Saturday, August 8, 2009

The End of a Magical Trip and Some Closing Thoughts

Yukon Johann and GrizzLee arrived back to the USA on August 5th. Our odometer tells that we have driven nearly 6000 miles since leaving Seattle on June 23rd.

The drive from Grand Cache to Hinton and then through Jasper towards Tete Juane Cache was amazing. It rained off and on a great deal. It felt good and the Canadians were rejoicing about the rain as this year has been one of worst years for forest fires yet up there.

The last day we found ourselves at the base of Mt Robson, the largest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Mt Robson has some interesting history and is one of the hardest peaks to climb. Climbers only experience a 10 % success rate.

After that we had a rainy drive through Valemount along the Thompson River all the way to Kamloops. We could spot some glaciers along the way and we drove along the east side of Wells Gray Park. The road is a scenic wonder that we will take again --- Perhaps when we head back up to Bowron Lakes again next year. From Kamloops, we drove through familiar territory back to the Canadian/US border where the rain subsided and we found ourselves in sunshine.

Reflecting on The Trip

Some have asked us why do we do such things. The quick answer I suppose is to say, "Because its there". However, I'd like to think these inspirational words from Mark Twain and Robert Service give more profound reasons.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

The Call of the Wild

Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there’s nothing else to gaze on,Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon, Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?Have you strung your soul to silence?Then for God’s sake go and do it;Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,And learned to know the desert’s little ways?Have you camped upon the foothills,have you galloped o'er the ranges,Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?Have you chummed up with the mesa?Do you know its moods and changes?Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you.

Have you known the Great White Silence,not a snow-gemmed twig a quiver?(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies).Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?Have you marked the map’s void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?And though grim as hell the worst is,can you round it off with curses?Then hearken to the Wild -- it’s wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,groveled down, yet grasped at glory,Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?Have you seen God in His splendors,heard the text that nature renders?(You'll never hear it in the family pew).The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you.

They have cradled you in custom,they have primed you with their preaching,They have soaked you in convention through and through;They have put you in a showcase; you're a credit to their teaching --But can't you hear the Wild? -- it’s calling you.Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us; Let us journey to a lonely land I know.There’s a whisper on the night-wind,there’s a star agleam to guide us,And the Wild is calling, calling. . .let us go. - Robert Service

Good Times; Good Friends

The Yukon is like a poison . If you get a taste of either her waters, her mountains or the vastness and solitude of the tundra... you will be in trouble immediately. There is no antedote; there is no cure. You'll have to deal with it. Consider this your warning.

Yes, we found ourselves under the spell of the Yukon. As far as the Yukon River is concerned..... well, just read on. GrizzLee has his own thoughts on it.

Just a few miles from the ocean near Skagway, Alaska, the water does something very odd. Water heading downhill doesn't find its way into the ocean immediately. Gathering glacial melt heads down scree covered mountainsides into countless little streams and picking up numerous tributaries along the way. The way it seems, is the same path the natives have taken for thousands of years... a path the miners and steamships have taken. A mighty river forms, running through gold fields, arctic bush while carving a path through a relatively new land before it empties into the Bering Sea. Its beginnings are a mere 15 miles from the ocean, yet it takes a detour and heads inland 2000 miles. The Yukon river starts almost within sight of the cruise ships in Skagway; yet, it defies the odds and nature. Maybe, just maybe, the river wanted to explore and see all it could see, be all it could be, in the north before heading home. Who can blame it. This is our story... our adventure on the river. In the end, we have to agree with the river. The Yukon river is a magical time machine, providing witness of both human history and geological history of the north. At times it is hard to separate them both.
We will be back. You can count on that.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Alaska Highway: Been There , Done That

Just a quick update...

Yukon Johann and GrizzLee made it to the historic "Mile 0" of the AlCan hwy at Dawson creek.

