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Sunday, 10 December 2006

Thurs., 9/28



Chuck & Linda wanted to stop for lunch.  Alan & I had the barn in sight & wanted to snack in the van.  So we split up.  I dropped Alan & the popup at Chuck & Linda’s house in Sanford.  He moved his stuff from the popup into his car & went on to his home in Bluffton, SC.  I didn’t wait for the popup.  Planning to pick it up later, I took off for Apopka around 4:00. 


Traffic in the west spoiled me.  Took me well over an hour to get home.  Makes me want to move.


But it is so good to be home.  Keith was off for the day & greeted me with a big hug.  Ajah was really glad to see me too.  Elena came home from work & gave me a warm, fuzzy greeting too. 


So.  Trip over.  I wonder where I’ll be going next summer?


Wed., 9/27

We’re in Florida!!!!  We drove down through Panama City & along the coast of the panhandle, which is largely awful until Mexico Beach.  Traffic congestion I’m talking about.  The beaches are wonderful, especially Grayton Beach State Park.  We stopped for lunch there & walked the beach.  No cars, no condos, no crowds, exquisite beach, makes Dr. Beach’s top 10 beaches in the world list every year. 


We stopped in Appalachicola & bought shrimp & oysters for supper & to take home.  Met the owner, Fred, an old man with a Gabby Hayes hat & no teeth, quite a character.  He told me I looked like a little shore bird & thought I could walk really fast with my skinny, little legs. 


We had never stayed at Ochlockonee River State Park, south of Sopchoppy, FL. before so we called it a day there.  A nice little park, only 30 sites, but the restrooms were new & clean.  The sites were large with pine forest & palmettos all around.  We envision a jam/campout here with a sidetrip to Fred’s for oysters in the shell & shrimp.  The ranger said we could camp free just for playing.  The drawback is the location, 5 – 6 hours from Sanford.


Tues, 9/26

Almost home!!!


Short driving day again today, only 183 miles.  We stopped in Theodore, AL  at Payne’s RV Park near Mobile & Bellingrath Gardens.  Thanks goodness, these gardens were open.  We all took in the gardens.  Chuck & Linda toured the house too.  Mr. Bellingrath had the first Coke-Cola distributorship in Alabama, got in when Coke first hit the market in Atlanta.  He & his wife had no children so he deeded their lovely summer home & gardens to a foundation which keeps them beautifully for the public.  Quite a place.


We went out for a seafood dinner, even me.


Mon., 9/25

I asked Alan this morning, “Where will we cross the Mississippi?”  We got to talking about something else & never got that question answered.  Maybe I should have pursued that inquiry. 


I had us heading to St. Francisville, LA, to the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I had read an articled that the largest tree of any species east of the Sierra Madres was located there, a huge cypress, bigger even than our own Senator, the Florida State Champion Tree. 


I started getting worried when we saw a directional sign at an intersection, taking us to the St. Francisville Ferry.  Ferry?  Oh, yeah, in small print, it does say “toll ferry” on the map.  So that’s where we would be crossing the Mississippi.  We stopped & talked with a nice gentleman who eye-balled Chuck & Linda’s rig & thought it would fit.  To get to St. Francisville, the options are the ferry or going all the way into Baton Rouge to get on another road. 


So we went on to the ferry.  A sign at a turnaround gave the length limit.  Chuck would fit.  They waved me on.  They let the other cars go ahead of Chuck & put him on last, parking straight across the ferry.  He was first off on the other side.  It was actually a fun trip.  Before departure I had climbed on top of the life preserver box to take pictures.  I heard a voice over the long speaker, telling me to get down.  Then I found out why.  The captain let lose with an ear-piercing horn blast, signaling that the ferry was leaving the dock.  I probably would have fallen right off the box.


We talked to another ferry passenger about Cat Island.  He knew nothing about the tree & told us how bad the roads were there.  Hmmm.  We found a visitor’s center in town.  The docent knew all about the tree, suggested we leave the 5th wheel & go in my van.  Okay.  No problem.  We found the refuge, No problem.  We drove it.  The roads kept getting worse & worse, washboards so bad I couldn’t go more than 10 mph.  There was no signage about the tree.  We had no idea how much more we would have to endure, new shocks or not, it wasn’t fun.  We gave up.  I checked the mileage on the way out, 3 miles, felt like 30.  Later we read that the tree was 5 miles in.  Oh, well.  I’ve had a lot of fabulous ideas this trip, but Cat Island wasn’t one of them.


St. Francisville is delightful, lots of shady streets & plantations.  We took in Rosedown Plantation, toured the house & grounds. 


Then we got too tired to go on & stopped in Amite, LA, at Natalbany Creek Campground & RV Park.  We only did 185 miles today.  Not surprising, with our misadventures in Cat Island.  The campground came complete with a flock of beggar ducks.  I got out of my camper in the morning to find the picnic table covered with ducks, waiting for me to come out & maybe feed them.


Sun., 9/24

We hoped to spend the day with Margaret & Jerry Wright in Kennard & do some jamming.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t made contact with them.  They were away for the weekend at a dulcimer event, & we missed them.  We had killed time, grocery shopping in Walmart, hoping to connect with them.  By the time we gave up & went on, we got a really late start.


We went on to Louisiana.  My plans to take in Hodges Gardens in Florien failed.  The Gardens were closed, like permanently closed.  Drat.  Then we drove the Longleaf Trail Scenic Byway in the Kisatchie Forest.  Interesting, but nothing special.  We stopped for the night at Colfax at the Colfax Rec. Area.  It was a really nice campground.  New, the Core of Engineers had a hand in it so it was really well done, right along the river.  The trees were still small, but the weather was pleasant.  Shade wasn’t a big consideration.  They even had wi-fi. 


Sat., 9/23

Along the route today, we got stopped along with gazillion other cars, by a bad traffic accident.  They suggested we turn around & find another route.  Well, how, exactly were we supposed to turn around.  A nearby ranchhouse had a big front yard.  They directed Chuck into the yard to turn around.  We got one of the guys to have a couple of cars move, & we were able to swing wide & turn the van around.


Then we had to go way out of the way to find another route.  We couldn’t find a campground & spent the night in a Walmart parking lot in Crockett, TX.  We drove 443 miles today.  We were exhausted.


Fri., 9/22

We spent the morning touring Carlsbad Caverns.  We rented audio wand-things & did the self-guided tour of The Big Room.  We opted to take the elevator down & back up instead of climbing down the natural entrance (& past the bats).  The Big Room is about the size of 5 football fields.  I’ve never seen anything like it, even in Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.  The formations were intricate, varying from enormous to minute.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the tour.


We crossed the Texas line today & stayed the night in Big Spring, TX at the Big Spring RV Park.


Thurs., 9/21

We stayed at Windmill RV Park  in Carlsbad, NM.  The plan was to visit Carlsbad Caverns the next day & then head out.  But then we read information about the nightly bat exodus from the Caverns.  That sounded interesting so we got ourselves there by 6:15 & heard an interesting talk by one of the rangers before the bats started pouring out, some 321,000 plus.  The ranger asked us to be as quiet as possible.  Sometimes the bats get spooked by the crowd & go back in.  So there we were, about 100 people, sitting ever so quietly in the amphitheatre, watching wide-eyed as bats upon bats spiraled up out of the mouth of the cavern.    It was quite windy.  As the bats got up to ground level, the winds disrupted their nice spiral & created chaos.  They flew every which way, over our heads, right in front of our noses.  There were so many bats that we could clearly hear their wings fluttering & feel the air movement that created. 


Groups of bats would organize themselves & a squadron would fly off in one direction while another group would head somewhere else.  Do bats have hierarchies?  Does one lead a group?  If so, how is it selected?   So many questions come to mind.


It was one of my favorite experiences of the trip.

Wed., 9/20

We included El Morro National Monument as a stop today.  El Morro is a tall rock formation, rising up out of the desert with nothing else around for miles.  It’s quite conspicuous.  The streaks down the side are visible for quite a distance.  Those streaks mean water.  Rain & melting snow trickle through the limestone, making streaks where the most water is seeping through.  At the base of the monolith is a pool of clear, cool water, 12 foot deep, the size of my living room. 


Water in the desert.  You can imagine how it attracted tired, thirsty travelers – for centuries.  Many travelers were moved to inscribe their names & a message on the rock.  The earliest inscriptions are petroglyphs.  Later Spanish explorers, Franciscan priests, & Spanish governors (& wanna be governors) added their two cents.  Then English messages showed up too.  The most recent inscriptions were 1910.  Then the place became a national monument & protected so no further writings were allowed.   It was amazing to see so much history collected in one spot.  Chuck spotted an inscription from an ancestor maybe.


We stopped for the night at Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park in San Antonio, NM.  The mother & son who owned the place were so nice to us.  She had just had a $55,000 win at bingo.  She had won a couple of hundred thousand a few years ago.  She gave us apples from her own trees & let us pick pears.


Tues, 9/19

Chuck & Linda had visited Mesa Verde before.  They relaxed at the campground while Alan & I visited the park.  We had to leave the pop-up in a lot at the entrance.  We went to the visitor’s center first (did I mention the steep, winding road to get there?).  We bought tickets for a tour of Balcony House.  Alan had visited Mesa Verde years before, but didn’t think he had toured that one.  We paused at the museum for an orientation film, then had to move it to make the tour.


What a tour!  It was advertised as an adventure tour, which involved climbing a 32 ft. ladder, crawling through a 12 ft.-long tunnel, squeezing through several narrow passages, & climbing up a 60 ft. open rock face with two loft ladders.  My goodness.  Sounds arduous, but then you think about the people who lived there.  They climbed into & back out of their cliff dwelling many, many times, but they had only hand & toe holds hacked out of the side of the cliff, not ladders & stairs & chains. 


As the guy ahead of me was preparing to crawl into the tunnel, I said, “Pardon me, sir.  But could I take a picture of your butt?”  He said, “Go right ahead.  I’m wearing my good jeans today.”  So I got a picture of him stuffing himself into that tunnel. 


We went back around the loop again & this time stopped at the overlooks.  We stopped at the Cliff Palace.  We didn’t tour it, but were able to get some great pictures from the starting point of the tour. 


We also stopped at Park Point, the highest point in the park, around 8800 feet.  The amount of smog on all sides was distressing.


Chuck & Linda met us at the lot where we left the pop-up, and we moved on.  We  seriously considered redoing our itinerary & going to Durango for a ride on the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad, but decided to head south instead.  I had thought we might camp at El Morro Natl. Monument, but it has no elec. & the weather won’t be as cold tonight (to keep the fish frozen in Chuck’s freezer).  So we stopped at Red Rock State Park, just east of Gallup, New Mexico.


Had a nice jam outside.  It was warm this afternoon, maybe 80.  But we parked in the shade.  Very pleasant & breezy.  There was some kind of problem in Gallup with the water lines so we were without water for a good bit of the evening. 


The park is kind of scruffy.  But there is a rock formation called Chimney Rock clearly visible through the mouth of the canyon.  We watched the sunlight change on the face of the rock as we were eating supper while the sun was making its way toward the horizon. 


Mon., 9/18

On towards Mesa Verde, CO, today.  We stopped at Four Corners where we saw Utah, Arizona, Colorado & New Mexico from one vantage point.  Alan laid down, spread eagled so he was in all four states at once.  We ate Navaho fry bread tacos for lunch. 


We kind of hoped to get to the campground near Mesa Verde early enough to take in the park today,  But we didn’t allow for the cliff dwellings being 20 miles in from the park entrance, 20 steep, winding miles.  So we soaked in the hot tub, had a leisurely dinner, & jammed in the log cabin rec. room at A & A Mesa Verde RV Park Campground.


Sun., 9/17

I had trouble putting my water hose away this morning.  The water inside it was frozen solid.  Alan coiled it as best he could & we piled it in the bed of Chuck’s truck to thaw.


Chuck & Linda found a place to park their rig.  Then we drove about 20 miles, past many loose herds of cattle, from the park entrance to the North Rim.  There were lots of signs, warning to be careful of deer & cattle.  But the cattle were all busy eating grass, minding their cow business.  We walked trails to overlooks near the visitor’s center until we were tired, had lunch, then took off. 


The Grand Canyon is, well, grand.  Huge.  You can only see a small portion of it from any one overlook.  I would love to spend days here & do some longer hikes.  But, you know, I think I liked Bryce better.


