Saturday, July 12, 2008

Journey's End!

Our last post was from Cassiar RV Park in Kitwanga, BC. We departed there early Friday morning, the 4th of July. While America was celebrating it's birthday, we were still far north in British Columbia, Canada. The further south we went, the better the roads became and the warmer it was. We started to see temperatures in the low 60's instead of the high 40's. Wildlife sightings became less frequent and the critter's were smaller; foxes, a coyote and at one point a lynx crossed the road ahead of us.

Friday afternoon found us in Vanderhoof, BC at a delightfully immaculate campground called Dick's RV Park. There we met a couple from Merritt, BC; Morley and Henny. They were on their maiden voyage in their new Class A motorhome (think Greyhound Bus size). We got along very well and had a great chat about the RV life. After saying goodbye on Saturday morning, little did we expect that they would pull into the same campground in Lac La Hache, BC later that day. The picture above is our site at that campground. I made my last attempt to catch a fish in Canada that afternoon. After dinner, we joined our new friends in their coach for drinks and conversation.

Sunday was our last full day in Canada. We traveled to Oliver, BC by a lesser highway with great scenic views. The last 40 miles or so was along a very large lake that was obviously a popular resort area for southern British Columbia. We had a good spot in a combination motel and campground with 2 special attractions for us; a great supply of fresh cherries picked from trees in the campground and a swimming pool/jacuzzi that we enjoyed very much. It is getting much hotter now that we are near the US border.

Monday morning found us crossing the border into Washington state about 9:00 am. For the first time, a customs officer decided to take a look into the camper. She was very brief and did not find anything to confiscate, so we were on our way towards the KOA in Spokane. While in Spokane, we met up with a brother of my sister-in-law, Joanie. Charlie and his 5 year old daughter came out to the campground to chat for an hour or so. We had a good visit.

Tuesday morning we crossed the panhandle of Idaho, going along beautiful Coeur d' Alene Lake before crossing into Montana and the Mountain Time Zone. We were starting to feel close to home. We had made reservations at the Wagonhammer RV Park in North Fork, ID for our last night on the road. This is the same RV Park where we spent our first night of the trip. The owners remembered us and welcomed us back. They have a 5:00 pm cocktail hour in the main building every night and we met several other wonderful folks there.

Wednesday morning at 6:30 we headed down highway 93 for home. On the way, I completed a work project for my former employer (had to make a little money to help pay for this trip); but we managed to arrive back home about 1:00 pm. It sure is different to have 1,800 sq. ft. to live in than the 200 sq. ft. we have been in for the last 7 weeks. I went to the post office and picked up 2 tubs of mail and we manage to start going through that pile before the end of the day.

Well, it is over. We drove 8,422 miles from start to finish. We did not have any flat tires, no chipped windshields or any mechanical failures. The truck and camper did get seriously dirty, but a little soap, water and elbow grease will cure that problem. This is something we will remember for a lifetime, but will not do again. Alaska is incredible, but it is a long ways away, and Canada is a very expensive place in which to travel. Diesel fuel in Canada hovered above $6.00 per gallon. Food is also very expensive. About the only reasonable cost we found in Canada were the campground fees.

We hope you enjoyed taking this journey with us. Our next trip will be starting August 10th when we head for the family reunion in South Dakota, followed by a stopover in our former neighborhood in Colorado.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Iskut to Vanderhoof, BC

After leaving Mountain Shadow we continued south on Highway 37. The road is starting to improve, but we are still in the remote area of British Columbia. Wildlife sightings Thursday included 2 black bear cubs and one coyote. All sightings were brief and we didn't get any photos. We spent Thursday night at Cassiar RV Park in Kittwanga. No TV or Wi-fi, but the nice young lady in the office let me use her dial up account to check my e-mail. Since there was nothing pressing to attend to, I decided to relax and enjoy the local area. Rosie and I took a short walk down a path towards a nearby river, where we came upon a field of white wildflowers which is the background for this picture of Rosie.
It rained again Thursday night in Kittwanga and was raining when we left Friday morning. We had a long drive planned for today, about 300 miles to Prince George since we needed to find a good supermarket. We did not expect to find one until Prince George, but were pleasantly surprised to find a full blown Safeway in Smithers, where we were able to stock up on food for us and for Sammy. That gave us the option of finding another overnight spot prior to St. George. We discovered this really delightful park in Vanderhoof. It is exceptionally clean and well laid out and in a great setting. They also have cable TV and a really good internet.
Wildlife today was limited to one fox. The roads are getting much better and I was able to put the cruise control on 55 for long periods of time. We are finally back in cell phone range; although still subject to a 69 cents per minute roaming charge for Canada. Two more nights in Canada and we cross into Washington State on Monday morning. Photos will be updated tonight, but they are becoming somewhat limited. You can only take so many pictures of highways going through mountains. We are getting more into farm country with fields and cattle grazing. That is a welcome change of scenery.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The journey home!

We have completed our last day in Alaska and have headed home for Idaho. We left Skagway on a rainy Tuesday morning. The grade that you climb out of Skagway is long and appears to be very steep. However the old Chevy Duramax Diesel did it's job and we made the top of the grade in due time; to be greeted by the Canadian Customs Agent. After a few questions, we were on our way.

We drove out of the rain in about 2 hours and headed northeast, back towards the Alaska Highway. Our first choice for a campground was deserted and there was no one in the office. We headed into Watson Lake, BC and stumbled into the Downtown RV Park. Sure enough, the wi-fi worked and there was cable television. We got our CNN news fix and learned more than we needed to know about Seattle current events. There was even a decent grocery store and we stocked up on a few things. A caravan of about 20 big rigs pulled in about 4:30 in the afternoon. What a sight.

On Wednesday morning, we checked out the signpost forest in Watson Lake before we left town. As you can see in the picture, Rosie found a sign from her homeland. We put another $100 of diesel in the Chevy and headed back west up the Alaska Highway. Why west, you ask? Well, we wanted to come home a different way than we went so we could see some more of Canada; so we were going back west about 10 miles to connect with Highway 37 south through British Columbia.

