Friday, August 28, 2009

We’ve left Alaska :(


Tuesday, 8/25,  and we are in Watson Lake, Yukon.  We’ve left Alaska and it makes me sad to leave since I don’t know when I’ll get back.  It’s been an absolutely wonderful trip and I would go again in a second, only in the summer time. 

Chuck’s written about last week, and as usual we were really busy, so I will just say, it sure is a long way to get back to the states.  If any of our friends ever get the chance to travel to Alaska, I’d tell them to go.  You’ll have the experience of a life time.  Alaska has so much to see, do, experience and explore.  We only scratched the surface. 

Two weeks ago when we booked to go see Denali, it was raining, so the trip was off.  I forgot to say Denali was seen in it’s entirety only two days the entire month of August this year; August 4th and August 11th. We booked to fly onto the glacier on Denali on the 14th but couldn’t go because of the weather, maybe next time…

That’s it for now for me…Hello to all our family and friends in the lower 48.  Hopefully we will be back stateside in time to see our daughter, Susy, granddaughter, Kaitlyn and SIL, Mark.  Hang on there Kaitlyn, NaNa and PaPa are trying to be there in time to see you all.  Till next time…..Lorraine


8/23/09                                                                                                                                 Chuck’s Report

We are now in Whitehorse, Yukon again, on our way back to the lower 48.  While we were able to explore and enjoy Alaska, we, by no stretch of the imagination, didn’t see all of it.  We truly enjoyed our time and we’re glad we got to spend two weeks with our son.  And it was much more fun to have our friends Tom/Dorothy, Rob/Norma and sometimes Mark/Sue, Bob/Vicky and Joe/Loretta with us plus we met lots of folks along the way.  I plan on posting a separate report about Alaska later but for now this will do. 

This past week we went to the Eldorado Gold Mine on Monday where we got to pan for some gold (and I freaked out on the train ride into a tunnel!!).  The “poke” they gave us to pan was seeded, I’m sure, as most people got about the same amount of color.  And of course, they just happened to have the makings to turn your own gold in jewelry so Lorraine has a new necklace with gold that we panned.  But they did have free coffee, hot chocolate and cookies to help ease the pain. 

Tuesday we went to the Ice Museum and to the town of North Pole, Alaska.  Every spring in March, Fairbanks has the world championship Ice Carving competition with entrees from all over the world.  Some of the carvings are saved at the Ice Museum and displayed for those of us who don’t want to be here when it’s cold.  Although the carving are nice, they are some worse for wear and I wouldn’t recommend going to this attraction.  As to our trip to the North Pole, I would recommend the guys stay home and let the ladies experience this on their own.  We  guys sat on a bench and waited for over an hour for the gals to shop and get Christmas stuff, not my cup of tea.  But they do have a post office so you can get a post mark from the North Pole and send a letter from Santa that they will mail in early December. 

The University of Alaska Museum of the North was our trip on Wednesday.   Once again, there were displays about the different regions and tribes of Alaska plus history about the state.  This is one of, if not the, best museums we have been to up here.  Very well done, I think we spent about 4 hours there and could have spent more, even another day would could have been in order.  Plus, the University sits on a hill, overlooking the valley below and on a clear day, they say you can see Denali.  If you ever get to Fairbanks, put this stop on your list would be my recommendation. 

Thursday we went on a trip down the river (and back up) on the Steamboat Discovery, with about 500 of our closest friends.  We made a stop to see the farm where Susan Butcher (sp) lived and trained her sled dogs.  She won the Iditarod race 4 years in a row, the first person to win three in a row.  They have a tee shirt that says something like ” Alaska, where men are men and women win the Iditarod again and again and again and again”.  She pasted away in 2003, I think, from cancer but her husband keeps the place going and raises dogs. 

We then stopped at a reproduction of a Native Village to show how the Natives lived before being “discovered and civilized”.    This was a bit hokey but they gave three good presentations plus had other displays.   We then boarded the riverboat for our return back up the river.   

