Saturday, June 30, 2007


We got a very late start this morning and decided to make an overnight trip to Seward and Homer, both on the Kenai Peninsula. Our truck is a well equipped little camper so we decided to use only it and try to sleep all four of us in it. It took a while to get everything ready and loaded and then we were off. It was about noon.

Our first stop was for fuel at Fred Meyers. Diesel is only 2.79 there which is cheaper than we have found it in the lower 48 in quite some time. We followed the highway out along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet and stopped for lunch at one of the highway pullouts. Turnagain Arm has the second highest tides in the world and is just a mud flat when the tide is out. When it comes in the tides create a six foot wave of water and often beluga whales come in with it to play. We did not see any.

At the end of the Trunagain Arm the road make about a 180 degree turn back to the west and then due south onto the Kenai Peninsula. The highway splits in another 40 miles or so toward Seward to the left and Homer to the right. We drove another 36 miles to Seward.

Just before Seward is the Kenai Fjords National Park and Exit Glacier. We stopped at the visitor center and took about a one mile hike up to the overlook. They do not let you anywhere near the actual glacier like they did at Worthington Glacier near Valdez. Because of some heavy melting, the trail has disappeared below some melt streams. We had to ford the streams on small tree trunks to avoid getting wet feet. Exit Glacier is just one of many glaciers that flow down from the Henderson Ice Field which covers most of the mountains in the area. It is one of the largest ice fields in the world and covers over 500 square miles. They don’t know how deep it is, but that is one big chunk of ice!

Then we drove on into Seward and had dinner out. We found the cheapest place we could to have a sit down dinner and it still cost $65 for the four of us. Then we walked down the boardwalk where fishermen to were cleaning their day’s catch. Then on to the tourist traps to see what they had to sell that we could not live without. Of course, Nana found something. Then we went to the Safeway store and bought a box of Dove bars for desert on our way out of town. It was already getting late, but when the sun does not set until after 11 PM it does not really matter.

We found a level pull out along the road back up to the Seward/Homer Y and parked for the night. We played a game of Hand and Foot first and then turned in. The truck works well for just Nana and Papa, but two extra scrudge munkins made things interesting. It was too hot inside to sleep at first, and then toward morning it got cold enough for blankets. Dom kicked so much that Deidra came down from the upper bunk and slept in the front seat. Several of us had to get up during the night to use the porta-potti and we all slept fitfully.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Lazy Day in Anchorage

This was the laziest day of our trip so far. I guess we must be running out of steam. We got up real late, puttered round the campground and had a late breakfast. I filled the water tank, dumped the holding tank using the same macerator and tank system we used while were in Quartzsite this past winter, washed some more bugs off the truck and repaired the steps on the trailer. A bolt had come loose. Nana also did a couple loads of laundry.

After lunch we went into town to find a beauty supply store so Nana could get some hair color and we stopped at Fred Meyer’s for some groceries on the way home. Nana colored her hair when we got home and Papa and Dom washed some more of the truck.

Last night was a card night. The kids and Nana talked Papa into playing Hand and Foot with them.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Oh Baby, I though I’d lost you!

No, not Nana and the kids….. my laptop!

We got up very late this morning and puttered around, washing bugs off the front of the truck (it’s a big truck and there can’t be any bugs left between Montana and Anchorage) and getting ready to go do some more shopping.

It was then I got the call from the repairman at Pyramid Computers who had worked on my laptop. He said he re-soldered the power connection but that there was something else wrong with it. It would not power on and he said the mother board was bad. I explained to him as calmly as I could that the mother board was not bad when I gave it to them yesterday, that it worked when they got it and that I would be down shortly to have a chat with them about what needed to happen.

By the time I got the rest of this crew ready to go, dropped them off at Michaels to do some shopping and arrived at the place, they had already sent my laptop to their other store where their “senior” laptop technician worked. She was going to look at it and would call me after when she figured out what had happened.

