September 2003               


September 1 – Labor Day.  We had hoped to be in Canada by now, however we are still sitting in Tok, in the rain.  We will be getting in touch with Ford the first thing tomorrow morning and see what needs to be done to get the truck working again.  We would be really happy if we could get it taken care of here in Tok, but not holding out much hope.

September 2 – Dick was up early this morning and on the phone with our Ford extended warranty number.  After about 30 minutes and some heated discussion, it was determined that we will have to have the truck towed to Fairbanks, 200 miles north of here.  Dick also called the dealer in Fairbanks and told them he wanted this expedited, they were the ones who installed the transmission in July.

            After getting dressed, he called Willard and arranged the tow to Fairbanks.  Willard arrived about 9:00 and got the truck attached to his big tow truck and he and Dick left for Fairbanks.  Millie and the cats stayed home.  At least the rain has let up some. 

            In the afternoon Millie decided to bake a cake and do some cooking.  While she was cleaning up the kitchen, the phone rang.  It was Phyllis, wanting to know where we were.  She thought we had both gone to Fairbanks.  She told Millie to look out the window, they were parked beside us.  They had decided to spend the night in Tok. 

            Dick and Phyllis got set up and then came over to visit for a while.  We all decided to wait until Dick got back from Fairbanks and then we would go over to Fast Eddie’s and have dinner.  Dick had called and was leaving Fairbanks about 4:00 with a rental car.  Dick and Phyllis went home to rest up and wait for him to arrive.

            Dick got back to Tok about 7:30 and the 4 of us went for dinner.  We had a good evening together. Dick and Phyllis will be leaving in the morning, heading south.

September 3 – We saw Dick and Phyllis off and Dick called to check on the status of the truck.  The rear seal was cracked and they were going to repair it so they could check out the rest of the transmission.  Later in the day it was determined that the transmission would have to be replaced.  Looks like we will be here until at least Monday. At least we have a rental car so we can get around.

            We decided it would be a good day to get the laundry out of the way. The park is nearly empty and we were able to get all the laundry done with no waiting.  Dick downloaded email while we were there.  Too far north for the satellite.

            We didn’t do too much the rest of the day, Millie worked on some cross-stitch and Dick puttered on his computer.

September 4  - The sun is out and we decided to walk down to the crossroads.  It was a great day for a walk.  We checked out one of the gift shops there.  As we started back, there was a man selling produce from the back of his pickup.  He had some green tomatoes and as Millie loves them fried, we stopped and got a couple.  We also stopped at the grocery store and picked up a couple of things we needed.  It was nice to be able to get outside.

September 5 – The sun is out again today and we decided a drive to Delta Junction was in order.  We enjoyed the drive north, looking at the changing trees and beautiful mountains.  It was cloudy when we arrived at Delta Junction, but not raining.  We were hoping to get a look at the buffalo herd that lives there.  The Milepost said that a good viewpoint is south on the Richardson Highway about 20 miles out of Delta Junction.  We made a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center, and then turned onto the Richardson. 

            Just a few miles down the highway, we were treated to a moose cow and her calf crossing the road.  The calf was quite large and the cow was huge, the biggest one we have seen yet.  We were surprised to see them, moose-hunting season is beginning.

            We passed Fort Greeley where the army tests its cold weather equipment.  We were then driving on a stretch of the highway that is nearly straight as an arrow for 4 miles.  Looked somewhat like driving in West Texas.  There was a lot of fall color in this area. 

            Along this stretch of highway you can see the Aleyska Pipeline and pump station #9.  The pipeline crosses under the highway at least twice here. 

            We got to the area where there is a beautiful view of the Copper River valley and the mountains beyond.  This is where we hoped to see the buffalo herd, but not today.  We did enjoy the colorful foliage, and then drove back north to Delta Junction, stopped for gas and a snack, then south towards Tok.

            Delta Junction is an agricultural area and we decided to drive out one of the roads that pass through the farming area.  There are several grain crops raised here and we were hoping to see some of the migrating birds that stop on the way south.  We didn’t see any birds, but did see one farm that raised reindeer.  We also stopped to take a look at a herd of Yak on one farm. 

            We enjoyed the drive back to Tok, the clouds had nearly cleared out and it was a beautiful drive back.

            Dick talked to the people about the truck, they are waiting on a part they need and they think it will be in on Monday.  Not looking promising to be ready until Tuesday.

September 6 – Another sunny day.  We didn’t do much, just hung out at home.  Not really much to see or do here. Millie called Ann and Debbie and talked to them.

