Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 29th, 2012: From Fairbanks to Denali National Park

June 29th 2012: Fairbanks to Denali National Park

The guidebooks all say that the drive from Fairbanks to Denali National Park is about two hours at sixty miles an hour. After all its only about one hundred and twenty miles of the newest highway in Alaska, the Parks Highway. So we left later then normal and hoped for an easy drive.
For the first eighty miles or so it was an easy drive amd then came the frost heaves. Dips and bounces and holes that were as bad as anything we have seen so far. Of course I was going slower then everyone else and it wouldn't have been bad in a small car but not towing a thitry seven foot fifth wheel. I couldn't imagine the damage I could cause to our rig if I went as fast as most of the traffic was driving. I mean I could imagine as I have seen the damage and that was from driving on Louisianna and Minnesota roads!
The scenry made up for the bad roads. While we couldn't see the central core of the Alaskan Range, clouds clouds and more clouds, the panaromic views of the tioga and the beautiful Nenana River made up for it.
The wildlife seemed to all be in hiding but that was ok as I didn't want any Bullwinkels plodding out in front of me. Hitting a moose anywhere is bad and here the moose are huge. Its a fact that large animals have a smaller surface area, compared to their total mass and so they are able to retain heat better. That's why the deer down south are so small, they have to be to get rid of the heat in the summer.
Arriving at our rv park we ate lunch and then went to the Visitor Center. Here you really need to do some planning as you can't drive more then thirteen miles into the park and you must buy a bus ticket for a round trip ride that can take as much as fourteen hours.
So we talked with the rangers and then took a short hike on the Spruce and Monroe Trails. They really are simple hikes next to the Center. The Center itself did have a really nice display of the different types of Grizzly bear scat. They also had something we hadn't seen before, life size plastic animals. Most parks rely on real full body mounts and I don't know why they don't here. After all they do have anumber of fur pelts for all to touch.
We did talk with a ranger who told us where to go to see Willow Ptarmagens and more Harlequin ducks so thats on our agenda for tomorrow, along with a drive to Savage River. We are both excited about the morning and looking out our windows at steep mountians doesn't help to calm us down. Clear skies

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 28th, 2012: Our last Day in Fairbanks

June 28th, 2012: Our last Day in Fairbanks

Instead of our usual routine of taking it easy before a travel day, we planned a full day before heading to Denali National Park.  Well, maybe not a full day, as the day is twenty one hours long, but still a big day for us. We had to buy some food, fill the truck up with fuel, replace the fuel filter, look at more jewelry, and finally we were going on a half day cruise on the river boat Discovery III.
Our first stop was to get the fuel filter changed. I usually do it myself but decided to splurge and have it done at a quickie lube place. Not only were they quick but the person who waited on us actually opened the door for both of us! Then we stopped for fuel at the Safeway, where we used our store card and paid three dollars and ninety two cents a gallon for diesel, yup 3.92(Most places here are selling diesel for 4.12)!
Then after groceries we went to another jewelry store to look at their art. I must say that Fairbanks has the most local art and some of the best that we have seen anywhere in the country. This store had the finest chrysophrase we have ever seen and exceptional carvings of walrus, mammoth tusk, whalebone, and hand crafted gold nugget jewelry. Its so much fun to see others work and it inspires us to try new things ourselves,(but never copying as thats a no no).
After lunch we headed to the Riverboat Discovery, which is moored on the Chena River. As we neared the landing, we ran into tour busses and I was surprised at the huge crowd of people and the number of busses loading and unloading.
Now this was the first time we used the tour saver book and Renita had made the reservations so she picked up our tickets. We didn't have long to wait before we loaded, and we were able to get seats on the upper deck, where hopefully it wouldn't rain.
Pulling away from the dock the sternwheeler slowly paddled downstream as we watched a float plane take off and land. A little futher we passed a wide variety of homes and then we reached our second stop at the sled dog kennels of Susan Butcher and David Monson.

