The McKenzie's Official world tour site
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Niagara Falls and beyond...................in pictures!
Saturday, 28 November 2009 22:06:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) Canada | USA
Niagara Falls and beyond...................
After leaving Stevensville, we continued Macswayround by passing through Albion and Sterling Heights on our way back across the borders and into Canada.
In Ontario we stayed at London Line at the Country View RV Park and then got to Niagara Falls to stay at Scotts Trailor Park. We arrived here on Phil’s birthday- the first of us to have a second birthday in the time we have been away on Macswayround!
Niagara Falls made a great setting for some birthday celebrations, as we took the tour to go behind the falls and into the virtual falls experience! The sheer power and thundering noise of the water was totally mind- blowing and we could never imagine that anybody has survived the mighty tumble over the edge of the falls. It was great to see the Canadian Horse-Shoe Falls and the American Falls – it bought back good memories of Phil and I seeing these about 16 years ago, on a previous visit to the States. This has to be another unforgettable experience on Macswayround.
The butterfly Conservatory was a most beautiful place to visit as there was a mass of spectacular butterflies of all shapes and colours, whichever direction you looked into........
We also spent some time at an old favourite of our families – the Bird Kingdom. This complex actually included the largest indoor walk- through aviary in the world! There was a wide variety of birds, once again, of all sizes and colours and the Rainbow Lorikeets reminded us of our time in Australia and New Zealand too!
After journeying on some more we reached Mississauga and had a great time catching up with our buddies that we met a year ago on this very trip – when we were in Portugal and Munir and Lisa were busy taking a Camper van trip of their very own! It was great to be able to see them again – we always intended to meet again when we got back along to Ontario – but for it to actually happen was brilliant! Even more brilliant was that since seeing them, Lisa and Munir have got married and had a baby boy!! Welcome to the world –LITTLE HANI! Moments like this make us realise just how long we have been out here on the road!
The Fifty Point Conservation Area made a beautiful place to camp while we were on our way there and if we had had longer, we would have liked to get some fishing in there too!
A few days later we all travelled up to almost Petersborough together and our family gate- crashed at Lisa’s parent’s house! We would like to thank Munir, Lisa, Dave and Pat, for all of their hospitality. We all had a great time there, including a walk through the bush and excellent tucker (food!) We loved the homemade maple syrup, which they have tapped from their own trees!
We enjoyed a visit to Petersborough to climb up and take a look at the tallest hydraulic lift lock in the world (19.8 metres high)! An amazing piece of engineering –we only wish we had been there at the right time to watch it in action!
After more goodbyes and thanks, our next stop was north to Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. We were very happy to see another MOOSE and a fox too! We stayed at the only campsite still open at this time of year – Mew Lake Campground and set up what may well be our last campfire on Macswayround! We had chicken curry cooked on the campfire – even though it was getting very chilly!
Our last night in Canada, was spent in Kingston, at the Rideau Acres and this was very near to the U.S Border.
We entered back into the USA at New York State and travelled into Pennsylvania where we found the Shady Rest Campground at South Gibson. This had a beautiful setting in the woods and as the weather here is still unbelievably mild, the children collected more firewood! We were able to fit in one more campfire and some songs with the guitar, as we reminisce our journey and friends that we have met along our way.
The next day or so was spent packing our Nessie up, as we will soon have to leave her at the docks to begin her adventure home, to England. We drove through more of Pennsylvania and stayed in Lancaster County at Flory’s camping. This area is very interesting Amish Countryside and we would like to have had more time to discover more about this very traditional way of life – maybe next time! We did see a young lad working the land with horse drawn machinery, as we drove along.
We took Nessie to the docks in Baltimore and left her there for the few days before she sets sail homeward bound! Many thanks to Mike, in the Sea bridge Office for helping to make this part of our trip much less stressful! However - we were now left ‘homeless’ and it felt very strange!
We booked ourselves into a motel in Baltimore, just to take some breathing space and to decide upon our next moves!
It seemed to be quite tricky to rent a car for a one way journey across different States and so it was during the night in this motel, where Phil had an inspiration for us to fly from Baltimore to Boston! So – after waking up around 7am and finding out about this new idea – we were on a flight by 12.30pm the very same day! Typical of us – all very hot off the cuff actions and you just don’t know where we may end up next! Those best ideas always seem to blossom in the middle of the night too! The flight took just over one hour and got us to Boston safely. Ben says that this was his favourite flight so far, as it was a daytime flight, over interesting land and short enough to enjoy, rather than just being a means of transport from A to B.
We hired a car, easily in Boston, as we intend to return it to the Boston Airport just before we begin our flight journey homeward bound, also. We drove up through some more States – Massachusetts, New Hampshire and into Maine, to see some more of the country before our time is up. We found great accommodation in Old Orchard Beach, at the Grand Beach Inn (many thanks to Munir for taking the time to help us search this place out!)
This seaside town is extremely busy during the summer season. From approximately 10,000 people here at the moment – there may be around 70,000 people here in the mid season! This suits us just fine – a seaside town approaching winter......but Jemma and Ben are not so impressed to see all the waterslides and attractions- closed for the season!
Never mind- hey – we are exploring the area and have enjoyed some footy and basketball in the park with our new Wilson ball!
Time is catching us up now and we shall soon have to wrap up Macswayround, just ready for Christmas 2009. We are using this time to reflect on the journey that we have all been a part of, tie up some loose ends and to reminisce on the priceless messages that we have learnt about life and our world, along our way......
