Saturday, May 31, 2014

Northbound on the Alcan

It’s Friday Night and we are about 220 miles north of Dawson Creek at the 439km marker on the Alaska Highway.

But before I get ahead of myself let me bring you up to speed.

The last two nights we spent in the Northern Lights RV Park in Dawson City.

John is Far left then Ron is on the right side and I’m next to Ron.

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While in Dawson we took advantage of the shopping and museums about the Alaska Highway.

For instance - the original Highway is about 1800 miles long and was built in 8 months!

133 metal bridges were designed and installed.   We can’t even build one bridge in 8 months now a days!

We all had to get our pictures taken in front of the mile zero marker.

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Here is the whole gang…  Furry friends included.

This photo is blurry.  I downloaded it from John and my iPhoto messed it up.  I need to get another copy.

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This morning at 0930 we hit the road.  We were officially northbound on the Alaska Highway.

As we were driving north I was talking to Kate about how as a younger man living in Colorado - I had always dreamed of one day making this trip...

and here I was!   I never expected to be making the trip however in such a large rig.  I always thought something more like the dog house or a van…  How times change.

About 20 miles north of Dawson Creek is the Kiskatinaw Bridge. It is the last remaining original bridge on the Alcan.

It is no longer used as the road has been relocated.

It is constructed of 500,000 board feet of Creosote Lumber, is 534’ long, 100’ above the river, and took as long to build as it took to build the entire highway.

In 1978 a new bridge was built to bypass the original due to increasing truck weights.

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It was in impressive structure to visit and a great reminder of the efforts of those men who built this highway in only 8 months during WWII.

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Our drive north today was thru some varied terrain.

Nearing our days destination the forest has turned to a mix of Pine, Alder, and the ever present White Birch.

At times the drive is like driving thru a manicured park.

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Our destination today was an abandoned Provincial Park near Prophet River.

Driving for miles thru the wilderness then coming upon an unmarked gravel road, I said what the heck, and made the left turn

into the gravel road.   Sure enough it widened up and looped around and we found a quiet spot to spend the night.

It is abandoned so it’s free.  No services, or water or anything but thats fine.  It’s boon docking and our rig is perfectly set up for this.

There is only one other RV here besides the 3 of us..  nice.

I think it will be a quiet night.

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Since the sun sets so late and comes up so early I have not had a chance to see the night sky….   I wonder if it even gets dark.

We’ve run thru mud and our rigs are filthy.  Each day I take out a brush and clean off the back window so that we can at least see outside.

Tomorrow we will cross the high spot on the Alcan as we cross the Rockies and our destination is Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, where we should have a nice hot dip in the springs.

Till then.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Icefield Parkway

Yesterday we said goodbye to Rob and Pat and headed north to Jasper Alberta.

Before we did say goodbye however, Rob & Pat accompanied us to Lake Louise.

Nestled in a beautiful Alpine Valley, between snowcapped peaks and at the foot of a Glacier, it is a beautiful location.

As you can see from the photo below there was still ice on the lake.

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While there we took some time to visit the beautiful hotel.

The Stairway reminded me of those on the Titanic (not that I was around to sail on that boat)

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After a quick whirlwind visit it was time for hugs and goodbyes for we had promises to keep...

and miles to go before we sleep. 

 We then headed north on The Icefield Parkway.

My pictures cannot even begin to do this amazing drive justice.

I’ve been searching for the right superlatives to use to describe it but none seem sufficient.

Eye Candy…   Steroids for the Soul…  Magnificent…  Grand...

Below was a shot taken as we began to penetrate the mountains.   We had about 180 miles of the most Amazing vistas that I think I’ve ever driven

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We stopped at numerous scenic pullouts.

At several pullouts the passengers on Tour Busses all would stop and start taking pictures of our rigs.

I had several come up to me and start pounding me with questions….

How much does it weigh?  How much fuel does it hold?  How many horsepower does it have?   How much did it cost?

At one pullout we did this self portrait.

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I put together a great Drivelapse Video.  

A GoPro camera mounted in the windshield took over 9,000 photos that I then stitched together into a high speed - High Res video drive of the Parkway.

You can see the whole 4hrs drive in about 8 minutes.

It came out great but I need to wait till I have enough bandwidth and speed to upload it to UTube.  When I do I will post a link on the blog to it.

