Sunday, July 6th
We spent a peaceful night at Dave’s house, connecting to the mains pressure which meant we had water in the motorhome which makes having a shower little bit easier!
We spent about five hours chatting to Dave and then it was time to head into Anchorage to the RV shop, hope they have overnight parking and get ready for the morning to have the pump replaced.
On our way into the city we turned off to the Eklutna historical Park that was established to preserve and portray the heritage of the Athabaskan people, was founded in 1650 the oldest continually inhabited village in the Anchorage area. With the coming of the Russian missionaries in the early 19th century most the locals converted to Russian Orthodoxy as evidence by the onion domed St Nicholas Church. The adjacent cemetery has over 100 graves covered with colourable split spirit houses decorated in accordance to individual family traditions. This is obviously a native tradition which has never been seen in Russia.
Monday, July 7th
Well it was an early start this morning with the RV repair shop starting at 6:30 a.m. and I didn’t get into the front office till 7 a.m. and there are a couple ahead of me, there were two monster motorhomes parked overnight along with us.
They said yes they could replace the pump and started almost straight away and by 10 o’clock the new pump was in, we topped up the water tank, Mr visa had paid the $350 and were on our way.
On the way to the next stop that was to see the Orthodox Church Cathedral here in Anchorage, as we just had turned off the motorway, there was a female Moose and she decided to gallop along beside us until our speed separated us. The Cathedral was not open on Monday so we walked round the outside and found it interesting, then we went to see the salmon viewing platform, I think we are at the wrong time to see any salmon as it was a nonevent.
We then went out to Eagle River Nature Centre for a walk amongst the wildlife and nature, we weren’t told there were massive roadworks on the way we had to find that out for ourselves.
We then programmed the GPS to Homer some 500+ kilometres away and that was safely through Anchorage out on the other side, it is a beautiful drive as we cleared the city and the light was right to get some beautiful photographs.
Every parking spot we stopped at had no overnight camping, in fact we had been told at Walmart that it is a Anchorage bylaw that there is no overnight parking in car parks.
We carried on the beautiful scenic road and when we came to Chugach State Park and it indicated camping we drove on their to a very peaceful parking area with no road noise, beautiful view, and $15 a night we had our overnight camping spot.
Tuesday, July 8th
It looks like Captain Cook made it to Alaska as today we are driving along the edge of Cook Inlet and again with beautiful views, I think the light may be a little bit better last night, but the views were still magnificent!
We had a lot of traffic on the road and in one viewpoint that we pulled into had a 1998 Trek 2830 with a couple from San Diego and they were part of a tour group of 14 motorhomes that we had passed and Dawson City and we left them and they carried on try to catch up with the rest of the group, later two monsters pulled in behind us at another viewpoint, they are with the same group and they were all pulling cars and I was told that the longest RV in the group was 45 feet long and that was pulling a car, that sort of takes RV’ing into a completely new ball game, which I want no part of.
As we were coming into Cooper Landing we crossed a Bridge just before the village there was a female Moose trying to decide whether it would cross the road, then saw us and started running and then we were passed her, I pulled into the parking area on other side of the river but the Moose was not hanging around for any more portraits.
We started looking for overnight parking spots and almost everyone we saw was going to be too noisy and eventually we found a state Park that took us into Watson Lake, a shingle road in probably little over a kilometre, but nice little parking area besides a reasonably beautiful lake and here we are set for the night.
Wednesday, 9th July
Today we carried on our drive and overcast weather towards Homer passing through Stirling, Clam Gulch, Happy Valley, where we did a side trip to the Ninilchik village situated on the mouth of the river of the same name, there was an old Russian built church there, and the gift shop, the lady in the church was descendant from one of the eight Russians came to the village that married the native girls, and the woman in the gift shop came from Pennsylvania, both were born in America and could speak a little bit of Russian with a heavy accent.
We carried on to Anchor Point, where we drove 15 km inland to a village called in the guidebook as “The Russian Village” its name was Nokolaevsk, and it appears to be a reasonably new village on the map as being settled in the 1960s, I was a little disappointed thinking it may have been from the Russians that were here in the 19th century when Russia sold Alaska to America.
The village, as far as representing Russian life, was non-event, it had one Orthodox Church that was closed to tourists and one new one in the process of being built, the village was supposed to be of the Russian old believers, but I’m not sure that anyone there would fall into this category, however Luda tells me there are 2000 that fall into this category this category around this area!
So was back on the road into Homer and out on the Spit were we parked up for the night.
Thursday, July 10th
At least it wasn’t raining this morning, just enough cloud in the sky to make the photographs interesting, we drove out to the end of the split and there were dozens upon dozens of motorhomes in all sorts of parkings, most with electric hookups, it almost appears that American RV owners cannot Park overnight anywhere without plugging into electricity.
As we are driving back into town, we were about to pass the parking area that we spent last night in, and we saw what was obviously a European motorhome in to our great delight it was a Carthago, one slightly smaller than what we had, and we later met up with them, yes they were form Germany, that brought their motorhome in from Europe to Halifax, and after doing America though are planning to go down to South America and eventually get to Australia and New Zealand. There are young couple in their mid 30s and as they going in the same direction as us no doubt we will see them again.
