In order to get to Haines from Valdez you have to go back through Canada. It is a long 675 mile drive. We did it over 2.5 days. The first day we drove from Valdez to Tok. We stayed at the same campground we did on our way into Alaska (the Tok RV Village Campground). The trip was pleasantly uneventful.
The next day we drove from Tok, AK to Deception Bay, Yukon. We had previously stayed here on our way to Alaska. We enjoyed a great home-cooked meal by the park owner, Loren.
Some of the ladies in our group decided to take a lesson in beading.
From Destruction Bay we worked our way on down to Haines, although we stopped in Haines Junction and revisited the Village Bakery. We picked up a cinnamon roll (can you see a theme throughout my posts regarding cinnamon rolls?). We also picked up some of their beef lasagna since we had enjoyed it so much the last time we were there. We put the lasagna in the freezer for future meals.
As we got close to Haines we came upon our group’s Tailgunners, Charlie and Lana. We noticed that their pickup truck was slightly off to the side behind their motorhome, indicating that their tow bar broke. They were aware of it and were in the process of pulling over. We went on ahead until we found a spot and then pulled over, unhooked the Jeep and went back to help them out. Again, I think traveling in a group in these remote areas has proven to be very beneficial.
Once we got the truck unhooked they were able to drive separately the rest of the way. Their truck got a few bumps and bruises, but overall, they faired pretty well. They were able to replace the broken bolt in Haines. This is the second person in our group to have a tow bar failure. We are going to make sure that we get ours refurbished after this trip.
After dropping the motorhome off at the Haines Hitch-Up RV Park we drove the Jeep over to the the local cannery and picked up some frozen King Crab Legs, King Salmon and Halibut. I think we will be good on seafood for quite awhile! We then dropped by the Port Chilkoot Distillery. We enjoyed an Old Fashioned drink there. In the evening we drove out to the Chilkat State Park where there are often bear fishing for salmon. We saw a number of fishermen, but no bear.
The following day we took a scenic boat ride from Haines to Juneau, along with a number of other Fantasy Tour participants. We loved the scenery, which included glimpses of Glacier Bay National Park in the distance.
Below is a gallery of landscape photos. Click on the first picture to enlarge and then scroll through the collection.
We passed this scenic lighthouse.
We spotted some Eagles.
Some Oyster Catchers passing by.
Some Porpoise, although they were very hard to catch a photo of. They are very fast and far away.
And a few Humpback Whales. They never came out of the water very much, but they did show off their tails.
And of course Harbor Seals and Sea Birds.
And this adorable Otter which was surprisingly sitting on land.
In Juneau we toured the town and had a fabulous lunch at Twisted Fish. Their Halibut fish tacos are exceptional.
On our last day in Haines I decided to hunker down at the library and work on my photo collection and blog. Charlie visited the Hammer Museum. I guess they have 9,000 different hammers, with 2,000 of them on display. It didn’t take him long to get through the museum, but he said it was interesting.
Haines is a small and quaint town. There are a couple of small food markets, but because Haines is fairly remote the prices are fairly high. I thought about getting a 12 pack of Diet Coke since we prefer American Diet Coke over Canadian but I couldn’t bring myself to pay $10.99 for a 12-pack.
We enjoyed our 3-night stay in Haines and our short visit in Juneau. This was our last stop in Alaska. It is hard to believe that our trip is coming to an end. We left Haines this morning and in less than a week our 62 day Your-Way Alaska Fantasy Tour will conclude. Charlie and I will move onto the last portion of our whirlwind road trip. We’ll be in Jasper in a week, followed by stops in Banff, Glacier, Coeur d’Alene, Bryce, Zion and Albuquerque. Still a lot to see! For the next three weeks we will be in Canada with limited WiFi and no Cell Service so I’m not sure when I’ll get another post done. Maybe we’ll hit a library down the road. Stay tuned 🙂
We stopped one last time at the Wild Honey Bistro in Homer to enjoy a Reindeer Sausage Crepe before heading up the road to Kenai for a three night stay at the Diamond M Ranch Resort.
After setting up the motorhome in Kenai Charlie and I took a drive north along the coastline to the Captain Cook State Recreation Area. Most of the drive was tree-lined, as was the recreation area, so views of Cook Inlet were limited. There are a number of hiking trails and lakes in the recreation area. We just did a drive through, as it was getting late. The next day we took a drive to Cooper Landing via the rustic Skilak Lake Road. This gravel road passes numerous lakes and rivers. It is very forested so there are not a lot of scenic landscapes, but the area is very nice. The lakes are secluded and peaceful, great for spending time on while floating in a kayak or canoe. On the way back from Cooper Landing we stopped at Watson Lake and enjoyed a scenic lunch.
For dinner we joined the Fantasy group for a King Crab leg dinner at the resort. The food was great, as was the setting. We sat outside on their Wildlife Refuge overlook deck and watched some caribou stroll through the field. We spent our last day in Kenai at the library, catching up on my blog posts.
I’ll give a shout out to The Flats Bistro (http://www.theflatsbistro.com/). We went there twice for lunch and found their fish and chips to be fabulous, as were their bacon wrapped dates. We sat on their back porch, which also looks out over the Wildlife Refuge.
From Kenai we headed to Palmer, Alaska. The Fantasy group had a four night stay planned at the Mountain View RV Park and only two nights at our next destination of Valdez. Charlie and I wanted extra time in Valdez so we only stayed one night in Palmer, which was quite sufficient. We spent the one afternoon we had in Palmer at the Independence Mine, an operating gold mine back in the 1930s and early 40s. We strolled around the property for awhile until we found ourselves in the midst of a rain shower. We had wanted to do some sightseeing around Hatcher Pass Summit, just up the road from the mine, but it was a total washout.
In the morning I got my hair cut by Pam at B.Bella in Palmer. She did a fantastic job. After that we headed out for Eagle’s Rest RV Park in Valdez. It was a beautiful drive.
As you approach Glenellen on Alaska Highway 1, otherwise known as Glenn Hwy, you feel as if you are going to run into this spectacular glacier covered mountain.
You pass a number of other glaciers along the way, like the Matanuska Glacier seen below.
Below are photos from Thompson Pass, the summit just before heading down into Valdez.
(Click on the first picture to enlarge and then scroll through them)
With all these glaciers we found no shortage of waterfalls.
We found a river where the water color was a beautiful aqua.
As most people know, Salmon fishing is a huge thing in Alaska. In order to keep the salmon population robust there are a number of salmon fish hatcheries throughout the state. These hatcheries release more than a billion fish each year into Alaskan waters. In the wild only about 10% of fry (baby salmon) survive, compared to 90% of those in the hatcheries. The hatcheries provide a controlled environment until the fry are released and face the same elements as naturally-spawned salmon. If a salmon is born at a hatchery then it will one day return to it to complete its cycle of life. While we were in Valdez we visited the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. We initially visited at low tide and found squawking birds all over the fish. The scene reminded me of two horror movies. The enormous number of salmon swimming about reminded me of the Indiana Jones movie. In particular, the scene with all of the snakes. The squawking birds reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds.” And the stench. Oh the stench. I was less than enamored by the whole scene. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Charlie had me go back again during high tide. The situation was a little better then, as we could see the fish swimming up the fish ladder. But still, the stench. Anyway, here are a few pictures from our visits to the fish hatchery.
