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Published by klump04, 2018-10-10 20:23:08

Just Around The Bend Episode III Touring the Continent: Crossing the Great North

JUST AROUND THE BEND

Episode III





JUST AROUND THE BEND



EPISODE III


1997






Touring the Continent:

Crossing the Great North












RICHARD E. ZIMMERMAN

and

ARLENE M. ZIMMERMAN






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JUST AROUND THE BEND

Episode III

JUST AROUND THE BEND

Episode III



Touring the Continent:
Crossing the Great North


Copyright
© 2013 Richard E. Zimmerman and
Arlene M Zimmerman


All Rights Reserved

No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical or
electronic, including photocopying and recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system, without the
express permission in writing from the authors or
publisher.


Cover and Cover Photograph by the author
All photographs Copyright
© 2013 Richard E. Zimmerman and
Arlene M. Zimmerman


November 2013





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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Arlene and I have now written and composed
several books in a short period of time. It’s been
great fun, but most of all the very same
knowledgeable, and generous folks have given
their time and helped prepare each one. Without
them I’m sure we wouldn’t have completed them.

George Mindling has continued to offer his
welcomed suggestions. He persists in supporting
our effort. We visited him this winter and once
again he took us to the Writers Association
meeting. They read excerpts from their latest
works and then the members make comments. It
is always positive. Arlene and I, just by listening,
get a huge boost from those meetings.

Our daughter Alyx and son-in-law Jim Movich
have again prepared our book cover. It’s a long
distance internet arrangement that constantly
try’s our expertise and proves their patience.

Paul Klump again has reviewed our work, made
many suggestions and created an E-book as well
as a Printable PDF version for us.
Thanks to all of you for your help and support.









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TABLE OF CONTENTS



TABLE OF CONTENTS 5


INTRODUCTION 9

The Northwestern frontier
Protection and Security


1 WHAT A DEAL: Our Northwest 17
The U.S., Russia and Canada
World War II and the Alaska Canadian Highway

FDR Drive, across the Ooze and Permafrost
Laird Hot Springs and the Canadian Character


2 YUKON: GOLD RUSH STAMPEDE 61
Whitehorse, a taste of the North

The Mother Load
The Wild North brings out the Artists
Old Photos tell the story


3 ALASKA: WHERE ARE THE
BOUNDRIES? 111
Top of the world
The North Pole

Fairbanks and the Ice Palace


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TABLE OF CONTENTS


4 THE HAUL ROAD
TO THE ARCTIC 139
Oil for everyone along the Haul Road

Summer Time at the Arctic Circle

5 FAIRBANKS WITH A THUD 159

What’s special about dumb animals?
Arlene gets the Bee on the Fourth


6 THE GREAT ONE: DENALI 173
Readjusting to the wild and wooly camping scene

The Big One appears
Wonder Lake and the State Bird
Don’t under estimate those dogs


7 KENAI PENINSULA: 219

PLANES, AND TRAINS
Civilization reappears in Anchorage
Oh! No! the fishermen

A world of Float Planes
Getting close to the Glaciers






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TABLE OF CONTENTS

7 KENAI PENINSULA: 219


PLANES, AND TRAINS
The best bite
Through the tunnel, on a train
Sea Sick


8 SKAGWAY : THE SECRET

TO THE YUKON 255
Out and back into Alaska
Haines, Alaska: Friends, fishing and
berries

The entrance to the Gold Fields
Dyea: Winner, but now a ghost town
Skagway: Loser, but now thrives

Over the White Pass back to Whitehorse


9 NWT: 58,000 IN THE BOONIES
291
The Moonscape

A simple sign and a rugged road
A weird Continental Divide
Hay River, and The Boon Docks
Purple school



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TABLE OF CONTENTS


10 THE CANADIAN SHIELD 323

It’s time to go home
Alberta, Canada and the Plains
Canada’s Air Force and Polar Bears
Saskatchewan’s Cookies, and Sweaters

Grand Rapids: The end of the line
Pelicans and Parties


11 TOO MUCH CANADIAN 355
SHIELD

Winnipeg Whore
Ontario: Lakes and more Lakes

Purple Jewels
The Rat Race


12 HOMEWARD BOUND 379
Paradise at the Grocery

Mom’s Potterville
No Fear: The de Haviland Beaver
Family Cemeteries
Furniture, and A Georgia Peach

Home Sweet Home
APPENDIX 407

Maps
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INTRODUCTION


We’re headed into North America’s last frontier,
and expect it to be different than the previous
thousands of miles we’ve crossed to get to Banff
and the Ice Fields of British Columbia.

