Friday, July 23, 2010

North to Alaska

It did seem like a last minute decision to turn the coach north and head to Alaska, but that is what we did. Before leaving the Keys we did do all the planning and got all the material ready for an Alaskan trip and we had always said we were headed that way. We both thought that we would not be traveling that far this year.

But, the pull to the north was just too strong to resist and on Monday, 19th we crossed the Canadian border at Roosville, British Columbia and started the trek north. We thought that it might be a bad omen when it started to sleet. But that turned out to be just melting hail from a nearby thunderstorm. The first night brought is to Radium Hot Springs and to our surprise most all of the campgrounds were full. We did manage to find one that had some opening and then found out why. It was $63 a night, the most expensive campground that we had ever stayed in. Linda did remind Mike it was Canadian funds, so that with the discount it would only be a little over $61.00. We only wanted a place to park for the night and sleep. And who would want to swim in Radium anyway?

Jake and Linda at Bow Lake, Banff NP
The next day we had a magnificent drive through Kootenay, Banff and Jasper Canadian National Parks. We saw a lot of wildlife along the road and had beautiful vistas of glacier-capped mountains, lush valleys and ice blue lakes. The Ice Field Parkway is a wonderful drive if you ever have a chance to do it. That night we ended up in a Wal-Mart in Prince George, BC. We counted 23 other RV’s of all types “camped” there. Linda said that if we averaged the last two nights camping that it was only $31.00 a night.

The coach rolls 100,000 miles
The next day in Smithers, BC we hit a milestone. No, that is not something on the road. We turned a hundred thousand miles on the coach. Don’t they say that the first hundred is always the hardest? While we were there, Mike insisted on stopping and getting a picture, we took advantage of the “cheap” fuel. It was only $.96 a liter. That is just a hair over a quart, or $3.75 a gallon. We say cheap as we have seen it as high as $1.24 a liter. And that is diesel; gas is another dime a liter more.

Hyder, Alaska, not much there.
We made a decision earlier to by-pass the beginning of the Alaskan Highway and take the Cassiar Highway, Rt. 37, north to Watkins Lake. We made a slight detour off that and drove down to Stewart, BC and crossed over to Hyder, Alaska. Yes, we reach the southernmost town in Alaska in just three days. Fish Creek in Hyder attracts a large number of bears when the salmon are running. When we got there the salmon had just started up the day before and the bears had not found them yet. Other than the bears, Hyder does not offer much, so we did not stay. Besides we had already seen two bears on the road driving up.

Thursday we regretted our decision to drive the Cassiar. The first half (250 miles) was fine and was just resurfaced. The second half was horrible and in terrible shape. We hit bumps and ruts that jarred our teeth. We could not even look at the beautiful scenery because we had to continuously dodge the pavement breaks. When we finally hit the unpaved gravel section, it was a relief as it was much smoother than the paved portion. That relief was short lived though as we saw a cloud of dust behind us and that was inside the coach. Jake was totally stressed out and Linda kept telling him it was OK and that it would be better soon. We think it was today that he realized that we are going back to Alaska and not home. That night we “camped” in a pull out well off the road on a pretty lake just south of the Yukon border. We were all by ourselves and Jake could run free. Linda made Mike throw the ball for Jake until he dropped and that took a while. The next morning we were greeted by the plague of the north, hordes of mosquitoes. Mike made a quick retreat back to the coach and yelled to Jake to get it done, he was on his own.

Black Bear before Jake chased it off.
Just as after we pulled out there was a bear on the other side of the lake we camped on. It was right along the side of the road and we were able to stop and get some photos. Now Jake has always been kind of a wuss. Mike had the side window open and Jake saw the bear. He gave it a couple of his big dog barks and the bear ran off. That did not do much for the bear photos, but it did certainly help Jake’s self esteem; he was so proud. Now we do not have worry about bears anymore, we got us a bear dog!

The weather really got bad as we turned back south near Whitehorse and started over the Chilkoot Pass to Skagway. We had rain showers off and on all day, but now it was raining continuously and the fog restricted visibility at times to only 100 feet. This is a beautiful drive when the weather is nice, but not today. We pulled into Skagway on Friday night, tired and exhausted from the drive. It is a nice little town, when it is not raining. We are going to bed early and to get ready to catch the ferry early tomorrow morning (5:30 AM check in) to Juneau and Sitka.

This is a little different that what we planned when we started. Our original plan was to go up to Dawson City in the Yukon and cross the border there and go to Eagle and Chicken, Alaska. The problem is that the road was washed out last week, killing one person and stranding others for days. We will check on the road condition on our way out to see if they have it repaired. Dawson City has always been one of our favorite stops on these trips.

As always cell service and internet has been a problem this week. We are hoping that now that we are in Alaska it will be better, at least the cell service. Wi-Fi hotspots are hard to find and free ones even harder. If you have written or called, be patient, we are not ignoring you on purpose. We hope that you all have had a fine week.

Take care, Love,

Linda, Jake (Bear Dog) and the Fat Man

Jake is now the Dude!