While the scenery was new, the view through the windshield continues to be a highway (a bit rough in places) going through the forest. We cannot believe how many trees there are in this country. Wildlife is becoming a rare site. We saw 3 foxes at 3 different times. Only one hung around long enough to get his photograph taken. After 210 miles we arrived at our destination; Mountain Shadow RV Park. This is a beautiful park in the woods, near a lake and nowhere near civilization. No cable TV, but the wi-fi works great; which is how I am getting this blog out tonight. Two more days on the route will get us to Prince George, the largest town we will see until we arrive in Spokane, WA on Monday. I will see if the signal here is strong enough to upload photos. Be back at you later for more of our journey home.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Skagway, The end of the journey!

Well, here we are on our last night in Alaska. We arrived in Skagway yesterday about 1:00 pm and will be pulling out of here about 7:00 in the morning and will be headed home in earnest. The photo you are looking at is of two cruise ships docked in Skagway.
Let's get up to date on our travels. We pulled out of Dawson City about 7:00 am on Saturday. It was a nice, but not spectacular, drive to Carmacks. We spent the night in a campground next to the Yukon River.
Sunday we left about 7:00 am again and kept on a southerly route towards Skagway. The further south we got, we began to see more of the mountain ranges. It had rained all night on Saturday night and was still drizzling when we got on the road. We drove into the sunlight about 10:00 am. We reached White Horse and refueled at a bargain price of $1.62 per litre (over $6.00 per gallon). The drive from the Canadian border into Skagway is a long grade downhill for miles.
Our campground is in town and not much to look at; but is convenient for everything going on around us. We went on a last minute Alaska shopping spree in the afternoon; buying up lots of t-shirts, sweat shirts, caps and other souvenirs. This morning we hiked to a point and a bay nearby; about 3.5 miles round trip. Rosie is very happy, Sammy is tired and I barely survived.
At 1:00 pm today we joined the organized walking tour of Skagway led by a young lady with the Forest Service. We learned about the rowdy history of Skagway in the late 1800's at the time of the gold rush in Dawson City; and went into some old buildings that have been reconstructed with some of the original furnishings.

It was steak and salmon night for dinner, usually a Sunday meal, but we are off our schedule just a wee bit. In the morning, we pull up the long hill back into Canada and head for Watson Lake. We have cut one day out of our return trip and will be going back through Spokane and Salmon, ID insteaed of the longer route we originally planned. We are kind of anxious to get back to our home (and a king size bed). The camper is getting smaller every day (or so it seems). We will be updating the blog in Canada as often as we can get an internet connection that is strong enough.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Chicken, Alaska

Well, I finally made it to the world famous Chicken Saloon. What a journey it was. Over 5,000 miles and 5 weeks to get to this very place. I have a picture of the interior of the saloon that I will put on the picture upload later.

But; I digress. The last time I wrote was after our bay cruise in Valdez; so let's catch up on our travels. Tuesday morning (the 24th), we pulled out of Valdez and headed north. Slowly the breathtaking mountain views faded in the mirror to be replaced by the rolling hills (large hills) covered with trees. Have I mentioned there are a gazillion trees in Alaska? We arrived in Tok about 2:00 pm and picked up a few groceries and fuel before checking into the campground. This time we took advantage of the free entertainment and listened to a local singer/songwriter tell us all about the local area and history.

For those of you who have the original planned schedule for this trip; we were supposed to go directly from Tok, Alaska to Dawson City, Yukon Territory, on Wednesday. However, we had an abundance of alcoholic beverages, along with some fresh fruits and vegetables that Rosie was reluctant to part with at the border. So we decided to check out the campground in Chicken. When we got there we found the old Chicken very quickly; but then also discovered a new Chicken. The Chicken Gold Camp was built in 1999 and has a store serving breakfast and lunch, an RV Park with electricity and Wi-Fi and an opportunity to pan for gold. We (Rosie in particular) fell in love with the place so we decided to stay a couple of nights to ingest the aforementioned alcohol and fruits/vegetables. Rosie made a new best friend and went for a long walk with Crystal and they took Sammy along. The wi-fi was very weak and in fact, I could not get an Internet connection the first day. They said no one with Vista on their computer had been able to get it to work with their service. So to every ones surprise, when I turned on my computer Thursday morning, all my e-mails loaded up and I was connected to the Internet. I could not get a web site or send any files, but I could send and receive e-mail. Another first for Vista. Another charming thing about this place is the fact that all the electricity is from a generator; which is shut down from 9:00 pm to 6:30 am. Happiness is hearing the generator fire up and having your coffee pot begin to brew the morning caffeine fix.

Thursday morning we got to the old Chicken Cafe early to get a cinnamon roll before the tour buses came in. Then we made the 100 mile journey to Eagle, Alaska; the northern most point in our trip. The 100 miles takes 3 hours because it is on a rough dirt and gravel road with a maximum of 40 mph possible, but more typically it was 25 mph. We arrived about noon and were pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the town. It is on the Yukon River and is very old. There are about 150 full time residents and most of the visitors are from Holland America Cruise Lines. They bus guests in to here where they catch a river boat to Dawson City. Then they pick up the passenger that came in from Dawson City and bus them back to their cruise ship or the airport in Anchorage. We had brought lunch with us and while eating lunch we struck up a conversation with a local gentlemen and his little granddaughter. We returned by about 4:00 pm and I took a much needed and long overdue shower. We purchased some souvenirs from the store and had a pleasant evening meal.

This morning (Friday) we hooked up and headed for the Canadian Border and Dawson City. The road from Chicken to the border is all dirt and gravel and the truck and camper are getting dirtier by the mile. Hit the border about noon. The border agent did not even ask us about fresh fruits/vegetables or booze. I guess we stayed in Chicken two days for nothing!!

The road became paved at that point and we entered what is known as the Top of The World Highway; and on top of the world it is. Views are forever in any direction. The highway follows the ridge line of the mountains for about 65 miles before you drop down into Dawson City. Then we had a first experience with a ferry. There is no bridge across the Yukon River here, so the Yukon Government provides a free ferry ride across the river. It is interesting to drive the truck and camper onto a large boat with 3 automobiles and several bicyclists also on board. We made the trip across in about 5 minutes and drove off with no unusual events occurring.