Although camping is generally in remote back
country locations, we were still in the continental
United States, and had visited several large cities.
Now in western Canada and Alaska, it’s even
more remote. It’s the largest wilderness area on
the continent.
Large cities in the far Northwest have a different
character. Their size is smaller, the people are
friendly, less aggressive and busy, and more laid
back. Cities are fewer and farther apart. It’s
impossible under those and other circumstances
to compare Anchorage, Fairbanks or Winnipeg
to the traffic, rush, bustle, and population or
varied interests of a Houston, Austin, Boulder or
Missoula.

In the country-side the roads and highways are
also different. We realized the great western
roads of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado,
Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho probably has as
many dirt roads as paved. Yet we still expected
to drive on ‘Blue Roads’, the good back country
paved roads on all AAA maps. There were many
‘Blue Roads’ in the U.S. to choose from.


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Compare that to a single road through the
Yukon, or four roads around Alaska, and the
checkerboard road system on the Canadian
Shield. These roads were not necessarily paved,
nor would you describe them as dirt. They were
gravel with sharp shards, or rounded creek
pebbles. At their worst they were ooze, loose,
material as granular as powered sugar. Driving
often would be like skiing, sliding into ruts,
hoping not to lose control. Climbing steep hills
of ooze trying to keep momentum, and not
slowing and sinking to a stop. A plight many
large RV’s wrestled with and lost. It was a world
of permafrost and tundra. Where the annual
frost heaves cause the highways to be constantly
under repair. It buckles the roads so they ride
like giant waves in an open ocean.

Often roads would be closed for reasons we
never encountered in the States. Highways
closed so they could resurface them, or closed
because it was summer and they were impassable
when not frozen solid.

We were often surprised at the amount of traffic.
The ‘Nanook Roads of the North’ could be like
the FDR Drive in New York. Even so we would
drive hundreds of miles without encountering
others. Three hundred miles at a stretch with
only a few cars or trucks.
Security had always been on our mind, even
before the far northwest. We considered several


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issues to be paramount. The ability to contact
others, auto repair, health issues and protection.

Contacting others was on top of our list. Our
Cell phone had long since been an ‘iffy’ situation.
Once we we’re in the mountains where cell
phone companies lose interest in supplying
service. Here, in the far northwest we could
hardly rely on them. Instead we needed to keep
track of where we were; at what milestone on the
Alcan, or how far from a Ranger Station. So if
we were in trouble we would know which
direction to turn for help.
Auto repair was always an emergency situation.
We’d heard of a poor fellow who was 150 miles
out of Whitehorse with a flat tire. Despite being
able to replace ours in Wyoming we carried
Good Sam’s Insurance, believing that if we could
contact them they could help us.

If we had a health issue, an illness, such as a cold,
diarrhea, a scrape or bruise we would hopefully
handle it ourselves. But what if we had a heart
problem or broke a bone. These issues were
never clearly resolved.

Protection is mostly from people, animals and
the climate. A climate change would require us
to respond quickly too. We might expect heavy
rains or snow. Both would hopefully mean we
could and would batten down the hatches and
get off the road.



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We believed people were the biggest danger to
campers. We aren’t gun toters so our personal
safety with others starts with us having one foot
on a banana peel. The best we could do was a
large can of Bear Spray. But, thanks to Matt, we
had dumped our can at the border and never
bought another when in Canada.

Basically, we were without armed protection.
We however turned to another line of defense;
called Paranoia. The inborn mechanism of fear.
We’d run.
Years ago we’d developed a ‘most dangerous
people’ list, like the FBI’s most wanted list. Top
of our list had been and may always be bankers,
lawyers, and stockbrokers. But, here in the wilds
we’ve added fishermen and hunters.

In Alaska there’s a lot of fishing and hunting.
During the salmon run everything, bears and
people catch and eat fish. Yet, the advantage
goes to the bears for safety. They don’t leave
their catch outside their tents.
Another security issue was with the First Nation
People. We know very little about them, or their
culture. We expected them, to keep to
themselves as we would ourselves.

So, we were cautious, of the people, but nervous
about the fisherman. As we moved east, into a
more ‘civilized’ higher population part of Canada
we expected there would be more annoying
people.
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Animals were a different story. My-Oh-My, are
they special to see and be around. Beside bear
spray we have only our ‘flight’ defense to protect
us. And that frankly, is just a hope and prayer.
We would wear bells, and be ever so conscious
and alert to our choices and environment.

