Report US trip 7/9/1990 to 9/5/1990

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Merrimack, 5-Sep-1990

Do you know what a "Cheechako" is ? If not, you haven't been to Alaska yet. But we didn't know it either, even if we were some. "Cheechako" is an Indian word and means "newcomer". Therefore, they call newcomers to Alaska "Cheechako". But our last report ended in Victoria on Vancouver Island and there was still a long way to Alaska ...

On our way to Port Hardy in the very north of Vancouver Island, we made a side trip to the west coast. We enjoyed a nice afternoon at the beach of the Pacific Rim national park.

Ferry ride from Vancouver to Vancouver Island
Ferry ride to Victoria
Totempole in Victoria on Vancouver Island
Victoria on Vancouver Island
Sand beach at Pacific Rim NP
Sand beach at
Pacific Rim NP
Beach at Pacific Rim NP
Beach at
Pacific Rim NP
Bald Eagle on Vancouver Island
Bald Eagle

On 7/12, we boarded the ferry to Prince Rupert. The ferry left Vancouver Island on a cloudy morning. But soon the clouds started to disappear and we enjoyed a mostly sunny day. For the first two hours, we crossed the open sea and many passengers sat quietly in their seats, trying to avoid the worst. Life returned to some people however, when the captain announced, that there were a few whales ahead. Susanne saw at least the huge tale fin of a wale. As we entered the narrow water street of the inner passage, our boat glided gently through the tiny waves. We enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of the unspoiled coast and the many islands.

Arrival of our ferry at Port Hardy On our trip through the inner passage Sunset during our ferry trip
Ferry ride from Port Hardy to Prince Ruppert

We spent the next day in Prince Rupert, doing some housework. The next four days, we drove the unpaved Cassiar Highway all the way up to Watson Lake and continued on the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse. One night, we spent on a campground called "Mighty Moe's wilderness experience". It was a real wild experience ! When we entered the campground, our first thought was, let's get out of here ! But then, Mighty Moe came out of his little cottage and greeted us nicely. When the old man told us, he had showers and all the comfort we needed, we decided to stay. "First of all, your car needs a shower", Mighty Moe said. And he was right, because our Joker was covered with mud all over. Mighty Moe went down to a little lake, started his pump and handed Reto a hose and a brush. After our car looked like brand new, Mighty Moe showed us our site. We stayed at the edge of the little lake. Because the site was very uneven, Might Moe had already prepared two small boards to place our car on them. Our joker stood never more leveled then that night. After we had parked our car, to our surprise, Mighty Moe placed a piece of carpet in front of our door ! But the most exciting thing was yet to come ... After dinner, we wanted to take a shower. Mighty Moe showed us his washroom. It was a tiny wooden cabin. In front of it was a self-made heater. Mighty Moe heated the water in a barrel over an open flame. In a hose, the hot water flew to the roof of the little cabin. There was another barrel with cold water. Inside, there was a sprinkling nose, like one uses on a watering can, fixed on the ceiling. The two hoses with warm and cold water led to the sprinkling nose and made up a perfect shower. When Susanne opened the door to the washroom, two birds escaped from the small room. They had their nest in the soap dish ! But we had a great shower and an unforgettable experience anyway ...

Cassiar Highway
Cassiar Highway
Our car covered all over with mud on arrival at Mighty Moe's campground
Before cleaning
Our VW van on Mighty Moe's campground after cleaning
After cleaning
Mighty Moe's Campground
Mighty Moe's Campground
Mighty Moe's Office
Mighty Moe's Office
Shower on Mighty Moe's campground
Mighty Moe's shower

In Whitehorse, we found the complete opposite. A Swiss couple, who left Switzerland many years ago, run a campground a few miles outside Whitehorse. We found perfect bathrooms, Swiss-like clean and bright, we even had to take off our shoes to enter them ...

Alaska Highway - Nisutlin Bay Bridge
Nisutlin Bay Bridge
See am Klondike Highway
See am Klondike Highway
Klondike Highway freshly paved
Klondike Highway
freshly paved
Construction area along Klondike Highway
Klondike Highway under construction

On our way to Anchorage, we made a few side trips. The most enjoyable was probably the one to Skagway. Many people consider the road from Whitehorse to Skagway the most terrible thing they have ever seen, but we think, it was pure fun. Even if our Joker was covered over and over with dust and dirt. It was an experience close to the one in Iceland. But here in Alaska, there was only a couple of miles where the road looked more like a field where you would plant your potatoes rather then a highway, while in Iceland, most of the roads look like this. From Skagway, we took a plane to Juneau. It was a day with nothing but blue sky. After a gorgeous day in Alaska's capitol, we had an unbelievable flight back to Skagway. Our pilot made some detours over the mountains and glaciers. The white snow fields where so close, we thought we could touch them with our hands. In the west, the sky was on fire while the sun sunk below the horizon ! It was one of the most memorable experiences of our live.