Meanwhile...

Along the way we saw this juvenile bear foraging for food.  It was sniffing and digging for something in the soil. 

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Based on the shoulder hump I thought it was a Grizzly but I’m not certain.  If one of our resident Botanist could chime in and set me straight.

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Further down the road we saw these Big Horn Sheep

Usually quite shy they tend to frequent higher elevations away from Humans.  Seeing them is a real treat!

These were two females - evident by the lesser curvature of the horns.

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Further up the Icefield Parkway we came to the Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Glacier.

The icefield sits astride the Continental Divide between Banff & Jasper National Parks.

We stopped here to visit the Visitors Center and let the Doods stretch their paws.

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All in all it was one of the most amazing days that I can remember.

If you never have been….  you need to come and see this place for yourself.

It is high on my list to come back to when I have the time to fully experience the beauty and solitude that it offers.

Slowly we defended a couple of thousand feet as we neared the northern end of Jasper National Park and that

led us to our next stop for the night - Whistlers Campground in Jasper.

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You can see Ron on the left - me in the middle - John and Dave in the trees on the right.

Whistler was a beautiful campground... delightfully peaceful with the comforting fragrance of pine and woodsmoke.

As we are now in the 50’s north latitudes the White Birch are abundant as are the Lodgepole Pine and Engleman Spruce.  It has a far northern look to the landscape.

Also abundant is the daylight…  and I love it!

It now gets dark around 11pm and at 4am I see light in the eastern sky.   Its 10:30 pm right now and I can still cast a shadow outside.

We will continue to push north and the amount of daylight will continue to increase.   Very Cool!

Today we left Whistlers Campground behind and pushed north another 300 miles thru some beautiful country of Forest, Wetlands, River Bottoms and Mountains.

Along the way we saw Caribou and several Moose.

We have a pretty impressive list of wildlife sightings thus far and we haven’t even gotten to the main event yet!

Tonight I write this post from Dawson Creek BC.   We are now at mile zero…  The starting place of the Alaska Highway.

It was from here that during WWII the US Army built the road that now stretches over 1,800 miles across the permafrost to Fairbanks.

It was built to connect the US with Alaska via road in order to be able to defend Alaska and North America in case of Japanese attack.

Tomorrow we will visit the museums and other interesting venues here in Dawson Creek and then Friday we will start up the Alcan

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Day in Banff

Our time in Banff was well spent.

First stop was the lift up Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the splendid views of a magnificently beautiful area.

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In spite of the cloudy weather the view from the top was splendid.

We were camped in the center of the photo behind the small mountain.

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At the top - our gang posed for a group photo.

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Our next stop back down the hill was the Banff Springs Hotel.

Built in the late 19th and early 20th century and like many of the great American park lodges,

the BSH was built by the railroad in order to spur passenger traffic on their line.

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It was stunning inside and out.

Visting some of the shops we enjoyed many wonderful art works.

These two carvings caught my eye.

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 The above is carved from Moose Antlers

 

Below is a carving of two male Big Horn Sheep…  carved from a Big Horn Sheep Horn.

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After visiting the Inn, we then headed down to the Bow River.

You can see a kayak that had just put into the water. 

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Next it was a late lunch (Fondue) and then back to the campground to visit with some other local friends.

These little guys always entertain the Doodles.

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Our Memorial Day weekend was now over and it was time to say goodbye to Pat & Rob as it was time to resume our journey North.

Today we drove 170 miles further North to Jasper, Alberta.

This however will be Tomorrows post.

The ride to Jasper on the Icefield Parkway was one of the most beautiful and amazing journeys I’ve ever taken

It needs to be covered when I have better internet and more time to give it the justice that it deserves.

Stay tuned for an incredible ride!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

North to Alaska!

We are on the way!

Our final night in Glacier was a celebration of life.

Our Buddy Ron had recently undergone Chemo and beat his Cancer.   During his treatments and subsequent hair loss Kate and I had sent him this hat.

The quote was from Telly Savalas (remember Kojak?)  hence the initials “TS"

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It was always our plan that on the way to Alaska - once we were all together….  that Ron would be cured and this hat would no longer be needed.

So in the fire it went.

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And just like that - we all looked forward to our Journey ahead.

Our group at the campfire.

