Friday, July 29, 2016
Again, bad Internet. Saw 5, yes 5 bears today, all black bears. 2 cubs with mom, then two other adults as we neared Stewart. Pictures later...another wonderful drive!
Thursday, July 28, 2016
For family and friends...we have made it about 200 miles south on the Cassiar Highway headed to Hyder Alaska. We are at the Mountain Shadow RV Park where their Internet is furnished via Satellite, and hence is very, very slow. Can't publish any pictures, but I have nearly finished a blog about today's fabulous travels which I can post once we get a better connection. Saw a mama Moose with a calf, and so far the Cassiar Highway has been nothing short of wonderful. Looking forward to posting pictures, and tomorrow's view along the way to Hyder is going to be even better. Love you all...
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
What? I thought you have been in Alaska now for 2 months…what do you mean “Finally Finished the Alaska Highway”? Well, back two months ago when we went to Skagway, we cut corners…going from Jakes Corner (where the “B” is on map) over to to Carcross and then on to Skagway. Upon our return, we went from Carcross up to Whitehorse. So technically, we missed about 40 miles of the Alaska Highway…but today, on our trip from Whitehorse to Watson Lake, we finished those 40 miles, as represented by the red travel line in the map.
Essentially we missed Marsh Lake, and a few scenic mountains. The road was in good condition…in fact, there was only a small area of construction which was not very bumpy. We decided to stay at Baby Nugget RV Park just west of Watson Lake, and we lucked out by getting the closest site nearest the office…which means we have access from our site to their Internet. Last time we were a couple of sites away, and my post did not include pictures due to the slowness of the connection. Today the connection is good, and we have had no problems with the Internet.
The rest of our journey to the RV Park was covering “old ground”, such as crossing the Teslin River near Johnsons Crossing (top above), and driving along Teslin Lake (left and right above)…the good thing is that the construction along the lake was finished, except that they were working on the bridge near the town of Teslin, so it was one lane, 10 mph when you did go over it. That only caused us a 5 minute delay.
There are a few things about this trip which have changed my perception about certain things…most likely I will cover these in a blog once the trip is done. For instance, as a kid I looked upon the Yukon in the eyes of “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon”…with the Yukon being a harsh, hard land with amazing mountainous beauty. Today it hit me just how lush and green the land is, how pure the waters are, and clean the air smells. Harsh? Yes, during the winter it is very harsh. Mountains? Yes, the mountains are wonderful. But what was missing in the old TV show of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon was the Yukon…it was filmed in Colorado! What a wonderful place the Yukon is…and yet we only saw a very small portion of the Yukon while traveling the Alaska Highway, along with the side trips to Skagway and to Haines. Even if we went up to Dawson City…that is still adding a small amount of the vast area that the Yukon covers. Like Alaska, where you only see a small portion of the state, even though you have traveled all the major highways and some of the minor highways…it is so large that you can spend a lifetime and still not see it all. Tomorrow we start along the Cassiar Highway, down into British Columbia, on our way to see some bears in Hyder.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
We got off around 8:20 this morning, 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Waved goodbye to Joyce, owner of Oceanside RV Park which we give full thumbs up to. Joyce “MAKES” the park, she set the tone, is a very hard worker, good socializer, and you can tell that she loves her RV Park.
Realizing that I had forgot to brush my teeth, take my high blood pressure pills, get the car information for the boarder crossing (yep, stopped again, but more on that later), we stop at the turn out for the eagle preserve and I take care of business. Off we go, and soon the Chilkat River crosses to our right, and its largest tributary, the Klehini River, is alongside the road to our left..we are now at the northern most part of the Eagle Sanctuary. The Klehini is the second largest gathering of eagles along an Alaska River in the winter months, and it is much more rocky than the Chilkat this time of year…it is truly a Glacier River. As we drive along I glance out onto the rocky riverbed…and I see a bear. I tell Marcia, who gets the camera ready, and I pull over. As I take the camera and get a shot (top picture) I say, “See them, there are two of them…” She replies, “No, there are three of them!” Sure enough, there are three bears…a mama and two cubs. The third cub is running a bit behind, and in the first picture you can see mama looking back…I have seen that look before, that cub is IN TROUBLE!
Finally it catches up, and they run off into the woods on the other side of the river. Well, this is going to be a very beary day! About 10 minutes later, we are at the border…and the bubble is burst again.
Above is a Google Maps picture of the Canadian Border. We pull up, right where the white truck is above. The kindest border guard comes out, she has a nice friendly smile, and gives me a friendly greeting, which I kindly return as I hand her our passports. She asks about liquor, money and guns, and says she will be right back…goes to the back and gets our license plate, and vanishes inside. After 5 minutes Marcia says, “I think she is calling the Canadian Mounted Police, and they are going to come and surround us!” After another 5 minutes I wonder if Marcia might be right. Before the next full five minutes go by, she comes out.
“Have you had troubles getting across the border before?”
