There are so many great choices of places to visit on the Southern Oregon Coast that we had a tough time picking a “home base” from which to explore. The forecast was for stormy weather, so we were focused on finding a good spot from where we could do some stormwatching.
We chose Winchester Bay because it was right around the corner from the Umpqua River Lighthouse, which we missed seeing last year, near beautiful sand dunes, and within day trip distance to the charming town of Bandon.
Our arrival in Portland was the start of a flurry of activity: cleaning out Island Girl inside and out, vet visits, shopping, visits and outings with friends and a flight to Miami and back. So here comes a tale of two cities.
On our way to Portland, we stopped by the Blue Beacon to have Island Girl and the Coquí washed. Though we were planning to do further cleaning, this initial wash was a way of getting some of the excess Canadian and Alaskan grime off both vehicles.
We also replaced a damaged wheel cover on Island Girl and while we were at it removed the valve extenders on our back tires as a precaution (we have heard of many problems with these). We went with some simpler valve extenders, a little harder to use but more durable.
And we stopped at the auto glass repair place to get the windshield and sunroof on the car replaced. We finally had a clear windshield, after months of staring at a bullseye! And the tarp and duct tape sunroof is gone!
Our friends Tim and Becky generously allowed us to park Island Girl on their property near Portland. We spent the next several days emptying out Island Girl’s basement compartments and generally cleaning out all the nooks and crannies inside and outside, removing much of the dust that had accumulated there from driving on all of those gravel roads in Alaska and Canada. What a summer!
Best of all this gave us the chance to hang out with Tim and Becky. We enjoyed several get togethers to catch up on our lives since we saw each other last winter in San Diego.
Our main reason for visiting Hyder, Alaska was to see more bears. There are two salmon runs in Hyder, which is at the head of the Portland Canal, a 90-mile fjord. Salmon come up the ocean to the fjord and up the Salmon River to Fish Creek to spawn. And the bears frequent the creek to feed on the salmon.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manage a viewing platform that was built over the creek, the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, that allows visitors to watch the bears safely (for both visitors and bears) as the bears feed on the salmon.
We had initially planned to be in Hyder earlier in the season to catch the end of the salmon run but we took our time further north and got there quite late. But we also wanted to visit Hyder to see the Salmon Glacier, the world’s largest road accessible glacier.
We spent the morning walking around Stewart with Angel. It is quite a charming little town, with restored as well as rustic old buildings, and a number of shops and restaurants. The little grocery store there, Harbor Lights, offers great free Wi-Fi which we of course took advantage of.
We walked Angel over a boardwalk that was built over a large wetlands area, a very nice little walk.
After our amazing experience watching the Aurora Borealis, we continued south to Alaska headed for our final stop in the 49th state, Hyder.
We ventured up Canol Road for a little bit. This road was built in the 1940’s to provide access to oil fields in the Northwest Territory and is supposed to be a beautiful drive over the Lapie Canyon, but is not recommended for RVs. But we did get to check out the interpretive panels and some pretty rusty vehicles that were used in the construction of the road.
It was cloudy once again, we were definitely in a rainy period. So although there are picturesque lakes and mountains along the road, the mountains were not always visible due to the clouds.Continue reading →
While in Haines, one of our neighbors mentioned that they saw lots of whales on the ferry to Juneau. We were pretty happy with our whale watching this summer, but we never have enough of the whales, and thought it would be fun to take a day trip to Juneau.
An added bonus was that Juneau has drugstores and we could take care of filling Angel’s prescription. In fact, a lot of people in Haines take the regular ferry to Juneau to buy supplies especially since there are both a Costco and a Walmart there.
We were able to get a pet sitter for Angel and made our reservations for the day with the best weather forecast. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated. And, after having had great luck the rest of the summer, we were off on a ferry on a completely cloudy, kind of dreary windy day. And the sea was quite choppy, in fact the day before they had to turn back once already underway and cancelled the trip, something that has happened only about twenty times over a several year period.
The good news was that the boat we were scheduled to go out on, the Fjordland, is a catamaran that sails pretty smoothly over rough waters. And when we set off the waters were quite still because we were at the mountainous end of the protected Lynn Canal.
