July 1, Wednesday Today was exploring our salmon fishing options. First stop was fish and game to ask about where to fish. They recommended Russian River fishing for reds. Next stop was Fred Meyer for fishing licenses and fishing gear. Bought a couple of salmon combo rods setup for the Russian River. I bought 40 lb and 30 lb test line to put on the two rods that I brought. After getting the gear ready I recommended that the kids go fishing and we would stay here and do our visiting, find the landfill to dump garbage, do laundry, check e-mail, dump tanks, fill water, etc. Also on the agenda was a haircut. Connie said I was starting to look like the hairy Alaskan guys she had seen. So it was a haircut on the lawn overlooking the meadow in the lawn chair. She said she was about ready to just buzz it. We had some reindeer sausages for dinner. Not that great. The kids just called and said they had 4 fish and I needed to stay up long enough to help them fillet the fish. We needed to go to bed early tonight because we have to get up at 2:30 AM and leave by 3AM to get to Deep Creek by 4:l5 AM to catch the boat. They had to launch according to the tides. Guess we will have the boat to ourselves with just the 4 of us. The kids showed up with 4 red salmon and showed us the fish in the cooler. Now they planned on vacuum packing and freezing the fish. First they went to the fish cleaning station at the visitors center to fillet the fish. Then they brougnt them back to vacuum pack. They found the machine and had to get some more bags at the store. It was around 12:23 AM when they quit. That means they'll get 2 hrs of sleep. July 2, Thursday We got up at 2:30 AM to get ready to leave by 3AM. We got away on time and we listened to the kid's fishing stories on the way down Ninilchik where the office was located. Sounds like they got to experience the famous Alaska "combat" fishing first hand. The parked at Russian River campground area for $11 to start with and walked to a place on the Russian River. This river dumps into the Kenai River just below Kenai Lake. A lot of people refer to the area as Cooper's Landing. They caught 2 a piece and Marnie actually lost another one she had to the bank. Quite an experience to take on with fishing outfits from Fred Meyer. We got to the Rod and Real Office on time and waited until the captain showed up to take our fishing license information down. They loaded our lunch and stuff on the boat and we met they down at the launch area. It was the same setup at Deep Creek as it was at Anchor Point. An old logging skidder launching the boats. We launched and it was pretty rough from the start. We went some 17 miles out by my GPS to the southwest in Cook Inlet. We were hitting the waves pretty hard. It was nice to finally get there and anchor up. The boat stayed in one place while the tide moved in. We were in 160 feet of water. The halibut started biting immediately but all the first ones were small. I decided to keep my first small one. When pulling a halibut in you don't set the hook but rather crank and crank on the reel for about 15 to 20 turns and then stop and see if you have one on. Then crank it in while keeping tension on the line. That's the longest 160 feet of water in the world. I think they measure it in meters. My arms were tired from the little ones. It seemed like everyone was catching one, even Connie. Most of them were thrown back because of the size and we had plenty of time. I hooked one that stripped my line out and made about three different runs. I didn't have a clue how big something like that was, but it was a formable foe. Turns out it was around 30 lb., which was good enough for me to quit. I had my limit of two. Connie pulled in several more. Chad and Marnie were pulling them in consistantly. I don't how many we threw back but everyone's arms were getting tired. We finally kept 7 and Marnie and Chad kept fishing for a big number 8. The kept a medium one in a bucket upside down in sea water to keep it alive in case one bigger was not caught. Turns out that one was kept. The tide was slowing down to a standstill and the weather wasn't getting any better so the captain decided to head back. The ride back was plenty rough but we made better time. They called the launch site to let them know we are coming in. They had the trailer backed into the water when we got there. I was amazed at how fast the kept up the speed when they hit that trailer. The tractor pulling the trailer was moving forward at the same time. We popped right on and the boat held. Of course it was not very steep and fairly shallow water but that was still pretty cool how that worked. Back at the office we took pictures of the fish hanging up and settled up. When they were done filleting we put them in a cooler and weighed it. We figured around 68 lbs of fillets which was about what I figured it was going to be. You lose 50% or more when cleaned. When we got back to Robin's we decided to vacuum pack and freeze the halibut before we took a nap. That was a lot of halibut to process. The little vacuum pack kept heating up so we took lots of breaks. Chad and I made a run to the store for more bags and food for tonight. We were finishing up the last fillet when Jim and Robin showed up for the weekend. I think they were impressed that we did all this fishing and processing on our own. They said we were the kind of people they liked to have stay because they didn't have to wait on us. We took care of ourselves. They told us to get some sleep and they would talk to us when we got up. So we all headed to bed at about 2PM in the afternoon. July 3 Friday We got up at 4:30 AM to get an early start for fishing on Russian River. Chad and Marnie wanted to go to the same place as two days before and try for more red salmon. We pulled in to the Russian River campground and paid $ll to park in the Pink Salmon parking area. Even at that hour there were lots of fisherman returning and getting ready to go. The parking lot was mostly full. We put our wading boots on we borrowed from Robin's box of boots. She knew some of them had holes but Marnie said that was better than standing in the water with bare legs. All four of us had hip waders and fishing gear for red salmon. We packed our lunches and fishing tackle because it was quite a walk to the river. The path down to the river is on improved walkways and boardwalks. Even on the bank of the river there were mats to walk on. They go to great extents to protect the riverbanks from all the trampling. We ended up in the same place as where they caught reds the other day. Not too many people in the river. You wade out halfway in the swift current and short cast to the other side in the main channel. The water was over the knees, quite swift, and the river had some big rocks to walk over. Connie was upstream and had casted for a while. She decided to go back to the shore to get out of the current which was making her tired bracing against it. As she headed back she lost her footing and went down in the river. She almost got up on her own but her boots were filling up with water. I hollered at Chad to not let her boots fill up with water. He carefully walked upstream to help Connie. She went down again and only her head was above water. Chad got to her and gave her a hand to help her up. She couldn't get up on her own. With his help we got her up and to shore to empty the boots of water. Because she was wearing jeans I said we're going back to the car and change clothes immediately. Cotton jeans will suck the heat out of your legs and body in a matter of minutes. Once she got clothes changed she warmed up. Pretty