Sunday, July 31, 2016

Beaver Dam Rest Area (and for us Wildlife Viewing Area), Stewart-Cassiar Highway, BC - Stop 33 on our Trek North to Alaska

Surprisingly, I had a fitful night’s sleep in Wally World’s parking lot.  This Wal-mart and everything in the area closes by 10 p.m., so the road traffic noise was minimal.   Even the gulls and ravens cawing didn’t disturb me.

We headed back onto the Alaska Highway, taking a brunch break at Johnson’s Crossing, Historic MilePost 836.  Truth is, I needed a sticky bun fix!   We stopped at the overlook to the Nisultin Bay Bridge, the longest water span on the ALCAN.  This was something we neglected to do on our northbound travels, so I now have a nice photo to share.

Later, we learned all about the Continental Divide separating two of the largest river drainages in North America, the Yukon vs the Laird River Watersheds.

We refueled at Nugget City, at the intersection of the Alaska Highway and Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.  Between our northbound miles and now our return trip, we traversed the entire ALCAN!   Now we can affix our “I Survived the Alaska Highway” bumper sign to our rig!

We crossed over to British Columbia and decided that 8 hours of driving was more than enough.  So we are spending tonight at Beaver Dam Rest Area.  But not a beaver to be found.

My family is already inside the 5th wheel, but I refuse to leave the safety of the truck. You see, there is a young, male fox right outside!  He is mighty thin and looking very hungry.  I said give him a cat burger, not a rat burger!

As you can see, Tabby did not react well to that statement. 

No Photoshop used here, folks.  This is the real deal--Tabby freaking out!

Speak to you again soon from Iskut, British Columbia!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Whitehorse, YT - Stop 32 on our Trek North to Alaska

I heard howling last night in the distance, whether by coyotes or wolves, I cannot say.  But their soulful cries were enough to jolt me from my sleep and give me the willies!  We awoke on Saturday to a beautiful sunrise, a fitting farewell to Kluane Lake.  We were greeted by chipmunks, squirrels, and ravens along the Alaska Highway as we traveled to Whitehorse to meet up with Claudia/Mike.

We were relieved to find the roads were in much better condition than the havoc encountered by our RVillage friends earlier in the season.  We stopped at the site of the Canyon Creek Bridge, originally built for the gold rush stampeders in the early 1900s and replaced in 1942 during the construction of the ALCAN.  It was considered quite an accomplishment of the U.S. Army Engineers to deconstruct and rebuild this bridge in just 18 days.

We got settled at Wally World’s parking lot by 12:15 and headed into Wal-mart to do grocery shopping (our way to reciprocate for the “free RV site”),only to find this Wal-mart has a very limited grocery section.  We learn Canadian Superstore, about 3/8 of a mile down the road, is THE place for food shopping.  We had no intentions of unhooking the truck while we overnight in Whitehorse, so we walked over.  This place had really great produce, decent prices, and fresh sockeye salmon for Dad to purchase (yes, he resorted to buying these elusive fish)!   And they have an ingenious way to ensure shopping carts are returned to the store:  you must insert $1 Canadian to get the cart unlocked, which is refunded upon returning it to the main cart storage area and relocking it up.  Trust me, there were no stray carts in the parking lot!  We walked back to our rig in the Wal-mart parking lot, put our groceries away.   Then we hoofed it back to Superstore to return our cart, which was on our walking route to the Klondike Rib and Salmon Restaurant, where we met Claudia/Mike for dinner.  This was our second visit to Klondike Rib and Salmon, and it was every bit as delectable as the first time!  Huge portions, good prices, and simply scrumptious!  Bison steaks, salad, and focaccia bread pudding topped with butterscotch-drizzled vanilla ice cream!  Yummy!  The only establishment EVER to receive a coveted Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese award, not once, but twice!

These suckers arrived too late to get immediate seating.  Some advice:  It gets crowded VERY quickly and they don't accept reservations, so arrive right at 4 p.m. when they start serving the dinner menu.  