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L to R

John, Kate, Maxine, Ron, Dave

This morning at 0830 we said goodbye to Glacier and headed north up US 93, cleared customs, and entered Canada.

6 Beautiful driving hours later we settled into Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta.

Along the way we had our first wildlife spotting - A mother bear and cubs.  The honors for the first sighting go to Maxine.  Surely the first of many more to follow.

This is the view from our campsite

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Our 3 RV’s were joined for our visit here by a 4th - Rob and Pat -  our good friends who we’ve spent time boon docking with

in the Arizona desert.  Rob & Pat are Canadians and will be our local tour guides for the next 3 days.

 

3 of the 4 RV’s - Ron and the Party Bus

Rob & Pat Next

Kate and I in the last spot.

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A visitor to our camp.

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Our group (Ron is missing) after dinner.

Rob is on the left and Pat is after John.

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The days are getting longer as we continue our trek North. 

This photo was taken around 9pm.

Tomorrow we will start to explore the beautiful local area.

The town of Banff is incredibly beautiful and I can’t wait to get some photos to share with you.

For now - its almost 11pm and time for me to chill.

For now check out our map to see where we are.

Also - since I’m on limited bandwidth I’m using an offline blog editor to create the posts and then uploading them complete…   so if the format looks

a bit different than usual - that is the reason why.

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Glacier... the gathering

It is now Weds - we've been here in West Glacier since Sunday.

Our first two days were cool and rainy - great weather for staying cozy inside
and getting a lot of work done.

Yesterday Ron & Maxine arrived in the big Party Bus so we started to
test out our Alaska evening strategy:
Happy Hour and Dinner...
It worked well.

So today we took a short drive into Glacier National Park.
It is early in the season and much of the lodges are not yet open,
nor is the snow cleared from Going to the Sun Road but it was delightfully
free of crowds.   It was like we had our own private park for much of the day.

The views of Lake MacDonald.




Upstream of Lake MacDonald, MacDonald Creek tumbles over rocks
as the snowmelt rushes downstream.
The streams are all quite high right now as the snowmelt
reaches peak.


The four of us.


Kate strikes a pose.


Another view of MacDonald Creek.


Back down at the outlet end of Lake MacDonald in Apgar Village.
The snow on the distant mountains is destined for the lake.


While in the Park we did some hunting and Kate managed to
bag this beautiful 8 pointer.


(She also bagged a black bear)

Arriving back at camp - we discovered that John and his buddy 
Dave have arrived so our little traveling group is now assembled.

John/Dave on the left.
Ron & Maxine in the middle.
Kate and I on the right.


Saturday we'll cross the border into British Columbia, visit Banff and Jasper 
National Parks and begin working our way north to Dawson City 
and the start of the Alaska Highway.

Meanwhile - our Map is currently not updated because my iPhone reports our position
to the map and my iPhone fried itself yesterday and became a "brick".   
It was covered under warranty by Apple so a new one should be here tomorrow.

I should have the map updating by tomorrow night or sooner if i set up my iPad
to do it as well.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Arrived in West Glacier

The theme of the past several days has been RV Upgrade and Repair.

First - while in Lincoln Rock State Park in Wenatchee I installed a new
and improved toilet in the Monty.
Most of the finish in the RV is mid-range at best, and subject to needing repairs
sooner than should be necessary.

Our toilet was already starting to show signs of malfunctioning and rather than 
risking the need to replace it in the middle of the Yukon I decided to be proactive and
install a new high quality unit now.

While doing that I added an in-line water shutoff for the toilet so that any future
maintenance would not require my shutting off water to the entire RV.

It was a simple job and both were accomplished in about an hour. 

Then yesterday around noon our refrigerator started beeping and flashing
and error code.   A quick check of the service manual (I have all that stuff
downloaded as pdf's on the computer) showed an open high temperature cutoff.

Long story short - I was able to install a temporary jumper in the circuit to bypass
the cutoff and keep the fridge running while I scrambled to find a new part.
(I knew the fridge was not running over temp - it was a bad relay)

A few phone calls later I found my part in Spokane and we jumped into the truck
to go fetch it.   By 4pm the fridge was back running with the new relay installed.
The RV Store gave me the part for free!

I love it when I can solve a problem with a minimum of fuss!

With all systems back in order, today we drove about 250 miles from 
Coeur d' Alene, Idaho to West Glacier, Montana.

It is here - in the shadow of Glacier National Park - that our friends
Ron & Maxine in their Party Bus, and John & Dave in Johns Montana
will join us and stage for our departure to Alaska.


The snow on the mountains is only about 400' higher elevation than
where we are and serves as a reminder that winter here was not very long ago.


While here we will try and see some of the sights in Glacier NP.
Going to the Sun Road - the highlight of the park - will of course still be 
closed as it usually is not plowed clear of snow till mid/late June.

Ron & Maxine will arrive on Tuesday and John & Dave a day or two after that.

Our plan is to hit the road north on Saturday.

In between then and now I hope to get some nice photos of the high peaks
and lakes to share in an upcoming post.

Lets keep our fingers crossed for some clear weather.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Coeur D' Alene

After 10 days in Marmotville, yesterday we finally tossed off lines
and moved east 150 miles to Coeur D' Alene, Idaho.

You can follow our path on the map link to the right.

Our stop here was basically to get the truck serviced at the local Ford Dealer
so that we would be good to go for the long haul up the Alcan Highway.
I picked up a couple of extra fuel filters and we did some
food shopping to restock the pantry.

We are staying at Blackwell Island RV Park.
Its a decent place, close to town and convenient to everything.


There is a floating restaurant nearby.  
It is located right where the lake empties into the Spokane River.   
We ate here a couple of years ago and enjoyed our meal 
and tonight was no exception.   


The view is great as is the food.
This is the view from our table:


We watched seaplanes taking off and landing while we dined.


The spring runoff is in progress so the lake is high and the outflow into the river
is quite swift.  Fortunately the pilings held and our restaurant did not head down
the river to the Falls while we were enjoying our dinner.

Any day that you can finish dinner without going over a waterfall is a
good day in my book.

The gangplank leading back to the shore:


This is looking downstream on the Spokane River from the Gangplank.
Our RV Park is just around the bend to the left.


Now that our chores are done, 
tomorrow we will spend some time checking out the town. 
There is a big resort here that I want to explore.
Maybe I'll get a pedicure....    Not!

Sunday we are off to West Glacier where we will meet the rest
of our entourage and spend our final 6 days in the lower 48 
before we cross into Canada and start our push north.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Where are we?

Ok...  Two things.

First, I've added a cool new feature.
Actually it's been re-added.

If you look over on the immediate right hand side you will see the question:
"Where are we today?"  in Yellow typeface...

Under that in Blue type is a link for you to click.
"Click here to see a real time map......."

Clicking on the link will bring up a map that is usually updated every
5 minutes and will show our current position and travels throughout the day.

You can even select a longer time period and see our travels over days and weeks.
It just started to update today so there is only one days worth of data right now
but as we move north to Alaska the map will get more interesting.

I had something like this before using Google Latitude but then Google
stopped supporting Latitude so now I'm using Spotwalla and reporting location from
an app on my iPhone.

Anyone who is interested in this for your blog send me an email.
Props go to my Buddy Hayden who is using Spotwalla with a Spot Satellite reporter.
It was Hayden and his telecommuting that opened up the whole world
of working from Sailboats or RV's to me.

Now...  number two.

I had a bunch of emails asking about the Marmots that are keeping the
Doodles entertained.


Kinda reminds me of Bill Murray and Caddyshack.
Can't you just hear the music?
Kenny Loggins..  I'm alright....

There are dozens of these little furry rodents here.

Its kind of funny - they come out in the morning... peak around 3 pm
and then by Marmot Rush Hour... 5pm... they disappear.
Must need to go home to cook...

It's a hoot!


The Hills are alive... with the sound of Marmots....

Just like Pica, Prairie Dogs, and others...   They let out a high pitched
chirp when danger appears.

So of course when the Mighty Hunting Doodles come walking down the road with me
the Marmots all sound the alarm.

As I type this - Lucy is at the screen door (for hours) looking outside at the Marmots.
Gracie is up on the couch looking out the window.

It is a good feeling knowing that we are safe....
That the Doodles are keeping a watch for us....

Alas....  if only the furry little rodents knew.
They could probably open up a can of Whoopass on Doodle butt
and send my furry little girls running home with tails between their legs.

Anyway -  Back to number one...

Check out our "where are we today?" link.
Keep it in mind as we head to Alaska.
I think it will be some cool new content to the blog.