Summation of Our Back to Alaska trip

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The top ten memories:

  •  Traveling to many national parks and camping in most: Theodore Roosevelt NP in North Dakota, Glacier NP in Montana, Banff, the Icefield Highway, and Jasper NP in British Columbia, Kluane NP in Yukon, Wrangell-St Elia, Fjiord, and Denali NP in Alaska, and Badlands NP in South Dakota!
  • Camping in the Provincial, National Forest, and State Parks: Chugach State Park ,Saskatoon Island Provincial Park, Charlie Lake Provincial Park, Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, Stone Mountain and Muncho Lake Provincial Parks, Cooper Creek National Forest Campground, Bow Lake Provincial Park, Congdon Creek Yukon Park.
  • The  Kenai Peninsula, beautiful scenery, glaciers, fjiords, and wildlife.
  • Denali, Mt McKinley and Savage River.
  • Spotting 16 bears in one two hour period from Liard Hot Springs to the Yukon border, saw 8 in the same stretch of road on our return trip.
  • Sitting by the campfire every night with Charlie and WB, until the fire ban on our return trip.
  • The Ranch Roadhouse And RV Park on our way to Anchorage. The lady running the roadhouse had a big pot of chili on the stove, and sat with us as we ate lunch, sharing the history of the restored original roadhouse. Not a fancy place, but an authentic, historic and interesting place with great hospitality.
  • Seward and Exit Glacier.
  • KOA campgrounds on the way to Montana and back: consistent quality with pools, dog parks, laundromats, and helpful hosts.
  • Meeting some of the nicest people imaginable: the couple from Germany touring in a truck camper, the couple from South Dakota we met at Denali, and the many Texans and their dogs. Really good people!

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    The top ten challenges

  •   Woolly Bear learning to slip his collar at will, and run after me if I was at the laundromat or Campground office! We finally had to put a harness on him to keep him safe.

  • The camper door refusing to open at a crowded gas station at Lake Louise. Charlie finally getting the door to open while the line of cars/ RVs grew behind us. We only have one door on our camper, so we were trapped inside!
  • Driving 100 miles out of our way to try to get a campsite at Two Medicine Lake in Glacier NP, only to find the Campground had filled at 7:30 that morning, and all other Glacier Campgrounds were full!
  • Our Good Sam’s GPS, programmed for our camper height and length, quitting while we were driving through Calgary. The AlCan is tough on all equipment and the USB connection just failed to make contact unless it was constantly manipulated. I see a Garmin in the future.
  • No potable water at most of the provincial parks, forest campgrounds and Yukon parks.
  • The  Kenai Riverside Resort where the RV Park consisted of a gravel parking lot with clothes line nailed to the ground to designate sites. Once a Class C parked next to us and put their slide out WB could not get into our camper! He needs a ramp due to his knee surgeries, and the neighbors slide hit his back. We made it through the night and moved to the much nice Cooper Creek NFS Campground where we had plenty of space in the trees, but no water or electric.
  • Duct tape, cardboard visors, and a canoe strap to hold door shut on the return trip after the latch/ lock system totally failed.
  • The Californian who thought it okay to place his sewer hose on the picnic table!!!
  • Several  campgrounds with posted warnings about aggressive bears.
  • The  big diesel pushers that pull into quiet campgrounds in the evening, and then run their engines for another 30 minutes, totally disturbing the tranquillity. I suppose there must be a reason for this, but they are really loud:)!
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A Rather Challenging Day

Our trip has been filled with good times, some serious adventure, and lots of smiles; but some days are more challenging. Yesterday was one of those days. It started with a 300 mile drive to Hardin, Montana in 95 degree heat. When we arrived at the Campground and I took WB for his ritual new Campground stroll, I noticed the dry grass crunching under my feet. Woolly Bear then slipped his collar and made a game of tag out of me trying to catch him. Fortunately he stayed away from RVs and cars, and I was able to capture him. Today he is wearing his harness and cannot escape!

