Carcinoid A rare form of "slow-growing" neuroendocrine cancer
Susan Anderson - An advocate for Carcinoid and Neuroendocrine Tumor Awareness
Howard and Susan Anderson’s
13+ Week Alaskan Adventure
Plus: Alberta, Yukon Territory & British Columbia, Canada
Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado & Utah
June 28 – September 28, 2007
Susan L. Anderson
June 28 – July 5, 2007 … Week One -- All is going very well on our Alaskan Adventure … this first week has really sped by rapidly.
The first day we were tourist in AZ. The last time we crossed the Navajo Bridge it was the old one … the new Navajo Bridge was dedicated in 1995. We spent out first night in Kanab, Utah. The next day we toured Zion National Park. Rather cool to have traffic held so we could do through a cool tunnel (with curves and going downhill) taking our half out of the middle. The second night we spent in another nice campground in Provo, Utah. We spent the next two nights in Idaho Falls, Idaho and enjoyed the rest .. camping under a huge cottonwood tree.
Monday, July 2nd we leaded north through Idaho and Montana. This was a beautiful drive up and down mountains, the lovely Breaverhead River, Wolf Creek and the Missouri River. We saw Clark Canyon Dam and Reservoir and evidence of the drought.
We camped for the night in a nice campground. The next morning we went across the street for big breakfasts.
The next day we left the campground and drove to the visitors information center on a high hill over looking the wide Missouri River called Broadwater Overlook. Took photos of the of the large statue of Lewis, Clark, a dog and the Clark slave that accompanied them, then we visited the center. Then we drove along the River Road along the edge of the Missouri River. We first stopped at Black Eagle Dam, built in 1891, for the view. Lewis and Clark ran into five major water falls on the Missouri River here during their 1804-1806 expedition west to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase.
Then we spent several hours at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center. An impressive center telling the history of our country through film, dioramas and interactive displays. Beautiful views of the MO River below the center, and lovely flowers. Howard walked down to the river and enjoyed talking with park service employees about building fires and etc. Then Howard hiked about a mile or so up the river bank and back down. Susan stayed in the center viewing exhibits and visiting the book store.
We continued down the River Road, stopping next at Giant Springs State Park and Fish Hatchery. America’s largest spring, pouring about 388.8 MILLION gallons of clear water into the Missouri River each day via the Roe River, that is recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the worlds shortest river. It is reported that Lewis and Clark visited these springs in 1805.
After enjoying Giant Springs State Park we continued along the River Road to overviews of Rainbow Dam, built in 1910, and observed the water falls (cascades) there.
We then retraced our drive along the Missouri River, and then drove north about 90 miles on I-15 to Lewis and Clark RV Park in Shelby, MT, for the night. We only drove a total of 105.8 miles this day.
On the 4th of July we left Lewis and Clark RV Park in Shelby, MT, about 7:55 a.m., another bright blue sky, cloudless. Headed north in I-15 about 55 miles north stopped at the US/Canadian border …. Sweet Grass, MT and Coutts, Alberta. One car ahead of us in line when we arrived about 8:25 a.m. We were asked a few questions, none about insurance, and had to show our passports and that was all. We stopped a short while late on Alberta 4 to take pictures with the Welcome to Alberta sign. Next we stopped at an information center in Milk River, with a large dinosaur statue, purchased a highway map and talked about a route to Drumheller without going through Lethridge or Calgary.
We continued north on Alberta 4, then Alberta 36 mostly farm land … everyone is irrigating and we saw many crops …. sugar beets, maybe potatoes, barley, oats and bright yellow fields of canola! We also a mother pheasant and her brood of chicks cross the highway in front of us. The Chin Lakes were beautiful as were Old Man River and Bow River. North of Brooks we drove in Canada 1 until came to Alberta 56 and continued north to Rosedale and Drumheller, located in Alberta’s Red Deer River Valley. http://www.TravelDrumheller.com
We checked in to the Dinosaur Trailer Park for two nights, arriving about 2 p.m. We set up the motorhome and Howard sent up the “internet”. Later we walked the few blocks to downtown and crossed the large Red Deer River. Drumheller has approximately 6,500 residents and is in the heart of the Canadian Badlands. We visited the world’s largest dinosaur, a 86 foot tall T-Rex …. and splash park along banks of the river. We then had splendid food at the Athens a Greek restaurant, then walked back to our motorhome. In the campground purchased a pan of homemade cinniman rolls yum.
The Canadian Badlands, a unique geographical region, which tells a story of glaciers and erosion that formed this landscape. It is also the historic home of Canada’s great dinosaur finds, the largest in the world. The Badlands also provided protection from the elements for generations of plains aboriginal people, as well as gangs of outlaws – horse thieves who avoided authorities in the seemingly endless gulleys and canyons. The valley has many “hoodoo’s” natural formations … the had rock caps on top of the pillars act as umbrellas, sheltering the softer sandstone beneath. The hills are a wide variety of colors in the various stata. Made reservations for a half day Wild West Jurassic Tour for the next morning.
We were picked up in our camp ground about 9 a.m. by “Pat” in a van of the Wild West Jurassic Tours. This was a very interesting three hour tour called the Badlands, Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Times Tour. We took the Bleriot Ferry across the Red Deer River (there are seven cable ferries still in use in Alberta). We also walked a suspenstion foot bridge over the Red Deer River. We visited the Badlands Passion Play site, the HooDoos ,,, formations of sandstone with harder rock as caps or umbrellas on top, and drove to the ghost town of Wayne … crossing eleven bridges in six kilometers. We saw live deer and life size dinosaur statues throughout the area. Approximately 8,500 people live in the valley. We also saw the Little Church that only holds six people.
We were returned to our motorhome about 12:20 p.m., and after a snack we drove to the Royal Tyrrell Museum … Canada’s largest dinosaur museum … located in the heart of the spectacular Canadian badlands where fossil hunters have prospected for over a century. http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/. After several hours in this really really good museum we drove into town to a Wal-Mart for milk and water. Also stopped at a produce truck for really great tomatoes and bing cherries … then back to the campground.
Susan finally checked her email, first time since we left home a week ago this morning ….. there almost 500 messages, but she cut that down to less than 50 to see about. Then she did our on-line banking.
This was another bright blue sky, beautiful day. The people here say this is “hot” as in the 80’s and they aren’t used to this heat …. we find it just fine.
Hope this is not too much blab but many people have said to send trip reports. This shall be it until I write again next week from Dawson Creek, BC, Canada.
July 7, 2007 -- Nice 179.8 mile drive on good highways with beautiful scenery. Tall pine trees, canyons, valleys, beautiful lakes and rivers, crops of canola, fescue, alfafa, oats and lots of oil wells. Moose country, and deer, too, according to the signs but we didn’t see any. Stopped at Valley View, Alberta, visitors’ centers then ate lunch in the motor home as usual. Drove on to Grande Prairie a city of 45,000 and about five miles south of town to Camp Tamarack RV Camp ground. Again camped along tall pine trees with a few aspens. Bright blue sky, but cooler than it has been. Men in campground office say they winter in Mesa, AZ, and they heard that we had 121 degrees yesterday. Two other camp grounds we’ve been in the owners/managers said they winter in Yuma, AZ.
July 8, 2007 -- Cloudy sky morning, for the first time. Worked on photos and a bit of email before leaving about 10:30 a.m. Drove the five miles back into Grande Prairie and then west on AB 43 towards “Alaska” as the signs say.
Stopped in Beaverlodge, AB, to take photos of their huge beaver sculpture. This beaver is 15 feet high, 28 feet long and weights 3,000 pounds. The Beaverlodge area has spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and rolling river valley landscape.
Continued west with off and on light rain. Was misting when stopped at the “Welcome to British Columbia” sign.
Continued on into Dawson Creek, stopped at the Mile O sign for pictures; took ours, then took for others and they took a couple more for us. To the campground, but office closed for lunch. We went back into town and ate lunch at a KFC, which reminded us of the KFC we ate at in Quito, Ecuador …. rather strange slaw and potato salad. After lunch we shopped for milk and groceries at an IGA store.
Checked in to Mile “O” Campground about 1 p.m., we are in site 55 with trees around us and green grass. A large Fantasy Caravan is here that shall leave tomorrow morning, our groups meets Friday, and leaves Saturday, we are the first here. T-V and free wi-fi internet, so we plan to relax and rest for a few days …. go back in to town and etc.
CANOLA …. Have seen the beautiful bright yellow fields throughout Alberta and in this far northeastern part of British Columbia. This crop is a member of the mustard family that was developed as a low cholesterol oil seed. The term, CANOLA, was derived from the words Canadian Oil.
July 9, 2007 -- Stayed cloudy most of the day. We enjoyed unlimited hot water in the showers. Howard did a big load of laundry in the coin washer and dryer.
Shelly called about 10:30 a.m. It was 117 in Phoenix area yesterday, told her we had the electric heat on, hee hee. Have used the A/C until now <G>.
We met our “trail boss” Skip and wife Sue (had spoken on the phone and vie email earlier), and our “tail gunner” Roy and wife Joyce. Visited with them awhile in Skip and Sue’s big bus type motor home.
Did email and read most of afternoon. In evening watched a DVD loaded to us by Skip and Sue, Making The Alaskan Highway, an American Experience, PBS program, very interesting.
The Japanese landed some troops in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, after bombing the area in the Aleutian Islands in early 1942 (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was bombed Dec. 7, 1941).
The Alaska Highway runs 1,488 miles through Canada and Alaska from Milepost 0 at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, through Yukon Territory to its official finish in Delta Junction, Alaska, and its unofficial finish in Fairbanks, Alaska. Each town claims and “end of the road” status and has a much-photographed milepost marker outside its visitors center.
The highway was built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in eight months working south from Delta Junction, Alaska, north and south from Whitehorse, Yukon, and north from Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The building of the highway was recognized as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century.
Two major sections of the highway were connected on Sept. 23, 1942, at Contact Creek, Milepost 588.1. The last link was completed Nov. 20, 1942 northwest of Kluane Lake, at Milepost 1200.9. After World War II, the Alaska Highway was turned over to civilian contractors for widening and graveling, replacing log bridges with steel and rerouting at many points. Road improvements continue today.
We’re heading into the area of the “midnight sun”. It is still light out at 10 p.m. or later.
July 10, 2007 -- Clear blue sky, bright and sunny. About 65 or 68 outside, inside motorhome temperature was up to 72 as we had the electric heater on for awhile.
About 9:30 a.m. we left the camp ground and drove into town to the local Wal-Mart to shop for food and several items. They no longer carry the mosquito net hat covers and “shirts”; will need to get elsewhere, especially for Howard.
We then returned to the big sign for start of AlCan Highway by the traffic circle and the visitors center. We took pictures and talked with others there for the same purpose. We then walked downtown Dawson Creek. Tourist from Montana and Chester, England, took our picture and I took their picture with the Mile 0 Post in center of the intersection of 10th Street and 102nd Avenue. We continued to the post office and purchased stamps then returned to motorhome. Howard used a stamp to mail his quarterly tax form to the city of Tempe. We again visited the Dawson Creek Art Gallery and Northern Treasures Gift Shop located in one of five grain elevators built in the early 1940’s. We returned to Mile “0” Campground about 1 p.m. A strong breeze blowing, but sunny and nice.
In afternoon Sue and Skip (the wagon masters) came over with our trip log book, and lots of information …. plus the release forms we knew that we would be signing. Everything is VERY well organized, superb amount of good solid information. Susan quite favorably impressed (as was Howard). The Fantasy RV Tours appears to be the way to go. Roy, the tail gunner, came over and went over the rig with Howard, plus put was on front and back and place the Fantasy RV Tours sign and our number in the group, we are number 5. The tours take a max of 20 rigs plus wagonmaster and tailgunner. Our trip has thirteen rigs plus wagon master and tail gunner, for total of 15 all together.
After dinner those of us here early all met at the motorhome of the wagon masters and the tail gunner for snacks and introductions. They went around the circle and had each of us tell our favorite trip, plus names and where from. We broke up about 9 p.m. and then we (Howard and Susan) downloaded the pictures we took today at Mile Post 0 and the start if Alaskan Highway sign in downtown Dawson Creek … population about 12,000.
July 11, 2007 -- Another sunny day with bright blue sky and some clouds. We went into Dawson Creek to the Canadian Tire store … rather like a Wal-Mart or Target … much more than a tire store. We purchased our “bug jackets” with attached hoods (that cover whole head and face), plus two cans of insect repellent. We are told we may need these jackets one or two days, yuk. That was our only stop and we returned to space 55 in the Mile “0” Campground on the north edge of Dawson Creek.
Susan gave herself her Intron-A (interferon alfa 2-b) injection at noon instead of waiting until 10 p.m. or later as usual at home. Howard got out his air compressor and checked all of the tires …. also checked all of the fuses and other electrical things. Howard set up a tri-pod and cable up on the roof of our motorhome connected to the computer so he can do some time lap photography of the sun set tonight. It is sunny until 11 p.m. or so here.
Those of us here met again at 7:30 p.m. between the large motorhomes of the wagon masters and the tail gunners. Went around the circle and told what we had done in our prior lives (pre retirement), nice mix of people.
July 12, 2007 -- Absolutely beautiful day, clear blue sky, bright sun. About 9:30 we drove in to town (we are camped just on the northern edge of Dawson Creek), topped off our fuel gasoline tank at an ESSO station and then went to Safeway for groceries. Our major things are milk, water, bread, cheese, ham, Diet Dr. Pepper, and some Stouffer’s frozen foods, today also purchased some yummy Bing cherries. We returned to the campsite and Howard reconnected our electricity.
Talked with the wagonmasters and tail gunners. Gave Sue (wife of wagonmaster) the list of optional things we would like to do. Of course, since “organization” is Susan’s middle name we were the first to turn in our list. MOST things were covered in our initial fee --- all campgrounds, special boat rides, special dinners, tours, trips for the same. Each of us is responsible for our gasoline, food, and of course any extras and souvenirs we purchase.
It is now noon, the last of our group just pulled in, they are driving a pick-up with camper on it and Oregon tags, so we are NOT the smallest rig. There is a retired Marine and wife from Las Vegas who also have a Winnebago about our size and are NOT pulling a tow vehicle.
There are a total of fourteen in this caravan (do NOT drive together, leave in groups of three) …. Skip and Sue the Wagonmasters who are full-timer RVers and use South Dakota as home …. Ray and Joyce the Tail Gunner ware call Colorado home. Then there are the twelve of us who signed on for this 48-Day Heart of Alaska Tour. We are from: Colorado 1, Nevada 3, Arizona 1, Florida 3, New York 1, Oregon 2 and Texas 1.
Tonight we shall again meet at 7:30 p.m. and shall go over tomorrow which is the official start of this tour.
July 13, 2007 -- Beautiful clear blue sky, but HOT, especially for here. Yesterday the high here was 100 degrees … a real heat wave, toady 95 degrees.
Today most of the fellows fixed rigs … dumped holding tanks and did other odds and ends getting ready to head out on the Alaskan Highway tomorrow.
Instead of meeting at 7:30 p.m. as we had the last three nights, our briefing and group meeting was held at 3:30 p.m. We talked about tonight and tomorrow and were given yellow highlighters and the page of info for tomorrow to go along with our Trip Log book with the daily schedule, information about gas, food, turn-outs, special things to see and do along the highway, plus a map of area we shall spend the night in and info on the nights campground.
Car pools were formed. We rode with Ray and Opal Reed from Sheridan, OR. We all met at the sign re: start of Alaskan Highway by the traffic circle, visitors center and art gallery. Took a group photo for Fantasy RV Tours. Then we all drove to the George Dawson Inn where we looked at the many historic photographs, then went in for a very nice buffet dinner (both chicken and roast beef). We all had plenty to eat and a nice variety of chocolate deserts.
After dinner a lady from the visitor’s center gave a very interesting presentation of the area, the highway, comparing the US, Canada and other things. Howard and I were each given a pin of crossed Canadian and USA flags (as we were from Arizona). My name was drawn for one of five small door prizes; mine were post-cards … which I like very much. Then all present were given a pin of the Milepost 0 marker and we could take more for grandchildren, I took five pins.
July 14, 2007 -- We were to start leaving at 7 a.m. But, everyone was eager and lined up by 6:30 a.m. The Wagonmaster #1 and four others were sent out at 6:40 a.m. We were in the next group of four rigs and left at 6:55 a.m.
Last night lightening and rain storm with strong winds. Howard and about half of the group heard the storm … Howard was awake but I didn’t hear anything.
Mostly farm land and then forest and mountains on the drive today. Like Alberta, British Columbia, is big into oil and gas exploration. We saw a number of small refineries burning off natural gas.
Stopped and took photographs of beautiful lavender flowers (several kinds) above Peace River Bridge and several other locations. The Peace River Bridge has metal grating as flooring.
Near Fort St. John (population 17,000, elec. 2,275) we stopped at Shepherd’s Inn Family Restaurant. Most of us had their specialty, huge blueberry pancakes, but not Howard who stuck with us usual omelet containing ham.
The fourteen rigs spread out and we didn’t see others often. Howard and I stopped at Sasquatch Crossing, a cute business and took photographs with the very large carved Sasquatch.
When we stopped at Buckinghorse River Lodge for gasoline, three others from our caravan also pulled in. We were soon on our way, stopping next at a small turn-out (rest area) with more beautiful lavender flowers. Gary and Cindy (from FL) also stopped and later Ron & Joyce the tail-gunners (who bring up the read).
There were many small creeks, crossed Small Beaver Creek several times and also Big Beaver Creek. Susan saw beaver dams twice on the creeks.
South of Fort Nelson we passed Duke Energy the world’s largest natural gas processing plant on one side of the highway; and on the other side was Petrosul a recovery plant processing a by-product of natural gas, sulfur, into a marketable, pellet form.
We arrived at the Fort Nelson Truck Stop and RV Park about 2:20 p.m. having driven 274.3 miles. We were assigned space 4 with all hook-ups, we only used the electric. Howard and I then drove up the road a bit to Trapper’s Den, wildlife emporium, mile 293, Alaska Highway, run by John & Cindy Wells. http://www.trappersden.ca. We took pictures outside and inside and we purchased a skunk skin hat for Howard, a tee-shirt, two books and several post-cards. In one of the books Cindy showed us a photo of her mother (age 17) in 1942. We then returned to the RV Park.
Most of the people went into town to the Heritage Museum, but we elected to stay with motorhome and turn on the A/C, as they are also having a heat wave. Susan fixed egg beaters with green chili’s and mushrooms for supper along with milk. We were to have eaten in the truck stop café, but it closes at 4 p.m.
Fort Nelson is surrounded by the Muskwa, Nelson and Prophet Rivers on the sheltered side of the Rocky Mountains. The whole area is heavily forested with diamond willows, white spruce, poplar and aspen. Fort Nelson was developed as a supply post for miners, trappers and natives. All the forts were destroyed by fire, flood or unfriendly natives. Trappers still harvest beaver, wolverine, weasel, wolf, fox, lynx, mink, muskrat and marten skins from the surrounding areas.
Group met in the rec hall at 7 p.m. for a brief on what to expect tomorrow and to get an information page for our trip logs. Each couple was given a 5” x 7” copy of the group photography taken with the start of Alaska Highway sign in Dawson Creek. Tonight we had question four …. at earlier get together we’ve had to tell: 1. our favorite trip, 2. what we did in our former life, 3. what our hobbies are and tonight 4. how we met. The questions help to get better acquainted with everyone.
July 15, 2007 -- Left Fort Nelson Truck Stop and RV Park starting at 8 a.m. we left at 8:12 a.m. and headed north on BC Hwy 97, the “Northern Route”. Our first stop was at Kledo Creek, then Steamboat Creek. Tall evergreens, aspen and other trees. Beautiful scenery … mountains, creeks, river, animals.
We all stopped at the summit of Steamboat Mountain, elevation 3,500 ft., but it appeared higher, it was the scenery that all of us came to northern Canada and Alaska to see. The Northern Rocky Mountains are breath taking. The next stop was at Tetsa River Outfitters for huge cinnamon buns and other goodies baked daily. Lighting struck a tree by the main building Fri. night so their credit card machine was down, cash only. Their campground was lovely along the Tetsa River. www.canadianrockymountainadventures.ca.
We saw several beaver dams during the drive today. We saw many Caribou today; they lick the salt from the roadway surface and do not move for vehicles. Saw several groups of Stone Sheep, which were wonderful and adorable.
We both took dozens and dozens of digital photographs of: Stone Mountain, Summit Lake, McDonald River, Tesla River, Toad River (flows to the Arctic Ocean), Folded Mountain, various creeks and streams, plus the many Stone Sheep, many caribou, and one young moose that bounded away from the road! Stone Sheep are found only in northern British Columbia and the southern Yukon
We ate a late lunch at the Toad River Lodge after getting gasoline. www.toadriverlodge.com, they have over 7,000 caps tacked to their ceiling. Howard had a basic cheeseburger and Susan had a great buffalo burger….too much food, but good!
We arrived at the very beautiful Muncho Lake that is nestled between the Sentinel Range on the east and Terminal Range to the west, Highway 97 drives along the edge. The lake is seven miles long and a mile wide, located at 2,680 feet elevation, the deep blue and green colors are attributed to copper oxide leaching into the lake.
We are in site #24, parked facing the lake on the very edge of the shoreline. These sites are the campground with the very special Northern Rockies Lodge.
The 7 p.m. daily briefing meeting was held inside a log “hut” on the lakes edge due to threatening rain. When it didn’t rain, a fire was built in the camp-fire ring area and some of the group (including Howard) roasted marshmallows and visited.
The Milepost says to use caution as there are bears in the area. Others have seen a few bears while driving, but so far we haven’t seen any bears. We have seen many bears over the years in Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and last fall in Sequoia National Park, California.
July 16, 2007 -- Light rain off and on all night. Love the campsite right on edge of beautiful Muncho Lake. The Great Northern Lodge, like many places, has a grass landing strip and also a float airplane.
Our caravan left the campground at 8 a.m. for the 30 mile drive north to the world famous Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park. About half of our group went into the springs; others of us took the quarter mile stroll (each way) on a boardwalk through marsh land to the springs, and additional walks around the hotsprings. The water ranges from 108 degrees to 126 degrees F. “Liard” is the French world for poplar.
On the drive to Liard Hotsprings we drove across “Gallolpin Gertie” the 1,143 long suspension bridge over the Liard River. We also enjoyed the beautiful Trout River, Coal River and other smaller rivers. The Liard River is large, about like the Missouri River where it empties into the Mississippi River above St. Louis, MO.
Today we saw several large groups of Bison, including some young calves; a group of five wild horses; and a fox with white tipped tail cross a bridge in front of us.
We ate lunch in the motorhome at a turn out overlooking the fast moving Trout River. Later most of us stopped at a large turn out to check for ripe raspberries … bears and/or tourist had gotten all that were ripe although we saw some still green. Howard and Susan stopped at the official “Welcome to the Yukon” sign on the British Columbia / Yukon border and arrived at the Downtown RV Park in Watson Lake, Yukon about 2:15 p.m.
The Yukon Territory takes its name from the Indian world Youcon, meaning “big river”. It was first explored in the 1840’s by the Hudson’s Bay Co., which established several trading posts. The Territory, which was then considered a district of the Northwest Territories, remained largely untouched until the Klondike Gold Rush, when thousands of people flooded into the country and communities sprang up overnight. The sudden expansion led to the official formation of the Yukon Territory on June 13, 1898.
Watson Lake was originally known as Fish Lake. It was renamed after Frank Watson who settled here in 1898. Watson was born in California and had come north to join the gold rush, but after a year on the trail, he abandoned his pursuit of riches and decided to settle down in this beautiful place. He built a cabin on the lake shore, married an Indian woman, Adele Stone, and made his living hunting and trapping.
Earlier on our trip each couple signed a wood “sign” and some of the group went to the Sign Post Forest to place the sign. This “Forest” was started in 1942 by a US Army solider, Carl K.Lindley of Danville, IL. While working on the Alaska Highway, he erected a sign indicating the way and number of miles to this home town. Through the years visitors have continued to add more signs. As of September 2006 there were 61,298 signs in the Sign Post Forest.
While some went to the Sign Post Forest, we went to the Northern Lights Centre www.northernlightscentre.ca, to view the good space exhibits and attend the 3 p.m. show. This is the only planetarium in North America featuring the myth and science of the northern lights. Using advanced video and laser technology, the centre offers presentations on the aurora borealis inside a 100-seat “Electric Sky” theatre environment.
At 6 p.m. we all gathered in a screen tent for cook-out / pot-luck. The tour provided hamburgers, buns, the trimmings, bean and potato salad … the rest of us filled in, I took a fruit salad. Don, the tail-gunner griller the hamburgers. After eating we had our briefing about what we’ll see tomorrow, and were given packets of information from the Yukon Visitors Center and certificates saying we shall be known as” Honorary Sourdough”. Some took games to the tent to play; others took their laptop computers to the porch / patio at the office, while Howard got us connected here in our motorhome.
July 17, 2007 -- We left the campground at 8 a.m. and headed north on Hwy 97 that almost immediately became Hwy 1. The wide fast moving beautiful rivers became even wider. The highway has been super good, almost all well painted and smooth. Through Alberta and British Columbia the sides are mowed …. possibly 50 to 100 feet on both sides of the highway. We are very pleased with the LOW traffic density … most of the time we do not see any traffic ahead of us or behind us. We are pleasantly surprised with the small amount of truck traffic …. oil tankers and semi’s, we expected much heavier truck use.
Soon we were viewing the snowy Cassiar Mountains to our west and in front of us. The scenery appears to get better with each mile we travel … we LOVE IT!!
Many homes, storage buildings and businesses have bright red or turquoise roofs, we suppose so they can be seen in the winter snows.
We all stopped (not at same time) at the Rancheria Recreation area and took the 10 minute walk through boreal forest to both of the Rancheria Falls … well worth the short hike. The Alaska Highway followed the Rancheria River most of today. The Rancheria River was named by Cassiar miners working Sayyea Creek In 1875, site of a minor gold rush at the time. Rancheria is an old Californian or Mexican miners’ term in Spanish, meaning a native village or settlement. It is pronounced ran-che-REE-ah.
We surely enjoyed the beautiful rivers …. Upper Liard, Rancheria, Swift and Smart …. stopping frequently to take photographs. We had lunch at noon by Morley Lake.
The Continental Divide divides two of the largest drainage systems in North America, the Yukon River and the Mackenzie River watersheds. Water draining west from this point forms the Swift River. This river drains into the Yukon River and continues a northwest journey of 3,680 kilometres (2,300 miles) to the Bering Sea (Pacific Ocean). Water that drains to the east forms the Rancheria River which flows into the Liard River then the Mackenzie River. These waters flow northward and empty into the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean) after a journey of 4,200 kilometres (2,650 miles). Pacific salmon migrate up the Yukon River watershed providing a reliable and relatively abundant food resource.
Just before entered Teslin, Yukon Terrirtory, we crossed the longest water span bridge on the Alaska Highway at 1,917 feet … beautiful bridge with metal grating for flooring and no painted lines. The bridge crosses the Nisutlin Bay on lovely Teslin Lake. Our campground is just across the bridge … Yukon Motel and Lakeshore RV Park. www.yukonmotel.com The community of 450 people was originally a summer home for Tlingit from coastal Alaska and British Columbia. Teslin was founded in 1903 as a trading post where the Nisutlin River meets Teslin Lake. Teslin is still home for one of the largest native populations in the Yukon Territory. Teslin is the Tlingit word for Long Narrow water. The lake is 78 miles (125 km) long, 2 miles wide with a maximum depth of 700 feet.
We drove several miles north of the town to the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre. This is a modern new building with five totem poles outside … they presented the culture, history and art of the Tlingit people in a very interesting manner. On the way back to our campground we stopped at a small market for milk and cereal.
We visited the very impressive Wildlife Museum (and gift shop) here at the campground. Next we connected to the internet and got our mail and started work on photographs from the past several days. We had space 23 by the lake.
Soon it was 7 p.m. and time for our evening briefing (about tomorrow) and the tour provided watermelon to eat. There are 14 rigs with a total of 28 people. 20 of us shall meet tomorrow morning and have breakfast at Mutluk Annie’s Salmon Bake restaurant about nine miles north of town on the Alaska Highway. Most of us will have the all-you-can-eat Yukon breakfast.
Those of us up late had a real treat tonight. About 10:45 p.m. Howard noticed a rainbow outside, so naturally we both took our cameras and went outside. We saw both “legs” of the rainbow, and then it filled in at the top for 180 degrees, then a second 180 degree rainbow formed. Everyone awake came outside to view the unique and rare doubt, full, rainbows by the lake! Howard took video and still photographs, I took 21 photos, Howard went on to bed and I resized my photos and fixed and email to friends and family with four rainbow photos and one of clouds.
July 18, 2007 -- We left the campground at 8:30 a.m. and drove to Mukluk Annie’s Salmon Bake for an all-you-can-eat breakfast including blueberry pancakes. Fourteen of us at one long table and six at another table. After eating many of us walked along viewing the beautiful Teslin Lake, mountains across the lake, and Fireweed flowers in full bloom.
