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Old 07-17-2008, 03:27 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by cellularSTEVE
Thanks for the reports. I sit here at work and picture myself there. I am looking forward to more photos upon your return and more writeups when you have time.

I appreciate you sharing this with us. It probably makes most of us want to go there. It sure does for me.

My local trips are going well that I mentioned to you before after my Sequoia trip. Just got back from Coyote Flat in the Eastern Sierras and plan to try Laurel Lakes near Mammoth in the next 2 weeks. Wish I was up there in Alaska though! Keep the reports coming.

Safe travels!

steve
If you don't mind, I'd be interested to know how the SMB does on the road up to Laurel Lakes. I've ridden that a zillion times on the dirtbike and the scenery in the upper meadows is amazing. But I'm a 4x4 newb and have not felt comfortable enough to venture up there in the SMB.
Thx
Rob
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Old 07-20-2008, 08:56 PM   #42
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Road update #5…


We headed for Denali National Park this past Thursday. Our destination was the Teklanika Campground (some 30 miles into the park). We arrived to cloudy skies which blocked all views of Mt. McKinley. Overnight it started to rain - and for the first time on this trip we experienced real and sustained rainfall. We awoke at 5:00am to find more of the same (plus, the addition of low lying fog). As the forecast only looked to get worse, we nabbed the first Denali Park Bus and headed out to Wonder Lake (an eleven hour round trip excursion). The bus was packed already with hikers and sightseers and with such a temperature difference between outside and inside of the bus and with so much condensation in the air the bus windows were dripping wet both inside and out. No amount of wiping the windows down seemed to make any difference to visibility. Attempting to spot anything through these windows was a real challenge (let alone trying to keep the camera gear clear). With the addition of the fog, we were denied a look at most of the surrounding geology north of 300 ft in elevation. However, we did come across eight bear (really five bear with three of these encounters being the same bear on the return route), one bull moose, a few cow moose, and one caribou. One of the bear sightings was up close and personal as the bear walked right along the side of the bus, just a few feet from the bus windows. It was also snowing at some of the higher elevations along our route - which made things even more interesting. We stuck with the same bus the entire time arrived back to base camp cold, wet, and tired. The rain became even more prevalent the next day, so we decided to stick close to camp and avoid the touring masses. I grabbed my camera, found a spot on glacial moraine, and just waited patiently to see what - if anything - would walk in front of my lens (kind of like fishing). Even though nothing earth shattering happened while I was out there, the few hours of absolute peace and solitude I had was a great departure from being jostled around in the SMB day after day. Fast forward to today where we awoke to very cloudy skies, but... no fog and no rain. Surrounding mountains were still not visible. Per our plan, we drove 120 miles up to Fairbanks from Denali, re-stocked our dwindling supplies, washed the van, and visited the Large Animal Research Station at University of Alaska (Fairbanks) to get an up close look at muskox and caribou. Tonight we are cleaning up at a Fairbanks B&B, then we are off bright and early to start the week long (out and back) Prudhoe Bay portion of our trip.


Our SMB has picked up a few new scratches, squeaks, and leaks along they way... but there have been no real surprises/failures so far and nothing has happened that cant be fixed. The flip side is that this vehicle has provided us with the ability to go places and see things that neither of us will soon forget.

Next road update will be either from Deadhorse or back here at Fairbanks later this week.


Cheers,
---TWOLOST---

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Old 07-20-2008, 09:20 PM   #43
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Quick pic post...











Cheers,
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Old 07-21-2008, 07:49 PM   #44
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the nicks and scratches and few little dents in the generator---I used to have a cherry Westfalia that had been garaged most of its life before I got it, and cringed at the slightest new scratch, anything.

Then one day a guy reminded me that I should not fret, that each one would become part of lore of the vehicle, each with its own memory, own story as it were. You're breakin' her in, she's out doin' what she was built to do....keep going and look forward to the next update.
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Old 07-25-2008, 10:19 AM   #45
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Hi all -

We are back from our fantastic trip to Alaska. I was amazed to bump into TwoLost in Seward and Whittier. Their van is unmistakably distinct and instantly new it was them when I pulled out in front of them at the turn off to Exit Glacier in Seward. Was great to meet them in person in Whittier the next day and chat for a few minutes.

We also spent a while talking to another SMB couple who was also camped at Teklanika campground when we were there (Alan and Bonnie). We took their recommendation to take the ferry to Cordova which led us to an amazing campground at Childs Glacier. Being camped at a calving glacier is something that must be experienced. The sights and sounds were stunning and was the most difficult place on the trip to leave.

Unlike Twolost, we had sunny skies and t-shirt weather in Denali with full unobstructed views of Mt. McKinley!

In all, the scenery was amazing and are very pleased that the van never stuttered once. Given it's history, I was a little concerned heading into the trip.

Instead of doing a detailed trip report here, I'll point you to the blog that my wife was maintaining during the trip.

http://jachofamilytrip.blogspot.com/

This is a trip I would recommend to anyone. Certainly a little tight for a family of four in the van for 6 weeks (especially on the rainy days / nights), but was a great experience.

Phil
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Old 07-26-2008, 10:18 PM   #46
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Road update #6…


Hey, glad to see that Phil (PJPVI) and family arrived home safe and sound! Really like the anniversary picture with Mt. McKinley in the background. We have tried and tried and tried to get so much as glimpse of this icon - even enough to distinguish it from the other surrounding mountains - and we have been denied each and every time. We will be back!


