Friday, December 2, 2016

East Grinstead ~ Ashurst Wood ~ England

We have now made several visits to England to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law and family and I have posted several pages of those visits.  The home base for us is at East Grinstead and Ashurst Wood yet I have not shared the history of this town and the village.  History surrounds us wherever we go but to see some of the dates on the buildings really confirms the difference between the UK and home for us in Canada.

Parish Church of St. Swithun
The Parish Church of St. Swithun is located in the heart of the town of East Grinstead and was first built to serve the community and surrounding settlements about 1000 AD.  Like most churches in England that we have seen, the graveyard of very old headstones surrounds the church.  The original tower was destroyed by a fall in 1785 and then replaced with the gothic style of the 18th century to keep with the medieval predecessor of the original design.

Pipe Organ of the Church
Pipe organs can be seen in all churches in England, I am sure.  Those that we have seen have been massive and an incredible sight as we see here.  They are a Medieval musical instrument and one was first installed in the Bishop of Winchester’s church in 951.  The sounds were forced through the pipes with slides at that time.  The first keyboard for the pipe organ was used in 1361.  One of our visits will have to be made at a time that we can hear the beautiful sounds they produce with the pipe organ.

The Olde homes of High Street in East Grinstead
High Street is the main street in this borough built in early 13th century.  This was an important road for traffic from London to South Coast ports and some of the homes were built in very early days.  The date we see on one of the buildings shown here is 1450.  Another shown is the Cromwell House, which was built as a prestigious townhouse for the prosperous family in 1599.

Doors of old
The buildings were often named after the resident who originally built them and as time went on were added onto.  The Clarendon House was built in 1470.  They extended by building with the “Old Stone House” in 1630 then more extensions built in the 1880’s.  These doors were shorter than 6’ high which would suggest the people were a lot shorter in those days than we are today.

Sir Archibald McIndoe ~ Surgeon 1900-1960
The quote below this statue states “He led a pioneering team whose treatment gave the lives back to severely burned airmen of the Guinea Pig Club and other casualties of WW11.”

Sir Archibald McIndoe was a plastic surgeon who worked at the burns unit of Queen Victoria’s Hospital during WW11.  He had no book to guide him through his treatments of the burn victims but by the end of the war had successfully treated 649 victims, 57% were British and 27% were Canadian.   The Guinea Pig Club was so named due to the lack of information necessasry for burn treatments and to this day is a chapter of important history of East Grinstead.  My sister wrote: "As kids we were used to seeing very badly disfigured men who were going through their treatment.  They used to come onto the estate where I lived to the shop to buy their ciggies and papers etc and us kids never thought anything of it.   When the pub was built it was called the Guinea Pig across the road from the church."  East Grinstead became "the town that did not stare".

The Cenotaph in East Grinstead, Sussex
East Grinstead has a war memorial monument designed by the sculpture Earnest G. Gillick standing on High Street.  It commemorates the sacrifices made by the East Grinstead community members who lost their lives in WW1.  The monument was unveiled in 1922 with the names of those who died.  Several names have been added since that day of those who were also lost in battles. One of those occasions included a devastating bombing that killed many children enjoying a matinee in the East Grinstead theatre in 1943.  Read more of that here.

Estates and green fields of Ashurst Wood, Sussex
Within a mile of East Grinstead is the village of Ashurst Wood and for the first time, we took a walk to see the area surrounding the village.  Due to the population known to be so large in Great Britain, it is easy to assume there would be very little green space but that is so far from the truth.  We are always amazed at how many pastures and fields we see on our travels over there, as well as this walk!

Narrow roads
I have often talked about the narrow roads without side shoulders that offer so very little room to pass oncoming traffic.  We were walking along what I assumed was a walkway until I saw this car coming towards us! This is a road, not just a driveway that leads through a neighborhood and is regularly used by the local residents there.

Ashurst Wood, England
Then we visit the ‘downtown’ heart of Ashurst Wood village before walking back home.  This quaint village offers many things, as most villages do.  It has a school, community center, post office, general store, several little shops and services and a pub that we have yet to visit.  We will have to add that to the list for our next visit.  In the meantime, we shall enjoy the memories of our visits to the UK and will share those special times on the blog.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

San Felipe, Mexico

A short visit to Mexico on winter days can be a fun adventure to see the casual life across the Mexican border.  We crossed into Mexicali with just a wave to cross the border, so much easier than expected.  We followed Highway 5 that would take us south to San Felipe, Mexico which sits on the west coast of the Sea of Cortez.  We passed through a check point manned by the Mexican Police Force, who are often called the Federales, without much more than a friendly brief hello.

Sierra Juarez Mountains
There was more desert than anything else but we could see the Sierra Juarez Mountains and drove through a pass on our way.  The different shades make this sight so interesting showing the different distance of the mountains.