We drove back towards the park entrance.  Chuck was perched on my stool, looking out the front between Linda & me.  Look out!  Smack down the middle of the road came about a dozen head of cattle, sporting impressive horns, not at all inclined to move out of the way.  A little farther on, a deer darted across the road right in front of us.  Good grief.


With the weather so cool, we decided we didn’t need to worry about elec. for Chuck & Linda’s freezer full of fish.  We stopped for the night at a Walmart in Page.  The drive from the Grand Canyon to Page, along the Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Highway was boggling.  You never know how scenic those scenic byway designations will actually be.  This one truly was.  Red, sheer, sandstone cliffs for miles & miles, with the road running parallel.  Wow.



Sat., Sept. 16th

We had planned to move the campers to Zion Natl. Park & spend the rest of the day & the night there.  We changed our minds, all of us feeling eager to get home, & decided to spend part of the day there & then drive on to the Grand Canyon North Rim. 


Good thing we made that decision.  First of all, the park campground was full.  Second, we were entering the park from the east entrance.  We didn’t realize that would mean going through a tunnel more than a mile long, low & narrow.  Chuck & Linda’s rig would fit, barely, but they would have to stop traffic coming the other way so that only one lane was occupied, for a fee, of course.  They had space at the entrance gate so we left their rig & took off in my van.


The drive from the east into Zion was awesome.  After making it through that incredible tunnel, we traversed seven levels down into the canyon.  Needless to say, I didn’t get too much gawking done.  It was a white knuckle drive.  Private vehicles are not allowed up into the canyon.  There is an extensive shuttle service.  We had to drive out of the park into Springdale, leave the van, take a town shuttle into the park, & then catch a park shuttle.  Whew.  A ranger gave us his recommendation about which stops were must sees since we only wanted to spend a few hours. 


This was a very different experience than Bryce where we were on the rim looking down.  Here we were on the bottom of the canyon, looking up.  Not so many red formation, but bigger ones. 



 We all had a wonderful time.  Then we had to reverse the whole process, shuttle back to the visitor’s center, shuttle back to town, drive back through (gulp) the seven levels & (eek) the tunnel. 


And on to the Grand Canyon.  Linda called ahead & found out that the campground there was full too.  Who would have thought we’d have trouble getting sites in the off season.  But she found a private campground in Jacob Lake, Kaibab Camper RV Village.


Posted by Alice at 12:28 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 10 December 2006 12:44 PM EST
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Monday, 27 November 2006

  Fri., Sept. 15th

We drove through Red Canyon today, stopping for a short hike.  Very nice.  And on to Bryce Canyon, which was stupendous.  Chuck & Linda said they liked it better than the Grand Canyon, & we overheard several other people say the same thing.


At this canyon the road runs near the rim.  There are short walks from the parking lots to the overlooks.  Then you are looking down into a staggering number of hoo-doos & various rock formations, most of which are red with a few white ones thrown in.  Quite striking.  The first overlook was a pretty steep walk from the parking lot.  Then we noticed that there was a trail right along the rim to the next overlook we wanted to see.


So Linda & I did the walk while Chuck & Alan moved the van.  What a terrific experience! 


The rock formations looked so different as we stopped at different points along the rim.  As we neared the next overlook, we ran into stiff winds.  We had to brace ourselves as we walked to keep from getting blown off the path.  Once I looked back for Linda.  She was trying to adjust her unbuttoned sweater which the wind had blown off both shoulders.  The wind filled her sweater.  I asked her if she was planning to leap off the edge & sail around with the turkey vultures gliding above the canyon. 


I imagined a scenario where I showed up at the next overlook alone.  Chuck would ask, “Where’s Linda?”  “There she is,”  I would reply as she sailed past us, having a great time getting a bird’s eye view. 


We also took in Kodachorme Basin State Park, southwest of Bryce about 15 miles.  Not as colorful as Bryce, but still beautiful.

 Thurs., Sept. 14th

We stopped for gas in a little town off the interstate to get gas.  Chuck & I had been discussing the need for another oil change.  As we filled up, we were staring right at a garage.  They could change Chuck’s oil without his having to disconnect his rig.  So we went for it.  Wellllll, I came out with new shock absorbers all around, Chuck with new trailer tires & both of us with much lighter wallets.  I’ll need to get new tires too, but I’m trying to make it home on the ones I have, which have evidence of sun rot.  I flat wore out the shock absorbers, which were far from new anyway, on the Al-Can and the Cassiar Highways. 

 We stopped at Red Canyon Indian Store & RV Park. Wed.,

Sept. 13th

Only one stop today, Golden Spike Natl. Monument at Promontory Summit, Utah. 


That was interesting.  Especially since they fired up the two replicas of the special engines used to bring in the dignitaries the day the last spike was driven.  They drove both engines up & down the track, with great puffs of black smoke & steam blasting.  Cool beans. 


We figured to make it most of the way through Utah today.  No such luck.  Traffic ground to a halt on I-15 near Ogden because of a traffic accident up ahead.  We crawled along for hours before we finally managed to get off the interstate, drove way out of the way around Salt Lake City & stopped for the night at Jordanelle State Park northwest

of Provo.  The park is lovely, but we’re pooped.


 Tues., Sept. 12th

Craters of the Moon is amazing.  There have been maybe a half dozen volcanic eruptions in the area, the most recent about 2000 years ago.  The landscape for miles around is barren, black mounds of ancient lava.  We hiked to Indian Tunnel, a lava tube which partially collapsed in a couple of places.  We walked down into the lava tube to the other end & retraced out steps. 


There was another tube which had not collapsed so it had no light.  Even with our flashlights we didn’t feel like we could see well enough to keep from breaking our necks.  So we skipped that one. 


We also toured the Shoshone Ice Caves, basically a tourist trap.  But the cave is cold enough (29 degrees) to freeze water which drips down through the lava rocks from the Big Wood River nearby.  The ice pack is currently about 18 feet thick. 


We spent so long at the two stops that, again, we didn’t make very many miles, 198 today.  We stopped at Anderson’s Camp in Eden, just east of Twin Falls, right off the interstate.


 Mon., Sept. 11th

The best way south from here is through Yellowstone.  We made one stop to walk the area in the Lower Basin & see the biggest collection of paint pots in the Park, saw the top half of Old Faithful’s eruption when we stopped for gas, & turned south.  Windy roads, lot speed limits, wildlife in the road – took us until noon just to get out of Yellowstone. 


Then we drove right into Grand Tetons Natl. Park.  Another wow.  We stopped for lunch at the dam on Jackson Lake.  Chuck insisted we stop at the Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration near Menor’s Ferry.  It wasn’t much of a building on the outside. 


 I wondered why Chuck made an issue about our seeing it.  Then we walked inside.  Behind the altar was a picture window instead of stained glass.  The view of the Tetons was staggering.  It would be hard to pay any attention to the service with that to look at. 


Menor’s Ferry is still run by the park service for tourists.  It was a vital part of settlors’ journeys prior to bridges across the Snake River here.  I brought my whistle from the van & played “Snake River Reel”. 


The Snake River really does wend its way with twists & bends.  I think we crossed it 4 times today.


We stopped for the night at Snake River RV Park & Campground in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  We only made 250 miles today.  Both parks had windy roads & slow going.  So we stopped short of the planned destination.  We actually headed back north & west after leaving the Tetons, to humor me because I want to see Craters of the Moon Natl. Monument near Sun Valley.

 Sun., Sept. 10th

Alan & I spent the whole day in Yellowstone.  We were able to see most of what I really wanted to take in:  lots of hot springs, paint pots, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone complete with numerous overlooks & waterfalls.  More wildlife, a bear, a mama moose with her calf, mountain goats leaping across crevices.  The scenery of Yellowstone is wonderful, with mountains & valleys & streams.  Then add geysers & paint pots & hot springs.  Then add all the wildlife.  We saw a greater diversity of wildlife in 24 hours in Yellowstone than the whole rest of the trip.


We learned at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center that we had been driving around inside the cone of a volcano all day.  The caldera is so huge (takes up ¼ of the entire park), that it’s not discernible to the eye. 


We drove from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to Tower Junction.  Well, I drove.  Not as high as the roads in Glacier, but same NO GUARD RAILS & NARROW ROADS.  Aaaack.!   We saw a t-shirt near Glacier Park, “Real men don’t need guard rails.”  We were going to buy it for Chuck, but they were out of his size.  I felt like I earned the female equivalent today.


Chuck & Linda met us at Lionshead RV Park in West Yellowstone. 

 Sat., Sept. 9th

Tomorrow’s destination is West Yellowstone.  Since Chuck & Linda have been there many times, they decided to visit their friends in Choteau tomorrow & meet us Sunday night.  Alan & I drove a long day today (418 miles), checked in to the campground & then went into Yellowstone Natl. Park about 6:00 p.m.. 


That’s a great time for viewing animals.  Almost immediately traffic stopped for a couple of buffalo wandering down the yellow line.  We saw what was probably the same two on the road every time we went by that spot during the next two days.  We also got stopped by a huge bull elk which walked down the road right in front of the van, finally moved off the road & trotted along beside us for a good while. 


There was a herd of mule deer, another of buffalo.  Wow!


We went to Old Faithful, just missed her eruption.  By the time we figured out that the most recent history is a 90-minutes span between eruptions, we had another half hour to wait.  So we walked around the other geysers & hot springs nearby & were treated to Old Faithful’s display.  As we were waiting, I asked Alan if he had ever heard a bull elk bugle.  “No,” he said.  Just then, far off in the distance, was a distinct bugling.  “Oh, that’s exactly what I’m talking about,” I said, amazed at the coincidence. 


By the time we got back to the van & were underway, it was dark.  A car going in the other direction flashed it’s lights at us.  As I was wondering what that was all about, we came upon two buffalo strolling down the middle of the road.  One ambled in our lane right in front of us.  Occasionally it would veer to the side.  Alan would speed up.  “Better wait a minute,” I cautioned, & sure enough it would veer right in front of us again.  It seemed to like walking in the light of our headlights.  Eventually they both moved out of the road.  We also saw either a wolf or coyote before we missed our turn & roamed around a while before we finally saw a sign, figured out where we were & made our way out of the park. 

Posted by Alice at 8:39 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006 8:49 PM EST
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Monday, 6 November 2006

Fri., 9/8

Chuck & Alan didn’t want to spend their day craning their necks in the back of my van.  I have no trouble sitting back there.  I made space for sitting.  I forgot that a taller person than me wouldn’t be able to sit up straight.  They had to lounge on the bedding next to their seats to fit.


So Chuck drove his truck today.  We went almost all the way through Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, turned around & drove back through to return to Columbia Falls.  What a day!!!  I was sitting in the back on the passenger’s side, providing sound effects (Eeeeek) as we went around curves on the narrow road, climbing up to 6600 feet, with NO GUARD RAILS.  Chuck said his stomach was full of buzzards, flying around in there, trying not to knock his side mirrors off while managing to stay in his lane.  I spent most of the day scaring myself by looking right over the edge all the way down into the valleys below. 


The smoke was somewhat less today & the scenery was boggling.  We encountered a mama bear & two cubs.  She went across the road two cars ahead of us.  We all stopped.  As we crept forward, she came back up the creek bank, poked her head up & led her cubs back onto the road right next to our truck.  We were taking pictures like mad when this idiot in a white convertible pulled around us all & scared the bears back into the bushes.  Harumph.



He must have been in the jaguar club touring the park.  We notice at least a dozen jaguar convertibles with numbers on the sides.  We often saw the occupants at pullouts, all sporting matching Tour to the Sun blue jackets.  The road through the park is “Going To The Sun Road”. 

On the way to the Divide, we found a curious mountain goat at one of the pulloffs.



We also noticed lots of cyclists.  We noticed that they all seemed to have grey hair.  A member of the sag wagon team was greeting the bikers as they huffed & puffed into the visitor’s center parking lot at the top.  She then took their picture in from of the Logan Pass sign.  (She took our picture too, a very nice lady.) 


She told us that the youngest member was 60, the oldest 78.  It was a long steep ride, undoubtedly just as difficult on the way down navigating steep downhill curves.  It was 14 miles from the entrance to the visitor’s center.  Wish I were in that kind of shape.


