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Published on August 15, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Near the Continental Divide in Montana.

Near the Continental Divide in Montana.

I crossed back into the US Sunday morning and spent the night in Cascade, Montana. They have a town park where travelers can stay for free. There is also a dump station on site. I found it on the way up to Canada three months ago and knew I wanted to stay again. The park is right next to a cell tower and I knew exactly where to aim my dish for TV.

The next morning I drove west and spent the night in Lolo National Forest a few miles from Missoula, Montana. The wind across Montana was brutal so I stopped early to find a campsite. I knew it would set me back a day to arrive at ground zero for the eclipse but I still had several days before the event. I had TV but no cell signal.

Clearwater River along Highway 12.

Clearwater River along Highway 12.

Today I drove Highway 12 into Idaho. Highway 12 is about the only way to get across Idaho without going way north or south. There is a huge area of mountains and wilderness smack in the middle of the state, and they aim to keep it that way. There was talk of damming the Clearwater River years back and the idea was scrapped and they turned thousands of acres into wilderness.

The road is narrow and twisty for almost a hundred miles. It parallels the same route that Lewis and Clark took in 1804 to explore and map a Northwest Passage to the Pacific. Lewis and Clark kept such detailed records of there path through the mountains that today we know almost exactly where they went. Many signs along the road at pullouts tell information such as – “Lewis and Clark crossed the river here and with their Shoshone Indian guide headed up the steep slope of the mountain over there.” It’s pretty cool! The sad part of the story is when Lewis and Clark were caught in the snow of the mountains and almost starved, the Nez-Perce befriended them and nursed them back to health. Seventy years later the US army chased the Nez-Perce indians into South Dakota and all but wiped them out.

Great view above my camp.

Great view above my camp.

Donna told me about a campsite she stayed at in the Nez Perce National Forest below Grangeville. I found the campground but had no cell signal, so I drove up the road and found a dispersed site that had a little LTE signal and was open to the sky for my dish. I should make it to her campground near Cascade Lake tomorrow.

 
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Published on August 12, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
On the Icefields Parkway

On the Icefields Parkway

Glacier

Glacier

Nice weather!

Nice weather!

The Icefields Parkway through the Canadian Rockies between Jasper and Banff National Parks was beautiful. The National Parks in Canada are free this year because it is the 150 year celebration of the park service. With the parks being free this year, and then get a weekend of gorgeous weather, everyone in Canada was headed to the mountains. I had bumper to bumper traffic at all tourist towns, and turnouts at scenic places along the Parkway were filled to capacity with vehicles.

When I was way back at Denali in Alaska I met a nice couple while I was parked in a BLM campsite. For a while we leap-froged each other and then they got ahead of me while I was in Anchorage. They would text me from time to time to let me know where they were and give me information on nice free campsites they found. I eventually caught them in Whitehorse Walmart and left before they could get on the road. We met again at the overflow parking at Lake Louise and traveled together to the Stony Nakoda Casino, fifty miles before Calgary, last night. All in all we spent six nights camped at the same place.

Henri and Yen by waterfall

Henri and Yen by waterfall

His name is Henri and her name is Yen. Yen is from Vietnam and Henri is a retired salesman from Montreal. They even invited me to eat with them the last two evenings. We had some nice conversation about our adventures and planned to try and meet again in the southwest this winter.

When we were at the overflow parking at Lake Louise, we took a good 5 mile hike along the river. We had to drive 4 miles to find a parking place to take a hike. The first place we wanted to hike was filled to the max with cars and they wouldn’t even let us in. We finally found a back parking lot with a couple RV places. The town was running shuttle buses to events but Yen has a dog that wasn’t allowed to ride. We agreed that a dog can be a good travel companion but it limits you on a lot of activities.

Tonight I’m alone at the Walmart in Lethbridge, Alberta. Henri and Yen are heading east across Canada and I am headed south into the US. The first thing I did when I got here was look for a car wash. I found one that took a credit card, and I’m sure I spent too much getting some of the grime and bugs off both Minnie and Honda.

Read the small print on their dollar store.

Read the small print on their dollar store.

On my way back from the car wash I saw a Jiffy Lube with a special price advertisement. I don’t want to tell how many miles it has been since my last oil change but I’m happy to say Minnie now has clean oil. It is pretty warm here in the Walmart parking lot but I think it will cool off later on. At least I am getting some dark at night, now!

 
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Published on August 10, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
This grizzly was black.

This grizzly was black.

Boardwalk in Stewart.

Boardwalk in Stewart.

History

History

I had a great time in Hyder. The last night there I saw two more large grizzly bears come out and catch fish in the river. Before the grizzlies arrived, a small, cute, little black bear tip-toed out and scavaged scraps left along the bank. When the little black saw the first grizzly, he hightailed it into the woods! I stayed until almost 10 pm watching the bears fish.

The next morning I broke camp and headed out. As I left Hyder and drove south, the roads became wider and smoother. I was beginning to see suggested maximum speeds of over 100 and had cell service on a lot of the highway, so I knew I was getting near civilization. The driving was maybe a little more relaxed, but soon I started to see many semi trucks loaded with logs. Truck drivers up here quite often pull double trailers, and they don’t slow down for anything.

I made good time on the major east west highway – Route 16 – and drove over 200 miles to a place called Burns Lake. It was not burning at the lake but there are many fires up here. I could smell smoke for a long stretch of the road today.

Burns Lake Recreation Area has a small campground, a maintained trail system for mountain bikers and hikers, and a lake for canoes. I drove back in about three miles to the campground, but it was blocked off with a sign that read closed for a mountain bike event. I found a little day-use area on the way out and parked for the night.

A little while later a young guy stopped at the parking area and I asked him if he thought I would be OK parking here for the night. He said no one would care. He showed me the bike he rides the trails with – a unicycle! I thought he would ride around the lake where it was level, but he took off up through the woods. I wish I would have thought to take his picture.

Today I drove into Prince George and stocked up on groceries at the Walmart. When I got out of the RV I thought I had a black tank leak, but then realized it was probably the smell from the paper milI

I was thinking that reading books, magazines, and newspapers online is hurting the paper business, but I’ll bet Amazon is helping out the paper and cardboard business. Not only does almost everything you order from them come in a cardboard box, but that box is packed in another box. I guess I help too. I buy a lot of paper plates, bowls, and paper towels to save on washing dishes.

Nice campsite!

Nice campsite!

Tonight I’m at another recreation area near McBride, BC. It’s hot here but at least I found a shady spot. I should be in Jasper National Park tomorrow. No cell here so I will post tomorrow.

 
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Published on August 7, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.

Grizzly fishing.

Grizzly fishing.


Hyder is a little town on the southern tip of Alaska. Mining kept the town alive back in the early 1900’s, but the few businesses along the run-down main street have all closed, and junk is piled in front and between the delapitated buildings. About the only businesses in town are an RV park, a gift shop, and a little girl across the road selling lemonade.

Tourist come here to visit Fish Creek, a feeding ground for bears when salmon are swimming upstream to spawn. The forest service has built a walkway high above the stream for people to watch the bears fishing. It costs $5 for a pass to use the walkway.

