Tag Archives: camping

Two weeks ago, Day 5

No sleep, and more mountains!

Well, that was the only night I camped on this trip. For some reason I could not get comfortable in my sleeping bag, and I finally gave up about four in the morning. So I pulled out my Kindle and read till it got light at about 5:30, packed up, and headed out.

Not very far at first — the Sunrise campground sits at the very top of the long, steep drop to Bear Lake, and a very nice viewpoint/visitor center, which was unlocked even at that gawdawful hour of the day (much to my pleasure, as the campground only had pit toilets and no running water), is practically next door to it. So I got cleaned up and then sat and watched the sun rise over Bear Lake. It was fairly spectacular.

Sunrise at Bear Lake, Utah.
Sunrise at Bear Lake, Utah.

I decided I deserved breakfast out after that, and after descending 2000 feet (7900 to 5900) to Bear Lake and the small town of Garden City, I started looking for somewhere that might feed me one.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, was open in Garden City at six a.m., though, so I went on, heading north along the shore of Bear Lake. Eventually I crossed the state line back into Idaho, and found the small town of Montpelier, which was just waking up for the day. The lady at the gas station where I filled the tank for the fourth time on the trip told me the truck stop just north of town was about the only place to go to get breakfast (I did mention that Montpelier is a small town, right?). So I went to find the truck stop.

It turned out to be a nice place, as such things go, and the waitress very helpfully warned me that I only wanted one pancake, not a short stack. Wow, was she right. That pancake was about twelve inches around and at least half an inch thick. It was good, though, especially with Bear Lake raspberry syrup (the berries are a local specialty). I ate a bit more than half of it before I gave up.

I headed north and east on U.S. 89, the same highway that I took all the way to Yellowstone. Up and over a pass and into Wyoming, where I noticed that I was not as alert at the wheel as I could be, so I stopped in a forest service campground, let my seat back all the way, grabbed my pillow and afghan, and crashed for a couple of hours.

Much refreshed, I arrived in the town of Afton an hour or so later, where I got stuck in a bathroom line with a bunch of French-speaking bus tourists, and saw what is purportedly the world’s largest antler arch across the main drag in town. I did not get a photo of it, but if you click here you can get a look at it.

My goal for the day was the ski resort of Jackson Hole (no, not Jackson’s Whole — that would be the wrong Nexus, thank goodness), where I was going to spend tonight, and Grand Teton National Park, where I would spend the rest of the day.

I’d spent about half an hour on my cell phone last night in the campground — I don’t know why I’m still astonished that I can talk on the phone in places that remote, but I am — making sure I had a place to sleep tonight at the hostel in Teton Village (at the base of the ski resort) and for the next two nights (they didn’t have space after that — last minute trip planning can be a bear) at the hostel in West Yellowstone.

I hadn’t spent any time to speak of in the Tetons since I was a kid. In 1999 on my Long Trip (see my book Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back) I’d spent an evening on a dinner cruise on Jackson Lake with some friends, and in 2008 my friend Mary and I passed through, stopping for a few photos, on our way from Yellowstone to Denver for WorldCon, but that was pretty much the extent of it. In all the rest of my jaunts to Yellowstone, I hadn’t bothered to come south even that far. So I wanted to spend a little time here, at least.

The Teton Mountains, Grand Teton (13,776 feet -- almost as tall as Mt. Rainier) front and center.
The Teton Mountains, Grand Teton (13,776 feet — almost as tall as Mt. Rainier) front and center.

The Tetons are spectacular, I’ll give them that, but they strike me as a bit — aloof. It’s hard to get out in them without doing a lot more hiking than I’m capable of. I stopped along the roadside to take pictures and to look at wildflowers (which were everywhere), and then at the visitor center at Moose, which was fun. Then I drove out to Jenny Lake and decided on a whim to take a boat ride across the lake to a trailhead that led to a waterfall.

The Moose at Moose -- no real meece, alas, not on this trip.
The Moose at Moose — no real meece, alas, not on this trip.
Scarlet gilia, which I've always thought of as a California wildflower before.
Scarlet gilia, which I’ve always thought of as a California wildflower before.
Another view of the Tetons.
Another view of the Tetons.

The boat ride was fun. It was also a great way to cool off from the 80+ degree temperatures. And the hike to the waterfall, albeit with a boatload of my new close friends, was good, too. So that was worth it.