We were both amazed and entertained by the antics of the dogs and it was pure pleasure to see the dogs pull a four wheeler around a mile plus track. The dogs were so excited to be running that they could barely contain themselves while they were being hooked up to the harness. It was obvious that the dogs love the running as much if not more than their two legged companions.
Further down we watched a person filletting a chum salmon as he discussed the methods used to dry, smoke, and preserve the fish. I was amazed as he told us that a sled dog will eat a salmon a day and that the typically traditional family, an extended family, would dry and preserve around five thousand salmon a year.
The third stop was at the Wedding of the Waters where the Chena meets the larger Tananna. The somewhat clear waters of the Chena mix and swirl into the glacially muddy waters of the Tananna and the speaker told of how the salmon suddenly appear out of the cloudy water.
The final stop was at Chena Village where we were broken into three groups and led around a native village. Here the native guides,(all college students), demonstrated the difference in native life styles before and after the arrival of white civilization.
The furs displayed and the traditional wear was simply amazing. While the thought of dressing with fur may upset some, the use by the native peoples seemed to be both respectful and practical. I even had to rethink my personal averson to whalrus and whale hunting as a traditional way of life.
Churning back upriver the boat served smoked sockeye salmon dip and it worked as I bought a three can container. It made me wish I still had my smoker and made me resovle to figure out how to make one for our full timing lifestyle.
It was a day well spent and something we usually don't do as we , yes I know its hard to believe, spend too much time with our rocks. Fairbanks has been a really pleasant place and a place we hope to return to on another trip up north. Clear skies.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 25-27, 2012: Fairbanks

June 25-27, 2012: Fairbanks

Everywhere we go we have been greeted warmly by Alaskans! While purchasing our tour saver book at Safeway the store manager told us of things to see and do north of town. The owner of the only rock shop in town entertained us with story after story, and of course we bought some rock. One of our guidebooks warns that some visitors find Alaskans standoffish but I think its probably the visitors that are standoffish themselves.
Anyway, our first order of businees was to go find a water pump for our fifth wheel. Arctic Rv was the first and only stop we needed. It was sixty dollars less then in Whitehorse, Canada, and it went in without any other trips to the parts store or hardware store, a first! Now we can boondock and dry camp without heating water for everyday chores and we can even use our shower. Maybe people will be even friendlier?
So of course our next stop was the Visitor Center, where we asked the location of any rock shops and the knowledgable staff there directed us to the Alaskan Prospector store, There we met Jim M. who not only entertained us with tales but sold us some gold ore, with visible gold, that we can form into cabachons and wrap in gold filled wire. We also bought some gold flake display pieces that can be made into pendants.
The next morning we got up early and headed to the Creamery Dairy and Birding Center. The purpose of the early start wasn't to fill up on ice cream but to walk the birding trails. The first birds we saw were sandhill cranes, their tops a brighter breeding season red then the color we are use to in Texas. A little futher tree swallows dominated as they swooped and ate the mosquitos, which seemed to become a little more numerous as we neared the trees.
Taking a left at the fork, we headed for the water ponds, hoping to pick up some new birds, but the closer we got the more the mosquitos descended on us like mad Shih-tzus swarm on a dropped piece of food. As we neared the first pond a duck flew away before we could even note much about its plumage.
A small brown grebe appeared on the surface and as we looked at it we both noticed a prominent white spot on its head. Renita and I both again thought grebe but when I turned to the grebe section it wasn't there, so I paged through the ducks.
Hmmm, white spot small roundish head, small duck, and a small bill. Oh my goodness it was a female harlequin duck! A new life bird for us and one we had hoped to see up north. We batted mosquitos away as we tried to see the drake but it never appeared.
Wrapping ourselves in the gore-tex raincoats the mosquitos continued to swarm, trying to bite through the fabric. Finally it was too much, it was like a commercial for mosquito lotion which of course we had forgotten in the truck.
Making a quick retreat we headed back to town. Renita had wanted to stop at several stores including one that fetaured local gold jewlery. We were suprised to meet another artist there whose speciality was silver chains and so we chatted and talked about our techniques.
The next store was a series of shops including one which had scrimshaw on mammoth ivory. The scrimshaw, artist John Majak, is the finest we have ever seen and we debated about buying a piece carved with a whooly mammoth,(four hundred and fifty dollars is a bit much for us). Returning fifteen minutes later we sadly watched as the store owner was handing the piece to another customer.
Returning home to our fifth wheel, we settled into the mundane as we headed to the laundramat and I went for propane and a much needed haircut. There are more stories there but I think I will have to wait till I meet you around the campfire, be sure to ask about the haircut in Fairbanks. Clear skies