We checked into the campground; nothing special to look at, but cable TV and a good wi-fi system is much appreciated. We went downtown and I got a 6 day fishing license at the Trading Post. We picked up some groceries and a danish at the local bakery. I tried my luck trolling for Grayling ( a trout with a sail like fin). No results. After dinner, Rosie and I headed into town to the local gambling hall for some slots. They also put on an old time vaudeville show complete with can-can dancers. The Europeans from the tour groups really love this stuff.

Tomorrow we head south towards Skagway for our last Alaska visit. We will stop at Carmacks, Yukon Territory on the way. I don't know if the wi-fi signal here is strong enough to upload multiple pictures. I will try, but no promises.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Valdez, Alaska

We arrived in Valdez on Saturday and signed up for a Glacier Cruise on Sunday. It started raining Saturday night and continued into Sunday morning. After checking the weather forcast on the internet, I rescheduled our cruise for Monday. Sometime in the early afternoon Sunday it stopped raining so we took a short walk around town. It was a very short walk because the town is really small and not really touristy with little shops, bakeries, etc. Rosie took the opportunity to catch up on the laundry and I caught up on computer stuff. I also headed out to the large boat docks for some dock fishing. A nice guy that was fishing there gave me a frozen squid to use as bait and I got to wet a line for a couple of hours; to no avail, of course.

Monday we were picked up at the RV Park office by the cruise company at 8:00 am. The cruise boat holds about 85 persons and was completely covered. There was enough inside seating for everybody. Rosie is really getting past the motion sickness thing she has had in the past. So the boating experience was great for both of us. First thing going out of the harbor we came upon a group of about 15 sea otters. These critters are absolutely cute and adorable. Once out of the harbor into the greater Prince William Sound, we saw a bunch of seals hanging on the beach; followed by several sightings of humpback whales. Ultimately, there was one time with 3 whales on the left side of the boat and 2 more on the right side of the boat. After the whale sightings, we headed into the glacier area. We were really surprised at how many icebergs there were in the water as we approached the Columbia Glacier. On two occasions, there was an eagle perched on the top of an iceberg. The eagle appeared to be posing for us as the Captain took the boat close enough for pictures. After getting as close to the glacier as was safe, we turned around and headed back to the port. After 7 hours out, we docked and caught the bus back to the RV Park.

We paid the nice lady who took Sammy out twice while we were out. We are headed out for Tok tomorrow morning. The original plan was to drive from Tok to Dawson City on Wednesday. However, due to an overabundance of booze and fresh fruits and vegetables that we don't want to throw out before crossing into Canada, we decided to spend Wednesday night at an RV Park in Chicken, Alaska. Chicken has a reputation for being a crazy and unusual place, so what the heck. We will let you know how that works out.

We are on the downhill side of this journey and will be back home in Idaho Falls two weeks from Wednesday on the 9th of July.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Homer to Valdez

Hi again! The picture on the left was taken in front of Horsetail Falls about 8 miles northeast of Valdez, Alaska.

It has been a while since I wrote; so here is the latest. We pulled out of Homer on Thursday morning and proceeded north of Anchorage to a State Campground with no electricity, much less any wi-fi; which explains why the delay in these updates. After settling in to the campsite, Michelle and I drove into Eagle River to find wi-fi at the town library. Later in the day, we headed for the airport in Anchorage. On the way, we stopped for dinner at Chili's Restaurant. Got to the airport about 8:00 pm and went in with Michelle. I used the airport wi-fi to fill business orders while Rosie and Michelle had some mom and daughter time. Rosie and I headed for the campground about 10:00 pm. Michelle had to wait for her flight to leave at 1:45 am on Friday.

During the day Friday, we just relaxed. I went fishing at a nearby lake and caught my 3rd six inch trout for the trip. We shopped for groceries and filled up the tank in the truck. We picked up broasted chicken with potato salad and cole slaw from the deli for dinner. I crashed around 7:00 pm. I don't do well entertaining myself without electricity to run the computer!!!

Saturday morning we got up at 5:00 am and hitched up; hitting the road by 6:30 am. The schedule called for us to spend the night near Glenallen, Alaska. However, we arrived there by about 9:30 am, so we decided to continue on directly to Valdez. The drive from Glenallen to Valdez was the most spectacular to date. The last 30 miles before Valdez is breathtaking. There are waterfalls on both sides of the canyon walls. We went over a pass at 2,600 feet which was incredible, considering that elevation is nothing in the Rockies, but here it was so dramatic. We dropped down into Valdez, which is on the edge of Prince William Sound. We checked into the Eagles Rest RV Park and got set up. We have reservations for a ship tour of the Sound tomorrow, including a glacier and several other interesting wildlife observation spots along the way. There is a lady in the RV Park that does pet sitting; so she will take Sammy out for two walks while we are gone for about 7 hours. Will post new pictures and a new blog after our adventure tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Soldotna & Homer

On Saturday, the 14th, we drove the 90 or so miles from Seward to Soldotna. We checked in to the Klondike RV Park, which is nice in appearance; but has the most rigid rules we have ever come across in a campground. Pet urination or defecation is prohibited in the campground; subject to instant ejection from the park. Any spillage of waste or cleaning of fish will result in a fine and ejection from the campground. The owner did not seem to enjoy working with campers. I think she was just in it as a business. We stocked up on groceries and did some sightseeing in the area. We drove over to Kenai and saw a moose alongside the road that was patient enough to stand there munching away while we drove up alongside her and took pictures. Michelle was impressed. Except for the Moose is Loose Bakery, which has the best apple fritters on the planet, Soldotna was pretty disappointing. Mosquitoes were everywhere. I caught my second 6 inch fish of the trip, in the Kenai River which is famous for the largest King Salmon ever caught.

On Monday we drove south about 85 miles to Homer, the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. Rosie and Michelle had finally convinced me to not be so cheap and to splurge on a halibut charter boat. Michelle made a contribution as a Fathers Day gift. We checked in at the Ocean View RV Park. What a change from the park in Soldotna. The check in person was friendly and helpful. She had set us up in one of the better spots in the campground with a great view of the ocean. She set us up for a fishing charter for me and a bay cruise to a nearby Island for Rosie and Michelle. After getting settled in, we went for a walk on the beach and drove down to the Homer Spit to walk around, do a little shopping, confirm our reservations for our outings, and have some ice cream, courtesy of Michelle. The spit looks like a typical pier boardwalk on any coastline. Wooden sidewalk with lots of shops and other places to spend your money. Michelle bought a genuine alpaca and wool sweater with a hood. Rosie and I managed to not buy anything.

