Sunday, July 31, 2005

What is the Forecast for Today?

The sun was poking through the clouds this morning so we decided it was a good omen so we should get out of the trailer. Margaret had told me about a garden at the visitor’s centre in Palmer so that became our first stop. The garden was a mixture of perennials, annuals, fruits and vegetables. For some reason the colour of the flowers seem to be more vibrant in Alaska so the garden was outstanding. The raspberries, black currents and red currents were ripe, the zucchini was prolific and the cabbages looked ready to pick. There were even red sunflowers! A highly recommended scenic drive is the Hatcher Pass Road, so we decided to give it a try. The first part of the drive was paved. As we neared the summit the road conditions changed dramatically. We were now on a twisty, hilly gravel road — yeah Ed was in heaven again!! Near the summit is a lovely little lake aptly named Summit Lake. Unfortunately the weather had changed and we were in fog and rain. On the way back from the summit we stopped at the Independence Mine and State Historical Park. This mine operated between 1938 and 1941 — gold mining was prohibited when the US entered WWII. Some of the buildings had been restored while others are slowing falling down. Some of the original mining rail cars were displayed. As it is apt to do in Alaska, the sun came out so Zaph happily led us on a hike around the mine.

View of Summit Lake on Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass road --- very twisty

One of the gardens at the information center in Palmer.

Red sunflower.


One of the buildings at the Independence Mine.

More of the buildings at Independence Mine

Mining rail car --- Zaph's in the picture to show sizing.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head

It was raining when we got up in the morning and continued to rain all day and rain all night. Happily we were settled at a site with full services. Ed spent most of the day on the computer backing up photos and we watched some TV — there were about 6 channels to choose between and it had been over three weeks since the TV last was turned on..

Friday, July 29, 2005


Big exciting drive to day — we drove a whole 50 miles north west of Anchorage to the town of Palmer. The boys ordered some computer gadgets to be delivered to a UPS store and the only one in the direction we are going is in Palmer (we were tired of Anchorage). Hopefully the package will arrive on Monday and we can continue on our way. Palmer is a cute little town. We went to the Friday Fling (farmers market) and walked around town. Zaph enjoyed the market as lots of kids stopped to pet him. Driving the long way back to the campground took us past a waterfall and a glacier. We’re treating ourselves and are staying a campground with full services (electricity, water and sewer). It’s also Zaph approved as it backs onto a state recreation area that has several lakes and a hiking trail. Yeah, he managed to talk us into a swim.

The old railway station in Palmer

Just below Palmer, from the banks of the Knik river you get an excellent view of the Knik glacier

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Free Camping!

Laundry and errand day. We had enough to do that we decided to stay in the Sam’s Club parking lot one more night. We used the money we saved and went to see War of Worlds at the theater. Tonight there were 2 other Titanium’s in the parking lot.

some dog's are just not a water proof as Zaph, they new a nice new rain coat

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On the Road Again

It was time to leave the Kenai Peninsula and head back to Anchorage — we needed to get Colin and Ed away from the fishing hole before they mugged a child for a fish. It was raining and quite foggy when we left — but luckily the fog cleared once we got away from Homer. Just outside of Soldotna we stopped at Hanson’s Custom Carvings. This guy is a wiz with the chain saw. He has so many custom orders that you have to wait about 1 year for your piece if you place an order. Zaph met a tiny kitten with a very big attitude, that tried to beat him up — Cat’s are such meanies. The sun finally started shining here so we really enjoyed the stop. As we needed to pick up groceries, and other supplies, we stopped at the Sam’s Club in Anchorage for the night. There were around 50 mobile homes and truck trailers in the parking lot and one of them was a Titanium (that’s the brand of our trailer).



Nice Chair

don't let the looks deceive you, this is pure evil, so says Zaphod

Need a new sofa for the cottage, this is a good choice, if money is not an issue, and it's in stock.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

One Last Try for the Salmon

Today was another fairly quiet day. We spent the morning doing computer stuff, then decided to drive to Anchor Point, which is the farthest west you can drive on the main road system in North America!. It was very exciting seeing the sign that indicated this. As it has often been the case, it was again misty enough that we couldn’t see the mountains across the bay. Returning to the campground, Colin and Ed decided to give fishing one more try. After about 2 hours, two very depressed looking people returned to the trailers. The eight year old boy beside them had 4 fish and they didn’t even get a bite!

Fishing Results: Fish 6, Colin and Ed 0 — Game Over — the fish had won!

I don't understand it, the fish want to be out of water, why no be on my hook, asks Ed

The west most point you can get to by highway for North America

How did that kid get those fish and we didn't?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Boy Can Those Fish Jump

Zaph wanted to go to the beach across the road and again so the three of us headed across the road. Ed was thrilled to see an eagle sitting on the beach just waiting to have his picture taken and Zaph was thrilled to find a jack russell named Murphy to chase him. Zaph says wet dirty puppies are the happiest puppies. Margaret and I decided it was time to visit the shops five minutes (walking time) down the spit. There was some fantastic pieces of art — carvings, bronze sculptures, paintings, pottery, etc. The majority of the pieces were created by local artists .... if I only had room in the trailer oh and of course lots of extra cash. One of the most interesting buildings in Homer is the Salty Dawg Saloon. The building was created by splicing several old buildings together. The lighthouse tower (which is now an official marker on marine charts) was once a water tower. The main section is thought to have once been the headquarters for a coal company, another section may have been a postoffice while yet one more section is reported to have been a school house. Now I’ve been in places that have thousands of baseball caps hanging from the rafters and places that have had a number of items including bras hanging from the rafters but this is the first time I’ve seen dollar bills attached to the rafters, the walls and any other surface they can be attached to. All the bills appear to have been signed so I think the serving staff will notice if you pull a couple off the wall to help pay the tab. The owner definitely has some funds for a rainy day! The last item on today’s clip board of fun was the skyline scenic drive — I had overhead someone in one of the shops telling someone else that the scenery was amazing so I wanted to check it out. Well, they were correct — it’s the best spot to see the spit and Homer.

