Wesley`s wanders

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Alaska 2008 Days 3 and 4

September 26th 2008 7:49 pm
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Tues Aug 12 Day 3

We entered Canada today at the Saskatchewan---North Dakota border. The weather was sunny and cool as we traveled up towards Regina and headed out across the plains of Saskatchewan on provincial route 11. Dad and I stopped for lunch at an interesting rest area on route 11 that had a bird sanctuary. There was actually a bird enclosure in the middle of the rest area with various species of birds inside.

Late in the day we crossed into Alberta and stopped for the night at Vermillion Provincial Park. The park was virtually empty,at least in the tent area----RV`s were in another part of the park,though. We hiked some trails along the Vermillion river,then Dad pitched our tent and light rain started up soon thereafter. The rain was heavy at times overnite. One of the few times that dad and I enjoy rain is when we`re snug and dry inside a tent!

Wed August 13 Day 4

After breaking camp,we headed on towards Edmonton and the rain soon ended and the sun broke thru the clouds. Dad heard a report on the radio that gas stations in western Alberta were running out of gas due to a refinery shutdown in Edmonton. This caused Dad to worry a bit but in the end, we had no trouble getting gas anywhere.

On past Alaska trips, Dad has always used the Alaska Highway starting at Dawson Creek,British Columbia. On this trip, he had resolved to do something different. We headed straight north thru northern Alberta after passing thru Valleyview and reached the border with the Northwest Territories late in the day. We wanted to explore the Northwest Territories for a bit the next few days and this route thru them would eventually rejoin the Alaska highway just north of Ft Nelson thereby bypassing about 300 miles of the Alaska highway. We camped at the Northwest Territories border tonight and save for 1 other person who may have been the campground host,had the place all to ourselves. The Hay river flowed past the campground and it was a scenic spot for Dad to give me a walk.

 

Alaska 2008 Days 5--6

September 30th 2008 8:11 pm
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Thursday Aug 14 Day 5

Today was an exciting time exploring the Northwest Territories! We left our campground by the Hay River right at the 60th parallel and drove to the Twin Gorge Falls territorial park. Here Dad and I spent a few hours hiking a trail that took us past 2 large waterfalls. The upper falls was Alexandra Falls----a high waterfall that sent up a huge spray of water. Check out the video of it on Webshots under jpamusher 2008 Alaska trip. The trail then led on down the Hay river thru a mixed boreal forest to Louise Falls,another thundering waterfall. The Hay river flowed thru a rugged canyon here. The water was flowing swiftly and was turgid and brown.
We then drove on to the town of Hay River. Hay River sits on the shore of the Great Slave lake and Dad desperately wanted to see this lake for himself as he had only previously read of it in Jack London stories and other northern literature. The day was warm and the temperature was about 80 degrees F. Dad was actually able to swim in the Great Slave Lake!
We had our lunch at a sunny clearing beside the Hay River,then headed back down the Mackenzie Highway towards Fort Simpson. Several rest areas along the highway----the road was all gravel,but in good condition---had little shelter cabins complete with woodstoves. These were intended as emergency shelters in the event of a winter storm. Dad stopped at a few lakes along the way for brief swims,the water was quite brisk but the air temperature was quite pleasant.
We explored the Trout River canyon at Sambaa Deh Falls territorial park. Here the trout river flowed thru a twisted canyon reminiscent of slot canyons in Utah. The river was flowing quite swiftly,sending its spray high into the air. It was a wild and strange place. The rock at the edge of the trail overlooking the canyon was quite slick from the spray and a careless misstep here could have sent us to almost certain doom in the cold swift water below. A cross erected on the canyon edge here perhaps bore mute witness to just such a tragedy!
Late in the day, we took the ferry across the Mackenzie River---no bridge here so cars must board a free ferry operated by the Canadian Government---- and stayed in the campground at the small town of Fort Simpson. Dad and I got out of our car and stood by the railing of the ferry as it crossed the Mackenzie River. We viewed the mighty expanse of the river as it flowed past high river banks,a vast mighty river of the North!


