N’ICE ICE BABY

August, 2016

Yeah, back in the USA!  First stop Anacortes, WA, on Fidalgo Island, where we satisfied our yen for Native American culture with a visit to the Swimonish Reservation (and casino, of course).

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Thought we would revisit Mount Rainier in Washington, on our way south. It ascends to 14,410 feet above sea level, and is an icon on the Washington landscape. It is the most glaciated peak in the lower 48.  It is also an active volcano.  Sort of crazy when you think that with all of that ice, if you were to reach the top, you would feel the hot steam from its smoldering insides.

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While leaving, we saw this wonderful waterfall with a permanent rainbow.  Wow!!

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Bend, Oregon was on our list of “must-sees”, and here we are. ¬†It’s on a few lists as a top 10 city – and we can see why. There are 3 Distilleries, ¬†several wineries, and about 29 – yep- 29 breweries. ¬†There is also a place that ferments tea called Hmmm Kombusha. ¬†There are galleries and theaters, and all manner of cultural and outdoor activities. ¬†We went downtown to check out the Mill District, which is a mall. ¬†But not just any mall. ¬†It was built beside the Deschutes River, and this is what we saw while strolling around the mall.

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Doesn’t that look like fun? ¬†SUPs, kayaks, swimming dogs, and lots and lots of floats; hundreds of folks spending a lazy afternoon gliding with the current through the city.

We ate dinner at Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails, which was great (see foodd and goodies).  While trying to park for dinner, we were told they were closing the area to cars for a cruise ( ??? ).  I asked what that was, this being downtown, and clearly not a cruise port.  The guard told us that it was a vintage car cruise, and they would be driving a route around town for display.  Naturally, we sat at the window at Zydeco, and saw much of he parade while eating.

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After dinner, we continued to stroll the “cruise” route, and found this parked just outside the route.

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That’s right! ¬†A brand new Tesla, (with Tim in the driver’s seat) – not vintage, but fabulosity to the nth degree!!! ¬†Nt vintage, but already a modern-day classic.

We went to Volcano for a wine tasting, and of course found several bottles we thought were worth bringing home.

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The town of Sisters was an easy drive from Redmond.  It is a very cool, artsy, pretty town.  We put it right up there with Talkeetna and Homer.

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We stopped into Sisters Smokehouse and bought lunch, and a few sticks of home- made  Teriyaki Pepperoni.  It was sooo delicious.

 

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from there we headed to the McKenzie Highway, OR 242, which is on the National Register of Historic Places due to the fact that it was a wagon route over the Cascades Range.  It is said that you get the experience of hiking a trail, while driving in your car.  It was a very interesting ride through a mountain pass on a very narrow trail of steep grades and switchbacks.  The scenic route also crosses 65 square miles of lava fields, much like Craters of the Moon National Park, but more mountainous, and with more recent volcanic activity.  It is closed for winter as early as Labor Day.  Snow packs and ice of up to 14 feet are common on the summit of the road.

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65 sq miles of this stuff…

And this lava reminds me – we did visit a roadside oddity in Redmond – Petersen’s Rock Garden.¬†Rasmus Petersen (1883-1952), born in Denmark, built his rock garden in the last 17 years of his life, in tribute to his adopted new country. He collected rocks, petrified wood, glass, and shells from around Redmond, and began building replica structures at the age of 52 — when most people start to slow down.¬†The Garden is still owned and run by Petersen’s grandchildren, and in 2013 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. ¬†Below is one of many buildings Mr. Petersen created on his four acres.

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At the end of every day, we were left in awe of beautiful sunsets.IMG_0744

 

Heading south to California, we were treated to Mt. Shasta, a potentially active volcano located at the southern end of the Cascade Range.  At an elevation of 14,179 feet, it is the second highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth highest in California.

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It’s beauty is difficult to describe, but John Muir said it best.

‚ÄúWhen I first caught sight of Mount Shasta over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒ John Muir, 1874

“…my blood turned to wine…” ¬†ahhhhh – don’t you just love that phrase! I sure do.

I don’t know about you, but we don’t think of ice and glaciers when we think of California. ¬†In fact, we never realized just how many glaciers we would see on this trip – amazing! ¬†( And so sad they are receding )

Next stop was Redding, California, and the Win-River Resort & Casino (see posting under Campground Reviews).  This is just a short  drive from the glaciers of Mt. Shasta, yet,  it is 108 degrees outside. Thankfully, it is a dry heat, so it is much more bearable Рat least for me.  Win-River is a delight.  When you use the RV park, you receive a pass for the fitness center, business office, pool, and hot tub.

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We visited the #1 attraction in Redding, The Sundial Bridge.  

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And  by the way, where (above) is Waldo?

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The Sundial Bridge is a cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge for bicycles and pedestrians, that spans the Sacramento River.¬†The support tower of the bridge forms a single 217-foot mast that points due north at a cantilevered angle, allowing it to serve as the gnomon (the projecting piece on a sundial that shows the time by the position of its shadow) of a sundial. ¬†The Sundial Bridge gnomon’s shadow is cast upon a large dial to the north of the bridge, although the shadow cast by the tower is exactly accurate on only one day in a year ‚Äď the summer solstice. ¬†The tip of the shadow moves at approximately one foot per minute so that the Earth’s rotation about its axis can be seen with the naked eye. ¬†This amazing architectural structure¬†was designed by Santiago Calatrava, at a cost of $23,500,000. ¬† It took 11 years to build, and opened in 2004. ¬†The bridge has become iconic for Redding, and definitely worth a visit.

Tomorrow, we leave Redding, CA , and head south again. ¬†Since we’re so close to her area, we’re going to ¬†take the opportunity to visit Tim’s sister Patty once again. ¬†We’ll see you there.

OY, CANADA

August 2016

Canada, we love you. ¬†The drive to Alaska and back was once in a lifetime — ¬†hopefully. ¬†After miles and miles (literally, thousands of miles) of beautiful forests, mountains, glaciers, wildlife, uncrowded highways and gravel roads (three cracked windshields), “first people” and “last frontiers”, loonies and toonies, the boonies, liters and meters, cheap poutine, and expensive “petrol”, we’re thrilled to be back in our more cosmopolitan homeland.

Just remember we do love you, O Canada, ’cause we could be back as soon as November (after election day).

Picture of cracked windshield from a rock…

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and again, a rock…

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and oh no, not again !!! ¬†this time a kamikaze raven…

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See you in the states…

 

 

 

 

 

YO, CANADA

July, 2016

“Yo Canada. ¬†How yous doin’? We’re back.”

(Say the title ¬†out loud with a “Rocky” accent – you know you want to…)

Back in Canada on our way home to Philly, PA. ¬†But first…

Here we are in Valdez, Alaska.  We were not expecting what we found here.  Although Valdez has several very large RV parks, and a few hotels, it seems to be primarily a town not necessarily for tourists, but a town where people live and work.  A giant oil refinery/storage facility terminus is located here.

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There is also a very large company that processes seafood, called Peter Pan Seafood, Inc.  We drove by and saw dormitories, a recreation room, and a mess hall.

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There is a small boat harbor, which has several companies that offer cruises through the Prince William Sound. The Sound is home to  various tidewater glaciers including Columbia Glacier, and Meares Glacier (one of two advancing tide water glaciers in North America). Valdez is surrounded by the Chugach National Forest, the second largest National forest in the U.S.

Some of Valdez’s history is sad. The city ¬†was badly shaken, but not destroyed, by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. The glacier silt that formed the city’s foundation, turned to liquid, that¬†led to a massive underwater landslide, which caused a section of the city’s shoreline to break off and sink into the sea. ¬†Can you imagine the horror? The underwater soil displacement caused a local tsunami 30 feet high. ¬†Thirty-two men, women and children were on the city’s main freight dock to help with and watch the unloading of a supply ship, that came to Valdez regularly. All 32 people died as the dock collapsed into the ocean with the violent landslide. How frightening must that have been?

Then, in 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred as the oil tanker Exxon Valdez was leaving the terminal at Valdez full of oil. The spill occurred at Bligh Reef, about 25 miles from Valdez. Although the harbor of Valdez was spared, the oil devastated much of the marine life in the surrounding area.

On January 24, 2014,  a major avalanche occurred just outside Valdez, prompting the closure of the only highway in or out of town. On January 25, Alaska DOT triggered another massive slide that further choked the roadway.

The city has really had its share of misery.  But the people continue to work on bringing their city back.  Visiting Valdez is an absolute must, if just for the journey on the only road in.  It is some of the most breath-taking, jaw-dropping scenery we have seen anywhere in Alaska.  By the way, the ride in borders  Wrangell РSt. Elias National Park.  Hence, the gorgiosity!!!

