A Travellerspoint blog

August 2017

Aug 13 - Rancheria Falls, Jade City

Jade, Waterfalls, Leaving_Yukon

semi-overcast 19 °C

This entry is part of my catch-up, after 8 days of no internet. I don't like being so far behind on the blog, especially when there is such interesting stuff to cover.

We woke early, at Teslin Lake Campground ($12 night, limited services) and hit the road, with plans to get to Dease Lake, about 480 kilometers. The road was good, we reached the Cassiar Highway junction before Noon. We took a stop at Rancheria Falls Recreation site, where we walked a 500 meter boardwalk to the falls.

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We stopped for lunch at Jade City, where an intrepid local family has been mining jade from the surrounding mountains for decades. "City" is bit of misnomer, as there are just 20 people living here year round.

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Jade boulders are difficult to detect, and it is only when they are cut with these giant saws that the quality of the jade inside can be determined. A really good jade boulder could be worth as much as $1 million.

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The jade shows its colours best when wet. Here are two rock slices with various levels of relatively poor jade.

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There is a reality TV show, called Jade Fever, now in its 4th season, which follows their adventures out in the boondocks, mining jade. It is a bit of a hoot to see what they have to go through to get jade to the market. Most jade is exported to China, where it is highly treasured for jewellery.

We finished the day at the Water's Edge Campground, just north of Dease Lake. Next to us was Bod and Diane, from Florida in their 2015 R-pod 178. We had a great chat about the good and bad things of owning an R-pod, and made a new contact for when we travel south. It is great to meet other R-pod owners on the road.

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Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 11:08 Archived in Canada Tagged jade_city r-pod_trailers cassiar_highway Comments (0)

The Catch-up Edition

Six days on the road with no internet.

semi-overcast 18 °C

This blog entry is to get us caught up, for the most part. For the past week we have been dry camping our way out of Alaska and down the Cassiar Highway, with a plan to get to Prince Rupert on August 18. We have had no internet or cell service through virtually all of this time. There is no cell service at all on the Cassiar Highway, and very limited internet.

We start on the morning of August 9, in Soldatna, Alaska. At 8:00am we were first in line at the GoodWrench Oil Change, to get our Honda Pilot some fresh oil. We'd refilled our propane tank the day before and shopped at Fred Meyer to restock our pantry for our plan to spend 3 mights dry camping on our way back into Canada. By 9:00am TaJ was hooked onto the Pilot and off we went.

We ended that day 530 kilometers down the road, at the Alaska State Park campground at the Matansuka Glacier. We'll eventually post pictures from this stop when we have unlimited internet time. The campground was virtually empty, 10 sites and only 3 filled by morning.

August 10 ThIs was our roughest day on the road yet, and, by that, we mean the state of the road itself. The Tok Cutoff was under repair or very slow due to frost heaves. The road is built on permafrost and regularly falls apart. Slow going much of the time. We took a break for lunch in Tok, gassed up and headed on, with the plan to spend the night at Deadman Lake State Recreation site, just 50 kilometers short of the Canadian Border. As luck would have it, there was major road construction going on and Deadman Lake was inaccessible as a road work crew was blocking the entrance., We pushed on through the border and spent that night in Beaver Creek. Another 565 k under our belt, making our total 1095 k in 2 days.

August 11 Well, if yesterday was bad, today was worse. From Beaver Creek the road was a mess, with broken pavement, frost heaves and construction. We meandered along averaging 50 kilometers an hour, with the bad road and construction delays. We came upon a 25 kilometer stretch that was being re-gravelled, and were stopped for a 25 minute delay. We trailed behind a "follow-me" pilot truck through the zone, at 25 kilometers an hour. Right in front of the pilot truck was a tanker truck watering down the dusty gravel. By the time we got through to the good road again, TaJ was covered in mud. We ended the day early, at Congdon Creek Territorial Campground. This is a lovely spot that we camped at in 2005 and we were just glad to be off the road. We met fellow R-podders Jim and Chris, from Arizona. They have a 177 model and we compared notes on our trailer experience. We travelled 265 kilometers, bringing our 3 day total to 1360 k

August 12 A much better day on the road. We made good time right from the get-go and by noon we were in Whitehorse, where we re-supplied for our upcoming run down the Cassiar Highway. We spent $12 in a car wash getting the mud off both vehicles before getting back on the road. We ended the day at Teslin Lake Campground, right on the Alaska Highway, next to a rest area. By 7:00pm the entire 38 sites in the campground was full. At 9:00pm a semi pulled into the rest area and left his engine idling. At 10:30pm I walked up, knocked on his door and asked him politely to shut his engine off, so people could sleep. He apologized, and soon it was blessedly quiet. This day we travelled 480 kilometers, bringing our 4 day total to 1840 k.

