Friday, August 20, 2010

The Alcan Home: Last Day Muncho Lake, BC to Dawson Creek, August 2010

We stayed in room 3 at the Double G. There was a note pinned to the door that read “Reserved for David Russell”. The room was unlocked, and there is no key. As we packed up our bags to leave, I realized that I truly am married to a giant!

Dave barely fit through the doorway without hitting his head. Inside our room, was a little better, and the only thing he had to watch out for was the light fixture! LOL!

I love it here at Muncho. I could live here forever.

Dave thinks I’m crazy because you literally are out in the middle of nowhere. But, Muncho Lake is known for its beautiful deep green and blue waters. I think it has something to do with copper oxide leaching into the lake.

There is no electricity here. The double G runs on a generator that is turned off at night. But, I don’t care! I love the isolation and the mountains and the lake. I feel comfortable here, soothed, calm and relaxed. The lake is 7 miles long and about 1 mile wide, with the deepest point being 730 ft! Can you believe it?! The mountains surrounding the lake are about 7,000 feet high causing the lake to flow into the Trout River and then into the mighty Liard River.

The highway along Muncho Lake required considerable rock excavation by the Army in 1942. Horses were used to haul away the rocks. The original route went along the top of the cliffs, which proved particularly hazardous. Portions of the old road can be seen high above the lake.

I think Dave likes it here too, because he was immediately off pishing birds in the trees! LOL

He heard YWARS, Orange-crowned, Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-crowned Sparrows, Boreal Chickadees, and Bohemian Waxwings. Can’t you just hear him saying all these names as he’s pointing them out to you?!

As we left Muncho Lake, we came upon this small flock of Stone Sheep, one of 5 races of North American Big Horned sheep, found typically in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

The highway follows the Toad River east for several miles and the views are breathtaking!

As we reached Summit Lake, there were more Stone Sheep on the road.

We got to the Super 8 in Dawson Creek at about 7:30pm. We made it! We’ve driven the Alaska Highway up and back. What a great feeling! We celebrated with steak dinner at Solas Restaurant. Yummy! I slept great.  We'll be home in 3 days now.  What a great summer!

The Alcan Home: Day 2 Burwash, YK to Muncho Lake, BC August 2010

Burwash Lodge is a beautiful property on Lake Kluane. We hear from the gal at the front desk that the owners have received a non-refundable deposit from the “Nation”, so it looks like they’ve got it sold.

The lake is full – no mudflats – like in May. Here’s the picture we took in May.

And here’s the lake in August

We saw YWARs and a Harlen’s Redtail at the lodge, grabbed a coffee to go and hit the road.

Once we got past Haines Junction, we pulled off at a rest area and met a guy driving a big red rig with the biggest moose guard I’ve ever seen! He calls it a Moose-juicer. That’s Dave standing behind the truck.

Says he drives from Seattle to Anchorage 2-3 times a month and has already had the guard re-welded a couple of times! He’s hit moose and caribou. He’s also got 6 extra head lights on the rig.

Got into Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon at about noon.

Filled up with gas (it’s $1.08/L Canadian), and pulled off at a visitors park and had PB&J . What a beautiful day! 71F and clear sunny skies. Did I mention that there is NO HUMIDITY!! Love it!  Hey, Sissy, does my shirt look familiar?!!  LOL!  We're twins!! (Although, I'm sure it looks MUCH better on you!:-))

The highway takes you around White Mountain, which is a remarkable gigantic rock protruding out of the ground. It’s size is so impressive, it’s hard to put it into words.

As we rounded the bend, this little guy scampered across the highway. So cute!

Just before you cross the Teslin River at the Teslin Bridge, you will find the best cinnamon rolls along the Alaska Highway at Johnson’s Crossing.

We stopped in to grab one (well I got one – Dave doesn’t like cinnamon – how strange! :-)

and while I was enjoying my yummy treat, Dave disappeared!  He was standing beside me a minute ago.  I looked out the door, and saw him speeding toward the truck, grabbing his scope and rushing over to the woods next to the bakery.  He heard a White-winged Crossbill in the trees! My husband....the birder.  LOL

What a score! I have never had such good looks at a crossbill before. There was a brilliant red male here too, but he wouldn't sit still long enough for us to get a good picture. We hopped back in the truck and continued our trek. We want to get to Muncho Lake tonight.

We stopped for dinner in Watson Lake at the Belvedere Motor Lodge.

There is a story that goes along with this stop, but I’ll let Dave tell it to all of you when we get home – as I know he will get great pleasure telling it – over and over again. :-)

The place is actually good! I had their homemade chicken pot pie, and I must say, Vickie, it rivals your recipe! Almost as good as yours, but not quite! LOL!! We gassed up here @ $1.11/L. It’s about 84F at 7pm in Watson Lake, and the place is like a desert. The leaves on the trees are even falling off. The air is thick with smoke, and it’s obvious that they’ve got some major forest fires burning in the area.

About 1 mile south of Watson Lake we saw this HUGE bison taking a dirt bath on the side of the highway! He was totally uninterested in us as we pulled over on the shoulder of the road to take his picture.

