Sunday, June 24, 2012

With such a short season to grow the wildflowers are exploding everywhere! Our manager, Greg, is a wildlife photographer and keeps me updated on everything 'new' he discovers.
This was a very special find; lady-slippers (orchids) right next to the hotel!

But the biggest news this week is about Merlin. It turned out the poor baby has diabetes!
The vet took a little blood sample and his blood sugar was a whopping 374! Normally a cat is in the 80-120 range...
Fortunately they take high blood sugars a lot better than us or even dogs but it certainly had to come down somehow.

First we had to change his diet to a low carb(ohydrates) one, easier said than done when you're nowhere near a pet store so we ordered a special food (Evo) from the feed store in Fairbanks and cooked up some chicken (his favorite of all foods) to give him in the meantime.
The food arrived the next day (wow!) and after he had been on it for 4 days we took our first at-home blood sample (from the edge of  his ear, ouch....) with the gluco-meter we had ordered in the meantime from Walmart.
It had gone down to 192! That is awesome! Maybe, just maybe, he will be in the 30-50% group of cats that can be regulated, and actually reverted to normal, with a diet alone!
We'll give it another week. If he goes down to somewhere around 150 he probably won't need any insulin and his blood sugar (hopefully) will come down further over time as his pancreas continuous to heal.
If not, we'll pick up some insulin at Walmart next week when we go shopping and will have to start giving him very small doses twice a day just to help his pancreas along a little bit.

Merlin, our traveling cat

Always something with that cat! He's our special child!
He'd lost weight steadily (2 pounds) in the last couple of weeks but when I weighed him this morning he was the same as last week, so that's good news.
All in all, we're very happy and relieved. That sounds weird but at least we're not going to loose him anytime soon as would probably have been the case if he'd had kidney failure.

After all that we thought it was time for something fun so we visited the dogsled kennel of Denali Park!

Denali is the only national park in America with a working sled dog kennel.
During the winter the dogs help to patrol the inner two-million acres of designated wilderness where mechanized vehicles are prohibited. 

The dogs make it possible to contact winter visitors, haul supplies, transport wildlife researchers, and help insure that there are not illegal activities happening within the park, such as poaching or snow machines entering into the wilderness area.

There are approximately 30 dogs which is the number that works best for the winter patrol needs.  It allows them to take three sleds out on patrol if necessary. The number of dogs varies slightly from year to year depending on how many dogs retire in a particular year and how many puppies are born in the one litter they breed each year.
This year they had 3 puppies. Since today was a real warm day they were all conked out and didn't move a muscle.

The dogs are not a particular breed nor are they crosses of purebred dogs.  

They are called Alaskan huskies or just simply sled dogs. They are the product of hundreds of years of breeding dogs that are great at what they do--running and pulling sleds, and dogs that have adapted to cold weather. The Alaskan husky is a dog that has a strong desire to run and pull, has a thick two-layer coat of fur, a bushy tail, long legs, and great demeanor. Since they are not breeding for any particular look, but rather for performance the dogs have a wide variety in their appearance.

After roaming the kennels for a while and a little talk by the ranger we got a little demonstration of how much they like to run as the ranger drove a team around a track!
The whole kennel erupted in howls and barks when only 5 of them were chosen to run today!
.....'Pick me, pick me'!!!!......
The ranger explained they're so strong they have to lift them a little from the ground in the front, to take them from 4-'wheel' to 2-'wheel' drive, in order to not be pulled over!


And off they went!!

After the show you could have your picture taken. Too bad the dogs were all dead :)!


It was a lot of fun. I could totally see myself have a 'team' if I would live here!

We're working a little too off course.
So far we're very happy with the work load, we can practically pick and choose what (and when) we want to do, on top of the hours we're working for the site. 
Driving the van is the most fun to do, you meet people from all over the world, have interesting conversations and get tips on top of that!

James had to dig some ditches since part of the employee yard was under water after a couple of days of heavy rain. I forgot to take pictures when he was wallowing in the mud but this is how it looked like after it dried up.


He also installed several fly screens in the lobby and living quarters of the staff.

And some little paint jobs here and there.....

