ONE MONTH IN A BEAR

By Dale Wendel

 

August 16, 1991

 

The golden brown hills of drought-plagued California are a strange

prelude to the glaciers and greenery of the Yukon. Jodie and I are

at long last on our way to Alaska in our motor home, Bear. (For

reasons lost in family mythology, all of our vehicles are named.

Bear's predecessor, for example, was another fine Lazy Daze motor

coach named Knute.)

 

Interstate 5 is a boring thread that leads up the central valley of

California. After a belated 2:30 pm departure from Hawthorne, I5

leads us to the artificial community of Santa Nella for our first

night's stop. Since I5 didn't follow any established highways,

there were no existing towns along its path. Santa Nella consists

of gas stations, motels, and fast food places. There is also a

large commercial trailer park with attached campground. This is

where we spent the first night.

 

After the heat of the day, the evening was delightfully cool with

a strong wind coming down from the hills that separate the valley

from the coast.

 

August 17

 

Today I5 leads us out of the central valley to the "green" of

Oregon. California's drought has also reached Oregon, although the

freeway interchanges are still green, due to irrigation.

 

The boredom of I5 may be relieved in many ways. One is to listen

to the truckers conversations on the CB. Topics include, their

trucks, the "seat-covers" on cars passing them, their trucks,

wives, love lives, how terrible the four wheelers (ordinary people

in four-wheeled cars) are, how bad RVs are, and, most importantly,

where Smokey is.

 

After a great deal of difficulty, we found our second night's

camping spot near Cottage Grove. We are in Schwarz campground,

just below the dam of Dorena Lake. The Corps of Engineers is

allowing us to spend the night. Since this is the weekend there

are many families with many kids sharing the park with us.

 

August 18

 

Finally through the horrendous traffic of Olympia, Tacoma, and

Seattle. Almost solid traffic up to the border. But, at last, we

are at the effective start of the trip! It took almost an hour to

get across the border, since there were many Canadians returning on

this Sunday afternoon, all with full gas tanks. The little town on

the US side of the border seems to be mostly service stations,

especially close to the border. The Canadians are all too well

aware of the price of gas in their country. We soon would be.

 

Our plan to spend the night at the first convenient provincial park

was thwarted since it was full. Rather than relaxing with a Scotch

and soda, we drove on through the spectacular Thompson River canyon

until almost 8 pm when we found lovely, nearly empty Skihist

Provincial Park.

 

We have been surprised by the heat, but learned that the town of

Laytton is known as the warmest place in Canada.

 

Our guide for this trip is MILEPOST. This is an annual publication

that provides detailed descriptions of all the major routes,

including the west approach route that we are taking. Everything

is keyed to exact milage from the ends of each route. Identified

are rest stops, campgrounds, commercial establishments, and scenic

features.

 

August 19

 

Today was much better. As befitting the "first day of the trip" we

had a rather leisurely departure of 9:30 after a hike along the old

wagon trail. This was a freight route to one of the 19th century

gold camps. Over the last two and a half days we made 1500 miles;

today we did 257, or whatever the equivalent number of kilometers

is.

 

Speaking of kilometers; being Canada, everything is metric. The

speed limits are stated in kilometer/hour, the distances are in

kilometers. I am becoming adept in multiplying by .6 which is the

number of miles in a kilometer. Culture shock is watching the

gasoline pump indicate 99 somethings when filling up, although this

proves to be only 25 gallons upon later conversion. There is,

however, no recovery from the price of $55 Canadian.

 

Some minor irritations: the Dometic refrigerator continues to fail

when running on propane. I took it to the repair place twice

before we left to get the problem fixed but it is not.

 

The Chevrolet cruise control continues to fail. It has been in for

repair at least three times. Since the mechanics can't duplicate

the failure and since they cannot accept my observation that it

fails repeatedly they never attempt to fix it.

 

We are camping tonight at Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park. Befitting

our now being on vacation we stopped at 3 this afternoon and had a

nice walk followed by a delightful shower in Bear. We must average

249 miles each day to reach Valdez by next Tuesday morning to catch

the ferry.

 

This part of BC is pleasant, green, rolling, and covered with many

ponds and lakes. This may account for the number of boats seen on

campers. We feel out of place without a boat on the motor home.

