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.