Our Semi-Daily Newsletter Archives

"Status Report"

 

Status Report - Sunday, June 7th; Day #1

Hi folks,

Well, we made it to Canada today.  We’re camped for the night in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Abbottsford, BC, just across the border from Sumas, WA.

We managed to leave the house exactly on time and everything went smoothly till we got to the Verizon store in Burlington.  My new global cell phone broke a couple of weeks ago and this was our one chance to get it replaced before we left the country.  Unfortunately, neither the Burlington nor Bellingham stores carry this ‘advanced’ phone, so it’s relegated to baggage status for the duration of the trip.  Fortunately, we have 2 spare cell phones with us.

The bad news is that a bigger problem surfaced later in the day.  First, I noticed our EGTs (Exhaust Gas Temps) were 200-300 degrees higher (900 at cruise & 1200-1300 degrees on normal grades) than I thought they should be.  This was the first time to tow since the pyrometer was installed, but we’d never exceeded 950 on the steepest grades with our Beaver (Cummins C8.3 engine) or our Ford F350.  I checked for loose intercooler hoses when we stopped for fuel and everything was OK.  Just as we pulled into the Wal-Mart the check engine light came on.  The ScanGauge read code P0045, which is the turbo vane control solenoid circuit.  So, it seems that we have a problem with the turbo vane control solenoid, the related sensor or the engines ECM.  I guess we’ll have to explore getting it repaired in the morning.

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Monday, June 8th - Day #2

Hi folks,

Today seems to be working out well, especially in light of our engine problems yesterday, the first day of our trip. 

We got up at 8 (which is early for us night owls) and started out by removing the Banks SpeedBrake system from the truck so it would appear stock when we arrived at the local Chevy dealer.  Diesel truck owners love to hot rod their trucks and the manufacturers respond by voiding warranties on trucks that show evidence of such.  Then, we dropped off the trailer at BD Diesel & headed to for the Chevy dealer to seek help with our malfunctioning turbo.  The dealer was wonderful.  They had a tech working on the truck in less than 10 minutes and were done by noon.  The thinking is that a bit of carbon jammed the control for the vanes in the turbo.  It checked out A-OK after the tech removed & replaced the control solenoid.  We got back to BD Diesel just 9 minutes before our 12:30 appointment. 

But, BD Diesel didn’t have a transmission valve body in stock, so they rebuilt ours to their heavy duty specs and finished the job right at closing time.  We can’t tell the difference driving it, which means that it still has that silky smooth Allison shift, but the HD version of the valve body should prevent the clutches from slipping, especially the torque converter clutch. 

We pulled out of BD Diesel at 5:30 PM – a bit late in the day to get on the road, eh?  Had dinner at a nice breakfast shop/café in Hope and continued on till we reached an itsy bitsy rest area at N 49ş 42.416’ W 121ş 24.660’ just above the historic Alexandra Bridge over the Fraser River.

Mosquitos.  Yep.  We were lucky in 2004 and only saw about 2 mosquitoes in the entire trip.  It doesn’t look like we’re going to be so lucky this time.  We had about a dozen mosquitoes in the truck by the time I got the door closed at the rest area.  Both of us ran to the trailer for the insect repellant. 

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Tuesday, June 9th - Day # 3

We had a pleasant night at the little rest stop last night & Gracie & I took a walk down to the river to see the old bridge.  The old suspension bridge was quite scenic but had a steel deck that wasn’t dog-friendly, so I only went out on it a short distance while Gracie waited on terra firma.  We saw a small snake (solid olive drab color, about ˝” dia & 15” long) that Gracie was oblivious to.  She wasn’t so oblivious to the squirrel though! 

The drive today was pleasant, and would have been more so if I wasn’t keeping an eye on the pyrometer.  The nature of the turbo boost issue is such that it’s almost better to run up the hills at wide open throttle & then lift off when the EGT approaches 1300. But, it’s a bit nuts to use 330 HP on hills that only need 150-200 HP.

The wild life count today:

            A few turkey vultures

            1 coyote

            1 grey squirrel

            1 ground squirrel

            1 snake

            2 badger crossing signs

            2 moose crossing signs

            1 big horn sheep sign

We made it to Prince George, BC a bit after 6 this evening and are comfortable camped out in the Treasure Cove Casino parking lot.  We pressed on to Prince George because it’s a major city and hopefully the Chevy dealer is well versed & stocked in things related to our Duramax.

Steve & C. J.


Update on status - Wednesday morning

Hi folks,

After researching the forums, we’ve figured out that while 1300 degrees is considered the max on most other engines, a sustained 1350 is OK on the Duramax. Sooooo, we’re going to proceed and see what happens when we don’t modulate the throttle to keep the exhaust gas temps under 1300.  The worst it could be is melted pistons.     I’ll reprogram the pyrometer to sound the alarm at 1250 vs its current setting of 1200.  

The agenda for today is a quick stop by Costco to see what interesting things they have up here and then onto the highway.  Since we’re about a half day ahead of schedule, we think we’ll stop at Heart Lake Campground in a provincial park about 150 miles up the road.  There’s no cell phone coverage between here and Dawson Creek, but the folks receiving messages from our SPOT will be able to follow our trail of bread crumbs 

FYI, we updated the web site with some photos last night.  As usual, BC is beautiful.

http://www.serenitysys.com/photogallery/alaska_2009/

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Wednesday, June 10th - Day # 4

Hi y’all,

Today was pleasantly uneventful.  The truck behaved perfectly; we saw 346 HP on the ScanGauge – not bad for a 305 HP engine – and the exhaust temps stayed under 1300 all day except for one steep grade where we hit 1365 before I backed out of the throttle at 60+ MPH going up a 6% grade at 3000 feet.  I was able to accelerate on every other grade all day while the temps stayed down.  As John Denver would say “Waaaaay cool!”  Oh yeah, we were running the AC all day, too.

Today’s wildlife:

bullet One Golden Eagle soaring over the highway,
bullet One black bear this afternoon but he ran off into the woods before we could get the picture,

A Spruce Sawyer beetle about an inch long plus 2” antenna, on our screen door,

A pair of Barn Swallows showed up briefly at our campground, but found slim pickens, so they moved on.  Good news for us.

Speaking of campgrounds.  We planned on going to Heart Lake Campground, but the road to it was 2 km long and it started out narrow, winding and steep.  So, we turned around on the highway and retreated to a rest stop about 200 yards back.  Grilled hamburger on the BBQ & enjoyed a pleasant & cool evening after a day in the mid to upper 70’s (hot for us).

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Thursday, June 11th - Day # 4

Hi folks 

As the frog likes to say “Another sh**** day in paradise.”  We got up around 9ish this morning and continued up Canada Hwy 97 towards Dawson Creek.  Along the way we drove through Chetwynd on the first day of their Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Championship.  We stopped and watched for a while & took some pix.  Who’d ever guessed that the defending champion is from Japan?  We ‘ll post photos this evening.

