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Archive for the ‘Alaskan Adventure’ Category

Alaska: Day 11 … Top of the World Highway

            “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well … The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” — Jack London

The Yukon River near Dawson City. -- Wikimedia photo

The Yukon River near Dawson City. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wonderer

It was a good thing that I was in a part of the world where summer days were long, because I had nearly 400 miles to drive today – and lots of things I wanted to see along the way.

img_3934But before I got on the road, I took time to drive around Dawson City — which didn’t take much time at all. It was a small town, and the only thing I discovered of interest was Jack London’s cabin.

But for a writer, and avid reader, that was thrill enough. London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang had been two of my favorite books growing up. A bit later, I was thrilled even more when I drove onto a small ferry to cross the Yukon River. All the romance of adventure from London’s books crept into my day, making me feel glad to be alive and on a road I had never traveled before.

And what a road it was. I took the little-traveled and only partially paved Top of the Road Highway out of Dawson City, which would take me on a side trip loop through the tiny town of Chicken, population of 25 nice people and one old grouch – according to a roadside billboard.

Downtown Chicken

Downtown Chicken

I refueled, bought postcards, and then continued on to Tok, where I rejoined the Alaskan Highway. From Tok, it was yet another 200 miles to Fairbanks. If I had to pick out my favorite driving day on this 30-day trip (the longest vacation I had ever taken away from my job) this day would be it. I loved driving for long minutes without another vehicle in sight – and the landscape truly did make me feel as if I were on top of the world.

Bean Pat: A New Year’s Tradition  http://tinyurl.com/hzxlk4n  I like this one. I once did a similar thing by walking down a steep ridge and dropping things I didn’t want in my life, and then picking up things I did want on the way back up.

 

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The White Pass-Yukon Train I took to Skagway. -- Wikimedia photo

The White Pass-Yukon Train I took to Skagway. — Wikimedia photo

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

A Train Ride to Skagway

            I left my car in Whitehorse, and took a morning bus ride to Carcross. This tiny community, originally called Caribou Crossing, began as a hunting and fishing camp for the Tlingit and Tagish people. Located on the shores of Lake Bennett, today it’s mostly a large bus stop for people wanting to catch the narrow gauge White Pass-Yukon Train to Skagway, which follows the same route as used by early miners during the Klondike Gold Rush.

It was an exhilarating ride, with me standing outside the train car in the bracing wind most of the time. I wanted to experience the wild and scenic landscape to the fullest. The ride was even more breathtaking as the short train clickity-clacked over the tall trestles built to navigate the narrow, winding canyon.

 

An aerial view of Skagway. -- Wikimedia photo

An aerial view of Skagway. — Wikimedia photo

I pitied, however, the prospectors, who took the trail before the train began running in 1898. So many horses died along the trail that it became known at the Dead Horse Trail.

At one point along the route, the train stopped to pick up a group of hikers. Then at the top of the pass, a thick mist engulfed the train. And it was raining lightly on arrival in Skagway.

While I was a bit damp after the short walk to the White House, a bed and breakfast where I was spending the night, the freshly baked cookies waiting for me there quickly cheered up the overcast day.

Skagway is a small town of only about 1,000 people, but it is visited by almost a million tourists annually, most arriving on large cruise ships. The sleepy town, to which I had arrived, had become a booming shopping mall by the time I repeated my walk the next day to the train station. Two of those big boats had arrived.

As quaint, and historic as I had found Skagway on arrival, I wasn’t sorry to get back on the train for the delightful ride back up White Pass, followed by the scenic drive back to Whitehorse on the bus.

Bean Pat: Addendum to a Eulogy: http://tinyurl.com/h6adegr I loved this story because it’s what real families are all about.

 

 

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“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake alongside the Alaskan Highway. -- Wikimedia photo

The Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake alongside the Alaskan Highway. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

          It was going to be a long day’s drive, and so I was on the road at 5 a.m., sharing it with a pumpkin orange and lavender sunrise that breathed joy into my pores.

My drive took me past Muncho Lake Provincial Park. The lake, which I followed for a bit, was just one of several clean, clear blue bodies of water along the way. The biggest one was Teslin Lake, which I noted in my journal, had an average depth of 184 feet.

At Liard Hot Springs, at Mile Marker 496, I stopped for a short hike to the springs and the marsh’s hanging gardens, which consisted of a jumble of rocks with plants hanging down the sides while a series of small falls trickled past. The place had a pungent, sulphur odor that tickled my sense of smell, and encouraged me not to linger overly long..

Alpha Pool in Liard River Hot Springs along the Alaskan Highway in British Columbia. -- Wikimedia photo

Alpha Pool in Liard River Hot Springs along the Alaskan Highway in British Columbia. — Wikimedia photo

At Watson Lake, Mile Marker 635, I refueled and gawked at the famous Sign Post Forest, which now has about 100,000 signs. “Sort of icky,” I wrote in my journal, noting that nature got my juices flowing better.