Jenny Lake.
Jenny Lake.
From the boat on Jenny Lake.
From the boat on Jenny Lake.
Hidden Falls, approximately 100 feet tall.
Hidden Falls, approximately 100 feet tall.
Waiting for the boat to go back across Jenny Lake.
Waiting for the boat to go back across Jenny Lake.

After the ride back, though, it was getting late, and I took what was supposed to be a short cut but turned out to be a goat trail back to Teton Village.

And I ended my day by scaring the bejeebies out of myself. There was this gondola, you see. It was free in the evenings. I thought it would be like the gondola at Crystal Mountain here in Washington state, which is a pleasant little ride. This was not a pleasant little ride. It turned out to be about three times as long and three times as steep, and by the time I got to the top, I was a gibbering idiot (I don’t do manmade heights, at least not ones like these). If you want to see what the view from the top looks like, click here. I left my camera in the car.

I almost couldn’t make myself ride it back down again, but a group with a baby(!) got in the gondola with me, and that happy little baby was a great distraction. Thank goodness. I’m not sure I’d have made it down sane without him!

And that was more than enough for one day.

Two weeks ago, Day 4

Across the wide open spaces to some rather strange places

Southern Idaho, as I’ve said before, is a desert except where it’s irrigated. I was traveling across the path taken by the Yellowstone hotspot in ancient times — if you look at a satellite view of the region, you’ll see this sort of U-shaped giant-sized ditch in the land where, over the last few million years, the hotspot made its way from northeastern Nevada/southeastern Oregon, across Idaho, and up to northwestern Wyoming, erupting periodically along the way. What it left behind was a vast trough full of volcanic rocks of various kinds.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With enough weathering and the addition of some water, it can be transformed into hellaciously fertile farmland. Think about where all those famous Idaho potatoes come from. Although Washington actually grows more potatoes than Idaho does these days — but they do it on the same types of volcanic soil. Different eruptions, though.

Anyway. I headed southeast on I-84 to the Utah state line. Once upon a time, I drove this stretch of highway in January, moving from Eugene, Oregon, to Fort Collins, Colorado, and the landscape didn’t actually look all that different from today except for the skim of dusty white snow swirling across the highway back then. This is true high desert — don’t let the signs for Salt Lake City fool you.

I left the highway at the exit labeled #26 after crossing the state line, where the sign said, rather ominously, “NO SERVICES.” But that’s where the directions for the Golden Spike National Historic Site said I was to get off, and it’s not the most isolated place on the planet I’ve ever been (see Stanley, Idaho, night before last, which doesn’t take that pride of place, either). The other sign at that exit said, rather mysteriously, “ATK.” I had no idea what ATK was, but maybe I’d get to find out.

After coming over a rise and crossing abruptly from desert to irritated farmland, then going around a few miles worth of bends in the road, I found out what ATK is. Apparently it’s where they build rockets for NASA and missiles for the Defense Department. And they’re proud of it, because out in front of this big cluster of 1960s-era-looking buildings out in the middle of absolutely nowhere was something I’ll call a sculpture garden for lack of a better term.

ATK -- a real surprise out in the Utah desert.
ATK — a real surprise out in the Utah desert.

Bemused, I parked the car and took a gander. Each one was mounted on a big metal pole, and each had its own label telling what it was.

A Minuteman missile in ATK's 'sculpture garden.'
A Minuteman missile in ATK’s ‘sculpture garden.’
A space shuttle booster rocket.
A space shuttle booster rocket.

After goggling for a bit in the windy heat (it was well into the 90s that day), I got back in the car, fired up the AC again, and headed for a much older form of transportation.

Golden Spike National Historic Site, like Pompey’s Pillar (a Lewis and Clark site I visited a couple of years ago) has always sort of been on my nonexistent bucket list. It’s where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific met in 1869, to form the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S. The event was celebrated by a bunch of dignitaries coming to this place out in the middle of the Utah desert just north of the Great Salt Lake (you can see the salt flats from a viewpoint at the site) to hammer a golden spike into the last railroad tie and ceremonially join the two railroads together.

Looking out towards the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake from a viewpoint at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.
Looking out towards the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake from a viewpoint at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

It’s an interesting place historically, and it’s also cool because the NPS keeps two replica steam locomotives on site, and runs one or the other of them daily at 1 pm for a short distance.

