We left our trailer set up in K’esugi Ken Campground and drove the truck south to Talkeetna in the early afternoon. We had a very nice lunch in the historic downtown area of Talkeetna. We walked around Talkeetna (it didn’t take long) and then visited the Ranger Station. This is the Ranger Station that all Denali mountain climbers must visit to register before their climb. They have a program about climbing Denali and have statistics about this year’s expeditions. It is now very late in the climbing season and only seven climbers were on the mountain. This year about 1,100 climbers tried to summit with a success rate of around 42%. Interesting information on mountaineering on Denali can be found at: https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/mountaineering.htm. We then drove to the airport where the climbers are flown to the base camp of Denali. We also visited the adjacent cemetery that has a memorial for all the climbers that have lost their lives attempting to summit Denali or Foraker. We then visited Talkeetna Lodge for a cup of coffee hoping for a great Denali view; however, the mountain was still not visible due to the haze. We arrived back in the campground just in time for the campground Ranger program regarding bears. It was very interesting to learn about the differences in black and brown bears and hear to about the bear issues that have occurred in the Anchorage area recently. Jason, a National Park Service Ranger, has spent several summers in the Denali area. This year, he is the only NPS Ranger assigned to the State Park as part of a new liaison program. He knew all of the NPS staff that we got to know during our visit to Denali National Park and Preserve. He also knew the sled dogs very well and we told him about our unique experiences during our visit to Denali. After the presentation, Jason came to our campsite and shared additional information on some the bird studies that are occurring in the Park. He had ice cream with us around our campfire. Once again, we went to bed very late as the sky never got dark.
We left Denali National Park Service Headquarters around noon. The 140-mile drive south on the Parks Highway was very scenic. We pulled into K’esugi Ken Campground in Denali State Park around 4PM. This is a new campground that was just opened in 2017. We found a large campsite (No. 22) that was equipped with a 50 amp electrical service. It was quite sunny and warm; however, the mountains were not visible due to a haze from a fire. Typically, a view of Denali can be seen from this campground. We set up our campsite and BBQ’d steak for dinner. After dinner, we drove to Byers Lake. The lake was so inviting that we had to break out the kayak and go for a quick paddle across the lake. On our way back to the campground, we visited an impressive Veteran’s Memorial along the Parks Highway. We came back to our campsite and made a campfire and had s’mores.
We had a nice breakfast in the trailer at the Denali NPS HQ RV Park (that’s an unofficial name). After breakfast, we when to the Denali Visitor Center and checked out the interesting displays about the Park’s past, present and future. From there, we went on a hike around Horseshoe Lake. As we passed by the Nenana River, several whitewater rafters came by in the swift moving river. The Horseshoe Lake area is quite the ecosystem. Beavers build dams that slow the water and create the lakes. Other wildlife come to the lake for food. Today, there was a healthy female moose in the lake eating grass from the lake bottom. We got to take that elusive moose selfie from shore across the lake. There are many trees in the adjacent forest that show evidence of the beavers gnawing at them. We also got to see the beavers in action. The busy beavers were taking plant and tree material across the lake to their latest dam project. It was fascinating to watch them at work. It was amazing to see how fast they swim large vegetation across the lake. After the hike we came back to the trailer and made dinner. So far the day had lacked the drama we had experienced in recent days so Rachel decided to change that. As we sat down for dinner, Rachel dropped a full glass of milk all over herself and Sean and the dinette. So instead of having dinner at that moment, Sean took a shower while we cleaned up the milk. It really wasn’t too bad despite what Sean thought. After dinner, we watched a movie and went to bed early (midnight). Tomorrow we leave Denali National Park and Preserve. It is an amazing place and we had experiences that we will not soon forget!
