This Sight is Continuously Evolving
2002 Alaska trip log
In June of 2001, Patti and I flew up to Fairbanks Alaska to visit her
daughter, sun-in-law and grand kids. We only had a week to spend up there and that
wasnt near enough time so I decided to drive up the Alaska highway this year and
spend more time in the state and do more fishing.At first I planned to buy a small motor
home, drive it up and tow My van Pigpen behind me.
I left Santa Rosa at 9:00 on the morning of Tuesday June 25th. I drove north on Highway 101 through the redwoods stopping for lunch by the Eel River just south of the little town of Miranda. After a quick sandwich and a soda, I continued my trek north.
Around 3:00 p.m. I was getting tired so I took the Patricks Point State Park turn off, found a wide turnout and parked to take a short nap. I woke up around 4:45 and got back on the road. Saw a small herd of Elk grazing along the West Side of the freeway south of Prairie Creek State Park. I stopped at Crescent City where I filled Pigpens gas tank and turned northeast on Highway 199 along the Smith River. Around 6:30 I found a spot to camp near the river about 15 miles from the Oregon border.
Weather; clear and warm.
At about 8:30a.m. I left my camp spot on the smith river and headed northwest toward Grants Pass Oregon where I got on to I5 and turned north toward Seattle. The drive on I 5 was long and boring.
Just south of the town of Glendale Oregon I noticed that Pigpens turn signals were not working. I pulled off on the first off ramp I could find and checked the flashers out. I decided that the problem was in the flasher unit itself. I continued down the freeway pulling off at a couple of ramps to see if I could find an auto parts store without success.
Finally I found the Glendale general store where they had 1 flasher unit that just happened to be the one I needed. I purchased the flasher, installed it and was on my way again.
By about 5:30 I was just south of Olympia Washington I decided to stop for supper. I figured that if I didnt stop there for a while that I would get to Seattle right at rush hour and I didnt want to do that. As it worked out I arrived in Seattle around 7:00. I followed the directions given to me by my friend Don and found his place with no trouble.
Weather; clear and warm until around Olympia Washington then turning gray and overcast
I spent the day in Seattle visiting with my friends Don and Jean.
Weather; overcast with occasional drizzle.
I left Dons house at 8:00 a.m. heading north for BC. I arrived at the border crossing around 10.00 a.m. I guess they didnt like the fact that I was video taping the crossing so they had me pull to the side and told me to go in the building to the immigration desk. An officer took my camcorder and disappeared with it. I went to the immigration desk and presented my passport and drivers license. They asked me some dumb questions and told me to take a seat. I sat around for a long time while other people came in, presented their papers and left. Eventually they gave me my passport back along with a slip of paper and told me to take it to the customs desk. The person at customs told me to take a seat. I did so and waited with some other folks who I had seen come and go at the immigration window. We sat around and grumbled while our vehicles were being searched.
After a long while an officer gave me back my keys and told me that every thing was ok and that I could continue on my trip. Welcome to Canada, Have a nice day. The whole thing took over an hour.
The first thing that I checked when I got back to Pigpen was to see if they had returned my camera. It was siting on the passenger seat.
I headed north again.
At around noon I pulled of the road to have some lunch.
I checked my camcorder to see what they had done and found that they had erased the part where I was talking to the officer at the gate who had asked me to pull over to the side but every thing else was still there. I guess I wont try filming a border crossing again.
The rest of the day was uneventful I drove along the Frasier River for hours and around 7:00 I decided I needed to eat and find a place to camp for the night. I pulled off the highway on to a secondary road and drove for a while until I came to a pipe-line road. I turned on to it and drove for a little way until I found a spot behind some trees.
As soon as I stepped out of the van I was attacked by hoards of mosquitoes. I am sure glad that I installed the screens on the windows and the mosquito netting around my bunk. Every time I open the door to go in or out several of the hungry little bloodsuckers would fly into the van, then I would spend several minutes swatting them. As I write this I am sitting on the bunk with the mosquito netting zipped down tight.
I checked to see if I could make a call from here but could not get a cell lock.
I am about 350km south Prince George BC off of hwy. 97.
Started out this morning around 7:00 and drove through Prince George and over the Rocky Mountains and all the way to Dawson Creek. I saw 4 black bear along the road but couldnt stop for pictures. At one spot there was a smaller bear climbing up from a large ditch at the side of the road as I passed I noticed another bear lying in the ditch. It looked to me like it was dead. I suspect it was hit by one of the big trucks that cruse down these roads. If the bear had been hit by anything smaller it too would probably have been in the ditch.
I arrived at Dawson Creek around 6:30. I was burnt out so I decided to get nice supper and spend the night in a motel.
Dawson Creek is mile 0 of the Alaska Highway
The morning was clear but the further north I traveled the darker the clouds became. I experienced high winds and heavy showers on the West Side of the Rocky's. On the East Side of the Divide it was windy and clear.
Left Dawson Creek around 8:00 am. and started up the Alaska Highway toward White Horse some 1500 kilometers distant. Saw two wolves alongside the road. Later saw a moos cow and her calf. I wasnt able to get a picture of ether. Pigpen is running good but seams to be using an exceptional amount of fuel. At last gas stop I looked for leaks in fuel system. Found that the vent hose on fuel tank is leaking. It is raining hard and the ground is very muddy. I will wait to fix it until conditions are better. The road conditions are still good but there are stretches of gravel. Got two chips in windshield from on coming trucks. Traveled until around 8:00 pm. I am too tired to continue driving. Found side road to camp on for the night.
Bright morning with scattered clouds and strong gusty winds as I travel north the sky is growing dark and cloudy with lots of rain and wind. Raining hard now.
Today has been the longest travel day yet.
