Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A New Adventure

Don was worried about the Jeep.  I was, too.  So we worked to come up with a plan, since the CV was definitely a problem.  We could roll the dice and hope we made it to Anchorage, but the downside could have been deadly.  It did not occur to us to call our roadside assistance and have the car towed to Anchorage.  That would have been the right answer, but we did not think of it until too late.

Instead at 7:00 a.m. he called several U-Haul places.  The one in Delta Junction had a tow dolly. Now Delta Junction is 110 miles away . . . Just a stroll around the block for Alaskans, but two hours out of the way for us.  Never mind, Katie and Don headed out at 8 to get the tow dolly.

And it is a good thing, too.  I drove the Jeep down to the store, less than two miles away.  It did not sound good.  I was worried about getting back, so I am glad we are not trying to tow it 200+ miles.

In the meantime, we cleaned the RV, baked cookies, made meatloaf for tonight . . . So the time was not wasted.

Bumper Stickers

When we were in Chicken we saw some unique bumper stickers.  We had two favorites:

PETA member - People Eating Tasty Animals.

The winner:

There is not a single mosquito in Chicken, Alaska.  They are all married and have large families.

Speaking of mosquitoes . . . although we have had a few, they have not been bad.  We have all had a few bites, but I am convinced my friend, Kathy Gunter Davis, gave me great advice about taking B Complex vitamins.  I am usually the one the insects feed on, but they have been uninterested for the most part.  Yeah!

Fireweed, #2

On the way to Chicken, we read that fireweed could reach 6 feet tall.  We could not believe it, as most of what we had seen was less than 3 feet.

Tonight at the campground, we saw this lovely plant, and although it is not yet 6 feet tall, it is headed that direction.  It still has at least a month to grow, so I bet it makes it.

Homemade Pies

I must be having a weakness for homemade pies.  Today we walked into the cafe at Chicken, and this was what greeted us at the door.

Look at those delicious pies.

Of course, we could not have lunch without having a piece of pie for dessert, so we ordered a blueberry and an apple, made them a la mode, and shared amongst the three of us.

I asked Susan who made the pies, and of course, she did.  I think she does everything around Downtown Chicken.  We wanted to purchase a whole one, but at $30 each, we thought it was just a bit pricey.  It was worth $5 a slice, but we did not need 6 slices.

Anyway, we are eating homemade pie through Alaska.  We could do worse!

Chicken, Alaska

Ever since Don heard about Chicken, Alaska, he wanted to go there.  He liked the story about how it got its name (the miners could not spell ptarmigan, and they called the ptarmigan chicken anyway, so they just called the town chicken), it is in the middle of nowhere, and he read about one of the shopowners that we just had to meet.  So this morning we headed to Chicken.

Because the Jeep is a little ill, we took Katie's truck.  Three of us in back with Babs was a little cozy but doable.  We passed a large burn area of over 1,000,000 acres, and now it is taken over by gorgeous fireweed.  Unfortunately, the light did not do justice to the picture but you can see how much pink is on the hill.

We also passed beautiful moose and caribou country, but unfortunately, none of them wanted to see us.

Chicken, population 6 in the winter, has an international airport - with grass runways - and a downtown.  It also has an explanation of who lives in the town, what it is like, and why it is the way it is.

Susan owns the Downtown Mercantile, Saloon, Liquor Store, and Cafe.  Since chicken does not have electricity nor running water, the bathrooms were called Chicken Poop.

We had lunch at the Downtown Chicken Cafe, and we each had some variation of chicken - chicken salad (made with cranberries, which made it very yummy), barbque chicken, or chicken breast.  All delicious and served in a gold pan.

After lunch, we stopped by the post office.  It was very small, and mail is delivered by plane on Tuesdays and Fridays, weather permitting.  Today the postmistress unloaded 400 pounds of mail that was delivered for the residents in the area.  I purchased some stamps from her, and she seemed very pleased!

