Chicken AK

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 31-08-2009

Months ago, while in the warm balmy weather of Mexico, Helene (our Canadian friend) emerged from her RV with a t-shirt reading, “Chicken AK”.  Chicken AK??  Where the heck is CHICKEN AK??    Helene and Roch said it’s a must see so  we knew one day we would make the trip.  Well, our day finally arrived!  Our trip from Fairbanks to Tok to Chicken was fairly smooth with the last section being a dirt road.  Chicken was supposedly named by early miners who wanted to name their camp ptarmigan, but were unable to spell it and settled instead for chicken, which is the common name in the North for ptarmigan.The population of Chicken is 21 in the summer and a mere 6 in the winter and commercial Chicken consists of 3 businesses, each with its own attractions.  We arrived in Chicken on a warm-ish day and were so impressed with the campground –  the Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost – next to Pedro Dredge and owned by a great family – the Busbys.  The quaint gift shop/cafe was filled with fun “chicken” stuff as well as homemade treats.  Ken and I had the best latte ever the next morning in their cafe.  Who knew Chicken would be such a foodie place?!  The campground also had a beautiful outdoor area to enjoy a beer or glass of wine.   We were sorry to have missed “ChckenStock” (think WoodStock),  a blue grass festival in June.  There were five bands and 250 people making it one of the biggest happenings in Chicken, probably ever!  Maybe we will make it back one year! 

This area is famous for its gold claims and Andrew was anxious to stake his claim (he so needs the money) so he paid $1o for 24 hours of gold panning.  He did quite well and had a small vile of gold flakes only to then loose it  all in the muddy water.    He was bummed but determined and he and Ken returned to find even more gold flakes – the total value about $5!    Good job boys!

I decided it would be more fun to celebrate my birthday in Chicken than Fairbanks so we spent a day just hanging out in the RV (it was quite cold and rainy) and watching movies.  Nice way to spend a birthday!  After a dinner of rib eye steaks, we walked to the campground cafe and enjoyed “Alaskan Sundaes” complete with homemade blueberry preserves.  Yum!    We were told there were moose near the small airstrip down the road so we took off in hopes of seeing a moose up close (and safe in our car!)  We lucked out and watched a mother moose eat and drink from the pond.   We were told there were “baby” moose nearby but didn’t get a glimpse of them this time. 

The next day we took a tour of Pedro Dredge, given to us by campground (and Pedro Dredge) owner Mike Busby.  Mike and his wife Lou came here years ago as gold miners.  Mike sure knew his stuff when it came to the Pedro Dredge.  The dredge was no longer in operation during its heyday, it mined millions of dollars of gold from Chicken Creek.   It was really cool to meet people with a dream of gold mining who actually made their dream come true!

Our last evening was balmy (compared to the night before) and Ken and I took a walk to Chicken’s Post Office.  With all the cutbacks in the postal service, it was very surprising to learn this town of 21 has a post office.  We met Robin, the gal who runs the post office 5 days a week. She handles over 600 pounds of mail a week.   She receives it via a plane on Tuesdays and Fridays.  She reminded us that they are in the “bush” and provisions are needed for people to exist, thus the real need for the post office.  She took our picture in front of the post office and gave us a rubber chicken to hold.  How fitting! 

Tomorrow we will take the highly touted trip to Dawson City via the “Top of the World” Highway.   The first part of the highway (it is really a “highway?”)  is all gravel, windy and quite narrow so we will unhook the van and I will follow Ken.  We had planned to take a side trip to Eagle, one of the most picturesque towns in all of Alaska, located right on the Yukon River.  But Mike informed us that the town was severely affected by an unusual Spring thaw which caused some of the worst flooding in decades.   The flood (think of an ice tsunami) literally wiped out the town of Eagle as ice chunks as big as houses were pushed throughout the town.  Perhaps when we visit Alaska one day in the future, the town of Eagle will have renewed itself.

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The Arctic Circle

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 27-08-2009

While in Fairbanks, we knew we simply HAD to make the five hour trek (one way) to the Arctic Circle as how many times does one have that chance?  We left at 8AM in our minvan loaded up with lunch, fuel and Hobie.   We were fortunate to have a sunny day as the road, the Dalton Highway, is mostly dirt (although it was really good dirt according to Ken!)   The vegetation changed noticeabley as we made our way northbound and the arctic tundra took on the colors of the fall – bright yellow, burnt orange and deep red.  Really beautiful!  Along the drive, we parrelled the Alaskan pipeline and had amazing views of it set against the mountains. 

