is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada
called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain
ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full
of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity
to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without
Wilderness Adventures - June, Week 3/2006
you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes,
exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like
'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side
of this page.
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you
at the bottom of this page. Check out the
of the Day.
made it this far anyway. You may have noticed that the
dates are a little out from when I've started an article
and actually got it posted. We've actually been running
around in the city of Anchorage checking out all kinds
of cool things and I've just been a little slow writing.
Friday we checked out Lake Hood and the Air Museum in
Anchorage. You have got to see Lake Hood to believe
it! If you look at the map, it looks like it is
comprised of two lakes, Hood and Spinard, that have been
joined together to make one large lake. On the north side,
there are rectangular causeways built out into the water
and the fill for those was probably dredged out of the
lake. In addition to that, there is another long causeway
going down the middle of the lake and on every inch of
every shore, including the artificially created ones,
there is a plane. Where there is moorage, floatplanes
sit in the water or up on the shore, and wherever possible,
if there isn't a floatplane there's a wheeled plane
sitting on shore or with many others in row after row
where there's enough ground and it looks like overflow
goes into the fenced parking lots across the road at the
All the roadways winding around and across the lake are
also aprons or 'runways' for wheeled planes and aircraft
has the right of way so if you're driving around there
you need to be ready to get off of the road if you see
a plane coming. It's kind of neat, really.
There are several charter outfits located on Lake Hood,
and like Nimpo Lake, it looks like you can rent a plane
for just about any purpose, including flight seeing. For
the small plane enthusiast, this is pilot heaven and it
would take all day to see all of the planes, especially
since Lake Hood is one of the largest floatplane bases
in all of North America and the busiest in the world.
We stopped at the Air Museum located nearby and just like
Whitehorse, we ended up staying there for so long that
they had to chase us out because they were closing. Lots
of great history on early air transportation in Alaska
and loads of memorabilia in cases from the Second
World War when the Japanese invaded parts of the outer
Alaskan islands and dropped a bomb on Canadian soil.
There were also some planes there in different states
of restoration but the whole museum looks like it must
be a work in progress. Some displays were incomplete and
there were no informational boards posted for any of the
airplanes but it did look like they still had things to
get organized. There was an area where shirts and such
were for sale and a really cool flight simulator just
inside the door. Unfortunately there was a kid there that
seemed to permanently occupy the seat and getting on it
was difficult at best.
Just after touring Lake Hood and before touring the museum,
we drove down to a park that follows the Knik Arm to give
the dogs a break from the back of the truck. There are
information boards and pictures illustrating what happened
in Alaska during the 9.2 earthquake in the 1960's. The
cliff side that we walked along used to extend out into
the tidal flats of the Knik Arm substantially more than
they do now. They fell away during the earthquake,
taking a number of homes with them. There is also
a place in this park that points out all the points of
interest. One of them is Denali or Mt. McKinley but we
were unable to see it while at the park because of cloud.
However, once we knew where it was, we knew where to look
for it from where we are camped just above the Port dockyards
in Anchorage, and for the last two mornings Andy has seen
the mountain when he has taken the dogs for a walk in
the early hours. He said it was a real shocker when he
saw it the first morning because the way the sun hit the
snow really cause the mountain to jump out at you due
to its massive size. What amazes me is that you can see
a mountain at all from that far away.
We were on our way back from the park to the museum and
were forced to detour through the International Airport
because of road construction on another street. I
had just remarked on the high game fence around the airport
and surmised it was to keep the wild animals off of the
runways when I saw a moose next to the main road
inside the fence! Andy turned around so that we could
get a picture and about that time we realized that it
was a cow moose with a little calf from this year. They
grazed for a moment and then the cow decided to
head across this four lane road with not a care in the
world and the calf trundling behind. So several
long lines of traffic coming both ways stopped and waited
while the little family crossed to greener pastures. It
was unbelievable how comfortable that cow, and for that
matter her calf, was with the people and traffic and noise
of huge planes taking off and landing right next to her.
She was either born inside that fence, as her calf probably
was, or had lived most of her life on the airport property
because she acted just like she owned it. Of course they
say that about all the moose within and around the city,
and you are cautioned everywhere to watch out for moose.
Saturday was spent exploring Anchorage. We came across
a huge summerfest market within walking distance of our
camp and got to see both the real made in Alaska
stuff as well as a lot of made in China goods for sale.
We checked out a few shops downtown and although the good
carvings of whalebone, walrus and antler, etc. are beautiful,
they are also very expensive. Actually, everything is.
