December 19th 2007 10:10 pm
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Woofs! It`s official! Dad formally selected his vacation today and picked 5 weeks starting in August 2008. All his previous Alaska visits have been in Sept save for one in Aug 1995 with his old dog,Butch. On that trip with Butch,my dad and Butch made it all the way to the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay. Sept is a nice month for travelling to Alaska as campgrounds are much less crowded,but often Dad has had to endure cold rain and even snow. There is too much snow along the upper sections of the Dalton Highway which parallels the Alaska Pipeline to reach the Arctic Ocean in Sept. By doing his next trip this comming August, Dad and I hope to return to the Arctic Ocean! We`re eagerly awaiting the trip!
December 17th 2007 7:39 pm
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Day 27 Friday Oct 5
Early in the morning, dad and I awoke to the sound of crashing waves. Fox Lake, which had been calm and placid the night before was now being blown into a frenzy by strong winds! Waves were crashing onto the shore with powerful force and we were fortunate that the campsite sat at a good elevation above the beach or our tent would`ve been inundated with water! Light snow was also falling and this continued as we broke camp and headed on back down the Alaska Highway. The snow lasted till early afternoon and while the road was mostly clear,grassy areas and parking areas had an inch or 2 of new snow. We stayed tonight again at the Liard Hotsprings.
Conclusion of trip
Dad and I travelled the remaing distance back down the Alaska Highway encountering dense fog after leaving the Buckinghorse River campground on the morning of sun Oct 7. There were few vehicles out and about on the Alaska Hwy and it was eerie driving in the silent dense fog.
We stayed in motels for the remainder of the trip as a bit of a treat from all the nights of camping out. In Lethbridge,Alberta near the Montana border, we stopped for the night at a Super 8 motel. This motel had a 2 story high waterslide and Dad enjoyed his first ever experience with one. Once you enter the waterslide, the smooth plastic walls of the tube coupled with the stream of water running down it eliminate all friction and you shoot thru the dark twisty tube at lightning speed! Then a circle of light appears in the distance and rapidly grows larger and in a split second you shoot out of the tube and splash down in the pool! It`s just like an olympic luge run!
In South Dakota,as we travelled home, Dad and I did some hiking in the Badlands walking past folded hills and twisting fractured canyons in the ground.
It was a great trip and Dad plans his next trip for August 2008. We shouldn`t encounter any snow then and Dad hopes to reach the Arctic Ocean as well as try a new route thru Canada`s Northwest Territories.
December 10th 2007 7:43 am
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Day 25 Wed Oct 3
We left the Glenallen campsite this morning and began our drive up the Glenn Hwy towards the small town of Tok. The road was icy in spots which made the drive a bit scary,but the mountain scenery was awesome! There were snowcapped peaks set against a brooding dark cloudy sky that was spitting snow from time to time.
Travelling south from Tok towards the Canadian border, we encountered quite a bit more snow. The Alaska Highway was covered with an inch or 2 of snow and this continued for about 100 miles on into Canada.
The winds really picked up late in the day and were quite gusty as we neared Kluane Lake,the snow however was mostly gone by this time. It was really windy and cold as night was comming on and rather than struggle to erect the tent in the howling winds, Dad decided to just camp in our car. We found a nice gravel spot to park in by the shore of Kluane Lake. Dad had to crouch behind the car using it as a wind block in order to open my can of dog food and prepare my supper. It was a super neat campsite. We were snug inside the car and the powerful winds were sending waves crashing onto the beach below us!
Day 26 Thurs Oct 4
We explored the King`s Throne and Cottonwood trails today in Kluane National Park near the town of Haines Junction. The Kings Throne trail began in the forest surrounding Kathleen Lake and after a following an old logging road for a few miles,began to switchback up into the mountains. Once the trail emerged above treeline we encountered snow which got deeper as we climbed upward. The King`s Throne trail followed rocky switchbacks across a bare boulder field as we climbed upward. There were stunning views of Kathleen Lake far below us. Finally the snow got deep enough that following the trail became difficult. Also it was becomming increasingly slippery so we didn`t hike all the way up to the King`s Throne. We hiked back down below the treeline and set off on the Cottonwood trail which branches off from the lower sections of King`s Throne and circles Kathleen Lake high up in the forested mountains. We came upon a bare rock clearing on this trail and had our lunch while viewing Kathleen Lake far below. The weather was partly sunny today,but cool and Dad used his small campstove to warm us as we had lunch.
