Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Haines To Skagway Via Whitehorse

It was a chilly morning in Haines, Alaska on Monday, August 25 when we pulled out of that expensive RV park—we found Haines to be incredibly expensive, more so than some of the other southeast Alaska towns we visited reachable only by ferry.  Fuel purchased in Juneau cost us $3.62/gallon—Juneau can only be reached by ferry or by air.  In Haines fuel was over $5/gallon!  I paid more for a twelve pack of beer than I’ve ever paid for a CASE!!  Four small sacks of groceries cost me $91 in Haines!  The RV park charged $3/load in their laundromat and it was about $3 to dry if your clothes were really dry.  The RV park was beautiful with green grass and immaculate bathrooms but it and Haines left us with a “I’ve been ripped off” sensation. 

Forty miles after leaving Haines we crossed the Canadian border into British Columbia and shortly thereafter, we crossed into the Yukon Territories.  The landscape changed from coastal wetness to a touch drier, mountainous one.  None of the four of us had ever been in the Yukon so we were seeing new country all day.

  IMG_1053IMG_1055Helping Dad drive.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada is a town where the majority of the territory population resides—24,000 people.  So, not many people in all that open country!  But it sure was beautiful.

IMG_1056IMG_1058

IMG_1062IMG_1064Oh no!!  The dreaded “traveling to Alaska” construction—that pretty red Dodge pickup traveling with us is gonna get dirty—oh, no!!

We camped for the night just south of Whitehorse in a territorial park beside a little creek—quiet and dark, just how we like it.  Larry and Geri’s friend Eugene arrived in Haines right before we pulled out bearing a gift—fresh halibut and salmon!!  Monday night I cooked the halibut along with some potatoes and baked beans.  Poor Geri is still feeling under the weather but today thought she might be turning the corner. 

On to Skagway this morning—we traveled through some of the most beautiful country and some of the strangest landscape.  In the higher elevations the landscape was strange—rocks and very stunted, odd little trees—it’s called Tormented Valley.  The trees are small twisted alpine firs and are shaped by a combination of heavy snow burying their lower branches and icy winds sculpting their upper branches.  This area receives 24 feet of snow in winter!!!!  Lakes, waterfalls, and strong winds along with rain—not great for taking photos.  Maybe when we start out of Skagway the weather will be more photo friendly.

IMG_1066IMG_1075Our Milepost book states, “the world’s smallest desert and an International Biophysical Programme site for ecological studies.  The desert is composed of sandy lake-bottom material left behind by a large glacial lake.”

IMG_1080IMG_1083In Carcross, Geri decided she wanted to ride the White Pass/Yukon Railroad to Skagway—we waved goodbye and promised to find her in Skagway! Winking smileWe had a bite to eat in Carcross after Geri left and continued our journey.

IMG_1084

IMG_1094Just outside Skagway we once again crossed back into the US.  On arrival in Skagway, guess what we saw—cruise ships, four of them!!  The Milepost states over one million tourist per year visit Skagway via these cruise ships.  YIKES!  We still managed to do some walking around—I found the quilt shop—imagine that!!

IMG_1100The RV parks in Skagway receive less than stellar reviews and are hideously expensive, $50/night for a dumpy looking place.  We really wanted to stay in Skagway so we could walk and see the sights—so, we found a parking lot with no signs prohibiting overnight parking and are tucked into a back corner—we will see what happens!

UPDATE:  Our parking lot stay was without incident—none of us slept well until later in the night—we were waiting for that knock on the door which never came. Smile

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Juneau To Haines

We experienced something highly unusual during the last four days of our southeast Alaska visit—sunshine!  Four days of blue skies, white fluffy clouds and sunshine!  Our ferry ride on Saturday, August 23 was spectacular!

IMG_0973If they don’t like the looks of our rig do we just continue out the opposite side!!!!!IMG_0977We nicknamed this glacier Racktrack Glacier.

IMG_0984IMG_0990IMG_0995Nina, here’s one for you and Paul.  This is the oldest original Alaskan lighthouse building and the only remaining octagonal frame lighthouse built between 1902 and 1905.  The Eldred Lighthouse appeared to be in some state of construction—equipment and recently disturbed ground—let’s hope so!  If you click on the above link you will be taken to a “lighthouse friends” website with some interesting information about the lighthouse.

IMG_1001IMG_1006

IMG_1015IMG_1019

We arrived in Haines about 11:30am and were met by a friend of Larry and Geri’s who spends summers in Haines, Alaska.  Dan led us to our campground and called another of Larry and Geri’s, Eugene, who met us at the campground for a gab fest around the picnic table in the sunshine. 

Poor Geri has caught a bug:

IMG_1046She’s trying to keep the rest of us from getting sick!

Last night after a dinner of grilled sausage we loaded up the rigs and headed out to Chilkat State Park in hopes of seeing some bear feeding on the salmon—no bears but we did get to see this young woman bring in her salmon!

IMG_1034

IMG_1024IMG_1033

Sunshine is over, we woke to rain this morning and maybe that’s what has caused us to be total bums today!  I did some laundry and enjoyed a long, long hot shower in the campground bathrooms but that’s about the extent of our day.  Larry and Geri got out and took a drive but we just stayed tucked inside our little cocoon!!  One disadvantage to truck campers we have discovered—in order to go to the grocery store or anywhere else you have to pull up stakes and take your home with you! 

