2006 Alaska Trip Journal to Oklahoma
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Day 1 from Willow Alaska (Gas 2.84) 52,236 (238 miles traveled)
Today was a day of mixed feelings. On one hand I was ready to begin my trek south to miss the cold long winter, but on the other hand I loved this place. Everything I want from life exists here. The scenery is breathtaking, wildlife is everywhere you look if you slow down long enough and pay attention to your surroundings. The fishing is legendary in the many rivers and streams near where I live.
Chuck Moore had been kind enough to let me park my little travel trailer at his house over part of the summer on Long Lake near Willow as I was searching for a lot to buy, and to smoke fish and build Aviation Outreach a new web page as I waited on a long overdo VA Comp and Pen hearing, so it is at Chuck Moores I shall start.
It was just a dreary day when I left Chucks, not to excited to get everything tore down in the rain, so I waited for a break in the weather and didn't get moving until early afternoon. It would be a fitting start to an incredible journey. The leaves were turning into their fall displays of red and yellows and the air was starting to be crisp in the mornings. I hadn't gone a mile and almost hit a bull moose and a cow. The bull vanished into the birch trees but the cow stuck around long enough to get a picture of.
Long Lake Cow Moose
I stopped by the credit union were Fe, Chucks wife works and said my final goodbyes and to thank her for her and Chucks hospitality, and I was on my way.
Mt McKinley from Willow (100 miles distant)
The road over Hatcher Pass had washed out with the big rains a few weeks previous and since it was repaired now, I would take that route, it is about 50 miles of dirt, and leads to many old gold mines that dot the area, but this time of year can be gorgeous and I wouldn't be disappointed.
Old Bridge on Hatcher Pass Road
At the end and north of Palmer, the Hatcher Pass road intersects the Glen Highway, which leads north through Glen Allen to the Tok cutoff and its intersection with the Alcan Highway some 400 miles distant. That would be my target for this day. Along the way I would be treated to some gorgeous scenery and wildlife. I was in no hurry, so I just took my time to admire Gods wonders and take afew pictures as I drove along.
Matanuska River north of Palmer with the Chugach Montains Beyond
As I left Palmer, the road is quite crooked and winds its way to the top of the Chugach Mountains ands Sheep Mountain. I had never before saw any sheep there but today I would be treated differently. They were far up the mountain, and to the eye appeared to be white dots, but with a 600 MM lens I was able to at least get a good glimpse.
The rest of the day was uneventful, and after stopping for gas in Glen Allen (3.15) I would end the day at Tok, arriving around 11 PM and spend the night at the local truck stop, dreading the next day when once again I would cross the border and have to deal with the Canadian Gestapo border guards.
Day 2 52,519 (Gas 2.82) 381 miles traveled
Day 2 broke sunny and bright, and by 11 A.M. I was underway headed for my destiny with the border guards 90 miles to the east. I actually dreaded it. I had been told to enter again I had to have my complete criminal history which I got from the State Troopers at a cost of 20 bucks, and it was blank, they didn't have anything so it had been a big to do about nothing.
The scenery was still magnificent as I eased along the 90 miles to the border only to stop at an unknown lake to make breakfast and update the gun permit for the extra 30/06 I brought with me to go elk hunting in Colorado in October.
To my total shock the border crossing was uneventful. I pulled up to the window, and the lady was busy doing something else so I had to wait several minutes until she could get to me. I tried a new ploy, I paid her a compliment, and a little small talk about the gnats that were still hanging around. I had togo inside to pay the bill for the gun permit, and I was on my way. The road sucked, it was still a series of frost heaves all the way to Kluane Lake, so 40 to 50 miles per hour was about all that was safe to drive much of the way.
I would make the days destination White Horse in the Yukon about 400 miles is far enough for one day. Along the way I was once again treated to some incredible sites.
I arrived at Haines Junction about 4 P.M. to get gas (1.13 Liter) and to stop at park lake state park tofix dinner before going on. I had completely skipped lunch. Park Lake State Park is a pretty little spot, and a good place to camp if you have a notion, but I was fixed on getting to White Horse to get film developed, and do a little shopping at Wal-Mart. I had lost enough weight this summer that I needed some smaller jeans.
Near dusk as I approached Kusawa lake a herd of elk was all over the place I had an opportunity to see, well mostly hear, a war between a younger bull trying to cut in on the cow herd, and the herd sire who was having none of it. As I sat there I heard this grunting and he came charging out of the trees across the road and caught up with the young bull in he trees just out of view, but it was one large amount of crashing and banging going on, not 50 yards from my vantage point.
After settling the issue with the younger bull the herd sire rounded up his cows and moved them back across the road so he could better watch over them.
I hadn't driven more than a mile or two and I ran into yet another group of elk
As it approached dark, the show was over and I drove the last 50 miles into Whitehorse, did my shopping, waited until 10 PM for my film to be developed, filled up with gas (1.03 a liter) and set up camp at Wolf Creek campground. Since the season was over, the cost was nothing. I was out like a lamp by midnight, and I was exhausted.