Friday was travel day, we left Fairbanks and headed for Tok.  We made the decision not to go to Chicken, Alaska or Dawson City, Yukon.   We were having problems with the turn and stop lights on our car but I couldn’t fix it so I made an appointment at a RV repair place for the morning. 

Saturday morning we got the coach to the RV place by 8:30 and they worked on it until almost 1:00.  There was four things wrong but the main problem was a broken wire, must have been from all the rough roads we’ve traveled.  Anyway, we got a very late start that day so only traveled until ~5:00 when we stopped for a boondocking night at a turnoff on the road just before Destruction Bay in the Yukon.  We were along a small, crystal clear lake on a gravel road maintenance station.  Once we got set up, we again played a heavy card game of “pass the love”.  The last time we played was on Rob/Norma’s anniversary so of course, we “let” Rob win.  This time, however, no one had a birthday or anniversary so it was brutal.  In the end, Lorraine and I were the only two left so we stopped there, saying the Norths won this one. 

Sunday we left and headed for Whitehorse where we plan on staying until tomorrow morning.  We plan on leaving here and head to Watson Creek.  From there, we plan on driving down the Cassair Highway to Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska.  We hope to see the bears feeding on Salmon while here, this is one of the better places so we hear.  We also hear the Cassair Highway isn’t the best road to travel so we will be going slow, I’m sure.  After that, we still aren’t sure about heading for North Dakota to work the sugar beet harvest or head for Bellingham.  Lorraine talked with our daughter the other day and they plan on being in Seattle over Labor Day weekend and we may be able to be there at the same time.  Let’s see, head to North Dakota for a j-o-b or Bellingham to see our daughter, son-in-law and grand daughter, where do you think we’ll be?? 

So that’s our week in review once again.  And now for some pictures.    

Proof we were at North Pole, Alaska and saw Santa Claus!!


Some pictures from the Museum of the North.

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The Natives weave some nice baskets.

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Warm parka and boots.

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Polar bears, just pictures, we didn’t see any of these.

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Dorothy went into a freezer to experience –40F.  She had a cup of hot water, threw it into the air and it was ice before it hit the floor. 


And of course, some pictures of flowers. 

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Lorraine and the gals at Susan Butcher’s (sp) dog sled that won the Iditarod race in 1998.

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A steamboat that we took a cruise on, notice the draft that it has, about 3’. 


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Some of the houses along the river.

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We stopped at an Indian Village.  Some pictures of shelters the Indians may have used.  First is a cabin with a sod roof.  Next is a temporary shelter using spruce boughs.

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A shelter made from animal hides and a more permanent one using birch bark. 

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A canoe made the old way.  


Salmon drying in a smoke house. 


Pictures from the trip out of Alaska, the only time we were able to see Denali (Mt McKinley) the whole trip. 

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A small church along the way. 

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Yep, we are out of Alaska and into Canada, heading South before the snow flies. 

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More pictures out the windshield while driving. 

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another week—gone, and we’ve moved from Valdez to Talkeetna to Denali to here in Fairbanks. The weather has turned wetter and colder, and it gets dark outside now around 10:15 or so. We’ve been busy, trying to see and do as much as we can, depending on the weather.

Last Sunday we went to brunch with Tom/Dorothy, Rob/Norma and us to celebrate Rob/Norma’s 34 wedding anniversary. We then played Pass the Love card game with Rob being the big winner.

Monday, was a down day for all of us, we went back out to the end of the road and saw the humpies trying to spawn in the creek. Mark/Sue and Bob/Vicki came into town and we all went to dinner, with the gals buying my dinner as a birthday present. Thanks, gals for the gift bag of goodies and the fun time together.

Tuesday, Chuck Rob/Norma went out on a charter fishing boat, fishing for silvers/Coho. They all limited and had fun times. They brought it home, had it filleted and cut up for steaks, flash frozen, then they picked it up and put into Rob’s freezer. That freezer is pretty full now.

While they were out I cooked up a big pork loin roast (for 11) and had a little anniversary celebration for Mark/Sue who will be celebrating their 36th anniversary on the 18th. Of course the others brought dishes and dessert too. Fun times, and it was late when everyone left.  Mark/Sue and that group are on their way back to lower 48 now.