Fri Aug 15 Day 6

Dad and I left Fort Simpson this morning and proceeded down the Liard Highway which would eventually rejoin the Alaska Highway above Fort Nelson. Driving the Liard Highway was a bit of a challenge as loose gravel and mud sections would make the car slide from side to side at times. Dad was glad to be driving his new Subaru with all wheel drive!
We stopped in the small town of Ft Liard then crossed back into northern British Columbia. Dad took a brief swim in the Petitot River which according to the Milepost guidebook has the warmest swimming water in British Columbia. The water was cool but not cold and indeed might have been warmer had the afternoon not been partly cloudy. A man that dad met at the hot springs a few days later along the Alaska Highway said that in the winter he helps put in ice roads in the area and the Petitot river is always difficult to put an ice road over due to the warmer water there. We stayed at the Summit Lake campground on the Alaska Highway tonight. The campground sits beside a lake at the highest point of the Alaska Highway . It is surrounded by the high peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

 

Link to video of Alexandra Falls,Northwest Territories

September 30th 2008 9:15 pm
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alexandra falls NWT.MOV

 

Alaska 2008 days 7--8

October 2nd 2008 2:19 pm
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Sat Aug 16 Day 7

Today was a fun day hiking with Dad in Stone Mountain Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies. The rainy weather of the previous night cleared out nicely and the morning dawned sunny and cool. Dad took down the tent ,put on my dogpack as well as his,and off we went on the trail to Flower Springs Lake. This is a small lake reached via a 3 mile trail. It sits in splendid isolation surrounded by high mountain peaks. Because it requires a significant hike to get to, it doesn`t recieve the visitation that Summit Lake on the Alaska Highway gets. It was very quiet back by the lake,the silence broken only by the soft gurgling of small mountain streams. Dad and I hiked around the lake and explored the tundra beyond it. Had we the time, we could have hiked for many more miles in this immense mountain wilderness. We traveled on to the Liard River Hotsprings after finishing this hike and Dad enjoyed a refreshing swim in their warm waters. We camped at the hot springs tonight.


Sun Aug 17 Day 8

Traveled on up the Alaska Highway today stopping at a rest area known as Allen`s lookout. This area affords a sweeping view of the Liard River and the seemingly endless spruce forest beyond it.
Dad stopped at the Watson Lake signpost forest at mid-day where he used his GPS to find a geocache hidden there. The cache was hidden behind one of the thousands of signs erected here on wooden posts. The custom of placing signs here was started by a homesick US soldier in WW 2 who put up a sign pointing to his hometown. Dad and I camped tonight at Wolf Lake campground near Whitehorse and we hiked a nice trail here that leads back to the Yukon River.

 

Alaska 2008 Days 9-10

October 5th 2008 7:12 am
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Monday August 18 Day 9

Dad and I hiked along the banks of the Yukon River this morning. There is a very nice trail system here that runs along Miles Canyon thru which the Yukon River flows just outside of the city of Whitehorse. Dad was searching for some hidden geocaches and managed to find both of them after a bit of searching. I was more interested in all the new smells here. Today was the Discovery Day holiday in the Yukon and there were other hikers out on the trails. It was sunny and warm and the Yukon River was a brilliant shade of emerald green.

We then drove the Klondike highway down into Skagway,Alaska. This was an epic moment for me as it marked my first ever trip to Alaska! Dad took a photo of me at the state border.
We parked in Skagway and began our hike on the Dewey Lakes trails. The Upper Dewey lake trail led us up high into the mountains above Skagway. It was a STEEP climb uphill of almost 2 miles but eventually we emerged above treeline onto the tundra. The city of Skagway was visible far below sitting beside the waters of the Taiya inlet. The tundra plain on which we were hiking was surrounded by high mountain peaks. It was a scene of wild beauty!

Dad decided to pitch his tent high up on the tundra where there was an excellent view of Skagway and the inside passage far below. After guying the tent down well,we hiked about a mile further on to a smaller lake known as the Devil`s Punchbowl. It was late in the evening by the time we arrived at the punchbowl. Dad and I sat there for a while surrounded by tall mountains and almost total silence. Occasionally the shrill cry of a marmot would break the silence. It made Dad contemplate his place in the overall scheme of things while my thoughts were a bit more doglike.

From our tent as darkness came on, we could see the cruise ships sail away from Skagway into the waters of the inside passage bound for other ports of call. The lights came on in the city below and the streets appeared empty and calm. Camped as we were high above the town,it appeared as a layout on a model railroad set.


