Category Archives: Alaskan Road Trip

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:)!

Jasper National Park and The Icefield Highway

After enjoying all Banf NP had to offer,  we headed up the Icefield Parkway, past the glaciers and two bears! This road is extremely beautiful, with glacial streams, wildflowers, majestic mountains and the glaciers. One thing it doesn’t have is fuel for the RV, so we gassed up in Lake Louise at 6:30 in the morning. The only fuel available the entire length of the Icefields Parkway is at Saskatchewan River Crossing.


Our first fun stop of the day was at Herbert Lake, where we had breakfast and walked down to the lake. We then drove by Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Glacier, and Peyto Lake. We stopped frequently for Charlie to take pictures and Woolly Bear to romp around.  We stopped Midway at the Icefield Centre near Sunwapta Pass,  and were dismayed to see how much the Glacier has melted since our last visit.

At the Junction of 93A we passed Athabaskan Falls and then the trailhead to a favorite hike of mine, the Valley of Five Lakes. Finally we arrived at Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park. Our site was 26F, and was a nicely wooded site with a picnic table and no visible neighbors. No hookups, but perfect for the three of us!

We are heading to Hinton next, for a day of grocery shopping and laundry doing. The next day we will be on our way to the Alaskan Highway via the Big Horn Route and will be camping in some Provincial Parks we haven’t visited before. We can only post gen we have wifi, so it may be a while before I can update you on our trek. No worries, will catch you up when I can!

Banff and Yoho National Parks

IMG_1035After spending three nights at Glacier National Park, we headed the camper North to Banff. Our plan was to camp at Tunnel Mountain 2 at the same site we had camped at two years ago. It was an end site with views of both mountains and meadows, and I knew that Woolly Bear would have room to chill.

We were dreading our trip through Canadian Customs, as we received the full camper search two years ago. I made sure all was neat and tidy, even to the point of making sure we only had clean clothes! We drove up to the window and were amazed that after a few cursory questions we were happily sent on our way!

We stayed in Banff at Tunnel Mountain 2, with electric hookups, but we spent a day in Yoho National Park, visiting Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls. Yoho is a very scenic place, and we really need to spend more time there in the future. We also stopped at Lake Louise and Charlie took some pictures. There is a lovely hike up to a tea house on the side of the lake, we hiked it when Woolly Bear was younger. I was the only one of the three of us that wanted to hike it again, so we headed next to Morraine Lake.

The road to Morraine Lake was closed!!! Apparently there were too many people there, and you really need to visit it before 8:30 am, or after 7 pm.  We had spent lots of time there on previous trips, so our disappointment was not devastating and we just headed off to check out the Bow Lake wildlife loop. Even that was more crowded than I had remembered it being on past visits. Then I remembered that Canada is celebrating a very special 150th Canada Day this weekend! No wonder everyone was out and about! Entrance to all the National Parks and National Historic sites are free this season, and from the looks of the crowds, people are enjoying this!

 

 

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Jasper National Park

Bear on side of Columbian Icefield Parkway

Bear on side of Columbian Icefield Parkway

We left Banff and headed North along the Columbian Icefield highway. This is one of the most scenic drives we have experienced! Mountains, glaciers, snow, and wild animals all in the same place. The Winnebago managed to tow the car easily up the hills and into Jasper National Park.  Charlie captured this close up of a bear on the parkway. The bear continued to graze while at least five photographers were snapping away. I had my hands full containing Woolly Bear!

Elk resting at our campsite!

Elk resting at our campsite

We camped at Whistler’s Campground within Jasper National Park, at site 29 E. This site was spacious, private, and wooded but did not have electricity or water. That was fine, we would much rather have the space and privacy, and we tried out our new solar suitcase to keep the batteries charged! Generators are allowed for an hour and a half in the morning, and two hours in the evening, but we dislike hearing our generator run, so use it sparingly. Our hope is that the solar suitcase will provide enough charge to the batteries when we camp off the grid.

