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Ready for a 3 month motorhome trip? Follow us as we head North to Alaska, via Oregon, Washington, BC & Yukon...then south thru Alberta, Montana & who knows where back to California
Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.
A quick stop just before getting into Stewart at Bear Glacier, right along the highway. We hear the Salmon Glacier just outside Hyder is bigger and more spectacular, but as it was 'fogged in' the day we tried to visit, we had to settle for this one - still very pretty.
When doing a road trip to Alaska & the Yukon, it's inevitable that you have to go both east & west (or north & south) on some of the same highways...as there aren't that many roads to choose from. I guess some of that is also true in British Columbia, but this stretch is all new, as we are returning via the Cassiar Highway. Really pretty country, although it's gotten quite cold in addition to rainy, and we've seen fresh snow on the mountain peaks as we drive thru. We overnighted at a small park in Iskut called Mountain Shadow.....right on a lake. No cell service, no TV, but one heck of a view. We had a caravan dinner involving stone soup (where everyone contributed a can of some kind of vegetables) and an ice cream social. Lots of fun, but pouring down rain as we huddled from one awning to the next to try to stay dry :)
I'd never heard of the show "Jade Fever" - I think its only on in Canada...but it's a reality show about the Bunce family and their jade mining operation in the Cassiar Mountains of Northern BC. Most of the world's jade comes from this region...and their store is fun to walk thru....we even left with a little something that didn't break the bank!
Soldier Carl Lindley posted the sign that started it all....and this time thru I found out that the original is no longer there....or any signs from the 1940's at all. The oldest signs in the forest these days date to the 1950's. BUT...they do have a replica of the original sign in the Visitor's Center - which has a great movie & display area too. So don't just wander thru the 'forest' - take some time inside as well.
It's been over a month since we stopped at the Sign Post Forest the first time on our way to Alaska. So when we came back thru we had to check out the signs we put up in July. We picked a bridge that was just starting to get signs attached. What a difference a month makes - the bridge is filling up fast!
We were a little disappointed to get back to Whitehorse & find their wonderful aquatic center closed for two weeks for annual maintenance. But we managed to get in another bike ride around the Millennium Trail Loop and also thru downtown along the Yukon River. Also toured the Beringia Center and Transportation Museums - both places worth a visit for sure.
The leaves on the trees are turning, the fireweed flowers are gone & now the plants themselves are turning red......days are getting shorter & colder. But still a beautiful drive on our way back to Whitehorse today.
The Haines Highway is a great drive - the road is decent and the route was designated as a national scenic highway in 2009. We missed seeing parts of it on the way down as we were fighting rain, clouds & fog....but on the way back north we were treated to a spectacular day with blue skies. Still very cold and windy at the top, but with the leaves starting to change colors for fall the scenery was spectacular.
Just like Valdez, there's only one highway in & out of Haines.....but driving it twice is no hardship. Simply gorgeous scenery both times. Just north of town there's a bald eagle preserve where over 300 eagles live year round, and thousands descend in November for last run salmon on the river. Didn't get any great eagle pictures, although we saw a ton of them. Bald eagles weigh between 9-12 pounds and have a wing span of up to 7 feet. They can fly up to 30 mph and with great eyesight they can spot a fish up to a mile away. When they dive through the air going after prey, they can reach up to 100 mph. Luckily they weren't interested in us!!
A peaceful spot to fish in Haines......although just down the road bear were feeding at a salmon weir in the river.
Nice visitor center and view at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.
Great views and fun at Juneau harbor watching the float planes land & take off.
Juneau is the only Alaskan town I'd ever visited before...and that was 31 years ago on a cruise with my mom. The ONE place I remember visiting back then was The Red Dog Saloon....go figure! I think it's a little more touristy this time than last, with all the logo 'gear' available, but still a fun place with sawdust all over the floor and dollar bills behind the bar.
We boarded a ferry in Haines for a trip thru the Lynn Canal to Juneau, and saw whales, seals, porpoises & lots of birds along the way. The Eldred Rock Lighthouse in the canal was the last of 10 lighthouses constructed in Alaska between 1902 and 1906.
Admittedly, this has got to be one of the oddest museums I've ever been to, but it was fun and worth buying a 'package' ticket to visit all 3 museums in town - this one, the Sheldon Museum & Cultural Center, and The American Bald Eagle Foundation & Natural History Museum. If you've got a question about hammers, you'll probably find your answer here!
