And have cell, so here goes.

First, turn away if easily offended.  Or scroll quickly past the next several pictures.  

You know the question “Does a bear shit in the woods?”  

Well, I cannot attest to that, but I can tell you that bears shit in the road.  Often.

Evidence 1:

Evidence 2:

And the definitive evidence, presented in the order in which they were taken.  I’m not sure why the camera refused to focus clearly for this next picture; perhaps it’s modest.  But the second one is pretty clear.

So.  That’s settled.

Here’s another critter from the wildlife tour.

They had us howl, which got her howling.  The camera preferred to focus on the fence.

And another of the lynx, just because.

Grabbed the chance for a close-up of a reindeer’s hoof.

Jumping to today: the drive up from Skagway was beautiful as promised, so stopped often for pictures.  Here are a few.

The next one is looking back toward Skagway. 

Once you get to the top, there are lots of lakes and ponds.  I love the complexity of the texture of the landscape.

Further into the Yukon, past the border station, which is several miles inside Canada, there’s this largish lake (probably Tagish Lake) that was completely still and reflecting its surroundings.  The reflections looked almost more clear than the originals.

Tomorrow I should start down the Cassiar, into unknown territory (for me).  Looking forward to it.

Alaska goodbye

Or at least farewell.  I may never make it back–there are so many places to go and my remaining time is limited to an unknowable degree–but then again, maybe I will.

Ironically, Skagway may be my favorite town of all those in which I’ve stayed, because based on what I’d read about it, I didn’t think I’d like. It at all.  “May be” because I’ve seen very little of it and done nothing in it.  Another reason to return to Alaska someday.  Anyway, my breakfast view.

Not bad, now that all the big rigs are gone๐Ÿ™‚.  Waved goodbye to Barbara and Michael this morning as they pulled out–they’ll be ahead of me now the rest of the way.  

So in lieu of more of Skagway, here are some random pictures from the past several days.

A snowshoe hare, exclusive diet of the lynx.  

A very alert CJ, who had noticed the hare.

A bear, checking me out after I had stopped and rolled down my window to take his picture.  I thought it was nice of him to turn around and sniff at me long enough for me to get this one–much nicer than just his disappearing rump.

Since I seem to be on an animal kick, here’s a cute porcupine from the wildlife tour.

And a moose ” kissing” a woman, also from the tour, achieved by putting a carrot in your mouth and offering it to her.  I tried it, but she knocked it out of my mouth rather than getting it.

Ok, breakfast is done and it’s time to finish stowing stuff, get diesel, and head for Canada.  I have no idea when I’ll hace cell access over the next several days, because I’m heading down the Cassiar, to Stewart BC, Hyder AK and more bears (hopefully).  Blogging will be slow and perhaps nonexistent, though if I do have decent cell and a bit of time, I’ll continue with doing shorter, less comprehensive posts.  

Alaska Yikes! Post

After five days without decent cell service, I’m now at least four posts behind.  There’s no way I’m going to catch up soon–or maybe ever–so here’s a couple of bear pictures, a lynx picture, and a wolverine picture as a place-holder.  All from Haines.  The bears are wild and were fishing near the campground; the lynx and wolverine were captive rescued animals that are part of a “wildlife tour”.  Check out the paws on the lynx.  

A few disjointed thoughts about the trip overall.

1) It has been the best trip since retirement, so far.  Why?  I think a combination of accumulated learning and adjustments from experience on previous trips–modifications to the van, what to bring and not bring, planning for my own preferences–and the perfection of the north country for camping.  My style of camping, anyway.  Temperatures–daytime highs–range from mid-sixties to high seventies, mostly in the lower temperatures, and humidity has been in the comfortable range even in the midst of rain.  All easily adjusted for (add a layer of clothes, use my propane heater, or find a shady spot as I have today).  Lots and lots of underpopulated territory.  Bugs have mostly not been as bad as advertised, likely because I haven’t spent any time in really primitive places.  And even where they’ve been bad–there are plenty of places in the lower 48 where I’ve experienced worse.  Wisconsin a few years back, on my sabbatical trip with the Aliner, springs to mind.  Or–I hate to admit it but it’s true–Idaho near Stanley, in the Sawtooths.  