Light was incredible around the mountains, and of course we were surrounded by the mountains, so there were photographs and every direction, even on the shore.
On the top of a Telegraph pole we found a lone Eagle lofty surveying all the people, who are busy taking photographs, we were told of a Eagles nest around several bends in the road back to town, but those directions were just too hard to follow.
The weather started getting worse with light spots of rain so it was time to make a decision to stay or to go, there was no fun we thought on taking a boat trip in any direction in the rain so we decided to head back North towards Anchorage and we set our sights on Kenai a town of 7000+ with a strong Russian background, with the Russian fur traders arriving in 1781.
At the moment we parked in the car park outside the information Centre and the weather has turned very wet!
Friday, July 11th
Last night the Internet promised us freezing rain for the next three days but this morning we woke up to a blue sky’s we started our travel towards Seward, but the rain caught up with us before we got very far.
With it being so wet when we arrived that put the boat cruise that we wanted to go on, on hold for the day, instead we went to the Alaska Sea Life Centre which took a good hour to see all of the exhibits, of course the town was full of people from the cruise boat that was in, it was one of the Alaska Cruise Boats with about six decks of cabins so everyone has a view.
There are tremendous amount of motorhomes in the city with basically no free parking but there was plenty of parking for $10-$15.
As I write this letter at 5:30 p.m. in the evening is drizzling and very much overcast so were hoping will clear up in the morning for a six hour Fjord tour.
Saturday, July 12th
All the day cleared up enough for us to go on the cruise, there were about 120 on the cruise and the first bit of excitement was as we were leaving the harbour a seal was lying on its back on the water waving its paws at us, then on the left-hand side we saw a magnificent glacier and then were passing an inlet with lots of fishing boats and salmon jumping out of the water everywhere.
We kept on cruising towards our destination which was a glacier and the scenery was magnificent with water pouring off the mountains, lots of birds about, we had a brief glimpse of an eagle but it wasn’t staying round to be photographed, then it started raining, then it turned into sleet has started getting very cold, were sailing through minor icebergs that had fallen off the glacier, and I must admit the theme song from the Titanic was running through our minds, each time we got close to a iceberg there was a bang as ice broke then there was a swell as the ice hit the water and sent a wave to hit the boat, so with a lot of bangs and waves, the glacier came into view and believe me started getting really cold, which is not surprising with all the ice and cold water all around us.
We stayed around the glacier for about 20 minutes every so often we heard a very loud bang, and that would be followed 2- 3 minutes later with a large piece of ice falling into the water creating a minor wave. We moved on to another inlet and on the way we saw several whales in the most spectacular was when one jumped out of the water turning as it went, of course there was no warning and I’d be surprised of anyone got a photo.
We saw a lot of birds, whales, seals and lots of opportunities for many photos.
Coming ashore we then started driving back the way we came, stopping off to look at another glacier a couple of miles out of town, and then we went on to a overnight parking spot we saw as we came in and settled in there for a peaceful night.
Sunday, 13th July
This morning we started off our trip towards Whitaker stopping in many spots along the way to enjoy the magnificent scenery through a camera lens, we were surrounded with mountains.
We pulled into an interesting parking spot where there was a promise of an interesting walk to see another glacier of some sort, but the interesting thing is that on the way, when we were on a wooden walkway, there was a Moose appeared from the forest and started crossing the river, so it was another series of interesting photos.
We turned into a parking spot where you could catch a boat to see the Portage Glacier, after yesterday’s trip we felt we didn’t need another boat trip so we walked towards the Byron glacier and got a good series of photographs.
We could see what looked like a glacier, so when parking spots appeared signalling a glacier we stopped and recorded the image and eventually we came to a tunnel they gave us access to Whitaker, it was a one-way tunnel we had to wait 15 minutes before was our turn, also was a rail tunnel with the railway line running down the centre, the cost for the motorhome was $12.
Once we arrived we went down to the wharf and saw a ferry steaming away, eventually we found the ticket office, and yes that was the ferry to Valdez and yes we had just missed it and the next one goes tomorrow, so we bought a ticket for tomorrow total cost $326 and then we found a parking spot on the outskirts of town we were set up for the night.
Monday 14th of July
We had a reporting time of 12:45 p.m. so we were down at the harbour at about 12 noon, checked in, got our tickets and label for the motorhome, then got in line watching our ferry unload its cars and motorhomes, was very obvious from the speed that the vehicles were coming off the motorhome, it was not what one would call a roll on roll off, but eventually we were selected to go on, they placed us very carefully in the location that they wanted, fortunately it was not a full sailing so we were not packed in as tight as we could have been.
Like all ferries we went up to the passenger deck and eventually were on our way on a six hour delightful cruise amongst the Fjord’s and Islands on our route to Valdez.