I woke up around 6:15 am to the sound of rain on the roof and was on the road by 6:45. I stopped at a small lodge on the Liard River and had a cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie. I had planned to stop in White Horse for the night, a distance of about 600 kilometers. White Horse is a dumpy little town with little to recommend it. I didnt see anywhere that I wanted to eat and less places that I wanted to stay at, so after wandering around the town for a while I hit the road again heading west. The pie and coffee that I had that morning was the only thing I had eaten all day. I got to Hanes Junction in the Yukon around 6:30 pm. A distance of about 700 km. total. There I had a Chinese dinner that was probably the second worst Chinese dinner I have ever had and headed west again. I finally ran out of steam on the west side of Kluane Lake about another 100 km. At about 10:30pm I pulled in to a campground for some rest. I am far enough north now that at10:45 pm. it is still bright day light. The scenery has been spectacular. I hope I got some good footage on the Pigpen-cam so I can make some vid-caps. because I havent taken any pictures with my digital camera.
I have seen one more black bear and several bison. Most of the bison were on ranches but a few were out in the bush.
Rainy with strong gusty winds in the morning. Clearing But still windy by the time I got to White Horse.
I woke up around 8:00 am. Fired up Pigpen and hit the road around 8:30. I drove for about an hour and came upon a beautiful view so I pulled over to take some pictures. While I was stopped I decided to fix myself some oatmeal for breakfast.
For the last couple of days I have been getting a strong odor of gasoline while driving and the engine was idling rough so after breakfast I decided that while I was stopped I would check it out. As I suspected the carburetor had loosened up which is a common occurrence with these engines. I removed the carb, tightened up all the screws, replaced the carburetor and was on the road again with no more gas smell.
The Alaska Highway through the Yukon is good but not quite as good as it is in BC. There is a lot of Highway construction going on here so the road should be much better when they are done. For travelers today however the going can at times be a little rough but the scenery in the Yukon is spectacular.
As I was driving through one particularly long stretch of construction zone I noticed a smell like antifreeze. I eventually came to another turn out with a beautiful view so I decided to stop for pictures and check out the smell. I couldnt see any leaks coming from the radiator but there was coolant along the right side of the engine compartment. I tightened up all the hose clamps and got back on the road. I am still getting a slight smell of coolant so I will have to investigate further.
At around noon I crossed the border into Alaska. I was surprised how happy I was to be back in The States.
Now dont get me wrong, Canada is a beautiful country and the people are as friendly as you will find anywhere but it is after all a foreign country and there, I am a foreigner. Their money is different (always use your credit card in Canada That way you are sure to get the current exchange rate.)
They sell gas by the liter (a little more than a quart). Gas is from 71 cents/ lt. In the south to over 80cents up north. My last fill up came to over 80 dollars (Canadian). I dont have a clue what that is in green backs but I hope it is a lot less than $80.00
Distances are measured in kilometers (about 2/3 of a mile) and their speed limits are given in km/h. I was a little shocked the first time I saw a speed limit sign that read Maximum Speed 100 km/h. That is until I did the math. It works out to about 70 mph. So, every time you see a speed limit sign or a distance sign you have to convert it in your head. Now lets see is 50km/h about 30mph or is it closer to 40mph.
White Horse is 1500 km from Dawson Creek so now how many miles is that?
A thousand? Maybe 800? Where is that metric conversion chart when you need one? Oh thats right I dont have one. Rats!
Well, Eventually I arrive in Fairbanks around 7:00 pm. The end of another long day of driving.
Saw two Moos cows one of which had two calves.
The morning was partly cloudy. As I traveled north the clouds thickened and about half way between the border and Fairbanks it began to rain and is raining still.
Total miles so far 3807.8mi.
Awoke to the sound of rain on the van again this morning. I just hung out at Beckis today. I did laundry and spent a lot of the day getting e-mail set up on this computer and worked on setting Beckis up so now we both have e-mail. It rained until around 8:30 pm. The weather forecast for tomorrow calls for mostly cloudy. Tomorrow we are planning a trip to The Copper River to dip-net for salmon.
I woke up around 8:00 the weather was bright with scattered clouds and a cold wind blowing from the South.
After a quick breakfast Randy and I went to the shop where he works. He had some G jobs to do and I had a few minor things that I wanted to fix on Pigpen. We were done at the shop by around 10:00. We left there and went shopping for supplies for our up coming Dip-netting adventure on the Copper River. We left Fairbanks around 5:00 and headed west on the Richardson Highway to Delta Junction where we turned south toward Valdez. The highway runs through some of the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen it almost brought tears to my eyes.
We arrived at the fishing camp on the junction of Anderson Creek and the Copper River Not Far from the village of Chitna Alaska at around midnight.
I turned Pigpen around so that the doors were on the lea side to block the wind so that the others in our group (Russell, his son Bow and Glen) could set up their tents. Randy and I shared Pigpen. Around 1:30 am. I decided to call it a night and crawled into my bunk. A short time later I heard Randy telling the others that he had seen a guy just land a huge salmon. Randy, Glen and Russell garbed their dip-nets and went to try their luck. I went to sleep.
Clear and bright in the morning. Heavy clouds building during the day as we headed for the fishing spot on Anderson Creek. A cold strong wind blew all night shaking the van.
Time; 7.5 hrs.
I woke up around 8:00 with the wind shaking Pigpen again. The rest of the group slept in because they had been awake until early morning trying to net the elusive Salmon. After every one was finally up and fed, Randy, Russell and I took a ride to do some scouting for a better camp spot and better area to fish.
Russell guided us to a place where many people had set up fish wheels.
It looked like a good place to fish and a better place to camp(less people).
There was one fellow fishing in front of us who caught some fish but we didnt have any success. The guy took pity on us and gave us a 10 lb. Salmon. Russell cleaned and filleted it and they are planing on smoking the filets tomorrow (after the next sleep cycle). It is 12:15am. It is still light and they are still waiting for the Salmon to run. I am going to bed.
The day started with a gray skys and a cold wind blowing out of the south
About 10 mi.
Woke up with the wind still shaking the van.