“Yes,” I answer…”the first time was coming through in Idaho where they searched us. Skagway wasn’t too bad, but in Beaver Creek the guy said that someone has the exact same name, but different birth date than mine.
“Not only is it the same name, but the birth date is only different by the month…the day and year are the same," she said. "I am sorry, but you will face this each and every time you cross the border from now on. I hope you understand, but we are just doing our job…”
“I understand,” I said, “I did not know that the birth dates were that close…the guy in Beaver Creek just said it was a different birth date.”
“Well, I probably told you too much myself…but I felt you should know.”After that the three of us talked about how the guards live right there along the border in Government housing. She told us how she has been to Australia and to England…that she would like a family some day, but for now she is satisfied doing what she is doing, which allows travel each year. We must have talked for another 10 minutes after she brought back our passports…and we would have talked longer but another motorhome finally showed up behind us. For nearly 30 minutes we were the only vehicle crossing the border. And now we know why it is so hard for us to pass through into Canada each time come to a Canadian border.
For the most part the rest of the trip was just fine. Hit some heavy ground fog/clouds for a few miles, came across some wild Indians (actually it was a hostel), saw a few more Trumpeter Geese (no pictures though), and had a few more construction patches which were a piece of cake compared the real rough ones earlier on the trip…and we were in Whitehorse. Went to the Vet to get some food for Skruffy, went into Walmart to get more insulin and needles for Skruffy, and over to the Canadian Superstore to stock up on food for the next 7-10 days before we will be near a “real” grocery store again.
Tonight we are back at the Pioneer RV Park, where for $160 Canadian I filled up our fuel tank ($140 before discount for staying in the park), and full hookups at the park. We stayed here on our way to Alaska, and the lady who operates the park remembered me. Tomorrow we head towards Watson Lake, but turn south on highway 37, the Cassiar Highway towards Hyder. Most likely we will stay at the Baby Nugget RV Park like we did on the way…which had terrible Internet. Not sure how much Internet we will have going down the Cassiar Highway…it does not look good. If you don’t hear from us for a few days, that is why.
Monday, July 25, 2016
On Saturday I was looking at the Chilkoot Inlet, and I see this sparkle in the water…so I step out and off to the left was this Rainbow…a Rainbow which was under the clouds, running along the far shore of the inlet. Had a Cruise Ship been coming or going from Skagway, it would have gone right through it. This was a type of Rainbow that I had never seen before…very interesting.
Here is a shot of Fort William H. Seward, which lies on the western portion of Haines. The fort was established in 1898, and was the eleventh fort established during the gold rush. By 1904, 85 wood-frame buildings was constructed. However, by 1925, it was the only military installation in Alaska, and remained the only installation until 1940. By 1945, with the end of WW2, and with other nicer, more strategically placed installations having been built, Fort Seward was shut down. It is now an Art Colony, and has accommodations for housing tourist, a few restaurants, and is right next to where the cruise ships dock.
We drove through the old fort, which is not very ADA friendly, but it as very interesting looking at the 100 year old buildings, most of which were in good condition (although a few needed a fresh paint job.)
One of the things that Haines is known for is the eagles. Although we saw a lot of eagles over in Valdez, and some in Seward, Homer and even Skagway…Haines has the largest number of Eagles … but that is during the winter. They flock to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve just north of Haines.
When one drives to Haines, they pass right through the Preserve. In Autumn, when the Chum are running up the Chilkat River and cold weather and longer nights are at hand, flocks of Eagles descend upon the Preserve for the winter, eating up the Chum Salmon, and anything else that resides along the Chilkat River which does not freeze over.
This view is looking north to the Preserve. The river is very wide, but not real deep. Today it is still full of water, lots of water, running down into the Pacific.
Now we are not going to be anywhere near Alaska when the cold weather hits, when the snow falls…so I found this picture above which shows what it can look like along the river during the fall/winter. I saw some pictures where the eagles are so numerous you could not count them. Some years they have counted 3,500 eagles at the Preserve.
Around the 20 mile marker from Haines there is a pullout where there is a nice set of information boards, like the one above, pertaining to Eagles, the Preserve, and other animals found in the area. I like this one because it shows the life cycle of a Bald Eagle going from chick to the stately look that we are accustom to seeing and knowing as the Bald Eagle. It take five years from going from chick to having the full white head, and familiar look that we associate with the Bald Eagle …which, by the way, is not bald.
Our time here in Haines has drawn to a close…we plan to be on the road by 9 am with our first destination being Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory where we need to stock up on Skruffy food, go to Walmart for more insulin for her, and then to the Real Canadian Superstore to stock up on supplies to get us to the lower 48. After a few days, we will then head to Hyder, where we hope to see some bears feeding on Salmon in the Fish River.