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 25, 2012: Driving to Fairbanks

June 25, 2012: Driving to Fairbanks

The road from Rika’s Roadhouse parallels the Alaskan pipeline and Renita took some great shots of it as we crossed the Tananna river bridge. While the road was pretty level we still hit sections of frost heaves whenever we crossed a north facing slope. So I slowed down and it was ok as there wasn’t much traffic.

Right away we saw two moose and we made several stops looking for birds but we didn’t see much. The clouds cleared for a bit and we were able to see three of the great peaks of the Alaskan Range. Too soon the clouds blocked the view of the mountains but the Tananna River Delta was still a spectacular piece of scenery.

The river channel was highly braided and filled with dead heads and log jams. It made the river channel look almost surrealistic as the root balls reached into the sky reminiscent of hands grasping for unwary floaters. They definitely made the river look as uninviting as it could be, especially to a person with a canoe.

 Before reaching the city of North Pole we stopped at Birch Lake and again glassed the lake but we only saw a hen mallard with her five ducklings. Some cabins were on the north shore and the lake itself was ringed with a racetrack of water lilies with their yellow flowers all in bloom,(Ok its a blue wildflower, the wildflowers are as stunning here as in spring in Texas).

A little further we passed an air force base with warnings against stopping or photography. We watched as a bright yellow plane flew in and landed and we wondered what the significance or meaning of such a bright color. Maybe the owner just liked yellow or maybe waterlilies?

Further still we saw the figure of Santa Clause and the North Pole signs, but try as we might we didn’t see any elves. Taking the second Badger Road exit we drove three miles and reached Rivers View RV Park, where we plan on spending four days, fixing the water pump and checking out the area's rocks! Clear skies

June 24th, 2012 From Tok to Delta Junction and Rika’s Roadhouse

June 24th, 2012 From Tok to Delta Junction and Rika’s Roadhouse

We got out of Tok late, not till ten am. The days plan was to drive to Delta Junction and then to spend the night at Rika’s Roadhouse. It was only a drive of one hundred and ten miles so we didn’t feel any rush. The wind had come up but surely it doesn’t blow hard here?

So we stared up the last stretch of the Alaskan Highway and at first the road was really good. However we entered a stretch of damaged road and gravel and we slowed down to our usual forty five miles per hour. It was good that we were going slowly as a cow moose ran out of the brush and I had to do a panic stop as the calf was just behind her. Luckily we all were ok and we continued on aware of suicidal moose.

The drive parallels the Alaskan range but we were really in their shadows and so we couldn’t see any of the really big peaks. We crossed quite a few rivers, braided rivers really, as their channels were filled with coarse rock and they didn’t have the water to form a single path.

Before we reached Delta Junction the wind increased with gust over forty and driving became somewhat scary.  We talked of staying in the parking lot at the End of the Alaskan Highway Monument but decided to take the north bound road to Rika’s Roadhouse.

Pulling into the lot we were greeted by a volunteer who answered all our questions, including where to park. As is usual here, the boon docking is simply a big parking lot with a pit toilet, but we did get to tour the historic roadhouse and so it was five dollars a night camping well spent.