A fun activity we did while in Valdez was to canoe on Glacier Lake. This lake is just 10 minutes from town. Charlie’s friend Don Edwards lives in Valdez and offered to lend us his canoe for the day. Joe and Stephanie, co-participants on the Fantasy Tour group joined us, as they had their kayak. It was really neat canoeing around the icebergs. We kept our distance from them, and the glacier itself, for fear of the ice breaking off or of large boulders falling off of them. The week prior three people had died on the lake. They were tourists from Germany. They were all in the same canoe and apparently something happened which tipped their canoe over. The water is so cold that you cannot survive more than a minute or two in it. One of the people had a severe head injury so they suspect they got too close to an iceberg or the glacier and something fell down on him. Very tragic, but the incident scared us enough to stay alert.
Prior to going to Valdez I had read that rabbits can be found pretty much everywhere in the small town, just as squirrels are found running around other cities. Well, it’s true. They can be spotted just about everywhere. They are cute and didn’t bother us a bit.
During our stay we took the Stan Stephens catamaran ride through Prince William Sound to the Meares Glacier. We passed the Columbia Glacier on the way. The Columbia Glacier is a large tidewater glacier, flowing directly into the sea. It is receding rapidly. Each day a large number of icebergs break away. We passed by many of them. It was kind of eerie and reminded me of Titanic. How could it not, right?
Some icebergs were covered with otters and birds, like this one.
The Meares Glacier is also a tidewater glacier, although it is advancing. Its face is about a mile wide, and it is very tall.
The weather was perfect for the boat ride. We even got some good reflections on the area where we had flat water.
We spotted some romantic sea lions.
As well as some adorable otters.
And some harbor seals
And this little guy who decided to pop out of the water for a photoshoot.
We even spotted a couple of puffin floating around.
We passed a large commercial fishing area. This particular boat was pulling in its net. I’m sure they were elated to find it full of fish. Although it would appear to me that they were not paying enough attention to the fact that their boat is nearly under water.
To end our stay we were blessed with a glorious moonrise over a glacier.
We really enjoyed our stay in Valdez. It is an absolutely beautiful area of the country. There’s not a lot to do in the town itself though. It is very small.
We enjoyed catching up with Charlie’s friend Don, as well as meeting his lady friend, Mystie. We’ll be seeing them both again when we get to Albuquerque for the balloon fiesta. Like Charlie, Don is a hot air balloon pilot.
Our next destination, and final stop in Alaska, is Haines. Keep an eye out for that post. I hope to have it done quickly, as we just left Haines this morning.
OMG!!! I could not wait to get to Homer. Charlie booked a bear sightseeing trip for us out of Homer back in April. Since then I had been anxiously waiting for the trip to materialize. I was so excited about getting close to the grizzly bears and photographing them fishing for salmon along the river in the Katmai National Preserve.
We booked our trip with Beluga Air (http://www.belugaair.com). It is a small family owned business. Wes owns and flies the plane while his wife Angela works the back office. The plane holds 4-5 customers and a bear guide. They did a phenomenal job and we always felt safe; in the air and in the river with the bears.
Wes landed the float plane on a small lake (Crosswind Lake) in the northern part of the Katmai National Preserve, just east of the larger Kukaklek Lake. The bears were prominent in this area.
Our bear guide directed us towards a quiet area of the river, away from the other photographers and fishermen, which can be seen in the photo above. Within the first 5 minutes of reaching the riverbank we saw two bears get into a battle over a salmon. You could hear the roars. It was an awesome sight to see!
We saw a baby bear scratching its back on the mama bear. So cute!
We watched the bears for hours. While we ate lunch on the river bank there were 6 bears very close to us either napping or fishing. This bear got lucky and pulled out a salmon.
There were some fishermen in the river, as this is a highly regarded place to fish for trout. The bears do not want the trout, only the salmon. However, the bear doesn’t know what is on the hook when you pull a fish out of the river so I think it is pretty foolish to fish near the bears. This fisherman thought he’d give it a shot though.
It was an AMAZING experience!!! If you’d like to see more of my grizzly bear pictures, and in full resolution, you can check out my photography website. (http://www.schobelphotography.com).
The scenery to/from Katmai is amazing as well.
After that experience Homer moved to the top of my favorite Alaska destinations! And as if that wasn’t enough, we went Halibut fishing the next day and I caught 2 large Halibut. Unfortunately, the Alaska fishing license only allows you to keep one Halibut 28″ or larger on a commercial vessel on any particular day. So, I had to throw this 31″ guy back into the sea. I cried :-(.
But I did get to keep this one, which produced 10.5 pounds of nice Halibut filets. Yummy!!
Charlie did not catch one fish, nor did most of the guys on our boat. It seemed to be lady’s day, as most ladies went home with a catch.
We stayed at the Heritage RV Park during our 5 night stay in Homer. It is located right on the spit and has great views. When the tide goes out the eagles come in. I could watch for them while looking out the windshield of the motorhome and then go down and snap some photos.
We had a great view of the Kachemack Bay State Park mountain range.
Fishing right in front of the RV park was very popular. You can see the fishermen lined up in the photo below.
There are numerous shops and restaurants along the spit. The most notable one is the Salty Dawg. The Salty Dawg started out as one of the first cabins in Homer, built in 1897. It served as home to many different businesses over the years until it became the Salty Dawg saloon in the late 1950s. It is quite unique.
The ceiling and walls are covered with dollar bills that the patrons sign and leave. If you are wondering why they leave the dollar bills, well, I guess it’s just the thing to do if you visit the Salty Dawg. When they fall off the owner collects them and donates them to a local charity.
Along our walk we came upon this most unique, and cute, motorhome. It sits amongst the restaurants and shops on the spit.
We were blessed with beautiful skies the first evening we were in Homer so we found a great place to capture the landscape, looking over the fireweed to the mountains of the Kachemak State Park.
Another thing of interest that we did while in Homer was visit the Kilcher Homestead. Charlie and I had never seen the “Alaska: The Last Frontier” show on the Discovery Channel but a number of people in our group had and they suggested we visit the homestead. We arrived in time to participate in their 10:00am tour. It was led by one of the Kilcher daughters, Stellavera. She took us into the cabin she grew up in and told us all about her childhood, living on the homestead, her parents, her brothers who are on the show, the challenges of growing up the way she and her 7 siblings did, etc. It was quite informative and interesting. It was funny though when she went around the room asking what everybody’s favorite part of the series was. Charlie and I had to fess up that we’d never seen it. It’s hard to believe that the parents, 6 girls and 2 boys lived in this small cabin. Really hard to believe.
As a side note, the singer Jewel is Stellavera’s niece. She grew up on the homestead. She was coming into town and singing with her father, Atz. They were scheduled to perform at a local bar the day after we left. Tickets were only $20. We were sad to miss it.
The views from the homestead are amazing!
After a great stay in Homer we headed to the northwest area of the Kenai Peninsula, to the city of Kenai. On the way there we had good views of the largely volcanic Aleutian mountain range.
And we passed some beautiful fields of fireweed.
Other notable activities:
We enjoyed breakfast twice at the Wild Honey Bistro. It was delicious! Both times we got the Deja Vu crepe. The crepe is stuffed with reindeer breakfast sausage, green apples, caramelized onions, scrambled egg and white cheddar.