Note to family: We will not have cell phone use for a number of days, perhaps more than a week. Not sure if we will have coverage in Hyder or not. We will have Internet use most nights.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
“Hey, see that guy over there with the camera…you go high, I’ll go low and we will bomb the heck out of him…”
Well, that did not happen, but with all the birds flying around these coastal cities, I am surprised I have not gotten hit so far. These two juvenile Bald Eagles were feeding, along with some older Bald Eagles and lots of Ravens, on some left over fish that someone left along the bank…heads, bones, tails.
Eagles and Ravens were just about all we saw the past two days…except for the black bear that looked just like Bubba. As we drove over to Chilkoot Lake, my dad called. Within a half of a minute, this young black bear comes out of nowhere, runs across the road in front of us about 30 yards away. We both thought that it was Bubba for a moment, the bear was just slightly larger than Bubba, and they both run nearly identically. Before we could even think of getting the camera out…it was gone.
The Oceanside RV Park has a little over 20 sites which all face the ocean, more specifically, the Chilkoot Inlet. You can see our car parked in front of our motorhome there on the left. The sites are close, but the view just can’t be beat…equal to that of Seward in my opinion.
Of course, it looks much better when the clouds are covering up the view!
There is room for one Cruise Ship at the docks in the Haines Harbor. This is to the right of where we are camping, and can be seen if you walk out to the edge of the property leading down to the water. The Cruise Ships that arrive here typically have about 400 people on them, so they don’t overwhelm the city at all.
Haines has many totem poles around the community. This one is on the Chilkoot River leading towards Chilkoot Lake, where we went yesterday (Thursday) for a short day trip. We took Skruffy, but left Bubba in the motorhome. This is also when we saw the young black bear that looked just like Bubba…we thought he had decided to follow us.
Along the river they have this fish gate. If you look closely, you can see that it slightly “V” shaped. All of the Salmon are forced into the “V”, and State Park staff count the salmon as they pass through the gate. At the moment it was lunch time…but we talked to a Park Ranger who told us about it, and said they were there all morning, and will be there all afternoon. I think they figure out a daily hourly rate, and then multiply that by 24 hours to get a day’s count. He said that nearly 300 had already passed through during the morning.
On the left is a look at the river as it flows down toward the inlet. On the right is a look at the river as it is flowing from Chilkoot Lake.
Chilkoot Lake is good size, fairly protected from the winds, and is a favorite with Kayakers.
Along the river on our way back we spotted this eagle sitting in a tree looking over the river. Soon the river will be loaded with Salmon, slowed by the fish counter, and many of the Salmon become fresh meat to the many eagles and the many Grizzly Bears that live in the area. The State Park Ranger told us that they have not seen any “Brown Bears”, as they call them up here, for a number of weeks…but soon they will descend upon the river, along with lots of tourist. It gets nasty…and his job is to help keep everyone under control and safe.
After our drive over to the lake, we dropped Skruffy off and we headed over to the Chilkat Restaurant & Bakery for a late lunch. I had a burger, and Marcia had a Reuben Sandwich…along with a Lemon Bar to take home. It was real good, homemade buns, and real friendly staff member who recently moved to Alaska with her parents from a small town in Missouri. This will be their first winter in Alaska…good luck with that.
Today we headed out to Chilkat State Park for another quick day trip. Skruffy really likes these trips…Bubba, well, he will sleep just about anywhere, and he sure won’t get up on our laps, he is not a lap dog.
This is the Chilkat Inlet, on the other side of the Chilkat Peninsula from the Chilkoot Inlet that we are parked along its shores. Both the Chilkat and the Chilkoot are two of the three Coastal Tlingit tribes that once controlled this land which is now around Haines Alaska. The third tribe is the Taku Tlingit tribe, which is over on the other side of Juneau…Juneau is about 90 miles from Haines via the Fast Ferry.
This is a view of the Chilkat Inlet looking towards the Chilkat River. The road to Haines runs along the Chilkat River, and the Eagle Sanctuary is along the river.
There is a small harbor for fishing boats, and that building across the water is the Haines Fish Packing plant, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, fish packing plant in Alaska. Makes us wish we had a larger freezer.
Just had a have a picture of this old boat, and especially this old truck camper. Wonder if my good brother-in-law Arny could fix this old camper up for us if we brought it back? It sure is a mess, but I have seen him turn a mess into a gem many times.
The road in Chilkat State Park ends here at Lehunua Island. The island, in the top picture above, is really not an isolated island, since the road connects to it…but before the road I guess the island would be isolated during high tides. The pictures below show the inlet to the left and to the right of the island.
Wish it was a clearer day because there is a nice waterfall coming off Rainbow Glacier just to the left of the island. But we won’t be going back there even if nice weather arrives before we leave…the actual road in the State Park is real bad…full of large holes, rough ridges, and it is no wonder that the nice campground was totally empty.
That pretty much covers our activity the past two days. It has been a nice, relaxing, and a bit colder few days…but it sure sounds better than the heatwave much of the lower 48 seem to be going through right now.