I'm helping with the hotels laundry when they have a lot of check-outs....
And here are the newest residents of the hotel grounds:
Aaaawwww........, soooo cute!

Momma led them straight in between 2 of the hotel buildings. All guests were snapping away with their cameras but she seemed pretty much undisturbed. Just passing through!

Friday, June 15, 2012


Wow, another post already! Well, we had 2 days of rain so I had some time on my hands.....

I thought I show you some pictures of the hotel. 
There are 3 old Alaska train cars on the premises, one of which houses the lobby.
The 4  'barracks', as one of the guests called them, hold the rooms, 48 in total. They're just your standard motel 6 type rooms but neat and very clean.
One of James' jobs this week was to hang the freshly planted planter-boxes that came back from the nursery;  one of mine this summer is to water them.

It's been 2 weeks since we arrived and we're pretty much settled in. We love our site!

It's away from everybody, the view is awesome and the moose are walking right up to the RV as this one did one evening:

To see 2 hanging out together is rather unusual:

James is becoming a real 'mountain man' ; here he is chopping down a dead tree that blocked the view from our side window. Lots of  'tim-b-e-e-e-er' going on off course......

After driving some guests to the entrance of Denali National Park, some 12 miles away, we did some exploring ourselves and checked out the visitor center.

Here you can learn more about the park by speaking with park rangers, viewing the park film, "Heartbeats of Denali," and exploring an exhibit area.
We watched the movie which is about 20 minutes long, and is shown throughout the day on the hour and half-hour. It is a non-narrated film about the various seasons, landscapes and wildlife of the park.
Afterwards we checked out the displays which are very well done and informative.

Many Ranger-led hikes begin from the Denali Visitor Center and most of the trails in Denali can be accessed from the center. Definitely something we'll do sometime this summer.

On our way back to the hotel we also checked out 'The Village' just outside the Park. Also known as 'glitter gulch ' this is basically a tourist 'strip' or mall, full of souvenir shops and places where to book your park adventures like Jeep tours, fly-overs, rafting, etc.

There are also 3 very big, and very expensive, hotels, an outrageously expensive grocery store and quite a few restaurants like the 'world famous' (?) Salmon Bake.

And how about these furry 'undies'?
Last Sunday we were invited to attend the Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theater show at the McKinley Chalet Resort, an authentic, log-paneled roadhouse.
The show is a mix of storytelling, music and humor giving a taste of old-time Alaska as you follow the true story of Fannie Quigley in a Gold Rush adventure in early 1900s Alaska.
Before you enter the roadhouse you're welcomed with a song by the whole cast:

During the meal the honky-ton pianist was playing and several performers sang old Alaska folk songs.

The food was excellent and all you could eat; ribs, Alaska salmon, corn, beans, potatoes and a blackberry cobbler for desert.
With cream!!

The show was much better than I expected, the story and humor a little corny, but the actors were very talented and had beautiful voices!

Other than tipping the waiter the evening was offered to us for free, compliments of the Chalet, so we'll promote this evening to our guests. Not bad, since 'normal' admission is $63 pp!
Wednesday night we enjoyed another one of such a 'complementary' evening when we went river rafting with the Denali Outdoor Center.

(normally a $87 pp adventure)

Charming .....
Since glacial river water temperatures are very cold we were decked out in a 'dry' suit that close real tight around your neck and wrists with latex gaskets, extra boots over the feet that are attached to the suit, swim vests and helmets.
Suits like these, unlike a wet suit, you wear over your clothes and are designed specifically for protection against cold-water immersion in a whitewater river.

The glacier fed Nenana River is known as 'a river with a swift current and large volume whitewater' and it offers spectacular scenery as it traverses the Alaska Range and creates a natural eastern boundary for Denali National Park.
The trip began at the entrance to Denali National Park and journeyed 11 river miles to Healy.

We were divided in 2 groups, each given a paddle and were informed off all kinds of safety procedures and rescue instructions, after which our guide Tim wanted to know if we all still wanted to go........
I must say it all sounded almost serious enough to reconsider and I was a little apprehensive getting in the raft. 