I traveled up to the viewing platform last night and stood at the railing with a hundred other visitors, waiting in anticipation of a bear fishing show. For an hour nothing happened, and then, one at a time three black bears came out of the bushes and tried their luck at catching a salmon.

The first one jumped into the stream but the fish were too quick and he came up empty. The next two just walked along the river bank and never tried to catch a fish. There was a lull for quite a while and many people gave up and left. Just as I was ready to leave a large grizzly stepped out of the reeds and into the water.

The ranger said he was a regular to the area and they even had a name for him – Dogbear. Dogbear walked up the stream and caught a fish on his second try. He carried it to an island and tore flesh from the salmon while the prey continued to thrash and flop. It was all quite gruesome to watch, even though you know the salmon are destined to die after they spawn. After he was done with the fish, two bald eagles flew in to scavenge what was left.

While the grizzly was fishing, no black bears came around. I asked the ranger if they chased the other bears away and he said a grizzly will kill and eat black bears. Momma black bear will send her cubs up a tree when a grizzly is about. Grizzlies are bad-tempered and mean! I asked if any bears had ever come up on the walkway. He said one time a small black climbed a tree and stepped over onto the platform. They took people down the emergency exit and then chased the bear off the walkway.

Hyder, AK and Stewart, BC are both on the same body of water, seperated by a natural fjord. Stewart has a few more business and seems to be prosperous. You can drive into Hyder without going through customs but on the way out you have to clear customs. I asked a local why they check one way and not the other. He told me that years ago Canadians would come to Hyder to buy cigarettes and liquor and bring them back into Stewart. The officials didn’t want to be cheated out of duty on things bought in the US so they put up a border crossing. That’s what he told me but who knows if that is true.

I took a ride on Honda to Stewart this morning and then rode up to Bear Glacier in the afternoon. I’ll go up to Fish Creek again tonight and head out in the morning.

 
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Published on August 6, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
On the Cassiar Highway.

On the Cassiar Highway.

I was in for a pleasant surprise when I turned off the Alaskan Highway at Watson Lake and headed down the Cassiar Highway. In Richard’s blog, he tells about the terrible condition of the road, filled with frost heaves and dips so bad that he was only able to drive 35 mph a lot of the way. I was dreading the road conditions of the 400 mile drive to Hyder, AK, and reconciled in my mind that it would be a long, slow couple of days.

A lot can change in 10 years. Almost all the Cassiar Highway now is new. It is still narrow in places, but the first 100 miles were smooth as glass. After that there were a few gravel spots that were being fixed but no badly damaged areas at all. The road is narrow in places with sharp dropoffs so I took it easy and still made good time.

I realize that I haven’t talked much about the condition of some of the awful roads up here, and I want to chronicle my opinion before I forget the punishment poor Minnie and I have gone through. The joke is that the Yukon and Alaska get 9 months of winter and 3 months of road construction. Roads up here are always in battle with the brutal temperatures of the north, and Mother Nature will make you pay when you try to put a road on her frozen ground.

I’m not sure why they call them “frost heaves”, they are more like “frost sucks” in my mind. To me, a heave is something sticking up, and these imperfections are mostly dips and holes. It happens when the black asphalt heats up from the sun and melts the frozen ground, causing the asphalt to sag into a depression of great depths.

To be fair Minnie has a couple disadvantages over other vehicles driving the Alaskan highways. For one thing, she has a short wheelbase. I guess someone designing Winnebagos figured it would be easier to drive an RV if you could cut corners like a car. The trouble with that theory is that it leaves a long section cantilevered behind the rear tires to bounce and swing like a dinosaur tail. Now add a motorcycle hanging on the back and you have even more instability.

When you hit one of the frost damaged sections of road with a little too much speed, the first thing that happens is the front end falls as if the road has disappeared into an abyss. Then you are rocketed up with bone crushing force into a brief instant of zero gravity, before being slammed back to the road in a test of the integrity of your tires and front suspension.

And as all this is going on, your back tires have already entered this dip to mimic the front end in a much less graceful way. But it’s not over yet! Imagine several dips in a row! When you finally come out the other side, you have been on the roller coaster ride from Hell, and you probably have a mild case of whiplash.

I think the worst road damage I have seen is when one side of the lane has sunken, causing Minnie to drop wheels on the same side and set up a side-to-side rocking. At first you feel like you might roll over and you overcorrect to bring the rig back to a straight line. In the next second, the tires on the other side hit the dip while the first side is bounced back up, tossing everything back the other way. When you stop for the night, you find out how secure things are in the cabinets.

Dall Sheep?

Dall Sheep?

There has been no cell signal along this highway. I’m camped just off the highway in a nice, hidden campsite. I should be in Hyder tomorrow.

I made it to Hyder. Staying at the Camp Run a Muck RV park. I paid for two days and may stay longer. Little bit of Wi-Fi.

 
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Published on August 3, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.

I have been scooting south quicker than I originally intended. I decided to put in a couple of good driving days and maybe save a little time for the Cassiar Highway and the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper.

Familiar sight in Yukon and Alaska.

Familiar sight in Yukon and Alaska.

I’m back in Whitehorse tonight after driving the Tok Cutoff and Alaskan Highway that I missed on the way up. I stopped at a few pullouts to read signs and take in the views of the Saint Elias Range – Canada’s highest peaks. The weather today was gorgeous and I could see every mountain crystal clear.

The Tok Cutoff road was one of the worst roads I have been on and the first section of the Alaskan Highway past the border of Canada was not much better.

I texted with a couple I met up here that were going to Hyder after I told them about the bears feeding on salmon. They were there yesterday and saw plenty of salmon swimming upstream but no bears. I hope I will see bears.

 
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Published on August 2, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Columbia Glacier

Columbia Glacier

My visit to Valdez Alaska turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I have had so far on my trip. On the Stan Stevens Glacier and Wildlife Cruise, we witnessed the greatest calving event that anyone on our boat had ever seen. Crew members on our boat who have been coming to the glacier for years said they have seen nothing like it. But let me back up a bit…

Valdez is one of those seaport towns that gets a lot of rain from clouds trapped by the coastal mountains. It would rain off and on for the two days I spent in town, but there were two museums to wander through when the drops would fall.

Museum in Valdez

Museum in Valdez

There is a lot of history that took place in Valdez. It started as Gold Rush town where thousands of Stampeders landed to start their trek to the goldfields. The miners had to hike over the treacherous Valdez Glacier before facing the pass through the mountains.

In March of 1964, Valdez was hit by a massive earthquake of 9.2 magnitude, turning the ground to liquid waves, that heaved and broke for a terrifing five minutes. The town was injured so badly that it was decided to move everyone to a new location where the ground was more stable. The old town of Valdez lasted two more years as a new town was built four miles away on bedrock.

In 1977, Valdez became an important seaport for the Alaskan Pipeline terminus. The natural deep water of the port allowed easy access to oil tankers to load millions of barrels of oil on ships bound for refineries in California. Perhaps the most famous event to occur off the Port of Valdez was the grounding of the Exxon Valdez in1989. The tanker leaked 10 million barrels of oil into the waters of Prince William Sound before they could contain the spill.

