Posts Tagged With: camping

Oh, Canada: Part Two

The long, light-filled days of early August found us heading south toward the Lower 48 from Alaska.  Our southward journey would take us through the Yukon, British Columbia and Alberta.

Canadian Border heading south from Alaska

Our plan this time was to follow the Alaskan Highway through Whitehorse, take the Cassiar Highway (in lieu of the entire Alaskan Highway) stopping at a Provincial Park to kayak on our way to Stewart/Hyder and then head east stopping in Smithers continuing on to Alberta to visit Jasper and Banff National Parks.  As we had not completed the Canadian portion of our return trip, we posted earlier about Stewart/Hyder as that is a category all by itself!

The Yukon- with its pristine wilderness and nameless mountains.

Prior to arriving at Whitehorse, the Alaskan Highway took us through Haines Junction, an important stop for travelers for its many services (read fuel!). Haines Junction was established as a mountain village in 1942 as an Army barracks for the U. S. Corps of Engineers while building the Alaskan Highway.  Our Lady of the Way Catholic Mission is a local landmark as it has the distinction of being the most photographed church in the Yukon.  Built in 1943 by Father E. Morriset, the first Catholic priest in the area, Father Morriset converted an old quanset hut remaining from the Army’s construction of the highway, into a uniquely beautiful place of worship.

Our Lady of the Way Catholic Mission

One hundred miles south of Haines Junction found us in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon with its vibrant culture filled history and traditional First Nation Cultural Centre.

Whitehorse Monument overlooking the city

First Nation Cultural Center, Whitehorse, YK

Artist in Residence creating a Totem Pole

John on the banks of the “Great River”, the Yukon

Whitehorse has the distinction of being our first “boondocking” at a Walmart!  There must have been at least 50 rv’s of every size and type the two days we were there. Here is the one that stood out to us as not only being the most unique but having traveled the furthest- it was shipped from Columbia, South America to Houston,TX by its owner and then driven to Whitehorse on their way to explore Canada and Alaska! Previously to this trip, the owner had explored Africa in her RV.

Fellow RV’er with her RV from Columbia, SA

Joy showing how BIG our neighbor’s RV was

Our next stop was Boya Provincial Park on the Cassiar Highway.  Joy got to celebrate her birthday with John kayaking on the stunning, blue lake.

Our View of Boya Lake

Boya Lake Provincial Park at Sunset

Joy enjoying Lake Boya

What a cool way to spend a birthday!

After several fun-filled days at Boya Provincial Park, we wandered to Stewart/Hyder for 3 days about which we have previously blogged. From “Bearville” we stopped over in the charming ski village of Smithers and then traveled on to Jasper and Banff National Parks. Jasper and Banff National Parks are spectacular for their scenery and animals.  Our brief visit only touched the surface.  These Parks are on our “must return” list.  Words cannot describe how exciting it was to be within feet of such wonderful wildlife.

John making friends with an Elk

A Magnificent Elk

Big Horn Sheep surveying his domain

Mountain Goat

Showdown at Jasper National Park: this round goes to the Big Horn Sheep

Big Horn Sheep

“Lake Louise, Banff National Park”

“Lake Louise, Banff National Park”

Celebrating a special Canadian Holiday!

 

 

Categories: Airstream, Alaska, bear viewing, British Columbia, National Park, wildlife, Yukon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bearfooting in Alaska

“Bearfooting” is an action word in Alaska that describes having a good time! We knew we were bearfooting when back at our campsite we were discussing the next day’s adventure and had to consult our phone to know what day it was.  Alaska is truly magical.

Bearfooting in Alaska!

Valdez

Crossing the border from Canada into East Alaska, we felt we had finally arrived when we hit Tok (rhymes with smoke), a town 92 miles from the border.  It is generally the first town and the last town travelers from the Lower 48 travel through on a land tour.  After a stop at the visitor center in Tok, we traveled southwest to Valdez.

Keystone Canyon-Valdez, AK

Valdez is nicknamed the “Little Switzerland” of Alaska due to its average annual snowfall of 25 ft. per winter!  On Thompson Pass, the route into Valdez, the average snowfall is over 50 ft. per year; which is why when you drive to Valdez in the middle of the summer you still see snowfields in the Chugach Mountains.

Chugach Mountains from Valdez, AK

Valdez is not only the snowiest area of the state, but also the most glaciated area of Alaska.  Heading towards the town from Thompson Pass through the Keystone Canyon, we stopped at the Worthington Glacier for a firsthand look at alpine Alaska as well as the two most notable waterfalls, The Bride’s Veil and the Horse’s Tail.  In all, the canyon is decorated with 20 waterfalls.

Worthington Glacier Valdez, AK

John at Horse Tail Falls, Valdez Ak

Each summer, Pink Salmon return to Solomon Gulch and you can see them splashing around the shoreline, especially along Allison Point, a great place to go salmon fishing.  John tried his hand at fishing off of the rocky point with many local anglers and hooked one, but the salmon won that day.

Allison Pt. Salmon Fishing

Gucci getting ready for fishing!