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Check out this glacier folks…

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Look at the clouds hovering over the mountains…and the mirror-like reflective water at the small boat harbor.

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Now, while I extoll the virtue and beauty of Valdez, it is not without its oddities. ¬†You didn’t think I’d leave those out, did you?

Here we have¬†Lonesome Fish. A sad looking fish stands alone, in a parking lot, since his business was razed…

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and...Whispering Chief.

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I had never heard of The Trail of the Whispering Giants. That’s one more reason I love writing this blog. ¬†I have learned so much about this wonderful country. ¬†Perhaps they are not big things, but interesting things nonetheless. ¬†Tim and I usually joke on the road that if there were a “Senior Jeopardy”, we would apply to be contestants. ¬†“Who is ¬†– Peter Wolf Toth, Alex”.

The Trail of the Whispering Giants is a collection of sculptures by  artist Peter Wolf Toth, who was born in Hungary. The sculptures range in height from 20 to 40 feet tall, and are between 8 and 10 feet  in diameter.  Whispering Chief is 25 feet tall.  Currently there are 74 Whispering Giants, with at least one in each of the 50 U.S. states.

There is a restaurant called The Fat Mermaid. ¬† So…

Where’s Waldo?

 

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(See “Kiss De Girl” in Musings)

Just an update on wildlife sightings. ¬†I think we’ve seen everything there is to see, except the elusive Bull Moose. ¬†I hope we get to see one in the wild before leaving the area. ¬†So far, this is as close as we’ve come.

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By the way, I detest these mounted “trophies”.

After leaving Valdez, we took the opportunity to visit Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. ¬†I had never even heard of this park, and yet, it is the largest park in our US park system. ¬†It is over 13,175,799 acres – that’s million acres, ¬†and is larger than Switzerland. ¬†In addition, 9,078,675 acres ¬†of the park are designated as the largest single wilderness in the United States. ¬†It has the most glaciers in North America,¬†including Malaspina Glacier, the largest piedmont glacier; Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska; and Nabesna Glacier, the world’s longest valley glacier. It has six of the highest mountains in North America, including the second highest peak, Mount St. Elias at 18,008 feet. ¬†We stopped in the visitor center, and drove around as much as we could, but this is a total wilderness park – there aren’t many (any) roads.. ¬†Here is a view while driving in the park near the visitor’s center.

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There is not much in the way of services either.  Campers and hikers are expected to be prepared to fend for themselves.  Tim and I hope to spend a little more time here in the next few years because of its unparalleled beauty.

At this point, we start the trek back to the US through Canada. ¬†Many of the places we visited were on peninsulas, with only one road in. ¬†Therefore, we had to backtrack through the same roads and towns. ¬†While we took the Rocky Mountain Route on the Alcan Highway to Alaska, we’re taking the Gold Rush Route, the Cassiar Highway, home. ¬†We passed Destruction Bay, and a very small town called Burwash Landing. ¬†We saw something impressive there. ¬†I’m sure you’ve all seen roadside memorials for people who have lost their lives on the road. ¬†Sometimes teddy bears, pictures, and sometimes plain crosses, or flowers. ¬†This is one that sticks with you. ¬†It is a tribute to a young man whom family and friends called “Dougie”. ¬†All hand-carved statues, on land donated by his tribe.

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We stopped at Jade City, which is not really a city at all, even though it’s on maps. ¬†It is basically a jade store and mine, owned and operated by the same family since 1972. ¬†They advertise that the Cassiar Mountain Range supplies 92% of the world’s jade. ¬†I would have guessed China…

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From Dease Lake, we took a spur road to Telegraph Creek, an old mining town.  It was a crazy ride along a very steep dirt and gavel road with 20% hill grades.  We had never seen a road this steep with no guard rails or shoulders, and drop-offs that plunge 400 feet down, sometimes on both sides.  2 1/2 hours in, and 2 1/2 hours out, on a 70 mile trail.

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We took Spur road 37A off of the Cassiar Highway and visited the towns of Stewart-Hyder. ¬†The ride in was fab, with lots of glaciers and waterfalls. ¬†Stewart is in British Columbia, and just 2.3 miles away is Hyder, in Alaska. ¬†Interesting, you don’t have to show any identification to cross into Hyder, but you do need passports to get back into Canada. ¬†Isn’t that odd? ¬†Anyway, the reason for us to go to Hyder was to get “Hyderized“. ¬†We did get hyderized, and have the documents to prove it.

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It’s a little gimmick the Glacier Inn uses for advertising. ¬†You must sit at the bar. ¬†The barmaid gives you a shot glass with clear liquor, and a glass of water as a chaser. ¬†You may not smell or taste it – you have to chug it. ¬†They won’t tell you what it is until after you drink it – and I’m not going to tell you !!! ¬†because you won’t be able to get your card.

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Our next stop is Smithers. ¬†I think that’s a funny name. ¬†Why? ¬†Well, you have¬†Waylon J. Smithers, Jr., usually referred to as Mr. Smithers or simply Smithers, a recurring ¬†character in the sitcom The Simpsons. And then you have the rhyming ¬†Julius Caesar Dithers. ¬†Mr. Dithers is Dagwood’s boss in the Blondie and Dagwood comic strip.( I guess after almost a year on the road in our little “home”, I’m getting just a teensy bit flaky.)

SMITHERS

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DITHERS

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Smithers is a very cute little town, with a bustling main street.  Unfortunately, there was a power outage when we arrived, and everything was closed tight, for quite a while.

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In the 1980s, tourism promoters in British Columbia encouraged every town to develop some kind of landmark to put themselves on the map, in the order of Prince George’s roadside oddity, “MR. PG”. ¬† Here are just a few.

Prince George

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Prince George boasts their tallest celebrity. MR PG.  MR PG was first constructed in 1960 as a symbol of the importance of the forest industry to Prince George.

Today Mr. PG stands happily at the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 16, but still welcomes all visitors to a Prince George that owes much to the forest industry.  Mr. PG is 27 feet high, and is primarily made out of fiberglass and sheet metal,  painted to look like wood.  He can usually be seen in local parades, and is often dressed in holiday costumes.

Houston

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The¬†Largest Fly Rod in the World is situated in Houston’s Steelhead Park. It was the brainchild of fisherman Warner Jarvis and was installed May 5, 1990

The rod is constructed entirely of aluminum and anodized bronze to simulate graphite. It is 60 feet ¬†long and weighs about 800 pounds. The reel has a diameter of 36 inches.¬†The fly is a fluorescent orange “Skykomish Sunrise” and is 21 inches long, tied on a bright 5/8″ floating line of hollow plastic with a tapered leader (weed-eater cord and 300 test tip). A nail knot and a blood knot are used on the rod.

The rod can be seen in a natural setting in the park. It is illuminated at night. Dedicated to the people of Houston, the Largest Fly Rod in the World  continues to draw attention to one of the best fishing spots in B.C. ( sorry, it was a very cloudy day when we took this photo)

100 Mile House  (the town name)

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Moving south, in 100 Mile House, we find the World’s Largest Cross-Country Skis, along with a 30 foot pair of poles, to demonstrate how seriously this area takes cross-country skiing. ¬†They can be found outside the Visitor’s Center.¬†¬†The South Cariboo ¬†prides itself in being one of the best cross-country ski holiday destinations in North America. ¬†It¬†has one of the longest groomed network of trails in Canada.

Our last night in Canada was spent in Cache Creek, which is a very small town, with no obvious oddities – or anything else. ¬†But one thing of note – it is only 3 1/2 hours from the USA border. ¬†The highway is called the Trans-Canada Highway, and it is a lovely ride, with mountains, canyons, creeks and rivers. ¬†Folks, I can’t tell you how happy we’ll be to have our phone service and data available. ¬†Not to mention everything ¬†that is familiar to us. ¬† Because after all – there’s no place like home.

YAHOO! ¬†See you on the other side…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOMER’S WHERE THE HEART IS

July, 2016

I know, I know. ¬†I said we were leaving for Seward. ¬†But we love, love Homer – so we decided to stay three more days. ¬†After dinner yesterday, we went to the waterfront and watched the fishermen. ¬†While there, we saw four giant sea otters playing fairly close to shore – they’re so cute, and can usually be found floating on their backs – eating.

Sea Otter Eating a Crab While Swimming on Back AK/nRecovering From Oil Spill Seward Dungeness Crab

As we were driving home, there were a few cars parked in a unlikely place. ¬†Being the inquisitive types, we also stopped. ¬†Guess what we saw, right there before our eyes – A BALD EAGLE ¬†five actually – mom, dad, ¬†and their gigantic nest with three baby eaglets. ¬†We were spellbound for awhile, until the sun started to set (10pm). ¬†That’s when we signed up for three more days. ¬†Tomorrow, we plan on returning for a repeat performance.