I picked up the kids from shopping and we returned to the campground, made lunch, unloaded the scooter, washed the scooter and decided to go get our mail that we had had forwarded to Anchorage. Dom and I rode down to the main post office and waited in line for 45 minutes (1 clerk at the main downtown post office and about 20 people in line where we got there) and while we were there I got a call from the “senior” tech telling me the computer was fixed and I could come pick it up. After getting the mail, Dom and I rode over to the store and got it. In the course of conversation it became very clear that the first technician did not know what he was doing. Good thing he did not really make a mess of it given that she said it was one of the most densely packed laptops she had ever worked on. She had never worked on one like it and was actually very impressed with it. Best of all, she only charged me for 1 ½ hours of labor instead of the 2 hours I was quoted and much less than the 3 ½ hours they spent working on it altogether.

Although everything on my laptop is backed up on my external hard drive, I really do not relish the idea of losing this one that is configured and set up exactly the way I want it, in the middle of a trip like this.

We watched Titanic on DVD this evening and went to bed late. It was a long movie.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


We drove into the big city today. Anchorage looks just like any city in the lower 48 except for the snow covered mountains in the distance. Every chain store and restaurant is here. We checked all our RV park guides and decided to try the cheapest of the three major campgrounds and planned to stay for two or three days so we could get some stuff done. The place advertised $27 last year, which was expensive but not overly so. When we got there the place was packed and they now charge $42 a night. Apparently one the biggest RV parks in the city closed this year (bulldozed and is becoming a super Target) and with the shortage of spaces everyone has raised their rates to whatever the traffic will bear.

After some thinking things over we decided to try a city RV park that advertised $20 a day, but no hookups. The place is really nice with very large sites, just like a wilderness campground. The only drawback is the road noise from the Glenn Highway, but we are used to that and can’t see it from the park. We have decided to stay here until time to fly back down to Phoenix. The kids are tired of traveling and wanted to stay in one place for a while. There are things to do here and we can make day trips in the truck to many nearby areas. We have also been warned about finding a place and hunkering down during the 4th of July weekend which is this weekend. Then, we leave on the 5th for Phoenix and need to leave the trailer in a safe place. This place seems very good, as the city police patrol frequently and there are two campground hosts here all the time.

After checking in we went shopping, down to the airport to check out parking for the truck while we are gone (off airport at only $9 a day) and to a CompUSA to see about getting my laptop repaired. The power connection has become flakey and I need to have it fixed. CompUSA said they could fix it by replacing the mother board. That would only cost about $800! I explained to the young man that I just needed someone to open it up and re-solder the connection on the mother board. I was not going to buy a new mother board just because a solder joint had broken. CompUSA will only replace parts. They will not solder anything, but the young man understood (and agreed that it was dumb) and suggested I take it to Pyramid Computers, an independent shop in town. So I did. They said they repair them all the time and would have it ready by tomorrow afternoon.

We returned to the campground, took a hike, washed bugs off the front of the truck, and roasted hot dogs over the fire for dinner. Then we had smores for desert. The campground has no wireless so we told the kids we would have to go to Starbucks every couple days to use the internet. That was more exciting than anything on the trip since the West Edmonton Mall. They love Starbucks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Glennallen Highway Again

We had to leave Valdez today after a very nice stay. The sun came out earlier today than yesterday. If it had come out early yesterday it would have made for an even better tour on Prince William Sound.

We bought milk and then headed back toward Anchorage on the same road we had taken to get here. It looked different from the other direction and we still enjoyed the waterfalls in Keystone Canyon and the view of all the glaciers in the mountains. As we neared Glennallen we could see Mt. Wrangell off in the distance. It is a massive snow covered mountain and still an active volcano. We stopped at a viewing area of the mountain and ate lunch.

Then we turned west on the Glenn highway again and stopped early for the evening about 20 miles from Palmer in an inexpensive campground. We had looked for a rest area or spot near the highway where we could just pull off the road and boondock, but the road here runs through a relatively narrow canyon and we are too near civilization for there to be a lot of open space.

Nana made fried chicken for dinner, the kids worked on their rugs, and we watched a movie before turning in for the night.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Prince William Sound

Today was a very good day, perhaps the best of our trip so far. The shuttle bus picked us up at our RV park at 11 to take us to the dock for our cruise. It took all of 5 minutes to drive there. We exchanged our vouchers for tickets and then had to wait until 11:30 to board. We were scheduled to leave at noon. I remembered the binoculars that were still in the truck, so I walked back to the campground to get them and returned within 20 minutes. It sure made the shuttle seem superfluous. The view out our back window is of a waterfall on the mountain behind us. It made it easy to find our park even though I did not follow the same route the driver did.

