Monday, April 25, 2011

Becoming Alaskans, it's a long one!

Whitehorse, main drag facing west

Whitehorse, main drag facing east
   JOHNNY   MICHELLE
Boy, a lot has happened since we left Whitehorse!  We left Whitehorse with big hopes of making it across the border and into AK without a hitch.  Then the real Alcan stuff kicked in.  As we moved closer to the border I knew we were going to hit bad road.  "The worst I've ever seen it" according to a southbound driver who gimped a trailer with a broken axle into Whitehorse.   He was right!  It started to get ugly around Destruction Bay with a small brake problem.  The name Destruction Bay should have been a hint.  We stopped and topped off with around $7/gal diesel and as I pulled toward the road I had to stomp on the brake pedal to keep us from going into the road.   The "brake" and "ABS brake" lights on the dash went on.  I circled the lot once or twice stepping on the pedal but the brakes would not properly kick in.  Destruction Bay is the middle of nowhere, and it being a Sunday we were going to get very familiar with the locals if something didn't happen.  I popped the hood and looked around as if I knew something about ABS systems.  Everything looked fine of course.  We discussed just continuing up the road and hoping that the brakes fixed themselves because, heck, we really don't do much braking anyhow.  Fortunately, a few more off and on's with ignition of the truck and stomping on the brake pedal a few more times and the brakes did self correct.  A sketchy 15minutes but tragedy avoided.  We still don't know what happened and really don't care.  We came to learn when we arrived up here in AK that this situation is considered prime opportunity for the locals to "capitalize" on travelers coming through.  I can't blame them, there's not much else there to "capitalize" on.
     We left Destruction Bay with a great sense of relief on a beautiful day looking at the east end of the snow covered Wrangell Mountains.    The mountains have so much snow on them that they look like someone sprayed and covered them with hot marshmallow.  Then the road got bad.  I mean really bad.  For the rest of the way entirely to the AK border the road was full of ruts, gigantic ice heaves, disintegrated or missing blacktop, and huge potholes.  It's very hard to explain an ice heave.  The only way I can think to explain it is to say that your on good road, then suddenly there is a 12" bump like a speed bump followed by dips and convolutions for the next few 100 yards.  When hit with enough speed, they would make the truck dive on the front end sending our heads toward the dashboard, followed by the rear end diving making us look at the sky, then leveling off just in time to look in the rear view and watch the trailer jump into the air like it was a grasshopper.  Michelle would yell "BUMP" for a little while then gave up.  This is fun the first time but 200 miles later it starts to get a little old.  We spent hours of drive time going no more than 20 to 30mph.  I can say from a drivers perspective that it took a lot of concentration to keep it all on the road.  This makes for a tired driver with a sore back. We were listening to a book on tape (thanks Real Fleck) so you might want to turn the volume down when you watch this one.
video


 We arrived at the AK line in one piece and went past with no problem.  Just one stumpy little guard with a semi-automatic.  I asked because I was told that the bad road continued into AK for another few hundred miles.  He assured us that the bad road was in the past and that it was clean sailing from there.  And he was right for a while.  The road was perfect for the next 100 miles or so.  We ended up in Tok, AK around dinner and decided we needed to treat ourselves to a hot dinner.  We were finally back in the USA after all.  We stopped at Fast Eddies and were overjoyed to see a salad bar, smiling faces, reasonable food prices, American IPA, and diesel under $5/gal.  The place was packed (Alaska packed) with people of all colors.  The local basketball team just got done with practice and were sitting in the parking lot in cars cranking rap music.  It felt like home.  We each had the best halibut burgers we ever had and enjoyed a celebratory Alaskan IPA.  Just a note for the beer drinkers, Canada has lagers, porters, IPA's and the like, they just don't taste any different than Molsen, and they all taste the same.  We did have some good local Yukon IPA in Whitehorse.  We drove  another 100 miles south and slept along the road with the most incredible view of the Wrangell's.  It was awesome.