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The bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of America, because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks. The eagle represents freedom. Living as he does on the tops of lofty mountains, the eagle has unlimited freedom. Their strong  wings can sweep into the valleys below, or soar upward into the boundless spaces beyond.

We had a number of chores to do, but at the end of the day we met up with new friends from Maryland at their campsite right on the water.  Shout out to Karen and Bob.

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These two are way cool. ¬†In fact, Bob’s latest profession is pinball machine repairman ¬†– a pinball wizard, if you will. ¬†You just don’t meet those guys everyday. ¬†Luckily, we did.

While on the beach, having a little refreshment on that very picnic table, we watched this go by.

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It’s a motored ¬†paraglider. ¬†Just soaring across Kachemak Bay. ¬†We saw one earlier in the year in the desert at Quartzsite, AZ. ¬†What a way to go…

Here’s a close-up. ¬†Thank you Google Images.

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I gotta’ get me one of those…

You know I love roadside oddities, so may I present, the Home Spit Fish Hook.

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The ‚ÄúCircle Hook Sculpture‚ÄĚ ¬†is the newest addition to the Spit, part of the City of Homer‚Äôs 1% for art program. ¬†This sculpture was installed April 2015. It stands 13 feet high and is purported to be the largest fishing hook sculpture in the galaxy. ¬†OK!

It was finally time to leave Homer, and we headed for Seward, Alaska. ¬†Actually, we hadn’t planned on going to Seward, but everyone we met said it was a “must”. ¬†Some people even claimed it was their favorite town of all. ¬†Well, not being on a schedule, far be it from us to miss “the best”.

On our way to Seward, we stopped in Anchor Point, the westernmost point in North American accessible by auto.

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Seward, Alaska, is an interesting little town. ¬†It is particularly famous because it is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, a true wilderness, mostly reachable by watercraft. ¬†Only Exit Glacier is accessible¬†by car and a short hike. The ship we took to see the park was called the Glacier Express. ¬†Here’s Tim just before boarding.

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it was a 7 1/2 hour tour, and they even served a prime rib/salmon dinner with all the complements. Delish.

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The glaciers we visited included Holgate and Aialik. ¬†But as important as the glaciers, we saw lots of wildlife, including Steller sea lions, sea otters, humpback whales, and lots of birds such as horned puffins, tufted puffins, Common Murres, and Black-legged Kittiwakes. ¬†There was a National Park ranger on board to assist with sightings, and answer any questions – thanks Ranger Colleen. ¬† I’m not going to use any adjectives to describe what we saw. ¬†I’ll let you choose the descriptors. So here we go…

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In the next picture, look at the rocks in the lower left corner.  Sitting there are Steller Sea Lions,  the largest of the eared seals.

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There were hundreds of Kittiwakes sitting on these rocks.

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Winding through these rocky coves often felt a little like the Caribbean.

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We only had time to take this shot of the fluke of a humpback.  If you want to see it a little closer, just click on the picture.

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The biggest “see” of the day was a fin whale. ¬†Apparently, it’s a rare sight. ¬†There was a mom with her baby – two fins and side-by-side spouts. ¬†Though we got to see her beautiful long body, gliding just below the surface, I’ll have to borrow a pic from Google Images for you. ¬†I don’t think they’ll mind.

The fin whale is the second-largest animal after the blue whale. ¬†Just imagine! The largest recorded is a maximum confirmed length of 85 ft, and ¬†a maximum recorded weight of 132.5 tons. American naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews called the fin whale “the greyhound of the sea… for its beautiful, slender body that is built like a racing yacht, and can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship.”

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Another thing I loved was watching the puffins.  Now this is a cute, cute little bird!

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There are three species of Puffins, identified by their brightly colored beaks during the breeding season. They mainly live in large colonies on coastal cliffs or offshore islands. Two species, the tufted puffin and horned puffin, are found in the North Pacific Ocean – they’re the ones we saw. ¬†All puffin species have predominantly black or black and white feathers, a stocky build, and large beaks. They shed the colourful outer parts of their beaks after the breeding season, which leaves a smaller and duller beak. Their short wings are adapted for swimming with a flying technique under water. ¬†Not only are they cute, but they’re funny, too. ¬†They are small in stature, and kind of chubby. ¬†They kind of look like a sea plane taking off and landing.. ¬†Sometimes they don’t make it out of the water to continue the flight, but seem to stop, take a breath, and then try again. ¬†Once airborne, they spread their legs, and flap their wings, up to 400 times per minute. ¬†To locate them while they’re resting on the water, you kind of look for an orange rind that someone carelessly threw overboard, just floating along. ¬†Fabulous little guys.

After the cruise, we drove to Exit Glacier to complete the day. President Obama visited this very spot to highlight the effects of climate change.

Obama at Exit Glacier

The National Park Service has placed markers showing the year-by-year retreat of the glacier.  Here is a post for 2005.  Kind of sad, right?

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Lest we forget, I do have one more oddity to show you, Espresso Simpatico.

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This is a fully operational, ¬†drive-by coffee shop. ¬†It could use a little paint. ¬†But, hey – what’s not to like?

Our next stop is Valdez, pronounced ¬†val-deez (believe me, I checked and rechecked ). ¬†In order to get there, we have to back track a bit. ¬†So we’re once again in Big Bear Rv Park in Palmer for a few days. ¬†– maybe we’ll wait for the rain to slow down a little. ¬†Valdez is another place we really hadn’t planned on visiting. ¬†When I think of Valdez, Alaska, sadly, I think abut the Exxon Valdez oil spill. As with Seward, many people think this is the prettiest town in Alaska. Again, we’re not going to miss anything. ¬†I mean, when will we ever get back to Alaska? ¬†So, onward…see you in Valdez.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOMER

July, 2016

On our way to Anchorage, we decided to stop off in Palmer, Alaska. It turned out to be a very good choice, mainly because we found a campsite we truly enjoyed. ¬†It’s called Big Bear RV Park. ¬†It is peaceful, pretty, quiet, and has a wonderful view of the mountains – and great WiFi. ¬†We were going to stay just two nights, but added two more because we liked it that much.

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Doesn’t the mountain look like it’s floating on a cloud?

Palmer is a small town, however, they have a big time, non-profit, tourist attraction – ¬†Musk Ox Farm. ¬†Isn’t it beautiful?

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It is quite a large place, and houses about 83 animals at this time.  They are beautifull and wondrous creatures, who roamed the Earth with Saber-Toothed Tigers.

A Musk Ox has an outer coat, but they also have an inner down coat called Qiviut ( kiv Рee Р ute), that gets shed each spring.  It is 8x warmer, by weight, than wool, and softer than cashmere.  The animals at this farm get combed everyday or two for the precious Qiviut.  After a process, it is given to native Alakans who knit sweaters, scarves, and other items.  They are paid for their handiwork immediately, and do not have to wait until the item is sold. This  assists them with the money they so desperately need.

Up close and personal…they love humans and to be petted.

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Yes, the tips of their horns are removed so they can’t hurt themselves, or others. ¬†Musk Ox can get pretty feisty.

This is Jade. ¬†As you can probably tell, she’s queen of her castle – ¬†and lets everyone know it.

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As an aside, we did some shopping in Wasilla, which is next to Palmer, ¬†and I got a much-needed hair trim. It is the very same salon Sarah Palin uses. ¬†Well, at least until ¬†she became ¬†famous. ¬†Now the manager goes to Sarah’s house to do her hair. ¬†So, I didn’t get to see her. ¬†Close – but no cigar.

We reluctantly left Palmer and headed south. ¬†Guess what? ¬†We breezed right through Anchorage, and didn’t stay. ¬†I’m sure it has its sights to see, but to us, it was just another sprawling city, complete with traffic snarls. ¬†Curiously, there are no ¬†skyscrapers ¬†in Alaska’s largest city. ¬†That’s because of ¬†earthquakes! ¬† So we moved on to the Kenai Peninsula. ¬†Homer is the southern most town on the peninsula, and that’s the final destination in these parts. ¬†Home base? ¬†Fred Meyer (the Walmart of the Northwest) in Soldotna, ¬†complete with a dump station and fresh water. ¬†The cost – $0.00. ¬†Tim has a saying, “if it’s free, it’s for me”. ¬†Actually, it was pretty good. ¬†Other RVers say if you can score a space at “Freddie’s”, you’ve hit the jackpot. ¬†We were surrounded by other RVs, mostly fishermen, ¬†all in good spirits. ¬†It was the perfect spot to explore Soldotna and Kenai City.

Kenai City is a teeny town. ¬†Turns out we visited the three most popular attractions, and didn’t even realize it. ¬†Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church, The Chapel of St. Nicholas, and the Parish Rectory.

The Church.

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The Chapel.

