Monday, March 21, 2016

Glaciers ~ Glenn Highway ~ Alaska

Travelling the Glenn Highway in Alaska

Our travels viewing the beautiful mountains of Alaska continued as we made our way along the Glenn Highway to Anchorage.

Tolsona Winderness Campground
We had a nice shady campsite at Tolsona Wilderness Campground, nestled in the trees with the Tolsona Creek only feet away.  We’d been told to be prepared for lots of flies and mosquitoes on these travels but although they might be most expected here, we did not have any problems with them all summer.

Chugach Mountains
We were south of the Alaska Range and travelling west but still enjoying views of mountains off in the distance.  I believe these ones were part of the Chugach Mountain range, which covers a massive part of southern Alaska.

Knik Glacier
We did not do any glacier exploring but Glenn Highway is one of the few roads that give easy access up to a glacier so you can walk on it.  I did not see any identifying signs but this may be the Knik Glacier.  This icefield is one of the largest at 40 km (25 miles) in length and 8 km (5 miles) wide and sits at the northern end of the Chugach Mountains.  Access is only available through the Knik Glacier Tours.

Glenn Highway
The Glenn Highway, #1 begins at Glennallen and extends past Anchorage, AK.  It was named in honor of the leader of the Cook Inlet Exploring Expedition.  In 1898, Congress had directed the army to locate the most practical route overland in Alaska.  The Gold Rush had arrived and there were few roads so Capt. Glenn began the journey but met many difficulties and although they learned geographical information, there were no routes found .

A drunken forest
A very common tree in Alaska is the Black Spruce tree.  Due to the permafrost and temperature changes in that, the trees often lean over and therefore look like and are called the drunken forest.  This is a small example of the many we saw on these travels.

Matanuska Glacier
The Matanuska Glacier is about 160 km (100 mi) from Anchorage, Alaska on Hwy 1.  It is a valley glacier that is 43 km (27 mi) long and 6.4 (4 mi) wide and is the largest glacier accessible by car in the USA.

Calm lakeside lunch break
We pulled over to a rest area on the side of the road, which also happened to be lakeside.  The tranquille lake had several other visitors stopping for lunch, as well.  This drive on Glenn Highway is a big tourist attraction due to the glaciers and the views.

Musk Ox
We had tried on several occasions to see a musk ox in the wild, but to no avail.  We came upon a Musk Ox Ranch so decided we would stop to have a close up look at these large animals.  There was a museum with a stuffed one, done beautifully, with lots of other memorabilia in there concerning the musk ox.  We were not able to visit the live musk ox without a tour but the next one available meant we had to wait too long so we had to make do with taking some pictures through the fence, and that is the closest we ever got to a living musk ox!

Knik River
The Knik River is just one of over 12,000 in Alaska but most of the others we had seen up to this point had been braided rivers with little water flowing through.  It was nice to see this big river full of water as we crossed over it.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Alaska Range ~ Richardson Highway ~ Alaska

The beauty of the Alaska Range

We saw some incredible scenery on our Northern adventure like the tundra and the drunken forests, but nothing could compete with the beauty of the Alaska Range in south central Alaska.  When I thought of Alaska before our travels here, what came to mind was snow covered mountains and there they were.  Luckily it was a sunny day.

Amazing view of the mountains
We left Fairbanks and drove south to Delta Crossing then followed the Richardson Highway, Hwy 4.  This was our first sighting of the Alaska Range and was the first of many beautiful sights this day.  Needless to say, I took a lot of photos and had a difficult time deciding the best ones to share here.

The Alaska Range
The Alaska Range is narrow and 650 km (400 mi) long but filled with giant mountains.  It is the highest range outside of the Andes and Asia and includes Mt. Denali.  It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, (more on that later), and the Denali Fault, which is responsible for many earthquakes.

