Road trip: Fairbanks, Alaska to San Antonio, Texas - August '13 to December '13

November 16 - 30

We left Boulder City on Saturday morning. We headed north by driving through the Lake Mead national recreation area with nice views of the surrounding mountains and lake Mead.
We joined up with I-15 (which runs from Las Vegas, Nevada to Salt Lake City, Utah) and headed northeast into the northwest corner of Arizona.
We arrived at the "Virgin River Canyon BLM campground" and decided to spend the night here. A few weeks ago, when Haichong was in Asia, I also stayed here for 2 nights.
We explored the surrounding mountains and virgin river the rest of the afternoon.

On Sunday morning, we hiked some more around the campground and then continued northeast into Utah. In St. George, we turned to the east and set up the caravan in the small town of Kanab (Utah).
Kanab is a very busy tourist town in late Spring - Summer - early Fall because of its location in the center of Zion NP / Bryce Canyon NP / Grand Canyon NP (north rim) / Grand Staircase Escalante NM / Vermillion Cliffs NM / Coral Pink Sand Dunes state park.
In late Fall and Winter however, tourism dies down and there's not many people in town (most businesses close until they reopen in the Spring). Good for us: quiet!

In the afternoon, we visited "Coral Pink Sand Dunes state park": a few miles to the west of Kanab, it's an area covered in sand dunes. Very fun to walk around and pretty colors around sunset.

Click here for our pictures of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The main reason we wanted to visit Kanab again was to visit the "Grand Staircase Escalante national monument", "Vermilion Cliffs national monument" and surrounding BLM area on the Utah / Arizona border, halfway between Kanab (Utah) and Page (Arizona). We had missed this area on previous trips.
The most famous area in the national monument is "the wave", a colorful rock formation with rock layers sculpted into "waves". To hike to the wave, you need to win the lottery. Only 20 people are allowed into the area per day. Since we didn't play in the lottery, we researched the area and found another feature; called "white pocket"; which according to locals is as beautiful (or more beautiful) than the wave!
To get to "white pocket" however requires a 56 km (35 mile) drive on dirt roads; some covered under deep sand.

On Monday, we headed to the "House Rock valley road", halfway between Kanab and Page, to try and find the "white pocket" area. We drove 20 miles south on the dirt road and crossed the border from Utah into Arizona. The directions I found on the internet leaded us towards an area known as "Paw Hole": part of the South Coyote Buttes. We walked around here to take some pictures: very beautiful red rocks with wave-patterns.

After our visit, we needed to head further east towards "white pocket", however, the Jeep was at risk of getting stuck in the deep sand so we had no other option but to turn around.
Once back on House Rock valley road, we drove 4 miles further south to take an alternate road to "white pocket" and turned east on BLM road 1017. The directions were unclear which road to take from there however ... it's a real maze of dirt roads out there with no signs whatsoever to point you towards "white pocket". After a few hours of searching and driving on roads in deep sand, we gave up for the day and headed back towards House Rock valley road.
On the way back north, we explored a different area of the North Coyote Buttes with very colorful hills.

We decided to give it another try on Tuesday. We left early in the morning and, armed with better directions, were able to reach "white pocket" (after 2 hours of bouncing around on dirt roads)!

"White pocket" is amazing to say the least. It's like a huge island of rock, sticking out of the surrounding sandy desert. Rocks in all shapes and colors with many wave patterns. An unbelievable sight!
We spent the rest of the day walking around and climbing on the rocks, and headed home in the evening.
If you're in the area, this is definitely a must see, but you do need a good 4x4 to get there (or take an organized tour). Also a plus is that "white pocket" does not require a permit, unlike the Wave area (North Coyote Buttes).

Click here for our pictures of White Pocket

On Wednesday we headed back into the area and drove the House Rock valley road south to the "wire pass trailhead". This is where the hike to "the wave" starts. However, since we didn't have a permit, we took another hike which starts here: the hike to "Buckskin Gulch".
The hike follows a gulch (dry riverbed) into a slot canyon: a very narrow canyon, actually the longest slot canyon in the world!
We had visited "Antelope canyon" in the past (in Page, Arizona), another slot canyon. The slot canyon of Buckskin gulch is at least as pretty and possibly even more dramatic: a very narrow canyon with an opening barely wide enough to allow a person to walk through and with high canyon walls. Amazing!
A big benefit of visiting Buckskin Gulch over Antelope canyon is that Buckskin Gulch does not require a tour guide (unlike Antelope canyon). We were basically all alone in the slot canyon and only saw 1 other couple in the 3 hours that we spent exploring it.
Very unexpected, but if you're in the area, also a must see to add to the list! Since the wire pass trailhead is 'only' 13 km (8 miles) south on House Rock valley road, a 4x4 is not required since you won't be driving in deep sand.

Click here for our pictures of the Coyote Buttes area

Click here for our pictures of Buckskin Gulch

We left Kanab on Thursday under cloudy skies. I saw my first rain since September 21 (in Redwood national park in northern California)! Since then, it hadn't rained on our trip.
We headed east to the town of Page, Arizona where we set up camp.
Page is famous for being pretty much in the center of the "Grand Circle": a big circle on the map that covers parts of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico; containing many national parks and national monuments, and some of the best scenery (if not 'the' best) in the United States!
In the afternoon, we visited the "Horseshoe bend": a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River. Very dramatic as you hike right to the cliffs and look down 300 meters below (1,000 feet) on the Colorado river. And there are no railings; scary if you have fear of heights like we do.

We had a mix of rain and snow on both Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Friday we explored an area of the Grand Staircase Escalante national monument known as the "toad stools" (paddestoelen). Interesting rocks shaped as mushrooms. The hike into the area was pretty muddy but pretty.

On Saturday and Sunday, we hiked a portion of the trail which surrounds the town of Page (very nice red rocks and views of Lake Powell) and visited the Antelope marina area on Lake Powell.
Luckily for us, we had visited this area a few times before: under sunny skies, it's a beautiful area.

Click here for our pictures of the Page area

We left Page on Monday and headed south. We drove to Flagstaff (lots of snow at this higher altitude) and then headed east past Petrified Forest national park: we slept in Springerville, on the Arizona - New Mexico border. Cold here at 2.100 meters altitude (7,000 feet) and definitely a boring landscape compared to what we've seen on this trip.

We continued east on Tuesday; past the "very large array" (which we visited on several earlier trips); into Socorro, where the Airstream had 2 new tires installed.
We setup for a few nights just north of the "Bosque del Apache national wildlife refuge".
This area is world famous amongst birders (=people interested in birds). In Winter, approximately 42.000 snow geese, 87.000 ducks and 8.000 sandhill cranes spent the season here in mild temperatures.