We left Savage River Campground and drove back out the Park road to Denali National Park Service Headquarters. We met the Park Superintendent and he took us to the campground in the historic headquarters compound. It is a great site in a small campground area (6 sites) with full hook-ups for park employees and contractors. We walked to the sled dog kennels on the compound for the 2PM demonstration. After the demonstration, we toured the kennels and pet the dogs. As we were about to leave, one of the dog’s playfully grabbed Rachel’s fur-lined boot and shoestring. Unfortunately, it also nipped Rachel’s ankle. The kennel staff treated the wound and we went to the local urgent care to have it cleaned and bandaged. The urgent care then contacted the Park Service Rangers who had to come to do a report on the incident. He asked us where we were staying and we said at the Park Headquarters. He said he lives there too, directly adjacent to where we are camping. He gave everyone a Junior Park Ranger Denali Centennial 1917-2017 badge. It is a small community of very nice people that operate the Park. When we left the urgent care, we had an ice cream cone then went to dinner at Prospector’s Pizzeria & Alehouse. After a delicious dinner, we came back to the trailer and while the kids showered, Felicia and Mark went for a walk with the dog. Of course, while we were walking through the compound, the Park Ranger we talked with earlier saw us and stopped to talk. He offered to give us a road pass to camp at Tek. Shortly after that, the Park Superintendent’s wife walked by and also stopped to talk with us. She gave us great information on things to do both in the Denali area and other areas of Alaska as we travel to the Kenai Peninsula and Juneau. We finally walked down the roadside trail with Denver. When we got back to the trailer, a female moose and her two calves decided to camp with us. They spent the night about 60 feet away from our trailer sleeping in the grass.
Today we had a great day in Denali National Park and Preserve! We left Riley Creek Campground at 9AM and drove into the Park to Savage River Campground. We found a nice campsite, quickly set up the trailer and ran to the bus stop to catch the 11:30 bus to goes into the Park 66 miles from the entrance. It was a beautiful day and the views along the Park road were spectacular. We were fortunate to make this trip on a day where Denali was visible for most of the trip. It is typically only visible 30% of the days during the summer months. By the time we reached the Eielson Visitor Center, Denali was covered in clouds. Along the way, we saw several caribou, ptarmigan (state bird) and snowshoe hare (changes it color in winter to white and in summer brown). We also saw two Dall sheep on the way back. We would highly recommend taking the bus tour, the bus was full, but confortable and our bus driver Philip provided a wealth of information about the park. Mark has found his retirement career, driving the bus. We got back to Savage River Campground around 7PM. We made dinner and played a quick game of Monopoly National Parks Edition. Sean had Denali but Felicia won!
We left Fairbanks and drove about 140 miles south to the Denali National Park entrance. It was very nice scenery along the way as we drove along the mountain ridges. Upon arrival, we checked into the campground and got very bad news. We made reservations to stay 2 nights at the Park entrance, 1 night approximately 15 miles into the Park and 3 nights 29 miles in the park at a campground called Tek. The clerk informed us that we couldn’t drive past mile 15 since we were over 40 feet long. They also said that the campgrounds we can stay at are full for the next 5 days so we would need to leave after two days. Needless to say we were disappointed to get this news, especially after making these reservations 7 months ago and having two discussions about vehicle length with reservation clerks. We spoke to a supervisor who said they were sorry but the Park Rangers will not allow a vehicle or combination of vehicles over 40 feet on the Park road. We didn’t know what to do as the Supervisor cancelled our reservations for 3 nights at Tek and told us that if we can’t find another campground outside the Park, we can camp in rest areas on the highway..….great!
We went to our campsite in Riley Creek Campground and made an early dinner since everyone was hungry. As we had dinner, Mark remembered that the Chairman of the Beverly Hills Public Works Commission told him that he knew the Denali National Park Superintendent. Out of desperation, Mark sent the Chairman an email and asked just how well he knew the Park Superintendent. He responded and said he would shoot him an email. After dinner, we went for a drive on the Park road to mile 15 and did a short hike. Sean did not want to go so he stayed in the trailer. When we were a few miles from the campground, we got a call from the Commissioner and he said he got a response from the Park Superintendent. He told us to give him a call at his home phone number. We called his home and got an answering machine. About the same time, Sean was calling us and talking about the lightning and rain that has now started. As we are on the phone with him, he said that a car just stopped by the trailer and someone is walking around our campsite. He is now scared and indicated that someone is knocking on the trailer door. We were only a couple of miles away and drove immediately back to the campground. When we arrived, we found a note and a beautiful collector coin from the Park Superintendent. He said to give him a call and that he has a spot for us to camp at Park Headquarters. We went from disappointment to exhilaration! We finally talked to the Superintendent on the phone and we said we would meet him on Monday at Park Headquarters after we leave our campsite. He indicated that he has a couple of full hook-up sites that we can use that are typically used by Park Service employees. It was a great end to the day and we look forward to exploring Denali National Park.