Steam locomotive at Golden Spike National Historic Site.
Steam locomotive at Golden Spike National Historic Site.
The engineer's cubby in the steam locomotive.
The engineer’s cubby in the steam locomotive.
Part of the authentic reproduction paint job.  This is a portrait of Johnny Appleseed.
Part of the authentic reproduction paint job. This is a portrait of Johnny Appleseed.

I ate a picnic lunch while waiting, after having been told by the ranger that I couldn’t bring my food indoors into the AC because they had a small mouse problem (I’m pretty sure it was the mice that were small, not the problem).

Then I got to see cutting edge transportation from the 19th century, smokestack, whistle (loud!) and all. Which was pretty damned cool (unlike the weather).

The locomotive in action.
The locomotive in action.

After the demonstration, I headed east again on a backroad that thought it was a roller coaster, back down, down, down to cross I-84 again and on to the city of Logan, Utah. I hadn’t checked email in a while, and I needed groceries and gas. What ended up happening is that I got really lost trying to find the library (for email — my netbook no longer being wifi capable), but I finally made it out of town after a stop at a ranger station to make sure I was on the right road (there wasn’t a sign to be seen), where the ranger gave me a wonderful pamphlet about Logan Canyon, which was where I was headed.

And that’s how I ended up camping at Sunrise Campground in Utah, overlooking Bear Lake, up in the aspens where it was lovely and cool and the wildflowers were everywhere.

Oh, and I sold a copy of Repeating History to a couple I struck up a conversation with at the campground. Which is the first time that’s happened. I’m glad I took the print copies with me.

Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back

400T E cover

I am proud to announce the publication of my new book, a non-fiction travel narrative entitled  Cross-Country:  Adventures Alone Across America and Back:

After a childhood of summers spent in the back seat of a car, and four months before the turn of the millenium, M.M. Justus decided to follow in the footsteps of her heroes John Steinbeck and William Least-Heat Moon, not to mention Bill Bryson, and drive alone across America’s backroads for three months.  Like the bear going over the mountain, she wanted to see what she could see.

The places she visited ranged from the homely to the exotic, from the Little Town on the Prairie to Scotty’s Castle, from New York’s Twin Towers to an ‘alien’ landing site in Wyoming.  From snow in Vermont to the tropical heat of New Orleans. 

After over 14,000 miles, history both public and personal, and one life-changing event, she finally arrived back where she’d started from, only to discover it wasn’t the same place she’d left behind at all.
It is available in print through Amazon and CreateSpace, and through other retailers coming soon, and as digital editions through Amazon and Smashwords, with other retailers coming soon:

You can read the first chapter for free here:  http://mmjustus.com/fictionCrossCountry.html

Thank you for your time.

M.M. Justus

Two weeks ago, Day 8

The beach just north of Lincoln City.
The beach just north of Lincoln City.

Two weeks ago today I drove from Lincoln City to Seaside, plus side trips.  The first one was down the Nestucca River National Backcountry Byway, as the brochure I picked up at the Yaquina Head Visitor Center the day before titled it.

This was the only real stretch of road on this trip that I hadn’t ever been on before, and I only drove sixteen miles of it.  But what I did see was lovely.  It started out very bucolic, with farms and cattle and crops.  Mostly dairy cattle — I wasn’t all that far from Tillamook and its famous cheese factory, after all.  Then it narrowed down to something of a real canyon, with twists and turns and a rapidly running river.  I came around one bend to find a deer at the side of the road staring at me about as avidly as I was staring at it.

I only went as far as the first campground, and I was happy to see that it, at least, had not been leased and/or ‘improved’ into an imitation private campground.  Tucking that away in my mental notes for the next time I came down here, I headed back to Hwy. 101.  Why is it that going in on a road like that always takes twice as long as coming back out?

My next stop was entirely serendipitous.  I saw a sign, out in the middle of nowhere along Hwy. 101, saying Quilt Shop.  Well, how could I not check that out?  I turned down a narrow little dirt road, and about half a mile in, came to the end at a house with a quilt shop underneath it (in a daylight basement).  I went in, and was amazed at what I saw out there in the middle of nowhere — lots and lots of fabric and notions, and samples pinned up wherever there was space.  I spent a little time in there prowling around, and came out with several fat quarters from a sale bin.  I suspect I’m going to regret that I didn’t get yardage of one of them — it was a really nifty tone-on-tone world map.

