The Return Begins

Already? Awww…

Yes, it is time to begin our return trip. We’re not traveling the same route—maybe 500 miles of this journey we’ll be on the same road. This leg will take us out of Valdez, up to the junction in Tok and back to Whitehorse. Then we’ll take the actual AlCan highway down to its origination point at Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Following that we will take a side road to Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta, then to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks back in the US. If we arrive on time we’ll drop Bob off in Salt Lake City, because somebody has to work to pay for this trip.

So, here we are in Valdez. At some point in my early childhood and it was after the ’64 earthquake but before the pipeline, our family visited Valdez. I remember the waterfalls and I remember that the town had been wiped out by tidal waves following the earthquake. Even as a young child I was impressed to see that all that remained of the town were street posts with signs and empty cement pads where homes once stood.

On our way out of town this morning we saw a sign marking the original town and visited it. Though much has grown over there were still a few cement pads left with markers explaining what once stood there. Yet another impressive reminder of the strength of the forces of nature and how insignificant man really is in the scope of things.

I was hoping that the waterfalls would be as impressive as I remembered and we weren’t disappointed. Tons of water poured down the side of the mountain, forming its own path and unceasingly pounding on the rocks underneath it.

Bridal Veil Falls just north of Valdez.

Bridal Veil Falls just north of Valdez.

Afterwards we headed up the pass to the summit and came to Worthington Glacier. One of Rebecca’s requests was that she walk on a glacier and this was her chance. Matthew and I wimped out climbing the narrow, rocky goat trail about half way up but Bob and Rebecca made it to the face of the glacier and got see and touch it as close as one can get. I worried they would fall into the river, through a crevasse, or slide underneath the ice…you know… Mom Worries…but they made it safely and have pictures to prove their braveness.north to alaska 024

We continued heading north and for a time paralleled the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. You know, it’s not as big as I imagined. We split off from the pipeline and took the ‘short-cut’ to Tok. I’m not so sure how much shorter it was but it certainly was another remote road. According to the markers this was another gold rich area with the first non-native settlers being prospectors.

Oh say, here’s a crazy observation. Remember I told you about the frost heaves? We found some and Rebecca videotaped a clip for you but we kept noticing that they weren’t as bad as we remembered (the bug splatters are exactly as they occurred in real life). It turns out that these loop-de-loop heaves in the road are a spring occurrence and since the weather had warmed up by our return most of the road had settled back down. So, we were lucky to experience them.

After we crossed back into Canada (without incident this time) we started looking for a place to spend the night. There are very few camping spots which was okay, we could pull off the road and stop, until this:

Well, Hello Mr. Grizzly. No, I don't think I will sleep in a tent right here...

Well, Hello Mr. Grizzly. No, I don’t think I will sleep in a tent right here…

Yes, after a not so friendly greeting by this grizzly we decided the tent was way too thin for us to camp outside a campground so we pushed on until we finally found one at the end of Kluane Lake. The spot seemed perfect, a grassy RV park with bathrooms close, BUT… As we began to unload the truck the mosquitoes formed a dark swarm all around us. In your nose. In your eyes. In your ears. On your arms.

You get the picture. Armchair travelers, be very glad tonight you are sleeping in your bed.

We raced to get the tent up and jumped in to escape. It didn’t matter that our clothes were still in the truck. We had our sleeping bags and nobody wanted to venture out to brush their teeth. That was it for the night.

Tomorrow: Return to Whitehorse and visit some friends.

kluane lake

The Kenai Peninsula and Life Off the Grid

Dear readers,
It may be that some do not realize this is being posted in a time delay fashion. No I am not really on the Kenai Peninsula today. Actually (and this is just for you burglar wanna-be’s) I am more likely home today, cross stitching my new ‘Right to BEAR Arms’ with patriotic red, white and blue colors, wall hanging.
Oh, and Happy Birthday America! We are free because of the brave.

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Here we are with Dean and Saki. Doesn’t Dean just fit the picture of an Alaskan?

