Category Archives: RV Travels

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Out of the Wilderness

Hi Friends and Family,

We hope all are happy and healthy and for those that haven’t been well, we hope you are recovering. Our prayers are always with you.

As we continued our adventure in Alaska, we had a number of short stops. The campground we stayed at in Tok is worth mentioning. At Sourdough Campground each night they have a pancake toss. The point of the game is to toss a pancake and get it into a bucket. Though it sounds silly, it was a lot of fun. Each camper has three chances.  If you get it in, you receive a tiny pancake which can then be turned in for free breakfast! Kenny, Mark, and I lost, but Susan got one in. They have a great breakfast, a place to wash your RV and it is a welcoming campground to stay in if you are in or near Tok.

Susan holding her tiny pancake which is redeemable for a free breakfast.
All LOSERS of the pancake toss. Mark on left, Kenny and I in back row.

In Seward, we only stayed for two nights. In the area, there are a number of glaciers that are accessible from the road. With only one full day there,we chose to do a day hike at Kenai Fjords National Park. When we arrived we joined a Park Service Ranger group. The interpretive Ranger led us up to the mouth of Exit Glacier where you can see the blue ice and hear and see the raging water coming from the glacier.

Mark and Susan – closest viewpoint of Exit Glacier

We next ventured to Homer Spit which is located on the southwest tip of the Kenai Peninsula. Reaching almost five miles into Kachemak Bay, it is the longest road in the entire world that extends into the ocean. Seeing the Tsunami sirens and realizing how susceptible Homer is to storm surges, being on the Spit is a bit unnerving.

Although the area is small, there is much to see and do. Their Visitors Center is well worth a stop. Behind the Center are some walking trails and this area is great for eagle watching.  Of course, we had to make a showing at the Salty Dawg Saloon for a beer! This saloon is extremely popular and a great place for people to gather. Visitors from all over the world sign and date their dollars then attach them to the wall or ceiling. Monies are later donated to charities.

Mark and Kenny deciding on their brew

img_4349Cleaning the catch

The child side of Kenny – playing at Bubble Station

Susan had her heart set on a fishing trip. Be aware that there are rules regarding fishing for salmon or halibut. Some days you may only catch and release halibut/salmon. Susan caught a halibut but couldn’t keep it because it was the wrong day!

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Catch of the day – NOT Susan’s boat, NOT on Susan’s day

Watching the fishing boats come in with their catch of the day was a lot of fun, gift shops were hopping, a bubble making station is available to the public, and there are several nice restaurants to choose from.

As mentioned, in our last blog, we headed back to Anchorage from Homer. After seeing the doctor there, we were starting to head out of Alaska. We stayed a couple of nights in Glen Allen from which we took a day trip to Valdez which is located in Prince William Sound. Both the journey and destination provided lots of photo opportunities. Traveling, we saw a number of glistening waterfalls and glaciers.

One of many of the waterfalls we enjoyed on our way to Valdez
The views on our journey were non stop.

We arrived during the Huge Pink Salmon Run and millions of salmon where making their way up the fish ladders at the Valdez salmon fish way. Having never seen such a sight, they were fascinating to watch. We also recommend joining the free historic Walking Tour. Stop at the Valdez Museum to sign up for the tour.

Millions of salmon in a frenzy to be successful in climbing the fish ladder.

 

We debated whether to journey to Chicken, Alaska, or not. It is a very bumpy and dusty road to travel but we ultimately made the trip. How the town became named Chicken is funny. Since Ptarmigan were prevalent in the area, the locals wanted the town to be named Ptarmigan. Since agreement couldn’t be reached on the spelling of the bird, it was agreed they would call the town Chicken.

In the day, Chicken was a mining hub but now it is a tourist attraction. There are tours of real dredges that were used to mine gold, historical tours, and recreational gold mining trips.

The Renegades shooting a selfie with one of the many chickens
And, of course, we can’t take photos without Mark and Susan being silly!

Susan and I had a fun time panning for gold in our campground in Chicken.  We spent many hours in the hot sun and both came up with small flecks of gold.  One panner near us did find a nugget so we knew “there is gold in them there hills”. Unfortunately, only flecks were in our mining pans.

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Mining Dredge used in the day!  Took this pic on my cell phone!

