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Alcan Adventure 2016

Hi! We're Benny & Connie from Canadian, TX and Richard & Eddie from Scottsdale, AZ. This is our 3rd annual road trip. 2014 was "leaf peeping" in New England. 2015 was the Colorado Rockies and this year we're heading for Alaska. Connie & Eddie will be the photographers and bloggers. Benny & Richard will be the "patient" chauffeurs. We plan to travel up the west coast of the USA, the western access route through Canada, the Alaska Highway, over to Anchorage and Soldotna for salmon fishing and return through Jasper, Banff and Yellowstone National Parks. Follow our adventure to the Great Frontier!

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

Jun 22, 2016

"The Emerald City"

Before leaving Hood River, we had breakfast outside, on the Columbia River, and were greeted by six Canadian Geese floating by and two Bald Eagles flying overhead.
We took a short side trip on Highway 35, on the way out of town, to take a picture of snowcapped Mount Hood which was visible in the distance. Then, we started the journey to Portland and Seattle. We spotted two more Bald Eagles above us. There were no stops in Portland because our destination for the day was Seattle for sightseeing there.
Our first stop in Seattle was Pike Place Market. The Market was bustling with people and activity. Vendor stalls lined the breezeway and the array of items on display almost overwhelmed the senses – all kinds of fresh fish, gorgeous and exotic fresh fruits and vegetable (dried strawberries!!), colorful flowers, delectable pastry and breads, herbs, meats, clothes, jewelry, leather goods and on and on. (Eddie passed up the tie-dye long underwear with the drop seat.) We had lots of samples. The pears were so delicious.
For lunch, Richard had clam chowder and Connie and I had fresh cod fish tacos. Benny had a cup of hot green tea! (He is developing a taste for greens – spinach, kale, cucumber.) We sat a small table overlooking the water and watched the ferries shuttle vehicles and people across the harbor.
On to the original Starbuck’s at Pike Place and Pine Street. The line to get in went down the street. We have photos for souvenirs.
Connie was so excited to see the Space Needle up close. It was located right in the middle of downtown. The monorail built for the World’s Fair here coursed above the street overhead.
Richard went to graduate school at the University of Washington, in Seattle. He took us on a driving tour of Huskyland. What a beautiful campus and location.
And we cannot forget to mention the orange VW Bug with the flowers that we spotted on the road!
Our overnight is in Edmonds, Washington.
Tomorrow, we cross the border into Canada-OMG! We have our passports and binoculars in hand.

Jun 23, 2016

"The Red Maple Leaf" Flag-It's Canada!

We crossed the border at Sumas and entered Canada at noon today. The customs agent reviewed our passports, asked us a few questions and granted us entry. We were in British Columbia!
The first town we passed through was Abbotsford, Raspberry Capital of Canada. So much lush, fertile farmland dotted with barns, farmhouses and grain silos. A bald eagle joined us for a short distance, soaring right next to us as we traveled the Trans-Canada Highway 1 East.
The scenery on Highway 1 (The Caribou Gold Rush Route), was breathtaking. We were flanked by meticulous farms and fields, ponds, steep pine covered mountains with frequent waterfalls and lots of higher elevation fog. The Highway follows the Fraser River.
In Hope, a quaint small town, we at a delicious lunch at Sharon’s Deli and Lunch Bar. The “cabbage porridge” warmed our bones that were chilled by the rainy drizzle that started in Seattle. The main streets in Hope are lined with large, wood carvings, which are works of art.
We made a quick stop at Hell's Gate, the narrowest point on the Fraser River, to take some photos. Wow!
Continuing on, we traveled through at least eight tunnels built in the 1950s and 60s. Then, we traversed “Jack Ass Summit.” (1,131 feet)
The landscape began to change as we entered Cache Creek which is referred to as the “Arizona of Canada.” Mountains lined the road, but the vegetation and trees were sparse. It was a unique and beautiful drive. The temperature was comfortable, nothing like the current Arizona temperatures!!
We followed the Thompson River to Kamloops, BC, which was established by fur traders in 1811. The rain cleared and the high temperature was in the 60s.
Yet, another great day of sightseeing and exploring!

