Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tok, Alaska

The following refers to day five of our journey: Wednesday, June 24th.

We slept like the dead last night. I don’t know how I manage to get so tired when all I do is sit for hours, but somehow it happens. I took a glorious, blessed, marvelous shower and then we went to breakfast. We saw this great sign hanging inside the diner:
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I’m trying to determine if this means we can go whatever speed we want, since we’re well past March?!

After breakfast, our road-weary bodies were back on the road yet again. We travelled about four hours before reaching Whitehorse, where we stopped for gas and lunch. It is mind-boggling how far apart the towns are here, and when you think you’re approaching a decent sized city it usually turns out to be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dot on the map. Whitehorse is the largest town we’ve passed through in two days, and with a population of 24,000 it’s not that big. It’s not that I have anything against small towns…hello, I came from the smallest town ever invented. It’s just that when you drive for so many hours without seeing any towns whatsoever, you start expecting all the people to be bunched up together in the next town. When that town turns out to be small, you start realizing there simply aren’t that many people out here…what a concept! I am still floored by the vastness of the land, and the sparseness of the human population out here. It’s unreal.
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We ate our lunch and headed out. Along the highway we have run into a lot of road construction, but the Canadians do it right…they only work on one mile at a time. This sure makes the entire process much more manageable. Our wait times have never been that long, and we really haven’t had cause to complain. We made a pit stop in Destruction Bay, after which we encountered some more road construction. While following the pilot vehicle we passed a large machine that had an “Oversized Load” sign hanging from it. I started laughing when I realized the workers had added an L to the beginning of the word “Oversized”…so the sign now read “Loversized Load”. How funny is that? Guess these guys don’t really have much else to do while they’re out here in the boonies.
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The Milepost book, which has been invaluable, had a very interesting excerpt about the construction of the highway from this point to Alaska. This construction is the result of an agreement between Canada and the U.S. called the Shakwak Agreement. The Shakwak Project involves reconstructing roughly 300 miles of the Alcan Highway between Haines Junction and the Alaska border. The real difficulty lies in the stretch between the Donjek River and the Alaska border, because the soil is of glacial origin and not well suited for road embankments. “Anything that causes the permafrost to melt will cause the ice-rich soil to liquefy, and liquid soil has little strength and will settle or subside.” This process causes dips, cracking and undulations in the road known as frost heaves. (Milepost, p. 208) I have a love/hate relationship with frost heaves. Some sections of the road are really fun, and as we go flying up and down the bumps it’s kinda like being on a roller coaster. This is the part I love. However, some sections are extremely rough and jarring, even bone-rattling. There are a few bumps that should have done us in; I’m really surprised the car didn’t break in half. What an interesting result of this harsh, rugged climate. It looks like a pretty regular forest with no end in sight, and yet we are traveling on glacial earth that rarely unfreezes. It’s mind-boggling.

We finally saw a moose today…and boy was he HUGE! Seriously, I think he was the size of our car. That might be a slight exaggeration as he wasn’t anywhere near the car so I couldn’t make a very accurate assessment…all I know is that he dwarfed those scrawny dudes we saw in Utah a few weeks ago, lol. We also saw a bunch of swans, which are beautiful. We still haven’t seen any caribou, which I’m a little disappointed about. But there’s always the trip home, so I’m not too worried.

We reached the border crossing around 8:00 pm, and promptly gained another hour. Alaska is in a different time zone, so as soon as we crossed it became 7:00. We pulled into our destination campground at Deadman Lake shortly thereafter, and we were not impressed. The campground was right next to a lake, which sounds great but as it turns out the ground was pretty boggy. The mosquitoes and deer flies were the worst we’ve seen thus far, and the vegetation was scrawny and unappealing. We also didn’t get any phone service, which concerned me because I was supposed to call Ann and let her know our status. Since we had picked up another hour, we decided to nix this campsite and keep going. Boy am I glad we did! Another hour or so later we arrived in Tok (rhymes with poke), Alaska. We stopped at Fast Eddy’s for dinner, and it was the best meal I’ve had in days. I had salmon while Hunter had a cheeseburger, and we were both fairly impressed with the meal. Yum! We also had cell phone service in Tok, so I was able to call my dad and let him know we were back in America. I called Ann and checked my five million emails, and then we headed out to find a campsite.

