Posts filed under Flashback Friday

Where No Roads Lead To, Nome

Flashback Friday

There is No Place Like Nome!

    We spent about 2 days in New York before I was on my way to one of my favorite states of all time, Alaska. I had managed to get a short-term job as a field tech, and who in the world would ever say no to a free trip to Alaska? Alaska is one of the most expensive states in the US, along with states like New York, California, and Hawaii. This can partially be explained by the distance to Alaska from the contiguous US, it is far away, and shipping of food cost thereafter. If it is not local, the quality of food is not always that great. On the other hand, Alaska is one of the states that are tax exempt, not that it makes it any cheaper. We landed in Anchortown on July 2nd and had a day to shop for supplies and some food. After some more glacier spotting, we finally landed in Nome on July 3rd. They say that there is no place like Nome! Nome is not even on the road system,  so the only way to get there is by plane. And in Nome, everything is expensive, very expensive.

4th of July Parade

    4th of July was suppose to be our first field day, but who in their right mind would miss a 4th of July celebration in Nome of all places? Not me. I am not familiar with how the 4th of July is celebrated in other states, other than Alaska. But in Alaska I've always gone to a 4th of July Parade, those parades reminds me of nothing else in this world. One year I saw a pig dressed up as Miss Piggy, with a blonde wig. Because in Alaska anything and everything is possible.

Miss Piggy - Ester, Alaska, 4th of July Parade 2014

Nome's 4th of July Parade

    As far as I know, anyone can partake in the parade, and you can (as far as I understand) dress up however you want to! All the participants of the parade also throw out candy for all the bystanders, the kids are always running around collecting all of candies. It is a bit unclear to me why they are always throwing out candy, is that an Alaskan thing, os the parade built around throwing candy, or is that something that has been added on at a later stage? I too secretly hung on to some of that candy this year.

    Have you ever been to a 4th of July Parade?

Posted on September 7, 2018 and filed under Alaska, Flashback Friday.

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.3

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The Spell of the Yukon

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will. - Robert Service

DAY 3, 05/23/16: Wolf Creek Campground to Liard River Hot Springs Campground - 408.5 miles

Alaska Highway - The Alcan

    On day 3 we started to see an increase in the number of cars and RVs on the road. This was also apparent in some of the campgrounds the following days. Many people drive the Alaskan highway, aka the Alcan, every year. Dawson Creek in British Columbia is where the highway officially starts, and it ends at mile 1421 in Delta Junction, Alaska. Back in the day the Alcan was mostly gravel, and of course fewer people actually drove it. W's mom and dad drove part of the Alcan back in the day. They got a flat tire and I think they had to wait almost a full day before someone drove by and could help them. Today the whole road is asphalt, with the exception for all the road construction areas, which as always seem to multiply in the summer time, everywhere. To guide you through the 1421 mile long roadtrip you should use the Milepost aka the road bible as I like to call it. It has every single small town and attraction listed in it, even specifics about anything you could possibly want to know. Information about how long time it takes to go from point A to point B, where the gas stations are or for that matter aren't, the towns you pass through, tourist attractions and information about other highways, ferries and such. Every year the Milepost is published, with updated information. As with any other road in the less developed areas of North America, the cellservice is mostly non existent. If you drive this road you are bound to run into wild animals, grizzlies, blackies, bison, caribou and moose are some of the more frequent ones you can see. We had been driving through amazing parts of Alaska and Canada, and Canada just kept on giving and giving. You drive on Empty roads, with more black bears than what I had ever seen, all along the road. You pass large rivers and small creeks, cross bridges, and you just keep seeing more mountains and deep forests around every corner you turn.

Some of the beautiful views we saw on May 23rd:

We stop at the Signpost Forest

Wolfcreek Campground

    We woke up early at Wolfcreek Campground, the rain had stopped and for once our tent was pretty dry. We were in the outskirts of Whitehorse and had pretty mixed feelings about the campground. Being so close to Whitehorse it draws more people to it, and sometimes not the best people. About 70% of the whole population of YT lives in Whitehorse (a whopping 25,000) which makes it the largest city in the YT. Our goal for today was to drive about 260 miles, until we arrived at the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake. Watson lake is one of the larger towns in YT (well everything is relative, right..), about 1000 people live here which makes it the third largest city in YT. The Signpost Forest itself was created in 1942 by a U.S. soldier recovering from an injury. I can only imagine how boring it must be to be injured at a place like this, in the middle of nowhere. Today more than 77,000 signs can be seen here.

We enter British Columbia and drive towards Liard Hotsprings

    We leave the Yukon and its vast wilderness and lack of humans behind us and enter into British Columbia, BC. It's crazy that we spent more than one day driving through the Yukon, just like Robert Service once said, 

"There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will."


