Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day 11: Delta Junction to Delani, AK

233 miles

Thank you, Lord, list:
beautiful place to stay
early morning light on mountains
Mom safely arrived
meeting Smiths
spectacular view from hotel
fun night of music and laughter

As we pulled away this morning, Steve said, "This is probably the nicest place we have ever stayed." (The snow-covered mountains in the background sort of faded out in the picture.) Lovely cottage, garden, views, nice breakfast, interesting people. He fantasized opening a B&B in Alaska the whole way to Fairbanks. Trouble is neither of us has the fix it skills.

I spotted a moose but it was behind a fence with a pile of road construction gravel so I'm not entirely sure it was really free-roaming, but why would road construction people keep a moose?

The Alaska pipeline passes close to the road just north of there.

Fairbanks was a blah Midwestern town, but we did pick up Mom no problem. Here she is stuck waiting for road construction. Sounds like Minnesota, doesn't it? But given the condition of un-repaired parts of the road, we didn't complain about road work.

We stopped for a bathroom and bought a hamburger to pay for the use of facilities. Just as we were buckling up to leave someone stopped by the car, drawn by the Minnesota license plate. Larry Smith and his wife Beth who joined us when her husband failed to come into the restaurant turned out to be former residents of Blaine, Minnesota. They are headed to Kenya with Bruce Dahlman's program to set up medical training there. Very small world. Beth gave me her can of bear spray to carry with me tomorrow hiking.

And here is where we will be tonight, outside Denali National Park. Breath-taking!

Steve got picked to be the "bad guy" with the evil laugh in tonight's skit at our dinner theater event. Here's the video:

 Afghan update:

Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 10: Haines Junction, YT, to Delta Junction, AK

432 miles
8:40 AM – 4:30 PM Alaska time (which is 5:30 by the time we got up)

Thank you, Lord, list:
We reached Alaska safely!
The privilege of making this trip
Morning light
Breakfast in the woods
No bears on the trail

Today was a low mileage day, so by 6:30 AM I was on the trail by Dezadeash River on the edge of Haines Junction, YT. By the cobwebs in my face, I was the first person through. It was not a very demanding trail—level along the river—but a great chance to stretch my legs. A little more than one and a half hours including devotions and a leisurely breakfast of granola bars and dried fruit with my thermos of tea on the steps of an overlook. This was my view.

The lady at the visitors’ center said that you just need to be noisy so bears hear a human coming and get out of the way.

“Especially when you come around a bend,” she said.

So I called out “Here I come ready or not!” a few times. That seemed a bit boring, so I sang a couple praise songs. I even tried the “Hallelujah Chorus,” but that doesn’t work real well solo when you are out of breath from walking. I did see a couple footprints that I have not yet identified.

It was a glorious morning, and even if it wasn’t a taxing climb like the ones in Korea, I WAS HIKING IN THE YUKON!

We were on the road a little after 8:30. The valley was wide; the mountains distant; foliage was mostly scrubby black spruce. Not a remarkable day after yesterday’s road to Skagway, except for the stretch around Kluane Lake.

The road on the Canadian side was not fun. The freezing and thawing of winter had made the same mess as Highway 70 in Minnesota—some really crazy dippsydoodles. Somewhat better in the US. Lots of this fireweed along the road sides, so called because it is the first vegetation to return after a fire.

Border crossings have all been simple. They want to know about drugs, alcohol and firearms. Canada wanted to know about fruit, but apples with stickers on them are fine. Mom could have gotten through with a birth certificate, but she didn’t have that with her either.

“Facilities” along the road are mostly long drops, but generally not bad smelling. Sometimes there is graffiti. Once Steve saw where someone had written “Never again.” That makes me sad. We are fantasizing out army family being stationed here, giving us an excuse to come at least once a year!

And we continued our tradition of one bear per day. This one was brown--a grizzly, I'm told--and much less quick to escape into the brush at the side of the road. As a matter of fact, when we looked back, he was cavorting in the middle of the asphalt.

After last night’s simple but comfortable accommodation, tonight is a luxury cabin outside Delta Junction when the Alaska Hwy officially ends. Tomorrow is on to Fairbanks to pick up Mom.

Afghan update: Not as much progress because of the bad road, but it felt good on my cold hands this morning. BTW, this picture was taken at 8PM. It won’t get dark here tonight at all.

Lodging: Garden B&B

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day 9: Watson Lake to Haines Junction, YT, via Skagway, Alaska

The plan for the day was the Alaska Highway, route 1 through the Yukon. It could be Minnesota Iron Range except for the mountains up ahead. And the lack of roadkill. Whether the lack of roadkill is because there are not enough cars to hit anything or that there isn’t anything to hit (our game sightings today consisted of one bear), I couldn’t say.

We stopped at Rancheria Falls to stretch our legs and play with the pano feature on my phone.

The highway dipped back into British Columbia (Super Natural!) and then returned to Yukon (Larger than Life).

About then Steve got this super idea. He accuses me of always wanting to know what is around the next corner, but today he was the one eager to leave the main road. Route 8 led south to a town called Carcross (short for Cariboo Crossing, but we didn’t see any). Here's their hundred-year-old Anglican church.

Another road angles back toward Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, but the road that interested us was the one to Skagway, Alaska.

At the suggestion of the woman in the tourist information office, we picnicked at the boat launch at Tutshi Lake (pronounced Too Shy).

We thought that was fabulous and then we climbed to the snowfields and water meadows at the top of the pass, passing tour buses from Skagway as we did.

If any of you have cruised Alaska, you have no doubt been to Skagway, a tourist town if there ever was one, lined with 19th century-style shops with a gold rush theme. When we were last here, I did the nine-hour hike to a glacier and back while Steve and Mom took the train we had taken the first time we were here. Today we drove and (while our brakes cooled!) looked across the valley at the train we had ridden before.

When brakes are smoking, they take about fifteen minutes to cool so there was plenty of time to explore.

My daughters will remember that feeling when you mingle with the clean and neat tourists who have taken the cable car to the top of Table Mountain while you have sweated your way up the trail. The feeling was very similar as we parked our dusty car on a street with a couple hundred pedestrians for every vehicle and went in for ice cream. (I have not mastered the art of the selfie or you would see my chocolate cone as well as Steve’s butter brickle.)

We oo-ed and ah-ed our way back over the mountains The scenes we had enjoyed on the way in looked pretty blah on the way out. The day could not have been more perfect, and we made sure the Lord knew how much we appreciated it.

Tonight we are in a simple but clean motel in Haines Junction. It would have been neat to take the ferry from Skagway to Haines and come over the Coastal Range at ta different point, but the next ferry didn’t leave until 2:30 tomorrow. Next time …

Afghan update: No ripping out! Just a few … um … adjustments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 8: New Hazelton, BC to Watson Lake, Yukon

512 miles
6:50 AM to 4:10 PM

Thank you, Lord:
Moose sighting!
Incredible views
privilege of making this trip

We made our way up route 16 and turned north on 37, the Stewart-Alaska Hwy. In the entire length of this road there is one turn off (to Stewart on the Alaska border) other than logging roads. Kind of hard to get lost. I was amazed at the school buses. Where do the kids live? But occasionally we passed a First Nations settlement. Besides the signs that reminded us not to pass school buses when the lights are flashing, there were signs with an odd picture. When I finally was able to read the words underneath, they said, "Do not pass snowplow on the right." Hard to imagine who would even consider passing a snowplow on the right, but you never can tell.

We are north woods people. Yesterday and this morning we kept seeing bits that reminded us of Wisconsin up near Ashland or the upper peninsula of Michigan. But soon it was like nothing in the upper midwest. Snowy mountain calendar pictures everywhere we looked.

And this was BEFORE we got to the scenic route marked on the map. I kept pinching myself. I can't believe we actually get to make this incredible trip.

The scenic part on the map was less scenic for us because it was about then that the clouds closed in and blocked the view. It rained for several hours. I tend to dress for the weather the day before and today was no exception. Day before yesterday I was cold, so yesterday I wore a long sleeved top and my comfy stretch pants. With the sun coming through the glass and no fan, I was hot, so today I wore shorts and sandals. Dumb. We were heading north. I soon added a sweater and mid-morning pulled out my stretch pants to change. Tomorrow I will add socks and closed shoes instead of flip-flops. (BTW immediately after Steve asked God's blessing on today's travel we noticed that the fan had come on. It hadn't even occurred to us to ask.)

Steve raved that Route 37 was everything the road to Alaska should be. Although it started with occasional passing lanes, it narrowed to two lanes without shoulders, but seeing as how we averaged meeting one car every ten minutes or so, it didn't matter. Mostly it was well-paved although one section deteriorated to the level of Burnett County Road A. Gas stations were few and far between. At half tank we filled up to be sure we could make it here to Watson Lake. As we approached steeper sections of the road, we always saw gates like these that could be closed in winter.

Watson Lake where we are staying tonight is on the main Alaska Hwy. Very disappointing. At least in this section it is just like a normal state road back home. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

But this morning was a three-bear morning--all meandering along the side of the road or crossing. Given how quickly they disappeared into the underbrush, I can't imagine that we will ever see one that isn't on the road. I was beginning to think that a bear a day keeps the moose away when Steve almost walloped me in the face. He was pointing to the moose standing at the side of the road, and I would forgive him if he had hit me. A cow, I think, but at this time of year the bulls don't have much in the way of antlers, and the glimpse was brief. No time for photo. Also saw a porcupine, just sitting on the edge of the road watching us. Steve thought he might have seen a wolverine earlier, but I missed it and can't confirm one way or the other.

Talked to Mom via Skype. She has her reservation. We will pick her up Saturday morning in Fairbanks. The passport has been sent, but did not arrive today. Praying it comes tomorrow. The place we are staying tonight would not have worked well for her--a WW2 with barracks with bathrooms down the hall. Simple and clean, but not convenient for those who have to get up in the night.

Supper at Bee Jays, a truck stop where the locals eat. Looks like a dump from the outside, but the guy who runs the hotel said the kitchen was clean and good. Yummy Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes, salad and veges. We followed it up with a hike around Wye Lake and racked up 4000 steps on the Mayo Clinic app on our phones. I  caught my breath when I realized I was hiking in the legendary Yukon.

The tourist attraction in Watson Lake is this sign forest. It seems one of the workers on the Alaska Hwy in 1942 put up a sign from his home town. Others have followed suit. This is only a tiny corner of the "forest" that has grown up. Some were business signs; some were town signs; some were the sort of sign people put up by their lake cottage. My favorite was the one for the sign company.

Afghan update: First time on the pattern row I realized something was off in the first pattern set and had to pick out two pattern repetitions. Sigh. I tend to do a six-stitch section of pattern and then look around at the spectacular scenery before I start the next six-stich section of a different pattern, but I failed to change patterns and had two of the same in a row. Had to pick out two complete patterns (2x12). I was congratulating myself that I had now undoubtedly made all the mistakes possible to make and would henceforth be alert to them and make no more errors when I discovered two dropped stitches that were unraveling. Sigh. HOWEVER, the last row before arriving at Air Force Lodge in Watson Lake I did not have to pick out anything and it came out even with no adjustments necessary--the first such perfect pattern row of this entire afghan!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 7: Williams Lake to New Hazelton, BC

452 miles
7AM to 4:30 PM
C 1 Cariboo Hwy, C 16

Thank you, Lord:
Snow on mountain tops
Getting the afghan pattern right at last (I think)
Strawberries with tapioca pudding

We spent half the day driving up the Fraser River valley between long ranges of mountains, following the route of gold prospectors in the 1860s. Lots of historic sites and re-enactment experiences if we had had the time to enjoy them. This area around McLeesh Lake was typical.