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This is the Parish Rectory, which is the oldest building in Kenai City.

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We had lunch at Veronica’s.

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I asked the woman who seemed to be in charge if she was Veronica. ¬†“Nope”, she said. ¬†“Veronica is the former owner’s dead dog”. ¬†(oops!) ¬†I took to calling her “Not Veronica” – I think she liked it…

Veronica’s claims to have “life-altering desserts”. ¬†Gotta’ try one, right? ¬†It was such a charming spot, we had lunch – delicious! (see review in Food and Goodies ).

The Kenai River runs fast, and deep. ¬†It is open season for salmon. ¬†Seeing the men “combat fishing” is kind of crazy. ¬†They line ¬†the river banks and the water, ¬†shoulder-to-shoulder. ¬†It’s a wonder anyone catches anything. ¬†But they do – and lots of it. ¬†Here’s a picture of the people fishing.

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If you are an Alaskan resident, you can go “Netting”. ¬†Now I’ve seen people with nets for hauling in their rod and reel catch – but not like this. ¬†These monsters are huge – made for catching “Nessie”. They put those nets in the water and pull them along until they “net” something. ¬†I don’t think the fish stand a chance.

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In Soldotna, we  visited  Alaska Berries.

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This is a winery where no grapes are used – only berries. ¬†They also make jams, syrups and vinaigrettes. ¬†Of course, we bought a few items, including a dry strawberry wine, and haskap berry jam and syrup. ¬†I had never even heard of a haskap berry before. ¬†Now, I’m loving’ them.

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Aren’t they beautiful? ¬†We had pancakes with haskap syrup, and they were OMG good.

We left Soldotna and headed for Homer. ¬†But first, a stop in Ninilchik to visit new friends on their family homestead. ¬†Meet the Palmers – That’s Tresa, and her husband David in the middle, and David’s brothers , Earl and Jim. ¬†Wonderful folks.

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The Palmers suggested we visit the town church,¬†Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel. ¬†There’s a¬†cemetery adjacent to the church. ¬†Notice that the Russian Orthodox crosses have three horizontal crossbars, unlike the Latin church’s single crosspiece. ¬†The top is one is for inscription, the center and bottom brace the arms and feet of the crucified. ¬†The bottommost is ¬†slanted, representing the “balance of righteousness”, downward for the blaspheming thief crucified beside Christ, upward for the repentant thief crucified on his other side.

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Here’s a view inside. ¬†Did you know there are no pews, or seats of any kind, in a these Russian Orthodox Churches? ¬†I asked how long the service lasts, and the docent said about 1 1/4 hours. ¬†Whew! Thats a lot of standing in one spot.

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And this is the view from outside the church. ¬†Prime real estate I’d say.

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We also took a detour to a beach road. We found this house and with it,  an RV park with about 12 full hook-up sites for sale.

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It’s across the dirt road from this beach.

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Not too shabby! ¬†Anyone out there want to be part- owner in an income-producing place in Ninilchik , AK? ¬†You know how to reach us… ¬†By the way, the largest mountain above, and to the left , with the flat top, is a volcano, ¬†Mt. Redoubt – which last erupted in 2009.

On to Homer and the Homer Spit,  at the end of the Kenai Peninsula.

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OK everyone.  Get ready to buckle your seatbelts for mind-blowing gorgeousness.

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Hard to believe these are wild flowers, and that they grow everywhere, like weeds!

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You can easily see the glacier in the center of the mountain range.

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And the glacier from a different vantage point. We sometimes have to pinch ourselves to believe that we’re not dreaming these views, and that we are lucky enough to be witness to their grandeur. Our mantra over dinner is usually, OMG – we are in Homer, Alaska.

The Homer Spit is just an extension of Homer that juts out into Kachemak Bay. ¬†Called “The end of the road”, it is the southern terminus of highway AK1. ¬† It’s very touristy, with lots of shops, and a few restaurants. It also is the port of Homer, where freight is delivered, ferries depart, and lots of tour boats operate.

 

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The Spit also has it’s share of funkiness. ¬†This is a real-life, currently occupied houseboat.

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We leave this funky,  beautiful town tomorrow, and head for Seward Рhope to see you there.

I CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM MY HOUSE.

June, 2016

I almost can’t believe it, but, after miles and miles of trekking north, ¬†we are finally here —¬†Alaska! ¬†After purchasing the land from Russia in 1867 for 2 cents an acre (7.2 million US dollars), it became our 49th state in1959, not very long ago.

We left Dawson City, YT, this morning, and headed to the ferry which would carry us and our little Casita across the Yukon River. ¬†First stop?… ¬†Chicken, AK. ¬†Why? ¬†Why not! ¬†It has become a “thing”. ¬†Everyone on the road wants to know if you’re going to, or coming from “Chicken” – I say, “Hell yeah!” ¬†If for no other reason, we have to go for bragging rights. ¬†We and our little home boarded the George Black¬†Ferry to cross the Yukon River. ¬†It¬†is viewed as an extension of the Klondike Highway, ¬†making it a free service.

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Once on the other side, you are on the Top Of The World Highway. ¬†It is a long and often dangerous road, especially when it’s wet. ¬†It’s steep, mostly made of gravel, has soft shoulders, no guardrails, and often plunges 1,000 feet. ¬†After climbing for about an hour, you come to the lonely border crossing from Canada to the US. ¬†Isn’t it rustic? Check out the population. ¬†We were going to ask the Customs Agent what he did wrong to earn this assignment, but thought better of it (grumpy enough).

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Thankfully, we made it to Chicken — with the Casita and truck covered in mud. ¬†Strange name, right? ¬†Apparently, the people who lived there at the time wanted to name it Ptarmigan, after a kind of grouse they ate because it “tasted like chicken” (doesn’t everything?) ¬†They couldn’t agree on how to spell it, so they decided to call the town “Chicken”, instead. ¬†By the way, a ptarmigan is a northern grouse often found in Arctic regions, with feathered legs and feet and plumage that typically changes to all white in winter.

Chicken’s campgrounds don’t have water at the sites, because all water has to be hauled in. ¬†Residents have outhouses, as do most businesses. ¬†The one public outhouse “downtown” is called the “Chicken Poop”. ¬†In fact, one shop proudly boasts of having the only flushing toilet in the entire town!!! ¬†Consequently, this mud has to stay in place until we reach our next destination.

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Here s a picture of Downtown Chicken – all four stores, and a gas pump.

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They have an absolutely charming little post office.  The post mistress and her husband are two of the three to six,  year-round residents.  She also tends to the flowers you see.

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A large metal chicken sits atop a hill in the Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost.  This is where we stayed, with the statue as our next door neighbor.

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You can pan for gold here. ¬†It only costs $10 for 4 hours. ¬†I decided to watch people before I signed on. ¬†There were at least a dozen people panning, elbow-to-elbow. The biggest nuggets I saw weren’t nuggets at all, but gold dust — maybe another day…

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Oops ! ¬†I almost left out the main event. ¬†¬†In keeping with the quirky, fun-loving character of the town, the folks at Chicken Gold Camp put on a music festival every June, usually the 2nd weekend. In memory of the Woodstock gathering, it’s named the¬†Chickenstock Music Festival.¬†It started as a one night, one band local get-together in 2007, but now is one of Alaska’s better known summer weekend music gatherings with 15+ bands entertaining nearly 1000 guests. It continues to grow, drawing larger crowds each year. ¬†Here’s the stage ( with two cars parked in front of it, but the truck is part of the stage).

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From Chicken, we moved on to Tok – it rhymes with poke. ¬†It’s a very tiny town, but it has 3 campgrounds, a grocery, and a great little restaurant called “Fast Eddy’s” (see write-up in Food and Goodies Page). While at Fast Eddy’s, we met these four people from Minnesota, ¬†traveling by motorcycle. We met them while they were eye-balling ¬†my fried mushrooms. We shared – and that’s how you meet great people on the road.

Shout out to Diane, Christine, Ken and Kevin, and their sweet rides. I promised you’d find yourselves on my blog – and here you are.

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Look at this one…fantastic, right? It’s their Thoroughbred Motorsports Stallion Trike with a Little Guy MyPod trailer,

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and their more traditional bicycle built for two.

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We stayed at a park called Tok RV Village.  Most importantly for us, the park had a car/RV wash.  We were able to get all that horrible mud off of the vehicles.  Guess how much? Just you and a hose Р  $18.50 РYikes Рthat hurt.  But it was an absolute necessity.  And you should have seen the cars in line !!!  So if anyone feels the need to open/own a business РTok can sure use a car/RV wash.

Tok is a crossroads town. ¬†From here, travelers have to decide whether they want to go to Fairbanks or Anchorage. ¬†We opted for Fairbanks. ¬†It’s raining, and the forecast says rain for a few more days. ¬†Denali is on the way to Anchorage – and that’s our next stop. ¬†So here’s hoping that the rain eases up so we can enjoy the park.

On the way to Fairbanks, we took a side trip to¬†The North Pole. ¬†Which isn’t really at the North Pole. ¬†It’s a town about 16 miles south of Fairbanks. ¬†There were lots of visitors, but I thought it was a bit run-down. ¬†We did hop out of the car to take a picture of Santa Claus, a 42-foot-tall statue that is supposedly the world’s largest.

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¬†The town’s streets are lit with candy cane light poles. ¬†Most significantly, it has a lot of “kid cred”. ¬†North Pole receives tons of mail from children all over the world, answered by “Santa” (SASEs), postmarked from the North Pole. ¬†You may have gotten one yourself once upon a time…

Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska. It is 4th of July weekend, so, unfortunately, most things aren’t open. ¬†It also is raining, which makes for terrible visibility. But don’t worry, we’ll find something fun to do.

We spent the afternoon at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. ¬†Their stated goal is to “educate residents and visitors about our natural and cultural history, and we hope it motivates you to go out and explore all that Fairbanks and the Interior has to offer.” ¬†The center contains beautiful exhibits of Native American life, past and present; and dioramas depicting the Alaska Interior in each of the four seasons. ¬† Next to lovely Griffin Park on the banks of the Chena River, the center¬†is a marvel of modern architecture and gorgeous landscaping.

Later, we stopped at Pioneer Park, and ate at the Alaska Salmon Bake, a true Alaskan feast (so they say).  It was a bit hokey, but we enjoyed it.  The next day, we took a 30-mile or so drive to Chena Hot Springs Resort.  It was a pretty amazing place.  An eco-sensitive resort with lots of amenities, including a walk-in hot spring.  The people soaking were oohing and aahing aloud.

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We visited their Ice Museum.  Every single item in the museum was, and continues to be, created by a husband-wife team, who are world glass ice carvers.  They even have 4 bedrooms, in the museum, which guests may sleep in for one night.  The cost?  Only $600 per night (gulp).  Our favorite part was the ice bar.  We purchased  Appletinis, served in ice martini glasses.  All I can say is Yum! Рand Рwhen we can, I intend to purchase ice molds and make my own ice glasses.

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On our way to Denali, we stopped into the 49th Street Brewing Company, a great restaurant and bar (see Food and Goodies), just south of Stampede Road.

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The attraction? ¬†If you read “Into The Wild”, by Jon Krakauer, or watched the movie, you too would want to stop. In their yard, they have the bus from the film on display.

Here’s Tim in front of the bus.

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You can even go inside the bus, where they have pictures of the real Chris McCandless, beginning his journey from nearby Stampede Road, and some of the notes and pictures he left behind before he perished.  The book was a a sad, but great read, and this stop brought it all to life.

From Fairbanks, we moved on to Denali National Park.

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It is a wondrous park, encompassing over 6 million acres.

Denali is a little bit different from other National Parks we’ve visited. ¬†In Denali, they stress the fact that Denali is for preserving the wilderness, not so much for tourists. There is only one road in the park, and it is only 92 miles long. ¬†It ends in the middle of the wilderness, so its also 92 miles back. ¬† In the summer, only park busses can traverse the road. ¬†While we were there, private vehicles could only drive to mile 11, where the road was closed to us. ¬†The ranger explained that in recent days¬†a grizzly bear approached a hiker who threw her snack-filled backpack at him, which he devoured. ¬†And yesterday that bear mauled another hiker for his backpack. ¬†The road and local trails were closed until they could track down the bear, and, sadly, put him down. ¬†There’s a saying in the parks – “A fed bear is a dead bear”. ¬†The reason is because that bear now will associate backpacks with food, and he or she will forever be a threat to humans. ¬†I really can’t blame the hiker. ¬†If a bear was coming at me, I’m pretty sure I’d throw whatever was handy to keep him from ending my life.

What we did see in Denali was a Cow Moose Рeating on the side of the road, and then walking down the road to the other side.  Cows are gigantic!  We are still waiting to see a Bull Moose.

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We also attended a Sled Dog Demonstration, which was very informative.   Plus, we got to pet the dogs. Yay!

For those of you following my blog Рyou know I am not a mosquito lover.  But I did have to take these pictures from the Denali Visitor Center to share with you.

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Female is on the left with her big blood sucker, and the male is on the right.  In my opinion, they are both very nasty creatures.

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And from town… no commentary necessary!

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We never got see Mt. Denali (formerly Mt McKinley) Р until today Р on our way to Talkeetna. We saw all 20,308 feet of it, clear as can be.

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We felt so happy because only 20 to 30 percent of visitors in the summer get to see it, due to cloud cover.  Mt. Denali, the highest mountain in North America , makes its own weather.  We feel very, very lucky.  It was a real OMG moment.

From Denali, we stopped in Talkeetna, a small, creative, fun town – great for shopping and gifts, including a shop called Aurora Dora.

Where’s Waldo?

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 We had breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse (see Food and Goodies). Talkeetna is also a great place to view Mt. Denali from a different angle.

Outside of Talkeetna, we saw a sight you just don’t see everyday –a young man walking his reindeer on a leash.

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Of course I asked first if I could take his picture.  Then I wanted to pet him, naturally.

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If you’re wondering, his name is “Rowdy”, and he’s very gentle. ¬†I did learn something new. ¬†Reindeer antlers are completely covered in a soft fur called velvet. ¬†Who knew? ¬†If you want to know how they get rid of the velvet, you can look online. ¬†It was a bit too gross for this blog.

I’m leaving you today from a town called Palmer. ¬†We plan to stay here in Big Bear RV Park for a few days to do some chores and explore. ¬†Palmer is right next to Wasilla, AK, the home of the strange and elusive palin, as in Sarah Palin. ¬†Maybe we’ll go say hello before we leave – and then again, maybe not !!!

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See you in Anchorage…

 

 

ūüé∂ OH, CANADA ūüé∂, PART 2

June, 2016

I’d like to start with a little leftover business from Colorado, which has nothing to do with Canada, except that they both start with a “C”.

Just a quick shout out to our friends, Marsha and Lee, who we met in Port Aransas, Texas, and then visited at their home in Colorado.  We hope to meet up with them again real soon, perhaps this winter in Texas.?!

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We are currently in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada. ¬†This is a fairly large town, so most people on their way to Alaska stop here to pick up any provisions they think they may need for the trek north. ¬†I won’t bore you with the details, but we’ll do as many projects and chores as we can in the next day or two.

One very odd thing here, at least for us, is the many, many hours of daylight. We went out for dinner yesterday for Father’s Day, and returned home about 10:30 pm. ¬†The sun was so bright, we wore sunglasses, and had the car visors down. ¬†Even weirder, we’re trying to sleep with the sun pouring in through the cracks in the blinds, and the birds are chirping like crazy !!!! The bags under my eyes just keep getting bigger and bigger…

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Some people say use cucumbers, others say try tea bags. ¬†I’m afraid the only thing that will work for me at this point is a full¬†hajib.

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Beaver Lodge is 43 kilometers from Grand Prairie. ¬†Not a lodge at all, but a town. ¬†Lest you think they don’t have roadside oddities here in British Columbia, ¬†fear not. ¬†Let me introduce ¬†you to the town’s mascot, a beaver.

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The Beaverlodge Beaver is an engineering marvel. It took 90 gallons of polyurethane to coat, approx. 13 gallons of paint, and 18 blocks of foam to make the sculpture. ¬†The measurements? ¬†The beaver weighs: 1,500 lbs, is 18′ long, 10′ wide, and 10′ tall. The log weighs 1,500 lbs., is 5′ tall, and 20′ long. ¬†I think he’s kind of gross – looks like a huge rat ! ¬†Well, they are rodents, along with¬†mice, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, guinea pigs, hamsters, and of course, rats!!!

We passed the gorgeous Muncho Lake.

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At times, it felt as if we were in a plane, flying through clouds.

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Back on Earth, we saw these two beauties on the side of the road, Stone Sheep.

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and this sweet Teddy …

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Our next stop was Dawson Creek. ¬†The TV show was Dawson‘s Creek, so no relationship. ¬†One cool thing is that it is Mile Marker 0 on the Alaska Highway.

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We entered the Yukon Territory (YT) in Watson Lake.

Right down the street from our campground was the Sign Post Forest.

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Sign Post Forest is a collection of signs, and is one of the most famous of the landmarks along the Alaska Highway.  Originally, there was a  simple sign post pointing out the distances to various points along the road but it was damaged by a bulldozer. In 1942, Private Carl K. Lindley,  was ordered to repair the sign, while serving light duty from an injury.  He repaired the post, and decided to personalize the job by adding a sign pointing towards his home town, Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles. The idea has been snowballing ever  since. Visitors may add their own signs to the 100,000 already present.

