Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Return Trip

So the long road home began when we left Vancouver. To sum up Vancouver, think of a mini-sized version of ATL (with all its fun traffic) and move it to the coast and convert all the roads to 4 lane freeways - two lanes each way with parking in the right lane - instead of 10 lanes. Traffic was horrible except on Sunday. We saw the BC Vancouver museum of Anthropology (weeks could be spent in there), the Canadian Maritime Museum, the Vancouver Museum, and the Space Museum (where Canada asserts it has contributed to all sorts of things, including space exploration - they built the arm of the space station...). We ate chinese-chinese food in China Town. I liked the city but it was so hard to get around and so spread out I only saw a tiny bit of it. I would like to go back.

I am having trouble remembering when we did what where as it all happened so fast. I think we left Vancouver Sunday, and we got home last night. We went to Mt. St. Helens, Ft. Phil Kearny, the site of the massacre of Lt. Whatsisname, Devil's Tower, the Badlands.... and home. It was all out, and hard core. I am really, really glad to be home, and I will get up with all of you as soon as I rest up and help clean up after the trip. And I can't wait for the big o' 4th of July party - everyone show up at the Haus of Karl and Greg and Garth - even if yer in the ATL. Or wherever. Thanks for keeping in touch all along the way!!!

This is near Mt. Rainer - talk about snow - a ton of the roads here are still closed as well.

Mt. St. Helens - it was difficult to see, and lightning was an issue, but you can kind of see the thing smoking. Look out!

A partially reconstructed Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming - 8 foot tall walls to keep out understandibly upset Native Americans. The real fort was the scene of some serious fights, and as soon as the Natives ran off the army, they burned the fort down (literally while the army was still within sight of it).

You drive along way thru completely mostly flat territory and all of a sudden, Devil's Tower leaps up and scares the bejesus out of you (hence the name).

A closer-upper picture of Devil's Tower.

Badlands National Park in South Dakota...

We found the Eye of Mordor alive and well in South Dakota.

New Zealand's got nothing on South Dakota for Most Evil Landscape for a Motion Picture.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Since we last spoke...

So we have come from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island, and now Vancouver via ferries. The trip from PR was long - we got up at 4am, got on about 5am, left at 6am, and got there the next day at 2am. Yawnaroo. Everything about the BC ferries is more expensive than the AK version, and the food isn't as good (suprisingly). The trip was beautiful, however, and even as we passed the sunken "Queen of the North" I was confident we would arrive safely.

Vancouver Island is incredible. We stayed a short night in Port Hardy on the North end of the island. The weather was excellent - apparently a feature of the entire island as it is sheltered from storms by the Olympic mountain range in Washington state. Little rain and stable cool tempretures dominate year round. As we left Port Hardy late the next morning, we saw like 15 black bears along a 10-mile stretch of highway. They were all eating what must have been a species favorate weed on the side of the road. One of them was a young mother with two young cubs, and we tried to get a good picture of her but she was scared and kept running away.

We stayed in a little resort community that I had been to as a little kid on a trip with my folks the next night. It used to have maybe 50 people though, and its like a Hendersonville now. Josepher was not pleased with the changes they had made in the least. The next morning we went into an area sort of like Joyce Kilmer in NC, or a smaller version of Redwood National Park. Gigantic trees - spruce, pine, fir - and tons of moss surrounded us. It was a regular rainforest of virgin timber. Man, would our representative... Charles Taylor, or Chainsaw Charlie... love to cut this all down personally.

We arrived at Victoria, the capital of BC, the next day. Victoria is a really nice city. Buildings must be short by law and there are two hills you can climb that offer stuning views of the entire city. We went to the capital building, and walked around a bit. Josepher hit up a map and book store (its an addiction). We then drove all around greater Victoria where it became apparent that everything is expensive, especially land. This is apparently one of the world's most desireable spots to retire. I would move here if I was rich and retired. I don't know if I mentioned it, but since I quit smoking I can now eat super spicy food where before I would die from hiccups. So we ate Thai food that night.

We are currently in Vancouver, which was not an immediate winner for us. We haven't gotten to explore much yet - that starts today - but the ride from the ferry to our hotel room outside the downtown area (and into a suberb) was long and arduous. We are staying at the Happy Day Inn in Burnaby, east of Vancouver proper. Well, here are some pictures from the past few days and I will add more tomorrow or Sunday. I hope everything is swell back east, and I will be home in roughly 11 days!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hello from BC

Hola, muchachos!

I am in Prince Rupert, BC. Back to PST. Fewer people, touristas, litter, and glaciers. Larger trees. I am quite sleepy, as we got to the boat slightly before midnight, boarded shortly before 2am, left at 2:30am, and arrived and got customized at like 9am. Talk about sleep deprivation. Who the hell schedules a 2am ferry? That's crazy stuff.

So I have a few pics - not much... Mostly from the final day cruise, and a few from today driving near Prince Rupert. The weather is nice and cool, scattered showers, light breeze... Well, here are the pics - talk to you soon.

The water in this picture is 900 feet deep.

These cliffs are roughly 4000 feet high, like Yosemite, but the bottom is full o' water which makes it a fjord rather than a glacially carved canyon...

Sweet, sweet temperate rainforest. I met a Canadian logger fellow who told me he cut a cedar tree down two weeks ago - 27 feet thick. This is a land of extremes.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I was trampled by a tourist hoard!

Holy crap is internet service difficult to access up in here. Well, I wrote all this last night, and couldn't get pics to upload - I took care of that this morning in a cool 90 minute internet workout. I don't know exactly how long its been since I dropped in but here goes.

From... Anchorage we went to Seward, Homer, Valdez, Tok (again), Haines Junction, Haines, Juneau, and finally Ketchican. I will give a brief description to make some sense of this craziness.

Seward is a little town on the east side of the Kenai Penisula. Its nice, and small, and only slightly touristy. Great drive in from the highlands to the coast, like Skagway. We had a fantastic day cruise there, complete with grey whales, humpback whales, orcas, black bear, mountain goats, hot glacier action, and old people going "Oh!" and "Ah!". Oh and apparently glacier is pronounced "Glass-ier" if you are from any other country than the U.S.

Homer... well, it was expensive and touristy to extremes I do not prefer. Nice drive in but less dramatic - stuff was quite far away. You can see four volcanoes from Homer though. I know people who were born and raised there and for them I am sure it was nice, but for us - it was just okay. Pretty though. No animals.

Valdez is also a nice drive in thru icefield and glacier. What I really liked was the drive from Kenai to Valdez, which was quite mountainous and the road sucked but it was spectacular. Someone buy AK for me. Anyway. Valdez is the terminal for oil from the big pipelines, and the homeport of the infamous ship we all knew as the Exxon valets. Its still nice, but very, very small. Still prefer Seward, as far as what I have covered.

I will skip Tok - it was mostly just a stopover. Good breakfast though.

Haines Junction is back in the Yukon. We needed to drive through to get to Haines, where we met the ferry to Juneau. The nice thing - the only four star restaurant in the Yukon is here. Its called the Raven. They have rooms, and serve a fantastic breakfast and dinner. They grow a lot of the herbs, everything is organic, excellent cooking, presentation, and hospitality. And they are the coolest people... German immigrants, owned the place for 12 years... The owner/operators name was Hans. He takes really good pictures. I wish I could remember his wife's name - she was the chef. Defintely the best food I have had in a long time - I can't say on this trip because... well that doesn't do the place justice. If you go on the AK highway - get reservations at The Raven and you won't be disappointed. Worth every penny. There is also a little bakery behind the Raven - also good. Other than those two places, not much to see in Haines Junction besides the Park museum/visitors center.

Haines had a nice approach and drive down to the coast also. Very very small. The ferry was the big attraction to Haines besides the drive.

Juneau... the capital. It was roughly 35000 people. Touristy in some places. Big cruise ship destination. Lots of boats... Nice architechure. We took a second day cruise - and I had a fantastic time. I saw whales, eagles, icebergs, glaciers, and met Alissa, First Mate aboard the Adventure Bound. She made on otherwise long trip with old people extremely entertaining. I wanted to bring her along for the rest of the trip but, Josepher wouldn't take a flight home. Well, you can't win them all.
On the ferry from Juneau we saw a lot of whales "breaching" or jumping all the way out of the water. Most of that footage is video however. It was very cool.

Today we went on our third and final day cruise in the most touristy town we have encountered - Ketchican. I don't like it here. There were 7 cruise ships in port here today. That means the town population was doubled by visiting old people with crappy shopping needs. The cruise was long and uneventful, and the people shoved us out of the way and stole our seats etc. I wouldn't recommend this town to anyone. Apparently it totally disappears in the winter.

Sorry for the length of the post - hope it gives you some clues about the past 10 or so days. Here are some pics!!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Internet? Alaska?

I have been having one hell of a time posting up in here. I haven't had reliable access for 9 days. I had access last night, but every time I tried to post a picture, ye olde page could not be displayed. Anyway, we reached the largest city in AK today - Anchorage. Its about 300K people, and its got something like 46% of the total AK residents. Big military town.

So since the last post, I guess we had been thru Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Skagway, White Horse, Tok, Fairbanks, and Denali National Park. I took some ungodly number of pictures, and since my space here is a bit limited, I posted the animal pics and some of the nicer shots. And a picture of Jim from Fort Nelson. He is below:

Jim knows breakfast. And chicken. And makes a hell of a sandwich. One of the super friendly Canadians I had the fortune to meet on the trip so far. Apparently Canada is full of nice people who like food almost as much as me. Crazy.

The only thing so far that has bummed us out a bit has been the weather. Its rained on us every single day since our first day in Edmonton, and its been unseasonally cool here, so the wildlife in AK has yet to wake up all the way (or make its way up out of the lower valleys we aren't in). On the bright side of that, the touristas haven't shown up in force due to the earliness and I assume the hideous gas and currency situations that have recently reared their ugly and unseemly heads.

