Posts Tagged With: vacation

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

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

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

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