Friday, May 30, 2014

Russian River

Russian River

When leaving Seward, we packed up in the rain and while hitching up, the landing gear of the 5'er broke.   Time to face one of my biggest worries.  Landing gear and Slideout issues can really ruin your day.  Fortunately, I researched how to repair Landing gear issues and even bought some spare parts in case of this emergency which in this case happened to be shear pins. I was glad I had this part with me and fixed the problem quickly.

We are now camping along the Russian River at a State park that will become a complete madhouse in 2 weeks.  That's because this is the place to be when the Salmon start running.  It's one of the places where you see the shores of the river lined with fishermen competing with Brown bears for salmon.  This is where the term "combat fishing" came about although it's not between people and the bears, it's more between the people themselves vying for a good spot along the banks.   There are hundreds of rules for fishing during this period and many rangers around to strictly enforce them.

We timed it right and on Thursday when arrived, we were the only people in the entire campground of 190 sites.  Made for some nice walks in solitude along the paths and walkways along the river.  It was quite relaxing sitting along the banks listening to the water flowing over the rocks in the river.   We never did see any bears but several times we saw Eagles flying along the river looking for fish. 

The weather has been kind of off lately but at least we had one nice day where we got a couple long walks in and were able to leave the windows open for a bit.  Our last night, heavy rain returned which was good considering the massive fires not too far from here.  It was quite cold and while filling our fresh water tanks we could see a lot of fresh snow on the trees a couple thousand feet up the mountains from us. 
Every campsite has these lockers

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Orcas and Humpbacks

We're wrapping up our stay in Seward and getting ready to pull out.  Yesterday we went on a 6 hour boat ride out to Kenai Fjiords national park.  It was a moist chilly kind of day but a good day to go on this tour.  We saw a lot of sealife, most notably humpback whales and several pods of Orca killer whales.  There was a park ranger on board who told us a lot about the marine life we encountered.
Hiking trail

We also saw seals, sea lions, dall porpoises, otters and puffins as well as a glacier.   It was pretty cold in some areas.

Before leaving today we're hiking on one of the remote trails in Seward.  Last time in Alaska we hiked without any bear spray but this time we decided to get a couple cans of it in Anchorage as the Grizzly bears are plentiful around here. 

It's tempting to spend a few more days in this town.  Our next destination will probably be Coopers Landing area or Homer.  The rain we've received seems to be helping with the out of control fire near Soldotna which isn't too far from Coopers Landing.
Cat not impressed with the view

Great view from the 5'er

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


We spent a couple days in Anchorage taking care of many little details and repairs.  Our furnace is once again working as well as the rest of our gas appliances.   The LP regulator in our 5'er went bad and was causing a lot of weird problems with the propane.  No fun when the furnace quits in the night when the temps are in the low 30's.   Did some grocery shopping, went to the Alaska Zoo and cleaned the grime and mud off the 5'er and truck.   Even though after washing they both were quickly covered in a thin layer of ash from the large out of control fire in the Kenai south of Soldotna.  The sky is quite overcast because of the fire.
Cooking fresh Halibut for dinner.

Now we are in Seward Alaska camped on Resurrection bay.  The rear of our RV is made up of a bunch of windows which allows us to sit back there taking in the comings and goings on the bay.   Last night Yvonne made some Hot Otters (Hot chocolate, Baileys Irish creme, Kaluah and Peppermint Schnapps) while we watched seals and otters in the bay.  Plus there was plenty of boat traffic.  This is without a doubt our favorite place in Alaska.  It's a laid back small town with a lot of history.  The big earthquake in 1964 completely destroyed this town.  After the earthquake a giant Tsunami came in and wiped almost everything out.  It was a terrible disaster.  So they moved the town a little more inland when they rebuilt and use the waterfront now for RV's to park.  Sure hope we don't feel any large scale earthquakes this week.

It's relaxing to park the rig and disconnect for a few days without having to worry about making miles.  This morning we woke up to rain which is good news for the Kenai peninsula and the people dealing with that out of control fire.  Good day to get a good book and sit  by the window reading  ... with a couple "hot otters" of course. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In Alaska

We are finally in Alaska !

The trip today was one of beauty and one of difficult driving conditions. This stretch goes along Destruction Bay which is absolutely breathtaking. The snow capped mountains are massive. And to top it off, we experienced snow showers a few times today.

From Haines Junction until you reach the Alaska border, the roads are pretty rough and loaded with frost heaves. You really have to keep your eyes on the road and go slow to keep from destroying your RV or vehicle. Besides that, there were stretches of rutted gravel roads thrown in to keep your eyes occupied.

But by the end of the day the driving paid off as we drove into the United States customs lane. And then as you drive into Alaska, the road smooths out (temporarily) and is once again beautiful. No more having to go **km per hour. No more signs displaying **km to the Possum Lodge. Back to miles and mph. But the biggest event to celebrate is that diesel prices are considerably lower in the United States. No more $200.00 fill-ups.