Skagway, Alaska
Small plane on the airfield at Skagway
Ready for our
flight to Juneau
Flight from Skagway to Juneau across Lynn Canal
Lynn Canal
Juneau, Captitol of Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau
Mendenhall Glacier
View on a glacier on our flight from Juneau to Skagway
Flight over the Coast Mountains in the late evening
Coast Mountains
Sunset over the Alaska Range
Sunset over the Alaska Range

From Skagway, we took the ferry to Haines and followed the Haines Highway back to the Alaska Highway.

Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway
Alaska Pipeline
Alaska Pipeline
Our "Jogi" on the Alaska Highway
Our "Jogi" at full throttle

From Tok, we made another side trip to Valdez. There we joined a cruise which took us to the Columbia glacier. On this eight hours trip, we saw bald eagles, seals and a sea otter.

Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska
Prince William Sound
Bold Eagles in Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska
Bold Eagles
Seals in Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska
Sea Otter in Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska
Sea Otter

After a visit in Anchorage (and its VW-garage) ...

Park in Anchorage, Alaska
City park
Signs with distance indications in Anchorage, Alaska
Signs with distance indications
Husky in Anchorage, Alaska

... and a small side trip to the Kenai peninsula, the highlight of our stay in Alaska awaited us: Denali national park. We spent six days in this extraordinary park. Never before did we see such an untouched wilderness. Every day, we saw grizzlies and caribou. But we also had a chance to observe wolves, foxes and moose. On two days, we hiked across the open tundra, also a new experience, since this was the very first national park, where there were no established trails, but one is allowed to walk wherever one likes. Of course, there are some rules a hiker better follows, otherwise he may become a dinner for bears. But the rangers did a very good job and there were a lot of brochures and newspapers full of advises on how to behave in bear-country. Our closest bear-encounter was approx. 300 to 400 yards, a quite save distance.

Park road in Denali NP
Park road
Shuttle Bus in Denali NP
Shuttle Bus
Susanne and our Jogi on the Teklonika River Campground at Denali NP
Teklonika River Campground
Dall sheep in Denali NP
Dall sheep
Ground squirrel at Denali NP
Ground squirrel
Fox with prey at Denali NP
Fox with prey
Caribou at Denali NP
Wolf at Denali NP
Grizzly at Denali NP
Mount McKinley at Denali NP
Mount McKinley
Top of Mount McKinley at Denali NP
Top of Mount McKinley
Susanne picking blue berries at Denali NP
Picking blue berries
Park ranger at Denali NP
Park ranger
Flower at Denali NP
Park ranger at Denali NP
Park ranger
Undisturbed river bed at Denali NP
River bed
Undisturbed river bed at Denali NP
Caribou in front of Mount McKinley at Denali NP
Mount McKinley
Grizzly at Denali NP
Footprint of a Grizzly at Denali NP
Footprint of a Grizzly
Ground squirrel at Denali NP
Ground squirrel

After Denali national park, we headed to Fairbanks, the northernmost spot on our whole trip. From there, we drove back to Tok. There, we left the Alaska Highway again and took the unpaved road to Dawson city. The road was nice, but at least during a few miles it got a little rough. When we left the U.S., we had to return our permission to stay, because it expired only five days later. When the Canadian customs officer took the white paper from our passport, we hopped, we will get a new one when we wanted to reenter the U.S. two weeks later ...

We spent an amazing night at Diamond Tooth Gerties gambling hall in Dawson city. We lost one dollar but we enjoyed the can-can dancing girls very much. On 08/09 we came back to Whitehorse and spend one more night on the Swiss style campground. During the next five days, 1445 miles of highway waited for us. It was a long and not too exciting drive.

Taylor Highway, Alaska
Taylor Highway
Black bear along the  Alaska Highway
Black bear
CanCan dancing showgirls in Diamond Tooth Gerties Nachtclub at Dawson City
Diamond Tooth Gerties night club
Sign forest near Watson Lake
Sign forest
Sign forest near Watson Lake
A familiar looking sign
Our Joker at mile zero of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek
Mile zero of Alaska Highway

But finally, the Rocky Mountains appeared. We spent two days in Jasper national park. We enjoyed a beautiful hike and drove the scenic icefield parkway. A short stroll brought us to the toe of Columbia glacier and while we hiked over Wilcox pass, we saw dozens of bighorn sheep. We spent the next two days in the adjacent Banff national park. The first day, we hiked around Lake Louise, a spot which was used by Hollywood to shoot Swiss alps scenes many years ago. On 08/18 we arrived in Banff. We hiked up to Sulfur Mountain. On the way down, we took the gondola, made in Switzerland, of course. But even we enjoyed the two Canadian national parks very much, we were looking forward to the national parks in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Canadian government used to run the parks to make money. They provided the visitors with much more comfort then one will find in any national park in the U.S. But we do prefer the American way of national parks much more, where the main concern is the protection of the wilderness, plants and wildlife. We think, people, who cannot spend a few days without hot showers, electricity on every site and a shopping mall nearby should not go to a national park at all ...

Marks indicating where the Athabasca Glacier used to end at Jasper NP
Retreat of the
Athabasca Glacier
Athabasca Glacier at Jasper NP
Athabasca Glacier
Columbia Icefield at Jasper NP
Columbia Icefield
Dall sheep at Jasper NP
Dall sheep
Maligne River at Jasper NP
Maligne River
Elk at Jasper NP

After two days in Calgary, the city, where the Olympic games of 1988 took place, we headed back to the U.S.

Downtown Calgary Tower in Calgary View from the tower in Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

And it was a pleasure to come back. We were greeted by a very friendly officer. She gave us a new permit to stay in the U.S. for another six months. We were afraid, that she might refuse to let us in, because we had no tickets for our flight back home, but she didn't mind. We think, the customs officers in Europe could learn a lot from their American follow workers. America was the first nation ever where the customs officers welcomed us. We spent the days from 08/22 to 08/24 in Glacier national park. Even if the sky was mostly cloudy, we enjoyed some hikes and rented a canoe on lake Mc Donald. We also drove the famous going-to-the-sun road, a quite spectacular highway.

Alpine meadow at Glacier NP
Alpine meadow
Ptarmigan at Glacier NP
Hiddenlake (Logan Pass) at Glacier NP
(Logan Pass)

Then another long drive awaited us. Fortunately, it was interrupted by a visit to Theodore Roosevelt national park. We spent one day in the smaller north unit and two days in the larger south unit. It was there, were a new experience was due. When we left home more then a year ago, we planned to go for a horse ride some day on this trip. For some reason, we both thought, Texas would be the perfect place for such an adventure. But we never made it. But when we found out, that we could participate on a horse ride in Theodore Roosevelt national park, we figured, this was our last chance. On 08/29, we both sat on a horse for the very first time in our life ! It was a beautiful experience. Fortunately, we had real nice horses. They behaved very well and knew the trail much better then we did. The prairie in the Badlands of North Dakota was the perfect scenery for this adventure.

Prairie of Theodore Roosevelt NP
Theodore Roosevelt NP
Badlands at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Sand rock formations at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Sand rock formations
Bison cow with calve at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Bison cow with calve
Snake at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Rabbit at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Prairie dog city at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Prairie dog city
Prairie Dog at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Prairie Dog
Susanne and Reto as cowgirl rsp. cowboy at Theodore Roosevelt NP
Susanne and Reto as cowgirl rsp. cowboy

During the next three days, we drove another 1500 miles toward the east coast. On 09/01, we arrived in Toronto, where we spent Sunday at the harbor front and on top of the Canada-tower.

Downtown Toronto, Canada Canada-Tower at Toronto, Canada View from Canada-Tower of downtown Toronto, Canada
Downtown Toronto

On 09/03, we returned to the U.S. for the very last time on this trip. When we crossed the border to New York, we arrived in the state, in which our trip through the states started 13 months ago. It is hard to believe, that we have spent already more then a year on this continent ! On the way to Merrimack, New Hampshire, we stayed one night near Burlington, Vermont, at the shore of lake Champlain. For some reason, we missed the "green mountain state" on our first visit to New England, but now we entered it as the 39th state on our journey. After the endless flatness of Canada, we were glad to see some hills at last. On 09/05, we arrived at Cheryl's place in Merrimack.

In our next and final report, we will tell you, what we did together with our friends in New England, and how we spent the rest of our time in the U.S. We also will let you know, how we made it home and whether or not we made one last detour ...

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Production note: Images have been taken as slides using a Minolta 7000AF camera with various Kodak films. Images have been digitized using a Canon Scanner and have been processed using Microsoft Image Composer.

USA9008E.html (revised version) / 03-May-2010 (ra) / reto ambühler