All these events and more were on display in great detail in the museums in town. I spent several hours looking through the memorabilia and then wandered through town looking for a cruise boat tour. I found a company that offered a cruise to Columbia Glacier and booked passage for the next morning. Then I headed a few miles north of town and found a secluded spot to camp for the night.

Foggy cruise start

Foggy cruise start

The weather the next morning was total fog until we motored out of the bay into Valdez Arm. Then the fog lifted and we had great views for the rest of the trip. Our boat was only one-third full so everyone had room to move about and see the sights. It was quite chilly outside the cabin area when the capitan would bring the boat up to cruise and everyone would scurry inside out of the wind. You were allowed to go anywhere on the boat and I enjoyed spending some time up in the wheelhouse talking with the capitan and asking questions.

Sea Lions

Sea Lions

We saw sea lions, sea otters, Dall Porpoise, Harbor Seals, Orcas, and several different birds. Even though we couldn’t get real close to some of the animals, it was great fun to watch them in their natural habitat. I didn’t get many good pictures of the wildlife but I will have the picture in my mind always.

About to calve.

About to calve.

Fir seals on an iceberg

Fir seals on an iceberg

As we came closer to Columbia Glacier, the capitan had to weave in and out through the icebergs. He would even push through some of the smaller pieces of ice until we were about a quarter mile from the massive face of the glacier. Everyone on board waited in hushed anticipation to see if we would be privileged to see the glacier calve. Some days the glacier is quiet and many tours never get to see any activity on the face of the glacier. We were about to witness a spectacular show.

It started with several small slides every minute or so, and then we could hear loud cracking and rumbling as huge sections of ice broke from the face and plunged into the sea. It seemed like the whole face of the glacier kept breaking and falling, pushing up large waves, and sending ice flying into the air. As the largest pieces broke into the water they would bob up in slow-motion, towering high above the face of the glacier and then turn over and crash into the water. When it was over it seemed the face of the glacier had retreated the length of a football field and house-sized icebergs floated towards us on rolling waves.

The crew were as awestruck as the passengers! In all their years of coming to Columbia Glacier they had not seen any calving like that. A couple of people got it on video and said they will post it to YouTube. It was a great time. I’m really glad I went.

After the tour I decided to drive up through Keystone Canyon and over Thompson Pass to look for better weather and maybe miss the road construction by Worthington Glacier. I made quick stops at the old Valdez townsite to read some plaques and stopped to marvel at Bridelvail Falls. The construction workers were gone and the traffic was light so I made a good choice to drive in the evening.

Bridelvail Falls

Bridelvail Falls

My next move will be towards Tok and then down the into Canada on the Alaskan Highway again.

 
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Published on July 30, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Hike to Thunderbird Falls

Hike to Thunderbird Falls

Alaskans love their weekend toys! If you live up here for any length of time, you probably have some combination of the following adventure vehicles: airplane, RV, fishing boat, ATV, snowmobile, mountain bike, and maybe a lesser chance because of the weather, a dirt bike.

It was quite evident to me as I left Anchorage and joined the Glenn Highway on my way to Valdez that ahead lay a popular area for off-roaders. I met trailer after trailer of vehicles pulling ATVs.

Motanuska Glacier

Motanuska Glacier

The road passed through some very pretty mountains and was quite smooth for most of the way. I stopped to take a picture of Motanuska Glacier, a long river of ice and snow that reminded me of Ruth Glacier in Denali. I added a little gas in Glennallen and found a scenic pullout a few miles south on the Richardson Highway headed to Valdez.

I just wanted to mention again what a good time I had visiting with Kleenex in Anchorage. She went out of her way to take me hiking in Whittier, drove me all over town to shop and show me the sights, and include me in a hike and outdoor potluck with people from her church. Thank you, Renee!

 
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Published on July 29, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Kleenex and Castaway at Portage Glacier.

Kleenex and Castaway at Portage Glacier.

On Friday, Kleenex and I traveled an hour south of Anchorage to hike a trail to Portage Glacier and visit the town of Whittier. The weather was cloudy and misting for much of the day, but the skies cleared and the rain held for most of our hike. It was a fun day.

Tunnel

Tunnel

Because it was a day trip, and we knew we would have to pay to got through Whittier Tunnel, Kleenex drove us in her car. Our first stop was at the Boggs Visitors Center where they had some information about points of interest in and around Portage Valley. We also went to check out the price of a tour boat that took you up to the face of the glacier. If it was better weather we may have taken the boat ride but voted to just enjoy a hike this day.

We proceeded on through the two-mile tunnel and drove on into Whittier. The tunnel is a marvel in itself. Blasted through solid rock and completed in two years, the one-lane tunnel was originally made in 1941 for train travel to connect the port with interior points. Sometimes the wait for your turn can be a half hour or more. We were lucky to hit the line as cars were being let through just as we arrived.

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Kleenex told me that weather in Whittier is almost always rainy. Because the coastal mountains trap the moisture from the bay, it can be sunshine in Anchorage and raining in Whittier. We saw a sign for a museum and decided to browse there for a bit and wait for the weather to improve.

The museum had many displays of pictures about early ocean explorers, building the tunnel, and the war of the Aluetian Islands. We read articles for about an hour then had lunch before driving to the trail.

Ready to hike.

Ready to hike.

The trail to Portage Glacier was only 2 miles up and 2 back but there was a steep hill to climb up to the pass and then a knee punishing decent down to the lake. When I start climbing hills I realize how out of shape I am. As we neared the lake where Portage Glacier entered the water, the clouds lifted and we had great views of the glacier and icebergs in the lake.

On the hike back from the glacier it rained some but we didn’t care; I was so hot and sweaty that the light rain felt good.

We had to wait 30 minutes to get back through the tunnel. On the drive home Kleenex took me to see the hippy town of Girdwood. There were lots of artsy places, a luxurious resort hotel, and a classic ski slope. We stopped for ice cream and arrived back in town about 6:30 pm.

I had a wonderful time with a great friend. We even made a date to go see a movie later that evening. By the time the movie let out I was ready to crash. On Saturday I will help Kleenex move some of her belongings to a room where she will be staying and then go with her to a pot luck meal with people from her church.

 
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Published on July 26, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Cold boxes for packing the fish caught by tourists.

Cold boxes for packing the fish caught by tourists.

I left Fred Meyer in Soldotna and drove northeast until I reached the turn to Hope, Alaska. The highway to Hope runs along the south side of Turnagain Arm, crossing many rivers that feed into the tidal basin. It was a pretty drive with views of Turnagain Arm in several pullouts along the road.

The Sixmile Creek that Hope Highway follows for a few miles is popular with rafters for its Class IV and V rapids. Only experienced river runners attempt the adventure. The company that offers the rafts and shuttle sometimes require participants to demonstrate they can swim across the river before they can sign on.

Hope is a ramshackle sort of town of 150 residents. Many of the old cabins have been preserved and the only new buildings are the post office and a well maintained bed and breakfast. It has a couple of cafes’, and of course, bait-n-tackle shops.

Mouth of Resurrection River.

Mouth of Resurrection River.

The main reason to come to Hope this time of year is to fish for salmon in Resurrection Creek. I saw many fishermen standing in the water as I crossed the creek. I’m not a fisherman and I don’t want to do a Class V rafting adventure so I went to the local museum for my afternoon entertainment.

