Friday, July 25, 2014

Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne

Mike was in Cheyenne for work today, and the Frontier Days Rodeo was going on so we both went to the rodeo after lunch. Neither of us had been to a rodeo before, so this was a lot of fun.

Sitting in the stands watching bull riding, bronco riding, calf roping, and calf wrestling.

Walking along one of the strips. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Goodbye Alaska

Our trip is over and we are now in our own bed at home, getting ready for our next trip (Colorado in 2 days).

Alaska and the Yukon consist of a narrow ribbons of highway, surrounded immediately by absolute wilderness and punctuated by tourist traps. Lots of RV parks, RV's, buses and adventure motorcycles. Seems like this is on the bucket list of a lot of retirees.

Here are a few parting shots:

My morning view of Sherry, all tucked away in her sleeping bag.

Alaska from the window of the plane as we head home. This is around 11pm - sunset is still a while away.

Some large glacier out of the window of the plane. I think that it is this one in Wranagell -St Elias park. 

Denali National Park

We spent a total of four nights in Denali - the first and last at a run-down RV campground outside of the park, and two nights at Savage River campground inside the park. In Denali, you can only drive as far as Savage River, and then you need to take the shuttle buses the rest of the way. Savage River is about 15 miles in, and the road goes a total of about 90 miles in. Round trip from the visitor's center, out to Wonder Lake at the end, and back again is 11 hours on the bus.

There are 3 shuttle types inside of the park: the camper bus, the shuttle bus and the tour buses. Camper and shuttle mostly go back and forth, stopping for wildlife and getting a minimum of commentary. The camper bus just has more room in the back for gear. The tour buses have a guide who provides commentary the whole time. All of the buses are school bus designs with the old-time sliding windows, no AC and bench seats. Very middle-school.

Sherry and I chose to camp out at Wonder Lake and return the next day, so we spent one day in Savage River, took the shuttle to Wonder Lake, came back the next afternoon and then located the Tortoise bus packed up and moved down towards the visitor center. After that, we spent our last night at the crappy RV park and had a final supper at the brewpub. Our last day was a drive from Denali to Anchorage where we took a redeye home via Chicago.

We did not get a good view of Denali from Wonder Lake. The mountain was covered in clouds. Like a good stripper, we got shown little pieces of the mountain from time to time, but never saw the whole thing.

Denali days are driven by the shuttle schedule. I took pictures of a lot of them. Shuttles operate inside of the park, and separate shuttles operate outside. 

Sherry showing off a big chunk of Alaskan crab. This is where we watched the World Cup USA game.

Campsite at mile 12.8 where the bus parked for two nights. We only spent one night here and then went off to Wonder Lake

Wonder Lake campground at mile 83. We took the 4-hour "camping bus" shuttle from Savage River out to Wonder Lake. We saw caribou and grizzly along the way.  

Heading back from Wonder Lake to find the Tortoise.

Moose outside of the visitor center.

Denali, at last, showing itself. This is from the drive home. 

Sherry and Denali

Our campsite at Savage River.

The last supper at the 49th State Brewing Company

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From Chena to Fairbanks to Denali

We left Chena and drove to Fairbanks for a quick bite and a visit to the Museum of the North. The museum was worth the visit if you find yourself in Fairbanks. After that, we drove the 2 hours to our campsite in Healy Alaska, about 10 miles outside of the Denali gate. We arrived late, it was raining, and the campsite (Miner's Market RV Park and Campground) was a dump. Toilets didn't work, washing machines were expensive and broken, lots of RV's full of seasonal workers - nice people but late night party people. The tent camping facilities were really bad, and some of the tents were in deep puddles after the rains.

The only saving feature of the campground was the awesome 49th State Brewing Company brewpub that was about 100 meters away. Other than that, we just woke up in the morning, packed our stuff, and drove into Denali National Park. After the visitor's center and the wilderness center, the bus drove off to the campground at Savage River. Several of us opted to walk back to town instead, and watch the World Cup.

Museum of the North

Chena Hot Springs

From Chicken, we did a night drive to Chena River State Recreation Area, near Angel Rocks, where we had breakfast before going on the hot springs. The mosquitoes in this little area were the worst that we had encountered. The first people out of the bus were like the marines coming out of the landing craft on Omaha beach - immediately attacked by the swarm. People were still in their pajamas and night-drive attire and were completely unprepared for the onslaught.

