Try this: http://uscampgrounds.info/
From the website header:
-DATA TO GO-
Download data for your GPS or laptop mapping software; PRINT a campground map.
-DATA TO GO-
For your mobile device Reservation phone numbers and web sites for all State, Federal and Canadian park agencies.
FAQs Explanation of Terms and Symbols
This site provides what we believe to be the most comprehensive and geograpically accurate US & Canada public campground locator available. Includes all National Park, National Forest, State Park and Provincial campgrounds, all BLM, TVA and Army engineers and military-only campgrounds, all regional, county, city and utility-owned campgrounds.
We include only public, car-accessible family campgrounds with 4 or more campsites. (no backpack-in, boat-in, horse camps or group-only camps). We tell you if you need to take a ferry or if a short walk to the sites is required. We do not include privately owned campgrounds. Read our FAQs to learn more about the data, accuracy, usage and precautions. END HEADER
Rest in Peace, Bear. You have been a good and faithful friend to your family. Yes, they are grieving now, but the gentle wash of time will ease the pain and burnish bright the memories and love shared.
We humans are blessed by love and loyalty of our fur friends. You teach us much and help us learn to be more than we otherwise would. Dave, Lynn, and all family members, please accept our condolences on Bear's parting.
Sherrie, Mike and the kitty girls
Thank you all for the lovely comments. I/We are happy you-all are enjoying our journey. We have enjoyed others' travels and TRs a great deal. I have acquired a very long list of places to see.
BTW, the thumbnail size on Picassa can be made full screen or slideshow as you like.
Photo link repeated here.
On the way to Valdez we stopped to see the Worthington Glacier. Cold! Air coming off a big mass of ice is cold. The weather had become more and more misty and rainy as we climbed into the mountains and drew closer to the sea. We came over the Thompson Pass into a cloud. We made an executive decision to camp at Blueberry Lake. Blueberry Lake is reputed to be a lovely spot but we cannot say; our vision was ‘clouded’ as it were. The Thompson Pass apparently has the most precipitation in the entire state.
Today is blue-sky, drop-dead gorgeous. Snowcapped mountains ring the town. Everything is green and moist. We’re enjoying being a harbor town again. It's both like and unlike Oceanside. There are lots of small fishing boats and kayaks in the harbor plus a few bigger heavy-duty fishing boats. Halibut is one of the main fish caught here and they are huge.
We drove out to Allison point, to the Salmon Gulch Fish Hatchery where four types of salmon are hatched and held until they are fingerling size then released. Now, the pink salmon also known as humpies are running. The salmon can't get up Salmon Creek but they do swim to the fish gate and some are taken to breed, the rest make do with the intertidal zone. Seals, birds, bears and people are happy to catch and eat as many as possible.
On the road to Allison point, we saw a lot of people fishing along the roadside. Close to the hatchery the water was dark with fish. We'd never seen anything like it. Seals gulped down fish. Gulls gulped any remnants. Scores of people just came to watch the salmon. After watching them swim and jump and work like crazy to climb the ladder into the upper stream my respect for this fish, this creation, has hit the stratosphere. I'm amazed and awed by them. I also gained a much better understanding of the importance of salmon to Alaska.
Meares Glacier Cruise
A glacier cruise is a chilling experience – really! Warned to dress in layers we did–warm shirts, fleece jacket liners and windbreakers plus gloves and stocking caps. We boarded a large catamaran and headed out midmorning. The day was bright and sunny. We’d be able to see everything!
As we cruised along enjoying the snow-capped mountains on the landward side and tree-covered islands on the seaward side, the captain provided information about the area, the wildlife and glaciers. Eagles looked lofty and imperial from their treetop perches. Porpoise came to play with the boat but were too fast for a photo. The sea otter colony watched while swimming on their backs - mothers with babies riding on their stomachs.
The first glacier - Columbia - is a valley glacier. It is interesting and beautiful but not very active. Our goal was Meares Glacier, which is calving. Ice islands and floes filled the water nearby. Some served as handy resting spots for gulls and seals.
Translucent ice shone turquoise blue in the larger and higher ice islands.
Glaciers are blue; they crack and thunder as the ice breaks and falls into the sea. Capt. Chris had some of his crew scoop up some of the floating ice to put in a bowl for those so inclined to enjoy. Pleistocene ice/water is pretty tasty. It is odd to consume such old, old water. On the way back fog rolled in. We almost saw a colony of harbor seals. We were thankful for the blue-sky glacier views.
Today, August 2, we left Tok and Alaska - sad! We headed back down the AlCan Highway–toward Haines Junction. This section of the highway is really rough; it is probably the worst road we've driven all over Alaska and Canada due to the frost heaves. The scenery is stunning, however, so the top speed of 40 mph isn’t too hard to take. The road is being repaired so we spent a long time crawling steadfastly through dust at speeds of up to 20 mph.
“Bear! There's a bear!” Indeed, a black bear was in the ditch alongside the highway. Our first “roadside bear” sighting.