We had heard from numerous people that the cinnamon buns at The Two Sisters bakery were fabulous so of course we had to try them. We headed up there late in the afternoon one day, only to find that they were sold out of them. We went back on Saturday morning, only to discover that the cafe was closed, as were numerous other places, due to the Salmon Music Festival being held in Ninilchik Alaska. So, we never got to taste the famous buns.
One evening we went to dinner at Patti’s, on the spit. We both got the grilled Seafood Platter. It was OK. Nothing to write home about.
We toured the Pratt Museum, which we found fairly boring.
On our way to the Kilcher Homestead we stopped by a cute general store in Fritz Creek. They had hot cinnamon rolls so of course we had to have one. It was pretty good. I can only assume it was not nearly as good as the Two Sisters’ bun would have been.
If you like bagels, check out “The Bagel Shop” on East End Rd. Their organic bagels are made on-site daily and are excellent, as is their soup.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, just down the street from Homer’s visitor center. The displays and movies are very well done. We highly suggest you check it out if you go to Homer.
That about sums up our stay in Homer. We have memories from our stay there to cherish forever.
We spent 4 nights at the Stoney Creek RV Park in Seward, a beautiful area at the tip of the Kenai Fjords National Park. The main feature of this national park is the 700-square mile Harding Icefield. Nearly 40 glaciers flow from this icefield.
Shortly after parking the motorhome we ventured into town. We took a tour of the local aquarium. I thought it was a little over-priced considering they do not have a lot of exhibits. However, the exhibits they do have are very well done.
We enjoyed dinner at The Cookery with Dom and Kathleen, a couple from the Fantasy tour group. It was fabulous! The Halibut was cooked to perfection and was beautifully presented. Highly recommend this restaurant!
It rained all day the next day so we hunkered down and got some stuff done around the RV. The following day we went on an all-day glacier boat tour with Major Marine. We loved it! The crew was great, as was the scenery and wildlife. The captain made sure we had adequate time to view the wildlife once somebody spotted something. We spent nearly an hour stopped at the Northwestern Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park. We enjoyed watching and hearing the glacier calving and breaking off into the water.
The wildlife was plentiful along our way. We spotted lots of Otter.
A lot of Orca whales.
And Sea lions that looked like they had had a very hard day. LOL.
And a beautiful eagle.
And a Fin whale, which is rare to see. This type of whale can be as large as 68 ft long and over 100,000 lbs. This particular one was huge!
We saw lots of puffins on the boat tour and in Seward. I love puffins!
We came across a busy sea bird ‘condo’ where babies were being watched over closely by their parents.
Spotted this little guy too.
Charlie enjoyed chatting with the captain and having a front row seat.
On another day we decided to join a small group and hike the Exit Glacier. The Exit Glacier is the only part of the huge Kenai Fjords National Park that is accessible by vehicle. As you approach the glacier you see posts noting where the glacier once terminated at a particular year. It is amazing to see how much it has receded over time.
It was a strenuous hike and a long day, but I’m glad we did it. We hiked 7 miles with nearly a 2,000 mile elevation gain. Much of the elevation and distance was on the ice field where we had to wear crampons. The ice feels like shards of glass melded together. It is very abrasive to the touch. Our guides made sure we were cautious and did not get too close to the crevices. It was pretty cool looking down some of them though.
We had perfect weather for the hike. At the base we were in t-shirts. On the glacier we had sweaters and jackets on. The scenery was spectacular from the glacier.
These pictures, each with a number of hikers in them, might give you a little perspective of the size of the glacier. Click on the first picture to enlarge. In the center of it you’ll see half a dozen people.
The hike to the glacier offered up some beautiful scenery as well, especially with the purple fireweed.
We really enjoyed Seward and hope to return one day.
On our way from Denali to Anchorage we took a side trip over to the quaint little town of Talkeetna. It is reminiscent of a hippie-town where local artists and musicians congregate.
The town is a launching point for mountain climbers preparing to trek up Denali. We stopped by the Talkeetna National Ranger station where many of the climbers register. A video about the climb was playing. We found it very interesting. After the video we listened to a mountain guide who had climbed the mountain over 30 times. He noted that they frequently got winds over 100 mph up on the mountain. The tents would often explode from the inside out under such conditions. Hikers would have to be fully dressed and have all their gear packed and on their backs when the winds hit. If their tent exploded they had to quickly move to a fellow hiker’s tent. At times, they made shallow ice graves to hunker down in until the storm subsided. One thing I can say for sure is that you won’t find me hiking Denali!
We had a great lunch at The Roadhouse. It is a historic restaurant and hotel. We ran into another couple from our Fantasy Tour group, Bob & Meg, and met a few new people, as seating is family style.
After our brief visit to Talkeetna we continued down the road to Anchorage, for a 4-night stay at the Golden Nugget RV Park. As a side note, we did not take our motorhome into Talkeetna, as there is not a lot of available parking and the roads are packed with people. We disconnected the Jeep from the RV at a gas station up the road and drove the Jeep into town.
While in Anchorage, we took a day trip to Whittier. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier takes you along the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm. As you travel the Seward Highway you have the mountains on your left, while on your right you have the bay and the mudflats of Cook Inlet. In the distance you have mountains covered with glacier ice. It is a beautiful landscape. Unfortunately, we had low clouds and haze on our drive, but it was still pretty.
For those that are curious, the name of Turnagain Arm stems from when the British explore James Cook was forced to “turn again” when the inlet did not have an exit. Cook was looking for a Northwest Passage during his 1778 voyage.
On the mountain side we spotted some cute Dall sheep.
In order to get to Whittier you must travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial tunnel. Both cars and trains must use the single lane 2.5 mile long tunnel. Cars are allowed to travel into the town of Whittier each hour on the half hour, while cars are allowed to travel out of the town each hour on the hour. Trains fit in-between those times.
The town of Whittier is small. There are virtually no homes in the town. Most of the yearly residents live in the same high rise apartment structure, which once served as military barracks.
We meandered through tiny shops and grabbed a snack at the Lazy Otter cafe.
As you turn off the Seward Highway and head towards the tunnel to Whittier you pass glacier covered mountains, lakes, rivers, wetlands and waterfalls. It is stunningly beautiful.
Our next stop was Seward, covered in my next post.
Wow! Just Wow! I LOVED Denali and the surrounding area. I finally felt like the long drive to Alaska was worth it when we entered the beautiful Denali National Park.
Denali was established as a park in 1917 for the purpose of protecting Dall sheep, which were being over-hunted at the time. They seem to be doing well now. We found some grazing high up on a mountain.
The park’s size and purpose grew over time. Today, the park is around 6 million acres. There is only one road in the park, running east to west. It is 92 miles long. With the exception of the first 15 miles it is a narrow gravel and dirt road. Parts of it are subjected to landslides during heavy rains.
This very scenic road starts in a low, forested area and then rises and falls along mountain passes. The only way to travel on this road past mile marker 15 is via a national park service bus, with the exception of traveling into a campground near mile marker 30. If you are staying at that campground you are allowed to drive in, but then your car must remain at your campsite for the duration of your stay.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we temporarily broke off from the Fantasy tour group in Fairbanks so that we could have a few extra days enjoying Denali. We spent 3 nights at the Savage River Campground in the park. It is located near mile marker (MM) 13, which is the area where anybody can drive their vehicle, and it is paved.
