May 2006 News Letter Alaska Via Cassiar Journal | Page 2 | Page 3 | Wyoming Antelope | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6
I was up bright and early, and it was another gorgeous day. As I was banging around getting the stove set up and coffee going the ladies (who were camped next door) staggered out of their tent at the smell of coffee, so I shared it with them, in return after they powdered their noses and got dressed for the day, they made breakfast for everyone, scrambled eggs, biscuits, and sausage gravy, it was delicious and quite a change from my normal .
After the dishes were done, and I broke camp and had it repacked in the truck, it was time for me to hit the road again, so we exchanged e-mails and I was on the road to Watson Lake by 9 am. It was just a short haul today, 80 miles or so to the junction of the Alcan Highway, then 14 miles east to Watson Lake. It was a rather uneventful few hours, just miles and miles of miles and miles.
End of the Cassiar Highway
I took time enough to look around Watson Lake again before I left and get gas, it hadn't changed much in the last couple of years. The Cultural Center is the hub of town, and was worth another look . It is also the home of The Signpost Forest, which is something to behold. It had grown even more since my last visit.
The Signpost Forest
I put this bit of history in my last trip journal to Alaska, but here goes again to keep you from having to look it up.
In the 1930's mail planes began to land on Watson Lake which grew as a fueling stop, but the real boom came when the Alaska Highway construction began and Watson Lake became a supply center. The airfield was upgraded to handle fighter aircraft headed for Russia along the Northwest Staging Route. Today Watson Lake at Milepost 621 on the Alaska Highway thrives on logging and tourism.
Rumor has it that The Sign Post Forest was started by an early airman, who planted the first sign of his home town. Since then it has grown at the rate of 1,000 a year. It's population of 2,000 makes it the third largest city in The Yukon.
I was off to White Horse by noon. I was going to make it a short day, do some shopping, and rest up a little. The trip across was uneventful, but a beautiful drive winding through the mountains and through Teslin. I needed to get ice for the cooler, and I was shocked 3.75 for a 5 lb bag, and they had their own ice machine. That was a rip off and I did display my ire to the owner, rest assured the place will make my shit list.
I arrived about 5 P.M. to once again find a camp spot at Wolf Creek Campground just outside White Horse. I set up camp and went the five miles into town to get ice, check my e-mail, afew groceries, and hopefully find a shower, which I needed badly to cap off another day of endless beauty and rid myself of the accumulated sweat, bug spray, and dust from the road of the past few days. I got back to camp around 9 PM, made a quick dinner (a can of Dinty Moore stew) and hit the rack. I was exhausted, the trip was starting to take its toll on me.
I was in no hurry today, I was going to use it for recuperation so I never even got out of bed until after 10 AM, but it was bright and sunny and another glorious day. I fired up the stove and made a quick breakfast, but was really more concerned about coffee than anything to eat. After doing the dishes, I went back into town to find Wal-Mart and drop off some pictures to be developed, gassed up the truck, and piddled around Wal-Mart until the pictures were finished and picked up then I headed back to camp still undecided what to do to kill the day. I was undecided, but felt like traveling on some so I broke camp and headed on up the road. I remembered the big lake trout that towed me around for a couple of hours on Lake Kawasa, and contemplated a rematch as I drove on westward. When I got to the Lake Kawasa turn off, I decided against it and just kept on driving. The scenery again is incredible along the route, mountains, lakes, and inviting trout streams are everywhere if I chose to stop and try my luck.
Which I didn't this time, as fishing abounds in Alaska, and there was no sense in wasting money on it in ungrateful Canada and their anti-American ways, let alone $5 gas, so something had to be excluded to offset the difference in cost and Canadian fishing was it this time.
At Kluane Lake the road construction started. It seems as though you would no more clear one construction project, the next would start. The one around Kluane Lake was like 30 miles long, and I had to sit in line forever for the pilot car to return so I could d continue on. When he did return it became 30 miles of dust, so I stopped and let everyone go on about a mile before I continued to get the boiling dust out of my face. If I stayed din line I couldn't see anything except maybe 10 feet in front of the hood.
I finally had had enough by 5 and decided to call it a day in Bugwash Yukon. It is a cool little place, and Jim the guy that runs the Bugwash Lodge is very Pro American, he knows who butters his bread on that stretch of highway, so he offers free camping to all travelers and has a sign that says God Bless America, so that was good enough for me this time too. I had stopped there the last time I came through, so I was familiar with it. They have great food, and the help is friendly. There was a group of twelve tourists camped there as part of a tour from Holland, and they were a trip. When I arrived they were all watching the World Cup Soccer final on TV, and they were loud. When it was over the party started, and I just got sucked up into it. The booze flowed freely, and photography became a topic of discussion so we all shared what pictures we had taken along our different journeys, many of everyone's were quite good. They had made the leg to Bugwash from Chicken, so I got a preview of what that is like. I think I will return that way since I haven't seen that part of the country anyway.
