40,000 miles of fulltiming–
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR WONDERFUL SON JOE!!!
Last night we found a boondock site in a former campground (Glenn Highway MM A 54.5) using the “Milepost” book. The road in the campground is gravel, dirt and potholes so it’s a bit bumpy but what a reward. Found a beautiful, flat, site in the woods and settled in for the night. A little exploring shows this to be a large, beautiful area and there were only two other boondockers in there with us. Very quiet, well off the highway site…lovely. Only wildlife we saw here was one fast, black bunny scamper across one of the dirt roads. We read into the night and left early this morning after our veggie omelets. The temp. this morning was 44 degrees F.
We learned to boondock from reading and listening to Kay and Joe Peterson (the founders of the Escapees RV Club) and from reading Tioga George’s description of “Day Camping” and “Night Camping” (http://vagabonders-supreme.net/boondocking.htm ) as well as from just doing it and learning from our mistakes. It’s a great way to see beautiful places, doesn’t lock you into reservations and a schedule and, of course, the price is right (free). We are well equipped for boondocking with our self contained Lazy Daze motor home (bathroom, potable water, solar energy, heater, cooking facilities and a toasty bed).
Before we found our boondock site last night we dumped at the Chevron Gas Station, filled our fresh water tank with potable water. All a free service provided by Chevron so we bought our propane from them and filled our tank for $3.75/gal.
Early Sunday morning travel on the well traveled Glenn Highway is a blessing. There was essentially no traffic so we just meandered along, enjoying the sights. We stop so often to just drink in the beauty and take pictures that progress is very slow. Oh, this being retired is great, making us lucky enough to not be in a hurry to go anywhere, in fact when someone races by us we feel sorry for them knowing either they are a type A personality or on a schedule. The views from the Glenn Highway are fabulous as they are most places in Alaska, from Hatcher Pass Road to our turn south down the Richardson Highway was one beautiful view after another. Most of the way we could see the Chugach Mountain Range and soon after we had left that range behind us, looming in front of us was the Wrangell Mountain Range. A definite WOW!
The Matanuska Glacier can easily be seen from the Glenn Highway. It extends down out of the Chugach Mountain Range and is breathtaking to behold. It’s 27 miles long and two to four miles wide. Huge, beautiful blue, it is fairly stable so hopefully this one will not recede too much as the global climate warms. Even at a distance, you can feel the cold temperature coming off the glacier so it was back to a jacket for me.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park–
We stopped at the NP visitor center to make travel plans, check road conditions, and get an overview of the park. We are in the process of deciding weather to continue on down to Valdez and go into the park on our way back or go into the park tomorrow and put off Valdez for a few days. Two great choices and we will do both. Just need to decide in what order (mainly depends on the weather).
It stays almost full daylight well into the night now so you feel like you should and could be doing something when you usually would be settling down for the night. So last night, around 10:00pm we went to Northern Energy and used their free dump, the free hose to wash down the Lazy Daze and filled the tank with gas. The #1 pump works with a credit card after the station is closed and gas was $4.60 per gal. reg. and the dump plus car wash was free with fill-up. Next, we drove north of town and found a boondock site near a pond. Though just off the Alaska Highway, the road is very lightly traveled and we slept well. The GPS location N 63.36375 degrees W 143.41366 degrees. We found it by just reading the MilePost book for that stretch of road. It was 45 degrees and overcast when we woke this morning. Driving along the road from Tok to Delta Junction we saw black bear and moose just grazing along side the road. Got our moose sightings in but have yet to see grizzlies or eagles.
Delta Junction, Alaska
This is the end point of the Alaska Highway and at the visitors center there’s a milepost for that. We had lunch at the visitor center in our RV though there’s a grassy area and picnic tables next to the visitors center. Just up the road is the Historical Rika’s Roadhouse. It is a very interesting museum and period buildings to tour. We spent a few hours poking around and stopped to have a piece of their freshly made strawberry/rhubarb pie that we heard so much about. Oh, yes, it was good. Heard their soup was also good but we had just finished lunch. As soon as we were leaving, in drove a whole tour bus full of people. Glad we missed them.
Arrived in Fairbanks this evening and spent a few hours touring the visitor center and talking with the knowledgeable staff there. Planned the next few days of touring with the visitor center’s help. Will need to get gas here but it looks like it is running around $4.30 per gal. reg. Not too bad after what we paid in Canada.
This will be Memorial Day Weekend, so if any readers served in the military…THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.