Miner shacks.

Miner shacks.

The museum had many pieces of mining equipment on display along with preserved cabins that some of the first residents used in the early gold rush. I spent quite a bit of time talking with the lady that runs the museum. She has lived in Hope for the last 40 years, and explained in more detail than I wanted, extensive history of the town. I don’t think she get a lot of people that stop and visit for a while.

When I left the museum, she told me of a camping spot six miles out of town on the Resurrection River where it is legal to pan for gold. I drove up and settled into a spot for the night. I asked the Forest Ranger at the parking area if I was alright to camp here. She said that technically it was not for camping but no one would say anything about me staying a couple nights.

I took my pan down to the river after dinner and found several flakes of gold in my first two pans. I wanted to play gold-miner a little longer but the water was ice-cold, the bugs were out, and it was starting to sprinkle. I jumped back into Minnie just as a heavy rain started.

A while later a couple drove up on quads. The man was pulling a dredge on a trailer so I went over to talk to him. He said they own a claim up the river. He puts on a wet suit and crawls around in the river with a suction hose attached to the dredge. I figured it wasn’t any of my business so I didn’t ask him if the make much money dredging the river. I would like to know, though.

 
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Published on July 24, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
It looks better with eyes than a camera.

It looks better with eyes than a camera.

I packed up this morning and headed Minnie back towards Anchorage. It was almost 1pm before I left the campground on the Spit, and I will truly miss the wonderful time I spent, walking the beach, riding Honda to town and along the East Road, watching eagles feast on morsels brought in by the surf, and most of all, I will miss the friends I met there.

Dena and Rick behind their pickup camper.

Dena and Rick behind their pickup camper.

We all said our goodbyes this morning with the hope we will meet again down the road sometime. Diana is from Ontario, traveling full-time in a 28′ class c, with a destination of Western BC where her son lives. She was planning on just traveling through Canada, but when she ended up in the Yukon, reasoned she may as well continue into Alaska.

Rick and Dena are from the San Bernardino area. Rick is a recently retired fireman. They are traveling like so many of us adventurers – going where we want and spending as much time as we want in each place. Rick, Dena, and Diana were all going to stay another day, but when the weather forecast for the next couple days was looking rather rainy, they decided to move on, too. We have all decided that Quartzsite for the Big Tent Show will be a good place to meet again.

Glaciers everywhere you look!

Glaciers everywhere you look!

The wind was blowing strong as I drove up Highway 1, but it was mostly a tailwind that helped me along. The traffic was not nearly as bad as the trip down the Peninsula. As I neared Soldotna, I turned towards the town of Kenai, looking to see if anything caught my fancy. There was mention of a lighthouse on my Google maps but I think it was just the name of a small community. There were a few places to drive out to the bay to look for animals, but the gloomy, cold weather wasn’t very inviting. If you are into it, one wildlife area was advertised as as a good place to see all kinds of birds. I think a high-power spotting scope would be a great tool to watch wildlife here in Alaska. Even through binoculars it is hard to see the birds sometimes.

Russian Cemetery.

Russian Cemetery.

I didn’t stop to see any Russian Orthodox Churches. I did, however, find an old Russian community on a motorcycle trip east from Homer while I was staying on the Spit. The settlement is called Voznesenka. I didn’t see much there, but I did walk around in a cemetery and puzzled over the pronunciation of the deceased names.

Tonight I’m at Fred Meyers in Soldotna. I have no idea where I will stay tomorrow, but there is no hurry to get to Anchorage for a couple days. Kleenex has Friday off so we will probably find a hike in the area.

 
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Published on July 23, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Shops on the Spit.

Shops on the Spit.

One of the best parts of hiking the AT was the people you meet. This trip to see Alaska has been like that in some ways. In campgrounds, tourist attractions, beautiful scenic places, and all along the highway, you run into people with the same pilgrimage – to explore this great and beautiful land of ours.

Me and Diana at Lands End.

Me and Diana at Lands End.

When I was in Seward I ran into a fellow traveler and we became instant friends. We had such a good time talking about our adventures on our journey, we decided to meet up in Homer and spend a few days together enjoying the Peninsula.

I arrived in Homer a day before Diana and the next morning reserved two spots out near the water on Homer Spit. After spending the night at Fred Meyers in Soldotna, Diana joined me here in the Mariner City Campground.

In the afternoon we rode Honda down the Spit to walk around the many shops and tourist haunts scattered like an Atlantic City Boardwalk along the ocean. Diana bought a couple of souvenirs for her kids and I found a fleece jacket with a Homer logo that will always remind me of the good times here. We stopped at a fishing trip place where they were weighing the Halibut caught by the guys on a recent trip. One of the fish weighed 148 pounds and was over 6′ long. Diana has the picture and I will post it when I can get it, so no one thinks it is just a “fish story”.

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There are glaciers across the bay.

There are glaciers across the bay.

Later on we took a walk along the beach as the tide went out. The water was surprisingly warm. We thought it would be quite chilly this far north. Diana’s dog Carter loves to retrieve a stick thrown into the water and we watched him play fetch whenever we found something to throw.

On the way back we ran into another couple we had met earlier and joined them at their camp for good conversation until after 11 pm. The sun finally set and the air grew chilly, so we all retired to our RVs for the night. It was a good day with nice people on Homer Spit.

 
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Published on July 21, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
An unusual clear day!

An unusual clear day!

Views of the Chugach Mountains.

Views of the Chugach Mountains.

After several days of rain and gloom, Friday dawned bright and clear. I was camped in the same parking area as last night and enjoyed a very restful night. One other camper pulled in late and was gone early this morning before I even got up. With the promise of clear, sunny skies, I packed quickly and headed for Homer.

The drive through the Chugach National Forest was splendid. I stopped at most every pullout to take in the rugged and colorful landscape. The traffic was not bad until I turned on to Highway 1 and headed for Cook Inlet and points south.

The traffic turned into a steady stream of cars and campers that became quite concerning in the narrow stretch along Coopers Landing. I have a feeling that some of the foreigners that come here and rent RVs are not prepared for narrow roads. The guardrails were tight up against the narrow blacktop and I met several motorhomes over on my side. Eventually the road widened and the driving was normal to Soldotna.

Soldotna is a big city. I pulled into Fred Meyers and noticed about 50 RVs in the parking lot. Fred Meyers welcomes RVs for 7 days and they even have a free dump, water, and garbage dumpster. It’s no wonder the travelers love it there. I was on a mission to make it to Homer so I just bought a couple of supplies and headed out.

Hope it doesn't erupt for a few days!

Hope it doesn’t erupt for a few days!

Views so nice I showed them twice!

Views so nice I showed them twice!

The views along the Inlet were gorgeous. It was so clear you could see all the Chigmat Mountains across the water. One turnout told of an active volcano named Redoubt Volcano in the Clark National Park. It stood out clearly and ominously across the bay.

Not on the ocean side but it's OK.

Not on the ocean side but it’s OK.

Tonight I’m in Mariner Campground on Homer Spit. I’ll probably stay for a couple days to do some exploring. I already unloaded my motorcycle, signifying not just an overnight stop. I hope the weather stays like this for a few days.

