The Kennecott Mines

Kennecott 19On Sunday, we took a tour up to the town of McCarthy in a 12-passenger van, on our way to the Kennecott Mines in Wrangell St. Elias National Park. To the surprise of a couple of passengers, Angel went with us. But she quickly settled in, and sometime into the ride, one passenger commented that they forgot she was there because she was so quiet. She is such a good girl!Kennecott 56

The road up to McCarthy and Kennecott has a very bad reputation. One person even told us that if we were to drive up there we would need two spare tires. But the Wrangell St. Elias National Park ranger told Hector that the road was in the best shape it has ever been. Which did not matter much since our car was not working.

Kennecott 1Kennecott 2The ride up on the van did confirm that the road was not as terrible as some people were saying. Yes, it is sixty miles of gravel road that gets progressively worse as you get nearer to McCarthy. And, yes there is a very long stretch of road that has a washboard. But our van made it through just fine. Well, sort of.

The road is a 2-lane road, but just barely accommodates two cars in places. The driver of a rental class C was coming down the opposite lane at a pretty fast speed and never slowed down. He popped Kevin’s (our van driver) side mirror to the point that the glass shattered. After talking to the driver of the Class C, Kevin told us that his mirror flew off and hit him in the head. He was ok, but the damage was going to cost him.Kennecott 3Kennecott 50 Continue reading

Day 9 on the Alaska Highway

To Haines Junction025It was raining when we left Whitehorse on day 9 on the Alaska Highway. Our 9th day driving out of 14 on the Alaska Highway, and our 19th day in Canada.To Haines Junction001

Day 9 driving recap:

Road Name (s): Yukon Highway 1

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: a few frost heaves and patches, becoming more frequent frost heaves just a few miles past Whitehorse, then several long gravel breaks due to road construction, smoothing out a bit just before Haines Junction

Miles Today: 130

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1754

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 985

Driving Time: 3:15

To Haines Junction008To Haines Junction003To Haines Junction010The beginning of the drive was not especially scenic, but of course we are pretty spoiled by now. And we soon had to slow down due to the road conditions. Continue reading

On Beautiful Muncho Lake

Muncho041Muncho044We spent the next few days on beautiful Muncho Lake, combining relaxing and enjoying the view with some driving tours, some hiking, some kayaking, and, of course, photography.Muncho043

At 7 ½ miles long, Muncho Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in the Canadian Rockies. The Terminal Range west of the lake is the northernmost section of the Rocky Mountains. These and the mountains east of the lake, the Sentinel Range, climb to 7,000 feet. The views of the lake framed by these mountains are spectacular.Muncho045Muncho016

Since it was raining and we did not see any wildlife during our drive to the lake, we doubled back in the car once it cleared for another opportunity to spot some wildlife. We drove back as far as some spots that are known for wildlife and had much better luck.Muncho002Muncho009 Continue reading

Day 2 on The Alaska Highway

Alcan Day 3 7Yesterday was another driving day, day 2 on the Alaska Highway and our third in a row. We are moving through at a slightly faster pace than we originally planned at this point. It is great to have that flexibility.

Alcan Day 3 1Alcan Day 3 2Last evening, before we stopped at the rest stop for the night, we noticed a sign about construction work down the road. Since our motor home has a rear radiator, we read that it is possible for rocks to get propelled into it causing damage. Hector planned to install a rock screen to shield the radiator and had already purchased mesh wire for the job. So this morning he installed it. And, while he was installing it, it began to rain lightly. But he perservered.Alcan Day 3 3

Tip of the day: Attach wire mesh as a rock screen for rear radiators.

Cut the wire mesh to appropriate size, attach it to chassis or other hard metal brackets using zip ties.Alcan Day 3 4

Today’s driving recap:

Road Name: BC Hwy 97, Alaska Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Relatively smooth.  Occasional gravel breaks or rough patches.