scary to almost lose someone so quickly in such an innocent situation. Always respect the water, it can be dangerous. We fished that part until we were ready for some kind of mid morning lunch. We thought we would attempt to ride the Russian River Ferry across the river to experience the true combat fishing. They invented the word up here on the Kenai River. There were hundreds of fisherman on the two rivers. The mouth of the Russian River is just above the ferry. The ferry costs around $l0 a piece to ride. In this area of the Kenai River you can only fish on the south bank. Strange rules. and Kenai River Rode ferry. No fish. July 4 Saturday Parade in Kenai, Brew Pub, Shopping. Robin's relatives and the Aussies. Salmon Fish fry dinner, Campfire Smores. No fireworks July 5 Sunday Get the boat ready for King fishing, Bryan and Gail's Neighborhood BBQ, King Salmon fishing, Flippin for Reds, Birthday cake for Ronnie, Campfire smores, Group photo, help kids pack fish for trip home at midnight. July 6, Monday Trip to Cannery near Kenai, caribou, got a call from Marnie that they made it back and were putting fish in the freezers, Shopping in town of Kenai, shopping for meat at IGA, checking e- mail Soldotna library, dumped tanks, filled water, got diesel fuel, Jim fixed chicken BBQ dinner, played games around campfire. July 7, Tuesday Helped Jim load boat because of leak. Filled the boat with water to find the leak. Leaking out the back through some silcon patching. Said he would get it welded this time. Left Robin and Jim's place. Stopped at Kenai Moose Refuge Visitor Center. The scenery is smoky from a forest fire southwest of Soldotna and smelled like smoke everywhere we went. Stopped at new favorite hardware store. Bought two salmon/steelhead rod reel combinations, caulking for back window in camper, duct tape etc. Drove past Fred Meyer, amazing. Took the Skilak Lake Loop road and we went through Cooper's Landing. Had lunch at Hidden Lake. Drove through a couple of campgrounds. Headed to Seward for shopping at the stores we missed. Headed to the city rv campground for the night. The mountains were hazy, in the background, at Seward, from the smoke of the forest fire. July 8, Wednesday This morning the mountains were hazy and covered with smoke. We filled up the propane at the same place as before l0 days ago on the north end of Seward. We decided to forego the Exit Glacier hike and the Initial Point hike to head down the road. On the way north I took a side trip to the old gold mining town of Hope. Drove by a big cow moose alongside the road. The roadside sign said this river, Sixmile Creek, was a class 4 and 5 river to run. There must be some serious waves in that stretch. Hope was a quaint town of about 30 people that kind of had the look and feel of the old Talkeena. It's also at the end of a road on the Turnagain Arm. We drove through the campground which is beyond the sign "End of the Road". It's called Porcupine Campground and is reservable. Several sites over look the Arm. Back on the road around the Arm we saw some dall sheep ewes by the road and I stopped to take pictures. There were two cute little lambs a little higher. We had to stop in Anchorage at Fred Meyer and Walmart. The Walmart was such a disappointment and was not a superstore with groceries. I bought some beer at the Brown Jug Liquor, just across the Walmart parking lot. We found the rest of the stuff at Fred Meyer and bought enough to just put us over for our $.l0 per gallon discount. We filled up with diesel fuel and headed to Palmer and towards Glenallen. We've been getting l5+ miles to the gallon lately after the oil and air filter change in Fairbanks. Jamey called us while in this stretch to ask when we would be home. We'll know more when we leave Valdeez. My good buddy Bud who is down there has said he will take me Salmon fishing down there. We stopped a couple of places to look at the Matanuska Glacier and for Dall sheep. There was a road to a campground listed as being fairly close to the glacier. We drove down this steep road to check out the campground. Previously there was one place on the highway where the water was flooding over the highway. It was a very warm day and the snow and glaciers were melting. After we dropped down to river level on this road I could see a real skimpy bridge that we needed to cross over the boiling river. I stopped and looked it over. I decided this was an event day and the bridge did not look substantial enough to withstand a lot of water. So I took a picture of the raging water and turned around. I really didn't want to be stranded on the other side if the bridge washed out. We tooled down the highway a ways farther and found a trailhead with a big paved lot to spend the night. A lot of people were coming and going but only one other outfit looked like it was going to stay. It's really smoky out and we can hardly see the mountains. July 9, Thursday We left the trailhead and it was still smoky and hazy out. Looked really hard for our token moose. We had three animals to look for, moose, bear, and caribou. Nothing was spotted. We decided to take the side trip to Lake Louise. It was 20 miles in but at least it was paved. The lake is pretty large, some l0 miles by 8 miles. At the lake there were many homes including some on the many islands. Talked to a guy driving a water truck that was hydro seeding the airport and he said it was –50 degrees last year at the lake. Drove around the campgrounds and some of the lodges. Supposed to be big Arctic Grayling in the lake. This is a land of many, many lakes. I was tempted to stop and fish except it would take too long to get all the rods and reels together. We headed to toward Glenallen. One town called Tolsona is l6 miles long and has a population of 24. Glenallen is much more improved and populated since I was there last. We got an Anchorage newspaper at the grocery store to see about the fires. The headlines were "A Ring Of Fires". There are some 70 active fires around the state and a couple of big ones. The weather forecast sounded like it would get more humid and the wind would clear out some of the sound. We'll wait and see. We left Glenallen after visiting the visitor's center. The gas station was doing a booming business at the gas pump. With all the excitement, I went to see what the price for diesel was. It was $3.80/gal. Not a particularly good price when we filled up at Fred Meyer in Anchorage for $3.l9/gal. We stopped at the St. Elias Wrangell Visitor Center and walked on a loop that overlooked the famous Copper River. You could see the pipeline occasionally. On the drive to Valdeez we saw many glacial streams very full and flowing fast. The tempature was close to 80 degrees and the glaciers/snow were melting. Even in all the smoke, the mountains were just huge and snow covered. It makes you feel pretty insignificant driving between them. That was a surprise how beautifull and tall the mountains were. We saw Worthington Glacier from a distance and stopped to visit the glacier. Next is was the famous Thompson Pass to climb over and drop down into Valdeez. I had seen the video on building the pipeline and this was the last and hardest stretch to finish. In the video, the welders refused to work on such a steep slope and said it wasn't possible to do. One old guy stepped forward and said I'll do it. Most of the rest followed and risked their lives to finish. Using my gps hooked to the topo mapping software for real time location, I stopped on the road about where I thought the pipeline would cross the highway on that super steep stretch. It was even steeper than I thought. I