Heading out from Boya Lake to Stewart British Columbia & Hyder Alaska

We left Boya Lake a bit early as we didn’t have reservations at Kinascan Lake and Larry’s coach’s propane tank was close to empty, meaning no hot water and very limited heat would be available.   That morning our plan was to drive to Dease Lake, BC, for propane and possibly stay one night at a site with power, water and sewer prior to Kinaskan.   But it was Saturday and the only two propane stops were closed till Monday after our two-hour drive.   We dropped by a local campground and the owner called one of them and his wife answered saying he was out hunting till Monday and she didn’t have a key.   That campground didn’t look very nice and we decided to move on down the road toward the town of Bell II which had propane and it was open.  Kinascan was now not going to happen as we would not want to backtrack a few hours.

We only went as far as Iskut that day and stayed at a really nice campground that was probably a mile down a steep driveway.  The whole place was on a mountainside, so the sites were terraced down the slope.   We stayed there the night with power and water.  There was a dump station, but we chose to wait as our tanks weren’t close to full yet.    I believe they used the heat pumps to warm their coach that night.  I was able to use the WiFi at the campground for a call from my cell phone allowing us to make reservations in Stewart, BC, for the next few nights.

The next morning we drove the two hours and arrived at Bell II Lodge just before noon and we topped off our propane tank, and I squeezed the coach with the car attached around the building in the widest turn the ditches and overhangs allowed me.   That building was in a strategically bad place and had all the bent roofing and siding to prove it.

Larry’s propane is on the other side of his coach, so he had to detach the car and back into it.  His coach’s turning radius prevented him from going in the way I drove out.   While I was getting propane, Larry topped off his fuel and I did the same while he was at the propane pump.  We decided to each lunch at the lodge, so we both parked the coaches in a spot out near the highway and had some great burgers in their small cafe.  They had a large dining room there but it was closed that afternoon.

After lunch we drove down the Cassiar another couple of hours toward Stewart and then took 37A down the mountain to the town.   That road was an incredible scenic route, passing right by Bear Glacier and then down thru a narrow, steep, walled canyon; and both before and after the canyon there were tall snow-capped mountains on both sides of the highway.

We arrived at Bear River Lodge around 3pm and set up camp for the 3 days we were able to arrange.  We needed to get another night before heading to Meziadin, so we were going to need to figure something out.

Off to see the bears in Hyder that afternoon!

 

 

 

Internet Data Experience in Alaska & Canada

I switched us to Cricket Wireless phone service prior to leaving for Alaska last May. They provide unlimited cell/text/data in Canada. We also have Google Fi for phone/data that will work in Canada. I keep the Fi service paused when not in Canada so there is no monthly cost when I don’t need it.  (pretty cool feature)

Cricket has a $90 per month deal, provides service for two phones with unlimited data in US/Canada/Mexico and that includes 15 GB hotspot data for each phone. (30GB total per month) I believe its called the “More” plan.  I already used the 15 GB hotspot data for the month and I was just able to add another 15 GB hotspot data to my phone for the month for $10   Cricket has really exceeded my expectations.  Not something I get to say,  ever!

Cricket is a prepaid service and it’s owned by and runs from AT&T towers, so it’s had service pretty much everywhere in Canada and Alaska. (except where there isn’t any service from any carrier.  There are quite a few miles of road where no one has service both in Canada and Alaska)

Our Mobley and FMCA Vzb hotspots don’t include any service in Canada, so they could only be used in Alaska and the lower 48. The Mobley and Cricket had excellent service for most of Alaska, just not in Tok.  Our Verizon hotspot barely worked at any place we stayed in Alaska, except it worked well in Anchorage.

And something else that unexpectedly worked was the WiFi calling.  We were on the Cassiar at a campground that had WiFi but no cell within hundreds of miles.  I was able to make a call to get reservations for the next night for us and our traveling companions.  We thought we were going to need to go out to a payphone in the campground in the rain to get them.

I was writing this post offline as no one has service 20 miles west of Watson Lake at the Cassiar highway junction. We were putting up our sign in the Sign Post Forest yesterday during a torrential rain  storm.  Today it’s Snowing, so I’m glad we did it during the rain.     i did some updates to this post while in Stewart BC prior to posting it.