September 7 – It’s cloudy and some sprinkles this morning.  After breakfast Dick walked over to download email and Millie put a roast in the crock-pot to fix for dinner.  She then decided to make a pumpkin pie.  Dick drove up to the grocery store to get a can of pumpkin and soon the pie was in the oven.  This is Dick’s favorite pie.

            In the afternoon Dick went over to pick up a paper and Millie read it.  Then she finished up dinner and we ate.  It was good.  Millie cleaned up the kitchen and then we watched some TV and Millie did some needlework.

September 8 – Woke up to some sun this morning.  Maybe it will be a good day.  We are getting worried; on the weather last night they were forecasting snow for Fairbanks the end of the week.  We really want to be out of here by then. 

            Dick called about the truck.  Still no part, they are hoping it will arrive sometime today.  We are so ready to get out of here!  We decided to work on the webpage some.

September 9 – Dick called Fairbanks and the truck will be ready this afternoon.  We got ready and started out.  It was a nice drive into Fairbanks, lots of fall color and new snow on mountaintops that were bare just a few days ago.  Looks like winter is on the way.

We got to Fairbanks and went to the Ford dealer.  Truck was not quite ready, still had to be road tested.  After about an hour, we were back in possession of our vehicle.

            We went to Pizza Hut and ate, then stopped at Fred Meyer and purchased groceries.  It was a long drive back to Tok but we were ready to be on our way so it didn’t seem so bad.  It is really a strange feeling to drive for many miles and not see another vehicle or lights from a house.  This was basically the first time we had driven up here after dark.  We got back to Tok about 9:30, put the groceries away and off to bed.  We had driven over 400 miles today and are still in Tok.

September 10 – We got up early and headed out.  After getting fueled up, we had breakfast at Fast Eddie’s and were finally on our way.  Our border crossing was uneventful, just a few questions this time and we were on our way. 

            The leaves are turning and it is really looking like fall.  It has been a few years since we have seen such nice fall color and we are really enjoying it. 

            We had rain off and on and it was overcast when we arrived in Whitehorse.  We had wanted to stop at Sheep Mountain in Kluane National Park to see the Dall sheep, however the visitor’s center there was closed.  We continued on along the shores of Kluane Lake and into Whitehorse.

            Our stop in Whitehorse was at Mackenzies's where we had stayed twice before. This time however, they were nearly empty.  We got set up and drove into town for dinner and stopped at Wal-Mart for Dick to make an appointment for an oil change tomorrow. 

September 11 – We were up early and Dick was on the way to get the oil changed.  Millie got things ready to roll when he got back.  We were on the road by 9:30 and it was cool and cloudy.

            We watched for Dick and Phyllis as we rolled south.  They were leaving Skagway this morning and we were hoping to see one another again before they go towards Washington and we towards Montana.  Phyllis had sent Millie an email that they would be stopping at Mukluk Annie’s for the night so we decided to stop there and hopefully see them before we headed on to Watson Lake. 

            Many things along the Alcan are closed now, including Mukluk Annie’s.  Millie called Phyllis and left her a voice message that we would continue on south and try to see them when they turned onto the Cassiar Highway.

            We stopped at the Cassiar and fueled up, then pulled out of the way to wait to see if Dick and Phyllis would catch up.  While we were sitting there a trucker walked over and told Dick we had a low tire.  Well, it wasn’t low, it was flat.  It had lost some tread.  Dick got out his jack and got it changed.  By then we had been there an hour and decided that we weren’t going to see Dick and Phyllis, so we continued into Watson Lake.

            We registered at the RV park and pulled into the washing area.  We worked for about an hour or so and got the TS cleaned up.  It was really cold and starting to rain, but we got it done.  Dick left the truck for tomorrow.

            We went across the street for dinner, then home and into bed early.  We were really tired.

September 12 – It is still cool but the sun is out this morning.  We had breakfast and then started cleaning house.  We did a real thorough cleaning and everything looked great.  Dick then drove back to the washing area and got the truck cleaned up.  Everything is clean! 

September 13 – We got the laundry done today.  Got everything washed up, including the rugs.  It is cool and cloudy today.

            After we brought the laundry back we did some tourist things.  First we went to the Northern Lights Center and saw the presentation in the theater there.  It was really good and we enjoyed it. 

            Our next stop was the famous sign forest.  Many years ago a homesick American soldier posted a sign showing the mileage to his hometown.  Since then the sign forest has mushroomed.  We were amazed at the number of the signs there.  We spent quite a while walking around looking at the signs, then went to the Alcan Highway Interpretive Center.  We watched a short film on the highway and looked at the exhibits on the building of the Alcan. 