Ed and Colin tried fishing again today. So, Zaph and I wandered down to the fishing hole to see how many fish they had caught. In the five minutes or so that I stood there I must have seen at least 25 fish jump, some of them right by Ed and Colin’s fishing lines. I also saw a happy seal swimming inside the lagoon.... I’m sure he’s managing to catch fish.

Fishing Results: Fish 5, Colin and Ed 0 (their thinking about TNT, fishing lures aka. “CIL Warblers”)

The Puffin Bandana Gang with the bandana maker.

Eagle sitting on the sand.

Zaph and Murphy.

The Salty Dawg Saloon. Yes, those are one dollar bills!

The fishermen.

The view of the spit at about 10pm. It actually gets dark at night in Homer.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Russian Villages

Ed decided that he wanted to get some good pictures of the tide pool creatures and it was the last day of the extra low tide so we headed back to the Islands & Ocean Visitor Center beach. We brought Zaph with us, so Zaph and I headed out for a nice walk and Ed headed for the tide pools (we didn’t need Zaph jumping on Sea Stars!). The tide pool group was very excited when Zaph and I got back to them. They had found a tube worm (or something related) but didn’t know what it was exactly. Ed took some photos of it and copies of them to the Island & Oceans people. The Islands and Ocean Visitor Center people get very excited when something different shows up on the beach. Yesterday it was full of sea cucumbers (which it normally isn’t) and today there were no sea cucumbers but an unknown worm! The sea is very fickle. A scenic drive was the next item on today’s clipboard of fun. We drove the East End Road and had some amazing views. The road ends near a Russian village. This area of Alaska has several settlements of “Russian Old Believers”. The settlers ancestors originally settled in Woodburn Oregon after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The first “Old Believers” in Alaska purchased land in 1967 with a grant from the Tolstoy Foundation in New York. The Russians are easily identified by their clothes — the women wear long dresses and usually have their hair covered and the men wear a traditional white shirt with embroidery around a standup collar. Ed, Zaph and I started to walk down the lane (at the end of the road) to the bay. We heard a couple of ATV’s moving quickly and heading up the lane we were walking down. We stood to the side and watched while one ATV with 4 Russian girls having a great time spend by. A second ATV with 2 Russian girls wasn’t far behind. The Russians may not have kept up with the fashion world but they certainly kept up with modern toys!

Fishing Results: Fish 4, Colin and Ed 0 (they didn’t even try today!)

Kelp Crab

Christmas Anemone

The mystery tube worm.

A bull out for a stroll, this was near the Russian village.

The laneway down to the beach at the end of the road.

One of the views along the drive.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tide Pool Creatures

The slide show on creatures you can find in a tide pool peeked our interest sufficiently that the four of us went on the Island & Oceans Visitor Center’s beach walk on Bishop’s beach. The low tide is at it’s lowest for the year this week so it’s a great time for tide pool walks. We saw sea stars, a decorator crab, two types of sea cucumbers, Christmas Anemones, Chitons, a sea slug and many more things.

Fishing Results: Fish 3, Colin and Ed 0 (still no fish)

Tide pool combers.

Pacific Lance. These fish bury themselves in the sand when the tide goes out and literally pop out of the sand as the tide begins to come back in.

Seafarer's Memorial.

One of the interesting places on the Homer Spit.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Successful Clamming, Unsuccessful Fishing

Ed and Colin decided to try clamming on the beach where we are camped. After about 2 hours they came back with 20 or so clams. Zaph didn’t mind that his dad was digging out on the beach (which he would have been happy to help with) because we went across the road to the sandy beach and I let him loose. Nothing is happier than a Zaph let loose on a sandy beach — sand to skid on, water to splash through, gulls to chase. Life can’t get much better. After lunch Margaret and I headed into town to the Islands and Ocean Visitor Centre well the guys headed out fishing. When we got to the centre there was a sign that indicated a session about clams was going on in the Discovery Room. Perfect timing, Margaret would be able to identify the clams that the guys dug up. Good news and bad news.... some of the clams were Little Necks clams, very good to eat and safe and some of the clams were Butter clams, very good to eat but maybe not safe. Last year the oysters in the bay tested positive for a toxin called PSP which meant it was probably also in the clams. Little Neck clams get rid of the toxin in a couple of weeks but Butter clams can take up to 2 years to get rid of the toxin. The toxin can kill you if don’t get to a hospital and on a respirator in time. With this diagnosis even Colin readily agreed to throw the clams back into the bay — not worth the risk! Margaret and I also saw a slide show on local tide pool life. On the way back to the trailers, Margaret and I stopped at a spot that had some shops. We talked to one of the carvers there — very interesting man. He had carved a sea otter with a baby sea otter on its stomach out of one piece of wood. Another carving was based on an Eskimo legend — it was of a woman with a seal and several fish around her – Margaret really liked that one.

