Follow us as we embark on what some describe as the "trip of a lifetime"..........ALASKA. We will start out experiencing the Calgary Stampede finals, the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth." Then on to the beautiful Canadian Rockies before we finally reach Alaska, the last American Frontier.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 53: Skagway, Alaska

We started this free day afternoon with six other brave people on the Alaska Excursions Grizzly Falls Zip line.  All we can say is - what a blast! 
Garry, Caroll, Pat, Tom, Penny, Ivy, Arnie, & Robbie
We rode up the steep mountain in a Unimog (smaller but similar to those we rode in at the Columbia Ice Fields) to the zip line base camp.  We suited up in attractive (yeah, right) helmets and zip line safety harnesses. 
Here comes Ivy
Caroll & Pat are ready to move on &
Penny & Tom are waving a Big Good-bye

Tom is having a ball
Pat is ready for what ever comes next
These zip lines went through a beautiful mountainous rainforest and over glacially fed waterfalls and creeks.   There were a total of 11 separate zip lines with the longest being 750 feet.  Our two guides, Steve (Stache) and J.T., were quite entertaining and encouraged us to do different “tricks” on each zip line.  We even tried somersaults!  That was pretty daring from one who doesn’t do well with motion, be it from rough seas or bumpy roads.  Apparently, you can go as fast as 45mph on some of the lines – it sure seemed faster than that.  There were a few suspension bridges to walk across too so other people could make them sway while you tried to keep your balance but were really so we could take pictures of the beautiful forest .  We would definitely do this adventure again!

Later that evening, we went to the Days of ’98 Show.  It started off with a Monte Carlo gambling hour.  We were given $1,000 worth of phony money.  They had a 4-5-6 table, blackjack table, and roulette.  It was a fun way to while away  some time.  Our dealer, Jeff, was very generous with giving us more phony money whether we really won or not! Too bad the $20,000 I (Robbie) won was also phony money!
Everyone is having fun with the phony money

We then attended the show.  It depicted the life and death of Jefferson Randolph (Soapy) Smith while he was in Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 and 1898.  Soapy was a con man that used a band of cohorts to swindle and rob newcomers (cheechackos) out of their money.  His band eventually robbed a man of $2,800 in gold, which resulted in an organized protest by J. D. Stewart and the Committee of 101.  This committee was trying to clean up Skagway by getting the crooks and con men to leave.  Soapy went to confront  Stewart at this organized protest, and he was shot and killed by one of the guards.
'Soapy Smith' and the Days of 98 Show
 The show included skits with “dance hall” girls also from the Klondike Gold Rush era and their interaction with Soapy and other men.  The girls decided that Jim was their choice to “proposition” and pulled him up on stage.  They sang to him, and then forced him to go upstairs!  He laughingly and good naturedly went along with it, even when they had him dress up in a nightshirt and cap after being upstairs with them! 
The girls sure LOVE Jim
The girls then decided to do a can-can routine and pulled Tammy and I up on stage.  Talk about embarrassing.  I am too old to dance like that!  I will admit it was fun and a lot of laughs though!  My knees will never be the same…

Tammy and Robbie kicked as high as the 'Dance Hall Girls'
Submitted by Rig # 17

Arnie & Robbie

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 52: Skagway, Alaska

A perfect day:  a boat trip to Juneau through the Lynn fjord aboard the Fjordland, a 65-foot, fast-hulled catamaran to Junea, the capital of Alaska; (the only way to get to Juneau is by boat or seaplane as no roads lead into the area); and a narrated bus tour of Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier & Visitor Center (& film of the glacier over time). 

Paul and Joan walking towards the Fjordland
 We took a ferry from Skagway to Juneau, stopping briefly at Haines to pick up a few more passengers. The ferry headed south through Lynn Canal, the continent’s longest and deepest glacial fjord.  Lynn Canal stretches over 100 miles long and is over 2000 feet deep; it empties into the Pacific Ocean.  Marine life abounds in these waters, and this narrated wildlife cruise was a highlight of our trip. On the way over to Juneau we saw beautiful snow-covered mountains, waterfalls, hanging glaciers, bald eagles, Stellar sea lions, Dall porpoises, a black bear, and a light house.

