Life on Chilkat Lake

20160521_161153.jpgWe are settling into life on Chilkat Lake. While we are still unpacking and organizing, we have already begun life’s regular routines. While we have traded our careers for life in the outdoors, it’s far from retirement living. We work harder, but with little stress. I don’t miss traffic, although getting anywhere by boat brings you directly into the elements. So, while I’ve left a nine to five job and commute in traffic, I’ve traded it for a morning loaded with physical chores with little to no awareness of time. Getting anywhere takes planning. A trip to “town” is about a six hour project. Getting ourselves and the boat ready takes an hour or longer. The boat ride to the landing where our truck is parked is nearly an hour. Then, the drive to town is another hour. Once in town, we check our mail at the post office, stop into the library to check email and upload our latest pics and stories to our blog, grab a bite to eat, some provisions, and it’s back to the car ride for our two hour return trip back home. Basically, running errands in town is a full day project. But, the boat ride includes a million dollar view of the most incredible snow-capped mountains. And, the drive into town winds along past miles and miles of Alaskan wildflowers, and through the world’s largest bald eagle preserve. We often see mountain goats grazing on the hilltops during these
drives.

Getting dressed for a day trip into town can also be a challenge, as the boat ride requires rubber boots that come up to your knees because you may need to wade in the water that deep at the landing to secure the boat. Also, the boat ride can be very cold. I mostly wear a winter jacket and a warm hat that covers my ears. But, then when we are in town running our errands, it is hot, so I bring a change of shoes, and usually leave my coat and hat behind, but ready for the boat ride back home. I also change shoes alot at home, as our property is treacherous and boots or closed-toed shoes needed, then changed when going into the house. I feel like Mr. Rogers on steroids with my shoe changing routines.

When I am home, life is consumed with chores. We have a mix of modern conveniences with primitive living. Sometimes, I wonder if the modernizing
just makes things more difficult. For example, we have a washing machine, but it requires manually loading the water at the beginning of the cylce, then again during the rinse cycle. I had no idea washing machines use so much water! Mine requires 15 gallons per load, which I lug into the house from the glacier run off creek near our cabin. I fill 5 gallon drums, carry them into the house, then pour them into the washer. This is no small feat. Each one weighs about 40 pounds. My washer is a low-water one. The instructions said that an average machine uses 35-40 gallons of water per load. I’m glad I don’t have that kind. I might never do laundry if the washer required that much water! When I am lugging in water for the washing machine, I wonder if it would be easier to just carry my dirty clothes down to the lake and scrub my clothes on a washboard, the old-fashioned way.

Our dryer is a typical dryer that runs on electricity. The dryer zaps all of the energy from the house. It is usually too much for our solar power system, so we typically have to fire up the gas generator to dry a load of clothes. I don’t like the gasoline smell from the generator, so I try to do laundry on nice days, so that I can simply dry clothes
on a clothesline outside. I’m not sure what I’ll do come winter 😦 The hair dryer is the same deal as the clothes dryer. I have to run it on the generator. I can rough it for a while and go a day or two without washing my hair, but come day three, I want a nice hot shower, and I want to blow dry my hair and put on my makeup. I dislike using the generator enough that I have taken to letting my hair dry naturally. It’s prettier with the hair dryer, but I am getting used to the trade-offs. I’m less concerned about how I look, and more in tuned to how the mountains and lake look.

The lake in front of our cabin is constantly changing. The weather can too. In one day, it can be very sunny and almost hot, and cold enough for a jacket, and everything in between. The sun can be bright, and it can be overcast and cloudy off and on, and never rain. The lake water can be very rough and choppy, then still as glass an hour later. It doesn’t help to look at the weather forecast for Haines because our cabin sits on the lake between two mountains. The weather can be one thing in town and something very different on our mountain. The lake can even vary in different places. We live on the small part of the lake. The big part of the lake can be calm, and our section rough and choppy and vice versa. It’s constantly changing, like it’s
at the whim of God’s hand moment by moment. It is very humbling to live at the mercy of the power of nature. It makes you feel very small, yet very connected to our Maker.