Lake Kluane was so beautiful we decided to camp at Congden Provincial Park again. We spent about 7 hours on the road to Lake Kluane – a bit longer than we like to drive in one day but the road delays didn’t give us an option. The last half hour driving was very windy; we were glad to stop. We had to put the jacks down for the first time ever to stabilize the camper in the wind gusts. The lake was covered with whitecaps and chop. Morning was calm. Walking around a bit, I found some of the lovely white flowers that grow around the kettle lakes in Denali and other boggy places and took some pictures of them.
Friday and Saturday, August 3 and 4th, we spent in Whitehorse Yukon Territory. We visited museums, walked around the old town, and saw the Klondike steamboat and the Yukon River. Whitehorse isn't really very big but it definitely looks like my idea of what it should - at least in the historic area.
Sunday, we continued our southward journey. We see the topography changing now to more varieties of trees and back again to areas where only black spruce grow. A young brown bear foraged alongside the road.
In Teslin, we stopped at the Tlingit Heritage Centre, which provided an interesting look at Tlingit First Nation culture and life. Newly carved totem poles lined the walkway. They are really nice. On the other side of Teslin, the George Johnston Museum provided insight into the life of a fascinating individual. His photographs tell an amazing story. http://www.gjmuseum.yk.net/gjohnston.html
While there we saw a sign advertising the military parade of vehicles in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the Alaskan Highway. I chatted with a Canadian fellow carrying a 1942 Harley-Davidson motorcycle in his truck on the way to join the convoy. I was really impressed by the story of the highway. The history of this time and place is amazing.
In Watson Lake, we stopped and wandered through the signpost forest. It is huge! Begun by a couple of homesick military men building the Alaska Highway, it has grown as people from all over the world have added signs.
While in Tok, we’d met a fellow Bigfoot owner who said, “Be sure to stop at the Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park - it's beautiful.” We followed his advice and it was indeed a very beautiful park. We walked over to the Hot Springs and thought about whether or not to get in as the weather was quite warm. I decided to try them, but I found I needed shoes to walk on the gravel bottom so I didn't stay in very long.
We stopped for lunch the next day at Historical Mile 570, Allen’s Lookout, above the Liard River. The 70th Anniversary convoy stopped there for lunch too. It was fun and exciting to see all the vehicles pull in one by one and get lined up! We had the opportunity to see 42 American vehicles plus get a few pictures. I was especially intrigued by truck campers atop military vehicles.
Shortly, Muncho Lake revealed itself in all its beauty. The water is so clear! I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it. Bison appeared on the roadsides in the evening and in the morning. Stone Sheep loved the road; they got off for vehicles and then got right back on.
We went down Highway 29 bypassing Dawson Creek. The scenery today became very much tamer and much more people filled. The land has become foothills - rolling and treed but tamed. We stopped for the night at Dinosaur Park – a small park attached to the Peace River Dam. A storm blew in over the lake with thunder, lightning and wind but soon blew over having made much ado about a few raindrops.
Next morning we stopped at Chetwynd, a small community along the Peace River. Cheywynd is known for its chainsaw sculptures. They are amazing! Who would believe such delicate work could be done with a chainsaw!
About 100 miles south of St. George we stopped for 2 days in Lac Le Hache Provincial Park. It was a lovely place. It is very dry here; the park is very much a California sort with tall trees and lots of space between them. On our second day here we went for a hike; it felt good to move around a bit after so much driving, driving, driving. A lovely butterfly on some purple flowers obligingly posed for a photo.
Sunday was our last day in BC. Driving from the park down through the Hell’s Gate river gorge the scenery was exquisite. The day was perfect so lots of folks were out and about. We reached the border sooner than expected. There were only two other vehicles at the border crossing so no wait. Nice! The agent asked a few casual questions and waved us through.
In major orchard country, we quickly found a farm stand. Delicious ripe peaches and cherries, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and melons soon filled the camper with their perfumes.
Bellingham, WA was just a few miles away so we headed for Larrabee State Park. We remembered it well from the beginning of our trip. August was much warmer than June. The sky was blue, not gray and raining. The park was extremely busy but we found an empty spot for the night.
The last leg of our journey began Monday morning as we started down I-5. Warm weather became hot weather and by the time we drove across the Washington-Oregon border, it was 103. Wow, what a change from Alaska weather. We scrambled to find a commercial RV park with electric for the air conditioner.
Once past Sacramento, I-5 is just boring so we decided to head over to the 101 at Salinas to enjoy a more scenic route. The 101 is also filled with traffic but it's better than the Central Valley. We miss those lovely, empty Alaska roads.
We arrived home on Thursday afternoon, August 18. It was a wonderful trip! We enjoyed it very much; we hope that you've enjoyed it too.
Photo link repeated here.
Photo link repeated here.
Denali National Park
Grizzlies–mamas and papas and cubs–oh my! Not to mention Caribou too - and THE MOUNTAIN!
We do not want to leave. Denali is like Africa - elemental and still.