But, we were at their mercy. Arlene nor I are
able to climb trees today. We travel in groups
and always invoke the fear factor.
Risk avoidance and accounting has become a part
of our everyday activities while camping.

They are simple. We use a scale of 1 to 10, where
1 is the least risk. We should be mindful that risk
is a good thing and until we reach something like
6 or 7 it should be encouraged. Above that the
risk is too great for our welfare and ability to
persevere
We needed to apply our risk factor quickly. If one
or any of the moose we’ve encountered didn’t
like us being there, they could attack in seconds
and they would be all over us.

We’ve come a long way in the past month or so,
and have miles to go. Camping, and traveling
have become second nature to us. Even though
we hadn’t camped for years we did have some
idea about it. We weren’t virgins in the woods,
although we acted that way from time to time.
Different things occurred to us as we went along.
The most important realization was we were
TRAVELERS, rather than campers. Though we
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do our homework researching and reading local
books and newspapers about areas. We seldom
stay very long and get antsy; ready to move along
in a couple of days.

Our campsites are usually clean when we arrive.
Everywhere we’ve been the Hosts and Rangers
keep clean sites. We follow the request that in
the woods, ‘leave only footsteps behind’. Our
campsites are probably cleaner when we leave
than before we arrive. We don’t carry brooms or
rakes, like many long term campers, 10 to 12 day
folks, or family campers. But, we clean up the
fire pits, remove all trash, and stack any wood.
Clean up was always an important part of my
families chores when I was a child. My dad
always made sure that my brother and I left
campsites cleaner than we found them. Those
experiences have stayed with me. If the next
campers can be as welcomed as we were; we’re
happy.

One might think that seniors spend a lot of time
reminiscing over our years of collective stories.
When stopped in camp it could be a special time
for them to be exhaustively retold. Arlene and I
seldom share those stories when in camp. For
instance I used to tell night time stories around
the fireplace or late in the evening. My children
loved these stories and use to beg me to tell them
one after another until they finally fell asleep. It
was a really successful part of any camping


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experience. They would fall asleep when I would
clear my throat. I’ve never lost this ability to tell
stunning finishes to the day. We were all bundled
together one cool evening, Arlene me and our
grandchildren, Victoria and Colee. A perfect
time for a bedtime lullaby. In chorus they
pleaded with me. They promised anything.

Our stories and long conversations take place
between ourselves while driving. They usually
include where we’re headed and what we’d like to
do. Where we’ll camp. Some serious issues like
our health, loss of short term memory, financial
condition, or political unrest. We also list places
we’ve liked or disliked like cities, campgrounds,
or hikes. And of course never ending
conversations about our children and friends;
their struggles, and interests. Our conversations
are much more interesting when we’re on the
road. We love it and therefore are always looking



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CHAPTER 1

THE ALASKA CANANDIAN HIGHWAY


We’re entering Dawson Creek, British Columbia
and we’re pretty far north. Our longitude is 55
degrees, 45 minutes north. That’s equivalent to
Glasgow, Scotland, or Moscow, Russia. It’s
further north than any part of the contiguous
United States and even north of Newfoundland,
Canada, and parts of Siberia.

Starting in North Port, Florida we have come
from 27 degrees 2 minutes north, a total of 28
degrees and 43 minutes closer to the North Pole.
That’s impressive yet, we’ll be heading further
north.

Dawson Creek is the beginning of the famous
ALCAN HIGHWAY! This is MILE 0 where in
1942 the Americans began building the 1,400
mile road connecting the lower States with
Alaska, through Canada.
Its quite a story and a miracle of ingenuity and
engineering that took months not years to
construct. As the story goes:













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Proposals for a highway to Alaska originated in
the 1920’s by the US Bureau of Public Roads
who thought an international highway spanning
the United States and Canada would be an asset
for both countries. Canada was not so sure
about the project, but after the attack on Pearl
Harbor and the fear of the Japanese invading
North America they consented and allowed the
United States to build it.

What a deal. The U.S. could build it across
Canadian lands if we paid for it, and then after
the war turned Canada’s portion over to Canada.
The U.S. agreed; and began loading and moving
heavy equipment on rail across the plains of
Alberta into Dawson Creek, to begin the work in
the early spring, March of 1942. Construction
continued throughout the spring. With the
Japanese threatening to land forces in the

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Aleutian Islands, so the U.S. increased its effort
by building from both ends of the highway, Delta
Alaska southward, and Dawson Creek westward.
By September the two crews met at Contract
Creek, mile 588, the border of British Columbia
and the Yukon at parallel 60 degrees 0 minutes
north.

