Sunday, June 21, 2009

Whitehorse and beyond


Sunday, June 21, 2009                                                                                                           Lorraine’s report

We’re here! After leaving Beachwood RV Park on June 6, we arrived here in Palmer, AK on June 20. The mileage showed 2010 miles when we left yesterday and drove around 330 miles to here. We all survived the long, hard drive to get here.

We are on a beautiful lake with the mountains off in the distance. We are staying at Palmer Elks RV Lodge and campground. It’s been two weeks of fairly hard driving to get here. Everyone was beat! The hardest part of this long drive was from Whitehorse to Beaver Creek. That road was like a wash board, rutted and just plain rough. We spent from 9:00 am to after 5 pm getting there. That was a long day.

But we’ve had fun getting here. One night Norma/Rob had a big chili feed for all of us in Whitehorse, Yukon. Then we played pass the love, with Chuck being the big winner.

Thursday night, we got a call from Mark and Sue saying they were back from Chicken, AK and wanted to come by. They came over for a visit and Mark then got a call from Bob/Vicki, and Joe/Loretta saying they were back from their day trip to Chicken, AK. They also came over. Chuck went over to tell Rob/Norma, and Dorothy/Tom that we had the other three friends visiting. It was dinner time so Norma suggested we put our individual dinners together and feed everyone. Dorothy, Norma and I did just that. We had tuna casserole from Dorothy, homemade chicken noodle soup from me and Smokies, (which are big Canadian hot dogs and buns) from Norma and me. We then went over to the club house at the RV Park where we were staying for a free show. It was a singer on a guitar, a man on a mandolin and a gal on the violin, singing songs and telling us stories about Tok, AK. It was a very nice show. Then everyone but Joe/Loretta came back to our rig for ice cream Dorothy had bought that day. I think everyone enjoyed themselves since everyone stayed till late.

I have to say it feels great to be back in Alaska. This land feels like home to me. I love the tall, snow capped mountains, the fast flowing rivers and creeks, and the beautiful green colors of all the trees and plants. We passed by the Matanuska glacier yesterday, and it was incredible.

It will be nice to see Rick, my son when we get back from the wedding in WA. He’s taking a week off from his guiding on the river to take us out fishing. Thank you Rick for doing this, I appreciate this kindness. I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to seeing my daughter, Susy and granddaughter, Kaitlyn and SIL, Mark, if he makes it up while we are at the wedding next weekend in Bellingham. I think I need a baby fix, I miss Kaitlyn so much. It will also be nice to see my nephew, John and his son, Joey, who are moving from Colorado Springs, CO to Bellingham. And I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of my family and friends

Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there!

So until next time, be well, drive safely and take care……Lorraine

Sunday 6/21/09                                                                                                                   Chuck’s Report

I’ve been trying to keep this up to date as we go along, just need to finish it up today and send it.  First a Happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers, its probably the best job any of us could ever have.  I think being a grandfather is pretty special too but Grand Parent day comes later next month, I believe.  

I checked the mileage when we got to Tok and we had traveled just 10 miles short of 2000 miles from Blaine, Washington to Tok, Alaska in 14 days.  I think the best scenery was the first day, traveling through the Frasier River Valley in lower BC.  Now that we are Alaska the scenery is getting very nice too with more mountains and snow.. 

Tom/Dorothy, Rob/Norma and we decided to stay on in Whitehorse for another day because we were going to see the Follies and it didn’t get over until after 10 pm.  We all really enjoyed ourselves with the high kicking can-can girls, old time vaudeville, girls, corny jokes, and the girls.  We left with our jaws hurting from laughing so much. 

So on a very rainy Tuesday morning Mark/Sue took off for Dawson City and Top of the World Highway which includes Chicken, Alaska.  Joe/Loretta and Bob/Vicky continued on the Alaska Highway heading for Tok.   They plan on meeting somewhere around Fairbanks while we are headed to Anchorage.  We will meet up with these folks later, somewhere around Kenai. 

On Wednesday morning we once again hooked up and left in the rain, headed towards Alaska.  We wanted to split the trip to Tok into two days but didn’t know where we would stop.  Boy are the roads beyond Whitehorse full of frost heaves, very bumpy.  There was a couple of sections that were gravel and of course some dumb sh— in a pickup had to pass all of the coaches and when he passed us his truck kicked up a rock and gave us a star right in the middle of our windshield, sh—. 