We reached the Arctic Circle at about 1PM and were greeted by the campground hosts from down the way.  They took our family photo in front of the sign and gave us a certicicate.  Quite unexpected!  It was 55 degrees (we imagined freezing temperatures, after all it’s the ARCTIC Circle!) so I thought it would be fun to take our pictures in our tanktops.  I guess I was the only one who thought this was a great idea as no one else would strip down to their tank tops! 

At this latitude (N66’dd W150’48’) the sun does not set on summer solstice (June 20) and it does not rise on winter solstice (December 21).  A third of Alaska lies within the Arctic Circle, the only true polar region in the state. 

Our trip to the Arctic Circle was definitely a trek worth making!

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Fairbanks

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 26-08-2009

After dry camping for almost a week, we were low on food so camping in Fairbanks was a necessity.  After all, they have a Super Wal-mart!  We camped at River’s Edge RV park and had a front row spot on the river.  Fairbanks is Alaska’s second largest city with a population of about 31,000.  We took a drive throughout the simple city of Fairbanks and stopped by the Visitor’s Center, one of the most beautiful Visitor’s Center we have seen so far. 

One morning, we decided to make the 6 mile trip to Ester.  After all, the MilePost had a small write up on it and it seemed worthy of a visit.  Well, we drove to this town (complete with a post office!) and found a saloon and a small array of cabins.  We kept asking, Did we miss it?  Apparently not as that was it! 

Fairbanks was a good stop as we got caught up with our grocery shopping and  laundry, met a great gal Bev at Blue Ribbon Grooming (yes Hobie is clean again!)  and it was a great base for our trek to the Arctic Circle.

Now onto our much anticipated stop in CHICKEN AK!

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Denali National Park

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 25-08-2009

Our arrival in Denali marked a huge milestone in our RV adventure.    We have been reading about Denali and anticipating it since we first thought of making this RV trip.  It was really a dream come true for all of us.  The name Denali comes from the Athabascan (the native people of the region)  word for “High One”.  We arrived on a rainy gray day and set up camp inside the park at Reilly Creek.  It was dry camping but we were rewarded with plenty of space around us.  We were walking distance to the Merchantile building which had a small array of food, gifts, laundry and wi-fi.  We set up our four hour (one way) bus trip to Mt. McKinley for the following day as the forecast called for sun.  We were keeping our fingers crossed as the mountain is only visible 20% of the time. 

We awoke the next morning to beautiful blue skies and a whopping 45 degrees.  We met at the “Wilderness Access Center” and loaded the bus at 9AM en route for the EielsonVisitor’s Center and Mt. McKinley.  In 1972, the National Park System put in the bus system to  protect visitors and reduce threats to wildlife while maximizing opportunities to view wildlife.  Along the way, we saw a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs, a small herd of caribou and a large herd of Dall Sheep up high on a mountain ridge.  We reached Mt McKinley at about 1PM.  It was nothing short of spectacular.  The ranger said it was the clearest day since April!  What luck!  We had a little picnic inside the visitor center (situated on a mountain ridge with amazing views of the mountain) and took turns taking pictures with antlers on our head!

Mount McKinley has been called the Alaskan landscape’s most impressive feature.  Mt. McKinley is the highest mountain in North America.  The summit is 20,320′ and its vertical relief is greater than that of Mt. Everest.  Temperatures at the summit can plummet to below -95 degrees in winter!  Denali has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve significant for research into the subarctic ecosystems. 

The next day was also bright and sunny and we took a family bike ride through the park.  On our way home, a huge MOOSE jumped right in front of Ken along the bike path.  Ken was obviously startled and Nikki screamed (something we were told to do) and the moose took off back into the bushes.  A bit too close for comfort as moose can charge a person and be very harmful!   That evening we enjoyed a warm campfire and just recounted our stories of Denali so far! 

Sunday was Ken’s birthday and we spent the day rainy day fulfilling all his food requests!  That night, Ken and I had a special dinner at a lodge up high on a hill overlooking Denali.  We were the youngest people at the lodge as it’s part of a stop for the tours in the area.  The tour is part of a package which also includes cruises throughout Alaska. 

We were sad to leave this beautiful place in the world and will forever remember its peace and beauty.

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Talkeetna

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 19-08-2009

Our drive from Anchorage to Denali wasn’t too long and the roads were actually in great shape (forgot we were in Alaska!!!).  We read in the Milepost about a special little town called Talkeetna.  The town was located at the end of  a 14 mile dead end road but looked interesting enough to make the side trip.

We set up on the front row of an empty campground but that changed quickly as many RVs showed up in the afternoon.  The town is a stop for the tour trains so it had your normal collection of shops to buy everything of little use.  Talkeetna did surprise us however with a great selection of restaurants including a bakery, brew pub, and even home made ice cream.  Of course we had to sample all of these establishments!

