Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I have updated my public albums again. Not only have I added Week 6, but I also included The Golden Days Parade in Fairbanks. Hope I'm not overloading you guys...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

28 July What is that?

We drove further east on the Edgerton Highway to Chitina and then toward McCarthy. At the end of that road (it really is the end of the road) is a restored copper mine. However, from Chitina to McCarthy (60 miles) the road is gravel and dirt. That is no problem for the Ford 4X4, but the smoke from a fire south of McCarthy definitely was a problem. The best I can relate it to is driving in heavy fog. With other traffic on the road, kicking up dust, and with no guard rails for lateral guidance, I was too busy driving to view any of the scenery that was obscured by the smoke. We turned off onto a side road, drove a couple of miles on a dirt lane and ate lunch beside a large plywood sign that warned of “orcs, goblins and locals”. Lunch consumed, and with visions of Deliverance in my mind, we retraced our path to the gravel road and returned to the campground.

On the way back, we stopped at the Copper River to view some fish wheels in action. Well, not exactly. The wheels were turning, but the salmon are not yet up this far in the river. I stopped to talk to one of the men tending a wheel/trap and he said 40-50 thousand salmon are expected to swim past here in the next twenty-four hours. Interesting as it was, we decided we wouldn't wait for the fish to arrive. My initial impression about the fish wheel was it's likeness to a hoop net – at least in purpose and function, although the hoop net is far less complicated. I asked about that and the reason of the fish wheel instead of hoop net is ridiculously simple. Hoop nets are not legal.

OK. The picture is a field of yak. I don't have any details about them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Edgerton Hwy

Sunday, 26th July, we departed Eielson AFB, south of Fairbanks, about 0900. This was scheduled to be a short day and it was. The wind was terrible, buffeting the rig whenever we drove through a pass between the mountains. Generally, our route was south along the Tanana River. I have heard much about this river, but, on actually seeing it, I am underwhelmed. It resembles the delta regions we see in our larger Southern rivers, except the water is gray instead of brown. Fallen trees (all of the coniferous variety) litter the river and riverbed. Although the Tanana is in some places nearly a mile wide, when it is this wide, it is quite shallow. When it is narrow, it is a roaring torrent.

As we approached Delta Junction (our destination for the night), we stopped at Rika's, a restored roadhouse from the early days of the Richardson Highway. The Richardson is older than the AlCan; it runs from Valdez to Fairbanks. Rika was a Swedish lady, who ran the roadhouse from the 1920s to late in the 1940s. Her operation was nearly a total self-sustaining enterprise. She raised chickens, goats, sheep, cattle (both steers for beef and cows for milk) and had a huge garden for vegetables. Today, there is a restaurant (it is still a roadhouse), camping and a gift shop. Having already done our gifts-for-grandkids bit, I was a trifle bored with yet another gift shop. Well, this was not your usual gift shop. They had furs. Not the raw furs, dreadfully overpriced and poorly tanned, that we have seen elsewhere. These were finished furs – coats of many different styles, jackets, wraps, hats and boots. Hanging on the wall, somewhat apart from the remainder of the stock, was a Beaver Jacket. It was marked as a Clearance/Sale item. At my urging, Brenda slipped it on. Considering her not overly long proportions, we were surprised that it fit perfectly. I suspect the length of the arms of the jacket made it “unfitting” for most potential customers. That really is the last souvenir we are going to buy.

We drove a few miles further to camp. Bergstad's campground is on the road to Tok. We took a slight detour to get here. The Alaska Camping book said they had full hook ups, but “frequently no one is around to check you in”. I was curious about that...and, no, I wasn't planning on stiffing the management for my camping fee. We pulled into the campground and I found my way to the office. The first door, clearly marked “Office”, led to an enclosed porch with a sign directing me down the hall to a second door. In the hallway was the biggest house cat I have ever seen. He had to be 25 pounds. I did not stop to scratch his ears, just in case he did not like his ears scratched. At the far end of the hall, after knocking and being invited in, I was in the office/kitchen/sitting room/bedroom. A white-haired, elderly lady, seated in an overstuffed chair, greeted me and took my $15 for one night of camping with full hookups. For those of you who don't camp, that is about half-priced. Her companion dog – I think he is an Australian Shepard – never took his eyes off me. He wasn't threatening in any way, but then, neither was I. A bed was off to her left, about six feet from her chair. A small kitchen nook was directly behind her, likewise about 6-8 feet. The area to her right was filled with old magazines, bundles of “stuff”, and various pieces of old furniture stacked willy nilly atop one another. There was no unpleasant odor as one might expect from such a scene. Very curious. You, indeed, do see strange things in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Leaving Fairbanks

We are heading South in the morning. I don't know when I'll get on the Internet again.

