Sunday, July 29, 2012


Thursday, July 26: Heading home today! Before I dig into unpacking, going through mountains of mail and grocery shopping, a few final notes. Spent a couple days in Grand Forks with our gracious hosts. The "check engine light" went on and Gateway Auto Tech in Grand Forks found a valve in the fuel system had failed due to "plastic fatigue." They had to order the part. We enjoyed a nice walk through the Campbell's neighborhood, and Jim took us to dinner one night with a drive to see the deer after dark and a delicious (is there any other kind?) ice cream stop. He also took us though the grounds of L&M Wind Power who makes the huge blades for wind generators all around the world. Grand Forks has really grown and changed since we were here after the huge flood of the Red River several years ago. The Campbells thank Bill Clinton for funding for a lot of the changes. Headed for Rosemount to pick up Daisy, then spent a couple of days with Jill and Corey. It was a nice visit and we took them out for dinner one night to thank them for taking care of Daisy. Scott and Robin were able to join us too; it's been too long between visits with the Hendricksons. So...a few last thoughts. I loved: the mountains, the valleys, the blue-green galcial lakes, the raging rivers, the hot springs, the small towns and their history, the wildlife, the nuvi! (Even when she was wrong, Ron got upset with her not with me!) I have a new respect for: the hardy pioneers that settled the Northwest, those that continue to survive in a tough environment, the First Nation peoples that have risen from brutal treatment and displacement to demand respect and fair treatment, our VW Passat that got us there and back (over 9000 miles!) without a breakdown, and my tireless and safe driver! Ron loved the long drives with no one else on the road, the fabulous vistas on the ridge roads, discovering new places and people, and being on the road with his buddy (m-m-m-m-m, so sweet!) The Milepost Book 2012 states, "For many people, the Alaska Highway is a great adventure. For others, it is a long drive. but whether you fall into the first group or the second, the vastness of wilderness this pioneer road crosses can't fail to impress you. It is truly a marvelous journey across a great expanse of North America. And if you take time to stop and meet the people and see the sights along the way, it can be the trip of a lifetime!" You know which group we're in! All in all, a fabulous trip up the Alcan. Thanks for joining us! SONG OF THE ALCAN PIONEERS--Unknown Soldier, 1942: They gave us a job and we did it; They said that it couldn't be done. They figured that time would forbid it. They licked us before we'd begun. But there she is--eagles above her, The Road--see, she steams in the snow. She's ours, and oh God, how we love her, But now--marching orders, we go. We started with nothing and won her, We diced for her honor with death. We starved, froze and died there upon her, And damned her with agonized breath. Blood-red rode the sun at her setting, Blood-red ran the snow where we lay-- Cold-white are the graves we're forgetting, Cold-white are our ashes today. We leveled the mountains to find her, We climbed from the pit to the sky, We conquered the forests to bind her, We burrowed where mastodons lie. Smooth, straight and true we have fashioned. Cleans she is, living, aglow. The Road--feel her, vibrant, impassioned-- And now--marching orders--we go. Go from the stardust of June night, Go from the beauty we won. Little lost lakes in the moonlight, Snow-steepled spires in the sun. We lend you The Road--we who made it, And bright may your victories burn. We lend you The Road, we who laid it, Until the day we return.
Sunday, July 22: Sunny and warm. (Sure glad we started our trip early in the cool of the spring!) On the road before 8:30am. Long day today; staying tonight with Jill's in-laws in Grand Forks ND. Following "James J Hill's dream" east today. I was talking to a couple of aging bikers from MN before we left Wolf Point. One told me that James J Hill had six identicle suits so he never had to waste time deciding what to wear to work--why not? As we drive we see lots of big round bales that remind us of home, and Ron and I are ruminating about what gives Montana its low rolling hills topography--the oil wells mean sedimentary rocks from great oceans with a source of lots of vegetation at one time, but maybe before that ancient mountains that have been eroded a lot into a peneplane? The oil pumps have begun to crop up just before we cross the border into ND; then the massive number of mobile housing units again for the workers on the oil shale deposits around Williston. There's road construction since we've been here last, and miles of blue pipe waiting to go in ditches along the highway. When we get to Minot, I realize it hasn't been too "Minot-tinous" getting here! We see our first corn plants this year; makes me hungry for sweet corn. More road kill today than wildlife, but saw three deer, a couple of egrets and a red-tailed hawk. Pull into Grand Forks about 5:30pm. Jim and Marge have a two-pie dinner planned: pizza and wild berry! It's a great Campbell welcome--and good to spend time with good folks.