2) The mix mix of social contacts and being on my own has neared perfection.  CJ is always with me, and she is the near-perfect dog.  Undemanding, but company.  Makes no conversational demands ๐Ÿ™‚.  Indeed, rarely makes any demands of any kind, though I’m sufficiently aware of her needs that guilt induces me to take her for walks, more walks than I would do on my own, and those walks often pay off in experiences I would otherwise miss.  FB is always there, and my blogging has created some interactions with people who are far away but I have the comfort of knowing are following my trip with at least some interest.  My friends Barbara and Michael are also touring Alaska, with an RV caravan group; I deliberately planned my itinerary to parallel and intersect with theirs periodically.  The combination of texting about asynchronous shared experiences and occasional face to face experiences (mostly meals ๐Ÿ™‚) has enhanced the trip a lot for me, without placing excessive social coping demands on my somewhat introverted self.  

3) As near-perfect as the trip has been, I’ve still learned a few valuable things for the future.  i) There’s an important difference between camping–being out in a natural setting with few if any people around–and using the van as cheap housing.  Both happen on any decent trip, and the van is valuable for both.  Even in a small town such as Valdez, in a campground with a lovely view– if I’m in a town, I’m having the latter experience.  A comfortable bed, my own space, at relatively affordable rates–but it’s not camping.  Tonight I’m camping.

In the woods, one other occupied campsite, no one visible.  (Addendum:three more parties came in before morning, but I still had no one visible from my spot.)

A high percentage of camping to cheap housing is important to my trip enjoyment.  Staying in a town is worth it iff there are activities afforded by that town that I actually want to do and will enjoy.  Otherwise–avoid towns.  And avoid cities like the plague.  (How to incorporate cities into a trip is a whole topic unto itself.)  They make me feel crowded–even small towns–(especially if I end up surrounded by big rigs) and I shrink into myself.  Although they are good for groceries, showers, and laundry ๐Ÿ˜„.  

ii)  the slow pace I mapped out at the beginning of the trip was just about right.  Once I got to Denali, through the Kenai, I began to feel too scheduled, too much like I had to meet deadlines and do longer travel days.  Some of that was necessary–you really do have to plan and reserve in advance for high-demand places like Denali, and long distances will require some longer travel days–but a little of that goes a long way with me.  I’m glad I did the amount of planning I did, but another time I’ll plan out and reserve a few well-spaced highlights and leave lots of slack between for short travel days and changes of plans.

iii) I want to come back to Alaska.  And do more summer travel up north in general.  Have even fantasized a bit about Newfoundland and Labrador and getting back to Nova Scotia, which I loved last year.  I had thought of this as a once in a lifetime trip, and figured the same about Nove Scotia–but now I’m not so sure.  Yes, it’s lots and lots of miles–but with the right amount of planning, it could work, if my health lasts.  We’ll see.  Anyone want to caravan along, or in parallel with intermittent intersections?  Or join me for legs of such trips?  Don’t know that I could handle companions for an entire trip, but compatible company for short to medium time frames has proved to enhance trips significantly for me.

Ok, my thoughts weren’t as disjointed as I they’d be, and now they are down for future reference.  I have to say, I wonder if anyone will read this post besides me at some future time, given its billing as text-only ๐Ÿ™‚.

In Alaska #12–Valdez

So yesterday I did the 5-hour kayaking tour out to Valdez glacier.  I had been fussed about it for some time, but in the end i went anyway and am glad I did.  

It turned out to be rather a mild adventure as adventures go.  As the unpaired person on the tour, my kayaking partner was the guide, which meant I could do as little as I pleased.  As that portion of the tour is quite short, that made it easy-peasy.

Anyway.  Here’s where we started out.  Not overly prepossessing, and at this point I was wondering just how much I was going to enjoy the tour.

But the guide, who goes by the name of Bagel, and yes there is a story and yes he will tell it, loves what he does and is excited and knowledgeable about glaciers and glacial processes, so much of t he value of the tour was becoming a bit educated about them oneself.  

For instance: The glacier we were headed for is between the two mountains, over toward the left.  It used to be joined to the glacier you can just see peeking through the two mountains on the right.  Where there was one glacier, there are now two.  The water you see is from the melting back of the now-two glaciers.  It has been measured recently by the USGS abd turned out to be 600 feet deep, but because of the opacity due to silt, you have little sense of deep water beneath you.  

