We left Skagway early Sunday morning and headed for Haines on the last leg, for a while, on the Alaska Maritime Highway. The town of Skagway itself was a bit of a disappointment because the cruise lines, for all intents and purpose “bought” the town. There had to be 60 jewelry stores with very little authentic Alaska goods. Our day traveling the path of the gold rush was spectacular and we were amazed at the endurance they exhibited in traveling to the Yukon. James Mitchner’s Alaska described what they had endured and it was a thrill to see the landscape involved.
On to Haines and being in another town that saw many of the people seeking their fortunes during 1898 and 1899 on their way to the Yukon. Haines is a town that has not been changed with the cruise ships, they basically told them they were not “for sale”. Needless to say that it splits the local citizens, because they do not get the 850,000 visitors that Skagway gets with the cruise industry. It is a wonderful small town and has so many things to offer. The local golf course is in the wetlands and took the owner seven years to get it approved. It has artificial greens and tees, needless to say the fairways are a little rugged. We chose to take a pass as it was very cold and raining.
We met up with some of the Roadtrek crew at a local RV park
and spent some time over coffee catching up on our experiences. Ruth and Ann where the only ones that did the Marine Highway with us so it was fun to hear about the others trip up the Alaska Highway.
We then started our trip from Haines to Haines Junction with Chuck and Joan Clow.
The trip up through the mountains was spectacular, there was one beautiful scene after another.
The comedy is that you almost get to the point of saying, oh well, there’s another one! It is just awesome.
We pulled off the highway to see the “million dollars falls, which were just beautiful.
We stopped in Haines Junction, Yukon, which is the intersection of the Haines Highway and the Alaska Highway. We decided to continue on up the Alaska Highway on our way to Tok Alaska. As it was later in the afternoon we decided on an RV park to stop at. Arriving at the choice, it had a big sign that it was closed, it looked like there was a lot of work going on to get it ready for the season. Since they advertised kayaking and other water activities on Kuehne lake, which is the largest lake in the Yukon. The lake was frozen at their location, maybe that is why they hadn’t opened yet!
We continued our trip and looked at the Mile Post guide and found a Yukon provisional park on the lake that was opened,
so we found a parking spot on the lake and proceeded to “dry camp” for the night. We built a great fire and enjoyed our dinner outside by the “frozen lake”! It actually was and one of the other people camping by us actually walked out on the lake to fish. It is amazing just how beautiful all this country is. In the morning we enjoyed our coffee and started back on the road to Top. The first town we came to was called Destruction Bay, you would think there would be a great story about it! During the building of the “Highway” a bunch buildings and equipment was destroyed in a storm, so that became the name of the town, Population 55. The Alcan (Alaska-Canadian Highway) is built on permafrost (the soil under the road maintains a temperature below freezing down as far as 100 feet). This creates a major challenge in maintaining the roadbed. As you can imagine the thawing causes tremendous road damage and the drive causes you to be very cautious and drive slowly to avoid “frost heaves” where large bumps occur. The trip took a lot longer than we thought and we probably averaged about 30 MPH to the Alaska border and then traveled the final miles to Tok. A few bear along the way.
This is a small town on the interior of Alaska at the intersection of the Alcan and the highway that would take you west to Anchorage. This was a meeting point for the RoadTrek group to spend a few days and catch up. The Sourdough RV Park was picked as the site and we all had a good time. The drinks flowed easily and much food was shared. The Sourdough RV people had nightly entertainment and it was almost a through back to times you remember as a kid doing things that go everyone involved. The entertainment consisted of a open pavilion outside where a country singer
started singing about 6:00 and we all took our drinks and sat down and had a lot of fun swapping our stories. At 7:00, Dave, that worked as the organizer for Sourdough started the “pancake throw” Everyone got a chance to throw one of two pancakes in a bucket, if you did, you got free breakfast in the morning,
comprising of sourdough pancakes and reindeer sausage. The evening continued with more singing until about 9:00. Fun was had by all. After a few days at Sourdough we left with several other Roadtreks and started the trip to Valdez.
We turned into Nabesna Road and traveled to mile market 28 on the unpaved road
to camp at Twin Lakes in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Having bought fishing gear in Tok, it was our first attempt to fish. Peter caught 3 small greylings and threw them back. Janice, John and Hal went fish-less, but caught a lot of bottom junk! By dinner time we were joined by more of the Roadtrek crowd and enjoyed drinks and dinner together. Phil told some stories about their dog that had tears running down our eyes, it was so funny.
Wrangell-St. Elais is the largest National Park in the country.
It is the size of 4 Yellowstones. There are four major mountain ranges that meet in the park and 9 of the 16 tallest mountains in the US. You can imagine the beauty of the park.
In the morning we broke camp and headed to another location, Lake Louise. Another tremendous lake surrounded by mountain ranges. We got out the fishing poles
and again fished from the shore. The shore line was very shallow and the fishing yielded nothing. Dinner followed with a good campfire, marshmallows and all. A great night of sleep and we headed out about 7:30 in the morning for the drive to Valdez. As we drove from the lake, Janice saw our first moose out the left window. WOW!
It was a good size and close to the road!
The trip to Valdez took us to some great views of the Wrangell mountain peaks as we worked our way towards Valdez. Billy Mitchell (1879-1936) we
remember as the great proponent of air power was part of the Army Signal Corp that put in telegraph lines from Washington state to Alaska in 1903. He was honored by having a mountain peak named for him. We continued and followed the Alaska Pipeline. We were able to photograph it,
but found out that some people were detained in Valdez because they walked over and touched it and took photos. It is monitored by satellite by Homeland Security. We drove up to the Worthinton Glacier
and got out to take pictures. It was really cold and raining, so the stop was short. We continued over Thompson Pass and started the downward drive to Valdez. There were two absolutely beautiful falls along the way; Bridal falls
and Horseshoe falls.
We arrived in Valdez approximately 4:30 and checked in for our stay. Of course our friends Hal and Kim showed up later with their trusted dog Benny which we have many tales to tell..for a later entry.