But our first rapid went very well, although we were splashed pretty good, so I started to relax enough to enjoy the beautiful scenery in the Nenana Canyon.

According to Tim the rapids were definitely a Class IV at the moment due to a good snow run-off and the rain of the last couple of days.
During the roughly 1,5 hour we encountered over 10 major Class III to IV rapids with names like "Razorback," "Iceworm," "Cable Car," "Royal Flush," "Coffee Grinder" and "Trainwreck"!

I must say we had a blast, and a good workout, and to my astonishment stayed completely dry! 
The weather was totally cooperative this evening, there was a very unusual warm wind blowing through the canyon that made for a very comfortable ride/float? and the perfect temperature for the great BBQ afterwards that the Outdoor Center treated us to!

The mosquitoes tried to eat us alive though which seems to be inevitable as soon as the wind and rain ease up and the temperature rises!
We're going to get us something that's called a 'therma-cell' when we go for our next grocery shopping trip to Fairbanks on Thursday.
Hunters use them when they have to protect the meat from a killing while they're dressing it in the field.
It's a small device that emits a vapor that deters bugs (mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums) up to a 15x15 foot zone. We'll see!

They bother the animals too. We invented this for Merlin. It's one of those little nets you put over a dish at a BBQ! 

He worries me a little. He has lost quite some weight, drinks a lot and pees lot.  Sounds familiar doesn't it? I sure hope it's not his kidneys but the symptoms are very similar to te ones Felix displayed when he suffered from kidney failure.
I googled around a bit and found 2 other diseases with similar problems; diabetes or hyperthyroid.
We're going to the see the Vet today so keep your fingers crossed!

OK, two more moose pictures! To show just how close they come!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Warning: this post is HUGE! So lock the door and turn off the phone because you'll be here for a while!
I've been pulling my hair out for 2 weeks to get all this posted since Windows Live Writer sort of quit on me and I ran out of storage room on Picassa but I finally, finally got it to work! Halleluja!!

Well, we’ve made it, we’re in Alaska!!
After 16 days of travel we finally rolled into the grounds of the Denali Park Hotel, our ‘home’ for this summer!
We’re all still in one piece and in good spirits and even the RV and Truck made it here without any major problems (some minor, but nothing that wasn’t solvable).

We had an amazing trip through the most beautiful nature and scenery of Canada by traveling through British Columbia, The Yukon and part of the Northern Territories.
People always talk about the huge distances when you mention Alaska but those distances are mainly the miles you drive through Canada, not Alaska. Once you’re in Alaska, there are really only a couple of roads to choose from and they’re not very long either.
But Canada! There’s no end to it! You drive for days through endless forests, alongside huge rivers and hundreds of little streams, passing thousands of small lakes and there’s still more of it, lots of it! And it’s all beautiful!


Unfortunately it’s not that easy to take pictures along the way since there are not that many rest areas and pulling over is not always safe with the soft and narrow shoulders. I had to take a lot of them through the windshield of the truck off which a lot came out blurry but we still ended up with some good ones I think.
Again, I’m way behind posting this off course but we had very little to no internet access along the road or electricity for that matter since we ‘dry-camped’ (no hook-ups) quite often.
So I hope you-all will stick with me and read yourselves through all of it!

BC Yukon Route Map

This map shows our approximate route from Vancouver through BC and the Yukon Territories until Tok, Alaska.
From Vancouver we took a slightly more eastern route through Kamloops instead of Whistler and at Prince George we took the eastern route through Fort St. John and Fort Nelson to Watson Lake.
We're planning to come back taking the western route, the Cassiar Highway, through Prince Rupert and Whistler.

After leaving Camano Island our first stop was Lynden, a small village just before the Canadian border that has an obvious Dutch heritage.
A huge windmill welcomes you at the entrance of ‘old town’ and Main Street is made up of small houses with traditional Dutch facades.


I bought some ‘krentebollen’, Dutch raisin buns, that in the end didn’t turn out to be very good but it was fun to find them in the bakery.
On to the border! Our hopes of being ‘waved through’ at this small crossing were quickly dashed when, after some extensive questioning, they summoned us to park off the side, had us come in for more questions and in the meantime went through both the RV and the truck with a tooth-pick! Off course they didn’t find anything so they ‘had to let us go’ eventually.

