Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Traveling to the Lower 48--Part 2--August 21-23, 2010

We took our time leaving Boya Lake Provincial Park. The weather was once again cool and rainy. Our next destination was Hyder, Alaska, but we would need make one more stop before arriving there.

Once on the road, we made several rest stops. One was near Dease Lake. This rest area by a stream was a nice place to stop for lunch.Of course you can't pass up a picture of a place with a unique name--Gnat's Pass Summit.The fireweed has turned to fuzz in most places--that means snow is not in the too distant future.
One good thing from the rain--rainbows! We have seen quite a few!As we drove south on Cassiar Highway we saw several black bears. This one wasn't bothered by us. He was more interested in the succulent weeds by the road!
We stopped for the night at a roadside pull-out--our first. Many people stop in these every night as they travel in Canada and Alaska.

We didn't have far to go the next morning. Meziadin Provincial Park would put us close enough to Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska for a day trip in the car.

The drive to Stewart/Hyder is breathtaking--there are 18 glaciers and 64 waterfalls along the road. Bear Glacier was the most impressive.
Stewart is a quaint village, Hyder is not quite as picturesque.
Fish Creek in Tangass National Forest is the big draw in Hyder. The bears gather to eat salmon along the creek. The forest service constructed a wooden viewing platform along the creek to keep bears and people separate.

Many photographers had come for around the world to view the bears.Only problem was--no bears! Lots of salmon....
....and birds eating salmon (you should have scratch and sniff for this picture to get the full effect of rotting fish).But no bears! We saw one wolf at a distance grab a salmon and run back into the woods.

Bob had heard that 'The Bus' was the place to eat in Hyder so that is where we had fish and chips. They were the best we had eaten on this trip! We highly recommend 'The Bus.'

We returned to Meziadin and spent a rainy night and day as we were there for 2 days. Time to look for good weather--I'm tired of having wet, cold feet!

Traveling to the Lower 48--Part One--August 16-20, 2010

When we left Fairbanks, we were headed for Tok, Alaska to begin our journey back to the lower 48.Our trip took us through Eielson AFB. No stopping or photos were allowed as we drove parallel to the runway. We saw six or eight F16s doing touch and go training.

Then we passed the Knotty Shop--of course we stopped and looked. Bob especially liked this breed of mosquito--it didn't bite!
We had a leisurely ride looking for geocaches. Most of the rest areas had one hidden. Next stop--Rika's Roadhouse. It was a stopover for travelers who crossed the river by ferry.In the woods near the house, we saw this truck left behind by its owner.
We made the turn onto the Alaskan Highway at Delta Junction. At the end of the day we could say we had traveled the entire highway!
Bob and I were wary of the mosquitoes at Delta Junction.We stopped in Tok---once again behind the Chevron station. The plan was to go to Chicken in the car the following day. We started toward Chicken, but Taylor Highway was so bad we turned back after about 20 miles. We knew that the road from Tok to Destruction Bay was bad so we didn't want to travel bad roads two days in a row. We returned to the rv, hooked the car and took off--time to head for the border!

The border crossing was easy, answered a few questions and off we went. We drove to Pine Creek just east of Haynes Junction. Pine Creek was a government campground in Yukon Territory.

We spent the night then headed for Carcross, Yukon campground. As we drove to Carcross, we passed this old ranch located at a rest area.From Carcross we drove to Skagway, Alaska--cruise ship capital of Alaska. It was definitely a tourist town!

From Carcross we made a beeline to Watson Lake to check on Cassiar Highway. It had been closed due to wildfires, but vehicles were being convoyed through several times a day if wind and fire permitted. We were lucky enough to get in line for a convoy and only had to wait 30 minutes to make the trip!Not far from the end point of our convoy was Doya Lake Provincial Park, BC. We spent the night there at a lake front site.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Denali to Fairbanks--August 7 to 15, 2010

Take your time and enjoy this blog as it will be our last until we get to the lower 48 or a place with free wi-fi!