My family then walked over to the Visitor Center to use their Wi-Fi since our Verizon coverage is sporadic at best.  Ironically, we just upgraded our Verizon plan to include Canada and Mexico coverage, 24 gigs of data rather than 18, and rollover of unused data for my parents’ two phones and Mi-Fi.  We are now paying $240/month, and yet our service is worse than ever.  Anyway…

The Visitor Center, our Whitehorse Wi-Fi connection


I am frustrated with my production assistant (a.k.a. Dad).  He has not been working on my videos!  So today I gave him a verbal warning for being derelict in his duties, hoping to light a fire under his butt.   The end result:  a bunch of my videos are now available for viewing on my Rambling RV Rat youtube channel.    Here's a link to my channel.  Check things out sometime!  

While Dad worked dutifully on my videos, Mom and I trekked over to the Fish Ladder to see the salmon coming to spawn since our timing seemed to be off everywhere we went previously.  There weren’t many yet, but there were a few there.  They are pooling and trying to figure out how to use the ladder, which will not be open to them until tomorrow morning.  We took a very poor quality photo just to proof to Dad that live, spawning salmon really do exist!

Salmon really do exist, though quite hard to distinguish that fact from this photo.

Mom and I walked more than 8 miles today, while Dad did 5.5 miles!  That will help counter all those extra calories we consumed at dinner.  But now I am bushed.

The Yukon has been spectacular!  The mountains are heaven on earth!    I am so grateful we are not just blowing through Canada.  Our North American neighbor has an abundance of natural resources and awe-inspiring vistas to share with us!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lake Kluane, YT - Stop 31 on our Trek North to Alaska

Roadwork on the ALCAN made a 120-mile trip take about 5 hours!  But we landed in paradise--at the Cottonwood RV Park, that is!   Located about 50 miles north of Haines Junction at Milepost 1067 on the ALCAN, the campground is a bit pricy, but well worth it!   It is situated right on Kluane Lake, Canada’s largest lake.  “Hookup” sites are $40 Canadian and offer only 15 amp electric and freshwater; there is a dump station for eliminating waste water.   We decided to forego hookups and boondock ($35 Canadian) so we could get a site right along the waterfront that would be big enough for our setup.  Site “Y” fit the bill perfectly!  It was a HUGE, secluded site with a lovely lakeside view.

The campground offers terrific views of the St. Elias Mountain Range as well, and we are only 7 miles from hiking trails.

The property is very attractive, a combination of natural, wooded areas and fragrant annual and perennial flower gardens.  And I was excited to learn there is a mama grizzly and her cubs roaming the area.  However, try as I might to spot them, all I found was one giant pile of berry-filled poop!  There is Wi-Fi available on the comfortable deck outside the office, but again, very poor quality.  The deck provides a relaxed setting for the fun musical entertainment provided to guests each evening by workampers Keith and Marilyn.  The campground owners, Glenn and Mary Anne are simply wonderful—friendly, accommodating, and very customer service oriented.  Another Yukon campground that comes highly recommended by this Rambling RV Rat!

Dad obtained his Yukon fishing license (a bargain at $21 Canadian for 6 days) and immediately set his pole in the water.  Within 15 minutes he caught a 2-lb trout!  I DO believe in miracles, I DO!  Of course, that was the only one he caught over the 5 days we stayed here!

Miracles do happen!

We pulled the motorcycles out of the “garage” once we got here.  The area between here and Haines Junction offers panoramas and fun riding (especially since there is not much construction), though the crosswinds can be quite strong! 

We walked around Haines Junction, taking in the tourist sites like “The Muffin”, Antler Street Sign, Kluane National Park Visitor Centre and the cute churches, like the 62-year old Our Lady of the Way Catholic Church.   A missionary priest converted an old hut used during the construction of the Alaska Highway into this simple yet elegant spiritual haven.

Our Lady of the Way, a 62-year old Catholic Missionary Church 

I like the prayer on this garden plaque:  "Thank you God for the beauty and wonder in this world."

"The Muffin", a 3-D art piece depicting Haines Junction's wildlife residents

We stopped at Frosty’s for a quick lunch, having worked up an appetite after completing the 5 km Dezadeash River Trail.   And no visit to Haines Junction is complete without purchasing some fresh-from-the-oven bread at the Village Bakery.  Our bread of choice was sourdough.  Yum, pass the Havarti cheese, please!