When we arrived, we went to the Wilderness Access Center to see about camping sites at Teklanika or Savage River. The woman said she didn't have anything for a week and a half but would check to make sure. As she did, a campsite beginning the next day opened up for Tek. Tek requires a minimum 3-day stay. Yes! This is the campground we had hoped for. Thankful, we paid the fees and bought the Tek bus passes for the day following.
Driving in, we had a beautiful blue-sky day and were soon able to see The Mountain–Denali–in all its snow-covered beauty. It was unusual to be able to see Denali – it is often wrapped in clouds. Covered with snow, it sparkled and shone in the sun. We soon crossed Savage River where the Ranger checked us in and through for Tek.
The land here is much more open with many more deciduous plants and less lichen than we saw further north. It is also much more moist–and colder.
Our campsite backs up to the riverbed–one of those beautiful braided rivers that I love! What a perfect spot – a lovely place. We wandered around the riverbed area in the afternoon.
Early next day we stuffed our packs and pockets with stocking caps, gloves, extra water, and food, hung binoculars and cameras around our necks and took hiking poles in hand prepared to catch the bus to Wonder Lake–a 170 mile round-trip. The green school buses are the only way campers can get around the park. This is good for the wildlife but–well, it's been many, many years since I rode a school bus. 170 miles over rough gravel roads with occasional stops for restroom breaks and/or viewpoints to get off and stretch wasn’t as easy as my last ride - all those skinny teenagers we used to be have morphed into not so skinny middle-agers!
“Will we see animals?” Everyone's eyes searched the land on both sides of the bus. “A bear! Look–she has a cub, no, two cubs!”
We all fell in love and leapt to the windows to take pictures–lots of pictures. Papa bear was barely visible far, far away on the mountains; mama prefers it that way. The bears didn't seem concerned by this activity–and after a suitable amount of time, we drove on. Someone spotted Dall Sheep high on the mountains, someone else shouted, “Caribou!”
Each time the driver maneuvered the bus into the best possible spot for all to see and take pictures. In a bizarre way we - the people on the bus - were in a moving cage slowly going through the park while the animals went about their lives. They were magnificent and worth the 8-hour bus ride!
We stopped at a visitor center deep in the park where we were supposed to get a good view of Denali. Today, she was partially wrapped in clouds but a bit of her peeked through. The sky was gray and it was cold – we were quite high up here.
It is possible to get off the bus at any location to walk in the wilderness – there are no trails. When hikers are tired, they stop the next bus and if there's room, get on and ride back to camp. It is also possible to tent - camp way out there. Buses drop campers and gear off.
We've taken several walks up the Teklanika River wandering over gravel bars and smaller streamlets - enjoying the water. Lovely, lovely river, rocks, sky and mountains–no people noise only the river rushing along.
I saw a kettle lake ringed with bright white flowers that look like cotton or goose down.
A fox dashed across the road in front of us today. He was a lovely red with a white tipped brush (tail).
July 14 - 15
The Denali Highway
We started on the Denali Highway–another gravel road going east-west from the Denali national and state parks area to the Richardson Highway. Lots of potholes! We’ll stop at Brushkana River BLM campground tonight.
It's raining so a quiet day in camp for the most part. We did get in a bit of a hike between rain showers. It’s still colder here than in the Arctic circle. We've noticed that the temperature varies quite a bit - fluctuating during the day. When the sun is out, it's warm but when it isn't, it is cold. Permafrost is never far away.
We had a fun, slow drive today stopping often along the highway to admire the vistas and take some short walks through the brush. The vegetation has changed. The trees are few and only in sheltered places. There are a lot of brush, bogs and lichen. The larger plants create tussocks so walking is a creative exercise.
We stopped at a pullout for an overlook, got out and started to walk along the “primitive road” when a female caribou, startled by us, ran up onto the road and along the roadway a bit, paused to get her photo taken, then disappeared down the hill. A short while later we drove around a curve to find a caribou-caused traffic jam. 2 young males in velvet were walking straight towards us. Behind them were a car, a pickup, and a car with trailer - all stopped. We stopped too. Alarmed by all of the attention, the boys left the road for the brush.
Just before we pulled off to park for the night, an eagle flew up followed by a gull.
We camped on the top of an esker above one of the numerous kettle lakes and ponds that abound in this area. What a beautiful spot! We hiked along a game trail on top of the esker.
One of the reasons to drive the Denali Highway is to see the topography. There are many eskers and kettle lakes due to the glaciers that were here. Actually they still are here but in the mountains now. One is the source of the MacLaren River and is easily seen from the road. It's possible to hike up to it–there's a trailhead and all but 4 miles up the road, the river was described as “deep and treacherous - take care when fording” – there isn’t any bridge. We decided this wasn't for us or for the Big Red Beauty. Perhaps this explains the practice of driving into rivers onto gravel bars. It is a practical and necessary skill.
Tangle Lakes Campground
Surrounded by mountains and eskers this series of lakes is a popular campground plus a boating and rafting trail. There are some trails here so we’ll stay a couple of nights.