One amazing and extremly rare thing was the wolf we saw yesterday in Denali. It was a lone wolf that was grey in color scampering across the road. Apparently very few people see them, since there are about 100 wolves in 6.6 million acres of mostly roadless wilderness. Sadly no pic of that one. Also, no grizzlies yet. None of the animal pics I show below were taken in Alaska - we really haven't seen many here to speak of.. except the wolf, some ptarmigans, arctic hares, gulls, and caribou.

These suckers ran away pretty quick as I appraoched their fenced enclosure. Bison look tasty, as do many of the following mammals.

A big horn sheep. They were licking salt from the road leftover from winter. MMM!

This is a caribou that was standing directly behind the sheep who's picture I have above. Apparently caribou were to the Athabascan tribe what bison were to the native tribes of the plains - everything. And apparently, a domesticated caribou is a reindeer imported from Finland or Sweden.

I love meeses to pieces. Even though they look like retarded crossbred horse-deer abominations (yet still tasty somehow).

Godless killing machine.

This bear wanted to eat us, I could tell. Its a Black Bear; you can tell as he has no hump over his shoulders and his eyes are set close together and not in dished out sort of holes on his head. And he didn't weigh more than maybe 250 pounds. But he could still whoop some booty I am sure. I ran like a little girl after I snuck up and took this picture.

A shot over a frozen lake at an unknown mountain. Lots of frozen lakes in the Yukon this time of year.

The Vulcan Mine (I think) on the side of a mountain over a frozen lake surrounded by other mountains surrounded by clouds.

This was taken on the drive down to Skagway. It was... breathtaking? Stunning? Views like this surround you on the way from Watson Lake to Skagway.

This is in Denali, up the side of a tundra covered mountain slope. The color even in winter was nice - hopefully it shows up as well here as it did in the real world. That tiny tree that might be 10 feet tall in the picture could be like 60 years old or more since the growing season is like 80 days long a year.

This was a shot also taken in Denali, as far back as we could drive in. Normally cars aren't allowed in but because the official tours weren't running yet they let us drive in, for free. It was hard to get a good pic thru the rain and cloud cover.

Well, I will write more as I get the chance. You all take care!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Have at you, British Columbia

Okay... We left Tuesday from Edmonton onto the Alaska Highway. I was surprised how much development is here. The first day was all farms and logging companies. Since this morning, civilization died out and now its just logging and tiny logging towns. Also surprising to me was the lack of wildlife we saw, but I guess as this is one of the only roads out here the animals have plenty of space to roam away from the highway. We are currently in Fort Nelson BC. Tomorrow we head into the Yukon. I don't know how much I will have access to the net from here until we reach Fairbanks, AK so I thought I would drop a note. My cell phone doesn't work over the Northwestel Network (punks) so I am not going to be calling anyone for a while either.

Here we are 3 hours behind the folks in NC and GA, so its like 9:34 where you are. I am watching the Stanley Cup like mad, and rooting for Edmonton and North Carolina if you can believe they are still in. Check it out - pretty damn exciting.

Well, I miss you all and wish you could be on the road with us to see all this!

This is the Alaska Highway sign west of Edmonton. There is some rivalry as to where the highway actually begins. Makes no sense, but people need some argument fodder.

This is the house where I lived in Edmonton from 1978 - 1981...

Apparently this is the second longest wooden rail bridge in the world. It was rather impressive at something like 1500 m.

The other Alaska highway sign in Dawson Creek, where we stayed Tuesday night this week.

A shot of the northern Rockies taken today - they were like 15 miles away where I took the picture.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sorry for the delay folks!

So these past 5 or so days can only be described by the photos. I won't waste time trying to tell you how nice I thought it was. I had a great time in Banff. Touristy, but we caught it between big ski season and summer vacationing. The town itself was well-built, and situated among some of the most rugged mountains I can remember seeing...

We were there two nights (basically one full day and two half days) and I went out both nights to a place called the Magpie and Stump Restaurant, where I met some very nice people. The hippies were nice also. Thanks to Stef for dinner and the beers. Hope your hangover was easier the second time.

The third night we stayed in a nice spot called Saskatchewan Crossing. No phones or internet but quiet and surrounded by mountains. I would have posted pics there, but... The food was very expensive... but all in all it was alright.

Day four and five were in Jasper. Jasper is a smaller town than Banff, and not as developed or touristy. We were still early in the season so fewer people. The bars were hopping and but the people weren't as accommodating or friendly. For example - I tried playing hackey sack with some hippies at the motel, and they asked why I was here. I explained, "I am trying to get eaten by a bear.", and of course I was kidding. But this chick piped up and said, "You know bears are endangered right?" As if I was going to hunt them. That just didn't go well. I would never kill a grizzly unless I had to... Maybe its my pseudo-skinhead look or something, or maybe she had some American stereotype issues.

The bartenders were nice however. I would love to come back and stay in both Jasper and Banff for... long enough to hike around and see some of the back country. A month or two would do it. Maybe some of you all will feel the same way - check out the pics...