The campground is rustic and there are no services (no electric, water or dump station). Getting through the campground with our 40′ motorhome was challenging at times, mostly because the tree branches hung out into the road far enough to scrape along the motorhome. Very nerve-racking. All sites are first-come, first-served. When we finally found the one and only site that could possibly accommodate us we spent at least half an hour maneuvering into it. Once we finally got situated we took a breath and looked at our phenomenal surroundings. We were in the wilderness of Denali and LOVED it.
Less than a 1/4 mile from our site was a path leading to the Savage River and the flat lands surrounding it. I couldn’t get over how beautiful the area was. Here is an early morning shot.
The park was especially beautiful this year due to the unprecedented fireweed bloom. There were purple flowers everywhere.
Wildlife roam freely throughout the 6 million acre park and simply ignore the busses traveling along the road. At times, the busses have to come to a standstill and wait for the wildlife to mosey on out of their way, like this caribou.
There is no shortage of wildlife. We spotted numerous moose.
I didn’t spot any bull-moose in the park though. However, here’s a funny story. While we were staying at the Savage River Campground Charlie was outside fiddling with the motorhome when the people staying in the spot behind us ran over to him and said “Oh My Gosh, look what you just missed.” They showed him their cell phone picture of the biggest bull-moose they had ever seen in their life. It crossed the gravel road right behind Charlie. It was so quiet though that Charlie never knew it was there. Sadly, we never did find it after that.
We spotted numerous Caribou in the park.
I loved the antlers on this one.
These guys were just chillin’, watching the busses go by.
And this was my favorite. We never did see his body, only his antlers moving around.
I had quite a scare on one of the bus rides. The bus was cruising along a section of road that had tall bushes along the right side of the bus, where Charlie and I were sitting. We were in the last row and I was against the window. All of a sudden a caribou came running out of the bushes at full speed, heading directly for me. I jumped and squealed, as he was just feet away from his end of life, and maybe mine, or not. The caribou skidded on his hind legs, made a sharp 90 degree turn and just missed us. Whew!
We saw grizzly bears, including cute baby ones.
We saw many adorable arctic ground squirrels. This one was enjoying a snack.
We spotted a few Willow Ptarmigan (pronounced as tarmigan). The Ptarmigan is Alaska’s state bird. It stands 14-17 inches high and is a ground-dwelling bird. We frequently spotted them along the road and hiking paths. The Ptarmigan feathers are light brown in the summer but in the winter they turn white.
Since we are on the subject of birds, I’ll share a couple pictures of some cute fellas I spotted near our campground.
On our first full day at Denali we took a transit bus to Wonder Lake. There are two different busses which you can take. One being the Transit bus which lets you get off whenever you want to take a hike. The Tour bus is one which you stay on and the bus driver gives you information about the park, etc. There is no getting on or off, except for restroom breaks, which are only 10-15 minutes long.
The round trip transit bus ride to Wonder Lake, at MM 85, takes around 11 hours. Yes, 11 hours on an old school bus. We caught our bus at 5:45am right outside our campground. We had great weather; high clouds and temps in the low 60s. Between the awe-inspiring landscape and all the wildlife you see along the way, the bus ride goes by quickly, relatively speaking.
For our second full day at the park we decided to sign up for a Discovery Hike. This is a ranger-led hike with a maximum of 11 participants. They are called discovery hikes because the ranger gets to select a hiking area in the park that is off-trail and has not been selected by any other ranger that year more than once. Our hike was with a wonderfully energetic young red-headed lady named Cinnamon. She chose a hiking location around MM 53. We had some discoveries along our hike such as when we got to the top of the mountain and found that our path down the backside was fairly steep and rocky. As a group we decided we could handle it and actually had a fun time getting down. The scenery from the top of the mountain was spectacular. After getting down the hill we walked along the riverbed back to the park road. It seems that no matter where you are in the park you can always see the park road. That gave me a little comfort while hiking off-trail. We ended up hiking about 4 miles with an elevation gain of nearly 1,000 ft. We enjoyed it so much that we signed up for another one a few days later. Here are a few photos from our first hike.
In addition to our transit bus ride to Wonder Lake (MM 85) and our two discovery hikes (both near MM 53) we took a Tour Bus ride with the Fantasy group after they all arrived in Denali. As a side note, bus driving in the park appears to be a coveted job. Many of the drivers have been doing it for over 20 years. I guess the scenery and wildlife never get boring.
Below is a gallery of photos taken during our time in the park. Click on the first photo to enlarge it and begin a slide show.
On a clear day you can see Denali, North America’s tallest peak, as you travel along the park road. It is 20,310 feet tall. They say only about 20% of the visitors to Denali get the opportunity to see the mountain in its full glory. We were very fortunate in that we saw it numerous times during our stay. It is spectacular.
In addition to visiting the National Park we took a day trip along the Old Denali Highway. This is a 135 mile gravel road connecting Cantwell, AK to Paxson, AK. Much of the road lies above timberline so the views are phenomenal. We drove nearly 70 miles of the road beginning in Cantwell. We ended up at Alpine Lodge. This lodge is one of only a hand full of lodging places along the road. We dropped in and found that they offered a small lunch menu. As we ate lunch we chatted with a gentleman that helps out at the lodge and a young man that grew up there. We learned a bit about the area and life in the wilderness. After lunch we backtracked back to Cantwell. If you are ever in the area of Denali we highly recommend you take a side trip along the Old Denali Highway. It is one of the most scenic drives we’ve done.
Charlie captured some good photos with the drone.
…while I captured some photos with my camera.
Back on the Parks Highway we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant called 229Parks. Its name comes from the fact that it is located at MM 229 on Parks Hwy. There is not much around this restaurant and we almost passed it by.
We had heard that it was a great restaurant so we wanted to try it out, and we were not disappointed.
As a side note, getting around Alaska is pretty easy. There is generally one road to take from one populated city to the next. The George Parks Highway (generally referred to as simply the Parks Highway), runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
Aside from 3 nights at the Savage River Campground we also stayed at the Denali RV Park. That’s where we rejoined the Fantasy Tour Group.
That about sums up our stay in Denali. I can’t say enough good things about it! After Denali we headed down to Anchorage and then on to the Kenai Peninsula, which will be covered in my next post. Stay tuned……
Skagway is a small town in southeast Alaska. It is a popular stop for cruise ships that travel along the Inside Passage. The town is comprised of gold-rush-era buildings which are preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad run vintage locomotives between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The train travels parallel with Highway 2, the only road into the town of Skagway. There are beautiful views of the mountain range along the highway and/or train ride. Unfortunately, during our stay in Skagway we were subjected to skies filled with a smokey haze due to a forest fire not too far away.
We spent 4 nights in Skagway at the Pullen RV Park. We were actually parked in the parking lot behind the park facing the cruise ships that were in port. Each day 3 or 4 new ships would arrive. Skagway’s population is only around 1,000. When the cruise ships are in port the population jumps tenfold, if not more.
I love how the buildings in the town of Skagway give you a feeling as if you are back in time. Even the sidewalk is made of wood planks.
Looking back the other direction you can see how massive the cruise ships are compared to the town. This was taken in the very early morning, before everybody disembarked from the ship.
The town has the most unique visitor’s center I’ve ever seen. The distinctive building has a facade covered in 8,800 pieces of driftwood. All of the wood was recently replaced or restored. The building was originally built for early pioneers and miners preparing to cross the Chilkoot Pass to reach the Klondike goldfields in the Yukon.
