Day 37. Olympic National Park and Vancouver, WA

We drove around the western part of the park and turned to the Hot National Rain Forest.  Carl got his Jr Ranger pin and patch and I took a small hike.  This is another place I really want to head back to and visit.  This park has a discovery trail for bikes and tons of hikes and overnight options.  One campground across from where we camped, is beneath ancient Cedar, Hemlock, and oaks covered in moss and mushrooms.  

A view into the lush rain forests in Olympic NP.

We stopped a couple of times along the road, first at a giant cedar tree and then at the beach.  We stayed at the beach for about an hour checking out the cool tide pool creatures, rocks and driftwood.  The Pacific is cold, but nothing like the Arctic Ocean.  

Sea creatures exposed by the low tide.

About an hour further down the road we stopped at a roadside diner called Dino’s Diner.  I got the special of fish, shrimp, and fries and it was great.  Carl loved his burger.  We checked out an interesting mercantile next door that had everything from food, beverages, fishing gear, to muffin baking pans.  The interesting thing was that it was built on a slope and one side was several feet higher than the other and the floor was sloped in the store.  

Dino’s Diner daily special. Cod, Shrimp and fries.

We decided to turn inland instead of continuing down the 101 and got to our friend. Rich’s, house about 6PM.  We talked for a while and caught up for many hours.  Rich fixed some light dinner and then we all headed to bed around midnight.  

Day 36 – Whistler to Olympic National Park.

We had a bit of time to get laundry done and stock up with some supplies before check out.  We left town about 10:30 AM and headed for the US border.  It was raining all the way down into Vancouver, BC and the fog and rain provided some amazing views of the coast.  We made our way though the city of Vancouver and then found the line to the US border.  

May these gates never close… USA

The wait was listed ad 70 minutes so we grabbed some beverages and made friends with the locals.  I learned some interesting things about Canadians in line; they are pleasant and polite when you meet them and are generally apologetic, but put them in a queue headed for the border and if you give them 5 fee of space in between you and the car in front and they will push and shove and cut right in without a hint of a wave, thank you, or sorry.  Interesting Canadian characteristic.  

The 70 minutes turned into 90 and we finally found ourselves at the border.  The agent decided to use me for some training and tried to show the other agent where you can hide cocaine in an FJ Cruiser.  Glad I was not transporting any.  

Campground at the ferry port.

We continued south into Washington and turned west to catch a ferry across the waterways at Port Townshend.  From there it was about 2 more hours of beautiful forest and coastal roads before entering Olympic National Park.  We drove around Crescent Lake, which was incredibly beautiful in the rainforest, and then found a great site deep in the rainforest on an old logging FS road.  The mosquitos are tiny here and not really a bother.  We hung out, drank some beer and good rum, and then turned in around midnight.   It actually gets dark here around 10:30.

Camping in the Olympic National Park

Day 35 – Whistler Bike Park

I woke up early and headed to the truck to pay for the parking. We could not park the truck un the hotel lot due to the height and the library parking around the corner was $30 per day. We found open parking for $10 per day in the main lots, so I parked there. Pay is only 8am – 5pm, so I had to get it paid. We moved the truck closer to the hotel in the process.

Lines for the park.

I replaced my rear brake pad since they were getting thin and I didn’t want those to be sketchy on the hill. We were going to get breakfast at a local shop, but the lines were incredibly long, so we headed back and just made oatmeal and coffee back at the truck. The bike park opened at 10 am so I moseyed on over about 9:30 to get my ticket and get started.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park is world renowned for its trails and fun. It also hosts a Crankworks event and a world cup race. I took the easy trail down the first time to get a feel for the mountain. It was really easy and pretty fun. THe next time I moved to the B-Line intermediate trail. Steeper, challenging, and lots of burms and jumps, this trail is really fun. The trail was washboarded a bit, but still was great.

