Alaska Trip - Summer of 2006
1. Stuart Florida to Boston area
2. Boston to Montana
3. Montana to Alaska via Cassiar Hwy
4. In Alaska
5. Alaska returning to Florida
After having to cancel our 2005 trip in Minnesota due to joe b. ending up in the local emergency room, and after a week's stay, was told to return home to have surgery to correct the problem, we decided to try again the following year.
Stuart Florida to Boston area
Our route took us north out of Florida on Interstate 95, into South Carolina and I26, which we took NW to Charlotte NC, From there it was onto Interstate 77 to I81. We headed north on I 81 to Binghamton NY. Then east to Albany on I 88 and the to I 90 on east to the Boston area.
June 5, we headed out of Stuart, on our way to the Boston area to see our youngest daughter. We had not been to this area since she transferred there with her engineering job. We planned to spend a week or so there, then on to Montana and north to Alaska. . Interstate 95 was our first route out of south Florida and the first night we stopped at Fort Macalister State park in Georgia. Great place to camp and soak up some history of the battle fought there during the War for Southern Independence. Night 2 found us at the KOA in Wytheville, VA, night 3 at the Western Village RV Park in Carlisle PA, night 4 at the Lake George KOA in upstate NY. Large motorcycle rally was in progress and reservations would have been good this first week of June in this part of NY.
June 9, made it to Maynard, the small town outside of Boston where I daughter lived. Backed the camper into her driveway and made ourselves at home. Used out time till June 13 to see the sights of this area. First trip for my wife and I to this area and we loved it. A history book had come alive is the best description I have for the Boston region. Boston and the surrounding area were pristine and the pride of the residents came through in the care of the homes, yards, businesses, etc. Road my first subway system, the MTA, of song fame. Learned a lot, first the Limelighter song was an actual political protest and second I learned you don't try to carry on a conversation with the person (s) next to you. The subway riders reminded me of a group headed for a funeral, solemn, eyes lowered, quiet but very aware of where they were on the line. Great way to move people, joe b. just needs to learn the "rules" of how to be a proper rider. LOL We visited downtown Boston, then to Salem to Plymouth, hence the rock picture below and the columned building housing it. Much smaller rock than I was expecting. LOL
Boston to Montana
June 14, we headed west, via Vermont and New Hampshire, up to the Canadian border. Loved both of these states and the people. Not used to so many towns/villages that looked like something out of a book. Interesting that NH runs state owned liquor stores at some of their rest stops. Doing a big business with Massachusetts tagged vehicles. Then on north in New Hampshire where we stopped at the Shaker Village. Very interesting religious movement. Then spent time just wandering around this area, ridding the ferry several times across Lake Champlain as we made circles north and south of our intended routes. Camped one night at the Association Island RV Park, an old General Electric retreat being remodeled into camping. Great scenery, somewhat cool in the evening but fun.
Headed to Niagara Falls, stopping at several old light houses along the way. Arrived at Niagara Falls on June 16 and stayed at the KOA in Grand Island, NY. Nice but older campground, very acceptable though. We decided to take a commercial tour of the area rather than using our pickup. Bedore Tours was the recommended group by the campground and were very good. Were in a 12 passenger van with the same driver both days. My wife and I , along with a 5 member family, French speaking, that turned out to actually be French. Sort of, as they had not lived in France for many years as he was a base commander (Bird Colonel) for the French Foreign Legion in Africa and had served there for over 25 years. He was currently assigned as an advisor to the US Army in Kentucky. Very delightful traveling companions for the 2 days. Pat and I had been to Niagara in 1974, the year after we got married. Totally disappointed with the place and all the commercial development on the US side at that time. Much of that had changed, the gas stations had been purchased, torn down, parks built, etc. Plus we had been so disappointed in the US side that we didn't go on over to the Canadian side. The Canadian side is where the view is available, building well laid out, etc. This time our tour spent most of the time on the Canadian side, toured the falls area, the vineyards, the town of Niagara on the Lake, gardens, etc. Great trip this time and well worth a stop.
