Ketchikan, Alaska’s 1st City.

Posted December 13, 2017 By admin



The welcome arch in downtown Ketchikan, Alaska.


July 31, 2017

It was another glorious morning on the Volendam as we pulled into Ketchikan, Alaska. It was our second time visiting Alaska’s southernmost city. We waited for the mad rush ashore to subside then donned our backpacks and went exploring. On our way down the ship’s gangplank, we were greeted by Ketchikan’s welcome arch, which read, “Welcome to Alaska’s 1st City”. With a population of 8,050 in its city limits it was the first community one encountered while heading north along Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Our first stop on the waterfront was the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau where we acquired information on tours. We decided to explore Ketchikan on foot. Our journey began at the welcome arch in the touristy downtown area. We left the shops behind and headed north to Whale Park. The small park decorated with flower gardens created an inviting setting for the Chief Kyan Totem Pole, which was a replica of a pole raised in the 1890s for the Tlingit chief.

We turned right onto Stedman Street and walked along Thomas Basin Boat Harbor where we took in views of the waterfront. Soon, we arrived at Thomas Street, a wood-plank street built over the water. Thomas Street, lined with historic buildings, was once part of the New England Fish Company cannery.

It was a gorgeous blue-sky morning to be out and about in Ketchikan. Our walking tour took us up Deermount Avenue to the Totem Heritage Center where an extensive display of weathered, original totem carvings can be found. Ketchikan has the largest collection of totems found anywhere in the world. There are over eighty poles scattered throughout the city. Some are ancient poles kept in climate-controlled protection, several are standing poles raised almost a century ago, while others are recently carved replicas.

We continued our walk until we arrived at Deer Mountain Hatchery situated along Ketchikan Creek. Deer Mountain is one of the oldest hatcheries in Alaska. The facility raises fish to supplement the wild stocks of Alaska salmon and rears approximately 500,000 juvenile chinooks annually. The hatchery backed onto a small but charming park, with ornamental ponds and paved paths.

We explored the sights along Park Ave and followed Ketchikan Creek. We were on the lookout for salmon. In the summer months, the creek is one of the best places to see salmon gather by the thousands to spawn upstream. We stopped by a concrete fish ladder and watched salmon try to jump up rushing waterfalls to return to their native streambed. None appeared to be using the ladder, a series of pools arranged like steps that allow fish to travel upstream around the falls.

As we continued on our tour, we discovered another wooden walkway constructed along the shores of Ketchikan Creek. Historic Creek Street was built over the water because it was too difficult to blast away the rocky hills surrounding the creek. The antique boardwalk perched on wooden pilings used to be lined with bordellos that catered to anglers and bootleggers. Now it is one of Ketchikan’s best tourist attractions and a home to historic buildings filled with picturesque shops and restaurants.

We walked through the shops looking at craft items, tourist souvenirs and Alaskan gold jewelry. The most famous brothel, known as Dolly’s House, is still on the boardwalk and it has been preserved as a museum right down to the original furnishings. Instead of touring the house we opted to continue down the street for some ice cream. We boarded the ship at 3 p.m., retired our backpacks and relaxed on the open-air aft end of the Lido Deck.

It was fun to watch the harbor activity, as there were several other cruise ships nearby, one of which was anchored and shuttling its passengers to and from shore with small boats. The area of water near the ship was also used as the “runway” for a constant stream of seaplanes that were landing and taking off. At 6 p.m. the Volendam cruised out of Ketchikan. Tuesday we would have a full day at sea sailing through the Inside Passage before we arrived Wednesday August 2, 2017 at our final port in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Fair winds,


It’s Monday on the Volendam.


Looking down on another cruise ship in port.


We start our walking tour in Ketchikan.


“The Rock” a monument representing Ketchikan’s first people and pioneers.


A replica of the Chief Kyan totem pole in Whale Park.


The Ketchikan Yacht Club in Thomas Basin Boat Harbor.


A view of a cruise ship in the distance.


Kathy dwarfed by a totem pole outside the Totem Heritage Center.


Deer Mountain is one of the oldest hatcheries in Alaska.


Hatchery basins full of juvenile salmon.


A concrete fish ladder on Ketchikan Creek.


Historic Creek Street is one of Ketchikan’s best tourist attractions.


Historic buildings filled with picturesque shops line Ketchikan Creek.


Tour Ketchikan by land and sea in this amphibious vehicle.


Looking down on Ketchikan’s Casey Moran Harbor.


A seaplane landing in the harbor.


A cruise ship anchored in the harbor shuttles passengers to and from shore.


Two monkeys! Rodge poses with our towel animal of the day.

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Magnificent Glacier Bay!

Posted December 8, 2017 By admin


The stunning John Hopkins Glacier.


July 30, 2017 

Today was a very special day on the Volendam. We were going to explore Glacier Bay. This was our second time here in four years and I was excited. The park was named a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925. In 1980, Jimmy Carter increased its acreage and elevated its status to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The park encompasses 3.3 million acres and Glacier Bay lies in the middle of the huge preserve. Its many inlets and fjords contain sixteen active tidewater glaciers fueled by enough snow to flow out of the mountains and down to the sea.

Rodge and I awoke at 6 a.m. so that we could get dressed and eat in time to take in the full day. At 7 a.m. we entered Glacier Bay and picked up two park rangers at Bartlett Cove (Park Headquarters). They spent the day as our guides and provided informative commentary as we cruised throughout Glacier Bay.

The captain opened up two levels of the bow of the ship so we could have a sweeping view of the bay. It was cold and breezy there so we were all bundled up in our parkas and hats. Along with a warming sun, there was a coffee and hot chocolate station set up on deck to help take the chill off.

As we glided through the green-blue waters of Glacier Bay, the reflection of the ice-capped mountains in the still water lent an air of solitude and tranquility to our visit. We saw wildlife all around us. Humpback whales waved to us with their tails as they dove in and out of the water. Dall sheep grazed on the top of mountain ridges. High-soaring bald eagles glided through the air scanning for prey. At one point, I saw a bald eagle float by on an iceberg.

As we slowly made our way fifty-five miles north to the tidewater glacier faces, Park Service Rangers in the ship’s bridge provided audio narration of what we were seeing. They pointed out features of interest and a wide variety of wildlife (bald eagles, otters, whales, Dall sheep etc.). The glaciers we cruised by are called tidewater glaciers because they end in the water and break off into icebergs.

At mile 40, we arrived at Reid Glacier. The 9.5-mile-long, .75-mile-wide glacier was named by members of the 1899 Harriman Alaskan Expedition for Harry Fielding Reid. Reid Glacier is one of the few glaciers that can be accessed from shore. A mile later, we entered stunning John Hopkins Inlet, a nine-mile path bounded by steep, ice-carved walls that reach more than 6,000 feet skyward on either side. At the mouth of the inlet is the Lamplugh Glacier, one of the bluest glaciers in the park. It is 16 miles long and .75 miles wide. It is known for its huge subglacial river and cave that appears each summer.

