Posts Tagged With: travel

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

Bearville aka Stewart-Hyder

If you ever watched “Northern Exposure” on the television, you will have a good idea what Stewart, BC (poputation: 699) and Hyder, AK (population: 100) are like. Located at the head of the Portland Canal on the Alaska-British Columbia border, this twin town offers views of Bear Glacier, Salmon Glacier and the best bear viewing ever at the Fish Creek Wildlife viewing area operated by the U.S. Forest Service . We were able to get a fantastic view of Bear Glacier along Highway 37A; however, due to the dense cloud cover we were not able to see Salmon Glacier from its summit- which, along with the warm welcome by the residents of both towns, gives us added incentive to return!Camp Run-A Muck RV Park was the Silver Manatee’s base camp while staying in Stewart-Hyder and was located only 3 miles from the Wildlife Viewing Area.  Each morning we would get up at 5 a.m. so we would be there for the 6 a.m. opening of the viewing platform.  Along with about 20 other inveterate animal lovers, we stood single file on the platform patiently waiting for the bears.  We were not disappointed.  There in the early morning mist, the Grizzly bears would take their turns feasting on the salmon. One morning we were even treated to viewing two wolves taking their turn fishing.  And, as if to say farewell, a wonderful black bear was on the side of Highway 37-A as we were leaving Stewart-Hyder for Jasper & Banff.

Categories: Airstream, Alaska, British Columbia, travel in the Northwest, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anchorage, AK: Alaska Native Art

The Alaska Native Medical Center’s Auxiliary Heritage Collection is the story of life.  This permanent art collection housed in Anchorage conveys the cultural and artistic diversity of the Alaska Natives. It is a stunning model of joining art and architecture to create a place of healing. To borrow from the Center’s Craft Shop brochure, “This is a collection of Native art that grew from the heart.  From the hearts of the artists who produced it and those of the people who recognized the importance of preserving it.”

Because there is such a wide range of mediums and subjects in the Heritage Collection, we thought a slide show of some of the works would best serve to impart an understanding of the quality and variety of Alaska Native art and craft. We are grateful to the artists and to the volunteers for not only sharing their story of life in Alaska but also for touching our hearts.

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Categories: Alaska, art, Uncategorized, wildlife | 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

Oh, Canada

“Beautiful British Columbia”

We crossed the border into British Columbia at Sumas, Washington.  Having heard many stories that it could take up to an hour to get through Customs, we were pleasantly surprised that we went through in 15 minutes!  (Note all the cameras in the photo of the US Customs.)

Waiting to sing “Oh, Canada”

Cameras Everywhere

Silver Manatee Waiting in Line

Emory Provincial Park was our first stop and turned out to be our favorite Provincial Park on this leg of our journey. The park was just so welcoming with its lush vegetation and meandering location on the Fraser River.  It was also the beginning of what is known as the Gold Rush Trail in Canada and the site of a major Chinese community during the building of the railroad through British Columbia.

Entrance: Emory Creek Provincial Park BC

Heading north from Emory Provincial Park on Highways 97  & 29 towards the Alaskan Highway,  proved to be a feast for our eyes as the road traversed through some bustling towns, mountains, farmlands and lakes as well as rivers around every bend.  A major attraction was Hells Gate, an abrupt narrowing of  the Fraser River, located immediately downstream from the southern Fraser Canyon. The towering rock walls of the Fraser River plunge toward each other forcing the waters through a passage only 115 ft. wide.  One of the last rivers we crossed before reaching Fort St. John and the Alaskan Highway was the Peace River!

Peace River Valley, BC

Once again, we were amazed by the generosity of the people we have been meeting on our trip.  On one stop near Williams Lake, a fellow RV’er from an island off of Vancouver, BC, knocked on our door and his opening words were, “Welcome to Canada! He presented us with a plate of smoked salmon, lemon slices, cream cheese and crackers!  It was salmon that he had just caught and smoked on his fishing trip further up in Northern BC.

Northern British Columbia & The Yukon: Larger than Life!

Welcome to the Yukon!

Once we began traveling on the Alaskan Highway, an engineering feat of World War II, this sign was our constant companion!

Beware: Rocky Road Ahead!

The closer we got to Alaska, the rougher the road and small red flags were also added as a caution to stay alert. The towns with services, supplies and gas stations became further apart, but the wildlife began appearing along the roadside.  We also became aware of a special type of graffiti- rock art.  Travelers stop along the highway and leave messages created out of river rock!  We could not resist and left a message of our own.

Yukon Graffiti

The 250 miles from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson were mostly moderate in grade and passed through the heart of oil country. The road climbed to the community of Pink Mountain, the highest point on this stretch and then descended to the lowest point- Ft. Nelson, one of the historic Hudson Bay Trading Posts.

Pink Mountain Road House

The next stretch to the Alaskan border traveled through river valleys and low mountain passes and was the most scenic part of the highway with Summit Lake, the highest point and Muncho Lake, the most beautiful with its blue green waters.  Along this portion of the Alcan we saw Black bears, Stone sheep, moose, bison, deer, cariboo and Trumpeter swans. And, not to be overlooked, are the chain saw carvings in Chetwynd and the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake started in 1942 by a homesick GI while working on the Alaskan Highway.

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Categories: Airstream, British Columbia, travel in the Northwest, Uncategorized, wildlife, Yukon | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Westward Ho!

Marine Mobile Coffee Shop

With a commitment to ourselves to return to Ketchum & Sun Valley, Idaho, we broke camp and set our sights on Farewell Bend State Park, Oregon.  Leaving Ketchum, we traveled westward through a National Forest until just outside Idaho’s capitol, Boise.  Taking a rest stop, we encountered a local Marine organization that offered free refreshments as a fundraiser for returning Marines.  As it turned out, it was a man and wife manning the mobile coffee shop- he was a retired Marine and she had retired from the Navy.  Drinking our tea and chatting with them just underscored to us how rewarding our journey has been with our encounters with fellow Americans across the country. From the beginning with the volunteers at the Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL,  the Go Texans raising money for education, the many volunteers at the state and national parks to this down to earth couple in Idaho, we have repeatedly met people engaged in making a difference.

Saying our good-byes and taking their good wishes with us, we continued on to Farewell Bend State Park.  Upon our arrival at the Park, we found that we had arrived at the very spot the pioneers heading to the West would turn their wagons from traveling along the banks of the Snake River to cross the plain to the Columbia River following the Oregon Trail.  Greeting us at the park’s entrance were replica conestoga wagons and a plaque commemorating those early pioneers.

Farewell Bend State Park

When we finished backing into our site, we heard, “Good job!” shouted out.  John acknowledged the fellow camper’s comment and after they were settled into their site, walked over to say hello.  It turned out that our neighbors were at the Park for a carp fishing tournament; only, instead of using the traditional fishing poles and tackle, they were using bow and arrows!  Also, all the fish from the three day tournament was collected and picked up by a local plant which would then turn it into material for dog and cat food- a creative way to deal with a man made problem of introducing non-native fish.

Hand Made Tear Drop Camper

As we took a bike ride around the park, the other contestants in the tournament displayed their creativity with the variety of campers- one in particular caught our eye.  It was entirely made by hand out of wood.

Maryhill Museum of Art

Pulling out of Farewell Bend put us on the road to the Columbia River Gorge.  First, however, we were to experience the arid part of Oregon.  Sagebrush and miles and miles of dry land.  We elected to stay the night on the eastern edge of the Gorge in Maryhill, Washington at the state park there.  Shortly after we got the Silver Manatee settled for the night, a steady drizzle started and it rained on and off  not only during our stay in Maryhill but during our travels along the Gorge to Vancouver, WA and on to Tacoma, Wa.  Serendipity played a role in our decision to stay at Maryhill State Park as it turned out that there was an Art Museum 3 miles from the park!  The Maryhill Museum of Art was like a fairytale come to life with its location in a chateau on the Columbia River Gorge. We spent several hours that morning exploring Maryhill Museum’s world-class collection of art ranging from early 20th century European works to an extensive Native American collection. This has to be one of the most fascinating cultural destinations in the Northwest.