Oh well, I guess they’re ‘just’ doing their job.


Since we’ve discovered we're really no city people we skipped Vancouver and although our plan was to ‘only’ to go to Abbotsford we drove all the way to Merritt that day, which mend we drove the Coquihalla Highway and conquered the 1244 meter ( !) pass. We had to slow way down on the 10 degree slope up but we made it without a problem with the help of the Banks power package we installed and the exhaust breaks that did their awesome job on the way down on the other side.

We’re very happy we invested in both systems!



To my relief the road was dry and fine although we still saw a lot of snow on both sides.

That first night we camped at a WalMart for the first time since we’re RV-ing. We had a great spot, an excellent view, did some shopping and had a nice quiet night. Off course you have no hook-ups but if you’re self sufficient that’s a small price to pay for a free night!


Another place you can stay for free in Canada is at most Husky gas stations, at the truck stops, and anywhere the trucks are allowed to overnight which can be at some restaurants and/or stores.

The next 2 days the road followed the Thompson River and later the Fraser River through beautiful lush farmland and rolling hills and the snow-capped mountains of either the Canadian Rocky Mountains or the Caribou Mountains in the background.



We spent a night in Valemount and than bypassed Prince George, which city we will visit when we come back through here in September.
Just before Purden Lake, a Provincial Campground where we decided to spent the night I saw my first bear down in the ditch off the highway’s shoulder!

We had counted on having hook-ups but discovered there weren’t any! Oh well. We had bought a small little burner/stove to cook on at Wal-Mart and we had propane for the heater so we (thought) were just fine.
The weather was sunny but there was a cold wind which made for a rather smoky campfire that night.


The next morning we woke up to a winter wonder land! Yep, it snowed!


Fortunately it thawed fast and we prepared to leave as early as we could only to find out that the truck as well as the RV had totally dead batteries! Also, the auxiliary battery had blown a fuse.

Already prepared to have to call (but how, .. there was no cell phone service….) for a tow James came up with a brilliant idea. He used the generator to charge the battery charger to charge the batteries!
It took a while but after an hour or 2 we managed to jumpstart the truck and after that to put some juice in the RV so we could bring the slides in. Phew!
The problem most likely had been that we kept the RV plugged into the truck overnight and the heater firing on and off all night, because of the cold, plus having some lights on for a while had drained all batteries.
You learn something everyday!

Now it's nice....

now it snows...(those little white specks)

The rest of the day was rather uneventful, although we had a light snow flurry around 3pm and saw 3, yes THREE, bears and our first moose!

Wow, how cool was that! You keep your eyes peeled all day and all of a sudden there’s this beautiful wild creature coming out of the forest, grazing alongside the road.

We were told the bears like to eat grass when they first wake up from hibernation to clean out their system. Very similar to what a cat or dog does when he eats grass.
The moose seemed to want to cross the road but than got spooked by the truck and trailer and turned around to hightail it out of there before I could take a picture.  Still, it was our first moose and we were thrilled!

We made it to Chetwynd, ‘the Chainsaw Sculpture Capital of the world’, and spent 2 nights at the Westwind RV Park.

before chetwynd1

Because their water was still frozen, which seems to be quite normal for RV parks here this early in the season, and the bathrooms were closed due to being renovated they waved the fees for the second night! We did have electricity and Wi-Fi so James could do some computer work and I could run the dishwasher and did some laundry.

And again we woke up to snow, 2 inches of it this time! We certainly seem to plan our rest days just right so we don’t have to go on the road in this!

We made a short visit into town to take a look at the chainsaw sculptures that are on display. Chetwynd hosts a yearly chainsaw festival and the winning sculptures from each year all get a permanent spot somewhere along the main roads in town.

before chetwynd

I also hoped to pick up some groceries but I almost fainted over the prices in the grocery store so we cut it down to the bare necessities.
A gallon of milk or a piece of cheese for $7, a single can of chili for $5! They must be kidding, but they weren’t!
After a cold night (28F) we left around 10am and took the Hudson Hope Loop cut-off that links the John Hart Highway to the Alaskan Highway, bypassing Dawson Creek.
By doing this we knew we were missing out on taking a picture of our ‘rig’ at milepost 0, the official start of the ‘Alcan’ as the Alaska Highway was called by the military that build its first ‘edition’ but we figured it would save us quite some time.

