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The Adventures of Smiley

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Alaska 2007 Days 16---17

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!


Alaska 2007 Days 14--15

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 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!


Alaska 2007 Days 12---13

November 9th 2007 8:48 pm
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Day 12 Thurs Sept 20

Dad broke camp early this morning, and we hiked out across the tundra high above Skagway. The trail climbs steeply once you pass Upper Dewey Lake and comes close to the edge of the high plateau. Fog had rolled in in spots but there were some breaks in the clouds and we could see parts of the city of Skagway far below us. The buildings of Skagway were the size of small toys. Above us, jagged mountain peaks poked their way above the low clouds. It was truly a majestic sight! We hiked as far as a smaller lake known as the Devil`s Punchbowl before returning to Upper Dewey Lake and a small cabin that sits on its shoreline. Dad and I relaxed in the warmth of the cabin for a bit,lighting a fire in the small woodstove and enjoying the cozy warmth. At mid day the sun poked thru the clouds and we had our lunch by scenic Upper Dewey Lake.

The descent from Upper Dewey Lake was long and ardous. Sections of the trail were quite muddy and poor dad slipped several times, the weight of his pack causing him to over balance and fall backward. At length we reached the mostly level trail that heads away from Skagway following the coastline of Taiya Inlet. We hiked this section of trail for about 3 miles to reach Sturgil`s Landing and set up camp for night 2 of this hike on the shoreline of Alaska`s Inside Passage. It was a bit misty and windy here this evening but the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below us was rather soothing. After dark, a cruise ship sailed past our campsite headed away from Skagway. All the windows were lit up, it reminded Dad and me of the Titanic!

Day 13 Fri Sept 21

Dad exited the tent early this morning and saw a few seals in the waters of Taiya Inlet below us . Their small black heads were protruding above the water. As Dad was taking down the tent, 2 whales swam by. They were arching their bodies out of the water and blowing through their spouts. It sounded like a powerful water jet when the whales spouted off!

We hiked the trail back to Skagway stopping by the shores of Lower Dewey Lake to relax a bit. It was again partly sunny and Dad even took a BRIEF dip in Lower Dewey Lake. We reached Skagway and Dad and I spent a few hours exploring the small town. We walked down to the cruise ship docks and saw a cruise ship up close. They are quite massive,floating cities really! Even the lifeboats are the size of small yachts! We drove the Klondike Hwy back up to Whitehorse,Canada and stopped again at Wolf Creek campground for the night. The wheel bearings held and the wheels thankfully didn`t fall off of the car! We plan to stop at Canadian Tire in Whitehorse tommorrow and have new bearings installed.


Alaska 2007 Day 11

November 7th 2007 8:13 pm
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Day 11 Wed Sept 19

After breakfast at the Whitehorse Mcdonalds, Dad and I spent almost 2 hrs hiking trails along the Yukon River. The Yukon river flows thru Miles Canyon just outside of Whitehorse and is framed by steep banks. As we hiked high above the river, we could observe its swift current below. There has been a lot of rain this past summer in the North and most rivers and streams are flowing at a good clip. We hiked the Yukon river trails back to Canyon City---a ghost town from the 1897 klondike gold rush. After scaling the Chilkoot Pass, miners rested here before continuing on down the Yukon river to the Klondike gold fields. All that`s left today are a few stone mounds and piles of rusted tin cans and other rusted tools. Dad picked up a few of these cans. As he held one he remarked " Neat to think that I`m holding a can that a Klondike miner ate out of in 1897!".

After the Yukon River hiking, we drove on down the Klondike highway to Skagway,thereby arriving in Alaska for Dad`s 10th time and my 4th. Dad`s Geo Metro has also been to Alaska 10 times and has racked up over 250,000 miles to prove it!

The morning rains had ended as we began our hike along the Dewey Lakes trail system in Skagway. The sun was actually out for a bit as we stopped by a pretty emerald lake for our lunch. We then hiked onward and the trail began to ascend above Skagway via steep switchbacks. As we climbed, we could see a few cruise ships docked below. Dad and I ascended the steep trail for almost 3 hrs and 3 miles finally emerging above the treeline onto an alpine tundra. Here sits Upper Dewey Lake surrounded by towering mountains. Stands of spruce climb partway up these mountains before giving way to moss and lichens and finally bare rock crags that thrust themselves towards the sky. It was very windy up here as we hiked around Upper Dewey Lake. We found a spot on a gravel patch by the lake to pitch the tent partially sheltered from the wind. Dad guyed the tent down securely and we setteled in for a relaxing night amidst this stunning mountain grandeur!


