THROUGH A BAJA WINDOW — PART 2

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the seriesBaja California

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Our little boat sped onward, cutting a wide wake through the mildly choppy waters of Bahia de los Angeles.  We had been adequately entertained by the flukes of finback whales and the speed-demon descent of blue-footed boobies.  Our skipper, Joel, was now steering his panga out of the areas of the bay closest to shore, out to the islands of the Sea of Cortez.  Some of us weren’t ready to leave so soon, but what choice did we have?

As Monique & I have often experienced in our RV travels, some diversions along our path to adventure, expected to be humdrum, actually turned out to be the fondest of memories.  This 4-hour cruise was one of those unexpected highpoints.

Rather than weaving a verbal account of our afternoon at sea, I’ll present a few pictures to tell the story, with a bit of commentary as explanation:

BIRDS:

It was a seabird-watchers’ fest.  “Birds of a feather flocked together,” some intermingling, and some going solo, but they were everywhere and the variety kept us looking to take it all in.  I know most of the species, but I prefer to give you just a sampling of our observations.

1.  THE BIRDS COLLAGE

SEASCAPES:

Our skipper knew the history of every island and pointed out interesting sights, like caves and wildlife inhabitants.  Skull Island, top left, (with its “Bird Snow,” the result of centuries of bird habitation) and Window Rock, below, stand out as memorable formations, but every point of land had its own fascination for our party.

2c. Seascapes

SEA LIFE:

With the Sea of Cortez depths so crystal clear around the islands, it was easy to see underwater from our boat, and even get decent photos of a few.  Every species that we handled was returned to the seabed – except the clams, which supplemented our evening barbeque and later became the feature attraction in clam chowder.

3. Sealife

ABOVE THE SEA:

And finally here we are, plus a predatory coyote scanning a rocky island for its dinner.  What we didn’t see were big-horned sheep, which inhabit that same island, but we were satisfied with all the sights, sounds and sunshine of a wonderful day on the Bahia de los Angeles.  That’s us at top left, me second from left and Monique on the right, with Patty, Mary Ellen, Judy and Steve in the crew, in a photo taken by Joel, bottom right.  As the clam-diggers gathered dinner, the other boat drifted into shallow water, adding to the fun of the day.

Creatures

Thanks for joining us on this voyage that was a lot more exciting than we expected.  And by now you’re probably tired of “Three-Hour Cruise” theme music churning through your head, so it’s time to return to U.S. soil.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

 

 

Our Alaska Trip Part XXI Two Days of Snapshots

This entry is part 23 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 16, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 4 Comments (see note at end)

 This is the 21st in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

There are all kinds of ways of to enjoy your trip through Canada and into Alaska, much of it governed by finances and time constraints.  By being part of a caravan that includes excursions of all sorts, we have seen things we would have never signed up for if we thought about cost.  Those excursions were paid for as part of the charge to join the group.

And, when there’s nothing scheduled, like today, we see other sights of wonder.  Yesterday at Seward, we first visited the Alaska SeaLife Center and then we boarded the Star of the Northwest tour boat for a cruise around Resurrection Bay.  Here are a few photos from those two caravan-scheduled trips.

Visiting Sea Lions at the Alaska SeaLife Center

Visiting Sea Lions at the Alaska SeaLife Center

Sea LionKing, left, and Eaglet on the Rocks

Sea LionKing, left, and Eaglet on the Rocks

According to the skipper of our boat, the sighting of the whale was fortunate, but the performance put on by the humpback whale was a first for him.  At the beginning, the whale showed his back above the bay and then went under for a few minutes.

The Amazing Performing Whale

The Amazing Performing Whale

Suddenly, he came up out of the water (breaching) and fell back.  One pectoral fin above the waves, then another, back and forth, waving to us.  Then another few breaches, a few shows of his tail (flukes), and he was gone.  But wait … he resurfaced and bid us goodbye with a wave of his fin.  Monique, who has been to Hawaii several times, where seeing whales is a normal daily event, has never seen antics like this.

Today we were on our own, and despite being in the throes of a cold that has me coughing and sniffling and despite our being engulfed in gloomy weather, we headed out for a relatively easy hike up to Exit Glacier.  Somehow the Sun knew we would appreciate seeing the glacier in bright light, so the clouds parted for a few minutes.

 

Resurrection Bay

Resurrection Bay

Puffins-9213

Rather than take the Ranger-tour of the glacier, we opted to just explore on our own.  Along the way, I asked a teenage boy if I could take a photo of his “The Last Frontier” T-shirt, which I feel says a lot about Alaska.  He consented, and it turned into a story in itself.