Mike and I had a pleasant hike up the side of an esker. Once on top the view was, as usual, spacious. We could see more of the Tangle Lakes as well as the Delta River that feeds into them. Now I'm sitting outside enjoying a mosquito-free time as the breeze keeps them away. Two gulls laze in the air above. Yes, there is an Alaskan gull. We’ve seen them in most places with lakes. Yesterday, one perched on top of the little spruce tree near the camper. Gulls do not perch gracefully; their feet are the wrong design.
Thursday, July 19, we left Tangle Lakes Camp and drove to Paxton–the end of the Denali Highway–then headed south to Glenallen to replenish the larder.
Glenallen is strung out along the Glenallen Highway–another east-west route that goes to Wasilla from whence, we have been told one can see Russia. Deciding not to drive 135 miles to check the veracity of that claim, we fueled up, ate lunch at the Caribou Hotel and Restaurant and located an RV park for the night.
We are not in California anymore!
Fueling up the Big Red Beauty, I went into the office to pay for the fuel. The attendant flipped on the pump and I went out to tell Mike. I saw him putting away his credit card so assumed he'd run it. We filled up and drove across the gravel to the hotel for lunch. After we ordered, I headed down the hall to wash my hands and ran into the attendant from the gas station, who asked, “Are you the people in the big red truck with the Bigfoot camper?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“I've got $99 worth of diesel that didn't get paid for,” he said.
“Didn't the card run?” I asked.
“I'm glad you found us, I replied. We have to get propane too, so we'll be back over as soon as we finish lunch. We’ll pay for it all then.”
“Okay,” he said. And so it was
Later I asked Mike if he'd put our card in the slot at the pump. It turned out he hadn't. He thought I paid inside and I thought he'd paid at the pump.
Locked in battle
Moose fighting for females sometimes get their antlers locked and can't get free. Still locked together both die. Occasionally someone finds the antlers with skulls attached still locked tight and puts them on display. There were two sets at the Glenallen Visitor’s Center. We’ve seen others elsewhere.
Friday and Saturday, July 21- 22
King for a Day Fish Camp
Several of the RV netters, in making recommendations for our Great Alaskan Adventure, said if we wanted to fish for salmon, this was a great place to come. I like to fish although I'm not good at catching them, but it sounded like an interesting place to camp for a day or two.
When I went to pay for our campsite, I told the woman that they had been recommended but I'd never fished for salmon and had no idea what to do. Just about then a couple came in to pay for week’s camping. She told all of us, “They'll teach you what you need to know.” This was my introduction to Kim and Steve and the sport of salmon fishing. Both immediately told me what to do, which I, of course, understood and remembered. NOT!
I bought some weights, hooks with leaders, and neon orange yarn–the “bait,” collected rod and pole and wandered down to the river's edge. Wow! The Klutina River is fairly wide, glacial green and running at 12 knots per hour. Kim told me it was the 3rd fastest river in the Americas. It's part of the Copper Valley River system - a major fishery.
I slid down the bank - about 4 feet high and comprised of stones, cobbles and gritty dirt–to join Steve and get my first lesson in catching salmon. The goal is to snag them. They are on the way to spawn and are not eating - just swimming hard.
He showed me how to cast out about 6-8 feet and how to let the line drift to the edge of the river bank, then pull it in and toss it out again, and again, again, again…. Suddenly, a huge salmon hit the hook. These guys fight and they’re strong! I reeled like mad. The fish pulled the drag the other way. Steve and another guy with nets were trying to catch the salmon. Steve tightened my drag 3 times. I was walking backward trying to keep the fish and not fall into the river–but the fish won. By this time I’d acquired several advisers and I learned to “keep your rod down - fish doesn't like his head up” and “back up and flip him onto the shore.”
Everyone was helping each other. As people caught fish, someone nearby whether bystander or fishermen would run to help land the fish and kill it. As one put it, “we’re all here for the same thing.”
I tried several times on Saturday but didn't catch anything but I did learn some more techniques and faithfully practiced my line tossing. By this time, one of Kim and Steve's sons was also helping me. The whole family was at river’s edge fishing, talking and generally enjoying life. They had 3 salmon on a stringer. An older woman came with a big orange Home Depot bucket to put the fish in and took them away. The son standing by me explained, “She and her husband didn't catch any fish today so we caught some for them.” The previous day, I'd seen the woman take a picture of her about 10-year-old grandson with the salmon he’d caught.
What a nice family–thoughtful, kind and caring of others as a way of life. Kim, Steve and their four kids are from Connecticut; they come to Alaska and King for a Day periodically to fish and enjoy Alaska.
At 8:30 PM I gave up for the night and trudged back to the camper to fix dinner. The next morning I went back to the river to have a last try before we pulled out. 3 or 4 others were fishing. I climbed down the bank and tossed in my line. After 3 or 4 casts, I caught a rock. I was working my way along the beach to get the line loose, when the guy fishing next to me, noticed and stepped forward to help. We both went back to tossing our lines out, watching them drift and tossing them again. “Dang!” I caught that rock again. Once more the gentleman helped then said, “your hook’s killing me. Are you getting any fish at all?”
