July 2, 2017 Bumpy roads, Down pours and Klaus

This morning we were up and ready to roll at 8:30am. The rain fell all night long and was still coming down steady. I am glad that we are on our way out of Valdez and onto something new and hopefully less soggy. The weather has not been great during our time in Alaska but I wasn’t necessarily thinking it would be hot but I was hoping for less rain. On the days that it has just been overcast and gray we have had fun having evening campfires. It is so much fun to enjoy the warmth of the fire, some chatting and of course a smore. Scott even admitted last night that they are growing on him 🙂
We decided to head to Tok and then go on towards Chicken, Alaska. Yes, that is not a mistake…Chicken. How can you not want to see what a place like Chicken is all about? Chicken in son the Klondike loop. This is how you can go through the area where gold was discovered. Tomorrow we will see Chicken and then onto Dawson City in the Yukon Territory where the 1889 discovery of gold was the beginning of the gold rush.
I was reading in our travel book about Chicken and how it got its name. Apparently the gold miners that were there decided that they wanted to name the town ptarmigan but couldn’t figure the spelling so they settled on chicken (this is what they call ptarmigan up north) the town now doesn’t highlight ptarmigan…it makes its living celebrating the chicken. I am looking forward to the giant metal chicken sculpture that they have there. There are three main businesses in Chicken and they are all competing for the business. Sounds like there is free RV camping, free gold panning and all you could ever want that has to do with chicken 🙂
The road out of Valdez is so beautiful! The canyon and the grey tinted glacial river, the waterfalls and lush foliage on the canyon walls. The glaciers and the hills are just the icing on the cake. Honestly, I think the drive is the reason to visit Valdez. If the weather would have been nicer it would be a fun place to take a kayak tour or something like that but with stinky weather it wasn’t the most fun place to hang out.
The rain continued for about an hour until it began to look brighter and the clouds didn’t look quite as ominous. We made it over all the frost heaves without too many lift off attempts. It is pretty crazy how the cars go flying down the road and we have to go so slow. The weight and length of the RV coupled with the rapid succession of dips makes for a crazy ride!
Tok was the place to grab a few groceries and gas and determine how much further we wanted to go. The sun was actually kind of out now…at least I could see a shadow once in awhile….improvement! Dad and Scott were both up for a bit more driving so we decided to go about 50 miles further to a Bureau of Land Management campground. The road has not been all that well traveled so it is narrower with no shoulder and patchy. A bit more stressful on Scott when you have a wide vehicle. We saw a little blue sky and things were looking up…then we turned a corner and the blackest clouds we have seen so far lay ahead of us. DARN!!! So hoping for sunshine 🙂 We were heading straight for them. The road took us through a pass that had lots of uphill and downhill at up to 9%grade. We twisted around the hillside with the giant black cloud and the rain began to fall. We had one car behind us and nowhere to pull off to let him by. The rain was getting stronger and then it unleashed! Torrential downpour!!! This is reminiscent of our east coast trip where the we had more than a few of these massive dump sessions. The highway was already stressful enough to drive and I had seen in the MilePost that there should be a turn off around the next corner. The rain was pelting so hard that it was difficult to make out the turn off but we did…whew! Dad and Mom pulled in beside us and we waited a good 10 minutes for the deluge to let up. Well, I guess the sunshine is not happening for today!
Back on the road we had only about 10 miles to go. I was happy to see that our direction headed toward the brighter skies. We were not sure if the campground would have any space since it is a holiday weekend and we were rolling in about 5:30pm. Really a great area…gorgeous sites with tall slender trees, foliage and privacy. We found two spots side by side (by the way we were there and there were only two others…no worries on not getting a spot) and once we had backed in and gotten out we realized that we were looking down onto a little lake surrounded by trees and grasses. Really you couldn’t find a more peaceful place. My dad was saying that “this is Alaska” with the view and trees and water. He was loving it…we all were. DSC_0864At first it seemed there were lots of mosquitoes but they ended up not being an issue at all.
We made a quick dinner and dad got a great fire started. We all were able to sit out and enjoy the fire with just a little bit of sprinkles. The rain stopped all together for a couple of hours and it was so nice to really enjoy the campgrounds beauty and the time with family. The girls made “perfume” and all three took a trail down to the water. It was a bit dicey making it back up the hill though 🙂


The campground host, Klaus, came over and spent some time chatting with us. He’s a big German man who has been an American Citizen for 21 years now. He retired last year and decided he wanted to be a host at this campground. He was pretty funny to talk to and just wanted to stay and chat all night. Scott and I excused ourselves and headed to our RV (the kids had said they were all tired and went to the RV about 30 or 40 minutes prior…weird!)we put our chairs away so we were ready to go and headed to bed.

The day turned out better than I was thinking it would while I was stewing about the rain earlier.
Tomorrow we are going the last 17 miles to Chicken and then we are going to be leaving Alaska. Our time here has been great but I do think that better weather would have made it even grander. We missed a lot of the mountain views because of low clouds. Alaska is gorgeous and has so much to see from mountains to glaciers, waterfalls, rivers and lakes. There are areas that you are sure you are the only ones for miles as the forests go as far as you can see. I am so glad we were able to spend time here and experience a bit of this state.

July 1, 2017 Hand dug tunnels, Drizzle in Valdez and FREE Fish!

Good looking day so far and up and ready to go at 8am. Hoping that Valdez is a fun stop along the way. The weather is saying 53 degrees and rainy…I sure hope its wrong.

The views driving out of Glenallen were amazing! The sun was peeking through some low clouds are lighting up a mountain. I should know what mountain but I can’t remember now. I haveDSC_0771

been reading the MilePost book the whole way up and around on this trip. It is super helpful and gives you a lot of information. It is like learning a new language though…once you think you get it you really don’t and have to find your spot again. It is a super helpful though and gives a lot of history and things to look for.
The roads were easy and lots of sunshine and then we turned and the skies were heavy with dark clouds and looked like rain was certain. The further we went the more convinced I was that the weather people were spot on…darn!
There was a neat stop at the Worthington Glacier where you were able to hike up to it and even touch it. I opted for the looking and appreciating instead. It was raining pretty hard and the view was great where I was standing.DSC_0787
We stopped at a tunnel that was dug by hand during the railroad era when 9 companies were trying to take advantage of the short route from the coast to the copper country. Unfortunately a feud broke out and a gun battle ensued and the tunnel was abandoned. It was a fun stop because you were allowed to go into the tunnel. It seemed pretty creepy at first but really was just fine. It is unfortunate how much graffiti was on and in it but it was fun to walk through it to the other side.


There were two gorgeous waterfalls on the way through this cannon to Valdez that we stopped at briefly.DSC_0816
We knew that the RV park was going to be something that we didn’t want to hang out at a lot so we went to the visitors center first. Lame visitors center in Valdez. They really had little information and when I asked for a map of some of the walks or hikes they said they had one booklet and could make me copies if I would like a specific hike. Just not the best and hard to figure out what to do around the area besides charter fishing (which you can not do if you don’t book months in advance). We went to the RV park next and checked in and decided we would stay just one night not two. Mom and Dad went to check out the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery and we went and checked out the town…the little bit that there was. We decided to walk around so we found parking and walked to really the one of two restaurants down by the harbor. The Fat Mermaid. Appealing to eat there I know 🙂 The food was really good and we had fun just taking in the place. It was an older building and we were in an “addition” which had plywood on all the walls ceilings and floor except in off to the side where they left it gravel. Also, a nice wood carved mermaid watched over us that made the girls laugh.20170701_140322_1499385690566_resized

After lunch we headed to the hatchery and watched some of the salmon that were trying to swim upstream to spawn.  We continued around town, saw the old site of Valdez.  There was a massive earthquake in 1964 that caused a tsunami wave to basically wipe out the whole town.  They have a few plaques and information about where things stood before the quake.  The town then moved 4 miles from its previous location and some of the buildings were salvaged and moved.  All residents were given two years to pack up and move to “New Valdez” .  I would have loved to learn more or see more pictures but they really didn’t have much more.DSC_0845

We hit a couple of stores then headed to our site.  We are right behind the bathrooms as I mentioned before, well right between the bathrooms and our area is a fish cleaning station. Oh, my favorite 🙂  When we got parked this truck pulled up and unloaded two huge garbage cans.  Scott went over to see them start filleting fish right there.  Next thing I know Scott is poking his head in the RV and saying “quick…get a ziplock, he is going to give me free fish!”  What a score!  Turns out this was the owner of the park and they used to give free fish all the time as their publicity for their park.  Now they offer a fish fry for the 4th of July.  We happened to be there at the right time and Scott got 4 fillets of pink salmon. We all watched as he skillfully filleted each fish…and quickly.  He has a commercial fisherman friend who hooks him up with the catch. The girls were quickly grossed out…as was I, but it was still fascinating!  He and his wife are actually from Washington just above Spokane.

Scott got the bbq ready and cooked up some great fish for everyone, including our neighbor.  His wife HATES fish and wanted nothing to do with it in their trailer (totally get it) so Scott cooked him up a piece.  Nice people around us here and nice owners.  I would say that it turned out better than expected 🙂20170701_192948_1499385692602_resized

We are headed to Tok tomorrow so we will get out of here by 8:30am or 9am.

June 30, 2017 Lunch by the Lake, Fishing off the Bridge and Splash goes Ben

We got up early to get a good start on our day. We are headed to Glenallen for the night which is almost 275miles away. We do have a spot for the night so that is set and the pressure is off. There were no bears in our sight that we were aware of and the mountain was so lovely when we woke up.
We had a rather uneventful trip and Mom and Dad ended up going and making a stop in Palmer while we kept on going.
We had lunch off the road at a little lake and walked a bit to stretch our legs.
The day was turning out to be better than they had predicted so that was a bonus! We found our campground, Tolsona Wilderness Retreat. They have 80 sites with riverfront. When I called to see if there was anything left (holiday weekend remember?) they had a couple left and we said we would take them! We were pleasantly surprised at how nice they were. Lots of trees and our spot had a nice little beach right on the river. There were a few mosquitoes but hey, that’s Alaska I’m told.

A little bug spray and we are good to go. Scott got out the fishing poles and Ellie and Ben tried fishing off the bridge that ran alongside our spot. I hate to say that they didn’t catch dinner but they had fun trying!
We made Costco hot dogs for dinner and then had a fire at Dad and Moms campsite. Their site had a fire pit you could sit around and enjoy the view and sound of the river.
The girls have their one pot that they make stew, or soup, or perfume or whatever they feel like whipping up over a fire and they made some really gross black liquid this time. They have a great time and its fun to watch them.DSC_0745
The kids were all by the creek side and we were all talking when all of a sudden there was a huge splash…Ben down! Not a big river or swift so there was no fear of Ben being carried away but there was a loose flip flop suddenly taking a cruise. Scott quickly ran down the bank and saved the flip flop, Whew! That would not be the first one to be lost down a river 🙂 Ben quickly dumped his pockets out since he had his iPod and wallet. Pretty wet 😦 We will see if it can recover.

A rice bed for the ipod tonight. He was soaked and I got pictures which got me in trouble with Katherine. She says I always just take a picture instead of showing concern for the situation. Honestly, if it was a bad situation I would not snap a picture…I hope she understands that. These are one of my favorite kinds of pictures, action and memories that will be stories for a long time.
Once Ben was dry and we had our smores we packed it up and headed to bed. We may have been the only ones around calling it a night…these bright evenings bring out the night owl in everyone.

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Ben was being a photographer….I loved this one!

Tomorrow we are headed to Valdez which was a really tough place to find a couple of nights. Apparently what we ended up with is a right behind the bathroom and sardine style. Better than nothing I guess 🙂

 

June 29, 2017 Quick stop, Glacier Views and a Beautiful Campsite

We were up and ready to go about 9am. I spent the morning looking out at the ocean and watching the fishing boats head out for a long days work. Really a lovely place to stay despite the rain from about 7pm on. The thing we have noticed about our time in Alaska is that the rain has held off so that we are able to enjoy our day trips and places to see.
Today we are headed to Seward. Dad and Mom took off before us so that they can see a few things on their way to Seward. We plan on swinging into Soldatna for gas fill up on our way.
The skies were a bit gray but no rain…yet 🙂 The drive was fairly uneventful and we made it to Soldatna about 11am.
Headed to Seward took us through the mountains and it was really beautiful. I love the way the hills are covered in green with clusters of trees and then there are higher hills and mountains that still have traces of snow coming down off of them.
As we got closer to Seward the rain finally made its appearance. It was coming down pretty good…darn! Mom and Dad were ahead of us and texted to say that Seward was pretty darn full of people. We were planning on another seaside camping spot but when they checked it out all the RV’s were packed in like sardines! We still drove into Seward and saw the little main town strip. On a nice and sunny day it would have been just fine but the rain was falling and it didn’t make you want to hang out and explore. Group decision was to move 25 miles outside of Seward and stay at a Forest Service campground for the night.
On our way out of town we stopped at the Exit Glacier National Park. There was a nice path to follow with some beautiful views of the glacier.

The rain had changed to northwest drizzle so it was getting nicer 🙂 After the walk we had a quick lunch in the RV and headed to our campground, Trail River.
Really nicely set off the highway and tons of spots. We were getting a bit nervous about whether or not it would be full since it is the holiday weekend coming up. Honestly, we are usually home for the 4th of July weekend so we don’t clue into the fact that everything fills up. This may be a problem for us in the next few days since we are headed to Valdez on Saturday and Sunday….hmmm.
The Forest Service Ranger told us that there had been a lot of bear activity in the park over the last few days…wonderful! We found two sites close to one another and set up. Really gorgeous sites!

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Bear Scat all over the place….surprised we never saw one!

Lots of trees and a view of one of the hills with snow still on it right from our table. If you couldn’t hear your neighbor you really felt like you were there all alone.
The campground also backed up to the Kenai Lake. The water is a beautiful shade of blue. After we hung out and had dinner we all (except Ben who ended up in bed with a bad migraine, poor guy ) went to check out the lake. The girls thought that it was fun to get wet…brrrrr!!! Don’t let Katherines bare arms make you believe it was even kinda warm.  The evening actually was without rain until about 8pm so we were really able to enjoy where we were.

 


No bear sightings during our time there but a whole lot of bear scat! Tomorrow we are going to head toward Valdez with a night stop in Glenallen. Its amazing that we are now nearing the end of June and we have been together for 17 days.

Honestly I love it. There have been moments but all in all I think it gets better each day. The kids are having a great time having Grandma and Grandpa with them and we have stayed at the best campgrounds along the way.

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View from our campsite!

Scott and I are even learning how to make a great fire since Dad is the master and has given us some tips 🙂 We are hoping the weather forecast is incorrect for the next week here (all 70% chance of rain and about 55 degrees everyday) but even if we do have crummy weather I feel blessed just to be doing this trip!

 

June 28, 2017 Homer Spit, Salty Dog and Oceanfront Camping

Great night of sleep but I still have a lingering headache. On our way to see Homer which is only an hour and half away. Grey skies but no rain….summer in Alaska 🙂
We drove straight to the Island & Ocean Visitor center before we stopped. This visitors center is really great! Tons of information with really great displays. We hung out for nearly an hour looking at everything. Really well done! Next we headed to the Homer spit which is a 4.5mile strip of sand and gravel that juts out from the mainland. Homer got its name from a con man who was always scheming a way to separate wealthy people from their money. In 1896 and 97 he set up base camp on Homer Spit (named in his honor by his hopeful gold mining crew) and looked for gold in the cook inlet. With the knowledge he had about the local gold and coal outcrops he established bogus mining companies then traveled to the east coast and sold stock in them.
We found a free public parking area and got out to check out the little shops on the strip. One original building that my dad remembers from his time here is The Salty Dog Saloon. We walked there and posed for a picture just in time to have a guy walk out from the bar…at 10:30am.20170628_120206 I loved that he was dressed in his waders and camo and was a legit fisherman. It was pretty funny since mom snapped a picture just as he was passing us so it looks like he’s just part of the family 🙂 We walked down a ways and found a camping area as far out on the spit as you could camp. Scott and Dad paid for a spot that we could come back to after lunch and some exploring of the area. Our spots were right on the ocean front….so beautiful!!!
There were a few gift shops and lots of little places to eat. We looked around and decided to eat at Captain Patty’s for some fish and chips (I had a chicken sandwich…I’m so lame, I know) Patty’s was excellent and everyone really enjoyed their meals. There was a map of Homer and the surrounding islands under the glass on the table. Dad showed us where he was stationed when he worked for Fish and Game in Alaska. DSC_0680He was pretty remote for a few months! It was neat to hear the stories of the fisherman who made their livelihoods there. There were some sneaky people as well that would try to cherry bomb the waters then net all the scared fish 🙂 After lunch we got back in the RV and headed to old town Homer. Not too much to see there but worth the drive through town. We went to the farmers market and bought some fresh salsa and kettle corn and then hit the thrift store next door. Back in the RV we made one last stop for ice cream then headed to our spot. So beautiful watching the fishing boats coming and going, a couple of seals and even a guy in a full wet suit stand up paddle boarding.

We walked on the beach and Ellie and I drew on a few rocks and hid them around for people to find. We found our best rainbow of rocks yet! The reds, oranges and yellow were my favorite. The beach was full of beautiful flat skippers too.

The tides here are pretty amazing. When we arrived the tide was way out and by the time we were ready to go to bed it had risen all the way up to the rocky areas. The rain began to fall so we sat under our awning and just took in the view. The kids and Scott played multiple rounds of UNO and I wrote a couple days worth of posts…the internet has been so terrible or nonexistent it has been difficult to keep up with posting or witting. I will need to add all the pictures later when I have a good connection.DSC_0686
Tomorrow we are going to head to Seward for a night then onto Valdez for a night or two. We are having lots of fun and the views are just spectacular….still waiting on a darn moose though!!!

June 27, 2017 Kenai Peninsula, Fishing in the river and still no moose!

We left Anchorage without seeing any more bears 🙂 We are headed to the Kenai Peninsula to go stay at our Craigslist friends house. Pretty nice couple that they are letting us all stay on their property and even use their home if we want to!
The weather looked pretty grey but no rain yet so that is a win. Sounds like if there is no rain it is considered a summer day. Not my idea of summer but super thankful for the lack of precipitation.
The drive to Kenai is a short one and we make it to our destination by 1pm. Just so you are aware…we have yet to see any male moose. We have seen numerous signs stating that a moose could appear at any moment but they have avoided us all together! It’s almost comical at this point!
This house is on the Kenai river and it is just a beautiful setting! The water runs pretty fast and its fairly wide in this spot. We spent some time at the bank side dock just looking at the river and watching a giant bald eagle soar through the sky and land just across the river in a tall tree. It was calm and peaceful by the river and we were protected from the wind.
Once the neighbors arrived we got the key for the house and we were able to do a bit of laundry. I had a major headache which was a bummer so I kinda laid low the rest of the day. Scott and my dad and the kids all tried their hand at casting off the dock. No success in catching anything but they had a lot of fun trying 🙂

The girls took a break for a bit and it was awfully quiet (a big sign that something is up) I found them and it smelled a bit like smoke…hmmm. Upon questioning them I come to find out that they had attempted to dig a hole and start a fire to cook their “soup” that they made. Needless to say I put the kibosh on this idea and they had to stay within view from then on. kids 🙂
We had a simple meal and then the girls, Scott and Dad went to try fishing again.
It has been great to have the kids spend time with Scott and with their grandparents. I love watching Dad explain something or tell a story.DSC_0638 Katherine loves to go see what Grandma is making for dinner and chatting with her while she watches. The evenings around a fire are so fun when the weather works out. I do wish we were having more sunshine and warm weather but this time together is far more precious. What a blessing to be here, enjoying Gods creation that He gave us. Alaska is just expansive and beautiful!

June 26, 2017 Anchorage, gift shops and a bear in the campground

Headed out about 8:30am to see Anchorage. We did not have a lot of driving to get there so it was nice to arrive in the city before lunch time. Years ago my brother stayed with a family in Anchorage while he worked here. The couple quickly became close friends and they have continued to keep in touch over the years. We found their house and tried to stop in and say hello but they were out. Bummer but that is what you get when you don’t plan ahead…it was worth a shot 🙂
We found a paid RV parking lot and made a little lunch before heading to the gift shops and the little visitors center for information. Lots of cute store fronts and we visited pretty much every one 🙂DSC_0609 The visitors center had postcards that they would mail for free so the girls wrote a couple of those. A couple of hours down town allowed us to buy a few souvenirs and shirts. DSC_0608The rain looked like it was not too far off so we headed from town to our campground , Centennial Campground. It was right off the freeway but was treed and nice. When we checked in they told us to drive thru and see where we would want to stay then come back and confirm the availability. As we rounded the first big curve there was a tent that was pretty smashed on one side. Katherine immediately said it looked like a bear got into it. When I was confirming the spot we wanted the office manager said there were two tents that were gotten into by a bear. I bet those guys got into big trouble for leaving food in their tent!DSC_0623
Once we were parked it was really raining and Mom and Dad headed back into downtown to meet up with one of Dads friends. They were going to catch up over dinner at a place that apparently has the best pizza around and is always packed out.
Since the rain was falling and we were plugged into power we all watched RV (Robin Williams has some great lines ) as a family and then played some UNO. Around 10pm someone started honking their horn a few campsites away. The sun doesn’t set until midnight around these parts so we looked out and tried to see what the fuss was about. Scott walked out in front of the RV and immediately began walking backwards. This is a bear sighting move that we all learned about . As soon as he started walking backwards I looked through the trees and saw a pretty good size black bear running out of the campground towards the hill. Wow, funny to see a bear close up in the city and not in the national park! Pretty exciting stuff, I called my mom on the walkie-talkie and she said it came up an sniffed their front bumper then walked around their camper. Pretty sure he was in the mood for the Alaskan bug buffet that they have on the front of that truck.
Lots of excitement then off to bed…Headed to the Kenai Peninsula tomorrow!