Later in October it was officially completed. It
was so cold when they announced the
completion of the road that the temperature was
kept a secret.
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s we’d
learned a lot about building roads. South of
Canada in the Continental U.S. all our roads were
built on solid land except in swampy areas. We
had no clue about building across the Alaskan
Permafrost or the effort it would take.

Parts of the road were virtually impassable during
the spring of 1943 due to the removal of
vegetation, and the permafrost. It left the road
surface soft and muddy like quicksand. It
actually sucked up and swallowed giant
bulldozers, jeeps and other heavy equipment.

To prevent the equipment from sinking they used
a Corduroy construction technique. Logs were
laid across the roadbed forming a barrier above
the ooze. Corduroy roads were a throw back to
our Colonial days when road building
entrepreneurs built toll roads by laying log beds



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up and down the east coast so our carriages,
wagons and buggies could travel between cities.

That traveling was so rough on those roads that
Thomas Jefferson preferred taking a ship, from
Williamsburg around the Delmar Peninsula up
the Delaware Bay to Philadelphia.
If you look closely at the roadbed where the
three soldiers are traveling they are driving on a
Corduroy road. It’s rather primitive, the needles
are still on the branches, but never-the-less
remember 1,400 miles was built in 7 months.





































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We wouldn’t want to try traveling on the highway
under the early conditions, but are assured that
things have gotten a little better.
There were many steep grades, a poor surface of
sand and dirt, switchbacks to gain and descend
hills, and only a few guardrails. Bridges were
originally made with pontoons and logs.

Since then the road has been upgraded; bridges,
have mostly been replaced with steel
construction, the road surfaces are mostly
hardtop, and there are guardrails in many places.
Never-the-less our modern construction
techniques have not solved the permafrost
problem. They have tried laying a gravel berm or
replacing the vegetation underneath the roadbed
to secure and prevent the melting of the
permafrost.


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Our first stop in Dawson Creek was at the
Visitors Center, to see a film about building the
highway.

These black and white pictures were taken there.
Our immediate impression was that almost
everyone in the lower United States had already
been here and driven the Alaska-Canadian
Highway; The ALCAN. Unlike our early
impression and research we could expect a
roadway something like the FDR drive in New
York City, with a little less traffic. I actually fell
asleep during the film. Arlene had to keep
nudging me.
















Our next stop was at a local laundry. It brought
us back to earth. There were mounds of clothes
pilled high, all dirt clogged and soaked, left
behind by local workers for their weekly cleaning.


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These clothes would never be cleaned. They
could wash them over and over again, but they
would continue to be dark red, the color of the
earth. The laundry lady, ‘Loonie’ explained the
dirt. It was not like anything we’d seen before. It
was like powered sugar, only red in color. It acts
like a die as once smeared on any clothes it never
comes out. The dirt was called ‘loess’,
pronounced lust or loss. Its silt and they assured
us that we would get used to it if we were headed
up the highway toward the Yukon. It must be
the stuff that swallowed the bulldozers.

‘Loonie’ wasn’t her real name, no one knew that,
but she ran the place, including the showers. Her
name comes from the Canadian dollar which is
both paper and coins. Sort of like our silver
dollars, except they are called ‘Loonies’.


















Loons are northern water birds. They are black
and white and make a eerie cry. The cry, like that
of howling wolves is associated with the great
outdoors and the wilderness. A picture of one is
on the face of the Canadian dollar. Everything
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in the laundry cost a dollar, one loonie. And she
dispenses the coins, thus has the name ‘loonie’.
We washed our clothes, and the stain residue in
the washers colored them light pink.

Once before we’d had a problem with
laundromats. We had sailed into Cape May, New
Jersey on our Sloop Citizen, and taken our
clothes to a laundromat, including a braided
white sweater. Lipstick had been left behind in
the washer and my new white sweater came out
pink.
Never-the-less this excursion was great fun. We
left singing a couple of road songs and headed
out onto the Alaska-Canadian highway with
milestone 0 under our belts. Nothing had
changed; the road was just like the one we drove
into Dawson Creek, a two lane hardtop, with a
few patches, but generally in good condition.
The rain we’d encountered in the last few days
had let up.