The next morning we continued to head south toward Glen Allan and the Matanuska Glacier.  As soon as we started driving, the road got really bad again and we were down to a crawl.  This was a little deflating as we were getting so close to Anchorage we could feel it.  The road sneaks right beside the glacier.  I almost drove us over the cliff and onto the glacier trying to rubber neck and see the incredible scenery.  Poor Michelle!  The bad road continued the whole way into Palmer where it finally let up.
We were happy to see Palmer again and pass some of the roads we recognized from the last time we were in Palmer visiting our buddy Mike Good.
  We got into Anchorage around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and met our dear friend Laura at the Costco.  It was a great feeling to know that the drive was pretty much over and that we were going to be staying somewhere permanent for a while.   We loaded up on supplies and immediately went over to the Moose's Tooth,  a famous gourmet pizza and micro brew place for awesome pizza and maybe a beer.  We then drove down the Turnagain Arm and into the Chugach Mountains to our new home in Moose Pass.  
Laura in Nighthawk on our way to Moose Pass
Before I get into Alaska too far, I must comment on how nice absolutely everyone in Alaska is!  This is the way people should treat one another!  From the grocery clerk to the bank teller, everyone is very kind and happy to help you.  Everyone gives you a smile and treats you like a person.  The favorite saying I hear when I'm going around town is "hows your day going so far?"  It's said with true sincerity and everyone stops and gives an honest reply as to how the day is really going for them up to that point.  It's really cool.  But of all the cool people in AK we have to be living with some of the coolest.  Jason and Laura have been beyond hospitable since our arrival.  We cook in their home, use their facilities, suck their electric and internet, use their tools, watch movies with them, and generally hang out a lot.  They have helped us with drivers license and truck registration stuff, helped Michelle find a job, help with basic logistics of where local stuff is, and shown us a million cool things and people here.  For them, we are most fortunate and thankful!  I try to pay them back in every way I can.  Every day I think of ways that I can pay them back,  I don't know if they will even let me.  They are great friends, and I can't say enough good things about them!

Our biggest fear coming up here was that Joey, being a Blue Healer, and having the abrasive nature that he has with other dogs, was going to be a problem.  This could make our home life difficult.  Jason and Laura have 2 dogs, Gus and Noah.  Gus looks like a big loping golden retriever but is really some kind of other mix and Noah is a blue healer/husky mix that looks nothing like  a healer but has the great husky eyes.  They are both nice guys who like to run in the woods behind our house for hours off leash and chase rabbits and eat old dead fish.  They come home when they want to.
video The first thing we did was introduce the dogs off leash and take them for a walk down the road behind the house.  There were some minor scraps but by the end of the walk we were all friends.  The three dogs can now lay around the house together for hours and there is never a problem.  Joey loves Gus and Noah.  I think Gus and Noah tolerate Joey.  This has made life here much easier.

Gus and Joey relaxin'











The house is about a block off the Seward Highway which is the only road to Seward from Anchorage.   It is on Trail River Road.  As we look out of our windows in every direction their are many mountains ranging from 2,000 to 4,500 feet.  They are still covered in snow but are starting to melt.  The mountains practically come right down to our front door.  There are a few neighbors around but everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.  We can walk down the road from our house and around a gate which takes you about a mile and a half back to Kenai Lake and the Trail River Campground.  This road is closed for the season (the reason for the gate)  and is only open for XX skiing.
looking right from the bridge