The run to Dawson City was uneventful, meaning the truck ran perfectly.  Before pulling into town we stopped by the Northern Lights RV Park and confirmed that it was just a gravel parking lot with hookups.  We know that is true of many RV parks, especially on the Alcan but we also knew that Tubby’s RV Park where we stayed kin 2004 has trees and shade.  After confirming that our air card would connect with the Internet, we pulled into Tubby’s and checked in.  Turns out the new owner added WiFi so we don’t need to use our air card for the next few days.  We got a decent spot right across from the office tucked in the trees so we’ll have shade in the heat of the day. 

A minor bit of excitement when I connected our water hose to the adjacent site’s hose bib and the pipe came apart and spouted a geyser for about 20 minutes while the young woman that owns the place ran into town to get help.  

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Saturday, June 13th - Day 7

Hi folks,

We’ve been camped the last couple of days in Dawson Creek, BC.

Dawson Creek’s claim to fame is that it’s the start of the Alaska Highway and home to the Mile “0” Mile Post.  There are mile posts along the Alaska Highway that are the primary means of identifying where something is.  However, as simple as that sounds, it’s been complicated by the modernization – straightening – of the road which has shortened the road throwing off the accuracy of the MP designations.

Our plan tomorrow morning, however, is to head east out of Dawson Creek on Highway 49 into Alberta, then NW on Hwy 2 till we reach Hwy 35, the Mackenzie Highway.

Wikipedia:

Mackenzie Highway, which begins at Grimshaw, Alberta, comprises the entire length of Alberta Highway 35 and Northwest Territories Highway 1. Originally begun prior to World War II, the project was abandoned at the outbreak of war, then resumed in the early 1960s and completed to Hay River, Northwest Territories. In 1966-67, it was extended from Enterprise, approximately 23.6 miles (38 km) south of Hay River, to the northwest, then north past Fort Providence to Behchoko (at the time, known as Rae-Edzo) and southeast to the capital city of Yellowknife. Much of this extension is now known as Northwest Territories Highway 3, the Yellowknife Highway. (The 23.6 mile stretch from Enterprise to Hay River is Highway 2).

In approximately 1970, the highway was extended west from what is now the southern terminus of Highway 3 to reach Fort Simpson, and in 1971, when the section to Fort Simpson was opened to traffic, work began to prepare a road grade from there to Wrigley, but the work was abandoned. This roadway, which starts at a junction 2.2 miles (3.5 km) from the island that "downtown" Fort Simpson is situated on, was finally made usable in 1994, and includes the N'dulee ferry and ice crossings.

There are social and economic studies being done on the extension of the highway north from Wrigley to join the Dempster Highway.[1]

Just east of Fort Simpson's airport, the highway crosses the Liard River by ferry (summer) and ice bridge (winter). 27.9 miles (45 km) further east of this crossing, the location known as Checkpoint is the site of a former gas station at the junction with the Liard Highway (Northwest Territories Highway 7, British Columbia Highway 77) from Fort Nelson, British Columbia.

A bit over 200 miles down the road, we’ll reach Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area, about 60 KM north of Manning, AB.   The following days we’ll be traveling through an area with numerous water falls which should be quite scenic.  OTOH, that also implies hills which means our fuel economy goes in the toilet.  Oh well, this ain’t Kansas.

We think we’ll have cell phone coverage on the Mackenzie Highway in Alberta, but expect it to disappear in the Northwest Territories until we reach Yellowknife.  We’ll have our SPOT on and set to track our progress so you can go to our “FindMeSPOT” page and see where we’ve been.  Since the NWT is so remote, we’ll keep the SPOT on that setting till we reach civilization and the Alaska Highway in about 10 days on June 24th – except during the 3 days we’ll be in Yellowknife.  Besides not having cell phone coverage, we’ll also be without hookups for the next 12 days.  That means no electricity (except for our little 2000 watt Honda and our 100 watt solar panel for 2 batteries), no water (we carry 40 gallons) and no sewer (we have 3 – 40 gallon holding tanks).  Our previous longest run of “dry camping” was 7 days in our Beaver motor home (6.3KW generator, 80W solar with 4 batteries, 100 gallons water and 2 – 60 gallon holding tanks).  The main issues are getting fresh water and dumping our shower grey tank.  We’ll be able to take care of both of those in Yellowknife.   Whew!  J

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Sunday, June 14th - Day 8

Hi folks,

We rolled out of Tubby’s RV Park in Dawson Creek about 9:30 and out of town about 10 am after stocking up on groceries at the last Safeway for a while.

The countryside along Highway 49 going east was surprisingly green and lush, as we were expecting the dryer prairie of southern Alberta & Saskatchewan we’d experienced before.  Maybe it’s because we’re earlier in the year?

There was a brisk wind from the west that gave us a boost when the road was headed east, but kicked our butt when the road headed north.  The computer was showing 10-14+ MPG going east, and 5-8 MPG going north.  Later, I dropped our speed from 55 to 45 and we saw our instant MPG readings jump from 5.2 to 6.5.  We averaged 11.32 MPG for the day; our best yet for the trip.

We saw 1 brown/grizzly bear on the side of the road south of Manning, but the road was too narrow to stop and the next place to turn around was over 5 miles later.  So, no pix of the bear.  OTOH, we passed about a zillion small lakes ranging from Ľ to 2 acres in size.  About 30% of the larger ones had a beaver lodge in the middle of the lake and we saw numerous beaver dams, too.  Beavers are nocturnal though, so it’s doubtful we’ll get any beaver pix.

The real excitement began about 5 miles south of Twin Lakes Rec Area where we’re staying.  First, the temperature started dropping like a stone; from 82 to the mid-60’s and eventually 53.  Then, it started raining.  When the rain stopped, there was a layer of fog from about 1’ above the road to about 3’ feet above the road.  I could see the headlights of oncoming traffic, but not the car.  Weird.  Then, I noticed the shoulders were white.  Snow!?!?  Our elevation was 2600’.  Very shortly after that we arrived at the campground and discovered the ‘snow’ was actually golf ball sized hail.  We’re the only RV in the campground now, but some in a car with a heavily dimpled hood said there were a couple of rigs with extensive hail damage.  It’s now 2 hours later and there is still quite a bit of the hail on the ground even though it’s back to T-shirt weather.  

I suspect this will be the last daily update till we arrive in Yellowknife on Wednesday.  The SPOT will be reporting our position regularly at http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0dTs1VETrG1fdFIelBH0dfd76We03XBSy

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Monday, June 15th - Day 9

Hi Folks!

Well, we made it to the Northwest Territories so we finally get to paint another state/province on our little map on the front door of our coach.  It’s been since 2005 that we visited a new state or province.  The folks at the Visitor Center gave us a certificate for crossing the 60th Parallel, too.  