Alaska 2007 Day 10

November 5th 2007 8:23 am
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Tues Sept 18

Dad was relieved that the wheel bearings arrived safely from Whitehorse overnite. The mechanic in Watson Lake installed them this morning, then took the car for a test drive. All was ok with the rear wheel, but he said that more bearing noise was comming from the front wheels. This did not inspire confidence in my Dad to say the least. We decided to drive on to Whitehorse ourselves trusting that the front wheel bearings would hold up and get them serviced in Whitehorse if at all possible.

It was a pleasant enough drive up to Whitehorse and we stopped in Teslin at mid day for a pleasant lunch at Teslin Lake. It was cool and partly sunny,so Dad and I enjoyed a walk at the campground here. We arrived in Whitehorse around 3 pm and Dad went around to a few garages there to inquire about bearing replacements but everybody was booked up. He decided to make an appointment for next Saturday and drive on down to Skagway,Alaska the next day for a 3 day hike,just hoping that the front wheels wouldn`t part company from the rest of our car! Yikes!! This is what happens when you drive a 94 Metro for 250,000 miles. I`ve been passing some subtle hints to Dad that it`s time for a new car. He`s had his eyes on the Subaru Outback.

We stopped at Wolf Lake campground for the day,arriving there early so that we could hike the trail system there. There is a nice trail that winds its way on out to the Yukon River and we spent over an hour hiking it. Dad then set our tent up and packed up for the comming hike in Skagway.


Alaska 2007 Day 9

November 2nd 2007 8:55 pm
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Monday Sept 17

Early this morning, Dad drove SLOWLY down the side of the Alaska Highway to the local garage to have his wheel looked at. The wheel was still making its sickening grinding noise and Dad was afraid to take the car much over 15 mph. We arrived at BJ`s services in Watson Lake and the mechanic there looked at the wheel. He confirmed that the bearings were shot and that to continue to drive the car would result in the loss of the wheel! Needless to say, if that happened at a high rate of speed, you`d have a slight problem to say the least! Not to mention that my bag of kibble would be spilled all over the road!

Alas,nobody in the tiny town of Watson Lake had the type of bearings Dad`s 94 Geo Metro needed. They had to be ordered from Whitehorse over 100 miles away. That meant that we were stranded in the town for the day. Dad walked me along a nice trail that circled Wye Lake. There was a nice log cabin on the shore of this lake as well as neat sections of boardwalk over boggy sections of trail. I met a few really nice dogs here. The Mom of a nice malemute told Dad that winters in Watson Lake frequently reach 40 below and there is LOTS of snow as well. The snow banks are sometimes so high that they obscure the houses surrounding the lake. She also told Dad that most residents of Watson Lake don`t even lock their doors. Ahh the joys of living in a small community!

In the middle of the day, Dad walked to the Northern lights theater in town---a short distance from the motel where we were temporarily staying. Dad had watched a show about the universe and the northern lights in the planetarium here the night before and he just stopped in for the internet access this time. There are interesting displays here of Canadian astronauts in their space suits wearing the Canadian Space Agency patch.

Awaiting the arrival of those new bearings tommorrow,my paws are crossed!


Alaska 2007 Day 8

October 31st 2007 4:15 pm
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Sun Sept 16

There was some light rain on the tent early this morning as Dad and I were having our breakfast. It`s quite cozy to be inside a tent with rain pattering down outside! The rain ended as we were breaking camp and we again enjoyed the views of the mountains of bare granite rising above the colorful autumn tundra. We hiked back to our car at the Summit Lake campground traversing some slippery scree slopes on the way and re climb ing that small cliff.

Just as we reached our car, the cold rain returned and was with us for a time as we drove on up the Alaska Hwy to the Liard Hotsprings. It ended as we reached the hotsprings and Dad spent about 3 hrs here enjoying the warm soothing waters of the hotsprings.