The second day at Jasper Charlie was taking pictures of a unique camping set up across the loop from us (a school bus with wood stove!!!) when he came face to face with a Black Bear! The  bear turned and vanished into the woods just as Charlie tried to take a picture of him. He did get pictures of the bus. We would love to know the story behind the bus RV, but the fellow moved on before we had the chance to talk to him.

We spent time visiting Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon,  accidentally crashed a wedding at Pyramid Lake on the island there, and drove to Athabascar Waterfall.  We really wanted to drive up Edith Cavell Mountain, but the road was still closed from winter. And speaking of winter, we had snow mixed with rain our second day there. It rained off and on the three days we camped there, and the rain followed us into Hinton, and up to Dawson Creek and the beginning of the Alaskan Highway! We are currently camped at mile 300 of the Alaskan Highway in British Columbia, heading into Yukon Territory tomorrow,  and will be writing about this next segment of our trip as soon as I have suitable internet!

Woolly Bear checking out the glacial lake at Jasper

Woolly Bear checking out the glacial lake at Jasper

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Customs and Banff NP

We left Glacier early because of the road closure, and headed for Banff NP. At 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning we rolled up to Customs. We had always had a quick and painless interrogatory, and quickly were sent on our way. Not this time!!!!

This time the questions at the gate window became more pointed: what had we done for a living? How long were we going to be in Canada? How many guns were we carrying? And the like. We soon were told to pull over to a grassy area so the Officials could search our camper. So with Woolly Bear on his leash, we exited the camper and the two men began a very thorough search. Fortunately for us, they were neat about it and even though no inch went unsearched, they did not create the chaos that would happen if cabinets were just dumped onto the floor. After their thorough search, they exited the camper and checked the battery compartment, then let us resume our travel. I sort of wish they would have told us what the heck they were looking for!

Our campsite at Tunnel  Mtn Village, Banff NP

Our campsite at Tunnel Mtn Village, Banff NP

We camped at Banff NP at a beautiful site at Tunnel Mountain Village, with a view on two sides of the mountains. Our site, C46, had electricity and water was available elsewhere. The cost was $32.00 per night. It did not have a fire pit, but did have a picnic table and plenty of space for Woolly Bear to sit and watch for bears! He didn’t see any bears, but we did have a large coyote walk into the site at lunchtime one day. The walking path was adjacent and made walking Woolly Bear a pleasure.

Coyote visiting our campsite at lunch time in Banff.

Coyote visiting our campsite at lunch time in Banff.

Coyote visiting another campsite after WB chased him away from ours!

Coyote visiting another campsite after WB chased him away from ours!

We stayed in Banff for five days, visited Cave and Basin and did the Marsh Walk, drove the Vermillion Lake Drive, went to Morraine Lake and walked the lakeshore, spent time at Lake Minnewanka, and drove the Icefields Parkway on our way to Jasper NP.

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Glacier National Park

We arrived at St Mary’s, Glacier NP to find that the magnificent Going To The Sun Road was closed at the campground. We had purposely chosen the east side and St Mary’s cg so we could drive the Going to the Sun road and perhaps re- hike some of the trails we had taken with Shannon back in the 80’s.Unless we drove an hour to the west side of the park, it was inaccessible. There was construction going on, so later this year the road will be open. Just not while we were visiting!

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We have camped at Two Medicine cg four times in the past 30 years, it is a very special place for us. Excellent views of the lake and mountains, quiet campground without any amenities, and lots of hiking! We spent one of our days there and had the good fortune of seeing a Big Horn Sheep swim part of the lake to cross right in front of us.

We also drove up to Many Glacier and enjoyed time hiking, scanning the cliffs, and picnicking.image

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Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Yellowstone NP


After leaving Custer State Park in South Dakota we drove to Cody, Wyoming and then on to Yellowstone National Park. Towing the Jeep through the Big Horn Mountains was a bit tricky, as we believe we got bad gasoline at the stop right before the hills. After stopping at a pull off to add dry gas, the Winebago resumed her good work, and we were able to ascend the hills with more ease!

We had reservations at Fishing Bridge RV inside the Park. This campground has electricity and water at each site, but resembles a parking lot. There are bear warnings everywhere, but I fear a Grizzly would trip on someone’s water hose or electric cord if he actually ventured in. We chose to stay there because the temperature was hovering around freezing each night, and we wanted to run the electric heater. With the Jeep available for driving around, we spent little time at the campground.

Fox right outside of Fishing Bridge

Fox right outside of Fishing Bridge

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We spent six days in Yellowstone, and saw three bears the first day, multiple prong horn and elk, lots of bison, and a variety of birds including Bald Eagles and Western Blue Birds. Charlie likes to set up his spotting scope and tripod to share with fellow wildlife lovers! He helped many children view the mother bear and her baby as they frolicked in the shade of the pine trees.

Bison never bore!

Bison never bore!

On Tuesday we traveled through the Geyser area and spent time driving all of the small roads that our RV was not allowed on when we visited the Park in 2011. Firehole Lake was especially nice, as were the paint pots and various other thermal sights. But the most memorable part of that day will be the shock of seeing a tourist gored by a bison on the boardwalk adjacent to Old Faithful! The poor man was walking the boardwalk ahead of us when he came in close proximity with a huge bison. I did not see what happened, but saw the aftermath and was impressed with the Park’s immediate response. A Ranger quickly drove her car between the bison and the man lying on the boardwalk. After shielding the man with her car, she administered first aide until the ambulance, then life star helicopter arrived. The most shocking thing for me was observing some of the tourists taking “selfies” of the scene after it happened. Unbelievable behavior!

Thermal activity at Yellowstone

Thermal activity at Yellowstone

On the Wednesday we drove through the Lamar Valley area, and had the opportunity to watch four wolves, two gray and two brownish black, feeding on a bison they had killed a few days before. We heard that the bison was having difficulty giving birth and that the wolves had watched her til she weakened, then moved in for the kill. Both pairs of wolves had litters of pups that needed to be fed and they worked together to do so. We had always looked for wolves when we visited, but never had the luck to see them before. Charlie set up his tripod and spotting scope and we spent a good portion of the morning just watching the wolves! The kill was about half a mile from the road, so the camera didn’t capture it, but the spotting scope made it very clear to see.

The best Charlie's camera could do. Four wolves, one rib cage in the distance!

The best Charlie’s camera could do. Four wolves, one rib cage in the distance!

On Friday we broke camp and moved North to Glacier National Park. We did not have wifi or cell service in Yellowstone, and even as I write this in Glacier, the connectivity is sporadic! As we move further North I expect more issues with wifi, but will post when we can.

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Custer State Park, South Dakota

A view from The Needles Highway, Custer State Park, South Dakota

A view from The Needles Highway, Custer State Park, South Dakota

We caught some sunshine between rain clouds and drove the Needles Highway to the Sylvan Lake area of Custer State Park. The highway is only about 18 miles long, but the scenery is outstanding!  The road traverses the high land and has two rather tight tunnels  cut through the rock formations. The Needles Eye is adjacent to a tunnel and sits almost on the highway. It is the featured image for this post, but if you are driving the highway and watching the narrow switchbacks, it is easy to miss it!

Once we arrived at Sylvan Lake we let Woolly Bear out of the car and set off on the easy hike around the lake. Dogs are allowed on the trails, but not on the swimming beaches. The lake water was high as South Dakota has had quite a bit of rain in the Black Hills area, so some of the trail was under water. After completing the easy mile long hike we continued on some of the other trails until Woolly began to tire. As those of you who follow this blog know, he had both knees operated on less than a year ago, and he is still not quite up to par. A mile or two is about all our exuberant Airedale can handle at one time.

We decided to have a picnic on the Wildlife Loop watching the bison and the wild burros.

