Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yukon, Ho!

We finally landed at Haines Alaska yesterday just before noon and after getting something eat decided to spend the night and get an early start the next morning. As the day wore on I was struck by the absolute beauty of the place. It is simply gorgeous. I walked to the local auto parts store to pick up some tire chains to ensure we made it to Haines Junction today. As I walked back to the hotel I remember thinking, "Man, what a beautiful sunset. Awesome! Unbelievable! Hey wait, it's only 2:30pm!" So it was that we settled in for a long winters nap when no one could sleep. Keeping 4 kids and 2 dogs mentally intact in a small hotel room overlooking complete blackness is no small task. But we did it. And after getting everyone to bed later that evening we got some rest in preparation for an early start today.

This morning, we linked up with another couple headed for Anchorage and began the slow caravan to wherever we could get by evening. The roads were icy so I put on my chains and proceeded to head for the summit. All went well until we broke the 25 MPH mark. At that time the hounds of hell began to scream and they sounded remarkably like something trying to rip my front fender off from underneath. Living in the south for so long I'd forgotten that besides assisting with traction, tire chains produce approximately 3 billion decibels. And once I got past screaming to communicate with my wife riding shotgun, I began to enjoy the scenery.

Remember the time you were driving through the Yukon and you happened upon about 25 Bald Eagles roosting in trees and flying and feeding beside a nearby frozen river? Me too! That was this morning and it was surreal. And it was just the beginning of a day filled with new sights that I have only heretofore dreamt of. We saw Eagles, sled dog teams, scenic vistas that would make Ansel Adams stop in his tracks. We even saw some wild Canadians in their natural habitat. A very exciting day. We passed trough towns like Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, and Tok. All these places make you wonder why anyone would put a town there! At one point the gauge in our car said that it was 28 degrees below zero outside. That's not a real measurement until you actually experience it. We stopped and got out out for a second when it was a balmy -15 degrees and I actually felt my pancreas begin to harden. Within a few seconds, I couldn't feel my brain! So we jumped back in the car, cranked the heater, and within 3 hours began to thaw.

Finally we pulled into Tok, AK just in time to get dinner at the Grumpy Griz Cafe where they serve a pretty mean chicken fried steak. After dinner we got a hotel room, unloade the trailer and got busy getting ready for bed. As I think back on the sights and events of today, one lesson comes clear, rolling across the Yukon. At 28 degrees below zero, nothing in a U-Haul trailer is safe. Shampoo, hand lotion and even air freshener freeze solid. So, tomorrow we head on into Anchorage. With any luck, we'll arrive with semi-gelatinous toothpaste.


Burt said...

Wow, I didn't realize I'm in the tropics here in eastern Kentucky. I thought it was darned nippy here this morning at 26 degrees.

Be safe up there!

Paul Lynn said...

Great to see you back in blogging action. You were missed.


Liz said...

Enjoy Alaska, I've been here five years now and hearing of your experiences through fresh eyes remind me why I'm here. Yeah, hard to believe that you eventually will get used to seeing bald eagles en masse and moose in the front yard. You'll love it and if I ever run into you on Ft. Rich I'll stop and say hi.

Sean from DocintheBox said...

Brrr! Stay safe and try to keep warm up there Brad, I'm off on my next mideast adventure. Have a great new year!

Cami said...

That's so funny! Yesterday when it was -12 here with the wind chill, my husband said, "We should put the ice cream outside!" And what you said you saw, "wild Canadians in their natural habitat," I thought of our mall; we have a great view of the bridges to and from Canada from the south windows of our house. The license plates are always half Canadian here. That's good now, actually, since their dollar is worth more than ours now! Anyway, keep up the descriptions as you can; it makes us all feel like we're there!

Carol said...

I just cannot imagine snow and the extremes cold temperatures that you speak of..I just adore looking at photos of snow, especially now as It is the middle of summer In Australia.
It all looks so lovely.

auto parts said...

we went to Haines a while ago We were advised we might find a motel one hundred miles to the West at (G) Haines Junction. Since the sun was still high in the sky and it was only 9:00 p.m., we drove west. We reached Haines Junction where if we went south we could arrive in Skagway, Alaska where the road ended. We wanted to take the road to the north, but first enquired about motel accommodation. Not a room to be had. Next morning was to be a bicycle race and all rooms were reserved for competing riders and their teams. It was 11:00 p.m. but the sun was up in the sky for another hour. To pitch a tent was not a pleasurable experience this late so we pulled into a little rest area, of which there were many along the way, and fell asleep on reclined truck seats with towels and jackets hung over windows to keep out the bright light. Since this little town was at high elevation and a mountain range was immediately to the west which included Mt. Logan, Canada's highest mountain at 20,200 feet, we became cold as soon as the sun set. At 3:00 a.m. I awoke shivering and started the truck motor for heat. It was already light outside. I said to Eleanor,
"We may as well drive; you never know what we might see."

A half hour later I saw a grizzly bear and two nearly grown cubs near the road, Eleanor was dozing so I woke her up and she grabbed her camera. I did a U-turn and then did another one as we passed the bears once more. At 3:30 a.m. it was bright enough to take pictures! The bears had moved away but were still close enough to photograph. Mamma bear was HUGE. We kept driving hoping to see other animals but without luck. Eleanor did get some pictures of the moon chasing the sun around some big mountains.