Bob and I enjoyed our time at Denali and would like to return one day. But, it was time to move on to our next adventures in Fairbanks. We stopped along Parks Highway to get a few geocaches.Once we arrived in Fairbanks, we stopped at Ft. Wainwright to see if they had
campsites available. They had a lot of sites, but only 8 with electricity. We took one of the sites without hook-ups. Once again we were relying on solar power to run our electronics--computers and tvs.After setting up camp we headed out to explore Fairbanks. There was a lot to see and do in the area. University of Alaska Fairbanks has several great places to spend time. One was Georgeson Botanical Garden.The vegetables grow pretty big during the long hours of summer light in Alaska.
So do the flowers.The gardens were beautiful and peaceful.There was even a garden with a play cabin for kids!Another day we spent almost the entire day at Museum of the North--also at UAF. It is a must see for anyone visiting Fairbanks. Bob liked "Outhouse Experience." Too bad it was just a one-holer!We also visited North Pole, Alaska. The visitor center had a sod roof like a lot of the old cabins.We visited Santa's House, but it was lots of ornaments from China and a few made in Alaska. I was disappointed in Santa's House.

This Santa was one of three made for Seattle's Worlds Fair. No one is sure if the others have survived.
The Riverboat Discovery took another day. We rode Discovery and saw some exciting sights along the Chena River.One stop was to watch a float plane take off, land, and take off again.The next stop was to see Susan Butcher's sled dogs. She was a four time winner of Iditarod Race. Unfortunately, she died of leukemia in 2007. Her husband and daughters carry on the sled dog tradition.These dogs enjoyed pulling the sled around a lake before they were let loose to enjoy the river.Discovery docked at Chena Village which is an interpretive center for Athabascan Natives.
Our guide, Jofina, modeled a traditional ceremonial parka made of animal furs.We learned about cache cabins where food was stored so animals couldn't get to it. They used it to display animal furs while we were visiting.It was an enjoyable day on the river.

On the way to UAF on one of our first days in Fairbanks, we passed Creamer's Field which used to be a dairy farm (appropriate name for a dairy). It is now a bird observatory.The area is filled with trails and observation towers to view birds.In fact, next week there will be a huge festival in honor of Jennifer's favorite bird--Sand Hill Crane Festival! This is where they come to spend their summers. We went back to hike the fields and watch the birds. I learned that sandhill crane colts (babies) have brown feathers instead of gray.

The trails are multi-use and have a much different use in the winter!Thursday, we set off on another adventure--to visit the Arctic Circle.

We started off at the pipeline visitor center in Fairbanks.
Then we took Steese Highway to Elliot Highway where we stopped at a local rock climbing area to take a picture of a travel bug who wanted to visit a cache located near the rocks. The bug wants to make its way back to Florida, so it is still traveling with us.

Another geocache was located under this old bridge.We continued on to Dalton Highway, sometimes known as Haul Road.We stopped in several places to find geocaches as we made our way to the Arctic Circle. One geocache was located up high--I sent Bob up for it!Also in this area were blueberries! We didn't have a container to put them in so we left them for the bears!

At another place we stopped, we saw a French couple with the rv they shipped from home!We crossed the Yukon River at Yukon Crossing. We topped off the car with gas at the only station ($4.59 a gallon) and saw rooms for $199 a night. Yes, they were located in this building!After we reached the Arctic Circle we decided to continue on to Coldfoot. This was the trucker/tourist area--gas station, restaurant and hotel--just like the one at Yukon Crossing. There was an Interagency Center run by BLM, Forest Service, and Wildlife Preserves.

As we drove Dalton Highway, we followed the pipeline. We have seen it from its southern terminus in Valdez all the way to Coldfoot. We didn't make it to Prudhoe Bay to see its beginning--Coldfoot is halfway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe.We had enough with us to spend the night in the car, but since the weather was okay and we knew it would be light until 11:00, we decided to return to Fairbanks.

Pioneer Park is located in Fairbanks. There are some pioneer museums, a riverboat with dioramas of towns along the Chena River, a flight museum, a train, a carousel and small shops.

There is also a Salmon Bake. Bob and I walked through during the day and I rode the wild Alaskan salmon!
We also rode our bikes around Ft. Wainwright. The bike trail follows Chena River. There is a plaque near the river commemorating the spot where Wiley Post and Will Rogers landed on their ill-fated trip to Barrow in 1935.

We have been lucky at most military bases when it came to laundry--it was either free or $1 a load to wash and $1 a load to dry. Not at Ft. Wainwright! It was $3.25 to wash a load and $2 to dry! Needless to say we didn't do wash all that we planned to wash. We even checked prices off post--$4 to wash!