Saw this critter ahead along the side of the road, but still no moose despite all the signs of Moose Crossing.

But by the time we turned west on route 16 at Prince George there were snowy peaks in sight in several directions. The further west we got, the more the mountains closed in. The Canadians are not real good at scenic overlooks along the highway. Maybe they are so used to the beauty that they aren't tempted to take their eyes off the road to ogle. Most of the rest stops consisted of a place to pull over with a trash bin (no recycling) and maybe a long drop (or occasional flush), all of it enclosed in trees with no view. So pictures had to await reaching our stopping point.

The Hazelton side of our family will appreciate where we stopped tonight,chosen in their honor. (See the blue highlighter and notice the mountains.) 

The motel caretaker directed us to a nice walk to a waterfall and a lookout. Great for stretching my legs.

Old Hazelton is a first nations community with a village museum we wished we had time for. but we were hungry and made our way back to the motel for microwaved Hormel Compleats and tapioca pudding and strawberries for supper.

The roads have been well paved, four lanes further south. Now they are mostly two-lane with frequent passing lanes on hills. There is a surprising amount of traffic, although it gets less and less the further north we go. The do tell you how far to the next passing lane to help you stay patient behind a slow truck or RV. RVs seem to be the way to travel up here. If they could just get the mileage up on those things ...

The fan in Mom's car hasn't worked on low for years. Now it doesn't work at all. Did something get disconnected when they fixed the gas pump leak? So far opening all the windows a crack has worked. At least it is nothing essential for safety or running.

Afghan update: Almost back to where I ripped out. At least now the pattern shows. Hopefully that will prevent needing to rip out (again).  the last couple pattern rows I have had to ... um ... "adjust" at the end of the row.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 6: Puyallup, WA, to Williams Lake, BC

598 milies
8:40 AM to 7:30 PM

I-5, WA 9, Trans Canada Hwy (1), Carabou Hwy (97)

Thank you, Lord, list: (We'll get to it below)

We didn't get off quite as early as we would have liked this morning due to a hot breakfast and good-byes to family. It's a holiday so easy to get around Seattle and up into the mountains beyond. About half an hour short of the border we stopped for gas since we anticipated higher prices in Canada. "Why don't you get out the car papers and passports so we are ready," Steve suggested as we stopped.

The first passport Mom pulled out of the glove compartment was mine. That was fine; she could see a second passport in there. But when she opened it, the picture was not of her, but of her husband who died fourteen years ago. Not valid for entry to Canada! In the old pre-9/11 days you didn't need a passport to go from the US to Canada if you were born in one or the other. Now you do.

While he pumped gas, Steve came up with a plan, and we headed back toward Seattle. We called Patty who drove with daughter Janna an hour north to meet us coming south. Mom got ahold of a friend in Cambridge with a key to her apartment who can go in and get her correct passport and overnight it tomorrow (since today is a holiday). She has found a plane reservation to Fairbanks and will meet us there Saturday morning. She's missing the next few days of driving, but will not miss Denali, the ferry to Valdez or the Jasper/Banff area of Alberta on the way home.

Steve just wants everyone to understand that he was not the one to lose his passport ... this time. He has rather a reputation--a reputation that goes right up to ten days ago when he left his wallet (with passport) on the top of the car when driving out of a fast food place. It didn't fall off until the entrance ramp to the expressway where someone found it, figured out his cell phone and called. We waited at the Grantsburg exit until they came by on their way to Duluth. As usual, his guardian angel working overtime.

So Mom has a few extra days in Puyallup.

I snapped this in Washington just south of the border thinking to joke and take another just north of the border and laugh about how "different" Canada was from the US, except the other side of the border really was different.

First there was Abbotsford, home to some of our old friends from Mozambique days, but we have no idea if any of them are still there. Beyond Abbotsford it stopped raining for a bit and fabulous mountains appeared much like the ones we came through in the Snowqualmie area of Washington. To tell the truth, there might be mountains in this picture too, but they are hidden by clouds.

Mom missed some spectacular waterfalls, dropping off awesome cliffs, steep slopes and lush green trees. We saw snowy peaks much closer than we did in Washington.  Before I found anywhere to take a picture the skies opened up, so you will just have to imagine the beauty.

She also missed a black bear--just after the moose crossing sign that made me scan the sparse woodland. A black tailed deer as well. (Note: If I do not see a moose in the wild this will not count as a real trip to Alaska and we will have to do it again.)

Eventually we must have passed over to the eastern side of the mountains because I suddenly realized that the trees were not so thick, the grass was much more sparse, and the land looked a lot like eastern Montana. It also stopped raining. So we did stop and get out for a picture looking back at what we had come through.

Thank you, Lord, list:
That the error was noticed before we got to the border
That it was a holiday and Patty was free to come and get Mom
Janna's love for her grandma that made her want to come along
That Steve came up with an alternate plan so quickly
That everyone has been good humored and able to laugh about the situation
Water falls in every crevice of the mountain
The color green
Safe driving in the rain
That it didn't rain the whole time
A new tire
That the substitute hotel Expedia found for tonight after the fire in the original was an hour closer than if we had gone where we had originally planned. (After a 2 1/2 hour detour back to Seattle, that was very welcome!)

Afghan update: After four rows of border, I did the first pattern row. It didn't come out right. I found my error way back in the first section of pattern (made about the time we discovered Mom had the wrong passport.) Do you have any idea how hard it is to rip out nubby yarn?!?! Especially the knit two together bits (6 of them each pattern, not 3!) Rainy mountains are also not conducive to knitting. By the end of the day I had ripped out that row, redone the pattern row, found 2 dropped stitches, corrected them, and knit one plain row. To the Thank you, Lord, list I can add, Thank you, Lord, that there is no deadline on finishing this project. No one is expecting it to be done by the end of the trip!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 5: Puyallup, WA

0 miles!

Thank you, Lord, list:
Great worship
Travel protection
Ferns under Douglas firs
The miracle of baby bison
Family who is still family even when you don't see them very often

We worshipped at my sister-in-law's church, Bethany Baptist, Puyallup. Great music. Sermon was on the Good Samaritan with an interview with a couple who met as urban search and rescue workers on the Sumatra tsunami. They just returned from a week in Nepal digging victims out from the earthquake. Talk about good Samaritans.

Pat's husband, Bob (my brother-in-law-in-law?) took the car to be serviced before we head into the wilds. They found a leaky fuel pump and a tire with a major bubble with the tread coming off that could easily have caused a blow out.

"Probably a pot hole," the mechanic said.

We hit a bump on a bridge yesterday. This was not the usual tummy-tickling bump; this was a hit-a-two-inch-wall kind of bump. We checked the alignment after, and Steve looked at the tires, but this bubble was on the inside out of sight. Those spectacular views coming down the mountain would have been a lot scarier to contemplate while hurtling over the edge or spinning out of control in traffic. Thank you, Jesus! May your hand continue to be upon us as we head north.

This afternoon was spent at Northwest Trek, a sort of zoo in a forest of tall Douglas fir, the second tallest tree in Washington. Northwest Trek features indigenous animals like foxes, lynx, beaver, bear, etc., in natural habitats. This raccoon was a cutie.

These moose in the free-roam area were right up at the fence.

A tram carries visitors on an hour tour of a free-roaming area. The wheel chair we rented for Mom gave us seats in the front car with a great view of moose, caribou, mountain goats, big horned sheep, elk and black tail deer.

