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Alaska 2001

This is the log and photo gallery for a road trip from Williamstown, Massachusetts, to Alaska, and back. Pictures were taken primarily with my Olympus Camedia C2100-UZ digital camera. Others were taken with Rob Foulis' Olympus Camedia C2040-Zoom digital camera. All photos are copyright James D. Teresco or Robert F. Foulis, and may not be used for any purpose without permission.

As usual, there is more detail here than anyone really wants to read, but it is all included for my own benefit. You probably don't care where we had lunch in Fargo. There is even more detail than usual since the travel logs were entered daily and most pictures were captioned within a day or two after taking them. Enjoy, but watch out for pictures of highway signs. Don't say I didn't warn you.


The Plan

The inspiration for the trip came late in 2000, when looking at a web page of pictures of highway signs. One of them was a sign from the Dalton Highway, north of Fairbanks which includes "Arctic Circle 1". I decided I need to go there and started throwing out the idea to many potential travellers. Many were interested, but in the end, few could afford the time. Possibilities included driving all the way, flying both ways, or combining driving with a ferry ride on the Alaska Marine Highway System. The plan that came together was for Rob Foulis and I to drive to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where we would meet Andrew Shapira who would fly in from Seattle. The three of us would spend a week driving around Alaska before we would drop Andrew off at the airport in Whitehorse, after which Rob and I would continue on to Skagway to catch the ferry to Bellingham. And from there, we would head back east mostly on I-90. Slowly, the trip took shape with more and more plans becoming firm, with (of course) a few baseball games squeezed in where possible. We didn't get to the "Arctic Circle 1" sign, but you will see, we saw plenty.


The Pictures

My pictures are linked from the text below. These links also have many of Rob's pictures. In addition, there are pages of more of Rob's pictures. I have put a "*" with the links to those pages containing the pictures I like best, though interesting stuff is scattered throughout. People didn't get into many pictures, but my car got into about 30. These are gathered into one page.


The Trip

Day 1: June 6, 2001

We finished packing early in the morning in Williamstown [2 Pictures*], and we were on the road a bit after 7 AM. In just a few minutes, we crossed our first state border, entering Vermont on US 7 [Picture]. After a fillup in Pownal [Picture], we continued on, entering state three, New York, on Rte 346. We needed to make a quick stop at Rob's apartment in Troy [Picture], then we were really on our way [3 Pictures]. Our route took us down I-88 [3 Pictures] to Binghamton [2 Pictures], then across the Southern Tier Expressway (NY 17/I-86) [7 Pictures]. Lunch was at a pizza place in Hornell [Picture]. [4 more STE Pictures]. We entered Pennsylvania [Picture] (for the second time, actually, as NY 17 crosses into Pennsylvania for less than a mile between Binghamton and Elmira) on I-86. There, we rejoined I-90 for the rest of the day [4 Pictures]. We entered Ohio [2 Pictures] and hit some traffic before [Picture] and in Cleveland [12 Pictures], but that was the only significant delay of the day. We learned that McDonald's sells bratwurst in Ohio [Picture] just after entering the Ohio Turnpike [6 Pictures]. The only other excitement came just after we entered Indiana [Picture], when we got a flat tire and had to change it on the side of the Indiana East-West Toll Road (I-80/90). This cost us about a half hour, but wasn't that big a deal. We made a gas stop soon after by crossing over into Sturgis, Michigan [5 Pictures], giving us seven states on day 1. [3 Pictures from the Indiana Toll Road]. We arrived at the Super 8 in South Bend [2 Pictures] at around 8:30 EST (this part of Indiana doesn't do daylight savings).

Day 1 Travel Log


Day 2: June 7, 2001

We started in South Bend, Indiana [Picture], and took a short tour of town, including a quick look at the Notre Dame campus [4 Pictures]. [12 Pictures from the ride from South Bend to Chicago]. We arrived in Chicago late in the morning [Picture]. As we were entering Chicago, there was a billboard included the distance to Alaska, which was a little weird [Picture*]. We stopped for just a few minutes to walk around the lake shore near the Shedd Aquarium [18 Chicago Pictures] before driving up to the North End for the Cubs game. [Many Pictures and much more about the Cardinals and Cubs at Wrigley Field*] After the game, we fought the Chicago traffic [4 Pictures] on our way to Lemont, where we spent the evening with Ray and Kris.

Day 2 Travel Log


Day 3: June 8, 2001

We started the day in Lemont at Ray and Kris' house [Picture], leaving around 9 AM. We needed to get a new spare tire, so we went to a nearby WalMart, and they mounted the new tire and we were on our way at 10. We drove up through northern Illinois [13 Pictures], Wisconsin [15 Pictures], and Minnesota [2 Pictures] with very nice weather - sunny and in the 70's. We made it to the Twin Cities [5 Pictures] around 5, and stopped for dinner at one of my favorites, the Famous Dave's BBQ Shack [Picture] in Roseville. Then into Minneapolis [8 Pictures], arriving at the Metrodome [6 Pictures] a little after 6 to buy tickets to see the Twins beat the Pittsburgh Pirates [Many pictures from the game*]. After the game [Picture], we had a little trouble finding a room, and ended up about half way to St. Cloud, at a Super 8 in Becker [2 Pictures].

Day 3 Travel Log


Day 4: June 9, 2001

We started this Saturday morning in Becker, and drove up to St. Cloud [3 Pictures], where we stopped for gas and at the post office to mail some items home. We drove across western Minnesota on I-94 [6 Pictures]. We were listening to a sports radio station from Bismarck, and before we knew it they were doing a segment about lawn mower racing. Really. By late morning, we made it to North Dakota [3 Pictures*], the 11th state on this trip and my 48th overall, completing the Lower 48. We got lunch in Fargo [6 Pictures], drove around town a bit, and stopped to spend a few minutes at the Roger Maris Museum, which is actually a large display case in a mall in Fargo. We headed north on I-29 [4 Pictures] to Grand Forks, where we parked in the downtown area and walked by the Red River of the North, and walked across the bridge into East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and back [13 Pictures*]. After filling up the tank, we continued north [5 Pictures] to the 49th parallel and the Canadian border, where we entered Manitoba [7 Pictures*]. There was a line at customs, but it didn't take too long. Next was the ride up Rte 75 [3 Pictures] to Winnipeg, and some driving around that city to see what there was to see (not a whole lot it seems) [17 Pictures]. From there, we turned west onto Trans Canada Highway 1 and the Yellowhead Route [2 Pictures]. We stopped for dinner in Portage la Prairie at a diner-like place, and decided to call it a day and checked into the Super 8 in Portage. We watched the Colorado Avalanche win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on CBC.