Jun 24, 2016

"What is the Cariboo Wagon Road?"

We have been traveling on the Cariboo Gold Rush Trail. We did a bit of research to learn more about this. The Cariboo Wagon Road marks the road traveled by would-be prospectors who traveled here, in the early 1860s, in search of gold, during the Cariboo Gold Rush. The Cariboo Gold Rush Road was built, as a safer route, to replace a mule trail along dangerous cliffs that was traveled by would be prospectors.
Another interesting bit of historical information relates to “roadhouses” that were built along the Cariboo Wagon Road to service travelers. Quite a few of the small towns we passed through today originated as “roadhouses,” like the town of “150 Mile House.” The name of the town communicates to travelers how far the town is from the town of Chilcotin. (150 miles)
Many ponds and lakes, (Lac La Hache, Williams and McLeese) nestled among waste green forests, line the highway. We saw Canadian geese, ducks, a beaver dam and cattails.
We ventured off the highway into the town of Williams Lake (“The Mural Capital of the Cariboo Chilcotin Region”) in search of murals painted on the exterior of buildings in downtown. The eighteen large murals tell the story of the community in the past, present and future. (See our photo. Connie and I had fun photographing ourselves as part of the murals.)
This region of British Columbia is rich in history of the gold rush and exploratory expeditions from the early 1800s. The Fraser River that we have been following was named after Simon Fraser, a fur trader and explorer who charted the region and established the areas first trading posts.
We are overnighting in Prince George, originally a post, Fort George, established by Simon Fraser and named after King George of Great Britain, the reigning monarch at the time.
This has been an amazing trip and we are still have three more weeks to go!

Jun 25, 2016

"Milepost 0" Alaska Highway

Our destination today is Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and the official start of the Alaska Highway.
We drove through the small towns of McLeod Lake (pop. 70) and MacKenzie (pop. 4,500). McLeod was the first trading post west of the Rockies, established in 1805 by Simon Fraser. McKenzie was named after the famous explorer, Sir Alexander MacKenzie, who camped here in 1793 on his epic journey to the Pacific.
There were patches of snow and a few distant waterfalls on the Rockies. There are bridges, lumber mills, logging trucks, and rivers, creeks and lakes around every turn.
CONNIE SPOTTED A LITTLE BLACK BEAR!! It was grazing leisurely along the highway. This generated quite a bit of excitement in the car.
Here we go, again! Connie is in charge of keeping track of how many times we stop for roadwork and repairs. Today, we made our 7th and 8th. One lane of the two-way highway was washed away, in two places. Major damage!! The stops are not long and give us time to get out, stretch our legs and enjoy the outdoors.
We had lunch in Chetwynd ("Community Carved From Success."). Lunch was at A&W. None of us had eaten at an A&W for years, since we were "youngsters." After lunch, we took time to look at the incredible chainsaw carvings that line the Main Street through town.
Before we entered Dawson Creek, the landscape changed from dense forest to rolling farmland with fields of yellow flowers, canola oil seeds and cattle.
In Dawson Creek, we made a beeline for the Milepost 0 Alaska Highway Monument and the Historic Milepost 0 Arch to have our group photos taken. (See the attached photo.) 100,000 travelers pass through Dawson Creek each year to begin their treks on the Alaska Highway.

Jun 28, 2016

"Boreal Forest & The Tlingits"

Last night, when we arrived in Watson Lake, Yukon ("Gateway to the Yukon," pop. 1,600), we had dinner at Kathy's Kitchen. We ordered "Poutine," (fries prepared Canadian style, cheese curds & brown gravy.) Yummy. After a wonderful night's sleep at the Stampeder's Cabins, in two meticulously clean cabins and a great breakfast prepared by Peter, the owner, we headed for The Sign Post Forest. (see photo) In 1942, a homesick soldier stationed in Watson Lake put up a sign for his hometown, Danville, IL. Ever since, travelers along the Alaska Highway have been hanging their own signs. There are currently more than 75,000 signs!! We added our sign to the forest. Then, we headed for Whitehorse, Yukon. For 150 miles outside of Watson Lake, until Teslin, the highway was unpopulated and the terrain was mostly "boreal" forest. Midpoint, in the day, we stopped at the Teslin Tlinget Heritage Centre to learn about the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. The Tlinget live off the land, fishing and hunting. Five colorful totem poles representing the clans of the Tlinget greeted us-eagle, raven, frog, beaver and wolf. All Tlinget belong to the clan of their mother. We sampled "Bannock" (native flat, quick bread), with wild berry jam. We bypassed the city center in Whitehorse (and will visit here on our return trip) and are overnighting in an aspen forest known for amazing observation of the Aurora Borealis. (Northern Lights). Currently there is 21 hours of daylight here. We are relishing the wilderness and swinging in a hammock under the aspen!!

