Day 3 of the trip (December 8th) got me to Airdrie, where both my kids and their families live. It was a fairly easy day with 635 km to cover, but having perfect weather on the Icefields Parkway made it a fairly slow drive with lots of photo stops. I tried to keep the number of photos in this post down to a reasonable number, but the day was so incredible, there are 47.
My stay at the Grande Cache Inn and Suites included a hot buffet breakfast, and it was quite good. I was the only tourist – the other 10 or so people were all workmen of some sort. Breakfast started at 06:00, and by 06:35 I was back on the road, headed south on Highway 40.
There is a great deal of road construction being done immediately south of Grande Cache. It was dark, but it appeared that pretty much the entire highway for 20 km or so will be 3 or 4 lanes. It will be a messy summer of construction, I expect, but it will sure be nice to have lots of passing lanes when it’s finished.
I decided to make a short detour up Highway 16 into Hinton to get gas, and then figured that I might as well run Ruby through the automatic car wash. For $14.99, the deluxe wash wasn’t a very good wash, but it was a fairly safe bet that it would be dirty again before in Reached Airdrie.
At 08:40, I reached the Jasper park gates on Highway 16. Luckily, I had remembered to take my Parks Canada annual pass out of the RV, and a glance at that was all the ranger needed to wave me through.
Sunrise was officially at 08:56, but it takes a very long time for the sun to peek over the high rocks near Jasper. This was shot near the head of Jasper Lake, a widening of the Athabaska River. Very strong winds were raising a lot of dust off the sand flats.
I pulled off to the Jasper airport to wait for some better light to arrive, but didn’t stay long. I decided that I’d only have great light for a short period, and where exactly that happened didn’t really matter.
The view from the short road from the airport back to the highway.
I stopped along the highway a couple of times to photograph some of the more impressive mountains.
Four bull elk grazing in a meadow along the highway also stopped me a for a couple of minutes.
The Road Conditions sign at the Parks Canada gates, which were unmanned, reported “Poor” conditions. I’ve driven the Icefields Parkway in the winter when conditions really were poor, and thought that was extremely unlikely today.
After driving across the North Saskatchewan River bridge, I parked on the wide shoulder and walked back for a few photos.
I tried a few Sirius stations to get the right mood for this day. Rock didn’t work, Blues lasted for a while, Jazz lasted even longer, but Silence is what I ended up with 🙂
I’ve never posted a phone selfie before – now I have 🙂 This was shot with Mt. Hardisty in the background.
Mt. Hardisty is the first of the mountains that really dominates the view.
As many times as I’ve seen Athabaska Falls, I couldn’t resist taking the short side road to see them again.
Athabaska Falls may be best seen in the winter, with only 4 other people instead of hundreds, and the infinite wonderful shapes created in ice.
The variety of mountains along the Icefields Parkway is quite remarkable.
The way some of the mountains were created is clear – a break in the earth’s crust followed by an upthrust. We talk about the incredible forces of earthquakes and hurricanes, but what sort of force does this? Amazing.
I drove past Sunwapta Falls, and a few kilometers later did a U-turn and went back to the access road.
Even in the summer, Sunwapta Falls gets a tiny fraction of the number of visitors that Athabaska Falls does. I had the place all to myself. This is the upper falls – I didn’t hike down to the lower one.
It’s about 60 feet from the footbridge to the bottom of the canyon.
This pond stopped me for a few minutes to get some shots of hoar frost and reflections.
Thick hoar frost on flower seed-heads along the highway.
The Glacier Skywalk (a glass-floored walkway) is a popular attraction in the summer, but it’s wide open now and there are plenty of footprints on it. There are “No Trespassing” signs but that’s clearly just a legal thing – in the summer, fences make it all but impossible to trespass. I didn’t go on it – it doesn’t look all that impressive to me with snow covering the glass.
As I got close to the Columbia Icefield, the sun was at a good angle to show you the road surface. Yes, it is glare ice. It varies from about 60% of the road covered to 100%, but most of it is near the high end. I have all-wheel-drive and tires with a very high rating for gripping ice (Toyo Observe GSi-5), and to answer a question that I get fairly often, I drive at between 80 and 110 km/h (50-68 mph) depending on the condition of the specific section of road.
A road up the side of the glacier that’s locked in the summer was open, so I drove up it, but it wasn’t passable for very long.
Looking north on the Icefields Parkway from the glacier viewpoint road. There isn’t really a glacier viewpoint in the winter, though – it’s all just snow.
The shadows were so deep and dark that many of these photos are difficult even in HDR. The very popular viewpoint at the Big Hill and Big Bend gives visitors this perspective with the highway far below, but it wasn’t plowed, so I had to go a couple of miles past it, make a U-turn and come back to park on the safe(r) side of the highway.
The Weeping Wall at Cirrus Mountain resembles a series of rivers of tears flowing down a wall some 100 meters high (330 feet). The main waterfall is called Teardrop.
On the Icefields Parkway, “spectacular” just goes on and on and on… 🙂
There seems to have little blasting done to build the highway – it just fit nicely into natural cuts.