Day 4 Travel Log


Day 5: June 10, 2001

We were on the road out of Portage la Prairie [2 Pictures] at 8 AM and headed west on Trans Canada 1 [6 Pictures]. The road remains a divided highway for about 2 hours, but then drops to two lanes approaching Saskatchewan [7 Pictures] and remains two lanes for a while. We stopped for lunch in Regina [7 Pictures] then headed north toward Saskatoon [5 Pictures]. The roads were all much better than expected and we made good time. In Saskatoon [5 Pictures], we had a long search for a gas station. You'd think they'd be easy to find along the main streets of a pretty big city, but no. After we found one, we joined up with the Yellowhead Route and Trans Canada 16 [8 Pictures] and turned back toward the west. We entered Alberta at Lloydminster [3 Pictures], which is a city literally right on the border. Part of the city is in Saskatchewan and part is in Alberta. We drove on a bit [2 Pictures] to find dinner at Sammy's Drive In in Vermilion [2 Pictures]. We sat next to talkative northern Albertan who doesn't like high gas prices, high taxes, or people who cause trouble. We continued west [3 Pictures] to Edmonton, where we made a stop to take pictures of the Wayne Gretzky statue outside the SkyReach Center (Northlands Coliseum) [9 Pictures*] before checking in to yet another Super 8 [2 Pictures].

Day 5 Travel Log


Day 6: June 11, 2001

We started in Edmonton and needed to get the car's oil changed. We found a Sears at the West Edmonton Mall where we figured we could get a quick oil change and take a look around the huge mall at the same time. Since Sears doesn't service many Audis, they had to order the oil filter and oil and they said it would take about an hour and a half. So we walked around the still-closed mall, checking out the skating rink, water park, pirate ship, and dolphins. It's a mall and an amusement park in one. But it's still a mall [15 Pictures]. Back to Sears after 90 minutes and they hadn't even started because the auto parts place sent the wrong oil. It was another 90 minutes although they kept telling us "just a few more minutes". It was noon by the time we got on our way out of Edmonton. Unfortunately, the delay cost us any chance to look around at Edmonton before heading out.

Finally we headed West on the Yellowhead Trail and Trans Canada 16 [2 Pictures]. Not far out of Edmonton, we turned north onto Alberta route 43 [8 Pictures] which would take us all the way to the Alaska Highway. We made a lunch stop at a little restaurant near Blue Ridge [4 Pictures], the first of the many diners of the north which all seem to have the same menu. Further up Route 43 [2 Pictures], we stopped at a small visitors center and rest area just before Valleyview [5 Pictures]. There was some minor construction [2 Pictures] before Grande Prairie. We tried to stop for gas in Grande Prairie [3 Pictures*], but the only station on our side through the whole town was too crowded. I never thought gas stations could be so well hidden from the main road through town. So we pushed on to British Columbia (and the Pacific Time Zone) [2 Pictures] where the road becomes BC 2 [2 Pictures]. It was just a few more miles to Dawson Creek, where the Alaska Highway begins. In Dawson Creek, we filled up the tank, then parked to check out the start of the Alaska Highway and to grab some dinner [19 Pictures*].

On the way out of Dawson Creek, we reset the trip odometer to approximate the Alaska Highway mileposts and headed up BC 97, the Alaska Highway [2 Pictures]. 1500+ miles to Fairbanks. We stopped to take some pictures of the Kiskatinaw River Bridge around Mile 21 [5 Pictures]. We were planning to camp at an RV park just past Fort St. John [4 Pictures], but with a lot of recent rain, the tent sites at that park were pretty much under water. We continued a bit more up the road and found some almost dry land at Ron's RV Park [3 Pictures*], near Charlie Lake. We set up camp in complete daylight at around 8:30. It was still light but dusky at 10:30 and I don't think it ever got completely dark, here at around 56 degrees North latitude in June.

Day 6 Travel Log


Day 7: June 12, 2001

Not only does it get dark late (if you can call the dusky sky darkness), but the sun comes up very early. The sun was up by around 4:00 AM and at 6:00 it was bright enough to make you think it was late morning. This made it easy for us to wake up for an early start. We were ready to go before 7:30. We stopped at a restaurant at Mile 54 (The Mile 54 Cafe, in fact) [Picture] for breakfast and were on the road around 8. This part of the highway is in very good shape and we were able to move right along, except for one minor construction delay. The terrain varies from mostly flat to hilly, with some views of the Rocky Mountains to the west. With very nice weather, we were able to see mountains far off in the distance [25 Pictures from between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson*]. We stopped a couple times to take some pictures and for a break, but we still made it to Fort Nelson before noon. Since Fort Nelson is the only town of any significance for many miles, we stopped for fuel, a car wash, and some lunch from Dixie Lee [3 Pictures].

Heading north (and moreso west) out of Fort Nelson, things start to get more interesting. It becomes much more of a winding road and the nice views are more numerous. There is a lot of recently-improved road, much straighter and not as steep as the old road and right of way which is still clearly visible. We made several stops to check out the scenery [15 Pictures*], the first really major one being Summit Lake [10 Pictures*]. We saw some stone sheep [7 Pictures*], right where the Milepost said we would, then we made a quick stop at the Toad River Cafe [3 Pictures]. The Sawteeth (a group of triangle-shaped mountains) were interesting [3 Pictures*]. The next major thing to see was Muncho Lake [9 Pictures*]. [2 Pictures of Horses]. We also stopped at the Liard River Hot Springs [9 Pictures*] for a little while.