Saturday, July 21: Sunny and warm. Slept in this am. Must have been that great swim before bed. Such a nice spot here in Malta; hate to leave, but it's Wolf Point MT tonight. Spent a couple of hours in the Phillips County Museum before leaving town. They had a dinosaur skeleton they actually discovered in the county; they found the pelivis first, so they named the dinosaur "Elvis." They had beautiful exhibits of local settler, cowboy and native history. My favorite thing was a mock samuri sword made from nickle-sized oriental coins with square holes in the center; the coins were tied together in the shape of a sword and handle. Ron liked a model of a sheep ranch, logs with sod roofs: sheep shed, ranch house, root cellar, stable and corral, cow shed/blacksmith shop, and out house; an old man did it from memory of his childhood home. Then we took a walk through the gardens of the HE Robinson House, 1903. A local gardening club has taken over the gounds and put in gardens and flowers typical of the turn of the 20th century. The fountain in the front with a keyhole walk and garden around was especially pretty; they also had a lovely little footbridge over a rain garden. We sat on a bench in the shade where we could admire the vegetable garden, cutting garden, and herb garden. They were having a wedding inside so we couldn't tour the house. The weather is getting hot as we head for Wolf Point MT to spend the night. Thank goodness it's a short run today. Enjoying the beautiful rolling hills and grazing livestock with the breaks along the Missouri in the distance. Enter the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and find a room in a nice motel with work-out equipment and a laundry! It'll be nice to get home and not have a ton of dirty clothes. Our room isn't ready yet so we find a spot to have a cold drink (the thermometer says 106 degrees!). We end up in a little Chinese restaurant for a cold one (couldn't resist the lo mein too!) and a little visit with the owners. They are from Canton; he came here to help a friend run the restaurant and she came later to help. They ended up buying the business; they have a little boy about Cam's age and a babe-in-arms. The place was empty but for us, so the family sat down to eat their dinner in the dining room. The mom was trying to eat and hold the baby so I asked if I could hold the baby and she said, "Yes!" Soon it's time to find our room, and have a bit of supper. By the time I get done with the wash it's lights out!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday, July 20: (Cheryl’s birthday) Cloudy and cool. Up early to blog; no internet here but I can enter my script. Bad weather coming so there’ll be no hiking today; we decide to leave Babb a day early and split the long trip to Wolf Point Montana by staying in Malta Montana tonight. We follow the St. Mary River to the south park entrance and take the road up to Logan Pass on the Continental Divide. The river widens to beautiful St. Mary Lake and though the clouds are low, we get some good shots of Jackson Glacier and we see snow on the hairpin bend at Piegan Creek. Not long and we’re at Logan Pass; the fog is pea soup and we are happy to turn around and head for low ground! They just re-opened the pass yesterday after 12 landslides last week! The road is much more civilized than Denali and my pits stay dry! Have a little picnic at the St. Mary Visitor’s Center, then do the tour of the center. Lots of visitors here today. Head south from St. Mary on twisty, turny road running ridges with the Rockies on our right shoulder. Lots of burned over areas here. Finally we catch #2 east at Browning Montana. The country turns brown and rolling with scattered homes and ranches; we see a few herds of horses and cattle and some alkali flats. Soon we’re following the highline again; there are lots of new ties lying on the grade—from Koppers? Pass a marker placed by the Great Northern Railway marking the farthest north that the Lewis and Clark party camped; they hoped the Marias River they were following went north thus enlarging the Louisiana Purchase. It turned west, the hunting was poor and the bugs were awful—they named the spot Camp Disappointment! The land is really flattening now, but as we near Cutbank Montana to stop for gas I can see the hazy outline of the Sweet Grass Hills to the north, and further on, the Bear Paw Mountains (hills, really) to the south. There are lots of wind generators again, and a long haul train that stretches as far as I can see from the east horizon to the west. We’ve seen the “purple mountains’ majesty” and now we see the “amber waves of grain.” What a trip this has been! By the time we get to Malta it was in the ninties--hot! We find a nice motel (the ac felt so good) with a pool.What a jewel--the Edgewater in Malta! We take a long swim to work the kinks out …and before long, we conk out!
