Thursday, June 26, 2014

North to Alaska

We met up with Noel’s sister Darlene, her husband Carl, and their friends Jack and Alice in Whitehorse, Yukon.  Whitehorse is the largest town in the Yukon (the northwest province of Canada) and has a population of 20,000.  The entire province has a population of 30,000, so we are talking mostly wilderness.  While in Whitehorse, we visited the world’s longest “fish ladder”.  Since there is a dam on the Yukon river, it blocks the migration of salmon from returning to their spawning grounds, so in the 1960s, they built a ladder, a series of man made channels, kind of like the old canals, that the fish can bypass the dam and continue upstream.  Much to my surprise, fish are smart enough to figure it out.  Salmon return to their original birthplace after years of maturing to lay their own eggs, and then they die.  Isn’t nature fascinating?

 Fish "ladder" for the spawning salmon, which won't
be back here until later in the summer

 Harlequin ducks along the Yukon River

 Local children's salmon art work

We also attended a “Follies” program – kind of a throwback show to the Klondike Gold Rush days, complete with corny jokes, bad acting and can-can girls.  It was on par with a high school production, and I told Noel that it was almost like you HAVE to see it just to believe how bad it is! LOL  Glad we had a coupon!
 This old guy's embarrassment when she pulled him out
of the audience was precious!

 Can-Can girls - the costumes were pretty!

We stayed at a lovely campground called ‘Hi Country RV’, and they had some old equipment used to build the Alaska Highway, probably left where it had broken down.  There is also a lot of museums and info about the gold rush, what a hard life those folks had.  The government required that they have a one year supply of food and goods, which equaled about one ton of stuff.  Those men made countless trips back and forth, on foot, through steep mountains and rivers on a narrow trail, carrying on their backs all that stuff, just to have a chance to prospect for gold.  Respect!

After exploring White Horse, we headed to Skagway, Alaska.  On the way, we stopped at a place that had a small wildlife museum (complete with taxidermied real animals, including wooly mammoth), farm animals and sled dogs.  In the winter they give dog sled rides in the snow, and this time of year you can see all the dogs and puppies, and take a wheeled sled ride.  Seeing all the dogs was fun – hard not to sneak a puppy under my jacket to take home!

 baby goat!

 There were dozens of dogs, but this one's blue eyes were beautiful!

 Puppies!!  There were lots of them!

Salute to the mounties!
 Everywhere we go, there are pelts and taxidermy stuffed animals.  No
wonder we don't see any wildlife.  They've all been skinned and stuffed!
We stopped in Carcross (short for the original name, Caribou Crossing), where we enjoyed a lot of First Nation (Canada’s term for their native people) people’s art work, some hot coffee and giant cinnamon buns.  We also stopped to take in a breathtaking view of Emerald Lake.  The color of the water was incredible – Emerald Lake contains diotomes (microscopic living creatures) that create these incredible color, hard to describe and hard to capture on film.

The native artwork here is so different than America's native indians
 Emerald Lake.  A highlight of this trip - it was
SO beautiful!

The drive down to Skagway was beautiful, and I was getting frustrated with Noel that he wouldn't pull over to let me take pictures since if we pulled over, the two RVs behind us would then all pull off and it some places it wasn't enough room for all of us.  So being the wonderful husband that he is, the next day he drove me back up the mountain about 10 miles so I could take all the pictures I wanted without having to pull the trailer with us.  Worth it!  There were tons of waterfalls and scenic overlooks and wildflowers.

So many waterfalls!
Mountain Heather
Alaska Baby!!

Here the water is a glacial, steel blue grey.  Pretty!

In Skagway we stayed right on the harbor where the cruise ships come it (Pullen RV Park).  Skagway itself is pretty much a tourist town, catering to the cruise ship passengers that arrive by the thousands every day during the summer months.  That means there are a LOT of gift stores and a LOT of jewelry for sale.  We're talking hundreds of thousands of pieces of jewelry to choose from, from $10 tanzanite earrings (to lure you into the store) to pieces that cost in the 10s of thousands.  I went into one jewelry store intending to just browse, but these guys are expert high pressure sales clerks!  I barely escaped with my wallet intact.  I had admired a star sapphire ring and they miraculously dropped the price by thousands, and the more I said no thank you, the lower the price got!  Whew, that was close!  After that, I just looked in the windows, and there was no shortage of beautiful things to look at.
The harbor where the cruise ships come into Skagway.  They give a few long
horn beeps when they are giving "last call" to passengers to get 
back to the ship.  The Disney ship's horn call the first few
notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star"!  A neat sound!
This picture was taken about 10:30 at night.  See how light it still is?