We are all trying to sort out our mixed emotions about returning home and to the world that has become a world away from our current way of life.......we are obviously greatly looking forward to meeting up with everyone again, family and friends, and to see our ‘home’- but Nessie has been our home on the road and it will take an unknown amount of time for us all to re-adjust and re-enter our lives. It is very easy to suffer from itchy feet syndrome – and this is the part that we are trying to get a head- start in – during these final few weeks!!
We were very happy on Thanksgiving Day this year, as we got ourselves organised and booked in for a special meal at the restaurant, here at the Grand Beach Inn. We had a beautiful traditional meal and enjoyed the friendly Christmas atmosphere. It seems very early to us but in the States the run-up to Christmas begins from now onwards. This brought us back memories of this time last year when we were in Philadelphia and were not aware of the traditions of Thanksgiving Day...when we were hungry later on in the day – no food place was open as most people were celebrating the day with family and friends. We were waiting for Nessie to arrive back then and so after much searching we did find a Vietnamese Soup Kitchen – which was, incidentally, very tasty too!
A special thank-you to STEVE WRIGHT on BBC RADIO 2 – for reading out our email message and giving us a mention on Thanksgiving Day.
We have, once again, met some friendly people in and around Old Orchard Beach....and we thank everyone for their time and interest in our story and travels.
Saturday, 28 November 2009 21:57:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) Canada | USA
Niagara Falls and beyond...................
* Canadian Horse shoe falls- Length of brink – 2,600 feet
- Height – between 54-58 metres (176-188 feet)
-Volume of Water – 600,000 U.S gallons per second.........
* The Maid of the Mist Pool at the foot of these falls is as deep as the fall is high.
* American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls:
-Length of Brink: 1,060 feet
-Height: 176 feet
* -Volume of Water: 150,000 U.S gallons per second..............
* Twenty percent of the world’s freshwater lie in the Great Lakes, and most flows over the falls.
* Old Orchard Beach is a VERY popular seaside vacation destination for Canadians in the summer and the town’s population rises dramatically through
the summer months.
* Algonquin is Ontario’s first Provincial Park, established in 1893.
* The area of Algonquin is 7,630 square kilometres.
* There are 2,456 lakes found in Algonquin: 1,099 are named and 1,357 are unnamed.
* On average, the west side of Algonquin has 84 frost-free days and the east side has 105 frost-free days.
* In 1782, then President Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey as the USA National Symbol – however it was pipped to the post by the Bald Headed .
* Over Thanksgiving, an estimated 46-50 million turkeys will be eaten in the USA!
* The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in the USA in 1621, and Abraham Lincoln declared it an annual event in 1863. However, Congress did not
declare that this would be a National Holiday until 1941.
* The first Thanksgiving Parade to take place at Macey’s in New York was in 1924. Now an estimated 44 million people watch the parade, both in
New- York and World-Wide.
Saturday, 28 November 2009 21:46:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) Canada | USA
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
More National Parks in Pictures......
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 05:51:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
Calgary and adventures......
After travelling on with Macswayround, we rested about 100 miles short of Jasper National Park, at a lake named La Salle. We enjoyed an evening chatting around the campfire with Rod and Linda from Nebraska, whom who have also bumped into a few other times, as we travel in the same directions!
The next day, at McBride, we attended to a few chores – including another of Nessie’s tyre valve that was kindly sorted out by Ray at the JNR Auto Services Ltd.
Later, we made it into Jasper and enjoyed a night at the Whistlers Camp. We saw lots of Elk around the camp and were warned that the bulls can be particularly aggressive as this is rutting season. Jemma and Ben built a wildlife hide near to our camp and we sang around the campfire!
We took a look around the town of Jasper and then drove through the beautiful scenery, stopping off to see the Columbian Ice-fields and Athabasca Falls. We saw a huge six wheel drive bus that is used for snow tours! We camped at Wilcox Creek.
The next day we were blessed with absolutely glorious weather which was very uncharacteristic for this time of year. The mountains had a splash of snow which added to the beauty. Along the Ice fields Parkway, the lakes, including Mistaya and Peyto, projected a bright turquoise shimmer that danced through the trees. This highway runs through from Jasper to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Mosquito Creek was kind to us and did not live up to its name! Ben tried a spot more panning for gold and Phil let his artistic flair rein as he sketched a moose scene. The children were keen to join in and I am hoping that I live amongst some budding artists too!
Our southbound route led us out of the majestic Rocky Mountains, and into the flat lands of Calgary. At the Calgary West RV Park we were able to make a check on emails and found a surprise email from a couple we had met earlier on this summer in California! We had been invited to call in but after mislaying the relevant details, we thought we were out of luck. However, Nessie had been spotted by Reasa, and she and her husband Ron, both emailed to invite us over once more! How lucky we have been on Macswayround with such friendly people, and to top it all, we had landed with them on the night they were all having a block street party! We had a great time meeting some Albertan locals and were made to feel very welcome by everyone! Special thanks to Ron & Reasa for tracking us down and including us in some more fun times! The camp fire and food was lovely and the children joined right in with the other children on the block too!
Nessie was celebrating at the party too, as she got an entire new set of Continental tyres, from OK Tyres, who had fitted us in, at very short notice, that very same day!
Thank-you to Reasa for showing us some more sights of Calgary, including the stadium shaped as a saddle and the arena’s used in the Calgary Stampede each year.
Our next stop was at the ‘Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump’ UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the site where thousands of buffalo were stampeded over the edge of the cliffs, to their deaths. Radiocarbon dating of the bones reveals that this site was used to kill buffalo over 5,600 years ago and some of the buried deposits are over ten metres deep.