Thursday, July 19: Sunny and warm. Cook a little oatmeal today as we are planning on doing a little hiking. Good shoes, hats, pants and long sleeves, sunscreen, bear spray, walking sticks with bell, and a picnic/cook-out lunch and we are on our way up Many Glacier’s Road into Glacier Park. It’s 11 miles of beautiful wooded valleys between huge peaks to the entrance of the park to get our lifetime, Senior Pass to all the US parks—there are some benefits to aging. Our first stop is Many Glacier Lodge to get the skinny on the available hikes. The lodge was built by James J. Hill as a destination for travelers on his Northern Pacific Railway (remember, they call it the “high line” in Montana?); it’s situated on Lake Swiftcurrent, bordered on three sides by huge mountain peaks—beautiful! We find out about a Nature Hike at 2pm, walk a little around the grounds of the lodge, down to the lake and over a little falls, then find a place to cook our picnic lunch. We show up for Ranger Bob’s hour and a half walk and talk about the special things in Glacier Park. He really knows his rocks and flowers, so Ron and I have a great time. A white-tailed deer joins our group as a special treat. Then, at 4pm, we get a tour of the historic lodge, three stories supported by 50+’ Douglas fir, decorated in the Swiss Chalet style with rock quarried from behind the lodge for the fireplaces and chimneys. It’s really grand! Ron treats me to dinner in the newly restored dining room; the open beam ceiling is put together like a railway trestle and the hearth of the huge fireplace is black, rippled stone from ancient beaches. The food is marvelous, and a great plenty; we feel like a couple of bears ready to sleep all winter and it’s not long before lights out in the Hendrickson Den.(Remember, you can click the picures to make them larger!)
Wednesday, July 18: Sunny and cool. Up early and out doing the walking tour of Fort MacLeod. They did a nice job highlighting their heritage buildings during Alberta’s centennial, 2005. We admire how they have preserved them; the city government is housed in the oldest court house building in Alberta. We spend quite a while in an old store/post office that is now an antique shop; the proprietress takes all the items out each fall, hundreds of them, and brings them back in the spring—what a job. Picked up a few groceries, had breakfast, played a hand of cards and on the road to Glacier Park. We’ll stay in a little crossroads town, Babb Montana, at one of the entrances to the park. Ron decides he wants to take a little side trip to Pincher Creek AB where there’s a farm museum; I’ll find a spot in the shade to write and read. As we head out of town we see huge green fields and the ghosts of the Rockies in the distance. Lots of canola--and wind generators! Great idea! Just past a big dam on the Oldman River and a huge lake is the heritage center with lots of old buildings and equipment, including old cars. Ron reports: “Here is another subchapter of a day on the road with Ron and Sue. This was a trip to a place called Heritage Acres, a few miles north of the US-Canadian border. It’s almost 200 acres of farm memories from 1880’s to 1960’s. Horse-drawn to tractor-drawn, enough to satisfy anybody’s thirst for the way they used to farm—even the balanced double tree assembly for an eight-horse hookup! They had a Tennessee Valley Authority situation here in the 80s with a lot of the Oldman River Valley being submerged; the province got their act together and paid for the relocation of a huge old farmstead and a complete grain elevator. Since then, old buildings of note (including a church and a schoolhouse) have also been moved there to create quite a pioneer setting. Had fun swapping some farm stories with the resident old timers. One of the oldest pieces on the property is an 1882 wood thrashing machine they picked up from Wisconsin!” Beautiful vistas as we climb into and among the foothills of the Rockies. Bikers (pedal) sure have their work cut out for them here! Wildflowers are plentiful and colorful in this cooler altitude. Wildlife count is low: one ground squirrel, one black bear and one huge angus—and two “watch for cattle” signs. We are feeling so good, then comes the border crossing. Ron reports (I don’t want to talk about it—they took my tangerines!): “We pulled into a beautiful mountainside border crossing where we were greeted by a couple of wet behind the ears, just out of kindergarten border crossing school graduates who thought we were smuggling the Canadian landscape to Wisconsin. Those little upstart-underachievers took this geezer’s modest rock collection and told us we were lucky they didn’t fine us $1000 per rock ‘cause we couldn’t prove they didn’t come out of a national park. Boy, I got close to being huffy before I heard that! What they didn’t know was only half of our collection was behind Sue’s seat; the real bounty and half the Canadian Shield was behind my seat. Hah!” Just a short ride, and a beer break at a lookout to calm us down, and we are nestled in our room on the highway in Babb. A little cook-out on the second floor “veranda” and we are ready to turn in. Big day!
