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ALASKA 2007

 

The complete travelogue of our trip

North to Alaska in July 2007

 

 

A few years ago, we started talking about going back to visit Alaska before Spencer graduated from high school and went off to college.  We lived there from 1989-1996, and Spencer was born there in 1990.  There are lots of good memories from those years in the "49th State".  We hope you enjoy the pictures and stories of our drive from Illinois to Alaska and back - a round trip of some 9,500 miles.  Here we go!

 

 

 

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Our trusty old van.  1996 Chevy Lumina APV with 129,000 miles.

All cleaned up, new tires, new oil and anti-freeze.

 

 

 

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Packing up.  My goal was to keep the view out

 of the rear window unobstructed.

 

 

 

DAY 1:  Sunday July 1st

Mascoutah, Illinois to Omaha, Nebraska

Today 462 miles : Trip total 462 miles

 

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Spencer's driving the first leg of the trip.  Here we go!!!!

 

 

 

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25 miles from home.  Guess where?

 

 

 

 

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Look closely.  It's night, but you can see the space shuttle Endeavor getting a ride home to Florida on the back of a NASA 747.   They were stopped overnight at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, where we lived from 1996-1999.

 

 

 

Day 2:  Monday July 2nd

Omaha, Nebraska to Murdo, South Dakota

Today 411 miles : Trip total 873 miles

 

 

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The second-most popular tourist destination in South Dakota, the Corn Palace in Mitchell.  Each year, it is decorated with ears of corn in varying colors to create very imaginative murals. 

 

 

 

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Inside the Corn Palace.  Lots of "corny" vendors.  

 

 

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Some of the corn murals on the wall at the Corn Palace.

 

 

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Close-up of a corn mural.

I guess there's not a lot to do in South Dakota.

 

 

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OK, we're done with the Corn Palace and heading west through South Dakota.  It's mostly loooonnng stretches of straight road with occasional cool scenes like this lake.

 

 

 

Day 3: Tuesday July 3rd

Murdo, South Dakota to Sheridan, Wyoming

Today 442 miles : Trip total 1,315 miles

 

 

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Did I mention LONG stretches of boredom?  This is much of

South Dakota's interstate scenery.

 

 

 

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Did I mention LONG stretches of road?  Oh, yes, I did.  Here's more.

Are we there yet?  Only 3,000 miles to go!

 

 

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We got out to stretch our legs and enjoy the spectacular view of…. Prairie.

We did comb our hair first, but there is a constant 30 MPH wind.

 

 

 

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Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

We stopped to look at the museum.  Great!!

 

 

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One of the museum displays is this nuclear (or, as George W. Bush says, "NU-CU-LAR)

 missile launch command from an underground missile silo.

 

 

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Approaching Mt. Rushmore - our first view as we ascend toward the monument.

 

 

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Uh, oh!  A half mile to go, and the traffic is parked in both lanes.

Moving verrrry slowly!

When we finally got to within 2 cars of the parking lot entrance, it closed.  Full!

We drove past the lot about a mile, parked along the road, and walked back.

 

 

 

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Family picture at Mt. Rushmore.

 

 

 

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Close-up of the 4 Presidents.

 

 

 

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After Mt. Rushmore, it was west to Sheridan, Wyoming for the night.

At least the scenery was improving.

 

 

 

Day 4: Wednesday July 4th

Sheridan, Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Today 355 miles: Trip total 1,670 miles

 

 

 

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Westbound from Sheridan, Wyoming.

Interesting 2-lane as it approaches the first of the Rocky Mts.

Suddenly, we were climbing toward the sky on a twisty stretch of road.

 

 

 

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Near the top of the first climb, we looked back

on where we took the previous picture.

 

 

 

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Yellowstone National Park.

All rivers west of this point flow into the Pacific.

All rivers east flow into the Atlantic. 

 

 

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Waiting for Old Faithful. (She's brewing in the background)

 

 

 

 

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Thar' she blows!  Old Faithful.

 

 

 

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The North Canyon of Yellowstone.

Nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone".

 

 

 

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Yellowstone - Lower Falls

 

 

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On the way back to the room, we passed this huge herd of bison.

 

 

 

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This guy wanted a little time to himself and was

wandering up the road away from the herd.

 

 

 

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Some of the thermal springs in Yellowstone.

 

 

 

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Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone.

These have been mostly inactive since about 1998.

Beautiful colors, though.

 

We enjoyed a nice evening at the Grant Village Lodge.

No TV, no internet, no phone.  Ahhh, peace and quiet.