 
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Published on July 20, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

The weather turned rainy and chilly two days after I arrived in Anchorage. I was reaching for a jacket most of the time but the residents up here didn’t seem to mind and continued their activities in t-shirts and shorts. Even the two days when it didn’t rain were socked in with low clouds and fog, so I have not been afforded good views of the spectacular scenery that surrounds Anchorage.

Early bush plane

Early bush plane

On Tuesday I found a place to fill both my propane tanks and then went to the Aviation Museum located near the Anchorage airport. The museum was good but I thought a little pricey. A lot of the aircraft displays had some connection to the war with Japan in 1942. I never realized before what a significant role Alaska played in WWII and the many battles that took place in the Aleutian Islands.

Later in the afternoon when Kleenex got off work we went out for ice cream. We both agreed that with her hectic schedule for the next week, I should do some exploring for a few days until she had a couple days off. The next morning I set out for the Kenai Peninsula.

Along Turnagain Arm

Along Turnagain Arm

I drove through a light rain most of the morning, and I’m sure I missed a lot of beautiful scenery along Turnagain Arm and through the Chugach National Forest. I could still see many snowcapped mountains through the swirling clouds and fog and I hope that on my return trip it will be clear and I have good views at the many turnouts along the road.

I arrived at Seward early in the afternoon. Seward is an interesting little seaport town. Besides having a rich history, it has the northernmost ice-free port in Alaska, the starting place for the Historic Iditarod dog sled race to Nome, and is a mecca for tourists tours, sightseeing, fishing trips, and souvenir shops. Of interest to me this morning was the camping along the waters of Resurrection Bay.

Resurrection Bay

Resurrection Bay

The campground was $40 for electric/water hookups and $20 for just a place to park. I kept the option open but still hoped to find a free place to stay the night. The lady at the welcome center told me that I should find a spot at the campground soon because they fill up fast. She also mentioned that some people park along side the road going to Kenai Fjords National Park.

Near Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield.

Near Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield.

The national park is 8 miles north of Seward on a nice highway that ends near Exit Glacier. I found several good pullouts along the road that didn’t have “No Camping” signs on them so decided to stay in one for the night. I continued on to the park and walked the short trail for views of Exit Glacier. The light rain made hiking uncomfortable but at least it kept the mosquitos away.

Tomorrow I will hike further up the glacier if the weather cooperates. I would love to hike all the way to the top to see the Harding Icefield, a vast sea of ice and snow that feeds some 40 glaciers in the Kenai Mountain Range.

 
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Published on July 18, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
A new supply!

A new supply!

After enjoying a relaxing week along the Susitna River near Talkeetna, I decided to drive to Anchorage to start my exploration of the coastal area. The morning was a little drizzly but I managed to get everything loaded without taking too much of the wet river sand with me. It was only 120 miles south on good road with cheaper gas along the way to the sprawling city of Anchorage, and I arrived at Cabelas shortly after noon.

Cabela’s allows RVs in their parking lot for 48 hours and they even have a dump station. I took care of the regular chores whenever I get to a big city – laundry, groceries, dump, and water – and gave Renee( who will always be known as Kleenex to me) a call to let her know I was in town. We agreed to meet later and go out to eat.

Castaway and Kleenex

Castaway and Kleenex

It was such a joy to see my friend and trail companion. It has been 5 years since I last saw her and we both agreed the time has in some ways flown by. Kleenex has spent the majority of her time since the trail as councilor and mentor to young adults in an organization called Service Adventure, an organization that helps kids with a positive start in life. Alaska has really taken hold of her heart and I think it will be her permanent home for the foreseeable future.

At Earthquake Park.

At Earthquake Park.

Kleenex has a Costco membership so she took me in her car to purchase the much needed staple of maple syrup. I have been looking for good fruit here in the north but so far been disappointed with what I have purchased. She said that Costco here in Anchorage has the best fruit so I stocked up on that too.

I told her I have been hungry for pizza. I usually go to fast food places when I go out to eat and frozen pizza that you cook at home doesn’t cut it. She knew of a couple good places to get pizza. The first place was pretty crowded but we only had to wait 20 minutes to get a seat at the next one. It was a great time of catching up and reminiscing about the trail. After dinner she drove us to Earthquake Park and we walked around reading the signs and looking out at Cook Inlet until the mosquitos chased us back to the car.

Kleenex has to work and “house sit” for the next two weeks so we can either spend a little time together between her commitments or maybe I will continue on down the coast and come back when she has a couple days off. Once again my plans are set in jello.

 
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Published on July 13, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
One of many air tour companies.

One of many air tour companies.

I rode into Talkeetna this morning with the idea of checking on the price of an airplane ride to a glacier below Denali. I parked Honda and walked to one of the buildings selling air tours and talked with the guy about a flight. I really wasn’t prepared to take a flight today. The weather was pretty hazy with thunderstorms moving in later. I was mainly interested in the price, but you know how it goes, the salesman said he could get me on a flight that left in an hour and he would give me a 10% discount – yeah, right. The price was a little more than I wanted to spend but I would never get a chance like this again.

Pilot and plane. He has been doing this for 23 years.

Pilot and plane. He has been doing this for 23 years.

I checked in at Talkeetna Air Taxi 40 minutes before the flight. The salesman said that I could request the right seat if I got there early. The girl checking me in said I would have to ask the pilot. There were 5 of us on the plane, a family of 3, a young guy from Georgia, and me. The young man asked the pilot first but said he would switch after we landed on the glacier.

Flying over the Talkeetna River.

Flying over the Talkeetna River.

The plane we flew was a 6 place Beaver. The company has 9 planes so you can imagine how many people are flying into the mountains everyday. Most of the airplanes are Otters, which carry more passengers. I think our Beaver has a better view than the bigger planes.

A long river of ice.

A long river of ice.

We took off and crossed the George Parks Highway and many rivers before we saw the mountains to our north. The pilot called out the names of the rivers and told us about the glaciers where they originated. The pilot said there was about 10 miles visibility but it didn’t seem that good to me.

On the Ruth Glacier.

On the Ruth Glacier.

We soon saw the mountains and followed the Ruth Glacier for several miles. Several granite peaks came into view and at last a look of the South Peak of Denali.

We made a slow turn and landed uphill on Ruth Glacier. There were already two Otters on the snow when we got there. Everyone got out and took thousands of pictures and walked around on the snow.

We got to see the other planes take off. The downhill slope of the glacier helps with the takeoff but I remarked to the pilot that we had a tailwind. He said it is almost always like that.

I took some movies but can't upload those.

I took some movies but can’t upload those.

I sat in the front seat with the pilot on the way back. The view was not any better up there because of the haze and the engine cowling, but I got to watch the instruments and the pilot handle the plane.

We followed the glacier for several miles until the landscape turned to muskeg, rivers and lakes. The glacier we landed on was over 1000 feet thick, but all the glaciers are retreating over the last years.

I’m glad I didn’t save the money and miss all the fun of a glacier landing.

 
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Published on July 12, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Susitna River is 313 miles long. Stretches from the Susitna Glacier to Cook Inlet.

Susitna River is 313 miles long. Stretches from the Susitna Glacier to Cook Inlet.