But the crown jewel of the inlet lies at the very end, the John Hopkins Glacier. The glacier was named after John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland by Harry Fielding Reid in 1893. It is one of the few advancing tidewater glaciers of the Fairweather Range. The glacier is more than a mile wide and twelve miles long. Its jagged face rises 250 feet from the water. As I looked at the stunning glacier I could see two peaks from the Fairweather range rising above it. The peaks are named Mount Wilbur and Mount Orville, after the Wright brothers.

We left John Hopkins inlet and continued north into Tarr Inlet. It was 11 a.m. and the stewards started serving us Dutch Pea Soup on the foredeck. It was just the thing to warm us up a bit without having to go inside. Soon, we arrived at Margerie Glacier, named for the French geographer and geologist Emmanuel de Margerie who visited Glacier Bay in 1913. Inside the inlet, calm, blue-green waters were dotted with chunks of ice. The massive glacier towered 250 feet above us. The mile-wide ice flow stretched twenty-one miles from the south slope of Mount Root on the Alaska-Canada border to Tarr Inlet.

Our ship slowed and coasted within a quarter-mile of the massive ice face. Passengers lined the bow with binoculars and cameras to capture a view of the towering ice queen. Margerie Glacier with the Fairweather Mountains lurking behind, towered over the water’s surface. The jagged edges left in the top of the glacier from pieces falling away formed intricate shapes and patterns.

The ship spent about a full hour in front of the Margerie Glacier. The captain allowed plenty of time for everyone on board to see the glacier by turning the ship slowly so that all sides faced the glacier for a considerable amount of time. As we crowded the rails, a hush came over the ship. Suddenly, we heard a loud crack, and then a noise that sounded like a thunderclap. The silence was shattered as a chunk of ice crumbled and slowly fell into the water. Margerie Glacier was actively calving or breaking off ice chunks. Compared to glacial ice, seawater is warm and highly erosive. As waves and tides undermines some ice fronts, great blocks of ice up to 200 feet high may calve or break loose and crash into the sea.

Just adjacent to Margerie Glacier is the largest glacier in the park, the Grand Pacific Glacier. Standing 180 feet above the water, it is two miles wide and 34 miles long. At 1 p.m., we left Tarr Inlet and spent the rest of the afternoon cruising south through Glacier Bay. We passed by John Hopkins Inlet again and got another glimpse of the virtual winter wonderland. Hanging glaciers on mountainsides glistened in the afternoon sun. Sparkling icebergs floated by in calm, icy waters. I hated to leave such a magical place.

As we cruised out of Glacier Bay, I was inspired by its rugged, limitless beauty. I was also humbled and in awe of its snow-covered landscapes and icy sculptures. Only God could have created such a masterpiece.

In awe,



It’s Sunday on the Volendam!


On the bow of the ship all bundled up in our parkas.


Making our way through blustery Glacier Bay National Park.


Snow covered mountains line the waters of the bay.


Reid Glacier, a 9.5 mile-long glacier that can be accessed from shore.


Rodge enjoying hot chocolate on the forward deck.


Lamplugh Glacier found at the mouth of the John Hopkins Inlet.


The Lamplugh Glacier is one of the bluest glaciers in the park.


Kathy being photobombed by Lamplugh Glacier.


This is an example of the layering effect of a glacier.


Layers of ice and dirt are trapped inside the glacier.


Beautiful ice sculptures formed by years of glacial activity.


A small cruise ship exploring Glacier Bay.


A bald eagle enjoying a morning cruise.


The crown jewel of the inlet lies at the very end, the John Hopkins Glacier.


Two peaks rising above the glacier named Mounts Orville and Wilber.


A bald eagle hitching a ride on a an iceberg.


Margerie Glacier from a distance.


Passengers lined the bow with cameras to capture a view of Margerie glacier.


The jagged edges were left in the top of the glacier from pieces falling away.


Margerie Glacier with the Fairweather Mountains lurking behind.


The mile-wide ice flow stretched 21 miles and towered 250 feet above us.


A retreating glacier.


Another retreating glacier gives way to green grasses.


Another magnificent view of Glacier Bay.


The Grand Pacific Glacier is the largest glacier in the park.


Standing 180 feet above the water it is two miles wide and thirty-four miles long.


Leaving Glacier Bay National Park.


Gentile waves move across the blue-green water.


Kathy relaxing on the deck after a marvelous day in Glacier Bay.



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We Set Sail on the MS Volendam!

Posted December 5, 2017 By admin


A view of Skagway harbor from the cruise ship Volendam.


January 29, 2017

After riding buses, trains and flying in planes over the last ten days it was time to start the sea portion of our trip. We departed our hotel at 10:30 a.m. and were shuttled to the harbor where we embarked on the Holland America cruise ship MS Volendam. Our stateroom was on the second deck—the same deck as the gangway entrance which made it convenient when arriving and departing the ship. Our baggage was staged inside the room so we immediately settled in.

Next, we were off to the Lido Deck for our first meal on board. Let the food frenzy begin. After lunch, some exploring about the decks, and a bit of time reading through the shipboard literature in our stateroom, we donned our trusty backpacks again. It was time to go back ashore and do some final exploring in Skagway. We walked up and down the main street poking in the various stores and making minor purchases (remembering that our luggage was pretty full). We stopped and got some ice cream, then spent some time enjoying it and the view from the roadside bench outside the store. The mini-shopping spree ended in plenty of time to reboard the ship before the underway deadline.

When we arrived back on board the ship it was 5 p.m. and time to eat again. We arrived at the Lido Restaurant for a dinner buffet. At 7 p.m. we joined several people from our land journey at a cocktail party hosted by the captain for newly embarked passengers from Skagway. Later we attended an “Alaska in Concert” event in the ship’s theater. It consisted of silent video clips of Alaska and its wildlife accompanied by live music played by seven musicians on stage. Some of the video clips depicted amazing wildlife activity that we had never seen before. The overall effect was marvelous. Sometime during the show, the ship got underway for Glacier Bay National Park. At 9 p.m., after the concert, we spent time on the top deck enjoying spectacular views as the sun set. When we arrived in our room, we were greeted by a bunny towel animal made by our steward.

Fair winds,


It is Saturday on the Volendam.


Our stateroom for the next four days.


The Lido Pool ready for some action.


Atop the Volendam looking down on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad.


A close up of a WP&YR railroad car.


Another cruise ship lurking behind the Volendam.



