The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spakane, Washington

Hi from Spokane:

Odysseus and I came down through the last of British Columbia this morning, passing big ranches at first, and then, later, going through the high desert where they grow all manner of fruit: apples, cherries, grapes-- I could not begin to name them all. Once again I have to say that I am very taken with British Columbia. It is certainly one of the most beautiful and rugged places I've been, yet it also has nice towns and excellent roads. It certainly has a lot going for itself.

Shortly after lunch, Odysseus and I crossed over the border and made our way into upper Washington State. It was rolling prairie up there, with gigantic fields of wheat and hay that stretched as far as the eye could see. Some of them were still green, and others were a beautiful ripe gold. They stretched on mile after mile.

Now I am back in the lower 48 states. I have come full circle, and I can tell you that it feels good to be back -- everything is so much cheaper for one thing. Gas, food, motel rooms -- bargains abound.

And so, my summer's adventure is winding down. Map Quest tells me that I am 12 hours from my son's house in Wyoming. It is Interstate all the way. With any luck I will be there tomorrow evening. A visit there, possibly some motorcycle riding in the Black Hills with my son if he still wants to do that, and then its time to take Odysseus back home to Mt. Carmel. I am certainly looking forward to seeing everyone again.

I thank all of you who followed me on my blog. In case you couldn't tell, I had a marvelous time and learned a lot. I saw tons of wildlife, met many wonderful people, and explored places that I will never get to see again.

Soon it will be back to school for my final year of teaching. In March I plan to ship Odysseus to Germany, and then next summer, if all goes as planned, Odysseus and I will head off to explore more of this beautiful world. I hope you will join me for that trip also.

Saint Augustine once said: "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page."  I have a lot of reading yet to do.

More later,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Indians of British Columbia


I left the ferry in Prince Rupert yesterday  and started across the Coastal Mountains into the interior of British Columbia. I had met Richard, a forest service manager in British Columbia, on the ferry,  and he had worked hard to draw a detailed map of Indian Villages I should visit while I am in B.C.

Richard's map led me to a lava bed which had killed a lot of the indians in the early 1700's. I camped there. In the campsite next to mine was a delightful Indian couple my age. Their English names were Oliver and Debbie. I wish I had taken their picture to show you. They invited me over to their campsite for supper, and we sat and talked for the longest time. Oliver, it turns out, is a chief in his clan, and Debbie, who has traveled all over the world singing and representing her Indian Nation, is considered a princess. How these titles are inherited through the mother’s bloodline, and the many other traditions of their tribe was so interesting, that I sat and listened to Debbie and Oliver for hours.

Following the suggestions of Debbie and Oliver, I visited several Indian Villages and talked with people I met there. I learned a lot about the old ways that they used to do things. I also met several of the highly educated, younger generation, and they each told me the same thing: that the old ways are lost now. Very few people know how to live off the land like their grandparents did.
Now, after a long day of visiting villages, I am in the town of Smithers, British Columbia. This town is very, very nice: One of those places where you would not mind living if you had to.
I am camped at the golf course. I had a shower, prepared a good meal of rice and chicken, and went to bed. It was dark (something unusual), and dry (even more unusual).

During the night the sky put on a  marvelous display of theNorthern Lights. They looked like bright, shifting clouds overhdad. Unfortunately, the summer sun is still too bright to see them as they look in the winter. Perhaps I will have to come back some day.

Now I am brewing up some coffee to go with my breakfast rolls. I am packed up, and Odysseus and I are ready to head down into the desert. They grow a lot of fruit down there I am told. Already I can see the landscape changing. There are ranches now, and they are mowing hay.

I think it is going to take more time to get across this vast province than I expected, so I had best get going.

Bye for now,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Prince Rupert

Hi From Prince Rupert.

I left Glacier Bay by ferry and went back to Juneau through the rain, arriving there late in the evening.  I had a ferry scheduled for the next day. It would take me south to the end of Alaska. But first I had to spend a night and a day in Juneau.

It was not raining when I set up camp at the Mendenhall Glacier Campground just outside Juneau, but during the night the rain started again. There is something hypnotic about rain on a tent roof, but I was not thrilled to wake up to a cold, foggy, misty day. Plus, I had hours stretching before me until it was time to get on the ferry. Needing to wait until late afternoon, I decided to go see Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier.

