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Mountains Hide Away

Alaska 2016 Travel Journal

Below is a journal I kept of my trip to and around Alaska. It was my hopes to summarize each day of my trip. For the most part I feel I was successful. Eight days are missing and it is my hopes to be able to go back and write something about each of those days. Will see...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Today, I started my trip to and around Alaska. I drove for 12 hours from Denver to North of Great Falls, MT. Not much traffic and hardly any road construction made way for a nice drive. Saw a lot of antelope while driving through Wyoming. As a child I remember seeing herds of antelope. Today was most I have seen since then. I made great time. I am happy to be safely at the motel. I'm checked in and ready to eat then rest. Tomorrow, I'll cross over into Canada and will only drive 10 hours. I hope to get NW of Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I made the drive from Shelby, Montana to NW of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Fox Creek today. Everything went as planned and I was able to make great time. I'm resting and relaxing in hotel room right now. All is well and I am feeling good. Tomorrow morning I should make it to Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway and get a fair distance. Based on previous years, I should lose cell phone coverage tomorrow afternoon and not have it again till I arrive in Alaska mid day on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The day started with the cover coming off the orange juice dispenser. I had juice down the front of me. It wasn't to bad and I am glad I hadn't checked out yet. I was able to go back to room and change. My thoughts were, "I hope this isn't an omen for what the day holds in store." I left Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada and the plan was to drive to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. I had only driven twenty minutes and I was in thick fog. I was concerned because along this stretch of highway, is known for deer and moose. I was able to drive out of the fog about 30 minutes later. I'm glad I did because on the right side of the road on a river bank, was a moose. It was beautiful and as I drove by, it lifted its head and looked my way. What a magnificent looking animal. From northwest of Fort Saint John to Fort Nelson was rain, lots of it. Well, I had thought so till I passed some folks from Florida. I thought it was funny that as I passed them, it really started to rain, hard enough I had to slow way down. I was glad the rain stopped and the sun came out. I drove past the area that had been closed last month due to a forest fire. It was kind of unsettling seeing a big old sign saying, "Wildfire area! Enter area at own risk." Past the burn area, I spotted a black bear, far enough ahead, to be able to slow down and stop, to get some video and pictures. It was about 75 feet off the road, busy eating the grass and flowers. The rest of the drive was rainy but nice. I am safe and sound in Fort Nelson, B.C. All is well and I am feeling good. I'm excited about tomorrow because I'll be driving to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Most of the drive is in the wilderness. I should see Big Horn Sheep, Caribou and hopefully some more bears along the way. I'm going to go eat now. I hope to add another update tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What a day. It has been a long day with rain, road construction, RVs and even a bison jam. The drive started with it raining and it rained pretty much the entire day. I didn't see one black bear. I saw a half dozen.lol First one was near the top of Steamboat Hill on the other side of a barrier. I saw it too late to be able to stop safe, to get pictures. But with what I was able to see of the bear, it was huge and entirely black. Even the nose was black. Its size could rival a brown bear. I saw other black bears and bison. I know risky, but to get some good video, I got out of the truck leaving the truck between me and the bear. The bear was more interested in eating and I did nothing to disturb it. The drive has me feeling really spent and very tired. So tired I almost went without dinner, but I was strong. I filled the truck up with gas and then went to dinner. There were times I had the road to myself and other times there were a lot of RVs. I had to smile and chuckle because traffic was stopped up ahead due to bison on the road. Four bison crossed the road very, very slowly and another started walking in the south bound lane.I took a picture of the bison with the barrier. The barrier was all along the side up the hill. I figure it was at least a mile and would be slow going if the bison went all the way. I looked over to the driver behind the bison and he looked over at me and we both laughed. Did I mention there were lots and lots of rain? Well, there was. I enjoyed it but sometimes the down pours was a tad unsettling. I'm safely in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. I love being in the Yukon. I guess it is from reading a book called, Golden Torment. Guess what? Tomorrow I cross the border and I will be back in Alaska! I'm a tired excited. I'm having so many memories of when my mom was with me, I miss her so much. I know she is with me in spirit but, oh how I wish she was with me in the physical sense. Tomorrow I drive from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska. I'll have a day off, getting prepared to drive up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse and to look out at the Arctic Ocean. I am hoping there will be ice like what was seen in 2010. Other than being tired, I am well and feeling good.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Warning: Today's entry is wordy.lol

I'm happy to report I completed the 5 day trek from Denver, CO to Fairbanks, AK. I am glad to be here. It was a good day. Not really, it was a great day. I woke up to clear skies and bright sunshine. It lasted the entire day. Though I think I preferred the rain the previous three days. I could not believe how dirty my windshield became from bugs. I just remembered as I was leaving Whitehorse, they were talking on the radio about how all the rain had affected Dawson Creek. A bridge had become damaged and parts of the town were cut off. I hope repairs are completed easier and faster than they were saying. I am glad I passed through Dawson Creek when I did. From Whitehorse to just about Haines Junction I had my heart stopped a few times by ground squirrels. There were many times, I'd see one and as I approached and I kept thinking move little guy move. And it didn't I'd look in the mirror and see it standing not hurt. Another time two were just so busy playing to move. I thought for sure this time I hit one or both. I was happy as I was cursing them, they both were okay. I looked in the side view mirror to see one was standing in the road and the other off to the side looking back. lol Yet again the Yukon didn't disappoint me. Just north of Burwash Landing, Yukon, and I do mean just north. I was thrilled to come across a grizzly sow and two spring cubs. They were walking along the road. They then crossed the road right in front of me. As I watched I wondered if my truck and the two other vehicles were distracting the sow or if as demonstrated by other sows with first time cubs, just not sure/interested in the safety of her cubs. One cub was unsure what to do. Stay with its sibling that was still sitting and playing eating some dry grass or follow mom. Eventually, it chased after mom, the other cub finally caught up but still the sow was more intent in going to where she wanted. The cubs were small and skinny and they struggled to keep up. As much as I wanted to sit and watch, I thought it best to let them be. As I slowly drove by the sow I could see clear as day all the flies around the face and eyes. It was so awesome to see a grizzly bear so, so close. It was less than 5 minutes when I came across another grizzly. The path this one was taking was right towards the sow and cubs. The behavior and playfulness made me think this was a sub adult. I wish I dared go back and find out if the two bears crossed paths and if they did, what happened. But being well versed on a sow and cubs, I didn't stick around. One of my favorite areas to drive just south of Beaver Creek, Yukon, was a long stretch of road construction. Bummer! As I was getting closer to U.S.A customs I was hit with memories of mom. I drove a long ways in a somber mood. I miss her so much. North of Delta Junction, Alaska, I spotted a moose. I was in the process of passing a car when I spotted it, to be able to stop and get video and pictures. It wasn't very long and I spotted another moose, knee deep in water trying to scratch its back. Again, I spotted it too late to be able to stop and get pictures. I thought about turning around and going back to get pictures but having just passed three RVs, I didn't want to do it again.lol I spotted a third moose as I was behind a semi truck. I was surprised to see how much the driver of the truck slowed down. The moose was startled and ran in to the cover of the trees. I spotted a fourth moose but unfortunately not much to look at. Drove right past Eielson Air Force base just as a pair of jet fighters took off. Wow! From there made it into Fairbanks and hotel. More construction with streets closed had my planned route blocked. I made my own detour by driving through two parking lots to reach the hotel. Got checked in, truck unloaded and being a typical guy, found a car wash to get my truck cleaned up and looking good again.lol On my way back to hotel stopped at liquor store to buy my favorite beer, Alaskan White.lol I walked over to restaurant and had dinner. I'm now going to relax tonight and let the last five days play back. Did I say I am so, so, so happy to be back in ALASAKA? YEEEEE HAAAWWWWW!!!!!!!! *smile*

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Friday, June 17, 2016

I do have much to comment on today. As soon as I woke up, my thoughts turned to getting the truck serviced. I wanted to make sure the truck was ready for the 414 miles up and then back down the Dalton Highway. This road makes me nervous because of its reputation for rocks hitting and breaking windshields and the road flatten tires. I had the truck thoroughly serviced and felt it was mechicanically ready to go. On the way back to the hotel I stopped and bought some easy to prepare food for tomorrow night's stay in Wiseman, AK since there are no restaurants. I decided on some dehydrated food. All I needed was to boil water and then heat and eat the food in its package. No fuss and no mess. I spent the rest of the day resting and relaxing from driving the previous five days. Tomorrow, I start my drive up the Dalton Highway. I'm nervous about the drive because there is nothing between Fairbanks and Deadhorse, just a 414 mile road through the wilderness with not much traffic for help, if something goes wrong. Though, I remember hearing on a tour that any road maintenance done on a section of road, asphalt will be laid. I guess I'll find out if I am remembering correctly. Part of me hopes it is all dirt and another part of me hopes there are paved sections. Well that is all for now.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