About 30 miles from the border we found a nice remote National Forest Service campground that was FREE. It's a good campground with no facilities which is fine with us since we are self contained and have solar power. Our site is on a lake. Besides the camp host couple, we're the only campers here. There was an educational interpretive nature walk that showed how drastically global warming was changing their ecology and adversely affecting the area.
our campsite

Friday we drove to Glenallen on the absolute worst roads yet (Tok cutoff).  Bumpy gravel and many frost heaves.  Rattled loose the rest of the parts from our RV so we'll stop in Anchorage to buy some parts and repair all the things that have been loosening up and breaking on these roads.  The furnace went out last night and it was 30 degrees so we need to fix that problem asap. But the roads should be better from here on out. I'm getting real good at fixing things on this rig.  So tonight was another double Mojito night !

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Canadian graffiti and Pine Lake Yukon camping

Watson Lake camping was in the city campground which was nothing more than a muddy parking lot with full hookups.  Every couple days we need to dump our tanks and refill fresh water so we alternate between wilderness camping and private campgrounds.  The city campground was packed and I think most people RV'ing to Alaska prefer full hookups with cable, internet and all that.  We've been on the road almost an entire month and have not turned the TV on other than to watch a couple movies we brought with us.

Upon leaving Watson Lake we discovered the sign post forest wasn't the town's only unique attraction.  For the next 40 miles, along the road was a mecca of graffiti from locals and travelers.  The graffiti consisted of rocks lined up to form letters and symbols upon the hills that ran parallel to the road. 

It was a beautiful drive today and we made some miles.  Some of the road  had frost heaves which buckles the road with wavy dips in the road.  You need to watch out for frost heaves or you'll end up airborne.  Most of them are well marked with signs.  A few rough spots on the road but all in all not bad.

New wildlife encountered was a herd of beautiful wild horses along the road.  We pulled over to watch the herd.  You could almost sense the hierarchy among them.  What we thought was the leader was a wise looking sprited horse who looked in charge.  We got some video but no pictures.  When we departed, the horses took off after us and ran along the road a ways before stopping.  Maybe they felt they were running us off or just maybe they wanted to go to Alaska with us.

Other new wildlife we saw was the first Grizzly bear a few miles from where we are now camped in the provincial park Pine Lake Yukon.  This campground has everything we love about camping.  The pine forest is thick and beautiful.  Great camping sites all spread out, a lake, and all the free firewood you want.  So we built a campfire to stay warm in the 37 degree weather around here which is pretty chilly for our thin Florida blood.

Watching us by the Campfire

Provincial parks have no water or electric but they are only $12 per night.  Such a bargain.  This time of year it appears about 75% of the parks are still closed.  Most will be opening in the next couple weeks.

We're not far from Haines Junction and getting very close to Alaska.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tatanka in the Yukon

Last night it got quite cold.  We built a campfire on the lake which was nice until a cold windy rainy weather front blew in.  I believe it got down into the mid 30's. Unfortunately during the night our furnace stopped due to an empty propane tank.  It was so chilly that even our cat ended up in bed between us and under the covers.  

After breakfast we hitched up and headed toward Liard Hot Springs which was about an hour from our campsite.  We spent the morning swimming in the hot mineral springs.  It was wonderful and very refreshing.  Everyone who travels the Alaskan Highway should stop here. 

Today we made it into the Yukon and the Bison were everywhere within a 75 mile stretch of road.  There were many individual herds.  Our favorite was a herd with a couple large Bison and a frisky baby who kept bouncing and running around in circles.  It was a joy to watch this baby Bison just loving life.  At one point while running around mom it purposely bumped her with his head and she took off after him.  Not all that different than us in some respects.

So many bear that we just zoom by them and wave. 

Tonight we're staying in Watson Lake which is the site of the famous sign forest.  Anyone traveling the highway is encouraged to put up a sign here.  To date there are 77,000 signs in this forest.  There's also a good visitor center connected to the forest with a museum about the construction of the Alaskan Highway.   The one thing we really wanted to do here was to go into the Northern lights museum but they closed it today to give the workers a 5 day weekend.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Muncho Lake

Very little driving today and spent a relaxing day on Muncho Lake. The lake was frozen but not typical ice. The ice was made up of 4” long ice crystals. When the ice moves or breaks it makes a very unique sound like a crystal wind chime.

Gas and everything else is expensive in British Columbia. We stopped at a small roadside store for a fresh baked Cinnamon bun and got a laugh at the sign on their gas pump. Gas and Diesel is crazy expensive. While eating our Cinnamon buns the Aussies showed up and we sat at a couple tables and talked. They kept us laughing.

In addition to Bear we saw Stone sheep, Beaver and a couple Caribou. And a Moose. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bear country

So many Bears along the way today. We counted 14. The funniest thing though was when a couple from the Australian caravan we met the other day passed us, honked and waved when we were pulled over to adjust something in the back of my truck. The other Aussies in their group had all seen bears on the trip except the couple we spoke with and when we told them how many we seen that day the others in the group looked at them and just shook their heads with sympathetic smiles. So back to the story. After they passed us we got back on the road and about a half hour later we spy their RV on the side of the road and a very large black bear walked out of the woods behind it and crossed the road in front of us. After the bear disappeared into the woods we continued and slowed down when we got abreast of their RV and noticed that they hadn't even know the bear was there as they were sitting at a table having their lunch at an angle where they were unable to see the bear.

 We stopped in Ft. Nelson for lunch at a fantastic vegetarian/organic restaurant and stocked up on some good food. We had lunch with one of the owners /cooks out on their deck and it sounds like the restaurant is quite successful in this small town.

Early evening we pulled over and are camping right off the banks of a beautiful fast flowing river. Played cards listening to Sinatra by candlelight overlooking the river. She mixed some Bahama Mama drinks and insisted I had one even though I'm not crazy about them. Very suspicious and a possible reason why the card game went so badly for me.

Morning had a light rain. Enjoyed coffee watching a beaver on the other side of the river.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Alaskan Highway

We've finally made it to mile zero of the Alaskan Hwy in Dawson Creek, BC and had our pictures taken in front of the official beginning of the highway.  A big milestone in this trip.  After driving about 5,500 miles we still have another thousand miles to get to Alaska !  That's what we get for taking the scenic route up the California Coast.  However I will admit I am getting a little burned out by driving.  From here on out there will be more days camped out and relaxing than just driving. 

Last night we boondocked in a designated RV parking area for RV's at a Casino.  They allow RV overnight parking for free.  So we decided to go in the casino and try our luck.  We came out ahead by $1.10 so it really did pay to stop there for the night.

This morning we met a caravan of 14 RV's traveling together.  They were all from Australia and had picked up their Class "C" motor homes in Seattle to shuttle to Alaska.  They especially liked the model name of our RV - OUTBACK ... Sydney Edition.

We saw three Black Bears today and numerous deer. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

British Columbia

Today we made the border crossing into Canada. We were prepared with all the required documents … cat vaccination, detailed qty's of booze and all vegetables/fruits we were bringing in. The only thing the crossing guard was interested in was our passports and asking if we had any guns or pepper spray/bear spray. It only took a few minutes and then I was able to ask him a few questions about the roads as we were still somewhat undecided on the best choices. And he was quite helpful.

The scenery keeps changing and today we were driving in snow capped mountains where we even passed frozen lakes in the higher elevations. The traffic was much less than what we've seen since we left. And one remarkable fact about our trip is we have not driven through or experienced a drop of rain since we left other than one big storm in the night on day 2 or 3. And the weather continues to be beautiful.

Technology wise, we will be more out of touch since our mobile data interface from the iphone will start getting very expensive while roaming in Canada. Just adding 80 minutes of roam free talking in Canada/Mexico is another $30 per month. Not sure about the data roaming charges and not eager to see the bill at the end of the month.

So we rolled into a nice campground around 4:00 with a view from our campsite of a waterfall spilling off a mountain. Good day for a couple mojitos and some relaxing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


After getting through California and seeing the beautiful Redwood forests and seashores, we decided against driving the Oregon and Washington coasts and instead headed through the middle of the state.  Partially for time issues and also because we had a pretty significant problem with the 5'er that we needed to resolve.
Just about to have dinner outside

When we boondock (camp without water or electric hookups) we must use propane for the refrigerator and the water heater.  In the redwoods we had no hookups and the propane would not work for the water heater.  It fired up but wouldn't stay lit.

The problem was the circuit board that determines if the flame is lit went bad and we had to find a new one.  So until we got to Seattle, we called many RV parts and service places to locate the part.

We thought we'd have one by Portland but it was not easy to source.  Finally in Tacoma we found the part at a camping world and I installed it in the parking lot in case I broke anything while installing the circuit board.  The installation was fairly easy and we were on our way with a functional water heater once again.

We planned to take a couple days in Seattle to restock our supplies and see the town.  First thing on the list was to find a car wash for the truck.  Then we went downtown to Pike's Market and do some touring.

One very interesting tour was a walking tour of underground Seattle.  After a fire back in the 1800's, they rebuilt the town 20 feet higher than what it was.  The catch was it would take years to add 20-30 feet of fill dirt before building so they rebuilt the town and slowly started raising the levels of the dirt eventually closing off the first level of the town.  And many of those areas are still visible with sidewalks and doors and windows of the original town.  We even got to see one of the first flush toilets ever made.

The 19th century history of the town was pretty corrupt and not a place we'd like to live.  However one historic place we did stop and see was the original Starbucks.  Everywhere you look in this city people are walking around with coffee and seems to be a coffee shop on every corner.  I noticed our tour guide sipping two separate brands of coffee just before the tour began.  It's a way of life around here it seems.  Maybe that's why they recently legalized marijuana in Washington state.  To counteract all the caffeine buzz going around.

Tomorrow we'll be glad to get away from the Seattle traffic and head into Canada.  Finally starting to get somewhat close to the destination.  We hoped to do some more tours and go on a Ferry ride in Puget Sound but just not enough time.  Oh and while walking Pike's market we even noticed a sign "gateway to Alaska".

We did the last of our Trader Joe's shopping and stocked up on some new favorite items.  We'll miss that store.  And hit the last of those excellent vegetarian restaurants that the West Coast of the US is loaded with.