At the visitor’s center, Linda, having been there several times before, suggested a walk up the path behind the center.  I took off, planning to do a short walk & return.  The path went on & on & up & up.  Not knowing how long it was & not wanting to keep everyone else waiting too long, I turned around.  Before too long, here came Linda.  We had a long discussion about what to do & eventually decided to try to make it to the lake overlook 1 ½ miles from the center.  We did make it.  The lake was pretty, the mountains magnificent.  We were above patches of snow on the slopes across the way.  Right along the path, maybe 30 yards away, we stood & watched 11 big horn sheep dozing, eating & watching humans. 


 A couple of the rams had huge horns, which curved all the way around & started back up again.  We also met a mama mountain goat & her baby at the lake overlook.  She was eating a shrub right next to the boardwalk, I mean a couple of inches.  She wouldn’t let anyone touch her, but she was not disturbed by the human traffic.  I did see her toss her horns at one lady who stopped too close to her. 


Linda & I both kept saying we wished the guys had made the hike.  On the way back down, just as we got to the sheep again, here came Chuck & Alan.  They went up to the top & back while Linda & I watched the sheep. 



A terrific day.  Topped off by huckleberry milkshakes.


Alan has been pondering what type of camper he should get.  The campground had an interesting sign.  He decided that was the camper for him.



  Thurs., 9/7

South of Golden we stopped at Radium Hot Springs & soaked in the pool for a while.  It was only warm, maybe 100 degrees.  But the hot tub was filled with unfiltered water directly from the ground & was 106 or so.  That was yummy.  We saw mountain goats & bear on the was out of the park.


Back in the U.S. of A.  Hurray!!  We crossed the border at Rossville, through Eureka & are staying in Columbia Falls at Glacier Peaks RV Park.

 Wed., 9/6

We pulled into Golden last night to the Golden Municipal Campground & will be staying here tonight too.  Today we loaded up into my van, & I drove us up to the continental divide in the Canadian Rockies.  We walked a good bit of the way around Lake Louise & strolled through the lodge, an old chateau built by the railroad.  The lake is a striking blue from the glacial melt pouring into it.  I saw Lake Louise with Thom years ago.  The glaciers have receded substantially from what they were during that first trip.



We also stopped at a ski resort on the other side of town & took a ride up the ski lift.  That was fun, but there was so much smoke you could hardly see across the valley.  It was possible to see Lake Louise from the top & some of the glaciers.  We hear there are fires in Washington state.  The winds are blowing massive amounts of smoke all the way up here. The ranger said there had been a lot of smoke for a couple of weeks, some days worse than others.


Even considering the smoke, the drive up to Lake Louise & back was awesome.

 Tues., 9/5

We drove from Kamloops to Golden, through Revelstoke National Park & Glacier National Park (not to be confused with Waterton Glacier International Peace Park).  We made several stops today to take short hikes in the two parks.  At the skunk cabbage boardwalk through a rare valley bottom wetlands, we noticed that something had squashed a lot of the plants.  We read that the bears like the skunk cabbage flowers, hence the squashing.  We also walked through a giant cedar forest & a hemlock/cedar forest.  Amazing.  Rogers Pass at the peak in Glacier National Park was exquisite.  I think it’s my favorite mountain pass so far this trip.  I don’t known if I could bear the beauty of it without the smoke.




We stopped at a rest stop today, & it turned out to be the site where the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completed across Canada.  Nifty.

 Mon., 9/4

We drove south into Kamloops & stayed at Knutsford/Kamloops RV Campground about 5 miles south of Kamloops.  All day we noticed lots of haze & smoke in the air.


Kamloops is in Okanagan ( O kuh nah’ gan) known for its wineries & orchards.  Alan has been pining for peaches.  We stopped at a produce stand & bought peaches, blueberries, tomatoes & corn & feasted to corn on the cob with supper & peaches for dessert.

 Sun., 9/3

Barkerville is an historic attraction built on the site of the town of Barkerville, the biggest gold rush town in British Columbia in the late 1800’s.  Some of the buildings are original, most recreations.  The town is full of re-enactors, most of whom you meet on guided tours.  We all learned so much about the gold rush years, the immigration of Chinese & blacks into Canada, early Canadian history.  The actors were all skilled.  It was an amazing experience.  We met the town doctor, the laundress, a circuit judge, a lady saloon owner, a prospector & several more townspeople.


The gang treated me to a birthday lunch at a restaurant in China Town.  In the afternoon, we took a stagecoach ride, watched several performances (the school marm fixed Linda up with a cap because her hair wasn’t covered & helped her with her lesson)


& stayed for the final performance of the season of a British Music Hall which was highly entertaining.  We all agreed that Barkerville was one of the highlights of our trip.

  Sat., 9/2

I had Barkerville, a historic town depicting mining life in the late 1800’s on my suggested itinerary.  Since it was out of the way, we thought we’d better make sure it was not closed for the season.  We stopped at the visitor’s center in Prince George.  A friendly lady at the Visitor’s Center with the aid of her trusty companion, a little dachshund named Roscoe, went on line & determined that it would be closing after this weekend.  We’re in luck.  The advertised “45 minutes from Quesnel” turned out to be a bit optimistic.  Barkerville is back up in the mountains.  A tiring drive for Alan & Chuck.  I spent my afternoon with sunshine pouring in the passenger’s side window, nodding off. 


I needed a few groceries & wanted to pick up some over- the-counter allergy medicine.  Linda is famous for leaving her grocery list in the truck.  On the way to the store, I asked Linda if she had her list.  She admitted that she hadn’t made one.  She felt around in her pocket & found an old one.  “Oh, look,” she said.  “It lists orange juice, bananas & milk (among other items).  We need those.  I’ll just use this list.”  And she did. 


We stopped for the night at Camp Joy in Wells.  After supper, I was rearranging my stuff so we can leave Chuck’s truck hooked up to his rig & use my van to drive the rest of the way to Barkerville.  I didn’t think we would have time or energy to jam tonight.  I had both van side doors open.  I heard fiddling.  Off I promptly went to investigate.  As I walked around the campground, it stopped.  When I got near where I thought the sound originated, I asked the campers if they had been playing music.  They had, father on the guitar & son on fiddle.  Fatigue vanished.  A jam sprung up.  We had a really good time jamming with them.  They played some may – tee tunes for us.  The celtic fiddlers who immigrated to BC often married First Nation women.  Their children learned to fiddle & incorporated native rhythms & melodies into the music.  The result is really interesting, crooked, haunting music.  None of us had any recording equipment, drat.

Posted by Alice at 7:50 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006 8:15 PM EST
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Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Fri., 9/1

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me.


We drove a few miles on a gravel road to view a collection of totem poles which was quite impressive.  We noticed a truck in a creek below the roadbed on the way in.  A police car was there. On the way out, the police car was gone, but a wrecker was there with lots of Indian onlookers.  One of the two guys attempting to haul the truck out stopped me, set out cones from both directions & said it would be a while.  So we had lunch, heard the whole story of the drunk driver & watched them struggle to get the thing up the bank.  It was quite an operation.


We drove through rain, then sprinkles, then finally beautiful sunny weather.  I took off the bottom portion of my zippie slacks, exclaiming,” I’ve got legs!”  I had almost forgotten what it felt like to wear shorts.  We stopped for the night at Shady Rest RV Park in Houston.  It was a lovely, well-kept park with dahlias the size of dinner plates.  Buzzy was quite impressed.


A couple  from Holland came over to listen to us jam.  Her father was also traveling with them.  We got him to play the spoons with us.  He had a great time.


We’re back out of the mountains & into farm country here, lots of hay fields.


Thurs., 8/31

We pulled into Hyder last night.  We’re back in Alaska, staying at Camp Run-a-Muck.  No customs crossing from Stewart, British Columbia into Hyder, Alaska, but there will be crossing back into Canada tomorrow.  Tues. we got stopped by a highway crew luckily right across from Bear Glacier.  It was raining so the pictures didn’t turn out too good.  But there were no pullouts near it so at least we got a good view while we were stopped.


We drove to the viewing deck at Fish Creek twice today, hoping to see bears.  We did see one bear come down into the creek, poke along for a while, then head upstream.  It didn’t even stop to eat any of the chum salmon which were spawning there.  It was kind of disappointing. 


We did see a bunch of eagles, 9 or more, perched on driftwood along the shoreline pretty near the campground.  And a bear wandered through the campground to raid the garbage.  They had chicken wire creating a small square.  But the bear figured out it could climb a tree right next to the square & drop down inside the fence.


We heard from campers along the way that Salmon Glacier, visible from the car on a auto self-guided tour, was worth doing.  But the weather was so foggy & rainy, we wouldn’t have been able to see it.  Oh, well.  We took some time to do laundry & rest a little.



Tues., 8/29

We stopped for lunch just before our turn onto the Casiar Highway & sent Elliot on his way with lots of hugs.  No sooner were had we made the turn than we were down to 30 – 35 mph.  The road was narrow, muddy, almost as bad as what we experienced on Sunday.  The scenery, while pretty, was soon monotonous.  Road, evergreen trees.  Ho, hum.  But as we approached Good Hope Lake, we got into mountains again, breathtakingly beautiful mountains, with a dusting of fresh snow.  Alan was driving – so I gawked & gawked.  Mile after mile of incredible views.  The road improved too.


We were lured by a fresh coffee sign into Jade City, a shop with the same name as the “town”.  The owner told us that 80% of the jade sold in the world!!! comes from the mines in Jade City.  How about that?  We all came out with some jade.  Their fresh coffee is marketing money well spent.


Another 30 miles down the road, it turned to gravel & stayed gravel for 16 ½ miles, full of potholes & ruts.  We had to creep along at 5 – 10 mph.  At least the scenery was beautiful.  We pulled into Dease Lake RV Park for the night. 


We played a few rounds of Mexican Train in Chuck & Linda’s rig after supper.  When I left for my own rig at 10:00, I was surprised to see how dark it was.  I’ve gotten used to Alaska nights which even when we left weren’t totally dark.  We’re actually not too much further south than we had been in Soldotna because we had to drive so far north to go around the Wrangell Mountains. 



Mon., 8/28

More horrible roads until past Destruction Bay.  Then the road improved.  Hurray.  We stopped at the Dahl Sheep Center at the end of the Bay, but we didn’t see any this time.  The ranger said they were all higher than the clouds. 


Marsh Lake, near Whitehorse, was so lovely, like a mirror, so still it reflected all the clouds overhead.  The colorful foliage has vanished, & the fireweed here is still blooming.  We also saw lots of a low-growing white flower which reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of tundra.


We spent the night at the Yukon Motel & RV Park in Teslin.  It’s a nice, well-run park.  This is the place where we jammed in the laundry room on the way up.  The owner remembered us.  Elliot leaves the caravan tomorrow so we feasted on salad & veggies from the garden at the Diamond M & had one more jam. 


I took a funny picture of Chuck’s bass in its traveling position, sleeping of their bed.



Sun., 8/27

Onward, north actually, to Tok where we stopped for lunch & to make cell phone calls to our loved ones.  We didn’t have cell service yesterday & won’t again until we get back into the States.  Tok is the northernmost point of our journey.


No trouble crossing the border into Canada.  We intended to stop at a RV park in Beaver Creek, a tiny town just across the border with only a few buildings.  We didn’t spot the park until we were past it, & there was no place to turn around.  Oh, well.  Plan B was to continue to Kluane Wilderness RV Park about 50 more miles down the road, about 20 miles before Burwash Landing.  How hard could that be? Oh, my.  The road from Tok to the border had been bad, but the road from the border to the park was horrendous.  Lots of loose gravel parts where they had the road torn up in preparation for repaving with bone-jarring drop-offs where the pavement ended & the gravel started.  Frost heaves creating what Elliot calls whoop-de-dos.  Too many potholes to count.  And rain, did I mention the rain?  Some heavy showers, but mostly just annoying drizzle, for hours.   Oh, and we lost an hour, so it was around 8:30 by the time we pulled in & set up, a 346-mile day.


So many campgrounds were closed along the way that we were concerned about our destination being open.  It was, thank goodness.  Talk about isolated.  No power lines.  The owner had an enormous generator he used to provide electricity to the campers.  So, we listened to the generator run all night long.  What a day!


