Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Even The Wildlife is More Civilised Than Me!

Well I guess that it's no surprise to some (most?) of you that I'm starting to realise wildlife is somewhat more civilised than me.

I've now got as far as Homer on the end of the Kenai peninsula. It's famous as a spot for seeing large quantities of Bald Eagles. The last time I was here I very nearly got an amazing shot of a bald eagle rising out of the sea with a fish in it's talons. It flew straight at me and I took a sequence of photos as it got bigger. Then the film ran out, and it was all over. Now I have a digital camera with a better lens, faster focus tracking and most importantly almost endless memory capacity.

Apparently though the 'Bird Lady' who used to feed them has since died and alot of the birds have moved on. I had to be content with a reasonable shot of a juvenile digesting its dinner.

On the way 'home' one night I passed a mother moose and calf living in town...

Like most mothers, moose females can be very agressive, but this one tolerated me hanging around taking shots of the two of them until I got bored. Then it was me that had to head out of town to eat and sleep.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


While the road North is still iced up, I'm staying around the South West of Alaska especially the Kenai Peninsula.

I've only ever seen Orcas in the distance before, so I hopped on the boat into Kenai Fjords National Park from Seward and hoped for the best. Apparently the best times to see them in this area are between 5th May and 5th June! Being highly intelligent, presumably they all share a Google calendar to get the timing consistent.

It is a fair way out into the park, the whole trip is a 6 hour day. Fortunately it was a smooth day, otherwise I would have struggled to enjoy it at all.

As it was we were surrounded by whales right from the beginning. The only real disappointment was that the boat was very full of tourists. It was difficult to get good shots of the wildlife without hitting  a tourist with my big lens. Having the biggest lens on the boat had its advantages. Some were very helpful and got out of the way when they saw me coming. One guy even wanted a photo of himself posing with it.

This large bull Orca came straight over to check us out. He very quickly got too close for my big lens.

I've still yet to see either an Orca or a whale breach.

We also saw all the other stuff you generally see in this area: humpbacks, mountains goats, bears, porpoises, otters and glaciers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I've Made it to Alaska!!!


As usual my posts are a little bit behind where I am.
It has gotten a little worse as I've just covered 1600 miles since the last post...

All the way from Jasper, Alberta to Tok (pronounced Towke) in Alaska, via The Yukon. All done without Internet access. So it is still possible!

The official Alaska Highway starts in a place called Dawson Creek at Mile 0, but then everything else is in Kilometres!

As you can see it starts off nice and sunny. Alot further north it looked more like this...

Bike Rack to the Rescue

So that new bike rack I have been proudly featuring in some of my pics has solved a few problems.

On my previous trips, earlier this year and last year I really missed my mountain bike. It's a great bit of exercise, especially after a long day in the drivers seat.

I tried all sorts of combinations of bike inside the truck or on the back door with my ancient rack. But this new one leaves you with good access to the boot, and it all locks to the car. Truly amazing.

The other big problem I was left with when I decided not to buy a camper, was how to cook in the rain. Turns out the bike rack is good for that too...

Unless the rain is really heavy this configuration works great, and I have a tarp which (should) wrap around the lot for really bad weather. It's even possible to get from there to bed, without going 'outside' although I could get stuck.

Note the Trangia cooker I bought in 1991! How's that for re-use?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Canadian Motels are Expensive

The Motel up the road wanted $100 for a room with a view of the car park.

Just down the road I found this spot for nothing...

In the US I've developed the taste for Free camping in National Forests. It's one of the reasons I'm so keen on being able to kip in the truck. It means it doesn't matter what the terrain is like.

Fortunately the Canadians also have these vast public areas where you can camp as long as you bring your own facilities. This spot is right outside of Banff National Park. I can't tell you exactly where as the guy 100 trees over bought my silence with a beer.

A Wise Investment

While I still had a job I invested in a nice big lens. It cost a pretty penny, but produced some good stuff in Costa Rica last year. You can buy happiness apparently.

This was the first time I actually felt it made me safer...