Miles Today: 271

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1068

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 343

Driving Time: 5:30

Alcan Day 3 5Alcan Day 3 12The scenery changed slightly with more forested areas with lots of pine trees and hillier terrain with mountains in the distance. There are some steep grades in this part of the drive, reducing our average speed. We spotted our first bears today, all three were black bears, and black in color as well.Alcan Day 3 14Alcan Day 3 11

The first gave us our closest look, he crossed the road and then walked along the side of the road for quite a while. He had quite a thick, wet, shiny coat, and no doubt had taken a dip in the nearby river. And now he was munching away at some greens.Alcan Day 3 15

Alcan Day 3 13The others went back into the forest when they saw Island Girl approach.Alcan Day 3 9

The morning rain shifted to cloudy conditions with some very pretty clouds, then to a sunny, warm afternoon. I was not expecting it to be this warm, so it was a nice surprise.Alcan Day 3 8Alcan Day 3 6

Alcan Day 3 18We stopped at the Trapper’s Den Wildlife Emporium just before Fort Nelson. The shop sells native crafts, moccasins, mukluks, fur hats, and lots of other stuff.  Alcan Day 3 21Alcan Day 3 19Alcan Day 3 20

They even had camo lingerie (Wilderness Dreams!). It is a small but cute store with a very nice proprietor. She was talking to a couple of other locals in the store, and their accents were very Fargo-esque.Alcan Day 3 16

Next we noticed a Tim Hortons next to the gas station where we filled our tank, so we stopped to eat lunch and use their Wi-Fi.Alcan Day 3 23

Alcan Day 3 22And then continued to the Fort Nelson Visitor Center. Just across the way is the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. The theme of the museum is transportation, and just in front of the entrance there is a monument commemorating the workers who helped build the Alaska Highway.Alcan Day 3 55

Alcan Day 3 56Then you enter the first building and oh boy, there is almost too much stuff at this museum. Pioneer artifacts, taxidermy displays, including an albino moose cow.Alcan Day 3 38

A display of artifacts from the Alaska Highway construction, antique telephones, a small general store display, antique signs, old radios, maps, an antique jukebox and more.

Alcan Day 3 51Alcan Day 3 59Outside there are all kinds of antique trucks and antique heavy equipment used in the building of the Alaska Highway as well as some fabulous vintage cars in a large garage on the property. And lots of license plates and tools.Alcan Day 3 54

Last, but not least, there are several buildings from the era of the Alaskan Highway, mostly there to display more artifacts – a typical house, a church, a log cabin.Alcan Day 3 32

Several young men were around to open the buildings and provide information about the artifacts inside. All for CA$5.

I think it must be tough to be a place “on the way to something else”. And so the people here make a heartfelt effort to provide visitors with the opportunity to connect with some of their history. Good for them.

We left Fort Nelson planning to spend the night at a rest stop about 50 miles away. Everyone we spoke with and everything we read said that this next part of the drive was the prettiest on the Alaska Highway, and there would be lots of wildlife.Alcan Day 3 10

As we left, we encountered some steep climbs and the mountains grew nearer. We climbed to the summit of Steamboat Mountain at 3,500 feet with beautiful views.Alcan Day 3 60

alcanday3065The first rest area we reached had a motor home sitting in the one spot with a view so we continued to the next one. There was a fifth wheel in the next overview but it had a wide area open with views so we stayed there.  A beautiful spot.Alcan Day 3 62

alcanday3066Alcan Day 3 63We settled in and watched a bright red sun setting in the sky. We know the best is yet to come.

~ BrendaAlcan Day 3 64

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin030Great Basin019At the end of the Nevada section of Hwy 50 is the Great Basin National Park, a national park that we had never heard of before we began our drive on the Loneliest Highway in America. We love the national parks, and visiting new ones is always fun.Great Basin012

Great Basin027The Great Basin is comprised of multiple basins, from the Sierra Nevadas on the West to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains on the east, with lots of mountain ranges and few rivers. These narrow basins surrounded by mountains offer no outlet to the sea for their streams and rivers. So the water in its shallow salt lakes, marshes and mud flats evaporates.