 

 

 

Day 5: Thursday July 5

Yellowstone, Wyoming to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana

Today 403 miles:  Trip total 2,073

 

 

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Montana, northbound to Malmstom AFB. 

Lots of flat country, with occasional hills like this.

Kind of uneventful after Yellowstone.

 

 

We stayed at Malmstrom Air Force Base lodging Thursday night.

Very nice 2-bedroom suite.  Brought Papa Johns pizza back to the room.

 

 

 

Day 6: Friday July 6

Malmstrom AFB, Montana to Edmonton, Alberta (Canada)

Today 530 miles:  Trip total 2,603 miles

 

 

 

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After leaving Malmstrom AFB, it was north on the interstate about 150 miles to the border of Canada.  It was a pretty uneventful crossing, but the line moved slowly.  It took about an hour to get through the line of 15 cars.

 

 

 

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Canada!  We're on our way to Alaska.

Alberta is mostly flat farming country.  Lots of grain fields.

 

 

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What did I tell you?

 Alberta looks like this much of the way to Edmonton.

 

 

 

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We rolled into Edmonton after dinner, so the hotel pickings were slim.

The Travel Lodge was nice and reasonably priced, but the lady told me the only room left was a "Theme Room" with bears.  I thought Spencer would get a laugh out of this.  He did.

I promised to email this picture to all of his friends at school.

 

 

 

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Edmonton Mall - the world's largest indoor mall.

 

 

 

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Edmonton Mall - indoor wave pool/ swimming pool

 

 

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Edmonton Mall - indoor ice rink

 

 

 

 

Day 7: Saturday July 7th

Edmonton, Alberta to Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Today 653 miles:  Trip total 3,256 miles

 

 

We were up early and on the road by 6:00am.  We decided to drive for an hour before stopping for breakfast at McDonalds in Whitecourt.  Then, it was on to Dawson Creek, the start of the ALCAN (Alaska/Canada Highway).

 

 

 

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The Visitors Center at Dawson Creek. 

 

 

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Nearby is the official start of the ALCAN.  Mile"0".

 

 

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We're finally on the ALCAN.  The first hundred miles is pretty tame.

This is where the countryside transitions from farmland to forest.

 

 

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About 50 miles up the ALCAN, we run into the first gravel section.

Most of the highway was well paved.

 

 

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Continuing on to Fort Nelson.  It's looking more remote.

 

 

 

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About 150 miles up the ALCAN. 

Civilization is rapidly disappearing in our rearview mirror.

 

 

We made it to Fort Nelson and stayed at Woodlands Inn, a very nice (new) hotel.  We also got our first reminder of how expensive everything is on the ALCAN.  Gas was $5.00 per gallon, and a medium pizza was $25.00.  Ouch!

 

 

 

Day 8: Sunday July 8th

Fort Nelson, British Columbia to Teslin Lake, Yukon

Today 475 miles:  Trip total 3,731 miles

 

 

I awoke this morning with terrible nausea and headache.  Could it be the greasy pizza from last night?   I didn't want to slow down our progress, so I decided to get out the pillows and sleep in the 2nd row seat while Beth and Spencer drove.  I rested for about 2 hours, then awoke when I heard the excitement - wildlife all over the road!

 

 

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Spencer getting a "thru the windshield" picture of

wildlife on the highway.

 

 

 

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They are not too concerned about our van.

Can't they see Beth is driving???

 

 

 

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Just up the road, Mama and baby out for a stroll.

 

 

 

 

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"Hey, take my picture!  Cheeeeese!"

 

 

 

 

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Nice view at a pullout along the McDonald River.

 

 

 

 

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Another pullout with a nice view of the Stone Mt. Area.

 

 

 

 

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Spencer trying to tell the stone sheep the sign

 says they should be over here.

 

 

 

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Around the Toad River and Muncho Lake area.

By now, I was feeling better and gave

Beth and Spencer a break from driving.

 

 

 

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Liard Hot Springs area is noted for its bison herds.

We stopped as a herd passed in front of and behind us.

 

 

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This crazy lady behind us stood out in the path of the bison.

I guess she wanted to socialize with them.  Cool until they get spooked.

 

 

 

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Ah, somebody's sleepy.  I guess he drove early this morning.

 

 

 

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We woke up Spencer for the "Welcome to Yukon" sign.

He's smiling, but he's also asleep (note the closed eyes).

 

 

 

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Ft Nelson, Yukon.  Legend has it that a worker on the ALCAN back in the 1940s put up a sign from his hometown.  Over the years, tens of thousands (yes!) of signs have been added to what is now known as the Sign Post Forest. 