This morning we were able to more clearly see the view from Dean and Saki’s house. The one with the million dollar view. What I didn’t mention yesterday is that two years ago a tremendous storm washed away 60 feet of their property…Right up to the front door. Today their homes literally stands at the edge of a 500 foot cliff. The picture below shows their front porch. They have the materials and a plan to reinforce the rest of the shoreline to hopefully keep their home out of the ocean. But…it’s a relentless ocean.

The view down from Dean's window. An easy 500 feet...straight down.

The view down from Dean’s window. An easy 500 feet…straight down.

We left Kenai and followed the coast south. The land was treed with both deciduous and evergreen trees and there were a few small farms sprinkled along the road. As we were passing through one small town we spotted a moose and her two babies. Munching on grass. Right next to the library. So cute.north to alaska 073We had one more sister to visit. Nora and Paul have chosen to live off the grid. We drove to the end of the road…and then turned left to reach their house. They are building their home from the ground up and each year add something major. This summer it will be a septic system. They also raise chickens and geese and Nora is going to start making goat cheese from her goats. Modern day pioneers.

Nora and Paul's home. Got it closed up last year, but still working on it. Notice the satellite receivers. Being off the grid does not mean not modern.

Nora and Paul’s home. Got it closed up last year, but still working on it. Notice the satellite receivers. Being off the grid does not mean not modern.

After our visit, we drove the extra few miles into Homer so we could all see the famous Homer Spit. I’m told it’s the second largest spit in the world. (If you don’t know what a spit is, I’ll let you look it up.) But I’ll share a picture as a clue.

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Homer Spit. See it?

Then reversing our trip we followed the blue Kenai River back up the mountain and ended our day at the base of Portage Glacier. I thought I was being clever picking a spot just under the glacier but discovered the mosquitoes also thought this was a great camp site and were waiting to welcome us. Yes, we are still camping. No, we are not any faster putting up the tent.

We’re all looking forward to seeing the glacier tomorrow and taking a ferry ride.

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Friends and Family and Alaskan Beer

My dad was an early settler in the Chugiak area. He still lives in the house he built in the 60’s. When we were out to breakfast everyone who walked in called out a greeting…kind of like on “Cheers.” It was nice to have a chance to catch up with him and his wife Debbie. Too much time goes between visits.

Here's the gang.

Here’s the gang.

This is us to the right along with three of my brothers and two of my sisters and some of their kids and some of their kids.

This is us to the right along with three of my brothers and two of my sisters and some of their kids and some of their kids.

We have a lot of family in the Anchorage area, so my sister Cindy offered to organize a family get together. Brother Kelly and his wife offered to serve as hosts. The warm summer sun kept the mosquitoes at bay and we were able to meet and greet and visit everyone out on their lush green lawn in the back yard. It was great fun to meet all the extended family.

Brother Tom's one of a kind Moose Truck. Now THIS is Alaska.

Brother Tom’s one of a kind Moose Truck. Now THIS is Alaska.

Of course, we are ones who do eat and run… Oh, if we only had more hours in a day. After saying our good byes we headed south to Kenai where we spent the night with our longtime friend Dean and his amazing wife Saki.

Their home is right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the bay; they truly have a million-dollar view. We got to see Saki’s mini farm where she raises all kinds of poultry, including ones for dinner. The kids were especially impressed that we got to see a baby chicken hatch out of its shell! What an experience.

Look closely. This is the eyeball of a baby chick working to peck his way out of the shell.

Look closely. This is the eyeball of a baby chick working to peck his way out of the shell.

The drive to Kenai is absolutely beautiful. It begins heading south of Anchorage following Turnagain Arm where we could see the mudflats as the tide was out. Even as a young child it was drilled into me how dangerous the mudflats were; the mud acts as quicksand, making it difficult to move quickly, and the long shallow flats mean that the tide can race in, catching an unaware person.

