Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paxson Lake to Tok

Don and I drove about 200 miles today, taking the long route (about 30 miles farther) from Paxson Lake to Tok for two reasons. First, we knew from Larry and Marilyn, who had just driven part of the other route, that there was a lot of construction. Second, I wanted to take the portion of the Alaska Highway that we had bypassed by going to Dawson City and Chicken instead of directly from Whitehorse to Tok.

We stopped at the visitor center in Delta Junction for a certificate for each of us. It reads “This certifies that ______________ has gone through the trials and tribulations to reach mile 1422, the End of the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction, Alaska on this date, _____________.”


Flowers are in bloom everywhere. It’s apparent that Alaskans treasure the warm summer days and want to beautify their surroundings.


And here’s one of the reasons: Delta has experienced temperatures down to –72 (on Jan. 6, 1975). Even summer days can be pretty cool. The top temperature on this display is +9 recorded on June 25, 1983, and on May 5, 1958 it reached –10 degrees!


Before reaching Delta Junction, we stopped at the Denali Fault/Pipeline Visitor Viewing Area. An information board explained how the structure of the pipeline differs in this particular location because it’s crossing the earthquake fault. It states “engineers have conservatively designed the pipeline to allow for up to 22 feet of lateral movement and five feet of vertical movement.”


While I was reading the information boards, Shadow found a comfortable spot in the shade with some fireweed.


We saw moose tracks nearby, and later spotted a moose on the side of the road. There’s a forecast for several days of rain, so we’re glad to have full hookups again.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Kayaks Got Wet!

Paxson Lake was a beautiful place to go kayaking. Carol, Dennis, Don and I went out about 10 this morning. Pat Livingston took all the pictures below and kindly shared them with me, since the camera I usually take in the kayak had a dead battery and I forgot to charge it in advance. Thanks, Pat!

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We launched at the boat ramp near our BLM campground. Hills are on the left, we’re on the right.

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I was the first one in the water (and the last one out).

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Don and I were out in the water.

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Soon we were joined by Dennis and Carol.

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It felt great to be floating again!

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The water was like glass, it was so smooth. You can see the Alaska Range of mountains in the distance.

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We saw a Golden Eagle – in fact, got up close and personal with it – and lots of Arctic Terns. Dennis got pictures and they are on his blog, along with a lot of other pictures of our day. He also went to the far side of the lake and spotted some Grizzly tracks. We saw tiny fish swimming just below the surface, and the water was so clear we could see the bottom of this shallow lake most of the time. The lake is probably fed by snow runoff because there was no glacier ‘muddy’ appearance. It’s linked to the Gulkana River that runs 47 miles from Paxson Lake to Sourdough.

Our paddling was almost effortless, and the environment was blissfully peaceful. We heard the birds chirping their own communication, and even heard the very recognizable sound of Loons in the distance, but didn’t see any up close.

Larry and Marilyn caught up with us tonight after getting a new refrigerator in Anchorage. Glad to have you two back with us! We decided to stay here another day to enjoy nature and the great weather.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Far From Civilization in Paxson Lake

We drove farther today than we have in awhile – about 184 miles. Along the way, we had wonderful weather and more incredible views of this beautiful area.


We also had to make some tourist stops. First, the Knotty Shop. Someone has very cleverly created animals (and lots of other items in the gift shop) from knotty burls of birch trees.


We crossed a bridge for motor vehicles next to an even more elaborate bridge for the Alaska pipeline.


Rika’s Roadhouse is a favorite tourist stop, as it has been since 1904. This place has quite a history, a beautiful garden and several outlying buildings. I’m only including one picture here, but I encourage you to follow the link to learn more about this place. We really enjoyed walking around the grounds. And the gift shop is one of the best we’ve seen. If we hadn’t already bought Alaska jackets (and if our closets weren’t so full) we would have picked up a bargain $18 one here.


The monument marking the end of the Alaska (AlCan) Highway was a site not to be missed. We’re driving the entire 1422 miles, but not in a continuous line. Still, we had to mark the milestone.


We had lunch in a shady place in the parking lot, then drove on to Paxson Lake. It’s a popular fishing destination, but it’s also a return to the ‘wild’ part of Alaska for us, away from the cities, traffic lights, malls and restaurants. We found sites where we could get our satellite dishes tuned in, then Dennis and Don had to bring out shovels to help Gary get out of a jam. It seems he dug a few holes in the gravel with his wheels and got stuck.


Mary proudly showed off her North Pole shirt. She thought it was Friday and she’d be honoring our military by wearing red. Then she remembered it’s Thursday – oh, it’s her birthday! Oh, well, it’s the thought that counts. And again, Happy Birthday Mary – we celebrated early 2 days ago because Jean and Claudette were leaving, but our wishes are no less sincere.


At happy hour we had to spray ourselves heavily with Deet to avoid the dense mosquito population, but Pat and Jim had a better idea.


Jim had a little trouble eating and drinking through this apparatus but he didn't get any mosquito bites!


Pat had to show off her professional pedicure. Cool toes!


We also had a great time watching squirrels and birds. One squirrel was bold enough to come up on our table to steal peanuts!


Because there are no restaurants nearby, Don planned ahead and grilled a skirt steak with carne asada seasoning we bought in California. Yummy! We’re going to have to find a way to share this with others.

One of our purposes for coming to Paxson Lake is to go kayaking. So I hope that tomorrow we’ll have equally good weather and will be able to report on a paddling experience.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

North Pole!

Some of my blog readers seemed surprised that we’re winding up our trip here in Alaska so soon. We still have about 3,000 miles to go to Gillette, WY and will be enjoying that part of the trip as well. Although it may not be as adventurous as what we’ve been doing, we still want to do some kayaking and there are a few new locations to explore and roads we haven’t yet traveled. Some of our group need to be in Gillette by August 21 to teach at the Escapees’ Boot Camp. Others of us are on staff for Escapade and need to be there no later than August 25. (Yes, Helen, that includes us – we look forward to seeing you and Bill there!)

We feel that we’ve done a pretty good job of seeing and doing what we wanted in Alaska, even though it was sometimes done at a less than leisurely pace. But we’ve worked within a window of time totaling about 90 days (with about 30 of them still to go) and managed to take a wonderful tour of this beautiful state.

Today we moved about 12.5 miles to the Riverview RV Park in North Pole, Alaska. We’re side-by-side with the Hills and the Forbes. The sites are larger, at the same price as the River’s Edge that we just left. And Shadow likes the grass!


Yes, there really is a place named North Pole, Alaska. This town is not to be confused with The North Pole, the geographic point on the globe that reaches the farthest north and is directly opposite of The South Pole. One interesting fact you’ll see if you follow the link to the town of North Pole is in the weather statistics. The highest temperature recorded in the month of March was +56 degrees, and the lowest was -56! I don’t want to be here for that one!

We enjoyed happy hour, where the ‘girls’ got together for crafting. (Notice that Pat and Jim caught up with us.)


And the ‘boys’ just BS’ed in the background! (At least that’s what it sounded like to me.)


Mary’s doing very well as a novice crocheter!


And Carol’s many years of crocheting experience are helping her untangle a mess probably caused by Rainbow or Patches, her cats.


We all went to Pagoda’s for a dinner of Chinese food, since Don and I enjoyed our lunch there yesterday.


Seated in a different room this time, we noticed banners of Rotary Clubs from several places around the world posted on the walls. Here’s one from Hawaii, Don’s home state, next to ones from Sparks, NV and somewhere in Europe (couldn’t quite read it). We saw others from Japan, Australia, Argentina, England, Barcelona, Norway, and Russia.


We all enjoyed our dinner and the chance to get together once again.


Back at the RV park, Don equalized the air in all our tires. He appreciated valuable help from Dennis.


We thought one of our Pressure Pro sensors on the car had gone bad since it was giving us false low readings. But after spending some time on the phone with Pat McFall (we bought the system from Pat and Mike McFall) and later with Doug at Pressure Pro’s headquarters, we got the problem resolved. Don took advantage of the good weather and relative shade on all the tires, with an outside temp of about 72 degrees, to check them all and be sure they are properly inflated for the trip southward. Now we’ll feel safer with the knowledge that all the sensors are working and the pressure is where it should be all around.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Last Day in Fairbanks

We’re winding down our Alaska tour and getting ready to point the wheels southward. Yesterday and today were quiet days as far as reporting new things. We’ve taken care of finishing our shopping, doing the laundry and going over the motor home with Dri-Wash.

Don and I enjoyed lunch yesterday at Pagoda Restaurant in North Pole, where we went to check on a mailing we’re expecting. This is another one of Guy Fieri’s recommendations. The food was delicious and only $11.95 each. He had Sweet & Sour Pork.


I had Kung Pau Shrimp.


A beautiful, heavy pot of tea was served automatically.


Today we celebrated Mary Olson’s birthday at happy hour. It’s not until Thursday, but Jean and Claudette are leaving the group tomorrow to head south and they wanted to help celebrate.


The Olsons and Fradettes showed off their Arctic shirts, purchased on a 3-day trip (by air) to the Arctic Ocean.


Afterward, the 8 of us (Olsons, Fradettes, Hills, us) went to Big Daddy’s BBQ again. Yummy ribs – more than we could eat!


And I love the southern-style fried okra.


The wait staff brought Mary a huge piece of chocolate cake (with 8 spoons) and sang Happy Birthday.


So, our group is separating, as we knew we’d do. Pat & Jim are somewhere out in the wild beyond cell phone service, and Marilyn & Larry are in Anchorage awaiting their new refrigerator. We’ll probably be linking up with them again.

It’s been a great time traveling together, and there are still some new adventures to experience as we head back toward the Lower 48. After all, we have over 3,000 miles to go to reach Gillette, WY for Escapade, and a little over a month to do it.