Kathy the bartender wanted one of my pictures of the Swanson River that I took last fall in Alaska, but I wouldn't sell it to her, as I didn't have the negatives with me to make another for myself, but promised her I would make her a copy when I got to Alaska if she wanted and mail it to her. She was really trusting and paid me for it with postage when I left. When I arrived in Anchorage one of the first things I did was get a copy and mail it to her before I forgot about it. I wouldn't want to be responsible for some international trade scandal<G>.
The party lasted until closing time, and I had yet to set up camp, I will never do that one again, it is far to difficult to put up a tent when you are half wasted. I finally gave up on driving in tent pegs and just threw the sleeping bag in and crawled in. In no time I was out like a lamp.
It rained during the night, so I awoke to a steady drizzle with a monster hangover. I had no choice but to pack things up wet and as I went down the road the weather would change to some sunlight so I could dry things out. The immediate need was for coffee, preferably by IV so the effects would be immediate. That wasn't going to happen so I went over to the lodge restaurant and devoured a pot of the stuff, and I felt much better but still a little queezy. By noon I was on the road again even though my body was protesting. It would be a day I would prefer to forget. The road conditions were terrible. The next 500 miles was a combination of construction zones and frost heaves. It seems they were rebuilding the whole highway at the same time every 20 miles, with its accompanying wait for the pilot car. It seemed each of those stops was like 20-30 minutes, and they were numerous. On more than one occasion I had been surprised by a frost heave and bounced my head off the roof of the truck making time was not going to happen today. Theoretically I should be in Anchorage before dark, but that wasn't going to happen.
Around 6 PM I crossed the Gulcanna River, a popular fishing spot for salmon and made camp, I had had enough for one day. I was beat up, like having gone 10 rounds with Joe Frazier.
I actually didn't have to set up the tent, Jim, a vet friend I knew from Anchorage was there fishing, and he had a bunk he wasn't using in his truck camper, so I gladly crashed there early. I watched several kings hauled out of the river before I fixed dinner, and here I was with no fishing pole, such was my misfortune. I would just have to get through the last 150 miles to Anchorage and return. By 9 I was fast asleep and dreaming of better days and monster fish.
I awoke to a gentle rain, and was glad I didn't have to pitch the tent last night,as I would just have to dry it out again before mildew set in. I spent a little time over coffee with my friend Jim discussing what had happened in Anchorage since I left last fall, which wasn't much except the hockey team "The Aces" had won the Kelly cup and wee national champions of the ECHL. I bid my farewell, and was on the last leg of the journey by 11 AM, it would be a short trip to Anchorage of only about three hours. After gassing up in Glen Allen I was on the way. It was uneventful trip, through the intermittent showers as the road wound past Long Lake and Weiner Lake, Then snow had mostly melted away from the past winter and things wee beginning to green up some, which was a sign spring had finally sprung.
I arrived at Maurice Baileys by mid-afternoon, and spent most of it visiting and discussing the reunion and other veterans issues. By six I was ready to hit the sack, so we rescued my little travel trailer from the back yard and rolled it in the garage for the night, I would just sleep there. Everything went good until about 9 PM when I was woke up abruptly, seems my bed had collapsed. A ledger board that held it to the wall had failed. They had only stapled it to the wall, and they pulled out. I got dressed and headed to Wal-Mart for some glue and wood screws to fix it, by two the job was completed, and once again I was off to sleep.
More updates to this summers adventure will appear as I get around to them ,now it is time to start posting the pictures, and there are many so stay tuned. The first week of Sept there is an open invite to come to Alaska Fishing. If you want to attend you will only be out a plane ticket, a fishing license, and a little chip in to the grub and beer funds.
We are planning on camping on the Kenai River in Sterling Alaska. The guides will give us one day on the river pro bono, and I am setting up a two day float trip down the Swanson River. Its a pretty easy float with few portages. But is loaded with trout and Silver Salmon that time of year. It is also Moose season, so hopefully one will have my name on it along the way . There will also be lots of other wildlife along the way, like bears, both black and brown ,and a wolf or two ,maybe a grizzly or two, grouse ,ducks, Trumpeter Swans....it should be a fun trip. I am working on one day offshore fishing from Seward as I write this, so it will make a full week of fun and adventure. I hope to see you here, I assure you it will be a trip of a lifetime.