Another “dam” ship.


It’s longer than it looks!


Skagway’s small boat harbor.


The Volendam lassoed to the sea wall!


A ferry returning from Haines, Alaska.


A view of Skagway harbor.


On Volendam’s top deck.


Saying goodbye to Skagway, Alaska.


Heading to Glacier Bay National Park.


We follow another cruise ship in the Lynn Canal.


The sleeping area in our stateroom.


A cute bunny towel animal made by our steward.



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Wilderness River Adventure in Haines, Alaska!

Posted December 1, 2017 By admin


Reflections are mirrored on the “smooth as glass” Chilkat River.


July 28, 2017

At 7:30 a.m., we were shuttled to Skagway’s small boat harbor to catch a ferry to Haines, Alaska, where we were going on an Alaska Wilderness River Adventure. We were met by a brisk, overcast morning. The sun played hide and seek as the wind blew the clouds across the sky. At 8 a.m. we boarded the Fairweather Express, a high-speed catamaran for our 45-minute trip to Haines, Alaska.

We cruised through the Taiya Inlet, a steep-walled rocky fjord just outside of Skagway and then continued south into the Lynn Canal. The canal is an inlet (not an artificial canal) into the mainland of southeast Alaska. At over 2,000 feet deep, the Lynn Canal is the deepest fjord in North America (outside Greenland) and one of the deepest and longest in the world. As we rode by waterfalls cascading over wooded, granite cliffs, sea lions basked in the sun on lichen covered rocks. Snow-covered mountains in the distance decorated the morning sky.

A young woman provided narration about the ferry and our surroundings during the trip. We both spent lots of time on the open, upper levels sightseeing and taking photos. Soon we arrived in Haines, population 2,500. The town is a little larger than Skagway but much less touristy—it’s a year-round working town, not a seasonal hot spot. It’s also the southern-most town in Alaska that’s connected directly to the continental highway system.

Upon arrival in Haines we boarded a bus for a thirty-minute narrated ride along the Haines Scenic Byway to our Chilkat River adventure. When we reached our destination, we were greeted by our guide and were outfitted with waterproof and windproof jackets, earmuffs, gloves and lap blankets to wrap up in just in case the weather was cool or wet.

The boat was designed for shallow water and was powered by three very quiet outboard motors equipped with jet discharges instead of propellers. Kind of like a jet ski on steroids! Personally, I was especially thankful for the comfortable, cushioned bench seats. Before our guide revved up the engines we went through a safety brief. He also told us that if we fell overboard during the ride we should stand up since the water depth throughout the trip would be about waist deep.

As we started out on the silt-laden Chilkat River I was ready with camera in hand to explore the vast wilderness. Along with being the shallowest navigable river in North America, the Chilkat is glacial fed and a braided river system with many different channels. Our guide took us at varying speeds for miles through the river’s twisty streams. It would have been a bone-chilling experience without all of the warm outerwear. We were constantly on the lookout for critters and occasionally stopped completely to search. About the only animals cooperating that morning were bald eagles.

Twenty miles into the wilderness we were in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, home to the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world each fall. As we motored along we saw several bald eagles flying and others perched in trees. At the furthest point in the trip we arrived in a relatively quiet area of the river a few miles from the Canadian border. We were in a part of the river where salmon spawn and could see numerous large red-colored salmon zipping through the waters beneath us.

After an hour and a half on the river it was time to return to the River Adventure dock. When we arrived, we turned in our borrowed clothing items and sat down in a heated pavilion to a very welcome lunch of hotdogs, chili, chips, dessert and hot chocolate. I thoroughly enjoyed the River Adventure tour, in fact it was one of the highlights of my Alaska trip. After our ferry ride back to Skagway it was 2 p.m.

On our way back to our hotel we explored the town of Skagway, population 1,057. Like many other area towns, it was born during the great Klondike gold rush. In 1898, Skagway sprouted into a tent city of 10,000 inhabitants with over 80 saloons. Today a seven-block corridor along Broadway Street features historic false-front shops and restaurants, wooden sidewalks, and restored buildings, many of which are part of the National Park Service-managed Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.





Skagway’s small boat harbor.


We get ready to board a ferry to Haines, Alaska.


Cruising through the Lynn Canal.


Snow-covered mountains in the distance decorated the morning sky.


Sea lions basked in the sun on lichen covered rocks..


We arrive in Haines, Alaska.


Haines, Alaska in all of its magnificent beauty.


Welcome to Haines.


Our bus drives along the Haines Scenic Byway.


A wide, open air, flat-bottom river boat awaits us.


Rodge enjoying his adventure on the Chilkat River.


Kathy taking photos of the magnificent scenery.


The silt-laden Chilkat River is the shallowest navigable river in North America.


The rest of our crew taking in the sights.


The surrounding landscape casts a reflection on the shallow Chilkat River.


A bald eagle hiding in a tree.


In a relatively quiet area of the river not far from the Canadian border.


Here we could see numerous red-colored salmon zipping through the waters.


Snow-covered mountains form a backdrop behind the rapidly flowing river.


A blustery day in downtown Skagway, Alaska.


This historic hotel was built in 1898. It is the oldest operating hotel in the state.


It’s snowing on the mountain overlooking Skagway!


An impatient sled dog coaxes his master. “There’s gold in them there hills.”


Only remaining example of early 1900’s Alaskan driftwood architechture.



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Back in the U. S. A. in Skagway, Alaska.

Posted November 27, 2017 By admin


Beautiful Emerald Lake sparkled like a gem in the morning sun.


July 27, 2017 

At 7 a.m., we boarded our coach for a three-hour trip to Fraser, British Columbia. Our travels started early because we had to be in Fraser before 11 a.m. to catch the White Pass and Yukon Route train for Skagway, Alaska. As we set off down the Klondike highway we were greeted by a misty, cool, windy morning.

Thirty-six miles down the road we stopped by beautiful Emerald Lake. The turquoise lake, colored by light reflecting off deposits of clay and calcium carbonate, sparkled like a gem in the morning sun. The high concentration of calcium carbonate in the water came from limestone gravel eroded from nearby mountains and deposited 14,000 years ago by the glaciers of the last ice age.

Back on the bus, we motored down the road until we came to another wonder of nature, the Carcross Desert. Yes, the Yukon is home to the smallest desert in the world, less than one square mile of rolling dunes. The desert is the remains of the sandy bottom of a glacial lake left after the last ice age. Dry climate and strong wind conditions created the sand dunes and allows little vegetation to grow. Pretty amazing!