Throughout the whole trip there are glaciers to photograph, incredible looking snow-covered high mountains and the distance, water falling off high cliffs in magnificent waterfalls, so throughout the whole six hour trip there were photographs to be taken in every direction.
All good things come to an end and soon we were tied up the harbour, told to go down to our vehicles, and then it was an interesting watch, whilst they juggled the vehicles as to what was going off first, if you think of a large L with the top of the L being the entry point and the bottom right portion of the L being the exit point you get a little bit of an idea on what the challenge was unloading the ferry.
We were off incredibly quick and then it was a quick drive to a local camping ground and by 8:30 p.m. we had plugged into the power and were ready for the night.
Tuesday 15th of July
We left the campground and a little bit outside town did a right-hand turn to the other side of the harbour we were we were supposed to have an opportunity of seeing all sorts of wildlife and Eagles. We drove out to the end of the road and I think all the wildlife had gone south for the summer, but a little bit into the way back we saw an eagle in its nest high up in the trees and this is when you need a very long lens and a very solid tripod, which we did not have, but we do get a few photographs for the reject bin.
It was a very scenic road and soon we were into the Keystone Canyon which contains some incredible waterfalls with magical names like Horsetail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, so again we were glad that were on digital and not shooting film.
A little bit further through the Canyon we saw an interesting rock formation on the left-hand side, and we stopped to photograph that, only to find out that it was a another glacier, almost reaching the road.
Carrying on the Richardson highway at mile 28 we found a parking spot for the Worthington glacier, it looked like an ideal spot for the night but there was no parking sign as we came in so we carried on after doing photographs of the glacier.
We parked for the night on part of a old road that had been straightened and we did look at the two large rocks at the top of a Cliff they were just waiting for an earthquake to come tumbling down, but nothing ventured nothing gained, so we parked up for the night.
Wednesday 16th of July
Well rocks were still at the top of the cliff, and there was a bright sky which was an ideal day to be driving towards McCarthy. So we kept on driving on the excellent highway with good scenic views in every direction and did a left-hand turn towards the Eggleton highway, and then it was easy an 54 km to the small town of Chitina which was the gateway to the famous McCarthy road.
The guidebook describes McCarthy road as being a gravel road built along the old Copper River railway bed and warns to watch out for old rails and railroad ties embedded in the road or lying alongside the roadside. They also say drive slowly over the potholes and washboard sections and watch out for sharp rocks, don’t power around corners because is a chance you might meet somebody on the curve.
They also warned that you should carry a spare wheel with good tyre on the wheel.
We had no spare wheel so we just got onto the road and went, now when they talk about wash board sections, boy, were they right! We had about 94 km to drive and it took us about two hours to get 41 km on the road, I think everything on the motorhome had a go at shaking loose, and we were passed at high speed by newer motorhomes so when we got to the Kuskullana railroad bridge that was built in 1910, 503 5 feet long and 228 feet above the river, that had now been converted into a road bridge, one-way of course, we decided enough was enough so we turned round and said goodbye to the rest of the McCarthy road.
A little bit into the way back we saw two motorhomes parked on the other side of the road with everybody out with their cameras and we looked over to our right and there was a female Moose, in the lake, munching on the grass, so that was a nice series of photographs before we got on the way again bouncing along the road.
An American motorhome by the brand of Born-Again, or something like that, sped by us doing about twice our speed so we wish them well knowing we would never see them again.
Back at Chitina, we took a left-hand turn drove out on the side of the river looking for a spot to spend the night, and again there was no luck with that, so we turned around and drove back and there are on the right-hand side, in the river, was another female moose, standing quite deep in the water, putting her head right down and coming up with a mouth full of good moose food, munched away, and then back down again. A wonderful series of photographs.
On the otherside of town we had seen at about 2 mile lake, a caravan parked on the side of the road, so when we saw that space empty as we drove out, we claimed that for the night, so here we are in a beautiful forest lake scene for the night.
Thursday, July 17th
We drove back along the Edgerton highway to the Richardson highway and then we headed North to Glenallen, at this point we decided to drive on to Paxton and then drive along the Denalli highway until the tar seal ran out at about 40 km, this happen to be at the Tangle Lakes.
This part of the road was highlighted in the Milepost, the Alaska travel planner, as being one of the most scenic roads in this state. It is certainly was scenic with the large forests that we looked down on from an elevated road with plenty of lakes of all sizes and the ever present Hills in the background and further on the background a very large range of snow-covered mountains, the result of the Pacific plate pushing the American plate in a upwards motion.
It was also interesting to look at the oil pipeline running from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez a 1280 km distance, a feature of the landscape that has been very obvious on many parts of our travels.
It’s interesting to listen to the locals when they talk about the rest of the America, they refer to it as “the lower 48”…….
We then turned around to head back to one of the many overnight parking spots we saw as we drove in we saw ahead a moose starting to gallop across the road and then disappeared into the thick bush that is a feature of this part of the country, we thought we’d seen the last of him, but we stopped and saw him galloping to a spot about 100 m away, in clear view of the elevated motorway, and he turned his head around to look at us posing for many photographs, and when he got tired of that he disappeared appeared off into the distance. Yes it was good to finally photograph a moose with antlers, would have been nice if they had been massive antlers but they would not be lingering around the roadside advertising their presence for hunters.