Haines is a small, sleepy town. It is small because it is less than 2,000 people, and we are learning just how “sleepy” this place is… Hours of operation for various businesses are funny. For example, on Saturday, the post office might open at 12:30 and close at 2:00 because there is a track meet in town. Also, most restaurants are closed by 3:00 pm on Saturday. There are no thrift shops, but there is a new Salvation Army. Their ad in the paper said they were accepting donations, but when we arrived, they said that in fact, no, they are not accepting donations. They haven’t been accepting donations the past four times we have been there. There is also no city trash system, and businesses are particular about their trash. It’s difficult to find a trash can in town. Most times, if we have trash in our truck, we just bring it on the boat with us back to our cabin to burn in our trash pile. Our property has a lot of junk on it from the previous owners. We have been challenged with what to do with the miscellaneous ab roller, rusted out rolling cart, old fishing poles, boxes of old tupperware, etc.
We took one load to the dump station, and it cost us $65. We will need to get creative about what to do with all this junk. I miss GoodWill and bulk trash pick up.

Trash collection and gasoline smelling generator aside, this life is suiting me just fine. I am looking forward to hosting our first visitors! We are hoping to host friends or family members over the summer. If you are looking for a true getaway, come and see us!

 

Face-to-Face with a BIG Moose!

20160523_190334.jpgLate one afternoon, we were working around the property and I heard the dogs barking back in the woods. Since we moved in, the dogs have enjoyed chasing ground squirrels and other rodents, but they have never been deep in the woods barking
incessantly. I called out to Nate and asked him if he was hearing the dogs barking. He said, “Yes”, and then he trekked off into the woods to see what they were excited about. They all came back a few minutes later. Nate said they saw a giant moose
with a newborn calf. He asked me if I wanted to come and see. Nate changed from his flip flops into his boots and grabbed his gun (for protection), and we hurried up the hill behind our property, with dogs, D’Beau and Tucker, leading the way.
(Anyone who knows these dogs will get a good laugh thinking about them bounding off into the woods to hunt down a big moose). We didn’t go far, maybe 100 yards into the deep woods. I knew from the dogs’ barking and Nate telling them to hush that they were close. I was about 10 yards behind them. I heard a very scary grunting noise and looked through the thick brush towards the direction they were all looking and I saw a large patch of brown fur. It moved it’s head and looked directly at me.
I have never felt that much fear race through my body all at once. I have hunted wild game and been close to many wild animals, but never this close, practically face-to-face with a giant moose. I turned and ran back through the woods to the
house, all the while looking back over my shoulder to make sure it wasn’t chasing me. I think it was the size of the animal that struck me so, or the wildness of the situation. It was so unreal, that it felt that I had just seen Bigfoot. Nate says it was as big as a horse, and the largest he has ever seen. He came back to the house, and I told him it’s too bad we didn’t get a picture.

So, Nate grabbed his camera, and we headed back into the woods again. This time, without the dogs. We crept along until we could see the patch of brown fur through the thick woods. Nate motioned for me to stop and I did. I was further away this time, and I had no interest in getting any closer or seeing that thing face-to-face again. I slowly inched back as I watched Nate inch forward trying to get the pic. I heard the moose grunt and charge at Nate. Nate backed up a little, but
stood his ground. I was in awe at how unafraid he was. He alternated between holding his camera and holding his gun in front of him. A few minutes passed, and we heard rustling in the brush up the mountain from us. We were both thinking that a bear
may be following this moose with a baby calf. I called out to Nate, “We need to go”, and I headed back swiftly toward the house. I stood at the top of the trailhead where I had a clear path to run to the house, but could still see Nate. He was moving back
to the house slowly, and I wanted to be able to see him if something went wrong. Eventually, he caught up with me and we both arrived home safely.

