Travelin Tiger Archive

September 15 Whidbey Island WA to Portland OR

Due to a family situation we had to cut the trip down by about two weeks so we are now home. We really enjoyed the Fire and Rain tour, and have a lot of good memories. We learned more about how to live in our small mobile house. We still need to learn to stop and smell the roses a bit more, but made a couple of good attempts. If not for the need to come back in a hurry we may have taken a few more attempts at smelling roses.

P1060716

Our next trip is going to be a little bit out of the ordinary for us. We are going to rent a large RV and host three of Ton’s friends from Thailand on a swing thru the west. Stay tuned for more in October.

September 14 Whidbey Island WA

Today was our last nights camping on this trip to Alaska. We took care of some business at the Navy Base getting Ton’s military ID card updated, we also did some shopping at the base. We picked up a collapsable wash bin for plates, and a new mini-rice cooker.

We both really enjoy Whidbey Island and spent the rest of the day visiting some of our favorite places and a new brewery. We ended the day by going to one of Ton’s favorite restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. It is Christophers in Coupeville and it has the best mussels we have ever had. We had our biggest meal of the trip, and we will probably get two more meals out of the leftovers.

P1070314

We made it back to the campsite just in time to enjoy another spectacular sunset over the Puget sound. Another great day on the trip, hopefully we will have many more in the future.

P1070290

September 13 Spences Bridge BC to Whidbey Island WA

Today we headed to one of our favorite campsites on Naval Airstation Whidbey Island. It is located right on the Puget Sound and is really a great place to camp.

The initial drive was down the Fraser River Valley and is quite spectacular. I know we are sounding like a broken record but the trip to Alaska is full of spectacular drives.

Ron was focused on making it to the US before buying any more fuel. We made it but only just. Ron was sweating bullets in the line to clear customs, wondering what the punishment would be to run out of gas at the border crossing. When we pulled into the first gas station available after the border it took 33 gallons to fill the truck, a new record by 5 gallons so we really were on fumes.

P1070299

We arrived early at the campsite at Whidbey and got the last space available. The Navy has spent a lot of money upgrading this park and it is the equivalent of the best campground you would see anywhere. On top of that the camp host does an incredible job both keeping the place clean and keeping gardens throughout the place. It really is special.

P1070306

How we feel as we wrap up the trip.

September 12 Prince George BC to Spences Bridge BC

Today was a relatively lazy day. We started out a little later than usual, and parked for the night around 3:30 pm. As we drove south we saw signs of the fires that had closed the roads when we were heading towards Alaska. The firefighters did a great job saving property, but the land along the road showed that the fires must have been quite intense.

We targeted Spences Bridge because Ron had read that there was a log cabin pub there worth checking out. It turned out to be a real jewell. It is a very interesting building, much larger on the inside than it appeared from the outside. The owner was fun to talk to, and had a very refreshing view of life. It had been a tough year for them because the fires in this area were very intense and had the highway closed for long periods of time.

P1070259

September 11 Terence BC to Prince George BC

As the trip winds to an end we are getting focused on miles over seeing things. Today we found ourselves on good roads where cruise control was the norm. When we arrived in Prince George we did a little poking around the town before finding ourselves in the Walmart parking lot for the night.

P1070257

While there is not much to talk about we actually enjoyed the day. The sights were nice and while not as spectacular as Alaska still varied and pretty. We have found we are getting comfortable with a variety of places to stop for the night, even urban camping in Walmart.

September 10 Stanley BC to Terence BC

Ton has begun to refer this trip as the Fire and Rain tour, with all due respect to James Taylor.

Today we began by debating our next designation. The direct route would be to Prince George BC, but we had been reading about Prince Rupert so we decided to head there. As we were discusing Prince Rupert Ton mentioned that maybe we should check the weather there. We did not have any service at that point, and by the time we did we were already committed to Prince Rupert. As we got closer to Prince Rupert the rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind was blowing a gale. It was a serious storm. When we pulled into town it looked like a nice enough place, but there was no way to walk around town without getting drenched and blown around. The campground situation was not so good, and the BC Park we had as our backup was soaked, so we made the decision to double back to Terence BC.

