Northern California

The first stop in California is at Redwood National/State Park, the first of two redwood parks.

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A short detour along the ocean before getting into the big redwoods. It’s foggy, windy, and cold today.

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Both parks seem to claim the biggest redwood, this one is over 21 feet in diameter and over 300 feet tall.

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Further south in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the Avenue of the Giants that everyone remembers. Some nice hikes through the redwood groves, then I turn off onto the road to the campground. It’s narrow and twists around and through the redwoods.

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I always feel special when they put my name on the campsite. This spot is really nice, surrounded by redwoods.

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Back along with coast to Ft Bragg before heading inland. Still cold and foggy.

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I’m heading east toward Yosemite, I managed to get campground reservations for a Sunday and Monday. Weekends are impossible, I think they all book up on Jan 1 every year. So I have a few days to make my way across California. First stop is the Kelsey Creek campground just outside of Kelseyville CA. as I move inland the temp starts to rise. It was 54 degrees this morning on the beach but as I pull into Kelsey Creek it hits 100. But, as they always say, it’s a dry heat. Not too bad if you can find some shade and once the sun nears the horizon it’s very nice.

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There is a lake next to the campground, perfect for beating the 100 degree heat.

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Next off to Acorn Lake campground for the weekend. It’s a BLM campground on a man made lake, actually a water reservoir. Since there has been such sever drought in California what should be a lakeside campsite is a couple hundred feet above the lake. The lake is perfect temperature for swimming, which is good as it’s still close to 100 degrees in the afternoons. In the evening herds of deer come out of the trees and rocks to graze along the lake, at one point I counted 32. In the morning there are wild turkeys and geese grazing in the same spot. This is definitely a local place, I am the only one without CA license plates. Two ladies stop by to see the tent and ask how someone for Florida ended up here.

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Finally I arrive at Yosemite and set out on the valley rim hike. It’s late in the summer and they have not had much rain so all of the famous water features have dried up. Here is beautiful Mirror Lake, just under Half Dome. It’s just a puddle now not even knee deep.

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Continuing the hike along the valley rim, Lower Yosemite Falls. There is actually some water coming down at the very top, but it’s about like a garden hose turned halfway on.

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On the way out of the valley back to the campground I stop and look at El Capitan. It’s amazing in size and sheerness, despite the picture you have to crane your neck to look at the top. I get out my binoculars and watch a couple of climbers on the wall, about 300′ from the top. You can’t even seem them without binoculars.

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Next morning I drive back into the valley from my campground near the west park entrance. It’s a little hazy, but nice view of El Capitan and Half Dome together on the way in.

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I’m hiking the Four Mile Trail today, which is actually 4.8 miles of switchbacks going 3200′ up the valley wall to Glacier Point. There are so many trees in the valley it’s hard to get a good view but once I get up the trail near the top it is great.

Looking up the valley with El Capitan on the right.

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It is really steep, right here you can look straight down to the valley floor 3200′ below.

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At the end of the hike, Glacier Point. Half Dome on the right, North Dome on the left. A great place to sit, rest, and look around although it is mobbed by tourists who drove up here rather than hiked. If you drive I think it’s a 40 or 50 mile detour from the valley.

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On the way down I realize there is also a great view of the full length of Yosemite Falls, both Upper and Lower. Too bad it’s turned off.

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For reference this is what it’s supposed to look like from here

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The 9.6 miles/6400′ round trip ended up taking 3 hours up and 1:45 down.

Second night I could only get a hike in tent site so out comes the $12 Walmart tent

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Third day leaving Yosemite out the east entrance into the Owens Valley.

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I spend 3 days going down the Owens Valley, it’s very scenic and uncrowded. Although hot on the valley floor there are tons of National Forest campgrounds up against the Eastern Sierra mountains.  First night at North Lake campground outside Bishop, it was actually a little cold up at 9500′ but a very nice spot right on Bishop Creek.

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Gray’s Meadows outside Independence, a little lower elevation with great views and another campsite right on a creek. I was the only one in the campground.

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Stars were really out that night

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A deer came by to visit in the morning.