At that point, we decided we could make it all the way to Watson Lake for the night. This stretch [3 Pictures] was a bit slower, since we hit some gravel sections in construction zones [3 Pictures]. We made our first crossing into the Yukon Territory in a place where the old routing of the highway crossed the border, but the new routing doesn't seem to. But we parked and walked into the Yukon. You probably don't think "warm and sunny" when you think of the Yukon, but that is what we got. Sunny and about 78 [5 Pictures*] at the 60th parallel. We continued on over a temporary bridge [2 Pictures] and after crossing into the Yukon for real [3 Pictures*], we made it to Watson Lake before 9. At over 60 degrees North, the sun doesn't set until very late...

Day 7 Travel Log


Day 8: June 13, 2001

We checked out of the Gateway Motel [2 Pictures] in Watson Lake, then filled the tank and picked up some breakfast at the local grocery store [2 Pictures]. There is no doughnut shop in Watson Lake, and we learned that since the local doughnut shop burned down, there is no one in town who sells doughnuts (not true - I got some at the grocery store). You can't visit Watson Lake without checking out the Watson Lake Signpost Forest, so we did [3 Pictures]. We didn't have a sign of our own to add. West of Watson Lake, we entered the Cassiar Mountains [8 Pictures*] and reached the Continental Divide [6 Pictures*] a little after 10 AM. Here, rains to the east flow into the Mackensie River system, draining into the Arctic, and to the west, they flow into the Yukon River system, draining into the Pacific. The Cassiar Mountains don't look to be especially tall, but at this latitude, the tree line is about half way up many of the peaks. Around 10:30, the road crossed back into BC for a little while for the last time Northbound [2 Pictures]. Back in the Yukon, we stopped to see Teslin Lake [4 Pictures], passed the junction with Canol Road [Picture], and took assorted other pictures [4 Pictures]. We checked out Marsh Lake [5 Pictures*] and spent some time at the first bridge over the Yukon River [9 Pictures]. From there, we passed the Klondike 2 (the road to Skagway that we'll take later) [2 Pictures] before reaching Whitehorse [2 Pictures].

We checked into the River View Hotel and got a little lunch [Picture], then picked Andrew up at the airport [Picture]. Yes, I've now picked someone up at the airport in the Yukon. We walked around Whitehorse [2 Pictures] a bit and ended up taking the tour of the S.S. Klondike [15 Pictures*]. We walked back to the hotel along the Yukon River [3 Pictures*]. After some laundry at the hotel [2 Pictures], we walked to dinner at a restaurant called Cheechako's. Whitehorse is an unusual little town. It's at over 60 degrees North and in the middle of nowhere, but it has all the fast food chains and everything else you'd expect from a city its size or larger in the U.S. or in southern Canada. And yes, it stays light even later here [2 Pictures*].

Day 8 Travel Log


Day 9: June 14, 2001

We left the River View Hotel [Picture] in Whitehorse [Picture] around 10 AM and headed on toward Alaska [Picture]. We made several stops along the way, including the Takhini Burn area [3 Pictures*], the Canyon Creek bridge [3 Pictures*], and some Kluane National Park sites [5 Pictures*]. Between Haines Junction [2 Pictures] and Beaver Creek, the construction [Picture] and gravel breaks were far worse than the entire highway south of here, so the going was a lot slower. But there were more nice views of the Kluane Range [2 Pictures]. The highway follows Kluane Lake for a while [6 Pictures*], and we stopped at Sheep Mountain [Picture]. [Picture of a Bird along the Lake]. We made a lunch stop at Destruction Bay [3 Pictures] and passed through another burn area from 1999 near Burwash Landing [4 Pictures]. After the longest gravel/construction mess of the ride up [2 Pictures], we made a brief final stop in Canada at the info centre in Beaver Creek [Picture], which is the westernmost town in Canada. We crossed past Canadian Customs [Picture] and went on for several miles [2 Pictures] of Canada where you can't go back to Canada or continue on to the US without clearing customs somewhere. A big milestone was arrival at the Alaska border [10 Pictures*] at 6:00 PDT, 5:00 AKDT, where we stopped for a while for pictures. This was state number 49 for me. We continued, now on Alaska 2 [5 Pictures]. At a rest stop, we met a man in an RV who became known as "crazy guy" for the rest of the trip. We arrived in Tok for the night at 7:15. We checked into the Golden Bear Motel just off the Alaska Highway on the Tok Cutoff [Picture], and got dinner from the adjacent Golden Bear Restaurant.

Day 9 Travel Log


Day 10: June 15, 2001

We checked out of the Golden Bear [3 Pictures] in Tok, put gas in the car and picked up some brochures at the visitor center. We didn't have that far to go, so we were able to stop to look at things whenever we wanted. We stopped for a viewpoint at Mile 1310, for a construction delay, and then Mile 1370 [4 Pictures]. A big milestone in the trip came just before noon, when we reached Delta Junction, and the Northern terminus of the Alaska Highway [11 Pictures*], 1408 miles after leaving Dawson Creek. The visitors center there is very nice, and we spent quite a bit of time looking around. It includes newspaper clippings, photos, and diary entries from the construction of the highway.

We got lunch at the Buffalo Center Diner [Picture], then headed a few miles down the Richardson Highway [3 Pictures] for a tour of Alyeska Pump Station No. 9 on the Alaska Pipeline [4 Pictures*]. This tour was very interesting, bringing us right inside the pump station where we heard a lot about the pipeline and got a very thorough tour of how the station works. On the way back up to Delta Junction, we stopped for some pictures of the Alaska Range [4 Pictures]. [One more DJ picture] The ride from Delta Junction was great, with lots of impressive views of the Alaska Range and the Alaska Pipeline crossing the Tanana River via suspension bridge [4 Pictures*]. We stopped to look at the Alaska Range at Mile 288 and again at Mile 296. We thought the view at 287 was good until we were at 296 and saw the clouds starting to break up, exposing the very impressive peaks of Hayes, Hess, and Deborah [9 Pictures*]. Closing in on Fairbanks, we passed Eielson Air Force Base [4 Pictures] and passed through North Pole, where we saw a giant Santa Claus [3 Pictures] and a large gate painted like candy canes, which actually is the front gate for a welding company.

