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NW10

Five couples traveling together through Alberta, Yukon, Alaska and British Columbia June-August, 2016. We call ourselves the Nolewamaay Adventure Tour. It may sound official but the name is actually made up of the first 2 letters of each couple's last name. Creative members of the group came up with the logo for shirts, hats and sweatshirts.

Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.





Jun 14, 2016

Banff

After crossing the continental divide we catch our first glimpse of the snow covered peaks surrounding the Bow Valley. As we round the bend, each turn produces another “wow”.

Banff is nestled next to the Bow River and is surrounded by mountains, with Tunnel Mountain sitting in the heart of it all. (There is no tunnel but the name stuck when the railroad thought about putting in a tunnel.) The town is a busy place with lots of tourists and locals mingling at outdoor markets, shops and restaurants. The sights around town are picture perfect and the elk walking among the rigs at our campground makes the whole experience something I would do again!!

Lake Louise met and exceeded our expectations! The water was green/turquoise, the hotel majestic on its shoreline and the view from the gondola breathtaking!!! Driving along the Bow Valley Parkway, we saw elk and a black bear. Whenever we see cars stopped by the side of the road we know to stop and look!! What a delight to watch the bear casually meander across the hillside, stopping to eat or bounce on a dead log!

Johnston Canyon along Bow Valley Parkway is one of the best hikes in this part of the Rockies and some of us got up early in order to beat the crowd. The altitude got to us but the scenery was well worth the effort. The water is turquoise from the glaciers and everywhere we look, we see its beauty.

There is so much beauty here in the Canadian Rockies, I just can’t put it all into words. It’s beautiful, majestic, awe-inspiring and well worth coming to see for yourselves.


Jun 18, 2016

Jasper, Alberta

Traveling up the Icefields Parkway (Rt. 93) towards Jasper was another spectacular day of sightseeing. Alpine lakes and rivers continued to display the beautiful turquoise color of glacial melting and the snow-covered peaks stood out in sharp contrast to the green meadows and forests. Baby mountain goats crossed the road in front of one coach, but fortunately we were all going slow up a steep incline and the babies made it safely to the other side of the road!!! We saw another black bear and were able to stop and take more pictures. He was VERY close so we stayed in our motorhomes although he acted like our presence was no big deal.

There were waterfalls and vistas along the Icefields Parkway that we could not capture while traveling by them in the motor home. So we ventured by car along the scenic byway back down to Athabasca Falls, where we listened to the roar of the water as it cascaded down to a pristine lake. Again, the water was beautiful and powerful and the scenery so beautiful.

Maligne Canyon was our next stop with more waterfalls, velvet moss growing on the rocks and pockets carved smooth into the rock face. On the same day, the Jasper Skytram took us up to 7,100+ ft. elevation where we could see the entire town of Jasper and all the mountain ranges making up this part of the Canadian Rockies. They just go on as far as the eye can see.

The last excursion was to Maligne Lake, one of the most photographed lakes in North America. More wildlife greeted us on our travels. We saw deer and black bears. The moose, wolves and caribou are still on our list to see, but no luck yet. The lake was beautiful but with rain threatening we didn’t get to see its full beauty. We’ll just have to come back.

Our next stop was going to be Prince George, BC but because of floods and a washed out bridge we will turn east tomorrow and head for Grande Cache and Grande Prairie, AB.


Jun 22, 2016

On the Road North

Under cloudy skies we headed east out of Jasper on Rt. 16, the Yellowhead Highway. We also left Jasper National Park and started traveling on regular highways with businesses and different signage along the way. Before long we came to a sign that said “Scenic Route to Alaska” and that made us realize that this adventure is really happening. We followed the sign onto Route 40 and instead of traveling in the Rockies, we were in the Eastern foothills of the Rockies. The area is beautiful in a different way, the scenery consisting of rolling hills instead of towering snow-covered peaks. There were signs of logging and mining along the way but still plenty of forest for the wildlife. We were able to spot deer but we’re still on the lookout for moose, caribou and wolves.

We stopped in Grande Cache for the night and enjoyed the Visitor’s Center. They had a great outdoor exhibit which explained what a grande cache is – a storage cabin on stilts to keep furs and trapping supplies dry and away from wildlife. They also gave us lots of reading material when we told them we were on our way to Alaska.

As our journey continued the next day, we had lots of sunshine, stops for construction, and fox, elk, bear and badger sightings. Grande Prairie was our next stop for shopping at Costco and Walmart and then the final push of the day to Dawson Creek. We crossed back into British Columbia just before Dawson Creek and returned to Pacific Daylight Time after being on Mountain Daylight Time for the past 11 days! The long daylight hours take some getting used to but we’re managing.