Chicken is an example of how many people in Alaska live - no water, generating their own electricity, no internet, no cell phones.  And they get along just fine!  But you cannot be chicken to live in chicken.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


At the RV park in Tok, we had the opportunity to go hear two young people speak about dog mushing.  Jeff and Nicole, from Howling Raven Kennels in Tok, were the speakers.  They brought several dogs with them, a sled, and a lot of information.

Jeff has run in the Iditarod once, and his description of the grueling experience was enthralling. After he and Nicole had told us about the care of the dogs (they eat 10,000 calories a day in the winter when they are training and running, for example), we knew a lot more about dog mushing than we had expected.

At the end, they pulled a number to see who would get to take a ride in the dog sled.  Guess who won?  Yes, Diana.  

They hitched up the dogs, put Di in the sled, covered her with a blanket, and took her around the parking lot.  Although it was pouring rain, she didn't seem to mind!

Campground Friends

After we left Jasper, we have had long driving days and have stayed in RV parks that sometimes are just big parking lots.

When we were in Watson Lake, we parked next to a family from Oregon.  We also saw our friends from North Dakota who helped us with the locked door.

The next night, we pulled into Whitehorse to find the people from Oregon and the North Dakotans were already there.

The next night, at the Cottonwood RV Park, the people from Oregon chose the same place we did - unknowingly.

So tonight when we pulled into Tok, guess who was in the RV park?  Yes, David and Jeanette, the people from Oregon.  They not only were there, they were one row over.  So Di thought it might be a good idea to invite them for dinner.  We each brought something, Katie cooked on her mini-Traeger, and we had a lovely time getting to know them.

We know for sure this is the last time we will see them because they are going to Fairbanks. But it is fun meeting new people.

Alaska or Bust!

I guess we didn't get busted, because here we are!

And here is proof that Babs made it, too!


The one flower that is obvious when in Alaska is the beautiful pink fireweed.  It is in full bloom now, decorating the highways and meadows.

When an area has been affected by fire, the fireweed is the first plant to come back to the area. As they grow, they drop the lower blooms and continue to add blossoms to the top.  The stems turn nearly blood red after the petals drop.  By the end of August, the roads will be covered with the bright red stems.  We cannot wait to see what the roads look like as we head home.

Guardian Angel Working Overtime

Today we knew we were in for quite a journey.  The worst stretch of the AlCan Highway was ahead of us, and although we thought we knew what to expect, we had never driven it.  We had already taken a hit from a rock that put a chip in the windshield . . . a bad one.

After we hit our first really rough patch, we came upon a turnout that overlooked the very impressive Kluane River.  We decided to stop, as it was possible we would see grizzly bears. As Chris exited the door of the truck, she heard a hissing sound.  So did the rest of us. Sure enough, one of Katie's tires was going flat.

Our guardian angel made sure of a few things:

1.  That we had a cross tire iron.  Doug Lhoff sent one with Katie when we were in McCall.  If we had not had it, none of us could have gotten the lug nuts off the tire.  Since we had no cell coverage, we would have had to unhook the Jeep and drive somewhere to get help;
2.  That we stopped at the turnabout when we did.  We caught the tire problem before it had gone flat, which saved Katie from ruining a brand-new tire, and worse yet, enduring a possible blow-out of the other tire on that side;
3.  Just when Don needed help lifting the tire, a Special-Ops military man came along to offer his help.

So, within about a half hour, we were off and going.  I continue to be grateful for the TLC our guardian angel is giving us.

Golf, Anyone?

The Cottonwood RV Park is out in the middle of nowhere . . . A beautiful nowhere, but nowhere nevertheless.  While we were walking, we found, tucked back in the trees, a miniature golf course.  Well, we knew Chris loved to play golf, so she and Di went over for a friendly game.