We took the Stan Stephens Tour that was scheduled for 6½ hours. We knew it would be cold so we took winter parkas and dressed warmly in layers. Deidra was convinced she would not need a coat but it did not take long on the water before she was gladly wearing one. It never got to 60 today and the sun only broke through a few times. It seems it was a normal day on Prince William Sound. We found seats inside but were soon out on the bow where we spent most of the day. The wind was in our face, but the view was great and somehow it seemed like the best place to be.

The first thing we saw was the pipeline oil terminal from outside the security zone. One tanker was loading at one of the four loading docks. It takes from 14 to 24 hours to load one ship.

Just past the pipeline terminal and at another location later we saw Steller sea lions sleeping on buoys and lounging on the shore.

Shortly after that we saw the first of many bald eagles. Some were sitting on their nests and some were in flight. They are beautiful and majestic birds.

Waterfalls are everywhere, some of which we saw from near and far. This is Anderson Falls which is fed from Anderson Glacier above it.

We then stopped by some commercial fishing operations and watched salmon being transferred from the smaller ships to the large processing ships.

Then is was time for lunch as we cruised down to the southernmost area of our tour. We were served delicious clam chowder and a bagel. The kids didn’t like clam chowder so they got minestrone instead and thought it was good also.

As we approached the headland the tour guide said he had seen a humpback whale dive about 4 minutes before we arrived so he expected it to be back up shortly. It was down for 9 minutes and when he came back up we discovered it was two of them together. They dove three times while we watched. It was tough getting good pictures through the crowd of people, but these three were shot in burst mode and are pretty good. We saw much better but I did not get them on camera. If you want a nature film, go elsewhere. These are vacation snapshots.

Then we were off to see the Columbia Glacier. We could see it from a long ways away and were only able to get to the terminal moraine. The face of the glacier is 12 miles from where a boat can get to and it gets farther every year. We toured through the most beautiful icebergs. It was really cold with the wind coming off the glacier and we felt like we were in Antarctica. It was also exhilarating and we could not leave the bow to go inside where it was warm.

The crew scooped up a couple pieces of ice so everyone could see and touch it.

Although we had seen several sea otters on the way, as we were leaving we found a couple of them resting on an ice flow. That is apparently somewhat unusual and for them to not immediately dive when approached is even more so.

Along the way we also saw puffins, cormorants and some other birds we can’t remember the names of.

We cruised home up the Valdez arm and arrived at the dock at 6:30. We all think this was the best day yet in Alaska.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Worthinton Glacier and Valdez

We hit the road toward Valdez and stopped in Glenallen to buy Nana some more Kleenex. There’s nothing like running out of life’s necessities. Glenallen is due east of where we began the day and we had motored further inland away from the pretty mountains. That changed as we turned south at Glenallen toward Valdez. We approached beautiful snow covered mountains (seen through a bug covered windshield) and eventually stopped at Worthington Glacier.

We all climbed up to its face and stood on it. The color of the crevice in the face was the most beautiful blue. There were some ice climbers climbing there and it was fun watching them work their way up it.

Dom and Nana took hike around the edge and up on top of it. Deidra was lucky to have made it all the way to the face, and would not have been able to do so without a lot of Nana’s and Papa’s help. She is still pretty gimpy, but there was no way we were keeping her from touching a glacier.

We then drove over Thompson Pass and down into Valdez. It reminded us of the trip down into Skagway a week or so ago. There were beautiful waterfalls everywhere. This is a picture of Bridal Veil Falls.

We continued on to Valdez and have checked into an RV park for two nights. Tomorrow afternoon we will be taking a cruise on Prince William Sound to see marine life and glaciers. It should be fun. We will do some exploring around town in the morning. One thing I am disappointed about is that after 9-11 they closed all the tours of the pipeline terminus. You can’t get within a couple miles of the place now. We can see it across the sound but that’s it.