Tuesday morning I arose at 4:30 and headed down to the spit for my ocean fishing trip. Had breakfast at the Spit Sisters Cafe (limited menu, but the only place open at 5:00 am). I joined 4 other guys on a boat and we headed out to sea. My fishing buddies were from Minnesota, South Dakota and northern California. We were on a combination halibut and salmon trip. By 11:00 am, we had all caught our limit of 2 halibut. Mine were 15 lbs and 25 lbs. The 15 pounder was my first one and I could have chosen to release it, but my fishing luck has been so crappy, I was concerned I wouldn't catch another, so I kept it. My second one was about 20 lbs, but I did release it to take a chance on something bigger, which I did get. The largest halibut we brought in among the five of us was about 40 lbs. We moved the boat and went trolling for salmon. We brought in 2 King Salmon (neither one was caught by me) during a 3 hour attempt. When we got back to the Spit, our fish were cleaned and Itook mine back to the camper. We had halibut for dinner and I cut the rest up and put it in the freezer. I weighed my halibut filets before I left the pier and I had 24 lbs of filets for my efforts.

After dinner, I think I crashed at 8:00 pm. I should tell you that Michelle and I managed to darken the interior of the camper with velcro squares holding black construction paper over the door glass and under the skylights in the ceiling. It is much easier to sleep when you can create some darkness. I will put together a photo record of the last few days and post it on Snapfish.

Today Michelle and Rosie are out on their bay cruise/luncheon. Sammy and I are holding down the fort. He and I went for a walk on the beach, I refilled a propane tank and am doing other minor housekeeping chores. Tomorrow we head back north to Anchorage. We cancelled our reservations at the terrible campground in town and chose a State Park campground we heard about from our fellow campers.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Anchorage & Seward

Hi everbody. It has been awhile since I updated. So here goes.

We arrived safely in Anchorage to a really low grade campground. It was a gravel parking lot in front of a motel located right on the Seward Highway in downtown Anchorage. The spaces were tight and we had to park the truck in the motel parking lot. On the plus side, all the utilities worked; we had 35 channels of Cable TV and the wi-fi signal was strong. We were disappointed in the visual look of the campground since this was going to be Michelle's first impression of our trip together. However, I checked around and this is one of the two campgrounds in Anchorage and the RV Forum web site said the other park was worse.

We went to FredMeyers and stocked up with food and drink. Also got diesel for $4.65 a gallon so that was a good thing. My sister, Marla, has a good friend, Jo, that lives near Anchorage. Jo and her daughter came to the campground on Wednesday afternoon and took us on a tour of Anchorage and Girdwood, the nearby ski resort. She showed us a waterfall that not many tourists get to see and took us out to dinner in a great local restaurant. After she dropped us off, we cooled our heels for a couple of hours before going to meet Michelle at the airport. Michelle's plane was only a few minutes late and we had a joyful reunion.

Thursday morning we hooked up the camper and headed south to Seward, Alaska. This is a beautiful drive, with the ocean bay on the right and high mountains on the left of the highway. There are waterfalls coming down the mountains near the road. It only took us about 3 hours to make 135 mile trip. We checked into the Stoney Creek RV Park about 11:30 am. This is a beautiful place, surrounded by woods and there is a stream nearby. The wi-fi works great in the rig and we get 12 channels on the TV. Life is good.

We drove into Seward to explore the town and the surrounding area. Walked on main street and picked a place for lunch on Friday. I was advised by 2 local fisherman that the Sockeye Salmon were coming in with the tide at a certain point on the bay at an entrance to a river. High tide was at 9:51 pm on Thursday. I found the area, put on my waders and wading boots and headed out into the bay. There were about 50 persons out there fishing. The fishing method was different than anything I had ever seen or done. The process was to tie a large treble hook with a lead weight on the shank onto your line and throw it out into the water across a channel where the salmon were running. Then you jerked the line and reeled in; repeating this process until you retrieved the line. Then you did it again. Hopefully, you would snag a salmon. I was out there for about 4 hours and boy were my arms sore. People were catching 25 to 40 inch long salmon to my right and to my left; in front of me and in back of me. I never hooked a salmon. I did hook a small "18" flounder, which I released. So no success fishing, but the setting was incredible. Snow capped mountains on all sides, standing in the ocean up to my knees at times with people battling salmon all around. I wish I had thought to bring my little pocket camera out there. For the first time on the trip, I saw the sun go down. That was about 10:30 pm and it went down over a high mountain. Have I mentioned that it never gets dark up here in June?

On Friday, we went to the Seward Aquarium and Sea Life Center in the morning; followed by a great lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon we hiked up to the Exit Glacier. The hike was about a mile and a half from the parking area; but the elevation gain was not too difficult. The glacier was quite an experience; not as dramatic as the glaciers that send skyscraper sized icebergs into the ocean, but dramatic none the less. I made some more attempts at fishing later in the day, but still with no success. I hope that the next 5 days will be more fruitful in the fishing department.

In the meantime, it is great having Michelle with us for this time and we are enjoying her company. Tomorrow we move on to Soldotna and the Russian and Kenai Rivers.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Denali Park Rangers Dog Sled Team

Today we visited the Dog Sled kennels and saw a demonstration of the use of dog sleds in Denali Park.

We petted the dogs and took a lot of pictures. There was also a litter of 8 new puppies that are incredibly cute as only puppies can be.

The rest of the day was uneventful. We treated ourselves to ice cream at a local store.