Once properly dressed, we had breakfast and hiked the Angel Rocks trail and then continued on to Chena Hot Springs. Chena is pretty swank, and it is a vacation destination with cabins and activities and a nice place to eat. It was definitely the nicest hot springs of the 4 or 5 that we had visited.

Antoine entering the big, hot, beautiful pool.

More from Chena

Chicken Alaska - back to the USA

From Dawson City, we drove the "Top of the World Highway" to Chicken Alaska where we stopped around lunch time for a long visit. After that, it was a night drive to Chena hot springs.

Highest point on the "Top of the World Highway". The border crossing back into the USA is just to the right of the person in the white shirt off in the distance. 

Lots of cairns on the top of the world. 

Staring down the mascot of Chicken Alaska

The Chicken and signpost

There is a fantastically well preserved dredge in Chicken and we got a really nice tour. You are looking at the rear of the dredge, where the rocks and sand get ejected. The front has a big line of steel buckets for digging up the river beds. 

Inside the dredge

Another view of the inside of the dredge

Making dinner in Chicken, before we pack up for a night drive. 

Dawson City

We rolled into Dawson City after driving up to an overlook over the city. The bus took the ferry over the river to the funky little Dawson City River Hostel but most of us bailed out in town and took the ferry over later.

Dawson City was the end-point for most of the gold rush prospectors and it is now mostly a tourist trap. Having said that, we had a good time at the local bars and the hostel campground was pretty fun, too. Sherry and I stayed in a hotel to clean up and relax ;)

Big truck, small ferry. The line of RV's lining up to cross the river on the ferry was enormous. We figured that it would take hours. So many people have those bus-sized RV's towing a full-sized SUV these days. Really pretty ridiculous. 

The view overlooking Dawson City from a nearby hilltop.

Tortoise crew on a bench overlooking the city. Right to left: Al, Sherry, Gail, Cynthia, Marietta, COle, Jenna, Finny, Samantha

Lots and Lots of adventure bikes up here in Alaska.

 Dawson City at midnight. We went to the midnight show at Diamond Tooth Gerties

Tombstone Territorial Park

The original schedule was to night drive from the hot springs to Tombstone Territorial Park and have all day to hike around. Due to only having one driver for this trip, we had to do a pretty dull day drive and arrived late afternoon.

We hiked up the road to an overlook to see the Tombstone Range, camped on a nice gravel pad near a stream, had the opportunity to listen to a ranger-guided talk on botany, and visited the nice, new visitor's center. Other than that, it was a quick visit.

Whitehorse and Takhini Hot Springs

From Kluane, we trekked to Whitehorse for a day of re-supplying, eating, checking email and getting a manicure (just Sherry). Later in the afternoon, we re-boarded the bus and headed for Takhini Hot Springs to camp and to soak.

The hot springs was memorable mostly for the huge number of dead mosquitoes in the water. Apparently, they land with the intent to lay eggs, and then overheat. A soup of dead mosquitoes is simultaneously gross and satisfying.

We were in tent sites 11 and 12. The cafe was really good - they specialized in crepes. 

Kluane National Park

24-25 June

From Haines Alaska, we drove  back into Canada and went to Kluane Naional Park where we camped for two days. Most people went to hike the "King's Throne". Typical of Canada, the campsite was clean, well maintained and appropriate for tent camping. In the US, this is not to be taken for granted.

 We were camping next to Kathleen Lake. This photo is of the 3D map in the park's visitor center 

Mike by the lake with the "King's Throne" in the background

Mike, again, by the lake.

Our campsite for two nights. Individual tents were scattered around in surrounding areas. 

Crawlers from the Denali Dream

Here is the crew that joined us for the second half of the trip, the "Denali Dream"

Cole and Jenna from South Dakota. Cole is in high school and Jenna is in school, training to be a teacher for dental hygienists.

Cynthia from San Francisco is an adjunct professor at a business school there and has done a lot of other stuff as detailed at

Gail from the Bay Area who is traveling with Horst.

Horst from the Bay Area who works in real estate at the moment. 

Jackie, a law student from Perth, Australia and the second-youngest person on the bus after Cole

Jonas from Germany, traveling with Stephanie who is also from Germany. He works for Shindler maintaining elevators.

Stephanie from Germany, in school to be a kinesthesiologist, I think.  

Marietta from Eugene, Oregon. Marietta and Ernie raise helleborus plants on their farm and sell to retailers. Their farm is at

Ernie, also from Eugene.

David - working at Yale doing research.