The many colors of San Felipe, Mexico
San Felipe has a population of about 17,000, and even more during the winter months but it feels like a village with a big welcoming mat.  There is the Malecon along the waterfront with several shops and restaurants that offers a wide variety of choices for both as well as bands playing in the evening to make the night feel festive.

A main street in San Felipe
The main source of income in the past had been the fishing industry but that has changed over the years and tourism is now keeping this town very busy during the high seasons.  There are several beautiful neighborhoods scattered around the area with predominantly ex-pats living a comfortable life.

Dune buggy heaven
Dune buggies of all shapes, styles and sizes were seen during out visit.  We’d never seen so many ‘luxury’ looking dune buggies before. They are permitted on the main streets of town so become the favored transportation for many visitors that come to enjoy the sand dunes of the Baja California. There were zillions of RV’ers (lost count) along the beautiful shoreline of the Baja.

Black vultures
I was hoping to get a photo of a turkey vulture as I had a quick glance of one with the red head.  They are quite large with a 1.6m (5.25 ft) wingspan.  This was the best I could do on our visit but I believe these are black vultures, a shorter, stockier vulture sitting up waiting for some lunch to appear.

Cow Patty pub
Speaking of lunch, we were driving south of San Felipe to Puertecitos and having been told about the Cow Patty, we stopped to enjoy lunch with the crowd that had gathered at this one and only pub seen on the 80 km drive.  Beer and hot dogs are all they serve, although I thought the name implied hamburgers, (lol) but the experience was worth the stop!

We stayed with a friend who lives on the beach and our view was incredible.  No matter what time of day you looked out at the water, it was a beautiful sight.  We had some wind while there, so the waves were a bit higher but still a great sight to see.

The pelicans, called pelicanos in Spanish are the smaller dark ones like we’d seen while on the East Coast of USA many years ago.  We typically see the white pelicans when we are down south but we’ve never seen any of them fly over like this.  There were about 35 pelicanos in a long row.  This sight was amazing.  The late afternoon sun made them almost glisten.

Sea of Cortez
I never managed to get a photo with the tide all the way in, but we could hear the waves splash up against the shore during the dark hours of evening, not a good photo opp.  Our stay was brief but memorable.  We saw the sights that make this town a special and easy place to visit.

Our border crossing when heading back across to the States was not as easy as coming down.  We sat in the moving line-up for 3 hrs and 48 mins!   I would not recommend a Sunday for the day to return from Mexico, but we were welcomed with a smile by the border patrol in spite of her very busy day!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Stewart Cassiar Highway ~ Traveling Home

Our northern adventure is coming to an end as we make our way back home.   We’ve seen a lot of great country but the beautiful sights of our BC country and mountains as we travel down the Stewart Cassiar Highway are a pleasure to see!

Stewart Cassiar Highway
We weren’t seeing a lot of traffic on Hwy 37, more commonly called the Stewart Cassiar Hwy.  It is fairly remote but very scenic with lots of mountains, lakes and rivers to see. The clouds are low but the day is dry, and hopefully we are leaving the rain behind us.

Valley into Cassiar
We drove off the main highway through this pretty valley to have a look at the town of Cassiar but other than a few old homes and more deserted shacks, we found nothing of the old town to see.  The homes of the original town site were either towed away or knocked down in 1992 and since the closing of the asbestos mining at that time, it has been a ghost town.

Beautiful BC scenery
We then returned to #37 and continued south.  We spent a night at Kinaskin Lake Provincial Park where, although we did get a quick shower, enjoyed a spot under the trees looking onto the lake.  At this point, we are now 364 km from the junction of Hwy 16, our next destination.

Cassiar Mountains
We had a sunny morning to continue on our way home.  We bypassed Hwy 37A, the Glacier Hwy leading to Stewart as it would add 65 km (40mi) and back to our day.  From the junction of Highways 1 in Yukon and 37 to Kitwanga, BC, which is the junction of Hwy 37 and 16, we will travel 725 km (450 mi).  We take two days to make this trip and enjoy some beautiful scenes of BC as we do.

Snow on mountains
We stopped at a provincial park north of Kitwanga to see if we could find suitable spots to fit our RVs, but nothing big enough.  Before we could leave, a ‘mad’ grandmother, with her young grandchildren witnessing her unacceptable behaviour, was demanding we leave the park to make room for her family, and not in a friendly manner!  I calmly said “I didn’t realize this was a private park” at which she replied, “it isn’t!”.  "My point, exactly". No logical reasoning here, there were plenty of spots left for others.  Her embarrassed daughter–in-law told us about a much better park in Hazelton, and we were on our way to Hwy 16.

Hagwilgit Canyon Bridge
The Hagwilget Canyon Bridge is a suspension bridge on the Bulkley River. We crossed this one lane bridge on our way to Hazelton and the very nice Ksan RV park.  We watched some ladies prepping fresh salmon to can down at the river.  They do it for the elders in the village who needed the food.  Tours of the nearby Ksan Historical Village are available.

Beautiful BC is home
The nights are getting chilly but the sunshine of the day warm them up to be very nice.  It has been many years since we had travelled these roads but we had lived in Kitimat at one time and this was the route to travel.  Not a lot has changed.

Autumn scenes and colors 
The days of fall are soon approaching as we near the end of August and some of the leaves in this area are turning color.  The sun is shining above the low clouds and our day will get brighter.

Ranchland of the Bulkley Valley
We passed through several small BC towns and communities on Hwy 16 through the ranch and farmland of Buckley Valley.  We saw Smithers and Fort Telkwa, stopping for lunch in Houston and a visit to the museum. We then continued on through Burns Lake, Fraser Lake and made an overnight stop in Vanderhoof, BC.

Fraser River at Prince George, BC
We began our travels on July 1, 2015 when we left our home in Kamloops and spent the next two months driving through British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska.

We arrived back home knowing we had accomplished something that many others would not.  Our northern adventure was full of many obstacles and was not without great challenges but we survived!

Overcoming these challenges marked a personal milestone amidst the great natural beauty of the North country and we were home in time to celebrate our 51st anniversary.  And as always, we look forward to our next venture together.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tagish, Yukon ~ Atlin, BC

We left Skagway and Alaska behind us when we followed Hwy 2 north then turned onto Hwy 8 also called Tagish Road.  We had a fairly wet day for travel; we left after the White Pass train ride so it was not an early start.

Bridge over Tagish River in Yukon
We made our overnight stay on the Tagish River at the Six Mile River Resort in Tagish, Yukon that night.  We parked in a small grassy field with RV hook-ups, there were cabins and a restaurant and lots of things to see.  We did have a delicious dinner there, and enjoyed the hosts of the resort.  Click here to learn more about this great spot.

Lake views and Coast Mountains
The next morning was heavy fog again but the sun soon came out as we crossed the border again and traveled down to Atlin, BC.  This road was originally built to be part of the Alaska Highway and takes us 94 km (58 mi) from Jakes’ Corner.  The Atlin Road is partly paved with some parts gravel.
Teresa Island on Atlin Lake, BC
In the summer of 1899 Atlin was a busy mining town with a population around 10,000 people.  It thrived for about 15 years until the gold rush was over.  What a quiet quaint little town this is today with about 400 people enjoying this beautiful view of Atlin Lake.  Being an unincorporated community, much of it is run by volunteers.

Sites of Atlin, BC
There were several old buildings to see and old equipment on display at the museum making for an interesting walk around town.  Many of the buildings are used as the old courthouse shows. They host an Atlin Arts and Music Festival every year.  The fishing attracts fisherman to the area and the Atlin Lake, the largest natural, freshwater lake in BC. looks like a great place to explore.

The Tarahne
The Tarahne was a motor vessel that toured guests around Atlin Lake for twenty years.  It was abandoned in 1937 after a short but successful time.  The British Columbia Heritage Trust gave a grant to the Atlin Historical Society in 1985 and the Tarahne soon became the venue for many events held in Atlin.

Llewellyn Glacier
We considered staying out of town at a provincial park so took a drive out and came upon this view of the Llewellyn Glacier.  Looking at this photograph, it appears to be of a painting but it is not, it is just as it was when I took this photo of the glacier. 

Norseman RV park on Atlin Lake
We decided to come back to town and chose to stay at the Norseman RV Park, which sits right on the Atlin Lake.  We got to stay in the “penthouse” as the small spit was called and enjoyed our end-of-day visit in the sunshine.

Float plane take-off
Our evening included watching the float plane take off from right out in front of our RV park, would have loved to have seen the views he would enjoy.  The quiet lake on a quiet sunny evening as we sat around the fire made for a great finish to our day.

Raindrops on RV window
Morning brings the rain.  We have had lots of rainy times but having been driving most of that time, it really did nothing to spoil the adventures.  We’ve had lots of sunshine, too.  We made one more trip to Whitehorse for truck parts but would soon be heading home.  Click here to follow our final days of the great northern adventure.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

White Pass Scenic Journey ~ Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska was our destination, mainly for the train ride of the White Pass-Yukon Route that we had heard wonderful things about.  We’d booked in before our arrival and were ready for this amazing train ride.

Rainy morning in Skagway, AK
The one thing we did not want to see was a rainy overcast day.  Our travels would take us through a high elevation and we’d hoped to see all the sights.  Mother Nature may have had other plans as we travel through the Coast Mountains.

Tunnel Mountain at Glacier Gorge
We were booked into the morning ride and we will be taking that no matter what the weather does.  There are other choices for trips through the White Pass but we chose to take the return trip from Skagway to White Pass Summit, which reaches an elevation of 2815’.

Scenic fog
Our 40 mile trip of just over 3 hours has a narration but we were happy to be able to buy a DVD of the same trip, one which would not be shrouded in fog as we were on our train ride.  

The fog was so thick that we could not see much of this trestle, but we were able to see it on the return.  The railcars have a small ‘porch’ like area between them so I did spend some time out there to take photos.  So small that we would take turns for photo opps, not room for more than two people out there.  

Conductor waits for our arrival
We have now reached the summit and are slowing down to make the return trip.  There is no turnabout for the train.  Once the train stops, we are instructed to get out of our seats and tip them so the back is now the new seat, which makes them face the other way.  Genius!  And we change sides of the aisle so we can see the other side of the valley.

Summit Lake at White Pass summit
We sit while the train returning from the other route passes by us.  This train has done the Bennett Scenic Journey, which covers from Skagway to Carcross, YT along the same route taken in 1898 by the Klondike stampeders.  This also includes a visit to the Bennett Station, which is only accessible by train.

View of trestle
Our travel back to Skagway gave us some better views with some of the clouds lifting.  This trestle was part of the project that took tens of thousands of men and over 450 ton of explosives to build in very severe conditions.

Narrow and cliffside
The train climbs almost 915 metres (3,000’) in 20 miles on this route and we pass through two tunnels.  There are turns of 16 degrees and steep drops alongside the narrow rails.  In 1901 they could claim that their steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world; the whole project was completed in 26 months by Canadian contractors. 

Foggy views
As disappointing as it was that we could not see all the sites due to the conditions, we do not have any regrets for taking the White Pass train ride.  We did experience “the railway built of gold”.

Moving on we shall soon be in BC.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Skagway, Alaska

Skagway is a borough in southeast Alaska that sits at an elevation of 0 ft.  in a narrow valley at the north end of the Lynn Canal.  It is 145 km (90 miles) northwest of Alaska’s capital city Juneau, in the Alaska panhandle.

Skagway, Alaska, the Garden City
Skagway has been called the Garden City since very early days.  The long summer days allowed gardens to grow large vegetables and beautiful flowers, hence the name.  The first competition for those beautiful gardens was held in 1902.

Camp Skagway No. 1
Camp Skagway No. 1 was established as a brotherhood hall in 1899 when many men arrived by steamers for the Klondike Gold Rush.  There would eventually be a total of thirty camps or brotherhood halls created with 10,000 members during that busy historic time.  What makes this building look so unusual, there are almost 9,000 small pieces of driftwood on the façade.

Preserved buildings of Skagway, Alaska
The many Gold Rush era buildings have been restored and preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.  Tourism supports this borough and there are several jewellery and gift shops to visit.

Cruise ships visit Skagway
The cruise ships travel up the Inside Passage and bring about 900,000 visitors a year to see the sights of Alaska that includes making a stop in Skagway.  There were 4 cruise ships docked during our walk downtown but I wasn’t able to get one photo with all of them in it.

Downtown Skagway, Alaska
The convenient location of where the cruise ships dock makes it very easy for the passengers to visit the shops.  Although the streets look fairly quiet, there were thousands of visitors there.  Tourism attracts about a million visitors a year, mainly during summer months, and the majority of these visitors come by one of the eight different cruise ship lines that visit Skagway.  Among those thousands of cruise ship visitors, we did see a couple we recognized as teachers from our hometown of Kamloops, B.C.; small world, isn’t it?

Old rail cars of White Pass
The population of this borough of approximately 1,000 people estimated in 2015 explodes at the seams on any given summer day when the cruise ships stop in.  This number doubles with seasonal workers when the tourist season happens but it would more than double that if only one ship stopped.  When there are four of them…. can’t imagine how many tourists were in this town at the time of our visit.

Skagway Alaska Street Car Tour
We did not take a tour with the Streetcar Tour on this 1927 bus but their tours sound great and well worth taking if the time allows.  We didn’t plan for this and bookings are surely done far ahead of time with the busy traffic they get in Skagway.

Red Onion Saloon
Our afternoon spent in Skagway included a walk around the town site to see what there was to see.  A stop for a nice cold refreshing afternoon drink was at the Red Onion which included waiting in line on this busy day.  The authentic looking saloon, just like it was in 1898, adds to the appeal which can also include a tour of the bordello museum upstairs.  We passed on that, also.

Station for White Pass-Yukon Route
This site is where we will return to in the morning to go for a train ride through the great White Pass-Yukon Route.  We had booked ahead of time and are hoping that our weather includes sunny skies once again.

Click here to enjoy the White Pass-Yukon Train ride.


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