Some of the mountains are worth a close look – there are some incredible structures way up there.
At Saskatchewan River Crossing, Alberta Highway 11 meets the Icefields Parkway. Highway 11 leads to Nordegg and Rocky Mountain House.
The North Saskatchewan River.
At Bow Summit, the snow all of a sudden got much deeper. I drove up the Peyto Lake parking lot, but when ice hides the lake’s incredible colour, the hike isn’t really worth it (unless you just want a walk in incredible surroundings).
As I got towards the south end of the Icefields Parkway, there were more vehicles parked along the highway, and I saw a few people with snowshoes.
At about 4:00 pm, I turned off the Icefields Parkway onto Highway 1 near Lake Louise. I don’t like freeways. This photo was shot near Banff. I thought about turning off onto Highway 1A (the Bow Valley Parkway) when that became an option, but getting to Airdrie at a reasonable time was now more important, and that’s why freeways exist.
Out of the Rockies, east of Canmore.
I lost daylight just after Big Hill Springs, so the timing was pretty much perfect. Now, I had 4 days in Airdrie with my kids and grandchildren.
Thursday, December 7th, was a long day with an early start. A look out my window at the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake, with the moon lighting up the snowy peaks, got my blood pumping in a hurry. I took a few photos from the room, and at 06:20, my road trip continued, with the temperature sitting at an incredible +7°C (45°F). Although I hoped to make Grande Cache, I wasn’t committed to it – I’d just see what the day brought.
It’s a shame to drive through this country in the semi-dark, but with only 6½ hours of daylight now, some large sections of highway have to be black.
I stopped along the Toad River to try out the new 10mm Rokinon night-sky lens that I bought for my camera. While the aurora was intended to be the main subject, after seeing wat it does here, it may get much more night use. The aurora in the first photo wasn’t even visible to my eye, but the camera picked it up.
Looking back to the west, with the 3/4 moon lighting up the world beautifully.
I stopped at the Toad River Lodge (famous for its hat collection) for breakfast and a bit of gas. I could make it to much cheaper gas at Fort Nelson, but especially in the winter, having some extra fuel is a good idea. Breakfast was a big disappointment – the lodge was so hot it was almost unbearable. It’s all Filipino staff now – they must have a different idea of what comfortable is. Wifi access is now $2, too.
The first blush of dawn just east of Summit Lake, at 08:57. There had been no traffic at all until after 08:00, but I met a semi every now and then after that.
The sun started to light up the sky as the climb up Steamboat Mountain began at 09:24.
The view to the south from a pullout near Steamboat Summit.
There was an impressive temperature inversion happening. While climbing in altitude normally decreases the air temperature, it was +1 on Steamboat Summit, but as I dropped down into the valley, the temperature dropped to -11C. The reason is basically that when there is no wind, cold air settles and warm air rises.
As I got near Fort Nelson, this sign got me wondering what the Liard Trail, the start of the route to Yellowknife, would be like in the winter. It was certainly amazing on my motorcycle a few Augusts ago.
The temperature was back up to +5C when I took this photo at Km 386.7 – the rock formations ahead are a pretty sure sign of the presence of oil and gas deposits. The industry crash hurt this area very badly economically, but it’s sure safer to drive now.
The view at Km 323.8, with the Northern Rockies ahead.
It was an uneventful day, and I reached Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, as the sun was starting to dim. I took a photo of my very dirty car at 3:30 pm, and posted the photo on Facebook with the comment: “She dresses up pretty in town, but I love Ruby when we get out of town and she turns into a dirty girl 🙂 “. That got some good comments!
From Mile 0, I drove a couple of blocks to the best 1950s-themed diner in the North, Stuie’s. The Smokehouse Burger was excellent, for only $10.99.
East of Dawson Creek at 4:39, 11 minutes after the official sunset.
Coming over the ridge west of Grande Prairie and seeing the size of the city spread across the prairie below is always a shock to me. It’s about 5 times the size it was when I started driving bus charters from Whitehorse to Grande Prairie in the early 1990s.
Highway 40 south of Grande Prairie was terrible, with bad light and very heavy traffic. The oil/gas crash apparently had no affect on this region – the lights of gas camps can be seen everywhere in what used to be wilderness along the highway.
I reached Grande Cache just before 7:00 pm, having put on 1,035 kilometers (643 miles). I made a random choice to go to the Grande Cache Inn and Suites, and was very pleased to get a room for $89 with BCAA discount. While the staff was great and the room immaculate, the Internet didn’t work, even with an ethernet cable, but I was too tired to get much work done anyway.
The next day should be a fairly easy day to Airdrie, near Calgary, but if the weather was great along the Icefields Parkway, I could get distracted 🙂
I’m back on the road for 10 days or so, driving from Whitehorse to Calgary and back to see my kids. It’s both faster and cheaper to fly, but when I saw an absolutely incredible weather forecast for at least the first 7 days, driving was the easy choice. Well not actually “easy” – I even tried to find someone who needed a vehicle shuttled one way so I could fly the other and cut the trip down to a week, but that didn’t happen.