File:Alaska Highway1.png

Had I read up in advance that we had some steep inclines ahead of us we might have made a different decision but as it was we slowly had to make our way through some very mountainous terrain that ate up a lot of our precious gasoline!



We overnight-ed at the Buckinghorse Lodge, a roadside cafe where they allow you to stay in the parking lot.
James checked the generator fearing it had sprung a leak since we discovered we lost most of the gas out of it ($30 worth, darn) which had sprayed over the underside of the front of the RV.
Fortunately it only turned out to be a lose bolt so it was an easy fix.

Today’s tally came to 4 deer, 2 elk and 2 moose! We even got a (bad) pic of the moose this time!


The next day we ‘did’ 3 passes! The ‘Steamboat Mountain Summit’ (3500 feet), Summit Pass (4250 feet) and Muncho Lake at an elevation of 2650 feet.


We marveled at the magnificent snow capped mountains of the Central Canadian Rockies and beautiful, still frozen, Summit Lake.



We had lunch in the snow. Sadie had a great time romping through it while Merlin had fun ‘making yellow snow’!


Stone sheep are frequently seen in the area and we saw 2 of them! It looks like this young male busted one of it’s horns. Darker and somewhat slighter than the bighorn sheep found in the Rockies these sheep are indigenous to the mountains of northern British Columbia and southern Yukon Territory.


Other than the sheep we came across 4 deer, 1 elk, 1 bear, 2 moose and this caribou family that decided the grass on the other side definitely looked greener…


We camped at the Strawberry Flats provincial Park Campground at Muncho Lake, known for its beautiful deep green and blue waters. The colors are attributed to copper oxide leaching into the lake.




The weather was beautiful and we sat at the waters edge until late; the evenings are definitely getting longer and longer!



Our first stop the next day was Lineard Hot Springs only 1 hour down the road where we had a wonderful long hot soak in one of the pools. Aaaaahh….

The water temperatures range from 108 to 126 F! At certain spots the water was almost too hot!
The boardwalk trail leading to the pools crosses a wetlands environment that supports more than 250 boreal forest plants, including 14 orchid species and 14 plants that only survive at this latitude because of the hot springs.

It wasn’t until days later that we heard from someone that they’ve had lots of bear attacks around these pools in previous years, even one fatality! Yeaks!



We followed the Liard River for the rest of the day through endless forests of white spruce, lodgepole pines and quavering aspen.

Signs kept popping up warning us for all kinds of possible wildlife in the area and on the roads and we were not disappointed! Today we saw, are you sitting down, 10 bears (Ten!), 2 herds of bison and some individual ones, 2 deer and 2 moose! How about that!

… this looks be a grizzly:

…and obviously these are bison:





What goes in....must come out!

Pretty darn awesome, eh!
Due to helping an older couple changing out their flat tire we arrived in Watson Lake late in the afternoon, just when it started to cloud up and sprinkle.
Just before Watson Lake we left British Colombia and now entered the Yukon Territories.

We’d have liked to camp at a campsite we found in the Milepost for $12 a night but they were closed for the season?
It’s really rather worrisome how many hotels, restaurants and campgrounds we came a crossed so far were closed/out of business and boarded up or just left to fall in disrepair.
I’d say about a third or maybe even half of them!
In talking to some business owners we learned that tourism so far seems down from last year, when it was already down from previous years. People don’t seem to have much money for vacations to begin with, Alaska is expensive to get to with the current gas prices and very expensive to stay once you get there on top of that.

We ended up at Downtown RV Park for $40 (!) a night. For that amount of money you expect everything to function but this time we had no sewer hookups!
Wi-Fi also was ‘iffy’ at the best so James used the local library to send out some e-mails.