We continued north on the Alaska Highway. Short wait at the Teslin River Bridge that is being refloored, so one very narrow lane, long waits. The bridge is a 1,770 foot span the third longest water span bridge on the Alaska Highway. It was constructed very high so steamers could pass underneath, since all freight and supplies came this way from Whitehorse.
Viewed the very beautiful Squanga Lake and the large Marsh Lake, both with very blue water. We stopped at the Yukon River Bridge and walked around ….. some wild roses were in bloom and we saw the first dam built on the Yukon River. A short distance before the Yukon River there was a highway sign stating that it is 1010 miles to Fairbanks. We arrived at Pioneer RV Park about 1 p.m. in Whitehorse and were soon parked in space 100, having driven 104 miles today.
Whitehorse has been capital of Yukon Territory since 1953 with a population of 22,000 and an elevation of 2,305 feet and is located on the upper reaches of the Yukon River in Canada’s sub-arctic. The mean July temperature is 57 degrees F. More than two-thirds of the population of Yukon Territory lives in Whitehorse where the world-famous Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) territorial headquarters is located.
Fantasy RV Tours provided a catered buffet dinner tonight in the campground. Susan injected Intron-A (the once a week form of Interferon Alfa 2-b)
July 19, 2007 -- We left at 9:30 a.m., taking Opal and Ray Rice with us. We went to the Beringia Interpretive Centre. www.beringia.com This multimedia exposition features life-size exhibits of animals of the last ice age, interactive computer kiosks, and dioramas depicting the unique landscape, flora and fauna of Beringia. Highlights of the Centre are a full-size cast of the largest woolly mammoth ever recovered and a reconstruction of the 24,000 year old Bluefish Caves archaeological site.
We viewed the Centre’s half-hour film which combined breath-taking scenes of modern-day Yukon and computer animation with rare archival photos. We observed the results of scientific research work in the Old Crow region of northern Yukon – an area often referred to as a “palaeontological supermarket”. We heard stories of North America’s First People who ancestors actually lived in the ancient world of Beringia.
The lost sub-continent of Beringia dates back to the last great ice age. While the rest of Canada lay frozen under massive sheets of ice, a region encompassing eastern Siberia, Alaska and Yukon remained untouched by glaciers. Sea levels dropped by as much as 125 meters and grassy tundra appeared, supporting an astonishing variety of animal and plant life. The Beringian steppe was home to a wide range of herbivores and carnivores. Most symbolic of Beringia is the woolly mammoth, predecessor of the modern Asiatic elephant. Standing three metres high at the shoulders – the height of a basketball hoop – these hairy, jump-backed giants roamed the steppe for thousands of years. They fed on the tundra’s tough, dry grasses, and eluded predators – chiefly human hunters.
After leaving Beringia we went to the towing company / garage that had towed Ray and Opals truck from Teslin … it was fixed and ready for them to pick up. We all returned to the campground.
The tour bus arrived at 1:30 p.m. and we were all off. Sightseeing as we drove along the banks of the fast flowing Yukon River. We went to the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site a Canadian heritage place. The S.S. Klondike was the last sternwheeler ship to travel the Yukon River from Whitehorse north to Dawson City. We viewed an interesting 20 minute video telling the history of the ship and era. Then we split in to two groups and had an hour tour through the ship.
Our next stop on the tour of Whitehorse was the Whitehorse Rapids Dam and Fishway – fish ladder and hatchery, built and operated by the Yukon Electrical Co. At the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 or 11,000 years ago, the great glaciers melted and the Yukon River linked up with the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Sea. It took thousands of years for the glaciers to melt and many more centuries for the melt water to be clear of glacial silts. Once the silts settled and the water was clear, salmon began to migrate up the river. Until that time, the people in this area had been hunters. They may have originally come here following the herds of caribou across the Bering land bridge to the ice-free area of the northern Yukon and Alaska, known as Beringia. As the ice receded, vast grasslands opened up, drawing the grazing animals further to the south. When the salmon began to run in the rivers, however, the people soon became very proficient fisher folk, making the annual migration of salmon part of their yearly harvesting routine. www.yukonenergy.ca
After the Fishway we stopped at the Whitehorse, Yukon, Visitors Center where we saw an interesting 15 minute video about the Yukon. After that we continued our bus tour of the downtown area of Whitehorse and returned to the campground / RV Park about 5 p.m.
Some people were going back into town for a salmon bake before the Frantic Follies we’re gong to night, but this is the fourth Thursday. This morning Howard flushed my implanted “port”, and after returning from the bus tour her mixed and injected my every 28 day shot of Sandostatin LAR.
We rode in to town with Dick and Bunny Adams to the Westmark Hotel. Our Fantasy RV Tour had reserved seats for Frantic Follies a delightful vaudeville revue / gold rush variety show of entertainment. We were seated in the second row for the show that began at 8:30 and concluded at 10:15 p.m. www.franticfollies.com. This is the 38th year of the show. Lots of good laughter, singing, can-can girls and even a number with eight banjos! The theater seats 450 people. Bunny suggested we stop at Dairy Queen but they were closed for the night. Of course it is daylight outside and will be until after 11 p.m. We’ll have longer and longer days the further north we go. After we returned to Pioneer RV Park a light rain / mist began …. Just as the weather service had forecast.
July 20, 2007 -- It rained during the night, last night, cleared off this morning. We spent the day in Whitehorse, Yukon. We went to the Real Canadian Superstore, as everyone said it is mostly better than the local Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart here doesn’t have a grocery section. Susan wasn’t favorably impressed with the store. Like the Safeway in Dawson Creek, BC, the grocery carts are locked and you must unlock with a one dollar coin, which you get back after use.
We drove further downtown and parked in the RV lot at the Visitors Center. We did some shopping and walked around. Mac’s Firewood Books is a marvelous bookstore with great selections and huge magazine section; we couldn’t get out without spending more than $100. www.macsbooks.ca www.yukonbooks.com.
We visited several jewelry and gift store, and then made a few more purchases in the Paradise Alley Gift shop. After shopping we went to Dairy Queen for lunch. After lunch we walked around and took pictures of the skyscraper log cabin and other things downtown. We then moved the motorhome to a parking lot on the Yukon River by the riverboat S.S. Klondike and walked along the river for awhile. Then we sat in the motorhome and looked at some of the books we purchased.
We next drove to MV Schwatka Yukon River Cruises on Schwatka Lake, a part of the Yukon River. www.yukonrivercruises.com We were on the 4 p.m. cruise up Schwatka Lake, Miles Canyon and the Yukon River. The first 30 minutes were great and we were seated on the top of the boat and not inside below. Then the rain started …. and it increased and increased. Beautiful Miles Canyon and views, but damped somewhat with the rain …. Returned to the dock about 6 p.m. The rain stopped about 7:30 p.m. and the sun came out again.
In 1883 US Army LT. Frederick Schwatka led a small expedition on a raft down the Yukon River 3,200 kilometers to the Bering Sea. Schwatka Lake was created by the construction of the Whitehorse dam in the 1950’s, which flooded the “white horse” rapids. This lake is an important resting area for migrating waterfowl, which many mammals such as coyote, beaver and mule deer may also be seen. We didn’t see any animals, but did see a large beaver dam and many birds. A footbridge crosses the Miles Canyon.
Our evening meeting was held at 8 p.m. to go over the Trip Log and tomorrow.
July 21, 2007 -- We left Pioneer RV Park in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory at 8:06 a.m. on Highway 1 for 14 miles then turned onto Highway 2, the Klondike Highway headed north towards Dawson City, YT.
The Klondike Loop” refers to the 323 mile / 520-km-long stretch of Yukon Highway 2 (the North Klondike Highway, also sometimes called the “Mayo Road”), from its junction with the Alaska Highway north of Whitehorse to Dawson City; the 7-mile / 127-km Top of the World Highway (Yukon Highway 9); and the 96 miles / 154 kms of the Taylor Highway (Alaska Route 5) that connects with the Alaska Highway near Tok. Very small amount of traffic on the two lane black-top highway… fairly smooth with a few spots of loose gravel.
We drove along beautiful Fox Lake and Braeburn Lake. Everyone stopped at Braeburn Lodge to purchase the HUGE cinnamon buns …. one bun enough for four people. These cinnamon buns were shown in the video shown at the Whitehorse Visitors Center.
We made a number of photo stops including photos at Conglomerate Mountain and Twin Lakes. The Conglomerates were formed 185 million years ago (early Jurassic period) by volcanic mud flows.
The remains of Montague House were interesting … Montague House was one of 52 typical early day roadhouses for the stagecoach route between Whitehorse and Dawson City.
We passed through Carmacks, YT. Carmacks was named for George Carmack, who established a trading post here in 1885. In 1896 he unearthed a 5-dollar pan of coarse gold, during a time when a 10-cent pan was considered a good find. That same winter, he extracted more than a ton of gold from the creek, which he renamed Bonanza Creek, and its tributary, Eldorado. When word of Carmack’s discovery reached the outside world the following spring, it set off the Klondike Gold Rush.
About 130 miles north of Whitehorse we stopped at the overlook for Five Finger Rapids of the Yukon River. There is a ¾ mile walk, with 219 steep steps near the parking lot that goes to an overlook platform nearer the rapids of the river. Howard and about half of the group made the trek down to the platform and the ¾ mile back up to the parking lot. We also ate lunch at this stop.
Five Finger Rapids named by early miners for the 5 channel, or fingers, formed by the rock pillars. They are a navigational hazard. The safest passage is through the nearest or east passage.
We made a couple of more photo stops. There was White River ash layer that is dated to 700 AD and is used by archeologist for dating artifacts.
We had a small patch of loose gravel and a semi-truck did not slow and a small rock hit our windshield making a small crack. We only met a few trucks and other vehicles all day.
About 3:15 p.m. we arrived at Whispering Willow RV Park at Stewart Crossing, just before the Stewart River. Stewart Crossing was the site of a trading post established by Arthur Harper, Alfred Mayo and Jack McQuesten to support gold mining in the area. Later a roadhouse was built here as part of the Whitehorse to Dawson overland stage route. Stewart Crossing also functioned as a fuel stop for the riverboats and during the 1930s was a transfer point for the silver ore barges.
Our evening brief was held around a campfire at 7:30 p.m. Howard and I sprayed on bug repellant for mosquitoes and weren’t bothered …. several people wore their bug netting jackets.
Howard downloaded four days of photos. Susan downloaded photos she took today as she downloads daily and places in a folder with the date. The internet had been up and down but stayed up for awhile and Susan sent four messages with photos.
July 22, 2007 -- We left the Whispering Willows RV Park at Stewart Crossing (a gas station and the campground were it), crossed the Stewart River and continued on our Klondike Loop trek. The highway was mostly paved, two lane, blacktop, with area of gravel. Where it was gravel we felt it was very good and not that rough … until the last patch and then after that the blacktop had many dips and swells from the winter freezes…. frost heaves.
We stopped at Moose Creek Lodge to take photos of the six foot Max the Mosquito and Murray the Moose. www.moosecreek-lodge.com. We continued stopping at Gravel Lake and the Tintina Trench. The latter is the largest geological fault in North America, and is one of two major travel corridors for migratory birds in the Yukon. Soon the highway had the beautiful Klondike River on our right side.
Today we saw one wolf that started across the highway, saw us, and reversed course. We also saw dead moose that looked like it had been hit by a vehicle a short time before.
We arrived at Bonanza Gold RV park www.bonanzagold.ca at 11:30 p.m. on the edge of Dawson City, 108.3 miles from Stewart Crossing.
Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada, is located 165 miles / 266 km south of the Arctic Circle on the Yukon River at its junction with the Klondike River, and 333 miles northwest of Whitehorse. The current population is approximately 2,000. This was once the summer fish camp of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in (The People of the River) people (now referred to as the Han People). Dawson City was Yukon’s first capital, when the Yukon became a separate territory in 1898. In 1953 the federal government moved the capital to Whitehorse along with 800 civil servants. www.dawsoncity.ca
In July the average Celsius temperature is +15.6 and there are 20 hours of daylight.
Some trivia …. Gold is 19 times heavier than water. 88% of all gold mined in the Yukon comes from the Dawson area. A gold nugget was unearthed in the Klondike that weighted over 72 oz. It was nearly 6” long. In 1898, the nugget was valued at $1,158. Today, it would be worth well over $30,000. More than 250 sternwheelers plied Yukon waters from 1896 to the mid 1950s. At one time, there were up to 70 of the majestic riverboats on the Yukon River alone.
The Yukon government estimates the mammal population as: Arctic Fox 50, Black Bear 10,000, Caribou 190,000 (Woodland 25,000 and Barren Ground 165,000), Deer 500, Elk 100, Grizzly Bear 6,000 – 7,000, Moose 65,000, Mountain Goat 1,700, Muskoxen 200, Thinhorn Sheep 22,000 (Dall Sheep 19,000, Stone Sheep 3,000), Wolves 4,500 and Wood Bison 230.
We car pooled to the Diamond Tooth Gertie casino and show. We rode with Opal and Ray Rice … and sat at a front (stage side) table with them and Norm and Anne Wells. Nice song and dance show, no humor, just music and can-can dancing …. very good dancers.
At 10 p.m. car pools left for “Midnight Dome” a spot on the mountain overlooking the Klondike Valley and Dawson City. Again we rode with Opal and Ray Rice. Great views of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers and the town, but it remained over-cast so we didn’t get to see the sun set at midnight.
July 23, 2007 -- Went to bed about 1 a.m. last night, it was still light outside! Awoke this morning to gentle rain so went back to sleep. Before time to leave for our walking tour the sun broke through the clouds and it turned into another beautiful day. Our group car pooled in to town and met a bit after 10 a.m. in the Palace Grand Theater. A costumed interpreter then led our Fantasy RV Tour group on a 90 minute walk, and history lesson, through downtown Dawson City. Ann the interpreter was very good and gave many insights into the history of the area and the “gold rush”. We saw many buildings, the first funeral home, visited the ornate post office that opened in 1901, and the bank among other things. Over two dozen buildings in Dawson City are Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada.
After the tour it was noon. Ray and Opal Rice, Howard and I went to Sourdough Joe’s restaurant for lunch …. good but somewhat costly. After lunch we did a bit of shopping along Front Street. We (Howard and Susan) purchased an opal pendant and silver chain for Susan at the Amber Casa; and looked at the gold nugget/Canadian diamond jewelry at Klondike Nugget and Ivory Shop www.knis.ca
On the drive back to the RV park the Rice’s truck developed engine trouble, so we left it at a Napa Auto Parts store / garage and walked back to our motorhome.
The daily brief about the road to Tok and on into Fairbanks was held at 2:30 p.m.
At 3 p.m. car pools left for Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site of Canada. We rode with Bob and Pat Farris from New York. Dredge No. 4 if located 13 km (8 miles) up historic Bonanza Creek. This is the largest wooden hulled, bucket line dredge in North America and is representative of the numerous machines that worked the valleys of the goldfields. This dredge was in operations from 1905 to 1960. The one hour tour leader was quite informative. It started a gentle rain as we returned from the tour, so a nice evening to stay inside, work on photographs and various things.
July 24. 2007 -- We stayed in the campground until about 10 a.m. and then drove into Dawson City, Yukon Territory. We drove past the Jack London Cabin and the Robert Service Cabin and then parked downtown and went to the visitor’s information center. After the latter we went to a hardware store where Howard purchased a brush and long handle to use in washing the motorhome. After that we visited various stores on 2nd Street and later Front Street (fronts along the Yukon River). The camera shop did not stock the camera filter Howard is looking for.
We returned to Klondike Nugget and Ivory Store www.knis.ca that we visited yesterday, after going into additional jewelry stores today. We purchased a gold nugget with tiny Canadian diamond and a gold chain for Susan. After that purchase we visited a few more stores and then a grocery store for milk and a few items. As Howard said, “We came, we saw, we bought.”
We got in line for the free Yukon River Ferry at 1:35 p.m. with only one RV and one pick up truck in front of us. The ferry arrived just after we got in line so we were on the next trip …. this ferry can carry two 18-wheel semi rigs or two large motorhomes at one time. We then drove 11.4 miles up the Top of The World Highway to an open area for the night. Although Fantasy had paid for three nights in Dawson City, there is often a three hour line to cross on the ferry in the mornings, so we were given the option of staying in the campground and taking our chances on Wed. morning, or going crossing during the afternoon and dry camping for one night. We all chose to dry camp. We were the first to arrive, followed closely by Len and Joy Winter from FL.
Warren (our retired Marine) fixed a rock fire ring and scrounged up wood for a fire. Most of us were at the fire and Howard had been asked to play banjo when it started to lightly rain. He played a couple of song with Bunny holding an umbrella over him. Then the rain came down a bit harder and we even had some small hail. With the hail and heavier rain the group broke up for the night. While still outside (out of the rain though) we had another 180 degree rainbow!
July 25, 2007 -- We left the dry camp at 7:50 a.m. PDT (but 6:50 a.m. Alaska time) and started our 175 mile trek to Tok, Alaska via the Top of The World Highway, Yukon Highway 9. To Alaskans it is the Taylor Highway, but to everyone who has driven the beautiful road, it is known as The Top of the World Highway. This 174 mile / 278 km highway is winding and narrow in many places.
The free George Black ferry carries passengers and vehicles in summer across the Yukon River between Dawson City and the beginning of the Top of the World Highway. It is seasonally maintained gravel road open in the summer only.
The highway has a bad reputation as being loose gravel, pot-holes, no shoulders in many places, rough and very dusty. We were in luck, due to rain last night there was hardly any dust and many of us found the rough much better than advertised.
After going through US Customs on the border we stopped at the beautiful welcome to Alaska sign. Our caravan tour started July 13, plus Howard and Susan left AZ on June 28, and now finally on July 25 we all entered Alaska.
While stopped at the sign taking pictures a small herd of caribou appeared to our delight. Susan got two good photographs and Howard got several good video clips of the caribou herd. Soon we were on our way to Chicken, AK (population 37) where we stopped at the Goldpanner store and to eat lunch in our motorhomes, no restaurant but we were told next summer they will have a restaurant.
Author Ann Purdy who wrote the good Alaska book Tisha lives in Chicken.
We continued on and joined the Alaska Highway for the last part of our journey in to Tok, AK, arriving about 4 p.m. Alaska time. We filled with gas and then came to Tok RV Village and got in line for the vehicle wash (for dust) which took much longer than expected as a Tracks caravan had arrived a short time before we did. Howard helped wash all of the motorhomes and tow vehicles. When our unit was completed I drove it to our camp site, #512.
About 6 p.m. Howard returned as all motorhomes were washed. We then drove to Fast Eddy’s Restaurant and enjoyed steak dinners. Back to Tok RV Village, next door, Howard let Susan out at the office and we took the motorhome back to our site to park.
We got ice cream cones for desert and the free entertainment began at 7 p.m. Howard was asked to go get his banjo and sit in with the people playing music and he did for awhile. The “Songs of the Last Frontier” by Dave Stancliff accompanied by Stephen Mattson ran an hour. www.alaskamusicartists.com Some of the original songs they did were: Welcome To The Last Frontier, It’s A Moose!, My Homesite in Alaska and many others …. all were good.
At 8 p.m. Fantasy RV Tour group had our briefing for tomorrow and the next several days in Fairbanks outside at picnic tables.
As our brief was ending Dave Stancliff wanted to know if Howard would like to jam for awhile. Of course Howard was pleased. They played and sang for almost two hours and had an audience the whole time, more the first hour but some until the end. He gave Howard an autographed CD (I had already purchased it at the store), “Alaska Time” later then I told him I would like to trade the one I purchased, he said no give it to someone and he gave me another CD ….. we’ll give the duplicate CD to Ron the tail-gunner on the trip and a big fan of the music.
After they stopped jamming, Ron, Howard and I walked back to our sites in the campground about 10:30 p.m., and a RED FOX walked out into the road, stood looking at us and then sauntered on into the back part of the campground.
Howard needed to check business email; I gave myself my weekly Intron-A injection, brought my diet info up to date and starting to catch up on a few other things. It is now 12:58 a.m. so I had better join Howard in bed and finish this another day. We have a special dinner and show tomorrow night when get in to Fairbanks and then two additional VERY busy days before the free day Sun., when we’ll fly to Barrow, AK.
July 26, 2007 -- This morning we left Tok at 8 a.m. We stopped at the Tok US Post Office thinking all open at 8 a.m. …. wrong the gal there said read the sign the window opens at 8:30 a.m., so we continued along on Alaska Highway (Highway 2) headed towards Fairbanks. We stopped at Dot Lake and drove around trying to find the post office, no luck. We got back on the highway and found another post office sign and finally found one in another part of Dot Lake, AK, population 30. Susan purchased her stamps for post cards and we continued on our way.
We made numerous stops at turn-outs to view rivers, lakes and mountain scenery. Good road, very little traffic and frost heaves at a minimum. Where the fir / pine / evergreen trees are short it indicates they are on perma frost and their roots cannot go very deep into the soil.
A very interesting stop was at Delta Meat and Sausage, mile 1413.3 of the Alaska Highway, near Delta Junction, Alaska. www.deltameat.com We samples summer sausage and meat snack sticks made from buffalo, caribou, elk, yak, reindeer and other meats. We left with a large supply of yummy meat.
Nest we stopped in the small town of Delta Junction, the end of the AlCan (Now Alaska Highway) to view the signposts and other items of interest.
The group had decided to stop at Rika’s Roadhouse for lunch …. Although we would arrive at different times. Rika’s Roadhouse and Landing at Big Delta State Historical Park Delta Junction, AK, with great view of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Tanana River crossing. www.rikas.com We had a nice lunch and visited with the couple in our group from Kent, England, then walked around viewing the log buildings and beautiful flowers. After lunch and leisurely walking around the grounds we left and continued ahead towards Fairbanks. We stopped for gas and milk at the Salcha Store.
We arrived at our campground, Riverview RV Park on Bader Road in Fairbanks about 3 p.m. We were parked in site 112.
The bus was here by 6 p.m. to pick up all 28 of us. We drove to Pioneer Park at Airport Way & Peger, Fairbanks for all all you can eat meal of prime rib, grilled salmon, halibut and cod, plus salads and all the trimmings, plus a wide variety of deserts. Alaska’s only pioneer theme park. www.co.fairbanks.ak.us
At 8 p.m. we boarded our bus for the ride out of town to the Ester Gold Camp in Ester, AK for the Malemute Saloon with a show of songs, music, dance, stories and Robert Service poetry. Our Fantasy had tables reserved on the side in the front, and we sat at the very front table with Warren and Barbara and Don and Pam, both couples from Las Vegas, plus our wagonmaster and wife, Skip and Sue. It was a delightful show. We have been to three “shows” so far on the tour, each is quite different from the others so very enjoyable. After the show our bus brought us back to the Riverview RV Park arriving about 11 p.m., another long but very enjoyable day with bright blue sky and sunshine … the weather has been great.
I was without the internet for several days, so have just downloaded 188 new messages, I trashed as many as possible and do not have the time or energy to go through them now ….. but shall tomorrow night (at least that is my plan), as it is now 1:04 a.m.
July 27, 2007 -- We had some gentle rain during the night. The Riverview RV Park bus met us at 8:30 a.m. and we were off … it was cloudy.
First stop was the Ice Museum in downtown Fairbanks; they opened at 9 a.m. for our groups, normal time to open is 10 a.m. We heard a short talk and then a very interesting video about the World Ice Art Championships held in Fairbanks the end of Feb. and through March each year. Then we went into the various “freezers” to observe some ice sculptors up close, it was about 10 degrees in each of those rooms. One unique sculpture was a “xylophone” or “marimba” with two wooden mallets, which played music when struck with the mallets. We finished with a young Chinese man giving a demonstration of doing an ice carving of a bird from a plain block of ice. We purchased the DVD and a small book about the ice carvings and the Ice Art Championships.
Next we walked a block to the Fairbanks visitors information center in a large log building, then took photos of the mileage signs from Fairbanks to various cities around the world.
In Gold Rush fine jewelry, 531 2nd Ave., Fairbanks, AK 99701 we purchased a pair of gold “nugget” post earrings to go along with the gold nugget pendant we purchased in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada. www.goldrushfinejewelry.com
It was 56 degrees when we arrived downtown at 8:55 a.m., by 12:30 p.m. it was 65 degrees and still cloudy with mist or light rain.
In Raven Mad Susan purchased an Alaska shirt, tee shirt and sweat shirt. We then went to the New Horizons Gallery. We’ve been gone from Arizona for four weeks and this was the gallery that contained original art work that we both liked. Naturally the painting we really wanted was $4,900 so they still have it, we could have ordered a print and had it framed, but Howard only likes original art. We did purchase a smaller acrylic framed painting “Arctic Winter Caribou” by Martin Baumes. After this we went to meet others in our group at the Fudge Pot (no we did not purchase any fudge) and enjoyed salmon chowder for lunch.
Our bus picked us up at 12:30 p.m. and we were off to the University of Alaska Museum of The North. www.uaf.edu/museum We enjoyed the culture and history of the various sections of Alaska. At 2 p.m. we attended “Dynamic Aurora” program that showed the beauty of northern lights and explains this high-latitude phenomenon from scientific and culture perspectives. www.alaskascience.com/aurora.htm
The next stop was the Georgeson Botanical Garden on the Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks’ Experimental Agricultural Farm. There were beautiful flowers, even if it was raining. www.uaf.edu/salrm/gbg This is also the location for reindeer research; five us walked over to the pens (in the rain) to take pictures of the reindeer / caribou. We left the Univ. of Alaska and returned to Riverview RV Park www.riverviewrvpark.net about 4:30 p.m. still light rain, but the sun soon broke through with lots of blue sky.
July 28, 2007 -- The Riverview RV Park bus picked us up at 8 a.m. in a fine mist. On our drive to Riverboat Landing it started raining …. hard. Riverboat Discovery II loaded first; we were on the much larger paddle wheel riverboat Discovery III. Gross weight 280 tons; beam 34 feet and passenger capacity of 900 www.riverboatdiscovery.com. Fairbanks is located on the Chena River and we started out on this river with demonstration of a float airplane taking off and landing on the river.
We stopped for a very nice talk and demonstrations at Susan Butcher’s Iditarod sled dog kennel. Susan died in Aug. 5, 2006 of leukemia. She won the 1,100 mile Iditarod Dog Sled Race from Anchorage to Nome four times, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. The rain had stopped before we reached this spot on the river and did NOT rain again all day.
When the boat turned into the Tanana River the waters were quite different. The Tanana River is the largest glacier-fed river in the world and home to the “Glacial Flour” (silt).
The Tanana River averages 6 miles per hour, but can flow as fast as 10 miles per hour. The Tanana River is about 500 miles long, and is a tributary of the Yukon River.
We had lecture and demonstration at the fish camp of Dixie Alexander … she had a fish wheel and a smoker for salmon.
We had a guided walking tour of an authentic Athabascan Indian Village, divided into four talks / demonstrations. Dixie Alexander who does beading and skin sewing was first. Then we visited a sled dog kennel. After that we head about various animal skins / pelts and storing things in a cache and also why log cabins sometimes have sod roofs (the grass roots absorb water and help protect the cabin. Our final lecture / demonstration was about reindeer (which are caribou that have been domesticated). After the large paddle wheel riverboat turned around and started back to the landing in Fairbanks …. they provided samples of Captain Jim’s smoked ocean caught red sockeye salmon. This canned salmon tasted so yummy that we purchased three can ($10 per can).
Back on the bus, and at 1 p.m. we enjoyed a very good buffet luncheon at the Historical Pump House Restaurant and Saloon, a national historical site. The Pump House was once part of a gold-dredging operation by the Fairbanks Exploration Co., as it pumped water from the Chena River to clear the way and help prepare for gold dredging in the Cripple Creek Valley. This landmark has been reconstructed as a restaurant. www.pumphouse.com
Our next stop was at the Alaska Pipeline to observe it above ground and have a person from the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. explain information. The 800-mile-lone Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is one of the longest pipeline systems in the world. It stretches from Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’ North Slope to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free post in North America. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. has operated TAPS and transported more than 14 billion barrels of oil since start-up. Pipeline construction began in March 1975 and was completed in June 1977. Crude oil began flowing through the pipeline on June 20, 1977 and the first tanker load of North Slope crude oil departed Valdez on August 1, 1977.
The pipeline is 800 miles lone, 420 miles above ground where unstable permafrost makes it necessary to elevate the pipeline; and 380 miles below ground, where the pipe is buried in stable bedroom. The pipeline is 48 inches in diameter. The pipeline crossed three mountain ranges: the Brooks, Alaska and Chugach.
Today oil moves at approximately four miles per hour and it takes about nine days for oil to move from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
Our next stop was the El Dorado Gold Mine www.eldoradogoldmine.com the two hour tour began with a ride on the Tanana Valley Railroad through the gold fields of interior Alaska. We saw demonstrations of early mining techniques, including a stop in a permafrost tunnel where underground mining was explained. After arrival at the camp, Alaskan gold miners gave an informative course in mining and then we each received a “poke” of paydirt to pan. We were instructed how to pan for gold and all of us did find gold to bring home.
The bus dropped us at the campground (by our motorhome) at 5:30 p.m. We have the Fantasy caravan meeting, briefing for leaving here on Monday at 5:45 p.m.