We left the hotsprings around 3 pm and headed on up the Alaska Hwy towards the town of Watson Lake. A herd of bison was grazing beside the hwy about 20 miles past the hotsprings.

We pulled off of the highway at the whirlpool canyon area. At this point, the Liard River makes a sharp bend flowing over jagged rocks and creating an impressive set of rapids!

Shortly after leaving whirlpool rapids, trouble struck! A loud banging could be heard comming from our left rear wheel. By the time we reached Watson Lake, it had morphed into a sickening grinding sound. Dad knew that the bearings were shot and the wheel was about to fall off! We decided to stay in Watson Lake tonite and have the wheel repaired in the morning. If we lost a wheel on a remote stretch of the Alaska Hwy, we would be in BIG trouble!


Alaska 2007 Day 7

October 29th 2007 4:12 pm
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Day 7 Saturday Sept 15

We left Kiskitinaw Provincial Park early this morning and headed on up the Alaska Highway towards Ft Nelson. It was partly sunny and cool. We stopped for a relaxing lunch in a small clearing just off of the Alaska Highway about 40 miles south of Ft Nelson. We purchased some supplies in Ft Nelson then headed on over the Canadian Rockies to Stone Mt Provincial Park,arriving there late in the afternoon. We parked at Summit Lake which is the highest point the Alaska Highway traverses going thru the Canadian Rockies. Summit Lake is a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by majestic mountains. Dad loaded up his backpack here and also packed some supplies into my dogpack. We then set off hiking a trail that ascends Stone Mountain. The trail crosses a small creek then ascends on a steep grade thru spruce forest emerging in about 3/4 mile onto alpine tundra. Dad marked the trail location with his GPS so that we could relocate it in the morning in the event fog rolled in overnite. We then set off across the tundra headed for a small copse of trees that we could see in the distance. It appeared to be a nice spot to set up camp for the night. This turned out to be a challenging hike---not as easy as it first appeared. We had to descend a steep hill which ended at a small cliff. The cliff was composed of loose rocks and descending it without falling down was rather tricky. Dad had to help me down it after he got down. We then had to ascend another steep slope composed of more loose rocks before reaching the copse of trees on the tundra. We hiked across the tundra and found a level spot behind some small trees to pitch the tent. It was quite windy so Dad had to stake the tent down really well!

The tent safely erected, we settled back to enjoy the magnificent view! Bare stone mountains towered over the tundra behind us. It made Dad feel as if he were camping on the surface of the moon! As darkness came on, we both had dinner inside the tent. We were both snug and warm as strong winds buffetted the tent outside!


Alaska 2007 Days 5---6

October 26th 2007 8:15 pm
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Day 5 Thurs Sept 13

This morning began with a cold rain as we left Yorkton,Saskatchewan. There were even a few snow flurries thrown in for good measure. The rain soon lessened to a few showers but it remained overcast till mid afternoon when at last the sun made an appearance. We travelled about 500 miles today to reach Elk Island National Park in Alberta. This is a very nice park only about 25 miles east of Edmonton. There is a large lake here with a few tree covered islands in it---- Lake Astotin. Dad and I camped by this lake tonight and enjoyed a glorious sunset here. The swish of loons could be heard over the lake. Overnite, the howls of coyotes could be heard.

Day 6 Fri sept 14

We began the day with some hiking around Astotin Lake. Buffalo were grazing on the shore but they paid us no mind. The waters of the lake were utterly placid and reflected the islands within the lake beautifully. If one were to come here in summer, it would be possible to canoe or kayak on Lake Astotin out to these islands. As our next trip is planned for next August, we may do just that!

We travelled thru Edmonton and reached Alberta 43, the approach route for the Alaska Highway. The weather remained sunny and pleasant as we journeyed up route 43 to the Alaska Highway. We reached the town of Dawson Creek late in the afternoon thus arriving at the official start of the Alaska Highway. We stopped for the day at Kiskitinaw Provincial Park,British Columbia on the Alaska Highway. Here a wooden trestle bridge spans a deep rocky gorge. The Kiskitinaw River flows thru the deep gorge. It`s a really pretty spot and Dad and I took a long walk here. The Kiskitinaw Bridge is nearly 100 ft above the river.

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