We arrived in Fairbanks [2 Sign Pictures] at the Golden North Motel around 6:00 PM. The trip odometer showed 1523.8 miles -- 1523 is exactly the historical mileage from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks on the original Alaska Highway. We got a nice dinner at the Alaska's Castle restaurant [2 Pictures]. After dinner, we drove up to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks campus, where there is a viewpoint of the Alaska Range [9 Pictures*]. The view from here is absolutely amazing, stretching across what seems to be the entire Alaska Range, including Denali. Unfortunately, it is pretty much impossible to capture it on film, so you have to go see the view for yourself (yes, go!). We went back up there a little after midnight to see the mountains close to sunset [5 Pictures*]. The view was still spectacular, though even harder to capture in a picture.

Day 10 Travel Log


Day 11: June 16, 2001

Another nice day in Fairbanks -- forecast to go up into the 70's with sun. It was interesting to watch the local forecast on the Weather Channel and see "TONIGHT...MOSTLY SUNNY. LIGHT WINDS. LOWS IN THE UPPER 40S TO LOWER 50S." But with only 2 or 3 hours of relative darkness, "mostly sunny" is appropriate for an overnight forecast. We had errands to do in the morning, with a badly needed car wash and a laundry stop for Andrew [3 Pictures]. We got lunch at the Golden Shanghai, a Chinese buffet [3 Pictures]. We decided to head out through North Pole [3 Pictures] and checked out the Chena Lakes Recreation Area [6 Pictures*]. We didn't expect an afternoon at the beach on a trip to Alaska, but that's what happened. It could have been a state park with a lake and a beach anywhere in the Lower 48. We got back into Fairbanks and went for dinner at Los Amigos, a local Mexican place [2 Pictures]. We chose it because it was supposed to have some of the "best dark in town", something you don't think you want until you've spent too much time in daylight. On the way back, we stopped to check out Alaskaland [9 Pictures*]. This is not a typical theme park, more of a historical exhibit with shops and other things to do. We talked to a woman in the Cache Creek shop about various Alaska-related things, and Andrew did some panning for gold.

Day 11 Travel log


Day 12: June 17, 2001

[2 morning pictures at the motel]. This was our last full day in Fairbanks, so we had to pick the things we most wanted to do. Unfortunately, a tour to the arctic circle wasn't really possible, but we found things to do locally. We spent some time in the morning at the University of Alaska Museum, which has a good number of Alaska-related exhibits [13 Pictures*]. We tried to get lunch at Pike's Landing, but it was too crowded with the Fathers' Day brunch people apparently out in force. We had tickets for the 2:00 PM sailing of the Riverboat Discovery, so we needed something fast and ended up at Wendy's [Picture], our first fast food stop since Fargo, and our only fast food chain visit while outside the lower 48. We made it back to the Riverboat Discovery in time, and had a nice tour of the Chena and Tanana Rivers aboard Discovery III, along with several busloads of senior citizens [43 Pictures*]. With the long, sunny day, it was still warm after the cruise as we headed back to the motel [2 Pictures*]. We went to dinner at Pike's Landing [Picture], and it was still crowded, but little did we know that we'd be there for almost 2 hours in the late evening sunshine. We got back to the motel [Picture] around 10, but it was still broad daylight, now just a few days from the longest day of the year.

Day 12 Travel Log


Day 13: June 18, 2001

This was Fairbanks to Denali day. Another warm and sunny day. We checked out of the Golden North in the morning and went into downtown Fairbanks [3 Pictures] to check it out and to look for some souveniers. We saw the park by the riverfront [5 Pictures*], a museum with a lot of historical information about the development of Alaska and the Yukon [2 Pictures], and had lunch at the Co-op diner in downtown Fairbanks [Picture]. We left Fairbanks and headed down the Parks Highway toward Denali [13 Pictures*]. There were views of the Alaska Range and the Tanana and Nenana Rivers [14 Pictures*] . We passed the Denali National Park entrance [Picture] and arrived at Carlo Creek [Picture] mid-afternoon and checked into the Denali Mountain Morning Hostel and Lodge [2 Pictures]. Our hosts Ben and Becky were busy working on some new cabins. We had a private room in the lodge, with a common area downstairs for sitting and cooking and whatever else, though we didn't really use it. We headed back north to the Denali National Park visitors center [3 Pictures*] to buy tickets for a bus trip into the park tomorrow. We couldn't get on a bus all the way back to Wonder Lake, but we did get a reservation on a bus to the Eielson visitors center for late morning. We heard there were good views of Denali (especially on a mostly clear day) from the Cantwell area, so we went down there and made the ride several miles up the Denali Highway (Alaska 8) [12 Pictures*]. The views were great, although some parts were in the clouds. We looked around Cantwell [3 Pictures], and it seems there isn't much to the village. We got dinner at the Tsesyu Time to Eat cafe [2 Pictures] near the junction of the Parks and Denali highways. We got back to the lodge [3 Pictures*] around 8 for the night.

Day 13 Travel Log


Day 14: June 19, 2001

This was Denali day. We left the Lodge in the morning [8 Pictures*] and headed up to the village of McKinley Park in search of breakfast. We ended up at a buffet at the Denali Park Resort, then went across the street to the general store to get food to get us through the day. We got into the park [2 Pictures] and were on our bus [Picture] by around 11 AM. We wanted the 11-hour tour to Wonder Lake, but those were sold out, so we got the 8-hour tour to the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66 of the park road. This shuttle bus follows the park road back and stops for wildlife when something good is out there, and for a few rest stops. Our bus driver, Rick, gave some great commentary and helped to pick out some good wildlife on the way out. We didn't see much wildlife on the first leg of the trip, but the scenery was nice [2 Pictures]. The first rest stop was along the banks of the Teklanika River, about 90 minutes into the ride [5 Pictures*]. Wildlife was still in hiding, but the scenery stayed nice [2 Pictures]. We finally came across our first wildlife sighting when someone noticed some Dall Sheep up on a mountain [4 Pictures]. [2 Pictures crossing a river]. Into the Sable Pass area [3 Pictures*], things started to get more interesting. The first relatively close wildlife was a caribou off to the side of the road [4 Pictures*]. Next was the Polychrome area [3 Pictures], with brightly colored mountains, and our second rest stop [10 Pictures*]. Right after leaving the rest stop, we ran into some more dall sheep, but these were much closer [2 Pictures*]. Then a ptarmigan [2 Pictures*]. Then more caribou [3 Pictures]. Then a pretty descent into the Toklat River valley [2 Pictures]. Then our first bear [3 Pictures*]. Then our first fox [3 Pictures*]. Not bad.