This place is considered one of the most scenic golf courses in the world, with views of glaciers, beautiful mountains with waterfalls, and bald eagles hanging out along the river. Unfortunately we played in the dreary fog & drizzle, so we didn't see a whole lot other than the eagles, some who flew right over our heads on Hole #6. But still a fun day with our caravan friends Tom & Sue Ward and Dan Hanka. We had NO problem playing a fivesome as we had the place to ourselves.
We got to Skagway via a ferry from Haines for a day trip, although you can also drive. Most people get there by cruise ship. Either way, once you are there you'll enjoy a gold rush era town & a chance to ride the White Pass Yukon Route Railway....an engineering marvel that was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush. It climbs nearly 3000 feet in just 20 miles, with steep grades of up to 3.9%, and cliffhanging turns of 16%. Fun way to spend the afternoon
We took a ferry from Haines to Skagway...and happened to hit a day when 4 big cruise ships were also in town - so everywhere was crowded. But we headed straight for Skagway Brewing Company and had a nice lunch...and a brewski...before they got too crowded. I highly recommend their Spruce Tip Ale....whose slogan is "Keeping scurvy at bay for centuries!"
We headed south to Haines, one of the few towns in SE Alaska that you can actually drive to. If you looked at a map, you would think this area should be part of British Columbia, but a deal between Russia & Great Britain in 1827 kept this area under Russian Control (protecting their fur trading interests)...so it was sold to the US along with the rest of Alaska in 1867 for the bargain price of $7 million (roughly 2 cents per acre).
As we were pulling out of our campground in Destruction Bay, YT heading towards Haines, AK....this grizzly bear was just walking along the side of the road. We slowed down and followed him (her?) for quite awhile.....absolutely made our day!!
Worth the time to stop at the Kluane Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing. Great wildlife exhibits with the animals staged in dioramas depicting natural habitat. And of course we had to get a picture of the purported "World's Largest Gold Pan" out front!
This little Catholic church was built in 1961 from a salvaged Quonset hut left over from the road construction days. We didn't stop to go inside, but it caught my eye driving by.
The little town of Delta Junction marks the "official" end of the Alaska Highway - so as of today we have driven EVERY MILE. And our motorhome & car are still carrying dirty dusty pieces of it with us....
Apparently I am NOT the only one that has seen a stump moose before. The Knotty Shop (a nice gift store just south of Fairbanks) actually has one out front! I made Gary pull over 3 years ago in the Canadian Rockies for this amazing creature (which caused several vehicles behind us all to stop as well....& probably all wonder what the heck we were looking at).
Fun Afternoon aboard a Sternwheeler - you get to see a bush plane taking off & landing, visit with Susan Butcher's family sled dog team and spend time at a recreated Athabascan native village. I might call this a "Disney" adventure, but I don't mean that in a bad way....it's just all so efficiently organized & run. Very impressive. Pouring down rain? no problem - the crew smiles and gives everyone rain ponchos & seat pads when we got off the boat to tour the village.
Touristy? No doubt....but lots of fun anyway. There's a Santa Claus House with Santa & his reindeer, and the spirit of Christmas lives year round here in this little town outside Fairbanks that was incorporated in 1953; Population - 1 Santa, 2000+ elves and 9 reindeer.
Okay - I admit I like old cars (maybe not quite as much as my husband)...but still I do enjoy going to car shows and car museums. But this was without a doubt the BEST car museum I've ever been to. Not only are all the cars rare & beautiful, but they've also been displayed beautifully, and vintage women & children's clothing accompanies many of them - all with explanations of the significance of all the pieces. This one is a Toledo 1903 touring car. Really worth the trip if you are near Fairbanks.
Want some facts? This pipeline is 800 miles long, going from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, the northernmost ice free port in Alaska. It crosses 3 mountain ranges & more than 500 rivers and streams. The diameter is 48 inches, some of it is elevated above ground, some is buried. In permafrost areas where heat from the oil might cause the ground to thaw it's also insulated as well as elevated. Construction began in 1975 & was completed in 1977 - the cost to build was over $8 billion and it was the largest privately funded construction project in the world at that time. The Valdez Marine Terminal has 14 active above ground crude oil storage tanks. An average of 3-5 oil tankers depart from the terminal each week. Since the first tanker left in 1977 (the ARCO Juneau) more than 15,000 tankers have been filled. Pretty amazing stuff!
So the "official" end of the Alaska Highway is considered Delta Junction...but the full 1523 miles went from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks....and this marker in downtown symbolizes that still amazing this day accomplishment! (The reason the official end is Delta Junction is because there was already a road from Delta Junction to Fairbanks...so the 'new' Al-Can highway just connected to the existing Richardson Highway to make the complete 1523 miles.)