The mom and baby bison were right in the road.

Brother-in-law Bob cooks on the weekend, so we returned to all the young adult kids home for one of his fabulous dinners that had been brewing in the crock pot while we were out. Tomorrow we head north. Bryan is recently into hiking and it was great to see his pictures of a recent climb in the Snoqualmie are that we came through on the way here. Makes me very jealous.

Afghan update: The Internet did NOT make a mistake. (Imagine that!) I just wasn't bright enough to realize that knit 2 tog 3x at the beginning of the pattern and knit 2 tog 3x at the end of the pattern means knit 2 tog 6x except at the beginning and end of the row where you only do a half pattern. I still needed to rip out because I was doing it wrong, but at least now I know what I am doing. I think.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day 4: Kellog, ID to Puyallup, WA

392 miles
6:50 AM- 2:15 PM

Thank you, Lord, list:
Reservations successfully made for Monday at an alternate hotel to the one that burned.
Detours to scenic overlooks
Sunlight on wildflowers
Saturday night pizza tradition

Most of National Geographic's Scenic Byways routes in this part of the country seem to go N-S--not the direction we want to go. Although our goal for the day was to arrive at his sisters for some family time,  Steve agreed to take a short detour off I-90 at Idaho 97 to an overlook with views of Lake Coere d'Alene. Gorgeous!

He even let me scamper further up with my camera.

Eastern Washington was dry and boring, but Steve's sister (who has driven this route many times) told us we should stop at the scenic overlook just before the Columbia River at Vantage. Wow! If I had been wearing something besides flip-flops I could enjoyed more scrambling on the rocks.

Western Washington is anything but boring. The clouds slipped down over the mountain tops in Snoqualmie Pass making everything mysterious. But the clouds didn't make for good pictures and there were no overlooks so, sorry,  no pictures.

You don't want to see an update on my afghan. I ripped it all out. I had been frustrated that the pattern wasn't emerging in a recognizable way. Then I realized that the pattern I got off the Internet had to be wrong. (I know. Hard to believe that you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.) For every repetition of the pattern I was taking away 3 stitches and adding 6. That meant that every four rows I was adding 30 stitches. That doesn't work! So in the boring east Washington stretch, I ripped out and cast on again, counting 4 times before I was sure I had the right number of stitches. (Distracted. We were starting to climb. Not the best place to stare cross-eyed at loops of nobby thread.) So I will be starting fresh on the first day we head north.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 3: Glendive, MT to Kellog, ID

796 mi

Thank you, Lord, list:
Lovely picnic spot in the mountains
Railtrail behind hotel

We started out again on I-94, but left it for US 12 at Forsyth. I-94 swings south and Mapquest said that 12 would be just as fast. It's a two-lane road with no shoulder at all for most of the distance. Much more interesting than an interstate. Not so removed front he geology.

We saw a grand total of five vehicles in the first hundred miles. The countryside started out dry with bits of badlands like we saw in North Dakota, looking like every cowboy movie I ever saw as a kid.

I got all excited when I saw these snowy mountains--our first on this trip. I pulled out the atlas to find out what they are called. They're called Snowy Mountains. Glad I asked.

Gradually we climbed. The hills got greener.  Steve picked this great spot for lunch in a beautiful pass.

After Helena we were in a whole different world.

We originally thought to fly to Alaska, take a tour and rent a vehicle for a bit of our own exploring. The cost was going to be more than this three-week meander in our own car. Well, my mother-in-law's car, which is roomier and has more power for the mountains than our Prius. The "cost" is hours and hours in the car. So I decided I needed a project. Here are the first two days of an afghan for our family room.

Good thing Steve made our reservations back in February. He had an e-mail tonight saying one hotel has to cancel because of a fire and it took an hour and a half on the phone with Expedia to find an alternative--in another town.

Tomorrow we will reach Steve's sister in Puyallup, Washington, spend the weekend and pick up Mom.