It was a rather crazy course, but it was great fun.  At one hole, Chris stepped on the wood platform only to find that the ball would change its course.  Eventually the ball did a complete circle around the hole because Chris kept trying to get out of the way.

By the end of eight holes, Di and Chris were tied.  The final hole had a water pipe that they had to putt through.  Dead-eye Mezzoni took her aim, stroked the ball, and bingo . . . Right through the pipe.

Needless to say, Di did not get through the pipe so easily and Chris won the game.  Good thing.  She would have had a lot of 'splaining to do!

Cottonwood RV Park

The drive from Whitehorse to Destruction Bay was not long at all, but the roads were terrible.  With big bumps and large patches of gravel, it took us longer than we expected to go the 150+ miles.  Still, we got to the RV Campground in ample time to enjoy its beauty.

The Cottonwood RV Park is located on Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon.  And it is huge!  The park is off the grid - only 15 amp electrical service and no water - but they do have wifi.  They have many bears, so we have to take our trash out with us and they cautioned us not to take walks out of the park.

From the RV park, a herd of Dall Sheep  is sometimes visible.  We have not seen them yet, but we are hoping to do so tomorrow.

We did see a man catch a 30" Lake Trout, which was impressive.  Katie got pretty excited about that, but her lures were not the right ones.  It did whet her appetite, however, for future fishing!

Haines Junction

There is not much to Haines Junction.  Besides a large intersection, there are a few buildings, a gas station, and not much more.  But, Chris and Katie found a bakery that made Danishes.  Unbelievably delicious danishes.  So when we arrived later, Chris and Di walked down to purchase some for us.  Di came back with not only an almond danish, but also a gingersnap cookie, a blueberry scone, and a cinnamon bun.  I attest to the fact that the Danish was out of this world.

The other source of Haines Junction's fame is this 360 degree sculpture that sits at the intersection.  The animals and people on it are life-sized.  Although it is rather tacky, it is certainly unique - I can't imagine there is another one like it in the world!

The Cremation of Sam McGee

Sunday morning in Whitehorse, after taking in a delicious breakfast at the Burnt Toast Cafe (Di had a salmon eggs benedict, Don had maple-infused bratwurst and eggs, and I had homemade granola and yogurt), we went to the MacBride Museum.  

The Museum is an eclectic collection of all things Yukon, but it was very informative about the Yukon and the gold rush - all a relatively new phenomenon.  My favorite part was Sam McGee's cabin.

As a fifth-grader, we read the poem The Cremation of Sam McGee, and for some reason, I always liked it.  I was going to read it to a group of fifth-graders this year, but when I read it over, I realized it was rather gruesome.  In light of the things the kids these days see, I guess it is relatively innocuous . . . I will probably read it next year, now that I have a picture and some information.

Anyway, what I did not know is that Sam McGee was a real guy.  Robert Service knew and liked him, but he especially liked his name and asked permission to write about him.  According to the documentation at the museum, Sam even liked the cold, but from reading the poem, you wouldn't know it.  

Here is a picture of his cabin, and following I have copied the poem for you, in case you have not read it.  It is one of those classics, like Casey at the Bat, where the rhythm and rhyme are so captivating, you can't help but enjoy it!

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the curs├Ęd cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead—it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Would You Do-o-o for a Klondike Bar?

As we entered Whitehorse, the first thing we saw was the sternwheeler, the Klondike.  Now dry-docked, the largest sternwheeler in the fleet travelled to and from Dawson City during the 30s and 40s, carrying supplies, freight, and people to areas of the Yukon not reached any other way.  It would begin running after the ice melted in May and would go until the ice froze.  Not a terribly long season.

The Yukon is a big, big river . . . and this is just the beginning of it.  Its flow today was between 10 and 15 miles per hour, and there was a lot of water in it.  When I asked the docent about the river during the snowmelt, he said it used to run torrentially, but now that there is a hydroelectric dam above the city, it is well controlled.  I cannot imagine what it must have been like before the dam and lake.