August 13 We finished our Yukon experience at Noon, when we turned south onto the Cassiar Highway, the 750 kilometer long highway that connects to Highway 16 near Terrace. Our first stop was Jade City, the home of an intrepid family that mines jade in the local mountains. They have their own reality show, Jade Fever, now in its 4th season. Highly entertaining for a show in the reality genre. We bought some jade gifts for family members before heading south, We arrived mid afternoon at the Water's Edge Campground, a limited service campground just outside of Dease Lake. We booked in for 2 nights, as it is our plan to spend a day heading our Telegraph Creek Road, rated to be one of the great drives in Canada. We got to use our indoor and outdoor showers here, as this campground did not have showers, and boy, we needed one. I used the outdoor shower, and Jenny the indoor, Lovely to get clean again. We travelled 490 kilometers, bringing our 5 day total to 2330 k.

August 14 - The road to Telegraph Creek. This will be a blog entry of its own, when we have time to add photos to do justice to this magnificent drive. We;ll add our photos of Jade City on that one as well.

August 15 - We left Dease Lake at 8:30am, and ended the afternoon at Stewart BC. This was a good driving day. The Cassiar Highway is narrow and winding, with virtually no shoulder and steep drops into 5 to 10 foot deep ditches on either side. We made good time and arrived in Stewart by 3:00pm, where the first things on our agendas were showers, and laundry. We booked in here for three nights, as we need some time off the road. Our last day of this jaunt was 470 kilometers, making our 6 day total 2900 k. A really nice stretch of time without services.

After our stint in Stewart, we will be back in the world of internet access and will cover the high points of our last 7 days in the north./

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 09:55 Archived in Canada Tagged update no_internet jade_city. Comments (2)

Aug 7, 8 - Kenai Peninsula, Homer, Hiking

Salmon_Charters, Homer_Spit, Moose,

semi-overcast 20 °C

Aug 7

Our R/V park is great, perhaps the best we have ever stayed in. Spacious sites, good Wi-Fi, excellent washrooms. Klondike R/V Park in Soldotna, Alaska gets a couple of extra gold stars. If you want to visit here, this is the place to stay. The other R/V parks look like parking lots. It doesn't hurt that the owner gave us a 2 pound piece of Sockeye salmon when we asked where we could find some fish to buy. Yummy!

We started our stay with a supper of local halibut. Our plan is to eat seafood every day here...when in Rome, etc.

In the morning we took off out Kalifornsky Beach Road, which heads along the shore to the mouth of the Kasilof River, where people use dip nets on long poles to catch Sockeye and Pink Salmon. It looks like hard work, standing in waders in the stiff current of a tidal river, holding a 20 or 30 foot long pole with a huge net on the end. We saw several salmon caught this way. Most of these people are camping on the beach and fishing their limit each day.

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Homer is the place to visit if you come this far. It is at the end of the road and features a 4 mile long spit that extends from the town site out into the bay. Fantastic spot. We drove all the way to the end of the road, arriving in Homer around Noon. We wandered the beach and the old town, found this funky B&B with all this beach debris piled in front.

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Down on the beach, the cow parsnip grows taller than me:

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We drove out the spit to see where the action is. This place is hopping all the time, there must have been 5000 people out there, on a Monday. Restaurants, stores, fish charter boat operations, and hotels and B&B's.

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Here is a view of the spit, from the lookout at the top of Homer:

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Fish Charters drive the summer here. Hundreds of outfitters, thousands of tourist fishermen. A day charter costs $350 (and up).

We talked to one visitor from Georgia. He and 4 friends had flown up, done three days of fish charters, stayed in hotels, rented cars, bought food, etc. and the 5 of them were going home with 450 pounds of halibut, and 400 pounds of salmon, all cut into 2 pound chunks, sealed in plastic and flash frozen in processing plants. Now, with Halibut selling for $25 a pound, and Salmon for $18 a pound in grocery stores, they might be breaking even on their trip costs vas. just buying it at home. Plus they had the adventure of catching it themselves.

So, the five are going home with about $19,000 worth of fish. Pretty interesting business model!

On our return from Homer we stopped briefly at Anchor Point, which is the westernmost point on North America accessible on the connected road system. In earlier travels we have reached the coast of Labrador which means we have now gone east to west to the most readily accessible points on the highway system. We have also gone to the very tip of the Florida Keys, and stopped just short on Inuvik in 2006. North, south, east, west...we have done them all.