We got up early on Wednesday and headed into the wildlife refuge before sunrise.
The big 'attraction' happens right before sunrise in Winter when tens of thousands of snow geese take off from the big lake, all at once. You definitely have to be ready with your camera: the entire event is over in a matter of 30 seconds. It's an amazing sight (and sound)!
The snow geese take off to spend their day feeding in the surrounding fields. At sunset, they fly back into the lake (or one of the nearby lakes) to spend the night: it's safer to spend the night on the water as it's harder for predators (like foxes, coyotes and bobcats) to sneak up on them.
Once the snow geese leave the lake in the morning, all that's left are the sandhill cranes, who take off (one at a time) a little later.

We spend the rest of the morning and afternoon exploring the refuge and saw 2 bald eagles, in addition to many ducks, snow geese and sandhill cranes.
Even though birds are not my main interest in wildlife photography (I prefer bigger animals like elk and bears), this is a very nice area to spend some time, and witnessing the snow geese "blast off" at sunrise is an amazing experience.

Click here for our pictures of Bosque del Apache

We left the refuge area on Thursday and headed east through the mountains into the town of Roswell. Just like at the beginning of our trip, we slept at the Bottomless Lakes state park.

On Friday, we crossed the state border into Texas. As we drove, the temperatures got warmer and warmer. Amazing how warm it is here: based on the mild winter temperatures (and of course growing number of jobs + low cost of living), it's easy to understand why so many people (mostly Californians) are moving to Texas.
We slept in the San Angelo state park. The lake here seems to be even lower than back in May, at the start of our trip. It's not as much a lake any longer but more a pond.

Saturday November 30: arrival in San Antonio, where we'll be staying with Haichong's parents. We're back!

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November 5 - 15, 2013

Las Vegas / Boulder City, Nevada.

I arrived at the campground in Boulder City on Tuesday. The campground is a few miles west of Hoover Dam and a few miles east of Las Vegas, where I'll be picking up Haichong from the airport (as she gets back from her month long trip to Asia) this Thursday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I did grocery shopping and cleaned the Jeep and Airstream.

Click here for the pictures of the Las Vegas area, including Valley of Fire

Haichong returned from her month long trip to Asia (South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore) on Thursday. I picked her up at the airport in Las Vegas.
We relaxed on Friday and drove up a mountain in Boulder City with a view of Las Vegas in the distance: the "strip" with the casino's is very recognizable.

On Saturday, we visited the "Red Rock" area, west of Las Vegas nearby the border with California. This area has a nice collection of hills and rocks in different colors.
We saw a small (7-8) herd of "burros": wild donkeys who live in the desert area between Las Vegas and Death Valley.
On the way home, we drove part of the strip in Las Vegas: no matter how kitschy, it's still a nice place to visit with the famous casino's. We passed by New York New York, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Luxor, Mandalay Bay ...

On Sunday, we visited Hoover dam in the morning. Since the last time we were here, they have built a bridge in front of it with great views of the dam. It's still an impressive sight to see. We also spotted two desert bighorn sheep in the mountains, but unfortunately they were too far away for nice pictures.
Afterwards we drove into Arizona (Hoover dam forms the border between Nevada and Arizona) and drove a dirt road into the desert. We visited Lake Mead, the big lake formed by Hoover dam, and afterwards drove a 4x4 mountain road with great views towards the lake and Boulder City. The entire area is very dry: amazing that a big city like Las Vegas can exist here.

Monday through Friday: I'm working for the company in Austin, most likely for the last time as my replacement has finally been hired.

Monday after work, we drove up a mountain next to Boulder City to do some hiking and watch the sunset over Las Vegas in the distance. Very nice but pretty far away.


Trip from San Francisco, CA to Boulder City, NV: approximately 1.600 km (1,600 miles)

On Tuesday after work, we first took Sophie for a walk in the mountains north of Boulder City, and then we headed to Las Vegas.
While Haichong was on her trip to Asia, we had our 7th wedding anniversary and now it was time to celebrate.
For several years, it's been our hobby to go to 'good' restaurants, especially ones that have one or more stars in the Michelin guide. Three stars is the maximum rating for a restaurant and there are none in or around Texas. While we were staying in San Francisco, we tried to get reservations to the three star restaurant in that area; "French Laundry"; but were unable to...
So, when we were headed to Las Vegas, I did some research and found that there is 1 three star restaurant in Las Vegas: "Joel Robuchon", housed in the MGM Grand hotel and casino. I tried to make a reservation ... and was successful! [website]

We chose the 6 course dinner. It was fabulous: from the surroundings, to the service, to the food ... impeccable and awesome! Including the price.
The bread cart includes around 15 types of bread, of course everything is home made; the desert cart includes around 20 different bites; the main dishes with caviar, lobster, truffle, ... priceless. The wine list looked more like a book, with bottles priced up to $28,000!

On Wednesday and Thursday after work, we visited the "Lake Mead national recreation area" and hiked at the big lake. The weather is still very nice here: dry, warm and sunny with an average temperature of 23 C (70 F) during the day and 8 C (45 F) at night. I did notice that, as soon as we leave here, almost everywhere we go to, is colder due to the higher elevation. For example, if we decide to go to the Grand Canyon south rim, the temperature there drops to -7 C at night; so we're debating which way to go. Most likely into southern Utah to visit some of the beautiful nature there that we missed on previous Utah trips.

Friday: ESP (the company in Austin) let me know that I'll be working for them also during the upcoming payroll week in December, so this week wasn't the expected final week of working for them.

Haichong's diary of her trip to South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore is available here.
Pictures of the trip are on their way.


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October 17 - November 4, 2013

Thursday

With Haichong gone on her trip to Asia, it'll be lonely exploring the area on my own.
On Thursday morning I left Gilroy and headed east through the Sierra Nevada mountains: through Yosemite national park and over the Tioga Pass (2.700m, 9,500 feet). I set up the trailer in the national forest at the eastern entrance of Yosemite; outside the town of Lee Vining.
It's a beautiful area here: high mountains, some golden aspen trees (most aspen have lost their leaves). Much colder here compared to the coast with freezing temperatures at night.

I was lucky that the government shutdown ended on Wednesday, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to drive through Yosemite or camp in the national forest ...

On Friday morning, I explored the national forest with beautiful golden aspen trees. Around lunchtime, I drove up the mountain pass towards Yosemite NP and drove a dirt road to a mountain lake.
In the afternoon, I headed down the pass to visit the ghost town of Bodie. This is a very nice old mining town dating back to the late 19th century. It's quite remote: you need to drive a long dirt road to get there. I spent a few hours exploring the town until sunset. Nice and warm during the day; freezing at night.