They have refurbished the boat back to its 1930s style.  The spartan crew's quarters were a stark contrast to some of the opulence of the passenger's living space - though their rooms were not much bigger than the crew's.  But the dining area?  Wow! Looking at the menu, the food was not too shabby, either.

It is hard to imagine being on this boat while going up the Yukon, but obviously, people did - at least until the Alaska Highway and other highways were built.  The sternwheelers ran until 1955, when the Klondike was finally put out of service, the last one of the bunch.  This was a fascinating look at transportation in the north.


The trip from Watson Lake to Whitehorse was as uneventful as the day before was exciting. We saw one deer.  That is all.  Oh, and a ptarmigan at the side of the road.  That's it.  But that doesn't mean it wasn't an interesting drive.  Beautiful, big lakes and numerous green trees kept us interested (except for the time I took a little nap.  Oh well.)

I knew I was going to like Whitehorse because it has two Starbucks for me and two McDonalds for Babs.  What is there not to like?

As we were driving into the city, we saw the Klondike, a sternwheeler that steamed up the Yukon in the 1930s and 40s.  Then we drove around the city, scoping out places to eat.  Di has always had the philosophy that you look for the place that is crowded with locals and eat there. So we did.  The Klondike Rib and Salmon Restaurant.  It was not too impressive from the outside,

and it wasn't too impressive inside, either.  But that didn't matter.  The food was good.  Don had char, I had salmon, and Di had halibut.  I think Don won, but all were good.  The vegies were outstanding, how can you mess up garlic mashed potatoes, and the biscuits with dill were tasty, though Don and Di liked theirs better than I liked mine.

The clincher, however, was the dessert.  They had sourdough bread pudding, a brownie monstrosity, and strawberry-rhubarb pie.  The server told us they had just received a fresh batch of rhubarb, so we were in.  It arrived piping hot with a scoop of ice cream on top.  It was not long before the plate looked like this:

We could not afford to eat there every night, but it was fun eating at a popular local place.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Signs and More Signs

To my Kansas friends:  Have you ever driven by Mullinville to see all of the crazy sculptures and wind ornaments that decorate the highway through the town?  Well, we have found its match in Watson Lake.  The Signpost Forest.

In 1942, a young soldier who was working on the Alaska Highway put up a sign that told his hometown and the mileage from there to Watson Lake.  Soon other people started putting up their signs, license plates, or hometowns.  It has grown and grown.

We explored the forest, and it is a maze inside.  We found signs from all over the world . . . Don't Overlook Overbrook, Kansas, for example . . . and Greece, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Mexico - you get the idea.  We added our own sign to it:

We are not the only KSU sign, we feel certain.  We did see one that said Kansas State University, but the Powercat was not a part of it.  Somewhere in that maze there probably is one, but ours is the most visible now, because it is on the outside of the maze on the newest post, the second to be installed.  So at least for a little while, Willie the Wildcat will be very visible.

Black and Grizzly Bears

As we were driving Friday from Muncho Lake to Watson Lake, we had read that we would see much wildlife.  We had seen the bison the day before, so we knew there would be a lot of them. The rain kept many of them hidden in the trees, but we were surprised by the numbers of lone bulls that were walking the roads.

Further down the road, Don saw a black bear on the side of the road.  For some reason, he thought perhaps it was going to run in front of him, so he started to brake.  Good thing he did. That little guy (who was not so little, by the way) ran right in front of us.  Don managed to stop in time, though the little guy "bearly" made it!  Ha, ha.

Then, we saw a larger bear on the side of the road.  We immediately knew it was a grizzly.  It was a small one, probably just a year old, since it did not have the hump, but it was obvious by his bad hair day, that a grizzly he was.

We still need to see a moose, but we know we will, maybe even tomorrow.  Wolves will be more elusive, for sure, but maybe we will see one of those as well.  Until then, we are loving seeing the bears.

