Posts Tagged ‘freezing’

Camping in the forest

31st December 2010 by Helen

[29th December]  Not long after we got up this morning a US Department of Agriculture Forestry Officer (not sure if I’ve got his title right there) stopped to speak to us.  Clint McCaffrey was a lovely man.  He told us a little about his unusual family and we told him what we were doing and why.  He explained that the particular rest area where we had stopped is on Forestry land and run by the Forestry department.  Unfortunately the campsite at that rest area had already closed for the winter but he gave us directions to another one that remains open all winter, a few miles back the way we had come, near a town called Superior.  After cooking breakfast we headed off, found Superior, bought some supplies, found the campsite (called Trout Creek campground), found some wood, got a nice fire going in the fire pit and cooked dinner (on the petrol stove), before settling down to an early night for a change.  While putting the tent up, horror of horrors, after all the kerfuffle with USDA in Seattle, we discovered some dried grass seed and mud on our ground tent!  Brought all the way from Mongolia!!  Oops (we dealt with it appropriately of course).

[30th December]  Next day we pottered around the campsite for a bit but it was very cold.  Nothing much seemed to be working.  It’s too cold for batteries to work, pens are not writing either, frost is forming on the inside of the tent (we watched it rise up the side of the tent even as we sat with the stove on keeping ‘warm’), batteries are not working, and everything else is frozen or freezing.

[31st December]  Waking this morning Paul found the petrol stove wouldn’t light, the only water we have that is not frozen is in the thermos flask, and even that is already forming ice crystals, and, as before, nothing else much was working either.  There was no point in staying any longer.  In fact, if anything, it was dangerous.  Sure, we’d been warm enough in our nice warm arctic sleeping bags during the night but with the stove playing up and now having to defrost all our water we were not going to get anything much else done other than survival.  It was no contest.  We both agreed it was time to move on.  After a short walk in the forest, we made one last feeble fire (to burn our rubbish) before getting Landy’s engine started.  Mind you, that was a job and a half.  With our cooking oil solidifying in its bottle it wasn’t hard to imagine the effect of the cold on the oil in the engine.  With the thermometer not working we had no idea what the temperature was but didn’t think it was quite cold enough for the diesel to be waxing.  The starter motor had been playing up for a while and continued to do so.  The batteries were already depleted, purely due to the cold, and Paul was wary of wasting what precious little power they had left.  Paul took off the front of the air intake and handed me a can of fly spray.  As he cranked the engine, I listened for when it fired and simultaneously sprayed the fly spray straight into the air intake.  The trick worked.  The butane in the spray did its trick and Landy’s engine fired up, held on and kept running.  We were both relieved not to be facing a seven mile walk back to Superior.

And so it was, both reluctantly and thankfully, we were back on the road again.  Wondering this time what the new year would bring.

Frozen scenes on the Alaskan Highway

10th November 2010 by Helen
frozen scenery

frozen scenery

We both woke feeling it was a bit chilly this morning.  Hardly surprising considering it was minus 17 degrees C outside!!  Worse was to come as once we passed through the border into Canada the temperature dropped to minus 20 degrees.  The coldest either of us has ever known.  Even so it didn’t feel cold in a warm heated car, or outside where there was no wind to add in a wind chill factor.  Not like in England then!!  The camera felt the cold though and refused to work at this temperature, so no campsite piccies.

frozen river

frozen river

Passing into Canada we have changed from US gallons and road signs in miles to litres and road signs in kilometres.  It seems though that the Canadians are as schizophrenic about their metric measurements as the English – most people still refer to miles and some still to gallons.  The border itself was fairly easy, the guard listened to our story of delivering a car for someone in Florida and after checking our papers we were waved on.

beside a frozen river

beside a frozen river

The road has become much more bumpy and on a few occasions we find ourselves airborne!!  The scenery is amazing with snow topped mountains, the lakes and rivers are often frozen or partially frozen.  Particularly as darkness falls we marvel at the ice crystals glittering on top of the snow and it reminds us of the old Christmas cards with snowy winter scenes and glitter.  Or should that be the other way round: the Christmas cards reflect the real snowy scenes!

Footprints in the snow

Footprints in the snow

Footprints in the snow

Footprints in the snow

We’ve not seen any wild animals yet, apart from their footprints in the snow both yesterday and today.  But we do see a pick up parked beside the road with steam coming from his bonnet.  Although he was facing the other direction we turned around to see if we could help.  Just minutes before we’d come along he’d hit an elk on the road and now was going nowhere fast.  Memories of our own incident of hitting a horse in Siberia loomed large and we were more than happy to give him and his two little girls (aged 2 and 3) a lift home, about 8 km back the way we’d come.  Coming back that way we paused to peer at the elk, dead in the ditch, not sure if that counts as seeing a wild animal!!  Before long the man we have just helped will be back with a friend and a tow truck, taking the elk with them to fill the freezer.

Route – Northway Junction / Beaver Creek / White River / Burwash Landing / Destruction Bay / Haines Junction / Canyon / Whitehorse / Jake’s Corner / camp at Johnson’s Crossing

Reversing down the Alaska Highway

9th November 2010 by Helen
We joined the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction ready to travel south

We joined the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction ready to travel south

Waking up this morning we cooked up our sausages on our small stove.  Seemed to take forever in the below freezing temperatures.

The campsite is really well catered for in the summer season.  There is a log cabin for public use.  Peering through the windows, we could see a wood stove for heating, a large area set aside for kitchen facilities, big pine table and plenty of seating.  The mezzanine floor is presumably available for sleeping.  We would have loved to have had a look inside but it was already padlocked shut for the winter.  As well as plenty of benches for day campers there were sturdy braziers for BBQs and wood in the wood pile under the porch of the log cabin.  Campers pitch their tents in among the trees.  The launch for the boats is easy to access and runs straight into the lake from the campsite.

We took a short walk around the edge of the campsite looking at all the animal tracks.  Clearly the four-legged hunters had been out and active while we had been asleep.  In amongst the trees was evidence of the squirrels feasting on the pine nuts they’d found.  The surface of the lake itself was rock hard and we could see where fishermen had been down there and drilled holes in the ice to go fishing.  Tyre tracks across parts of the ice suggested the depth of the ice was pretty thick.

Explaining the history of the Alaska Highway

Explaining the history of the Alaska Highway

Sorry to have to rush away we cleared up and headed south again. 

The change in Landy’s plans mean we have to negotiate one of the bureaucratic challenges of travelling again.  In this case it means we have to find an attorney as a matter of urgency to get the power of attorney signed so our US agent can act on our behalf with Customs.  So, we had to stop at the next main town on our route, which was Delta Junction.  No signs to be found anywhere for Lawyers or ‘Notaries’.  The teenagers working in the garage don’t seem to know what an attorney, lawyer or notary is (maybe that’s a good thing, least they won’t already have had to use the services of one in their short lives so far), but they do direct us to the court house who have the power to act as a notary and we got our POA signed.  Then it’s off to the library to get it faxed!!

We hope we don't meet one of these in this manner - not so forgiving as the hind quarters of a horse

We hope we don't meet one of these in this manner - not so forgiving as the hind quarters of a horse

Delta Junction is famed for it being the end of the Alaska Highway, built in just 8 months by the US army in response to security concerns raised by the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1942.

From there we made good time down through Tok (pronounced like ‘oak’ with a t on the front) and camped just short of the Alaskan-Canadian border.  Temperatures still below freezing day and night (average minus 7 C).

Route: Delta Junction / Tok / camped just short of the Alaskan/Canadian border