|Whitehorse, main drag facing west|
|Whitehorse, main drag facing east|
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.
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|
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.
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|
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|
|Laura and Jason with Noah & Gus (on leash so they don't go on their own adventure)|
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.