Tag Archives: camping

Sun’s out, Peaks out…

Film Friday:

From Blueberry Lake

Camera: Minolta SRT201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100


Alaskan Standoff: Grizzly vs Caribou

Film Friday:

A lone grizzly toys with a massive bull caribou

I had picked up one of this summer’s Pandemic Road Lottery ticket into Denali National Park. In normal years, the road lottery would be taking place this weekend in Denali. This year, due to Corvid-19 and the lack of visitors, The Park had five additional lottery weekends.

I had two teenagers in Alaska for the first time, and we ventured deep into the park one Sunday. We covered the gamut in wildlife viewing, but the most memorable took place on our way out.

It was late in the day, and few others were still out on the Park Road. And no rangers nearby either! The grizzly meandered around the field in the photo, slowly getting closer and closer to the bull caribou. After a while, the bear would back off, and increase the distance between the two rivals, only to shorten the distance a few moments later.

We watched the dance between bear & caribou for about 45 minutes. The boys were looking for a fight, but I knew that the caribou did not get those large antlers by not being able to judge distance.

The grizzly broke the caribou’s comfort zone, and the bull was immediately on its feet. The game was up, but the bear refused to acknowledge that fact. After another ten minutes, the bear tried once again to close the gap, but the caribou had tired of the game, and he trotted off with his head held high.

Camera: Minolta SRT201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100


Worthington Glacier

Hiking up to Worthington Glacier

When we were camping at Blueberry Lake earlier this summer, we spent a rare sunny day hiking up to Worthington Glacier.

Melt water flowing out from the glacier

Worthington Glacier is located in Thompson Pass at Milepost 29 of the Richardson Highway. It’s a typical small valley glacier, approximately 4 miles long, and sits at an elevation of 3800 feet.

Looking up at the glacier face

In normal years, the glacier is one of the most visited recreation areas on the Richardson, but this year we were the only ones hiking out at the glacier, while a few people hung out at the viewing area.

Fresh glacial melt

Worthington Glacier is retreating, although not quite as fast as other glaciers in Alaska. Thompson Pass is the snowiest area in the state of Alaska. On average, the pass gets 500 inches of snow every winter. It holds the state records of 974″ of snow in a year (81 feet!), and the most snow in a single day at 62 inches.

Worthington Glacier’s valley

Still, Worthington is in retreat. In the late 1990’s, the glacier extended to the pond in the picture above. In the last 20 years, Worthington has retreated a quarter of a mile, in spite of the tremendous snowfall in the area.


The Iron Trail

Keystone Canyon; Valdez, Alaska

Railroad tunnel, circa 1905-06

Today, the Richardson Highway runs through Keystone Canyon, en route to Valdez. Back in the early territorial days of Alaska, people traveled this route on the Valdez Trail from coastal Valdez to Interior Alaska.

In 1905, nine separate entities were competing to build a railroad through Keystone to the copper mines of Kennecott. This tunnel, which is accessed off of the Richardson, is all that is left of the proposed railroad.

A gunfight erupted between opposing factions, work ceased in 1906, and the hand cut tunnel was never finished.

The tunnel still offers a decent view

When we were recently camping down by Valdez, we stopped by to explore the old tunnel. Graffiti covers many of the rocks, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the effort it would have taken to cut through this rock wall in 1905-06 with hand tools.

There is both a silent film, and a novel titled “The Iron Trail”, based on this era of Alaska’s history.


Tent view

Blueberry Lake State Park


Blueberry Lake State Park

Camping at Blueberry Lake


Alaska Bound: Round 2

Film Friday:

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Camper Special

A friend recently sent me this photo.  I came back to Minnesota a year after first driving up to Alaska, because I needed a pickup, and vehicles can be expensive in Alaska, and often beat on.  I forget all of the details, but it’s possible, I simply wanted to drive the AlCan again.

I found a 1966 Chevrolet C20, Camper Special in one of the auto trade magazines that were around back at the time.  It came with bald, bias-ply tires, but a sound 327 engine, and a rather smooth ride, compared to my Bronco.  I didn’t have anything in the trailer that belonged to me, but the canoe riding on the top is mine.  I sent my Dad into a state of mild depression, when he saw what I was about to drive for 4000 miles.