Richardson Highway in Alaska
We could not have had a nicer day for enjoying these views.  We had temperatures of 24C (76F) this day.  Several locations of the road were going through construction for improvements, but overall the roads were much better than what we’d been on the previous week.

A great lunch stop
We often stopped at pull-outs on the side of the road to have our lunch.  If the weather did not allow, we would eat in our RV’s but on this day, we were happy to be able to sit outside and enjoy this view!

The Delta River in the Alaska Range
The Richardson Highway follows along the Delta River through this area.  This tributary of the Tanana River is fed by the Tangle Lakes, which offers some great fishing and eventually empties into the Yukon River.  The Delta is 130 km (80 mi) long and one of four major rivers that cross the Alaska Range.

Beautiful scenery in the Alaska Range
Alaska has over 12,000 rivers plus thousands more creeks and streams, not all of them named.  We saw many of these rivers and streams on our travels but it would be impossible to see them all from the available highways.  So much of Alaska is not accessible by road, much of it by water only and some by airplane.  The bush pilots of Alaska would certainly be getting the best views.

The Gulkana Glacier
The high snowfall contributes to the many glaciers in the Alaska Range.  We did see several on our travels and learned that their sizes have been decreasing over the years.  I believe this is Gulkana Glacier, which flows from the icefields in the Range.

Summit Lake reflects the Alaska Range
This was Summit Lake but not the first one we saw with this name, it’s a popular name for mountain lakes.  It was calm and offered a lovely reflection of the mountains overlooking the lake.  I had to hang out the window to capture this scene on camera as it was behind us, not the first time and won’t be the last, I am sure. LOL

Mt. Denali
Mt. Denali is the highest mountain in North America at 6190.5 M (20,310’) high and can be seen from many miles away.   It had been named Mt. McKinley after a US president of 1897-1901 but was most commonly known as Mt. Denali, an Alaska Athabascan word meaning “the high one”.  As of September 2015, this beautiful mountain is now officially named Mt. Denali. 

More glaciers in Alaska Range
There were more glaciers to be seen as we made our way south along the Richardson Highway.  We stopped to fuel up at Glennallen then took Hwy #1 west to follow the Glenn Highway and spent the night at the Tolsona Wilderness Campground. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pioneer Park ~ Morris Thompson Cultural Center ~ Fairbanks, Alaska

Our visit to Fairbanks, Alaska

We had been in Fairbanks, Alaska when on our way to the Dalton Highway adventure then returned there before going onto the rest of our Alaska travels.  Fairbanks, known as the Golden Heart City, is the largest city in the interior of Alaska. It has a population of over 32,000 people and the hub for many more.  The original trading post was founded in 1901 by E.T. Barnette.

Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, Alaska
Pioneer Park, originally called Alaskaland is a 44 acre city park, which was part of the Alaska 1967 Centennial Expo to celebrate the centennial of the Alaska purchase.  They commemorate the early Alaska history in a great way.  We spent an evening there, which turned out to be a very quiet time with few other visitors.

Gold Rush town in Pioneer Park
The Gold Rush Town of Pioneer Park has 35 restored buildings which offer a great variety of artisans from Alaska.  We saw some incredible carvings and photography and plenty of other art offered for anyone looking to purchase a great piece of local art created by talented locals.

SS Nenana at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, AK
The SS Nenana is a dry docked sternwheeler used as a museum at Pioneer Park.  It is 70 metres (230’) long making it the second longest hulled ship still in existence.  It was used on the Tanana and Chena River from 1933 to 1954 to serve those in remote areas then later purchased to be restored to what it has become today.

Artists of Pioneer Park
I didn’t make note of the dog’s name but Ralph comes to mind.  He was happily soaking up all the attention offered as he waited patiently outside this shop.  His owner, the artist Justin Karella was at the shop at the time and visited with those who dropped by.  This work was amazing.  I found a Facebook page that shows some of his beautiful work, click here to see that.

Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitor Center
We visited the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Centre in downtown Fairbanks, also.  It was a museum which is sharing so much of the history of the area, well worth spending some time there. Alaska Native art, music, crafts and stories are all there for you to enjoy and very interesting.

Display in the Morris Thompson Cultural Center
The authenticity of these displays made it even more interesting and to help the reality, they are not behind a glass wall.  I’m sure this beaver, no name given, was enjoying watching all the visitors as they passed by!  I like to think he is still alive, in spirit, at least!  To see more, click here.  

Antler Arch in Fairbanks, AK
The Interior Alaska Antler Arch was an interesting display of more than 100 caribou and moose antlers from all around Alaska.  Sandy Jamieson, the Fairbanks artist who crafted the Antler Arch was quoted as saying about the antlers, “…each given to the arch in the spirit of linking experiences from all around Alaska.  The gift of the arch is to let us imagine the personal stories and respect the intertwined loves represented here.”

Relaxing at the RV park
Our stops in Fairbanks gave us a chance to do some shopping, laundry and replace supplies for repairs we may have to do down the road.  This stop also gave us a chance to relax after the big Dalton adventure and have a happy hour visit.

Chena River in North Pole, AK
The Riverview RV park was just out of Fairbanks in North Pole and offered the amenities we were looking for and there was also a great pub dinner just a short jaunt down the road.  Now we are all set to move onto some paved roads and new sights.

Click here to see some beautiful scenery in the Alaska Range.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dalton Highway ~ Rainy day to Fairbanks, Alaska

A rainy day on the Dalton Highway in Alaska

This may be hard to believe (: but not every day of our travels in Alaska offers beautiful scenery. We had some great days of majestic scenery, with more yet to come but we did have our share of wet soggy days, too.  I am sharing one of those days here.

The Dalton and the Alaska Pipeline
Some days were a true test to the driving ability of Keith and the other RV’ers.  The many miles on the Dalton Highway are mainly dirt with lots of potholes that becomes quite slippery when wet.  Visibility was often poor partly due to the weather but the smoke from area fires was a factor, as well.  The speed used was ‘slow and slower’!

A lone cyclist on the Dalton Highway
Cyclists were rare but we definitely saw more than I would have expected to see on these remote roads.  This cyclist wasn’t very visible through the window for this photo but it shows that there are some very brave and adventuresome people out there!  He was alone.

Slippery road in the rain
Other than freight trucks that cover this road on a regular basis, we are the largest RV vehicles on this near 500 miles of the Dalton Highway that we saw on our journey.  Although this was July, which should be one of the busiest RV tourist seasons in Alaska, we saw very few on our travels.

The E.L. Patton Bridge
The Yukon Bridge is officially known as the E.L. Patton Bridge.  This ½ mile long span is a girder bridge and carries the Dalton Highway and the Alaska Pipeline and was built in 1974/75.  This is the only bridge crossing of the Yukon River in Alaska. This is at the Yukon River Camp which is one of the fuel stops we made going up to Prudhoe Bay and again when returning to Fairbanks.

Muddy vehicles
Dusty when it is dry and muddy when it is wet, our RV’s have never been as dirty as they are on this trip.  I doubt we will ever have all of the mud and dirt cleaned out of the crevices under the unit, even with all the cleanings that have been done.  This gives you a good idea of how dirty we were and this was not the first time, we’d had a wash or two on previous stops and there would be more to come.

Dorothy's Gift Shop
There is very little there at the Yukon River Camp other than a service stop that includes fuel and a cafĂ© for the camp plus a ‘gift store’ that we visited.  This unique gift store had some great little gift ideas and we enjoyed shopping and supporting Dorothy for her talent and her tenacity for being here, in spite of the weather!

Dorothy's jewellry
There was a wood burning stove inside this little very rustic gift shack for heat but other than that, there were not too many comforts.  Dorothy, who has been doing this for many years, makes all gifts by hand. Her tags are hand written on birch and tell a story about the item; there are several different birch and fur gifts, too.

