Friday, June 29, 2012

And Behold...I Saw...A Whitehorse

Made it to Whitehorse! I arrived last night, met my friend Terry (we travelled together in Laos) just outside of town and we headed to his girlfriend's place for some dinner and beers. I stayed and will be staying with them for a couple days. They convinced me to alter my plan and go with them to the Atlin Music Festival on July 6th, which sounds like a hell of an idea to me. I think between then and now I'm going to make a run into Alaska and jump on the ferry from Skagway to Sitka, and spend some time in that latter town everyone raves about.

And now for the history! After my last post from Grande Prairie, I hit the road bound for Tumbler Ridge. I took a shortcut through a gravel road to Highway 52, a highway that saved some distance to Tumbler Ridge and looked on the map to be more scenic. It was a piece of shit. The "highway" turned out to be a gravel road that was just starting to be graded this year. It was nothing but a pot-holed washboard that offered views of nothing but trees. About two thirds of the way through, however, the highway turned into a nice paved road that did have some nice views. I ended up heading north of town about twenty minutes and staying at Gwillim Lake Provincial Park, which was a very nice campground. The next day I hiked to Bergeron Falls, which turned out to be pretty nice, but unfortunately I couldn't get to the base of them since the water level was too high.

The day after that I hit the road again, finishing off Highway 52, which turned out to some of the nicest highway I've ever driven. The views of the Peace Valley were incredible, and I had a perfectly sunny day to capture them with my camera. As soon as I hit the Alaska Highway the weather turned to shit, but broke for me when I reached Stone Mountain Provincial Park, where I camped. The campground itself wasn't that great; there were hardly any trees and it was right next to the highway. A crazy highlight of it was when I was sitting by the fire, reading, when I look up and see a moose about twenty feet away, looking straight at me and obviously annoyed. I instantly put the Escape between him and I. The next morning I hiked up the Summit Peak, which offered amazing views of the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately booming thunderheads forced me off the lightning prone ridge before I could reach the peak. After I got back down I ate a quick lunch and took off, bound for Liard Hot Springs.

Liard was awesome. Except for the fucking droves, wait, LEGIONS of misquitos that occupied the area. I've never soaked myself with so much repellent in my entire life. I now look like a smallpox victim. The hot springs were pretty awesome though; they're entirely natural, not set in concrete or anything like that. The campground is decent, too; the sites are all separated by forty feet of thick trees. The only downer is the invasion of the American RV retirees in their gigantic tour buses.

And here I am today! The drive to Whitehorse was decent, saw and photographed some buffalo on the road, and listened to some live comedy. Bye.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day Three

The past two days have been awesome! My plan to stay at Rock Lake for two days was foiled when I got to the entrance to the logging road that leads to it, only to find the road and park have been closed due to flooding damage! Not surprising considering the amount of snow and rain this area has had in the past six months.

No harm done though, I moved on and checked out some other campsites. The first one was Big Berland, but was very remote and nobody else was camping there, so I decided against it. I did manage to get some great pictures of a railroad trestle bridge over the Berland River. I camped at Sulphur Gates Provincial Recreation Area, just outside of Grande Cache. It was a pretty decent campsite, and offered free firewood, which is a win with me.

During my two days there I hiked to a waterfall a few kilometers away, then climbed up Mt. Stearn the next day. The Stearn ridgeline was incredible, I had amazing views of Grande Cache, Willmore Wilderness Park, and Lightning Ridge. And as a bonus, I got to watch a flock of Ravens playing along the cliffside. All in all, a great couple of days.

Right now I'm taking a lunch break at Grande Prairie, and I'll be bound for the Tumbler Ridge area!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That's A Sweet Ride

So here's the new chariot that will take me to Alaska, a 2003 Ford Escape: (it's a little dirty, I know)

All the gear and beer

It's been a little bit of a pain in the ass getting this vehicle Alaska Road Trip ready. I had a new Alpine CD Deck installed the other day and connected it to my Walkman Mp3 player, which I mounted on my dash for easy use. The pain in the ass came when I found out my spare tire was a doughnut, which is not a suitable spare for the Alaska Highway, or especially for the Dalton Highway, the road I might take to the very north of Alaska. I quickly called a local tire shop, gave them the vehicle specs and tire size, then went down to pick it up. It wasn't until 6pm and at home that I discovered it's slightly bigger than the other four tires on the vehicle (which isn't too big of a deal, I won't drive on it for long), but it's too big for the spare tire compartment (which is a big deal). Now my whole trunk floor sits an inch higher than it should. Not a disaster, but it looks kind of stupid. Hopefully the return policy is good for more than five weeks.

