My first priority was to top off the fuel, then take the car to purchase groceries, wine and beer. You can’t bring much alcohol across the Canadian border without paying a lot of duty. It might be cheaper to do it that way as booze in Canada is way costly.
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.
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 🙂
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!!
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.
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.
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.
We arranged for a dog walker for Dusty as this would be a long day for him in the RV while we head out to the glacier. It was listed as about 11 hours on the boat. We boarded the boat a few minutes prior to them shoving off about 9am. The boat was about 70′ long with just one deck and was a catamaran style configuration.
There was fog on the way out and we kept going into and out of it most of the way in and out, luckily for us is was mostly clear out there.
We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife except Otters and Seals on the way.
We did come across an iceberg that looked like an ice sculpture and drove all around it. Pretty spectacular sight. I kept wondering how large it was underwater as the captain kept getting closer and closer to it.
We saw lots of fishing boats waiting their turn to throw there nets in the water. We watched one on the way back that had a sea lion jump over the net into the catch area to probably find much easier fish hunting in there.
We went on our way to the glacier, as we got closer it kept getting colder and colder. The glacier was majestic, much larger than the portage glacier we had seen over near Whittier. And while we were there i happened to get a calving on video. That was amazing to see and hear up close.
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.
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.
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.