Alaskan wrap up

so I think I last left everyone hanging in Juneau…  so I just wanted to let you know we did make it home.  In fact we made a pit stop at home and then were off again for our annual visit to Illinois to see the grandparents.  So before everyone is back to school and the usual routines I thought I would wrap up our trip.

the stats:

we were gone for 29 days, we spent 7 in hotels, 2 on the ferry and 20 days of camping – 4 people and 1 dog in a VW camper.

we drove 8,012 miles – 1875 over the last 2 days as we were racing home.

we counted 99 VW campers on our trip.

we averaged 18.77 miles to the gallon.

Between us – 14 books were read.

We only had one minor injury and one scary adventure see 2nd attempt Good Samaritans of Juneau.

we learned how little stuff we actually need to be happy together.

2nd attempt good samaritans of juneau

I wrote this story once before and it disappeared. You probably wondered what the title had to do with anything on the other post. Well here is our Alaskan adventure story.

So we are in Juneau and we decide to camp in the state park rather than an RV park. The facilities are not as nice but the sites are very wooded and pretty.

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So we set up camp and the girls take Chilli for a walk like they always do but they decide to walk in the woods behind our campsite. Well Chilli is very excited to be in the woods and gets himself tangled in the trees and then manages to wriggle out of his collar. This is not usually a big deal but somehow he takes off and the girls come back and tell us they can’t find him so chris starts looking for him with the girls. This goes on for a bit longer then I decide I should also join in the search. So Madeleine shows me which direction he went and we head off through the woods with olivia right behind us. Of course I was not thinking of how far we might get away from camp so we took off with no phone in the drizzle where there are bears in the woods.

It turns out There are a couple of houses behind the campgrounds about 100 yards from our site, you just can’t see them through the thick woods. Madeleine had already told one of them what was going on so she knocked on the other guys door this is Shane- and we explained that we had lost our dog Chilli. He hadn’t seen him but he told us what direction we should try and that all the neighbors were very dog friendly. So we head off through this very woodsy neighborhood knocking on doors. In the meantime we are calling for Chilli and whistling but getting no response.

Finally we hear him barking so we head in the direction we think it’s coming from but we don’t see him so Madeleine knocks on the door of a house nearby and it turns out they had seen him barking at someone on the road and running down the road so we headed off in that direction. After a but more searching it is just beginning to get dark and I’m not sure how far we are from our campsite so I decide I should go back and get the car, but we don’t want to lose our lead on Chilli so I point the kids in the direction they should go, tell them to stay together and start running back to our campsite. I get Into the woods behind the Shanes house and I cannot find the campsite.

Here we are in Juneau in the drizzle I’ve left my kids on the side of the road looking for our lost dog that is my third kid I don’t know where chris is and i am lost in the woods and
where bears live. It is not a good feeling having your family all spread out like this. Finally I manage to back track through the woods and find Shanes house. He walks me back to our campsite I get my phone, chris is not there and I realize our camper is all set up so I can’t drive it to go get the kids so I ask Shane if he will take me to pick up my kids. As we get in his truck I see I have voicemail from an Alaska number. It’s Madeleine and she tells me they are with some people that are helping them and she tells me what street they are on. As we head over there I call the number back and a woman tells me they just dropped the kids and the DOG back at our campsite! I tell her that Iove her for helping us out.

We are finally all reunited at our campsite. I think our whole adventure took just over an hour but we are all exhausted and emotionally drained. I have to credit Madeleine for her persistence and Olivia for her positive attitude and we will never forget all of the good Samaritans of Juneau that helped us in finding our “little buddy”. And fortunately there were no close encounters with any bears.

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The inside passage

We decided to take the ferry to knock off some of our drive home and also get a different view. We were able to see Juneau which was very cool. The town has 30,000 people – 15,000 of them work for the state government. They are only accessible by boat as they are surrounded by mountains. When we were in town there were 6 gigantic cruise ships in town. this was definitely the most touristy place we visited.

Our other stops on the ferry were very brief. We basically got off to take Chilli for a walk and get a little exercise ourselves. But it was fun seeing the small towns where basically everyone fishes.

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We did have rainy weather for our whole trip so we could not see a lot when we were out on the water but it was still pretty a nice to see these small communities.

We got off the ferry at about 2:30am (that was kind of rude) at Prince Rupert BC Canada back on the road with Betty Only 1800 miles away from home.

Haines AK

We decided to take a different route home so we drove over to Haines AK which requires that you come through a portion of Canada. We had a 620 mile day of driving in order to get from Fairbanks to Haines and we discovered that they close the border at 11pm Canada time. We didn’t make it and there is nothing on the Canada side of the border there so we pulled off and camped along the side of the road. I would have taken a photo but the mosquitoes were so thick they may have carried me off into the woods.

The next day we made it to Haines. It is funny how your impression of a place depends partially on the weather and when you’re at a place for 24hours it doesn’t get much of a chance. We were basically there to catch the ferry. We had decided to take the ferry from
Haines down to Prince Rupert BC. This cuts off about 800 miles of driving plus we get some different views and a stop over in Juneau.

Haines was pretty in the rain and fog but I’m sure it’s beautiful when you can see all of the mountains.

Southbound

We made it to our northern most destination of Fairbanks. After camping out for 2 weeks straight we got a hotel room. I think we were all pretty excited to sleep in an actual bed and the kids were pretty thrilled with the other amenities like 4 walls and an 8 foot ceiling not to mention a private bath!

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At Fairbanks we have been gone from home for 20 days and stayed in 6 hotel rooms, driven 5339 miles, we’ve seen more wildlife, beautiful landscapes and interesting people than we could have imagined. And now we are heading home.

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We stopped at the town of North Pole Alaska because our trip just would not have been complete without that.

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We also stopped at this historic roadhouse with beautiful flowers. All if the flowers in alaska are huge I guess it’s the weather. Chilli is posed next to some beautiful columbine – I had to take this picture for Kathy.

Dogs in Denali

Before out trip we slept in Betty just 1 time and there were 6 of us. 2 adults, 2 kids & 2 dogs. We decided it was 1 creature too many so we left zoie with a dog sitter. Plus I don’t think she would have enjoyed this trip as she’s one if those dogs that prefers to stand and pant while she rides-she would have worn herself out. But Chilli is having a great time. He just enjoys being included and I don’t think the kids could have handled this trip without him.

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But we had to leave Chilli behind when we visited the furry federal employees of the Denali national park.

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When we got to the parking lot to leave Denali ,a lost dog found us. Luckily we found it’s owner soon but we were afraid we were getting more of a souvenir than we’d planned for.

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Mt McKinley art

There are lots of artists that come to Mt McKinley fir inspiration and they also have an artist in residence program. One artist that really impressed me works with cotton and does silk screening stamping and dying and then she quilts the fabric. This is a beautiful wall hanging of the seasons at Mt McKinley which took over a year to complete.

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Denali National Park

We had a spectacular day in Denali. We saw all kinds of animals and the weather was perfect for viewing Mt McKinley.

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About 20% of the visitors to the park are able to see Mt McKinley. Most of the time it is too cloudy to get much of a view so we felt very lucky for the views.
The park is 6 million acres and there is only one road in and out of the park. They allow very limited access on the road so the way to see the park is by taking a bus tour in which is what we did. It’s nice because by being so strict about the access the animals are not afraid of the tour buses so they may come right up to the road.

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They do allow people to camp in the park or to hike but they require every camper to use bear barrels to protect all of their food. This keeps the bears from being aggressive because they don’t know about human food so they don’t have any interest in humans.

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We ended up seeing all knds of animals, most of which I did not photograph because they wouldn’t look that good. We saw lots of caribou, a few grizzlies, several golden eagles, a red fox, fall sheep. Those were all cool but the most awesome was a wolf that was on the side of the road munching on something and we got to see him for a while and the a lynx was walking along the road but did turn off pretty quickly. The wolf was really cool madeleine said he turned and looked right at her with his golden eyes.

It was an excellent day.

The Kenai Penninsula

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We enjoyed our time at Seward as we camped on the water of Resurrection Bay. We cooked a nice breakfast one morning.

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Chris and the girls were able to go fishing with a charter. They caught 24 pounds of salmon which we shipped home (to Sue). So we will be having a salmon party when we get home.

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We drove out to see Exit Glacier. The scenery along the way was quite beautiful and it was a warm day, so much so that the runoff from the mountains was flooding the road to the park but we managed.

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We were able to hike up to the edge of the glacier. Apparently last year you could actually touch the glacier from the path but every year it recedes several feet. But they also had signs along the path showing as early as the late 1800s where the glacier had been so I’m still not sure whether they are blaming global warming or just the natural changes that take place. Regardless it was “cool” to see it up close if you can see the color in the pictures, the layers are a pretty blue rather than white all the way through.

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We stopped for some delicious gelato which is made right in the premises. They also make candy. This was a nice reminder if my trip to Italy where we HAD to eat gelato at least once a day!

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We thought we would go clamming on the other side I’d the peninsula but when we got over there we discovered that it was a bit more gear intensive than we’d expected.

Seward is at the southeast end of the road on the Kenai Penninsula. We had made it around to the other side to try to go clamming, so we decided to go all the way to the end of the road on the southwest side which is Homer Alaska. And since we were not able to catch fresh clams we had some fresh clam chowder instead.