Our final night in Canada (for now) was spent by a river close to the border crossing, in the Waterton Lakes Park. We enjoyed meeting Pat and Peggy and another chat around our campfire!
The next day we crossed over into the USA and into the Big Sky Country of Montana!
More about our adventures, next time! Please stay tuned to Macswayround!
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 05:34:09 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
Calgary and adventures......
• 25 years ago (as of 2009) the Canadian Rocky Mountains were officially proclaimed as one of the Wonders of the World.
• The Athabasca Falls – 23 metres of waterfall – has the most powerful flow of water to be found anywhere in the mountain parks.
• The City of Calgary is nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and offers the best of both worlds – a cosmopolitan city of over 1 million people and breathtaking outdoor adventure in pristine wilderness.
• Every July, Calgary hosts the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth – the Calgary Stampede. This world class exhibition includes rodeo, midway, concerts, hundreds of exhibits and much more.
• The Calgary Flames hockey club plays in the 19,289 seat Pen growth Saddle dome. This multi -purpose facility also houses the WHL’s Calgary Hit men and the NLL’s Calgary Roughnecks.
• ‘Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the oldest, largest and best preserved buffalo jumps in North America.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 05:33:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
Calgary and adventures......
WILD LIFE HITS: more Canadian hits:
• Wild Horses
• Great Blue Heron
• White-Winged Cross Bill
• Belted Kingfisher
• Wild Elk – (male & female-Cows & Bulls)
• Red Squirrels
• Chip monks
• Common Loons
• Northern Harrier
• Yellow Bellied Marmot
• Rock Doves
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 05:31:44 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
We find ourselves still dreaming of the Dalton and our experiences along the only highway in Alaska to cross north over the Arctic Circle, in all the glory of the Arctic tundra in the fall!
Next stop along our travels was at the Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park. We have really enjoyed our time at these State Parks, which are dry camps and very often beside a lake. Phil had a successful fishing session and we had Rainbow Trout for tea and then breakfast the next day!
We crossed the Border back into the States and arrived in Hyder, Alaska. WOW – it was just as good as we had been led to believe and well worth the journey! We visited Fish Creek Wildlife Site, which has a board walk for the viewing of wildlife........
Grizzly and black bears come to this creek to catch Chum and Pink Salmon which spawn in the creek, during the summer months. The spawning fish were our first glimpse of an activity of nature which we hear about, but are rarely in a position to observe. We had to be patient for the next few hours as activity was scarce, but just as we watched a pair of Bald Headed Eagles as they sat majestically in the tree – up the river came a GRIZZLY BEAR, in search of an early tea! An amazing sight – we were lucky enough to be able to watch two grizzlies as they ran through the water and grabbed their salmon tea that day. They would catch one and then leave the water to eat, before re-entering the water for another go. They both settled on three fish each........and we have over 20 minutes of video footage which we watched over that same evening at the Bear River Campground in Stewart (back in Canada!)
Our hearts took a good few hours to return to a normal beating pattern as the adrenaline took hold about the sights that we have been so honoured to see. There is something exhilarating about being that ‘dangerously’ close to nature- to a GRIZZLY BEAR, who was within metres of us and could have easily come and joined us up on the boardwalk if he had so wished! This experience has excelled what we have all been waiting to see, and we all feel elated and absolutely content with our memories, photos and video footage! To be in such close proximity to a mighty and powerful wild animal – born and living free – we only hoped that these bears didn’t have a headache or a grudge to bear!!
As we left Hyder, just for a bonus, a Black Bear decided to walk out in front of Nessie – Wow again!
When we stayed at Seeley Lake the following night, we were all still buzzing from our ‘time with the bears!’ For many, bears are obviously just part of a way of life –but to us they are the most amazing creatures to be able to spend a snippet of their time observing! Lions in Africa could well be our next stop.......!
On Labour Day weekend there were lots of children at the camp we next found ourselves at (Fraser Lake), as this would be the final long weekend break before school returned after the summer vacation (8th September)in Canada. We believe that many of the US schools went back around August 17th. So, as all the children were having a blast on their bikes and in the play area, we were ‘surprised’ when they were all advised to go back to their pitches, as a bear had been seen in the camp! Once again, this made living amongst ‘the wild’ a very real experience for us and the children too!
Wednesday, 16 September 2009 18:32:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Alaska | Canada
• The Tongass National Forest is nearly 17 million acres in size and is the largest National Forest in the United States. It is also the largest contiguous temperate rainforest in the world.
• Stewart holds the Canadian Record for snowfall: 911.2 mm or 27 feet in one season.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009 18:30:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Alaska | Canada
• Dall Porpoise
• Red Fox
• Salmon – Chum, Sockeye and Silver
• Stellar Sea Lions
• Harbour Seals
• Lion-Necked Jellyfish
• Common Murres
• Stellar Jays
• Alaskan Black Bears
• ALASKAN GRIZZLY BEARS!!
Wednesday, 16 September 2009 18:29:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Alaska | Canada
Tuesday, 08 September 2009
Saturday, 05 September 2009
On Top of the World...............
Our next challenge was to be the Taylor Highway – otherwise known as the Top of the World Highway.....this would lead us through the Canada Border and to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. This road was once again unpaved and more challenging than the Dalton Highway as it was muddy, narrow, hilly and windy. For the first part of the journey the weather was lovely and so the views were breath taking. The track was hair- raising in places as it passed along the very tops of the mountains, with narrow passes and no guard rails! Being right hand drive, Phil did not feel honoured at being on the steep drop side of the vehicle for much of the way – especially when the fog and snow hit, as we approached the Canadian border!