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Do you remember the picture of the “blow-up doll/Burt Reynolds” policeman from Torrey, Utah?

Well, here’s one from Teslin, YT. ¬†The one in Torrey, Utah, ¬†made you slow down for sure – this one – not so much !!!

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When we got To Whitehorse, YT, there were a number of things to see and do. ¬†Anxious to get to Alaska, we opted for two. ¬†During the day, we went to a LGBTQ pride parade, in support of liberty. ¬†This is a photo we love –

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And of course, me with a true member of the RCMP or, as we know them, “the Mounties“.

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That evening, we enjoyed a show called the Frantic Follies.  It was very old-fashioned, and a lot of fun.  The cast was small but talented, with singing, magic, jokes, and musical numbers.  The finale was the can-can.    The Frantic Follies have played 7 nights per week, for the last 47 years, and has been seen by 1,400,000 people.  They have to be pretty good Рright?

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Leaving Whitehorse, we stopped to take a picture of another oddity:

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According to the Explore North website, this is a challenger for the title of world’s largest weather vane. It’s¬†a retired Douglas DC-3, that sits atop a single, swiveling, pylon support. It is located ¬†beside the Whitehorse airport, and is used mainly by pilots to determine wind direction. This weather vane only requires a 5 km/hour wind to rotate. ¬†That’s pretty amazing. ¬†(Note: ¬†there may be another in Spain that claims to be larger, but I’m going with this challenger.)

Today we are in Dawson City, YT, not to be confused with Dawson Creek, AB. ¬†There is much to see and do here, but we’ve got to whittle it down a bit. ¬†We’re so ready to get to Alaska. ¬†Dawson City is an old mining town on the Yukon River. ¬†It still has dirt streets, and wooden sidewalks. ¬†A number of the buildings have been preserved. But not this one…

TODAY –

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YESTERYEAR –

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Diamond Tooth Gertie’s is a casino of sorts. ¬†They charge $12 per person to get in. ¬†The card is good for admittace forever. ¬†They have slots and a few table games. ¬†Of course, I had to throw a few dollars at the slots. ¬† Guess what? ¬†I won. ¬†Not much, but it covered the night and then some.¬†IMG_0602

Oh no! ¬†Can-can dancers – again! ¬†Those prospectors certainly loved their high-kicking ladies! I hope to never see another one. ¬†Sorry girls…

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Before going home, we stopped at The Dome. ¬†You have to climb up a mountain road to the very top. ¬†When you arrive, you are rewarded with this view. ¬†It is quite lovely. ¬†But more importantly, it is 11pm. ¬†The sun is high in the sky. ¬†I don’t know if we’ll ever get used to this daylight at night thing.

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Well, I saved the best for last. ¬†We heard about a¬†special libation at the Sourdough Saloon in the¬†Downtown Hotel. (in the Yukon context, a “sourdough” is one who has resided in the Territory long enough to¬†experience at least one freeze and thaw [four seasons]).

Established in 1973, the Sourtoe Cocktail has become a Dawson City tradition and is exactly what is sounds like: An actual human toe that has been dehydrated and preserved in salt is served in a drink.

¬†WARNING: DO¬†NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU DON’T LIKE GROSS!!! ¬†This is a photo of a human toe preserved in salt. ¬†At 9pm, the hotel “brings out” the toe. ¬†You buy a shot of your choice. ¬†For an extra $5, you pay a guy at the end of the bar, and he allows you to dunk the toe in your shot glass. ¬† Now, I’m really not too squeamish. ¬†I even ate the worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle. ¬†But this went a little too far, even for me. ¬†At about 3pm, ¬†I went in thinking I would do it . ¬†When I found out the “toe” didn’t come out until 9 ¬†I was actually relieved. – and we didn’t go back. ¬†That’s some tradition!

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If you want to know more about the “toe” – read on. ¬†This information was taken word-for-word from the Atlas Obscura,¬†which I found on line.

“According to the story, Yukon local Captain Dick Stevenson found the toe preserved in a jar of alcohol while cleaning a cabin in 1973. After discussing it with friends, Captain Dick preserved and started serving the toe in a “Sourtoe Cocktail” at the Eldorado hotel bar. Thus the Sourtoe Cocktail Club was formed.

The first toe is said to have belonged to a miner and rum runner named Louie Liken, who had his frostbitten appendage amputated in the 1920s. Liken preserved it in a jar of alcohol in his cabin, where Stevenson found it some 50 years later.

Unfortunately, the first toe lasted only seven more years after its discovery. According to the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, “In July 1980, a miner named Garry Younger was trying for the Sourtoe record. On his thirteenth glass of Sourtoe champagne, his chair tipped over backwards, and he swallowed the toe. Sadly, Toe #1 was not recovered.”

Since then, seven more toes have been donated to the bar. Number two was given after an amputation due to an inoperable corn; number three was from a victim of frostbite (it was also swallowed accidentally); four was an anonymous toe (later stolen by a hunter); toes five and six were donated by a Yukon old-timer in return for free drinks for his nurses; toe seven was an amputation due to diabetes; and toe eight arrived in a jar of alcohol with the message, “Don’t wear open-toe sandals while mowing the lawn.”

Today you can still drink the Sourtoe Cocktail (which is still garnished a real toe) and join the club – complete with a certificate. The original rules were that the toe must be placed in a beer glass full of champagne, and that the toe must touch the drinker’s lips during the consumption of the alcohol before he or she could claim to be a true Sourtoer.

The rules have changed in the past 27 years. The Sourtoe can now be had with any drink, but one rule remains the same: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow‚ÄĒbut the lips have gotta touch the toe.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ūüé∂ O, CANADA… ūüé∂ , PART 1

June, 2016

We left the USA, our comfort zone, and made our first stop in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. ¬†Many of you feel that Canada is just like the States. ¬†I can assure you – it is not. ¬†First off, our cell phones charge us roaming fees that are astronomical. ¬†So if you use your phone to make calls, or use it as a GPS device, as we do, well, be prepared to empty the bank account. ¬†That is unless you buy an international package from your current phone company, if they offer them, or purchase a phone in Canada. ¬†Currently, we are looking to purchase a “burner phone”. ¬†Whenever I watch TV with good guys and bad guys, the bad ones usually carry “burners”.

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I think that means they’re disposable phones, with a certain amount of minutes. ¬†When those minutes are gone, you toss it and buy another.

Just checked out the burner. ¬†Forget that. ¬†You have to buy a phone,$80 at Walmart, and then buy a plan. That doesn’t sound like a “bad guy” phone to me. ¬†Oh well, guess we’ll just do without – I’m sure it’s gonna’ drive me crazy…

The next problem was the laundry. ¬†Naturally, a Canadian washer and dryer take Canadian money. ¬†Well, we don’t have any. ¬†So first up is finding a place that will change American money into Canadian money. ¬†An ATM should do the trick. ¬†That sounds pretty easy,but first a little research. ¬†Canadians have $1 and $2 coins. ¬†The ones are called “loonies”, presumably because they have a picture of a loon on one side.

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The two dollar coins are called “toonies”.

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Why? ¬†I don’t know – I guess it’s Canadian humor. ¬†But one does feel rather silly asking for loonies and toonies.- because that’s what the washer/dryer machines take. ¬†They also take quarters, but be prepared to hire a sherpa to carry the amount of quarters you’ll need in a Canadian laundry. ¬†The Loonie and Toonie have evolved. On April 10, 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a new generation of one-dollar and two-dollar circulation coins. Toonie” is a portmanteau word combining the number “two” with the name of the loonie, Canada’s one-dollar coin. It is occasionally spelled “twonie” or “twoonie”, but Canadian newspapers and the Royal Canadian Mint use the “toonie” spelling. ¬†So with loonies and toonies in hand, I can do my laundry.

We left Lethbridge, and headed for the Canadian Rockies. ¬†First up is Banff in Alberta. ¬†Banff National Park was the first of it’s kind in Canada. ¬†Needless to say, it is simply gorgeous. ¬†The mountains, snow and wildlife are wondrous. ¬†There are signs literally everywhere, warning people about the wolves. ¬†Apparently, they’ve been coming into campgrounds, and are quite bold. ¬†Here’s the advert –

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And here’s what we accidentally stumbled upon –

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Yep — a “four-pack”. ¬†But we weren’t in danger because we were in our car. You know how when you pass a meadow full of cows, you have the irresistible urge to “moo”. ¬†Well, for some strange reason, Tim and I felt compelled to roll the windows down and “howl”. You can see they weren’t phased, although one did turn around as if to say, “you’re kidding, right?” ¬† I guess that’s a good thing.