Little bit further on we selected the roadside spot that was stopping at for the night and relaxed to enjoy the beautiful scenery from our parking spot.
Friday, July 18th
This morning we carried on our drive back to the Paxton Junction, the light was not as good as it was when we drove in yesterday’s we were pleased we had made that decision. Was then on South to the Tok Cutoff, the road that connects the Richardson highway to the Glen highway. It was a good road running through forests either side of the road, with many lakes in the valleys. All the way along the road there were spectacular views of the snow-covered mountains in the distance we even had a brief glimpse of a male and female moose on the side of the road seconds before they dashed off into the forest.
The roads on this part of the journey are rather deserted with just the occasional one or two vehicles passing us in either direction, there are large number of the massive American motorhomes, usually all towing cars, and just let us know there are other Americans out there we come across a small car pulling a small caravan, small enough for one person to sleep in! We are still seeing a lot of campers, a living sleeping area that fits onto the back of a pickup converting the pick up into an RV.
With a large number of pickups in this country this is an obvious accessory to be able to get away for that weekend in what becomes a single unit vehicle.
Access to the Internet is reasonably hard to obtain travelling the way we do, no doubt if we went on to motor camps each night we have no problems, cellphone coverage is quite bad, so we basically have to wait to we get into a reasonable size town to find out if the rest of the world is there!
We passed a tour group of motorhomes that we saw in early in the trip, there was a fellow Treker in this group, we stopped briefly and said hello and carried on our way towards Tok, just after this we saw a very large parking area down off the road with a very peaceful views of the forests leading up to the mountains and here we are for the night.
Saturday, July 19th
We carried on our way South towards the Canadian border and when we saw a wildlife viewing area we pulled in to see what sort of wildlife was available, and again we believe they were all on holiday. There was a Boardwalk on through the forest as the ground was in the area commonly known as permafrost, but they didn’t stop some interesting red mushrooms from growing, the moment Luda saw these she commented that they were the best edible mushrooms you can find so she gathered together a bag full and then we were on our way travelling South.
Little bit further on there was a beautiful little lake again with a supposed wildlife viewing but all we found was another crop of the same mushrooms, so many of them Luda was able to be very selective in selecting the most edible.
It had been many days since we had Internet so I decided to stop just before the border for the night at an RV Park with a had good Wi-Fi in their cafe so I download my emails and sent off the newsletter and whilst this was happening a couple strolled in, asked if that was my motorhome out the front, and if I was Ivan, I answered a positive yes to both, they turned out to be a couple of Aussies from Melbourne on their third season wandering America in their new Winnebago 26 foot motorhome (the same length as ours) so we had a very long chat and looked at each other’s motorhome and then they were on their way South to catch a ferry in the next couple of days.
Yes Luda did cook all of the mushrooms now she has enough for at least three days!
After we had parked, plugged into the electricity and water, it started raining so was good to have that done before the rain.
Sunday, July 20th
We left our camping spot in the rain and headed towards the Canadian border which was only a few kilometres away, but the actual legal crossing was a further 20 km over a tar sealed road that was being remade in places so was not a smooth drive.
The customs officers main concern was whether we had any firearms in our vehicle, I’m not quite sure how were to obtain them not being an American national, and if by some means we had obtained them I’m sure we would have confessed at the customs, yes I got a Magnum 45! However he let us in without tossing the motorhome, and we carried on our drive South over a road surface that had large dips and humps which if you hit at the wrong speed almost placed you in orbit.
It was a wet overcast day which made us glad were not like the Aussies we saw on a three wheel Harley Davison touring through the country. He made the comment that he would rather be on the bike on a wet day than in the motorhome, and later when it was really raining we thought of him.
We crossed the time zone today so we lost an hour’s around 2 o’clock when we saw a beautiful parking spot on the other side of the bridge when we found a good nights camping spot.
Monday 21st of July
We set out in the rain and rained for the rest of the day as we are travelling South through the Yukon, we eventually reached Kluane lake we followed that for many kilometres passing Burwash landing, Destruction Bay, and just before we were due to leave the lake and cross a Bridge we found a beautiful car park on the left-hand side on the edge of the lake and pulled in there for the night, as we pulled in the weather started to improve and by the time the sun set there was the start of a blue sky and the makings of many photographs.
Tuesday, July 22nd
Today the weather carried on its improvement and we had a fine day all day was just enough clouds in the sky to make it interesting, we passed through Haines Junction and whilst there were several petrol stations there, there were no grocery shops so I wonder what the one thousand population did for the food required.
As we travelled south there were many parking spots for tramper’s, most them quite nice, all warning that you were in bear territory and suggesting you walk in groups, I guess they have to feed the bears somehow on a single tramper may not be enough vitamins. Another walk was to a rather beautiful lake, whilst another was to the remains of an old glacier, all you can now see as a large pile of stones that had been left when the glacier melted, without the signs you would not know what it is all about and of course once you’ve seen it you wonder why you walked the distance uphill to see a pile of stones.
