Doris e Al Monaco ci hanno spedito questo racconto, il più lungo di tutti quelli ospitati da Vagabondo (abbiamo dovuto dividerlo in due parti!). noi abbiamo deciso che meritava un posto di rilievo visto le numerosissime informazioni utili per chi viaggia col camper e/o con animali. Il racconto è solo in inglese.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 7
Our Western Home - Idaho
We really don't have another home in Idaho. Our RV is our home away from home. We do have many friends in Idaho, though, so we spend a lot of time there. It was in Idaho that I needed to have the tires replaced on the RV. When we left Florida we thought the tires would be good for another 20,000 miles. The hot sun, however, cracked the tires and we didn't want to risk driving in areas that didn't have many service centers. We kept two of the best tires for spares, mounting one on the roof and kept one in the spare tire rack. We discovered later, the tire on the roof was the damaged by the rope that was used to tie it down. We now use tire covers in the Florida sun when standing at home. One cause of flat tires in RV's is valve stem breakage from rocks on the road. The rocks also get wedged in between the tires and can puncture the tires and damage one or both. It's a good idea to check your tires after you have traveled on dirt or gravel roads. A small crowbar is a handy tool to use to pry the rocks out with. Other travelers have pointed out to us rocks that became wedged in our double wheels and we do the same for others. Rocks and gravel can also break glass and windshields. In the remote areas of the northwest some RVers cover their headlights and windshields with wire mesh when they travel on unimproved roads frequently. The only stone damage that we have ever had was a windshield star. Even after thousands of miles to Alaska and back without any stone damage, we sustained this damage from a sports car, in Yosemite Park, California, who cut in front too close on a gravel road, throwing up stones.
Many National Forests allow off the road camping, meaning you just pull off the road and into the woods and dry camp. Tiger loves to get out into the woods in those areas and you usually don't have any neighbors. You must abide by the rules set by the local rangers and leave the area as you found it. This means no trash and no dumping of tanks. Rangers will be glad to direct you to the nearest dump station. A full water tank is a must when you dry camp. Water savers that screw onto faucets keep water waste low. These are little valves with plastic sticks that must be pushed aside to allow the flow of water. They keep water from running continuously. You can save up to 65% of your water and spend longer periods dry camping when using them.
Insect repellent is another must when you are spending time in the woods. I'm reminded of the story of the hunter who returned empty handed and complained that the mosquitoes were so thick that every time he shot his gun they deflected the bullet. Your dog will not like to get sprayed with the repellent, but a good flea and tick spray should be used. We have never been too bothered by insects, but we have retreated to the campsite a few times because they became annoying. Smoke from a campfire or commercial insect smoke rings will help keep them away from your campsite.
Just west of the Montana border in eastern Idaho, in the Clearwater National Forest is Jerry Johnson Campground. It is located on Route 12 just west of the border. This wonderful, wild mountain woodlands more than made up for the lack of hookups and services. It is a very primitive campground. We picked up some deadwood and enjoyed a nice campfire. Tiger was able to roam about on his own, returning to us whenever we called. We never let him out of our sight for more than a minute or two. Generally speaking, dry camping is comfortable for several days before it becomes necessary to go to the nearest dump station and refill your water tank. Always be sure the fresh water supply is labeled "potable" water and ask a park attendant if the water is drinkable. Some water is only for washing and cleaning and should be labeled accordingly. When we left Jerry Johnson Campground we stopped at the Wilderness Campground to use the facilities there. It is located west of Jerry Johnson on Route 12.
Wilderness Campground has three loops of campsites. When we arrived one whole loop was reserved for Haley's Jam Session. They are a group of musicians who camp-out and play music about the same time every year. We arrived during the third week in August. They play every Thursday through Sunday from about 1pm to 6pm and from 7pm to 11pm. The musicians don't get paid and the music and dancing is free. Most folks just come to have a good time and play music. The music festival is not advertised anywhere except in music trade magazines and is not intended for the general public. Although we were going to just use the facilities we decided to stay for the night.
On US 95 in Nampa there is a campground called Mason Creek Campground. Tiger enjoyed running in the high grass and watching the sheep behind their fences. The farms bordered the campsites. If you like scenic drives, take US 84 east and follow US 30 past Gooding. As you head toward Twin Falls the points of interest are clearly marked. There are plenty of hot springs, volcanic rocks, canyons, bluffs, and varied topography ideal for picture taking.
On one of our drives we stopped at a primitive campground that had several fireplaces. It was in open country and the base of a hill that had cattle grazing on it. We thought it might be fun to camp on the open range and leveled next to a fireplace. No one else was there so we let Tiger loose to run and play. We set up our fireplace and collected some wood. Just before sunset, as we were starting to fire the coals a Cadillac towing a low bed trailer pulled into the campground. It was towing another Cadillac. A man got out, looked at us without saying anything, and began to unload the Cadillac that was being towed from the trailer. Tiger barked and I kept him "on guard." He kept looking at us as he pulled the Cadillac's next to each other, forgetting to use the parking brake with one and having to chase it down the hill. I decided to load my shotgun and keep it ready. The man looked rough, but most cowboys and ranchers are rough cut, but nice people. The man started opening the trunks of both cars and running back and forth from one to the other, tinkering with the license plates. We decided that this was not going to be a comfortable place to spend the night. I felt we would be safe enough, with the dog and the shotgun, but I didn't want to sleep with one eye open. We packed up camp and headed out. Whatever he was doing was none of our business, but when a strange camper in a desolate area doesn't even say "Howdy", it's best to err on the side of caution. There are plenty of other campgrounds on the road. When we did find a spot we gave Tiger an extra piece of steak for dinner, having real appreciation for having a 90 lb dog as a traveling companion.
This was probably the only time I loaded (and unloaded) the shotgun. There is a lot of controversy about firearms these days. I do like hunting when the opportunity presents itself. A shotgun may be transported unloaded in most states and in Canada, with the ammunition stored separately. In any event, as I've said before, "I would much rather be tried by 12 of my peers than be carried out by 6."
