Saturday, July 31, 2010



Another beautiful day welcomed us as we woke up in Tok, Alaska.  Bill let me sleep in and I heard a knock on our door a little after 8:30 – one of the ladies had come to ask us to join them and another couple for breakfast at Fast Eddys.  I jumped out of bed, (no, I really did!!) hit the shower, we packed up and headed over for breakfast.  A great way to start the day! There are about 5 or 6 couples from our trip (us included) that have plans to go to Jasper National Park & Banf National Park in Canada after we leave the group.  Plans are being made and routes and time frames being checked with a possibility of all of us traveling that way together.  So we did a little brain storming during breakfast.

Back to the RV Park to attach the tow car and head out of town.  We had only 110 miles to travel that day but the roads we were told were horrendous.  It was not an exaggeration.  We kept comparing them to the “Top of the World” Highway on our way to Chicken, Alaska.  They weren’t quite that bad, we were able to travel between 20 and 40 mph most of the way.  And there wasn’t the fear that we were headed over the cliff at any moment to our untimely deaths!  So better than Chicken!

With the condition of the roads we didn’t make too many stops … we had to be at the park and set up before 6:30 that night.  We did stop at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.  Each visitor center has it’s own history and unique stories, wildlife and scenery.  They all are similar (oh yeah, they all have a gift shop!!) but make a nice break. We get to stretch our legs, take little hikes, take some pictures with the vehicle not moving and learn a little about the area.  Most usually have a video of some sort.  This one had a video of the grizzly bears and the way they feed on the salmon swimming upstream to spawn.  They actually have guides that will take you to the bears to watch them catch and eat the salmon.  When they start to get full, they only eat the eggs and leave the rest of the fish for the sea gulls.  I guess humans aren’t the only ones that like caviar.  Bill decided he had seen enough when they got close up on the “eat the live fish” scene!

The visitor center actually had a sod/grass roof as did the early pioneers of Alaska/Yukon.

This "cache" is the building they used to store their meats, grain, anything that needed protected from the bears, wolves and other wildlife.  This of course is a replica.

Planter on the back deck of the visitor center.  They do like their "Moose" and I have to say we got rather attached to them also.  We liked the moose and the pretty flowers.

The views from the back deck of the visitor center --

We arrived at camp (last again) in time to set up camp and walk over to the Beaver Creek Visitor Center and the Gift Shop.  Beaver Creek’s claim to fame … it is one of two sites where Alaska Highway construction crews working from opposite directions connecting the highway.  In October, 1942, Alaska Highway construction operations were being rushed to conclusion as winter set in.  Eastern and western sector construction crews (the 97th & 18th Engineers) pushed through to meet at a junction on Beaver Creek on Oct. 28th, thus making it possible for the first time for vehicles to travel the entire length of the highway.  East-west crews had connected at Contact Creek on Sept. 15th o 24th (depending on your source), 1942.  Beaver Creek, population 112, well in the summer anyway!

I left Bill at the camp store trying to get on the internet and went back to freshen up for dinner and a show.  We did not have internet or cell phone service, but the RV Park had a computer you could use (if no one else was using it) or you could try to hook up your laptop to their connection.  Not great, but contact!

The group had reservations for a dinner theater in Beaver Creek, a family style dinner of salad, bread, chicken, rice and beef stew with Baked Alaska for dessert.  The show was a comedy musical about Beaver Creek and the history of the Yukon.  It was rather entertaining but the best thing was the center of the building (built with logs) had a fire pit and all the fixings for S’mores.  I had my dessert before dinner.  Did you know that Baked Alaska has no chocolate in it??  What’s up with that?  I’m glad I had my S’more – gave Bill my share of the Baked Alaska.  There was a large opening in the ceiling above the fire pit which would have been totally cool but the mosquitoes were a real pain.

We roasted our marshmallows over the fire pit in the center of the dinner theater.  I actually had my dessert before dinner....LOL.  Love S'mores!

