NWT and the Dempster

We left Alaska and entered Canada along the Top of the World Highway.

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This area is very remote so it has been a nice quiet few days to enjoy the area.

We got to Dawson City, where you have to take a ferry to cross the Yukon River, a very fast moving river. The little ferry seems to struggle to make the crossing but it does it six times an hour, 24 hours a day carrying everything from over-sized construction trucks to ten cars every trip.

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As we left Dawson City heading towards Whitehorse, we noticed another road north to the Arctic Circle in the Yukon. The big three Ds of remote roads are the Denali, the Dalton and the Dempster Highways. This was the Dempster Highway, the Canadian version of the Dalton Highway – we had to take it.

Tombstone Provincial Park is near the southern end of this road. We stopped for the night at the park’s Interpretive Centre in a beautiful valley.

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The campground was full so the overflow was actually the visitor centre’s parking lot. This worked out well for us because it was free and right next to the beaver pond trail. We hiked to the pond and watched four beavers working away on their incredible multi-level dam. I’m still convinced that California’s long term water solution is tied to beavers.

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Tombstone Park is named after the Tombstone Mountain, the spike mountain at the very end of this beautiful valley.

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The tundra and landscapes were pretty special as we drove up the Dempster Highway. The tundra reminds us of the southwest desert, very remote and beautiful. I got my hair cut in Anchorage by a lady who moved to Alaska from the Phoenix area. She said the Arctic is the same, but different from the desert, which I totally understand. It’s cold versus hot, but both are remote with tremendous vistas, incredible beautiful, teaming with life if you know where to look, and can be very unforgiving for the ill prepared – the same, but different.

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At one of the few stops along the highway for food and gas you get to see some interesting truck loads that are being delivered to the north. I wonder what the story behind this was, “send me the building materials I ordered and throw on my snowmobile”.

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We made it to the Arctic Circle for the second time this trip, and the area was more like I expected with tundra all around. The Porcupine Caribou herd of more than 100,000 caribou pass through this area, but we didn’t see any – must have been hiding.

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We then continued further north until we entered the Northwest Territories.

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We camped at milepost 4km into NWT on a hill overlooking a beautiful tundra-covered valley.

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The road continues on to Fort McPherson and Inuvik in the NWT. You can see the dust that is kicked up by the occasional traffic on the road.

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I cooked up some caribou meat patties we picked up in Anchorage. Pam equated the taste and consistency to another mechanically separated meat product, but I liked them. But then again, I like Slim Jims too.

After dinner Pam spotted a Muskox grazing across the tundra below us. We watched it for some time making its way across the tundra. However, subsistence hunting season in NWT opened in early August. A pickup popped over the horizon about a half-mile away from us and also spotted the muskox moving towards their position. They stopped and three guys jumped out. One had a gun and we watched as he closed on the muskoxen and took it down from about 50 yards with 6 shots (obviously shooting is not his strength). Another pickup stopped and four more folks jumped out and we watched over the next hour as the seven hauled 11 large loads of sectioned muskoxen to the trucks, probably around 400 pounds of meat.

After they left the clouds slowly descended onto the hilltop and we spent the arctic twilight in fog that was still there in the morning. It was so quiet there you could hear the mist as a very light drizzly on the tundra. I guess this was the original “white noise”.

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When turned south and dropped off the mountain in NWT and back into the Yukon. Looking back we could no longer see the mountain range up where we were camped. The mountain range and fog roll ran for many miles along the horizon and looked like a spectacular, slow-motion, 1000-foot high wave breaking over the range.

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We dropped back down the Dempster Highway and then headed south towards Whitehorse. We camped at the Moose Creek campground, a Yukon provincial run campground about halfway between Dawson City and Whitehorse. Firewood is free at these campgrounds, but the wood is provided in entire tree cross-sections. I had to break out the Roamer’s axe and split some wood for the first time in a long time for our fire.

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We also hiked a nice trail up Moose Creek to Stewart River at the campground. The path was a forest path with many squirrels giving alarm as we passed, and several spruce grouse appearing along the way.

