Formerly SusanRon2Alaska!

Wrap-up

We left home April 11 and arrived back home September 22. We were gone 164 days and we cached every one of them!

We left the continental US on June 9, entered Alaska (on the ferry) on June 19, left Alaska (via the Yukon Highway) on August 10, and re-entered the lower 48 on August 20. We were in Alaska for 52 days.

In all, we drove over 13,000 miles thru 13 states, 1 province and 1 territory.

In 164 days of caching, we found 1,488 caches, 380 of them in Alaska.

It was a wonderful trip, right up until we decided to drive the RV, towing the Jeep, to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the way home. At 8,200′ elevation, with temperatures in the low 80’s, the engine overheated. By the time we found a place to pull off the road, it was toast. We sat in Kanab, Utah for a week while a local diesel shop dismantled the engine to diagnose the damage. The engine was a total loss. It would have cost roughly the value of the RV to replace it. So we sold the RV, then and there, to the shop owner, rented a U-Haul trailer, moved out, and drove home in the Jeep. We arrived home, safe and sound, on September 22. It felt wonderful to be home!

And thus ends our blog. Thank you all for reading us!

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Whitehorse to Watson Lake, YT

We toured the SS Klondike II steamship while in Whitehorse. It was meticulously restored, and very attractive. We also stopped by the Yukon Brewery but did not take the tour. They did let us taste the beer, though:)Image

Then we drove to Watson Lake, YT, home of the Signpost Forest. It is truly amazing! There are over 72,000 signs of every description, that people have brought to the site and tacked up on numerous poles erected by the city. You can stroll down many paths, past hundreds of tall poles which are covered with license plates, street signs, City Limits signs, and many homemade signs. The purpose is to say “We were here!” and many have people’s names, hometowns and dates on them.Image

Image We did not see any people’s names we recognized!

Across the street from the Forest is a domed theater that shows a film of the aurora borealis. It was a beautiful show. Since we didn’t see any real northern lights on our trip, this was as close as we got.

The next stop was Hyder, AK. That’s right – back to Alaska! It is the southernmost place in Alaska that you can drive to from Canada. It is a tiny town with only a few stores. But the 40-mile drive out to the town has many beautiful waterfalls and several large glaciers, right beside the road. It was stunning.

In town, we watched a stream full of spawning salmon. We didn’t see any bears, but one wolf came down to the stream to fish. It caught one fish while we watched, and sat down on the bank to eat it.

No glacier or wolf pictures, sorry, all you get is more lupine:Image

Yesterday we turned off Rte 37 onto Rte 16 and for the first time since we left Tok, we are on a road we have been on before. From here, we will be re-tracing our route, at least as far as Sacramento.

Fairbanks to Whitehorse, YT

Forgot to mention at the end of the last log, we drove a total of 6100 miles to get to Fairbanks, our farthest point. Now we start for home. It’s all downhill from here! If only.

On Friday Aug 10 we drove the Top of the World “highway” from Tok, AK to Dawson City, YT. “Highway” is a misnomer! The road was terrible. Very narrow, twisty, and dusty! When we got to our campground in Dawson and opened the doors of the Jeep, the dust was ¼” thick all around the insides of the doors. And when we turned on the A/C fans, it came pouring out of the inside vents! I don’t know how we’ll ever get it clean. Everything inside the car feels gritty. The RV, however, came thru fine. Of course it is dirty on the outside, but inside we haven’t noticed any extra dust. Until we opened the bays, that is!

We got out of the RV at a lookout point where people had built cairns of rocks on top of a hill. We met a nice young man from Belgium who took our picture for us. He was on a three-week solo tour of Alaska.Image

The entire city of Dawson (population less than 2,000) is a National Historic Site. Many buildings have been restored but they have left a few untouched so you can see what the permafrost has done to them. Actually the freeze-thaw cycles in the permafrost:ImageImage

 In Dawson City, we drove to the top of Midnight Dome. They have a party here every June 21 at midnight, to watch the sun not set. Actually, it does set, for just under three hours. But in full daylight (and a strong, cold wind!), the views were spectacular.ImageImage

On Sunday, we watched these military–themed vehicles roll into the campground for the 70th anniversary celebration of the Alaska Highway completion. They appeared to be actual military vehicles adapted for personal camping use. I wonder how the wives feel about camping in them? Maybe they send the men and stay home.ImageImageImage

We stayed in Dawson City for three days because they had good cable TV there, and it was the closing weekend of the Olympics. Then today we drove on to Whitehorse, YT. This is a picture of Five-Finger Rapids, north of Carmacks, YT:Image From here, we intend to continue blogging, partly so our kids will know where we are. But the pretty pictures will probably stop. Continue reading if you like, but the fun is probably over! See you in October!

Fairbanks

Fairbanks has been very pleasant. As in most of the state, we had 2 or 3 beautiful days out of 6. The other days it was cool (50’s) and rainy. We are beginning to miss 90-degree weather!  We also learned that this is high altitude desert and only gets 10″ of rain a year. We think we have seen most of this year’s allotment!

The highlight of our visit here was a 4-hour ride on the Riverboat Discovery. Image

We got to see some beautiful shoreline homes. One of them even had an airplane parked in the driveway, right next to the pickup truck. Maybe neither one of them would fit into the garage!

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And the widow of the man who started the steamboat company came out of her beautiful home to wave at us. Her son and grandson both still pilot the boats.