I started my drive up the Dalton Highway this morning. I had to back track due to waiting to fill up the truck closer to the Dalton Highway. I remembered the gas station was there but it was closed. I decided to drive back to Fairbanks to get gas. Boy how I hate having to back track especially when there turned out to be another gas station further up I didn't remember.lol Oh well, like I have been doing the whole trip, better to be safe than sorry. I had forgotten how far it was to the start of the Dalton Highway and even more how rough the road was and it is paved.lol I made it to the start and the beginning of the dirt road. All I could think about was I hope my choice in tires was the correct choice. I didn't want to get a flat right off. It didn't take me long to get comfortable driving on dirt and it was actually smoother than the paved road. Guess what? I had more rain today. It is a good thing; I like and enjoy driving in the rain. But, being on dirt, with rain coming down can make for muddy roads and a dirty truck. There wasn't much traffic. And what traffic there was pulled off to the side so I could pass. Speaking of passing, rigs have right of way. When I came across a southbound truck I pulled off to the side as far as I could. With all the dirt and gravel didn't want a chipped or cracked windshield. I made it to the Yukon River and crossed over the bridge that has wood planks to drive on. As I made my way up the road, more of it ended up being paved than I remembered. I also came across road construction. I ended up sitting at one place for nearly 30 minutes. Next was Finger Mountain. There is a rock formation that looks like a finger pointing to the sky. I then crossed the Arctic Circle. I was now going to be above the Arctic Circle for the next 2 days and thought how kewl. I was feeling pretty good about how well the drive was going and contemplated skipping Wiseman and going straight to Deadhorse, but decided to stop as planned, if for no other reason than the quiet and solitude there would be at where I planned to stop. Through different parts of the drive I reflected on Ice Road Truckers and the different sections they had named. Roller Coaster, Beaver slide and such. I reached Coldfoot, the one place between Fairbanks and Deadhorse to get gas. I filled up the tank and then went across the road to stop at the interagency visitor center. This is basically the visitor center for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. I took a few pictures of the exhibits and bought some souvenirs. It was only a few more miles to Wiseman, my stopping point. I was happy that I was able to find the lodge as easy as I did. I have only been here once six years ago. I was looking out the window, the rain was beginning to stop and the clouds were lifting. I'm able to see a mountain top for the first time today. The low clouds and rain today didn't present much opportunity to get pictures. I am hoping I'll have a chance southbound. I didn't see any wildlife today. I'm safe in Wiseman, AK. I'm well and feeling good. No internet connection in Wiseman so I will post when I can. Pictures are of the Yukon River Bridge. The other is a picture is one I took while waiting at road construction stop, for the GPS location than anything.

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Sunday June 19, 2016.

I'm writing safely in Deadhorse, AK. I completed the drive up the Dalton Highway from Wiseman around 1:00PM AKDT. It is 500 miles from Fairbanks and overall the drive was not too bad. It was another day driving in a steady rain. The rain made for a very wet and muddy road. I enjoyed the drive up Chandalar Shelf. Just like driving up Atigun Pass in 2010 with low laying clouds, it was the same today. And like in 2010 as I reached the summit the clouds were not as low, making for a nice drive down the North side of the pass. I was surprised to see all the remaining snow on both sides of the road at the summit. It was stepper than I remembered and I stayed in low gear, I still used the brakes more than I like. As I drove away from the Brooks Range, I could feel the front tires pushing the mud up in front of the tries. I put the truck in four wheel drive and it helped a little but not much. The ground was so wet and muddy it felt like the truck was sinking into the mud deeper and deeper. I wondered if it was being made worse by permafrost melting. With an early start, there wasn't much traffic if I became stuck. I passed several rigs going southbound. The last 36 miles was the worst due to road construction. There is a section that was rock like one would find in a river bed. I could feel the truck sinking down as I drove. I was really, really nervous about getting a flat. I'm still nervous due to having to drive back through it in the morning. I made my way into Deadhorse and filled up the tank for my southbound trip. I found my way to the hotel I would be staying at and was able to checking in I had time to take a well needed nap.lol I made it to the pickup point for a shuttle that would take me to the Arctic Ocean. It was a nice trip and they still go to the same place as they went 6 years ago. I was happy to see there was still ice on the water. I'm well and feeling good but I am tried. Going to end for now and rest up. Tomorrow, the plan is to drive the entire 500 miles back to Fairbanks.

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