Once we are back to the lower 48, I will probably switch our Cricket plan back to the $30 each per month plan as our other hotspot plans will cover what we need while traveling the US.

From my usage while traveling to and from Alaska, Cricketwireless was practically amazing.

Heading South on the Cassiar Highway

It was still snowing when we awoke for our third day outside Watson Lake.  It was the Monday we were to start heading due south off the ALCAN on the Cassiar Highway. We dumped the tanks and filled up with fresh water as we would be dry camping for the next 17 days at British Columbia Provincial Parks along the Cassiar. We also topped off the fuel to make sure we would still be above the 1/4 mark on the tank when we get back to civilization. Below 1/4 tank the generator will not have fuel to run as the designers don’t want someone to run the fuel tank dry running the generator, hence, no fuel left to run the engine to leave.
We made the right turn onto the highway and immediately noticed the pavement was pretty rough chip seal. Quite a bit rougher than the ALCAN’s chip-sealed roadway. And as we climbed into BC mountains, the road narrowed considerably and all the trees became covered in snow similar to the road shoulders.
Then it started snowing a bit harder, and I wondered if there was a steep mountain pass to go thru soon. I realized I hadn’t really researched this road much as I figured I still had a lot of time to do it, but now I was on it and totally in the dark about what was to come…  There isn’t any cell signal for the next three weeks. Yikes.. I will be testing out “The Spot” I purchased for this part of the trip.

Boya Lake was only about 50 miles south of the ALCAN, so even at 35-45 mph,  we were there pretty quickly.
Susan and Larry had made reservations there, but when I attempted, they were all taken. Luckily for us about 1/2 the sites are not reservable, but are first come-first served sites. (FCFS) We had gotten to the park fairly early in the afternoon and it was almost deserted. We had our choice of beautiful site 15  right on the light blue/green lake front.  I was amazed the campground was almost empty. But that soon changed, by 6pm it was full. And by 1pm the next day it was empty again. .

The day after arriving, we were thinking about taking one of the trails up the river, but it was less than 40 degrees and raining; so instead we opted to drive to Jade City about 25 miles south of the park. Turns out Jade City was mostly just a store that sells lots of things made of jade. But the place did have fast WiFi they allowed folks to use. So we got caught up on email and iMessages, but no SMS texts or phone calls.

Kathy and Sue bought rocks so they would have more things to dust when they get home. 🙂

It will be interesting to find places to dump along this highway. From what I can tell, none of the provincial parks have dumps. Hopefully there are other places or this will be a much shorter stay on this part of the journey.

But it turned out propane was the real issue.  That’s a story for another post…

Watson Lake Sign Install

We drove from Teslin Lake to Nugget City, the Baby Nugget RV Park. The folks in the office were struggling to keep up with the folks coming in to register when we arrived. We found our site and deployed the slides and set up for the couple of day stay here.

Most of the drive from Teslin was in the rain.  And when we got to Baby Nugget, it was dry but looked like it might rain soon, so I tied the ladder to the car’s roof rack and finished painting the lag screws and washers black that would be holding the sign that we are putting up in the Sign Post Forest.
Then we headed over to Watson Lake, YT, for the endeavor. And of course it started to rain just a few miles down the road, but a few miles later it was dry. But just prior to the town it started raining again and was still raining as we parked next to the Sign Post Forest.

I got out to look for the best place to hang our sign and got soaking wet as most of the posts that I had imagined placing our sign on were now full. After a bit I found a few posts with space about 8′ off the ground and went back for the ladder, sign, and paraphernalia to attach it.
By then Larry, Sue and Kathy came out in the pouring rain to help. Larry held the ladder while Kathy and Sue took pictures.

Once ours was up, Larry grabbed the ladder and put up their sign while I held the ladder for him.  A bunch more pics were taken and they went off to find their signs from the previous two Alaska trips with Kathy. I went back in the car to warm up as I had been out in the cold rain a lot longer than them.

When I got in the car and tried to start it, I got silence and a few dash lights. I re-positioned the gear shift and the towing switch and tried again, still nothing. I then waited a couple minutes and tried again with the same result.
Then I started to swear a bit, and just then I noticed my car key fob didn’t have the key part extended. I was using the special Tow Key that I had created when we first started to tow the Equinox. It was made without the security chip that allows the car to start. It’s only good for unlocking the steering wheel to allow towing.  LOL.  I put in the correct key and BAM, the car started and I had heat.