The salmon havent made their appearance yet. The fish wheels are empty and only a few salmon have been taken by the dip-neters. We have decided to give up on the salmon and go on down to Valdez to check it out. It is a distance of around 100 mi. On the way to Valdez we saw some really beautiful scenery. We stopped to check out the Wherthington Classier and some waterfalls. We camped just North of Valdez at the Glacier Campground. The campground is in the Rain Forest the camps are separated by thick foliage. From our spot we can see a waterfall cascading down the vertical wall of a mountain to our north that is covered with thick vegetation. We saw a few black bears. I got pictures of a skinny cub scrounging in the roadside garbage.
High winds with dark clouds scudding across the sky. Rain on and off all the way to Valdez.
Randy, Bau and Glen sat around the fire sharing a jug and swapping stories until around 3:00am. They had planned to try fishing for salmon at the Valdez City pier but they didnt get up until after 9:30 am. Too late to start fishing as we had a six or eight hour drive back to Fairbanks. We went into Valdez and walked around for a while looking at the port and the boats. Saw a lot of sea kayaks. The Prince William Sound where Valdez is located is very calm and perfect for Kayaking. Valdez is a pretty little town surrounded by high mountains, glaciers and the milky blue sound. Left Valdez around 1:30pm. Arrived in Fairbanks around 8:30pm.
Thick clouds in the morning clearing by noon then sunny and warm with some scattered clouds hanging over the mountains.
Day 13 July 9
Well, Day 13 has been an unlucky one for me and a girl from Anchorage.
The day started off warm and humid Fairbanks had been having a lot of rain while we were on the Copper River basking in wind and grit. Today was the first sunny day in a few.
I had some shopping to do so after breakfast and a shower Pigpen and I headed off to see if we could find our way around Fairbanks.
I found the computer store; I found the Fred Meyers store and Safeway. I was getting hungry so I found a Wendys. Unfortunately when I was backing out after eating a totally tasteless Chicken breast filet sandwich. The left rear corner of my 6in. Channel iron bumper found the left front headlight and fender of a new KIA automobile.
Pigpen didnt get a scratch. The KIA wasnt so lucky.
There was no one in the KIA so I figured that they were in Wendys.
I had to go inside and ask who owned the KIA out side. Fortunately it turned out to be a girl from Anchorage and not some big burly bad tempered pipeline worker. I apologized for smashing the front of her new car; we exchanged insurance information and went on our way.
I sheepishly found my way to Becks place. I called my Insurance Company and told them what happened.
Randy fixed moos for dinner. Yummy.
It is 12.05 am. Time for bed.
I heard rain drops on the van during the night, woke up around 9:00am. to a warm overcast day.
I was supposed to meet Randy and Glen at noon so we could make the final arraignments and put down the deposit for the fly in fishing trip. Randy called in the morning and said that he had to work out of town today and couldnt make it.
After doing some minor shopping I met glen at Randys shop at around 11.45. He told me that he didnt have the money for the deposit but would have it tomorrow. I was on my way out of town to drive south on the Parks highway looking for fishing spots and didnt know when I would be back. I told glen that I would return to Randys house and leave money with Becki and that I was counting on him and randy to pay the deposit for the trip. I did so and left town by 1:00pm. I didnt come all the way to Alaska to hang around Fairbanks.
I drove south on the Parks Highway past Denali State Park and took a left on the Denali Highway. This road goes between the Parks Highway and Packson a small village near Packson Lake on the highway that goes to Valdez. It is paved for maybe a mile then it turns into a gravel road with many chuckholes and lots of washboard. Of course the scenery is beautiful. There is very little access to the backcountry by motor vehicle up here most of the little side roads go to some ones house or other private property. I am now camped in a turnout not far from the Nenana River a glacier fed stream that runs north and eventually empties into the Tanana River. The river is very silty and not good for fishing. I have noticed that most of the larger rivers here flow fast and muddy.
I hope I find some places to fish tomorrow.
Overcast in the morning some rain as I got south past Nenana, Some clearing in the evening.
I camped early today. I stopped to take a nap around 3:00 and didnt wake up until 6:00. The place where I stopped is a small turnout off a side road off the Denali highway on the East Side of the Susitna River Bridge and about half way between the Parks highway and Packson.
I have been watching for bears all day but havent seen any. This spot that I am in overlooks the Susitna River I have a panorama of the mountains in the distance and the wide river below me. The river is about a half mile wide at this point; it runs in scores of channels separated by sandbars and islands. I have been keeping an eye on the river most of the evening but still no sign of bears.
I left my last camp around 7:30 this morning The days drive has been spectacular the scenery has been indescribable any superlatives that I could use would pail in attempting to describe the grand vistas and the beauty of the Alaska Range and its glacial rivers and drainages. At times the views are so moving that they bring tears to my eyes.
The battery in my digital camera is getting low and I blue up the charger so I didnt get to many stills but I did do some video so I hope I can get some good vid-caps.
It is about 11:30 at night and I am watching a beautiful sun set. It will probably take another 45 minutes for the sun to actually set and then it will only be gone for a couple of hours. It still doesnt get real dark its more like late evening.
Well Im getting tired so I will role down the curtains and get some sleep.
Saw one Bull Moos, and one Marmot.
The morning started like most mornings here with a mixture of clouds and sunshine. Temperatures during the day reached in the high 60s or low 70s. A loud thunderstorm rolled through around 6:00 in the evening with lots of rumbling and some good rain squalls. It was gone by 7:00 and the mosquitoes returned.
I left my camp overlooking the Sustina River around 11:00. I had been sitting in the drivers seat of Pigpen for an hour looking at the scenery. I finally tore my self away, warmed up the engine and continued my journey through this spectacular country.
I drove east along the Denali Highway toward the junction with the (Richardson Highway?) at Packson Lodge. The views were many and all beautiful. There were ponds and lakes and clear streams. I stopped a few times to fish but had no success. I guess the first rule of fishing may apply to Alaska as well as anywhere else. If you can drive to it there probably aint no fish there
There were mountains of many colors, majestic white peaks, low rolling green hills and black towering cliffs. One range had red and green and gray vertical bands.
