It's choice, not chance, that determines your destiny

This is my blog about life - travel - new experiences - growth.
Please join me in my journey.......

July 31, 2010

Racing Toward The Barn


Like horses headed for the barn, we are headed toward home. This last week has been a blur. We travel roughly 300-400 miles per day, stop for the night, do it again the next day. Since I haven't had internet service since Whitehorse, I've been unable to post my blog and therefore I rely on memory of where I've been and what I've done. I'd say for the most part it's been sitting behind the wheel of my motor home with my radar pointing toward the U.S. border!

We decide to stay last night at a Provencial Park north of Cache Creek. We pay another $16 for no hook ups, no internet. I pull in there rather than drive any farther to try to find a pull off on the side of the road because I am tired of driving and this is the first place I see. The camp hosts come around later in the evening to collect payment. It turns out they only take cash and all I have left is a hundred dollar bill. Since the last thing I want is to give them my American money and recieve $84 in Canadian change, which I've tried hard to get rid of, I run to dad's place down the street and beg off him. He seems happy enough to get rid of his own extra loonies and toonies and so he bails me out once again!

I wake in the morning to the smell of smoke in the air. There are numerous small fires in the area due to the thunder storm the night before last. While driving down the highway we are lucky to make it through one area, as the fire is very close to the road. The police are monitoring it on the side, ready to close the road if need be. Unfortunately my co-pilot Cooper does not take pictures so once again I miss out on a photo opportunity.

Mom, dad and I part ways in Cache Creek. They head east and I head west toward Vancouver. I cross the border at noon in Abottsford. It's a large, very busy border crossing but the easiest one yet. I never had any problems at all crossing the borders on this trip. After all the information I read in preparation I was probably overly prepared, expecting to be grilled on my possessions and my dogs vaccinations but they were all very easy crossings and I suppose it's better to be over prepared rather than under.

I have a cousin in the Seattle area that I wanted to see but I was also headed toward the home I haven't seen for the past two months. I called her number on my cell and when I got the answering service I make the decision to just keep on going through Seattle and see how far I get before I either make it home or pass out from exhaustion.  After 12 hours on the road and almost 600 miles, home wins!

The first thing I did was take a nice long shower! It's been a long time since I've bathed and washed my hair in more than 2 gallons of water! The second thing I did was promptly fall asleep in my nice big double bed! The third thing I did the following night was go have sushi with Mo and then see my kids, who are preparing to leave for an Alaskan cruise next week! I can't wait to compare notes!

It's been such a fabulous trip - one I'm already prepared to take again in the future. I came away without any mishaps to me, Cooper or my motorhome. I loved having the company of mom and dad on the trip and as always, they are a wealth of useful information to a novice RVer like myself and I always learn something from them. I've come away from this trip with a love for Alaska and especially The Yukon Territories in Canada.  The friendly, warm people, the majestic scenery, the abundant wildlife all combined to make this trip one full of positive memories for years to come. To be able to experience it from the road is something I think everyone with a love for adventure should experience.

 Anyone want to come with me the next time?
 I'm already planning it.......

but in the meantime -

My next adventure on the road: Three weeks in California, San Francisco, Lake Havasu, The Grand Canyon and Phoenix.

Stay tuned......

Cassiar Highway


From Carcross we drove back toward Watson Lake and then took the Cassiar Highway south along the Cassiar, Skeena and Coast Mountains. We stopped for the night at a large rest stop where we found a quiet little spot off the beaten path to park our rigs side by side. Since the Cassiar Highway was a little bumpy in places dad wanted to secure his tow plate once more by taking off the front bumper and replacing and tightening some of the bolts & nuts. We were planning on hitting the road again the next morning but when mom tried to get their slide in it made an awful noise and then wouldn't budge. To make a long mechanical story very short, dad fixed it (like always) but by then it was late in the day so we spent one more night in the rest area. 

In taking the Cassiar Highway rather than backtracking back over the Alaska Highway we were able to save about 130 miles. The highway was completed in 1972 and almost all of it is now asphalt with only a few short gravel breaks. It's generally a narrow, winding, unmarked road with some steep 8% grades in spots but it's also very scenic with the mountain ranges, the wildlife and the wildflowers lining the road.

Just down the highway from the rest area is Jade City where we stopped at the Jade Store. The Cassiar Mountain Range supplies 75% of the world jade market. They had numerous jade pieces and we ended up buying a few of them. We both commented afterward at how much tax was added on to the total price - almost $25 just in taxes alone!