After that, I drove on to Tillamook, where I ate lunch and went to the cheese factory.  You can’t go to Tillamook without going to the cheese factory and getting ice cream.  Well, you can get cheese, too, but you have to get ice cream.  Tillamook Mudslide, by preference.  Chocolate ice cream with fudge ripple and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  They used to carry a really delicious lemon pudding ice cream, too, but apparently they’ve quit making it.  Their other flavors are lovely, but I adore the Mudslide.

The afternoon was spent tooling up the coast to Seaside, via Garibaldi, a little town on Tillamook Bay, where I visited their historical museum, which was mostly about Robert Gray and his ship Columbia.  He was the one who discovered and named the Columbia River.

Another view of Tillamook Bay.
Tillamook Bay near Garibaldi.
An unusual (most Oregon iris I've seen are lavender) roadside iris.
An unusual (most Oregon iris I’ve seen are lavender) roadside iris.

And via Cannon Beach, where I went to their historical museum.  It was like Lincoln City’s museum in some ways.  Cannon Beach (named after a ship’s cannon found not far from there) is an upscale tourist town, and has been one for most of its life.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon walking the beach at Cannon Beach.  I started at Tolovana Beach State Wayside, on the south end of town and walked all the way to Haystack Rock and back.  Haystack Rock is another cool place to see tidepools, and here’s the evidence.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.
Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.
Kites flying at Cannon Beach.
Kites flying at Cannon Beach.
A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.
A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.
Artificially-looking green but real sea urchins.
Artificially-looking green but real sea anemones.
A sea star.
A sea star.
Whelks.
Whelks.
A hermit crab in a whelk shell.
A hermit crab in a whelk shell.
The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.
The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

You can also see Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from here, just barely.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.
A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.
Another view of Terrible Tilly.
Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse,  or Terrible Tilly as it was called, is one of the most remote, desolate lighthouses in the U.S., if not the world.  You can read about it at the link, but suffice to say it must have been one of the most dreaded postings in the lighthouse service.  It is awfully picturesque, though.  And then, at last, I drove up to Seaside and checked in at the Seaside Hostel.  I’ve stayed here before on several occasions.  It’s in an old motel, backing up to the river that flows through Seaside.  Comfortable, convenient, and relatively cheap, and that was all I really needed for my last night on the road.

Two weeks ago, Day 5

It’s very odd to go back to a place where you used to live thirty years before.  Or maybe it isn’t for most folks, but it is for me.  The three years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, were extremely tumultuous for me personally.  Perhaps that’s why I always feel odd when I go back there.

At any rate, this time I wanted to go back to a particular place, Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, which is in the hills east of Eugene and south of its twin city on the other side of the freeway, Springfield (yes, That Springfield for you Simpsons fans, according to Groening himself).

But I digress.  Mt. Pisgah isn’t an arboretum in the strictest sense of the term, or at least it’s not what I think of when I think of an arboretum, where lots of different kinds of trees and shrubs are planted and labeled.  It’s more just a park.  A really nice, wild park, with quite a few wildflowers in late spring.

I strolled the trails for a couple of miles, under the oak trees and through the meadows.  I always forget how much this part of Oregon looks like parts of California.  And what those big oak trees are like.  I love them.  I also saw a few critters, and even got photos of a couple of them.

Here’s what it looks like, and a sampling of the flowers.

Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum
Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum
I think these are some kind of penstemon.  Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.
I think these are some kind of penstemon. Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.
Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.
Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.
The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.
The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.
I don't know what these are, and I couldn't find them in my flower ID books.  Which is just wrong, but they're still pretty.
I don’t know what these are, and I couldn’t find them in my flower ID books. Which is just wrong, but they’re still pretty.
A red squirrel.
A red squirrel.
I don't know what kind of bird this is.
I don’t know what kind of bird this is.

After that, I went looking for some of my old stomping grounds in Eugene, mostly the apartment (since converted to condos) I lived in with my first husband, which was way up in the hills on the south end of town with a spectacular view down the valley.  I didn’t take any pictures of it this time because I didn’t want anyone accosting me asking me what I was doing that for.  I left my first husband in Eugene, and I met my second one there, too, probably way too soon for my own good.  I also went looking for the apartment my second husband and I lived in for a brief time before we left the Northwest, which was one of the dumbest things I ever did (leaving the Northwest, that is), and found it, too.