A few miles down the road we came to a sign
that pointed us toward the “Old Highway’. We
took it and everything changed. The road, still a
hardtop was poorly maintained, with sections
with no hardtop, areas where their were lots of
potholes, and areas of just dirt. Our progress
slowed, but our enthusiasm continued as we
thought we were driving on an original part of
the highway.




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Our enthusiasm paid off when we came to the
Kiskatinaw River and the last of the wooden
bridges. This timber bridge looked like Post and
Beam construction. It’s supposed to be the only
timber bridge still being used along the highway.
The bridge is 500 feet long and curves across the
river valley. It looks like those 1950 cowboy
movie railroad bridges that the bad guys were
always blowing up. Tall beams with crossing
members, like triangles from the river to the
roadbed. Planks were laid end-to-end across the
road surface to the far side.
We haven’t crossed many wooden bridges and
nothing as long as this one. What I tried to do
was stay in the middle of a plank with each tire,
and not straddle them or drive on the cracks. It
creaked all the way across.



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Our destination was Fort St. John and the
Westend Camp, a private RV campground. We
found it without any trouble. It was a real
disappointment. The buildings, showers and
office were run down, and flaking paint.
So many private campgrounds pack campers in
like sardines. This was no exception. Campsites
were parallel about 10 feet apart. Campers left
deep ruts in them and as we pulled into one we
sank about 4 or 5 inches, even as we drove across
the grass.
After parking I slogged my way to the office
across some muddy patches and a couple of
puddles. Even before I reached the Office steps
I turned around and headed back to the van. We
were not going to stay there tonight. Without
staying they gained a ‘0’, Zero on the rating
system.


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Making those kinds of spur of the moment
decisions was sometimes good news and
sometimes not. I’ve mentioned how I’m a little
quicker to decide than Arlene. She has pointed
out how often they are just plain stupid. She says
that because she never ever makes spur of the
moment decisions, she wouldn’t know one if it
bit her. I’d say she likes to sleep on them, but
that would be too kind.

It was late in the afternoon, and given the
lateness of the day she poured on ‘the rash move’
I’d made. However, there was a saving grace.
We were in the middle of June and so far north
that the sun almost never sets. We could drive
for several more hours and still only be in the
dusk of the evening at 9 or even 10 o’clock.
We drove out of the RV park and back onto the
highway, through Fort St John and out the other
side. Several miles further we came to Charlie
Lake.

At one point in the development of the highway
they called this Mile 0, because there was a road
to Ft. St. John. Heavy equipment would be
carried by rail to Dawson Creek and then
transported to Charlie Lake, which became a
major depot.

At this point we were less interested in the 1940’s
movement of Army equipment or effort, than a
place to stay. We had found it, Charlie Lake
Provincial Park. It was just off the highway on

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the crest of a hill overlooking the lake. The rain
began again, but still from the top of the muddy
road we could see many campsites down the hill
to the lake. I started down and decided that it
was pretty slippery. We shouldn’t proceed. When
I turned my wheels we just kept sliding straight
ahead.

This became our third encounter with this
northern loess, the slurry. Fortunately, we were
hardly moving and came to a stop. It was like
being on ice, there was no traction and no way to
steer the van. I did get turned sideways and on
the side of the road there was a little gravel. We
were able to slip and slide back up the hill, and
into the top most campsite. A site we thought
we could drive out of in the morning. The
campground was okay, it was clean, open, had
water, if we’d walk to it, and Pit toilets which we
never had a choice about using.

We rated it at 2 ½. We were encountering
mosquitoes for the second time. Outside of
Prince George’s in Crooked Creek Provincial
Park we ran into them for the first time. That
camp was also rated as a 2 ½ for similar reasons.
But, here at Charlie Lake we got a real dose of
them. It wouldn’t be fair to say there were
thousands of them. It would be appropriate to
say that we really couldn’t tell if it was raining or
cloudy, because there were so many of them we
couldn’t see the sky.


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That might be a slight exaggeration, but
remember we’d never seen so many mosquitoes.
There were so few in Connecticut. Florida would
be uninhabited if it wasn’t for the ‘fly over’
spraying that mostly eliminates them.

Morning brought the sun and we were camped
on a splendid site, the dirt road down to the lake
was dark reddish lined with white aspen and
green conifers. A small group of little
powerboats were moored at the bottom of the
hill and the lake was circled with grassy meadows
and groups of conifers and more aspen. It was
really a picturous place.
We’re doing okay and had taken a moment to
describe a few things that we’ve seen, and views
that developed.




























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We were back on the east side of the Rockies and
on the Great Plains again. That’s why there were
rolling hills and flat scrub fields. There were
some cattle, and a little agriculture. It reminded
me of southern Pennsylvania, where its rolling
hills are framed by small mountains. Once away
from the Rockies the mountains are not very
high. In fact they never get over 4000 feet.
That’s a surprise for us as we expected 10,000 to
12,000 foot mountains throughout Alaska.

When we were preparing for this trip one big
concern was the road hazard and damage to our
van. To protect the auto we put ‘off road’ plastic
shields on the headlights, which on the Mercury
cover the entire front of the van. Inside the van,
around every window we bought No-see-um
netting, and attached it with Velcro. The
superglue isn’t holding up to well, but we are still
protected. After swatting a few dozen
mosquitoes last night we slept without a problem.

We’ve noticed that people dress different in
different sections of the country. Easterners
dress in an upscale casual manner, with khaki
slacks, and usually shirts with collars, either polo
pullovers or buttoned. In Texas folks dress every
which way, always have on their pressed levies
pants, cowboy shirts and boots. Southwesterners
are also tall and lean. Arlene liked that plenty. In
Wyoming it was cowboy shirts and blue jeans and
they seldom said much, a very quiet group of
indivduals. Here in British Columbia it’s totally
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different. What we’ve seen along the highway are
greasy haired people with dirty plaid shirts and
blue jeans that look like they’ve been rolled in the
mud before they put them on.

Along the road we saw a couple of moose a
mother and calf. They were beside a large open
field. We pulled over, and the mother stopped.
She watched us for a moment and then headed
for the fence, which she easily cleared. However,
the little one couldn’t. We watched, the mother
come back, walk up and down along the fence
and not finding a place for the little one jumped
back. The two of them went further down the
road until she found a spot for both of them to
cross into the field. We watched them as they
disappeared into the woods. The white patch on
her rump is winter hair that is known to be
splendid insulation. Its hollow, just like our
unnatural holofill sleeping bags.

























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Back on the road we got gas in Ft. Nelson and
moved on in the rain. Our choices were to get to
Tesa River, Summit Lake or Stone Mountain
Provincial Park before nightfall. That’s weird to
say as its June 21 the longest day of the year and
there is no nightfall here on this day. The darkest
it gets is around 4 in the morning and that looks
like dusk back in Florida. We could drive forever.

Each day we encounter a different adventure
along the highway. Today it’s The Summit, the
highest elevation on the ALCAN at 4,200 feet.








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It’s not too steep climbing the mountain, only
there’s construction making the road really wide
and when finished an easy drive over it. But, it’s
not that easy just yet. The roadway that you see

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in the picture is mostly loess and we know that’s
a problem. Fortunately it was dry; otherwise no
one would be able to climb over it. As it was we
just chugged up and over never stopping and
never getting stuck. Others weren’t so fortunate.
Several RV’s, one with a dingy, a car hooked up
to the back of the RV, was stopped. They might
have been there for some time, and it looked like
they would have to go back down to get another
start. Otherwise they might be there until the
hardtop was laid.


























Arlene described the climb this way: ‘Well, we
survived the most treacherous section of the
Alcan Highway today’. After deciding to
continue beyond Ft. Nelson we drove on to
Stone Mountain. The road was a steep, curving
mountain road under construction with no


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shoulders, and lots of heavy construction
equipment.

Some RV’s had trouble climbing the steep hills
here also, and one that was trailering a car had
stopped on the mountain. It couldn’t get a grip
in the soft sand and was stuck. Arlene took
pictures and video while her brave Richard did
the driving. What’s next?
We arrived at Stone Mountain Provincial Park in
the afternoon and were the only ones there. But
before long the camp of about 30 sites was filled.
We’re getting used to these parks. Most of them
are very nice, clean, open sites, with wood for
fires, cold water and pit toilets. It was another
rating of 2 ½. With a little hot water for showers
we’d raise all their ratings to 4. We have been
moving to the covered shelter to cook as it’s too
wet to cook on the picnic tables. These camps
cost $7 Canadian dollars each. We needed only
to have change and insert it into the kiosh.

The Stone Mountain campground was an open
field with gravel sites along the Tessa River. It
rained again, heavy downpours, and we couldn’t
cook outside. This is the third night; we had
wine, cheese and crackers in the van and read
without leaving the van except when we had to.
And that was a quick trip. It’s hard sleeping
when the sun never goes down.’