Next stop was Kitwanga and Gitwangak where we were told by a cook (many miles ago in Teslin) that we had to stop and get some fry bread made by the local Indian women. We found it at the other gas station in town that we didn't get gas at (which was 2 cents/litre cheaper than the one we used) and I wasn't impressed. It just tasted like bread that had been fried. It had a little sweetness to it but I thought it would be more like my favorite Elephant Ear which dough that's been rolled flat, fried, buttered and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and it wasn't. Oh well, nice try.

After Kitwanga we hit the Yellowhead Highway heading toward Prince George but we stopped for the night at Burns Lake. Actually, mom saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken and we stopped there. While she was getting her chicken, I stopped in the liquor store and bought beer! I have priorities over fried chicken! While in there I asked the clerk if there was somewhere we could park our rigs for the night that was inexpensive or better yet, free. He told us we might be able to park by the lake and told us how to get there. Since it was right down the road we decided to check it out. We found a nice little municipal park right on the lake. It was one of our first really hot days and so Cooper had a great time retrieving the ball I threw in the lake - again and again and again. I also had the opportunity to talk to a local woman who had lived in the area most of her life. I find Canadians are so friendly.

It was also one of the first places I got the blood sucked out of me by mosquitoes. Although I didn't realize it at the time, they weren't bothersome - I only noticed it later because unlike all the other times I was bitten on this trip, these bites itched like crazy and turned out to be more like very itchy blisters than welts. The mosquito bites I got up north in the Yukon and Alaska didn't itch- maybe because the weather was so much cooler - by day and especially by night.

The park itself was really nice. I liked the brick jogging path with the outdoor fitness machines. I notice Canadians are quite fond of these outdoor fitness parks. I wonder why we don't do more of that here in the states?

Some time during the night I thought I heard thunder and sure enough, when I looked outside the next morning I could see smoke in the distant forest, most likely caused by a lightening strike. The first sign of any fire I've seen on this trip.

Railway of the World


On Thursday we left Whitehorse and drove about 44 miles southeast to Carcross, a small community of about 445 people and located on the shore of Lake Bennett. We found a large gravel lot to park our rigs for a few nights saving on the expense of paying for another campground. It was located by the visitor's center and we found out later that all the buses that pull in to town use this lot as well. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays are the "busy" days when this small town can offload about 6-10 buses 5 times a day. They are tour buses that stop in Carcross to and from Skagway. The stops last about 20 minutes, in which time tourists can take pictures, visit the visitor center, get an ice cream and then be on their way to the next destination.

I took a quick walk around town to view the lake and the many cute little houses. I talked to one lady who's lived in Carcross for over 20 years. She said the wind blows off the lake frequently, which I found later to be quite true. In the winter, she says it can get quite cold with the wind chill factor but that's what they have a nice wood stove for! I can't imagine! The town road takes a big circle, maybe 1/2 mile total that follows the lake on one side. I saw this cute house where the road bends around.

On the other side I saw this little trailer that said "Goldrush Sushi". I happen to love sushi but I was a little leery of ordering sushi in a small town out of a street trailer. I noticed a few articles posted on a board however, and decided to read what they had to say. They were nice write ups depicting how the stand started with a woman from Japan making her way to Calgary and then later Whitehorse, learning how to speak English and then starting this little business of making sushi and selling it to the many tourists in Carcross. The articles stated how this was the "hidden jewel of Carcross" so I decided to give it a try and I was not disappointed. I got a combo plate, which consisted of 2 half rolls (8 pieces total) and some kind of Japanese wrapped rice patty. It was a whopping $14, compared to maybe $8-9 at home) but when you haven't had sushi for awhile it was worth it. I was in heaven with sushi, wasabi, soy sauce and ginger!

Goldrush Sushi stand where I had my sushi fix!

On Friday we took the White Pass Yukon Route, labeled the "scenic railway of the world" to Skagway. Since we were traveling from Canada back into Alaska we had to bring our passports with us but the immigration officer came on board outside of Skagway, took a quick look at us and our passports to make sure we resembled each other and that was it!

The train trip, which took about 2 1/2 hours was quite scenic. We saw mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites along the way from the comfort of vintage parlor cars. The route was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and is now an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

This was the gold rush trail along the side of the mountain.

Unfortunately we only had two hours in Skagway, which is considered a browser's paradise to sit, shop, look and linger. It's easy to leisurely wander your way through town and shop along the boardwalks of the historic business district where false-fronted buildings add to the flavor of what town must have looked like in the late 1800's. With so much to do and see in this port town, it would be easy to spend an entire day here but we only had time to grab a bite to eat at the Skagway Fish House at the marina and to do a little touristy shopping. We were lucky that only one cruise ship was in port while we were there, because I was told by one shop owner that they can get numerous ships in per day which must make for very crowded boardwalks! We were there on a slow day! Since it was very rainy I had my camera in my backpack and didn't manage to shoot one picture of Skagway so I'll just have to remember it in my mind and it will always be a good excuse to go back some day!

