TRIP TO CANADA AND ALASKA 2018 - Part 6

Last night we stayed at the Inn On The Lake, Marsh Lake, Yukon Territory. It is a beautiful place in a great location and as we were the only guests we had the place to ourselves. Even the owners live in a nearby house. It was a very quiet and serene evening.

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They had an amazing chef working there and before she left for the evening she made us a superb three course meal. It was an amazingly tasty meal. Possibly one of the best we have eaten. Who would have known that home-made basil ice-cream on a ricotta could test so good.

We decided to go for a short walk after dinner but were surprised that the chef insisted we take bear-repellant. That wasn't a good sign. However no bears were spotted but Vyv was quite happy when it started raining and we had to cut our walk short.

Beautiful flowers in one hand and nasty bear repellant in the other...

Beautiful flowers in one hand and nasty bear repellant in the other...


Today, driving from Marsh Lake to Fort Nelson, we saw an amazing number of wild animals. All of them were either grazing along the side of the road or walking across the road.

We saw:
12 bears
2 red foxes
2 grey wolves
2 elk
Over 100 buffalo

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TRIP TO CANADA AND ALASKA 2018 - PART 5

Many of the information centres in Alaska can be considered a little on the rustic side...

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We flew on an 8-seater Navajo Piper from Fairbanks to Coldfoot Camp, a camp for the Alaskan pipeline and a stop-off for the long-distance truckers on the Dalton Highway (made famous by the Iceroad Truckers reality TV series). We sat in the seats behind the pilot, which made Vyv even more nervous, but she hid it well...

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The intersection of the Dalton Highway, The Alaskan Pipeline and the Yukon River.

The intersection of the Dalton Highway, The Alaskan Pipeline and the Yukon River.

Us and Luke, our pilot.

Us and Luke, our pilot.

One of the early Coldfoot buildings.

One of the early Coldfoot buildings.

This the Coldfoot Camp restaurant, cafe, bar, shower block and accommodation .

This the Coldfoot Camp restaurant, cafe, bar, shower block and accommodation .

The Coldfoot Camp is the furthest north you can get a beer in Alaska.

We were then driven by Rachel, a very nice young Morman lady, along the Dalton Highway to cross The Arctic Circle.

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When we were there (literally in the middle of nowhere) another couple turned up and I offered to take their photo by the sign, but he had a tripod and said he would do it with the camera's timer record function. A few minutes later he quietly approached me and said he couldn't get the timer to work so could I please take the photos as he was about to go on bended knee and propose to his partner. I was happy to, and she was happy too. She said yes.

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Rachel then drove us (just us, tourism was a bit down so we were her only passengers) the 6 hours down the Dalton Highway back to Fairbanks, visiting various locations on the way back. It is a hair-raising road and I am glad we decided not to drive it ourselves. Such a rough road. Mostly potholes surrounded by patches of gravel.

We had fun though and spent the time in-between stops sharing our life-stories.

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This gift shop sits alongside a bridge on the highway that goes over the Yukon River. The lady that runs it makes jewellery and sells it here. She lives with her husband up river in a house with no running water or electricity and takes a little boat each day to open her store.

This gift shop sits alongside a bridge on the highway that goes over the Yukon River. The lady that runs it makes jewellery and sells it here. She lives with her husband up river in a house with no running water or electricity and takes a little boat each day to open her store.

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We got back to Fairbanks about 12.30am and we saw our first sunset since we have been here. It may look like it is getting quite dark but it really wasn't. The sun went down then it just seemed to get light again.

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TRIP TO CANADA AND ALASKA 2018 - Part 4

We stayed the night at McKinley Creekside Cabins, near the entrance to Denali National Part. Quite a beautiful location:

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When we visited Denali Park we saw a lot of animals in their native environment (if you consider their natural environment to mainly consist of the side of the gravel road):

Mummy moose and her babies, less than two months old.

Mummy moose and her babies, less than two months old.

Yes the bears do own the road here.

Yes the bears do own the road here.

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A very young Red Fox.

A very young Red Fox.

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In the heart of Denali Park is Wonder Lake. We wondered if it was so named because it is a wonder that we survived the incessant attacks by the huge swarms of very large mosquitos. It was not pleasant.

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Only 15 miles of Denali Park is accessible by private car, the rest is not. You can see why:

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We spent almost 12 hours at Denali Park (bears on the road did delay our return a bit) and most of the time the clouds covered the mountains...

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However, as we were leaving, the clouds parted just long enough for us to see the top of Denali. It is pretty impressive.

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TRIP TO CANADA AND ALASKA 2018 - Part 3

Day 10.
Anchorage to Denali National Park.

A very foggy day when we started off

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We came across these rest rooms near a river recreation area. Surprisingly, while very overgrown with weeds, they appear to be still in use, even if it was only by me.

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We couldn’t decide what it must have been used for. So many rooms, or at least so many windows. Was probably quite impressive once.

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I took Vyv on a short bush walk to stretch our legs but she was very hesitant to go as she has a fear of meeting a bear. This sign at the start of the track didn’t encourage her at all…

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However this little fellow is the only animal she was confronted by...

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An Arctic Ground Squirrel who seemed to be on watch for dangers. Chirping out to his friends at regular intervals. He (she?) was very cute.

An Arctic Ground Squirrel who seemed to be on watch for dangers. Chirping out to his friends at regular intervals. He (she?) was very cute.

TRIP TO CANADA AND ALASKA 2018 - Part 2

Day 9
Anchorage, Alaska.

We visited the Zoo on a drizzly morning well before any crowds turned up (assuming there would actually be crowds). We were keen to see a polar bear up close, since we had seen so many other types of bears as we travelled but this is the only view he would give is…

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There were plenty of other Alaskan animals to see…

A young Muskox

A young Muskox

The mother Muskox

The mother Muskox

A Red Fox. So cute.

A Red Fox. So cute.

A Dall Sheep. These guys can really climb. We saw them in the wild up the sides of extremely steep cliffs that even Hillary couldn't climb.

A Dall Sheep. These guys can really climb. We saw them in the wild up the sides of extremely steep cliffs that even Hillary couldn't climb.

Otters.

Otters.

A wolverine. Vicious little buggers.

A wolverine. Vicious little buggers.

When we got to the grizzly bears we wondered why the bears were anxiously peering out of the cage at nothing. 5-10 minutes later a keeper turned up from that direction with their dinner. They must have a good sense of time.

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Trip to Canada and Alaska 2018

Day 1
Vancouver to Whistler

We didn’t even try to pronounce some of the names along the way (in the native Squamish language).

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Whistler is an interesting winter sports resort town. In the summer it seems to mostly cater to mountain bikers. There are bike shops everywhere and a mountain that is dedicated to trails, with lifts to take you and your bike to the top, with a number of trails taking you back down to the bottom. And the bottom of the mountain has various less dangerous trails for the younger bikers.

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The hotel we stayed in was really nice and we had a great view from our balcony:

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Day 2
Whistler to Prince George, British Columbia

Lots of beautiful scenery along the way…

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Our motel in Prince George had one interesting feature… the bathroom wall. It is solid glass.

Fortunately if you shut the bathroom door properly the glass becomes opaque. Something we had to find out the hard way. Definitely gave Vyv something of a shock.

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Day 3
Prince George to Bell 2, British Columbia
(literally in the middle of nowhere)

Gas stations are few and far between here so we were a little dismayed when two towns (towns is a bit of a generous description - really just a gas station and maybe a convenience store) in a row had empty tanks. Fortunately we saw a small handmade sign leading us off the main road to a rundown convenience store in a native settlement that had gas.

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The lady there had to pump the gas by hand as a lightning strike a couple of weeks ago had taken out their phone lines and all their electronics, including pump controls.

Just as we got back in the car we noticed a coyote walking down the road.

At Bell 2 we stayed in a large log cabin that was divided into 4 units, but we were the only ones staying in it. It was a very, very quiet night and we didn’t see any bears there although we were told they do wander around at night.

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There was even quite a good restaurant as part of the cabin complex and we ate well.

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Day 4
Bell 2 to Whitehorse, Yukon

It was a very dreary day with low clouds and intermittent rain. We were surrounded by mountains most of the day but couldn’t always see them.

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We had seen a black bear crossing the road the day before, but today we stopped right in the middle of the road, as there was absolutely no traffic, to watch and photograph this bear foraging along the roadside.

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For hundreds of miles there was no sign of habitation but there were these long-drop toilets every 100km or so. That was some relief!

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We stayed one night in Whitehorse in a cabin which had been described as a Spa Resort. Really it was a couple of log cabins recently built in the owners backyard. Mind you the backyard was remote and surrounded by trees. The cabin was very nice, it was amazingly quiet and we had a great night.

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It only gets dark here this time of year for around 4 hours a day, and even then it isn’t real darkness it is more like 4 hours of dusk. Here is Vyv sitting on the porch trying to log in to Facebook at 11.30pm.

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We have had almost no cell coverage since we have been here, unless we were in a decent-sized town (which there are few of) and if you can get wifi it is mostly dial-up speed. I gave up trying to upload photos to my blog for days. Even sending an email was painful. Facebooking was out of the question!!


Day 5
Whitehorse to Anchorage

We were warned that driving from Whitehorse to Anchorage in one day is not recommended. They said it is a very long drive, there is little habitation and the roads are terrible. But what do the locals know? We got up early and left at 5.30am, and actually it it is a very long drive, there is little habitation and the roads are terrible.

And there are no cars. Plenty of wildlife along the way though:

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This bear was wandering through the Fireweed that grows all along the road.

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Fireweed is very pretty and is everywhere, but is not the State Flower. It might as well be though as the locals harvest it and use it to make chocolate, soaps, skincare, jams, breakfast syrup and all sorts of strange concoctions. It is very tasty.

A little further down the road we came across these two bears at the side of the road (what is it with these bears and their fascination with the side of the road?):

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Vyv wound the window down to photograph them and the cloud of flies that were hovering around the bears decided the open window was an invitation to visit. A few minutes of “Chase The Fly Out The Window” ensued.

The roads were really bad up until we reached the US border into Alaska, then they became smooth and well-maintained… for a few miles. Then we played “Dodge The Pothole” for many more hours.

Despite the rough driving we really enjoyed the trip, but were glad to reach Anchorage at about 8.30pm.


Day 6
Anchorage

Retail therapy: Shopping at Anchorage’s largest mall, 2 minutes from our motel.


Day 7

We caught a train from Anchorage to Whittier, a small town on the coast with 300 inhabitants, 200 of whom live in this building:

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There are two types of weather in Whittier. Bad, and terrible. It rains most days and has such a consistent cloud cover that it was used as a weapons development area for the military decades ago as it was considered a town impossible to bomb because rarely could it even be seen from the sky.

Keeping up with tradition it was cold and wet when we got there, and got worse as we left.

We went on a day cruise from there to view the Surprise Glacier. Even though the weather was terrible and I took these photos in the fog and rain, it was quite an experience.

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A “raft” of otters. We saw a lot of these in the bays. Just lying on their backs and chilling out.

A “raft” of otters. We saw a lot of these in the bays. Just lying on their backs and chilling out.

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On the way back the boat crew made us all margaritas from glacier ice they scooped up from the sea. Yes, even Vyv had one. I offered to finish her’s for her but no luck.

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We enjoyed the trip but decided that we probably wouldn't ever go on any long train trips. It can get quite boring despite the scenery.

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We got back to the train station at Anchorage and by the time we walked back to town to have dinner it was 10pm and wouldn't you know it, everything closes at 10pm. We eventually found the ONLY place that served food at that hour, a busy and noisy bar & grill and had to sit at counter next to the grill and watch our dinner get cooked. Was better than average pub grub though.

We eventually got to bed at 1.15am, still daylight outside, and were woken up by a very apologetic cleaner at 8.30am.

New Orleans

We visited New Orleans once before, four or five years ago, and we wanted to visit one of the old cemeteries on that trip. The guide books all recommended staying clear of them except in an organised tour as they are in less than reputable areas and it was unsafe for tourists, so we decided to skip it.

This time we decided to ignore the warnings and visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 2, the most famous of the New Orleans cemeteries where Anne Rice got her inspiration for her vampire novels.

The guide books were wrong. We parked on a nice, but very old, tree-lined neighbourhood street in the garden district, right outside the gate to the cemetery, and roamed around in perfect safety. Maybe the neighbourhood has changed in recent years. It is quite a beautiful place in a macabre sort of way.

As a father and grandfather, this one did choke me up a little...

Update: 24 October

Last night we stayed in the very small town of Thomasville, Alabama. We stayed in quite a large motel with around 300 rooms and when we checked in there was only one other car in the parking lot. By the time we had dinner down the road and walked back to the motel the parking lot had filled up considerably. There were now 6 cars, including ours!!

Tonight we are staying in Westwego, just outside New Orleans, and while the motel is reasonably full when we took a walk to a Waffle House down the road for dinner we found the staff hanging around in the car park. They had no customers. We were the only ones. They said it was always pretty quiet.

We called into a small supermarket by the motel the lady behind the counter asked WHAT YOU FOLKS DOIN' HERE. WELCOME TO THE HOOD! I guess this is not your normal tourist hangout.

New Orleans was fun to walk around but hell to drive through. Very narrow one-way streets. Pedestrians everywhere. Very chaotic and we were told this was a very quiet day. Plenty of artists, buskers and the sounds of jazz coming from everywhere. Of course it wouldn't be a visit to New Orleans without seeing a band playing along the street. They were very good.

Of course Vyv couldn't go to New Orleans and not buy a mardi gras mask. She didn't have to flash her boobs to get the beads, she just paid cash.

Update: 23 October

We had a great day today. We stayed last night in Columbus, Georgia and got up just before daybreak and headed down to the Columbus Riverwalk. It was a beautiful morning (although a little cool at 6 degrees) and apart from a few runners and council workers tidying up, we had the area to ourselves. We walked along the river and over the bridge to Alabama, along their side of the river and back over a new pedestrian bridge to the Georgia side. The river is a bit low at the moment, but there were great views.

Along the Alabama side we saw a lot of these strange things scattered around. We saw a couple of groups playing the game. It is like golf, but you use a frisbee shaped object instead of a ball. The disc has to get into the basket. The chains help it get in, rather than bouncing off the centre post. They call it Disc Golf.

There was a very high zip line running from the Georgia side to the Alabama side. On the righthand photo below you can see the tall Zombie Zip tower in the background. It is a very, very long zip line. Fortunately it was either too late in the season or just too early in the morning to be open so I didn't have to think up an excuse not to do it.


We then went to the nearby National Infantry Museum and Soldier Centre alongside the Fort Benning Army Base. This is an amazing museum detailing the history of the American infantryman. Some of the best military exhibits I have seen. Even Vyv enjoyed it a lot.

We found this helmet captured in Operation Iraqi Freedom amusing. Someone over there must have been a big Star Wars fan...


Travelling through Alabama we came across the very small town of Tuskegee, which is where the famous Tuskegee fighter pilots were trained in WW2 (the first black pilots). The old training base has been mostly restored to how it looked in the 1940s but you can't say the same for the town. It is mostly in a sorry state. Most retail buildings appear to have been closed down decades ago and are falling apart. Even the old church appears abandoned.

In the town square the only things that still look good are the courthouse and statue erected by the Daughters of The Confederacy.

At least they have good cell reception. This house must get amazing reception, with the tower in their yard...


We did see this house with interesting Hillary Clinton Halloween decorations.


There is a small town in Alabama with the odd name of Pike Road. They have a project there organised by The Pike Road Neighbourhood Leaders called HEY LOOK AT US (catchy title) where they try to outdo each other with the creative use of hay bales. This one was the best we saw...

Update: 19th and 20th October - Gettysburg

We had dinner by candlelight in The Dobbin House, a restaurant located in the oldest house in Gettysburg. The restaurant utilises all of the rooms as dining rooms. We had a tiny cubbyhole which was probably once a wardrobe. The table was so small they had trouble fitting the plates and glasses on it. It was an interesting experience.

We spent a few hours wandering the soldiers cemetery and areas where the battles of Gettysburg took place, checked out the museum, and meandered around the quaint town where many of the original buildings still stand.

The photo below was taken on the site where Abe Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg address!

There is even a monument to Jenny Wade, the only civilian killed in the battle, outside the actual house she was in when a stray bullet killed her. I was quite amazed that only one civilian was killed as the battle raged around the town for a number of days and the bullets flying around must have numbered in the millions.

Trump vs Clinton

If you were going to guess on who is going to win the upcoming presidential election based on how many supporters put your banner outside their house then Trump would be frontrunner by far. Throughout our travels we have seen thousands of Trump banners on business premises and residential front lawns (in some streets house after house had a Trump flag) but have seen maybe a dozen or so supporting Clinton.

We have also seen a few signs like these...

Does Trump really have that much support or do Clinton's supporters just not like to put their preference forward? The media certainly seem to be backing Clinton, but I'm not sure about the people on the street. A number of people we have casually asked about the elections don't want either to be elected. That seems to be a very sane response.