Wednesday, was pack up the coach and leave for Palmer Elks day. We got there late in the afternoon. We set up, then Chuck took me into first Palmer then Wasilla for a new phone. I’m happy to say I now have a phone.

Thursday we were on the road by 10 am, heading into Talkeetna. We got there in early afternoon and went to Talkeetna Air where we had made reservations to fly up to Denali on Friday. We wanted to know what our chances were for flying on Friday, since visibility was very low that day and it was raining hard. We then walked all around town checking out the shops and museums.

Friday was a rainy, wet and cold day, with very little visibility. We learned we wouldn’t be flying that day so we packed up and left for Denali. We got into Denali and set up.

Sadly, I must say the coach got a booboo. While backing into our spot, with me on the passenger side, outside, guiding Chuck, trying not to hit the power post, I couldn’t see the driver’s side very well, and we hit the roof on the little shop behind the coach. The roof had very little damage, while the coach was crunched above the radiator on the driver’s side; a real bummer for us.

After that the gals and I walked around front of the shops for shopping and looking, meeting the guys for dinner.

Saturday was ride the green bus day to Denali. We chose the 8 hour tour that goes 66 miles into the park. We saw 5 grizzly bears, 11 Dahl sheep, a wolf, some caribou and a bunch of birds. Only three of us went, Chuck/me and Dorothy. Tom stayed home and Rob/Norma went shopping. Those of us that went enjoyed the tour, even though we didn’t get to see Denali, at least it didn’t  rain.

We got back at 5 pm and decided to try and take in the Cabin Dinner Theater Show. It was at 8:30 and the four of us went since we didn’t know where Rob/Norma were. They did get back in time to go with us but had already eaten dinner earlier. The show was loud, fun and very enjoyable. The food was delicious, and all you can eat, ribs, salmon, corn, beans, rolls, and home made cobbler. We all enjoyed this show.

So that brings us to today. We left by 10 am and stopped at Nenana to buy the Ice Classic tickets. You choose your day and time for the ice to break up on the Nenana River, and the correct time wins the jackpot. Last year two people won and split around $280,000.00 jackpot. One year in the’70’s my family won the classic with eight other people. My family would pool the money and buy tickets; those of us that entered won a share of the winnings. I can’t remember how much the grand total was, but Chuck and I had sent in $25 and got about $2000 for our share.

We got into Fairbanks around and set up once more. There is plenty to do here, so we’re not sure how long we’ll stay.

I would like to wish my sister, Thelma and John a happy 44th wedding anniversary on the 21st. And I hope my niece Kerri gets over her bronchitis soon. Until next time, be well….Lorraine


8/16/09                                                                                                                             Chuck’s report

We are now in Fairbanks at River’s Edge campground, will be here for a few days exploring the area and seeing the touristy stuff.  The past week we were in Valdez and headed for Palmer on Wednesday and to Talkeetna on Thursday.  We had reservations to fly around Denali (Mt McKinley) on Friday from Talkeetna.  The problem was, it was very overcast and foggy so they cancelled all the flights on Thursday and Friday.  So Friday we headed to the town of Denali where we took a 8 hour bus tour into Denali National Park on Saturday.  We normally don’t travel on Sunday but this time we headed for Fairbanks to get set up here. 

Once again, Mark/Sue and Bob/Vicky came to see us on Monday for what may be the last time in Alaska.  I think we have said goodbye to them for three times now, ha.  On Tuesday, Rob, Norma and I went fishing on a salmon fishing charter boat, we limited out with three apiece and were the first boat back to the harbor.  The captain said we would fish off Bligh Reef, near where the Exxon Valdez ran aground 20 years ago.  We were the only boat in the area, she said the other boats all go to Ghost Island because that’s where all the fish were.  That didn’t make me feel too good but as it was, we were the first boat to return to the harbor with our limits so she knew what she was doing, I guess. 

We only spent part of a day and the night in Palmer.  The only thing we got accomplished was to replace Lorraine’s cell phone.  Hers had died earlier so we were using mine, no problem but most people called her number first.  Anyway, we were able to get her a new phone and she kept her phone number. 

