Day 59 of our Alaska Adventure

Day 59 of our Alaska Caravan has arrived. It seems like just few weeks ago that we met and started to get to know each other, and now it’s already time to say “so-long for now”. Nearly two months have rushed by and we are still really getting acquainted and having a great time learning, sharing and playing together.

Good fortune has brought us sunshine, setting records in Alaska. The scenery has enriched our days with unsurpassed beauty. We have driven awe-inspiring roads through lush country of a scale that few of us have seen before. We have touched many facets of the North Country from mountains to the sea.

We head back to our homes with new experiences. We navigated the “Top of the World” highway unscathed (except for a few extra pounds of dirt). We are now quite skilled at spotting frost heaves. We have found ways to maneuver into the tightest of rustic campgrounds. We have seen more wildlife than many will see in a lifetime.

We have learned lots about the different cultures throughout Canada and Alaska, and a bit about each other’s as well.

Our route has brought us closer to understanding the history of the region and what brought so many to seek their fortune, and why so many were willing to risk their lives to do so. We’ve shared the adventure of a journey most will never take.

At our Farewell Dinner everyone shared some thoughts about their experience. One was inspired to write the following:

A Toast to Our Adventure Caravans Alaska 2013 Trip

Here’s to the land of the midnight sun,

A land of adventure for everyone,

Where salmon swim in waters cold,

Where miners search for hidden gold,

Where moose and bear and caribou roam,

Where whales swim in the ocean foam,

Where snowcapped mountains stretch so high,

Where eagle’s wings slice through the sky,

Where rivers of ice flow slowly down,

Where fireweed prepares its winter crown.

Our time together is nearly past,

Friendships and memories are all that last,

We traveled through summer and into fall,

A safe trip onward for one and all.

Lee Herlocker

We hope you have enjoyed your tour as much as we have. We have enjoyed our time with each and every one of you. We thank you all for your support and assistance along the way. As we have said many times, for us, it is the people who make the trip. Have safe travels, and we hope to see you again. Please keep in touch, and treasure the memories you have all taken part in making.

Submitted by Ken & Carole

Wagonmasters

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Day 58 – En Route to Prince George, B.C.

A Most Excellent Adventure!

Travel Day 58-Prince George, BC

If you had asked me 60 days ago about going on this caravan, I would be hesitant with my answer. Why? Who would think traveling for 59 days with complete strangers would be a good idea? Ask me today? Well, see the above title of this post.

It has been a great time! I have laughed and laughed, even laughed so hard, I almost had tears running down my leg. 😉 From Pookie, to Tomás knowing about Shawn’s flatware fetish (who knew you could stuff so many place settings in such a little bag) to Two-Timing Dave (Oh, Dave!?!). The jokes are flying all the time with this group!

Thank you, Ken and Carole, for leading the group and for at least attempting to get me fed. 😉 I will say, though, if we have to limit Ed to two questions, then Ken needs a timer! J Focus, Ken, focus, focus…

Huge thanks to Bill and Carol for keeping everyone on the road! Bill (aka Thumper), your knowledge seems boundless and was very much appreciated. We hope you find that tailgate before your next adventure. Carol, thank you so much for patiently giving me a crochet lesson. I’ll send you a picture if and when the blanket is finished. 😉 We wish you both the best of luck on your first time as Wagon Masters! You’ll be awesome, and I hope your group is as much fun as this one has been.

The vistas, the wildlife, and the weather during the trip couldn’t have been better. Well, there is still the elusive wolf and the invisible lynx. The bus rides were good though some were so long I should have brought a pillow. Boats and ferries were excellent. And we even rode a freakin’ float plane!!!

The drive from Smithers (such a fun lady in charge of parking, eh?) didn’t seem to start out very well for Jackie and Ernie. Though it seemed Lady Luck was not on their side, things did improve. How fortunate, once again Bill & Carol came to the rescue. Finding parts and getting Rig #12 road worthy once again. For the rest of us, I think it went rather well, aside from that long stretch of gravel road. I blame Rusty since he washed his rig yet again! 😉

Arriving at the park, Randie found himself challenged by the electricity, but Dennis saved the day with Gorilla Tape and a Steeeck!

