Archive for the 'Alaska 2007' Category

Sep 03 2007

Prince George TV

Published by under Alaska 2007

It was another day of doing nothing. We fought with internet all day and it worked slowly part of the time. Much of the time we could not connect at all. Everyone in the park is experiencing the same problems, but since it is Labor Day weekend the company is not going to work on it. And, since it was Labor Day it was not a day for doing much as things were closed.

We do have cable TV here, but there are only 5 channels. There are a few American shows sprinkled in, but for the most part it is news channels and something similar to our PBS channel. The programming is horrible and most of the time there is nothing to watch. We are beginning to miss our DirecTV as we know the new season will soon start for some of the shows we watch.

Our satellite internet connection will be available to us once we get into southern Washington. The particular satellite we are assigned to covers most of the US except the extreme northwest corner. That will be nice since our experience with wireless in the parks we have been in has been poor.

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Sep 02 2007

Hanging around in Prince George

Published by under Alaska 2007

We tried to go to the Railroad Museum today, but when we got there they were closed. It seems we are out of the summer season and things here are already on their winter schedules. From what we could see it was an interesting place and we may return during the week if we have nothing else to do.

We did visit Connaught Hill Park, a city park on a hill near the downtown area. It is small but very pretty with views of the city in all directions and many well done flower beds. We took several photos of the flowers.

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We then did some shopping for groceries again. We normally shop at WalMart for groceries when we can find them since they seem to have the best prices. The WalMarts in Canada only have a small grocery section so we went to the Canadian Superstore which is a huge discount grocery and department store similar to the Fred Meyer stores we shopped at in Alaska. They had great selections and their prices were actually better than WalMart’s prices here.

Dianna made a chicken recipe she got from Donna for dinner and she made a decadent chocolate cupcake kind of thing for dessert. We watched TV and a movie before going to bed.

Also, for those who would like to take another gander at our photo gallery, I have updated all the pictures since the beginning of the trip with captions. I still need to delete some duplicates and poor quality pictures, but that will take a better internet connection than I have here in this RV park.

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Aug 31 2007

The Pulp Mill

Published by under Alaska 2007

This is my second attempt to write up today’s activities. My first attempt this morning was really a rant about the attitude of some campground owners who think all RV’ers should stay in RV parks every night. This business of boondocking is taking money out of their pockets! Rubbish. I had second thoughts about posting it so this will have to do.

Anyway, that discussion grew out of the fact that the internet was still not up at 9:30 this morning. Since it was not available I did some cleaning in the truck storage cabinets where dust and water had gotten in. Then we drove into town for our tour of the pulp mill located here.

Wood pulp looks just like thick paper, but it is just the wood pulp itself. It is not a finished product. From here it is sold as a raw material to companies who make paper, tissue, dog food packages, etc. Wood pulp is a major industry here.

We had to put on safety gear including safety glasses, helmets, vests and we all had to carry an emergency breathing apparatus. Scary, huh?

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Wood pulp is made from chips of wood. The chips are small, about ¼ inch thick and a couple inches across. They are a waste product from lumber and plywood mills. No trees are actually cut just for pulp anymore. There is zero waste from any tree that is harvested.

The chips arrive by truck and train from a 200 mile radius of Prince George. They back fully loaded semi’s into a lifting mechanism that lifts the front up in the air to about an 80 degree angle to dump the contents out the back. We could not get a photo of that but will try to get one before we leave here.

The chips then go into the digesters which are tall tanks with hot, caustic chemicals under pressure in them. This causes the chip to explode into pure fiber. The pulp is then run through cleaning and bleaching tanks, and then sprayed out onto huge, wide belts that run them through processes to remove the water and press the mat together. It is then run through a dryer where all the remaining moisture is cooked out, and then to a cutting, stacking and banding room.

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The plant we were in runs 365 x 24 and produces 1,500 tons of wood pulp per day. That’s a lot. All the waste material that cannot be turned into pulp is sent to the “hog” pile and is used as the fuel for the steam generators that run the plant. Like I said – nothing is wasted. They even wash down any spills and run it back into their system.

All in all it was a fun tour. The only bad part was the smell. If you want to see all the pictures, they are in the gallery under Southern British Columbia.

After the tour we did our shopping at WalMart and then came home to find that the internet service appeared to be working. Appeared to be working because when I tried to sign up for it their software crashed. After a call to tech support I finally got on. It is a pretty good connection, but not the best I have ever seen. According to their literature only one computer can be connected at a time, but we are both using it and it seems to be working OK.

So, we are set for a while. Tomorrow we may visit a museum or something. Who knows.

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Aug 30 2007

Prince George

Published by under Alaska 2007

At was another day on the road with only a stop for lunch to break up the day. We are truly back in civilization where one small town looks like another and farms and cattle dot the landscape. The terrain is mostly rolling hills with many lakes and rivers.

We arrived in Prince George, BC about 3 PM after traveling about 200 miles. It is a major city with a population of about 160,000 in the city and surrounding area. They have everything modern life could need. We decided to stop for a week and do some cleaning and resting from all the travels. We need to let expenses catch up with travel. It only costs us $20-$30 a day to sit somewhere, but it costs about $50 for every 100 miles we travel. Obviously, it costs less to stay put than to move. We need to do some shopping and I will need to purchase about 50 gallons of fuel in order to make it all the way back to the US without adding more. Diesel as well as gas is very expensive up here so I don’t want to buy more than I need.

We looked in our camping guides and selected Southpark RV Park. The ads said they had long, wide sites and internet. Our camping club book said they offered a 25% discount for members. They informed me that that was a misprint and the discount was only 15%, which made it the most expensive park in town. It is not cheap, but it looked like a quality place. I asked about the internet service, figuring that if it was of good quality the extra cost would be worth it. First they surprised me by saying it was run by an independent company and it cost $6 per day or $20 per month. I don’t know the weekly rate yet. But, they assured me it was very high speed and the connectivity was excellent everywhere in the park. Given those assurances I decided to stay, even though it was much a more expensive place than we normally stay, and paid them rent for a week.

Immediately it was obvious things were not as advertised when we discovered the sites were indeed long enough, but they are so narrow that our slide outs touch the tree branches on both sides. In addition, they have things positioned at the corners so it was a challenge getting turned into the site and will be a major challenge getting out. Then, when I tried to sign up for a week’s internet it was not working. It is now 7 PM and it is still not working. I also realized that it is probably going to cost me twice as much as I initially thought because I will probably not be able to use both computers on one account. Why do campgrounds do this? It does not cost that much to properly equip a place for wireless internet and then to charge for it on top of the campground rent is really out of line. And then, when it does not even work….. You can tell I am not a happy camper right now.

Anyway, we may not post everyday for a while. We may take a couple tours and see some sights around the area so if we find anything worth talking about we will post it.

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Aug 29 2007

Good bye Alaska

Published by under Alaska 2007

We awoke to rain again this morning. It was not just a drizzle – it was a heavy rain, with low clouds in the fjord and no sign of any let up. We had seen all we wanted to see of Hyder and hoped that the weather was better inland, so we packed up in the rain. That is not a lot of fun but I had my motorcycle rain gear so out I went. Dianna got the inside ready and I waded through the lake in the parking lot to get the truck hooked up. Yuck.

After negotiating the muddy, pot holed road the mile to the border we stopped at Canadian customs. This surely seems strange to me. There is no stop required when driving into Hyder. In fact, there are no US border patrol or Immigration people there. But when you drive out of Hyder into Canada you are stopped and have to show passports and answer the questions about where you are going and if you have guns, mace, alcohol or tobacco. There is no way to get to Hyder except through Stewart, and no way out but the way you came in. Where do they thing we have been?

With that we left Alaska for the last time. The road up through the valley was even more spectacular than when we came down because all the streams and waterfalls were flowing with more force from all the rain. The clouds and fog kept us from seeing the tops of the mountains, but what we could see was worth looking at.

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We kept the speed down to 45 until we reached Mediazian Junction where we picked up the Cassiar again. The rain did let up some and by afternoon we had periods of sunshine, although you would still call it a rainy day.

It was a good day for viewing wildlife also. On the way we saw a total of three black bears and one fox alongside the road, but none of them were interested in posing for a photograph.

After a lunch break in a muddy rest area we stopped in the little native village of Gatanyow to look at some totem poles. They sure were tall and very interesting.

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After crossing the Skeena River we drove into the town of Smithers, BC. It was the first town that actually looked like a town since we left Fairbanks. I’m not sure why, but Whitehorse still looks like a frontier town, even though it is a good sized place. Smithers could be any small town in the USA, or Canada for that matter. It has chain stores, parks, traffic lights and other trappings of modern life. We also began to see farms again, with cattle grazing in the fields and tractors putting up hay for the winter.

We stopped at Tyhee Lake Provincial Park for the night. We drove through the campground to find a spot but found nothing we could get into with our big rig. The sites were long enough, but the road was too narrow to make the turn backing into them. I spotted the campground host and stopped to ask for a suggestion. He told us we could camp in the day use area for the night, so that’s where we are. It’s not much of a campsite, but the park itself is gorgeous. BC sure knows how to build beautiful campgrounds, even if they are sometimes too small for us.

Dianna here now.

I realized, after leaving Hyder, that despite the horribly rough and sometimes nerve shattering roads, the unending days of rain, clouds and fog, and the hordes of biting insects I will miss this remarkable country. I will miss the vast mountain vistas, the unbelievably beautiful glaciers, the rough and wild and the placid and meandering rivers, the thundering waterfalls, the gorgeous wildflowers, the changing seasons, the fascinating wildlife – mammals, birds and fish alike, and the rugged people who live here – people who appreciate what they have and, by and large, live much simpler lives than any of us would or could. We will miss the endless experiences; walking on, cruising by or flying over and landing on glaciers, watching clammers in Ninilchik, fishing for halibut in Homer, actually seeing Denali, driving across the North Slope and swimming in the Arctic Ocean, watching the wildlife and just looking at mile after mile of the most gorgeous scenery in the world. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime trip and one we will remember forever. Farewell, Alaska.

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Aug 28 2007

Salmon Glacier

Published by under Alaska 2007

When we have internet access after a few days without it, we take much longer to get going in the morning. Today was no exception since we did not leave the house until after noon. First we drove over to Stewart to purchase propane and a few groceries. I paid the most I have ever paid for propane. It cost $40 to fill a bottle that I pay $20 to have filled in Texas or Arizona. Groceries were out of sight too, so we only bought what we could not do without.

Then we took a drive up the road past Fish Creek where we watched the bears last night. The road follows the Salmon River and returns to Canada a few miles up, and then climbs the side of a mountain above the Salmon Glacier. The views were spectacular and we enjoyed the trip very much.

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On the way back we stopped at the bear viewing area again and watched two more grizzlies having dinner. While there we also saw three bald eagles including a couple juveniles. As we were leaving we came upon a grizzly on the road who made us stop and wait for him to cross. He walked back past the truck so close I could have touched him if I had rolled my window down. No way was I going to do that! Sorry about the picture. It was raining and this was shot through a wet windshield.

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Hyder is an interesting place. It has the nickname of “The Friendliest Ghost Town In Alaska.” I’m not sure where that comes from, but it really is a depressing place. With a few exceptions, the buildings are in terrible shape and the place is a mess. Stewart, BC is a rather drab town as well, but it is a real place with business going on.

And then there is the road. When you cross the border into Hyder the pavement ends. The road is not gravel but just dirt. And I really do not think it is proper to call it a road. It is merely a collection of potholes from end to end. The road goes through Hyder and up the Salmon River Valley, past Fish Creek and then up the mountain above Salmon Glacier. On the way up the mountain the road crosses the border into Canada again and immediately the road is graded gravel. It is a fairly decent mountain road, about like the road we took to Eagle. But the entire road in the US is unquestionably the worst we have seen in all our travels this summer.

By the way, all the pictures we have taken on our trip are on our photo gallery, including those taken today.

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Aug 27 2007

Hyder, Alaska

Published by under Alaska 2007

We are not at Lake Kinaskan any longer – we are back in Alaska again! We are in the tiny town of Hyder which is located about as far south in Alaska as you can get. It is next to the town of Stewart, British Columbia.

We had a small shower during the night and awoke to a band of low clouds over the lake, but directly overhead we could see patches of blue. It was going to work out after all. We got on the road early for us at 10 AM and the road improved dramatically from what we had been experiencing. I was able to drive 45 to 50 most of the time. In some sections the pavement was new this year and it was so smooth. We did pass through a couple minor showers but for the most part the sun was shining and the white clouds stayed over the mountains.

If you look carefully at this photo of Lake Kinaskan I took this morning you can see the snow on the mountains just where the clouds are lifting. I wish we could have seen them without the clouds.

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By the time we reached the junction where we turned off the main route toward Stewart we felt like we were back in civilization. The highway actually had yellow stripes down the center, with dotted lines to show you where you could pass. It even had white lines along the sides showing you where the edge of the road was. Amazing!

The road through the coastal mountains was like our other trips up north. Some of the most beautiful scenery has been in these locations because of the steepness of the mountains and the heavy snow fall they receive. It makes for spectacular waterfalls and many glaciers. We stopped to take a picture of Bear Glacier, just one of many we saw.

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We soon entered the town of Stewart and drove through and across the border into Hyder, Alaska. There is no customs or immigration stop requited since you can’t go anywhere else. The pavement immediately ended. Welcome back to Alaska.

Hyder is a tiny place, population 83, that mostly exists because of Fish Creek. It is a place salmon return to spawn each year and is visited by many grizzly and black bears. The forest service has built a walkway for tourists to safely watch from. The bears are so fat from eating salmon, they could care less about people. We were told that the best time to view them is between 6 and 9 in the morning and 6 and 9 at night.

After dinner we drove up to the site, about three miles up a dirt road, and before we even got to the main viewing area we watched a big grizzly chasing fish in a small stream that flows into Fish Creek. A little while later we watched a momma grizzly bring her three cubs to Fish Creek and all of them had dinner. This was something we have seen in movies and nature shows, but we had never seen it in real life. It was a special treat.

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