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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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