The roads today were 99.99% straight and flat today, so the driving was easy as pie.  I can’t wait to fuel the truck and see what our mileage is without wind or hills.  

For the first hour or so, the road was also smooth but then it was thumpety-thump on minor frost heaves and the tar they fill the cracks with in the summer so the water doesn’t destroy the road in the winter when it freezes in the cracks.  Interestingly, the road got smooth again after we crossed the border into the Northwest Territories AND the shoulders are wide enough to actually be able to get off the road.  In Alberta the shoulder wasn’t wide enough for a pedestrian and it was very steep, too.

Today’s wildlife:

bullet 3 Northern Goshawk; one feeding on the side of the road, and a pair flying towards the forest together
bullet A large hawk nest with an occupant
bullet Another hawk nest, but no visible occupant
bullet Ravens.  Instead of the usual scavenging on the road & shoulder, the ravens were in the grass near the highway
bullet One deer running like crazy
bullet Butterflies (yellow & black) on highway in Alberta – hard to ID during that fraction of a second before they hit the windshield
bullet Dragon flies @ Indian Cabins (name of town)
bullet Black flies at the campground – not a good thing!
bullet Red squirrel at the campground

We’re staying at the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park for the next two days.  We’re camped close to the Louise Falls and about 3 KM from the Alexandra Falls.  

Today’s interesting tidbit about traveling in the NWT.  Water.  It seems that we made an error in assuming that we’d have access to potable water here in an official Territorial Park.  Nope.  Actually, since the NWT park web site says there is drinking water here, I think it was a fair assumption.  It also says there is a sewer dump station.  Before we set up camp, we took a walk around looking for the water & sewer dump so we could take care of those things.  Instead, a worker at the park told us there’s none to be had here, or even at the next town 15 miles down the road, either.  He says it’s trucked in and the nearest potable water we can get for the RV is in Hay River, a 31 mile side trip to the southern shore of Great Slave Lake.  A 60+ mile side trip to fill our 40-gallon fresh water tank would be slightly annoying.  We’ve emailed the NWT parks and asked them about this situation.  After further investigation walking around the park, we discovered that there is drinking water but the faucets are not designed so that we can connect a hose to them.  We could fill a bucket and then pour it into the tank with a funnel, but we only have a 2-gallon bucket and no funnel.  

Another interesting detail.  While there is no drinking water, sewer dump, or cell phone coverage , we do have Internet access.  Yep, our Verizon air card is able to connect.  Only about half a bar and it’s slow, but it works. 

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Tuesday, June 16th - Day 10

Well, the big question is whether y’all be getting this in a timely manner or in several days when we arrive in Yellowknife.  We had a trace of cell phone coverage Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, but about noon both went away.  We called the NWT parks folks HQ this morning and they were supposed to check out the water situation for us and call back, but the cell service went away just a few minutes after we got off the phone with them.  A thunderstorm arrived this afternoon, so we’re thinking that might have had something to do with it.  

We visited Alexandra Falls today, the other falls in Twin Falls.  It’s about 3 times as tall as the Louise Falls that’s about 100 yards from our campsite.  We took the short trail to the top of the falls & took some photos.  After walking down the wooden steps to the river about 100 yards above the falls, we walked the rock bank to the top of the falls.  There is no railing of any kind, so there is nothing to keep someone from falling over the falls.  Actually, CJ got much closer than I did.  I kept about 10 feet back and she went to about 2 feet from the edge.  Very spooky.

The access road to the Escarpment Creek area below Louise Falls was closed, so we went on to the town of Enterprise to see if we could get water, or a funnel & container to transfer water.  The Enterprise grocery store was boarded up, so we checked with the 2 officers at the NWT Highway Patrol Weigh Station across the road.  Small world:  one of the officer’s grandmother lived in Sequim until recently.  The other officer had to weigh at least 400#, so I guess they don’t have much of a health program going on in the department.  The big guy spent some time with a map giving me tips on where to get fuel, where to be especially careful for wildlife, where to be especially careful because of road conditions, etc.  About then it started to rain.  Big drop rain.  NO doubt, this was my fault since I’d semi-washed the truck this morning.  Since there wasn’t much else to do, we headed for Hay River to find a funnel and container.  It turned out that Hay River is a real town with real stores, houses, even a high rise.  Yep, a real life high rise.  Some developer was building a high rise condo of about 12 stories right downtown.  Bizarre. 

We found a good funnel and a 4-gallon water jug as well as a couple of light-weight long-sleeved shirts to help deal with the mosquitoes and black flies.  After fueling up, we headed back to our campsite at Twin Falls.  Speaking of fuel . . .  we were a bit disappointed with the MPG for yesterday’s run, but then we just remembered that the aux tank was filled about 3 gallons higher than the previous fill-up.  That raises the day’s average from 9.3 to something over 10.  Since fuel is critical up here with 300 miles between fuel stops, we have a wooden stick for gauging the auxiliary tank calibrated in 1 gallon increments.  We left home with 50 gallons in that tank and have 54 gallons in it right now.  So far, we’ve averaged about 10.0 MPG which was our target.  What we’ll get on the rough road sections where we have to slow down and gear down, remains to be seen.  Shifting to 4th drops our MPG to roughly 7-something which isn’t far from the 6.0 we must get to make 300 miles between fuel stops.  We were getting 10.5 MPG pulling the trailer last year, but the heavy-duty off-road tires, extra 1000# of gear, roof rack with spares on the roof of the truck, and the trailer being lifted 2” all take their toll on fuel economy.  Oh well, it’s still better than the 8.4 we were getting with the motor home.  

They have these neat license plates on their vehicles up here.  They’re white in the shape of a polar bear.  CJ was wanting to steal one as a souvenir, but then she spotted a new bright red F150 4X4 with the personalized plate “CJ”.  If it hadn’t been parked in front of the RCMP office, she might have stolen the whole truck!

Back to the funnel and water jug . . . we made just over 4 trips with the water jug to fill the fresh water tank this afternoon.  We have 3.5 gallons left in the jug to top off the tank after tonight’s showers.  Theoretically, we only have one night of dry camping between here and Yellowknife, but after this we’re not making any assumptions that we can get water as long as we’re off the regular beaten path of RVers.

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Friday 19th in Yellowknife, NWT

Hi folks,

It’s been several days since the last update because (a) there was no Internet access, then (b) we got busy seeing what there is to see, and finally (c) we discovered that our Verizon service isn’t what it was supposed to be, or what we thought it would be (details on that to be determined).

Regardless, we arrived in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories yesterday afternoon.  Yellowknife has only been a city since 1970—three years after it became the capitol of the NWT.  First it was gold, then the provincial government, and now it’s diamonds that pump the economy here.  Old Town is definitely old and . . .  well, you’ll have to look at the photos.  But, downtown is a regular city, complete with several high rise buildings.  