            After dinner we watched TV and then off to bed.  We will be on the road again tomorrow.

September 14 – Surprise!  Dick woke Millie up this morning and began pointing out the window.  It had snowed overnight, about 4 inches or so.  Dick got out and got the slide covers cleaned off and we got hitched up.  The truck was cold and didn’t really want to start.  We headed south, hoping to run out of the bad weather. 

            The roads were clear but the snow kept coming.  It was really pretty to see and we didn’t mind as long as the roads were ok.  It did turn out to be a great day for wildlife viewing.  First was a black bear that was messing around on the road.  We then saw another bear, a stone sheep, 3 deer, some elk and a herd of buffalo.  We also saw 2 pairs of trumpeter swans and even a very large owl who was sitting on a sign next to the road.

            We stopped at Liard Hot Springs and had lunch at the lodge there, then went across the road to the springs.  We parked and walked on the boardwalk back to the springs.  These springs are a very popular stopping spot for travelers on the highway and today was no exception.  There were a number of folks soaking in the springs.  We didn’t join in but watched others enjoy them.  The springs were really nice, the 2 pools had nice gravel bottoms and the water was crystal clear. 

            Our evening stop was Fort Nelson.  We only put out the bedroom slide and the smaller door side slide as we didn’t want to have to do too much cleaning off if it snowed overnight. 

September 15 – It did snow overnight but not as much as the night before and this was a light fluffy snow, where the earlier snow had been wet and heavy.  We got the slides in and headed south to town.  We stopped for fuel and had a great breakfast before going towards Dawson Creek. 

            We were in snow all day, some times just flurries and sometimes heavy snow.  The road is still staying clear and we cleared the passes with no problems.  There is a lot of traffic heading south.  As we neared Fort St. John, the landscape began to change.  We were in an area of rolling hills and beginning to see farms. 

            After we crossed the Peace River we drove through an area of road construction.  It was really muddy and slick.  Soon we were in Dawson Creek.  The big mountains were behind us and rolling hills with farms around us.  This area is a big grain growing area.  One of the things they grow here is canola, which yields oil used for cooking. 

            We located the Elkhart RV park and Dick got us registered.  We could see some of the fields on the hills to west were white with snow, although there is no snow here in town.  The couple that run the park here were very friendly and very helpful with setting up.

            After setting up, we drove a few blocks downtown and had a good dinner at a place called “Mr. Mike’s”.  We also drove through town to see what it was like, and then back to the park.  Dick got the internet satellite fired up and we caught up on email, etc before going to bed.

September 16 – We woke up to a little dusting of snow, but it soon melted off.  We went to the Visitor’ center and toured the museum there.  Also walked down into town and got a photo of the Mile 0 marker.  Most tourist things have closed, so back home and spent a quiet evening. 

September 17 – It was sunny and cool (41) when we hitched up and left Dawson Creek.  The drive south was through a lot of farm country, we are heading for Jasper, AB.  We saw elk and deer on the way.  These were the first deer we had seen in several months.  Alaska has no deer. 

            We arrived in Jasper and found our way to Whistler Campground.  We couldn’t get a space with power, they were all taken.  Dick asked the Ranger if we could run our generator.  He replied “only 7-10 AM and 5-7 PM.  Dick asked Millie what she wanted to do, when the Ranger told us he would put us in an area where there were no other campers and that we could run the generator, just don’t tell anyone he told us that.  He would have a space for us tomorrow in the full hookup section. 

            The campground was nicely laid out with large spaces.  The area we were in was beautiful and we enjoyed having “our very own” camping area. 

            We got set up and went into the town of Jasper to have a look around and get something to eat.  Jasper is a neat little town and we enjoyed walking around.

September 18 – After breakfast Dick went to the Ranger Station and got our new space assignment and we hitched up and moved.  The campground area in this park is beautiful.  None of the spaces were crowded together like we have experienced in our US National Parks. 

            In the afternoon we drove to Maligne Lake to take a boat ride.  The drive from Jasper to the lake was about an hour, through beautiful mountains and along the Maligne River.  The river begins at Maligne Lake and flows to Medicine Lake, where it disappears.  In the summer, Medicine Lake is practically dry.  The sandy bottom of the lake allows the water to drain underneath.  This is one of the largest underground river systems in North America. 