 

The roads are good, straight where the terrain allows, and provided

with generous passing lanes mostly on hills.

 

August 20

 

Tonight we are at Seeley Lake, another Provincial Park. We left

the Western Approach and traveled along the Yellowhead Highway

today. The name "Yellowhead" comes from a blond, French voyager

who trapped here when the white men first entered the area. The

road wasn't quite as good as we have experienced so far. Rougher,

in poorer repair, and with few passing lanes. There is a lot of

repair and replacement going on.

 

One interesting thing that we saw was an asphalt recycling machine.

This assembly of stuff is moving steadily down the highway,

gobbling up the old road, reprocessing it, and putting down new

road as it goes.

 

All parks we have been in so far in BC have had ample supplies of

free firewood. This leads to consumption. Even on the very warm

days of the trip we have seen people start their campfire as soon

as they are in their site, and keep it going all the time, even

people in campers who are cooking inside.

 

Speaking of temperature; the last two days have been cool. Last

night we had showers and today we had light rain a lot of the time.

Tonight is showery.

 

I installed a hardware cloth screen on the front of the motor home

covering the headlights and the radiator in anticipation of the

gravel coming up. This screen has collected quite a number of bugs

so far. As soon as we stop, the local hornets begin eating the

fresh "meat" out of the screen. They seem to be keeping it well

cleaned out.

 

This is our fifth trip to AK-land. The first was a cruise up the

inland passage to Skagway, then the Yukon & White Pass train to

Whitehorse, bus to Dawson City and Fairbanks, train to Dinali and

Anchorage, and plane home. The second was via Alaska State Ferry

to various cities culminating in a hike of the Chilcoot Trail out

of Skagway. The third was by air to Barrow and points south, then

back home. The fourth was last Thanksgiving to see what winter is

like (cold!) We took the ferry to Haines, then flew to Anchorage

for a visit, and then flew home.

 

So far we have encountered three different people whom have driven

the Cassiar. They universally say they will never do it again. It

was the roughest road they have ever taken. Usually people

complain of dust. Since it is raining the Cassiar is muddy so they

complain of the mud. We are beginning to doubt our decision to

take the more beautiful Cassiar. Oh well, tomorrow the dread

Cassiar.

 

8-21

 

The dread Cassiar was a pussy cat!

 

The transition from "getting there" to vacation travel continued.

Today brought the first glaciers. In spite of all the tales of

horror, the road was pretty good. The first part to the Stewart

junction and into Stewart was quite good.

 

The side trip to Stewart was by far the most scenic of the trip,

even though the rain brought low clouds with it. The scenic vistas

weren't there, or at least they were hidden behind clouds. We went

back to the US today, just to mail a letter. Hyder is a small town

in Alaska accessible only by road from Stewart, BC, or by Alaska

State Ferry twice a week. It is so oriented to BC that they don't

have US currency there. There is, however, a US Post Office which

we used to mail a letter without having to buy Canadian stamps.

 

We are in a private campground tonight, called High Watermark. It

lies at the end of Tatogga Lake. We have reached the end of the

gravel although there is supposed to be some more construction yet

to come.

 

The owners' son taught us about "loonies" when we paid for the camp

site. These are Canadian $1 coins that feature Queen Elizabeth II

on the face. Is this some kind of slap at the Crown, calling the

coins "Loonies?" Not really. There is a nice rendering of a loon

on the obverse.

 

This is the first camp we have encountered since entering Canada

that has a telephone. I finally was able to access the Phonemate.

It told me that it had 11 messages but then jammed or failed when

it tried to replay them. Phonemate's already low quality level

seems to have now reached abysmal levels.

 

8-22

 

MILEPOST erred. There was a lot more gravel and very little

further construction before we reached the Alcan. (Actually it

isn't the Alcan anymore, just the Alaskan Highway.) The further

north we go the poorer the road. Even the paved parts are rough.

 

Bear had at least a quarter inch of mud solidly covering the back.

The sides and underneath also have a liberal coating. We bought

gas at the junction with the Alcan at a station that has a free

Sani Station. Actually you just go into their campground and use

any site. I had to hose off the dump fittings so I hosed off the

back at the same time. It is by no means clean but we can see out

of the back door a bit.