Tuesday, July 17: Sunny and cool. Slept in a bit. Short trip to Fort MacLeod AB today. Visited with a nice couple from Virginia over breakfast; they designed their own trip from Calgary to Vancouver WA (with stops in between) and their travel agent set up transportation (mostly busses) and lodging. Neat idea. We leave our lovely island in the stream of busy Calgary, and find pretty country outside Calgary—huge, grassy fields with some cattle and horses, and lots of big, round bales. The Rockies are hazy off to the west. We’ll be back in ‘em in a couple days at Glacier Park. Found a modest, but clean, motel in Fort MacLeod; it’s is a little prairie town (+3000) with a big history, beginning when the North West Mounted Police set up a post here in 1874 on the Oldman River (yeah, “Old Man River”, funny, huh?) to control lawlessness due to the whiskey trade. The chiefs of the local tribes were so appreciative, they signed a treaty of co-operation. We visited a very well done replica of the fort, also named MacLeod after the first commander; it had lots of historical items in the self-sufficient fort, especially of the NWMP which became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when their job became to police all of Canada, not just the Northwest. We watched eight young people do the “musical ride” (kind of like the marching bands you see at football halftime shows, only on horses ) just like we saw at the Stampede with 32 riders! Really amazing. (I bet there’s a u-tube on it; it’d be worth watching.) Thunderstorms rolled in while we were in the museum (we had walked over from our motel); we tried our best to wait it out in the ice cream shop (Saskatoon blueberry is in season!), but I ended up buying an umbrella to get us back to our digs. Ron spent the evening trying to figure out how to get our sales tax back from Canada while I played a game on our computer. I had more fun. And to bed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday, July 16: Slept in a bit, then off to the riverwalk suggested by our host. Beautiful--lots of history, a mile of walk/bike sidewalk, green areas and the huge Bow River. We grab a bite of lunch from a super deli at a whole foods co-op then walk downtown to a Chinese Cultural Center. The first thing we see is the top of the building is a replica of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It was built, dis-assembled in China then brought here and re-assembled by craftsmen from there. The guide is very friendly and explains how the Chinese have influenced the culture of Calgary even though they were discriminated against and couldn't even vote till the 60s! We see a lot of Chinese porcelains and ceramics, garments of royalty and Chinese inventions. My favorite is an amazing reproduction of tigers all done in feathers. Ron has always been facinated with the terra cotta warriors and we see a replica that was done for a recent World's Fair. The origianl warriors (and horses) were found in the tomb of the First Emperor of China in a tomb measuring eight miles in circuference constructed 2000 yeaars ago by more that 700,000 workers over 37 years. Wow! Long walk back but we stop at a great Vietnamese restaurant on the way--the Golden Bell--yummy. A quiet evening of reading and blogging and dozing. Off to Fort MacLeod AB tomorrow--but not too early!
