Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Valdez, Alaska June 23-27, 2010

If I remember correctly, the last blog ended as we left Tok, Alaska. From Tok, we drove south toward Valdez. It was a beautiful drive, a bit bumpy--what am I saying? It was VERY BUMPY, but scenic.We stopped for lunch at a pond where these 2 swans were nesting.Since we were not in a hurry, we also stopped at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It is the largest of the national parks--it stretches southeast for 250 miles. We walked the short interpretive trail behind the visitor center.We took quite a few rest stops. This one had a trail to walk to overlook the river.Rest stops were necessary as the road had many frost heaves--Bob or I would yell yahoo or yippee-yi when we hit a big one as we flew up in the air.

As we neared Valdez, we stopped to see Devil's Elbow. The water rushes through a narrow chasm, goes under a bridge, then makes a 90 degree turn!Here is our rv parked near Devil's Elbow. Notice our 'new' step!Not much farther down the road, we saw Worthington Glacier for the first time. It is retreating now, but it is still massive.Here is another view of the glacier.As we drove through Keystone Canyon, we got a look at Bridal Veil Falls (how many falls have that name?)........and Horsetail Falls. In the winter people come from all over the world for ice climbing adventures on these falls.We decided to stay at the military campground run by Ft. Greeley. It is also open to the public for different rates. After setting up at Valdez Glacier View CG, then we drove around Valdez.
This waterfall--Granite Falls is in a day use area near the campground.Yes, there was a geocache located near the falls and Bob found it.We went back to Horsetail and Bridal Veil Falls to get a few geocaches.As we drove past the airport, we noticed this sign on some barracks-like buildings........hmmmmm.....what about women?

I know I have mentioned the number of hours of daylight, but did I tell you about not being able to sleep because it is always light? Well, I finally remembered we had our old silver shade we used to use to block the sun in the windshield. Bob and I got it out and cut it to fit the windows in the bedroom. There was just enough to cover all three windows. Now our bedroom is dark at night--and most of the day, too!

Valdez is a popular fishing spot for Alaskans. It is also a popular vacation spot for Europeans and Asians! We saw many rented campers in the lots at Valdez. We even saw a few at our campground.The weather was cloudy when we arrived in Valdez and it stayed that way for most of our visit.
We did quite a bit of geocaching--some caches hadn't been found since last September due to the snow--Valdez gets 30-40 feet of snow each winter!Bob was on the trail to a cache, but decided it was too overgrown to get close. Because of the rain and the long hours of daylight, everything grows quickly in Alaska.In 1964, the earthquake that hit Alaska wiped out the town of Valdez with its tsunami. The original town was condemned and the people had 2 years to move to the present town site.
As we walked Dock Point Trail to view the overlooks, we spotted this eagle's nest. The eagle is the white dot in the center of the picture--double click on it and you can enlarge the picture to see her. Her mate was in a tree not far from her.Miss Peggy drives through town from morning to late evening selling espresso, ice cream, and soup. She even drives through our campground twice a night! I couldn't believe some people actually bought ice cream! It was too cold for me! The average temperature in Valdez is 55 in June and a balmy 60 in July!The weather deteriorated by Sunday so we decided to drive out of the valley, through Thompson Pass and back to Worthington Glacier. It is an Alaskan Recreation Area.

We dressed warmly since we didn't know what the weather would be like outside Valdez--it was rainy and cold!At the recreation area, we found several geocaches, talked to the lady who runs the visitor center (moved from Cocoa Beach 45 years ago) and hiked to the glacier. It was cold and rainy, but well worth the hike!
I have more to show and tell you about Valdez, but I will save it for the next post.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whitehorse, YT to Tok, Alaska--June 21-June 22

As we left Whitehorse, the road became a little worse, but the highway department was diligent in putting orange flags near the frost heaves and rough road so you knew bumps were ahead.
Not too far out of Whitehorse we saw a sign for open range livestock. Just a little farther and we saw people stopped along the side of the road looking at something. As we neared, we saw three horses by the side of the road.We had seen horses before so we couldn't figure why there were so many viewers.....Until we looked a little bit beyond the horses and saw the young brown bear (grizzly) watching the horses. The horses were belled and each time one of them moved, the bear looked excited. Just after I snapped the picture of the bear, it leaped and swiped the air with its giant paw as if it wanted to play with the horses!We kept on driving--we knew it would be a long day. We wouldn't make Alaska that evening, but the next day was a sure thing!