July 29, 2007 -- Today was our adventurous trip to Barrow, AK, an Inupiat town of 4,000 people; the northernmost community town/city in the USA with Northern Alaska Tour Company www.northernalaska.com via Air Arctic.
We left Riverview RV Park at 7 a.m. and drove to the “east ramp” of the Fairbanks Airport, parked in long-term parking ($2.00 a day) and checked in with Northern Alaska Tour Co., and Air Arctic, we were about an hour early ….. but Susan is always early. We ordered our “box” lunches that would pick up when landed in Coldfoot, AK.
The weather report for Barrow was not good, and at 9 a.m., just before we left, the visibility was less than one-half mile. The tour company went over the alternative places to visit if the weather did not improve. We took off in a nine passenger Piper Chieftain, with the pilot Hayden and seven passengers. They said due to weight they usually do not take nine, but only seven and the pilot.
We had a nice flight from Fairbanks to Coldfoot at about 2,500 feet. We enjoyed the good views of the White Mountains, the Alaskan Pipeline above ground and also where buried, Pump Station #7, Livengood, the Dalton Highway, Yukon River, Stevens Village and crossed the Arctic Circle during the one hour flight to Coldfoot. We saw beautiful mountain sides with Fireweed in bloom. This flower is the first things to grow again after a forest fire. We saw two moose eating in a lake and circled around so everyone could have a view.
The Dalton Highway was built in 1974 preceding the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline, the Dalton Highway also known as Haul Road, cuts a 416 mile path through Alaska’s arctic. Pipeline construction was 1974 – 1977. Originally a private road owned by the oil companies, the Dalton Highway was opened to the general public in 1980.
We crossed the Yukon River that flows east to west, and bisects the state of Alaska and drains the vast area between the Brooks Range and the Alaska Range. Seven months out of the year, from mid-October to mid-May the river is frozen over. The only bridge spanning the Yukon is on the Dalton Highway. We saw Stevens Village one of many Koyukon Athabascan villages along the Koyukuk and central Yukon River valleys. Peak population in this village is about 80. The Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge is also in this area of the state of Alaska.
We crossed the Arctic Circle the imaginary line scribed around the earth at 66 degrees 33’ north latitude. It marks, in theory, the southernmost point from which, at sea level, the sun’s rays can be seen on the horizon at midnight of the longest of the year (summer solstice). It is also the southernmost post at which the sun’s rays cannot be soon at noon of the shortest day of the year (winter solstice).
After one hour flying we landed on the gravel airstrip of Coldfoot, AK. While the pilot topped off the four fuel tanks from one of the four tankers sitting by the airstrip for the different charter planes to use, a van met us and took us into “town” population 13, to the Coldfoot Truck Stop www.ColdFootCamp.com to use the rest rooms and walk around. Coldfoot is located 55 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the east bank of the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River. Coldfoot was established during the Koyukuk gold rush of 1898-1900 and then deserted until the 1970’s when Coldfoot came into its second existence as a Pipeline camp. In the 1980’s, Dick Mackey, a well-known Alaska musher, established the world’s northern-most truck stop. When we returned to the plane our sack lunches were there, and we were off …. the visibility at Barrow had increased to 10 miles.
Due to lack of visibility through the Brooks Range of mountains we flew at 10,000 feet on the two hour flights to Barrow. The mountains of the Brooks Range extend from the western Canadian arctic to the western coast of Alaska. The tallest peaks, located in the eastern part of Alaska, are slightly over 9,000 feet. The range is named after Alfred Hulse Brooks (1871-1924) who did extensive work in Alaska as a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Before we completed our two hour flight from Coldfoot to Barrow it became clear with bright blue sky and was beautiful. We were surprised to see icebergs floating in the Arctic Ocean just off the coast at and near Barrow. The ice pack is about 150 miles north of Barrow now, but lots of smaller icebergs and ice flows were visible just off shore. Flying toward Barrow we observed miles and miles of treeless tundra covered with many lakes.
We landed in Barrow at 1:10 p.m.; it was 50 degrees, sunny with a clear blue sky. We were met by our Inupiat (Eskimo) guide Ryan Rock, at least that is his name in English, I didn’t write down how to spell it in the Inupiat language. We boarded a small bus and were off, then picked up a group that would leave Barrow via Alaskan Airlines later that afternoon.
There are two Inupiaq spellings from Barrow: Ukpiagvik and Utqiagvik. The name means “place to hunt snowy owls”.
The home of Alaska’s Inupiat Eskimo people is a treeless tundra, bordered by the nearly impassable Brooks Range to the south, the vast Colville River Delta to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north and the Chukchi Sea to the west. The 70,000-odd square miles of tundra is whipped by bitter winds and suppers winter temperatures of minus 30 and below. The sun refused to set for 72 days around summer solstice, but every November it hides behind the horizon and plunges the region into darkness until January. The Arctic plain is a “polar desert” where precipitation averages no more than 5 to 7 inches of rain or snow each year … most snow blows in from elsewhere. Rivers, streams, lakes and sea are all frozen for most of the year, and the pure, blazing white light that reflects off the snow can blind a person.
The Arctic Slope is a dynamic place. Millions of birds migrate here every summer from around the world, and the great bowhead whales migrate to the cold waters of the Beauford Sea every spring to calve. Hundreds of thousands of caribou roam the tundra in summer. The ocean teems with varied marine life, including the ringed and bearded seals, walrus and polar bears. Using these resources, the Inupiat people were able to not only survive, but to flourish, building a complex society in one of the most demanding climates on Earth.
Ryan showed us; sign post at the Visitors Center (it was closed), the memorial to Will Rogers and Wiley Post (killed near here in 1935), the City Hall, Police Headquarters, elementary school, middle school, the Barrow High School …. known as The Whalers, radio station KBRW, the hockey rink, the DEW Line (U.S. advanced radar warning system), the old Naval Arctic Research Laboratory was renovated in 1994 and became the Ilisagvik College, many other sites in Barrow, and Inupiat Heritage Center.
We spent quite a block of time in the Inupiat Heritage Center looking at the exhibits, seeing local residents show and offer for sale their arts and crafts ….. Susan purchased a “jaw bone” sled with various petrified bones, made by Rick L. Rice “Native Craft Artist” and left it to be shipped home. A group of youth performed many Inupiat dances and songs accompanies by their drums. They then demonstrated games they play to pass their free time during the dark winter. The final activity was a “blanket toss”and asking the men to assist. This was not a cloth or woven blanket but a large square made from animal skins … Howard joined in the fun of have various boys and girls, one at a time, just on the “blanket” and to see just how high they could be tossed.
We reboarded the bus upon leaving the Inupiat Heritage Center and drove to the end of the road by Point Barrow. We stopped and walked across the “gravel beach” to put our hands into the cold Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Next we viewed more sights ad Ryan gave us more humor and information. Then on to the Welcome to Barrow sign at the Arctic Ocean where we all took photographs. Next to the whale bone arch at an old whaling station, again we all took photographs. Last stop was the Top of The World Hotel to use the rest rooms and see the small gift shop.
Our charter flight was to depart Barrow at 4 p.m., but we kept wanting to see more, so we left Barrow for Coldfoot at 4:50 p.m. Most of the two hour flight was beautiful with blue sky and sunshine, some clouds and we could see the ice flows near the coast in the Arctic Ocean. The Brooks Range was beautiful and we flew through the Anaktuvuk Pass. This is a broad pass in the central Brooks Range and of the Nunamiut Inuit village located there. The name Anaktuvuk means “the land of many caribou droppings,” which, to a people highly dependent on caribou hunting for their livelihood, was not meant as an insult, but rather indicated a land of plenty. Incorporated in 1957, Anaktuvuk Pass is home to approximately 300 people today.
We landed again in Coldfoot at 6:50 p.m. While the pilot topped off the fuel tanks we got out of the plane and walked around the gravel landing strip. We took off from Coldfoot again at 7:05 p.m., but made a third landing there at 7:20 p.m. The governor or something on the right propeller didn’t sound quite right so for safely sake we returned to Coldfoot. A van can for us and we again went to the Coldfoot Truck Stop to wait the outcome of the mechanics opinion on the problem. The plane was worked on, and then Hayden and the mechanic took it for a rest flight … couldn’t locate the problem, sooooo. Fortunately there were many Air Arctic and other charter flights during the day and evening into and out of Coldfoot. Many tours do fly – drive, others drive – fly, others fly – fly to this location in order to be above the Arctic Circle. It was decided that we would take another Air Arctic plane that had just arrived and unloaded passengers, back to Fairbanks. We boarded this older Piper Chieftain at 8:40 for the flight back to Fairbanks arriving at 9:40 p.m. We were due back between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. We were met with our individual certificates saying we had crossed the Arctic Circle on Sunday, July 29, 2007.
We then went to the large Wal-Mart that opened in Fairbanks about four years ago. Fortunately they were open until midnight so we were able to do some shopping and get everything on our list except milk. We then drove back to Riverside RV Park arriving about 11:10 p.m. Others that did trips to and from Coldfoot this day got back to the RV park about midnight. It was a wonderful, interesting, educational day that was warm (for the arctic) sunny and bright … we are very glad that we made this side trip.
July 30, 2007 -- Today we left “late” as did others that went to the Arctic Circle yesterday. We left Riverview RV Park about 9:25 a.m., stopped for milk and were one our way for the short trip of 125 miles to our next campground.
Another beautiful day as we drove along the Tanana River and later the Nenana River. We stopped at the Clear, AK, USAF Radar Instillation part of the old BMEWS (early warning system for incoming missiles from Russia). We purchased gas and more milk at Healy, AK and were soon at our riverside camp site in the Denali Riverside RV Park www.DenaliRiversideRV.com. We are in site 23, facing the fast flowing Nenana River with mountains all around us.
During the late afternoon Howard spotted Dall Sheep high on a mountain side and took some photos. He spotted them again later and took additional photos. Howard’s digital camera zoom is 12X where Susan’s zoon is 3.8X so he can get better long distance photographs.
Tonight some of us attended the Alaska Cabin Nite dinner and show at the McKinley Chalet Resort. We rode there with Rob and Elizabeth (from England), picked up our tickets and rode the shuttle bus to the dinner/show site. Some of us were at table B and some of our group were at table C, both right by the stage in the front. Dinner was served family style; barbecued ribs, grilled salmon, corn on the cob, baked beans, biscuits, tossed salad and finished with a fruit cobbler.
After our return from the Alaska Cabin Nite Howard sat out on the rivers edge visiting with others and playing his banjo. We watched a group of rubber rafts doing float trips down the Nenana River. Susan stayed inside and brought the trip log up to date through last night and our return from Barrow. Some light rain off and on and cloudy no longer seeing blue sky.
July 31, 2007 -- Some rain off and on during the night. At 8 a.m. we met Dick and Bunny Adams from Las Vegas and we drove to the strip of businesses. We had breakfast at the Denali Salmon Bake (we paid for all four of us). Then we “shopped” various stores in the area. After the shopping we drove around the area some before returning to the camp ground as it rained off and on.
At 2:30 p.m. our group of 28 boarded a bus for the parks “Tundra Wilderness Tour” in Denali National Park and Preserve that covers six million acres, one million of the acres are ice covered. We drove to the wilderness access point and picked up 24 more riders and were off. The heavy rain had stopped and we had sprinkles for awhile until it quit all together. We actually saw some blue sky along with clouds and a lighter sky. This bus tour is led by a naturalist guide who narrates the whole 7 ½ hours. A box lunch with a bottle of water was provided. www.nps.gov/dena.
The first fifteen miles of the Park Road is paved and that is as far as visitors may go on their own, without a special permit. There is a small parking area, restrooms at this area known as Savage River. After this the rest of the road is dirt, two lanes and later one lane all the way to Kantishna 90 miles.
Our first stop for restrooms and to walk around was at Teklanika River. Our next stop was at mile 47, Polychrome Overlook, which gets its name from the multi-colored bluffs in the area. There were also spectacular views of the Alaska Range. Later at mile 53, the Toklat River we had another restroom and exercise stop. The Toklat River is an area of merging glacial rivers. This was the turn around point on our trip …. 53 miles out and 53 miles back.
We made MANY stops to view wildlife and take photographs. Today was a very good day, the morning rains helped bring out the animals this afternoon. We saw in various places:
8 Grizzly Bears (two, four (a mother with 3 cubs) and two)
Caribou several times
Dall Sheep many times in groups and then a herd of about 50
1 Willow Ptarmigan the state bird of Alaska
Several Golden Eagles
Dozens of Snowshoe Hare’s
Several Arctic Ground Squirrels
We were returned to Riverside RV Park about 9:45 p.m. A very nice day and quite successful in finding animals. Susan took a lot of photos, but Howard with the 12X zoom took many more AND took some video. He took video of the three bear cubs playing on a patch of snow, other grizzly bears and other animals. We enjoyed the day very much.
Grizzly Bear weighing in at up to 600 lbs, it is estimated that 300 – 350 grizzlies live in the park on the north side of the Alaska Range. These grizzlies eat roots, berries, bulbs, tubers, and fresh vegetation early in the season. They also eat ground squirrels, caribou, moose and sheep. The bears hibernate from October to April.
The 2,000 Caribou in the park roam in groups. The caribou favor open tundra, where they find lichen and escape the bugs.
The beautiful Dall Sheep live high in the mountains of the Alaska Range where they eat low-growing alpine plants year-round.
An estimated 2,000 moose roam north of the Alaska Range. They forage for vegetation on gravel bars or wading through ponds in the summer and eating willow leaves. During the winter, they roam the park, eating leafless vegetation and wading through snow to escape predators,
Hoary Marmot …. hoary means old and silver-haired. The silver-gray marmot has thick, wild-looking fur and a big bushy tail. It’s know as “the whistler”. Its shrill alarm warms other marmots.
The Snowshoe Hare is bigger than cottontails, snowshoe hares are known locally as “rabbits”. They are different, they are born fully furred. They have furry paws … “snowshoes” … and they turn white in winter. Snowshoes are an important part of the cycle of larger animals, like lynx and fox.
The Arctic Ground Squirrel is found in Alaska and northern Canada, an herbivore it hibernates during the winter. It eats berries and seeds, doubling its weight in the summer. In the winter, it burrows with its colony, and its body temperature drops to almost 6 degrees below freezing without harm.
August 1, 2007 -- Today we left our site by the edge of the river about 8:30 a.m. and drove a short distance to the McKinley Chalet Resort. We went to the Sourdough Studio and had our picture taken … four shots. Susan in parka sitting in a dog sled, Howard in mukluks and parka standing on back of the dog sled. We chose the “pose” we liked the best and had one 8 x 10 and two 5 x 7 prints made and purchased one 8 x 10 picture frame. We then ate breakfast in the resorts restaurant (open 4:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.). We sat with a couple from Rochester, NY, and enjoyed the full breakfast buffet and visited with them for awhile. After breakfast we returned to the Sourdough Studio and ordered 150 Christmas cards made with our Alaska photograph.
We then drove to the Denali National Park and Preserve (another mile or so south), stopping at both signs to take pictures. Then we drove the beautiful Park Road, as far as private autos are allowed, the 15 miles that are paved. On the way out some Natural History tour busses were stopped …. so we had to stop and there were several Willow Ptarmigan by the side of the road. At the Savage River turn-around and parking area there was no space to park, so we started back. We stopped at a good turn-out about a mile down the road. Beautiful sunny day, some blue sky and some clouds, but windy.
We spent about 1 ½ hours stopped at this turn-out overlooking the Savage River, green grass, trees and beautiful mountains in the background. While standing outside Howard looked down and there was a Snowshoe Hare checking him out …. he ran when another car stopped. Later Susan was also outside and this curious Snowshoe Hare reappeared, he was not afraid … he stood on his hind legs to sniff (check out) the bumper of our motorhome, then Susan’s shoes, the step to our motorhome and the underside. When another car stopped he went over towards them, too. Besides still photos we both took Howard also took video of him. Twice while we were parked there a mother Willow Ptarmigan and her brood of chicks (9 in all) came up to the road (from area of river) and walked along the edge, making soft “barking” noises. We both took photos and Howard also took some video of these birds. The Willow Ptarmigan is the Alaska state bird, in summer rust, brown and a tiny bit of white, during the winter these birds turn snowy white. We enjoyed the birds and the hare … things very difficult to see from the road driving past.
Next we drove around for awhile and then had lunch at the Denali Salmon Bake just outside of the park. After lunch we returned to Denali National Park and Preserve and went to the Visitors Center. We enjoyed the small museum and then the good video shown in the theater. Next stop was the Natural History Associations large bookstore at the Visitors Center. After purchasing two photo books and a copy of the DVD we had just viewed in the theater, and a copy of the winter patrol …. Denali is the only National Park where the park rangers must patrol via dog sled during the winter months. After this it was back to the campground about 5 p.m. “Cold” and windy sitting on the river bank. At 8 p.m. Skip and Sue held the briefing and had additional information for reaching the RV park in Anchorage tomorrow.
August 2, 2007 -- Today we left Denali about 8 a.m. for the 238.5 mile drive to our next campground in Anchorage, AK. Due to mist and clouds we were not about to see Mount McKinley, but it is only visible about 20% of the time and that is usually during the winter months. The drive was pretty but would have been better if the sun had been out and the sky cloud free.
We did make several stop for photos and found some very tall (probably 4 feet) Fireweed that was beautiful all along the highway. We also stopped to eat lunch in the Sunshine Restaurant.
We stopped at the Medal of Honor Loop to Alaska Veterans Memorial / POW-MIA rest area. This is near the Byers Lake Campground. The memorial consists of an alcove and a semicircle of five 20-foot-tall concrete panels, one for each branch of service and each with a large star on the upper part and inscriptions on the lower part.
Panels and plaques also memorialize the Alaska National Guard; the Merchant Marine; and victims of the Air Force C-47 crash on nearby Kesugi Ridge in February 1954. Three flag poles stand at the site; the center pole flying the American flag, and the pole to the left flying flags on special occasions. The memorial was erected in 1983 and dedicated in 1984 by Governor Bill Sheffield, a veteran, and other civilian and military leaders. The Byers Lake site was selected because it was centrally located between Alaska’s 2 largest cities, Anchorage and Fairbanks, and when not cloudy there is a good view of Mount McKinley / Denali from the entrance to the memorial.
The Alaska Veterans Memorial reads: “We dedicate this quiet place to the remembrance of the veterans of Alaska who have served their country at home and throughout the world. We honor their heroism and dedication.”
We stopped at a Wal-Mart; the parking lot was packed as was the store under going remodeling to make it much larger. Howard stayed in the motorhome while Susan braved the mob scene, where she purchased milk, bread and a few other items.
About 3 p.m. we arrived at the Golden Nugget Camper Park, 4100 DeBarr Road, Anchorage, AK 99508, and we directed to site 144. Some after our arrival it started to rain. The local NBC TV station has stated the official high today was 60 degrees. The weather forecast for the next five days is scattered showers with highs in the mid 50’s.
Howard set up his “repeater” in the bus of Rob and Elizabeth from Kent, England, as they are parked between us and the Wi-Fi here in the park. The internet is not stable and although I’ve tried to send messages I’ve written (four so far) I’ve lost them all before they could be sent as the internet went down … rather frustrating. Overall through this is a great trip, good highways, good weather and having a marvelous time. So far we’ve driven 4,156.2 miles since we left home in AZ on June 28, 2007.
August 3, 2007 -- This morning everyone met at 9:15 to car pool to the Alaska Native Heritage Center (a non-profit organization), 8800 Heritage Center Dr., Anchorage, AK 99506. The theme this summer is “Living from the Land and Sea”. We rode with Ray and Opal Rice from OR. The center has large gathering place, theater, hall of culture, and five villages set up around Lake Tiulana. Inside there was a busy schedule of dance and craft demonstrations and videos. www.alaskanative.net Four couples of use visited all five villages around the lake and listened as a youth, in each village, explained their culture. We watched various demonstrations and or attended videos, including the film “Raven Tales” and saw the end of the film “Inupiaq Whaling and Subsistence” (made by Arctic Slope Regional Corporation). We were pleased to see our Barrow guise from last Sun. was shown in the film. We purchased four videos (DVDs) in the gift shop and a small totem pole carving.
Alaska’s Native people are divided into eleven distinct cultures, speaking twenty one different languages. In order to tell the stories of this diverse population, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is organized based on five cultural groups, which draw upon cultural similarities or geographic proximity.
Athabascan: Made of dentalium shells and beads, the T’uyedi or Chief’s Necklace symbolizes the Athabascan culture. It is a symbol of power, pride and protection. Great chiefs throughout the vast Athabascan region wear such necklaces.
Yup’ik / Cup’ik: The Ellanguaq or Eye of Awareness is universally recognized and appreciated by all Yup’ik and Cup’ik people. Its design is frequently seen in masks, dance fans, hunting tools and handles. The Ellanguaq also helps educate others about the depth and richness of the symbolic universe of this cultural group.
Inupiaq / St. Lawrence Island Yupik:”The first thing we do when we all get together is sing … the Sauyaq (Inupiaq) brings us all together.” The Sauyaq or Drum is used at all gatherings and ceremonies. In some Inupiaq dialects the word for the “skin” of the drum also means “future eye” relating to the “eye of awareness.” (These people live in Barrow, the northern most town in the USA, which we visited on Sun., July 29, 2007.)
Aleut / Alutiiq: The Hunter in a Qayaz or Iqyax represents the Aleut / Alutiiq cultures’ relationship with the ocean and its resources. The split bow of the kayak, and the sea lion whiskers on the hunting visor are distinctive features of the Aleut/Alutiiq cultures. The split bow is an advanced design feature that aided the hunter in navigating the turbulent waters of the region.
Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian: In the past, a chief would commission the making of a Copper or Tenaa (Tlingit) to be given away at a potlatch. Depending upon the event, the copper would either be given away whole or in pieces. This symbol was chosen to represent the cultures of the Southeast region because copper was a valued trading item. The ovoid design on the copper was used in the artwork of all four cultures in this region.
After we left the Alaska Native Heritage Center we found a Carr’s (Safeway) supermarket and Ray and Opal shopped, next to a gas station, then back to our RV Park around 2:30 p.m.
Fantasy RV Tours provided everyone with two one-inch-thick steaks. We met at the RV parks pavilion at 5:30 p.m.; Skip and Ron had both grills ready. The guys grilled the great steaks and we had a big dinner as we had all taken food for the pot-luck. After the steaks and meal we had our briefing for Sunday when we drive to Seward, and some additional information about the three activities that most of us will be doing tomorrow.
The high in Anchorage was 65 today but suppose to be cooler (in mid-50’s) over the next week with scattered showers.
After the steak dinner / pot-luck Howard took a chair outside and his banjo to play some Bluegrass music. He was shortly joined by a mandolin player and a guitar player, both with Tracts to Adventure Caravan. They had quite an audience and people were totally amazed that they had never met before, but could play and sign together.
August 4, 2007 -- This morning we left at 11 a.m. with Ray and Opal. Sky white / over cast with light rain. We drove to downtown Anchorage to the Ulu (oo loo) Factory at 211 W. Ship Creek Ave. www.theULUfactory.com We enjoyed the demonstrations on the use of the Ulu and how they are made in Alaska …. Don’t purchase a rip off made in the Far East. We left our purchases to be shipped to Susan % of next door neighbor, Joan Jacobs.
Next we went less than a half mile down the street to the Iditarod Xperience www.iditarodexperience.com. After getting our tickets, Howard, Ray and Opal walked to Ship Creek to view salmon coming up stream to spawn. Susan stayed in the welcoming tent of the Iditarod Xperience.
The one hour Wildride Sled Dog Show began at 1 p.m. We heard a lot about the dogs and the Iditarod, the over 1,000 mile race each March from Anchorage to Nome, AK. There were many dog and sled demonstrations. The first star was “Flapjack” the star of the marvelous Walt Disney movie Eight Below (we’ve seen it several times and have the DVD). A lot of comedy and dogs and sleds. The final was a demonstration with the 16 dog team that won the 2004 Iditarod driven by Mitch Seavey. He and his family own this new Anchorage attraction and their kennel in Seward. Two of the young men doing the show also have driven and completed the Iditarod, one at only 18 years of age. The winning 16 dog team were brought in by their usual transportation; a king cab pick up truck with individual cages in the back, stacked several high. The dogs were harnessed and then pulled the 10,000 pound truck out of the arena.
After the show all were invited to go into the dog area and meet some of the dogs and to see and hold puppies. Most people are surprised to learn the actual Alaska Husky is lean and much smaller than expected. The big Siberian Husky / Malamute mixes are shown on post-cards, on T-V and in movies but are much larger than the actual sled dogs of Alaska. We enjoyed meeting and petting Flapjack, other dogs and cuddling adorable puppies, some with beautiful blue eyes. We then returned to the Golden Nugget Camper Park, 4100o DeBarr Rd., Anchorage, AK 99508 in the light rain.
A bus picked up our group, in the rain, at 4:30 p.m. and we went to Alaska Wild Berry Park www.alaskawildberryproducts.com First we went to the Wild Berry Theater and saw the new feature film “The Land Beyond” … it was so good that we purchased a DVD of this later in the gift shop. Then we went to the Sourdough Mining Co. Restaurant for family style dining. We had mixed salad, potatoes w/onions, their famous “Korn Fritters”, barbecue ribs, baked chicken, grilled halibut, and soft serve ice cream. All was good but the “korn fritters” with honey butter were super good.
After dinner some of us shopped in the Wild Berry Candy Kitchen and Gift Shop, and then everyone attended the Dusty Sourdough show (70 minutes) song, legends and stories. He said he; was on the Glen Campbell TV Show and also traveled with Glen Campbell for fourteen years. After the show there was time for more shopping in the gift shop before our return bus arrived about 9:45 p.m. to bring us back to the RV park. The candy kitchen has the “worlds largest fall”, 20 feet of chocolate! The rain stopped, but still very overcast and the forecast for the next week is more of the same.
August 5, 2007 -- We pulled out of the RV part in Anchorage a few minutes after 8 a.m. in a cloud covered sky with light rain. Soon we were headed south on the new Seward Highway. We stopped at a few view points, but low clouds and mist so difficult to really see the beautiful views. Even without bright sun the fields of Fireweed and that flower along both sides of the highway were lovely. We passed many salmon fishermen, I think they were along the banks of and in Bird Creek
The first major stop was at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center of Portage Glacier in Chugach National Forest, Portage, Alaska. www.fs.fed.us/r10/chugach We saw several small blue icebergs in Portage Lake by the visitor’s center parking lot. We watched a slide show and then a good video “Portage Glacier: Voices From The Ice” and later purchases the DVD. The visitor’s center had some interesting exhibits.
Portage Glacier is the largest and most unusual of the glaciers in Portage Valley. It winds 4.5 miles from its icy beginnings to end in a 650 feet deep lake. Although it ends in fresh water, Portage Glacier acts much like a tidewater glacier; it looses much of its icy by calving ice from the front of its face into the lake. We drove to the boat dock, but decided the visibility was too low to take the hour boat cruise on Portage Lake. We stopped to take photographs of Byron Glacier and then stopped at the Williwaw Campground for photographs of Middle Glacier. In addition to Fireweed and a few other flowers we also found Common Butterwort that has violet-shaped lavender-purple flowers.
Glaciers … Rivers of Ice. Alaska is a land of majestic mountains and pristine wilderness. Numerous glaciers flow down the mountains forming large u-shaped valleys. Although the height of the last ice age was 20,000 years ago, visitors to Alaska can still experience vast expanses of glacial terrain. Over 100,000 glaciers remain in the snow-capped mountains of Alaska, and 10,000 of these lie in the Chugach National Forest.
A glacier is a large body of ice that forms on land, remains year-round, and is moving. Often referred to as “Rivers of Ice,” glaciers exhibit many of the same characteristics of rivers. Like rivers, glaciers begin at the top of the mountain and, taking the path of least resistance; gradually make their way down the mountain under the pull of gravity. Although all glacial ice is moving down slope, not all glaciers are advancing. Advancing glaciers and retreating glaciers result from a net gain or a net loss. If more ice flows down slope than is lost at the toe of the glacier by melting and calving, the glacier would be an advancing glacier. The opposite conditions would signal a retreat.
Calve: the process of ice breaking from the face of a glacier
Crevasse: an open crack in the surface of a glacier
Glacial silt / rock flour: very fine powder produced as a result of rocks grinding against each other
Icefield: a large collection of snow and ice that feeds one of several glaciers
Moraine: rock debris deposited by a glacier
Blue Ice: Glacial ice is formed under pressure, creating ice with few cracks or air bubbles, unlike the ice cubes in our refrigerator. The visible light from the sun is made up of the spectrum of colors that we see in a rainbow. When the sunlight strikes glacial ice, most of the colors of the spectrum are absorbed – only the blue wavelengths are reflected to our eye. On an overcast day, clouds filter colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows, making glacial ice appear a more intense blue.
We continued along Seward Highways making a few stops …. clouds remained, but it did stop raining. We passed the turn for our RV park in order to go into Seward for gasoline (regular $3.20 per gallon) and milk, and then returned to Stoney Creek RV Park, on Stoney Creek, about six miles north of Seward. www.stoneycreekrvpark.com We are parked in A8, facing the creek. Most of us took walks along the creek and area, and Howard photographed a bald eagle. Later the bald eagle moved to a closer tree so Howard too his tri-pod out for the camera and more photographs of the bald eagle. The sun broke through the clouds a few times around 6 p.m. The temperature in the creek is 34 degrees; Ron checked it with a thermometer.
