[at-l] North to Alaska

camojack at comcast.net camojack at comcast.net
Mon Jun 30 01:15:54 CDT 2008

Well...crap. I got to Anchorage on Saturday; heading for Denali in a few hours. 
(It's Sunday at 10:15 PM here, so it's Monday at 2:15 AM EST)

Wish I'd known sooner, maybe we could've done dinner yesterday or somesuch.

 -------------- Original message ----------------------
From: Jim and/or Ginny Owen <spiriteagle99 at hotmail.com>
> Or, more accurately - greetings from Alaska. The last time most of you heard 
> from us we were in Utah intending to head to Idaho to go for a long hike.  But 
> since our planned long distance hike is out for this year, the plans changed. So 
> we headed north to the Canadian border via Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.  In 
> Wyoming we visited the Legend Rock and Medicine Lodge petroglyph sites, then 
> spent a couple days in Yellowstone watching the wildlife (lots of bears and 
> gaggles of bison).  We saw 9 black bears in two days, including two adorable 
> cubs that wrestled and played for the tourists while mama munched grass or 
> napped.  That was fun.  >From there is was a short hop over to Big Sky, Montana 
> for a short visit with Gary and Millie (Bear bag and Sweet Pea).  Thence to 
> Salmon, Idaho to visit the good people who helped us when Ginny got hurt during 
> our 1999 CDT thruhike.  It was really good to see everybody there – it’s been 
> too long.  Then we headed north – stopping along the way for the Buffalo Eddy 
> petroglyph site on the Washington side of the Snake River and for several 
> National Monuments. Did y’all know that the Nez Perce aren’t the Nez Perce?  
> They were mis-named by the French trappers.  In reality, they’re the “People of 
> the Coyote”.  But I won’t try to spell their name for themselves – I can’t even 
> say it, let alone spell it.  We also stopped in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho for some 
> repair work on the truck.  We thought it might be better to get the ball joints 
> replaced there than somewhere in Canada.  We hoped the rain that began to 
> accompany us in mid-May would stop when we crossed the Canadian border, but the 
> border proved to be no barrier to rain and clouds.  Rather than do the “usual” 
> Alcan highway route, we drove up the west side of the Canadian Rockies, then 
> west to the coast.  A really fun spot was a hike near Terrace in a park where a 
> local artist carved numerous faces in the trees - little  tiny ones (3-6" or so 
> for the most part) in the bark of cottonwood trees.  We found about 45 in our 2 
> 1/2 mile hike.  We spent a couple of days in Prince Rupert looking for totem 
> poles and doing short hikes, then headed north on the Cassiar Highway, passing 
> through a couple of First Nation villages with really nice totem pole 
> collections.  There was still lots of snow on the peaks and glaciers with 
> beautiful waterfalls dropping from the snow and ice.  Photography has been 
> difficult because of the rain, but it is beautiful. We had a spell of two and a 
> half weeks there where it rained every day, then had a couple of days of 
> sunshine but then rain came back. We didn't do much hiking in Canada as a 
> result, but we managed a few short walks along the way. Many of the provincial 
> parks and campgrounds have short hiking trails or nature walks.  We took it slow 
> and easy. Gas is outrageous in Canada - we paid $1.42/liter or $5.68 gallon.  In 
> one place it was $6.20/gallon. Ouch! Seems like the price of everything is 
> correspondingly high.  (i.e. beer at $13+ a six pack or basic breakfast for 
> $10). We've been camping for the most part, which is less expensive than motels, 
> though even there inflation has hit.We crossed the border to Alaska on June 10, 
> June 16 and June 19 – the first time in Hyder, AK as we drove up the Cassiar 
> Highway, the second time at Skagway, AK, where we took a ferry to Haines, then 
> the third time via the Alcan Highway to Tok, AK.  From there we drove south to 
> get to the Denali Highway (if you can really call a 120 mile graded dirt road a 
> highway – only in Alaska!!!)  so we could get to Cantwell in time to meet Beau 
> (Bleeder guy) and Ninon (and their 8 sled dogs) before they left the area.  We 
> spent some time with them and then went north and spent a couple of days in 
> Denali – including a long, long, but VERY good, day trip to Kantishna.  We saw 7 
> grizzly bears, 5 moose, 3 owls, a beaver, several herds of caribou and many Dall 
> sheep. Even got a few good photos.  Didn’t see much of Denali (formerly known as 
> Mt. McKinley) while we were there, but the next day the mountain cleared and we 
> got beaucoup photos. (We spent most of that evening sitting at a viewpoint 
> watching the clouds come and go).  The next morning was just beautiful – and we 
> got photos of Denali from several different viewpoints – including several on 
> Kesugi Ridge and one in Talkeetna – as we drove south to Anchorage.  Anchorage – 
> has the biggest REI that we’ve ever seen (including the one in Seattle).  Other 
> than that and cheap (?) gas ($4.269/gal) at Costco, Anchorage is just another 
> city with too many people, too much traffic, etc.  So we headed south in the 
> rain to the Kenai.  Stayed last night in Soldotna and tonight we’re in Homer 
> with the eagles.  We have taken a lot of bald eagle pictures – they're all over 
> the coastal towns in both Canada and the US  (Prince Rupert, Skagway, Haines and 
> Homer).  In Prince Rupert, we saw six circling at one point, and four in a tree 
> a short while later. One sat on the dock all day while tourists took its 
> picture.  In Homer, they seem to like the lamp posts.  One thing about Alaska is 
> that it’s EXPENSIVE.  Gas is generally $4.60 or more. It was $5.12 in one place 
> (near Denali).  And we haven’t stayed in a motel but once since we left Idaho – 
> tried last night and they wanted $126 for a room next to the bar – on a Friday 
> night.  No, thanks – I’d rather be rained on.  Camping prices vary from $10 at 
> the recreation sites to $78 at one fancy RV park in Homer.  (No, we’re not 
> staying there.)  We’ve mostly been staying at the municipal campgrounds – simple 
> and basic but very inexpensive.  Every few days we stay at an RV park so we can 
> get a shower and electricity to download pictures into the computer.Another of 
> the things we discovered about Alaska is that it’s “technology-challenged” - 
> many of the places we’ve stayed have advertised WIFI – but when we got there, it 
> wasn’t working – or hadn’t been installed yet – or ……. whatever.  So when we’ve 
> had the time, we haven’t had Internet access ----- and when we’ve had access, we 
> haven’t had time.  Since we haven’t been staying in motels we haven’t had phone 
> access either.  Standing out at a phone booth next to a gas station getting 
> chewed on by mosquitoes isn’t fun and we figure if anyone really needs to talk 
> to us, we do get internet occasionally.  Yes, the Alaska state bird is 
> ubiquitous this time of year.  So far it hasn’t been too bad except in a few 
> spots, partly because it has been so cold.  We’ve had a lot of days that never 
> got above 60, so only the really intrepid biters have been active.  When it 
> warms up though, they swarm.This really is the “Land of the Midnight Sun” – or a 
> very close approximation thereof.  It stays light enough to read until at least 
> midnight (without headlamps).  As far as we can tell it never does get dark 
> enough to see stars at this time of year.   Makes sleeping kinda chancy.  We 
> find ourselves reading until sunset and then realizing that it’s after 
> midnight.Aside from the National Parks, we haven’t seen as much wildlife as we 
> expected: mostly moose down low and Dall sheep high in the cliffs.  We saw moose 
> cows with twin calves twice in two days.  There were a couple of black bears on 
> the Cassiar Hwy, eating grass next to the road.  We did a short cruise out of 
> Valdez and saw a humpback whale, a couple of sea otters and hordes of sea lions.  
> It was too early in the season for most of the whales.  Evidently several kinds 
> of salmon haven’t shown up yet where they were expected.  Several rivers have 
> been closed to fishing, making for some unhappy tourists. (The Kenai is 
> evidently doing okay, we saw fishermen standing shoulder to shoulder in the 
> river yesterday – combat fishing they call it.)  We’ve spent some time enjoying 
> watching bird activity:  a flock of puffins diving for fish in unison, a couple 
> of sandhill cranes strutting their stuff in a wet meadow, some gulls washing in 
> a river after eating a salmon, and an osprey shimmying in mid-flight. We have 
> really enjoyed driving through so much spectacular country.  Despite all the 
> rain, the mountains are really beautiful, even wreathed in clouds. Like a lot of 
> places in the West, summer was very slow to appear this year.  There is still a 
> lot of snow streaking the sides of the mountains, aside from the many glaciers 
> and icefields.  (We considered hiking the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway and were 
> told we’d need snowshoes and ice axes, even though it was mid-June.  Oh well.)  
> Waterfalls are abundant and the rivers are high.  Wildflowers are also abundant.  
> Lupine lines the highways.  We’re too early for much fireweed, but we’ve seen 
> lots of alpine flowers in the high country and lupine, wild roses, geraniums, 
> iris, violets, etc. in the lower country around the lakes.  The trips to Hyder, 
> Skagway, Haines and Valdez were especially scenic, well worth the detour even 
> with gas as expensive as it is.  We’re hoping to do some hiking here in the 
> Kenai over the next week.  Unlike most of Alaska, this area has some good 
> developed backpacking trails that climb up into the Alpine quite quickly and 
> stay high for miles.  We’ve been doing mostly very short hikes but Jim is 
> feeling ready to test his foot by something a bit more ambitious.  If the first 
> hike goes well, we’ll try some of the others before heading north again.  If 
> not, we’ll continue our driving tour of Alaska.  It has been really good so far.  
> Even though we haven’t done as much walking as we’d like, we’ve seen a lot of 
> beauty, and that’s what we came for.  It is inescapable here – everywhere we 
> turn there are mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers, etc.  And even an occasional 
> animal.Walk softly,Jim & Ginny 
> http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/

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