About 4.6 million people live here, quite the contrast to YT's 35,000 people. We drive into the famous Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park with that rain constantly haunting us from behind. I have actually written about Liard Hot Springs in the past, but for a completely different reason. At Liard Hot Springs Provisional park, a well known bear attack took place back in 1997. You are in bear country all through the Alcan, Alaska and most parts of Canada.  The bear attack in 1997 was a random one, which is probably why it is so famous when people talk about bear safety, but you still need to be bear aware. Liard Hot Springs is surrounded by the deep boreal forest, tall black and white spruce, but also lodgepole pine are mixed in with the deciduous vegetation like aspen and birch. We walked on a long boardwalk over these beautiful wetlands, surrounded by the beautiful boreal forest. At the end of the boardwalk we walked into the forest and came out in front of the second largest hotspring in Canada. We swam for a while until those thunderstorms that had been chasing us for days arrived again, and we quickly got out of the water to head back to the parking lot. 

Come Rain Come Shine

    Once the rain stopped we walked back towards the hot springs again and shot some pictures. It was so beautiful there. The sun, the misty air that was created once the sun broke out after the short but heavy thunderstorm, and just nature itself. A typical summer evening was forming, a pretty damp but beautiful one. Later that evening we could go to bed with a smile on our faces, a reminder of how lucky we are to get to see places like this. 

Day 3 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage

  • Canada: Jakes Corner Whitehorse. MP 866 Alaska highway, YT, 55 miles from Wolf Creek Campground. Gas mileage: 21.42 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Rancheria Motel and Cafe. MP 710 Alaska highway Watson lake, YT, 150.5 miles. Gas mileage: 30.967 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Somewhere...171.2 miles. Mileage 25.22 miles/gallon

  • Total driving on day 3, about 276.7 + 31.8 miles from the gas station to Liard Hotsprings Campground (408.5 miles).

  • The grand total of the whole trip: 1018.4 miles

  • Campground: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park


The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.2

Flashback Friday

DAY 1, 05/21/16: Fairbanks to Lake Creek Campground - 369 miles

    Day 1 on our road trip we drove east, towards Delta Junction, Tok, and eventually into Canada. Fairbanks is an epicenter of the Boreal Forest. Deep forest consisting of mostly the fire-prone Black Spruce, but also the abundant White Spruce, Birch, Alder, and other deciduous tree species. As you drive east on the Richardson highway, you also drive along the Tanana River. It always makes me think about Paul Simons song "Diamonds on the soles of her shoes", in which he sings: 

"He's a poor boy
Empty as a pocket
Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose
Sing ta na na
Ta na na na"

    After you leave the deep forest behind you, the mountains move in closer, at the same rate as the braided stream comes closer to the road, and you are during many miles driving through the mountains, well if you can see them. Eventually, the mountains move away again, and you are left with more of a boggy wetland landscape with dead standing spruce and large mountains in the backdrop.

Crossing into Canada

    About 6:30 in the evening we got closer to the Canadian border, and eventually our campsite. With the midnight sun above us we didn't see any sign of a late evening.  The border crossing into Canada was smooth, they asked about our trip and where we were headed. Then the rhetorical question about fruit and alcohol, oh, and weapons. The only thing we could potentially classify as a weapon was the bear spray. The border crossing agent welcomed us and we continued into one of the most remote areas of our trip, the Yukon Territory (YT). The Yukon Territory has a very low population, only 36,000 people live here, in an area that is almost 3.5 times the size of New York State, which makes their slogan "larger than life" even more fitting. 

White River Lake Creek Campground

    Once you get into Canada and the Yukon we are back into deep forest and mountains for real. Mountains everywhere, just like Alaska. We finally arrived at a completely empty campground later that evening. It seems as everyone had disappeared after the border crossing. We got the tent up, had dinner and then went for a short walk along the river.  Later that evening rain that had been following us all day picked up and we fell asleep with the rain pounding on the tent. 

Day 1 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage

  • US: Jacks service Delta Junction, AK, 99.5 miles. Gas mileage: 23.6 miles/gallon

  • US: youngs chevron milepost 1314 Alaska highway, AK, 109.2 Miles. Gas mileage: 26.25 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Fas gas beaver creek 1202 Alaska highway YT, 110.7 Miles. Gas mileage: 25.33 miles/gallon

  • Total about 319.4 miles + 49.6 miles from gas station to campground

  • Campground: Lake Creek Campground

DAY 2 05/22/16: Lake Creek Campground to Wolf Creek Campground, 241 miles

    The next morning we woke up early, it was still raining. At many of the campgrounds in Canada, they provided free firewood, unheard of in the US. Priority number one: coffee, priority number two: get a fire started, so we could get warm, and also try to dry our tent out before continuing. There is nothing worse than a wet tent. 

