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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Big Creek Campground on the Alaska Hwy to Haines, AK

Big Creek is on the Alaska Highway, but in the Yukon Territory. Today we headed to Skagway, AK take the Marine highway ferry over to Haines, AK. This journey would take us back into British Columbia, Yukon Territory, across the border into the USA.

White Pass entering Alaska
Leaving Big Creek early, we drove about a half hour for our first stop for coffee. This was a little truck stop restaurant that normally one wouldn’t even look at, but usually they are the friendliest places to talk to locals and it was. A couple of truckers asked “Boomers where you headed”? I said Alaska. That broke the ice and then I asked if Canadian truckers monitored CB channel 19? He answered "yes", but most trucks now have VHF radios that can reach a lot further, which explained why I wasn’t hearing much traffic on the road. Another couple came in and sat next to us. A conversation soon started with them. He had just retired from the Air Force and they were returning to North Carolina. I also found out that the Air National Guard Wing in Anchorage moved to Elmendorf AFB. I bet that was a DOD cost cutting move. I used to fly into the air guard base on my incentive flights.

Main St Skagway with Cruise Ship @ the red light!
We moved on the highway until it was time to turn off the Alaska Hwy to PH2 toward Carcross, Yukon. Everything was uneventful until now. The gas station in Tagish was open but the pumps were locked up. The sign said open, but it looked pretty deserted. We decided to move onto Carcross and fill-up there. In about an hour we arrived to the only gas station, first pump said out of order, the second, third and fourth said the same thing. I go inside and the girl said because of Canada Day we didn’t get our delivery. "Where is the next gas station"? Skagway, she said. My gauge said 118 miles to empty, how far? She said about an hour and a half, Mmmmm! Skagway is over the Chillcoot Pass or White Pass, uphill until you reach the top! Choices to make. Stay put, go back forty miles or move on to Skagway. An old timer outside the store walks by and I asked him how far is Skagway? 75 miles he says, if your computer in the truck says 118 miles, you should be ok. Did I mention that the temperature down here was 47 degrees here at Carcross.? Calculated risk.... let's go for it!

Boomers ready to board the Ferry to Haines, AK
Des & Anita (New Friends)
Move away from Carcross the terrain becomes barren exposed glacial rock with little vegetation, pools of water everywhere, wind blowing east out of the pass, snow fields coming down to the highway, scenery different and beautiful! Nervous yet? Starting to be a little, gas gauge below a quarter and still climbing in elevation, up to 2850 feet. Stopped several times for pictures, shutting off engine to conserve fuel. Finally, we reach a point on the pass and see railroad tracks. We must be getting closer because I know there is train from Skagway up through the pass. Still going up, there in a distance buildings. Canadian Customs wave us through, no gas here. Next sign US Customs 8 miles ahead. The traffic until now sparse, but all of a sudden tour buses big and small are abundant. Civilization must be just around the corner. All those tourist from the cruise liners are here to see what we just drive up to; “The Pass” wow what a deep gorge, now we are going downhill fast, I put the truck on tow/hall mode and let the engine do the breaking for most of the next four miles of downhill decent. US Customs, a big line of traffic, low fuel warning light has come on, shut the engine off to conserve fuel as we wait in line. Nearly twenty minutes goes by before we pass customs, downhill some more until Skagway is in view. For a small town, there was a lot of traffic! Still looking for a gas station. Ah, on the left two gas pumps. The rest is history; I put in $132.00 dollars at $4.60 a gal. That I think is 28.69 gallons. My tank holds 35 gals. At that time, I was very happy to pay the price.

The next part of our journey today involved getting ferry tickets to go from Skagway to Haines. This is a forty-five minute ferry ride. If you were to go from Skagway to Haines by road you would travel 350 miles. We paid the $79 for the truck/camper and $35 each for us.

It was only 2 pm and the ferry was leaving at 6:45 pm with a show time of 5:15pm. Next order of business is “Gift Shops”. Skagway is a big cruise ship “port of call”. Let me tell you they are well setup to receive those dollars. We played tourist (which we are) and checked out the attractions. At 5:15 the camper was in lane two ready for boarding. Back of us another Lance camper with hand waving passengers. We waved back acknowledging the Lance camper brand. Soon we are talking with the driver. He is from Australia, and I’m having a hard time understanding him with his accent. Later, his wife told my wife that she’s been married three years to him and sometimes she makes him write down what he is trying to say. Nice couple we talked nearly all the way to Haines on the ferry. He slowed down his speech and I could better comprehend what he was talking about. They both were widowers, both lived on yachts. I believe they met while crossing the Panama Canal with their spouses. Destiny, I believe plays an important part, sometimes in people’s lives. After their spouses passed they became a unit. I enjoyed talking to him. He is frugal and had many stories to recount about his passion. I feel that I am of the same character, but you would call me “Yankee” The ferry landed and we parted ways. We did exchange email addresses. Who knows if our paths cross again. “Destiny you know”!

One camp fire ago we got a lot of information about places to see and do. One was to book a special campground in Denali National Park. I can’t even pronounce the name without sounding it out. “Teklanika” It is 29 miles into the park and our truck/camper will be allowed to drive to it. Normally vehicles can only drive 10 miles into the park. A shuttle bus moves people around to the other locations. More about this special place later this month. The other info that we got was to go to Chilkoot campground, and watch the Fish & Game count salmon going upstream. The important thing here is that brown bears are always in the area waiting for fish. This area is also a haven for Bald Eagles, they love fish also. We paid the $10 fee for a site on Chilkoot Lake. We drove up and down the two miles of the river with no luck viewing the bears. We went to bed around 11pm (still daylight).

That is what we did and saw

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