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It’s much greener as we drop south, and the nights are much darker. I saw my first star at night in quite some time. The road to Whitehorse passes through some heavily forested areas. Occasionally, the scenery breaks into a vista like the Five Finger Rapids along the Yukon River, a narrow path between the near bank and the island the big stern-wheeler ships needed to navigate to get from Dawson City to Whitehorse.

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Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory. We stopped there for a couple days to restock, clean the calcium chloride grime off the Roamer again, do laundry and sight-see. We also had an oil change for the Roamer and the other light bracket welded back on similar to Valdez after it failed sometime while in Whitehorse. It was just a matter of time before it failed like the other bracket and I guess the Denali, Taylor and Dempster Highways helped to even out the lives between the two brackets.

We camped next to a group from lower BC that took many of the same routes we took, but had four blown tires and two broken suspension springs on their three rigs. So a couple of broken attach brackets is not so bad.

Whitehorse has a transportation museum with the world’s largest weather vane, a DC-3. The bearing must be incredibly low friction because a light wind causes the huge plane to smoothly spin and align itself with the wind.

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We also found the next Roamer upgrade in all-terrain vehicles. Instead of a tire spoon to maneuver the spares around you may need a tire backhoe. I wonder if it’s WIFI enabled? You could probably pass a Prius with this thing while still in the same lane.

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We also visited the world’s largest fish ladder that provides a path for the Chinook Salmon to get to their spawning grounds around the hydro-electric plant on the Yukon River.

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The salmon pass through a section where they are counted and documented. It’s incredible to think that these fish travel nearly 2000 miles up the Yukon River, which is a very fast moving river, from the Bering Sea to the Yukon River headwaters just outside Whitehorse to spawn. They cover nearly 20 miles a day during this journey with everything in the world trying to eat them along the way.

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We also visited the Yukon Brewing Company here in Whitehorse. Yukon Red is a rather nice beer that both Pam and I enjoy. The price of gas and beer is still high, but with the Canadian dollar at 76 cent to the US dollar the sting is not as bad.

We’ll be heading to Watson Lake and south into BC. We both miss the tundra, but other travelers have told us great places to stop on our way south.

Alaska Completed

Before leaving town, Pam and I met up with Alex and Marcie again for some great pizza at the Moose’s Tooth restaurant in Anchorage. I was glad I could fulfill my offer to bring some fresh caught halibut back from the peninsula. We handed off several pounds of halibut fillets, said our goodbyes and headed north.
There were just three stretches of the Alaskan Highway system we had not traveled on yet that were now our objective: one, the Parks Highway from Anchorage to Denali; two, the Tok Cutoff into Tok from the south; and three, the Taylor Highway in eastern Alaska that is part of the Klondike Loop into Canada.

Traveling on the Parks Highway would also give us another opportunity to see the Denali mountain, which was hidden behind clouds on the four previous days we in the park area and could have seen it. Intermittent rain as we drove north out of Anchorage did not fill us with confidence of a sighting so we stopped for the night at Byers Lake Campground, on the southern end of Denali Park.

The lake there was another pretty Alaskan lake. We went for a hike to the boat launch and dock area. A few families were at the dock with at least six Labrador retrievers. One of the guys had a duck retrieving training toy that he was whipping into the lake so all of the dogs were very happy and very wet, including a couple of their kids too. Pam and I were adequately sniffed by all of the dogs as we approached, but luckily none decided to dry off next to us. Here are two of the dogs swimming out into the lake after the toy.

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The next morning began with large patches of blue sky, which has become the weather trend for this time of year. It’s never bad weather all day, nor is it blue skies all day, and whatever it is now will be the opposite by the end of the day, and opposite again in the morning. Therefore, it’s always sunny wherever you are, you just need to wait for it long enough.

As we drove north there were a couple of Denali Lookout points, but the few pesky clouds were still gathered around the peak at these lookouts. As we crossed over the last high altitude pass north we looked to the west and there it was. Even at 45 miles away the mountain dominates the horizon. It’s pretty impressive and dwarfs the several thousand foot mountains that are its foothills.