The main character actually came through this hole in the roof (which is over the fire pit -- no fire at the time!!) pretty entertaining!

Signs at the dinner theater showing distances to other cities -- Note -- the one to Chicken, Alaska says "Don't go there!!"  Okay just once!

Dinner and show over and we headed back for a little relaxation and DVD of Gettysburg.  Next day we were promised possibly worse roads for our 180 miles to Haines Junction, Kluane, Yukon Territory, Alaska.

Friday, July 30, 2010



After our exciting, late evening of watching the Bear catch and eat the salmon right from the waters by the fish hatchery, we did not get an early start.  The weather was great and we knew we were going to be back-tracking the Richardson Highway for half of the 254 miles from Valdez to Tok.  The Richardson Highway had taken our breath away on our trip to Valdez two days ago and we were looking forward to seeing it in reverse --- I know it’s hard to believe but it was like seeing something totally new, it looked altogether different from the view going North.

We had already stopped at the attractions and scenic spots on our way south to Valdez, so we did not make those stops again.  We did however see 2 moose – a mother and baby – the first time we had seen that combination.  Bill saw them crossing the road in front of him --- bad news, we didn’t have time to get a picture before they crossed and headed into the trees --- good news, they crossed before we hit them, not sure we would have had time to stop.  Count of Moose – up to 14!!  Tell me that’s not fun!!  (This picture is stolen from the internet --- sorry!)

We only stopped for a lunch break in the RV and again later for Bill to take a quick power nap.  We needed to be at the Camp by 4PM.

No problems, arrived at Camp, set up and got ready for dinner at Fast Eddy’s, Tracks was providing the pizza.  A quick meal, quick briefing for the next day’s travels and we were done.  We headed back to the RV to re-group, headed out to the gift shop and picked up ice cream at the little local market then back home to watch the first episode of “Lonesome Dove”.  BED!!

Next day we will be traveling 110 rough miles to Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, Canada.  Yes, back through Canadian Customs, higher prices, Canadian money, kilometers, liters, questionable internet, cell phones and outside communication.  Probably won’t be able to connect with family and friends for a few days but know we think about you always!  Miss you! 

Thursday, July 29, 2010



We were getting excited.  This weather thing was finally turning around.  The rain and cold had started to get to all of us a little.  Finally the sun was shining (there was rain in the forecast but we were hopeful) and the temperatures were rising – it was already over 60 when we left Palmer to drive our 260 miles to our next stop, Valdez, Alaska. 

When we had our briefing the wagon master highlighted a couple of good stops and scenic “musts”.  As always, I have the “Milepost” out in front of me with my logbook (Tracks road directions and destinations w/notes from the “briefings”), maps, atlas, itinerary and cheat sheets to the Milepost, a highlighter to mark our “stops” and a pen to take notes and keep our “wildlife sightings” count.  I look ahead in the “Milepost” and try to keep track of where we are, what’s coming up that’s worth a stop and let Bill know to get ready, this is it!  (Oh yeah, and taking pictures in between) After typing this out I now know why I am tired by the time we get to camp also.  I kept thinking Bill’s doing all the driving, why am I tired??!  Now it all makes sense!  LOL

First stop…Matanuska River, a very scenic viewpoint with a short pedestrian walkway leading up to a fenced viewing area – a few pictures and we were back on the road.

Second stop…Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site.  These recreation sites are great, this one had excellent views of Matanuska Glacier with an interpretive shelter which was very informative.  I had no trouble talking Bill into stopping as he was mesmerized by the sight while he was driving (not a good state to be in while driving mind you) and he wanted to get a better view and take some good pictures.  I could not however talk him into taking the trail to get closer as it would have taken close to an hour, we had a long way to go and he had pulled a muscle.  Oh well, I can’t win them all, but as it turned out he was very wise as the day had much more in store for us.