We decided to stay in Fairbanks for one more day. We originally planned to go to Denali today but we still needed to get some supplies for the now five days in the Park. Everyone was in a bad mood. It could be the long daylight hours (it never gets dark at night) and we have been staying up to late. The sun is setting after midnight and rising before 4AM. It could be that we have been living in a little over 200 square feet for about three week (with four more ahead of us). It also could be that we have driven close to 4,000 miles since the beginning of this road trip. Whatever the reason, it was one of those days where we all asked why are we doing this……and some of us contemplated flying home. The highlight of the day was Sean & Rachel making a new friend with a duck (Duckson). We ended the day shopping for groceries at Safeway and when we came out of the store it was pouring rain….very fitting. Tomorrow we head for Denali and hopefully, our moods will improve.
We really slept in this morning (probably since we didn’t go to bed until 1AM. At around 9AM, Denver wanted to get fed so we got up. It was another beautiful day in Alaska with clear skies and warm temperatures. We moved to another campsite within the State Park since one of the electrical/water sites was opened. We spent the morning and early afternoon cleaning things up and starting to prepare to go to Denali. Mark reorganized the outside trailer compartments and cleaned out the truck. We had lunch at the campsite in the Clam (setting up the Clam is now going pretty well). Denver got a bath (not by jumping the in lake). In the late afternoon, we went to downtown Fairbanks and did laundry and washed the truck. Later we went out to dinner at Big Daddy’s BBQ.
We woke up pretty late and we’re wondering if we should spend the two nights at Moon Lake State Park. Sean went outside to go fishing, but only got a nibble. We started to get ready at about 11:00 AM and right before we were on the road, Denver slipped out of his collar and ran off in to the lake. We think that he was going after a big log that was about 20 feet off of the shoreline. Mark dried him off and we hopped in the car for another day of driving.
It wasn’t the most exiting day of driving, but about an hour into the drive, we stopped at the Delta Junction Visitors Center, which also happens to be the end of the Alaska Highway. We had lunch, and then took some photos next to the sign, and some next to these huge Mosquitos, made out of scrap medal. Everyone got back in to the car and drove off heading for Fairbanks. We got to Fairbank at around 6:00pm and looked at different campgrounds to stay at. We finally decided to stay at Chena River State Campground. We settled in and after dinner we wanted to go to the volleyball courts. We played volleyball until about 10:30 PM and then went on a bike ride around Fairbanks until 11:00pm. The sun was still up the entire time we were biking and it never really got dark. It must be difficult for people who live in Alaska to go to bed during the summer. We all were tired when we got back to the campsite and we took showers and went to bed.
Happy Birthday, America! We celebrated the 4th of July in a unique way…we crossed the border from the Yukon Territory to Alaska! However, our route was a precarious one. We left Moose Creek Government Campground around 11AM and headed toward Dawson City. It was very interesting to see all of the gold mining areas along the Klondike River as we arrived into town. Dawson City has been maintained as it was over 100 years ago. It has many historic buildings, dirt streets and wooden sidewalks. We decide to have lunch at one of the shops on Front Street. It was a beautiful day so we sat outside on the wood deck (that matched the sidewalks). After we ordered our food, Mark was putting his wallet in his pocket and two credit cards fell onto the deck; however, only one was under the table. At a closer look, he determined that his driver’s license was missing and must have fallen through the gap between the wood planks. The waitress said she was short-handed and couldn’t help and that the owner would be back soon. In a few minutes, the owner came by and said that she didn’t have any way to remove the planks and that she would need to call someone. Mark said he had some tools in the Airstream and asked the owner if it would be okay if he tried to remove the planks to get to his drivers license. She said sure so Mark and Sean went to the trailer and in a few minutes came back with screwdrivers, a small sledge hammer and a crowbar. Using the crowbar Mark was able to remove one short plank and get his license. Using the sledgehammer, he pounded the screws and plank back in place. We told the owner that everything was fine and we left. Mark was happy he put the crowbar into the trailer for the trip!
