ALASKA!! AND THE RETURN HOME

11 MAY 2011

Woke up about 6 AM and it wasn’t as bright as I was expecting. Peeked outside my blackout curtains and there was snow everywhere! And continuing to come down!!!! So much for the weather forecast of “clear and sunny!”

So far every day outside of Rapid City on this trip the mornings have been under 32 degrees.

Supposed to be nice today but won’t know for sure until I get closer to Alaska and over some of these mountain ranges.

Tok gas prices were $4.30 a gallon.

Got nice pictures of Mt Drum (12,000 feet) and Mt Sanford (16,237 feet) in the Wrangell Mountain range.
They were to my left for miles and miles as I wound through the valleys.

Also got a nice picture of King Mountain (5800 feet) as I drove through a valley on the Glenn Highway with the Matanuska River keeping company.

The trees are actually budding out here in the valley. In another week it’ll be beautiful.

Also saw my first Corvette on the road since…..Missouri?

Got to Elmendorf right after lunch time. Went to billeting to get a room and whereas a lot of the base has changed, this building looked familiar. I asked the lady behind the counter if it had ever been a dormitory and she said it had. Thyen it dawned on me…I pulled Charge of Quarters duty in this building when I was stationed here in 1973-1975.

Elmendorf is where I also saw Gerald Ford shortly after Nixon resigned.

Drove around Anchorage to get my bearings and ended up setting up an oil change for tomorrow plus I washed and vacuumed the van. Got gas, a haircut and bought groceries, too. Also stopped near the base golf course as this one site of a stream and a sign looked familiar. Took pictures and then compared them to the old ones taken long ago and they were pretty much the same. The tree by the sign has grown and the stream has no snow. The pictures will be in the album on Photobucket as soon as I can post them.

Figure this out: in the depths of wild Yukon I could get satellite radio. As I write this in my comfortable hotel room at Elmendorf AFB ($39 a night, large room with sofa, desk, dresser, recliner, large fridge (not those baby fridges), microwave, cable modem, cable TV, etc.) I can’t get Sirius XM. Weird!

12 MAY 2011

Up at 6 and sun high in the sky. Bright and shiny with promises for a cloudless day up through tomorrow. Decided to stay another day as there is so much to see around here.

Got the oil changed in the van. Cost me $54 but you got to do what you gotta do. Everything is expensive here.

Headed south and went to Portage Glacier but everything was closed down until later in the month.

Before the turnoff to Portage Glacier I went by what used to be the town of Portage which was destroyed in the 1964 earthquake. Folks woke up to find themselves 6-8 feet lower than the night before. It allowed salt water from the Turnagain Arm to flood the entire area and the dead trees in the pictures are witness to that. Got pix of the old houses (what’s left of them) and an old truck.

Glad I bought a polarizing filter with me. On my Sony camera I can get OK pictures but on the Panasonic the quality suffers for some reason so the filter does a good job of spanking the colors a bit and making them crisper.

Went to the Kenai Fiords and took a 2 miles hike to Exit Glacier. Well worth it even though the path was still snow covered.

Went to Seward to look around. Very pretty. Quaint. Smacks of an “artists” town smack up against working fishermen. Lots of nice boats here, too, so I suspect people from Anchorage keep them here as I think it stays relatively ice free in the winter. As I was getting ready to take a picture in the harbor a bald eagle swooped in and just as quickly flew away before I could get a shot.

Gas is 37 cents more expensive in Seward than Anchorage. YOWZAH!!

The town was basically destroyed in the Good Friday earthquake when a 30 foot tsunami wiped it out.

It was named after Secretary of State Seward, under President Andrew Johnson who was instrumental in negotiating the purchase of the territory from Russia. Seward was also shot (by Lewis Powell, a co-conspirator with Booth) the night President Lincoln was assassinated.

Can’t believe my luck with the weather so far. I expect the other shoe to drop shortly and have rain every day on the return leg of the trip.

My eyes feast on every corner, around every bend in the road, every summit, into every valley. What awesome scenery. Out of this world spectacular and magnificent.

On the way back to the room saw what appeared to be beluga whales in the Knik Arm. They normally show up about 3 or 4 hours after a low tide.

The Turnagain Arm has one of the largest bore tides in the world. It can be up to 37 feet and under the right conditions the tsunami-like waves can be generated powerful enough to be a danger to small boats.