Wild burros at Custer State Park

Wild burros at Custer State Park


Bison having lunch with us at Custer State Park

Bison having lunch with us at Custer State Park

Friday we drove the Iron Mountain Scenic Highway and visited Mt Rushmore in the morning. This highway consists of a series of pig tail log bridges, the road spirals up the mountain and has a series of circles, bridges, and narrow stone tunnels. There is one particular tunnel that gives you a look at Mt Rushmore as you exit it. We stopped at several look offs, let Woolly Bear stretch his legs, and reminisced about our time at Custer State Park and Mt Rushmore 30 years ago! We can’t figure out why it has taken us so long to visit again. Custer State Park is a very special place!

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: The Black Hills of South Dakota

Bison at Custer SP

Bison at Custer SP

We left the Badlands and drove to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This state park is a “must visit”!!! It is set between Wind Cave National Park and Mt Rushmore, but rivals those two as a phenomenal destination in itself.

We camped at Blue Bell Campground at site 22E. It is a spacious, wooded site that lies adjacent to the tenting area and backs up to the woods. The only small downside to it is the difficulty we had trying to get the camper level. We finally decided it was close enough and that as long as our refrigerator worked we weren’t going to fuss with it anymore.

The camp hosts are a delightful couple who go out of their way to be kind and helpful to incoming campers. They showed us where to fill our water tank prior to setting up, as each site has electric, but no water at it. After we set up camp we hopped in the Jeep to traverse the Wildlife Loop. We saw BigHorn Sheep, hundreds of Bison, mountain goats, pronghorns, deer, and lots of Mountain Bluebirds. Charlie was in his glory, taking hundreds of bison pictures. At one point we were surrounded on the road by about 50 bison, several way too close to the car for my comfort! Woolly Bear was well behaved, and only whined at the critters instead of barking loudly.

Too close to the Jeep for comfort!

Too close to the Jeep for comfort!

The second day we drove the Needles Highway through interesting rock formations. We planned on hiking in the Sylvan Lake area, and brought a picnic lunch. Just as we exited the second tunnel the skies opened up and rain and hail hit the windshield. The thunderstorm lasted until we had returned to our camp, and we decided to do the hike the following day. Once again we drove the wildlife loop, and then we headed to Wind Cave National Park, which is adjacent to Custer SP. this National Park offers hiking both above the ground and on guided tours through the cave.

We are spending 5 days in the Black Hills and my next post will show some of the amazing scenery on the Needles Highway!

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

Pronghorn at Custer SP

Pronghorn at Custer SP

Our Great Alaskan Road Trip: Badlands National Park

The Badlands National Park, South Dakota, is a place we had driven through on two previous trips, but we never had the time to really stop and explore the amazing rock formations, the wildlife, birds, and trails. This time we decided to camp here for several days and experience more than a quick drive-by. Once here, we realized that we really need to devote more than a few days to this magnificent park so we have put it on our ” must visit again” list.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The weather was cooler than previous times,  it had been 114 degrees back in August of 2011 when we stopped on our way back from Yellowstone, and it rained steadily on Sunday. We took advantage of the rare opportunity to see water and erosion at work in the park. The White River was close to flooding, rivers ran in the clay floor of the Badlands carving new pathways, and the colors were just beautiful!  All of the flowing water was the color of coffee with cream, a light tan.

We took full advantage of our time in the Badlands: driving the Badlands loop several times in the Jeep, visiting the Fossil Exhibit Trail, every scenic overlook, and the Big Pig Dig site ( actually not a pig fossil at all, but a small hornless rhinoceros), and the Ben Reidel Visitor Center. Hiking and biking were limited because of the rain and the muddy conditions.

We went into Wall on Memorial Day and visited Wall Drug Store and Wounded Knee: The Museum. Of the two places, I preferred the museum, and was fascinated by the history of the December 29, 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. There were lots of historical photos and documents, and several multi-media presentations. Charlie preferred Wall Drug, though he kept his wallet in his pocket!

Two Big Horn Sheep in Badlands National Park

Two Big Horn Sheep in Badlands National Park

Wildlife was abundant in the Badlands, especially Meadow Larks and Big Horn Sheep. I saw one small snake  on Monday, but no rattlesnakes. We are heading to the Black Hills tomorrow, provided the roads are not affected by flooding.