Johnny and Laura ahead of me on our first attempt at cross country skiing
We spent evenings skiing or walking back the road with the dogs and looking at the ice covered lake.  This was great exercise for Joey and us.  It turns out Michelle is a natural to skiing (I wouldn't say natural, I can't get that slip/glide thing going fast - for me the skate skiing was MUCH easier) and has mastered the art of skate skiing.  There are a million other local trails we plan on hitting but this is convenient being right out our front door.  On Saturday, I walked Joey down to the bridge that goes over a clear river about 50 yards wide and watched a big bald eagle sit in a tree about 20 yards away, clean himself off, and watch Joey and me. He seemed unfazed. We have both begun to establish ourselves up here.  I am now an official licensed AK driver and the truck has been registered in AK.  This makes me no longer eligible to vote in PA, but now can in AK as an absentee if I am not here.  Michelle does not have an SS card that she needs to get her AK license switched over - I'm going to Anchorage tomorrow to get that taken care of.  She has taken a course and done all the necessary steps to get her TAP card which allows her to serve and bartend in the state of AK.   She was supposed to get her SS card on 4/21 when the SS administration makes its monthly one day stop in Seward.  However, due to budget cut backs the SS people did not come down from Anchorage this month and we will have to go up there this week to do the paperwork.  The DMV here is a trip.  There is one woman in a small office in the municipal building down in Seward.  This woman handles all titling, registration, and driver licensing issues.  In one day I took my drivers test, got the picture ID handed to me right there, registered my truck, got new plates and left in about an hour.  There may have been one or 2 people come in while I was there.  Word leaked out that I was living up here and had some carpentry experience.  I got a call one day out of the blue from a guy down the road, whose daughter I met at a bonfire, who thought I might be able to help him with his kitchen remodel.  This was going  to be my intro to Alaskan Carpentry 101.  There has to be a reality show in here somewhere.  I explained that I had a job starting soon and could not help for long.  He countered that he only needed to get some things demolished and get the sink put back in in a temporary fashion for his wife when she got home from work.   I went down with definite hesitation.  I started to realize what I was into when I saw some sawhorses, a few scraps of used 2x4 and 2x6, pieces of old 1/4" paneling with a snow scene painted on them, and and electric chain saw plugged in at the wall.  Mike explained that he needed a stand for the sink made to the same height.  I went to work on that while he kept the demo going inside.  I stood out in the snow while the dog chained to his box was laying beside me on his spread out bale of hay, and tried to figure out how to make 4 legs from 2 2x4's and a chunk of 2x6.  Finally I went inside and asked  Mike what he had in mind with regard to the legs.  He thought we could rip the 2x6 in half.  I asked, "With a chain saw?".  He said, " Do you need something else?".  I expressed a desire for a circular saw especially considering cutting 1/4" paneling accurately with a chain saw might be out of my capabilities.  I did get the circular saw.  I  got questioned when I was going to cut up "perfectly good" pieces of paneling for sides when there were plenty of scraps that I could piece together.  The icing on the cake was when I asked if he had any screws to screw the thing together, he said he didn't but he did have plenty of nails.  He proudly produced a small plastic container of old, rusty, bent, and used (maybe twice) nails.  In the end, everything worked out fine and the stand made him happy.  It was a pleasure to meet Mike who has a good story or 2 to tell.  After explaining what happened to the locals, they all smiled really big and explained that this is more the norm up here, but Mike might be a little to the extreme.  You never throw away a good nail or screw in Alaska!!  Lesson learned.           
  Since we have been here there has been ice on the ground.  It actually had snowed pretty much every day the first week we were here.  I kept hearing from all that its the most its snowed in succession all Winter. This has started to break up and is turning to water and creating a lot of puddles.  Over the last week or 2 the puddles have been going steadily  down.  Moose Pass is in a little micro climate that does not get nearly as much precipitation as the surrounding area.  If it is drizzling here, it is probably pouring in Seward!  They had less than average snowfall this winter, especially early winter, which helps to keep the ground warmer and keep the freeze from going so deep.  Another week or 2 and almost all the snow at lower elevations will be gone.  I know all you guys down there will think I'm crazy, but it is really not that cold up here!  At night is will go down to mid 20's and go up to mid 40's during the day.  But when the sun is shining up here it is super warm since you are so close, add that to the low humidity and it's really not so bad.  We're not wearing flip flops but we sure ain't sweating either.  Their 45 feels like our 55.  We even met a guy who was out surfing this weekend.  Long johns under regular clothes with a layer over that and a hat and your good to go from morning till night.  Some days it is mid 50's and just awesome.  Great sleeping weather.  The sun has been going down around 10:30 lately by the way.   
  We spend much of our time at home cooking and working around the house before work season starts.  We have been to  Bar-B-Que's on the beach behind our house.
Last week we went and saw a slide show of a 15 year old local girl who climbed Denali with her father last June.  Unbelievable young lady!  We got to meet her, she is very soft spoken and humble.  A lesson for us all.  We've been  to  to a few bonfires.  Our favorite fire was when our friends Clare and Dave cleared out some trees around their house and they lit the whole thing on fire at once.  The flames were easily 50' tall in the middle of other trees and a forest.  It was pretty safe since everything was so wet and half the guys there work for the Forest Service fire crew.