 

In summary, the Cassiar was not as bad as we thought it could be,

even before we talked to the people. It didn't seem like we drove

the same road that they did. It had rough spots but it had

gorgeous mountains, lakes, and streams. I would have no problem

taking it again.

 

We are in a Yukon Territory campground along the Rancheria river,

named, strangely enough, the Rancheria Campground. There is a

commercial campground right next door. There is only a very small

sign indicating the entrance to this camp and a rather large,

misleading sign going into the commercial place.

 

This is one of the older style Canadian campgrounds. There is a

covered cooking area with wood stove. This is for communal use of

the campers who don't carry their shell on their backs like we do.

Since the scattered showers continue I think the place will be

used. In fact, a couple just drove up and are preparing supper

right now.

 

Oh, one other excitement. After we got parked this afternoon we

went for a walk. The interior of the motor home smelled of propane

upon our return! With memories of the motor home that exploded in

Mexico, I went searching. Eventually found a leaking coupling in

the oven control for the stove. I cannot tighten it enough to stop

the leak but it stops if the oven pilot light is not on. I guess

we could light the leak whenever we want to use the oven.

 

8/23

 

OH, THE TRAFFIC AND CONGESTION! We have come to the "capitol" or

administrative center of the Yukon Territory, Whitehorse. The

streets are crowded and one must wait to make turns and watch for

people in crosswalks. We got here around noon and decided to stay

at the Trail of the '98 RV Park at the North edge of town. We

checked in, hooked up, and set out for town. We were going to walk

but one of the owners' sons gave us a ride.

 

Found a basic veggie restaurant for lunch, consisting of excellent

cheese-cauliflower soup which we augmented with some deep-dish

apple pie ala mode. The pie toping seemed to be granola. Quite

good.

 

We also toured the S.S. Klondike, a restored stern-wheeler that

used to ply the Yukon River between here and Dawson City. The

construction of roads spelled its doom. Now it rests on the river

bank complete with actual, simulated cargo. Very interesting.

 

(Strange how the expenditure of public dollars has destroyed

private enterprise here in the Yukon. The stern-wheelers that

plied the rivers failed after roads were built. The Yukon and

White Pass Railway failed after the road was built into Skagway.)

 

Our intended wander about town and stroll back to the camp was

terminated by very dark clouds and rain. We called the RV park and

they sent someone out to pick us up. I fixed the propane leak with

some teflon tape from the hardware store. It didn't really rain

very much. The very heavy layer of mud that we picked up today

didn't get washed off at all.

 

We both enjoyed a very long, hot shower in the park showers. With

all of the rain and the water all over the place, it was nice to

not feel guilty about standing in a hot shower and just enjoy it.

 

After all the tales of horror about the Cassiar, the worst road was

a repaired section on the Alaskan after Watson Lake. There was one

stretch of pure, gooey mud that heavily coated Bear. The driving

was, for the first time, difficult.

 

8-24

 

Back to the USA! We have crossed over the border into Alaska and

are about 300 miles away from Valdez with two days to get there.

The final 100 miles of roads in Yukon Territory were pretty bad.

It was not safe to exceed 45 and usually 35 was better.

 

The scenery today was probably the best so far. We drove along the

"Icefield Range" which was spectacular even though much of it was

covered by clouds at times. The road takes a long course along the

shore of Lake Kluane. We first stopped at the visitor center for

Kluane National Park in Hanes Junction but couldn't see much (see

"clouds" above.) There is, however, a very good little bakery

right across the street from the visitor center. We picked up our

midmorning snack plus some wiener-filled, freshly baked buns for

lunch.

 

The next visitor center in the park we encountered was Sheep

Mountain on the shores of Lake Kluane. Strangely enough, we saw

sheep on Sheep Mountain. They move down in the fall.

 

Speaking of sheep reminds me; we have seen little wild life on the

trip. In addition to the one with whom I am traveling, I have seen

one other fox, two coyotes, the sheep, a rabbit, and the back half

of something. We have seen quite a number of birds, though.

 

The only irritation today was the surprisingly long wait at the US

border crossing while the border guard hassled two teen-aged girls.

