Hatcher Pass and the Independence Mine

The day after arriving in Wasilla we drove up to Hatcher Pass and then the Independence Mine not far from the pass.

As we headed up the mountain, we came upon a river with an overlook.  That’s where we read that we were looking at an active fault and the other side of the river, the wall of rock was the actual fault line.

We then started the climb into the clouds, and as it turned out, we came out of the clouds just before the turnoff to the pass.  It was bright and sunny up there.  The road to the top was dirt and gravel, fairly narrow, windy  and pretty steep for a road.   We got to the top of the pass a few minutes after getting on the road.  There was a parking area between the two peaks so we got out there.  The view was nothing short of awesome.   Especially the clouds all below us was very interesting.   There was a small waterfall to our left and went down into a ravine we couldn’t see and before long we found a small lake it empties into.  I had never heard of this place, but found it on google maps that first morning when I was looking for somewhere to go that day.   There weren’t many people up there, just a few other gawkers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After wandering around up there for about an hour, we headed back down off the pass to find the Independence Mine State Park.   It was a short hop up the hill some more.  After paying the entrance fee I asked for a map.  Guy in the booth said I could get one at the visitor center.  When we got up there, we figured out there wasn’t a visitor center.  Geez.

Anyway, it had been a hard rock gold mine, the type that looks for veins of gold and then jackhammers them out and puts them thru a hammer mill so the pulverized rock can go thru a sluice to let the gold settle to the bottom.    This whole “town” was full of collapsed buildings.  You could see where the ground had been moving under them, probably why they collapsed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something I read while there, during WWII they were going to be closed down as gold was not a needed war material; but they had something called scheelite and were allowed to stay open to mine that.  It’s used to maketungsten and that was needed for the war effort.

We wandered around the site for an hour or so while it got a little colder as the clouds we had left on the way up were rising up to our elevation.

We headed back down the winding road and stopped by some apparatus I noticed on the way up to take a picture.   They were right on the side of the road.  Kinda looked like something from an industrial mixer.   I cannot understand why they would be there, especially since they looked permanently mounted.

We made it down the hill and stopped by a Carr’s grocery store.  Really nice place and it’s somehow affiliated with Safeway.

 

Denali Denali and the bus ride to hell and back

The next morning Kathy was going to the sled dog center so I dropped her off at the bus that took her there.   I went off to find a coffee mug and pint glass.   No pint glasses were to be found that morning, but I did find a couple koozys I liked.  I also picked up a bit of groceries in the small “we gouge you” market.

Before noon the smoke moved in that Sunday morning and I was starting to wonder about the trip to the interior in the morning.

 

 

It was still pretty smokey the next morning as I was packing a lunch and water for the long bus ride as the paperwork said there was nothing available during the trip.

I got there early and was first in line.  Of course, just prior to the bus loading, I was told there were two women with issues that were going to move to the front of the line.  They weren’t there yet, so I assumed some very old folks.  Then a few minutes later the women came back and asked if they could sit with their husbands too.   I said sure but that I would board first. She agreed.

They finally got there and these two were in their 20’s with no discernible issues from what I could tell, and that proved out the rest of the trip.   They all jumped up and were out of the bus at each stop before anyone else could even get their seatbelts unfastened, and were the last back on, usually almost running to get there before the doors closed as we would have to wait for them each time.

The road is paved for the first 15 miles, and right away we spotted a moose and her foal on the edge of the road just munching away on the weeds.  She never looked at us, like she never noticed us even though we were just feet from her and the little one.

Not long after that we hit the dirt road and it was rough.  The dust was like what we experienced on the TOTW Highway.  Luckily most folks kept their windows in the bus closed.   Now, these buses were really school buses with slightly better seats.  Not much better seats, but they weren’t the bench seats from my elementary school days.

We made a few stops along the way on our four-hour odyssey to the Eielson Visitor Center.   At each stop we stayed about 10 minutes.

 

 

After the first stop, the second was at a very wide riverbed which was about two hours into the bumpy trip.  The road narrowed to little more than one lane, so one of the buses had to stop in a wide spot with their flashers on so the other bus could pass.  Often it was the bus on the shear drop side that had to do the passing.  I never did grok how it was determined which bus did the pulling over.  It wasn’t always the downhill bus, which is normal for walking on trails.  It seemed random.   There were a lot of blind hairpin turns with a steep dropoff on one side, which didn’t seem so bad till we were coming back and were on the cliff side.

On the way out, we stopped to see Grizzly bears off in the distance foraging on the grasses.   Did I mention the rough roads?   The school bus was making such a racket as we went over the washboard that I was sure the front of the bus was going to break off.  It was so loud I am confident you wouldn’t have been able to hear a train horn from 50 feet away.

 

 

 

Each of the few stops was like getting a reprieve from being waterboarded.  We got to stop for a half hour once we got to Eielson Visitor Center.   It was beautiful there.  It was too bad there was so much smoke that we could not see the mountain, nor even tell what direction it was from there.  I ate my packed ham and cheese sandwich sitting on a rock and looking at the closer mountains ringing us.  It was a beautiful place.  And we were off the bus, making it that much better!

The ride back was more hell and the road seemed a lot narrower as we were now on the cliff side.   My seatmate was praying at each blind corner as we inched around it with the driver trying to see if another bus was coming.  She kept saying, “Please turn” as we got closer and closer to the edge while the driver craned her neck to see a bit further around the corner.   I must admit, there were so many of those corners and each time we seemed to get closer to the edge, it had my complete attention!  Looking down each time was something I shouldn’t have been doing, but it was just there and impossible not to look.

After about 45 minutes driving on the edge of the cliff, we got down to where there weren’t as many cliffs and everyone gave a sigh of relief that we made it.   The rest of the ride was a lot less stressful.  We got to see the same animals as on the way out with one exception.  There was a Marmot on the edge of the road that didn’t scurry away as we passed it this time as it had on the way out.  I guess I was too preoccupied to take any pictures of the ride back along the cliff.

There was a curious sight.  After coming around a corner, there was a caribou in the middle of the road and he walked right up to the bus.  After getting a really close look at us and being unimpressed, he walked slowly off the road into the brush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got back to the bus     depot just after 5pm.  It felt like we had been on that bus for days.   Eight hours in a school bus on bumpy dirt roads is an extremely long time.  I wouldn’t do that again.

To my delight, Kathy was already there and waiting to drive me back to the RV!!

Later that evening I drove up to 49th State Brewing for a growler fill and to pick up a pint glass from the area.   What a cool place, and it was a madhouse on a Monday evening, packed to the gills.

 

And outside was what looked like the infamous Magic Bus from Krakauer’s Into the Wild. That was the first Krakauer book I ever read.  Turns out we were very close to the bus McCandless died in.  It was maybe 10 miles out a trail that is so rough now even the tour folks only take Unimogs to it anymore.

I headed back to the RV to self-medicate from the torturous bus ride that day.

We were heading to Wasilla the next morning, skipping a spot I wanted to spend a couple days at called K’esugi Ken campground.  It was just too smokey there and I could see on the Windy.com app that Wasilla would be mostly smokefree for the next few days.

Denali

We arrived at our campground Friday afternoon.  It’s about 8 miles north of the park entrance.   While we were driving down the Parks Highway from Fairbanks, we were able to see Denali from a really long way up the road.  As it turned out,  it was a much better view from 75 miles away than it was from 15 miles away on the bus ride.

Since we had seen Denali sans any clouds on the way down, we drove over to the park as soon as we set up in the campground so we wouldn’t miss it from a closer vantage point.  What we heard was only about 30% of folks that go there can actually see the mountain top because of cloudy weather.

We drove out as far as cars are allowed, about 15 miles into the park, where the asphalt turns to dirt.  We snapped a few pics on the way, but lacking a telephoto lens for our phones, it’s pretty small in the pictures.  You can only view it on that section of road from about mile 11 to 13.

We stopped by the visitor center and checked out the bus schedules, but found out they need to be purchased at the Bus Depot, about a mile prior to the visitor center, closer to the entrance.   We decided to come back early the next morning so the sun was in a better position for pictures from our vantage points.

 

 

That evening we sat outside in the beautiful weather and then our new neighbor pulled up to back her 27′ trailer into the space next to us.   Three people got out of the truck and they scattered in all directions around the truck and all three started telling the driver what to do.  All three were saying different things and it took the driver about 35 minutes to back that trailer in.   It was quite entertaining.

The clouds were completely gone in the morning, but there was a bit of haze along the bottom that was either water or smoke, but from this distance it was hard to determine which it was.

On the way back from taking pictures at the furthest point, we stopped at a spot we passed that morning and took some more.  There were a couple BMW adventure riders at that stop and I strolled over to say hi and ask about their trip.  They mentioned they came across the Denali Highway from Paxon, and proceeded to exclaim how bad that road was.   I asked them if they had come across the TOTW Highway and they had, but said the Denali was about 10x worse.   I had given thought to try that road as a shortcut to get to Isabel Pass next week till I heard it was 136 miles of dirt and gravel; and now, hearing their story, I was glad I decided to work on the logistics to take the long way there.

On the way back out of the park, we decided to drive up a mountain off the Parks Highway to the Grand Denali Lodge.  We could see it from a long way as it was perched on a mountaintop.   We drove up a narrow winding dirt road that had very unusual signage along the way.  Here are a few we passed.

 

 

 

 

 

The hotel wasn’t anything special, but the signs on the way up and back down that steep mountainside were fun to see.

 

 

I had researched the weather for the next few days and decided that Monday was supposed to be best for getting a close view of Denali from the stops on the park service road so I bought a ticket for Monday at 9am for the 8-hour round trip bus to Eielson visitor center.   I was seriously considering the 12 to 13-hour one.

That evening we decided to go out for pizza.   According to reviews of the very few places in town, a place called Prospectors Pizzeria & Alehouse had the highest rating for what we were looking for.  We got over there for dinner a little after 7pm on that Saturday night, put in our name and received the little puck that would let us know when to come back.   They said it was a 30-minute wait.