Great Basin023Great Basin016Great Basin National Park was created in 1986 and includes much of South Snake Range, a desert mountain island surrounded by desert. This and other mountain islands support species of plants and animals that can only survive on the tall, cool mountains. At these higher altitudes there is lots of diversity – streams, lakes, and wildlife.Great Basin001Great Basin013

There are five campgrounds in the national park, one that accommodates big rigs. But we chose to stay at Sacramento Pass Recreation Area, a free BLM campground. It was just off the road but quite nice. There is an equestrian campground with even lovelier views on the upper level but there was one trailer there, so we chose to be on our own on the lower level. Read my review of the campground here.Great Basin009 Continue reading

The Many Colors of Mono Lake

mono lake003mono lake001Our first visit to Mono Lake was on a day trip from Yosemite National Park more than 30 years ago. We drove east on Tioga Pass and wound up on the east side of the pass looking at this brilliantly beautiful lake. This was my first encounter with the many colors of Mono Lake.mono lake004

The lake was stunning and her colors changed when viewed from different angles. So much so that I later became convinced that there was more than one lake. And I never forgot her.mono lake018

mono lake081So this year we planned to return and spend some time there with the intent of watching sunrise over the lake, and of course photographing her. When we arrived in the area, our friends Nina and Paul and Russ and Todd had saved us a spot next to them overlooking the lake.mono lake002 Continue reading

Bishop and the Volcanic Tablelands

bishop021bishop001The day after visiting Manzanar, we continued heading north on U.S. 395 towards the town of Bishop and the Volcanic Tablelands. We were excited about visiting Bishop and boondocking in the nearby BLM Volcanic Tablelands. It was still somewhat windy, but the weather forecast was for the wind to die down, so we forged ahead.bishop002

Island Girl climbing the washboard road up to the plateeau

Island Girl climbing the washboard road up to the plateeau

bishop013bishop009With help from our friend Nina, we found a nice campsite on the tablelands (only a couple are suitable for big rigs). It had a 360-degree view of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the west and the town lights of Bishop and lower mountains to the east. Absolutely stunning, see my review here.bishop014

That evening we stayed at our campsite and enjoyed the view.bishop049

bishop048

bishop005

Continue reading

The “Q”

Q  011Q  012We weren’t quite sure about returning to the “Q”.  Some people said that once was enough.  But we were excited about meeting friends in Quartzsite, although we cut our stay a bit shorter than last year.

And we sure are glad that we chose to return.

Q  018

Q  015Last year I wrote about the Merchants in the Desert, and once again we headed out to all the shows. Frankly, I think that the Big Tent tent is the least exciting of all, although we spent a bit of time at one of the North to Alaska booths plotting our summer trip to Alaska.Q  014 Continue reading

The Scenic Route to Quartzsite

el centro  071el centro  053We decided to take the scenic route to Quartzsite and made a brief detour to the town of El Centro. Our friends Brian and Leigh found a boondocking spot about 15 minutes from town in an area that had a very strong cell signal. So we stopped there intending to join them and new friends Seth and Drea for dinner, do some grocery shopping and leave the next morning.el centro  062el centro  050

el centro  059But they convinced us to stay one more night. Angel was especially happy to hang out one more day with friends Emma and Curtie. Although they ignore each other half the time, she likes to have them nearby.el centro  063el centro  061el centro  055 Continue reading

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza Borrego  022Anza Borrego  011There is tons to see and do in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in the state of California. Last year we enjoyed some hiking and drove to Borrego Springs to see the fabulous Galleta Meadows sculptures.

Anza Borrego  023Anza Borrego  024This year, we’re taking some time to work on Hector’s photography website while enjoying our beautiful campsite. But we have managed a few outings. Starting with the small but pretty good quality farmers market in town on Fridays. We’re big fans of farmers markets so we sample them whenever we can.Anza Borrego  026Anza Borrego  027 Continue reading