Since we did have somewhat of a time line, we headed west on June 18. My brother and spouse were meeting us at my sister's ranch in Montana so we needed to get a move on it. Cut across into Canada at Niagara Falls, west through lower Ontario, easy drive and border crossings, into Michigan. Then north to the UP, stopping at Mackinac Island for a day, north to the Su Locks, and west across the UP to Duluth Minnesota .
Stayed on Highway 2 for much of the trip on west, dropping down to the town of Medora in ND. A place high on our list of "return" places. Running late so took Interstate 94 to Billings, where we decided to drop down to Yellowstone NP. From there to my sister's just out of Missoula Montana, arriving June 24.
The Prince of Wales Hotel is in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario and the other shots are at/near the Falls.
Vermont, New Hampshire and then back to New York had preceded the Niagara visit..After a couple of days, at and north of the falls area, we again headed west. Surprised me how much I liked this area and the residents, so much for stereotypes, I guess.
Westward Ho was the call. Spent some time in the Badlands of the Dakota's.
After stopping in the restored town of Medora for a couple of days we headed on to Montana and down into Yellowstone NP. Many of the springs had dried up since our last visit. We only visited the northern part of the park.
Headed for the Missoula area of Montana, visited Drummond and Philipsburg MT. Have made a habit of stopping in Pburg for the last 30 years or so to buy a hat. On occasion I like to wear a ball cap but I don't want one like everyone else has, so I buy mine at the White Front Bar. Have never seen another one outside that part of Montana. Also enjoy seeing the old homes and business building in PBurg.
Montana to Alaska via the Cassiar Highway
June 28 departed Montana headed north into Canada. Spent the first night out at the KOA just south of Whitefish. Crossed at Roosville into Canada, we were the only vehicle there, either direction at the time. Took about 5 minutes of time. Then north to a stop at the restored Fort Steele, after that was to Radium Hot Springs which had changed in the 20 years since our last visit. Turning east at Radium HS, we pulled the grade toward Lake Louise, turned south to Banff, staying at the Tunnel Mountain II Campground. Grand doesn't begin to describe the scenery in this area of North America. The next day we drove north to Yoho NP and spent most of a day around the town of Field, walking the shops, driving up to the massive waterfall located there. Our last trip in 2004 we got there too early and the road to the waterfalls was still closed due to snow. Tends to open about the 1st. of July we were told, + or -. Then on up the Ice Field Parkway to Jasper where we camped about 20 miles west of town at the Lake Lucerne Provincial campground. Jasper has become very commercialized over the years, reminding us of some of the yuppie towns of Colorado. Continues on west to the start of the Cassiar Highway. Stopped one night at the Shady Rest CG in Houston BC. Nice stop, was charged $20us for full hookups, showers were spotless. We were about an hour from the start of the Cassiar north bound at Kitwanga, the home of the most totem poles I have seen since being in Sitka AK.
Our last trip on the Cassiar had been in 1989, first trip in 1974 on it, so it was like a new experience. The road was mostly paved, except for about 50 miles in 3 sections, 16,12,16 miles. Much of an improvement over our previous trips. Had planned to fuel up at the highway junction into Stewart/Hyder but when we got there, no fuel available due to a problem with their electrical system. (self operated generator) But since I always drive on the top half of my tank it wasn't a problem to wait till Stewart for diesel. The drive into Stewart rivals that of Carcross YT to Skagway AK or Glennallen AK to Valdez AK in my opinion. Just visually a case of overload to one's senses. Glaciers, mountains, critters, you name it and it is one after another.
Spent a couple of days in Stewart/Hyder, drove out to the bear platform. (for viewing) No bears, which was fine by me as I am not much into bear watching unless I am out in the woods hunting or fishing.
Then on north stopping at Boya Lake Provincial Park, the most beautiful of any of the provincial parks in my opinion. Hard to believe water can be so clear and blue at the same time. The campsites are immaculate, well placed and at a reasonable charge. The Cassiar is somewhat of a slower drive as it was paved with all the turns, ups and downs etc whereas the Alaska Highway has be straightened, rerouted, built up, cut down, widened, etc. prior to paving. I find the Cassiar more scenic and more relaxing to drive.