Jun 29, 2016

Permafrost, Muskeg, A Drunken Forest & Mosquitos

Our destination today was Beaver Creek, Yukon (pop. 112), "the most westerly community in Canada." Highlights from today's drive included (1) the snow covered Wrangell-St Elias Mountains and Kluane National Park and the Icefield Mountain Range; (2) Mt Elias which stands 18,008 feet and straddles the US-Canada border (breathtaking); Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon (154 square miles); and (3) views of Mt Logan (19,545 feet), the tallest mountain in Canada. The countryside, as we traveled further, became a permafrost region. The surface of the ground is "muskeg" (half swamp and half ground.). The description "drunken forest" refers to the stunted spruce tree forest where the trees grow at different angles. This happens because shallow roots cannot support trees in windy conditions, so trees grow every which way. Muskeg areas have lots of mosquitos. Repellant and dryer sheets are working great! We are listening to the audio tape "Property of a Noblewoman" by Danielle Steel, as we travel the long stretches of highway. Even the guys are hanging on each word. We are overnighting at Buckshot Betty's, in two of their seven adorable, little cabins, surrounded by aspen (see photo). I'm sitting outside on the deck, as I write this, listening to the aspen quaking, with ravens and mew gulls flying overhead. Love it! P.S. How many more days can Richard and Benny resist the HUGE cinnamon buns that tempt them around every bend?

Jul 01, 2016

"Musk Ox, Purple Moose & Turnagain Arm"

Our B & B in Glennallen was located in the Copper River Valley which is surrounded by four major mountain chains, each is a mass of rock, glaciers & snow. These are huge volcanic mountains & one of them, Mt Wrangell, is a massive "shield" volcano which is still active & one of the largest "shield" volcanoes in the world. After a hearty breakfast (waffles from scratch), we were on our way to Anchorage & Soldotna, for King Salmon fishing in the world famous Kenai River. The day was overcast, with a soft rain most of the day. We followed Highway 1 (two lane), weaving between tall mountains, with drop offs and rushing or meandering rivers below. The mountains were obscured by low lying fog. Gorgeous scenery. We followed the Matanuska Glacier (27 miles long, with an average width of two miles.). We toured a prehistoric "musk oxen" farm and were educated in a project to domestic these prehistoric mammals. (Their "quivet" is woven & used to make desirable items such as scarves & afghans.). Passing through Anchorage, Connie & I were chilly & craving a warm, specialty beverage from one of the many coffee kiosks that are so prevalent in the Northeast, Canada & Alaska. We drive through "The Purple Moose" & ordered two Capuccinos, with Irish Cream. (Yum!). Beyond Anchorage, was the awesome Seward Highway, coursing around Turnagain Arm & Cook Inlet. The tall mountains encircling us were snow capped, dotted with Dall Sheep & sprinkled with long, narrow waterfalls that were too numerous to count. We reached Soldotna in time to purchase our fishing licenses & salmon stamps. Our two room cabin overlooking the Kenai River was beyond amazing (Mark Glassmaker Guides.). We barbecued on the deck & got a few "winks" before our 5:30 AM salmon fishing adventure.