There was a baby black bear walking around there, cute as can be. The rangers were keeping him separate from the visitors. They said they want him to learn how to be a bear, and so they were trying to prevent his contact with people.

The trip south on the ferry would be two days and two nights, stopping in Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan. I had been told that people set up their tents on the fantail (the back) of the boat each night, and indeed one young couple did that very thing. They were a medical student who was doing an internship in Juneau and his wife. Most people, though, put out their sleeping pads in one of the several lounges for the night. It was warm and dry and quiet in there, and I got an excellent night’s sleep in my little nest.
There were two other bikers on the ferry, both my age. Sue, from Arizona, has outlived two husbands, Now she travels around in an RV, a “toy hauler” that has a garage for her motorcycle. She rode her Harley Trike up to Alaska, and was headed back to Washington where she had left her RV.
John is from Colorado. Like Sue and me, he was finishing up his Alaska trip and pointing the nose of his Yamaha towards home.

The Inland Passage, I overheard a man say, is the greatest poor man’s cruise in the world. We traveled along between the Coastal Mountains on our left  and mountainous islands on our right.  Often we went through narrow channels not much wider than the boat, sharing them with dozens of humpback whales. We could see the large cruise ships from time to time, far out in the ocean. They couldn’t come where we were, but when we got to the larger cities, they would be there too, dumping their passengers out to explore the high priced souvenir stands and pick up trinkets to help them remember their once-in-a-lifetime trip. Ugh!

So now I am in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. It is the end of the line. Alaska is over for this trip. From here I will start the long trip back to my son’s home in Wyoming. Richard, a forester from British Columbia, has been drawing maps for me, helping me plan out stops at native villages along the way.
As I leave Prince Rupert, I will pass over the Coastal Mountain  Range, leaving the rain forest of Southeast Alaska behind, and going into the rain shadow desert on the eastern side. I am quite ready for that desert. Let’s hear it for being dry for a change. Yay!!


Friday, July 13, 2012

I am back in Juneau

I got back to Juneau on the ferry last night. I am camped at the Mendenhal Glacier, the town's main landmark. The campground is very pretty, and only $5.00 (which is right in my price range.)

It rained all night (again) and is very chilly and rainy this morning. I am in a McDonald's enjoying a big breakfast and using their free WiFi.

I catch the ferry to Prince Rupert later today. It is a long way to Prince Rupert (two nights on the ferry). Once there, I will be back in British Columbia and that will be the end of Alaska for me, at least for this trip.

I tried to get a stateroom on the ferry, but they are all booked up. I am told that many people put up their tents on the back deck of the boat and camp there, so I guess that is what I will do too. However, my tent is soaking wet, so I am going to go over to the grocery store across the road from this McDonald's and buy a couple of plastic sacks to put the tent in (It is fine for sleeping in, but I don't want it touching my sleeping bag or sleeping pad in my pack while on the ferry).

I guess I will also buy some food as well, but food on these ferries is quite cheap and very good (and nice and warm too).

I finished my description of Glacier Bay National Park. It is just below this posting.
My next post will probably be from Canada in three days.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Glacier Bay


This is an update to the Glacier Bay post (An update from Windows wiped out my ability to post. It took me quite a while to figure out the problem. Meanwhile, the wifi in Glacier Bay lodge quit working. Sigh)

I'm sitting in the lodge at Glacier Bay trying to do this posting to my blog. I don't think it will work. There is wireless Internet here, but it is very slow. There is absolutely no phone service, so all my communications have to be through my email,

It rained again this morning. It has rained every day since I began this trip a little over a month ago. The people here don't like all the rain, although I don't think any of them would trade places with those back home where records are being set the other way: high temperatures and draught. The rain and cold temperatures here are good for the flowers, which grow in verdant abundance, but not so good for the gardens, which refuse to grow at all. What hath God wrought?

I got to Glacier Bay by ferry from Juneau. This is kind of a new thing. Before the State of Alaska began the ferry runs here three years ago, the only way to come was by private boat or airplane.

I started seeing wildlife as soon as Odysseus and I rode up the steep ramp out of the boat. These bald eagles were all over the beach fighting over fish. There were dozens of them. I was not able to stop and get a good picture. That is one of my goals when I catch the ferry back to Juneau tomorrow.