A little further along Dave spotted this little guy down a side road!

So we flipped a U-ey and went back to get his picture. He wasn’t real happy with us, and he kept turning his backside toward us and flaring out his quills.

Not even a mile further down the highway, we came upon this herd of bison hanging out on the shoulder of the road.

A little further down the road we came upon this group of Bison following a lead cow down the road. They had a good pace going, and didn’t stop at all when we pulled over to take their picture.

We arrived at my favorite spot on the Alaskan Highway, Muncho Lake at abaout 10:30pm and stayed at the Double G Service.  We stayed here on the way up, and I have a soft spot for Jack and Louis.  This is no fancy hotel, its a truck stop.  The rooms are old and worn, but clean, and I've learned to love it here.

The gorge is full of smoke, and the sun looks really pretty as it sets tonight.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Alcan Home: Day 1 Fairbanks to Burwash, YK August 2010

We leave Fairbanks for Indiana today. It’s been a fantastic summer here in Alaska, and Dave and I both leave with mixed emotions. We’ve had a ton of new experiences here in Alaska, from going fishing at 2am (in the sun) to collecting Polar Bear hair on the Arctic Ocean to eating Reindeer. Here he is eating reindeer steak, and lovin’ it! He says to tell the kids that Rudolph is gone and he was delicious! Awwwww!

This summer has been like a 2nd honeymoon for us. It’s the first time in our married life that we’ve been alone, and we have loved every minute of it! Dave’s says he’s surprised I still like him! LOL!! Jenny caught Dave flirting.

It’s about a 10 minute walk from our apartment to our office on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The campus is located on a 2,250 acre ridge overlooking Fairbanks and the Alaska Range. We’ve got the best view in town - here’s another one of Jenny’s shots .

There are about 9,000 students and UAF is America’s only arctic university as well as an international arctic research center, playing center stage for researching global climate change and arctic phenomena.

We have made some lifelong friendships here, and I have fallen in love with studying arctic and subarctic mushrooms – go figure! I have over 200 samples and can’t wait to get home and run chemical analyses on them! Of course, Amanita muscaria is still my favorite!

The Mycology Assn meeting is at UAF next Summer, and I hope to have a student poster to present! How cool would that be? Bring a student up from Ohio to present at a national meeting in Alaska! Here’s Dave standing next to a White Spruce on our walk home from school each day, where a red squirrel has stashed a bunch of mushrooms to dry for winter.

Once they are dry, he will move them into a Witch’s broom high in a Black Spruce where he will eat them all winter. So, funny!

We are excited to get home to see the dogs and cats and sleep in our own bed. We’ve both missed those little buggers! All of our roomies have moved out, and it will be just the two of us. I’m SO looking forward to walking around the house in my underwear – and keeping this 2nd honeymoon thing going!! LOL!

So, it is with mixed emotions that we pack up all our things in 140 MacLean House. We took a couple of tubs over to Michelle’s house to store until next Summer, and then loaded the rest into the Excursion.

I can’t believe it all fit!

The Master Packer!!!

We turned in our keys to Residence Life and our office keys to the Key office on campus and got Hot Licks Ice cream to go! It’s a beautiful, sunny day today, 65F and we’re on the road by 2pm.

By 6pm we’re in Tok (rhymes with poke) and fill up the tank and stop at the Gumpy Griz CafĂ© for dinner. Tok is a major overland point of entry to Alaska and is primarily a trade and service center. We’ve gone up in elevation from Fairbanks at 464 ft above sea level to about 1630ft here).

As we head SE we drive past the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge and spot this little guy in the middle of the highway!

As we slowed to let him get off the road, he walked right up to the side of the car and stopped. It was as if he was looking for a handout!

The border crossing was smooth, and we are now in the Yukon Territory of Canada - but the road is terrible. We saw a couple of Tundra Swans on a nest with 2 cute gray babies on one of the road side lakes, just like the Milepost suggested! How cool is that! I tried to get a picture, but It’s just too dark. A couple of black bears scampered across the highway too!

Between Tok and a little east of Haines Junction, is the worst part of the Alcan. The Milepost advises drivers to “watch for dips, frost heaves, rough pavement and loose gravel. Severely frost-heaved sections of pavement are often marked by sign or orange flags, but not always”. Truckers who drive this route on a regular basis have told us that they’ve seen traveltrailers broken off of the back of cars and flipped over on the side of the road. You can’t drive the speed limit without blowing a tire, or cracking your suspension. It’s nerve wracking and it’s hard to see the dangers until you’re right on them.

As we went through Beaver Creek, we noticed that Buckshot Betty’s, where we stopped for lunch on our way up has a brand new building almost completed next to the original building! Can’t wait to see the new place next year!

It gets dark now and we can see the lights of Burwash Landing along the Kluane Lake in the distance. The Resort here was one of the earliest lodges on the Alaska Highway. The original 2-story log lodge was built in 1944-45. We pull into Burwash Lodge at 12:30pm. We stayed in the same room as last time (Rm 10) and fell into bed exhausted.