The scenery in the Yukon Territory is beautiful though.  We actually saw some fall color.  In the higher elevations, the aspens already had a lovely golden glow.  The fireweed leaves had turned red.  Their seed pods were open, with white cottonwood-like seeds floating in the breeze.  Alan commented on the lovely palette of greens, bronzes & browns created by the mists & shadows on the mountains.  Everything looked so different without snow.  The lakes were still frozen solid on the way up.  The mountains were still thick with snow.  Now, they were almost totally green, with caps of fluffy clouds clinging to their peaks & sides.



Sat., 8/26

We had a good time in Anchorage, staying at Anchorage RV Park.  It’s Any City, USA, but there were some interesting shops & museums. 

I particularly liked the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  We learned so much about the different groups of natives & their various customs.  I got to dance with one of the groups. 



We went to the Alaska Bureau of Public Lands.  It happened to be the 90th birthday of the national park service.  We got cake.  And special programs.  A lady had a golden eagle which had fallen from its nest & fractured a wing, leaving it permanently unable to fly.  What a magnificent bird!  They named it Denali.  I was standing within 5 feet of it.  Once it looked right into my eyes.  Gulp! What a piercing look.  I felt like if it could talk it would tell me things about myself I never knew before. 


We went on a ranger-led Capt. Cook walking tour or downtown.


We walked a little on the Coastal Trail, along Knik Arm.  We took in Clue, the Musical.  That was fun.  And jazz at the Museum of History & Art. 


We headed out today, stopping at the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla.  We had planned to take in the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, but changed our minds when they wanted $20 to park the rigs for a few hours, no shuttles from the RV lot at least a muddy mile from the gate. 


We stopped at many pullouts in Matanuska Valley, enjoying spectacular views of Matanuska Glacier. 


We met up with Chuck & Linda at Tolsona Wilderness Campground, a lovely park with a clear brook meandering through the grounds.  I can hear it as I’m typing.  Aaaahh.


Tues., 8/22

We went shopping at Kenai Landing, an old cannery which has been converted to a shopping mall.  We also visited Alaska Horn & Antler.  I’m the only one who left without some portion of antler..


Mon., 8/21

Since we didn’t leave today, Ronna recruited me for harvesting vegetables from the garden & helping to blanche them for freezing.  Three of Ronna’s kids helped pick, plus a friend of Ronna’s & her two boys.  The friend, Kathy, stayed to help cut the veggies & blanche.  Linda joined in too.  Between us all we put up over 120 pounds!!!! of broccoli & a few large heads of cauliflower.


I helped Linda make fireweed jelly.  I took a picture of the blossoms Chuck & Alan collected from the side of the road.  The jelly didn’t set until 2 days later. 


Sun., Aug. 20th sequel


Boy, can plans change.  I was working in the office Sun. morning.  I was discussing our Monday departure plans with a camper & told him we would be going on to Denali Park & Fairbanks.  He said, “I don’t think so.  Have you seen today’s paper?”  Then he told us about Parks Highway being washed out near Talkeetna, between Anchorage & Denali Park.  The only road between Anchorage & Denali.  He went back & brought his Sunday paper in for me to read.


I called Elliot, asked him to round up Allen & we had a pow-wow.  The DOT was claiming that the road would be open again in 2 days, but we had strong doubts about it.  So we decided to skip Denali & Fairbanks & stay at the Diamond M until Wed.  Chuck & Linda agreed to depart on Sat., 8/26, instead of Mon., 8/28.  We made plans to meet up in Glennallen.

Posted by Alice at 3:36 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006 4:12 PM EDT
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Sunday, 20 August 2006

Sun., Aug. 20th

Ronna is going to have a rootbeer float party for the staffers tonight (with homemade ice cream!).  She’s making pancakes for us in the morning.  Then Elliot, Alan  & I will take off for Anchorage.  Chuck & Linda will catch up with us in Tok, Alaska.


The reds are finally running strong, really came in late this year.  The limit was 0 late in July, then back to 1, then 3.  Now the escapement figures are so big, they’re allowing sport fishermen to take 6 per day.

 Sat., Aug. 19th The lousy weather cleared.  We headed to the Ninilchik State Fair.  The Martin kids showed their animals yesterday:  DeAnne & Josiah showed their steers & Matti showed one of the dairy calves.  We had to cover the office while the family was at the fair, but we caught the auction today & got to watch DeAnne & Josiah show their steers for that. 

They were almost last so we sat through goats, lambs, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, lots of pigs, all shown by 4-H kids.  They each wrote what the emcee was to say before they came out.  That was the best part.


The Martin kids had all entered vegetables from the garden & stuff they had made.  We walked through the exhibits & found all their entries. 

  We also watched a dog obedience demonstration, arm wrestling & family rodeo events & ran into people we had met here.  A nice country fair. 

No midway, just some ball toss stuff & the like for the kids.  The rodeo was fun.  There was a calf ride for kids 10 & under.  It generally took under 2 seconds for the calf to rid itself of its rider.  My favorite was the calf scramble.  About 30 kids (10 & under) chased a calf around the arena until one managed to pull a ribbon off the tail of the calf.  It was hysterical.  I also liked Cow Daubing which involved horseback riders running down a steer & touching its shoulder with a pole the end of which was a pad covered with mustard.


No rain, but the weather was windy & cold.  I was really glad I had decided to wear my long johns.


This evening a camper borrowed Elliot’s banjo & joined in the jam.  He was really good & added a lot to our little group.

  Fri., Aug. 18th

Carrol Martin came in the office while I was working & told me that he had seen a brown bear running through his yard this morning.  He looked around & found bear claw marks in the mud from the dumpster (about 15 yards from our rigs) all the way down the lane to his house.  He heard the horses whinny in terror & the neighbors dogs set us a fuss.  It was moving fast.  The fish odors from the dumpster probably attracted it.  And people have been fishing on the river bank below the barn, cleaning fish right there on the bank & leaving fish carcasses there.


There have also been lynx sittings, once in the driveway & once in the meadow above the main building. 

 Thurs., Aug. 17th

Today was the only sunny day in a week.  Thank goodness, because we took a boat tour of Kachemak Bay with a stop in Seldovia.  The tour went by Bird Island, a rookery for thousands of gulls, puffins, cormorants, muirs, on & on.  I loved seeing the puffins sticking their head out of their 3-foot burrows.  We saw lots of sea otters in the kelp beds too.


The coastline was spectacular.  On the horizon we had a good view of Mount Redoubt, Mount Iliamna & Mount Augustine, all active volcanoes. 

  Seldovia is a small community (population 307) which is only accessible by boat & plane.  We had 3 hours to walk around town, watch the salmon spawning in the creek, pick salmon berries, walk the beach. 

No touring going back, a straight shot back to Homer Spit harbor in 75 minutes.  Most of the passengers nodded off, including me, for at least part of the ride home.  In Homer we ate deep fried halibut on a stick at a fish & chips place.

On the way home we stopped at the Norman Lowell Gallery.  Mr. Lowell was there, & he spent some time chatting with us.  He’s an acclaimed artist who specializes in Alaska landscapes.  I’d say his work was idealized (a la Thomas Kincaid) except that I’ve seen some of the places he has painted, & they really do look like he has portrayed.


We also stopped at Anchor Point which protrudes way out into Cook Inlet.  We found the Anchor Point Recreation Area with a day use area right at the point.  The view was actually disappointing.  When you’re standing at a point out in the ocean, amazingly enough what you see is ocean.  The clouds had rolled back in on the horizon so we couldn’t see the mountains on the other side of Cook Inlet which would have been awesome from there if it had been clear. 

We did have our picture taken in front of the “North America’s Most Westerly Point in the Highway System” sign.

 Wed., Aug. 16th

You know you’ve been in one spot too long when plants grow up from under your tires.


Tues., Aug. 15th

Another road trip.  We traveled north to just before Girdwood on the Turnagain Arm & took in the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  They take in rescued & injured animals. 

Some are rehabilitated & set free.  Others must live out their lives there.  They also maintain a herd of wood bison & a herd of muskox.  Quite interesting. 

I loved the red foxes which were piled on top of each other in a raised barrel, sound asleep


We took a sidetrip to Hope on the way back.  Hope is on the south side of Turnagain Arm, across the inlet from the Conservation Center.  Not much to Hope, a little gold panning town.  But now we can say we’ve been to Hope, Alaska.

 Friday, Aug. 11th

Rachel, one of the housekeepers, is a lovely, bubbly young woman.  She had intended to go on Thursday.  She was late.  We forgot she was planning to go & took off without her.  She was so disappointed that Chuck wanted to go again on Friday just to take her.  He talked me into going too, a 3 person expedition.


As it turned out, Ronna decided to go with 2 of her little ones, Elliot & another camper decided to go, Rachel invited a friend along, Blair got included.  We wound up with a van full of 10 people & picked up 2 more kids along the way, Ronna & Blair’s son, Matti, & his cousin, Rianna.


Rachel & her friend had so much fun.  It was just as entertaining watching the two of them dig so furiously as it was clamming myself.  Elliot had planned just to take pictures.  We recruited him as a puller.  He had fun too.  He & I took turns pulling while Chuck used the gun.  We got a bucket full & then pulled some for Blair’s bucket. 


We cleaned another 6 quarts of clams.  Yum.

  Thurs., Aug. 10th

Ronna had planned to take her little ones clamming today.  But she had semething come up.  Since Chuck & I intended to go again, she asked up to lead the excursion.  We took three carloads of campers back to the same place, showed them how to dig & off they went. 


Everybody had fun.  The preteen boys in one group had objected strongly to the trip.  They wanted to fish.  But they had so much fun that they didn’t want to leave. 


I thought we’d never finish cleaning clams.  Cleaning is not nearly so much fun as catching.  The group with the boys couldn’t clean all their clams.  They said we could keep whatever we cleaned.  So Linda & I stayed with them until they finished.  We packaged 13 quart bags of clams.

 Wed., Aug. 9th

We stopped at the bluff in Kenai & whiled away the afternoon, sitting on sun-warmed benches, watching the dip netters try to catch silvers & pinks from the mouth of the Kenai River.  They weren’t having much luck.


Carrol led another clamming trip.  The low tides are lower than average, minus tides, 3 days this week.  Chuck bought a three-day fishing license, which also covers clamming.  We’re decided totry this thing again.  We went to Ninilchik again, but this time we went north of Ninilchik Village. 

  We hit the jackpot.  Clams everywhere.  Chuck used a clam gun this time. 

 It’s a metal cylinder with a handle across the top.  The idea is to plunge the cylinder into the sand over a clam “dimple”, keeping a thumb over the hole in the handle.  They heave the thing up out of the sand, bringing a plug of sand & mud & maybe a clam with it.  Once out of the sand, the hole is uncovered, the suction released & the plug falls out. 


It’s really difficult to pull up.  Chuck had to work hard, but we got clams galore.  He’d pull it up & I’d thrust my hand up to my elbow into the hole as soon as the gun was out of the way.  Often I’d get a hold of the neck & hang on for dear life.  The thing has a digger it sticks out the bottom & is doing it’s best to get away.  The bigger ones can really dig.  Some I’d get my thumb inside the top of the shell, pinch hard between my thumb & index finger, wiggle & pull until it released suction & I’d haul it up.  What fun!  I had a blast.


We got ¾’s of a bucket before the tide turned.  We realize now that this is the spot those successful clammers were at in Ninilchik, not the same spot we bombed out. 

 Sun., Aug. 6th

Elliot & I drove to Capt. Cook State Park, about 30 miles north of Kenai, consequently about 35 miles closer to Mt. Spur.  The skies were delightfully clear.  Mr. Spur, Black Peak & Mt. Redoubt, the major mountains we can see from the deck of the Diamond M, are spectacular from this viewpoint.  The tide was way out.  With Elliot’s binoculars, we could see all 9 oil rigs out in the inlet.  We meandered down to the beach.  We passed a huge boulder & sat of a smaller one to watch the activity in the inlet for a while. 


I spotted a boulder with a red mass growing on it.  I wanted to check it out & started to walk out to it.  About 10 steps out the seemingly firm beach turned to mud.  I sunk about half way up my sneakers.  Not such a good idea after all.  I slowly broke the suction & retreated. 


We found the nature trail around & through the campground & had a lovely walk. 


This is a shot of one spike of fireweed, nicely shown off against a spruce.

There were bane berries in lovely red profusion.  Every kiosk in the park had pictures of the bane berries with strong warnings about the fatal poison they contain. We also say monk’s hood, another poisonous plant the early native Alaskans used on harpoons for whale & seal hunting.