Left Eagle this morning early in an effort to dodge any traffic on the Taylor Highway. Temp. this morning was 54 degrees F. at our boondock site of the past two nights right next to the public library in town. The tire is holding air and is at a good pressure so should be fine. The Taylor Highway did not improve while we were in Eagle. If anything the highway got worse. About 25 miles south of Eagle the highway signs said “road narrows” “one lane”. Ok, so we didn’t think this road was wide enough to call it two lanes in the first place and now they are saying it is going to be down to one lane? Yikes!!! Good news, we didn’t meet anyone coming toward us on the narrow parts of the road. Bad news, when we were nearing Chicken, Alaska we noticed our tire was again loosing air. Tried adding air and it must have helped because we made it to Tok, Ak. without any problems where we had it fixed (again).
Stopped to see Chicken, Alaska. Touring Chicken took about five minutes but we did spend time talking to the gift shop owner and I bought a little knit jacket. Of course, I didn’t need it but got it at a good sale price and I will use it as I am amost always cold. Got gas in Chicken and paid $4.89 per gal. reg. We stopped for lunch at a picnic area just under two miles south of Chicken in a very nice spot overlooking The Mosquito Creek at the Mosquito Fork Bridge Wayside. There are picnic tables here and a barbecue. There are rough areas on the road from Chicken to Tok, Alaska but they are tame compared to the last 40 miles of the Taylor Highway into the town of Eagle.
Arrived in Tok and went directly to Northern Energy (the tire fix-it place). They took us in immediately, took off the tire and tested it carefully for leaks. The valve stem extender had loosened again and they just refilled it with air and tightened the extender. They think the rough road just shook the extender loose until it started leaking. So, for now, all is right with the world. The visitor center is in a beautiful building and they are quite helpful. We spent some time looking at their displays and chatting with the women who works there. The mean temp. in Tok is -19 degrees F. in January so you won’t find us here then!!! The average high in July in Tok is 72 degrees F. so good summer temps. if you don’t like it too hot. Next–Fairbanks!
So where do you go for small town living, far from most of the outside world, nice and helpful people, and well socialized/friendly kids. Eagle, Alaska would meet all these requirements. The “outdoors” is outside your door and everyone knows everyone. We’re here in late May when everything is green, lush, and warm enough for short sleeves but the mosquitoes aren’t too bad yet. The temperature ranges from a high of about 90 degrees F. in the summer to a low of about -60 degrees F. in the winter.
Unless home schooled, the kids of all ages attend the same school The local library has free Wi-fi for all to use and there’s a lot of history in this neck of the woods Historic Fort Egbert is adjacent to Eagle campground and is interesting. The town used to have a fairly good tourist industry to add to the town coffers but fires, floods and a washed out access road put an end to that for now.
Late yesterday, Jerry noticed that one of our inside dualies on the Lazy Daze was flat. He thought it was the valve stem leaking air. This tire has been checked and worked on repeatedly but the leaky valve stem apparently didn’t go away. Jerry worked on it last night and today and it was looking good. One more turn to tighten the valve stem so it didn’t leak and pshhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! The valve stem broke off. The folks in the town suggested we go to Eagle Trading Co. to have the tire dealt with and get a new valve stem. It was necessary to take the outside and inside dualies off to get to the inside dualy’s valve stem. About an hour later…done! That was very nice of them to fit us in and work on the problem immediately. This was money well spent. There’s no emergency road service in Eagle, Alaska. We’ll stay the night here and make sure we have a functioning tire before we brave the Taylor Highway. The thought of changing a flat on that narrow mountain road sounds most unappealing.
Boondocking / Leaving Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
Last night we decided to boondock across the Yukon River from Dawson City. The only way to get to the Top of The World Highway into Alaska is to cross the Yukon River. There’s no bridge across. Only the free ferry service is available from Dawson City to get to the Top of The World Highway. Our RV fit on the ferry easily and took the entrance and exit from the ferry well but there are some warnings if your RV is quite big. If you come to Dawson City with a very large rig you might want to check the ferry restrictions in advanced. We took the ferry across and boondocked on the other side in an unmarked pull-off. We were not bothered during the night and woke to a temp, of 44 degrees F.
Top of The World Hwy. Adventure # 1
We started up the Top of The World road and immediately you can see why it got its’ name. The views were fabulous. Soon into the drive we came to a detour due to a huge avalanche that probably won’t be cleared for a week or more. We were the only ones on the road at the time. Followed the detour sign down a rather rough, dirt road that was a bit scary. It was a leap of faith to even take such a road but it was OK and it, too, had wonderful views. Of course, we went down this dirt road very slowly and were quite surprised to be passed by a car that was going very fast. Even though the car was gone quickly, we were reassured that the detour we were taking must be OK because (we reasoned) no one would drive a road like that so fast if they didn’t know where they were going. Sure enough, the detour came back up the mountain and rejoined the Top of The World road.