The city of Seward was named for President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, the man who engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. Seward enjoys a history dating back to the late eighteenth century, when in 1792, Resurrection Bay was sighted and named by Alexander Baranof, a Russian explorer. Russian settlements first established the region’s ship-building tradition, with the construction of the “Phoenix”. A century later, the city was officially founded in 1903 on a long-abandoned Native village site, but the town had already been a Gold Rush encampment for at least a decade. The historic Iditarod Trail begins in Seward, tracing the mail route that led to the rich strikes at Hope and Sunrise and later to the bonanza at Iditarod, a place name commemorated in today’s Iditarod Sled Dog Race, which follows the trail on to Nome. In 1903, a party of railroad men arrived and laid out the present city in a traditional grid of city blocks and wide streets. The new railroad led to the development of interior Alaska, and Seward’s role as a sea-land transportation hub was sealed. Much of Seward was destroyed by the 1964 earthquake and devastating tsunamis that followed, the canneries have not returned, and more emphasis is now on tourism.
August 6, 2007 -- Woke up today to clear bright blue sky with sunshine and it remained that way all day and evening. A prefect day, a bank sign in Seward about 3 p.m. showed it was 77 degrees.
A North Tours bus picked up our group (28 in all) in our RV park at 9 a.m. and we were off. Had a general tour the town of Seward and history of the area. Then we drove 8.5 miles out to Exit Glacier, part of Kenai Fjords National Park. The 3-mile long Exit Glacier was named “Exit” by an expedition that used it as their northern exit from the Harding Icefield. One of over 35 named glaciers flowing from the Harding Icefield, Exit Glacier is the only road-accessible area in Kenai Fjords National Park. We all started the 1.1 mile round-trip hike to the face of Exit Glacier, a few of us turned back finding the trail rough, steep and windy. We had great views of the glacier from almost everywhere at the Visitors Center and along the road. Of course Howard made the hike, but Susan wimped out and didn’t go all of the way up. After visiting Exit Glacier we were taken to our bus driver’s home for snacks, talks by him and his wife and to see the log cabin they used to live in. The couple came to Alaska from Oakland, CA, by way of Canada … it was 1967, think Viet Nam …. Susan was working for the Selective Service System then. They were a very interesting couple with great stories of life in Alaska 40 years go and since. Think flower children and hippies. We were returned to the Stoney Creek RV Park about 1 p.m.
Kenai Fjords National Park is a dramatic glacial landscape of ice, tidewater glaciers, deeply chiseled fjords and jagged peninsulas – 607,805 acres of unspoiled wilderness on the southeast coast of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The park is capped by the Harding Icefield, a relic from past ice-ages and the largest Icefield entirely within U.S. borders. Otters, puffins, bear, moose, mountain goats, sheep are a few of the numerous animals that live in the park and area. The fabled Kenai fjords are long, steep-sided, glacier-carved valleys that are now filled with ocean water. A mountain platform, one-mile-high, rises above this dramatic coastline. These mountains are mantled by the 300-square-mile Harding Icefield, 35 miles long and 20 miles wide. Only isolated mountain peaks interrupt its nearly flat, snow-clad surface. Exit Glacier, spilling off the Icefield, is accessible by road.
We drove the motorhome in to Seward and parked on a side street. We then shopped along 4th Street, and met others from our RV tour. Susan’s favorite shop from 2000, The Alaska Shop, was still there and we purchased another carved horn and left it to be shipped home (like in 2000). Also enjoyed Once in a Blue Moose and other shops. We had lunch downtown and returned to our RV park about 3:30 p.m. The briefing for the drive to Homer was held at 7:30 p.m. since most of us will be on the dinner cruise tomorrow evening. Howard played banjo outside and had quite an audience of others campers staying here. Susan worked on photographs. After 10 p.m. we took more photos of the beautiful light on the tops of the mountains.
August 7, 2007 -- We left Stoney Creek RV Park a little after 8 a.m. and drove to the RV parking lot of the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward. www.alaskasealife.org It was a beautiful clear bright sunny day, but windy. We waited for the rest of the Fantasy RV Tour group to arrive via car pools (we came to have a parking place for the RV). About 9:10 a.m. we all entered the beautiful Alaska Seslife Center. Having been in aquariums through out the USA, this one in Seward is smaller than Monterey, CA, but very nice and well arranged.
In the Alaska Sealife Center we enjoyed the informative exhibits re: the Bearing Sea, fishes of the Bering Sea, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, close encounters at the Discovery Pool and overlooking Resurrection Bay. The Giant Pacific Octopus was active and moving around a great deal showing all of his arms and suckers to the window. The Harbor Seal and Stellar Sea Lion habitats were good, and we really enjoyed the Seabird Habitat with many very active Puffins, red-legged Kittiwakes, common Murres, black Oystercatchers and Pigeon Guillemots. We hadn’t observed Puffins diving and swimming underwater before. After a stop in the gift shop we drove the motorhome along the waterfront (great RV parts) and we able to find a parking place in a pay lot at the Seward Boat Harbor. We walked along the waterfront visiting various shops, and Major Marine Tours and then the National Park center where we enjoyed watching educational videos for over an hour the film about the National Park inventory of resources, in Alaska, was quite interesting. We next ate a good lunch at the Breeze Inn as we sat overlooking the Seward Boat Harbor. We then returned to the motorhome for a couple of hours rest.
At 5 p.m. we returned to the Major Marine Tours office www.majormarine.com and checked in. At 6 p.m. we boarded Star of the Northwest boat for our dinner cruise. We left the Seward, AK, harbor promptly at 6:15 p.m., it was 80 degrees, clear blue sky and sunny. We were by a window on the upper deck for our table. Dinner was prime rib, delicious baked salmon, rice, tossed salad with mandarin oranges, sourdough bread and beverages.
This boat trip showed us a surprisingly number of wildlife …. Their was a National Park Ranger on board. We saw Godwin Glacier, and then Ellsworth Glacier which is rare, so rare they do not show Ellsworth on their map. Later we saw the very large Bear Glacier. We saw Seabird colonies with hundreds or maybe thousands of Puffins, Gulls, Cormorants and Murres. The first wildlife we observed was a Black Bear, then Stellar Sea Lions, a Mountain Goat, two Humpback Whales, schools of CoHo/Silver Salmon, Giant Jelly Fish and beautiful Bald Eagles twice. By Bear Glacier it was 61 degrees but then back about 70 degrees after we moved away from Bear Glacier. The boat returned to dock about 10:15 p.m. We purchased the photograph of us taking just as we were boarding the boat for this trip.
August 8, 2007 -- We were on the road, leaving Seward, about 8:25 a.m. The Seward Highway at first and then the Sterling Highway. Beautiful scenery, mountains, glaciers, lakes especially Kenai River and Kenai Lake), trees, and a great bright sunny day!
Our first stop was at Alaska Horn & Antler Carvings at Mile 88.3 of Sterling Highway at 38778 Sterling Highway, Soldotna, AK 99669. Tom and Linda Cooper own and operate this shop and Tom is the primary carver although they have work from other Alaskan carvers. Susan took a large group of pictures, with permission, and made some purchases and lefty them to be shipped UPS.
The next stop was at mile 127.1 and a short walk across the grass field to the steep bank above the rock shoreline of Cook Inlet. Across the inlet were Mount Redoubt, Mount Iliamna and Mount Spurr all volcanoes. About 80 miles to the west we could see another volcano Mount Augusta belching smoke.
We also stopped at the north side of Deep Creek, and several more viewpoints to see Mount Redoubt, Mount Iliamna and Mount Spurr. We stopped for gas in Anchor Point, the most western point in North America accessible by auto. We next stopped at the Kachemak Bay overlook at the north edge of Home for great views of the mountains, glaciers, bay and area. Then we arrived at Oceanview RV Park www.OceanView-RV.com We were parked in site #8, where we look out the windows and see Kachemak Bay, glaciers, mountains … what a great view.
Kachemak, the Russian name for the bay, means “high cliffs on the water.” Another interpretation of the name suggests it means “smoky bay” and is derived from the smoke which once rose from the smoldering coal seams jutting from the clay bluffs of the upper north short of Kachemak Bay and the cliffs near Anchor Point. In the early days many of the exposed coal seams were slowly burning from causes unknown.
Jutting out for nearly 5 miles from the Homer shore is the Homer Spit, a long, narrow bar of travel. The road along the backbone of the Spit is part of the Sterling Highway, which is the main road through Homer. The Spit has had quite a history, and continues to be a center of activity for the town. In 1964, after the earthquake, the Spit sank 4 to 6 feet.
Today, Homer Spit is the site of a major dock facility for boat loading, unloading, servicing and refrigerating. The deep-water dock can accommodate 340-foot vessels and 30-foot drafts, making it accessible to cruise and cargo ships. The Pioneer Dock can accommodate ships up to 800 feet. Homer is home port to the Alaska Marine Highway ferry MV Tustumena and U.S. Coast Guard vessels. The Small-boat harbor on the Spit has a 5-lane load/launch ramp.
Rising behind downtown are bluffs which level off at about 1,200 feet to form the southern rim of the western plateau of the Kenai Peninsula. Homer calls itself the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World.” There are approximately 3,946 people in Homer that is situated 226 highway miles from Anchorage.
Howard checked with the office about the better place to get an oil change for the motorhome. He called Auto Hub and made an appointment for 8 a.m. Thursday. We then drove through Homer and to the end of the 4.5 mile “Spit”; we finally found a parking space and ate a very late lunch in the Fresh Catch Café on the water (what isn’t out on the “Spit”. We returned to OceanView RV Park, Howard took the binoculars and walked along the rocky shore and observed sea otters swimming in the bay (but too far away to photograph very well) and an bald eagle nest with two young chicks.
We spoke with the office about the many boat operators here and which trip to take. Then had the office call Central Charter Booking Agency to make a reservation for Friday on the M/V Danny J.
August 9, 2007 -- We left the RV Park and were at Auto Hub about 5 till 8 a.m. They took the motorhome right in and did service; oil change, oil filter change, transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid and checked the air in all of the tires … completed in about 25 minutes.
We drove out to the “Spit” and found parking by the Seafarers Memorial, dedicated to those who have lost their lives at sea. Most of the shops were not open yet. We went to Central Charter www.centralcharter.com to pay for our Friday trip and get our boarding pass. We then walked the shops along both sides of the “Spit”, doing some shopping with those wise enough to open at 9 a.m. We also checked out where the Danny J docks. We also purchased some framed “wood art”, think will need to mail to Shelly as really out of storage room for too many more purchases.
Then we stopped by the Salty Dawn Saloon, which opens at 11 a.m. so was not open yet. This was one of the first cabins built in 1897, after homer became a town site. It served as the first post office, a railroad station, a grocery store, and a coal mining office for twenty years. It was acquired in the late 1940’s by Chuck Abbatt to be used as an office for Standard Oil Co., and in 1957 he opened it as the Salty Dawg Saloon.
In 1909 the second building was built, serving as a school house, post office, grocery store, and at one time, housed three adults and eleven children. The late 1950’s produced a change for the Salty Dawg Saloon by joining this building to it. Earl Hillstrand, the late State Representative, purchased it in 1960, and then after the 1964 earthquake he moved it to its present location. The tower was added to cover a water storage tank. The Salty Dawg Saloon we know today is operated and owned by John Warren. www.saltydawgsaloon.com
We returned to Homer proper and the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, a state-of-the-art interpretive and educational facility for the 4.9 million acre Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. http://IslandsAndOcean.org http://alaskamaritime.fws.gov this facility allows visitors to “virtually visit” the remote Alaska coastline through interactive exhibits that capture the islands, rocky coastline, seabirds and marine mammals in fiberglass and through audio-visual aids. The remote refuge includes 2,500 islands stretching from Southeast Alaska to Point Hope and Icy Cape in the Chukchi Sea.
The visitor’s center sits above Bishop’s Beach with an outstanding view of Kachemak Bay. We viewed a very interesting video about the research on the remote islands, and the drastic reduction in sea lions, sea otters and some other marine creatures in the past twenty years. We purchased a copy of this video. We then took the Beluga Slough trail and a bit closer view of the bald eagle’s nest …. easy to see in a tree top but really too far away for me to photograph with my 3.8X zoom.
It was lunch time so we went to McDonald’s … Susan had their new grilled chicken southwest salad. After lunch we drove to the West Hill Avenue to “climb” high above the beach. This was a spectacular drive turning into Skyline Drive and then East End Avenue. The view of mountains, glaciers, bay, “spit”, town and flowers were wonderful under a bright blue sky and sun. Flowers are everywhere …. yards, pots, flower boxes, everyone and every business’ have bright flowers. We can only assume the desire for bright flowers are the dark winter.
After our beautiful drive we stopped at the Art Shop Gallery www.artshopgallery.com and Susan purchased a small framed print of tuffed puffins. After that we returned to our RV park with the beautiful view of the bay, glaciers and mountains.
We think Fireweed is miss named as it is beautiful. The four-petaled flowers grow along tall, graceful stalks and bloom bright magenta from the bottom up. Some are more pink and some are more lavender, but all are beautiful. The plant does have medicinal properties and can be eaten.
The territorial government adopted the wild native forget-me-not as the state flower April 29, 1917. Five sky-blue connected petals ring a white inner circle and a yellow center in this small flower. The lupine proliferates in gardens and along roads and trails. Its bonnet-shaped blossoms add color to the countryside and are credited with enriching the soil. A plant to avoid is the Devil’s Club … which we first saw at the AK War Memorial. This has woody stems, six to eight feet tall when fully grown; it is protected by sharp thorns. The huge leaves are prickly on the undersides. Clusters of white flowers became brilliant red berries in the fall.
In January 2006, Augustine Volcano erupted for the eighth time since 1902. Visible from Homer, at 75 miles away, Augustine is too far to cause damage from hot ash falls or explosive blasts. Homer and other Kachemak Bay communities got a slight dusting of volcanic ash, more an irritant than a danger.
The most prominent of three nearby volcanoes, Augustine is the cone-shaped island separate from other mountains. On clear days, it can sometimes be seen trailing a long plume of steam, or look shrouded in cotton-candy clouds. Two other volcanoes can also be seen from Homer. A handy acronym, “AIR”, helps to remember the order of the three nearby volcanoes, Augustine, Iliamna and Redoubt. Also think “DAIR” Douglas on the west side of the entrance to Cook Inlet, Augustine Island, Iliamna, and Redoubts.
Augustine Volcano: 4,134 feet, is an island volcano in lower Cook Inlet near Kamishak Bay.
Iliamna Volcano: 10,016 feet is a stratovolcano in the Aleutian Range in Lake Clark National Park, two prominent 7,500 foot peaks distinguish it from Redoubt. Another mnemonic is the Il-i-am-na has four visible peaks, one for each syllable.
Redoubt Volcano: 10,179 feet is another stratovolcano, Redoubt erupted in 1966-68 and in 1989-90.
Mount Douglas: 7,000 feet is visible only on crystal-clear days, it is a dissected stratovolcano at the tip of Shelikof Strait.
Fourpeaked Volcano at 6,903 feet is not visible from Homer. It is a stratovolcano located about 100 miles southwest of Homer. This volcano became active in September 2006 after last erupting more than 10,000 years ago.
A common moosetake. Moose are the most commonly encountered large animals, Moose may seem tolerant of human presence, but surprisingly there are more fatal moose encounters than bear encounters in Alaska. The power of a moose’s hoof kicking with 1,000 pounds of force can be deadly. Pat and Bob saw a Moose and her calf yesterday when did the Skyline Drive trip. We haven’t seen any here … yet.
August 10, 2007 -- We pulled out of OceanView RV Park about 8:30 a.m., drove almost to the end of the Homer Spit and parked. While Susan laid down Howard return to the docks and again (like yesterday) videoed a swimming jelly fish. 11:30 we went to “lane 1” of the Homer Docks.
At 11:45 a.m. we boarded the Danny J, a Kachemak Bay Ferry for a trip to Halibut Cove. The Danny J is a restored wooden fishing vessel that carries 34 passengers. Halibut Cove is located six miles from Homer on the south side of Kachemak Bay on Ismailof Island. Halibut Cove is accessible only by boat and floatplane. On the trip over we get somewhat closer views of three glaciers: Grewingk, Portlock and Dixon.
In the early 1900’s Halibut Cove had a thriving herring fishing industry. Later it was the scene of bootleggers. Now Halibut Cover is home to a few dozen residents, largely fishermen and artists. The town was pioneered by Clem Tillion, a commercial fisherman and nine-term state legislator, about 50 years ago. We visited the famous art studio / gallery of Diana Tillion, who paints with octopus ink …. Susan talked with her for awhile.
On the one hour fifteen minute trip to Halibut Cove the Danny J slowed and circled Gull Island where we observed, and heard, hundreds or thousands of birds: cormorants, gulls, murres, puffins, kittiwakes and red-legged kittiwakes. This island is home to nine nesting species of birds.
Many of the buildings are built on stilts and there are 12 blocks of boardwalk, plus hiking trails to visit. We sat on the patio over looking the harbor at The Saltry and had a good lunch. Besides visiting the home studio of Diana Tillion, we also visited the gallery that has art from all of the artist living in Halibut Cove. Susan purchased a pendent of a puffin: silver “frame”, ebony background, silver, copper and abalone made by local jewelry artist, Jay Greene, P.O. Box 6449, Halibut Cove, AK 99603. We were in Halibut Cove for 2 ½ hours, leaving at 4 p.m. for the one hour trip back to Homer. On our return trip an adorable sea otter entertained us in the bay.
The day could not have been more perfect, blue sky, bright sun, sparkling water in the bay, about 55 to 65 degrees, and no wind. We quickly returned to the RV park, where our Fantasy RV group was having a halibut fry, pot-luck dinner. A group went out fishing yesterday and everyone got their limit of two halibut.
About 9 p.m. fog began to roll in …. our first and it soon obscured the glaciers, mountains, beach and bay.
August 11, 2007 -- Awoke to “pea soup” fog, could just see the rigs parked around us …. could not see the bay or mountains. We left the RV park at 10:15 a.m. and went the short way into Homer to their large post office. The “service window” only open from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on Sat., so we could not mail boxes. At 10:15 a.m. in Homer it was 50 degrees. We left Homer, as soon as reached the high ground we were out of the fog and it was sunny and bright. We stopped in Anchor Point, AK, their post office was open. We sent a box to Shelly and Brian and one to me in care of Joan next door.
We were in and out of fog and bright sunshine. We stopped at the north side of Deep Creek and took some nice photographs of the creek, flowers and light fog. We saw a porcupine road-kill on the highway. In Soldotna we stopped in the huge Fred Meyer store for groceries and etc.
We stopped at the Town of Living Trees, chain saw art just north of Soldotna and south of Sterling. We have seen a lot of chain saw art in many locations, but this was exceptionally well done, with some paint to show off the figures, and they were displayed in very interesting ways. There was also laser cut art work and other things. Susan purchased a clock in shape of Alaska and a laser cut “hand saw” shape “picture”.
We arrived at Moose River RV Park in Sterling about 1:30 and it was 77 degrees. We again have a good internet connection.
At 6 p.m. we gathered for a pot-luck and king crab feast. We all have one pound (or more) of king crab legs … Howard didn’t want his second half-pound, so Susan got hers and his, too, oink oink oink. Lots of good food …. we took cut fresh fruit and it all disappeared. After eating we had the brief for our trip tomorrow and a brief review of some additional things coming up.
August 12, 2007 -- We left Moose River RV Park in Sterling, AK, at 8:13 a.m., stopped nearby for gas and were on our way. We enjoyed the beautiful drive along the Kenai River, Kenai Lake and Tern Lake, all very popular places to fish for salmon. We left Sterling Highway and rejoined Seward Highway towards Anchorage.
We stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), Mile Post 70 of the Seward Highway, mailing Portage, AK 99587. www.alaskawildlife.org This is a non-profit 140 acre drive-through (and walk-through) animal park. The center is dedicated to the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured animals. We observed and photographed wood bison, plains bison, moose, elk, caribou, black bear, grizzlies, musk-ox, Sitka Deer and a porcupine. There were also birds of prey and other birds. The center is surrounded by the beautiful mountains and glaciers of the Chugach National Forest.
We ate lunch at a turn out by the Turnagain Arm at very low tide. We again saw many salmon fishermen in the Bird River. At 12:30 p.m. it was 63 degrees with cloudy sky, but no rain and no wind.
Our route took us around Anchorage and east. We then took the Old Glen Highway for a scenic drive along the very wide Knik River to our spot for tonight, Mountain View RV Park that lives up to its name.
Our group met in order to car pool to the Musk Ox Farm www.muskoxfarm.com, we rode with Bob and Pat Farris from NY state. Situated in Palmer, AK, the Musk Ox Farm, Mile 50 of the Glenn Highway, is a private non-profit organization dedicated to the development and domestication of the musk ox, for the purpose of providing additional subsistence income opportunities for Alaska’s first people. The soft under-wool of the musk ox, qiviut, is harvested once a year and delivered to Oomingmak, an Alaskan native knitter’s co-operative www.qiviut.com. We had a guide for our Fantasy group of 28 people … the tour took approximately 40 minutes and was very informative and interesting. We saw cows, calves, steers and bulls in their pastures. Once a year the Musk Ox are combed for the underhair that is eventually spun into yarn and kitted by the Natives from “Oomingmak” Musk Ox Producers’ Cooperative. This rare and light fiber, qiviut, is used to create luxurious yet practical garments that are eight times warmer than sheep’s wool yet finer than cashmere.
Why Qiviut from Oomingmak, the Musk Ox Producers’ Co-Operative?
n Because they are hand knitted with knitting needles by Alaskan Native Co-Op members from the remote villages. By knitting, members can earn a supplementary income which complements their mostly subsistence lifestyle. The members are paid for their knitting when it is turned in. They also share in the Co-Op’s profits, in the form of a dividend, at the end of the year based on how much they have knitted.
n Because Qiviut is one of the rarest fibers on earth. The musk ox shed the Qiviut naturally each spring. On the Musk Ox Farm the animals are combed without harm.
n Because Qiviut is eight times warmer than sheet wool by weight, and does not shrink in any temperature of water. Qiviut is soft as well as warm; it has no barbs and therefore does not itch most people.
n Because it is in the natural color, which compliments any complexion and any outfit.
The Oomingmak store is located at 604 H Street, Anchorage, AK 88501. A native owned cooperative since 1969. Exclusive garments in Alaskan village patterns. Hand-knitted by over 200 Eskimo knitters. A unique gift of wearable masterpieces.
Palmer was established about 1916 as a railroad station on the Matanuska branch of the Alaska Railroad. In 1935, Palmer became the site of one of the most unusual experiments in American history: the Matanuska Valley Colony. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, a New Deal agency created during the Franklin Roosevelt administration, planned an agricultural colony in Alaska to utilize the great agricultural potential of the Matanuska Valley, and to get some American farm families – struck by first the dust bowl, then the Great Depression – off the dole. Social workers picked 203 families, mostly from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, to join the colony, because it was thought that the many hardy farmers of Scandinavian descent in those three states would have a natural advantage over the other ethnic groups. The colonists arrived in Palmer in the early summer of 1935, and thought the failure rate was high; many of their descendants still live in the Matanuska Valley. Palmer gradually became the unofficial capital of this valley, acting as headquarters for a farmers’ cooperative marketing organization and as the business and social center for the state’s most productive farming region.
Palmer is Alaska’s only community that developed primarily from an agricultural economy. The growing season averages 80 to 110 days a year, with long hours of sunshine.
I, Susan, have memories of seeing 16 MM movies about the settlement of Palmer, with wheel barrel size cabbages, other very large produce and flowers, plus the beautiful cows on the dairy farms. I believe I saw these films as early as 1947 and 1948, and had wanted to drive the AlCan Highway and visit the area ever since I first saw these early movies. Although we visited Alaska in 2000 we did not get to the Mat-Su Valley or Palmer.
Skip and Sue (wagon masters) and Ron and Joyce (tail gunners) held the brief of tomorrow’s route at 7 p.m. Then Roberta May did a seminar on microwave baking and cooking, and sales pitch for Tupperware, as she has been a saleswoman for them for 30 years. email RMay@WhitneyTx.net
August 13, 2007 -- We left Mountain View RV Park near Palmer, AK, just before 8 a.m. heading north on the Glenn Highway toward Glennallen www.GlennHighway.org. It was a bright beautiful day with clear blue sky and sunshine. We made many stops along the beautiful King River, seeing the mountains, pyramid-shaped King Mountain, Long Lake and Weiner Lake where the fish were rising and the lakes looked like great places to fish. Soon we saw the magnificent Matanuska Glacier (stopping multiple times); water from the glacier gives the Matanuska River its milky color.
We stopped at the very colorful (rocks) 6,300 ft. high Sheep Mountain and observed eight Dall Sheep high on the slope. We ate lunch at one of the numerous turn-outs. Soon our windshield was filled with the wide expanse of the beautiful snow-covered Wrangell Mountains …. Mount Drum, Mount Sanford, Mount Wrangell and others.
After stopping for gas in Glennallen we headed south on the Richardson Highway towards Valdez. The Alaskan Pipeline parallels the highway on its way from the North Slope to the end in Valdez. We saw the Wrangell Mountains to our left, and after Mirror Lake the highway followed the Tsaina River. We saw wonderful glaciers and the complete drive was beautiful!
We stopped at Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site and walked down to near the face of the glacier. According to state park rangers, this glacier is the most visited site in the Copper River Basin. Worthington Glacier heads on Girls Mountain, elev. 6,134 feet.
The drive through Thompson Pass, elev. 2,678 feet was beautiful seeing at least eight glaciers at one time. Thompson Pass, named by Captain Abercrombie in 1899, is comparatively low elevation but above timberline with beautiful wildflowers. In fact we have seen Fireweed and other wildflowers along ALL highways we have driven on this trip.
The National Climatic Center credits snowfall extremes in Alaska to the Thompson Pass station, where record measurements are: 974.5 inches for season (1952-53); 298 inches for month (February 1953); and 62 inches for 24-hour period (December 1955). Snow poles along the highway mark the road edge for snow plows.
We stopped at the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls on left side of the highway and just around a curve stopped for the Horsetail Falls on the right side of the highway.
Our final stop, before our RV park, was at the Copper Creek Salmon Spawning viewing area. The U.S. Forest Service provides a nice viewing platform by Copper Creek for close-up observing of spawning pink and chum salmon from mid-July to early September. They also have an underwater view of the fish with the Fish Cam to observe salmon spawning …. something we had only seen on video but never expected to see in person.
We finished the drive into Valdez that is often called “Little Switzerland”. It is the most northerly iced-free port in the Western Hemisphere. Valdez has evolved into a shipping center since it is the shortest link to much of interior Alaska for seaborne cargo. It is the southern terminus of the Richardson Highway and the trans-Alaska pipeline (800 miles from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean). The Richardson Highway was Alaska’s first road, known to gold seekers in 1898 as the Valdez to Eagle trail. Gold stampeders started up the trail again in 1902, this time headed to Fairbanks, site of a big gold strike. The Valdez to Fairbanks trail became an important route to the interior, and in 1910 the trail was upgraded to a wagon road under the direction of Gen. Wilds P. Richardson, first president of the Alaska Road Commission (ARC). The ARC updated the road to automobile standards in the 1920s and the Richardson Highway was hard-surfaced in 1957.
Our Fantasy Caravan is parked in the large Eagle’s Rest RV Park & Cabins near downtown Valdez. Another full-service park with cable t-v, wireless internet, sewer, water, and many facilities. www.eaglesrestrv.com From our motorhome, in Eagle’s Rest RV Park, we see mountains and glaciers on all sides of us … 360 degrees …beautiful! A glorious day of clear blue sky, bright sunshine, warm in upper 70’s and just a great day!
When our small, 900 passengers,) cruise ship entered the Valdez Harbor in June 2000 we were quite impressed with, and always remembered, the beauty of Valdez.
Valdez is located on Port Valdez (pronounced val-DEEZ), an estuary off Valdez Arm in Prince William Sound. Valdez is 115 air miles and 304 highway miles from Anchorage, 366 highway miles from Fairbanks. The population is approximately 4,500. Situated in a majestic fjord, where the 5,000 foot tall Chugach Mountains rise from Prince William Sound, Valdez, is often called Alaska’s Little Switzerland. On Good Friday 1964 Valdez (and Alaska) experienced a 5 minute, 9.2 measured earthquake. In 1989 Valdez had the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill and cleanup.
August 14, 2007 -- Today was a “free day”. The sunshine left and we awoke to cloudy skies. The setting of the RV park and Valdez is still beautiful with mountains and glaciers all around us. Howard walked to a hardware store for a hose nozzle and then washed the motorhome. We dumped our holding tanks and did small “housekeeping” tasks. I downloaded my 145 new email messages and did some on-line banking, we’re paying the charges as we make them, or as soon as have wireless internet. We have had CNN a number of places but this is the first park to have MSNBC, History, Discovery and other special channels that we enjoy. A few days ago Howard joked that the reason so many of us gals say we are tired is that we’ve had to sign our name so many times (on charge slips). The guys say it surely is strange how they keep meeting one another in gift shops.