Here is Nate’s account of the encounter—

I had just taken my boots off from a trip down the river, and put on my flipflops. I heard the dogs barking, and I walked up the trail I had just started cutting this week. I got about 100 yards into the woods when I heard a big grunt and growl. 25 yards in front of me, I saw a really big patch of brown fur. I knew it was either a bear or a big moose. I froze in my tracks to get a better look. At that point, the moose turned and looked at me. She grunted loud and started charging toward me. She charged about 10 feet and then stopped. So, I continued to watch her, shielding myself behind a tree. I saw that she had a calf with her. Then, I knew why she was being so aggressive.
I watched at a distance with her knowing that I was there. The whole time she continued to grunt and show aggravation. The hair on her back was standing up. This I knew was a sign of protection for her young. I knew that she wasn’t going to charge me and chase me. She wasn’t going to leave her calf behind, but I knew if I got anywhere closer, she was definitely going to charge me and stomp me up. At this point, I was more worried about the dogs getting punted across the lake by a big moose. So, I got them and walked them slowly back to the house. Keeping
an eye on the moose at all times. At this point, I wanted Jen to witness the moose and baby calf. So, I put my boots on, grabbed my Marlin 45-70 not wanting to hurt the mother cow, but for protection, for a worse case scenario, if Jen or I got trampled. I took Jen back to the location. The moose was still in the same spot. She saw us, looked at us, and grunted, and Jen took off running. I stayed behind for 10-15 minutes watching her.

Then, went back to the house and got a trail cam and put it on the fresh trail path I had just cut knowing she is going to more than likely use the fresh cut trail. Moose like the paths of least resistance when walking through the bush. When we got home, Jen asked me if I was scared at all and asked what was going on in my head when I was there. I told her I was not afraid at all. Being a true nature lover, I was more excited than afraid. I was cognizant at all times about the distance between myself and the moose, and I had already scoped out a safety location for myself if things went bad.
I was enthralled and amazed by the situation. Actually, my first thought was, “Great, now the moose are going to be getting into my fresh vegetable garden.” My second thought was, “Maybe, if the dogs can distract the mom, I can sneak behind her and grab the calf and run so that I could keep the baby moose as a pet.” I did learn that no matter how close you are to the house, always to have a sidearm with you, especially if the dogs are barking because if that would have been a big grizzly bear, things could have gotten ugly. We had just had lunch at a cafe in town a few hours earlier and saw pictures of a 10 foot grizzly bear killed yesterday in the area.

 

Everything is a Process

20160521_144430.jpgHere we are at week 3, and I thought all the hard stuff was behind us. Everything we do out here is a process. Having no running water means that you have to lug water up from the glacier fed creek to do everything-dishes,cleaning, bathing,etc. Not an easy task. Jennifer, being the exercise queen that she is, has taken on this task and I commend her because these 6 gallon jugs must weigh close to 50 lbs each. We both work as a team and everyday feel more and more closer to normalcy. We have been without cell phones now for close to 4 days, but should be back and running when we go to town soon. The only other communication with others this past week has been on short wave radio with an other person on the big lake….there is a total of 6 people all on the lake at this time….Jen and I are the only 2 on the back lake, everyone else resides on the larger lake about 5 miles up stream from us. The locals in town always say, “Wow, y’all are way in the back!”, as though we are so far away…others say, “Wow, y’all are way in the back, nice and secluded!”….that’s more how we feel.

20160521_144708.jpgThe house is finally starting to come together. Projects that I started back in Austin, like the sliding barn doors for the master room are up. Off-the-grid entertainment center up. I might have gone over-board, not having cable and all, but I need my music and movie nights. The work shed is coming together, and washer and dryer hooked up finally. This is not an ordinary washer.You must manually feed it with water for the wash cycle and do the same for the rinse cycle. It’s definitely a chore to do laundry. We are taking advantage of the amazing sunny days and conserving propane by drying clothes outside. The boxes are almost all unpacked.It’s kind of like Christmas, because we have been preparing for a year now, and we have so many new things we are opening for the first time. 2 of everything at that. I always thought that we could never be too prepared. We are definitely stocked up on non-perishables and have quite the pantry going…I’m calling it “Motes Market”. We really could have a lake market with all the food we have. My uncle Jeff would be proud. He is a prepper/survivalist. Check out his book on Amazon, “Once upon an Apocalypse”.

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Wildlife viewing has been amazing. I am seeing some of the largest moose. The bulls are in velvet and are very skittish, so they don’t hang around so that you can get pictures of them. The cows and young ones are goofy and will sit and stare at you. Every evening and morning 3 or 4 otters swim up to our dock in curiosity, then swim along their way. While cruising the lake the other morning, Jen and I spotted a huge brown bear on the beach. We stopped and watched him through the binoculars for a minute and noticed he was ripping apart something in the water. After he lost interest an wandered off, we pulled up to the beach to investigate…there was a large dead moose in the water that looked like he had been feeding on for a couple of days.