Shortly after departing, we stopped to look at stellar sea lions on the rocks. There were several groups, all males. This is the end of the mating season when they don’t eat. Amazingly, these big fellows are usually much bigger than this! Continue reading →
We left the Dempster and headed back to Alaska. Our next to last stop in Alaska was going to be Haines, a town we first visited on our last trip there. On that trip, our cruise stopped in Skagway, but we had our hearts set on seeing eagles, so we took a ferry to Haines, where we rafted on the Chilkat River and saw about 30 eagles. It was quite a memorable experience.
We split the drive to Haines into two days, first traveling on the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse, our third stop there.
On the way, we crossed the mighty Yukon River that was once the travelled by sternwheelers transporting miners and their supplies.
We stopped at the Montague Roadhouse Historic Site. A log cabin ruin that used to be a hotel, bar and restaurant, whose walls are still fairly intact. As I stood inside the structure, I could feel the energy of the stories that have been a part of this place.
And in honor of the old roadhouses, we stopped at a present-day roadhouse, the Moose Creek Roadhouse. It has a gift shop, and a restaurant, and lots of folksy art about the place.Continue reading →
We stayed in Dawson City a couple of extra days waiting for the rain to subside before heading to our next destination, Tombstone Territorial Park in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The road to the park, the Dempster Highway, is a gravel road with a terrible reputation. So ideally we wanted to drive there when the road was dry. But ultimately we decided to move on even though it had rained the previous night and the road was sure to still be wet.
Fortunately, it was only 44 miles on the Dempster Highway to our campground. The road was not as bad as we expected. In fact many times we asked others about it, their answer was “it’s not that bad”. That is because the overall perception is that “the Dempster” is horrible from beginning to end. And that is not true. There are bad sections, very bad sections and the “not that bad” sections with maybe a couple of “hey, pretty good” sections thrown in.
Alaska Day driving day 12 recap:
Road Name: Klondike Highway from Dawson City
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Pretty good
Road Name: The Dempster Highway
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Well-graded gravel road with minimal washboard, but plenty of potholes, very muddy after a rain
Miles Today: 83 (includes a drive back to town from our campground for gas)
Driving Time: 2 hours
Total Miles in Canada: 2217
Total Miles since entering Canada: 4405
The signs are a little scary
After arriving at our campground, we had to clean up our car, the Coquí, which was covered in mud and rocks. Fortunately, we had covered the windshield with a tarp, which helped just a little bit. Our collection of mud-covered rags keeps growing.Continue reading →
With the mudslide delay, our previous day was over 14 hours again. We were sleep deprived, but somehow still had lots of energy. So we headed out shortly after 6 a.m. The morning was cloudy, which was forecast, but there was also a strange haze in the air, making it tougher for photography. So this day was presenting Hector with a different type of challenge.
The Teklanika River was still lovely, though, and we got a glimpse of a soft, pretty, smoky sunrise.
There are several opportunities to see Denali, the high one, from the road that runs across Denali National Park and Preserve. As the road rises from forest and woodland habitat in the lowlands to the subalpine meadow and open woodland, the mountain can sometimes be seen just peeking behind a closer mountain range.
Then, as the first two of four passes rise up to and down from the alpine area of low tundra, there are two places that offer a full view of the mountain (when she wants to be seen): Stony Creek and the Eilson Visitor Center.
We set out at 5:00 A.M. in order to catch the beautiful morning light and also to be ahead of the first morning buses. Since we began our drive at mile 29 by the Teklanika River where our campground was located, we had a large head start on the park buses that leave from the visitor center at mile 1. We saw almost no-one early in the mornings, only the very occasional other car (park employees and service vehicles). It was truly special to be the only ones out on the road. Absolute solitude.
We took Angel with us on all of the morning drives, as we never knew how long we were going to be out. National Parks do not allow dogs outside of the roads, visitor centers, turnoffs and other developed areas so it was a bit restrictive but we made it work.
Our second day driving in Denali was full of promise. The forecast was for a clear, sunny day, and we were excited about seeing the mountain for the first time.
That morning we encountered a dense fog as we went over the first pass, Sable Pass. Weather changes quickly in this area so we were a bit concerned about whether Denali was going to be visible.
But fog has a unique beauty. We came across a caribou feeding, silhouetted against the fog. It was a quiet and serene scene and a sweet encounter.
The fog continued as we drove on, covering the landscape. Usually when the “mountain is out” as they say around here, she is first visible up close from the Stony Point overlook.
And there is a dramatic moment when you come over the pass and the giant mountain appears. But alas, when we got to Stony Point all was still white with fog. Rats.