Fishing Results: Fish 2, Colin and Ed 0 (no fish again!).

Our view from the trailer .... I think the metal is some kinda of modern art. (It actually is easy to miss looking at the metal and see the gorgeous scenery around us).

The view from the Islands and Oceans Vistors Center. The mountains are across the bay.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

What Fishing Line Do I Need?

Today was a lazy day, Margaret did some laundry (oops — Splash had an accident on the bed) and I did stuff on the internet. It’s very convenient that the laundromat is also an espresso shop and is a WiFi hot spot. Ed and Colin were suppose to go fishing but after Colin had one look at Ed’s fishing line they spent the better part of the day looking for heavier fishing line and other gear. They succeeded in getting Ed not only hi-tec line, but a spare heavy duty pole and reel. as well both bought clamming tools and new hip wader boots. Look out fish!

End of day fishing Results: Fish 1, Colin and Ed 0 (no fish).

The boys hard at work --- love tummy rubs!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Great Clam Diggers

The low tide was quite low today so it was the time to dig clams — the campground had filled up with potential clam diggers. A couple of trailers down from us were a couple of women with a passel of kids (the oldest one was under 10, the youngest was in a back pack). Rain coats and boots were put on, pails and shovels grabbed and off they marched to the beach. On their return I was told that they had managed to dig up 3 clams — not the best haul but I bet they had fun. The beach was loaded with people digging clams.

However, the ever ready for action pair of world renown fishermen, Ed and Colin, quickly jumped into action, and acquired fishing licences then dug around in the trailers looking for tools to dig clams. With the cleaning bucket and a camping shovel in hand, and after many hours of effort they succeeded, returning with not one, not three, but at least 15 clams! In their minds a great success, given that they had to ask others how to do it. Best of all, there was worry whatsoever about exceeding the catch limit; that would have been 120 clams in total.

After lunch we decided to head for Homer the end of the road south of Anchorage. We were surprised to find that Homer had lots of room in the trailer parks (public and private) — I guess everyone was up by Soldotna and Kenai. As Ed and Colin have purchased 7 day fishing licenses we’ve decided to stay for a week — seems like a long time to stay in one spot (but it’ll be nice).

The fishermen a couple of clams.

The mountains across the bay.

The small boat harbour in Homer.

A large (probably fishing) boat. There were hundreds of sea gulls hanging around the boat and dock.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Fishing Season in Kenai

Unless you are a fisher person try to avoid Kenai in July. One area of Kenai experiences the phenomenon call “Combat Fishing”. The fisher people are lined up along the bank of a river, shoulder to shoulder and there is another line of fisher people behind them. Apparently this is quite the site. And I thought fishing was suppose to be relaxing.

The description of the town of Kenai sounded very inviting in the milepost guide. You could watch Beluga whales from the bluffs, see volcanoes (they haven’t erupted for awhile) across the bay and visit old Russian churches in town. Sounded good to me go so we headed there this morning. Unfortunately, the guide failed to mention how busy it is in July. We tried a couple of campgrounds and they were all full ... one woman explained to Ed that any place near a river would be full. Looking down the cliffs where the whale watching was suppose to be resulted in seeing not whales but hundreds of fisher people lining the shore. It was an incredible site though I would have preferred to see a whale! Well, we gave up on Kenai and decided to head south towards Homer and stop at Clam Gulch State Recreation Area. Colin has an urge to dig up some clams. We arrived at the campground and only 4 of the 116 sites were occupied. Even though it was parking lot style we decided to stay as the price was only $10. In this area not only do they dig for clams they “net fish” for salmon. When we walked down to the beach we found encampments of people. They had trailers or huts on the beach, trucks with boat trailers, boats and of course nets for catching the salmon. The nets are strung out in the water and held in place with buoys. The boats would go out to the net lines and take the fish out of the nets.
Oh, a lot more people arrived in the campground over the course of the day.

Smells good! Can I roll in it?

Fisherman encampment on the beach.

Now these are big rocks. At high tide the rocks look much smaller.

Taking fish out of the nets at low tide --- you can just walk in.

That's a volcano on the other side of the bay.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Now That’s a Full Service Grocery Store

There’s one laundromat in Seward and the sign at the entrance says it all “Whiners not allowed. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone especially whiners.”. There’s lots of washers and dryers in the laundromat but about 1/3 third of them were out of order and there were a lot of residents and campers wanting to use them — a little scrambling but no fights broke out. As the going price was double what we paid in Anchorage you would have thought that they could afford to fix the machines!