 

 

 

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One of the many aisles of city signs.

 

 

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Looking for places we've been.  Many are from Europe.

 

 

 

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Finally, we made it to Teslin Lake and stayed at the Dawson Peaks Resort.

Well, it may not be a fancy resort, but it was nice and quiet.

We slept like babies.

 

 

 

Day 9 : Monday July 9th

Teslin Lake, Yukon to Tok, Alaska

Today 503 miles:  Total miles 4,234

 

 

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The Teslin River Bridge is the 3rd-longest span on the ALCAN.

Spencer got to drive the one open lane with a 100-foot drop just inches to the left.

We made it!

 

 

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One of the many motorcyclists we saw on the ALCAN.

I originally thought I'd like to ride it, but it's all paved now.

Not quite the adventure for a bike that it once was.

 

 

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Caution - Elk next 20 kilometers (about 12 miles)

We did not see any coming or going to Alaska.

 

 

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Haines Junction, Yukon.  Be sure to turn right.

 

 

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Heading north from Haines Junction toward Kluane Lake.

 

 

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Approaching Kluane Lake and Sheep Mountain.

This is the largest lake in the Yukon (154 square miles)

 

 

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Waiting for construction at Kluane Lake.  The next 100 miles had a lot of

waiting for pilot cars to usher us through construction zones. 

 

 

 

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Watching them tear away the side of the mountain to widen the road.

 

 

 

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Finally!  Time to go.  Follow the truck.

 

 

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Rough road.  I hope none of those big rocks overhead fall.

You can see why they want to widen the road.

 

 

 

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Heading north past Kluane Lake and approaching the Alaska border.

A new bridge being built alongside the old one. 

 

 

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Not too far to Alaska now.

 

 

 

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More gravel roads.

 

 

 

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The joy of following campers on a dusty road.

 

 

 

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Finally!  After 8-1/2 days and 4,100 miles of driving.

 

 

 

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This 3-foot-high thingamabob marks the US/Canada border.

Canada is to the left, and Alaska is to the right, just over the line.

 

 

 

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Looking down the clearing that marks the border between Alaska and Canada.

No fence.  Just a million-gazillion mosquitoes guarding the homeland.

 

 

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A few miles later, we reached U.S. Customs.

 

 

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Well, they let us back in the U.S., so we continued on 100 miles to Tok, Alaska, where we stayed at Young's Motel.  Really nice place, and a great restaurant next door.

 

 

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Dad hard at work trying to update the web page in the hotel room that night.

Slow connections were the norm. 

 

 

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Here's the perfect ride to Alaska.  Rugged, good power, easy on gas.

I guess the bike wouldn't be bad either. 

 

 

 

 

Day 10: Tuesday July 10th

Tok, Alaska to Anchorage, Alaska

Today 330 miles:  Trip total 4,564 miles

 

 

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The final leg of the trip!  Starting out from Tok, it was very overcast.

We saw our first steady rain of the trip.  Clouds obscured the high mountains.

 

 

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We saw our first moose of the trip about 30 minutes out of Tok.

 

 

 

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Spencer chasing me away from his creative photography session.

 

 

 

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Lining up the shot.

 

 

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Nice.  Fireweed is a very common flower (weed?) in Alaska.

It is one of the first plants to grow after a forest fire.

We'll see more of this on our return trip through Dawson City, Yukon.

 

 

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About 114 miles to go to Anchorage.  This is a very pretty view of Lion Head

 dome, the oddly shaped rock just ahead and slightly to the right.

I got a better picture on our way home, which you will see later.

 

 

 

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Matanuska Glacier, about 100 miles from Anchorage.

18,000 years ago, this glacier extended to Palmer, about 60 miles downstream.

 

 

 

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Garcia's Mexican Cantina, in Eagle River, Alaska.

Spencer remembered the school bus on the wall and wanted to come here.

Great food!

 

 

 

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Back on familiar ground.

 

 

 

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This is the church on base where Spencer was baptized in 1990.

 

 

 

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Our old home.  We actually lived here just the last year

after they started renovating our first home just down the street.

 

 

 

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Spencer is checking out the "giant sledding hill".  We used to come here a lot when he was young.  He said it doesn't look as big as he remembered. 

 

 

Days 11 - 16

Anchorage and surrounding areas.

800 more miles of driving - Trip total 5,364 miles

 

 

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Family picture by the base totem pole.

 

 

 

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After 10 days in the van, we needed to walk.   We headed downtown to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a series of bike/walking paths that criss-cross the city. 

 

 

 

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Spencer used to ride his bike on these trails, and remembered

the tunnels with their echoes.