Again the scenery was fantastic with beautiful snow-covered mountains in all directions, we crossed over into British Columbia, not that it made any difference and we finally found a car park that appeared to permit overnight parking about 60 km from the Alaskan border, yes we go back into Alaska, the way they are drawn the pencil line on the map is rather interesting.
Wednesday, July 23rd
We carried on towards Haines with fantastic scenery all of the way and eventually we ended up at the Canadian border again, this time to return to America for a short visit, even though we were returning to Alaska with perhaps some of the most liberal gun laws in the states, they were still interested in how many guns we had on board, and if we were carrying more than $10,000 in cash.
Carrying on South we travelled beside the Chilkat River, an enormous dirty large river carrying the water from the mountains and the glaciers towards the sea.
Around this time we had a delightful sighting of a female moose with a little calf on the side of the road but then they were gone into the bush.
Were passing through an area known as the Valley of the Eagles and again we were not in the right spot at the right time.
We were a little bit frustrated with the camera lens we had, it worked out at about 320 mm but this was not close enough for photographing Bears, Eagles or any other wildlife, so my mind started thinking along the lines of 1000 mm but then I was not sure we could afford the boy that we would need to employ to carry it.
We arrived in Haines, end up driving along the waterfront, found a parking spot looking out over the harbour where there was a cruise boat in port with lots of activity with the passengers coming and going, we drove on to find a parking spot in the centre of town and wandered through the very few shops, we did see in 1946 Packard, a magnificent large example of solid American cars of yesterday. Just down the road from the Packard was an Ural Russian motorbike with sidecar, obviously and export vehicle with the name spelt in the English alphabet.
Then we headed to look at Fort Seward, the States permanent army post that was built in 1903, was used as a training base during the two world wars and was decommissioned in 1947. Today it houses art galleries restaurants and a centre for native arts.
Then we headed out to Chilkat Lake as it was given to us as a location to see brown bears fishing.
To get to the lake had to pass by the ferry terminal to Skagway, so we stopped there and booked a ferry for the following day.
Talking to an Alaskan from the city of Whitehorse, he told us that evenings and early mornings with a best time to see the bears so we decided to stay in the state RV Park that was beside the lake and wandered down to the lake and about 10 p.m. but again the lake was bare of bears, however there was one bald eagle sitting up high on the tree beside the lake, and again the lens on our camera was not of sufficient length to do justice to the magnificent bird.
Thursday, July 24th
Having been told that we may see the bears fishing early in the morning, we got up at 5 a.m. and started scouting the river looking for bears but the river was definitely bare, so eventually we stopped at a parking spot and had breakfast at a parking spot in the city, there we made an acquaintance with some Germans that were travelling in the “Red Bus ” this was the bus that had the little cubicles at the back for sleeping which makes it a very economic way of touring any country. We saw this bus earlier in Whitehorse. We then filled in time wandering from spot to spot on the never ending search for bears.
Eventually we gave up and went off to the ferry terminal to receive our boarding pass, and then waited in line till it was our turn to board, they boarded the RVs in accordance with length so we were about the fourth or fifth one to go on board, again it was through the side of the boat so we were loaded in a U fashion which of course slowed things down considerably. The red bus and its 22 occupants joined us on the ferry.
It was a one hour trip which we had to spend in the lounge upstairs, and with bad weather there were very few opportunities for photographs.
At Skagway, being one of the first on, meant we are one of the last off, but the wharf was almost right in the town, so we found a car park very easy and went for a walk through town, along with the occupants of the three cruise ships that were in the harbour for the day, so the town was packed.
One of the shops we went into was for tours and I asked what tours may be of interest to us, we went through a whole list and then one of them told us of a location called Dyea about 10 miles out of the city where he had seen several bears the previous evening down by the water.
So forever on the Bear Trail we headed out on this narrow winding shingle road to the Dyea area, and being unsure of where he meant, particularly as he said the end of the road, we carried on over two one-way bridges and then we got to a one Lane dirt track which we followed for a couple hundred metres, and then decided it was not for us so turned round, back over the two one-way bridges and decided to stay at the State national Park campground in the hope we see a bear that evening or in the morning.
About 3 a.m. were woken in the motorhome by the motorhome shaking, not being in Christchurch, I assume that was a bear rubbing his back or whatever on the motorhome and went back to sleep. We were told the next day it was a 6.2 earthquake centred in Juneau.
Friday, July 25th
Back in town we found a couple of new cruise ships in and a new lot of people to spend money on all of the shops that are at an Skagway, I must say the quality of the shops and the variety of the shops for a town of 700 population is absolutely outstanding. They are basically open from May till September which is the cruise ship schedule and there are more jewellery shops here that I’ve seen in many large cities and certainly the variety of jewellery and expensive watches is the best I’ve ever seen.
