99% of the bears don’t bother humans and really try to avoid any human interaction. It is the other 1% that gives them a bad reputation. And when it comes to bears, the kind of bear makes a big difference. The black bear is like the puppy dogs of the bear community. Then comes the larger and more unpredictable brown bear and grizzly. Here in the heart of bear country no matter where you go it seems like everyone is carrying bear spray and “Be Bear Aware” signs are posted everywhere. Meaning; don’t be stupid, don’t put yourselves into dangerous situations, make noise when on a trail (not baaaing noises) and try not to travel alone as people alone tend to not make a lot of noise.
|That about sums it up!|
Despite her fear of bears, Barb has been a real trooper on the trail. We have yet to see a bear on the trail, we have seen their tracks, their scat and areas where they dug of the ground looking for grubs. Only one time has Barb looked at me with panic in her eyes saying maybe we should turn back. We have all the typical deterrents; bear spray, a bell and Barb seems overly talkative when we are on the trail. Barb carries the bear spray and Daisy wears the bell. We call it the dinner bell. Barb says that if we do run into a problem bear and she needs to use the bear spray she is more likely to spray herself then the bear. In reality I think she is going to spray me in the eyes so I am disabled, grab Daisy and run like hell screaming down the trail. Now there’s a visual; I can’t see a thing but I hear screaming and a bell jingling down the mountain!
|Daisy wearing her "Dinner Bell"|
|Evidence that the bears have been digging for grubs|
|Food storage bins|
Leaving Haines Alaska we headed north on the Haines Highway stopping at the 33 Mile Roadhouse along the way. If you are in this area, you absolutely must stop by here. We had the best burgers we have had in a long time!
This highway has some awesome scenery along the way. It seems like everywhere you look there is a photo opportunity!
|See that tiny speck in the corner of the lake?|
|It's a moose!|
We made two stops along the way. The first was a Million Dollar Falls. Besides the falls it has a great campground (rigs up to 30’) and free firewood. We would have stayed but it was too early in the day.
The second was at the ruins of Silver City which operated as a trading post between Whitehorse and the goldfields in the Kluane Lake area from 1904 to 1924.
|Just think of the history these buildings have seen!|
Our most unusual encounter on this leg of our journey happened on our second night in the Haines Junction area. We had found a quiet boondocking spot next to a creek and we settled in for the night, or so we thought. We were in the camper reading when a truck pulls off the highway and pulls right up to our camper. The occupants were staring at our rig and moved their truck around all sides of it. I thought “Oh great, we pissed someone off and are going to get booted out of here” They were obviously not going away so I got out of the camper and this grizzly looking guy jumps out of the pickup and says “Hi, I’m Al and you got a porcupine under your truck. I was going to shoot him but I figured that was not very neighborly”. Sure enough, I look under the truck and a porcupine had crawled up under the truck.
|Our porcupine friend|
Ends up he is a local prospector who had a trailer about ¼ mile down the logging road back in the woods. He had with him another guy and his 8 year old girl. He was about as crazy as crazy gets in a funny sort of way and invited us down to his campfire that night.An hour or so later I went out to check on “porky” and it was gone. We then wandered down to Crazy Al’s. He regaled us with stories of prospecting, offered us everything from marshmallows, beer and weed (we declined on all) and even showed us some of the gold he had found in the area. But the crazy does not stop there! We are standing around the fire and a small blue car comes down this logging road and I asked Al if he knew them. He says “No, but they sure the hell ain’t camping here” A single young girl pops out of the car and says “Hey, can I set up a tent here?” And Al says “You sure can young lady, would you like a beer?” She proceeds to set up her tent come over to the fire and sits down. Ends up she is traveling alone and thought it was a good place to spend the night and did not expect anyone else to be down there. Totally bizarre. Before we left Al had given us a few fishing and boondocking spots on other claims he has up near Dawson City.
Our next stop after Kathleen Lake was Congdon Creek Campground on Kluane Lake. This is a great campground which has plenty of sites and room for any size rig ($12/night). While there we met a couple, George and Nancy Finlayson, who had messaged us in RVillage saying that they were going to be in that area as well. They have been fulltiming about the same amount of time we have and it was uncanny the number of things we had in common. From where we have been in the past few years, what equipment we have on our rigs even down to where we got our solar installed! We were so busy talking that I totally forgot to take a picture but I am sure we will see them again in the next week or so. In fact they are booked at the same campground as us when we are in Denali in late July.
It rained on and off our first day there so Barb and I just hung around the campground and practiced taking close up pictures with our cameras. Later that afternoon we had happy hour with George and Nancy.
Now back to the hike…..The Sheep Creek Trail hike is a 10 km hike that climbs 1,400 feet from the parking area to an area that overlooks the Slims River Valley. We arrived at the parking area and found this sign at the trailhead.
It was at that point that I looked at Barb and noticed what she was wearing…..she dressed like a sheep! She quickly removed that top and went with just the t-shirt she had underneath.
Although the hike description stated that it was a 1,400 foot elevation change, it did not tell you the entire 5 km hike was uphill! Within the first 30 minutes we were already feeling it and had to stop every 50 to 100 yards to catch our breath. If either one of us would have mentioned turning around I am sure we would have without hesitation. However, we plugged along step by step and in about 3 hours we made it to the end of the trail.
|We made it!!!!!|
We saw couple of sheep from the top, had a snack and headed back down. The plus side of the entire hike on the way there being uphill is that it is downhill on the way back and we made it back to the truck in 90 minutes. It was a great hike but we were totally exhausted.
|A couple of sheep on the hill side|
|Headed back down the trail|
The road from the Visitors Center to Tok is by far the roughest road we have been on. Frost heaves, potholes and patched blacktop went on for the entire 250 miles. I think our average speed was between 40 and 50 mph with lows being 20 mph and when we were lucky 50 mph. There were long stretches of gravel as well but those stretches were actually smoother than the blacktop and we were able to make good time.
|The worlds biggest gold pan!|
We took our time getting to Tok spending two nights along the way. The first night we just pulled off onto an old logging road next to a river while the next night we spent at Deadman Lake Campground in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. They have an awesome campground there with 15 sites, several of which will accommodate big rigs, and you can stay up to 14 days totally free (donations accepted).
We spent the day cleaning the camper and getting things organized for the next leg of our trip which includes a day in Tok to do laundry and restock the rig, then on to Glenallen to see our friends Lee and Trace!