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We’ve noticed that each time we’ve come near a
lake the highway passes right along its shoreline.
We guessed that that’s the easiest way to build
the road.
At Muncho Lake, a beautiful blue green lake
that’s crystal clear we watched a pontoon plane
land and taxi past us.

It didn’t take much for me to become entranced
with these planes, although I wasn’t ready to fly
in one. Maybe I’d get a model and put it together
when we got home.



























We’re moving right along. Today we saw two
Dall sheep. One had large curling horns that
twisted around its head and ears. It was tanish in

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color rather than the brilliant white we’ve seen in
so many pictures. They were on a cliff-side and
by the time I’d stopped and got the camera it had
disappeared into the woods.

We came across one of the few bridges near
Laird Hot Springs. It wasn’t the original as you
can see. But, the weather had been iffy since we
left Dawson Creek and therefore we hadn’t
gotten out much. Here at Laird Hot Springs it
was pretty nice and we planned to stay for several
days. The temperature was up to 72 degrees.
































Our first hike was along the highway several
miles down to the bridge. Near the bridge was

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the Laird Lodge, which looked like a log cabin
motel. Across the highway in a meadow below
the bridge was a black bear scrounging after the
flower tops. We didn’t think much about it, only
that our distance wasn’t that comfortable. So we
retreated to the opposite side of the highway and
up to the lodge.

We also stopped at the gas station, general store,
and saloon, called Trader Ray’s. Inside the
saloon we had a burger and looked over the
walls. They were full of dusty baseball hats left
by travelers from all over the world.
While there a couple of Ford Mustangs drove up
filled their extra large gas tanks that took up the
entire back of the auto. They were part of a
st
th
Panama to Alaska Rally from June 1 to June 29
that was passing us on their way to Anchorage,
Alaska. They were Aussies, and had another 400
miles to go before the day was over. They said
they had three blowouts along the way. We
shivered at the thought and hoped we wouldn’t
get another flat ourselves. They were off and
shortly afterward a SUV came by with a large
‘Official Banner’ on the side. We figured that
was the last of them.
Here’s our campsite. We’re back in the woods
again and not as open as it has been for several
camps. Do you remember the poles we were
going to send back because they took to much
space and we wouldn’t be able to use them. Well


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we’ve managed to find a good use of them,
including trying to dry our wet clothes. You can
also see our no-see-um screening on the front of
the van. Everything has come out of the van to
dry, sleeping bags, mattresses, food, stove,
clothes, and all the Bear List items.



























Once the clothes were out a pesky squirrel
showed up. I shot it with our water gun. It ran
thru everything, the sleeping bags, the picnic
table and the van. By the time Arlene saw it I
had already started to put vinegar in the gun and
was shaking it to mix it up. But, I hadn’t gotten
off one shot before Arlene freaked.

Thank goodness the squirrel didn’t run over to
her or she probably would have been sent home
in a body bag. I tried to calm her down. That’s a
difficult task, but she began breathing deeply and
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eased off a little. It gave me enough time to
search out the squirrel and get off another shot at
it. Surprisingly I’m a good shot and hit him right
in the eyes. He shook his head and darted off.
Two hours later we were still squirrel free. Arlene
has calmed down, but is still very nervous.

























Hot water for the springs comes out of the
mountain. There are a series of pools, one a little
higher up the mountain slope and a little hotter
than the next. At the bottom was the coolest,
which was about 100 or more degrees. Each of
the other pools were closer to the source, and
warmer
This picture is the lower pool. Many more
campers swam in it. Families with lots of
children. But, you can see that it’s right in the




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middle of the forest surrounded by thick brush
and tall trees.













































Arlene moved quickly to the steaming water, until
she got into it. ‘ Oh My God It’s Hot!’ Her
expression says it all. Around 100 F. Too much
to take all at once. She will sit for a while and get



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accustomed before swimming around. I too will
think it’s too hot, but, once in, it was swell.


























Higher up were the other two pools. According
to the tourist rule of half the distance, each time
you go a mile away from the source, you lose half
the tourists. It held true here as the second pool,
further up the mountain, and deeper into the
woods had less than half the tourists and
swimmers.



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By the time we got to the top pool there were
only a handful of swimmers, and bathing suits
were optional. We wore suits, and after soaking
for a while to get use to the heat, we slid down
the steps for a swim. Once in, it was difficult to
get out and as usual we turned into prunes, just
like in Banff.






