We found a full-service Campground past Twin Falls, one exit east of US 93 and I-84. It was called Anderson Best Holiday Travel Park and turned out to be a real good choice. It is located next to Anderson RV Service Center and when I went to hookup I noticed that my white water release valve was broken and the pipe was cracked. The next morning we went to the service center. They were tied up with back order work for a week, but they loaned me a hacksaw, sold me some parts and I made the repair myself. Total cost was $4.69 and 2 hours worth of work. The folks there were very helpful and I didn't mind a little elbow grease.
There are a lot of surprises encountered on the road and a lot of wonderful people to meet. There are different people and lifestyles that you may not want to emulate, but who are still interesting to know. On one occasion we sought out the Nez Perce Indians (pronounced "ni mi po"). The name is a fallacy of information sent back to calligraphers by the French traders who described the Indians as "nez perce" or "pierced noses". The name just stuck on the maps.
When Route 12 runs into Idaho 162 you are in the reservation area in Nez Perce National Forest. You will encounter very high mountains with high meadows and high country roads to be driven with caution. Their area is heavily forested and above the cleared tree line are plowed areas and farmland. There are also lots of horses and ranches. We came here because we had adopted some wolves to be sent from a conservatory in Minnesota. They were to be released in Idaho from a private ranch near Sun Valley.
Unfortunately, a good majority of the local ranchers objected to the release and were able to get an injunction issued to keep the wolves from being released. The Nez Perce Indians offered to let "brother wolf live on their land and the wolves were sent to Winchester, Idaho. In Indian country the politicians don't have much clout. You will find a lot of history in the area such as Chief Joseph's heroic effort to avoid capture.
Winchester Lake State Park is located near Winchester and is a good base to explore the area. We visited the Nez Perce Indian Tribal Center and learned more about the Wolf Conservatory and plans for a Native American Cultural Exhibit. We have a great deal of respect for the hearts of the Nez Perce Indians in the way they preserve the natural life of the wilderness. The complexities of modern life and conveniences of artificial law too often obliterate the truth of nature for personal profit. The Nez Perce are truly people who believe that we belong to the earth and the earth does not belong to us. Their efforts in preservation of endangered species and the establishment of their Information Center and awareness programs are in itself as heroic as Chief Joseph's march.
Continuing south after our visits with the Nez Perce we wound up in Lucile, Idaho just above Riggins, at the Prospector's Gold RV Park. This park is located at milepost 204 on US 95. They have electrical and water hookups. A dump station is located about 10 miles south at a rest area on US 95. The campground overlooks Salmon River and has nice, grassy fields for Tiger to play in. The river is full of steelhead trout and the bluff that the campground overlooks seems so close to the sky that you can almost touch the stars at night. You can prospect for gold in the river or cross the suspension bridge to walk in the mountains.
The state parks and national forests in Idaho have campgrounds that are well cared for with level sites. Most have electric and water with a dump station on site or close by. Massacre Rock State Park is located at US 30 and Interstate 86, about 30 miles southwest of Pocatello. There are electric and water hookups and a dump station on the way out. The sites have plenty of space in between them and most have grills and fireplaces. The campground has an overlook to Snake River and is shared by a number of birds including black and white pelicans. Our favorite site is #43 on the lower level. It is located on a nice hill and protected by trees. Nearby you can walk out to the visible "ruts" of the Oregon Trail. There are also plenty of areas to run your dog. Rock hounds will enjoy the abundance of obsidian in the area. The hard black rock chips off in nice shiny black pieces for arrow points.
Henry's Lake State Park was our next stop and is located on US 20 about 12 miles south of West Yellowstone just north of Mack's Inn. We arrived in the second week of June and the mayflies were very annoying. Mayflies don't bite, but they are so thick at times you won't want to open your mouth. The park has a high mountain lake that is loved by fishermen. There are boat ramps and docks. The campsites have full hookups and there is a dump station on the way out. The best place to walk Tiger was on the road leading into the park by the cow pastures. The area is not heavily wooded and is nice for playing frisbee or ball. While we were at Henry's Lake the weather turned very cold. I turned on the furnace and thought I had blown a fuse since it ran for a minute or two and then shut off. The circuit breakers were fine, so I decided to take Tiger for a walk first and fix the problem when I returned. As I headed up the hill I saw nearby campers asking each other if they had electricity. It had never dawned on me that the park had a power outage at the same time I turned on my heater. Sometimes we look for problems that just aren't there.
Taking a vacation is important to us and while we are traveling we always attend church, as we wouldn't want God to take a vacation from us. Most campgrounds have a listing of churches in the area along with their schedules posted. In remote areas you should begin looking for a church when you arrive since the priest may service three or four churches over a few hundred miles. Often there is only one service each weekend and it can be on either Saturday or Sunday. We also found that priests from different religions use the same chapel for their services.
We take a lot of pictures when we travel and we usually like to have the film developed as we go. We found that the larger cities and tourist areas such as West Yellowstone have one hour photograph developing outlets that are expensive. We send our film home to our son and daughter to develop for us. They enjoy keeping up with our travels and the cost is significantly less. We also enjoy having the pictures ready when we get home so we can reminisce about our trip. Many of the experiences you have can't be caught on pictures. On one trip another RV was passing me at a rather high speed and as he passed, a big elk came out of the woods and onto the road looking straight at us. The elk had 6 or more points on each side, and ran back into the woods just a split second before the other RV reached him. Memories like these are deeply imprinted in the mind. Every time a big rig goes roaring by us on wooded mountain roads I can see that elk standing there as big and vivid as the day is happened.
