far from the entrance of Jasper National Park and the impressive Mount Robson. It was stunning, all snow covered and shinning in the sun. Two gray foxes ran by about a half mile apart. My, their tails are fluffy! We bought an annual pass because well be here several days and we can use it in Ontario when we go home. We also stopped at the information building in the town of Jasper to get more info on where things are in the park. She suggested we get a campsite right away because they were full last night. We drove straight to Whistlers Campground and have a nice site, although without electricity. Those fill fast and had a waiting line outside the park gate.
Our business taken care of, we set off for the Maligne Lake and Canyon Drive. As usual the drive was gorgeous. We passed some mountains that were layered (sedimentary), but were tilted up a couple thousand or so feet. The light gray sheer bare rock looked so smooth it almost seemed polished. We could see how it broke off in layers and those rocks would slide down to the bottom. Then there was the mountain of dark gray-brown globs of rock. What a contrast!
Maligne Canyon was really neat! It was VERY deep AND narrow and the water rushed through the canyon at break neck (literally) speed. There were pot holes where the water swirled and smoothed the rock walls. We started at the Second Bridge, walked down to the Fourth Bridge, then back up to the First Bridge. The depth at the First Bridge was 33 meters. It was a strenuous climb, but worth it for the view and the exercise.
From there we drove on to Medicine Lake, a lovely turquoise blue lake in the terminus area of the Rockies. It drains by the end of every summer through rivers under the surface of the lake. Meligne Lake was also beautiful. There were several canoeists on the water and some tour boats. On the way back to the main road we saw two Big Horn Sheep right next to the road on a low rock cliff. And their horns were really big. I also saw another bear and a deer.
Next we went to Athabasca Falls and took old highway 93A. It was a little rougher, but much less traveled. (We cant seem to get used to all the other tourists around. There have been so few up to this point.) We had a very good large Black Bear sighting on this road. We watched him for several minutes as he ambled through the woods. It was fun to watch him. Athabasca Falls was an amazing torrent of white water violently rushing over the rock. It was worth seeing.
Monday June 30, 2003 Day 45- Whistler Campground in Jasper National Park
Todays Mileage: 246 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.09 per Gal. at Jasper
Today was rather rainy off and on. Fortunately when we wanted to be out walking, it was only a light drizzle or had stopped. It was wet in another way too, we visited several falls and the Miette Hot Springs. The hot springs were directed into a man made pool so we decided not to pay the $6 to go in. We already enjoyed one in a natural setting and didnt feel the need for another. On that leg of our days trip we saw several Stone Sheep next to and on the road. We also saw two beautiful Elk. Their coats were shiny and sleek and their antlers were velvet. I thought they were elegant looking!
The falls we went to, Punchbowl Falls, Tangle Falls and Sunwapta Falls were all rushing torrents again. Its amazing how they carve out the potholes and twist and turn through the canyon walls. And the drops they make, like Punchbowl Falls, is dizzying.
We took the Icefields Highway to see the falls and, of course, the mountains were sensational along the way. We viewed Ashler Ridge which is 360 million years old. Another mountain looks like someone took a giant knife and sliced it down the middle. It was one of those windswept sedimentary ones that was pushed up on its side. We drove the highway as far as Athabasca Glacier. We had to walk up it a little just to say we were on it, but we think the glaciers we saw in Alaska were more exciting.
The drive back up to Jasper townsite was fun. We stopped to watch a young bear cub digging around for bugs or whatever. He tumbled around with some dead branches as he ambled along the edge of the woods. Another thing that made the drive fun was the rainbows we saw because of the on again, off again rain. We saw a total of 6 rainbows at different places on the ride. One was a connected double rainbow. Once we arrived in town we went to the Caledonia Restaurant for dinner. We both had delicious halibut meals the prices were pretty good too.
Whistler Campground is one of the biggest in the park so sites are fairly close together. Ours, however, is way in the back on an outside loop (29K) with no electricity. We were right next to the mountain with no neighbors to the back of us. Very pretty and woodsy.
Tuesday July 1, 2003 -Day 46- Whistler Camp, Jasper to Waterfowl Lake, Banff
Todays Mileage: 164 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
We packed up by 7:30 so we could get early showers before the crowds came and found our timing pretty good. When we were finished there were lines waiting. We wanted to be on the road early too so we could get our next campsite. We wanted to stay at Ramport Creek, but it was closed. We were a little nervous then because Whistlers was full when we were there. We drove on to Waterfowl Lake, a no electricity campground, and found it almost empty. We neednt have worried. We found a lovely site (#36) in the heavily wooded camp. We walked to the lake to see glaciers in the mountains across it. We keep finding one beautiful place after another. We set up a few things to have lunch and decide what to do in the afternoon.
We drove back north to Saskatchewan Crossing the confluence of 3 major rivers in the area to see if there were some hiking trails. Not finding any we went to the gift store and spent more money instead. Woops!
From there we went to Mistaya Canyon, a very steep, but short walk down to another rushing falls in a narrow twisting canyon. The turquoise water with the help of rocks and boulders swirled around to make several potholes in the canyon walls, some of them quite large. We walked over a wooden bridge to get views of both sides of the falls. Len climbed down closer to the edge of the river above the falls. I went a little closer too, but the rush of the water at the brink was dizzying: I felt more comfortable looking from a distance.