don't know how the rock stays in place. It is absolutely straight up. So I took pictures but they won't do justice to it at all. But it was impressive for me. We followed mountains, glaciers, and snowfields the rest of the way in. The Lowe River was roaring and trees and stumps were floating by. We stopped to take pictures of Bridal Falls. The next falls, Horsetail Falls was equally impressive. We made it to Valdeez and the Eagle's Rest RV Park. We checked to see where Bud was located and he and Joan had the day off. They are co-hosts at this campground for the summer and have their motorhome parked there. We finally connected with them and set around and talked until late. They have tomorrow off so we may get chauffered around the town and the local area. We decided to meet at 9 AM tomorrow. July l0, Friday At 9 AM we headed to the Campbell's motor home. We all loaded into their jeep and drove around Valdez. We saw all the buildings in town and the harbor. We drove up Mineral Creek Road to the end. It had a beautiful waterfall and several kind of flowers we had not seen before. We visited the visitor center and gift shop across the street. It had the movie of the l964 Earthquake that destroyed the old town of Valdez. The new town is in a higher location. We talked about where Bud and Joan were at the time of the quake. We drove around the bay to Allison Point where everyone fishes for salmon. They have a fish hatchery that is out in the bay in cages. That is where they release the salmon they are raising. The road alongside was filled with people out to the Trans Alaska Pipeline Terminal security gate. You could see the some of the storage tanks that store the oil until it is loaded on a ship destined to the states. We drove from there up to the Valdez Glacier. Like all of Alaska's glaciers it has receded around the corner. The goldminers headed north for the goldrush traveled up the glacier to get out of the valley. We headed back for a late lunch. They let us borrow the Jeep to go fishing at Allison Point. Some salmon were caught the night before and that morning but we didn't see any being caught in the afternoon. The Campbell's invited us to dinner at 6 PM at their motorhome. We stopped in town and bought wine and a gallon of milk before dinner. The liquor store was next door to the Carr's store again. We had halibut and ling cod for dinner. We saw a newscast on TV for the first time in 5 weeks. It showed a section of the Glenn highway eroding away from the flooding of the Matanuska River just outside of Palmer. The highway department was working on the section when we went by. The showed some of the 70 fires burning in Alaska at the time. Our visibility had been zip since we got here because of the fires and the fog. Some of the most beautiful mountains in Alaska rise up from this area and we can't see them. They claim the 7,000 foot difference in elevation from sea to top of mountain are some of the highest in Alaska. It was a great dinner shared with great old friends and they told us to check with them before we left. July 11, Saturday This morning the fog or haze was down very low. None of the mountains were visible. We returned the fishing lures I borrowed from Bud around 8AM but I guess no one up yet. We fueled up at almost $3.80/gallon. We're at the terminal and refinery of the Alaska Pipeline and pay some of the highest prices. Go figure. As we were leaving we noticed the Lowe River was still roaring and we stopped to take a picture of Bridal Veil Falls and the old dog sled route. It was pure soupy fog up and over Thompson Pass. It was just hanging low and the visibilty was great once we got out of the fog. We took more pictures of the glaciers including Worthington Glacier. We were going to take the sidetrip to the town of Copper Center, but before we reached there we decided to take a sidetrip to Chetina, at least on the paved road part. This is the road to McCarthy and the Kennecott copper mining country. The road was full of frost heaves to the town of Kenny Lake. This area is surprisingly all farming country. The main reason I wanted to go on this road was to see the Copper River. We stopped at Chetina, and I took pictures in the town. This reminds me of the way Talkeetna used to be. We had to drive through a one-way tunnel in the rock to get to the Copper River Bridge. Wow is that river big. The bridge is below the junction of the two rivers. The junction of the two rivers at it widest point on the topo map is about 2 miles wide. Below the bridge was a series of fishing wheels all in a row in the river. I drove down to get a closer look. We saw two people wade out in the river and retreive salmon from fishing wheel. I talked to two locals who were filleting the salmon and they said the fishing was real slow because of the high water. We headed back and drove through Copper Center. Then it was up to Glennallen and on to the Tok Cutoff. We followed the Copper River toward Tok. We found a rest area on the Slana River for the night. I parked in the only level spot. It was a low spot wet from being previously under water. I looked at the river and looked at the thermometer and decided to take a chance on it not rising overnight. That was the roughest section of road on our whole trip so far and my neck was sore from all the bouncing. July 12, Sunday We left our campsite on the Slana River and was glad the river did not raise during the night. I can't believe all the people driving by at midnight and 1:00 AM in the morning along the rough road. My theory is they can see all the frost heaves better at night. It certainly more dangerous from the standpoint of hitting a moose on the road at night. We headed to Tok to go to the gift shop one more time. They also had wireless internet so I quickly checked e-mail to see what had come. Got to finally watch the first video of Brooks walking. We didn't watch the other two because they don't want downloading of files and the next one was 3MB in size. Didn't find what we were looking for, mammoth ivory and jade beads. Next stop across the street to the Visitor Center for things on Haines Junction, Haines and the Haines road. Then to the Alaska Public Lands Center to check on the status of the ferry from Haines to Skagway. She checked and they have plenty of room over the next several days. So we'll book the ferry ride when we get there. We fueled up at the Chevron because they had a coupon for 10 cents off per gallon. We also stopped at Jack Wade Gold. Connie held a couple of 3 to 5 lb gold nuggets. Then it was on the road again this time on the Alcan Highway that we missed by going to the Top of the World Highway. We traveled through the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge without hardly any signs letting you know it was there. The visitor's center was fairly small. For being the largest wildlife refuge in the US I guess I expected more. We saw some cute planters that I took pictures of. The Canandian Customs border was only 7 more miles down the road. We stopped and took pictures of the Welcome to Alaska sign, Yukon sign and the International Boundary Markers. A few more miles we saw Trumpeter Swan with 3 chicks in the water close to the road. On the Canadian side you travel 20 more miles to the border station from the actual border. Customs asked the standard questions. I showed them the papers on the shotgun and she said you have to August 6th. I said that that was the plan. We stopped at Beaver Creek, YK which was quite impressive little town. That's another place the Alcan Highway builders met with their bulldozers. Yukon always have the best, well