Sunday, September 5, 2010

Bear Tracks

For any of you that didn't get enough of our Katmai Bear Adventure, here is a slideshow of some of our shots, put to the music of one of our favorite songs...Ole Slew Foot by the late Chris Ledoux.



video

Saturday, September 4, 2010

25,000 MILES!!!

Friday we hit the end (or the beginning) of the Alaska Highway! Yep - Mile “0” of the 1942 wonder.


Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia

The Magic Bus traveled EVERY mile of this highway dubbed the AlCan Highway by the Army when they built it in 8 months in 1942 - seen as a necessity of World War II to get troops and supplies to Alaska. The literature says it is paved?!?!? In fairness - it also says there may be long stretches of gravel where road work is being done. UH - you think so?!?!?! Magic came through fine - BUT, we have a car that will definitely need a paint job some time soon;-( The literature also says “For many people the Alaska Highway is a great adventure. For others, it’s a long drive.” We fall into the first group - IT WAS A GREAT ADVENTURE!! Didn’t see as many wild animals on the road as Gary would have liked - BUT, Denali and the bear viewing made up for all of that!! So - Mile “0” proved to be the rainbow at the end of the road for us - literally!! How fitting -


As we settled into our campsite in Dawson Creek we encountered a weather front which brought with it heavy rain and a dust storm. It made for some interesting colors, a double rainbow, and

a very colorful sunset.

Another fitting ‘happening’ in the last two days. Just after leaving Mile “0” Magic passed 25,000 miles!! In exactly one year we have put 25,000 miles behind us and in the memory banks!!!!



One year and 20 days after Magic joined the family, we recorded 25,000 miles.


Gary and I had to laugh hysterically as we stopped to take this ‘memorial’ picture. After all the beautiful, wonderful scenery that we have viewed on this trip - Magic turns 25,000 miles in a coal ‘dust cloud‘ at a coal burning power plant!! We decided NOT to share this picture with you;-(((


Sunday morning we sat at at a KOA campground just outside of Jasper NP making a blog posting (due to the long Labour Day weekend here in Canada, we could not get into a camping spot in the Park until Sunday night). The next four days we are visiting two of our favorite spots here in Canada - Jasper NP and Banff NP. Then back into the US and home.


Hope there are more rainbows in our future;-)


XOXOXO - Chasing Rainbows Elizabeth & Gary

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Horses Headed for Home?????

Whew! The last three days have been long and grueling;-( Almost 1500 miles in the three days - leaving Homer, Alaska VERY early Monday morning - making Tok, Alaska that evening - a VERY early departure on Tuesday (as we immediately lost an hour leaving Alaska) making Whitehorse by dinner - then a 12 hour day on Wednesday to Toad River;-)

While the days were long - there was some fun packed in. For instance - Whitehorse brought a bath for both “Magic” and “Magic Kbus” before we set up camp for the first time ever in the WalMart parking lot!!!

We finally decided to try a new type campground in Whitehorse -
the Wal-Mart parking lot


It was handy with a Starbucks at one end and the WalMart and Canadian Tire at the other end. AND - it was FREE!! (Even better than all Gary’s Senior discounts!!)

About 4 hours east of Whitehorse we finally arrived at ‘virgin’ territory. Up to this point we were retracing our steps from the trip up - thus, the hurry to get through it. About mid-afternoon Watson Lake was in view with its World Famous Sign Post Forest;-) The forest was started in 1942 by a homesick US Army GI from Illinois. While working on the Alaska Highway, he erected a sign here pointing the way and stating the mileage to his hometown. Others followed his lead and are still doing so to this day - the forrest now has over 20,000 signs from all over the world!!!


In Watson Lake, YT, there are more than 20,000 of these signs and plates on display. (Above is only a small piece!)

The stretch of road that followed is known for the bison on the road - and we were not disappointed -


We saw many bison along the Al-Can Highway between Watson Lake, YT and Toad River, Alberta.




Must be their afternoon nap time.

About 5PM on Wednesday we arrived at Liard River Hot Springs Park. Everyone we had talked to in preparation for this trip said “Don’t miss it!” So - in the pouring rain we donned our bathing suits and trekked the 10 minute walk to the pools. The springs are comprised of two deep pools, which fill naturally with water that has been heated deep underground by the earth’s core, pressurized and forced back to the surface along faults in sedimentary rock under the park. Water temperatures reach up to 126 degrees - and did it feel good on our weary bones;-)!!!!!!!