Uh Oh!

On Friday, we had a short drive, and it was a good thing.

At one point, Babs needed to go outside . . . or at least I thought she did.  So Don pulled over, I leashed her up, and opened the door.  Or tried to open the door.  It wouldn't budge.

"Don, I can't get the door open," I said.

"What do you mean you can't get the door open?"

"It won't open."

So he came over to see what the problem was.  

He had me get on the walkie talkie to Katie.

"Katie, would you please come to the window?  We can't get the door open."

"You what?  You can't get the door open?"

She came to the window and tried to open the door.  No dice.  We soon figured out that it was not one of the locks nor the handle but instead was a bolt in the door.  Uh oh!  That was going to be a problem.

We decided to try to get to Watson Lake and fix it at the campground.

For some reason, however, Don decided to stop several miles down the road.  I think he just couldn't stand knowing the door wouldn't open.  And besides, it had quit raining.

Katie came back again and they worked on the door for awhile.  Don decided he had to go outside to work on it.  The only way out was through the window.  So, bum shoulder and all, he opened the window above the couch, put his legs through, and jumped out the window.  Good thing he has lost 20 pounds . . . I don't think he would have made it otherwise.

At the same time, some people from North Dakota who were stopped at the same turnout came over to try to help.  They joked that they didn't know what they were doing, but they would lend any assistance they could.  They all talked the problem over, and I began to work on the inside.  

"There has got to be some sort of a nut or allen wrench hole on the handle,"  Don told me.

"There is not one.  It isn't here."

"It has to be there."

"It isn't.  There is not anything on the handle."

"There has to be.  I'll come check on it."

Luckily, one of the North Dakota people had a three-step ladder.  So Don hauled himself back into the RV.  Sure enough, there was no nut or allen wrench hole.  (I love it when I am right, by the way.)  But between him and Katie, they managed to get the lock off and the crazy bolt out. Don opened the door, walked out, and shook the hand of the leader of the North Dakota tour. "Hi.  Good to see you," he said.  

Luckily, the North Dakota people had Loctite that would keep the bolt in place.  Don put it in the lock, and the door is as good as new - we think!

A few chips out of the door jamb later, and we were on our way.  

Nothing like being locked inside the RV . . . at least we had food and a bathroom.

Orange Barrels

In Alaska, they do not use orange barrels for road construction; they have flagpeople (frequently women, though women also drive big equipment here.)  And their road construction happens in long stretches.

We got a "heads up" on Thursday when we went to Laird Hot Springs that we had some road construction to deal with on Friday.  The good news?  It rained, so we weren't facing this:

The dust made it impossible to see.  Well, with the rain, we did not have that . . . but we did have mud. 

And we still had rocks.  Lots of rocks, because they were chip sealing the pavement.  When we arrived in Watson Lake, Don checked out the purple Jeep.  Here is what it looked like after the drive today:

Can you see all of the rocks and the gravel on the wipers and below?  Poor thing.  It is covered in mud. I wonder what Willie (see him on the dashboard?) thinks as rocks are hitting the windshield.  Good thing we brought this Jeep and not the 2009 one!


I am learning a new language on my trip.  It is called Bostonian.

One day on our way to the store, Chris was talking to Di about a wild animal.  All I could make of it was wild foxes.  Then she said something about hahses.  Hahses?  I asked her what the animals were.  Hahses.  "Oh," she said, "you say it 'hor sis.'" Horses.  Yes, she can say horses if she thinks about it and says it in two syllables . . . slowly.

Later that evening, Chris and Don were talking about a lake she would frequent.  They were trying to get the wof in.  Wof?  I continued to listen, thinking I would hear raft or some other word or context I could identify.  But no.  She said it again . . . wof.  So I asked her what a wof is.  She looked at me like I was from out of space.  "You don't know what a wof is?"  

"You mean a wharf?"  I said.

"Yes, that's what I said."