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With that stretch of road complete, and the bonus of seeing Denali, we headed towards the other two stretches on the east side of Alaska across the Denali Highway for a second time. It was again a beautiful drive, where the recent weather had given the Alaskan Range mountain tops a dusting of snow.

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We originally thought to camp along the Denali Highway when we left Anchorage before pulling off at Byers Lake. It was a good thing we changed our minds because every pull-off along the highway was now occupied by a truck or ATV trailer. Caribou season for local subsistence hunters opened the day before and they were out in force. The caribou are starting to herd up for the winter and are on the move now, but we didn’t see any along this stretch of the drive.

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We hit the Tok Cutoff road heading north and realized that the northern entrance to the Wrangell-St Elais NP is off of this road – so we took it. We headed down Nebesna Road and camped at the Dead Dog Hill Wayside pull-off, a spot with a single picnic table and fire pit. We had a panoramic view of a beautiful black spruce boreal forest and our own glacier-made kettle lake with two trumpeter swans. The sunset was pretty spectacular as the weather moved through, but the morning view was even better when from behind the evening clouds Wrangell Mountain came into view on the right above the clouds.

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We had a nice evening fire and I cooked up bacon cheeseburgers on pretzel rolls for dinner. This spot is now a solid top ten spot. A Swiss photographer showed up in the morning snapping a lot of shots. He and a buddy drove the 20-some more miles down the pot-hole riddled road to the official park campground, but according to him, the view was not nearly as nice as what we had.

He and his buddy (who was still snoozing at the campground) had started their Alaskan trip with the objective of backpacking through the tundra north of the Arctic Circle, but quickly realized that the very uneven tufted growth of the tundra surface is not a great place to hike with heavy packs. They have since been driving around car-camping, but seemed to hit every location in the rain (obviously moving too quickly to let the weather clear). Therefore, he was in heaven when he saw the view from our wayside pull-out.

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I told him how the scenery changed over time the previous night, from rain to partly cloudy, to a blanket of fog rolling through, but below the treetops after the sun went down. He was so happy to finally get some good pictures with his camera and lenses that I’ll be surprised if he didn’t come back after leaving the campground and stay at the pull-out after we left.

We had breakfast, broke camp and heading north arrived at Tok, one of the first towns we came to after crossing the Canadian border several weeks ago. Crossing our old path in Tok completed a several thousand mile loop of Alaska. We’re currently over 8,000 road miles for the trip so far (not counting the ferry miles from Bellingham to Haines). We’ll see if we break our last year’s trip mileage of 12,600 miles.

We then headed north to Chicken along the Taylor Highway, the last stretch of untraveled Alaskan highway. Chicken is a very small gold mining town. Apparently they wanted to name it Ptarmigan, the wild Alaskan bird that looks like a chicken, but none of the original miners knew how to spell it, so it became Chicken.

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The road there was full of great vistas and the ground cover is starting to show signs of fall colors up here. It’s dropping into the 30s at night so I’m sure it will be cool weather from here on out on this trip. We came across a moose and two babies walking across the road on our way to Chicken. The babies are noticeable larger than the ones we saw just a month ago.

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Chicken has just a few buildings in town. We spent the night at the Gold Panner’s RV Park, which like most RV parks is just a parking lot. The town has everything named with a chicken related theme, even including the outhouses, the chicken poop. The 15-foot chicken sculpture has the distance (as the chicken flies) to every city in the world with a chicken related name, like Hatch, New Mexico.

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They even have a summer music festival in June called Chickenstock with a pretty unique stage.

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We mentioned to a local shop owner that we had traveled on every highway while in Alaska, feeling proud of our accomplishment, only to be slammed with her reply – well there are only five highways in Alaska. What a buzz kill.

We headed out of Chicken to Eagle along the Top of the World Highway. It has all kinds of driving warnings due to the condition of the road in the Milepost book (which is part of the reason we took it). Not far outside of Chicken there was a large RV pulling a car that got too far over for an oncoming vehicle and slid off the road, tipped over the bank, and was resting on its side wedged down in the trees. Luckily no one was hurt, but you begin to appreciate how remote you are when you think about the timeline for this vehicle to get pulled out and to the nearest garage about 100 miles away.