staffed, visitor's centers. She also stamped our Yukon passport that we were carrying for the gold drawing. Then it was on to Haines Junction direction. We stopped at a new gravel pile area that was used to build a new section of road and a new bridge. I had said several times to people we talked to along the way that the roads so far had been better than I expected. Yesterday and today has totally changed my mind. This one (and the Tok Cutoff) is the roughest section of all the roads we have traveled so far. Top speed for half of the trip today was 45mph and much of it was a very rough 25 mph. You can't make very good time on these highways when your traveling at 25 mph. This was kind of how I expected the first part of the trip into Canada and Yukon to be, not on the Alcan Highway that the majority of everone going to Alaska, uses. They would be much better off with gravel roads than the frost heaves, dips, and holes in the pavement. I hope our shocks and springs hold out. When I signed the register at Beaver Creek visitor's center, my comment was I need new shock absorbers in my neck. That's part of the reason I quite driving somewhat early in the day is because my neck is stiff and sore from all the bouncing. If you can't turn your head you can't drive very well. In one of our brochures it says they are funding some projects on roadbuilding on permafrost and has the funding of the US and Yukon. I took a picture of the structures alongside the road. They are experimenting with how to keep the permafrost from melting. It's hard for me to believe that after 60 years of roadbuilding and maintenance along this highway that they don't have it figured out yet. July 13, Monday Took a picture out the back door at 2:4l AM where the sun had set earlier. It was pretty light out. We headed toward Haines today. The road was still bad as far as Destruction Bay. We stopped at Burwash Landing Museum which featured the worlds largest gold pan. A lot of the scenery was along the Kluane Lake. It is some 38 miles long. At the end of the lake was the Sheep Museum. We stopped to see if we could see some Dall Sheep on Sheep Mountain. They were supposedly on the other side of the mountain today. The road was fairly good from Destruction Bay to Slim Creek or Sheep Mountain. It was so good from here on to Haines Junction that I could actually look at the scenery and look for critters. Again we were looking for our token moose for the day and finally some a couple on a lake. I bought wore my eyes out looking for sheep and griz. We had a couple of places to visit in Haines Junction for our Yukon Passport. We checked off two more. We also had some local attractions to photograph. One was nicknamed "The Muffin". It was a mountain with various animals on all sides sticking out and a fence below. The other was a church made out of a quonset hut. They say this is the most photographed church in the Yukon. The mountain ranges coming to Haines Junction were spectacular and covered with snow and glaciers. Mount Logan was in our pictures. It is over l9,000 ft high. From Haines Junction, YK toward Haines, AK was some really nice roads and scenery. You go over Chilkat Pass and drop down to sea level at Haines. All you see are mountains and glaciers. At the US border we were asked the standard questions, showed them my gun paperwork and we were waved on. We followed the Chilkat River on in to Haines. It was at flood stage and filled the whole valley. Looked to me like another foot or two higher at the highway would be in serious trouble for miles. This is the land famous for the gathering of bald eagles each year. They come to feed on the migrating salmon and are said to number as much as 3,500-4,000. We didn't see a single one coming in to town. We drove around town a little and found the visitor center. I asked about the ferry schedule to Skaguay which was displayed on a white board. The first order of business was to find the Hitch Up RV Park and get a spot to park for the night. We then decided to drive out to the ferry terminal and book a ride on the ferry for tomorrow night at 8:30PM. We should be able to get everything done by then. We had to do laundry tonight. We'll visit some stores including groceries, visit the library for e-mail, and do some sightseeing before catching the ferry to Skaguay. I also booked a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad Tour for Thursday morning. Then I called Pullen RV Park in Skaguay for a space to park for a couple of nights when we get in around 9:30PM from the ferry. This is really the only scheduling we have had to do in a while. July 13, Tuesday We had several errands to run today. We drove both roads to the south to the end. One was to a Chilkat State Park and boat launch. There was a red cannery building that reminded us of the red building back east that is in all the calenders. The were small fishing boats in use there but hardly any in town. We shopped in all the stores after they opened up. Went into the IGA on Main Street looking for lettuce for salad. They were all out. Apparently the grocery shipments come in on Tuesday and they run out by the weekend. Well the shipment hadn't arrived yet. We were mainly looking for mammoth ivory beads to make a necklace out of. After asking every store in town, the lady at the Sheldon Museum gift shop said we had to go to Roy's Ramblings. He would have what we were looking for. We spent a long time there getting educated and playing with all the ivory. I wanted to take about 6 or 8 pieces to experiment with but settled on one piece. Connie found mammoth ivory beads of pretty good size and one big one in the middle. After we checked e-mail and paid bills, we headed north on the road that goes to the Chilkoot Lake State Park. We knew the construction on the way to the marine terminal would take a long time to get through so we decided to stay on that side so we could catch the ferry. We drove to the end of the road at the lake and back through some houses at the end of the bay. There was a fish counting and measuring weir that they use to count and measure the salmon. Also I had read about the Deer Rock and got to see that. This is a sacred indian rock that the construction company building the road blew up by accident. They had to find all the pieces to the rock and put it together. The ferry was pretty late getting in and we had to wait for them to find room on the ship for a huge motor home that we were behind in line. It was supposed to leave at 8:30PM but it was more like 9:00PM. The ride to Skagway is 15 miles on the ship and takes roughly one hour. We met 4 cruise ships leaving Skagway. One was at our dock so we went in circles until he backed out and was clear. Probably 10:30 PM by the time we got off. Still light of course even this far south. We drove through town and looked for a spot to park for the night. Connie said turn here to go to the cemetery. She had read about a trail that left from the cemetery. We stopped a little short of the cemetery for the night. It's real quiet around here. I sure tomorrow is filled with looking at all those little shops and Thursday is the 3 hour White Pass and Yukon railroad trip leaving at 8: 15 AM. July 14, Wednesday We were camped next to a mountain side that was sending rocks down the mountain all last night. There was a pretty good buffer between there and the road but it still was fairly noisy. None of the rocks came across the road yet but you never know. We drove to Dyea this morning which is some 10-12 miles from here. That is where the gold rush started with a bustling town of several thousand. There is not much there