Dinner at the Great Alaska Salmon Bake in Pioneer Park (yes they had prime rib for us non-fish eaters). Then on to the Palace Theater for The Golden Heart Revue - a glimpse back in time to the people who settled Fairbanks. Again, a very talented group of singers and musicians made this a fun evening!
Nenana is a really small town, but does have some history as this is where President Warren Harding came in 1923 to drive the 'golden spike' in a ceremony to complete the railroad line in Alaska. These days, their claim to fame is the annual "Ice Pool" - their version of the lottery. For a $2.50 ticket, residents and visitors alike can bet on the exact date and time of the Ice Breakup on the Tanana River in town, signifying their official 'start of spring'. Last year, 44 lucky ticketholders shared a $300,000 jackpot. Who knows - maybe we'll get lucky in 2017! And besides that, their visitors center had an awesome display of flowers!
Fun with Moose Antlers....at one of the rest areas on the bus trip they had a great display of moose & caribou antlers for visitors to enjoy!
We live around black bear (which can be black, or brown or cinnamon), but we'd never seen a grizzly bear in the wild before...so it was a thrill to finally see one at Denali. Supposedly their brown (aka grizzly) bears don't get as big as the bears in other areas because they live mainly on roots & berries and not fish - but it was still quite an impressive sight! Just hard to get a good picture!
I am borrowing my friend Cathy Sergeant-Till's picture, because she was lucky enough to get a more "up-close" one the week before we were here! Our closest view was about 75 miles, and our best weather view was at about 200 miles the day we were leaving & heading for Fairbanks. Both were very nice & we feel blessed to have seen the mountain at all...but this one is really spectacular, so I hope she won't mind my sharing it here!
Spent a nice afternoon at Jeff King's Husky Homestead. Jeff is a 4-time Iditerod champion, still racing & hoping to make it to 5 times! The minute you get off the bus they hand you puppies - part of their training & socialization so they will be comfortable around different people and sounds as they grow up & start training to be sled dogs.
This national park is MASSIVE - 6.2 million acres, with over 2 million of those designated wilderness......larger than the state of New Hampshire! This is also the only national park set up specifically for the protection of wildlife (in particular the Dall Sheep). There is only one road in & that only goes 93 miles. You can drive the first 15 on your own, the rest you have to take a shuttle bus to. The 'big 5' animals in the park these days are those Dall Sheep, along with Moose, Caribou, Brown (Grizzly) Bears, and Wolfs. We managed to see everything but the wolfs. And we saw the mountain! Supposedly only 30% of visitors do, so we consider ourselves fortunate!
Great dinner and show at Cabin Nite Dinner Theatre in Denali Village, outside the park. Very talented singers tell the story of Fannie Quigley & her friends, all real people who came to this area in the early 1900's
Nothing against Anchorage - it's Alaska's largest city; roughly half of the state's 750,000 or so residents live here. And we had fun, visiting the Anchorage Museum, walking thru Earthquake Park & along the coastal trail, visiting another fish hatchery and watching float planes land & take off. But honestly, I think of it as more of a 'pit stop'...a chance to do laundry again & catch our breath....and the halfway point of our caravan. We're off to Denali in the morning...and I can't wait. If by some chance the weather will cooperate and the clouds would part for a little bit in the next week so we can see that mountain up close & personal, that would be the icing on the cake.
Great evening celebrating Anne & Dan's 41st anniversary at Benihana in Anchorage. Our young waiter Cory was so cute, checking Dan's ID when he ordered a beer. And our chef Kayzee put on quite a show with the flaming onion volcano & spelling out "I Love U" in shrimp and vegetables. Anne & I had steak & chicken that melted in our mouths. Dan & Gary had steak and scallops that they raved about. A good time was had by all!
The Kenai Peninsula extends about 150 miles southwest from the Chugach Mountains, south of Anchorage. It's separated from the mainland on the west by Cook Inlet and on the east by Prince William Sound. There are several lakes and rivers that provide some of the best fishing in the world; as well as many glaciers and icefields. Only two main highways connect everything - the Seward Highway connects Seward to Anchorage, and the Sterling highway juts off the Seward, running west before heading south to Homer - the terminus of the paved highway system in North America. Tern Lake is right at the junction of the two highways...and to me is typical of the absolutely gorgeous scenery along the way. We didn't see any terns, but we did see another pair of trumpeter swans. Easy to see why people love the Kenai - count me among them!
