Friday, July 15, 2016

To Haines, Skagway, and revisiting Whitehorse, Yukon Territories July 9 – July 15, 2016, Days 70 - 76

Wrangell Mountains
“Haines is only 15 miles by water from Skagway but it is 359 miles by road.”  Alaska Marine Highway Ferry operates year-round connecting these two historic locations.  “Skagway owes its birth to the Klondike Gold Rush” of the 1890’s.  It is here that the horrifically steep Chilkoot Pass had to be negotiated multiple times conveying needed provisions before gold seekers could start their trek to the Klondike Gold Fields.  Notorious, overpopulated, and crime ridden, Skagway during these times was described as “little better than Hell on Earth.”  Milepost
Mary Frances Dehart

All roads pass through Tok, Alaska
Traveling the Glenn Highway and connecting to the Tok Cutoff, it was from here that we would once again connect to the Alaska Highway for our return home.  Upon reaching Glennallen, located at the junction of the Glenn and Richardson highways, we felt compelled to stop and explore.  Camping at Porcupine Creek State Recreation Site for our first night, we transferred to Hart D Ranch so that we could meet Alaskan bronze sculptor Mary Frances Dehart.  Mary Frances had done it all!   Moving, as a young college graduate, from Ohio and making her home in Alaska more than 60 years ago, she has immersed herself in all things Alaskan. 
One of Mary Frances' bronze works
Pursuing her art, not limited to bronze-work, she built a power station that provided the community’s power needs, owned and operated a big-game guiding business, raised horses for the guiding venture, built and operated the post office, a bed and breakfast, RV park, and to this day maintains the grounds at Porcupine Creek State Recreation Site.  If not busy enough, she raised and raced sled-dogs.  When asked why she tackled so many projects she responded that diversity was and is the key to entrepreneurial survival.  Nearly losing everything when Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve was established in 1980, much of enterprise was leased from BLM, her guiding endeavors all but disappeared.  This required forays into just about anything that
Haines Highway
could turn a buck in order to hold on to her investments.  With no living relatives to help carry the load, difficulty in finding competent help, she at 70+ years young, solely manages her enterprises from sun-up to sun-set (don’t forget that this is the land of the midnight sun).  It was our pleasure to dine with Mary Frances, learn about the inner workings of her small Alaskan community, and see her exquisite art first-hand.  We were charmed by her poise, openness, talent, and tenacity.  WHAT A LADY!!  We could have spent a month with her but alas, we had to move along on our journey.
Haines Highway
After a side trip in our Yaris on a very rough gravel road visiting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve we came to the conclusion that this trip would have to wait until our Yaris grew up…into a monster 4-wheel drive!  After 25 miles, though the view of the Wrangell Mountains was breathtaking, we turned and retraced our steps looking for better roads.  Departure found us on the Tok Cutoff for fueling and commissary resupply.  Tok, a central stopover for most travelers, is at the junction of the Glenn (Tok Cutoff), Taylor, and Alaska Highways.  Short of taking a ferry via the Inland Passage, all roads pass through Tok.  Commercial and not of particular interest to us, we continued on until encountering
Packed into the Ferry
frightening rain and thunder storms.  Spending the night at a roadside stop near Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, morning found us crossing into the Yukon.  Million Dollar Waterfall Campground on the Haines Highway was our target as a jump-off for a Haines/Skagway/Whitehorse circular trip.  Parking the RV, our Yaris took us through stunning vistas along the Haines Highway.  By sheer luck, we arrived in Haines just barely in time to be placed on “standby” for the Haines/Skagway Ferry.  We were the last to be literally packed into what seemed a very small ferry!!  Positioned “just-so” by the crew, we had barely inches on all sides of our car.  If we were any larger than 12 feet by 5 feet, there would have been no room for us.  Being packed into our little Yaris finally paid off. 
View from the Ferry

The trip on the ferry was a thrill.  Waterfalls cascading off peaks that vaulted seemingly straight into the Heavens, reaching the azure waters of Portage Cove, Lynn Canal, and Taiya Inlet was our view.  Arriving in Skagway we found four huge passenger liners docked and a town full of tourist.  This gave a flavor of what days of old may have been like when gold seekers flooded Skagway.  With sunset around 12:30 AM, the threat of moose, bear, and other fender-bender wildlife on the road after sunset, we felt it prudent to start our 300+ mile drive back to the RV.  The Klondike Highway offered no disappointments with
View from the Ferry
regard to scenery.  Beautiful!!  We thoroughly enjoyed the dive, and near Whitehorse we reconnected to the Alaska Highway and then on to the Haines Highway where the RV was parked.  This loop is, in our opinion, well worth the effort for those who may consider this trip.

The Crew from Jiffy Lube - Thank you Guys
Back in Whitehorse the next day, we needed to attend to “Moo” (our RV) with an oil change, washing, and check to see how many nuts and bolts were loose or lost.  The fellas at Jiffy Lube were GREAT!  They did our oil change on the way up and we were so impressed that we had them attend to our needs on the way back.  Everyone in the North we have found to be very polite, obliging, and resourceful.  The Jiffy Lube crew was no exception.  Thank you for taking such good care of us.

Whitehorse, with its great cell reception, will be our home until we are assured that Emily (our youngest and very pregnant daughter) makes it home to Denver back into the arms of her husband and daughter.  While in Missouri she started to experience some contractions and has put the whole family on pins and needles.  Once she is home safe and sound, we will turn off our
Andrea..."tell the captain to get closer to shore"
cellphones (no cell reception anyway), head down the road and connect with the Cassiar Highway and on to Seattle via British Columbia.  We will post as WIFI is available.  We have logged over 10,000 miles so far and we have a lot more on the agenda before we finally reach home.

Ships docked in Skagway


View from the Klondike Highway

View from the Klondike Highway

View from the Klondike Highway

The rainbow ends on the Klondike Highway

It would be tough to look out at this everyday!

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