Late in the day we drove up the North Klondike Highway near the town of Whitehorse and came upon the scene of a wildfire several years past. The land was covered with blackened trees as far as we could see. We hiked a trail here and stood atop a cliff. A small stream flowed thru this area hundreds of feet below the cliff and the fire blackened forest continued on the other side. It was eerie!
We stayed tonite at Fox Lake campground near Whitehorse. Fox lake is huge as are many lakes here in Canada`s Yukon Territory.
December 7th 2007 8:45 pm
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Day 23 Monday Oct 1
Dad and I hiked in the Skilak Lakes area today which is not too far from the town of Sterling. We set out along the 7 Lakes Trail which starts at Engineer Lake. This is a wonderfully secluded trail that passes by remote backcountry lakes and in between the lakes traverses long stretches of spruce and aspen forest. As Dad and I hiked thru the utterly silent forest we observed a few mossy flat areas here and there which would make ideal backcountry campsites! After a few hours of hiking, we had lunch beside a large lake. This lake was set in remote wilderness and all was utterly quiet save for a flock of ducks skimming the water. We hiked this trail for almost 4 hours. At the end of the hike, we visited a brand new cabin on the shore of Engineer Lake. There was a small woodstove inside the cabin and a boat was turned upside down on the shoreline outside for use of whoever rents the cabin. The cabin belongs to the US Fish and Wildlife Service which manages this part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Day 24 Tues Oct 2
Dad and I left our friend`s Sterling homestead this morning. We had a pleasant few nights there inside the cozy cabin on the property. It was quite cozy inside the cabin at night with the fire in the woodstove!
It was bright and sunny as we drove back around Cook Inlet and as always the mountain scenery was grand! Dad and I had lunch inside the car parked at a scenic spot overlooking Cook Inlet. The winds were gusting outside and we could see the waves crashing on the beach below our overlook!
We travelled as far as Glenallen tonight and since the campground here was closed for the season,Dad parked at the closed gate and carried our things in. We had the entire campground to ourselves!
December 4th 2007 7:53 am
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Sat Sept 29 Day 21
Dad searched for me again this morning,checking some roads and houses near the Johnson Lake campground then having done all he could for the moment,took a drive down to Homer at the terminus of the Sterling Highway. He walked a few of the beaches along Cook inlet observing Mt Redoubt which was draped in snow. Augustine volcano was also emitting a plume of pale smoke! The scenery in Homer was stunning, but dad was quite lonely without me along.
Sun Sept 30 Day 22
I spent my second night in the shed on this homestead near Johnson Lake. Early this morning I was awakened by the sound of another dog growling at me! I assumed the submissive posture since I was on his property and soon his owner called him away. He approached me and gently petted me while reading my dog tag. This nice man then fed me and made a few phone calls. In a few hours I was overjoyed to see my dad walk into the house! He thanked the man whose name was Tom. Dad tried to offer him a reward but he wouldn`t take it. We were re-united at last!
Dad and I drove the Kenai spur road to Captain Cook state park this afternoon and walked several miles along the beach there. This is a tidal area, and it was currently at low tide. The waters of Cook Inlet were receeded a good ways from the shoreline and many large and small rock formations were exposed. High cliffs topped with grasses and trees rose from this beach and every so often small streams of fresh water cascaded down flowing across the beach to the sea. I had a few refreshing drinks from them and Dad and I had a pleasant lunch on the beach. Later as we were hiking along, we came upon a small cove in which sat a few shacks. Thinking that they were owned by the state park, dad proceeded to use an outhouse there. As he was leaving, a man said a friendly hello. Dad asked him about the tides and the man invited us into his cabin. The snug little cabin was warmed by a woodstove and jugs of fresh water gathered from a nearby stream sat on the wooden table. The window afforded a fine sweeping view of Cook Inlet. Dad remarked that it would be delightful to be in such a cozy cabin while a storm raged outside! Turns out that these are private fishing cabins,not public use at all! Dad apologized and the man said all was ok. He nicely showed us the tide charts and explained how he used a nearby landmark to gauge the rising tides. It turned out that we had plenty of time before high tide would cut off the beach, so we said our goodbyes and hiked along the beach some more. From time to time ATV`s would pass us. Fishermen in the area used them to haul water from the streams and other supplies. Cook state park was an interesting place to hike! Late in the afternoon, dad waded out a short ways into Cook Inlet finding the water cool and brisk.