When we got back to the bluff where we left the car, we were surprised to see that the tide was almost all the way in.  We had only been on the trail maybe 20 minutes.  The water was all the way up to the big boulder we had walked past.  No wonder they warn so intently about not getting stuck in the mud.  People wander out on the flats, get both feet in too deep to pull out & wind up drowning when the tide comes in. 

  Mon., July 31st The oldest girl, DeAnne, has a friend visiting.  There are also some tenters who stayed here last year & enjoyed the llamas a lot.  So DeAnne brought three or four of the llamas to the lawn surrounding the bathhouse & tied them to the rocks bordering the road.  Today the girls bathed mama llama.  They took her most of the way up the wheelchair ramp leading up to the deck around the bathhouse & tied her up.  Since there are rails all the way up the ramp, mama llama was corralled pretty well. 

They shampooed her.  I think they ran a hose from the warm water tap in the utility room of the bathhouse so mama llama wouldn’t fuss too much.


The flowers are “bolting”.  Carrol says they have detected the shortening of the days & are hurrying to produce seed before summer is over.  Even plants that languished most of the summer are looking lush now.  Potted plants everywhere, looking lovely.

 Sun., July 30th

We piled in Elliot’s Saturn & took a drive to the bridge over the Kasilof River.  A guest at the camp told us about a fish wheel the state keeps under the bridge.  The sonar counters are also moored there & state employees come in two or three times a day to post the new numbers.  The fish wheel is turned on just once a day.  It’s kind of a fish trap & is used for them to examine the fish that are swimming upstream & count them as a back-up to the sonar counters.


It had already been run today.  But we did get to talk with one of the employees who just came in for routine checking.  The reds are running stronger now & dip netting may open back up.  As it is, today is the last day for fishing for reds & kings & no motorized boats are allowed on the river even today, just drift boats.  I guess these are row boats.  But drift my foot.  The Kasilof is flowing so swift.  We watched a boat put in from the boat launch across the river from us.  Like a shot the current grabbed it & it was out of sight before we knew it.  I can’t quite picture how in the world they manage to get to shore downstream.

Sat., July 29th

During the regular Sat. night social, Carrol  conducted his blind taste test.  He prepared the three kinds of salmon he bought on Thursday & some ling cod.  All were marinated in the same marinade & grilled.  Six tasters were blindfolded.  Six feeders lined up at the grill, got one kind at a time, & fed a bite or two to the tasters.  The main issue seemed to be the standing of pink salmon.  Pinks are mostly used for canned salmons.  The meat’s appearance is grey when cooked & pretty awful looking.  But in the blind taste test, it came in second to red salmon for 4 of the tasters & first for 2 of them.  King was third for everyone with the ling cod placing last. 


Then we all got to taste what we wanted.  I confess, as one of the feeders, I had already stolen a few tastes.

Posted by Alice at 2:53 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 20 August 2006 3:11 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Fri., July 28th

This evening we went to Sourdough Sal’s diner for a dinner show featuring Hobo Jim.  He’s a prolific songwriter who has sold material to a lot of big names.  He also travels worldwide, performing his own material.  He was very entertaining.  The “waitresses” were outfitted in can-can outfits.  Three of the four were rather large ladies who nonetheless had a great time titillating & teasing the men in the audience.  They had good voices & put on a good show, singing to recorded back-up music.  It was well done & a lot of fun.  The campground hosts & another couple who are staying all summer at the park went too.  So we had a full evening.



Thurs., July 27th

A friend of Ronna’s & Blair’s, Liz, runs a commercial fishing operation.  About once a week she offers “tours” of their facility.  Actually there’s not much to tour.  They set out nets in the inlet.  Liz took us to an overlook where we could see the inlet & get a good view of their floats.  We could also see the drift boats at the mouth of the Kasilof River.  The fishing, both commercial & sport, is strictly regulated to ensure a sufficient escapement for salmon to make it upstream to spawn.  Sustainable fishing is serious business.  So the commercial fishermen were notified to cease operations (except for specific drift netters).  Liz’s crew had been able to drift net on Monday.  So she had fish to sell at wholesale prices. 


Her license covers about a mile of beach & they can set a specified number of nets in that area up to maybe 3 miles out.  Even though we didn’t get to see them pulling any nets, we learned a lot about commercial fishing in Alaska. 


Carrol bought a huge king, a couple of nice reds & a pink.  He plans to conduct a blind taste test on Saturday.  He took us by the property he is developing & showed us some sun drops, small carnivorous plants, which happened to be growing right beside the road.  Usually they prefer wetlands.


Wed., July 26th


Chuck & I went clamming today in Ninilchik.  Alan went along to take pictures.  We were nearly skunked, only 5 clams.  The day was gorgeous.  The mountains across the inlet were striking.  But the clams were deep & few.  When we got back to camp, we noticed another group cleaning clams in a circle on the lawn.  They got 180 clams!!!  They went to Ninilchik too.  Boy, are we depressed about our clamming abilities.





We stopped at the old Russian Orthodox church on the hill overlooking Ninilchik & got some great pictures of the village & the inlet.





We stopped at the state fishery on the way back.  They divert some of the salmon for counting & research.  So you can see salmon jumping into the chute.  There were only a few reds.  Carrol told me he has seen 5000 fish in that same spot, practically filling the whole stream.  But we did get to see them jump & were able to get pictures of them in the pool below the chute.


Tues., July 25th

Blair worked out some kind of swap with Seavy Sled Dog Tours so he & all of us work campers got to go.  It was so much fun.  The Seavy family are top contenders in the Iditarod.  Son number two gave us the tour of the facilities & a nice long ride.  In the summer, they train the dogs by having them pull a 6 person cart (plus the driver who stands on the back) over a gravel road.  Some of the route is over grass. 


I took a lot of digital picture, but I really wished I had brought my video camera along.  When our guide started walking toward the harnesses, all the dogs went wild.  PICK ME, PICK ME, PICK ME!!!  Barking, howling, running circles, climbing on top of their doghouses.  They were so eager to run that when they were being harnessed they would pick up their front feet one at a time, like lightning insert them through the right spot & wriggle into the harness.  Then they would practically pull the young man off his feet as they lunged toward the cart.  He had to run to keep from falling, hauling back as hard as he could. 


Once hitched up, as they waited for the rest of the team, they were active but no longer wild with excitement, until the last dog got hitched up.  Then they all started lunging, attempting to take off with the cart.  And the howls.  Some of the dogs sounded almost human.  Our guide told us to hang on, that when he released the brake & the failsafe anchor, we would need to be prepared.  As soon as the brake was released, we leapt forward & took off lickety split down the road.  It was so much fun. 


The dogs knew they weren’t seriously training.  They got away with a lot of biting at the grass along the trail.  Once the lead dogs cut a corner too close so the back end of the team & the cart started getting off the path.  “Rocket, straight away.”  Rocket lined  the team up straight with the cart again until he heard “Haw” & led the team back into the left curve.  They were all panting by the time we got back.  The weather was cool & sprinkling rain, but the dogs prefer no warmer than 20 degrees. 


The dogs were actually a rather motley crew.  None had the husky look I had assumed they would.  They  weren’t particularly big, 55 lbs on average, pretty lean, rather scruffy.  Some showed signed of breeding experiments with greyhounds. 

The one husky they had came from the pound.  He was a huge dog, around 100 lbs, plus all that fur.  Our guide said he was more like a semi truck when they needed Farrari’s.  He did like to

pose though & would jump up on his dog house on command & look right at the cameras.


I thought sled dogs were rather aggressive.  But our guide said no.  His family actually breed for pleasant dispositions & the dogs loved to be petted.


While the other half of the group took the ride, we got to play with the puppies.  One batch was 4 weeks old.  They had already learned to bolt for the gate when we opened it to enter.  We had to catch them to keep them from escaping.  Another batch was 4 days old.  Their eyes weren’t even open yet.  We each got to hold one. The 3 days old batch we could only look at.  Mom didn’t want to be separated from them. 


While we were with the puppies, all of a sudden the dogs started up again.  They heard the team approaching & were working themselves up into a frenzy again in hopes they would be picked for the next run.  A few minutes later, here came the team.  They were panting hard.  The cart weighed 500 lbs, plus 6 people & the weather was much too warm for them. 


At the end of the tour, we got to submit a candidate for a name for one of the 30 puppies of the summer.  I put in Ajah’s name.  Maybe I’ll win a stuffed husky. 


More fishing limits imposed.  Now the Kenai River is closed for sockeye too.  But the sport fishermen are still fishing for kings.  There were a 62 lb, a 63 lb. & a 75 lb king cleaned at our fish cleaning station this week.


Sun., July 23rd


I wanted to hike some cross-country ski trails just south of Soldotna.  I gave Elliot the web address I found.  He located the trail map & printed it out.  He drove us to Skyview High School.  One of the trailheads was located behind the school.  We walked about 2 ½ miles.  The trails were wide & grassy with interesting curves & slopes.  The day was breezy enough to keep the mosquitoes away & cool enough for pleasant walking.


I also talked Elliot into stopping at the local hardware store.  Actually it’s a combination hardware & fishing tackle store, Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing.  I thought that would be interesting to see.  It was packed.  Mostly with tourists/fishermen buying waders & assorted gear. 


I took a picture of Linda today at the fish cleaning station in her typical pose with her hands behind her back, peering over the shoulders of the fish cleaners.  If they leave a lot of meat on the carcass, she gently asks, “Are you going to throw that away?” 

 They usually respond, “Yeah, do you want it?”  Then she takes it, boils the whole thing briefly & picks the meat off the bones for stew & salmon patties.  Often they’ve left enough meat for Chuck to glean some nice fillets.   


Sat., July 22nd

This weekend is the Progress Days Celebration in Soldotna.  Again we’re involved with the float, but not riding on it this time.  The theme was Building Legacies.  Since Carrol Martin, his son, Blair & Blair’s kids have all been involved in 4-H, they decided to go with Building Legacies through 4-H.  They loaded a big hay rack onto a flat bed trailer with a dozen bales of hay.  Our bunch tied it all down.  When we got to the parade, we added big 4-H signs, banners, tinsel, stuff.  Carrol & Blair added Cammie, one of the milk cows, Oreo, a week old calf, two other young steers, & a bunch of 4-H-ers.  Other 4-Hers brought their rabbits, a sheep & a goat.  Blair also brought a llama & her baby.  He harnessed mama llama to a cart & the baby tagged right along.


Linda & I sat in the back seat of Carrol’s pick up truck, each holding one end of a banner, the other end of which was tied to the hay rack.  We had to adjust the tension as we went around corners.  Otherwise we were free to observe the crowd.  This turned out to be quite a treat as we could see their faces just at the moment they realized a real cow

was on the float.  They were delighted.  And then DeeAnne or Ariana, Carrol’s granddaughters, would aim a teat at them & give them a squirt of milk.  Hey!!!  Dee Anne was so disappointed when the cow was dry. 


Friday, July 21st

Carrol led a hike to Russian River Falls, two miles one way.  The trail was gravel & wide, gentle slope, a piece of cake.  The falls were quite pretty.  This time of year, scores of salmon should be jumping up the falls, attempting to get to the lake & spawn.  We did see salmon making amazing leaps, but just a few.


Today was Carrol’s 66th birthday.  Blair butchered one of the llamas a few days ago & roasted it on a gas cooker today.  Oh, goody.  People seemed to like the idea of trying it.  Some liked it a lot, others thought it was tough.  One guy said it tasted like yak.  Okay, that doesn’t mean much to me. 

Posted by Alice at 6:59 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006 7:56 PM EDT
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Thursday, 27 July 2006

Another note for Saturday, June 24th


Also on Saturday, I went on the guided hike to Skilak Lake.  The trail wasn’t steep this time, a gradual slope except for a small section.  2 miles in to the lake & back.  We hiked to an overlook from which we could see the entire lake, with the Kenai River entering one end & winding out the other, mountains complete with hanging glaciers on the other side.  The hillsides were covered with wild roses which smelled wonderful.  Bluebells & forget-me-nots everywhere.  A delightful experience. 

















































In the last blog entry, I forgot to put in the picture of the gang processing all the halibut the guys caught.  Here it is.



