We decided that we would use the word dock.

Now Don was listening the whole time, and he admitted he did not know what a wof was either . . . but did he ask?  No.  He says he figured it out by the context, but I don't believe a word of it!

Hot, Hot, Hot

In March, 2012, when we went to Fairbanks, we spent time at the Chena Hot Springs.  It was the first time in a lot of years that I had been to a hot springs.

On Thursday, we went to the Liard Hot Springs outside Muncho Lake.  It was similar to Chena Hot Springs but like going to Florida . . . except for the wildlife.

To get to the springs, one has to walk on a raised path for about a quarter of a mile.  The path goes through a very marshy area, created by the heat of the springs.  The plants in the area resemble those in the everglades.  The closer to the springs we got, the more like a tropical forest they became.  A special minnow, a kind of chub, has even adapted to the hot water and now lives there.

The actual springs have been newly renovated so that they are very pleasant.  The temperature of the springs was quite warm - 113 in one pool; 108 in the other.  Don and Di found the 113 pool to be way too hot, and even Chris decided it was too much.  Apparently the 108 pool was to their liking, however, as they stayed in it quite awhile.

Since I was carrying Babs, I did not get into the pool.  Instead I headed back to the car.  Nearly there, I heard some rustling in the grasses.  Expecting to see a moose, I scanned the lake to see what I could find.  Instead, I saw a pair of black ears.  Yikes!  I knew immediately it was a bear.  With Babs in one arm, I tried to turn on the camera with the other hand to get a picture.  The bear heard the camera, stood up on his legs, looked at me and ran off.  Did I get the picture?  No.  But will I always remember it?  Yes.

Duck Tales

The RV Park in Muncho Springs is connected to a very nice lodge.  They even own their own plane.  It is an amphibious one, kept  down on the lake.  They take it into Victoria Falls, or to fishing spots, or wildlife seeing.

We were fascinated with it, but not so fascinated to schedule a flight.  Sometime maybe, but not this time!  Diana, however, was reminded of the times she would watch the cartoon Duck Tales and they would fly planes like this one.  Funny!

It's For the Birds

Wednesday's drive from Dawson Creek was so uneventful, I didn't know what to write about.  We saw many trees, many oil wells, fracking spots, and other sights.  But we did not see one moose, deer, bear, elk, caribou, sheep or goat.  Not one.  Despite many warnings that there were moose crossings or elk crossings, we did not see anything.

The one thing I have noticed, in all of our campgrounds and drives, is the scarcity of birds.  I expected the forests here to sound like the forest where our cabin is - wrens singing, robins chirping, squirrels chattering.  But it is not like that here.  

In most of the campgrounds, ravens are about the only birds we have seen.  We have read about different ones - water dippers, sapsuckers, warblers, but with the exception in Lake Agnes, we have not heard or seen any of them.  We did hear a woodpecker in Banff, and I did see one robin.  Katie saw two bald eagles.

I am wondering whether we are too far north for most birds.  I would have expected many more, but so far, there has been a dearth of them.

The one highlight of the bird variety was today when I saw two large crane-like birds.  A quick check of the internet showed me they were sandhill cranes.  I have probably seen sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, but they were not that close.  So I was pretty excited to see them.

We are told tomorrow we will see caribou and bears.  We are looking forward to that!

Friday, July 26, 2013

More Critters!

On Thursday, I nearly filled my dance card.

Very early in the day, we saw some stone sheep.  Cute little things, almost looking like mountain goats, but not quite.  And the babies . . . my oh my, are they cute!

After we checked in at Muncho Lake, we headed to Liard Hot Springs.  Not 150 feet from the RV Park, we saw this caribou.  He is shedding, so he didn't look too handsome . . . and he was very young.  I think he would be the apprentice in the garden.

Then we came across a whole herd of Stone Sheep walking along the road.  They were not in any too big a hurry to get out of the way, either.  Can you see the two on the rocks above the road?  They were headed toward the high country!