Turnagain Arm in Cook Inlet

Turnagain Arm in Cook Inlet

Further south we drove over the pass and then followed the Russian and Kenai Rivers. I hope my pictures can adequately show the aquamarine color of these rivers. Amazing.

I've forgotten, this is either the Kenai or Russian River. Look at the beautiful color. They catch big salmon in this river.

I’ve forgotten, this is either the Kenai or Russian River. Look at the beautiful color. They catch big salmon in this river.

Here’s an observation: Every house we have visited in Alaska has a twelve pack of cold Alaska beer in the fridge. It makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be stocking some kind of Arizona beer?

Next: All the way to Homer and then to a glacier.

Playing Tourist

Chugach Mountains form a beautiful backdrop for this area.

Chugach Mountains form a beautiful backdrop for this area.

My early childhood was spent in the town of Chugiak, Alaska in the community of Birchwood. As I’ve mentioned before, it was a small rural area separated from the city of Anchorage by two military bases. Birchwood was aptly named for, yes, its birch lined roads. On a clear day you can actually see Mount McKinley if you’re on the right spot on the loop road. It’s a very picturesque place.

It still is, but today most of those 2.5 acre parcels on the loop have homes and the entire Chugiak area is but a short suburbian drive to the city. Many of my extended family continue to make this their home, including some, like my father, who live in their original houses.

For the next couple days we are staying with brother Tom and his son Cody. Not only is it nice to have a bed, shower and laundry all at the ready but we are also enjoying some of the 100 lb halibut Cody caught last week. Talk about delicious!

Remnants from the Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass. We saw people panning for gold at every creek along the drive.

Remnants from the Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass. We saw people panning for gold at every creek along the drive.

We took Tom up on his offer to serve as tour guide today visiting some of the local popular spots.  I realized that even though the area has grown and developed greatly, many of the early settlers were still around or at least remembered through street names. We hiked the trail to Thunderbird Falls, enjoyed the beauty of glacier fed Eklutna Lake and then drove to Hatcher Pass where we could view an old mine operation. Along the way we watched a moose munching in the marsh and saw to Wild Bill, a local legend apparently, who appears to be very anti-government everything. Thunderbird Falls is reached through a shaded path in the woods that invites mosquitoes this time of year. Today was another blue bird sunny days and the path was filled with families out getting their exercise. We saw similar groups at both Eklutna and the Independence Mine, everyone taking advantage of the weather. We’ll take credit for the weather… we heard that last June had rain every single day of the month.

A little cemetary at the Russian Orthodox church. The little burial houses incorporate their Native American heritage with Christianity.

A little cemetary at the Russian Orthodox church. The little burial houses incorporate their Native American heritage with Christianity.

A short post today as I catch up on laundry. Oh, and attention burglars: it sounds like everyone in this state takes advantage of their second amendment rights. If you’re coming by to rob us you might want know that I’m seriously thinking about picking up a new 45, maybe one with a scrimshaw ivory grip.

The View from the Passenger Side

Patch of black spruce. They say a 2 inch diameter tree might be 60 years old.

Patch of black spruce. They grow slow in the permafrost and  a 2 inch diameter tree might be 60 years old.

We have three drivers on this trip and while Rebecca isn’t too keen on driving the narrow two lane roads especially when it comes to passing semis, we are able to enjoy the scenery in greater detail when passengers.

So what have we been seeing? As desert dwellers we first notice the green, in all kinds of different shades and intensities. From the deep forest of the tall pines to the silvery shimmer of the quaking aspen the landscape has been filled with verdant tones. Then we see that the two most popular flower colors are the lavender of lupines and sunny lemon colored dandelions. My favorite flower since we entered Alaska has been the pink wild rose. So delicate and dainty, yet managing to grow where few other plants can take hold. The ever popular fireweed is just about to bloom, yet another reminder that summer is not quite here.

Along the road, the tall pine trees of the Pacific Northwest were gradually interspersed with more fir and spruce evergreens, and, along with them, aspen and birch. The birch and aspen grow tall and straight. We think they would make good log cabins.