Stopped on our way thru Soldotna for a nice visit with John & Mary Jo King, friends from Sunbeam. John is an avid fisherman & winemaker - so they came bearing great gifts....one obviously for Gary (notice the cute artwork on the package) and one for me (maybe I'll share). John says the wine will only get better if we wait a year to drink it...I think that may be asking a little too much of me! But the best gift of all - spending time with these two youngsters! Always a smile on their faces. These days they spend their winters in Arizona instead of El Centro, so I think we'll have to take a road trip this season & try to get in a round of golf with John in Wellton.
Took a fun drive out to Anchor Point, North America's most westerly highway point. And since we were there, we had to put our feet in the water of Cook Inlet. A little chilly - heck YES!!
Score one for Facebook. I knew a friend that I hadn't seen since high school was in Alaska for a two week vacation....and based on her posts & mine, we realized we were in Homer at the same time. That prompted a visit to the Salty Dawg Saloon for a fun reunion. The Salty Dog is a local landmark - an old 1890's log cabin that was moved to the spit after the 1964 earthquake and added on to. I'm guessing its always packed, always fun - and the ceiling is covered with dollar bills that people sign, date & tack up to the ceiling. Thank you Cathy & Keith for a nice happy hour & your stories about taking Red Cross Lifeguard training from my dad - priceless!
I'm in love with the town of Homer. Our RV park was out on the Homer Spit, a narrow strip of land that juts out about 4.5 miles into beautiful Kachemak Bay....so we definitely had a 'room with a view.' We rode our bikes, went to a winery & a brewery, did some beach combing, had some wonderful food at Two Sisters Bakery, and found a great outdoor wear store called Nomar.....we already had a bunch of outerwear with us...but we all left with new jackets & vests. We even had our first campfire of the entire caravan...a lovely time in this laid-back beach town.
We had fun in Seward, but the weather was pretty wet & we drove about 80 miles back to Portage and caught the Glacial Discovery Sightseeing Train for a nice afternoon, visiting 3 glaciers that you can not get to by road - all from the comfort of our top level dome car. The rain even quit & we left the train at the end of the line (Grandview Station) for a small hike up to a viewing platform. The Alaska Railway does a great job with narrating the sights, partnering with the US Forest Service for guided hikes, and even backing up when someone spotted a bear along the way - so we all could see it! This picture is of the Trail Glacier, the final one along the route.
Rainy weather in Seward, but we had dinner down at the harbor & watched a fishing boat bring in a whole lot of halibut. There's a great Sea Life Center in town as well, definitely worth a visit.
Making our way to the Kenai Peninsula & down to Seward, we stopped along the way to visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Girdwood. Almost all the animals here were orphaned or injured, and are either nursed back to health to return to the wild, or live out their days here on 200 acres. A great opportunity to see big animals up close - without having to worry about trying to pull off the road quickly & grab a picture! We saw moose, black & brown bear, elk, lynx, caribou, wood bison, a wolf & a porcupine!
Well, I hadn't - but then I'm not a knitter! Quviut (pronounced kiv'-ee-ute...our tour guide told us to remember how to pronounce it by saying we should "give a hoot about quviut") is the finest wool in the world, harvested annually from Musk Oxen.....an ice age era mammal that once roamed the earth alongside saber-tooth tigers & woolly mammoths. The non-profit Musk Ox Farm in Palmer is dedicated to the domestication of musk ox and its a fascinating place to visit. Qiviut fiber is about eight times warmer than sheep's wool and softer than cashmere. An ounce of qiviut yarn costs $95! And the demand exceeds the supply - as they are very deliberately managing their herd for the amount of land they have for grazing. One of the original Matanuska Colony Barns houses their headquarters & gift shop. The quviut is harvested each spring merely by 'combing' the animals - kind of like fur that sheds naturally. They can gather an average of 4-1/2 pounds of qiviut from each animal. Most of it then goes off to a mill to be washed, dehaired, carded, and spun into yarn.