Downtown Dawson City
With the driver’s license in tow, we headed for the ferry to get across the Yukon River.
We waited for about an hour and then we were signaled to drive on with a few other vehicles. It was the first time the Airstream has been on a boat ride. It was all fairly uneventful as we drove off the ramp on the other side and only slightly scraped the deck.
As we left the shore of the Yukon River, we had know idea of what was ahead. It is approximately 160 miles across the “Top of the World” Highway to get back to the Alaska Highway. After a short time on this road, we realized that this was going to be a long, rough ride. The highway follows several ridgelines over the mountains and the condition of this highway was very bad. The scenery was spectacular but the drive was difficult. We were thrilled to reach the “Top of the World” and decent into the border crossing checkpoint. The border officer was very friendly and told us that we were at the halfway point of the highway. We were excited to be in Alaska at last! We were also excited to see a new asphalt road leaving the border! Unfortunately after a few miles, the road went back to the same condition as the Yukon side and we slowed to a crawl to negotiate ruts, potholes and rocks. We were happy to finally get to the town of Chicken and stopped to take a look around. It is a very cool little settlement. We left Chicken and entered into a construction area that was so bad, we though we may need to put the truck in 4WD to get through. From there, the road continued to be poor and it felt like it took forever to get back to the Alaska Highway. We finally made it to Tok at 10PM and after fueling, we drove to Moon Lake State Campground and found a great campsite adjacent to the lake. We BBQ’d sausages and celebrated the 4th of July with dinner at 11:45PM. We were all happy to be done with the “Top of the World” highway!
We woke up late and made a nice egg and bagel breakfast. It was a chilly morning so we made a campfire in our site overlooking Squanga Lake. We decided to get a little exercise so we ran/walked up and down the hill several times from the boat dock (where Rachel sunk into the quicksand) to the entry gate. It was noon by the time we were back on the Alaska Highway headed north. We stopped in Whitehorse (capital of Yukon Territory) for fuel and to dump our holding tanks. It was overcast with intermittent rain showers. When we left Whitehorse we decided to take the Klondike toward Dawson City. This route follows the Yukon River. There were several interesting stops along the way including, the Montague House (historic road house dating back to the stage coach days) and Five Finger Rapids. We also crossed the Yukon River at Carmacks. This bridge was under rehabilitation and the road was very narrow and only one way. We managed to cross without hitting the bridge railing somehow. We ended up stopping to camp at Moose Creek (Yukon) and were very tired. We had a small dinner and took showers with the little water we had left in the tank. We are looking forward to celebrating the 4th of July in Tok, Alaska!
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We left Liard River Hot Springs around 10AM. Not to far north of the campground, we saw a large heard of Bison crossing the highway in front of us. We also started seeing bears adjacent to the highway on a regular basis. We stopped at Watson Lake for lunch and to visit the Sign Post Forest. The Sign Post Forest is impressive and you could easily spend several hours walking through the forest and reading the signs. There are all types of signs from personal signs to road signs from various places all around the world. We went into the Visitor’s Center and picked up information about camping in the Yukon Territory. The staff at the Visitor’s Center was very helpful and informative. There was a nice display of photos and artifacts of the building of the Alaska Highway (if we didn’t mention this before, this year is the 75th Anniversary of the construction of the Alaska Highway). We watched an informative video about the Yukon and the Alaska Highway construction. We then drove northwest into and out of British Columbia and Yukon Territory several times as the road crosses the border between the two Providences on it’s pathway north. We stopped for the night at a Yukon Government Campground called Squanga Lake. We had a nice campsite overlooking the lake. Sean grabbed a fishing pole and walked down to the boat ramp dock and put a line in the water. Rachel went with him and decided to walk on the wet sand adjacent to the dock. As she put one foot on the sand, she sunk into the muck to a depth about her knee. Sean ran back to the trailer to inform us that Rachel was stuck in quick sand! Rachel managed to get her foot and leg out of the muck without losing her shoe but she was covered in mud. We cleaned her up with the outside shower of the trailer and than had Chili for dinner. The sun didn’t set until near midnight!