I had some excitement driving south on Alaska Rt. 3 this morning. I left my campsite about 9:00 am and stopped at Denali National Park to dump and take on water. I was following a Class C pulling a toad about an hour later when I noticed smoke coming from the tow car. All of a sudden a tire flew off the car and rolled across the road and down into the ditch. I had slowed down when I saw the tire come off so I was quite a way behind the motorhome. I figured he would realize something was wrong and would pull over but he kept on down the road. I sped up to catch him and flashed my lights and blew my horn. He finally pulled off the road and I pulled in behind him.

Most of the front right tire was gone. The rim looked okay but was probably ruined. He said he never noticed a thing; it drove normal. He was going to put on his spare, doughnut tire and try to get it fixed in Talkeetna. I told him to go slow and he should be okay. I asked him if he needed any help and he said no. There was nothing else I could do so I continued on.

It's out there behind that mist!

It’s out there behind that mist!

A few miles later I came to Denali State Park and pulled in at the Mountain View Point. There were several people lined up along the railing, studying the mountain photo, and trying to figure out which one was Denali. One man that seemed sure he knew where it was pointed out the snow-covered base with the peak covered in mist. This is the second time I have seen the bottom slopes of Denali, but the top still evades me.

Looking up river.

Looking up river.

I’m camped along the Susitna River in a nice campsite on the sand and gravel beach. There is a large forest behind me with tall Aspens and Cottonwood trees. The only drawback will be if the ATVs come out and race up and down this weekend

I met a nice couple back at my last camp and they have joined me here. I will tell more about them in a future post.

Tomorrow I will visit Talkeetna and check into the Denali scenic flight. Richard has often said it was one of the highlights of their trip and to do it if at all possible. I would love to take the flight but it will depend on the price.

 
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Published on July 11, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Couch Potato

Couch Potato

Rainy days and Tuesdays...

Rainy days and Tuesdays…

This note is just to continue the chronicle of my time in Alaska. I have taken three days to do little of nothing other than to hide from the rain, wind, and cold. I’m still 10 miles north of Denali at the little spot of BLM I found on the web. It looks like tomorrow will be a good travel day so I’m planning to drive down near Talkeetna to find a camping place.

 
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Published on July 8, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Take Off!

Take Off!

Rain is predicted to settle in for the next few days so I rode to the park for one last activity. Denali is known for its generous stance as a wilderness area. In a wilderness area, man is a visitor that does not remain, no mechanical vehicles can be used, and nature is left pretty much alone to do its thing. If I remember right, fires cannot be fought by firefighters with machines or chainsaws.

It's too hot!

It’s too hot!

Too many people

Too many people

The one theme that fits with the wilderness area of the park in winter is dog sleds. Denali park employees and volunteers maintain a kennel of 33 Alaskan Huskies for transportation through the park in the winter. Of course the dogs have to be cared for and exercised all summer, too. One of the most popular attractions is a sled dog demonstration offered free by the park.

I rode to the visitors center and stood in line for the 2:00 pm show. The show is so popular that there were enough people to fill two large busses. We were bussed only two miles to the kennels and got to walk around and meet the dogs for a half hour before the demonstration started. Most all the dogs are friendly from being handled by different trainers and having visitors around petting them.

If they used more dogs on this cart the musher would end up in the bushes on the turn.

If they used more dogs on this cart the musher would end up in the bushes on the turn.

The Alaskan Huskies used as sled dogs are bred for their long legs, wide paws, bushy tails, powerful lean bodies, and intelligence. They are highly trained athletes and they love to run! Any temperature above 20° is too warm for them so they sleep outside in the snow all winter.

Hard for them to stand still.

Hard for them to stand still.

The demonstration consisted of hooking 5 dogs to a wheel cart and watching them race around a circular track. Then the narrator/park ranger told the story of the dogs while the crowd watched. It was interesting to learn the different positions the dogs are harnessed in the line, and how they are chosen for their position.

When the show was over everyone could go back to pet the dogs some more or wait for the bus. There was a nice path back to the visitors center that was only 2 miles, so I walked. I probably will hang out at camp for a few days until this rain system moves on.

 
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Published on July 8, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Our bus

Our bus

Yesterday I rode to Denali and purchased a ticket to ride into the wilderness area of Denali. The bus trip I purchased, 53 miles to the Toklat River, was the shortest excursion they offered into the heart of the park. Some of the tours were over 90 miles and lasted all day. I figured that 6 hours on a school bus would be long enough.

During the night it rained and rained. My bus ride was scheduled for noon so I was hopeful the rain would stop before I had to leave for the park. If it was still raining in the morning, I would have to pack everything and drive Minnie instead of Honda. Luckily, the morning was dry but still very cloudy. I could ride Honda but a peek at Denali’s peak was not going to happen.

IMG_20170707_145548

A retreating glacier.

A retreating glacier.

The seats on the bus were a lot better than I feared. They were actually quite comfortable with adequate leg room. The bus driver was very knowledgeable and personable, too. Several people said we were lucky to get him. The bus driver is not actually required to narrate the tour back into the park but we received lots of information from a nice guy. Our driver ( whose name is Dale, but that doesn’t have anything to do with this) has worked as a driver for the park for 35 years, knows a lot about the park, is an avid Denali backpacker, and has a great personality. Every time he would ask us if he should stop talking and let us enjoy the park in silence, we would all exclaim that he should keep telling us stories.

Chiseled far away look!

Chiseled far away look!

If you see the tallest mountain you are lucky. Most that come to the park only see clouds, and we would be amoung the many. We saw a few Caribou, a bald eagle, a moose, a snowshoe hare, and a tarm… patr… part… tparm… chicken. But the one animal that evaded us all was the mighty Grizzly.

Caribou in the road. He wouldn't move!

Caribou in the road. He wouldn’t move!

It was a fun day with a good group of people. I took lots of pictures but it is one of those places that can’t be captured with a camera. The mountains are too grand and the animals too far away to photograph without a telephoto lens. I’m going to go back over tomorrow and try to catch the sled dog demonstration.

 
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Published on July 5, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
As close as I've ever gotten to a moose.

As close as I’ve ever gotten to a moose.

The George Parks Highway that runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks is by far the best road I’ve been on here in Alaska. There were very few dips and potholes. It is probably maintained well because it is such a major highway.

View along the Parks Highway

View along the Parks Highway

I retrieved my mail at the post office, dumped and filled my water for free, stocked up on groceries at Safeway, and headed out of Fairbanks. It was only 120 miles to Denali. I had a couple of camping places I wanted to check on before I went into the park, but one place had signs up for no camping and I couldn’t find the other. I ended up going all the way to the Park Visitors Center looking for good pullouts to spend the night. I figured I would end up paying for an RV park.

Hope it lives up to the hype!

Hope it lives up to the hype!

The visitors center was packed with people. I wandered around looking at displays and then watched a movie about sights and sounds of Denali. I was more concerned about someplace to stay than looking at the park so I left after an hour or so.

I headed back to Healy, ten miles north of the park entrance, and searched again for the BLM camp I read about on freecampsites.net. As I drove past the point where the directions ended, I saw a motorhome down a dirt road and went to check it out. There were only two sites on the road but the guy in one of the motorhomes came out and told me they were leaving in a few minutes. And that’s how I scored this free site.