Then, after a fast food lunch, filling the gas tank (I will never get used to not pumping my own gas, but they don’t let you do that in Oregon), and getting some cash, I headed west towards the coast.

It’s only an hour’s drive from Eugene to Florence, which is situated at the mouth of the Siuslaw (sigh’ oo slaw) River just about halfway down the Oregon coast.  I visited the Old Town section, right on the harbor, then found the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum.  After perusing their exhibits, I went to their library, which was staffed by a nice volunteer in her eighties who had recently taken the collection over from her predecessor who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She was still trying to deal with the results.  But she helped me find some good things, and make copies, and it was several hours well spent.

I also spent some time in the local history section of the public library, and found more good stuff.

Then I went looking for a campground, and discovered something disgusting.  I am normally a fan of forest service campgrounds.  They’re usually cheaper, nice, and in quiet locations.  Not this time.  Most of the forest service campgrounds along the Oregon coast have been leased to private companies for management, and they might as well be privately owned for all their price and ambiance.  I was appalled.  $22 for a plain site (as opposed to one with hookups) is absolutely ridiculous.  Camping in Yellowstone National Park costs less than that.

But I didn’t have a whole lot of choice.  The three campgrounds I checked (one private, one state park, and the forest service one) were all the same price and the others were even worse for ambiance.  So I paid my money, and I still may write my congresscritters about it.  That was just Wrong.

There was a nice trail at the campground with a sign that said “to the beach” at the beginning of it, though.  So I decided to walk it.  I never did get to the beach — I checked the next morning, and it was several miles one way — but I did have a very nice walk.  At one point, the trees arched overhead looking like that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where the Black Riders are after Frodo.  And flowers — mostly false lily of the valley and rhododendrons.  Florence has a festival every spring celebrating the rhododendrons, which I’d just missed (which was fine).

Native coastal rhododendrons.
Native coastal rhododendrons.
Where are the hobbits?  Or the black riders?
Where are the hobbits? Or the black riders?
False lily-of-the-valley.
False lily-of-the-valley.

After my walk, I fixed supper and settled in for the night.  And that was my only night camping on this trip.

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 44

Stockton, California

Sunday, July 29, 1973

“We drove 512 miles today.  We left around 7 am and drove till 6 pm.  We went through Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford, Weed, Redding, Red Bluff, and Sacramento.  I am tired.”

And that was the second-to-last day of our trip, according to my entire diary entry for the day.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 43

just south of Eugene, Oregon

Saturday, July 28, 1973

From British Columbia to about halfway through Oregon.  We drove south through Hope, BC, then crossed the border for the sixth and last time back into the U.S., into Washington state, where we picked up I-5 and simply booked.  Through Bellingham, Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Salem.  463 miles, according to Google Maps.

We stopped at a KOA campground, our first of the trip, as I noted in my diary.  When we visited parts of the continent less remote than Alaska and the Yukon, KOA campgrounds were something we looked for about every third night.  They’re sort of the Motel 6s of campgrounds, or they were back then.  Dependable but not fancy, with the same hookups and facilities from campground to campground.  In the days before we had the trailer with its own bathroom, we always counted on KOAs for showers and that sort of thing, too.

Little did I know when we spent the night near Eugene, that when I was in my twenties I’d end up living there for several years.  Not in the campground, of course, but in Eugene.  It sits at the head of the Willamette Valley, nestled in the evergreens with mountains ringing it in every direction but north.  At the time I lived there, just after the height of the spotted owl controversy in the mid-80s, it was sort of the hippie equivalent of the elephant’s graveyard.  Also sort of like the Island of Lost Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  If you didn’t fit in anywhere else, you’d be fine in Eugene.  I really loved Eugene.  I’d probably still be there if it weren’t for a set of circumstances too convoluted to be described here, although it’s not the same place it was back then.

It was hot when we got there.  Fortunately, the campground had a swimming pool, which I enjoyed that evening.  Also fortunately, the electric hookup allowed us to run the trailer’s air conditioning.  We went to bed early to get an early start the next day and ran it all night long.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 42

Yolo, British Columbia

Friday, July 26, 1973

Now it was just a race against time to get back home before my father’s vacation days ended, so we spent the day making miles.  We drove a bit over 400 miles on this day, through Prince George, Quesnel, Williams Lake, and Cache Creek, to just a few miles north of the U.S. border.

