Returning to the outside, the lower 48 of the USA.
After another doctor’s appointment Dianne was cleared to travel south on August 19th.
We pulled out of the RV park in Wasilla and headed northeast on the Glenn highway out of Palmer, a winding up and down road thru the Matanuska Valley. We had lunch along the highway with a 5 star view of mountains and glacier. Then the weather turned rainy and cool. We spent the night at our favorite rest area just south of Glennallen on the Richardson highway.
Day 2 of the return we took a side trip in the car down the Nabesna road into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The road is only paved for 15 miles then it became squishy with creeks crossing the road so we turned around. We did find tons of fresh low bush cranberries and some blueberries along the road. Good picking and good views on the way back to our RV parked in a rest area. Then we stayed at the Tundra RV park in Tok.
Day 3 we planned to pick up our forwarded mail at the post office in Northway off the Alaska highway 30 miles from the Canadian border. Unfortunately the sign on the door said the P.O. would be closed Monday and Tuesday. (Who closes a Post Office!) We’d have to try again Wednesday morning. Fortunately there was the Tetlin Wildlife Refuge campground just down the road. Deadman Lake C.G. is a no fee campground with 15 sites and an observation trail. We fit in just right and loved it. The refuge has lots of information about the flora and fauna of the area. We found lots of berries and 4 varieties of edible mushrooms including birch bolete, puffball, hawkwing and a new one for us, the hedgehog, a kind of toothed mushroom.
The rest of the trip south confirmed why we had to leave when we did. It was getting pretty cool. Many mornings in the high 30s. Tis a very a very short summer in the far north.
The shortest route south is the Cassair Highway, the most recently completed and shortest route to Alaska from Seattle. The original Alaskan military highway could have used this route but it was feared to close to the coast and therefore more vulnerable to a Japanese attack during World War 2. A couple hours into the day the road was closed due to an accident. Fortunately, the barricades were put up at Jade City, a tourist attraction offering free dry camping and of course jade art and jewelry. Backtracking to another route would have taken us hundreds of miles out of our way, so we all just waited. These things can happen in the far north but we had our one-bedroom apartment with us and more food than we could possibly eat so it was no problem. There must have been 40 Rvs stopped there for the day and night. After 18 hours the road re-opened.
From Jade City the road south was mostly very good if winding, hilly with no shoulder or center line. The nicest RV park of the whole trip was Mountain Shadow RV Park in Iskut BC. Great views and nature trails.
Our next stop was Hyder, AK. Hyder is unique in that the only road access is from Stewart BC. There is no US customs post and they use Pacific time not Alaska time. It is also famous for the bears feeding on salmon and easily viewed from the US Fish and Wildlife station. Unfortunately, there were no bears the 3 or 4 times we checked during our stay. The nearby Salmon Glacier views were spectacular. A gravel forest road led to amazing views. The highway to Hyder was beautiful.
From Hyder the Cassair Highway took us to many First Nation communities including Gitanyow and Hazelton. In this area we learned there is a large wild mushroom business. Hundreds of collectors hit the forest collecting wild mushrooms primarily for export to Japan. The prized mushroom is the Pine or Matsutake. We saw “Mushroom Buyers” in many towns. We met one collector who gave us some “pines” to try. They are delicious!! Another variety to seek.
We noticed a big change once we left the Cassair Highway and headed east on the Yellowhead Highway. Fences! Civilization! Only then did we realize we had become accustomed to endless miles of landscape unmarked by the hand of man. That is one huge difference between Alaska, the Yukon and northern BC and so much of the rest of North America. We could honestly think we were seeing North America as it has been for thousands of years.
The rest of the journey south we found nice free and inexpensive campgrounds. As we got closer to the border the weather finally started to warm. The last day of our trip back to Seattle we traveled from Clinton BC to Vancouver thru the Fraser River Canyon. It was a spectacular drive on a narrow, winding road. The views were amazing. We spotted the famous Canadian Rocky Mountaineer passenger train enjoying the views as well.
We crossed the border around 5PM on Labor Day. Who wants to cross borders on Labor Day? Well, we did it with only a 5 minute wait. Then took the short drive south to the very RV friendly ($0) Tulalip Casino for the night. We spent 17 days on the return trip, Wasilla to Washington.
Altogether we traveled over 6650 miles since leaving Washington state June 17th. We crossed the border at Sumas WA on September 7th. Other than the usual costs of living in our RV we spent USD$2011 on diesel fuel. With Dianne’s injury, we couldn’t do everything we hoped to do on this trip . There is so much more to see but it is a very long drive.