We drove over to the liquor store so Kathy could fax a bunch of documents back to San Diego. (yes, the liquor store had a government office inside)  Then we headed over to the grocery store to correct an emergency situation.  Kathy had taken the last roll of TP out of the bathroom cabinet earlier in the week and not mentioned it till we got to Baby Nugget yesterday afternoon!!

A couple hours after getting back to the bus, it started to snow.  And this mornings it’s snowing again.  Winter has arrived in the North!  (Aug 17th)

Day trip to Skagway

We took the 10am fast ferry to Skagway the day before leaving Haines to start the way home. It’s just a 45- minute ride on calm waters and we were there before we knew it. Kind of cloudy and cool that day. There were 4 huge cruise ships there when we arrived. We walked to the far end of town to swap a tee shirt for Larry that hadn’t fit right and then Kathy started shopping in earnest. I had Dusty with me while she was doing that and practically everyone in that town came over to pet him. Apparently most folks were from the 4 huge cruise ships in the harbor and were having pet withdrawals due to not being able to bring their pets with them on a cruise ship. I found a nice spot next to a restaurant that had an outdoor patio where I was pretty sure we could get lunch with Dusty.
About 12:30 I texted Kathy that the place was filling up fast and I would be grabbing the last available table for us right then.
We had lunch at Olivia’s Restaurant.  I had a meatloaf sandwich on a hoagie roll which was excellent. I can’t remember the last time I’d had meatloaf. Kathy had the Brussels Sprout bowl, which she said was very good. I tasted them, and they tasted like Brussels Sprouts from my childhood.. Yik.
After lunch we proceeded to shop while slowly making our way back toward the harbor where the ferry would be waiting for us around 3pm.

Over to Juneau and back.

We signed up for the Juneau day trip from Haines.  It’s about 90 miles each way, so it took about 3 hours to get there on the ferry. Along the way we spotted Dall Porpoises jumping out of the water, and in just a few minutes after that we came upon a large group (pod) of Killer Whales, and they really put on a show for us. They were on all sides of the boat as we moved thru the water at 30 knots, blowing, breaching, and an occasional tail slapping the water. There must have been at least 20 of them, and they swam with us for many miles of the trip. There were lots of oohs and ahs from the crowd on the boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived at a dock quite a few miles north of the city and a bus was there to take us into downtown, probably a 30-minute bus ride. Once we arrived at Marine Park, the four of us headed out to get lunch at the Red Dog Saloon. Quite the odd place. The floor was awkward to walk on as there was a 4″ layer of what looked like sawdust on the floor.

We got directed to their upstairs balcony for a table to get some beers and lunch. Kathy had a shrimp salad and the rest of us ordered burgers. Poor Dusty was spending the day in the RV with a pet walker coming over every 4 hours for a 15-minute walk. I had set up our WyzeCam to record everything happening in the coach while we were away.

After lunch the shopping began. While Kathy was on a call with the accountant, we started off in the Red Dog Saloon gift shop where I picked up my souvenir pint glass with Red Dog Saloon on one side and Alaskan Amber logo on the other.   I also picked up some tee shirts and a cool grocery bag.

Then we were off to find the Alaskan Brewery store. It wasn’t far and it was a gorgeous store with two levels of all types of gear and logo products from the brewery. These folks know how to market their brand! There were more purchases here and our loads got quite a bit heavier. Even more “stuff” was purchased at other shops till we were ready to find a place for drinks along the waterfront.

 

 

I asked a small shop owner where we might find a spot on the waterfront, and he pointed us in the right direction. I cannot remember the name of the place, but it was on a pier over the water just north of Marine Park. By then we only had time for one beer till we needed to board the bus to get back to the harbor where the boat was docked. This dock was closer to town as the captain had sailed it down to a northern suburb harbor.

It was still a bit of a long trip as it was rush hour in Juneau by then. It’s really hard to imagine this as there are no roads to Juneau. You can only get there by boat or plane. So all those cars had to get here on the Alaska Marine Ferry system. And there were a LOT of cars and trucks.