Late this afternoon we walked past the Prince William Sound Community College with its huge Indian carving by Peter Toth, city and state office buildings, and the downtown area. We shopped at the Sugar and Spice store (founded 30 years) ago. In the store we watched two good videos, 1.) on the building of the Trans Alaska Pipeline in the 1970’s and 2.) film about the 1964 earthquake and the aftermath. On the walk back to the RV park we stopped and had dinner in the Halibut Hut or some such name.
Our evening brief at 7 p.m. included being served our choice of four kinds of ice cream, four toppings and nuts. We went over the trip from Valdez to Tok and then the drive from Tok to Kluane Lake, the road conditions and things in general.
August 15, 2007 -- Most of us said we awoke from 4:30 to 6 a.m. to pouring rain and wondered if it would rain all day ….. it did not, but stopped about 8 a.m. and the fog / low clouds over the mountains that ring Valdez slowly lifted. It did remain cloudy most of the day until about 5 p.m. when we sun broke through the clouds.
About 9 a.m. a bus picked up our group of travelers of the Fantasy RV “Heart of Alaska” tour and took us to the dock where we boarded Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruise 82 foot ship “Valdez Spirit” for their 9 hour Columbia and Meares Glacier excursion. This companies captains have an average of 24 years of experience and all of the crew live in the Valdez area year around. www.stanstephenscruises.com and www.valdez-alaska.com
South-central Alaska’s Prince William Sound is an area famous for its scenery and wildlife. Dotted with islands, this 70-mile-wide gulf extends 30 miles north and west from the Gulf of Alaska to the Kenai Peninsula. It is bounded to the southeast by Montague and Hinchinbrook islands, which form Hinchinbrook Entrance, the 10-mile-long water passage from the Gulf of Alaska to Prince William Sound. To the north: a rugged, glaciated coastline and the Chugach Mountains.
We had a very good cruise, some of the many things we saw were: TransAlaska Pipeline Terminal, Port of Valdez; Anderson Glacier and waterfalls; many “rafts” of adorable Sea Otters; many Harbor Seals; many Steller Sea Lions; pod of Orcas’; icebergs; many glaciers (Capt. Stephens told us the names of many); Horned Puffin; Tufted Puffin; Cormorant; multiple gulls; Bald Eagles; everything in multiples; commercial fishing boats; sport fishermen, and local history At noon we were served a very tasty lunch and late in the day were served clam chowder. During the day there was complimentary coffee, tea and lemon ade. We saw the very large icebergs that had calved off of Columbia Glacier. Later we spent even longer at Meares Glacier, admiring the blue ice, the Harbor Seals and Sea Otters.
The Columbia Glacier was the last of Alaska’s tidewater glaciers to go into a retreat. The retreat began in 1978, and by 1983 it had moved off its terminal moraine, losing an increasing amount of ice. In 2002, it had retreated for a distance of 7 ½ miles, leaving approximately 18 miles to go before reaching bedrock on shore. This retreat is truly “history in the making”.
The star attraction of Prince William Sound is Columbia Glacier, one of the largest and most magnificent of the tide-water glaciers along the Alaska coast. The Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in Alaska …. We observed the Hubbard calving from our cruise ship in 2000, and professional salmon fishermen (that we know due to Carcinoid Cancer) think the Hubbard is the most impressive of all the glaciers that can be seen by boat.
Columbia Glacier is also the second fastest moving glacier in the world, discharging 2 cubic miles of ice into the Sound annually. It has receded more than 9 miles since 1980. The glacier is currently 34 miles in length, 3 miles wide and more than 3,000 feet think in some places. Visitors to Prince William Sound see its tidewater terminus 6 miles away.
The glacier was named by the Harriman Alaska expedition in 1899 for Columbia University in New York City. The glacier’s source is Mount Einstein, elev. 11,552 feet, in the Chugach Mountains.
In Alaska there are 30,000 square miles of glacier ice, covering five percent of the state. Glacier ice is blue because the physical property of the water molecule absorbs all of the colors in the spectrum except the blue, which is transmitted. Glaciers in the South are both retreating – shortening the distance from the origin to the terminus – and advancing, increasing in size.
The Chugach People are considered to be the first to settle in Prince William Sound in the mid-to-late-eighteenth century, and are Alutilq. Today the Chugach people reside in villages in Tatitlek, Chenega Bay (on Evans Island), Port Graham, and English Bay. An old Settlement at Nuchek is presently being re-established. The Eyak Indians arrived from Alaska’s interior a little later. They are located in the Cordova area. People in the Sound still live a subsistence lifestyle supported by commercial fishing, tourism, and oil industry jobs.
August 16, 2007 -- We left home in Tempe, AZ, seven weeks ago today ….June 28, 2007. We awoke to rain again this morning and thick fog, but by 7 a.m. the rain has stopped and the fog was lifting. We left at 7:45 a.m., filled the rig with gasoline and purchased milk at an Eagle Store (same as Safeway) and we were on the highway by 7:55 a.m.
The trip back up and over Thompson Pass was very pretty with clouds and some clouds. The waterfalls look different with a cloudy sky, but are still very nice to see. As before we noted the “snow poles” to guide the snow plows are reflective as when they are really needed it is “dark” during the winter. We stopped at Mirror Lake and could see one of the snow covered mountains, not all of them like on Monday.
We took some photos of the Valley of the Gakona and braided Copper Rivers. Gakona means “rabbit” in Athabascan. We made several additional stops and had lunch at one of the turn outs. At the Slana River Howard heard and then saw a Bald Eagle.
On entering Tok we stopped at the All Alaska Gifts and Crafts, received a ¼ pound of fudge after shopping. We continued to the Tok RV Village for the night, arriving about 2:30 p.m. in bright sunshine, clear blue sky and temp. in high 70’s or possibly 80.
Tonight approximaor dinner.le 1313 Alcan Hwy, Tok, AK 99708 for dinner.le 1313 Alcan Hwy, Tok, AK 99708 for dinner.
Tonight is the day to flush my implanted port-a-cather and inject Sandostatin LAR. Susan injects Interferon Alfa 2-b (Intron-A the once a week version) every Wednesday evening.
To date we have driven 5,343.8 miles and paid $2,409.19 for gasoline and $87.10 for service.
August 17, 2007 -- We left Tok about 8 a.m. on the Alaska Highway (formerly AlCan), AK Highway 2 towards Haines Junction. The road had many dips, bumps, frost heaves, and gravel patches where the road is being worked on. It was a beautiful sunny day, bright sun, clear blue sky.
We have enjoyed the beautiful Fireweed and other wild flowers lining the road sides for our entire trip through Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska … then suddenly as of yesterday there were only a few spots and today only Fireweed that has gone to seed overnight and lots and lots of Alaska Cotton, a low white plant.
Just north of Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, Canada, we had a short wait at the border to clear customs … less than 10 minutest. Beaver Creek is one of two sites where Alaska Highway construction crews working from opposite directions connected the highway in October 1942. The current population is approximately 112 people. The signs in the city claim it be the western most community/town in Canada.
The boundary line between Alaska and Yukon was originally described in an 1825 treaty between Russia and England. The U.S. accepted this version of the boundary with the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. After gold was discovered on the Klondike in 1898, a dispute arose between the U.S.; and Canada, with both claiming the seaports at the head of Lynn Canal. An international tribunal decided in favor of the U.S; in 1903.
White River is a major tributary of the Yukon River and was named for its white color, which is caused by volcanic ash in the water.
Reflection Lake and Pickhandle Lakes were marvelous with reflections of the mountains and trees showing in the blue water. The views of Donjek River Valley and the Icefield Ranges of the St. Elias Mountains to the west were beautiful.
We rejoined our group at Destruction Bay Lodge and RV Park on Kluane Lake. This is the largest lake in the Yukon, 157 square miles. Today the lake is a beautiful deep blue. In the Lodge Susan immediately purchased a loaf of fresh baked cinnamon bread and two huge cookies. Dfirstname.lastname@example.org
At 5:30 p.m. we joined everyone on the covered patio. Loren Maluorno the owner of the lodge and RV park for the past 14 years welcomed us to the Kluane Lake area. Dennis gave a run down of the things planned for tomorrow …. class in whittling diamond willow walking stick, watercolor painting, barbecue and other things. He then gave us a lot of history of the lake area and the lodge, plus temperature and other general information. Then we had dinner; cooked to order hamburger, homemade burger buns with all the trimmings, special cold slaw, potato salad and then dessert of a nice cake with cream cheese and fresh strawberries topping. After visiting for awhile Howard inquired about fishing in the lake and can get a 24-hour fishing license for $10.
Kluane Kountry “B.O.A.L.S.”* is located in Destruction Bay “in the shack at the back” of historic Destruction Bay Lodge. *“Bump On A Log Shapes” are unique, authentic spruce, cottonwood and poplar burl shapes, hand-crafter into bowls, candle-holders and more. Cobra-flare diamond willow walkin’ stocks and canes are a specialty of the man that makes all of these things.
Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, has approximately 55 people living here. Located on the shore of Kluane Lake, Destruction Bay is one of several towns that grew out of the building of the Alaska Highway. It earned its name when a storm destroyed buildings and materials here.
Everything about Alaska is ….. BIG!
- Alaska has one-fifth the land mass of the entire continental U.S. – 586,000 sq. miles.
- More area than the 26 smallest states.
- 33,000 miles of coastline.
- 19 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet.
- 3 million lakes larger than 20 cares.
- Alaska has more than half the world’s glaciers.
- Alaska’s Mt. McKinley – 20,320 ft. – highest in the U.S.A.
Alaska is six states within a state:
State Bird – Willow Ptarmigan. Alaska’s most important game bird is pure white in the winter. State Flower – Forget-me-not. Alaska’s state flower is blue with a heart of gold. Official State Gem – Jade. Alaska has large deposits of jade, especially near the Kobuk region in western Alaska.
August 18, 2007 -- Another beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies. Most of us had breakfast in the lodge. We purchased a beautiful folding table made from many kinds of wood. The trick was finding a spot for the table in the motorhome …. others that made the same purchase also were having trouble finding a place to take the additional item home. Have not seen a table like this before so another unique purchase.
Howard, Gary and Ray walked down to the lake again …. Howard purchased his one day Yukon fishing license, and caught two eight-inch lake trout that he threw back. But, Gary was with him and took photos.
Fantasy treated us all to a very special barbecue dinner tonight (of course in our fee we paid up front), beef, homemade whole wheat dinner rolls, smoked baked potato salad, tossed green salad, cole slaw, two kinds of fruit cobblers. All VERY good. The lodge has a great cook / baker!
After dinner we had our briefing for tomorrow. Loren M ……. the owner of the lodge asked Howard to bring his banjo to assist with the entertainment. Others had told him that Howard plays and sings. The evening started with Tim Naylor, and then he broke a guitar string and asked Howard to take over and do several solo numbers (singing and playing banjo). After Tim had a new guitar and they were joined by Loren M…….
they had Howard play and since several numbers with them. Then Howard sat down and they did a couple more, then Loren Maluorno read his poem of why he moved to the Yukon. Tim’s song Yukon Summer Nights has been selected as the song to help Yukon tourism for rest of 2007 and into 2008; we purchased a CD of the song. www.tim-naylor.com. It was a nice evening and many told Howard how much they enjoyed his playing and singing.
August 19, 2007 -- We left Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory on shores of Kluane Lake about 8:25 a.m. It was partly cloudy but a lovely morning and Kluane Lake was beautiful. The Alaska Highway follows the shore of Kluane Lake for quite sometime and just to the west of the highway is the Kluane Range of the St. Elias Mountains with the Kluane Icefield Ranges. In Haines Junction we visited the Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitors Center with an active seismograph …. there was a local earthquake on August 15. We then went across the street to the Village Bakery and purchased goodies.
We continued on toward Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway. We stopped at the log Aishihik River Bridge for the Canyon River. The original bridge was built about 1920 by Jacquot brothers to move freight and passengers across the Aishihik River to Silver City on Kluane Lake, and from there by boat to Burwash Landing. The bridge was reconstructed in 1942 by the Army Corps of Engineers during construction of the Alaska Highway. It was again rebuilt in 1987 and again in 2005. We stopped at almost all of the turn-outs to take photographs of the beautiful area.
In Whitehorse most of our group went to Wal-Mart or Canadian Super Store, we did neither. We got gas and then ate lunch at the Airport Chalet and were on our way. Soon we left the Alaska Highway and turned on to Klondike Highway 2 south toward Skagway. Today we did see Fireweed along some sections of the highway that has not gone to seed yet.
We have now driven every mile of the Alaska Highway and many of the other highways. The 110 mile from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada to Skagway, Alaska, USA was even more beautiful than expected!
The first beautiful stop was by Emerald Lake (also called Rainbow Lake by Yukoners). The rainbow like colors of the lake result from blue-green light waves reflecting off the white sediment of the lake bottom. The white sediment, called marl, consists of fragments of decomposed shell mixed with clay; it is usually found in shallow, freshwater lakes that have low oxygen levels during the summer months.
We crossed from the Yukon into British Columbia and then later back into the USA. The mountains, glaciers, and lakes were magnificent. Emerald Lake, Tagish Lake, Nares Lake, Windy Arm, Tutshi Lake, Summit Lake, Goat Lake, plus waterfalls, such as Pitchfork Falls and many others that we do not know the names. We stopped at a national monument for the Chilkoot Trail and also observed the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway as it made its way down the mountain into Skagway
We are parked facing the cruise ship dock and small boat harbor of Skagway in the Pullen Creek RV Park www.pullencreekrv.com. We arrived about 5 p.m. After hooking up electricity we walked the few short blocks to the main part of town. They were rolling up the streets, so to speak. We did get the Juneau Sunday newspaper and a couple of books in the Skagway News store www.skagwaybooks.com, most places had closed as it is Sunday and the cruise ships take people back on board for dinner and leaving port.
Pullen Creek RV Park says it is The Only RV Park ….
…in Alaska next to Alaska’s leading tourist attraction, The White Pass & Yukon Railroad
… in SE Alaska next to the Cruise Ship docks (the 17th busiest port in the world!!!)
… in Skagway that is one block from Historic Downtown Skagway
… in Skagway that is two blocks from the Alaska State Ferry Terminal
… in SE Alaska that has a salmon-spawning stream next to it
We are on the ocean waterfront … a great location for cruise ship watching.
The only RV park in SE Alaska with a view of Lynn Canal & Harding Glacier.
Skagway is located on the north end of Taiya Inlet on Lynn Canal, 90 air miles northwest of Juneau; 108 road miles south of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The northern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway Southeast ferry system and southern terminus of the South Klondike Highway, which connects with the Alaska Highway. The year around population is about 900 people.
The name Skagway … originally spelled Skaguay … is said to mean “stiffly wind rippled water” in Tlingit. It is the oldest incorporated city in Alaska (incorporated in 1900). Skagway is a year-round port and one of two gateway cities to the Alaska Highway in Southeast Alaska: Klondike Highway 2 connects Skagway with the Alaska Highway. The other gateway city is Haines, connects to the Alaska Highway via the Haines Highway.
The first whites settled in the area about 1887. But Skagway owes its birth to the Klondike Gold Rush. Skagway and it nearby neighbor (well established Tlingit village) boomed as thousands of gold seekers arrived to follow the White Pass and Chilkoot trails to the Yukon goldfields. In July 1897, the first boatloads of stampeders bound for the Klondike landed at Skagway and Dyea. By October 1897, according to a North West Mounted Police report, Skagway had grown “from a concourse of tents to a fir-sized town, with well-laid-out streets and numerous frame buildings, stores, saloons, gambling houses, dance houses and a population of about 20,000.” Less than a year later it was reported that “Skagway was little better than a hell on earth.” Customs office records for 1898 show that in the month of February alone 5,000 people landed at Skagway and Dyea.
By the summer of 1899 the stampede was all but over. The newly built White Pass & Yukon Route railway reached Lake Bennett, supplanting the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea. Dyea became a ghost town. Skagway’s population dwindled to 500, but Skagway persisted, both as a port and as a terminus of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway, which connected the town of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in 1900.
August 20, 2007 -- When we awoke there were three large and one small cruise ship docked here in Skagway. The small one is the paddle wheel ship of Cruise West. The ships often come in here at night and leave the next evening.
We hit the dock about 7:15 a.m. today, and we all walked down to the floating dock to wait for the Fjords Express to Juneau. We left the dock at 7:45 a.m., returned tonight at 8:40 p.m. …. a great day, but a very long and busy day!
The MV Fjordland is a 65 foot, state-of-the-art, fast-hulled catamaran designed for the waters of Lynn Canal, owned and operated by Alaska Fjordlines. It is a 36 ton vessel with cruising speed of 26 knots. Everyone had indoor seating, on one level, with 360 degree views and a large open deck in the back.
After departing Skagway we went to Haines to pick up three additional passengers. Then headed south through the Lynn Canal, the longest and deepest glacial fjord in North America. We saw the beautiful Coast Range of mountains, glaciers and waterfalls along the way AND wildlife!
First we saw three very swift Dall Porpoise, then Harbor Seals, next (and during the day) Bald Eagles, Sea Lions, three Orca’s (miss named Killer Whales), some saw a wolf and later a bear along the shore line. Most exciting was a pod of Humpback Whales and seeing them TWICE do the “bubble-netting” (also observed this on the return trip tonight). This latter is “rare” and usually only seen about two weeks out of the year, if then. Actually we saw this three times, twice doing to Juneau and once on our return trip!
Bubble-net feeding can be a team effort involving up to two dozen whales. They dive below a school of fish, swim in a circle, and start blowing a ring of bubbles. As the bubbles rise, they form a curtain around a column of water. The fish stay within the encircling bubbles as if trapped in a net. The whales then swim up from under the fish, with their mouths wide open, engulfing the concentrated prey. The other feeding technique if “lunge” where a whale lunges upward with mouth wide open and can scoop up a small school of fish or krill. For the “bubble-net” feeding the birds circled and the number grew considerably and they flew nearer the surface just before the whales arose together. Quite a site to see.
The boat docked in Auke Bay and we boarded a nice bus for sightseeing …. The governor’s mansion, State Capitol, other state government buildings, some history and interesting things about Juneau. We were left off the bus by the Juneau Library / cruise ship dock. We ate lunch and shopped … buying jewelry, books, a few gift items, and visiting a number of art galleries. Although cloudy we did not having any misting rain until 3 p.m. when we met our bus … at the library.
Then we were off for Mendenhall Glacier. First stop was the viewing platform along Steep Creek where salmon were spawning, some people saw a bear walking along the creek. Some of our group, including Howard, too the gravel trail along Steep Creek to get to visitors center and the photo point. Others of us took a sidewalk to the visitors center. We watched the 11 minute movie the “Magnificent Mendenall” and learned about the 1,500 square mile Juneau Icefield.
When Howard and I were here in 2000 we took a helicopter trip up to and landed on the Mendenhall Glacier, and got out and walked around on the glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier is Juneau’s drive-up attraction. The Mendenhall Glacier is a tongue of ice stretching 12 miles from the Juneau Icefield to Mendenhall Lake. At its widest point, the glacier is more than 1.5 miles, with ice 400 to 1,800 feet deep. The Mendenhall is one of 38 large and more than 100 smaller valley glaciers in the Juneau Icefield. The largest Taku, Eagle and Herbert Glaciers are also nearby. We saw the Herbert and several other large named glaciers from our boat. In 1879, naturalist John Muir named it “Auk Glacier” after a local Tlingit Indian village. In 1892 the name was changed to honor Thomas C. Mendenhall, superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geoderic Survey. Since the mid-1700s, the glacier has been retreating. Before 1765, the face of the glacier reached 2.5 miles further down the Mendenhall Valley.
As I’ve noted before, glacial ice has a unique crystalline structure that absorbs and reflects light, giving the ice its blue appearance. The most intense blue occurs in crevasses and when ice breaks off, or calves, from a glacier’s face. The blue color fades as the ice is exposed to air and the crystalline structure breaks down. Glacier viewing is often best on overcast and rainy days.
Our sightseeing bus picked us up at 4:40 p.m. at Mendenhall Glacier and took us back to the small boat harbor at Auke Bay and a return to the Fjordland for the return trip back to Skagway via Haines.
For a third time we had the treat of seeing a pod of Humpback Whales do the “bubble-net” feeding. The boat captain and deck hand (both female college graduates) were excited as they rarely see this. The captain asked if anyone got good photos to share them with the company via email and possibly they could be put on the web site. Howard has good video and Susan thinks she has several good photos, but hasn’t checked yet. www.alaskafjordlines.com Glen and Alison Jacobson, email: Alison@alaskafjordlines.com
After a stop in Haines for three passengers to disembark we were off to Skagway, arriving at 8:40 p.m. A wonderful day with only light mist a few times. It stayed cloudy and on our return to Skagway more and more blue sky and sunshine appeared.
August 21, 2007 -- Today we awoke to find four large cruise ships in the harbor in front of us; two Princess ships, one Celebrity Cruise and one Holland American ship. The sky was cloudy most of the day, no rain, and some blue sky and sunshine.
We were to leave on the 9:30 a.m. fast ferry to Haines, AK, operated by Chilkat Express the boat, MV Yukon Queen, was a bit late and we left at 9:40 a.m. We again saw Sea Lions sunning themselves on a small island of rocks in Lynn Canal (fjord) both going to Haines and returning from Haines, plus Bald Eagles. Haines is only 15 miles by water from Skagway but 359 miles by road.
Upon arrival in Haines, a town of approximately 2,500 people, we boarded a bus for a tour of the town. Local writer Heather Lende’s book If You Lived Here, I’d know Your Name: news from Small-town Alaska captures small town friendliness.
The original Indian name for Haines was Dei Shu, meaning “end of the trail,” referring to where Chilkat and Chilkoot Indians met and traded with Russian and American ships at the end of the peninsula. It was also their portage route for transporting canoes from the Chilkat River to Portage Cove and Lynn Canal.
Our first stop was at the non-profit American Bald Eagle Foundation (ABEF) www.baldeagles.org. The founder of the foundation spoke to our group for 45 minutes and was very interesting. Many of us could have listened to him for hours on end. On June 20, 1982, the 48,000 acre Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve was established near Haines in “The Valley of the Eagles.” Each year, between October and January, up to 4,000 bald eagles congregate in the Preserve to take advantage of the chum salmon, which provide an abundant winter food source for eagles and other predators. The salmon are able to spawn in the Preserve’s rivers between October and January, because percolation of the water prevents portions of the rivers from freezing.
The American Bald Eagle Foundation’s diorama is a representation of the diverse wildlife that can be found in the Preserve throughout the year. There are more than 180 animal specimens on display in a re-creation of the natural habitat … VERY well done.
The ABEF’s 98-foot mural, with the “Box of Life,” depicts the critical role nature has played in the lives of the Chilkat Valley natives, the Tlingits. One of the ABEF’s goals is to impart an understanding of the richness of humans’ past relationship with nature, so that a present-day appreciation for nature will be gained.
When we were on the World Explorer cruise the last two weeks of June 2000, Howard and I (and another couple) took the ferry from Skagway to Haines. We were taken to the Eagle Preserve, had a barbecue on the river bank and then got into a zodiac type rubber raft (it was spitting sleet) … we then floated for eleven (11) miles through the Bald Eagle Preserve. We were told there were not many Bald Eagles present since it was summer. But, to us there were lots of eagles … in trees, flying around, AND fishing and catching fish in the river we were floating on. It was one of two high-lights from that great cruise.
We continued the bus ride with additional history of Haines. Our next stop was at the non-profit organization Alaska Indian Arts. One of the carvers (son of the founder) talked to us about the founding and purpose of this organization. www.alaskaindianarts.com The man that spoke to us talked about length of time to carve a 35 foot totem pole, about the tools used, potlatches and other things. He did not mention the cost these days to have a totem carved, but the bus driver told us the rate today if $3,500.00 per foot, yes $3,500.00 per foot.
We were returned to the Chilkat Bruises Fast Ferry dock for lunch. We were disappointed there was no time to walk around “downtown” to see The Hammer Museum, as it was not part of the tour (plus driver, acted like she didn’t really know about it, when Susan asked her, although it is in Haines literature of things to see. Several others also would have liked to have visited the Hammer Museum after we told them about it.
After lunch we reboarded the bus for additional sightseeing, driving out paved Mud Bay Road with several stops along river, and to view Rainbow Glacier, drink water from a natural spring. We then drove to the other side of Haines and to the Southeast Alaska Fair Grounds where we got out to view “Dalton City” the “town” built as a movie set for the Disney film “White Fang”. We return to the ferry dock and rode a nicer and larger boat MV Spirit back to Skagway, smooth ride even with small whitecaps and wind on Lynn Canal.
Skip and Sue (wagon masters) held the briefing just after our return from Haines.
Then Gary and Cindy (from FL), Rob and Elizabeth (from Kent, England), and we went downtown Skagway and had a nice dinner in an Italian restaurant. Gary then brought Susan back to the RV while the rest of them went on to Monte Carlo Night, to “gamble” with a grub stake of $1,000 in funny money; and then to see The Days of ’98 Show with Soapy Smith. Gold rush type entertainment/historical musical comedy of Skagway and the legendary con-man…Soapy Smith. Susan worked her lap-top computer while they were gone and still did not view all of the photos she took the past several days. The four cruise ships started leaving around 8:30 p.m., with approximately 30 minutes between them.
August 22, 2007 -- Today a “free day” for us and until 4 p.m. for most of the rest. Others will take the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad trip up to the Canadian border and back again. We awoke to low clouds / over-cast skies and five cruise ships. Sitting at the table, here in the RV, facing the harbor I, Susan, can see a Cruise West ship, and two very large Norwegian Cruise Line ships, plus corner of two other large cruise ships to my left (look like Princess ones but cannot read the names from here).
We walked the short way to downtown and shopping. We visited more than half of the stores, stopped for ice cream cones and purchased: two cross-stitch needle-work kits (www.changingthreads.com), gold and quartz jewelry (pendant, earring and gold chain), some Alaska socks, and a book Sin and Grace (a historical novel of the Skagway, Alaska Sporting Wars) Book One of the Si Tanner Chronicles (a real lawman of Skagway) by Catherine Holder Sprude (www.skagwaybooks.com). We returned to our RV in the Pullen Creek RV park, and observed large salmon spawning in Pullen Creek. By noon some blue sky and bright sunshine had broken through the low clouds.
Howard paid $6.95 for 24-hours of internet access … Susan felt too tired to get on-line and Howard was busy with work things anyway. Most of us on the RV tour have said we needed the “down” day or “free” day, including those going on the train late today. Then Howard worked to make a video of the best video’s he has made on this trip so far, after much culling he made a 22 minute video. NO still photographs were included in the video.
Howard is now joking and saying “all of the gals have carpel tunnel syndrome due to signing so many charge slips”, ho ho ho. He said he over heard a couple of men, from one of the cruise ships, talking in a store today …. one asked how things are going, and the other one said the shopping was going well, so far today she hadn’t bought anything.
Tonight we had the best restaurant meal we have had on this trip and that is saying a great deal. Susan eats to live, doesn’t live to eat and Howard is easy to please. We ate at The Stowaway Café overlooking the small boat harbor on Congress Way in Skagway, Alaska.
We started with a mushroom soup in a great broth … normally Susan does not care for this soup, but it was the best she had ever eaten. Howard had shrimp curry and rice, Susan had grilled halibut with rice and a Caesar salad, we both enjoyed home baked bread, and all was superb. Howard ended with vanilla ice cream and Susan had mango sorbet.
August 23, 2007 -- This morning five new cruise ships were in the harbor, arriving while we slept. Another small Cruise West, two Princess, one Celebrity and one Holland America ship. We left about 8:25 a.m. to drive out of Skagway via the South Klondike Highway. Clouds, but some blue sky and fairly bright. We stop at several lakes to take additional photos, besides the ones Susan took as Howard drove. Early in our drive a beautiful Red Fox ran across the highway in front of us …. Susan enjoyed the view and forgot to take a photograph of him. We saw small amounts of Fireweed still blooming as has not gone to seed everywhere. But, in a few places a tree or bush has already turned yellow orange so fall and winter are not far ahead of us.
We stopped for gas in Carcross and then went another mile and stopped at The Carcross Desert. The latter is affectionately known as the smallest desert in the world, and is located just off the Klondike Highway (which connects Skagway, Alaska with the Yukon). The sand, which was once the bottom of a large glacial lake, is constantly worked by strong prevailing winds, making it difficult for vegetation to become established. Because of its location in the mountains it receives very little rainfall. Bennett Lake is nearby.