It is caused by when water from a receding low tide comes in contact with water rushing into a constricted area (like Turnagain Arm) and can reach speeds of up to 20MPH.

The name, Turnagain Arm, was originally called “Return by the Russians” when Capt Cook was looking for the Northwest Passage in the late 1770s. He called it Turnagain River but Capt Vancouver, doing a more thorough job of exploration, called it “Turnagain Arm.”

13 MAY 2011

Another stellar day, cloudless. Drove around a bit and ended up at Earthquake Park, near the airport.

Speaking of airports, Anchorage has four. One is the international airport, at the edge of Knik Arm. Another is a small aircraft airport right smack dab in town, off 5th Ave. Another is for float planes adjacent to the Intl airport on Lake Hood. It’s incredibly busy and handles almost 800 takeoffs and landings per day in the summer. Compare that to the 280 flights daily at the international airport. The last airport is the Campbell Airstrip on the east side of town. Of course, that does not include the fields at Elmendorf AFB or Fort Richardson.

It was about 45 degrees early in the morning and I could not believe how many people were strolling around in short sleeve shirts!!!! Must be an “acclimatization” thing.

Not only is food and gas expensive here so are cigarettes: $8 a pack!!! And housing: a 2 BR condo can be leased for $4500 a month or bought for $950,000. Of course, it’s in a good area but regular houses are north of $300,000.

4th and 5th Avenues are chock-a-block full of souvenir shops, visitor centers, and street vendors peddling reindeer or elk sausages or gyros. They all have the same prices, too, and people decide where to buy depending on which girls they think are cutest. Yes, most of the vendors are women. Saw this one near the Federal Building which had a sign saying “Sarah Palin for President 2012-2013.5

Curious to see if they were serious supporters or jackoffs, I asked. They were jackoffs. So I left. I would have given them business if they were serious about her but I vote with my wallet and it has a hard time supporting jackoffs.

After lunch, and having determined when low tide was, I headed to Beluga Point to see if a tidal bore would take place.

No such luck. The phase of the moon was right but the winds were non-existent. Did see dall sheep, though, high up on the east side of the mountains off Turnagain Arm. They were mere specks in the distance but the zoom on my camera picked them out pretty well even though they were over 1/2 mile line-of-sight away.

Headed back to the room to plan the return leg of the trip back home, make reservations at hostels near Jasper and reservations on the Ferry from Haines to Skagway.

To continue, please click here for the return leg of the trip.

14 MAY 2011

Early start and another nice day, hoping to get just into Canada, a drive of about 350 miles. Events resulted in a totally different result ending up in over 600 miles driven.

Took Old Glenn Highway towards Palmer and glad I did as I came across an old junk yard with cool cars in it (and at the time it was still a going concern the owner was a Palin supporter.) Took a few pictures in color and black and white. The guy appeared to have been a 1959 El Camino enthusiast as he had two junkers and what appeared to be a decent looking one deeper into the property which I did not want to trespass onto.

Didn’t take long but a few days of sunshine and some melting snow resulted in the mosquitoes coming out.

Forgot how big these bastards get. They’re monsters. Could explain why some call them the “state bird.”

All sorts of other flying insects are out. Another reason why I think I came at the right time in order to avoid the plague soon to descend on the touristy hordes.

Got a great shot of the distinctive pyramidical shape of King Mountain. It soars to 5,800 feet.

Also got a couple of shots of the Matanuska Glacier somewhere near Milepost 101. It has its beginnings in the Chugach Mountains and wanders down about 27 miles. About 18,000 years ago it was as far as Palmer but has since receded greatly. It’s about 2 miles wide and at the terminus about 4 miles wide.

The photo album at photobucket should have them all.

Just did some simple subtraction and figured out it took about 6400 miles to get to Anchorage and suspect as many more to return home.

Climbing to Eureka Summit (3200 feet) I am amazed that there is still so much snow on the ground all around. This place must be awful in winter.

Found a great waste of taxpayer money outside Tok. This is a place with about 400 residents. Well, for some reason they decided to put in a bicycle trail over 12 miles long leading out of town!! The place probably has 10 bikes to its name. Unless they use it for skiing in winter (in which case they wouldn’t need the paved roadway, would they?) Is there a bike club here I am not aware of? Or do the people in Anchorage all go, “Hey! I know! Let’s drive 320 miles to Tok so we can ride their bike trail!!”