December 1st 2007 2:28 pm
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Thursday Sept 27
We left Tok this morning and headed down the Glenn Highway. The road was a bit icy in spots but really wasn`t all that slippery and Dad and I continued our trip without any trouble.
Much of today was sunny and the scenery all along the Glenn Highway was spectacular! Snowcapped peaks rose above the golden aspen trees,there was the dazzling white icefield of the Matanuska glacer and swiftly flowing glacial rivers under dazzling blue skies. Dad and I stopped ad mid day and hiked by the Matanuska Glacier. There is a nice trail here and we got many good glacier views.
Late in the day, we passed thru Anchorage and drove around Cook Inlet. The scenery here is also spectacular with mountains rising in sheer vertical relief from the sea. We stayed at a nice campground tonite in the Chugach National Forest.
Friday Sept 28
Cold rain this morning,Yuck!! Dad and I turned off of the Seward Highway and continued on down the Sterling Highway en route to a friend`s homestead in the area. The rain had ended by the time we arrived at her place near Sterling. We spent a few hours here then dad and I set off to drive to the end of the Sterling Highway in Homer. We stopped for lunch at the Johnson Lake campground and mishap befell us. After lunch as Dad and I were walking around the lake, I saw what looked like a squirrel or maybe a spruce hen and took off in hot pursuit of it. In my zeal chasing after this critter, I swam across a small corner of the lake and reached the road on the other side. Whatever I was chasing had by this time vanished and I discovered that I was now LOST! My hearing isn`t as good as it once was and thus I couldn`t hear my dad calling to me. I had sense enough to remain in the area though and as darkness was comming on, I took shelter in an open shed. Dad later told me that he spent the night at that campground looking for me. As things turned out, I was destined to be lost for 2 nights. It was a bit scary!
November 23rd 2007 3:10 pm
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Wed Sept 26
After another morning swim at the Chena Hot Springs, Dad toured the Ice Museum on the resorts property. This is a large refrigerated Igloo type building which is super cooled to about 15 degrees farenheit. Inside, an ice artist was at work chiseling from a massive block of ice. She had done many carvings and they were all displayed inside this building. There were ice chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An ice bar complete with martini glasses,liquor bottles,an ornate railing---all made of ice! There were such items as a jousting knight on horseback and a chess set. There were even 2 "hotel" rooms with ice beds. It was truly an amazing sight!
We left the Fairbanks area at mid day and travelled south back down the Alaska highway towards the town of Tok where we stayed in a nice motel room for a change! I was glad to lounge on the soft bed!
November 22nd 2007 1:09 pm
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Day 16 Monday Sept 24
Today dawned sunny and fairly mild. Dad enjoyed another morning swim at the Chena Hot Springs, then we set off down the Chena Hot Springs road to the Tors Trailhead.
We began the hike under partly sunny skies and temps in the mid 40`s---not bad for late sept in Alaska! We hiked over a marshy area on a boardwalk then the trail began to ascend thru birch and spruce forest. As we got a late start, Dad and I paused to have lunch at this point. The trail soon emerged into a vast open area covered with fireweed. This area used to be forested, but a wildfire in the summer of 2004 burned away most of the trees. Dad could observe signs however that the forest was gradually regenerating!
We hiked upwards for a few more miles on a gradually ascending trail finally emerging above treeline at a large boulder field. This field of boulders went on for quite a distance and dad had trouble finding the trail at times since the rock cairns marking the trail were difficult to spot in some areas. Dad relied heavily on my "trail sense" here as I was good at sniffing out the trail! Dad found water at a small spring early on in this boulder field and resupplied for the rest of the ascent. We were high up on the mountain at this point and there were impressive views behind us of the mountains surrounding Fairbanks.It was tough going over the boulder field but we finally reached the top of the mountain a bit past 6 pm. We hiked thru a small copse of dwarf spruce trees and then emerged onto the tundra. A short distance ahead was a small cabin. It was by now late in the day so dad decided to spend the night in the cabin. He got a nice fire going in the small woodstove and we had a pleasant supper by the flickering firelight. Outside the moon was rising above spruce trees in the distance.
