Wednesday, September 1, 2010


We're back in Bozeman. Lots of unloading and cleaning up, but nice to be able to do that in steps. That first l-o-n-g hot shower was a treat after a summer of nursing our water supply!

Thank you all for riding along!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Canadian Rockies

We've been making earnest progress toward Bozeman and home. From the Cassiar Highway we made Vanderhoof, B.C., then it was another day's travel on to Jasper, AB. Last night we walked all over the back streets of Jasper and admired all the neat houses, a few original log cabins, and lovely flower gardens, then we treated ourselves to pretty good pizza back out on the main drag and hit the hay for an early start.

Today we made some serious distance. Up early, down the Ice Fields Parkway to Banff and the Trans-Canada Highway, through Calgary, and on south to Lethbridge. A 400 mile tug. I could tell you about the rain, but what's the point? There was fresh snow plastered on the Canadian Rockies and we were lucky to get a few peeks at the peaks.

Tomorrow the border, but surprisingly we won't stretch for home. Better to cap the trip off camping on the shores of Canyon Ferry Lake at the silos and ease into town Tuesday and have the energy and enthusiusm to unload the trailer.

Fresh snow on the Canadian Rockies.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Down the Cassiar Rabbit Hole

Late August is early fall in the Yukon - aspens going yellow, fireweed's last blooms at the tops of the stalk, frosty mornings, closed and boarded tourist stops, but if you drop down to British Columbia via the Cassiar Highway it is late summer when you pop out. Everything is still green and quite a bit warmer and the gas stations are open. Just ask Alice.

So just before Watson Lake we bailed off the Alaska Highway and headed straight south for 450 miles on the Cassiar Highway. It’s paved the whole way now. We spent one night at the free RV camp at Jade City and the next day we stopped mid-afternoon at Meziaden Lake Provincial Park as the sun was out. We’re back into British Columbia now. Tomorrow we’ll hit the Yellowshead Highway and head easterly toward Jasper, Alberta with an overnight stop in Vanderhoof. Canadian Rockies here we come.

The past several days have been mostly showers, some heavy, so we’ve been traveling a bit longer each day to avoid just sitting around in the rain.

Jade City - the land of free camping.

Cassiar Highway southbound.

Joyce taking in the sun at Meziaden Lake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Six Hour Pit Stop

Ah, the frost heaves of the Yukon finally got us. We busted a spring on the trailer 120 miles east of Tok and 80 miles west of Destruction Bay – about as far from help as you can get on the Alaska Highway! I was able to strap the axle up and slowly move the rig a ¼ mile to a Jim Cook’s roadhouse and cafĂ© and strip off the remaining parts and clean things up. A few phone calls searching for a mechanic with the correct spring and Charlie was on his way from Destruction Bay. It took him almost two hours to get to us and with both of us working away we fitted the new spring. This was strictly a cash operation so we were left with literally no cash on hand after paying Charlie $400 in a mix of American and Canadian currency.  We rambled down the road until dusk and tucked into a rest area with six other rigs for the night.

In my own defense I must tell you I was driving slowly through the whoop-tee-do’s. Close inspection of the pieces of the broken spring showed that two of the four leaves had crack through some time before – probably on one of our Mexcio trips would be my guess. You can bet I looked the other springs over as well as I could for cracks. Check your springs right in the center of the leaf stack.

 I only went 50 yards in a great cloud of smoke when the spring let go!

An eagle sat and watched us for a bit as it dried its wings. I took that as a good sign.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Discovery III Stern-Wheeler

Today was a lovely day for a boat ride -  mid-60's, no wind, and plenty of sun. We took the paddle boat Discovery III down to the confluence of the Chena and Tanana Rivers. There we got off and toured a native village that re-creates the life styles of modern and pre-contact indigenous peoples of Alaska. The trip is a bit touristy of course, but extremely well done i.e. more on the informative side of things rather then popular entertainment. When you get to Fairbanks don't miss it.

The folks that run the trip even had a float plane take off and land next to the boat!

Discovery III

Detail of the paddle wheel.

Yes, he is that low.

Parkas now and then!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Arctic Circle Day Trip

Today it was up and on the move by 7:30 AM. We were bound and determined to drive the first 115 miles of the Dalton Highway and get to 66.5 degrees north latitude i.e. the Arctic Circle - where the sun never sets on June 21st and never breaks the horizon on December 21st. Of course to get to the Dalton Highway you first have to drive 75 miles north of Fairbanks on the regular road system. We're talking a 380 mile day!

Other then lots of frost heaves as a result of the road being built on top of permafrost, some mud, and a few new chips in the windshield it was pretty routine. Our speed on the Dalton varied from 30 to 55 mph, I'd guess we averaged around 40 mph including the stop at the Yukon River for pictures. The biggest hazard was the trucks hauling gear north, those boys don't slow down for much - when we saw them coming we did slow way down and pulled over as far as we could to avoid the spray of rocks - that worked well. The road is wide enough to get well away from on coming traffic. We had our CB radio on channel 19 so we usually knew what was coming, and the road maintenance crew even gave us a personal estimate of the delay at one construction site.

