Sunday, July 20, 2014

Valdez to Haines

Since arriving in Alaska most of the of places we wanted to visit were within an easy day's drive of each other.  That was not the case with our next stop, Haines, which is 700 miles from Valdez.  That is three days for us with over 500 miles being on the same roads we had traveled to get here.  We had to go through the Yukon and British Columbia in Canada before reentering the US 40 miles from Haines.  It was also a return drive over the worst section of the Alaska Highway we had traveled between Tok and Destruction Bay.  In Tok we found a very good deal at Young's Chevron where if you filled up you could dry camp for free.  And filling up here was a good idea as there are few stations on the next portion of the highway and they are all much more expensive than the $4.70 a gallon we paid. 
The weather was great and road conditions were okay from Valdez to Tok.  We did have some beautiful scenery with high clouds, warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine..
On day two from Tok to Congdon Creek most of the day was sunny with only a couple of passing showers that actually helped clean the bugs off the windshield and keep the dust down.
This is what the road looked like in May on the way north.  Long frost heaves that were marked as some kind of crime scene.  Little did we know it would be worse than this on our return.
This is what the same section looked like on the way south, over 50 miles of mud and gravel.  Even the section that was under construction in the spring was just tarred and chipped so even that was twenty miles of potential windshield nicking stones.  Fortunately, there was so little traffic that when we saw an oncoming truck we just stopped, thus avoiding any damage to the windshield. 
Is this some kind of joke?  A sign in the middle of a gravel section warning of bumps ahead.  As you can see, at this point we were only going 11 miles per hour.  How could it get any worse???
Needless to say both Opus and the CRV were very, very dirty after a long 240 miles of very bad road.  The first thing we did in Haines was take them both to the car wash for a bath.
We saw a couple of black bears and a lot of beautiful wildflowers along the way.
We stayed in the same Yukon Territory Campground, Congdon Creek, that we stayed in on the way north.  In May the mountain snow was down low and it was one of the coldest nights we had on the whole trip. 
This time most of the snow was gone and the flowers were in bloom.  We even sat out around the campfire, something we had not done for a long time.
On day three we headed down the Haines Highway that was by far the best road we have driven in a long time.  It was a beautiful trip with great views of the St. Elias Mountains in Kluane National Park. 
Near the summit the mountain peaks were cloud covered, but we could still see several high mountain glaciers.
More high mountain glaciers.
From the high point of 3,520 foot Chilkat Pass, it was a long steep downhill to the Chilkat River valley and sea level in Haines.  We will be in Haines for a few days and will then take Opus on the ferry for a one hour ride to Skagway, a ride that will save 350 miles of driving.  We sure hope the roads are better the rest of the way south.  We are keeping our fingers crossed.


Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Another great post! Love the May July comparison posts.

Smitty said...

We saw your rig at the waterfront park, as we returned from a day trip to Skagway. The Honda was nowhere to be seen, so we did not stop to say Hi! Left Yesterday to drive to Whitehorse, for an appointment to have the CRV front suspension looked over from a new sound. (Turned out to be a rock between the front left disc and the backing plate, so nothing major.)

We ran from Haines, to just South of the border at Beaver Creek, filling up at Young's on the way. The next day we stopped at the Heritage Kluane sign, overlooking Katherine Lake. No 'No Camping' signs, and it was a great view on hard asphalt - kind of nice for a change.

I had no luck the next day as we went thru US Customs coming down the mountain towards Haines. Tried to get the US Customs to confiscate the 300 LBS of muck/dirt/gravel on the coach and CRV - but they would not oblige me by removing it:)! We did have two CRV fog lights knocked out on this stretch. I did not tape the with blue tape as I should have. Drove pretty much the same as we did last time, slow and easy in the rough and construction areas, also stopping to let others pass us, or the big trucks blow by us in both directions.

Sorry we missed you, as I recall you're taking the same ferry over we rode as passengers, and then up thru Skagway?

We'll leave Whitehorse Thursday, heading towards Junction 37 area, to pick up the Cassier.

We'll keep and eye out for you. Travel safe, and enjoy Haines. We were very lucky on our way out, as the weather was clear for the ride out that great stretch back up towards Haines Junction. It was pretty rainy the day we came in.

And complements to your blog, and great shots!

Greg & Deb 'Smitty'

Chuck and Jan Moore said...

Good Grief! That section of road was terrible! It wasn't good last year but nothing like what you experienced. Still....Alaska is so amazing. Your photos are wonderful. We're sure enjoying your posts. Hugs, C&J