Past Pocatello we headed east into Caribou National Forest with some friends. While dry camping we let both dogs run loose and tied them up when someone approached. They had a great time playing and since our friend's dog was familiar with the campsites we visited, we knew Tiger wouldn't get lost. We enjoyed several lazy days of fishing, hiking, and just sitting around reading books. We noticed that Tiger had developed a habit of going to the door at night when he wanted to go to bed and we were all outside. He started doing the same thing in the afternoon, except that he could open the screen door himself by poking his nose at the door catch and rattling it until it opened. We just couldn't figure out how to teach him to close the door behind him.
Near Washington State, on I-90 at about the third exit, east of Coeur d'Alene at Cataldo stands the oldest building in the state of Idaho. It is a church built by Indians and The Jesuit Missionary. The Old Mission at Cataldo was built in 1853 and we stopped at the park there to see it. We asked the ranger to direct us to a campground since we wanted to go to mass at the mission the next day. The ranger pointed up the hill where we saw tepees, tents, and RV's. The ranger told us that the Indians of Coeur d'Alene would be at the mission the next day and one more camper wouldn't make a difference. He asked us to pull up to a picnic table next to the parking area and stay there. My wife and Tiger had a great time walking with the Indians and playing with their children. It seems that every year, on the Feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Indians of Coeur d'Alene come from all over the western United States to Cataldo for a procession and High Mass celebrated in full Indian dress. The festival happens on August 15th each year. It is a beautiful ceremony and a very moving experience. During the recitation, of the Our Father by one of the elder Indian chiefs, four Indian maidens signed, in hand language, the Our Father. The indians also danced to ceremonial drums the dance of Indian braves in a gift of homage to The Great Spirit. We camped with the Indians and shared refreshments and our campfire. It was an honor to be invited to their barbecue and celebration after the mass. One of the Indian ladies saw our Panama Canal license plate and it turned out that she was born at the same hospital as my wife was in The Canal Zone in Panama. Her father was stationed with the military there. Our stay at Coeur d'Alene has to be the best of the many nice surprises we have had on our travels. I don't think there are many places in the world where you meet strangers you have nothing in common with and leave as friends with wonderful memories of each other. Cataldo is not a campground. It is a historical monument. Camping is only allowed there on the evening of August 14th after 6pm. You must get permission from the park managers to camp and stay the next day for the ceremony. If you need to get fresh water and dump tanks after you leave Cataldo head west on I-90 to exit 11, in Coeur d'Alene. There is a service station there that has a dump station and they will provide you with fresh water.
Coeur d'Alene itself has a nice waterfront walk for tourists and after looking around we decided to stay at Beauty Creek Campground. Beauty Creek is located off exit 22 on I-90, 3 miles west on ID 97 and 1 mile SE on Forest Rd. 438. The campground is located next to a small mountain, which looks out over Coeur d'Alene. There is a nice hiking trail and the campsites are secluded and comfortable. Nearby, Beauty Creek has silver and gold mining areas open to tourists. We ate breakfast at The Snake Pit, a restaurant in Enaville, which once was a bordello in the old mining days. It still has a cow's skull mounted high over the entrance with a red light in its eye socket. The food was excellent and reasonably priced. This area, including the roads, is kept as they were in the 1800's. Tiger enjoyed the walking around the old towns as much as he loved running in the woods. Most of the folks in these old towns prefer animals to people anyway, so he was able to walk around under voice command. As a local put it, "the dogs are better behaved than the tourists for the most part."
We tend to spend more time in the less developed areas hoping to see more wildlife. We drove north along US 2 near Sandpoint and then took SR 57 to Priest Lake. From there we turned east at Nordman and traveled about 8 miles to Reader Bay Campground. Reader Bay is run by the National Forest Service and has a high "Tiger" rating. There are no hookups. Most of the campsites overlook the lake and are nicely wooded. There is a beach on the lake where pets are not welcome, but they are allowed to run in and out of the water in other areas around the lake. The campground also has scenic trail walks around the lake and in the woods. This area of the state calls for a lot of dry camping so we had to conserve water. There is water and a dump station just south of Bonner's Ferry at the county fairgrounds. There is also a Chevron Station on US 95 in Bonner's Ferry that will provide you with the same services for a fee.
Our last place to tell you about in Idaho is Robinson Lake Campground. Robinson Lake Campground is near the Canadian border on US 95 near Eastport. This is another great area for Tiger with lots of woods for him to walk in. Again, there are no hookups and you must dry camp. Robinson Lake is a great fishing spot and there is a nice meadow about two miles away that is a good spot for a picnic. From here, Canada is just a few miles away and our next stop.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 8
You will find that in Canada you are required to purchase a Canadian National Park pass to enter their National Parks. Passes can be purchased per day or an annual pass can be obtained for about $50.00 (US). Unless you are going to several Canadian Parks, or will stay for several days, a day pass is a better value. The pass allows you to be in and use the roads in the parks. You will still have to pay campground fees for a campsite. In addition to the National Parks the are plenty of provincial, local and commercial parks throughout Canada. Canada is a camping country!
On Route 2 in Canada, in the province of Alberta, just 12 miles north of Fort MacLeod is a very nice community campground in the town of Granum. It has a lake with a path around it, a playground, and a large meadow that joins a driving range. There is plenty of room to run and play with your dog and it is very clean and well maintained. The campground is actually cared for by volunteers from the town of Granum. The local farmers and residents take turns and spend a day cleaning and improving the campground. It's a comfortable stop with full hookups and has a flavor of Canadian small town hospitality. You may even want to go into town and walk around or have a drink at the tavern.
