Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back in the USA! (Mega Post)

8/23  Haines, AK to Carcross, YK

One last ferry and not early, line up at 10:45am for a 12:30pm departure, and it’s a beautiful day to say goodbye to Haines.  The ferry arrives right on time, and the same nice folks get us all on board.
Goodbye Haines

Gorgeous day

Quick 1 ½ hour ride over to Skagway.  3 cruise ships in port, people running around everywhere like ants.
Coming into Skagway

Uh oh, the exit ramp off the ship doesn’t look like it adjusts much, thank goodness for high tide, still it looks kind of intimidating, and the people here in Skagway don’t seem as engaged and helpful as everywhere else.  Manage to get off the boat okay, mostly on my own, and onto the intermediate dock, still have to go up what looks like a pretty steep ramp to get to land.  At least there is a guy there who tells me to go real slow, he might have to put some planks under my rear wheels, so I do, he has me stop, then signals all okay, and I drag!   Piss me off!  But I stop and don’t see any damage, thankfully.  Karen has a similar experience, she drags getting off the boat, no damage or help either, so we hook up the trucks and head through Skagway and up the hill over the Chilkoot Pass.
The ramp in question

Both ramps, close one for coming off the boat,
the far one, the one I dragged on
Think they get any snow?

Skagway as we go by

The scenery is astounding, Jan and I can’t believe it as we had driven through here when we were here before and have no recollection of it.
A cool one sided suspension bridge on the way up the pass

Karen working her way up the hill




Running out of words:-)

We feel a little better when we look back in our logs and find out the weather was foggy and rainy when we were here before.  We took our time, stopped often, had no issues with customs, they ignored our alcohol, and 70 miles later pull into our campground for the night, the Carcross Grocery.  Very basic, but okay, no phone, no internet, but our satellite dishes lock on for the first time in months!
Home for the night in Carcross, YK

But........nothing, a message says we have to refresh our services, for some reason DirecTV shuts you down if you haven’t been using their service for an extended time, but not the billsJ  Now what?  Turns out the visitor center a mile or so away has internet, so I unhook the truck and Karen and I go over with our computers to see if we can refresh our service, we go through the online steps, come back, she gets it, but we don’t, back over I go, do it again, come back, the bedroom TV works, but not the main one.  Well, I’m not doing it again, good enough.  Done for the night.

8/24  Carcross, YK to Watson Lake, YK

Road is starting to get worse now, we were off early as we have 240 miles today.  Up here, that’s a long day.  You can only average perhaps 35-40 mph, and with the road worsening not even that.  But it is a fairly nice drive, gorgeous scenery.  

I should mention there are tons of caravans up here and in Alaska.  These are groups of motorhomes and fifth wheels that all travel together.  Seems a lot of people don’t feel confident visiting Alaska by themselves, so they sign up and pay for a caravan, that way all their campgrounds are taken care of, and they can partake in prearranged activities, etc.  A wagonmaster goes out ahead, so when you arrive at the next campground, he directs you to your site, you don’t need to check in or pay the campground directly, peace of mind I guess, so these herds are moving around constantly with 10-30 units.  Well, unfortunately, we are in sync with a Winnebago caravan that we were parked with in Haines, so they pass us and we pass them, and since there are so many of them, several campgrounds that we want to stay at are full because of them.  We arrive at our campground for the night, fill with our first dose of Canadian diesel for $5.94/gallon, and have to wend our way through all these Winnebagos to get to our sites.  But fairly nice campground, Baby Nugget, full hookups with 50 amps to boot, and Karen gets TV, but we don’t, too many trees.  Tomorrow we tackle the Cassier Highway.

8/25  Watson Lake, YK to Dease Lake, BC

We go down the Alaska Highway 2 more miles and turn right on the Cassier Highway.  We have never been on this road before and have heard few reports, but it’s the way to Hyder  where the bears supposedly are.  Well in the next few miles we wonder if it’s a good idea, the road is rough, extremely narrow, and we are maybe doing 15 mph, and we have 450 miles to go to get to the next highway, the Yellowhead towards Prince George, BC.  
Oh boy

Pretty, but rough!

Quite a road

We persevere, and unbelievably are being passed by the aforementioned Winnebago caravan, who we are somehow able to keep their rigs on the road at their high rate of speed.  We would hate to look in their cabinets or refrigerators!  The road stays pretty bad, and the scenery isn’t so hot either as we are driving in very heavily forested areas, so the road is like a tunnel.  After a very bumpy day we roll into our campground for the night at Dease Lake, we wanted to stay at another campground farther down the road but it was filled with our Winnebago friends.  It is very basic parking lot style camping, but with full hookups, and we get DirecTV!