Also on the road we encountered this fella (or gal) ¬†–

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Talk about bold – right on the roadside…

I want you to know I’m making progress where hiking is concerned. ¬†Check this out…

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But I guess it’s not time to brag quite yet –

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The views are so worth hiking for…

Here we are standing on the boardwalk in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where we had drinks and a meal (well, la-ti-da)…

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You’re probably tired of pictures, but here’s just one more from Banff…

The view from our table at the Banff Springs Hotel …

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Next up is Jasper National Park.  How can I put this place into words РOMG !!!!!

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And of course, the wildlife. ¬†They do advise “Bear Spray”. ¬†Picture this…you’re walking along, looking at scenery, and this guy comes out of the woods. ¬†Somehow I’m sure that going for my spray can would offer little to calm my fears…glad we were in the car…

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And lastly in Jasper, this is the Athabasca Glacier, off of the Icefields Parkway.

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This is the steep ascending trail to the toe of the glacier…

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And after trading my sneakers for my hiking boots – (drum roll please)…

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And once again, I wouldn’t have made it without this guy…

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We have to keep on “trucking”. ¬†Only¬†1,745.6 more miles to Fairbanks, Alaska.

ūüéĶ OH, GIVE ME A HOME… ūüéĶ

June, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

It’s funny how things happen that are totally unexpected. ¬†For example, I was really looking forward to seeing Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah. ¬†Once we arrived, we quickly realized that ¬†although there are some very beautiful sights, some things ¬†left me less than awed. ¬†So first, the “just okay stuff. ¬†There is lots of highly visible industry in and around SLC. ¬†To my mind, it is a blemish on an otherwise pretty city. ¬†There seems to be no general planning. ¬†Many towns purposefully ¬†“hide” the not very attractive/industrial ¬†parts of their cities behind trees and natural rises, so that passersby/tourists ¬†come face-to-face with only the best of what the city has to offer. ¬†Furthermore, there seems to be very little community planning, no continuity in building or architectural style. ¬†I / we all know this is the “Beehive State”, and you are quite proud of your bee-like industriousness, but still… ¬†In addition, I was surprised that the lake was quite a distance away, 18 miles, and it smells a bit like sulphur.

Now, Inner city SLC is lovely, with  the glorious backdrop of  the snow-capped Wasatch Mountains.  The Mormon Tabernacle is a sight to behold both day and night, as is the capitol building.

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The city proper is on a rise, so at night, you overlook the city  (and the industries) as a blanket of twinkling lights.

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There has been a food renaissance, and the restaurant scene is wonderful and booming.  (See Utah in the Foods Section). Sat Lake City is

CRATERS OF THE MOON NATIONAL MONUMENT

Speaking of the unexpected, Craters of the Moon National Monument is truly a wonder. ¬†Unfortunately, I read several reviews that said to skip this park because it’s a snoozefest, and to drive on by. ¬†Wow, were they ever wrong! ¬†President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed this a national monument , to preserve “a weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself”.

The craters are of volcanic origin. ¬†The volume of lava came from not one volcano, but ¬†from a series of deep fissures known as the “Great Riff”, that cross the Snake River Plain. ¬†The most recent eruption was just (?) 2000 years ago, and geologists believe ¬†future events are likely.

Entering the park, a lava field looked like a huge, just-plowed field,  of hundreds and hundreds of acres.

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Such large clods, this field looked like it was plowed by a giant Р much, much larger than 7-foot Paul Bunyan, with his seven-foot stride.

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My favorite sight was a “spatter volcano” that we hiked to. A spatter volcano is formed when globs of tacky lava weld together. ¬†When you look inside the opening, you can see a floor of ice at the bottom. ¬†Even though it was a 95 degree day, the cold of the walls keep the ice intact – amazing.

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Another curiosity is something called a “cinder garden”. ¬†A cinder garden is a place where wildflowers grow, well, wildly, in seemingly desolate lava fields.

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Here’s Tim returning from a ¬†hike from the side of cinder cone.

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A cinder cone is the result of lava, with a high gas content,  erupting., Foamy cinders accumulate near the vent.  Ironically, this pure black hill is not a volcano, but  is lava spewed from a nearby cone.

This park is not to be missed!

 

THE SNAKE RIVER SCENIC CANYON BYWAY

The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway in Idaho, is a rich tapestry  of scenic lands that encompass all that is truly Idaho.  Over the millennia, nature has defined the land, creating a unique ecosystem of wildlife and plants that are found only in southwestern Idaho.
This ¬†Byway spans more than fifty miles. To drive the road is to share the same visual experience as the early pioneers when they arrived to create a new life. ¬†All I can say is that it is visually stunning, and I won’t ever forget it.

 

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MISSOULA, MONTANA

Missoula, MT is a pretty cool place.  It has won many awards.

Missoula in top ten Best Places to Live, by Livability, October 2014
America’s Best Kept Surfing Secret, by Outdoor Magazine, October 2014
Missoula – one of 9 small beer cities who deserve national attention, by Thrillist, November 2014
Next Great Adventure Towns: Rockies,  National Geographic, July 2013
Top 10 Best College Towns 2013, by Livability, July 2013
The Best River Towns In America: Missoula Montana: The place where people who can choose to live anywhere call home, by Outside Magazine, October 2012
Missoula City Wins Bicycle Friendly Community Gold Status, by the League of American Bicyclists, May 2012.

That’s a pretty impressive list…Now add to that –

BEST ICE CREAM IN USA

July, 2013, Big Dipper was voted the best ice cream in America.¬†Missoula‚Äôs own Big Dipper Ice Cream was featured on Good Morning America as #America‚Äôs Best Ice Cream Ever. ¬†We stood n this line. ¬†When we finally got to the front of the line and tasted it, it was pretty darn good. ¬†But did they try Bruster’s in Delaware on Rt. 55? ¬†How about Hoffman’s in Spring Lake, N.J.?

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We drove through many Indian reservations, wildlife preservation areas, and The National Bison Range, where you can  witness large herds of our American Bison or Buffalo in their natural habitat.

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This is truly ¬†‘big sky’ ¬†country. ¬† Add to that an abundance of sapphires, America’s most precious gem, and¬†it’s easy to see how Montana earned the nickname “The Treasure State”.

On the way to Glacier National Park, we stopped in Arlee, Montana to visit the Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.  This spiritual place has been built on  Indian land.  It is a place  of positive energy and contemplation.  It is also a place for studying the Buddhist tradition. This is the centerpiece of the garden.

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There are 1,000 statues just like these – all are exactly alike.

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Along the perimeter of the walking paths are the most beautiful flowers.

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This is a stop worth making. It is free to the public. You may give a donation if you care to do so.

 

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

Glacier National Park, in Montana, was established as a park on May 11, 1910, by President William Taft.

It is a¬†park so naturally beautiful it is known as the ‚ÄúCrown Jewel of the Continent.‚ÄĚ

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I think this picture of St. Mary Lake, taken on a cloudy day, ¬†will make you a believer…

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The mountains and glaciers of Glacier National Park began forming 170 million years ago. ¬† I find it very difficult to wrap my head around a number that large, do you? ¬†Of the estimated 150 glaciers which existed in the park in the mid-19th century, only 25 active glaciers remained by 2010. Scientists studying the glaciers in the park have estimated that all the glaciers may disappear by 2030¬†, if the current climate patterns persist. ¬†This would be not only ¬†heart-breaking, ¬†but far worse. The impact of glacier retreat on the park’s ecosystems is not fully known, but plant and animal species that are dependent on cold water could suffer due to a loss of habitat. Reduced seasonal melting of glacial ice may also affect stream flow during the dry summer and fall seasons, reducing water table levels and increasing the risk of forest fires. ¬†Devastating!

Glacier National Park has almost all its original native plant and animal species. Large mammals such as the Grizzly bears, moose, and mountain goats, as well as rare or endangered species like the wolverines and Canadian lynxes, inhabit this park. ¬† In fact, a Grizzly bear ran right in front of our truck. I think we all may have this image of bears being lumbering creatures – well not this one. ¬†He was running when we first saw him, jumped a roadside barrier, crossed the road and jumped the barrier on the other side, all in a matter of mere seconds.¬† So glad he didn’t stop.

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In addition to the animals mentioned, there are hundreds of species of birds, more than a dozen fish species, and a few reptile and amphibian species. The park has numerous ecosystems ranging from prairie to tundra.  Large forest fires are uncommon in the park. However, in 2003 over 13% of the park burned.  Even though that was 13 years ago, we still could witness the devastation.  Thankfully, we also saw tens of thousands of baby trees coming up to replace those that were burned.

There are many lakes, rivers, and waterfalls in Glacier – here are a few.

