RETURN FROM ALASKA
Early start and another nice day, hoping to get just into
The scenery was spectacular made even more so by a slowly lowering shining behind me illuminating the mountains magnificently. Looking at some of them in their sunlit grandeur, I was reminded of being in Antarctica.
Woke up to 32 degrees in the van and about 24 degrees outside. With the sun beating down it felt warmer outside so I got the stove out and made coffee.
Took out another member of the furry-tailed rat family after I heard it thump underneath the van. I've come to the conclusion that if they were capable of making and sticking to decisions there'd be a whole hell of a lot more of them to feed the owls, hawks and eagles around here. But, no, they go left, then right, then left again and finally "BANG! SPLAT!"
Got to the top of Chilkat Pass, at 3500 or so feet. Very windy and often closed in winter. It's one of the few mountain passes that gasve access to the Yukon from the coast and it, plus the Chilcoot Pass, were zealously guarded by the local Tlingit Indians who wanted to keep thwe lucrative fur trading business to themselves. It worked. Until 1898 when the Gold Rush started and tens of thousands of prospecting white men overwhelmed the area. It was all she wrote for the Indians.
Made it to a VERY nice campground in Haines (Haines Hitchup RV Park) used their wi-fi, got a phone number, called the inn and after a few hours of back and forth and telling them to look in the room as it was probably still plugged in the wall, that's exactly where they found it.
I hate doing crap like that. Getting old sucks.
Noticed lots of folks have black cloth laid down in their yards. It's used to warm up the soil for planting. Haines is at sea level and considerably warmer than where I came from. Trees are almost leafed out, things sticking up out of the ground everywhere.
Contemplated taking the ferry to Juneau for the day but the sailings this time of year are few. In about 2 weeks there will be ferries non-stop to Juneau, Skagway, etc. At this point, going to Juneau would entail leaving the van parked in Haines for 2 days and last minute arrangements for hotels as the first sailing was at 9PM and 4 hours long. Then spend a second day as there were no returning late evening ferries to Haines the next night. Plus it would force me to stay an extra day in Haines waiting for the next availablwe ferry to Skagway.
Anyone contemplating visiting this are should brave the bugs and visitors and come late in May where they have this spectacular deal for $169 to take a catamaran to Juneau, arrive in only 2 hours, get bused to a glacier, get breakfast and dinner and have several hours to putz around Juneau, returning the same evening to Haines. Since it does not get dark until 11 PM and the sun is up about 4:30, this is no big deal.
Walked around town and also went out to Chilkoot Lake as I was told there were eagles out there. Saw three and a juvenile but they were too far away and my Sony's zoom was not up to the task.
The overflow from the glacially fed lake flows down this creek into the ocean and seagulls were having a field day feeding on the migrating hooligan fish that, like salmon, die after mating. Dead fish were everywhere.
Wandered around the harbor and took pictures then headed back.
A cloudy start to the morning but it's the warmest morning since April 28th: 45 degrees (MOL) outside.
The Cassiar Highway headed south is beautiful, albeit a bit roughly surfaced. Lots of dips and turns.
Got reflective photos at Mud Lake and also saw dall sheep. Talk about skittish. Soon as they heard the van they scampered away.
Stood there in the middlle of the road and heard nothing but absolute silence. Talk about deserted!!!! If you break down here you are screwed....with a big S-C-R-E-W-E-D.
Stopped in a Jade City, a place purposely created to capitalize on the jade mined in this area. Not really a city. Just a place of a few permanent residents but lots of temporary seasonal workers. It got its name because it commercialized the sale of local jade.....which, when mined from the Princess Jade mine, 90 miles north, makes up 90% of all the jade mined in the world.
Six gals work the store and live in housing/dorms in the back. They are from all over Canada and one told me that in a few weeks they can get 500 people a day through the store! This place is in the middle of NOWHERE!!!!
Got my wallet plundered on souvenirs and had to return their cat as it followed me around the place and out to the van.
As I left there was a moose in the middle of the road but it, too, bolted soon as it heard the tires on the gravel.
Stopped at Dease Lake for gas. $1.60 a liter or almost $6.25 US!!!!!!!!
It's a small community of about 500 people. Couple of hotels, cafes and a restaurant. Even has a college campus.
A Hudson Bay post was established here in 1838 and abandoned a year later. The lake was named in 1834 by John McLeod of the Hudson Bay Company.
South-bound the road widens a bit but still rough. Lots of caribou and rabbits around here.
The closer I got to the Stewart cutoff the more black bears there were along the side of the road.
It's a beautiful 40 mile drive to Stewart with several glaciers to be seen. The mountains are clothed in mist and waterfalls are everywhere.