Sunday, June 25th 

Chuck led a walk from the barn down to the Kenai River, about ½ mile through the woods.  The wildflowers are gorgeous, wild roses, bunch berry dogwoods, dandelions, Arctic delphiniums & wild geraniums which are deep purple.  We watched the fishing boats go by.  On the way back we admired the baby llama, a flock of baby ducks & JoAnne Martin’s bounty of white roses.













The sun drops below the horizon about 11:30.  A nice red line shows for an hour or so.  The sky is dusky until about 4:00 when the sun pops back up.  If I wake during the night & push the curtain aside, there is perfect visibility.  But with the curtains closed, I haven’t been disturbed by the light.


 Monday, June 26th  

Chuck & I went on the clam dig today.  It was drizzling when we first got there, then it cleared up.  The expedition was fun, but not very successful in the clam department.  I’m told some days it’s easy to catch the limit of 35 clams per person.  Not today. 

Linda mentioned that she had heard from the travelers.  They all made it home safely.  I asked her when Jay had called.  “4:00 this morning” was Linda’s reply.  He called when they got in at 8:00 a.m.  He claimed he thought the 4 hour difference made it 12:00 noon our time.  A likely story.


 Wed., June 28th 

Alan, Elliot & I went on a hike led by Ronna to Juneau Falls.  The incline was not steep, but it was 4 miles in to the falls, 8 miles roundtrip.  It was a lovely sunny day.  We lunched at the falls.  Ronna hikes at an impressive speed.  Gawking is hard when you’re walking on a rocky trail with lots of tree roots to grab your toes, especially when you’re hauling butt.  Sometimes we’d just have to tell her, “I want to stop & look around.”















Friday, June 30th 

I was sitting in my camper, checking e-mail.  Movement caught my eye out my back window.  I looked up to see a llama pulling a cart full of kids.  The baby llama was tagging along, & more kids were walking, surrounding the cart.  It was quite a sight.  I grabbed my camera.














Sun., July 2nd 

Elliot & I spent our day off driving the Skilak Lake Loop Road.  It’s a gravel road & we ate a lot of dust.  There are a lot of campgrounds with dry camping & boat launches off the road.  It’s in the Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Refuge.  Being the weekend before the 4th of July, all those facilities were busy.  But we checked out every one.  At one boat launch/campground, we hiked part of the way around a lovely lake.  I’d like to go back there.  At another we saw a black bear dozing in the woods near the road.  We also hiked Burney’s Trail which ran from one of the campgrounds up high enough to overlook Hidden Lake & Skilak Lake, including the delta area where the Kenai River feeds into it.  A lovely spot, not a difficult hike.  There was a small area of harebells on the overlook, like bluebells only larger.














 Tues., July 4th 

A few days ago JoAnne Martin approached us about riding on the Diamond M Float in the Kenai parade & playing music.  The theme was “Old Glory”.  We made banners which read “The Glory of Old Time Music” for the sides & one which read “Old Glory, Long May She Wave” for the back.  JoAnne had a cardboard “cabin” with a fake campfire.  We secured the cabin to a flatbed trailer, added flags & hay bales to sit on.  Beween JoAnne’s closet & our own clothes we came up with red, white or blue t-shirts.  There was a red, white & blue washtub base setting around.  Chuck grabbed that & sounded might fine on it.




























When we lined up for the parade, we were near a float with the Dixie River Rats playing Dixieland Jazz.  We told Carrol, “Don’t get behind them if you can help it.  They’ll drown us out.”  So he made sure he got rolling before them. A young woman riding in a cart pulled by a gorgeous husky pulled in behind us followed by a huge firetruck with a crane.  I thought we were set pretty darn good  -- right up until the guys in the firetruck started setting off their siren.  They felt compelled to sound it for every kid in Kenai.  Even sitting practically on top of each other, we could hardly hear our own instrument much less anybody else.  In between blasts, we’d pull together.   But they stopped often enough for us to get a lot of recognition.  It was really hard not to crack up.  And, let me tell you, it’s not easy to play a pennywhistle when you’re laughing.


The next day several old time musicians called the Ranch & asked how they could get together to jam with us, & the next night a banjo player showed up.  That was fun.


The float didn’t win anything, but JoAnne was pleased with it.  Lots of people commented to her about it so she was happy with the publicity.


 Sat., July 8th 

We loaded up in Elliot’s Saturn & hit the road north to Girdwood.  Girdwood is located right at the east end of Turnagain Arm in Cook’s Inlet.  This weekend is the Girdwood Forest Fair, complete with numerous elves & fairies & aging hippies.  We enjoyed the fabulous scenery on the route.  Most of the snow is gone from the mountains now.  It looks so different from the drive down in May. 


We watched the parade.  My favorite entry was from Alyeska Ski Resort.  They strapped a snowboard to the front to back roll bar on a truck & a handsome young man rode up there.  The bed of the pickup was filled with snow.  The other floats were throwing candy to the crowd.  The Ski Resort entry threw snow. 


The woods in the park in the middle of town were filled with craft booths, food vendors, massage chairs, face painting & hair wrapping, all nestled under the trees.  There were two stages with all different kinds of music acts for the 3 day festival.  It was fun.


We made it back the campground in time to play for the evening potluck social. 











































Sun., July 9th 

The campground hosts who usually cover the office on Sunday are away for the weekend.  So Linda & I manned the office.  While I was there some neighbors came in to report that one of the llamas was in their back yard.  I called Ronna when I thought they would be out of church & on the way back home so they could go check it out.  I really thought we would be deputized for a llama posse, but Blair & Carrol rounded it up & moved it to another pasture where it hopefully won’t be so inclined to jump the fence.


 Mon., July 10th 

Blair saw campers running to the dump station so he thought he’d better check it out.  A baby moose had gotten separated from its mother & was walking down the road into the campground.  When it saw all the people, it bolted into the woods by the dump station.  Blair stopped the campers from following it into the woods.  He told them, “You don’t want to risk getting between that baby & its mother.  She’ll stomp you down, & you won’t get up.”


 Sat., July 15th 

Fishing is poor.  The powers that be have cut off dip netting as of 11:00 p.m. on July 15th, about two weeks ahead of usual.  And the red salmon limit for fishing with a line & pole is down from 3 per day to 1 per day.  Many disappointed fisherman in camp.


 Tues., July 18th 

The weather is overcast.  When I was on 8 – 10 a.m. duty in the office today, I was looking out at the mountains on the other side of Cook’s Inlet, miles away but often incredibly clear.  Even though the day was overcast, Mt. Spur was visible.  The sun was beaming through the clouds right on to the peak of Mt. Spur.  Since it’s covered with snow, the sun made it practically glow.  How fortunate I am to be here.

Posted by Alice at 9:35 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006 2:53 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Saturday, June 10th

The vegetable garden is in!! We’ve worked so hard, putting in a drip irrigation system, covering the mounds with plastic for weed control, poking through the plastic to plant seeds & seedlings.

Sunday, June 11th

Elliot drove to Homer to visit his cousin, Ron, & his wife, Lorie. I tagged along. Lorie had rented an excavator the day before, dug huge holes in her side yard & dug up spruce trees from the front part of the property. Bark beetle had decimated their spruce trees about 8 years ago, but some trees which had been babies then are rebounding. She was itching to get her trees planted so we all helped. A good thing too. It took all 4 of us, plus their college-age daughter & her boyfriend to get them in the ground. Then they took us down to the Spit for lunch & some sightseeing. The view across Kechemak Bay is awesome.

Thursday, June 15th

There are lots of planned activities. Today Ronna led a hike up Mt. Marathon Trail in Seward. It’s been drizzling for a couple of days & promises to do so again. But we decided to go for it. Runners race up to the top of Mt. Marathon & back down again on July 4th. Ronna has competed herself, placed 3rd in her age group & 13th overall. She knows the trail well. A good thing. It was steep, much steeper than any other hiking I’ve done. And slick. Greasy mud. Then it started drizzling lightly. With the drizzle & clouds, the view wasn’t much to speak of.

We knew we wouldn’t be able to make it to the top in these conditions & decided to just go to the half way point. She kept saying, “We’re almost there, Only 300 more feet.” After a while, she began to have a credibility problem. Most of us made it to the half way point, had a quick bite to eat, then started down. Down was even more interesting. Parts of the down trail are completely shale. That means your descent is a controlled slide. If the speed builds up too much, you dig in your heels more. Some of the hikers who hadn’t gone all the way to the half way point were now ahead of us on the down trail. I was bringing up the rear. Ronna would periodically stop to check on me. Of course, her 6 year-old, Mattie, was having no problem at all.

Then Ronna called back to me, “Alice, did I mention the creekbed?” Hmm, maybe, but now the creekbed is not dry after several days of light rain. The trail went right down the creekbed. One of the first group of hikers hung back to help us climb down into the creekbed. We had to turn around & back down, letting him guide our feet & support them as necessary. I don’t think I could have done it without him. We repeated that procedure several times on the way down. Another of the guys traded his great hiking pole for one of mine. I was using a wooden stick & a metal extension pole. Paul’s pole had a spike on it so I could dig in for balance. I fell on my butt in the mud once on the way down. I was so glad to reach bottom.

On the way back we stopped at a place where they do chain saw carvings. One of our hikers, John, climbed up on this fish wearing a saddle & posed like a bronc rider.

Huge carved statues everywhere. I particularly liked the front end of a bear, looking like it was coming roaring out of a cave & the oversized rocking chair.

Tues., June 20th

After supper, we were all heading over to the rec. room for a practice session. The woodpile next to the firepit was blazing!! Blair had been burning cardboard boxes and trash wood. When he went back for more boxes, the wind blew the burning cardboard onto the woodpile, setting it on fire in the blink of an eye. Some of us started a bucket brigade until Chuck & another retired fireman could round up hoses & get it under control. Whew.

Sat., June 24th

Pete Easton & Jay & Janet Bradbury arrived about 5:00 in the morning on Friday, June 16th. They arrived in Anchorage about 12:30 a.m., picked up their rental car & drove to Soldotna in rain the whole way. We put them to bed for a while then hit the tourist ground running. We stayed so busy all week. We all loaded up in the rental car & Elliot’s Saturn & went to Homer one day, Seward another day, Soldotna one day. Whew!

We took them to the chain saw carving place. Jay & Chuck enjoyed Edith Ann's chair.

We also walked with them over to the barn to see the baby llama, born two days ago.

We stopped by the Fish Walk behind the Visitor's Center in Soldotna.

Friday afternoon we put the Possum Pickers to work, playing for a kid’s barn dance. I called for about 20 kids. It’s funny to watch the age at which a boy finds it disgusting to hold a girl’s hand. One of the llamas had a baby yesterday. We walked over a got some cute pictures of the newborn.

After the supper, a few of the gang were sitting around Chuck & Linda’s picnic table. The turkey came by & insisted on sitting on Pete’s feet. Crazy turkey.

Saturday, June 17th, we played for the weekly potluck social. A girl’s baseball team & their families had pulled in to dry camp in the “pit”. This is an area out near the road which had been used as a source of gravel for the road. The state then put the dirt they dug out of the roadbed back where they got the gravel. They end result was somewhat lower than what it had been. Hence, the “pit”. Ronna asked us if we would mind going down & playing for them for a while. We played for an hour or so. I got them contra dancing. They didn’t want to quit, but it started getting cold & the mosquitoes fierce. They passed the hat, & we wound up with a nice little unexpected bonus.

The day we went to Homer we made a side trip to a Russian village which overlooks the Ninilchik village. It’s a very small place, nothing strikingly Russian about it, except for the cafe & the church. We couldn’t get into the church, but we did go to the cafe/gift shop. The open sign was not turned on, but Nina was glad to stay open for our group of 8. She was a hoot. She was dressed in colorful attire, complete with headdress. She told us, “You are hungry? You will have my borsht!” Jay muttered to me, “She reminds me of the soup Nazi on Seinfeld.” She was quite a salesman. Before you know it, we had each spent about $20 for lunch plus a gratuity to her for posing with us & taking group pictures with our cameras.

In Homer, we spent a lot of time on the Spit, a long, narrow sand bar extending out into Kachemak Bay. They spend a lot of money fortifying it. Many shops are built on it. Some camp there. The locals call them Spit rats. We hung around the docks, watching the charter boats come in & unload their catches. We were awed by the speed & dexterity of the young folks filleting the fish, mostly halibut.

In Seward we took in the SeaLife Museum. Alan negotiated a group rate for us. We used our earnings from Sat. night to cover admission. Interesting museum. I think most of us enjoyed most watching the puffins dive down 20 feet and “fly” underwater. The aviary complete with “ocean” was two floors high. You could sit & watch the underwater activity. They can really zip around underwater. Fascinating. We also went to Exit Glacier. We hiked from the visitor’s center to the foot of the glacier, maybe ? mile. The melt flowed in little tributaries through the outwash. We made our way across them on piles of stones, ooo, scary. None of us fell in. But we did fish out some ice which Chuck broke up so we could eat some glacial ice.

Tues. I spent most of the day spiffing up around the campground in preparation for the Solstice Festival on Wed., June 21st. I was pulling grass away from the bushes in front of the bathhouse when the turkey came by. He was mightily attracted to my red shoes. He’s usually friendly & likes to be petted. Not this day. He turned aggressive. I took off the shoes & tossed them to him, hoping he would turn his attention to them. No such luck. He came after me, pecking & hitting me with his wings. I gave him a few good kicks which backed him off & got myself behind the porch railing. Here came Jay, to my rescue I thought. Oh, no. He came to get some pictures of me kicking the turkey. The gang was inside Chuck & Linda’s camper, glued to the window, rolling around with laughter at the show. Harumph.

Wed. we started off the band performances at the Festival. The audience was still small then, but those there loved us. Later on, Linda & I ran the turkey poop drop. Yes, my buddy, which thankfully was docile that day. He stayed inside the pen, letting the kids all pet him & pecking food from their hands, pooping until we had a winner. At milking time, I was the official time recorder for the milking contest. Most of the contestants fell in the amateur category. The contestants were required to fill up a coke bottle with milk in front of a time keeper. Janet Bradbury came along & gave it a try & came in third. Not bad. Some of the kids took up to ten minutes to fill the bottle. The Martin kids & one other guy were in the professional category. Josiah, 11, filled his bottle in 28 seconds. When his sister, 13, took her turn, the cow ran off with DeAnne in hot pursuit. When she came back with the cow, I told her she could have a do over. She was excited. This time her timekeeper, a cousin, wasn’t paying attention & didn’t stop the clock right when DeAnne finished. She came in at 30 seconds. She protested. I declared the need for a milk-off, but we couldn’t find Josiah. So I presented the awards at the main stage, declaring Josiah the winner subject to an unofficial milk-off. When he showed up, one of the cows still had milk. This time DeAnne filled the bottle in 22 seconds, Josiah took 40. She muttered, “I wish he’d milk that fast when we’re milking every day.”

Thurs., 4 of the guys went back to Homer for a ? day fishing trip. The ladies & Elliot went to a quilt show & did some shopping. They had a good fishing day & caught a lot of halibut. We borrowed a vacuum sealer & packaged the fillets. Chuck will add some clams when we go clamming & will ship the box when we have it full.

The 3 travelers left us about noon today. They’ll tourist their way back to Anchorage & stay in a hotel there tonight. Their plane leaves at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow. They’ll fly the redeye & arrive in Orlando about 6:00 a.m. Monday morning, with a short stopover in Las Vegas.

Posted by Alice at 3:47 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 July 2006 4:00 PM EDT
Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Sat., May 20th

We drove back north a little into Palmer, drank coffee & tee at the Visitor’s Center, accumulated information, went through their little museum, then headed for the Musk Ox Farm. We heard we might get to see musk ox babies. We took the tour, which did indeed include view of the babies. But it was chilly. The babies were all huddled on the ground right up against their mothers. Hard to see. We did get to pull just out of reach green grass & feed it to a yearling. Several of the adults came right up to the fence.

The animals aren’t very tall, but the males can get up to 1400 lbs. or so. The guide said the ones raised on the farm get very used to people. The danger is that they want to play – and they weigh over a thousand pounds. The fields were full of musk ox toys, huge rubber balls & stacks of tires. An oil company donated a “pig”, a huge ball used to clean out the pipelines as a toy. It weighs about 500 lbs. The handlers had to take it back away from the musk ox. They kept pushing it through the fence.

Carrol, our Diamond M boss, was in Palmer on business. Tonight he is meeting his brother at the airport in Anchorage so we met us at the farm for the tour. Then he guided us to the reindeer farm. Good thing he did. We got in the midst of a bike race & would have had a hard time finding the place with all the detours we had to take.

Carrol scoffed at the reindeer farm. He said, “You can see all the caribou you want at the Ranch.” But Elliot & I went through anyway. I had great fun with them. You get a small container of food. The reindeer know the drill. If you hide the little tub under your arm or in your pocket, & show them your empty hands, they’ll back off until food shows up again. The fields were full of brand new babies, & the mothers let us get really close to take pictures.

Our next stop was Fred Meyers in Anchorage, a big Walmart type department store. We stocked up on groceries, to avoid the extra 5% tax in Soldotna. We had talked about spending the night in the parking lot & using Elliot’s car to see some sights in Anchorage before heading south. Carrol had hinted that we needed to get a move on it so we headed for Soldotna about 3:00.

We stopped to look for Dahl sheep on Turnagain Arm. It was so cold & windy there that we didn’t make another stop until we stopped for gas in Soldotna.

Then we went on the the Diamond M Ranch. Yea!!!! We’re all so excited to be here. Chuck & Linda were thrilled to see their friends, the Martins, again & to see all the changes the family had made to the campground since 2000. The Ranch is owned by Carrol & JoAnne Martin, run by their son, Blair, & his wife, Ronna. They have 5 kids, DeAnne, 13, Josiah, 11, Mattie, 6, Toad (real name Darius), 4, and Sonora, 2.

Alan bought ready-to-eat shrimp, cocktail sauce & sparkling cider in Anchorage. We had a celebration before a late supper.

Sun., May 21st

We took a much needed day of rest. Tomorrow we’ll start in earnest. Chuck & Linda showed us around the property. As we walked to the barn, turkeys came out of the woods. At first it seemed like they wanted us to feed them. When we didn’t have anything for them, they turned mean & attacked us. We had to get branches to chase them off before we could go on.

Mon., May 22nd

Ronna & Blair Martin led a staff meeting. Ronna passed out a job list, & we divvied it up. Being without the fix-it skills of Chuck, Elliot & Alan, Linda & I get the grunt work like raking, trimming grass back away from trees, etc. I learned to drive the ATV & have been having fun driving it around, loading up piles of leaves & hauling them to the compost heap.

The debris included moose poop. Can’t say I’ve ever raked moose poop before. The work is exhausting. We’ve been sitting for 30 days, & I’m not used to physically demanding work anyway.

Sat., May 27th

Tired as we are, we’ve been practicing every night. Tonight we played for Ronna’s birthday, & they treated us to cake & ice cream.

Sun., May 28th

We worked so hard all week, more than we were required. We’re trying to build up some time off so we can play when Jay & Janet & Pete get here. Elliot & I went exploring, into Kenai to the visitor’s center, grocery shopping & then followed the Kenai Spur Highway around into Soldotna, through Soldotna & back to the Diamond M Ranch.

Mon., May 29th

Those mean turkeys have been beating up one of the male turkeys. So Blair brought it over to the campground. It struts around, puffing up its feathers, dragging its wings in the dirt & hissing, but Blair says it’s friendly. Linda manages to pet it occasionally. It hangs around in our site a lot.

Tues., May 30st

A company called Major Marine Tours gave us a free boat ride out into Resurrection Bay from Seward. Yesterday the weather was cold & windy. We were prepared for a cold day on the water, but the wind died, the sun came out strong & we had a delightful day. Two rangers from Kenai Fiords National Park were along on the cruise, helping to spot wildlife & talking about the geography, history & wildlife. We saw so much: sea otters, Stellar sea lions, two kinds of puffins, cormorants, numerous other birds, a humpback whale. We went past Bear Glacier which is part of the Harding Ice Field, 700 square miles of ice, the largest ice field entirely in the U.S. After the cruise, we went to the Park Visitor’s Center. We examined a map there which showed the entire ice field which takes up most of the lower half of the whole Kenai Peninsula.

The trip included an all-you-can-eat buffet. I stepped on the slippery slope of the meat-eater & tried the salmon. It was good.

There was a lot in Seward we didn’t get to see. We’ll make another trip. It’s about 100 miles from Diamond M Ranch to Seward so it takes a little planning.

We saw a moose on the trip back. So we know there’s at least one moose in Alaska.

Thurs., June 1st

Ronna & Blair finally found time to go to a friend’s nursery & get some plants. Today Linda & I planted nasturtiums & salad stuff in a non-functioning rain gutter on the roof of the carport which is also the floor of the viewing deck. Romaine, Bibb lettuce, arugula, spinach. The kitchen for Ronna & Blair is right there so that should be convenient for her & attractive too.

While we were up there, Ronna came by, giving a group of ladies from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce a tour of the Ranch. They went down the spiral stair case to get back to their vehicle. We heard a commotion & looked over the edge. There were the ladies, shrieking running around the car with the turkey in hot pursuit with Ronna chasing the turkey. Their dogs, Hank & Linus, were right on Ronna’s heels, joining in the fun. Ronna would get ahead of the turkey & try to turn him back, but there would be the dogs, which terrify the turkey. What a circus. I wished I had a video camera running. The whole thing would periodically change directions & race around the car in the other direction. Finally, Ronna commanded the dogs to leave & go lie down in their designated spot, which they did. She corralled the turkey which wasn’t really after the ladies. They ran, so it ran. It just wanted to strut for them. The ladies left. Ronna squatted down & attempted to comfort the turkey, which was a wreck.

Later in the afternoon, as I was kneeling down pulling grass away from a bed of roses, I felt a thump on my shoe. There was that darn turkey, trying to peck my shoelaces. I guess it thought they might be worms. The rest of the afternoon, the silly thing kept sneaking up behind me & startling me when it pecked my shoes. I never realized what pretty colors a turkey has, iridescent green & copper on its chest, nice black & white stripes on its wings, lots of gold, rich browns &, of course, a blue face with a red whatsit.

Sat., June 3rd

The Saturday night potluck social was hosted this week by Wings Ministry. They provide mercy flights when needed & also fly provisions in to missionaries in remote parts of Alaska. A group is here now from Atlanta, Georgia, running a vacation bible school & working on the home of one of the pilots. Chuck asked if they would be taking a sightseeing flight while they were here & asked if I could go along. They said they would let me know if they had a seat available.

Sunday, June 4th

Elliot & I went sightseeing. We took in the Visitor’s Center in Soldotna, mesmerized by the world’s record king salmon, caught in the Kenai River in 1985.

I couldn't get a picture of the stuffed one, but this one was out front.

We strolled on the fish walk, a boardwalk along the river, an attempt to preserve the bank. We hiked the trails around the Kenai Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center just south of town. We stopped at a little park just off Beaver Loop Road which overlooks the bends of the Kenai River as it flows into Cook Inlet. We poked around Kenai, stopping at the Bluff to see if we could see any whales in the Inlet. We did see some sea otters & admired the mountains on the other side of the Inlet. We took pictures of the Russian church & grocery shopped.

Tues., June 6th

I got a call that they had space available on the 4:30 flight. I borrowed Elliot’s car & found their hangar at the Soldotna Airport. A very young looking pilot (made me a little nervous at first) squeezed us into an eight passenger plane & flew us east. We skirted around a mountain. It seemed like the wings almost touched it.

Out the left side we could see a small glacier, Indian Glacier, I think, & I realized we were over the Harding Ice Field. It was incredible. The altimeter showed us at 4500 feet, but we were flying breathtakingly close to the ground.

Mountain peaks just barely poked through the ice. That means the ice was over 4000 feet thick!! We flew south, down the Ice Field & turned west again over Tustumena Glacier, past Tustumena Lake & back to the airport, about a 45 minute ride. It was bumpy with lots of sudden drops. Thank goodness, no one got airsick. The hiccups were scary, but the sideways crabbing was more bothersome. The pilot was totally relaxed though, business as usual. At least I thought I don’t have to worry about the pilot dozing off. He had to continually make corrections & adjust to conditions. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. When we deplaned, I walked into the terminal. I walked past one of the ground crew who smiled & said, “I guess you had a good time.” I realized I was grinning & hopping occasionally.