North and west of Calgary on Canada 1 is the popular tourist town of Banff. North of the town is a provincial campground called Two Jack Lake. The campground is located in the Banff National Park and a pass is required to travel here. The towns of Banff and nearby Lake Louise are overpopulated with tourists .The season runs from May through September. However, the scenery is breathtaking and we stay at least 3 nights before heading on. The scenic drive marked 1A is not recommended, as it is too slow and uneventful. You'll have a better chance seeing wildlife back at the campground. Two Jack Lake is one of our favorite campgrounds. We try to request Campsite #4, which overlooks the lake and is close to the trail and the bathroom facilities. We saw lots of deer on our evening walks and the campground has 3 or 4 "resident elks". They tend to browse all over the campground and sleep downhill from the washroom area. Be careful not to walk into them and give them plenty of room. We were greeted by three of the elks when we left the campground on our final day. Two of them had at least 12 points. We also saw plenty of mountain goats, deer, and squirrels. The squirrels seemed to like the taste of Tiger's sleeping quilt when we hung it on a line to air out. The town of Canmore, east of Banff, is a good stop for supplies. They have a wide variety of stores, a laundromat, and a veterinarian that has a dog groomer as well. To get to Two Jack Lake, exit The Trans-Canada Highway at Lake Miniwanka Road and head north to the campground. Heading south on Lake Miniwanka Road will take you into the town of Banff.
You may want to see the Icefields on Parkway 93 North. Columbia Icefields are located at Mt. Columbia. Here you can park your vehicle and travel on a tourist bus to walk on the glaciers. Pets are not allowed. We tend to save our glacier viewing for Alaska where we can bring Tiger with us.
Typically you will find that the U.S. Dollar goes a long way in Canada. The exchange rates are posted daily in the newspapers and at banks. I like to use credit cards whenever possible outside of the U.S. The charge is automatic at the rate of exchange on the day the purchase is made without surcharges. The dollar amount on my receipt from the purchase is in Canadian dollars and the charge on my statement is, of course, in American dollars. This makes for an easy comparison of costs. As is the case everywhere, items are more expensive in tourist towns and populated areas. It is advisable to travel with several different credit cards. I have found, for reasons still unexplained, some cards would not work in all areas. I have been told that the stores don't have the necessary equipment to process the transactions or there was a communication problem transmitting the request to the bank. Who knows?! We never encountered a problem with our American Express Card and traveler's checks were always accepted. A local bank will give the best rate of exchange when cashing traveler's checks or changing U.S. dollars to Canadian. We never converted more than $100 at a time to Canadian money, as credit cards were widely accepted as were US dollars (but not at as good an exchange rate from the merchants).
We chose to have phone calls billed to our own long distance company when we made calls back to the U.S. Before you leave obtain the 1-800# to access your preferred carrier from Canada. If you use the Canadian service, the phone charge tends to be much higher.
Juniper Beach is a provincial campground in British Columbia located on Highway 97 just east of Cache Creek. All the campsites are along the river and most had electricity. There is a small sandy beach, but dogs are not allowed to play there. However, there are plenty of areas, where your dog can play frisbee and run. Be careful not to let your dog run into the sagebrush since the topography is a little desert-like with small cactus under the brush.
A little south and east of Cache Creek is Kamloops. We found a nice campground called Knutsford Tent and Trailer Park with a stream running through it and a wooded hillside. The park has full facilities and is near the town's shopping area. We were able to get all stocked up with little effort. West of Kamloops on Highway 99 about 80 kilometers south of Lillooet is Alice Lake Campground. This is a nice stop made nicer by an informative campground host who gave us pamphlets and told us stories about the trees and how to remember their names. He invited us to see the migration of toads going back into the forest. He said that in some spots the forest floor would be completely black from the newly hatched toads. We chose to forego the event and went to Vancouver Island to see the flower gardens. My wife seemed to have a preference for flowers over toads. Go figure?! Alice Lake does not have hookups, but they do have a dump station and fresh water. Tiger enjoyed his walks in the woods and the tours of the trees, and perhaps he still remembers why the big fir trees tops droop over, even if I forgot. I guess I'll have to go back to Alice Lake to find out (BC Parks produce and give out an excellent booklet on the Trees of British Collumbia.)
The closest full hookup campground to the city of Victoria is Ft. Victoria RV Park. It is located about 2 miles east of where Route 14 meets 1A on 1A. It is an ideal location to tour Victoria or Vancouver Island. If coming to Vancouver Island from Vancouver, be sure and take the ferry that goes through the islands. It is a longer ride, but a beautiful one, stopping at Orca Island and others along the way. If you bring binoculars you may be able to spot a few whales as we did. Tourist information in Victoria or Vancouver will be able to provide you with current departure information. We gave Tiger plenty of exercise before the four-hour ride and he slept in the RV for most of it. There are many places to see in Victoria and most places are not for pets. Parking facilities were always good and frequent trips back to the RV and a short walk kept Tiger happy while we toured the city. We were able to take him on a horse and carriage ride through the city. While at the campground we had to keep Tiger on a leash, but there is an area along the railroad tracks near the campground that you can let him run.
When we headed toward Alaska, we stopped at an Indian campground called K'san in Hazelton. It is located east on Highway 16 from US 37. We toured an old Indian village open to the public by the river and there was a nice, grassy area close by where Tiger could run. We went to the town of Hazelton the next day and looked into a few shops and stocked up on snacks before heading south on Highway 16 to Telwka.
We made our camp at Ty Lee Lake Provincial Park. The campground was nice except they did not allow dogs near the lake. We had to take him for walks in the woods and keep him leashed while we were at the campsite. We saw another campground called Buckley's Field and Stream about 5 miles south when we left the next day. We should have paid a little more and stayed there to get some extra dog privileges for Tiger. It had full hookups and lots of room.
We have noticed that when we travel and play music, Tiger tends to go to sleep on the couch. Either the music mutes our conversation so he pays less attention to us or the music makes him feel content. He seems to have a preference for music from the 50's. He falls asleep as we roll along and pops his head up when we say "deer" or "elk" if we've spotted one. He then takes his seat right on my wife's lap to see what he's missing.
When we reached Vanderhoof on Highway 16 we turned north to tour an old settlement at Fort St. James. It is an 18th century trading post with period costumes and working replicas from life in that era. Instead of choosing a provincial campground without facilities we stopped at Stewart River Campground which has full hookups and is located next to a river. There is a big hill behind the campground to walk the dog and pick up deadwood for a fire. If you continue up the mountainside you will reach a large, grassy plain where you can run and play with your dog. This is a wonderful campground for Tiger and offered lots of hill climbing for us. Across the street from the Fort St. James tourist office is an Indian craft shop that has good bargains on deerskin clothing and shoes. The prices are about 50% lower than what we've seen elsewhere. The Indian ladies of the village put their names on the items for sale and the shop is a sort of cooperative for the local villagers.
Heading back south we stopped at one of the most complete campgrounds in the area at Quesnel on 97 south of Prince George. Robert's Roost Campground has full hookups, a nice little office store, snack shop, and laundry facilities. It is located on a beautiful lake. The grounds are well maintained and there are several big lawn areas to play with your dog. We hear the fishing is also very good at the lake.
On Highway 37 is a campground called Boya Lake. It is a provincial park, has no hookups, but it does had fresh water and a dump station. Most provincial parks do not take reservations and are on a first come, first serve basis. It rained the entire time we were there but we enjoyed walking in the woods with Tiger. We got a kick out of watching him dart in and out of the trees in his yellow raincoat. It's much easier to take his wet raincoat off than to have to comb and dry a big, wet dog. We could see Tiger better in the woods, too, as he is almost invisible without the raincoat and blends into the trees with his brown and black color.
We made up for the short day with an early start the next morning and stopped at Jade City to pick up some Jade rocks and take a break. We continued on to Dease Lake and stopped for gas. A good Samaritan pointed out that my inside left tire looked soft. Sure enough, a poke with a board confirmed that the tire was bad and we drove a block or so to a mechanic, to have it looked at. The mechanic found that the valve stem extender had been sheared off by a rock. He replaced it a checked all the tires and we were on our way again.
Earlier we had been told Mt. Robson Provincial Park offers very nice campsites. This campground is located just outside of the town of Jasper. There are also a number of campgrounds located on Forestry Trunk Road east of Jasper. We have also passed these up, opting to travel a little further. About 70 miles west of Jasper in the town of McBride is a campground called Beaver View Camp Park. Beaver View has a dump station, electric, and water hookups. The campsites at Beaver View have fire pits and grills and all the campsites are well maintained.
McBride has the last gas station heading north for about 145 kilometers. The next gas station is at Prince George, which is also the crossroads to get the Alaskan Highway. To get to the Alaskan Highway, take Highway 97 north at Prince George to Dawson's Creek. An alternative, to reach Alaska is to turn west on Highway 16 and travel to the coastal area to Hyder, Alaska. You can travel Highway 37 through magnificent mountains and join the Alaskan Highway at Watson Lake. Just before heading North on 37 there is a nice commercial campground located off Highway 16 called Kitwanga. The town of Kitwancool and Kitwanga are Indian towns with several authentic totem poles located in the area. If you are lucky, Chief Robert Good will tell you the story of "the hole in the ice" Totem pole and show you the shed where they make new totems. Genuine Indian crafts may be purchased at the town meeting room if it is open.
We saw our first moose in a river off the Cassiar highway 37 when we stopped on an overlook. He was feeding on the bottom of the river with his head entirely underwater. In fact, from 300 yards away, we thought he was a bear until his head popped up. He had a magnificent rack with seaweed hanging from it and he just chewed for a few minutes and stuck his head back in the water. He stayed under for 3 minutes before coming up for air again. Of course, by the time we got our camera, the wrong end of the moose was facing us, but it was still a nice shot for our album.
If you drive up Highway 37 to the Alcan Highway, turn right and drive for 15 miles to Signpost Village near Watson Lake. There are thousands of signs from towns all over the world. They were brought and placed here by other traveler's on the Alaska Highway and, yes, ours is here, too. It seems like a long way, but we do spend some time in the Yukon. Takhini Hot Springs Campground can be found just outside of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. It offers a pleasant rest with a refreshing, hot, springs. The campground has a dump station, fresh water, and some campsites with electricity. If you want to spend a few days, they also have a horse corral, duck pond, and an airstrip near by. Forest fires, were occurring at the time we were there, so while campsites had fire rings, none were permitted due to the dryness of the woods. Takhini Hot Springs is located due north from Whitehorse off Route 2.
Going west from Whitehorse on Highway 1, you will arrive at Haines Junction and Kulane RV Park. This is a full hookup park with a town close to the center of things. The unique "Sportsman's Cupcake" on the corner depicts wildlife in the area. A church is nearby and there is a Forest Service Museum and Information Center a few blocks from the campground. The campground also has a great trail around it for walking which Tiger enjoyed.
As we drove north, the road condition deteriorated rapidly. It was a horror story of potholes, washboard ridges, and poorly graded rocks for 70 miles. We were told that we missed the worst part of it, too, by not getting on until after Watson Lake. Hopefully, it will be improved by now. If you make the trip, just check with your auto club for construction information and go slow and be careful. It's better to take extra time and a few more travel days than to damage systems in your rig by jolts and vibrations from the road. We met a couple, pulling a 5th wheel who had to spend an entire day cleaning up their trailer. Every cabinet and refrigerator door opened and broken items were scattered all over the place. Unfortunately, "frost heaves" are a way of life in the Yukon. This is when the ice pushes up the roadway and in spring, the water and mud bubbles up through broken surfaces requiring more construction and repair.
At Beaver Creek there is a nice campground called Westmark RV Park. It has full hookups, nice shower facilities, and good trails. Just use your mosquito repellent, because they will eat you alive in early summer. Sourdough RV Park is located about 75 miles north on Route 1 at Tok. They do have the best sourdough pancakes in the world. Get there early because in the summer season you have to stand in line to get in. This is a full hookup RV campground with free entertainment at 8pm every night. There is also a wonderful lady who is an author and a resident of Tok that speaks on some evenings about the area. One of her sons runs the Chevron station in Tok and we found it a good place to service the RV. There are also lots of nice trails at the park to walk and hike.