P1070251

A glacier on the Cassier Highway (before the rain)

By the way the road to Prince Rupert from Terence is spectacular. You are going to have to take our word for it as we could not get any pictures thru the rain. There are a great many ribbon waterfalls, and a couple of proper waterfalls. The road follows the gorge formed by the Skeena River, and near the end broadens out to an estuary with mountains on either side and multiple islands. It is really a nice drive.

September 9 Watson Lake YT to Stanley BC

Ron always had fond memories of Hyder AK from our last trip to Alaska, so the plan was to drive the Cassier Highway to Hyder. Hyder has this frontier town feeling which was very fun for Ron. There is no US customs at the border in Hyder, and there is no police or fire, those services when needed are provided by Stanley British Columbia. The Americans in Hyder can be paid in Canadian currency as there are no banks in Hyder and the nearest American banks are over 1000 road miles away.

On our last trip we were held up for several hours at the junction of the Alaska and Cassier Highways due to a very large wildfire on the Cassier just south of the Alaska Highway. When we were finally allowed thru it was in a convoy led by a fire vehicle, and we actually passed thru areas where we could still see flames near the road. It was quite a memorable experience.

P1070222

The remnants of the fire we passed thru seven years ago and a shot of the Cassier Highway.

This trip we had nothing that dramatic, but we could still see the effects of the fire from seven years ago for the first 50 or so miles. Other than that the Cassier Highway was pretty uneventful but pretty. We did see a black bear on the road but otherwise it was mostly covering a lot of miles.

I would like to say that Hyder lived up to the memories we had, but it did not. It had a ghost town feel, we could not tell if it was because they had closed up for the season, or because the town was in real trouble. We went down to the fish creek Forest Service observation deck, but there were no bears. By now it was a long day so we went to the only open RV park near bye and paid for a commercial campground.

September 8 Skagway AK to Watson Lake YT

Really very little to talk about today. Drove about 300 miles thru pretty country. This was the one major section that we doubled back on so we have already covered the road earlier. Tomorrow we will begin heading south in earnest on the Cassier Highway.

P1070184

Another mountain and lake view from the window of the truck.

September 7 Haines AK to Skagway AK

Last night we had quite a rain storm, and even though we were sheltered in a forest the noise of the rain hitting the roof was quite loud. By morning it wasn’t raining, and even though it was cloudy it was pretty warm.

On our way to town to take care of some business with our estimated taxes we decided to go to a bridge across the Chilkot river to take some pictures of the river. While we were up there this girl showed up for her breakfast.

P1070074

Initially there were only three of us on the bridge, but that would change quickly. The bear spent about 45 minutes working up and down the river looking for fish. By the end there were about 40 people on the bridge. We were fortunate to speak to the Bear Monitor for the Alaska State Parks and she gave us a history of the bear. The bear is 2 years old and her mother also still feeds from the river. She had a brother there, but he has not been seen in a while.

P1070097

Another shot of her looking for fish. She put on quite a show.

Today we took the ferry to Skagway. Last time we took the ferry it took about 3 hours to go from Haines to Skagway. This time it was a high speed ferry that travelled about 40mph (36 knots). It was a short but pleaseant trip, and saved us about 450 miles of driving.

P1070133

When we pulled into Skagway there were three cruise ships in port, but it was surprisingly quiet downtown. We picked up a few groceries, and some souveneirs for friends and headed back to Scout.

September 6 Haines AK

Today we relaxed and enjoyed Haines. While yesterday was one of the prettiest days of the trip, today was back to rain. The first half of the day was just cloudy, but around noon the rain came in and it was pretty nasty.

P1070012

We visited a working fish packaging facility, and got to see the process from purchase to packaging. It was quite interesting, and based on Ron’s experience in manufacturing he was amazed that we were able to pretty much wander around the facility unsupervised.

P1070016 2

Our next stop was a Tinglit Indian cultural facility. The facility was really well done and the people operating the facility did an excellent job presenting the history of their people. They were obviously quite proud of the culture of their ancestors. The museum has some antique “Totems”, and we were quite lucky to have one of the elders tell us the story behind each totem. It was very fascinating, pictures were not allowed but we really recommend a visit.

We are currently sitting in the Haines library using their internet. Later we will decide whether to go back to the commercial campground in town to take advantage of 30 cable channels and unlimited electricity, or to an Alaska State Park where Scout is more in her element.