Our next stop was at Caribou Crossing Tracing Post (Museum of Yukon Natural History, Inc.), home of the world’s largest mounted bear. www.cariboucrossing.ca The exhibit is privately financed, and is being developed to raise awareness and appreciation of the wildlife of Yukon. Many of the specimens displayed met an untimely end through natural causes or contact with man, and were donated by caring individuals. Other exhibits utilize the by-products of meat harvests, a part of Yukon culture present since time immemorial. The museum has displayed the magnificent wild animals of Yukon as in a role of the highest honor, much as we have acknowledged the heroes of our species throughout history. The museums hope is that through knowledge and understanding will come the commitment to provide for wildlife forever. Among the exhibits were: A full-sized Woolly Mammoth (Weighing in at 7000 kilograms and having 2.5 meter tusks), several Musk Ox and ALL of the usual animals found in the Yukon and Alaska. They also have the largest polar bear ever mounted. It was taken by George Angiohiatok of Cambridge Bay, North West Territory, while hunting near Gates head Island in the McClintock Channel in winter of 1991. The skin measured 3.5 meters from note to tail and it weight was in excess of 1700 pounds. After the museum we visited the sled dogs and Susan cuddled a two week old pup. We walked among the various display buildings and then stopped to enjoy pieces of pie before visiting the gift shop.
We continued on our way and had the highway as we like it …. no visible cars or trucks in front of us or in back of us. The sky remained cloudy with some patches of blue and occasional sunshine. We arrived at the Yukon Motel and RV park about 3 p.m. (Canadian time) having lost an hour after leaving Skagway. Again we are in space 23 on the shore of beautiful Nisutlin Bay of Teslin Lake. Besides a great souvenir shop they also have a splendid Wildlife Gallery: Northern Wildlife Museum with numerous species of Yukon wildlife on display in their natural habitat. As soon as Howard connected our electricity we signed on to the WiFi (wireless internet), and Susan downloaded 270 email messages.
We went to dinner at the Yukon Motel’s Restaurant and were quite satisfied. Then again visited the Yukon Wildlife Gallery, here at the motel RV park. This gallery is very nice with the animals displayed in natural looking setting. Nice blue sky over the bay / lake and a gentle breeze.
August 24, 2007 -- We left the Yukon Motel and RV Park in Teslin about 8:30 a.m. We immediately crossed the Nisutlin Bay Bridge over the Nisutlin River; this is the largest water span on the Alaska Highway, 1,917 feet. We had spots of early sunshine, but mostly a cloudy day.
After several stops to visit with others in our group we met Barbara, Warren, Pam, and Don for a mid-morning breakfast at Walker’s Continental Divide. This was just after the Continental Divide that separates the MacKenzie River system, sending it to the Arctic Ocean, and the Yukon River system sending it to the Pacific Ocean.
We stopped to photograph the Rancheria River again. A few bunches of Fireweed still blooming and some gone to seed. We saw more and more trees and bushes that have turned to yellow and orange so fall / winter is near here in the Yukon.
We arrived at our RV park for the evening at 1 p.m. We are in space 51 of Nugget City / Baby Nugget RV Park, 14 miles outside of Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada, with cable and satellite T-V. www.nuggetcity.com We filled our gas tank with gas. Most of us took it easy this afternoon. This was a short day, only drove 146 miles.
We ate dinner with Floyd, Roberta, Norm and Anne in the Wolf It Down Café, part of Nugget City. Briefing for the next two days travel was held at 7 p.m. Linda Goodwin spoke to us about living in the Yukon most of her life, working here and then how she and her husband Scott purchased the Beaver Post gift shop in 1994, and about how they have added the café, the RV park and just over a week ago added gasoline available for 24 hours a day. Master wood carver Roger Latondress also spoke to our group briefly. His work in the gift shop and café is splendid.
August 25, 2007 -- We left Nugget City about 7:25 a.m. with overcast skies as it rained during the night and early morning hours. We headed down Highway 37 the Cassiar Highway that provides access to Hyder, AK and Stewart, BC. The Cassiar is known for offering outstanding scenery and good wildlife viewing. Difficult to take photographs today due to the overcast sky, low clouds, and then rain and over-all darkness. We did see some lamas but that was about it for wildlife. It is hunting season for both caribou and moose so we really do not expect to see any of those magnificent animals. There were a couple of 8% grades and lots of gravel and very narrow roads with NO shoulders, or no shouldes and deep drop offs.
Our group all stopped at the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store www.jadecity.ca in Jade City, BC, Canada for about 45 minutes. Jade City has a population of 12. Jade City was named for the jade deposits found to the east. There are several major jade mines in the Cassiar region. The Princess Jade Mine in the Cassiar Mountain Range, about 85 miles from Jade City, accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s jade supply. The Cassiar Mountain Jade Store is owned by the owners of the Princess Jade Mine. We saw them cutting huge pieces of jade (outside) and also rhodonite. Susan hadn’t purchased any jade earlier in the trip …. she was waiting for Jade City. We purchased a carved dog sled with driver and dog team (not 16 dogs though) out of jade positioned on a large piece of raw/unfinished jade, plus jewelry and several small items.
We stopped at a large grocery store in Dease Lake, BC. The male checker told us “today is the first day of winter” and since mid-May they’ve had about 16 days of sunshine. Dease Lake is quite long and beautiful, as were Boya Lake, Good Hope Lake, Cotton Lake, other lakes and the Stikine River. There was road construction going on even though it is Saturday, but at least very low volume of traffic. We did have one lane traffic with flagmen (all women these days) due to road cave-ins and slides. All went even with the weather and road conditions.
We arrived at our RV park, the Tatogga Lake Resort, Iskut, BC, a North Pacific Seaplanes float plane base about 2:35 p.m.. When we filled the motorhome with gas the attendant told Howard they have had nice sunshine for the last two weeks. Iskut is a small Tahltan Native community with a population of 283. Mixed light and then heavy rain off and on. At 4:30 p.m. we went to the restaurant for today’s dinner special of pork chops, they were good. There are a number of caribou and moose hunters staying here in the nice cabins and campers so unlikely that we’ll see any of those animals tomorrow.
This evening Howard walked down to the lake, he heard helicopters; he had to step off the road as one helicopter landed just where he had been standing. There was a lot of helicopter activity until after dark (and started again at first light on Sunday). We were told the helicopters are bringing in supplies for the mines …. gold, silver, copper and jade. Mining activity has increased greatly recently as the price of gold and precious metals has risen.
August 26, 2007 -- Today is oldest daughter Cynthia’s 47th birthday. Mailed her a check and birthday card about two weeks ago in Alaska so it should have arrived early.
We left Tatogga Lake RV Park about 8 a.m. and headed south, in light rain and low clouds, on the Cassiar Highway (B.C. Hwy 37). The early part of the day had a number of one lane bridges, very narrow highway with no shoulders and no center strip painted on the highway. Some of the bridges had wood decking. This drive is beautiful, and would have been even more so with some sunshine. We observed a large beaver lodge across a lake but no place to park The many lakes and rivers were lovely; Kinaskan lake, Natadesleen Lake, Ningunsaw River, Iskut River, Burrage River, Thomas Creek, Devil Creek, Bob Quinn Lake, Bell-Riving River, Bowser Lake and others.
When we reached the Bob Quinn helicopter base, Nova Gold Co., and Pacific Helicopters, plus a landing strip for small airplanes, the highway became paved and painted with center and side stripes and it was a good road for the rest of the day.
Around 9:45 a.m. the sun broke through the clouds and we could see the magnificent mountains and glaciers. We had a delightful experience …. Howard thought there were two dogs on the side of the highway and felt they would run into the road. So, Howard stopped on the highway (very very light traffic), and the two dogs turned out to be two bear cubs! The two cubs (have to be this years cubs due to small size) then scampered across the highway right in front of us. Then mamma bear followed her two cubs, then stopped and sat down to observe us. We pulled up a bit and she gave us a final look and then bounded into the bushes after her cubs. Susan got pictures of the cub and of mamma.
We turned off on Hwy 37A at the Meziadian Lake Junction and continued toward Hyder, AK / Stewart, B.C. on the “Glacier Highway” that runs from Meziadian Junction southwest to Stewart. This route provides access to some of B.C.’s richest reserves of natural resources including copper, gold and silver. On this drive we observe 20 glacier formations overlooking the highway, giving it the name “Glacier Highway”. This was a beautiful drive, watched a bear on the side of the road and enjoyed the mountains, glaciers and waterfalls, one called Wall of Tears, plus wild flowers. We drove down to the Bear Glacier Picnic area almost at base of Bear River Glacier, and by several water falls. We stopped to take many photographs. Soon we entered Stewart, B.C. and parked in the Bear River RV Park.
Stewart, B.C. and Hyder, AK are on a spur of the Cassiar Highway, at the head of Portland Canal, a narrow saltwater fjord approximately 90 miles long .... the fourth longest fjord in the world. The fjord forms a natural boundary between Alaska and Canada. Stewart has a deep harbor and is Canada’s most northerly ice-free port. Today the economy is driven by forestry, mining and tourism. The population: Stewart 699, Hyder 83, their elevation is sea level.
Six modern motion pictures have been filmed in Stewart, they are:
-- Bear Island, starring Donald Sutherland, Lloyd Bridges and Vanessa Redgrave, filmed in 1979.
-- The Thing, starring Kurt Russell, filmed in 1982.
-- Iceman, starring Timothy Hutton and John Lone, filmed in 1984.
-- Leaving Normal, starring Meg Tilly, Christine Lahti and Barbara Russell, filmed in 1992.
-- Insomnia, starring Robin Williams, Al Pacino and Hilary Swank, filmed in 2002.
-- Eight Below, starring Paul Walker, filmed in 2005.
A little after 3 p.m., Ray and Opal Rice and we drove to the Fish Creek Bear Viewing Area bout 6 miles west of the RV park, and located 3 miles north of Hyder on Salmon Glacier Road. This is a day-use recreation area operated by the U.S. forest Service. Both brown (grizzly) and black bears can be easily observed and photographed here as they fish for chum and pink salmon in the shallow waters of Fish Creek and Marx Creek from mid-July through early September. Viewing is from a boardwalk viewing area.
At the Fish Creek Bear Viewing Area Howard videoed a grizzly bear in the stream, and then videoed a black bear in the stream fishing, while Howard and Susan both took many snapshots of this bear, and birds. A little before 6 p.m. the four of drove in to Hyder, AK and went to The Bus to eat dinner, our treat. One gal operation, so it is slow, but very good local sea food and worth the wait. After dinner, about 7:30 p.m., the four of us returned to the Fish Creek Bear Viewing Area. We all took quite a few snapshots and Howard was able to video another black bear by the swimming pond and also eating berries, and to film a beaver swimming in the pond. The viewing area is kept open until 9:30 p.m., we left around 9 p.m., satisfied with the number of bears we had seen, and the salmon and birds. As we returned to Stewart we had to stop at the Canadian border customs, show our passports and answer questions.
August 27, 2007 -- This morning Skip, Sue, Ron and Joyce (wagon master and tail gunner) cooked bacon, sausage and blueberry pancakes (and made coffee) for everyone. They said would serve from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., but everyone showed up from 8 to 8:30 a.m. The group decided to have our daily briefing for tomorrow this morning then no one would need to be here for sure late in the afternoon.
Sue and Skip (wagon masters) offered us a ride to view Salmon Glacier and we accepted. We left about 10:30 a.m. after they had finished cleaning up from cooking breakfast.
The District of Stewart, B.C., www.districtofstewart.com, provides a very nice large folder “Glacier Highway and Salmon Glacier Self Guided Auto Tour” and we took that with us on this jaunt. Skip and Sue said they go up each year …. this is their fourth summer … third as wagon masters and the first year was as tail gunners.
On this auto tour we passed the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, soon, at 10.3 mile, Texas Creek joined the Salmon River and it widened across the valley as it flowed to the Portland Canal. The views of glaciers, rivers, water falls and flowers were magnificent. Summit Lake is a self dumping lake, located above the Salmon Glacier, and normally drains northward into upper Bowser River. The first recorded flood (an event known as a Jokulhlaups, pronounced Yuck-a-lups) occurred in December 1961. The lake drained under the glacier, raising the level of the river and filling it with ice bergs. This resulted in a catastrophic flooding along the Salmon River valley. The lake then began a cycle of filling and draining, flooding the Salmon River, causing damage to the road and bridges along the river. The event now occurs almost every year, raising the water to flood level and depositing ice chunks along the river, but without much damage to the road.
Premier border crossing (Silver Heights) was at 13.0 mile …. The international boundary between Alaska and B.C. was officially designated in 1903 by a commission established to resolve the Alaska – Canada boundary dispute. The boundary area just below Premier, B.C. was referred to as Silver Heights. From the 1920s to the early 1950s miners going to work and residents of Premier Mine Camp had to stop here at the Canadian Customs building.
The gravel road was somewhat narrow but had wider spots to stop for taking photos, and we took advantage of them to stop and oh and ah at the spectacular scenery under a sky that had clouds, patches of blue and was bright.
The Toe of Salmon Glacier was found at 17.2 mile. Looking down upon the toe of Salmon Glacier and along the valley below we could see how the glacier is continually transforming the landscape and itself. At the toe of the glacier we saw a series of small ridge like accumulations. These ridges are made up of Till that has been deposited across the valley and are known as Terminal or end Moraines. These Terminal Moraines mark standstill positions of a present or past glacier front. There were also small ponds located below the toe. These depressions, known as Kettles, are formed by the melting of buried ice blocks, which are stranded on the outwash plain after the glacier recedes. The color is caused by the fine materials suspended in the water.
Glaciers move by three methods, gravity, internal deformation and by basal slip, when the ice mass slides over its bed on a film of water. Sections of the glacier can move at different rates. In confined valley glaciers the fastest ice currents are at the center of the ice surface. A shearing effect results on the surface due to this difference in speed, splitting open the ice to form crevasses.
At one point we observed a helicopter with a long cable suspended and a net with what turned out to be barrels of fuel in the net, place the net and barrels neatly in the bed of a pick up truck parked on the side of the road. The helicopter then landed on the road to unhook the cable. We again assumed this was supplies for one of the many mines in the area, or a communication site (if so the fuel would be used for the generators). Later at the summit we again saw the helicopter, with cable suspended, and a cargo net of supplies. Howard took a photograph of this again the snow on the glacier/mountain.
The summit viewpoint of Salmon Glacier is at 22.9 mile. The landscape is a result of several periods of glaciation. The most recent, known as the Fraser Glaciation period, reached its peak around 14,000 years ago. This is when the ice sheet reached its maximum size, covering much of what we now know as British Columbia and Alaska, with the exception of the Queen Charlotte Ranges and parts of the Rocky Mountains. In these high mountains, summits and ridges stood above the ice surface and classic alpine landforms were created.
As climatic conditions improved the ice sheet began its slow retreat and the land began to rise, leaving the landscape as it is today. The Salmon Glacier, the fifth largest in Canada, is a remnant of that last great age of glaciers.
Looking down on Salmon Glacier was a good experience and the scenery was spectacular. We met others from our RV tour there, a bus of European tourist and a few others. Keith Scott, the “bear man”, was there talking and selling his DVDs and book he has written with great photographs. We purchased the book and one of the DVDs.
On the return trip back down the valley we made several addition photo stops. We chose not to stop at the Fish Creek Bear Viewing Area again. We then went to the Bus café in Hyder, our treat, and had more great local sea food. After lunch we returned to Bear River RV Park around 3:30 p.m. Later several returned to view the bears again, Bunny and Dick asked us to go with them, but we were tired enough and Howard felt he had enough good video we did not go out again. Maybe should have gone as a grizzly bear decided to swim in the pond and show off for the crowd later in the early evening.
August 28, 2007 -- We left Bear River RV Park a bit before 8 a.m. and drove into town (Stewart, B.C., Canada) to get gasoline. Then we headed out of town on B.C. Hwy 37A known as “The Glacier Highway” because you can see 20 glaciers along this stretch from Stewart to the junction with Hwy 37 …. The Cassiar Highway. We enjoyed Bear Glacier, many additional glaciers, Bear Lake, Meziadin Lake and many water falls with sunshine, patches of blue sky and clouds …. it was a bright morning.
A short distance out of Stewart we saw a black bear eating berries by the highway, we drove further down the road and stopped to take pictures. Several times other vehicles stopped and the bear retreated back into the woods. Finally the bear had had enough and walked across the highway.
On the Cassiar Highway the Nass River has an interesting one-line bridge with wood flooring, we didn’t meet any traffic here …. very light traffic which we like.
Before long another black bear decided to lope across the highway in front of us, Howard had to slam on the breaks to keep from hitting him / her. Susan did get a picture.
We visited the Indian village of Gitanyow and observed more than 18 old totem poles. This is the largest concentration of totem poles in B.C. These are originals and old, not new and made for tourist. We then stopped and ate lunch at a turn out back on the main highway.
British Columbia Ministry of Transportation www.gov.bc.ca/tran says to quote them: Highway 37 North traverses through some of the most remote and beautiful scenery in British Columbia. It is one of only two land routes to the State of Alaska and has small populated areas along the way. The total distance from the junction of Highway 16 to the Yukon border is 725 km (450 miles). We have driven BOTH of the routes with access to Alaska. They also say: bear, caribou, moose, fox and many other species of wildlife can frequently be found on and along the highway.
Soon we turned onto the Yellowhead Highway, B.C. 16, toward Smithers. There were beautiful mountains with snow and glaciers surrounding us. Some of there were the Hudson Bay Mountains.
We arrived at our campground, Riverside Recreational Center, on the south end of Smithers about 2:30 p.m., called Rec Center due to the golf course here. Actually their sign called this Riverside Golf & R.V. Park. Smithers has a population of about 6,000 and an area population of about 30,000. Smither’s downtown has alpine-themed storefronts and buildings murals, giving it a Swiss village character and has a sculpture of an alpenhorn player. www.TourismSmithers.com Smithers is the largest town in the Bulkley Valley.
Doesn’t seem possible that our 48 day Heart of Alaska Fantasy RV tour could be at an end. www.fantasyrvtours.com Fourteen rigs (counting wagon master and tail gunner) so 28 very intelligent, interesting, mostly well educated, nice, thoughtful people! The wagonmaster Skip spent 11 years in the Navy as a submarine nuclear officer. Dick spent 20 years in Navy, Warren spent 20 years in Marines (two tours in VietNam), Howard spent 20 years in the Air Force and Len spent 22 years in the Army (he came to U.S. from Hungry in 1948 when 12 years old) and like Howard enlisted then finished education and became an officer. Several others did some service time …. Ray in Navy then college, and Ron Navy (I think). One couple from Kent, England. Everyone has traveled and most of us have visited Alaska via cruise ship in the past and been many other places. We highly recommend this mode of travel and if doing Alaska it should be the 48 day trip, the 31 day trip is whirl-wind just not enough time. Check out the web site www.fantasyrvtours.com.
Tonight was a very nice farewell dinner in the Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers, B.C., Canada. www.hudsonbaylodge.com. We rode with Ray and Opal Rice. Skip and Sue (wagonmasters) gave everyone photos from the trip AND color photos of each couple in a nice card they made on one of their two computers. Ron and Joyce (tailgunners) gave everyone a nice color card and message, and listing of all on the tour with complete home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. And Skip and Sue surprised everyone with a disc for each couple with lots of photos that Skip took during the trip. Everyone hated for the evening and trip to come to an end. We gave our “thank you” cards with personal notes and cash tips to Skip and Sue ($150) and to Ron and Joyce ($100). Rob, from the UK, said “I’ve finally met a bunch of bloody American’s that I really like!”
August 29, 2007 -- It rained most of the night and was raining off and on this morning for our 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. continental breakfast at Skip and Sue’s bus … under the awning. Almost all of us were there at 7:30 and the few stragglers arrived by 8 a.m. Lots of food and everyone was hugging everyone else and saying how everyone loved all of the others on the trip and had such a wonderful time. Only fly in the ointment, so to speak, those that had tried to open the data DVD from Skip and Sue with photos couldn’t open it … we hadn’t tried. Howard tried and it looped around and around. So Skip took the DVDs back and will remake, not ours as Howard was able to copy all of the data to the hard drive of his laptop.
We went to the office and paid for three additional nights here, Riverside Golf and R.V. Park. All rigs from our 48 day tour were gone by 10 a.m. We went into town to the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center for a map and some information, they were very helpful. We purchased a large wood bowl/platter …. not sure if really out of burl but beautiful and much less expensive than others we have seen.** We parked in the Swiss themed downtown area; it had stopped raining and the sun even shone for awhile and we could see the mountains that surround this town. We went to a computer store and Howard purchased an external DVD burner and DVD discs. We then went to an office supply / book store and browsed for awhile. Then to another computer store where Howard purchased a much larger internal hard drive for his laptop. On to a Dairy Queen for lunch, then to Safeway for groceries. After that we returned to the RV park, with rain off and on.
** Found a card that came with the bowl/platter and it says:
Unique to-day Antique to-morrow
A Burl comes from discarded trees on logged landings which mills are not able to process. We recycle the Burls and make them into bowls of all sizes. Homed out by a power saw and different types of attachments and using a drill press with a lot of sanding to a finished product. Larger Burls are used for table tops and benches. Bowls are food safe for hot or cold foods. Wash in hot soapy water.
Frank and Eve Rippel, Woodcrafters, 12005 Woodmere Road, Telkwa, B.C., Canada VOJ 2X2
The Adventure caravan that has been following us by a day or two pulled in during the afternoon. It seem like an unfriendly bunch, as it appeared they didn’t even visit or talk among themselves; everyone parked and avoided the others. In Stewart four of these rigs had parked in the RV park we were in and not with the rest of their caravan, as they hated it all. It had to be the people themselves …. surely not the sights and scenery! Howard found the wagonmaster and visited awhile … and told the other guy how great our group was and how everyone loved everyone else. This wagonmaster said about his group “no blood yet”.
August 30, 2007 -- Today is much brighter …. clouds but also some sunshine. The Adventure caravan pulled out leaving a few of us here amid the beautiful green golf course.
We returned to Smithers today and The Source (computer store), as yesterday forgot to purchases cases for the DVD disc we bought. We also purchased a 10” digital picture frame for photos, can display as a slice show. Although they have been around for a few years, they are now larger and have many more features. This will probably be the hot item for Christmas this year since nicer and the price has come down somewhat.
Next we went to a nice laundry. While Susan did four loads of laundry, Howard washed the motorhome. After we finished our “work” we went to Boston Pizza for tasty ribs. Now back in the RV park and plan to be here rest of today, all of tomorrow, and until Sat. morning when we head east towards Jasper and Banff parks and then Waterton Park and then back into Montana and the good ole USA. This has been a marvelous trip, so far, we’ve loved it all! Could really turn around and go again. Susan dislikes snow and ice …. yes, we are going to Churchill in the cold to see the polar bears in 2008 … but she is now curious as to the ice sculpture show in Fairbanks and to see that area during the winter …. Brrrrr!
August 31, 2007 -- When we went to the visitor’s center, day before yesterday. We purchased a large wood bowl/platter we were not sure if really out of burl but beautiful and much less expensive than others we have seen. Today found a card that came with the bowl/platter and it says:
Unique to-day Antique to-morrow
A Burl comes from discarded trees on logged landings which mills are not able to process. We recycle the Burls and make them into bowls of all sizes. Homed out by a power saw and different types of attachments and using a drill press with a lot of sanding to a finished product. Larger Burls are used for table tops and benches. Bowls are food safe for hot or cold foods. Wash in hot soapy water.
Frank and Eve Rippel, Woodcrafters, 12005 Woodmere Road, Telkwa, B.C., Canada VOJ 2X2
Late yesterday we had blue sky and bright sunshine, and again today, a few rain drops with bright sunshine. Today we are just here in the RV park, catching up with computer things and Susan did on-line banking. Not sure if we’ll have internet this coming week or not.
About 1 p.m. the motorhomes from the Fantasy RV Tour following the one we were part of started arriving. This group talked and laughed together and all appeared to get along fine. Howard spoke with a number of the people and also talked quite awhile with the tailgunner (from the UK) and so did Susan. At first they were concerned about us still being here and appeared glad to know we were just resting for a couple of days. Their group farewell dinner was tonight. A bit of rain drops in late afternoon but only while blue sky and bright sunshine.
September 1, 2007 -- A beautiful sunny morning, a few white clouds, but bright sun and can see the lovely mountains, glaciers and snow surrounding Smithers. The Fantasy RV Tour that followed us had their farewell breakfast in bright sunshine this morning and no one was in any hurry to leave.
We left the RV park and went back into Smithers. Howard went into Safeway for more cereal and milk. We then returned to the Visitors Center …. there was the weekly farmers market nearby so many people in the area. Susan purchased two additional burl bowls at the Visitors Center and then we were off. A beautiful day with great views of the mountains and glaciers from Yellowhead Hwy, BC Hwy 16 as we drove east.
Our first stop was in the town of Houston who has the self proclaimed title of “Steelhead Capital of the World”. Their long and beautiful Steelhead Park is along the highway, with blocks of mowed grass, many beautiful flower beds and sculptures. The World’s Largest Fly Rod was installed in its current location at Steelhead Park, on May 5, 1990; the rod was designed by local resident, Warner Jarvis, and is constructed entirely of aluminum and anodized bronze to simulate graphite. It is 60 feet long and weights approximately 800 pounds. The reel has a diameter of 36”, and the fly is a 21” – fluorescent orange – ‘Skykomish Sunrise’. There was a small totem pole of figure we believe was a wolf. The circular fountain contained a sculpture of a group of Steelhead. This was sculptured in 1992 by Frank Eberman, to raise awareness for the plight of the steelhead which is now an endangered species. Steelhead is an ocean going Rainbow Trout. The sculpture depicts the steelhead striking up the Skeena River. They are ‘Coming Home To Houston’ to spawn. After this we stopped for lunch in Burns Lake
Around 2 p.m. we checked in at Dave’s R.V. Park, 3 km east of Vanderhoof, B.C. www.davesrvpark.com located approximately a mile off of Hwy 16 so it is nice and quiet. A beautiful park with lots of mowed grass, lovely beds of flowers, a miniature golf course, free showers and just a nice relaxing place to be. We have the strongest Wi Fi internet signal we have had on this whole trip. Vanderhoof is at the exact geographic center of British Columbia.
Late this afternoon Susan
became dizzy anytime she moved head or body and somewhat nauseous, blood sugar
normal. She was fortunate to never have a sick day on the tour as some did for
various reasons. We talked with daughter Shelly tonight.
September 2, 2007 -- A beautiful bright sunny day, bright blue sky. Unfortunately Susan woke up still dizzy and somewhat nauseous, no fever and blood sugar normal, so just one of the strange things that happen to people once in awhile. Looking out the windows we see tall green pine trees, grass and beautiful blue sky. We enjoyed a nice day of “rest”. Well Howard worked on making and then remaking his 30 minute DVD of some of the video he shot with his digital camera, mostly of animals. Susan rested, later did some photos and started a Clive Cussler book that she hadn’t read yet.
September 3, 2007 -- We delayed leaving this morning due to the very strong Wi FI signal. Susan caught up, mostly, and sent a group of emails with photos in them. She still has more to do, but feels more up to date.
We left and headed east on Yellowhead Head Hwy (B.C. Hwy 16), just as we left Prince George there was a sign saying there were NO services for the next 202 KM. They weren’t totally correct.
The Purden Lake Lodge was open and we enjoyed a very tasty meal there, plus Susan got a piece of blueberry pie to take with her. www.purden.com A new large beautiful log lodge is under construction and across the highway is the road to the Purden Ski Area. The lodge has a large stuffed grizzly bear, standing on hind feet, and many photos of black and brown bears, plus red foxes, taken in the immediate area.
Later we stopped at a beautiful rest area along the Slim River and enjoyed walking the banks on this delightful river with clear water, ripples that looked like a great place to fish for trout and/or salmon. We soon saw high mountains to our left, right and in front of us with glaciers and snow … lovely. We crossed several lovely rivers; Goat, Bowrow, Willow and Doam come to mind, plus the very large Fraser River (it runs through Prince George also).
About 3 p.m. we checked in at Beaverview RV Park and Campground, one miles east of McBride on Hwy 16. www.beaverviewpark.com Another beautiful park with lots of mowed lawn, bright flowers and situated on the banks of the fast flowing Fraser River, with views of mountains with glaciers and snow. In the office Susan purchased a video “Journey Home of the Chinook Salmon: British Columbia’s Fraser River Chinook salmon run” (to add to the large number of DVD already purchased). McBride is a town of approximately 700 people at an elevation of 2,369 feet (722 m), located in the Robson Valley by the Fraser River, with mountains on three sides. Howard sat outside and played banjo for awhile. Susan walked along the bank of the Fraser River among the trees, but only could scare up one squirrel busy hiding small pine cones for the coming winter. After that Susan sat outside and read while Howard continued to play banjo. NO cable t-v (don’t need it and didn’t hook up to in Vanderhoof) and NO WI Fi internet. We watched the 90 minute video that Susan bought today, and it was quite informative and interesting. We have some light sprinkles of rain early in the evening while still daylight.
September 4, 2007 -- We awoke to clouds, but by 9:45 a.m. when we left Beaverview RV Park they were lifting and it was fairly bright. We admired the beautiful aqua/blue-green water of the Tete Jaune Cache River.
Howard hiked down to Rearguard Falls on the Fraser River, Susan thought the trail was too steep, but it probably wasn’t. Rearguard Falls is the upper limits of the main Pacific Salmon run on the Fraser River, although a few fish do make it about another 16 kms. By the time the salmon have reached this point they have battled upstream approximately 1288 kms from the Pacific Ocean. The main spawning beds are 5-8 kms downstream from this point. The salmon reach this area from the third week of August to mid-September.