I sat down with Dusty and Kathy wandered over to the gift shop.   An hour and a half later the puck did its thing and we got seated at a table that had been empty for at least 15 minutes.   The waitress came by and mentioned that they were backed up for pizza for an hour because of a large To Go order, and she suggested other things that wouldn’t take so long.   We came for pizza, so what was another hour.

An hour and a half after that our pies were done.  Thankfully they were really good pizza.   Basically we got there at 7 and our pizza arrived at 10 pm.  Thankfully we ordered an antipasti appetizer to tide us over!   It was also good, and very different than any antipasti I had ever had prior.

Fairbanks Alaska

We arrived in Fairbanks on Sunday afternoon.  The road from Tok was all paved but rough in a lot of places.  Mostly just dodging potholes and dips.   In Canada almost every road problem was well marked with orange flags and orange signs warning of what’s to come.  Now back in the US, most road issues are not marked at all.   There must have been something critical our government needed to spend all our money on instead of fixing the US highways, or at least hammering orange flags on the sides of the roads where there are frost heaves or two-foot deep dips in the 65 mph roads.

It was pretty smokey and pretty warm in Fairbanks when we arrived that afternoon.   After we set up shop, I drove over to the Safeway to restock the empty refrigerator.  As I came out with a basket full of grocery’s, the heavens let loose with a torrent of rain.   I scrambled to empty the cart and get inside the car as I didn’t have a jacket with me.   It rained for hours that day and by morning the smoke was completely gone and it never came back while we were there.

The rain also brought in cooler, actually beautiful weather, for the rest of the wee, mid 70’s, perfect for playing tourist.

The campground was right on the Chena River,  a slow moving and fairly deep looking river.  Occasional canoes, kayaks, rafters, paddle boards, and power boats cruised up and down it.   There was a few riverboats around the corner maybe 1,000 yards, but none of them appeared to be able to get under the road bridges built over it.     Seems like every river we have seen on our trip so far were very fast moving, so this was a nice change of pace.

We had our entrance steps break after leaving Whitehorse, so all the way to Dawson City I was researching what it would take to get them working again.  Once we arrived in Dawson, I got out my rubber mats for working under the coach and checked out to see what happened down there.

Turns out, way back when I first brought the coach home from buying it in Tucson,  I auto-leveled it  in front of our house, not knowing that when you press that auto-level button, it  immediately dumps all the air from the airbags, lowering the coach toward the  ground pretty quickly prior to the jacks deploying.  I hadn’t understood that and our steps were out, and unfortunately they were over the street’s curb in front of the house.  I realized what was going to happen as soon as heard the air escaping.   Thankfully they only bent up about an inch at the front of the steps.  From then on I could see them bent up, reminding me of what I did each day I looked at them.    At the time it happened,  I crawled underneath but wasn’t able to determine where it was bent.

Fast forward to now and I could see what had happened at the time.   There is a pivot hole with a bushing and hardened shaft going thru it.  The bending occurred at that weakest point and had actually stretched the steel about a sixteenth of an inch on both sides of the top step right at the bottom of the hole.  If that hole had been centered on the steel bar, it may have not stretched as much; but the hole had been drilled too close to the bottom of the steps’ side steel bar and it finally broke there 31 months later.

Now that I know it wasn’t just a bolt breaking or something else that might have been an easy fix, I thought I would find a welder to sister in another piece of steel there.   That wasn’t happening though.  The welders in Dawson City were even working Sunday and said they were backed up for three weeks.

I called the coach’s manufacturer and got a quote on replacement steps.   The price was reasonable but the ground shipping was over $220 and would take at least two weeks to get to Alaska from Alabama.

I did some more research and they were by far the best price when considering the cost of the steps with shipping.   The next day I went online to their website and pretended to place an order, where I found that if I picked 2-day air freight, the shipping was $60 less than ground.  Very odd, but great for me.

So I figured out where I would be the next week (Fairbanks) and then called and made one of the few reservations of the trip so I would have somewhere to ship them.  I got their shipping address and proceeded to order the steps.   I was assuming that 2-day shipping to Alaska would take a week.

The next day I got the tracking number and they were already in Memphis, the FedEx Air hub, and scheduled to be delivered the next day on Friday;  but I wasn’t scheduled to be in Fairbanks till Monday.   I went back to the FedEx site to find out where to call to have the shipment held at the FedEx warehouse.  Turns out you can do that right on the website and I did.  The next day I got a message from FedEx that my package was waiting for me at their facility in Fairbanks.  Just amazing!

On Monday morning I went over and picked them up and drove the car over to an RV facility that a friend mentioned he had been able to buy a part for his furnace from the week prior.    I went in and talked to the service manager, and he told me he had a couple of no-shows and that he could get me in today if I could bring the coach over right away.

I jumped in the car, called Kathy to start putting everything away while I drove back there so I could close it up and drive over to the service center post haste.

I was only there for about an hour when the mechanic came for the keys, and 35 minutes later it was done and I was on my way back to the campground with level steps again.  Not sure if we will ever get used to having level steps now!!