Johnny and Jeff, clam guns in hand
  By far, one of our coolest days was going clamming on the other side of the peninsula at a town called Cohoe.
Laura and Jason with Noah & Gus (on leash so they don't go on their own adventure)
Counting clams
This was about an hour and a half drive over to a beach below Soldatna.  We dug for razor clams which have super soft shells.  We made "calm guns" out of 4" PVC pipe which help extract the clams without breaking the shells.  I did better with a shovel, Michelle tore it up with the gun.  They can dig into the sand incredibly fast, about an inch a second!  The tide has to be super low to get to the clams.   We got up at 6am and drove over there last Sunday which was an extremely low tide day.  There were 5 of us and you can keep 60 clams each.  You must keep them even if you break the shells.  We came home with 300 clams after only 2 hours of clamming.  We spent the rest of the day shucking them and Jason made some clam cakes for dinner.  They were great.  I think we still have some in the fridge.  There was a lot of fun and joking on the beach with calm puns, jokes, or song lyrics.  Things such as "this is clamtastic!" and "Clamin' we're clamin' we're clamin' we're clamin' and I hope you like clamin' too", hey there are a bunch over here, its like "Hotel Clamifornia" and the such for 2 hours straight!  Good time, but the most amazing part as is usually the case up here was the scenery.  We were on an almost vacant beach looking across a perfectly flat bay with small icebergs floating by.  The snow covered, rugged, uninhabited, Chigmit Mountains and Kalgin Island as a backdrop was just incredible!  The part about having so many square miles of roadless unspoiled wilderness around the state is hard to wrap your head around but it sure is fun to try.







This weekend we took down the yurt that Jason and Laura had lived in for the last 10 years prior to building their home.  They built their home over the last 2 or 3 years and finally moved in last fall.  I think it was a little bitter sweet for them to tear it down, hard work for everyone involved.  Unfortunately for them they will now have to look at our white trash trailer that will eventually sit where the yurt was.  They sold the yurt to another couple who loaded it onto trailers in pieces and hauled it way.  The new owners brought a crew of their own which gave us the opportunity to meet some new people.  These guys were into boating and rafts which may open some doors to that world up here.  They also farmed some of their own animals and the stewed cornish hens they brought were delicious.
  Other than that, we have had dinner with my new employers which was nice.  They seem really fun and I hope to have a great summer with them.  We watched as one of their dogs, Jax, barked and chased a moose off of their side lawn.  We have helped out being "victims" for a Wilderness First Responder training that is going on and involves some of my new co-workers.  This was fun.  During the first scenario I got to be a drunk driver and walked around being an obnoxious, foul mouthed idiot to all the people trying to help.  Not a far stretch from reality I guess!!  Michelle played and excellent role as "dislocated shoulder girl" in scenario #2 and may have been nominated for a WFR Emmey!
  I turn 43 tomorrow and maybe we'll do nothing but a hike and I'll let it slide by like nothing happened. Work starts on Friday and I will be training for 12 hours a day, 18 days straight.  Hopefully after that life will go back to a somewhat normal work schedule.  I will miss spending this great time and adventure with Michelle for a bit.