Crossed into Canada about 5PM and for miles around on either side there is nothing but mountains, rivers, tundra. No houses, mailboxes, towns, etc. So what do I see about 10 miles into Canada? A female jogger! I went another 10 miles to the customs house and asked about that and they guy sounded all put out saying there was a village just east of the customs. As if that explains a woman running TWELVE miles one way AWAY from that village?

Weird. Marathon training, maybe?

This is some desolate countryside. Several times I’d drive for quite a while not see another car in either direction.

I was toying with the idea of stopping about 150 miles north of Haines Junction and then drive 350 miles into Haines tomorrow when all of a sudden one of my camera’s battery died. Upon looking for a spare battery I realized I’d left it plugged into the wall back at the inn at Elmendorf. Two problems presented themselves:

1. I was in the boondocks with no cell phone and it would have done no good anyway as I had no phone number for the inn. So I needed internet to look up the number. No internet out here, either.

2. The nearest place I’d be able to call from anyway would be Haines (which is in Alaska and theoretically my cell phone should work.)

Fearing loss of the battery and charger, and realizing that since the sun doesn’t set until 11 PM anyway, I decided to just keep going and use my older Sony camera. Doesn’t have the polarizing lens or the long telephoto but like my dad used to say, “if you don’t have a dog, you hunt with a cat.”

The scenery was spectacular made even more so by a slowly lowering shining behind me illuminating the mountains magnificently. Looking at some of them in their sunlit grandeur, I was reminded of being in Antarctica.

Indescribably beautiful.

So I ended up putting almost 600 miles in (over some really rough and slow roads) and stopped for the night about 10:30 PM at a turnout for a hiking trail. The campgrounds in Haines Junction were charging $27 to just park (no electric, no water, pay showers, etc.) I was not about to spend that kind of money for 7 hours.

15 MAY 2011

Woke up to 32 degrees in the van and about 24 degrees outside. With the sun beating down it felt warmer outside so I got the stove out and made coffee.

Took out another member of the furry-tailed rat family after I heard it thump underneath the van. I’ve come to the conclusion that if they were capable of making and sticking to decisions there’d be a whole hell of a lot more of them to feed the owls, hawks and eagles around here. But, no, they go left, then right, then left again and finally “BANG! SPLAT!”

Got to the top of Chilkat Pass, at 3500 or so feet. Very windy and often closed in winter. It’s one of the few mountain passes that gave access to the Yukon from the coast and it, plus the Chilcoot Pass, were zealously guarded by the local Tlingit Indians who wanted to keep the lucrative fur trading business to themselves. It worked. Until 1898 when the Gold Rush started and tens of thousands of prospecting white men overwhelmed the area. It was all she wrote for the Indians.

Made it to a VERY nice campground in Haines (Haines Hitchup RV Park) used their wi-fi, got a phone number, called the inn and after a few hours of back and forth and telling them to look in the room as it was probably still plugged in the wall, that’s exactly where they found it.

I hate doing crap like that. Getting old sucks.

Noticed lots of folks have black cloth laid down in their yards. It’s used to warm up the soil for planting. Haines is at sea level and considerably warmer than where I came from. Trees are almost leafed out, things sticking up out of the ground everywhere.

Contemplated taking the ferry to Juneau for the day but the sailings this time of year are few. In about 2 weeks there will be ferries non-stop to Juneau, Skagway, etc. At this point, going to Juneau would entail leaving the van parked in Haines for 2 days and last minute arrangements for hotels as the first sailing was at 9PM and 4 hours long. Then spend a second day as there were no returning late evening ferries to Haines the next night. Plus it would force me to stay an extra day in Haines waiting for the next available ferry to Skagway.

Anyone contemplating visiting this are should brave the bugs and visitors and come late in May where they have this spectacular deal for $169 to take a catamaran to Juneau, arrive in only 2 hours, get bused to a glacier, get breakfast and dinner and have several hours to putz around Juneau, returning the same evening to Haines. Since it does not get dark until 11 PM and the sun is up about 4:30, this is no big deal.

Walked around town and also went out to Chilkoot Lake as I was told there were eagles out there. Saw three and a juvenile but they were too far away and my Sony’s zoom was not up to the task.

The overflow from the glacially fed lake flows down this creek into the ocean and seagulls were having a field day feeding on the migrating hooligan fish that, like salmon, die after mating. Dead fish were everywhere.

