We traveled over Hatcher Pass today, a very bumpy gravel road with good memories of from our trip to Alaska several years ago. Along the way we watched a pair of beavers working on their lodge, saw several people panning for gold, and laughed with a mom who said that the flake of gold her daughter found would pay for their whole trip. The old Independence mine at the top of the pass has been turned into a state park and was full of people. Very different from our visit years ago when we were the only people around.
The last few days have been very busy. After we left Grand View was stopped in Palmer, near Anchorage, to take care of a few things. The campground there was friendly and welcoming. Breland had the oil changed and we did grocery shopping and laundry. We hiked along a river bed and in the Eagle River Nature Preserve.
Our next stop was Willow. We stayed on a campground on Willow Creek and were able to see the large king salmon who cme to the creek to spawn. The salmon draw eagles and sea gulls. Talkeetna had their Moose Droppings Festival going on so we didn't linger there. Instead we talked with fishermen along the various streams.
After our drive today we've packed everything up again tonight and tomorrow will leave for Denali. I've booked the reservations at the campground 30 miles within the Park back in February. We won't have electricity or internet for five days. I so look forward to being back in that beautiful park.
Matanuska Glacier with Rainstorm in the Distance
When we stopped to see the glacier from one of the viewpoints a rainstorm veiled the mountains in the distance. I tried to capture the many layers of river, trees, river bed, glacier and mountains.
We've spent the last two nights at the Glacier View RV park, a really delightful place. It has a cafe that serves expresso and wonderful homemade pie and meals, of course. There's wifi and cable TV and a view of the Matanuska glacier and of Sheep Mountain.
After breakfast we drove back west to drive down to an area that we whizzed by the afternoon before. I tried some multiple exposures to do an HDR photo http://www.pbase.com/gpc/image/82105483
. While I liked the result I learned a lot and will try this again. After a bit more driving we returned to the RV park for lunch before heading off to visit the Musk Ox farm. I bought a quviat ski band made of the musk ox wool. It's supposed to be eight times warmer than sheep's wool and is amazingly soft.
We then hiked to visit the Matanuska glacier and each took many more photos. If you'd like to see some of them they're at the beginning of the North to Alaska gallery.
Tomorrow we'll head out toward Anchorage to stock up before our time in Denali.
Salmon Fishing in Valdez
We went to Alison Point, near the end of the Alaskan pipeline, for Breland to fish for salmon. On the way we stopped to photograph a pair of grizzly yearlings. Breland caught his limit of pink salmon in a little more than an hour. Guess what we're having for dinner tonight, and tomorrow night and ...
A Sea of Icebergs
We reserved a week at the Sea Otter campground in Valdez, directly on the Prince William Sound. The promised sea otters float past our camper several times each day. There's much to do and photograph around Valdez. Several large glaciers are in the area, one that you can drive to and walk on, others that you can go to by boat. We can see two from our "backyard". The pink salmon are running and it's very easy for a good fisherman to catch his limit in a very short time. Eagles, gulls and seals surround the area near the hatchery, gorging on salmon. A mother grizzly with her cubs lingers in the area and walk right behind the fisherman.
We took a glacier tour on the Lulu Belle. The captain was terrific, determined that we'd see puffins, whales, sea lions, and shorebirds. We lingered in an area with four whales for quite a while, watching as the whales surfaced over and over. One breached in a beautiful show and Breland got the best photos of that event.
When we approached the Columbia glacier the icebergs sparkled in the brilliant sunlight. Breland and I usually avoid "touristy" things, but the Lulu Belle tour was an incredible experience.
We left Haines very reluctantly. Surely we won't find a more beautiful place than Haines anywhere in Alaska. We did have to move on and drove back into the Yukon and over the Haines Highway. We saw a grizzly and her cub on the way and two black bears. Our camping spot for the night was near Destruction Bay on the shores of Kluane Lake, an incredible lakefront site with no other campers in sight. The owners of the campground told us that they made regular grizzly patrols so we shouldn't worry. Right.
It was very beautiful and Breland relaxed for a bit. We have a long drive tomorrow over what is supposed to be the worst roads we'll encounter.
Cannery at Letnikof Cove
We had the most incredible day yesterday. After adventuring in search of trumpeter swans we took a road up to a working gold mine and then another to a beautiful lake. In the afternoon a very generous couple took us out on their boat to raise Dungeness crab traps and gave us three of them for dinner. We cooked the crabs and ate them surrounded by the beautiful snow-capped mountains. After we rode to see if we could find the grizzlies that are supposed to arrive soon to share in the salmon run. No grizzlies, but orcas instead. We followed the orcas for a bit along the road bordering the Lynn canal.
This is so amazing. It seems like it can't be real. The wonderful people that we've met and their stories about how they ended up in Alaska are as much a joy as the scenery.