Just past the desert we arrived in Carcross, a charming lakeshore village of 450 residents and home to the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. Carcross, the shortened form of its original name Caribou Crossing, began in 1896 during the Klondike Gold Rush. At the time, Caribou Crossing was a popular stopping place for prospectors going to and from the gold fields of Dawson City. Upon the completion of the White Pass and Yukon railway in 1900, Carcross became a major transportation center until the railroad shut down in 1982. In 1988 the railroad reinvented itself as a tourist attraction. Today tourism drives the local economy.

After our twenty-minute rest stop in Carcross, we continued down the road fifteen miles where we crossed over into the province of British Columbia. We were now close to the town of Fraser, where we would board a train for our two-hour trip to Skagway. When we arrived at Fraser, also a Canadian customs checkpoint, we were allowed to go through and cross the border into Alaska so we could stop for pictures at the “Welcome to Alaska “sign. Then we turned around and proceeded back into Canada. On our way back to Fraser we stopped for a bathroom break at Outhouse Hill Pullout, a parking lot with wonderful scenic views and two outhouses.

The mist-covered area showed a highly twisted landscape called the Tormented Valley. The valley contained large areas having an almost “lunar” appearance, making this one of the most unique eco-systems in North America. Within this stark landscape are geological formations made by the intrusion of molten magma. I was struck by the barren beauty of the harsh landscape that was covered with gray rock, bright green moss, yellow lichen, dwarfed conifers and tiny lakes.

When we arrived back in Fraser we went through Canadian exit customs and then at 11 a.m. boarded the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. In its heyday, the railroad’s original purpose was to transport ore and supplies from Skagway to Whitehorse. Today the three-foot wide narrow-gauge railroad runs sixty-seven miles from Carcross, Yukon to Skagway, Alaska and provides popular scenic excursions for tourists.

As we waited for our two-hour ride to begin we admired the fully refurbished train. Pulled by a restored diesel locomotive, the train was of vintage design with large picture windows, padded bench seats and backs, an outside viewing platform, a lavatory and a wood stove in each car. It was a cold, blustery day so we were happy to be near the wood stove.

All Aboard! At 11:20 a.m. our 28-mile journey began south through the Tormented Valley. Seven miles later, after climbing a 3.8% grade (the steepest on the line) we arrived at White Pass Summit (elevation 2,885 feet). We were at the official border between the United States and Canada. There was a display of five flags representing Canada, the United States, Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. As we started down the pass the mountain and stream views were incredible.

During the ride we had commentary by our trip guide on our surroundings, the construction of the railroad and stories of the Gold Rush. Rodge and I took turns going to the outdoor viewing platform to take pictures. The terrain, blanketed in mist, was still waiting for the warm presence of the noonday sun. As the mist started lifting, we experienced breathtaking views. Rushing streams, splashing over multi-shaped rocks, flowed downhill with endless energy. It was a glorious time to be riding on the WP&YR Railroad.

At mile 18, we came to our first tunnel. In 1969 the 675-foot tunnel was driven through the mountain so that a new route could be built to bypass an old cantilever bridge. A new bridge was constructed to replace the old existing bridge. With heavier trains carrying ore from the Yukon to Skagway, a stronger bridge was needed to carry the extra load. When we emerged from the tunnel we could see the 215-foot-long old bridge still standing looking tired and worn. It had been constructed in 1901 and at the time it was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world. Two miles later we went through Tunnel Mountain and over a wooden trestle bridge built during the original construction of the railroad in 1900.

As the train continued to drop in elevation we started shadowing the Skagway River. Panoramic views of the snow covered Chilkat Range could be seen in the distance. Along the way, the train made a stop to pick up a group of hikers. Our trip was slowly coming to an end. As we rolled into Skagway, U.S. Customs inspectors came through the train to check our passports. I tried not to look too shady and flashed a wide mouth smile. We thoroughly enjoyed our ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.





Emerald Lake was colored by light reflecting off deposits of calcium carbonate.


Carcross Desert, the smallest desert in the world.


The charming lakeshore village of Carcross.


Mountain scenery on the way to Fraser, B.C.


Picturesque scenery on the way to Fraser, B.C.


The stark landscape of the Tormented Valley.


Rodge and I pose by the “Welcome to Alaska” sign.


Our coach shrouded in fog.


Scenes from the Tormented Valley.


Gray rock covered with lichen.


Large gray rock formations surrounded by small conifer trees.


Beautiful flowers decorate the barren landscape.


Avalanche Terrain.


We board the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.


The inside of a fully refurbished train car.


A stream rushes by as we climb up to White Pass.


Stark terrain covered with bright green flora.


The terrain, blanketed in mist, was waiting for the warm presence of the sun.


A small lake is spotted from the outside viewing platform.


At the White Pass Summit, the official border between the U.S. and Canada.


A colorful diesel locomotive pulls the train.


The old cantilever bridge built in 1900.


The tired and worn bridge.


Back in 1900, this was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world.


The beautiful Skagway River.


The Skagway River rushes over multi-shaped rocks.


We are closing in on Skagway, Alaska.



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On the Way to Whitehorse!

Posted November 17, 2017 By admin


A beautiful valley blanketed in mist.


July 26, 2017 

At 8 a.m. we said good bye to Dawson City and boarded our coach bus for a ten-hour trip to Whitehorse. The route would take us 331 miles south along the Klondike Highway (Yukon Highway 2). Our bus driver, Audrie, was originally from Dunwoody, Georgia in north Atlanta and proved entertaining, informative and funny as she spun stories of Yukon history and conveyed personal anecdotes. I was excited to hit the road again and learn more about the Yukon.

Once again, the scenery along the way did not disappoint as we motored by rushing rivers, over mountains and through miles of pristine boreal forests. After being on the road two hours, at mile 100 we exited the coach at Moose Creek Lodge for our first rest stop. It was time to stretch our legs and get some coffee. The rustic lodge with its restaurant, gift shop and cabins welcomed us with northern hospitality. The grounds were covered with beautiful flowers, moose antlers in various locations, wood and metal sculptures, and antiques. We browsed through the gift shop that had crafts from local artists as well as small souvenirs and postcards. We even met the lodge dog. But our favorite spot was the cozy restaurant where we enjoyed hot coffee and fresh homemade assorted cakes and pastries.

Back on the bus we continued south until we came to Stewart Crossing. This is where travelers can pick up the Silver Trail, a scenic highway that heads east through the town of Mayo and leads to the mining camp at Elsa and the hamlet of Keno. The trail is named after the silver and gold mining activity that thrived during the 1900s. Silver and gold strikes attracted miners in big numbers. Mining activity continued to grow as more mineral strikes were recorded. It did not take long before the mining companies moved in and the sternwheelers were transporting ores to Whitehorse via the Stewart River.

