Thursday, August 13, 2015

Valdez-Tok-Destruction Bay-Haines

We left Valdez on our way to Haines, Alaska, but you have to take a rather circuitous route to get there!  Since we're now in the segment of our tour in southeast Alaska, unless you go by ferry to get from one place to another, it's necessary to come back into Canada, drive down a ways, and then cross the border back into Alaska.  So, our route took us from Valdez back to Tok, Alaska, then back to Destruction Bay, Yukon, and then from Destruction Bay to Haines.  So, a lot of driving, but for the most part it was beautiful driving.  Coming out of Valdez, ultimately we got back on the Alcan to go into Tok.  This part of the Alcan is not the greatest, but not too terrible either.  We had reasonably decent weather on this day's drive, and got into Tok while it was still light, of course--LOL!  As we neared Tok, I looked longingly at yet another wonderful paved bike path along the road for the last several miles,  just so impressed with all such bike paths we've seen all over this state.  So, after supper, I took the bike out and rode it to the end of the path, about 8 1/2 miles out of town.  While I didn't think I was going down super steep hills, I was aware that I was averaging speeds several mph faster than my normal cruising speed, so I suspected it would be a little slower going on the way back to the campground.  And I was right!  Turned out the trip out was pretty much all downhill grade, plus I discovered as soon as I turned around that I had enjoyed a fairly brisk tailwind--which is to say my return trip was all uphill and into the wind!  But it was a good way to end the day after driving all day.  The campground also had a young man singing and playing the guitar in the meeting room when I got back and we enjoyed listening to him.

The second day, though, from Tok to Destruction Bay, was probably the most challenging day we've had on the Alcan, hands down.  It had been difficult on the way from Destruction Bay to Tok a month ago, when we were first coming into Alaska, but it was really much much tougher this time around--lots of pretty significant frost heaves, plus on the unpaved portion, miles and miles of washboard and pot holes.  I had driven much of this at 15 mph on the way up, but this time it was more like 5 mph!  Once we got to the campground, we learned that though the road construction crews had been working feverishly to improve this section of the road, it had rained for 10 days straight and washed out all they had done.  They still hope to get it regraded enough to get a subsurface coat down and then next summer to pave it--we'll see.  Fortunately our rig made it through with no damage--at least no visible damage.  Some other rigs were not so lucky and the tailgunner has been working to get them road worthy again before we leave Haines.  Anyway, we stayed at the same campground in Destruction Bay as we had previously, and the owner had a good singer for a performance after dinner.  Some of you may remember the group Up With People from a number of years ago, and this guy used to be with them.  He played a mixture of rock, folk and country and it was pretty good.

The third day we drove from Destruction Bay, Yukon back into Alaska and came to Haines.  And we were rewarded with a section of road where they had gotten the paving done, so it was a welcome relief from the previous day's drive.  It was a lovely drive, too, and we never ceased to be amazed at how vast and varied the landscape of Alaska is.  Even though there are lots of places where you are surrounded by mountains and glaciers, it's still different in lots of ways, some pronounced and some more subtle.  But it is always an adventure and we have so very much enjoyed the driving, seeing all the beautiful scenery, even when the driving has been difficult.  Just an amazing place.  We are so thankful to be able to be here and experience all that we have on this trip.  Alaska's motto is The Last Frontier, and every day it's brought home again just why they say that.

Trisha really does a marvelous job taking pictures while we're driving, under some challenging conditions--when the coach is moving it's really tough to get shots into focus, and often, just when she frames the perfect shot, we either hit a bump or some trees suddenly block out the scene.  Despite all this she has taken some spectacular shots.  While it's a broken record with me to say that none of these photos can come anywhere close to showing the true magnitude and breadth of this scenery, it's at least a taste of how the quickly changing weather patterns can produce so many different scenes and effects.  Just love the way the clouds are hanging so low here, with the peaks of some of the mountains poking through!

And here, with a slightly different setting on the camera, the effect is dramatically different of this shot of the braided rivers, with all the glacial silt forming these little islands

And, even though it was clear just a few moments before these two shots, suddenly we rounded a curve and saw this low-lying blanket of fog, right across the road!  Eerie!

The glaciers never cease to mesmerize

And then the sun comes out!

Love the shades of the greens and yellows of the marsh grasses around the small lakes and ponds
And the reflections of the mountains in the water!
You can see the leaves turning on the hardwoods.  Fall is basically just the month of August, so it's a pretty rapid process
Oh those reflections!

And a cute, tiny church alongside the road
Didn't Trisha do a fantastic job of getting all these colors, plus the reflection of the clouds in the water!

And here we are on the rough and tumble section of the Alcan between Tok and Destruction Bay--the results of 10 straight days of rain on the washboards and potholes on this road were just terrible!
But here we are back in the same campground in Destruction Bay, Yukon where we stayed a month earlier on the way up to Alaska
After dinner, Lauren, the owner of the campground, had a singer do a show for us in the meeting room.  Here Dee and Ray are dazzling us all with their dance moves!!

Paul, Lin and Jack are enjoying the singer, a former member of the group Up With People
 Julie and Scott, our friends from Arizona and Oregon--and Maddie's parents!!  We were sad that they had to leave the tour early from here in order to make it back to the lower 48 for some family commitments.  We had such fun getting to know them.
 I had put the camera on the table behind us during the performance, and sneaky ole' Lee took this picture!
 Dawn at Destruction Bay
 It was a bit chilly in the early morning, so we got some shots of Sophie and Dazey out on their morning walks in their long johns!  Emma and Maynard had given Sophie a pair so she and Dazey could be cozy together.  We'd never seen anything like these, as Dazey has several different pairs--they are so good since all 4 legs are covered, with a design to allow the dogs to do their necessaries without any fuss--so cute!

 Back on the road again, out of Destruction Bay to Haines

 Early morning sunlight on the water!

 It was a gloriously sunny day for this beautiful drive!

 Focus was tough on this one, but we're trying to show the difference in the fireweed from when we were first in this area nearly a month ago.  Now the blooms are off the fireweed, some of the stems are still red, but some are starting to turn into white, cottony like fuzz.  Sometimes it still has a red cast, but not nearly as brilliantly red as when the blossoms are on the plants

 But we're getting some beautiful yellows and greens

 Just love this!

 Just love these marsh grasses with the different shades of yellows and greens!

 And Santa just keeps on driving!  But see how Trisha caught the reflection of the mountain in the water!!  So cool!

What looks like snow on the side of the road is actually a ground cover of white flowers!

 See the fall leaves?  Better look quickly or they'll be gone soon!

 Statues of some Dall sheep and mountain goats at Haines Junction
 Our friend from Tavares, Florida, Jack, outside the Village Bakery in Haines Junction
 This is one of the most amazing bakeries we've seen--look at these wonderful loaves of bread--we got a loaf of basil/cream cheese bread, which was so delicious!!
 They have picnic areas outside the bakery

 Maynard put this tag on their rig--and she is the most petite woman you'll ever see!  But her heart and spirit are as big as the Alaska outdoors!

 Just wow!

 And wow again

Glaciers, glaciers everywhere you look!

 Here's a plane taking off from a small airstrip alongside the road
 Not exactly Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport!  But so typical of Alaska, with these little airstrips all over

 With just these cones to mark the runway

 We stopped at a pull out along the way, and met a French couple with their RV they shipped over for their Alaskan vacation.  The woman was so taken with Sophie and Dazey when we were walking them, she came out of her rig to meet the dogs, and showed us a picture of her dog she had just lost several months earlier.  Even though her English was limited, we all spoke the common language of dog love!  She was fascinated with the big rigs we had, telling us how they only have these smaller rigs for the narrow roads in Europe.

 Glaciers everywhere!

Above, fall colors!

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