Mining for hours to find a few specks

At our campground, there was a wonderful store, coffee bistro, and small restaurant. A short walk up the hill brings you to a bar with a local bar tender. We stopped by there for a drink and learned a lot about locals and a bit of history. There were hundreds of hats intermingled with hundreds of panties hanging from the ceiling of the small bar, each ragged and singed as the next. When we asked about them, he said, “Before we hang them up, we shoot them out of a cannon”. (Always interesting to talk with the locals.)

Tiny bar in Chicken – enjoying Moscow Mules

So we ended our Alaska adventure in Chicken, Alaska. Our trip has been enlightening, exciting, joyful, amazing, at times even scary and definitely unforgettable. We are grateful to our travel buddies, Susan and Mark. We shared experiences that can never be repeated. So many unexpected treasures were discovered. Susan and Mark never failed to entertain us with their photo bombs, quick wits, and “smack” talk during cribbage games. Every day in Alaska has been truly a gift.

Next adventures: Yukon Territory and British Columbia

Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to all:

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Gustav Flaubert

Anchorage, Alaska

Hi Family and Friends!

As mentioned in our most recent post, we next traveled to Anchorage. While there, we settled down at the Ship Creek RV Park which is within walking distance to the center of town. It’s a really nice campground, well maintained, and clean but the park has a few shortcomings which we didn’t realize until we arrived.

If you plan to visit Anchorage, we highly recommend this park but we do need to provide some warnings. Right on the other side of the fence border lies train tracks. These tracks are used every day. Since there are no railroad barriers and, by law it is mandated that the engineer blow his horn a number of times both approaching and leaving the city,  bring your earplugs! As a aside, you get used to it.

And, we had two wildlife sightings that could have been disastrous, but were absolutely fine and actually exciting!

Calf next to our rig! Moma Moose was huge but I didn’t get her pic!

The first day we arrived, Kenny was behind the RV getting it hooked up. Mark and Susan were all set up so they were with me chatting in our rig. Suddenly, I saw a huge moose right in front of our rig. It stopped and looked startled. It had probably been in this park before but not when it was full. She turned around and headed toward the back of our rig where Kenny was! And, behind her is her calf! It all happened so quickly! I didn’t know whether to yell for Kenny to beware or be quiet and hope that all would go well. Honestly, I don’t believe I yelled to Kenny but I did catch a lousy shot of the calf by the side of our rig. As you see, it is through our screen door.

The Moma moose and her calf had scurried up the critter path which is on the left side of our rig. Neither Kenny nor Moma Moose spotted each other so, phew, all was well

Several days later, Kenny and I were in our rig and we heard someone yelling, “Trouble is coming, Trouble is coming!” Kenny thought that someone was calling their dog but I saw a man running for his life past the front of our rig. (For information, you do not run from bears. It is a very, very bad idea.) Luckily, as soon as the bear entered the park she knew this was not the place to be.  When she entered, there were several families cooking breakfast outside. People with children were out and about!

Moma Bear and her three very young cubs were in the park! But thank God, just like the Moma Moose, Moma Bear corralled her three babies moving them onto the critter path. Once all three were on the path, she stood up (about 7 feet tall) to analyze the situation. According to Kenny, she had the expression of “Do you want to mess with me?” Once she knew no one was following them, she too ran up the critter path.

Another dangerous wildlife encounter averted, but what a great story to tell! We never had time to take pictures. It all happened so quickly! It was scary and exciting.  We are grateful that all worked out well and that we were able to see wildlife up close and personal.

Susan and Mark winning Ladder Ball – right in critter path route
(In both cases, the Moose and Bear ran through our site exactly where Susan, Mark, Kenny, and I play Ladder Ball!  Compare fence in Moose pic and fence in this pic.  If we had been outside, only God knows what might have happened. But it didn’t, and we thanked God all went well.)
If I have turned you off to this Campground, please forget all I said.  We actually went back to the same campground two weeks later to visit Anchorage again and requested the same campground. We could have chosen a different site but we did love that one.  Check it out!  Very convenient to center of town!  And you should almost every single campground we stayed posted warnings about bears or wildlife in the area.

While there, we visited Anchorage’s Visitor Center. In fact, you should visit all Visitor Centers! They have information you need to map out what you wish to see and do. And, most have amazing displays, movies, and art work. Most also have great tours of the city. You have to pay, but the drivers have a great deal of folklore to add to the tour. Take the time to chat with the ambassadors of the centers. They hold immeasurable information that can help you get the best out of each city.

