Saturday, September 7, 2019

Adios Alaska. Alaska to Montana

Time to play a bit of catch-up again.

This is a long post covering a lot of ground.
There will be a test on the subject material so study hard.

Good bye Seward

Since our last report we've left Seward and relocated 2,500 miles to
West Glacier, Montana, from where I'm currently putting this post together.

It is said "when the fireweed is gone - so is summer"
and the photo below shows that the fireweed was pretty much done for the year
and was signaling to us that departure was imminent.

waning fireweed
We had planned to stay until the Monday of Labor day weekend.
This would be about a week later than last time and would give the fall colors
further south time to mature.

Unfortunately the endless return of smoke from the burning wildfires had settled in again,
and seemed to be hanging around much longer.

The forecast was for days more and we just could not take it any longer.
Our eyes were watering & we could taste the smoke in our mouths.
Lucy was coughing, my eyes were watering, and it was starting to burn in the nose.

Smoky Seward Sunrise
We hated to leave as this time of year most of the summer folks have already left
for the lower 48, the kids were back in school, and we had the place mostly to ourselves.
Late August - Early Sept is really our favorite time here.

Empty - but smoky - waterfront in Seward, Ak

We occupied our last days trying to reproduce tomatoes to no avail.
I think the constant smoke inhalation was starting to affect our cognitive skills.

Tomato reproduction experiments

Finally on Aug 23rd - about 10 days ahead of plan - we woke up on Saturday morning
and just decided it was time to get out of Dodge.

So we pulled in the slides, hooked up the towed, and headed out of town.
Our Seward Summer had come to an end.

The photo below shows the smoke on the Seward Highway as we left town.

Seward Highway Smoke
Below, further north near Hope, we dipped below the smoke clouds for a moment.

Finally in Anchorage we were out of the bulk of the smoke.

We headed to Cabellas where they have RV Parking.

We disconnected and headed to the Self-Serve Doodle wash to get the smoke smell
(and Seward Mud) out of the Doodles.

Lucy gets a bath at Monster Wash Anchorage

Gracie gets a turn at Monster Wash too.
While I gave the dogs a bath, Kate took the F150 and did some final provisioning
for our trip south.   The plan was to be off grid boondocking for 8 or 9 days on the way south.

Leaving Anchorage, we headed north up the Glen Highway...
(you must go several hundred miles north around the mountains before you can turn south)

The views on the Glen Highway are some of the best in Alaska

North of Palmer you begin to climb into the Chugach Mountains and the view
increase with altitude.

Glen Highway Views north of Palmer
Near Glacier View you get nice views of the Matanuska Glacier.
At 27 miles long by 4 miles wide - it is the largest glacier in the US that
is accessible by automobile.

View of Matanuska glacier from Glen Highway Alaska
We spent 2 night at the Grand View RV Park just a few miles north of
where the above photo was taken.

It was the first utility hookup in 3 months.
Kate did laundry, I dumped tanks, and refilled the fresh water.

We affectionately call Grand View "all of our eggs have whites" RV Park.

5 years ago we stayed here with friends Maxine & Ron.
In the morning we had breakfast at their cafe and Maxine asked the young
waitress (summer help from Ukraine) if they served an egg white omelette,
to which the young lady replied "why of course - all of our eggs have whites"

We all have had a good laugh about that one over the years.

Hello Canada

Finally on Monday the 26th we were off on a 400+ mile day to
Congdon Creek YT Campground.

To get there we have to traverse the Tok Cutoff northbound.
A notoriously bad stretch of road, just like in May, the center section was undergoing
a significant upgrade.  The roadway being raised about 15' higher above the
permafrost in the attempt to minimize frost heaving.

Roadway upgrades on Tok Cutoff
A particularly impressive part of this project was the incredible amount of stone that
was needed to raise the roadway.
To accommodate the needs, they had built a stone quarry and crushing facility
at the north end of the project.

They had carved into the side of a mountain, and a full-scale quarry was in operation,
blasting stone, transporting it to the crushers, and then conveyering it to a load area where
they were loading up massive dump trucks which transported the stone to where
it was needed.

Unfortunately by the time I saw the project - we were past it and I was unable to get a photo.

By about 1pm were were back in Canada and the Yukon.

We rolled into Congdon Creek about 530pm and chose one of the pull-thru
sites back in the woods.

Normally we like to take one of the sites along the lake, but getting there late, they were all
taken for the night.