The stop at the Eielson Visitor Center [2 Pictures] is the longest, but is still only 30 minutes. I took a short walk down a trail to take more pictures [13 Pictures*]. We decided to stay a little longer and take a later bus on out. This gave us a chance to do a short (but steep) hike up the mountain across the roads from the visitors center [24 Pictures*]. This gave us our best views of Mt. McKinley, but even then it was mostly in the clouds. In fact, it rained some while we were at the visitors center. When we got back and signed up to get onto one of the buses, we were not happy to learn that it would be at least an hour before a bus had space. So...more time to take pictures at Eielson [5 Pictures*].

Lucky for us, we got onto what was probably the best bus of the day, maybe of the month. Our new bus driver's name was Peter, and he was also great. He was helped by the fact that we encountered one outstanding wildlife sighting after another. It started with a group of three bears - a mother and two cubs, and right by the road [30 Pictures*]. Then a large caribou [Picture]. Then a fox walking down the road in front of us [3 Pictures*]. We made the scheduled stop at the rest area on the Toklat River and got to walk down into this braided river basin [3 Pictures*]. Then a closeup view of a collection of rams - male dall sheep [11 Pictures*]. I also have some pictures which attempt to convey how narrow the road is and how steep the banks are down to the river far, far below [2 Pictures*]. This place really would have problems if they did let people take their own cars on the Park Road. We stopped to check out a fox den, and got to see 4 young foxes out playing in front of the den. Throw in a grizzly bear on the ridge above the den and some dall sheep on the top of the mountain behing them, and we had quite a scene [4 Pictures*]. While Peter was telling an interesting story about wolves, one of the few animals we hadn't yet seen, someone in the back of the bus noticed a lynx off to our left. Lynx are some of the hardest to spot, being nocturnal and generally pretty easily scared away. But we definitely got to see one and followed him down the road just a bit as Peter coasted forward quietly. I was on the wrong side of the bus and my pictures of the lynx didn't come out, but my attempts are here, along with Rob's successful picture of the lynx [5 Pictures*]. One more rest stop [2 Pictures] and then one more fox [Picture] in the road and the tour was complete. With all the wildlife, the bus was a little late, and it actually arrived back at the park entrance after 10 PM. We ended up getting dinner at a pizza place in McKinley Park and finally got back to the lodge to move into the overflow bunk room around 11:15.

Day 14 Travel Log


Day 15: June 20, 2001

We left Ben and Becky's Lodge and Hostel in Carlo Creek and headed South toward Anchorage. This was a bright and sunny morning, giving some hope of seeing Denali on the way down the Parks Highway. We stopped in Cantwell for breakfast at a familiar place - Tsesyu Time to Eat Cafe and to fill the tank. We stopped along the way several times to attempt to get pictures of Denali. We stopped at viewpoints 9 miles [3 Pictures*] and 27 miles [2 Pictures*] south of Cantwell, and also passed Summit Lake [Picture*]. The view of the mountains from Hurricane Gulch was great [5 Pictures*], and we probably got a look at Denali. The viewpoints in Denali State Park were nice. At the North viewpoint [6 Pictures*], Denali was pretty much in the clouds. [Construction Picture]. At the South viewpoint, the base of McKinley was in clouds, but parts of the peak were poking out of the clouds, so we stuck around to try to get a better view [12 Pictures*]. Fortunately, as we continued south, the views were great, and we got some great looks at the entire upper part of the mountain from the road [2 Pictures*]. We also stopped at a viewpoint which was nice, but didn't have a Denali view and did have tons of mosquitos [3 Pictures]. Then one more nice view from the highway [2 Pictures*].

We continued South to the end of the Parks Highway and decided to get a room in Palmer before heading into Anchorage for a few hours. We checked into the Alaska Choice Motel [2 Pictures], then headed south on the Glenn Highway [3 Pictures] into Anchorage [2 Pictures]. We parked in the downtown area [3 Pictures*], walked to Resolution Park [8 Pictures*], then around downtown where we picked up some souveniers [4 Pictures]. We had a nice dinner at the Pepper Mill restaurant [Picture]. After dinner, we drove over to Earthquake Park [10 Pictures*], where it was "bugging", then did a little shopping [Picture] before heading back out to Palmer for the night [7 Pictures].

Day 15 Travel Log


Day 16: June 21, 2001

Solstice Day in Alaska. We started out in Palmer with a goal for the day of reaching Tok. We had thoughts of making a side trip to Valdez, but that turned out to be too much, and we went pretty much straight from Palmer to Tok. The Glenn Highway starts by following the Matanuska River [2 Pictures]. Then we reach the river's source - Matanuska Glacier. We first observed it at viewpoints along the highway [6 Pictures*], then went out and walked on it at Glacier Park [First 12 Pictures*][Next 12 Pictures*][Last 12 Pictures*]. [Rob's Matanuska Pictures*]. This was really amazing, as we were able to park near the bottom of the glacier and hiked across the rocks, mud, and ice to get to the real white and blue ice part of the glacier. Yet another outstanding stop. We got lunch shortly afterward at the Long Rifle Cafe [Picture], with a nice view of the glacier. We continued to have good views of the Chugach Mountains [3 Pictures*] to our south. After Eureka Summit [6 Pictures*] and as we approached Glenallen, peaks of the Wrangell Mountains [2 Pictures*] appeared to our east. Throw in the occasional view of the Alaska Range to the north, and this is a pretty specacular drive. The first of the Wrangell group that we got to see was 12,000 foot Mount Drum, which sits just east of Glenallen. An Alaska thunderstorm blocked our views for a while, but we had some really nice looks at the Wrangells.