Fairbanks has been a great place to visit. I touched on some things in the previous post. In addition, we have been up close and personal with the famous Alaskan Pipeline. Having actually been in and on the territory through which it was built, makes the engineering even more spectacular. There is a really good "Theme Park" here, called Pioneer Park. It is educational, as well as entertaining. The only amusement ride is a "Choo Choo Train", which we dutifully used to circle the park two times. I did spy a pond with two hen Mallards and offspring. Frankly, I did not immediately recognize the Mallards! The typical blue feathers were not clearly visible, the bill was more grey than yellow, and they were swimming so wing colors were not shown. In defense of my failure to immediately ID them, summer feathers are different from the plumage we see in the winter in Louisiana. I took pictures of them and later was sure of the ID by use of Sibley's book. By the way, Brenda and I have greatly expanded our "bird list" while on this trip. Yesterday, we saw three Varied Thrushes.

North Pole, Alaska, is between Fairbanks and Eielson. We stopped to get the appropriate photographs. In side a gift shop, to get a souvenir Christmas ornament, I even got a picture of Brenda on Santa's lap. The grand kids will be envious.

We are headed for Delta Junction (on the Alaskan Highway), then on toward Valdez via the Richardson Highway, with an intermediate stop on the Edgerton Highway to see a copper mine. We'll be in Valdez by the 30th, at which time I should be able to again connect to the "Net.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, 21 July, we visited the Museum at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Wow! What an impressive display of artifacts! The building itself was impressive from an architectural point of view, but that is another subject matter. The museum displays show Alaska from pre-historic times up to the present petroleum and tourist industries. There were skeletal remains of Mammoths and Mastodons – I had no idea of the difference in size, but look at the lower jaw bones...
By the way, those long curled things in the background are Mastodon ivory.
The hunting, whaling and fishing techniques of the original Alaska inhabitants were well covered. I guess you could call whaling a type of fishing, but it is more like hunting...from a boat. The boats were frames of wood over which animal skins were stretched. Can you imagine going onto the open sea in a seal skin canoe? And, then, chasing after several tons of mammal with the intent of sticking spears into him? Then, waiting around for him to bleed out and die, so you could cut him up? I don't think I am ready to sign up for that adventure. The museum had lots and lots of displays and pictures of whaling, including a video. It was fascinating.
Fishing was a huge part of the subsistence equation. Lots of techniques were displayed, but none showed a proper fly rod, reel or a Caddis fly. These folks fished on a commercial scale. Wooden fish traps – obvious progenitors of the hoop nets seen in Louisiana – were used to capture spawning salmon. The one shown is about 8 feet long.

We spent several hours in the Museum and only left when we were saturated and couldn't absorb any more. One last comment about the museum: There was a special summer display concerning the Polar Bear. Global warming, in the opinion of the curator who set up the photographic display, is endangering the Polar Bear. Also, in his opinion, the warming is the result of humans burning fossil fuels. All the little placards, posted beside the absolutely wonderful photographs of the bears, continued the assault on humans for our wasteful and wanton habits. Being somewhat unrepressed in stating my own opinion on the subject, Brenda, in the interest of proper museum decorum, eventually forbade me from reading any more placards. After I quit reading those silly cards, I really enjoyed looking at the Polar Bear pictures.

We had ripe blueberries at Byers Lake. But, my goodness, they were nothing compared to the raspberries. These fellas came off bushes within 50 feet of our camper. They were bathed in half 'n half and consumed immediately after this picture was taken.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eielson Air Force Base

On Monday, 20 July, we had a pleasant drive from Tatlanika to Eielson Air Force Base (Fairbanks). When we left the Nenana River, the sky was a full overcast, which cleared as we drove north. However, the overcast was replaced by smoke. There are several fires burning in the area through which we traveled. We didn't actually see any of the fire, but the smoke was impressive. You could smell it inside the truck, even with the windows rolled up.