We hope all is well back home!  We miss you all!!     

JH & ML
I'll throw some more pictures up tomorrow.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Journey Has Now Begun

  Wow!  All we can say is Wow!  We're sitting in a hotel in Whitehorse, Yukon.
  We crossed the border at Sweetgrass, MT/ Coutts, AB with no problems.  They did make us pull aside and answer a few extra questions but did not go thru our truck and camper.  They also did not charge us duty on any of the wine or beer we are taking up to AK with us.  10 minutes with a super nice customs agent and on our way we were.
Heading into snow towards Helena, MT


We are both very thankful that the weather has been sunny with some clouds almost the whole trip.  Every day there is the brief snow squaw or 2 that we have to drive thru but nothing stays on the road and it always gets sunny again.
On the road - I love this one
Road conditions are the same as driving any back road in PA except for the occasional road heaves from ice thawing and they are very well marked.  Apparently we are headed into 100 to 200 miles of pretty bad road heading into AK and down to Anchorage.
With less than 1000 miles to go on the drive We are in no hurry and should be fine.   There has been at least 2 to 3 feet of snow on either side of the road since we crossed into Canada.  Sometimes more at higher elevation.  Temps have been hovering around freezing and a little higher during the day but it feels like 45 because of the low humidity.  The Canadians have quit wearing socks and are in thin coats, it's spring to them.  The rivers are still frozen shut but starting to open up.
  The Canadian people are beyond super nice!  They are all very enthusiastic and positive to hear about our trip and generally anything you talk to them about.  The accents and phrasing are so stereotypical that sometimes Michelle and I look at each other and grin.  There's a million "eh's?", a bunch of "fur sure's", and a few "you knooow's" every day.   My personal favorite is the grand slam, "fur sure, you knooow, eh?" all in one shot. 
  Alberta is a giant pancake with a lot of snow on the fields.  We saw a bunch of prairie dogs both smashed and alive.  The prairie dogs were so absolutely freakin' cute I could hardly stand it! There were two of them rolling around wrestling and the one tossed the other down the hill then they rolled around a little more then stopped so one could clean off the other one's back.  Leigh and Traceylyn, if a package arrives at your front door with air holes in it, yeah, its two prairie dogs.  You'll love 'em!  We also saw coyotes in the fields hunting them for lunch. 
RV park in Whitecourt

Joey lost a leg in a bear fight
We stopped and stayed in Whitecourt, AB for the night.  Hockey is on every television you glimpse at but there does seem to be a general interest in American Baseball as well.  In BC the fans are pretty pumped about the Canucks winning their division.As we drove out of Alberta and headed toward BC we got a feel of what may, but hopefully not be part of northern PA's future.  The entire area is beautiful, uninhabited wilderness with abundant wildlife.  Long straight rolling roads with no traffic.  Mountain ranges with big snow caps on either side.
The sad part is the other vehicles on the road are pulling in and out of dirt roads that come out onto the Alcan every 10 to 20 miles.  They are hauling oil, gas, logs, or support for these industries.   As was explained to me, these roads lead anywhere from 10 miles to 100 miles into the bush.  These roads terminate in "camps" for the workers.  The camps house anywhere from 100 to 700 workers with all supplies.  Some are open, meaning multiple companies and industries sharing the same camp.  Some are closed, meaning owned and operated by only one company.  The depressing part of this industry was driven home when we arrived for the night in Fort Nelson, BC.  The whole town is about 10 blocks long and 6 blocks deep.  It stinks constantly of diesel!  Everything is absolutely covered in soot and grit.  The melting snow is covered in oily grit and as the snow melts and runs down the road it stinks of diesel.  Your boots stink of fuel no matter what you do, even while eating dinner you can smell it.   It's just part of life up there.  There are a million tractor trailer and pickup trucks parked on every street and parking space.  The guys  just sit and let them idle all night.  Some of the guys rotate shifts so the one driver goes into the hotel and goes to sleep and the next shift comes out an hour later and jumps in the idling truck and goes to work.  The guys make good money and go into Ft. Nelson every now and again to apparently get staggering drunk, gorge on steak dinners, and pray that they get to see the sight of a woman.  A little risky taking Michelle out for dinner but I think they were all too drunk to do anything.  The few women we did see working in the field were driving 4WD pickups with camper caps that were emergency services and First Aid. 
  After leaving Ft. Nelson, we headed into more extraordinary wilderness to get to Laird Hot Springs in Yukon.  We saw a ton more bison along the road, deer, and a few bald eagles eating road carnage. 
this was really sad - she was big and beautiful. 