Happy Canada Day! After sleeping in we had a pancake and egg breakfast under the Clam. While Felicia sprayed clothes with anti-bug juice, the three of us went to the Hot Springs for a swim. The day was overcast but pleasantly warm. We rode bikes around the campground and enjoy a day of no driving. Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park is awesome! It is a must stop for anyone traveling the Alaska Highway. We were fortunate that we made reservations for two nights as the campground as well as the overflow lot was full. The campground was quiet all day as campers came and went and people visited the hot springs. We relaxed in the afternoon and caught up on this blog. As we were about to fire up the generators and prepare dinner it started to ran. We scramble to get all the clothes off the cloths line before they got soaked. It poured as we huddle in the Clam and waited for the rain to stop. It didn’t so we transferred the clothes to the trailer and put on rain jackets to stow away the other gear. We set the generators up under the truck and made our dinner while it continued to rain. We sat under the Clam and watched the tent campers move into their cars. We had an early dinner and though about breaking down the campsite in preparation of leaving early in the morning. It finally stopped raining enough to pack up the gear and load the bikes in preparation for leaving in the morning. We watched the old Cary Grant movie, Father Goose, and then went to bed.
After having a cinnamon bun and finishing a couple more loads of laundry, we left the Tetsa River Services and Campground at 1PM for the relatively short drive to Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. The drive was spectacular except for the 15 miles of road construction! The scenery around Summit Lake and Muncho Lake was incredible! We also saw several herds of Stone Sheep on the side of the road and three bears eating grass adjacent to the highway. About 20 miles from Liard River Hot Springs, we were stopped by a flag-person and waited for about 15 minutes as traffic was being escorted through the work area. We were second in line behind an 18 or 24 wheeler (big truck). When we started moving, we enter a long section of seal coating of the highway. This is basically a mixture of an emulsion and gravel that is placed on the road. As we drove behind the truck and there was so much dust that you couldn’t see the road in front of you. Gravel and dust were flying everywhere. We were happy to get back on the asphalt road after the construction zone. We pulled into Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park Campground around 4:30 PM and a huge Bison was sitting at the entrance. Dirt, dust and gravel were all over the truck and trailer. We settled into our campsite and set up the Clam and pulled out the generators so we could have steak and baked potatoes. After a very nice dinner, we walked to the Hot Springs for a dip. The facilities were impressive and the hot springs were………hot! The water was so hot that you could hardly go in. It took a while but we made it into the water and had a very nice swim. The facilities are beautiful. There is a long boardwalk across the bough that leads to the hot springs. There are changing rooms and a restroom building adjacent to the large hot springs pool. One side of the pool has a wood deck and concrete steps/handrail for entering the pool. A dam and two rectangular weirs back up the water in the pool area. There is also a wide area to swim on the downstream side of the dam and the bottom is gravel. What an incredible facility!
This was a very eventful day. We left Charlie Lake Provincial Park Campground at 9 AM….a new record for leaving a campsite for us. We had a long drive to our next stop so we wanted to leave early. At around 11:45 AM we pulled into Buckinghorse River Wayside Provincial Park for lunch. We ate in the trailer overlooking the river. We pulled back onto the Alaska Highway after two motorcycle past and headed north. After about 30 minutes of driving we were on a long straight section of the highway, Felicia said, “there is something in the middle of the road”. As we approached, we saw that one of the motorcycles we saw earlier had crashed. The rider was lying on the shoulder of the roadway and the bike was a few hundred feet ahead in the middle of the highway. We were the first ones on the scene and we pulled off the shoulder and put the flashers on. We jumped out of the truck and approached the fallen rider. He was banged up but conscience and basically in great pain. His partner on the other motorcycle said he hit a pothole and crashed. We fortunately had some cellular service and Felicia was able to get through to emergency responders who said they would send an ambulance; however, we were in the middle on nowhere, between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson and it would take over an hour to reach our location. Another vehicle stopped behind us with a German couple. With his help, I was able to get the downed motorcycle out of the roadway while others were assessing the condition of the injured biker. The Germans had an impressive vehicle called a Unimog. They have been travelling throughout North and South America in this beast of a vehicle. Two vehicles headed southbound also stopped. One was a Canadian who works in the local energy industry and lives in Fort Nelson. The other was a 5th Wheel from California that miraculously was driven by a Paramedic (with his family)…..thank god! He assessed the condition of Don, the biker, while I put out traffic control warning signs and flares. Don was from El Segundo, a retired Aerospace Engineer. He likely had a few broken ribs, abrasions on his arms and legs and some head trauma. He was in pretty good shape considering the crash he just took at 60 mph plus. His helmet and leather saved him as they showed the signs of major road rash. The Unimog left and we along with the Canadian and Paramedic directed traffic and attended to the biker while his biking partner, Mike, made some phone calls. Even with our traffic control in place, several vehicles sped through the area. One RV towing a car hit the same potholes as they went by so hard that they pulled over up the road to see if the car that they were towing was still attached. Finally after an hour and fifteen minutes, the ambulance arrived and told everyone to leave the roadway. It was another unique experience along the Alaska Highway that we will not soon forget.