We are having a quiet night tonight. It is time to do laundry again. The kids are working on their rugs. Nana is trying to recover from Pogo withdrawal by playing as many games as she can before the kids have a turn on the computer. Me? I’m working on my blog!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Our first glacier

It rained all night and was still raining this morning when we got up. At least the low clouds and smoke were gone so we could see the mountains around us. We drove south toward Anchorage but turned east toward Valdez when we hit Palmer. We made a lunch stop at a McDonalds (the kids were so excited) and shopped for groceries at the Fred Meyer across the street. The rain had finally stopped but still no sunshine.

The road we are on is called the Glen Highway and passes our first glacier, the Matanuska Glacier. We could only take pictures from across the river at the view point.

They also had a campground there but our rig was too big to fit in any of the sites. We stopped for the night at an RV park just a few miles down the road where we hiked a short trail to another viewing spot. We will get closer to glaciers later on.

Late this afternoon we finally saw the sun for the first time in two days but just briefly. I realize that the rain is what makes everything here so green, but it sure looks prettier when the sun is shining on it.

Nana is feeling better today and Deidra is able to walk with only a small limp. She still has trouble getting into and out of the truck and is not up to long walks unless it is related to shopping.

We did not go far today and that is just fine. Five hours or so is plenty. We have our house with us so we just stop wherever we are when we feel like it. It is a nice way to travel.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Smoke and Rain

I got up at 6 this morning after having gone to bed around 10 last night. We were tired and Nana was not feeling well from the effects of the cold Dom gave her. I decided to let everyone sleep in, but at 9 am they were all still asleep. Enough is enough! Get up you lazy critters.

What a difference a day makes. The weather was beautiful yesterday except for some late evening thundershowers. This morning there was more rain and we were socked in with a combination of clouds and smoke. A huge fire somewhere, one of the 56 burning in Alaska right now, was covering the whole area with smoke. Visibility was only ¼ mile or so and it was cold and drizzly.

We were ready to leave the RV park at 10:30 and had to make a stop at the bus loading area since we realized Deidra’s digital camera had been left on the bus yesterday. We arrived there about 10:45 and after 45 minutes of wading through government red tape we were sent over to the baggage claim office near the visitor center. There more government red tape was unrolled as it appeared someone else had also made a claim for her camera. Why someone else would want a cheap digital camera with dead batteries and a view screen that only works if you fold it up to just the right angle is beyond me. Regardless, after another 45 minutes of unrolling more red tape, including a call to Dayna and Chris to verify the brand of camera, they finally decided to release it to her instead of mailing it. Of course, the camera itself was not there, it was at dispatch. So, they requested it be sent over to baggage claim where it finally arrived while we ate lunch in the parking lot. Deidra still had to put new batteries in it and show them that there were pictures of her and Dom on the camera before they actually let her have it. We finally left with the camera at 1:30. I’m sure we used up several miles of their tape, but unfortunately there is a never ending supply of the stuff.

We motored off into the smoke. Even with the vents closed the smell was oppressive. After an hour or so the smoke became mixed with rain and later fog and low clouds. At times the visibility was reduced to only a couple hundred feet and I slowed to 45 MPH. The road was wet, it was raining and we couldn’t see anything. That is not what we came to Alaska for. By about 3:30 we found an Alaska State Park that is nothing more than a paved turnout along the highway where we pulled in for the night. Hopefully the clouds will lift overnight and whatever fire the smoke is coming from will be extinguished by all this rain.

In the meantime, we are warm and snug in our home, hooking rugs, watching DVD’s, playing games, eating popcorn and hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Denali National Park

We arrived at the visitor center about 8:45 and left on our tour at 9:00. We had selected the Fish Creek tour which took us about 60 miles into the park and back. We were on “school” busses, but the seats were a little better than the regular bench seats. People can only drive about 15 miles into the park in their own vehicles. Beyond that you have to be on a tour bus.

The sky was completely clear and the driver stopped at the first place we could see Mt. McKinley or Denali. (It is still legally named Mt. McKinley but everyone here prefers to call it Denali. Denali means “tall one” in Athabascan, a native language. The naming of McKinley was done by some local businessman when McKinley was running for president and supported the gold standard the businessman wanted enacted. He was subsequently elected president, but few people think he deserves to have the tallest mountain in North America named for him.)

Over 80 percent of the people who come here do not see the top of the mountain. We had a perfectly clear view, although from quite a distance. By later in the day it was completely obscured but we got our sighting.

