Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reflections of the Great Northern Trip

June 27, Vancouver, BC
The situation has determined that I spend the afternoon babysitting our two canine companions that have developed less than thrilling case of liquid stools. Upon leaving, Kamala sweetly suggested that

 it would be nice if I were to write a journal entry. So with that sweet suggestion as my motivation I will toss out a few thoughts. 

Tomorrow we exit Canada ending the Canada/Alaska portion of our trip so let me share with some subjective emotional and cognitive snapshots of that section of this wiggly line of life.

Hell of great road trip.  Would I do it again? Sure, with time and money and with the accompaniment of my best friend,  Kamala.  Of course Kamala makes all road trips, long or short a great road trip. It was loooong and tiring at times.  And we sometimes let the trip push us along a little too fast. But, then don't we tend to wish that we would have had "more" of the good stuff in life.

#1 takeaway-- the immensity of the Northern forests, mountains, and rivers.  To drive mile after mile, after mile with few settlements and to realize what I was seeing was just the tip of the iceberg.....that was truly awesome.

Beauty! If you're into beauty like clear watered lakes with glacial silt reflecting the blues of the sky while snow-capped mountains play as a backdrop, (and who isn't?)  And is there a soul with a heart so cold as to not be all warm and fuzzy when they first see Mama Moose and her young calf? Well, I'll tell you, something is all wrong with them. For the rest of you, you need to consider a road trip to the North.

Money-- the gas was expensive, the food in grocery stores was expensive, eating out was expensive.....are you beginning to see a trend? If you are going to the North Country my best advice is to be rich, or at least moderately affluent.  I kept asking myself, how do low income people survive here? 

Now, that being said, you "bite the bullet" on gas, or the occasional meal or that "just have to do" attraction because, hey, it's a once in a lifetime thing, or at least decade. It helps to have a good cook along to keep the costs down.

Camping is pretty reasonable, especially if you dry camp and stay away from commercial campgrounds (think about it, they have only a few short months to make a living).

I'm not a fisherman (this is not my choice. you know that t-shirt that says "fish fear me" well mine says "fish laugh at me") Anyway, I think that if you avoided the tourist fishing guides and chartered boat thing fishing would be very cheap.

Tourism-- The Fat Cats of mining, oil, and lumber dominate the economy so if you aren't serving one of those Overlords, then tourism is about all that's left. So where there is something to see (and sometimes when there's not too much to see) tourism reigns with flights and boat rides (big and small) ATV rides, buses and, of course, museums with most starting and ending in a gift shop. And as Disney knew people love a good stage set. To each his own, but I think I could find something as good and cheaper, even Disneyland would be a better deal, in the lower 48.  That being said, the experience of being on the bow of that boat as the captain pointed it right into the face of the glacier with a cold 30 mile per hour wind coming off of it was, well, breathtaking. I was freezing my butt off, but I couldn't turn away. It was exhilarating. Sorry, Disney.

Roads-- Okay, I read the travel books.  I knew about the two seasons, winter and road construction. So I just saw an occasional 5 to 10 minute delay as a chance to look around while the pilot car showed up. Besides, I found the traffic guards entertaining and I started taking their picture.  One young girl in her neon jumpsuit was quite comical trying keep one hand warm in her pocket, smoking a cigarette and holding her stop/slow sign in a cold 25 mph wind. Another fellow came over to the truck and started telling us about fixing his girl friend's car  He had paid to have her car repaired and all she had said was "Okay".  "Okay is not even a conversation," he exclaimed. It made me think of using the word in a conversation in the future.

What I didn't count on was how slow we would have to drive on the roads that weren't actually being worked on. Rolling, waving, permafrost roads, but not to worry, we were able see more going 40 to 45 mph.  It did throw off our original daily estimate miles traveled. The sign that the road would get bumpy was thick patches of black spruce (the only trees that will grow over permafrost).  Mind the Canadian signs. When signs show bumps (or lumpy-bumps, as Lori so aptly named them) or say slow or 30 km--SLOW DOWN! The Canadians don't play around with their signs. 

Kamala even started a poem:
I'm riding the waves of a permafrost road
The black spruce beside me lean to and fro
Dandelion seeds float in the a
I have no needs, not a single care.

I'm riding the waves of a permafrost road
The Dr Seuss spruce all dancing and laughing
At our travel, both speed, and mode 
Uppity,down, rock and roll, twisty, turny
Makes for great stories of this Northern Journey

Land of the midnight sun-- I've known what the term meant, but it was only after being up at  midnight and realizing that the sun was still up did it really sink in. "Holy Crap, Midnight Sun!" so  now there's plenty of sunshine. I don't remember night ever happening in the Yukon or Alaska. At 9 in the evening the sun was still shining bright. At 2 in the morning, it was still light outside. We didn't see our first sunset until the other day at Williams Lake, BC--while we were still awake. But this had little affect on our circadian rhythms.

Traveling with a tiny caravan of two was really nice. If anything went wrong, we were all there to help and figure out the situation. Lori and Lynn made wonderful traveling companions as our big shadow. Then came the beauty to share. When you're seeing such magnificence, it becomes magnified when you're able to share it with someone. We'd all stop and jump out of our respective vehicles and Oooooo and ahhhhhh in unison. We'd all be hanging out of the windows at times taking pictures--especially of those couple of grizzlies by the road.

So little time and so little internet. It's been difficult keeping up the posts on this trip. Between our 3 cameras and Lori and Lynn's cameras, photos are countless at this point. We will post pics when we get home and begin to sort through things. Promise.

Finally, we came to the conclusion that it must be a Casita pilgrimage to go to Alaska. Of the 14 Casitas we saw so far on the trip, 12 were in Alaska, and 3 were in the Whitehorse Walmart parking lot. So we made the pilgrimage, now it's your turn.

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