We got back underway and discuss how fortunate Don was to survive a bad crash like this in the middle of nowhere. We stopped for fuel in Fort Nelson and continued up the highway. We saw our first bear along side the highway! At about 5:30 PM, we pulled into Tetsa River Services and Campground for a cinnamon bun. Since they had laundry facilities and there were limited campgrounds to the north, we decided to stay for the night. We had a partial hookup of 15-amp power and water and we did a couple loads of laundry. We watch a couple of movies in the Airstream before we went to bed after our eventful day.
We left Crooked River Provincial Park on Bear Lake at 11AM. After about two hours of driving we stopped for lunch at Bijoux Falls. It was nice to sit in trailer and see the falls while lunch. We drove through several small towns including Chetwynd. In Chetwynd, there were impressive chain saw carvings that line the roadway from one end of town to the other. We stopped in Dawson Creek to visit the monument that marks the beginning of the Alaska Highway. The historic downtown area of Dawson Creek is very cool. We pulled into Fort St. John and got fuel and ran into the Walmart for a couple of items. We stopped for the night at Charlie Lake Provincial Park Campground just north of Fort St. John. It was another very nice campground in a secluded wooded area. The Ranger was very friendly and provided information about the Provincial Park campgrounds further north. He made a phone call to his counterpart at Liard River to find out about our campground options for the next day. We made a campfire and had a BBQ salmon and rice for dinner.
We got a late start and continued north on the Cariboo Highway toward Williams Lake and Prince George. Since Prince George is the last large City until we get to Alaska (along the next 1700 miles), we thought it was a good idea to stock up on supplies. We made it to Costco with a few miles to spare before running out of fuel. The Costco had diesel and much to our surprise they also had propane. The Costco fuel island did not take Visa or debt cards so fortunately, we had a cash card to fill the tank with $100 Canadian dollars worth of diesel. Then, we realized that the cash card was US dollars and the pump was Canadian so we wondered if the card converted the USD into Canadian dollars (we didn’t know the balance of the card). We spent the next hour or so shopping in the uncrowded Costco. The cashier rang up our supplies and informed us that they don’t take Visa or debt cards (like the fuel island) so we ran to the ATM for cash. We had barely had enough cash (after putting back one item). Then we packed away our supplies and went to a local grocery store for a few additional items. We left Prince George well stocked and full of fuel(s)! We also learned that a one Canadian dollar coin is called a Loonie and a two dollar coin is called a Toonie. We drove an hour and one-half north to Crooked River Provincial Park on Bear Lake. After driving around the spread out campground (without signage), we found a lakefront site as the sun was sinking in the western sky (cover photo). Since it was only 100 feet to the lake, I (Mark) couldn’t resist launching the kayak. We paddled around the lake as the sun was setting at 10pm.
In the morning, it was a short hike to see Nairn Falls (waterfall). The falls were amazing! We left the campground and headed northeast along the Sea to Sky Highway toward Pemberton. We stopped in Pemberton to dump the holding tanks but we didn’t have any Canadian money so we went to the local bank first. The drive from Pemberton to Lillooet was very beautiful. It was steep and curvy as we passed over the mountains. We crossed several one-lane wood bridges on the route. We stopped for fuel in Lillooet and continued northeast to the Cariboo Highway. We stopped of the evening at Lac La Hache (“Lake of the Ax”) Provincial Park. The Clam went up without incident except the zipper for the door flap came off. The Clam may end up in the garbage before the end of this trip. Mosquitos were everywhere thus the need for the Clam. We played a game of Monopoly National Parks edition before going to bed (Mark won!).