now. There is a walking tour of the remains of the town but most of it is gone. We then found a parking spot downtown that we could spend the day. With a half dozen cruise ships parked in the harbor, the place was crawling with people. You couldn't even drive down Broadway, their main street. They don't even have a strip painted down the middle. It's a giant sidewalk because the boardwalks are full of people. Quite the bustling little town. We found a display of mammoth ivory in a store that featured local artists and the guy we spent so much time with in Haines had a nice display in this store. We talked with the owner's father who was working there and he wanted to know where we were from. When we said Idaho he said Boise or Meridian? Turns out his daughter is a veternarian in the Eagle area also. So we gave him one of Marnie's cards and he was going to relay it to his daughter. We bought groceries at the local grocery store. We only found one but I guess that is all the locals need. A great bumper sticker on one of the cars said, "Build a road from Juneau to Skagway". This is day 42 of the trip and I think we have around 6,000 miles on the truck so far. Wow. Tomorrow is our train ride to White Pass at 8:15 AM. We found where to park for the 3 hour trip today. We'll be one of hundreds of cruise ship people. Then we will leave for Canada and see how far we get. July 16, Thursday Well, all the falling rocks during the night stayed on the side of the road so we could get to the train station on time. We left extra early to make sure our ticket was good and find a parking spot. It was strange to see the streets bare of people. I watched a video explaining the two routes into the Klondike from Skagway and the efforts the frenzied people went through to get to the goldfields first. They had to pack 1 ton of food and supplies before Canada would let them through. That would get them through the winter. The Chiltook Trail left out of Dyea and went up a steeper pass and was mainly for the walkers. The pass had a higher elevation but was shorter in length. The stampeders arrived by ship and it was a very shallow bay. The ships could not get to close to land so that was a hardship. They had to take smaller boats to get their supplies to shore. The other trail was the White Pass Trail. It was the horse trail and was for the more affluent who could afford horses and mules. There was more crime and robbery on this trail. The most that could be packed on a man was 50-80 lb. So 2,000 lb. of supplies meant many, many trips up the trail. They say you could not have one pound less or the mounties would not let you across into Canada. This was to prevent starvation that the first Klondikers suffered. Our train ride followed the White Pass Trail and would could see many places going to the top that still remain. We went to the top of the pass just into Canada on the train. We rode on the left side, which is the canyon side for picture taking. There are 3 trestles and 2 tunnels on the way up. The one trestle is basically a floating bridge with no supports on either side and a huge drop to the bottom. One of the trestles had a drop off of one thousand feet to the bottom. It's a narrow gage rail to start with. With all the rocking and rolling back and forth anyway, a look down below with nothing visible holding us up is a pucker time experience. It takes 3 engines to pull the 3.9% grade and hold back the cars going back downhill. We had 11 cars on this trip. They supposedly have 5 trains on the tracks at one time. They have different lengths of trips. It was very interesting how they unhooked the engines at the top and moved down a parallel set of tracks, backed up to hook us back up. Then the other train that was waiting for us, passed alongside on the parallel tracks. We did the "moose wave" to all of those passengers. Put your thumbs on both sides of your heads and wiggle your hands. They of course did the same. The backs of the seats swivel over the top of the seat and you face the other direction. I think that was called the "summit switch" or something like that. It happened to be a very cloudy, foggy day and we could not see very high. We've been so lucky so far that that is bound to happen one in a while. It was an enjoyable ride but probably not worth all the money. I've always wanted to do this trip since I first read about it years ago. Now I can say I've done that. When we got back we had lunch, filled up with diesel fuel (at an amazing $3.03/gal), and headed north for Canada. Customs was 20 miles further from the boundary because of the brutal winter conditions on top of the pass. We stopped in Carcross to get stamps for our Yukon Passport Book. We decided if we hurried we might catch another place to stamp our book in Teslin. The one guy was real nice. The place was closed but he went inside to stamp them anyway. The other place was closed. So on the Watson Lake. We found a spot next to the highway on Morley Creek for the night. We hope to find a couple more places to stamp our book and turn them in. Then it's down the Cassier for some really long stretches of highway between places. Today was quite nice driving with virtually no frost heaves. Guess they don't have so much permafrost along this stretch. July 17, Friday Last night we opened the camper door twice to get in. We let in so many mosquitoes that we spent the rest of the night with the light on trying to kill them all. Today we headed on in to Watson Lake, passing by our turnoff to the Cassier Highway, to get another stamp on our Yukon Passport and fill out the paperwork to send it in with all twenty places stamped. We'll be in the drawing for the gold nuggets. We tried to find someone to change the oil in the truck in town. That was a waste of time. We filled up with diesel and headed back to our turnoff Highway 37, the Cassier Highway. Before we got to the junction we found a spot to put up some "rock graffiti". Along all the highways in Canada, people put up their names and messages on the dirt banks, out of small rocks, in the highway right-of-way. So our name will be there for future generations of Couch's to find. That makes two things in the Watson Lake area. Our destination today was to find some propane along the way. That meant the next town was Dease Lake. We met our friends from Colorado, that we had met previously in Soldotna, and on the ferry. They have been traveling the same route we have, and camp in gravel pits, also. In fact, they don't stay in private campgrounds, period. We do about every 3 or 4 days to replenish and dump tanks. Nothing like being able to take a hot shower and not worrying about the gray water overflowing. Occasionally we can get the WiFi to working at the campground. The one at Valdez never did work and I tried for three days. This one at Dease Lake is slow but it works. Which brings us to the two Bills' I met tonight. We pulled in to the campground to check in. The owner, Bill, ask the couple ahead of me if they were going to see Telegraph Rock. He pointed to a picture of a huge rock on the wall. He said it was just a little side trip. They asked how far and he said about 70 km. You could ask the guy out back washing his truck if it was worth going to. Now my priority was to get propane somewhere before they closed for the day. So I asked Bill, the owner, a man of few words if a guy could get a propane bottle filled in town. "Yep, turn at Bills, third driveway down. Drive to the back and you'll see the office." Well, we did and all I saw was a junkyard with old trucks and trailers parked all over. Finally, saw the office with a door wide