 

 

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Then and now - Looking out over the water at Sleeping Lady from Anchorage.

The first picture was taken about 1991, and the second picture in 2007.

Sleeping Lady is a low mountain (just over my left shoulder) that legend says is a sleeping princess waiting for her warrior to come home.

 

 

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Later, we stopped at Subway and took a picnic lunch up to Flattop overlook above Anchorage.  The city is visible to the left, and Sleeping Lady mountain is visible behind that. 

 

 

 

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Next stop - the Anchorage Zoo.  We came here so often that we bought yearly passes when we lived here.  Spencer always loved to come see the animals.

 

 

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Musk ox.  You can buy clothing made from its wool.

 It's supposed to be very warm.

 

 

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One of the grizzly bears at the zoo.

 

 

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Beth showing the size of a dahlia(?)

 

 

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On Wednesday night, we decided to camp in the Fam Camp on Elmendorf AFB.  We picked a nice, quiet remote spot at the edge of the woods.

 

 

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We saw this sign posted at the campground. 

Spencer said, "Yeah, right!"

 

 

 

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The next morning, we found out the sign was right!

Spencer's tent had claw marks on the top.

His reply - "I didn't hear a thing."

 

 

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Close-up of the claw marks on Spencer's tent.

By the way, Beth said we would be sleeping in rooms from now on.

 

 

 

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Even the Huskies drive SUVs in Anchorage.

 

 

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One day, we headed north to Talkeetna and the Denali Park area.

This sign just outside Anchorage tells how many moose

 have been killed on the highway this year.  (261 so far)

 

 

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Talkeetna, a tiny town of about 100 located about 100 miles north of Anchorage.

This is the popular starting point for climbers heading for Denali (Mt McKinley).

 

 

 

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Spencer getting kissed by a Talkeetna moose.

 

 

 

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Busy downtown Talkeetna.  This is the entire town.

 

 

 

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Later, we drove up to a nice overlook by Denali.

However, clouds obscured the highest peaks.

 

 

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Denali (to the left, behind the dark ridges) was only partially visible.

To give an idea of scale, the first mountains are still about 20-25 miles away.

 

 

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Family picture at the overlook.

 

 

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After all of the exploring, we were hungry!

We had to stop at Lucky Wishbone, a favorite chicken place of ours.

Great malts!

 

 

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What's for dinner?

 

 

 

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We stayed 3 different nights at lodging on Fort Richardson, the Army base that is connected to Elmendorf AFB.  It's about 1/3 the cost of a hotel downtown. And, it's safe.

 

 

 

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On Friday, we headed south 125 miles to Seward.  Along the way, we stopped

at Crow Creek Gold Mine to try our hand at gold panning. 

 

 

 

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Spencer's getting his refresher course in panning technique.

 

 

 

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One of the many old buildings on the Crow Creek Gold Mine site.

 

 

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This looks like a good (gold) spot.

 

 

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Hmmm. She made it look easy at the check-in.

 

 

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A cool old truck at the mine.   It's seen a lot of rough winters.

 

 

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We found a section of the original Iditarod Trail.

It first started in Seward and ran north through Anchorage to Nome.

Now, they start in Anchorage for all of the media attention.

 

 

 

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Going south along Turnagain Arm from Anchorage, the weather was gloomy.

 

 

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The weather cleared for just a few moments as we entered the Kenai Peninsula.

 

 

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Spencer setting up for an eagle picture near Seward.

 

 

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Bald eagle (Spencer took this picture)

 

 

 

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A young bald eagle.  They are all brown when young, then start

 changing to part-white around the 3rd and 4th years. 

 

 

 

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We rode out to Exit Glacier, a 15-mile ride from Seward.  It is part of the Harding Ice Field, which covers a large area of the Kenai Peninsula.  This map shows an area about 100 miles wide by 50 miles high.  You can see the ice field covers a great deal of that.  See those rocks on the right-hand section of the ice field?  Those are the tips of 6,000-foot mountains peeking through the ice field.  The arrow points to where Exit Glacier spills over the top of one mountain and flows down into the valley.

 

 

 

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The road from Seward to Exit Glacier is very scenic.

 

 

 

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A sneak preview of the glacier from about 3 miles out.

 

 

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The Exit Glacier Visitor's center.

 The glacier covered this area as recently as the 1800s.

 

 

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We ignored the bear sign at the campground, but we won't ignore this sign.

 

 

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We climbed up to a scenic spot close to the glacier.

We are still about 300 yards away from it.

 

 

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Here is the lower section of the glacier.