We've had a good time in Fairbanks, but the fireweed is about to turn! We've been told that when the top blooms, the first snow is not far behind! Hard to think of that when we have finally had our first days of warm weather! Yesterday and today the thermometer actually hit 80! The best we have had prior to that was 70 and only a few days of that!

So, it is time for us to head back to Tok. We wanted to take Top of the World Highway, but torrential rains have caused problems with the road--major washouts. The other road we would like to travel is Stewart-Cassiar highway, but it too has had problems--wildfires. It looks like they may be under control, so that route is still a possibility.

Once we leave Tok, we won't have cell phone or internet in the rv. We will keep in touch through e-mail (libraries in towns along the way have internet).

Sooooo enjoy this blog and we'll post again when we get back to the lower 48 or before if we get wi-fi somewhere!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Adventure Continues--Denali--August 4-6, 2010

After a restful night at Tek, we planned an early start to ride the bus back to Eielson Visitor Center. We wanted to hike Alpine Ridge Trail. Hopefully the bear had left the area!

On the way out, we saw five grizzlies in one area. These two cubs were tussling near their mother. They would fight with each other, then pull a small tree down to get the bark or berries.We also saw more Dall sheep, but these were much closer to the bus.We stopped at Polychrome Pass again and this time got our picture from a different vantage point. As you might be able to tell from the picture, the weather was not as nice for this trip.
We left our bus at Eielson and found the trail open! We crossed the road and started our hike up to the ridge. We stopped about halfway up for a photo.We had a great view of the visitor center from the ridge.Once we neared the top, the wind began to howl! Across the valley the weather was even worse.This was the first time the tripod failed us when we wanted a picture together--the wind blew it down! Luckily, a tour guide from Czech Republic (who climbed McKinley 2 years ago) was also at the top and took our picture.Not long after that, four caribou crested the ridge south of us. The first three were not afraid, but the fourth one skirted the area below the ridge west of us.The weather remained the same--winds gusting! Bob took a picture of me trying to lean into the wind.The wind was so strong, my hair was blown completely up and out!Denali was covered in clouds, but still a great view from Alpine Ridge.

We found a sheltered area below the ridge where we ate our lunch.
This is a picture of the ridge we climbed. We were on the hump to the left of the picture. We had to walk across the saddle to get there.We enjoyed our bus ride back to the rv and had a restful evening. We would have to move out of Tek on Thursday.

As we were leaving the campground, we picked up a young man who is a photographer. He needed to get to the entrance before noon to make a call to the east coast. We thoroughly enjoyed talking with Coby and found out he sells his pictures at the Saturday Market in Anchorage. You can check his photos at kissamoose.com He showed me one still in the camera of a caribou in full run--like the Mustang emblem.

Once back to the main visitor center, we parked the rv, rescued the car (can only drive one vehicle to Tek) and rode around looking for a campground for 2 nights.
We got a great view of the Alaska Train trestle.We made it back in time to catch a bus to the dog sled demonstration area. The dogs here belong to the park and are working dogs, not racing dogs. Work dogs weigh 80+ pounds, race dogs are about 50 pounds.

Coho wouldn't let anyone but Bob pet him--probably because Bob got down to his level.The ranger used this sled for the demonstration. Once the dogs saw the harnesses attached, they all started barking asking to go for a run! Coho was one of the lead dogs!

From the sled dog demo it was back to the entrance.

Coby told us the best meal going was seafood nachos at Princess Lodge, so Bob and I headed there for dinner. He was right! For $20 we got more than we could eat! Thanks for the tip Coby!

Thursday and Friday night we stayed at McKinley Campground in Healy, north of Denali. Friday afternoon we were scheduled to go on our first ever white water rafting trip. The trip didn't start until 1:30 so we spent some time geocaching in the park. This was another entrance sign.
Finally, it was time for the rafting trip. I was a little nervous, but mostly excited. They dressed us all in wet suits, gloves, and caps so we would stay warm even when we were soaked. Our guide, Jack, was from Idaho. He is a college student who spent the last 2 semesters in Costa Rica! He was a great guide and we had a blast! We rode the rapids through the Nenana Canyon in Denali 12 miles downriver to Healy. I can't wait to go on another rafting adventure!
Sorry, no pictures as our camera wasn't waterproof and it stayed behind. We did purchase the picture that a photographer took after we went through a rapid. You'll have to see it when we get home.