The Delta wind has subsided now and so tomorrow we will make another short drive to Fairbanks, where we plan to fix some stuff on our fifth wheel and play tourists, Time to grab the binoculars and see if we can see some birds. Clear skies

ps Rika's Roadhouse is a must see if you are intrigued about settling  Alaska. We also stopped and bought meat at the Alaska Meat Company, including reindeer steaks and lots of sausage

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 23rd, 2012: From Chicken to Tok

June 23rd, 2012: From Chicken to Tok

It seemed like every section of the road was the same. First would be a steep descent, marked with a sign of a truck using lower gear sign, followed by a bad frost heave or a wavy section of gravel that threatened to bounce the whole rig into the air. Finally, this was followed by a long and steep uphill climb. These all forced me to shift constantly to low and making the engine and transmission heat up.

It was much harder on my rig then the Top of the World Highway, and this was supposed to be the good part of the Taylor Highway? Once we bounced so hard that we had things rain down from our pantry and our back high storage, and that rarely happens.

Meanwhile, as I was silently hating the drive, Renita would be taking image after image of the beauty. About halfway to Tok we first noticed the Alaskan Range to the west, and could it be Denali? The mountains were so high and so covered with snow that they seemed like clouds, but that’s what really tall mountains do.

As if to celebrate the vision, the road eased and the drive took less of a toll on me as I was able to relax and actually enjoy the view. We stopped at quite a few of the turnouts and glassed for animals and birds. Once we stopped when we saw a falcon hunting and another vehicle stopped wondering what we were looking at. They left when they didn’t see a moose or a bear, after all it was just a bird.

Its underside was really white with black tipped wings and we couldn’t see any of the markings of a peregrin. Prairie Falcons aren’t found here and so that left one bird, a gyrfalcon. It was the last falcon to make our life bird list and now we have seen all the falcons found in North America.

As I sit here typing my mind is forgetting the rough road and instead remembering the mountains and the gyrfalcon. Either one would have made the drive worthwhile. We reached Tok after a three hour drive that was only seventy miles, but we reached it safely. It was a good day.  Clear skies

June 22, 2012: A full Days Activities in Chicken

June 22, 2012: A full Days Activities in Chicken

Surprisingly the Town of Chicken has a plethora of activities to keep the wayward rver occupied. One can tour the town, one can gold pan at several of the rv parks, one can shop at the town of Chicken, and one can try to taste all the different locally made baked goods . There are other options including having a bottle of local made home brew oh and one I am not going to mention.

So after the usual night of about 2 hours where it gets a little dark like a cloud has covered the sun, I was wide awake at three am. Renita even got up at seven after laying in bed for an hour. We ate breakfast and then it was off to the town of Chicken.

 There are t-shirts here for everyone including one for Chicken University, Go Peckers! We bought ones of a milder vein but that’s just us. We stopped at the diner and my oh my, the cinnamon rolls were so huge that I couldn’t even eat mine.

I tried to pan for gold at the Goldpanner but I didn’t find any so it was time to try the other place in town. There two panners proudly showed us their gold flakes. Renita and I, both being somewhat flaky returned after lunch and paid the eight dollars for four hours of panning.

It was really amazing as one of their Campground Hosts gave a great demonstration on rapid panning and we both improved our techniques. Every pan full of ore had some gold flakes and we quickly spent the afternoon panning and then sucking up the gold into our collection bottles.

Diner time arrived and we went back to the Town CafĂ© for a meal of reindeer brats, poor Rudolph,  and home fries, mild but tasty. I made the mistake of having a piece of the largest blueberry pie and now I can’t move much as I, well I ate too much. Suffice it to say we have had a fun time in Chicken and look forward to tomorrows drive to Tok. Clear skies.

June 21st: From Walker Creek to Chicken

June 21st: From Walker Creek to Chicken

We woke up and after our usual two hour start, headed to the location where the bedrock was exposed. There we had been told to dig the dirt out of the cracks, and to be sure to wash the rocks, as the gold was often clinging to the broken fragments.

As we walked in we came across a really large pile of scat that was full of grass. Hmm, could it be bear scat? It was completely differ from moose droppings, which are really large here compared to Wyoming moose so we continued but kept us a constant chatter.

