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Thread: Hunt's 2008 Alaska Expedition

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Half Moon Bay, CA
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    656
    Updated pictures at: http://www.pbase.com/brhunt/alaska08

    Day 15 – 20: Denali National Park and Preserve to Fairbanks

    We left Elmendorf AFB after a hot breakfast and headed north. Our first stop was Talkeetna, a touristy town near Denali. The big thing happening in Talkeetna was the preparations for the Moose Drop Festival happening the next weekend. We captured eight decorated moose cutouts at the various businesses. It looked to be a super local festival. We made an early camp ath Byers State Campground in the Denali State Park.



    We headed towards the park next morning stopping in Cantwell to top off fuel. Tessoro was $5.10 for premium and Chevron was $5.80. At Denali, we checked into the Wilderness Access Center to pick up our campground reservations and bus passes then headed “into the wild.” Teklanika campground is at mile 29 of the Denali park road, about 20 miles beyond where you can drive your vehicle without a permit. We had to park the Rover for three days and take the parks bus wherever we wanted to go. Since we were in the park early, we hopped a bus to Polychrome Pass for some sightseeing. We had a bit of trouble catching a bus back to camp but were eventually saved by a nice lady driving the camper bus.



    Our first full day in the park we went to the new Eielson visitor center and decided to go on to Wonder Lake, as far into the park as the green parks buses go. It was a beautiful trip with Mt. McKinley clearly visible early in the day and clouded up by the time we reached Wonder Lake. We saw Dahl sheep, brown bear, caribou, and moose along with about a hundred snowshoe rabbits. We decided to stay on the Wonder Lake bus all the way back to our camp to avoid the crowded bus problem from the day before.



    Our last full day in the park, we had nothing specific planned so we decided to see if we could hike to the top of Igloo Peak about six miles up the road from our camp. We hopped on the bus and got off at Igloo Campground and began searching for a way up the mountain which was cloaked in fog so we didn't really know if it was the right one or not. We ran across another couple intent of the same goal so we chose a game trail going in about the right direction and began to climb. We made it to a rocky outcrop about a fourth of the way up when the going got too steep and uncertain so we had lunch and went back down. We waited for about 90 minutes for a bus back to the campground. That afternoon we hiked down the the Teklanika River and explored a bit. The Teklanika River is what is called a braided river. It has a very wide bed of gravel and the water wanders around among the gravel looking somewhat like a braid.



    Next day we headed out of the park after stopping to do the Savage River loop hike and visiting the Wilderness Access Center to top off our water and get a refund for the two nights at the large campground at the entrance of the park. We had decided to move on rather than do more bus riding. We made it to Fairbanks and found a campsite at the Fort Wainwright family camp.



    On Sunday I did an oil change on the Land Rover at the Auto Hobbyshop on post. We then ended our stay in Fairbanks with a visit to the University of Alaska Museum and Pioneer Park.
    Brian
    2004 Discovery II G4 Edition - aka Jack
    2002 Freelander SE Gone.
    KØDTJ
    Avatar photo by Ron B., Oregon Discovery Trail 2008

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky112540 View Post
    Great write up. So what were the restrictions for carrying fuel cans on the ferries?
    I just had to take them off the rack and stow them in the ferry's paint locker. I think there is a limit of 3 six gallon cans.
    Brian
    2004 Discovery II G4 Edition - aka Jack
    2002 Freelander SE Gone.
    KØDTJ
    Avatar photo by Ron B., Oregon Discovery Trail 2008

  3. #13
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    Day 20-25: Into the Yukon!

    From Fairbanks we returned to Tok, AK along the Alaska Highway, stopping in Delta Junction to visit the official northern end of the Alaska Highway. It was rainy and cool so we took a few pictures and went on our way. From Tok, we turned north on state highway 5 to the US/Canada border and Dawson City, YT. The highlight of the day was our stop in Chicken, AK which consisted of three stores, a post office and 8-9 permanent residents. The town founders wanted to name it ptarmigan but couldn't agree on how to spell it so they took the easy way out. For our last night in Alaska, we camped at a wonderful BLM campground at Walker Fork.



    We decamped early under a bright sun and drove the spectacular Top of the World Highway. After clearing Canadian customs (showing our passports and answering three questions) we left Alaska behind. To get into Dawson City we rode a free ferry across the Yukon River. It was a little scary since on the west side of the river there was a guy in a skip-loader rebuilding the earthen ferry landing as quick as the river was washing it away. But after a few minutes wait we boarded the ferry uneventfully along with eleven other cars and two motorcycles and away we went. In Dawson City we did a walking tour, had some lunch, shopped a little and filled a nearly empty gas tank. Price: $6.77/gallon! Total cost: $134.99!



    From DC we turned north on the Dempster Highway toward Inuvik and the Arctic Circle. We camped the night at the Tombstone YT Parks Campground about 44 miles up the road. On the way we met a 18 wheeler traveling about 70 mph and received a couple sizable windshield chips and dings in the front of the bonnet. Overnight we decided to abort our try for the Arctic Circle and save the wear and tear on the Discovery by avoiding another 500 miles of the Dempster. We did go “up the road a ways” to see the terrain. We spotted a couple moose and a black bear.