We girls went out window shopping in town while the boys tried their luck with fishing.  At the end of the day, the girls won over the boys.

All in all, Talkeetna was a great find and we would definitely go back if ever in the area.

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Seward, AK

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 16-08-2009

Next, we were off to Seward which is situated on the other side of the Kenai  peninsula at the end of Resurrection Bay.  We heard that cruise ships stop here so there must be something!?!

We arrived in town with no campground reservations (as usual)  but found the city beach campground and pulled right up to a waterfront spot.  These had no hookups but our tank was full and we had great waterfront views of the bay with birds and FISH jumping right outside our windshield making it an ideal spot.

The weather was still rainy but Ken and Andrew still got in some salmon fishing .  When the sun finally poked out, we all went to the Alaska Sealife Center right next door.  This facility was  founded by a grant from the Exxon Valdez accident settlement and is the only facility in Alaska dedicated to rehabilitation of marine animals.  One exhibit focused on a Seal named “Woody” who kept swimming past the underwater viewing window.  At first, we thought it was a plane passing by as the huge 2,000+lb seal glided by.  As a comparison, Andrew, Nikki, Poohnut and Ken all got on a scale and collectively weighed in at 499lbs!!!  This guy was huge (Woody, not Ken).

Now it’s back to Anchorage to pick up Mommy from the airport!!!!

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Homer, AK – Lands End

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 14-08-2009

We had a beautiful day for our drive down the Kenai peninsula.  After rounding the “Turnagain Arm”, we headed into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.  We had some great views across Cook Inlet and the Redoubt Volcano which is still active and spewing out steam.

After arriving in Homer ( the furthest point on the western Kenai), we finally saw the Homer Spit which was nothing more than a strip of sand heading into the Kachemak Bay.  We decided to camp at the the end of the Spit overlooking the Cook Inlet.

The next day, Ken surprised Andrew with a Halibut fishing trip aboard a six-pack charter boat called the Sorceress.  Captain Peter was our guide and took us out 40+ miles in search of big flatties.  Fishing was good with everyone catching their limits and even a couple of Silver Salmon  and one big Ling Cod.  There were also grey whales and puffins all around the boat.

Fishing was great but it was also felt good to be back on dry land from those lumpy seas.  After taking a few pictures of the catch, we had them filleted and off to packing so that we can enjoy them for weeks (and weeks) to come.

The next day was dedicated as “Girl’s Day” and was spent driving all over wet Homer for something enjoyable for Nikki and Poohnut.  In the end, it was a big cookie and icevcream that made the day.  We also toured the Homer visitor center where they had a great display and history of  (what else?) FISHING!

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Anchorage, AK

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-08-2009

After our brief trip through Valdez, we were anxious to see what a big city in Alaska would be like.  We did not plan to make the long  journey in one day however and stopped at a small campground near Glennallen.  It was situated on a creek with every RV camping spot directly on the river.  Andrew had a great time fly fishing and landing his first Artic Grayling from the stream.  The rest of us couldn’t stay out too long due to the jumbo jet sized mosquitos at sunset.  All in all however, it made for a nice rest and allowed us to take plenty of stops to see the views on our way to Anchorage.

We arrived in Anchorage on a Saturday and stayed at the Golden Nuggett campground. It was conveniently located in the city and we were able complete our shopping needs. But we felt a need to get back to nature asap.    We took a trip downtown and found a quaint street and two visitor centers.  There was also a street faire that had some interesting local foods such as reindeer sausages and  halibut and chips.

Andrew of course had to find out where the fishing was so after some research, we found Ships Creek that wound directly through town.  He and Ken ended up scoring on silver salmon, a huge sockeye and a few Dolly Varden (a kind of a trout).  We think Andrew may be moving up to Alaska as he so prefers catching to fishing!!!

Sallie was off to Orlando for a week so we all went out for Vietnamese Pho as a farewell dinner.  While she was gone, Ken would be taking the kids down the Kenai for more…..FISHING!!!

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Port Valdez AK

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 08-08-2009

We took off from Tok excited to visit the Port of Valdez  and to be a part of all the fishing activity.  The drive to Valdez took us through the largest National Park in the United States, the Wrangle-St. Elias National Park.    This park equals six Yellowstones, with peaks upon peaks and glaciers upon glaciers.     What a special environment and said to be unforgiving and “indifferent” to humans with its harsh terrain.  As we followed the Richardson Highway, we had views of the Alaskan pipeline.  Construction on the pipeline began in 1975 and was completed in two years.  The 800 mile long pipeline begins a Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean and ends at the marine terminal at Port Valdez where it is fed by gravity into tanks.  At its peak, the  project employed 30,000 workers and was the largest and most expensive privately funded construction project ever undertaken.  It changed Alaska’s landscape and economy forever. 