After a brief stop in Glenallen [5 Pictures], we made a side trip south on the Richardson Highway, in the direction of Valdez. Given time constraints, we only went as far as the Visitors Center for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve [Picture]. We were told not to expect to see much with the clouds, but as we headed back north to a viewpoint near Glenallen, we got views of both Mount Wrangell and Mount Blackburn, in addition to Drum and Mount Sanford [8 Pictures*]. Heading north and east out of Glenallen, the road is being rebuilt this summer, and the current project seems to be to replace every culvert, leaving dozens of short, annoying gravel breaks [Picture], right up to the junction with the Tok Cut-Off [Picture]. Sanford is a very impressive volcano that we could see much of the way to Tok, dominating the wonderful view to the south. We stopped for pictures at the Copper River (both 1 mile [Picture] and 24 miles [Picture] from the junction), took more pictures from the car [2 Pictures], and stopped again at the Cobb Lakes viewpoint [3 Pictures]. We made another stop for Wrangell views [2 Pictures*], and I have a picture from near Mentasta [Picture]. [Picture of a Bear-like Dog]. We got to Tok around 8:00, checked into the Snowshoe Motel, got dinner at Young's Cafe, then did our laundry at a Texaco station. As this is being typed, it is midnight and still light on this longest day of 2001, despite the sun being behind the clouds.

Day 16 Travel Log


Day 17: June 22, 2001

We left the Showshoe Motel [Picture accidentally deleted] in Tok and headed south and east on the Alaska Highway [Picture]. We arrived at the Canadian border a little after noon and crossed back into the Yukon and into Pacific Daylight Time [5 Pictures*]. We got lunch in Beaver Creek from Ida's [Picture], and also stopped for other stuff at the Mile 1202 Store and picked up a GST refund form at the visitors centre. This was our only significant backtracking west of Chicago, so we have fewer pictures from this day. We stopped for a break at an overlook of the Kluane Icefield Ranges [4 Pictures*]. The biggest difference we noticed since our trip northbound 8 days earlier is that the wildflowers really came out since then [3 Pictures*]. We stopped again at Sheep Mountain [5 Pictures], and ran into a lot of gravel breaks where the road is being rebuilt this summer [2 Pictures*]. In Haines Junction [3 Pictures], we filled the tank and got dinner at Wong's at the Kluane Park Inn [Picture]. From there it was on to Whitehorse, with just a quick stop in the rain at the Takhini Burn viewpoint [5 Pictures]. We checked back into the River View Hotel in Whitehorse [Picture].

Day 17 Travel Log


Day 18: June 23, 2001

We started the day in Whitehorse, and Rob and I left to catch the ferry in Skagway, while Andrew stayed behind for his flight back home out of Whitehorse. The ferry requires a check-in at 11:45, so we got on the road pretty early. After a stop at the local Tim Horton's for breakfast, we got going. The ride from Whitehorse down Klondike Highway 2 is very scenic. It cuts south off the Alaska Highway just east and south of Whitehorse [2 Pictures] and follows the path of the Klondike gold rush of 1898. First comes Emerald Lake, a small lake with bands of green and blue, caused by white sediment on its bottom [4 Pictures*]. Then Carcross Desert, which is essentially a big sand dune that has thin vegetation [6 Pictures*]. We passed Carcross, a small town at the junction of Klondike 2 and the Tagish Road [2 Pictures]. Then it was on up toward White Pass. We stopped for pictures at Bove Island [4 Pictures*]. We passed some old mining equipment in the southern Yukon [7 Pictures*], then crossed into British Columbia [Picture]. We also stopped at the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site [4 Pictures]. This section of highway doesn't really serve any significant towns in BC and it looks like it's maintained by the Yukon, based on some of the signs we saw. Just before the big climb into the pass, we went through the small town of Fraser, where Canada Customs is for northbound travellers. Then up into the wonderful scenery - lots of snowy, rocky mountains and small lakes and rivers. Once we got above the tree line, there was smaller vegetation and still large patches of snow. We stopped a few times for pictures, 9 miles [3 Pictures*], 6 miles [4 Pictures*], and 1 mile [3 Pictures*] north of the border. The summit of the pass is the actual border crossing, reentering the US, Alaska, and the Alaska Time Zone [14 Pictures*]. Here, some of the moist air from the ocean side of the mountain sneaks through. On the way down the American side, there is heavier and what seems to be more temperate vegetation (more deciduous trees). We crossed an unusual suspension bridge [2 Pictures*], cleared U.S. Customs [Picture], then got views of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad [3 Pictures*] as we descended into Skagway.

Skagway itself is a picturesque little town surrounded by snow-capped mountains with a small waterfront [12 Pictures*]. We parked and walked around for just a little while, picking up lunch from Fat Franks, a small deli. We didn't have time for much else in Skagway, since we had to check in at the ferry terminal [4 Pictures]. While in line to check in, it was a little disturbing to see all three ticket windows close up with customers in line, but it seems the ticket window people are also responsible for helping tie down the boat when it docks. But we checked in successfully and put the car in line.