So, at 08:00 this morning, under a clear sky and with the temperature sitting at -5°C (23°F), I headed down the Alaska Highway in my all-wheel-drive Cadillac.
Fifty minutes from home, with White Mountain ahead. Sunrise wouldn’t be until 09:51, but the temperature had risen to +1C (34F).
The view ahead at 09:27, along Teslin Lake. There were some crazy swings in temperature – an instant drop from +3 to -10 iced all of my windows up just before reaching Johnson’s Crossing. Windshield washers made the world visible again, but it took a few minutes to get everything cleared.
The pastel colours looking back up the highway towards Whitehorse were wonderful.
The sun coming up over the Dawson Peaks and Teslin Lake.
The Teslin viewpoint is always a must-stop.
Km 1143, 101 km south of Teslin.
A few places are signed as being high risk for caribou on the highway. This sign is at Km 1016. Although I saw huge numbers of caribou tracks, no animals appeared. A few minutes previously, I went through an area which would turn out to have the lowest temperature of the day, -16C (+3F).
The Church of Our Lady of the Yukon in the village of Upper Liard was built in 1955.
I made a quick stop for fuel at Watson Lake, and at 1:15 made the final crossing into British Columbia, at Km 964.5 (the highway crosses the BC/Yukon border a total of 7 times).
By 1:45 the sun seemed to already be starting to dim, though sunset wasn’t until 3:52.
Looking up the Liard River from the Cranberry Rapids pullout at Fireside (Km 840).
Road conditions varied as much as the temperature, but by Fireside the wheel wells had a good load of slop.
Usually there are lots of bison along the highway, but I had only seen a few stragglers until coming upon this herd of some 60 animals about 25 kilometers from Liard Hot Springs.
A glance in my rear-view mirror as I climbed the Washout Creek hill brought me to a stop to get a few photos of the Liard River valley.
The temperature rocketed from -9C to +6C (from 16F to 43F) in less than 10 minutes halfway between Liard Hot Springs and Muncho Lake. That may be the wildest jump I’ve ever seen.
By 3:30 the sky was getting some great colours.
Wow! Km 740.
At 3:45, 7 minutes before sunset, I was at Km 725, a spot that I have many photos of.
3:50 – I was going to get to my lodging for the night just in time.
The main Muncho Lake viewpoint, right at 4:00 pm.
Five minutes later, I reached the Northern Rockies Lodge, having put 686 km on the odometer. It’s one of the nicest lodges on the Alaska Highway, and offers good value in the winter at $129, though having $17 in taxes added to that is an ouch. I thought about staying at Toad River this time, but really do enjoy the experience at this place.
My room, #306.
The view from my little deck.
It’s now 8:30 pm. I had an excellent schnitzel dinner and a couple of beer. As soon as I post this, I’m going to bed – tomorrow is going to be a very long day.
On Thursday, I drove down to Skagway again, to pick up another aurora-shooting lens for my camera (more about that below). The weather forecast wasn’t great, but it was supposed to get much worse in the next few days. When I left home at about 10:00 (sunrise was at 09:04), it was -24°C (-11°F).
Before getting into that story, I need to explain the problem that many are having, getting to the blog’s home page. That page died last Saturday, and despite many hours put into it, I haven’t found a solution yet. Luckily, all 1,043 posts in the blog are functioning okay. As soon as I load this post, I’ll be back trying to find an answer to the problem. Thanks to those of you who have sent me a message about it.
After a quick stop at the post office in Skagway, I went over to the Railroad Dock. I was surprised to find that a bunch of timbers have been chained to the dock railing to protect it from falling rock. Apparently there’s more to the story that engineers have said that no more rock is coming down, but those timbers won’t provide protection from anything more than small rocks.
I didn’t stay long at the exposed dock area. Although it was only -7°C (+19°F), a 17mph north wind dropped the wind chill far lower. I have many more grave markers to photograph at the Gold Rush Cemetery, and it’s protected from the wind, so that was my next stop. I spent about half an hour shooting and got another 30 or so of the markers done.
On the way back to the highway, I noticed a rail car in the White Pass yard that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a new build, and was clearly for freight of some sort, but I didn’t know whether it was MoW equipment (Maintenance-of-Way, for track crews), or for hikers or other baggage. A post on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum at Facebook when I got home quickly provided the answer that it’s the baggage car on the Carcross train, used for Chilkoot Trail hikers’ gear, bikes, canoes, etc., and has coolers for the box lunches served on that run, and a generator.
I love frozen waterfalls, and had seen some beauties on the way down from the White Pass, so I knew that it would be a slow drive back up the hill. In many places, water seeps out of what looks like solid granite, but it actually has tiny fractures.
Like snowflakes, each of these ice creations is unique. Some are very complex.
Some of the ice-falls grow across the highway – often called “glaciering”. The Department of Highways will certainly be keeping an eye on this one.
This wonderfully complex creation stopped me for a few minutes.
I shot quite a few closeups of it.