Once in, we paddled around to some of the broken-off bits first.  But not this one, because it has a crack almost all the way across it and they expect it to break apart soon, and think it’s likely to roll when it does, so it would be dangerous to be close by when that happens.

Only one other couple were on the tour, which made it nicely relaxed.  George and Nancy.  

We did paddle over to some other chunks that are believed to be more stable at this point, and got to get close up to the ice.

We traded cameras a couple of times so we coule get pictures of ourselves on our own camera.  Their idea, not mine, but regardless, there I am.  The one in front.

Another few shots of ice close up.

In the one two-above, you can see bubbles of air trapped in the ice.  Snow is white because if all the tiny bits of trapped air; in a glacier, the lower snow gets that air squeezed out and into larger bubbles, leaving very dense, blue ice.

After awhile, we headed over to a place to land the kayaks on a shelf of ice.  Bagel carefully exploded that we had to test anywhere we might step in the water with our paddle, because you can’t see more than an inch or two into the water and the ice shelfs drop off very steeply.  He helped each of us out himself, and we walked up to a flattish boulder for lunch.  Bagel had brought a thermos of hot water, and made us each a hot beverage.  Here’s Nancy warming herself with her hot chocolate.

We walked around on the glacier for upwards of two hours, with Bagel directing our attention to the details and explaining how the things we saw were formed.  For example, here’s an oblation cone.

The grit that accumulated in that spot protects the ice underneath from melting, so the surrounding ice melts away and leaves the cone formation.  Rocks sometimes achieve a similar effect.

Eventually the rock will fall off, like the boulder below fell off the ice to the right.

Much of the time, if you didn’t know you were walking on a glacier, you’d just think you were walking across rock scree like that we see all through the Rockies. 

 But when you see intense blue between the pebbles and grit . . . 

. . . you know you’re not on just another mountain.

I just thought this looked cool.  It’s what happens when the grit, which is exceedingly fine, settles down out of the water.  The water has to be very still for this to happen.

Once up there and walking a short way, we could see the glacier proper.  The part we walked on is apparently floating–bobbing–on water and will eventually break off.  By “eventually “, read “in three or four years”. 

It wasn’t long before George spotted a mountain goat on the mountain opposite.  I never got a good shot of it–this is the best of a poor bunch.  His head is on the right, in the brush, presumably eating.

George continued watching the goat for the rest of the time, and got several pretty good shots.  They emailed them to me, but I can’t figure out how to get them into the post, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that that was a goat.

Shortly after that the battery in my camera died, so there’s a lot I didn’t get pictures of.  Bagel suggested I warm it up by putting it inside my jacket, so I did, and whan we were almost back to the boats, I managed to get a few more shots.  This was just a cool formation.

This shows one of two developing crevasses that will, in the next few years, split the bobbing part of the glacier longitudinally into three parts.

The sun came out back towards town after awhile, so I took some pictures looking back where we’d come from.  Apparently we were back in the kayaks by that time, though that’s not how I remember it. Couldn’t decide which picture I like better, so put them both in.

Later that day, after resting up, wine, and supper, CJ and i went for a walk.  On the way back, I saw this pair of eagles fly over and perch on the light pole.  Tried to catch them in the air, but wasn’t quick enough.  But they sat there long enough for me to get a picture in which you can tell they aren’t just part of the light fixture.  Only had the phone with me, so it’s a bit blurry.

The best kept secret of Valdez, as far as I and CJ are concerned, is the bunnies.

You see them running around all over town, and even though CJ wasn’t allowed to chase them, their presence definitely enhanced her walks. Here’s a few more, though I never got quite as close as above again; CJ started looking for them and whenever she spotted one, she’d get noisily excited, and they’d run.  Or they’d run, she’d spot them, and then get noisily excited–happened both ways.  How many bunnies can you find in this next shot?  It’s blurry–one-handed, zoomed phone shot, with excited dog pulling on other hand, so really not bad.

Heading to Haines, so it’ll be a few internetless non-blogging days now.

After leaving Trail River, the day got wetter and wetter, so in that sense it was a good travel day.  Not that travel days are better if they are wet, but wet days are better used as travel days than play or sight-seeing days.