Dawson City is located on Route 2 in the northern Yukon (not to be confused with Dawson Creek, mile "0" of the Alcan Highway). Goldrush Campground is located at 5th Avenue and York Street in Dawson City. It had full and partial hookups, washrooms, a store, and satellite and TV hookups. From Goldrush you can easily walk to all points of interest in Dawson City. You can take your dog with you to town and quickly walk him back when you want to go out for dinner or see a show. There is a lot to see in Dawson City and you are far enough, north that you have 20 hours of daylight to do it in. There is a Visitor's Center and Chamber of Commerce to fill you in. Dawson City is an old gold mining town that reflects it's heritage in it's streets, buildings, and in it's entertainment. Don't be put off by the muddy streets, boardwalks, and saloons. This is the home of Jack London and Robert Service. You can see a "can-can" show at Diamond Lil's or take a short ride on a plane to the "land of the midnight sun" at Tuktoyaktuk at the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic. The flights leave around 8pm, you land around midnight, and return around 4am, all in daylight. There are plays and poetry recitals and good restaurants with a friendly, relaxed, country attitude. You can participate in foot races up and down a mountain as the sun circles around without setting for very long. Dawson City is colorful in every sense of the word.
Taking Route 2 south from Dawson City will bring you to "the marge of Lake Laberge" of Sam McGee fame. Lake Laberge Campground is pretty and our site, #14, was right next to the boat ramp with a clear view of the lake. They have grills, fire rings, and picnic tables, but not fresh water or dump station. We also were under a fire warning here and were unable to have a campfire. We had been stopped heading south to wait for clearance to pass through a burn area along the highway. As we passed, being escorted by firefighters, we passed trees still burning and Crews hard at work trying to contain the blaze. We drove through thick smoke for at least a mile or two. The burn area was perhaps 100 miles north of us when we reached Lake Laberge, but we were happy to comply with the,"no fire" rule. You only have to see and smell one of these fires to be enthusiastic for the rest of your life about carrying an extra bucket of water to dowse a campfire. If you head south to Whitehorse and join the Alaska Highway you will find a Petro-Canada service station. They had a dump station and fresh water to refill your tanks with.
We have mentioned the friends you make "on the trail". We have made lasting friendships and we have stayed in touch with the people we have met along the way. We've had friends visit and we have also visited them, even as far away as Germany. Most of these friendships stay alive with holiday greetings and e-mail. Our own experience demonstrates that RVers are friendly, generous, caring people who love to share experience and knowledge with others who appreciate the earth and it's diverse natural beauty.
At Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, we separated with some friends while we stayed to watch an impressive parade with the RMCP. Whitehorse has a good RV parking area off Main Street heading toward the mountain. Look for a church and follow the signs for oversize parking. It was a great location to park and visit the city from. We saw the Riding Mounties and their beautiful horses and Tiger was able to come with us to the festivities. There is a nice trail behind the parking lot where your pet can run and play.
Going south from Whitehorse we met our friends again at a campground called Pride of the Yukon. It had no services and no hookups. You just drive down into a big field and pick a spot to park for the night. We parked by the side of a pretty lake next to a fire ring some previous campers had set up. We had the big hillside all to ourselves. It was paradise for Tiger who could run loose and jump in the lake and swim a little bit. When we are in remote areas we always fill the water tanks and make sure the holding tanks are empty whenever we can stop for services. Some folks feel that you save gas by running with an empty tank, but I feel you can save more by staying in primitive campgrounds and being self-contained. Being prepared to dry camp allows you to take advantage of beautiful wilderness areas and gives you the freedom to explore and go anywhere. And this is what we had at The Pride of the Yukon. We made a fire and cooked our supper and let Tiger run all around. He chased birds and rabbits and, at times, we would toss him toys to fetch. We were the only people there until our friends arrived to meet us.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 9
Most of southeast Alaska is only accessible by boat or airplane because of the glaciers. Our first stop in Alaska is Hyder, which is one of the few places in that area that can be reached by road. You can get to Hyder from Stewart, British Columbia which is located at mile "0" on the Yukon-Alaska Highway. The road to Hyder is one of the most beautiful drives we have ever taken. Snow-capped glacial mountains, lush green tall timber, tumbling mountain streams, logging rafts on the bay, and abundant wildlife makes this one of the last largely undiscovered natural places in the world. There are no chain hotels or fast food restaurants. Only a few residents running small cafe's, trading posts, and boarding houses. And then there are the bears! Bears catching salmon in a creek, bears on the road to a glacier, bears on viewing platforms, bears in parking lots, and bears everywhere! The drive up to the very top of the glaciers is not recommended for motor homes since the road is only one lane. Check on conditions of the road to the top before you start making that trip. The road is a rocky dirt road hugging the mountainside and the best transportation is a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The local gift shop, next to the Sea Alaska Inn can get a resident to drive you to the top of Salmon Glacier at a very reasonable charge, and point out the sights. If you get another couple to go with you it will be very inexpensive, splitting the cost. Even in large cities, I have found that if you find a privately owned cab, you can see more and learn more about the area with a driver waiting for you at your own pace; then if you took a bus tour or tried to negotiate strange roadways yourself. Of course, this is only true of short 2 or 3 hour trips.
We stayed at the Sea Alaska Campground in Hyder. They have one section of sites near the inn and restaurant in town and another at the north end of town toward Fish Creek. The section near the inn is nearer to the dump station and water facilities. The sites near fish creek are just gravel, but are closer to the bears. The "bear watching" area is supervised by the National Forest Service.
Rangers and assistants carry pepper guns to discourage the bears if they get too close to visitors. For the most part, visitors listen to the rangers and stay a safe distance from the bears.