As I drove slowly along the gravel highway I searched. Watching the hills, some times stopping to glass along the rivers or the hillsides but no sign of bears. Yet!
At Packson Lodge I turned north. I found a camp spot a few miles below Delta Junction along the Delta River (Another silt laden glacier fed river). I glassed along the river and the surrounding hills and still no sign of bears.
A cool morning, mostly cloudy, some showers in the distance. As the day progressed the wind picked up. Most of the larger lakes and ponds exhibiting white caps. Its a little too rough for canoeing. In the late afternoon warmer with scattered clouds with the winds falling off towards evening.
Tonight I am camped North of Fairbanks along the Chatanica River.
I was awakened early this morning by a strong wind shaking Pigpen. I checked my watch, it was 6:30. To early to get up so I snuggled back down in the blankets and let the wind rock me back to sleep.
I finally got up around 8:30 and after a breakfast of oatmeal and hot chocolate I started up Pigpen and headed north again.
I had driven the section of road before and enjoyed the scenery again.
Some time after noon I took a turnoff on a dirt road, followed it for a while and found a spot to stop for lunch. When I got out of the van I noticed that I was stopped next to a small mosquito pond. It was about 15 feet across and 30ft. long and was separated from me by a thin growth of trees and shrubs. As I busied myself with getting my lunch I herd a few twigs breaking in the woods just on the other side of the pond. I stopped what I was doing and peered through through a gap in the screening bushes and saw a Cow Moos cautiously making her way out of the woods on the other side of the pond.
Slowly I reached for the closest camera, which was my video camera.
From where I was I could not see the moos clearly so I sneaked around the van using it as a screen. When I reached the back of the van I was able to get some footage of her. Then I decided to take a chance on getting my Digital camera out of the van. It was put away in its case under the bunk. I managed to get it and sneak back to the spot where I had taken the video but when I brought the camera up I saw the dreaded message Disk Full. Damn!
I ejected the full disk, snuck back around the van got out another disk, inserted it and got two pictures before the Moos had had enough and left the scene.
It was still early in the day so I decided to continue on toward Fairbanks. A few days ago Randy had shown me a small lake not far from town with no camping fee and no launching fee I thought I remembered the road. It was a left turn of the highway that goes to Prudo Bay. After first driving passed the road and continuing for several miles, crossing the Chatanica River and then turning around and driving back a few miles I found what I thought was the right road but not far up it I came to a locked chain across it. I decided to return to the Chatanica as I had noticed some camp spots not far from the bridge. I found a place to camp by the river It was now about 4:00 I tried fishing for a little while with no luck.
I took a little nap. When I got up from the nap it was around 6:00 I tried fishing again with the same result.
I fixed my self Spam and potatoes for supper and then by the time I had things cleaned up It was 8:30 so I climbed in the van to get away from the Mosquitos. I watched a movie on the computer. And now I am doing this log entry and after this I am going to sleep.
The day started with a cold strong wind blowing out of the south and dark clouds hang over the southern mountains. As I drive north the weather clears but by the time I am camped thunder is rolling through the mountains and a light drizzle is falling. By bed time it is clear again.
Well I found the pond that Randy showed me its called Olnes Pond. The pond isnt very big Probably the size of Lets Lake. This is Saturday so there are several people camping here. By tomorrow evening they will all have gone back to town and I will have the place to my self more or less. I was tolled that there is one person who has been here fore a few weeks. I still havent figured out how to take a dump in these woods with out getting those tender exposed parts eaten by Mosquitos. This is some thing I will have to work out by tomorrow. The other alternative is to drive to a gas station a couple miles up the road and use their facilities. The State has closed the rest rooms at Olens Pond due to
Budget cuts. But at least they stopped charging for camping.
I spent all day in Fairbanks doing laundry,
and shopping. I finally bought some waders so now I can get in the water to fish. The vegetation is so thick along the streams that it is almost impossible to fish from the shore. I also went to the shop where randy works and cut the fender wells out on Pigpen so the tire wont rub when I drive through ditches.
I was hopping to get the leak in the radiator fixed today but this is Saturday and the radiator repair man only works Monday through Friday. Ok, so Ill get it fixed on Monday. I hope I can get the radiator fixed in one day because I dont really want to hang around Fairbanks. I am not planning any more big motoring trips until after Patti arrives but I have heard of some good fishing spots not far from where I am camped and would rather spend my time trying to catch fish than hang around town waiting on my radiator.
More and more people keep arriving at the pond it looks like there may be a party tonight. It is amazing to me; the people up here go 24 hours a day in the summer. They think nothing of going fishing or having a barbecue at two in the morning.
What the heck, its still light isnt it? Actually around 2:00am is almost sunrise. I guess being shut up for much of the long dark winter builds up a lot of play energy that has to be used up during the short but very light summer.
The scenery in this part of Alaska is of course beautiful. It doesnt have the grandeur of the Alaska Range or Denali (Mount McKinley to outsiders) but it is very green with rolling hills and dense dark forests of Alder, Birch, Spruce and other verities that I dont know. It reminds me of Appalachia maybe the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Even the streams remind me of that part of the country they very in color from dark brown to just slightly brown. I believe the brown color is from tannin being leached from the roots of the thick vegetation and or peat bogs.
Warm, in the 70s, partly cloudy all day with a threat of rain in the early hours that did not materialize.
85mi. all in town and going to and coming from.
All bloody day.
The party woke me up around 1:30 am.
It continued until around 2:30 then the party turned off their boom box, pissed on the fire, closed their tailgates and went home.
I went back to sleep.
I dont understand why people think that every one within a two-mile radius of their camp spot wants to listen to their particular brand of music.
When I finally got up, around 7:30 am. The mosquitos were in abundance and very hungry. I opted for the rest room at the gas station a couple of miles away then I went to Fairbanks to get the shower I missed yesterday.
Randy asked if I would like to go do a little shooting and then go visit Glen. I said sure and we jumped in Pigpen and headed for Glens. We didnt get back until late so I just staid in town because I was going to have to come to town tomorrow to take the radiator out of Pigpen.