Jul 05, 2016

Dawson City

At Whitehorse, we left the Alaska Highway and traveled north to Dawson City along the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. Lots of beautiful scenery, scarce wildlife, and some really bad patches of road caused by frost heaves! All five motor homes survived but we had to be very careful opening cupboards and closets because of things shifting from the bouncing.

Dawson City’s population is 2,000+ and we were busy seeing all there is to see. There are lots of historical buildings from the Gold Rush era and the town has mandated that all construction continue that theme. You get a real sense of community here and a sense of welcome.

The Visitors Centre was our first stop and their walking tours around town were very informative. Both Jack London and Robert Service lived here, so their cabins were a must-see. Parcs Canada put on an excellent presentation at Robert Service’s cabin, telling his life story and reading some of his poetry/verse.

Our evening entertainment was dinner at the Jack London restaurant followed by a stop at “Diamond Tooth Gertie’s”. Gertie’s is a casino with a 1890’s era style show with singers and cancan girls. It was a great time with lots of laughs.

Midnight Dome is a spot above Dawson City, giving you a bird’s eye view of the rivers, town and surrounding landscape. We were there at 11 p.m. and the sun had not set! What a fascinating sensation. Saw two foxes and a small black bear on our drive to and from the dome so that was exciting.

Tomorrow we take the motor homes on the ferry across the Yukon River and continue our trip into Alaska – finally!!!! Be sure to come back and read all about our trip on the “top of the world” highway.


Jul 09, 2016

Top of the World Highway

Today we experienced a smooth, easy ferry ride, glorious vistas, a border crossing, and some really terrible roads.

All five motor homes crossed the mighty Yukon River at Dawson City via the free ferry. The line was non-existent so we all crossed in a short time. The first motor home went over by itself and then two motor homes and two cars went on each of the next rides. The ferry had to work hard to cut across the current with such heavy loads but they made it look easy. After hooking up the cars we were off! We climbed up the hills on the other side of Dawson City and wended our way on the “top of the world” highway, reaching 4500+ ft. in elevation just before the Alaskan border. The highway follows the crest of the mountains and although it was very desolate, the vistas around each corner were wonderful to see. If you have driven the Blue Ridge Parkway then you understand about being on the ridge, able to look down both sides.

The road on the Canadian side had some rough spots, lots of steep inclines, hairpin turns and places where we had to go very slow to miss potholes and dips. We survived that part of the highway and crossed the border into Alaska without a problem. For thirteen miles on the US side we had beautiful smooth roads and loved the drive. But then the pavement abruptly ended and we drove another 70+ miles on narrow, rutted roads doing about 15 mph. (If you have driven on a logging road you know what we drove on.) We didn’t meet much traffic coming the other way and we were all glad for that! We followed Fortymile River most of the way, sometimes looking down on it from a thousand feet! Our coaches were filthy and the cars were even worse but the dirt is proof that we made it!!!




Jul 14, 2016

Fairbanks

Fairbanks is as far north as we plan to go but you wouldn’t know it by the weather we experienced. It was in the 80’s and 90’s while we were here, but it didn’t slow us down – much. We sailed the Chena River on the sternwheeler, Discovery. They stopped along the way where we saw a dogsled demonstration (the puppies were so cute), visited a replica of an Athabascan village and watched a seaplane take off and land on the river in front of our boat.

The Visitor Center was a wonderful wealth of knowledge about the area and had wonderful displays of the history of Fairbanks. The museum at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks was very well done, with different displays and topics intermingled.

Another day consisted of visiting Dredge #8 (we saw Dredge #4 in Dawson City) where we learned more about the gold rush and how the dredge was operated. Then we panned for gold! What an exciting moment when you see the first little flakes in the pan.

To round out the day, we visited Pioneer Village which had several old buildings and museums to help us experience more history of the area. All in all, Fairbanks is a great place to visit. Of course the University of Alaska does major research on the aurora borealis and that would be a great thing to come see, but unfortunately, the lights are only visible in the winter when it’s awfully cold!!

We’re off to Denali National Park for the next six days. Probably won’t have cell/internet service for awhile, but as soon as we do, I’ll be back writing more about this grand adventure!!


Jul 19, 2016

Denali National Park

Traveling south from Fairbanks the weather turned gray and overcast and continued with rain, rain and more rain for our time at Denali National Park. Even so, we had four wonderful days exploring all the Park had to offer. We dry camped inside the national park at Savage River Campground without cell or internet service (really roughing it!!) and out among the trees and wildlife. Unfortunately, because of the rain, we really didn’t have an opportunity to see the mountain.