We decided to do a couple loads of laundry before leaving Seattle. The washing machines at Pleasant Lake RV Park were busy so we drove to a laundromat a few minutes from the campground. As Felicia did the laundry, we packed up the campsite (put the pesky Clam away) and left the RV park. We headed north toward the toward the border on I-5. After a couple hours, we left the USA behind and crossed the border into Canada! The border crossing was uneventful as the border agent checked our passports and asked a few questions about our plans. We took the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Nairn Falls Provincial Park near the ski resort area of Whistler, BC. The drive was beautiful as we drove north of Vancouver along the water. We reached Nairn Falls Provincial Park Campground in the evening a picked out a campsite. Nairn Falls campground was a very nice campground amongst the trees along the swift moving Green River. We took a short hike down to the river before having ice cream in the Airstream.
Happy Birthday, Rachel! Saturday was Rachel’s 14th birthday. We woke up to a strawberry short cake breakfast that we had made at 2 in the morning. We took Denver to a local kennel for the day so we could spend the day in Seattle with Lauren and Megan. We drove about 20 minutes to downtown Seattle to their apartment. From there, we walked to Pike Place Market. Along the way, we got to see the Amazon building where Megan works. Sean wanted to see the original Starbucks! We convince him to have lunch and we sat outside a restaurant and had salmon burgers. After lunch, Sean and Megan stood in line for at least 45 minutes to get into the first Starbuck’s. Sean said it was well worth it! We walked around the Market in the hot afternoon. We headed for the Space Needle mid-afternoon and found that the first available elevator ride to the top was at 5:30. We bought tickets for 6:30-7:00PM and Mark & Felicia drove back to the kennel to get Denver before closing (if we didn’t get him by 5PM, he would be there until Monday at 10AM). We dropped Denver at the trailer and went back to downtown Seattle. We drove to the Space Needle and took the elevators to the top. It was a beautiful clear day and you could see for miles in all directions. Mount Raineer was visible above the downtown Seattle skyline! We left the Space Needle and drove to an Italian restaurant nearby for dinner. The food was fantastic as we celebrated Rachel’s birthday with Lauren and Megan! We said goodbye to Lauren and Megan (we hope to see them on the return trip) and headed back to the RV park.
We got an early start on the day and left Seven Feather’s at 8:45. It was another long day of driving, but the Oregon countryside was beautiful. We stopped at the Airstream dealer that we bought the trailer from, more than a year ago, and picked up some parts and got Subway Sandwiches. When we pulled into Lake Pleasant RV Park at 7PM, it was still very bright outside. This was a very cool campground, and all of the RV sights were within 10 feet of the lake! There were a lot of animals, including ducks, frogs and toads. We were very close to Seattle, WA. We had family who lived in Seattle, so they came over for a steak, potato and asparagus dinner. A lot happed in the time it took to preparing diner. We were going to eat diner outside, but since there was a lot of bugs, we eat under a tent called The Clam. It was very simple to set up the tent… if you read the instructions. We didn’t. It got twisted within the first 5 second of taking it out of the bag, and it took over 2 hours to set up a tent, that could have been set up in 3 minutes. Sean started filming us putting up The Clam and after about an hour and a half, we finally gave up. While all of this was happening, Denver was growing an obsession with the ducks in the lake. He was tied up to the picnic table, and we though that would keep him from chasing the ducks. He saw his opportunity and used all of his strength to pull himself and the Picnic table in to the lake. He didn’t get very far and he only could get partly wet.
We left the Napa Valley around 10am and went up the hill to Lake County. Going up this steep, crooked road is much easier than going down! Today, we saw some nice views of Lake Shasta and Mount Shasta on the way to southern Oregon. We only stopped twice and both times we had challenges. In Corning, we went to a Napa Auto Parts store and picked up a tire plug kit (hopefully we won’t need to use it…but we have it if we do). We wanted to fuel but the two gas stations were not RV friendly so we left and headed north on I-5. As soon as we hit the freeway, Felicia started looking for her phone as she suspected that she left it at the Napa store. Sure enough, Rachel checked (find my phone) and it was a couple miles behind us. We turned around at the next exit and went back and picked up the phone. This time we pulled into the Shell station since there were no vehicles at the fuel island. We fueled up and paid $2.899/gallon for 24 gallons of diesel. We then stopped at the adjacent rest area and had a quick lunch in the trailer.
