Yes after fifty-three actual days in Alaska it has come to an end and we are making our way back to Minnesota. We are currently outside of Spokane, WA in temperatures over 100. I will never complain about the wonderful cool temps and rain we had in Alaska after these very hot days and the dryness British Columbia and Washington are seeing. Because it took us six days to go through British Columbia without cell or Wi-Fi service, I’m a little behind in blogging so I hope I don’t get to long.
Haines is where we stopped for a few days to get on the ferry to travel the Alaskan Marine Highway to Juneau. I will cover Hanes in a nutshell – most expensive place we stayed at in our entire trip so far. A loaf of bread in the IGA store was over $7.50. Stopped to get coffee at a little coffee shop and for Joe’s coffee and my tea was over $16 – ouch! One shared Halibut lunch was over $25. But our biggest surprise when we checked into the RV Park was we were told that the Southeast Alaska State Fair started the next day. Great! We were thinking the Minnesota State Fair. No, maybe more like a small town county fair. Scott County Fair outside of Jordan is much bigger but this is a really big thing for the area. They put extra ferries from Juneau to Haines for the weekend for fairgoers. We went shortly after it open on Thursday afternoon and maybe there were 100 people, 2 horses and 7 chickens. Nothing on stick to eat but they did have about 10 food booths and a live band performing. $10 a person to get in gave us a couple of hours of entertainment. When asked the question of why it’s call Southeast Fair we were told that there is another state fair in Palmer, AK. We did drive by those fairgrounds when we visited Wendy and they were a little bit bigger but not much. Minnesota is lucky to have such a wonderful state fair.
Friday we were excited about getting on the ferry to Juneau. Joe was disappointed that there were no big RVs getting on and it was pretty easy for us to drive our mini on. Lily was on her own in the mini for the next 4 ½ hours. We meet a very nice couple from Australia who were using the Alaska Marine Highway to see Alaska. We shared a pizza with them for dinner. It was a nice easy ride arriving in Juneau at 9:30 p.m. A short drive to Sheila and Marc’s new home and we were settled in for the weekend. It was so great visiting with our niece and her husband and they were such great hosts putting up with us old people. They took us to see Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls which both were beautiful. We also visited the Shrine of St. Theresa which I loved because of the peacefulness of its setting. We watched a stream of salmon making their final journey. It is truly amazing how they travel so far to come back to their place of birth to only die after laying their eggs. Watching them struggle up the current, some already dead and some still struggle on their last leg, was very sad even when you know it is all part of nature.
On Saturday after we got back from a great halibut dinner Sheila discovered they had a huge patch of blueberries right in their backyard. So she, Joe and I did some blueberry picking so we could make jam the next day. We needed 10 cups of blueberries and had no trouble picking that many with leaving many more on the bushes. Both Saturday and Sunday morning Marc made us a delicious breakfast and after they got back from church we made our blueberry jam. All I can say is “yummy, yummy, and yummy”. For dinner Sunday evening Marc grill salmon for us to try since both Joe and I told him we didn’t like salmon. The salmon was excellent! I guess we needed fresh Alaskan salmon. We finished off our meal with a dish of vanilla ice cream and freshly made blueberry jam on top. What a wonderful way to end a perfect weekend. We ended our evening early because we had to be at the ferry dock by 3:15 a.m. to catch the ferry to Skagway, a 7 ½ hr. ride. It was so much fun spending time with family that we don’t get to see very often. Thank you Sheila and Marc and we’ve already finished one of the jars of jam you sent with us.
Loading our mini on the ferry this time was a little more interesting. We were on a bigger ferry with two decks of vehicles. We were the first to get on at Juneau but there were already vehicles on. We were sandwiched next to a big fishing boat and a wall. Later when we docked back at Hanes to let more people/vehicles on we discovered we were really sandwiched in. So the ferry goes from Juneau back to Haines (4 ½ hrs.), docks there for about 2 hrs. to let people/vehicles off and more on and then a short half hour ride to Skagway. Joe loved the stop at Haines because there were several big 5th wheels getting on the ferry. So while I located the mini (which was difficult because we were hidden amongst bigger things) and took Lily off boat for a walk, Joe was attempting to take pictures of these big rigs getting on the ferry. It is pretty amazing at how efficient the ferry staff is in moving vehicles around.
The ferry ride was a nice experience but you can see so much more and are much closer to the scenery while driving in your vehicle. The best part of the ride was the trip from Haines to Skagway because the canal is so small. Here you are very close to the mountains on both sides. Great experience!
Skagway is a very big tourist town because of the cruise ships. There were four cruise ships in port while we were there and town was packed. We were glad to leave this busy little town. Leaving Skagway we had a long 11% grade climb up a mountain. For those of you who don’t know what an 11% grade means (I have no idea) it is a steep climb. Fortunately there were many places to stop and enjoy the scenery and take a few pictures. Joe and I had been on this drive ten years ago on a bus when we did our Alaskan cruise and yes we were one of those tourists cramming the town of Skagway at that time also. It brought back some very good memories.
Shortly after leaving Skagway we crossed into Canada again on our way to Hyder, AK to see the grizzly bears. Our first greeter as we entered the Yukon was a moose on the road. We made a stop at Carcross, Yukon to see the interesting paintings on the buildings. A little hype to get tourist to stop but I did buy two metal fish sculptures that I love.
To get to Hyder, AK, where everyone told us we would be guaranteed to see grizzlies, we had to take the Cassiar Highway and then turn off that highway for 40 miles to get to Stewart, CA and Hyder, AK. Hyder is at the end of the road so you have to drive that same 40 miles to get back on the Cassiar Hwy.
The Cassiar Hwy is a very narrow, windy, hilly, bumpy road, one of Joe’s “worst highway” roads that go on for about 400 miles. The north end where we started is worse than the south end. We just kept thinking about those grizzly bears we were going to see eating in the salmon filled creek. We decided to camp the next few nights at provincial /government parks because they are always so beautiful and reasonably priced even though it meant no electric or water hook-ups. Our first stop was the best – Boya Lake. We were able to get a site right on the lake and the color of the lake was like camping next to the Caribbean ocean. The exquisite blue/green water was fabulous. We heard loons calling from early morning to late night. Very peaceful! Our next stop was at Kinaskan Provincial Park in British Columbia on a very busy lake. There is a big difference between Yukon and BC parks. Yukon parks are $12 a night with free firewood and the sites are spaced very nicely apart. BC parks can be $18 to $26 a night, fire wood can be $5 for a tiny little stack to $10 for a bigger stack and they like you to like your neighbor. Love the Yukon parks!
The turnoff 40 mile road to Stewart/Hyder was one of the most beautiful drives we have been on, but again I have said that so many times because it is hard to remember all the beauty we have seen. This was a drive through a valley of two mountains where most of the time you felt like you could touch both sides. We saw some spectacular waterfalls and even the remains of an avalanche. The 20 story high pile of snow still sat alongside the road even in August. We saw a number of glaciers including Bear Glacier which was beautiful. We had a black bear run out in front of us which is always fun to see but thankful we didn’t hit it.
Originally we had thought that we would check into our campsite, do a little wash, explore the town of Stewart and wait until the morning when we left to cross over the border to Hyder to see the bear but we were too excited to see those grizzlies. So we paid for a site and took off to Hyder. Because Hyder is in the U.S. and Stewart is in Canada you have to cross through the border. Fortunately because Hyder is at the end of the road and you have to turn around and come back through Stewart to leave you only have to cross the Canadian border. Hard to understand but it is what it is. So off we go to see the grizzlies. The U.S. Department of Fish and Game have a very nice set-up at Fish Creek to see the bear. A nice boardwalk goes over the creek where the salmon are spawning and the bear can walk right under you coming out of the woods. A fee of $5 a person is charged to get in and rangers are walking around to make sure you are safe. So we parked the mini and there are signs in the parking lot to tell you that the bear frequently cross the road through the parking lot to get to the creek. We did see a ranger walking through the parking lot keeping an eye open for all those grizzly bears we were going to see. So I think by now you know we didn’t see one of those grizzly bears that like to eat salmon in the creek. We paid our entrance fee, took our cameras, and walked the boardwalk hoping to catch a glimpse of a grizzly. We were not alone in our hopes. Many big, big camera people were set-up along the boardwalk hoping for that bear to come through. We watched for about an hour with nothing showing up except seagulls picking the eyes out of dead salmon. We went back to the mini and sat in that for about an hour and then did the boardwalk again (the $5 was good for all day). Nothing! So we decided we had enough and would come back in the morning before we left Stewart. What the heck! We had come this far to see a grizzly what was another $10 and another border crossing. We had become experts at border crossings. So off we went through the run down tiny community of Hyder, AK and back to Stewart, BC. Stewart was having their Bear Festival so we thought we would check that out. This was about the same concept as the Alaskan State Fair only about 1/10th of the size. But it is always fun to check out the local things going on and I didn’t have to cook dinner that night because we had a very good bowl of chili.
The next morning we got packed up and went back to check on the bears. Nothing! Joe thinks that he is bad luck when it comes to grizzlies. I think that he has good luck when it comes to grizzlies. We did get to see two black bear at a distance in the creek so it was something and we did have a spectacular drive into Stewart/Hyder so it was well worth the extra miles.
We must be able to smell Minnesota because the truck is driving more miles each day. To get out of Canada we made a couple of long driving days with the last day we were in the truck 11 hours. It felt so good to cross over the U.S. border one last time and get to Washington. We stayed at a city park right over the border one night and are currently at a private park where they have a community garden and we were invited to pick whatever vegetables we wanted for our dinner. We are going to enjoy some sweet corn tonight that Joe is going to cook outside in this terribly hot weather. Tomorrow Lily is getting a grooming because the poor dog has been suffering in this heat and then off we go heading to Yellowstone. We expect to be back in Minnesota around the first of September to spend some time with our grandkids and kids before heading to Ohio in October. Hard to believe we are already talking about heading south for the winter. Where does time go?
So a few more post before I will wrap –up our summer Alaskan adventure. We are ready to be back in Minnesota and get our 5th wheel out of storage and try to sell the mini. We have loved travelling in our mini and no Tim we have not stayed in a hotel yet. We haven’t taken the television out of the closet although because of this hot weather we are talking about breaking our record for the longest period without watching television (who wants to hear about Donald Trump) and taking it out today.
Stay safe! See you in a few weeks, a few thousand miles from now! Love to all!