We have arrived – Anchorage Visitor Center – Photo Bomber Susan, of course
img_4119-1Outside of Visitor Center – flowers everywhere in town!
Loved the moss roof of the Welcome Center!

So, of course, we had to hop onto the city tour bus to get the lay of the land. Our bus/tour driver was a local and a teacher during the school year. She was great fun and added colorful information to all we saw.

Each Sunday, an open market is held about a block from the center of Anchorage and a short walk from the campground for us. Food trucks offered local fare and local fare was yummy! There were also vendors of all kinds offering anything from shells to souvenirs to live music to amazingly different types of ulus (Alaskan chopping knives). You could even get dressed up and pose with a real sled dog team!

These two young boys were amazing and could certainly work the crowd!

From Anchorage, we planned a day trip to Prince Williams Sound. With Major Marine Tours, we booked our cruise to Surprise Glacier. We took the ship out of Whittier so the drive from Anchorage to Whittier was as enjoyable as the actual boat trip. To get to Whittier, we had to travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel which is the longest highway in North America. Pretty cool to drive through the tunnel! Well actually, Mark drove us through the tunnel but we were all in the car. It has only one way travel so you have to arrive when the tunnel is open for traffic going into Whittier.

We saw numerous glaciers and, of course, the stunning Surprise Glacier which was our destination. We also had the pleasure of seeing a bird rookery with thousands of black legged kittiwakes, some sea lions sunbathing on an iceberg, and occasional groups of rafting sea otters.  We highly recommend this trip.  It featured a Prime Rib and Salmon buffet. Usually buffets on a cruise like this are just okay. Honestly, it was a great buffet! And, they had pretty and tasty drink selections as well!

Surprise Glacier – Alas we didn’t see the Glacier calving.

When any type of wildlife was encountered, the boat was stopped and passengers were allowed outside on the viewing deck to take pictures. We had brought with us winter coats, hats, and even mittens.  Weather turned out to be much warmer than we expected.  We only needed a sweater to go outside and take our pictures. Great day! Great pictures!

Next we traveled to Homer (different post!) but we had to return to Anchorage the following week (doctor appointment). We happily returned to Ship Creek RV Park!

On our second trip to Anchorage, we went to the open market again. It was as much fun as the first time. On this visit, we had time to visit the Anchorage Museum. We arrived just minutes before there was a docent-led tour of their latest exhibit which was on loan from the Smithsonian institute. The exhibit is called Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: the first peoples of Alaska.

What I found most fascinating of all of the information the docent shared (and a great deal of information was shared!) was a party hat. Yup, a party hat which is actually a “Crest Hat”. These hats were worn by high ranking people (mainly in the Haida and Tlingit first people tribes.) All members would strive to attain wealth. Once achieved, the person would throw a huge party called a potlatch which is an opulent ceremonial feast. The wealthy person invited all of his family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, even people he didn’t like. It is a gift giving feast.

At the potlatch, the host would give away his material wealth, leaving himself poor. He would acquire more material wealth when he was invited to another member’s potlatch. Those who had previously attended his feast would attempt to surpass the gift that they had received from him.

Basic hat would have had the first “crown”. The woven cylinder topping the crown, is called a skil, and each skil represents how many potlatches one has hosted. This hat with the three skils designates that the wearer of this hat accumulated wealth three times in his life and gave his wealth away three times. Wait. What?  Why? To me, wearing this hat would be showing off their wealth regardless of the fact that you now poor. But, I did find that little tidbit to be very interesting.

That was only one exhibit! You could easily spend days or a week there. In each area, there were numerous touch screens where one can  zoom in on different objects and obtain more information.

I do have to mention that The Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline was also very cool! We are certain that whenever you are in Anchorage the Museum would always have amazing exhibits!  This Museum is AWESOME!

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Two of many Exhibit rooms – Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline

Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to you:

Do one act of kindness each day of the year and change 365 lives. – Anthony D. Williams

Denali, Alaska

Hello family and friends!

We hope this post finds you well and happy! For those suffering, we continue to keep you in our prayers. Please stay strong!

