Saturday, May 16, 2009

I forgot to mention....

After we spent a night in Skagway, we took an Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Sitka. We will be home a month and then take off again for the next leg of our trip which will take us to Denali Park, weather permitting.

We will pick up where we left off at that time.

Sitka, the Paris of the Pacific.

(Remember to click on any image to see a larger view.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Desert in Alaska and what a Dall

Before we left Whitehorse, we did a mile hike in the Miles Canyon park, named after General Nelson Miles of Wild West fame.

There weren't any roses to stop and smell, so these had to do.

Canadians and Alaskans sometimes employ weird methods of attracting attention to their businesses. This one seems a little asinine to me.

Just kidding....we stopped there to buys some buns, but they were closed.

This guy came prepared for the harshest road conditions....6X6

Just a few miles off the Alaska Highway, you come across Robinson and Robinson Roadhouse, an old way station for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.

The buildings are very well preserved by the dry climate there and you can also see the abandoned narrow-gauge railroad tracks.

Like many places associated with the Gold Rush, Mssrs. Robinson thought they had the perfect spot for a booming city here, but like most others, it didn't pan out.

Here's that rose I couldn't find earlier.

Emerald Lake, just before Carcross.

About thirty miles in towards Skagway you come to what's billed as the world's smallest desert, named after the nearby community of Carcross. Once the bed of a great lake, the fine sand cannot support much life due to the constant winds.

Carcross is another waystation for the railroad, and boasts a hundred plus year old Anglican Church and the oldest, continuously operating store in the Yukon

Georgina was reading in the Milepost and it said we might see Dall Sheep on the highway above Skagway.

Literally a minute later we came across six Dalls munching grass on the sidehill just above the road.

This lake was frozen over in mid-May.

The drive from Whitehorse to Skagway is full of special surprises and spectacular scenery.

Finally, Alaska. No more need to figure out the currency or convert km to miles.

Skagway, portal to the 1898 Gold Rush.

Tagish Charlie, one of the Tlingit guides who led miners into the Yukon gold fields.

A snow-clearing engine for the White Pass & Yukon Railroad.

Read the remarkable story of Soapy Smith and Frank Reid, reenacted to this day in Skagway during the summer season.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Atlin later

I've checked out all the gear on our RV after it had been sitting for so long, but not until this morning did I try out the sewage dump pipe.

It broke before I could use it.

We had to spend a couple of hours getting it replaced, shopping for RV supplies and dining, and ended up canceling our trip to Atlin.

Next time.

Mid afternoon we headed to Skagway.


Sunday Morning, May 10th

My wife made an executive decision last night that we would head to Atlin instead of spending the whole day in Whitehorse.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Canadians like to paint their buildings in more than one color. Nowhere have I seen that more prevalent than in Whitehorse.

Here are some examples: (remember to double click on any image for a larger view)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hot Springs Eternal

We left Liard Hot Springs early today, hoping to see some more wildlife before traffic picked up along the highway.

We weren't disappointed.

Just a few miles out of Liard we came across the first of several small buffalo herds. We watched two young males butting heads in what appeared to be a pecking-order contest. Then we spotted a young calf resting on the grass, bathed in the morning sun.

Upon spotting me with my camera, he hurried over to his mother's side.

I suddenly realized I haven't sent my mother her Mother's Day card.

We saw a headless buffalo along side the road near here, and later another. I thought of poachers and hunters looking only for the kill. Later I learned that the province has a "head permit" that costs $150 and allows residents to harvest the head from road-killed buffalo.

I'm not sure why that made me feel better about what I had seen, but it did.

Driving on we stopped alongside the Liard River, now breaking up after a winter frozen in ice five feet thick.

Georgina spotted a movement in the grass on the shaded side of the road and I jumped out to catch this shot of a red fox carrying its morning meal.

Gas along the highway tends to get progressively higher in areas with fewer people, but at the Contact Creek Lodge we found the best prices in a couple of days, 97.9 per liter.

The two hour drive to Watson Lake led us to a familiar site in this small town.

In 1942, a construction worker for the Alaska Highway put a sign from his hometown on a tree in downtown Watson Lake. Since that time a few more have been added, giving the are the name "Signpost forest".

Please click on the next image to see how many signs are there today. And there's still room for more. I didn't see one from New York City. Anyone....anyone?

The best gas price in Watson Lake was $1.029.

Another caribou, yawn...