Whatever though, the truck is gassed and loaded up, and the 42 beers are in the back. Just less than 12 hours and I'll be bound for Alaska!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Alaska, Take 2

It seems my intuition to head home was the right choice, as I got to spend one last week with my Grandpa before he passed away on the 10th of June. As sad as it is, I'm glad I got to see him again and I'm glad he's out of pain and in peace. 

And now I'm free to return to Alaska and finish what I started there. And this time I'll be going with my own transportation! It actually was a great coincidence that my Mom ended up buying a new vehicle and offered to sell me her Ford Escape, which I will now be taking up to Alaska with me! Here is the road plan:

On Wednesday, June 20th I'll be rolling out of Edmonton, bound for Rock Lake Provincial Recreation Area, an old camp site my family and I used to frequent when I was young. It's beautiful country there, and a jumping point to Willmore Wilderness Park, my favourite place to hike. I'll probably spend a couple days there, then head up to Grande Cache, where I'll check out the north end of Willmore Wilderness Park. From there I'm hoping to drive the twelve hours to Stone Mountain Provincial Park, but alone that might be quite a feat, so I'll most likely stop along the way. I'll kick around that area and check out the scenery for a few days, then up to Liard Hot Springs, then to Whitehorse.

And from there, who knows? Maybe up to Dawson City, maybe to Kluane National Park. This is the advantage of having a vehicle; I don't need to plan nearly to the degree I did when I didn't have a car in this area. And I can carry a lot more stuff this time! I bought a new tripod for my camera, so hopefully my shots will turn out a little sharper now.

 Alaska here I come!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Travel Tips

Ok so since I'm on a traveling hiatus at the moment, I thought I would post some travel tips:

1. Universal sink plug. Bring one. Sometimes you might be out of clean underwear and not staying long enough in that place to get your laundry done before leaving on that ten hour, sweaty bus ride filled with locals and animals. You'll be praying you had a way to plug that drain in that old sink just to give your dirty undies a quick hand wash, and you'll be able to if you have a universal sink plug. So do yourself, your ass, and the noses of the people around you a favour and bring this item.

2. Quick dry clothing. Especially underwear, see above. This is handy in Asia, especially in the monsoon, where it could take a long time to dry your clothes on a line. And they keep you cooler, also a plus in tropical monsoon conditions.

3. Protect your passport. I bought a cheap mesh drawstring bag from Canadian Tire, I think it was five dollars for three of them, and put my passport in that. Then I wrapped it around my belt loop and tucked it inside my pants. This is tried, tested, and true. The Cambodian hookers that robbed me didn't even get this bag, which was good because my passport and five hundred American dollars were inside it. I have no doubt in my mind they would have easily found a money belt had I had one.

4. Don't buy clothing at home. I made this mistake. If you're going to a destination in Asia, or somewhere cheap like that, buy clothes when you get there. It's an eight of the price it is in Western nations. Quick dry clothing is dime a dozen in Kathmandu, as well.

5. Bring American money as backup. Sometimes your bank will block your debit or credit card, or you can't find a machine, it happens. Dollars saved me a lot of trouble more than once. And stash your money in different locations in your backpack(s). Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

6. Travel light. Heavy backpacks suck. I was carrying around way too much stuff in India, and my backpack was a total pain in the ass. After I finally shipped home ten pounds of stuff in Goa it was so much more comfortable. And in Southeast Asia, the heavier the pack, the more you'll sweat.

7. Bring a combination lock. This is important, I don't think I need to explain why.

8. Don't carry a wallet. It's a target, and pickpockets can see it. When you go out for the day, carry only what money you'll need. The less you have on you, the less you can lose.

9. When you get directions from someone, ask people as your walking in that direction. I had more than a few times people giving me conflicting directions. Ask as many people as you have to. This is especially important in Asia and India, where they would rather give you wrong directions than lose face by not being able to help.

I'll post more as I can think of them.