As mentioned in our last post, after leaving Fairbanks, we next traveled to Denali National Park and Preserve.  We had reservations for five days at the Denali Rainbow Village RV Park conveniently located just outside of the Park.  The sites were very tight and pricey but being near the park, groceries, and a few restaurants made it worth the cost. (i.e., One regular load of laundry was $5 which, to date, is the highest we have paid for doing our laundry anywhere in the US or Canada.)

50E6B68B-D96E-4CE3-9999-3619189FAE5DWe first hiked the Horseshoe Lake trail which is an easy/moderate Loop providing some brilliant photo opportunities. We saw birds, beavers, beaver lodges, and dams. Although we didn’t see any large wildlife we did see moose prints as we walked along the lake.

Debbie and Kenny – Horseshoe Lake Trail
Beaver Dam – Horseshoe Lake Trail
Susan and Mark – Horseshoe Lake Trail

Kenny, Susan, and Mark had their hearts set on flightseeing around Denali which is the tallest mountain peak in North America. I abstained simply because I had no desire to 🤮 all over my friends. Great decision on my part as the ride was a bit bumpy.

According to the pilot, only 10% of those flightseeing actually view Denali. They were in the 10%! It was a crystal clear day without cloud coverage. All were amazed, inspired, and awed by the beauty of Denali and the National Park. It was so clear that they were able to see the base camp from which about 20 mountaineers were starting their attempt to reach the top of Denali. For individuals wishing to take on the challenge, there is only a small window of time to complete the climb. The average expedition is three to four weeks. Last year approximately half of those who attempted the climb failed.

Denali in all her glory!
Susan and Mark – Taking in the views
Amazing Flightseeing!

The following day, we had signed up for a Tundra Tour which was a half day trip on the tundra following the same path that Christopher Johnson McCandle took when he went to live in the wilderness. You may recall the book written about him, “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.   Our tour was just okay. Most of the time we were dodging branches that whipped back at us as the six wheeler plowed through some overgrowth on either side of the vehicle. For those visiting Denali, we suggest that you spend your money on a nice dinner or anything else. But if the trip takes you to Christopher McCandle’s Magic Bus, (river has to be dry or really low), that would be extremely cool.

The fabulous four posing upon return from Tundra Tour
Base Camp for Tundra Tour – served up coffee, blueberry muffins, fire, and inspiring views

One afternoon, we spent at the Denali Sled Dog Kennels. The Kennels hold three presentations per day and the park shuttle bus can pick you up at the Denali Visitors Center. Led by the Ranger, there was a presentation of the training of the dogs, their different personalities, how the dogs get harnessed, and a live presentation of the dogs pulling. It was free, fun, and entertaining. During the coldest winter months, the Rangers utilize the dog teams to patrol the Park as well as to bring equipment and supplies to scientists located in remote areas.

The highlight of our time in Denali was a full day bus trip to Eielson Visitor Center which is on the Green Transit Bus. It is $40 round trip and you bring your own lunch, snacks, and drinks. The driver stops anytime someone spots wildlife to allow the passengers to take pictures and periodically stops for use of the rest room facilities.

Although a rainy day, we took part in the Ranger Walk. We followed a small trail which was close to the Visitors Center and the Ranger spoke to us about wildlife, wildflowers, bushes, sights of wildlife activity, and even scat! The walk was interesting and informative.

Kenny and Debbie – Eielson Visitor Center
The Visitor Center provides panoramic views of Denali

The center also showed several films. The day we visited three different films were shown. All were professionally produced and focused on Park safety. They addressed how to prepare for chance encounters with wildlife in the park and backpacking safety in Denali. There is a high chance of encountering wildlife anywhere at any time in the Park and safety precautions are certainly needed.

Loved this sign so had to post it

On the day long trip we saw Moose, Caribou, Bear, Elk, and Dahl Sheep. If in Denali, we strongly suggest you take this tour. With the spectacular views and the abundance of wildlife sightings, this is a trip we will forever remember.

Next stop – Anchorage! Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to you:

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous leading to the most amazing views. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. – Edward Abbey

Alaska or Bust!

Hello Friends and Family!

We are officially in Alaska and I’d like to share with you some parts of our journey to date from Cochrane, BC to Fairbanks, Alaska. So, here goes!!

On June 7, we reconnected with our travel buddies, Susan and Mark. In our hearts that is when our trip to Alaska began even though we left SC May 1.