Wow,  steps are installed, pretty incredible when you consider every RV place seems to be weeks behind in the summer everywhere when you need service, and I got ours fixed the same day and it was two days before the 4th of July holiday weekend.   I really should be buying lottery tickets!

There was one unfortunate occurrence in my rush to get over to the repair place that I noticed when I drove the coach back into the site.   I hadn’t moved our portable step stool we had been using to prop up the broken steps far enough out of the way and 10 tons of RV had crushed it into the gravel as I made the tight turn onto the small roadway to leave the site.  Oh, well,  maybe I can hammer them back into being usable again.   But I may need a press to do that as they are pretty sturdily built.

We deployed the coach back into living mode as we had 4 more nights there on the river.  Kathy had been mentioning the state maps other RV’s had on them since the first time she noticed one; so while I was at the RV repair shop, I saw a set that included Canadian Provinces too, so I added that to the bill.

That night we decided to celebrate an early birthday dinner along with a celebration of the steps getting fixed at the Pump House restaurant on the Chena River.

We spent the next afternoon putting it on.  I spent the time it took to mark lines on the slide so we could center the decal background correctly.  Then we put the background stencils on and it was done.  Kathy put all the decals on, only consulting me a few times to determine if we had been somewhere.  She didn’t ask about Hawaii, but I noticed that was filled in like we camped there.  I am pretty sure we only spent time in hotels there, but maybe I am mis-remembering our honeymoon…  It was a long time ago.  🙂

 

 

 

 

The Journey to Chicken Alaska via the Top of the World Highway

Since we had seen some incredibly long lines for the ferry to the Top of the World Highway, we packed up the coach as much as possible the night before we were leaving so there was little to do in the morning.   The thought of waiting for 7 hours to board the ferry was not overly appealing to either of us.  In the morning we didn’t even attach the car so we could get there a few minutes earlier.   I planned on attaching while we waited on the line, or if a miracle happened, when we got to the other side of the Yukon River.

We got over to the ferry about 7:45 am and to our glee there was no one in front of us.  The ferry was on the other side of the river unloading, so we had a few minutes to wait.  I jumped out of the coach and motioned to Kathy to pull the car up so I could hook it up.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the ferry starting to pull away from the other embankment.  I stepped up the pace and got the car attached and ready to be towed in record time.   I ran up the side of the RV to turn off the propane as the cars from the other side were starting to unload; and by the time I got into the driver’s seat, they were waving at me to come on board.

The ramp was practically level with the dirt embankment, so that was perfect to get this long beast on the very short and narrow boat.   We made it without an issue and pulled up to where the car loader had us stop.  We were pretty close to the front and much closer at the back.  I was glad the car was off the short ramp and actually on the ferry proper.

We started taking pictures and short videos so they could be put on the blog easily with our extremely limited bandwidth.  (Turns out that didn’t matter as we had no bandwidth at all in Chicken)   Just think about that,  about  120 miles of mostly dirt and gravel road with absolutely no cell coverage at all.   Back prior to the 80’s, that was normal everywhere.  Can you remember only having a paper map and some dimes for a payphone, if needed?

At least GPS worked as I had previously downloaded the Google offline maps before leaving Dawson City.

We got off the ferry as easily as we had gotten on and pulled over in a wide spot to finish putting the rock screen on and turning on the propane and switching the fridge back on.

The first few miles of road on the Top of the World Highway (TOTWH) was paved but full of potholes that I skillfully dodged.  Then as we rounded a corner not long after getting on the highway, it abruptly ended.   I had read it was mostly paved on the Canadian side of the border.  That turned out to be totally wrong.   The next 60 miles was rough gravel/dirt roadway with almost no vehicles to be seen.

A couple hours later we made it to the US border.   The only questions we were asked was for our passport and whether we had any guns or citrus.    In a few minutes the officer came back out and handed me our passports and said for us to have fun.   I asked him if he lived up here.  He said he did for 5 months per year and loved it:  No supervisors, no cell phones,  guaranteed 4 hours overtime per day (They are open 12 hours per day) and a per diem.  There were two cabins a few feet from the border crossing.   My assumption was two officers must live in those.   As I drove away, I wondered where they get groceries.  By the next day I realized the closest grocery was a very long way away on extremely rough roads.

 

 

To my surprise as we arrived at the border, there was new beautifully smooth pavement.  I had researched this stretch of road via Google Streetview and the border was all dirt road.   I think that hadn’t been updated in about 10 years, if I remember correctly.   And when I checked, the TOTWH was mostly asphalt.  Today both are different.   Even more surprising was this pristine pavement went for at least 10 miles, all the way to the turnoff for Eagle, AK.  Then it turned to all dirt, became a lot of washboard and narrowed to the point where an RV or truck coming the other way was a tense time.   There were many miles of at least hundreds of feet tall dropoffs on our side.   There were also signs stating soft shoulders.   I never saw any shoulders.  The road was way too narrow for comfort, so getting close to the edge was not a fun experience.  Luckily Kathy was on that side most of the way.  🙂   I don’t really like heights much!

