Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alaska camping

Wet, cold & exhausted! We had a great camping trip in Denali National Park. Although the warning signs should really be about the Mosquitos instead of the bears. It rained most of the time and we discovered that our 2 person tent is not waterproof. Nothing like sleeping in your sleeping bag rolled up in your rain poncho. Off to REI in anchorage for a new tent before McNeil.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

On the road again

We leave Fairbanks tomorrow morning for the 2 hour drive to Denali (McKinley) National Park. We will be RV camping for 3 days then 2 nights tent camping. Keep your fingers crossed that the bears don't come visit us in the tent and the weather is good enough for us to see the mountain. We'll be out of touch (most likely) until we reach Anchorage.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

June 27 to July 7, 2010 - Whitehorse & Dawson City - Yukon Territory - Canada

June 27, 2010 to July 4, 2010 – Alaska Highway – Teslin to Whitehorse, YT (Canada)
We spent the week in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory in Canada.  It is the last town of any size that we will be in until we reach Fairbanks, Alaska in a couple of days so we’ll take advantage of it for some restocking.  We enjoyed visiting several of the town’s historical sites and learning more about the history of its Klondike gold rush days. 

We backtracked a bit to drive a portion of the southern Klondike Highway to view Robinson RoadHouse and Emerald Lake. 
Robinson Roadhouse on the railroad tracks - an old stop while the train was running and mining was good.

Guess this is what happens when the tracks are not maintained.  Tracks at Robinson Roadhouse site.

Easy to see where Emerald Lake gets its name - Gorgeous
We visited the transportation museum with its DC 3 weather vane and the Beringia Center to learn more about the ice age. 
Believe it or not, it actually does turn with the wind...  What a weather vane...

 We visited our first river boat (paddle wheeler) the SS (Steam-Ship) Klondike and were amazed at the size and the amount of heavy cargo that it could carry during the mining days. 
The bow of the SS Klondike

The paddle wheel of the SS Klondike

Here we are on our tour of it - Gorgeously restored (better than the other 2 remaining in Dawson City & Fairbanks)
The wheel house of the SS Klondike

We found the eagles nest right along the river and were rewarded with seeing the two baby eagles in the nest. 
Here Mom or Dad stretches out - We watched as he or she was dive bombed repeatedly by Gulls who were obviously upset over something the eagle took.

Aren't I a cute baby eagle???

Another nest of 3 that Matt found near the marsh just outside of town.

We also visited the Gold Dredge and saw first-hand what mining can do to the area’s landscape.  Can you say raped and pillaged?  We noticed the landscape all around was full of small rocky piles and after visiting the dredge, we figured out why. 
Here Matt stands next to the dredge buckets that would have been lined up on a chain to dig out the land.

Gold Dredge #8

The tailings left everywhere by the dredges.

 We also hiked from Miles Canyon on the Yukon River down to the lake and back. 
The suspension bridge over the Yukon River at Miles Canyon
The McBride Museum was a great stop to see wildlife examples and more gold rush history.  From here we will leave the Alaska highway and continue on to Dawson City Yukon via the Klondike Highway and then into Alaska on the Top of the World Highway. 
July 4, 2010 to July 6, 2010 – Dawson City, Yukon (Canada)
Dawson City was a very interesting town with its dirt streets and interesting building structures to accommodate the permafrost that they built the town on.  We saw firsthand what happens to the buildings if they don’t build them elevated and eventually they start to melt the ground and end up leaning into each other. 
The "Kissing" buildings as the locals call them - What happens when your ground starts to melt out from under your house.

We did a great walking tour of town and visited an old bank, salon and post office that were wonderfully preserved.  We did have to wonder how much Parks Canada had spent trying to re-furbish so many of the old buildings (they did a fantastic job).   We also visited the SS Keno which is a paddle wheel that operated on one of the smaller rivers.
Pictured here are two of the townspeople dressed in period clothing for our tour of the SS Keno.  Much smaller than the SS Klondike.

We walked out to the Riverboat graveyard where they parked several (maybe 4) old paddle-wheelers to let them decay since they are no longer used.  Its amazing how they were just left to rot with boilers, smokestack and paddle wheels still intact. 
You can see the boiler and the smoke stack of this one closest to the rivers edge.

View of same ship from the rear.

Boat name of one other boat.

Its amazing that part of the exterior wall is visible next to the smokestack.

We visited the Dawson City Museum with its great history of the gold rush days again.  Its hard to believe that this town of 1500 was once over 30,000 in 1898.  To leave Dawson City, we have to cross the Yukon River on a small car ferry so I went on the ferry ahead of Matt to capture him and the trailer coming across.  We had originally planned on staying 3 days, but we learned that a big RV caravan was planning on leaving the same day as us so we decided to not get caught up in the ferry line and leave the evening before to start our drive on the Top of the World highway.  We have been warned that the Top of the World Highway is 108 miles of very bumpy dirt road and to expect to travel only at 20 mph along it.
Are we gonna fit?  It looks a little big to be on that thing....

Yep, we fit - Thank goodness it was only us and one other truck for this trip.

Whew...   Dry Land....   made it across without sinking...  and without driving it off the ferry into the water.

July 6, 2010 to July 7, 2010 – Top of the World Highway (Yukon 68 miles and Alaska 40 miles) to Alaska Highway into Fairbanks, Alaska
We crossed into Alaska at the very most northern border crossing at Poker Creek.  It was an easy border crossing and we guessed that it’s a dream job for the border patrol up there (not much traffic).  After crossing into Alaska, we stopped at a BLM campground for the night (after more than 6 hours of bumping along the dirt road).  We had originally planned on stopping at either Tok or Delta Junction along the Taylor Highway, but decided to go ahead and drive the extra 3 hours into Fairbanks (via the Alaska Highway) to settle down for a bit.  We arrived into Fairbanks, got our reservations changed at River’s Edge RV park (a very nice park) and settled into civilization for the week plus.

Alaska at last...  Just across the border on Top of World Highway
 Just as a side note, we are glad that we traveled this road last week as on Monday, portions of it washed out in a heavy rainstorm stranding quite a few RV's and their owners.  As of today, they are still stuck on the road and can't get off until it is rebuilt.  Click HERE for a link to the news-story about the closure.

This is a very smooth section of the road...  It got much worse...  At times, 10mph was too fast...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Alaska Highway - June 22 to 26

Tuesday – June 22, 2010 – Dawson Creek, BC (Canada)

We took advantage of our last full day in Dawson Creek to learn a little more about the next 1,400 miles that we will be driving, The Alaska Highway.  We started off with photos of the Mile Post 0 to mark the start of the highway and also the Alaska Highway sign at the visitor’s center.  We also toured the Alaska Highway House which was a great small museum dedicated to the building of the 1,400 mile Alaska Highway in less than 9 months during WWII.  We watched the film documentary regarding the building of the highway by the US army and soon got a little worried over our route as they described how the road would be built around obstacles and that 90 degree turns and incredibly steep hills (up to 24% grade)  were more the norm than the exception.  We then learned that private contractors came in after the army to “fix” and smooth out the trail that the army had blazed through wilderness and make it into a road, so maybe it won’t be too bad????  We’ll keep our fingers crossed.  We also visited the art gallery next to the visitor’s center for more WWII era photos of the road construction.  I would not have wanted to be a surveyor on that army regiment as sometimes the bulldozers knocking down the trees were only 10 miles behind, talk about pressure!!!  In the afternoon we visited the Pioneer Village right next to our RV park and enjoyed touring the history of the area through its old homes and schools.  No wildlife sightings for today as we were in the town all day.

Wednesday – June 23, 2010 – Alaska Highway – Dawson Creek, BC to Liard Hot Springs (Canada)

Our official start to the Alaska Highway – today’s journey has us starting at milepost 0 (Dawson Creek) and ending at milepost 477 (Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park) for 477 miles of driving.  We thought it could take us about 9 to 10 hours but it ended up being over 12 due to road conditions.  We were not impressed with the town of Fort Nelson (the normal stopping point for this day’s drive) so we continued on to Liard Hot Springs.  The road was in good shape with shoulders until we left Fort Nelson and then it got really windy and narrow.  We arrived pretty exhausted around 7:30pm in the beautiful provincial park campground for the hot springs and proceeded to back in the RV and not do much else for the evening.  Today was a great day for viewing wildlife as we managed to spot our first Canadian Moose along with a fox, black bear, herd of buffalo and stone sheep.  Overall a good day and glad we got the miles in as the scenery after Fort Nelson was beautiful but the road conditions and road construction (lots of fresh gravel) left a bit to be desired.  We think the section of road between Fort Nelson and the hot springs must have been the original road with little to no improvements made as it was full of steep climbs, steep descents, bumpy & curvy.

Thursday – June 24, 2010 - Alaska Highway – Liard Hot Springs, BC (Canada)

Ahhhhh…  that about says it all….  We had a great relaxing day at the RV with not one but TWO soaks in the beautiful hot springs.  The hot springs are a must see and soak.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in a hot springs that hot before and we had to frequently move out of the cool end of the Alpha pool and go into the kiddy pool to cool off.  We could never get more than half way up the Alpha pool to the source of the hot springs as the water was so hot (up to 128 degrees).  It was a beautiful setting with natural surroundings (no concrete pool) of dirt and rock.  We did manage to get out and do a short drive back towards Muncho Lake but the rain came in and we decided that our second soak in the hot springs sounded better than driving in the rain.  We did see the same herd of buffalo again and as we were leaving the hot springs in the evening, a moose was near the boardwalk as we walked back over to our campsite.

Friday – June 25, 2010 – Alaska Highway – Liard Hot Springs to Watson Lake, Yukon (Canada)

What a way to start the day, our last soak in the hot springs.  It was in the mid 50’s and raining so we were able to stay in the water longer and it was wonderful!!!  Today was a much shorter drive (we learned our lesson on Wed).  We started out at milepost 477 and drove to Watson Lake at milepost 612 for only 135 miles of driving (3 hours).  Today we will be crossing out of British Columbia and into the Yukon.  It was a beautiful drive with lots of trees.  We are amazed at how the road was built in such a short period of time after having traveled on it for a couple of days.  I don’t know how the surveyors saw anything (that is how thick and continuous the trees are).  Once we arrived in Watson Lake, we enjoyed touring the Signpost forest, the Northern Lights Center, the visitor’s center, the Alaska Highway Interpretive Center and finally the airport with its great collection of 1940’s photos showing the importance of the small airstrips all along the highway in the war effort.  We found a great camping spot at Campground Services for less than $10 CAD.  Much better than the recommended RV park in town that was basically a gravel parking lot.  Today’s wildlife sightings include large herds of buffalo (and one huge lone buffalo), black bear and a bald eagle.

Saturday – June 26, 2010 – Alaska Highway – Watson Lake to Teslin, Yukon (Canada)

Boy are we missing the hot springs…  Just a $2 – 5 minute shower to wake us up today.  Our route today takes us from milepost 612 to milepost 769 for a total of 157 miles in around 3 hours.  It was a beautiful drive again today past so many picture perfect small lakes and ponds, or as we have nicknamed them, “Mooseville”.  Too bad, the moose don’t know they are perfect for them (no moose sightings today).  We arrived at our chosen campground, Dawson Peaks Resort, to be given the best spot with a great view of Lake Teslin.  After setting up and having lunch at the RV, we set off for the small village of Teslin which is about 6 miles from us.  It has a very large native peoples population and in such, has a couple of great sites on their history.  The George Johnston museum was absolutely wonderful.  Mr. Johnston was quite a character in this town as he bought a 1927 automobile and had it transported to Teslin which had NO roads.  He was quite inventive so he decided that the 78 mile lake that froze in the winter was a great road.  We also visited the Tlingit Heritage Center which was ok and then a quick visit to the Wildlife Display at the Yukon Motel.  Given the town’s population of under 500, I think we saw everything there is to see!  Just as a footnote, the truck that we bought new at the end of last year now has 17, 253 miles on it.