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Wilderness Adventures - June, Week 4/2006

This is the Alaska Journel for the summer of 2006..
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page. Check out the Picture of the Day.

6/30/2006 10:22 PM

Rec Mecca

We toured a road down around Big Lake not far from Wasilla and then followed the road around to Knik, and back north again. We woke up to a rainy, overcast day so we decided to stick to looking around an area where we probably wouldn't be missing too much mountain or ocean view because of the weather. We turned out to be mostly, although not entirely, right.
Big Lake is more or less Southwest Alaska's playground. It's where you go on the weekends and during the summer to get away from the 'city' whether that be Anchorage, Wasilla or Palmer. The lake is pretty much wall to wall with summer cabins and there are several recreational campsites on it as well. We saw quite a few floatplanes moored on the lake and there's a small gravel airport nearby. Actually, there was a very interesting little fenced in compound that was very easy to miss as you drove by. We went back for a second look because we caught the sight of a few 'broken' wings and fuselages in behind the trees. Some of the crashes the pilot and passengers may easily have walked away from. Some....possibly not. The compound must be a holding place for salvaged parts and I can see the need. According to books we read written by Alaska pilots, plane crashes were common, and unless you put a guard on your plane soon after it went down, you might easily come back to a plane that had been stripped of anything useful. Other pilots that overhear a mayday on the radio or that happen to fly over a plane within days of it going down apparently will often swoop in and help themselves to spare parts.
The road past Big Lake quickly deteriorated into a a narrow rutty lane that wound through the trees for miles. The undergrowth here is quite thick and jungle like. We finally came out to our intended destination which is the paved road from Goose Bay that runs adjacent to the Knik Arm. Anchorage is on the other side of the Arm down where it narrows and feeds into Cook Inlet. We stopped at a pullout just a hundred feet above the ocean to give the dogs a break from the back of the truck. As we pulled in I noticed a large log and woodsided house across the road. The log work definitely looked like Pioneer Log Home's but I wasn't accustomed to them using lumber siding and didn't give it another thought. After watching the tide go out for a few minutes we went to leave when Andy noticed that there was a Pioneer Log sign near the house so I took a couple of pictures of the place to show Bryan and Tabby Reid when we got back to Nimpo Lake. A fellow came out onto the front porch so Andy and he yelled greetings across the highway to each other and discussed the fact that we all knew the Reids and Bryan Senior who owns Pioneer. The fellow invited us over to see the house and it turns out he's the Alaska Rep for Pioneer and had actually designed the house. Beautiful place and well laid out and the guy, Ed Payton was a great person to talk to. It's a small, small world out there! In any case, we managed to shoot down the whole afternoon and it turned out to be a great day, even if it was dreary weather wise.
For anyone considering that particular drive, make sure you just take your vehicle. Although you could take an RV over the dirt section of the road, it is a little rough and could be quite messy if muddy.
I managed to get the stuff below loaded up at Kaladi Coffee up at Wasilla and will probably do the same with the rest for as long as we're here but I'll probably load up several day's worth of stories at a time.

6/29/2006 1:57 PM

No Stories

There probably won't be any articles uploaded for a few days. We've landed in a Sardine Spam Can RV Park in Palmer and although it has trees, that is about its only redeeming factor. I have just been informed that if I wish to use WI-FI from any of the three towers in the area I will have to do so at my own expense of somewhere between $6 and $10 a day. This tells me that the owners are obviously too damned cheap to pay the $30 or $50 a month it would cost to provide their patrons with internet service. Unusual when you consider that the monthly fee they would pay to provide service for everyone in the campground they would get back from the fee paid by only one camper for one and a half day's stay. Especially unusual since every park that we have been to in the Yukon and Alaska that provide internet service, have done so for free. It doesn't say anything about a charge out on the sign on this place or in the MilePost and I hate false advertising! Since I only need to be online to upload this blog for less than a minute daily, paying for access does not make it worthwhile. So unless we come across internet access elsewhere, I'll keep writing the articles but they probably won't be uploaded until next week sometime. Had we not already paid for a five day stay in this dump already, I'd be moving. There's no place to walk the dogs in the RV park itself but I did find a road down below the park outside the fence along a swamp and was congratulating myself for finding at least one positive thing about the place. Until the owner informed me that we need to pick up after our dogs anywhere on their forty acres, including down in the swamp. I wouldn't have a problem with inside the park fence, but swamp? Wonder who's picking up after the moose and bears that skip through there.
Do I sound pissed? You bet I am! Oh, by the way, the name of this joint is the Homestead RV Park and I most certainly do not recommend it to anyone, now or at anytime in the future!
I will try to get this part uploaded so that you all know what's happening. There's also the article below that will be uploaded at the same time.
Oh, and Happy Canada Day to the Canadians and Happy July 4th to all you Americans!
6/28/2006 10:55 PM