Tomorrow we hook up and head for Anchorage. On Wednesday Michelle arrives at 9:45 pm. We are all excited about her coming to join us for a week.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A day in Denali National Park

What a great day! We arrived for our bus tour at 7:00 am. The bus arrived on time and we left the visitor center about 7:40 am. The first sighting of the day was a cow moose with a radio collar about 20 minutes out from base camp.
We were to travel about 65 miles one way into the park today and return by the same road. Jim and Carol from Tampa, Florida were sitting across from us in the front row. A nice retired couple that decided to come up here and work at odd jobs for the summer. Our driver, Ray, is from Michigan and comes up here to drive for the summer. The first 15 miles or so is paved and a piece of cake. After that it can get a little hairy; gravel roads going over some mountain passes with no room to pass two cars, much less two big buses. But the park people have it all worked out.
The system is like this; the driver watches the road and the passengers watch for wildlife. When someone spots an animal, they yell STOP and the driver stops. We all try to locate the animal(s) with binoculars and (hopefully) cameras. I am so glad I bought my new Canon S5IS for this trip. I got pictures that were the envy of the bus. In fact, I was asked to e-mail my pictures to two of our fellow passengers. During the day we spotted caribou, dahl sheep, moose, ptarmigan, a great horned owl chick in a nest, a beautiful fox, hundreds of snowhoe hares and 5 grizzly bears; including a mom with 2 cubs at the very end of the day. That did it for Rosie; she was so excited she could hardly contain herself. The only major park animal we didn't see was a wolf. Ray gave a great narrative on the history of the park and the latest on wildlife populations.
We got back to the base camp about 4:30 and headed back to the RV Park. Sammy was so happy to see us. I talked with the nice lady who took him out for a walk and he was a really good boy for her. I grilled some BBQ chicken and Rosie fixed rice and beans. As I write this, it has started to rain quite heavily. We are really greatful that we are past the tent camping days. It is so nice to sit here in comfort with electricity, heat, water, a sewer hookup, cable TV and a good internet connection. Life is Good and The Living is Easy.
Tomorrow we plan to go see the dog sled kennels where there is a litter of 4 week old husky puppies. I may never get Rosie away from them.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Alaska trip - Days 15 to 18

Greetings from Denali National Park. I am finally in an RV Park with a strong enough wi-fi signal to continue the blogging process. Blogs need to be written while online and that takes a certain level of wi-fi strength.

After our day from road hell on Tuesday, we drove from Tok to Fairbanks. We set up in Fairbanks at the Rivers Edge RV Park for 3 nights. This is a really great park with good cable TV (we can watch CNN again) and full hookups. Only the wi-fi was weak. While we were here, a lot of housekeeping issues needed to be attended to. Rosie did a large load of laundry and scrubbed the floor of the camper. I repaired some things that had fallen off the walls and the dinette seating from the rough road. I got the truck serviced with new oil, etc. On the way out earlier today, we used the RV Wash to try to clean the camper exterior.

Fairbanks is like any mid-size town in the lower 48. Nice streets, shopping malls, lots of trees and parks. The city is surrounded by rolling hills with more trees than you can count in a lifetime. We took a couple of day trips out of town in pursuit of fish; with very limited success. All I have to show for my $145 license so far is a little rainbow trout out of a stocked lake. All the rivers are low and muddy. I am beginning to wander if the only way to enjoy the Alaska fishing adventure that is so heavily advertised is to spend a $1,000 or more on a float plane and a guide. That is certainly not in our budget. Well, we will see how it goes as we get further south.

The caravan of 17 RV's rented by the group from Denmark that we met in Ft. Nelson showed up in our park in Fairbanks. I can't imagine what it would be like to try to keep a group that large organized. We met some of our other neighbors in the park. Nice folks from Wisconsin, Virginia and other parts of the lower US.

Today we traveled about 125 miles to Denali RV Park; about 7 miles north of the park entrance. We drove down to the park Visitor Center and encountered a moose grazing roadside. Rosie got some pictures which were sent out separately. Unfortunately we were on the south side of the north bound moose, so the view is not the most inviting. We have our tickets for the 8 hour tour of Denali National Park tomorrow. The RV Park where we are staying offers pet sitting services (they will take Sammy out for 2 or 3 walks while we are gone). The tour bus leaves on a 66 mile journey at 7:30 am and we can get off anytime to hike or sightsee, then get on the next bus that comes along. We will be bringing our own lunch and water. Hopefully we will see much beauty and many animals. We are scheduled back about 3:30 or 4:00 pm.

We will report on our adventure tomorrow evening.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Alaska trip - Day 14

This was not such a good day. The road was pretty bad from Haines Junction to the Alaska border. A lot of gravel stretches and even more paved highway with frost heaves. Those are areas where the pavement ripples every 20 feet or so, causing the trailer to be going down when your truck is going up and vice versa. It is like a bucking bronco. That meant a lot of slowing down to 25 or 30 miles an hour. When you have 290 miles to travel, that makes for a longer day.

We finally got to the Alaska border where a couple from the Chicago area was taking pictures at the Welcome to Alaska sign, so we got them to take some pictures of the two of us together. See photos to come later. The road got a lot better in Alaska. The US Customs was quick and easy. We continued on to Tok, Alaska where we checked in for the night. We were exhausted by then, but the bad karma for the day wasn't quite over. The cable TV was partially down and the wi-fi connection was expensive with a limited capacity. As it turned out, the owner of the RV Park has her permanent home right around the corner from our home in Idaho Falls.

I got my Alaska fishing license along with a new baseball cap and t-shirt. I am so ready for Alaska. Tomorrow we move on to Fairbanks, where we will rest up for a few days.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Alaska trip - Day 13

Wow! Our last full day in Canada. We continue northwest on our journey.

This was a fairly uneventful day. The scenery was wonderful, some of it spectacular. There were no wildlife sightings of any note. We traveled about 285 miles from the Continental Divide RV Park to Haines Junction, Yukon Territory.

After checking in at the RV Park, I detected from listening to conversations of other campers that we were surrounded by Germans. There were Germans everywhere. It is amazing how many Europeans fly to Canada and rent RV's and head towards Alaska. Rosie struck up a conversation with a German couple that lasted for an hour or so.

The days continue to get longer. Tomorrow we cross into Alaska.

Alaska trip - Day 12

We awoke at 4:00 am because of the bright daylight coming in the windows. I may never get used to this. Stayed in bed until 5:15 then got up to take Sammy out. Headed down to the boat dock with fishing rod in hand, but there was a breeze coming off the lake that was downright cold. I went back to the camper to fix breakfast and warm up with coffee and Peppermint Schnapps (a morning favorite of mine while camping). After breakfast, I tried the dock again, but no luck. We stopped over and said goodbye to our new friends, Jim & Jeri Tyndall; then hit the road north.