Thinking through our problem with the lack of a long lens, I thought of the domestic digital cameras, with a 30 times zoom lens may be a good alternative, so I looked in a couple of camera shops and found one with a 42 times zoom but it was slow to use and then I found a 60 times zoom that was better, this gave me an equivalent of a 1440 mm zoom lens, and the tests I did at the maximum zoom appeared to give me as good a result as a normal lens, certainly a lot lighter than the alternative, with the added advantage of being equipped to do macro, downside it would not do Raw, probably more downsides as we explore the camera further, but now bring on the bears!
We had read on the ferry that the White Pass excursion train had been derailed so we checked in at the rail office and they felt sure it would be running tomorrow, so hopefully this will be on our program for tomorrow.
Saturday, July 26th
Today we went on the White Pass railway excursion, this was up over the White pass on a railway line that was built in 1898.
There were two main routes to the goldfields and Dawson City one up the Chilkoot trail and the other over White Pass, the Canadian authorities made a rule that each miner had to take with him a ton of supplies to last them one year. The Chideock Trail went from sea level up to 2000 feet and they had to carry the supplies up this Hill on their back. There was a famous photograph of a line of 40,000 men moving up and down the Hill taking his ton of supplies to the top one little bit at a time. There was a Mountie at the top who would weigh the supplies before they were allowed to proceed.
The White Pass was not as high and horses could be used to get the ton of supplies over the top. The horses were of course overloaded, which is how part of this trail got the name of Deadhorse Gulch.
Close Bros, a London merchant bank, spent $10 million on the construction of a railroad which took 26 months to complete it was completed just after the zenith of the Klondike Gold Rush, they carried on until today by diversifying into many other forms of transporting goods.
It is said that over 150,000 men left for the goldfields, 50,000 actually made it to the goldfields, and 1000 actually struck gold. Once that got over the pass with their ton of supplies they still had over 500 miles to travel through the lakes and rivers to get the Dawson city so there was a tremendous amount of effort spent by many people with a very small fraction actually reading the reward.
So we joined some travellers from two different cruise ships that were in the harbour today on the White Pass excursion, from the start we were pleased we were not travelling on a cruise ship as the people that joined the excursion were herded together like a mob of sheep and were packed into two carriages, where as we, who had purchased a ticket at the ticket office, were allowed to choose one of four carriages which meant in the carriage we were on their just enough people to fill up all the window seats, with one person sitting at the window, on one side of the carriage, so this meant the whole carriage had a good view going up and coming back.
At the top there was little bit of a reminder of a derailment they had about three days ago, there were busy working on the line and so we went past slowly.
Luda would have liked to have done the trip on a fine day instead of the rain we had but ended up taking many photographs, which she says will be rubbish because of the weather. I felt there were too many trees blocking the view and perhaps the Dunedin rail trip was better, and I could not agree with their title of “The Scenic Railway of the World ”, I think the person that made this claim had not travelled very much. Nevertheless the railway line was an interesting engineering feat accomplished over 100 years ago.
Sunday 27th July
Today were driving towards Whitehorse, and as we started off there was a heavy cloud cover over the mountains so were pleased we did not do the rail trip yesterday but had we had been hoping for a fine day to photograph the sights along the Whitehorse pass, but that was not to be, to we reached the summit of the pass and moved into fine weather and good photography.
We crossed the border once again into Canada and stopped at the first town – village called Carcross, that rests between the Bennet and the Tagish lakes, and was established in the height of the gold rush in 1898. The village and its buildings are very photogenic and you can spend a good our walking around the village.
We carried on towards Whitehorse travelling through beautiful scenery on either side of the road with lots of stops for photographs. We eventually reached the junction of the Alaska highway and turned left and drove about 20 km into Whitehorse.
We headed again for the Walmart car park and as we pulled into the car park we noticed a loud noise coming from the motor, in an effort to find out what it was we turned the air conditioner on and off, and in hindsight that was the final action that the compressor clutch did and as the motor was turned off the compressor clutch totally failed getting ready to give us a good surprise in the morning.
Monday 28th July
We started the Trek this morning and we had this god-awful sound coming from the motor like to pieces of bare metal rubbing against each other at high speed. So I looked into the GPS for a garage and selected one and we drove out there, but just before we reached the selected garage we saw a truck garage that specialised in Kenilworth and other trucks, and parked outside it was a Trek from North Carolina that we had met as we passed through Whitehorse on our way North. Well I figured that this garage at least knew what Trek was so we pulled over and went on to there.
Eventually we had the garage foreman look at our vehicle, took the cover off the motor and found that the clutch on the air conditioner had broken which was creating the noise. He said he could cut the old clutch off and that should sort things out for us.
About two hours later the clutch was off, I talked to the mechanic that did the job I asked how safe was a to drive, and his comment was that he would not go outside the city limits, so I decided to try to get a new compressor and clutch and have it replaced at this time. The spare parts manager tried to order the parts required, but of course the company he telephoned was in the East on a different time zone so nothing could be done until tomorrow.