Tonight’s Farwell Dinner Celebration was wonderful. The buffet was awesome! The plates were piled high with all sorts of meats! I was able to order the Greek Shrimp with rice and potatoes and a Greek salad (the dressing was excellent). Very, very good meal!

So I started writing this post a few days ago, long before there was mention of talking about memorable and funny things that happened over the past 58 days. Loved hearing everyone’s stories and reminisces. The kicker, however, was Lee’s poem!!! Well done, Lee, well done.

Thanks again to Ken and Carole & Bill and Carol for the lovely gift bags. I especially love having my very own Buddy Bear!! What nice surprise the framed picture was and will happily hang the ornament every year.

Some pictures of the evening:

Y’all are welcome to visit any time you find yourselves on I-10. We are just north of Schulenburg, TX off State Hwy 71, that’s roughly halfway between Houston and San Antonio. So give us a shout if you’re in the area. We already are making plans for a visit with Dennis and Eddie in March!

Safe travels to everyone and thank you for making this trip a wonderful experience. We may see each other down the road…”It could happen”…cue the accordion…eh!

Submitted by Richard & Susan, Rig #19

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Day 57 – En Route to Smithers, B.C.

Leaving Stewart/Hyder, we crossed the bridge that was wiped out two years ago which left one of our caravans stranded in Stewart for an extra week. The bridge that got washed out was only a few years old, so it seems to be a common thing.

The waters flowing down from the glaciers are phenomenal. We noticed the new bridge was being built at a higher level, so maybe it won’t get washed out. We certainly hope for future caravan’s sake.

As we came around to Bear Glacier, I was able to get a photo of the pile of snow left at the bottom near the river.

One last look at Bear Glacier as we headed south.

Stopping for a night in Smithers, B.C., we continued on to the next and “final” stop – our destination – Prince George, B.C.

Submitted by Jon and Teri, Rig #18

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Day 56 – Steward, B.C./Hyder, AK

Free day in Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK.

A free day to enjoy more bear viewing, exploring Hyder and Salmon Glacier, and getting “Hyderized.”

Fish Creek bear viewing platform in Tongass National Forest. The boardwalk passes several hundred yards along s salmon-filled stream. What more could a bear wish for?

check out the claws on this grizzly!

A quirky little village of less than 100 residents; accessible only via road from Stewart, BC

The highest ZIP Code number we’ve ever seen.

Q: Is there a 9999 ZIP code

A: No

“Wes”, the friendly and interesting owner of the General Store provided many entertaining tales of life in this remote part of the US.

Curious and hungry bears were climbing up to reach Wes’ BBQ, so he devised and constructed this anti-bear-climbing attachment. It works to perfection, especially now that Wes only BBQs in the winter. J

Typical Hyder, AK construction, including obligatory animal antlers.

This store only had one set of antlers, which may be the reason they are no longer in business.

Or, perhaps they ran out of “exotic junk.”

The world famous Glacier Inn

the bar and restaurant were plastered with paper currency – signed and dated. So much so the establishment offered several 4×8 sheets of plywood to keep the tradition going.

Okay – so this obviously involved alcohol. It is not as bad as it looks, BUT you have to pay strict attention and fulfill the requirements – or redo.

Definitely a community of individualism…

and eccentricity

The beautiful Salmon Glacier, a mere 20 miles above Hyder via unpaved gravel road, is not to be missed.

Although today’s weather was uncooperative with mist, fog, and rain, a few hearty souls undertook the journey.

Many, many thanks to Richard and Susan for their contribution to this segment.

Very cool glacial ice (pun intended).

We bid a fond farewell to Hyder; what a fun out-of-the-way place!

Submitted by Rusty & Charito, Rig #17

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DAY 55 – EN ROUTE TO STEWART/HYDER

We left Dease Lake, BC, in a fairly orderly manner. Not sure what everyone’s big hurry was but understand it was for breakfast down the road…Hmmm. Some of us hung around awhile, tho’!

Mike & Jon had their priorities right!

Our first wildlife sighting was right out of the park!