We arrived by lunch time, got the required picture taken, and did a short hike to check out the campground that is set back well back from the road. Surprisingly there were zero mosquitoes.

It was a fun outing and a good scouting trip for future Dalton Highway adventures.

The Yukon River Bridge on the Dalton Highway.

The highway parallels the Alaska Pipeline the whole way.

Been there, done that, still need the tee shirt!

View along the way.

Bow hunters were doing well hunting caribou on the north slope.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chena Hot Springs

The soft life gets even better! We drove the hour out to Chena Hot Springs this afternoon and soaked in the outdoor pool until we were wrinkled (ok, make that MORE wrinkled) and limp. They perform the small miracle of taking the 156 degree spring water, tempering it down to 105 degrees and filling a gravel lined pond for one's basking pleasure. As a bonus no kids are allowed in the outside pool. What's not to like?

The ride out was fun also, the hot springs are literally at the end of the road.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Ah, Fairbanks. We ♥ you Fairbanks! We bellied up for the 'full Montey' at River's Edge RV Resort on the banks of the Chena River. La-dee-dah. We've got full hook-ups, high speed Internet, cable TV, trees, grass, and a man servant named Ralph. Ok, I lied about Ralph. A good place for a  bit of decadence and an opportunity to 'dry dock' the trailer for some TLC before we start down the Alaskan Highway towards home.

You probably thought all this rolling stock just keeps going along without any issues. Not! The first order of business was to improve the trailer's braking ability. I pulled and cleaned the ground wires on the trailer and replaced the electronic brake controller with a new, improved unit. Next we open all the windows while we were away at the Fred Meyer Store buying about one of everything and got the humidity down from 65% to 30%, no more mold growing in the corners of the bedroom for us! Too much rain will do that ya know.

Tomorrow the truck gets an oil change - our beast of burden now has 134K miles and still doesn't burn any oil. Tomorrow afternoon is also a ride up to Chena Hot Spring for a long, hot, soak. Such is the life of a tourist.

We're not on Deep Creek Beach anymore Todo!

We are on the Chena River and final approach to the airport!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Denali N.P.

We're camped in Cantwell about 25 miles south of Denali National Park. We drove up from Eagle River on the Parks Highway yesterday in a steady rain. No rain today, so we nibbled around the edges of the Park a bit. We took the shuttle bus out to the kennels and saw a sled dog demonstration and rather then ride back with the teaming masses we hiked two miles on the Roadside Trail down to the Visitor Center. It was nice to get out and walk.


Yellow and reds of fall?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fog Cruise

We did a seven hour boat trip out of Seward today with Major Marine. It was a rainy/foggy day, but we got to see killer whales right next to the boat, and Steller sea lions. It was a rough ride when we passed out into the Gulf of Alaska, but nobody had to "try for distance" from the back rail of the boat. In fact the rowdy conditions deterred nobody from the salmon and prime rib lunch.

A moody day on the water.

Steller sea lions being rudely awakened.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Exit Glacier

Holy Moley batman! Exit Glacier is in full retreat. When we were here in 2006 the toe of the glacier was about 100 yards further down hill just out on the level ground behind Joyce in the first picture. I put a person in the second picture to give you a sense of scale; I was going for the blue color of the cravasses.

We had a very nice hike and we were careful to avoid what Sewardians call "eye poison" i.e. the sun.

Joyce on the Exit Glacier out-wash plain.

The trail crew member with the yellow hard-hat gives a sense of scale.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Adieu Deep Creek Beach

Click on the picture for a Hi-Res panorama.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Time to Roll

Thursday morning we retire as campground hosts and go awandering. It is time to travel and find some warm, sunny days before summer slips away on us. Ninilchik set a record for rain in July and the trend continues. It's been a great stay and we've been able to see and do plenty, but the travel itch needs to be scratched.

First stop is Seward for a day trip on a boat out to see whales, puffins, and glaciers. Then we point it north toward Fairbanks via the Parks Highway and Denali as they've been hitting 80+ degrees most days. Chena Hot Springs is big on our list of stops too.

Sarah Palin showed up here for an over-nighter with her entourage to film a segment for her "reality show" i.e. Sarah and family dig for clams. We stayed well away, but were amused that for the scene where "Sarah cooks a wholesome dinner for her family" she had to borrow a skillet from a fellow camper. Reality indeed!

Silver salmon are running up Deep Creek now and folks are doing pretty well on the incoming tides. The run is on!