Clouds in the morning, warm during the day, cloudy in the evening
Woke up at around 7:30, ate breakfast, showered and headed for Randys shop to pull the radiator. I had the radiator out and at the radiator shop by 10:30.
Sorry there are five people ahead of you. I might be able to have it fixed for you by tomorrow evening but I cant guarantee it.
)^&%^$^. Ok Ill see you tomorrow evening.
This sucks! I am now grounded at Beckis house.
I hung out at Becki and Randys place. I did some e-mail and was board for most of the afternoon until Randy came home. After supper Randy asked if I would like to go do some shooting. Of course I jumped at the chance to get out of the house. We drove to a spot on the Tannin River and met two of Ranges friends. Between us there was three 45acp semi autos, three 22cal. semi autos and one 44mag revolver. We spent about an hour and more than 100 rounds of ammunition shooting at debris that floated by on the river. It was fun. I like shooting the 45acps, they are a nice little plinkers. They make a nice pop! when they go off and the recoil is negligible. Unlike the 44mag witch has a very loud report and stings the hands when it is fired.
Cloudy and threatening rain in the morning. Clearing later in the day with warm temperatures through the night
By the time I get through writing this it will be July 18.
The radiator is back in and Pigpen is back on the road.
After installing the radiator, Randy, his boss, their friend Darrel and I took a boat ride on the Chena River in Darrens boat. We didnt get back to Randy's house until after 10:30 pm. I dropped him off and headed for Olnes pond again. I arrived here around 11:00. Russel and his family are here and are camped a little ways around the lake from me. I stopped to visit with them for a bit. Tomorrow Russel and I are going to fish on the Chatanika River, Washington creek and probably Olnes Pond.
Warm and sunny in the morning, highs in the 80s with big puffy white clouds building towards late afternoon followed by thundershowers in the evening.
Well it is approaching mid night again. Its not quite dark and probably wont be.
This morning I tried fishing a spot on the Chatanika River that is walking distance from Olnes Pond. I had only my spinning outfit with me at the time so I tried a couple of different loures but the only bites I got were from the Mosquitos that swarmed around me. I tried waring a Mosquito netting head cover but I got so hot with it on that I took it off. I tried Cutters repellent and it worked a little bit but not for very long. I finally gave up and returned to my camp.
I decided to try fishing Washington creek. The Mosquitos were not quite as bad there but I still had to douse myself down with cutters before I could begin fishing. I caught and released a couple of small trout and decided that it was to warm and more work than it was worth to get the waders on to fish this stream for the little trout that are there.
I drove on up the road heading North looking for some more likely looking streams to fish. I crossed a few but they had no access. After about 20 miles I turned around and headed back to Olnes pond.
Russell and his family were still here so I stopped by there camp to visit. Russell said that he would like to try fishing at the spot where the Chatanika goes under the highway.
We fished for a while above and below the bridge but didnt catch anything.
We got back to camp around 10:30 pm.
Saw a Moos and calf feeding along the shore of the pond.
Bright and sunny in the am. Hot and humid with low cloud cover forming by late afternoon. Thunder storms and light showers in the late evening. Clearing by midnight.
Woke up around 7:30 had breakfast then sat around and listened to music (Vivaldi and CSN&Y) and watched the ripples on the pond for a while. I cleaned up the dishes (two cups a bole and a spoon) and got Pigpen ready to go.
I drove to the spot on the Chatanika that is near the pond and caught and released two Grayling before the bug repellent began to fail.
I wanted to see the upper Chatanika area so I headed pigpen for the road again and we were off on another beautiful ride.
We headed northeast on the old Stees highway toward the town of Circle. The way I herd it Circle got its name because the early settlers thought the town was at the Arctic Circle so they called it Circle. Unfortunately they were about 100 miles too far south.
The country side has much the same Appellation appearance as most of this part of Alaska. As always I kept an eye out for roads to explore. I found several but most ether went no ware or went to some ones house or a gate. I did eventually find a road that took me all the way down to the river and out onto a gravel bar. What a great place to have lunch. I tried a little fly fishing with no success. What a great place to have lunch though.
It was about 2:00 when I started heading back toward Fairbanks. This afternoon we are going to do the final prep for tomorrows fly in trip. We will take off around 9:00 am.
Well its after midnight again so I am going to quit.
The same pattern but with heavy thunder storms in the late afternoon.
It has been 6 days since I made any entries in this log.
Lets see, where do I start.
The blue and white 6, place Cessna floatplane rested gently on the smooth surface of the Chena Marinas slough. The rear of its floats touching the edge of the green lawn in front of Marine Airs log cabin office.
We pulled up in Glens red Dodge Crew Cab. The engine was over heating and rattling like a diesel. We parked and got out. Smoke billowed from under the hood it smelled like a melt down in an oil refinery.
I think you might have ruined your engine, I said as we began unloading our gear
Oh, itll be ok, Glen replied Its just a little warm.
Before we could board the plane, we and all of our equipment had to be weighed. We were allowed 40 lbs. of gear each, including food and water. We found that we were a little over weight so we got rid of one cooler and a couple of non-essentials and boarded the plane.
On the plane were, Rick the pilot and owner of Marine Air, Glen, Randy, myself and a man and woman who were headed for a different lake to fish for Pike.
Despite getting a little nauseous, I enjoyed the flight to Dune Lake.
The take off was interesting. Shortly after we started moving forward on our take off run Rick began pulling the elevator control all the way back and then pushing it all the way forward again. He did this several times and the plane lunged up and down.
I think that this might be a way to break the surface tension so the plane could take off. We finally leapt into the air and were on our way. We flew at an altitude of around 500
feet. It was a little bumpy but we were able to see the country sliding past below us. We flew along the Tanana River for a while and then it headed north to join the Yukon and we continued west, over the town of Nenana and the Nenana River and still we headed west over the tundra. The sun reflected back at us from the many swamps and bogs that are the main feature of this area. We flew over a grazing bull moos.
Presently we could see a range of low rolling hills and in a small valley we could see Dune Lake.