Wandered around the harbor and took pictures then headed back.

16 MAY 2011

Clouds look they want to make inroads but it’s still looking like a great day in the making.

Went and took a look-see at Fort Seward on the outskirts of town. It came about because of border disputes between the US and Canada as the gold mining was winding down in the early 1900s. It was built on 4000 acres deeded by the local Presbyterian church and the homes were of the highest quality rather than the roughly hewn homes prevalent around here back then.

There were about 400 troops total with the officers living in the fancy houses at the top of the hill, the commander in this palatial home now a hotel. The NCOs were in small duplex buildings.

Also went back out to Chilkoot Lake and saw this young guy get out of a government truck at the fish ladders on the creek leading to the lake. Stopped to talk to him about his job and he just loves it. Great seasonal work counting, tagging, weighing and marking salmon. Sweet gig.

He was explaining how the different types of salmon migrate at different times. The coho come first, then the pink salmon and finally some other salmon whose name I can’t remember.

When the fish hit the ladder they are blocked and are forced to jump and makes counting them easier.

Since they are coming to spawn, they are no longer feeding so fishermen are banned from just snagging them and must hook them in the mouth. Some fishermen can be seen playing their lines like they are trying to hook a trout and if a game warden catches you he’ll arrest your ass. Those healthy enough that get caught are taken home. However, late in the spawning season and after spawning their skin starts to slough off. Pretty ugly.

But the surrounding eagles and bears don’t care. They’ll eat anything.

Every once in a while a king salmon makes it this way but it is not their normal stomping grounds so either they are lost or retarded.

The fun begins in June and hundreds of eagles show up as well as lots of bears……..and tourists. They’re lined up shoulder to shoulder almost.

Those little aforementioned hooligan also come to spawn but they are very oily and not a tasty fish. However, according to this guy, the natives trap them by the thousands, dig a pit, start a fire and throw the fish in the pit and leave them there to basically fall apart and ferment. After some days the remains are removed, put in a boiling pot, render it and their oil skimmed off. It is supposedly very tasty on dried salmon (think of a dip) and it is also very high in omega acids. Taken regularly they turn the skin very soft and supple. It’s not available for sale commercially but if you go to a village they will sell you a jar of it for about $75.

As it was a beautiful day and I had time to kill before the ferry to Skagway, I stayed at the lake and did administrative work on my pictures, re-labeling them and numbering them sequentially (highly recommend a nifty piece of software called “Bulk Rename Utility.”) I am up to 2600 so far having thrown out about 500. Once I get to see them on the bigger and better monitor at home I hope to cull another 1000 or so from the pile.

Not sure where folks here get their cars as there are no car dealers. I suppose they order them from Juneau or Fairbanks or make trips there and bring them back.

Got on the MV Columbia ferry for the 1.5 hour trip. It would have taken me 6 hours by car so I figured I saved money going to Skagway in this fashion. A spectacular trip. Wonderful scenery.

Make it into Skagway about 4:30 and there were 2 cruise ships in town. Found a campground, got a bite to eat and called the local Radio Shack to see, on a whim, if they had a battery charger for my Lumix camera. The girl sounded ditzy and said she thought she had something. So I hot-footed it over there and, of course, no luck. I also asked her if any place had wi-fi. Clueless.

So I walked out and, perchance, two shops down, peered into their window and saw what appeared to be a wall full of camera batteries. Walked in, asked the guy and found what might work. He took it out of the box, plugged it in and it did! Pricey at $46 but well worth it. Driving back to the campground I took a different road and found the local library, still open at 6PM. Checked email and left to plug in the charger to my inverter then after a half hour or so put the battery in and I have my second camera again.

The town rolls up their carpets about 6:30. It’s all tourist-driven, especially when cruise ships come in. The fancy shops all appear to be run by foreigners, too. Wish I knew who to ask about THAT phenomena. Many of shop workers live in the trailer park in small travel trailers.

Believe it or not I saw someone driving a Corvette in Skagway. He must have driven it into town through Whitehorse as there is no way that thing could get on a ferry given the steep ramps.

17 MAY 2011

A cloudy start to the morning but it’s the warmest morning since April 28th: 45 degrees (MOL) outside.

Crossed over the White Pass Summit (3292 feet) and once over the summit the weather cleared again.