We’ve got one more day to play tourist here and then it’s back on the highway to Fort Providence.  After Fort Providence we’ll be in uncharted territory as there is little information on the roads between there and Fort Nelson, BC.  The one comment we’ve heard so far is that “it’s a good thing you have a heavy duty 4X4”.  Hmmm, sounds like it’s not going to be much like an Interstate.

As usual, our SPOT will be reporting our position regularly at http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0dTs1VETrG1fdFIelBH0dfd76We03XBSy  You can follow this link and see our trail of bread crumbs in map format or satellite imagery.  Really cool.  FYI, the local electronics store here carries the SPOT.  Not something you find in most towns.

We’ve also made some changes to our web site at http://www.serenitysys.com/photogallery/alaska_2009/ to try to make it more user friendly.  

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Saturday 20th in Yellowknife, NWT

Hi folks,

Technically, we’re 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle here, so the sun does set, but it’s hard to tell.  It looked like a normal summer pre-dusk evening at 2 am, and CJ says the sun was definitely up at 4 am.  No need for night lights in the trailer at night, even with all the drapes closed.

We started out our last day in Yellowknife doing some minor maintenance chores & working on processing the zillion photos we took along the Yellowknife Highway.  

Then, we drove out Highway 4 – the Ingraham Trail – in the afternoon.  Highway 4 starts just down the road from the campground and is paved for a while.  Then it becomes a nice wide gravel highway.  Then it narrows and gets rougher.  Then it narrows and gets rougher.  We drove the last 30 miles at 25 MPH or less.  Along the way, every turn brings another lake.  Seriously.  At the 68 KM marker, the road turns left an abruptly enters the lake.  This is the beginning of the “winter road” aka the Ice Road.  It’s as far as one can drive in northeastern NWT in the summer time.

We updated the web site with photos of the Yellowknife Highway and our stay in Yellowknife.  And the SPOT page has the latest trail of bread crumbs from our today’s trip on the Ingraham Trail.

We’ll be totally out of touch for the next 4 days, except for the SPOT updates, till we arrive at Fort Nelson, BC.  Till then.

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Saturday, June 20th - Yellowknife, NWT

Hi folks,

Who’d a thunk that this place would be so interesting?  While knew that Yellowknife had grown to 20,000 people in recent years because of the diamond mines, neither of us expected such a frenzy of activity.  Of course, we weren’t aware that this weekend is their big hooha weekend because it’s the Summer Solstice, plus it’s the YK75 – Yellowknife’s 75th anniversary.  Now the Summer Solstice might not be a big deal to you, but if you lived this far north (1700 miles north of Edmonton) and spent month after month in near complete darkness, the very long days of the very short summer would get you out of the house and enjoying the day – even if it only got to the mid-50s!

We’re amazed at the number of new cars and trucks.  Especially new Ford trucks.  For every rust bucket, there’s 3 brand new Fords.  They also like chrome on their trucks, but otherwise very stock, probably because shipping stuff here costs a fortune.

The traffic is rather amazing, and yes, they have a rush hour.  We tried to cross a main drag a few minutes after 4:30 yesterday and it took several minutes to wait for the long string of cars to drive by.  The number of people on the streets is amazing.  All over the down town area all day today.  And you should have seen the number of young people out in the streets this evening.  Especially around the pubs!!   They must have a no smoking indoors policy because there sure are a lot of people hanging around outside the pubs. 

We filled the truck this evening.  The good news is that we managed to get 10.24 MPG by going so slow yesterday.  The bad news is that half a tank of fuel cost us $126 ($1.009/liter => $3.40/gallon). 

We solved the water mystery today.  Naturally, the reason is quite simple.  It’s so cold here for so much of the year that it’s VERY difficult & VERY expensive to have year round water lines outside.  The ground is so cold that I have to wear gloves to hold the nozzle when I fuel the truck because the fuel is near freezing temperature in the heat of the summer.  So, any place that isn’t open all year does not have a water connection.  Instead, they have a plastic water tank and a truck comes by and fills the tank with drinking water.  Here in Yellowknife, the buildings that get their water trucked in have a city license plate on the building near the water connection.  As a result, the infra structure doesn’t deal well with RVers wanting to fill their 40-100 gallon tanks (ours is 67) with expensive trucked-in drinking water.  Fortunately, the park we’re in at Yellowknife is a big RV park and has a large fresh water tank & dump station so we can hit the road with a full FW tank and empty holding tanks for the 4-day back road run to Fort Nelson and the relative civilization of the Alaska Highway.

Verizon and our Internet access.  Again there’s good news and bad news.  The good news is that our air card has worked in every location that our cell phones worked, and a couple where they didn’t work.  The bad news is that our statement indicates that Verizon didn’t change our account to provide for service in Canada, so we’re paying $0.02/KB roaming charges.  That means a typical 10KB email costs $0.20 to receive, or $0.60 to send one of these status reports.  That’s OK.  What’s not OK is attachments & Internet downloads.  For instance, yesterday I downloaded a PDF instruction manual for some gizmo.  Gonna cost us $60.  Yikes!!!  Maybe tomorrow we’ll have the chance to contact Verizon and maybe fix this.  Otherwise, we’ll be spending more time finding WiFi hotspots like we used to do.  The Explorer hotel across the street from the visitor center works great.  J

Bounce dryer sheets make great mosquito repellant, especially for the dogs.  Every time we go outside, we give the dogs a quick wipe down with a fresh Bounce sheet and the mosquitoes just hover around them without landing.  If we don’t, then they target both where there fur is short.  That’s on Gracie’s long nose that looks like she’s got the pox after a bunch of mosquitoes get to her.  Bo’sun’s short hairs are at the other end and  . . . 

We spent much of today on a side trip out the length of the Ingraham Trail – NWT Highway #4.  The Ingraham Trail starts just down the road from the campground and runs a bit over 68 KM to the start of the winter road that runs 600 KM up to the diamond mines.  The road starts out as a normal 2-lane paved road, but before long it turns to gravel.  After a bit, it gets narrower and rougher, and then narrower and rougher.  We spend about half the time at 25 MPH.  The drive was gorgeous.  Around almost every turn was a new lake—and the road is nothing but turns.  Check out the SPOT site and be sure to click on the satellite map link to see what we’re talking about.  If Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, this must be the land of 100 million lakes.  As usual, there are photos on our web site.

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Sunday, June 21st in Fort Providence, NWT

Happy Summer Solstice!  Especially to Brittany as it’s also her birthday – Happy Birthday Brittany!!