Jul 04, 2016

Reindeer Farm and More

We donned our red, white and blue, then hit the road to explore regions north of Anchorage. At this point in the adventure, we have traveled over 6000 miles! Still loving it and each other. Our first stop was Palmer, Alaska, established about 1916 as a railroad station. The Athabasca Indians inhabited the area prior to this. In 1880, George Palmer ran a trading post here. And in 1935, the American government conducted an experiment, as part of the New Deal. This was an attempt to provide relief to farm families in the Midwest struck by the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Social workers chose 202 families and relocted them, as "colonists," to Palmer. Families were issued land by a lottery system. Today, descendants of these families still live in the area which is revered for its dairy and agricultural farms. We drove the scenic Bodenburg Loop in search of some of these original colony farms. (See photo.). Still in Palmer, we visited and toured a Reindeer Farm, fed the reindeer and elk and became experts on reindeer. (FYI, a reindeer and caribou are the same animal. If domesticated its a reindeer. If wild, its a caribou.). On our way back to the Copper River Valley, we turned of the highway unto a "road unsafe," dirt, two lane winding road and over a one lane wooden bridge traversing the Matanuska River. Our destination-the Matanuska Glacier. (Four miles wide and 27 miles long.). It is the only US glacier you can drive up to! And if you are ambitious, put on spiked shoes, a helmet and walking poles, and hike on a glacier!! Happy Independence Day America from our families and Dixie Dog to all of you.

Jul 10, 2016

Visiting Alberta & "Geocaching"

We entered Alberta, Canada for the first time. Such beauty! We continued traveling through the small agricultural villages & hamlets of the Peace River Valley. Traveling on, agriculture gave way to coal mining & lumber communities. Immense coal processing plants and timber & sawdust piles. So clean & orderly. This supports the local economy & residents. Beautiful clouds and light rain on & off throughout the day. Connie & I became official "Geocachers" today. For those of you not familiar with this fun, outdoor recreational activity, let me give you a brief overview. Its an outdoor treasure hunt, using a mobile device. You hunt for small, waterproof containers called "caches." There are two million hidden worldwide. They contain a log which you sign & maybe trinkets inside for trading. Once found you must return it to its original location. The one we are searching for in the photo was in Grande Cache, Alberta under a mining car. The "cache" was an authentic looking imitation stone that was hallow. It contained a small waterproof cylinder with a tiny rolled up scroll that we wrote our names on. Such a fun activity. Outside Hinton, Richard spotted a very unusual burial site. It was an aboriginal graveyard. The graves were each covered with a low-lying wooden roof & large wooden cross. All were painted white. These are referred to as "spirit houses." Once in Hinton, Richard & I took a stroll through the Beaver Boardwalk. No beavers, but we had a lovely walk on the partially submerged boardwak, read waterfowl interpretive signs, passed lilly pads, grasses & marshy wetlands. Jasper National Park early tomorrow!

Jul 15, 2016

Yellowstone-"World's First National Park"

We are four of one million visitors to the park this month!! Our "America the Beautiful" Senior Pass gained us admission at no charge. Once inside, we encountered single lane of traffic going our direction & it was at a standstill. "Oh Dear," we thought. Having heard that there could be as much as a two hour delay getting into the park, we were thinking the worst. We inched along for about 30 minutes. The delay ended up being one big, solitary bison who thought the highway was his grazing territory. The park rangers finally coaxed it off the road & away we went. Bald eagle nest was spotted next, followed by a herd of elk, including two little orange calves. They were wadding in the river. Then, we were off for a day of exploring canyons, waterfalls, hotsprings, geysers, mudpots & more wildlife. We were told that the road toward Old Faithful was experiencing traffic delays, so using the map we were provided on admission, we navigated our way in the opposite direction. Connie & I soon learned that when there was a traffic delay there was wildlife. We would, then, grab our cameras & binoculars & join the "wildlife paparazzi!" So, so fun - bison, bears, elk and deer. We stopped at Paintpots (photo), Mammoth Hotsprings (photo), Norris Geyser Basin (photo) and more. Ever heard of a "lodge pole pine?" It describes the remnants of a tree that has succumbed to the effects of heat & minerals from the geysers & hotsprings. (photo) We had dinner reservations for 8:15pm in the dining room at the Old Faithful Inn. The Inn was built in 1903 to accommodate travelers visiting the new park. Just an amazing structure steeped in history. Dinner very good. (Eddie tried to get Benny to try the "Moonshine," but was unsuccessful.). We were all ready for a good night sleep, after an amazing day.