I had never even heard of the Matanuska Colony Project, and its a fascinating story, one of several re-location projects the government undertook to generate jobs & get Americans back on their feet after the depression. The government chose 202 families that were on welfare (but supposedly with farming backgrounds) from Michigan, Minnesota & Wisconsin and moved them to the Alaskan territory around Palmer in the Matanuska Valley. They were given their transportation there (by train, boat & train again), a 2000 lb. personal item allowance, and a $250 furniture allowance to buy items from either the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog once their homes were built. They drew lots & were given 40 acres of land, and homes and barns were built for each family. For this they signed a 30 year mortgage, with the hope that they could earn enough from their crops to pay off the loan. They had a choice of 3 different house plans to choose from, but all the barns were the same. In the first 10 years, about half the families gave up & went home. More came to replace them, and many descendants still live in the area today. The agricultural co-op they started no longer exists, but saw reasonable success in the WWII years & beyond, as they were able to secure contracts with the military to provide all the soldiers in the area with food & dairy products. We got to talk with Barb Thomas, whose parents were some of the original colonists - she was born shortly after her family arrived in Alaska, and she volunteers at the Colony House Museum in town. One of the original colony homes was moved & restored in the center of the town to protect all this amazing history!
So much fun this afternoon to hook up with Jerry & Sherry Eckert, long time friends & former snowbird neighbors at Sunbeam. They spend their summers now in Wasilla, and live the rest of the year in Arizona. They were nice enough to pick us up & show us around town including the Iditirod Trail Headquarters; then we headed north to Talkeetna & had a nice look around and a fun dinner. It's been 5 years since we had seen the Eckert's - here's hoping it doesn't take that long to get together again next time!
Short Growing Season? No problem when you have almost 20 hours of daylight!! Palmer is home to several world records for biggest vegetables - including a giant cabbage (127 pounds), a carrot (18.99 pounds), a zucchini (29.65 pounds) and a beet root (42.75 pounds). This sculpture in downtown shows you just what that big a veggie actually looks like - pretty darn amazing!
The Valdez Museum & Historical Archives have 2 locations in downtown Valdez - and both are excellent. There's a lot of material about the 1964 earthquake - with a magnitude of 9.2 making it the second most powerful ever recorded. Of the 131 people killed, 119 died in the tsunamis that followed the initial shake, and damage totaled about $300 million then (now over $2.5 billion in today's dollars). The whole town of Valdez (& several others on the Sound) had to be relocated after the quake, to 'safer ground.' Mary Jo Migliacchio used her husband's credit card to purchase gas that day at Dieringer's Standard Station in Valdez. She left her card behind & was on her way back to retrieve it when the earthquake hit. Needless to say, she gave up on that & fled to safety. In the museum you will find her card & the machine it was still in - found buried in the mud at the former gas station site in 2004...40 years later!
Took an all day cruise to Meares Glacier aboard the Valdez Spirit, with Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises. In addition to seeing the Glacier, we saw lots of birds & mammals on the way out & back - bald eagles, pigeon guillemots, puffins, steller sea lions, sea otters, dall's porpoises, harbor seals & even humpback whales. One was nice enough to breech right in front of us - thank you very much! Meares Glacier is nice because the boat can get up very close to it, in among all the glacier ice that has fallen off recently. We even saw (& heard) some glacier calving while we were there! The captain was great with lots of interesting facts about the area, including info on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Well worth the time & money if you are in Valdez.
There probably aren't many places where you can just park in a lot & start hiking up to a glacier like you can here at Worthington Glacier, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968.
Just north of Valdez you pass thru Keystone Canyon, home to several waterfalls, but a couple of spectacular ones - Bridal Veil and Horsetail. All those glaciers & all that snow each winter...the water has to go somewhere....and it does so beautifully! If you look closely, you may even notice my sister Anne in this picture at Horsetail Falls.
There's only one road in & out, but it's worth the trip to head down to Valdez on Prince William Sound. The road takes you right by Worthington Glacier (you can park & hike right up to the terminus), over Thompson Pass (the snowiest place in Alaska) and thru Keystone Canyon (home to beautiful waterfalls). Our RV Park is right across the street from the harbor, and we can walk to everything in town.
Good Question. In the late 1800's early miners were in this area searching for gold (and a few are still here!). Food was sometimes scarce, but along the south fork of the 40-mile river here, ptarmigan were abundant...and similar to chicken. Chicken was incorporated in 1902, only the 2nd town in Alaska to do so. The name "Ptarmigan" was suggested, but nobody could agree on the correct spelling - so they settled on the much easier to spell & pronounce "Chicken". Fun for a day trip...and if you need any touristy stuff with a chicken on it! We didn't try our luck at gold panning, but I will say that the Chicken Pot Pie at the Chicken Creek Café was excellent.