So off we went back to Walmart and parked there for the night, we have seen quite a few European motorhomes here, with European numberplates, some conventional motorhomes on Fiat chassis, and some serious four-wheel-drive motorhomes capable of travelling through Mongolia.
Tuesday 29th July
We went back to the garage at 9 a.m. as requested and they had not been able to get a reply from their agent who had to import the compressor from America, (yes just across the border) so we went away for an hour and did some shopping and filled up with petrol returning about 1 p.m. and they had been trying many times to get contact with the Chevrolet Workhorse people without any success whatsoever.
I then decided to talk to the workshop manager again, and he was of the opinion that with the modification done to the clutch we would be save to drive, I questioned the other mechanics comment, and he made the comment that some mechanics are not mechanics but part replacers, a comment I could completely understand. We paid for the repairs and left, goodbye $600.
Before we left town we decided with go from walk through Whitehorse and also visited the Museum showing the history of the area and some of the information about the Klondike Gold Rush round the turn of the last century. They had a very good DVD made in 1957 (when some of the men from the gold rush were still alive) showing the highlights of Dawson city and in their words “the incredible summer” the evidently was just the one summer when there were over 30,000 people in Dawson city after that it started fading until what it is today, a tourists city.
So we got on the road South, and got a good 200+ kilometres on the way before we parked at a viewing spot with seven old Forties era pickup shells obviously left over from the construction of the Alaska highway, the same parking spot that we used going in to Alaska.
Wednesday, 30th July
We woke up to a fine day and carried on our way towards Watson lake, a road we had travelled over coming into Alaska.
We’ve come to the conclusion that if you want to see bears you do not go to Alaska simply come to Canada either to the Yukon or British Columbia. On our travels today, just grazing on the side of the road, we have seen and photographed three black bears, and one black mother bear with two cubs, one black and one brown.
We also seen a wolf on the left-hand side of the road as we passed so that will be on our memories and not in our photo collection.
We turned off Alaska highway and are now travelling on the Cassiar highway, our milepost book tells us to look for brown bears and grizzly bears along this road.
No they are not along the road, but we came to a beautiful little lake called the blue lake, nice parking spot so here we are for the night.
Thursday July 29th
This morning when I walked round the motorhome I saw in the wet we had a visitor in the night, possibly a Moose or a Caribou, certainly not bear which would have been much more interesting, and just before we left we saw a little head of an animal swimming across the lake, we guess it may have been a beaver but it was too far away and the long 1440mm lens is not designed to be hand held with any accuracy.
We carried on South along Highway 37 through beautiful scenery, mountains, passed many lakes and fast flowing streams, all the way along the highway there were forests either side of the road, we went many kilometres through the results of a forest fire and the remains of black bare trees, I’m surprised in today’s world of technology that these burnt trees can’t be harvested and put to some commercial use.
The one thing with noticed on this trip is when we often come to a house in what we would call the country, there are often up to a dozen or more old cars lying around their lot that had been there for some time judging by the vegetation absorbing them.
It has also been very interesting on our drive through northern Canada and Alaska to see how many or sale notices there are on houses and businesses. Many the businesses are closed, restaurants, garages, hotels – motels, petrol stations, it would almost appear as if people have set them up in good heart and finally had to walk away from them when the business has not flowed to their enterprise like it should have. Of course seeing most of them now as we pass them I’m not sure any sane person would pay very much for them.
Our first destination for the day was Dease Lake, a long narrow lake that was at least 40 km long, the town had four RV parks a petrol station and a shop which I guess for this part of the country makes it a big metropolis.
We wanted somewhere a little bit more interesting so we kept on driving and eventually came to a river that could be described as a good fishing river, it had a nice parking spot right beside it, straight ahead we could see nice shallow water before the river narrows down to a deeper fast flowing stream and on this shallow portion we may be lucky enough to see a bear come out of the woods into the river to get its evening snack. We’ve camped in this beautiful spot for the night.
August Friday 1st
We set off on a fine day continuing our travel south towards Stewart a distance of about 500 km however when we did the destination into the GPS it told us was 2300 km, so we put in a destination to go via of Iskut and we got a realistic distance on that, but once we were passed Iskut and went back to 2300 km then we realised that highway 37 was not in the GPS after Iskut, so we just carried on driving knowing we were on the right road and we always had the paper map as a reference if we needed it.
We had big hopes this morning of seeing a bear fishing at our campsite but that was not to be and as we travelled south we had warnings on the side of the road of Moose and Caribou, but the best we could find were chipmunks running across the road, and then we saw a rabbit!
However none of these things equalled what we saw walking down a footpath out of the bush, was nothing but a female wolf with three cubs following along behind her, this was on the left-hand side of the road and with traffic coming behind us we had no option but to pull over to the left-hand side of the road which of course sent her back into the bush followed by the cubs.
I’m not sure how often one gets to sighting of a wolf, but we were quite excited!
We carried on driving through the forests, today there were none fire destroyed, which were much more pleasant, again many, many lakes, we passed through a very small village called Bell II and we kept on driving again looking for a nice spot to spend the evening, had hoped again for a lake or a river stream, but that was not to be so we pulled into a rest area called Bell I which explained the naming of the village we had just gone through.