But, I needed groceries so off we went this afternoon—I’m making chicken noodle soup for supper for Geri and the rest of us.  Plus some sort of peach dessert if I can manage it in this tiny kitchen! Smile

Tomorrow we will leave Haines and head out—I don’t know how much internet service we will have across the Yukon, etc. so expect blogs when you see them!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Juneau

We were in Juneau from Wednesday, August 20, until Saturday morning, August 23.  I think all four of us have decided we could have given Juneau a pass and we did cut our visit short by one day.  The airlines could take lessons in customer service from Alaska Marine Highways.  Oh, you want to change your reservation, “no problem,”  oh, you want to cancel a portion of it, “no problem, we will charge you a percentage based cancel fee ($21!) and refund you the remainder!” 

Juneau is in a beautiful setting but there are way, way too many tourists for our comfort levels!  The Mendenhall Glacier run by the USFS was a nightmare—tourists everywhere, rude, obnoxious tourists everywhere!  I almost came to blows with some nitwit who was allowing his brats to kick gravel at Emmi scaring her to death.  The one mile path out to Nugget Falls—a stupendous waterfall which comes from the head of the glacier (I think), was as if we were on a racetrack—people dashing past us as if they had to reach the falls before any one of the other 500 people ahead of us did!  On coming people walking three to four abreast would not yield to allow you to pass—it was a nightmare!!  There was absolutely no parking, a less than helpful park ranger told me to park on the side of the road.  YUCK to the whole experience!

IMG_0863Mendenhall Glacier from the campground, we should have been happy with that view.IMG_0872

IMG_0898

Mendenhall Campground run by the USFS on the other hand was a delight—very few people in the park this time of year, quiet, dark—perfect!

After our glacier disaster we were in need of a little peace and decided to visit the Shrine of St. Therese, built in the late 1930’s.  There is a chapel along with Stations of the Cross, a labyrinth and

IMG_0905

other structures in a beautiful setting right by the ocean.  Very quiet and restful!

Friday we braved public transportation—bus riding doesn’t happen in Montana or Custer, SD—we parked at the Nugget Mall and hopped aboard a bus heading to downtown Juneau having read that parking was non-existent unless you were driving a small car.  IMG_0918There were four cruise ships in port when we arrived but all the other tourists must have been off sightseeing on the float planes or off to Mendenhall Glacier—downtown was not the zoo we expected. 

We toured the Alaska State Capitol—we were the only people on the tour and a delightful young man named Matt escorted us.

IMG_0949Alaska is a big state!!IMG_0954And we had a delightful lunch at the Flight Deck watching all the float planes take off with the cruise ship folks.  Those cruise ships are incredibly huge—floating cities I do believe!

IMG_0924IMG_0929

IMG_0955

We tried to visit the Greek Orthodox church, a tiny structure established in 1894 but it was closed.  IMG_0948

We once again braved the bus and headed back out to our campground.  Geri and Michael had called the Alaska Marine Highway System while I was in Office Depot having some documents printed and scanned.  Larry and Geri while out walking Friday morning had talked to a “local” who told them not to ride the ferry from Haines to Skagway—drive instead, she told them it was one of the most beautiful drives in the world.  So—we left Juneau a day early and rode the ferry to Haines, Alaska today, Saturday, August 23.  Our last ferry ride was spectacular!

Petersburg to Juneau Via The Fog

Our ferry was about two hours late leaving by the time it appeared out of the fog and we were loaded.  We all speculated as to how often this happens in southeast Alaska—a lot we would bet!!  The fog was entirely gone when we left Petersburg but the ship entered another fog bank not too long after our departure—we traveled in heavy fog for over a hour, lessening our chances of seeing whales.

IMG_0763IMG_0766

But see whales we did!!!  Most were at some distance from the ferry but with binoculars we were able to see lots of blowing, backs rolling out of the water and tails rising (flukes).  Amazing, stunning, breathtaking—the entire front observation lounge on the ferry was a cacophony of ohhhs and ahhhs!!  Everyone was so helpful—“there’s one at 2 o’clock, there’s one right over by that sun lighted shore line.  No photographs, they were too far away and too quick plus the bright sunshine after the fog was making any photo taking difficult.

 IMG_0772

IMG_0782This isn’t the greatest of shots but shows the fog bank the ship is about to enter—the island looked like a jelly filled doughnut!

IMG_0779

Our cruise from Petersburg to Juneau was eight hours long—way too long for one little black dog to remain alone in the camper on the car deck!!!  And she sure let us know how unhappy she was when we released her from captivity!!!  Now that we know the ferry riding ropes, next time will be different and there most definitely will be a next time!!  There is a “fast ferry” to some ports and there is a fast ferry which runs from Petersburg to Juneau—four hours—much better for Emmi!

IMG_0830IMG_0838

IMG_0840Tent city on the aft deck—Larry and Geri said the entire deck was covered with tents when we first boarded. IMG_0844Just like the cruise ships!

We arrived in Juneau about 7pm and were met by a high school classmate of Larry’s who just happened to be visiting Alaska—they hadn’t seen each other in 40 years!!!  After a little bit of catching up in the ferry parking lot we all headed off to find our campground. 

Imagine this—a quiet, forested, huge, secluded campsite with water and electric hookups—and it is a USFS campground!!!  An added bonus—we can also see Mendenhall Glacier from the campground!!  This is the only USFS campground we have ever run across with full hookup sites—yep, some of the sites even have sewer hookups.  There is also a dump station on site plus heated bathrooms with lots and lots of hot water for showers!!!  We are taking a breather here in Juneau for a few days. 

IMG_0852Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier in the background.

IMG_0853IMG_0846

IMG_0858

Our Millenicom internet isn’t working so well here in Alaska so blogs will post sporadically!