Engine room --- make steam!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Alaska Fishing Charters - Halibut Trip

Today it was up early for a 5:30 AM halibut charter with Afishunt a.k.a. Alaska Fishing Charters. We had perfect conditions, it was dry and calm the whole time with very little wind, so the 30 minute run out to our fishing spot was very smooth. We had two hours of almost constant action, and we all got our limit of two fish each. Joyce hauled her fish up from 150 feet without stopping for a breather each time. As a bonus we saw otters, a seal, a whale, and a porpoise.

Captain Aurthur and mate Erin were terrific and kept this boatload of rookies squared away in a warm and friendly manner. At times we had three or four fish on so they had to scramble to keep up!

"Oh-dark-thirty" start to catch the tide change.

Rich inspecting our 32' boat, before the tractor launch.

Lin landed the biggest fish in our group at 38 pounds.

Lin goes to reload the bait, while Rich works a fish.

Janet seems pleased!

 A pretty good morning of fishing, with a very professional outfit.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Herring Islanders

Our friends Jane and Tim, and their two boys Logan and Bridger invited us out to their isalnd in Kachemak Bay for an overnighter. It was a fanstastic trip. We left Homer Harbor in sunlight and very calm seas for the crossing, once on their island they treated us to grilled salmon and fresh salad. Jane and Tim commercially fish salmon, so after dinner Joyce, Jane, and I went out to check the nets. On the way out the outboard engine decided to  act up. A pin had fallen out of throttle linkage so we were idle only for a while -  I was able to fish the necessary bits out of the bottom of the case, re-secure the likage, and get us going again. We got up close instruction in identifying the different varieties of a salmon an and their quality as Jane pulled the catch out of the nets.

We spent the night in their guest cabin and after breakfast we motored over to Jackolof Bay and walked along the road picking salmon berries in just a light rain.

A blustery front was moving through, so after lunch Jane took us back over to Homer before it got any worse. It was an e-ticket ride in the skiff with really good wave action right off the Homer spit. We rolled up the Sterling Highway back into Deep Creek just as the rain really started to pour down.

Captain Jane passing out PFDs and prepares to shove off.

Tim and Jane's cabin.

Still life, cabin porch.

Joyce and Jane clearing the net.

Island view.

Good friends, good food, warm and dry.

Playing frisbee-golf with the boys on the beach.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Egg McMuffin, Ninilchik Style

We've been hearing good things about the Boardwalk Cafe down at the mouth of the Ninilchik River just before the boat harbor. We decided to try them out for breakfast. The "Sunrise Sandwich" is a fresh ingredient homage to the Egg McMuffin. We can report that the burgers are pretty good too - the other night while Joyce did the laundry up at ranger central I surprised her with some "take out" from here.

A fishing fleet works out of Ninilchik Harbor, this is a pretty tight anchorage, and boats need to come and go only on the high tide. We often see them sitting offshore waiting for an incoming tide.

Joyce is ready for breakfast.

Ninilchik Harbor.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whiskey Gulch

The sun came out and so did we. Joyce and I scurried off to the beach at Whiskey Gulch for some beachcombing. As you can see the tractor-launch there is on a different scale entirely then what goes on commercially at Deep Creek.  Whiskey Gulch is a few miles north of Anchor Point off the Sterling Highway - it is a very nice, laid back place to wander. The road down is quite steep, we had to stop and put the truck into 4x4 on the way back up.

Glorious sunshine.

Gratuitous architecture photo from the ride home.

Monday, July 26, 2010


We've had three straight days with a variety of rain. Everything from misting, to sprinkles you could ignore, to driving downpours, but mostly just plane, old, steady rain. Anchorage set a new record for today with .75" of precipitation (the old record was .50").

The weather has emptied the campground and the outhouse I clean each morning has stayed pristine - I'm good with that. The trailer does seem to be shrinking. Ha! In self-defense we fled last night to the one excellent Mexican restaurant in Homer. Don Jose's was a good time - warm, dry, and nice Kodachrome colors to the decor. The seafood enchilata was fresh and excellent and the steak fajita would feed two people. The margarita was good chemo-therapy for the rain, it wasn't watered down (oh my gosh, reduced to rain puns).

We roll out in just over two weeks so we're cleaning and organizing and getting ready to become road warriors again. I found an excellent blog by Sue Thomas that is chock full of Yukon/Alaska/BC travel lore, including places to boondock. Her photography is top-notch so I'm enjoying that greatly.

Some cheery news: An article I wrote for a British ham radio magazine telling of my operating exploits here in Alaska is being published this fall and I'm lead to understand one of my pictures will grace the front cover. Cool beans!

The really big news is that Joyce and I took the plunge and booked a month long stay in Kona, Hawaii for mid-November. It was great fun using the Internet to research, read reviews, and book the condo and flights. I guess three days of rain does have expensive side effects! So dear reader if you have Kona/Big Island tips for us please email or comment - we're rookies and appreciate any guidance/suggestions.

The hat! I must have that hat!

An Oklahoma couple cleans clams in the rain. Say that three times fast.