At the White Pass summit (Mile 13 from the ferry terminal), a glance in my rear-view mirror prompted me to pull over for a shot of the icy fog rolling down the slopes.
That pullout also looked like a great location to do a test shoot of the range of what are now my 2 primary lenses. A Canon EF-S 18-200mm has been a fixture on my EOS 7D for about 4 years now. The first shot was taken at 200mm.
The same lens shooting the same view at 20mm. I bought this lens because I destroyed 2 Canon Rebel bodies by getting dirt in them while changing lenses – now I rarely feel the need to take the lens off.
The lens I got a month ago is a Canon EFS 10-18mm STM. While I had intended to use it for aurora shooting, it turned out that the nature of the STM focussing means that it is extremely difficult to focus at night. But it’s a superb lens for some of the tight places I get into – buildings and canyons primarily, but also some forests – so I decided to keep it. The next shot is at 18mm.
And finally the 10-18mm at 10mm. This takes in a whole lot of country!
So this will be my usual outfit for travel now. I also often carry a 75-300mm lens but it rarely comes out of the bag anymore.
To keep all the camera-gear comments together in this post, the lens I went down to pick up today is a Rokinon 10mm f2.8. Very wide and very fast, this is specifically for aurora shooting.
Back on the road. Along Summit Lake at about Km 27, the view ahead and the hoar frost on alders along the shoulder stopped me for a few minutes.
It was very foggy in the Carcross area, so I made a detour over to the viewing deck to see the fog being created by the open water on Lake Bennett.
The next morning, it was -24 again, and seeing Cathy cleaning off her Jeep to go to work made me get to work to clear the garage out so both vehicles can fit.
There, much better! And just in time – we have an even -30°C (-22°F) this morning. Now it doesn’t matter how cold it gets.
While it’s bloody cold outside, we’re already in Summer-thinking mode. This map shows the route of the 4-week part of our season-opener RV trip that Cathy will be with me for. It’s basically the month of May, exploring the South Okanagan and Kootenay regions of BC. That part of the trip culminates in Calgary with my twin granddaughters’ graduation ceremonies.
I may be off on a major winter adventure in the near future. I’m feeling a strong draw to drive to Calgary to see my kids. If I do go, I’ll try to remember to shoot some photos to post 🙂
A comment on an RV group on Facebook got me thinking a few days ago. Yes, with me, that can be dangerous 🙂 But in this case it wasn’t – it got me thinking about how it’s almost always been the Journey that’s important, rather than the Destination. Today, I’d like to show you some of the roads that have been important on my journey.
The Facebook comment prompted me to create the meme below in response, and that led me to dig through my photo files so I could write this post. The meme shows the campervan that we rented to explore the North Island of New Zealand in 2008. It’s at Waipiro Beach, a gorgeous beach that’s far off any of the normal tourist paths.
A few days ago, I discovered that there are now 146,587 photos on the external drive that I keep the digital files on (1.06 TB of them), and about 30,000 slides in the 11 feet of shelf space where the slides are kept. And that’s after editing, meaning that I’ve shot nearly 300,000 photos. If you like numbers, that’s an average of 14 a day for the 59 years I’ve been taking pictures 🙂
I inherited my Dad’s love of cars, and of The Road. I bought my first motorcycle when I was 14, had a car at 16, and was soon building some pretty extreme custom cars. By the time I was 20, the Journey had taken me to some very interesting places, but not always in good ways.
When you’re 20 years old, have a brand-new 1971 Triumph Spitfire Mk IV and a beautiful girlfriend, The Road beckons quite insistently. We drove from Vancouver to San Francisco and back (about 3,200 km) for one particularly memorable long weekend. The next photo was shot at Merritt, BC.
A buddy and I popped down to Tijuana (seen in the next photo) and Ensenada for a day in 1972. That was my first trip outside Canada and the States, and was a cultural shock but a great adventure. We drove down in a former Vancouver City Police paddy wagon that I had turned into a pretty wild “hippy van”.
On the Mexico drive, we quickly discovered that nobody drove on the freeway, which had toll booths every few miles. The narrow, winding road along the beach was not only free, it was much more interesting.
The adventure of exploring back roads has always been part of my journey. There used to be plenty of great 4×4 roads within a short distance of my various homes in BC’s Fraser Valley. The next photo was shot above Chilliwack.
Further in the Chilliwack back country with my daughter in our 1970 Blazer, our second Blazer (the first was a ’75).
Getting on Highway 1 and leaving the Fraser Valley took us to other 4×4 roads all over southern BC.
When I was driving a semi-trailer around the Fraser Valley for Overwaitea Foods, I never passed up an opportunity to make long hauls for friends, and did many trips to California and Alberta. The next photo was shot along I-5 in California, heading south in a buddy’s Kenworth to get a load of produce. The slide is discoloured because I fell in a creek with my camera while taking a break on a very hot day 🙂
In 1967, I discovered the incredible adventures available when you begin on very short roads called “runways”. After I bought my own airplane in 1983, those adventures took me further and further afield. The next photo was shot by my Dad in 1987. I was taking off from my aunt’s guest ranch at Glenora, on the Stikine River in northern BC.