After what seemed like two days of twisty winding mountainous dirt road, we arrived in Chicken.  There is not much in Chicken, Alaska, two campgrounds and three small shacks that house the cafe, saloon, and a gift shop that Kathy said was too hot inside to shop.  (Must have been sweltering to prevent that!)

First we tried to park behind the little cafe, but it was pretty uneven back there and I could not level the coach enough to allow the fridge to run safely.   We maneuvered out of that small clearing to drive over to one of the campgrounds to see if they had a spot for us.  They did and we set up camp for the night.

We went back over to the shacks to look around and ended up buying two of the best root beer floats ever.   We talked to a motorcyclist that was riding a BMW Bumblebee, one of the original adventure bikes.  I used to ride with John Herman (King of the Alps, John) who had the first one of those machines I had ever seen.   Back then it was state of the art, having the first para-lever rear swing-arm and tubeless spoked wheels.

When we had first driven up, I had noticed he had a sticker on his front fender that said “Dust to Dawson”  (D2D)  He told me what it was and that he had been riding it for the last 20 years.   It was a wonderful story.  You can read about it by Googling its name if you care to.

We were dry-camping at Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost for $20 a night as they only had a few hookups and they were full when we got there.   We were going to dry-camp behind the cafe for free, so we were ready for dry-camping anyway.  (Fresh water full and dump tanks empty)

For anyone reading this with a smaller RV,  you should fit fine back there.

We drove around the little town,  that took all of 5 minutes.  Not much to see there at all.   Lots of mining equipment strewn about and even a gold dredge similar but smaller sized than the #4 dredge in Dawson City.

 

 

Dawson City Turistas

The next morning after we arrived, we took a walking tour of the city with a Parks Canada guide.   It was very informative and they also take you into a few restored historical buildings that you cannot enter without a guide.   There was a saloon, a bank, and a post office.   The saloon was amazingly restored to match a picture taken at the turn of the century, even up to finding the original painting that had hung over the bar.

 

 

Turns out Parks Canada put out a request to townsfolk  with descriptions of certain things they were looking for.   One of the paintings was found in the attic of a hotel in town.

They also explained why we see a lot of the buildings up on cribbing.  It’s due to the permafrost.  All the buildings that were built directly on the ground started falling over due to the heat from the buildings thawing the permafrost layer which destabilized them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The place is a “building preservationist” dream.  So many of the original buildings are still there in various states of disrepair.  One of the banks right on the river had a facade of pressed tin (steel?) to make it look much more like ornate stonework from a major bank in a large city.   I had never seen anything like that.  But it would have probably fooled anyone who saw it during its heyday.

 

 

The streets are dirt in the whole town, except the Klondike Highway which runs next to the Yukon River between most of the downtown and the newish dike.  We were told the town used to flood regularly and there was a particularly bad flood in 1978, so the government built a 10′ tall and not too long dike next to the river to protect the city.   There is a nice walking path on the top with an occasional park bench to sit and watch the river and boats plying the water.

 

We heard from folks in town that we should visit #4 Dredge.   I really wasn’t too sure what to expect as the only dredges I remember as a kid sucked up muck from the bottom of rivers to make deeper channels for boats to navigate.   That is not what we found when we drove 12 km into the wilderness on a bumpy dirt road.

One of the first thing you notice as you get closer to Dawson City are huge mounds of dirt and rock lining both sides of the highway and they look to go on for long distances in all directions.   I guessed it was tailings from mining, but there was so much I had no idea how they could have made so much.

Then we got out to the dredge.  It was a massive “ship,” for lack of a better term.  Very tall and wide, made out of wood and had two large appendages sticking out of it.  The front side had what looked like a large chainsaw blade but with 2.5 ton buckets for teeth, and the rear had a long and tall conveyor structure for spewing those tailings out the back.

Now the tailing piles were starting to make sense, but not how they appeared to zigzag across the landscape.   We opted to take the tour as I had never seen anything resembling this thing.  It was basically a massive machine that scooped out all the dirt in front of it down to bedrock then dumped it into a rotary drum with different sized holes drilled in it for the gold to drop out into sluice ways for letting the gold settle to the bottom onto what looked like cocoa door mats.  For the stuff (rocks)  too big to go thru the holes, it went out the back of the drum and onto that large conveyor to be ejected out behind the behemoth.   It was built in 1912 to ply the Klondike River.  It all ran on electricity generated by a hydroelectric dam they built for it.   It literally floated on a small amount of water so it could move about by being pulled along by two huge winches that were tied to trees or dead-men placed in front of it.    It would run those buckets down to bedrock where the gold was thought to be, and they used the winches to pivot it to the right and left till everything in its reach could be scooped up.  Then they would winch it 12′ further forward and start all over again.   The pivoting of the buckets side to side explained to me why the tailings were in that zigzag pattern as the back of the “ship” would go back and forth the opposite direction of the front.  And this went on for years,  usually running May thru October,  24 hours a day.