The devastation of a fire up here is hard to imagine. This land is permafrost. The Spruce trees (dominant species) are root-pruned by the action of the permafrost. They are thin and spindly; not nearly as tall and full as the trees further south. At a traffic turn-out, I was chatting with an Army E-5, touring on his motorcycle, southbound on our highway. He is home on a mid-tour leave from the sandbox. He came to Alaska on orders and liked it so much has re-upped to stay here. He and his wife live in North Pole, Alaska (only a few miles from Eielson). He said he was digging in his yard/garden and the frozen ground was a bit less than two feet from the surface. You can imagine what that does for tree roots. Annual growth is much slower than that to which we are accustomed. Furthermore, the process of decay is much delayed. There are no termites, no ants, and very little fungus activity. Most of the year everything is frozen. Old burn sites are still clearly visible as a burn as much as ten years later! Like I said, it is hard to imagine the devastation.

The FamCamp at Eielson is way below par for FamCamps. They had a flood a year or two ago, and it appears they have not yet put things back in order. The registration office was ruined. Registration now is by means of an “Iron Ranger” – a lock box on an iron post. You are on your honor to fill in the registration data correctly and to pay the proper amount. Some of the interior roads are still closed, which means those campsites are no longer available. Regardless, it is a very pleasant bucolic environment. Brenda found abundant wild raspberry bushes covered with ripe berries. The only problem of significance at the camp is the showers have no hot water! I am too old to need a cold shower. We can, of course, shower in the 5th wheel. But with a six gallon hot water tank, one must be very careful, while showering, about not singing the second verse of any songs. When the hot water runs out, my voice becomes decidedly tenor.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Photos Byers Lake and Tatlanika

Cabin, abandoned along the shore
of Byers Lake. Built in 1959 by a
husband and wife team -- trappers.

Denali -- the Big Mountain, tallest peak in North America

...and, finally, here is a shed
full of manly toys: a Winnebago motorcoach, a 450 Case dozer, a Ford 8N tractor with rotary cutter, a twin-hulled two-man float boat, a 4-wheeler, a flat-bottomed skiff with a (YES!) Go-Devil engine, and a single-engine airplane. The skis and pontoons for the airplane were in an adjacent building. If the adage about the winner being the one with the most toys is correct, this guy is a contender.

On the way to Fairbanks

In my last post, I failed to make it clear that after church on Sunday the 12th, we drove back up to Elmendorf AFB to camp in their FamCamp. This allowed us to restock the refrigerator and pantry and, generally, regroup. We did a bit of grieving for Missy, too. While back in Anchorage, we made an Al-Anon meeting and an open AA meeting – both very good meetings.

On Thursday, we left the FamCamp at Elmendorf with a full battery, full fresh water tank, and empty gray and black water tanks. We knew we would be camping in self-contained mode for a few days. Our path took us up the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Wasilla (home of former Gov. Sarah Palin), then North toward Fairbanks. However, we stopped at Byers Lake State campground for a few days of fishing. This is on the southern edge of the Denali National Park.
Byers Lake is what you think of when someone talks about an Alaskan fishing lake – clear, dark blue-green water, surrounded by snow capped mountains. White spruce trees stand sentinel around the shore. Byers Creek feeds into the lake from the north end. We camped at a site near the west bank of the lake. Early Friday morning, Brenda and I gathered up our waders and hiked about 2 miles to get to the north creek entry. We were greeted by a single, eerie loon call. Presently, however, we heard the unmistakable blast of a boater's air horn. Sigh. A flotilla of kayaks – red, blue and yellow – were touring down the eastern shore. They gleefully chatted to one another, splashed about, and tooted their several horns. Fishing completed for the day, we returned to camp.

A short hike away from our campsite is a Veterans Memorial, in honor of the five military branches. Bob Cooper would be upset with anyone who could name only four. The “forgotten” branch is, of course, the Coast Guard. The memorial has interpretative kiosks about some of the little known facts concerning Alaska and WWII. For example, the Battle for Attu was remarkable in that the Japanese had landed and taken US soil. The North American mainland actually was invaded! The interpretive site was very well done. The reason for the location in Denali park is, of course, the nearby presence of “the big one” – Denali Peak/Mount McKinley. On Thursday, we arrived at Byers Lake shortly before a rain shower arrived. Needless to say, the mountain remained invisible. Heavy overcast continued throughout Friday. I was sure the mountain is there, because I could see the base beneath the mists.