We hit hot weather for the first time since we’d left California six weeks earlier, and stopped at a campground next to a creek where I went ‘swimming’ (I doubt it was deep enough to do more than wade), also for the first time on the trip, to cool off.

And we went to bed early, with all the windows open to catch a breeze, so we could get an early start the next morning.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 41

forty miles east of Prince George, British Columbia

Thursday, July 25, 1973

We left Alaska for the last time sometime in the wee hours, and drove off the ferry in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, at seven in the morning.  Except for a stop along the way to buy groceries at a supermarket which was having a sale on fresh fruit, my father drove all day long, almost 500 miles.  I slept all morning in the back seat of the car, and my mother slept there all afternoon.

I’m not quite sure how my father stayed awake to drive that far on so little sleep, but he did.  It wouldn’t have been the first time he’d done something like that.  When we went to Louisiana a few years before, my three older sisters were still living at home, and it was the first time my parents had left them home alone for any length of time.  My oldest sister was in college at the time, and my other two sisters were almost out of high school.  Anyway, while we were in Louisiana, my sisters called my grandmother’s house to report a peeping tom.

We promptly climbed in the car and headed for home.  The first day we drove from northern Louisiana to El Paso, Texas (about 950 miles).  The second day we were going to spend the night just outside of Phoenix (~500 miles from El Paso) , but my father decided to keep going.  We finally arrived home in suburban Los Angeles in the wee hours of the morning, after over 800 miles and what my mother refers to as “our midnight ride through Palm Springs,” due to a closure of the Interstate because of a sandstorm and a rather out-of-the-way detour.  I don’t remember it because I was asleep in the back seat at the time.

The peeping tom turned out to be our next-door neighbor’s mentally disabled son, but nothing worse.

At any rate, my father managed this day’s drive to a campground forty miles east of Prince George, and, as my diary says, “we are sleepy.”  I do remember it, it was quiet and wooded and we were just about the only people camped there.  A perfect place to catch up on one’s rest.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 37

Haines, Alaska

Sunday, July 22, 1973

Our second day in Haines, we discovered what it’s like to explore roads that just peter out and end.

I’ve never lived on an island, or anywhere else that isn’t connected by road to the wider world.  When I went to Alaska in 1995, one of the things that really disconcerted me when I rented a car in Juneau (it was the only way at the time to get out to Mendenhall Glacier without hiking for miles since the bus didn’t go that far — I’m not sure why I didn’t just take a taxi because I know there are taxis in Juneau) was that all the roads out of town just ended.  All four of them.  Not at any sort of destination or anything.  The pavement would go for a few miles and peter out into gravel, which gradually changed over to dirt and then just stopped, out in the middle of nowhere.  It was extremely disconcerting.

I remember in Ketchikan, too, asking a lady in one of the shops along Creek Street how she liked living there.  Her response burned into my brain:  “Oh, it’s okay as long as you can get off the rock once in a while.”  It was right then that I realized I could never, ever live in a place I couldn’t just drive away from.  Ferries are all well and good, but they’re expensive and require reservations and run on their own schedule, not mine.  I need to know I can get away when and as often as I need to.

Anyway, except for the Haines Highway that we’d come in on, all the roads in Haines did that, too.  Just petered out.  Ended at nowhere.  All the roads in all of the panhandle of Southeast Alaska still do that, except for the White Pass Highway out of Skagway and the Haines Highway.

In the morning of this day we drove on the Lutak Road out past the ferry terminal where the pavement ended, and on to Chilkoot Lake.

Chilkoot Lake

My diary says it was very pretty, and this picture bears that out.

On our way back from the lake, we stopped at a place where the road fords the river, and my father rinsed the car off.  I suspect it needed it pretty badly by that point.

We also stopped at the ferry terminal and made walk-on reservations to go to Skagway for the day the next day.

In the afternoon, we drove out the Mud Bay Road, which my diary says wasn’t so great, but not why.  But possibly because it started to rain yet again.  We went back to the trailer after that and played more cards.

Oh, and this day was my mother’s birthday.  My diary says that we would celebrate it after we got home.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords