Valdez, Alaska

Day 726

     In traveling from Glenallen to Valdez, we stopped to view a glacier

     and a waterfalls

     The port of Valdez was named in 1790 by the Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y Fernández Bazán. A scam to lure prospectors off the Klondike Gold Rush trail led to the town being developed there in 1898.

     Some steamship companies promoted the Valdez Glacier Trail as a better route for miners to reach the Klondike gold fields than that from Skagway. The prospectors who believed the promotion found that they had been deceived. The glacier trail was twice as long and steep as reported, and many men died attempting the crossing. The deception was promoted because the steamship companies where returning to Valdez empty from delivering their fish from the port.

     Finding themselves stranded in Valdez, they settled there. However the town did not flourish until after the construction of the Richardson Highway in 1899, which connected Valdez and Fairbanks. With a new road and its ice-free port, Valdez became permanently established as the first overland supply route into the interior of Alaska. This was further enhanced when Valdez found itself the terminus of the Alaskan Pipeline.

     The Valdez fire department had a unique tribute to 9-11

     We went to Valdez Port to board a catamaran to take us to the Meares Glacier, which is on the Prince William Sound.

     Barbara was an able pilot

     On the way we saw eagles


     Sea lions

     Sea Otters

     Some of them brought their kids along


     In fact, lots of seals


     Pigeon Guillemot

     You are probably impressed that I can name these birds. Actually, I have a book, Birds of North America, that helps me. 

     I am glad we are not the Titanic

    We saw whales, both humpback

     and orca

    The glacier is named for eighteenth century British naval captain John Meares.

     Meares Glacier is over a mile wide where it meets Prince William Sound.

     Tidbit of Information: There are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, only 800 have names. 

     Valdez is the terminus of the Alaska Pipeline

     Oil tankers come in and go out each day

     I am just a shadow of my former self

Technical Stuff:

Glenallen, Alaska to Valdez, Alaska: 117.3 miles

2 hours 48 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $3.30

Glennallen, Alaska

Day 724

     In 1899, the U.S. Army built a pack trail for summer use between the port of Valdez and Eagle, which passed through the Copper River Valley. In the early 1900’s, the trail was widened and became the Richardson Highway. We are camping just off that highway.

     Construction for the Glenn Highway began at a camp on the Richardson Highway in the Copper River Valley named Glennallen after two U.S. Army explorers of the late 19th century: Capt. Edwin Glenn and Lt. Henry T. Allen. The highway was completed in 1945. Glennallen developed as a small community around the site of the camp. It is now a commercial center for motor traffic along the Glenn and Richardson highways.

     We hiked a very small portion of the original Valdez Trail. It is now located in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve. The preserve was established in 1980 and consists of a mere 13.2 million acres. The park is named after the Wrangell and St. Elias Mountain ranges.

     The Wrangell Mountains were named after Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel, born 1796, who was a Russian Naval officer, arctic explorer, and government administrator. He was a governor of the Russian colonies in Alaska (1829-35), director of the Russian American company (1840-49), and Minister of the Navy (1855-57). He was highly critical of the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867.

     Lt. Henry T. Allen, born April 13, 1859 in Sharpsburg, Kentucky, was a United States Army officer known for exploring the Copper River in Alaska. He was the one to actually name many of the Wrangell Mountains in his exploration of the Copper River Basin in 1885. He also named some of the peaks we saw today, such as Sanford, Drum, and Blackburn.

     Most of the Valdez Trail is through dense woods, but we did come upon this vista. Mt. Drum is 12,010 feet above sea level.

     Tidbit of Information: The difference between a National Park, and a National Preserve, is sport hunting is permitted in the Preserve.

     We decided we would not have enough time to hike the entire 13 million acres, so we decided to drive the above famed Richardson Highway, looking for the other 3 major mountains in the area. All within the The Wrangell Mountain Range. We saw Mt. Drum from a better view, although the clouds came in.

     Mt. Wrangell is 14,163 feet

     Mt. Blackburn at 16,390 feet

     And Mt. Sanford at 16,237 feet. It looks smaller than Drum because it is further away. It is also an active volcano.

     These pictures do not do justice to these views

Technical Stuff:

Palmer, Alaska to Glennallen, Alaska: 142.2 miles

3 hours 51 minutes

9.0 MPG

Diesel: $3.30

Independence Gold Mine, Willow Creek, Alaska

Day 723

     You have probably notice the snow capped mountains in my Alaska pictures over the last month. In visiting the Independence Gold Mine in Willow Creek, Alaska, we went up into those mountains. 

          Robert Lee Hatcher was born in 1867 in Montague County, Texas. In 1906 he discovered gold at this mountain top of Skyscraper Mountain, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level.

     This claim was sold numerous times until taken over by the Independence Gold Mine which was in operation from 1934 to 1950. At its peak, the Independence hard-rock gold mine was home to 206 workers and 16 families

     At this elevation, we were closer to the eagles.

     The mine closed for good in 1950, and laid abandoned for 30 years until the Independence Mine State Historical Park was established in 1980 and began restoring the area. While they managed to perserve the bunkhouse, mess hall, and some other buildings, the processing plant, railroad and mine working buildings have all deteriorated.

     We hiked up part of the mountain to get a view of one of it’s entrances.

      As we went up to the higher elevations we had to go through the not yet melted snow, even though it is now July.

     Going back down the mountain, the Little Susitna River made a nice view of the melting snow from the mountains.

Palmer, Alaska

Day 722

     Russians came to Alaska in 1741 and brought the Russian Orthodox religious tradition to the indigenous peoples of the region. In the early 1890s, an entrepreneur named George W. Palmer built a trading post on the Matanuska River, near present-day Palmer. The town was later named after Palmer.

     We did stop to see the salmon swim upstream. 

     Here they gather to wait their turn.

     You have to admit, this is cool.

Technical Stuff:

Seward, Alaska to Palmer, Alaska: 165.6 miles

3 hours and 22 minutes

10.0 MPG

Diesel: $3.77

Resurrection Bay, Alaska

Day 721

     To get a closer look at Resurrection Bay, at which Seward, Alaska is situated, we decided to kayak. 

     Resurrection Bay received its name from Alexander Baranov, who was forced to retreat into the bay during a bad storm in the Gulf of Alaska. When the storm settled it was Easter Sunday, so the bay was named in honor of it.

     This is our first time kayaking. Barbara is not sure how to use the oars.

     Now that she is tucked in, how do we get her into the water?

     I think she had the better view.

     Lunch time

     The Bay was very calm.

     Although it was overcast with some sprinkles, we had a great time.

     Tidbit of Information: Alaska is the only State you can spell using only one line of the keyboard. 

Seward, Alaska

Day 718

     The area of Seward, Alaska, was first explored by Russian trader and merchant, Alexander Andreyevich Baranov, born 1747 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He established a fur trade post on Resurrection Bay in 1793 where Seward is today. Seward is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula.The founders and settlers of the town of Seward arrived in 1903 to build the railroad. They named the town in honor of William H. Seward, born May 16, 1801 in Florida, New York. He was the United States Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson when he negotiating the purchase of Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867.

     Da-da, Da-da, Da-da

     Why are we in Seward, Alaska? Well Resurrection Bay flows into the Gulf of Alaska, where the whales hangout. 

     And, thar she blows:

     We saw whales,

     And whales

     And whales

     We also saw otters

    And harbor seals

     And puffin

     All kinds of birds

     I was going to delete this photo because I did not think my readers would recognize them as whales. But I was told that I had captured the rare photo of whales bubble netting. (In fact, I did delete mine, this is our leader’s photo of the same thing).

     We also saw three glaciers.

     I can tell you their names,       but do you really care?

     This glacier calved while we were there

     The crew picked up some of the glacier ice

     Which they then used to make margaritas

     Tidbit of Information: John Ben “Benny” Benson, Jr., a native Alutiiq, was born October 12, 1913 in Chignik, Territory of Alaska. In 1927, at age 13, he won a territory-wide American Legion contest to design a flag for Alaska, which is now the Alaskan State Flag.

     It looks like something a 13 year old would design.


Technical Stuff:

Homer, Alaska to Seward, Alaska: 160.0 miles

3 hours 49 minutes

9.8 MPG

Diesel: $3.64

Seward, Alaska

Day 718

     The area of Seward, Alaska, was first explored by Russian trader and merchant, Alexander Andreyevich Baranov, born 1747 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He established a fur trade post on Resurrection Bay in 1793 where Seward is today. Seward is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula.The founders and settlers of the town of Seward arrived in 1903 to build the railroad. They named the town in honor of William H. Seward, born May 16, 1801 in Florida, New York. He was the United States Secretary of State under Andrew Johnson when he negotiating the purchase of Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867.

     Da-da, Da-da, Da-da

     Why are we in Seward, Alaska? Well Resurrection Bay flows into the Gulf of Alaska, where the whales hangout. 

     And, thar she blows:

     We saw whales,

     And whales

     And whales

     We also saw otters

    And harbor seals

     And puffin

     All kinds of birds

     I was going to delete this photo because I did not think my readers would recognize them as whales. But I was told that I had captured the rare photo of whales bubble netting. (In fact, I did delete mine, this is our leader’s photo of the same thing).

     We also saw three glaciers.

     I can tell you their names,     but do you really care?

     This glacier calved while we were there

     The crew picked up some of the glacier ice

     Which they then used to make margaritas

     Tidbit of Information: John Ben “Benny” Benson, Jr., a native Alutiiq, was born October 12, 1913 in Chignik, Territory of Alaska. In 1927, at age 13, he won a territory-wide American Legion contest to design a flag for Alaska, which is now the Alaskan State Flag.

     It looks like something a 13 year old would design.


Technical Stuff:

Homer, Alaska to Seward, Alaska: 160.0 miles

3 hours 49 minutes

9.8 MPG

Diesel: $3.64

Anchorage, Alaska

Day 711

     Anchorage, originally known as Ship Creek, is located in the south-central portion of Alaska, at the terminus of the Cook Inlet.

     In 1784, the Russians, active in Alaska since 1743, established a trading post on the shore of Cook Inlet, known as Ship Creek. They fur traded here for over 100 years. Beginning in 1867, when Alaska was purchased from Russia, and continuing until May 17, 1884, when control was turned over to civilians, the military occupied and governed Alaska. Alaska became a Territory on August 24, 1912, and the 49th State on January 3, 1959.

     To open the Territory, President Wilson created the Alaska Railroad Engineering Commission, the first and only federally owned and operated railroad. Ship Creek was chosen as the Headquarters location. The Postal Service renamed this muddy site Anchorage. The town of Anchorage started as a railroad construction settlement, which actually was only a tent city. The Commission governed the area until November 23, 1920, when Anchorage was incorporated into a civilian run city.

     Few places on earth need air transportation more than Alaska. Towns and villages are isolated, with few roads and even fewer places to build them. It is therefore not uncommon to see these planes flying everywhere we go. 

     We visited the Ulu knife factory, legendary knife of the arctic, which evidently is known world wide. 

     Along the Ship Creek, were numerous fishermen looking for salmon.

     The first permanent building built in Anchorage is still standing from 1915. It was used as a general merchandising store. 

     Today, it is also the site of the start of The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

     In the town square the celebration of the summer solstice has begun. They had a Country Singer perform.

     He was pretty good. bird

Technical Stuff:

Talkeetna, Alaska to Anchorage, Alaska: 89.6

2 hours 24 minutes

10.3 MPG

Diesel: $3.32

Hurricane Turn Train, Alaska

Day 710

     The Hurricane Turn Train provides service to wild Alaska and is used by the locals, which stops with the wave of a flag. It is the last flagstop train in America. The train goes from Talkeetna to Hurricane Gulch. Including the start and end stops, the hurricane train has 8 scheduled stops, but you can flag the train down anywhere to get on or off. We made about ten of these flag stops to let off or take on hikers, rafters, and locals getting around. If you want to get on, you signal the engineer from the side of the track. He notifies the conductor and the train stops at the baggage car were the conductor is located, who puts out a step to load the passengers and their gear. Now, that is neat.

     It was a beautiful raining day the day we rode to Hurricane Gulch and back.

     We rode in the third car back, which was an elevated viewing car.

     It gave us a good view, despite the rain.

     Ryan Rodriguez was our the conductor on the train, a very personable guy.

     These people just flagged the train down.  They are returning from rafting on the river.

     The train follows the Susitna River, which is a 313 mile Long river going from Susitna Glacier to Cook Inlet. 

     We had to back up onto a side track to let this oncoming train go buy. Since we are a flag train we have no set schedule, whereas the oncoming train does.  Neat concept.

     Believe it or not (and why wouldn’t you), this is one of our scheduled stops. That’s it, the whole town.

     I don’t know. It doesn’t look like we are going to fit!

     At some of the stops, the train rested for 10 or so minutes, and we could get off to walk around.

     There are many people living out here in the wilderness. This house belongs to a well known women who writes children’s books. Barbara went in to talk to her.

     This is Hurricane Gulch. I thought it was very impressive.

     We stopped in Hurricane for 15 minutes, as it is the end of the line.

     It was actually a railroad camp used during construction. Now it is a maintenance area. No town, no houses, no nothing. Boy, that was a disappointment. Barbara wanted to do some shopping.

Talkeetna, Alaska

Day 709

     Talkeetna, Alaska was established in 1916 when the Alaska Railroad chose the area to be a district headquarters. We will be taking one of their trains, the Hurricane Turn Train, tomorrow. The name comes from the Indian word meaning “Place where food is stored near the river”. 

     It has chosen to keep the town as close to what it was in 1916. Only Main Street is paved. 

     All the remaining dirt roads have pot holes and standing water from the recent rain.

     Most of the buildings, which now have tourist shops, are the original log cabins. 








Technical Stuff:

Denali, Alaska to Talkeetna, Alaska: 154.1 miles

3 hours 12 minutes

9.4 MPG

Diesel: $3.45

Denali, Alaska

Day 706

     Traveling through Denali National Park to see, what else, Denali Mountain, the highest mountain in North America. Although, is it higher than Mt. McKinley?

     We saw lots of wildlife, including caribou




     The road we traveled was unbelievable narrow with no guard rails and a steep drop-off. It is hard to tell from this photo how steep it is, but you can see the road winds to the left, and you can see the drop.

     The run off from the glacier melt carries lots of silt. The silt is deposited at the base of the mountains, but as the water travels further, it joins and becomes rivers.       And of course, the Mountain

Technical Stuff:

North Pole, Alaska to Denali, Alaska: 121.1 miles

2 hours 47 minutes

8.8 MPG

Diesel: $3.45

Fly with the Bush Pilot in remote Alaska

Day 705

     There are no roads to get you to remote, bush Alaska, up by the Arctic Circle. We were sitting around yesterday looking for something different to do, and we saw a notice about bush pilots flying mail to remote Indian Villages. The indication was that if there was room, they would take passengers on their daily mail runs. No frills, you sit with the mail for a ride-along. We called and there was availability for today.

     This is the way to see remote Alaska. These are the White Mountains of Alaska which were named by prospectors for its composition of white limestone.

     We flew over the Fort Knox Gold Mine. The land that the Fort Knox Gold mine sits on was originally staked in 1913 with no mining taking place. There was no activity in the area until the area was restaked in 1980 by two prospectors, and leased to various mining companies. Construction didn’t begin until 1995 with the first gold pour at the end of 1996. Open pit mining is different from extractive methods that require tunneling into the earth. Open-pit mines are used when deposits of commercially useful ore or rocks are found near the surface.

     We flew over the Alaska Pipeline.

     And the Dalton Highway.

     The runway is just a dirt strip

     The postmaster meets the plane to pick up the mail

      Most of the mail on this trip is from Amazon

     In this village, the women here is not only the postmaster, but the Chief of the Indian village.

     Now, that was a trip.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Day 704

     Elbridge Truman Barnette was born in Akron, Ohio in 1886. He was a Yukon riverboat captain, banker, merchant, and swindler. In 1886, he was sentenced to four years in prison in Oregon state for stealing from a partner in a horse-trading venture in Canada. Political connections of the Barnette family saw the sentence commuted after one year, on the condition that Barnette never return to Oregon. 

     After several failed business ventures, he decided to set up a trading post on the Tanana River, in the Alaska interior. His boat was loaded with 20 tons of supplies, when the steamboat floundered on the Chena River because of the weight. Barnette, his party, and supplies, were evicted off the boat.  The sight of smoke from the steamer’s engines caught the attention of gold prospectors working in the hills to the north, most notably an Italian immigrant named Felix Pedro. Pedro bought some of the supplies and convinced Barnette to set up shop were he landed. A year later, Pedro struck gold that began a stampede to the area, making Barnette a rich man. 

     In trying to establish the settlement where Barnette set up his trading post, he got concessions from a Federal Judge who, in return, wanted the area named after Charles W. Fairbanks, a Republican senator from Indiana and later the twenty-sixth Vice President of the United States.

     We walked and drove around, but today, Fairbanks is just another big city. In this part of the Country, all diesel cars have plugs.

Chena River Boat Tour, Alaska

Day 703

     The Chena River is a 100-mile tributary of the Tanana River in the Interior region of Alaska, a mostly wilderness part of the country (actually, it seems, except for Fairbanks and Anchorage, all of Alaska is wilderness).  The river flows west from the White Mountains to the Tanana River near the city of Fairbanks, which is built on both sides of the river.

     We took a Sternwheeler down the river (or was it up). It was definitely a touristy thing, but fun. Sternwheelers were the main transportation for the Interior of Alaska in the early 1900’s. The difficult terrain and lack of roads made the rivers a useful and efficient means of travel.

     Charlie Binkley has provided boat services on the interior Alaskan Rivers since 1903. The Discovery Sternwheeler (I, II and now III) has been run by his decedents giving tours on the Chena River since 1950.

     We saw a bush pilot land next to our boat.

      We visit the sled dog training facility of famous Iditarod dog musher, Susan Butcher, now run by her daughter Tekla. We watch as they train puppies to be sled dogs.

      And exercise the grown dogs

     We saw caribou. At this time of year, they are shedding their coats.

     A presentation was made of drying salmon for winter eating.

     Walking through a Chena (Indian) village Barbara visited original log cabins from 1903, still in use.

     Some families have been living in this isolated part of Alaska for over 100 years.

     The temperature in this part of Interior Alaska gets to be minus 40 degrees in the winter time (yes, 40 degrees below zero). You can experience that in a specially designed freezer. Would we do that? You know we will.

Arctic Circle, Alaska

Day 702

     Imagine I transport you from where you are to the Arctic Circle, in Alaska. Open you eyes and describe what you expect to see.

     Bucket list of things to do in Alaska: Travel the Alcan from beginning to end, visit Santa at the North Pole, and go to the Arctic Circle. Today, we accomplish the last of those 3 things.

     The only way to get to the Arctic Circle by road is the Dalton Highway. Only half of Alaska’s 19 highways are paved. This is not one of them.

     I told you about the Alaska Pipeline yesterday. Before the 800-mile pipeline could be built over three mountain ranges and 30-some rivers and streams, a road had to be built to maintain the pipeline plus get workers, heavy equipment and supplies to the North Slope oil fields. They couldn’t be boated in, and it was too dangerous and expensive to fly. They had to be trucked in. The Dalton Highway, named for James W. Dalton, an expert in Arctic engineering who served as a consultant in early oil exploration in northern Alaska, was constructed for that purpose. 

     Traveling that road gave us excellent view of the pipeline.

     Prior to the Dalton highway, there were no roads in this part of Alaska. The highway, which directly parallels the pipeline, is one of the most isolated roads in the United States.

      We drove over the only bridge in the United States that spans the Yukon River. The Yukon River is the third largest river on the continent but one that most Americans never see. I find it hard to believe that no one who lives on the thousands of miles that border the river want to get to the other side.

      I walked down its bank and found the water cloudy and cold to the touch.

     The Yukon River Bridge, officially known as the E. L. Patton Bridge, was named for the President of the Alyeska Pipeline Company, Edward L. Patton. He is the man largely responsible for the building of the Pipeline and Dalton Road. The bridge surface is made of timber, which expands and contracts, without buckling or breaking, as the harsh weather changes. 

     We had excellent views of the pipeline from the bridge

     as well as from the road

     So, what exactly is the Arctic Circle? The Arctic Circle is the most northerly of the five major circles of latitude in which on the summer solstice (June 21) the sun remains above the horizon for 24 hours and during the winter solstice, (December 21) the sun never rises above the horizon. 

     Well, what do you expect it to look like here at the Arctic Circle? How about this:




     What? No snow, ice, or glaciers? No, the temperature today is 56 degrees. Most of Alaska this time of year is green. 

     We pulled up to the official marker for the Arctic Circle, the point at 66.33 degrees latitude. Our bus driver produced a red carpet bisected by a white dotted line to show our ceremonial crossing,

     Coming home, we saw the moose going in the opposite direction (I think they are having a meeting later today).         Now, you don’t see that in Maryland.

Fox, Alaska

Day 701

     Established as a mining camp in the early 1900s, Fox, Alaska, functions as a bedroom community today and most residents work in nearby Fairbanks or at Fort Knox Gold Mine to the northeast.

     The first thing we did today was stop at a pull-out on the road to view up close the Alaska Pipeline. In 1968, oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. A consortium of oil companies determined that a pipeline offered the best means to transport the crude oil to a navigable port where it then could be shipped by tankers to the continental United States. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company was established in 1970 to design, construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. It began moving oil in 1977. The 800-mile-long Trans Alaska Pipeline System starts in Prudhoe Bay and terminates in Valdez, Alaska, the northernmost ice-free port in North America.

     We then went to Pioneer Village to board a train to take us to an old gold dredge site (dredging is no longer allowed in Alaska).

      When we got to the train, the conductor was fiddling around.

     Before commercial dredging, we learned how early pioneers removed gold from the river. Here they had a live re-enactment of gold panning using a “shaking machine”.

     A dredge is a self-contained floating gold recovery system that creates its own pond as it works.

     The dredge combines three basic principles of mining: digging, separation of gold from gravel, and disposal of tailings. An endless chain of steel dredge buckets digs the gravel and delivers it to machinery inside the dredge that separates the gold. 

         We then learned how to pan for gold. We were given a poke, a pan, and water.

     Look, we struck it rich

     Barbara jumped my claim, stole all my gold, and put it into a necklace.

     The necklace contains $34.00 of gold (I panned $15.00 and Barbara $19.00), about 11 grains of gold.

     We then went to a salmon bake. The entry to the all-you-can-eat bake was through a mine shaft.

     I had a good time.

     Finally, we went to the Palace Theater for an old time show. (This is our group of RV’ers. The leader ((Wagonmaster)) is the guy in the hat. The assistant ((Senior Scout)) is sitting next to Barbara):

     Old time saloon dancer

North Pole, Alaska

Day 700

     We have now been traveling in the Sphinx for 700 days. Today we are at the North Pole to visit with my friend, Santa Claus. 

     When we first arrived he wasn’t here. He told me that he was a little under the weather, as he has trouble adjusting to 24 hours of daylight. He is use to the 23 hours of darkness in the winter time, and, of course, on Christmas Eve, when he makes his deliveries around the world, it is always at night. But he did tell me I could sit in his chair until he arrived,

and Barbara could sit in Mrs. Claus’s chair.

     So, when you write those letters to Santa, where do they go? Why to the North Pole Post Office, of course. 

     Although, you would think the zip code would be 00000.

     Tidbit of Information: We are now at that time of year called the midnight sun. That is, the sun does not set until after midnight. Tonight it sets at 12:13 A.M. and will rise again in a couple of hours. Because of the short time between setting and rising, it is never really dark. In fact is seems like it is daylight 24 hours. Some in our group don’t like it, I think it is neat, although you don’t see the stars or moon. 

Technical Stuff:

Tok, Alaska to North Pole, Alaska: 199.2 Miles

4 hours 10 minutes

10.6 MPG

Diesel: $3.45

Tok, Alaska

Day 699

     Tok is the first major community you arrive as you cross from Canada to Alaska. The area was originally settled by Athabascan Indians who named the area Tok, meaning water.

     Not far from Tok is Delta Junction. This is where the Alcan ends. The road now continues, and is called Richardson Highway.

      Across the road from the marker was the Sullivan Roadhouse. John E. Sullivan was born in March, 1866 in Wisconsin. He worked as a merchant until June, 1895, when he headed north to Alaska to join the first stampeders to the Klondike to mine for gold. However, he found it was more profitable to operate a roadhouse. Roadhouses were springing up along the new roads being built to accommodate the prospectors looking for gold. He built this house himself. 

     Complete with kitchen 

     Living area

     They had a gentleman there, who might have been one of the original pioneers. He was able to answer all of our questions. For example, Klondike is a region and not a place. It lies around the Klondike River, a small river that enters the Yukon River from the east at Dawson City. The name “Klondike” evolved from the Athabascan word Tr’ondëk, which means “hammerstone water”. Early gold seekers found it difficult to pronounce the word, so “Klondike” was the result of this poor pronunciation.

     Of course, they had a gift shop there.

     And an ice-cream stand

     “Can I have the spool, when you finish?”

Technical Stuff:

Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory to Tok, Alaska: 242.8 miles

5 hours 40 minutes

10.0 MPG

Diesel: $1.32 Canadian/liter

Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory

Day 697

     Kluane Lake is located in the southwest area of the Yukon. It is the largest lake contained entirely within The Yukon Territory.

     Across from our campsite was a grissily bear and her two cubs.

     Finally, the bear said “no more photos”.

     We also saw mountain sheep high on the mountain ridge

Technical Stuff:

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory: 150.6 miles

3 hours 33 minutes

10.2 MPG

Diesel: $1.32 Canadian / liter

White Pass and Yukon Railroad

Day 696

Milepost 6611

     We took a bus ride from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fraiser, Yukon to catch the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, which will take us to Skagway, Alaska.

     Along the way we stopped at Emerald Lake.1

     The beautiful blue-green color of the lake is created by sunlight reflecting off a white layer of “marl” on the lake bed. Marl is a white calcium carbonate clay that forms in the water and settles unevenly on the lake bottom. 

    We also stopped at the Carcross Desert.2

     Of course, it is not a real desert, but it is called that to attract tourists. And here we are. It is really an ancient lake bed, now dried up as part of the glacial process. The Carcross Dunes are a rare habitat and one of only a few dune systems in northwestern North America. 3

     The town of Carcross (originally known as Caribou Crossing) was a railroad town for those building the White Pass Railroad. After the completion of the railroad, the town remained as a popular stopping place for prospectors going to and from the gold field.

     James “Skookum” Mason was an Alaskan native who found a gold nugget in Rabbit Creek in August of 1896 that began the Klondike Gold Rush. 

     The train line was born of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Construction started on May 27, 1898 and was completed July 29, 1900. It is a 110 mile narrow gauge railroad. It had to be narrow gauge to get through the thin mountain passes.4

     After the gold rush subsided, the line changed hands numerous times, finally, the White Pass Route was reopened between Skagway and Fraser in 1989, purely for tourist passenger traffic.6

     The narrow gauge railroad only has one track through the mountains. At each end, the engine goes from one end of the train to the other for the return trip. 5

     There were lots of water falls. 

      In taking these pictures, I had to make sure I did not stick my head out too far, or risk loosing my nose.7

     While Skagway use to be a quaint little town, giving the feeling of the goldrush era, today it is just a tourist trap. Nevertheless, the scenery on the bus ride back was magnificent.13

     We even saw our train returning taking the next group to Skagway. 14

Wildlife on the Alcan, Yukon Territory

Day 694

     WARNING: Some scenes in this post might be too graphic for young viewers. Parental discretion is advised.

     There is much wildlife to be seen in the Yukon Territory. Don’t be concerned for my safety, I used a telephoto lens.


Ground Squirrels

Thinhorn SheepMuskoxMountain GoatsArctic FoxCaribouWe were fortune to see a Caribou give birth

     We waited for an hour to see the young calf stand up, but it got too late.That afterbirth sure tastes good

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

Day 693

Milepost 91

     Whitehorse is the capital and only city of The Yukon Territory. The city was named after the Rapids for their frothy resemblance to the mane of a white horse. The rapids no longer exist as the Whitehorse dam, constructed in 1957, submerged the rapids beneath the newly created Schwatka Lake.

     The city of Whitehorse developed as the transportation hub of the Klondike Gold Fields. For being the only city, and Capital, of the Yukon Territory, Whitehorse was not very impressive. We did see some interesting things, though:

     We went to a demonstration on how the gold miners panned for gold. 

    If you remember Day 120, we saw the tallest weathervane. Here is the world’s largest weather vane:

     It is a DC 3 built in 1942. After a distinguished career in the War and then in transport services, it was retired and is now on permanent display at the Whitehorse Airport. Pivoting on its mount, the aircraft always points into the wind. Wind speeds of as little as 5 mph will turn it. 

     The world’s largest wooden mounty sits in front of the Coast High Country Inn in Whitehorse. Technical Stuff:

Telsin, Yukon Territory to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory: 104.9 miles

2 hours 34 minutes

10.4 MPG

Diesel: $1.32 Canadian/liter

Teslin, Yukon Territory

Day 692

Milpost 804

     The Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post at Teslin, Yukon Territory, in 1903, named for the river of the same name. The name Teslin came from a Tlingit word “Teslintoo,” meaning “long narrow waters”, referring to Teslin Lake, which is 78 miles long. The population of this town is less than 500 people, and outside of the primitive campground we are staying, a general store, and gas station, there is nothing here. We are spending one night here and going on to Whitehorse tomorrow. 

     The Tlingit are the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, originally coming down from Alaska. They still live in this area as a result of a treaty. 

     We are camping on the shore of the Nisutlin Bay off the Teslin River.

     To arrive here we crossed the Nisutlin Bay Bridge.    

       The Nisutlin Bay Bridge crosses Teslin Lake, Yukon Territory. The current Nisutlin Bay Bridge, built in 1956, is the third bridge to span the bay since the original construction of the Alaska Highway. It is two lanes wide and consists of seven metal through truss spans set on concrete piers. The roadway is composed of large opening, metal grating. Because of this, it was a little slippery to cross.

     On our way here we went over 3 miles of unpaved road (under construction), it turned my truck brown. 

Technical Stuff:

Watson Lake, Yukon to Teslin, Yukon Territory: 161.2 miles

3 hours 35 minutes

10.0 MPG

Diesel: $1.32 Canadian/liter

Traveling the Alaska Highway, Yukon Territory

Day 691

     The Alaska Highway is endless miles with no civilization. Since this road was originally a military road, no communities sprang up, as there was no industry to support them. Once the war ended, the road continued to be improved as the only overland way to Alaska from the United States. Even tourism is not enough to support many communities on this road, as more and more people are flying to Alaska.

     However, there is plenty of wildlife, like this bear climbing the wall to cross the highway:

     There were plenty of Bison and their young,

     And these two guys duking it out: 

     We find fuel at truck stops, and that is where most of the RV parks are on the highway.

     Nevertheless, there are some fantastic views. And the countryside is breathtaking.

     Since wildlife have the right of way, we do have to stop when we get to an intersection:

     This bear just watched us. Probably no vehicles had come by for hours:

     Another cool thing is that the sun rises at 4:30 in the morning and doesn’t set until 11:12 at night. And, can you believe, the Yukon Territory has daylight savings time?

     As you can see from my “technical stuff” on the various posts, we are traveling up to 7 hours a day to reach our next destination. Generally, there are no campgrounds between stops.

     The pods generally stop every couple of hours for nature’s necessities, ice cream. 

     Hey, mama, wait for me!

Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada

Day 690

Milepost 635

     Watson Lake is a town in The Yukon Territory, Canada, located at milepost 635 on the Alaska Highway, close to the British Columbia border. The town is named for Frank Watson, an American-born trapper and prospector, who settled in the area in the late 1800’s.

     The Yukon Territory is the smallest and westernmost of Canada’s three federal territories (the other two are the Northwest Territories and Nunavut). Whitehorse is the territorial capital and Yukon’s only city. European incursions into the area began early in the 1800’s with the fur trade, followed by missionaries. By the 1870s and 1880s gold miners began to arrive.  The increased population coming with the gold rush in 1887 led to the separation of the Yukon district from the Northwest Territories and the formation of the separate Yukon Territory in 1898.

     Tidbit of Information: The major difference between a Canadian province and a territory is that provinces receive their power and authority from the British North America Act of 1867, whereas territorial governments have powers delegated to them by the Parliament of Canada.

     The name Yukon comes from the Gwich’in word Yu-kun-ah meaning “great river”.

     In February 1943, a sign post pointing out the distances to various points along the Pioneer Road being built (The Alaska Highway) was damaged by a bulldozer. Private Carl K. Lindley, serving with the 341st Engineers, was ordered to repair the sign. When he finished that assigned job, he decided to paint the name of his hometown on a board and nail it to the same post. The sign read “Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles.” Other soldiers followed, and the tradition has continued for 75 years.

     There are now 85,813 signs in the “Sign Post Forrest”. 

     Actually, as of today there are 85,814, as we added our sign.

     Careful with our sign:

     All of us together:

Technical Stuff:

Liard Hot Springs, BC to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory: 128.8 miles

2 hours 44 minutes

9.2 MPG

Diesel: $1.95 Canadian/liter

Liard Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada

Day 689

Milpost 475      

     The Liard River Hot Springs is located on the Liard River in British Columbia and is the largest natural hot springs in Canada.

     Water temperatures ranges from 108 to 126 °F.

     It’s name is derived from the French word for “Eastern Cottonwood” (a kind of poplar) which grow in abundance along sections of the river.

     We stayed at a campground directly across from the springs. There is no cell phone or internet coverage in the area, nor electricity. Power to the campground were these generators. 

     They were insufficient to supply electricity to the 19 Rv’s, and power kept shutting down.

     We are definitely in a remote area of the Country. With no power or cell phone coverage there is no way to call for help if you are in trouble. You are on your own, just like the mountain men of a 100 years ago. 

Technical Stuff:

Fort Nelson to Liard River Hot Springs: 188.5 miles

4 hours 36 minutes

9.4 MPG

Diesel: $1.47 Canadian per liter

Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

Day 688

Milpost 300

     Fort Nelson, was established in 1805 as a fur-trading post by The Northwest Trading Company. It was named for Horatio Nelson, the British Naval hero of the Battle of Trafalgar. There was never a fort here in the traditional sense, although in 1942 it was used as an airbase during the construction of the Alaska Highway.

     Marl Brown grew up in Delburne, Alberta, Canada, and came north in 1957 to work as a mechanic for the Royal Canadian Army at Mile 245 of the Alaska Highway. He moved to Fort Nelson in 1957. He stayed here, helping to preserve and explain the history of the area. We visited with him in The Fort Nelson Heritage Museum where he shared with us his collection of cars and his experiences with the ALCAN.

Technical Stuff:

Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada: 281.1 miles

6 hours 6 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $1.47 Canadian / liter

The Alaska-Canadian Highway (ALCAN)

DAY 687

     The rest of our RV caravan group has now joined us here in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Mile 0 of The Alaska Highway, also known as the Alaska-Canadian Highway (ALCAN). We are beginning our journey along the entire Highway, to Fairbanks, Alaska. This part of our trek is 1,422 miles and will take us to Delta Junction, Alaska, the end of the ALCAN. It should take us 12 days.

     Their are 19 RV’s and 37 people, plus their animals (dogs & cats). It seems most RV’ers we have met, have animals.

     Each RV is numbered, from biggest to smallest. We are #5.

     There are 3 Class A,

another 5th wheel larger than us, down to the smallest, a Class C.

     Some of the campgrounds we will be staying during the next 12 days are small and primitive. The Assistant Wagon-master, called “The Scout”, will leave before all the other RV’s so that he can arrive at the campground first and organize the parking of the 19 rigs. The numbering tells him our size so that an appropriate place will be waiting for us when we arrive.

     The remaining rigs will leave in groups of 4 or 5, called “pods”. We will leave in 30 minute intervals so that we all don’t arrive at the campground at the same time and overwhelm them. Tomorrow, I will be leaving in the last “pod” so that all the smaller RV’s can be parked first, as the “big” sites are on the perimeter. This varies by campground. 

     It will be interesting to see how we will function, as some of these primitive sites have no sewer hookups, and only 15 amp electric. We are a 50 amp unit. I have converter plugs so we can hookup to the 15 amp. Barbara will have to give up some of her conveniences, curling iron, hair dryer, microwave.

Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia, Canada

Day 686

     Since we are in the Canadian Rockies, and the snow on the mountains are now melting, we wanted to see some waterfalls. We went to the area known as Tumbler Ridge, named by explorer Edmund Spieker in 1920. We hiked for about 2 hours

to find Quality Falls.

     Wanting to see larger falls, we drove 40 more miles to find Kinuseo Falls, on the Murray River. Kinuseo means ‘fish’ in the Cree Indian language, owing to the great numbers of trout both above and below the falls.

     We saw no fish. Barbara did taste the water for fish poop.None.

     The locals say the falls is over 200 feet tall (70 meters), and therefore taller than Niagara Falls (50 meters), although the volume of water is less. They must be doing the metric conversion wrong, as it did not appear to me taller than Niagara Falls.  Or, maybe they are referring to the Canadian side of Niagara.

     During our drive, we passed through a turbine windmill farm.

     Upon making a wrong turn, we ended up at the transfer station where they had stored replacement blades for the windmills.

     When we measured their length, it came to 200 feet. That is as high as Kinuseo Falls.


Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada

Day 683

Milepost 0

     Continuing our travels through the Canadian Rockies

we arrive at Dawson Creek, British Columbia. So far, this has been our longest drive pulling the Sphinx, 328 miles in just under 8 hours. 

     Dawson Creek derives its name from the creek of the same name that runs through the community. The creek was named after George Mercer Dawson by a member of his land survey team when they passed through the area in August 1879. George Mercer Dawson was born August 1, 1849 in Pictou, Nova Scotia and was a Canadian geologist and surveyor, who gained notoriety for mapping western Canada. Dawson Creek was incorporated on May 28 1921.

     Dawson Creek is most noted as the starting point of the Alaska Highway. 

     The Alaska Highway, also known as The Alaska-Canadian Highway, or ALCAN, was constructed as an American military road during World War II for the purpose of connecting the contiguous United States to Alaska. It begins at the junction of several Canadian highways in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and runs to Delta Junction, Alaska, about 1700 miles. The start of construction took place on March 9, 1942 and was completed 8 months later on October 28, 1942. Since The Alaska Highway was built for American military purposes, the distance markers are in miles and not kilometers.

     Over the last 76 years, the ALCAN had been modified and improved. In Canada, each community in which the ALCAN passes is responsible for maintenance, and most have modified the original road to reroute and straightened out numerous sections to make the road more convenient for modern travel. This has resulted in the shortening of the overall length of the road by about 300 miles.

     One of the last vestiges of the original road is at Milepost 21, just outside of Dawson Creek. A bridge was needed to cross the Kiskatinaw River.  Kiskatinaw is Cree for “river with steep banks”.

     Of 133 bridges, the Kiskatinaw Bridge is the last wooden bridge left from the original construction of the ALCAN. This three-span timber truss bridge has an amazing nine-degree curve – a curve that engineers designed to accommodate the highway’s steep change in grade on the west end, and the need to land at a notch in the cliff on the east end. At the time, it was the first wooden curved bridge to be built in Canada.

     The Kiskatinaw Bridge was bypassed in 1978 as it could not support modern trucking. 

     Barbara thinks the surveyors may have made a mistake. 

     Food for Thought:

Technical Stuff:

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada: 328.5 miles

7 hours 55 minutes

10.3 MPG

Diesel: $1.28 Canadian/per liter

Jasper National Park, Canada

Day 681

     We traversed the Canadian Rockies on the Trans-Canada Highway (this highway travels through all ten provinces of Canada from the Atlantic Ocean on the East to the Pacific on the West). With spring arriving, water was pouring down the mountains.

     Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, located in the province of Alberta, the park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield. The Columbia Icefield is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains, located astride the Continental Divide along the border of Alberta and British Columbia

     An ice field is an expansive area of interconnected glaciers found in a mountain region.

     Jasper Hawes, orginally from Missouri, came to this area around 1817 from Montreal on a contract as a clerk and operator of a trading post here for the North West Company, a competitor of the Hudson Bay Company. The area around his trading station was named Jasper, after him. The park was established on September 14, 1907 as Jasper Forest Park, and was granted National Park status in 1930, with the passing of the National Parks Act.

     Our truck effortlessly pulled the 8 ton Sphinx over the Canadian Rockies.

     We are staying in the Jasper National Park. The first thing we had to do was chase the wildlife off our site.

     We took a bus tour to the Glaciers and the Columbia Ice-fields. The neat thing about this bus, it had a front mounted camera with a video display at your seat, therefore not only could you see the view out your side window, but also from the front of the bus.

     This peak is part of the Continental Divide. This is the only Continental Divide in the World where the water goes to three oceans, West to Pacific, East to Atlantic, and North to the Arctic Ocean.

     The Athabasca River originates from the Columbia Glacier of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. The river was swollen with Glacier melt, which made an impressive water falls.

     The Glaciers are receding.

     We took an Ice Explorer out onto the glacier

     Which allowed us to walk on the glacier:

     Went on the Glacier Skywalk, a glass bottom walkway over the Sunwapta Valley and River. This is where the glacial waters begin their long journey to the Arctic Ocean. Unlike the glass walk at the Grand Canyon, you can wear your own shoes, and they let you take your camera.

     Can’t be afraid of heights.

Technical Stuff:

Banff, Alberta, Canada to Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada: 182.1 miles

4 hours 25 minutes

10.2 MPG

Diesel: $1.41 Canadian per liter

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Day 679


     In 1882, the Canadian Pacific Railway was building the transcontinental railway through the Bow Valley in this newly acquired territory of the new Canadian Nation. 

     Bow Valley is a valley located along the upper Bow River in what is now Alberta, Canada. The name “Bow” refers to the reeds that grew along its banks and which were used by the local Indians to make bows. The Peigan Indian name for the river is “Makhabn”, meaning “river where bow weeds grow”

     Three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs in 1883 here and wanted to develop it for commercial application. After much controversy and debate, the Canadian Government claimed the area as it’s First National Park. The area became popular with tourists because of these springs and easy access by the new railroad. This resulted with the city of Banff being settled in 1886.   

      The area was named Banff by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace in Banff, Scotland. The Canadian Pacific built a series of grand hotels along the rail line and advertised the Banff Springs Hotel as an international tourist resort.


     We went to The Cave and Basin and viewed the hot springs. The 3 railway workers first notice the hot springs by the smell of sulphur coming out of this cave hole.

     For years people came to this pool, called the Basin, to enjoy its warm, mineral-rich spring-fed water. They were drawn here to soothe aching joints, or to dive and swim in its bubbling depths. 

     Bathers loved the Basin for its year-round warm waters, and beautiful color, preferring it over the dark and sulfurous Cave pool.

     Due to high bacterial counts, the Basin was closed to bathers in 1971.

     We hiked along the Bow River.

     Two miles down, the tranquil river becomes raging rapids

     We portered around the rapids a 1/4 mile

     to the water falls.

     We also stopped at the Royal Sewer:Technical Stuff:

Calgary, AB, Canada to Banff, AB, Canada: 71.4 Miles

2 hours 3 minutes

8.9 MPG

Diesel: $124.4/liter Canadian 

Fort Calgary, Canada

Day 677

     Fort Calgary, originally called Fort Brisebois, was established on April 10, 1875  by the North-West Mounted Police, located at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers in what is now Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 

      The Canadian government created the North West Mounted Police in 1873 as a para-military police force that would establish Canadian Sovereignty, put a stop to the whiskey trade, and befriend the Indians in preparation for the treaties that would open the land for settlement. “F” Troop, under the leadership of Inspector Éphrem Brisebois, travelled to the Bow and Elbow Rivers to establish an outpost part way between Fort Macleod (see day 673) and Fort Edmonton. 

     Éphrem A. Brisebois was born March 7, 1850 in South Durham, Canada East, now part of Quebec. He initially named the Fort after himself. He was despised by his men, and was replaced in 1876. The Fort was renamed Fort Calgary by Colonel James F. Macleod, after Calgary House, a castle at Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. The name of this area by the Indians was Moh’kinsstis, or Elbow.

     Between 1876 and 1914 the Fort grew into Calgary Barracks and became the center of a flourishing community that ultimately became the City of Calgary.  

     But then the railroad cameDay 677 Ft Calgary Alberta, Canada 0846_Fotor_Fotor

     The land had been settled, treaties made with the Indians, and the Fort was no longer needed. In 1914, Fort Calgary was sold to the Grant Trunk Pacific Railway for use as a rail terminal. They demolished all the fort buildings. No trace of the Fort now exists, just this empty lot. 

     Standing on the site of what use to be the Fort, you can see the Bow River.

     Turn 180 degrees, what use to be the open prairie for miles and miles, is now the city of Calgary. 

     Looking up to what use to be hundreds of geese and birds, you now see

Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Day 676

     Cochrane was established in 1881 as the Cochrane Ranche, after Matthew Henry Cochrane. It became a village in 1903 and incorporated as a town in 1971.

     Matthew Henry Cochrane was born November 11, 1823 in Lower Canada, the son of Irish immigrants. He was a Canadian industrialist, livestock breeder and politician, serving 31 years in the Canadian Senate. His Ranch in Alberta was one of the largest in the British Empire.

     We walked the ranch, which was originally over 40,000 hectares, but because of modern development and changing times, only a fraction of the original ranch land is left. 

     As far as the eye can see, was originally this ranch. Now, a superhighway and development occupy this once cattle laden land. 

He rode tall in the saddle

when I went to take a closer photograph, my flash startled the horse and threw him. 

Technical Stuff:

Fort Macleod, Alberta, Ca to Cochrane, Alberta, Ca: 131.1 miles

2 hours 57 minutes

9.9 MPG

Diesel: $3.00/gallon

Frank, Alberta, Canada

Day 675

     We are now at Crowsnest Pass in Alberta, Canada. Rivers born in Canada’s Rockies carved passes eastward to Hudson Bay or westward to the Pacific Ocean. This one was long used by Indians.

     Searching for gold in 1873, Michael Phillipps was the first white man to cross the Canadian Rockies through this unexplored pass. The Crowsnest Pass is the lowest through the Rockies passes on the Continental divide in this area

     Tidbit of Information: A continental divide is a ridge of elevated terrain that separates the drainage basins of a continent. Rivers west of this divide will drain toward the Pacific Ocean, rivers east of the Divide toward the Atlantic.

     Henry L. Frank was born in Ohio in 1851. He was a self-made entrepreneur who invested in various enterprises. He had various coal mines in Montana, where he was active in politics and the community. In his home city of Butte, Mr. Frank was a prominent business man, being one of the heaviest mining operators and real estate holders.

     In 1901 rich veins of coal were discovered in Crowsnest Pass.      Frank developed the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company to mine the base of Turtle Mountain in the Pass. Native oral history refers to Turtle Mountain as “the mountain that moves.”

     He built the town of Frank, named after himself, to house the mine workers and stores to support them. The town’s grand opening was on September 10, 1901. The mine was a success, and by 1903, 600 miners worked and lived in Frank. 

     We wanted to view this historic mining community, so we drove to Frank. Standing on one of the main streets, on the edge of town, this is what we saw: 

     At 4:10 in the morning of April 29, 1903, the tip of Turtle Mountain broke loose, slid down and decimated part of the Village of Frank.

     The primary cause of the “Frank Slide” was Turtle Mountain’s unstable structure. The rock layers of soft sandstone and hard granite, stacked like slippery playing cards, simply slid into the valley. 


Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada

Day 674

     I never heard of a buffalo jump until I visited the Buffalo Jump in Montana (see day 667). Now, I come upon one here in Alberta, Canada. In Montana, the starting point was the plains leading up to the jump, which we hiked, then hiked to the top of the jump, a 3 mile jaunt.

     Here, the interpretive center is at the base of the jump, were the Indians dressed the fallen buffalo. From there you take an elevator 6 stories up to the top of the jump. The intervening 5 floors tell you the history of the area, and a detailed description of how the jump was set up. 

     Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is situated at the very southern end of the Porcupine Hills. They are a separate geological feature, not part of the Rocky Mountains. West of the Jump, is a natural U-shaped basin where the buffalo, grazing, were rounded up for the kill.

     Long lines of small rock piles, called cairns, were built in the Gathering Basin. The cairns, spaced 5 to 10 meters apart, stretched many kilometers west into the gathering basin and formed the drive lanes. (Since we are in Canada, I have to use their measurements.)  Like a funnel, the lanes converged to a narrow exit at the cliff. Several young men, the buffalo runners, located a herd and slowly directed them into the lanes. Buffalo saw the cairns as solid walls and moved deeper into the funnel towards the cliff. At the last moment the buffalo were startled into a stampede. Unable to stop, they fell from the cliff.

     A successful hunt probably killed several hundred buffalo. When the killing was over, buffalo carcasses were dragged downslope to the level prairie for butchering. 

     If you were the Indian that was tasked with urging the herd on, this was your view:


     The interpretive center had really cool carpeting. 


         In Blackfoot, the name for this site is Estipah-skikikini-kots. From what I can gather from this buffalo hide drawing, this is how the cliff got this name: 

     In 1812, a young brave wanted to witness the plunge of buffalo as his people drove them to their deaths over the cliffs. Standing under the shelter of a ledge, he watched the great beasts fall past him. The hunt was unusually good that day. As the bodies mounted, he became trapped between the animals and the cliff. When his people came to do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed under the weight of the buffalo carcasses. Thus, they named the place “Head-Smashed-In”. And now, you know the rest of the story.

Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada

Day 673

     Fort Macleod, in Alberta, Canada, was established on October 18, 1874, with the arrival of the North West Mounted Police, led by Colonel James F. Macleod. James Farquharson Macleod was born September 25, 1836, in Drynoch, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

     The original fort was erected of log walls, rough planking, sod roofs and dirt floors. It was located on an island in the Old Man River valley, about one mile east of the present town. The island, now known as Macleod Island, was chosen for the site of the fort as it was both a picturesque and defensible location. However, it diminished in attractiveness with the arrival of spring flood waters, which rendered the site practically inaccessible. By 1884, the NWMP relocated their quarters to the south bank of the Old Man River.

     The Northwest Mounted Police had been formed to protect Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Territory. This interest was being threatened by the American whiskey traders who were trading deadly “firewater” for buffalo hides, wolf skins, and other items of value. The arrival of the NWMP put an end to the illicit trade in the Blackfoot, Blood, and Peigan Indian territory of Canada. Moreover, they established an official federal presence in the North West Territories, which were being eyed by the United States for possible annexation, and effectively opened the Canadian West to settlers. Fort Macleod was the first permanent police post in the British North-West.

     The town soon followed, and incorporated in 1892. It became a bustling settlement, complete with a main street and a variety of commercial interests providing services to the region’s ranching industry. Development proceeded until 1906 when a fire destroyed most of the wood frame shops and businesses on Main Street. As a reaction to the fire, a law was passed requiring future buildings to be constructed of stone or brick, thereby changing the look of Main Street forever.

     Let’s not forget Dudley Do-Right, of the Northwest Mounted Police:

Technical Stuff:

Shelby, Montana to Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada: 131.9 miles

3 hours 13 minutes

9.4 MPG

Diesel: $3.00

Shelby, Montana

Day 670

     Shelby was named for Peter O. Shelby, General Manager of the Montana Central Railway, which operated from January 25, 1886 to 1907. In 1907, the Montana Central ceased to exist after it was made part of the Great Northern.

     We stopped here because it is the closest town to the Canadian Border, which we want to reach in the morning. 

     We have met up with the other RV’ers whom we will be spending the next 3 months with on our trip to Alaska and back. Our new adventure starts tomorrow

     Barbara and I have updated our phone plans so they work in Canada. If there are no more blogs, you know that didn’t work. 

Technical Stuff:

Great Falls, Montana to Shelby, Montana: 85.5 miles

1 hour 53 minutes

9.0 MPG

Diesel: $2.99

Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana

Day 669

     Master Sergeant Rob Turnbow explained to us the current workings of Malmstrom Air Force Base, just outside the city of Great Falls, Montana.  We learned that Malmstrom AFB is one of three US Air Force Bases that maintains and operates the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.      Airfield operations began on  November 30, 1942 when the first B-17 Flying Fortress landed at the newly constructed base. Originally named Great Falls Army Air Base, later Great Falls Air Force Base, the facility was renamed Malmstrom Air Force Base on October 1, 1955 in honor of Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom.

     Colonel Einar Axel Malmstrom was born July 14, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. (Who names their son Einar? No wonder he spent his life in the Armed Forces.) He enlisted in the Washington State National Guard on May 12, 1929 as a Private and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on May 25, 1931. He served a distinguishing carrier as a fighter pilot, including vice wing commander of this base, attaining the rank of Colonel. He died while flying a jet airplane that crash on August 24, 1954.

     Ok, who knows what this is:

     The missileer went to the bathroom, and I took this photograph. Don’t tell anyone, it’s top secret. 

     How, you may ask, do they get the minuteman missile into the silo? They use a Transporter/Erector.      The missile is loaded into the Transporter, like a torpedo, it then positions itself over the silo and erects upright. The missile is lowered by a waiting elevator. Today, a state of the art diesel powered unit is used. 

Buffalo Jump, Montana

Day 667

     The Spanish first brought horses to the North America Continent in the 1500’s. How then did Indians here kill the buffalo for food and clothing? Here in the Northern Plains of what is now Montana, they came up with an ingenious method, which they had used for 1200 years before the Spanish arrival. 

     They found a cliff and stampeded the buffalo over the cliff. Once the animals were driven over the cliff and incapacitated, they would be slaughtered and their meat, hides, and bones used by the hunters to feed and clothe their families and to make various tools and weapons, and of course, gulf clubs:

     We walked across the Plains to the cliff. 

     Then hiked the mountain to the top of the cliff

     From there you can see the prairie leading to the cliff from which the buffalo were stampeded. 

     Is that blood from 5,000 years ago?

     At the beginning of our hike, just over 3 miles round trip, we got the usual warning of rattlesnakes. Barbara heard a rattlesnake as we crossed over a ravine, and we saw this bullhead snake toward the top of the cliff:

Portage – Great Falls, Montana

Day 666

     Lewis and Clark, and their party of merry men, were happily going up the Missouri River looking for the Northwest Passage and exploring the newly acquired Louisiana Territory for President Thomas Jefferson, until they arrive where we are now, Great Falls, Montana. Here they ran into their first major obstacle, water falls. The only way to surmount the falls was portage. What is “portage” you ask? Good question. Portage means “to carry”. They had to build a devise on which to carry their boats out of the water, up the mountainside, pull them on land around the falls, back down the mountainside and back into the water. 

     As it turned out, to their great dismay, there was not just one waterfalls, but five, and they had to lug everything 18 miles overland, on top of the mountain that the Missouri River carved, to surpass the falls. We went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center to learn all this.

     They had this diorama to give us a visual interpretation. 

     We met with the descendants of the Chippewa tribe they encountered.     Today was the 20th anniversary the opening of this center, and there were all kinds of activities and demonstrations about the expedition. Here Barbara partakes in an Indian ceremonial dance.      They also demonstrated the firing of the “swivel gun” Lewis and Clark had with them     A raptor demonstration, here the dissucision is about Vultures:      This is the “portage devise” built and used to pull those boats up the mountain:     And they reminded us, only YOU can prevent forest fires.

Great Falls, Montana

Day 663

     Great Falls, Montana, takes its name from the five waterfalls along the upper Missouri River.

     Meriwether Lewis was the first white person to visit the area, which he did on June 13, 1805, as part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

     Following the return passage of Lewis and Clark in 1806, the next white person to come here was explorer and trapper Jim Bridger in 1822. Bridger led a fur-trading expedition to the future city location in April 1823 (and was attacked by Blackfeet Indians while camping at the site).

     The City of Great Falls was founded in 1883 by Businessman Paris Gibson, born July 1, 1830.

     We are here for a week to have maintenance done on the Truck and Sphinx. We will be meeting here with the other RV’ers to begin our trek to Alaska. Going through Canada and up to the Arctic Circle in Alaska and back is a 7,000 mile journey and will take us just under 3 months. We will probably be stopping at the North Pole to say hi to Santa. 

Technical Stuff:

Dillon, Montana to Great Falls, Montana: 222.7 miles

4 hours 28 minutes

10.0 MPG

Diesel: $3.15

Dillon, Montana

Day 659

     Dillon was founded in 1880 as a railroad town by Union Pacific Railroad President Sidney Dillon, for whom it is named. The town’s location was selected because of its proximity to gold mines in the area. We chose this location because it is halfway between Rexburg, Idaho and Great Falls, Montana where we are meeting up with other RV’ers to begin our Alaska adventure. 

     One of the interesting things in going to these small towns are the unusual finds, like this sewing rocker chair:

     Imagine how proud the original owner was of this vehicle the first time he got in it when it was brand spanking new:

     In the old one room school house, they had on the chalkboard how to remember to spell “geography”:

Technical Stuff:

Rexburg, Idaho to Dillon, Montana 135.1 miles

2 hours 48 minutes

9.9 MPG

Diesel: $3.15

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Day 657

     Did you know there is a canyon and 300 foot waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park?

     We went there to hike, but 98% of the trails were closed because of deep snow

     Of course, we saw blowholes

     Hot springs


     Boiling mud

     Small geysers

     Mediam geysers

     And large geysers

     All in all a beautiful day

Rigby, Idaho

Day 656

     Rigby was founded by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1884 and incorporated in 1903. The community was named after William F. Rigby, a prominent early settler and member of the Church.

     Rigby is most famous for being the “birthplace of television”, a title the city can attribute to a high school student named Philo Taylor Farnsworth. 

     Philo Taylor Farnsworth was born August 19, 1906, to a Mormon couple then living in a place called Indian Creek, Utah. In 1918, the family moved to a relative’s 240-acre ranch outside of Rigby, Idaho. It was here, while attending Rigby Highs School, that Philo (who names their son Philo?) drew up his first blue-prints of a television.

     If you can remember ALL these TV shows, you are REALLY old:

Rexburg, Idaho

Day 655

     Thomas Edwin Ricks, born on July 21, 1828, in Western Kentucky, was a prominent Mormon pioneer who founded Rexburg, Idaho in March, 1883

     We visited the Tabernacle there

     Eventually, the Mormon’s no longer build Tabernacles, this one is now owned by the City of Rexburg, and is used as a community meeting center. 

Technical Stuff:

Brigham City, Utah to Rexburg, Idaho:  197.3 miles

3 hours 58 minutes

9.4 MPG

Diesel: $3.28

Lehi, Utah

Day 654

     A group of Mormon pioneers settled the area now known as Lehi in the fall of 1850 in the northernmost part of Utah Valley. It is named after Lehi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon. Lehi City was incorporated on February 5, 1852.

     Thanksgiving Point is a nonprofit museum complex and estate garden founded by Alan Ashton, co-founded of the software company WordPerfect. In 1994, WordPerfect was sold for nearly a billion dollars. After the sell, Alan purchased farm land in Lehi, Utah and gifted it to his wife Karen on February 14, 1995 (aah!). The name for the project, Thanksgiving Point, was chosen to express gratitude. The complex consists of museums and gardens, and is the host of the annual Tulip Festival, which is going on now. 

     We went to the tulip festival where they had over 280,000 tulips in more than 150 varieties. 

      They had 10 different areas, including this impressive Italian Garden

     There is snow in the mountains, but tulips here.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah

Day 652

     Bear River Refuge is a wetland oasis in a desert for wildlife. It lies in northern Utah, where the Bear River flows into the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake. In the 1920s, due to the loss of marshes and huge bird die-offs from botulism, local individuals and organizations urged Congress to protect this valuable resource in Northern Utah, and in 1928, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge was created.  The purpose of the refuge is to serve as a “suitable refuge and feeding and breeding grounds for migratory waterfowl”.

     Tidbit of Information: Although 3 main rivers enter the Great Salt Lake, there is no exit, other than evaporation.

     What did she see?

     Canadian Goose

     Northern Shoveler


     White Pelican

     Mule Deer – because of their ears



     Yellow Headed Blackbird

     This common black crow followed me home

     can I keep him?

Promontory, Utah

Day 642

     On September 8, 1942 the “undriving” of the last railroad spike was removed from the train tracks at Promontory Summit, Utah. The steel was needed for the war effort. The once thriving community of Promontory was now a ghost town. But I get ahead of myself.

     Let’s jump back 73 years to May 10, 1869 at exactly 12:47 P.M. That was when the last rail was laid and the “golden spike” driven to complete the first transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific Railroad building from the East and the Central Pacific from the West, met at Promontory, Utah Territory.

     There was much fanfare and speeches. Telegraph lines were hooked up to broadcast the event around the Country. The honor of driving the spike would go to the two rail barons who had spearheaded the rail building. Leland Stanford, former Governor of California, and President of the Central Pacific Railroad, and Dr. Thomas Durant, Union Pacific Railroad Vice-President. Governor Stanford stepped up, took the maul, swung …….. and missed. Then Dr. Durant took his turn ……… and also missed. Finally, the crew bosses for each of the railroads took up the mauls and completed the tasks.

     The spike was made of gold and was ceremonial only. After the dedication, the spike was removed and replaced with real spikes, the only thing remaining is a plaque.

     We took a hike along the old railbed, called the Big Fill. There was a sign that remained you: “Rattlesnakes have the right of way.”

     Because of politics, no decision had been made by Congress as to where the two raillines would meet. By the time the decision was made it would be at Promontory, the railroads had already built rail-beds around the area.

     Rail-bed is the base on which the rail ties and track are actually laid. The bed is created by blasting through the mountain rock or building a bridge or fill in the land in the low areas. The trail we hiked today, about 3 miles round trip, was a circular route in which you walked on the rail bed of each railroad, the Central Pacific who decided to fill in the low area, and the Union Pacific who build a trestle.

     The fill is 500 feet long and 170 feet high. 

     The trestle was abandoned when the Central Pacific got the contract for this area, and therefore deteriorated and is no longer in existence.  

Antelope Island, Utah

Day 641

     There are no Antelope on Antelope Island, in The Great Salt Lake, Utah. In fact, there are no antelope in North America, just like there are no buffalo, they are only found in Africa.

     They are pronghorn.

     The first white man to see the Great Salt Lake was Jim Bridger in 1824 while on a trapping expedition. In 1843, explorer John C. Fremont, with his guide, Kit Carson, led an expedition to map the Great Salt Lake. Pronghorn, which Fremont called antelope, roamed the island, and therefore Fremont named the island Antelope.

     Boy, was the song: “Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;” really got it wrong. 

     Nevertheless, there are also Bison on Antelope Island.

     We both hiked and drove around the Island. 

     The Mormons used the Island to graze cattle in 1848, with Fielding Garr building a ranch on the Island that was used until 1981. 

     Both the Bison (I guess they should call Buffalo Bill Cody, Bison Bill Cody) and Pronghorn roam free on the 43 square mile Island, the largest of 10 island in the The Great Salt Lake.

     Barbara found the bison fur to be very soft. 

     (That Bison was not happy when she tackled him to the ground to get that sample.)

Brigham, Utah

Day 640

     Brigham City lies on the western slope of the Wellsville Mountains, in Northern Utah. This area was first explored in 1850 by Mormon pioneer William Davis who then brought his family here in March, 1851.

     Lorenzo Snow, born April 3, 1814 and who would later serve as the fifth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1898 until his death, was chosen by Brigham Young in 1853 to lead settlers to this site and foster a self-sufficient city. Snow directed both religious and political affairs in the settlement, eventually naming it Box Elder in 1855. When the town was incorporated on January 12, 1867, the name was changed to Brigham City in honor of Brigham Young.

     Tidbit of Information: Snow’s cousin was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Let’s face it, you would have never known that if it weren’t for me (nor would you care, right?). 

     Brigham Young gave his last public sermon here in 1877 shortly before his death.

      You can’t go to a Mormon city without seeing the Tabernacle and the Temple. The Tabernacle is the community center. It is open to the public. This picture is from the pulpit of the Box Elder Tabernacle:

     The Temple is a place of worship. Non-Mormon’s are not permitted admittance: 

Technical Stuff:

Cedar City, Utah to Brigham, Utah: 299.6 miles

5 hours 34 minutes

10.3 MPG

Diesel: $3.10

Zion, Utah

Day 637

     We decided to hike Zion Canyon, located in southwestern Utah, near the Arizona and Nevada borders. The canyon has numerous waterfalls, which we wanted to see, walk under, and then hike to the top of one.

     The hike is labeled as moderate, 4 miles round trip. The hiking trail follows the Virgin River along the canyon floor, and then hike up the walls to the waterfalls.

     At this point you can actually walk under the falls. The wind was blowing and water was being sprayed out. Since it was now getting warm, it was refreshing. 

     Mormon pioneer, Isaac Behunin, built his cabin here in 1863. He named the Canyon Little Zion, the Old Testament reference to a “place of safety or refuge”. In time the Canyon became known just as Zion Canyon.

     The hike up was getting to be a little more than moderate, but the scenery was spectacular.

     As we continued up, we should have heeded the warning of the insects:

     The lizards looked at us as if we were crazy:

     This has become definitely more than moderate:

     We finally reached the top of the waterfalls:

     Although the mountain went higher, we could not:

     We left our climbing spikes home. But the view was impressive:

Cedar City, Utah

Day 633

     We are heading north to Montana to meet the other RVer’s who will be joining us on our 3 month trip to Alaska. However, there are snow capped mountains ahead. Not a good sign.

     Cedar City was originally settled on November 11, 1851 by Mormon pioneers and is located about 250 miles south of Salt Lake. They were sent here to build iron works, as there are vast iron and coal deposits in the area. They named this area after the abundant local trees (which are actually junipers instead of cedar). Cedar City was incorporated on February 18, 1868.

     So, do you know what this is? Hint: it is called The Deseret Alphabet.

     For my fire-friends, how does this “fire engine” work?

     Went to the local museums. Saw this Ore Shovel,

     But it was in a bad position for the photograph, Barbara was kind enough to move it slightly.

Technical Stuff:

Las Vegas, Nevada to Cedar City, Utah 178.5 miles

4 hours 14 minutes

9.4 MPG

Diesel: $2.98

Hoover Dam, Nevada and Arizona

Day 632

     Hoover Dam is located on the Nevada/Arizona border in the Black Canyon. Back at the turn of the century (I guess I now have to specify which century, that is from 1800 over to 1900) the melting snow from the Colorado Mountains forms the river of the same name. The river passes through 7 states before exiting in the California Bay. Some years the water was so much it flooded the entire California lowlands, and other years the river dried up before reaching there, causing sever droughts. The Dam was the solution, but the 7 states could not agree on how to manage the water.

     Finally, in 1921, Herbert Clark Hoover, Secretary of Commerce, had a conference with all the states and the Boulder Dam Project was created. The Dam was originally going to be built in Boulder Canyon, but later it was determined Black Canyon was a better choice, nevertheless the Project name remained the same. In fact, after the Dam was completed in 1936, it was called Boulder Dam until the name changed to Hoover Dam in 1947.

     Tidbit of Information: On March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a law that made “The Star-Spangled Banner,” based on an 1814 poem by Francis Scott Key, America’s national anthem.

     I would give you all the statistics of the Dam, but I see you are becoming bored. 

     We took a tour of the Dam.

     We saw the generators that turned water into electricity

     The Dam is not one poured piece of concrete, but hundreds of poured blocks of concrete that are interlace with each other. On the inside you can see where they are joined. Each is identified. 

     Sensors are placed throughout the Dam to detect movement.

     You can see where the inspection tubes are located in the Dam walls. 

     Water does not flow over the Dam. To turn the generators, water goes through passages at the base of the Dam, thru the generators. During flooding of the river, there are spillways on each side of the Dam for overflow. Water usually goes no higher that the middle of the Dam.

     To build the Dam the Colorado River had to be diverted. When the Dam was competed it took the Colorado River 6 years to fill the reservoir behind the Dam, named Lake Mead, the largest man made reservoir in North America and named after Dr. Elwood Mead, a world-renowned water and irrigation engineer, who worked on the Dam project and died shortly after it’s completion.

     In taking a tour of the Dam, we went to one of the air-vent holes in the center. Here is the vent hole from above,


and where I looked out from it.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Day 630

     We spent the day in Las Vegas. We did all the touristy things: saw the fountains at The Bellagio     As well as the spring gardens there

     The flamingos at the Flamingo (those are live flamingos)

     The chandeliers at The Cosmopolitan     The gardens in the Aria     We walked the Strip at night to see all the lights

     However, what I really wanted was a picture of me with a Las Vegas Showgirl. But, Barbara said NO, so I let her walk by 

Technical Stuff:

Tuscon, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada: 270.8 miles

5 hours 33 minutes

9.3 MPG

Diesel: $2.70