We even got to see a fresh road killed wolf that a trucker told us about a little west of Toad River, BC.  What an incredible sight to see up close and just to know that there are still incredible animals like this  running loose in the wild in such great numbers is awesome to behold. okay, so, road kill isn't actually something you want to be looking at, I get it, but Johnny says tough, Aidan will want to see it.  Even though I knew she was dead, I still had the eerie feeling that she was going to jump up and snarl at me.
  Laird Hot Springs was definitely a highlight of the trip.  We parked in the parking lot with a few other through travelers and camped for free.  The surrounding mountains are rugged and steep.  The lighting is awesome and unique being this far north. 
 You walk back a wooden boardwalk through some boggy woodland for about 1/4 mile and end up at the pools.  There are nice changing rooms and a deck area built around the pools.  We walked across the snow covered deck to the pools and slipped into the really hot water. 
if you look close here you can see little white dots in the water to the left - that's actually boiling bubbles
You can see where the hot water flows out of the ground and is almost boiling at the upper end.  There is also cold water flowing into the pool about 20 feet away.  The object is to start at the far end of the pool and walk toward the hotter water as your body allows.  The water stinks of sulfur which is good for the skin but also turned our silver wedding rings black. 
The bottom is smooth 1 to 2 inch pebbles.  What a great way to relax after a few thousand mile drive! 
We met a bunch of great people who are doing exactly what we are.  Many of them having been doing it  for many, many years.  They all were very nice and full of great advice and helpful hints about the road and small upcoming towns.  Many of the truckers stop across the street, soak for an hour, and get back on the road every time they drive past. 
  Yesterday we drove up here to Whitehorse, Yukon.  We got to see our first herds of Caribou.  What a strong looking creature these animals are.  The great strength they must have to hop over the snow to run, especially in January up here, is impressive. 
nice sized herd right in the middle of the road
The only animal we have yet to see  are bears and it is probably a little early in the season for that.  The sheep have been allusive as well.  I would also love to see a mountain lion and a wolverine for sure but I've got some dues to pay for that I think. 
  Whitehorse is a super hip little town and kind of reminds me of a small Lancaster with it's hip younger crowd, cool shops and galleries, and restaurants.  There is apparently a bit of an alcohol problem here as well with a few drunken adults staggering around town as I took Joey for his walk late last night.  No problems or crime,  just drunk people.  The locally brewed Yukon Beer, which is pretty good, doesn't hurt either.  I don't think there is much to do here when it is cold but spring is breaking and you can feel the big outdoorsy crowd gearing up to head into the surrounding mountains for what must be an awesome warm weather season.  There is the Yukon to Fairbanks dog sled race here every winter and also a canoe/kayak race down the Yukon River that runs right through town in  the summer.  There is a big summer arts push with drama, music, and festivities all summer long.  This is a big hub for the Tlingit Nation.  Jay Mackley would be in heaven in Whitehorse.  There is even a cable TV channel dedicated to the native community showing traditional cooking and events as well as Saturday morning cartoons for the kids in the native language.  Very cool!  The sun was finally setting around 930 last night.  No norther lights yet but there is still time for that.  I look every night.       
  Tomorrow we will cross the border and finally make it into Alaska.  I can taste it.  I never thought I'd think of driving 100 miles as no big deal but after what we have driven 100 miles is a joke.  The return trip will be a walk in the park without carrying 6 boats and a trailer on the back.  We are hardly aerodynamic.  I won't tell you what we are paying for diesel, but let's just say the lower 48 is cheap even with the recent increases.  We plan on stopping for the night in Tok, AK tomorrow night and should be into Seward by Monday night.  Let's hope crossing into AK goes as fast as it did in Canada.

