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!

Valdez area

The road to Valdez was almost as rough as the road to Chicken, AK, but it was paved and it was probably a 20 times longer stretch of extremely rough road.    There were a couple major construction projects requiring pilot cars along the way.   One of them had you drive down into a deep gully where they were installing a huge pipe to channel a large amount of water from a melting glacier up on the mountain above us.

Prior to heading down the Richardson Highway, we had read a few horror stories from that construction area,  from broken trailer hitches to completely snapped off tow bars due to the steep incline.  Motor homes usually have a fairly long overhang in the back, so steep inclines either up or down and have the back dragging the ground.

We got to our campground and our site was just across from our friends Larry and Sue. We had briefly met them in Teslin Lake, and a couple days later we had drinks and dinner a couple times in Whitehorse.

Larry told us there was a parade here at 3pm and we walked over to watch the King and Queen of the north go by in their float.

We were informed by the campground when we checked in that our boat trip on the Lulu Bell was canceled due to a mechanical issue.   We made reservations with the Stan Stevens tour boat for the day after our canceled trip.

We drove over to the fish hatchery one evening and there was an amazing amount of fish trying to get thru the weir up the river to the hatchery and beyond.   In the parking lot were signs saying that there is a large dam above us on the mountainside and if there is an earthquake to “Run for your Lives.”  Comforting…

 

 

 

 

 

We drove out past the hatchery to the Alyeska Oil Terminal where the Alaska pipeline ends at Prince William Sound.   The pipeline is over 40 years old and it was only expected to last 20 years when built.   Currently it’s running at about 50% capacity.  Oh,  by the way,  they didn’t allow us to go into the terminal, but we did see one tanker at the docks.

Between the hatchery and the oil terminal are lots of campgrounds along the road right on the Prince William Sound.   I hadn’t seen them on any campground website.  They were packed when we drove by.

We went out to dinner a few times looking for good halibut here, but never really achieved that goal while here.   I will create another post for the trip to the Meares Glacier.

Heading toward Valdez Alaska

We drove from Seward to Anchorage and filled the tank with about a hundred gallons of diesel at Costco (it was $2.65 gal, cheapest price anywhere we have traveled this year)   We also stocked up on Costco groceries for the long trip home knowing there won’t be any more Costco stores till Washington state, which is many weeks away.  We will be traveling the Alcan all the way back to Watson Lake where we can turn onto and then travel on down the Cassier Highway till we are close to the town of Prince George BC.

After stocking up and filling the tank we headed on out the Glenn Highway in the direction of Valdez AK.  Our plan was to overnight at The Ranch House Lodge and RV in Tolsona AK (near GlennAllen) , about 150 miles north of Valdez. (everything is far away in Alaska)   We had stayed there on our way out to Isabel Pass a few weeks before.  Its a quirky place.   An old road house built back in the 40’s with the oddest folks we have ever met, who own and run the place.  That’s for a future post.

We got to the ranch house around 3 pm and setup the coach for the night.  They have chili cooking for travelers all day and we went into the Road House to the bar and  I had a bowl and a bottle of beer while Kathy had a glass of wine after our long drive.    The couple that own it orate its history around 6 pm each evening to the weary travelers that camp with them for the night.  Its a great story, and if you want to hear it you will need to stay there..  Its too long for me to write up.  They do have cabins for you to stay in if you go there without an RV.

All I can say the place is a work in progress!   Andy, the husband appears to work 20 hours a day.  And he made a lot of progress in the few weeks since we stopped there on the way to Isabel Pass.

The next morning we were on our way to Valdez!

Turns out the road to Valdez was as rough as the road from Eagle to Chicken AK, but it was paved, but it was probably 20 times longer.  That was a stretch of extremely rough road and the whole time I was driving it I was thinking it was the only way out of Valdez when we leave.    There were a couple major construction projects requiring pilot cars along the way.   One of them had you drive down into a deep gully where they were installing a huge pipe to channel a large amount of water from a melting glacier up on the mountain above us.  Prior to heading down the Richardson Highway we had read a few horror stories from that construction area.  From broken trailer hitches to completely snapped off tow bars due to the steep incline.  Motorhomes usually have a fairly long overhang in the back so steep inclines either up or down and have the back dragging the ground.

Moseying on down to Homer for a few days.

We drove out of Williwaw during a pretty good rain and the first thing we came upon once we turned onto the Seward Highway was road construction and lots of dirt and gravel.   The coach is back to incredibly dirty again.

Something I have noticed in Alaska is the highway names will usually change numbers along the way.   From Anchorage down to the turnoff for Seward Highway 1 is the Seward Highway, but at that turnoff, Seward Highway 1’s name changes to the Sterling Highway and the Seward Highway continues on down to Seward on Highway No. 9.   If you go north from Anchorage on Highway 1, it’s called the Glenn Highway.   After talking to some locals about the highways here, it seems they only know the names of the highways and don’t pay attention to the numbers much.

