Thursday, June 4, 2009

6/3 - 6/4/2009 Alaska, Here We Come!


We got on the road just after nine on Wednesday, destination British Columbia, Canada.

As we got closer to Seattle we noticed something really strange. Look at these two pictures below, do you see anything....bizarre?



Take notice that there are three distinct sets of lanes. The ones we're in and two to the left. See the two median strips? Now look at the cars coming towards us. See the blue one and behind the black one? Now look at the sign hanging over the roadway. The writing is on THIS side of the sign. We figured out that this center lane is used at the discretion of the highway department. If they need more lanes southbound, they open the center lane that way, more traffic traveling north, then open it that way, hence the signs read both ways. Pretty ingenious isn't it?

These purple flowers caught my eye as we traveled north. I don't know what they are, sometimes they look like lupines and at other times they look like lavender. Either way the make the ride pleasant.


Now Bob and I have done lots of research as far as what we could take across the border. We knew his hunting rifles were something we didn't want to have to deal with so we left them back in Arizona. Case closed on them. Bob found out he could take one case (24 cans) of beer with him across the border so that's all we took. I printed out a list of how much meat we could take, what veggies and fruits and I was ok with that. Now the problem. I had some potatoes that I had every intention of making potato salad out of but was too tired once we got home last night after our all day sightseeing trip. I put them in a bag and had them in the truck. If we had been asked I would have handed them over. "Yes sir, I have potatoes, here they are all ready for disposal". Now you can bet your bottom dollar that if we weren't asked I wasn't volunteering that I had potatoes. I had read the forums and saw that the border guards were much more interested in weapons and illegal drugs than a couple of pounds of potatoes so I didn't see it as a big deal. Bob felt otherwise. He wanted me to throw them away before we even left. Nope, not happening. Before we got to the border though he pulled over and said, "Get rid of them." Talk about pissed! Oh. My. Gosh. I could have spit nickels! I absolutely did NOT want to throw away four pounds of potatoes! I saw a guy in a gas station and walked over to him with my bag of spuds in hand, calling Bob every name in the book as I went, and handed them to him and said, "Here, I'm crossing the border and I can't take these." He thanked me.

I didn't even want to talk to Bob. I was so mad! I know, it was only potatoes but it was the principle of the thing with me. If they asked I would have handed them over.

Ok, so we had a very quiet last few miles to the border.


We read all the advice online and took our sunglasses off so they could see our eyes. Bob answered their questions with yes and no and didn't make any small talk. The whole time I'm waiting for the border guards to surround the truck, guns drawn, yelling, "Give us your potatoes!" It didn't happen. Vegetables of any kind were not even mentioned. Probably because the border guard was more interested in why a red flag went up when he scanned Bob's border pass. He asked Bob if he had been refused entry into Canada prior to today. Bob said, no. The border guard then asked, "Why does the Immigration Office want to see you?" Bob said, "I don't know that they do". The border guard assured him that they did indeed want to see him and that we should pull over and park and that he had to go inside. It seems another man with the exact same name has not been an exemplary citizen like my Bob. After twenty minutes of questioning they deemed Bob acceptable for entry into their country. So we were on our way minus my bag of potatoes that never even came into question.

Hello Canada!


We made it as far as Hope, British Columbia, Canada and stayed in the Wild Rose Campground. A very nice campground to be sure but a bit on the pricey side compared to our previous stays in the military FamCamps. I almost fainted when he said $40.00. I quickly told him we were Good Sam members and that took it down to $36.00. Tax took it back up to $37.90.

We had a very nice site in this park with a view of a waterfall too. (look above the truck.)


The park filled quickly and low and behold, we were all headed to none other than Alaska. I even met one couple from Palm Creek, a park near Quail Run in Arizona. We exchanged cards with several other couples with hopes of meeting up again once we all get up there. We all agreed that we would call each other with "must see" attractions and touristy things to stay away from.

We did add Canada to our cell phone calling plan so that we can still call back to the states and to call ahead to campgrounds for info on space availability. I really don't think the latter is going to be a problem because everyone we've talked to has said that the tourism traffic is down significantly. That's a bad thing for British Columbia/Yukon/Alaska tourism but good for us! We won't have to fight for RV spaces. Now if only the FamCamps have room when we need them. We can't really make reservations because we don't know as yet when we are going to be where. We're flying by the seat of our pants on this trip!

We decided to call it a night so we could get a decent start the next morning but found it hard to settle down since it was still, not bright daylight, but still light out at 9:30. It was ten before we could say it was dark outside.


Up early because it was bright daylight at 5:45! We took our time getting ready and were on the road at just before nine. We wanted to make a stop at an attraction down the road and couldn't leave too early because we only had an hour's drive.

Just before ten we pulled into the parking lot of.............


The first written history of Hell's Gate is found in the journal of explorer Simon Fraser. The year was 1808 and he described this point in the river as an "awesome gorge".

Picture this, several rivers all merging at the same place and the water has to pass through an opening between the river banks that is only 110 feet wide. Picture this, 200,000,000 gallons per minute trying to get through said opening. Yes, you read that right. Two hundred million gallons of water. This we had to see and learn more about.

We had been given $2.00 discount tickets at the campground we were in last night but we didn't know how much the tickets were going to be. The discounts coupons saved us $4.00 off of the $34.00 entrance fee. Oh, this better be worth it!

We got our tickets and went to wait for the tram that would take us to the other side of the river.


Only four us boarded so we all had good spots for sightseeing and picture taking on the way down.


You just can't imagine how fast this river current is. No wonder there are so many rafting companies along the way.


We made it safely and quickly to the other side and we went straight to the suspension bridge. Now it doesn't swing, but it does bounce when you walk on it. An eerie feeling to say the least.