On Saturday morning, I drove the loop road around June lake.
This is a beautiful mountain lake, surrounded by golden aspen trees. It's a popular tourist town but luckily, this time of year, it was very quiet.
In the afternoon, I drove to Mono lake: the most famous lake in this area; saltier than the ocean; with the famous "Mono lake tufa's". Mono lake is very famous amongst photographers; unfortunately, the sky was blue. Clouds definitely help in adding some drama to Mono lake pictures.
A few miles up the road, I also visited the site of the "Mono mills": an old logging site, where they got the wood to build Bodie.

On Sunday morning, I left the campground and drove south next to the Sierra Nevada mountain range into "Owens valley" where I camped at Horton Creek: a remote, quiet, scenic BLM campground. Again hot during the daytime, cold at night (luckily it was warmer here compared to the previous campground, due to the lower altitude here).
The rest of the day, I explored the empty area surrounding the campground. Very scenic, up against the Sierra Nevada mountains and looking out into Owens valley with the White mountains across the valley.

On Monday, I visited the mountain town of Mammoth Lakes. I had heard about this town on a TV documentary. Apparently, this town has many bears living 'in' town and, as opposed to other mountain towns, they don't have to kill bears. Yes, they do have 'problem bears', but they have their own strategy of how to handle them (versus shooting them). The guy who is responsible to keep the wild bears under control is called the 'bear whisperer'.

In the morning, I drove through town to visit the Devils Postpile national monument: a valley inbetween high mountains. This area used to be a part of Yosemite national park, but was removed early 20th century because of public pressure to mine the area. Luckily, it was protected (before it was destroyed) as a national monument.
I hiked to the 'postpile': a collection of columns, many in the shape of a 'stop' sign.
Afterwards, I hiked to the rainbow falls. Surprisingly, this is the ONLY national park / monument where dogs are allowed on hikes. As a dog 'owner', I think dogs should be allowed everywhere, as long as the owner picks up after the dog. In Canada dogs are allowed in all parks, so I don't see the problem ...

By the way, October is a good month to visit Devils Postpile: it's not yet snowing (which effectively closes the valley from about November through May) but it's not visited much so you can drive your own car into the valley (as opposed to summer, when everyone has to take a bus).

In the afternoon, I drove back to Mammoth Lakes and visited 2 of the area lakes: lake George and Mary lake; unfortunately no bears to be seen.
I drove the Mammoth lakes scenic loop road to return to the campground.

On Tuesday, I drove to the town of Big Pine in the hopes of finding the Tule elk herd that lives around here, but unfortunately I couldn't find them.
Afterwards, I drove into the "Volcanic Tablelands": a huge area in the Owens valley, a desert-like environment covered with big volcanic boulders. There are a few dirt roads that go into the area, which I explored. Not that scenic, but definitely very quiet.

Click here for the pictures of the Sierra Nevada area

I left the campground on Wednesday morning: I headed east across Owens valley and over the White Mountains eastward into Nevada. Shortly after turned, the road turned back into California and Death Valley NP. On the drive into the park, I saw a coyote.

It's an unreal experience: hours of driving without any civilization and all of a sudden, a Mediterranean castle appears: "Scotty's Castle", built by a Chicago millionaire (Albert Johnson) in the 1920s. The castle was inhabited by his friend, Walter Scott, whose name stuck to the castle.

I checked into the Mesquite campground in the empty northwestern corner of Death Valley. Very nice temperatures around here: 70s during the day and 50s at night.
Very dry area here, as is all of Death Valley (maybe with the exception of Furnace Creek where they have springs).

On Thursday, I explored the area between Scotty's Castle in the west and Furnace Creek in the east. I filled up on gas at $5.11 per gallon: the most expensive gas so far in the lower 48 on our trip.

I explored the small 'town' of Furnace Creek: an oasis in Death Valley with natural springs. This is usually the hottest area of the valley: 82 F today.
Other things I visited in the area: borax mines remnants and sand dunes outside of the old town of Stovepipe Wells. These sand dunes are actually quite famous(although not many people know about this): they were used extensively in the filming of the movies Star Wars Episode IV-- A New Hope and Star Wars Episode VI-- Return of the Jedi. Click here for a good description of where which scenes were filmed.

I had visited Death Valley twice before; each time for no longer than a day, visiting the highlights. Now that I have time to spend more time here, Death Valley is definitely growing on me. It is a beautiful park; filled with rocks in almost every color and strange formations; parts of it below sea level; consisting of valleys and mountain ranges. Definitely much more than 'just a hot and dry valley'.

On our Friday morning walk, Sophie paused when I noticed she was sniffing a tarantula! Her nose was up against the big spider which kept walking to safety.

I explored the remote western area of the park: first Scotty's castle, then the Ubehebe crater and then the 1 1/2 hour dirt road (lots of washboard!) to what is known as the "Racetrack". Imagine a long, dusty, bouncy drive when in the distance, a dry, white lakebed shows up. Once you reach the lakebed, you notice small rocks spread out on the dry bed, each with their own trail as if they 'move' across the bed! Amazing and definitely one of the top sights in the national parks in the U.S. for me. I guess the remoteness of the Racetrack makes it less known and popular. This can also be a plus: I can imagine newspaper headlines of a couple of idiots who move the rocks or drive their car into the lakebed (think about the idiots who destroyed some rock formations at the Goblin Valley state park in Utah recently ...).

On Saturday morning, I left the campground and moved to the campground in Furnace Creek, in the center of Death Valley: 100 feet below sea level. No chance of catching altitude sickness here!

In the afternoon, I explored the eastern area of the park with 'Devils golf course' (the name says it all) and 'Artists drive' (a drive through colorful rocks and mountains).

90 F (30 C) today: not bad for this time of year!

Click here for my pictures of Death Valley

On Sunday, I left the park to visit the town of Beatty in Nevada. There's not much to do in this town, other than fill up the gas tank at reasonable prices (compared to Death Valley prices that is).
On the drive back towards Death Valley, I visited the ghost town of Rhyolite: an old mining town.

I didn't drive the normal road back into Death Valley but chose the 4x4 dirt road through 'Titus canyon'. The road drives over the mountain range, passed a mining ghost town. I was surprised by the beauty of this road!

I arrived back in Death Valley close to sunset and drove out to 'Zabriskie point' (famous for the movie of the same name) where I not only saw the great view, but also met a very friendly fox walking around there.

On Monday, the weather forecast predicted high winds and they weren't lying! 55 Mile per hour winds swept across the valley, and without anything to block the winds, you feel every gust!
Because of the high winds, it wasn't deemed safe to drive a trailer so I decided to stay an extra day to wait out the weather.

On Tuesday, the winds had died down and I left Death Valley, CA >>> drove into Nevada >>> passed by Las Vegas, NV (the interstate passes by the 'strip' with all the casino's >>> drove northeast into Arizona >>> I camped (on BLM land) at the Virgin River Canyon campground: a very nice, mountainous / rocky area.

I relaxed at the campground on Wednesday and explored the Virgin River canyon. The Virgin river is the river which flows through Zion national park, a little north of here.
The weather is nice: less hot than Death Valley, but not too cold at night.

On Thursday, I headed north into Utah and camped in the small town of Hurricane. The scenery around here is amazing.

On Friday, I visited Zion national park.
I had visited Zion a few times in the past, but didn't think it was very spectacular (especially compared to the other national parks in Utah, like Bryce, Canyonlands or Arches). This time, I took my time and definitely liked it more.
I drove through the entire park (west to east and back) and was very impressed by the rocky / mountainous scenery. And I didn't even go into Zion canyon on this visit, the most beautiful section of the park!

Outside of the 'main' section, I also visited lava point (by driving the Kolob terrace road) where snow was already on the ground.

On Saturday morning, I visited Snow canyon state park to the west of the small town of St. George. This state park is described in the guide books as a sampling of what Utah has to offer. I wasn't very impressed however. Yes, the scenery is nice, but definitely cannot be compared to the grande scenery of the Utah national parks.

In the afternoon I drove the 'Smithsonian Butte national scenic 4x4 byway': a 4x4 dirt road which goes south-north towards the entrance of Zion national park and an old ghost town. Nice views, but not that spectacular. Definitely quiet, as most of this is BLM land and no one lives here.

Click here for my pictures of southwestern Utah

I left Hurricane Sunday and headed south into Nevada. I camped at the "Valley of Fire" state park, just to the northeast of Las Vegas.
This area is known for its red rocks which light up around sunset and sunrise. I camped at the Atlatl campground: a very nice campground seeing that it's right in the middle of a nice collection of red rocks so you can walk out of your caravan into the red rocks.

On Monday, specifically around sunrise (which was cloudy unfortunately) and sunset, I explored the park further.
Several times during the day, I saw film crews shooting scenes of the upcoming movie "Velocity". No famous actors in sight however.

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Sep 28 - Oct 17, 2013

San Francisco Bay area

Click here for pictures of the drive from Seattle down to San Francisco


Map part 24: Brookings, Oregon to San Francisco Bay Area, California

We arrived in the Bay area on Friday evening and setup the Airstream for 2 nights on a campground in the town of Vallejo, across the bay from San Francisco.

We drove into San Francisco on Saturday. We took the new Bay Bridge into town: a new $6.4 billion suspension bridge. Click here for more info

First stop: the Whole Foods grocery store.
Ever since I moved to Texas in 2003, I've been looking for the Belgian beer Palm but could never find it (so all I could do was order it from Belgium at a high cost). Since recently however, Palm is now officially being imported into the United States and is sold in a few stores/areas: one of which is San Francisco! So, 2 weeks ago, I called the store and ordered 2 cases of Palm.
Ironically, after having lived in Austin, Texas for 10 years without Palm, now (since Summer 2013) the stores in Austin are also selling Palm!

We drove to the Fisherman's Wharf area and Pier 39 after picking up the Palm cases. We walked around the touristy area for a few hours; visited the sea lions on Pier 39 and ate fresh clam chowder in a bread bowl.
Late afternoon, we visited Rachel (a former co-worker of mine from back in 2004 at Alliance Abroad Group, who has been living in San Francisco for several years now).

We left San Francisco by driving across the Golden Gate bridge and headed back to Vallejo.
Two years ago, when we 'lived' in this area for 2.5 months (while working for Alliance Abroad Group), we stayed in the town of Fairfield, just to the east of Vallejo.

We left the campground in Vallejo on Sunday and headed south, passing San Francisco and San Jose, to the town of Gilroy.
I'll be working for ESP in Austin for the next 2.5 weeks and we're staying in a campground in Gilroy, just south of San Francisco and next to the ocean (nearby Santa Cruz and Monterey).

The town of Gilroy is known for its garlic farms, and indeed, at night when the wind is blowing, there's a strong garlic odor in the air...
Appropriately, our campground is called the "Gilroy Garlic USA RV park".

Monday after work, we went swimming in the pool at the RV park. The weather is very nice: around 25 C and sunny. Seems that the summertime is actually not the best time to visit the Bay area, as it's usually foggy and colder during the summer months. Spring and Fall are better with warmer temperatures and sunny skies (the winter months are usually rainy).

Tuesday after work, we spent time fixing some items on the Jeep and the Airstream. Both the Airstream and the Jeep need repairs after our long trip so far.

Wednesday after work, we went hiking in the Coyote Lake county park, east of Gilroy. The hike has great views of the valley in which Gilroy (and Highway 101) lies: stuck between the coastal mountain range and the Diablo range.
The landscape is extremely dry with mostly dried up grasses. We saw many black tail deer (good prey for mountain lions, which apparently are pretty common here).

After dinner, we ate "garlic ice cream" which is sold here in Gilroy. Not bad, although not as good as "bacon ice cream".

Thursday after work, we drove to the ocean and visited the "Sunset state beach", in between Santa Cruz and Monterey. We found many sand dollars.
The road to the ocean goes through many farm fields (strawberries, corn, ...) and at times it almost feels like you're driving around in Mexico (not a white person in sight)!

Friday after work, we relaxed at the campground and went swimming in the pool.

On Saturday we visited the coastline south of San Francisco: the famous area around Big Sur. We were lucky with the weather: no fog or clouds!
This is definitely the nicest area of the entire coastline: from San Diego in the south to Seattle in the north, the coastline is nice, but nothing beats Big Sur. Highway 1 follows the ocean and climbs over the hills with great views.
We drove south from Monterey to Big Sur in the morning and returned the same way in the afternoon. Interesting to see the different views depending on which direction you take.

On Sunday, Haichong prepared everything for her upcoming trip.

On Monday afternoon, I drove Haichong to San Francisco International Airport. She left on vacation for 1 month. She's going to visit her 2nd brother and some friends in South Korea (Seoul); then flies to the Philippines to visit her 1st (oldest) brother and do sightseeing; then flies on to Maleysia (Kuala Lumpur) and Singapore to visit one of her friends and do sightseeing; and then back to South Korea for a couple of days before returning to the United States.

In the meantime, I will continue to work here in California for another week and a half most likely, and then try to do some exploring on my own before Haichong returns.

Tuesday after work, I went to Lowes to get some supplies to make some repairs on the Airstream.

Cold front on Wednesday. Cloudy and around 15 C during the day: pretty chilly compared to the weather we've had since we arrived here.
After work, I continued working on repairs in the Airstream.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the map for our trip so far: approximately 11,157 miles (17.851 km) in 5 months of traveling! Pretty impressive.
Google Maps doesn't allow a long list of stops, so I had to break it up in pieces.


Our trip so far, part 1: Austin, Texas to Valdez, Alaska: 5,043 miles (8.068 km)


Part 2: Valdez, Alaska to Gilroy, California: 6,114 miles (9.782 km)

If the Pan-American highway is 29,800 miles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, then we have a long way to go. We've driven about 6,000 miles south from Prudhoe Bay so that leaves approximately 23,800 miles!

On Thursday after work, I went hiking with Sophie in the Coyote Lake County park. The park is open range, which means cows walk around there freely. As Sophie and me walked over the top of a hill, a bunch of cows with their babies was standing on the other side. Sophie barked and we circled around them in order not to disturb/upset them. However, just over the top of another hill in the woods, there were 2 calves eating to the right of us. Sophie saw them and immediately started barking, which made the 2 calves run away from us. Out of nowhere, the mother cow came from between the bushes on our left, running towards us! (Remember the old saying: 'never get between a mother and her baby!')
We ran down the hill with the mother cow behind us; I fell; got up again; then Sophie fell; ... A few minutes later, I noticed the mother cow had stopped her pursuit as we were no longer a threat to her calves. My knee was bloody, both my hands bloody ... who knew cows could be so scary!

On the drive back to Gilroy, I saw a bobcat (lynx)! It was walking on the road but ran off into the bushes before I could take a picture. I also saw 3 groups of wild turkeys (around 10 turkeys per group) and a herd of deer.

Friday after work, we drove into the hills again. We saw another (!) bobcat (or it could have been the same as the day before..) and a lot of wild turkeys.

We visited the coastal town of Santa Cruz on Saturday. This town is exactly what you expect when you think of a California surfing town: lots of surfers in the ocean, lots of older people on skateboards. We visited the beach at the Beach Boardwalk (the amusement park) and drove the West Cliff drive with great views of the ocean and town. We saw many sea lions and porpoises (which look like dolphins).

I continued the repairs in the trailer on Sunday and Monday.

Tuesday after work, we went for a drive in the hills and saw many black tail deer.

On Wednesday, I prepared everything to leave the area.

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Sep 21 - 27, 2013

California coastline

We crossed the border from Oregon into California on Saturday and followed Hwy. 101 south.

Northwestern California is famous for its redwood forests: the tallest trees on the planet. Driving on Hwy. 101, we drove through several state parks and Redwood national park.
We setup the Airstream in the national park for 3 nights, on the Prairie creek campground.

While driving around the national park in the afternoon, we saw several black tail deer and many elk.
This area has a good population of 'Roosevelt elk' (who live in the northwestern United States), the largest subspecies of elk. The elk are in rut right now, which means that a dominant male looks after his harem while other males hang around to challenge the dominant male for the right to mate with the harem.

On Sunday, we drove the dirt road in the national park to Gold Bluffs beach. There's another elk herd living in the dunes here and 2 smaller males that hang around who repeatedly get chased away by the dominant male in the herd.
After observing the elk herd in the dunes for a few hours, we hiked the short trail into beautiful fern canyon: a narrow canyon of which the walls are covered in ferns and mosses.
We ate our lunch on the beach and saw several seals swimming by.

On Monday, we couldn't find Mimi anywhere on the campsite. Turns out a national park ranger had picked her up because it's "illegal for pets to run free in a national park". Anyway, the ranger brought Mimi back to us and she said that Mimi behaved very well while 'in custody'!

While driving around the park today, we saw many more elk and black tail deer.

We left the national park on Tuesday and headed south on Hwy. 101. We drove through "Humboldt Redwoods state park" with the Avenue of the giants: a road that passes between some of the tallest redwoods.

While having lunch in the state park, Sophie was continually barking at our car. Upon further investigation, we found a small skunk in the engine compartment! It must have crawled into the engine at night in the national park.
No matter what I tried, the skunk didn't leave, so we continued driving.

Further south, we turned onto Hwy 1, which follows the coastline from here down to southern California. We setup the Airstream next to the ocean in Westport state beach park: beautiful scenery.

On Wednesday, we relaxed at Westport state beach. Sunny and warm, very nice.

On Thursday, we continued south on Hwy. 1. We left Westport and visited Mackerricher state park, Fort Bragg, Point Cabrillo preserve and lighthouse (where seals are laying on the rocks in the ocean) and the town of Mendocino.

On Friday, we headed south on Hwy. 1 and visited some state parks along the way. Haichong ate fresh oysters at the Point Reyes national seashore (they grow here) and we slept just north of San Francisco.

Highway 1 is very pretty but not recommended whilst towning a trailer: the road is very narrow and hilly.

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Sep 17 - 20, 2013

Oregon coastline

We left the Seattle area and Puyallup on Tuesday. After a few hours of driving south, we entered Oregon.
We drove towards the Pacific Ocean with the plan of following the coastal roads all the way to San Francisco in California.

First stop: the town of Astoria in the northwestern corner of Oregon. This town is famous thanks to the filming of the movie 'The Goonies'.
We visited this area a few years ago so we skipped the most famous sights. We headed to the harbor to see the sea lions. Too bad that the sea lion area is now no longer accessible, unlike a few years ago.

In late afternoon, we drove into "Fort Stevens state park" and slept here for 1 night. We walked around the park and the beach in the evening.

We headed south on Highway 101 along the Oregon coastline on Wednesday. The weather was very nice and sunny: rather unusual knowing that most of the time in this area is cloudy and raining.
We visited Cannon Beach (with the Haystack rock), Manhattan Beach, the Cape Meares lighthouse and Cape lookout state park where we slept for the night.

The coastline in Oregon is very beautiful: very hilly and rocky, with rocks sticking out of the ocean.

On Thursday, we continued south on Hwy. 101 and visited Seal rock, the Heceta Head lighthouse and the Sea lion caves: a big cave on the ocean, regularly visited by sea lions. We found it was a good example of a tourist trap...
In the evening, we hiked and slept at the Honeyman state park, next to the Oregon dunes national recreation area.


Map part 23: Seattle, Washington to Brookings, Oregon

Rainy on Friday. We visited Cape Arago; a good place to see Sea lions; and reached the most southern point at the Oregon coastline and Harris Beach state park, where we slept for the night.

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Sep 9 - 17, 2013

Seattle


Map part 22: Yakima to Seattle, Washington

I'm working again for the company in Austin between September 10 and 16. This time, we chose the Seattle area to stay for the week. We visited this area ("Pacific northwest") on an earlier trip in June of 2009 and we like the area: even though it rains a lot here, the scenery is very nice with mount Rainier, Olympic national park (with the rainforest and mountains), the Pacific ocean and Puget sound, ...

On Monday morning, we left mount Rainier and drove to Puyallup, just south of Seattle, and checked into an RV park.

Tuesday after work: we explored Dash Point state park, a park at the ocean (technically called "Puget sound", an inlet/bay). We found many "sand dollars". (click here)

Wednesday after work: we explored Tacoma and Point Defiance park, a big park at Puget sound. We saw a seal swimming.

Thursday after work: we visited a big park (Chambers Creek) at Puget sound, south of Tacoma. Very nice.

Friday after work: we explored Puyallup and walked around in two of the parks. Puyallup is a suburb of Seattle (or Tacoma; depends how you look at it). Lots of houses here, including horrible traffic during morning and evening rush hour.

On Saturday we visited the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Seattle. We drove to the small town of Anacortes in the morning to catch the ferry to Orcas Island.
The San Juan Islands consist of 172 islands in between the US mainland and Canada's Vancouver Island.(click here)
We chose to visit Orcas Island because it's supposed to be the island with the nicest scenery and at the same time not crowded with tourists.

We drove around the small island all day and visited Moran state park. This state park contains Mount Constitution (2409 feet - 734 meters), the highest point on the San Juan islands. The road goes all the way to the top from which you have a nice view of the island and surroundings.
When we visited, it was cloudy but sunny at the top, so our view down was a bed of clouds.
Overall, we weren't that impressed with the island. The interior and the coastline look very similar to the mainland coast on Puget sound. We liked the nearby Canadian islands off Vancouver Island much better, especially Salt Spring Island which we visited in 2011.

While waiting for the return ferry, we saw a seal swimming around in the harbor. We got lucky on the ferry back to Anacortes: we saw 2 orcas!

Click here for pictures from Canada to the Seattle area

We spent Sunday relaxing at the campground and going grocery shopping.

Final day of working on Monday and we left the Seattle area on Tuesday morning.


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Sep 6 - 8, 2013

On Friday morning a knock on the door from the camp host: the road through North Cascades NP is closed due to mudslides! So, big detour again for us (we experienced a similar situation in Waterton Lakes NP when driving north to Alaska a few months ago).

We headed south (along the east side of the cascades mountain range), through the Lake Chelan area, an area very similar to the Okanagan valley a few hours north in Canada: a big lake, dry climate, many wineries and fruit orchards.


Map part 21: Osoyoos, Canada to Yakima, Washington

We arrived in Mount Rainier national park in late afternoon and setup the Airstream for 3 nights on a campground in the park.

The campground is located in the rainforest: a very beautiful area with high trees covered in mosses.
Today, Saturday, we visited the mountain pass in the southern section of the park, going to Paradise, a small town at the foot of Mount Rainier. A beautiful but crowded area as all tourists seem to be heading here.

On Sunday, we explored the eastern section ("Sunrise") of the park. Beautiful views of mount Rainier.


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Sep 4 - 5, 2013

On Wednesday, we arrived in the Okanagan Valley, famous for its wine. Nearby the city of Kelowna we visited 2 wineries: Mission Hill and quails gate estate.

Nice area here: hilly with a big lake in the middle. Somewhat similar to California's Napa valley (but with a lake added into it).

We left the Kelowna area on Thursday morning and crossed the border into the US.


Map part 20: Williams Lake to Osoyoos, Canada

Our 8th border crossing on this trip between US and Canada. Our RV got checked this time (for the first time!) as they searched for "illegal fruits and vegetables". For example, tomatoes are not allowed in.

We drove into the Cascade mountains east of Seattle and slept in the national forest right before the entrance to North Cascades NP.
At night there were heavy thunderstorms in the area with loud thunder.

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Sep 1 - 3, 2013

Even though I would like to spend an entire summer in Hyder, we had to keep heading south since we need to make it to the lower 48 again before September 10. We left Hyder on Sunday morning and crossed back into Canada.

We drove south to the end of the Cassiar highway and took the Yellowhead highway from here ("Trans Canadian hwy").
We slept at a lake east of the town of Smithers. Nice scenery along the drive: mountains, hills and forests. It's getting warmer as we head south.

On Monday morning we drove the Yellowhead highway to the city of Prince George. Here we headed south and we slept in Williams Lake, at the turnoff for the mountain road to the coast and the town of Bella Coola.

Unfortunately we're not going to Bella Coola on this trip. It's supposed to have nice scenery and a good chance of seeing grizzlies feeding on salmon, but we decided to head to another part of southwestern Canada which we haven't visited in the past, before heading into the "lower 48" (I'm due to work for the Austin company on September 10).


Map part 19: Hyder, Alaska to Williams Lake, Canada

On Tuesday morning, we went to a tire shop to change a tire on the Airstream in Williams Lake. We drove south around lunch time and slept at a lake south of Kamloops.

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August 29 - 31, 2013

Thursday morning walk, same story. This time, we're walking on the campground road and a black bear comes walking around the corner towards us (about 20 meters away). Sophie immediately starts barking; the bear takes off running and watches us for a few seconds before disappearing into the bushes.
The guidebook says that this area is prime bear habitat and it's not lying!

In early afternoon we drove back to ... Alaska: the small coastal town of Hyder this time, "the friendliest ghost town in Alaska".

Click here for our pictures of Hyder

Along the way you pass by Bear glacier, which spills from the mountains into a lake.


Map part 18: Whitehorse, Canada to Hyder, Alaska

The reason I wanted to visit Hyder is to see bears fishing for salmon. At Fish creek, just outside of town, is a salmon run (mid July into September) which attracts grizzly and black bears.
To keep it relatively safe for visitors, the forest service has built a viewing platform (about 100 meters / yards in length, next to the river where the salmon are spawning).
We went there at night but didn't see much action: 1 black bear was eating berries in the bushes so we didn't get a good look.

Wildlife: black bear

I got up early on Friday morning to go back to the viewing platform at Fish creek. The viewing platform opens at 6:30; I got there at 7. Cold and rainy but worth it to potentially see wildlife. While standing at the platform, you have a clear view of the creek. Hundreds of salmon are spawning and easily visible in the creek.

I met some other photographers on the viewing platform, who spend hours here every Summer day to observe wildlife.
Bob Gay, a nature photographer from Colorado and his wife SueAnn (click here for their website) have been coming to Hyder each summer for the past 15 years.
Steve Williamson (click here for his website) is a conservation photographer who lives on Vancouver Island.
Claudia and PJ are a Dutch couple (click here for their website) who travel the world in search of wildlife.
Another photographer; Francis; is 85 years old and has been spending the past 25 summers here at Fish Creek.

We got lucky today: we saw 1 grizzly, 2 wolves (1 catching fish) and 3 black bears!

In the afternoon, Haichong and me drove back into Canada on a dirt road to visit Salmon glacier: Canada's 5th largest glacier. Very impressive!

Wildlife: grizzly, wolves, black bears

Same story on Saturday morning: I got up early and returned to the viewing platform at Fish creek.
We got even luckier today: it was cold and raining pretty hard but we saw 2 grizzlies (1 catching fish), 2 black bears (1 swimming in the lagoon) and 3 wolves (of which 2 were catching fish at Fish creek and the 3rd one was on the lookout as a grizzly was standing up river).

Video of the wolves catching salmon:

At lunch time, on the drive back to the campground, I spotted the 3rd wolf (who didn't eat earlier since he was on the lookout for the bear) fishing and eating in the creek next to the road!
I got out of the car to take a picture but I was all alone and the wolf was only about 10 meters away from me in the river!

At night, we drove out to the harbor in Hyder as we saw on the 'aurora forecast' that it was going to be active tonight.
We were lucky that the sky was clear and we saw a lot of stars. After a few hours of waiting, we saw a glow in the northern skies. Soon after, beams of green light came towards us in the skies. We saw the northern lights (aurora) for the first time! Very beautiful!

What an amazing place to be: Hyder has great scenery, wildlife and an opportunity to see the northern lights. And friendly people.

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August 26 - 28, 2013

We left Dawson City on Monday morning to start the drive south. We drove all day and slept just north of Whitehorse.
Not much change in scenery along the way: hills, forests, lots of empty spaces with only two (very) small towns along the way.

On a side note: Dawson City's RV parks aren't the greatest as far as amenities are concerned and they charge extra for what they have. The first one we stayed at (Dawson City RV park) offered WiFi but had only a single dial-up connection for the entire campground. It was incredible slow but mostly not working. So much for staying at an RV park for the WiFi.
The second one we stayed at (Bonanza Gold RV park) had better WiFi, but charged extra for filling up your drinking water and more interestingly ... charged even for (not potable) water to rinse your septic hose after dumping!
Guess you can't have it all when you're staying this far from civilization.

Cloudy again at night so no chance of seeing the aurora.

We left the Klondike highway on Tuesday morning and joined up with the Alcan again. We shopped for groceries in Whitehorse.
We drove the Alaska highway to Nugget City (just before Watson Lake) and here took the Cassiar highway south.
We slept next to a lake just south of Nugget City.

We drove most of the Cassiar highway on Wednesday. The Cassiar is an alternative route for the Alcan. Overall the road condition of the Alcan is better than the Cassiar, but in our opinion the Cassiar has nicer scenery. It goes north-south through mountain ranges and then runs parallel to the coastal mountains.

We slept in Meziadin provincial park, next to a lake.
We had a close encounter on our evening walk through the campground: I heard some noises coming from the bushes in front of us; Sophie barked and then I heard some loud breathing. It was a black bear, 3 meters in front of us! We quickly walked away and luckily the bear continued his eating of the berries.

Wildlife on Wednesday: 3 black bears, eating flowers next to the road; a black bear on our campground at night; 1 bald eagle.

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August 23 - 25, 2013

We arrived at Dawson City after lunch on Friday. We placed the Airstream in an RV park and we relaxed the rest of the day.


Map part 17: Whitehorse to Dawson City, Canada

On Saturday we visited the area.

Click here for pictures of Dawson City

First, we visited the "Discovery claim" on Bonanza creek. This is where a prospector found gold in 1898 which started the Klondike gold rush.

Nearby is the "Dredge no. 4", an 8 story tall ship which was used to extract gold from the creeks.
After gold was discovered here, big business arrived and corporations bought out many of the small miners working their claims. The dredge was able to work the better portion of the year. It dug up the soil in the river, brought it on board via a conveyor belt and then extracted the gold from the dirt. The processed dirt was dumped on the shore. As a result of years of dredge mining, big portions of the Dawson City area have hills of rocks covering the landscape: an ugly (but considered historical now) effect of gold mining.

We then drove up Dome road to a hill which overlooks the town and the Yukon river.
Afterwards, we visited the town. It's a very nice, small town with historical buildings dating back to the gold rush era.
A local saloon (at the Downtown Hotel) serves a "sourtoe cocktail": supposedly a cocktail containing a real human toe. Real or fake, I don't know but according to a local we met: it's real! Unfortunately I couldn't try it out since the saloon only serves it after 9 at night.

It got cold at night, minus three Celsius!
Cloudy again unfortunately so no chance of seeing the aurora at night. Like Fairbanks in Alaska, Dawson City is an excellent place to see the aurora in Canada.

The "Klondike highway" starts in the south in Skagway (Alaska) and ends here in Dawson City at the Yukon river. There is a road that starts here in Dawson City which goes west all the way to Tok (Alaska) but there's no bridge across the Yukon river to connect it with the Klondike highway. Instead the Canadian government operates a free ferry boat to bring you across the Yukon river.
On Sunday morning we took the ferry to explore the road going west. We left the Airstream in Dawson City. The dirt road leading approximately 100 km to the US border is known as the "Top of the World highway". We spent a few hours exploring the road. It has beautiful views north towards the Canadian arctic region. The vegetation is similar to the Dalton highway in Alaska with tundra, low/no trees and lichens.

Not sure why it's called the "Top of the World" highway: it's definitely one of the most northern roads in Canada and the road also crosses over mountain tops. Two seemingly good reasons ...

On the way back to Dawson City we visited the "stern wheeler graveyard": an area next to the Yukon river where several old stern wheeler boats are left to rot.

Early evening we relaxed at the RV park: it was finally sunny again after a few cloudy and rainy days.

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August 21 - 22, 2013

On Wednesday morning we saw 2 moose in our campground.
Before we left Haines this morning, we drove one more time to the Chilkoot river and yes, we saw another two grizzlies in the river catching salmon!
Unfortunately we couldn't hang around to take pictures as we had a boat to catch!

We took the Alaska State Ferry from Haines to Skagway at lunch time. It's only a 1 hour boat ride but it saved us a few hours of driving. The short boat ride is beautiful through a fjord.