No bear appeared and so we finally reached our destination, bedrock exposed by the creek. We worked four buckets of rock and dirt and actually found some gold flakes, so that was encouraging. We also collected some garnet crystals, small but workable and lots of garnets that were too small to be of any use.

As we walked back to camp we decided to head to Chicken and so left Walker Creek about one in the afternoon. Now it’s only thirty miles but it is by far the toughest section of the Taylor Highway to drive, (I am not counting the section to Eagle as the Milepost does not recommend this for large vehicles and we are definitely large).

As the road narrowed, did I mention no guardrails, soft shoulder warnings, and a big drop, a pilot car approached. The driver stopped, as I pulled over, and I asked him if I should stop where I was and wait for the tour bus to pass me by. He said it was a good idea as the road was even narrower and we were on the side with the drop, did I mentioned he kind of chuckled?

Both passed by, at what seemed a high rate of speed and perhaps it was because they were worried about our combined rate of speed. After they passed we approached a hairpin and it really wasn’t bad as it was a little blind but easy for us to get around. It wasn’t anything like the movie the Long Long Trailer, and the road actually got a little wider as we climbed the next hill.

 Now we were on the inside as we drove the section where the Milepost warned of three successive hairpins. Of course a truck carrying a large caterpillar bulldozer appeared and we both stopped. He finally proceeded and it was a bit dicey as he shifted into high gear, or so it seemed.

 A little further and another curve but again nothing likes the hairpins in the mountains of Wyoming. We passed through an area where road crews were rebuilding the road from last year’s flood and other then a little muddy from the water truck it wasn’t so ok.

Below we could see the town of Chicken and we pulled into the first rv park, Goldpanner. There we got a pull through with thirty amp electricity for only thirty six dollars. We were both relieved to have driven the Top of the World Highway and we parked just before a large black cloud started to rain.

All of the rigs that came in after us were covered with mud and told me the road became slippery but still passable as everyone slowed down. All in all a good day with some gold flakes and a successful traverse of the Top of the World Highway! Clear skies.

June 20th, 2012: Driving the Top Of the World Highway

June 20th, 2012: Driving the Top Of the World Highway

We got a late start for the ferry this morning, as we both overslept. As we drove up to the ferry it was almost 9:30 am and the line was five rv’s deep so it took a little over an hour to board and finally cross. It’s by far the smallest ferry we have ever taken with the house and it was a bit intimidating as they crowed us next to a second fifth wheel.

However, the crossing was uneventful and we started the climb up to the Top of the World Highway. It was a pretty easy drive as we took it slow and watched for animals. Unfortunately the Forty Mile Caribou herd was somewhere else, but it was still a spectacular drive.

The road, on the Canadian side was really quite good. Sure there were the occasional frost heaves  and narrow spots but it was ok. It was mostly gravel with a combination of some chip seal and pavement. We did have a spot where graders were working the road and we got some mud, but that was about it.

Crossing the border at Poker Creek we entered Alaska and as everyone knows it’s always great to be back in the USA after weeks in another country,(All though the people of Canada were all warm and friendly). I wish I could say the same for the conditions of the roads.

The Border Guard was really nice and we were quickly allowed to drive on. Immediately the road worsened but it was still ok. The farther we got the worse it became and we had a thrilling moment as we met another fifth wheel whose driver refused to move over….

Most were quite nice about it and we kind of took turns stopping or slowing to allow each other by as the road became worse and worse. It was still ok, except for one really steep grade, but I wouldn’t want to drive it if it were wet and soft.

We reached our destination for the night, Walker Fort BlM Campground and were pleasantly surprised at the large pull through. I tried to take a nap but visions of gold nuggets were dancing in my head. When I got up I found Renita sitting in the living room area working on her metal detector. I could see she was as ready as I was to hit gold claim.

We drove up the creek and stopped at several areas. Digging out rock and sand we would pan and then try another spot. There is a lot of mica which glitters and we did find some very small gold flecks but not enough to write home about. It looks like the area has already been mined and now the BLM has saved what’s left as a place for public panning.