Little campground.

Little campground.

My Minnie does not take up as much space as the Class A and his toad, so when someone came down the road in a Class C, I told them to park in beside me. Then about an hour later a van came in and parked here too. I will probably be here a few days to see Denali.

 
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Published on July 4, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Dead battery

Dead battery

I parked at Walmart yesterday afternoon with intentions of staying 48 hours. My mail should be here tomorrow and then I can move down towards Denali National Park. This morning I was relaxing in my pajamas when I got a knock on the door. Two guys were going around and telling everyone that the stay limit in the parking lot was now 24 hours and it was being enforced. I told them I came in last night and would move out today.

I noticed that on the light pole were signs stating the 24 hours parking limit. I talked with another man by his RV that said they put them up early this morning. It’s okay with me, and I have often said that Walmarts, rest areas, and parking pullouts along the highway are good for overnight when you are traveling but not good for staying more than one or two nights. Some of the rigs had been there for several days and I guess they got tired of it. I was just surprised because the last time I was here my neighbor said that people had asked about overnight parking and they didn’t care how long you stayed.

I know there were a lot of Class A motorhomes with slides and pulling toads that took up several parking spaces, but there always seemed to be plenty of parking for cars. Usually when an ordinance goes into affect it is the RV parks in town that object to free parking when they can collect $50 a night. I asked in the store if there was any problem with people in RVs or if it was just a new rule. She said it has always been a rule but they just got the signs. It may hurt their business a little but a lot of people will still stock up for the privilege of one night.

I drove a couple miles out of town and parked at a pullout. I was thinking of going to Pioneer Park for the night but when I went to start Minnie the battery was dead. I usually get out the door and enter the coach from the back door but this time I climbed straight back from the front seat. If I had exited the cab door I would have heard the warning ding that told me I had left my lights on.

It is a good thing I have a jumper from my house battery to the engine battery. With the jumper on for a few minutes, Minnie started back up. I think my engine battery may be getting weak; it is quite old. Things have not gone my way today so I think I will stay right here tonight. I hope I’m not evicted before morning.

 
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Published on July 3, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
My kitchen.

My kitchen.

For the last week or so I have heard a slight grinding in my front brakes. I knew they were getting worn when I last bought tires in Mesa. I should have replaced the pads then, but I am a good one to procrastinate.

I made an appointment here in Fairbanks to get the brakes repaired at Midas. One rotor was still within tolerance to turn and the other had to be replaced. By the time they added diagnosis, parts, and labor, the bill came to $675 – twice what I was expecting. I keep telling myself that a new Minnie would have payments of that much every month if I was financing. I hope to save on expensises for a while now.

Fairbanks has taken quite a bit of my savings in the last few days. After shelling out money for groceries, gas, camping, tour to Arctic Circle, and brake work, I was hoping to get out of here tomorrow and spend money somewhere else, but that is not going to happen.

Daryl sent my registration last week and tracking said it was at the post office. When I went to pick it up they told me that all general delivery is sent out to another location for sorting and then comes back to the main office. It would be tomorrow before I could pick it up. I reminded the postal worker that tomorrow was the 4th of July.

Happy 4th everyone! I will be spending it in the Walmart parking lot.

 
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Published on July 1, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Entrance

Entrance

For the last two days I have been staying at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. The park was built in 1967 to celebrate the centennial of the Alaskan purchase. There are several museums, shows, displays, activities, and gift shops. There is a salmon or cod, all you can eat dinner, a railroad ride around the park, and a parking lot that doubles as an RV camp. The park is a nice family-oriented complex with many things to see and do.

Museum

Museum

Car

Car

I went to the gold rush museum the first day and the aviation museum today. They were both quite good and very extensive. The gold rush museum had a show where you sat on a revolving platform while pictures on the circular wall were displayed and a famous orator told stories about their history. I don’t think I have ever been to a show with a contraption like that before.

Airplane Museum

Airplane Museum


Good stewardess uniform!

Good stewardess uniform!

Not a bush plane!

Not a bush plane!

The Aviation Museum was filled with planes used by early aviators, dusty old engines and ancient avionics, and flight suits of the early bush pilots. There were also many photos about everything pertaining to flight in Alaska. Several sad stories laid out in aging newspapers were about those that had lost their lives in the Alaskan wilds. Probably two of the most famous were Wiley Post and Will Rogers.

Train ride

Train ride

IMG_20170630_150256

I have an appointment to get some brake work done on Monday and my registration for Minnie should be here that same day. Thanks Daryl.

President Hovers Car.

President Hovers Car.

 
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Published on June 30, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Bus tour

Bus tour

While in Fairbanks I read about a tour bus trip to the Arctic Circle. I figured it would be a good way to save some wear and tear on Minnie and enjoy a comfortable trip to a place where in summer the sun never sets. So on Thursday, June 29, I road Honda at 6 am to the North Alaska Tour Company and met Rachael, our guide and bus driver for the next 16 hours.

Dalton Highway

Dalton Highway

There are many stories about the rough condition of the Dalton Highway (or Haul Road as it is still known by), and hearing about the washboards, frost heaves, tire cutting gravel, and narrow, steep sections, convinced me to take the tour bus and save Minnie the punishment. From Fairbanks the highway north is called the Elliott Highway for about 80 miles and then becomes the Dalton for another 400 miles to its terminus at Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean. Our tour would only be traveling about 200 miles north to the imaginary line of the Arctic Circle.

The real reason for the highway.

The real reason for the highway.

As we drove north, Rachael told us the history of the highway and its relationship to the Alaskan Pipeline. There was a lot of debate about putting an ugly pipe through the pristine wilderness of Alaska, but in the 70’s during the Middle East oil embargo and long lines at the gas pumps, America’s addiction to fuel finally pushed through approval for a pipe to carry oil from the newly discovered oilfields at Prudhoe Bay to the port of Valdez.

Denali in the distance

Denali in the distance

At a pullout a few miles from Fairbanks, we had a good view of Denali and everyone disembarked to take a few pictures. The day was cloudy but very clear. We could see long distance without the sun making us reach for sunglasses. It was probably a good condition to travel in.

Back home we would say "hillbilly" but here it's a homestead.

Back home we would say “hillbilly” but here it’s a homestead.

Our next stop was at the homestead of a family named Joy. The couple came to Fairbanks years ago, built their cabin and homestead north of town, and eventually had 23 children. The stop is now a rest stop for the tour busses, and of course, everyplace we stopped had souvenirs for sale.

Along with expert information from our tour guide, Rachael, we also watched two videos . One was about building the oil pipeline, and the other was some general history and stories of the Arctic Wilderness. We drove on taking in the beauty of the Boreal Forest until we arrived at the Yukon River. Most of the people on the bus had purchased bagged lunches at the River Crossing Cafe but I brought enough food with me that I didn’t need to spend $12 for a sandwich and chips.

As we drove further north the trees gave way to tundra. When you are between mountain ranges the Alaska terrain is rolling hills for as far as you can see. It is a vast and distant landscape. It makes you feel pretty small.

I made it!

I made it!

Eventually we arrived at the Arctic Circle. We had to perform a silly ceremony of crossing the line and we each received a certificate of our outstanding achievement. It was really quite easy; I just let the bus and Rachel do all the work to get there.

Feeling permafrost.

Feeling permafrost.

On the way back we stopped and walked out into the mossy tundra. Everyone got to dig a few inches below the moss and feel the icy layer of permafrost – that was pretty cool. Then it was a long return back down the highway. We stopped at the Yukon Crossing for dinner and then a few people slept as we bounced back into Fairbanks.

Only bridge across the Yukon River.

Only bridge across the Yukon River.

I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. I didn’t get all the way to the Arctic Ocean but I did get to a special place. We saw a bear and a moose; we saw the Brooks Range in the distance; we touched permafrost; and we felt and learned the history of northern Alaska. It was a good day on the Dalton Highway.

 
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Published on June 27, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Actually getting a few TV stations here.

Actually getting a few TV stations here.

I unloaded Honda this morning and took a ride around town. I wanted to see where Pioneer Park is so I would know where to go next. I don’t like to stay in a Walmart parking lot more than a couple days; it just feels wrong. I guess there is no problem with parking here, there are even RV spaces drawn out and labeled on the blacktop.

The weather has been just about perfect. I hope that doesn’t mean it will rain the whole time I go to see Denali. I have to wait here until Monday to get some brake pads put on Minnie and I’m waiting for my registration to come in the mail.

It has been easy to learn how to get around in Fairbanks. This afternoon I rode to the Regal Cinema and went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It was OK but it seems like they are getting more violent. Tomorrow I may check out the Arctic Circle Tour.

 
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Published on June 26, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Tanana River

Tanana River.

To keep mosquitos from attacks.

To keep mosquitos from attacks.

I left Clearwater Recreation Area near Delta Junction and drove ten miles north to Delta State Historical Park. I had read there was a campground there that was only $10 and had a dump station and potable water. The campground was nothing more than a parking lot and the dump cost extra. There was, however, a free historical display of buildings and artifacts and stories of the old roadhouse.

Rika's Roadhouse

Rika’s Roadhouse

Rika’s Roadhouse was built in 1903 and acquired by Rika in 1923. Being on the Tanana River the roadhouse was an important crossroads for early trappers, prospectors, and military men headed north from Valdez. I enjoyed looking at all the artifacts and reading the stories of yesteryears. In one building there were many old tools and gadgets I remember seeing in grandpa’s barn and garage.

Alaska Pipeline over Tanana River.

Alaska Pipeline over Tanana River.

I moved up the road a mile and stopped to look at the Alaska Pipeline where it crosses the Tanana River. Running 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, crossing three mountain ranges, and built for a measly $5,000,000,000, the pipeline is quite a marvel. Many places the pipe had to be raised above ground on stilts to keep the hot oil from melting the permafrost. Here at the Tanana River was one of the longest spans – 1200′.

I ran into more construction a few miles before a town called North Pole. After sitting and waiting for the pilot car for 20 minutes, I didn’t feel like stopping at North Pole. And anyway, a town named North Pole smacks of the idea of bangels and bobbles and tourists.

Air Force base

Air Force base

I passed Eielson Air Force Base a few miles before Fairbanks. The runway is fairly close to the highway and I could see fighter jets and large tanker refulers on the flight line. This is probably a pretty important base this close to Russia, but I suppose no one would want to think about that. There were signs all along the highway saying – NO STOPPING, NO PARKING, NO PHOTOGRAPHY.

I’m parking at Walmart for a couple days and then I will probably move to Pioneer Park. I have an appointment in a week to get my brakes replaced so I will be here long enough to see the sights.

Back in civilization!

Back in civilization!

 
 
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Published on June 24, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Alaska Highway northern terminus.

Alaska Highway northern terminus.

It rained all night and for most of the morning. The gravel parking area where I stayed overnight had puddles filled with water when I got up, so I hung out and waited for the rain to let up before pulling out. I could have stayed right where I was but I decided to find a place near Delta Junction.

Later that morning I drove the 60 miles north to Delta Junction and found a state forest recreation area that was only $15 a night and had good cell signal. I paid for two nights just to let the rainy weather blow through and give me a rest from driving.

Clearwater State Rec Area.

Clearwater State Rec Area.

This campground, called Clearwater Recreation Area, is nestled into trees with a lake running along beside. It is quite small and has filled to max tonight. I went down to the hand pump to get water, and what came out of that well didn’t look like clear water to me!

In the afternoon the sun came out and I made a trip into Delta Junction to visit the Visitors Center and see what else was in town. Along the way I saw a moose beside the road and instinctively slowed down to keep watch for wildlife.

The Visitors Center had some displays about the Alaskan Pipeline and the official signpost signifying the end of the Alaskan Highway. I talked with the person inside and got some ideas about camping and viewing the Pipeline. Those will be for another day.

Size of oil pipeline over years.

Size of oil pipeline over years.

Alaskan Mosquitos

Alaskan Mosquitos

Delta Junction has a nice supermarket and I picked up some lettuce, potatoes, and fruit, all things I have been hungry for but didn’t want to buy in small towns.

Four foot satellite dish.

Four foot satellite dish.

On the way back from town I took a picture of the satellite dishes they use up here. They are pointed low on the horizon and are quite a bit larger than what we use down home.

 

Tok

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Published on June 23, 2017, by admin in Alaska Trip.
Storyboard

Storyboard

The campground north of Chicken was completely full by dinner time. I guess it was because I left Dawson so early is why I beat everyone there. Just as I was eating dinner two pickups came in, one pulling the other. I later found out that a young couple had broken the universal joint on their truck just two miles back and a good samaritan had towed them in. The camp host had a satellite phone and called for a tow truck out of Tok. I talked with them later and we both agreed it was a good thing it didn’t happen on the Top Of The World Highway.

That’s the chance you take out here with no cell service. By the time someone comes along and finds you broke down by the road and goes for help, it can be a long wait. I shudder to think how much it would cost to tow a motorhome from the Top of the World Highway, 100 miles to Tok.

The road from the campground to Tok was full of dips and humps but at least it was paved. I only averaged about 40 or 45 mph down to where the Taylor Highway joins back up with the Alaskan Highway. From there it was better road for the last 12 miles to Tok.

If you are driving into or out of Alaska, you go through Tok. I think they know that at the grocery store. The prices were higher than they were in Dawson, and you don’t get any discount with the money like the Canadians give you. I did laundry, filled with gas (gas prices are better here than Dawson), and used a coin carwash to blast some of the mud from Minnie and Honda.

I was thinking of staying in town. I checked the prices for an RV park and found out it would be $55 for the night. The Chevron station lets you park out back for free if you fill up with gas. I didn’t really feel like handing over $50 or parking behind the gas station among the junk cars so I headed out of town to find a parking area.

I found a large gravel parking area near Dot Lake. It is about 60 miles south of Delta Junction, the end of the Alaskan Highway. I have a tiny bit of 1X signal so I may be able to post this but not put up any pictures.

Looks like I’m in for a storm tonight. The Weather Channel just posted warnings for heavy rain and hail in this area. How big of a hail stone will a solar panel survive?

 

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