open. Walked in and was greeted by three old grizzly looking guys crowded around a stump drinking Budweiser beers. "Beer's in the fridge, grab a chair and sit down". I said I would but I was looking for someone to fill my propane tank, I was about out. The far gentleman said "We can do that". I looked at him and there must have been three teeth missing with that big smile. He jumped up and I went to get my tank out of the camper. At first I didn't know where he went in the junkyard then I saw a big propane tank on the other side of a truck. He grabbed my tank and shook it. "Yep it's empty." He hooked up the hose and started the pump. Now most people use a screwdriver and unloosen the overfill screw. When it's full, the propane gas comes shooting out the side. Not this guy. He just screwed the big hose in, lifted the tank once or twice and said it's full. No gages to use, he just knew it was full. When he unscrewed the big hose, propane came shooting out all over, but his hands were out of the way. I said how much do I owe you. "Twenty-five bucks" I paid him like a good tourist sucker and said thanks. Now lets see, 4 gallons of propane for $25. It "was" Canadian money. But, that makes it about the most expensive propane I've ever purchased. Now that's my story about two Bills in Dease Lake, BC. They would have fit into Salmon just perfect. We came back to the campground and backed in to our spot. It started raining which made that hot shower all the better. Sometimes it's the little things in life. Tomorrow we'll see if we can make another long run in the wilderness of Canada between these "villages" they call towns. Down the road at Stewart and Hyder are another glacier we can drive to and a brown bear viewing spot on Fish Creek. Despite all the gravel sections, this road is still better than some we've been on. July l8, Saturday We left Dease Lake and headed south this morning. It was cloudy up high and rained on us some. The road was mostly fabulous, some brand new, with some gravel sections that were muddy and fine. This section of road is definitly better than the way we came north. We saw lots of lakes and the roads are lined with fireweed. There are even patches of fireweek off the road in quarter acre sections. We were running a little low on desiel fuel so we were looking for places that had fuel. At Bell 2 they gave a sign for how many km it was to the next fuel but I didn't see it until we had passed. We thought the junction to Hyder and Stewart would have something but after reading our material that was out. Once we got to the junction I figured we could make it the rest of the way to Stewart for fuel. There were the most fantantic mountains, glacier, and waterfalls which we hadn't expected on the drive in. Going to Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK is about 45 miles on a sidetrip. The main reason I wanted to go was the bear viewing at Fish Creek. We pulled in to Steward and there was only one place for fuel. You pulled in the back and rang a buzzer for service. A boy came out and pumped the desiel for you. He said pay inside and I said do they know how much it is. He said ehyah which is yes in American. Again it was pretty cheap, at the end of the road, and only one station. We visited the visitors center at Stewart and asked if the bears were at fish creek. She said it was early but bears had been sighted. We took a walk on the long boardwalk into the flats. Our friends Sam and Jean from Colorado honked at they went by on the highway. We then headed to Hyder, Alaska. There was no customs to go through into the US. There were two gift shops and a saloon were you could get "Hyderized". Some ritual that involves something like white lightning in a shot glass. No takers in this truck. There was a guy further down the road that had a big grocery type truck converted into a car wash. He was power washing the RV's and vehicles. Don't know what he was charging but driving through these gravel roads in the rain makes your outfit look pretty bad. I'm not washing until we hit the big city and are off the gravel roads. We drove up to Fish Creek to see what that was all about. You follow Bear Creek to start with and then go up Fish Creek. We could see the crowd of people on the viewing platforms before we got there. It is on Forest Service property and they required a permit to view the bears. My Senior Pass got us in and I took the tripod and spotting scope. It was quite a walk but all the people were crowded at the end. Pretty soon a brown bear came into view looking for the salmon in the stream. We had seen a lot of salmon in their redds as we were walking along the platform. I set up the tripod/spotting scope and tried to get pictures of a brown bear catching salmon. I took a lot of pictures and I think maybe two turned out. The rest are of his back and butt. He had a piece of sking hanging down from his jaw area. There was a ranger there who was quite informative. We probably spent more than an hour there waiting and watching. Connie was busy with her binoculars looking for birds. We finally left there and had to drive though Canadian Customs on the way back. She was pretty nice and put another stamp on my shotgun paper. We drove out of town with intentions of returning tomorrow, seeing more stuff, and taking another look at the bears. Lucky for us there was a BC recreation site not very far out of town. It was along a beautiful calm lake and nobody was here. We parked next to a hefty picnic table and which looks across the lake at a beautiful waterfalls coming off the mountain. We want to see all the waterfalls, glaciers, and mountains tomorrow again hoping that they are more visible than today. As soon as we're done here we'll head further south to towns with names I can't pronounce. July 18, Sunday We left the calm beautiful Clemans Lake this morning and hoped to see more glaciers going out than we did coming in. The clouds were still hanging low so we could only see the bottom of the mountains. All the waterfalls were visible and Connie got to see the ones on her side that I saw coming down. They have some serious water coming off those mountains. We stopped at Bear Glacier to take a better look at it. It's probably the bluest glacier we have seen on the whole trip. I got out the spotting scope so I could take some closeups of the blue glacier. We took one of us together with Bear Glacier in the background. We were stopped for a chip sealing operation before we got to the junction. They started the project on a Sunday. Guess you have to make every day count when you have so few summer days. We stopped at some of the native towns and took pictures of totem poles. We visited the Ksan Campground and New Hazelton, again. I remember stopping there when we took the kids on a trip through Canada around 1979. We were much more into the native art and history in those days. This trip not so much. I am much more interested in the Bulkley River and anything to do with it. They have a fabulous steelhead run up that river in the fall. The world record steelhead caught on line and reel is from this area. I stopped where the Morlce River dumps in and watch the natives netting salmon from the river. There is a narrow rocky chute the salmon have to go through to get up river. The natives tie a rope around there waist and hang out over the cliffs with a 20' dip net. Watched one guy catch two pretty good sized salmon in the span of about 10 minutes. Too bad we don't have a way to get a salmon home. Next stop was at the Houston Visitor's Center where they have the world's largest fly rod on display. The rod weighs 800 lb. and it