By this time we were completely exhausted. I was ready to park the car and sleep in the passenger seat but Hunter persevered, and a few miles outside of Tok we found the perfect campground. The Eagle Trail Recreation Site was heavily wooded and beautiful, and practically vacant!
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We had our pick of campsites, and at long last we were snug as bugs in our tent. We had arrived at the campsite at 10:23 pm, which is 12:23 in Utah (and therefore, my head). Needless to say, we were completely wasted. I was concerned that the sunlight, which never left, would keep me awake…but I was far too tired for that. We also picked the right tent…when studying up for this trip we learned that darker tents are recommended, due to the non-stop light. If you try to sleep in a light tent during the light night, it’s like having a lamp shining into your eyes all night. Therefore, we picked our tent very carefully…and it has served us well.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Watson Lake

The following refers to day four of our journey: Tuesday, June 23rd.

As I mentioned before, we arose early this morning. Hunter was anxious to get an earlier start, so we packed up camp and hit the road around 8:40 am. We drove for several hours while I studied our Alaska Milepost book and watched for bears. So far, we’ve seen a fox and some stone sheep…that’s it. The stone sheep are pretty cute:
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Caribou, moose, bear and buffalo are frequently sighted along this stretch of highway, but we haven’t seen a one of them.

Okay, I take that back…we did end up seeing another bear, finally! We also saw a bunch of buffalo, man are those guys huge! We spotted a few here and there, usually by themselves…and then we came upon a little herd of them. There were a bunch of adults in the group, and some babies as well! It was a very cool sight. We stopped at a beautiful lake and stretched our legs:
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The forest is endless…we’ve been driving for days and it’s all we’ve seen. It’s mind-boggling how much undeveloped land there is here. There are tons of side roads and paths that stretch off into the vast unknown, and it is positively killing Hunter that he can’t explore them. If we lived in this area, he’d be out here every waking moment following a new road, discovering where it leads and what it has to offer. As it is, these unknowns are merely taunting him…poor guy! It’s for the best though; I shudder to think of the wildlife he could encounter out there in the untamed forest.

After a long day of driving, we reached what we thought was supposed to be a decent-sized city: Watson Lake. Other than the famous Sign Post Forest
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where we found some fellow Utahns:
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this place did not have much to offer. We wanted to grab some dinner somewhere, and had a heck of a time finding a place that was actually open. When we did manage to locate something, it’s very small dining room was full. We finally found a little fast food café which turned out to be pretty decent. The fries were homemade and delicious! We like coming to new places and checking out the local joints…usually they are far better than the fast food chains. Of course, sometimes you have to deal with the drawbacks, like a 60 minute wait for your entrée (Bridal Veil Falls). So you never know what you’re getting yourself into, lol.

After dinner we hit the road for our final stretch of the day. We were amazed at how empty the road was…this is the peak of the travel season for the Alcan Highway, so we expected quite a bit more traffic. And yet there were times when we would go several hours without encountering another car in our northbound lane. The majority of the traffic we did encounter seemed to be the local truckers, rather than tourists like us. It’s nice to have a break from the traffic, but it seems that a lot of roadside businesses who once depended on the tourist industry are no longer operating, and that is unfortunate.

We finally reached our destination around 8:00 pm. I had been concerned that the hotel wouldn’t have any vacancies by the time we arrived, but that certainly wasn’t the case. When we checked in, we were the first customers of the evening. I was thrilled to finally experience a nice hot shower, and we were also able to do our laundry. It’s funny how desperate one can get for something that is usually taken for granted in everyday life. I feel like a million bucks now that I’m showered and my clothes are clean! The hotel also offered free internet, which was nice because our phones are on roam and since they are both work-issued this means we can’t use them. It’s great to “un-plug”, especially from work responsibilities, but there is also a certain relief that comes from knowing there are no “end-of-the-world” issues that need my attention. I was able to get some work done and also post a few blog entries, so I won’t be quite as behind the next time I’m able to access the internet.

Hunter and I were completely shredded. After messing around with laundry and work and everything else we had to do while we had the chance, we finally fell into bed exhausted around midnight. And it was bright as day outside! Even though I was exhausted, it felt weird going to bed with so much light…I felt like I was a kid again, and my parents were trying to convince me it was past my bedtime when it was really only 7:00 pm and they were tired of dealing with me, lol! I usually love a dark room while sleeping, but this phenomenon is so strange to me that I can’t help but find it intriguing. What an interesting, unusual place this is proving to be!