Complex

Okay, now we're starting to get a complex about our little trailer. As we were leaving the RV Park in Homer today we had yet another tourist, or in this case, tourist couple, inquire about our trailer. At least in this case the first reaction was very postitive. Yeah, everyone is questioning our home on wheels. We have had so many people ask us about the trailer that we're beginning to get a complex about it. At one point when we pulled into a site at the Tesla campsite, we even had people across from us laughing at it. Finally the campsite host came over to collect our money and admitted that everyone around the fire over there had been having a chuckle and wondered what our trailer was supposed to be. So we showed her around and told her a little about it and back she went over to the bunch across the road to tell them that it was indeed a full sized trailer.
When we went to the Wildlife Conservation Park and I had asked Andy to grab the 35mm with the big telephoto for some pictures, he didn't arrive because a fellow had come up to ask about the trailer. I just walked away because I was getting too used to the 'ridicule'. As it turned out, this guy was an engineer and the next time I looked he was crawling around under the trailer and checking out the framework. In the end, his verdict was he just couldn't understand why all trailers weren't manufactured that way. My sentiments exactly!
The big question that everyone has on seeing our trailer is, "Does it have to be wound up like an Alaskan Camper?" or, "How do you stand up in it?" Well, that's pretty easy. The trailer is 6'5" high in the middle and not that many people are that tall. But it does have a very low profile overall, especially when it's being pulled by a big dually Ford supercab and it looks so tiny next to all the big fifth wheel 'walls' coming down the road. It is '30 in length which gives us lots of room inside. It doesn't have any pop-outs but as a result it has so much cupboard, drawer, and closet space that we actually have several of those empty.
Because this is a lightweight trailer with aluminum frame and only weighs 3600 pounds, it can actually be pulled by a car and although our mileage has dropped somewhat as compared to empty, we are still getting 15.5 MPG and that is not highway driving. Not great but we can live with it. Especially when these guys in monster motorhomes are telling us with great pride that they are getting a whole 6.5 MPG. Scary in my books!
At least the couple that inquired about the trailer this morning in Homer were pretty cool. They saw it when we pulled in the night before and decided that was the trailer for them! Obviously they recognized that it didn't need to be pushed up and saw the potential for fuel savings pulling it. And as the fellow expressed, "At least it will fit in my pole barn!" I guess they have been looking long and hard for the right rig for some time and this is the first one they've been really excited about, especially after I showed them how roomy the inside is.
So people, stop laughing, please! We have loads of room, lots of height, and we get better fuel mileage than most. We can't help it if it's Canadian made and your engineers haven't come up with that kind of concept yet. Shit happens.
Aside from the one of many comments we've had about the trailer, we've had a great time so far. The park that we stayed at is a 'must' choice. We saw some awful places that have great pictures in the MilePost and that I wouldn't board my dog at. However, the Glacier View RV Park in Homer is super and way more comfortable weather wise than anything I saw elsewhere, including on the Homer 'Spit'. Super people, great spots with a terrific view, and those all important things like free heated showers, fantastic view, WI-FI, and a little less wind than elsewhere. My top recommendation to anyone going to Homer.
We went back down the spit in the hopes of getting some reasonably priced seafood. As usual, the tourists get ripped off, me among them. But we've got a little fish in the freezer and since it doesn't look like we're going to stop long enough anywhere to catch our own, that's probably a good thing.
We went back up the highway along the coast and this time got to see Cook Inlet, Mount Iliama and Mount Redoubt because the mysterious mist mysteriously disappeared. We went the back way up to Kenai and looked around there, then headed back through Soldotna and Sterling until we found a fantastic spot on Kenai Lake at forestry campground east of Coopers Landing at Quartz Creek. This is by far one of the prettiest campsites I have ever seen. It's US Forest Service run and they couldn't have done a nicer job setting it up. Much as I would love to nest here over the long weekend, and the host in charge showed us how to get a long term campsite, it's just not to be I guess. So onward to Palmer we go. We stopped and talked to the campground host for awhile. He's from Arkansas and ex law enforcement and our kind of dude I think. When I questioned him about fishing for Arctic Grayling he said he was taking a three mile hike up into a mountain lake tomorrow if we'd like to join him. Boy, would I love to, but the wagon train must go on!!
Sure would like to know when the wagon train is gonna stop. Goldpanning, flyfishing...can you imagine? Both passions of mine and I sure would like the chance to do either, but I ain't driving this rig baby, so there you go!
We're all safe now because we've got reservations in Palmer tomorrow and possibly over the holiday weekend so I guess we'll work our way around that part of the country for the next few days. I was pushing for picking a wild country camping spot up in Hatcher Pass if we had to leave the Kenai now because it has....guess what!... fishing and goldpanning! But I didn't win. So I guess I'll write about whatever it is we do.