Tuesday August 19 Day 10

Dad and I explored the remote mountain valleys above Upper Dewey Lake this morning. We gained access to the region by following game trails and the general contour of the land. There were numerous streams flowing across the tundra fed by snowmelt from the mountains above. As we hiked further back into this secluded valley, the high mountain walls blocked the wind and it was actually quite warm. Dad and I sunbathed beside a small snowfield for about half an hour. The warm sunshine,blue skies,towering peaks,and pleasant gurgling of small streams made for an inspirational experience!

We hiked down from Upper Dewey Lake in the early afternoon. The trail led past swiftly flowing streams on the way down with some powerful waterfalls. We hiked the mostly level trail out to Sturgill`s Landing. This trail led us past Lower Dewey Lake where dad and I enjoyed a brief dip. We camped for the second night of the hike at Sturgill`s. Our campsite was right beside the inside passage and we could watch cruise ships sail by. As darkness came on,a ship sailed by with all it`s lights ablaze. Dad said it reminded him of the Titanic! Earlier in the day, Dad found another geocache at Sturgill`s.

 

Alaska 2008 days 11--12

October 7th 2008 3:46 pm
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Wed Aug 20 Day 11

The morning dawned bright,sunny,and cool. As dad was preparing our breakfast, another cruise ship sailed by our campsite. Earlier in the morning, a few smaller vessels sailed by as well.
We hiked the trail back from Sturgill`s Landing and Dad actually took a chilly swim in Lower Dewey Lake! We briefly lost ourselves by taking the wrong trail out to Ice Lake on the way back to Skagway,but soon found the right trail and reached the town by 11am. Dad used his GPS to find another geocache hidden in Skagway and we walked around the town for a bit.
Leaving Skagway,we drove back up the Klondike highway stopping at the Carcross desert. The Carcross desert is a wide expanse of sand dunes,probably the result of evaporation of an ancient lake here. Dad and I hiked up to the top of several dunes and then built up speed as we ran back down them! It was exhilarating!
We stayed at the Wolf Creek campground again tonight.


Thurs Aug 21 Day 12

We drove from Whitehorse,Yukon Territory,Canada to Tok,Alaska today. Dad had made reservations at motel that he likes there and we wanted to relax a bit at the first motel of the trip. Tok sits in the mainland of the state whereas Skagway is in the panhandle. On our journey today, we saw a few bicyclists pedaling along the Alaska highway. After crossing the state line from Canada,dad and I took a nice little hike in the Tetlin National Wildlife refuge. The trail here led back to a secluded lake and was composed of a boardwalk in several spots. Kind of a neat trail! It was sunny and cool today.

 

Alaska 2008 Days 13---14

October 10th 2008 7:53 pm
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Friday Aug 22 Day 13

Dad and I left Tok this morning and headed north on the Alaska Highway towards Fairbanks. Shortly after leaving Tok,Dad spotted a bull moose with a full rack of antlers but the critter ambled off into the woods before dad could squeeze off a shot with his camera!
The weather was sunny,breezy and mild today and we were eager to hit the trail! Dad particularly likes the Tors trail near Fairbanks as this trail climbs high into the mountains and passes weirdly sculpted rock formations known as Tors. We drove down the Chena Hot Springs road and parked in the Tors trailhead lot. We had a pleasant hike along the lower sections of the tors trail as it led past the swiftly flowing Chena River and climbed gradually into the forested mountains. The forest soon gave way to open ground covered with colorful fireweed,the result of fires in the summer of 2004 that burned much of the forest in this area. We stopped for lunch in a sheltering stand of spruce trees and then continued on up the trail eventually emerging above treeline at a large boulder field. Dad and I hiked up and across the boulders guided by rock cairns. The mountains surrounding Fairbanks were visible below us. We reached the tundra plain on which sit the tors in late afternoon and made our way to the small wooden trail shelter here for a brief rest. Apparently the bulk of the mountain shielded us from the wind as we were ascending the trail because once out on the open tundra, we noticed that the wind had really picked up. Dad had a real struggle erecting the tent in the gusty winds,but he managed to pitch in partially in the shelter of a rock tor.