Enjoying the very hot waters of Liard Hot Springs



After being so relaxed, the next two hours in Magic were REALLY hard. BUT, we arrived at a cute little stop in the road - Toad River - and decided to park here for a couple of nights and have a ‘down day’, which was much needed after the 1500 miles!!

The White Tundra swan that was out here in the morning has not been seen since I decided to include it in the shot from our campsite.  Just pretend you see the big honkin' swan in the middle of the shot. 


Five loads of laundry later, along with first of the month banking and email catch-up - we were revived and ready for the next week. There is “Mile 0” Dawson Creek, a return to Jasper NP and Banff NP ahead of us - keep you posted.

Love to All - Ready to Go Again Elizabeth & Gary


Monday, August 30, 2010

BEARS AND BEARS AND BEARS...OH MY!

Well - guess what our days in Homer brought?? A bear expedition. It came, however, after a two day weather postponement. No matter (we are retired after all and can adjust our schedule at a moments notice;-)) - those days were just filled with an ‘investigate Homer’ day and an ‘investigate Soldotna’ day. The day to Soldotna netted a nice visit with Marita and Pat, who we met in the Phoenix RV Park, and another moose sighting of a cow and her calf -




THEN - our postponed trip to Katmai NP to see the bears. What an experience!! The mighty grizzly got up close and personal;-)

The pictures will tell a story all by themselves - but, just a little about the ‘personalities’ of the bears we saw. YES, the personalities of the bears!! Amazing what you can tell from watching each of these animals for an hour or more.

The first ‘watch’ was of “Bad Mama”. She acquired this name as she paid very little attention to her cub (which was probably about 6 months old - born this past winter), NEVER shared the food she caught with it and wandered off leaving the poor little thing behind without a thought!! She, also, was not very effective at fishing. Fishing is what all the Moms were doing in the river when they looked like the were romping/playing in the water. Very serious business for them!



Bad Momma was not very interested in her cub.




Man, can she move!





As Bad Mama moved on, “Good Mama” and her two bear cubs (probably about 18 months old - born the 2009 winter) became our study. Good Mama was a VERY proficient and efficient fisherwoman! She caught 7 fish in the hour we were watching her - only missed on about two attempts!! The first one she caught she took to the sand bar where the two cubs were - and they immediately jumped on the fish leaving her nothing. The next ones she caught she brought to the sand bar in the middle of the stream and made the cubs come out there if they wanted any. At least this way she got the first couple of bites. BUT, she always shared with the cubs. While she fished she kept an eye on their antics on the beach. She was a real study in fishing and we watched this ‘family’ for about an hour while eating our lunch.


Good Mamma was very attentive to her cubs.




Psst, let's keep an eye on mom. She's fishin' and she's good at it.




Look, look! She's after a big one!




Where did it go?




Over here?



Over, there?




Gotcha!




Mmmmm. Thanks mom.




That didn't last long. Let's get another.




I'm over here.




I think I'll stretch out while mom is working.

After all that fishing and eating, Good Mama and her cubs were ready to nap. So we moved on to another Mama and her two cubs that came our way after being displaced by a BIG male who came in to prove his authority by taking over her fishing area (we did not get too close to him as he was quite far away).

This big guy caused Mom and cubs to move on down the shore line.



This Mama was a little lazy - she just dug up old fish that had become trapped in the sand - good and smelly so easy to find!! YUCK!! The best part of this family was watching ‘the kids’ float down the river to get to Mama and then wrestling with each other. That, and the fact that one of the cubs had a beautiful collar of lighter brown around its neck.


This mom kept an eye on her cubs while they swam across some fast moving water to follow her.




Jeez.. did you have to go in the deep end?




I think I can, I think I can.




Yay, we made it. Let's wrestle.




Let's dance.