Bow Summit was our next stop. This was a longer very steep climb up to the top where there was a view of Peyto Lake. It was a job getting up there, but again well worth the effort. The lake was that brilliant turquoise blue and surrounded by mountains. It was drizzly and chilly, but we didnt mind. The scenery made up for that.
Our last stop before returning to camp was Crowfoot Glacier. We could see it from the car: it really does look like a crows foot. When we returned to camp, we made a campfire and cooked supper over it: bratwurst and beans, a real campy meal. We took a short walk, then just sat by the campfire for a while: something we havent done very often on this trip. Also played a little Rummikub, another thing we havent done very often.
Wednesday July 2, 2003 Day 47- Waterfowl Lake, Banff to Lake Louise, Banff
Todays Mileage: 40 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
We left early again today because we thought we needed to get to the Lake Louise campground early. It has electricity and we wanted to be sure to get a site so we could charge the computer and camera. I also wanted to catch up on the log and labeling pictures. We arrived around 10:00 and again had no trouble getting a site. So, now were charged and updated.
The drive down was really cool in two ways. It was snowing in the higher elevations and it was quite chilly. The snow was neat on the trees and mountain sides. Fortunately, it wasnt sticking to the road so it wasnt slippery. It did remain chilly all day, raining or snowing off and on too.
The park here encourages everyone to use the bus to go to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake so we did. It was nice to be able to just leave the van and let someone else drive. Lake Louise, yet another turquoise lake, is nestled in the mountains. There is a huge chateau built next to it with very expensive prices on everything. We decided the view was better outside. The next bus went to Moraine Lake, which was even more dramatic than Lake Louise. The mountain looked like it went down into the turquoise water. There was no beach to speak of. We climbed up a very rocky trail to get a view from above and that was stunning too.
The bus dropped us off by the village of Lake Louise where we went to get a few groceries. Then we walked the half hour trail back to camp. As we arrived, a couple we talked to earlier was coming back too. (They walked all the way to Lake Louise.) They wanted to see our van because we looked at theirs this afternoon. They have a Sportsmobile with lots of neat stuff on it. Its the same length as ours, has heavy duty bumpers, propane gas for heat, air conditioning that could run while the engine was running or plug into electricity and the roof goes up. They really liked ours too, said we had some very good ideas. Its fun to show it to others and fun to get ideas from them about their campers.
Thursday July 3, 2003 Day 48- Lake Louise to Banff, Alberta
Todays Mileage: 52 Miles Todays Gas Price: NA
Today was a quick change day. Campsites that is. We were up, out of Lake Louise and set up at the Village II, Banff campground by 9:30 a.m. We took showers and Len cooked a very tasty omelet for brunch. Since its his birthday, we talked to Jay on the cell phone to wish him a happy one. Arent cell phones wonderful, however, I think these calls from Canada will be very expensive. Weve made a few short calls to check on everyone and will soon have to pay the piper. Its worth it though because its good to hear their voices.
We rode our bikes to the HooDoos this morning. (But not before washing a ton of dust and dirt off of them! They were filthy!) The HooDoos are limestone pillar-like formations that reminded us a little of Bryce Canyon, except that these didnt have the brilliant colors and there were only three of them. The trail we were on overlooked the very deep Bow River Valley. The river wound its turquoise way through it, twisting back and forth among the trees and rocks. On the other side of the valley the mountains reached up towards the sky. It was very picturesque.
The ride back to camp was mostly uphill and I was bushed when we got back. We planned to go to town by bike too, but I was concerned about more big hills to climb so I took the bus and Len rode on by himself. We met at the Whyte Museum where we had a guided tour highlighting the Voux family photographs of glaciers. We were going to go to the Banff Park Museum, but it has been closed due to structural concerns in the 100 year old building. We walked to the Cave & Basin, another historic site, and went around it a little. We didnt get our moneys worth ($4/person) because we only looked at a few things at the front. We had to walk back to a bus stop where I waited while Len rode on back to camp. As it was, even though I had to wait a half hour, I was back a few minutes before him.
It was very windy so after supper we took the awning down before going in for the night. Len also had to take the windshield cover off because it kept blowing off. Its good to have the inside curtain too.
Friday July 4, 2003 Day 49- Banff, Alberta to Gull Lake, Saskatchewan
Todays Mileage: 380 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.05 per Gal. at Banff
$1.48 per Gal. at Shell in Medicine Hat
Today we officially started for home. After a drive up to Minniewanka Lake to see it and the mountains around, we headed east. Passing through Calgary was neat because we saw a couple of the ski jumps from the 1988 Olympics. Once we left there we also gradually left the mountains and returned to the rolling hills of the Great Plains. At first we saw some large farms, but that soon changed to huge ranches similar to those we saw in Wyoming and Nebraska.
