Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Alcan and Cassiar

We've driven about 1400 miles since the last post. Neither Corrie or I had driven the Cassiar Highway before, so we took a right turn about 250 miles southeast of Whitehorse and found a scenic winding road with little traffic and no lane lines.
Our route so far (blue) and my traditional route (grey) down the Alcan.
Looking up the valley from Kluane Lake in the Yukon.
Looking across Kluane Lake at the Kluane Lake NP and Preserve which border the Wrangell St Elias NP in Alaska. Nearly 100,000 sq km of wilderness lies between here and the end of the road in Nebesna. 
Lots of mountains and no road lines. The Cassiar is my kind of highway. 

Kinaskan Lake where we stopped for dinner and coffee.
Late evening rain in the mountains.
We saw 10 black bears yesterday.
We saw several cubs, but they didn't cooperate for pictures as well.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ready for our summer adventure

Corrie and I arrived in Tok tonight and are heading down the Alcan tomorrow for our summer tour of western national parks. We have both been busier than usual for the last six weeks and it's good to be on the road. 

I had some extra design time in March and started designing a platform for the truck topper with a six foot drawer for our camping stuff. Five versions later I had designed a complete insulated camper shell. I also had lots of new billable work to do.

I dialed the design back down to just a platform and I started looking for taller shell on Craigslist. I found this micro camper instead.
It's an A-frame design and is more than 7 ft tall in the center when it's open.
Corrie and I took it our for a test run Memorial Day weekend. We found a quite spot along a random creek for the first test night. The wind was blowing pretty hard and the temperature dropped below freezing, but stayed warm enough inside.

We decided to explore the Nebesna road in the Wrangell St Elias National park since neither of us had driven it before.
The road is scenic and mostly gravel. It was originally built to access a gold mine on this mountain and this is as far as you can drive in without an ATV now.
We hiked in the rest of the way to the mine. This is looking across the valley from the side of the hill.
One of the old mine shafts near the base of the mine.
Corrie took this cool picture reflecting off the glass of the mining cabin. 
There isn't a lot to see, but it would be interesting to tour with someone who knows more about old mines. 

We camped the second night next to a lake that was still half frozen. It's the only official camp ground on the road and quite nice. There were also a few unofficial places that looked nice. I don't think we will see another national park this empty all summer. 

Sunset on the lake. 

In the morning we found a lot of cranberries from last summer which are much tastier after a winter under the snow. We shared some with a couple from Texas who were launching their canoe into the half frozen lake.

Having a convenient lunch break anywhere is another of the perks I'm hoping for with the camper.

About 10 days ago I took the camper on a second test trip to go dipnetting on the Copper River. I didn't take a photo of the camper in the blowing dust and high winds, but I was really happy not to be in a tent. The weather was much nice at 4:30 the next morning when we got up to go fish. 
It was a beautiful day, but the fish just weren't really running. We sat on the rock above 12 hours and caught 8 fish worth filleting when we got done.
The Sea Gulls just hang out here waiting for the fish to be cleaned.

Looking up the Copper River on the way out.
Only in Alaska... We were in Girdwood for a conference Corrie was attending and someone left dog food in the back of their truck next to the Fit. A bear climbed in to eat the food and then fell onto the car when it got spooked. I'm thankful the damage is minor> I have no idea how to explain "a bear fell onto the car" to the insurance company... 

It's still a couple days before solstice, but since we are heading south tomorrow today is the longest day of our summe! I think we made the most of it. If I hurry I can get three hours sleep before the sun comes up again. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Powerline Trail

Justin and I had been discussing hiking the power line trail for a couple of weeks, but couldn't seem to make the schedule work. Friday about 3:30 we decided to go even though Justin hadn't brought any of his gear with him and had to be back at work by 7 am on Saturday. I've got extra gear and Justin isn't picky, so we were headed out 20 minutes later and at the trailhead by 5:00. I think we may have set a speed record for buying shoes at REI during their anniversary sale.

Well that explains the name. This would be a hard trail to lose.

Looking up the main valley from the first clear ridge. Maybe we'll do the 20 mile route that goes that way next year.

The pass looked deceptively close when I took this. Then we post holed through all the snow patches between here and there.
Looking down to the Cook Inlet from the top of the pass.

The snow blowing through the pass created a giant cornice across it which might explain why we didn't see anyone else up there. I might have given up and turned back at the top, but Justin found a path down the 60+ foot rock face just to the left of the power lines.

Back into trees again

Just after 10 pm. It must be summer again.

I biked the 27 miles back to the truck on Saturday keeping with the tradition established in 2014.
I didn't believe Google maps when it told me the last 14 miles would take an hour and a half. Maybe Google knows when the wind is howling down the Turnagain Arm?

May is a good time to be in the Chugach. Maybe we should do this every year.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Denali & Aurora

I'm not sure I should advertise this, but spring is clearly one of the best times to visit Denali. Corrie and I spent a mosquito free weekend in a nearly empty park under clear Aurora filled skies. Spring camping couldn't get much better, but I might need to find Corrie a zero degree sleeping bag of her own.

This post is mostly photos Corrie took.

Denali from the South viewpoint on the Parks Highway

The NPS was advertising "find your park" for national parks week. It only took a little shoveling to find the tent site. 

It doesn't really get dark until after midnight now (The darkest point is about 2 am thanks to daylight savings time and Alaska's giant time zone). It was well worth staying up for the Aurora this weekend. We started seeing some while the sky was still a bit light and they were so bright we could see by their light once it finally got dark. 

The first three photos are from the visitor center parking lot.  

During a low phase we drove about 15 miles into the park to watch them from above the trees. 

On Saturday we joined a group bike ride into the park from the end of the car accessible road. The trip was cut short by a bear who wasn't up to sharing the road with cyclists. 

a traffic jam in Denali... I think most of the people in the park were on this bike ride waiting for the bear.
Not a bad place to wait out a bear.
It really is spring here...
Our view for lunch after the ride.
Saturday night's Aurora from about 12 miles into the park.

Purple Aurora streaking through the Big Dipper!