Our time in Chicken was fun in this quirky old time gold mining town-the home of the Pedro Gold Dredge. We visited ‘downtown’, with its row of two shops and a western-style saloon Bar. It was very interesting to talk with the locals, and Downtown Chicken proprietress, Susan Wiren, to discover that the community now has around 50 members for the summer months and maybe as few as 5 permanent residents during those fast approaching winter months! As we had a pint in the Saloon, we met local gold miner called Kirk, who now spends about 5 months in Chicken at work and then returns to the warmth (?) of Fairbanks for the winter! There is no electricity, no plumbing, no telephone and post arrives twice a week by Bush plane- to help keep the community of Chicken alive and kicking – and long may it continue.
For our final night in Alaska, we camped along the Top of the World, at Walker Fork Campground-the best state park we have found, to date. The sunset that evening was the most amazing ever – we sat around the campfire and watched as the mountain tops appeared to be on fire, with the blazing burst of colour. Our first aid kit was required (and skills remembered from the first aid course that we both did, before we left on Macswayround), as Ben managed to cut the palm of his hand quite badly, with a knife, when he was busy whittling his wood. As we were in the middle of nowhere, many hours away from a hospital – this was not an option and so Phil cleaned up, added antiseptic cream, and bandaged Ben’s hand up. Phil wanted to put a stitch in it and we think that Ben would have let him but Jemma was having none of it! Ben was a brave soldier and has begun to understand the importance of self preservation in these remote parts!
The journey along the Dawson Highway up to the Arctic Circle and indeed the following journey along the Taylor highway (Top of the World) to Dawson City was a most amazing trip. We have been continuing to drive through some of the most spectacular scenery, with an array of beautiful colours – the most vivid we have ever seen in a natural setting. It has been as if we are travelling through a painted picture, for mile, after mile, after mile! We have caught the autumnal colours at the perfect time and before we get stuck in the snow (hopefully!). The camera has not stopped clicking.......
We travelled through Dawson City – rich in Klondike Gold Rush history, from 1896 when gold was found. This created, arguably, the world’s greatest gold rush stampede, as almost 100,000 people tried to strike it rich in the Klondike gold fields. The town was declared a National Historic Site in the early 1960’s and is it decorated by many brightly coloured buildings and restored cabins. There are tour opportunities and many chances to try your luck at gold-panning!
Back in the Yukon Territory, Canada, we camped at the Klondike River......another fire and more stew!
Leaving early the next morning, we spied two Canadian moose along the water’s edge. We got some miles under our belts before stopping for breakfast with yet another gorgeous view at the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site! It has been excellent for us to be able to move our home along with us and to change the view out of our breakfast window, each and every day!
After a long drive, but beginning early in the morning (Phil says that this is easier than having to wait for the girls to wake up!), we arrived into Whitehorse and after a few chores we set up camp at the Pioneer RV Park.
1st September, 2009 saw us return south on the Alaska Highway and after a spot of relaxing fishing, our day was to be taken over by the matter of tyres! We had a blow out (actually a completely wrecked tyre) and two broken valves – all on the same day! That makes it 50% of the tyres! Was Nessie trying to go for the record or just telling us that she needs a couple of duvet days?! Hans passed us, and offered help, as we were emptying our fresh water tank, to reduce weight, while we crept along to find a flat place to change the wheel. As he was on a push bike, he was grateful for his drinking water bottles to be filled up! We wish him luck on his adventure from Fairbanks to Vancouver (for this trip!) and for the other routes he has planned in the future too.
So –with a brand spanking new wheel and 2 dodgy valves, Nessie cruised us into Watson Lake for the night. We had a warm welcome at the Downtown RV Park and were able to sort Nessie’s valves out and give her another bath too!
We called back into the Signpost Forest and added another Macswayround sign to the collection – one that Phil had prepared earlier-so now we do have a permanent spot in the forest and Macswayround can live on in there!
As Nessie was clean and rested – we decided to hit another unpaved route along the tracks to Hyder....we found a most beautiful camp spot at Boya Lake where the turquoise waters and stunning reflections reminded us of the Croatia lakes that we know and love. The boat was pumped up once more and fun was had by all. There were lots of little islands that the children rowed to and then got out to explore! Later we met Marilyn and Al, who had bought had Angus, Dakota, four dogs and two kayaks with them. Jemma and Ben’s faces lit up, children to play with, kayaks, dogs.........who could ask for more! Jemma and Ben’s charms (or persistence?) soon won the kayaks over and they had a blast! Ben even had Digger the dog sitting on and sometimes in the kayak with him! Obiously a very trusting dog but he could jump ship if he needed to! Those four dogs were the greatest swimmers we have ever seen and absolutely loved their time in the water too! After telling Jemma and Ben that it was far too cold to swim – Marilyn was diving in with a swimming costume on and swam around the lakes for a good hour and a half. We suggested that maybe she should swim the English Channel next!
Saturday, 05 September 2009 18:16:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Alaska | Canada
Sunday, 09 August 2009
Watson Lake and up.......
Upon leaving Watson Lake, everyone was suffering from a lack of sleep – due to those darn mosquitoes.....the bites down by the river side on our way to see the bison took us all by surprise.....and we sure have learnt our lesson from that experience!
Driving through Yukon, we found the Continental Divide Lodge and decided to call it a day......we got a warm welcome there and gave Nessie a well deserved bath! We enjoyed a tasty meal in the restaurant, as a treat, and were then all asleep by 9.30pm!