We had to do some grocery shopping today and prices were
easily as high as in our part of British Columbia, and
were quite a bit higher if you take into account the exchange
Last night we had an absolutely fantastic meal at a place
called Humpys, recommended to us by some neighbours that
live on Charlotte Lake. We saw them the morning
we left Nimpo Lake to head north and Bertha showed us
pictures of the monster Halibut she caught while in Alaska
the week before. Eating a huge halibut steak smothered
in a horseradish sauce at Humpys while Andy had halibut
fish and chips is probably as close as we'll get to fishing
After dinner we snuck across the street to the arts center
there where a film on northern lights is shown every hour.
Not only does the film show what causes them and dispel
some myths, it also has a very impressive display of northern
lights taken over the years by the fellow that made the
film. It looks like he had to suffer a lot of frostbite
and long nights but did he ever get some breathtaking
shots. He also had some gorgeous prints for sale
in the theater and if I was rich, I'd own them all!!!
The city of Anchorage is quite pretty in many respects.
The entire city is ringed by high mountains that I'm certain
are even more spectacular when snow covered while the
long finger of the Knik Arm extends along one side of
the city. Anchorage has loads of parks and the downtown
is a lot of fun to walk in with nice buildings, restaurants
and interesting shops lining the streets.
We walked and drove around the city quite a bit and I
think we got a pretty good feel for it. It's kind of a
funny place. You wonder where the money is.
The city has very mixed neighbourhoods with first a decent
looking building here, the next an old run down building,
the one past that a newer one and so on for miles throughout
the city. There really doesn't seem to be a 'new' or 'old'
part of the city. It's all mixed in together and though
you would think there should be a lot of similarities
between Anchorage and Vancouver, there are few. There
are a lot of buildings up on the sides of the mountains
overlooking Anchorage and the ocean and we can only assume
that is where all the money is because there certainly
doesn't seem to be a lot of money being spent on developing
the downtown beyond what it is already. Not that
the city is poor. It's just...interesting.
We will probably head out of Anchorage in the morning
for Seward and explore the south. We were just reminded
that it is the July 4th. Holiday next weekend so we probably
need to find a good spot and hunker down for the holiday.
Don't know when we'll have access to the Internet next
or the time so hang in there!
Matanuska Valley in Alaska is truly breathtaking
and as usual, would have been even more so had the weather
not been so low and rainy. We missed a lot of mountains
on both sides of us that were mostly in the clouds. We
did get to see the Matanuska glacier though. It
comes down to within just a short distance of the highway
and from one spot on the highway you could see its side
very clearly, while from another, you could see the front.
It makes you realize just what causes all those little
bumps in the land that we all live with in North America.
In fact, seeing the real thing was a great experience
for me. You can read about glacial moraines in school,
and study the diagrams in earth sciences and geology all
you want, but nothing brings it home quite like seeing
a huge glacier in action.
We did the tourist thing and read the plaques at
the viewpoints that described the workings of a glacier.
That it moves faster in the middle than on the outside,
and that the top moves faster than the bottom. Apparently
the thicker the glacier, the more pressure on the ice,
causing it to 'liquefy' (I know I don't
have the correct word there) and therefore move faster
than a thinner glacier would. All quite fascinating to
me if not others. What was really amazing was the thickness
of the silt left behind as the glacier retreated back
up into the mountains. The little piles of black sand
had to have been a hundred feet deep if not more! I've
shown how deep the glacier is with the red arrow on the
picture on the right.
We finally dropped into the Matnuska Valley near Palmer
and it was really reminiscent of Hagansborg in the
Bella Coola Valley.
Everything was jungle green and everyone had lots of flowers
out. We started seeing cultivated fields and the valley
really widened out, much more so than Bella Coola, even
though it's surrounded by mountains. We finally
realized that we must be awfully close to the ocean
and sure enough, a look at the Atlas showed us that the
Matanuska and Knik Rivers drain into the Knik Arm that
comes in from the Pacific Ocean.
Palmer is a really pretty town, very new and clean looking.
There was lots of construction going on and I'm wondering
if it hasn't become a bedroom community of Anchorage.
It certainly isn't far away. The highway that we had been
bouncing over improved steadily as we neared the Mat-Su
valley and became an awesome freeway from Palmer to Anchorage.
At least we will be going back in that direction
after we've looked around Anchorage and Seward for awhile.
We'll probably go back up as far as Gulkana anyway, because
we want to explore a lot of country around there such
as Copper Center, down to Valdez and then up the Richardson
Highway to Delta Junction. I'm hoping if we go back in
nicer weather, then we'll get to see the Talkeetna, Wrangell
and Chugach Mountain Ranges that we missed in the poor
I'll tell you this much though, my poor butt won't miss
bouncing around on that god-awful highway coming down
from Tok. At least we get a little break from the roads
by parking in Anchorage for a few days. We're beginning
to suspect that Tok to Gulkana highway isn't used very
much by most other than locals and it's possible
that few tourists use that route because many come up
or go down the Richardson Highway. We saw very little
big truck activity on the highway and that's usually a
pretty good indicator that they're going another route.