We had to be on the look out for larger critters crossing the road. Unfortunately, we never saw one of these legendary beasts. But if we had.... who knows what story we could have told.
A quick stop in Grand Cache and then we will head through a pass north of Jasper Park to Tete Juan Cache and maybe a bit south. We have never been on this part of the rockies. It sits almost directly east of Bowron Lakes and Wells Gray Parks. Must come back someday and do some back packing.

Have not heard from Dawson Dan & Klondike Kate for some time now. Hoping all is well with them and they are enjoying their trip home.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dawson Dan and Klondike Kate: From Haines to home

Monday highlights: The Salmon Cannery and The high country at White Pass

After a nice breakfast at our b and b, and doing a post on our blog, we drove the Mud Bay road. Klondike Kate was a little disappointed that the fog had rolled in, hiding the mountains, but it did add a certain coastal feel.

We bought smoked salmon at a local cannery. this would be our lunch mainstay for the rest of the trip.

Later in the day, we took the ferry to Skagway. The fog had lifted some, but the clouds were still covering the mountain tops.
Being the middle of the day the town was crawling with thousands of cruise ship passengers. We hadn't been in a crowd that thick since leaving Seattle. It felt a bit uncomfortable after all the solitude.

It was 4:30 by the time we left Skagway, and the clouds were still hanging low. We went through really thick fog (in the area where GrizzLee and Yukon Johann went on their fantastic hike two days later). Fortunately, the fog cleared right as we reached the pass and here was our first view:

This is Tutshi Lake. The wind had really stirred up the waves.We stopped in Carcross briefly and then drove partway to Atlin Lake, arriving at Tarfu Lake at 9:00. After a quick dinner, we took the canoe out. The sun was just setting and we saw several beaver.

Tuesday highlights: Views of Atlin Lake!!!
We took a very hot hike to a viewpoint in the afternoon. Once at the trailhead again, we headed for a wonderful beach and took a cool refreshing dip.

Back to Tarfu Lake and more beaver watching...
Wednesday highlights: Wildlife!!! This was a looong day of driving, from Tarfu lake to Summit Lake.

This was one of many fires we saw in our journeys. Hot summer means more fire danger.
The Alaska Highway had warning signs about Bison being along the road. We saw about 20. Cute baby, huh?
We stopped at Liard Hotsprings and took a dip in the cool end, which was still quite warm. It was really hot that day, so we walked back to the car in our swimsuits to cool off. Pretty area.
I believe this is Muncho Lake. We had hoped to stop there, but the campgrounds were full. I can see why.
But we were rewarded a few minutes later with our first view of a bull moose! We'd been waiting to see one.
Entering Stone Mountain Park. Named appropriately.

More wildlife: Woodland Caribou
We camped at Summit Lake. Even though it was at a high elevation, it was very warm. We were surrounded by very rugged, gray mountains.

Thursday: We took a short hike in the Stone Mountain Provincial Park, in the northern Rockies.

Thursday highlights: Giant cinnamon rolls, freshly baked.
The heritage museum at Ft. Nelson was a wonderful eclectic collection. We especially enjoyed the antique cars, all of which still run, and were featured in the Canada Day parade. We watched a fascinating video about the building of the Alaska Highway. It was built in 1942 because of the perceived threat of invasion of Alaska by Japan. Military people worked on the original road, which was completed in 8 months.

This was a particularly large black bear, which we watched from the safety of our van.
We camped at Charlie Lake, nearly at the end of the Alaska Highway, near Ft. St. John.

Friday highlights: Chetwynd, the chain saw capital of BC! Dinner at a nice restaurant in Quesnel - something other than hamburgers!!
We left the Alaska highway, heading south on a shorter route toward Prince George, and back through the mountains again.
Saturday we had our sites set for home, with about 450 miles to go. We had been quite orderly during the rest of the trip, but this is what the back of the car looked like that morning. We're still cleaning it out.
We didn't take much time to stop along the way, but we did watch enviously as some rafts went through the rapids on the Thompson River. The temperature was 98, and the water looked sooo inviting. We did find a nice warm lake and stopped for a swim.

And now we're home, getting readjusted to traffic and crowds.