After the Seward Highway turned off and we were on the Sterling Highway, the next town we came to was Cooper Landing.   It was a pretty little town with the Kenai River running along the road.  The water was that pretty color we had been seeing in a lot of Alaska where the glaciers feeding the river was fairly close.  It is the glacier flour that makes it the beautiful turquoise color.

As we passed the town, the road started getting a lot narrower and much more windy.   And something that gave me pause was the Armco (metal guard rail)  moved in right up to the white lines on the roadway.  Even more disturbing was that the Armco had been flattened by many, many vehicles rubbing along it for incredibly long stretches in the tighter curves.   Driving an 8′ 6″ bus thru there was a bit of a white knuckle experience as there were lots of RV’s, cars and trucks coming in the other direction.

The rest of the drive was uneventful all the way down to the Homer Elks Club.  When we got there, the rain was still coming down, so we thought it lucky to be in a motorhome instead of a trailer.  If you are pulling a trailer, you have to go out in the rain to get to your house.   Not so with the motorhome as you are already in there!

Later on we headed into the lodge to pay for the night and have a cocktail and maybe some dinner.   Unfortunately, they only serve dinner on Fridays and we arrived on Saturday ,so we asked for recommendations.  The Homer Elks Club is in the Old Town section of Homer, so there was a lot of places within waking distance.   The barkeep told us about three places close by that he said were really good:   AJ’s, Fat Olives, and Two Sisters Bakery.   We opted for Fat Olives, but ended up driving there as it was raining pretty good when we got back outside.

We would recommend it!    I had a small pizza and Kathy had a seafood plate on a bed of forbidden rice.   I had never seen black rice before.   My pizza was excellent and she raved about her dinner.

The next morning we packed up and headed down to the spit to camp for a couple of nights.

2006 Allegro Bus Brochure

 

Allegro-Bus-Brochure-2006

 

Here is the brochure to our Bus.   Ours is the exact model shown with the exceptions that we removed the front TV and modified that cabinet to make the bottom of it go straight across and we replaced the couch on the right with a couple of euro recliners.   They will soon be replaced with flexsteels theater seating as the current recliners look good but are extremely uncomfortable.  And something very funny that I just noticed, we even have the dog bed where they show one.   I never noticed that till this morning.

 

Portage Glacier trip.

We drove over to check out the tour boat that takes you to the portage glacier.   Turns out there were tix available for the 3pm tour and we purchased them.   We headed back to Williwaw to leave Dusty in the RV while we went out on  it.

We got there and waited a bit till they allowed us on. It was a really beautiful day, so we took seats on the top deck.   So far the Kenai has been all sun for us!

They get to within a couple hundred feet of the glacier wall and unfortunately we didn’t get to see it calve off.   We did hear what sounded like a gunshot, which we were told was the ice moving, but never saw any movement.

The tour was a little over an hour and we were sure glad we had gone right away as that evening it started raining and it continued to rain the next two days we were there.

 

 

 

Off to Whittier in the morning.

Heading to Williwaw

We had stayed in Anchorage for a couple nights to empty the tanks from the convergence and fill the fresh water as we were going to drycamp at Williwaw Campground at the Portage Glacier.   We left early as we didn’t have reservations there and we knew it had a lot of first-come first-served sites.

The drive down was spectacular.  Kind of what I thought Alaska would look like prior to getting to the great white north.  The mountains with tops covered in clouds, the road carved between the mountain slope and the water of the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet.    We were told it was called the Turnagain because Capt. Cook was looking for a shortcut from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean and the waterway was another bust and he had to turn again…

It was low tide as we drove and some of the areas have a long muck beach to the edge of the water.  Kathy heard that if you walked out in it, you would likely get yourself stuck and it was deep and difficult to pull yourself out of.

We arrived at Williwaw before noon and there were a lot of open sites, many of which could fit the largest vehicles.  We chose a double spot that was probably 60′ deep and 25′ wide.  It cost us $28 for two nights!  50% off due to the National Park Senior Pass.  I think that thing has saved us about $500 dollars since we paid the $10 for it at Montezuma’s Castle National Monument back in May 2017.   I just calculated that was a 4,900% return on that $10 investment.  Wow… I wish the stock market would give me a return like that.   I could retire!   LOL.

The campground was beautiful.  There was a waterfall coming down from what looked like a glacier right above us.  The sound from the falling water could be heard inside our coach.  It was a terrific background sound.   And the campground wasn’t full on Thursday or Friday night.   Kind of amazing for the end of July.  There are no hookups here, just a hand water pump and large dumpsters.   There were also pit toilets.  I didn’t bother to look in them.

This is an awesome campground to see the local area and I bet to fish as there is a lot of water all around.