Today was about as close to boring as it’s going to get on this trip as we back tracked almost 200 miles from Yellowknife back to Fort Providence.  This was especially true for the first 50 or so miles because (a) the frost heaves in the road, and (b) no buffalo.  But, once we crossed the Whatchacallit River, we were back in buffalo country & stopping to watch and photograph them.  For unknown reasons, their behavior was different today.  On our way to Yellowknife, the buffalo were walking slowly while eating grass.  Period.  Today, they were also taking siestas, nursing, playing, rolling, walking in the water, etc.  One of the more bizarre behaviors could almost be described as a mass pissing and pooping exercise.  About 50 buffalo were gathered together and taking a siesta.  A couple of minutes after we stopped, one got up and started to whiz - practically on top of the another one – then another one, and another one,  . . .  And they always face the other way while doing this. 

At one of the pullouts we stopped at, I noticed the front spare tire under the trailer was hanging down a bit.  This is a mount we added and it’s not quite as stable as the OEM mount under the rear of the trailer because of conflicting structures (living room slide mechanism, LPG line & the A-frame at the front for the hitch).  So, the tire can wobble a bit and given the frost heaves, it worked it’s way loose.  I’ve got an idea on how to resolve the issue, but I need a 3’ piece of steel to do it.  In the mean time, we’ll just have to check it regularly.  Of course, that means remembering to check it which is harder to do than the actual checking.  J

Another worry both of us had today was that the campground at Fort Providence would be full when we arrived.  Today is “Aboriginal Peoples Day” and since First Nation people are a huge percentage of the population, we figured that many of them would be vacationing and some of them would spend the weekend camping.  So, both of us worried all day, although quietly not saying anything to each other aobut it so we wouldn’t get ourselves into some kind of mental frenzy.  As it turned out, the park was about 80% empty when we arrived.  Maybe it’s because this place has more mosquitoes than any place else we’ve stopped at.  Mosquitoes and flies.  I spent an hour late at night on the warpath killing mosquitoes in the rig.  Still missed a couple, so CJ stayed awake most of the night listening to their buzz.  

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Tuesday, June 22nd - Fort Providence to Fort Simpson, NWT

Today was our first day pulling the trailer primitive roads.  Yesterday we drove about 150 miles of primitive roads, but we weren’t pulling the trailer and it makes a big difference.  We drove 203 miles today, 141 of which was on dirt & gravel roads.  The nice thing about dirt and gravel roads is that they don’t get frost heaves.  The bummer is that they do turn into wash board surface.  If you haven’t driven on a wash boarded dirt road, imagine driving on a big louvered door where the louvers are about 9” wide and 3” high.  It’ll rattle your filling loose.  The good news is that the wash boarding wasn’t too bad and was only on parts of the road.  None the less, we still rattled loose the both handles on the bathroom sink faucet.  

Another issue with gravel roads is the gravel that gets kicked up by the oncoming traffic.  The first big rig going the other way gave us a real taste of what we can expect on the Dempster & Dalton Highways later.  We got pelted with about a dozen pieces of gravel.  One landed on the roof and sounded like a coin hitting the bottom of an empty can.  I pulled over and checked – sure enough, he scored one in the tray of our sunroof that was opened to the vent position.  Fortunately, he was the only big rig that kept going full speed as he passed.  Every other rig we met today, responded to our pulling over to the far side and stopping by slowing down enough to stop throwing gravel.  Nice!

Then there is the dust and dirt.  And since it rained today, mud.  I think we got the trailer dirty too dirty to get away with returning it when we’re done with this trip.  J  Since they treat the roads with something to keep the dust down, the mud isn’t like regular mud, either.  Almost oily. 

About mid-day I stopped on a bridge to take some pix of the river and there was a strange noise coming out of the rear of the truck.  We pulled up the road a bit to a pullout and I started my search with a stethoscope to find the source of the buzzing noise.  Turned out to be the back-up beeper that is connected to the trailer hitch.  We’re guessing that the sensors on the hitch got so dirty with the oily, wet dust (you can hardly see them) that one of them was trying to run the backup beeper, but the short circuit was only good enough for a buzz instead of a beep.  Today’s solution was to pull the wire on the beeper.  

The wildlife count today was next to zip & all birds, not counting the ubiquitous raven.  The first was a Swainson’s Hawk that was working on his lunch when we drove by and flew into the forest.  Later, I had to walk back a couple of hundred yards to re-read a sign and a sand piper type of bird was very unhappy with me & yelled at me until I turned around and headed back to the truck.  What was really funny was that he kept trying to land on the tree tops to yell at me, but he’s not designed to perch so he’d jump as if the needles on the tree pricked his feet.  Finally, I saw an unidentified passerine here in the campground; commonly referred to as an LBB (little brown bird).

For those of you who are comparing our itinerary to our progress may have noticed that Fort Simpson wasn’t in the “PLAN”.  It was less than 100 miles from Fort Providence to Sambaa Deh Falls so before we even got there we decided to continue on and take the side trip up Highway #1 “The Heritage Route”.  It was about 100 miles extra today, but most of that will save us in the next couple of days.  The deal with Sambaa Deh Falls was that there’s nothing else there besides the falls and going to Fort Simpson sounded more interesting.  So, we stopped at Sambaa Deh Falls and pulled into our reserved campground, had lunch and hit the road again.

Shortly before reaching Fort Simpson, we had to take another ferry.  Once again, I shifted into low-range 4 wheel drive on our approach.  It seemed so silly ‘cause the ramps were almost dead flat at this side.  But, it turned out to be a good move because the other side was plain old dirt and quite steep.  The crew on the ferry was extremely nice and even got down on their hands and knees to watch the clearance of the trailer as I pulled off the ferry into a hole and then up the steep grade.  Our Arctic Fox was built with more than average ground clearance and we lifted it another 2”.  A good thing because we’re just barely making these unimproved ferry landings.

Speaking of itinerary changes, we’ve decided to go to Fort Liard on Tuesday instead of Blackstone Territorial Park.  Again, besides being more interesting (there’s a craft shop in Fort Liard that CJ wan’ts to go to), it will cut Wednesday’s run from 190 miles to 130 miles.  It’s either Tuesday or Wednesday that we’re supposed to run into some difficult road conditions, but we can’t remember which???  Time will tell, I’m sure. 

Did we mention how much attention our truck gets?   You’d think that off-road prepared pickups would be everyday things up here, but they’re not.  Everywhere we go, people look at it.  Not just 20-something guys either.  A couple of days ago, a couple of 30-something women spent an entire traffic light looking at it.  Today was the best, though.  Some guy was looking at it while walking across the gas station parking lot and walked straight into the back of another truck in the process.  J

Last but not least, the transmission seems to have learned my ‘new’ driving style and adapted well.  I’ve been able to drive at 42-43 MPH in high gear almost all day today.  Besides being a bit quieter than in 4th, we pulled off 10.64 MPG today without the benefit of a tail wind.  Very cool.

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Tuesday, June 23rd - Fort Liard

Hi folks, 

OK so here we are in the middle of no where and we have both cell phone service and online access via our air card.  Five years ago air cards barely worked in New York City, Chicago, San Franscisco and LA.  Now, we’ve got it in a town that doesn’t even have a paved road leading to it.  

We started the day with another ferry ride, only this time I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get onto the ferry because of the soft dirt and big holes in the dirt at the ferry landing.  But, I was prepared and in 4-low and we kept on moving so it worked OK.

We drove another 130 or so miles on gravel roads today.  Most of it was smooth, but there were many places where the surface was soft and the rig would sink into the gravel some, slowing down that side of the truck and trailer.  Well if you slow down one side of a vehicle the vehicle will try to turn in that direction.  Not my favorite thing with just the truck; less so with a 10,000# trailer in tow.  We learned quickly to do our best to avoid the soft spots, but sometimes it just wasn’t possible because the soft spot was nearly the width of the road.  According to the woman at the Visitor Center here in Fort Liard they closed the road last year because so much of it went soft.  

Besides the soft spots, there were a few rough spots and areas where there was an excess of loose gravel.  Fortunately, modern 4X4’s shift into 4-wheel drive on the fly at the press of a button.  

The other issue was the dust.  Most of yesterday’s road was treated for dust, but only parts of today’s road was treated.  Anything over 20 MPH left a dust cloud trailing us.  We spent most of our time slightly over 40 MPH so the dust cloud was huge.  No problem, right?  Well, except that some dumbie (me?) left the front ceiling vent open, so EVERYTHING in the front half of the coach was covered with a layer of very fine dust when we arrived in Fort Liard.  I spent over an hour wiping down everything with a damp microfiber cloth.  Then we fired up the generator and broke out the vacuum cleaner and filled it.  We’ll try to get photos uploaded via a WiFi hotspot when we get to Fort Nelson Wednesday.  

Today’s wildlife score card highlight was an Arctic Fox.  It’s always been exciting to see a fox, but since our coach is an Arctic Fox it’s especially exciting now.  This guy was in his brown phase, but no pix because he skedaddled before I could get a long lens on the camera.  It’s a real challenge getting photos of the wildlife because even though we’re only driving at 35-45 MPH most of the time, it still takes a while to stop 10 tons safely so I’ve almost always passed the critter before I get stopped.  Most critters, even the buffalo, turn tail and head for the forest as soon as they see me.  They’re OK with the vehicle, but not OK with people outside of the vehicle.  We also saw another small all-male herd of buffalo about 10 KM east of Fort Liard and some American Robins in the campground.  There were also a bunch of dragon flies in the reeds along the shore of the lake were at making whoopee.  When they get spooked, they fly to another reed a few inches away without disengaging—very interesting.  

CJ loves it here at this little lake (Hay Lake on the outskirts of the Village of Fort Liard) and it talking about staying here another day, so we might stay or we might move on.  We’re talking about it now and leaning towards staying here another day.  When you see the photos you’ll know why.

Steve & C. J.

Status Report - Wednesday, June 24th - Fort Liard

We slept in this morning—a side benefit of having the bedroom windows completely caked with dust that the bedroom stayed dark this morning.  As always, for every benefit, there seems to be a gotcha.  Our inverter appears to be a casualty of the dust, or maybe the vibration.  It lights up the “Fault” warning light instead of running its dedicated circuits.  The only way we’re going to be able to get it serviced on the trip is if Costco has one in their Anchorage store.  Our records show that we bought it on 6/29/08 so we’ve got a couple of days to contact Xantrex & get an RMA number to return it.  FYI, an inverter converts 12 VDC battery power to 120 VAC shore power.  We installed it so it powers the coffee pot, microwave and one outlet.  It’s more convenient to flip a switch in the morning and run the coffee pot off the inverter than it is to start the generator.  We’ve also been putting our laptops on the galley counter and charging them while going down the highway.

Whack-A-Skeeter.  That’s our new game.  It has a bunch of interesting twists.  For example, the ceiling of our trailer is carpeted so the mosquitoes sometime survive the initial whack; but the second whack of the fly swatter against a wall does them in for sure.  J  However, when one of the little buggers has just had lunch on our dime and does go splat on the ceiling, he leaves a big red splotch that requires immediate attention to keep the ceiling from becoming polka dotted.  An unfortunate casualty is Gracie.  It seems that she was disciplined with a fly swatter by the breeder when she was a pup, so she gets upset just seeing a fly swatter.  But, after a couple of years of praising her with the fly swatter, she’s much calmer now.

The alternative game is Catch-A-Skeeter.  Both of us are getting pretty good at snatching them out of the sky.  It took a few days to remember to smoosh them in the hand before opening the hand or they just fly away. 

Another thing to consider is the health benefits of Whack-A_Skeeter & Catch-A-Skeeter.  Besides the obvious advantages of not being bitten by the little suckers, there’s the physical exercise involved.  Not an insignificant issue when we’re spending large portions of the day inside the coach to avoid the onslaught of them outside.  And another factor is the maintenance of good hand-eye coordination, an important issue for us senior citizens.   

FYI, we decided to stay at Hay Lake today.  Our campsite is right on the shore of the lake so we get to sit in the relative mosquito-free environs of the trailer and watch the wildlife on the lake out the dining room window.  When a critter shows up, I splash on some bug repellant and dash outside to take some photos.  The big treat was a beaver swimming by last night. He was VERY difficult to photograph because he swam so fast that it was hard to hold the camera with it’s 150-500 zoom lens mounted while managing manually focusing the lens because I also had the 2X teleconverter mounted.  The photos were taken at 425MM + 2X = 850MM => 1275MM for a 35mm camera.  I managed to get one decent photo that we’ll upload ASAP.   

Additionally, we’ve seen a pair of Common Golden Eye ducks, a very precocious American Robin, raven, two types of dragon flies, water striders that jump off the water onto the lilly pads, and what looked like a super giant mosquito the size of a small butterfly.  There are at least 3 varieties of butterflies here; 3” black with white stripe in middle of wing, 1” very pale blue, & 1.5” orange & black pattern.  They’re much more difficult to photograph than the dragonflies because there are very few of them.   

Gracie & I went for a walk along part of the 3km trail around the lake.  There’s a large are of animal scat not far from camp.  My current guess is that it’s beaver or bear scat, maybe some of each.  Our Peterson Field Guide avoids the indelicacies of describing animal scat, so we’re left to eliminating the alternatives.  

There was a younger couple from Panama in the camp yesterday.  They’d driven a mid-size SUV that had been well-prepped for off-roading.  In addition to the normal stuff like skid plates, 6 off-road lights, winch, & grill guard, it had a tent that unfolded on the roof of the SUV with a little ladder for access.  Pretty slick.  Once they got to the US, they bought a 16’ Airstream Bambi travel trailer to be more comfortable in the cold weather of North America.  They left this morning and another couple arrived in Class C motor home.  Once the guy got it parked and level, he disappeared inside while the wife spent the next hour washing the windows, hood, grill, etc., etc.  Different strokes for different folks. 