Since our last update, we have been up to Deadhorse and back (we are now back in Fairbanks again). We took six days to drive the Dalton (414 miles each way) just so that we could enjoy a slower pace and look around a little. Turned out that was a very good decision. We encountered the full gambit of weather along the way from rain, to heavy snow, to sporadic angry clouds, to absolutely clear sunny skies. These changes in weather really made out trip a good one. The road was abusive, living up to its reputation. Very few sections were glass smooth, others were 5 inches deep in newly graded muck, and mostly... there were more chuckholes than mosquitoes. The driver, passenger, and van really took a beating. I knew that it was a risk to include this route into our travel plans and I was really not sure if the day after day anticipated abuse was really worth the drive. Fortunately for us, the rapidly changing weather patterns really made the difference. Had the weather just been overcast and grey (or, cloudless sunshine for that matter)... I would not recommend this route to anyone simply due to the tumultuous road conditions. However, we hit the perfect storm and were just blown away by the rapidly rotating weather conditions and the surrounding beauty that was uncovered. Had we done this in only two days we would have missed most of the experience. As it was, we camped for two days before arriving in Deadhorse around noon on the third day. We checked into our motel, ate a buffet lunch, took a much needed shower, and then just decided to check out a short hour and a half later. The road to Deadhorse was far more interesting than the bustling work village itself. We camped for another two nights on the way south and had a terrific time (seeing all sorts of wildlife along the way). Upon our arrival back at Fairbanks, we washed the van, re-stocked our supplies, and then decided to make one last 120 mile run down the Parks Highway (to Denali) to see if Mt. McKinley would make a surprise appearance. It didn't. We returned to Fairbanks where we are getting spoiled at a plush B&B tonight. Then off once again in the morning to southerly destinations. Nearly all ports of call from here on out are guiding us back home to Washington and the end of this amazing vacation/journey/adventure.


More to follow in the days ahead. Thanks for following along. Working a posting a few Haul Road pics tonight as well.


Cheers,
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Old 07-26-2008, 10:52 PM   #47
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Pics from the Haul Road...


Taken just outside of the Hot Spot Cafe (Dalton Highway: Milepost, 60):



Arctic Circle (Milepost 120):



Marion Creek Campground (notice to campers)




The Farthest North Spruce (killed by a vandal):



Our ascent of Atigun Pass (heading north):



Our descent of Atigun Pass (heading north)



Wife in front of our Deadhorse hotel:



SMB in front of our Deadhorse hotel (to show that it made it):



Dalton Highway (Fireweed):



Boonedocking just north of Chandelar Shelf:




Cheers,
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Old 07-26-2008, 11:30 PM   #48
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Glad to hear your trip continues to go well and sorry that "the mountain" keeps hiding from you. Just more reason to keep going back.

Have a safe trip back to Washington!

Phil
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:27 PM   #49
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Quick road update #7…


After cleaning up in Fairbanks at a B&B, we headed south to our scheduled destination (RV Park in Beaver Creek, YT). Upon our arrival in Beaver Creek we decided to just keep rolling (as the RV Park was little more than a dirt lot). A few hours later we ended up at the Cottonwood RV Park, with a spot right on Kluane Lake. This was a huge improvement from our original destination as the surrounding area is just beautiful (mountains and aqua blue lakes). The view was great, there was a constant breeze, no bugs, and we encountered a grizzly bear crossing they highway right in front of us (while driving) just a few blocks away from the RV Park itself. Next morning we moved on to Haines, AK (Oceanside RV Park with another spot right on the waterfront). We spent most of the day checking out the Chilkat Eagle Preserve (looking for photogenic subjects). While there were not many eagles present at this time... I think we managed to get what we were after. Next morning we moved to Whitehorse, YT (Westmark Hotel) in order to get cleaned up again. Nothing to report here; just trying to stay clear of the tour boat guests that get bussed in by the masses. Next morning we headed out for Skagway, AK (Pullen RV Park). We decided to add Skagway to the list because of its significance to us (this was the same town where we concluded our family motorcycle AK tour in 2006). We ate a 'victory' lunch in the same spot we did in 2006 (victory meaning that we all accomplished what we set out to do - with no showstopper mishaps along the way). In two short years since we were last there, I bet the town added 20 more jewelry stores on Main Street (all of which have nothing to do with Alaska). This was once a town that supported a gold rush - and in a clever twist of survival and opportunity - the 'gold' now comes to the town by the cruise ship hoards. There were five cruise ships in port when we were there. From 9:00am until 6:00pm the town was pure shopping madness. We snuck out early the next morning before the boats put down the gangplanks and headed for Nugget City RV Park (just west of Watson Lake, YT). Again, upon our arrival, we decided to move-on by a few more hours and head further south down hwy 37 and stay at a much more scenic place. We ended up at the Mountain Shadow RV Park (50 miles south of Dease Lake on Hwy 37). This is where we are tonight. Sitting here in the mountains watching the sun go down over a breathless lake. In the morning we will be off to Stewart, BC/Hyder AK to see if the grizzly bears are feasting on the Pink Salmon that are running up Fish Creek. After this brief stop to see the bears we are headed south once again which puts us within one or two days reach of our home in WA. Next update may be from home and not from the road.


Cheers,
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Old 08-01-2008, 09:09 PM   #50
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bear update...


Yep, the first hour we were in Hyder AK we found a few bears out fishing.







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