            We were fortunate to arrive at Maligne Lake in time to catch the 3:00 boat.  The ride on the beautiful lake surrounded by mountains lasted about an hour.  At the end of the lake, we stopped for a visit to the much-photographed Spirit Island

            On our way back to Jasper, we were delayed by a group of big horn sheep standing on the roadway.  One of the rams strolled over and licked the sides of our truck.  We knew it needed washing, but he just put one strip down the side!  Not a good wash at all!

            At the entrance to the campground we were treated to a large bull elk with his harem.  This is breeding season and we have been advised to stay back from the bulls as they become very ill tempered during this time.  It was very interesting to see such a large (20 or so) group together, 1 bull and the rest cows and calves. 

September 19 – - This morning we drove to Whistler Mountain, just a few minutes from the campground, and purchased tickets to ride the tramway to the top of the mountain.  It was cool and overcast.  We had to wait about an hour for our allotted time on the tramway.  We enjoyed the view of Jasper from the platform at the bottom of the tramway while we waited.

            We boarded the tramway and rode to near the top of the mountain peak.  On the way up, we saw a black bear hunting berries and food.  We were surprised to see him that far up, but the guide told us the berries were better at the higher altitudes and the bears come up after them. 

            When we reached the top of the tramway, it was cloudy and snowing.  There was about 2 inches of snow on the ground and the trail to the summit was slippery, so we elected not to walk to the top.  We did enjoy the view of Jasper and the surrounding area.  On our way back down we again saw Mr. Bear enjoying his snacks.

We decided to drive south on the Ice fields Parkway today and visit some of the sites along the way.  We will be driving this same highway when we head south to Banff, but we would be towing the trailer and it is more difficult to find stopping places.  We drove south to Athabasca Glacier.  We parked and walked up the trail to the glacier.  This glacier is accessible by foot and with care you can walk out onto the glacier itself.  Parks Canada keeps a safe trail marked on the glacier.  Glaciers pose a lot of danger, they have hidden crevasses that can mean nearly certain death if you fall in.  There have been several instances of people dying on this particular glacier.  Even though personnel there are experienced in rescue, a person can die of hypothermia very quickly in the crevasse and there have been no live rescues here. 

            One interesting attraction here are large “snow coaches” which are like busses with huge wide tires that take people out onto the glacier.  We didn’t elect to take a trip, but did watch as the coaches drove out onto the glacier.

            On our way back to Jasper, we stopped at several beautiful waterfalls.  The power of the river is amazing and these falls were beautiful to see.  We stopped at Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.  We also stopped at an area where Mountain Goats are often seen, they cross the highway and go to the cliff next to the river where they lick the minerals in the exposed cliff face.  We were not treated to the sight of any goats.

            Back at the campground we were again treated to the sight of the bull elk and his harem.  They seem to be staying right in this area.  It is amazing to watch people who don’t heed the warnings and get out of their cars and get so close to these very large animals.

 We drove into Jasper and went to the visitor’s center.  Phyllis had asked Millie to pick up some coins that are only available in Jasper.  The 2003 ones were not out yet when Phyllis was there in May.  We inquired at the center and the lady behind the counter directed us to the other side of the lobby where the Chamber of Commerce was selling the coins.  We got the ones for Phyllis and also some for ourselves. 

            Back at the campground we again saw the elk herd.  This morning we had seen several of the cows in the camping area next to the RV’s, this evening they were all on the entrance road again.  Tomorrow we head south to Banff.

September 20 – This morning is sunny and cold, 36 degrees when we left the campground. We headed south on the Ice fields Parkway towards Banff.  The road climbed through the beautiful Canadian Rockies.  Every turn presented a new view and they were all breathtaking.  We passed the town of Lake Louise; we will come back for a day trip after setting up in Banff. 

            We arrived at the Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds in Banff and were assigned a site.  This was another of the nicely designed Parks Canada campgrounds.  We had wonderful views from both our dining room and living room windows of snow covered mountain peaks.

            After setting up, we drove into the town of Banff and took a look around.  Banff is a lovely ski town and lots of shops, etc.

September 21 – Today we drove to Lake Louise.  Our route was the Bow Valley Parkway.  We stopped at Johnston Canyon.  We walked the trail to the beautiful falls area.  The canyon is very narrow and much of the trail is actually a boardwalk fastened to the wall of the canyon.  It was a sunny day and we enjoyed this walk.

            We arrived at the town of Lake Louise and drove out to the lake.  This is a beautiful lake that reflects the mountains around it.  We were fortunate to have such a beautiful day and see the lake at its very best. 