This was a VERY camera shy moose. Sorry, you missed her!

Can’t forget all the lovely road warning signs!! Our favorite is ‘rough road’! Like that was a surprise!!

However these sights make one forget the bad roads….(Mount Edziza, 9,143’)

This is Tatogga Lake.

And pretty soon it’s lunchtime!! We were never ones to forget that! Besides, it was another chance for a gab session at Bell II Crossing Ltd.

This is called Glacier Highway for a reason. And look at the one on the right! Looks like a chunk fell off.

Bear Glacier and the water is really gushing into the Bear River.

We pulled into Stewart, BC, late this afternoon. Once we had our usual briefing, everyone took off in all directions to get something to eat before going to watch the bears just outside Hyder, AK.

When we first got to the platform, Arjun & Neela said they had just photographed a brown bear so we thought we were out of luck. Decided to hang out with about 100 of our closest friends for awhile hoping to see one of our fuzzy friends. Sure enough, Carole spotted one coming up the stream and I was able to get a video and a couple shots. Made my day! We were told by Rusty & Charito as well as Earl & Paula that there was a big black bear on the road this afternoon. He was long gone by the time we got there, tho’.

I’m told this was a grizzly we saw and he was not interested in giving me his best side!!

Since this is our last blog of our Alaskan Adventure, Rod & I both want to say this has been an epic journey! We have had some awesome travel pals! We could give a seminar on ‘ride sucking 101’ as we have never been left stranded.

Our wagonmasters, Ken & Carole; and our tailgunners, Bill & Carol, are to be commended for the great job they have done in dealing with all the challenges and in showing us the best Canada & Alaska has to offer!

God Bless!

Submitted By The real Rod & Rose, Rig #16

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Day 54 – En Route to Dease Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Forward Ho ! ! ! ! ……..

Cassiar Highway 37, frost heave haven ….

An early rise and some preparatory work on everyone’s part prior to hitting the road involved some psyching…

Travel instructions from our Wagonmaster….. Ken

Robin and Ralph, (Rig #14), ensuring that they have a ‘clear’ field of vision while traveling..

Trevor walking Eddie, (Rig #6), prior to hitting the road……

Molly, (Rig #15), are we there yet ???

Rawhide !

Paula and Earl, (Rig #20), first out to Parts Store to get replacement taillight bulb…

The scenery improved with every grueling mile endured on the Cassiar Highway from Northern Beaver Post, Yukon Territory, to Dease Lake, British Columbia. The frost heaves were many, making it a SLOW, ROUGH drive. Below are a few pics…

Interesting road signs along the way…

In 2010, there was a major forest fire caused by lightning. Several thousand acres were destroyed resulting in closing of the Cassiar Highway for several days.

En route, we all stopped off at the Jade Cassiar Mountain Store to do a little shopping. Jade boulders cut here are from the Princess Jade Mine, one of the largest jade claims in the world.

Jade Chess Set inside store…..

Some scenery along the way…..

Nice cabin on Dease Lake……

Upon arrival at Dease Lake, everyone was headed to the one fuel stop in town getting ready for the next haul:

After further travel, we arrived at our campground, the Dease Lake RV Park in Dease Lake, BC, and settled in.

At 4:30 p.m., we had a travel briefing for tomorrow followed by Social and White Elephant gift exchange at 7 p.m. A few pics from the event follow:

See what I got !!

Immediately followed by the Social with S’mores and Doughboys….

Upon conclusion, we were greeted with a nice Rainbow

Submitted by Phil and Diane, Rig #15

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Day 53 – En Route to Northern Beaver Post

Today is a bittersweet day, We have spent our last night in Alaska. Our adventure is coming to an end shortly. We have had a wonderful time, seen amazing things and met some terrific people. It has been a trip of a lifetime.

Today we departed Skagway and traveled to North Beaver Post, Yukon Territory’s It is a long run today, 308 miles, crossing the border from the United States to British Columbia and then to Yukon Territory. Our stay in Skagway has been interesting, historic and scenic.

Todays’ drive started with the long climb out of Skagway up to the White Pass Summit at 3,392 feet. The scenery was spectacular.