We also stopped at the Halibut Campground to see the phenomenon of the tractors that are used to put in and pull out charter boats. The tides are pretty decent here and pick up trucks just can't get boats into and out of the water very easily. So this is the solution:

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The volcanos across the bay were pretty interesting to view as well.

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We have seen lots of these Minnie Winnie motorhomes here in Alaska. We looked them up on line and they rent for as little as $100, but with add-ons can go much higher...add-ons like linens, dishes, cutlery, etc. But for a family coming here to see Alaska reasonable. Campgrounds can be as little as Zero $$ if you don't mind a lack of services.

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In the evening we went out looking for moose and were on our way home, about 9:45pm when we came upon this beauty. She was very sedate and hung along the side of the road until Jenny was tired of taking pictures. She had her calf with her as well.

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Aug 8

No pictures for today's blog entry. We travelled to the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, about 30 miles east of Soldotna. Yesterday had been a busy, long day in the car and we were looking to hike and work out the kinks from sitting in the car for such a long spell. We got that. We did a hike called the Hidden Creek Trail, a round trip of about 6 kilometers. We were hopeful of seeing bears, but although we saw plenty of bear poop, and moose poop, we did not see any wildlife at all. An excellent hike and we were pleased to have gotten in a good bit of exercise.

The rest of the day has been spent in getting ready to depart and head back to Canada. We did all our laundry, grocery shopped and washed the car. A lot of little maintenance items on the TaJ as well.

Our next 10 days will have limited access to internet, and we plan to dry camp for several of those nights in an attempt to get back in touch with our travel budget, so our next blog entry might have to wait until Prince Rupert, where we hope to arrive on August 18

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 20:31 Archived in USA Tagged salmon moose homer fishing_charters minnie_winnie anchor_point Comments (0)

Aug 3 to Aug 6 - Fairbanks - Denali - Kenai

Luck, Denali, More_Denali

sunny 20 °C

Aug 3, 4

Our sewer line fixed, we were still committed to staying two extra nights in Fairbanks, and it was rainy and cloudy, and generally not very nice weather. We did lots of little things to keep ourselves busy, but we were really anxious to be back on the road. Sometimes, the gods are with you, and such was the case with us.

Aug 5

Saturday morning, and we are ready to move on, heading south to Denali, the biggest mountain on North America. 2/3rds of the time it is completely, or partially obscured by cloud. To find a perfectly clear day is really rare. If we had come this way on Aug 3, or Aug 4, we would have seen nothing. Nothing!

But, our day is glorious, full sunshine, not a cloud to be seen. 45 minutes out of Fairbanks we get our fist glimpse of Denali. We stop 7 times to take pictures on the way south, each time a different angle, and more is revealed.

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If our sewer line on TaJ had not been knocked off on the run from Chicken to Tok we would have passed by here 2 days, and seen nothing. In 2006 Jenny and I spent 7 days on the Denali Highway, and only saw glimpses of the mountain. Sometimes it is really good to have been unavoidably detained.

We stopped and picked some blueberries near Cantwell for tomorrow's breakfast...there is a 20 mile section of road that has blueberries on either side of the road and there were many groups of pickers.

We stopped at a roadside campground, called, Denali View North. 20 sites, no services, except pit toilets. The views are amazing. We had supper and settled in for the night. There was a Dutch couple and their two kids just down from us and we shared travel stories. Really nice family...traveling for 6 weeks in Alaska.

We tried to get in a bit of a hike:

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Otherwise, it was just looking over the views of the mountains:

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A couple of big European Travel Trucks stopped for the view as well:

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Early in the morning another shot of Denali, just lit up from the early morning sun.

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TaJ in our camping spot:

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Aug 6

Onward, once again early on the road, destination Soldotna, on the Kenai ( pronounced Keen-Eye) Peninsula, the Salmon fishing capital of North America.

We stopped at Denali Viewpoint South for another view of the mountain. Magnificent.

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This cartoon sums up the frustration with seeing Denali:

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We churned on south, skirting Anchorage, where we spent 6 lovely days back in 2006 and felt no need to revisit, and on to the Kenai, where we had never been before.

Now, here is where things started to get strange. Since leaving home on June 1 we have seen just 21 R-Pods in 66 days of travel. Today, in the 200 miles from Anchorage to Soldotna, we saw 14. We heard from several people that r-pods are just about the bees-knees in trailers up here in the 49th state.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged denali r-pods Comments (1)

July 30, Aug 1 -Top of the World Highway, Chicken, AK

SS Keno, Absolute quiet overnight on Top of the World, Chicken, broken sewer line on TaJ, long drive to Fairbanks

rain 17 °C

July 30:

We checked out of our campground about 11am and parked TaJ and Sully on Second Street in downtown Dawson.