Sunday, July 15: Had a nice relaxing morning, hot shower then off to the Calgary Stampede. About a 20 minute walk and we’re on the grounds. It’s huge, all concrete paved—about a mile long and half a mile wide. Advertised as the greatest outdoor show on earth, we’re convinced—ten big activity areas including a midway of rides and food, a vendor’s area with an arena where we saw a wonderful show called “Trails” (see the three horses in the title?) about the history of Calgary and the Stampede which was started 100 years ago (we heard it was done by a Disney artist), a grandstand where we watched the rodeo events from the seventh level, a theater with western music entertainment, an Indian village, an ag building, a couple of dirt floored arenas where we watched horse demos and Ron’s favorite, teams of Belgians and Percherons pulling heavy loads (the winners pulled a record of over 13,000 pounds). It was a long day and a long walk home after all that activity—but worth it—especially the marble slab ice cream just “to keep up our strength!” A quick bowl of soup and lights out!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday, July 14: (Dad Livermore’s birthday) Beautiful morning. Went out to the car to get my swim suit (lovely pool area here) and decided to talk Ron into a walk instead. Walked for an hour; found a lovely Heritage Park with buildings from Red Deer’s history—a gazebo from the Gaetz house, the man that founded the town, and a steeple from one of the oldest churches. Also strolled through a huge farmer’s market; bought some garden carrots and raspberries for the road. We drive through undulating countryside with groves of trees and lots of ag and horses. Just a couple hours and we are in Calgary, population 1,065,000 and Ms Nuvi can't zero in on the address. We are forced to stop and ask directions; (we can't call our B&B 'cause we don't really know where we are!) Found a nice old fellow at an A&W who gave us directions; (three of the young employees had no idea what the highway was that went past their work, muchless how to get where we needed to go!) Good thing we weren't in a hurry! Saw lots of cowboy hats and boots on folks on the streets as we wound our way to our B&B, a little garden spot in the middle of highrise apartments and offices--20 minutes from the riverwalk and 20 minutes from tomorrow's Stampede--perfect. Our host did not want us to leave all our gear in the car on the street, so it took many trips to totally unpack, but at last we are ready to relax over a little supper and do some reading and blogging. Have I told you how nice it is to know you are with us on our journey? Thanks for listening. Talk to you tomorrow.
Friday, July 13: Up early because we went to bed so early. Thought we’d have breakfast, wash clothes and cook some rice and beans in the community kitchen. No milk left for continental breakfast, one washer was full of dirt and the other two were out of order, and the community kitchen was full of dirty dishes. Did I mention it was Friday the 13th? We booked a room in Red Deer about two hours south of Edmonton and boogied! Ate Sue’s yummy scones and fruit for breakfast on the road. Surprised that the sky continues to be hazy and smells of smoke. Ms. Nuvi found us a cute park in Spruce Grove just outside Edmonton to cook up beans and rice for lunch. Lots of moms and grandmas and little kids playing in a big sprinkler shaped like a dinosaur. One lady told us the smoke is from big fires in Russia!—we really are all part of a big web of life, aren’t we? On our second try we get on the bypass past Edmonton; we cross the huge Saskatchewan River that runs through it. There’s a lot of ag here too, and the massive canola fields, and scattered forests. Finally find the Red Deer Lodge; it’s a lovely surprise. Ron pulls his “military service” card and gets us a room overlooking the pool for under $100! Sorry to have a beer drop off our luggage cart and open and leave a big pool of foam in the lobby, but this place could use a little loosening up! Nice to have air—another hot evening. Find a really classy Laundromat, play cards and eat pizza while waiting. Can’t wait to get into the big, comfy bed!
