Archive for 2018

Valdez

Sunrise 5:31 a.m.; Sunset 9:51 p.m.

Spring/Winter

Being only hours from my daughter’s house, we had a huge decision to make – Do we take a side trip to Valdez?  When we left Tok it was a clear morning with sunshine.  As we progressed along the Tok Cutoff, not only were the frost heaves the worst we had encountered on the Alaska Highway, but the weather deteriorated into rain, frozen mixed and snow.  Once we were over the pass, everything cleared up.  Though it  generally takes two hours to Glennallen, it took us three.

In Glennallen, we asked about the Richardson Highway to Valdez.  We had been told the weather was ‘fair’ but passable so we decided to make an adventure of the trip.  My husband had been to Valdez many years ago, but never to spend some time sight-seeing.  As we traveled the highway, he showed me where he had taken other side trips and hikes and I began to get more of a picture of where  he had been when he lived in Anchorage.

Thompson Pass

As we approached the Thompson Pass, the rain started and then turned to a freezing mix.  Thompson Pass is known for its irregular weather and sudden changes from dry to wet.  Last December the pass received 70 inches of snow in 24 hours.  This is not a pass to mess with normally, but we are towing a 14,000 pound trailer!  The closer to the top of the pass, the worse the conditions became until we could only see about 25 feet in front of us and yes, it was whiteout conditions.  The bars on the sides of theroad are used for snowplows to know where the sides of the road are.  Yes, the snow gets that deep!

When I called a campground in Valdez to ask about the weather on the pass, I was told that if it was bad to remember that once over the pass, it’s only 20 miles to the town.  We took the curves slowly and eventually left the wintery conditions.  The rain continued in the canyon.

Bridal Veil Falls

We passed the two famous waterfalls: Bridal Veil and Horsetail and they were mostly frozen.  My husband commented, “This is wrong, really wrong to be in winter again!”

We found our campground, Bayview RV Park, that sits on the edge of the water and an animal protected zone.  We were directed to our ‘parking spot’ in the parking lot campground and began to set up in a downpour.  My husband hooked up the electric and I turned on our ‘fireplace’.  The temps outside were in the 30s and the trailer was about 50.  Soon after I smelled something electrical burning.  The ‘fireplace’ started acting weird and I couldn’t turn it off.  I called my husband and he pulled the fuse.  The smell filled the trailer and he went for the owner of the park.  Long story short, when some work had been done a few days ago on the electric in the park, a ground wire had disconnected.  He asked us to move to another site which we did – after we put everything away and re-hitched the rig.  After we were re-set, the furnace didn’t work.  We had a problem last year with a board, but this time we knew it had something to do with the electrical issue.

My Cozy Place

To put it simply, the ‘fireplace’ puts out warmth, but with a nighttime low of 20, we were going to freeze without the furnace coming on and we only set it to 50 degrees!  It is necessary to keep the water and other pipes of the trailer from freezing.  Our bed is cozy, but as my brother says, “We are heating a tin can!”  My husband did some serious trouble-shooting – the manuals only tell you how to install the furnace, not troubleshoot.  Eventually, he saw this green button called the ‘wizard mode’ and he reset it.  YAY!  We had a furnace, but the electrical smell continued to permeate everything throughout the night.  Wizard mode … what the heck is that?!

 

In the morning, we were greeted by fog.  By this time we weren’t so sure we should have come to Valdez, but when the fog burnt off, well, the rugged majestic mountains around Valdez envelope this little town giving it spectacular views from everywhere all the time. We spent the afternoon by the ferry landing, driving around the boat docks, and visiting the usual ‘touron’ sites. 

 

The 1964 Earthquake

The huge earthquake that nearly leveled Anchorage in 1964 actually had its epicenter only 40 miles from Valdez.  In the museum, we watched a video that said the earth shook for 5 minutes.  The original townsite of Valdez with its docks and waterfront businesses washed into the sea because the land was not really solid; it was liquid underneath and when the two fractures split, the land liquified and washed away.   Thirty men on the docks lost their lives before they knew what was happening.   The people decided to rebuild on more solid ground and with the gift of land from some locals, rebuilt and even moved buildings from the old townsite to the new one.  Today, the old townsite is considered ‘wilderness.’

Glaciers

Valdez Glacier

Valdez is known for its many glaciers.  I would love to take a cruise and see them along with whales and seals, but I get seasick so that’s not happening.  Instead we took a drive to the Valdez Glacier and hiked towards it over the rocks and small streams that flow from it.  The two glaciers have receded, but there were small sections that looked like they could calve.

Eagle has landed!

We were told by the owners of the park (who returned our two nights payment because of the electrical problems) to return by 5 p.m. as they feed the Bald Eagles.  For the past 29 years, the owners have fed the eagles between May 1 and June 15 until the salmon runs start.  We didn’t want to miss having eagles fly over our heads – we were even told to move our truck as they would hit it when they dove for their fish.

The Magnificent Eagle

We were not disappointed in the feeding frenzy.  From eagles sitting on the ground in front of us to dive-bombing each other into collisions for one fish to watching them catch fish in their claws in mid-air, it was one magnificent life experience having Bald Eagles of all ages soaring over our heads and trailer and landing in front of us to eat fish!

We are now preparing to leave tomorrow for Anchorage and Cooper Landing.  Snow is expected on Thompson Pass so we are hoping to leave EARLY before the rain starts here and the snow starts there.  And tonight is going to be another cold one at 16 degrees after a nice, warm 47 today!

©2018 Tentstake Ministries

Bald Eagle Feeding Frenzy

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). 

The owners of Bayside RV Park in Valdez are part of a group of people who for the past 29 years feed the Bald Eagles from May 1 – June 15 when the salmon arrive.  This has to be one of the coolest experiences of my life.   About 30 eagles showed up to catch and fight over the fish being tossed in the air.  There were four generations of eagles flying about and gave quite the Alaskan show.  Enjoy.  I took these on my iPhone and NO telephoto; they were just that close.

©2018 Tentstake Ministries

 

Alaska!

Sunrise 5:50 a.m., Sunset 9:46 p.m.

We made it back to ‘Merica’!  Our ‘rule of thumb’ is to travel only 6 hours per day, however, today was 14 hours!  We left Teslin with the idea of stopping somewhere near the border at Beaver Creek, but our plan wasn’t God’s plan. 

We stopped at Johnson’s Crossing for a cinnamon roll.  We had read about this place in the Milepost.  What’s the Milepost?

Since 1947, this magazine has been published that gives minute details of the Alaska highway and other adventuresome routes.  It gives historical facts which is why I appear to know so much, mileage from one place to another, names of provincial or state campgrounds, RV parks, where to buy gas or diesel and which wildlife is more prevalent where.  Thus, Johnson’s Crossing to check out a more unique and quaint place to stay on our way back.  Teslin is nice, but it’s more of a truck stop park and we like the feel of the early lodges that have been in service for 70 years.  Yes, the cinnamon roll was delicious and Sandy, the owner was quite friendly.  I even found a novel in Hebrew at the book exchange.  Yes!  I love book exchanges.  I read a lot while we’re in our trailer and so when I finish one book, I look for a book exchange to get another.  I even got my husband reading and that is an amazing feat! 

From Johnson’s Crossing, we continued north toward Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon province.  Last year we went into this grand city to find a Walmart and with our big rig, the congestion was too much so we decided to forego that trip – and the Walmart was small with nothing it in.  A waste of time ….

Yukon River Bridge

One of my favorite spots on the Alcan is the Yukon River Bridge.  I’m not sure why except I love the color of the bridge and the peacefulness around it.  It’s also kind of a milestone of the trip to cross the Yukon River. 

Kluane Mountains

One of our goals to was to stop in Haines Junction for coffee at another quaint place that everyone who travels the Alcan speaks about.  Last year we vowed to return every time we passed through Haines Junction.  Then, last September, it was closed.  Today, it was closed, too.  It doesn’t open until May 1 and today is April 30.  So NO delicious baked goods (already had that cinnamon roll) and no coffee.  The St. Elias mountains at Haines Junction cannot be accurately described, but suffice it to say if I HAD to live in the Yukon Territory, it would be at Haines Junction: they have mountains, coffee, and a health food store.  What else is there?

We decided to continue on towards Beaver Creek.  The road goes through Kluane (kloo-WA-nee) National Park with its mountains, Dall sheep and frozen lake.  From Kluane, begins the dreaded 90 miles of frost heaves through Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing.  On our return trip last year, it seemed as though there was road work from the border through these little towns and so this year the heaves weren’t so destructive to our trailer.  This was the section of road that broke all the shelves in my pantry that needed to be rebuilt once we arrived in Cooper Landing. 

Frost heave sign along the highway

Knowing that all of the provincial campgrounds don’t open until May 11, we started to look for anyplace that may have RV sites.  All of the rest areas in the Yukon have signs that say ‘No Overnight Camping.’  With our rig, it’s difficult to go ‘off road’ so we need something that is less rustic.

We found the Pine Valley Bakery and Creperie to be open so we stopped to check it out.  It is run by a couple from France who moved to the Yukon 10 years ago.  We enjoyed a quiche and crepe, but their RV park was still closed as they had recent snow, fallen trees and no services.  We returned to our truck to drive the rest of the distance to Beaver Creek.  We saw a lynx, some swans and a bald eagle.  In the midst of caribou herds, moose and black bears coming out of hibernation, we saw none of them.  When we arrived in Beaver Creek, their campground was still full of snow.  We had to make the decision whether or not to hang out in their parking lot or drive another 2 hours to Tok, Alaska. With fully bellies and the sun setting at 9:30, we knew we could make the trek and still have daylight. 

ALASKA!  The border crossing was fun.  The patrolmen were quite talkative about life on the border from crazy people to moose to where they buy their food and how grateful they are that the Milepost removed their phone number from the magazine as they had thousands of calls last year from people asking about the weather! 

We continued to head north with views of the Wrangle mountains until we reached TOK, Alaska!  We’re settled in for the night drinking hot chocolate and reading (writing this blog).  Tomorrow we decide whether or not to take a side trip to Valdez – ONLY if there are RV parks open.  Otherwise, it’s on to Anchorage and the Kenai Penninsula!

 

©2018 Tentstake Ministries

 

The Yukon

Sunrise 5:53 a.m., Sunset 9:44 p.m.

Crossing the border from British Columbia into the Yukon takes forever as it winds back and forth until crossing the Morley River.  Our first stop in the Yukon was for fuel at Contact Creek.  This is a small hut-like building that has been around for many years.  The owners moved from Florida and they are a bit ‘strange’ probably because they spend the winters in the middle of nowhere.  The owner told my husband that the temperatures got to -63 degrees this year so they probably get cabin fever.  They have a gift shop that appears to never get new items and everything is dusty, but that’s part of the charm of the surviving businesses on the Alcan.  They do have a book exchange which I used.  And, for those who care, their price of diesel was CHEAPER than anywhere else. 

Why Contact Creek?  When the Alaska Highway was being built, the construction was to be completed quickly.  Workers began from both ends: Fort Nelson and Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon. The point at which they converged was named Contact Creek. 

Backstory on the sign.  I really do not like the movie “Forrest Gump”.  I find it tedious and I don’t like it.  My son, for one of my birthdays, gave me the movie in a ‘box of chocolates’ along with a ‘Run Forrest Run’ license plate.  I have had the plate hanging in our trailer above our door and decided it would be perfect for hanging in the sign forest.  I put our names on it and the year 2018 and now it hangs at Watson Lake.

Between Watson Lake and Teslin, the views of the Cassiar Mountains become spectacular.  As there was a harsher winter and more snow than last year, these mountains are covered in snow.  We stopped at a rest stop for lunch with amazing views surrounding us. 

 

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Teslin, Yukon.  This is the heart of Tlingit country, a native tribe found in the Yukon and Alaska.   The Tlingits have a heritage center here, but it opens in June and closes in September before we pass through again.  Many of the natives still work at the same trades and crafts and it would be quite interesting to visit the center.  Last year when we stayed in Teslin we experienced a 6.4 and 6.2 earthquake that shook our trailer pretty hard.  Today, thus far, we’re the only ones in this park and we chose the first site that has a beautiful view of the Nitsulin Lake.  This year the lake is frozen over.  Perhaps a moose will skate by, who knows. 

For those who pray, keep our truck in prayer.  We are about 125 miles from any service stations.  Our truck needs to start tomorrow so we can head north toward the ‘dreaded’ Whitehorse and find a Ford dealer to deal with the ‘check engine’ light.  After Whitehorse, we will be continuing on toward our favorite place: Haines Junction and their infamous coffee shop. 

©2018 Tentstake Ministries

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