Marco Moriarity was visiting Exit Glacier with parents Tom and Monica from Minnesota.

Marco

Marco

Marco, whose Siberia Yupak name is Esla, was born in Nome and adopted by the Moriaritys five years ago.  They have returned so he can stay in touch with his native land.

Tom said Marco has adapted well to his life in Minnesota, where he plays hockey, is a Boy Scout and on the school archery team.  More photos from today:

 

The Exit Glacier has Receded Miles in the Past 100 Years.  As awe-inspiring as this photo is, it's not the same as being there!

The Exit Glacier has Receded Miles in the Past 100 Years. As awe-inspiring as this photo is, it’s not the same as being there!

A blue glow emanates from holes in the ice.  It's a color I wish we could take with us on our travels.

A blue glow emanates from holes in the ice. It’s a color I wish we could take with us on our travels.

Monique and I often get into conversations with locals and tourists we meet in our travels.  We consider it to be a real enrichment of our lives on the road.  My advice on doing this is to ask and listen.  Sometimes the talk is about RV rigs and places to visit, but every now and then we strike gold by hearing great stories about why the people are there.  No long-term relationships, just interesting stories.

Before closing this edition, I want to give a special “thank you.”  I, Barry, am a writer and photographer.  So many of these articles are in the first person singular.  But please understand, much of the quality of these blogs can be attributed to Monique, a wise editor, who often asks, “Why did you put that in the article.  It doesn’t belong there.”  She wins approximately 93 percent of the time.  So, on behalf of the readers of this series, “Thank you, Monique.”

 From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

P.S.  If the lack of Medicare doctors in Alaska is of concern to you, I strongly suggest you read the comments to the article that ran previously.  Lynne has covered the subject well and others have added to the discussion.

Comments

4 Responses* to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXI 2 Days of Snapshots”

▪.  Michael Belock on July 16th, 2010 4:38 pm  
Did you make it to Fox Island?

▪.  Jerry X Shea on July 16th, 2010 4:48 pm  
You guys are having the time of your life up there. Good for you. It was just last year that we did our 4-month trip. We loved Seward. It was one of our first stops and we went back 3 months later before we headed out via the inland passage.

▪.  Ralph Thomas on October 22nd, 2011 8:45 pm  
My wife and I and our Boston Terrier have made two trips to Alaska , one in a motorhome and one with our 24RBSL Kodiak towed with my F 250 SD 7.3 4×4 , either way is great. We have also traveled most of western and eastern Canada including Newfoundland. We always travel independent stopping when, where and for how long we want to, I never felt like I was cut out for the caravan thing but I’m sure it’s great for some. Anyway you go about it (as long as you prepare) RVing is just a great way to see the country and of course Canada.

▪.  * The system says “4 responses.”  Not that you probably noticed or care, but often the numbers don’t gibe.  I’ve deleted some comments that are commercials for make-up, insurance, etc., which only ruin it for readers.  In the hundreds of comments to this series, I can only remember about one or two that I would consider negative or unfair – you folks are wonderful – and I’ve left those in rather than only show the positive opinions.  As for this blog, I don’t know what happened to the 4th one.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXIII More Travel Observations

This entry is part 25 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 19, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments   ·

This is the 23rd in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

From the “Small World Department” of the RV blog come these two coincidences from recent days.

While in Anchorage we visited the Alaskan Heritage Center, which is an excellent way to The Bobbitts - 9504learn about the cultures of tribes and clans in the state.  In one of the replica habitats, Bob Babbitt got into a discussion with the young presenter (I think he said his name is Sean). Bob mentioned that he did his internship in dentistry on the Ft. Defiance Navajo Reservation in eastern Arizona.

Athabaskan Native Sean

Athabaskan Native Sean




The young man, an Athabaskan native, said to Bob, “Maybe you know my mother.”  He did indeed know her.  Aurelia had been a dental assistant in his office during that residency.  It just so happened that she was there that day visiting her son, which brought about a surprise reunion.   His mother now works with the public health service in Alaska.

And the second coincidence concerns my long-

We met RVnet follower Margie Goodman in Anchorage

We met RVnet follower Margie Goodman in Anchorage

time friend Sam Casey, a veteran truck-camper RVer and a representative of Signtronix along the East Coast of the U.S.  Sam established an internet friendship with Margie Goodman of Anchorage, who recently bought an RV and plans to travel to the East Coast.

 

Sam mentioned to her that he has a friend traveling in Alaska who is writing a blog about his trip.  Margie replied that she has been reading a blog written by a guy who is on an Alaskan caravan.  The coincidence of two people thousands of miles apart who had never met being linked to us is incredible.

Today we delved deeply into the history of the Homer area at the Pratt Museum.  Some excellent displays, but we were magnetized by presentations on video and audio that kept us listening for at least an hour.  Then we visited the cabin at the museum, where we listened to a resident who had been here since 1954 telling visitors about the hardships people endured years ago homesteading before there were services and roads.

Sunday we joined about a dozen members of our group catching a charter boat to the tiny village of Seldovia.  We departed the Homer Spit in the rain on a two-hour trip across Kachemak Bay to the 265-population Seldovia.  Once a Russian fishing village and later the center of the halibut industry in Alaska, now it is about 10 businesses that cater to boatloads of tourists.

On the way over, “rafts” of sea otters lounged on the balmy bay watching over numerous, varied flocks of sea birds.  If you’re coming this way, plan to stay a few days in Homer to take in all the beauty and history this area has to offer.

The Historic Boardwalk in Seldovia, "I'm Otter Here" and Swarms of Seabirds Watched Us Go By

The Historic Boardwalk in Seldovia, “I’m Otter Here” and Swarms of Seabirds Watched Us Go By

While we were enjoying our cruise, another group from our caravan was out catching the limit of halibut on a very successful fishing trip.

Tomorrow we hookup for a long drive to Palmer, looking forward to new adventures.

Shot Taken from the Boardwalk -- Too Peaceful to Ignore

Shot Taken from the Boardwalk — Too Peaceful to Ignore

Now for an update from the Yukon Highways and Public Works site [I’m including this to give you a sense of how you can keep up on conditions ahead and behind you]:  Highway 9, the Top of the World Highway, motorists are advised that the Taylor [Top of the World] Highway in Alaska is now open from the Yukon/Alaska border through to Tok. There will be a pilot car operating from roughly MP 81 to MP 91. Expect delays. There is no camping or stopping on the Taylor Highway between Chicken, MP 67 and the Boundary/Taylor Wye, MP 95, except in designated BLM campgrounds.

RV.net reader Dave had mentioned that he was expecting to get through Sunday following a pilot car.  Since WiFi in the area is intermittent, we can assume he hasn’t been able to report further.  However, he did email to say, “The Taylor and Top of the World Highways are now open, with a pilot car escort through the bad sections. Come to Chicken and Eagle, Alaska. They need the business!”

In normal times, I check facts and spelling fastidiously.  That’s difficult on this trip, so if you see errors that need correcting, please use the comment section to get the correct information out to readers.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Comments

6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXIII More Travel Observations”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 20th, 2010 12:33 am  
You know, I was thinking about you today as I was mowing my lawn in between the Alaskan raindrops, and I wished something for you.
I wished that you had come to Alaska last summer. It was 70 degrees and sunny for months on end. No rain. Beautiful, blue skies. We were actually able to have a September with no rain as well, and it was so warm we actually got to see the leaves change and stay on the trees. They usually fall off so fast we don’t get to see the colors very much. I felt like I had taken a trip to the East Coast for one fall.
The year before, 2008, was exactly like this summer. Beautiful May, then rain rain rain rain rain one sunny day rain rain rain overcast overcast overcast….UGH.
I felt sorry for you today, and I do wish so much that you can come back someday soon and enjoy a real Alaskan summer. It is a crapshoot, but I do hope you’ll be able to experience that.
I know your trip has been beautiful and life-changing, but this I wish for you. And I am sorry for the weather you’ve had to experience this year.
Hope it clears up for you on your way back to the Lower 48. You’ll love Palmer. The mountains are breathtaking. And the Glenn Highway on the way back is amazing! Mount Drum in Glenallen. ….WOW.
Enjoy everything to the fullest.
Lynne

▪.  Nancy Giammusso on July 20th, 2010 5:00 pm  
In your last blog you mentioned some people turned back instead of taking the Taylor Highway. Was that due to severity of road conditions or because of heights and narrow roads with no guardrails. My husband has a problem with heights but we so look forward to taking this trip when I retire in 2 years (he is already retired) but if there are dangerous drops and scary heights we may have to think twice.

▪.  Sharon on July 21st, 2010 8:24 am  
While in Homer, I would highly recommend a trip to town and the Homer Brewery. They have some really good tasting brews there at fairly reasonable prices. When we were there last summer we did not stay on the Spit, but at a wonderful small RV park across from the lake.