Theirs was the only car in front of us. Although there were three

other inspectors in the office, both they and we sat while the one

working inspector hassled the girls. Eventually they were allowed

to proceed and then we went through in about 30 seconds.

 

My reintroduction to the Indian culture reminded me of Raven, the

trickster. I have realized that the people warning us of the dread

Cassiar highway were simply Raven in one of his many manifesta-

 

tions. He assumed the form of these people to trick and confound

us. Eagle must have been watching since Raven did not succeed.

 

Tonight we are camping on the shores of Deadman Lake in a US Fish

and Wildlife service campground. This is part of the Tetlin

National Wildlife Refuge. Apparently birds are the only wildlife

allowed refuge. Both animal hunting and trapping are allowed here.

 

I think that the name "Deadman" came from the first person to come

here without adequate mosquito protection. There are clouds of

them around Bear. Jodie went out for a brief walk. I don't intend

to set foot outside of the motor home except to pick up the

leveling blocks when we leave tomorrow morning.

 

It is once again raining. I don't think that it will rain hard

enough to clean the mud from Bear. We picked up some very thick,

tenacious mud at a construction project just after we got on the

Alcan Highway. Perhaps we will find a pressure car wash during the

next two days.

 

8-25

 

As we moved on down the road today, the rain stopped. It was

replaced by snow! Someone in a store told us that winter is

supposed to be three weeks early this year. I hope it doesn't

arrive while we are here.

 

Wasn't much scenery to be seen behind all the low clouds. The

road, which was very good after we crossed the border has become

variable with big, shock absorber testing dips (called "frost

heaves") at random intervals. In general they have been a bit

better than in Canada.

 

We are in a commercial "camp" which is actually a salmon-fishing

resort during the season. It is called the Klutina Salmon Charters

and is on the Klutina River. The facilities are rudimentary and

muddy. We did eat at the historic old Copper Center Lodge here in

Copper Center. We were expecting salmon and other fresh fishes on

the menu. It leaned heavily toward steaks and beef. This is

probably due to their clientele which seem to be pipeline repair

people.

 

We have 93 miles to go to make Valdez.

 

8-26

 

The 93 miles to Valdez was more like 122 with all our messing

around. We took the Richardson Highway which, even with all the

low clouds and rain, is the most beautiful of the trip. The road

follows one braided river up to the pass and then another down.

There are glaciers and majestic mountains all over the place. We

walked almost up to the Worthington Glacier. We could have

actually walked on it if we weren't so lazy.

 

 

We turned off on the road that goes the Aleska Marine Terminal on

our way into town. It was supposed to be scenic, and it was. What

wasn't stated anywhere is that there is a large camping area all

along the road. It has a 30 day limit but there seems to be little

other regulation. I believe that it is populated mostly by

fishermen since the inlet is reputed to be a good spot for salmon.

 

Our camping location tonight is not a free one. We chose a

commercial camp in "downtown" Valdez. We want (need) to make our

way to the ferry terminal at 6:30 am tomorrow, we want to stroll

the downtown area, and we want to go to a restaurant tonight

without having to move Bear.

 

Valdez isn't much of a town, but most small Alaskan towns aren't.

Probably as an expression of the Alaskan "spirit", there is little

regulation or control. There is a very nice museum here and the

people we have encountered so far have been friendly. Perhaps I am

looking at Valdez with a jaded eye, based upon the Exxon disaster.

Speaking of that, the museum doesn't try to hide it or play it

down. There is a cartoon posted showing the Exxon clean-up team

swinging in to action after the spill - one little man with a mop

and bucket staring at Prince William Sound.

 

We asked for a restaurant recommendation from a rather large woman,

seemed that she would like to eat well. She told us that the

Westmark Hotel restaurant wasn't good, that the Pipeline Club was

ok but quite smokey. The best place, according to her, was the

Pizza Place. Armed with sketchy directions, we eventually found

that it was right next to our campground. Turns out that the owner

is Greek and the menu features Italian, Greek, and Mexican food.

Our Italian meals were quite good.

 

8-27

 

Today we traveled by ferry and train, and finally drove into

Anchorage. We arose at 6 am to get in line for the ferry departure

at 7:30. The MV Bartlett seemed incredibly small to accommodate

all of the cars are RVs lined up for the passage. We all fit. In

fact, even the standby people got on board.