For perspective, remember it's about 100 yards away from Spencer.

 

 

 

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Spencer lining up that great photo.

 

 

 

 

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Spencer and I climbed up to within 100 yards of the glacier.

It's about 150 feet thick at this point.

 

 

 

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Spencer photographing some of the runoff,

 which is melted water from the glacier.

 

 

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Back at Seward harbor for supper, we passed a fishing boat unloading the day's catch.

Those halibut hanging up by the sign weigh about 100 pounds each.

 

 

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Then and now - Seward harbor, about 1993 and 2007

 

 

 

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The historic starting point of the Iditarod,

 before they moved it to Anchorage.

 

 

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Our lodging at the Army Rec Camp.  Great view of Mt Marathon.

 

 

 

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Coming back from Seward, we stopped at Portage Lake.

Portage Glacier used to be visible in the background as late as the mid 1990's,

 but now has receded around the corner of the valley.

 

 

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Spencer kayaking in the Arctic Ocean.  (Portage museum)

 

 

 

 

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Then and now - By Portage Visitors Center :  About 1993 and 2007

 

 

 

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Middle Glacier, on the road to Portage Lake. 

 

 

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Another bear sign at Middle Glacier. 

 

 

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Back in Anchorage, we visited one of our old favorite hangouts, the Library!

 

 

 

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The lobby of the Anchorage Library is decorated with native designs.

 

 

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We also visited the wildlife museum on Elmendorf AFB.

This is next door to the band hall.  Beth and Spencer used to wait

 in here when they picked me up returning from band trips. 

 

 

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Spencer asked, "Are you the bear that tore my tent roof?"

 

 

 

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One of many warning signs along the remote parts of Elmendorf.

This used to be a training area.

 

 

 

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Lake Hood is the largest float plane facility in the USA.

 Hundreds of floatplanes land and take off each day in the summer.

 

 

 

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Anchorage Visitors Center.  Flowers are very popular in Anchorage.

 

 

 

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Some of the hanging flower pots along Anchorage streets.

 

 

 

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One afternoon, we went out to the Eagle River Visitors Center to walk around and see the museum.  We also met a friend we had been stationed with in Nebraska and Germany (Kathy Homan) and her son Jessie. 

 

 

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A view from the walkway at the Eagle River Visitors Center. 

There is a 25+ mile cross country race each summer that goes through the mountain area in the background.  It's called the Crow Pass Run.  Lots of bears, cold-river crossings, briars, etc.

 

 

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This is the pool at Fort Richardson, where Spencer learned to swim as a toddler.  We started taking him there when he was still in diapers, and by the time he was 5, he was jumping off the high dive and swimming to the side of the pool. 

 

 

 

Day 17:  Tuesday July 17th

Anchorage, Alaska to Tok, Alaska

Today 325 miles: Trip total 5,589 miles

 

We left Anchorage early Tuesday morning so we could split the drive to Dawson City into 2 reasonable days rather than 1 LONG day.  That would allow us to spend more time on the "Top of the World Highway" the next day, too.

 

 

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We headed for home on a beautiful day!  Here is the Matanuska Glacier at mile 100.

 It's a little clearer view than when we drove in.

 

 

 

 

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Here's the view of Lion Head at mile 114.  Much clearer. 

 

 

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A common scene on the Alaska Highway - a caravan of RVs going 45mph.

Try passing that on a curvy road!

 

 

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Heading westbound near Glenallen, Alaska, on the way to Tok.

 

 

 

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Groovy VW van at the hotel in Tok.

 

 

 

Day 18:  Wednesday July 18th

Tok, Alaska to Dawson City, Yukon

Today 190 miles : Trip total 5,779

 

 

 

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Shortly after leaving Tok, we headed east on the Taylor Highway, which later connects with the "Top of the World Highway" and continues to Dawson City, Yukon.  Gold country!!

 

 

 

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Starting out on the Taylor Highway.  Nice road for awhile.

 

 

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Rainbow on the Taylor Highway.

It's ironic that many prospectors came here back in 1849 looking

for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and never found it. 

 

 

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Spencer taking photos at an area burned by a large

 forest fire about 10 years ago.

 

 

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Continuing east.  Very remote countryside.

We're glad the van didn't break down here.

 

 

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Here's a hillside where the fireweed is growing after a forest fire.

 

 

 

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Approaching the metropolis of Chicken, Alaska.

 

 

 

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Here's a sneak preview of Chicken, AK, from a mile away.

 

 

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Downtown Chicken, Alaska.  You have your shopping, drinking, and eating.

What else is there?