Went by what was the foundation of the old Venus Mine mill site built in late 1960s. The first claim in this area by W.R. Young in 1899 and it was called the Montana Mountain Claim. NY financier, Joseph Conrad, bought most of the claims, formed the Conrad Consolidated mines but it was never a going concern so he folded. The place got sold and re-sold and eventually abandoned.

Got some pix of abandoned mine equipment along roadway and way above on a hill the other side of road was the remains of the whole structure. Very steep, very long hill over which all this stuff was built with oftentimes nothing more than hand tools.

Saw a big-assed porcupine but no picture as it got spooked and dove into the woods.

Stopped at the Canol Road site near Johnson Crossing just over the bridge headed east-bound. There are a whole bunch of WW2 era vehicles there abandoned after construction of the road. It was built because the USG feared control of Aleutians by Japanese and the resulting inability of the US to provide fuel and petroleum products to American troops in the area and the Pacific.

A pipeline was built deep into the Yukon Territory to the Northwest Territory and called Canol (Canada Oil.)

Turned out that the access to those oil fields in the NWT proved expensive. The 4 inch pipeline went four times over budget and all the oil coming from it cost 4 times as much as to ship it so it was scrapped a year after it was built. No, Obama was not president promising to save or create jobs! 🙂

The road to Ross River (the terminus) is still in place but very rough with no services whatsoever for 220 KM. It is often washed out and brutally rough on vehicles.

From there I went to Watson Lake looking for campground with showers or firepit or wi-fi or picnic tables but of the 4 there, two were closed and one wanted $25 just to park there and get throttled wi-fi. Plus they had no tables AND the showers cost $2!!

The last one was open but no one there to talk to. It also had no tables or wi-fi.

So I fueled up, turned around and got on the Cassiar Highway south to Smithers, about 600 miles away.

For a good while going south the forests were all burned out. Miles and miles and miles of dead trees.

Stopped at French Creek, a primitive campground. Got a fire going, made dinner and relaxed with a beer. Mosquitoes out in force!!!!

18 MAY 2011

The Cassiar Highway headed south is beautiful, albeit a bit roughly surfaced. Lots of dips and turns.

Got reflective photos at Mud Lake and also saw dall sheep. Talk about skittish. Soon as they heard the van they scampered away.

Stood there in the middle of the road and heard nothing but absolute silence. Talk about deserted!!!! If you break down here you are screwed….with a big S-C-R-E-W-E-D.

Stopped in a Jade City, a place purposely created to capitalize on the jade mined in this area. Not really a city. Just a place of a few permanent residents but lots of temporary seasonal workers. It got its name because it commercialized the sale of local jade…..which, when mined from the Princess Jade mine, 90 miles north, makes up 90% of all the jade mined in the world.

Six gals work the store and live in housing/dorms in the back. They are from all over Canada and one told me that in a few weeks they can get 500 people a day through the store! This place is in the middle of NOWHERE!!!!

Got my wallet plundered on souvenirs and had to return their cat as it followed me around the place and out to the van.

As I left there was a moose in the middle of the road but it, too, bolted soon as it heard the tires on the gravel.

Stopped at Dease Lake for gas. $1.60 a liter or almost $6.25 US!!!!!!!!

It’s a small community of about 500 people. Couple of hotels, cafes and a restaurant. Even has a college campus.

A Hudson Bay post was established here in 1838 and abandoned a year later. The lake was named in 1834 by John McLeod of the Hudson Bay Company.

South-bound the road widens a bit but still rough. Lots of caribou and rabbits around here.

The closer I got to the Stewart cutoff the more black bears there were along the side of the road.

It’s a beautiful 40 mile drive to Stewart with several glaciers to be seen. The mountains are clothed in mist and waterfalls are everywhere.

Took photos of Bear Glacier on the road to town.

The Stewart/Hyder relationship is odd. Stewart has about 1000 people living in it and Hyder, a mile away, but in Alaska, has only 100. Not sure how it all works. Can someone in Hyder needing medical help use the Canadian doctors? What about shopping? Gas, obviously, has to be bought in Stewart, necessitating a stop at customs. The US has no customs going in to Hyder but Canada does for those coming into Stewart. Not sure why that is as there is no airstrip in Hyder and the only way out is by car or small boat (since it also has no harbor.)

But Stewart has a deep port harbor and I saw a large ship parked in the middle of the bay.

Decided to make it a hotel night.