Day Three

The following refers to day three of our journey: Monday, June 22nd.

Our first bear sighting! I just caught a brief glimpse of dark, but Hunter actually saw it. My friends Marc and Ann, who live in Anchorage, saw about 12 bears when they made the drive around nine years ago! I wonder how many we’ll see. I’m just hoping we don’t run into any unless we are safely tucked inside the car, if you know what I mean. I certainly don’t want to run into any of those guys at our campsite! Yikes!

Anyhoo, we broke our rainy streak last night…the campsite was dry as a bone. And actually, I think we were both a little bit relieved. It certainly makes cleaning up a lot easier! Before we knew it, we were back on the road again. We stopped for “brunch” in Prince George, and several hours later made another stop in Chetwynd. We finally reached Dawson Creek around 4:30 pm…this was a huge milestone. We had been highly anticipating this stop; both of us expecting a cute little town nestled in the mountains. We were sorely disappointed! The town is actually quite run-down and dumpy looking, without much charm. Dawson Creek is the official beginning of the Al-Can Highway, so I expected it to be much more of a tourist spot. It was quite a letdown…although we were still super excited to officially begin the infamous Alaska Highway.
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Can you believe it has taken us four days of driving to get to the beginning of this notorious road?! As I sit here in the passenger seat watching miles and miles of Alaska Highway stretch out in front of me, I still can’t believe I’m doing this!
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So few people ever get the opportunity, and yet here we are! This is something Hunter and I talked about doing from the very beginning of our relationship, although we anticipated doing it on the motorcycle, over a three-four week time period. Nevertheless, whenever we discussed it I imagined we would be about 50-something, riding a Gold Wing. I just absolutely cannot believe we are doing this right now!!! I feel so incredibly lucky, and grateful. :)

We continued to travel for hours and hours, finally reaching our campsite around 8:00 pm. For some reason, I had been expecting this campsite to have showers…they didn’t. The campground was pretty sorry, according to my standards. It was basically a long strip of RV campsites stuck right next to each other. We did manage to find one decent tent spot at the very end, and fortunately there was only one other camper (an RV) in that area. I was totally dejected…I had been really looking forward to a nice, hot shower. Hunter felt bad for me and promised we could stay in a hotel the next night, so I felt a little bit better.
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Once again we had some mosquitoes to deal with. We layered on the repellent and I have yet to get bitten (knock on wood). We had dinner, went for a walk, and then called it a night. It was getting chilly fast, so we burrowed down for a cold night. It never did get completely dark, as far as we could tell…we just had a very long twilight.
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By the time we arose at 7:30, it had been light for hours! I thought it was much later than it actually was, which is the only reason I got out of bed. :) It was warm and sunny, too! I couldn’t believe how warm it got, after being so stinking cold at night. I thought that only happened in the desert, lol. It makes it easier to get out of bed, that’s for sure.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Um...WOW!!!

The following refers to day two of our trip: Sunday, June 21st.

We woke up to the lovely sounds of rain outside…so soothing and gentle. Tanna fed us some YUMMY pancakes with the most delicious strawberries. I took my last civilized shower for the foreseeable future {yikes} and before we knew it we were back on the road. We stopped for gas a short while later and then…border crossing! This was pretty momentous because it is the first time either of us have used a passport. I’ve been to both Canada and Mexico before, but this is the first year Canada has required a passport and my Mexico trips were mostly day-trips. I went to Cancun with a school group, so somehow a birth certificate was sufficient. And now here we are, in our mid-thirties and we finally have occasion to use a passport!

At the border crossing, the agent we first spoke with couldn’t have been more than 17 years old…he was young and very scrawny. He asked our purpose for coming to Canada and when we told him we were going to Alaska, he asked if we were camping. Hunter answered in the affirmative and the agent didn’t bother to mask his disbelief. “You fit all your camping gear in the back?” he queried. Hunter informed him that we are experienced campers and travel light…but I don’t think the guy was convinced. He had us park the car and go inside so our declaration could be verified. I think he just wanted to see for himself how it was done, lol. The whole process took about twenty minutes, and we were finally on our way again.

Our first impressions of Canada were quite favorable. The clouds were low and misty, and the mountains were very green. We were awestruck. After travelling about an hour through the gorgeous sights, we spotted a few signs for “Bridal Veil Falls”. We couldn’t resist…and boy am I glad we didn’t! It was a short five minute walk from the car to the falls, and it was incredible! Not only were the falls amazing, but we also saw a banana slug, a millipede, and some shelf fungus. Weird, foreign stuff to us Utahns!
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After checking out the falls we decided we were starving, and stopped at a local diner for some chow. What a fatal mistake…we ordered and then had the misfortunate of listening to some insufferable new mother talk endlessly in exquisite detail about her new daughter. I know more about this baby girl than I do any of my own nieces and nephews, because our meal took one hour to arrive, and this woman talked about her baby the entire time. Now I love babies, and I’m particularly partial to the ones I see on a regular basis…but I don’t care how cute the child is, during a one-hour conversation you gotta change the subject at some point! Especially when the child is roughly a week old and doesn’t even do anything yet…how much can there possibly be to say? When our food finally arrived, we pretty much inhaled it. We were so anxious to get back on the road that we couldn’t waste any time chewing, lol! We lost a good 90 minutes at that place, darn it all.

We made one stop for gas before finally arriving at Ten Mile Lake Campground about 8:20 pm. Hunter pulled into the first empty spot he could find. I tried to persuade him to keep going, to try and find a spot that was further from the crowd, but he was done for the day. Poor guy has been driving for three days straight…he was starving and stressing about arriving too late and when he found a site that was it…he was finished. He opened the car door and jumped out…and then quickly jumped back in and grabbed the bug spray. We’ve been warned in every book and travel guide that the Canada state bird is the mosquito, and sure enough we had a swarm ready to greet us! Yikes. We promptly sprayed ourselves with 40% deet from head to toe. They pretty much left us alone after that, thank goodness.

Hunter pitched the tent, we ate dinner, and then went for a walk.
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Hunter brought his cute little RC plane, and we walked down to the lake. It was a pretty sunset and I snapped a few pics.
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We walked back to camp and crashed. Actually, Hunter crashed while I read. It didn’t get completely dark until about midnight, and then it seemed to get light around 3-4:00 am. The light itself wasn’t too bad, but the darn birds couldn’t seem to figure out that they were supposed to remain asleep. They chattered and hollered at each other all night long. The ravens were the worst, because those guys are not quiet. However, I still managed to get a fair amount of sleep; thank goodness! And more importantly, my driver did as well. :)

Seattle, Here We Come!

The following refers to day one of our trip: Saturday, June 20th.

We awoke pretty early, thanks to the many sweet children in the campground. It was good though, because we had a lot of ground to cover today! We tore down camp and Hunter made a gruesome discovery…the sleeves which hold the tent poles were filled with earwigs!! DISGUSTING! He used the air pump to blow some of them out, but there were so many that it quickly become apparent most of them would be making the next leg of our journey with us…ugh. Earwigs really gross me out!
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Nonetheless, we packed up camp and hit the road.

A few hours later we reached Baker City, Oregon. Immediately we saw two Mazda 3 hatchbacks exactly like ours! It was kind of eerie. We filled up the car and then ate at some little Mexican restaurant. Yum!
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Later that afternoon we stopped in Pendleton, Oregon, to hit up the local Walmart. We needed a few last-minute items and wanted to stretch our legs a bit. It was a nice diversion…and then it was back to the car for us. One more gas stop and then, finally, we reached Arlington, Washington. Yay!
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We were so excited to visit Aunt Tanna and stay with her family for the night. Tanna is so much fun, and has the cutest family. She took us on a little tour of the city, where we saw some of the local novelties such as the haunted house, the creepy “watcher tree”, and the spooky park. We also saw some gorgeous yards and a cool lake, so not everything there is sinister (lol). Unfortunately, we didn’t think to take a camera with us on the tour…so we’re just gonna have to come back.

We picked up an extra hour today, since we crossed time zones. Needless to say, by the time we hit the hay we were pretty hammered. Sleep came quickly for both of us, and we slept like the dead.

It was a great day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And...We're Off!!

Our long-awaited trip has finally arrived...woohoo! We are about 32 hours into the journey and so far it has been wonderful. We left about 2:00 yesterday afternoon, and drove to Idaho. After driving for several hours, Hunter saw some signs about some falls, and decided to check them out. I humored him...what choice do I have? Well I must say, it's a good thing I brought him along:
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Um, wow!!! This breathtaking spot is called
Shoshone Falls...and I can't believe I've never heard of it before! It is seriously amazing here. With all the rain we've had lately, the water level is pretty high and the falls are even more spectacular. We were both floored. My husband sure knows how to find these treasures, doesn't he?!
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After this incredible detour, we headed on to our campsite at Glenns
Ferry. The campground was quite large and most of the other campers were in RVs and had at least eight kids and three dogs. Needless to say, it was noisy. It was green and pretty though...can't complain about that!
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Needless to say, it rained on us during the night. We have not slept a single night in this tent without getting rained on! Fortunately, as I've mentioned before, we are big fans of sleeping in a tent, in the rain.

Oh, and I should also mention that as soon as we bedded down Hunter busted out a movie, and I broke out my book...both on our handy-dandy electronic devices, of course. I was reading an Agatha Christie novel on Hunter's GPS device, and near the end I kept nodding off. Then the culprit was revealed, and I was so surprised that it woke me right up! I never have been able to solve her mysteries...I think that's why I love her books so much. Ha ha, what a nerd. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Project 365 Update

It's been a long time since I posted any Project 365 pages. I'm still taking a photo a day, and that isn't too much of a problem. I love that the details of my life are being documented and remembered. However...when it comes to putting the pages together, I'm kinda over it. Each page is a lot of work and I've been procrastinating it lately. I'm glad to have these pages and I know I will appreciate them later, but sometimes I really wish they would assemble themselves. Anyway, here they are in all their glory:
apr4 left
apr3 right
apr2 left
apr1 right
mar5 left





Sunday, June 14, 2009

Critters

We went camping this weekend...big surprise. We went back to the Spruces campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon; it is sooo pretty there! This time the Rigbys joined us for the first night. Have I mentioned how much I love their little Madison? I could seriously keep her.
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When we arrived, the skies were blue and it was actually pretty warm...especially compared to the last time we camped here. Esther grilled us up some YUMMY dinner, and Hunter and I took Maddie for a walk. That girl has energy, holy cow! Whenever she would get excited she would jump up and down, so I started doing it with her...it just made her jump that much harder! I swear she would jump for ten minutes straight, while I almost passed out after 15 seconds. Why can't we have that kind of energy as adults? Seriously unfair, I tell ya.

Anyway, while we walked Hunter took a lot of photos. We couldn't get over how green everything was...it was gorgeous.
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After the walk we sat around the fire and chatted for a bit. Just as it was getting dark it started to rain, so we figured that was our cue and went to bed. Where it proceeded to rain all night long...no exaggeration. I've said it before...I LOVE sleeping in a tent while it's raining. I swear it is the coziest thing ever.

The rain stopped the next morning, and the Rigbys left so Nathan could get to work on time. Of course, they took Maddie with them...so sad! Hunter and I entertained ourselves by watching the potguts...they were pretty brave! We couldn't get over how funny they were acting.
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This morning while we were lying in our tent, one of these guys tried to pull a fast one. We're not sure if he was actually trying to get into the tent, or if he wanted to burrow under it; either way he was messing with something he shouldn't have been. Hunter knocked the tent and sent him running...he only went about 10-15 feet away, before he turned and hollered at us for a good five minutes! He was NOT HAPPY...and we couldn't stop laughing. It was great.

So yeah, back to yesterday. After ambling around camp and finishing my book we decided to go for a walk. There aren't many options there in camp, so we went to Doughnut Falls again. Of course, on our way back it started to rain. By the time we reached our campsite we were both soaked through! Yikes. We hid out in the tent and waited for the storm to stop...it lasted for quite a while! I can't believe how much rain we've been getting lately. I, personally, love it...although I did get pretty cold yesterday. Nonetheless, we changed into dry clothes and survived quite nicely.
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Oh yeah, and this time we saw two moose!! We didn't get any pictures this time, but these guys were just hanging around our campsite. They were huge! Needless to say, we kept our distance.

All in all, I'd say it was a pretty awesome weekend.