The scenery on the trip was very beautiful and grand, but the real goal of the trip was to see wildlife. We saw a porcupine, a caribou, several grizzly bears including cubs, lots of Dall Sheep with their lambs, squirrels, snowshoe hares, and most rare, a black wolf. I will include photos of all we have, but most were very far away and were taken with maximum telephoto. I do not have photos of the two close encounters, the porcupine and the wolf. They moved too quickly into the brush and there were people in my way when I had a good view of them. If you really want to see what these animals look like, go to a zoo. You will have a much better viewing opportunity. If you want to see them living in their natural habitat from a great distance then you will enjoy coming to Denali. I wish the photos were better, and they were in real life with binoculars. My camera just does not have a great telephoto lens.

Dall Sheep


Grizzly Bear with 2 cubs

We had to take our own food and drink as there is nothing available out in the park. Everything must be eaten on the bus as you are bouncing along since you are not allowed to take any food off the bus at the rest stops. We finally returned to the visitor center at 5:00 PM. The trip was 8 hours over mostly rough, dusty dirt roads in a bouncy school bus. We were all worn out but enjoyed the trip.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A rest day

This really was a day of rest and I am only posting so no one will think I have missed a day. The only thing we did was to make a trip to the Denali National Park visitor center to pick up our tickets for tomorrow’s tour.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Skeeter Invasion!

It was hot last night when we went to bed so we left some windows open and the fans running. During the night Dianna and I were awakened a couple times by a pesky fly that kept buzzing around our heads. That was annoying, but about 7 this morning I felt the kids moving in the trailer. I got up a few minutes later and found Deidra and Dom both up with a story to tell. It seems the window screen by Deidra did not get seated properly and there was a small crack at the edge. She was awakened about 6 by mosquitoes buzzing around her head. She got up and spent the next hour and a half killing them. She whacked one or two on Dom’s head which woke him up also. The two of them said they had killed over 30 by the time I got up. Before we left our campsite we probably killed almost that many again. Fortunately, no one was badly bitten, but we will all watch the screens carefully from now on.

We stopped at the visitor center in Delta Junction, the official end of the Alaska Highway, to take a picture and make a contribution to the local economy at the souvenir store.

Just before arriving we saw some beautiful, massive snow covered mountains off to the west. I couldn’t find a spot to pull off to take a picture and we were coming into town anyway so the opportunity was missed. It took me a few minutes to realize that we had been looking at Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park from over 80 miles away. It is quite rare to see it without clouds above it, but that is what we saw. Unfortunately, after our photo/shopping stop, the clouds had already begun to build and the view from north of Delta Junction was not nearly as good as from the south. Therefore, we have only the picture in our minds eye to share with you.

The local scenery was more of the same. There are mostly tree lined roads, occasional rivers and lakes, but much of this part of Alaska is pretty flat. We continued on to Fairbanks where we ran smack dab into civilization. The road suddenly split into a four lane divided highway with on and off ramps. It was a freeway! We took the off ramp from one freeway onto another and suddenly were completely through Fairbanks. We turned around after the freeway again ended and returned back into town and took a promising looking off ramp. We wandered around looking for a truck stop and large grocery store. We eventually found both. The food store was a Fred Meyers which looks and feels a lot like a Wal-Mart. They are pretty popular up here. The truck held $396 in fuel to fill it up. Mom, I think Fairbanks has changed since you were here.

We have been doing some planning and decided it was not practical to take the kids north toward the artic circle so we are going to go to Denali National Park and then out on the Kenai Peninsula with the time we have. We continued south to Denali and are parked at a commercial campground where we will stay for three days. Tomorrow will be a rest and recuperate day, and Thursday we will take the tour of Denali.

Pulling into the campground was even more of a show than usual. We first tried a campground 4 miles up the road that had large sites, but they had no wireless internet access. So we went to the place we are staying instead. The camp sites are not large, and we arrived quite late so most spots were already full and there were cars and trucks parked everywhere. It took some pretty fancy maneuvering to get the trailer backed in. Of course, we had half the campground watching and making bets on whether or not I could do it. Several came up to me afterwards and asked if I am a truck driver. They were really impressed.