The first wildlife sighting of the day was a bull caribou that walked out of the woods on the left side of the road, took one look at the road and the traffic and did an about face and went right back into the woods. No time to get the camera ready. A little later traffic ahead of us stopped for 2 black bears running across the road; missed that shot also. Next we did manage to get a picture of a large bison standing by the road. He didn’t care enough about traffic to even move a muscle. After that we missed a shot of a bull moose that came out of the woods on the right and ran along the edge of the woods until we had the camera ready, and then he dove back into the forest. Not a good day for wildlife photography.

We are still in the Canadian Rockies; a lot of grades to climb and descend; snow capped peaks off in the distance and several large rivers to cross. I did manage to get some pictures of the scenery.

After 250 miles, we pulled into the Continental Divide RV Park. This is a nice, newer, campground with some trees around it and large sites. The wi-fi system is down (story of my life in remote areas) and no cell service either. Oh, well; it is Sunday and I don’t have web business customers to serve today. We spent some time this evening with another couple that are full time RV’rs. They live in their motor home full time; wintering near Phoenix and traveling from April to November. They are headed out on their first trip to Alaska also.

This campground has a free RV washing station so we rinsed the grime off the truck and the camper. Rosie, trooper that she is, scrubbed the floor of the camper on her hands and knees. What a woman. Well, I hope to send all this stuff out Monday night from Haines Junction, our last night in Canada. We cross the Alaska border on Tuesday.

Alaska trip - Day 11

Rosie says I must tell you about the group from Denmark that has rented 16 RV’s and is headed for Alaska. They were staying in the same campground as us last night. We know this because one of them came over looking for advice on how to use a cell phone in Canada. Since he had a European cell phone and European cell plan, we had no idea; but he was interesting to talk with. We are starting to recognize some of the RV’s that we have seen in earlier campsites.

Today we drove 156 miles from Fort Nelson to Muncho Lake. This is one beautiful spot. The highest price for a campground ($42.00) and fuel ($1.63 per litre); but we have a site 20’ from an incredible lake. We were setting up at the same time as another couple and we got to talking. They are from Alberta, Canada; just north of Calgary and they were headed for Dawson City in the Yukon Territory to pan for gold. We spent a lot of time in the afternoon talking with them and he went with me over to the boat dock while I did some fishing. First cast brought in an 18” lake trout. After that, nothing that evening or even the next morning. He and I surmised that I had caught the last trout in the lake. I do have a photo of this fish for all of you doubters out there.

We saw one bear, 3 mountain sheep and 2 deer on the road today. Got pictures of the deer and 2 of the sheep (they may be goats, I am not sure). The weather was a mix of overcast and partly cloudy. It did get a little sunny in the afternoon after we set up, so we got to sit in the sun on the lakeshore.

Tomorrow we head north again. I am not certain where we will spend the night, but there are several possibilities.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Alaska trip - Day 10

I think the picture says it all. We are on the Alaska Highway. After 9 days on the way to Alaska we are finally on the official Alaska Highway that actually gets you to Alaska!

After a full day of rain yesterday at Mile O RV Park, we awakened at 5:10 am this morning to bright sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky. We were so excited we got up, packed up and headed up the highway by 7:00 am. Have I mentioned that daylight is from 4:00 am to 10:00 pm? And the longest day of the year isn't until June 21st. Considering we will be much further north on the 21st, it will probably be daylight from 1:00 am to midnight.

Anyway, we were up the road about an hour and a half and came upon a cow moose and her calf alongside the road. Rosie was holding the camera and I managed to slow down long enough for her to get a few good shots. They will be in the photos for the day.

We made it to Fort Nelson (283 miles) by about 2:30 and found a decent RV Park with a functioning Wi-Fi. After dinner, we drove to a nearby lake so I could start the fishing part of this trip. Rose was standing by to photo document my first fish of the trip. Unfortunately, as I was trying to hold my first Canadian northern pike, it managed to slip the hook and my grip. The picture was snapped just as the fish dropped out of view of the lens; so no photo of the first fish of the trip.

Tomorrow we have a short drive (200 miles) to Muncho Lake where there is a lakeside campground where I hope to continue the fishing experience in Beautiful British Columbia.

No blog tomorrow because there is no internet connection at that campground.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Alaska trip - Days 8 & 9

This blog will be fairly brief since there is not a lot to talk about for the last 2 days.

On Wednesday, we drove about 285 miles from Hinton to Dawson Creek. This is the start of the Alaska Highway. The drive here was not as dramatic in the views as we have experienced so far in the trip. It was mostly forested areas of rolling hills with an occasional small town. We did see a moose cross the road about a 1/4 mile ahead of us, but he was way into the forest by the time we got close to where he crossed.
We are set up in a nice campground with a whole bunch of American license plates on RV's and Motor Homes. In striking up conversations with fellow campers last evening, it was clear that almost everyone here is headed for Alaska. We even met some fellow Idahoans who were traveling with a group from Washington and California. There were some real characters in this crowd. There was one guy who was in the Army in Germany in '62 and '63; the same years I was there in the Army.

Overnight it started raining and it has rained all day. We had planned an extra day here to sightsee and restock the camper. We did manage to get the laundry done and did get to the grocery store. However, the rain all day put a damper on any other activities, including fishing (which I was hoping to kick off today).
It is now about 6:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time and we have finished with dinner. The rain has finally taken a break. A check of the internet for a weather forcast holds some hope for a partly cloudy day tomorrow. We will be heading out early Friday morning for Fort Nelson. Maybe I can get in a little fishing along the way; I hope. I won't be sending any pictures out today as there is nothing really remarkable to post.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Alaska trip - Day 7

Here we are at the end of one full week on the road and we have barely tackled Canada.

We had a leisurely breakfast and headed north from Lake Louise about 7:30 am. The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is along the continental divide and is overwhelmingly spectacular. The only comparable area we have ever seen is in various parts of Colorado. The upper lakes are still covered with ice. There is one glacier along the way. The lower lakes are clear and blue from the snow and ice melt.

As we were coming close to Jasper, we noticed a bunch of cars stopped along the road and people out with binoculars and cameras; a sure sign of a special wildlife sighting. We slowed down and pulled over to the side just in time to see a grizzly bear amble off into the woods to the right side of us. By the time I got out and had the camera ready he was too deep into the woods to get a picture.