In a few minutes we were coming in for a landing. We flew at treetop level between two hills and settled lightly on the surface of the lake. Rick taxied the plane to a very small beach and we jumped ashore.
Rick unloaded our stuff, gave us a quick rundown on the boat and motor, Showed us where the cabin was (across the lake), loaded three passengers and there gear for the trip back and took off.
We were on the lake heading for our lodgings as the Cessna took to the air.
For the next couple of days we fished, ate, fished, slept and fished some more. The fishing was great. We caught and released around 40 fish between 16 and 22 inches long, one to three pounds. They were mostly Trout with one nice Grayling and one very nice Silver salmon. We ate five of the fish and brought home 2.
We saw Eagles, Moos and Black Bear (a sow and cub).
One day while we were fishing we saw the moos enter the water on the west shore. She began swimming across the lake. The lake is about a mile long N/S and a ¼ mile wide E/W. We motored over to within 20 feet of her and took some pictures as she swam along.
On another day while we were fishing a large dark cloud appeared over the eastern hills. We didnt give it much thought except to comment on the pretty rainbow until the lightning started. We could see the rain pelting down on the waters surface and coming toward us. Fortunately we werent too far from the inlet to where our cabin was so we made haste toward it. We almost made it but to get to the cabin one guy has to get out and wade into the shore towing the boat for about 60 feet because it is very shallow and there are lots of stumps and roots to break the prop on the motor. Just as we got to that point where we have to be towed the rain caught up with us. We were pretty wet by the time we got to the cabin but a short while later the rain cloud moved on, the sun came out and we dried off and went fishing again.
The day to quickly came when we have to leave. We met Rick at the small beach, loaded our gear and after he gave the usual instructions to a group of four guys that were staying for the day, we took off. Rick said that he had to pick up two guys at a small lake about 8 minutes flight from Dune Lake. When we were in the air we could see billows of smoke off to the west from a wild fire that had been burning for (according to Rick) about three months. We headed straight for the smoke. When we saw the lake we could see that the fire was burning close to the western shore and right up to the water in spots on the northern end. We circled the lake once and came in for a landing. As we came in we could see the small boat heading for the north shore where their camp had been and to where we were now taxiing. Rick brought the plane in and expertly turned it around so he could jump ashore from the pontoons and have her pointed out bound. We could see the flames not to far off in the bush behind us.
While we waited for the two men in the boat to arrive, Rick went into the camp and began hauling their gear to the plane and loading it. Presently they showed up and quickly we were back in the air again and heading east away from the smoke and fire.
The two guys that we picked up said
that the night before they moved their camp to the other side of the lake because they
thought the fire was going to over run them in the night.
The Flight home was pleasant and in around half an hour we were settling down on the smooth surface of the China Marina slough.
All in all, the fly in was an excellent adventure and I am already thinking of what to do next year.
The total cost for the trip to Dune Lake was $175.00 per person for one night in the cabin plus $50.00 for each extra night. For this price you get the flight, the cabin, a boat, motor and all the gas you need. We spent two nights so it was $225 each. A bargain!
When we returned to Fairbanks, Patti had arrived safely from home. It was great to see her after almost a month of separation.
I hung out with Patti, Becky and the kids for the day. Had moos stew for supper.
I was getting cabin fever and Patti wanted to spend the week visiting with Becky, So I took off on another solo adventure.
The day before we left for the fly in, I had traveled a little ways up the road that goes to the outpost of Circle on the Yukon River. Circle is so named because the people that established it thought that they were on the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately they were off by about 50 miles south. Oops!
I decided to finish that trip because I wanted to try doing some fishing on the streams along this road and I wanted to see the Yukon River.
I left Fairbanks around 4:00pm in the afternoon. At around 6:00pm I stopped for a little rest and something to eat. I woke up at around 9:00pm and got back on the road.
By 11:00pm I was standing at the end of the road on the shore of the Yukon River. I took a couple of pictures. There were a couple of the long flat bottomed aluminum boats `that are popular for running the rivers up here parked along the bank. They were loaded with plywood, 55-gallon drums, and a large amount of other cargo. One had a Quadrunner sitting on top of the load. I assume that they were heading to one of the villages along the river. There are several and their only contact with the outside is by plane or boat.
I didnt see any place that I wanted to camp around there so I turned Pigpen around and headed back the way I had come.
I drove for an hour and found a camp
spot for the night.
The next morning I did some fishing in Birch Creek a broad stream that flows into the Yukon. I didnt get any action so I left.
I stopped to fish several times on smell creeks and larger rivers. I caught a few Grayling and some small trout.
I arrived back in Fairbanks around 6:00pm.
We had Moos Burgers for dinner. Yumm.
I spent today in town.
Randy, Glen and I shot up an old TV at lunchtime. I spent the remainder of the day shuttling Patti and Becky to the store and worked on this log.
I took Johnathen for a ride to Fox to get some Fresh spring water. There is a place alongside the road where there is a spring. It has been piped into a small tank with two spigots. A lot of people get their water here. Apparently a lot of the water in the area is not very good for drinking and there are a lot of people who live in the bush who dont have wells or springs. I was told that a lot of the ground water is hi in arsenic.
Before getting the water, Johnny and I stopped at a gravel pit where I shot up a box of .45 auto at some cans and other refuse. I love Alaska.
In the evening we all went to Chena Hot Springs Resort. Chena Hot Springs is about 60 miles out of town and is a popular spot for the locals and tourists alike. The have Gourmet (read, expensive) dining, A hotel, cabins for rent, a camp ground, a large indoor hot pool, two indoor hot tubs a large out door hot tub and a very large out door grotto with two fountains. We had a very nice soak in the waters of Chena Hot Springs.
On our trip going and coming from Chena Hot Springs we counted up to 18 moos along the road.
Yesterday it rained for most of the day and today it started out raining but tapered off in the afternoon. Showers later at night.