 Drool-worthy ammonite, gold nugget and diamond pendant.

 Eskimo babies wearing real fur

Native carved mammoth ivory
Look at the details!  Incredible!
Me with a totem

 The entire building covered with driftwood!

 Downtown Skagway

We had the whole day to look around in Skagway, and we ate some dinner at the harbor - fresh Alaskan crab legs - yum!  

Yummy fresh seafood

The following day, we had scheduled to take a 1/2 day train ride through the mountains in an old fashioned steam powered train.  See that train way in the distance?,,,

That will be the same track we will be on the next day...

Of course it was a rainy dreary day, but the scenery was still beautiful, and the rain and fog gave it kind of a haunting quality....

Steam powered train

I stepped outside to the viewing platform to take pics since the windows were so foggy and wet

but yikes, it was cold out there at this altitude!
On Saturday we took the Fiord Express, an all day ride and tour on a catamaran down to Juneau, the capital of Alaska.  Strangely enough, the only way to get to the capital is by boat or airplane.  The tour included whale watching and wildlife viewing, as well as a few hours of free time in Juneau, a bus tour of Juneau out to Mendenhall Glacier, then back to Skagway while they served chowder to us for dinner.  

We saw lots of humpback whales (and I got a zillion pics!), dall porpoise, harbor seals, stellar sea lions and countless eagles and birds.

And we're off!

eagles abound

we looked for the tell tale "blow"


there were two children from Australia on the boat with us.  Georgia was a beaming to be "driving" the boat!

lighthouse - there are hundreds of harbor seals on the island as well!

got close to a waterfall for a pretty photo back drop

Mendenhall Glacier - love the color!

Mendenhall glacier

Noel and his sister Darlene

Had to stop at the Juneau library!

Dall Porpoise were frolicking and following the boat

Pretty scenery

Hundreds of stellar sea lions - the sound was so cool!

The "boss" sea lion

I got lots of "tail" shots - this is going on the wall at home!
our boat

Feeding humpback whale


harbor seals

Seals watching the tourists watch the seals

ice burgs that had broken off the Mendenhall glacier
It was funny that I saw on MSNBC that the day we were in Juneau, a black bear had climbed onto someone's roof there in Juneau and fell through the skylight, right into a child's birthday party.  The bear ate all the cupcakes before being shooed out of the house, only to be shot by police later that day when it broke into a neighbor's house.

Also, funny story;  the day we were in Juneau a cruise ship full of "Santas" - men with white hair and white beards that play Santa at Christmas, had arrived in Juneau as well.  I guess the ship has classes for the Santas and Mrs Clauses on how to be better Santas, etc. but they were walking all over town, most in red, but some in Hawaiian shirts or Christmas shirts.  I didn't think to ask them if I could take their picture, but it was pretty funny to see all those Santas on vacation!

The following day we drove back into the Yukon to pick up the Alaska Highway to head even further west into Alaska.  We stopped in Haines Junction, Yukon, which is on the border of the Kluane National Park of Canada.  Our campground had a beautiful view of the mountains, and we took a hike in the park before continuing our long journey.

quaking aspen trees along the trail


A hiking selfie (Jack and Alice slept in)

We came upon a bunch of baby grouse - mama was not happy

Kluane Lake

Our morning view from Haines Junction

No matter how old they are, boys can't resist skipping rocks!

Another pretty lake along the drive

Stay tuned - there is so much more to come!


Karri said...

Wow!! I love your pictures and sooo happy that you are enjoying Alaska! Ken's aunt just moved from Wasilla to Homer and Ken visited her last year & just had gorgeous pics from his week.

Angie said...

Love all of it

Dottie Cameron said...

I am enthralled with your travel blog. Enjoying the story and the photos are awesome!

beth cole barrineau said...

absolutely amazing... breathtaking.
thanks for sharing such an awesome adventure!