Starting trips by “driving” on paved runways in other people’s planes allowed me to expand the range of those adventures substantially.
I’ve put thousands of miles on in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. The next photo was shot near Paderborn in northern Germany, in October 1991.
Freeways were part of my regular life when I lived in the Vancouver area. I never thought much about them generally, but now, I avoid them whenever possible, much preferring the slower and more interesting side roads. The next photo was shot in Seattle.
In 1990 I left the world of semis and freeways, and moved to Whitehorse. The roads in my working world suddenly became much more varied and interesting. The next photo was shot on the last trip of my second season driving tour bus. That section of the Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake no longer exists – the road was moved and upgraded a few years ago.
I got stopped for a few hours by a wildfire along the Taylor Highway north of Eagle, Alaska, in 2005. Luckily, my passengers were on their way to Dawson City by boat. By the time I reached the border crossing at Little Gold Creek after the highway re-opened, it was closed. I spent a very cold night in the bus.
Even the Alaska Highway got too busy for a few years, and it got the point that I really hated having to take the bus down into the Peace River oil and gas district on winter sports charters. The crash of that industry in 2008 solved the busy-highway problem.
One of the roads that I’ve been driving a lot for the past 27 years, both for work and fun, is the South Klondike Highway to Skagway. Even after perhaps 300 trips, I still love it. There are 6,183 photos in my South Klondike Highway folder!
Sometimes, people really upset me, even on the South Klondike Highway. To act this way, this bear has been fed (these people didn’t feed him). Everybody who comes up here needs to understand that “a fed bear is a dead bear”. This photo might have nothing to do with today’s story, but I came across the photo and it is a trigger for me.
Back to New Zealand, where these photos began. Wandering around the North Island will always remain one of our best vacations ever, I’m sure. That’s partly because Cathy and I got married on the beach at Cathedral Cove a few days into the wander. The next photo was shot from the campervan near East Cape.
On most of the roads we saw in New Zealand, we were in our campervan, but we did take one long day-tour up to Cape Reinga, the furthest-north point of land that’s accessible by road. Among many other places, in the little tour bus, we got to drive for many miles along incredible 90 Mile Beach, a place I might not have taken the campervan. On this tour, we even got our wish to experience a sheep-jam on the road! 🙂
In 2010, we were on a pair of cruises in the Caribbean, and were on one of the first 2 ships to be allowed to dock at Castries, St. Lucia, after the devastation and death brought by Hurricane Tomas just a week before. The tour on the roads that were open on the part of the island that was accessible was shocking, not only because of the damage but because of the way many people live. Getting that sort of perspective is important, I think.
Now we’re up to my new world – a world of retirement and RVing. The next photo shows the real start of that world, on August 8, 2014. I was on Arizona Highway 10, following the motorhome I had just bought in Phoenix, for delivery in California to save about $1,500 in state taxes.
I made a rushed trip home with the motorhome, but still saw some incredible country (and made some detours) that we’ll get back to some day not too far away. The next photo was shot along Highway 89 in northern Arizona.
The funniest detour I made on that drive wasn’t intentional. I was following my Garmin GPS to Bryce Canyon, Utah, and didn’t question when it said to turn off Route 89 and head north on Johnson Canyon Road. It looked like a reasonable idea at this point, but when the pavement disappeared and cows started to appear along the road, I knew that it was going to take longer than I’d planned on.
When this arch appeared in front of me on Utah Highway 12 en route to Bryce Canyon, I pulled over and thought for a minute about whether or not the motorhome would fit or whether some pieces from the roof would be left on the road. Once I saw other vehicles go through so I could judge the size of the arch, I knew that it was okay 🙂
Although buying the motorhome was intended to eliminate our travel other than by road, we had one more trip already booked. A cruise to Hawaii with friends was a good way to end that sort of travel – for a while, at least. The road in the next photo was on the north shore of Oahu, seen during a circle of the island we made.
I’ve driven the Icefields Parkway many times, but it’s a road that is best seen in a motorhome, especially when you can spend 12 hours with a grizzly. This bear certainly provided one of my best bear experiences ever, and even our cat, Molly, enjoyed it immensely.
In the motorhome, we generally choose the road less travelled, as we have in any vehicle. So far, the roughest road has been Alaska’s Denali Highway, but my plan for next year is to take it up the Dempster Highway and the new road to Tuktoyaktuk (it opens next week).
Towing a 4×4 Chevy Tracker behind the motorhome allows us to get as far into the back country as we like. The road in the next photo runs to a communications station along the Dempster Highway.
After being with us for 16 years, the Tracker has been replaced by a Jeep Cherokee for Cathy’s daily driving, but still gets plenty of use to get us into the high country around Whitehorse. The next photo was shot on the way down from Mount McIntyre.
I’m going to end this post with a photo that shows you the event that gets me on the road on some winter nights – the aurora borealis, a.k.a. the Northern Lights. The photo was shot along the Alaska Highway about 10 miles from home.