About two miles further, we saw the herd of Wood Bison that lives in the area.  Now we have seen bison before but not this kind and certainly not on the road, crossing the bridge, and in the ditches.  They say there are about 100 of them in the area.  I am sure we saw at least half of the herd, and there were plenty of babies, which is a wonderful thing!

Finally, at Liard Hot Spring I saw a black bear.  But no one else did.  On our way back to the RV, however, this little guy was eating at the side of the road.  He disappeared in the bushes, only to cross the road a little ways up.  Since we were waiting at road construction, we had the opportunity to take several pictures.  Cute little guy . . .glad momma was not around!

Blame Canada

There was a song several years ago called Blame Canada.  Whatever woe we in the US had, we should Blame Canada.  So this blog is the Blame Canada blog.

These are the things I would blame Canada for:

1.  An awesome recycling ethic, at least in the National Parks.  They made it easy to recycle.
2.  Friendly people.  I have not met one unpleasant person.
3.  Beautiful currency.  Their newest currency has a clear strip in it so a person can look through the bills.  I am told it is also rip proof, though I did not try it.  
4.  Credit cards with identification chips on them.  We are way behind the times compared to them.  We found it difficult to find a place to get money because our card did not have a chip.
5.  The Canadian Rockies.  Now we have our Rocky Mountains, and I love them.  But there is something about these mountains that seems to make them more beautiful.  Maybe it is just the number of glaciers and high peaks - the Tetons on steroids.
6.  Hiking trails.  They are everywhere.  It would be easy to stay fit up here.
7.  A common sense approach to regulating hiking.  They put up warnings, but they make sure people know that they must take responsibility for themselves and their actions.
8.  High tea.  Hikers can go to tea houses in the mountains for high tea.  What a great tradition!
9.  Moose, bears, caribou, sheep, and goats as scenery.  Wouldn't that be cool to have all of those animals to see in one place in the US?

There are other things, too, but that is enough for now.  I think Canada is wonderful!

More Geological Surprises

The geology of Alaska continues to provide interesting tidbits of information.

On our way to Lake Muncho (Big Lake in the native language), we first saw this cool mountain.  For those geologically inclined, it is a beautiful example of the way the flat layers in the oceans twisted and turned as the mountain was raised up from the sea.  I have never seen one so complex.

Then as we approached Lake Muncho, the Milepost made us aware of numerous alluvial fans coming down from the mountains.  The boulders and rock that were loosened by glaciers now is washed down from the mountains with every rain.  Plains of rocks fan down to the lake, and the obvious flash floods created by the huge rains leave large ravines in the fan.  The government has done an amazing job creating channels for the rains, diverting them through culverts under the road and into the lake.  Otherwise, the road would be washed out with every rain.  

I wish I knew more about geology, but every time I see something like we saw today, I learn a little more.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dawson Creek - Mile 0

We had a long day of driving on Tuesday, July 23.  We started in Jasper, and before we had gone 50 miles, we saw baby bighorn sheep and baby mountain goats.

As we traveled through Grande Cache, we saw a huge coal mine with an accompanying power plant.  It was very impressive.

Right after Grande Cache, we saw a black bear, a deer, and many elk.  That was a successful day.

Through the prairies we headed, and Grande Prairie could have been Wichita.  Because of the oil boom, houses are being built like crazy.  We saw moms walking their babies, many shopping centers . . . much like home.

Then we arrived at Mile 0.  Don is fascinated with the Alcan Highway, so we had to get multiple pictures of the Mile 0 marker.  Impressive that this highway was built in 8 months . . . it probably could not be done that way now.  He has been so looking forward to getting on this road.  I hope it lives up to his expectations.

We have traveled 2990 miles to this point.  We have 1300 more to go to get to Alaska.  That's a lot of gasoline and a lot of hours in the Willie!