had a 300 lb test tip. It could theoretically land a 200 lb. steelhead. They also had the famous Houston Grizzly Bear on display. He was 975 lb. and 11 ft. tall bear that lived just a few miles west of Houston and dined on the cattle in the area. He was known as the phantom bear of Hungry Hill. Even though he has a fish in his mouth in the mount he prefered to eat beef. They estimate he was 18-22 years in age. We saw a black bear on the railroad tracks on the way out of town. I decided to drive as far as Burns Lake for the night and see if we couldn't find someplace to spend the night. Connie read about some opal beds that were near a trailhead 8 km from town. We took all the turnoffs along Eagle Road to climb up the road. I decided that a little side road would work for the night. We had a view looking over town from fairly high up. We had supper and went for a walk looking for rocks in a blast pile and along the road. Connie found a few more rocks to haul home in the poor truck. It seems the more rocks we load the better the gas mileage. Last tank was 16.4 mpg. We've averaged 15.2 mpg for the trip so far. We drive to the end of the road in the morning and maybe take the two mile plus hike to the opal beds. Also, I realized that my gps reading of miles to go to get home was in kilometers. It's a lot less in regular miles. In fact we were guessing tonight that if we drove straight home we could be there in 4 or 5 days. We'll see how many distractions there are. We may have to spend some time in Prince George getting truck stuff done and enough groceries to get home. July 20, Monday We drove on to the end of the road and the turnaround. We were the only ones there and probably had been for a while. The signs say they have both agates and opal beds to go visit. Connie was game to make the hike in so we put on the day pack, packed some water and candy bars. We left around 9:30 something and the hike was supposed to take 70 minutes in which it did. Lush green vegetation covered the trail waist to shoulder high in a couple of places. One place you just walked by braille. There was a fork in the trail that had Agates one way and Opal Beds the other way. We walked down through the creek bottom and climbed up on the ridge finally to the beds. There was just a bunch of ugly rocks laying around with some dug out places. I picked a new untouched area and started digging with a stick. I found some tiny pieces of white material that might be opal or agate or quartz. With my leatherman and the stick we started finding more finds. Our bare hands were already getting sore from digging and I said next time we go mining we need to bring tools. I intended on bringing a hammer but forgot it at the truck. Finally, I was finding a lot of fractured pieces and uncovered a large smooth area of what we believe was opal. Kind of the mother lode. I was fastened to solid rock. I pried and pried with the leatherman and dug with the stick. I dug around the big rock for probably an hour and was getting pretty tired of this caveman style digging. I'm definitely not used to this without at least some gloves. Eventually, I broke a small piece off of the large rock. It was still mostly waste rock. We beat on the big rock to break off some of the showing opal but it was too hard. We broke a lot of smaller rocks trying to do this. Finally, I could see that no matter what we did we couldn't pack it back to the truck. So we covered it up to make it harder for the next person and piled our loot in a pile to pack out. I broke off some more waste material and it was still really, really heavy. We filled the day pack then improvised a pack out of plastic bags and Connie's denim shirt. I put a stick between the tied up sleeves and packed them both for a while. Then Connie packed the shirt for aways. Finally, I packed both on the final leg to the truck. We were hungary for lunch when we got back at 1:45 PM. After that we were so hot and tired that we decided hot showers were in order. Then a nap sounded good. That pretty much shot our normal routine. Anyway I guess boredom got to us and we decided to drive on to Prince George knowing we would have to stay in a parking lot somewhere. Walmart was close to this end of town so we stopped in there. This was the kind that has the Grocery Shelf. It's not a full fledged grocery store but had milk and the things we needed. We pulled in on the other side next to where the new expansion that was taking place. We figured we'd be out of the way and a lot of other rv's, campers, etc. were parked around the lot. Still some Walmarts don't allow overnight camping. It was noisy but it was a place. July 21, Tuesday We woke up this morning to an 18 wheeler moving in alongside about 10 ft away, getting ready back up, to deliver his load at Walmart. That's what you get when you stay in a Walmart parking lot. Interesting was the number of campers, rv's, motorhomes that stayed overnight in the lot, especially which a Prince George city notice was posted all around the parking lot prohibiting overnight camping. It worked for a place to stay. At least I didn't have to drive through the main part of town until today. It was congested and hectic just going through this part of town. We got out of town fairly early and headed to Quesnel. What a booming little town. It had 5 sawmills and lots of activity. By accident we turned around in a park square that had an RV dump and water to fill the tank. What a great town. We stopped at the visitor's center before it opened and walked around looking at the large flower bed in front. There was part of a museum opened to the outside that I could look at and take pictures of. It showed how they would cable sling a load of logs across the river to the mill. It was called a skyline. We used their WiFi hotspot to read and send a couple of e-mails. When it opened we went inside to the gift shop. When the gal asked if she could help us, I said I was looking for a place to get the oil changed on my truck. She said a Quick Lube opened up a few weeks ago and told us how to get there. Good to get that taken care of. Then we headed along the Fraser River to the next town Williams Lake. The visitors center has a massive structure built of logs. The centerpiece log is a 52' cedar tree. They had a comical display of a little car stacked to the ceiling with gear. We drove downtown to look for jade beads but did not find any. We put some miles on and found diesel at the town of100 Mile House. It was $0.929 per liter. We stopped at a Heritage site of the 108 Mile Ranch, which was also at a rest area. We tried to take a snooze but it was too hot. We wanted to make Cache Creek before closing time but that didn't work. So we headed to a Provincial Park Campground that said it had beautiful view of Green Lake. It was supposed to be just 11 km off the main road. That got us to the sign that said where all the campgrounds were. The were three campground and numerous day areas. It looked like the biggest site was on the other side of the lake. We figured it would be relatively empty on a Tuesday night that far off the beaten path. But we were wrong. There were two sites left out of 64. But it was flat and we were here so we decided to stay. Uh, did I say there was no view of the lake. It is a pretty green. I set up the computer outside tonight to take advantage of the hot weather. This will start breaking us in for the July heat at home. I sent in my e-mails that we may be to Eddie and Ann's in Spokane in a few days and then maybe to home from here in 4 or 5 days, depending on how many distractions we find. The name of this campground is