July 19, 2010



Today, while visiting at the Robert Service campground, I was asked if I'd seen the eagle's nest yet. According to the local newspaper, in July of 2006, a passerby rescued two eaglets floundering on the ground below their nest, which was damaged during a rainstorm. Conservation officers and Yukon Electric officials restored the nest, wiring it to the tree and returning the young birds safely to their home.In 2007 volunteers erected a new nest at the site in order to give the birds a more secure home, should they return to the city.

It's my belief that the eagles have been returning to this site every year since to nest.
The nesting site is in plain view, near a vehicle rest area on the south access road into Whitehorse.

Hiking the Schwatka Trail


I woke to a beautiful day in Whitehorse – perfect for a trip to Miles Canyon. I quickly packed up Ellie and drove out of the Wal-Mart parking lot and into town. The trip to Miles Canyon was a little over 6 miles – not far at all. The nice thing about having a motor home that’s only 24 feet is that you can take it and park it almost anywhere. I find I love that aspect more and more – I have many more options than I would if I were in a larger rig. I parked right at the trailhead and Cooper and I walked over the suspension bridge and down the other side of the river for a little way.

The suspension bridge was not what I expected - not nearly as dramatic or as high above the river as I thought it would be. After walking across, the trails held more appeal than the bridge.

I thought since it was such a pretty day and we had nothing better to do, we’d take a little hike. (Little ended up to be 7-8 miles) I walked back to my “home” on wheels and changed into my hiking shoes, packed my day pack and off we went. We walked back over the suspension bridge and headed back toward town along the Schwatka Trail. It’s a well marked trail, for which I was extremely thankful. Each fork I came to was well marked with the direction of the trail.

Suspension Bridge from a distance
The water is a beautiful emerald green color

Doesn't Cooper pose well for pictures? I've trained him well!
A rope swing for summer time play in the water
Two kayakers taking advantage of the nice day

We walked along the river, through the trees, up a steep hill and down the other side. About half way up that hill I stripped off the bottom half of my hiking pants and met a few runners (who decided to walk up the hill). I struck up a bit of conversation and learned that they had run 31K that morning in preparation for the upcoming trail marathon on August 1st. The Yukon River Trail Marathon grew out of a movement to trail running that also lead to increased interest in ultra-distance running. The trail is both scenic and challenging, and as a loop course offers a diverse and rewarding introduction to Yukon trail running. The steep hill I was currently trying to walk up was part of the trail - according to the runners who were training, it was about mile 20 on the marathon route. No wonder everyone around here seems so fit. I find that all over town – there are so many hikers, walkers, bikers, joggers. The trail I was on was also marked as a cross country ski trail. I’m sure that everyone finds activities in the winter as well as the summer months. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen very many (if any) overweight people around here!

The city of Whitehorse to the north

The trainee's almost to the top of the hill

View from the top looking south
After I walked down the hill, I passed the dam, and then crossed another foot bridge and went into Robert Service Campground to rest a bit.

What a wonderful campground. It’s for tent camping only. They have a nice office with ice cream, cookies, muffins, pastries, espresso & hot chocolate. I bought a yummy cookie and Cooper and I went to a covered outside “living room”. It was so cute and cozy. I met these two older women who live in Whitehorse. We talked about the trails, Oregon, Whitehorse, the controversy of allowing a Walmart in town and then allowing RV's to overnight there & of course healthcare! They were really nice and I enjoyed them. It was so comfortable sitting on these plush sofas and having a nice conversation.

 All too soon it was time to head back. Rather than go back the way I’d come I decided to go around the other side of the lake. I followed Miles Canyon Road for awhile and then branched off onto a dirt road. I met a woman on the trail and asked her if it went back to the suspension bridge. She said that it did but was rather steep and narrow in spots so I might want to find a walking stick. I did - in short order. It really helped. The other thing I did was let Cooper off his leash. It’s more of a hazard having him leashed than on his own. First thing he did was slide his way to the bottom of the hill and get in the lake! Then he runs back up like it was nothing – only a young pup could take that on!! He thought it was great fun to be off leash and he was really good about it – never went far and kept his eye on me at all times.

A float plane landing on the lake

A cozy cabin on the road. It was probably only 300 sq ft at the most and had a cute garden.

Cooper loved being off leash and proved he could behave!

Before long we were back at the suspension bridge, where we’d started. That was such a nice hike I think we might do it again tomorrow – only this time I may start at Robert Service Campground/Day Park and hike all the way around. That way I can start with a muffin and end with a cookie!!