On Saturday, we had misty rain and full overcast. We drove a few miles south on the highway to a bridge crossing Byers Creek. This was a few miles from the lake. The water was swift and clear. I caught a nice rainbow. I didn't know if this was a catch and release stream or not (most are), so I released him. Later in the day, the sky cleared and Brenda and I trekked back to the Veterans Memorial. There was the mountain! I took a photograph, which I'll upload in a day or two. An hour later, the overcast was back. During our entire stay at the Byers Lake site, that was the only opportunity to see Denali. We were blessed.

Sunday morning dawned to misty rain. Our battery was showing 50% power, the fresh water tank was down to a third, and the black water tanks said we were full of...well, we were full. We broke camp and drove 120 miles to a campground with hook-ups in Tatlanika on the Nenanan River. Glory be! They have WiFi, so I am posting this.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Picasa Web Albums - bfun

I have added Week 4 to my public albums. Please click on the above link to check it out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sad News

On Sunday morning, 12 July, I awoke early and did some private writing, not originally intended to be shared:

“This morning, the fog is so thick that I can see nothing beyond the old spruce stump at the edge of the bluff. For all I can tell, Cook's Inlet does not exist, nor the volcanoes, nor the sea shore, nor eagles or gulls...except I can still hear the constant purr-swish of the waves as they brake on the beach. It is a monotonous sound, but not a boring sound. It is, in fact, quite comforting. Purr-swish, purr-swish – like the lub-dub, lub-dub when auscultating someone's audible confirmation that something I cannot see is still there and functioning as expected.
“I think Faith in a Higher Power is somewhat like hearing that constant purr-swish. I have the steadfast assurance of spiritual guidance – regardless of my inability to see or touch or question or argue – precisely because I can hear the purr-swish coming to me out of the fog. My guidance comes from being attached to the sound of those waves, from seeking His Will for me; then, the counsel comes to me unbidden from out of the fog that surrounds me.”

On the drive north out of the Kenai Peninsula, I got the unhappy news that my German Short-haired Pointer, Missy, had gotten loose and was killed on the highway. Purr-swish. I don't understand – perhaps I never will – but I am glad I had those thoughts earlier in the day.

