Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29, 2010

We were planning on driving the Steese Highway today, but it rained all day so we decided to stay in Fairbanks. We caught up on the blog, Jim got a haircut, we washed our clothes at the laundromat, and we bought a gold panning pan. We had a beer at Silver Gulch Brewing and met a couple there from Fredericksburg who were vacationing in Alaska. When we got back to the trailer there was a note on the door from two Casita owners from Florida.

June 28, 2010

We got gas at Coldfoot for the return trip to Fairbanks. We stopped back at the 5 Mile Campground and washed the Casita and Pathfinder using the dump station water. We also made another stop for gas by the Yukon River. We got to Fairbanks and went to Pioneer Park and took showers in the Casita. Then we filled the fresh water tank and went down the road for gas (3 times today) and dumped our shower water. We stayed at the Wal Mart parking lot at night.

June 27, 2010

Today we drove the rest of the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse. We started from camp at mile 179 and the end was at mile 415. This road is mostly graded dirt, rocks, mud, chipseal, potholes, washboard, and frost heaves with a few short paved sections. There was very light traffic after the Arctic Circle where most tourists turn around and head back south. Most of the traffic on this road is big rigs hauling necessities for the oilfields in Prudhoe Bay. They drive at breakneck speed showering you with rocks and dirt. Along the way we stopped at the town of Wiseman, an old mining communtity established in 1905 with original log buildings. We saw the last Spruce tree before Atigun Pass. The tree is dead but still standing. Vandals girded it and it died. Next to it a new one has sprouted. We drove over Attigun Pass and through the Brooks Range, the highest pass in Alaska. Beyond this no trees grow. We saw 3 Muskox and a large herd of Caribou. We got gas for the return trip at $4.50 at gallon and coffee to keep us awake on the return trip. Vicki Lee and Lowell were at Prudhoe Bay with their Casita and they were out on a tour to the oilfields and the Arctic Ocean. You have to book this at least 2 days in advance for a background check. We talked to them by phone. They said it took them 4 days to get all the way up to Prudhoe Bay with the Casita. That's how slow going the driving is on the road. We did it in 2 days by leaving the Casita at Marion Creek and driving the rest with only the Pathfinder. Their Casita (and our Pathfinder) were very, very, very dirty. We left Prudhoe at 7:10 pm and arrived back at camp at 1:45 am. We drove 505 miles today. On the way back it started to rain and you couldn't even see the tail lights or our license plate for all the mud. At least it was still daylight.

June 26, 2010

We left the Five Mile BLM Camp and went back to the Yukon River to the visitor and took a picture of the bridge over the Yukon and the Casia under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Then continued on to Marion Creek Campground at mile 179. We passed the man who had the scamp at Tetsa River -- he was headed South on the Dalton. We found a beautiful place for a picnic on Grayling Lake. We crossed the Arctic Circle just before getting to Coldfoot. It was 73 degrees. From here north the sun does not set on the summer solstice and does not rise on the winter solstice. We stopped at the Interagency visitor center. This supports BLM, National Parks, National Refuge, etc. Then went across the Dalton to Coldfoot. We got gas and had a Silver Gulch Brewing Coldfoot Pilsner. There was more construction at the Coldfoot road for about 20 miles. We had to wait for a pilot car to take us through. We turned off in about 4 miles at Marion Creek C.G. The pull through campsites here were huge -- you could possible get 3 Casitas and trucks into one.

June 25, 2010

We left Denali and headed back to Fairbanks so we could drive the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse. We stopped at the visitor center in Nenana and entered the Ice Classic. This is a betting pool where you bet on the day and time that the Nenana River's ice will break up in the spring. They anchor a pylon onto the river ice and attach a cable from it to a tower on the shore. When the ice moves and the cable pulls from the tower the exact time is recorded. Half of the pot is shared by all who bet on that date and time and the other half is used for city charities. We bet on May 1, 2011 at 10:47 AM.