Summer is the season, for roadwork

    We continued through Canada, the Yukon, and the deep forests, mountains, and abundance of water. Never in my life had I expected Canada to be such an eye-opener. Here I had lived in Alaska for about 7 years and thought that nothing will ever top this. Well, I was of course wrong. With the northern region of North America being underlain by permafrost and the harsh winters, summertime not only means tourist season but also roadwork season. It is not uncommon to have to wait half an hour for a pilot car to guide you through the roadworks.

Hey Bear

    About 8:30AM we spot a car standing still by the side of the road. As we approached we could see the reason why. A grizzly, not only any grizzly, a mama grizzly with two bear cubs. Two bear cubs that can't have been more than a few days old. They even had issues with their coordination, and it was pure joy seeing them play with each other and loose their balance from time to time. Mama bear was of course patiently watching nearby.

Mountains

    The mountains disappeared and appeared as we continued driving through Canada. It's hard to fathom how large Canada is, if you thought Alaska with its wilderness was big, that is nothing compared to Candaland. When you think it can not get any more incredible it can, and it will. Again, and again, and again. We stopped at a rest stop by the Kluane River. Oh my, what a treat for the eyes. Those mountains are just right there, in front of you, and sometimes it gets hard to understand how mighty they actually are. 

Wolf Creek Campground

    We finally arrived at Wolf Creek Campground, after about 241 miles of driving. In comparison to the previous campground, this one was a bit more crowded, as in there were other people than us there. Of course it was still raining. I had been dealing with an early rainy field season, but also rain, rain and rain the past couple of years in the field so I guess I had been hardened a bit. W had not. When the rain finally stopped we put our tent up and tried to dry our sleeping bags that had gotten damp earlier. We even had a fire before going to bed after another late dinner. 

Day 2 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage

  • Canada: Petro express Haines Junction, YT 135.9 miles from Lake Creek campground. Gas mileage 31.66 miles/gallon

  • Total driving on day 2, about 135.9 + 105 miles from the gas station to campground (240.9 miles).

  • The grand total of the whole trip: 609.9 miles

  • Campground: Wolf Creek Campground

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.1

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Flashback Friday

Two Years ago

    It has now been two years since I packed up all my belongings and took the car south, from Alaska, and into the lower 48. Well, I didn't drive all by myself, which was nice, considering that I think we ended up with about 4500 miles or so (7200km). People in Alaska generally call the rest of the US the lower 48, or just straight the US. They say that many people go to Alaska to disappear because you easily can. Alaska is larger than any other state in the US, and it is impossible to see all incredible places in one short trip. 

The Last Frontier

    There is a reason why Alaska is often referred to as the Last Frontier. With only one road going north and south from Fairbanks. The road north eventually turn into a gravel road, and once you hit Atigun pass, it's just you, you and the 18-wheelers. There are many villages in Alaska that have a road system, but a road system that does not connect to any of the major road systems in Alaska. Which mean that the only way to get there is by plane. 

Tundra, Mountains and deep Forests

    I have often wondered why I fit in so well in Alaska, and I am pretty sure one of the reasons are the fact that the vegetation in the interior of Alaska is almost exactly the same as in Sweden. In Fairbanks, you are in the boreal forest, the same boreal forest that covers almost all of Sweden. There are some differences though, I am pretty sure there is no black spruce in Sweden, and the dominant Scots Pine in Sweden (or at least in the boreal forest I connect to over there) is non-existent in Alaska. Then we have the ocean, or rather the lack of ocean in interior Alaska. That is a big difference, and I think I missed the ocean and water in first year or so in Fairbanks.

Packing the Car

    W always talk about this when the move from Alaska to Wisconsin comes up. And lately, he's been pretty forceful about packing up our home in Madison, in preparation for the big move to New York. W flew to Fairbanks a couple of days before we had planned to leave, and as he describes it, nothing was packed. I on the other hand, still believe that some things were packed, while other items such as bedding and clothes you wear were not. I can admit that I probably had not packed as much as I should have, that on top of some things that needed to get done in the lab before I left, made for some stressful last days at the cabin. But we packed the car and departed on May 21st. 

The typical Alaskan Weather

    The weather in Alaska is always changing, and one day it might be rainy and cloudy and the 40's, while the next is full on sun, accompanied with smoke from wildfires that fills your lungs, along with mosquitos from hell. The day we departed was cloudy, and Alaska did not let me leave on her best behavior. I would have wanted a clear blue sky while driving east through the mountains. But, there would be no lack of mountain views on this trip, especially since we also had half of Canada to drive through.