Driving north into the Yukon we noticed the trees became smaller and more scraggly. It’s hard to say what point the permafrost impacted the tree growth but suddenly we found ourselves in forests of thin, scruffy black spruce which we were told grow very slowly due to the long cold winters and permafrost. Those same skinny black spruce have shown up all across the state wherever we see swampy areas. It also sounds like they are ripe for burning as we saw a massive forest fire near Tok. The forest service was letting it burn naturally because it was so rural. Also, for those wondering, the moss appears to not know which direction is north and we see it growing on all sides of the trees.

So, we see a surprising number of trees in most areas but there are also many more swampy areas than we expected. We are here for the longest day of the year, which truly seems to mark the beginning of summer. Many trees and shrubs are just now leafing out and wildflowers just starting to bloom. But up in the Yukon I don’t think they are even at this point. Definitely a short summer season this far north.

fireweed

fireweed

Consistently sprinkled across the landscape are ponds, lakes and swamps. Oh, and large, sometimes meandering, sometimes raging, often muddy brown rivers. Spring breakup for the frozen rivers happened the end of May and we wonder if these rivers are always muddy or whether this a result of the continued snow melt in the mountains. Other rivers are an aquamarine green which comes from light reflecting off the glacial silt. And yet still other streams are so clear you can see fish swimming. The bottoms look muddy though and I wonder how far I’d sink if I accidentally stepped in.

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Yes, it’s crooked, but at least the car window isn’t in this pic.

Also we noticed a decrease in farm animals once we left the southern part of British Columbia. Occasionally we have seen horses out in the fields but farming appears on to be much smaller scale as we have traveled north. Interesting to note after we crossed the Alaska Range heading towards south central Alaska we did see more farming and even more cattle. We have friends and family out on the Kenai Peninsula who raise goats along with poultry.

One thing I am surprised to see out 100 miles from nowhere are bicyclists. Their bicycles are loaded with gear and we guess they camp whenever they run out of steam for the day. On the days when it’s rainy they are wearing ponchos and have covered heads. Honestly, I like the idea of riding but these roads are pretty skinny with little shoulder and between the iffy weather and ever present mosquitoes I’m not sure this will make my bucket list.

We were surprised not to see road kill until one friend explained that some people are on the ‘road kill’ list and they come rescue the meat of freshly killed animals. Ha, this is something I thought only occurred in West Virginia…

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Oh, and I did tell you about the mountains right? These windy roads aren’t just traversing a plain. Everywhere we look there are mountains. The hills are all tree covered but we can see tree lines on all the mountains. Interestingly, most of the passes we have driven over are around 3,000 feet, not as high as I had imagined.  And most surprising to us is that all the mountains, and many of the hills still have snow. We did imagine it would be cold but forgot that the hillsides often were permanently snowcapped.

Definitely a passenger side shot--the trans Alaska pipeline.

Definitely a passenger side shot–the trans Alaska pipeline.

Much of what we are driving through reminds me of the wooded areas of Wisconsin or Minnesota. Just without the mountains…and without any towns for hundreds of miles.

Next:  A Tourist in my home town.

A Homecoming

When I was very young we lived just outside Anchorage, Alaska. Back then it was a thirty minute drive to the city and when Mom would take us berry picking she always wore her .357 in case of bear or an angry moose. It was a very rural area. But going back now some thirty years later we discovered time waits for no man. Even Alaska experiences urban sprawl so today thanks to the freeway now the city is just a short drive away, grocery stores are just a short hop in the car down the road and while the moose are still plentiful many feel safe enough from the wild animals to tromp through the woods with only a bottle of water—at least within this area.

Only in Alaska?

Only in Alaska?

Can you really go back home? My memories of the childhood home, school, etc. allowed us to find my way to the house. But it was different, after all these years, the roads are paved, the homes look aged, and the surrounding birch trees are no longer saplings but instead stand tall lining the road.