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All the birds and butterflies are out and summer is definitely here. The salmon run has begun but it will take them a good month to swim up river from the ocean to our lake to spawn. We started germinating seeds and are preparing the soil. Optimal planting time for Alaska is May 15th. We got ours in around the 13th so we should be right on time, with the moon and sun.

I feel as though we work harder here then back home. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t get dark until around 11, 11:30. Jen keeps joking once it starts getting dark that it must be midnight…but it’s kinda true. We get so caught up doing stuff and trying to have everything completed right away that we work really long hours. We now have kinda a set schedule for fun time, relax time and work time. We are convincing ourselves that there is no hurry to complete anything. Or, is there? Winter will be here before we know it!!!

The BIG haul-in!

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Getting all of the contents from the Uhaul to our cabin was difficult and time consuming. We had the wonderful help of a friend, Demetrius, who flew in from Austin to help us, and he was our saving grace. For seven days, we all worked around the clock. Each load had to be “masterminded”. Each load would require transferring the items from the Uhaul to our Toyota Tundra at the parking area of the boat launch area, then driving the Toyota onto the rough terrain of the sand and gravel pit out to where the boat was tied up but sitting against the rapids of the Tsirku River. Then, we would unload the Toyota’s contents onto the boat, and navigate against the river water to Clear creek, then to Chilkat Lake. Once at our house, we would tie the boat up to our dock, and unload everything up a the hill to our home. I don’t know what was more difficult: navigating the rapids of the river with a loaded-down boat, or getting everything up the 100-yard straight-up climb to our home. During those long days, we all learned by trial and error how to navigate that river. We have two boats we used, so we each took turns at the helm.
Once Demetrius felt ready, I was happy to be left at the house. The boys would drop their boat loads off at the dock, and I would move the stuff uphill as best I could. We were able to use a gas powered hauler that came with the property to move stuff and while it helped a lot, it was still exhausting to load and unload. Alot of stuff came up the hill on our own backs as well. We worked long, long days, roughly from 6:00 every morning until about 11 every night, or later. Lucky for us, the summer days in Alaska are long, the sun is up around 4:30am and goes down around 10:30 pm. That gave us plenty of daylight to work long hours. When the sun went down, we would all take a whiskey shot then collapse in bed. Every morning, we would wake up grumbling about our aches and pains. The weather was perfect for the move. Bright, sunny days made it feel like Texas, but a little different. The temperature highs were 65, but if you are in the sun, it scorches you and feels like 100 degrees. In the shade, the breeze feels like 35 degrees, and on the boat, it can feel even colder. Dressing in layers was a must. I wore pants and a tank top if I was loading or unloading in the sun, a light jacket if I was standing still near the shade, and a winter coat and ski cap if I was on the boat. Nathanael was in shorts and flip flops at all times, of course. On the last days before Demetrius left, we were focused on getting everything from the Uhaul to the property. The boys brought stuff faster than I could get it up the hill, plus they enlisted help from another guy with a boat on our lake. So, our boat dock became overloaded and lots of boxes were strewn all over the bottom portion of our property. At one point, some of the boxes rolled into the lake, and our vitamin bottles, toothpaste and dental floss were floating around the lake. Nate fished them out with a net, but it was kind of funny when I was doing dishes in the house and I spied all of our toiletries floating down the lake. We met lots of our neighbors on the lake. Everyone was friendly and helped in some way. We met a lady who moved here from Canyon Lake, Texas. She is a retired school teacher. Her husband died about a year ago. When she first came to the lake, she bought a cabin in the landslide area, but this year she bought a second cabin in a safer zone. I asked her why Alaska, and she said she always wanted to live in a house on a lake with lots of property, and our lake was so affordable. She snowmobiled for the first time this past winter, and she says it’s the most fun she’s ever had in her life. I so admire this woman in her 70’s moving out to the lake by herself. We also met a gentleman who owns a local restaurant and sells snow mobiles on the side. We have been talking to him about finding us some snow machines for this winter. He fishes in the back part of Chilkat Lake quite often and he asked if he could help bring some of our stuff from the boat landing to our house. We said sure, move anything you can, anytime you want. We would be grateful for the help. One afternoon, we went to move a few things and noticed all of our lattice was missing. We had about a dozen sheets of 8ft x 4ft wood lattice that we had painted and brought with us. Our hearts sank at the thought of someone stealing them. When we got to the house, we discovered the restaurant owner had brought them for us in his boat. These wooden lattice sheets were heavy, so this was no simple gesture of kindness. This was huge.
We have also benefited from the kindness of a young man who lives on the lake alone. On our first day of moving, one of our boat motors died while we were in Clear Creek. We had one bar on our phone and we called him. He came right away to help us. We feel so welcome by all of these kind souls. While the move has been treacherous, God has sent some wonderful people along our path. In the big city, your friendship circles come together around common interests and we barely knew our neighbors. Here in Haines, our neighbors and our friends are one in the same. We are exhausted, but I think we’re going to like it here.