“No,” I said, somewhat mystified.
“There's too much yarn on that hook. It's covering the barb; let me cut some off.”
He pulled out his knife and cut most of the yarn off leaving most of the hook revealed. “Now try it,” he said.
I went back to tossing the line in and a salmon hit. A minute later he was on the beach firmly in the grasp of the very helpful gentleman who quickly dispatched the fish and removed my hook.
Mike was there to photo-document this. I fished a few more minutes, snagged another in the belly so couldn’t keep her. Hook removed, she continued her journey.
Fish Camp Impressions
Lots of people - parked and pitched cheek to jowl…. Tents all sizes and colors from new, bright red to tattered, faded orange. One outfitter canvas covered with blue tarps. Blue tarps hung over tables, between tent doors and tables or any other place deemed useful. Small campers of all persuasions lined up backs to the river just feet from the edge while larger units were up the hill a bit tethered to hook-up posts. Brand-new Class A buses parked next to weather-beaten rigs that had traveled a mile or two over the years.
Children darted and swooped on bikes or chased each other while dogs barked to be let run while moms and older kids fished. One dad fished while his daughter watched from the bank. Each time he hooked a salmon he'd tell her to come down and help reel it in. He lost a few that way but both had a blast.
In the evening the older guys gathered on the bank–some on ATVs–the cool old guys’ way to swoop around looking youthful instead of limping along looking tired and old. I told this to Mike and suggested he get an ATV–his expression still has me laughing!
Photo link repeated here.
Photos are repeated here.
Haines is a lovely little town in a small valley at the foot of mountains. It's surrounded by snow-capped mountains and is lushly green. Being from Oceanside, we naturally spent our first night at the Oceanside RV Park. The next morning, we walked around the town and visited the Hammer Museum amongst other places. What a fascinating place with 1600 hammers on display and a lot more in storage. After lunch, we drove to the Chilkoot Lake State Preserve to camp. Two bald eagles perched across the river and watched for fish. Our national bird is huge and very impressive.
June 21–Summer solstice and wild weather day
Sunshine and balmy breezes greeted us in the morning as we left Chilkoot Lake and headed for Chilkat State Park. We stopped in Haines for food and laundry then went to lunch. We came out to a cold, hard wind gusting and clouds boiling up fast. By the time we got Chilkat State Park, it had begun to rain. An hour later, the sun was shining and our balmy breeze had returned. Everyone was desperately happy to see the sun. Winter was brutal this year all over Alaska–Haines had 360 inches (that's 30 feet!) of snow.
In the afternoon I walked from the campground down to the bay. Rainbow Glacier hangs in front of me - part of a range of snow-covered mountains running from left to right as far as I can see. The bay is milky green, the tide laps at the shore and birds wheel and land on the water forming a flotilla far out in the bay. Wandering slowly along a trail, I find tiny wild sweet peas, roses, strawberries, and iris to name the flowers and plants I know; there are many others I don't. I am the only person in the midst of such grandeur. The silence shouts.
I watched an eagle flying overhead–he was so high above that he flew into the clouds and vanished.
Yukon Territory, Canada
We left Haines this morning headed up through Canada to Tok, Alaska. Driving slowly, we've enjoyed lots of vistas–snow, glacial gravel beds, a braided river system, all in a heat wave! Yes, it got hot–88° or more today and very dry.
We saw 2 pairs of trumpeter swans sitting on a lake along the way. Now we’re camped in Million Dollar Falls Park next to a roaring river that becomes the falls just a few yards away. The Yukon Territories Park fenced off the falls area and made a lovely boardwalk along the falls area.
We stopped to visit a Klukshan Fishing Village a short distance from the main road. Signs were placed near drying and storage buildings to explain and illustrate the historical process of salmon fishing and preservation.
Driving north along the Haines highway we notice how the land becomes post-glacial - rounded off by the glaciers. Today we've camped at another Yukon territorial park–Congdon Park–on the shores of Kluane Lake. The water is shades of turquoise blue and green with a milky cast. Glacier-made and glacier-fed it is 154 square miles in area and 400 feet deep. We are sitting on the gravelly beach enjoying the cool breeze off the water and the sound of the waves lapping on shingle. In front of us are mountains that have been both smoothed and gouged by glacial action. The territorial parks are great - clean and neat with free rounds of firewood. Don’t forget your axe!
The sky is light all night now. We sometimes cannot see the sun as it goes below the horizon or hides behind a mountain and the light fades to that of early dusk gradually changing to early dawn. It's odd to look out the skylight at 3 o'clock in the morning and see clouds and blue sky above rather than stars.
Tetlin Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Today we're resting at Deadman Lake Campground in Tetlin Wildlife Refuge. We've entered the Taiga - Russian for “land of little sticks” also known as the Boreal Forest. Beautiful and still, it is filled with birds and insects. We learned that 40% of Earth's birds depend on these waterways during their migrations.
