Saturday, June 22, 2013

Alaska 2013, Day 20, Cache Cr to Smithers

Friday June 21, 2013

Drove Cache Creek to Smithers.

Saw lots of loons in the ponds before Prince George.

Pretty populated along 97 and 16, pretty much always a farmhouse in view.  Left the Faser river West of Prince George, you pick up the Skeena headwaters at Houston.  You also start getting a view of the coastal mountains from Houston.

515 miles today.

4514 miles so far.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 19, Seattle to Canada

Thursday June 20, 2013

Called from Seattle on AK Ferry reservations, cheaper this year than in 2008.  Time spent on the phone delayed us leaving Seattle until 11:00.  Onto the next leg, Seattle to Whitehorse Yukon.  This is about 1500 miles, will take 3 days and there is not a whole lot in between.

We crossed the border in Sumas WA/Abbotsford BC around 12:30.

From Hope BC to Ashcroft BC is the Fraser Canyon, maybe 80 - 100 mi. The canyon reminds me of the Glenwood Canyon in CO but not as narrow and the Fraser River really has volume.  They say the volume is due to snow melt in the Rockies and the volume drops by summer. They raft the river but there is no way you could now.

Rained all day, from Seattle all the way the Cache Creek.

Stayed in Brookview CG in Cache Creek.

302 miles today.

3998 miles so far.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 18, Seattle

Wednesday June 19, 2013


There was actually sun this morning.  We drove into downtown Seattle. After an hour it was warm enough to lose the sweatshirt. We parked by Pike Place and walked down to the Klondike Gold Rush NP and Pioneer Square.  Back at Pike Place Market we stocked up on fruit (cherries, nectarines and dates), had lunch, bought some flowers, and looked through all the vendor stalls.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 17, Coos Bay to Seattle

Tuesday June 18, 2013


We headed out around 8:00 AM this morning and made it into Tillamook  around 1:30 PM.  The drive up the Oregon coast is really something.

Once you head inland I can see why there is a cheese factory in Tillamook, the whole valley from Pacific City on is all dairy farms.  Each trip west Cheryl and the kids look for Tillamook cheese, yogurt and ice cream.  Back in the 70s I toured the cheese factory and got the best soft serve ever so I looked up on the internet if they still had a tour or ice cream shop and they do.  The factory has grown quite a bit in thirty some years.  And now they have 2 ice cream counters, a burger counter, 2 stores and you can buy every one of their products.  We stocked up on ice cream, yogurt and cheese.

Portland was about an hour and a half away, we made it by 5:30.  We got caught in rush hour traffic in Portland for 45 minutes.  Seattle is close to Portland, maybe 3 hours away.  After a stop for gas and supper we got into our campground (Trails Inn in Bellevue) by 10:00.(We have stayed here 3 times now.  It's an urban campground, really tight, but 10 minutes from downtown Seattle).

430 miles today.

3696 miles so far.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 16, Redwoods to OR

Monday June 17, 2013

We left the camper at Redwood Kushel Visitor Center so we could do some of the park drives in the jeep.  We drove the Coastal Drive/Fern Canyon.  It is a winding one lane dirt road down to the beach then a couple miles along the beach to the trail head.  You have to ford a couple small creeks, it would be tough in a car.  There were 4 young bull Elk in the beach campground when we went by.  Fern Canyon is less than a half mi hike.  There is a narrow gorge with ferns all up the walls,  maybe 1/4 mi long.

The kids found lots of newts in the canyon creek under rocks.  There was red and orange salmon berries on the trail and in the canyon.  Real pretty hike, more than a few people here too. The canyon entrance road goes through Elk Meadow but there were no elk here today.  But just left of there on 101 we saw elk behind the Elk Cabins, a group of females with calves.

After the canyon hike we drove the Newton Drury scenic drive. Like Avenue of the Giants.  You could take an RV on this, pretty wide.

On the way back the Elk had moved across 101 from Elk Meadow and we got some pictures of the cows and calves.

On the way out of the visitor center we saw a black bear with a cub in the marsh east of 101.

We wanted to make Tillamook OR tonight but we spent quite a bit of  time in Redwood NP so we only made it to Coos Bay OR by 9:00 PM.

196 miles today.

3266 miles so far.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 15, San Francisco to the Redwoods

Sunday June 16, 2013

Golden Gate Bridge

We got going early today so we could drive the Golden Gate Bridge  before there was much traffic.  They had some lane closures on the bridge for a running race but as we got there they opened the lanes at 9:00 AM, made it across with no problem!


From San Rafael to Willits it is dry grape country.  Small vineyards everywhere.  Willits is the Gateway to the Redwoods. From there on you get into the forest.  North of where route 1 joins back with 101 the "Avenue of the Giants" runs parallel to 101 for about 15 mi.  This part of the road winds through thick groves of old growth redwoods.

We wanted a campground close to Redwood NP, we found Emerald Forest CG in Trinidad CA.  We got in there by 6:00 and ran down to the southern end of the NP. 

We hiked Lady Bird Johnson trail.  Lots of flowers and thick growth.  We saw a rough skinned newt on the trail (large black salamander).

On the way back to the campground we stopped at the pull off at the park entrance and walked the beach.  Really calm today and very foggy.  We watched an osprey working the surf.

Critters today; I saw a group of turkeys south of Willits, a couple deer and  2 doz white pelicans on a sand bar in a lake south near Navato.

311 miles today.

3070 miles so far.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 14, San Francisco

Saturday June 15, 2013

Not even 60 degrees today.

Cable Cars

Got into town early to ride the cable cars.  Rode the Hyde and Powell car out to downtown. 

You have to get off and re-enter so we went to lunch while we were downtown.  There were lots of little ethnic restaurants. We had lunch at a Thai place, really good, eat'in like a king on the road!  Downtown was really busy.  On the ride back the driver was a real comedian, joking with all the passengers. The kids really liked standing on the outside boards. 

San Francisco Maritime National Park

There is a National Park Visitor Center at Hyde and Jefferson.  The park is for the shipping heritage of San Francisco.  The have a pretty good size display in the building then several boats/ships across the street at the docks in various stages of reconstruction.

Lombard Street

We walked up Leavenworth and took some pictures at the bottom of the Lombard switchback. Jammed with cars and people.

Alamo Square

On the way home we drove Pacific Heights again then on down to Alamo Square.  The houses are not as colorful as in 96, one  had been totally demolished, another was being reconstructed. No places to park, lots of tourists walking the park taking pictures.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 13, San Francisco

Friday June 14, 2013

It was sunny when we got up so we decided to drive across the bridge to get some pictures.  Lots of traffic going across the Golden Gate Bridge.


There was a detour from 101 N to Hawk's Hill and we wound up  in Sausalito.  Since the whether was nice, the sky was clear, and the wind behind the mountain we decided to park and walk the main street.    We looked through the stores, watched the street performers and had lunch down on the wall.

Hawk's Hill

Lots of wind up top, cool, maybe 60.  Clear and sunny so we got some good pictures of the bridge.

Fisherman's Wharf/Ghirardelli Square

From Hawk's Hill we wanted to go to Fisherman's Wharf.  They were doing construction at the bridge south side and the 2 right lanes got diverted onto route 1 south.  We jumped off at Pacific and drove up to see Pacific Heights.  After Pacific Heights we drove down to Fisherman's Wharf.  We walked through the shops and galleries, looked at the vendor carts at Hyde and Beach.  We went up to Ghirardelli Square for candy and ice cream.  We went over to see the sea lions at pier 39.  Not too many there today, ~3 dozen.  We got some Boudins sourdough bread at pier 39 and We bought some crab meat, shrimp and calamari from the vendors on Taylor. 

At sunset it must have been 50 degrees, San Fran in June!

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 12, Yosemite to San Fran

Thursday June 13, 2013

They say there was a bear in the campground the last couple nights. I heard the neighbors dog bark and saw lots of flashlights but did not see any bear.  No bear sightings so far.

Left this morning for San Francisco.  Winding road out of the park.  It gets drier pretty quick.  By the time you hit Merced it is flat and dry.

Merced is where the fruit (cherries, strawberries, peaches, plums apricots) and nuts (pistachios and almonds) are grown. We stopped for fuel and tacos near Dos Palos.  We stopped for fruit outside Los Banos. Plums and appricots were $1/lb, $3 for 2 lb of Ranier cherries. Traffic got bad just north of San Jose, rush hour.  We had traffic all the way in to San Francisco. We got into Candlestick RV Park (where we stayed in 96) around 7:00. 6 hours to go ~ 250 mi.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 11, Yosemite

Wednesday June 12, 2013

Vernal Falls

Hiked up to Vernal Falls.  We could walk right from our campground (Upper Pines).  Pretty steep hike up to the bridge and  really crowded.  We hiked 1/8 mi beyond the bridge to a place where you could walk out onto a big flat boulder out in the river.  Great view of the falls and away from the crowds.  We watched 2 dippers working the river.

Float the Merced River

We rented a raft to float 3 mi of the Merced River through the valley.  Great views all along the river.  Only a few rapids.  Water was cold but farther down the river we did swim.

- Jon

Alaska 2013, Day 10, Yosemite

Tuesday June 11, 2013

Today we went up top to the Glacier Point drive to take a couple hikes. Sunny and warm today.  A few clouds had come in by the time we got up top.

We stopped at a meadow pull off half way out.  The meadow was full of spring flowers.  Spring was late up here this year.

Washburn Point

This is the first Half Dome pull off overlook you come to when heading  out to Glacier Point.  It is a small overlook but has a great view of Half Dome and Nevada and Vernal falls.  Great view but most people go on to Glacier Point.

Glacier Point

Just before you get to Glacier Point there is a hairpin turn with a fantastic view of Half Dome and the falls, no place to stop along here though.

Glacier Point is a large overlook at the end of the road.  There is a large parking lot and two overlooks.  One overlook has the same view as Washburn Point; Half Dome and the falls.  Glacier Point is the cliff over the valley.  From here you can see Half Dome the valley and Yosemite Falls.  We ate lunch on top the bolders out at the end of Glacier Point.  This is the best view of any National Park. Very crowded though.

Taft Point

On the way back we stopped at Taft Point/Sentinel Dome.  We walked out to Taft Point.  Either hike is ~ 1 mi.  Taft Point hike goes through a meadow and woods, across some boulders and out onto a cliff ledge.  Lots of cliff edges here.  Only about a half dozen people were out at the point.  Met a family with one son doing sketches of the valley and the other playing indian flute.  The indian flute really adds to the atmosphere of the point! The son with the flutes showed the kids all his flutes (8) he was carrying with him and showed them how to play them.  Pretty neat.

Lots of boulders all over for the kids to climb.

Lots of snow blooms (red mushrooms) along the trail and road up.

Saw some Stellars Jays and a Black Headed Grosbeak (looks like a cross between a Robin and an Orchard Oriole) in the campground this morning..

- Jon

go to Day 9 | go to Day 11

Alaska 2013, Day 9, Yosemite

Monday June 10, 2013

We hiked Mariposa Grove (Sequoias) this morning.  There are more sequoias here than I expected, we saw
maybe 100, they say there are 500 here.  I was expecting a half  dozen or so.  The biggest is the Grizzly Giant about 1/2 mi in.  It is huge, they say it is 1800 years old.  It is all strange shaped  and doesn't even look real.

A rain storm was coming down the valley on the ride back.  From the tunnel Half Dome was covered in dark clouds.  I'll bet the storm chased all the hikers off Half Dome.

All sorts of critters today.  Saw 2 western tanagers; yellow body, black wings and an orange head. A brown creeper, a quail who was calling out along the trail, some kind of warbler (black wings, yellow body), some tiny gray bird, and lots of juncos. The meadow by Curry Village had 6 mule deer on the way back in.