19 MAY 2011

Anyone deciding to come this way (the boondocks of Canada or Alaska) should not be taken in the signs of “high speed wi-fi.” An absolute crock of crap. My 56.6K modem was faster! Signal drops, modem shutdowns, stalled connections, etc. A real pain in the ass!

ANOTHER nice day. Headed out at 7 AM to take sunrise photos. Saw a hawk and what I call a water weasel (an otter) crossing the road.

The topper was my first grizzly bear! So cool!!!!

Stopped in at Gitanyow, formerly called Gitwankool, a native village renowned in Northwest BC for all the standing totems it has. The museum was closed but I got some good pictures. Before pulling into town I took pictures near a creek and on leaving the village I saw a couple of things on the road ahead. Looked like turtles. Turned out to be my sandals which had fallen out of the van unbeknownst to me. Luckily the lack of traffic allowed me to recover them unmolested.

A few KMs east of Smithers it looks like the weather’s been very warm lately as the rivers have all overrun their banks and there’s a lot of flooding from the snow melt in the mountains. Saw a guy sandbagging around his house and also saw RR tracks underwater.

Arrived in Prince George after a warm, sunny day of driving and decided to be cheap by camping at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Did some shopping and noticed Canada’s Wal-Marts use a queuing system for the express lanes. About a year ago I read that some university studied whether it was faster to queue or choose your own lane and decided you’d lose if you decided to chose.

They nest a half dozen registers in an area, you line up and when the cashier’s done she hits a button and a voice tells you which register to go to.

It beats the hell out of choosing a lane with only one person ahead of you only to find out the items they want won’t scan, they need to use a gift card, a check and a credit card to buy their stuff because they don’t have enough money in one and then they pull out 7 coupons and a food stamp card. All the while failing to negotiate the use of the swipe pad.

Another weird phenomena: people in $750,000 400 HP Cummins diesel pusher 40 foot motor homes with 4 tip-outs will park in Wal-Mart. If they can afford a motor home worth 5 times more than my house why can’t they afford $30 for a campground? Possible answer: could be that cheapness is what allowed them to save the money to buy the motorhome to begin with?

Finding no beer at Wal-Mart I strolled across the street to a liquor store. HOLY SHIT!! Beer is expensive here! A single can cost $3! A 6-pack costs is $12!!! YOWZAH! At a liquor store!!! And this was the cheap beer, too. No idea what a dent in the wallet a night of drinking at a bar would cost.

I don’t see how Canadians can afford to drink or smoke. Screwing is cheap as the NHS takes care of abortions or childbirth.

Interesting note: saw my first Kia Sedona mini-van today. Lots of Fords, Chrysler, Toyotas but no Kias. Must be a licensing thing.

Another tidbit: Prince George has about as many people as Spring Hill and just one Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, we have 3 WMTs and a Sam’s. Plus, their’s closes at 11 PM and re-opens at 8 AM. Ours are open 24/7.

Who’s making money? Who’s losing it? How does this work?

20 MAY 2011

ANOTHER sunny day!

Listening to Sirius/XM I picked up the Wilcow Majority show with Andrew Wilcow. He brought up a good point. Liberals who practice what they preach (not the limousine liberals of Hollywood or politicians or morons like Al Gore) are forever internally tormented as no matter what they do it is never good enough.

In trying to be a good liberal they will always be chasing their tails. For example, if you bought a hybrid car because everyone else says you should, you end up using less gas (good) but paying less taxes (bad) therefore they need to have a mileage tax slapped on their asses. Better yet, to reduce emissions even more you’d ride the bus. Then you’d be criticized because Government Motors isn’t selling any cars.

Same with solar panels to reduce emissions. Soon you’d pay higher taxes to make up the tax revenue difference in order to pay the electric bill of the lazy fucks living in the country on welfare and food stamps.

In Jasper I spoke with the Canadian Pacific train rep about what it would cost to travel across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver. First class, upper bunk in a 2 bunk cabin, all meals included, 5 days was about $1100!!!!! Cheap!! Then he said to check their deals if your schedule is flexible and when he did, someone who could book within a couple of weeks could make the same trip for $350!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m doing it next year.

Stayed at the Whistler Campground in Jasper. You can tell the place is full of animals as their turds are EVERYWHERE. Deer, moose, elk, bear. At least every couple of paces are little nuggets. Visitors are warned to avoid the elk at is it calving season and the mothers are brutally protective.

The camp has about 800 spaces and is very well laid out. They even have programs at night on the local wildlife at a large outdoor amphitheater. Also large play fields and while this family was playing baseball a deer just strolled by along the third base line, minding its own business.

21 MAY 2011

AND YET ANOTHER SUNNY DAY!

My luck’s got to run out some time. I should be telling tourists to follow me if they want sunshine.

Cold again. About 30 degrees as standing water was frozen. Not little puddles but pond sized water bodies.

Made breakfast and went into town to extend my stay in the park. Both Banff and Jasper require a park pass to visit them.

Went to cafe to get more coffee and mooch wi-fi and found the weather in the Tetons and Yellowstone to be ugly. Whereas no sun is predicted, even if it shows it looks like there is some widespread flooding the area so I will be calling the Park Service soon as I cross the border.

Headed towards Beauty Creek Hostel and went past the Athabasca Glacier. Just before the hostel it looked like a wreck took place on the highway. Cars stopped every which way, lights flashing, etc. Of course, I was curious.

Turns out a grizzly was just off the road feasting on roots. It would tear at the ground with its claws and literally roll it back like a carpet looking for munchies. It ended up being there close to two hours. I stayed for about 15 minutes, headed to the hostel, had lunch and someone pulled off the side of the road and commented the grizzly was still there. So I went out again.

The thing did everything short of standing up on its hind legs and roaring. Magnificent.

The hostel itself is rated “wilderness.” No electricity or flush toilets. Water is carted in for drinking and washing dishes in 5 gallon jugs and the waste water from the sinks goes into another 5 gallon container that needs to be carried uphill to the toilets and dumped. Propane powers the fridge plus runs the heaters and lights. A spectacular location where I got quite a few nice pictures.

22 MAY 2011

A frosty start to the morning and ……… SUNNY!!!!

What a difference from 3 weeks ago. Lots of snow is melted and Banff was PACKED to the gills. Cars everywhere. No parking in town so people were parking almost a mile away and walking into town.

To do what? Look at shops? Banff won’t look like the postcards until 3 weeks from now when the flowers bloom and line all the shop windows. Other than that it’s like paying a premium to visit the town next to you because their 7-11 is in a prettier location.

Finally caught some rain coming into Calgary, a city of 2 million. Towards late afternoon the skies cleared once again.

I suspect my picture taking will be very limited now as I’ve gotten pretty much all I wanted.

And for all intents and purposes, journalling will be coming to a grinding halt, too.

Did get to see several moose with a couple of them in velvet. The antlers fall off every year and since they are bone the only way they calcify is if the bone gets a steady supply of nutrients…which is where the “velvet” comes in. The velvet is nothing more than a blood circulation system on the outside of the antlers. Once totally calcified the velvet sloughs off.

POST SCRIPT

Checked weather down south in Glacier, Yellowstone and Tetons in the hopes of stopping by there prior to going to my son’s again and eventually, home. But it was not to be in the cards. The entire area was undergoing flooding and more rain and snow. Some of the passes still had 25 feet of snow!!!

So I made a beeline for Montana and stopped at Billings. Very nice city and the approach was dramatic, having to drive down a steep road from the bluffs 400 feet or more above. What a view from up there.

As I checked out of the motel there was a notice that the interstate was closed due to flooding so I had visions of having to drive east to North Dakota and then south to Rapid City. Came pretty close. I-90 was under 6 feet of water and my eastward travels were made faster by all the water I saw everywhere. Towns were flooding. Ranches were flooded. Rivers became torrents of water in all directions.

Got a room at Ellsworth (nice digs, too, with bedroom, living room, dual flatscreens, my own router, fridge, M/W, etc. And it wasn’t even a suite which they said I was entitled to!! Holy crap. I wonder what THEY looked like. Saunas? Hot tubs? Hot and cold running maids? 🙂 )

Had a great visit with Dan and his kids. Tiffany ends her technical school in two weeks and then they are headed to Dover, Delaware.

Lots of rain and fog on the drive home. Until I hit Tennessee. Then it got HOT!!!! And sunny. So I beat feet home to arrive just a few hours prior to my sister leaving with my mother on a trip to Las Vegas. Said “hello” and then “goodbye.” Will see them all again in 6 days.

That’s it, folks. The saga of the Alaska adventure. I have hundreds more pics (took about 3,000 and have culled it to about 2000 so far.) Hope to eventually get it down to 1200.

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