I slept in quite late today after getting to town so late, and sitting up to organize my notes. I was going to call it a day and just do laundry and explore some of the backcountry around White Horse a little, but the weather sucked. It was drizzling rain with fog, so I decided after lunch to just push on to Watson Lake about 300 miles to the southeast.
The whole day was rather uneventful until I got to Watson Lake. I had to make one stop in Teslin to get gas, (1.09 a liter) and fresh broccoli was on sale for a 1.50 a big bunch so I scarfed up some of those and some mushrooms, it was the beginnings of another stew for one ordeal. I am beginning to think I can live on it if necessary. I already had some moose chunked up into stew meat, so all that was missing was celery and crushed tomatoes; I had the remainder of ingredients needed on hand.
Bridge at Teslin
I arrived in Watson Lake just at 7 PM and had intended just to get gas and check e-mail, as it would be several days before I could do it again traveling the Cassiar Hwy as I intended was 427 miles of nothing a couple gas stops on the way in Dease Lake, Tartoga Lake lodge, and Bells II. Watson Llake had always been fair price wise on gas, but this time they were sticking to everyone 1.21 a liter at all the gas stations, when all the rest in the outlying towns was between 1.06 and 1.09. It is just one big case of gouging. There was no reason for gas to be that high. /they are the distributors for many of the others in the smaller towns. I am going to file a formal complaint with their legislators; Canada has laws on price fixing and gouging.
Still pissed about the gas issue, I went on to the Golden Hotel to check my mail, and get a bite to eat. I wasn't in a mood to cook tonight. I will say they make great Lasagne, and for 10 bucks its more than you can eat. I never thought about it being Friday night, so soon a party was underway, so I ordered a beer, then someone came and clanged the bell and bought the whole place a round, I had just finished that and the bell clanged once more, and it kept clanging all night. I finally gave up and just set the trailer up in the parking lot. I wasn't risking driving anywhere. If you ever make it to Watson Lake, Scotty is the manager and he will treat you right.
Day 4 53,204 (gas 1.21 per liter) miles traveled 304
Today the weather was clear and sunny again, and I felt like crap after the night before, so I never even got started until almost 1. I only wanted to make it to Dease Lake by 6 PM to gas up before the station closed and I made that easily and the scenery along the way was as I imagined it would be. Different hues of red and yellow and green capped with a fresh coat of snow in the upper elevations. As the day wore on I felt better and better, so after gassing up in Dease Lake I would push on a little longer to Tartoga Lake Lodge, and spend the night there. I was shocked; they now have wireless Internet, so I could at least check mail again 200 miles from nowhere.
As I headed south over Gant pass, the residue of an earlier snowfall was quite evident, and it was almost cold. You could see a skim of ice forming on some of the small ponds. I contemplated pulling up for the night there, but something in my head pushed me on to the Tartoga Lodge, and I am glad it did, it snowed 6 inches up there that night.
I spent that evening putting together the travel guide so I could publish it for you guys the next morning, today.
Day 5 53,525 (gas 107.2 per liter at Bells II but I would push on an extra 100 to Bonus Lake) 321 miles
Today was a good day, it had rained where I was during the night, and it had snowed 6 inches in the mountains where I had just come from so I dodged a bullet on that one.
The day started with me finishing off the travel guide and drinking some coffee where I was camped just a mile down the road from the Lodge at Tartoga Lake. When it was ready to publish I broke camp and headed to the lodge to eat breakfast and publish the travel guide. By 10 AM that was done and I was on the road south to Bonus Lake. I had stayed there when I came up this spring and had scouted the backcountry and it was loaded with grouse, so I am going to stay a couple of days and take the back roads (logging roads) to get back on the highway. It will be about 125 miles of dirt roads, and I will be lucky to see two cars the whole trip.
I arrived at Bonus Lake at 5:30 PM and just dropped the trailer and headed to the logging road system that I knew quite well from the previous trip this spring to go find the grouse I knew they were there. Hopefully the view from the top at MP 28 would be clear and maybe take a few pictures at sunset. I hadn't gone a mile until I found the 1st grouse, but he ducked into cover before I could get a shot off. I drove on for 30 kilometers before I turned around and headed back to Bonus Lake to beat darkness. On the way back I saw a big black bear lumbering down the middle of the road, but had no chance at a photo op. I also saw several grouse but failed to get a shot off at any of them. They seem to be a bit skittish and gun shy today. The scenery was just as I imagined it would be, the whole forest aflame with fall colors.
View from MP 28 at sunset
I arrived back to camp at dark, and created the one-person moose stew I was craving. While the stew cooked I caught up on this journal on the days activities and prepared the pictures for insertion. By 10 PM dinner was ready, the pictures were prepared, and I will do it tomorrow. By 11PM I was in bed asleep, anticipating the next mornings grouse hunt and photo trip.