The fake forest began in 1942 when Pvt. Carl Lindley was ordered to repair a simple sign post noting the distances to various points along the road when it was being built. He personalized the sign by adding his home town of Danville, Illinois, 2,835 miles away.

Meanwhile, the warning signs of moose and caribou on the road, which had been lying to me,:told the truth this day. I saw several of each, plus deer, too, as my winding drive took me across the British Columbia-Yukon border seven times.

After a long day’s drive of nearly 600 miles, with several sightseeing stops along the way, it was almost 10 p.m., but still light, when I finally pulled into Whitehorse, where my room at the High Country Inn had been upgraded. I had my own Jacuzzi, and I took advantage of it.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Two Photographs: http://tinyurl.com/hylkuth Unusual shots of a peregrine falcon, one of my favorite birds. I usually saw them when they flew below me on my hike up to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. This is a bird we humans have helped save from extinction.

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“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. “– Maya Angelou

An autumn scene along the Peace River, not exactly the view I saw during my trip but I certainly saw river-side landscapes that were just as awesome. -- Wikimedia photo

An autumn scene along the Peace River, not exactly the view I saw during my trip but I certainly saw river-side landscapes that were just as awesome. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

          I compared my first day of driving the Alaska Highway through Canada to a day of riding steep roller coasters. The route crossed many creeks and rivers, and most of the driving was done in the rain.

A page from my 2001 Alaska Trip journal.

A page from my 2001 Alaska Trip journal.

My guide for the Alaska Highway was the 2001, 53rd edition of The Milepost, which listed all the sights of the route in milepost numbers. As much as my interests, and time, demanded, I took short detours to see them, including one off road adventure to find Peace River Park, supposedly on an island across a causeway. I noted in my journal that the causeway was dinky.

The only animals I saw this day were brilliant blue Steller jays (visit my September 24 blog for a picture of a Steller jay) at a dump, lots of ravens, one llama, two hawks I couldn’t identify, and one deer. Signs along the way frequently claimed “moose and caribou on road” – but they lied.

I ended the day in Fort Nelson at Mile 300. The small town was named in honor of British naval hero, Horatio Nelson. It was established by The Northwest Trading Company in 1805 to accommodate fur traders. Because of fires, floods, and feuds, according to one history source, Fort Nelson is currently situated in its fifth location.

While in town, I visited the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum, an interesting step back in time that included exhibits of a “Hardly Davidson” scooter, and the first curling stones on the Alaskan Highway.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: A funny comics blog http://tinyurl.com/jy9sqhn This is so me!

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I didn't capture the rainbow in Jasper National Park, but I did manage to get one on another road trip when I visited South Dakota. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I didn’t capture the rainbow in Jasper National Park, but I did manage to get one on another road trip when I visited South Dakota. — Photo by Pat Bean

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

I left Jasper at sunrise, and with a magnificent rainbow welcoming in the day. The first part of the drive took me through Jasper National Park, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Elk, longhorn sheep, deer and Stone Mountain sheep (which I hope stayed in the park because these cousins of Dall sheep are popular with trophy hunters made themselves visible on the road between Jasper, Grand Cache and Grand Prairie.

Alberta’s Grand Prairie, aptly named and then nicknamed the Swan City, adopted the trumpeter swan as its symbol because of its proximity to the bird’s migration route and its summer nesting grounds. The trumpeter is North America’s largest water bird. It can weigh up to 25 pounds, almost double the weight of the tundra swan that was a familiar sight in Northern Utah where I lived back then.

Of course I hoped to see a trumpeter this day. But I didn’t. Drat it!

Dawson Creek and the Mile 0 Post that represents the start of the Alaskan Highway. -- Wikimedia photo

Dawson Creek and the Mile 0 Post that represents the start of the Alaskan Highway. — Wikimedia photo

I made it to Dawson Creek in time for lunch, even though it was a 325-mile drive from Jasper. Three hundred miles was usually the goal I set for myself most of the days on the month-long adventure.

Dawson Creek, named after the creek that runs through it, which was named after George Mercer Dawson, a member of his land survey team that passed through the area in 1879. The small town’s primary claim to fame is that it is where the Alaskan Highway begins. The town’s population was larger when the highway was being constructed during World War II. The highway, at first unpaved and with almost too many bridges to count, was built to connect the United States with its Alaskan Territory through Canada. Alaska didn’t become a state until 1959.

When completed in 1942, the highway was 1,700 miles long. Today it’s about 300 miles less because of constant straightening and restoration work. When I drove the highway in 2001, it was said to be paved the entire distance – Not true, I discovered.