Took photos of Bear Glacier on the road to town.
The Stewart/Hyder relationship is odd. Stewart has about 1000 people living in it and Hyder, a mile away, but in Alaska, has only 100. Not sure how it all works. Can someone in Hyder needcing medical help use the Candian doctors? What about shopping? Gas, obviously, has to be bought in Stewart, necessitating a stop at customs. The US has no customs going in to Hyder but Canda does for those coming into Stewart. Not sure why that is as there is no airstrip in Hyder and the only way out is by car or small boat (since it also has no harbor.)
But Stewart has a deep port harbor and I saw a large ship parked in the middle of the bay.
Decided to make it a hotel night.
Anyone deciding to come this way (the boondocks of Canada or Alaska) should not be taken in the signs of "high speed wi-fi." An absolute crock of crap. My 56.6K modem was faster! Signal drops, modem shutdowns, stalled connections, etc. A real pain in the ass!
ANOTHER nice day. Headed out at 7 AM to take sunrise photos. Saw a hawk and what I call a water weasel (an otter) crossing the road.
The topper was my first grizzly bear! So cool!!!!
Stopped in at Gitanyow, formerly called Gitwankool, a native village renowned in Northwest BC for all the standing totems it has. The museum was closed but I got some good pictures. Before pulling into town I took pictures near a creek and on leaving the village I saw a couple of things on the road ahead. Lookede like turtles. Turned out to be my sandals which had fallen out of the van unbeknownst to me. Luckliy the lack of traffic allowee me to recover them unmolested.
A few KMs east of Smithers it looks like the weather's been very warm lately as the rivers have all overrun their banks and there's a lot of flooding from the snow melt in the mountains. Saw a guy sandbagging around his house and also saw RR tracks underwater.
Arrived in Prince George after a warm, sunny day of driving and decided to be cheap by camping at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Did some shopping and noticed Canada's Wal-Marts use a queuing system for the express lanes. About a year ago I read that some university studied whether it was faster to queue or choose your own lane and decided you'd lose if you decided to chose.
They nest a half dozen registers in an area, you line up and when the cashier's done she hits a button and a voice tells you which register to go to.
It beats the hell out of choosing a lane with only one person ahead of you only to find out the items they want won't scan, they need to use a gift card, a check and a credit card to buy their stuff because they don't haver enough money in one and then they pull out 7 coupons and a food stamp card. All the while failing to negotiate the use of the swipe pad.
Another weird phenomena: people in $750,000 400 HP Cummins diesel pusher 40 foot motor homes with 4 tip-outs will park in Wal-Mart. If they can afford a motor home worth 5 times more than my house why can't they afford $30 for a campground? Possible answer: could be that cheapness is what allowed them to save the money to buy the motorhome to begin with?
Finding no beer at Wal-Mart I strolled across the street to a liquor store. HOLY SHIT!! Beer is expensive here! A single can cost $3! A 6-pack costs is $12!!! YOWZAH! At a liquor store!!! And this was the cheap beer, too. No idea what a dent in the wallet a night of drinking at a bar would cost.
I don't see how Canadians can afford to drink or smoke. Screwing is cheap as the NHS takes care of abortions or childbirth.
Interesting note: saw my first Kia Sedona mini-van today. Lots of Fords, Chrsylers, Toyotas but no Kias. Must be a licensing thing.
Another tidbit: Prince george has about as many people as Spring Hill and just one Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, we have 3 WMTs and a Sam's. Plus, their's closes at 11 PM and re-opens at 8 AM. Ours are open 24/7.
Who's making money? Who's losing it? How does this work?
ANOTHER sunny day!
Listening to Sirius/XM I picked up the Wilcow Majority show with Andrew Wilcow. He brouhgt up a good point. Liberals who practice what they preach (not the limousine liberals of Hollywood or politicians or morons like Al Gore) are forever internally tormented as no matter what they do it is never good enough.
In trying to be a good liberal they will always be chasding their tails. For example, if you bought a hybrid car because everyone else says you should, you end up using less gas (good) but paying less taxes (bad) therefore they need to have a mileage tax slapped on their asses. better yet, to reduce emissions even more you'd ride the bus. Then you'd be criticized because Government Motors isn't selling any cars.
Same with solar panels to reduce emissions. Soon you'd pay higher taxes to make up the tax revenue difference in order to pay the electric bill of the lazy fucks living in the country on welfare and food stamps.
In Jasper I spoke with the Canadian Pacific train rep about what it would cost to travel across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver. First class, upper bunk in a 2 bunk cabin, all meals included, 5 days was about $1100!!!!! Cheap!! Then he said to check their deals if your schedule is flexible and when he did, someone who could book within a couple of weeks could make the same trip for $350!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm doing it next year.