Dragonflies abound - little blue damselflies, great green dragonflies, stunning red and bristling black dragonflies are everywhere. It seems that the larva overwinter in the water and are an important food source for a multitude of creatures here.
We've seen several pairs of trumpeter swans always at a distance and always in pairs. They guard their cygnets carefully. Mama Mallard isn't so shy - she leads her ducklings along the reeds at the edge of the water. She's careful not to get too far out into the lily pads though. There are Northern Pike here and they will eat the ducklings.
The Rangers give talks and we've been learning about the Taiga–a fascinating and complex ecosystem.
The silence is vast.
Tok, AK, June 27
It has been one month since we left Oceanside. Tok is the Gateway to Alaska; everyone driving enters and leaves through Tok.
We camped at Eagle Trail Campground near Tok for 2 days. We took an interesting walk today - about .9 miles. The lack of funding for the park service was evident. Signs identifying various plants were worn to illegibility and there were downed trees and branches across the trail here and there. The boardwalks placed across the bogs and rills are broken in spots adding that little bit of interest to our stroll. It’s sad to see this neglect in all our states’ parks but they are so lovely, it doesn’t detract at all.
Several moose are in these woods! We’ve seen a lot of fresh droppings also known as “moose nuggets” and very fresh tracks. At one point on the trail I am pretty sure we were close behind a moose because the tracks on the trail were very new and on top of another hiker's footprints.
We hiked the longer, steeper trail today - we walked about 3 miles. The trails are steep, rough and wet. There are lots of small tree roots on the trail and sometimes a downed tree. Walking off the trail is interesting to say the least. The moss and lichen are deep so we sink in - sort of a soft springy feel like walking on feather pillows.
We left Eagle Trail, headed for Delta Junction, a state historic park and the location of Rika’s Roadhouse. Rika was one of the first settlers and had quite a homestead. It was fun to see the sod-roofed buildings and the other historic places. I do think the roof needs mowing.
We drove to on Fairbanks - about 150 miles. We hadn't planned to drive so far but all the campgrounds from Delta Junction on - and there are lots - were full! Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska and Eielson Air Force Base is close by so there are lots of people all wanting to get outside and play after the long winter and this is the weekend!
We stopped at North Pole, Alaska on the way and sent postcards to the grandkids. The further north we go the longer the days are. The North Pole information Center provided a few interesting facts recorded in the photos.
After weeks of peering into woods and ponds until I was beginning to have moose-alucinations, there she was–a lovely young cow moose happily grazing in the roadside grass. Unfortunately, the road was a busy highway so no stopping for pictures.
From Fairbanks we drove up the Steese Highway to the Chatanika River State Park. We thought it would be busy over the 4th of July but there were only 4 or 5 campers. This was one of the most beautiful campsites we've ever stayed in. We were right on the river–I love the busy chuckle of water over rocks. The river is so clear!
Fireworks are for sale but not too many people set them off. The guys camped on the gravel bar down the river a bit shot off quite a few fireworks but it was very hard to see them because it was daylight – a drawback to the long days. The guys did provide all the campers with entertainment of another sort, however.
Each drove his truck into the river attempting to reach the gravel bar on the other side. At one point there were two red trucks, a blue truck and a gray truck plus a red Jeep - all top-of-the tires deep in the river. All but the Jeep stalled out. One by one the Jeep drove into the river and pulled the trucks back across.
We decided to go back to Fairbanks, resupply and drive up the Dalton Highway at least as far as the Arctic Circle. The Dalton Highway goes from Fairbanks to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay and was formerly known as the Haul Road during the building of the Alaska pipeline. More recently on the Discovery Channel it's known as the ice road as in the “Ice Road Truckers”. The Dalton Highway is the subject of many warnings from “bad road” to “crazed truckers,” but it wasn’t that bad. It is by no means smooth - frost heaves tear the pavement apart, and cause it to bulge up in some spots and sink in others. At one point I found myself driving down the middle of the yellow line so as to NOT drive where it was torn apart. The gravel sections were much smoother and much better than the pavement. Pavement melts permafrost and it shifts. The posted speed limit is 50 miles an hour - I think we averaged 35 to 40. Drivers of smaller, lighter vehicles and familiar with the road drove faster but not by much. There's been very little traffic and the few truckers have been very courteous. Slow down and move over is the rule.
We spent the night at the Yukon River crossing at a truck stop and fishing camp. The pipeline runs right alongside the road here.
I met an Alaskan woman, Dorothy, who makes souvenirs from birch-bark and furs her husband trapped. She told me they had been high school sweethearts, married and moved to homestead along the Yukon River. He died two years ago but she still lives on the homestead. There is no road other than the river to her home–45 minutes away by boat. I learned that Alaska homesteading closed in 1988 – not so long ago!
Dorothy had photos of the spring ice break up showing her family standing in front of ice chunks 18 feet high. Here the river is about as wide as the Missouri where I grew up. Winter temperatures as low as -70° freeze it thick and solid. Last winter she told me it hit -80° two nights in a row. Today it's 70°. Neither Mike nor I can imagine quite such an extreme temperature difference.