We stopped in Fairbanks for water, gas, and food. We drove out the Elliot Hwy and connected to the Dalton Hwy. About 11 miles in we ran into a very muddy, slick, steep hill that had just been graded and watered down. This was so slick we would lose traction on the Pathfinder and Casita. I was scared out of my wits. We had to stay in the middle of the road because there were drop offs on either side. This went on for 4 miles. Just about to the end of the construction we met a tour bus. He CB'ed us and said he would wait at the top of the hill until we got up. I just wanted to go home. We made it to the Yukon River bridge and stopped at the first place on the road for gas. We then went about 5 mile to 5 Mile BLM campground at mile 60. There were only 3 other trailers there.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010

Today I found out that Mr. Garcia passed away. He is my girlfriend Sandra's father. I have known them for 54 years. Today we saw a red fox in the campground eating a squirrel that it had caught. We went to the science center and drove back a few miles into the park to see if Mt. McKinley was visible today...no such luck. We all went to town and ate lunch. Then came back to camp and Jim put the bra on the front of the Pathfinder in preparation for driving up the Dalton Highway. Then we went to the Ranger talk about ravens.

June 23, 2010

We had a momma moose and her baby walk through camp this morning. We took the 10:15 AM shuttle bus into the park to Wonder Lake. This was a 170 miles round trip that took us 10 hours and 45 minutes. Along the way we saw two grisly bears, several Dall sheep, seven caribou, two golden eagles, rabbits, assorted birds, prairie dogs, a pair of loons nesting, six moose (three of them babies), a ptarmigan, and a wolf family (mom, dad and four pups). The wolves were the highlight for me. I had never seen any in the wild. We didn't get to see Mt. McKinley because it never stuck it's head out of the clouds. The bus ride was great but I don't want to do it again. Very tiring on the butt. The bus seats are not that comfortable and the bus had no shock absorbers. This is a dirt road except for the first 15 miles that are accessible by the public.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010

We left Fairbanks and drove to Denali National Park and Preserve. On the way we stopped at the Nenana River Bridge. Its is 174 ft. from deck to river. Jim and I visited Denali a few years ago when we took the cruise with David, Lorna, Elizabeth and Dennis. We only went to the parts the general public can go to. This time we will take the shuttle to Wonder Lake into the interior. This is an 11 hour trip. We have to take food and water. Today we went back to the 15 mile route the public can take and looked at the scenery. Mt. McKinley was not visible today. We went to the visitors center and saw the exhibits and watched a movie. We walked around the campground and saw two Casitas -- it was Mel and Mary Ellen and Sandy and Chuck from Arizona. They had been to the Bluebonnet Casita Rally in Bandera. They came by Marv's screen house and all ten of us chatted.

June 21, 2010

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. We will have 21 hrs and 50 min of sunshine from sunrise to sunset and even the couple of hours left is not really dark. We went to the El Dorado Gold Mine where we saw a demonstration of how gold is mined and we also got to pan for gold. Jim and I got 4 grams worth ($16.00) and put it into a necklace for me. Vicki and Lowell were there also. We went back to get the Casita and moved to Wal Mart parking lot since there was a four day limit at Pioneer Park. We filled up with water and dumped our waste tanks. After we dropped the Casita at Wal Mart, we drove the Chena Hot Springs Road, which is 58 miles long. On the way back around a 6:30 we saw four moose -- three adults and one baby feeding in a slough. We sat out in the parking lot of Wal Mart until 11:00 and then went to read in the Casita. At 12:30 we took pictures of how light is was outside. They even had a baseball game that started at midnight with no lights.

June 20, 2010

It was misting today so we went to the University of Alaska's Museum of the North. If you read everything there it would take a whole day to do it. We went through in a couple of hours. We went back to Pioneer Park and looked at all the historic homes, and went inside two of them. We went inside the SS Nenana (another sternwheeler) and there was a great model exhibit of the towns of the gold rush days made into a diorama. We rode the small train around the perimeter of the park.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 19, 2010

We changed spaces in the parking lot and are now in RV spaces over by Vicki and Lowell. This is much better -- before we were in the car parking lot and if we left someone could park in front of our trailers. There is a 10K fun run today (part of Fairbanks' Summer Solstice celebration) and it will come right through Pioneer Park where we are. I went to the farmer's market this morning and got some butter lettuce, arugula, zucchini, bok choy and some morel mushrooms ($15.00 per pound, I got 1/2 pound.) These rare mushrooms grow on decomposing leaves on forest floors or hillsides in the spring in areas burned the preceding summer. Fruiting of the mushrooms happens during a 2-3 week period, usually during June in Alaska, following the retreat of the snow and a period of warmer weather. I sauteed some of them with the zucchini, garlic, onion and red bell pepper. Then stirred in some balsamic vinegar and 1/4 tsp sugar. Very good. At night Jim and I went to the Palace Theatre and saw a comedy revue about life in the Last Frontier.