8/26  Dease Lake, BC to Meziadin Lake, BC

Off we go early for our 207 miles to Meziadin Lake, BC, this will be our staging point for our sortie into Stewart/Hyder to see the bears.  Now Stewart is in Canada, and Hyder is in Alaska.  It is literally at the end of the road.  There are no customs into Hyder, but there is Canadian customs coming back.  The Cassier Highway makes good today, the road smooths out and the scenery begins again!  
Nice, huh?

We are cruising at 50mph most of the time and the mountains are towering all around.  We have planned a fuel stop along the way in Bell, so we pull in to the pumps and are greeted with signs saying the pumps are out of order!  Thank goodness we can get to the next fuel, 100 miles down the road.  It turns out to be a delightful day, good road, great scenery, and not too many WinnebagosJ  We do see a black bear along the road!
Having a salad

We get to the Meziadin Lake Provincial Park and it is fabulous.  Jan and I have stayed at hundreds of campgrounds over the years and every so often you stumble upon an absolutely awesome one, well this is one of them.  We are parked right on the lake, pointed towards the lake, with electric hookup, absolutely killer views, we are such that we can’t see any neighbors, it’s quiet, no lights, and this is a huge pristine lake with almost no one on it, occasional kayak or canoe, no boats that we can see.  Fantabulous!
The view out our window

Our site on the lake

Another view

And one more

We get there early so we jump in the truck and head to Hyder, 40 miles away, the road goes through a pass in the mountains towards the ocean, and the accompanying scenery is awesome, I know, a lot of superlatives, but it’s true.  The mountains are teeming with waterfalls, hundreds of feet tall, glaciers reaching down the mountainsides, a roaring river along the road, narrow gorges, with wisps of clouds hanging over and around the peaks.
One of the glaciers along the way
Now I wish I could be as taken with Stewart and Hyder.  First Stewart, well, we all decided we didn’t need to do anything there at all, so on to Hyder.  
Welcome to Hyder

It looks a little Northern Exposure as you come into town, but it just doesn’t develop, so on we go to see the bears.  We get to the observation walkway on Fishing Creek, it’s part of the national park system, and we stroll up and down looking at hundreds of salmon, big salmon, spawning and dying, as well as corpses all over the place, and no bears.  We over hear some folks that have been there most of the day saying they haven’t had any luck, even the ranger as we checked in said it was very, very quiet.  So after 30-45 minutes, we are ready to go, bears or no bears, this salmon thing is nature working, but it’s a downer.  So as we start out, Jan spins around and signals, and here comes a grizzly!  It is just ambling along at the edge of the stream, and surprisingly the fish are scattering like mad.  I guess I thought that since the fish are all about to die anyway they would just give up, but they don’t. There are so many in the water you think it will be an easy job catching one, but even at this point in their lives the salmon have another idea.  So she finally catches one and takes it up on the bank to dine.  This bear eats the whole thing, at least a 15 pound salmon, and goes back in the water for dessert.  It was great watching especially as close as we were.  We were so lucky to have it work out this way, what timing!  
The walkway

Lots of salmon


Looking for just the right one

I should have some salad with my fish

Got another, that's a big fish!

So back to the campground for the night.  We get settled in, and while getting ready for dinner I look up and there is a black bear right along the shore only a couple hundred feet away!  We watch him for awhile and then he disappears back into the woods.  

Wake up to a beautiful morning looking out over the lake.  The host at the campground mentioned that some bears have been seen eating salmon at a creek less than a mile down the road from us.  We have a leisurely morning with a nice walk, fix Karen’s broken tow bar, thank goodness we had our broken one for parts, then head over to Hannah Creek to see what we might see.  2 young grizzlys, that’s what!  This creek is full of bright red salmon, and these 2 are trying to catch them in water a few feet deep, and having a time of it.  We get to watch them for 40 minutes or so until they get full and move off.  What a bear extravaganza!
Not kidding when I said red

One of the little guys fishing

And his brother

Got one!

8/28  Meziadin Lake, BC to Houston, BC

Our morning started off strange.  Normally they begin with our cat Bert waiting and watching us for the smallest sign of being awake, then he comes purring and rubbing away on us until we get up and feed him cause he’s obviously starving to death from the night.  This morning, no Bert, hmmmm, I get up and he is sitting in the hallway looking at the refrigerator, I call him and get totally ignored.  Now as we all know cats will do this, but not Bert in the morning, what is up?!?  Now he starts to meow, Jan talks to him with no response either, uh oh, what is up?!?  Well, back near the back of the frig with a flashlight we see little beady eyes staring out at us, another stinking mouse!  Haven’t had this problem in a long time, but I guess with winter coming they are looking for a warm place.  Can’t get him out so we set the one trap we have, and head for Smithers, BC where we have a reservation.  After 100 miles we come to the end of the Cassier Highway, get fuel, only $5.30/gal this time, and head east on the Yellowhead Highway, and it is a nice road, smooth and wide so we are able to cruise at 55 or so, I guess I should say 90km/h insteadJ   We are making great time and we pull into the Smithers campground, but it is only 2 in the afternoon, no one around so we leave a note telling them we cancel, and head to Houston, and a very nice campground called Shady Rest.  A bonus as we buy some freshly picked tomatoes from the owner.  Get parked and off to buy some mouse traps and do some grocery shopping. 

8/29  Houston, BC to Prince George, BC

Another nice ride of about 200 miles, nice scenery and some traffic!  Haven’t seen much of that for a long time.  Then we have an experience and a half, we pull into Southpark RV Park where we have reservations, and happen to be arriving at the same time as our Winnebago friends, yeah, they somehow have caught us.  We pull up and can’t find anyone in the office, Jan and Karen are walking around looking so I go out and join them and this flakey lady comes up and after being asked if there is anyone around announces that she is the owner, oh good, well we have 2 reservations.  She says she is full, no that can’t be we called a few weeks ago and reserved 2 sites, so she asked if we had confirmed them?  What does that mean?  Well did you give a credit card number, Karen says if you asked for a CC number then we gave you one.  She says she’s full, hasn’t even asked our names or checked her book or anything, so I ask her why would she have reserved us 2 sites and then tell us she is full?  She responds that she doesn’t like my negativity and “Get Lost!”  We are speechless.  Never in 20 years of doing this have we ever experienced anything like this.  Unfreakingbelievable!  So after a couple calls we find another nearby campground, Bee Lazee, that welcomes us for the night.  Off to Walmart for a few things.

8/30  Prince George to Valemount, BC

We woke to a snap and our mouse was caught.  Our other traps were empty so maybe there was only one, we hope so.  Another uneventful 185 mile ride on smooth roads with intermittent showers to Irvin’s RV Park, where we get parked with full hookups and DirecTV. 

8/31  Valemount, BC to Banff, AB

We get some fuel first thing in the morning and hopefully this will get us back into the good old USA before we have to buy more, only $5.26/gal.  Now we were looking forward to this drive as it is down the Icefield Parkway with incredible scenery down through the Canadian Rockies.  The scenery was awesome, but the road was terrible!  Rougher than a cob, the whole way, almost 250 miles of awful road.  We tried to keep our eyes on the sights but it was difficult doing that and avoiding the potholes and frost heaves on the road.  Now this is August 31, and while we were eating our lunch we were getting snowed on, just flurries, but you know what’s right around the corner.  So now we get to Banff at a nice Provincial Campground with full hook ups, but no TV, lots of trees.  Jan and I have been wandering around enjoying the sights, and Karen went to Calgary to pick up her son, Jordan, who is going to join her for awhile.  We’ll be here for a few days, then on Wednesday we are making tracks for Glacier National Park back in the lower 48.  300 miles and a little fuel, through customs for the last time and we should be back in cell phone contact and have the internet again.  So off early in the morning for the US of A!

9/3  Banff, BC to West Glacier, MT

1790 miles from Haines, a long way, but we made it all the way today, mostly in pouring rain.  Man, was it nice coming back through customs into Montana!  And filling up with diesel at $3.85/gal.  We are now trying to catch up on our correspondence and all the other things you miss without the internet.  Yeah, we are spoiled!

I want to try to add a video, let me know if it works.


Nancy said...

Welcome back! No video on the blog that I can see. All is well here. We leave Tuesday, I get back 10/7. Leave for Sedona 10/14 returning 10/18. Home rest of the month. It will be good to see you!

Sandy Smith said...

Hey is that an iPhone video? or a nicki da Nikon vid? Kinda grainy oh wait answered my own question, Nikon.
You gotta directional mic for that camera yet?

Oh by the way, the Three Jacks Ranch, R/V Park and Casino recently signed a marketing and reservations code sharing agreement with Marge from the SouthPark RV Park.

Do we have your credit card information on file? Oh wait we do, I gave it this morning to Sergi from Russia to handle.

Cathie said...

welcome back to the USA! I was able to watch the video of the black bear. cool!

Bill said...

Thanks Cathie. Jan says she never thinks about the video.

Cathie said...

It was fun to see the bear splashing in the water. too many bears for me, though. I am back from my trip to Japan. next, we are heading down to Venice around the 16th to look more seriously. will keep you posted.