The higher we climbed the more remote we
became from the camp and the more rugged the
forest. We never saw any Rangers around the
pools. They were back at the camp. But, there
were signs warning us of bears, moose and other
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wild animals in addition to ‘SWIM AT YOUR
OWN RISK’.

Thanks to the boardwalk that led from the
campground to the highest pool we were able to
go up there. It crossed the wetlands, a large
swampy area near the camp and up the hill,
twisting around from one pool to another.
The swamp near the camp was a flattened area at
the bottom of the mountain. The run off from
the spring settled there. It was filled with tall
grasses, and patches of trees so it was not easy to
see from one end to another. The total length
might have been 100 yards. Arlene poses along
the boardwalk showing how thick the foliage was.

It was a swell place for mosquitoes to breed, and
they did their best. The pools were a respite
from them, but of course we had to come back
down past them or through them to our camp.
























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This was a great place to look for wildlife. Every
time we came down from a soak or swim we
could see several moose cows, far off near the












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edge of the swamp by the woods. One had a
calf. Each of them would stick their snout into
the water and come up with a mouth full of grass,
gushing water like they had just inhaled a bucket
full. We would watch them as long as we could
stand the mosquitoes. I took several videos of
them, but no snap shots.


These moose never came closer to us, staying
alongside the woods. But like so many tourists,
we underestimated the power and speed of these
animals. They weigh around 1,000 to 1,600
pounds and could close the gap between us in
seconds, right through the swamp water.




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The calf is much smaller, a later birth, than the
ones we saw on the road. You can see the bucket
of water that is drained from her after she takes a
couple of plants out of the swamp. The little one
will grow quickly in the next three months. She
also is eating plants now, but drains less water.

This was one of the Risk Scale issues where we
called it a 5, but it could easily become a 9 or 10,
if the moose was agitated, and charged.



























There were other animals nearby. I took a
picture of this gosling, one of a brood. You can
see the ground off of the boardwalk. The
goslings are walking on weeds above the water.

Today we have an opportunity to do a little
reading by the fire. It turned out that a neighbor

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near our site was from Whitehorse and had been
camping and fishing in the far northwest all his
life. He told us about a Canadian author similar
to James A Michener. I’d always like Michener,
especially his first couple of chapters where he
sets a historical background. We had read his
‘Alaska’ along with others to get a sense of the
country.

The Canadian author was Pierre Berton. He was
at least as prolific as Michener, publishing over
40 books many that would be interesting to us.
Naming a few, all Canadian histories: ‘The
Mysterious North’, ‘The Last Spike’, ‘The
National Dream’, and one that caught my eye
because I’ve always been interested in our,
American national character, ‘Why We Act Like
Canadians’. But, our neighbor didn’t suggest any
of these. He recommended ‘Klondike The Last
Great Gold Rush 1896 to 1899’. It was just a 100
years ago. And it dawned on us that we were
here during the Centennial celebration.

He had a paperback copy of Klondike, and he
gave it to us. What a gift. It’s easy to say that this
one book, has shaped our view, and beliefs of
Northwestern Canadians and the Great Gold
th
Rush of the 19 century. From this point
forward we would use the book to help us
understand this last frontier, it’s struggles and its
beauty.




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His preface begins like this. Since the final
connection of rail across Canada in 1886 it was
believed that the west would be opened up and
there would be a large migration. It didn’t
happen, or during the next decade, he explained
it in his words:

‘Unhappily, over-optimism, wild speculation,
drought, crop failure, and depression brought a
swift decline in immigration. The bubble burst;
and though the settlers continued to trickle in,
the wave of new comers that had been expected
to follow the driving of the steel did not appear.’
‘Suddenly, in 1897 the news from the Klondike
burst upon the continent and everything was
changed.’
‘The transition was instantaneous – there is no
other word for it. The Canadian Pacific Railroad
trains were jammed with passengers heading west
to invade the North through Prince Albert,
Edmonton, Ashcroft, or Vancouver. Within a
year the interior of British Columbia, the Peace
River country and the entire Mackenzie and
Yukon watersheds were speckled with thousands
of men and pack animals.’ Every Canadian
community from Winnipeg to Victoria was
affected permanently by the boom.’
Here was what I found most interesting:

‘Because the stampede to the Klondike straddled
the international border, it provides a unique
opportunity to compare the mores and customs

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