When we travel, we don’t like to drive more than about 5 hours in a day, get started about 9 and stop early afternoon.  This day, we couldn’t keep anywhere near the posted speed limit due to  lots of frost heaves and potholes.  The scenery was sure nice with lots of mountains but the driver must give all their concentration to the road and it’s very tiring.  Because I was in the lead, I was looking for a good place to pull off for the night.  The campgrounds we found were closed and all the pull off were too close to the road and the traffic noise would have been bad.  So end result, we were on the road for a lo-o-ng 7 hours, too much for us. 

As we travel along, we keep communications with each other using walkie talkies.   We try to inform each other of approaching traffic when passing, when others are being passed by big rigs, etc.  On this day, I was in the lead, Tom in the middle and Rob following.  Rob called Tom and said something didn’t look right, that his brake lights were on and to pull over.  We all pulled to the side and sure enough, Tom had a problem with his hitch.  We disconnected their car and Dorothy drove it to a campground in Beaver Creek, Yukon, about 30 miles from the Alaska border. 

Next morning we headed out for the Alaska border with Dorothy driving the car and Tom alone in their motorhome.  We didn’t have a long day planned, we were stopping at Tok, Alaska.  We got to a campground around noon and got set up.  This is a very nice campground (Tok RV Village) except all the sites are a bit cramped for large rigs.  We did have very good electrical power there plus they have cable TV with 6 channels.  Also, the roads from the border to Tok are in very good condition, way, way better than from Whitehorse to the border. 

After getting set up, Tom took his car/hitch to a local mechanic and got everything repaired.  He also was able to get his car serviced there too so he is back in business.  Rob and I washed our cars at the campground wash station.  The gals went shopping in Tok, returned in time for dinner. 

We discussed our timeline and decided to stay in Tok for one more day, possibly washing the rigs here too.  There is entertainment at the office building each night but the guys and Lorraine decided to stay home so only Dorothy and Norma attended. 

While we were washing our cars, Joe/Loretta and Bob/Vicky happened to drive by and saw us.  They are staying in Tok but at a different campground.  We didn’t have time to do much but say hi and get an update on their travels but it was nice to see them. 

On Thursday Mark/Sue called, they had just pulled into the same campground the others were staying.  Mark had just finished the drive over the Top Of the World and visiting Chicken, the others had taken a day trip via car to visit Chicken.  Anyway, Mark/Sue came over and later the others came over too.  We had a good time visiting and had a dinner of home made chicken soup that Lorraine had just made, Smokies and some home made cookies that Vicky had made.  Mark kept us entertained with his jokes and everyone seemed to have a good time.  They are all going to Fairbanks before coming down to the Kenai Peninsula, where we will probably meet up once again.  So I guess our new numbers are 6/12/2 vs. 6/4/2, drinks for 6/dinner for 12/sleeps 2.  I think that’s the most we’ve had sitting in our coach at one time too. 

On Friday morning we left Tok and planned to stop somewhere along the way but once again we ended up having a long day, almost 8 hours.  We drove to the Elks club at Palmer, Alaska, about 45 minutes NW of Anchorage.  The road had plenty of frost heaves but was in better shape than the last part of the Yukon.  We also got to see two big glaciers along the way.  We did stop at a restaurant along the way where the owner and his wife were quite the people, big time hunters too. 

We are parked near a lake with mountains in the background, very nice.  The people at the Elks club seem nice, they have a Father’s Day Bar-B-Que this afternoon which we may attend.  I haven’t gotten my non resident fishing license yet but the lake sure is calling. 

We plan on being here until after we get back from out flight to Bellingham.  Unfortunately we only have 30 amp power, no water or sewer.  The nearest sewer dump is in town, about 5 miles away so we will be conserving our usage.  Rob/Norma and Tom/Dorothy will be staying here, exploring the area while we are in Bellingham then we all will head South to the Kenai Peninsula for our fishing fix.  We don’t have any set schedule once we get back except to spend time with our son the first week in July, he is taking time off of work to spend it with us. 

Our daughter and grand daughter will be flying up to spend some time with us in Bellingham and the following week we get to spend time with our son.  The only thing better would be to have them together at the same time. 

The group of us at the Follies in Whitehorse, an evening well spent.

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More scenery pictures from Whitehorse to the Alaska border.

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An old, abandoned log cabin we ran across.

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There was a group of ~ 25 Bentley car owners who had a rally in Alaska.  They come from all around the world, we talked with some from Sweden and Australia.  The pictures were taken when we were stopped by construction for 1/2 hour or so.  They are already leaving Alaska, headed South.  I’m not sure where they started or going to but I know they were in Prince George, BC, about 1000 miles from where we met them maybe two weeks ago.  Nice cars but open with all the dust and rain, not for me. 

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More pictures along the way.  

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DSCN0001 DSCN5456 Notice the roof on the cabin.

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Here is the restaurant we stopped at in Glenallen.  The picture is of a Boone and Crockett record black bear the owner’s wife shot.  It was over 1000 pounds and was charging at her when she shot it between the eyes.  She is only 4’ 11”. 

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DSCN5615 This is a much smaller bear inside the restaurant.

Some shots of the glaciers. 

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  DSCN5681  A picture out the front of our coach at the Elks Lodge.

RSCN5473One last shot to remind us of where we are visiting.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

On the road to Alaska


6/15/09                                                                                                     Both of us worked on this report

We are staying in Whitehorse, Yukon for a few days.  I can’t  get good enough internet service to post this so I will post it when I can. 

We stayed in Dawson Creek for two days.  The first night we all went to a all you can eat fish place and three folks had trouble that night, maybe not such a good idea, huh.   The next day we did a bit of sight seeing and replenishing at Wal Mart. 

The second night we had a pot luck type dinner, Lorraine cooked a large pork roast, Vicky had a large meat loaf and mashed potatoes, Norma brought a desert.  I’m probably in trouble here but I don’t know who supplied what beyond that but I do know there was lots of stuff and no one went away hungry.  After dinner, Mark made a rock guard for me to put between the coach and the car using PVC pipe and landscaping material.

The RV park we stayed at was nice but the site we had didn’t have very good electrical service, it kept surging high and low so bad our surge protector would trip.  It was worse at night when everyone was using a lot of power, probably they don’t have large enough wires to support the load.  But my thinking is this will not be the worst power supply we see before we get back to the lower 48 later this summer.

After leaving Dawson Creek we headed for Fort Nelson.  Our original plans had us dry camping at the IGA grocery store parking lot, however, the parking lot was too small and dusty.  Mark/Sue had traveled ahead of us and they found a campground on the edge of town that would easily accommodate all of us.  I called him on his cell and he told us where they were camped and we headed to the edge of town.  About two blocks before getting there we were stopped at a police roadblock, they were turning everyone back because the Alaska Highway was closed ahead due to the wildfire.  They did let us go to the campground where our group talked about staying for a couple of days due to the fire.

The next morning I got up and drove to the road block for information, they said the road was still closed with no more information at this time.  The local radio station said the same thing.  About 15 minutes later (about 7:45), Mark found on the internet that the road was open so the mad scramble began.  Most of the people in the campground were headed North and they wanted to get going also.   We were able to get on the road at 9 again and decided to drive beyond the location of the fire to Watson Lake.  This meant we would miss our scheduled stop at Laird Hot Springs but we shouldn’t have any more problems with the fire.  

The roads this day were really washboard type, lots of mountain driving with lots of curves and of course, the unending construction.  We saw lots of signs saying watch out for wildlife but we didn’t see anything until we turned a sharp corner and almost hit a big horn Dahl sheep standing in the middle of the road.  Luckily we were driving really slow around that corner, we had to stop completely to wait until it moved to the side of the road.  Our first encounter with wild life on this trip!

We did stop at Laird Hot Springs for a break and lunch, lo and behold, Mark was on the CB radio trying to hail us to say he had pulled into the campground for the night anyway.  Most of the places we drove through didn’t have any cell phone service so he couldn’t contact us on the phone and if we hadn’t stopped for lunch where we did, he couldn’t have reached us via CB radio either.  While we were stopped, Joe/Loretta happened to stop there too so we managed to get everyone except Bob/Vicky, good job Mark.   Anyway, we decided to spend the night there also because it had rained pretty hard and the fire up the road was more under control than the morning report. 