There was a lot of other stuff going on to keep this monstrosity running.  One major thing that had to occur was the permafrost had to be thawed ahead of it.  I assume the buckets could penetrate the  permafrost but the gold would have probably gone out with the tailings had they not thawed  it first.  The most impressive thing of all was this huge dredge was crewed by only 4 men.  I thought it would take 50 after walking thru the whole thing.  I was really surprised to hear it was only 4.   The tour takes you from the bottom to the top of the thing, which is a tall 4 stories with very steep stairs, all wooden, but similar to the steepness on a modern navy vessel.  Dusty was afraid of the open-backed stairs, so Kathy held him going up and down the stairways.  He hung on for dear life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After touring the dredge, we had reserved tickets for the side wheeler that plies the Yukon River from  Dawson to Moosehide, then back up river to the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers.   It was a beautiful afternoon to get out on the river and the little boat was pretty nice.   The Yukon is a very fast flowing river here and going down river to Moosehide was pretty quick.  Moosehide is a very small First Peoples village with no roads leading to it, so anything they need comes by the river.   We loitered offshore for about 5 – 10 minutes while the tour guide yammered on about how it all came about.   Then we started back upstream and that was fairly slow going against the swift current.  We motored over to what they call the steamboat graveyard.  From the water you can only see one ship, but we were told there were a lot more further back in the trees.   The ship we could see had definitely seen better days.  Apparently it was dry-docked there back in the 50’s once the roads were put in allowing trucks and cars to get to Dawson City.

We rode up past Caveman Bill’s place on the opposite bank (West Dawson) of the river.  We couldn’t see much of his abode thru the trees, but were told the man found a cave on the edge of the river about 20 years ago and has lived in it since.   If you google him, there are a few articles with pictures.   I was expecting to see a 90-year-old guy with a 3-foot beard.  That is not him…

Once we got further upriver to the confluence, I was awed by how far a finger of clear water jutted into the muddy/silty Yukon River.  Hopefully you can see what we saw in the pictures.  It looked amazing to the eye.

Luckily this was only a one-and-a- half-hour tour.  You know what can happen on a 3-hour tour, Gilligan!

to Calgary and beyond..

From Milk River we drove to Claresholm and stayed for one night.   It was a really nice community park in the middle of the small town.   Lush mowed grass all around,  a couple baseball diamonds and 22 RV sites.   It was Memorial Day in the States, but this little gem was practically empty.   The town provided the WiFi there, so it was pretty good till it dropped around 5 pm then showed back up at 8 pm.  I guess the AP’s needed a reboot or something.  Anyway, I was planning on staying there for a couple nights, but Kathy had a different idea.  She wanted to get to somewhere we could sightsee.  So the next morning we drove the couple hours to Calgary and are currently staying in a big grass field across the street from the Grey Eagle Casino.   We are boondocking in a pretty large field.  Lots of grass and practically no one here either.   Last night there was one 5th wheel trailer sans truck and two minivans.  This morning we woke up, only 1 minivan left and a Nissan SUV of some sort.   After touring the city, the other minivan is gone, so just the SUV and the trailer are here.

The first morning there, we drove downtown to check out the sky tower and Stephen Avenue.  Parking in downtown Calgary near Stephen Avenue is difficult.  We eventually got a space on the street only a block south and a block from the sky tower. The tower didn’t allow pets, so they weren’t getting our $36 entrance fee.  So we walked over to Stephen Avenue.  It is a few blocks long and mostly blocked off to cars. Oddly it’s not all blocked off though. One of the blocks in the middle had a car pass by us.

We arrived right at lunch hour and the street was packed with office workers heading out for lunch. There are lots of restaurants on both sides of the street and almost everyone had an outdoor patio.  Each one we passed had no empty tables and the food looked delicious!

We found this nice large park at the eastern terminus of the street.  There were lots of kids wading into the huge water feature/fountain.   After all, it was 25 degrees celsius  and everyone was walking around like it was mid summer.   One gal I talked to said we had just missed a snow storm.  (I’m thankful for that!!)

 

 

I did get to stop and talk to the local constable.  I noticed he was packing a Glock and a taser that also looked similar to his Glock.  It appeared to me he was carrying two pistols.  He said they all (the police) carry guns in Canada and are allowed to carry them off duty, but not really.  He mentioned if you do carry it off duty, you will get into all sorts of trouble with the bosses.  Sort of odd, I bet if they stumble upon a robbery while off duty and don’t have their service weapon, they would also catch hell for not having it..  🙂

All the highways in Calgary are under major construction.  At least that is how it seems.  It’s a real mess.  I guess due to the weather it all must happen the few months of the year that it’s warm enough to work outside, but this is over the top.   We were planning on spending tomorrow at the Heritage Park Historical Village, but Kathy just read no pets allowed there either.  Darn, another $58 I am not able to add to the local economy.   Geez, but we liked the free camping.   I really like Calgary… just not all the road construction and detours that go with it.