Thursday, July 12: (Happy Birthday to me!) Up about 6am, but our host, Sue, already has coffee ready and I do a little writing and chatting till Ron gets up for breakfast at 7am—quiche and strawberries with blueberry scones—yum! Sue presents me (literally) with chocolate-covered cherries and a copy of her book, and then packs us up the rest of the scones and quiche for my lunch—she’s amazing. Make a stop at the Peace Canyon dam site; there's an interpretive center about the workings of the dam, and we see casts and rocks with dinosaur fossils found when they drained the river to put in the dam. Then we head up-river to the WAC Bennett Dam, one of the largest earthfill dams in the world, with BC’s largest reservoir, Williston Lake. (They were named after politician’s of the time.) There is a third dam planned, the Site C Project, and there are "no Site C" signs all over town just like our ATC controversy. Ron decides to take the tour; I find a spot in the sun and read; such a life! Ron reports: "I'm asked on occasion to put pen to paper and give a brief accounting of a "boy" stop. The stop at hand is the a dirt dam that, with the Peace Valley dam, supplies 25% of Canada’s power. The project started in 1961 and was finished in 1967. It employed 1000 workers at the peak. I went on a real cool tour into the bowels of the place and observed the ten big generators of which three were being overhauled. You can actually watch the water as it is leaving the turbines and feeding into the penstocks that carry the ejected water into the river below the dam. That water is then dammed up again downstream to make more juice and the project coming up will use that same water for a third dam making electricity to put on the USA grid--thank you very much." We continue on the loop back to Dawson Creek, “0” on the Alcan Highway; I think this means we’ve done it all! There’s a haze and smell of smoke in the air; forest fires or pollution, maybe we’ll find out when we stop for lunch in Dawson Creek, our last stop in BC. Several big river valleys and bridges through here, though the land is flattening out; and hugh canola fields--my favorite margarine, Canola, is from Canada. Chinese food for my birthday lunch (we say, “she-she) and then across this ag country toward Edmonton, capitol of Alberta. Lots more canola fields and dinosaur remains in the old inland sea country. We decide to stop at Whitecourt and see how our luck holds out. Not so good here either ‘cause of contractors and workers in oil and gas exploration. We finally find an old Howard Johnson Hotel (Walter Hooper used to like to stay at them) that had seen better days. Oh well, it’ll do for one night. Bedtime entertainment consists of us watching out our fourth floor window (floors three and four are non-smoking?) three patrol officers empty a car of three young men, put one in cuffs and impound the vehicle. Sweet dreams!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday, July 11: Sunny and warm! Heading east out of Fort Nelson (Mile 300 on the Alcan) toward Dawson Creek (mile 0 on the Alcan)! and as we cross the bridge heading out of town we are crossing the lowest spot, 1000', on the Alcan. The land is fairly flat here, part of the Laird Plateau. Lots of creeks and permafrost forests and we pass a fiberboard plant, a gas-processing plant and lots of ag which must support the people here; oil shales will also be going into production--another wide spot in the road destined to be a boom town. Pretty short day today so we'll take a side trip to the big earthen dam on the Peace River before we go to Dawson Creek. Lots of semi traffic--we pass an accident, a semi burning, and we meet seven wide loads and pass two others loaded with what looks like pre-fab offices and housing heading for the oil shale sites. We also see several "open camp" areas--like in Williston--for workers' temporary lodging. We stop at the Sikkani River for a picnic lunch; the supports for the original bridge are left downstream from the arson fire that destroyed the wooden structure. It was the first permanent structure on the Alcan, and was built by three companies of African-Americans in three days. Actually 1/3 of the soldiers that worked on the Alcan were African-American. We realize we have seen lots of campers, motorcycles, pick-ups and semis but very few passenger cars on this trip. A few miles out of Fort St. John we turn west on 27 to Hudson's Hope; there are 10% grades down into the huge valley of the Peace River. There are many acres of ag (the huge, yellow canola fields are stunning) and lots of semis loaded with logs; it's slow going on this "scenic highway." When we find our way to the dam site we have missed the last tour, so we decide to stay in Hudson's Hope, third oldest community in BC, and take the tour first thing in the morning. So here we are again, Mary and Joseph looking for a room in the inn--no luck, this town is full of workers too, and the park for camping has no electricity for the cooler. Really makes me appreciate all the nights we had booked ahead! I suggest we go to the Visitor's Center for help (worked in Dawson City) and would you believe she knows a B&B that saves a room for visitors even though the boom workers in town are begging for it?! The house is lovely, built in 1920 by a local coal mine owner; our host is a school board member and an author of children's books on self esteem. She really wasn't quite ready to open, but she gave us a great room with a bath for under $100!