Nana came down with a cold this morning so she is not feeling great. A quiet night and a day of rest will do us all good.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Alaska for good

It was another day of mostly travel with not very exciting scenery. We left our campsite about 9 and continued north on some of the worst “pavement” known to man. We actually enjoyed the dirt construction sections because they were much smoother than the pavement. The only downside was that in some areas they were running water trucks to keep the dust down and that resulted in the most tenacious mud coating all over the truck and trailer.

It took us 1 ¾ hours to reach the border even though it was less than 60 miles away. They let us back into the country. We had to go through the commercial lane since we were too tall to fit through the normal car and RV lane. It was nice to be able to determine the speed limit and distances to towns without having to convert from metric. The roads were a little better than in the Yukon, but better is a relative term. Until we reached Tok, the first town of any size, the roads were still pretty miserable.

In Tok Nana bought some groceries while I used $9 in quarters to blast the mud off the rig with a pressure washer. That was not to make it clean – just to remove the heavier mud. A real washing will have to wait. We also picked up our free ¼ pound of fudge from a gift store in Tok. We had purchased a book of coupons before we left the lower 48 and that was our first opportunity to use it. Most of the coupons are buy one get one free, and they are for tours, cruises, dinners and such. We will get our money’s worth before we are done.

We drove north toward Delta Junction and the roads improved dramatically, although the scenery still left much to be desired. We drove through stunted forest and past pretty lakes, but mostly over relatively flat land. All the mountains were far off in the distance.
We stopped at a parking area by a stream for the night. After a dinner of taco’s we watched Jewel of the Nile and got ready for bed. The temperature sure has changed from last night. The sky is clear and it is still 70 degrees at 10 PM. Of course, we gained another hour when we crossed into Alaska so now the sun will not set until around midnight. Sure is strange trying to get to sleep when the sun is still up!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It can't all be fun and beauty

After such a fantastic day yesterday we should have expected less today. We would not have been disappointed.

Last night as the kids we getting into bed, Dom jumped on the bed and landed on Deidra’s already sprained ankle, re-injuring what was already a bum leg. That meant that Deidra needed to be helped everywhere she went today, including climbing in and out of the truck. That takes four good limbs under the best of circumstances.

It took forever for everyone to get ready to go this morning, and then we had to make a stop at Wal-Mart on the way out to buy an ankle wrap for our gimp. We motored north, stopping for lunch at a rest area along the way. The scenery was very nice, but after yesterday it was not noteworthy.

We passed Kaluane Lake and some dusty construction before hitting the road everyone talks about when they lament the rough ride. The guide books warn that the road from here to the Alaska border, about 150 miles away, is the roughest of the whole trip. They were not kidding. Although it is paved and not very potholed, the surface is heaved, dipped, rolled, humped and any other irregular description you can think of. For much of the last 50 miles of the day we drove about 30 MPH and even that was rough.

We finally stopped at Lake Creek Campground, a Yukon government park. It is much is like our forest service campgrounds in the states, but the sites are very big and they have free firewood. Not that the firewood is going to do us any good. In addition to free firewood they have free and plentiful mosquitoes here. Sitting outside is out of the question.

While peeling potatoes for dinner, Deidra managed to slice her finger so tonight she only has two good limbs. Nana had to cut her pork roast. Card games after dinner and off to bed. Tomorrow we should be back in Alaska for good.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Skagway, Alaska

From the desert to the sea, from the mountain lakes to the granite peaks, we saw it all today. This was the most spectacular scenery we have seen yet.
After breakfast and filling one propane tank we set off for Skagway, Alaska without the trailer. The road from Whitehorse goes through the small town of Carcross before climbing up to White Pass and then descending into Skagway, Alaska. The trip is only about 100 miles but we started in the Yukon, passed through about 40 miles of British Columbia and finally entered the US again about 20 miles from Skagway.

The trip started with an overcast sky and the rain held off as we stopped at an overlook for Emerald Lake. The color is surreal. It is caused by marl on the lake bottom and very clear water.

Then a short distance farther along is the Carcross Desert, just before the town of Carcross. It is caused by the sandy sediment of a long gone lake that is held in place by the local winds. What a strange place to find sand dunes.

We then passed through the town of Carcross and drove beside several large lakes that were all connected by rivers.