We've spent a totally incredible few (too few) days in Haines, Alaska. This has to be one of the most beautiful and friendliest places in the world. We went shooting with Ron Horn, a fellow pbaser, twice. He knows the area well and led us to an eagles' nest with a young eagle chick. The setting is just spectacular, with bears, a gold mine, lakes, the Linn Canal, glaciers and more within an easy drive.
We left rather late this morning for the long drive from Whitehorse to Haines. The drive wouldn't be so long if it weren't so beautiful! We stopped frequently for photos and just to admire the amazing views. A very large black bear added a bit of excitement by running out into the road right in front of our rig. We narrowly missed him. A mother grizzly and her cub raced across the road. I took photos of mom standing guard under the tree where her little one hid, but the pouring rain made for a very bad photo. Along the way we saw another grizzly and a black bear gobbling dandelions. Trumpeter swans floated in partially frozen lakes.
We arrived at Haines late this evening. Such a beautiful town! I can't wait to explore it.
Whitehorse, Day 3
We drove from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Skagway, Alaska today. We traveled this route on a train several years ago. The road was even better than going by rail. There were numerous scenic overlooks, lakes and creeks. The only animals we saw along the route were groundsquirrels, chipmunks and one very hungry black bear http://www.pbase.com/gpc/image/81243946
This small building was in Carcross, a tiny town along the way.
White Horse Day 2 June 25, 2007
White Horse Day 2 June 25, 2007
We spent a second day in Whitehorse today. Tomorrow morning we’ll get the tire replaced early, we hope, and then head on our way. We’re not sure what happened to the tire so we’ll have a mechanic look at the wheel bearings and axle first.
It was a fun day today. We slept in, something we haven’t done for a while, and then visited with our neighbors. We talked to several couples about their plans for the trip to Alaska. Each has a different route and different levels of experience. For some it was their first trip, some had traveled the Alaskan Highway several times before, and one person made the trip 23 years ago, when little of the road was paved. Breland had a great time talking about generators, inverters, and truck pulling power. Several of the couples were full-timers, living in their RVs year-round. Most were professionals before they retired and worked nine-to-five jobs. They all agreed that they wanted to travel and had spent too much of their lives in hotels in the past.
We then went to visit the fish ladder at the dam. No salmon were there, of course. They’ll run through around mid-August. After that we took a dusty side road to a lake. As I was taking a photo of the lake I heard pounding feet and a cow bell coming up fast behind me. Breland shouted “Gayle” just as the largest dog I’ve ever seen ran by. From the sound of his feet I’d expected a maddened bull, at least. His owner shouted and the dog wheeled around and ran past me again. The dog’s owner and his friend stopped to talk. They had four beautiful sled dogs with them. They race dog sleds in the winter and keep themselves and their dogs fit by hiking in the summer. The cowbells were bear bells. The lead dog had incredible blue eyes. There was one dog the owner called Lynx which was an unusual lynx-like color. It was really fun to meet this lively, very fit group of men and dogs.
A mile are so down from the lake we stopped in a marshy area with over 20 bald eagles perched in the trees around it. The small creek that runs through that marsh must be filled with fish!
Bre at Miles Canyon
June 24, 2007 Whitehorse
Breland and the Big Red Blind handled that steep climb up the dirt road with ease, not even needing four-wheel drive. We drove on through the Yukon Territory, stopping often at pullovers to look at the incredible scenery. This is such a vast land with towering mountains and wide green rivers. The rapids and waterfalls along the way roar in the stillness.
Our destination was Whitehorse, capitol of the Yukon Territory and its largest city, holding 31,000 of the total 36,000 population of the Yukon. Luckily there are four tire shops in this small town. One of our tires has no tread left at all. Breland checks the inflation daily and all of the others look fine. At least we have the problem in a populated area. Our cell phones haven’t worked for days and we would have a bit of trouble calling AAA.
Last night we walked around Whitehorse a bit and went to the Frantic Follies. The show was fun and the dancing girls terrific. The highlight of the night was the dramatization of “The Cremation of Sam Magee”.
June 23, 2007
This was a really fun stop. Our ride today was very short and we’re spending the night at Mukluk Annie’s Salmon Bake. It is quite an interesting place. If you eat at the café you can park free overnight, wash your RV for free, and even take a ride on the lake in a houseboat. The food is pretty inexpensive also.
The lake is surrounded by mountains and our site is beautiful. I am a bit concerned about tomorrow morning-we have to climb a dirt road along the side of the cliff with this RV. That should be exciting
There’s a gospel music tent set up near the restaurant and lots of little kids running around. This seems to be quite a family place. It’s been fun to see some of the others we’ve run into along the route here.
We visited the town of Teslin and the museum dedicated to George Johnson. He was a Tinglit who established the first store in the area, had a car brought in over the ice even though the town had no roads and taught himself to use cameras and develop photos. I recognized some of his incredible pictures from history books and encyclopedias. The museum is beautifully designed and a really fascinating place.