 

 

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The busy shoppers.

 

 

 

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Oh yes, I guess there is one more thing everyone needs.

 

 

 

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And, the only gas pump for 75 miles in either direction.

 

 

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This beautiful grass is quite common along the roads.

Anyone help me with what it's called?

 

 

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The Chicken, Alaska, Post Office.  Really!!

 

 

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Leaving Chicken, the road narrows, and there are steep

drop-offs with no guardrails.  That made Beth happy! (Not!)

 

 

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An old gold dredge along the river.

 (Jack Wade Dredge – reportedly removed right after we went through)

 

 

 

 

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Rough road, tough van. (So far)

 

 

 

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Spencer taking a picture of the Taylor Highway as it stretches out to the horizon.

Look closely at the mountain just ahead and to the right.

 

 

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Approaching the town of Boundary, Alaska (population 2).

It's the last stop before the Canada border.

 

 

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Old cabin at Boundary.

 

 

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Beth thought these might be license plates that rattled off cars on the bumpy road.

She then asked me to check our plates to make sure they were still attached.

Notice the German plates. 

 

 

 

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This gas pump at Boundary probably hasn't pumped gas since

 Eisenhower was President.

 

 

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Before we crossed into the Yukon, we turned around for a picture of the welcome sign for those coming the other direction into Alaska.  This is our last family picture taken in Alaska.

 

 

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Approaching the customs station at Poker Creek.

 

 

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Poker Creek Customs, the most northerly land border port in the USA.

 

 

 

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After passing through Canadian customs, we were back in the Yukon.

Dawson City - 105 Kilometers (65 miles)

 

 

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From here, the road is called "Top of the World Highway", because it is mostly built along the high ridgelines of the mountains, and because it's so far north on the globe.  Lots of spectacular views.

 

 

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TOTWH (Top of the World Highway) turns to gravel in Canada.

Some sections are great, some are not.  Also, the Canadian government has figured out that it can save millions of dollars by not installing guardrails on its roads, so be prepared for a long drop if you overshoot a corner.  (Remember, the road is built along the TOP of the ridges.)

 

 

 

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TOTWH.  Winding off into the horizon.

 

 

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Huh?  Actually, this is for a left curve where the hillside blocks the view of oncoming traffic.  If you hug the left lane (remember the steep drop-off just to your right?), you will be headlight to headlight with any oncoming car.  Not good.

 

 

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Dawson City, Yukon.  Heart of the 1849 gold stampede. 

The Yukon River (flowing from the right, dirty with glacial silt) merges with the Klondike River (flowing toward you, with clean mountain water) merge and continue flowing north (still known as just the Yukon River) in a loop around the north of Fairbanks, AK, and westward to the Bering Sea, just south of Nome, AK.

 

 

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No bridge can survive the freeze/thaw cycles of every winter on the Yukon,

so all traffic must pass over on the ferry. 

 

 

 

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We had supper at Sourdough Joes.  Good fish and chips (salmon and cod).

 

 

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When we came here back in 1994, Spencer threw rocks in the Yukon River for quite a while.

Here he is re-enacting his childhood.

 

 

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The Keno, a paddleboat that traveled the Yukon River

 up and down to Whitehorse for years.

 

 

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Standing atop the "Dome", overlooking Dawson City and the Yukon River.

To see the same photo taken about 13 years earlier, look below.

 

 

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Family picture taken at the Dome in Dawson City, taken about 1994.

 

 

 

Day 19:  Thursday July 19th

Dawson City, Yukon to Teslin Lake, Yukon

Today 460 miles:  Trip total 6,239 miles

 

 

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Heading south from Dawson City, Yukon on the Klondike Highway.

 

 

 

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Suddenly, Beth shouted "Coyote!"

We stopped, backed up 100 feet, and watched this beautiful animal

walk around for about 5 minutes. Spencer took this great picture.

 

 

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"5 Fingers", a notorious stretch of the Yukon River that stopped many a prospector on their way to Dawson City.  Here, the river is divided into 5 channels (fingers) by four large rocks.  It took quite a bit of skill to maneuver around these safely. 

 

 

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Conglomerate Mountain, where lava and mud flows from 185 million years ago came over the top of this mountain and solidified into sheets of rock.

 

 

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As you travel down the Klondike Loop, there is a section of about 100 miles where a white layer appears just below the surface where the hillsides were cut out for the road.  This white ash was deposited from a volcanic eruption about 1,250 years ago, and is either from the White River area in the Yukon, or perhaps from a dormant volcano buried in ice in the St. Elias Mountains of Alaska.  Scientists can't agree. 