Decided to got straight through to Whittier so I wouldn’t have to tackle the unknown of the tunnel the same morning as the unknown of the ferry.  Stopped briefly at Williwaw Campground just to see what I would be missing by doing so, and while it looked like a perfectly nice CG, it also didn’t leave me feeling that I was depriving myself by not staying there.  Got one decent picture, of a glacier (I think).

Also stopped to take a picture of what looked like a chip off a glacier.

You can see how gray the day was.

I suspect the girl (ok, ok, young woman, but they all seem like girls to me these days, privilege of age?) who took the tunnel toll gave me a break.  She charged me only $13, and if I had read the prices correctly technically it should have been $22.  But I did not complain.  

The process (the tunnel is one-way and alternates east-bound and west-bound traffic) was clear and well-automated.  The toll-taker told me what lane to get into, and from there it was read signs and obey lights.  Here’s where I waited (and had lunch.)

This guy . . .

. . . mystified me rather.  It was raining–not sprinkling, but raining–and quite windy, and yet he sat and waited as you see until it was almost time to move.  My only speculation is that he travels the tunnel often, and does this to alleviate the boredom?  Who knows.

The tunnel itself felt mildly spooky to me.  I remembered it was long (2.5 miles, the longest highway tunnel in North America, I just googled it so it must be true, right?), but I  had forgotten how long, and while I knew that it was big enough for big rigs, it seemed very skinny to me.  Plus it also is used for trains, so train tracks run down the middle, making driving . . . odd.   They had all kinds of safety warnings (don’t stop, don’t follow too close, what to do if . . . . ) for me to contemplate as I drove, and just as I was thinking “surely it wasn’t more that 4 miles, was it?”, it ended, to my relief.  

Finally found the Creekside CG in Whittier, which wasn’t awful but neither was it wonderful, especially given the pouring rain, picked my spot (close to potties or view and privacy?  View–such as it was (below) and privacy won.

Took all afternoon, but did manage to do the previous post, which was the best possible use of the time under the (wet and gloomy) circumstances.  

I was very tense about the ferry ride, not only about negotiating the unknown process (which turned out to be fine, people told me what to do at all points), but also just surviving 8.5 hours on the ferry.  Given how seasick I’ve gotten the last several times I was out on any kind of boat, would I get seasick?  Excessively tired (being kept up well past my usual bedtime) or hungry?  But overall, it was fine.  I did get sleepy in the afternoon, and tried to nap on one of the hard plastic recliners they provide on the “solarium”, which mostly proved my usual precautions regarding my back are warranted, and rather bored around hour six, but overall, it was nowhere near as bad an experience as I had feared.  

On a sunnier–or even less rainy–day, it would probably be an unadulterated pleasure.  Even in the rainy and foggy conditions, the scenery was anywhere from lovely to haunting to spectacularly gorgeous. 

These are from early in the trip. It was a challenge to get good pictures because of the rain, whether from inside or outside.  But these will give some idea of how things looked.  From inside:

That’s a glacier above.

From outside (same glacier immediately below):

The effect of islands at different distances through the misty atmosphere fascinated me and kept reminding me of Chinese and Japanese paintings.

We also saw lots of fishing boats all along the way.  ‘ nuff said.

I got to take a few pictures outside from the front of the boat . . .

. . . before they closed it off to us, which I found just annoying.  Yes, it was windy up there, and mildly exciting making your way around the side to get there, but still.  

They provided several screens that allowed us to track our progress, which was kinda cool and helped while away some time.  This one was toward the beginning of the trip.  We’re the green pentagon.

The detour around Bligh Island to Tatitlek and back (next two shots) added three hours to the trip. By the time we got to that, I was already wishing we were done already, so I was feeling a bit grumpy about it, but kept my whining to myself. And once we were back on track, the scenery just got better and better, in part because the rain eased up

The shot immediately above shows where we were when the one below was taken.  The marker shown below is where the Valdez oil tanker ran aground.  Given how far the marker was off the side of our boat, you can see how far outside the safe channel the tanker was.  The shot is zoomed in a bit.

A few shots coming up the Valdez Arm.  At this point they had us limited to the sides of the boat, and boy! was I tempted to sneak under the chain and go forward for pictures.  But I figured I’d just get in trouble, so restrained myself.

And coming into Valdez.  Took me (and others, based on conversations) awhile to figure out the lights weren’t the town but the oil operation.

It was all so gorgeous it perked me right up and I hardly knew where to point the camera, or when to stop because surely four or five pictures of essentially the same thing are enough.  

I finally figured out where the town is, and shortly afterward we docked.  I don’t know whether CJ was mainly excited to see me when I got back to the van, or excited because it meant she might get out to pee.  Maybe both.

It was still light when we got to to CG and checked in and set up and CJ taken care of, so I took a picture.

And some more today, all taken from the CG.

I had paid for an electrical site because I was worried about being cold, but that left me with only a view of big rigs looming over me, so this morning asked to be moved to a tent site with no hookups.

So now this is my view as I do this post.

Today has been mostly dealing with practicalities and doing this post.  Tomorrow I’ve signed up for a short day tour 5 hours), kayaking out to a glacier, hiking up on to the glacier, and kayaking back.  Probably won’t be all that strenuous, since they drive us out to some starting place out of town, but I’ll find out tomorrow.  For $140 you’d think they could provide lunch, but we have to bring our own, and our own water.  Anyway, today I’m resting up from my late night, and for my day tomorrow. 

A combination of disinclination and lack of opportunity has kept me from posting since Anchorage, so I’m going to compress it all into one update. 

After leaving Hope, got down to Halibut Campground at Anchor Point in good time to get a spot.  It was good that I was early, because the campground did fill up, and I loved my spot.  And the campground and its environs–it has the distinction of being the westernmost campground reachable by the continuous road system in North America.  

My spot.

And my view, or part of it.

One of the reasons I loved Halibut was eagles!  They were an unexpected bonus–I was hoping to see eagles at Haines (still am), but hadn’t even considered the possibility for earlier.  So the pleasure was all the greater.  

Saw the most on the beach, feeding.  This seems to be a popular fishing place, for humans, so I suspect they were eating fish waste thrown overboard by fishermen.  There seemed to be a small group of adults and juveniles.  I never saw a juvenile eat, but presumably they are getting something at some point.

Got lots of pictures from multiple beach visits, but shall share only a few of the best, partly because uploading is dicey and slow from here (Whittier.)  Note the eagle’s left claw below.

I started feeling sorry for the juveniles.  They sort of hung around looking on, but never getting anything.  The first time I saw them, I wasn’t even sure what they were–they look almost more like buzzards than adult eagles, and yet with that mottled coloring, not that buzzardy either.  And if anything, they looked bigger than the adults.  My unreliable memory is telling me that that’s part of the survival strategy of the species–the parents stuff them until they are bigger than they are, so that when they leave the nest and are no longer beifed, they have a chance to survive long enough to figure out how to get food.  Here’s a picture with a juvenile in it, on the left.

Thanks to a guy who had already spotted it and was clicking away, caught one eagle in a tree.  Here’s the best couple of shots, one from our way out on a walk, and a couple on the way back.

I had to position myself carefully to get that second shot, and the eagle was definitely keeping his/her eye on me as I did. It looked like s/he was hiding in the tree, but s/he could have been trying to get out of the direct sun.  

Homer was 20-30 minutes away from the campground, and I went in twice to visit Barbara and Michael.  The town didn’t impress me, but then I never really got into the town proper, only out on the spit.  Which is kinda tacky and touristy, but has (on a clear day) great views of the mountains across the way.  

As we were having dinner at the restaurant right out at the end of the spit, we saw seagulls massing on the water almost in a line outside our window.  

We couldn’t decide for sure if they were feeding on offal from fishing boats that had passed earlier, or if perhaps there was a school of fish down below.  Either way, it was cool to see.  

From Halibut, I drove north toward Seward.  Stopped for lunch at the junction between the highway to Homer and Seward Highway.  Very pretty spot.  

Best bit was seeing swans.

Stopped for the night at a smallish campground about 23 miles from town.  Didn’t much like the site I had reserved sight unseen in May, so switched to an open one I liked better.  Cost all of an extra $14.  Then took CJ for a walk along the creek for which the campground is named, Ptarmigan.  Did not make it up to Ptarmigan Lake–we turned back about 1.5 miles up upon being told by a couple of women on their way back from the lake that it was perhaps another three miles.  Here’s a couple of pictures from that walk.

I only stayed one night in Seward, partly because the weather was a bit gray, especially the second day, and so the mountains were not “out”, and partly because I hated the campground I had reserved the first night (Miller’s Landing, if anyone cares).  Got a shower there, and did laundry in town. Both of which were Good Things.  But here’s a picture or two from there anyway.

Town from near the campground beach.

Both of those were taken the first afternoon.

The one touristy thing I did in Seward was go to the Sea Life Center.  Didn’t have the motivation to educate myself much, so skipped almost all the reading, and only stayed about an hour.  For me, the coolest exhibit was the birds, and I took lots of pictures of them.  The wood duck was a particular thrill–I’ve seen pictures and videos, but this was my first live look.

Puffins were cute, and man do their feet move in the water when they want to get somewhere!

Other birds–not sure what, so won’t risk naming them.  

Had a hard time with the seal and sea lion pools–they seemed so small, with one loop to swim around and around.  They are probably rescues–as is this next guy–but even so, I couldn’t watch for long, and took no pictures.

This “little” guy was about six weeks old, and came to them at about two weeks of age.  They seemed cautiously optimistic about his chances, and may even name him soon.  I didn’t catch the entire talk about him, but he had been found alone–possibly abandoned, or possibly his mother was the victim of predation–and brought into the center to be taken care of.  He won’t be released into the wild if he grows up–he’ll be too used to people, and won’t have learned survival skills for the wild–but they’ll find “a good home” for him.  Hopefully.  Can you tell what he is?  This was the best shot I was able to get of him.

My unruly brain kept contrasting their aquarium exhibits unfavorably with the Monterey aquarium, but there were some cool things.  Some of the coolest were the smallest.  Here’s just a couple.

Barnacle feeding (above).  Something one (this one, anyway) rarely sees on the beach.  I have no idea what this next little guy was, but I thought he was pretty.

I was done with the Sea Life Center by 1:00 or so, and decided to head out of town.  Which within a few miles began to look like a good decision, given how gray it was in Seward.  This was a scenic rest stop.  

There were plenty of free spaces back at Ptarmigan, but decided to check out another Forest Service campground just a mile or two further on.  Another good decision, for sure.  Trail River.  It’s much larger, but very well done, and since it was Sunday, only lightly populated. Lots of large, level sites, well spaced out so often you need not even see your neighbors.  My spot.

Huge.  It could have accommodated two moderate RVs (or me and a couple of Westies . . . ) plus a couple of tents.  (#67 for future reference).  

The CG is on Kenai Lake.  Beautiful when I got there. . .

Beautiful when CJ and I took a walk later on . . .

(It was a bit windy–those two kids were having to work hard to get back to wherever they were going.)

Beautiful when CJ and I tried to make it down to the point you see in the background below the next day . . .

There you also see one of the picnic tables of the day use area.  That’s one of the well-done aspects of the CG, that there are several such tables down by the lake so everyone has access to it.

We didn’t make it to the point–eventually it became apparent that we couldn’t get around it, so gave up and headed back.  Tried a trail up from the shore for awhile . . .

But it became apparent that it was strictly a game trail and was unlikely to intersect with the campground (and I thought I saw old bear scat) so we went back and made our way along the shore.  Here I had stopped for a rest, and persuaded CJ to not come to me so I could get her in  the picture.  She actually figured out what I wanted her to do, and just settled down and waited while i took several pictures.  

I had decided to stay for two nights, which allowed for several walks and a lazy day.  On more than one of which we saw or heard these birds.  Ptarmigan, maybe?  

And still beautiful this morning, even though it was raining lightly. 

That’s where I’ll leave it for now.  Not a lot to tell or show about the rest of today, and this is pretty long, so will save the rest for an update in Valdez.  Tomorrow will be a long day, and I’ll be up well past my bedtime (the ferry isn’t due in to Valdez until almost 10 pm), but I’ve reserved a spot with electricity (weather forcast is chilly for Valdez) and have the whole next day to recover, so hope to update again then.

Except want to add this.  Noticed this while getting ready this morning and thought it was cool.  Tea in a tree tickles me.