I have to say though it had a very cozy, heated bath house, complete with soft country music and the water pressure in the shower almost blew you out of the stall!
We also had a nice spot overlooking Wye Lake Park which had a beautiful trail with boardwalks through the marshy areas all around it. Interpretive panels presented information on Yukon wildflowers and the migrating and local birds.



We saw, and heard, this red-necked grebe, part of a nesting couple and I spotted a (no picture, yes I know…no proof) yellow warbler.

The Watson Lake Signpost Forest is a must to see when you’re here! Started by a homesick soldier working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942, nowadays travelers are still adding signs to the collection which numbers more than 70,000.


We also visited the Alaska Highway Interpretive Center, operated by Tourism Yukon which is well worth a visit if you ever find yourselves in this neck of the woods.
It offers nice displays and an excellent video on Yukon history and the construction of the (Alaska-Canada/Alcan) Alaska Highway.
In a heroic effort this road was constructed by the military in about 10 months under horrible circumstances in 1942. 


..and now....

After resting here for a day, during which it rained most of the time, we set off the next day in a light drizzle towards Teslin. By the time we passed the Continental Divide at milepost 699 about 2 hours later the roads were dry again.
As I said before, so far we’ve been very lucky with the weather on our ‘driving days’.

The Continental Divide divides 2 of the largest drainage systems in North America, the Yukon River and Mackenzie River watersheds. Water draining west from this point eventually ends up in the Bering Sea (Pacific Ocean) and the water that drains to the east empties in the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean). The things you learn!

During our coffee break/stop we met with a very brave Grey Jay.

We crossed the Nisutlin Bay Bridge where the Nisutlin River forms the’ bay’ as it flows into Teslin Lake just before driving into Teslin.
It’s the longest water span on the Alaskan Highway at 1917 feet.


Don’t blink while you’re driving through town or you may miss it but we took a short break to visit the (free) Wildlife Gallery which turned out to have an excellent collection of many beautifully displayed northern species.

Lunch stops

Somewhat by accident we ended up camping at Timber Point on the shore of Teslin Lake. For only $10 we scored a beautiful lake view spot and except for one other camper that pulled in later that evening we were the only ones there!

What a gorgeous place this was, especially in the early morning when the water of the lake was as still as a mirror.

A short drive the next morning brought us to the city of Whitehorse which has been the capital of the Yukon Territory since 1953 and lies on the west bank of the Yukon River.

Before the Alaska Highway was build in 1942 the river was the only ‘Highway’ that connected the newly build White Pass & Yukon Route Railway in 1900 with Dawson City during the gold rush years and traveling was done by peddle boat.
We took a tour of the restored SS Klondike, one of the stern-wheelers that carried mail, supplies, passengers and silver lead ore back and forth over the river, that sits on display in dry dock beside the Yukon River.

The road had been fairly decent until now with an occasional pothole, mostly repaired, or short stretch of gravel but the next 100 miles or so out of Whitehorse were pretty rough and made for a rather bumpy and slow ride to Pine Lake Recreation Park, a government campground just before Haines Junction.

The bad drive was more than made up though by the stunning views of the rugged snowcapped peaks of the Kluane Range Icefields and the outer portion of the St. Elias Mountains. Unbelievably beautiful!

The Icefields are Canada’s highest and the world‘s largest nonpolar alpine icefield.


Unfortunately there was no place to stop or pull over for our big ‘train’ so I had to snap some pics through the windshield that really don’t do it justice. Oh, well..

We managed to find another beautiful spot at Pine Lake Recreation Park, again with a view of the lake. This campground was also empty when we arrived. It pays to come in early for the best spots!

The weather was gorgeous and we had ourselves a wienie-roast & marshmallows for desert.

Later in the evening, it was still very light, we walked the nature trail alongside the lake through what is called a ‘boreal forest’.

Also called ‘taiga’ this forest exists as a nearly continuous belt of coniferous trees across North America and Eurasia just below the treeless tundra of the polar region. There are overlying formerly glaciated areas and areas of patchy permafrost on both continents and bogs and peatland are found throughout.
Taiga is the Russian name for this forest which covers so much of that country. However, the term is used in North America as well.