On the way back we again spotted the Dalls and then one or two humpback whales breaching. We stopped for that for what seemed like a very long time. I think everyone was ready to be back home as we had already been on the trip for about 10 hours by then.

We got back to the RV and Dusty started howling with delight that we were finally back 🙂

 

 

Haines Ak

The drive into Haines was spectacular, lots of water, mountains, glaciers and snow on the peaks. The first really cool thing we came upon on the way in, after crossing the border back into the US again, were “Fish Wheels”. I have never heard of them, nor seen anything like it. They scoop out fish from the river via the two large buckets, for lack of a better term.

 

 

 

 

Haines is a pretty small town with a few restaurants, a brewery and some shops. There is a small boat harbor and a cruise ship dock. The first couple days we didn’t see a cruise ship, but the day we went to Juneau, there was a very small one. One Wednesday, when we were taking the fast ferry to Skagway, there was a full-size Holland America ship called the Noordam at the dock. The fast ferry leaves from the floating dock right next to the cruise ship.

The first night there we went out for halibut, but the restaurant we picked was out of that.  All of us ended up ordering the fish tacos, and they were excellent. The place was called the Pilot Light, didn’t look like much, and I think we were all thinking of going someplace else. But the meal and the service there were top notch.

One of the afternoons I drove over to the Haines Brewery to get a growler fill of a beer I had at the restaurant, but I was told they don’t fill growlers other than their own. When I asked why, they said their growlers would keep the beer longer.  Hogwash… I left an unhappy customer, sans any beer.

One afternoon we drove over to the river with a weir that we read the bears frequent. We saw no bears there. It was a beautiful place and we did notice a young guy out at the middle of the weir in a chair doing “something” and he was frequently looking behind him.

I had heard from a local that the best time to see bears there was after 8pm, so the last evening there we drove back and parked outside the area next to the weir. There were a few other people there with tripods and cameras. One couple was from Eastern Europe, I couldn’t understand a word she said to us; and the other folks, a family was from India. They never said anything at all while we were there.

We noticed an older gentleman out on that chair in the middle of the weir this night. Turns out they are counting the different species of fish, mostly salmon going up river thru the weir.  Eventually as we waited he got up and came over to his pickup, and Larry and I walked over to find out what was going on there.

There are two of them that take shifts counting the fish. They open up a small opening just below the chair and count them as they go by on some mechanical counters. They work from 6am to 9pm every day of the season. I believe he said he worked there Wednesday till Saturday afternoon when the young kid comes in and works till Tuesday night at 9pm.

That must be a pretty boring job, except when a bear arrives and gets on the weir walkway. Turns out that is why the kid kept turning around. He was looking for bears coming up from behind. We were told that one of the counters had to jump into the river to avoid a bear on the walkway last summer. I guess there can be exciting parts of being a fish counter!

By this time the other folks and a few more folks who arrived came over to listen in. At that point the fish counter/park ranger asked us who had bear spray with them. No one had it. He then pointed out that it might be a really bad idea to go looking for bears without bear spray!  Kathy and Sue had left for the car because Kathy said the same thing.  Plus the fact none of the people were looking on the side of the road that was a steep hill.  The ranger said the bears came from both sides!!

One afternoon Kathy talked me into visiting the hammer museum.  It was awesome.  Never seen anything like that before.  Who knew there were thousands of types of hammers.

We also visited the Radio Shack store for Kathy to fax about 33 pages to the financial guy redoing the trust accounts she is trustee for.   Radio Shack provided that service.   Their big fax was dead, so the lady hand-fed 33 pages into an old style fax machine, one page at a time as they were sending.  Geez, I had forgotten about those “good ole” days.