Third stop…Rest break, freshly brewed coffee, game of cards and Bill was ready to get back on the road.

Fourth stop…Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Visitor Center.  We walked through the visitor center, checking out the “wildlife” exhibits complete with skeletons and furs of many of the animals found in this national park.  Watched the 22 minute film about the Park.  Okay, I had never heard of this National Park, but it is actually twice the area of Denali National Park, 5 or 6 times (Bill & I can’t remember which??) the size of Yellowstone National Park.  It is the Nation’s largest National Park by far and contains the most spectacular array of glaciers and ice fields outside polar regions.  It is so isolated from civilization, there are no roads into it – the only way to see the vast majority of this park is by air or by foot.  The video was stunning.  We also took the trail through the boreal forest along the Wrangell Mountains.  

One of the rangers was in the middle of a talk on the grizzly bear when it was cut short.  One of the visitors had collapsed near the parking area and all the staff were needed to help with that.  Interesting, the part we did hear.




Fifth stop…and my favorite!!  Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site.  Have I told you how much I like these sites??  Now, I had been awed by the glacier we saw from the boat trip in Seward, it was amazing, the enormity of it and the close proximity while on the cruise.  Then we stopped at the Matanuska Glacier this morning and that was awesome also.  But….this one, incredible!  It’s a National Natural Landmark and the most visited site in the Copper River Basin.  There is a short walk to a viewing platform with a sign next to it, “Proceed at your own risk!”  You can actually walk up and touch the glacier!!  Okay, it is a little bit of a hike, and it’s not on even ground, and you have to jump over trickling streams, and climb some rocks, and a few other obstacles, and climb up hill, but it is amazing.  Bill did not wish to make the trek so I headed out with no plans to go all the way, I was just going a little ways farther and he was going to take a picture to show how close we were to it and how big it was.  But with every step, I kept thinking when will I ever be this close to a glacier again.  So I kept going a little farther and a little farther, I was oh so tempted to go the whole way but as I was wearing very flimsy slip-ons and had almost turned my ankle several times, I finally turned around and went back.  I could just picture Bill having to come and carry me back when he didn’t even want to walk out there.  It’s hard to explain how exhilarating it all was ---- again I can’t even find the words to explain the view I had and the enormity of the whole surrounding area.  STUNNING!  I gave it at 5 star rating.



Sixth & Seventh stops…Bridal Veil Falls & Horsetail Falls.  Bill and I both love waterfalls.  Every time I hear of or read of “waterfalls” ahead….I’m all about it.  So as we approached these we were determined to stop, no matter how late it was.  Again, they were larger than life, as much of Alaska is, and we were totally enthralled.  We stood there for quite a while marveling at this finality to our day’s journey.  We were only minutes from the RV park in Valdez.


By the time we set up we were zonked from our long day and the beautiful outdoors.  We settled down with a smile on our face remembering and sharing our special day to Valdez on Prince William Sound.

We awoke in Valdez prepared for a “Columbia Glacier” Cruise in Prince William Sound.  It was a cool and drizzly morning but better weather than when we took the cruise in Seward.  This boat was smaller and only carried our group.  All but one, Ann, one of our single ladies, was late getting to the boat and did not make the trip.  They radioed to shore to have another boat pick her up but she was not happy with Tracks and would not take another.  She spent the day doing “other things”?!  She has actually been early for our outings since. 

Anyway, we passed by the Alyeska Pipeline & Terminal, many sea otters, sea lions (on buoys and on shore) and seabirds.  We stopped for a while to watch some Commercial Fisherman.  It’s really a neat little system they have there.  Two boats work together and throw out these huge nets to form a large circle, I can’t explain how they do it but we took some pictures and watched them pull up a major load of salmon.  Very interesting method.  We traveled from Port Valdez through the Valdez Arm down to Point Bull Head, Glacier Island and into the Columbia Bay to the Columbia Glacier. 