            After walking around the lake, we headed inside to the lovely Lake Louise Chalet.  This hotel is world famous and much photographed.  We had decided that we wanted to have lunch at the Chalet.  After much wandering around, we finally found the dining room.  Much to our dismay, it was closed until later in the day.  Disappointed, we headed back to Banff. 

            After we returned to Banff, we walked around town looking for a grocery store.  We didn’t find anything, so we drove to Canmore.  We found the grocery store and also a nice restaurant to have dinner.  We had a good dinner at a window table with a view of the mountains. 

September 22 – Today we went into Banff to the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site.  This elegant building was constructed in 1903 and recently restored.  It is a showpiece of architecture and natural history containing many mammal, bird and insect exhibits. 

            Our next stop was the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.  This is the site of the “Cave” and “Basin” hot springs.  There is also an interpretive boardwalk, which we walked.  We saw tropical fish that had been introduced to the area.  The temperature of the water is such that they survive here very well.  Another interesting thing was the white alga that grows in the water.  At first we thought this was mineral deposits, then saw the sign giving the information on this algae.  When we watched closely, it was obvious that this was a moving formation.

            We then drove to the world famous Banff Springs Hotel.  Most pictures of Banff include this magnificent building.  We also viewed the beautiful Bow Falls on the Bow River, flowing in front of the hotel.  We drove back to Tunnel Mountain Via Tunnel Mountain Drive and saw some great views of the Banff Township.

September 23 – It was sunny with a few clouds and 38 degrees when we left Tunnel Mountain driving towards Calgary.  There was new snow on the mountains and as we neared Calgary, some areas with a light dusting of snow along the highway. 

            Not far from Calgary, Dick talked to a truck driver on the CB and asked him if he knew of a good truck wash in the area.  Our rig was really dirty and needed a good bath.  This driver was wonderful and not only led us through Calgary, but took us right to the Truck stop.  Dick went in and made the arrangements for our wash.  We had about a 3-hour wait.  We got in line, and then went inside to have lunch at the very nice restaurant there.  This truck stop was much like a mini-mall, with barbershop, showers, other shops and the restaurant. 

            After lunch, we went back to our rig and Millie took a nap while Dick waited to be called for our wash.  What a terrific job they did!  Our rig was completely covered with degreasing foam, and then hand washed.  It looked like a new rig when they finished.  Both our truck and the trailer were done for $65.00 Canadian, about $50.00 US. 

            We arrived at Pine Creek R V Campground south of Calgary and registered.  This is a nice campground with large sites and very clean.  We were really pleased with our site. 

September 24 – Today we did laundry and Dick found the local Ford dealer and had the oil changed on the truck.  Later we went to Tony Roma’s for dinner and to Wal-Mart for some shopping.

September 25– A day of just hanging out at home.  Dick put a coat of Protect All on the front of the trailer.  We went to Red Lobster for dinner.   Nothing exciting.

September 26 – Today we headed south for the border.  We crossed into the United States at Sweetgrass, Montana at 12:50.  Our Alaskan odyssey is officially over. 

            Since we crossed the border at Sumas, Washington on June 4 we have driven 9,686 miles.  We have driven the complete length of the Alaska Highway, the Klondike Highway, The Taylor Highway, the Richardson Highway, the Parks Highway, the Seward Highway, the Sterling Highway, the Glenn Highway/Tok Cutoff and the Cassiar Highway.   We have also ridden on tour buses over the Dalton Highway (aka the Haul Road) and the Edgerton Highway/McCarthy Road.  We visited 4 National Parks and crossed the Artic circle.  We crossed International Borders 12 times.  We experienced rain, hail, snow and sunshine.  We found the Alaskan and Canadian people to be very friendly and helpful.  In spite of a lot of horror stories we were given, nothing terrible happened to us and our only major breakdown was the transmission on the truck.  Would we do it over?  You bet!  Alaska is a very special place and needs to be seen to appreciate.  Our dream trip is over, but you can be sure we will have a lifetime of memories to keep.

            On to Great Falls, Montana for the night. 

September 27 – It is sunny and 47 degrees as we leave the campground and head for Billings.  We will stay there for a few days and get some chores done. 

September 28 – 30 – We are at the KOA in Billings, Mt.  This is KOA #1 and a very nice park.  We have a concrete patio, fire ring, picnic table and swing at our site.  There is a small herd of deer that wander around the park during the day.

            We did some shopping, Millie got a haircut and perm and Dick got a haircut.  We had dinner at The Olive Garden one evening.  The weather has been great, warm and sunny during the day and cool at night.  We will be leaving tomorrow, heading to Casper, Wyoming.