The water below churned like boiling water. Today this water level is at 160 feet deep!


Done with the bridge we made our way to the rest of the attraction which is made up of several buildings. The mandatory gift shop, a small movie theater, a museum, a restaurant and some outdoor fact boards. And a stove.


Legend has it that back in the 1800's when this place was a camp for the railway workers an unusual event took place. After the workers put in a hard days work they, of course, were hungry and looked forward to an excellent meal prepared by their cook, Johnny. Johnny was a pigtailed, Chinese man that was selected to be the Chef from amongst all the Chinese men brought over to work on the railway. He was a very good cook and closely guarded by the men he served.

One night Johnny disappeared and he was quickly replaced. No one knew what happened to him. A strange thing was that "Johnnie's stove" refused to light for anyone. Many tried but no one could kindle a decent fire in it.

A search party was sent out and Johnny was finally found. He returned to a very hungry camp and everyone was happy to have him back. He kept turning out meal after meal until he died on July 10, 1890. Even stranger is that on every July 10th the stove feels faintly warm even though a fire has never been lit in it since his death. There is also a smell of cigarette smoke in the air and things on the shelves in the gift shop are found on the floor when the employees come in in the morning for work. Could it be Johnnie coming back so he isn't forgotten? Its being investigated.

The road we traveled today was originally a fur brigade trail and then a wagon road in 1863. In 1925 it was opened to the automobile.

The railroad came through the canyon and caused a major rockslide which ultimately resulted in the "fishways" that are present today. More about them later.


A mural on a wall showing Simon Fraser trying to navigate through Hell's Gate.


Pictured below are the fishways mentioned earlier.


These were built because in 1913 when the rail way was being built there was a rock slide into the river. Although crews cleared the river bed as best they could it was not enough for the salmon run. You see, this is a MAJOR river for the salmon swimming up to spawn. The salmon were beating themselves to death trying to jump the rocks that were under water. An incredible number of sockeye salmon didn't make it to the spawning area and to this day the runs have not fully recovered from this catastrophe, almost one hundred years later and the effects are still felt.

These next two pictures give you an idea of how these fishways work. The salmon swim inside and jump the ladders built there. There are several levels so that all depths of water are covered.



After checking all the outside fact boards, the gift shop and the gold panning area we went inside to the little theater to watch a movie about the salmon runs. I can't believe how hard the salmon work to get to the spawning grounds only to die after, how did the movie commentator put it, "vibrating" with its mate. I thought that was a very delicate way of putting it since all ages would be watching this movie.

Here comes the tram, we're going back to the top and continuing our journey.


One last look at the river from Hell's Gate.


A going down the road picture.


We couldn't get over how warm it was. Of course we aren't complaining, it felt good!

Did you know that Canada has a desert? I didn't and neither did Bob. Well, it does. We knew we were in it because the trees became sparse, the ground was mostly sand and the temperature rose!



Scenery as we're coming out of the desert. Here we are going down a 7% grade on a twisty - winding road. With scenery....




Three railroad tunnels.


I liked this little church. I wish the telephone pole wasn't in the picture, but it is what it is.


Here's a good example of recycling! These are tires painted white.


Another going down the road picture.


Now LaVon, I have not forgotten you! I hope your discerning eye can see the distinction of this dead tree. Before you look at it I want you to really think about this my friend. This isn't just any run of the mill dead tree LaVon. Oh no, this is a Canadian dead tree. Girlfriend, we have gone INTERNATIONAL!


What the heck, one more scenery picture.


I have read many posts on the RV forums about giving waving hand gestures (all fingers extended, not just one) as we pass fellow RV'ers coming from the opposite direction. I had taken notice that no one was waving at us and I was determined to remedy that. I was going to wave at the very next RV'er we saw. It didn't take long before one came in sight. As soon as it got within good viewing distance I started waving madly. Like a 3rd grade in school who knows the answer, PICK ME! PICK ME! I did not get a wave in return. The son of a ..... AHEM! Bob started laughing and said I wasn't doing it right. He said I had to do the RV'ers wave. He demonstrated. I laughed. We waited for the next RV, Bob gave the RV'ers wave and the guy waved back! Curious as to what the RV'ers wave is? I photographed it for you. Now you too can have RV'ers wave at you.




(note: bent ring finger on waving hand is not a requirement, Bob's finger doesn't straighten out due to jamming it many years ago breaking a fall.)

We pulled into Gold Trail Campground in Clinton for the night. It was listed in both of our Passport America and Escapee books. It didn't matter because everyone paid the same rate, members of these organizations or not. I liked the fellow who owns the place as he had a great sense of humor, the campground was nothing special, but it was adequate for a nights stay. At $15.00 it was very adequate. However, I didn't appreciate the fact that everyone got the same rate. I think he signed up for Escapees and Passport America (at no cost to him I don't think) just to get more exposure to travelers. Of course from a business standpoint it was a good move but from the traveler's point of view we want our discount off the going rate, at least this Queen of Cheap does!

WIFI was advertised which was instrumental in picking this campground. It didn't work. Oh great. Our next door neighbor had a satellite dish connection and offered to hook us up so that we could read our email. We were so thankful. I was having Internet withdrawal. It's not pretty, trust me.

Tomorrow's another travel day.


LaVon Baker said...
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LaVon Baker said...

FOUR pounds of potatoes!!! Gone? Don't feed him potatoes until you get back to the mainland! Why??? I've got it! He's learning how to give you really funny material for the blog? You know, Bob's a pretty smart fellow. And it was hilarious. Don knew that I was reading your blog.

The international dead tree looks so sad, all droopy, but still very stately out there all alone. Thanks, girlfriend!