At the Solomon Gulch Hatchery, thousands of spawning Pink salmon swim into the hatchery ladders to ultimately enter the pools to hatch eggs.  Then, the young salmon, known as smelt, are released into the Sound to start the cycle all over again.

Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery

When the tide became too high to fish, we were treated to the sight of  eagles and sea lions fishing in the Sound.

Sea Lion Fishing at Allison Point

Exploring historic downtown Valdez uncovered two fascinating Natural History museums showcasing the history of the town, primarily its role during the Gold Rush, the Alaskan pipeline, the Valdez Oil Spill and the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. Over 30 townspeople lost their lives on the docks of the Small Boat Harbor  and the original town of Valdez was destroyed.  A “new” Valdez was built 4 miles away on firmer ground.

Historic Valdez, AK

Joy at the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum

Boat that survived the Good Friday Earthquake

Valdez is a friendly, relaxed fishing town with a beautiful harbor on Prince William Sound, ice blue glaciers, magnificent snow laden mountains, lush foliage and wonderful wildlife.

Small Boat Harbor, Valdez, AK

Valdez, AK

Palmer-Wasilla

Matanuska Valley

Leaving Valdez on the Richardson Highway enroute to the twin cities of Palmer and Wasilla, you pass through Glennallen, called “the Hub of Alaska”- where the Glenn and Richardson highways meet.  Not much more than a large gas station with a country store, the bustling atmosphere is “airport like” with the constant stream of RV’ers coming and going to refuel and to replenish their stores.

Long Lake Vista

As you drive the Glenn Highway, at the headwaters of the Matanuska River is the Matanuska Glacier; this glacier is prominently visible from the Glenn Highway as it is 4 miles wide at its terminus and extends for miles back into the Chugach Mountains.  Following the grand views of the Matanuska River and the mountains, you come upon a narrow lake called Long Lake, just east of Palmer and another popular boating and fishing spot.

Finger Lake: Palmer, AK

The Glenn Highway then leads through the town of Palmer, which was started in the 30’s as a farming project during the Great Depression.  Agriculture is the leading influence in Palmer and many of the early pioneer families still live in the area. We were fortunate to camp right beside Finger Lake and were able to watch the sea planes land and take off in true Alaskan style.

Wasilla City Hall

After touring Wasilla, we visited the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters in Wasilla; what a fascinating museum with its historical displays, videos and bronze tributes to the 1100 mile race.  Joy even let John talk her into going for a cart ride with an Iditarod musher and dog team!

Iditarod Trail Headquarters, Wasilla, AK

Iditarod Headquarters, Wasilla, AK

Sculpture Garden, Iditarod Headquarters

100 ft. from the Finish Line

The Next Generation

Categories: Airstream, Alaska, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Putting Our Dreams on the Road: Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument

 

 

 

When it was time to depart Yellowstone to put our dreams on the road again, the Silver Manatee headed for Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho.  After a stop ‘n go in Idaho Falls for a night, we traveled further west and about halfway to Ketchum we made two unique, brief stops- one was the site where the country’s nuclear reactors are made near Arco, ID and the other unusual stop was to view the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The Navy established the site where the nuclear reactors are created and is the largest plant making nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes in the world. The Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of volcanic rock and sagebrush. More eruptions are predicted to occur as the recurrence interval for eruptive activity in the Craters of the Moon Lava Field averages 2,000 years and it has been more than 2,000 years since the last eruption. Both sites seemed so other worldly and definitely gave us pause for thought.

We arrived in Ketchum with brilliant blue skies and the sun shining on majestic mountains with picturesque horse ranches at their base.  As picture postcard as Yellowstone was with its dusting of snow, the sunshine and the sapphire blue sky were welcome visitors to our journey. Located in central Idaho, Ketchum and the adjacent resort, Sun Valley, sit below Bald Mountain or “Baldy” as it is often referred.  Known as a world class ski resort in the winter, this area also offers fishing, hiking, biking, golf and tennis during the remaining seasons along with a summer concert series.  During our stay here we were able to take advantage of a short hiking trail right from downtown Ketchum which offered a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.  We meandered to Sun Valley and explored the Sun Valley Lodge and the adjoining multi-use complex.  The ice rink adjacent to the Lodge was being renovated for the upcoming summer Show on Ice season, but was still open for lessons and we had some enjoyable moments watching a young boy learning to skate.

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Between the lush, green mountainscape with its crisp, pine scented air and the wealth of outdoor & art related activities, Ketchum, Idaho is on our must return list!

Categories: Airstream, art, hiking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s First National Park: Yellowstone

View of Yellowstone Lake

Geysers, waterfalls and snow are the images embedded in our minds after our stay at Yellowstone National Park.  The day we drove from Grand Teton NP to Yellowstone was crisp and clear with a beautiful blue sky.  Upon entering Yellowstone, we began to see drifts of snow and we could not resist stopping and getting photographs.  It was truly a Merry May!

John at South Entrance to Yellowstone

Waterfall near the South Entrance to Yellowstone

Lake Lewis- still frozen!

Yellowstone Vista on way to Fishing Bridge

After registering at Fishing Bridge RV Park, we took a bike ride to explore the Fishing Bridge area.  The next morning, there was a light dusting of snow on the ground.  The weather cleared near noon so we set off for Old Faithful.

Old Faithful Geyser

Arriving at Old Faithful was truly exciting; within 5 minutes of our arrival Old Faithful erupted and with it brought back those long ago grade school memories of learning about Old Faithful from a textbook.  We then proceeded into the Old Faithful Inn to soak up its “parkitecture” as they call it.  After touring the Inn, we sat down in the Dining Room for a gourmet lunch in front of their huge hearth.  Following lunch, we made our way back to the viewing area to watch Old Faithful erupt for a second time.  Later, as we walked back to the parking lot, we discovered a bison directly in front of our truck!

Old Faithful Inn

That evening and the following five days, we experienced snow falling for the first time in a number of years.  Despite the snowy conditions, there was a period in each day that we were able to venture out to experience the wonders of this park.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Yellowstone River running through the Grand Canyon of YNP

Joy at Grand Canyon Overlook

John, Lower Falls of Grand Canyon YNP

Lower Falls

Hydrothermals at West Thumb, YNP

Upper Falls, Grand Canyon of YNP

Elk enjoying West Thumb

Iconic Yellow Schoolbus at the Lake Hotel

View of Yellowstone Lake

Categories: Airstream, National Park, Yellowstone National Park | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Antelope Island State Park, Syracuse, Utah

We discovered Antelope Island State Park quite by accident. Joy spontaneously picked up a free RV travel publication that happened to have an article describing the park. We decided the park was centrally located on our fall line from Durango to Yellowstone so we called and made reservations. The initial park alerts warned about this being the hatching season for fierce gnats immune to bug sprays and described the only remedy was to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants and hats with nets. The entry to this isolated island in the Great Salt Lake is a seven mile causeway. While coming across the causeway, there was a distinct odor coming from the marsh on each side. We both looked at each other and agreed this stop was going to be a boom or bust and that we may have to cancel our reservations for the following 3 days.

Antelope Island had been the working ranch of the Garr family at its inception in 1878 and remained a working ranch until it was turned over to the state of Utah in 1981. The island is approximately 14 miles long and 4 ½ miles wide. In this relatively small area, it is amazing how the terrain changes from flat plains to steep rocky hill tops. Today the park service offers only 26 primitive camp sites (no electricity or running water). The camp sites are excellent- each with paved pads and covered picnic tables with wonderful panoramic views. There are some paved roads on the island and an estimated 30 miles of hiking trails. Today Antelope Island is the home of 500-700 buffalo, an untold number of birds, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope along with all sorts of other wildlife.

We are pleased to report we did not experience the gnats we were warned about and the marsh odor ended as soon as we got off the causeway. While here, we have had 3 Buffalo, we nicknamed “Los Tres Amigos”, visit our campsite each day.  Yesterday (while in the truck) we stopped to watch a herd of about 150 buffalo heading toward us. Within a few minutes, we found ourselves in the middle of the herd as they crossed the road to reach the grasslands on the other side. The animals kept within 10—15 feet of the truck.  This stop on the way to Alaska has turned out to be nothing short of amazing.

Categories: Airstream, Southwest travel in an RV, State Park | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Pensacola, FL

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Following Gary Wilkins’ suggestion, we packed up the Silver Manatee in Tally and headed to Pensacola on April 23rd (aka John’s Birthday) and traveled to the Blue Lagoon State Park.  One of the high points of this stop was the National Naval Air Museum located on the Naval Air Station (NAS) which is also the home base for the Blue Angels.  The Naval Air Museum is a state of the art museum which houses 150+ vintage military airplanes and special walk through exhibits primarily run by volunteers.  Fortunately for us, the Blue Angels were in town and early one morning, we were able to watch their practice with a small hometown crowd right beside the runway for a very special experience. Also located on the NAS, was the historic Pensacola Lighthouse built in 1859 on the Pensacola Bay. We took a car tour through the Seville Square Historic district filled with charming shops, galleries & cafes.  On our next visit, we will definitely plan to take a walking tour of the historic downtown topped off with a dinner at McGuire’s, but we had another “not to miss” rec by Gary to see- Ft. Pickens, a pre-Civil War brick fort, used by the Army until 1947.  Ironically, the Fort was built by slave labor from 1829-1834 to fight off foreign entities to protect Pensacola Bay and the Navy yard, but the only shots ever fired from the Fort were during the Civil War.  The Fort was utilized by the government to detain military prisoners and housed Geronimo and a small group of Apaches in Ft. Pickens as prisoners for one year prior to their transportation to Fort Sill, OK where Geronimo subsequently passed away.  The approach to Ft. Pickens from downtown is a scenic drive through the Gulf Islands National Seashore with pristine sand dunes, sea oats and white sugar sand on both sides. Pensacola truly gave us a hands on history lesson and a chance to see the awesome beauty of Florida & the Gulf Islands.

Categories: Florida travel, State Park | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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