We started boarding on the M/V Matanuska shortly before 1 [6 Pictures*]. You drive your own car onto the ferry here and then carry your bags up to the main decks. We sat out on the solarium area while the rest of the passengers boarded [9 Pictures*]. Once we got started, we were able to check in to get our cabin, freeing us up to walk around some more without worrying about the luggage. The trip from Skagway to Haines is only 13 miles and took about an hour [9 Pictures*]. We didn't get off the boat at the ferry terminal in Haines, since it's 4 miles from town, but we did get some pictures from the boat, including some bald eagles [6 Pictures*]. There was a nice view of Haines and the surrounding area while the ferry was pulling away [8 Pictures*]. After leaving Haines, we were able to check into our cabin [Picture]. During the late afternoon, we got to see some humpback whales and porpoises during a talk by the forest ranger assigned to the boat [4 Pictures*]. We passed the first of many lighthouses at Eldred Rock [4 Pictures*] and more scenery worthy of pictures [2 Pictures]. We decided to avoid the dinner rush when they opened the cafeteria at 6:00, and what a rush it was, waiting until around 7 to eat. We missed the line, but unfortunately, the selection was thin after the big crowd at the start of dinner. A little after 8, we approached Juneau, getting some nice views of the lighthouse at Sentinal Island [2 Pictures*], Mendenhall Glacier, and the Auke Bay area of Juneau [5 Pictures*]. The ferry doesn't come close enough for a view of the Juneau city center. We were able to get off the boat for about a half hour when we docked, but there wasn't anything in walking distance except the ferry terminal itself [6 Pictures]. The good news is that a lot more people got off the boat than got on at Juneau, so the rest of the way the boat would be much less crowded. Most notably, a tour bus left, freeing up many seats in the lounges on board. After the stop, there was one last spectacular sight for the day - a deep orange sunset over the mountains and water to the Northwest as we pulled away from Juneau [12 Pictures*], one of the best you'll ever see.

Day 18 Travel Log


Day 19: June 24, 2001

Day 2 on the ferry. There was a brief early morning stop in Petersburg, but long enough to take some pictures of the town from the boat [4 Pictures]. [Additional Boat Picture]. We made a bit longer stop in Wrangell [10 Pictures*] around mid-morning, and there we were able to walk around town a bit. Being Sunday morning, nothing was open, but at least we saw a bit of the town. There were no stops in the early afternoon [6 Pictures]. As we continued south toward Ketchikan, we passed another lighthouse [2 Pictures], the clouds thickened and the rain started [5 Pictures]. This is only right, since Ketchikan is a very rainy place. We arrived in Ketchikan [4 Pictures] for our longest stop of the trip and it was raining steadily. We got off the boat [11 Pictures*] and walked over a mile south, but were unable to get to the city center before we had to turn around to catch the boat again. We did get to make a grocery store stop, at least, and picked up some newspapers. Ketchikan is a surprisingly big city, well worth a visit next time. Continuing south [5 Pictures], we left the Inside Passage during the evening into the open waters of the Pacific for a little while at Dixon Entrance [2 Pictures]. This made the boat sway a bit more, but nothing too severe. After dark, we passed near Prince Rupert, BC [2 Pictures], but didn't get close enough to see anything but lights at the shore.

Day 19 Travel Log


Day 20: June 25, 2001

This is the full day on the ferry - no stops. [2 Pictures of a house on a rock]. We passed one ocean crossing during the morning [2 Pictures], then came a picturesque lighthouse and the town of Bella Bella, BC [7 Pictures*]. We passed by a BC Ferry called Queen of the North going the other way [2 Pictures]. The crew of our boat performed a weekly fire and lifeboat drill early in the afternoon [6 Pictures]. The second ocean crossing, of Queen Charlotte Sound, was a little rougher, but not bad [7 Pictures*]. After that, we were behind Vancouver Island [Picture] for the rest of the trip. We passed a barge hauling all kinds of stuff Northbound [3 Pictures*]. The views of coastal BC were very nice, especially when the rain stopped and the sun came out for the afternoon [8 Pictures*]. There was an interesting video about the demolition of Ripple Rock in the area we were passing through, but it was not obvious when we got to the site. Later, we got another nice sunset in the north [10 Pictures*], giving way to the darkest night [Picture] for us in quite a while, with actual stars visible, especially to the south.

Day 20 Travel Log


Day 21: June 26, 2001

The ferry arrived in Bellingham [13 Pictures*] around 8:30 AM PDT. It didn't take long to get things into the car and we were on our way. We filled up the car with relatively cheap gas and headed down Interstate 5 [6 Pictures]. We were delayed by two accidents but got to Seattle by mid-morning. Our first stop was the Seattle Center, where we went up the Space Needle [13 Pictures*]. There were some clouds around, but we could still see Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. Next was lunch from a Mexican place downtown [Picture], a ride around the Safeco neighborhood in downtown [16 Pictures], then a visit to Cray to meet up with Nathan. We walked with him and some others from Cray up to the Pike Place Market as they got lunch (and we got ice cream) [12 Pictures*]. Rob and I walked around the waterfront for a while, then went to pick up Nathan back at Cray. We went to Andrew's on Mercer Island [3 Pictures] to drop off some of his things from the trip that we brought back for him and stayed there for a little while. Then it was off [8 Pictures] to dinner at Olympia Pizza II in the Wallingford section of Seattle on 45th Ave. N. After that, it was an Imax movie about Mt. St. Helens at the Seattle Aquarium [5 Pictures], then back to Nathan's in the Magnolia section of Seattle.

Day 21 Travel Log


Day 22: June 27, 2001

We left Nathan's around 8:30 and started the big ride back east. Before 9, we were on I-90 East [6 Pictures], and there to stay for much of the ride home. We made a few stops for gas and food, but that's about it. The ride through Washington was rainy, but not too bad, right up through Snoqualmie Pass [Picture]. When we got to the dry side of the Cascades, it was mostly just cloudy [12 Pictures*]. Into Idaho [4 Pictures], the rain picked up. On the way up the west side of Lookout Pass, the rain kept getting more and more intense, to the point where we had wind-driven sheets of rain and standing water on the highway [7 Pictures*]. This continued into the first several miles of Montana, but we were able to get ahead of the storm and moved into sunny weather for the late afternoon. If you've travelled I-90 in Western Montana, you know about Clark Fork, so we stopped to take some pictures [3 Pictures]. [13 More Pictures in Western Montana]. We stopped for dinner at a pizza place (with a casino, like everything else in this part of the country, it seems) in Butte [3 Pictures]. After Butte, we climbed to the Continental Divide and what I believe to be the highest point on I-90 [5 Pictures*]. We reluctantly passed the exits for Yellowstone [Picture] and decided to go for Livingston as a desintation and ended up at the Comfort Inn there.

Day 22 Travel Log


Day 23: June 28, 2001

We started early from Livingston [Picture], since we wanted to make sure we got to see both Mount Rushmore and the Badlands and still get into a motel on the other side before too late. We were able to move right along for the most part in Montana, with just a few minor construction delays and a gas stop in Billings [7 Pictures]. We considered the Little Bighorn National Battlefield [Picture], but thought better of it given time constraints. Next time. We crossed into Wyoming [Picture] and drove along the east front of the Bighorn Mountains [5 Pictures*] to Buffalo [4 Pictures], where we got lunch from a local sub shop [Picture]. We then turned east, getting a few glimpses of Devils Tower off to the North, but again we passed up a chance to visit it up close because of time [4 Pictures].

We filled the tank just before crossing into South Dakota [Picture]. There, we cut down through the Black Hills via Deadwood [7 Pictures*] and Keystone to Mount Rushmore [13 Pictures*]. [Rob's Rushmore Pictures]. We hit a thunderstorm with some small hail as we were getting close. It was still storming when we got there, but the sun was out after we finished looking around the inside of the visitors center. So we did the 6/10 mile trail to the base of the mountain to take some more pictures before moving on [2 Pictures]. It was on up through Rapid City out to Wall, where we made the required stop to show Rob what Wall Drug is all about [7 Pictures*], and got some dinner at the Wall Drug Cafe.

From there, it was on into the Badlands National Park [2 Pictures]. It was getting late by this point, and we didn't have much sunlight left. The good news is that the colors in the Badlands really come out at dusk, so things looked extra nice. The sun was still up when we got to the park and the Pinnacles Overlook [3 Pictures*]. The shadows were growing when we made it to the Yellow Mounds [3 Pictures*]. Next stop was at the Burns Basin overlook [5 Pictures*] where we also encountered a snake to add to the extensive list of wildlife on the trip. A little before sunset, we made it to the Prairie Wind overlook [5 Pictures*], and stayed around to wait for sunset on the recommendation of a photographer who was waiting there [5 Pictures*]. We continued East on the Badlands Loop at dusk and saw Badlands colors at their best [9 Pictures*]. [Rob's Badlands Pictures]. We left the Badlands as it was getting dark, and checked into the Super 8 in Kadoka, just about 20 miles down the road.

Day 23 Travel Log


Day 24: June 29, 2001

With the main sightseeing behind us, it was time to try to get home in the next two days. We left the Super 8 in Kadoka [Picture], and headed east on a foggy I-90 [2 Pictures] across South Dakota. The fog broke in about an hour. We passed through the famous town of Oacoma [4 Pictures] (famous to Massachusetts Turnpike drivers, anyway -- see the 1999 trip log for more), crossed the Missouri, and stopped at the rest area and scenic view above Chamberlain [7 Pictures*]. We continued east to Sioux Falls, where we switched to I-29 South [4 Pictures] to take a different route than I've done on previous trips. We reached Iowa [Picture] at Sioux City around lunch time, and crossed over into South Sioux City, Nebraska, to find lunch and to fill up the tank [5 Pictures]. We crossed right back into Iowa and continued south on I-29 [2 Pictures]. Just north of Council Bluffs and Omaha, we turned onto I-680 [3 Pictures], a short cut to I-80 East. We crossed Iowa on I-80 [13 Pictures] with quick stops in Avoca and at a rest area east of Des Moines. We filled the tank and got some food in Davenport, Iowa, and decided at that point that it would probably be better to push on through the night instead of getting a room somewhere and having a short night of sleep and a long day of driving tomorrow. We took I-74 [2 Pictures] through the Quad Cities and crossed the Mississippi. The river looked like it was a bit out of its banks. We were surprised by the Illinois welcome signs. There were actually two of them and they actually said things like "Welcome to Illinois" [6 Pictures*]. This is not normally a surprise but each time I have entered Illinois in the past (I-90 in Chicago and I-70 in East St. Louis) there has been either no sign or just a sign like "Illinois State Line". Anyway, we were welcomed nicely to Illinois. We rejoined I-80 to cross Illinois [5 Pictures]. When we got south of Chicago, we hit some heavy traffic and some construction which probably took us almost an hour to work through. The first part, just after we merged in with I-294 [2 Pictures], seemed to be strictly volume and merging traffic. Then when we got to the Indiana line, it was a lane drop for construction. Once we reached the Indiana East-West Toll Road, we left Chicago traffic behind and started to cover some ground again. [Picture] We were at Mile 103 of the Indiana East-West Toll Road when midnight came.

Day 24 Travel Log


Day 25: June 30, 2001

We continued across Indiana, and stopped for gas and one of the many driver switches at the Porter Travel Plaza. We entered Ohio at 1 and it became 2 as we were now in the land of daylight savings time. We made a couple of quick driver switches then decided to take a longer break at Mile 100 of the Ohio Turnpike around 3:45 AM. We stayed for about 2 hours, just enough to get refreshed a bit and for the morning sunlight to start to take effect [Picture]. Since it was early on a Saturday morning, we took a scenic route through Cleveland, taking Route 2 along the waterfront and between downtown and the new Cleveland Browns Stadium [7 Pictures*]. We made a breakfast stop before entering Pennsylvania. In PA, we made another quick stop then moved onto New York [Picture]. We filled the tank in Fredonia and made stops at a few service areas to switch drivers. The Thruway [2 Pictures] was busy and the service areas were especially crowded [Picture], probably because this is the start of a holiday week for many people. We drove through a thunderstorm with a lot of lightning and heavy rain west of Canajoharie, then made a stop in Colonie for some food from Pizza Mare [3 Pictures]. We dropped some of Rob's stuff off in Troy [2 Pictures] then continued east [14 Pictures]. We stopped in Pownal, Vermont, to fill the tank and arrived in Williamstown before 5:00 [Picture*].

Day 25 Travel Log


Some Stats

Thinking about doing this kind of trip? Do it!

Jim Teresco - E-mail domain: teresco.org, username: terescoj+pics -- Tue Jun 10 16:02:44 EDT 2008

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