Lots of exciting wildlife to see on the way....This little guy was with a bunch of friends but just drifting along...

There were alot of sea lions!!

These guys left the group to sun themselves from the buoy.

Another horned puffin for Megan & Lori!!!
Again there were many sightings of whales.  The whole group was in and out of the boat.  There was a nice viewing area in the back and the front so as the Captain would slow down and alert us where to look, everyone jumped up with cameras and headed outside.  It was a little cool to be out there the whole time.  I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing the whales perform, it truly is an amazing sight.  Picture taking on the other hand can be very frustrating, get set, focus, click and the whale has just about disappeared.  Back to someone else’s rig later tonight or tomorrow to copy their pictures. 

Another first was the icebergs!  We traveled through a sea of ice chunks from the Columbia Glacier.  You could hear the ice scraping the bottom and front of the boat as we went through.  All of these big blue pieces of glacier ice floating in a sea around us had us laughing and staring in delight.  The crewman pulled a piece out of the water for us to touch, hold, (kiss?).  Funny thing is when it is out of the water, out of the sunlight, it is crystal clear.  All the other colors the sun shines through but the blue is picked up and that is what you see.  Amazing!!  That was another new experience for Bill as well.  It was a very worthwhile tour and everyone enjoyed it immensely.



 Cruise over and back to camp for a briefing on the next day travel and then free evening.  We invited Elaine to join us (she travels w/Ann who left upset.  Now they have a Van/Camper, (no tow car) which Ann had taken so when Elaine came back she had no “home” to go to.  Unbelievable!!  Bill started cooking dinner when Elaine invited us to go with her and a group out to “Chinese”!!  I was prepared to say yes, we will finish cooking the chicken the next night, but Bill tells her I hate Chinese and to come back after dinner.  We had plans to go to the Fishery a couple miles away and watch the bear catch/eat salmon.

About 8:30-9PM the three of us headed out to the Fishery but on the way there we saw several cars pulled over by a little creek with people outside the vehicles watching for the  bears.  We decided to stay in the vehicle and wait.  Finally about 10PM a bear came out of the woods, went into the water, grabbed a salmon and went back into the woods.  It was getting rather dark and he was in the shadows so though we could see him it was not a good view.  Two couples from our group drove past and stopped to tell us that there were bear down by the fishery and you could see them very well.  So, off we went.  Seriously, this black bear was in the river below us walking around in and out of the water searching for the “perfect” salmon.  He scooped one up and get this….he only ate the eggs, tore open the fish, scooped them out, ate them and went searching for another.  I guess humans aren’t the only ones that like caviar, although can’t say I ever developed the taste for it.  We watched him for about 20 minutes then he headed right under this bridge area where everyone was watching.  He continued to fish for a little while, we were amazed to realize he was only feet from us.  Now there was a rail between us so we all felt pretty safe, but the next thing we knew he had walked up on shore and walked up the hill beside us.  Okay, now this is getting crazy, he walks right by us with no barrier, incredible!  Bill decides this is getting way to close and we head back to the car.  Some people were actually following him down the road (he was on the other side, but still!!?) taking pictures, he headed into the brush and up the mountain.  We could see him for awhile walking along the cliffside before he disappeared into the woods.  Our camera is not sophisticated enough to get good pictures at dusk, they came out pretty blurry.  I took this great video of all the action but, bad as I am with a camera, I actually deleted it by mistake.  Again those of the group that have the high-tech equipment are sharing their pictures.  But remember, we did see this bear with our own eyes.  This is truly an amazing experience.  I tell you, each day brings new adventures and delights. 

Can’t wait until tomorrow!  Heading to Tok, a long 254 miles.  Pizza party planned for the group at Fast Eddy’s in Tok, nothing else on the agenda so it should be a quiet evening. Everyplace has beauty to spare and brings joy, oohing & ahhing!!  Just don’t know what will be around the next corner.  Will let you know what we find.