The rains began and the clouds lowered as more and more spectacular snow covered mountains came into view.

We continued climbing until we reached the top of White Pass above Skagway. Ahead the clouds seemed to disappear as we descended into the most incredible display of waterfall after waterfall cascading down the mountains around us.

We descended into Skagway and had pizza for lunch. Then we strolled through the many tourist traps that line the main street of Skagway. Deidra, Dom and Nana all found some jewelry or souvenirs they could not live without.

There were two cruise ships in town so the place was busy in the early afternoon, but most had drifted back to their ships by four PM when Dom and Nana took the walking tour offered by the National Park Service. We had all watched the movie in the visitor center about the gold rush in 1898 that started Skagway. While they were on their walking tour, I put about 85 gallons of diesel fuel in the truck. The cost in Skagway was about $1.50 per gallon less than the cost in Whitehorse.

We drove back through the same glorious scenery on the return to Whitehorse. It was a day we will all remember for a long time.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Whitehorse, Yukon

When we awoke we found five other rigs parked in our area. It was a very nice spot to overnight and we were not the only ones who thought so. On the way out we noticed that the name of the river we were parked beside was the Swift River.

We expected to be in Whitehorse by about noon but our first real experience with Alaska Highway repairs slowed that by about 45 minutes. As we approached a bridge at Johnson Crossing we became the 5th in line to wait to cross. The bridge surface is being completely replaced and we had to wait for a group from the other side to be escorted across, then for a concrete truck back to the center from our side so he could empty his load, then another group to be escorted from the other side before we could be escorted across. I normally start out in 3rd gear but the pilot car drove so slowly that we idled across the bridge in 2nd gear. My truck has 10 gears. It would have been faster to walk across than ride with us.

We drove on into Whitehorse and stopped at the first RV park on the south side of town. Good thing we did. One of the three major parks in town has closed for the year and the other is already full. The place we are staying, Pioneer RV Park, is a real dump. I have never seen spaces packed so tightly together. The important thing is that we have full hookups so I dumped for the first time since leaving Grande Prairie and Nana began the first of umpteen loads of laundry. Funny how having two more people results in four times as many dirty clothes.

The other important thing available at this park is free wireless internet access. Unfortunately, it is very sporadic service. I suspect it uses either satellite or some other kind of radio communication because when it rains the service is very slow or fails completely. For those of you following our journey on our blog, we need to explain that this is very remote country. There are only service stations every 100 miles or so, and not much else. We have passed many stations, cafĂ©’s and lodges that are out of business this year. Except for Whitehorse, any power is from small community or individual generators and there is no cell phone service anywhere. We will try to post as often as we can but it may be infrequent. My DirecWay satellite service only works to about the US border. There is a satellite that covers the area here, but they will not change me over to it. They base your satellite on your mailing address and won’t make exceptions. Dumb.

We got settled and then went shopping. There is a Wal-Mart here and we found most of our food supplies there. We also made a stop at a grocery store for a couple things as well. Hopefully we will not have to stock up again until Fairbanks. Whitehorse is a good sized small city with every store and service you could need. You know you are in civilization when you have McDonalds, KFC’s Pizza Hut’s and all the others in addition to the Wal-Mart.

While at Wal-Mart the clouds closed in again and it poured. We have had rain almost every day, but we have also had beautiful sunshine. It seems I am always talking about the rain, but it really has not been bad. And, if not for all the rain, it would not be nearly as beautiful here.

Nana did 7 loads of laundry by the time we went to bed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Watson Lake, Yukon

Posted on 6/15 from Whitehorse, Yukon

We awoke to beautiful sunshine and left the campground around 9. Along the way to Watson Lake we saw a red fox, a bear and another deer.

Watson Lake is the first town in the Yukon and is famous for its sign post forest. People from all over the world leave signs from their home towns. There are thousands and thousands of them (more than 63,000 as of 2006). We wandered around and finally found Denton and Aubrey, Texas so we took the kids pictures beside them.

We then went across the road and watched the show at the Northern Lights Center. It is a planetarium with a couple shows to watch. The first was about how big the universe is. The second was a 30 minute film of the aurora borealis (northern lights) set to music. How I wish I could see it in person some day. It is so unique, beautiful and fascinating.