Top of The World Hwy. Adventure # 2
After our detour that returned us to Top of The World Hwy., we drove along enjoying the fantastic views. Then, another road closure. But there was a dirt road right next to the “Road Closed” sign. We followed a truck camper with Canadian plates down an adjacent dirt road. About ten cars had passed us so since the road was closed and we didn’t see anyone that had turned around and come back we figured they must have gone down the dirt road too. Uh, Oh, back up the dirt road detour came the camper. They (Mike and Janet from New Brunswick) asked us why we were going down the dirt road. Uh, we were following you folks on the detour road. Actually, there was no “detour” sign, they pointed out, and were concerned enough to turn around ask us. OK, well the last dirt road worked, so we all continued down this second dirt road. A bumpy ride was had by all but when we crossed that little wooden bridge (see picture) all bets were off. Luckily, there was a local there to ask (he was the only one we had seen and we were glad he was there). “Yes the dirt road we were on does lead up to The Top of The World Highway but there’s 12 feet of snow on it just up the way!” So back up the dirt road we went retracing our trip and by the time we got back to The Top of The World Highway it was opened. They had cleared the second, smaller avalanche. Well that was an interesting adventure. Don’t want to repeat it but we’re glad we had that experience. Yep! I know! We are nuts! But that’s part of the fun.
The Top of The World Highway is not too difficult to drive in good weather conditions like we had today. A sunny day, no rain, and a dry gravel/dirt road. The views are too wonderful to really capture in a photograph though we tried.
Spent a nice morning today at Heart O’ the Hills campground. Just had to find out the name of the yellow plant we saw yesterday so we returned to the Visitor Center for Olympic NP, Port Angeles to ask the Ranger. Showed them the picture and they declared it Skunk Cabbage. Skunk Cabbage!?! I saw a lot of Skunk Cabbage in the woods behind my house growing up outside of Boston. Our Skunk Cabbage back East didn’t look anything like the Pacific Northwest Skunk Cabbage. Turns out the Skunk Cabbage back East and the Skunk Cabbage in the West are related but don’t look alike. Ah Ha ! Learn something new every day. We took a hike just outside the Olympic NP Ranger Station of Port Angeles, beautiful.
Olympic National Park
We left Port Townsend this morning in a light rain and traveled toward Port Angeles. Passed the town of Sequim and drove to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles. The ranger suggested we drive to Hurricane Ridge as it is the only place in the park you can see into the Olympic wilderness area. We started the seventeen mile drive, a 6 to 7% climb, and after about seven miles the whole area was covered in blowing clouds. We were thinking as we ascended into the clouds that we were not going to get to really see anything. Then, at about the sixteenth mile, the clouds cleared for a few minutes and we quickly pulled over to see an absolutely beautiful wilderness. We continued on up to the top of Hurricane Ridge and were rewarded with repeated instances of cloud clearing and beautiful views. There is a large visitor center at the top of Hurricane Ridge, unmanned but open to the public, lots of displays and wonderful views from the big windows overlooking the interior of the park.
Heart O’ The Hills Campground
Decided to camp for the night at the National Park campground called Heart O’ the Hills that is located at the beginning of the road that leads up to Hurricane Ridge. For $6/night (with our senior NP pass) we are camped among many beautiful, old growth trees. There is one other RV in the campground but we cannot see him from our site. The amazing thing here is that we get cell phone and internet access. I don’t know about TV as we rarely watch it. The campsite includes a picnic table & a fire pit but no hook-ups, of course. We arrived here just before dark and got set-up, which was good as when it is dark here it is really dark.
Part Two (Northern California)
We spent the morning in Chico, Ca. Went for a walk in Lower Bidwell Park and got some laundry done at Ann’s sister’s house. Then the rain started. We each bought water-proof hiking shoes and wool socks at a local sports supplies store in preparation for Alaska. Got gas at the Chico Costco for $3.99/gal. regular, added to our food larder and started driving north.
The afternoon found us traveling north on I 99 and cutting over to I 5 in Corning. It is still raining. We stopped in a rest stop in the Lake Shasta Area to stretch our legs and grab a few pictures. When we were young and had much more energy, we took two of our nephews plus our three kids and spent a week on a houseboat on Lake Shasta. Think the oldest child with us was 12 yrs. old so we have fond memories of Lake Shasta.
It is still raining a little. We’ll boondock overnight in a rest area near the town of Weed and take route 97 toward Klamath Falls, a place we’ve never visited. There’s a “Wind Advisory” north of Weed. and though the Lazy Daze is only 10′ 3″ tall we still present a broadside for the wind to try to push us around on the road.
A morning walk up Stilson Canyon in Chico, Ca.
A little overcast this morning. Perfect weather for a long walk up Stilson Canyon in Chico, Ca with two of Ann’s sisters. A chance for the three sisters to try to catch up on each other’s lives while walking in a pretty area with a few homes, large plots of land, horses and cattle grazing and birds singing their heart out.
Still boondocking in our Lazy Daze RV in Ann’s sister’s driveway. Will leave Chico in the morning to continue to meander north for our ”summer in Alaska” trip.