The road splits further outside of Chicken and we took the path north to Eagle. The other path goes to the Canadian border and Dawson City, Yukon. The Eagle road is another beautiful road to drive with even more warnings to keep traffic very low. It actually was a nice dirt road due to the low traffic, but it was just single lane wide at some spots, which is common for remote roads anywhere. We stopped for lunch on a tundra plateau with a great 360 degree view.

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Pam spotted three caribou in the area, where two of the racks were visible in this shot. One of the bulls stopped to check us out as we watched them graze through.

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Eagle is a relative metropolis with a population of 87 compared to Chicken. Surprisingly, the history of this town on the mighty Yukon River was very impressive, nearly rivaling Sitka. Because of its location on the Yukon River and proximity to the Klondike gold area it was the first incorporated city in the Alaskan interior in 1897. A military fort was established here, Fort Egbert, to provide law and order to the area , and to build the WAMCATS – Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System at the turn of the century. Communication between these two points went from taking an entire year to just a few days. A young Army Lieutenant Billy Mitchell stationed here got the cable system connecting Eagle to Vadez completed. He later was the visionary that pushed for the Army Air Corps in WWI that later became the Air Force of today. It was even the judicial center for all of central Alaska, and it wasn’t clear how everything then moved to Fairbanks from Eagle to leave this hamlet a shadow of its old glory.

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The town has some interesting houses. This person is obviously a bird lover.

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They also have some great vehicles for sale there. Big Red did a road trip to Eagle?

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We camped at the Eagle BLM campground for the night listening to the local radio station FM 97.7, which plays the greatest collection of eclectic music from church organs, to Sinatra, to folk, to blues and even barbershop quartets with no commercials. It was great listening to it and we were sad as we drove out of town and the station faded away.

So ends our Alaska trek. We crossed into Canada and began our next leg of this trip down through the Yukon and the Canadian Rockies. We’ll definitely be back. As one guy we ran into recently stated, “I came up here just to see Alaska too, that was 30 years ago”.

Kenai Peninsula

We traveled south from Anchorage, along the Seward Highway, a very scenic and winding coastal road. It was clear from the traffic heading south that the Kenai Peninsula is Alaska’s vacation playground in the summer.

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Because of all of the errands we ran in Anchorage, we didn’t arrive into Seward until late in the afternoon. The camping in Seward is all along the coast, but all of the waterfront spots appeared to be taken. However, as we pulled into the Seward Waterfront Park, a guy came up to the Roamer and said that his buddy has just called and his RV died on the road so we could have the spot he was saving for him, right on the waterfront – nice.

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Later we found out that the earthquake and tsunami that leveled Vadez in 1964 also destroyed Seward. Therefore, the homes and town buildings are up off the water on the side of the hill. The oceanfront RV parking is effectively the tsunami breakwater. It felt good knowing the Roamer would be the first line of defense against the next natural disaster – lol.

Seward was, and probably still is the main gateway to the interior of Alaska if you are traveling by ship or train. It is the sea railhead of the Alaskan Railroad. It also was the starting point of the original Iditarod, the dogsled team that carried the medicine 938 miles to Nome. A plaque next to our campsite marks the spot.

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The other race that Seward is known for is the Mount Marathon race, the second oldest foot race in the US, behind the Boston Marathon. Mount Marathon is named after the mountain, Mount Marathon, and has nothing to do with a 26.2 mile race. In fact, it is only a 3 mile race, straight up to the top and down the face of Mount Marathon. As with most races it started as a bar bet for the best time between two guys who had the job of climbing the mountain daily to look for arriving ships, which has now grown to the race it is today. It’s run July 4th if there are any takers out there – medics provided.

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Seward is also considered the mural capital of Alaska, where colorful murals are on several of the downtown buildings.

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They also have the Seward Brewery Company, which we had to try. They had some very good beers, but they unfortunately don’t distribute outside of Seward. The menu there has some really interesting options, but we only tried their lamb fries; shredded lamb over fries with gravy and cheese curds. Eating healthy.