For most of the next day the road was rather bad. Lots of big old potholes, probably repaired the previous year but worn out again, long patches of gravel, large new cracks and the dreaded ‘frost heaves’ as described in our faithful travel guide ‘The Milepost’ which is basically a mile by mile travel log with lots and lots of great tips and a must-have sort of ‘bible’ for Alaskan Highway travelers.

Since its construction the road has always been under reconstruction due to the brutal climate here especially on this stretch of bumpy road between the Donjek River and the Alaska border.
Much of the problem is caused by the (slight) melting of the ‘permafrost’, which is underlying soil that stays almost permanently frozen here and when it liquefies it has little strength and will settle or subside. Then if it refreezes it will expand or heave.
Fortunately we can use both sides of the road since we’re early in the season and there’s nobody on it so we kind of drunkenly weave our way around the worst holes.

The beautiful Kluane Range still keeps us company on the left side for most of the day. We pass Kluane Lake which is still mostly frozen; this is the largest lake of the Yukon.

The southern slopes of the surrounding mountains are the primary winter and spring range and lambing area of a Dall sheep population but unfortunately we didn’t see any.
We did see one bear but it seems we’re having a little ‘dry spell’ in seeing any wildlife at the moment!

Our campsite was a nice one again. Another Lake view site at the Snag Junction campground. All these campgrounds that are run by the government have turned out to be very nice. Clean and well laid out with large spaces that are well away from each other and free firewood! Apparently when they do maintenance and cut or trim trees they saw everything up in nice little logs and fill up the large wood bins that are placed here and there throughout the campground. And all that for only $12! No hook-ups though.

We had only a little while to go before we arrived at the Alaska border the next day.
There was a little frantic search for my green card that I couldn’t find anywhere and which finally was discovered at the bottom of my bottomless purse where it must have fallen out of my wallet but other than that we were basically ‘waved through’ here!

Wow! We did it! We made it to Alaska! How about that!

The road was fantastic for the first 50 miles, smooth new asphalt but then we hit the ‘old’ road again although it was much better than before.
We drove through Tok which is the only city in Alaska that everybody must pass through twice, one when arriving in the state and again when leaving
Other than that there’s really not much to it.

For some reason almost everybody seems to wash their vehicle here, something about wanting to start driving through Alaska with a ‘clean’ slate? Anyways, we did the same thing. We didn’t get everything but we looked a lot better!

Our next stop was the visitor center in Delta Junction, the official end of the Alaska Highway where we took a picture at milepost 1422.

Job well done, Honey!

You also get a fair warning here for what they sometimes jokingly refer to as Alaska’s un-official state ‘bird’; the mosquito!
Apparently they’re huge. And as they say here ‘there’s not a single one around here, they’re all married and have big families!’

Something to look forward to!

alaska state bird

At Smith’s Green Acres RV Park we’re welcomed by Joe, the manager, who has only just arrived himself and is barely ‘open’ yet.
Since we have no water and barely sewer and the bathhouse is still boarded up he gives us a good price. He’s a great source of information about Alaska and gives us a lot of pointers about where to go and what to do.

After a rainy night we drive off the next morning heading for Fairbanks. We’re almost at the end of our travels!
On the way we visit the Knotty Shop that has gifts and a small wildlife museum inside and a display of spruce burl creations out in front. There are also unusual and impressive burl railings on the front porch.


Burls start as an irritation in the spruce. The tree sends extra sap as a healant, which creates a growth or burl. They’re harvested fro live or dead trees and made into fence posts, railings, art and various objects such as bowls.
James was a happy camper because by showing the add of the Knotty Shop in The Milepost at the counter you are entitled to a huge scoop of their delicious ice-cream!

We looked forward to visit the town of North Pole, just before Fairbanks but were very disappointed by what turned out to be mainly a big tourist-trap.


The Santa Claus House was just a big souvenir shop with a Christmas theme, nothing cute or quaint. There was a Santa and he was pretty good but that was all there was to it. No workshop or something like Santa’s living room or so, just business as usual.


Well …Bahambug!