Nate’s Take: Trials and Tribulations

20160505_091352.jpgI feel as though I need to contribute to the blog postings just so everyone can see my point of view as well…I’ll start off with the 7-day drive from Austin TX to Haines AK.
I would like to thank google maps and Siri for their wealth of knowledge on American and Canadian backroads….with their help, we shaved off 32 minutes, but it left us on very confusing, desolate roads with no gas stations, no radio stations…hats off! My advice: stay on the Interstates!
 When driving through and staying in these small backwoods communities, you probably don’t have to worry about your possessions being tampered with, but I have always been a firm believer of “better safe then sorry”. Not only was it a feat of magnitude to even find a parking spot for a 28ft truck with a 12 foot trailer, but using it as a shield to block in the Toyota truck and boat was even trickier. “Better be safe then sorry” is a great idea and I had an even better idea to run a huge chain through my trailer tire rim on the boat and around fender wheel well. I thought, this will surely stop anyone from stealing my boat. The trick to this maneuver is to not forget the chain is on there in the morning. Not only will this stop any would-be thief, but it will stop you in your tracks and rip off your fender at the same time, which is what happened. Nothing a little coon-ass ingenuity and duct tape can’t handle. There’s only one house in these small towns, which looks like the house from the Texas chainsaw massacre. You should be more worried about your life, then the stealing of your boat. Let’s keep trucking.
When crossing the Canadian border it’s always a good idea if you have a brother that is a Louisiana State Trooper to strategically place his business card on your center console. This way if anything should arise, like border patrol agents finding and box of 9mm shells hidden behind the seat, you can just blame him. Worked for me…thanks bro!
A few things about Canada…they put gravy and cheese whiz on everything, and you can’t find a decent glass of unsweetened tea anywhere. The radio stations love to play American hits but they have some type of claim to fame on how they made it a hit, and then the local music they play is very bazaar. Stay off the radio stations. You will be better off.
In Canada, if you happen to stumble across one these creatures that they call “rabbits” at one of your stops, DON’T RUN!..slowly back up and go the other way. These things are the size of Labradors. I don’t know if they attack but I’m not the one to reenact a scene from Monty Python. When passing through Canada, just go quick as possible. If you get pulled over for speeding, just tell them you saw a  speed limit sign that read min 100 mph. You’re from America, and how were you to know that meant kilometers?
Now the Alaskan highway. This thing was built back in the 1940’s or something and I swear they are still building it. It should really be called the Alaskan gravel road in some places…let’s just say this is where the real adventure began. Now let me tell you, with all the weight I was pulling, I might have only been going up those mountains at 35mph, but when I was coming down, I thought I might get thrown back in time I was moving so fast. No one in their right mind would ever have ridden with me through those mountains. My ass cheeks where so sore from clinching them and I could not stop making a fist with my hands from grabbing the steering wheel so tight when I would stop to rest. Now Uhaul’s, advertisement on the side of the truck said “hauls like a truck, but rides like a van”…bullshit!…I felt as though I was on the Texas Cyclone at Astroworld for 7 days. Jennifer said when we would stop at night no one would mess with us because I looked so crazy. My head wouldn’t stop moving like a bobble head doll, walking around with 2 clinched fist, and squeezed ass cheeks, and delirious from lack of sleep. It was quite the adventure
They say these long road trips bring you closer to God, because of all the time to reflect on life. I think they bring you closer to God because you’re constantly praying to not run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Or because you’re constantly praying that your brakes don’t go out when flying down the mountain. Either way, we are truly blessed…God got us to it and brought us through it, but that will be the last time I ever make that drive.