One of my fond childhood memories was when we kids would walk down to the swamp and following the animal trails clambering over mossy green hummocks as we played. It seemed an idyllic place. I took the family down to the swamp, which was still there—only to discover a dark, dank area, filled with stagnant water harboring hungry mosquitoes that we awoke when we walked past. Is it a memory dashed? Or maybe it’s that I don’t see through those rose colored glasses of a five year old. It makes me wonder, maybe my mom couldn’t believe that we kids found the swamp an entertaining place to play.

My mom let me play in this?

My mom let me play in this?

But many of the memories still are the same. The birch trees still have soft velvety leaves. The summer sun still remains high in the sky at midnight. And giant caribou or moose antlers (or often both) still adorn many of the homes in the area. And some in the family still live in their original homes. It is also funny to hear others date major events in their lives on whether they happened before or after the ’64 earthquake. Obviously this event had a huge impact on everyone’s life.

Speaking of family. What a great opportunity to see the kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews all grown up now. Of course, somehow it still seems strange those kids I remember playing with are now grown, many having grandchildren of their own, while the adults of my childhood are now seniors…or nearly so.  For the next few days we will enjoy getting catching up and spending time together.

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There is no good reason to share this picture except for its craziness.

The Rain, Mosquitoes and ‘No Flush’ Toilets

north to alaska 138Last night, still smug from our perfect day at the park we finally headed for bed. It wasn’t quite the record breaking temperature we’d seen the past few days but still it was warm. So warm that we left the rain cover and door to the tent tied open with only the mosquito netting between us and the outside world.

About 2:30 I woke to a strange sound. A pitter pattering on the tent and the wind rustling. Suddenly, a sprinkle hit my face and I realized what I was hearing. Clouds had rolled in after midnight and now the rain was coming down.

AHHHH!!!!

Worse, I tried to wake Bob so that he could take care of things while I stayed snug in my sleeping bag but he was snoring loudly across the tent. By the time he woke up I realized we had to work together to get our little igloo enclosed from the elements so both of us dashed outside to untie all the tethers and zip back up all the parts. Once back in the tent we remembered that everything had to be moved so that it wasn’t touching the tent wall, wicking up the rain. In the end, everyone was awake as we scurried around.

Once again our inexperience has left us wet. Though thankfully, it was only us, not all our belongings.

On the plus side, we discovered mosquitoes don’t like rain.

It’s not that I’m complaining about mosquitoes but we’ve all wondered about God’s plan when he invented these nasty, buzzing, swarming, and especially, biting pests. Poor Matthew especially hates my knee jerk reaction of swatting all mosquitoes, especially when he thinks I’m slapping him. I think I told you yesterday about how all the stores are out of OFF. Luckily, we brought several cans, including some half used ones that we’ve collected over the years (we do have a mosquito/no-see-um season though it lasts only a few weeks in Arizona). We have noticed on this trip that in the three seconds it takes to pull off the side of the road and roll down the window for a picture the mosquitoes had discovered us. Rebecca and I originally laughed at the nerdy looking people who were wearing mosquito netting but now we’re rethinking it.

Oh no, another No Flush toilet!

Oh no, another No Flush toilet!

Oh, speaking of Rebecca. I was reminded again today about her dread of the ominous no-flush toilets. I had warned her about them but this city girl has managed to avoid using outhouses until this trip. Yesterday she informed me that we have stopped at six no-flush toilets. Really? I had no idea we were keeping count. I explained to her we were lucky these outhouses all looked like toilets… with toilet seats … and had toilet paper and that it could be worse.

I don’t think she heard me.

Upcoming: Family and Friends in Anchorage.

On a Clear Day…

I forgot to mention the heatwave here! It has been record breaking temperatures since we arrived. Nearly 90 in Fairbanks (need I say we took the room with working a/c) and high 80’s here at Denali Park. Who would have guessed we’d need our shorts for this leg of the trip? Well, we aren’t wearing shorts because the mosquitoes are so thick. Today we are especially glad to have multiple cans of OFF. We were told that the lead story in Anchorage was that the state is in a mosquito crisis and shelves are bare of all bug repellent. For those who remember before we left I had asked about the best repellents. For what it’s worth we have decided that only the real toxic stuff keeps those pesky mosquitoes away more than five minutes. Alaska mosquitoes are impervious to anything less.