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Manzanar Historic site on the way to Lone Pine. This is one of 10 camps where thousands of Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. It has some very good displays and mock ups showing what life was like back then.

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Third night in the Owens Valley in Lone Pine campground at the foot of Mt Whitney (14505′ highest in the lower 48 states). It was almost 7 years to the day that I did the day hike to the summit, that is still one of the hardest I have done. 22 miles round trip, 6000′ up and then back down in 16 hours.  Nice spot to sit and watch the mountains in different conditions.

In the morning I set off across Death Valley on the way to fabulous Las Vegas NV.

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Oregon

Continuing on the 101 into Oregon, the highway finally runs directly along the coast. I drive through the beach town of Seaside and it’s packed, not a single parking spot within a mile of the beach. It’s Saturday afternoon and everybody is out on the beach. It seems a little strange to me as it’s so foggy you can’t even see the ocean from the top of the beach and the temp is about 63, but it’s crowded like Oak Street Beach on the 4th of July.

This little turnaround is the end of Main Street and the start of the beach. The ocean is right out there somewhere. Main Street in Seaside is like Coney Island, bumper cars, coney dogs, Tshirt shops, all the usual stuff.

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The fog lifts a little as the day goes on but it’s still in the low 60s. Finally some scenic ocean views, it’s like this most of the way down the coast. Slow going as I have to stop at all of the overlooks and get out to look at the ocean.

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I make it down to Tillamook, home of the Tillamook cheese factory, I called ahead and there is a campground about 10 miles up in the hills with a couple of tent sites open. Also made some online reservations for Oregon state parks the next couple of days, in each park it was almost the last site open. Most of the other state parks were completely full.

Started off the morning with a tour of the cheese factory. There is not much to see, on one side they make the cheese in giant vats then the 40 pound blocks are wrapped and sent off to the warehouse to age. When they are old enough they come back down to the other side where they are cut into blocks of different sizes, packaged, and boxed up. Had some samples and bought some cheese in the factory store and I was on my way.

It’s sunnier today but still cold on the beach, upper 50s in the morning. Despite all of the campgrounds being full and all of the No Vacancy signs at every hotel, at most of these beaches along the highway I’m the only person walking around.

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Cape Kiwanda at lunchtime.  I’m not sure how cold the water is but the surfers are wearing full wet suits with hoods. Everyone else is just tailgating on the beach. It’s pretty cool that you can just drive your car up to the edge of the water and set up your picnic stuff.

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There is a lighthouse at Yaquina Head with great views of the coast. I climb up the trail to the top of the bluff behind the lighthouse, the sun is out but the wind is really blowing. On one side of the switchbacks I’m leaning into the wind, then being blown along by the wind on the other side. From the top I can see some sea lions enjoying the sun.

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The scenery is always changing, as is the weather. The sand dunes below are much larger than they appear in the picture

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Camp for tonight is in Tugman State Park, a very nice spot about 1/2 mile inland. Since I have a full service site with power and water I decide to wash the mud and bugs off the Land Cruiser. It took about an hour or so using a wash basin, rag, and towel but I managed to get it pretty clean doing one section at a time. All of the Dalton Highway mud is finally out of the door jambs and tailgate.

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As I’m sitting there enjoying a cold drink and admiring the shining paint, a couple of guys from the campsite across the road stop in to look at the rooftop tent and they invite me over after dinner to join their families at their campfire for coffee and dessert. They have two RVs set up for the week and they are well prepared. As soon as I walk over they pull out a plate of brownies and get a card game started. I’ve never said no to a brownie so we’re off to a good start. The card game is Phase 10, I have never heard of it but it’s sort of a cross between rummy and Uno. The brownies are followed by a huge blackberry cobbler (blackberries grow along the road everywhere here, if you want some just pull over to the side and fill up a bucket. Glen grabbed a bucket this morning and made the cobbler this afternoon in the RV) then chocolate zucchini bread and finally blueberry muffins. The card game goes on until almost midnight then they send me on my way with a big package of desserts to tide me through the next day. It’s great to meet such friendly people. They seem to be having such a great time out camping with several generations of their family: Glen is coming up on his 75th birthday next week (it’s past by now, Happy Birthday Glen if you are out there) and his lovely wife, Dave his nephew along with his lovely wife, Glen’s daughter Katie and Katie’s daughter Brailey who is about 13.