A Bittersweet Homecoming

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Arriving in Haines was bittersweet. We were thrilled to be done with the long drive, but oblivious to the challenge that lay ahead of us. Our first objective was to park the Uhaul, load our boat with just necessities (which turned out to be lots of stuff), and drive out to our cabin on Chilkat lake. The weather was cold and dreary and I didn’t have proper warm clothes and shoes handy for cold rain. We got the boat in the Tsirku River, loaded it down with suitcases, boxes, dogs and dog kennels and ourselves. I pushed the boat off the rocky bank into the rushing rapids of the river, and quickly maneuvered past dog cages and boxes to take a seat, bracing myself for the ride. When Nathanael gunned the engine, there was a brief forward movement, but then the rapids started pushing us backwards. We were both tired and confused about what was happening. Nate continued pressing the throttle forward, but the more he pressed, the more the water kept washing us down stream. Getting to our house requires going up river against the rapids of the Tsirku River, then turning onto Clear Creek until finally reaching Chilkat Lake. If your boat has no forward thrust, the rushing water of the Tsirku will push you down the river. We knew we didn’t want to be washed downstream, so we quickly made our way over to the riverbank and jumped out of the boat. We were up to our knees in water. Holding the boat against the rushing waters is too hard for me. It took both of us to bring the boat back to land safely. When she was finally tied up, far down from our vehicle, we inspected the motor and realized the jet drive motor had sucked up the tie down rope from the stern and it was limiting the thrust power. Nate ran the 500 yards back to the parking area at the landing to get the truck and boat trailer thinking we needed to pull the boat out of the water, but when he got there, he realized I had all of the keys with me. He ran back and grabbed the keys then started out again. We were both kind of running back and forth in the sleeting cold rain.

The scene would have made for some great reality TV. “Dorks in Alaska”, or maybe a Lucille Ball episode, like the one with the runaway RV down the mountain road. Eventually, Nathanael did what he does best: picked up his tools and went to work. I swear, he can fix anything! He had to take apart the boat motor and cut out all of the twisted rope, then put the motor back together again. I tried to be helpful. Holding a tool here and there and tending to the dogs. Although I have a lot of faith in Nathanael, I thought trying to fix this motor in sleeting rain as night sets in was a mute effort. I figured within the hour, I would be snug in bed after a hot shower at the Aspen hotel in downtown Haines. But, when Nathanael was finished, we put the boat in the water and, amazingly, we had forward thrust!

We were pleased that the motor wasn’t completely blown, but we had a long, slow ride home. A front had moved in during our debacle at the boat launch and the water in the lake was very choppy. The boat ride normally takes 40 minutes, but it took us over an hour because of the weather and the motor was a little sluggish now. The ride was miserable. It was sleeting raining on us already, and to add insult to injury, every wave brought a spray of cold lake water onto us. On the ride, we were both quiet.  I’m sure we were both wondering how we were going to make it in this crazy, wild place. It made us feel very small. The power of nature can make you feel helpless. We finally arrived at our lake house cold and shivering. We unlocked the door, and hurriedly unloaded the boat and dogs up the big hill to the house. The solar system battery in the house was completely drained so we had no lights and no electricity. We lit the stove fireplace, and changed out of our wet clothes. We blew up our blow up bed with a gas generator, pushed the bed close to the fire and went to sleep. It was a bittersweet homecoming. If I were on a reality TV show like “alone”, I wonder if I would have called in the extraction team. Probably not, but it sounds nice to have that option. In real life, living in the wild doesn’t come with a phone call to be helicoptered home to safety. We knew this was going to be an “adventure”. We were tired and hungry and a little bit delirious, but we were home at our cabin on the lake in Alaska, at last. Nearly nine months of planning this adventure, but I’m sure each day will bring lots of challenges we didn’t plan for.

The Last Day on the Road

 

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The weather varied throughout the 7-day trip. Day one in Texas, we drove away from 85 degrees, scorching sun and high humidity. Nebraska and the Dakotas were cold and rainy for the most part, around 45 degrees. When we first entered Canada they were experiencing a heat wave at 87 degrees. Dawson creek was cooler, 60 degrees. The Alaska Highway was windy and chilly with temperatures ranging from 39 to 50. We had sleeting rain and light snow in some places. Choosing what to wear everyday was a challenge. I mostly dressed in layers on top with yoga pants and flip flops. My toes were cold when I was out of the car, but since I was mostly driving for ten or more hours, I chose comfort in the car over warm toes when pumping gas.  Today’s song was “I got you babe” by sonny & Cher.