 

The rain that has accompanied our last week came on the voyage. In

spite of this we had an excellent visit with the Columbia Glacier.

 

We arrived in Whittier and drove directly from the ferry 1 blocks

to the railway yard. The only access to Whittier is by ship,

train, or plane - no roads. It came into existence to serve as a

petroleum and freight port and the southern railway terminus.

We sat for an hour then boarded the flat cars. Eventually the

train departed and took us through the tunnels to Portage. It is

a strange feeling to be traveling along but not have to drive the

vehicle. It could be a nice way to travel.

 

This will be the last of this for the remainder of our visit to

Anchorage. We had an excellent supper tonight at Jans.

 

9-4

 

Today is packing day. Yesterday was Beth's last day of work

although she is back there right now saying good-byes. It has been

an eventful visit! Can I remember it all?

 

We started out last Wednesday by going to the Alaska State Fair in

Palmer. It reminded me of a cross between a PTA carnival and the

Henry County (Iowa) Fair. There were face-painting booths, snow

cone booths, and all sorts of food. The wind became unpleasantly

strong while we were there so we didn't mind leaving after a couple

of hours. Did get to see some of the legendary Matanuska Valley

giant vegetables, though.

 

We came back and looked for the Native Medical Center Gift Shop.

We found it just after it had closed for the day. Our first stop

Thursday was there where we spent too much on beautiful ivory

carvings. The objects for sale there are created by natives and

sold for payment of their medical treatment, perhaps also to make

a little money.

 

Our plan for the day was to hike the trails along Turnigan Arm a

bit to get warmed up for the trip into Crescent Lake. The trails

were all closed because of a bear attack last week. We wandered

around a bit, visited Potter marsh and watched salmon spawn, then

headed for a park. We ate our hike lunch in the car in a parking

lot. An Anchorage cop came by and suggested hiking the costal

trail and told us how to find it. We followed his suggestion and

had a beautiful hike under the approach for the airport. After

days of looking we finally saw a moose, actually two, a mother and

one calf.

 

Friday was the start of the big weekend. We drove to Girdwood and

had breakfast at the Girdwood Bakery, very good. Then we drove on

down the Kenai Peninsula toward Homer. Shortly after the road

forked to Seward we turned off on a dirt road for 4 miles to the

trail head. At 2:30 pm we started up the trail.

 

Our goal was a Forest Service cabin that was 6.5 miles in plus 950

feet of elevation gain. We got there around 6 and found a

beautiful cabin on a splendid lake. These cabins are quite common

around Alaska. Many are accessible by boat or plane only. The

cost is $20 a night. This one had sleeping room for 6 or 4, a

terrific little cast iron stove, storage shelves, a table and

benches, a splitting maul, saws, brooms, cut dry wood. It was

tight, in excellent condition, and bug proof.

 

We had a special treat. The Northern Lights put in an appearance.

This was the first time that either Jodie or I had seen them.

 

We hiked out the next morning, leaving just after a float plane

landed on the lake to deposit some campers. I felt guilty when we

rode the San Jacinto Tram to within a few miles of the camp ground.

How would I feel being flown into a lake with a cabin? (Great!)

Our lunch stop was a bridge about half way out with a gorgeous view

in any direction. All in all, the hike wasn't too difficult for

the two older hikers and it was beautiful. After not backpacking

since 1989 it was nice to get back into it - especially after my

adventure with the balloon last May. (I'm sure my two companions

didn't worry at all about me on the trip.)

 

After reaching the motor home we drove on toward Homer, the "end of

the road." Since it was Saturday of the Labor Day weekend we

anticipated that the camping areas in Homer, although not nice,

would be full. So we stopped at Stariski Creek campground, about

20 miles out. It started raining so we didn't get out much. The

view of the volcanos, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna, was obscured by

the rain.

 

We breakfasted at the Express Sourdough Bakery in Homer. The place

started as a portable bakery in an old delivery van. The owners

worked their way to Alaska selling bread they baked in the van, out

of the back of the van. The van now resides in a place of honor in

the front of the parking lot.

 

One of our indulgences or interests while traveling is grocery

stores. Since little else was open, we spent most of our free time

after breakfast going through the Eagle store. In addition to the

usual stuff they had souvenirs. Soon it was time to board the

ferry to Soldovia. The small boat harbor is located on The Spit,

a narrow finger of land that is several miles long pointing out

into Kachemak Bay. It is probably similar to the barrier islands

on the east coast. Contained upon it are souvenir shops, a city

campground, souvenir shops, snack shops, restaurants, souvenir

shops, charter operations, and smack-dab on the end a hotel and

private campground.

 

The ferry was more than a ride, it was a scenic tour narrated by

the captain who had lived in the area for 44 years. After an hour

or so we arrived in Soldovia. Anne McKenzie's Boardwalk Hotel was

about a block from the dock, right on the harbor. It is a modern,

clean hotel. She encourages her guests to leave their shoes at the

door.

 

The town is rather small and with the depressed market for salmon

getting smaller. We hiked a trail that started behind the high

school and that was built by the students. It lead through the

dense woods to a beach, then around a point, across a tidal inlet,

ending on another road.

 

Our scenic ferry ride over was such a pleasure that I was expecting

the airplane ride back to be anticlimactic. Far from it! We flew

in a small Cessna never higher that 1,000 feet, except when we

skimmed over a pass. We flew up the coastline over many bays and

inlets, up over the pass, where we saw a female moose, and finally

up over a glacier. The pilot turned near the top then skimmed

down. I felt like I was on a sled. Then it was back to Homer and

lunch at the Express Bakery.

 

Upon the arrival of Labor Day, the shops close, the restaurants go

on reduced hours, and process of rolling up the sidewalks for the

winter begins.

 

After a brief go at the few souvenir shops remaining open it was

back up the road to the trail head where Beth picked up her car and

went on back to Anchorage. We turned south for Seward. While in

Homer, I made reservations for a Kenai Fjords cruise for the next

day.

 

Since the silver salmon are currently running, the bay in Seward

was lined and covered with ardent fishermen. I say ardent because

it was cool and cloudy and no one was catching any fish. We parked

in a city campground along the bay and watched them until it was

dark. In that time we saw one fisherman get lucky.

 

The rain started during the night. When we reported in for our

cruise at 7 am we found that the all-day cruises were canceled

because of high winds and waves out in the ocean, so we took the

half-day cruise which stays in more sheltered waters. It was ok

but limited because of the fog, clouds, and rain. The best part

was that we saw many puffins.

 

9-5

 

Now the packing is almost complete. We pack Beth's car today and

go pick up the tow dolly. Then its off to Big D.

 

9-6

 

We pointed our noses south to escape the approach of Old Man

Winter. (In truth, we pointed our noses north-east; the way south

from Anchorage goes up around the Wrangle mountains. We must go up

to Tok before we head south.)

 

In the approximate week and a half since we passed through here

Fall has arrived. Even in the gray rain clouds the intensity of

the colors almost hurts the eyes. Most of the trees and plants

have turned yellow. Interspersed are the still-green fir trees and

some occasional reds.

 

We departed Anchorage around 11:30 with Dorian (Beth's car)

trailing along behind, Walter driving. My concerns about towing

the car on a dolly have been mostly allayed. You can certainly

tell that the added weight is there, both going up hill and in

braking. Our first mileage with the tow was around 9 mpg.

 

Tonight we are camped at the Eagle Trail State Park. It is, of

course, raining. Here the yellowed leaves are falling. People say

that winter will be three weeks early here. Good to be heading

south.

 

9-9

 

We have regained early fall. In actual fact, we pointed south when

we reached Tok two days ago. Since then we have headed south-east

until today when we headed boldly south. At Eagle Trail the leaves

were falling. We drove south and rejoined the birds that had left

Alaska; the leaves are just beginning to turn, and certainly not

falling from the trees. We stayed, again, at Trail of 98 camp-

 

ground in Whitehorse.

 

I believe that there is some bad publicity about the Cassiar. The

construction projects on either side of Watson Lake, plus the

general quality of the road for a long way "south" of Watson Lake

is very poor. Perhaps the Cassiar has poor road longer but the

famed Alaska Highway isn't especially good.