During this leg of our trip we were treated to a 45-minute historical movie on the Klondike Gold Rush. We were all taken back to a time of adventure, excitement, expectation and “gold in them there hills”. Between 1897 and 1899 with the discovery of gold, 100,000 prospectors from all over the world set out for the Klondike region of the Yukon. During their epic journey full of numerous challenges and obstacles to overcome, only 30,000 actually arrived in the Klondike and only 4,000 found gold. A great dream paid off for so few risking all in hopes of striking it rich.

We soon arrived at the halfway point of the trip, Pelly Crossing, home to the Selkirk First Nation and a small community of 300 people. The community was established during the construction of the Klondike highway as a site for a construction camp and ferry crossing. Twenty miles later we arrived at Minto Resorts for lunch. Situated on the banks of the Yukon River, the resort is owned by the Selkirk First Nation and they provide an RV campground and a lunch stop for groups during the summer season.

Before leaving the bus, Kayli mentioned that two beautiful Italian models vacationing in the area had volunteered to serve us today, so we should look out for them. When we walked in the lunch pavilion we were greeted by our hosts and a hardy buffet with delicious salads, soups, sliced meat trays, bread and dessert. As we started through the serving line our servers turned out to be Kayli and Audrie our coach driver! HA! We had been duped, but who doesn’t love a little tour bus humor.

After lunch we gathered outside along the Yukon River for a group picture. It was a gorgeous sunny day to be in the middle of nowhere just hanging out by the river. Soon it was time to head back to the bus and continue our journey. Fifty miles down the road we stopped at Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site. From the upper viewing deck, we looked down on four reddish colored rock pillars (islands) sitting in the middle of the Yukon River. These split the river into narrow, swiftly moving channels known as the Five Finger Rapids.

The rapids were a significant hazard to navigation during the Klondike Gold Rush, when thousands of prospectors navigated their homemade boats and rafts 800 miles from Bennett Lake (40 miles south of Whitehorse) to Dawson City. Only one of the Five Finger channels was deep enough for the sternwheelers and the current remained very strong. At high water, the falls created a 1-2 foot drop. A sternwheeler ascending the rapids could only go so far until the wheel lifted out of the water and then the vessel lost power.

So, sternwheelers heading upstream had to winch themselves over the drop by using a cable that was attached to the rocks. After several accidents and major hull damage involving sternwheelers it was decided to remove some of the rock. Blasting work started at Five Finger Rapids in 1900 and continued until at least 1927. Rock was removed and the channel was widened by 20 feet. There was a stairway that led down to a lower observation deck along the river for those who wanted to climb down and then up again over two hundred steps. Since our stop was short we opted out of the lower view. I guess we’ll have to return another time.

It was time to jump back on the bus and continue our trip through the Yukon River Valley. A bit down the road we passed through the big mining town of Carmacks, population 493. Fifty-six miles later we made our final stop at the Braeburn Lodge, a roadhouse which serves up “bigger than life” cinnamon buns. Along with its café it has gas for the road and lodging for dog-tired travelers. Speaking of dogs, the lodge hosts a checkpoint during the Yukon Quest 1,000-mile International Sled Dog Race.

The sled dog race started in 1984 and runs every February between, Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon. The course follows the route of the historic 1890s Klondike Gold Rush mail delivery and transportation routes between Fairbanks, Dawson City, and Whitehorse. The Yukon Quest race starts on schedule regardless of weather and lasts from 10 to 16 days until the final dog team arrives at the finish line.

Brae Burn Lodge is one of the nine official checkpoints that help break up the distance and serve as a place where mushers can rest their dogs, get a hot meal and enjoy a warm place to sleep. We were able to see the checkpoint chart from the 2017 race. Along with the lodge’s other amenities, it has an airport nearby named the Cinnamon Bun Airport. Needless to say, Rodge and I boarded our coach with a huge cinnamon bun in hand. A great snack for two! It kept us busy during the next 60 miles to Whitehorse.

At 5:45 p.m., after a ten-hour day on the road, we arrived in Whitehorse, the capital city of the Yukon. Whitehorse was established in 1898 as a transportation center during the Klondike Gold Rush and is named after the historic rapids on the Yukon River that resembled the flowing manes of charging white horses. On the gold rush trail, the stampeders had to bypass the treacherous water of Miles Canyon and White Horse Rapids, located south of the city. The rapids became known as the greatest peril on the trail. The construction of the Whitehorse hydro-electric dam in 1958 tamed Miles Canyon and has replaced the once-foaming White Horse Rapids with Schwatka Lake reservoir.

After we arrived at the hotel and checked in, we walked a block to the “Burnt Toast Café” for dinner. Later, I elected to call it a day and retire to our room while Rodge went on a short walk along the waterfront. Five blocks down the road he discovered the fully restored S.S. Klondike sternwheeler in a National Historic Park. He topped off the evening by walking along the Millennium Trail, a 3-mile paved walking and biking path running in an oval on either side of the Yukon River with two bridge crossings as part of the circuit. Along the way he enjoyed the views beside the rushing river with the mountains as a backdrop. He was even treated to a rainbow in the far distance–a great way to end a magnificent Yukon day.





We boarded our coach bus for a ten-hour trip to Whitehorse.


Beautiful scenery along the Klondike Highway.


We arrive at Moose Creek Lodge.


Max, the world’s largest mosquito.


The 1920’s Motor Trend Car of the Year.


The inquisitive lodge dog.


Moose Creek census.


Yukon GPS.


Lunch pavilion at Minto Resorts.


The mighty Yukon River at Minto Resorts.


Kathy posing with moose antlers.


Kayli showing us how its done.


Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site.


Water swiftly moving through the Five Finger Rapids.


A map of the Yukon Quest sled dog race.


Brae Burn checkpoint for the 1,000 mile international sled dog race.


A huge cinnamon roll from Braeburn Lodge.


S.S. Klondike in a National Historic Park.


The sternwheeler S.S. Klondike.


Stern paddle on the S.S. Klondike.


The Millennium Trail along the Yukon River.


River views with a mountain backdrop.


A distant rainbow along the Yukon River.



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Paddle Wheelers and the Midnight Dome!

Posted November 10, 2017 By admin


The paddle wheeler “Klondike Spirit”.


July 25, 2017 

At 9 a.m. we boarded the paddle wheeler “Klondike Spirit” for a two-hour river excursion on the Yukon. The Klondike Spirit, a modern side wheel version of a paddle wheel steamer, was constructed over a period of five years in Eagle City, Alaska and put into service in 2005. The boat was very maneuverable with paddles on both sides that could be operated forward and backward independently. The diesel-powered riverboat had three passenger decks, a food service galley and two staterooms for crews. It was the first side-wheeler to be built on the Yukon in decades.