I drove immediately to Glacier Bay National Park where I checked on lodging. As I suspected, rooms here are terribly expensive ($200 per night). Camping, however, is free and is in a beautiful rainforest down by the beach. Lets see: free camping with bears and rain, or $600 for three nights in a warm room with soft beds. No contest. Remember, my nickname is tightwad.

The money I saved by camping more than paid for the all day boat ride out into Glacier Bay. I had already met the ranger who went out on the boat with us. His name is Kevin, and he has a job with the government which allows him time to travel all over the world (He's not very rich though, since he only works about three months a year. Still, he was a really cool guy, and a biology major like me.

The first thing he showed us was this island full of seals. They were a lazy and sleepy bunch, but also very noisy. Maybe they are big snorers.  Nah--just kidding.

There were birds all over the place. Here are two of my favorites. Try to guess what they are--
They are puffins; horned puffins to be exact. There were tufted puffins there too, and I got their picture as well, but I won't bore you with with pictures of them-- when you've seen one puffin you've seen the lot.

Soon we came to a rocky beach where we let off some of the sea kayakers we had on board. They were planning a week of exploring out there. We had just seen a mama grizzly with two cubs (one black and the other silver--very cute) and also a pair of wolves, but nobody seemed too concerned. Brave people, these kayakers.

Just a few minutes later we saw a whole herd of mountain goats cavorting around on the sheer cliffs. I think you or I would have fallen off into the bay. Since none of the goats looked too wet, I guess they don't fall into the water much.
Soon, we were to the main event of the day: the glaciers. Noisy, booming things they were, calving off big chunks, dropping them into the water, and making huge waves. Somebody took my picture with the glacier in the background. I took some pictures of the icebergs falling off the glacier, but it turns out that still pictures of falling ice are rather much of a bore, not at all like actually being there watching it happen.

So here is a picture of me instead (I bet most people would rather see ice falling off the glacier :-)

These orcas were playing all around the boat. They were a male and female according to our on-board ranger. I wonder what orcas play. It can't be hide-and-seek I think. The ranger said they were feeding, and I guess he should know. Like children, they would not pose for me (Bad Orcas!) so I apologise for the poor quality of the picture.  The same could be said of the humpback whale we saw. I could not get a good picture of him either.

As I said, I am camping here in Glacier Bay Park. This area is a rainforest, all drippy and mossy. I have enjoyed walking the trails. This is a picture of a sphagnum bog close to my tent.

What would you think if you came around a bend in the trail and saw this guy carved into a tree?

It is a Tlingit Indian totem. It means "This trail belongs to the Eagle Clan". The Indians came and talked with us one night at the Park. Very interesting.

Now it is time for me to catch the ferry back to Juneau. Tall with you later.


Stay tuned

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hi from Juneau, Alaska

Odysseus and I rode the Marine Highway Ferry System from Haines to Juneau last night. It turns out that riding those ferrys is not all that expensive, and it is the only way to get to the cities in Southeast Alaska. Imagine, a capital city that the governor can only get to by ferry or flying.

Here is the ferry we rode. When it came our turn, I was to ride Odysseus down that blue ramp into the car deck and then tie him down so he couldn't fall over as the ship moved with the waves.

We were right at the front of the line but, as usual, we were the very last to get on board. That's OK though. Last on; first off.

These two are the rarest of all animals, the Bicycularis idiosis.  I saw people riding heavily loaded bicycles all over Alaska, just huffing and puffing up the mountains, miles from anywhere, and making hardly any time. I remember when Patrice and I did exactly the same thing on our bicycles in the British Isles years ago. Now, when we see someone traveling by bike, we just shake our heads and say "never again".

I have used a lot of superlative adjectives in describing this summer's trip, but all of them fall a little short when applied to Alaska's Inland Waterway. I sat in the observation lounge at the front of the ship and watched in awe, with sheer mountains on the left, covered with snow and dripping waterfalls, and mountainous islands on the right, equally beautiful. Everyone kept an eagle eye out for sea otters, whales, eagles . . . . I wish I had pictures to do it justice.