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tuesday, July 10: Sunny and warm! Up early to pick up some groceries and check our email—bad news! Our sweet Evelyn Stromquist was finally taken by the cancer she had fought for ten years; she had such a sweet disposition even in her illness. She was an inspiration. Tonight we’ll rest our heads in Fort Nelson BC. We’ll pass the 6000-mile mark today and many more adventures to go. Stopped by Yukon Highway Department for a mandatory survey. We were informed that there was an accident ahead—motorist/buffalo—and we think deer are dangerous! The trees are taller and thicker here; I think we are out of the permafrost. There’s a lot of scat on the side of the highway to remind us to be vigilant. We see a bunch of wild horses on the side of the road; maybe it’s horses scat? We’ve seen crosses along the highway where folks have died in accidents; we’ve also seen pyramids of sticks with flagging on them which we think are First Nations constructions for the same purpose. We see six black bears today and then a wild wood buffalo, a she-rock sheep and lambs and a moose! Had to pass another hitchhiker ‘cause we just don’t have any room; this one had a flat tire! We come upon a trooper at the site of the accident we heard about (two motorcycles trying to stop to see a bear!) and we tell him about the hitchhiker. We didn’t realize we would be passing through the Rockies of Northern BC—fantastic views and then the beautiful glacial blue Lake Muncho (means big lake) between the Sentinal and the Terminal Mountains—with Peterson Mountain at the end and Honeymoon Island in the center. The road is twisty, turny and steep in spots; Ron negotiates it all like a champ. Finally we come out of the mountains near Fort Nelson. The land flattens into hay fields and cattle ranches (and buffalo) and commercial forests—the buffalo grazing area must be at least 100 acres and it's ditched, not fenced. Fort Nelson is named after the Brit naval hero at Trafalger, Admiral Nelson; established in 1805 by the Northwest Fur Trade Company, it really grew during the building of the Alcan as a launch point north to Whitehorse. We end up bunking in at a Ramada in the “pet room” (ceramic floor)—that’s what you get for last minute booking! Oh well, it’s clean! We take a long walk around Fort Nelson, population 3000, after supper, and then conk out. Long day!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, July 9: Partly sunny and cool: Great sleep last night—warm and cozy. Downloaded the photos from yesterday, made sandwiches and packed up. The first stop today will be the Yukon Wildlife Refuge—a nice 5km walk with promises to see elk, moose, caribou, wood bison, muskox, mountain goat, thin-horned sheep (stone and Dall) muledeer, Arctic fox, (missing) lynx, bazillions of ground squirrels and a bluebird. It’s 3pm before we gas up in Whitehorse—gonna be a long day today—at least five more hours to Watson Lake. This is a stretch of road we’ve been on before; good day for a book on tape. We finished “The Man from Beijing”—super! We are struck again by the size of Marsh Lake, the headwaters of the Yukon, and the chalky, gray walls of the White Mountains. We stop for rhubarb pie at the place that had no food the last time we were there because of feeding 33 folks for five days during the wash-outs--yummy pie! Temperatures go up into the 70s for the first time in our trip, though it cools by the time we reach Watson Lake. We get the last room at Andrea’s Hotel and grab a quick sandwich before we turn in. Another long day tomorrow. I hate these one-night stands!
Sunday, July 8: Sunny and cool. Up early today to finish blogging before breakfast—blueberry pancakes! We say goodbye to beautiful Lake Kluane, and to Cecelia and Angela with grateful thanks—what a spot! Pack up, make sandwiches, and on the road by 10am. Our turn to Takhini Hot Springs will be just a few miles short of Whitehorse. We take a picture of the serene spirit houses on the hill over Silver City; a First Nation couple chose to be interred there and their wishes were honored. The mountains travel with us for a while, then in the distance beyond the trees we see dust. We’d heard there was road construction ahead, but on Sunday? Turns out there’s no equipment, just miles of gravel. We’ll travel at what Ron calls “good animal viewing speed!” Only around four hours traveling today, then a soak in the hot springs—great day ahead. The road between the mountains is permafrost spruce forest; we’re close to the tops of the snowy peaks of the Kluane Range when we pass the highest spot between Fairbanks and Whitehorse—beautiful vistas! Ron sees a piece of litter and comments on how there