We had been to Jasper in 1996 on a vacation to a lodge about 60 miles away. The town looks the same as I remember except for some growth. We pulled over on a roadside stop just north of town for lunch. While we were there, we saw a pair of bull elk across the river. Too far for a picture though.

We arrived at the KOA near Hinton about 1:00 pm. After unhooking and getting set up, we headed into town for fuel, propane and groceries. We drove only 193 miles today. The sun was still bright at 9:30 pm. This long daylight will take some getting used to. But we were really tired so we crashed in broad daylight. Those who know me well will remember I can pretty much sleep under any conditions. This was no exception; I was asleep in about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Alaska trip- Day 6

There are two consistant and predictable events for a night in Lake Louise; the trains will run and the rain will fall. We were awakened by a blast of the horn from the passing train, followed by the steady drip of water on the roof. Sammy was not so much in a hurry this morning so I got to brush my teeth before heading into the woods. The rain was really very slight and not falling constantly. By the time we finished breakfast, the rain had stopped completely.

We had decided to make a day trip to the west to see a place called Emerald Lake. By the time we were 20 minutes down the road, the sun was peeping through the clouds and the temperature had risen from 39 degrees to 48 degrees. We first stopped at the Natural Bridge; a place in the river where water had cut a a rather large hole in the granite. We got some pictures and a brief video. A nice couple from Singapore asked me to take their picture and so we also got the husband to take a picture of the two of us. Another 20 minutes and we were at Emerald Lake. What a beauty; deep blue green water and a fantastic lodge on the lake shore ($400 per night according to my local guidebook). Where to people get the money? We leashed up the Samuel and headed on the trail around the lake. Got a lot of pictures and Rosie got to hear a loon for the first time. I also got a great picture of the loon.

We had lunch back at the camper and then took off north on Route 93 to explore the Continental Divide. The guide book says this is a spectacular drive and the book was right. We took more pictures and pulled into all the turnouts to look around. We turned around at the Saskatchewan River and headed back to Lake Louise. We filled up with fuel and hit the market for a few items, then headed for the camper for the rest of the day. We had a great spaghetti with sausage dinner followed by a walk along the Bow River followed by the movie "Ray" about the life of Ray Charles. Jamie Foxx did an incredible job playing Ray Charles.

It is time to call it a day. Tomorrow we are back on the road headed north through Jasper to the KOA near Hinton, Alberta.

Alaska trip - Day 5

It is Sunday morning and it continues to drizzle. Not enough to wear rain gear, but enough to get you a little wet if you stay outside too long. We awakened at 5:30 or so and could not get back to sleep; especially since Sammy was standing at the foot of the bed with that plaintive look that says "I gotta go pee". So I slipped on some sweats and we headed into the woods (about 10' away).

After a relaxed breakfast, we loaded up with a picnic lunch and headed down Canada Highway 1 towards Banff, taking pictures along the way. When you see the picture of the stone arches, you should know they are designed for wildlife to cross over the highway instead of walking across the highway. Cool idea, we think. Banff is very much like Aspen or Vail; with a quaint, touristy downtown. There is the usual high end hotel, priced the same as the one on Lake Louise. You will also see some pictures of a waterfall that is near the hotel. We did go to a natural history museum with hundreds of stuffed replicas of wildlife, including animals and birds.\par\parOn the way home, we took the alternative to Highway 1, which is the Bow Valley Parkway that runs parrallel to the main highway, but more in the woods and with a 45 MPH speed limit. We stopped at a roadside table for lunch. Other than a few deer and a couple of cow elk, we did not see much in the way of wildlife.

Stopped at a liquor store ($11.00 for a bottle of wine that costs $3.99 in Idaho Falls) and the local market for two grocery items and a bottle of shampoo. We did find out the reason for the high liquor prices. About 70% of the price of alcohol and tobacco products go to help finance the Universal Health Care in Canada. Maybe they should give international visitors a break since we don't get the benefit of the health care system.

By the time we got back to the camper, it was cocktail hour (hurrah). Soon after I lit up the grill (RVQ) for the traditional Sunday steak (for me) and salmon (for her) dinner. After dinner it was a little Canadian TV (we get 2 over the air channels at the site) followed by a DVD movie (chick flick with Diane Keaton called "Because I Said So"). I did a little more reading from the Milepost (book that details every mile on the way to Alaska) and hit the rack about 9:30. It is still daylight at 9:30; this will take some getting used to, especially as we get further north and the days get even longer.

Alaska Trip - Day 4

We awakened about 6:30 and had a yummy breakfast. Rosie took Sammy for a walk and I started to pack up the camper for the next leg of our journey. We left the RV Park around 8:00 am and headed into Radium Hot Springs to fuel up. Diesel here was $1.42 per litre (about $5.10 per gallon).

About a mile and a half from the gas station we came to the entry point for Kootenay National Park and paid our entrance fee of about $50, which also covers Banff and Jasper National Parks for the 3 days we will be here. Just past the entrance, we stopped to wait for the one way traffic to come through the rock scaling area. We got going after about 20 minutes and headed into a gorgeous canyon. This looks like the Colorado Rockies, only more dramatic.

About an hour up the road, we came upon a black bear snacking it's way along side the highway. Rosie got really excited, but managed to get a picture anyway. We came on another bear a little later and I got a picture of that one. We also got a shot of a bull elk grazing along the roadway.

We arrived in Lake Louise and checked into the campground at exactly 11:00 am. This was a short day on the road. After settling into our site, we headed up the road for Lake Louise. What a magnificent place. The lake was still frozen except on the very edge. There is a huge hotel on the lake shore that goes for $560 a night (non-lake view) and $670 a night for the lake view side. There were a lot of people here and we leashed up Sammy and headed around the lake shore hiking trail. Along the way we met a couple from Holland and had a nice chat with them in an interesting mixture of German and English. They were also camped at Lake Louise Campground in a rented motor home.

Dinner was delicious BBQ chicken with rice and corn, grilled on the RVQ. We did bring the RVQ inside for the night, since this is bear country and the guy at the gate was emphatic about leaving no food items or cooking equipment outside. Did I mention the RR tracks are about 200 yards from our site. The trains run often and seem to have a need to blow their horns a lot.