The highlight of the four days was our bus trip to the end of the park road, called the Kantishna Experience. Through the rain and fog, we were still able to see moose, bears, caribou, ptarmigan, grouse and ground squirrels. We even saw a glacier with grass growing on it. No sighting of mighty Denali but it was a good day and the driver was knowledgeable and we did make it all the way to the end of the road! The brown grizzly bear walking down the road right next to our bus was absolutely fantastic and the best part of the drive.

We also saw a dog sled demonstration, got to pet the dogs, and learned all about their use in the park. The park rangers use dog sleds to patrol the park, take supplies to outlying posts and to check for poachers. Since motorized equipment, such as snowmobiles are not allowed within the park boundaries, the dogs play a vital role in protecting the area during the winter months.

We still hope to see Denali but we’re having a great trip and looking forward to more adventures. Hope you’ll continue to follow us on this amazing trip.




Aug 03, 2016

Kenai

Even though our drive to the city of Kenai was backtracking up the west coast of the Kenai Peninsula, the weather had improved so we were able to view more of the mountains and seascape that we missed on our way south to Homer. Our campground in Kenai was located on the cliffs overlooking the Kenai River where it fed into the Cook Inlet and the Pacific Ocean. The “dipnetting” fishing season had just ended the day before we arrived and campers were still cleaning salmon and their gear from a successful catch. Salmon could be seen jumping out of the water as they made their way upstream to spawn. Again we watched for beluga whales but with all the fishing activity, they were not to be seen.

Homer is the farthest away from home, mileage-wise and Kenai is as far west as Hawaii, so we have gone to great distances on this trip. We have traveled over 3,200 miles so far and still have another month to go!

The highlight of the Kenai visit was meeting up with friends Larry and Gail from our RV club. They live here in Sodatna, Alaska in the summer and were able to spend time with us before returning south to Seattle. They will be heading east before we return to the lower 48 so it may be a while before we see them again.

The morning we left Kenai, there was a bald eagle near our campground. He was so majestic and regal just sitting in a tree, surveying his domain. Mt. Redoubt was in the background in all its splendor so it made for a perfect morning sendoff. Next stop Seward!


Aug 04, 2016

Seward

Seward was a fun stop in our traveling adventure. The sun was shining and there was word that the Northern Lights had been visible the night before we arrived. Unfortunately the clouds moved in that very afternoon and so there was no light display in the sky for the three nights we were there. But at least it is starting to get darker in the evening and there may still be a possibility to see the Aurora Borealis in all its splendid glory.

The highlight of the Seward stop was a seven hour boat tour to the Kenai Fjords National Park to view the tidewater glaciers of the Aialik Bay. Chilled air moving off the glaciers and the sharp popping noises as the ice cracked and eventually broke loose, thrilled our senses and amazed us with its size and power.

Along the way to the glaciers we were entertained with sightings of eagles, seals, goats, orcas, puffins and even a humpback whale. Although the skies were grey with rain and the seas rough, it was still a great day sightseeing in a very unique National Park.

The following day, we drove a little distance from our campground to Exit Glacier; the only glacier in the National Park that is accessible by road. At the end of the road, a short but somewhat strenuous hike brought us right to the edge of the ice. Exit Glacier was different from the other glaciers we had seen in that it did not meet with the sea, was smaller and much quieter. There were no large chunks of ice calving off into the water! One interesting aspect of visiting this site however, were the markers placed
along the trail indicating how far the glacier has receded over the last hundred years. It was truly remarkable.




Aug 12, 2016

On the Road to Skagway

From Tok, Alaska we traveled into the Yukon Territory, Canada with a lot of construction along the way. The road was very rough, many road work stops and frost heaves that caused us to drive very slow at times. When we completed the drive, our rigs were completely covered in dirt, dust and mud. Fortunately some of the RV parks have special locations for washing your car and RV. We had not bothered doing that too much on this trip, but after that stretch of road, they really needed it.

Our stop took us to Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake in the Yukon Territory. We pulled into Cottonwood RV Park and settled in for the night. We had a lake front site so everyone joined us for happy hour. It was a little too cool to sit out for long, but it was a nice way to relax after that terrible road. One couple decided to run their generator since the park only provided 15 amp service but the manager came and told them to turn it off. It was before quiet hours and we were told we could run our generators, but he was not happy. When we tried to get clarification about the rules he told us we could leave. We obeyed his wishes, turned in for the night and left very early the next morning. I would not recommend that park to anyone.

The next day was an easier traveling day and we made it into Carcross with no problems. We’re noticing more and more fall colors on the trees and bushes and we’re wondering if we’ll get home before the snow flies!!!! The RV park at Carcross let us wash our rigs and cars so that is how we spent some of the afternoon. We walked around town and had a good time exploring the shops and visitor center.


Aug 15, 2016

Skagway

Today, we traveled a short distance from Carcross, Yukon Territory through British Columbia to Skagway, Alaska on the coast of the Chilkoot Inlet. The border crossing at this point included a very steep 11% downgrade into the city. Our group had some reservations about this route but all our concerns were unnecessary since the road was stepped into smaller sections and we traversed the course without any problems.

The coastline in this region of Alaska is very mountainous, with many fjords and great harbors. Skagway caters to all the cruise ships that come in to their harbor, so there are shops galore!!! We did some exploring and shopping but figured we would wait and do more later. Sunday the town was dead and half the shops were closed because there were no ships in port. Everyone told us to wait – there would be five ships in port by Tuesday!!!

Monday we took the catamaran sightseeing boat to Juneau for the day (Juneau can only be accessed by boat or airplane). We had a smooth sail and were able to see eagles, harbor seals and many waterfalls from the glacier melt. In Juneau, we walked around downtown, had lunch at The Hanger on the Wharf restaurant (best fish & chips), stopped by the Red Dog Saloon and shopped!!! From downtown we went out to the Mendenhall Glacier, just a 20 minute drive out from town. How would you like to say you have a glacier in your backyard? It was beautiful and massive. There were bears nearby but too many people prevented us from seeing them.

From the glacier we boarded our boat for the return trip to Skagway, but first we headed south because the captain had heard there were whales sighted in the area. When we got to the location, we watched humpback whales performing a ritual called “bubble-netting”. There 12-15 male whales gathered together to herd a school of herring by swimming around the outside of the school while blowing bubbles. This confuses and frightens the fish into forming a very tight ball. When ready, the dominant whale will signal the others to swim at the same time through the ball of herring to the surface. They swim with their mouths open ingesting the herring as they pass through the ball. We got to see them do it three times. The captain put a hydrophone in the water so we were able to hear them and the seagulls on top would fly off right before the whales came up to feed (they didn’t want to be part of the meal). It was absolutely the most fantastic thing we’ve seen.

Tuesday, the town was packed with tourists from five cruise ships so we took the White Pass & Yukon Route train to the top of the pass. It was quite a climb but the scenery was beautiful and the narration was excellent. At the top everyone switched seats so that those who saw the east side going up got to see the west side going down. The scenery was spectacular but again we’re noticing signs of autumn and it made us think of heading south before too long.


Aug 22, 2016

Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK

Upon leaving Skagway, we back-tracked up the 11% grade mountain into Yukon, Canada as far as Carcross, where we caught Route 8 heading northeast to the Alaska Highway. The first night we stayed in the city of Teslin with a nice view of Teslin Lake all around us. Still hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, some of us stayed up quite late, but unfortunately no lights were to be seen.

The next day we traveled to the junction of the Alaska Highway and Cassiar Highway (Route 37) and spent the night. We had encountered more construction and delays and were glad for the rest at the end of the drive.

The third day we turned south on Rt. 37 for our last “touristy” stop – Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK. There was more construction and dusty roads on the way so we washed the car – again – so we could see out the windows. Stewart and Hyder are right next to each other and crossing into Alaska there were no customs agents. Going back into Canada we had to show our passports and answer questions. We just went to see the bears. After doing this for three days they got to know us and kept asking if we saw bears. It was a fun experience.

Hyder, Alaska is where the National Park has a walkway over Fish Creek so you can watch the bears feed on the salmon swimming up river to spawn. We went the first day but didn’t see anything. We were disappointed but decided to get up early and be there at 6 a.m. when the walkway opened. The rangers said they always spotted bears early in the morning. So we went – nothing. Went back at noon and saw nothing. Went back at dusk and still saw nothing!! It was very discouraging. Two couples in our group did see bears on the road leaving the walkway area so we were hopeful.

The next day we took it easy and drove up to Salmon Glacier. This glacier really showed the markings of a river of ice and gave us another opportunity to experience the massive amount of ice in a glacier. The fog kept drifting by so one moment you were looking at the glacier and the next, it was totally gone! It was a very eerie feeling.

On our last night we decided to give the walkway one more look at dusk. Nothing there, but other RVers we had talked to the night before were there, so we shared stories and waited for the bears. We finally gave up and on our way back to the RV, we saw a baby bear disappear down the hill. We decided to turn around and sure enough we got a good look at a black bear and her two cubs. They were so cute but I was glad we had the car for protection.

After that successful sighting we decided to try the dump. We were told some bears hang out there so off we went. Sure enough, there were four bears scavenging in the dump. The large female had two cubs and she chased off a smaller male bear. Seven bears in one evening. That was very special.

Tomorrow we say good-bye to Alaska and head east for Prince George where we turn south for home.