Wednesday, August 31, 2016

usbackroads--Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks, Alaska

usbackroads destination-Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks, Alaska

travel dates: August 9th, 2016

The black holding tank in the Casita is fairly small and that means after five days a laundromat, fresh water, and a dump station are all in order. For some reason a six pack of wine also seems to last five days or so.

The resupply town of choice was Fairbanks, Alaska. The RV park in North Pole, Alaska had the required laundromat and was on a direct road to Chena Hot Springs.

Fairbanks is a nice tank. Perfect size for a resupply town. Well worth exploring, but the focus was on the hot springs and laundry. The surprise was the Chena River State Recreation Area north of Fairbanks on the road to Chena Hot Springs. Lots of great lakes, rivers, campgrounds and all the amenities of the great outdoors.

Air boats were quite popular in Florida, but they are also present in Alaska. This fellow was parked at a boat launch on the Chena River. Wonderful down home craftmanship to put a boat like this together.

If we had known about the Chena River State Recreation Area prior I would have stayed up "north" rather than in North Pole, Alaska. Great area, don't miss it on your trip. Here is the link: China River State Recreation Area. It was cloudy and wet during my visit, but even in that weather it is a very interesting area. Close to Fairbanks, yet a real highlight of the trip to Alaska.

Hot springs. Cold, wet weather means hot springs on the agenda. Chena Hot Springs is private property and there is a fee for entering the hot springs for current information.
Here is the link to their web site: 

The hot springs are not really hot, but kids under 18 are restricted to a couple of hot tubs at the entrance. Around the edges of the pool there are pockets of fairly hot water. Search them out.

The only issue I had was with the coin lockers. A nightmare to operate.

The grounds are fairly neat and landscaped in the Alaska and Yukon tradition. That is old vehicles in flower beds.

The star of the grounds was this 1959 Polaris snowmobile dating from the first year of manufacture. I am not a fan of snowmobiling, buy I took enough rides on Forest Service snow machines to understand the attraction for some people. This 1959 machine is light years removed from today's snow machines.

There is also the characteristics "landscaping" for the region.

 Chena Hot Springs also has a small RV campground if you need a hot springs fix all day long.

A early dinner, late lunch for on the agenda at the restaurant and comes highly recommended. The seafood was ordered "rare" and cooked perfectly. The service was outstanding since there were few people eating at the time.

Chena Hot Springs. Recommended for your stay in Fairbanks.

The other agenda item in Fairbanks was the "infamous" Alaska pipeline. Way back in 1971 at UC Berkeley in a Forest Policy class we had the lead for the Alaska pipeline Environmental Impact Statement give a presentation to the class. I innocently asked if the pipeline would be approved. The presenter looked at me like I was from Mars. Of course, he replied, the pipeline will be built the country is running out of energy as the Arab embargo proved just a couple years late.

Later in my career I quickly recognized that decisions were made and THEN justified in the Environmental Review process. AND that happened on BOTH sides of environmental issues. The only downside is the taxpayers are paying lots of money.....for political cover.

But here is a picture of the pipeline, running at 100 degrees even in the dead of the Alaska winter. So there it is a survival tip. If your up in Alaska in the dead of winter and spending the night just throw a tarp over the pipeline and soon you will have a well heated little tent!!

There is a lot to like about Fairbanks the surrounding countryside. It is, unfortunate, that even for Alaska it is so far away. Nice town, too bad the Forest Service never had a presence to speak of in Fairbanks. I would have loved to spend more time in this part of the world.

Monday, August 29, 2016

usbackroads--Deadman Lake, Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

usbackroads--Deadman Lake, Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Coming back into the United States all was fine, until. This guy didn't care about my being born in Venezuela. Never asked about guns. Just wanted the truck registration so he did not have to go outside and key in the license plate into the computer.

Until he asked about did we have any citrus that we were bringing into the United States. I innocently asked "Is there a citrus industry in Alaska that needs protecting?". Don't ask silly questions unless you want to visit the "little" room at every border crossing.