OtStellar Sea Lions on resting to the rocks
Bald Eagles basking in the sun

View of  the Fjordland from our bus/tour ride
Light House

On the way back we were privilage to see the "humpback Whales Bubble Feeding" —a rare treat according to our captain. Another rare treat was the calm waters and blue skies. Our captain said he had never seen it so calm, and also said that they have had only about 5 days this whole summer of sun and blue sky as they traveled through the Lynn Canal. Fish abound in the Canal as well, including all five species of salmon, halibut, lingcod and rockfish among others.
Tail of the Humpback Whale
Humpback Whales Tail

Bubble Net Feeding

Juneau was first settled by Alaska natives thousands of years ago.  The first white explorers to the area found an Auk Indian fish camp at the mouth of what later became known as Gold Creek.  There are several native tribes still living in the area including the Tlinglit (pronounced kling-it). Gold was discovered here in the early 1900s and there are still two deep rock gold mines here. 

Juneau is surrounded by intercoastal waterways, lush rainforests, rugged mountainsides, and awe-inspiring, accessible glaciers.  The Mendenhall Glacier, an arm of the 1,500 suqare-mile Juneau Icefield, is one of the few glaciers in Alaska one can reach by car. 

Mendenhall Glacier
Juneau’s main highway extends from downtown about 45 miles along the mountainous coastline.  They have a public transit system, and of course, private cars for those who live there, as well as visitors who come over on a larger ferry.  Juneau is the first town founded after Alaska’s purchase from Russia.

We enjoyed hot seafood chowder, a whole-grain roll and a chocolate chip cookie on the ride back, and watched the sun set over the mountains and a full moon rise—a perfect ending to a perfect day!

Moon Over the Mountains
Just about dark with the Water and Mountains




Submitted by Rig #18

Nancy & Dan


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Day 51: Travel to Skagway, Alaska

Today was a travel day.  We awoke with frost on our vehicles.  It was another spectacular day with lots of sunshine.  Our travel distance from Destruction Bay to Skagway was approximately 270 uneventful miles.  As we departed the campground, sunshine was sparkling on Kluane Lake … a huge beautiful freshwater lake.   
Kluane lake at Destruction Bay

Every mile gave us new mountain views and spectacular scenery.  We were delighted with Emerald Lake with blue-green light waves reflecting off of the white sediment bottom. 
Emerald Lake
Not far down the road was the “world’s smallest desert” complete with sand dunes and sparse vegetation. 
Carcross Desert Sign
Carcross Dessert
Mile after mile it seemed like the mountains produced small streams of water at every turn.  The White Pass descent leading into Skagway was an 11% downhill drive that seemed to go on forever.

 We saw a coyote at the edge of the road but it moved too quickly to be captured in a picture.  No other sightings of animals were reported except Jesse claimed that he hiked 6 miles into the Carcross Desert and saw a herd of elephants and a herd of camels.  No other confirmation of the sightings was made.  In most other respects Jesse seemed OK.
 The evening ended with a social at the RV Park in Skagway, and Sue was honored with "Buddy Bear" tonight.  (She made a Potato Bag for each RV. Buddy Bear loved that good deed)
Submitted by Rig #15
Sue & Don

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 50: Travel to Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory

Today we traveled from Tok, AK to Destruction Bay, Yukon for a total of 224 miles.  It was a long and scenic route which included crossing the Canadian border.  There is quite a difference in road conditions on this route with dips, curves and frost heaves.  Our first stop was at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center to see if we could see any wildlife.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any, but had an interesting conversation with the ranger regarding bird migration. 

Beautiful yellow, green and redish colors everywhere

After crossing the border, we stopped at Beaver Creek, which is the most westerly community in Canada.  This is where the bulldozers met when they were constructing the road. 

We stopped and ate lunch at the rest stop and to view the incredible mountain peaks in the distance.  The weather has become cooler and it seems like either fall or winter is just around the corner, at least in this part of the world.

Mountains covered with snow
Beautiful lakes around every corner

Our next stop was the Kluane Museum of Natural History at Burwash Landing where they had a wonderful display of wildlife and showed a film regarding the area.  

Kluane Museum Sign
Dall Sheep Display

Coming around the corner, Destruction Bay came into view with a rainbow stretched across the hills.  Destruction Bay has forty full-time residents and the average temperature is 35 degrees below.  This is where we camped for the night and where a wonderful dinner and entertainment waited for us. 


Submitted by Rig #14
Helen & Jim at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge
Visitors Center 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 49: Travel to Tok, Alaska

On this travel day from Valdez to Tor, Alaska, we traveled 224.5 miles, retracing our steps on Richardson Highway Route 4 to Glennallen.  As usual we were the last to leave Bear Paw Camper Park (before the Tailgunners).

Bear Paw RV Campground
It was a rainy day although we were able to see some of the mountains at our start.
Outside Valdez area
We carefully travelled along the rough road that was frequently in mid repair because of frost heaves.
Road work was being done all along the way
Thompson Pass was clouded over and we were glad that we were able to see its vistas on our way into Valdez a few days ago. On the clear stretches our diesel truck was able to overtake a few of our fellow caravaners.  We had a mission as we wanted to stop at the Visitor’s Center of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It is the largest national park – six times the size of Yellowstone National Park.  Since all the mountains were not to be seen on this rainy day, we opted for the film at the visitor center.  Here we saw people climbing the mountains and cross country skiing over parts of it.  We also saw various pelts and a bear skin.
Snow Covered Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains
Bear skin at the Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center

Shortly after Glennallen we took the cutoff to Tok (Glenn Highway Route 1).  Although the rain continued, we were treated to many variations of fall colors of the foliage and trees.  Fall has already arrived here in Alaska. 

Tree are turning a beautiful yellow
We finally arrived at Tok RV Village in the late afternoon.  Most of us had a “let’s eat out” (LEO) at Fast Eddy’s nearby – a brisk (it’s in the 40’s) and windy walk to the restaurant.

The group enjoying Fast Eddy'ss Food
Another part of the group getting ready to order at Fast Eddy's 

One of many dishes served at Fast Eddy's
Afterwards we were entertained by a local singer (good voice!) who sang many songs from, e.g., Johnny Cash, Elvis, Kris Kristofferson. Despite the cold, many enjoyed their double
scoop ice cream cones.

Submitted by Rig # 13

Jim & Linda


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day 48: Valdez, Alaska

Today we went on an historical bus tour of Valdez, Alaska.  Our bus driver has lived in Alaska for 25 years.  He gave us lots of facts about Valdez.  Valdez has one of the largest snowfalls in the world.  Last year they had in excess of 400 inches of snow. 

"Trail of the Whispering Giant" a momument to honor the Amerian Indians
in Valdez Alaska
 He also told us about the Good Friday Earthquake which hit on March 27, 1964.  It registered 9.2 on the Richter scale.  It was the most intense earthquake in North America.  It was felt statewide. Across south-central Alaska it collapsing structures, and caused tsunamis. Results from the earthquake caused about 143 deaths. Lasting nearly four minutes, it was the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. and North American history. The earthquake began at 5:36 P M. The epicenter of this awesome quake was a mere 45 miles west of Valdez and 14 miles under the earth's crust. Initial shocks lasting over five minutes affected nearly all of the coastal communities of Alaska.
Location of Orginal town of Valdez, Alaska
It produced a Tsunami that went all the way to Australia and down to Long Beach, Ca. where it took 13 lives.
He took us by the Old Post Office site that had stood for only 2 years in the town of Valdez.  There was also a sign depicting the names of the lives lost in this earthquake.  In excess of 62 people were killed 19 of them children, and also leaving 40 children orphaned.

Memorial for Valdez Post Office

Right after the quake an Air National Guard plane took off and crashed killing 4 more people and leaving 12 more children orphaned.

After our tour of the town, he took us for a ride to the fishery.  Lots of dead fish and seagulls.  One of the seagulls took its aim at Jesse. 

Jesse after the bird left his mark

 On our way back we were lucky enough to see a few bears.

Bear looking for Salmon
Bear eating Salmon

Tonight was our potluck with a Mexican Theme.  Margaritas were provided by the staff (yummy).  There was quite an assortment of food, everything delicious.  It is surprising that when we have these everyone brings something different. 

Mexican Potluck

Submitted by Rig #11

Rita & Jesse