We then motored north toward Whitehorse and stopped at a pull out along the road about 180 miles from there. It was a large flat field that allowed us to get way off the road. We were the only ones there so it was peaceful and quiet. We saw snow covered mountains all around us. These kind of free, open spaces are the best camping sites!

We had sloppy Joes for dinner and then watched Grumpy Old Men on DVD before bed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Liard Hot Springs

Posted on 6/15 from Whitehorse, Yukon

Today was a rest and no travel day. It rained much of the night and we awoke to very overcast skies with clouds way down the mountains. We motored up the highway about 20 miles to the Liard River area and checked into the private campground. We did not think we could get into the Provincial Park because of our size, but perhaps we might have made it. The private campground had 30 amp power and water, but no sewer hookups or even a dump station. We had hoped to do laundry, but that will have to wait.

The primary attraction here is the Liard Hot Springs. The pools are just a short hike out a boardwalk. On the way out a cow moose crossed the walk just a few yards ahead of us. Fortunately, she was not headed for the pools. The springs are very hot and very popular. We went for a soak before lunch, then back to the trailer for a bite. Then we all took naps. After our naps, Nana and the kids went back to the pools again while Papa worked on nap number two. By this time the skies had cleared and there were only a few puffy white clouds. The temperature had soared to 67.

Just for the sake of interest I checked some of the prices in the little camp store. Hamburger buns, hot dog buns and a loaf of bread were each 4.89. I spoke with the lady running the store and she told me that two of the resorts at Muncho Lake had gone out of business this year and would not reopen. Their owners just could not make a go of it. This place is open year round and barely survives. There is a sense that traffic is down this year due to the high cost of fuel, especially in Canada. I will probably have to get some diesel fuel before we cross back into the US, and expect to pay between $4 and $5 a gallon. Once back in Alaska the price is under $3.

We had pork chops for dinner and then watched three episodes of “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon” with his wonder dog King. Of course, I grew up on these shows and our grandkids had never seen them. Dom really liked them. I was amazed at the poor production quality, horrible acting and inane story lines. Even kids shows have changed dramatically over the years. It was fun though, and appropriate since we will be entering the Yukon Territory tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Posted on 6/15 from Whitehorse, Yukon

Today was a good day for wildlife. When we woke up this morning the temperature was 37 degrees and it had rained more during the night. We left the campground and continued north through Fort Nelson. Up to that point the road was still quite good and we drove along at about 60 mph. Shortly after Fort Nelson the road began to deteriorate, both the condition of the road surface and the turns. We soon entered the mountains and spent the rest of the day going up, down, left and right.

Our first critters of the day were a few deer, but soon I saw an animal running along the right side of the road. I said to the kids, “Look, there’s a caribou!” They looked a few moments and then Deidra said “That’s a reindeer!” Now the kids know that caribou and reindeer are the same thing. We call them caribou in North America and they call them reindeer in northern Europe.

The next animals we saw were stone sheep. They were not afraid of cars and were grazing right beside the road. One even stood in the middle of the road and refused to move as cars approached. They looked pretty scraggly.

A while later we spotted two moose (meese?). First was a female who stood right by the road so we could take her picture. Shortly after that we saw a male trot across the road ahead of us. He ran up into the brush before we could get his picture.

We passed Muncho Lake and tried to find a campsite in one of the provincial parks along the shore. Unfortunately, the only spaces we could get into were occupied or reserved. Muncho Lake is a gorgeous aqua colored lake, the result of minerals leaching from the surrounding mountains. We were disappointed we could not find a campsite by the lake since we wanted to soak it in some more. We continued along a few more miles and found a place we could pull off the road about 100 feet and set up camp. There is very little traffic so the noise from the highway will not be of concern. After setting up the rig we took a short walk down to the stream behind us. Mosquitoes soon convinced us to beat a hasty retreat, but not before following some moose tracks for a little way. We then cooked hamburgers and had corn on the cob for dinner. Yummy.

It rained off and on throughout the day, interspersed with short periods of sunshine. Tonight it turned very overcast and it rained all evening. We watched “Romancing The Stone” on DVD and the scenes in the rain forest felt very real as we were getting the same kind of downpour outside at the time.