Spent the night at Marsh Lake Territorial CG and decided to take a side trip to Atlin, BC. My wife had never been there and I hadn't been there since 1965. Then on to Whitehorse, bought groceries, did laundry toured the old paddle wheeler, SS Klondike, stopped at Mac's Bookstore and reloaded my shelves with books, washed the camper, attended the Frantic Follies Show at night and then headed on north to Alaska. Atlin is a good place to visit, laid back with few tourists, off the beaten path, etc. Was the old center for gold mining in this area of Canada.
Then to Whitehorse, the territorial capital of the Yukon Territories. A very nice town that seems to have trouble deciding if it wants to be an ultra modern city or a frontier town. It is somewhat of both IMHO. I like it a lot. Have been there well over 30 times on our trips. Whitehorse is full of history, good campgrounds, entertainment, shopping, any needed vehicle repairs and a bunch of good people.
On north up the highway to Alaska. No matter what direction the Alaska Highway is actually going, directions are given as north or south. A few photos at the Haines Junction intersection, watch this turn carefully or you can end up in Haines Alaska by mistake if going to Fairbanks, LOL. Then some of Kluane Wilderness RV Park, motel, station, saloon, and garage. Favorite stop of ours. Many good gravel pull offs along the way for a meal stop or to spend the night if needed.
Made it to Alaska on July 6 and at Tok decided to cut south to Glennallen and on to Valdez. Did our mandatory, to us, Two Glacier boat tour with Stan Stephens Tours and never tire of it. Typical cool rainy weather in Valdez, stayed at the Bear Paw II campground on the water for $35 a night full hookups. We were quickly running out of time as my wife had to catch a plane out of Anchorage to attend a family reunion in Colorado to which she had committed. So back to Glennallen, west on the Glenn Highway to Palmer and south to Anchorage. One night was all we could get at the Anchorage RV Park (now closed). Dropped my wife off at the Anchorage International Airport and I drove over to the Fred Meyer parking lot to spend the night. First time for me to do this but I should have listened to my own advice and made reservations a week or so ahead of time. Worked OK, Many street people hanging in the same area, camping somewhere in that area. Most were drunk, panhandling the customers, but not a serious problem IMHO.
From Valdez, north to Glennallen over night and west on the Glenn Hwy to Palmer and then to Anchorage.
By myself now so decided to head down to Homer to see long time friends that live out on the East End Rd. Got a space at the Homer spit Campground, the last CG on the end of the spit. Spent some time visiting around the area as many o my coworkers from the Interior had moved to the Homer area after they retired. But soon it was time to head north again as I can only deal with the Kenai crowds for so long.
Homer and back to Anchorage:
A quick stop at the Russian River but very few fish running at the time:
Back to Anchorage with a stop at the Russian River (no fish) Loaded my fridge with fresh sushi from the Fred Meyer deli. Anchorage is a nice place to restock as it is just another big town, just a smaller version of Seattle, IMHO. Got out my map and decided to head back to Valdez. Valdez was never a place we spent much time during the 25+ years we lived in Alaska but it has grown on us since moving to the Lower 48. It is one of the few (only one?) of the small coastal town that you can drive to that is not over run by tourists and Anchorage residents in the summer. Stayed at the Bear Paw II again, they have excellent WiFi included in the camping rate. The campground would be almost empty some nights and then a caravan would arrive, packing the place like sardines. LOL Did some fishing for pink salmon.
On July 17 headed north on the Richardson Hwy, headed for Delta Junction. Planned to get diesel in Paxson at the Lodge but is was not selling diesel anymore and was looking like it was on its last legs. Drove on to Delta for fuel. This section of the Richardson is the route of the Alaska Oil Pipeline so may photo opps. Turned left at Delta and headed toward Fairbanks.
Stopped for the night at the Lazy Moose Campground just out of Salcha. Only new campground I saw up north all summer, one other was in Mountain Home Idaho. Lots of old ones closed but only the 2 new ones.