September 5 Haines Junction YT to Haines AK

We started the day with a chance encounter with another Tiger in Haines Junction. As we were looking for fuel in Haines Junction Ron spotted another Tiger parked in front of one of the gas stations and pulled in to say hello. They were a French Canadian couple who were on a two year trip with their son and daughter in law. We spent about an hour discussing our trips and comparing notes on our Tigers both good and bad. After a while we decided to head out for Haines but it was nice finding out how others are making their Tiger work and learning that our issues are not unique.

The drive over to Haines was very relaxing, the scenary was beautiful and the road was the best we have seen for quite a while. When we arrived in Haines we checked on the ferry schedule and bought a spot on the ferry to Skagway on September 7.

It was blue skies and nearly 70 degrees in Haines when we arrived. When we checked in at the commercial park we asked if the weather was like this tomorrow, unfortunately rain is supposed to come in overnight so we decided to take advantage of the mild weather.

P1060987

We went to a river that is supposed to have a lot of bears, but they weren’t out while we were there. When we got back into town we took a nice evening stroll around town, and of course checked out the local brewery.

Tonight we took care of laundry and got in nice long showers. While we were waiting on our laundry, an incredible full moon came out over the harbor, just as the large cruise ship in town pulled out.

P1070011

It was a really nice end to the day, the last few days have hit our stride and are starting to get a nice rhythym to the trip, we hope it continues.

September 4 Teslin NWR AK to Haines Junction YT

Today was planned primarily as a driving day. We are headed to Haines Alaska, and there really is not much between us and there. Along the way we ran into a German couple we had camped next to last night. We were stuck waiting for a pilot car when we realized they were in front of us. We followed them thru the border crossing back into Canada and ended up at the visitors center in Beaver Creek. Ton and the wife Anna ran in to use the internet, while the husband Hubert and I tried to carry on a conversation about trucks and Volkswagens. When we went in Ton, Anna and the two ladies at the visitors center were gushing over pictures of Anna’s two week old grandchild.

P1060905

Today we covered only about 200 miles, but it took about 6 hard hours of driving. There is one section of the road around Beaver Creek where the tundra has always wrecked havoc with the road. The tundra melts because of the heat generated by the road, and engineers have tried multiple ways to stop it, so far unsuccessfully. There has even been talk of going back to gravel for that section as it generates less heat and thus less frost heaves.

I want to end the day by praising the Yukon tourism board. The visitor centers every where are just fantastic. The people manning them are uniformly well informed and friendly. The internet is always strong, and they recognize that travelers up here need a place to connect, so they have seating areas for internet users. Because of this we stop in nearly every town's visitors center. The other thing that Yukon does well are their Territorial Parks. They are not fancy but they are well laid out and clean, and best of all cost only $12 per night.

September 3 Summit Lake AK to Teslin NWR AK

We woke up early in order to get some more photos of the glacier. I know Ton was excited because she got up and braved 32 degree temperatures for well over an hour shooting pictures in all directions. While it was cold it was the clearest day we have had on the trip.

P1060821

In addition to the glacier we were parked under there was a large mountain range in the distance that Ron thinks is Denali, and Ton does not. There is a picture below for others to judge.

P1060811

Mid-morning we pulled ourselves away from the glacier and headed out on the Richardson. Along the way we came to long sections of the Alaska Pipeline. It is an impressive engineering feat, and has largely delivered the oil safely to Valdez. The problems have been after delivery.

P1060858

We ended the day in a nice campground in the Teslin National Wildlife Refuge. It is on a large lake. Rignt after we settled in a float plane made a couple of landings and takeoffs to entertain us and the other campers at the site.

P1060876

One bonus picture of the Gulkana glacier below.

P1060843

September 2 Tolsona AK to Summit Lake AK

Today we began to point back towards home. A lot of the busineses that cater to travelers close up after labor day weekend, so I guess that it is a hint that we should begin to head home.

But there are still things to see so we did not make it that far today. We had originally planned to head into Valdez for the night, but when we woke up the weather forecast for Valdez was lousy. Instead of heading into bad weather we decided to head North a bit towards the Denali Highway.