Day 17 Tues Sept 25
Dad exited the cabin about 2 am to heed the call of nature an observed that the sky had clouded up and light snow was beginning to fall. By daybreak there was considerable fog and about an inch of new snow on the ground. (The day before, the ground had been bare.) We hiked away from the cabin shortly past 8 am. There was ice in spots where the small tundra pools had frozen.It was foggy and light snow was still comming down. The massive rock outcroppings of the tors emerged from the ghostly fog as we hiked past them. We were following wooden tripods and flourescent green signs on metal poles which marked the trail. It reminded dad of pictures he had seen of dogs crossing Eagle summit on the Yukon Quest sled dog race! The trail wound past several massive rock tors and went thru a dense stand of spruce. We ascended a few steep hills and slid down some others as the trail was a bit slippery with the coating of new snow. Dad had the location of the last Tor,known as the "Lizard`s Eye",marked as a waypoint on his GPS. He knew that the trail would soon re-enter the forest at this point. Once back amongst the trees there was less wind than out on the exposed tundra. It had been rather peaceful hiking across the tundra in the enveloping fog and light snow. All was quiet and serene. No other hikers were around.
The trail descended VERY steeply at times and dad had to slide down some of the steeper sections on his but! Finally it leveled off and we spent almost 2 miles hiking across boggy tundra on a long boardwalk before reaching the end stage of the trail. The sun was beginning to peek thru at this point and we arrived back at our car in time for lunch. Dad remarked that Mountain Dew never tasted so good!
November 18th 2007 12:43 pm
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Saturday Sept 22 Day 14
Hooray!! After waiting half the morning in Whitehorse,the bearings on Dad`s car were finally replaced (as geo parts are becomming increasingly rare,he had to settle on used bearings from a junkyard) and we were back enroute to Alaska. In late afternoon as we were driving up the Alaska highway, we saw some wooden totem poles beside the road. They were sitting in a field. We got out to have a look and take some pix. They were a memorial to a local Tlingit man who lived in the area.
Late september is the off season for travel to Alaska thus when we arrived at the Lake Creek Yukon Government campground, the gate was chained shut. Dad parked our car outside the gate and carried our stuff into the campground where he erected the tent in the first camping spot. Here we met a bicyclist who was peddaling south on the Alaska Highway. He was from Indianapolis and had started at Prudhoe Bay on Sept 10th. He camped near us for the night.
Sunday Sept 23 Day 15
It was in the upper 20`s at dawn but the mountains ringing the campground were ablaze in the rays of the rising sun. Dad broke camp and videod the cyclist peddaling south down the Alaska highway. We headed north and reached the mainland of Alaska mid morning. It was sunny but chilly---mid 40`s. We headed north towards Fairbanks and turned off down the road leading to the Chena Hot Springs. Dad enjoyed a hot swim in the springs which doubled as a shower for him since he hadn`t had one for several days! We camped at the Tors campground tonight intending to hike the Tors trail into the Tanana mountains tommorrow.
November 18th 2007 7:09 am
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Woofs to all,
Just taking a break in entries for the Alaska trip to write a little bit about our most recent adventure of geocaching. Dad recently went to the website geocaching.com which lists the coordinates for hidden geocaches. A geocache is a container that someone hides in a particular spot---usually in the woods or other outdoor location. The person then marks the coordinates with their GPS and posts them on the website. You then go to that website,plug the coordinates into your GPS,and use it to guide you to the spot where the container is hidden. Dad recently did this for a day hike that we took in the pocono mts. We drove about 105 miles from our home in Philadelphia to Big Pocono State Park near Tannersville,PA. After hiking a few miles on this brisk fall day ( many of the leaves were still in color but a strong chilly wind was blowing) Dad turned on his GPS and bushwacked back into the woods at the spot where the GPS indicated the geocache container was hidden. When we got to within 12 feet or so of where the container was suppossed to be, Dad had to start searching about for it. GPS units are accurate to only about 20 feet or so, thus when you get near the spot a visual search is necessary. After about 15 minutes of searching, Dad spotted what looked to be an artificial placement of rocks near a fallen log. He cleared the rocks away and sure enough, there was the hidden geocache! Dad signed the enclosed logbook and left a few pictures of me inside. He took nothing from the cache as for him the real thrill is just finding it. We then reburied the container under the rocks and resumed our hike. For any other geocaching dogsters out there, the coordinates of this cache are N41 03.388 W 75 22.214. There`s a new geocaching video on my page as well as a geocaching pix. We may start leaving Dogster buttons in future geocaches!