Yup two Grizzlies scrapping away in Banff National Park. With a good lens and a bit of cropping they didn't even notice me.

I'm not sure whether it was play fighting, mating or what.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Loooong Memory

A long long time ago before the InterWebs, when they'd only just invented mountain bikes, but not suspension, I worked a summer in the Canadian Rockies. Johnstone Canyon Resort, 15 miles North of Banff and run by the incomparable Nokes family, was a fantastic place to spend the summer.

I looked the place up on the InterWeb and found that it is now being run by one of the brothers that was there at the time. So I just could not resist dropping by and saying "Hi".

The beginnings of this years summer staff were there opening and cleaning the place up. No sign of anyone I knew but one of the brothers - Geordie, would be on his way back in a short while. So I checked the place out. I had been a burger chef (voted best in the park - even now) and cabin cleaner. The kitchen looked the same. The diner and dining room looked the same, although some of it is now used for a bigger gift shop.

Out the front there was still the Gas pump that worked when I was there, but not any longer.

The pump only went up to $9.99, so you had to count the number of times the counter went fully around the clock. Extra tricky when the customer has a truck with a big tank on the other side too. We were provided a Mickey Mouse calculator to 'help'. Yes it had Mouse pictures all over it, but was the worst one I've ever used. As a Computer Science student I could see it didn't do 'operator precedence' properly, but the customer was never impressed by that excuse for his bill coming out too high!

The swing door into the kitchen looked the same as the day I marched through and got a cream pie in the face.

While I was busy reminiscing Geordie appeared and he remembered me immediately. He even remembered my name. 29 years later!!! With a fresh crew every summer. Either, I did something wrong (we did get into trouble over a chicken), or I did something right, or he just has an amazing memory. I didn't ask and I'm going for the last option.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

No Need to go Further

On one of the ferry rides through the San Juan Islands, I overhead a fellow passenger, also struck by the beauty of the the place, say "It's just like an Alaska cruise". And yes it felt that way.

Then I stayed for just under a week with some good friends in Vancouver. Amidst all the pessimism of us Humans destroying the planet, Vancouver is one of those places where the wildlife is returning.

While I was there we heard that Beaver had returned to Stanley Park. 'Beaver Pool' has been empty of beaver for quite a while... until recently. So myself and Darren headed out beaver hunting just the other night. It was more successful than usual!

I'm starting to think that there's no real reason to travel into the wilder places. Maybe I should stay in the urban areas and let it come to me.

Vancouver even has art!

Now I'm headed for the Rockies.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Only Casualty was a Pig!

Getting a taste for island hopping I then headed for the San Juan Islands as they are already seeing Orcas this season.

Besides being on a ferry between the islands makes this feel like a holiday ;-)

I ended up on San Juan Island which was the center of a territorial dispute between the US and Canada/Britain. An agreement had the division between the US and Canada a little ambiguous leaving both side claiming sovereignty over San Juan Island. This was fine until 1859 when an Irishmans pig ate some Americans potatoes who then shot the pig. The dispute escalated until US and British troups were dispatched to the islands to spend the next few years goading each with insults and trying to get the other side to fire the first shot. Nobody did and the arbitrator, Kaiser Wilhelm I eventually awarded the island to the US.

So only the pig was a casualty of this 'war'.

The English and American Camps are still there as Parks and tributes to solving a dispute without a human dying. They couldn't tell me who ate the pig.

In my unbiased opinion the the English Camp was by far the nicest.

Didn't see any Whales of any kind, but did get to see a family of foxes playing one afternoon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Finally Heading North

Well after all this faffing around I'm finally heading north.

The first day I managed about 500 miles and stopped just south of Eugene Oregon. I confess... I used a motel!!! By the second night I made it to Whidby Island just east of Seattle. Now the scenery is fantastic. So Tuesday night I camped at Deception Pass.

Beautiful location in the middle of nowhere. Right on the waterfront but right next to the local Air Force base. Fortunately the lads were in the pub and not shattering the stillness.