Showing Cathy these photos, our conversation soon turned to New Zealand – we both feel a very strong pull to get back. But, on this cold and snowy day, I have a lot of work to do as soon as I post this.
May the roads on your journey excite and inspire you…
I completed my 67th year on this earth a few days ago. More and more, I think about how incredibly lucky I am to be where I am, and that anniversary seems to have ramped up those thoughts. That’s at least partly because I see so many people who never make it this far, chronologically speaking, but also because I see so many people who are unhappy.
To use a particularly apt saying, I prefer windshields to rear-view mirrors, and try hard not to spend much time thinking about what was (yes, that’s an odd thing for a historian to say!). Scanning my journals from many years ago recently brought back memories of some really awful times, and I thought about just tossing them. But keeping things in perspective is important, so the digital files of those journals are tucked away in case I ever need another reminder. And the really bad times are at least as important as the good times in the creation of who you become.
Although moving to the Yukon 27 years ago created some of the really bad times, it ultimately was the most significant decision I ever made. This is simply where I belong.
Now, my daily world revolves around my little family of 5 – Bella, Cathy, and Tucker…
…and Molly and I.
I’ve been blessed to share my world with some amazing dogs and cats, most recently Monty, who stayed a few weeks longer than expected to teach baby Tucker some important lessons
The Yukon provides the incentive to stay active, and we’re out a lot. This was at Kluane Lake this past July.
I’m thankful for every day that I’m able to get into the wilderness. The tougher the access, the better, though most of these canyons at Muncho Lake this past August were too tough to even take Bella and Tucker.
When I come back from the wilderness, though, I do appreciate the comforts of our home, and our home on wheels. All in all, it’s taken me 67 years to reach a state of deep contentment. That’s the state that I hope you all reach at some point in your journey. Cheers 🙂
It’s been quite a while since I posted. My regular readers may wonder why I didn’t post at all during my trip to Ontario. Well, Cathy got sick, then I got sick – we had to cancel all of our visits with friends. And on top of that, it rained for much of the week – I often shoot 100-150 pictures a day when I’m travelling, but I shot 12 photos during that entire week, except for a short day at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. Oh well…
This past Monday, though, I drove to Skagway, mostly to pick up a new lens to replace one that I was returning as defective. But as usual, I got busy with a few other things as well – Skagway never fails to keep me interested.
The weather was really flat, but the 14 days that the post office will keep a parcel was up, and there was no choice. And it wasn’t snowing 🙂
At the William Moore Bridge site, work has quit for the winter – a solitary grader was doing some final levelling before leaving.
My first stop in Skagway was the airport, to send the last lens that I bought back by UPS. Alaska Seaplanes‘ 1997 Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, N750KP, arrived from Juneau just after I arrived.
Heading over to the ferry terminal, the MV Kennicott was just backing in to the dock. Fairly new on this run, replacing the much smaller MV LeConte, she can carry 748 passengers and 80 vehicles.
More transportation stuff. The White Pass & Yukon Route is finally sending locomotive #96 out for a rebuild following a fire.
Another look at the MV Kennicott, from the Small Boat Harbor breakwater as she started unloading vehicles.
One of things things on my list was to have a good look at the last rock slide at the Railroad Dock. It was huge.
The slide happened early in the morning long before any cruise ships arrived, and “only” took out a section of railing and scattered rocks all over the dock.
Just to the left of the top of the rock slide is what one of my Skagway friends calls the Death Rock of Doom. While many people believe the engineers who say that it’s safe, the Laws of Gravity tell me that it’s not.
Another look at the Death Rock of Doom. I guess we’ll see next summer whether or not any cruise lines will believe the engineers and agree to dock there. I don’t think it was used for the few days left in the season after the slide. I know that I wouldn’t want to be working there anymore.
My next stop was at City Hall to see how much information I cold get for my cemeteries project. The clerk was awesome, and I left with 2 maps, and the most complete burial lists available for all 3 cemeteries. I’ve already made huge changes to my Pioneer Cemetery page, but there’s much more to do.
I got reminded a few days previously that there’s a grave along the railway line. Harriet Pullen, owner of the legendary Pullen House Hotel, requested that she be buried there, close to what is now the ruins of her hotel, seen in the next photo. It was demolished in 1991, the year after I arrived in Whitehorse.
“Ma” Pullen arrived in Skagway on September 12, 1897, and lived there until her death on August 8, 1947. Over the years, she collected a vast amount of material documenting Alaska’s history. The collection was offered to the State in 1973 for $200,000, but legislators refused to allocate the money. It was auctioned off, and sources variously estimate that the owner grossed somewhere between $269,000 to $350,000.
Another look at the William Moore Bridge project as I headed home.
The lens didn’t work out the way I had planned – it just would not focus at night. After a great deal of research and posting questions, Canon Canada finally acknowledged that the lens is no good for what I want to do. At this point, I’m not sure whether to keep it or not – I certainly run into situations where it’ll be useful.
Continuing on our Drumheller-area wander, our next stop after the East Coulee Hoodoo Park was the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site. Although I’d been to Drumheller a few times, this was my first time going down the Red River Valley, and I was thoroughly enjoying it. This would be a great place to bring the motorhome for a few days.