In the morning the sun is completely out but still chilly, it may have made it up to the mid 60s at one point. Lots of places to see along the coast.

I think this was called Whaleshead but it looks like a full whale to me.

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At another Oregon state park, Harris Beach. This campground is right at the top of the beach. It has a very nice sand beach then rocky tidal pools off to the side. You can wade through the tidal pools and see all sorts of anemones, urchins, and starfish. It’s so hot out today, 66, that people are going into the water almost up to their knees.

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Washington

Crossed back into the US at Sumas WA on the way to Glacier and Mt Baker. There are some great hiking trails around Mt Baker but all of the campgrounds in the National Park were full with no private campgrounds anywhere around the outside of the park. Took the Mt Baker highway almost to the end, getting a few glimpses of Mt Baker along the way, then turned around and drove back out. I ended up at a KOA near Burlington by the 5 freeway. I’ve been spoiled in Canada and Alaska just being able to show up anywhere and find a camping spot. It’s nearing the end of summer and I guess everyone is out for that last camping trip before school starts.

Next day I jump on the 5 and battle traffic for hours all the way from north of Seattle, thru Tacoma, and down to Olympia. It takes some getting used to; for the last three weeks I’ve hardly seen a stop light.There are some terrible drivers here, three times somebody driving along in the far left lane suddenly realized that their exit was passing and just cut across three lanes of traffic and onto the very end of the exit. Then when I stopped for lunch south of Seattle somebody sitting in the left turn lane decided that they really needed to make a right turn, when the light changed they floored it across the two thru lanes and the right turn lane to make the right.

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With a sigh of relief I exit the 5 going west toward the coast. My plan is to take the 101 highway all the way down the coast to California, which looks like it will take some work finding last minute places to stay along the way. For today I stop at a little county campground near Montesano WA about 20 miles inland. There are a couple of women at the next campsite, one from Kodiak AK the other from Brazil, old friends out camping for the weekend. They invite me to join them at their camp fire. They have a cooler full of Rainier beer and they are worried it will get warm before they can finish it off. I pitch in and help out but despite our best efforts there are still a couple of warm ones at the end of the night.

Next morning I leave for the coast, but the 101 in Washington does not follow the coast very closely.Can’t see much of the ocean until I get to the Columbia River (border between WA and OR). The bridge over the Columbia River:

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This spot on the WA side of the river is where Lewis and Clark ended their famous expedition. They were quite excited that they had finally made it to the ocean, I wonder how long that lasted before somebody pointed out that now they had to paddle all the way back? They camped here for a couple of weeks then switched to the other side of the river and built a fort, where they spent the winter before starting the return trip.

The Dalton Highway

I’ve been looking forward to this section of the trip for awhile. Prudhoe Bay is the farthest north you can drive in North America and the start of the PanAm highway. I’m actually a little nervous setting out, even though I’ve spent a lot of work on the Land Cruiser getting all of the maintenance up to date and adding a new heavy duty suspension there are dire warnings about attempting the Dalton Highway in summer or winter.  There is no cell phone service between Fairbanks and Prudhoe bay, and only a couple of gas stations, with the longest stretch between gas stations at 240 miles. I have good tires with 10/32 tread, but they are only all season M+S and my spare is a non-matching summer tire. All my winter gear plus mountaineering gear if it comes to that along with several days worth of food and water.

The highway was built in 1974 to support the Trans-Alaska Pipeline running from Produhoe Bay to Valdez. Until 1994 it was closed to the public, restricted to oil company trucks only. It’s one of the main roads featured on Ice Road Truckers... I have seen a couple of episodes but don’t really remember much except a lot of cursing. The speed limit for the entire highway is 50 mph but you are lucky if you hit that. 30-40 is more like it. About 25% of it is paved (some nice and smooth, some huge potholes though) the rest is dirt, mud, washboard and potholes. Trucks have the absolute right of way, if you see a truck either oncoming or overtaking you are supposed to pull over to the side of the road and slow to 10 mph.The shoulders are very soft and also have a steep dropoff so you can’t pull over too far. The trucks are also supposed to slow down when passing but not many do. The rest fly past showering you in dirt and rocks.

The start of the highway is 80 miles north of Fairbanks over a highway that is pretty challenging in itself. It is 414 miles from mile 0 to Prudhoe Bay.

I turn off onto the Dalton highway and it’s mud and potholes from the very start (I look back on this picture and laugh at how clean it is)

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Mile 115 is the Arctic Circle. Above here, on the summer solstice the sun never sets, just dips near the horizon then comes back up. On the winter solstice there is a day with no sun at all. Sunset tonight at Prudhoe Bay is at 12:20 AM. I forget when it comes up but it’s probably around 3:00 AM. It never really gets dark just a kind of twilight then back to full sun. The road hasn’t been bad so far, this is one of the few paved sections.

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Sourdough Fuel in Coldfoot, mile 175. This is the line for the last gas pump for 240 miles. Surprisingly there is no sign anywhere mentioning this, I guess they figure if you are up here you know what you are doing. Gas is only $4.59/gallon.My gas tank is over 25 gallons so even with bad mileage I get around 350 miles per tank. Surprisingly the Land Cruiser seems to like this slow bumpy travel and I am getting 17-18mpg, way better than on the open highway.

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Stopped at the visitor center in Coldfoot. The ranger there tells mes that there is huge construction in the last 35 miles of the highway and they are warning off anybody without a high clearance vehicle due to mud and ruts from the trucks. He says it could take 1.5-2 hours to get through the last 35 miles. I have the Arctic Ocean shuttle booked for 3:30 so that should allow plenty of time tomorrow. He also mentions that every month through the summer it gets cold enough to snow over Atigun Pass 4-5″ and shuts everything down until it melts or is cleared out.

I drove through Atigun Pass at mile 245, the highest highway pass in Alaska at 4800′. There was construction on the north/down side but I lucked out and the flagger just waved me through. Most of the construction sites you have to wait up to 30 minutes for a pilot truck to come and lead you through.

North of the Atigun Pass there are no more trees, just mountains and tundra.

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Some video of the highway, from Mile 0 up through Mile 275

Dalton Highway 1

I camp at Galbraith Lake, mile 275.It’s a few miles off the highway, just a basic campsite. There are only 2 other people at this spot. It’s amazingly quiet and great to just sit there and look out on the mountains at the front of the Brooks Range.This day has been great, sunny and 65-67.

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Next morning the clouds are right on top of the road, not much visibility and after awhile it starts to snow. The temp is around 34-36.

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I stop at the first construction zone south of Prudhoe Bay and the flagger tells me it will be 30 minutes or so until the pilot truck comes. There’s nobody else around for miles, just me and the flagger. I ask him about his work, he’s a young guy about 25 or so. He says he lives in the man camp a few miles back on the highway, he works anywhere from 12-18 hours per day, 7 days a week (nothing else to do here except work). Overtime but no double time, apparerently he’s in the wrong union. At the camp they have cooks, cleaners, satellite TV, internet, almost everything you could want. They are all men, and alcohol is strictly forbidden. He came up here in May, had a 6 day vacation around 4th of July, and will be here until it freezes over sometime in October. He says when he’s done here he’s going for a month in Hawaii, then on to Tora Bora in one of those straw huts over the ocean. Then maybe Italy, he’s never been to Italy.

It is the roughest part yet into Prudhoe Bay. but I never have to lock the transfer case into L or lock the center diff. A lot of really deep muddy ruts and loose rocks almost like driving through a river bed, finally I drive into downtown Prudhoe Bay and find the gas station, it is not at all obvious. The actual pumps are up inside the steel box, I guess to keep them from freezing.  You go inside the box, enter your pump # and swipe your card. Unleaded is $4.95/gal.  You can see the Land Cruiser has picked up some mud from when I started out.

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After filling up on gas I go back to Deadhorse Camp, where the Arctic Shuttle leaves from. All of the Arctic Ocean is restricted oil company property so the only way you can get there is via the Arctic Shuttle. You have to book the trip 24 hours in advance and provide your passport # so they can check your background before allowing you on.

I’m a few hours early so I go inside the camp. It’s like most structures up here, a bunch of prefab units stacked up together. Down this hall are rooms

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and the cafeteria. Across the hall is a dining room where you can sit and eat and watch TV. It’s also the first cellphone and internet access since Fairbanks.

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The exterior of Deadhorse Camp

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At 3:15 the tour guide checks our credentials and we are off on the tour. Our first stop is Drill Site #1, the very first wells in Prudhoe Bay dating back to the 1970’s. These wells are still active. Each of the green sheds in the picture below is an oil well.

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Every oil well is topped with a Christmas Tree, a series of valves

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This well is not active but still has the full Christmas Tree

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We have to take a detour through Drill Site 4  because a mobile oil rig is broken down on the main road. This rig is in 3 pieces plus another rig behind it. They move along the roads at 1-1.5mph. Our guide is not sure what the reason is, maybe a blown tire or transmission. It’s been sitting there since yesterday.

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Finally we arrive at the Arctic Ocean

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Some of the people on the tour are well prepared, with suits on under their clothes and coats. They strip right down and jump in, followed by a lot of screaming and cursing.  I go in knee deep or so. The water is about 36F, not too bad as the air temp is also 36F.

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The last stop on the tour is the general store, the end of the Dalton Highway. It’s also the start of the PanAm highway going south so a pretty exciting moment.

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A new camp just built for one of the oil service companies. There are about 3,000-4,000 people working here, they usually work 12 hours on then 12 hours off. They stay here for 4 weeks then fly home for 4 weeks while their relief takes over, then back for another 4 weeks.

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Due to all the detours and construction in Prudhoe Bay, I leave around 7 pm. On the drive back south to Galbraith Lake it had apparently been snowing throughout the afternoon. I really feel like I’m in the Arctic now, all of the mountains are now covered in snow. Temp is down to 32 with snow flurries along the way.

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Arriving back at the campsite about 10:30pm, it’s very picturesque with snow everywhere.

 

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Since it’s only 10:30 I have a couple of hours still to make dinner and enjoy the scenery before sunset. Big difference in just one day. I throw my sleeping bag and an extra blanket up into the tent.

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A group of guys invite me to join them at their campfire. Two are on their way to Deadhorse tomorrow, the other 2 have been up here a couple of days hunting caribou. They’ve seen a lot but haven’t managed to sneak up close enough yet. The sneaking is hard out on the tundra as there is no real cover just some small scrubby bushes here and there.

Close to midnight the sun dropped below the clouds and lit up all of the surrounding mountains. Everyone pulled out their cameras at the same time.

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Just at midnight. I was too tired to wait up another half hour for the actual sunset. I did wake up just before 4am and stuck my head out of the tent. Sun was back out and shining.

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Next morning around 8:30 am it was still 32 with snow flurries. I chisel the mud off my back window with an ice scraper and I am off.

I was hoping the Atigun Pass would be passable, it was still snowing as I approached the north side. Once again the flagger at the construction zone waved me right through, so I had the whole uphill route to myself. A lot of snow around but the road is clear, then at the top and coming down the south side the road got snowy. Not too slippery just a little mushy. I engine braked all the way down and kept it under 30. Once again I had the whole downhill section to myself, just passed an oncoming truck at the very end.

Dalton Highway – Atigun Pass

Pulled into Coldfoot with 1/4 tank left, gas is still $4.59/gal.  I decided to stop in the cafe for the trucker special breakfast.

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Crossing the Yukon River at mile  56. Before this bridge was built the trucks crossed the river on ice in the winter and were shuttled across on a giant hovercraft in summer. In fall and spring nothing got through.

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Made it to Mile 0 and turned back onto the regular highway with a big smile. Just 80 miles back to Fairbanks.

Back in Fairbanks at the Chena River View RV Park. They are not kidding about the river view part, when I was checking in the first woman said “Take tent spot T8” and the woman next to her said “Oh, T8 is under water right now you’ll be better off with T4.”

I pulled into T4 then realized I needed to wash everything off first. Every time I brush up against the Land Cruiser I am covered in mud. Luckily they have a self service car wash at this RV park, $8 later I am fairly clean.

The before picture, I am glad I got new wipers at the start of the trip. RainX, well worth the extra couple of dollars.

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Alaska

It’s much easier entering Alaska than Canada, a few questions and I’m on my way. The no man’s land is really wide here at the US-Canada border; it’s 16 miles after I pass Canada customs until I arrive at US customs. After a week in Canada it seems a little odd driving in mph again but I quickly get used to it.

Shortly after entering Alaska I see a black bear

Alaska Highway – Black Bear

Arriving at Tok AK, the first town of any size, I stop for the night at the Alaskan Stoves campground. It’s a private campground on the honor system, pick your spot, put your money in an envelope and drop in the slot. It’s right on the edge of the Tok airstrip so there are some single-engine planes and helicopters coming and leaving until dark but not too bad. It has a nice outdoor area featuring the Alaskan stoves. I leave a couple of the books I’ve been reading on the road in the local library.

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Next morning I drive 100 miles or so to Delta Junction, the official end of the Alaska Highway.

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Then another 100 miles into Fairbanks. It’s rainy and cold so I grab a spot in the Chena River state park and stop in the local Pizza Hut for dinner. Tomorrow it’s off to the Dalton Highway.

 

Montana

Escaping Yellowstone through West Yellowstone into the Gallatin National Forest, I stopped at the first NF campground which turned out to be full. They had directions to the next NF campground going north which was Rainbow Lake campground. I pulled in and after circling the campsites found one open. The camp host pulled up after a few minutes and said “Congratulations, you’ve got the last spot.”

Picture of me with the Land Cruiser for Elliot

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Next morning I drove to Bozeman MT for lunch.It’s a decent sized town with a real downtown of several blocks, but no one there seems to understand the concept of parallel parking. I guess because it’s the only parallel parking spots for a few hundred miles in any direction. I pulled up past an open spot, flicked on the turn signal, shift into reverse and BAM there’s somebody pulled up right onto my rear bumper. They’re looking at me like what are you thinking? I gave up on that spot, the person behind me pulled around and I went on down the block looking for another spot. Pull up, turn signal, reverse, BAM somebody else right up on my rear bumper. Finally got a spot on the third try. It’s a nice downtown, a little touristy but not too precious.

Plenty of driving time after lunch so I set my sights on Helena. Spent the night in the Helena RV Park/Campground. It used to be a KOA but now it’s a full time trailer park with some areas for tent and RV camping. A little sketchy but it had wifi and hot showers. There were a bunch of kids who lived in the ex-KOA office who spent the whole day playing with a sprinkler. Apparently that was all they had, no bikes, iPhones, skateboards just a hose and a sprinkler for 6 hours. The three who got yelled at the most by their moms were Tater, Bubba, and Miley.

Next morning continued north to Glacier NP. Passed through Choteau which has to be the quintessential American small town. A real downtown with a Roxy theater, diner, gas station, grocery store, no precious art galleries or craft breweries. No boarded up storefronts. It’s the kind of place I’d like to move to someday when I’m tired of traveling.

Pulled into Glacier NP and all campgrounds are full. They advised trying one of the myriad private campgrounds just outside the park. I went to the KOA and although they initially said they were full they ended up giving me a group campsite and for the second time in three days said “Congratulations, you’ve got the last spot.” It was mid afternoon so rather than battling the crowds in the main section of the park I drove north to Many Glacier and took a hike through the lakes. Nice views.

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Next day I headed into the main entrance early to beat the crowds. I drove to up Logan Pass, right on the continental divide. Took the Highline Trail hike, 12 miles mostly above the tree line.

Just about a mile in were some bighorn sheep. They were kicking rocks down onto the trail.

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Met a marmot along the trail

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Great views all along the trail. Right along here someone coming in the other direction said there was a grizzly bear with a cub down below, she had her bear spray out and was clutching it tightly in one hand so I took her seriously. Kept my eyes and ears open but  I didn’t see anything. People are on edge about bears as someone was killed by a bear in the park a couple weeks ago and they haven’t found the bear yet.

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Made it to the Granite Chalet at 8 miles and had lunch looking out across the mountains. It reminded me of the tea houses in Nepal, just a little place with bunk beds and a kitchen way up in the mountains.

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Then four miles straight down through scrub and brush to the road where I caught the shuttle back to Logan Pass. The whole way I was thinking this would be the perfect place for a bear to jump out at me.

Next morning off to Canada, it’s only about 30 miles north of here. At the border I waited 15 minutes in line for the customs booth, then they decided they wanted to search my car so I got to pull off into the customs shed. Two guys spent 30 minutes going through all of my stuff, then with a clean bill of health I was off into Canada.

Wyoming

The weather has been great from the Black Hills into Wyoming. Every day is high 70s/low 80s, no humidity, no bugs, just a few puffy white clouds floating in the sky.

I was going to drive straight to the Bighorn National Forest but saw the sign for Devil’s Tower and went there first. Got a nice campsite in the park next to the tower and went out for a hike to the Visitor Center and then around the base of the tower.

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Spent some time watching climbers, there were a lot on different routes around the tower. As you’re hiking around it you can hear them yelling out climbing terms like “On Belay!”  “Rope!” and  “Who’s got my cheese sandwich?”. At night there were some climbers camped on a ledge halfway up, I could see the light of their headlamps. Must be a great view.

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I drove to the East side of Bighorn National Forest and took a forest service road up near one of the trail heads leading into the mountains. National Forests allow “dispersed camping” where you just take a gravel road away from anything else and set up camp somewhere off the road. Cost is $0. Unlike state and national parks, they allow dogs running loose, firearms, 4 wheelers, pretty much anything but fireworks due to the fire danger. Everybody seems to be having a great time. I hiked a few miles up to Sherd Lake at 8725′. There were a few people swimming but it was really cold, I just went in up to my knees.

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Next morning I woke up and there was a high school cross country meet running past my campsite. They started at the highway, ran several miles up the gravel road to the trail head then back down to the highway.

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I drove over the pass to the west side of the national forest and found another dispersed campsite, this one much higher up at 8900′. Took a hike up to Mirror Lake at 9800′ where I could start to feel the altitude a little.

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Dark clouds started rolling in while I was enjoying the view at the lake so I scurried back down to my campsite where a couple of thunderstorms rolled through about an hour after I got back. Due to the altitude it got quite cold at night, I had to put on an extra blanket. Not sure how cold exactly but the next morning at 9:00 it was sunny and 54.

Continued west to Cody WY where I had my first mail shipment from Florida waiting at the Cody post office under general delivery. It was like Christmas morning, I got my new passport with 52 blank pages, international driving permit, the correct locking outlet for my fridge, some checks, and a bunch of other things that have piled up over the past few weeks. I stopped at Ace Hardware to pick up some wire to finish the fridge wiring and grabbed some lunch. It was getting on into the afternoon so I checked in at the Cody KOA. After 3 days with no amenities it was nice to have showers and toilets, wifi, swimming pool, laundry, etc. I completed the wiring and now have a 12V cigarette lighter outlet at the rear in addition to 2 USB charging ports, so I can plug the inverter in to charge my laptop when the car is off.

Early next morning off to tour Yellowstone.

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Artist Paint Pots video

I was most of the way around the loop, coming up to Old Faithful, when traffic came to a stop and stayed stopped. They had warned about construction (why in the height of the summer instead of spring or fall?) but this was beyond slow. I moved about 15 feet in 20 minutes. I asked a guy on a motorcycle who was coming from the opposite direction how long it was and he said it’s miles, you’ll be here for a couple of hours!!! That settled it, I had planned on leaving the park through the south exit and continuing on to Grand Teton and Jackson, but had no interest in spending the rest of the afternoon in a traffic jam. I made a U turn and backtracked a few miles then exited the park out the west entrance into West Yellowstone and Montana.