At Canadian Customs we passed the White Pass Railroad .

After clearing Customs, we ran along the Tagish Lake.

After turning unto the Alaska Highway we took a stop at the Tlingit Heritage Center. The exhibits displayed the Tlingit’s clothing, tools, dugout canoes and other native artifacts. The center is attempting to teach and preserve their culture.

Back on the road we traversed the Nisultin Bay Bridge. (elev. 1917 ft. ) which is the largest water span on the Alaska Highway.

After crossing the Continental Divide we arrived at the Rancheria Falls. We had previously stopped here but it still was a pretty site. I have used my previous pictures.

Back on the road, we then crossed over the Big Creek Bridge and shortly thereafter arrived at the Baby Nugget RV Park in Northern Beaver Post, Yukon Territory.

One of the highlights of today’s trip was the availability of the Yukon Amateur Radio Association’s Ham Radio Repeaters. They have kindly informed and provided us the use of their linked Yukon wide system that has made communications between the 6 Ham Radio operators on the trip continuous and easy. I was talking to Ham operators in Whitehorse almost the entire trip from Skagway to Teslin. ( about 126 miles). As a newly licensed Ham Radio Operator, I was very thankful for their assistance. Also Rusty ( Rig # 17) is a long time Ham and has provided lots of support and assistance to us. Thanks Rusty.

After the travel meeting tonight we had a social hour and played games. Sandi (Rig # 21) won a hard fought battle of Tripoly against Robin & Ralph (rig # 14) John, Carol ( Rig #1) and Jackie ( Rig # 12). When we left at 9:00, some groups were still playing cards. An enjoyable ending to the day.

We have been told “When the fireweed, grows to the top and begins to turn white and fluffy, snow will follow shortly.” Today for the first time the fireweed is in bloom for the entire stalk and it is beginning to be white and fluffy. I guess it is a sign that it is time to head home.

Submitted by Robin and Ralph Monahan ( Rig # 14)

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Day 52 – Skagway, Alaska

Today was a free day, so many of us chose to ride on the train.

Choo, Choo, Here comes the Historic train so…. All Aboard…. for a very exciting 3.5 hour ride of 20 miles up from sea level to the heights of White Pass Summit – 2,865 feet above sea level.

The ride was filled with beautiful vistas of mountains, waterfalls, rocks of all sizes, rivers, streams with salmon, flowers (that lovely Fireweed)and, of course, a glacier ( the Carmack glacier). …. For those in our group who have never seen a glacier :>)

So lay back and enjoy the ride……happy that the seats are comfy and the windows large for those of us who are older.

The coaches of the train are a combination of the old and the new and are all named after rivers and lakes in Alaska and Northwestern Canada. The oldest of these is the Lake Emerald, built in 1883.

The WP and YR story began in the 19th century when railroad building gave people a much easier mode of transportation. The WP and YR is the company that first carried gold seekers over the White Pass Summit.

Our guide, Tim and his wonderful friend, Emily provided us with lots of information as we chugged along the tracks.

Our first view from the train was the WP and YR workshop where the passenger coaches and engines are maintained. There are 20 diesel electric locomotives and 2 steam locomotives one of which is over 100 years old.

We then entered the Tongass National Forest which at one time was the largest rainforest in the USA. We followed the Skagway River which was loaded with salmon in full spawn mode, and then saw a faraway view of the city of Skagway with a cruise ship in view. We passed by a steel bridge constructed in 1901 that was used until 1969. It was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world at that time.

The 100 ton granite boulder was pointed out by Tim in memory of 2 workers who lost their life as this boulder rolled onto them, and is where they are forever buried. The black cross marks their resting place.

Another exciting moment was going into the 2 tunnels. The first being 250 feet long and the second being 670 feet of darkness. Many of the couples had smiles on their faces as we left the tunnels and reappeared back into the light. We are not sure if anyone misbehaved.

It was wonderful to see the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls from the train. We all had the opportunity to see it while traveling into Skagway in our RV’s. It was still nice to see it once again from a different perspective and to know that it is glacial fed and cascades 6,000 feet from the glaciers on Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Clifford. Amazing!