A long muddy road
This is a remote area and it is a good idea to travel with others and to be prepared for emergencies and occasional breakdowns.  A guide to help with this is The Milepost.  It is one of the longest running guide books and has grown over the many years.  It marks every mile along the route with information to guide you about the road and area.  It is a great reference for anyone travelling Alaska.  

Milepost editors
There are field editors in Canada and Alaska who cover these many miles every year to check for changes and make updates.  This couple, seen on the previous day, were making the Dalton Highway their project this summer.  One of our group had met them and enjoyed the visit learning about their interesting job.

Our next stop is in Fairbanks, Alaska, we have some cleaning to do.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dalton Highway ~ Wiseman ~ Alaska

The Grizzly Bear in the tundra when leaving Deadhorse, AK

We left Deadhorse, AK after one overnight stay and our visit to the Arctic Ocean.  This day was dreary and rather dark, not offering anything sunny yetbut we were always on the lookout for wildlife, hoping to see the evasive musk-oxen.  There had been sightings of a grizzly bear in Deadhorse but we’d not seen him. Then off in the distance we do see something, could it finally be a muskox?

Gorgeous Grizzly
Admittedly they are the same color and similar in size, too but as we got closer the beautiful animal we saw was a grizzly bear and not a muskox.  We parked at the side of the road and watched him dig and scrounge for his food in the tundra.  Grizzly bears are omnivores and they eat fish and meat as well as seeds, roots, grasses and insects.  Notice the claws, which help his digging on the search for these foods.

Alaska Brown Bear
The coastal population of grizzly bears found in Alaska and Canada are referred to with their correct scientific name for the species, which is “brown bear”, by the locals up here.  The “grizzly” term is used in the southern 48 states.  This fellow was oblivious to us.  We stayed inside the vehicles; he wouldn’t be as likely to smell us and run.  We would enjoy watching him for close to half an hour.

Arctic tundra
Tundra is “one of the vast, nearly level, treeless plains of the arctic region”.  The permafrost is a layer of dead plants and frozen soil that goes down 450 metres (1476’) under the surface of the tundra.  In southern regions of the Arctic, the surface layer above the permafrost melts and forms bogs and shallow lakes that welcome insects and migrating birds.

Rainy Dalton days
We had several rainy times during this part of the adventure.  The condition of the road we were on was definitely more challenging with wet roads as the majority of the road was dirt.  Permafrost would be the biggest problem to maintaining any kind of road up here as it creates heaves and bumps in the ground.  Best speed to travel is a slow one, which also gives you better opportunities to enjoy the view and avoid the big ruts in the road.

Atigun Pass in Alaska
Once again we travel over the Atigun Pass.  This photo might indicate the slope of the hill as we were coming down from the north, climbing to the top at an elevation of 1422 meters (4752’).  This is part of the Brooks Range.

Forest fire haze
There were some serious forest fires while we were on our northern travels.  We were in some very dense smoke several times, including this time between Deadhorse and Galbraith Lake in Alaska.  Thankfully we were never in close proximity to these, but we did see what was left of several fires from the past.

Pipeline maintenance
As we approached Coldwater, we could see a crew doing maintenance on the pipeline.  The occasional necessary maintenance or repairs must be well planned in order to avoid as much disruption as possible to the flow of the oil passing through the pipeline.

Wiseman, Alaska
The little hamlet of Wiseman is situated a short distance off the main road and an interesting stop.  Wiseman was established in 1908 and has existed ever since with all properties being privately owned now.  The Wiseman Trading Company was established two years later.

“Clutch” is the owner of the Koyukuk Miners Museum and a cordial host as he gave us a great tour of his property.  Should you stop at Wiseman, located not far from Coldfoot, Alaska, be sure to say hello to Clutch and have a look through his museum. 

Click here to see a rainy day and other sights on the Dalton.


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