Talkeetna is a quaint little town that has lots of little shops that like to separate the tourist from their money.  Other than the helicopter and airplane trips to Mt. McKinney there really isn’t too much here.  We walked down the main street and checked out the shops and that was how we spent our time in town. 

Next stop was in Denali, once again not too much here except for tours and the shops.  We had an accident on our coach here, however.  While backing into our site, I didn’t notice how close we were to the overhang on a shop’s roof behind us.  Of course, we weren’t playing hand grenades so close was a bad thing.  We have scraped the paint on the sides twice but this is the first time we’ve actually had fiberglass damage to the coach.  It’s now covered in duct tape until we get it repaired. 

We took a bus tour through Denali National Park.  They only allow private cars to drive ~ 15 miles into the park, if you want to go farther, you have to take one of the busses.  We decided on the 8 hour tour, about 66 miles one way as they said we would see most of the animals in that distance.  We did see bears, caribou, one wolf, Dahl sheep and a host of birds.  Not sure if riding on a school bus seat for 8 hours was worth it but the drive was nice.   The day was mostly cloudy, we couldn’t see Denali at all but the mountains that were out were nice, lots of mineral colors in some of them. 

We planning on staying here in Fairbanks for at least another 4 or 5 days before heading to Tok.  The weather is getting a bit cooler, lots of geese and sand hill cranes are flocking up and heading South for the winter, I think they may be telling us something too.  We still aren’t positive about our route out of Alaska yet but everyone has to pass though Tok on their way out so we know we will be going there.  We are talking about going to Dawson City in the Yukon, not sure how we will get there, over the top of the World Highway or drive up from Whitehorse.  Anyway, more on that when we make up our minds. 

And now for some pictures of our week. 

The following are some of the small plants at one of the view points alongside the road.   They look to be fragile so we tried to not disturb them too much.  

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Lorraine standing next to a rock shaped like a pyramid and some of the mountains and glaciers around the stop. 


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Another stop at the fish hatchery to see the humpies.  Rob was trying to help me catch one but you can see, they are pretty slippery. 

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Workers inside the hatchery harvesting and fertilizing the eggs. 


A 312# halibut on the hook at the dock, this one may win the derby.  A pile of fish from a charter, mostly halibut and red snapper. 

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The boat we were on for our silver salmon charter. 

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Our captain, she runs the boat when the owner is working at the Trans Alaskan Pipeline Terminal.  Our fish hanging at the harbor after we returned. 

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Our fish at the cleaning table, waiting to be filleted.  We ended up with 11 silver salmon and two rock fish for a total of 52# of cleaned fish.  Rob had bought a freezer earlier, it’s getting pretty full now.

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We were first and second on the leader board with our salmon but didn’t win.  The two that won the daily prizes were 17.4# and 14#.


Some pictures out the window of the coach while driving from Valdez to Palmer. 

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Some mushrooms growing in the park in Talkeetna, they don’t even look real but they are. 


Damage to our coach and the roof of the shop, damn. 

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Some pictures of our bus trip into Denali National Park. 

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Some antlers, first is Dahl Sheep nest is Caribou. 

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Now for some moose, the second set were found after the moose had died with their antlers hooked together.  

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I like the looks on these eagles in this picture. 


We stopped in Nenana for a quick tour and some lunch.  This is where the Ice Breakup Classic is held each year.  Last year the winning tickets (two people) were for $280,000.  You have to guess the day, hour and minute when the ice starts moving on the river.  The second picture shows the tripod they built to be on the ice with a cable to another tower on land to measure when the ice moves. 

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An old fish wheel, used to catch salmon and the last wooden tug boat used in center Alaska.  It was built in the 30s and used until the 80s.  

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Have to include some pictures of flowers, don’t I?

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The sod roof on the visitor’s center in Nenana. 

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Some moose antlers for sale, we didn’t buy any though. 


So that was our week.  Except for the rain earlier in the week, not being able to fly to Mt McKinney and the accident on our coach, it was a great week for us.  Hope you had a good week.

Thanks   Chuck