We passed the visitor center for Kluane National Park (Canada) as we were on gravel road in a road construction area and it was difficult to make the turn. We stopped for the night at Congdon Creek Yukon Government Campground about 5 miles further down the highway . It was near the creek, but Kluane Lake was right there!It was cloudy over the mountains--it looked like the mountains pulled part of the clouds down next to them to keep warm.
Bob washed the bugs off the front of the rv--at some point we must have driven through a swarm of bees as they outnumbered all other insects this day.
The next morning, the lower clouds were gone and we had a great view of the mountains.The closest town was Destruction Bay--population 55. At this point the road really deteriorated and the highway department didn't have enough orange flags to mark the bad places!Along our route we had to make a stop at Burwash Landing--they claimed to have the largest gold pan. But wait, Quesnel, BC claims to have the largest gold pan! Look at the pictures and decide for yourselves!
Lunch time found us pulling over in a Yukon Recreation Area near a small lake. While we were talking to a couple who also stopped, we started hearing a bird making noises as if it wanted to be noticed. We looked around and at the top of a nearby tree we spotted a young bald eagle! He never left his spot. More people came and he quieted down as we pointed him out to everyone!Next along our drive we passed through a portion of the Tetlin Wildlife Preserve. We saw swans nesting in one of the ponds. If you click on the picture, you can count the cygnets--they are not included in our animal count, just the adults.Finally, the Alaskan border is getting closer, but wait....there is more road construction! It is 18 miles from the Canadian checkpoint to the American checkpoint. The "Welcome to Alaska" sign is at the real border halfway between the two. We were not able to stop for the "Welcome to Alaska" sign because were on a one lane dirt road (construction) headed toward the American Customs area! I was able to snap the sign because we were traveling very slow.We had no trouble crossing the border. After we left customs, a worker from USDA came on board to check our produce and then we were on our way in ALASKA!!!

It was an uneventful drive if you consider a gravel and dirt road to be uneventful. We finally made it to Tok, Alaska!We stopped in the visitor center before heading to the Chevron station across the highway to fill and wash the rv. After all the dirt, the car and the rv were filthy.We spent the night behind the Chevron station (free camping with fill-up). This was the first time we had used our air card for internet since leaving the states!

The next morning Bob had the oil changed in the rv. We looked around in the shops. As we were checking out of All Alaska Gifts, the clerk asked Bob if he was from DeLand (he had on his DeLand shirt). Yes, and yes we know Rosalie! She worked in the shop last summer. So Karen, tell Rosalie the clerks remember her well!

Then it was back to the rv and on to Valdez, Alaska. But wait, Bob thought the car wasn't tracking right so I got out--not exactly--the step was just swinging! I carefully jumped down, Bob moved the rv a bit, the car was tracking right, but the step was kaput! The arm holding it in place had broken!

We decided to be careful and use the step stool to get in and out until we could repair the step. Bob put bungee cords around the step to hold it in and then it was on to Valdez!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory--June 18-20, 2010

Time to leave Watson Lake and head to Whitehorse! One of the volunteers at the welcome center told us to be sure to visit Little Rancheria we did. It was just a short drive from Watson Lake and worth the time just to get out and stretch!At the end of the trail, there were 2 small waterfalls flowing into the Rancheria River.We enjoyed the walk to the falls.So far, the scenery has been good, the road has been good, the company was good as always, but it has been a long trip. We are looking forward to reaching Alaska so we can slow down!

This is a view from the rv after we left the falls! We were going to travel around/through that?!?!?Before reaching Whitehorse, we crossed this bridge going into Teslin.
Since we had been camping without hook-ups since Dawson Creek, we decided to go with a 'city' park in Whitehorse. There is no picture of that site as rvs were crammed one next to the other in sardine fashion. It was a wonder those with 4 slides were able to put them out it was so close!
We intended to do some sightseeing, geocaching, laundry, and grocery shopping in Whitehorse.

After we registered at the campground, we decided we should go see the local show "Frantic Follies." We purchased our tickets at the campground for the Friday evening show----it was Friday evening! After dinner we drove into town, parked and walked around a bit before the show. The show was great--vaudeville style. There were several skits based on poetry by Robert Service. To hear his poems you would think he was a seasoned sourdough miner when in actuality he was a bank teller who arrived after the gold rush!Saturday we started with some geocaches, (yes, there was one at the welcome sign...what a surprise!)then went back to the rv to do laundry. It sure piles up when you aren't looking. This was the most expensive laundry day, yet. Two dollars to wash and two dollars to dry each load!

We also found Wal-Mart and bought some snacks and milk. Have I told you about prices? Well, this was the first milk we purchased that was NOT over $5 for 4 liters! Eggs are also expensive--$3.89 a dozen. The bread in most small town grocery stores was reasonable--they bake it on site--no brand names.

Sunday we continued with geocaching. Our first stop was the Klondike. It is actually Klondike II since Klondike I sank.From the Klondike, we went to the airport to see the big weather vane--a perfectly balanced C47. Just a slight wind makes it turn!As we drove around looking for caches, we passed this float plane base on Schwatka Lake.While we were looking for a cache this little ground squirrel scampered past us to get the dandelion he so desperately wanted.
We made our way into Miles Canyon where the Yukon River is very narrow compared to its width in Whitehorse, just a few miles downstream.
There was a hiking trail which crossed the pedestrian bridge built across the river.We enjoyed our time in Whitehorse, but once again it was time to be on our way--Alaska was calling and we still had a long way to go.