6/27/2006 10:33 PM

Exit Glacier

We drove back north out of Seward today to the Exit Glacier and that was a trip I'm very glad I didn't miss! The road takes off only about three miles north of Seward and in about eight miles. From the parking lot at the interpretive centre you walk less than a mile to a path overlooking Exit Glacier. Down another path, cross the flood plain and you are at the foot looking up at the three mile long glacier. It's small in comparison to many but it is one of the few completely accessible glaciers that you can almost drive to. It is one of many glaciers fed by the Harding Icefield that is said to be a remnant of the last iceage and they still have no idea how deep that little sucker is!
Anyway, we took the walk along a path that you are supposed to be able to see bears from. Fortunately, all we saw up the mountainside were goats. The glacier itself was fantastic in every respect but I have to tell you folks...even up close it still looks like melted blue Styrofoam! The only thing that convinced me otherwise was that I actually walked on it and it's a slippery little bugger. You know that pebble ice that you can get on the highway from freezing rain that just about guarantees a fender bender? Well that's what the surface of the glacier was like with grit imbedded in it. Said grit helped very little with traction, let me tell you! I'm assuming the texture is caused by the surface of the glacier constantly melting and refreezing over a long period of time and apparently this glacier, like Portage, is retreating.

Got some great pictures of the Styrofoam, especially since we woke up to a gloriously sunny day today. That also allowed me to get some pretty nice pictures of the Seward area. Sure does make a difference when you aren't dealing with low, grey clouds.
The glacial silt coming from the foot of the glacier just kept on rolling down Resurrection River toward the highway and since there was a lot of quartz in the rock near the glacier, it sure looked to me like it would be a great river to pan gold in. Unfortunately, we decided to keep on going to the Sterling Highway cutoff toward Soldoltna. We passed the fantastic fishing rivers all along the Kenai and then continued down the West coast to Homer. I'm really hoping we can stop in a few places on the way back but because we have the July 4 long weekend coming up it's kind of throwing our schedule out of wack. We really need to figure out where we're going to settle for the weekend so we thought we would check out Homer first then work our way back up the coast. But who knows...plans were made to be changed.
There was a really strange mist that came up along the ocean side of the coast reminiscent of some of Stephen King's stories so you could only catch a rare glimpse of what promised to be a breathtaking view of mountains and Cook Inlet, but just never could see the real deal. The same mist persisted until a little while after we arrived in Homer. The woman at the RV park said that it had been happening just the last few days and was a phenomena that they have only begun seeing in the last three years. Global warming again?
The views surrounding Homer really are worth taking in but when we first arrived there was a vicious wind out on the Spit, so though we toured it quickly, we didn't stay, and chose a park well above the shoreline instead. It turned out to have an even better view anyway and the wind has dropped to just a tiny breeze. We walked the dogs a couple of times down on the beach this evening, the latter time while te tide was going out, and it was really beautiful. Now I'm just waiting for the sun to start setting to see if I can get a pink glow on the mountains behind the bay in a picture.
You will probably have noticed that the article below didn't get loaded up until a day late. No internet last night but I thought I would write anyway and load up the next time I could. You may see that happen fairly often, especially this coming weekend. We're without RV hookups tonite and I suspect that will happen a lot over the holiday so internet will be iffy too. Oh, and please don't mind the spelling or grammar in these articles while we're in Alaska. More often than not I'm running on battery power for the lap top and can't afford to be as conscientious about spelling as I usually try to be. Besides, I left my poor old faithful Webster at home and I'm too cheap to spring for another one!
6/26/2006 9:32 PM

The Road To Seward

It took us all day to make it to Seward even though it's only 127 miles from Anchorage. You could say we're taking that relaxing 'tourist' thing a little too far. We travelled the highway from Anchorage this morning toward Seward making stops at just about every viewpoint. Andy has taken a liking to reading all of the informational panels at every view stop while I've become fanatical about anything 'glacier'. Once you get out of Anchorage, the highway borders Turnagain Arm for several miles to Portage. We watched the salt water churn in the inlet trying to determine whether the tide was coming in or going out. Here, tide changes are some of the most drastic in the world measuring 33 feet between lowest and highest tide. In addition to that, a large bore tide tears up the arm about 2 1/4 hours after low tide in a five mile stretch from Beluga point to Girdwood where the Arm narrows down and can reach heights of six feet. It's quite perilous to small craft as are the deadly mud flats that appear after the tide is out. I'm sure you've all heard of the one fellow that died trapped in the quicksand-like mud because rescue operations could not pry him loose before the tide came back in.
Beluga Point was noted in the MilePost as a place to see the now rare whales and watch the bore tide come in but the viewpoint was packed with people and vehicles so it was one of the few places we sailed on past. We did stop down the road at another pullout when we saw the water ripping over rocks near the shore. Sure enough, in the short time we were there we could see the sea level drop substantially and see mud flats begin to appear even out in the middle of the inlet. It was quite interesting since I don't believe I've ever watched a tide go out before, and certainly not that quickly.
There were lots of other sights to see but we chose not to stop because we wanted to make two sure stops. Andy wanted to see the Wildlife Conservation Center and I wanted to see if the Portage Glacier was still visible from the road as it was according to Andy's sister when she saw it in the 70's.
The Wildlife Center is a super place to go and I highly recommend it to everyone. As seems the case with everything nice to see in Alaska, there is a fee, but in this case it's perfectly acceptable because the money goes back into looking after the animals. As I understand it, most of these animals have been brought to the Center because of injury or because the animal's parent was killed and it was too young to survive in the wild. What this means is that it certainly isn't a zoo representing all of the animals in the area, but only those that were in dire need of help. What is truly amazing is that the facilities provided for each type of animal is so natural and provides such good cover, that none of the animals could possibly be suffering and you could tell that from their coats and their demeanor. The enclosures for the hoofed animals were huge with lots of grass, brush, and trees and in the case of the moose, they even had their own swamp. The brown bears had a swimming pool as well as several acres of buckbrush so that when they got tired of posing for people, they disappeared and you couldn't have found them again if you tried. As a result of such 'natural' surroundings, all of the animals appeared relaxed and happy or as much as they could be. Once you watched for any length of time you started to see the various injuries that caused them to be brought to the the Center. Caribou that limped, a black-tailed-Sitka deer that had hoofs that were four times too long, a bald eagle with only one wing resulting from a gunshot wound. In the case of the twin black bear cubs now grown to a year or two, their mother had been shot while a young moose's mother was killed on the highway. But even through all that grief, there were babies. Elk, wood bison and muskox that had been there long enough in high enough numbers to breed had done so. It was pretty cool.
We went on to Portage and on the hunt for the elusive Portage Glacier, called such because it had provided the easiest pass through the mountains for gold hunters and others that came after them. On the way to Portage Lake we saw two glaciers up in the mountains, so close it seemed you could touch them, but we were too slow stopping and had to save pictures for our return. We got to Portage Lake, which is quite pretty, but very glacierless. According to the MilePost, Portage Glacier extended across the lake in the 1970's to within a mile of the visitor center but it has receded so dramatically in recent years that it has now disappeared around the corner of Byron Peak and can only be viewed by getting on a tour boat. I'm sorry Barb!
We stopped at pullouts where you could view the two glaciers we saw coming in, one of which was Explorer Glacier and reared up above the beautiful green-blue of a glacier fed lake. What a spectacular blue the ice was at the tail of the glacier! It almost doesn't look real the blue is so indescribable. The closest thing I've ever seen to it would be melted blue Styrofoam because the ice had a smooth, sculptured look with great streaks of black from the shadow of deep, deep crevasses scarring the face of the glacier.
It was sure something to see and I'm hoping we can hike to the foot of Exit Glacier tomorrow so that I can see one up close.
The highway from Portage to Seward is narrow and overhung on both sides with a jungle of greenery. I can't really compare the country to any area that I know. On the coast around Vancouver you have huge trees as you do in Bella Coola. Here you're too far north and the snow probably too heavy to support anything but alder, poplar, some spruce, birch and low bushes, but it grows thickly from road right up the mountain sides except where the taller trees have been wiped out by avalanche.
We arrived in Seward tonite and have camped in a park along the ocean. Actually, it's Resurrection Bay. The views are spectacular with the green of the Kenai Fjord and mountains surrounding the town but you can tell I wasn't born on the ocean. I have no love for that cold, damp wind that comes with the view but that's just me. We'll check out the town tomorrow and then head back north for the Sterling Highway cutoff and Soldotna and all the sights in between.
By the way, last week's stuff about Alaska can be found at June Week Three.

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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!


Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Ocean and mountains.
 
Tail of Glacier.
 
Glacier north of Seward.
 
Resurrection Bay docks.
 
Lake and glacier mountain.
 
Bald Eagle caged.
 
Muskox.
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