It was nearing midnight when we got to Juneau and I got Odysseus off the ferry. I had booked the Alaska Hotel in town sight unseen from the Juneau travel brochure. I had a terrible time negotiating the one-way streets to find the place. I finally located it in the downtown tavern district. I parked in front, looked at the drunks standing around, bottles in their hands, and immediately started having second thoughts about the historic Alaska  Hotel. To get into the place, I had to go through the packed saloon. The night manager showed me my room, a dreary place with throbbing music from the bar coming up through the floor. I left at once, and started hotel hopping until I found a cheap place ($178.00) a few miles away. Whew.

But here is the same area in the daytime. It is a mecca of shops and ice cream stores for the tourists off the huge cruise ships in the harbor.

And here is one of the huge cruise ships. I am in awe at how enormous those things are. It holds more people than the population of my home city, Mt. Carmel.

The sea plane was one of several I watched take off and land in the harbor, ferrying people out to see the icefield that hangs over Juneau. I am camped at one of the tongues of the icefield, Mendenhall Glacier. It is very pretty there, and only $5.00 per night, including showers, so I am happy.

Juneau is in the big tempertate rainforest that covers southeast Alaska. I spent a good part of the day hiking in the rainforest. It is hard to get pictures in there, but I did get a pretty good shot of this guy. Do you know what he is?

Give up? He is a Cedar Waxwing. Don't get to see many of them at home, and those we do see look a little different.

I can't resist putting another shot of a wild animal on here for you. Yep, it's me. I'm up on a hill overlooking the city. Time for me to put myself to bed. I have to be at the ferry no later than 5 a.m. tomorrow to catch my ride to Glacier Bay. At least it is dark a little while at night now, so I plan to sleep well. Hope the bears stay away. I plan to keep my bear spray handy.

Next report will be when I get back from Glacier Bay. So, bye for now.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Haines, Alaska

Hi From Haines, Alaska,

I drove down here from Fairbanks in a fast two day trip. Much of the drive was the same as I have reported on in the past. The last 200 miles was through part of Yukon Territory and a little bit of British Columbia. When I checked in at the Alaska border after coming out of British Columbia, the border crossing official wanted to talk motorcycles, so that was kind of a break in an otherwise long day.

Those last two days were way up on the top of the world. The mountains were there, certainly, but it was as if I was right in the peaks. Rather pretty.

I did take a picture up there, but it is on my iphone and won't upload. So, no pictures in this report.

It rained all night, and has been raining all day. The forecast calls for this pattern to continue throughout the next week.

I went to the ferry terminal a little while ago and booked passage to Juneau, Alaska for this evening. Tomorrow, if all goes as planned, I hope to go to Glacier Bay. I should have lots of things to tell you about that place, and lots of pictures too.

I am in the public library at Haines now, just typing away.

More later,

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happpy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July from Seward, Alaska.

I am on the Kenai Peninsula, a land of fjords, bays, and mountains that march right down into the sea. I rode down here from Anchorage, coming along the ocean and watching out for bears.

When it came time to camp the first night, a man asked me if I had a dog (obviously not) or a gun (uh, no). He suggested I go way up a gravel road to an old gold mine, and not to camp at the bear infested glacier.

I was surprised when I got to the abandoned gold mine to camp, because there was a wedding going on: bluegrass music, people in tuxedos and gowns, drinks in their hands. I found some other tent campers, and set up, anxious about the bears.

The next day I went to Wrangel Alaska. To get there one has to go through a narrow railroad tunnel. It is two and a half miles long, and they only let cars through every half hour.  They made me go last because there are sometimes motorcycle accidents in there. These happen, I guess, when the motorcycle tires get over into the railroad tracks.  I had no problems with the tunnel, but I found that the town itself has nothing at all to recommend it. There was a gigantic cruise ship docked there, and it was disgorging hundreds of passengers. I bet they were surprised at the dismal little town.

Here is the entrance to the tunnel. I am waiting my turn to go through.

The entire peninsula is mountainous. The feet of the mountains reach across the valleys, U shaped  because of glaciation. The mountains' shoulders are green with spruce, willow, columbine, and many other plants. Snow reaches clear down to the valley floor, and makes thousands of waterfalls as it melts. I think it is cloudy much of the time. It certainly has been since I got here. All the mountains have their heads in the clouds.

On top of the mountains, and covering the entire peninsula, there is a gigantic ice field. I wanted to see it, and hiked a long way up into the mountains through the snow to do that.

I hiked for hours, going higher and higher until I got into the clouds. Once up there, I realized I would not be able to actually look out across the ice field. I was disappointed because it must be something like looking across a vast sea made of ice.

I did see a lot of interesting things though, so the hike was not at all a waste of time.

This little guy was very interested in me. They call him a Marmot here, but personally I think he is a Groundhog. After a while he got tired of me and went into his home under the ground.

I wanted to show you this picture of a tiny lupine because it is covered in ice. How would you like to try growing in such conditions?

Hiking here was like walking through a garden. Pictures do not at all do it justice.

I am in the town of Seward, Alaska now, camping in one of their city parks. This town is marvelous. It is about the same size as Mt. Carmel, my home town, and it is a very popular fishing and sight-seeing destination. People come here to fish, explore the fjords, sea kayak, climb on the glaciers,  hunt, and do much more.

They are celebrating the 4th of July today, and the town is packed. They started at midnight last night, shooting off fireworks into the rainy sky. Today, they are having a massive race from main street, up into a mountain, and back. The racers come back down covered in mud, many of them bleeding, and all of them having a good time. It is fun to listen to the announcer tell where the racers come from; kids and women and men from all over Alaska.

The big parade starts in a few minutes. I want to see that, and then maybe I will head back to Anchorage. I have to pick up a part for Odysseus, my motorcycle, and then from there head down toward Haines.

More later,

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I am in Anchorage

Hi from Anchorage, Alaska

The three guys from Indiana, the Swiss guy from Wisconsin, and I drove our motorcycles from Fairbanks to Denali National Park Thursday. Denali is west of Fairbanks, about half way to Anchorage. Denali is always a highlight of any trip to Alaska because it is the highest mountain in North America, and one of the highest in the world.

Once we got to Denali National Park, we set up camp and promptly signed up to take a bus trip to see the park. The bus is the only way people are allowed to visit the park, and it takes people a long way, dropping them off if they want to hike and explore.

We were disappointed that we could not see the actual Denali Mountain. As usually happens on almost every day of the year, the sky was cloudy and the big mountain was covered. We were able to see quite a lot of the Alaskan Range of mountains, though.  They looked like this------

These caribou antlers were just lying there on the ground. I couldn't resist adding them to the picture. They came off one of these guys-------

He was just trotting along trying to look cool, but I think he looks rather motley myself. I guess he will look better by Autumn when he will need to impress the women caribou. Caribou, apparently, do not shed their antlers like the whitetail deer back home do. The reason I think this is because every set of antlers I found in Denali still had the skull attached. Quite a thing to lose your head over.

This big boy was sleeping just off the road, but he decided to get up and amble around a little. Look at how wet he is. I would get up too if I were being rained on like he was.

The next day, it was time for Bob from Wisconsin to head home. His vacation was over. While he headed back east, the rest of us continued on to Talkeetna. This funky little town is where all the mountain climbers start from. They fly from there and land on a glacier on the mountain, and then start their climb from the plane. It usually takes them about three weeks to do the total climb.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when I would have wanted very much to climb that mountain too. Sigh!

They say that only about 16% of the people who visit Denali get to actually see it, but look-- there it is.

I took this picture beside the river that flows along at the end of the main street in Talkeetna. Now I belong to the 16% club!  Wow!  How far away would you say that mountain is in this picture? Give up?  It is 60 miles away.  Big, isn't it. It is over 20,000 feet high. That's almost 4 miles high. Wow, again!

It was lucky for me that I ran into those guys from Indiana because they have friends who have friends who have --- In other words, they have connections everywhere. One of these connections has a lodge in Talkeetna and graciously let us use it.  We did laundry. Slept late. Explored the artsy little town. It was great. 


Today, the Indiana crew had to start thinking about heading back home and back to work and responsibilities. As for me, I am moving on down the highway. I left them studying their maps and discussing their plans, and I headed on for the seacoast.

So here I am, in Anchorage, beside the ocean. It is time for me to be thinking about where I am going to stay tonight. Time to close down and start looking on the internet for a campground. Tomorrow, I am off to Seward.

More later,