Posted by Alice at 9:30 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006 10:17 PM EDT
Tuesday, 27 June 2006

Mon., May 15th

I woke to raucous bird sounds this morning. On my way to the bathroom, I noticed a raven the size of Montana on the picnic table near my rig. It was still making a racket.

Our turn to lead today. I figured we might see some wildlife since we were out front. I spotted what looked like a large dog in the middle of the road. As we got closer, we realized it was a small bear, standing right on the yellow line. It took off up the embankment.

Alan didn’t stop. He was trying to send out an alert on the walkie talkie, still moving forward. I was watching the bear take off & then turned my attention to Alan. When I looked back at the side of the road, I spotted something & said, “Alan, what’s that?” By the time we realized it was a big buffalo, snoozing in the sunshine, we were past it. No way to back up with the pop-up in tow (such a short tongue that it jackknifes in a heartbeat). I was exasperated. No pictures of either beast.

A few miles down the road, Alan spied a couple of dark shapes in the road ahead. I started to get my camera ready when I realized he was teasing me because the shapes were cars coming in the other direction. Actually, finding a car on the Alcan is almost worth a picture. Most vehicles are pick-up trucks, followed by RV’s then semi’s.

Shortly we came upon another buffalo. Alan did stop this time. I did get my photo. He asked if I thought I could tell the difference between the pictures I took of buffalo in Custer State Park & here. I said I didn’t care. I wanted to stop for every creature we passed. The next buffalo posed for us, then lifted his tail & gave me a chance to catch the creation of buffalo chips in mid plop.

The Alaska Highway is mostly a good road. There are sections with potholes, others just very rough, & others in the middle of repair. Some stretches are one wide blob of unfinished pavement, leaving the driver to guess where the lanes are.

Elliot & I have been trading CD’s. Today we’re cruisin’ to jazz banjo, yes, jazz banjo, Bela Flek & the Flektones.

Alan slept in the pop-up last night. I had put an old rug in there, which hasn’t been dry since Florida. Alan spread it out on, hanging on the edge of the picnic table yesterday afternoon. This morning when he picked it up, it had frozen in an “L” shape.

Alan’s story –

“So there I was, sleeping soundly, in my tent trailer on a cold, rainy night. Deep in my dreams, I was suddenly awakened by rolling down a 30 degree angle to the back of the tent. I remembered then that I had not lowered the back stabilizer legs of the trailer. Now at 3 a.m. I had two decisions: I could either roll to the other side of the tent & level it or get out in my underwear, run around to the back & put down the legs to keep the trailer from rocking. I peeked out of the flap, decided no one was around at that hour, ran around the back in my underwear, lowered the legs into place, climbed back into the tent, back into my sleeping bag & slept another 4 hours. What’s the moral of the story? The moral of this story is - tent camping is dangerous!!”

We stopped for lunch at Watson Lake at Signpost City. I even found one from Apopka, FL. We passed into the Yukon Territory just before Watson Lake, a first for me. A short way down the road turned south, back into British Columbia. I complained to the caravan via walkie talkie that I wasn’t ready to head south quite yet. Before long, we turned north again & back into the Yukon.

At the next gas stop, I didn’t need gas. So I parked the van well back from the pumps & walked over to the store to use the washroom. On the way I passed a beautiful husky, who ignored me. Dogs don’t usually ignore me. They usually rush up to me & lean on my legs & beg to be petted. Not this dog. He saw “sucker” written all over my forehead & played me. Hmmm, I said to myself. When I came back out, as I chatted with some other RV’ers, the dog trotted over, rolled around on its back for a while & splintered the end of a log with its teeth. Alan came out. We started back to the van. Up jumped the husky & trotted back to the van with us. It blocked my path to the driver’s door, clearly wanting a treat. It posed while I took some photos. It let me get in the van. This “sucker” caved in & fed it some peanuts – which it spit out. It also spit out the cereal bar I offered it. “Too bad, bud”, I told him. “This is a vegetarian van. No beef jerky.”

The private park I had thought we would stay at was closed. We went on in to Teslin & stayed at the Yukon Motel. Joyce was already there. She & Elliot & I ate dinner at the restaurant. Then I wanted to do laundry. Elliot asked if I planned to play my mandolin while taking care of my laundry. That sounded good. So we were working on a few tunes when in came Linda Bose. She had heard us playing through the wall when she went into the ladies room. She went for her dulcimer & played with us. Eventually Alan & Chuck showed up too, & we jammed in the laundry room. The other folks using the facilities seemed to enjoy us. I stood facing the windows mostly so I could stop periodically & check my clothes. My view, over the heads of my friends playing tunes, was of Teslin Lake, mostly frozen, with a few loons floating around in the small thawed portion. Then I realized it was after 10:00, and still broad daylight.

Joyce is leaving the caravan here. She has several stops to make in Whitehorse. When she gets to Alaska, she is going to head for Fairbanks & camp at the air force base there for a while. Other than that, she wasn’t sure of her plans. She may show up on the Kenai & see us.

Tues., May 16th

A camper with an elaborate 35 mm camera came by this morning & told me he had been photographing a bald eagle sitting at the top of a nearby tree. After breakfast, I saw that it was still there. So I walked over to the base. It was keeping an eye on the lake & occasionally spreading its wings in the sun. It was enormous.

Elliot had half a mind to see Dawson City. That interested Alan too. So he was lobbying for the three of us to split off from Chuck & Linda in Whitehorse & take the Klondike Highway to Dawson City & join up with them again in Tok, Alaska. We couldn’t decide. Elliot was worried that the ferry connecting Dawson City to the west across the Yukon River would not be running because of ice. So Elliot suggested we flip a coin, a Canadian coin, beaver tail – no, Queen Elizabeth – yes. The Queen came up. We would ask about the ferry in Whitehorse & head for Dawson City if able.

We tried to see the George Johnston Museum. Closed. Then we went on to the Tlinget Heritage Center. Open – but for a language symposium, closed to the public. We haven’t seen a provincial park in BC or Yukon that’s been open & only about half of the private campgrounds are open. We’re a little too early. Everything seems slated to be open this coming weekend.

Elliot picked up a hitchhiker today. When we stopped for gas, he introduced the young man to us all. He was Kaska. His Canadian name was Steve Smith; his Kaska name was Kishtook. Obviously, I’m not sure of the spelling, but that’s how he pronounced it. He said his elder told him it meant strong man standing with arm extended to the front with clenched fist. This man is a protector, a leader in the community. He said, “It’s hard to say in English.”

Elliot dropped him off when we stopped at the Visitor’s Center in Whitehorse. A lovely lady named Sharon checked on the ferry for us. No luck. It might be running this weekend, but there are still a lot of ice floes coming down the river, making it hazardous. Oh, well.

We almost make a side trip to Skagway, taking the bus part way & a narrow gauge railroad for part, but when we realized that only 2 hours of the trip would be on the train & the rest on the bus, we decided to skip it.

We stopped at an Art Center before leaving town. The exhibit was of local artists. One did carvings of headdresses & cameos from moose antlers. Sounds awful, but unless you knew it, you probably wouldn’t guess the medium. The outdoor sculptures were quite interesting too. On the path around them we spotted lavender crocuses, spring in the Yukon.

So on down the road we went, making it as far as Haines Junction before calling it a day. We crossed the continental divide somewhere today. There was no signage denoting the divide the way there is in the U.S.

Wed., May 17th

Near Kluane (pronounced clue – ah – knee, with the accent on ah), we stopped at the Tachal Chai (Sheep Mountain) Interpretative Center. Sharon, our helpful lady at the Whitehorse Visitor’s Center, had suggested we stop there. She told us it wouldn’t be open yet, but the spotting scoped could be used. Kluane Lake is an enormous lake, snuggled between mountains on both sides. Dahl sheep live on the mountains. Spring means babies. We bundled up & spent some time at the spotting scopes. Linda & I decided all the ones we looked at must have been the babies. None had horns or looked pregnant. Even the female Dahl sheep have horns, not the curly ones like the males, but horns nonetheless.

As I was walking back to my rig, I came up to Elliot, who was busy with his video camera. We both just started laughing & hugging each other & exclaiming about our amazement at this wonderful adventure.

It was an incredible place, with the long frozen lake on one side & a spectacular view of the valley as far as you could see. Let me tell you, that long valley produced quite a breeze, & coming off that frozen lake & snow capped mountains, it was right brisk. It didn’t take us long to decide that heated vehicles had something to offer.

The road was really rough today. Frost heaves create a roller coaster ride. Elliot calls them whoop-de-do’s. If you take them too fast, you know it right away.

We pushed on to cross the border, gaining another hour as we crossed into Alaska. Now we’re four hours earlier than Florida.

We spent the afternoon listening to Beethoven piano sonatas. La, la, la.

We stopped at Burlbilly Hill. The proprietor did parachuting from the Eustis airport for a while, a discovery Chuck & Linda made their last trip through. The gift shops buy all the burlwood carvings, bowls, & stuff he can do.

We spent the night at Tok, Alaska. All but Alan had phone service again & we had a pleasant evening reconnecting with friends & family. Wi-fi was available, true, but at $4.00 per hour we all decided to wait a couple more days.

Thurs., May 18th

As we left Tok, we ran into a school zone and had to slow down. Alan & I looked at each other in surprise. Our reaction was “Oh, yeah, there is a world out there beyond our little trip bubble.”

Alan had his heart set on seeing Valdez. Chuck pointed out that we would be passing by the only land route to Valdez today. If we were going to visit Valdez without taking the ferry from Whittier, we should do it now. So we turned south in Glenallen & drove to Valdez.

The drive through the coastal mountains was stupendous. Just outside of Glenallen, we passed a sign which said Thompson Pass was open. Little did we realize how crucial that bit of information was. The pass had snow right down to the road on both sides, numerous avalanche zone signs, steep grades, incredible views. We stopped for pictures at waterfalls from melting snow & at Worthington Glacier. At our lunch break, Chuck tried to put snow down Linda’s neck.

Chuck & Linda lead the way today. I told him later I like having a road canary up front. The canary finds all the hazardous spots in the road, the pot holes & whoop-de-do’s. When the canary swerves, it’s usually a good idea to do the same.

We could see the pipeline basically following the road. As we neared Valdez though, the pipeline went underground. The terminal is at the east side of the inlet, well away from town, with tight security.

Valdez is a small coastal town, only a few blocks long & wide. The Visitor’s Center was not open yet, but when the young ladies cleaning up inside saw us at the door, they let us in & gave us lots of information. We made it to the City museum before it closed & watched a video about the 1964 earthquake. Valdez started out as a jumping off point for the U.S. route to the Klondike gold fields. Huge copper deposits also contributed to its success. The earthquake, or rather backwashes from underwater landslides caused by the earthquake, wiped out the town in ’64. It was rebuilt about 3 miles away, on firmer ground. Revenue from property taxes paid by the petroleum companies provides better than half the town’s operation budget, not to mention employment.

The City museum managed to avoid any mention of the oil spill which destroyed untold numbers of animals & is surely still affecting the environment here.

We camped at Bear Paw Campground right on the Valdez small boat harbor. Elliot & I walked along the harbor, taking lots of pictures, & up a nature path to an overlook. We could see the main harbor from there as well as the small boat harbor & most of the town.

Fri., May 19th

Before leaving town we drove by the site of Old Valdez. Just remnants of old buildings remaining – and a plaque with the names of all who died in the earthquake. Chilling. We also stopped at a native culture museum run by the community college. I doubt we’ll see a more extensive collection anywhere else. Awesome. The fur parkas, the tools, the beadwork. We were all so glad we took the time to track it down & make the visit.

We drove back through that wonderful scenery. The long, long grades up from the coast were challenging for Chuck & Elliot. It meant we couldn’t stop at any turnouts on ascents. But we did stop at several at more level areas. One turnout was at the mouth of a tunnel, dug by hand. A gunfight between competing mining companies ended the venture.

Mt. Billy Mitchell

We went on to Palmer & stopped for the night at Homestead RV Park. At one end of the park was a nice view of the Matanuska Valley. I admired all the birch trees throughout the park, with their curly bark.

We didn’t do much stopping between Glenallen & Palmer. We’re all getting like the horse heading back to the barn after a hard ride. But the scenery was beautiful. Maybe on the way back through, we’ll poke along more.

Posted by Alice at 3:26 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006 3:41 AM EDT
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