I loved the murals found on the buildings, each telling a historical story.
We enjoyed learning about Jeff Smith, better known as “Soapy” Smith. He was a notorious outlaw. During the gold rush year of 1898 he and his band of robbers and con artists ran schemes to rob unsuspecting gold stampeders and intimidate the community. However, one day he robbed the wrong person and in the end, Soapy was shot to death in a gunfight. In 1935 Jeff Smith’s Parlor was turned into a home-spun museum with gold-rush era artifacts, folk art, taxidermy, and animatronic manikins. Today the museum is much as it was back then.
One afternoon we took a nice hike up to Dewey Lake. It was a steep walk up the hill to get to the lake, but once there the flat trail around the lake was very nice. We spotted a person swimming in the lake and we were surprised at how warm the water was.
We found a fisherman that had just returned from salmon fishing and was selling each large fish for $25. We bought two of them and got close to 9 pounds of filets out of them. I packaged them up and plan on enjoying them along our road trip. I did cook some up already and it was great!
Just down the road from Skagway is an area called Dyea. It was once a town but is now a part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. During the gold rush of 1898 Dyea served as a port for gold rush stampeders. Dyea is has a very shallow port though, while Skagway’s is deep. Therefore, Skagway was a better long term solution as a port. The area is beautiful. We spotted a doe hiding in the flowers as we drove through the area.
We spent a bit of time watching these seabirds fish along the creek.
On the way to/from Dyea you get a bird’s eye view of Skagway.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, the White Pass train is a popular tourist attraction. We joined our Fantasy RV group and took a ride on it. It was fairly hazy for much of the ride, but we did enjoy it and was able to get a few decent pictures.
The day we departed Skagway some of the haze lifted and we were able to capture some photos along Highway 2, which is pretty much the same route the train takes. It is a very majestic area.
That about sums up our stay in Skagway. We enjoyed it, although I wish the skies were a little less smokey.
After Skagway we worked our way to Fairbanks, and more importantly, Denali. My next post will be on that area. Stay tuned…….
Well, so much for trying to keep up with this blog while traveling through Alaska. I’ve been subjected to an overwhelming amount of ‘eye-candy’ since my last post. There is so much to see and do in Alaska! I’ll try to make this post as brief as possible. Although I think that will be tough!
To begin, we met up with Fantasy Tours in Ferndale, WA on June 24th. It is our first group tour, and our first time to Alaska with the motorhome. There are 25 RVs in our group. It is a “Your Way” tour so nearly all of the activities we choose to do are on our own, although Fantasy Tours has suggested a few group tours which we signed up for. We decided that it would be advantageous for our first motorhome trip to Alaska to be arranged by a third party and to be with other RVers just in case something happened.
Charlie and I spent a week in Anacortes, WA prior to meeting with the group in Ferndale. We were both pretty exhausted from our whirlwind trip home and our whirlwind tour through Vancouver and Vancouver Island, so we took it easy. Additionally, I was still trying to get over my cold and sinus infection. We did take a short ferry ride from Anacortes over to Friday Island one day, which is one of the San Juan Islands. We enjoyed a nice walk around the town there. The only other notable activity that we did was take a drive from Anacortes down to Deception Pass, which we really enjoyed seeing.
We stayed at the Fidalgo Bay RV Resort. Our spot was on the waterfront, facing Fidalgo Bay. Not far from the resort I found a fantastic fish market. It’s called Skagit’s Own Fish Market (https://www.skagitfish.com/). OMG!!! I visited this market a few times during our stay. Their King Salmon was out of this world fresh and for lunch we enjoyed overflowing lobster rolls. Aside from fish, I’ll note that the local Lopez Island Ice Cream is also out of this world. It is very creamy and delicious!
After Anacortes we hooked up with the Fantasy Tour group and began our long journey to Alaska, and I mean LONG.
Our first day of driving took us to Hat Creek Ranch RV Park in Cache Creek, British Columbia. We drove alongside the Thompson River for much of the day. It is a very pretty landscape, although nothing like I expected. It reminded me of the Southwest terrain, as it is very desert like.
When we got to Cache Creek we noticed that we were missing one couple from our group. Turns out they attempted to cross the border into Canada with a handgun. That did not work out so well for them. The gun owner, Gary, was hand-cuffed and interrogated for 5 hrs. On the positive side, he and Wendy were allowed to enter Canada after just a 24 hr period and a $2,000 fine. They met up with us in Prince George. However, they have been flagged as ‘gun-runners’ and will now be subjected to a full search every time they enter Canada. On this RV trip we go in and out of Canada frequently.
Our next day of driving took us from Cache Creek to Prince George. We got out of the dry area and into some rain. The landscape turned lush. In Williams Lake we stopped at the visitor center which has a fabulous historical museum. We unhooked the Jeep and drove into town where we found Margetts Meat Market. I picked up some Filet Mignon for dinner, which was fabulous! Before re-hooking up the Jeep we grabbed lunch at The Laughing Loon. Highly recommend it. Charlie got the burger and it was by far the best either of us had ever tasted. Turns out the owner of the restaurant also owns a ranch nearby and that is where he gets his beef. After lunch we mated up with the RV and continued down the road to Sintich RV Park in Prince George.
We woke the following morning to more rain. It remained overcast most of the day as we worked our way from Prince George to Dawson Creek. On the way we spotted a black bear grazing along the side of the road.
We spent a couple of nights at the Mile 0 Campground in Dawson Creek, where the Alaska Highway (originally called the AlCan Hwy) begins. The 1,390 mile long road was built by the American military during WWII to connect the contiguous United States to Alaska across Canada. It begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska.
We visited the Mile 0 Museum. We enjoyed learning all about the development of the road. The soldiers accomplished quite a feat building it in an enormously challenging environment.
In town I stumbled upon ‘The Butcher Block’. This has to be the best butcher shop I’ve ever been in. I bought quite a bit of meat and all of it turned out to be excellent. I wish we were going back through Dawson Creek on our return so that I could restock.
Just down the road from Dawson Creek is the Kiskatinaw Bridge. This curved timber bridge is one of the last standing original bridges of the AlCan Highway, although it is no longer used for major traffic.
From Dawson Creek we made our way to the Triple G Hideaway Campground in Ft. Nelson, BC. Nothing too exciting along this part of the drive. Although at the campground we discovered what Bannock is, and fell in love with it. It is a native fry bread. I think it is similar to an Elephant Ear. Yummy!! They predicted a severe wind and rain storm, but it did not materialize. At one point the sky turned dark and the winds whipped ferociously, but that was it.
After a one night stay in Ft. Nelson we continued onward to Liard Hot Springs in Northern Rockies, British Columbia. Fortunately, we had beautiful weather for this drive as the scenery was spectacular. We stopped a few times so that Charlie could put up the drone and snap a few photos.
We spotted more black bear along the road. It is funny in that I never thought I’d see a day when I’d see a bear and say, “it’s just another black bear.”
We saw bison walking along the road.
We stuffed ourselves with a huge breakfast, including a cinnamon roll, at the Tetsa River Services. It is a great little rest stop. Considering our breakfast indulgence we decided that we should take a hike. We stopped along the road at Tetsa Trail#1. It was a nice 1.5 mile up hill walk to get to a remote lake.
