30 Jul 2014

Another Bear in Camp, and another, and another!

Just packing up to leave our camp (a picnic spot that the police advised us we could use - but I will come back to that) and a bear ambled out of the bushes about 12 feet in front of Chris, saw her, ambled back into the bushes and back out of them about 30 feet in front of the truck and ambled across the road, followed by first one and then another of the tiniest cubs.

This was the day after almost walking into one on the top of an historical mound that used to have a fortified Indian village on top. I got about 8 steps from the top and a beras head appeared, fortunately looking the other way, so I just tiptoed back down and back to the car (making sure that Chris was between me and the bear).

The day before that we made a short trip back into Alaska to go to a bear viewing platform, hoping to see Grizzlys catching fish. No Grizzly and no fish catching, but we did see a black bear walk the length of the bank eating grass.

Other than that we have seen some ancient totem poles and taken a side trip to Telegraph Creek, a 75 mile rough track up over and through a gorge and could almost be wild road 2 ( I will have to see how the footage comes out). Been to Stewart, via another Glacier and back into Alaska and then across towards Banff , via Mount Robson and mount Terry Fox.

We are now at lake Louise (sheltering from a storm in a shopping centre with free wifi) between Jasper and Bamff, having just driven the Ice-fields Highway, but that is for the next blog.

Other than the last hour or so the weather has been amazing for the last few days. We suddenly drove from cloud to blue skies and the average temperature went up by 10 degrees almost immediately and hopefully this will soon pass over so we can go find a camp site.

Oh, almost forgot., Driving through Prince Rupert we were stopped by a police car, soon backed up by another! Both with flashing lights! They assured me I had done nothing wrong, they just did not recognise the plates (bad as Russia). During the 20 minutes while one checked my paper work over the radio, we chatted with the other, turned out he went to school in Droitwich, a few miles from where I (Mick) was born and also lived for a while in Mongolia. He told us of a picnic spot (that the police don't check) where we could stay the night. We took hi advice but turned out it was being used as the command centre for the rescue of someone they thought had gone missing on the river, so there were vehicles coming and going all night (including police). 


20 Jul 2014

Goodbye Alaska

Back into Canada and now on our way south and time to reflect on the second half of Alaska with a helicopter flight on to a glacier and a drive to a copper mining village 60  miles down a really rough track and some more wild life.

The Helicopter trip was amazing. especially when our one hour trip turned into 2, when they decided to combine a last minute booking for a single person with ours instead of doing 2 separate flights.We flew through the mountains and glaciers, landed on one and got out for a walk around and then landed on a small beach on a glacial lake (where I went for a ride on an ice monster!). Having had 2 seriously wet days the day we flew was amazing and has continued to be good since.

We then drove to the Copper Mining Village of  Kennicot, along the route of the 200 mile railway known as CRWR (Can't Run Won't Run) built to ferry provisions in and Copper out to the coast from 1911 to 1938. Much of it has disappeared but half of a huge bridge across a valley is still just about standing, but looks like it will collapse any minute (as the other half already has).

Before we left Valdez we went to a fish hatchery hoping to see a Grizzly Bear catching fish in the river, but missed him by 5 minutes (but saw the pictures that others had recently taken), we did however see some Stellar Sea Lyons catching fish and actually caught one on camera, a complete accident as I was focusing on one another popped up right in front of it, fish in mouth. And on the way to Kennicott a Bald Eagle floated across in front of us, landed on a tree beside us and waited for us to reverse and take a photo before setting off again.

14 Jul 2014

Glacier Quest

We have now decided to abort the trip up the Dalton Highway, by all accounts it is pretty boring compared to the scenery in the southern part of Alaska and would be a wasted 1,000 miles. we have been beyond the Arctic Circle so that will suffice. In addition to which the weather forecast is awful and we have now had enough bad weather. Fortunately the sun shone at the right times, as we walked up to one Glacier accessed from the road and took a cruise on the Glacier Quest (ship) to 2 Glaciers only accessible from the water, winding through numerous lumps of ice (not quite ice bergs) a group of 14 sea otters and a hump backed whale (unfortunately I only caught his tail).

We are booked on a helicopter tomorrow which will land on the top of a Glacier and let us walk round, the weather has been pretty bad for the last few days but forecast is good for tomorrow, so hope to have a few more good snaps.

We have  been to Anchorage, Homer and Seward, up to Denali Park and Across the Denali Highway (worst road so far) and now we are at Valdez. Dependent on weather we might make one more detour before heading back to Canada and hopefully some better weather.

2 Jul 2014

There's a bear in Camp!

This rather large black bear wandered through our camp site and sat munching something on the river bank about 15 meters behind our tent. It watched (a group of) us watching and eventually got up and started too move towards us until someone clapped and it  turned, crossed the river and was off.

We can now add to our list of new animals, Chipmunk (I forgot that one before), 2 Beavers fishing and a Porcupine (crossing The Top of the World Highway, the latter should have been caught on the Go Pro but I haven't checked yet.

We eventually stopped for 2 days in Dawson City (the gold rush town) for 2 whole days without driving!. The first to wash the vehicle (which was seriously filthy), during which we heard hissing, our second puncture, but this one I fixed myself with a plug. Plus changed the front brake pads which were down to the rivets. Then took off the bikes and after thoroughly cleaning mine (it was hardly recognizable as a bike never mind what colour it was) we went into town and liked it so much we stayed another day (both days well over 30 degrees until at least 8 pm). It has a real wild west feel to it, with dirt roads, board walks and false fronted buildings, some original and others rebuilt as original (at least as original as they were when they were re-built after a fire that destroyed all except the undertakers shop in the early 1900's.

There are quite a few bars and restaurants, all with a piano, many being played, some banging out the old honky tonk, but others playing some really good classical pieces, it was not difficult to imagine Sarah sat behind one of them, with her pint on the top! In fact there is quite a large College of Arts there, so a lot of young people, both at College and working. They have a big music festival each year in July and the guy that led us on a walking tour on the eve of our second day came for the festival in 2003 and never went home!

That first night Chris was tired and went to bed, but I went to the Tavern bar to watch a superb local band. I would certainly recommend the music festival to anyone who could make it, but it is a long trek!

If anyone remembers our plan (or even knew what it  in the first place) we have changed it! We decided yesterday to head South down to Anchorage and Homer, before heading up to Fairbanks and the Dalton Highway (if the forecast is better than it was yesterday). There are a number of places we want to stay for a few days, so makes sense to have a break before we take on another 1000 miles of  bad roads.

After an excellent 2 days in Dawson, we had a cloudy day crossing into Alaska yesterday but the cloud was high enough to see the incredible view from the Top of the World Highway. Once into Alaska the road was really rough for miles. when we do get onto a nice smooth bit of tarmac we get a blow out! Not a slow puncture this time but a full scale blow, ripping the tyre wall and popping the valve. I have already changed 3 from the Mongolia set, I think it is time to change the rest.

After a wet night last night and drizzle as we packed this morning the rain has got heavier all day and we are now staying in a little log cabin, marginally bigger than the roof tent about 200 miles from Anchorage. I believe the forecast is good tomorrow so we wanted to stop before we hit the really good scenery about 25 miles down the road.

Hopefully the updates will be a bit more frequent now as I suspect we will have plenty to update over the next few weeks, internet permitting of course.

And as we left Dawson we went to see the dredger which has been restored in the position it was abandoned after it had worked for 48 years dredging up a fortune in gold.

And a few more from the Arctic, the first taken at our camp 50 miles inside the Arctic Circle at 15 minutes before midnight!

And Good night from our little log cabin (at 23.15!)