The search for an overnight stop ended at the US Fish and Wildlife Service information center just west of the border crossing. In Alaska, US Fish and Wildlife lands are open to boondocking and camping unlike most of those in the states. So we had our choice of campgrounds or boondock locations, but decided to stop at Deadman Lake campground to see what it was like.

We took the first campsite.

Nice campsite close to the lake and reasonable privacy for the dogs. The price was perfect. FREE to campers. Hunters, fishermen, and the US taxpayers picked up the camping fee.

The sites were well spaced. That is the main campground road on the left. In that entire stretch I think there is ONE campsite. This campground had the most widely spaced spurs that I have ever seen in my entire career.

Nice interpretive trail through the taiga forest.

For me I walked down to the lake and took pictures of pond weed.

Great campground.  Here is the official link:

Friday, August 26, 2016

cabackroads--Congdon Lake Provincial Park, Yukon Territory, Canada

cabackroads--Congdon Lake Provincial Park, Yukon Territory, Canada

dates of stay--August 6th, 2016

Leaving Haines was planned for a sunny day. The road was cloudy, rainy and misty so much of the scenery was hidden behind a layer of gray on the way into Haines. The way out I made sure that we would have clear weather.

On the way we stopped at Guardsman Lake for some fishing and dog walking. I almost stepped on these eggs on the way to the lake.

At first I thought somebody had thrown away chicken eggs since they were a perfect match for size. Next to the eggs was this fellow. I am not sure if he was part of the egg batch or not. He looks like a stellar jay to me, but the size of eggs suggest a crow. An untimely end, before his life even got started.

From Hanes there were plenty of stops and interesting scenery. Our final destination for the night was Congdon Lake Provincial Park.

As the opening picture shows it also had a dandy playground. There were plenty of signs about bear warnings and the campground was recommended for trailers ONLY as a result. Nice sign about bears. As always click on picture to enlarge so it is readable.

Just a few short miles west of the campground this fellow was walking along the Alaskan Highway. He definitely acted like he knew he was on the top of the food chain in the area. Not a concern in the world on his stroll.

He definitely looks like a grizzly. A pumped up version of a black bear.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

usbackroads destination--Haines, Alaska

usbackroads destination--Haines, Alaska

dates stayed August 3-5th, 2016

The first trip to Haines, Alaska was in 2013: It made the list as a place I wanted to return and visit again. A special spot.

This trip to Alaska had the only a few MUST destinations. Haines was one of them. The road into Haines is spectacular. Well, it has to be since it passes through the Yukon, British Columbia AND Alaska!!

This time instead of a cruise ship it was a full service RV park.

 Though I highly recommend the campgrounds at Chilkoot Lake State Park:

The Chilkoot River is short but is full of bald eagles and bears feasting on the salmon. This trip was typical as plenty of bald eages were seen, but no bears. However, several large mammals were seen fishing for salmon and I did observe ONE being successful. A success rate that was far exceeded by the bald eagles.

Hopefully, you will have better success at spotting the elusive bears.

Haines is home to historic Fort Seward:

Dinner was at the Fort Seward Lodge. They were out of the "first" choices were unavailable, but dinner was excellent. There were lots of good places to eat in Haines. It is just a great little town.

At the south end of town is another "hidden" state park.

This is the view from the boat launch. The lighting isn't good, but wow.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

cabackroads-Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

cabackroads-Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

dates stayed--August 1-3, 2016

It is said that the key to happiness is low expectations. The expectations for Whitehorse were a RV campground with sewer so we could dump and a laundromat to wash and dry all the clothes that had started mildewing from never getting completely dry. Plus we needed a Canadian Tire for needed supplies and a good grocery store.

Entering Whitehorse we noticed the rather odd highway system with right lanes that appeared and disappeared without rhyme or reason. Must have been laid out by a Civil Engineer from the University of Washington. It was a reason to dislike the town, but its good charm and looks soon overcome the initial impression.

The RV park was just south of town and noisy from adjacent road noise at our campsite, but it had a great laundromat and dump station!

The Canadian Tire had nothing that we were looking to find, but the adjacent Wal-Mart did. The Wal-Mart parking lot was a sight to behold as it was totally full of RV's. The Canadian Super Store had a great grocery department and the shopping was complete.

Whitehorse has a great 2.5 km bicycle trail that goes past the SS Klondike (see picture above) and along the banks of the Yukon River. Nice trail, well worth the bicycle or walking trip. The bicycle trail does go past a small campground.

The campground can only accept small RV's and it is without electricity, water, or sewer. Still worth the stay if you can fit. Where else can you find an outdoor living room that instantly transports back to 1968 and the start of the hippie movement.

Nice wood stove? The only downside was dogs were NOT allowed on the couch's! Really man's best friend and he has to be on the floor.  They have real ice cream next door to the living room. The bike trail and campground are well worth the stop.

The SS Klondike is a historical site managed by the Canadian government. No charge for admission and it is right on the bike trail. Here is a view of the "storage" area on the boat.

Stroll through the downtown area. It has one of the best outdoor stores I have seen. There was a free concert in the outdoor park. Oh, parking in the downtown area is free for those with non-Yukon plates to encourage tourism.

I tried to find a "hearty" breakfast place but failed. Whitehorse looks like a blue collar working town so I was hopeful for a good solid breakfast place. I did run into a local that informed me I was incorrect. Whitehorse is a "government" town full of Canadian federal employees, which is why breakfast tended to be on the "foo-foo" side!

An early dinner at the Klondike restaurant with a baked Halibut dip, and fish and chips made up the lack of a good breakfast in town. Be warned, there is a line and they do not take reservations. You can just walk in at 3:30 pm with no waiting.

One thing we first noticed in Whitehorse is the practice of "dumping" old vehicles and converting them into art work. Recycling at its best I suppose.

Whitehorse is a pretty interesting community. Well worth, at least a couple of days stay on the trip north.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

cabackroads--Timber Point, Yukon Territory

cabackroads--Timber Point, Yukon Territory.

dates stayed--July 31st, 2016

Leaving Boya Lakes we headed for the Alcan Highway. The need was for a laundromat and a dump station, with the priority being a dump station after five days of filling the black and gray water tanks.

Whitehorse was the preferred destination, but it was doubtful that a single day drive would get us there. The drive was much faster than the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Yes, civilization has better highways than the outback.

Along the way Rancheria Falls was a short hike from the highway. Someday I will have to look up the meaning of Rancheria Falls since the name is found throughout the west.

A short hike on trail and boardwalk brings you to a cliff and scenic overlook.

At the scenic overlook Snowpatch decided to go cliff jumping, but stopped just before launch. One of these two girls almost did the same.

From there, we headed to the Yukon Motel and their dump station. Highly recommended.

They did have a nice campground there, but we decided to pass.

At a highway stop for construction we asked the flagger about camping spots up the road. She was not high on the Provincial Park and instead recommended a private campground with no water, no electricity, and no sewer for $20 a night. That is the spot we picked. Photo of our campsite is on top of this blog.

However, the attraction was the beach. Both Bugaboo and Snowpatch enjoyed the swimming in cold waters. The scenery was outstanding. The quiet was deafening.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Stewart_Cassiar Highway Overview

 cabackroads--Stewart_Cassiar Highway Overview, British Columbia

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway was completed in 1972. As a graduate student at the University of British Columbia in1973 I was directed to rewrite the field notes of the highway for publication. I tried to get permission to drive up the highway to view it before doing the rewrite of the field notes. My request was denied.

So in the summer of 2016 I finally got to see the highway that I only experienced second hand through field notes. It was nothing like the notes.