▪.  Walter Chledowski on July 21st, 2010 8:47 am  
Good morning to you Barry and Monique and all others reading this Blog,
I have been reading and following your progress through Canada to Alaska and I have enjoyed every minute of it. It makes for a great coffee break reading. I live in Grande Prairie, Alberta, which is about one hour’s drive, east, from Dawson Creek. My wife and I are planning a trip to Alaska in 2012. Since I am reading these blogs on my office computer, I have not saved any of your information. Would it be too much to ask you if you could make available your writings, some time in the future so that I could save it all on my home computer and give my wife a chance to read it also? It appears that you have had much fun and enjoyment on this trip, and I would like to know if we could join the caravan in Dawson Creek, the next time it travels north? Many people from the Lower 48 travel through Grande Prairie and we get to meet them and enjoy their stories too. We met a couple, in St. Joseph Catholic Church, three weeks ago, retired ranchers from Montana and asked them to join us for Brunch. They were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a wonderful time we had. Hope to meet up with you folks some times in out travels. Safe travels and enjoy these beautiful countries of ours.
Walter

▪.  julie on October 31st, 2011 6:02 pm  
We are new owners of a 40 ft Allegro bus, never had a RV before. My husband wants to take a trip from Florida to Alaska but not through Canada. We have been there. [Hope you figured out a way to do that!] 
Please give me your experiences and what time of the year is best. I will follow this blog is very educational and fun, we have no friends that have RV’s

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You

This entry is part 29 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 30, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments

This is the 27th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Wednesday we arrived in Skagway, Alaska, after a long drive from Destruction Bay, Yukon.  The trip took us into two provinces (Yukon Territory and British Columbia) and one state (Alaska) and included two surprises.

Surprise 1 – The road out of Destruction Bay began as another of those horrid blacktops with jarring frost heaves that caused members of the caravan to be ready to stomp on the brakes at all times for about a hundred miles.  The tough part was that the highway was fine for a mile or two until we began bouncing unexpectedly.  Some spots were marked with signs or flags but most weren’t.  Caution, caution, caution! 

Surprise 2 – The second surprise was that this was one of the most awe-inspiring segments of the trip that we have encountered.  Monique called it “outrageous” because of the beauty.  Not only are the lakes, mountain, rivers and terrain gorgeous, but there are a variety of attractions along the way that slowed down our progress.  A “glacial desert” among the mountains, the historic village of Carcross, two interesting bridges and other unexpected sights begged us to make roadside stops.

"Outrageous," "Awe-Inspiring," Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

“Outrageous,” “Awe-Inspiring,” Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

Skagway is a major port of call for cruise ships, many of which carry more passengers and crew than the town’s population where it docks.  The ocean tourists tear down the ramp at the harbor and immediately rush into town to soak up a few minutes of history before or after visiting the dozens of jewelry stores and other shops selling things they didn’t know they needed.  A few hours later, they’re back on deck comparing the bargains they think they got.

We spent last winter in Key West, Florida, which is another cruise ship port, but it has held much of its characters, probably because of the characters who live there.  Skagway, on the other hand, according to locals, has changed in the past six or so years to accommodate those passengers sprinting through town.  Some do get to take the ride up the fantastic road on which we arrived, but probably most stay within sight of the massive bows of the ships at the end of Broadway.

Monique is out today, Friday, on a National Park Service-led walking tour of the town, and later we’ll head for the hills to visit sites important during Klondike gold rush days.

An Orca ("Killer Whale") comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

An Orca (“Killer Whale”) comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

Now for some responses to your comments:

Traveling in Truck Campers:  To the response about truck campers being the best way to see the Far North, that does seem to be a very practical way to visit Yukon and Alaska, but it’s not necessary.  We are of the opinion that you’re better off choosing an RV to fit your lifestyle, not just for a long trip.  We see every type of RV on the roads and in parks.  No one seems to have any special problems.  Age of the rig shouldn’t matter, but it’s strongly recommended that it be in good condition for the trip.  It will get a workout.

Toads:  I checked with Wagonmaster Ken and Tailgunner Spence about damage to towed vehicles.  They both said it’s not an issue.  The damages done could have happened anywhere on North American roads.  Yes, there is rough riding up here, but you quickly learn to take it slow and watch for problem areas.  If you’re worried, take it even slower – nobody behind you will get mad.

Pull-outs:  Earlier we reported that many pullouts have “No Camping” signs.  That was probably in just a few places.  We have since seen lots of pullouts with RVs apparently staying for a few hours, a day or longer with no restrictions.

Mosquitoes: They have only bothered us a couple of times.  We’ve gotten bitten by insects much more often in the lower 48 (but we’ve been bitten hard by the bug to return to Alaska, maybe even in winter when the Northern Lights are visible).

