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  1. #51
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default What a great read!

    Having been absent again for a short time, I'd missed Lifey's updates. I had a bout of rare insomnia last night and decided to search out your roadtrip report and I'm glad I did. Amazing photos, interesting experiences, and a gift for storytelling made this a real joy.

    I look forward to more.

  2. #52
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Denali NP

    Hostels are great places to stay overnight when travelling almost anywhere... but they are not designed to be stuck there without wheels, especially when you are not able to even walk to the shops. So it is not surprising that on Monday, 22nd June I was glad to leave the GoNorth hostel, and head for Anchorage. It was going to be a straight run down the Parks Highway.

    I had been to Denali NP in 2004, and had planned not to visit it this time. So why, when the time came, did I turn in to the park entrance? what invisible force made me turn into the park entrance?

    As I approached the visitor centre from the carpark, there seemed to be quite some commotion going on. I was told that on one of the *islands* of vegetation between the carpark and the visitor centre, there was a moose and her calf. Though quite small, the vegetation was quite dense, and I was not able to see either the moose, nor her calf until....

    She checked out if the coast was clear

    then crossed over to the trees surrounding the visitor centre

    somehow communicated to her off-spring

    that it was now safe to follow mother...

    ...and then they were gone. It was absolute magic! and no more than five metres away from me.

  3. #53
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default One person's magical moment -- or sheer terror


    I'm glad that no humans were injured in the filming of that sequence. There are few scenarios where I'd willingly get that close to a mother moose. One of the RTA photo contributors and a very competent backwoods explorer wrote this after seeing your photos... (Great sequence by the way!)

    Bob Brown:
    I worked at the East Entrance of Yellowstone in the summer/fall of '74, '75 + '76, and I recall well the "gauntlet" of going to and from work across the East Entrance meadow. We never had any moose in a homicidal rage, but they still were not good company.

  4. #54
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Too close??


    There were many much closer than I. The rangers were warning them and trying most unsuccessfully to keep them back. Those two (idiots!) you see in the last photo, sent the adult moose rushing into the trees, and frightened the little one so much, that it went around the opposite side of the visitor centre to its mother. They eventually reunited at the back of the building.

    BTW, they were individual photos I took, not shots from a video.

    Lifey who respects that they are wild animals

  5. #55
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default I was referring to those individuals

    No arguments from me -- I was referring to those characters who were visible in the frame. I don't know where you were standing -- I just figured it was happenstance on your part to be that close....


  6. #56
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    The Parks Highway, like all the highways across Alaska has some spectacular scenery, and it is hard not to stop and take a photo.

    After crossing this bridge over the Tanana River, I noticed that there was a turnout at the southern end of it.

    I parked and with great care walked back on the bridge till I could see exactly what I had seen as I drove over it.

    It must have been challenging to establish the railway line to Fairbanks, and the many valleys it had to bridge. This was just one of them.

    When I was about half way to Anchorage, fatigue suddenly enveloped me, and I feared I would fall asleep driving. Soon I saw a rest area, parked the car and lay down on my mattress and sleeping bag. It was two hours later when I awoke refreshed. A stretch, a drink and a walk around the rest area, and I was on my way again.

    After a couple of nights in Anchorage, I headed down to Homer via the Seward and Sterling Hwys. This was another enjoyable slow ride... slow, because of the constant stops in turnouts

    along this All American Road.

    Turnagain Arm affords some of the best scenery and views across the water

    with glaciers as a backdrop.

    The history of change, including the earthquake destruction of Portage and Girdwood is also recorded on roadside signs. A slow, but interesting and enjoyable ride.

    From there it was down the west coast of the Kenai peninsula to Homer. By now it was again raining and misty meaning I missed out on seeing Mt Redoubt, which I believe is still smoking. It was no better on the way back, it was raining that day as well.

    Homer is a neat little town, focused on the fishing industry. The action is really all down on the spit, so I went for a drive down there. And yes, there was plenty of action there....

    but no parking spaces! I was really quite staggered that at this remote location it was actually so very busy and full of campers and motor homes. There was a bald eagle enjoying its catch on the top of the little lighthouse (now a shop), when another bald eagle came and attacked it. In an effort to defend itself, the first bird dropped its meal, and it was still there when I drove back up the Homer Spit. Of course this all happened far too quickly to be able to get a photo, especially since there was nowhere to legally and safely park.

    On the way back to Anchorage, one approaches the Portage glaciers from the opposite direction....

    and there was another great glacier view despite the overcast conditions.

    Since it was late, I decided to by pass Anchorage and continue on along the Glenn Hwy. but I took a wrong turn, and ended up in Wasilla. It was dinner time, over a meal I would think about where to go next.

  7. #57
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Glenn Highway

    For a long time now I have made a habit of asking a lone diner would they mind if I join them. I have met many interesting people this way, and this day was no exception... he was a helicopter pilot who during the summer months ferried workers to and from the more remote parts surrounding Anchorage and Wasilla. We enjoyed our dinners together, then it was time to head back to the Glenn Highway.

    Since there were a few more hours of daylight I would head along the Glenn Highway and pick up whatever accommodation I found. I had absolutely no idea what magnificent sites I would see along this highway... I had not read up on it, and even though I travelled there in 2004, I am sure that I had not stopped along the way. It was to be all new to me.

    When I arrived back in Palmer, I realised why I had ended up in Wasilla, I had taken the wrong turn out of the petrol station (This would not be the only time I did that).

    The first turnout was also marked as a photo opportunity, and once one had ascended the embankment it was a magnificent view of the glacial waterway,

    the Matanuska River. I spent quite some time here taking many photos, but I can't possibly post them all. It really was a magnificent site, and the other folk there with me agreed. Some 50 or so miles further on I was to see the source of the water,

    the Matanuska Glacier. It was close to here that there was another turn out with the educational boards on

    the movement of glaciers and

    the moraines they leave behind. I do so enjoy reading all this roadside information.

    It was here also that I was joined by my little friend.... the magpie. He was far too interested in that juicy morcel, than worry about my presence.

    As no doubt you can see from some of the photos above, the sky was closing in on me again, and even though there were other sights - the coloured mountains and sheep mountain (I think it was called) - I did not stop again, and headed for Glenallen.

    Did not like any of the places I saw there, so after giving both the car and myself a drink, and attending to other essentials, I headed down the Richardson Highway towards Valdez. Here, just a mile or so south of Glenallen is a photo stop, quite secluded and shielded from the road. I decided to join the motor home already parked there, and was asleep in no time.

    Tomorrow - Valdez!

  8. #58
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    The day promised to be a great one at dawn,

    bright sunshine and clear skies. As one ascends, the elevation changes all that,

    and by the time I got to Thomson Pass I was once again surrounded by mist and rain. The views however were magnificent,

    and maybe the dullness made for better photo weather.... when it wasn't raining.

    In this roughly 100 miles, there are just so many attractions, it was almost lunch time before I got to Valdez, and I had not yet had breakfast. None-the-less, I drove through the tiny settlement of Copper Center and was disappointed to find it dirty, messy and dilapidated, nothing to make for interesting photos.

    The Worthington Glacier however, was different. The lady in charge there had lived in the area for decades was a mine of information about the flora, fauna and the glaciers.

    Worthington Glacier is one which you are able to approach on foot, with the usual warnings of the danger.... ignored by so many. (The memory of the two Indian brothers killed by a falling glacier in NZ not all that long ago, is still fresh in my mind.)

    The drive through Keystone Canyon is stunning.

    The Bridal Veil Falls and

    the Horsetail Falls were just some of the waterfalls in late June.

    No wonder the river here was running a banker.

    The other stop I made was at the old town site - probably the most interesting of all.

    I will let the pictures tell the story as I learned it. Trust that it is possible for you to read all the writing on these boards.

    The actual foundations of the old post office.

    Going by this list, it appears whole families were wiped out, and many children were orphaned.

    Finally I arrived in Valdez and had a lovely meal with a cup of really well brewed tea in a small establishment by the waterfront. Here too, I met some interesting gentlemen - Jim and Gene from Georgia and New York. Once again, we shared experiences and plan. Of course I ended up spending much more time than had been the plan, and it was a speed run back to Glenallen... well, a speed run at 62mph...

    made enjoyable by the colourful display of wildflowers along the way.

  9. #59
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default The return Journey

    Though it covered mostly the same ground it was by no means without interest or incident.

    The final milepost

    But first I had to head for Delta Junction, the formal end of the Alaska Highway. Because of my breakdown I never did get to photograph the final milepost... Milepost 1422,

    along with a few statistics.

    The Pipeline

    Here also one finds some of the story of the pipeline...

    roadside boards and

    samples of the contruction

    were a little back along the Richardson Highway.

    More magnificent Wildlife

    By now one would have thought I had seen all the wildlife to fill a lifetime, but not so... and it was all so different. Before I even got to Tok, here was this mother moose,

    obviously teaching junior which plants to eat, and how to go about it. I sat and watched them for a long time, taking ever so many photos, as mum would somehow coax the little one back to the bush on which she was feating.

    Then a rumble could be heard in the distance, and mum pricked up her ears.

    As it got louder both animals were on full alert....

    until the three motorcycles came roaring round the bend, and the moose bolted into the trees. It was time for me to move on, but it was such a wonderful scene, watching that mother obviously teaching her little one.

    Less than a mile further on, there was a coyote skulking beside the road. I only briefly saw it a couple of times, but not long enough or close enough to take any pictures.

    And then it was down near Liard Hot Springs... at first I saw them by the side of the road, and hastened slowly and quietly... not wishing to disturb them. In vain I tried to signal to the vehicles coming in the opposite direction, who must also have seen the cub sitting on the road, but to no avail. They came roaring up, and braked violently to come to a halt, not a safe distance away, but right where mum Grizzly and her two cubs wanted to cross the road.

    A Stone mountain sheep caused an impatient driver - who had overtaken me over double lines just moments before - to brake hard in front of me, so much so, that I had to slam on my brakes not to hit him. He wanted to photograph a sheep by the side of the road. Stopped dead in the middle of the road, got out of his vehicle, walked around the back, found his camera and went to take his photos... with absolutely no regard for where he was parked, or that there was other traffic on the road. I took this photo...

    and have to admit, that I then had to cross the lines to continue on my way. How these people ever got their licence in the first place puzzles me... how they manage to retain it is even a greater puzzle.

    And then there were the bison... lots and lots of them, especially where the fires had raged only weeks earlier. It seems that perhaps the grass along the road was the only food left for them. There were several heards of a couple of dozen each. (They camaflouge well against and amongst the scorched trees.)

    There were a couple of Japanese tourists in a small rented RV, who were determined to have their photos taken with the bison. I was horrified and tried to warn them, telling them to get back into their vehicle, but I do not think they understood me. I sincerely hope that the emergency vehicles I saw going up the road some time later, had nothing to do with them.

    This bloke was like many, just walking along the edge of the road. The traffic does not seem to worry them, and I now understand why they have such a high mortality rate. The speed limit in this area is - from memory - 80kph, but few respect it. I marvelled at the strength in those shoulders and was fully aware that should he decide to change course, my car would be no match for him. I stopped ever so briefly to take this photo (there was no other traffic in sight), and went on my way.

    The stretch from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson is a wildlife wonderland, and it is rare to travel here and not see your share.

    Later, in Montana, whilst driving on Hwy 66 near the turnoff to Lodgepole, a red necked pheasant crossed my path.

    More car expenses

    At home I have been really spoiled. Two and half blocks from my home is an excellent tyre establishment. I take my car here for all its needs. They have mechanics who will do the regular services and everything to keep your car running smootly and safely. For years now I have called in here every few weeks, to have the pressure of my tyres checked, and they will rotate the tyres as required, attend to the alignment etc. I never even have to think about it. Hence..........

    It was while stopped for road construction by the beautiful Kluane Lake, that the flag-lady drew my attention to the state of my tyres. I felt so ashamed! The outside of my tyres were smooth... completely smooth! I agreed with her suggestion to have them swapped onto the back, and the good back tyres put on the front, for this front-wheel-drive vehicle. She gave me a reference in Haines Junction.

    With the help of the local constabulary I eventlually found someone who had both time, and was willing to attend to my vehicle... the following day. When he removed the wheels from one side of the vehicle, I realised that swapping was not going to be an option... these tyres were done. And there was not a tyre to fit my vehicle in teeny weeny Haines Junction. With reference in hand, I was off to Whitehorse. Fortunately they were able to attend to my vehicle immediately, and I breathed a sigh of relieve as I drove out on my brand new front tyres.

    This little hiccup did however put my side trip to Skagway and Haines on the back burner, for maybe another time. On the flip side, it means that for the first time, in my four trips on the Alcan, I actually did the complete length of it in one unbroken trip... albeit from '1422' to '0'.

    I doubt that by now, I had had half a dozen days on the road when it did not rain, and it was to continue on my way to Edmonton. The Garmin Nuvi is also next to useless when it comes to places in Canada. It is supposed to have the maps, but the results do not support that theory. Not being able to find anything which suited me in Edmonton, and not having a decent paper map of the place, I decided to stop for dinner and then head on to one of the camp grounds in Red Deer, an hour or so away.

    It was whilst heading that way that the reports of severe storms, and then funnel clouds, and finally of heavy hail and a twister touch down kept coming over the radio. They kept mentioning the very place where I was heading... the very road on which I was travelling. Then they went on to recall the tornadoes which have hit this area in the past, and the loss of life caused by some of them. The name of the camp ground where I was heading kept coming up. I decided I would get the hell out of this area as soon as I could and continued on to Calgary. It was a very long day, but in Calgary I knew where I could stay without needing further directions.

    Next day, 5th of July, I crossed the border on I-15, to Shelby MT. Just before the border there is an excellent Duty Free shop where I decided to spend the last of my Canadian $$$. Four bottles of Jim Bean / Johnny Walker would go down well with the family and friends. Then the lady informed me that I could only take one bottle across the border, and I would have to pay duty on the rest. Decided to take only one bottle.

    And then... at the border, no one enquired about what I had with me. They only wanted to know whose car it was and where I was heading. The sniffer dog was not the slightest interested in the contents of my vehicle... and I hate to think what the inspector. who insisted on opening the back, thought. Such a mess!

    Hwy 2

    I had read about Highway 2 across Montana and Northern Dakota, in Road Trip USA, and am convinced that this contributed to my enjoyment. It is a good road. Just enough traffic to stop one from falling asleep... not too much to spoil the enjoyment. A two lane highway across Montana, and mostly a divided road across North Dakota. Patchwork fields of green and bright yellow (canola) across much of the rolling hills. Keen to get back to St Paul, for a rest, the only place I planned to stop was in Rugby - the centre of North America.

    But plans do not always come out the way they are 'planned'. At Harlem I stopped for a rest and something to eat. It was a quiet rest area, and I was happy to see it and be there. Fully refreshed after my late lunch, I set off again, oblivious to the fact that I turned into the wrong road. If I had just looked at my satnav, I would have known. Needless to say, I did not. The scenery was really grand,

    and I enjoyed driving through, what the sign said, was the Little Rocky Mountains.

    It was not until I stopped at these boards and saw the sign indicating Hwy 191, that I knew where I was.... and that I had gone the wrong way. LOL

    Other sights which interested me enough to take a photo were:

    Still wondering about the old sore head!

    Kremlin is expecting a bumper harvest! As you can see here, the storms are still following me.

    At Havre... the first line of defence! It was pointing north... maybe they know something the Pentagon is unaware of.

    I wondered how the seed for that tree got there... on these treeless plains.

    Hwy 191 - on the way back to Hwy 2.

    There is something serene and peaceful about the wide open plains.

  10. #60
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Such a Night!!

    It was on the evening of 7th July, that I called my friend in St Paul to tell her I would be arriving late the following afternoon. She informed me that her husband would be home, but she would be going to a concert with friends.

    "What is the concert??"

    "An Evening with Il Divo."

    "Wow!!" I went on to ask her if she could possibly see if there were anymore tickets available, which she said she would. I would call her from Fargo ND, the next day to see how she got on.

    The ticket was duly obtained, and I did a non-stop run from Fargo to St Paul, arriving at 3.35pm... a quick shower and change... and off we were to an early dinner before the concert.

    It was a night, Oh! what a night it was, it really was... Such a Night!!

    A most perfect way to wind up my northern trip / adventure.

    Lifey who will be off to Boston in the morning

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