Sat Aug 23 Day 14

Chilly this morning,temps only in the 30`s as dad took down the tent. We hiked the tors trail across the tundra guided by wooden tripods and reflective metal posts. The trail passed numerous rock tors rising high out of the ground. Dad marked an interesting one with his GPS as a potential future campsite. As we hiked, the Alaska range was visible far off in the distance and Dad was sure he could make out the twin summits of Denali!
Leaving the tundra plain, the trail began a steep descent back into the forest. Dad and I briefly lost the trail as we hiked down and were lost in the wilderness here for about 20 minutes. We eventually picked up a game trail that intersected the main trail but it was a bit scary to be lost in this immense wilderness!
In the lower sections of the trail as we neared the trailhead,dad used his GPS to locate another geocache. We reached our car in early afternoon and proceeded to drive up north of Fairbanks to the Elliott Highway. The Elliott highway has been paved in recent years---much of it was formerly gravel---but it still had some very steep hills as we drove the 70 miles out to Livengood and the start of the Dalton highway. The Dalton would eventually take us to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean which was a main goal of this trip. We drove up the Dalton and camped beside the Alaska Pipeline about 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle. There are many little access roads that lead back to the pipeline from the Dalton Highway and they make for excellent camping spots.

 

Alaska 2008 Days 15---16

October 15th 2008 12:47 pm
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Sun Aug 24 Day 15

We left our campsite early this morning and soon crossed the Arctic Circle. There is a large sign here marking the spot that was erected by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). It is a very ornate sign with a globe on it. Dad placed a Dogster sticker on the back of the sign (other people had placed stickers here as well).
It was sunny and mild as we traveled north on the Dalton Highway today,temps were in the high 50`s. We stopped at a nice clearing beside the Dietrich River for lunch. It was a spectacular setting! The sun was out and the clear arctic river flowed across the empty tundra plain with high peaks rising behind it. Dad`s new Subaru had little trouble climbing over the steep,winding Atigun Pass then we descended onto the North Slope which eventually leads to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean.
Dad stopped several times as we drove north to give me walks back down the access roads that lead from the highway to the Pipeline. In one such location, we were able to hike out across the spongy tundra with the Brooks Range rising in the distance. In another spot, we hiked back to a clear arctic river.
Dad and I reached Franklin Bluffs about 30 miles from Deadhorse late in the day and we decided to camp there. Deadhorse is the oil company town that serves the Prudhoe Bay oilfield. There was a dazzling blue lake where we set up camp this evening and dad walked me along its shoreline.

Mon Aug 25 Day 16

WOOFS!!!! Dad and I were THRILLED to reach Prudhoe Bay this morning. Not even the foggy,cloudy weather that had rolled in from the Arctic Ocean could dampen our enthusiasm! Dad posed me in front of the "Welcome to Prudhoe Bay" sign for a photo then had to leave me in the car while he took a van tour to the Arctic Ocean. Access to the Arctic Ocean is restricted since you have to clear a security gate to cross the Prudhoe Bay oilfield. Dad told me later that he waded out into the Arctic Ocean despite the chilly 4o degree temperature. The weather had cleared a bit by this point, the fog being gone and the sun even poked thru a little bit.
After returning from the Arctic Ocean,dad and I toured Deadhorse for a bit and Dad tried to find 2 more geocaches. He couldn`t find the one by the Prudhoe Bay airport tower, but did locate another hidden in a culvert.
We left Deadhorse late in the afternoon and proceeded back down the Dalton Highway. Stopping at a pipeline access road, we hiked back to Dan Creek. We were in the middle of immense wilderness here and the little creek flowed across the silent tundra with mounains rising in the distance. It was a very peaceful setting! Strangely, there was a cement boat launch here!
We camped just north of Atigun Pass tonite, having driven thru thick fog before arriving at the campsite. Tendrils of fog would drift over our campsite from time to time.

 

Alaska 2008 Days 17---18

October 17th 2008 7:53 pm
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Tues Aug 26 Day 17