Reservations:  We don’t know for sure because our caravan planners took care of that for us.  Getting into private campgrounds early is probably a safe bet, like around 4 p.m.  Most of the campground owners seem to try hard to accommodate everyone, even if it means providing dry-camping spaces.  There are lots of public campgrounds in most places, and, again, the roadside stops seem like good “resting” places.  Don’t expect to find back roads to snuggle into – most off-the-highways roads aren’t suitable for rigs.

As RVers, we think of night as dark.  In Skagway in late July, which is in the southwest, we have about 16 hours of light, 5 hours of dusk and 3 hours of night.  In mid-summer in mid-Alaska, it turns to dusk for about three hours per day.  It’s not the type of darkness that makes the night scary.

Wooden Bowls:  Dubie still makes the bowls of black spruce burls and hiking sticks of diamond willow.  We and several others in our group bought beautiful folding tables in Destruction Bay made of laminated birch, aspen, cedar and oak with spruce legs, and some had a strip of purple heart embedded.  Those are handcrafted by Evalt Miller of Burns Lake.

This century-old "Thunderbird House" panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

This century-old “Thunderbird House” panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Comments

6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 30th, 2010 4:56 pm  
What Alaskans do get a little angry about is RVers from the Lower 48 who ignore the signs that say it is illegal to delay 5 vehicles behind you. This means “PULL OVER” when you start to see them stack up behind you.
 It is a law in Alaska. That’s why there are so many turnouts. But don’t hurt yourself trying to pull over where there are no turnouts. We’ll wait for you to get to one.
 And yes almost all of them allow camping as much as you like. A week even. Most don’t say “no overnight camping.”
We’re known to just pull over anyplace we get tired.

And come back the last week of February and the first week of March. Fur Rondy, Iditarod, Ice Castles in Fairbanks, Northern Lights.

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on July 30th, 2010 5:21 pm  
Please don’t forget to give us a tally of the total fuel costs for your trip. It would be appreciated.

▪.  Peggy from Texas on July 30th, 2010 8:57 pm  
Thanks again for your write up of your travels and passing on what you have seen… I’ve said this before that we rode to Alaska twice, two-up on a 1998 Harley 1200 Sportster then a 2009 Harley TriGlide…
Believe it was riding through British Columbia then into Yukon Territory where there were many pullouts where there was a warning ‘not to pull in and/or park’ as there were gas pipes above ground and very dangerous per the signs…
You mention your ride into Skagway and pictures… On August 3, 2009 we rode on our TriGlide from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Skagway, Alaska, USA via Klondike Hwy 2 – through town of Carcross, over the wooden-planked bridge, etc – absolutely awesome…
If you click on our site http://triglide.multiply.com – photos – page 3 – album named 2009-08-03 Whitehorse to Skagway, click on first picture then click on slideshow – 171 pictures… View from the Rear as I took pictures all along the roads we traveled… Then click on album named 2009-08-03 Skagway – click on first picture then slideshow – 45 pictures of Skagway…
What I liked being in Skagway, Alaska, USA was I could use my cell phone to call family in lower 48 and not as an International call which would have been from Canada…
We never worried about the price of gas – always used high test for any of the Harleys – but the gas was a necessity for our travels throughout the country, we didn’t let it stop us from riding…
By the way, I just bought a 32′ Jayco, Class C as I’ll be a full-time RV’r…
Peggy (cubbear)

▪.  Barbara Mull on July 31st, 2010 7:53 am  
I’d like to echo Lynne’s suggestions about timing of a winter trip to Alaska – late Feb, early March. Fur Rendezvous (Rondy) is a 2-week time of carnival in Anchorage. By that time in the winter you usually need some diversion so the events are kind of wacky – like the outhouse race, snowshoe softball, etc. You can see more about Rondy at http://www.furrondy.net/. You can also view the World Championship Dog Sled Race during Rondy – amazing to see how those dogs love running. And Fairbanks is a great place to see the Northern Lights – less city light there. You might try the Aurora Borealis Lodge http://www.auroracabin.com/ or Chena Hot Springs Resort if you’d like a warm soak as well http://www.chenahotsprings.com/ You might also see ice fog (sometimes with a mirage) or sundogs. Just be prepared with lots of warm clothing, including boots. Winter in Alaska is a fine time. Since I moved back to North Carolina I’ve been impressed with how much darker country roads are here at night than they are in Alaska where there’s lots of white, bright snow cover from Oct to April/May.