After dinner, it was a short drive through the forest still covered in about a foot of snow to Morraine Lake. Another magnificent scene. Most of the lake was frozen. There were a lot of downed trees along the shore. We got back to the site, checked out the shower facilities, took a short walk and crashed for the night. I was exhausted and actually turned in around 8:00 pm. Tomorrow we will hit Banff and the scenery between here and there.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Alaska Adventure - Day 3

Day 3 is much better than Day 2. After filling up with diesel in Whitefish at $4.47 a gallon (down from $4.71 my last fillup in Salmon, ID), we hooked up and headed for the Canadian border at Roosville. We were expecting all kinds of possible difficulties at the border; but no difficulties occured. The border agent asked us where we were going, how long we would be in Canada and were we going to visit anyone in Canada or leave any of our possessions in Canada. After showing our passports, he waved us through.

We drove along a large river for many miles. The forest and the meadows were green. Cattle and horses were in abundance. We also slowed down for an occasional deer to cross the highway. We pulled into a large grocery store to replenish fruit and vegetable supplies since we weren't supposed to bring these things into Canada (even though the border guard did not ask us about fresh fruits and vegatables) and had made sure we didn't have any at the border. All went well at the grocery store, then I went to a liquor store. SHOCK!!! The price of a 1/2 gallon of Smirnoff is $57.00 Canadian (about the same as US$). No wonder they won't let you bring more that 1.4 liters of wine or liquor per person into the country. It took me a little while to recover from that surprise; but we continued north along Highway 93. The views of the Canadian Rockies are spectacular; much more dramatic than in the US (or at least they seemed that way).

About 7 km before Radium Hot Springs we pulled into the Mountain Shadows RV Park. This is another lovely RV Park in the woods; with large sites and a friendly staff. We set up the camper and went for a walk with Sammy. All is well this evening with the computer. We have Wi-Fi at the site; cable TV (47 channels) and all the comforts of home.

Tomorrow we head into the mountains and will settle in for 3 days at Lake Louise. We will be out of touch for 3 days because all we will have is electricity and water (maybe); no wi-fi, no cable, no cell service, etc. So it will be Tuesday when I will be reporting from the Hinton/Jasper KOA. See you then. Photos to be sent separately.

Alaska Adventure - Day 2

Day 2 was not so great. We started off ok, leaving the beautiful Wagonhammer RV Park about 7:15 am. By 8:30 we were going through a mild snowfall at to the top of the pass that is the Continental Divide and the border of Idaho and Montana. We quickly dropped out of the snowfall area into light rain on Highway 93 headed for Missoula, MT. Along the way were many creeks and rivers getting close to flood stage. The snow melt has started in western Montana.

The weather continued to be slightly crappy through Poulson, MT and along the western edge of Flathead Lake. Flathead is so huge, you sometimes think you are going along the sea shore. We stopped at a scenic overlook and met another couple in a pickup camper also headed for Alaska. After a brief chat with them, we drove through Kalispell and northward towards Whitefish. Our destination was the Whitefish KOA. This campground turned out to be in a great spot in the woods and well off the highway. The beauty of the campground was diminished slightly by the lack of W-Fi at our campsite. I had to take my laptop to the laundry to access the internet. After downloading e-mail, I returned to the camper. That is when my laptop decided to behave in a very peculiar way. Without going into great detail, I was very concerned that my ability to continue to serve my customers from my web site was in peril.

After grilling country style ribs and having fried potatos and corn on the cob prepared by the lovely Rosie, we had a filling meal. I then loaded my laptop into the truck and headed for the Geek Squad desk at the Best Buy in Kalispell. A really nice young guy plugged in a diagnostic program and proceeded to analyse my hard drive for viruses and other nasty things. I began to look at alternatives; like possibly having to purchase a new laptop and try to load up everything I would need to get the new computer to do everything the old computer does. After about an hour, we pulled the plug on the diagnostic program and I tested my laptop. Who knows why or how, but everything seemed to be working exactly like it should and I was able to depart the store without spending a cent.

I will send out the pictures for the day separately. For those of you who don't know, I use Snapfish to upload pictures for others to view. You do have to register with Snapfish to view the pictures; but there is no cost for registration, and you do not have to make any purchases.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Alaska Adventure 2008 - Day 1

After 4 days of 80+ degree temperatures in Idaho Falls, Wednesday morning is rainy and overcast with a high of 50 degrees predicted. We finished the final loading process and departed home about 10:30 am. We drove north and northwest through ranchland and open prairie, slowly approaching the mountains along the Salmon River. It is calving season and there are hundreds of new calves with their mom's grazing along the highway. There was even a cattle drive complete with cowboys on horses and dogs zipping in and out of the herd, trying to keep them in the desired direction.

Our trip today was short, about 185 miles. Our destination was the Wagonhammer RV Park north of Salmon, ID. We had received a call a few days before hand from the RV Park that we should give them a call from Salmon before we headed for the RV Park because they were just finishing a new bridge across a portion of the Salmon River. When we arrived, they were still about 15 minutes away from completion. The bottom line is that we were the first customers to drive across the new bridge. This event was documented in the photos sent out seperate from this blog entry.

All is going well on our first day out. The rig is functioning like it is supposed to. Sammy is happy to be traveling again; and so are we. This campground is very nice and we had a great social hour with the owners and some of their friends that are helping them out with running the park.

Tomorrow it is on to the KOA in Whitefish, MT. Friday we cross the border into Canada. I hope we have arranged our food and liquor supplies so we don't exceed Canadian limitations. Rosie hates to throw out food and I hate to pour out booze. :-)

However, I expect all to go well with the border crossing. We will probable get a wave through and all the worries will be for naught.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

11 days and counting.

Excitement is in the air. The camper is parked in front of the house and we are starting to load up for the great journey northward. Our first day out will be a short run to North Fork, ID for a little fishing on the Salmon River. The next day we enter Montana and head for the KOA in Whitefish. On Friday, the 23rd, we cross into Canada. With any luck, I will be able to post a blog every day with a link to pictures and/or video. We will have e-mail access almost every night at campgrounds with wi-fi. I will have forwarded our home phone to my cell phone, so we can be reached at our home number 208 524-4403 or directly to my cell at 303 638-9151.