The locals joke that there are only 2 seasons here - winter and road construction....and we are definitely here in the middle of road construction season. Lots of smiling flaggers, some one lane stretches with pilot cars and long waits make it an all-day adventure just to go 200 miles or so. In addition to the areas they ARE fixing, there are plenty that they are NOT...Canada seems to do a much better job than Alaska of marking those & trying to warn drivers to slow down. I don't think I'd even heard the term "Frost Heaves" before.....but we've for sure felt them now! Going over those 'whoop-de-dos" in a motorhome is an experience. But luckily we just have a small windshield crack so far. Many of our fellow caravaners have not been so lucky - they've seen flat tires on both tow cars & coaches, broken serpentine belts, awnings ripped off, drivers side window shattered by rocks thrown up by a vehicle coming the other way, and now also a broken axle on the only fifth wheel in our group. We're told the roads are going to improve as we move westward. Fingers Crossed!
After 23 days and 3,279 - we finally made it to Alaska! We didn't take the straightest route & we've had a blast along the way. A few state facts - the U.S. originally purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million dollars, or 2 cents an acre. Even though it was called Seward's Folly at the time (as Secretary of State William Seward made the deal), I think this land has proven to be worth slightly more that that!! Alaska became our 49th state in 1959, has over 6,600 miles of coastline, and is our largest state by far - over twice the size of Texas....1400 miles long & 2700 miles wide. Looks like we still have a lot of driving to do!
Today featured some of the best scenery of the trip, and a stop at the park headquarters for Kluane National Park and Reserve. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this area features stunning glaciers and the largest non-polar ice field in the world. We ended up in Destruction Bay on the shores of beautiful Kluane Lake.
Yukon Brewing Company started in Whitehorse 19 years ago. They give tours every day at noon, 2 & 4 pm costing $10 (but all that money is donated to charity). The tour is great, the facility is top notch. Their slogan is 'beer worth freezin' for'. I'm a snowbird, so for me, there probably isn't ANY beer worth freezing for....but we had a good time anyway & sampled 8 beers and 2 spirits. My advice - go with their Yukon Red.
A really long day driving, but fun stops along the way, like this short hike we took to see Rancheria Falls
We knew our car was going to get a little dirty......We bought the "Alaska package" from Roadmaster - which consists of the 'guardian' and the 'defender'......doesn't that sound safe? One is a hard molded plastic shield to put over the front of the car (seen in the picture). The other is a mesh netting that rolls out between the motorhome & the car, over the tow bar. This is what we look like after a few days....we'll see how it all holds up over the course of our trip.
The Sign Post Forest was started by a homesick GI in 1942, when he was fixing a directional sign and decided to add one for his hometown of Danville, IL. We couldn't find his original sign, but we added a few of our own. The official count each year isn't done until September, so who knows where 2016 will end up.
Everyone has told us that the Yukon is just as pretty as Alaska...so we are looking forward to our time spent here!
The water goes from really warm to HOT...depending on which end of the springs you are at....but this was a nice break from driving between Muncho Lake and Watson Lake.
Fun take off, Spectacular Scenery plus some wildlife (a moose & a herd of goats), smooth landing. If you're ever at the Northern Rockies Lodge in Muncho Lake and get the chance to go up in one of their float planes - do it!!
So here's a little bit more info about our Caravan. There are 18 rigs involved, plus our Hosts & Tailenders. 17 of the 18 do have Winnebagos, although that isn't a requirement to go on one of their trips - you just get a discount if you own one of their units. We've got 15 couples and 3 singles....and so far everyone seems very nice. Gary & I are not really what you would call "joiners", so this is a change for us - to leave at a certain time, to arrive within a 2 hour window, etc. But overall, I'd say we're happy. It's very nice not having to make any of the arrangements ourselves.....just go where they tell us on the travel days & enjoy the ride!!
Only 154 miles thru some spectacular scenery...but the weather was pretty drizzly all day. Overnighted at the Northern Rockies Lodge on Muncho Lake - their RV park has spots that sit right on the lake - definitely a 'room with a view' tonight. The lake itself has that pretty turquoise coloring from the glacial melt. This is pretty much the northern tip of the Rocky Mountains - peaks around 10,000 ft and plenty of remote wilderness areas. Saw a couple bears today, but none of the stone sheep or caribou we were hoping to get a glimpse of. This picture is near the Toad River Bridge, just south of Muncho Lake.
First of four days of straight driving - 283 miles today. Pretty scenery, but we seem to be traveling with some weather that just won't go away. Blue sky, clouds, rain, more clouds. This is oil & gas country, and even though the economy is down there are still plenty of signs of activity everywhere you look. Fort Nelson itself has a GREAT museum right next to the RV park we stayed in....and the aquatic center was just across the street!