After capturing WB, I stepped into the RV to find Charlie had sliced his thigh open while making “extenders” for the sun visors out of corrugated cardboard. I washed the wound with peroxide, applied neosporin, and bandaged him up. We decided the bleeding had stopped and stitches were not needed. Our new cardboard sun visors add much to the aesthetics of the Winnebago:). But we tend to drive early as the sun is rising, and we have now turned East so the sun is directly in our eyes.

After cleaning up the cardboard and blood ( he used a sheet rock knife), I decided we would sit outside in the shade. I got our chairs and left Charlie with WB while I fetched beverages. Should be simple, right? As I exited the camper and went to close the door, I found it would not close.

This worried me, because 3 days earlier, at a gas station in Hinton, we could not exit the vehicle! Our RV has only the one door, no drivers door. We had pulled up to the gas pump and the camper door would not open. Charlie finally forced it open, and we had a mechanic look at the latch. He suggested cleaning the locking mechanism. So we had thoroughly cleaned the inner parts of the door latch just 3 days ago. It had worked fine for those 3 days, and we thought our problem was solved.

But it wasn’t. We now had a door that could not be closed. I had the owner of the KOA help Charlie take the lock apart yet again, and we thought we had it fixed. It would open and close from the outside. The man showed us how to open the lock from the inside ( components were sliding around and sagging out of alignment) and we knew we would need to replace the entire mechanism upon our return home. I was fearful that we would be unable to open the door from the inside, so Charlie went inside while WB and I stayed outside. I shut the door and asked Charlie to open it. He could not! He was stuck in the RV until I opened it from the outside.

This was scary. Our Winnebago Vista 26e has only one door. The escape window is probably 8 feet above the ground, and I am pretty sure both Charlie and I would get hurt badly trying to crawl out the window. But worse yet, WB would not be able to escape through the window. He weighs 90 lbs and could not be dropped 8 feet to the ground without being hurt badly. So, we decided to remove the entire door latch/ lock and secure it until we could get it fixed. That would allow us to be confident we could exit or enter the RV as needed.

We got the latch system out easily, just a few screws to remove. Then the fun of how to secure the door began. We tried string, wire, stainless steel tie wraps, and bungy cords. None worked as well as we would have liked. The steel tie wraps would be strong enough to hold the door as we drove, but would need to be cut each and every time we entered or exited the rig. And we did not have an unlimited supply. The bungy cords would allow the door to wiggle too much, but we thought we would have to make do. Charlie went to the back compartment to get more bungy cords, and spotted our canoe tie downs. We didn’t bring the canoes, but did bring the trusted Thule webbed tie downs, these  could be cinched tight and certainly hold the door closed as we drove down the highway. We were ecstatic! We added some duct tape to cover the rest of the opening and were good to go. I think we rival the Beverly Hillbillies with our duct tape, card Board visors, and tied door.

Today we drove 360 miles and the door stayed securely closed. It takes a minute longer to let the dog out and to get out for gasoline, but the peace of mind it brings is worth it. When we get home we will have the dealer repair the latch, but I may be resurrecting our backpacking and car camping tents!

The Kenai Penninsula and Denali

IMG_1276We spent several days on the Kenai Penninsula after our stay at Eagle River, right outside of Anchorage. The salmon came in, and the bears and fishermen followed. The Kenai Pennnsula has it all: scenery, coastal areas, and wildlife.

We stayed at a few places, the first called itself the Kenai Riverside Resort. And it does sit on the beautiful azure Kenai River. But the majority of campsites were in a gravel parking lot with little space. We had an end site until a big diesel pusher was parked next to us, with their slides so close to our door that Woolly Bear could not get in because his back hit the bottom of their slide. Needless to say, we had to move!!!!

IMG_1279We moved to the Cooper Creek National Forest Campground, a wonderful wooded, private site with picnic table and fire pit, but no potable water or services. We stayed there until the weekend, when all the sites were reserved. The camp host tried her best to get us a weekend site, but when the salmon are running, the weekends are full!