Leaving the Continental Divide, we all felt much brighter having slept well and we enjoyed the beautiful colours of the flowers and the back drop scenery as we drove towards Whitehorse. We saw a big fire on the other side of the Swan River to us. We are not sure if it was controlled or wild, but at least the temperature was not too high and it was not too windy. At Whitehorse, we stopped to talk to Julie as her bike had a BRITISH number plate! It was strange to see and she explained that 17 of them were on a tour from Alaska right down to South America (Patagonia). One of the group was from Devon and also fundraising for the Devon Air Ambulance – as we are. So it really is a small world... We wish them all luck in their adventures! We set up camp at the Hi Country RV Park and enjoyed meeting Roef and Ina from Germany. They have also shipped their own Mercedes Camper over to the States and have given us the details of different options to consider for our return journey, later on this year. Following more sightings of the majestic Bald Headed Eagle along the Alaska Highway, we arrived at Cottonwood RV Park. We were interested to learn that the council run site just a little further along this road had been closed the day before – due to the presence of Grizzly Bears! A little unusual with us coming from England and all!
We spent the afternoon and evening cooking up many meals as we were told that we would not be allowed to take any meat over the border, into Alaska. We had a large choice of menu for the next couple of days, and our final campsite in Canada was Lake Creek, until we were ready to proceed with our journey! Jemma and Ben picked wild strawberries and wild raspberries (getting there before the bears!) and we mixed them into a concoction for our pudding that evening! We met Walter and Ruth from Switzerland, who have their own all- terrain vehicle with them and are also well- seasoned travellers! We didn’t realise how popular this travelling way of life can be – until we have been in the midst of it all! It seems to be a bug that sticks with you always.....and you just need to see more! We have had our body clocks thrown out once again by heading north. It was still light at midnight and very unnatural for us to have to sleep. The children’s bedtimes have become very tricky but we are glad Nessie has night blinds! It has also got colder and we registered -2 degrees in the morning!
Over the border and into ALASKA! We have made it to the ‘last new place’ for us to visit on Macswayround! Quite fitting as Alaska is referred to as ’The Last Frontier’ and also – ‘The Land of the Midnight Sun’ – and we can vouch for that too! It all seems to have gone so quickly.....but it hasn’t gone yet – still much more to see and do on Macswayround!
Our first campsite was ‘Deadpan’s Lake’ at Northway Junction. Although we didn’t know quite what to make of this name, the children had a great time in the water and with the dingy too! We later found out from Ranger Adriana that a few men had enjoyed themselves (a bit too much), one night, as they worked on constructing the Alaska Highway, and one man had actually drowned in this lake. Adriana also did a presentation on the Boreal Forest with many stories about the area. She showed us how to recognise, amongst others, Black Spruce, White Spruce, Willow and Quaking Aspen trees. We heard about a grizzly bear encounter not too far from us, the night before, and about Adriana’s own hiking and camping experiences – with the bears! We figure that the locals must treat the bears around here with the same degree of normality as the Australians treat crocodiles and sharks! As we were leaving the area, we came across Christie (the same signal board lady who we met the day before, our first Alaskan local!) – she also told us the story of the ‘bear’ and said that the trashed house was that one – just over the road from us. She was, and understandably so, being extra careful in checking behind her back on that particular day!
We found out about severe wild fires burning throughout Alaska at the moment. The numbers change frequently but there were 79 active fires in progress the other day. This has made much of the country very smoky, which can limit views for everyone. We now realise that the fires we have been seeing already (within the Yukon Territory also) are wild fires. This brings back memories of when we were in Australia earlier this year, and the wild fires burning there – where many lives were lost. Alaska also has such an immense coverage of land that hundreds of thousands of acres can continue burning without being of threat to anyone and fire is a necessary part of the forests regeneration cycles. Obviously these fires are closely monitored and defence systems are installed around the towns when deemed necessary. Speaking with the locals, wild fires are obviously another natural and regular occurrence, here in Alaska. However, this year is particularly bad for the extreme number and enormous size that some of the fires have reached. Some fires have met and joined forces making their power ever stronger and more ferocious. We have seen a fire helicopter (near Whitehorse), collecting water from a nearby lake.....it seems that where-ever we go on Macswayround – we are experiencing dramatic climate change, with fires, floods and extreme temperatures.
In Tok, we stayed at the RV Village and chatted to Pieter & Monique from the Netherlands, who have been travelling for about 7 years, to date (popping home from time to time!).We went to the entertainments at the camp which included songs and tales of Alaska with Dave Stancliff and his team of budding musicians. There is a magical appeal to the spirit and feelings that time in Alaska brings and these are the themes (among others) that Dave has expressed through his song writing. He also has a fun song about a moose – which has been echoed throughout Nessie ever since his show!
We had a very interesting time at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters and we would like to thank the staff there for their time. The children received booklets, on a similar theme to the Junior Ranger work – however completion of this work will make the children Refuge Managers (through the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service).
It rained heavily for a short while, and we are only hoping that this would have helped to control some of the fires ....... At the Dry Creek Camp, we met Leo and the children enjoyed roasting marshmallows in his controlled fire pit. We learnt more local knowledge, although after being up here 30 years Leo is still not sure if he is a local (this sounds like Devon or Cornwall!)
In the morning we were even offered pancakes for breakfast.....thank-you- they were yummy!!
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS – in this land of the midnight sun...........
Sunday, 09 August 2009 20:58:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Alaska | Canada
Watson Lake and up.......