Soon we were admiring Mt. Robson, with glaciers, ahead of us. Mt. Robson is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies at 3954 meters. The provincial park has a very nice entrance sign with figure of a mountain goat on top of the sign. We spent two hours at the Mt. Robson Visitors Center, information, gift shop, lunch, watching two deer, a doe and a small fawn, and waiting for the very peak of Mt. Robson to clear of clouds …. it never did clear. This is another park we would like to return to and visit for a longer period of time.
At our next stop we hiked down a long and very steep trail to the tremendous Overlander Falls on the Fraser River … some kayakers were there and they said the river is doable, but 5+ rating. The water is from glaciers and thus sort of gray/aqua.
We soon came to very pretty Moose Lake with Thunder Falls across the lake, then Yellowhead Lake. We entered Jasper National Park, and Howard purchased two senior passes good for one year (cheaper than buying daily passes). We went into the town of Jasper and visited the visitor’s center, Friends of Japer www.friendsofjasper.com several stores, and then had a meat lover’s pizza in a local café that was quite good.
Next we drove about 3 km out of Jasper to Whistler Camp Ground with 781 sites, only thing available were a few sites with NO hook-ups at all. The rules are a generator may be run from 5 to 7 p.m. (it was almost 7 when we arrived) and from 8 until 9:30 a.m. only. We took site H in ring 18 for three nights. As we drove in to ring 18 we were met by a large bull Elk. This elk grazed and remained nearby all evening. This is elk breeding season and there are many warnings about staying clear of them, but this fellow looked young, even with his large antlers and was only interested in grazing. There was scat around from various animals. We enjoyed a very vivid sunset.
September 5, 2007 -- We enjoyed a beautiful and bright sunrise with vivid colors. Then it became somewhat cloudy. We left our camp site about 9:45 a.m. and drove in to Jasper. While Howard purchased additional LP gas, Susan went to a grocery store for milk and fruit. We then went to Jasper Source for Sports www.jaspersports.com and purchased a battery operated Coleman lantern and a vest for Susan. We have lots of lanterns (fuel and battery) at home, but to save space and weight left them all at home as thought we would have power at all camp sites and we have until now.
Today we did the Maligne Lake Road. We first stopped at the Maligne Canyon, walking a trail with three of the six bridges over this deep canyon. The Maligne River plunges 23 m into a steep-walled gorge of limestone bedroom. This is absolutely spectacular! Maligne Canyon is the longest and deepest limestone canyon in the Canadian Rockies. The canyon is 50 metres (165 feet) deep. This really is one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies. After the walk we visited the gift shop … no web site that I can locate.
The Maligne River surges through Maligne Canyon before joining the Athabasca River on its way to the Arctic. Because Maligne Valley sits 230 m above the Athabasca, the waters flow with great ferocity through the canyon. At the rate of half a centimeter per year, the water has slowly sculpted the gorge to its present depth, 30 times the height of man (50 metres deep and a very narrow canyon).
We continued down Maligne Lake Road and soon saw a beautiful bull Elk grazing along the side of the road. Next we came to Medicine Lake that has turquoise water in the summer, in the fall; the water disappears into an underground drainage system, leaving the muddy lake bottom empty and exposed. The Maligne River flows into Medicine Lake but there is no surface outlet. Instead, the water flows underground for many kilometres, emerging in such places as Maligne Canyon and Lac Beauvert.
The road ends just south of Maligne Lake. This lake is the largest lake in Jasper National Park (it is 22 km long) and the deepest (97 m). Since it was cloudy we didn’t take a heated boat ride. We did stop to view the lake, the gift shop and to eat a good lunch … chili for Howard and beef stew for Susan. www.malignelake.com.
On our return trip to Jasper we again saw a beautiful bull Elk and also a deer. We stopped at Bridge #5 over the Maligne River / canyon a beautiful area. The bridge was a swinging foot bridge and fun to bounce on. We also drove in to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, but were unable to locate any parking so Susan didn’t get to visit the art gallery and shops. We filled the motorhome with gasoline in Jasper and then returned to our camp site as it started to lightly rain. If it had not been cloudy we would have taken the Jasper Tramway for the view and photo opportunities.
September 6, 2007 -- We left about 8:45 a.m. in clouds and light rain. Leaving our camping circle #18, we stopped to photograph a large female elk and two smaller elk. Before we got to the exit of the campground we again stopped to photograph elk. They appear totally unconcerned. We then headed south on AB Hwy 93, the Icefields Parkway. www.icefieldsparkway.ca National Geographic has called the Icefields Parkway ‘one of the most spectacular journeys in the world’. We agree, this is a beautiful drive, first we were in clouds and light rain and then in sunshine and back and forth. We made many stops at view points to admire the mountains, glaciers and turquoise Athabasca River.
We arrived at the Columbia Icefield Centre about 11 a.m. in bright sunshine. We immediately signed up for the 1 ½ hour Glacier Experience. www.columbiaicefield.ca
We rode in a 6-wheeled Ice Explorers, a giant all-terrain vehicle, specially designed for glacier travel. Tours leave every 15 to 30 minutes. We drove out onto the Athabasca Glacier and stopped. We had 30 minutes to walk around in the area and take photos in the bright sunshine. Since we were surrounded by mountains and other glaciers it was surprisingly warm. We did see a few flakes of snow even with the sun shining.
We ride onto and across the glacier in a specifically designed Snowcoach. These are equipped with large, low-pressure Terra tires, and the six wheel drive snowcoach and carry 56 passengers. The snowcoachs are: 12 feet 8 inches (3.86 m) tall, 42 feet 8 inches (13.0 m) long, 11 feet 10 inches (3.61 m) wide and weight 43,000 pounds (19,500 kg). The engine is a DDA 6V71, 210 horsepower (155 kW) @ 2100 RPM. The transmission is Clark 2800 series powershift. The suspension in front is leaf spring and in the rear walking beam. The tires are Goodyear Terra Tires 66 x 43.00 x 25. The brakes are air over hydraulic front drums and air read drums. Low range speed is 18.4 km/hr (11.4 mph), high range 42 km/hr (26 mph), turning radius is 16.8 m (55 feet).
The Athabasca Glacier is an outlet valley glacier type, the area is 7 km (2.5 miles), and length is 6 km (3.75 miles), depth 90 – 300 m (270 – 1000 ft). Surface speed: Icefall 125 m / year (400 feet), Turn around: 25 m / year (80 feet), Toe 15 m / year (50 feet). Elevations: Icefall 2700 m (8900 feet), Turn around 2210 m (7000 feet), Toe 1965 m (6300 feet).
The Columbia Icefield covers 325 km (130 miles), largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains. The highest point is Mt. Columbia 3745 m (12,284 feet), average elevation is 3000 m (10,000 feet), greatest depth 365 m (1200 feet) (estimated), average snowfall: 7 m (23 feet)/ year. Drainage: Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. The Columbia Icefield contains five of the six highest mountains in the Canadian Rockies … the sixth is Mt. Robson that we visited earlier.
The Athabasca Glacier is about 6 sq. km (2.3 square miles). This is large. New York’s Central Park is about 3.4 square kilometers; Central Park could fit on the Columbia 95 times. After our very interesting tour, ride and walk on the sunny Athabasca Glacier, we ate lunch in the cafeteria, and then took a few more photographs and as usual Susan purchased a couple books of photographs, post cards and another DVD to add to our growing collection. While we ate lunch there were flakes of snow in the air with the sun shine. Then we started our return trip north to just outside of Jasper …. The rest of the day and evening was bright blue sky, bright sunshine and some white puffy clouds so a wonderful day.
We stopped at many view points, the first being Sunwapta Canyon and Mt. Kitchener, then Tangle Falls on Tangle Creek, then the Stutfield Glacier and various stops along the sparking turquoise water (with rills and rapids) of the Athabasca River.
We enjoyed our hike and visit to the picturesque Sunwapta Falls and gorge. These falls tumble through a steep-walled limestone gorge. We followed a trail along the north bank of the Sunwapta River for more views of these thundering falls. The name “Sunwapta” is a Stoney Indian term meaning “turbulent river”. The Sunwapta and Athabasca Rivers flow through the Athabasca River Valley. We made additional stops along the Athabasca River, viewed Mt. Christie, Mt. Kerkeslin, Mt. Edith Cavell and others that I do not have the names for.
We also enjoyed our hike and visit to the broad and picturesque Athabasca Falls. This 23-meter waterfall has the most powerful flow to be found anywhere in the mountain parks. We viewed the falls from both sides and several vantage points. On the way back to the motorhome we stopped to chat with a local artist, James Olaf McIntyre, www.jomcintyre.ca He was selling prints of some of many local area paintings. We purchased “Athabasca Falls – low water” for $20.
This was such a beautiful day, after the wet start, and still so beautiful we decided not to take the last (5 p.m.) Jasper Tramway tonight … almost on over-load of beautiful mountain scenery.
We arrived back at our camp site about 4:30 p.m. A female elk was nearby. Later a female elk came close by and grazed and then a younger female came to also graze … we assume mother and daughter. When the mother moved out of sight of the younger elk it made noises like “cheeps” or “chirps” until the mother came back into view and they continued grazing. Soon another female with a young elk arrived and another much larger female. These five stayed and grazed by our motorhome while we took photos, until Susan got tired of taking photos. Part of the time the elk lay down in the grass and relaxed. The elk “cheeped” or “chirped” to let others know this was a safe place tonight. By 7:30 p.m. we had eleven, yes eleven, elk around our motorhome and they remained in the area for hours…. grazing, resting, nursing, etc. Several were mothers nursing youngsters, others I would say were yearlings, and several mature females. Once in awhile we would hear a bull elk “bugle” as it is mating season. We’ve taken for too many elk photos, but this was “cool”.
As of tonight our motorhome has been driven 7,430.4 miles. We’ve traveled more miles than that due to buses in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seward, boats and a few rides with other people in their cars.
September 7, 2007 -- We awoke this morning to the sound of some elks“chirping” or “cheeping” and further in the distance some bull elks “bugling” as it is mating season. The mountains are obscured by low clouds and we’ve had a few sprinkles of rain. Several young elk females romped and ran around and between the motorhomes this morning, stop to nurse, and then gallop off again to play. One nice sized bull elk sauntered by this morning.
Yesterday at the Ice Center they had the weather forecasts posted for Jasper and Banff …. looked like wide spread rain today (Friday) and then sunshine for Sat. and Sun. This will be a good day to move on south and get into another camp ground.
We left Whistler Camp Group around 9:30 a.m. with clouds and headed south on AB 93, the Icefields Parkway. We had light rain off and on and SNOW. A couple of times there was enough snow that it was blowing across the highway and not melting. We had the first flakes of snow when we stopped at the Mt. Fryatt and Mount Brussels Peaks viewpoint. The mountains were lovely with the additional new snow, plus off and on all day the higher peaks were getting heavy snow. The Athabasca Glacier appeared to have received a lot of snow overnight.
The sun came out some and by early afternoon the rain was over. We made many stops, even with clouds: Bridal Falls, Weeping Wall (Cirrus Mtn. snowmelt seeps from massive limestone cliffs creating graceful waterfalls and an ice climbing venue in winter), Cirrus Mountain, Saskatchewan Glacier, and then stopped at The Crossing for gas, and lunch …. Buffalo chili. The Saskatchewan Crossing is where the Howse, Mistaya and North Saskatchewan rivers meet.
After lunch we continued south, stopping at the very beautiful lakes with teal colored water: Waterfowl Lake, Cirque Lake, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake and others. The lake’s teal color is light reflected by suspended glacial sediment. Rather cool to be standing by a beautiful teal colored lake with the sun sparkling on the water and have it spitting snow, too.
When we arrived in Lake Louise we stopped at the visitor’s center for maps and information. We then checked in at the Lake Louise Trailer camp ground, with 189 sites all with electric hook-ups. We parked in our site, #117, about 3 p.m. Howard saw a River OTTER run past, we are very close the Bow River, and about 4 p.m. it started hard rain that was mostly snow and ice pellets that covered the ground. Again we are parked among tall pine, fir and spruce trees. By 7 p.m. we had a bright blue sky, some fluffy white clouds and sunshine.
September 8, 2007 -- Put a thermometer outside this morning, we checked at 11 a.m. and it was 41 degrees. Had a thick cloud cover or it would have been colder. We left the camp ground at 11 a.m. and out of the tall pines we could see some blue sky and fluffy white clouds. We went to the Samson Mall (small), visited various shops and a grocery store.
We then drove out of town to The Lodge of the Ten Peaks (elevation 1,646m / 5,400 feet) and purchased Lake Louise Gondola (Grizzly Express, length 1,822 m / 5,975 feet) and buffet lunch tickets. www.lakelouisegondola.com After lunch we rode an open bench ski lift type seat the fourteen (14) minutes to the top (higher for skiers in the winter) of 2033 m (6,850 feet) of Whitehorn Mountain. The sun was bright with blue sky and fluffy white clouds. This if habitat of the grizzly bear, and we listened to a talk in the Wildlife Interpretation Center about the grizzly bear. The views of Bow Valley, Lake Louise, the Continental Divide and many mountain peaks, glaciers and beautiful teal colored Lake Louise, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Lake Moraine were breath taking. Great views of massive Mount Temple, which dominates the northwest edge of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Mount Temple is 3,543 m high (11,621 feet). We spent about two hours on the mountain and then returned to the Lodge of the Ten Peaks on another open bench seat.
Next we drove through the village of Lake Louise and continued five miles to the world famous Chateau Lake Louise www.lakelouise.com on the shore of teal/turquoise colored Lake Louise with Victoria Glacier across the lake. There was blue sky, sunshine and fluffy white clouds. We walked about a quarter of the way around the lake and stopped many places to take photographs. The views changed every few seconds as the clouds moved. We went into the hotel and visited various shops, but only purchased ice cream cones (each one scope at $4.50 each). We sat on a bench by the lake and watched snow move onto the glacier while there was blue sky on three sides of us. The Chateau Lake Louise and the lake are memorable and worth revisiting. We returned to our camp site about 5 p.m. in the bright sunshine.
Lake Louise is fed by glacial melt water. The lake is 2.4 km (1 1/2miles) long, 500m (1,640 feet) wide, and 90m (295 feet) deep. Behind Lake Louise is Mount Victoria at 3,464 m (11,362 feet), with the Glacier Victoria on the front ridge of the mountain. The glacier was named for Princess Louise Caroline Albert (1849 – 1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and later wife of the Governor of Canada. The water in the lake may reach 39F (4C) in the summer and is frozen from November to June. Lake Louise is a beautiful teal/turquoise (blue/green). The color is due to fine particles of glacial sediment, known as rock flour, and this is suspended in this lake and other lakes in the area with the beautiful turquoise/teal color. The particles reflect blue and green wavelengths of light because they are small and uniform. The color of the lake is affected by the amount of light, the depth of the water, and the time of the year.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise dominates the lake and is often called “a diamond in the wilderness”. Expansions in 2003 (costing around $65 million Canadian) added to the building. A cabin built on this site in1890 burned in 1917. The modern hotel was built on the site of the cabin. Canadian Pacific Railway built the hotel and marketed the Chateau Lake Louise as a destination for outdoor adventurers.
September 9, 2007 -- We left the camp ground a bit after 9 a.m. in bright sunshine with a clear blue sky, a perfect day. We returned to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to take additional photographs with the morning sun on the lake, glacier and mountains … perfect not a cloud in the sky.
We next drove to Moraine Lake on the 14 k Moraine Lake Road. The drive was beautiful! Tight parking at the end of the road which also is the location of the Moraine Lake Lodge. www.morainelake.com The road is only open May to October. The scenery in the Valley of the Ten Peaks and the teal/turquoise colored water is stunning. While Lake Louise is calm and symmetrical, Lake Moraine is wild and dramatic. Ten spire-like peaks surround it, each more than 3,048 m (10,000 feet) tall. We walked along the lake taking photographs, as usual.
Next we returned to the Icefields Parkway and headed north. We stopped to take photographs at Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, and then drove in to the Num-Ti-Jan Lodge and parked. The lodge is on the shore of beautiful Bow Lake … third largest lake in Banff National Park. Bow Lake also has teal/turquoise colored water that was sparking in the bright sunshine today, with the Bow Glacier across the lake from the lodge. We walked along the shore of Bow Lake taking photographs; and then entered the lodge for lunch in their log dining room with massive stone fireplace and heads of animals and paintings along all of the walls. All of the animal’s heads were collected by founder Jimmy Simpson. Some people “live to eat” while Susan just “eats to live”, but she was very impressed with the tempura trout, halibut and giant shrimp she enjoyed here along with a very well made salad and the menu overall in the dining room of the lodge.
Num-Ti-Jah Lodge www.num-ti-jah.com Rustic and secluded on the shore of Bow Lake, it has the most scenic location of any lodging in Banff National Park. Built in 1937 by trapper and guide Jimmy Simpson, the building is pretty much as it was then, every detail preserved. Simpson, who left England and came to Canada at age 19, became a legendary, eccentric, and much admired Banff pioneer. There is nothing overly fancy, just simple comforts, an incredible view and the pleasure of being a half-hour’s drive from the next closest lodge. The lodge is full of rustic mountain ambience; it is one of the few secluded lodges in Banff National Park even thought it’s located right off the Icefields Parkway. This lodge is open December to October and has 25 guest rooms.
We returned to Icefields Parkway and headed south, we stopped at beautiful Hector Lake with teal/turquoise water and the Waputik Icefield across the lake. The mountains, glaciers and lakes were all beautiful today in the bright sunshine. We arrived back at our camp site around 3 p.m., and then took a walk along a nice trail through the forest and beside the beautiful Bow River. A perfect day of blue skies, bright sunshine and only a few white clouds late in the day.
It is good to have electric hook-up here in Lake Louise after no hook-ups in Jasper. Worse is we have had NO internet for the past 7 days … the last internet was in Vanderhoof, B.C. Reading in the guide books and info we have it does not appear that we’ll have internet in Banff and maybe not in Kalispell or West Glacier, MT.
September 10, 2007 -- Today has been a perfect day …. bright blue sky, a few white clouds and sunshine. We left our camp site and drove a short distance into the Village of Lake Louise where we filled the motorhome with gasoline and enjoyed a large breakfast at the Mountain Restaurant.
Leaving Lake Louise Village (population 1,500) we drove south on the Bow Valley Parkway, a beautiful drive on a two lane highway newly paved with black top. We stopped over looking the Bow River and several other viewpoints.
When we arrive in Banff, we found several of the downtown streets torn up for construction and detours on very narrow streets. As we drove around unable to locate parking we did get good views of the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This hotel was built in 1883 and is the reason Banff came into existence. The town of Banff was named after the Banffshire area of Scotland, the ancestral home of two major financiers of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Built east to west, the steel rails of the CPR linked Banff with Calgary, and the rest of Canada in 1883. Banff sits at an elevation of 1,384 m (4,540 feet), and has a population of approximately 6,000 year round residents.
After driving around Banff awhile we decided we really did not need to spend a night there, as if we did check into the large campground we surely would not venture back into the downtown area. The town appeared to be full of “up-scale / costly” shops and expensive restaurants. Lake Louise Village that is paradise for hikers is much more to our liking.
We left Banff and headed back north until we came to Hwy 93 and followed that south through beautiful mountains and valleys (numerous down grades of 8%) of the Kootenay National Park. We stopped at the beautiful Numa Falls (two falls) on Numa Creek, and made several other viewpoint stops. In the Village of Radium Hot Springs we stopped at the Visitor’s Center for info on the campground. www.RadiumHotSprings.com
We drove to the Redstreak Campground in Kootenay National Park, on a mountain side above Radium Hot Springs, B.C.; and are located in E13, a site with electric power, among tall trees and lots of curious squirrels. The sky is still bright clear blue (at 7 p.m.) and the sun is shining. The Visitor’s Center was giving everyone a sheet with an advisory notice: “Walkers/hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, Please take extra caution when outdoors, Within the Village Boundaries as there are, COUGAR, Frequenting the Area”, then info on what to do when meeting a Cougar. The other side of the sheet was another advisory notice “The Bears Are Back!”. At other camp grounds we have also been warned about bears.
Howard is still faithfully recording all food he eats and exercise (walking/hiking) daily in his program “Fit Day” and it is working for him. He started this program (purchased on the internet, of course, a short while before we left home in June, and so far he has lost twenty-five (25) pounds.
When and if we return to Jasper and Banff National Parks in future years we shall not visit the town of Banff, but shall return to the Lake Louise and Jasper we loved both of these areas.
Susan has been going over the Montana maps, guide books, Woodall’s and other information as we shall be in Montana tomorrow evening.
September 11, 2007 -- About 8 a.m. Susan looked out a motorhome window and saw three Mule Deer bucks grazing nearby. We got cameras; Susan started taking photographs and Howard taking video of the three bucks as they grazed. Two of the bucks were jousting (banging their antlers together) but did not appear serious, only playing and much more interested in grazing. We even went outside and watched and took photos for over 20 minutes. We then came back into the motorhome and the three Mule Deer bucks continued to graze nearby.
Leaving Radium Hot Springs, B.C. after getting gasoline we drove down B.C. Hwy 93. We enjoyed the very pretty Lake Windermere, plus small Columbia River between Lake Windermere and Columbia Lake. Outside Fairmont Hot Springs we saw the very interesting Hoodoo Mountain, and stopped at the Coy Hill Rest Area above Columbia Lake. Canal Flats, B.C. claim to be the source for the mighty Columbia River that flows into the Pacific Ocean.
After reentering the U.S.A. at the Port of Roosville we continued eleven miles and stopped in Eureka, MT where we had lunch at the Café Jax … good food and an extensive menu. Going south on US Hwy 93 we passed several beautiful bright blue lakes.
We checked in at the Spruce Park Campground, (www.spruceparkrv.com) on the river, in Kalispell, MT. and shall be here for two nights …. they have cable TV (86 channels) and Wi-Fi. No regular CNN only CNN Prime and CNN Headline, but it was a pleasure to see Keith Obermann, Chris Matthews, Tucker Carlson and Dan Abrams on MSNBC. We watched a two hour special on 9/11/01 (Katie Curic, Matt Lauer and others of NBC on MSNBC). Susan downloaded her 574 new email messages. According to the 10 p.m. local news the normal high temperature for this date is 70, but today’s high was 83 degrees. We had bright blue skies with nary a cloud ALL day today, just beautiful.
September 12, 2007 -- Today was another beautiful day with bright blue skies and NO clouds. We did laundry, some email, and Howard worked on photographs from this trip … so far. Susan called the KOA in West Glacier (for reservations) and then called the “Red Bus Tours” and made reservations for all day tours in Glacier National Park on Friday and Saturday. No vehicle longer than 21 feet and/or wider than 8 feet (including side mirrors) are allowed to drive the Going to the Sun Road, thus why we are taking tours.
September 13, 2007 -- Today is the third beautiful day in a row with clear bright blue sky and sunshine. It is to get up to 68 today in Kalispell. Unfortunately south and east there are major forest fires burning and this has been a severe fire season.
Today we drove a total of 30.4 miles from the campground in Kalispell to the West Glacier KOA www.westglacierkoa.com. Having stayed in camp grounds from border to border and coast to coast (now plus Canada) over the past almost 37 years, this is the most luxurious one we have ever stayed in. It is $50 per night but has: heated swimming pool, hot tubs, pavilion with ranger talks, movies, wildlife slide shows, food and on and on, ice cream shop, game room, playground, beautiful Kamper Kabins (for those without tents or RVs), Wi Fi internet, TV, the cell phones work here, good store and so on. So far have only seen cute chipmunks and squirrels, but know there is much more wildlife in the area. Surely would have been nice to have found such a marvelous camp ground when we were traveling with Cynthia, Scott and Shelly.
The Red Bus will pick us up here before 8 a.m. tomorrow for our 9 ½ to 10 hour “Lake McDonald Crown of the Continent Tour”, and pick us up before 8:30 a.m. on Sat. for our 7 ½ to 8 hour “Mountain Majesty Tour” www.glacierparkinc.com.
September 14, 2007 -- Today one of the Red Buses picked us up, here at the W. Glacier KOA, at 7:45 a.m. and we were off for ten (10) hours on the Lake McDonald Crown of the Continent Tour. We are fortunate we got here in time for the whole 50-mile Going to the Sun Road, as the center sections will close Sun. night and these tours shall be over for the season.
We drove along Lake McDonald: went up “The Loop”, by Weeping Wall, over the Triple Arches, along the Garden Wall and stopped at the Logan Pass Visitors Center. Logan Pass is the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet. There are two tunnels, the West Tunnel is 192 feet long and the East Tunnel is 408 feet long. We continued along to Jackson Glacier, Sunrift Gorge and beautiful Saint Mary Lake and St. Mary Valley. The lake was glass smooth and the driver said due to normal wind he had only seem it smooth once before. The reflections in the lake were beautiful and great view of the Wild Goose Island.
On the morning drive we observed Mountain Goats, Grouse, Deer (young fawn), and Black Bear. On our return drive back over Going to the Sun Highway we also observed again Mountain Goats, Grouse, Black Bear and a Coyote. Good day for wildlife viewing. Susan got pictures of the Mountain Goats and Coyote, and believes Howard got photos of all of the animals.
We continued through the park, went north on U.S. 89 and then reentered Glacier National Park at Many Glacier Entrance. We drove along Lake Sherburne to the Swiss style Many Glacier Hotel, on Swiftcurrent Lake, located on the north side of the Garden Wall. This area in the northeastern corner of the park is often referred to as the heart of Glacier. We had lunch in the Ptarmigan dining room (at the hotel), enjoyed the beautiful lake, mountains and glacier and walked a short ways to view a small water fall.
Leaving Many Glacier Hotel we returned to U.S. 89, then reentered the park at the St. Mary entrance. We made various view stops along the back through the park on the very narrow and beautiful Going to the Sun road. The Red Bus delivered people back to the Village Inn in Apgar and the Belton Chalet. We arrived back at the KOA a little after 6 p.m. the end of a beautiful day …. clear blue sky, bright sunshine and no breeze.
There are officially 26 glaciers in the park, of which three are self-sustaining (enough snow yearly they are not receding). There are 700 miles of hiking trails, and this is a park for back-packers and hikers but not rock climbers. Glacier National Park was named for how this area formed and NOT for the glaciers contained within the boundaries. Some feel all of the actual glacier will be gone by 2020, but some icefields and hanging ice shall remain.
Information from the brochure “Scenic Interpretive Red Bus Tours in and around Glacier National park 2007”. www.glacierparkinc.com No vehicle longer than 21 feet and/or wider than 8 feet (including side mirrors) are not allowed to drive the Going to the Sun Road, thus why we are taking tours.
The historic (1936 – 1939) Red Buses are both a symbol of Glacier National Park and a reminder of a time when adventurous travel was done with style and grace. The vintage touring coach drivers are called “jammers” by the locals; a name which carried over from the days when the buses had standard transmissions and the drivers could be heard “jamming” the gears as they drove up and down the rugged mountain highway.
The entire fleet of thirty-three 1936 to 1939 touring coaches was originally built by the White Motor Company and painted a ripe mountain ash berry red. The 25-foot-long touring coaches seat 17 passengers with a unique canvas top, which rolls back allowing commanding views of the surrounding mountains. The buses serve as Glacier National Park’s transportation and touring system, allowing you to travel from one side of the park to the other along the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road and north to Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. They also link all of the historic lodges and inns.
Glacier Park, Inc.’s (GPI) fleet of historic red buses was taken out of service in 1999 for two years due to structural safety concerns. GPI donated the entire fleet to the National Park Foundation, so that Ford Motor Co. could provide the work needed to put them back on the road. All of the buses have undergone an extensive rebuilding process and have been converted to run on clean-burning propane fuel, making them 93% more environmentally friendly than before. After the refurbishing was completed the buses were deeded to Glacier National Park and GPI now operates the “Reds” as a concessioner. Discover the infinite splendors and majestic scenery aboard the historic Reds.
Article from Great Falls Tribune, page 2 section 0, Thurs., Sept. 13, 2007.
GNP closes Sun Road Sunday: Last chance to drive Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road all the way through the park is Sunday.
Park officials will close the road at 10 p.m. that night to allow an all-out attempt to rebuild and stabilize sections of the road damaged by a November storm before winter sets in.
The road also is the focus of a multi-phased reconstruction project.
Beginning Sept. 16 at 10 p.m. the road between Avalanche Creek and Siyeh Bend, will be closed for the season.
There will be no access to Logan Pass after Sept. 16.
The Logan Pass Visitor Center will close at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 15; a park ranger will be available in the parking area on Sept. 16. It is also envisioned that the contractor will use Sun Point for staging; therefore, it may not be available to visitors.
September 15, 2007 -- Today another of the Red Buses picked us up at the W. Glacier KOA for our eight (8) hour Mountain Majesty Tour. We then picked up additional people at the Belton Chalet, Village Inn at Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge. We covered Going to the Sun Road from the West Entrance to Rising Sun and Two Dog Flats Grill at the Rising Sun Motor Inn.
We again stopped at Logan Pass Visitors Center and other view points, some of the same ones as yesterday, but several different spots. On the west side of the continental divide the sky had smoke due to forest fires south of here …. Montana has had a very severe fire season. Due to breeze Saint Mary Lake was not smooth and so could not see the mountains reflected in the water. On the east side of the continental divide the sky was a beautiful blue and bright sunshine.
