Sunday, July 31, 2016

Turned out that Tom, Paula, and Van ended up at Calgary West Campground with us on Thursday night and Rich and Joan managed to find a spot about 20 miles south of Calgary. The three coaches at Calgary West traveled south together and caught back up with Rich and Joan at the welcome to Canada visitor center in Milk River. This is the same visitor center we gathered at two months earlier after crossing into Canada on Thursday, May 26. It has been a two month period of our life that we can reminisce about for years to come.  With the exception of the roads, it was a wonderful and exciting experience with good friends who helped each other throughout the journey.

We all camped in Shelby Montana Friday night and got together at a local restaurant for one more meal before going to different destinations on Saturday. Craig and Angie stayed in Canada for a few more days and we missed them at our get together. Tom, Paula, and Van will travel together for awhile longer stopping in Ogden Utah and the Grand Canyon. Rich and Joan are bound for Cody Wyoming to meet friends and Pam and I will stay another day in Shelby and drive over to Glacier National Park.

Shelby Montana is a small town just off I-15 in the plains south of the Canadian border. The town is a major railroad hub and many of the resident are employed by the railroad. Here is a photo of our campsite in a new RV park that is part of the Comfort Inn. In the photo the interstate bridge over the many railroad tracks is visible on the left of our motorhome. The yellow building to the rear is the Comfort Inn. The log building is the bathhouse and it is a very nice bathhouse with knotty pine boards on the walls and ceiling. Notice the lampposts are LED street lamps and the whole place is like daylight at night. Each lamp post has two security cameras and we felt safe. The WiFi is free and very fast and our phone had 5 bars of 4G service.

Shelby RV Park

How many of you remember the Sinclair Service Stations with the dinosaur. They still have those out west and we filled up at the one in Shelby after our long drive Saturday to Glacier National Park and back.

Put a dinosaur in your tank

Friday, July 29, 2016

On Wednesday we drove the car up to Jasper and back. We decided to skip the Columbia Icefields Discover Center so we could get back to the campground early. We all got together at Rich and Joan's motorhome for a fairwell dinner under the awning. Seems everyone had slightly different plans for their journey home. In the morning we had a magnificent view of Mt Robson but missed the turn off for a photo. We made a mental note to get a photo on the way back, but as luck would have it, a cloud had formed at the top. Mt Robson is 12,972 feet and the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.

Mt Robson in the afternoon

Further up the road we cam across Moose Lake and stopped for a photo.

Moose Lake

We had packed a lunch and decided to stop at the picnic area at Yellowhead lake for a break.

Yellowhead Lake

Thursday morning we left early for the drive thru the park on the Icefield Parkway. Just as we made the turn onto the parkway from Highway 16 a very large grizzly bear crossed the road just in front of us. Pam was not able to get to the camera in time for a good photo but he is still visible in the center of the picture. Notice the jogger on the right. Wonder what she thought when that big boy crossed the road in front of her?

Grizzly in center of photo

About an hour after seeing the grizzly bear we made it to the Columbia Icefield Discover Center and stopped for a few photos.

Columbia Icefields Discover Cener

Glacier across the road

Typical view from the center

The lakes we saw along the parkway after the center were mind blowing. Here are a few photos but they do not do justice to what we saw.

We stayed the night at Calgary West Campground and will leave this morning for Shelby Montana. If all goes as planned we should lay our heads down back in the USA tonight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

We are now camped at Irvin's RV Park in Valemount, BC. This campground is about 70 miles west of Jasper, AB and we feel like we just checked into a five star hotel. The campground facilities are some of the best we have seen in two months with a great place to walk the dogs. We have 4G phone service, the WiFi is good, our satellite television works, and we have full hooks at 50 amps. This is all on top of great views with a level campsite.

Our camp site at Irvin's RV Park

Our view from the dog walk

Today we will take the car and drive up to Jasper and maybe the Columbia Ice Fields Discover Center. Tomorrow we will drive the motorhome on the Ice Field Parkway with the destination to be determined. This is a three day weekend for the Canadians and finding campgrounds with availability is a problem.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Yesterday was the first day we have had internet or phone service for about seven days. The trip from Valdez to our current location of Telkwa, British Columbia has been a long hard grueling trip with the worst roads we have traveled. Granted part of the way was a repeat of our trip to Alaska but two new routes, the Glenn Highway and the Cassiar Highway, were big disappointments. We were under the impression that those two routes were easy traveling with beautiful scenery but that was not the case. Not only were there numerous frost heaves with broken pavement, pot holes, long dusty or muddy stretches of gravel and construction, the weather robbed us of any vistas that might have compensated for the drudgery. We are glad we had this once in a life time experience of driving to Alaska and back, but any future visits will be via plane or cruise ship. Never again will we submit our own vehicles to the abuse required to travel to Alaska.

Here are some photos of our vehicles as they appeared on the second day of travel on the Cassiar. The first photo is what the car looked like after we washed the windows so we could see to drive it. The second photo is what the motorhome looked like.

Our car

Our motorhome

The first morning on the Cassiar did offer up some rewards for our travel. This photo is the sunrise we were greeted to behind our motorhome while camping at Boya Lake Provincial Park.

Sunrise at Boya Lake

We don't think our vehicles will ever be the same after this trip and we will probably need to spend a month cleaning them after arriving home. Imagine driving an accumulated mileage of over 400 miles on roads so dusty that sometimes you could not see where you were going. There is dust in every compartment and many of the cabinets. The windshields on both vehicles have rock chips and new squeaks and rattles appear frequently. Not only are the sections of dirt and gravel dusty or muddy, they often have a washboard surface.

We are now back in the populated area of Canada and conditions are significantly improved. Today we will spend some time cleaning the vehicles and tomorrow continue our travel toward Jasper and Banff. Those are the two main areas we plan to visit as a group and then we will separate and  start our individual journeys home.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Yesterday we arrived back in Tok at the same campgroud we stayed at almost one month ago to the day. We spent a whole month sightseeing in the state of Alaska. If you count the five days we spent in Skagway and Haines then a little over a month. Remember those two communities are located on the strip of Alaska that borders British Columbia and the Yukon. After our visit there we traveled back into Canada before entering the main landmass of the state of Alaska.

We spent the last two days traveling from Valdez to Tok on what seemed like some of the worst road we have traveled. Although 99 percent of the road was paved, or sometimes patched, a very large portion of the highway undulated in a wave similar to a roller coaster. Occasionally we hit spots were two force vectors worked against forward travel; a vertical motion with the undulation and and a sideways motion with a tilt affect. We don't think anything in the cabinets were left undisturbed. The tricky part was that some of the road was reasonable enough to travel at up to 55 MPH and then all of a sudden chaos set in. We finally learned to just keep the speed down in anticipation of the next bad spot.

Our reward for that awful highway was supposed to be magnificent scenery but the weather was cloudy and wet masking all the views. We did not pick up the camera one time so we have no photos to post. Today we will journey back into Canada retracing our previous path until we reach Watson Lake. In Watson Lake we intend to branch off onto the Cassiar Highway and head to Jasper and Banff in the Canadian Rockies. We anticipate long periods without internet and phone service so this may be our last post for awhile.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Thursday afternoon we visited two museums in Valdez and learned how the town was completely devastated by the tsunami that resulted from the 1964 earthquake. The old town was in a location prone to flooding from snow and glacier melting so the decision was made to move the town. The present location of Valdez is about five miles from the original town. After 52 years one does not realize the town was ever at a different location.

Craig and Angie caught back up with us yesterday and at 5:30 PM we took them out to Solomon Gulch to view the salmon. That turned out to be fortuitous because a young grizzly bear showed up to feast on the salmon. This was the first grizzly bear Pam and I have seen in the wild. The night before only a few small black bears showed up and they remained in the woods. The sun was still shinning bright so we manged to get some quality photographs and a few videos.

Grizzly after fish

Grizzly catches fish

Yum yum

Look at those claws

We got about five minutes of video of this bear at close range. Here is approximately one minute of that video and we will provide a link to the full video.


Here is the link to the long version:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

On Wednesday we spent a lot of time at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery across the bay from Valdez. We went in the morning at low tide and then again in the afternoon at high tide. At low tide the swell of salmon attempting to return to their birth place are visible in the water. During this period there are a lot of eagles feeding in the area and the every present gulls are everywhere. At high tide the sea lions come in to feast and sometimes bear travel down the mountain to catch salmon. We did see many sea lions but only one bear and it was still in the woods. We were hoping to view the bear catching salmon but none were at the weir dam while we were there.

The Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery harvests the eggs from the female salmon, fertilize them, incubate them, and then release them back into the bay. The hatchery is permitted to incubate 250 million Pink salmon eggs and 2 million Coho salmon eggs annually. When these salmon mature to the spawning age they return to the hatchery. The following video demonstrates the volume of salmon that return to spawn.

Salmon return to Solomon Gulch

Eagles feed while gulls wait

Eagle grabs a salmon

In the evening huge sea lions gorge themselves on salmon and then 
lounge around with full stomachs.

Are you going to eat all that fish say the gulls

Sea lion love triangle

Let me whisper in your ear

How about a kiss

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Monday, after we all arrived at the Grand View Campground, the girls spotted a trail leading out to a bluff and decided to take a hike. Since moose and bears where known to be in the area they ask if I would tag along to protect them. Actually I think they just wanted me along as bait to distract any bears or moose while they ran back to the campground. They say if a bear or moose comes after you, you only have to be faster than the slowest person. We were told that more people are killed by moose than bears. Bears will usually run to get away unless you surprise them. That is why you should make lots of noise while you are hiking. Moose, on the other hand, are aggressive and will charge you and stomp you. You should not run from a bear because that makes you appear as prey. You should run from a moose in a zig zag pattern because they have difficulty changing direction.

The girls go hiking

The following photo is the view the girls found at the end of their hike. The mountain on the left is Grizzly Point. The large mountain in the center is 8,000 foot Mt Wickersham rising above the Matanuska Glacier. The uniquely shaped mountain on the right is Lion's Head; an ancient volcano.

What the girls saw

The next morning we continued on the Glenn Highway heading to Valdez. We encountered some magnificent scenery as we motored down the road. Pam took the following photo through the windshield. By looking at Google Maps we determined that the mountain up ahead is Mount Blackburn. Wikipedia says Mount Blackburn is the highest peak in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska and the fifth highest peak in the United States.

16,390 ft Mount Blackburn in the distance

Not much farther down the road we intersected with the Richardson Highway and turned south towards Valdez. Some of you may remember Valdez as the place where the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground and spilled 38 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound. The major business in Valdez is the export of crude oil that arrives from the Arctic region via the Alaska Pipeline. Valdez is the terminus of the pipeline.

Valdez is surrounded by mountains that remind you of the Swiss Alps. Obviously Valdez is located near sea level and the road down to Valdez is a very long decent. Our friends, who have a motorhome larger than ours, stated they may have to leave a day early in order to climb the hill. One of the views on that long decent is Worthington Glacier and as luck would have it there was a large pullout where we were able to stop to take pictures.

Worthington Glacier

Our four motorhomes lined up at the turnout

Van, Tom, Paula, Joan, and Rich in scenery overload

Yours truly had not had a haircut since early May and was beginning to look like a homeless person. As soon as we got settled at our campground in Valdez we struck out in search of a barber. We found one at the Best Western Inn of all places. Based on Pam's statements the gentleman did a good job cutting my hair. He also gave us a tip on where to see a very large group of salmon and we will be headed over there today.

 Seward is a stop for cruise ships and while out early Saturday morning we managed to capture a nice photo of one of the ships sailing in. The cruise ships often move in and out of ports during the night while the passengers are sleeping. We awoke one morning to find one had appeared overnight. This one was in front of our motorhome at 5:00 AM.

Cruise ships arrives at 5 AM

Downtown Seward

On our last full day in Seward we visited the Alaska Sea Life Center and drove out to Bear Creek to view some salmon moving upstream. We saw Puffin out in the wild during our boat tour but at the Sea Life Center we were able to view them up close in the water and see how adapted they are underwater.

Puffin in the water

Video of Puffin underwater

We also saw a King Eider duck at the center. This duck is only found in the Arctic regions and we had to ask what it was.

King Eider Duck

After our visit to the Sea Life Center we walked downtown for lunch and then headed out to Bear Creek to find the salmon. Here are two short videos on the salmon we saw. The first video shows a small group of salmon about to go under the bridge over Bear Creek and the second video shows a single salmon jumping the weir dam on the other side of the bridge.

Video of salmon moving upsteam

Video of salmon jumping weir dam

On Monday we traveled back through Anchorage and caught the Glenn Highway in Wasilla for our journey to Valdez.  We stayed the night at a campground at Glacier View meeting back up with our friends.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The boat tour of Kenai Fjords was awesome, even if the weather was cloudy. Friday would have been the best day weather wise but at least it was not raining during our trip. The low light conditions made it difficult to take photos with my telephoto lens and many of them were grainy due to the motion of the boat and the F-stop required due to the low light. Some did turn out good and we will attempt to post them with the slow internet connection we have here in Seward. We were lucky on our tour and a large humpback whale decided to give us quite a show. I did manage to get a few photos of that spectacular event.



Two whales - one doing a blow

The hump of the Humpback

We also saw sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, cormorants, horned puffins, and common murre.

Sea Otter

Sea Lion

Harbor Seals

Common Murre


Horned Puffin

The turn around point of the tour was a up close look at the Holgate Glacier. Distances can be very deceiving when you are out on the water. The captain said we were two miles from the glacier but it looked to me like a few hundred yards. We stayed at the glacier for about a half hour and experienced claving where large chunks of ice break off of the glacier. When the glacier claves it sounds like thunder. When one views a glacier you have the impression it has the consistency of snow but one of the crew fished a large chunk from the water and it was solid ice.

Holgate Glacier

Since I am usually the one taking photos you don't often see me in photographs. I had been riding on the bow for most of the voyage to take pictures. It was quite wind and cold so Pam stayed inside the boat. One of the crew offered to take my photo with the glacier in the background and I agreed.

After our time at the glacier the crew served us a lunch topped off with a delicious chocolate chip cookie that was still warm. There weren't many new site seeing opportunities on the way back to Seward so yours truly indulged in a little nap. Now its hard to beat a nap after consuming a warm chocolate chip cookie.

Our friends, with the exception of Craig and Angie, left Homer for Anchorage on Thursday and we headed to Seward. Craig and Angie decided to delay in Homer to do some fishing. Pam and I spent the 4th of July in Anchorage while the rest of the group spent the 4th at Seward. We are now swapping those venues and plan to meet back up in Grand View on the Glenn Highway.

Seward is one of Alaska's oldest communities and is located on Resurrection Bay surrounded by mountains. The scenery here is stunning and the area is a popular weekend getaway for residents of Alaska. The city of Seward operates a large waterfront park with camping and the park is full every weekend. The campsites are first come with pay stations located through out the park. Basically you locate your spot and purchase a ticket to place on the post indicating you have paid. The coveted waterfront sites are difficult to obtain and almost everyone spends the first night back away from the water. Being an early bird has its advantages and when one of the waterfront campers left at 5:30 AM on Friday yours truly secured the campsite. Take a look at the view from our windshield in the following photo. Notice the wipers at the bottom to prove you are looking through a windshield.

Looking out at Resurrection Bay 

The next photo shows our motorhome on the front row. Notice Marathon Mountain in the background and the trail going up the slope to the peak.

Our coach with Marathon Mt in the background

Closeup of the race trail

Last weekend Seward held their annual 4th of July celebration centered around one of the oldest foot races in America. The 4th of July race up Marathon Mountain has been official since 1915 and is over three miles in length with an elevation climb of over 3000 feet. The population of Seward swells during the 4th of July weekend and in Anchorage the race is mentioned often on television. Here is a reference about the race course.

Seward must have been a zoo last weekend because this weekend every possible campsite is taken and the ballpark parking lot used for overflow camping is also full. Seward is also a popular cruise ship stop and one arrived Thursday and left on Friday and another one just sailed in about an hour ago.

Friday afternoon we took the popular hike up to Exit Glacier just inside the Kenai Fjords National Park. What makes Exit Glacier interesting are signs that show were the glacier was at various times since the late eighteen hundreds. It was amazing how far the glacier has receded in just six years. 

Exit Glacier

Saturday we took a 6 hour boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park and today we plan to visit the Alaska Sea Life Center.