The lines were getting long and I had to wait 20 minutes to get on the third run. It was starting to rain, so when I got to the top, I took the second lift to get to the second ridge 2500 feet higher. That lift is 2x longer and I decided at the top to take the intermediate trail called Blue Velvet. This trail was wider than the b-line below, but it was FAST and STEEP with some incredible jumps. I still was not ready to get my wheels too far off the ground so I did my best to keep the speed down. By now the trails were sufficiently wet that the mud rooster tails were thick.

Riding up the lift for the 3rd time.

It took me about an 40 minutes to get all the way down to the bottom. By then the lines were almost gone. I guess rain and mud thin out the tourist bikers. I made another run up to the mid level and took the Crank It Up trail. This was a bit more technical than B-Line but had a lot of great burms. At the bottom I decided to get lunch and headed to the truck to cook some soup.

Upper lift to the summit.

That afternoon I did probably another 8 runs down the hill on many trails. I managed to do a black diamond trail that Whistler is famous for, the A-Line. Now that trail is really good. It is wide, fast, has great and fast turns and tons of table-top jumps. I rode this trail several times and by the end I was jumping confidently, although not over a couple of feet high. There is one part that has a jump, and then cascades down a 10 story step drop into another jump. FUN.

Trees versus slope.

I quit about 6 PM and headed back to the hotel after washing my bike and myself in the public wash rack. It tool several washes and showers to get all the dirt from the hair and clothes. Carl bought some KFC and then baked a frittata. I made it to about 10 and then headed to bed. What a great day.

2010 Winter Olympic Mascot

Day 34 – Cow patch to Whistler

We are making our way south and getting closer to the Whistler. Today it should ge only about 6 hours of drive to Whistler. The plan is to get there and get some lift tickets and then start riding. The drive in southern BC is a lot of farming and forestry. We passed many locations where trees were being loaded into barges for sale southward or overseas (Stewart) or actually processed locally. In one location there was a whole valley filled with rows and rows of rough-cut lumber.

Farming and Timber are the industries in this part of BC

As we got farther south towards Whistler, we entered a steep mountain range with super steep 12-15% grades. It was so beautiful going in and out of the clouds above the crystal clear streams and old growth pines. At the other side was the town of Pemberton, and low and behold, a brewery sign. They were not open until 3, but were open enough to sell a couple of bottles and we sat on their patio and I enjoyed a great IPA.

We saw a brewery sign and decided to stop.

We arrived early into Whistler and attempted to get a camp spot but there was nothing available. After looking at the potential free roadside camping, we scored a great room at the Alpenglow hotel for $100 per night. It had a kitchen, fireplace, and balcony and 3 beds. Of course the shower was the best since it had been a couple of days for me and several more for Carl.

A happening tourist town, Whistler BC

We checked out the local shops and restaurants and then grabbed a drink and some food. I decided not to get on the lift due to the late hour and just do a whole day on July 5. The lift was only $52 (American) so I purchased online. We had a few more beers along our tour of the place, and then went back to the hotel for rest.

In for a burger for dinner in Whistler, BC

Day 33 – Marathon day across BC

There is not a lot that we want to see in this portion of the country and are making it a marathon day.  We left around 7 AM and then headed south east and then finally turned south.  We did stop in a couple of towns to get some repair parts for the tent and of course hot dogs at Costco in Prince George.

Woke up in Gravel Pit wild camping.

Some highlights of today was that we saw 4 black bears and one grizzly bear.  I kind of got a picture of the grizzly but he was not too ready to pose.  He already had a tag on his ear, and if I remember what one of the rangers told us, they get 1 tag when they are interacting badly with humans and have to be moved.  The second tag is more of a bad-bear danger warning, and if it happens a third time the bear is removed permanently.  I am not sure how much is true of that bear, but apparently he has been tagged for some reason.

This is a black bear even though he is brown.
This is the grizzly, but he didn’t wait around for a photo.

This is logging and lumber country here.  We have passed multiple processing plants as we traveled south.  There are stacks and stacks of rugs cut boards that go on for hundreds and hundreds of yards.   The biggest so far has been in Quesnel.  Very impressive.  

Throwing in a line at a road stop.

We ended the night after driving about 700 miles today and camped at another iOverlander suggested campsite.  It was a cow patch along the road near a ranch. The mosquitos were thick so we ate quickly and headed to bed.

We found the largest fly rod and reel in Canada.

Day 32 – Dease Lake to Hyder, AK

We filled up this morning at the Tin Chicken gas stop, grocery store, outfitter, and breakfast joint.  This was the HIGEST price we have had to pay for gas so far.  It was $1.50 Canadian per liter, which translates to about $4.32 per gallon. BC is noted for the highest cost gas in Canada.

The Tin Chicken Gas, Grocery, Food, and hardware store.

We met a young couple in a 4Runner that are doing some overloading on their way up to Anchorage where he is working with some clients.  They had a nice custom drawer system and a fridge in the back and a Alucab tent on top.   And then a guy from Sacramento pulled up in a nice older land cruiser.  He showed us his work on the vehicle that included a fridge and sink inside the back and had a fold out bed.  The upgrades also included a Diesel engine conversion and he said he now gets 24-26 mpg.  Sure would be nice to get those….  35% cost cut in fuel on this trip.  That would be nice.

This cool land cruiser conversion to diesel gets 24mpg

We made it to Stewart about 1 PM local time and took a look at the port town.  It has some beautiful places and is a quaint community.  I would like to definitely return here and stay at the local inn and bed and breakfast.  The buildings were easy 1900’s but inside were modernized and clean.  I had a chance with the LTE service to talk to my wife, Kristina, and we had a great conversation.  It was really cool because the town had a 1 mile boardwalk path over the estuary so I got to view the grasslands and marshes of the estuary.  I actually saw some salmon yearlings (I cannot remember the names) in the river pools.

Bear glacier near Steward, British Comumbia

Carl and I tried to get a bite to eat, but the restaurant that had an Open sign was actually closed so we just made lunch out of the back of the truck.  I used the last of the pork tenderloin, a spicy sausage, noodles and tomato soup to make a delicious concoction.

Steward, BC

We headed across the unmanned border into Alaska again (for the last time) into the town or Hyder.  I is labeled “the friendliest ghost town in Alaska”.  We drove through to the wildlife viewing platform, but since the salmon are not running for a couple more weeks, nothing was there.  Apparently this is the place to go to watch the black and grizzly bears catch and eat the salmon headed up for spewing.  Oh well.

A very nice hotel in Steward, BC

We continued up the road, which turned to dirt, and then back into Canada.  We drove the 18 miles or so up the road to points above the Salmon glacier, which is the fifth largest in North America.  It is impressive to say the least.  I took a few moments to just feel the mass of ice below me and of course took lots of pictures.  

Salmon glacier, BC. 5th largest in Canada

I decided to ride my bike down the hill after some suggestion from Carl.  I suited up and got my bike out and rode down the 3000 feet elevation road to the bottom.  About 1/3 of the way into it, a black bear was in the road so I slammed on my brakes.  He didn’t want to go into the bushes and after several minutes, sauntered out of my way.  About that time Carl came up in the truck and provided blocking from the bear as I continued down.  I rode fro about 45 minutes to the bottom and wanted to get the bike cleaned in the river.  As I was looking for a good spot, another black bear was blocking the road, so I just took the bike apart, loaded it into the truck and we got out of dodge.

Just a cool bear trying to have a snack along the road.

On our way out of Hyder, Carl found a group of folks convened in a garage, so we stopped to speak to the.  Well about 2 hours later, some beer, tons of laughs, and hand shakes, we decided to head back on the road southward.  

And finally, finally, on our way back we saw our first grizzly on the side of the road.  We couldn’t get a good picture, but man was he a big guy.  We hope to see more, but that was a memory you cannot take away.  AND, by the way, it was in CANADA.  We are convinced there are few bears in Alaska.

We stopped about an hour up the road at a pull off and set camp for the night.  What a memorable day.

Day 31 – Skagway to Dease Lake on Canada Day

We woke up in the cool campground and then did a hike around Skagway to get a few pictures before the boats unloaded.  The first several blocks are owned by the National Park Service and by the number of jewelry stores, the cruise lines have the next several blocks.  There are a lot of curio shops and a couple of liquor stores.  We walked far enough back that we got to see some of the local community.  There were some really nice places.  We found the old salmon hatchery next to the railroad line.  It was built in 1988 and dedicated in 1990 but has since been abandoned.

Skagway main street.

We broke camp and checked out of the campground and did a bit of sight-seeing to the old town of Dyea.  There was really nothing there, so we headed out of Skagway.  The drive out of the canyon is breathtaking.  The mountain changes dramatically from what we have experienced in that it is almost completely stone.  There are lakes and rivers cascading over the stone and some trees here there.  It is no wonder the train ride from Skagway to Whitehorse is such an attraction.  

Great municipal campground in Skagway, AK

We crossed the Canadian border and continued to Carcross.  It was Canada Day so we stopped in at the visitors center and found a festival going on.  We missed the parade, but there were shops and food and of course beer.  We finally found a place in Canada besides Tim Hortons that served Poutine, so we ordered one.  Delicious. Its basically fries with cheese curds and covered in gravy.  

Residents in Skagway have the worst views.

We met a local guy and a tour guide there and had a nice conversation.  The tour guide was providing tours for the cruise passengers.  The local guy, Dominic, was a native and on the local trail crew for mountain biking.  He had lots to say about his town and the area and was definitely enjoying his second Maas of beer.

Celebrating Canada Day in Carcross, Yukon

We continue south at this point and started putting in miles.  We made it to road 37 and drove until about 11 PM where we found a camp at the edge of town for the night.  The mosquitos are the worst here and without DEET, they’d suck you dry.  About an hour into our night, a couple of kids on 4 wheelers passed and yelled, “We love your truck house”.  Funny, and off to bed.  I did manage to clear out the videos from the GoPro and get them backed up to the external drive.

Day 30 – Haines to Skagway

Today was an early rise. We got up at 5AM and within 15 minutes Carl and I had made coffee, packed up the truck and packed the tent away. There is some amazing ease to the iKamper roof top tent.

Roadside campsite near ferry.

We arrived at the ferry terminal as suggested at 5:30 AM and checked in and received our boarding passes. We waited until about 6:30 AM before the loading started. Once on board, we awaited for departure, and after about 75 minutes, we got underway. The view of the Fjords around the area is breathtaking. We arrived in Skagway about 8:30 and proceeded to park and have a look around. Th visitor’s center was first and then I found an RV park we could camp at.

Smokey day on the morning ferry.

The rest of the day was napping, phone calls home, showering, and then a tour of the town and its establishments. We found one great beer and some really good bears and a restaurant that makes the best pizza rolls. Skagway is a cruise ship tourist town and is really nice and clean and interesting. If we decide to lave tomorrow, we will be saying good bye to Alaska on this trip. We will see how it goes.

Waterfalls along along the fjords
Had to laugh. The saloon next door is Happy Endings saloon.

I am trying to get photos updated, but Verizon is not really capable of adequate connectivity up here.

Day 29 – Canada Wilderness to Haines, AK.

We camped at a great spot next to a river and got up around 7 AM. I had stayed up late last night to finish cooking the potatoes that were undercooked and I did some relaxing by a fire. This is the first fire we have had the entire journey and I had forgotten how peaceful it is to watch a fire burn. The goal was to get down to coals so I could get the veggies cooked and then to clean out the dutch oven. I finally got to bed around 2 AM, and it was still pretty light out,

Creekside campsite just north of the US border.

We were only about 90 minutes from Haines, but in our usual style, we didn’t make it there until about 3PM. I took a side road up Porcupine creek and after reaching a dead end, I took another road to Flower mountain. This road started out a little rough but got rougher, and steeper, and muddier, and kept going up and up. After about 45 minutes I thought about turning around but Carl said lets see where it goes. A guy we passed said it went up to the snow line. We were still in the trees and the road had thinned from a 4×4 trail to a ATV trail. We continued and about 10 minutes later it opened up at the tree line and we were driving in a high alpine meadow, about 3500 feet up from where we started. I cannot do justice in words the views and the road we found.

Top of the Flower road, Haines Alaska.

If we had known about this road and the campsites at the end, we would have taken one more day to get the ferry to Skagway. This would have been an epic place to camp and hike to the summits. We were above the snow line on the adjacent slopes and above at least 2 glaciers. It was so beautiful.

Small ice-melt lake at 3800 feet

We spent about an hour up at the top hiking and enjoying the scenery. As we headed down, we stopped for a photo-op at a glacial lake with Carl fishing. It took us another 50 minutes to get back down to Porcupine creek road and then another 30 minutes to get to Haines, Alaska. We stopped along the way to give soem snickers to some bikers and then found the local brewery. The tasty cold ones were all right so we headed to the visitors center and then to dinner. We finished the night camping along the road about a half mile from the ferry ride that we had to be at at 5:30 AM., This day was epic and I cannot say enough good things about the FJ and its capabilities.

A smooth section of the 4×4 road
Haines Harbor

Day 28 – Wrangell to North of Haines

We slept in a bit this morning since we had a long day yesterday.  We left camp about 8:30 and headed toward Tok.  It has been a goal to get to Tok for two days and today we actually planned on making it through.  

As we worked our way south, we stopped at several ranger stations and visitor centers.  The first was a rangers outpost on the corner of Wrangell – St. Elias national park and refuge.  We met Thelma, a ranger who has lived and worked in Alaska for 47 years.  She moved here with her family when she was 20 and she’s still going strong.  We had a great conversation and enjoyed her ribbing.

As we rolled into Tok, we checked in to the visitor’s center and library and then did some quick shopping at the local grocery.  I filled up the truck and bought some fuel injector cleaner and octane booster to see if the truck will start a little better.  I got to talk to my wonderful wife, Kristina, for about 30 minutes, which is always nice.  We stopped at the NAPA Auto Parts store where the local Boy Scouts were having what looked like a fundraiser with hotdogs and hamburgers.  It turned out it was a community service project and the burgers and hot dogs were free.  We tried to give them a donation, but they said it was just service hours and to enjoy.  Two days in a row we had a free lunch.

Another bear in Alaska

We got back on the road and continued down the road towards Haines.  We knew we would not likely make it tonight because it was 9 hours from Tok and it was already 12 PM so we figured if we hit it hard and got about two hours out, that would work fine.  I had reserved a ferry ride for the truck and us from Haines to Skagway and the earliest we could get was Sunday, which means we will spend a day in Haines and then a day in Skagway.  So far on this trip I have really enjoyed Seward, Homer, and Valdez in the lower portion of the state, so two more days in the costal towns would be nice.  These towns are much nicer than what I am used to for coastal towns, i.e. overcrowding, congestion, lack of free accommodations, and these had none of that.

Some foxes on the side of the road.

We stopped at the next visitor’s center at Tetlin Wildlife refuge and watched a informative video and chatted with some folks there.  The ranger spends time in Apache Junction in the winter and now she and her husband live out of their RV and travel with the weather.  7 years and counting.  

Leaving Alaska for a short time.

We crossed the Canadian border and marveled at the straight line of cut trees that make up the 20 foot swath at the US-Canadian border.  We got out passports stamped at the crossing and then stopped in for a beverage at Buckshot Betty’s and then the visitor’s center.  The bartender was pretty cool and so was the ranger at the visitor’s center.  She showed us two nuggets of gold she found at a mine he works at during the summers.  She also heads down to Arizona in the winters (Yuma).

There is actually a physical line cut through trees at the border.

Several more hours down the road we fueled up and then stopped at an amazing campsite next to a river.  We are making dutch oven pork tenderloin and vegetables.  Tomorrow, Haines Alaska

We made pork roast and vegetables for dinner.