    The next two nights we camped in YT Parks campgrounds. These places are reasonable at $12/night which includes all the firewood you can burn and good facilities. On the way to Whitehorse we stopped at the Five Fingers Rapids on the Yukon River and at Carmacks for lunch and a visit to the old town. In Whitehorse we visited the MacBryde Museum of Yukon History and had a great lunch at the Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ. We are in out of the rain tonight at the Yukon Motel in Teslin, YT. Tomorrow we enter BC, about 2340 miles from home.



    As usual there are a few more pictures HERE.
    Brian
    2004 Discovery II G4 Edition - aka Jack
    2002 Freelander SE Gone.
    KØDTJ
    Avatar photo by Ron B., Oregon Discovery Trail 2008

  4. #14
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    Dec 2006
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    Utah
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    203
    so jelous looks like so much fun.... good write up to

  5. #15
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    Day 26-30: Through British Columbia to the US border.

    Not quite through with YT yet, we stopped at Watson Lake to visit the signpost forest. There are dozens of posts with hundreds of city limit signs from all over the world. Quite a sight. From there we drove to the Watson Lake airport which was a landing strip for the WWII Lend Lease shuttle flights from the lower 48 to Fairbanks where the aircraft were handed over to Russian crews. Many great historical photographs were displayed in the terminal and there was also a memorial and a '40s era hanger used by the Air Corps.



    Finally into BC for good we began seeing lots of wildlife. A black bear was grazing along the road but were shy and I didn't get good pictures. Then we encountered a bison herd and there was a great photo opportunity. The terrain here is mountainous and densely wooded with spruce, aspen and birch. Camping at Muncho Lake we endured gusty winds and a couple rain squalls but were rewarded with a great rainbow.



    Next morning the weather had cleared and we enjoyed the sunshine and a pancake breakfast. On the road we first found a herd of Stone sheep and snapped a few good photos. Then we came across several young caribou on the road just messing around and trying to stay out of the way of the big trucks on the road. And finally another black bear. He wasn't any more photogenic than the last one. After an abortive attempt to find a decent Provincial campground we lowered our standards and pulled into the Pink Mountain RV park. It turned out to be pretty nice and the same cost as the Provincial parks.



    Next morning found us passing through Fort St. John – not much going on there – and on to Dawson Creek, the start of the Alaska Highway. We stopped in town to photograph the monument and visit the new Alaska Highway museum which was really great. We also followed part of the old, original road and found the sole remaining wooden bridge built by the Alcan Highway crews. Camp that night was at Heart Lake, a forest camp. We heard there was a bear in the area but we didn't see him.



    The following day brought us to Prince George and civilization. South of Dawson Creek the land became much more developed and at Prince George there was lots of forestry and agriculture. From there south farms and ranches were all along the highway. We stopped at the Williams Lake visitor center which was a beautiful log building built just a few years ago. A couple interesting exhibits and free internet access but not much other support (like fresh water) were available for us weary travelers. We camped in the Provincial campground at Lac La Hache.

    Next morning's drive down the canyon containing the Thompson and Frasier rivers was spectacular. A very active area, this canyon is apparently the main railroad route from Vancouver to the interior. There were tracks on each side of the river, one northbound and one southbound as near as we could tell. We saw five or more trains (100+ cars each) headed north during our brief time in the canyon. Once we reached Cache Creek it was a straight shot to the US border. We made it through the border inspection station with only a brief delay and made for Bellingham and a motel for the night.



    Day 31-33: End of the trip

    Fresh and clean from our motel stay in Bellingham, we decided to take a detour through the mountains of Oregon instead of blasting our way home down I-5. We found a bypass around downtown Seattle which saved us loads of time in spite of an accident which plugged up the road for a short while. At Portland, we turned off on route 224 which took us into the Mt. Hood National Forest. It's a paved but scenic road which winds generally south and comes out northwest of Sisters, OR. We camped for the night at a forest service campground and were on our way early the next day.

    We needed one more night on the road to make it home so we headed for Lava Beds National Monument, one of our favorite parks in California. We stopped in Sisters, OR for a short time and it was hopping! The tourist trade is alive and well in that part of Oregon. We stopped in Bend at the military surplus store and scored a jerry can lid and some other goodies. It's a neat store.



    Our final day on the road was a straight shot from Lava Beds to Redding and then down I-5 in the weekend traffic. Our big journey came to an end around 5 PM after 33 days and 6454 driving miles.
    Last edited by HMBRover; 08-02-2008 at 07:36 PM.
    Brian
    2004 Discovery II G4 Edition - aka Jack
    2002 Freelander SE Gone.
    KØDTJ
    Avatar photo by Ron B., Oregon Discovery Trail 2008

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    A Final Chapter

    We've been home a week and the Disco is all cleaned up so I thought I'd do some “after action” analysis and provide our thoughts on the trip. Overall it was a great experience. If I had it to do over again, I would more carefully plan the segment after Denali. We had a general idea what the schedule would be but we missed a few opportunities because they weren't planned for. Oh well, something to go back for.