After we came back to the RV, I decided to get started on the rock guard I am making that goes between the rear of the RV and the front of Kathy’s car we pull behind us.   For today I just painted the 6′ x 1″ square steel tubing, and after that dried I installed a rubber foot on each end so that when it’s mounted and I bang into it, I won’t tear my clothes or legs..   Next I have to drill 7 holes thru it to mount the large U bolt that will hold it to the hitch receiver and 5 eye bolts that will hold down the nylon mesh via many feet of bungee cord I brought.

Drilling the holes is going to be interesting as I don’t have a vice to hold the bar to drill thru it.   Now I am thinking I need to replace my drop receiver with a double receiver so I could mount a vice on the second receiver.   (maybe when we get home.)

I then moved on to hooking the Raspberry Pi (RPI) to the coach’s network so whenever the coach has internet, the RPI will be able to upload all the solar information gathered to the web portal.

Speaking of solar..  Today was really sunny and the roof-mounted panels created all the power to charge the battery to 100% by 7 pm.   Last night the sun didn’t go down here till around 9:40 pm.   If the sun never sets in Alaska, I guess it will keep charging all night.  Now wouldn’t that be really cool!

 

 

Helena MT and on to Milk River, Canada.

We were in Helena for 3 nights.   While there I visited the Lewis & Clark Brewery for a pretty tasty growler fill which came with a free pint!   I also found the most stocked hardware store I have ever seen the following day.  They had at least 5 long aisles filled with specialty hardware.  I had never seen that much in one place.  Reminded me of the McMaster Carr catalog in a store.   Lowe’s sometimes has about 20′ of those trays of special stuff.  This place had over a 150′ of them.   There was a bunch I had no idea what they were used for, and I am a “hardware guy”!

I was able to pick up all the remaining parts I needed to construct my rock guard for the drive to Alaska.  I previously had purchased the mesh and 50′ of bulk bungee cord, along with ends for them,  but not the hardware to hold it all to the rear of the RV and the front of the car, as I hadn’t totally figured out how to do that; but during the first night in Helena I figured out how to make it work.

We stayed at the Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds campground,  22 spaces with electric only.   There was water a few hundred yards away near the office building, so we filled the fresh water tank there prior to parking the rig.   What was odd is there wasn’t a dump station on the fairgrounds, so I started looking for one on the web and found three.  I checked them out in the car the day before leaving and only one would work for us to get in and out of without driving over curbs.   It was just on the other side of the 1-15, a few miles away, and it was our first stop on the way to Canada the next morning.

While in Helena we got to visit the locals’ laundromat.  Kathy got to hear the owner’s whole life story.   His dad owned the bar next door, which I popped my head into and it was truly a dive bar.   Right around even with the worst ones I had ever been in.   There was an odd painting on the wall inside the laundromat, so I had to take a pic.   Here it is:

 

Below are a few pics of the fairgrounds campground.

 

We got out of Helena before 10 am and proceeded north on Interstate 15 toward the Canadian Border.    Luckily the rain waited till we were finished filling the water tank and dumping the other tanks before it let loose on us.

It rained the whole day and only stopped once we crossed the border.   The crossing was interesting as they never asked about the dog or about food we were bringing in.   So throwing out all our fruit and produce was apparently not needed.   For lunch on the way we ate what was left in the fridge… not much..  but it still was a lot to eat.   Reheated a large potato and topped it with spaghetti sauce with meatballs and leftover hamburger meat and leftover chicken tenders.    It was actually pretty good, but the rest of the drive we had that over-stuffed feeling like you get at Thanksgiving.

At the border they only asked for Passports, the RV registration, if we had any alcohol, tobacco, cannabis or guns.    Nothing about food or pets.   He also asked where we were from, and really wanted to know how long we would be traveling in Canada.   He wanted specifics.

After the 8 minutes chatting with the Canadian border guard, we headed a bit further north to Milk River where I had spotted a campground on the map the previous evening.   When I had called, no one had answered.  When I got there, I understood why, really laid back place.  The office didn’t look like anyone had been in it for years.

We spent one night at Milk River, 8 Flags Campground. (I counted 9 flags!)  Right next to the not very busy highway,  ( a car about every 10 minutes) and of course there was a not very busy railroad track just on the other side of that highway.   I only heard a couple of trains go by the whole time there and no train horns were heard.   So a pretty good spot for the night.

There was a sign on the office to boil water, so I didn’t hook that up.  I just connected up to the 30 amp shore power that didn’t have a visible circuit breaker.   I really needed to experiment with that power to see what exactly we can run in the coach at the same time when only connected to 30 amp shore power.   In the states we always seemed to have 50 amp power.  But we can’t do it here as we have no idea where the breaker is and if I guessed wrong, we would be unpowered till I could find someone that had access to the circuit breaker..   (Can we run the heat pump and the micro, toaster or coffee maker? )  I am guessing we can run two of them at the same time, if they are on different circuits; but I currently don’t know which circuits anything is on.