Tok to Beaver Creek

We both left Tok RV park and topped up our Propane tanks so we would have plenty for the 17 days of dry camping along the Cassiar Highway starting the following Monday at Boya Lake Provincial Park. We had bypassed this stretch of ALCAN (Tok to Whitehorse) by taking the Klondike Highway to Dawson City, then over the Top of the World Highway and on down to Tok via that route. Larry and Sue had already driven this part having skipped Dawson City.
So Larry mentioned the drive between Tok and Beaver Creek was the worst part of the ALCAN. And he was right. Non stop potholes, frost heaves and dips for 150 miles. We where definitely Shaken and NOT Stirred on this drive. It gave the Richardson Highway to Valdez a run for topping the worst road ever top 10 list. We finally arrived at the Discovery Lodge and RV park after that jarring ride. It was a very beautiful place, lots of trees and grass, including a huge grass landing strip right in front of our coaches. We headed out in the morning for Destruction Bay, but never really found a good spot to camp along the way and ended up driving the rest of the way to Haines Ak. Quite a long day of driving, but luckily for both of us the Hitch-in Post had spots for us on that Saturday night. We couldn’t even call them while we were on the road as neither of us had cell service till about 10 miles from downtown Haines.

Boya Lake drycamping

We made it to the Boya Lake Provincial Park without issue and turned into their 1+ mile camp road. It wasn’t snowing anymore, just a light rain, making me hope for better weather ahead.

 

We arrived really early in the day and got the most amazing spot on the lake. What a view, and it only got better as the sun poked its head out the following day for a bit. The lake has a white “marl” bottom so you can see all the way to the bottom and it has this incredible turquoise color.

We were starting to have cabin fever as we had been stuck inside for going on 4 days now, rain at Teslin Lake, two full days of snow at Baby Nugget (outside Watson Lake), and now another day starting with snow and ending with rain at Boya.

The campground provided some of the nicest fire rings I had ever seen, and the camp host came around nightly to sell wood to burn if you wanted it.  Larry and Sue really like campfires, so I got to enjoy them too.  Kathy doesn’t enjoy them so I have gotten used to camping without them for the last three years.

Day one we had planned on hiking one of the trails, but it was raining pretty hard, so we opted for driving to Jade City, which was about 25 miles south of the campground on the Cassiar Hwy and to the store that’s the reason it’s on the map.  It was nice that they provided free coffee and WiFi as all of us wanted to get  email as that was difficult to do while we were staying outside  Watson Lake.   Both Kathy and Sue bought rocks with painted scenes, for lack of a better term, while we were there.

We noticed they had a 3 season reality show DVD about Jade City on the shelves, and I added that to my list of shows to look for when we get back home.   I am pretty sure I would have been really unhappy if I had purchased the DVD’s they were selling for a good profit.  Hard to imagine they will be good enough to watch more than a single episode.

Walking the first trail on a wet afternoon.   At the trail head the sign said it was almost a mile each way, so we headed out into the wilderness.   It was a nice wide trail for most of the way as it wound around that spectacular lake.  Sue was wearing her bear bells and all of us had our bear spray, although at that time we had not seen bears at this park.   The trail was not very steep and was enjoyed by all.

Along the way we found some small flat rocks just perfect for skipping on the lake and there were some pretty good skips occurring.

The next afternoon we went out the southern trail that ended up at a huge beaver dam.   I had never seen one up close and I was startled by how much water it was holding back.  You should be able to see how tall it was by me standing in front of it in the picture. It’s much taller than I am.    Another amazing thing was to see all the stumps from fairly large diameter trees that were felled by these creatures near the dam.  I still wonder how they could have moved them over to the dam.

 

 

 

The next evening while sitting around the campfire, we spotted a bear and her cub across the lake very close to where we were hiking the prior afternoon.  That kind of made you think differently about that trek. If you blow the pic on the left you can just make out the black blob.

The BC campgrounds have some very strict generator hours rules.  9-11am and 6-8pm.  Thankfully we have solar to make up any shortfall of power additions to the batteries from such limited genny hours.  Most places we have been allowed 4 hours in the mornings and the same in the evenings.  So this was a bit of a challenge to keep the power levels up.

Something we noticed at this campground was around 98% of the campers only stayed one night.  Most were in prior to 6pm and gone by 10am the next morning.  We where there 5 nights, so we got to see the ingress and egress quite a few times.

Larry got a little surprise the last night he bought firewood when the lady gave it to him for free, saying something to the effect of them being such upstanding campers.

The next morning we headed out intending to camp at Kinaskan Lake,  but that, as it turned out, wasn’t going to work out for us.

 

The Ranch House

What can I say about the Ranch House.   Well, it’s a work in progress and Andy, the owner, is a workaholic.   I have never seem so much stuff accomplished in such a short time, ever!