Another rainy day another drive. This time we were headed for the other side of the Kenai peninsula. As we didn’t leave Seward till 4:30pm we decided that 120 miles would be enough for one day and we would stop at the Fred Meyer store in Soldotna for the night (the milepost guide indicated that it was OK with the store for RVs to stay overnight in the parking lot). Talk about a full service store: they have groceries, hardware, clothing, etc, and a gas station. They also had a dump station and a potable water source and allowed RVers to stay up to 3 days. Now there was a down side .... not far from us was a refrigerator trailer (the kind you haul food in) that was running and ran all night long. There were also at least 50 RVs in the parking lot so it was on the crowded side. But I can’t complain too much as the price was right — free!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Great Hike

It wasn’t raining this morning so the hike was on! After some indecision Colin decided to come on the hike as well. The Harding Ice Field is 500 square miles (1300 sq KM) with many glaciers coming off of it. The hike was 7.7 miles long (12.8 KM) with an estimated time of 6 to 8 hours. The hike had been described to Colin as a “good hike” by “Stan the Park Ranger”. We were very proud of Colin as he managed to do the entire hike — even if he complained a lot ... he did it! Colin is thinking about putting a contract out on Stan. Some spots of the trail were a bit rough as you needed to use all fours to scrambled up rocks (at least Colin and I did) and was up to a 30 percent grade at some other spots along the trail. The total ascent was 868 meters. We hiked through a section of forest then bush, followed by tundra and finally snow and stone. The views at the top made the effort worth while. It was incredible to look out and see snow (with a few mountains poking through) as far as you could see. Looking down on Exit Glacier was also amazing – I certainly don’t want to fall down one of the crevices! On the way to the top we saw several marmots, a herd of 17 sheep, one lone sheep and several little brown birds (LBJ’s). The birds and marmots did not appear to have any fear of people. The marmot was sitting on a rock and when we got closer it jump from the rock went under some brush. As we walked past we could have reached down and grabbed it’s tail. I think it thought that if he couldn’t see us we couldn’t see him. On the way down we stopped at a scenic overlook and were enjoying a much deserved water break. I looked over at Colin and not 50 feet away was a female black bear and her cub. The bears were moving pretty fast and the cameras had to be grabbed so we didn’t get the best shots but it was pretty exciting. A little further down the trail was saw a number of people standing on a bluff. As I was walking past them they called to say they were watching a black bear on the hill side. Sure enough there was a handsome fellow up the hill in some brush. When the bear seemed to disappear the group of people moved up the hill. We continued to watch for the bear and saw him moving up towards the trail were the people were heading. We were able to get the peoples attention and warn them. A couple of hikers coming down the trail almost ran into that bear!
Margaret, Zaph and Splash had a fun day at the campsite — I would have loved to have seen Margaret walking Splash, Zaph carrying two soccer balls.

Sure you want to go??


Just a few more miles..

The Ice fields

More ice


I though we left snow behind?

The cabin at the time

Made it to top

The Harding ice fields

The reason you don't want to walk on the ice

Momma bear and baby bear

Momma bear and baby bear leaving

That would be papa bear

Papa heading off to find some hikers.

Another mormot, this guy was on top of a hugh rock and would not leave

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rain, Rain Go Away to Ontario

Colin wanted to hike to the Harding Ice Field so we were going to do that today. Rain started at 8:15am and looked like it was going to continue for a long while (it was still drizzling when I went to bed at 11:00pm) so we decided to postpone the hike. Instead we went to the Alaska SeaLife Center. The SeaLife Center is a premier research, rehabilitation and public education center. The designers of the centre did a great job in making it child friendly. There are touch tanks, puzzles, question / answer board as well as the usual displays. On of the exhibits was a huge tank (depth of 21 feet) with a land section on the top (you could see the underwater section from the lower floor and a bit of the underwater and the land section from the upper floor). This exhibit contained puffins, common murres and some other sea birds as well as fish. In this tank you could watch the puffins and murres “flying” under water (the birds have been know to swim hundreds of feet under water). I watched one puffin swimming under water then pop out of the water by about a foot when it surfaced. Another interesting exhibit was the octopus and her babies. Over a hundred of the babies had hatched in the past week. The babies were about 1/4 inch long and 1/8 inch in diameter and mostly transparent.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Check Puffins Off the List

We had decided that if it was nice this morning we were going on a boat tour. Well the sun was shining and the sky was clear and there was room on the “Captains Choice Tour” so off we went. This time the Werners did not stay behind to do laundry. The Captains Choice Tour means the captain decides where he wants to go based on weather, where the birds and sea mammals are and the mood he is in. We had a wonderful time. We saw tufted puffins, horned puffins, common murres, pigeon guillemots, bald eagles, cormorants, sea otters, harbour seals, stellar sea lions, porpoises and humpback whales. Ed was very happy to see the puffins as one of his goals for the past couple of years was to photograph puffins. We were amazed at how fast the puffins could fly. The sea otters are adorable, they lie on their backs and float around – except for the one we saw munching on a puffin! We saw humpback whales three times and were lucky to see a total of five whales. They are magnificent creatures and were as long as our boat. Porpoises are fun loving animals. The captain had to drive the boat fairly fast so the porpoises would stay and play with us. When another boat entered the area the porpoises deserted our boat and headed off to play with the new boat. We also visited two glaciers. One of the glaciers ended in the water so we were able to see it “calving” (calving is when chunks of ice fall off of the glacier and land in the water making baby icebergs). The calving was particularly interesting. The ice made a thunderous noise as it fell into the water, and at times, when the boat had drifted away from the glacier, you still heard the thunder even if you missed seeing the ice fall. The water around the boat was full a small icebergs. Margaret said the trip was great except for the last fifteen minutes. I think that had something to do with the water that splashed over the side of the boat and left her sitting in a puddle of water. Lucky for me I had just moved to the bow of the boat!