As we got underway, the paddlewheels started spinning and churning up water. We were propelled forward. I moved to the middle deck which had great open-air visibility. Rodge preferred the bow because the point of view was similar to that from a submarine bridge. We first headed north (downstream). The Yukon River, framed by mountains and sprinkled with wooded islands, was calm and thick with silt and was the color of chocolate pudding. We cruised by Moosehide, an historic First Nations settlement. When the Gold Rush stampeders took over their Dawson City location in 1897, the Han people moved downriver to Moosehide. In the 1950’s, the declining population at the settlement and the closing of their school caused the people to move back to Dawson, where they now are an integral part of the community.

Up ahead I saw the Dawson Ferry crossing the river. The ferry runs 24 hours a day when the river is free of ice. After the river freezes, usually by mid-November, the government creates an ice road across the river and people drive across that. There are six weeks in fall and spring during freeze up and break-up when no passage is possible so people living in West Dawson must prepare accordingly.

After traveling five miles we turned around and headed south (upriver). I couldn’t help but think about the history associated with the river. Over one hundred years ago paddle wheeler traffic dominated the Yukon River. During their heyday, that started with the beginning of the Gold Rush in 1896, there were over 260 stern-wheelers. These riverboats, unlike the “Klondike Spirit,” had their paddlewheel in the back. That design protected them from hitting sandbars and made them less vulnerable to damage. The boats that supplied food, mail, goods for the miners and transportation were powered by wood fueled locomotive-type boiler engines. From Whitehorse to Dawson City, wood camps sprung up along the river to provide fuel for the stern-wheelers during their journey.

Paddle wheelers continued to use the river until the 1950s when the Klondike Highway was completed. Bridges built along the highway to Dawson City were too low to accommodate the old river steamers and by 1955 all steamers were beached. On our way upriver, we passed by a sternwheeler graveyard where six large paddleboats were pulled up on the riverbank in West Dawson. Most vessels were eventually wrecked, destroyed by explosion or fire, or dismantled for their lumber, machinery, and valuable hardware. We could only see the two outermost boats from the river and they are decaying wrecks of wood, tilted funnels, wires and paddle frames.

Along the riverbank our captain pointed out where Dawson City’s infamous “Caveman Bill” hangs out. Up ahead on the West Dawson side of the river we could see the entrance to his humble abode decked out with a wooden door and a metal roof. We also spotted one of his dogs, solar panels and miscellaneous junk scattered around. He’s lived in the cave for 18 years. Even in the winter when temperatures drop to 50 below, he has a wood stove he can fire up. “Caveman Bill” has all the comforts of home without plumbing and electricity. LED lights brighten up his world along with the comfort of his two dogs. He spends a great deal of his time making furniture for himself and others. He has Wi-Fi connection off and on and best of all he has a riverfront location. Amazing!

After we cruised by Dawson City, we continued south until we reached the confluence of the brown, silty glacier-fed Yukon River with the clear blue Klondike River. It was quite striking to see the two rivers flow side by side like two long ribbons. This phenomenon is due to the difference in temperature, speed and water density of the two rivers. After about a mile, the clear waters of the Klondike started mixing with the silty brown waters until they became one, the mighty Yukon! Our excursion was almost over and it was time to turn around and return to the dock. I thoroughly enjoyed the paddle wheeler cruise.

Back ashore, we walked down Front Street and reached the ice cream shop at 11 a.m., just in time for lunch. Another ice cream pig fest ensued and we enjoyed a relaxing twenty minutes watching the world and river pass us by as we sat on the boardwalk in front of the shop. We spent the next hour or so walking south atop the dike along the river then headed back north to Fifth Avenue to our hotel. During the course of our travels, we passed the community’s indoor pool, a hockey rink, a curling club, library and school. We later found out there is a nearby ski slope and golf course.

After a relaxing dinner, we met in the hotel lobby for our sightseeing trip to the Midnight Dome, the mountaintop immediately east of and overlooking the town. It is called the Midnight Dome because for decades people gathered on the top of the hill to watch the midnight sun and the changing hues of the night sky. The Dome is a metamorphic rock that stands 2,911 feet high. Our guide drove us up a winding road to the summit. The weather was perfect, visibility unlimited, warm and sunny. The view in all directions was awesome—rivers, forests, distant mountain ranges and Dawson City. The view rivalled the Grand Canyon in majesty. It was a panoramic vision of beauty!

We arrived back in town by 8:15 p.m. just in time for the 8:30 p.m. show at Diamond Tooth Gerties. The show was the same as the previous evening except a different woman played the lead singer, Gertie. We had an enjoyable time on our last night in Dawson City. Could life get any better?




We board the “Klondike Spirit” for a cruise on the Yukon River.


Heading north on the Yukon River.


Simply messing about in boats.


A sternwheeler graveyard full of decaying wood and mangled steel.


Tilted funnels, wires and paddle frames haunt this sternwheeler graveyard.


“Caveman Bill” living off the grid in West Dawson City.


The captain navigating the Yukon River.


A bird’s-eye view of Rodge on the bow of the paddle wheeler.


A view of the clear Klondike River flowing along side the muddy Yukon River.


Rodge’s funky picture of the Yukon River.


The river was thick with brown silt and was the color of chocolate pudding


I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.


Walking atop the dike along the Yukon River.


Near the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. The big split!


The Yukon River framed with colorful vegetation.


The Yukon up close and personal with the Klondike.


Kathy composing a picture.


Billy Goats Restaurant and Pub.


A quaint Dawson City home.


Rodge,  on his way back to Gertie’s Wing.


The Midnight Dome mountaintop overlooking town.


A grand view from the Midnight Dome.


Small wooded islands chilling in the Yukon River.


A view of Dawson City from the Midnight Dome.


The confluence of the Yukon and Klondike (bottom left) Rivers.


Kathy capturing the magnificence and beauty of the Yukon.


Kathy striking a pose.


Rodge posing with the Yukon River.


The Gold Rush Girls kicking and flashing their colorful skirts.


Gertie serenading the crowd.


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We Arrive in the Yukon…Dawson City!

Posted November 10, 2017 By admin


The mighty Yukon River.


July 24, 2017

At 9 a.m. we boarded our coach bus for a ride to the Fairbanks International Airport. We were on our way to Canada and the Yukon territory. When we arrived at the airport we went through TSA with passports in hand. We boarded an Air North chartered Boeing 737 for an hour-long flight to Dawson City. Our airplane flew through a cloudy sky with no picturesque views out the windows and landed at 1 p.m. local time on a gravel runway. We deplaned and proceeded immediately through Canadian customs.