• The Continental Divide is the ridge line that separates two of the largest river drainages in North America. The Alaska Highway crosses the divide at one of the lowest points. Only humps of sand and gravel separate the west-flowing Swift River from the east-flowing Rancheria River. A leaf dropped into the Rancheria River would take a long course of 2,650 miles to end up in the Arctic Ocean. However, a leaf dropped into the Swift River would travel 2,300 miles and end up in the Pacific Ocean.
• The Bald Eagle is found only on the North American continent. Adults generally weigh between 9 and 12 pounds and have wing span of 7 feet. The district white head and tail of the mature bird is developed between 4 and 6 years of age.
• The Boreal Forest is very special as it runs along the same latitude, in a band, all around the world. It extends across the subarctic regions of Russia, Scandinavia and North America. Each of these forests has the same varieties of trees, mostly coniferous, which all do a very important job around our world.
• Arctic Tundra is usually defined as the land beyond the northern limit of tree growth. However, in the Yukon, arctic tundra may contain strands of the Boreal forest almost to the arctic coast.
Sunday, 09 August 2009 20:57:09 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Alaska | Canada
Watson Lake and up.......
• Stone Mountain Sheep
• Black Bear!
• Bison (buffalo)
• Trumpeter Swans
• Pine Gros Beak
• Grey Jays (Camp-robbers!)
• Grayling (Lady of the Stream).
Sunday, 09 August 2009 20:55:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada | Alaska
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Sunday, 02 August 2009
Sunday, 02 August 2009 16:26:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
DAWSON CREEK TO WATSON LAKE
Just before leaving Mackenzie, we forgot to mention that we were lucky enough to see an Arctic Fox! He had a darker coat for the summer but will be pure white through the winter months and is much bigger than the foxes we see in England.
Dawson Creek, in Canada, is ‘Mile 0’ and the official start of the Alaska Highway (previously known as Alcan – Alaska- Canada Highway).
We took a detour for a while and got to drive on the original windy gravel road. The permafrost made for an interesting adventure! We drove over Kiskatinaw Bridge which is a 162 metre curved structure. It was one of the first of its kind in Canada and today it is the only original timber bridge built along the highway, still in use today.
We have had lots of warning about the size of the ‘bugs’ as we head north......mosquitoes the size of birds.....however – we didn’t realise they meant ostriches! So what effect will these flying critters have on us? Who knows? Only time will tell! We have all the lotions, potions and candles that are possible to fight the War of the Killer Mossie! We have bought a sticker which says that there is not a single mosquito in Alaska – because they are all married with large families! – Fantastic!
Pink Mountain was the next great place to camp. We took a wander in the woods for as long as our nerves would allow! No bear luck yet but lots of warnings that Brown Bears are a fact of life in these parts- Do not be alarmed!
Another fantastic wildlife spotting day as we drove between Pink Mountain and Beaver Lake. We passed through Fort Nelson and through more amazing scenery. We spotted 3 moose and a baby along the way and at Beaver Lake we saw 2 beavers at work! Busy as a beaver! Phil took the dingy fishing but spent more time watching the beavers! This lake was perfect for the boat but not good for swimming as there were lots of big hungry leeches! We had set up camp here, which was in the bush, all alone, many miles from any civilisation. The remoteness reminded us of being through the centre of Australia. Kangaroos are one thing – angry bears are another.......
We had seen bear tracks, earlier, down beside the lake – of a mother and cub...... Just after Phil and the children had enjoyed smoked kippers for tea, cooked outside (hindsight is a wonderful thing!), I decided that I needed to chance the bush toilet hut! As I was walking down the track and minding my own business – there was a rather loud and continuous, spine tingling growl, coming through the bushes.......Realising that Phil was too far back to be winding me up , I shouted for him to ‘PLEASE STAND UP AND MAKE LOTS OF NOISE!!’ I retreated slowly back to base (no longer requiring the toilet!) Phil took a wander in that direction, brandishing an axe for protection and came back confirming that he too had heard ‘SOMETHING BIG!’ So we thought of our plan B!
So - just to recap......we are in the bush, somewhere in British Columbia, in dense woodland, no telephone, no internet, no nothing.......sun setting as we speak.....and Nessie.
It was a unanimous decision that we leave NOW! It was our quickest pack up ever (including getting the boat back up onto the roof). Jemma and Ben were placed on lookout duty facing the bush and told NOT to take their eyes off once!
We made our escape........
We would like to point out how very keen we are to see a bear – but there is a time and a place- and an angry bear is probably not the best one to begin with! It was too hot for the windows to be shut and if we had stayed there, in the pitch black, we had visions of us being on century duty-all night long!
So we travelled again through the evening, with camp grounds few and far between! We had interesting stretches of road and mountain passes, where the surface dust was as thick as dense fog and Phil was getting rather concerned about his new air filter! Eventually we found the Tetsa River Recreation Park and we opted for that idea! Even though we were in the bush again, we were not alone! We visited the toilet huts all together!
As we rounded a corner we were honoured to see a MALE MOOSE this time-with his antlers in all their glory, wading in a roadside water hole-just for us! WOW! We were all mesmerised as we watched – very quietly and got some good movie shots and photos!
At the Strawberry Flats Campground, our pitch allowed us to step right out of Nessie and into a crystal clear lake! The children lasted a little while with their wet suits on and then resorted to the boat! The lake is glacier fed-so no wonder it was a tad on the chilly side but they still insisted on snorkelling as the water was so tempting! They are still remembering the Great Barrier Reef! We spent a lovely time with our neighbours, Sandy and Margaret and wish them well on their travels too. As they are also heading to Fairbanks, maybe we shall meet again along our way!
The evening bought a spectacular sunset over the Rocky Mountains –‘Red Sky at Night – Shepherds Delight’. The children are asleep, it is 10pm and still very light- the silence is golden and tranquil....and at the water’s edge the overgrown mossies are having their own party, because they think we are their supper! Dream on!
The next day – we WERE the mossies lunch! We had another amazing day for wildlife – one of the best day ever on Macswayround for variety! We walked down to the river to take a close look at a wild herd of Bison (approximately 30 with 6 calves) and the mossies saw us coming.....all this amidst the freshly trodden footprints of deer, elk, wolf, bear and bison down at the water’s edge! A few minutes before – along the Alaska Highway from Lake Muncho to Watson Lake we had been lucky to see Stone Sheep, Caribou and a BLACK BEAR eating his morning clover!! After being eaten down by the river we chanced upon another herd of Bison, casually resting by the roadside (maybe 25 with 5 calves) and then a solitary Bison Bull who was clearly on a mission as he tramped along the roadside beside us! All this wildlife to be seen – and from the safety of our Nessie – it has been an absolutely superb day.......bites and all!
Our fuel ran VERY low again (bringing back memories of us being in the centre of Australia!) as we kept stopping to see the wild animals, in their natural habitats! It feels like a safari, as we wonder what we might see next! This time, we had a couple of full spare fuel cans (we learnt our lesson!) and we made it to Watson Lake without any bothers! A welcome SHOP for supplies, and a FUEL station met us! Afterwards we set up camp at the Campground Services site in Watson Lake.
This is home to the infamous Signpost Forest.....which was began during the construction of the Alaska Highway, by homesick soldier, Carl Lindley, in 1942. He put up a sign pointing to his hometown of Danville, IL. Now, the forest consists of more than 61,000 licence plates, road and traffic signs, and unique home-made signs. Each year more than 2000 signs are added by travellers and the forest continues to grow! We added our own sign –so that ‘Macswayround’ will live on, in Signpost Forest!
Sunday, 02 August 2009 07:30:10 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
DAWSON CREEK TO WATSON LAKE
FACTOIDS – The Alaska Highway:
• The Alaska Highway is a remarkable achievement and has developed into a major transportation link. It stretches from ‘Mile 0’ at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, through the Yukon Territory and into Alaska. 1,528 miles of road needed to be punched through the ‘vast untamed wilderness of Northern Canada and Alaska.’
• Seven regiments of American engineers, approximately 11,000 men (including 3 regiments of men of African American heritage), 16,000 civilians from Canada and the United States and 7,000 pieces of equipment were thrown into action against some of the toughest and unforgiving wilderness areas in the world.
• For soldiers and workers it was a difficult life. Fatigue, hypothermia and accidents were a part of life as the workers struggled to set down 8 miles of road a day, seven days a week.
• It took a little over 8 months to complete the Alaska Highway and it was officially opened in November 1942. It was then opened to the public in 1948.
• The cost of the construction was approximately $140 million U.S wartime dollars.
• In 1996, the Alaska Highway was awarded the 16th International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in the World.
Sunday, 02 August 2009 07:28:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
Mackenzie to Dawson Creek in pictures.......
Sunday, 02 August 2009 07:14:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada
Friday, 31 July 2009
USA to CANADA in Pics......
Friday, 31 July 2009 08:23:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada | USA
San Francisco to Canada.......
We left Vallejo (near San Francisco) after 1 year and 1 day on Macswayround! This travelling life is proving to be very favourable to us all!
We found the Wine Country RV Park at Rohnert Park, still in California. It has been much busier this time around in the USA, being mid-summer, and so it has not always been so easy to find a camp spot. However- perseverance has paid off!
We spent some time in the Redwood National Forest and State Parks and the children did some more work to become Junior Rangers here – as they have enjoyed doing at each available park. Here, we walked amongst the TALLEST trees in the world and we went on a hike with ‘Ranger Renee!’ In human terms the Redwoods are ‘timeless’. This area was also Big Foot territory – so we kept our eyes open wide!
As we continued our journey, the Mad River Rapids RV Park at Arcata was our last stop in California. Across the Stateline and into Oregon and we stopped off in Brookings.
The next day, north of Florence, we took a look at the ‘Sea –Lion Cave’ – the largest Sea- Cave in the world! A lift took us down the 208 foot drop to a viewing area. The cave was jam packed inside with Stellar Sea-lions, where the fishy smell was immensely over-powering! It was wonderful to see the sea-lions, once again in their naturally chosen environment.
In Waldport, at the Handy Haven RV Park, we enjoyed spending time with John, Becky and a toddling Nina! We shared their camp fire and had an extended happy hour, toasting marsh mallows! It was great to have happy hours back again and maybe we will meet again along our travels!
We decided to head inland for a while to get some more of the hot stuff before we get too far north! At McMinnville, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum was very entertaining. It is now home to the ‘Spruce Goose’. This is the world’s largest wooden airplane and has the largest wing span. It was built by Howard Hughes and co-incidentally the plane is not made from spruce at all – but 95% birch!
We camped at the Tri – Mountain RV Park in Ridgefield, before taking a big drive the next day which took us through Seattle. It was not raining in Seattle which was lucky as it is renowned for being a very soggy place!
We found Creekside Camping at a place named Concrete and the children built a dam in the river.
Taking a little detour, the North Cascades National Park gave more Junior Ranger Fun! We took a river loop walk and found out more about yet another amazingly wild place. Over 94% of the land located within this park is designated to the Stephen Mather Wilderness and there are over 400 miles of hiking trails! The National Parks help create a link between the past and a safe-guard to the future.....
We rested at the Cedars RV Park in Ferndale and enjoyed a happy hour with Norman and Margaret and got some advice on Canadian ways!
The next day we were ready and we crossed the border into Canada! Another stamp in our passports! At Hope we saw the Visitor Centre and Museum. Hope is home to many movies as the setting is very favourable, including ’Rambo 1- First Blood’, in 1982. We discovered that the First Nations people were also referred to as Aborigine which was interesting, and in Hope, the first nation people were called ‘Sto:lo (meaning ‘people of the river’ in the Salish language).
Anderson Creek Campground, in the Fraser Canyon was our first taste of a Canadian camp spot and it was lovely! Maybe those were signs that a bear had paid a visit to a tenting party just down by the river- side?
Later, at Willow Springs Campground near Clinton, Jemma and Ben tried out our new Challenger dingy on a perfectly calm lake! We got some good Alaskan travel advice from our Canadian neighbours.
McLeese Lake Resort gave Phil his chance to go fishing in the dingy! This lake was too big to let the children loose in, as they need a spot more practice at rowing first! We would like to thank the McLeese Resort for donating our camp fee as we are continuing to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance.
Prince George was our next port of call in our trek north, and to the Hartway RV Park.
We found another place named Mackenzie and had an amazing time! At a quiet river, Phil caught 3 fish and we saw 3 Bald Headed Eagles – YES! Another BIG wildlife hit was a female moose –chumping at the grasses and standing leg deep in a lake – double YES! We watched quietly as she continued her daily business! This is what Canada is all about for us and in Ben’s words – ‘This is what MACSWAYROUND is all about!’ At the river a couple of quad bikes came through as they headed back down from a nearby mountain. They stopped for a chat as Nessie is a bit conspicuous –bless her! Al and Pete recommended that we visit a sandy beached lake and Al even came back around to show us the way there! Thanks! They said that they had been making the most of this beautiful weather as they were used to having 20 foot of snow in Mackenzie! The children had a dip and then we headed to another recommendation- Williston Lake. This was the landing place of explorer Alexander Mackenzie who was the first European to trek here in 1793. He and his team were looking for a North West Passage and surveying the Rocky Mountains. There was a beautiful camp spot by the lake and the dingy was made use of once more.
The scenery which we passed through from Mackenzie to Chetwynd was absolutely stunning – Mother Nature doing what she does-at her very best. The contrasting colours were a continuous picture and this really is a magical time of year to be exploring Canada!
We arrived into Dawson Creek and stayed at the Northern Lights RV Park. Phil ‘dressed’ Nessie in preparation for her adventure- Alaska bound! She now has a protective matting taped to her bonnet and very thick plastic stuck to her headlights. Stone chips are a big problem on these types of dusty roads and a cracked light would cause major hassle as we would not be able to replace them in either country (they point the other way to the locals!) Prevention is better than cure-we hope!
More about Dawson Creek – next time!!
Friday, 31 July 2009 07:28:44 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada | USA
FACTIODS-San Francisco, USA to Mackenzie, Canada
* Coastal Redwood trees can soar to more than 370 feet tall, but they are not the only tree that grows tall in a Redwood forest. Douglas-Fir trees have grown even taller; one record breaker in British Columbia measured 400 feet!
* The Banana Slug (Ariolimax Columbianus) does good work as a decomposer and further benefits the forest by spreading seeds and spores through their waste. It is amazing that Banana slugs eat anything – apart from Redwood seeds and seedlings.
* The Redwood National and State Parks are pretty special places as they are home to 45% of all protected old-growth Redwood forests remaining in California. Only 4% of 2 million acres remain today, since logging first began in 1850.
* The formation of the amazing sea lion cave began over 25 million years ago. The interior now soars to the height of a 12 story building and stretches for the full length of a football field, making it the world’s largest sea-cave!
* The North Cascade National Park complex contains over 300 glaciers (which is more than any other park in the 48 contiguous states). The mountains of the North Cascades are one of the snowiest places on Earth, with Mount Shuksan being commonly referred to as the most photographed mountain in the world!
• To forge a route through the Fraser Canyon proved to be one of the most difficult highway projects in the province of British Columbia. Seven tunnels had to be blasted through the rock but with that difficulty- came the birth of the breathtaking Fraser Canyon Highway.
• MACKENZIE – is known as the gateway to Northern Rocky Adventure!
• The Williston Lake at Mackenzie covers an area of 166,000 hectares (410,000 acres) and is British Columbia’s largest reservoir. It is also Canada’s largest man-made lake.
• Mackenzie is home to the World’s largest tree crusher! This giant 175 ton machine was used in the 1960’s to clear non-merchantable timber from the Rocky Mountain trench prior to the creation of Williston Lake. It has sat idle since then and is now a popular roadside attraction!
Friday, 31 July 2009 07:25:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada | USA
CANADIAN WILDLIFE HITS....
CANADIAN WILDLIFE HITS:
• American Robins
• Belted Kingfishers
• Northern Rough Winged Swallow
• Northern Flicker Woodpecker
• Varied Thrush
• BALD HEADED EAGLES (magnificent!)
• Brook Trout
• MOOSE! (male, female and babe!)
• Mule Deer
• Swallow-tailed Butterflies
• Pelagic Cormorants
• American Kestrels
• Common Loon
• White-Tailed Ptarmigans
* ARCTIC FOX
Friday, 31 July 2009 07:21:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) Canada