Stayed at the Whistler Campground in Jasper. You can tell te place is full of animals as their turds are EVERYWHERE. Deer, moose, elk, bear. At least every couple of paces are little nuggets. Visitors are warned to avoid the elk at is it calving season and the mothers are brutally protective.
The camp has about 800 spaces and is very well laid out. They even have programs at night on the local wildlife at a large outdoor amphitheater. Also large play fileds and while this family was playing baseball a deer just strolled by along the third base line, miding its own business.
AND YET ANOTHER SUNNY DAY!
My luck's got to run out some time. I should be telling tourists to follow me if they want sunshine.
Cold again. About 30 degrees as standing water was frozen. Not little puddles but pond sized water bodies.
Made breakfast and went into town to extend my stay in the park. Both Banff and Jasper require a park pass to visit them.
Went to cafe to get more coffe and mooch wi-fi and found the weather in the Tetons and Yellowstone to be ugly. Whereas no sun is predicted, even if it shows it looks like there is some widespread flooding the area so I will be calling the Park Service soon as I cross the border.
Headed towards Beauty Creek Hostel and went past the Athabasca Glacier. Just before the hostel it looked like a wreck took placce on the highweay. Cars stopped every which way, lights flashing, etc. Of course, I was curious.
Turns out a grizzly was just off the road feasting on roots. It would tear at the ground with its claws and literally roll it back like a carpet looking for munchies. It ended up being there close to two hours. I stayed for about 15 minutes, headed to the hostel, had lunch and someone pulled off the side of te road and commented the grizzly was still there. So I went out again.
The thing did everything short of standing up on its hind legs and roaring. Magnificent.
The hostel itself is rated "wilderness." No electricity or flush toilets. Water is carted in for drinking and washing dishes in 5 gallon jugs and the waste water from the sinks goes into another 5 gallon container that needs to be carried uphill to the toilets and dumped. Propane powers the fridge plus runs the heaters and lights. A spectacular location where I got quite a few nice pictures.
A frosty start to the morning and ......... SUNNY!!!!
What a difference from 3 weeks ago. Lots of snow is melted and Banff was PACKED to the gills. Cars everywhere. No parking in town so people were parking almost a mile away and walking into town.
To do what? Look at shops? Banff won't look like the postcards until 3 weeks from now when te flowers bloom and line all the shop windows. Other than that it's like paying a premium to visit the town next to you because their 7-11 is in a prettier location.
Finally caught some rain coming into Calgary, a city of 2 million. Towards late afternoon the skies cleared once again.
I suspect my picture taking will be very limited now as I've gotten pretty much all I wanted.
And for all intents and purposes, journalling will be coming to a grinding halt, too.
Did get to see several moose with a couple of them in velvet. The antlers fall off every year and since they are bone the only way they calcify is if the bone gets a steady supply of nutrients...which is where the "velvet" comes in. The velvet is nothing more than a blood circulation system on the outside of the antlers. Once totally calcified the velvet sloughs off.
Checked weather down south in Glacier, Yellowstone and Tetons in the hopes of stopping by there prior to going to my son's again and eventually, home. But it was not to be in the cards. The entire area was undergoing flooding and more rain and snow. Some of the passes still had 25 feet of snow!!!
So I made a beeline for Montana and stopped at Billings. Very nice city and the approach was draqmatic, having to drive down a steep road from the bluffs 400 feet or more above. What a view from up there.
As I checked out of the motel there was a notice that the interstate was closed due to flooding so I had visions of having to drive east to North Dakota and then south to Rapid City. Came pretty close. I-90 was under 6 feet of water and my eastward travels were made faster by all the water I saw everywhere. Towns were flooding. Ranches were flooded. Rivers became torrents of water in all directions.
Got a room at Ellsworth (nice digs, too, with bedroom, living room, dual flatscreens, my own router, fridge, M/W, etc. And it wasn't even a suite which they said I was entitled to!! Holy crap. I wonder what THEY looked like. Saunas? Hot tubs? Hot and cold running maids? :-) )
Had a great visit with Dan and his kids. Tiffany ends her technical school in two weeks and then they are headed to Dover, Delaware.
Lots of rain and fog on the drive home. Until I hit Tennessee. Then it got HOT!!!! And sunny. So I beat feet home to arrive just a few hours prior to my sister leaving with my mother on a trip to Las Vegas. Said "hello" and then "goodbye." Will see them all again in 6 days.
That's it, folks. The saga of the Alaska adventure. I have hundreds more pics (took about 3,000 and have culled it to about 2000 so far.) Hope to eventually get it down to 1200.
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Copyright Vilmar F. Tavares 2011