This campground only takes cash; so after finding a spot, I asked around where the nearest ATM was located.   Went there to get Canadian money as you could pay either 30 dollars Canadian or US.   Canadian money is only worth around 75% of US money, so it is a much better deal to use Canadian money.  ($30 Canadian is about $22.50 US)  And of course, most folks probably know this, but the best exchange rate you can get is  from an ATM.   Those money exchange places really take a big chunk of what you convert from cash.   And of course, when you get home, deposit the foreign cash in your bank for a similar very good exchange rate.  Last time, my bank wouldn’t take coins, only the paper cash I had when coming back from the Med Cruise.

The first ATM (and only one I thought there was nearby) said my card was invalid.  I thought I was going to have a real problem in Canada after seeing that message on the ATM screen as Google didn’t know of any banks nearby, and who knows, maybe my ATM card wouldn’t work anywhere in Canada…

I headed off to replace the produce and buy some meat to restock the fridge.   Milk River is a very small town, which means a very small market.   I guess they don’t eat a lot of veggies here in MR as the selection was lacking, and the meat selection was extremely lacking.   We will know more once we hit a larger town or city.   But the best part of going to the grocery store was they had an ATM inside.  You know the ones,  just a small kiosk.   Funny thing I found out, its fees were less than the bank’s ATM fees.  I always assumed those kiosks you find in a 7/11 or other places would really gouge you.   ($3 at the bank vs $2.50 at the kiosk)  So I was able to get cash and pay the campground in Canadian dollars.  Yeah!!   Their money looks really odd.  It’s got quite a bit of cellophane in it, so you can look thru part of their bills.   I guess it makes it more difficult to counterfeit.

The WiFi at our campground was almost nonexistent.   I could see a lot of AP’s from my roof mounted WiFi antenna , Mikrotik Metal AC Router (CPE), but not actually connect to any of them.

I must admit the Mikrotik has the most complicated interface I have ever seen.   Looks like something from the early ’90s.   My laptop could connect to one AP and it had very low power, but it was just enough access to look for the next campground.   None of the other devices could connect.  (iPad or iPhones.)  They couldn’t even see the SSID’s to try to connect.

That next morning we were off to Claresholm, Alberta, Canada

Passing thru Sin City.

We were happy to leave the incredibly windy Barstow area and make the short trek to Lost Wages.   We dropped by the local Elks Club and they had open sites, so we are camping there for the next couple of nights.   We thought we would see a show while here,  Kathy’s choice was Celion Dion for tonight’s show, but neither of us want to sit in the audience and cough thru it all.   Unfortunately, both of us caught a cold just before leaving on the trip.

We took a drive down the strip this afternoon after checking out the local In-N-Out for lunch.   Had to pick up a Tee Shirt at the corporate store.   I had never seen one one of their stores before.  I didn’t realize In-N-Out sold so much swag.   

On the way back to the strip, we found a large sculpture made up of only boats.  Most looked like canoes, but there were a lot of them all wired together.

As we drove down the strip, I was amazed just how much more crowded it is. It’s like they just never stopped building in the 15+ years since I was last there.  It’s a zoo now.  But it’s all mainly down at the south end of the strip right around Cesar’s Palace.   Get much further north and it peters out till you get down to Fremont Street downtown.

On our way toward downtown, we passed the Pawn Stars shop and the little chapel a friend of ours got married in back in the early ’90s.  I sure missed that velvet Elvis above the alter.

We drove on down to Fremont Street so Kathy could get a gander at the spectacle that is “Las Vegas.”   It didn’t disappoint, even the rather plump almost naked gals posing for pictures wanted to pet our Dusty.  Unfortunatly I missed that picture..

 

 

 

A new to me thing on Fremont Street are the 4  ziplines overhead.   They travel the whole way under the FSE overhead structure.   Our hour parking space was just about up, so we headed back to the car and off to find a fill-up station for the car, Nevada gas is quite a bit less than home.   I filled the RV with 130 gallons at $3.15, probably 75 cents less a gallon than anywhere in California right now.   And the car gas was more at $3.34, still about 50 cents cheaper than the gas in CA.

Oh,  you San Diego folks will get a kick from this.  Last night I was able to stop at a local Roberto’s Taco Shop.   I never thought there were any outside of San Diego, but this one used the same TM Logo.    If you get here and need a fix, it’s at the corner of Pecos and Las Vegas Blvd N.

And yes while we were here I was able to fix the camera and GPS feeds.

 

 

 

 

Petroglyph National Monument

During our stay we ventured out to find the Petroglyph’s which were almost in Albuquerque itself.   Its spread out over a large area so we hit the visitor center first and checked out the map.  After looking at all the sites in the area we chose the one they allowed dogs on the trails which was quite a few miles north of the visitor center.  We drove  thru lots of neighborhoods getting there.    When we finally got there we were kind of surprised to see the trailhead was in a housing development and right behind a small store.   We parked and headed out on the trail.  Luckily for us it was nice and cool for the uphill hike.   There was no shade anywhere in sight,  I bet its blazing here in the summer months.   I was amazed how many drawings were on the rocks, there were hundreds,  probably thousands of them.   It made me wonder if the parents of the people doing this to the rocks were unhappy akin to the parents of today’s taggers?

This was a nice walk thru the desert just west of downtown Albuquerque.   We finished the loop and then headed back to the car.