Another correction to the blog. In the entry of July 7 I indicated that the Ruth glacier was 32 miles deep. That should be 32 miles LONG. I remembered the pilot mentioning 32 miles but as it has been pointed out to me it couldn’t have been the depth of the glacier. She did say that if the glacier was removed from the area around Mt. McKinley that it would be deeper than the Grand Canyon. Some days the proof reader just isn’t doing his job! (note from Proof reader... Job posting, proofer reader position available, please email me)

The first view of a glacier from the boat, note the dark lines of stone where these two glacier flows merge

Harbour seals on a small island

a closeup view of a balded eagle

The three archs

Yes... Finally, good views Horned Puffins

Note the boat (at least a 35 ft) at base of the glacier, this one is about 400 ft high

Some of the ice flow from the glacier

Dolphins playing in the wake of the bow

Puffins in flight

Puffin in takeoff mode

An almost mature male sea lion

more seal lions

Tuffed puffins

Common murres

A hump back wale heading back down, now you see 'em

Then you don't

A sea otter in their most common position, resting on their backs

Thursday, July 14, 2005

How Did I Miss the Bear?

This evening we were told that a black bear walked through our campsite around 8:30am. I don’t know how Zaph and I missed it as we were getting ready to go for our walk. Oh well maybe it was better that Zaph and the black bear didn’t meet. The Exit Glacier is approximately 10 miles outside of Seward, so this was our first stop of the day. As it is in a National Park, dogs are not allowed on the trails so poor Zaph had to wait in the truck while we hiked up to the Glacier. A drive around town was the next item on the clipboard of fun. My "spotting eye" was working well and I found a juvenile bald eagle sitting on a dead tree. We also saw some people catching some nice big salmons from the shore. Zaph was happy when we went for a long walk along the waterfront and then back along the main street.

Exit Glacier

Our young eagle just before takeoff

a view of the river flowing from the exit glacier area

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Oh My God..... I parked the Trailer!!!

Today we drove to Seward which is about 100 miles south of Anchorage. A lovely drive even in the rain. We checked out a couple of campgrounds on the way into town and rejected them due to parking lot settings and decided to take a look at the town campground. Ed and Colin parked the trailers at the side of the road and walked in. They decided that this campground was much better and radioed us on the walkie-talkies to bring the trailers in. I watched in amazement while Margaret drove her trailer into the campground. Ed was standing at the side of the road waving me in, so I got in the drivers side, adjusted the seat and put the truck into drive. I really thought that once I was in the campground he would ask me to get out of the truck and he would park it. Was I ever wrong! He just started giving me directions. It took a couple of tries to get the correct terminology (anyone who knows me well knows I get left and right confused). Since the steering wheel is circular, clockwise and counter clockwise worked for me. Anyway, I managed (with directions from Ed and encouragement from Zaph) to park the trailer. Next I got to set the front jacks, unlock the hitch pin, and unhitched the trailer. Unlocking the hitch pin was fun — I’m too short to reach it so I had to climb into the truck box and wiggle my way around the trailer till I could reach it. Next time I think I’ll just get my step stool out of the trailer! After all the hard work of parking and unhitching the trailers Margaret and I decided that we needed to be taken out for dinner. A drive around town resulted in the sighting of a pair of bald eagles sitting at the top of a spruce tree.

I did it, I did it, I did it!!!

Our first photo of a balded eagle

Please, oh Please.... Can I have some??

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Happy Zaphod Day!

Zaphod is 5 years old today.... doesn’t look a day over four! Splash brought Zaph his birthday present — a new soccer ball and Zaph shared his birthday treat of miniature hamburger patties ---- mmmm good! Today was another easy day, we toured around downtown Anchorage, saw some humongous salmon in a creek and went for a hike near the campground.

Two hairy guys and yes it's the new soccer ball already well loved.
Let me know what you think of the new Ed. Should he keep the beard or not? Maybe a dye job would help. Ed doesn't have any problems getting the senior discount these days!

Downtown Anchorage .... it's not far to anywhere!

We think it's a magpie ... I guess we should look it up in the bird book.

Big salmon heading up river to spawn in Ship Creek downtown Anchorage. This was by a dam and luckily for the fish they don't let the fisherman get to close to the dam.

Monday, July 11, 2005


After an exciting visit to the local laundromat, we headed to the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. Ed really enjoyed touring this museum. Zaph and I liked watching the float planes landing on Lake Hood. The next stop was Earthquake Park a Knik Arm lookout and a memorial to the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake that hit Anchorage and the area south of it. A lot of damage was done to Anchorage but both Valdez and Seward were wiped out. A Tsunami swept the port of Seward away and a another Tsunami topped with burning oil destroyed what was left of Valdez. Valdez was moved 4 miles when they rebuilt it. Further down the road is a second look out Point Woronzof. From here you can see the Anchorage sky line and watch airplanes land.

1944 Grumman Goose --- still fully operational

Point Woronzof --- Zaph run quick it's trying to land on you!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

One of Those Boring Days

Today was a travel / errand day. We left Talkeetna and drove the 100 miles to Anchorage where we camped at Centennial Campground (it’s run by the city). We found Costco, Walmart and a grocery store.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Moose Dropping Festival

No, they don’t drop moose from airplanes but they do have a contest that use the moose droppings.
Ed, Zaph and I walked into town and made it in time to see the parade. The parade was very similar to Campbellville Christmas parades that we’ve attended with the exception that they didn’t have a tow truck in the parade (but they did have 3 fire trucks and an ambulance). Zaph had a great time as many people came up and petted him. One man even took his picture .... I think he was impressed by Zaph’s Canada Flag bandana (Gwen thanks again for the bandana). One woman and her son stopped and we had a long chat about dogs and life. Unfortunately, we left before the main event which was going to occur on the Sunday (the 10th) the “Mountain Mother” contest. “The stop watch begins when a Mountain Mother, wearing hip waders and carrying a backpack with a 10-pound baby doll on her back, “crosses the Susitna River” on a 20 foot log and stepping on stones while carrying two bags of groceries. Once on the “other side”, she puts down the groceries to chop wood into even quarters. She load the quarters into the wheelbarrow and dumps them out at the wood pile. She blows up a balloon, puts it on an archery target and attempts to hit the bull’s-eye at 60 feet with a 30-pound bow. Using a hammer, she pounds a nail flush into a 2X4 board. Then she casts a fishing line 100 feet, landing it between two markers and reels it back. By now, the “baby” needs changing, so she changes the baby’s diaper and washes and hangs it on the clothesline. A Mountain Mother’s chores are not complete until she prepares the traditional cherry pie. She fills a pie pan with whipped cream, places a cherry on the top and carries it to the finish line where she rings the dinner bell to stop the time clock”. Last years winner completed the course in 2 minutes and 58 seconds. ---- Do you think you could beat her?

The crowd awaits the be event

In the park they had folk music and many vendor stands

Moose Dropping!

Nothing like a nice swim after a hard day of work

Dad, could you find me a bigger stick?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Jet Boat Safari

The 2nd tour Ed and I booked was a Jet Boat Safari for 8:30 this morning. We walked over to the boat dock and saw 50 passenger jet boats and 16 passenger jet boats. Ed hoped that there weren’t too many people on the safari and we would go on the smaller boat. Boy, did he get his wish. There was one other passenger, a gentleman from New Hampshire that teaches physics at Plymouth College (actually he is the physics department!). The riverboat captain, Jacques was a young man in his mid twenties who was raised in Northern New York state and moved to Alaska about 7 years ago when he finished college. Jacques drives riverboats in the summer for his uncle and works in the oil fields in the winter (the oil company lays them off in the spring). The oil company flies the workers in and out of the oil fields. They work a 100 hour week for two weeks, then get two weeks off. Anyway the boat ride was a lot of fun and we got to see Mt. McKinley again but it was much smaller and farther away this time. This boat ride gave us a different perspective of the area as the part of the river we drove up was away from populated areas. We didn’t see much in the way of wild life except for some terns already on their way south to Antarctica and a couple of juvenile bald eagles. Later in the day we walked into Talkeetna and checked out the town. There were several restaurants and many gift stores but this was to be expected as visiting this town is included in some Princess cruises (several of their busses were there).

Cast Off....

When you are not in an airplane, this is how Mt. McKinley looks

An eagle's net, a heavy hail storm a few weeks prior had killed the chicks, so the nest at this point is empty

Guess who

Thursday, July 07, 2005

It’s a bird.... it’s superman... no it’s Ed and Frances in an airplane!

Our goal for tonight is Talkeetna. This is a small town on a road just off the main highway. It’s about 140 miles from Denali National Park. Again, we stop at several view points looking for Mt. McKinley — still no luck. Once we are settled into the campground, Ed and I headed over to the campground office to ask questions about boat rides and flight seeing. The woman at the office recommended Talkeetna Aero Services and the McKinley Summit Tour. When she called them, they had room on their 5:00pm flight. Oh my god.... we were going flying! The flight was an amazing experience and this is from the person who was very green and had very wobbly legs when she got out of the airplane after the flight. The pilot was a young woman (we’re guessing mid to late twenties) who seemed very competent and appeared to really enjoy flying. Ed happily sat in the co-pilot seat and I sat behind the pilot and the remaining 5 passengers sat in the seats behind me. We flew from Talkeetna airport towards Mt. McKinley gaining altitude steadily until we reached 20,000 feet and were at the height of the summit (we had to put oxygen masks on at 14,000 feet). We circled the mountain a couple of times, had a look at high base camp (used by the mountain climbers) at around 18,000 feet and slowly started to descend. It was an incredible feeling to be flying between the mountains looking at the mountainsides and the glaciers. At one point it felt like the plane was on a stick and was being moved slowly around the mountain. One of the glaciers is 32 miles deep and the top of the glacier is covered in rocks and silt scrapped from the mountainside as the glacier moves. We also flew the base of the glacier where the melting water spurts up starting a glacial river. Before Ed and I went on our flight we drove out to the airport and back to the campground. While we were driving we missed an earthquake. Colin and Margaret were in their trailer when the quake “hit”.... Colin ran out of the trailer to yell at whoever hit his truck and pushed it into the trailer. Of course no one had hit the truck. Later, I heard that the earthquake was 4 on the Richter scale and the epicenter was about 17 miles away. Oh, Colin and Margaret did laundry while Ed and I went flying.