Laird Hot Springs has natural hot water bubbling up, they’ve made it into different temperature pools for swimming/soaking.  Lorraine and I didn’t go in but the ones that did enjoyed the experience.  They have a real nice boardwalk around the pools with wildlife but we didn’t see any.  Lots of signs saying don’t feed the bears and moose habitat area but nothing while we were there.  We did have a little squirrel join us for dinner, pictures to follow.  

We left Laird Hot Springs the next morning and drove through the wild fire area.  There wasn’t  not too much smoke in the area we traveled but the fire had sure burned a large area.  We made it to Watson Lake, the home of the Sign forest.  The sign forest was started by a solder during the building of the Alcan back during WWII and has now grown to an estimated 60,000 signs.  I think they said about 1,000 signs are placed each year, they keep adding posts and expanding the forest. 

The next day we drove to Whitehorse in the Yukon, our first trip to this province.   Our plans are to stay here for at least three days, rest up a bit from traveling everyday.  This is the largest city in and the capital of Yukon.  Once we got to the campground we again met up with Bob/Vicky and our group was all together once again.  Bob/Vicky didn’t know we had stopped for the night at Laird Hot Springs and they were a day ahead of us.  They told us about driving to Skagway, Alaska and recommended the drive and a visit to the town. 

So on Sunday we took off for a ~two hour drive to Skagway with Tom/Dorothy and Rob/Norma, through some mountains and along lots of lakes.  Skagway is a stop for most of the cruise ships and there were two in town while we were there.  Even with that many folks wandering around town it wasn’t too crowded and the gals were able to go through lots of the shops (read that as tourist traps, in my book).  On the way back to Whitehorse we stopped for lots of photo opportunities, we were gone almost 11 hours on this trip, everyone was pretty tired when we got back.   We also got to see some and got pictures of some bears too.

Today we headed into town, Lorraine found a place to get her hair done, she wanted to get it about a week before the wedding and this worked out well.  She is very satisfied with the result.  After that, Lorraine and Sue went to town to go through some art galleries, I think they hit 4 of them.  Tonight we are going to the Follies with Rob/Norma and Tom/Dorothy but it doesn’t start until 8:30, pretty late for me but hopefully it will be entertaining enough to keep me awake, we’ll see.  So with that, here are a bunch of pictures. 

Dawson City pictures.

DSCN5126  DSCN5094 Our campground and all of us at mile zero in Dawson Creek.

DSCN5096 DSCN5100 Lorraine and Chuck, Mile Zero placard.

DSCN5123 DSCN5127 The real Mile Zero in town, pot luck dinner.

DSCN5178 DSCN5184 Our wildlife pictures, beware of the squirrels, they are pretty bold. 

Along the roads, shows some of the terrain we traveled though. 

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DSCN0001 DSCN0001 This Dahl Sheep crossed directly in front of us, so close we had to come to a complete stop.

DSCN0002  DSCN0001Laird Hot Springs pictures.

 DSCN0001 DSCN0001The brave ones that went in, Loretta, Joe, Mark, Sue and Dorothy,  Sue and Dorothy.

DSC_0385 DSCN0001 Some buffalo along the side of the road.  

DSCN0001   DSCN0001Some of the burned area.

DSCN0001DSCN0003DSCN0001 DSCN0002 Smoke from the fire, entering Yukon. 

DSCN0001  DSCN0001 Watson Lake, home of the Sign Forest.


DSCN0001 DSCN0001 Tom/Dorothy pointing to their sign, Chuck attaching their sign.

DSC_0406 DSCN0001Here is our sign.

DSC_0409  DSC_0412 Mark and Joe with their signs.

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Following are some pictures of the trip to/from Skagway.

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DSCN0001 DSCN0001 A very pretty lake, called Emerald Lake, had colors ranging from green to dark blue. 

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We saw two bears alongside the road, the first two show both bears if you look closely.  The little black bear climbed a tree in the third picture.

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DSC_0458To go from the Yukon to Skagway required another border crossing both ways.  Actually, we crossed into British Columbia a few miles before the Alaskan border. 

 DSCN5252 DSCN5254 Starting our walk in Skagway.  Lots of little shops for the gals to shop and explore.

DSCN5263Lorraine standing in front of a Tlingit totem pole inside a small museum.

Pictures of our return trip. 

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A desert in the Yukon????  Called the world’s smallest desert. 

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