For those that have a copy of the itinerary, our new plan is to leave for Fort Nelson in the morning and then stay one night vs. two at Muncho Lake to get back on schedule.  Maybe we’ll remember to post a copy of the detailed itinerary on the web site.  Of course, that would mean that I’d have to keep it current, eh?

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Thursday, June 25th - Fort Nelson

We had a challenging time last night with the mosquitoes at Hay Lake.  It’s truly difficult to imagine how so many can get inside the coach during the very few seconds the door is open when we’re coming and going.  I spent 2+ hours from 11pm till after 1am in pursuit of mosquitoes.  CJ’s conservative estimate is over 100 KIA.  Unfortunately, that didn’t get all of them!  Both of us slept with our heads buried under the covers to avoid being bitten.  Or I should say, tried to sleep.  Somewhere around 2-3am we discussed pulling out right then.  But, that wouldn’t do anything about the mosquitoes still in the coach.  When we’re in the truck, our solution is to drive about 45 MPH with every window open for 30 seconds.  Clears out all except the 2-3 that are at the lower edge of the windshield.  While we didn’t leave in the middle of the night, we did leave early enough to arrive in Fort Nelson 130 miles away about 10am.  FYI, each of us has more mosquito bites than we can count.  L

Today’s drive was the last stretch of gravel roads in the NWT till July on our venture up to Inuvik.  It’s paved roads for the next 1000 miles.  Of course, since everything is a compromise, what that means is that we’re trading dust for potholes and frost heaves.  We had another fine patina of dust inside the coach today.  Somehow I doubt that we’ll ever get this thing 100% dust-tight.  Besides the dust, today was also the last day for a while on long stretches of remote roads without any services.  No services up here means nothing.  NO cell phone, no fuel, no police patrol, and no traffic.  We’ve averaged 45-minute intervals between oncoming vehicles; or over 30 miles between vehicles.  We saw two recent wrecks today—recent as in less than 24 hours.  The first was a rolled semi, the second was a Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Help can be a long time coming when it might be an hour before the next vehicle drives by, and then that vehicle may have to drive for hours before being able to call for help.  Hence, our attempt to be ultra-prepared to be self-sufficient.

Today was an excellent wildlife day:

bullet The last herd of Wood Buffalo we’ll see this trip,
bullet A momma bear and 2 cubs (we got a couple of so-so pictures)
bullet A momma moose and her calf (she split as I was skidding to a halt)
bullet One rabbit
bullet One UFO – Unidentified Furry Object - some rabbit-size critter ran across the highway too far away to ID

And the beaver swam by our campground again last night, but he turned and swam away across the lake when he heard me leave the coach to photograph him.

And, we’ve decided that the scat I found yesterday just a few yards from our campground was courtesy of a moose.  

Our first order of business was getting the laundry done, followed closely by pressure washing hundreds of miles of dust and dirt off the rig.  After dropping CJ off at the local Laundromat/buffalo meat supply/etc I took the rig to the RV park which has a pressure washer.  Which was located in a mud hole.  But, I was prepared with my Muck Boots!  J  I also had to put on full rain gear shortly as the rain started.  I was almost done setting up the coach in our site when CJ called to say she was done with the laundry.  Great timing.   

After lunch I started wiping down the dust in the galley when I notice that the front window frame had water standing in it.  Not good.  I’d sponge it out and about a tablespoon full would appear in less than a minute.  Definitely not good.  The rain gear goes back on and I’m standing on the front A-frame of the trailer furiously wiping down the outside of the window frame while CJ’s trying to guestimate my effect on the flow of water inside so we have some idea of where the water is getting in.  Only the water is pouring down the front of the trailer faster than I can have any impact.  So, I break out the duct tape.  Gorilla-brand duct tape is really great stuff, but it wasn’t made to stick to something that’s soaking wet.  None the less, I layer some tape on the window frame and squeegee it with my hands over and over to get it to stay put.  CJ reports the flow is virtually stopped.  So I make a run to the local hardware store looking for something that we can apply in the rain. Two employees helped me read the instructions on every caulk and roll of tape in the place and every one said to apply when clean and dry.  L   Back to the trailer.  The duct tape is still holding but it’s supposed to rain for several days.  Idea!  Back to the hardware store and buy a 6’x8’ tarp to drape over the front of the coach and window rock guard.  Dig some line out of the back of the truck and jury rig a mini-tent over the window.  It worked great and before long I had a nice clean and dry front cap & window frame.  We ran a fresh bead of silicone caulk around the entire frame plus the hinge joint where it opens.  We left our little tent up to give the silicone a chance to fully cure before it gets rained on.  In the mean time, we’re looking a bit “trailer trash” with our little tarp draped over the nose of our rig – which is parked directly in front of the office door of this VERY busy RV park.  So much for looking good, eh?  Hey, if it keeps the water out, we’ll be happy 

While I was finishing the window repair, CJ took the dogs for a walk in the park.  Both came home looking like they’d been in a mud fight and lost.  Some guy hanging out at the office chuckled at my response to seeing Gracie.

One last problem of the day.  The LED display on our brake controller seems to have lost the bottom row of cells.  That makes two places to call in the am to see about getting electronics repaired.  

I’d hoped to get the web site up to date with the current photos uploaded, but the leaking window changed that plan.  Since we’ve decided to stay here 2 nights and then drive straight through to Liard Hotsprings Territorial Park in the Yukon on Friday, I might have time tomorrow.  Like maybe tomorrow will be a ‘normal’ day.  J

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Saturday, June 27th - Laird River Hotsprings Provincial Park

Hi folks, 

Wow, today was chock full of exciting stuff. 

First, about an hour out of Fort Nelson we spotted a black bear ambling along our side or the road.  I got stopped in time for CJ to get some photos as he walked right next to the truck.

Both of us seemed to think that the trailer was wandering around behind us much more than it usually does.  A few minutes after we passed the bear, I realized that I’d forgotten to tighten the 2 screws on the hitch that prevent it from turning at the ball.  About the time I had my “Ah ha!” experience, a pullout magically appeared for us to get off the highway and make the needed adjustments to the hitch.  For those inclined to wonder what I’m talking about, we replaced the OEM Chevrolet hitch with a PullRite hitch that pivots under the center of the truck instead of at the ball.  There’s more info on the web site about this killer hitch.  

There was a trucker pulled over in the pullout who’d blown a radiator hose on his nearly new semi.  One of the clamps on the hose was too tight and cut the hose.  I carry some special tape called “Rescue Tape” that sticks to itself like crazy and we wrapped the hole in his hose & he put some layers of duct tape on top of that and was able to get on the road again.  Cool!  It’s always much nicer to be able to fix someone else’s vehicle than having to fix ours.  What CJ calls “Pay it forward.” 