Map part 16: Haines, Alaska to Whitehorse, Canada

Where Haines is a small and sleepy town, Skagway is a small but crowded, commercialized town. When we arrived in the Skagway harbor, there were 3 cruise ships present! Main Street was overrun by tourists.
Most cruise ship travelers are easy to identify in town: they are dressed up like they're walking around in New York City and their hair is spotless. Not exactly the kind of traveler you expect (or wish) to meet in a remote Alaskan town.
I can only imagine what it's like to visit the other Alaskan cruise ship stops like Juneau, Sitka or Ketchikan ... probably very similar looking to Skagway: commercialized, filled with tourist traps and overrun by cruise ship crowds.

Nonetheless, Skagway is worth a (quick) visit. Like Haines, Valdez, Whittier and Seward, the mountain/ocean scenery here is amazing.
Most of Skagway's historical downtown is protected in the "Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park". Buildings date back to the end of the 19th century when the gold rush was in full swing. We visited the downtown area and ate fresh Alaskan king crab and halibut: caught and processed in Haines (and delicious)!

We left Skagway in late afternoon and drove the mountain pass into Canada: our 5th border crossing on this trip and we've only been in 2 countries!

Click here for some pictures of the drive back into Canada

The summit of the pass is around 1.000 meters: a beautiful treeless landscape with rocks covered in mosses and lichens.

We slept about halfway between Skagway (Alaska) and Carcross (Canada): waterfront at Tutshi lake, a big lake inbetween high mountains.

Wildlife: 2 grizzly bears, 2 moose

After spending a few hours at the lake on Thursday morning, we headed north just before lunch time.
North of the small town of Carcross, we visited the "world's smallest desert": 1 square miles of sand dunes.

We drove the Alaska Highway going through Whitehorse and then headed north on the Klondike Highway towards Dawson City.

Along the way we hiked the trail at the Five Finger Rapids: there's a few big rocks in the Yukon river here which caused a lot of trouble during the big gold rush at the end of the 19th century (many gold seekers headed north via the river on homemade boats and crashed here on these rocks).

The weather is a little warmer here compared to the coastal area of Haines and Skagway. Surprisingly no mosquitoes to be found here.
We slept a few miles north of the town of Carmacks, at the Five Finger rapids.

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August 19 - 20, 2013

We continued driving south on Monday and arrived in Haines Junction at lunch time. We filled up on gas and left the Alaska Highway: we headed south towards the ocean and the town of Haines.
What a beautiful drive: mountain valleys, views of glaciers ... and that for about 220 km (145 miles) long!
About 45 km (30 miles) north of Haines is the border. Yes, Haines is in Alaska so we crossed back into the USA.


Map part 15: Fairbanks to Haines, Alaska

Just north of Haines the road goes through the Bald Eagle Sanctuary: a protected area along the Chilkat river where each year in November a few thousand bald eagles come to feast on the last salmon run of the year. The reason the salmon can run that late in the year is that there's geothermal activity here which prevents the Chilkat river from freezing.
This being August, we only saw a few bald eagles.

We arrived in Haines around 3 in the afternoon and set up the Airstream at the Chilkat state park. A beautiful location right on the ocean, with mountain vistas across the bay with 2 glaciers. These glaciers are a part of Glacier Bay national park, which extends across the mountains west of Haines.

Click here for pictures of our stay in Haines

Ever since our final days in Fairbanks, we've been having the feeling that fall is in the air: cooler temperatures, some leaves turning color, and most importantly ... it's finally getting dark again at night! Still, this being mid August, it feels pretty early for Fall!

Wildlife: bald eagles

We visited the town of Haines on Tuesday. We drove into downtown and explored the harbor and Main Street. It's a very small town, beautifully situated between high mountains at the ocean. It shows that Haines isn't frequently visited by the mass amount of tourists, who travel southeast Alaska via cruise ship. Nothing to ruin a small town like mass tourism!

In the afternoon, we drove up to Chilkoot lake. Just before reaching the lake we saw a grizzly bear sitting in the Chilkoot river! We watched it catch and eat several salmon: very exciting!
This river has a salmon run in mid summer and there's a healthy population of bears around here.
After watching the bear, we drove to the lake where we saw a bald eagle eat a salmon.

Video of the mother grizzly and her cub:

On our way back to town, at the same spot in the river where we saw the grizzly earlier, we saw a mother grizzly bear and her cub catching salmon!
We spent the next few hours watching the two of them walking downstream in the river, catching and eating salmon. Fun to watch as the cub wasn't very skilled yet and kept dropping his salmon. Very exciting as they were sometimes only 20 meters away from us while we were following them on foot!

Who knew Haines was such a great place to see bears catching salmon, right next to the road.

Wildlife: 3 grizzly bears, many bald eagles

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August 17 - 18, 2013

Since the story of this roadtrip is getting long, I split it up in 2 parts. Everything starting May 4 until August 16 is in 'part 1'. Click here to read the first part.

We left Fairbanks on Saturday morning and headed southeast towards Canada.
A few miles outside of Fairbanks is the small town of North Pole. The town name was given by local business people in the hopes of attracting toy manufacturing companies (who never came) and tourists.
The main tourist attraction is Santa Clause's house, which is actually a store which sells Christmas stuff year round and keeps some reindeer outside in an enclosure. We visited the store and then continued on our way.

In Delta Junction, we visited the monument for the end of the Alaska Highway: 1,422 miles from Dawson Creek, Canada. We'll be taking the Alcan in the opposite direction now, at least for a while as we're not planning to drive to the lower 48 via the shortest route.

After driving most of the day, a few miles before the Canadian border we stayed at the same campground where we stayed on the way up: in the Tetlin national wildlife refuge at the lake. Very quiet and nice scenery.

Wildlife: moose

Click here for pictures of the drive into Canada

We crossed the border into Canada around 11 AM on Sunday morning. The Alcan road condition is pretty bad here. Looks like they didn't do (m)any repairs since we drove here up towards Alaska in late June.
Beautiful mountain scenery on the drive today passing Kluane national park and Kluane lake. Along the highway, we spotted a moose (standing and eating in a lake) and a red fox.

We slept on a campground next to Kluane lake. Again in an area with high bear activity: there are a lot of soapberries here; a favorite food for bears; and during berry season (=now) there are no tents allowed. Unfortunately, we didn't see any bears on our walks next to the lake.

We did meet 2 guys from Australia who took pity on me chopping up firewood with our small axe. One of them lives in this area and loves it here. When mentioning Hawaii, he replied: "there's no snowmobiling or ice fishing on Hawaii". Enough said.

Wildlife: moose, fox

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