That is Mt Mckinley in the background. Still 70 miles from the mountain.

That is Mt Mckinley in the background. Still 70 miles from the mountain.

For the bus tour we chose to ride a shuttle bus rather than the tour bus. The tour bus charges more than three times as much and doesn’t go the whole length of the road. The shuttle bus drivers are not ‘professional tour guides’ but our driver was super. He talked most of the ride and pointed out any wildlife, stopping to let us take pictures.We, or I should say Matthew, also made friends with a couple on the bus with us. Daniel and Margriet are visiting from the Netherlands. I think they said they have now been to all 50 states. As you can imagine one bit of attention from them turned into a whole day of Matthew showing off all his treasures. New friends, a well seasoned bus driver guide and $$ saved… I say, use your savings for a night at the lodge and ride the shuttle bus.

As I said, we took one of the earliest shuttles, hoping to see more wildlife. It turned out to be a great choice. We saw caribou, moose and a fox and of course, the scenery was amazing. But to our great delight, the haze of yesterday that limited visibility to McKinley was gone today. It turned out to be a picture perfect day. I think, not only were we in the 30% but in the 10% who really see the highest peak completely without clouds. It was truly amazing. We had super views of the entire mountain from the first moment until we headed back. But by the time we reached the park center clouds were rolling in and once again the mountain was at least partially covered.

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What a super day! We celebrated by roasting marshmallows over the fire which the kids had been waiting to do.

Rebecca and Matthew checking out moose antlers.

Rebecca and Matthew checking out moose antlers.

PS I think we’re at page 13 of Harry Potter.

denali

Next: We forget the Boy Scout’s motto of ‘Be prepared.’

Onward to Denali Park

Today we needed to stock up on groceries and discovered the beauty of Fred Meyer. They are part of the Kroger chain, of which our local Fry’s is also part. However, this Fred Meyer was nearly twice the size of our Fry’s store and complete with a clothing and garden department. I’ll just sum it up with: WOW. Yes, we were very surprised to find such a large store in the relatively small city of Fairbanks. So we bought our groceries and a ton of souvenirs and then headed over to see one of the original paddle wheel boats along the Chena River. The sun was shining and the day beautiful and if we’d had more time we would have taken one of their river cruises. It looked like lots of fun. Instead we had to be content with looking at everything and then managing to finagle a photo op with an Iditarod winner and his top sled dog.

Then it was off to reach Denali National Park. It was only a two hour drive, but as we are discovering, summer means road work in Alaska and this stretch was no different. Several stops waiting for a pilot car with no real idea how long the delays would be. All I can say is at least were able to contain ourselves and didn’t have to jump out of the car to pee in front of the tree in front of us like one lame guy.

More road construction.

More road construction.

So we finally made it to the park. When I was very young (no, I won’t say how long ago, suffice it to say Alaska was already a state…) we camped at Wonder Lake at the end of the park road. Back then you could drive out there but today only select few are allowed to drive the road. The rest of us have to take a bus. We had reserved a spot because I read that, while they take walk-ins, one might have to wait a couple days to get in. I recommend making the reservation. After we got checked in we took advantage of the daylight and drove out to the farthest point we could go in the hopes of seeing McKinley. Though the day was bright it was too hazy to see so I am worried about our tour tomorrow. They say only 30% of the visitors actually get to see the top of Mt. McKinley.

Sorry, I am really rambling. My point is that because it was so light we drove out the road and guess what we saw? Yes, a giant moose. And, super close up.

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Okay, an early morning so that we can catch our 6:45 bus. It seems like we’re sleeping in daylight but each night we’re tired enough that we all fall asleep within minutes. (Did I tell you Rebecca isreading Harry Potter? So far I’ve only hear the first three minutes each night before zonking out.)