Bean Pat: This one is for writers who receive rejections: https://millieschmidt.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/ And isn’t that all of us?

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Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. -- Wikimedia photo

Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. — Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. -- Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. — Wikimedia photo

   “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

            “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

It was a day of lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, glades of scarlet fireweed, birds – and beauty that stirred the soul everywhere.

Page from my jouranl. noting my bald eagle sighting. .

Page from my journal noting my bald eagle sighting. .

`           The first stop of the day was the Vermillion Lakes just outside of Banff, where the first bird of the day was a bald eagle. It doesn’t get much better for a birder – but it did. I got a lifer, a common loon. I was excited at seeing this bird for the first time, but later learned I didn’t have to go so far away from home to see them. Common loons could be seen in winter on Causey Lake in Ogden Valley, Utah, just minutes away from my home.

Also on the lakes were mallards with baby chicks, always a treat to see, as were the darting killdeer that were running around near the shorelines.

A red-breasted nuthatch showed itself at Cascade Pond; barn swallows swarmed around a bridge; lots of prairie dogs stood sentry along the route; and at Two-Jack Lake, I got another lifer, a red-breasted merganser.

I added the feather of a Clark's nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

I added the feather of a Clark’s nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

And the day was just getting started.

At Lake Louise, the next stop of the day, I did a bit of hiking, ate lunch, and marveled at a flock of Clark’s Nutcrackers, another lifer, and one that seemed to be everywhere around the lake. Although not nearly as crowded as the town of Banff, the lake resort, and its Chateau Lake Louis, are also quite popular Canadian attractions.

The turquoise/emerald color of Lake Louise, which pleasantly aroused my sense of sight, is the result of rock flour carried into it by glacier melt. The lake was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the marquess of Lorne, who was the governor-general of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my ournal

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my journal.

But as awesome as Lake Louise was to my sight-seeing day, it was the nearby smaller Lake Moraine that stole my heart. The isolation and serenity of the scene before me stirred a longing in me to visit again n the future — when I could stay awhile. Doing so is still on my bucket list.

My day ended in Jasper, where I found a place to do laundry and ate a steak dinner. It was the last day of July – and Alaska still lay ahead. .

Bean Pat: 20 Minutes a Day http://tinyurl.com/z9vcrwq Comfort food. Len is a dear friend, one who teaches writers, and whose major thesis is that all writers should write for at least 20 minutes a day. I adhere to her philosophy. She and I are in the same Story Circle Network online writing group. SCN is the best writing support I’ve had in my life. It’s helped me find the personal voice I needed to replace the journalism voice I used for 37 years. The circle is for women only. If you’re interested, check it out at: http://www.storycircle.org/frmjoinscn.php (more…)

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Banff, a tiny town nestled in Banff National Park's eye-dropping-mouth-opening-wow! landscapes. -- Wikimedia photo

Banff, a tiny town nestled in Banff National Park’s eye-dropping-mouth-opening-wow! landscapes. — Wikimedia photo

Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer 

Golden eagle -- Wikimedia photo by Martin_Mecnarowski

Golden eagle — Wikimedia photo by Martin_Mecnarowski

Shortly after leaving Kalispell, Montana, and my two-night-stay at the historic Grande Hotel, I crossed into Canada and entered Kootenay National Park at about the same time a golden eagle soared overhead. It was a joyful sight, and I drank in the day like cold champagne.   While Benjamin Franklin thought our national bird should have been the turkey, I thought I would favor the magnificent golden eagle. It was the second time I had this thought. The first was the day I watched a pair of golden eagles harass a pair of bald eagles until the white-headed birds of prey flew away.

 

A page from my journal

A page from my journal

Today’s drive lived up to its spectacular welcome to Canada from the golden eagle. The day was sunny and clear, the scent of evergreens heightened the senses of the forest landscapes, and there were birds to see and impressive mountains to view.

And then, suddenly, there were people, crowds and crowds and crowds of them as I made slowly maneuvered my way down a narrow Banff street in search of a parking place somewhere near my room lodging. Located in the splendor of Banff National Park, Banff is one of Canada’s busiest tourist towns – and today to say it was over-crowded would have been an under-exaggeration.

I finally found a parking spot and escaped to my small room for air in which to breathe freely for a few minutes. I then took in a few of the popular sights, such as the Banff hot springs. But after standing in a long-line to get food, I retired back to room, and went to bed early. I only breathed easier after I had left the thick wall of people behind the next morning.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Overcoming fear http://tinyurl.com/zmoye84 Caution X-rated language. That doesn’t bother me, but it might you. I especially loved the laughter this blog gave me at a time when I’m fearing what’s now going to happen to our world. I’m really trying to think positive — and laughter helps.