We crossed the Arctic Circle! After making a pictorial record, we decided to drive as far as Coldfoot and stay at the BLM campground just a bit beyond. We’re now in the foothills of the Brooks mountain range. The boreal forest has become more tundra with fewer, smaller trees and bushes spaced further apart. Animals and birds, like plants, are smaller and much more compact.
The vistas are breathtaking–vast, impersonal, silent. It is very spiritual.
Fragrances of Alaska
The lands we've traveled through have each had its own very different fragrance - none of which I've smelled before.
Driving back to Fairbanks, we ran into a few showers. Rain plus gravel equal MUD! The gravel roads are sprayed with calcium chloride to keep the dust down so it is essential to wash vehicles as soon as possible when back on pavement to prevent corrosion. Our truck and camper were covered in mud. This mud is like glue! Seriously–I've never had such difficulty washing mud off.
We’re on the way to Denali.
Photo link repeated here.
Alaska is spectacular! We had a splendid journey. We want to say, “ Thank you, hdblair, joe b., cleary, thebigtiny, labman1945, sbishop, skipbee, gripnriprod, morley, garryk6, Lots of Stuff, endalby, Chief 2, SNAPON66, jeepers92, and AKsilvereagle.” Your suggestions were invaluable.
We weren’t able to post updates from the road as originally planned so the TR is looong. I’ve broken it into four parts. The photos are
We have added the photo link to all the sections of this TR - top and bottom. With 200 photos in the gallery, it seems the best way to do it.
Sherrie & Mike
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday went normally– I picked up the new glasses, ran errands, packed and loaded the camper, and organized the myriad of details necessary to be away from home several months. However, Wednesday evening Mike said, “We may have a problem–my passport expired in February.”
Big oops! We’re leaving Sunday and have 2 days to get a new passport! Fortunately, San Diego is an expedited passport-issuing point. Mike spent his birthday in San Diego waiting for a new passport to be issued.
Friday, our nephew, Greg, was returning from Afghanistan so my brother and family drove down from Sacramento to join Greg's wife and kids and our crew to make up the welcome-home party. Greg was expected to arrive at Camp Pendleton about 1:00 p.m. I did last minute errands first thing in the morning. I was home by 10:00; our daughter picked me up at 11:00 to go on base. Just as we got to the base exit, Greg’s mom called and said Greg was delayed -the new arrival time was 3:00 so back home we went.
Meanwhile, Mike had plugged the camper into shore power so we could chill the fridge. He noticed that the light on the power outlet wasn’t on. I called the RV company which had just serviced it. “Bring it out as soon as possible; our electrical tech leaves at 3:30 PM!”
Mike left right away. It was now 1:30-ish. Our daughter picked me up again. We got to base, found our location and all the other family members without difficulty. Then we waited, and waited some more. Finally at 3:30 the motorcycle honor guard swept in followed by an LAV and 6 big white school buses. Greg was in the last bus! Greg's safe return was a wonderful way to begin our trip!
What about the camper’s electrical system? The service tech had neglected to plug the camper back into the truck so the inverter threw a safety switch - it worked perfectly once it was plugged in! Whew!
Saturday we celebrated Mike's birthday and fixed a few more glitches. Finally, packed and loaded, we collapsed in exhaustion. Sunday morning we ate breakfast at our favorite restaurant, left lists and keys for the housesitters, kissed the kitties goodbye and hit the road.
After the events of Departure Week we were pretty tired so we took two days to drive through California. The third day we stopped at Washougal, Washington, home of Pendleton Woolen Mills outlet, to do fabric shopping. We camped in their parking lot overnight. As we went to bed, we thought one more day should see us to the campground near Bellingham, Washington and the ferry terminal. We’d have Wednesday and Thursday to rest and relax before boarding the ferry on Friday. However, this was not to be. About 3 AM, Mike was beset with terrible pain in his lower left side. It increased throughout what remained of the night. Early in the morning we went to the police and fire station to find an urgent care or ER. A police officer was getting out of his car as we drove up. His response to our tale was, “Park right here - I'll go wake up the EMTs.” Within a couple of minutes, the very efficient fire department EMTs had Mike on a gurney and in the ambulance where all their equipment was. About 10 to 15 minutes later they said he needed to go to hospital for diagnosis and treatment “Follow us,” they said. “We are just going to drive-no lights and sirens needed.”
A short while later, they pulled up at the ER. I followed them easily enough but where was I going to park the Big Red Beauty? All I saw was a parking structure. Just then, a woman crossed the walkway beside me so I asked her for guidance. She told me she had only been at the hospital once before but was able to direct me to a flat parking lot perfect for the BRB.
Now the question was which way should I go to get to the ER area? Again with perfect timing a staff person came along and when I asked her for directions, said, “ It’s complicated to explain. I'll take you.” And she did–I actually came out in the middle of the ER. I went to the lobby, asked for Mike and was directed to room 46. A kidney stone was diagnosed and passed late Thursday morning. Instant pain relief! No more 7 times stronger than morphine painkillers on the hour. Bye-bye lovely paintings of Lewis and Clarke adventures on that blank hospital wall.