We crossed over Thompson Peak and stopped to see Washington Glacier up close.  We also enjoyed Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls.  Amazing sites.   We drove into Prince William Sound and entered the town of Valdez, tucked in the slowly swirling fog.  The 1964 Good Friday earthquake (measuring an immense 9.2) destroyed the original town of Valdez so what we visit today is a new version of the town.   We set up camp right on the bay at Sea Otter RV Park , a bit funky and simple but oh what a view!  We watched  the boats head off in the early morning fog with hopes of landing a big halibut or silver salmon.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of rain, something we haven’t encountered in  months.   Since we were a bit homebound, we decided to do some schooling and tie up some loose ends from our past school year.  After lunch and school, Ken and Andrew took off for a “prime” fishing spot across the port.  They returned with amazing stories of fish SO dense in the water that ALL you could see were fish.  Guess they had a big laugh over this as  you don’t often see fish coming up to greet you!! 

The next afternoon we all set out to do a little gold panning.  Andrew bought Ken a really cool gold pan (not the cheap version) for Father’s Day and we took off for Mineral Creek.  With a name like that, we would all hoping to strike it rich, especially Poohnut.  We waded in icey water and while we didn’t have any luck finding gold, we did have a lot of fun!  After our bust, we took a little hike through the area and enjoyed the path filled with wildflowers.  We arrived home and had a very yummy dinner – one of Ken’s specialties – French Onion soup.  We sat inside our warm RV, sipping soup and watching all the boats come back from their day of fishing.   A day well spent!

Now off towards Anchorage. ..

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Tok – Gateway to Alaska

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 04-08-2009

We were warned that the drive to Tok from Whitehorse would be “challenging” and it was a bit rougher than we anticipated. The area from Destruction Bay to the Alaskan border is full of frost heaves and gravel breaks. Oh, and a washboard road too! Apparently in this particular stretch of the Alaskan Highway, the permafrost melts which causes the surface to buckle. There is an international effort underway to find a solution to this problem but until then, one must simply drive about 20 MPH for long stretches at a time. We didn’t end up with any broken dishes (can’t believe it) but we did have one of our bay doors open up (while driving) as the screws were torn loose by all the bumping around. Everyone suggested making this trek in two days as it takes a toll on the poor driver. (Sorry I don‘t know how to drive this beast yet Ken!) but Ken was up to the task and we made it to Tok by 5:30PM -Alaskan time (so we got an extra hour!)
 
We passed through the US border with no problem and then reached the actual Canada/US border. We all hopped out for photos and took a picture of the kids with one foot on the US border and one on the Canadian side.
 
We arrived at the “Sourdough Campground” and were warmly greeted by the hosts. They suggested we come back to the main picnic area by 7PM for the “pancake toss”. Okay – we love a challenge! We arrived to find a big group of people anxious to win a free breakfast the next morning. The deal was that you had two tries to get an old pancake in the bucket up on the front stage. Our family failed in the task (Ken got close with a rim shot) . But, we were given a chance to redeem ourselves by the next contest. Andrew put a bucket on top of his head and Ken threw a bunch of pancakes at him, trying to get them in the bucket. They played against another couple and the one with the most in their bucket after 60 seconds won a free breakfast. Well, Ken does have good aim and we did win this contest so a free breakfast was ours! This was great news since each breakfast cost $12! It was really worth it though as the breakfast was “all you can eat” and had lots of yummy stuff including sourdough pancakes and reindeer sausage. Andrew definitely got his monies worth!

 The next day we took a ride into the town of Tok (is there a word which means less than a town?) and stopped by the Visitor’s Center. Nice little place full of friendly people and lots of information on the areas we still have to visit. We took a picture of Andrew in front of his dream – it was a large display case of all the fish you can possibly catch in Alaska (he‘s already caught two types)!
We met a great group of guys (a father and two sons) at our campground – John, Jason and Doug – who are riding their bikes from ALASKA to ARGENTINA!! Oh my gosh!! They were cool guys and since we won two breakfast prizes our second evening, we donated the prizes to these cyclists. I am sure they will need the fill up for the long trek ahead!

 Off to Valdez tomorrow. We are very excited as drive is suppose to be amazingly beautiful. Valdez is called the “Little Switzerland” of Alaska and it will be nice to be near the ocean again.

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