Visited with friends in Fairbanks, drove out to Chena Hot Springs, had dinner at the Turtle Club, visited the Howling Dog Saloon, drove by the Fox Roadhouse (metal building below) got the oil changed in the Dodge, visited the new Sportsman's Warehouse, (what a toy store for adults) and decided I had enough of town life, stopped at Fred Meyer to re-supply the camper and headed south to Cantwell and east on the Denali Highway.
South to the Denali Hwy at Cantwell and east on it. The Denali Hwy is not for everyone as it can be rough gravel, wash boarded, muddy in the rain but for many it is a favorite drive, me included.
Was rough and wash boarded but not a problem at 10 to 15 mph. Spent a couple of days camping on the Denali and returned to Fairbanks. The end of July was upon me so I decided to start the trek toward Florida, via Bellingham, Portland, Montrose Colorado and eastward to Florida.
Alaska returning to Florida
Headed east out of Fairbanks, thinking about the good life Alaska had provided to me for so many years, a wife and two daughters (both born in Fairbanks). Leaving Alaska always is hard for me to do, not that I would ever want to move back to the Interior of the state. At my age now, 66, I would probably choose one of the regions of the state that has more of a Banana Belt climate, i.e. southern Mat Su or the Anchorage Bowl. Kenai would work for me as would Valdez. Over the years of driving the Alaska Highway, we have certain places we like to stay if possible but more and more of them are closed and out of business. Sad but part of life I guess.
Took a while, just under an hour to get through Canadian customs as they were taking a vehicle apart that was towing 4 motorcycles. The rest of us had to wait till they could free up an officer to work us. Got the same strange set of questions tied to my background of having done law enforcement work and some of my private security work is of interest to them. After a short visit I was told to have a nice trip. Spent the first night at White River Cg, a favorite that had in the past had a nightly salmon bake that was excellent but had stopped having it.
Next stop was Whitehorse at the Hi Country Cg where I had a reservation, did my laundry, visited the book store again, paid my bills using the campground WiFi set up at the office. Next stop was the Coal River Lodge and Campground, $23cd full, generator shuts off at 10 PM which was fine, nice cafe and fuel stop. In the middle of the buffalo herds along the highway. Stopped for fuel and breakfast in a day or so at Popular's Cg and cafe/station. The woman running the cafe, asked me if I wanted breakfast, then pointed out the coffee pot to me and went into the kitchen. Thought she would be back out to take my order but in a short while she returned with a plate of bacon, hash browned potatoes, scrambled eggs, toast and set it in front of me. Said that was what she was serving for breakfast that day. I love it. Many years earlier this was somewhat common with the road houses where I would stop for a meal. You ate what they had fixed or you didn't eat for lunch or supper. Reminded me of my mother, LOL.
Stopped at Fort Nelson at the Rotary Park RV, $26cd full, WiFi at the office. Cut back west and south headed for Prince George stopped at a campground in Clinton, the Gold Rush RV $15cd full hookups, and ate some very good bar b que they were selling that night. South down the Fraser Canyon, a favorite drive for me, headed for the border crossing at Sumas. Took over an hour to get through, hot and the exhaust fumes made the air tough to breath. Hundreds of cars lines up to go through. Made it through and headed to Bellingham, glad to have a GPS with my brother in laws address punched into it. Spent a few days and on to Portland to see other family members. Portland has to be one of my favorite larger cities where we visit. Drove out to Astoria and the mouth of the Columbia River, another place I could enjoy living. Soon it was time to head for Colorado. Found diesel to be the most expensive I had purchased outside of Canada, in Idaho. Spent the night at a newly being constructed campground in Mountain Home Idaho. Up early the next morning, 5 AM, after a stop at Mickey D's for a breakfast sandwich and coffee and at the next door Wal Mart, I was headed to Colorado again. Stopped a Green Mountain Utah for the night, an oasis in the desert. Next day drove on to Montrose Colorado and stayed at the Montrose RV Park, where we will often spend a month in the summers.
Spent several days in Montrose, down to Ouray to visit friends, and headed for Colorado Springs, north east to Limon CO, to Interstate 70, to St. Louis Mo and cut south to Paducah, Birmingham, Montgomery, Tallahassee and on to Stuart, our current home.