- Jon

go to Day 8 | go to Day 10

Friday, June 21, 2013

Alaska 2013, Day 8, Mono Lake and Yosemite

Sunday June 9, 2013

Mono Lake

We hiked the South Tufa Field off route 120.  The tufa are like stalactites, they are caused by natural springs bubbling up in the alkaline salty lake.  The calcium carbonate forms at the spring when the spring water interacts with the lake water forming towers.  They grow up to the surface of the water.  Most of the tufa here is 10 feet or so high because the water level has fallen.  In the 60s they started diverting water for the cities and as a result the water level dropped.  Conservation groups have fought to get the water level restored to about half the difference of today vs. its high water mark.  The lake has brine shrimp (tiny) and small alkaline flies.  Lots of different kinds of birds layover here on their migration and 80% of the CA population of California Gulls nest here on the island in late June.

Yosemite Tioga Pass

From Lee Vining we drove up route 120 Tioga Pass.  The park gate is 11 miles up the pass and we have only been east to the gate, never beyond.  It is a pretty drive up the pass from the west.  Ponderosa pines, large boulders, ponds and a big water fall at the top.  Reminds me of  Jasper Park in Canada.  Pretty busy along here, all the pull offs are full once you get inside the park.  The road across the top is really narrow, I had to be careful passing oncoming RVs especially in areas where cars were parked along the road.  Saw several cars out in the road and had to stop to allow an oncoming RVs to pass thru.  One car stopped dead in the road on a grade and almost got taken out by a big fifth wheel coming down hill.  The drive down into the valley is really narrow, lots of places with no sholder or rail, toward the bottom there is a stone gaurd rail.  Last time I drove this in the jeep so it didn't register with me how tough this road was.

Yosemite Lower Pines Campground

The valley was jammed, the parking areas full but not as busy as when we were here last.  The campgrounds have like 500 sites and they are all full.   90% tents, not too many RVs (not too many RV sites).  There were only like two RVs in our campground larger than us, most were small.

Yosemite is the busiest park in the system.  It is a beautiful place, the trick is to get away from the crowds.

77.3 miles today.

2512 miles so far.

- Jon

go to Day 7 | go to Day 9

Alaska 2013, Day 7, NV to CA

Day 7 - Saturday June 8, 2013

Today we drove Great Basin NP/Baker NV to Lee Vining CA at the eastern entry to Yosemite NP. The drive started in pinyon and juniper foothills and gradually got hotter and drier on each basin.  Went through Currant NV and a couple of abandoned towns.  We found a dozen places you could hide and never be found. Tonopah is low elevation, mojave desert.  Tonopah is on the northern edge of Nellis AFB.  It has a rocket test range and downtown had a sign that said "home of the stealth fighter".  We started out of the desert at Benton CA and route 120.  Route 120 climbs a couple passes and eventually climbs into a Ponderosa pine forest.  Lots of low pink and purple flowers here that ran like carpet along the road, in places out into a meadow or out under the Ponderoasa pines.  The Lee Vining side of the pass is pumice, like pea gravel.  So there is very little grass, just pines and wild flowers in what looks like grey sand.  On the way down from the Ponderosa pine we could see Mono Lake.  I had thought the lake was down on the desert floor but Lee Vining must be maybe 6000 ft.

365 miles today.

2435 miles so far.

- Jon

go to Day 6 | go to Day 8

Alaska 2013, Day 6, Great Basin National Park

Friday June 7, 2013

We toured Lehman Cave today. It is a small cave, 4 or so rooms, but very decorated.  They have some decorations that are unique; "shields", circular plates with flow stone out of the edges, and "turnips", ball shaped stalagmites.

Great Basin is known for it's bristlecone pines,  the oldest living trees are bristlecones.  In the visitor center they had a cross section of a bristlecone that showed 4000 years of growth.  We hiked up to a grove up in one of the high altitude valleys.  On the hike there are a couple of trees marked over 3000 years old.  I have never seen so many bristlecone pines or so big.  The trail leads 2.4 mi up to a rock covered valley full of bristlecone pines, living and dead.  They are so immune to decay and bugs that when they die they may stand for a thousand years.

Even clearer sky tonight than last night.

- Jon

go to Day 5 | go to Day 7

Alaska 2013, Day 5, UT to NV

Thursday June 6, 2013

Today we drove from Green River UT to Baker NV.  Long distances here with nothing in between; I-70 at the San Rafael Swell, 110 mi no services, route 50  Delta UT to Baker NV, 70 mi no services.

We drove by Sevier lake bed in Utah.  From a distance it looked filled with water reflecting the surrounding mountains but when you drive along it you can see it is a mirage, it is a dry lake.

We got into Great Basin National Park mid day.  We grabbed the last campsite in Lower Lehman Campground.  The campground  is at 7000 feet.  A creek runs along it and there are Birch trees
everywhere.  These have to be the southern most birch trees.

We hiked a mile up Poole Canyon.  There is a creek that runs down a narrow canyon.  Lots of Pinyon and Juniper and wild flowers.

After sun down we attended a stargazing ranger talk, Great Basin is in the top 10 spots in the US for clear night skies, no ambient light.  Thousands of stars and you can make out the milky way.

293 miles today

2070 miles so far.

- Jon

go to Day 4 | go to Day 6

Alaska 2013, Day 4, CO to UT

Wednesday June 5, 2013

Blue Moose for breakfast, best breakfast ever!  Stopped at Safeway for groceries, day 4 and running low on stores?

Wanted to make Delta UT today but too far. Made it into Fruita CO at 4:00 and decided we weren't going to make Delta so we decided to stop somewhere along the way.  Not too much in the way between Fruita CO and I-15, only Green River UT.  We found a campground in Green River and they mentioned that Goblin Valley State Park was only 45 minutes away.  We have always wanted to go there but it has always been out of the way.  I figured that if we could get into the campground by 6:00 that would leave us time to drive out. Goblin Valley is about 50 miles from Green River across roads where we saw next to no cars.  But at the park there were a dozen cars with groups hiking all over the valley.  We got there about an hour before sunset so got some good pictures.

Lots of stars on the ride home, zero ambient light.

280 miles today.

1777 miles so far.

- Jon

go to Day 3 | go to Day 5

Alaska 2013, Day 3, NE to CO

Tuesday June 4, 2013

Outside N. Platte NE we saw a flock of white pelicans, maybe 200.  They must have just taken off, probably laying over for the night on their way back north.  They were circling higher and higher on the thermals, probably trying to get to the higher altitude moving air.  They were right over interstate 80, no more than 200 feet up.  It was clear blue sky so as they circled you would see all white on the top side then the black tips on their wings underneath.

Couldn't see the mountains east of Denver, too hazy.  Haze in the mountains turned out to be rain.  On and off downpours today.

Got into Breckenridge mid day.

Stayed at Tiger Run campground in Breck, the only campground other than the forestry campgrounds.

Went into Breck, Crepes ala Cart, Space Cowboy, and Breckenridge Brewery Trademark American IPA.  Something for everyone.

On the way out it started raining.  Really heavy rain.  Rain started looking like slush on the windshield.  Turned into a full slush-snow storm.  On June 4.

362 miles today.

1497 miles so far.

- Jon

go to Day 2 | go to Day 4

Alaska 2013, Day 2, IN to NE

Monday, June 03, 2013

Lots of driving today.  South Bend IN to just east of N. Platte NE on I-80.  Not a lot to see or do on this stretch. First stop for us will be Breckenridge CO.  We know Breck pretty well and try to stop whenever we come through.

Cold today, ran the furnace, it's June!

827 miles today.

1135 miles so far.

- Jon

go to Day 1 | go to Day 3

Alaska 2013, Day 1, Cleveland OH to South Bend IN

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Spent all Saturday on the rock guards for the jeep. Sunday was clothes, fishing gear and electronics.

Left at 6:30 pm, late start but good to finally get going!

We got to South Bend rest area and called it a day.

308 miles today

- Jon

go to Prologue  | go to Day 2

Alaska 2013

Since the day we got back in 2008 we were planning the next trip, saving, researching, picking up new gear. Most things we have done slowly over the last 5 years but the last 4 months have been a marathon race to get all the last pieces together.  Lots of issues to tie up at work, lots of last minute things to get ready on the camper and jeep.  The kids last day of school was May 31. I worked until May 31, Cheryl until May 24.  That left a lot of things still not finished come June 1.  We spent Saturday and Sunday on last minute issues.  At some point you just have to drop it and hit the road, you'll never have everything squared away and the clock is ticking.  Time to head out!

- Jon