has been so little on the Alcan; I agree. People who care come here! We take an 8-mile cutoff on a piece of the old Alcan that takes us through Champagne, a First Nation camp and supply post on the Dalton Trail to Dawson City. We are interested in the spirit houses here; we see a lot of bear scat on the highway back in there too. Back on the Alcan Ron spots a coyote who has just grabbed a ground squirrel for lunch. We get hungry too and stop at a wayside, site of a huge forest fire in 1958. The area has been slow to regenerate back to the spruce/permafrost forest, but the poplars that came back are just perfect for herds of elk and mule deer. At Haines Junction we head due east following the valleys of Alsek and then Takhini River; there are sandy roadcuts through here left from a huge Ice Age glacial lake, Champagne. Just north of Whitehorse we turn off onto Takhini Springs Road and soon we’re checking into our little white canvas cabin—beautiful with pine shiplap floor and ceiling. We have a bit of supper then go spend a couple hours in the hot springs—warm and relaxing. Down-loading photos to the blog is slow and I’m ready for sleep when I finish.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Saturday, July 7: Cool, but sunny! What a jewel this place is--the beautiful glacial –blue lake, the mountains all around, the cozy cabin, the community room where we meet so many interesting people, and the ghost of Silver City in the tumbled-down log cabins on the way in. We were wondering about them yesterday when we came. The spot started out as a First Nation fish camp, then a post to refresh the miners of '98-'99 and a staging area during the building of the Alcan. There was quite a silver fox trade here that gave the city its name. Today we’re back-tracking to Destruction Bay to get gas and we see a big grizzly on the road; they say the females around here are lighter-colored and the males, darker. It’s definately a girl! We stop at Soldier’s Summit and find it’s the spot where the ceremony for the opening of the Alcan in 11/42. It’s a nice ½-hour walk up the side of the mountain and a neat audiotape of the original ceremony and great vistas of the lake below—perfect. (The Alcan north and south actually joined at Contact Creek, not far from Watson Lake.) We head back to camp for a lunch of raw fries and hamburgers then back to the Kluane Park Visitor’s Center for a map of the walking trail up Sheep Mountain; Dall sheep are plentiful here in the early spring and fall--just our luck! We see a cross on the side of the mountain, and a run-down cabin; it belonged to a prospector named Alexander Fisher, and when he died, they buried him on the mountain. We park in a wide spot in the gravel road to the trail and head up the mountain, pass the parking lot and start up the footpath with our bear spray, belled walking-stick and head nets (the mosquitoes are fierce). After ½-hour on the trail we see fresh grizzly scat..take a picture and head back. That’s enough adventure for us! When we get back to camp we make popcorn, play a little cards and I blog till midnight. I see the sun go down for the first time in a month! And off to bed…Whitehorse YT and Tahkini Hot Springs tomorrow!
Friday, July 6: Partly sunny today! Great sourdough pancakes for breakfast, but late start trying to dry out the tent before we pack up. Heading southeast on the Alcan to a B&B near Kluane National Park YT, with the some of the highest mountains in Canada. We’ll leave the US at the Canadian border today. We cross the Tok River and then the huge Tanana River (means mountain water), largest tributary of the Yukon, through the sparsely forested permafrost. We see lots of pothole lakes in the permafrost there, taking a great picture at Reflection Lake. We take a little detour into the Tetlin Wildlife Preserve at Deadman’s Lake and walk an interpretive boardwalk down to the water; at the explanation for the gray jay, we see a pair, then an eagle flies over; there aren’t many mosquitoes, but lots of dragonflies—I guess they’re doing their job! We stop at another Tetlin NWP Visitor Center for lunch; the reserve is a 934,000-acre area that is an internationally known IBA (Important Bird Area) as it’s a main migration route. The road is extremely rough after we cross the border; the permafrost continues and it’s melting and freezing affects the road like the red clay back home. Once we cross the Donjek River (means peavine) and start passing through the high peaks of the Kluane Mountains, the road improves and then we spot Kluane Lake (great whitefish)-–gorgeous. We are arriving as the sun peeks from behind the clouds and we get some great photos—the mountain slopes washed with light and shadows, the lake illuminated like a radiance from within , and the magenta and golden flowers all aglow! The lake starts at Burwash Landing, one of the oldest settlements in the Yukon, and continues for nearly thirty miles, when we finally round the south end and pull into our B&B. We unpack, warm up the last of our wonderful salmon for supper, then take a walk on the rocky beach. Time for bed!