Unfortunately, the stress and pain caused atrial-fibrillation that wouldn't resolve on its own. Late Friday morning Mike had a shock treatment to restore normal heart rhythm. Once he was okay, he was ready to be discharged - a long, long process. After a lunch, a shower, and a short nap, we finally left the hospital about 5 PM. I'd been camping in the parking lot and that's where we spent the night. Our camper never felt so cozy! Saturday morning we drove from Vancouver to Bellingham. On new meds and very tired, Mike wasn't able to drive but we didn't have any trouble at all. There was a lot of traffic but there always is.
We pulled into Larrabee State Park and found a spot to camp for a few days. We were able to get a confirmed registration on the Alaska ferry for the 15th and were wait-listed for the 8th. Meanwhile, we enjoyed Larrabee. Mike rested and read and took an occasional walk. We went to the beach to enjoy the minus tides and sea creatures. The weather was cool and damp; it rained every day a bit in the morning then it lightened up but not too much sunshine. Bigfoot is cozy and comfy. We were glad of the rest and relaxation time!
We are extremely thankful for the positive outcome of our adventures and misadventures I think we must've had a cohort of angels at work this past two weeks. We thank God for his grace and mercy in our lives and our nephew’s.
June 16, 2012 8:45 P.M. Alaskan time
Underway at last! I could hardly believe it! After sitting in rows and rows for 3 hours with other, similarly-sized vehicles, we finally got the go-ahead to drive onto the ferry. Talk about being sardined in - luckily for us we're in the very back with only one vehicle behind us so we are able to get to the Big Red Beauty without too much trouble if we need to.
It was a blue-sky day for our departure; today it's raining and misty but the scenery is still stunning. Fortunately we were able to get a cabin! We were wait-listed for one and given Mike’s medical misadventures, we really needed one. We are very thankful. A lot of ferry travelers plan and prepare to sleep in the lounges or camp out in the solarium and on the upper deck. Small colorful tents bloomed like flowers there. Those without tents staked out plastic reclining deck chairs with sleeping bags and mats. The Solarium ceiling is clear and has heat lamps so it's warm. That would be the place to be on a clear night! It's full too!
Father's Day, June 18
We saw our first bald eagle flying across the stern today as we came into Ketchikan. We were only in Ketchikan for 4 hours so everyone rushed off to see as much as possible. Lots of tourists - 3 huge cruise ships were in port and another one followed us in. We stopped at Wrangell for an hour. Cruise ships don't stop here so it was much quieter. Garnets are mined here. On the street corner, four different children were selling garnets that they had mined with their parents. Interestingly, they're all faceted. They come that way – I’ll have to do a bit of research to find out why!
We arrived here this morning early. Lots of folks got off and on. I have to give a “hats off” to the ferry folk. They loaded a 40-foot Class A motor home with a car on a trailer behind it and didn’t turn a hair.
“Car Decks are now open. You may go to your vehicles now. Don't start your engines until told to by a crew member.” Joy!
We happily dashed to the truck with our remaining bags. (We’d put most of our baggage in the truck earlier.) We were completely hemmed in by cars and trucks but waited patiently for our turn. Cars, motorcycles, a dump truck with sand, a 5th wheel, more cars - away they went. We waited. The driver of the pickup behind us confirmed that we were going to Haines, and told us he would stand by in case he was needed to back up his truck so we could get out. More vehicles got off. Others got on. Finally, I got out and went to check with the crew. “You in this?” a crewmember asked, pointing at Bigfoot.
“Okay–we're gonna back you out.”
“Ulp!” There was less than a foot between the camper and the side of the ship's hull. The first crewmember who came to direct us couldn't do it; he left and called another fellow who was very skilled in the minute maneuvering of very large vehicles. His directions were precise. Finally we rumbled up the ramp and off the ship. We owe a big thank you to the young man who stood by to back up his truck. I think that if he hadn't told crew he would stand by to back it up, we would've gone to Skagway!
Photos are repeated here.
Again we want to say a great big Thank You to everyone who contributed information and ideas to our trip. We left CA as planned on 5/27 but didn't get on the ferry until 6/15 due to Mike's having a kidney stone attack in Waushugal, WA. After some time in the hospital, we continued to Bellingham but didn't make the 6/1 ferry. R & R time was fine and the Larrabee State Park was a great place to rest.
We are now in Tok, and will decide which direction to head next. Will check in as possible.
Have a great summer all you TCers!
Perhaps we will see you along the road somewhere. We're leaving a week from today - and what a week it will be. Birthday celebrations, packing and loading the camper, getting the house ready for house/cat-sitters...AND
Our nephew is coming home from Afghanistan on Friday and the whole clan is coming our way to welcome him home. Yes, we live near Camp Pendleton (USMC). YAHOO!!! We are sooo happy and thankful. It's great way to begin a trip.
We'll keep an eye out for other Bigfoots.
Sherrie & Mike