A couple of hours later we entered ‘sheep country’ but were disappointed that all we could find was a handful of Caribou.  Life is hard, eh?  The second caribou was alone and freaked by the rig.  But, instead of running into the forest he ran alongside the road in the same direction we were going.  I was afraid to pass him because he might try crossing the road in front of us, so we tried going slower.  He just slowed down,  So we sped up, and so did he.  CJ’s photos of him running beside us cover a span of 53 seconds.  Finally, I just nailed the throttle and got by him.

Less than a minute later, we spot a momma moose and 2 calf on the right side of the road.  I was only doing about 35 MPH so we were able to stop quickly—right in the middle of the road.  I jumped out with my camera & 150-500 telephoto & positioned myself between the truck and trailer, while CJ stayed in the truck with her 18-80.  At first, momma started to head for the hills, then turned around and walked back to the soggy ditch along the road and right towards me!  At one point she was so close my camera wouldn’t focus!  Several shots nearly filled the frame with just her head and the lens was at just 170mm.  Momma spotted me and I backed further into the gap between the truck and trailer and she seemed OK with that as she went back to eating the wet grass in the ditch.  After a few minutes, there was a small sting of cars behind us and momma decided to head for the forest.  One of her calves found a tasty bush to eat at the edge of the forest and entertained up with that for a bit before following mom.

An hour later we came across a small group of female Stone Sheep with one cute little lamb.  Half an hour later, a larger group of Stone Sheep with 4 lambs.  While we were photographing them, Two idiot young guys got out of the car in front of us and walked across the road.  As soon as one of them walked into the middle of the group, I sensed something was wrong and started taking pictures of them.  The guy walked into the middle of the group of ewes and picked up one of the lambs.  Then a woman and child got out of the car to the guy with the lamb—the rest of the sheep split.  About the time they had the child petting the lamb CJ got close enough to yell at them.  They quickly put the lamb down, got back into the car and drove off.  But not before I’d taken close-up photos of them and their car with my 500mm.  But, we’re in the middle of no where again and didn’t expect to be able to find a ranger or RCMP till tomorrow afternoon when we get to Watson Lake.

Just 15 minutes later we come across 2 Wood Bison.  More photos.

Twenty minutes after the bison we arrived at Laird River Hotsprings Provincial Park.  First we told them we had reservations and in the next breath told them about the folks picking up the sheep.  The folks at the gate called their boss on the radio and he was there in seconds.  As soon as he heard what had happened, he called the local Ranger.  The Ranger was nearby and arrived just as we finished parking the rig.  He saw my photos and noted the license plates were from BC.  He told us he’d contact the RCMP for the ID of the owner.  About an hour ago, the Ranger came back to our site to tell us the folks came into the park for a swim in the hot springs and called the Ranger.  The driver tried to tell the Ranger that the little lamb just jumped up into his arms, but the Ranger said he’d seen the photos of him picking it up.  Busted.  J

Steve & C. J.


Status Report - Sunday, June 28th - Watson Lake, Yukon

Hi folks!

Today was another exciting day on the Alaska Highway in the wildlife department.  Not long after leaving camp at the Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, we came across a black bear on the side of the road and another idiot tourist, this time he was from Minnesota.  He was placing apples on the ground right in front of his car and then standing next to his driver’s door to get pictures of the bear going for the apple.  Only the bear was smarter than he was, meaning the bear didn’t think it was a very good idea and left.  

The big highlight of the day came just minutes later when we came across a herd of buffalo and another black bear.  Both were enjoying the lush grass on the side of the road seemingly getting along OK, although not comingling.  But, at some point, two of the buffalo started moving towards the bear and got close enough for the bear to feel threatened.  The bear responded by standing up and doing his big bear thing before retreating a few yards.  Fortunately, I had my camera aimed and ready and got a few of shots of the sequence.  

Just 10 minutes later, we came across another bear; a mom with two cubs.  Another bunch of photos—between the two of us, we took over 350 photos today.  J

Half an hour later, another small herd of buffalo.  The treat this time was two of the bulls in a shoving match not more than 50’ from the truck.  I got one photo of them facing off, but that was it so we don’t have much to share on that one.  L 

Afternoons are generally not ideal times for finding & observing wildlife, and today was no different.  OTOH, we finally got a chance to actually put some miles under the rig.  We arrived in Watson Lake about 4pm and checked into an RV park, but their WiFi connection to the Internet wasn’t working so we unchecked in, got a refund and moved to another park.  The Internet connection here works, but seems to be a bit sporadic so it’s not known how much we’ll be able to get uploaded tonight.  Maybe the problem is a lot of other folks in the park being online simulataneously.  If so, the connection should speed up tonight after all the ‘normal’ people go to bed.  

The first thing we did after setting up camp was to take our old name board from our motor home and put it up in the “sign forest” here in town.  We got a spot on top of one of the poles right near the entrance to the highway entrance to the sign forest.  After adding our sign to the collection of over 65,000 others, we went looking for the sign from our trip here in 2004.  It was exactly where I remembered it, so that exercise only took about 5 minutes.  Whew! 

Another minor technical problem.  The DRL (Daytime Running Lights) on the truck have quit working.  So, since the law requires them, we’ll have to run our headlights till I’ve solved this one.  I spent some time on it this afternoon and everything seems to check out OK so far, but the DRL’s still don’t work.  

Once again, we’ve decided to make an adjustment to the travel plan.  The shows us staying in Watson Lake for 2 nights.  Why?  We haven’t a clue.  J  So, since we’ve stayed here before and re-visited most of what’s here again, we’re ready to roll.  The new plan is to stop somewhere in the vicinity of Teslin, YT on Monday.  The parking lot at a museum, a Territorial Park or another Provincial Park.  Only time will tell.

Steve & C. J.

 

Status Report - Tuesday, June 30th - Whitehorse, Yukon

Hi folks 

The last couple of days have been almost completely uneventful.  Virtually no critters, but then no issues with the rig either, so we’re not going to complain. At least not yet.

We arrived in Whitehorse, Yukon early this afternoon.  We’re camped in the Wal-Mart lot along with quite a few other RVs.  There are 40,000 people in the Yukon and something like 2/3s of them live in Whitehorse, so it’s a regular city with all the stuff of a city.  Lots of well-stocked stores & services are available, as well as traffic & noise.  We’ll be here for a few days to take care of some maintence stuff before heading north again.  Tomorrow is Canada Day (like our 4th of July) so not much will get done till the following day.

Just before we left Watson Lake , I uploaded some photos & updated the web site roughly to Fort Nelson.  So check out our web site as well as the SPOT site to see where we’ve been lately.  BTW, since our Internet access has been very iffy lately, we’d appreciate it if someone would volunteer to do some screen captures of the SPOT site showing our trail on various days.  TIA!

Steve & C. J.