As we left the extraordinary Museum behind us, we followed the Scenic route on the Washington side along the Columbia River Gorge all the way to Vancouver, WA to visit our nephew Kevin and his family. Although the pace was slower than if we had traveled on the interstate, it was well worth the extra time.  The Gorge was shrouded with mist from the rain and around every bend another amazing mysterious vista came into view.   Far below, we could see barges and fishermen traveling the waters of the Columbia.  The lushness of the landscape lived up to all we have ever heard or seen in pictures.

Columbia River Gorge

Categories: Airstream, travel in the Northwest | Tags: , , , , | 3 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

A View of Colorado from 10,910’

Saying good-bye to the Hill Country in Texas, we set our sights for Durango, Colorado.  Along the way we visited Fort Stockton, TX (depicted in the header of this blog), Roswell, New Mexico of UFO fame and Albuquerque, New Mexico, home of the famous Hot Air Balloon Festival.  Ft. Stockton was our first experience with a rugged, desert town. From our location at the Hill Top RV Park, we were able to see an awesome view and desert sunset. Roswell was a charming small town celebrating the Cinco de Mayo along with the Kentucky Derby and  very proud of its UFO notoriety. In fact, as we were following our GPS, we became ensconced in a traffic jam due to roads being closed for the Cinco de Mayo festival- John with help from some locals had to move barricades in order to get the Silver Manatee to our home for the night!  Later, relaxing at the restuarant  at the Roswell Elks Lodge, we were informed that a former Kentucky Derby winner was from Roswell, No Bird of Mine and that a local jockey was riding one of the contenders!  So, needless to say, we had a great time watching the Derby. We found Albuquerque to be a vibrant city as we did some of our necessary shopping and treated ourselves to dinner at  Pappadeux’s restaurant that had been suggested by Mike Treworgy.  The crawfish bisque was just as delicious as Mike described, the ambience was casually elegant and we left feeling very pampered.    On another journey to the West, we hope to return to Albuquerque inorder to experience the Hot Air Balloon festival which takes place in the Fall.

Arriving in Durango, Colorado was breathtaking with its majestic Purgatory Mountain.

The historic town of Durango , perched at 6512′ above sea level, was founded back in 1880 with the development of the narrow gauge railroad to Silverton.  Consequently, Durango became the hub of the mining towns in the San Juan Mountains.  To this day, the railroad plays an important role in Durango. One day during our stay, we drove over the 10,910′ pass to Silverton only to see snow still on the ground and warnings of snow that very afternoon. Being flatlanders, we explored Silverton, had a wonderful lunch at a former  turn of the century saloon and made sure to head back to Durango before the snow fall!   On another day, we decided to take a hike that had been described as “Easy” from the downtown area inorder to see a vista of the town with the mountains; however, once we were at the trailhead we only saw this rocky incline ahead of us.  So, we proceeded to hike thinking it was going to level out- wrong.  The trail only continued to climb and after going about 2 miles up and finally coming to a trail map, we decided this was definitely not the “Easy” trail and hiked back down the mountain.  Once arriving at the base,we saw the other trail to our right and there was not a rock to be seen on that path!  The third highlight of Durango for us was our meeting of the photographer and author of the book Colorado’s Wild Horses, Claude Steelman.  Mr. Steelman was a delightful, humble man who shared many interesting insights about the wild horses with us. We found Durango to be a fascinating combination of outdoor recreation with its many hiking and biking trails and culture with its public art collection, numerous galleries and Ft. Lewis College.  With its southwest location in Colorado near the four corners area, Durango is a true destination.

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

Baton Rouge, LA

  Baton Rouge was a touch and go; we visited the LSU campus which was quite attractive with its large trees and Creole inspired architecture. Elaborate construction was underway not only on the Tiger Stadium but throughout the campus. A benefit run was in progress which added to the lively atmosphere along with a cool slogan posted around the campus, “Love Purple, Live Gold.”  Sorry to report, we had no sightings of Les Miles. The Lakeside RV Resort just east of Baton Rouge was a terrific overnight spot to prepare our Airstream Safari for its next adventure.

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