 

 

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There are various signs along the road that tell when the last forest fire occurred.  Apparently, fires are a natural phenomenon, and serve to clean up the forests and start over.

 

 

 

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Of course, where there has been a fire, there will be fireweed.

 

 

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Whitehorse, Yukon, the capital.   Population 23,500.

This is the S.S. Klondike "II", a copy of the original that sank in 1936.

 

 

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Eastbound out of Whitehorse and headed to Teslin Lake, where we have

 a cottage reserved at Dawson Peaks for the night. 

 

 

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More construction!!!! 

 

 

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Across the narrow bridge. 

Beth did not like looking out her window and

seeing a 100-foot drop to the river.

 

 

 

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We're back! 

 

 

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This time, we stayed in one of the wonderful cottages by the lake.

 

 

 

 

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Inside the cottage.  This time, we had cable TV! 

You can see the lake through the window.

 

 

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This was hanging to the left of the window in the previous picture.

I don't think there's ANY resemblance, do you???

 

 

 

Day 20: Friday July 20th

Teslin Lake, Yukon to Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Today 476 miles: Trip total 6,715 miles

 

 

We awoke to the sound of rain this morning.  Hard rain.

Oh well, we've been pretty lucky up to now,

 

A rainy, foggy start this morning.  About a half-hour into the trip, we noticed a pickup truck way down in the grass and mud, about 30 feet below the road level and about 75 feet from the road.  The elderly driver had apparently fallen asleep at 5:30am and driven straight off the road and down the embankment.  At least he picked a smooth place to exit the road.  He said he was not injured at all, and had plenty of food and water.  We said we would send help from the next town.  That next town would be Watson Lake, nearly 150 miles away.  We spotted a Canadian Mountie (not on a horse, but in a new Ford Explorer) and gave him all of the details.  The guy surely had a long wait for help. 

 

 

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Buffalo on Road.  We'll see.

 

 

 

 

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Well, I guess they were right.

This big guy was making his way back to the herd.

 

 

 

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Just down the road was the herd.  They were spread out over a half mile.

I would guess there were about 100-150.  Maybe more.

 

 

 

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Pressing on east toward Edmonton.  The weather is still lousy.

 

 

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Another bridge - slippery when wet!!!

Most bridges up here use steel grates for a road surface.

 

 

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I walked out on the bridge, and this is the view down through the steel grated road surface to the rocks a hundred feet below.  Not for those with vertigo!!

You also do not want to crash a motorcycle on this at 50mph.  Ouch!

 

 

 

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Muncho Lake, 7 miles long and 1 mile wide.

 

 

 

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The original road around Muncho Lake was high above on the cliffs.

Engineers relocated the road by the lake for safety.

 

 

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Muncho Lake Provincial Park. 

 

 

 

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MacDonald River Valley, just west of Summit Lake. 

 

 

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Lots of sheep around these parts.  The sign says it all.

 

 

 

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Stone Mountain area.  Steep grades, steep drop-offs. 

Stay on the road. 

 

 

 

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"No shooting or hunting area" - I'm safe.

 

 

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Civilization.  Sort of.  Fort Nelson, British Columbia.

We stayed at the Woodland Inn again.

It would be our last night on the Alaska Highway.

 

 

 

 

Day 21:  Saturday July 21st

Fort Nelson, British Columbia to Whitecourt, Alberta (Canada)

Today 549 miles : Trip total 7,264 miles

 

 

A beautiful day.  We left Whitecourt early, after a great breakfast in the hotel, and headed east through Edmonton and on to Saskatchewan. 

 

 

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We stopped to take our picture with Bigfoot.

 

 

 

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The Kiskatinaw Bridge was on a section of the original ALCAN that is an easy detour off the main highway.  It's a trip back in time, as it is the only original wooden structure still used.

 

 

 

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The sign by the bridge.

 

 

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It is also one of the few curved wooden-deck bridges built.

 

 

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The wooden deck has survived over 60 brutal winters.

 

 

 

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When we got to Dawson Creek, there was a museum

with a display of the bridge construction.

 

 

 

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This sign was posted back in the 1940s as a warning for those applying for work.

 

 

 

Day 22: Sunday July 22nd

Whitecourt, Alberta to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Today 573 miles:  Trip total  7,837 miles

 

 

 

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One of many grain elevators in Saskatchewan province.

 

 

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Saskatchewan was mostly prairies and grassland, not what I expected.

I thought it would be rugged forests and mountains.

 

 

 

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We decided to start a multi-national bug collection on the front of the van.