Leave it to my sister to find the swimming pool! She's always the first one to say there are hot springs nearby....but these indoor aquatic centers are gorgeous! Lap pools, water slides, lazy flowing rivers and lovely warm water...ahhhhh. With the winter as long and cold as it is up here, bet these are very popular spots year round!
The traffic circle marks the 'designated' Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. A plain four foot post once marked the site. In 1946 when it was hit by a car, a new mile 0 post was designed & moved to the center of town where it stands today. The second post was the object of many pranks & kidnappings - it even ended up in Vancouver when some university students 'borrowed' it. The current post was installed in the 1980's and is made of steel - a little more difficult to move. The mile 0 cairn in Northern Alberta Railway park was erected in the late 1950's to replace the original post that marked the 'true' beginning of the highway north
In a weird way, I guess the Japanese are somewhat responsible for the Alaska Highway. Or at least for it being built when it was. The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 941 forced the US & Canadian governments to re-evaluate the security of North America, and prompted one of the most monumental construction projects ever undertaken still to this day. What had just been talked about before, suddenly became more urgent, and money & people were made available to 'get the job done.' The road was originally 1523 miles from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks (although its been shortened about 35 miles thru straightening & improvements over the years). There were 11,000 U.S. troops and 16,000 civilians involved, both Americans & Canadians. They used 7000 pieces of equipment, constructed 133 bridges and installed over 8000 culverts. And ALL this was accomplished in 8 months & 12 days. At first it was just a military road, but was opened to the public in 1948. These days, over 300,000 people per year make the journey we are on this summer!
We made it to Dawson Creek.....and it only took us 2 weeks! We've hooked up with my sister & brother-in-law, Anne & Dan Beatie, who will be joining us on our journey thru the Yukon to Alaska. We are traveling as part of a Winnebago caravan - 18 rigs plus a tour leader and a tail ender. They've done all the hard work, made all the arrangements, etc.....now all we have to do is drive, sightsee, take a few pictures, and have fun. We're ready to roll. Heading out in the morning for Fort Nelson
Thanks to our friend, Gunnar, we took a side trip to tour the W.A.C.Bennett Dam, just outside Hudson's Hope, B.C. Built in the 1960's, it's one of the largest earthen dams in the world (over 600 feet) and created the largest reservoir in B.C., about 5 miles wide & 250 miles long (Williston). BC Hydro gives a great tour including a movie and a trip underground to see the turbines. Our tour guide joked that there was enough material (90 tons of sand & gravel) used to construct the dam that a 9 foot wall could be built from Vancouver to Halifax. Uh Oh.....don't tell Donald Trump!
We overnighted in Chetwynd, last stop before hooking up with our caravan tomorrow in Dawson Creek. This little town is home to hundreds of crazy, big & amazing chainsaw carvings....and draws a crowd each year for the International Chainsaw Carving Championships in June. I liked this relatively 'simple' log truck, compared to all the other giant people & creatures!
Wish we could have spent more time, as the lake was beautiful & the town looked nice, but this was just a quick overnight at the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds. The visitors center in town is a spectacular log building, done by local company Pioneer Log Homes, of HGTV's Timber Kings fame. We drove right by one of their building/staging sites...as they assemble all the homes there, then take them apart to ship & be reassembled on site. Because we live in a log house ourselves, I always enjoy seeing other ones!
One last visit with some more of our winter neighbors before we get serious about making it to Dawson Creek, and starting our Alaska Caravan. Thank you Gunnar & Jannette, Doug & Sandy, and Jim & Mae for a lovely stop. All told, we've been able to see 35 of our Sunbeam friends so far....hope to catch up with a few more in Alaska, and hit up some of the Alberta contingent on the way home in September!
Our wonderful friends, Ivan & Phyllis Moore, hosted a great party Friday night, for all our Sunbeam Snowbird winter neighbors who live in the local area here....fun night celebrating long friendships.
Have you ever seen apple trees growing straight up like this? I hadn't; and my friend Ivan tells me this is an example of high density farming. Summerland is known for all their glorious fruit - we didn't try any apples, but I can vouch for the cherries and peaches!
I now have first-hand experience with the Canadian Medical System...I give it 2 thumps up. Everyone in the Emergency Room at Penticton Regional Hospital was efficient & friendly....and I hope to never see any of them again! When looking up my symptoms on WebMD and talking with my sister (an R.N.) both resulted in "go to the emergency room".....my stubborn self finally gave in. My chest pains were NOT a heart attack, thank goodness....and I'm good to go for the rest of the trip (I hope). The pains moved to my back & I still feel like I'm being stabbed...but the doctor says that should go away...hopefully soon. My supply of Aleeve, Advil, Tylenol PM, Ice Packs & Heating pads are being put to good use.