The final leg of our journey was Watson Lake to Haines, which was 500 miles. Watson Lake is home to “Sign City”, a corner of the town dedicated to road signs and license plates from people passing through. The stretch of highway from Haines Junction to the town of Haines was amazing. It’s called the Haines Highway. It ascends up a mountain range called, Chilkat Pass. It was the route used by the Dalton Trail during the days of the Klondike Gold Rush. It marks the boundary between the Coast Mountains and Saint Elias Mountains.  The mountain and valleys were full of snow and it was cold and sleeting, with nearly “white out” conditions. The U.S. border was a breath of fresh air after the Canadian prison scare. We were through the border in just a few minutes and met two new friends (border patrol agents) who are locals. Nate made friends with one who is from Lafayettte, LA (his home town), and they made plans to watch the LSU games on television together in the fall. Nate is storing up information on who has television and cable near us, since we have neither at the house, and we both love to watch NFL and some college football games.
We arrived at the place where we launch the boat around 5pm, but it would be hours before reaching our home on the lake. Stay tuned for Nate’s blog about the mishaps that happened on our first trip home on the lake.
But, we are home!

The road to the “Last Frontier”

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One of many black Bears spotted on the highway. (Scroll down for more pics at the end)

Day six was surreal. Leaving Dawson Creek we entered the “Alaska Highway”. This Highway is 1,500 miles of road built during WWII to connect the US with Canada. It begins at Dawson Creek, British Columbia and ends at Delta Junction, Alaska. It is nicknamed “the road to the last frontier”. The section from British Columbia to Yukon Territory through the Northern Rocky Mountains takes your breath away. I read online that someone once remarked that the biggest challenge on the Alaska Highway is choosing what to gawk at. This is so true! We pulled over dozens of times to take pictures and “gawk” at landscapes and wildlife. Our first stop on the side of the highway was to look at a black bear. We took about 100 pictures and several videos and he came within a few feet of our car. We were stopped for quite some time watching him. But over the course of the day, we would actually see hundreds of black bear on the side of the road, including a mama and her three small cubs. It felt like we were driving through a Yellowstone national park zoo. We saw many caribou, several herd of bison, lots of porcupines, and a gray wolf. Later that night, we actually had a small herd of bison running alongside the truck. The wildlife interaction was amazing, and it was only dwarfed by the unbelievable views. The road hugs the side of steep snow capped mountains and ascends for hundreds of miles. The mountain lakes and streams are fresh and clear, and many parts are still full of snow and ice.

It was an exciting, long, long day and we gawked at wildlife until 10:00 pm when it finally got too dark to see anything.
At one point during the day, the scenery looked like we were in the Grand Canyon. I had flashbacks from my youth and the Brady Bunch episode when Bobby met the Native American Indian kid in the Grand Canyon. We met a hodgepodge of folks along the highway but no Indians.
We were hoping to make good timing on day six, but with so many steep mountains to climb and frequent stops, we were slow going. Today’s bizarre singalong song was “I woke up in love this morning” by the Partridge family. The Brady bunch and partridge family memories, both in one day! I’m dating myself now. I was also trying to recall the words to “one ton omeda” (If you missed my earlier blog, there are no radio stations for the majority of this drive and no cell phone service, hence, I spent much of the drive singing out loud to the dog). My biggest regret is not making some old fashion mix CDs for the road. There were three CDs in the truck by happenstance ( who has music CDs anymore?) my choices were: Rebelution, Gregory Issacs and Alice in Chains. Gregory Isaacs was good and track number 6 on the Alice in Chains CD wasn’t bad.
Some day, I would like to do a road bike trip along the Alaska highway. It will be on my bucket list for sure. Nate says he’ll never drive this way again. Tomorrow is day seven and should bring us back across the U.S. border and into Alaska. Just 500 miles to go and we are home!
Stay tuned for Nate’s blog of all the mishaps and mayhem that happened on the road trip, coming soon!
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