We made a quick stop at the Toad River Lodge, where we spotted a bull moose taking a swim in the lake out back. He was pretty far away though, so no great picture.
For the most part, the road conditions were good. However, we did run into areas of gravel which led to a high risk of getting a cracked windshield on both the motorhome and the Jeep. We faired well, but others in our group got cracks from minor to baseball size.
The landscape was beautiful along our drive. I was thrilled that we were blessed with clear skies.
When we arrived at our campground at Liard Hot Springs Lodge we learned that the leader of our group had an issue with his RV. When Lorrin and Nyla stopped at the Tetsa River Services for a cinnamon roll earlier in the day they discovered, upon restarting their motorhome, that Lorrin had accidentally filled it with gasoline, as opposed to Diesel fuel. He could no longer drive it and would have to wait a couple days for a tow truck to haul it back to Fort Nelson. The tail gunners, Charlie and Lorna, stepped in as the interim leaders.
The following day, while we were still at Liard Hot Springs, Nyla decided to drive the 120 miles from the Tetsa River Services to deliver some items to Charlie and Lorna, since it was unknown as to how long it would take to repair their motorhome. When Nyla got about 45 miles into the drive she blacked out and flipped her Jeep. She’s not sure what caused the blackout, but fortunately she was OK. The Jeep on the other hand was totaled. Amazingly, Lorrin and Nyla were able to rejoin us just a few days later, after having their motorhome engine flushed.
The Liard Hot Springs was enjoyed by a good number of people in our group. I’m not a fan of hot springs, or hot jacuzzis for that matter, so I declined to try it out. Those that went in loved it though. The boardwalk to the springs cuts across very pretty wetlands.
We had one full day to explore the area around Liard so Charlie and I back tracked in the Jeep to Muncho Lake.
We saw porcupines, bear and sheep along our short drive to the lake. We stopped for breakfast at the Northern Rocky Lodge, located right on the lake. We then took a hike along the Mineral Licks Trail. Remember when I mentioned that we were supposed to get a bad wind/rain storm while in Ft Nelson, but it never came? Well, it hit here. We saw the full impact of the storm along our hiking trail. You can see in the last picture how the tree was twisted.
When we got to the overlook we could see where a micro-burst or small tornado must have gone through. The trees are completely leveled in one section. Zoom into the tree area and see the big patch of downed trees.
Here is one final picture from this beautiful area.
From Liard Hot Springs we drove to the Downtown RV park in Watson Lake., Yukon Territory (YT). The notable event along this route was stopping for bison in the road. I felt like we were back in Yellowstone.
In Watson Lake we visited the Northern Lights Space and Science Center and watched their ‘Northern Lights’ panoramic video. It was OK. We spent a bit of time at the local library too, as we have found that the library is the best place to get good WiFi while traveling. We took a drive out to the Watson Lake airport and checked out their photo exhibit dating back to the 1940s when the airport was built. We really enjoyed the photos and the stories behind them.
We joined the group and put up a sign in the ‘Sign Post Forest.’ It is an amazing collection of signs dating back many many years.
One couple in our group, Tom and Judy, discovered that they had 4 tires on their motorhome that were just about ready to explode. He had a wheel alignment done on his motorhome back in Wisconsin, just before heading out on this trip. Either something was done incorrectly or he has a chassis issue. Either way, he had a serious issue. He could not drive on his tires any longer. Amazingly, there was a tire shop in Watson Lake, and I mean amazing as this town is a one stop-sign town, had 4 tires to fit his rig. They could not complete a new alignment though. He got the tires replaced and scheduled an alignment at a place in one of our future destinations.
We left Watson Lake and headed for the Pioneer RV Park in Whitehorse, YT.
We stopped for a short walk to Rancheria Falls.
We spotted a moose and 2 babies in Swan Lake along the way.
We spotted a coyote along the road.
And an eagle in Whitehorse.
And we almost hit a deer, as captured on our dashcam. We were cruising near 60mph. A little too close for comfort.
The road conditions got a little bad again and we ran into some construction delays, but no damage to the rig or the Jeep.
The RV park in Whitehorse was the least desirable. We were crammed in with shoehorns. The town of Whitehorse was nice though. It was the largest so far. We toured the S.S. Klondike, an old sternwheeler previously used to run freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City along the wild Yukon River. We visited the McBride Museum and found it to be very interesting. We got a good hike in along Miles Canyon before the smoke got too bad from a forest fire raging up the road in Dawson City.
With the group we toured the Muktuk Adventures Dog Sled company and enjoyed a nice home cooked meal of various wild meats.
The most humorous thing that happened in Whitehorse was that one of the couples in our group, Joedy and Rita, believed their car had been stolen from the Walmart parking lot. They called the police and truly believed it had been stolen for much of the afternoon, until it was found in another store parking lot, where they had actually parked it. All ended well and we all had a good laugh.
Our next destination was Skagway, Alaska! This was on day 15 of our tour. See, it was a LONG drive to Alaska :-). I’m going to cover Skagway in a separate post. Keep an eye out for that one.
After Skagway we headed back into Canada, towards Fairbanks, Alaska. Our first stop along the way was at the Destruction Bay Lodge & RV Park in Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory. It was a beautiful drive, especially along Hwy 2, after Haines Junction. In Haines Junction we stopped and went to the Village Bakery for lunch. Their lasagna was excellent. The bakery is off the beaten path, but very popular. I had hoped to spend some time around Haines Junction visiting the Kluane National Park. However, it was very hazy from the fires so we continued onward.
The Destruction Bay is in a fairly remote area with a population of 55 (2016 census). There is nothing to do in the area, but it is scenic along the bay. The owner of the campground cooked up a burger dinner for the group. He also sells hand made lightweight wood folding tables on behalf of a local citizen. They are really nice. Many of us bought one. I bought two since a friend, Jane, had wished she purchased one on her Alaska trip a few years ago, but neglected to do so. She asked if I’d pick her up one. It was a good find.
One of the couples in the group pulled into the park late. This was the same couple that got tagged as ‘gun-runners’ at the border. Well, on their way from Skagway to Destruction Bay they had an incident. Somebody was passing them on the road and when Gary looked at his passenger side mirror he happened to see his Jeep Cherokee. The tow bar had broken off and the car was now attached only by the chains and riding alongside his Newel motorhome. He did not have a braking system in the car but was lucky because the tow bar bent under the car and acted as a braking mechanism. Little damage occurred to the car and no damage to the motorhome. They were quite lucky. They were able to rig up the tow bar and get back on the road with the group by mid-morning. Gary noted that the Cherokee does not have the ‘Death-Wobble’ fix which was identified back in 2017, as he was unaware of it. He noted though that his Cherokee is constantly swaying rhythmically side to side behind the Motorhome, with significant intensity (the death-wobble). That probably contributed to the tow bar failure.
In the morning we moved onto Tok, Alaska. We were heading towards the fire, but it had rained steadily all night. We passed the fire area. Some spots were still smoldering.
Along the way we pulled over to let cars go by and I jumped out to take a photograph of the landscape. As I was getting back into the RV I noticed that the steps were not retracting. Fortunately within a few minutes Joe and Stephanie, from our group, drove up and saw that we had an issue so they pulled over to help. Joe had recently had a similar problem and he’s an RV mechanic. He helped Charlie get the steps tied up so we could at least get to the RV park and then deal with the issue. In Tok we had input from a lot of the guys in the group and came up with a good solution. Joe worked really hard and finally got the steps re-installed and in working order. Thank goodness!! Having all this help really made traveling in a group feel a lot better.