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On our last night in our Missoula campground, they had entertainment, and an huckleberry ice cream social afterwards. ¬†The stars of the evening were LeGrande Harvey and Rod Brod, singing old country western songs, like “Cowboy Logic”. ¬†It was a great evening.

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As we are leaving Montana and headed for Canada on our trek north, we stopped at a restaurant to have a slice of  treasured Montana Huckleberry Pie.  Yep, it was as good as it looks.

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While eating, I looked out the window and guess what I saw??? ¬†Nope! ¬†Guess again…

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The World’s Largest Purple Spoon !!! ¬†Oh my, these roadside oddities just keeps getting better.

We hope you’ll all be following along in Canada. ¬†The only part of of that country we’ve seen is Niagara Falls – and that was breathtaking. ¬†If the rest of Canada is that pretty, we’re all in for a ¬†pretty spectacular ride…

 

HOODOO YOU THINK YOU ARE ?

May, 2016

There is just too much fabulous scenery to put it ¬†all in one post. ¬†Plus, we have literally hundreds of pictures, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see them. ¬† South- central Utah has 5 National Parks, and we’re visiting all of them, one right after the other. ¬†So I’ve chosen photos that I think are representative of each park, and are pretty sweet. ¬†So here we go…

ZION NATIONAL PARK –¬†

The name “Zion” brings to mind many images. To the earliest settlers of Springdale, Utah, it described a place with “beauty too stunning for mere mortals”.¬†To them, Zion was a divine destination and a refuge for people seeking a better life.
The park has some of the most scenic canyon views in the country. In just a 229 square mile radius there are enormous pine and juniper covered plateaus, narrow sandstone canyons, the winding Virgin River, and many seeps, springs, and waterfalls.
In 1909, President William Howard Taft, named the area a National Monument to protect the canyon, under the name of Mukuntuweap National Monument. In 1918, the acting director of the newly created National Park Service changed the park’s name to Zion, the name used by the Mormons. ¬†Synonyms for Zion are Utopia, Heaven, and Paradise. ¬†I would say “right” to all three.

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Below is “Checkerboard Mesa”. ¬†At first glance you think – just another big gray rock – right? ¬†But if you look closely, you can see the hundreds of squares. ¬†Can you imagine the number of years, and many forces of nature it took to create such a wonder? ¬†It’s staggering !

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After a day of driving these canyons, and jumping out of the car at every overlook Р it was time for dinner, of course.  The Zion Canyon Brew Pub  was our destination. (see write-up in Food & Drinks)

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BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK –¬†

Bryce Canyon is¬†a sprawling reserve. ¬†It’s gateway town is Bryce City, Utah. The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. The area around Bryce Canyon became a National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928, by President Warren G. Harding. ¬†It’s known for its crimson-colored hoodoos ( spire-shaped rock formations), windows, and fins (walls).

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Above is a perfect “window” for your viewing pleasure.

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The happy foursome in Bryce.

 

CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK

The main gateway town to this park is Torrey, Utah. ¬†It is a nice little town with several restaurants, and a few gift shops. ¬†The main street running through town is actually route 24, which goes from 65 mph down to 35 mph in the middle of town. ¬†Which leads me to my very favorite thing. ¬†Each time we passed a certain intersection, there was a sheriff’s car sitting in plain view ready to give out tickets to speeders. ¬†Or so we thought. ¬†Looking thru the window, he always seemed to be staring intently ahead, never even nodding to the people and cars that passed by. ¬†Hmmmm – something is not quite right here. ¬†Tim and I parked in a lot directly across from the “sheriff” to “investigate”. ¬†I got out the binoculars, and Tim took a close-up picture with his camera. ¬†Here he is –

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A blow-up doll, posing as sheriff, who we decided looks like Burt Reynolds in “Smoky And The Bandit”.

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It just doesn’t get any better. ¬†Sorry for giving your secret away Torrey…

Back To The Park –

Capitol Reef is an oasis of colorful sandstone cliffs, ¬†domes, and soaring monoliths. The park got its name in part from the great white rock formations which resemble the U.S. Capitol building, and from the sheer cliffs that presented a barrier to early travelers. Early inhabitants referred to the area as the ‚Äúland of the sleeping rainbow‚ÄĚ because of its beautiful contrasts: multi-colored sandstone surrounded by riverbanks and arid desert vegetation.¬†The area was designated as a national monument in 1937 and reclassified as a national park in 1971 by President Richard Nixon – not so long ago – right?

Prospectors visiting the area (many with nautical backgrounds) referred to the Waterpocket Fold as a reef, since it was a ¬†barrier to transportation. ¬†Although a highway now crosses the “reef,” travel is still challenging for those wishing to see the park’s more remote regions. ¬†This park’s Waterpocket Fold, is a warp in the earth’s crust that is 65 million years old. It is the largest exposed “monocline”, ( “a bend in rock strata that are otherwise uniformly ¬†horizontal” ),¬†in North America. ¬†It is about 100 miles long ¬†We found it to be a place of dramatic beauty.

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Lots of color.

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And Petroglyphs, proving the existence of long-ago inhabitants.

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A quick-flowing  waterfall (looks like a seep to me).

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And a little something I like to call Hershey Kiss Dome

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On the way to Canyonlands, we stopped at the Mesa Farm Market.

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This is a wonderful shop not to be missed.  They make fresh bread and cinnamon buns everyday.  You can purchase fresh organic salad greens grown on the farm.  There is a goat farm in the back, and they use the milk to make several kinds of cheese.  The chèvre was creamy and delish.  They make smoothies to order.  For the first time ever, I tried a fresh-pressed juice blend of beets, carrots, and apples.

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It was sooo good, I can’t stop thinking about how I’m going to buy a juicer so I can make myself this incredible, healthy treat. ¬†If you’re in the area – you must stop by.

 

CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK

Moab, Utah, is the gateway town for this park, which presents a colorful landscape that has been eroded ¬†into countless canyons, mesas, and buttes by the Colorado River, the Green River, and their tributaries.¬†Legislation creating the park was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 12, 1964. ¬†Not so long ago folks…

It is divided into three distinct areas.  The Needles, The Maze, and Island in the Sky. Though these areas share a desert atmosphere, each retains its own character.   Some folks count the Colorado and Green Rivers as a fourth distinct area.

Needles and Maze are not accessible by car.  Only those with a 4-wheel drive vehicle can get to some areas.  Backpacking is necessary to access  the remotest areas.  We were able to explore Island in The Sky by car, with many overlooks, and some hiking.

Edward Paul Abbey was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of “environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views”. ¬†He was ¬†a frequent visitor, who described the Canyonlands as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth‚ÄĒthere is nothing else like it anywhere.” ¬†Check out the White Rim Road. ¬†This 100-mile road loops around and below the Island in the Sky mesa top and provides expansive views of the surrounding area. Trips usually take two to three days by four-wheel-drive, high-clearance, vehicles, under favorable weather conditions, ¬†and is considered moderately difficult (gulp). ¬†We did not drive it, but only because we didn’t have the proper vehicle (right?), nor the nerves of steel. ¬†Notice there is no guard rail. ¬†Maybe someday…

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It was time for dinner, and Pasta Jay’s looked like it would fit the bill. ¬†Tim ordered a Polygamy Porter. ¬†Check out these labels.

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Enough said…

 

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

Moab, Utah is also the gateway town for Arches.  On April 12, 1929, Arches became a National Monument, designated by President Herbert Hoover.  On November 12, 1971, it was redesignated as  Arches National Park, I believe by the Nixon Administration.  Again, not so long ago.

It is a red rock landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. No one knows for sure how many arches are in the park, but over 2,000 have been recorded, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive walls, and giant balanced rocks.

This is the iconic Delicate Arch.  It is the symbol of Arches Park, and often of Utah.  Delicate Arch is a 65-foot-tall, 33- foot wide, freestanding natural arch. It is the most widely recognized landmark in Arches National Park and is depicted on Utah license plates and on a postage stamp. The Olympic torch relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics passed through it.

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After a moderate to strenuous hike (according to the park brochure), look who made it to the end of the trail.

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Believe me, I wouldn’t have made it to the end without this guy.

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Below is Balanced Rock. ¬†We chose to speed by this one…(yikes!)

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Joyce and Sarah leave tomorrow morning, so it’s dinner together at our campsite.

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¬†It will be sad to say goodby to family, and yet ¬†It has been a wonderful time sharing these parks with them. ¬†We had lots of laughs, good food, shared many beautiful sights, and ¬†made memories to last a lifetime. ¬†While they head home to the east coast, Tim and I start our trek north. ¬†I don’t know exactly how long it will take, but we will get there. ¬†Alaska – we’re coming for you…¬†

NOTE:  If you have an opportunity, please read about National Parks under the MUSINGS page.