We did listen to a couple of Canadian truckers
on the radio though that were just ahead of us.
The one trucker started swearing, he was so mad, I guess
he'd just about gone through the roof of his cab a few
times going over the bumps and everything had come flying
out of his bunk. He finally told the trucker in front
of him that he was backing off before his whole load shifted.
We finally turned off the radio because he was just complaining
too much, even for us.
We were pretty lucky. The heavy glass plate in the microwave
came flying out and shattered all over the floor of the
trailer. But other than a few things being tossed about
in the cupboards a little, most things made the trip okay.
First Day In Alaska!
made it across the border this morning. I took a time
out yesterday for two reasons. First, we went over
some wicked road from Haines Junction to Beaver Creek
just south of the American border and bouncing
around in that truck for hours made for one heck of a
long day. Second, it was my birthday and by some good
fortune we met up with a very pleasant couple from Manitoba
that were just returning from Alaska and had a great evening
sitting outside watching the sun not going down. In fact,
it was 2:00 a.m. and it was still as light as could be
and well past our bed time.
One upside of yesterday's trip was going through the Kluane
country bordering the St. Elias National Park. The
colour of Kluane Lake is breathtaking. When we
rounded the end of it we could see why. There were high
winds blowing loesse, or fine glacial silt into the water
at that end. From the color of the water it stayed suspended
in liquid for at least half a mile and then it dropped
out of the water or the lake suddenly got deeper for it
changed from a milky green colour to that weird blue green
that is just fascinating to look at.
The valley is surrounded by mountains covered with a lush
carpet of green that looked just like crushed velvet and
periodically you would run across wide gravel washes where
only thin braids of water run here and there. But you
can just imagine the torrent of water that must flood
those washes when the snow starts melting quickly in the
We had been warned by one person that the roads north
of Haines Junction and clear to Tok, Alaska were bad for
frost heaves and an American coming back from Alaska
said that he had just driven over the worst two hundred
miles of road he had ever been on. Of course we
didn't take him very seriously but we sure as heck should
Coming out of Haines Junction about eighty or a hundred
miles north of Whitehorse we saw there were a few frost
heaves and thought, "Hey, this isn't bad at all."
But it sure got worse in a hurry. We finally slowed down
after awhile and just became resigned to the fact that
the road was heaving and broken up badly and there just
wasn't a whole lot we could do about it. Which is why
we were so beat up by the time we reached Beaver Creek
and the poor truck and trailer were covered in mud from
one section we went through.
Apparently that whole section of road, as well as a lot
on the Alaska side, is built on Black Spruce swamp with
permafrost underneath and that is one of the most unstable
road building bases in the world. The American Corp of
Engineers fought with it while building the Alaska Highway,
and the poor damned Canadians have been fighting
that section for over sixty years since the Americans
gave it to them, and they ain't winning!
It looks like the Yukon Highways Department spends a lot
of time rebuilding several sections of the highway at
a time so that it's a forever make work project in process,
and that's probably the best that they can do. I think
that everytime they rebuild a section, they add another
lift of rock and gravel trying to build up the road base,
but even in places that there's probably at least fifteen
feet of base above the spruce swamps, it does no good.
We crossed the border into Alaska after staying overnight
in an RV park in Beaver Creek, with the unenviable
rep of recording the coldest temperature in Canada.
For most of the way to Tok, the highway was in much the
same condition as on the Canadian side because we were
going through the same type of country.
North of Tok, heading toward Anchorage the highway starts
to follow the Copper River. The basin seems to be made
up of swamp and meadow sloughs, with mountains of the
St. Elias and Wrangell ranges running the length of the
valley. It was quite beautiful but it was a huge disappointment
to me that the biggest mountains were covered in low cloud.
You could see the base of the huge mountains, and sometimes
the tantalizing tail of a glacier snaking down out of
the clouds, but I never did get to see Mount Drum, Mount
Sanford and their like.
Another exhausting day of bouncing over bumps and sitting
through road construction waiting for the pilot car to
come and take you away, and we decided to camp at Glenallen
for the night. We only made 250 miles, but it took us
all day to do it. However, the highway looks like it might
be improving a bit so maybe the trip into Anchorage tomorrow
won't be too rigourous. I realize these poor highways
guys are dealing with a real mess to annually repair,
especially in view of the extreme weather conditions and
permafrost, but man.....
Last week's stories can be found at June
The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a
remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a
beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search
engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim
Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities
in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large
as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough
room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible
country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip
of the iceberg, so join me!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!