It was 1:15 when we reached the mine, which is located along the Red Deer River, 20 minutes southeast of Drumheller on Highway 10.
None of the tour times worked for us, so we opted to just do a self-guiding tour. Admission is $10 per person.
The plaque on the left, erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, reads:
“ATLAS NO. 3 COAL MINE.
Atlas No. 3 (1936-1956) played a central role in the coal industry of the Drumheller Valley, a leading area in the production of Canadian coal. The mine employed skilled miners and used mechanized equipment to produce large supplies of coal mainly for household use. The surface plant is exceptionally well preserved and the tipple is the best surviving example of the kind of preparation facility common in the Drumheller field. The managers were housed on site and the miners lived across the river, indicative of the social divisions in Canadian coal towns of the period.”
The ramps transported coal into the large building, the tipple, where the coal was sorted into various sizes before being loaded into railway boxcars for distant transport, or trucks for local transport.
Welsh and Shetland ponies moved the coal from the working face to the main haulage tunnel, where an electric locomotive took over. The ponies lived underground, many for their entire lives.
Conveyor belts inside the ramps moved the coal to the tipple.
Some of the trucks used for local haulage. Poor families could often find enough coal spilled along the tracks to heat their homes.
Some places at the mine, like this office, look like the next shift should arrive to start work any time.
Here at the wash house, mine workers would change before their shift, and shower and change before going home. The tin-lined shower gave me the creeps, looking very much like the “showers” from the 1940s that I saw at the Dachau memorial site.
A wall of batteries for the headlamps that came into use after carbide/acetylene lamps were phased out.
I really would like to go underground again. The experience of working underground at the Granduc copper mine 40+ years ago is still vivid, and I recreate a bit of it every chance I get.
A final look at another one of the trucks used to haul the coal.
From the Atlas Coal Mine, we retraced our route back to Rosedale, then headed south on Highway 10X to see the famous curvy “11 Bridges” route to the former coal town of Wayne. Each of the bridges is different. This is a very popular route for motorcycle tours.
One of the few remaining buildings at Wayne is the Rosedeer Hotel, which houses the Last Chance Saloon. A peek in the door made a stop for a drink an easy choice.
Beside our table at the Last Chance was the wicket and box area of the former Wayne Post Office, which operated from 1915 until 1983. In those 68 years, there were only 6 postmasters, all of them women after the initial man.
There is all manner of memorabilia and “stuff” displayed around the saloon, which is very motorcycle friendly.
In what used to be downtown Wayne is this memorial for the Wayne Cemetery. I initially thought that the empty field behind it had been the cemetery, but it’s actually high above – access is difficult and visits are discouraged.
Life was hard in Wayne some years – look at the number of babies in this list of burials in 1923 and 1924.
A look at Highway 10X and Wayne from the memorial.
We had heard a woman ask what the best way out of Wayne was, and she was quite dismayed when the bartender told her to go back on that curvy road. Andrea and I had enjoyed the road, but decided to see what the road to the south was like. Within a few hundred meters it turned to gravel Range Road 195A, and we spooked a couple of deer.
Conditions on what became Range Road 195 weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either, and it was interesting to see what was back there – pretty much nothing 🙂
It’s pretty country, though. We were certainly surprised to see this much snow remaining from the blizzard.
The road has obviously been impassable not long before.
When the road turned west and became Highway 569, conditions got worse instead of better. Alberta apparently uses the term “highway” as loosely as we do in the Yukon and Alaska! Andrea’s new Honda Civic was bottomed out often, and it was a struggle to keep moving in places like the one in the next photo.
Andrea pulled over at a wide spot when she saw a big pickup coming on what was now Highway 841, and when he fishtailed through the mud we weren’t exactly encouraged at the likelihood of getting through successfully, but pavement couldn’t be far away.
After just a couple of kilometers of deep mud, we could see pavement starting at the bridge ahead.
Taking a breather at the pavement, checking for damage, and getting a photo of Andrea’s appropriate “hero” pose! 🙂 We had actually only been on the gravel roads for 30 minutes but it felt like much longer – it would have been great fun in either of the Jeeps that our spouses drive!
When we got back to Highway 9, we were only 3km west of Drumheller. It was a nice calm drive back home from there. It had been an excellent day of exploring!
I suggested to my daughter yesterday that we go to Drumheller for lunch, and it turned into an excellent day. So excellent that I’ve had to break it up into 2 blog posts.
We hit the road at about 09:30. It’s just over an hour’s drive, and there’s a whole lot of flat country along Highways 567 and 9 west of Drumheller.
Highway 9 west of Rosebud.
We’d seen some snow remaining from the blizzard 2 days earlier, and the size of the some of the drifts were surprising.
Things got ugly in a hurry east of Rosebud, and we saw 2 cars still off in the weeds. That snowplow seemed to be working in the wrong area.
At 10:15 we stopped at Horseshoe Canyon, which I first saw in 1958. It’s much more developed now, and there are trails down into it.