We met the neighbors, all from Sitka, who were on a gold mining trip themselves and Greg, a retired logging engineer from there,  even came over and gave us a location on a place to pan. They said they had found some nuggets about the size of a sunflower seed and that’s really quite large! So it’s daylight now and 1:45 am and of course I am wide awake. There really isn’t any night right now and that’s as it should be as it’s early on June 21st, about one hundred and fifty miles below the Arctic Circle.  Clear skies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 18th 2012, A Day in the Goldfields of Dawson City

June 18th 2012, A Day in the Goldfields of Dawson City

I stepped down into the water and regretted my decision. It was muddy and I hoped I wouldn’t get stuck. I dug my shovel into the sidewall of the hole and felt the clay and rock. I was able to gather some on the blade and scraped it into the bucket. I realized I now knew what the “muck” was referred to by the old time miners.

Arriving at Dawson we had decided that we wanted to spend a day in the goldfields of Bonanza Creek. There we would take the tour of the Dredge Number 4 and then drive further up the valley and do some panning at Claim Number Six,(Claim Six is owned by the Klondike Visitor Center and offers free panning for tourists).

Arriving just in time for the first tour we bought tickets and waited outside for the guide. She soon showed up and started off with a question, “How many miners did it take to run the dredge? “ Now it’s a huge dredge and so we all guessed too high a number so when she told us just four, it seemed to low.

There were others of course. A team would use steam to melt the permafrost and another team would drill test holes to plan the path the dredge would take. However it only took four people to actually operate the earth moving monstrosity.

The machine was really something akin to a monster that ate the earth and spilled out worm trails in its path. It actually worked its way up the valley and was finally abandoned where it now rests. It made millions of dollars for its investors, the Guggenheim's, and on a positive note it was one of the mining machines that kept Dawson City alive

After finishing the tour we talked with the park guide who said that going up to Claim Number Six was a good way to connect with the early miners. She told us that some of the mines had actually donated ore for the free panning area and suggested we work that material if we wanted to find some gold.

Of course we first heeded her suggestion and I found a small flake of gold in my second pan. We both panned the rest of the bucket, to no avail, and so I dug some new material from another hole.  No more gold and so I crossed the creek and dug in the large hole that had been worked by others.

It didn’t surprise me that I didn’t find any gold there, the tour had a picture of the pay zone and showed it below the permafrost. Still I had to try and so I returned to the original pile. Renita sat patiently in her spot working her pan and looking for nuggets. Unfortunately, nuggets were seldom found here as it was mostly fine gold. We certainly didn’t find any, but again that was no surprise.

Now the gold we found was barely visible but we were both happy we had found some. We really had no illusions but still we are the eternal optimists, and why not? Later we talked about our day and both of us agreed that we would find more gold, once we got to Chicken!  Clear skies

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 17th, 2012, On the Way To Dawson

June 17th, 2012, On the Way To Dawson

We really didn’t decide which way to go until this morning. I checked out the weather forecasts and the road reports for the Top of the world highway. It looked like the weather would be nice next week and the delays and construction on the Top of The World Highway said that delays would be less then twenty minutes.

So we turned north, onto the Klondike Highway. Our plan wasn’t to make it to Dawson but to drive at least to Carmack or maybe even Selkirk Landing on the Pelly River. The Carmack area is reported to have agate trails and the Selkirk area has a Native Hude Arts and Craft center so they both seemed like a good bet.

Soon after driving up the road we saw two tundra swans, a mated pair, serenely gliding across a small lake. It’s really not a good road for wildlife viewing, the road has no shoulders and a steep drop off. It also has the dreaded frost heaves and I only hit one badly before I gave them the respect they deserve.

Before long we reached mile ninety three. There a sign talks about the plume agates and geodes found there an so we backed the rig, yup all fifty five feet of it, onto a cobble side road. Locking the dog into the fifth wheel we headed up the trail. Soon Renita and I were grabbing rocks and occasionally stopping to examine the wolf scat.