The Trans-Canada Highway is much better so far than we thought. Its a four lane divided highway and moves right along (110km/hr). This allowed us to cover much more distance than we planned on so we got as far as Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Were staying at the Gull Lake Camp, a very clean and nice little place operated by the town. Our campground neighbors told us that the road becomes a two-lane highway farther east, so we might not be able to make as good time tomorrow.
Saturday July 5, 2003 Day 50- Gull Lake, Sk. to Moosomin, Saskatchewan
Todays Mileage: 334 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.18 per Gal. at Moose Jaw
Today was another day to cover miles, but we didnt cover as many as we expected because we came across a bird observation deck at Reed Lake in Sk. We stopped to have a look and saw several new birds to us. Then as we went a little farther down the road, we saw all this white stuff around, and a river where it was a couple feet thick. There was a nature center close to it so we stopped, as much for the birds as for curiosity about the white stuff. It turned out to be about a 2 hour stop. The stuff was sodium sulphate, which comes up from the ground in the lake from ancient glaciers. Its mined and sent all over the world.
The Chaplin Nature Center is there more for the birds that come to the salty shores of the lake. We arrived when they were getting ready to drive out on a tour so went along and saw lots of birds. Ive never seen all these shore birds. Neat! I especially liked the American Avocet and the Marble Godwit. The Piping Plover was really special because its on the endangered list.
When we got on the road again, we drove as far as Moosomin, Saskatchewan and got a site at Fieldstone RV Park.
Sunday July 6, 2003 Day 51- Moosomin, Sk. to McIntosh, Minnesota
Todays Mileage: 430 Miles Todays Gas Price: $2.02 per Gal. at Virden, $1.339 per Gal. at Grand Forks, ND
We drove the rest of the way across Saskatchewan, through Manitoba, a little bit of North Dakota and into northern Minnesota. The Canadian farmlands were very pretty and it was nice going through the towns. The Trans-Canada Highway was certainly a lot nicer than everyone told us. Once back in the U.S. we phoned everyone to check in. We had some rain for a while this afternoon that stopped by the time we reached Minnesota. Were staying at the city park in McIntosh, Minnesota. Its a $5.00 per night on your honor with electricity, TV hook-up and showers. Hard to beat. Also many of the people staying there were x-locals and were fun to talk to.
Monday July 7, 2003 Day 52- McIntosh, Minnesota to Duluth, Mn via Ely, Mn
Todays Mileage: 369 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.499 per Gal. at Ely Mn
Someone staying at the city park told us about a great bakery in town so we had to see for ourselves this morning before leaving. Yes, it is very good: fresh made bread, donuts and turnovers. Have to do extra walking for a few days! We drove down the road happily eating our donuts and watching the beautiful Minnesota countryside. We had to make a stop in Bemiji so I could see Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox. I was there when I was about 5 or 6 years old. They were still there, still as big as ever, and Len took my picture again. We even saw one more Bald Eagle flying over Lake Bemiji. We did a drive through of Hibbing so Len could see the town where his mom lived when she was 5 years to 8 years old.
The big stop for today was Ely, Minnesota. We stopped there 4-5 years ago and have kicked ourselves ever since for not getting some good clothing, although we did buy some excellent winter mukluks back then. We went to the Wintergreen store and now well be nice and warm next winter with some EXCELLENT shells. They certainly make beautiful jackets and other outdoor clothes. We checked out a few more stores, everything is high quality there and prices show it.
We got as far as Duluth and found a campsite at the KOA in Cloquet.
Tuesday July 8, 2003 Day 53- Duluth, Minn. to Germfask, Michigan
Todays Mileage: 372 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.489 per Gal.
Our drive across Wisconsin and into Michigan went without incident. We stopped in Marquette for supper and wanted to go to our favorite restaurant, The Sweetwater Café, but it was closed. So we went to our second favorite, Vierlings. It was still relatively early, light out and the driving was easy so we continued on to Germfask and stayed at a National Forest Campground called Mead Creek. It was pretty, but so mosquito-y that we stayed inside. It had been a long day of driving, so we turned in a little early to read. I did hear a Whip-or-will as I was falling asleep.
Wednesday July 9, 2003 Day 54- Germfask, MI to HOME
Todays Mileage: 377 Miles Todays Gas Price: $1.499 per Gal.
We got out of camp with hardly a step outside since the mosquitoes were still on the loose. For our breakfast stop, we drove to the rest area just east of Naubinway. Its the northern most point of Lake Michigan and a very pretty rest area. I always like to go down to the water there and feel the temperature: pretty warm today. I also like to feel that Lake Michigan sand: you cant beat it, its so fine, almost soft. Then it was on the way again to finish off our Big Adventure.
We made it home safe and sound, Thanks be to God! What an awesome trip this has been. We had good weather, decent roads, nice places to camp, met a lot of very nice people from all over the world, and saw beautiful, fantastic scenery. I think we gained even more respect for these two great countries, for their beauty and for the resourcefulness of their peoples. We learned things at the museums and parks, saw more animals than we ever expected, and boy, did we travel the miles. We put a total of 12,058 miles on the van. And it turned out to be very comfortable to camp in. We could take the mountain roads as well as the bumpy ones much better than the big rigs. It was great!!
And now for the task of clean-up