Horseshoe Canyon has always fascinated me, and some day I’ll get here when the time and weather are both conducive to having a better look at it.
The huge hole that Drumheller sits at the bottom of (it’s the valley of the Red Deer River) is quite amazing.
On our wander around Drumheller, the world’s largest dinosaur was a must-stop. It was built in 2000 at a cost of about $1.6 million.
There are dinosaurs of all sizes and types around Drumheller, and before going into the visitor centre, I detoured for a photo of this particularly cute one.
For $4 you can climb up into the world’s largest dinosaur’s mouth. A portion of the revenue from the attraction go into the World’s Largest Dinosaur Legacy Fund – to date, more than $540,000 has gone back into Drumheller and area projects.
It’s a pretty cool view from the jaws of the beast! 🙂
The big dinosaur is part of a very nice park that includes other attractions including a water spray park. The big guy is the furthest in this line (actually, they call it “she”).
Our chosen place for lunch, Bernie and the Boys Bistro, was reporting on their Facebook page that due to the blizzard, their truck with supplies hadn’t arrived and they may not be open. But we drove over for a look, and they were.
Since my son’s name is Steve, I had to try their Steve’s Dad’s Burger – a big patty with cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and a hot and creamy Diablo sauce. It was excellent.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere at Bernie and the Boys. It’s a bit 1950s diner, a theme I love, and there are lots of neat little touches like the hot dog on the fan above our table.
Andrea had vaque memories of a suspension bridge across the Red Deer River, and the women at the visitor centre gave us a map showing the way to the Star Mine Suspension Bridge a few miles away at Rosedale.
The 117-meter-long bridge (that’s 334 feet long) was originally built in 1931 to access the Star Coal Mine. It was used until 1957, and the following year when the mine closed, the Alberta government rebuilt the bridge as an historic attraction.
Far above the Red Deer River, one of the hundreds of coal mine workings in the area can be seen. In dry weather, some good hiking is available from the end of the bridge, but the trails were deep mud yesterday.
Looking down into the Red Deer River. None of the people fishing near the bridge seemed to be having any luck.
Along the Valley Mine Driving Tour, the Drumheller Rotary Club has installed about 20 very good interpretive panels at old coal mine sites. At many of the locations, you would never know that a mine or even a town had existed.
I’m a big fan of hoodoos, and the small East Coulee Hoodoo Park was our next stop. They’re really small compared to the ones I hiked into near Muncho Lake this summer, but they’re much more accessible.
There are some wonderful formations in the sandstone. Where there was no metal sidewalk, the trail was extremely slippery!
Looking down from the upper part of the walk.
Our next stop was the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, but I’ll tell you about that in my next post.
I’m currently in Calgary, on Day 5 of a 14-day series of family visits in Alberta and Ontario. It was gorgeous when I left Whitehorse, but a wild blizzard hit the next morning in Calgary.
At 4:45 Sunday evening, we were about ready to board one of Air North’s Boeing 737-500s. That’s one of their new ATR 42-300 turboprops in the photo.
At 5:15, away we go, with the Yukon River and the Riverdale residential area off my wing. I got seat 2A, my favourite seat for photography.
The Alaska Highway, the Macrae industrial area, the Yukon River, and Chadburn Lake.
The Meadow Lakes Golf Course and Alaska Highway.
Carcross Corner where the South Klondike Highway, coming in from the bottom right of the next photo, meets the Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway follows the Yukon River as it drains Marsh Lake at the right.
White Mountain is in the centre of the next photo, with the Alaska Highway to its left.
Visibility got poor so I had a short nap after dinner, which included a piece of Air North’s legendary cheesecake. When I woke up at 6:20, we were over the huge W.A.C. Bennett dam near Hudson’s Hope, BC.
As we were descending to Calgary at 7:15 (10 minutes after sunset), we could see a massive storm off to the northeast.
Agricultural patterns northeast of Calgary.
I find Calgary to be a particularly attractive city, both from the air and on the ground. That’s due in large part to its location on the Bow River, but it also has some great architecture.
We had to make a long loop around the city because of strong north winds, and passed by downtown again at 7:31 as we were on our final descent to the runway.
There’s a lot of construction going on at the airport, and it was a long and confusing trek to the baggage area. The flight attendant told us that it was a long way, and that they would try to have people pointing the way, but finished with “good luck”. Once I got my bag and got outside, my daughter was there waiting, and we were soon settled at her home just north of the airport.
I’m staying with my daughter and her family for 5 of the 6 nights that I’m in Calgary. Cathy is flying in on Friday night, and as we have a 07:00 flight on Saturday, we’ll stay at an airport hotel. I don’t have any canine company at my daughter’s, but their cats are both real characters. This is Tigger.
And the big old-timer, Max.
The blizzard hit very early Monday morning, as expected. It was wild in our fairly protected subdivision, but we heard many reports of what it was like out in the open prairie.
Monday was definitely a stay-at-home day. Roads were closed all over the region, and hundreds of the people who chose to venture out got into accidents.