some pictures

Bald Eagle

St. Augustine's Church

Quarter beside moose track

...back at Elmendorf AFB

We moved a grand total of about 30 miles Friday. Homer was a pretty little coastal community, heavily steeped in the counter-culture, liberal tradition of the post-1960s flower children. These flower children have aged right along with the rest of us, but they still long for the Utopian ideal of a modern world full of electronic communication (I-Pods and I-Phones abound), BMW motorcycles (to save gas, of course) and twenty-first century medicine (they are entering the age of coronary bypass and the need for medications to assist with erectile dysfunction), but abhor the desecration of the pristine Alaskan wilderness. While Brenda was in the Post Office mailing a package to Florence, I was in the parking lot chatting with a lady of about my age. She is an avid birdwatcher (having traveled all the way to the Florida Keys to see her most rare bird), who admitted to “being hypocritical” because she buys ground meat and steaks at the store (in answer to “do you hunt?”), and who informed me that she is reluctant to even buy that beef because the “cows” don't really like corn, “they make them eat it”. Apparently, according to this lady, this process is due to the rapacious nature of the corn producers...forcing the cows to eat corn to provide a market of the corn growers. I was going to coin a new cliché...something about leading a cow to corn, but being unable to force “him” to eat it, but the whole topic of bovine gender – cows, bulls and steers – was too daunting and I just let it slide. I did correct her misunderstanding about what “cows” consider palatable, assuring her that we have fences to keep them out of the corn fields, not in them.
We left Homer and drove about thirty miles to Stariski State Campground. We'll be here for at least three nights. It is a dry camp, but the location and view are wonderful. We are on a bluff about 150 feet above Cook's Inlet. It is nearly shear, but I may try a descent. Brenda and I had a discussion about whose “dead body” – hers, over which I would have to step to make my attempt; or mine, which would be at the bottom of the cliff, if I tried. After setting up the trailer, we backtracked to the Norman Lowell Gallery. He is an 80 year old artist, who has captured on canvas the wild spirit of Alaska. His paintings are magnificent. They are mostly paintings of snow covered mountains, waterfalls, and springtime re-greening. It was curious to me that his works do not include the indigenous animals...not even an eagle soaring near the mountains. Which reminds me, when we returned to the campsite, I was sitting on the bluff watching the water and the shore. Some gulls were arguing about ownership of some fish scraps on the water's edge, when suddenly they all took to the air...and a shadow drifted across my field of view. Almost immediately a Golden Eagle landed and claimed the fish. He was more than twice the size of the gulls he chased away. After about ten minutes, a passing boat prompted him to take to the air again. Later, I was delighted to see a Bald Eagle fly by, confirming the ID of the Golden, because of the contrasts between the two.
The next day (Saturday), we drove up into the mountains seeking a small lake to fish. We were well off the beaten track, and found the lake I'd seen on the topographic map, but it was fishless. Not even a small minnow along the sunny bank. I suspect it is too high, too shallow and gets too cold and frozen in winter. On the other hand, it did provide a good breeding place for mosquitoes. I'll attach in a later post some photographs of a hen Ptarmigan and some moose tracks from that trip. We did see a cow moose about 50 yards from the road on the way up the mountain. They really are huge animals.
On Sunday we went to Bob's church, St. Augustine's Episcopal, in Homer. I'll also attach some photographs of the church with a later post.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Heading to upper Kenai...

It is almost 10AM on Friday 10 July. My blog posts are still tied to Central Time, which is three hours later than here in Alaska. We are going to move up the Kenai and do some dry camping. For those who don't know, dry camping is being totally self-contained. We'll have no electricity, no water, and no computer/Internet. So, it will be several days before we can report again. Current plans are to move on back to Anchorage by Sunday evening, where we'll again have a WiFi connection. Of course, it is a WiFi hot spot in a Starbucks coffee house. Don't you feel sorry for us?

Yesterday we "did" Homer. We toured a Nature Trail on property formerly owned by Carl Wynn (as in Wynn automobile fuel additives). The guide was extremely knowledgeable about every one of the nearly countless variety of plants. The walk was pleasant, but my brain got tired! I took a lot of photos of plants and just hope I can put names to them. We spent the afternoon in the Pratt Museum. Although the entire museaum was very enjoyable and informative, the highlights were two remore video cameras. Brenda and I sat for more than a hour watching brown bears catching, and feeding on, salmon in the McNeil River more than 200 miles from here. The Wildlife employee in the Museum had full control of the camera. She could pan the scene -- at one point, there were ten bears in view -- zoom in or out, and easily follow the activities of individual bears. This was live action; not recorded images. Fascinating! In the marine biology section, there was a similar camera set up on Gull Island. Here I was able to take the camera controls. We saw rafts of Murres, that we previously had only seen flying. I singled out a Tufted Puffin, too. That orange bill really stood out among the Kittiwakes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


As Jim said, we arrived in Homer yesterday. It is absolutely beautiful! We were worried about finding the Episcopal Church, but there was no need. Not long after we drove into town, we see this lovely little church right on the highway and yes, there was Father Bob and Sallie’s trailer. We were given a tour and awed by the spectacular view! We will hang around here another day or so and then we will head north to Fairbanks. We may rent a canoe in Fairbanks and try our hand at fishing again. Jim has already caught two, but I haven’t caught anything. That’s OK, there’s still time…
It is true, we aren’t going to take the ferry to Bellingham, Washington, but we are taking it from Haines, AK to Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. We will still have to go through Canadian customs, but will be bypassing much of Canada. Once we get to Prince Rupert, we will travel south through British Columbia down to Washington state. Anyway, it will be a new and different route home! But, don’t let me get ahead of myself, we have lots to do before then…

Finally at Homer, AK

July 5 – Happy Birthday, Sallie! We had a birthday dinner for Sallie. I prepared Woodcock served with egg noodles, which Bob dubbed “Cock-a-Noodle”. Nada brought a wonderful cake and ice cream. Then, we sat around a campfire and swapped stories.

Brenda and I left Seward the following morning (the 6th). After a harrowing drive to Whittier, we stopped and inquired about the ferry service to Bellingham, Washington state. I really, really wanted to avoid going through Canadian customs again. Sadly, we simply can't afford the ferry. Total cost would be about $6,000! The “harrowing drive” was because you have to go through a 2.5 mile long, single-lane tunnel in a mountain. No, you can't see the light at the other end of the tunnel. So, after driving through that damn tunnel again (did I mention that I have claustrophobia?) we drove on back up to Anchorage and Elmendorf AFB.

The FamCamp at Elmendorf is very pleasant with shaded RV sites (electricity and water), clean showers, and a nearby BX and commissary. There are several lakes for fishing on the base. On the 7th, we bought fishing licenses, re-stocked the pantry and Brenda did laundry. We scouted the base lakes, including Six Mile Lake, which afforded us a peek at a couple of loons and a baby.

Up early the next morning, we went to Fish Lake to make use of our new licenses. I caught two small rainbows – not enough for supper. Fish Lake is about an acre in size. It sits in the center of a muskeg bottom between hills all around. We were the only ones fishing...very quiet and serene. The muskeg is interesting stuff. If you walk on it and stand in one place, the initial feeling of stability fades with the realization that you are slowly sinking. Take another step and all is well until you pause for a few seconds; then, the sinking begins anew. Someplace, lurking in the back of your mind, is this feeling that the next step just might not be as firm as the others, and the sinking might start immediately. We pretty much stayed on the log and board walkways. Chloe, on the other hand, seemed well supported by the bog and she ran all over the place. No rangers showed up to chastise us for an unleashed dog, nor did any bears snatch her away, either.

About noon, after returning to the Elmendorf campsite, Brenda said she felt it was time for us to move. We packed up and drove to Homer. On the way into town, we passed by the new Episcopal Church and stopped to visit with the priest. Bob and Sallie had arrived about 3PM. We visited and toured the new church, then checked into the Ocean View RV Park. Brenda's Sixth Sense was working overtime today, because we then drove down to the “spit” and found Judy and Jack. They plan to leave Homer in the morning, beginning their trip back to Tennessee. We won't be seeing them again until sometime during the Louisiana hunting season. While on the spit, we saw eagles, Murres (a new bird for us), and sea otters.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 4th of July

My sister and brother-in-law (Judy and Jack Robinson) left Tennessee right after Memorial Day and headed to Alaska. When Brenda and I left Tok, we drove to Palmer, AK, and met up with Judy and Jack. We've had two days to compare travel notes, to reminisce about old times, and to break bread together. They leave in the morning, headed toward the Kenai; we're going to Seward to meet up with Bob and Sallie and their friends, the Torgersons.

Today we watched an immature eagle (bald or golden, too immature to tell) sitting in a tree beyond the back fence of the campground. Last night – yes, night: 1AM – Brenda and I were out driving, looking for animals. We saw Bullwinkle, for sure. Huge head gear! Easily seen with the available light, but too dark to photograph.
On the other hand, we did take some photographs from the top of Hatcher Pass.
Note that this photograph was taken just before midnight.

In addition, earlier on the 3rd, I got pictures of a cow and calf moose.

The 4th was quiet. No fireworks, because of forest fire hazard.
We are just resting and feeling very blessed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"A bunch of the boys were hooping it up..."

We arrived in Dawson the afternoon of 30 June and “touristed”. I know that is not a proper word, but it should be. Touristed, verb: active. Meaning, when visiting an unknown place, to act as a tourist, to be appropriately awed, to exclaim “wow” or “neat”, and, especially, to leave money at the entrance to all attractions. We enjoyed the day and were delightfully educated about some of Dawson's most famous citizens. At the top of the list was the visit to Robert Service's log cabin, from which much of his Yukon verse was penned. Unlike most poets, he derived a considerable income from his work. The latter half of his life was spent with his French wife, either on the Brittany coast or the French Riviera. Not bad for a guy who wrote about the “wage slave”, eh? [The /eh/ is out of consideration for YT being in Canada] Also, in Dawson is a very complete presentation on Jack London, with a replica of his original cabin up on Henderson Creek. They said some of the logs in the replica were actual logs from the original...reminds me of the axe my Dad had, “passed down through six generations – four handles and a new head, but the same axe”.
1 July is Dominion Day in Canada (cf., 4 July, Independence Day in USA). Dominion Day celebrations were inaugurated by a speech (which we missed), a parade (which was a wonderful small-town affair, with farm wagon floats bedecked with almost pretty girls wearing too much rouge, fire trucks with fully functional sirens, and uncountable numbers of kids on bicycles weaving in and out of the parade vehicles), and a very satisfying strawberry cake dessert at the Visitor Center. Brenda's miniature Schnauzer accompanied us, as it was too hot to leave her in the camper. Chloe – who has learned to stay quietly at heel and to not jump up on people (amazing what 24/7 for three weeks will do) – was the recipient of literally hundreds of pats on the head and scratches behind the ear.
By early afternoon, we had had enough of Dawson. We hitched up and headed out to travel the Top of The World Highway and thence to Tok, AK. The drive was magnificent for the scenery. From Dawson with an elevation of 1400 feet, we climbed to over 4500 feet. Twice I had to stop to let the Ford cool off! After having gained the necessary elevation, we drove for miles on narrow twisting roads above the timber line, meandering through the mountains. In some places, the road was truly a single lane. Fortunately, when we encountered oncoming vehicles, we were in stretches of the road with sufficient room to pass side by side. With one dump truck, I did come to a complete stop as he eased by me. There are no guard rails. Before ascending the Top of The World Highway, I was chatting with a Swiss couple (we were taking a lunch break at a Provincial Park on the shores of {yes!} Lake Lebarge) who had taken a rented truck slide-in camper over the mountain. They were appalled at the lack of guard rails. I suppose when this road has as many centuries of travel on it as their Alps, it too will be guard railed. Meanwhile, it was a great adventure.
Right after the long haul over the Top, we cleared US customs. It took less than five minutes and didn't cost me anything! They didn't even ask me about any damn bear spray. The Customs Officer did ask if I had a gun. Then, when I said yes, he asked if I had declared it to Canadian Customs. I said yes, and that was that. He didn't want to see the shotgun nor the paperwork.
Chicken, AK, was the first town we passed. Oral history has it that the initial inhabitants of the community wanted to name it Ptarmigan, after the bird of that name; however, no one could spell Ptarmigan, so it became Chicken. We didn't stop in Chicken, but traveled on to Tok. Now, the oral history on Tok has it that the civil engineer drawing out the route for the Alaskan Highway indicated on the map that this was a good location for a “T” intersection. The main road (#2) goes on to Fairbanks and the side road (#1) goes to Glennallen. He penciled on the map: “T” OK. Of course, at the intersection of the highways, a small community arose and called itself Tok. We ate a restaurant hamburger, took a hot shower and went to bed. It was about 11PM and fully light enough outside for any daytime activity, but we were too tired for any more fun.

June 29, 2009

Despite the rain and cold, we thoroughly enjoyed Whitehorse. Jim, Sallie and I decided to do a little shopping while Bob was taking his nap. Miraculously, we found the knit shop. Since I am new at this, Sallie and the owner helped me pick out some yarn to make scarves for us. It is a beautiful baby alpaca yarn and very soft. I’ll let you know how it turns out! Next, we stopped at the grocery store. I was very surprised to find you had to deposit a loonie (one dollar coin) to get a grocery cart at the market. Upon returning it, you inserted the key attached to the cart and your loonie was returned. Amazing! That evening Jim and I decided to go out to dinner at the Klondike Ribs and Salmon BBQ. Great atmosphere and great food! It was housed in one of the oldest buildings in town - a bakery from 1900.
After leaving Whitehorse, Jim and I headed north on the Klondike Loop. Our first stop was an RV Park in the Village of Carmacks on the Yukon River. Carmacks was named after George Carmacks who was one of the three prospectors that found a rich deposit of gold in Bonanza Creek. This discovery inspired thousands of would-be prospectors to head north. As we were sitting on the bank of the Yukon River watching the swift current flow by, Jim and I spotted a Violet-Green Swallow. We know this because Jim took several pictures and we were able to check our Sibley Bird Book and make a positive ID.