If a ranger tells you to back up and stay away, you'd better listen. They know the bears and recognize which ones are easily agitated or may have cubs, etc. The crowds are not large and you will have plenty of time to take photographs as long as you use your common sense. There are pamphlets available to instruct you as to proper conduct around the bears. A healthy respect for these animals should not be diminished by opportunities to get close to them, especially when they are preoccupied with fishing. After a few days of picture taking it is easy to become complacent. We saw one not-so-smart mother tell her teenage daughters to go into the stream so she could get a picture of them with the bears. I thought the ranger should have used his pepper gun on her! Instead the ranger, now standing between them and a few curious bears, politely asked them to leave the area. It is inevitable that inappropriate actions from bystanders to these wilderness areas, will one day close down access to the public. So far, this has not yet occurred at Fish Creek.
On one of our trips to Hyder we met another couple from Germany. They rented a RV in Vancouver and were touring the Canadian Northwest on vacation. We exchanged videos and pictures of the bears. We have since visited them in Germany and they have since visited us in Florida. Another example of what they call "gemeinshaft".
If you do take the road up to Salmon Glacier from Hyder you will find a gold mine on the way up the mountain. The waterfall by the mine makes a nice picture and you might even find some gold in the rocks. For us in particular, we always want to see the blue ice of Bear Glacier, which is on the way out of Hyder. We have taken some beautiful pictures at a rest stop overlooking the river in front of the glacier. Wild scenic beauty changing at every turn is the only was to describe this back road of southeast Alaska. If you see a beautiful picture to take as you drive in, take it. Don't think that you will take it on the way out because it will be a completely different picture by then. The glacier continues to "calf" and the ice changes positions every day. All in all, there is a lot to explore in the Wilderness of Hyder.
The main part of Alaska, of course, is hundreds of miles north, going up Highway 37 and then West on the Alcan Highway. Just southwest of Fairbanks on Route 3 is the Ester Gold Camp. It is a dry camp with showers, water, and a dump station. If you have a generator you won't miss the lack of electricity at this site. The Buffet Restaurant is what keeps attracting us to Ester Gold. They serve meals family style on long tables. Malamute Saloon has old time shows for entertainment and the town is full of historic buildings and a lot of fun people to meet. You will need to reserve tickets for an evening show at Malamute, so get them when you arrive in town.
There is a wealth of tourist attractions in and around Fairbanks. Everyone mostly comes to see Denali-The Great White One-Mt. McKinley. There are many ways to see Denali Park. You can take a tour bus or take a private tour. You can also hike through the park. The park service has buses that will take you to various areas of the park. You can purchase a park pass at the visitor's center. With increasing crowds, more control is being exerted to restrict access and preserve the environment. We have camped out in the park for 3 days and used buses from the site to travel around Denali Park.
There is a very nice campground located about 8 miles south of the visitor's center called Carlo's Creek RV Park. They have wonderfully maintained sites, showers, water, a dump station, and some sites with electricity. Whenever you wish to go to Denali Park just drive to the visitor's center and take buses from there. No pets are allowed in Denali Park. It will be an all day trip so give your dog a good walk before you leave. You can make arrangements with the campground management at Carlos Creek to walk your dog, too. Tiger was in the RV by himself for at least 6 hours. An early start is advised in the morning to be able to return in mid-afternoon before all the buses start filling up. We spend at least 3 days when we go to Denali. We sightsee in the morning and spend the afternoon with Tiger. The best time of the year is before all the schools let out in June. Some snow is still on the lower levels and as it melts you can find caribou racks on the ground. They make nice souvenirs. The management at Carlo's Creek also had them if you couldn't find your own. You can get some great views of Mt. McKinley and the wildlife of Alaska by driving south on Route 3 when the weather is good.
Willow Island Resort is located on Route 3, heading south , at Willow Creek. It is a full hookup campground with all the facilities. They don't mind pets off the leash so Tiger really enjoyed this campground. If you walk across the bridge on the highway you can see large salmon slowly moving upstream. We saw some that were three to four feet in length.
On the south side of Willow Creek is another campground with full hookups. Pioneer Lodge has a restaurant and bar. They were building a motel when we were there last. They have a lot to offer in the way of local evening entertainment. You can also charter boats or take a few sightseeing tours.
On the way from Anchorage to Seward there are campsites in the Chugash National Forest. Most of these sites are primitive offering only water supply at a central location. We camped near Portage Glacier, but were unable to get a site and were directed to a gravel and dirt area near a lake. The view was very impressive with the mountains and their glaciers. Alaska has a lot of precipitation. Always be prepared for rain and cold weather. It had rained most of the day and we settled in with our table window facing the lake for a nice view. We watched some birds on a rock that was about 3 feet above water 100 yards into the lake. Early the next morning, about 5am, I woke up to find that the rock was now only about a foot above water. I hurried to get dressed and looked around outside. It was pretty muddy and the lake had "moved" closer to us. We were still 6 feet or so beyond the lake's edge. Recalling that the road to the campground was close to the lake, we decided to leave and were ready in about 10 minutes. There are advantages to not having much darkness in Alaska - you can see almost all night! The road was within inches of a swiftly running stream as we left the campground. It was still raining when we made it to the highway and we continued on to Seward. With the heavy rain and glacier runoff I wonder if the road ever did go under water. When we stopped for breakfast we were glad we didn't wait and see. It's probably not as critical as in the southwestern canyons, but it pays to be aware of the possibility of flash flooding, especially in primitive areas.
Seward is a nice town to visit and sightsee with the charter boats. We found a campground in town within walking distance of the boats. The campground has electric and water but no dump station. There is one located at the edge of town. We met some folks from Florida, who had been fishing and dined on freshly smoked salmon with them. It was still raining a little in Seward and Tiger had his raincoat on most of the time. A young man yelled from his apartment window (in a nice way), that "Alaskan dogs don't need raincoats." A girl also stopped her car to pet Tiger and to ask us where we got the raincoat. I gave her the information and yelled back to the man "Yeah, but I bet Tiger picks up more girls than you do."