I bought a set of tires, replaced all fluids, hoses and belts, and the truck made it to Alaska without so much as a hiccup.


Through the Portal

A Pandemic Roadtrip: Part 3 

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Heading north

The only restaurant food I had on the entire trip was in Missoula.  I stopped at a small, local shop on Hwy 93.  I walked up to the restaurant, and was greeted on the sidewalk by an employee.  Several menus were on display boards along the sidewalk; it could have been a drive-in.  There was only one other customer, a fellow traveler on a motorcycle.  I placed an order, and waited out on the walk.

Any drive through western Montana is a passage through some beautiful country.  The temps had dropped dramatically from the day before, the skies were overcast, and a light mist hung in the air.  Highway 93 winds north out of Missoula, skirting the western shoreline of Flathead Lake.  Eventually, it passes through Kalispell and Whitefish.  The only bad traffic was in Whitefish.  Oddly enough, I think it was the worst of the entire trip.

The Portal was different.  Most of the normal questions were not asked, although I was asked if I was transporting a firearm.  Covid-19 questions were on the front burner, opioid questions came in second.  In all my travels through Canada, this was the first time my car was searched.  And boy, was it searched.  An agent even opened a mouthwash bottle, and did not screw the lid on properly.  My duffle will have a minty fresh scent for the rest of the trip.

I was a bit surprised about the overzealous border agent, but I chalked it all up to boredom.  I was there for approximately 40 minutes, and no one else came through.  I was given my orders:  Take the shortest route to the Alaska border, no stopping for food, no stopping for pictures, and only pay for gas at the pump.  During the search, they found that I had all the food needed to cross, along with plenty of water and camping gear.  I was asked if I had lodging plans, and I said I only had one night planned – camping near Golden, British Columbia.  They must have been satisfied, because they let me pass.

*A footnote: I am not complaining about the procedure, as much as I’m detailing the account for other travelers.  The world has changed, even between neighbors.  I am extremely grateful that the Canadian officials let me return home through their country.  They did not have to, and I am fully aware of that fact.  Still, it was a night and day different experience, from what I have been through in the past.

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The ZX resting in Kootenay NP

My first camp site in Canada was in BC’s Kootenay National Park.  A little more formal of a setting than I had been visiting up until this point.  Much of the facilities were closed.  One tidbit of info: Just because a website says they have working showers at the campground, does not mean that one is allowed to use the working showers.  All were shutdown due to the pandemic.

Notice, once again, I lost a front license plate to a souvenir hunter.  The Nissan has been without a front plate since a visit to Tampa, Florida in 2016.

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Back in bear country

 


Devil’s Tower to Missoula

A Pandemic Roadtrip: Part 2 

 

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The Tower, at a distance

Day two of the road trip had absolutely beautiful weather.  Slightly cooler than the day before, but still warm and a tad sticky.

I had camped out fairly close to Devil’s Tower, and actually had no real plans to stop.  In the end, the sight of that column of rock rising up from above the Belle Fourche River valley, was too tempting.

Devil’s Tower is a butte formed of igneous rock.  Known as the Bear’s Lodge locally, The Tower was the first national monument in the United States, established in 1906 by then President Theodore Roosevelt.

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Devil’s Tower

The Tower rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, and is 867 feet from base to summit.  It’s an impressive sight, and I was not the only visitor to the monument.

The visitor’s center was closed.  The parking lot at the trailhead was full, although the overflow parking was not.  There was not one car in the parking lot with a Wyoming license plate; everyone was out of state.  There were a lot of RV’s trying to force their way into some sort of parking situation, and park workers tried valiantly to get them to park in RV parking.  So that part of the experience was no different than Pre-Covid.

There is a trail that runs around the Tower itself, that I had already trekked in the past. It was crowded, and confusion ran rampant.  Once again, park workers were doing their best to get people to social distance, but few people were paying any attention.  I decided to pass on that trail, and found a side track that no one else was on, just to stretch my legs.

Eventually, I had to get back on the road.  It didn’t take long to pick up the interstate again, and I was off for Montana.  Camping in the Lolo National Forest was the goal for the night.

 


Lake Winnibigoshish

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Campfire on the shoreline of Lake Winnie; Photo Credit: NMT