For an overnight however - any site in this campground is fine.
Its a great location and a wonderful campground.

Congdon Creek YT Campground
And of course - in the Yukon Campgrounds the firewood is free

Early the next morning we were back on the road.
The picture below was taken just about as soon as we got on the Alcan headed south.

Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake Yukon
Passing thru Whitehorse 3 hours later, then 2 hours after that we were 
crossing the long bridge in Teslin.

Teslin River Bridge
About 430 that evening we were rolling into Big Creek YT Campground.
Our days tally was about 380 miles.
The Campground is about 40 miles west of Watson Lake, Yt and about 200 miles
from Muncho Lake where we would be spending 5 days over the Labor Day weekend.

Big Creek YT Campground
We chose a long pull off right next to the stream.
We went to sleep that night listening to the rushing waters.

Site #2 Big Creek YT Campground
The following morning we pulled into a big dirt lot in Watson Lake to take care of some
business that required phone and internet service.

For the 1,280 miles between Dawson Creek and Tok, Ak there are about 6 places
where you have momentary service so you take advantage of it when you can.

We stopped across from the sign forest in Watson Lake
Leaving Watson Lake, we motored onward toward Muncho Lake

Coming down the big hill towards the Liard River
The Liard River is a major waterway in this neck of the woods and the Alaska Highway
runs along it for a stretch.
Its a pretty stretch in a road loaded with pretty stretches.

We've now traveled this road in either direction enough times that we are starting to
know what is around the next corner and the drive seems familiar and not very long.

Soon near Liard Hot Springs we pass the ever present Bison Herd.

By 1pm ish we were back at one of our favorite stops anywhere - Muncho Lake.

Muncho Lake View
Our campsite this time was #12.

The photo below is of our site in May - #13.
Site 12 would be the clearing to the right.
#12 had good dish satellite reception, good solar, but not a great a view as 13.

Below are some of the other (lower numbered) sites at MacDonald Campground.
They are a bit more open and less private - but great lake views and very sunny.
These sites would have good Dish Satellite reception on the 119°

Macdonald Campground Muncho Lake

Our neighbor took his Bloodhound fishing.

Bloodhound sniffing out the lake trout on Muncho Lake

The Northern Rockies Lodge just up the lake has floatplane service.
I finally was able to catch one taking off.

Liard Air departing Muncho Lake

On Sunday of Labor Day weekend we hit the road.
Our destination was Walmart in Dawson Creek - or beyond.
We'd drive till we had enough for the day and then boondock somewhere.

The fall colors along this stretch were more advanced.
Just a week or so earlier this stretch had up to 25" of snow!

Fall color showing in Muncho Lake Provincial Park
Down the road about 90 miles is the Toad River Area.
There are a lot of White Birch Trees in this stretch and its a pretty
section in any season.

Toad River Area on the Alaska Highway

Toad River Bridge - Alaska Highway
Further east at Fort Nelson, the Alaska Highway makes a big turn southward.
The Alcan is now in a N-S orientation and runs thru mostly rolling hills.

Below shows one of the many rest stops along the highway.
I took pictures of many of these to make a list for future reference as to potential
free overnight stops.

Rest Area south of Ft Nelson on Alaska Highway

We spent Sunday night at Wallyworld in Dawson Creek and got an early jump
on Labor Day morning.  I had a busy day planned.

We got fuel in Grande Prairie Ab at the Petro-Pass Cardlock, and then
headed south on Ab-43 to Hinton, Ab.

In Hinton, we stopped at the Hinton Truck wash and gave the Coach and Towed
a quick bath.   The Truck wash in Hinton is a great place to give the rig a much-needed bath
and make it more presentable for "lower-48 standards"

Then a quick fuel top off at Petro-Pass in Hinton, we were headed west
into Jasper National Park.  Our destination for the night was the Columbia Icefield
Discovery Center on the Icefield Parkway high in the Canadian Rockies

Headed south on the Icefield Parkway
Approaching the Columbia Icefield.

We spent the night in the RV Parking Area at the Icefield Discovery Center.
Dry camping in the lot for $15.70 cdn.
There were only a few others staying there with us so it was a quiet night.

A cool clear night gave way to some Alpenglow on the ice field high
 above us the next morning.

Columbia Icefield in the morning
A crystal clear Sept 3rd morning made for an excellent drive down the rest of
the Icefield Parkway.