Puffins, whales, seals, and sea lions can all be seen from ½ day cruise boats out of Seward. We sailed on the "Renown" and had a terrific time. You must dress warm if you take the charter boats out. A backpack with extra clothing is our standard uniform in Alaska whenever we venture far from the RV. The extra sweatshirt and sweater are put in a plastic bag inside the pack just in case it rains. On the bottom of the pack are our rain ponchos and on the top are our cameras and binoculars, each with their own waterproof case or tied in a plastic bag. On the boat we wore insulated underwear, double socks, boots, heavy jeans, a sweatshirt, sweater, and a parka. The rule is to overdress. You can always take off extra clothing and put it in your backpack. We used all of our clothes on the boat since we were standing out on the forward deck to take pictures. We made frequent trips inside for hot coffee. We got some great pictures, but a zoom lens in a must. The boat can only get so close to the ice flows and wildlife.
After leaving Seward we headed north on Highway 1 to Glenn Highway. Here you can drive down, park your RV, and walk out on the glacier. At mile marker 102 you will find Glacier Park Resort. The resort had access roads to the glacier and offers air tours over the region. You can get electric at some of the sites, but you will have to fill your water tank from their supply and use a central dump station away from the sites. The horses that are used for wilderness tours are allowed to roam free around the campground. Tiger enjoyed watching them through the window and we hooked him up on his line so he could sniff around with the horses. We were told we could let him off his line if we wanted to. The horses would come right up to Tiger and nuzzle him. He would yip and squeal whenever they would leave because he enjoyed having someone to play with. The horses were always outside, all year round. Sometimes before they could get them in, the temperature dropped to 50 degrees below zero. Their hair grew up to 9 inches long. They were well fed and had plenty of fat to keep them warm. The campground did keep them in stables when the weather got really cold, for Alaska anyway. The area does have a large black bear population. They pretty much stay on the other side of the river and don't wander into the camp because of the horses and the people. You can see them from air tours or pick them up with binoculars looking across the river. The campground has a gift shop and a restaurant. They will happily give you directions on how to safely walk out on the glacier. Be sure you follow the marked trails since the glacier is constantly moving.
We spent a day walking out on Matanuska Glacier with Tiger. A leash is not practical since there are a lot of bumps and ice protrusions. Your pet needs to be able to find his own way. If you don't have good voice control on your dog, you could use a 20' leash. When you walk out to the glacier you will go across areas of frozen mud and ice that are shifting and moving. You should follow the trail along the frozen solid pathways and avoid soft wet spots. Wear boots or good heavy hiking shoes. Your dog can also try a pair of "dog boots". These are rubber boots, all exactly the same, molded from the same kind of rubber that an inner tube is molded from. They go over the paws and up 4" on the leg. They have elastic snaps on top to keep them tight. It is advisable to put them on before you get to the glacier. When we stopped on the glacier to put them on when Tiger needed them, he spent more time trying to kick them off then he did using them. We should have let him get used to them. The cold and ice didn't seem to bother Tiger though, as he playfully moved around the glacier. You can feel the ground moving under you from time to time. In fact, we felt large sections of the glacier move. Tiger had a great time jumping over and into glacial streams. The streams are just muddy slush from the melting ice higher up. There are crevices to avoid and you often must travel 100 yards to the other side to move 10 feet in front of you. You must keep to the marked trails. Ice that appears to be solid can be very deceiving. When we returned from our walk Tiger) was the color of a dirty gravel road. We had to strip off our outer clothing and give him a bath before we entered our motor home. We used a lot of water just getting clean and it was necessary to fill our tanks. The silt reminded me of very wet cement, without the weight. Walking on the glaciers is definitely an experience not to be missed.
Glenallen calls itself the "hub" of Alaska. At mile marker 173 on the Glenn Highway is Tolsona Wilderness Campground. The sites have water and electric hookups and a dump station in nearby. Our site was next to a stream with a nice view and plenty of room for Tiger to run. The stream was clean and clear, fed from a spring. From Glenallen you can head north to Fairbanks, South to Valdez, West to Anchorage, or Northeast through Tok and Tetlin Junction.
Our last stop in northern Alaska was in the town of Chicken, near Tetlin Junction. They were still building the road to Chicken when we went over the mountain. We had to wait for the graders to fill and scrape the road before we could pass some areas. There is a campsite here run by the Bureau of Land Management called Walker Ford. It is located about 8 miles east of Chicken near mile marker 821. It is a primitive campground in a nice mountain setting. The sites have fire rings and picnic tables. They are wooded and shaded and you can use dead, fallen wood for a campfire. Tiger, who weighs about 85 pounds, helps me bring in the wood. I find a good piece of wood that has a 3" to 4" diameter and tie a line to the thick end of the wood and to Tiger's harness. I then tie another line to the thick end and pull that line myself. With both of us pulling, we can pull tree limbs a good distance. The only problem is that when we get back to the site, Tiger rewards himself by playing with the wood and unintentionally carting some off. When I yell for him to return he usually bows down in his play stance as if to say, " come and get it if you can!" I then get my daily exercise by chasing him around and playing tug-of-war until we both get tired. I don't discourage his behavior though, pets need to play, too. There are plenty of trails at the campground for you to hike on. Wild game is abundant and it is best to keep your dog close to you. The region is a caribou wintering site and you may still see some in early spring.
When we finally head home after our travels, it is early fall. As we head south and stop again at some of our favorite places, we notice little signs of autumn appearing. The leaves are turning red, vines turning brown, and the grain in the fields are being harvested. The clear crisp nights proves that the humidity of summer had gone.
Up in the high country the squirrels go about their work of gathering nuts very seriously. For those of us who benefit from pensions and social security and don't have to "squirrel" away for the winter, this is a bea