A little warm here.

A little warm here.

Tomorrow: Will we see the mountain???

We reach the North Pole!

Okay, not the actual North Pole. But apparently, we found Santa’s home. It’s just outside of Fairbanks. The road from Whitehorse to the Alaska border was the most challenging thus far. Back in the far recesses of my mind I remembered traveling on roads affected by frost heaves. Frost heaves occur when there is melting below the roadway and above the permafrost. They cause the road to buckle and rise up and down reminiscent of Magic Mountain’s best roller coaster ride. Or as Rebecca called it: stomach churning. After a few miles of this crazy road Bob allowed me to drive. Not that he thinks I’m a better driver…or more experienced…but because he knows I am a firm believer that the faster you go the less time your tires are on the road, thus smoothing out the ride. So, it maybe didn’t work out quite that way but we did get across this wild and wooly stretch. I’ll try and video a segment on the return so you can share in the fun.

Our first grizzly.

Our first grizzly.

Just after I started driving we saw two Grizzly bears! Rebecca managed to capture one looking at us rather fiercely before it headed off into the woods. Wow! We have seen eleven or twelve bear already! (So here’s what I learned today. Black bears come in other colors besides black. But they are distinguished from browns by their lack of a shoulder hump. Brown bear and grizzlies are the same bear. Grizzlies live inland while browns are found along the coast and are primarily fish eaters. So, we likely saw grizzlies. In any case, they were a LOT bigger than the black bear we had been seeing.)

But first, I have to tell you about last night. As you recall, we had a rainy tent and a cool evening. (In fact, it was 41F when we left this morning.) But after the whole hoopla was settled we all jumped into our sleeping bags. (Oh, and I figured out the solution for Matthew’s and my claustrophobia of being zipped up in a bag. We zipped two together, making a double bag with plenty of room for both of us. It worked great. I wished that I’d remembered this option before.)

The beautiful Kluane Lake just outside Haines Junction. It is HUGE!

The beautiful Kluane Lake just outside Haines Junction. It is HUGE!

Anyway, back to my story. Rebecca has been entertaining us with her rendition of the first Harry Potter book. We all enjoy it and it’s a nice way to end the day. Last night, as Rebecca noted, there was no need for a reading light as it was still very light…even at ten at night. By the time she finished Bob was already sound asleep. I have been telling the family about the midnight sun. I know they hear and understand what I’ve been saying, but to actually experience it is completely different. About 1:30am I hear Bob sit up. I tried to get his attention but he didn’t hear me. I thought maybe he heard somebody trying to steal our prized coffee pot, which was sitting on the table outside. Slowly he moved over to the tent door and I watched him carefully open it just high enough so that he could slide out. He looked very much like a beaver scooting out from underneath his home or maybe the Grinch who, you remember, slithered and slunk around. Anyway, I didn’t hear anything further except for some people talking so I figured I didn’t need to assist against the burglar. A few minutes later he slunk back in and returned to his sleeping bag. This morning I asked what he was doing and he sheepishly told me he woke up and saw it was so light so he wanted to get the coffee made for me. Then he saw some people and asked one what time it was only to learn it was truly the middle of the night. Ha.

It could be that we are becoming road weary as this afternoon Rebecca hollered out that she saw a ‘mule’. Well, having seen many mules before none of us paid any attention to her until she said it again…when she realized it was really a moose that she saw. Of course, I won’t tell you about the person who made reservations for the hotel in Fairbanks only to learn that the reservation was for the next night… (You’ll be interested to know that the Solstice is a very busy time for hotels when you’re so near the Arctic Circle.) And yes, thank you Best Western for working with us to find a room, which in the end, turned out to be the King’s Suite.

No wonder we're tired. This looks like a long stretch. Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

No wonder we’re tired. This looks like a long stretch. Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

Tomorrow: The Great Land…Better Known as Denali