Brrr! It was cold this morning when I exited the tent to do my business! Dad checked his pack thermometer and it read 28 degrees. There was even some ice on the tent poles as Dad dismantled the tent.
We were camped in what appeared to be a rock quarry of some sort beside the Dalton Highway. Dad gave me a walk on a trail that led up into the hills high above the tent. There were piles of rubble here and there as well as several flat spaces. The trail eventually dead ended at a large rock pile. Perhaps this was a stone quarry used in highway maintainence.
We were soon on our way back down the Dalton. After crossing Atigun Pass and travelling further south,we stopped at the Marion Creek BLM campground about 5 miles north of the Coldfoot truck stop. There was a nice trail here that led up into the mountains. For a little while, it followed a nice stream then climbed into the spruce trees before emerging out onto the tundra. The sun was out,it was warm and the views were stunning (as were the smells--woof woof!). Dad remarked for a future trip that hiking this trail and setting up camp on the tundra surrounded by the mountains would be nice! After this hike which lasted almost 2 hrs, we had lunch at Coldfoot then recrossed the Arctic Circle as we headed south. The Dogster sticker that dad had placed on the rear of the Arctic Circle sign was still there. We finished up the Dalton Highway late in the day after recrossing the Yukon River. We camped tonight at a spot along the Elliott Highway.


Wed Aug 27 Day 18

Traveled thru Fairbanks this morning where Dad used his car`s GPS---those things make up for a human`s lack of canine scent acuity,I suppose---to locate a car wash and rinse the mud of the 800 miles of traveling the Dalton off his Subaru. We drove the Parks Highway south past Denali National Park and by mid afternoon arrived at the Little Coal Creek trailhead in Denali State Park. Dad went here as opposed to the more famous National Park because there are no restrictions on dogs in the backcountry and no permits are required. We set off on the Kesugi Ridge trail which climbs high into the mountains following the drainage of Little Coal Creek. The weather was partly cloudy and pleasantly cool as we ascended. After a series of steep switchbacks, we arrived above treeline onto the tundra. The lower sections of the Alaska Range were visible in the distance across the narrow line of the Parks Highway. Clouds hid the highest peaks,however so Dad didn`t catch a glimpse of the summits of Denali. Late in the afternoon, we crossed a rockslide and set up camp in a silent ampitheater surrounded by peaks painted by the glow of the setting sun. There were small streams here so plenty of water was at hand,just a great place to camp. We were just below the point where the trail levels out onto the rolling plain of the Kesugi Ridge itself. After setting up camp, we hiked up to the ridgeline and could see a party of campers and their tents below set up beside a small lake. As evening drew on the marmots began to whistle and I had great fun trying do dig them out of their holes!

 

Alaska 2008 Days 19--20

October 21st 2008 8:00 pm
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Thursday Aug 28 Day 19

I was sound asleep dreaming about chewing on a juicy bone when I was awakened by the sound of rain on the tent. I didn`t particularly like my dream being interrupted but it was nice to be snug inside the tent with the chilly rain outside! The rain ended by the time Dad had taken down the tent and we began the morning hike in rather dense fog. We ascended to the ridgeline proper,where the trail follows a rolling plain high up in the mountains for many miles. The fog was with us much of the morning and views were all but non existant,but Dad decided to persevere in the hopes that the weather would clear up later on. There was a certain beauty to hiking in the fog and dad will post some photos soon on his Webshots page.
Sure enough, the fog did clear as we neared our lunch spot near 10 mile tarn about 1 pm. There were increasing amounts of sun as we hiked the trail back in the afternoon. We were basically making a loop hike back to our starting point to avoid having to hitchhike back to our car at the end of the hike. The summits of Denali never became visible, but we could glimpse the lower peaks and glaciers of the Alaska Range as we hiked.
By coincidence, we wound up back in that pleasant mountain valley where we had set up camp the previous night. The setting sun painted the jagged peaks above us in rich golden hues!


Friday Aug 29 Day 20

Dad and I explored the little mountain valley in which we were camped early this morning. We hiked a short distance from the tent to the edge of a deep rugged gorge thru which Little Coal Creek tumbled on its journey to the Chulitna River.
Dense fog rolled in as we were breaking camp and it made for a challenging hike as we began our descent back down toward treeline. Dad and I had to negotiate a large boulder field,the fog making it impossible to see the other side so it was an effort to get across it! We briefly lost the trail again on the way back down but found it again after a short search. It was a bit eerie, the vast tundra all around us was draped in this THICK silent fog! We reached treeline by late morning and ended our Kesugi Ridge hike.
We travelled down the Parks Highway to Talkeetna and Dad proceeded to find 2 more geocaches there. We explored the little town of Talkeetna for a bit then drove back up the Parks Highway to camp at Byers Lake campground for the night. Dad and I enjoyed a scenic hike around Byers Lake late in the evening.

 
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