Not many deciduous trees have leaves yet, but where they mingle with evergreens, a beautiful mosaic emerges.

We were getting hungry about now so we stopped at the Rancheria Restaurant for lunch. Georgina had a Pirogie, an eastern European dumpling filled with potatos and covered with onions and bacon. Their food prices were reasonable, but their regular gas was $1.199, well over $4.00 a US gallon.
The food was great and we had a nice visit with the owner. Almost anywhere along the highway, you can meet very interesting people and learn how they came to be there. The inside of the restaurant was not unlike many in Alaska of long ago when I was much younger.

Scenery between Rancheria Lodge and Whitehorse, 200 miles away, was a repeat of much of what we'd already seen. The sky was clouding over a bit and gave a dull effect to the color scheme.
We almost made it to Whitehorse, but decided to stay at the Caribou RV Park, just fifteen minutes from downtown. It was a very good choice for several reason.
First, as we found out later, it was the only park open at this time...the rest would follow in about a week.
Second, the park is very nice, in a wooded area, has nice showers and restrooms, a payphone and high-speed wireless internet that actually works.
Third, a series of wooded trails lead from and back to the park.
Also, a very wonderful Swiss-owned restaurant offers tasty foods that my wife, more of an adventurer than I, really appreciated.
She has a smaller appetite than I and ordered the "small person" plate of Schnitzel and Spaetzel.
She also ordered a bottle of Beck, a German beer.
I could swear I saw the cook do a double-take when he saw the child's plate accompanied by a beer.

Buffalo girls and Bathing beauties

Friday, May 8, 2009

We awoke at 5:00 to the sound of long-haul truckers revving up their engines. We were at the Sasquatch Crossing truck stop four miles, past Pink Mountain, our original destination last night, which like many stops along the highway, was closed until about the 20th.

We decided to make it to Liard Hot Springs by early evening...a 333 mile drive. The weather started out cloudy and chilly and looked like a gray day ahead for the first hour or so.

Then the sun broke through and we had a beautiful drive to Fort Nelson, our first destination of the day.

The Fort Nelson Hotel is very nice, has a reasonably priced restaurant, and offers wireless internet while you eat.

At the CIBC, we got $1.13 CSD for each U. S. dollar, a half cent less than our last transaction had gotten us.

We gassed up there, since I knew prices would get steeper along the way, and paid 109.9 a liter, about USD $3.62 a U. S. gallon.

The road out of Fort Nelson winds uphill for miles and took us into the Northern Rockies. The pavement is slightly rougher in places than we've previously encountered.

Caribou were abundant along this route, and seemed unconcerned that they were occasionally blocking traffic.

At the Tetsa River Lodge, the self proclaimed Cinnamon Bun Center of the Galactic Cluster, we treated ourselves to one of their specialties and were not disappointed.

This is a log-cabin resort and lodge, but the roof sports a couple of solar panels, slightly upsetting the ambiance.

Picked up a coon-skin hat for our grandson Max.

Inside, however, the dining area looked like a meeting hall for members of PETA Anonymous, the walls bedecked with various animal heads and skins.

We left there and drove through the Rockies until we came out of the foothills near Toad River, and it's namesake lodge. There we stopped for a snack and a look at their famous hat collection, over 7000 and counting. The cook said there is no more room, and extras are stored away. The hats have come from visitors over the years.

Gas was $1.169 here, too steep for me.

From Toad River, we drove another 68 miles to our final destination - Liard River Hot Springs...a glorious sight.

On the way we kept seeing signs warning us to watch out for buffalo on the road. In Canada?

At Liard, a quarter-mile boardwalk leads to the springs which have a 100 degree lower pool and a 110+ degree upper pool, a short walk further in the woods. The dock and steps around the lower pool are first-class. They even have benches in the pool where you can sit with the water level at your neck.

A sign there estimates that 150,000 visitors come each year to the springs. When we got there, we were alone for ten minutes or so until one or two at a time, another ten people arrived.

Camping at the Hot Springs is $19 per night....across the street at the Liard Hot Springs Lodge and RV Park, our space cost $20, and included electricity, something we were happy to have as the nights have been getting progressively colder as we've traveled north.

One family from Fort St. John, eight hours back down the highway came and my wife offered their daughters their 15 minutes of fame (on if they wanted their picture taken.

Tasty leftovers and a movie in bed and we were out like lights.