This is after a day of hard rain washed off many bugs back by Teslin Lake.

 

 

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I decided to change the air filter after we were done with the ALCAN and its dusty roads.  I had just replaced the filter before we left on the trip.  It got this dirty just 3 weeks.

 Nice bugs, too!!

 

 

 

Day 23: Monday July 23rd

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Camp Ripley, Minnesota

Today 700 miles:  Trip total 8,537 miles

 

 

 

 

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Estavan, Saskatchewan is about 100 miles north of the Canada border with North Dakota.  It is the self-proclaimed "Energy Capital of Canada", producing enough coal to export to other countries.  This old mining equipment is on display at a local information center.

 

 

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Just south of town, this machine was stripping coal out of the ground

 where there used to be farmland and prairie. 

 

 

BACK IN THE USA!!!

 

 

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We crossed over into North Dakota about 100 miles northwest of Minot.

Beautiful country!

 

 

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More of North Dakota, just north of Minot.

 

 

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When we found out there was no base lodging at either base in North Dakota (Minot or Great Falls), we called ahead to Camp Ripley, Minnesota, about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis/St Paul.  We ended up with this beautifully furnished, 4-bedroom home for $41.00. Sweet!

 

 

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Spencer checking out the million-channel TV.

It was a nice change after some of the rustic places we had stayed in.

 

 

Day 24: Tuesday July 24th

Camp Ripley, Minnesota to Union Grove, Wisconsin

Today 461 miles : Trip total 8,998 miles

 

We decided to head over to Beth's home in Wisconsin since the county fair was this week.  It would be a good chance to see a lot of people in a short period of time.  The weather was great, and we were a couple of days ahead of schedule.  We arrived at her parents' home late afternoon. 

 

 

 

Day 25 - 29: Union Grove, Wisconsin

 

 

The next day, Beth and Spencer drove over to the fair (about 10 miles away) in the afternoon.  About 3:00, Beth called me and said the van suddenly would not go over 25mph.  She was only a mile away, and made it home.  When I checked it out, it appeared there was a serious transmission problem.  I limped it down the road a few miles to the local Chevrolet dealer, and they confirmed by worst fears - the transmission was completely shot.  The repair would be about $2,500.00 - $3,000.00.  The van is 11 years old and has 139,000 miles on it, so we decided it just wasn't worth it.  We have two other cars - one has 129,000 miles and the other "new" one has 98,000 miles.  Do we need 3 old cars?  No.  So, we sold it to a local mechanic who repaired it and later sold it to a single mom who needed a car.  Bad news, though.  A few weeks later, the van was stolen when she drove up into Milwaukee.  This van sure had an exciting life!  

 

 

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“FOR SALE” -  Goodbye ol' blue.  We'll miss ya'.

 

 

Looking back, it was a real blessing the van did not break down up in the Yukon on a desolate stretch of road.  There were places where it was 150 miles to the nearest "town" of maybe 500 people.  That would not have been a good situation. 

 

We rented a car over the weekend and drove down to Illinois to bring back one of our other cars.  We took half of the stuff home in the rental car, then the rest when we returned home on Monday.

 

 

Day 30:  Monday July 30th

Union Grove, Wisconsin to Mascoutah, Illinois (HOME!!)

Today 350 miles : Trip total 9,348 miles

 

 

It was GREAT to be home!!  After living in hotel rooms for a month, the house seems HUGE!  It has been very hot and dry here, so the yard and gardens were in bad shape.  We had to laugh - there was one huge weed growing just outside our back door.  It was about 6 feet tall, and had a root so deep I had to dig it out with a shovel.  The neighbors had been getting tomatoes from our garden (like we had asked them to), but we still had a few almost ready to eat.  Everything was fine in the house, and soon we were back to our normal routines.

 

 

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Gargantua, the giant weed in our flower bed.

 

 

 

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Our poor, dry garden.  Time to get back to work. 

 

 

Summary:  Overall, a great trip!!  The first few days, we wondered if we bit off more than we could chew, but we took time to rest after long days of driving, and tried not to overdo it.  It wasn't easy being copped up together in the van for 9,400 miles, but we still had a good time, and have many great memories to carry with us.  It was nice to see Alaska, but we did not feel the huge rush of emotions we thought we might when we drove into Anchorage.  Many things have changed, and life goes on.  We are happy in Illinois, and do not regret leaving Alaska.  If had stayed, we would have missed the opportunity to live in Germany for 3 years. No matter where life takes you, things work out.

 

Hope you enjoyed the travelogue and pictures.  

 

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Mike, Beth, and Spencer

 

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