We're working on our metric to english conversions.  Constantly with the kilometers to miles and liters to gallons.  We're getting it down.

We miss everyone and hope you all are doing well!!
JH & ML
Here are some more pictures - please keep in mind that most of them I took from inside the truck, moving 70 miles an hour, through filthy windows.   
on our way from Livingston, MT

little cloud - cute as a button

Crazy sky in Big Sky country   Ever changing weather

Calgary

Looked like one could ride their snow mobile the entire way
sunset at the trailer park, Whitecourt, AB

rest stop at Pink Mountain


Signs of animals all over the place, none to be seen

stream beginning to break up

Johnny made a friend at the hot springs

forests of birch


road sign forest

Ahhhhhhh

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tatonka!

Jeffrey & Johnny on the porch at Jack & Wendy's
 
After leaving SD and moving west, we headed toward Livingston, MT to visit our friends Jack and Wendy Heckles.  We arrived just before dinner and were met in the street with smiles and hugs.  They asked if we wanted to come in for a beer.  To our great surprise, Jeffrey Stauffer came around the corner carrying a hand full of beers.  Jeffrey helped me tie down the boats on the roof of our truck before we left and seemed a little too casual about the goodbye's.  He had the whole thing planned out since before we left.  What a great surprise!  He's been here with us for the whole time.
Yellowstone River from the park down the street

Livingston is a great town with the Yellowstone River running right through it.  You could walk down 3 blocks from Jack and Wendy's house and pull out trout from the crystal clear river.  As could be expected, everyone is super nice.  Joey loves to be able to walk down the middle of the street while on his walks and has numerous places where he can run off leash and tear it up.   

 Jack ended up getting Wendy's elementary school cold so Jeffrey and the Hughes's took a drive to Dillon, MT to look around.  Dillon is big rancher country.  The cowboy hats and belt buckles were huge.  

My first Bison sighting!  I was so excited I could hardly take this picture!
The highlight of our stay here was yesterday when we went to North Yellowstone with Jeffrey and Wendy.  We saw tons of hot water, huge Bison up close (Tatonka), Elk, Deer, Antelope, and a pack of wolves from a distance thru binoculars.  The scenery and views weren't bad either.  The only thing we did not see were bears.  We finished off the day with a long soak in the Boiling River Hot Springs right at the edge of the park.  The abundance of wildlife freely roaming this area of the country is awesome. Today is a sit around and catch up day with our departure for the Canadian line approaching tomorrow morning.    Our ability to access the web will be greatly reduced so we will write again as soon as we can. 
Traverine, a form of calcium carbonate, in Mammoth Hot Springs
pthththththth!



Seeping scalding hot water




Bison getting some God

Yep, its poop, but cool, huh?

Wolf pack, Agate, consisting of four younger ones, an older male (to your right) and the alpha female (to your left) who is believed to be pregnant.  She has over come a battle with mange and the pack is doing well. You may be able to zoom in and see them better.  One of the black ones did down dog and laid down for a snooze.  They were beautuful! It was incredible!

John Hughes and Tatanka
    
  



Could someone please tell Traceylyn that if she thinks my stories are too long, she does not have to read them.  Missing you all and wishing you were all here with us, especially Traceylyn!

JH & ML