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We did a walking tour of the back streets of the town for 90 minutes. We used our National Park passes for tickets to see the SS Keno, a sternwheeler, now a national historical site. Well preserved bit of history.

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Around 2:00pm we took the ferry across the river and headed off over the Top of the World Highway. The sky vista is amazing up here:

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There was no ferry wait and by 3:00pm we were exploring the Clinton Creek Road, a 50+ kilometer side road down towards the Yukon River. There had been a old asbestos mine down there and we thought we would try to find the town site. We drove about 12 kilometers down the narrow winding road until it became pretty obvious that we should turn back. The road wasn't particularly rough, but was narrow and getting narrower.

On our way down Clinton Creek Road we had come across a clearing suitable for an overnight stay, about 2 kilometers off the main road.

It was great to spend a night alone in the wildness of the Top of the World Highway. Dead silence most of the night, so quiet I had trouble sleeping. It didn't help that there is still 16+ hours of daylight and dusk and pre-dawn last another 4 hours. We have yet to see any stars during our time in the north...it simply isn't dark enough.

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We had a lovely downpour of rain for about an hour, enough to wash much of the dust off TaJ.

August 1:

Our health insurance for the United States kicked in at Midnight on the 1st and we crossed the border into the US at 8:30am. The Top of the World Highway is one of the great drives on this planet. Sure the road is rough in places and there are absolutely no services on it, but the views are spectacular. 106 kilometers from Dawson to the border. If you come here, you must put this road on your itinerary, simply to see it.

The road on the US side is something else entirely. The first 10 miles from the border are paved, beautiful pavement. Then the fun begins. Winding and narrow the road goes up and down over hill and dale. Sometimes the drop off to the side is 1000 feet and the shoulder of the road is soft, so caution is the watchword.

We arrived in Chicken, Alaska. Do not be fooled by the R/V park on the main road, or the modern resort down by the river. There is only one legitimate town of Chicken. It has this bird as its symbol and three conjoined stores that make up the historic centre of Chicken. We gassed up, at $3.29 per US gallon, which, when you take into account the relatively lousy Canadian $ is $1.13 per litre.

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The drive out to Tok was fairly tedious but lovely. 155 kilometers of mostly gravel road, but in decent summer condition. The road is very winding and narrow, but not much traffic for a mid-summer day for our drive out. The views, once again spectacular.

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There is a 10 mile section along the Jack Wade Creek that is open to anyone to pan for gold. We saw several small groups working along the river bank, trying to find their fortune.

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Other than this road building near Chicken, where they were putting Styrofoam pads on the perma-frost and then 10 feet of gravel for the road bed, the trip out was uneventful, or so we thought.

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We came upon these two caribou on the highway. Great racks on these guys:

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It was while we were in Tok that we discovered something was amiss with TaJ. The sewer line from the black water holding tank was gone. A look underneath and sure as shit, there was the opening to our tank, without any pipe to drain it. This changed our plans completely. We were going to find an Alaska State Park and dry camp another night, but this needed to get fixed.

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After a bit of a look, the only place with an R/V dealer and repair shop, was Fairbanks, so on we went. In total our day was almost 600 kilometers and we arrived in Fairbanks in time to go to the R/V repair and get them to look at it and to try to book an appointment to fix it. They were fully booked until Saturday, yikes, 4 days down the road.

So, in the school of thought that says, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, we rejigged our plans. We are now going to spend 4 nights here in lovely Fairbanks. We'll go to Chena Hot Springs one day, which was on our list anyway, and the Tanana Valley Agricultural Fair starts on Friday, so we will take that in as well. We also have the full 4 days to get both Sully and TaJ cleaned.

Saturday morning is our appointment for the fix on TaJ and we will be back on the road. It changes our downstream plans a bit as we only planned on spending 2 nights here, so we will rejig so we get to see as much as possible on this Alaska leg. We really want to see grizzly bears feeding on salmon in the rivers of the Kenai Peninsula so that moves closer to the top of the list, plus we want to spend two nights camping in the Denali. That about eats up all our time as we must be back in Canada before our health insurance runs out on August 11.

Later in the day this tour bus came in, full of German tourists. The bus holds 26 in sleeping compartments. They have been on the road for two weeks already and have been up then Dempster Highway in the Yukon and came across the Top of the World today as well. They seem like they are having a great time.

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Aug 2

It rained, almost all day, so we took this as a sign that we should just take it easy. We read, cleaned up some of our stuff and planned out the next couple of days in Fairbanks. Very relaxing. When on a road trip as long as this, a day of nothing is a luxury.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 08:01 Archived in USA Tagged top_of_the_world fairbanks tok caribou Comments (0)

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