We had lunch in the Two Dog Flats Grill at the Rising Sun Motor Inn, and then started our return trip. We stopped at Saint Mary Lake, Sunrift Gorge and other great view sites. On the return we also stopped to view and photograph Mountain Goats (a mamma and a kid), and later found a nice Black Bear eating berries, which we photographed. We were returned to our KOA about 4:15 p.m.
The Red Buses seat 17 passengers, four bench seats for four people and one seat by the driver. Both days Howard assisted the drive roll back and secure the canvas top so we had an open air bus …. after were high on the road in the sunshine.
September 16, 2007 -- Today we stayed in the W. Glacier KOA Campground, worked on photographs, email and etc. I took a much needed nap … think I can count on one hand the number of naps I’ve had over the past three months. The sky stayed over cast due to smoke from the forest fires.
September 17, 2007 -- We left W. Glacier in light rain about 9:30 a.m. today. We drove down the east side of famous Flathead Lake. After we reached I-90 just west of Missoula, we stopped at a very busy Wendy’s in Missoula for lunch and continued east on I-90. During the afternoon Susan saw a nice herd of Antelope (prong-horns) grazing in a hollow on the south side of the highway.
Today we traveled 343.6 miles and are in a nice private camp ground "Sunrise" in Bozeman., MT. Here in Bozeman we stopped at Wal-Mart for Milk and a few other food items. Surely was good to get out of the store for only $48 instead of the $100 in would have been in Canada or Alaska. Great Wi-Fi here, good t-v, lots of hot water in the showers here at Sunshine Campground. We had clouds and light rain off and on all day, but in afternoon even a few bits of blue sky broke through.
Howard and I just checked our BP, he is 107 over 69 and I'm 113 over 66, but just did blood sugar and it is low at 102, so better stop and eat as don't feel so great. When we left home Howard weighted 255, now he is down to 230 on the way to his goal. To be able to lose even with all of the tour special meals and other meals is good. I gave up on keeping the computer program FIT DAY that Howard is using. I may get back to it after we get home.... along with a million other things.
September 18, 2007 -- We left Bozeman, MT about 8:30 a.m. and headed east on I-90. We stopped for lunch at a Dairy Queen in Hardin, MT. Then continued a few miles to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, MT. We went to the visitor’s center and then drove the five mile road through the battlefield and back again …. stopping at various informational signs and grave markers. All day we admired the fall leaves of yellow, gold, orange and red! The trees were especially pretty along the Little Bighorn River. We saw many Antelope in many places. After the Dairy Queen we drove to the national monument for the Battle of the Little Bighorn, after the visitor’s center we drove the five mile road (dead end), turned around and drove the five miles back.
On June 25, 1876, approximately 7,000 Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, including 1,500 – 2,000 warriors, were encamped along the Little Bighorn River. They were led by Sitting Bull and they refused to be restrict3ed to their reservation, preferring their traditional nomadic way of life. Today there are some red markers to show were an Indian warrior was killed, the U.S. soldier’s death locations have white markers. www.nps.gov/libi In the battle, the 7th Cavalry lost the five companies under Custer, about 210 men. The other companies of the regiment, under Reno and Benteen, had 53 men killed and 52 wounded. The Indians had no more than 100 killed; they removed most of their dead from the battlefield when the large encampment broke up. The tribes and families scattered but most later returned to the reservations and surrendered in the next few years.
The Campaign of 1876: The army’s campaign against the Lakota and Cheyenne called for three separate expeditions – one under Gen. George Crook from Fort Fetterman in Wyoming, another under Col. John Gibbon from Fort Ellis in Montana Territory, and the third under Gen. Alfred H. Terry from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory. These columns were to converge on the Indians concentrated in southeastern Montana under the leadership of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and other war chiefs. There are many books about Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn, plus books about the Indian war chiefs.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn continues to fascinate people around the world. It has come to illustrate a part of what Americans know as their western heritage. Heroism and suffering, brashness and humiliation, victory and defeat, triumph and tragedy – these are the things people go to the battlefield to ponder.
A clash of cultures. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. In the valley of the Little Bighorn River on two hot June days in 1876, more than 260soliders and attached personnel of the U.S. Army met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. Among the dead were Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and every member of his immediate command. Although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the military’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn was another encounter in centuries-long conflict that began with the arrival of the first Europeans in North America. As settlers moved west they did not understand the Indian way of life and showed very little regard for the hunting grounds and terms of treated that has been signed. In 1968 it was believed “cheaper to feed than to fight the Indians”. Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874 and people came in and ignored all of the Indian treaties.
After driving the battlefield and repeating the drive we went to the Custer Battlefield Trading Post. There Howard found an original painting that he really liked, so we purchased another painting. After the Trading Post we continued south on I-90 through the rest of the Crow Reservation and then into Wyoming. We are spending the night at Deer Park camp ground in Buffalo, Wyoming. Good Wi-Fi and a huge selection of cable TV channel. As we left the next morning several wild Turkeys came by our camp site.
During our 317.9 mile drive today we saw Antelope (prong horns) many times, which was thrilling.
September 19, 2007 -- A bright sunny day but with wind! We were amazed to see hundreds and hundreds of Antelope (prong horns) today all along I-90, and the U.S. and WY highways. Sometimes the Antelope were in large groups, other times a few were seen, but they appeared to be everywhere. Also today we saw White Tail Deer, several Lamas (on ranches in pastures with beef cattle), and hundreds of Prairie Dogs. We like to take “the road less traveled” and surely enjoy the good highways with almost no traffic.
We arrived at Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming, before noon. On the three mile drive from the entrance to the visitor’s center we stopped to observe the very social Black-tailed Prairie Dogs. These rodents are a member of the squirrel family. The Prairie Dogs are almost entirely vegetarian, but they will eat small insects. Predators in this area include coyote, fox, badger, mink, bobcat, weasels, owls, hawks, eagles, bullsnakes and rattlesnakes. The Prairie Dogs communicate by various methods, including: identification kiss, warning bark, hawk warning bark, territorial call, and an all-is-well signal after danger has passed.
At the visitors center (log building construction in 1935) we were fortunate and found a parking place in the RV/bus section, but can imagine during the summer this would be impossible.
We did the 1.3 mile (2 km) Tower Hiking Trail around the base of Devils Tower. On this hike we saw several White Tail Deer … Susan saw them through the trees, and later we both saw them nearer to us. After the hike we purchased a DVD and other items in the visitor’s center. On the drive out of the monument we again stopped at the Prairie Dog area.
On September 24, 1906, Devils Tower was established as our nation’s first national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt, who proclaimed that it was a “natural wonder and object of great scientific interest”, and thus should be protected. The Tower is the most prominent landmark in northeast Wyoming and in recent centuries has served as a gathering place for such diverse groups as fur traders, early settlers, and modern sight-seers. But long before the coming of the Europeans, Plains Indian people worshiped at this awe-inspiring natural formation.
Known as “Bear Lodge” to many Northern Plains tribes, the Tower figures prominently in their belief systems and sacred narratives. It is important for its historical place in their spiritual life, and also as a contemporary sacred site where traditional Indian people of today make prayer offerings, seek visions, conduct sweat lodge ceremonies, and perform the annual Sun Dance. The Tower is considered sacred ground by more than 23 American Indian tribes, and recent evidence suggests that this area has been used for thousands of years as a hunting ground and gathering spot.
On July 4, 1893, two local ranchers made the first recorded ascent of the Tower with nearly 1,000 people watching. William Rodgers and Willard Ripley climbed an 850-foot wood ladder they had constructed. In 1895 Mrs. Linnie Rodgers became the first woman to climb the ladder to the top of the tower. Many people first heard of Devils Tower in the Steven Spielberg movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.
Devils Tower National Monument contains 1,347 acres (5.5 sq. km) of land. The teardrop shaped top of the Tower is approximately 1.5 acres. The base diameter is approximately 1,000 feet. There are over 200 climbing routes on the Tower. The Tower is made up of an igneous rock called phonolite porphyry which contains crystals of feldspar that glitter in the sunshine. Approximately 350,000 people visit Devil Tower each year.
After we left the monument we drove “back roads” until we were almost to Spearfish, S.D., when we rejoined I-90. In Spearfish we had dinner and then checked in to the Mountain View Campground …. excellent cable TV and good Wi-Fi.
September 20, 2007 -- This morning we left Spearfish, S.D. on U.S. 14A and drove along the 19-mile National Scenic Byway through Spearfish Canyon. The bright yellow leaves were beautiful as we followed Spearfish Creek through the canyon and also stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. We saw deer in the canyon
Next we drove through Lead, SD on Hwy 85, then followed US 385 and SD 44 to the Thunderhead Underground Waterfall. The spectacular vertical waterfall is located 600 feet inside a mountains inside the oldest gold mine in the Black Hills that is open to the public. The falls gushes 8 cubic feet of water over a 30 foot waterfall inside the former gold mine. The falls was found in 1878 when gold minders were pursuing a promising quartz vein deep into the canyon wall with hand drills and gun powder … when tons of icy water came pouring down into the gold mining tunnel – as it still does today. The water flows through the 600 foot hard rock mining tunnel and then down another waterfall and into a beautiful creek. The leaves on the trees were red, orange and yellow and looked really good mixed in with the evergreens. Of course the internal waterfall closed the mine. www.blackhillsbadlands.com/thfalls After our walk into and out of the mine and enjoying the creek and the small chipmunks we had some lunch in the motorhome.
The roads are good and very little traffic. The highways go up the mountains and down the mountains with many curves and beautiful scenery. To the east lay the “great plains” of much flatter land without mountains or pine trees.
Our next stop was in the town of Keystone at the Borglum Historical Center / Rushmore Borglum Story and this turned out to be a very special and worthwhile stop. From a brochure: The historic “Shrine to Democracy” is brought to life in the beautiful museum and gallery, which showcases scores of Gutzon Borglum’s paintings, sculptures and artifacts. He began work on Mount Rushmore at age 60. We watched a film that showed the blasting and carving of Mount Rushmore. www.rushmoreborglum.com
Gutzon Borglum was invited to South Dakota by Doane Robinson, secretary of the State Historical Society of South Dakota in 1923. He saw the possibilities of carving giant portraits in the Black Hills granite spires, not of Indians and Western heroes as Robinson suggested, but of our nation’s leaders and founding fathers. Borglum would carve a tribune to our great nation.
Borglum chose Mount Rushmore, a magnificent granite cliff rising about 6,000 feet above sea level as the site for the gigantic portraits.
Carving began on August 10, 1927 with a celebration addressed by President Calvin Coolidge who stated: “The union of these four presidents carved on the face of the everlasting hills of South Dakota will constitute a distinctly national monument. It will be decidedly American in its conception, in its magnitude, in its meaning and altogether worthy of our country …” Quotes from each of the four presidents were also read.
These four presidents represent the essence of our great country and all who view the shrine are equally touched. Borglum’s was “to make Rushmore a center in the heart of America so attractive, so comprehending, that the inevitable visiting world will assemble there with something more than curiosity, and go away with something more than wonder.”
Borglum carved his memorial with persistence and dedication and as he did, his dream grew more grand. His wish was to carve Washington to his waist, as well as build a grand staircase and a Hall of Records, but on March 6, 1941 Gutzon Borglum died. His son, Lincoln Borglum took charge, added finishing touches, completing the work on October 31, 1941.
Gutzon Borglum’s motive was “...in building this super-memorial…that the supreme accomplishments of man should be built into and cut into the crust of the earth so these records would have to melt or by wind be worn to dust and blown away before the record…as Lincoln said, ‘shall perish from the earth…”.
After learning about Borglum we drove the two miles on to Mount Rushmore Memorial, and were surprised that a parking fee of $8 was required. We parked and walked along the columns with flags from each of our fifty states and viewed the memorial, visited the exhibit halls, and viewed the movie “Wild Side” about that natural setting and animals in the Black Hills area. We had good views as today was sunny, bright, and clear blue skies most of the time and warm. The high in Rapid City today was 91 degrees, but it doesn’t feel that warm to us.
We learned of the Rushmore Borglum Story and about the amazing artist Gutzon Borglum who designed the sitting Lincoln of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and Mount Rushmore.
A statement from each of the four presidents was chosen and appears on bookmarks, in literature and other things.
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” Abraham Lincoln, Address at Cooper Union, February 27, 1860.
“We, here in American, hold in our hands the hopes of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men.” Theodore Roosevelt, Address at Carnegie Hall, March 30, 1912.
After our visit to Mount Rushmore we drove to near Hill City and then out Hwy 87 to Horse Thief Campground www.horsethief.com While Howard was sitting outside playing banjo five black tail deer appeared and grazed near the office which is close to our camp site. So so TV no cable but fairly good WiFi. The forecast is for the weather to be in the upper 80’s tomorrow and then drop, but by time they are cold here we’ll be in Wyoming or Colorado as we work our way back to Tempe, Arizona.
September 21, 2007 -- This morning, before enough light for photographs, several deer and wild turkeys came near our camp site.
Our first stop today was at the very impressive Crazy Horse Memorial … still under construction (via dynamite on the mountain) in the beautiful Black Hills of SD. The visitor’s buildings are beautiful wood and contain the Indian Museum of North America with Indian artifacts, paintings and other items of interest to those of us interested in the history of the west and plight of the Native Americans. Howard can claim Cherokee blood and Susan can claim Seminole blood (that is probably why Small Pox vaccines never “take” for us). www.crazyhorsememorial.org
We viewed the orientation film (and purchased a copy of the DVD), browsed the many walls of paintings, historic documents, and other items; viewed the 1/34th size model, the sculptor’s studio/home models of the memorial and had lunch in the Laughing Water Restaurant, and of course viewed the magnificent memorial under construction from the viewing veranda. This work is being financed only by private donations.
Crazy Horse: Carving a mountain-size tribute to a famous warrior. Creation of the world’s largest sculpture began on June 3, 1948 by Boston born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. His work continues today at Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer.
The dimensions are staggering. A mountain sized statue of an Indian man and a spirited warhorse that’s as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60-story skyscraper.
When Korczak died in 1982, the mountain showed only a vague hint of a horse and rider. Critics reckoned that the mountain had finally outlasted the man, just as they had predicted. But Korczak had passed along his vision and passion to his wife, Ruth, and their 10 children. He left them three planbooks and scale models showing how to continue his work. His children understood the importance of the project as they had worked along with their father and they inherited his ferocious work ethic.
Ruth Ziolkowski had always been a driving force at Crazy Horse, but mainly as director of the ever expanding visitor complex and as hostess to more than a million visitors every year. Together the wife and children have brought forth a heroic face from the granite of the Black Hills during the decade of the 90s. The 88 foot high face of Crazy Horse was dedicated on June 3, 1998, 50 years to the day after Korczak’s first blast.
With work finished on the face of Crazy Horse, the work crews have turned their attention to the area of the 219 foot high horse’s head. Perched on the precipitous, high up area of the head, in clear view of visitors with binoculars, workers continue to shape the stone. There’s a lot of excitement about witnessing Crazy Horse’s steed take shape as these cliff hanging explosive experts work their fleet of drilling equipment. Some unusually big blasts have involved the removal of 20 to 30 feet of rock at a time. Because of the tremendous amount of rock overburden still left to remove and the unique engineering challenges the mountain carving presents, it will take many more years of drilling and blasting.
While the warrior appears stoic and resolute, the model shows a horse full of energy, motion and dynamics. Flying mane and forelock, laid back ears, flaring nostrils and straining muscles impart a sense of speed and forward motion to the stallion, which seems to carry the rider forward into the wind, too.
Below the work, a new generation of visitors watches a new generation of workers carry the Crazy Horse dream forward.
In May 1949 sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski wrote:
Crazy Horse was born on Rapid Creek in the Black Hills of S.D. in about 1842. While at Fort Robinson, NE, under a flag of trace, he was stabbed in the back by an American solider and died Sept. 6, 1877 … age 35 (?).
BUT – Only after he saw the Treaty of 1868 broken. This treaty, signed by the President of the United States, and said, in effect: As long as rivers run and grass grows and trees bear leaves, Paha Sapa – the Black Hills of Dakota – will forever be the sacred land of the Sioux Indians.
Only after he saw his leader, Conquering Bear, exterminated by treachery.
Only after he saw the failure of the government agents to bring required treaty guarantees, such as meat, clothing, tents and necessities for existence which they were to receive for having given up their lands and gone to live on the reservations.
Only after he saw his peoples’ lives and their way of life ravaged and destroyed.
Crazy Horse has never been known to have signed a treaty or touched the pen.
Crazy Horse, as far as the scale model is concerned, is to be carved not so much as a lineal likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse – to his people. With his left hand thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man, “Where are your lands now?” he replied, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”
They made us many promises, more than I can remember – They never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it! Red Cloud, Lakota, 1891.
Our other stop today was at the National Museum of Woodcarving near Custer, SD. This interesting museum featured over 30 scenes created by an original animator of Disneyland, Dr. Harley Niblack, 1894 – 1966. He developed three-dimensional animation and many other carvings. There are works from a variety of wood carvers covering a wide range of subject matter. www.blackhills.com/woodcarving
We decided we were too tired and didn’t have very much interest in stopping and touring Jewell Cave National Monument … since we’ve done Carlsbad New Mexico, Mammoth Cave, Kentucky and many other caves over the years.
As we continued west and into Wyoming, we saw dozens and dozens and dozens of Antelope (pronghorns) in twos, threes and large herds. Today there were the usual gusty winds blowing, but it was a bright sunny day with clear blue sky all day. We’ve gone over our plans for the rest of our trip that began June 28th …. we may skip a couple of places we thought we would stop, tired and almost out of time. We stopped for the night at Mt. View Campground in Wheatland, Wyoming … no Wi-Fi, but great cable TV.
September 22, 2007 -- Today was another beautiful sunny day with clear bright blue sky … most of the time, until some clouds in late afternoon. We left Wheatland, WY, via I-25 about 8:15 a.m. and continued south to Denver, Colorado, where we changed to I-70 west for the rest of the day.
We are amazed at all of the antelope (prong horns) we have seen all over Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado. Howard says …”Not enough wolves I think … They are out all over the range with cattle without cattle… Perhaps more numerous than the cattle.” I’ve taken hundreds of photos of the antelope. We have seen then as singles, as twos, threes and as herds, they are just everywhere.
Today appears, to us, to be peak for the fall leaves. The light yellow, medium yellow, golden yellow, deep deep yellow and a small amount of orange leaves were absolutely lovely, especially mixed in with the green of the pine trees on the Rocky Mountains.
Our drive with the mountains and fall leaves was beautiful. We enjoyed going through a number of tunnels, including two several miles long, under the mountains. The highest point on I-70 was at the Eisenhower Tunnel with an elevation of 11,013 feet. Vail Pass summit had an elevation of 10,662 feet. We stopped for gas and lunch in Silverthorme, CO. The drive through the long Glenwood Canyon was marvelous. The scenery kept changing throughout the day and was always great to see and enjoyable.
We covered 413.5 miles today for a total of 9,676.8 miles so far. We are in a nice RV park, Junction West RV Park in Grand Junction, Colorado.
September 23, 2007 -- Hard rain last night in Grand Junction. We had planned to visit the Colorado National Monument south Fruita / Grand Junction, CO this morning, but with the hard rain we stopped for gas and breakfast then headed west. The first part of today we did have rain, but then .... bright blue sky and sunshine.
This morning we drove west on I-70 from Grand Junction, CO, and then took Utah 128 … The River Road … south to Moab. What a beautiful drive with the Colorado River by the highway, canyons, bluffs, deep red rocks, in distance snow covered mountain peaks, and on and on. This is a Scenic By-Way and well worth the listing. We highly recommend this drive along Utah 128 and it is only 500 miles from the Phoenix area.
We were told RV camping spaces are hard to come by through Utah this time of year. We checked in to Canyonlands Campground in Moab about 1:15 p.m. and they were almost full. More rigs have come in since we arrived so we got here just in time <G>. www.CanyonlandsRV.com We will spend four nights here.
September 24, 2007 -- Today we had mixed weather. Early morning we had rain clouds to the west and north, and some blue sky and white clouds to the east and south. We had about 10 minutes of rain sprinkles but that was it for the rain. The wind blew fairly hard all day.
We left about 9 a.m. and first stopped at the Arches National Park Visitor Center, watched the orientation movie, purchased DVDs, books, cards, etc. There are 2,200 known arches in the park. Together Arches and Canyonlands National Parks cover 640 square miles of canyon country. President Herbert Hoover designed this area Arches National Monument in 1929, and then in 1971 it was changed to Arches National Park status.
We drove all of the roads, within the park, to the end and then back again. We stopped to take many photographs and walk many trails …. Howard did four trails and Susan did two trails, plus the short walks from parking areas to view areas. We stopped to see: La Sal Mountain viewpoint, The Organ, Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, Courthouse Towers, Petrified Dunes, Balanced Rock, Ham Rock, Panorama Point, Upper and Lower Delicate Arch viewpoints, Salt Valley Overlook, San Dun Arch, Broken Arch, Skyline Arch, Cove Arch, Double Arch and North Window (arch) and South Window (arch). The white clouds and sunshine made some very interesting photographs.
We returned to Moab, stopped at a grocery store and then returned to our campground having driven 63.4 miles
September 25, 2007 -- This has been a perfect day …. bright sunshine, clear blue sky all day and never clouds. Late in the day there were a couple of white clouds near the snow covered peaks of the La Sal Mountains but that was all. We stopped at the grocery store about 9 a.m. and then drove north about of Moab.
On the drive in to the park we stopped as there were five mule deer deciding which way they were going to go. After that we stopped at the Canyonlands National Park Visitor Center. President Lyndon Johnson made this park in 1964; President Richard Nixon expanded it to the present size of 527 square miles in 1971. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks together contain 640 square miles of canyon country. They are located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau that is 130,000 miles in size.
We drove all of the available roads in Canyonlands National Park … this area is “Island In The Sky”. The scenery was spectacular to put it mildly. We stopped at various viewpoints including the Green River Overlook, Whale Rock, Buck Canyon Overlook and Grand View Point Overlook, plus others without official names. When driving the narrow section called “The Neck” the Green River and Stillwater Canyon is seen on one side of the road and the Colorado River Canyon is seen on the other side of the road. We had lunch by the side of the road looking out over the magnificent Green River area with canyons. When we left the park and stopped for gas we had a surprise view of the North Window Arch and South Window Arch, both in Arches National Park. All day we had great views of the magnificent La Sal Mountains, all with lots of snow. We drove a total of 103.5 miles today. We can see the La Sal Mountains from our RV park; also see high red rock cliffs through the many trees.
We were impressed today as both sides of the roads were lined with blooming yellow bushes. With some research we learned these are Rubber Rabbitbrush. To quote a wildflower book: Just as the blooming of turpentinebush signals the arrival of fall in the oak woodlands, so the flowering of rubber rabbitbrush announces the arrival of autumn in pinon-juniper country. The paucity of other wildflowers at that time of year makes rubber rabbitbush more attractive to insects. By being the only game in town, rubber rabbitbrush avoids the frenzied midsummer competition for pollinators. The Navajo cut the flowering branches and use the twigs and blossoms to make dyes of various shades of yellow. Rubber rabbitbrush thrives along roads, in valley bottoms, and on disturbed sites. This blooms September, October and November. It is of the sunflower family.
September 26, 2007 -- Another beautiful day with totally clear bright blue skies. We took this day to catch up on several things and to get ready for the final trip home … I hope taking two days.
At our second stop in Tok, AK, I purchased a tapestry throw of “Alaska Wildflowers”; don’t believe I listed the URL for the manufacture at that time: www.Millstreetdesign.com
Tonight we watched the two hour Democratic Presidential Debate, moderated by Tim Russert, from Dartmouth Univ. in Hanover, NH, on MSNBC. We will be home in time to see the next Republican Presidential Debate on NBC, Oct. 9 from Dearborn, MI.
Have been going over what is already scheduled for Oct. and Nov. Several medical appointments and I must make a whole group of other routine test appointments; Shasta Daylight practice, Wed. night Bluegrass jam sessions, and many other things.
Then need to see if I’ve developed an inner ear problem (like my Mother had) … have been dizzy off and on for about a month. Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate 50 mg) only helps some but doesn’t take care of the problem. Finally found Bonine (Meclizine HCI 25 mg) here in Moab that a good friend said works for her. It seemed to work better and I’ve just taken one for today and we shall see.
Missing the big Carcinoid conference this week-end in Norfolk, VA. Strange not to attend since Susan has been to all of them since the very first one in March 1999 in Sarasota, FL, and Howard has attended some, too.
September 27, 2007 -- Another wonderful sunny day with clear bright blue sky. The further we drove south from Moab, UT, the more high white clouds appeared. A short distance south of Moab we stopped at the beautiful Wilson Arch, beside the highway, to take photographs.
The drive today was truly beautiful. Red rocks, formations, canyons, deer, sheep, open range horses and cattle. We made many stops to take photographs. We only drove 266.3 miles today for a trip total of 10,213.2 miles … so far.
For lunch about 1 p.m. we drove in to Goulding’s Monument Valley Trading Post, Lodge and Dining Room. We counted eight or nine tour buses and more arrived while we were there. Fortunately the tours had a separate dining room and we had a booth on the lower of three levels with a huge picture window looking out on the shapes of Monument Valley. Many changes have been made and much building has taken place since we last visited there in either 1989 or 1990. After good steak lunch we visited the trading post. We did not tour the movie museum as we did that on our earlier visit. We had thought of staying in their camp ground tonight, but with all of the traffic and new building decided against that. www.gouldings.com
We continued our drive through the Navajo Reservations and stopped at the historic Cameron Trading Post on banks of the Little Colorado River and at the intersections of US 89 and AZ 64 (to the south rim of the Grand Canyon). We checked in to their campground for the night. No TV, no Wi-Fi, but sewer, water and electric for $14.41 so a good deal IMHO. www.camerontradingpost.com We have triple the number of audio books with us that we didn’t get to listen to. We didn’t want distractions when the scenery was great and we were stopping and starting frequently. It is thirteen (13) week ago today that we left on our Alaskan Adventure and we shall return home tomorrow, it has been marvelous, every day enjoyable and good.
September 28, 2007
We left Goulding’s after breakfast in the Trading Post Dining Room and headed south to Tempe, AZ, and home, arriving a little before 1 p.m. Daughter Shelly and son-in-law Brian had taken good care of the swimming pool, grass and the mail (sorted very nicely).
Howard drove our 24 foot Winnebago Outlook motorhome 10,424.2 miles on this 13+ week adventure.
We had said we would be home by Oct. 1st. We ran out of time, had hoped to spent five or six days at an RV resort in Gunnison, CO, but ….. We are tired and MUCH to do so shall lay low until middle of next week when resume our Wednesday evening Bluegrass jam sessions in our home on Oct. 3, 2007.
The trip was wonderful, each day was interesting and fun! This was a trip of a lifetime, but we do not plan anymore long long long trips. We’ll be at home in AZ, except for some Bluegrass festival this coming year … Susan has a trip planned with girlfriends early in October 2008, and then we (Howard and Susan) have a trip planned out of the USA the latter part of October 2008.
Howard & Susan Anderson
June 28 --- September 28, 2007
----- Audio Books Listened to as drove -----
June 28, 2007 (Audio) Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
June 29, 2007 (Audio) Crusader’s Cross by James Lee Burke
July 2, 2007 (Audio) Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn
July 6, 2007 (Audio) Act of Treason by Vince Flynn
July 7, 8, __ 2007 (Audio) Last Man Standing by David Baldacci
Sept. 2007 (Audio) Splint Second by David Baldacci
Sept. 2007 (Audio) Wildfire by Nelson DeMille
Sept. 2007 (Audio) The Confessor by Daniel Silva
----- Books Read by Howard -----
July -- Polar Shift: A Kurt Austin Adventure by Clive Cussler
July – August The Alaska Almanac: Facts About Alaska 29th Edition
July – August Deep Black: Dark Zone by Stephen Coonts & Jim DeFelice
September -- The Traitor by Stephen Coonts
Sept. The Journey of Crazy Horse: a Lakota history by Joseph M. Marshall III
----- Books Read by Susan -----
June The Traitor by Stephen Coonts
July Telegraph Days by Larry McMurtry
July Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
July – August The Alaska Almanac: Facts About Alaska 29th Edition
July Deep Black: Dark Zone by Stephen Coonts & Jim DeFelice
July A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow (A Kate Shugak novel)
Aug. Tisha as told to Robert Specht, life of Anne Hobbs Purdy
Aug. Midnight Come Again by Dana Stabenow (A Kate Shugak novel)
Aug. The Singing Of The Dead by Dana Stabenow (a Kate Shugak novel)
Aug. A Grave Denied by Dana Stabenow (A Kate Shugak novel)
Aug. A Taint In The Blood by Dana Stabenow (A Kate Shugak novel)
Sept. Blindfold Game by Dana Stabenow (a stand alone thriller)
Sept. The Lost VanGogh by A. J. Zerrie (thriller / suspense / police procedural)
Sept. The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth
Sept. 74 Seaside Avenue by Debbie Macomber (7th in Cedar Cove series)
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