 

We stayed at Muncho Lake provincial park last night. Two moose

were feeding as we drove into camp. I succeeded, sort of, in

backing the tow dolly and Dorian with just a slight curve.

 

The next morning we drove though incredibly beautiful mountains.

Driving down the road we first encountered stone sheep, then a

mother and two yearling caribou eating salt off of the road. About

a mile further on we encountered a bull and his harem eating salt

from a gravel pit. There must have been 20 caribou.

 

As we continued south we rejoined civilization. We left the

Alaskan Highway and are now on the Hudson's Hope Loop. We did this

to pass through the Jasper/Banff National Parks.

 

Now we have farms and towns and radio stations - and traffic.

After trying a dead-end free park and experiencing the joys of

backing up this affair in a tight space, we opted for a commercial

camp, Harv's, beside a lake. We are the only people here. We are

parked on grass right next to the lake, a very pleasant location.

It is sufficiently bug-free that we enjoyed cocktails at our picnic

table by the lake.

 

9-10

 

As the day progressed the land became more cultivated, seems like

we are getting down on the flats. Went to a grocery store in

Chetwynd and bought fresh doughnuts for breakfast. A lot of

driving brought us to very spectacular Mt. Robson Provincial park.

We buzzed on through to get to Jasper. We encountered a line at

the campground entrance. We forgot that the public employees are

on strike and that only one campground is open in the park. They

had no provision for pull-throughs so we headed back to Mt. Robson

and stayed in an almost empty camp, Lucern. I again had to back

into a site but we found one with straight alignment with the road

so there was no problem.

 

9-11

 

Back to and down thru Jasper and Banff National parks. The scenery

is spectacular; massive, soaring, contorted mountains and a lot of

receding glaciers. Of course, all park facilities are closed. We

got into another dead end road because of this today. With some

effort we were able to get this affair turned around.

 

While driving south through the park we found a traffic jam on the

road, actually a bear jam. A large grizzly was strolling down the

river valley adjacent to the road. He occasionally stopped to dig

for food. Eventually he came to a branch of the river. he stopped

to bathe, then proceeded on down the valley. The traffic jam

flowed down the road with him.

 

I actually got to see Lake Louise today. Twenty years ago when we

were here there was so much fog that all I saw was the shore. The

scene around the Chalet at the lake is almost better to watch than

the natural scene. The area is packed with tour groups, German,

Japanese, and American (US and Canadian.) Everyone seems to be

taking pictures in all directions, many using video cameras. These

people must narrate their pictures which leads to scenes of people

apparently talking to themselves. The manner of dress varies from

formal, coats, ties, dresses, to shorts and tee shirts.

 

Our first and only night in Alberta is being spent in Bow Valley

Provincial park. We found pull-throughs! It is wooded. The sites

are nicely isolated. There are showers and a dump station.

 

We left or lost a treasured friend today. We have reached the end

of MILEPOST'S coverage. It was very useful and quite accurate.

Even though we are back in more populated areas we miss its help.

 

9-12

 

What does one do with showers and a dump station? One dumps and

showers. While Beth went off on her regular morning run, Jodie and

I dumped the two holding tanks and then met Beth at the showers.

After another delightful, long, hot shower, we headed toward the

border.

 

The standard approach at the border is for the inspector to be

stern and unfriendly. When he found out that Beth was from Alaska

he asked if she had any taxidermy items. With that resolved, we

headed toward the first US gas station, driving on fumes.

 

Tonight we are in Douglas, MT in the Jackalope Good Sam RV Park.

 

9-13

 

Beth ran and showered, we dumped the grey water, then down the long

dull road to Denver. We arrived around 2:30 pm.

 

9-18

 

We've been home for a day now. Most of the first class mail has

been opened. Bear is almost cleaned out, but not cleaned. The tax

clients have been called.

 

Our trip was 8,805 miles. All of my worries were groundless. The

Cassier and all of the other roads weren't nearly as bad as

represented. They certainly aren't interstates but they are well

maintained and usable.

 

The tow dolly with car caused no problems, other than being quite

difficulty to back up, but not impossible. One must be patient

when going up hills and cautions in breaking. Its overall impact

on fuel economy seemed to be around 1%.

 

It was a great trip! Our lust for Alaska and the Yukon has not

been satisfied. I hope it never is.