Saturday, 2nd August
We carried on driving towards Stewart over a road that did not exist on our GPS arriving in the small frontier town, we made a decision to drive on to see the viewing platform where we could watch the bears, and then drive on further to see the Salmon Glacier.
Was a beautiful fine day without a cloud in the sky, and again a beautiful drive through the forests mountains lakes, but the highlight of the drive was a brief glimpse of a Fox as he thought of crossing the road.
From Stewart we drove on towards Hydra and in doing so crossed over into Alaska but this time no border patrol, no stamping passports, no interest in how many guns we have on board!
We arrived at the viewing platform, parked the motorhome, and were rushed in to see the black bear walking round by the river and eating some berries before disappearing off into the undergrowth.
As the bears do not work to a timetable we decided to drive on to look at the Glacier and then come back after see if the bears decided to make an entrance.
The road quickly changed from tar seal to shingle and then it was a very rough road, climbing up into the mountains, we crossed the border at once again to Canada and went to a spot and a elevation that enable us to look straight down on the Glacier, get the photos we wanted, and then turn round and in low gear went back on down the mountain back into Alaska and we got to the viewing platform again.
Again there were no bears when we arrived, but there were some magnificent Salmon, large enough to make any real fishermen proud of their capture.
There was a small fortune of cameras and long lenses all waiting for this animal to come and start fishing, there are tripods there that would do justice to a 7 x 5 camera, and the lenses from the cost the same as a small car!
After about three-hour wait, a brown Grizzly Bear pounced out of the bushes and grabbed one of these magnificent fish, then spent the next 15 minutes consuming the the fish and the repeated the exercise again, three times. There was great excitement amongst all the photographers, and I think the bear had looked up it would have not look much different to the paparazzi photographing one of the Royals.
After that we called a day, and started heading back towards Stewart, and at Hyder instead of turning left towards Stewart we drove straight on and found a parking spot on a very small artificial island used for launching boats and here we are for the night.
Sunday 3rd August
Today we started heading towards Prince Rupert and a little bit before we got onto the main highway we saw a car stopped on ahead with its lights flashing and sure enough there was a black bear browsing amongst the grass slowly moving towards the bridge then onto the bridge it must’ve felt itself being crowded by the car because it started running, then at the other end of the bridge ran off to the left down a bank and on its way to privacy. Just then we saw another black bear on the left-hand side poking its head up above the grass and looking at what was going on and then it decided its public appearances contract had not been signed so it did not come onto the road and onto the stage.
After that bear excitement we just carried on through the bank of this scenery, the lakes, the mountains, the glaciers, the waterfalls, the rivers and the fishermen, a lot of the rivers are now Indian rivers can only be fished by members of the tribe, which is an interesting development.
We were about 160 km out of our destination we saw on the left-hand side a state Park so we decided to stay there the night, paid our money and had a restful nights sleep.
Monday, 4th August
We drove into Prince Rupert and drove straight to the wharf to find out what the cost of shipping the motorhome and us to Vancouver Island and it worked out at $1100 for an 11 hour boat ride, I could not imagine being on the boat for 11 hours so we decided to drive the distance, one afterthought is that had we taken the boat trip the fan belt that was to break tomorrow would have broken and a populated area instead of in the middle of nowhere.
We had a look around town, it was a holiday for the State today so most of the shops were closed so all the tourists that were in town had nowhere to spend their money. The supermarkets of course were doing a roaring trade as most do on any holidays.
We carried on our walk around town and we found a Walmart and it had a parking area in front of it and there were several motorhomes already there, so we joined them, little bit later a security guard checked with us to see if we are staying the night, we said yes, he said that’s good as long to leave by 9:30 a.m. so we are delighted with a parking spot which overlooked Prince Rupert Harbour.
Tuesday 5th August
We left well and truly ahead of our time limit and noted there were a lot more motorhomes than last night so a lot arrived on the night, we headed out east and went through Terrance, Luda kept on telling me of the new noise the motor was making, and I heard it but dismissed it, a little bit later I lost all power steering, power brakes, so I realised that the noise we heard was that of the fan belt tearing itself to pieces. We managed to limp on down the road a fraction and fortunately found a parking area just off the road.
Of course there was no telephone reception here, so was off out on the road and hitchhike a ride back 61 km to Terrace, and whilst I had reception there the telephone number would not work, I went into the St John’s ambulance, to find out what I was doing wrong, they dialled the 800 number on their landline, then it was a matter of talking to Good Sam roadside assistance and eventually I was told somebody is on the way to help you once they find a fan belt.
I then booked a taxi to take me back to the motorhome, the taxi driver did not think he had enough petrol to do the trip, this brought back shades of China to me, so I told them to forget it and went over to the dumping station and asked a couple of RV people if they could give me a lift out 61 km to my stranded RV and the second one said yes !
Wednesday 6th August
We sat quietly in the motorhome wondering what progress they were making getting the parts we needed.