The last leg of our journey to reach the main land of Alaska was Tok to Fairbanks. This was on Day 21 of our trip. We stopped in Delta Junction to get a picture of the end of the Alaska Hwy marker. I’m not sure why it says mile 1422 when they say the highway is 1,390 miles long. Anyway……it was a LONG drive!
We found the roads to be horrible immediately after crossing into the United States. There were so many frost heaves, none of which were identified as they had been in Canada. There were pot holes, which we had seen none of in Canada. It was very disappointing. See how the white paint in this picture waves? Well, imagine rolling a 40′ motorhome over these constant waves. Not pleasant at all.
We spent a couple of nights in Fairbanks before breaking off from the Fantasy group and heading to Denali for a few extra nights. In Fairbanks we did a quick tour of the city, had lunch with a friend of Charlie’s, got educated on MuskOxen at the Large Animal Research Center and enjoyed a theater and salmon bake with the group.
Well, that sums up our long road to Alaska. I’ll try to post Skagway, Denali, Seward and Homer soon. Each deserves some emphasis.
As I mentioned in my last blog, Charlie and I took a break from RV’ing and flew back to Atlanta to visit friends and family.
Our time back East flew by. We celebrated this little one’s 6th birthday.
We celebrated this young man’s 15th birthday.
We took this little one (turning 2 in July) up for her first ride in Charlie’s plane. She loved it.
This was just after we took her to the Hot Air Balloon Jubilee in Decatur, Alabama. She fell in love with the balloons and anything else that flies in the sky. I’m sure she’ll be taking a ride in Charlie’s balloon before we know it.
We got to see our friends, Dave & Sarah, purchase their first motorhome. We inspired them into RVing.
And we took a quick overnight trip up to Mountain Falls Motorcoach Resort in Lake Toxaway, NC to see some friends and check on our coachhouse. We’ll miss being there this summer.
Lastly, I took a short trip up to Michigan to see my parents. My mom had not been well during the first 4 months of our trip. I was worried about her and wanted to check on her. I’m happy to say that she is doing a bit better these days.
The day we returned to Seattle from Atlanta we headed straight over to Vancouver, British Columbia. Getting across the border was a breeze. There was no line at all and we cruised right through customs.
We stayed at a less than desirable campground in Tsawwassen, BC. We selected it as it was just down the street from the Ferry which we were going to be taking over to Vancouver Island. In the end, it wasn’t too bad, as we were rarely there.
We spent a day touring downtown Vancouver, which neither of us really cared for. We could not believe the significant number of homeless people in the city. There were a large number of blocks, between Chinatown and Gastown, with throngs of homeless people. I didn’t find it very safe. We did enjoy a drive around Stanley Park and a hike through Lynn Canyon.
In Lynn Canyon they have a great swinging bridge, which we discovered is quite common in the area.
We took a day trip to Whistler for Zip-lining. They have the longest and fastest zip-line in North America. It was a blast! It is over 1.2 miles long and it reaches speeds of nearly 62 mph.
I loved the village of Whistler. I had never been there before. I hope Charlie and I can make it back there sometime for ski season.
On our way to Whistler we stopped by Shannon Falls. It is a very pretty waterfall just off the road.
From Tsawwassen we took the BC ferry over to Nanaimo, BC on Vancouver Island. It was the first time we have taken the motorhome on a ferry. It went very well. No issues at all.
Once we got to Nanaimo we to Brown’s Bay Resort, just north of Campbell River. We had to drive a few miles down this dirt road to get to the resort. It was fairly well graded, and it had recently rained, so it wasn’t too bad.
We loved the views from the resort. We sat outside and watched a few cruise ships pass us by. The resort sits on the Inner Channel which many cruise ships take to/from Alaska.
In Campbell River we found a great little place to get fresh seafood, called Crabby Bob’s. We picked up some halibut. It was very good.
Our neighbors told us about a great little restaurant for breakfast, called The Ideal Cafe. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but the food and hospitality was excellent. It is a local’s kind of place. We enjoyed some very good Eggs Benedict there.
We took a short walk to Elk Falls. The falls was not very exciting in the middle of the day, with the sun’s reflection, but we enjoyed walking across yet another swinging bridge.
We took a short ferry ride, with the Jeep, over to Quadra Island. It was a very scenic ride.
We stopped by the visitor’s island and got some ideas of how to spend a few hours on the island. He suggested checking out the views from the Cape Midge Lighthouse, which we found very nice.
He suggested taking a walk around Rebecca Spit Marine Park, which we found exceptionally beautiful.
And lastly, he suggested having a bit to eat at the historic Heriot Bay Inn. We sat on the patio and enjoyed a nice meal.
After just a few nights at Brown’s we headed on up to the Cluxewe RV Park, just north of Telegraph Cove, where we were scheduled for a Grizzly Bear Tour the next day with Tide Rip Tours.
We arrived for our tour at 6:45 am. It was overcast, which was actually good weather for bear photography. The temperature was expected to reach maybe 61 degrees.
We absolutely loved the tour. You begin the day in a closed boat and travel for nearly 2 hours into Knights Inlet, up to Glendale Cove. In Glendale Cove you switch over to an open air boat so that you can get a good view of the bears. At times, we were as close as 50-60 feet away from the bears. They did not seem bothered by us at all. We also saw eagles up very close and from a distance spotted a humpback whale and a few orcas.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. Click on the first one to begin a slideshow.
The Cluxewe RV Park is on a beautiful piece of land. It has probably close to a mile of beach frontage and an estuary in the back part of the resort. They also have what the locals consider to be the best restaurant on the East side of Vancouver Island. We had dinner there and found it to be very good. It is not like your standard campground restaurant. It is more like a nice dining establishment with tablecloths and an ocean view. While eating dinner we saw an eagle fly by. We found the menu to be impressive, especially considering the restaurant’s location, and the food to be pretty good.
Our last stop on Vancouver Island was Victoria. We stayed at the Oceanside RV Park, as it was close to the Sydney ferry, which we were catching back to the US. One of my favorite things we did in Victoria was to tour the Parliament. They offer free tours on Saturday. During the tour we ran into Queen Victoria :-). The young lady played the part very well.
We visited Butchart Gardens. The gardens are just breathtaking. As a bonus we found an owl hanging out in a tree!
That about sums up our trip to the southern part of British Columbia and catches me up on the blog. I hope to not get so far behind in the future! I hope you have enjoyed the pictures and stories.
Oh, and I’d like to give a shout out to Charlie’s friends in Sydney, BC. We enjoyed a nice dinner with Dean and Leslie at the waterfront Rum Runner Pub. I enjoyed meeting them both, and loved the restaurant. We sat on the back porch and when it got chilly the waitress brought us blankets! Dean and Leslie live in Sydney, which was a good thing for me because they were able to recommend an excellent medical clinic for a Saturday morning visit. Since returning from Atlanta, I had persistent sinus drainage which finally turned into an infection. They recommended the Central Saanich Medical Clinic, just a few miles from our RV park. OMG! The office opened up 15 minutes early just because they were there, and why not. The check-in lady was exuberant and extremely kind and I absolutely loved the doctor, who reminded me of my grandma. Within 20 minutes I was in and out of their office with a prescription, and it cost me only $60 USD.