    Equipment: Our 2004 Land Rover Discovery performed flawlessly. No major problems, it just kept humming along. I did an oil change and tire rotation about half way through the trip and lost two low beam headlight bulbs which I replaced from spares. The transfer case started leaking more heavily than usual on the way home and will be looked at during the upcoming 60K service. Our ARB fridge/freezer and the dual battery setup meant we had fresh food that kept amazingly well. It would have been much more difficult with an icebox cooler setup. The fridge ran for two 3-day intervals without battery recharge. The aux battery voltage never got below 12 volts. The Hannibal roof-top tent keep us warm and dry in spite of rainy weather and alpine conditions. We learned how to put it away wet and never had a problem with the tent interior being damp when it was unfolded again. We used the rain fly almost every night, just in case. The Hannibal awning gave us a place to keep dry while cooking and eating. Several times we hurriedly erected the awning as a squall passed by only to have the sun come out by the time supper was done.

    Weather: We were prepared for rainy conditions and we got them, particularly in coastal Alaska and Denali. After we reached Fairbanks and the interior the weather patterns changed and it got dryer but we still had alpine thunderstorms and hail on one occasion. Driving in the rain was no problem but it affected our enjoyment of our sightseeing stops and other outdoor activities. Sunshine in the morning lifted our spirits for all day. We encountered temperatures from the mid-40s to the low-70s so our layered clothing and rain shells worked out well. I wore shorts only two days – on the way home.

    Fuel availability and prices: I was surprised that fuel availability became one of our biggest concerns. We had The Milepost book which indicated that fuel was available at 50-100 mile intervals. Not so. First, because fuel prices are affecting the tourist trade, many of the fueling locations listed in Milepost were closed – 30% or more had gone out of business. Secondly premium fuel was not universally available. Only the oil company run stations in major populations centers had more than regular and diesel. This was particularly the case in BC. I regularly carried 5-10 gallons in jerry cans and used it on several occasions because premium was not to be had. Here is a summary of per gallon fuel prices at various locations in the order we encountered them. This was during a time when crude prices were peaking and then going lower – between June 23 and July 26, 2008.

    Haines, AK -- $4.509
    Tok, Ak -- $5.039
    Valdez, AK -- $5.069
    Anchorage (Air Force Base) -- $4.599
    Cantwell, AK (near Denali NP) $5.059
    Fairbanks, AK (Army Post) $4.649
    Dawson City, YT -- $6.77
    Stewart Crossing, YT -- $6.50
    Whitehorse, YT -- $5.94
    Watson Lake, YT -- $6.12
    Ft. Nelson, BC -- $6.13
    Ft. St. John, BC -- $5.63
    Prince George, BC -- $5.22
    Everett, WA -- $4.599

    During the trip we purchased 452 gallons of premium fuel for $2326 and drove 6449 miles averaging 14.25 MPG and $0.36/mile. This was significantly better than my planning numbers of $3000 and $0.50/mile.



    Currency: Virtually everywhere in Canada we were able to use US currency, even in the provincial campgrounds. I did get CDN$500 and spent most of it on gas and groceries.

    Animals: We saw lots of wildlife: black and brown bears, caribou, moose, stone sheep, Dahl sheep, coyotes, deer, bison, whales, sea lions, otters, puffins, bald eagles, golden eagles, porcupines and many rodents. Our closest encounters were with mice: one under the hood while checking the oil and one that came shooting out of the glove box one morning – how he got there I'll never know. The only beast we had in camp was a large porcupine which I saw from the RTT one morning about 2 AM. He was just looking around and finally wandered off.
    Brian
    2004 Discovery II G4 Edition - aka Jack
    2002 Freelander SE Gone.
    KØDTJ
    Avatar photo by Ron B., Oregon Discovery Trail 2008

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Great post and thread. I have been enjoying and envying the entire time. Welcome home! Wonder if the mouse had something to do with the headlight? Trying to mess with the tourists I bet?
    It's about people and the Land Rovers that own them.
    01 DII : 95 RRC LWB : 88 RRC SWB

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Rancho Cucamonga, CA
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    Wow, what a great trip and an incredible report. I would love to some day to travel up north through Alaska and parts of Canada as well.

  9. #19
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    Sacramento, CA
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    Just incredible Brian! Amazing pics and narrative. A trip most of us wish to accomplish someday.
    1994 RRC LWB
    My projects: www.mmacrue.com
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  10. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Stockton(why, I do not know yet!)/rackerby, ca.
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    Amazing narrative and stunning photos!! Sorry for seeing this post so late, but hey I found it! It was really sweet to see the Independence Mine, as I have only heard stories, as my Grandfather was the Mining Engineer, and my father a miner for three years before the war. I still have a map of Alaska from 1938! Someday I hope to make the journey there as well and with permission, use yours as a guide.

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