Kenny and I and Susan and Mark (they are always the photo bombers)

From Cochrane we traveled to Banff, then onto Jasper. In Jasper, we hiked Maligne Canyon which is a limestone canyon with great photo opportunities. There are six bridges which allows one to view the canyon from different perspectives and waterfalls of various heights and sizes that will surprise you as you hike and explore. Visit http://www.malignecanyon.com

Some beautiful views from our hike.

At our campsite in Jasper, Kenny was “elk-jacked” when he was walking to the recycling area. When he finished dropping off recyclables, he turned around to find himself surrounded by ~15 elk (bulls, cows and calves). The bulls gave Kenny the “stink eye” making certain that Kenny wouldn’t interfere with the herd. All he wanted to do was to get around them safely. They are big animals and protective of their young. He had to walk a great distance to get around them.

The beautiful emerald Lake Louise

In Banff, we drove to Lake Louise which is a spectacular sight. The day was rather chilly and had off/on rain. Regardless, we got some good shots then had drinks and appetizers at Fairmont Chateau overlooking the emerald beauty, warm and dry.

Fairmont Chateau

During our travel days we saw wildlife almost every single day. While driving we ran into wildlife traffic jams as well as having our own private sightings as we traveled along the highway. Moose cows with their calf or sometimes calves! We also saw a Grizzly bear, elk, caribou and black bears.

Grizzly bear along the side of the highway. With two cubs but couldn’t capture them in the picture.

We next traveled to Grand Prairie, Alberta, Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson which is in British Columbia. Our next hotspot, pun intended, was Liard Hot Springs which is also in British Columbia. At our campsite there was a resident Bison that wandered into the camp both morning and early evenings to pose for us. Staying a good distance away was a must, but clearly he had no problem with the many campers snapping shots of him while he lazily enjoyed the nearby grasses.

Our posing Bison

Never having been to a hot spring before, I pictured myself soaking in the luxurious minerals with a glass of wine in hand and looking up at the twinkling stars overhead. Not so much. It is a natural hot spring which has cubbies for keeping your towels, clothes, etc. and sets of stairs so you can easily walk down into the springs. The water was hot in a variety of areas almost scalding. But once in, soaking was very relaxing. However, alcohol wasn’t allowed and we were there just before the Summer Solstice so a glass of wine and seeing stars was out of the question. Not exactly how I pictured it but nonetheless very enjoyable.

Enjoying the Liard HOT hot springs!

We overnighted at Teslin, Yukon, then went onto Whitehorse. The highlight in Whitehorse was a visit to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve which was such a gem! Five stars out of five! We were able to have a good hike while exploring the 700+ acre preserve with extremely large natural habitats. Visit http://www.yukonwildlife.ca.

Arctic Fox
Thin horned sheep – he liked being photographed
Kenny finally grew a pair!
Look at that rack!
One foot in Yukon, one foot in Alaska – Hurray, we have arrived!

On June 21, we crossed the border into Alaska. Finally in Alaska! We settled in Fairbanks just prior to the Summer Solstice which was unplanned. Highlights of Fairbanks were a 8 hour car trip to the Arctic Circle (where even Mark’s Tundra was challenged), a “tour” with Mary Shields (the first woman to complete the Iditarod) and the Fairbanks Summer Solstice Festival.

Though a rainy, muddy day we made it!!!
Note posted in Bureau of Land Management – on journey to Arctic Circle

At the Arctic Circle we received certificates to prove we were there. Thanks Mark and Susan for your remarkable driving skills! It was a long taxing day of rain and mud but we made it! The “tour” Tails of the Trail was really more like a visit with Mary Shields and her dogs as she unfolded her start in Alaska as a young woman, stories about her dog sledding adventures, and life in Alaska. Honestly, if ever in Alaska, sign up for her “tour”. She had us spellbound for the three hours we spent with her and her team. Kristina, her assistance, was as lovely as Mary. Visit http://www.maryshields.com for more information.

The sweetest of Mary’s sled dogs with Kenny. Aptly names Too-sweet!
Big Boy – one of Mary’s sled dogs
What an honor to have spent time with this amazing woman – truly an honor!

Our next adventure is Denali. Until then, we raise our wine glasses and toast to you:

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac