Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Atlin Adventure

Tagish Y.G. Campround, Tagish, YT – May 31, 2014

Our boondocking spot was nice and private last night. This is the south end of the Canol Road. Canol is an abbreviation for ‘Canadian Oil’. This was a 135 million dollar boondoggle back in the 1940’s to send oil by pipeline from the Northwest Territories to Fairbanks. It was used once then shut down. That was some very expensive oil. The equipment used to build the pipeline and road were abandoned in place. This little park where we boondocked has a nice display set up with lots of the abandoned trucks sitting around.

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On our last trip to Alaska in Big Guy, we had declared the cinnamon buns in Johnson’s Crossing to be the absolute best on the Alaska Highway. We hope to verify that finding on this trip. But, fate intervenes, and we find Johnson’s Crossing out of business. So, to date, on this trip the award appears to be going to Testa River Lodge.

We continue on to Tagish where we’ll be staying at the Yukon Government campground. We have the coordinates locked in on the Garmin GPS, but the Microsoft Streets & Trips program shows a different location for the campground. The contest to see which device is the closest is on.

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The Garmin wins. We select a a nice sunny space so the solar panels can do their work and we pack up the Element for the 60 mile excursion to Atlin. Oops! Forgot Frank’s sunglasses. Then Frank’s sunglasses get lost. More oops. Forgot EJ’s camera’s memory card. After all this, we had to stop at the 6 Mile River Resort and calm ourselves with some coffee and a huge ginger cookie.

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Frank, on the way out, stops to admire all of the old outboard motors on display.

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Ok, now we are really on the way to Atlin!

We have a potential Moose sighting along the way. The first we’ve seen so far. The road is interesting, changing from pavement, to gravel, to dirt and construction, back to gravel then pavement along the way.

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After a sixty mile trip and a cup of coffee, we arrive in Atlin. A restroom was real high on our list of priorities. So we head to the visitor centre thinking that they always have restrooms. Uh oh! This one is an unmanned kiosk. Our next stop is the local library. No bathroom, but there is an outhouse out back. Good enough!

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While we were there we checked out the mechanical displays.

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It’s pretty windy today, and with the cool temps, it chills you right to the bone. So we drive around to see the sights and to check out a few of the local businesses. The library had a gallery where local artists displayed their works. Some were quite awesome.

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The other shops we found, even though they advertised artistic goods, were really just local grocery stores. We did find out that the local filling station also had a great restaurant where we had an avocado chicken wrap with a chipotle sauce surprise and a wonderful meat and barley soup. The chipotle sauce was at first almost un-noticeable, then it began to warm your mouth to the point you wondered if it would ever quit. I got mine on the first bite and EJ didn’t get hers until the end. I‘m not sure who was luckier. But it was all good.

The Element car alarm decided to go off while we were eating. First time that’s ever happened.

Atlin’s claim to fame is gold. The newspapers at the time claimed it to have the largest gold deposits in North America, bigger even than the Klondike. Many hardy men and women on their way to the Klondike, changed direction and came here instead. The journey to Atlin from Skagway was much safer and shorter. Even today, estimates say there are millions of dollars of gold being mined in the surrounding area. Since the operations are all private, estimates on the value of gold being extracted are based on supplies purchased and the size of the miners payroll.

EJ read about a place where you could view the Lllewellen Glacier near Atlin. And we go off in search of that. We end up on a gravel road (no surprise here as most roads around here are gravel) whose street name doesn’t agree with the brochure, but seems to be in the right place. We figure it’s about a 15 mile drive and we keep going and going. We pass a rock strewn beach.

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We see a hand lettered sign that says “Public Warm Springs, 100 miles” with an arrow to the left. figuring it is someone’s idea of a joke, we continue straight on. Eventually our little gravel road narrows down to a path barely wide enough for a single car and it has a sign that says “Unmaintained Road”. Hmmmm!

EJ then then reads here brochure again and says the Glacier over look is at a business named Sudkins. Oh, we passed that way back at the beginning of this gravel road.

After we turn around, Frank spots this little road and turns on it only to find the warm springs. This would be  a perfect spot to boondock (except for the road to get here)!

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We finally find Sudkins and proceed up the hill to the  one car parking lot. As we turn around to go back down the hill we spot the glacier. And it’s big! What a view.

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Our adventure is done for the day, we head back to Big Guy. At one point we stop to see a porcupine that appears to be licking the road. He saw us and waddled for the bushes.

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Then we see another black bear only this time with a brown coat.

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Back at the campground, we take a walk down to the river and find a memorial plaque. It explains how the area got it’s name. The plaque was hard to read, but this sign says essentially the same thing.

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Time to call it a day, but it’s hard to go to sleep when the sun is still up. Only three weeks to the summer solstice.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Goslings are Going

South Canol Rd, Johnson’s Crossing, YT – May 30, 2014

Plans are in turmoil. Concerns fill the air about the 11 percent grade into and out of Skagway. New people show up adding more possibilities to the mix.

Steep Grade Sign

The original plan was for the group to head to Skagway Alaska. 
Dennis, our Loosey Goosey Gang organizer, wanted everyone to have the opportunity to see and immerse themselves in the history of the town. After all, it was the jumping off point for the Klondike Gold Rush.

Already one in the group had experienced transmission problems.  A lot of anxiety filled the air about that long steep grade into and out of town. Few were willing to risk it for fear of creating more mechanical problems. Some of us had already seen Skagway and didn’t feel like dealing with the cruise ship crowds. So they were going to bypass that leg of the trip.

The Putnam’s current plan is to pass through Skagway via Haines and the Alaska Marine Highway ferry on the way back to the US in late August or September. But that too, may change.

So, alliances began to form and individual plans were laid. the Goslings were beginning to test their wings. Dennis had gone out of his way to let everyone know this was not going to be a trip with every little step laid out, reservations made at every RV park, and every detail planned. It was to be a loosely formed group that would ebb and flow, meet and separate, as the adventure progressed.

Some wanted a little more structure and split off into groups of like minds. Some wanted to explore more and to pick up the pace. Dennis had done an admirable job in getting the group to this point and now it was time to let the Goslings go.

Segueing into a new subject, Taz continues to be a part of our lives. This morning we got an email from John back home, letting us know that Taz’s ashes had arrived in Orange Park, but were being held captive by the USPS. She was being transported by US Mail instead of UPS or FedEx as we had expected.

This opens a new can of worms as her package requires our signature for delivery and obviously we weren’t there. We made sure the Vet in Black Hawk, SD knew we were traveling and that we wouldn’t be back until later in the year. So why they sent it signature required we don’t know. But we spoke with the Post Office, e-mailed the required paperwork to John, so hopefully that is now straightened out. Taz will be waiting for us when we return. Thank you John, for staying on top of this.

This required us staying past the posted check out time at the RV park, but Frank asked if it would be OK if we stayed until 1PM to work all this out and they said it was OK.

After we got Taz squared away, we had time for one final picture before we left Watson Lake, the Sign Forest City on the Alaska Highway under the posted Loosey Goosey Sign of course.

FnEJ in front of Loosey Goosey Sign

As for us? Well, we’re headed to a boondocking spot we used once before on South Canol Road near the Alaska Highway. We’re traveling alone because we stop at everything that looks interesting, and we like to stop and stretch our legs with hikes to scenic spots off the road. But we will miss the daily 4PM happy hour until the next meet up.

LG Group Happy Hour

The scenery along the way never fails to amaze you. Driving along and around the corner something like this appears.

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On our way we stopped at Rancheria Falls and enjoyed the walk to the Falls. It is a really nice area.

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Getting late and we thought we might stop in Teslin, but the rest area says No Overnight Parking. So we stick to the original plan and cross the bridge. This is the longest bridge on the Alaska Highway.

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Finally  made it to Canol Road and settled in for the night.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sign Post Forest City

Downtown RV Park, Watson Lake, YT – May 29, 2014

We arrived early, a first for us, after having spent the night in the parking lot of Lucky Lake about 7 miles from Watson Lake. The Milepost guide showed the Campground Services campground closed, but indicated Tags and Downtown RV Park were still in business.

A quick tour of town reveals that Tags is now a construction site and only Downtown RV Park is still in operation. Well, that’s OK because they offer a Good Sam discount. Or so we thought. Their price structure has four tiers, cash, “card”, back-in or pull-through.

It cost $4 extra for a pull through, $5 with tax/card fee. We had already un-hooked the car to look for other RV parks, so getting a back in site was a no-brainer.

Oh! And the Good Sam discount? Already built into the price posted on the wall. We never did see any undiscounted price.  At $38.50 for the back-in site, well, let’s just say they know they’re the only game in town. However, the restrooms and laundry facilities were nice.

After we got checked in EJ and I had a late breakfast at Kathy’s CafĂ©. One of the best deals on the Alaska Highway so far. A huge omelet, potatoes, toast and 2 coffees for $14.95. And the omelet was plenty big for two people.

By this time, the Loosey Goosey gang had done a pretty good job of filling up the campground.

City Campground Watson Lake YT

A visit to the Sign Post Forest is what Watson Lake is all about.  An estimate in September of 2013 indicated in excess of 78,000 signs. We asked if they counted each sign and they said they used to, but it started to take days so now they just estimate. They count the number of poles and multiply it by the average number of signs per pole. (Remember to click on an image to enlarge it)

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Mark, (Classy Mark) unveiled, to the new  folks in the group, the Loosey Goosey sign to be posted in the Sigh Post Forest. I don’t know how it happened, but our names are first on the list. Thanks Mark!

 Loosey Goosey Sign

We all got to hold it. Don’t I look excited?

Frank and LG Sign

After the usual 4PM gathering, we discovered a path around Wye Lake that was about 2 miles long. Nice boardwalk and path that were fairly level. My hip didn’t complain too much and EJ reminded me that since we brought the cane, I really ought to use it. We saw a few birds and several flowers, but not critters.

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A trip to the grocery store earlier today resulted in steak on the grill this evening. That, along with a bottle of wine, was a great way to end the day!