The memorial to Alaskan veterans

OK, you try taking photos, while wearing a headset, oxygen mask and sunglasses!

Mt McKinley showing above the clouds

another view of Mt. McKinley

Other mountains

The Ruth Glacier

Time to return to earth

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

OK, So Who Took Mt. McKinley?

We are leaving Denali National Park today and still need to fit a few things in. First we went back on to the highway to have a good look at the Nenana River. We were hoping to see some people rafting but I think we were either too early (9:00am) or trips were postponed due to the weather (yes it started to rain again). We went over to the visitors center where we watched a short film on Denali National Park and then we toured the exhibits. The visitor center is brand new just openned this summer. They’ve done a great job with the center and exhibits. The last item on the to do at Denali list was the Sled Dog Demonstration and luckily it stopped raining and started clearing up. First we took a 10 minute bus ride over to the kennels. We had about 20 minutes to walk around the kennels and meet the dogs. The ones that were available for petting were very friendly and couldn’t get enough attention — seemed a lot like Zaphy. We talked to the Manager of Kennels and she told us that the dogs live to about 14 years of age, work to about 9 years of age, can travel 30 miles a day when the trail is good and much more. The park ranger giving the demo told us the history of the kennels and then hitched up 5 dogs to a sled and drove it around a track. After the demonstration we drove head south towards Anchorage and stopped at all of the pull offs where the Milepost book indicated there was a view of Mt. McKinley. No sign of the mountain anywhere! After driving about 50 miles we stopped at a Wayside campground for the night. A Wayside campground is an extended rest area with a dozen or so campsites. Some sites will accommodate larger units like ours and some are for smaller units. Each site has a picnic table and a fire pit — not bad for free

Frances and the ranger in charge of the dog kennel discuss how best to pet a dog.

Another ranger attempts to "mush" the dogs

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Park Interior

Our shuttle bus driver imparted bits of information to us as we drove through the park. One piece of information was regarding the rivers. We had noticed wide river beds with streams of river going through them. I had assumed that the rivers filled in the spring run off but it turns out my assumption was incorrect. These wide rivers are glacial rivers. The river beds were created by the glacier and have no relationship to the volume of water.

Today we are took a shuttle bus into the interior of Denali National Park. We got up just after 5am so we could catch the 6:30am bus (Colin and Margaret are still wondering how I talked them into that) and yes it started raining. It rained on and off (but mostly on) for the 9 hours we were gone and then poured rain till 8:00pm. The park is very beautiful but unfortunately we did not get to see Mt. McKinley — OK that’s not too unusual as it is obscured at least 3 weeks a month. The bus we took went 64 miles into the park and we saw 4 bears, about a dozen Dall Sheep (including some babies), 3 moose, some caribou and an arctic ground squirrel. At one point the sun came out so Ed and I got off the bus and hiked for about an hour. We flagged down a bus and continued the drive back to the depot. When we got back to the campground I took Zaph for a well deserved walked around the campground. Two fellows standing staring down a path pointed out a cow Moose with her calf – may 25 feet away. Best view of an animal I’d had all day! A park ranger drove by and suggested that I get Zaph out of the area as the moose would think Zaph was a wolf and might charge him. It was hard for me to imagine anything being afraid of Zaph but we heeded her warning and headed back to the trailer where I exchanged Zaph for a camera. Even though it was raining I got some great shots.

Nice little teddy bear, a Grizzly (aka Brown bear)

Ed looking down the "ditch" of the narrow winding road into the park's interior.

A braided river, typical of most of the rivers in this glacial area, the water flow never gets strong enough to cut a deep path, so the water tends to form these many shallow flow paths in the wide cut made by glacers from many years ago

Some Caribou

A brown bear mother and almost mature cub

Dall Sheep

The Moose is Loose!!!
A cow and calf were going to make our campground their new home, lets see, no bears or wolves are permitted, losts of food, just strange two legged creatures and other odd life forms, Yep, nice place. The Park Rangers however had other ideas about where she should stay and worked on getting her to move on.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Denali National Park

Happy 4th of July! We arrived at Denali National Park today. And as to be expected it started raining just after we set up camp. Eventually the rain let up and we decided to explore the park. You can drive the first 15 miles of the park road but after that the road is closed unless you have a permit (i.e. a tour / shuttle bus, camping at the campground further in the park (once you go in your vehicle is there for a minimum of 3 days)). We drove the 15 miles stopping to enjoy the views, watched a moose and visited a ranger cabin. At the 15 mile mark there is a trail that follows a river. Zaph couldn’t believe it but dogs aren’t allowed on any trails in the park so Ed and I walked the trail on our own (Zaph was very sad). Part way along the trail we saw 2 marmots — now these guys are cute, further along we saw a number of ground squirrels.

the start of the "Tundra" of the Alaskan range

A pair of Marmots at play

Sunday, July 03, 2005

People are Amazing

We decided to head towards Denali National Park today. We stopped at a small town called Nenana. The sun was shining and we had lots of time so we decided to walk around town. The town is at the junction of the Tanana River and the Nenana River and is known for the barges that traverse up and down the river. During our walk we came across a barbeque celebrating the 4th of July and the fact that hostesses parents had come to town for a visit. The hostess came up to us and invited us to get in line and have some food — do you think we were staring too hungrily at the food. Incredibly nice people. A fellow we met in Fairbanks told us about a wayside campground on the way to Denali National Park. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the campground and ended up 8 miles north of Denali National Park at the Denali RV Park & Motel. I noticed that the park map indicated a trail so Zaph and I decided to try it out for our evening walk.. The trail took us up the mountain behind the park where we had a fabulous view and a chat with a squirrel (he wasn’t very happy with us). When I got back to the trailer, Colin and Margaret were putting on their hiking boots ready to make the trek (they had seen Zaph and I up the mountain) — the sun was shining so the picture taking would be good (it was raining when we arrived at the RV park). So all of us headed up the mountain trail. Colin and Ed got some pictures of a ground squirrel and some great scenery shots. As we were enjoying the scenery Colin noticed a message on his camera — No CF card. He didn’t have a memory card in his camera so all the pictures he took today were bits and bytes in cyberspace! Colin was not a happy camper. Ed had a spare memory card so Colin was able to take some pictures and did not have to suffer the fate of hiking the mountain again.

the barbeque at Nenana

An artic ground squirrel giving us "Hell" for being in their backyard

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Arctic Circle

How could we be so close to the arctic circle and not go (it’s about 200 miles from Fairbanks)? This morning Ed, Zaph and I got up early and headed north. Unfortunately it started raining shortly after we left and the mountains were foggy in spots. We thought about turning around but we decided to persevered. And a good thing we did as the weather cleared and we had a lovely day. The first 80 miles of the trip were on paved highway but the next part was gravel. Ed was in his glory — a 4 wheel drive vehicle without a trailer attached and rally roads. I just held on tight. We made it to the arctic circle in 4 hours (only 1 stop on the way up). The arctic circle itself isn’t too exciting — no flashing dotted line just a sign. The trip back was a slower (5 ½ hours) as we stopped to enjoy the scenery. At the arctic circle there were more trees than I had expected, just south was more tundra like conditions (this was what I had expected), some areas had fairly short trees (that means there is perma frost in the ground) and others had taller trees (less or no perma frost in the ground), another area was full of tors (rocks strewn out of the ground by mother nature) and as we got closer to Fairbanks large round hills covered in evergreens. The road we drove was built when they built the Alaska Pipeline, so we also saw a lot of the pipeline. The pipeline is above ground a lot of the time but is underground in some places.

The drive up the Elliot Highway.

The Dalton highway. That's dust behind the truck not water.

We made it to the Artic Circle.

The truck got dirty! It was much worse by time we got back to Fairbanks.

A Tor --- an outcropping of rock.

Another view of a Tor.

Zaph enjoying the view.

Ed really like the Tor's -- an art shot.

Frances in the rocks.

The Dalton Highway with the Alaska Pipeline beside it.

A close up view of the pipeline.

Me and Zaph looking at the river.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Canada Day — What did you do to celebrate?

Happy Canada Day! Ed and I forgot to buy a flag but luckily Margaret had extra Canada Day decorations so she lent us some which we happily displayed. The Eielson Air Force Base is 26 miles outside of Fairbanks and they offer tours on Fridays. As today was Friday we decided to go (we had telephoned the base on Monday to find out the details). When we got to the designated spot no one else was waiting so we decided to drive across the road to the front gates and check things out. Turns out the tour was cancelled as the base had a “down day” because Monday is the 4th of July holiday. It would have been nice if they had mentioned that when we telephoned. As we were driving through the North Pole we decided to stop at Santa's House . It's a huge store with everything Christmas you can imagine. Returning to the campground we decided to go on the “Riverboat Discovery” tour. It was a fantastic tour ... these people really understand the phrase “customer service”. Shuttle buses were provided to make it easier for you to get the riverboat and got you there with enough extra time to explore the gift shop. The current riverboat captains (two of them were there) look like they are in their early twenties (they’re grandchildren of the founder of the company). An ex-radio man was the commentator and he did a fabulous job. He told us about the sites we saw as well as about many of the homes we passed along the river. The riverboat company arranged for a float plane to take off and land beside the boat, a “pull over” to talk to Susan Butcher (she won the Iditarod dog sled race 4 times) and see some of her dogs in action, another “pull over” at a fish camp to see a fish wheel (used to catch salmon) and how a salmon is prepared for smoking and then a stop at an “Native village”. They had 4 stations at the village where you were told information about life in the village. One of the stations was a woman who works for Susan with some of her sled dogs. It was very interesting seeing the dogs up close and getting to pet them..... these ones were all big sucks. And after all the things to see they provided free coffee and donuts as well as a taste of their smoked salmon (the salmon was for sale in cans). On the shuttle bus we met a group of six people, 4 from Cambridge and 2 from BC (they use to live in Kitchener). It’s a small world!

Me and my friend... they would let me take him home!

Ed and Bullwinkle.

That's one big Santa.... you better be good or he'll come and stomp on you.

The riverboat proprietors.

The riverboat --- Discovery III

The float plane taking off.

The sled dogs in action pulling an ATV with out an engine but with good breaks. She said you can teach a sled dog to pull in 2 minutes but it takes 2 months to teach them to stop.

Another "pull off" was a visit with some caribou.

The Chena River meets the Tanana River.

The fish wheel.

One of the guides shows off a fur parka based on a traditional native design

A view of the river.

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