I have not mentioned the Milepostbook since we took off, but do not come to Alaska without a copy. It is an incredibly detailed guide of all of the roads in Alaska, Northern BC, and the Yukon. It basically tells you everything about the road you are traveling on down to pullouts, and warnings of bad sections of road. The Milepost said that the first twenty miles of the Denali highway from Paxson were not to be missed, so we decided that would be our focus for today.

P1060716

We made what should have been a 10 mile detour to go to the visitors center for the Elias-Wrangel National Park, but somehow we both missed the large sign on the highway telling us to turn, after about 15 miles we figured it out and turned around and headed back. Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest park in the US, but it only has two dirt roads that go into it, so it is largely wilderness. The vistors center is very well done and informative about the park.

We headed north on the Richardson Highway, and it was a long stretch of frost heave, and pot holes. We were averaging about 45 mph, even though the speed limit was posted at 65. There were plenty of people who did travel at 65 though so we were constantly watching our rear for fast approaching cars and semi’s.

The Milepostwas right the Denali Highway was worth the trip. Ton nearly killed the battery on her camera taking pictures. At the top where the pavement ends was a BLM campground that had 100 spots. We decided we would stay there for the night, but it is labor day weekend, and despite being remote, it had a sign at the entrance saying that it was full. It turned out to be good luck.

P1060771

Consulting the Milepost, there was a State Park about 45 miles from where we were, and it also mentioned a BLM remote camping area with great views of Gulkana Glacier. We had decided on the State Park, but as we were driving down the Richardson we saw some RV’s parked in an area with incredible views. We have joined them for the night parked at the end of an old emergency airstrip with incredible 360 degree views.

P1060802

A beauty shot for Scout

September 1 Denali AK to Tolsona AK

Today was primarily a travel day. The forecast called for rain (again), but when we started out the first 100 miles were not that bad. We were able to enjoy what we suspect is pretty close to the peak colors around Denali.

P1060654

After spending 12 hours chasing critters yesterday, this moose was on the road 100 yards from our campsite.

P1060659


About 60 miles from the park we took a short detour down the Denali Highway to look at some mountains we saw in that direction. The Denali Highway is a “short cut” of 100 miles over what our navigation had picked out, the catch it was 23 miles of pavement and 100 miles of gravel. Ron was tempted and Ton was sceptical and said that if we lost another tire she would be very unhappy. About 6 miles in we ran into a pretty nasty stretch of washboard and Ron decided to retreat back to our old friend the Parks Highway.

P1060693

After driving thru a pretty good rainstorm for 150 miles we popped out into blue skies and morale picked up. We turned onto the Glenn Highway just hoping to get some miles in towards Valdez. We had not done any research on the Glenn Highway as we only saw it as a way to get from Wasilla to Glenallen on our way to Valdez. Well the Glenn Highway was another version of spectacular. The colors had not changed this far south. But the Glenn has draw dropping views of glaciers, rivers, and mountains that caught us by surprise. It really got us back into a good mood and ready to take on some more road.

August 31 Denali NP AK

Today was a long but very fulfilling day. As I said earlier we had some debate about whether to retrace our steps to Denali National Park. Today we are glad we did. We signed up for the 12 hour shuttle bus ride to the very end of the road in the park, and while it was a long day it was worth the trip and the sore butts.

P1060563

We had done this trip seven years ago in late July and had a partial view of the mountain. Today we had low expectations as the forecast called for clouds with a good chance of rain. We were hoping to see some critters and those hopes were fulfilled, with multiple grizzlies, a couple of moose, and a few caribou. The front of the bus saw a lynx, but we were in the back so we missed it.

P1060590

The highlite of the trip though was Denali, and the landscape in the park. Much to our surprise and the bus drivers Denali came out in full, and stayed out for several hours. Also the fall colors had set in and were surprisingly colorful with a nice mix of reds, yellows, and greens. Ton who as I have said is a fall colors snob, gave Denali a thumbs up.

P1060621

Denali coming out of the clouds.

P1060623

A view of the mountain from the visitors center.

We did not get back to Scout until nearly 9pm so we had a quick bowl of instant noodles and turned in tired but happy we made the 600 mile detour to come back.

P1060629

ducksksr@gmail.com travelin tiger 2013