Finally we reached Fairbanks and after some shopping at Wal-Mart we drove another 30 miles east towards Chena Hot Springs.
After setting up camp at the Rosehip State Campground (only $10!) we drove the rest of 25 miles to the springs and had a long relaxing soak in the outdoor mineral pool.


Aaahhhh…life is good!

Other than being a very old, 100+ years, resort that offers all kind of outdoors activities like horse riding, flight seeing and dog mushing but this place is also known for its innovative uses of geothermal energy. They use it to heat the hotel and all buildings on the grounds and several glasshouses in which they grow their own fresh vegetables.



There’s a ‘cool’ ice museum that’s kept up by some famous ice sculptors but the price was a little steep and the tour had already started when we got there.

It rained most of the night and our campsite got pretty soggy but when we got up the next morning and drove to Fairbanks the skies were blue and the sun was out.
Just before we arrived at the University of Alaska to visit the Museum of the North this moose, and 2 more, crossed the road in front of us. That jogger in the background had to look twice before he realized it was a moose running alongside him!

The beautiful contemporary museum exhibits extensive displays of Alaska wildlife and Alaska Native culture. We also watched 2 excellent 30-min films in the auditorium, one about the Aurora borealis (Northern lights) and one about the Alaskan winter.

Highlight of the animal displays is Blue Babe, a 36,000-year-old steppe bison mummy.

alaska university

Another special feature is called ‘The Place Where You Go to Listen’, an enclosed room that draws on cycles of day and night, seismic activity (Alaska has hundreds of smaller and bigger earthquakes per month) and the aurora (that goes on 24-hours a day although you can not see it in daylight) to create an ever-changing sound and light experience. Rather eerie, but interesting.

Next stop was Pioneer Park. This basically is a big, 44-acre, park filled with Alaska’s history. Authentic historic log cabins and buildings have been brought here and were reassembled to form Gold Rush Town.

alaska university1

There’s also a big dance hall, a theater and saloon and the restored SS Nenata, a large stern-wheeler.
At the rear of the park is Mining Valley with displays of mining equipment.

Since it was Memorial Day the place was packed with families and children who took advantage of the Amusement Park attractions like the merry-go-round, miniature golf and the little narrow-gauge train that runs through the park.
It was a beautiful day and we took a leisurely stroll through the whole thing but overall we thought the place was rather run down and not very interesting.

Although they allow you to park your RV here overnight we went back to Wal-Mart for another free stay after doing a grocery run for 2 weeks worth with what are basically our last ‘resources’. We have to make some money this summer otherwise we will be stuck here!

And than our last day of travel, at least for a while, was upon us!
We only had about 100 miles to go so we took it easy and stopped about halfway to visit Nenana.

This tiny town is perhaps best known for the Nenana Ice Classic, an annual event that awards cash prizes to the lucky winners (or winner) who guess the exact minute of the ice breakup on the Tanana River. The contest has been a spring highlight since 1917.
The festivities begin the last weekend in February with the Tripod Raising Festival and end at the breakup time in late April or May.

When the surging ice on the river dislodges the tripod, a line attached to the tripod trips the clock located in a tower atop the Ice Classic Office, thus recording the official break-up time.

And finally at 1.30 pm we arrived at our summer destination, Denali Park Hotel, just outside of Healy and about 12 miles from the Park’s entrance.

We were welcomed by Sherry and Greg, the very friendly managers of the hotel and escorted to our site at the far end of the parking lot behind the farthest of the 4 hotel room buildings where we proceeded to set up camp.


Since the second workamping couple they had hired cancelled we have a nice big and private site and we could now tie into both of the available 30 amp hook-ups to create 50 amp so we can run everything we want at the same time. Nice!
The cable gives us about 12 TV stations which are more than enough for us and the Wi-Fi of the hotel seems to work OK over here. So far so good!
To top everything off we were visited by this young moose and a little later by a bigger one. There’s a small lake and marshy area right outside our back window where they apparently like to hang out. We will have an awesome view!


This males antlers are starting to grow again

OK for all you brave and loyal readers that made it to here I’m now going to try to post this huge blog, I hope I’ll succeed with the rather slow speeds at the moment!

(but I guess if you read all this it obviously worked, ..duhhh!)