Within ten minutes we were dropped off at the hotel, which was located in the center of Dawson City and part of a multi-building complex. Our building was named “Gertie’s Wing”. After getting settled, map in hand, we walked out to the south end of Front Street, the main street that runs along the town waterfront. We were ready to explore Dawson City! Dawson city is small enough that you can easily walk around it.

Dawson City was the center of the Klondike Gold Rush. The gold rush was touched off with the August 16,1896 discovery of gold on Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River. In July, 1897 the outside world learned of the strike when some newly rich prospectors arrived in Seattle and San Francisco. With the influx of gold seekers, the city population jumped from 800 in 1896 to 30,000 people by 1898.

Today, Dawson City has a population of over 2,000 residents. As the second largest city in the Yukon, tourism and gold mining still continue to provide employment for many. The core of the city is designated as an Historical Complex and selected as a National Historic Site of Canada. Most of the buildings reflect nineteenth century pioneer, boom-town architecture. Several buildings have been restored to their original grandeur along with the wooden boardwalks. Now, all new structures must be built to reflect the historical theme.

Virtually all the roads in Dawson City are dirt with wooden boardwalks instead of sidewalks. Because permafrost underlies the town, the buildings are all raised up a couple of feet above the ground to permit air flow. That design minimizes heat transfer to the soil and helps prevent failure of the building foundations due to permafrost thawing. Many of the buildings have false fronts facing the street. The fronts are neat, painted bright colors, and larger than the actual building behind them. These were often erected to give simple wooden buildings the allusion of influence and importance.

At 3 p.m. we stopped at the Information Center and signed up for a walking tour of the town. Our guide was a tall, thin, late-middle aged woman wearing a black period blouse, a long skirt, and a wide brimmed straw hat. She said that she had moved to Dawson City years ago and lived year-round across the Yukon River in West Dawson in a dwelling that was off the grid–no water, sewer, or electrical services–just as all others live in West Dawson. This was her summer job working for Parks Canada as a thematic interpreter.

The purpose of the tour was to relate strange and unusual stories to us as we walked around the town. She also let us into some of the historical buildings that have been restored by Parks Canada. The tour was outstanding and lasted 90 minutes. We were able to visit a saloon that was fully reconstructed based on photographic evidence. It was beautiful–long bar, brass foot rail, period wallpaper, electric fixtures, and private curtained area for games and meetings. We were also able to tour the restored original post office that replaced the original practice of simply dumping out all of the mail and letting thousands of residents find what was addressed to them. At the end of the tour, we walked back down Front Street and found an awesome ice cream store, “Klondyke Cream & Candy”.

After dinner we met Kayli and our group and walked a few blocks to Diamond Tooth Gerties, an old-fashioned saloon with a small casino and live entertainment. We were on our way to see the first show of the evening. The establishment is named after Gertie Lovejoy, one of the most famous of Dawson’s dance-hall queens during the gold rush era. She got her nickname after having a diamond inserted between her two front teeth. Wow, talk about having a million-dollar smile!

The show started at 8:30 p.m. and lasted thirty-five minutes. It consisted of a matronly singer, Gertie, and her four can-can dancers. The period music was lively and got the crowd fired up and clapping. Songs alternated with can-can dances where the dancers whirled, kicked and flashed their colorful skirts. Several times Gertie came out into the audience and serenaded a selected viewer. The dancers came out and each selected a man to allegedly help them backstage. A few minutes later, all appeared on stage with the men in skirts and flowered head attachments, then proceeded to dance in unison. The show was a lot of fun.

After the show was over, most of our group left but Rodge and I elected to get something to eat and stay for the next show at 10 p.m. It was equally entertaining but entirely different. There was a male singer added and the story line related to the Gold Rush era. After all of the dancing and singing subsided we left Gerties at 10:45 p.m. As we walked back to our hotel it was still light out because the day was nineteen hours long with the sunset at 11:45 p.m. It was amazing to be in ”The Land of the Midnight Sun”.




Our Air North flight lands in Dawson City.


We arrive at 1 p.m. in the Yukon.


Our hotel was part of a multi-building complex.


Kathy heading to our hotel’s main building.


We meet our guide for the walking tour.


The muddy Yukon River flowing along the waterfront.


On Front Street, Dawson City’s main street.


Our digs for tomorrow! Ha, only kidding!


Home Sweet Home!


A street side washtub of flowers!


The sternwheeler S. S. Keno became a National Historic Site of Canada in 1962.


A saloon that was fully reconstructed based on photographic evidence.


A restored original post office.


The outside of the restored post office.


The Kissing Houses are examples of permafrost damage to building foundations.


The Alchemy Café, where magic culinary delights appear.


A great side view of the false front on the Westminster Hotel.


The Downtown Hotel with a false front.


Rodge and I chowed down on ice cream after our tour.


We discover a down-home van side band on our way back to the hotel.


Can-can dancers whirled, kicked and flashed their colorful skirts at Gerties.


Gertie and her can-can dancers.


Men in skirts and flowered head attachments dance up a storm.


As we left Gerties at 10:45 p.m. it was still light out.

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On the Way to Fairbanks, Alaska !

Posted November 6, 2017 By admin


A beautiful view of the Tanana Valley south of Fairbanks.


July 23, 2017 

It was another sunny, crisp Alaska morning as we joined Kayli and our group in front of the Gold Nugget Saloon in Denali Center. At 9 a.m. we boarded our coach bus for a three-hour trip to Fairbanks. Half way there we stopped at a very eclectic rest stop. It was part store, part campground, part museum and part flower garden. There were lots of strange items scattered about the property for us to explore including a functioning two-seater airplane, a river fish wheel, an old drive plow made from an ancient truck, rusty mechanized sleds, a greenhouse full of vegetables, and lots of flower boxes and flower beds.

We re-boarded the bus and arrived in Fairbanks. After lunch we headed twenty minutes outside of Fairbanks to Fox, Alaska to explore Gold Dredge 8. Our first stop on the tour was a close-up view of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The pipeline connects the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska to the harbor of Valdez 800 miles to the south. Oil started flowing through the 48-inch diameter pipes in August of 1977. Our guide provided a briefing on the pipeline, its design, how it worked, and how “smart” and “dumb pigs” (monitors) work.

The “dumb” pigs, matching the shape of the interior pipe wall, are pushed through the pipeline by oil, cleaning accumulated deposits and enhancing pipeline flow as they travel. The “smart” pigs, have high-tech circuitry that enables them to record images of the pipe using ultrasonic and magnetic sensors. These oinkers measure pipeline curvature and inspect for corrosion, changes in pipe diameter and other problems requiring maintenance. The name pig is an acronym for pipeline inspection gauges.