Fall colors on the Icefield Parkway
Around every turn is a dramatic view.
The Parkway is one of the epic drives in North America and is within
easy access to everyone living in the US

It is a must-see taste of the beautiful Canadian Rockies

Approaching Bow Glacier on Icefield Parkway
One of many lakes along the Parkway where you can pull off to enjoy the day.

Leaving the Parkway we entered Banff National Park and at Castle Junction we turned
west on AB93 and entered British Columbia and Kootenay National Park.

The Canadian Rockies are just one of the most beautiful places we've ever traveled.
We never get tired of these amazing views.

Kootenay National Park British Columbia
About 130pm we arrived at our one night stop...
Fairmont Hot Springs RV Park.
We've put a pencil mark on this place to visit again for longer as it's a beautiful park with
a lot of great amenities.

Our site  (#206) at Fairmont Hot Springs 

Back in the lower-48

Weds Sept 4th:
One more stop at the Petro Canada Cardlock in Cranbrook, and
then about an hour later we were back in the lower 48.

We crossed back into the states at the Roosville, Mt crossing on US93

Our home for the next 4 nights, and where I'm writing this post from, is a brand new
RV Park in West Glacier.

The West Glacier RV Park and Cabins opened their doors this spring.

Located right outside the gate to Glacier NP, it's the closest RV park yet I think people still
do not know that it exists as its been about 1/2 empty the whole time whereas the KOA
about 3 miles down the road is bursting at the seams.

Thats good for us as it makes for a very quiet stay.
Our site was an 85' pull thru.
They also  have 60' pull thrus.

Our site #60 in West Glacier.
Thursday morning we hit the road.
Our goal was to cross the park on Going to the Sun Road.
4 times previously we've been to Glacier and each time the road was closed due
to either snow or wildfires.

The 5th time was the charm!

The road begins down around 3,000' in the Pines and Birch trees.

Slowly we begin the climb up to Logan Pass

The pictures below are in no particular order.
Some were taken westbound and some eastbound.

Cars perched on the cliff of Going to the Sun Road
 Built between 1921 and 1932, the road was the first National Park Project conceived with the
automobile traveling public in mind.

The east side tunnel is considered the engineering high point of the entire roadway.
When it was built in 1932, power equipment could not reach this location so all rock that
was blasted out of the 408' tunnel had to be removed by hand.

East Side Tunnel - Going to The Sun Road looking west
The "Triple Arches was a stretch where the sheer cliff face required that a bridge be built 
into the stone face of the mountain.

Triple Arches - Going to the Sun Road looking east
The stretch of roadway between the triple arches and Logan Pass is about 2 miles.

Just west of the Triple Arches looking west.
Some of the rock outcrops along this stretch limit the height of vehicles to 10'

Shameless self promotion.

lower down on the east side is St Marys Lake.

The roadway along St Marys Lake and the East side Tunnel were featured
in the opening of The Shining, as Jack Nicholson drives up to the hotel.

Fireburns are found everywhere in Canada and the US.
Climate change has been having devastaing effects on wildfires, rainfall,
and insect populations.

Besides fire - warmer winters are allowing Pine Beetles to devastate unbelievable
sized swaths of forest on both sides of the border.

Before we arrived in Glacier, I head learned on the NPS website that two of the campgrounds
in the park was limited to hard-sided campers "due to Bear activity"

Knowing that it is Huckleberry picking season, and that Hucks make up a large portion
of the Grizzly Bear populations food source at this time of year, I assumed that these
campgrounds must have a decent Huckleberry supply.

So after we crossed to the east side, I set my sights on one of the campgrounds to
see if we could find some hucks and do a bit of berry picking.

To our delight - we stumbled upon the Motherlode!

Huckleberry Bush with ripe berries
We only had brought one container with us.
Turns out we could have filled as many as we wanted.

So the next day we came back and filled 3 more.

I'm a hungry bear
Our second day collection.
Our total collection was about 4 gallons of blue beauties!

3 of the 4 containers of ripe Huckleberries
So that brings us up to date.
Tomorrow we are back on the road and will head about 300 miles over to
Spokane Washington for 3 nights.

Our friend Jim held a Montana Rally at an RV park there a few years baack 
 and the place always looked sort of nice so since its kind of along the way 
and we are still killing a bit of time hoping it cools off a bit in Tucson....  
Next stop - Spokane

After that it's decision time.
Down south on US 93 the Nevada,
Or I-15 thru Utah.

But that fork in the road is not upon us yet.