Sunset View so we headed down to the lake to see if it was true. Took some pictures of the sunset and a small boat going across the lake. July 22, Wednesday Seemed like it took a long time to finally get to Cache Creek. I don't think there was a single sign that named the town. We drove through and finally turned around and went back to find the store we were looking for. Last place for Canadian stuff.They had a lot of the BC Jade and other good stuff. Bought a couple of raw pieces to play with when we get home. Next stop was Logan Lake to see the unique visitor's center. It was inside an old mining shovel and done up quite nicely. I got to go to the drivers seat and see his perspective when scouping up the ore. They had a 235 ton haul truck next to that. We took a picture of us against that thing.Next stop was Merritt, BC. The Country Capital of Canada. They had a walk of the stars that we walked down and took pictures of the country stars signs. On each sign was their handprint, a photo of them, and an engraved saying from each one. There were murals on some of the buildings. We visited the visitors center and they gave us water and lemonade. I asked where all these country stars performed when they came to town. She showed me a place outside of town on both sides of the river. She said it is filled with a thousand rv's when they have a concert. I guess Kenny Chesney is performing or has performed in Merritt. The drive out of town was a divided highway that was probably the most expensive highway project in all of BC. It had a super easy grade over a 5400' pass and every curve was very well designed. The right-of-way fence was somewhere around 8' high and treated green posts every l0' for probably 50 miles. It has a wire mesh fence and went up and over every hill/rock outcrop. The posts had to be ll' to l2' long. That took a lot of trees. It ended before the junction of 97. Along the way we could see the Kelowna fire kicking up again with all this heat. You could see the helicopters dipping water out of the Okanaga Lake. The RCMP were warning traffic going north about the fire and possible road closures. One of the reasons we chose the middle route was to make sure we could get through because we had heard about the fires closing the road. We made it through the Okanaga Valley and along the lake. What a congested area and the number of rv's parked in parks 3' apart was astounding. I never seen anything like that. I doubt I will every go back there again. That was a zoo. We decided to go through customs back into the US and get that out of the way. This time they wanted to check the serial number on the gun to make sure it matched the one on paper. I never had them physically check the gun the whole trip through a half a dozen border crossings. Strange that they would do this to someone trying to get back into his own country. They had me pull forward and wait. Another customs guy came and took my keys. He made sure there was none in the ignition. He asked me where the gun was and proceeded to unlock the back and physically climb onto the bed where I had the shotgun. After a while he got down off the bed and brought me the keys and passports back to me at the cab. He said he left it unlocked and told me to lock it up myself, then left. Something about the whole thing that didn't see right. I could see that going into Canada, but not coming back into the US. Oh, well, we're back in the states. We saw a sign to a recreation site with boat launches and traveled many miles to get to a lake and then another lake. Finally we saw another rv down by some trees and decided to check that out for the night. I was tired of driving. We found a spot but not in the shade yet. Our thermometer says about 96 degrees outside. We are definitly not used to the heat. Sounds like were heading for more heat in the next few days. July 23, Thursday We left the lake and it was cooler in the morning. I was still amazed at how many orchards and vineyards are growing in this area. Our route back took us through Republic, WA which is where Sara Johnson grew up. It was all mining and logging, but a very well kept town. It still was keeping with its old town look. I could see why Sara was comfortable in Salmon. After climbing over Sherman Pass, about 5500 ft elevation, we dropped into the Sherman Creek drainage. We stopped at a Log Flume Area. They had preserved a couple of sections of the flumes used to float the logs down to the Columbia River. The dry flume was just a ditch carved out of the hillside and the wet flume was a v-shaped wooden structure. They would open the headgate and float the logs down the flume. We met some people from Ontario, Canada who were traveling in a car. Some of the motel rooms around the Baniff area were going for $195+ a night. Guess that makes this price of diesel fuel look better. We stopped at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Colville, WA for lunch and we were fascinated with the logging operation across the street. A big white loading crane on rails was loading and unloading logs from trucks and the various piles. It would dump logs into a bin that would size and feed the logs to a conveyor belt. He would pick up so piles of logs with the giant tongs that would probably be the size of the loads of three or four logging trucks combined. He moved back and forth across the yard very quickly. We called Eddie and Ann and told them it would be sometime early afternoon we would be at their place in Chattaroy, WA. We arrived at their place sometime after 2 PM and had a great visit catching up on the past. They have around 10 Acres and its all grass, flowers, and garden. It would be an incredible amount of work to keep up but that's what they enjoy doing. They have his and hers tractors to mow the lawn and pasture. I think I heard it takes around 10 hours mow both. They fed us beer, wine, and dinner. They insisted on fixing us breakfast the next morning. July 24, Friday I was up and around pretty early wanting to get an early start to go home. They fixed us breakfast and told us how to go on the west side of Spokane to avoid the downtown hassle of getting on the freeway. We went on Country Home until it turned to Ash. Ash goes all the way to the freeway and the next exit goes south towards Pullman. It was pretty slick. We had fueled up at a Fred Meyer with a $.10 per gal discount. Some of the cheapest fuel of the trip. I figured we could make it all the way home from there. Nothing to stop for when you headed straight home. We had called Jamey on the way in and they were going out to dinner for their anniversary. Said he would bring Brooks by some time this weekend. We arrived home and everything seem to have survived. It was good to sleep in soft sheets (not flannel) and take a roomy shower. Mike, our housesitter, was off on a trip and wasn't here. We expect him to be back after the weekend. I pulled up the mileage on the truck and we had gone 8,543 miles on this grand adventure to Alaska. I thanked Connie for sharing this grand adventure with me. We got to see a lot of Alaska mountains, glaciers, and wildlife, but I don't think I want to drive that far the next time. I'll figure out a different way to show the grandkids Alaska. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this trip now was that I was in good enough health that I enjoyed the driving that much every day and my eyesite was still good enough shape to safely do this. That might not be the case in another 10 years. I will miss our everyday theme song, "On The Road Again". Now I better get to organizing pictures and cutting all the rocks we brought home.