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We visited a Native village, where two Native young women (with the un-native names of Ashley and Hailey!) spoke to us at various buildings in the village about Native life, fashion and the use of all parts of the wildlife they harvested.  They were very entertaining. We saw a bush pilot take off from the river and then land again. And we “visited” (viewed from the boat) Susan Butcher’s sled dog ranch.  They ran 8 dogs pulling a 600-pound wheeled vehicle. It was a very pleasant tour of some things we would not have seen otherwise.

Alaska does not seem to have county fairs, since they don’t have counties. But they do have five State Fairs! We went to one of them here. It was cute, small but well-attended, and it had all the requisite attractions. We enjoyed the animals and the giant vegetables. And especially the food!

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Oddly (to us), we bought two beers at the fair, and had to show id. We teased the server but she said that some Alaska Drivers licenses have red stripes on them, meaning it is illegal to serve alcohol to their owners! Maybe if you get a DUI, you are cut off?

We toured a museum on the University of Alaska campus. It sits high on a hill and has a lovely view, but it was small, and rather pricey for the few galleries it had. But we enjoyed our brief visit.

We visited a Wildlife Refuge that was filled with Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese. We have never seen so many cranes in one spot before.

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Yes, we are incredibly lucky, and yes, we are having a wonderful time.  We have been overwhelmed by wild, public and private flowers.  We have learned it is due, mostly, to 18 to 24 hours of sunlight at a low elevation (does not dry plants out) and a short growing season.We have visited 50 states and truly believe Alaska has the most friendly, open people of any state–and by far the BEST FULL-FACE BEARDS!

This got left out of an earlier blog post:

Alaska has a “Big Five” list of the 5 animals everyone wants to see: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and the grizzly bear. We’ve seen everything except a wolf in the wild, plus black bears by the roadside and musk ox (in a pen).

You do need to make this trip. It is not nearly as difficult or remote or even as expensive as we expected. It is kind of like visiting Montana, except much farther away, and with even better scenery. Every town has a Walmart, every night has been in a campground with at least 30 amp electric and almost always WiFi, and so far none of the roads have been unpaved or even very bumpy, except for construction spots, and we have never felt isolated. There are always other cars passing you. We would come again with far less trepidation.

From here it is time to turn toward home. Delta Junction, Tok, Chicken (all in AK), Dawson City, Whitehorse, Watson Lake (all in YT), Hyder AK, Prince George BC, then down BC 97 to I-5 to Folsom CA to re-visit our son’s family. Then Nevada; Ron wants to dip his GPSr into an 1,800-cache power run there. I am hoping he does not want to do all of them! Then east, maybe a little farther north than I-10 this time. I-40, maybe? We want to see Antelope Canyon in northern AZ.

We expect to be home toward the end of September.

Denali National Park

Today we rode one of the Park shuttle buses into the park. We saw a lot of animals! Otherwise, the scenery was gorgeous, but really, it was not much different than it is throughout the state. And it was a long trip! The park road is 90 miles long, but you can only drive the first 15 miles of it. Beyond that, there are shuttle buses. We chose one that took us 66 miles into the park and back out. I would not recommend going that far. It took all day – 8 am until 4 pm. And the park is basically undeveloped. There is a visitor center at the beginning and one at the 66-mile mark, but at the interior one, there is no food or beverage service and minimal exhibits. We did watch a brief film about the people who have climbed Denali. Then it was a long bus ride back out.

But we saw four of the Big Five animals:)Image

You saw the others from the zoo!  Mostly they were far away anyway.

And we saw “parts” of some animals, which Ron tried on for size:Image

And we did catch a glimpse of The Mountain:Image

Other pretty sights included Polychrome Pass:Image

And a pretty valley:

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We are here two more days, then on to Fairbanks and then – we start for home! In one way, it seems like we have been in Alaska forever, but in another way, we are a little bit sad to realize that we will soon be leaving.

Anchorage Zoo

While we were in Wasilla, we visited the Anchorage Zoo. Trying to catch up here…

It was a small, sweet, zoo. The animals were all rescued, orphans or injured. The cages were very large and pleasant – lots of trees and greenery everywhere. It was a very pretty zoo, if small. The handout map listed every animal they had. When it said Bear, it was a bear. No more. But we enjoyed it. Highlights were the Dall sheep, the Snow Leopard, the polar bear and the brown bear.ImageImageImage

Our grandchildren may not remember polar bears. They are already interbreeding with brown bears. They have to come out of the sea to find food, and that is where the brown bears live.

If a brown bear lives on the coast, he is a brown bear. If he lives inland, he is a Grizzly bear. Same species. If he lives on Kodiak Island, he is a Kodiak bear. Same species, but a little bigger.

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Today we drove all of 70 miles, from Wasilla (after spending nearly 3 weeks in the same town) to Talkeetna. Denali National Park tomorrow.

Denali flight

O. M. G. This morning we took a flightseeing tour over Denali (Mt. McKinley). The weather was Absolutely Clear. It was absolutely beautiful! People wait weeks for a day like today so they can catch a glimpse of the famous peak. We circled it in a small plane, and took hundreds of pictures. The pilot told us all about the surrounding mountains, and the many glaciers we saw, and the people who climb it, and a lot about the general geography of the area. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Even the trip to the airport gave us a good view from the highway:Image

The plane was Very Small. It held 6 people.Image

The ride was smooth as silk. The car ride to the airport was bumpier!

Here are just a few of the many pictures we took:Image

It looked like you could reach out and touch the mountainside, but of course it was much farther away than it looked.Image

And, finally, Denali:ImageImage

Bucket list:  -1

Best small plane trip ever:  +1