Because of the varying soil conditions along its route, the pipeline is both above and below ground. Where the warm oil would cause icy soil to thaw and erode, the pipeline goes above ground. The foundations are designed to allow for movement and earthquakes up to magnitude 8.5. Where the frozen ground is mostly well-drained gravel or solid rock, and thawing is not a problem, the line is underground. We could see such a section running up a nearby hill. The right of way above the pipeline is kept clear-cut.

Next, we boarded a small open-air train and were on our way to Gold Dredge 8. We passed by many samples of gold mining technology, stopping occasionally for explanations and live demonstrations by the staff. When we arrived at the dredge we learned about the history of mining in Fairbanks.

Gold Dredge 8 operated between 1928 and 1959 and played an essential role in mining and the economy of the Tanana Valley. In 1984, it was listed as a Historic District on the National Registry of Historic Places. It was originally built by Bethlehem Steel in Scranton, Pennsylvania and outfitted with General Electric motors. It was disassembled, shipped to Fairbanks, then reassembled. Power was supplied via cables from a power plant in Fairbanks. Later we got to tour the inside of the dredge.

A gold dredge is a mining machine that extracts gold out of sand, gravel, and dirt from stream beds and alluvial deposits using water and mechanical methods. Gold Dredge 8 used steel buckets on a circular continuous bucket line at the front of the dredge to excavate the material. The material was then dumped into a steel rotating cylinder called a washing trommel, and with the addition of nine thousand gallons of water a minute the coarse rocks, sand and dirt were sorted. Small holes in the cylinder allowed undersized material (including gold) to fall into a sluice box. Since the gold was heavy it settled to the bottom. Every two weeks the dredge would be shut down and the gold collected.

After we exited the train, we were led to a nearby covered area with rows of benches around water-filled troughs. Each of us received a gold pan, a small bag of gold ore, and a small plastic container to hold the results of our panning efforts. Earlier while on the train we had received a gold panning lesson. Now it was our turn to try it using the dirt in our little bags. Employees walked around giving assistance and pointers as needed. We were both successful once we figured out the swirling and non-gold removal technique. The little flecks of gold remaining in our pans were placed into the plastic containers for weighing. According to the scales my haul was twelve dollars and Rodge’s thirteen dollars! We’d hit the Mother Lode!

At 4 p.m. with gold in hand we jumped back on the bus for the final leg to the hotel. Since our lodging for the night was a ways from downtown Fairbanks and it had been a full day, we decided not to venture out that evening. It was a great opportunity for a laundry run! Tomorrow Dawson City.




Kayli checking off her group as they arrive to board the bus.


A 1924 Safety Coach could drive 22 tourists around Denali National Park.


We discovered a two-seater airplane at our rest stop.


A sign of the times.


An old drive plow made from an ancient truck.


Carved bears guarding the store.


An old collection of traps.


Some tourists still waiting for their bus.


A replica of a cache used for the storage of food and supplies in the wilderness.


Tourists waiting to board the Explorer to head to Fairbanks.


The Trans-Alaska Pipeline in Fox, Alaska.


The clear cut area on the hill is where the pipe is buried underground.


An inside view of a “dumb pig” made out of polyurethane.


On our way to Gold Dredge 8 in a small open-air train.


Trying to strike it rich panning for gold.


Rodge panning for gold.


Gold Dredge 8 mining machine.


Gold Dredge 8.


Gold Dredge 8.



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Beautiful Hoseshoe Lake!

Posted November 2, 2017 By admin


Lovely and quiet Horseshoe Lake.


July 22, 2017

We took our time getting up and out today. It was our day of leisure, and time to explore Denali National Park on our own. We were greeted by a sunny blue-sky morning as we left the lodge for a day full of adventure. After a hearty breakfast, we walked to the Main Lodge to wait for a shuttle bus to the park entrance. Daypacks in tow, we jumped on the bus and a few minutes later got off at the visitor center.

There we spent time looking at some interesting exhibits regarding the park and its inhabitants. After viewing a nature film, we headed over to the park bookstore where we purchased several items. After looking at a map of the trails near the park entrance we decided to hike Horseshoe Lake Trail, a short two-hour loop.

We headed into the woods and the trail took us down about 200 feet in elevation to the level of the river and lake. Mid-way down, we paused at a vista point with a bench overlooking the lake. The lake is appropriately named and very clear. A small stream of clear water flows from the lake and over several beaver dams into the nearby Nenana River.
As we hiked through the taiga forest, the well-maintained and marked trail led us to the base of the hill where we came face to face with the gray, silt-laden Nenana River. The river bank was covered with well-worn rocks of all sizes and types (volcanic, metamorphic, sedimentary) that had been broken off miles away by ancient glaciers. Further down the riverbank we saw two kayakers navigating the rushing river. It looked like fun.

When we approached Horseshoe Lake, we encountered three young hikers, one of whom was wearing a “bear bell” on her daypack. Its jingle was clearly audible to our ears for at least 100 yards. The oxbow lake held back by beaver dams was lovely and quiet. The lake, an abandoned meander of the Nenana River, was once a part of the river’s main channel until the accumulation of silt and the building of dams by beavers caused the river to carve a new course. The path led us around the lake perimeter. There was clear evidence of beaver activity around us—gnawed-down trees of various sizes and partially-chewed trunks. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the busy critters.

As we left the lakeshore, part of the path consisted of boardwalks over the fragile ground cover. We also saw many areas that the Park Service had blocked to entry with small wooden posts driven into the ground with “No Walking” symbols atop them. The purpose was to limit foot traffic and allow previously trod and damaged areas to recover.

At the end of the loop, we faced the long climb back. This part of the trail gave us our aerobic exercise for the day. Luckily, the log step spacing of the path proved ideal for a steady upward march. Once back on top, we continued walking to the science center. The facility provided a spot to relax and learn. Rodge watched some interactive videos about the park’s wolves, invasive plant species and other topics. I was drawn to a huge quilt of the park with different color squares indicating the different types of terrain. It was a remarkable piece of work.

Upon leaving the center, we followed painted dinosaur tracks (park GPS) back to the main center where we caught the shuttle bus back to the lodge, arriving about 5 p.m. We decided to grab dinner and call it a day. Tomorrow Fairbanks!




It was a blue-sky morning as we left the McKinley Chalet Resort.


Kathy poses with Bullwinkle at the visitor center.


A birds eye view of Horseshoe Lake.


Kathy hiking through the taiga forest.


Hikers rest along the glacial-fed Nenana River.


Kathy relaxing and taking pictures of the silt-laden river.


Along the banks of the rushing Nenana River.


Rodge exploring the Nenana River.


Two kayakers navigating down the rushing river.


A beaver dam across Horseshoe Lake.


Small wooden posts with “No Walking” symbols atop them limit foot traffic.


A partially-chewed tree trunk…evidence of beaver activity.


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