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We booked a six-hour ship tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park that leaves from Seward and travels west to the park’s glacial fjords out of Seward’s little harbor.

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We saw otters (floating below), Orcas, harbor seals, humpback whales and a lot of birds during the tour. One of the big male Orcas flew out of the water and executed a spectacular Fosbury flop type breech, but I was so in awe I forgot I had a camera in my hands. I’m not sure how those photographers get those amazing shots.

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We also saw the huge Aialik and Bear Glaciers that extend down to the sea from the Harding Ice Field. The ice field that covers the top of the mountain range in the NP is 700 square miles in area. Many glaciers radiate out and down through the mountains to the sea from this field.

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The tour gets pretty close to the relatively fast moving Aialik Glacier, with its 400 foot wall of ice that calves off very frequently. We sat there for about 30 minutes and you could hear the ice frequently popping as chunks of the face fell into the water. The glacier moves nearly 4 feet a day, while another glacier we visited moved 8 feet a month. The Root Glacier we walked on was pretty stationary with relatively smooth ice compared to this glacier. This glacier was so jagged, with huge canvases, that I doubt you could even traverse the top.

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The water around the ship was pretty dense with glacial ice. It was open water and then solid ice. It’s easy to see how ships quickly get stuck in icy waters.

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The fjords and islands in the area are also beautiful. Solid rock appears to magically turn into trees at the top. What are the tree roots holding onto?

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On the way out of Seward we hiked to Exit Glacier, another glacial arm off the Harding Ice Field. All of the glaciers are receding, and they have been for a few hundred years. It makes me wonder how far back you would have to go to get to a point where the glaciers were growing.

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We then made our way to the other side of the Kenai Peninsula, and the town of Soldotna. It has two breweries we wanted to visit, but only one served food and it was lunchtime. We sampled the St Elias Brewery. Both the beer and the food were very good. We ended up visiting it a second time as we made our way back up to Anchorage from Homer. It was a rainy day on our way back north and their soup hit the spot.

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Going south from Soldotna, we made our way to Ninilchik to camp at the Alaskan Angler RV Resort. Not only do they offer a campsite, but also charter halibut fishing that I did not want to miss while in Alaska. Pam decided that she would not risk another day at sea. Halibut fishing is not good for those who might get seasick. The fishing is done from an anchored boat that is constantly rocking. However, the day was perfect for fishing. The wind was down, the water was relatively smooth (still probably not smooth enough for Pam as one guy in our group did get a little green while we were out there). Halibut fishing is done around low tide so the water is as shallow as it will get (where they have 30-foot tides here) and there is very little tide current in the water.

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I pulled in two nice fish for the day, actually three, but one I had to release. The new fishing rules allow you to keep just two fish, and one has to be 29 inches or less. I luckily caught a 29-incher and one just over 3 feet for over 20 pounds of vacuum-packed one pound halibut fillets. These were the fish from our boat. No need to point out my fish, I’ll tell the story of their size as the circumstances require – lol.

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We traded some of the fillets with our camp neighbors, who went salmon fishing for the day, which is also huge on this side of the peninsula. We now have salmon and halibut for the ride home, and probably even after we get home. We ate halibut that night, a nice fillet along with the halibut cheeks as an appetizer. The cheek meat is best fried up in a little butter and is just like a fresh scallop.

The cost of the charter, camp spot, and fishing license were more than covered by the current price of halibut and the amount I caught. Pam has not bought into that line of rationale yet. If she does I could see owning a place on the peninsula and a halibut boat in our future.

Now that the salmon are running, you can see the salmon in the rivers. This one was roughly 2 feet long. The Kenai River is well known for its salmon and the river has a beautiful powder blue hue.

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From Ninilchik, we headed south to Homer and the spit that sticks out into the ocean. It’s the small sliver of land off to the left.

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We stopped at the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge, located at the base of the spit, for a nice ranger-led hike along the tidewater marsh. It was kind of funny that one of the big draws for the hike was the chance to see 2 sandhill cranes. It made both Pam and I think of earlier this year when we saw several hundred together at their winter home in southeastern Arizona. The fireweed flower in the foreground is their season indicator. The flowers bloom from bottom to top and once they reach the top, like these, it means six weeks of good weather left.

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It was a great talk and led to discussing the bears that live and feed in the area. We’ve been somewhat amused by some of the bear warnings at the trailheads. There is the normal – make noise and don’t surprise the bear, and if it’s a brown bear stand your ground, talk calmly to the bear and play dead if it attacks. Too bad screaming like a little kid and running like a crazed person is not the recommended advice. The one warning that caught us both by surprise was at a recent trailhead – fight back if the bear begins to eat you. Really! So play dead first so the 1000 pound bear is now on top of you and then fight back once he begins to crush your bones. Better advice may be to carry a next-of-kin notification card because your day is probably not going to end well if it has gotten to that point.

The Homer Spit reminded us of many small, crowded vacation spots in the number of people and the shops along the main drag. The unique Homer Spit difference is the huge glacier-capped mountains that surround the spit.

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We camped at the end of the spit at the Homer Spit Campground. We walked along the beach and stopped in one of the boardwalk places for some great cod fish and chips. We also stopped in the Salty Dawg Saloon, which has signed dollar bills all over everything in the saloon.

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We added our “P&D Earthroamer Adventures” signed dollar next to the mug shots of Steve McQueen, and Gene Ferguson’s ID that has his address as “a van down by the river”.

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From Homer we made our way back to Anchorage, stopping at a local meat processing business on the way. We picked up some caribou and reindeer meat to better balance the quantity of fish in the freezer. Their customers, or suppliers, must also include many of the local hunters.

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We also stopped into to Millennium Hotel, now renamed as The Lakefront Hotel. The place was decorated tastefully with just about every known mammal. We enjoyed an afternoon beverage as we looked over the boat-plane lake and airport of Anchorage.

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As with all great plans, they always become obsolete. Our boundary waters canoe trip with friends later this month was postponed until next year so we outlined a new route out of Alaska and down through Canada. We’ll now be heading towards northeastern Alaska and see what’s up there.

Southeastern Alaska

We left Denali and headed east across Alaska on the Denali Highway, another mostly dirt road. The beauty in the landscape here is just jaw dropping. Over every horizon is something even more beautiful.

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We stopped for lunch along the highway, at one of the many pull-outs along these roads, with a gorgeous view of the surrounding area. Another camper was also stopped there for lunch. The mother and son were heading to a beautiful lake area up the road to spread the ashes of a recently deceased husband and dad. You could tell that they loved Alaska, but she admitted that this would probably be her last trip to Alaska after their many trips over the years. The son (my age) told me the story of dropping a 1000+ pound grizzly up along the Dalton Highway with what he described as the “two best arrows I ever shot”. Seeing that he is still alive to tell the tale would validate that claim.

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The trek to Wrangell-St Elias National Park was pretty long so we decided to camp along the way. We tried to get a spot at a nice little campground with a waterfall but it was full.

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We then did like so many folks up here in Alaska, we just pulled off the road on one of the many places to park along the road and camped there for the night along a beautiful lake. Most of the folks with campers we talk with are from Alaska on vacation to the “local” beautiful spots. All of them love living up here, and we can see why.

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The next day we completed the drive into Wrangell-St Elias NP along the McCarthy Road, a pretty rough dirt road. This runs through the Copper River valley, famous for their salmon. The salmon were beginning their run so there were huge salmon wheels in the water and many folks camped along the banks attempting to stock up for the year.

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The road to the park was the old railroad track route from the abandoned Kennecott copper mine. Most of the bridges, single lane only, were still in place but now modified to handle car traffic. Wrangell-St. Elias NP is the largest national park in the US at 13 million arces, about ½ the land mass of Pennsylvania.

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We camped at the end of the road, next to the river created by the Root Glacier. In this area of Alaska every direction you look has a huge, beautiful glacier riding down the face of a mountain. Excursion groups were also there camped in their tents. We’ll stick with the Roamer and our toasty fire.

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The Kennecott copper mine, which is part of the NP now, had some of the purest copper ore ever discovered, which is why they decided to mine in such a harsh place all year long. The mines were up in the hills and the ore was processed in the buildings using several different methods until they achieved a 98% copper ore quality before shipping it south by train and boat to Washington.

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The best part of the park for us was the trail to the Root Glacier and the ability to walk up on the glacier. It’s not an easy hike to get there, and bear scat marks the trail for most of the way to keep you on your toes, but it’s worth it.

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On the way back to our camp we stopped in the little town of McCarthy, which is an area of private land near the old mine surrounded by the park. The Saloon closes in mid-September, along with much of the town. They have a “last man standing” party to finish off all of the beer that won’t keep until the saloon re-opens in the spring.

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We met a San Francisco couple at the bar where he helps runs a camp at Burning Man – The 7 Deadly Gins. As he explained the workings of the event a few other folks said they had been at his camp in years past. Wow, this is a bar in a town of less than 200 folks in the middle of nowhere and several random people in this bar had been to his Burning Man camp – what are the odds? Pam now wants to go to Burning Man next August – lol.

We left Wrangell-St. Elias NP and headed on our way to Valdez, where this is the one lane entrance and exit to the McCarthy Road at Chitina.

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Along the road back we stopped at a Yak farm – had to stop since they have been the topic of some great one-liners since the yak steak post. They were just out grazing in the field similar to cows. We also saw a lynx cross the road in from of us along the way. It was a big cat.

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There was a 1950’s era Chevy flower pot. I guess when your truck dies in the back country if you are not going to tow it several hundred miles to get rid of it you might as well add it to the decor.

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Valdez was a quaint little fishing village surrounded by beautiful mountains. It does not get nearly as cold as northern Alaska, and the snowfall can reach 600 inches in the nearby passes in winter. We camped at the Bear Paw RV lot right in downtown Valdez, across from the dock. Valdez is the most northern port that does not freeze in the winter, which is why the end of the pipeline is here (on the other side of the bay from the city) to ship the oil out.

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We walked around town and noticed that there were a lot of pet rabbits running around, kind of like the chickens in Hawaii. We never got the story on how this came to be, but there must not be many eagles or loose dogs in the area – yet.

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We had our first truck maintenance issue for the trip. The metal mounting bracket for one of our front spot lights cracked and the light was just resting on the bumper against the grill. Luckily the RV place knew the local welder, who has a portable rig. He came over and welded it back on, where now it is probably better than it was.

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After the fix, we packed up and headed towards Anchorage. We ended up stopping for the night at the campground at Lake Louise (every state must have a Lake Louise). It was a beautiful spot and we got there just before sunset. We walked along the shore of the lake as the moon came up and saw a couple of muskrats in the water, which was easy to do since the lake was glass smooth. It’s getting noticeably darker at night now, not quite dark enough to see stars, but we may get a chance to see the northern lights before we leave Alaska. What was interesting was when the moon came up it was not 180 degrees opposite in the sky from the sun as we normally see it, but appeared more like 120 degrees away. This could be due to the latitude or the phase of the moon, but you felt like you were looking at the side of the moon as it chased the sun.

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The drive to Anchorage the next day was again very beautiful, with many glaciers, lakes, river valleys and interesting mountains along the way.

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We stopped at a muskoxen farm in Palmer, just north of Anchorage. While the muskoxen are wild animals they raise these for their qiviut, or wool that they comb out of their winter coats. The muskoxen are related to the goat family and the males run about 900 pounds, the size of a small cow. The qiviut is given to local knitting guilds and the native ladies create throws and scarves with a pattern that is unique to their guild.

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We spent a night in Anchorage before setting out south to the Kenai Peninsula. The city campground was less of a campground for enjoyment as a campground of necessity for some folks looking to make a future in Anchorage. The tent clusters and rope supports for everything did not appear to be the work of folks staying less than 14 days.

Anchorage itself was good because we got many errands completed and restocked for the next week or so. We also had a delicious salmon dinner at Pam’s cousin Alex’s house, who lives in Anchorage. He and his wife, Marcie, had us over for dinner and we chatted the night away. Hopefully I can make good on my offer to bring back some halibut from a successful fishing day down on the peninsula.