After a breakfast of Rain-deer sausage and eggs, Patti and I headed north for the Arctic Circle. The road (the Eliot Highway) was paved for the first 60 miles or so and then it turned to dirt. The surface of the road varied from good fast gravel to rough sections of potholes and washboard. We followed the Eliot for about 40 miles to its intersection with the Dalton highway. We turned onto the Dalton Highway which is also dirt and continued for another 60 miles or so where the road became paved again. About 196 miles from Fairbanks we crossed the Arctic Circle. We stopped to take some obligatory picture and then continued to the outpost of Cold Foot where we had supper (it was ok). After supper we decided to go back to the Arctic Circle to camp. We spent the night at North Latitude
66 degrees 33.
Arctic with low clouds and cold rain squalls. Clearing late in the evening.
We left the Arctic Circle around 10:00am and headed back toward Fairbanks. We stopped at Joy Alaska and the Arctic Circle Trading Post (read tourist trap) where we bought
T-shirts and were given a certificate stating that we officially crossed the Arctic Circle. Joy is about 140 miles south of the Circle. So how do they know
We arrived in Fairbanks around 4:00pm. Randy fixed Halibut steaks for supper. Yumm.
Sunny when we woke up but raining by the time we got to Fairbanks. Pretty much the same pattern that I have seen all along.
We said goodbye to the kids and left Fairbanks around 10:00am and drove for around three hours to Denali National park. We were going to take the bus tour that goes all the way into the park but changed our mind when we found out that the tour lasted 8 hours. Eight hours on a bus? I dont think so!
We left Denali and headed south on the Parks Highway. A few miles south of the park are some splendid views of Denali (Mt. McKinley). We spent the night camped at Goose Creek.
Sunshine in the morning with scattered showers in the afternoon.
We left Goose Creek around 9:00 and headed south for the town of Wasilla where we had breakfast and turned east on the Glenn Highway which goes from Palmer to Glenallen and the Richardson Highway. Traveling along the Glenn Highway gives you some fantastic views of the Talkitna Mountains, The Chucach Mountains and the Matanuska Classier. When we reached the Richardson Highway we turned south toward Valdez. The whole trip has been one of spectacular views and un-beleavable beauty. We had super at Mikes Palace and tonight we are staying in The Pipe Line Motel in Valdez.
The day started off with bright sun and a blue bowl for a sky. As we traveled east clouds were traveling west. We passed beyond them and had blue skies and fluffy white clouds all the way to Valdez.
Valdez is a pretty little town on the Prince William Sound. It is surrounded by mountains and glaciers and is the terminus of the Alaska Pipeline and a Mecca for fishermen. The port is crowded with boats of all kinds, from sea kayaks to fishing trawlers to pleasure yachts, the Alaska ferries and super tankers heading to the Pipeline terminus. We had breakfast, did our laundry and hit the road heading north.
86 miles up the road we took the turnoff to Chitina so I could show Patti the fish wheels on the Copper River. We talked to a couple of guys that were processing salmon. Their fish wheel had scooped up about 50 king salmon during the night and they had been cleaning and filleting fish since around 4:00am it was about 2:00pm. We left them to finish their labors and stopped at a turnout overlooking the river to have lunch and then headed back the 40 miles to the Richardson Highway and turned north.
When we got to Glenallen we took the Tok cutoff, which is an extension of the Glenn Highway. Of course we passed through some beautiful country and took a lot of pictures. Tonight we are camped at a gravel quarry about 40 miles east of Tok.
The day started with clear skies and warm temperatures. As we headed north large fluffy cumulous clouds gathered. No rain.
Woke up at 9:00. Ate breakfast and hit the road. Stopped in Tok for gas. And headed for Hanes junction in the Yukon. Arrived at H.J. around 8:15pm, had supper at Rinehards Café It was ok but expensive. $11 for a hamburger. Bought Gas and got back on the road heading for Hanes AK about 150 miles south.
About 10:30pm we found a dirt road about 50 miles from H.J. that lead to a camp spot and camped for the night.
Hazy sunshine with hi cirrus clouds in the morning changing to hi cumulous as we travel toward Canada. Temperatures are cool with some strong wind gusts in some places.
The day started like all the previous ones. Get up, eat breakfast and get on the road. The scenery was spectacular as we drove south on the Hanes Highway. Along the Chilkat River, another silt-laden glacier fed stream; we saw some of the largest fish wheels that we had so far seen. These were set up to scoop up more salmon and dump them ether into a left or right live well.
When we got to Hanes we decided to book passage to Prince Rupert B.C. on the Alaska ferry.
Later we drove to Chilkoot Lake and watched people fishing for salmon on the stream that drains the lake into the sound. There were lots of people fishing but we didnt see any one catching so after a while we drove on back towards Hanes. The road follows the edge of the sound and as we drove along we saw fish breaking the water. I decided to stop and try my luck fishing. There werent any people fishing along this shore for a mile or more. I set up my 7 ½ foot Eagle Claw pack rod with my trusty Johnson closed faced spinning real and a Dare Devil lure. After a couple of casts I hooked a small salmon which I released. A couple more casts and I tied into a nice Salmon. It took me about 10 or 15 minutes to land it. Unfortunately the way it was hooked I ended up seriously injuring it and had to keep it. We ate half of it for supper and gave the rest to a lady who was camped next to us. I hooked another one and fought it for a long time before it got away.
Tomorrow we are going to take what they call a fast ferry to visit Skagway for the day.
Today was probably the hardest day so far. Not because of any long drive, not because of any big problems, today we shopped. Yes shopped. We got up around 7:30, Bathed (handy wipes), Patti washed her hair and we headed for town to get aboard the Fast Ferry to historic old Skagway.
On the way into Hanes we saw two Grizzly Bear cubs. These cubs have been hanging around the campground where we stayed at last night. When I say cubs dont think cuddly. These are Grizzlys.
Skagway is at the end of the Talia inlet about 30 minutes by ferry from Hanes.
On the ferry ride we saw some Humpback Whales and a lot more beautiful scenery. The Talia inlet is the deepest fiord in the Inside Passage and is lined on both sides with steep mountains with beautiful waterfalls and a glacier in almost every valley.
Historic old Skagway is a tourist trap the main street is lined with T-shirt and gift shops. We had 6 hours before the return ferry. If I never see another gift shop it will be too soon.
It is now around 9:30pm we are parked in line for the Ferry to Prince Rupert BC which leaves at 6:00am tomorrow.
Beautiful all day with some showers late in the afternoon.
We woke up at around 4:30, boarded the ferry around 6:00 and departed Haines at 6:30. The first thing we had to do was familiarize ourselves with the ship. I.e., find the bathrooms the café and the forward observation lounge. It was very exciting taking our first cruise. Of course this wasnt what most people think of when they think of Cruising. This was more of a working mans cruise. Still, for us it was exciting because we had never been on a cruise before. The weather was fantastic. The sky was blue from horizon to horizon. We spent much of the day siting in the sun on the forward observation deck watching the magnificent scenery of Southeast Alaska pass slowly bye. The Inside Passage is beautiful with its hundreds of forested islands and blue water. There were fish jumping and Porpoises porpoising, In the early afternoon we saw humpbacks whales off in the distance. We met a lot of nice people on board from many places in the states and Canada.
We stopped at Juneau the capital of Alaska. The port was 12 miles from the town so I cant say what the place was really like. The port was small and tidy.
The next stop was Petersburg. We were about a half-hour out of Petersburg when the captain announced that there was another ferry (The Columbia) that was just docking and that there was only enough room for one ferry at a time at the dock. So we would have to wait for it to clear before we could enter.
Fortunately there was a rather large pod of Humpback Whales cavorting not far away off the port side so the captain slowed the ship and headed in the direction of the whales. It was fun watching them slap the water with their tails and flippers. One even breached while we were watching. The pod consisted of females and calves. We arrived in Petersburg about an hour late and it was just getting dark when we left. Yes, dark this far South it is getting dark around 10:00.
The next scheduled stop was Wrangell Island. The approach to Wrangell is through the Wrangell Narrows. The water here is very shallow and the ship has to take a zigzag course between channel markers so it wont run aground.
We hadnt purchased a compartment to sleep in so we had to find someplace on deck to sleep. The forward observation lounge had some nice cushioned benches but there were signs all over stating that sleeping was not allowed in the lounge but sleeping was allowed in the two aft observation lounges or in the solarium. We checked the solarium but all the available lounge chares were taken and the steel deck didnt look too inviting.
I went aft to check the situation there. I found that both aft lounges were unoccupied, there were fairly comfortable chares to sit in or a carpeted floor to lie on. I brought Patti back there and we tried to get some sleep. First we tried the chares but that wasnt working so we tried the floor. After about a half-hour of that I decided that I was too old and boney to sleep on a ¼ inch of indoor/outdoor carpet over a steel deck. I decided to go forward to the lounge to see what was going on there. I found the forward lounge was almost deserted except for a few people who were sleeping in chares and on some of the benches. I went back and tried to rouse Patti but she was snoring so I figured that she was comfortable enough. I returned to the lounge, found an unused bench and stretched out and went to sleep. A little while later Patti joined me.
We slept until about 4:30 and watched the sunrise turn the islands pink and hazy blue and mauve. We had stowed the cameras in Pigpen for the night so I couldnt get any pictures untill we got into port.
We pulled into Ketchakan at 8:00am under clear skies and warm temperatures. Ketchacan is the busiest harbor that we have visited. There is a constant stream of floatplanes landing and taking off and boats of all kinds coming and going. There are large container barges being loaded. I saw one of the largest forklifts here that I have ever seen. Closer to the town a huge cruise ship rests at anchor. Across the inlet to the west is an Island containing the Ketchakan international airport. An Alaska Airlines jet sits on the tarmac.
We sailed out of Ketchakan at 10:00am.
Though the day was clear, a cold stiff breeze came up, kicking up white caps and causing the temperature to drop. Now we entered a section of water that was not as protected as what we had passed through further north. The ship rolled from side to side as we proceeded toward Prince Rupert our final destination.
By the time we got to P.R. I had had enough of cruising and was grateful to drive off the ferry. Like Patti says I felt like I spent a week there one night.
A funny note:
When we got to Pigpen on the car deck we noticed that someone had scribbled in the dust on his side Shaggy, Scooby and the gang. Lets solve a crime. Patti and I had a good laugh over this as her kids have always called Pigpen The Scooby Doo Van.
No problems at Canadian customs.
We drove east for three hours and stopped at the camp ground at Seely Lake for the night. Seely lake is about half way between Prince Rupert and Prince George.
In the last two days we have gotten only about 8 hours sleep so we slept in until about 10:00am.
We left the campground around eleven, heading west on highway 16 The Yellow Head Highway toward Prince George BC.
At Prince George we turned right onto Highway 97 and headed south.
At Prince George Pigpen and I closed the last loupe. From here to home it was all back tracking.
We traveled until late in the evening without finding a good camp spot. Finally in desperation I pulled Pigpen into an RV called McLees Lake Resort. It turned out to be a good spot to sleep. It was level, quiet and there were flush toilets.
We woke up refreshed, had a quick breakfast and got back on the road.
As we traveled I noticed a vibration in the van that was getting worse. It would start at around 60mph. And lessen around 65. I suspected a bad U joint and some time later when the vibration got really bad I was proven right. We were just a few miles south of the town of 100 Mile House when I decided to check the U joints again. This time the problem was obvious. I could rattle the driveshaft back and forth a half inch. I got back in Pigpen and slowly drove back to the town. We found an auto parts store. I bought the parts and in under an hour we were back on the road heading south again.
We had no problems crossing the border into the US and were in Seattle by around 7:00pm. It was Jean and Dons 14th wedding anniversary so we went out to a nice restaurant for dinner.
We left Seattle around noon and got on I 5 south. The traffic was the pits after being so long in Alaska where there is very little traffic. The highway was busy all the way to Albeny.