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    “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” – John Muir, Our National

The Weeping Wall on the Going to the Sun Road. -- Wikimedia Photo

The Weeping Wall on the Going to the Sun Road. — Wikimedia Photo

Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

            I’m a firm believer of the philosophy that the journey is as important as the destination, and this day (July 29, 2001) was a great example of that. Leaving my bags in Kalispell, I set out with a packed lunch to explore Glacier National Park. I wouldn’t return back to the hotel until late that evening, but oh what a day it was.

Page from my Alaskan Journal.

Page from my Alaskan Journal.

According to my sketchy journal notes, the day was windy and cold, but well worth enduring. Among the day’s wonders were:

Going to the Sun Road. This narrow and twisting 50-mile, two-lane road spans the national park. It was begun in 1921, and completed in 1932, and was the first such project to have been registered as a National Historic Place, National Historic Landmark and Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Sections of the road are banned to vehicles over 21 feet in length, 10 feet tall, and eight feet wide. While I drove it in a 2000 Subaru Odyssey Sport, I would have just barely been able to make the trip in Gypsy Lee, the small RV I lived and traveled in from 2004 to 2013.

I drove the scenic highway slowly this day, and enjoyed every minute of the journey,       The Weeping Wall is a spectacular sight as you drive pass it on the Going to the Sun Road, or sometimes through it. It’s a waterfall created both by Mother Nature and the blasting done to build the road. Since it was almost August, the wall’s shower heads were turned to low, but in the photograph above, you get a glimpse of it at its spring peak.

And another page from my journal.

And another page from my journal.

A Grizzly Bear was the cause of a traffic jam on the road. It was quite away off, but I got a good look at it through my binoculars. As much as I had been an outdoors person most of my life, and the fact that I had visited Yellowstone more than a dozen times, I had never seen a bear in the wild. I had seen moose, elk, raccoons, deer, beavers, weasels, bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, possums, porcupines, etc., etc. But I had never seen a bear until this day. It was a momentous moment.

Trail of the Cedars, a one-mile loop hike, which provided views of a meadow that was overflowing with purple flowers, and offered views of mountain goats and Avalanche Gorge, if you took a side trip over a footbridge, which of course I did.

I noted all these things in my journal, plus a note that I have no idea now what I was thinking about when I wrote it. In my own handwriting were the words: “But God isn’t an old woman,” underlined just like that. Perhaps it was a bumper sticker I thought was odd? Or perhaps it was a bit of conversation I overheard? Reading it bought back no memories of why the statement was on the page.

I love surprises when I’m traveling, and those words now surprised me. What fun!

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Cape Code http://tinyurl.com/zbh4ujo Scenes from a novel.

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The Big Hole River accompanied me on my drive this day...

The Big Hole River accompanied me on my drive this day…

            “It is better to travel well, than to arrive.” Buddha

And I stopped at the Nez Perce Battle Ground -- and noted all the signs along the drive that announced "Mushroom Buyer." ... A Page from my journal

And I stopped at the Nez Perce Battle Ground — and noted all the signs along the drive that announced “Mushroom Buyer.” … A Page from my journal

Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

            Today’s drive found me driving beside the Big Hole River, a 153 mile-long Montana waterway that is famed for its fly-fishing opportunities, with trout being the best catch of the day. But humans aren’t the only ones to fish the stream.

A successful catch by this female belted kingfisher. The males don't have the rust-colored belly band. -- Wikimedia photo

A successful catch by this female belted kingfisher. The males don’t have the rust-colored belly band. — Wikimedia photo

I noticed a bird sitting on a limb hanging over the water, and stopped to investigate. My heart leaped into my throat when I identified it as a belted kingfisher, the first of its species for my life bird list. I’ve seen hundreds of these kingfishers since that day, but this one will always be a vivid image in my mind.

It was a good day for birds. In addition to my lifer, I also saw cliff, barn and bank swallows, a peregrine falcon, common mergansers, Brewer’s blackbirds and ospreys with babies.

The birds might have been attracted by all the grasshoppers swarming about. At one point, I drove through a cloud of them , many of which left their bodies embedded on my windshield, and everything else as well. I had to find a car wash in the first available town before I could continue my journey in peace.

The day also came with a visit to the Big Hole Nez Perce Battle Field, where on Aug. 9, 1877, U.S. Army soldiers attacked a sleeping Indian Village. It was a big loss for both sides. The soldiers lost 29 men with 40 wounded, while 89 Nez Perce were found dead, mostly women and children. I could almost feel the anguish as I walked the grounds.

In Kalispell, I spent the night at the historic Grande Hotel. It had been a busy day, and I slept soundly.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The Iris and the Lily http://tinyurl.com/h6tc8b8 I’m a sucker for butterflies.

 

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