We are lucky enough to have great friends in Summerland, and got a personal sightseeing tour, as well as stops at several local wineries. What a beautiful town!
The wine & food were great, and the view does not get much better than this!
Although I'm not a 'boat' person, I can see the appeal of having one if you lived here. Okanagan Lake is gorgeous...and huge...about 84 miles long!
Spent the day sightseeing in Kelowna, a beautiful city on Okanagan Lake. Gorgeous downtown area along the lake & lots of wineries to explore. We looked for Ogopogo (the local version on the Loch Ness Monster) and came up empty - but we did enjoy this beautiful bear sculpture. Kelowna is the English translation of a first nation word for grizzly bear.
A great welcome to Kelowna - dinner with our friends Stan & Em and Dave & Margaret, at their beautiful home!
They let us in!! Made it thru the border crossing with no problems....when the customs officer asked if we had any 'bear spray', my folicly challenged hubby thought he was asking about 'hair spray'....and turned & asked me if I had any!
Great lunch with Dick & Nancy and Steve & Kris before we say good-bye USA, hello Canada!
Nice visit with great friends Steve & Dema before we head across the border...a weekend filled with golf, food & drink, and killer games of Sequence & Montana Cribbage - Steve even made us our own 'board' to take on the trip! The guys won the rubber match to take the cribbage title but the ladies are still the undisputed champs at Sequence! Oh - did I mention that our room came with a great view??? They truly do live on top of a mountain....and last night we were treated to a double rainbow as well.
Pendleton looks like a cool 'western' town, and we had fun browsing at Hamley's Western Store (world famous saddle makers & cowboy outfitters), and then eating at their steakhouse. The bar is absolutely beautiful...and the company's slogan seems to fit - "Quality Articles are built for those tired of the extravagance of buying cheap things." I don't even wear boots, but I admit a pair of Lucchese's caught my eye...and then I saw the $499 price tag. Oh my.
If you are anywhere near Baker City, GO!! This museum is really well done & a great history of the over 300,000 people who crossed the Oregon Trail in hopes of a better life out west. Long before it was a wagon road, the Oregon Trail was part of an ancient network of Indian footpaths & animal trails crisscrossing the west. In 1812 fur trader Robert Stuart & his party discovered a wide pass, 7550 ft. in elevation, across the Continental Divide. This "South Pass" made overland travel with ox-drawn wagons possible, and it became the gateway to the West. Maybe this story resonates so much with us since we live just below the Donner Pass - part of the California Trail and the site of the ill-fated Donner Party's crossing of the Sierra Nevada's. There is a 'similar' California Trail museum in Elko, Nevada that is also well worth a visit.
Paleontologists here are studying the history of ancient plants & animals...back 45 million years. We were lucky enough to join a Ranger tour at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center at the Sheep Rock Unit. I admit that he lost me when he started talking about 20 million year old fossilized pollen (really??) but his story about the evolution of horses from 5 toed 'hiding' creatures to 1 toed 'running' creatures as the climate changed & they adapted to their environment really was very interesting. There were a couple of kids on our tour that asked great questions & he was awesome with them......although he almost had a coronary when I suggested that if he didn't know the answer to one of their questions, he could just make something up!! That's what Gary always does......
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument encompasses 14000 acres in 3 separate units. The Painted Hills Unit showcases these varying layers in time.
The history of logging in Oregon is all here. Especially if you like old equipment, this is a cool stop along the road.
Day 1 in the books. A little over 300 miles & a familiar spot at the end of the road, just north of Klamath Falls in Chiloquin, OR. We stayed here on our first 'big' motorhome trip 3 years ago & we're happy to come back. Our campsite backs up to Smith Creek & the Williamson River; a trail leads under Hwy 97 across the road to a wonderful outdoor logging museum. Great history & cool equipment (CAT & otherwise).
Mt. Shasta looks great this year. Our current monthly traveling golf group is really the result of the trips we made here every August for years - camping in McCloud (half the group had RV's, half stayed in cabins) & playing Mt. Shasta Resort, Lake Shastina & maybe Fall River Mills or McCloud Golf Course as well. But we haven't been by in quite awhile.....today reminded me of how much fun we had here!
Just west of I-5, between Castella & Dunsmuir. No time to hike today, so I had to settle for a picture out the window as we drove by!
Packing Up, getting ready to head out in our motorhome tomorrow morning