When we got to the Lake Shasta area we got a notification that there was traffic ahead and a delay. Then it happened…. traffic stopped and we crawled along for the next 1 ½ hours as I-5 was being repaved and it was reduced to one lane. After we got thorough this LA like traffic jam, we were tired. When we got to Weed, we stopped for a cup of coffee at McDonald’s. It was going to be a quick stop but as we got back into the car, my coffee spilled off the center console and onto the driver and driver’s seat. Once we got that cleaned up, we headed north to Canyonville, Oregon and the Seven Feather’s RV Resort for the night. We arrived around 7:45 after a 395-mile drive. We had a quick snack at the Casino and went to bed. It was a long day of driving!
Calistoga RV Park was quiet…we slept in until 9am! We went to see Grandma in St. Helena and went out for lunch to Gillwoods on Main St. We all had a late breakfast. We went back to Grandma’s apartment and she gave Rachel a beautiful necklace for graduation. We went to a foo-foo pet store in downtown St. Helena called Fideaux to get some items for Denver our black lab. Denver made out! He has a couple of new leashes, harnesses and a rain jacket (since it rains a lot in Alaska). We drove through the campground at Bothe State Park to scout for campsites that fit our trailer for future reference. Back at the trailer, I checked the torque on the trailers lug nuts and the air pressure in the tires in the afternoon heat. Later we got cleaned up and headed back to St. Helena to have dinner with Grandma. We went to The Market Restaurant on Main St. (There is really only one street in St. Helena and everything in town is on it). Our dinner was great….fresh swordfish! We took Grandma home and Toni and Marty were there after their Botchy ball league/dinner. We stopped by Toni and Marty’s house and checked out their new backyard and fire pit. They also gave Rachel beautiful earrings for her graduation! They also gave us a ukulele and a bunch of DVD’s for the road. Marty gave me a few fishing poles for the trip and we headed back to the trailer for the night. It was nice to see family in the Napa Valley!
The trip to Alaska officially started! We pulled out of Playa del Rey at 12:45pm and headed for the I-405. I thought we might never leave. To pack everything we think we need for this 8-week (now 7.5 week) adventure was daunting to say the least. We hoped to leave on Sunday, June 18 but it didn’t happen. Nor did it happen on Monday, June 19. We unloaded everything from our Airstream 30 FB Bunk first and then carefully put our items in their proper places. Oh yeah, there were other things too, like a new cellular boaster antenna mounted on the roof of the Airstream. Mounting was easy, pulling cable not so much. It’s a good thing we started to pack up early… not!
We hit the I-405 and traffic was light. As we headed over the Sepulveda Pass, Felicia said, “I see a ding on the front of the trailer (above the rock guard stainless steel panel)”. How could that be…I have my new Rock Tamer mud flaps on for the first time? We have been towing for the last 1.5 years without mud flaps and now within 20 miles of home we have a nice ding in the aluminum shell. Sean said he didn’t like the mud flaps because they have the “Rock Tamer” logo on the bottom. He said we should have naked girl mud flaps that say, “Keep on Trucking”. I think he was right! I doubt this will be the only ding we get on this trip but it is ironic that it happened within 20 miles of home on the I-405 and not on the Alaskan Highway.
We settled in for the 435-mile ride to Napa Valley to see family. It was hot outside. The temperature was between 110 and 113 degrees all the way through the Central Valley. We pseudo caravanned with a vintage Airstream all the way up the valley. It was a beautiful trailer, about a 25 or 27 foot completed restored with a mirror-like aluminum shell. We cut off the I-5 in Tracy and headed over toward the Bay Area. Noticed a lot of Warrior flags on car windows as we turned north on the I-680. We stopped for diesel and a slice of pizza at Costco in Concord. We made it to the Calistoga Fairgrounds RV Park at 10:15pm. It was dark but we managed to back into our spot without hitting any trees or rocks that guarded each campsite. It was a long few days but we were finally on the road!