IMG_1280After being ousted from our site at the Cooper Creek Campground we found no availability on the Kenai. So we headed up to Denali for a few days. We drove the 15 miles vehicles are allowed into Savage River several times, looking for animals. We also spent quite a bit of time at the Denali Visitors Center, one of the most interesting Vistors Center we have seem. Lots of Denali/ Mt McKinley history there!IMG_0432IMG_0436

Seward and Exit Glacier

We drove to Seward and Kenai Fjiord National Park, hiking in to Exit Glacier and stopping at the Visitors Center for the National Park. Saw lots of Eagles. Here is a picture of Charlie trying to capture the Glacier!  I have been having lots of difficulty finding wifi to post! I will update the pictures when we have better internet.IMG_1161

Alaska!!!!

IMG_1125We reached the Alaskan border the day after camping below Whitehorse. We found the Alaskan Highway in much better shape than it had been two years ago. More pavement, less gravel washboard. In addition, we arrived in Tok without the flat tire that plagued us on our first venture. We camped for two nights at the Tundra RV Park in Tok. A commercial Campground with a laundry facility and spacious sites in the trees. We needed a day to regroup, grocery shop, and do laundry before heading to Anchorage. Woolly Bear was relieved to just hang out in the great outdoors, without riding in the camper for hours on end. And I was glad for the excuse to hang out with my dog. After all, it is Bear country so I couldn’t have him outside by himself!

After our day of rest, laundry and grocery shopping, we headed for Anchorage and camped in the Chugach State Park at Eagle Creek Campground for two days. This campsite was on the river and very pleasant. It was dry camping, meaning no hookups, but potable water was trucked in if you needed to replenish. There were Bear warnings posted, but we saw no bears.

IMG_1146After two days in the Anchorage area we were ready to move to the Kenai Penninsula, famous for wildlife, fishing, and outstanding scenery.

 

 

Liard Hot Springs and the Alaskan Highway

IMG_0429We left Charlie Lake and headed North, stopping at the Fort Nelson Triple G Campground. This is not a great Campground, but is quite good by the standards commercial campgrounds along the AlCan seem to use. It has a bit of space between you and the next site, and has room for a picnic table. We were tired from driving, and really had no other options, so we crashed there.

We find we are much happier in National, State, Provincial, and Forest campgrounds. We prefer the woods, space and solitude to whatever ammenities the commercial cgs offer! We don’t need electricity, wifi, or tv; but we do need the wilderness and the solitude provided by spacious, secluded campsites. Everyone is different, some prefer tv, wifi, and electricity over solitude. No judgement here.

The following day we had reservations at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park.  It was so much nicer! A large wooded site with room for our screen house and a functional fire pit. The Hot Springs were interesting. There were reports of lots of bears and moose, and 14 types of orchids. We looked, but saw nothing but a river filled with lots of people, soaking in the warm water.  As an introvert, I chose not to join them. But I did hike up to the hanging gardens in search of the orchids.IMG_0428

The day after we drove 400 miles and stopped for the night just below Whitehorse at another undesirable commercial Campground. But it was a banner day, in that we saw 16 bears! 12 were Black Bears, 4 Brown. We also saw Stone Sheep near Muncho Lake Provincial Park, and one moose.IMG_0427

Saskatoon Island Provincial Park and Charlie Lake Provincial Park

IMG_1071We camped at Saskatoon Island Provincial Park, a designated bird sanctuary for Trumpeter Swans and other migrating water fowl.

The campground was one of the nicest we have ever stayed at, large private wooded sites without another tent or camper in sight! Many walking trails to the water and several viewing platforms.IMG_1068The next day we drove to Charlie Lake Provincial Park, named after the 12 Soldiers who drown while transporting materials on their pontoon boat, for the Alaskan Highway,  in 1941. There is a statue   dedicated to the U.S. Army and the fallen at the lake.

My most challenging moment thus far was when a little blonde, blue eyed child, not more than 3 years old, pushed her doll carriage into our wooded secluded spot yesterday afternoon. She was very confused and had lost her way. Fortunately Charlie and I had walked the entire camping unit earlier, and I had a good idea where she belonged. She fearlessly walked back the half mile, through moose and grizzly country, until her Aunt came running toward us and I returned her to her father. It was a very scary situation for the little girl until we located her people! I really wanted to keep her!

And here is a picture of my very dirty Jeep!!!!IMG_1067