We are currently in Anacortes, WA. We’ll be here for a few more days and then we begin our journey to Alaska!
We arrived at the Cummins Service Center in Sumner, WA, just south of Seattle, early on Sunday, May 6th. We were having a small leak checked out the following day. We wanted to make sure everything was good before heading to Alaska.
Since we arrived early we parked the motorhome at Cummins and then headed out for a scenic drive up to Mount Rainier National Park.
Mount Rainier has an altitude of 14,410 feet and is considered the monarch of the Cascade Range.
We found lots of snow at the lodge. Everything was closed, as it was still off-season.
The temperature was rising though, so the waterfalls were flowing nicely. We climbed down a snowy, and icy trail, for a couple pictures of Narada Falls.
On our way back from Mount Rainier we stopped by this small restaurant in Ashford. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and the restaurant seemed full so we figured that it must be good. We found it to be excellent, especially the homemade blackberry jelly and pie! http://coppercreekinn.com/history.html
The following day we got the motorhome checked out by Cummins and they assured us that the leak was extremely minor, more like a little seepage. We need not worry about it until well after our Alaska trip.
While we were in Sumner we met up with a friend of mine that I had worked with during my engineering years at Chrysler, back in Michigan. Susan now lives in the Sumner area with her husband and two children. It was great seeing her, as we hadn’t seen each other for over 10 years.
After lunch with Susan we moved the motorhome up to the KOA in Tacoma, WA. We did not care much for the KOA, but we loved its proximity to the city, and the fact that we could catch a bus just across the street to get to downtown Seattle.
I LOVE this Starbucks!! They roast the coffee beans there, have wood-grilled pizzas, a bakery and a liquor bar so that you can enjoy your coffee with any way you choose. You can choose how you would like your coffee brewed. I didn’t realize there were so many ways. We were given a sample of their cold-brewed bourbon coffee. OMG! It was fantastic.
After Charlie pried me away from Starbucks we made our way to Pike’s Market for some people watching, and to watch the fish be thrown around. We enjoyed lunch at Von’s 1000Spirits, close by the market.
We enjoyed sights of the city from atop the Sky View Observatory.
After our long first day of walking around the city we enjoyed a molten chocolate dessert at Hot Cakes. It was delectable.
We spent much of our second Seattle day on Bainbridge Island. It is a short, beautiful, ferry ride from downtown Seattle. We loved the views of the city from the ferry.
We strolled around the small town of Bainbridge Island and spent a little time in the Bainbridge Historical Museum. In the museum we learned that the sport of Pickleball was invented on the island. Apparently back in 1965 a few fathers got together and came up with the game so that their kids would no longer be bored. http://seattlerefined.com/lifestyle/pickleball-a-sport-for-everyone
The museum was very interesting; full of artifacts, stories and history. We were glad we took the time to visit it.
Just north of Seattle proper, across the Aurora Bridge, is the town of Freemont, WA. They have a wonderful waterfront park (Gas Works Park) where the locals seem to migrate on sunny and warm days. While we visited, in early May, it was a rare 80+ degrees and sunny.
While in Freemont, we took a wonderful tour of Theo Chocolates. I highly recommend you check this out if you are ever in the area. We found the tour to be very informative, and the chocolate samples to be plentiful and delicious.
Just west of Freemont, along the Salmon Bay River, are the Ballard Locks. We enjoyed an informative tour of this National Historic Site, provided by the National Parks for free. These Locks are the busiest locks in the nation. We saw quite a few boats going in both directions of the river. http://www.ballardlocks.org/
Unfortunately, the historic Administration Building was closed while we were visiting the locks, as it was the weekend. The building was completed in 1916 and tours are available during the week.
We left the motorhome at the KOA and took Mo (our Jeep Wrangler) to the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth, along the Cascade mountain range. Leavenworth is about 2.5 hours away from the KOA in Tacoma. We could have done the trip in a day, but we wanted to take our time and enjoy the Cascade mountain range. We also had to make a stop in Snohomish, WA to sign up for RV storage, as we were leaving the RV in Seattle while we flew back East to visit friends and family.
On our way up to Snohomish Charlie had this great idea of stopping by a place called Maltby’s for the largest Cinnamon Roll he had ever seen. Everybody was raving about it on-line. Well, the roll was so large that we could not finish it in one sitting, and it was good! Now, you’re probably thinking that we should be huge by now, considering all the sweets we’ve been eating along our trip. Fortunately, we really don’t splurge that often and we try to walk and hike a lot to offset it :-).
After our sugar splurge and signing up for RV storage we started our journey to Leavenworth, via Hwy 2 through the Cascade Mountains. The scenery was spectacular. We stopped near Index, WA and hiked to Bridal Veil Falls, a 2 mile hike up the mountain, and 2 miles back :-). See, we were already working some of that cinnamon roll off!
Here are a few pictures from the Bridal Veil Falls area.
We stopped along the way to see Deception Falls. The water was rushing extremely fast and the creek seemed to be bursting at the seams. It was quite impressive. We kept our distance though, as I don’t think we would have survived if we slipped, considering the water’s current.
We drove along a small dirt road, just down from the Falls, and found this beautiful spot to capture a photograph of the creek.
The town of Leavenworth reminded me of other Bavarian-style towns I had visited, like Frankenmuth, MI and Helen, GA. Although, I must say, Leavenworth is my favorite. It is a pretty good size town with quaint boutiques and a lot of excellent restaurants, and it is surrounded by the Cascade Mountains. We loved our overnight stay at the Bavarian Lodge. The room was very spacious and clean, the bar tender was quite generous with the wine pouring, and the desk staff was very welcoming.
The manager at the Snohomish Storage place suggested that we eat lunch at München-Haus, if we wanted the best Brats around. She did not steer us wrong. The brats were fantastic!
(Click on the first picture to start a slideshow)
Further East along Hwy 2 is the even smaller town of Cashmere. We found a great Museum and Pioneer Village there. It opened in 1959 and is quite impressive. They have more Native art and artifacts than I’ve seen elsewhere. We loved the Pioneer Village as well. We highly recommend stopping by this place if you are ever in the area. https://www.cashmeremuseum.org/
Just outside of Cashmere we stopped to take in this beautiful view of the Cascades, with vineyards in the foreground.
On our way back to Seattle we took a short side-trip along the Old Cascade Hwy. It was very scenic, curvy, tree-lined road traversing along a river. We stopped along the way to take in the scene and listen to the rushing water.
After a great week in the Seattle area, and Leavenworth, we parked the RV up in Snohomish and made our way, in the Jeep, over to Gig Harbor.
Charlie’s friends, Kathleen & Erik, had offered to host us for a couple of nights and show us around their beautiful town of Gig Harbor, where they had both grown up and still reside.
We spent a little time in their local museum, which is done very well.
We enjoyed dining at some great harbor restaurants, and were treated to a fabulous homemade dinner by Kathleen.
Erik showed us around the Gig Harbor BoatShop and filled us in on its history. It is a not-for-profit organization perpetuating the local working waterfront. They restore, repair and build boats. I was most impressed with their Family Boat Building Program where a family can build a skiff in a weekend. What a great activity for a family to enjoy!
I found Gig Harbor to be a great town. If I lived in the Seattle area I think I would pick this spot as home.
After 4 months of non-stop adventure on the road we headed back home for a visit with friends and family. More on that in the next post.