Renita suggested we talk loudly so as not to startle a grizzly bear and you knew she was right. I had forgotten all about bears as we hiked up the heavily forested trail. The trail ended in a small turnaround and you could see where others had camped and then looked for the beautiful plume agate.

Now the problem is that we really didn’t know what the local plume looks like on the outside or rind. We do know what Rio Grande plume looks like but perhaps it was different. It wasn’t until our hands and pockets were full that Renita let out a shriek and grabbed a probably true Yukon plume agate.

Returning to the truck we loaded the rocks into the back end and headed north to Carmack. After filling up with diesel we talked with a shop owner who told of the beautiful blue agate found by some and then showed us the one piece of geode she had. It looked like Iris agate, found in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming and so left for Selkirk Landing.

The frost heaves got worse but the scenery was fantastic as we drove across and along the Yukon River. We stopped for lunch at the Five Fingers rapids, where the paddle wheels had winched their way through the five up thrust fingers of rock.

Too soon the drive was over and we found a great free campground at Pelly Crossing. After setting up we walked to the arts and crafts center and admired the beautiful moose skin and beaded clothes. They also had a list of rules for the Hude, the First Nation People their and I admired the main theme, called Dooli. It’s a creed based on respect, respect for the animals, respect for each other, and a respect for nature. It gave examples of behaving badly and stressed the importance of honoring the elders.

June 16th. Whitehorse to Pelly Crossing

Note the internet service limits us to 40mb a day is so I may can't post images till we get to Alaska, so bear with us.

We spent the night at Pelly Crossing Campground. It’s a former Yukon government campground that has been pretty much abandoned but is still open and so it’s a popular spot for boondockers. The sites are large, covered with good gravel drives, and free.

The next morning we left for Dawson City. We were in no hurry and we hoped to see some wildlife so we drove slowly. The frost heaves were few and far between and the main challenge was to keep the rig from hooking the sharp drop off of the roads edge. There’s not really any shoulder and if you hook the edge you are well don’t hook the edge.

We stopped at the scenic turnoffs and even did some birding at Gravel Lake. While we didn’t see any black scoter or new birds we did have close encounters with some mosquitoes that were almost as large as hummingbirds.

Crossing at Stewart’s Landing the road connected with the Silver Trail. IT takes you to Mayo where the silver mines out shone the gold. That wasn’t our route however and so we turned left to Dawson and continued along the Stewart, its channel filled with all the rain. Later we met a native who told us the Yukon was the highest she has ever seen it and so the rains we have encountered must be unusual.

The road became noticeably bad from all the frost heaves and I had to slow down. Other rv and motor homes passed me but I think they must have a deadline to go so fast. They probably have not had their suspension fail as we have and so are blithely unaware of the damage the bumps and roller coaster frost heaves can do.

We passed a moose feeding in a shallow pond, and not too much later the worm trails of the dredges showed the trail of past mining. I thought about the town of Dawson, with much of it built on old tailings and the danger of liquefaction from an earthquake. (The ground turns into quicksand and buildings literally sink into the mud, hopefully while we are not here).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 15th, 2012, A Day in Whitehorse

Decisions, decisions, should we go to Dawson City and the Top of the World Highway, or should we go to Destruction Bay and then cross the border to Tok? The guidebook tells you to go to the Visitor Center at Whitehorse and get the current conditions, so off we went.
Now we did have some repairs to make, our water pump has quit working and a pin fell out of the slide mechanism and the slide jammed so we first stopped at a rv repair shop where I almost fell over at the one hundred and fifty dollar price for the pump. I mean its only sixty five bucks online so I decided we could dry camp for a bit till we got to Alaska,(we do have water jugs and showers are not that important).
As to the slide, I found a cotter pin that allowed us to open and close it and we didn't seem to damage anything so that too was taken care of for the present. The next place should have been the Visitor Center but there is a rock shop here, so we made it our next stop.
The Yukon Rock shop is located in the downstairs level of a house and is filled with beautiful mineral specimens, including many from the now closed area copper mines. We had a nice visit with the owner but he deals with mineral specimens and doesn't have much workable rough or slabs. We actually left without buying any and actually drove into town to the Visitor Center.
Now the first thing you see of Whitehorse is the Klondike River Steamer, which carried passengers and freight to Dawson City. It would then head back down river and pick up silver ore bags which were then shipped to Kellogg, Idaho for smelting.
The Klondike has a forty inch draft and is an amazing piece of steamship and paddle wheel technology. Because it has no keel it would have broke in half, loaded, so it was built with a reverse suspension bridge design and the weight was actually supported by the wires which ran on masts above the ship. As it was loaded with ore the crew would turn steel buckles to adjust the new weight of the ship.
We enjoyed the tour, took lots of pictures, and next headed to the Visitor Center. We did take a slight detour and stopped downtown to look at some of the local jewelry and ivory carving. I was disappointed in that much of the jade was carved overseas and no one could answer me when I asked the grade of the jade and whether or not it was treated.
So we finally arrived at the Visitor Center. After looking at the displays, we approached the desk and asked about the road conditions on the Top of the World Highway. The attendant simply said it was fine and I didn't get much information in that answer. I then asked as to the availability of fuel, driving to Dawson City and the attendant said, "There are people living along the Highway and they need fuel too", and did not go into any further detail.
Now there are nice displays at the Visitor and there is a ton of information but the information you get there is only as good as they information they have, plus I think I met the only Canadian, on our trip, that was having a bad day, hmmmm.
Luckily we have free Internet at the rv park and so I was able to access the 511alaska and 511Canada road conditions, where I basically learned that they would be some delays as road construction was going on in a few places on the roads. So the question still is which route should we take, and more important, is the weather forecast predicting rain? Clear skies

ps its not really dark here at this hour and so sleeping is difficult and as the sun rise is at 3:47 am.....

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 14th, 2012, A long Day but We made it to Whitehorse!

June 14th, 2012, A long Day but We made it to Whitehorse!

The Highway was running parallel to the Cassier mountains and far in the distance one could see the Teton shaped pyramid of a mountain scuplted by the headwalls of three alpine glaciers. They were long gone but the cirques, bowl shaped depression’s were obvious, along with the u-shaped valleys. There the ice once had spilled out its snout with towering seracs, again long since melted. I imagined the deep blue glacial ice that had filled them, a color of ice only seen in the high places.

We left early this morning, hoping we could get past the road work and make it at least to Telsin or maybe even Whitehorse. Imagine our surprise when we had practically no delay and quickly passed the main break in the road.

It was pretty obvious that the road had had a flash flood and that logs had jammed the bridge, sending the river roaring over the highway until the bridge and road collapsed into the torrent. The Canadian road crews have done a magnificent repair and are to be commended for opening the road so fast!

It was important to go as far as we could as there is a threat for more rain and more flooding. Hopefully the Destruction Bay area, near Kluane Lake, will not have a repeat and the road there will remain open. Regardless, the drive turned into an uneventful drive on pretty good roads.

Renita spotted a great grey owl, one of the largest northern owls,  but that was pretty much it for the day. None the less it was a beautiful drive as we crossed the continental divide that where the  water falls and flows  to the Arctic Ocean or to the Pacific. We did get to see the start of the Yukon and it’s huge as it pours out of its source, Marsh Lake. Let me repeat the rivers here are large, wild, and beautiful.

Renita told me of a canoe race, down to Dawson City. It’s a distance of over four hundred miles and open to novice and expert paddlers. Having no death wish we decided to pass on entering such madness, at least not this year…..

Driving in the Tioga is itself a treat as the trees form a massive skyline of firs, birch, aspen, and lodgepole pine. There is a lot of beetle kill but also a lot of forest that seems to be in excellent health. We did pass a recent burn that is crowded with morel mushroom hunters, and an information person at the visitor center told us a good picker could make twenty thousand in a few weeks.

However that sounds too  like work, even though we both do love eating morels. They are the only wild mushroom we will pick as we feel confident in identifying them. Besides we would rather pick rocks and weigh down our fifth wheel.  Clear skies