Yesterday we spent the day hiking, starting at the Tachal Dhal Visitor Centre to see the herd of sheep up on the mountain.  No need to bring your own binoculars since the rangers have a sighting scope all set up on the deck outside.  We hiked 4 of the 6 mile round trip of the Sheep Creek Trail, taking in the magnificent views of the Ice Field Ranges, the largest non-polar ice fields in North America.  These St. Elias Mountains contain Canada’s youngest, yet tallest peaks.  We would have ventured the entire trail, but it was very steep with a 1,400 foot elevation change over 3 miles, and we had already completed 2 miles of hiking along other trails earlier in the day.

The days are getting shorter, so we are now experiencing sunrises and sunsets again.  Absolutely breathtaking!



Swiftly fly the years

All the one-nighters, who comprise 85% of this campground’s business, have not arrived yet today.  Claudia/Mike need to get their windshield repaired, so they left today instead of tomorrow to head to Whitehorse.  We opted to stay as planned and lavished in today’s seasonable temperatures, radiant sunshine, the unusual calm waters due to lack of wind, and the peace and serenity of nature.

We saw our first canoe on the water during the past 5 days--a father, son, and their dog fishing.  Sure hope Dad doesn’t see them catch something!

And look at this!  A float plane landed on the lake right in front of us!  How cool!   Seems there is a group of tenters who are taking a glacier sightseeing tour from the campground.  Now I know what our water landing looked like when we did the float plane to the “Alone in the Wilderness” Cabin in Lake Clark National Park!

We went up to the deck to say thanks to Glenn and Mary Anne for their hospitality and to enjoy the musical talents of Keith and Marilyn one final evening.  We got a bonus tonight:  visitors from Switzerland who entertained us with yodeling and accordion playing!  And great folks from the Netherlands and Belgium just stopped by our site to chat and get a tour of our setup.  So much fun and great camaraderie—I hate to leave.  But all good things must come to an end, and tomorrow we hit the road again.

Talk to you soon!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Beaver Creek, YT - Stop 30 on our Trek North to Alaska

We left Copper Center at 7 a.m. on Saturday.   Mt. Drum and the sun were trying to peek out from the clouds after two days of damp, wet, dreary weather.  Neither was very successful.

Mt. Drum

We stopped at Tok to fuel up and gear up for what the grapevine said would be a wild ride along the Tok Cutoff.  The rumor mill was correct—the road was a shambles, with dips, frost heaves, cracks, and potholes aplenty.

We didn’t see much wildlife as we left Alaska—just a few trumpeter swan pairs and a couple of stellar jays.  We zipped through Customs without any problems, but thought it strange that the customs station is 30 miles INSIDE of the Canadian border.  The other strange thing was that the mile posts in some construction areas were actually hand-written—on paper plates! 

Since we didn’t have sewer or water hookups for the 5 nights we were in Copper Center, we stayed two nights at Discovery Yukon Lodgings to catch up on laundry, dump our tanks, and refill our water.  It is located about 30 kilometers outside of Beaver Creek, which is one of the two spots where work crews connected the Alaskan and Canadian sides of the ALCAN highway, making it possible to drive the entire length.   Discovery Yukon Lodgings is a really cute place with cabins, fully-furnished tents (almost like yurts), and nicely-sized RV sites within a unique setting.  It is nestled at the foothills of the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary near the White River.  The campground is set up almost like an army camp, and there is quite the collection of army surplus equipment and antiques scattered along the property.

Side view of our site

View of our site from air field

Cute cabins...

...and fun, fully-furnished tents

Old army surplus equipment on premises

Most interesting, though, is the air field alongside the campground!  We got to watch a couple of bush pilots take off right from the front door of the rig!   This was a real treat, and not something that happens very frequently—the campground has not had a landing there since March!

Not just one...

...but two planes taking off!

Wi-Fi is available inside the office only.  The owner, Amanda, is truly a sweetheart and very accommodating to her guests.She apologized profusely for the lousy Wi-Fi.    She herself stated that it is awful service for the $800 a month she pays for it. But it is fun going to the office just to see all the interesting items she has collected through the years, from taxidermy, to antique bottles, to rock collections.

This stuffed rat sure is glad I didn't see any of my species hanging on these walls!

The campground only offers 30 amp electric, but this is because the place is off-the-grid.  All the electricity is provided by a 40KW generator!  I highly recommend this campground if you plan to be in the Beaver Creek area.   

Tomorrow we head to Kluane Lake—hopefully Dad will be successful in fishing trout!  (I can dream, can’t I?  LOL)

Talk to you soon!