After about four hours, it was time to return;-( BUT, Bad Mama gave us one final show! She was on her way back from her afternoon outing and just passing the planes as we returned to board. Our guides said to ‘bunch up and sit down’! YES - sit down. (You have to have great faith in these guides - they said this was submissive behavior and the bear would walk right past!) AND SHE DID! Good thing - because IF Gary had stretched his arm straight out to his side he would have been able to touch her!! UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL!! He does have a shot of her as she went by - but she was sooooo close with the lens he had on the camera, he only got a portion of her head!

Bad Momma heading our way.




Yikes, getting closer.



Too close to get the camera focused - and I can't move!





This was the MOST incredible experience. And - what a finish for us by Bad Mama!! (Little cub was tagging along some distance behind and when Mama found a fish she did NOT share - yet again!) Sure did get the adrenaline moving with a grizzly passing within five feet of you. If you are ever in Homer, Alaska - be sure to go to Katmai and see the grizzlies;-))

After all this excitement, we said a sad farewell to our traveling partners - Kacy and Dusty - Monday morning and began the trip back to Park City;-(

Hope you enjoyed the pictures - we sure had a GREAT time getting them. More later.

Love to all - Mama Bear and Papa Bear

Friday, August 27, 2010

South in Alaska

Well - after all that activity and animal sightings we all needed a little ‘down’ time. So, we took a day of ‘investigating’ the cute little town of Talkeetna. Talkeetna is claimed to be VERY international as all of the 1200 adventure seekers (per year) from all over the world who wish to start a climb up Denali (only half make it) must check in here with the National Park Service before they can begin their climb. Perhaps some of the shots will look a little familiar to any of you who watched “Northern Exposure” - and none of us saw any “Men in Trees” -


Really good pizza at the Wildflower Cafe.




Elizabeth in a chocolate shop. Does a bear s.... in the woods.




Dusty and Kacy skipping rocks in Talkeetna.

Next stop was a beautiful NP campground which was our home for two nights (unfortunately no pictures of this beautiful site;-( ) while we explored Gridwood and Whittier.

In order to drive to Whittier one must travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel - a very unique experience. This is the longest highway tunnel in North America, is ONE lane and services not only traffic in both directions BUT, also the train!! That is right - you drive right on top of the tracks. Needless to say there is lane control - on the hour in one direction and on the half hour in the other - when the train is not scheduled. All scheduling in the town of Whittier evolves around the tunnel schedule as NO ONE wants to get ‘stuck‘ in Whittier for an extra hour;-( It is REALLY small and there is nothing to do except board a ‘Prince William Sound Cruise’. And those cruises provide more beautiful scenery and sea life picture opportunities -

Heading into Prince William Sound.




This shot makes Whittier, AK seem larger than it really is.




Yo bear




This is MY rock.




Sea otter and pup




Approaching the Surprise glacier.




BIG ICE!




Snoozin' seal.



Big ice, little boat.




No big calving this trip.

After a wonderful day cruising - we enjoyed a very pleasant evening with Joslyln, Chris and their new little one, Passage Ray (friends in Girdwood). If there is a baby, Elizabeth is there -



We had a very nice dinner with Passage Ray and his parents Chris and Jos.
Sorry that Mom and Dad didn't make it into the shot.


Then it was time to move on down the road one more time to Homer - as far south and west as one can go in a car in Alaska. Again, we had one of those picture post card views out the front ‘living room’ window across Kachemak Bay as we ‘parked’ on Homer Spit - with a resident eagle not too far away.



I couldn't take enough of this majestic bald eagle.
Kudos to Dusty for spotting it hiding in plain sight.


Gives meaning to eagle eye.





Another lousy view out of Magic's picture window.
Shot at night. Need to work on my technique.


One of our daily excursions here was to take the Danny J 45-minute cruise to Halibut Cove where lunch at the Saltry, galleries and the cutest little town awaited us -



Puffin, kittiwakes and ???




On the way to Halibut Cove




Our transportation to Halibut Cove, the Danny J.




Halibut Cove is a small little island community across Cook's Inlet from Homer, AK.




Kacy and Dusty taking in the sights.




This loo has to be cold in the Alaska winters.




The Saltry, our lunch spot (also the only lunch spot) on Halibut Cove.
They were out of halibut and serving cod instead, imagine that.



I wonder if this otter ate all of the halibut in Halibut Cove

There are more days in Homer - will have to see what they bring our way in the next posting.


XOXOXOOX to All - E & G