Wednesday, June 3, 2009
We left the Watson Lake campground at 10:20 am PT and stopped downtown to take pictures of the Signpost Forest, 60,000 signposts from all over the world. It was amazing. We stopped for lunch at the Continental Divide Lodge where we had a chicken sandwich and bean soup. It was a very boring drive from Watson Lake to Whitehorse. Not much in the way of scenery and saw only one black bear. We arrived at Whitehorse at 4:30 pm PT and checked into the Hi Country RV Campground. Our mileage was 24,588.7. We met a nice couple from Georgia (Hank and Winkie) and another from Florida and spent the evening talking about our trip plans. The mosquitoes were terrible. We had insect repellent on and the pests didn’t care, they bit us anyway.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
This was a rest day. We finally got to Whitehorse yesterday and right away met two really nice couples, Hank and Winkie from Valdosta, Georgia and Larry and Carol from Florida. We really like this park, it has good wi-fi and TV cable and TREES, unlike some of the CGs in the Yukon that are sitting on a gravel lot. Today, we did laundry, visited the local community fair (every Thursday they sell their wares, pottery, jewelry, homemade bread and jellies, that sort of stuff). We got groceries, went to the Visitor's Center, and went to large local market, named Super Store, which turned out to be a mini-Costco. The highlight of the trip so far was today, visiting the Whitehorse dam and the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Ladder. It is run by the Yukon Energy Corp and built for the salmon, actually detouring the salmon that come back to spawn from getting killed in the dam. We got a great deal of information about when and where the salmon spawn. The end of the run is about 30 miles upstream from Whitehorse. The salmon come back from the Berring Sea, where they grow for 5-6 years, swim 1,800 miles back to spawn within one meter of where they were born. Kinda unbelievable. We saw salmon that were about one year old. They were the same size and looked a lot like a minnow. I never thought I would care that much, but it was so interesting. This is the longest Chinook Salmon run in the world. We sat around with Hank and Winkie during the evening discussing our Alaska plans.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Left Hi Country RV Park in Whitehorse at 9:50 am YT. Traveling with Hank and Winkie, we stopped at the Kluane National Park Visitors Center and saw Dall Sheep on the steep slopes through telescopes and binoculars. Dall sheep and Stone sheep are smaller and considered thin-horned as opposed to Big Horn sheep. The First Nation (Indian) ranger gave us a lesson on First Nation jewelry. The real trade beads are over 100 years old and beautiful. From Haines Junction to mm 1085, the road was not good. We stopped to camp at the Lake Creek (gov’t) campground at 5:00 pm YT. No services. Ed and Hank put on their waders and fished, caught nothing but had a blast. We were worn out and in bed by 10:00 pm YT. By the way, the further north we travel, the less dark we have. It was still sunny at 10:00. Our mileage was 24,833.7.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Left the Lake Creek Campground around 8:00 am YT. To date we have driven 4,376 miles. The road was bad from this campground to the AK border. There were parts of the highway where we could only drive 10-12 mph. We crossed over the AK border at 9:30 am AK (we gained one hour). The border crossing was a piece of cake. The rangers are so nice, asked a few questions, and bingo, we were back in the good ol' US of A. Woohoo!! We stopped at the Tetlin Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. After we got closer to Tok (but still in the middle of nowhere at mm 1300) we got cell service after one week of having none. Woohoo, again!! In Tok, we stopped at Fast Eddies for lunch, sandwiches, with Hank and Winkie. They then took the low road to Valdez and we went north toward Fairbanks. The roads were great after we crossed the border all the way to Fairbanks. We saw a moose with two calves at mm 1367 and got some pictures. We got on Hwy 2 at Delta Junction and stopped at Rika’s Roadhouse (mm 275), built in 1910 for wagon and barge travel. It sits on the Tanana River and is a museum of sorts. Lots of old farm equipment, traps, old outboard motors, etc. We were very excited to get our first glimpse of the AK pipeline here. At this location the pipe looks to be about 4 feet in diameter. We continued up Hwy 2 and arrived in Fairbanks at the River’s Edge Campground with full hook-ups (incl. TV and wi-fi) at 6:30 pm AT. It sits on the Chena River, which is good for fishing, as well as boating and swimming. Arriving, our mileage was 25,202.4. Long day!
Sunday, June 7, 2009
We cleaned the LD up a bit in the morning then took the 2:00 pm Discovery Riverboat tour. We met the tour bus at 1:00 along with several other couples from the campground and lodge. The riverboat offered several demonstrations along the bank as we boated down the Chena River. We saw a float plane take off and land within feet of the riverboat. The captain stopped the riverboat at the Susan Butcher Dog Kennels (she won the Iditarod 4 times with her dog Granite; sadly, in 2006 she lost her life to leukemia at the age of 52) and saw how they train the dogs for a race in the summer, by pulling a four wheeler around instead of a sled. The dogs are beautiful and get so excited; once they are in place they just want to RUN. Just down the river, an Eskimo gave a demonstration of how her people had smoked salmon for centuries. What made these demonstrations so nice was that the people on the banks had microphones which came through on the riverboat’s audio system so there was dialog between the captain and the Eskimos giving these talks. We were able to get off the boat at an authentic looking Indian village with numerous demonstrations of the life and culture of the Eskimos centuries ago, i.e., how animals were trapped and how their fur and meat was used for clothing, housing, and food. There was a caribou exhibit. Do you know the difference in a caribou and a reindeer? Reindeers can fly! The experience was interesting. People from the banks that gave the earlier demonstrations were also at the village to answer any questions. Susan Butcher’s daughter was there to sign her mom’s book appropriately named “Granite”. After a leisurely float trip back we departed the boat, walked through the gift shop, and boarded the bus. We were back around 5:00 pm. We walked over to the campground-owned Chena’s Alaskan Grill for dinner. Nice restaurant but a little pricey. We had a glass of wine and light fare and then back home to our cozy rig to watch a little TV before turning in. What a great day! We may stay here another day, update our journal, talk to the kids while we still have cell service, and leave for Denali on Tuesday. What a great, once in a lifetime experience we are having!!