The highway is 543 miles long. All of it without cell service. Internet service at the small villages was sometimes available. Diesel was available, but you never wanted to go past a station selling it without topping the tank. The grocery stores were a treasure hunt. Some were great for small stores while others had little selection. We actually went back to a grocery store that was selling outdated potatoe chips for twenty-five cents a bag. Truly, a treasure find.

For half its length there is no center line. A comfortable traveling speed is about 45 miles an hour. Traffic is minimal. Just be courteous and pull over if someone comes up behind you.

A friend traveled the route in early spring and has memories of wildlife and mosquitoes. I decided to pass on the mosquitoes by leaving in early July. That meant, however, that I also gave a pass to the wildlife. In early spring, the higher elevations are covered in snow forcing all the bears and moose down to the river valley along the highway. In July, a fox in a campground and one along the road. Stone sheep along the highway were the only wildlife of note.

There is a spur off Highway 37 to Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska. It is worth taking. The views are better than what we saw off the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

Stewart, BC also had the advantage of good cell and data service. There was a good grocery store and a couple of decent looking restaurants. It is very close to the bear watching area in Hyder, Alaska.

Most people chose to stay at Meziadin Provincial Park and do the day trip to Stewart. In hindsite, I think I would chose to stay in either Stewart or Hyder for a couple of nights. Particularly, Hyder since then you can watch the bears feast on salmon early and late in the day.

The remainder of the trip was a choice between the Provincial Parks or boondocking along the road. The best scenery is in the Provincial Parks so we chose to do that.

The highway is never that far from the coast. The totem poles at the start of the trip was the first clue.

The cloudy, rainy weather for the second clue for the remainder of the trip.It is a grand trip. Even Snowpatch spent much of the trip gazing out the window.

Just before the highway ends in the Yukon there was a lake with cell service, if the phone amplifier, was connected and a beautiful dispersed camping spot.

The end of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway is in the Yukon. Off the Alaska Highway there is just a small sign identifying the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Not even a left turn lane off the Alcan.

When you reach the Alaska Highway there is culture shock as you encounter "civilization" again.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

cabackroads destination--Boya Lakes Provincial Park, Stewart-Cassier Highway, British Columbia, Canada

cabackroads destination--Boya Lakes Provincial Park, Stewart-Cassier Highway, British Columbia, Canada.

dates stayed: July 26-31, 2016

As noted earlier the Provincial Parks along the Cassier Highway are the most scenic spots along the route. The best of the best of these parks is Boya Lakes Provincial Park. All the folks we talked to along the road recommended the park and spending several days there canoeing and kayaking. 

The fishing was also suppose to be good. I did not see a fish caught or even one jumping during the five days we spent at the park.

There are some great campsites right on the water where you can launch your boat or kayak.

Just beyond the lakefront row of campsites are larger and more private campsites just one level up from the lake.

We spent five days waiting for the weather to clear. It teased by providing a bit of sunshine every day, but lots of rain both day and night. So on most days it was rather cloudy. Enough so that the solar panels never did manage to recharge the battery in the Casita.

Oh well, we did manage to get out on the lake with the kayaks on several days. One time, I just made it back to the campsite when the heavens opened up in a deluge. Perfect timing, and as they say luck is everything.

There are a couple of short hiking trails that go through the forest to a beaver ponds.  It was a nice short walk for Bugaboo, but a real treat for Snowpatch as he really started to explore. The "good citizenship" collar was necessary to bring him back to the trail.

The highlight of the five days was a rainstorm and the rainbow when it cleared. Now rainbows are normally associated with the sky. After all that is where rainbows are found.

But this rainbow must have known that the lake was there. It really showed that both rainbows and lakes are both made of water and just maybe they have more in common with each other than the sky. A real delightful rainbow.

The picture shows the beauty of Boya Lakes. A wonderful area to explore in a canoe or kayak. Lots of fingers to explore and islands to beach and have a picnic. A special spot. Well worth spending several days even it rains every day.

Oh yeah, around the lake there are some pretty interesting mountains. But the lake is really the draw.

Here is the link to the "official" site: