Update from Valdez, Alaska
Jun 28, 2005
|STARTING NOTE: This caravan moves fast, and there is not a lot of access to the Internet for us in this country, so it has taken us this long to get this update to you. Perhaps now that we're in Alaska we'll be able to have more frequent access. Please be assured we have not forgotten about you! By the way, we added entried for Chicken and Tok, Alaska, just to show them on the map. The information is in this entry.
THURSDAY, JUNE 16, DAWSON CREEK, BC - the first rigs in the caravan started rolling at 8:00am, and we were on the road at 8:20. This was one of the longest driving days we have done in two years, 278 miles. Although the purpose of the day was simply to get all of us farther north, we did get in an excellent view of the Peace River at one point. We stopped at a large turnoff, and immediately four other rigs from our caravan were behind us. We learned that the Peace River is where warring First Nations chiefs decided to make peace and set tribal boundaries.
MONDAY, JUNE 27, VALDEZ, ALASKA - how did we get this far this quickly? Well, it wasn't easy skipping all those other days. It's just that this is when and where we are writing this section. During the past eleven days we have driven from Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson to Muncho Lake to Watson Lake to Whitehorse (Yukon Territory!), to Minto, YT, to Dawson City, and then Chicken, Tok, and now Valdez, Alaska. We've seen great country in 1422 miles, had a bus and train ride to Skagway, Alaska, seen a moose, a few bear, a couple dozen Stone's sheep, a red fox, two bald eagles and two porcupines, took a boat ride through Miles Canyon on the swift and deep Yukon River, and crossed over the Canadian Rockies and the Continental Divide for the second time since leaving the States; we crossed the Yukon River on a ferry (motorhome and car on board), drove the Top of the World Highway, and saw some of the most beautiful mountains that God ever created.
Towering mountains, soaring cliffs, mighty rivers, immense lakes, and abundant wildflowers have provided our enjoyment of this trip so far. We're so glad to be here, doing this. There is real value in traveling by caravan, even beyond the pre-arranged reservations at campgrounds, restaurants, and follies-like revues, and beyond the discounted rates for campgrounds and tours. We're with people like ourselves (and equally unlike ourselves), with a "Caravan Host" up front to be sure things happen. There's also a "Tailender" couple behind us, to make sure we all get there in one piece. Bob and Marilyn are great. They are the last to leave in the morning, making sure no one has a problem starting out, and they bring up the rear. If one rig has stopped along the road, they'll wait until that rig is safely on the way again before proceeding on their own. There's someone back there, someone who knows we are here, and there's someone up front, waiting for us to arrive. In this vast country, largely wilderness, with no communications services we can easily tap into, that's a good thing to know.
Would we do it again, on our own? Absolutely. We're getting a taste of the country now, and we want to do it our own way next time, stopping where we want to, as long and as often as we want to, skipping this and including that. Caravans are designed to get the group to see and do a lot of different things, but not to take pictures of everything, and certainly not to take a day or three just to kick back and let the country wash over you. That's not a negative, just a different perspective.
(One of the things we'd skip if we do this on our own would be the Top of the World Highway. That was rough! Its reputation was enough to entice one couple to skip this part of the tour altogether. They stayed on the Alaska Highway and met us in Dawson City.)
Along the road we came upon a group of Stone's sheep and stopped to take a million pictures. Although the sheep frequented the road (to clean up the winter's road salt) we preferred to photograph them as they came down the mountainside ("natural setting," you know). The babies were cute, to say the least, and very comfortable at mama's side, whether on the road or the hillside.
We had a delightful soak in Liard River Hot Springs beyond Muncho Lake. The water varies from 126 degrees down to 92 degrees. You get into the springs from the left and work to the right as far as you can tolerate. There is a slight sulfur aroma, but that helps to keep the BC Air Force (huge mosquitoes) at a distance. There was a ¾ mile walk each way to and from the springs. Unfortunately, Suzy's electric scooter has blown its top and refuses to work. It was a huge challenge for her, but the Tailenders came through and located a wheelchair for the return trip.
A little further along, a herd of wild horses took over the road, stopped traffic for another photo opportunity. Then there were bison lazily relaxing and watching the highway construction crew.
At Muncho Lake, Captain Jack hosted us for a one-hour lake cruise. He told us about the lake's history and geology, pointed out the beaver lodges, and convinced us that Mother Nature on her own makes a better guardian of the ecology than man does. The campground at Muncho Lake was beautiful: each of us in the caravan had a lake view site, most with full hookups.
At the Watson Lake Signpost Forest we saw signage from all over the world, and several members of our caravan group put up signs from their hometowns. This "forest" was started in 1942 when a homesick soldier (here to help build the Alcan Highway) put up the first sign to his own hometown. Today there are over 54,000 individual signs pointing the way to so many distant home locations.
The train ride to Skagway was fun, but we had done that once before, when we came to Alaska on a cruise ship. On the way back, we stopped at Carcross for some delicious ice cream. Carcross is the shortened name for Caribou Crossing, a change made when the town wanted a post office years ago.
Along the way, we have been directed to excellent homemade rhubarb pie and several different cinnamon roll shops. The best so far was at Braeburn Lodge: the rolls were big enough to serve as ladies' hats, and each one easily makes four servings. This evening we are at Valdez, Alaska. In a few days we'll come back and tell you about what we've done here, including a day on a chartered fishing boat, when we hope to come back with a huge halibut or two.
And during all of this, Suzy has been crocheting to beat the band. She is nearly done with three afghans for our living room area, two for the couch and one for the recliner. When she gets done with those, she wants to start on baby blankets to donate to preemie units at hospitals. She is following a very special side of ... Our Life on Wheels.
FINAL NOTE: Some time back we told you about our firefighter daughter Kathie. She has a very dear friend who is a professional photographer. Kippy Lanker has give us permission to use this photo of Kathie on our website.