We reached the White Summit Pass and the international border with the flags of Alaska, US, Canada, BC and YT. At one time, the NWMP had a small cabin there which 5 of the NWMP occupied…..a bit crowded I would say. Hope they got along!

Now, after seeing so much and hearing about the Dead Horse Gorge where the horses were treated poorly and lost their lives due to cruelty, mosquitoes and starvation, it was time to turn around and go back to the station in Skagway.

As Tim said, it is “Mandatory Seat Exchange” time. This gave all of us a chance to see the other side of the tracks. That was a great suggestion as we all switched sides.

The real Rod provided a partial moon to passengers on a passing train.

I happened to question Tim about a small body of water that I saw on my new side. He did not know the name of it but said it could be called the Marilyn River. Of course, that sounded good to me and right next to it is a dilapidated wood structure which I believe I can make into a gift store. Y’all come and shop, ya hear!

Tim and Emily said that we are a very enthusiastic group. Mike and I do agree with that.

Oops…how could I forget to include our wonderful dinner last night at Olivia’s?

Thanks again to Jon and Teri for the wonderful wines and beer and organizing the get together.

It was a great ending to a fun filled day with lots of laughter and conversation.

Submitted by Mike and Marilyn, Rig #13

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Day 51 – Skagway, Alaska

The day started early today. We left the RV Park at 7:25 am headed for the harbor to board our boat. The captain, Glen Jacobsen, and his deck hand, daughter Anna, were ready to cast off immediately. They had the coffee on and other beverages available.

We left the harbor a little earlier than scheduled which gave us additional time for wildlife viewing. Captain Glen had seen some humpback whales on his way into Skagway harbor to pick us up so he took us to the place he had sighted them earlier. We were fortunate enough to find them again.

I managed to get this picture of the whale tale (fluke) as it was diving. We then headed south toward Haines to pick up a few more passengers.

After we picked up the new passengers we continued our trip south toward Juneau. The scenery was just beautiful as you can see in the following pictures.

The captain guided us to see Eagles as we passed.

When we arrived in Juneau, there was a bus waiting to take us to the downtown area. Unfortunately, it was really raining quite a bit so the time in downtown Juneau wasn’t a much fun as it could have been. Many of the group stopped for lunch at the Red Dog Saloon. I have included some picture of downtown Juneau, which is really devoted to tourists and cruise ships. Filled with gift and jewelry shops.

After our walk in the rain, we were taken to Mendenhall Glacier to the visitors’ center. The glacier and icebergs were pretty impressive.

We hoped to see a bear fishing but that was unsuccessful. I did get a pretty good picture of the salmon trying to get upstream to spawn.

After the visit to the glacier, we got back aboard the boat and headed back toward Skagway. Evidently the captain had been scouting the waters while we were ashore and he took us back out to where he had found humpback whales. The whales were very close and we all got some great pictures.

We finally returned to Skagway about 8:45 pm and a tired group of RVers got back in their vehicles an headed back to the RV Park.

Submitted by Ernest & Jackie, Rig #12

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Day 50 – Skagway, Alaska

WOW, another beautiful day in Alaska. Sunny, temp is/was perfect. We are all gonna be spoiled. It is Wed and a free day. What to do?

Many had scheduled to do the ZIP line. Those that had done it before highly recommended it. Some would be aerialists got hung up and had to be rescued. Another bumped his nose. All is told they all had a great time.

How do I ZIP this?

Then it was others. The cars and RVs were extremely filthy from oh, I don’t know, the roads. So the many armed themselves with buckets, hoses, rags, brushes and whatever else they could find and began the arduous task of delousing their RVs and vehicles. Still others fixed a mired of problems.

Problems, problems, problems, did I mention problems

Wash away all my troubles.

The rigs aren’t the only thing that gets dirty.

The free days aren’t so free after all. Maybe later we will be able to see the town of Skagway. We did, we did , we did. It is really neat. There are several cruise ships here and a lot of people.

Maybe tomorrow we will be able to rest after all we go on a 12-14 hour excursion to Juneau via a boat. How tiring can that be?

Submitted by Larry and Linda, Rig #11

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