Returning to Alaska for Summer 2023

After we spent 5 months in Alaska in 2016, we knew we had to come back. It was so incredible. Finally on May 8, 2023 we headed north from Chilliwack, British Columbia to Haines, Alaska, arriving on May 12, 2023. It feels so good to be back. This first leg of our summer journey took us 5 days (1,873 miles) through some of the most incredible scenery and wildlife – with overnight stops at Quesnel BC, Dawson Creek BC, Toad River BC, and Little Atlin Lake, YT.

Day 1 to Quesnel gave us beautiful and varied scenery along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers on mostly 2 lane highways with well positioned passing lanes. Only minor delays around a few flooded areas and some smoke and haze from the wildfires burning in Alberta. (Sorry about the bugs on the windscreen – we do clean at the end of each day)

Day 2 to Dawson Creek was sunny but the smoke haze continued to build which you can see in some of the photos. We got to see the first of the wildlife – Elk, Mule Deer and nesting Trumpeter Swans but not close enough to photograph.

Day 3 from Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway to Mile 422 at Toad River, BC was beautiful, warm and sunny. Judging by the leaves on the Aspen trees we moved in and out of spring several times. So much more wildlife today including Mule Deer, Black Bear, Caribou, Big Horn Sheep, Beaver and a variety of birds. Encountered some very BIG mosquitoes – fortunately not all were biting yet.

Day 4 to Little Atlin Lake near Jake’s Corner, YT was our longest day of driving – 10 hours. Toad River to Liard is a gorgeous section. The wildlife put on quite a show for us with multiple sightings of most – Big Horn Sheep, Stone Sheep, Porcupine, Caribou, Moose, Black Bear, Wood Bison. The Watson Lake Signpost Forest (Mile 635), started in 1942, has certainly grown since we last saw it.

Day 5 of our drive to Haines, Alaska was from Little Atlin Lake, YT through Haines Junction, YT to the Oceanside RV Campground on the water in Haines. We stopped in Whitehorse at Mac’s Fireweed Books on Main St. for a copy of The Milepost (2023) as we forgot ours and this was the first place that had it in stock since we crossed into Canada in April. Lesson learned: never be without Milepost. What amazing snow capped mountains to Haines Junction and then Haines – one of the most beautiful drives on the continent. Kluane National Park and Reserve is majestic. Fewer bugs on the windscreen, probably because of the intermittent rain.

Oceanside RV Park is our new home, right on the shores of the Lynn Canal, North America’s longest fjord. We have amazing ocean and mountain views right out of our windscreen. Some mornings we wake up to humpback whales and thousands of scoters diving for mussels. Aa few Bald Eagles are always perched nearby. And local fisherman sell us their fresh catches.

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Translated from the German means Stumbling Stone.

The COVID delayed Paris to Prague River Cruise with Viking eventually happened. On a guided tour of Bamberg in Germany the guide pointed out these Stolpersteins. I must confess the concept of the Stolperstein and the research and caring that must have taken place, so long after the events I found really moving. Pulled at my heart strings.

A Stolperstein is a concrete cube with a brass plate that is placed in the pavement outside of the last residence or workplace that was freely chosen by the person before they fell victim to the Nazi terrors. Their name, date of birth, deportation, destination and date of their death, where known, are inscribed by hand into the brass plate.

The Stolperstein project was created by a German artist, Gunter Demming in 1992. The majority of the Stolpersteins commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but they also commemorate other peoples who were sent to the prison and extermination camps.

Stopelstein Bamberg

This distributed memorial is primarily a “grassroots” project and the research is often performed by schoolchildren and their teachers or residents of a particular street. In this way the victims names are remembered and never to be forgotten.

To date over 75,000 Stolperstein have been installed in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic and Hungary – other countries occupied by Nazi Germany.

Each Stolperstein is still hand made to prevent the process from becoming anonymous.

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Shetland Ponies

The Shetland Islands are the most northerly part of Scotland, and the windiest. The Shetland pony originated in the Shetland Islands and has lived there for more than 4000 years. They are the smallest of the pony breeds found in the UK but the most immediately recognizable of all equine breeds. They are easily tamed, wonderfully hardy, sagacious and surefooted.

They are the most wonderful example of adaptation to the environment and of natural selection. Their small size, thick double layered winter coat, neat ears and protective tails, manes and forelocks all combine to produce a pony of incredible hardiness to withstand the worst of Shetland’s winter storms and able to find food and shelter in heath and rocky strewn hills in the windiest part of the UK. So the scarcity of food, the need to conserve heat in spite of the wind and the effects of being an isolated population have combined to ensure that the smaller, more compact ponies have survived the best.

As we learned when visiting a wild horse ranch in Wyoming a few years ago, wild horses rely on mutual grooming for a variety of beneficial reasons. And so do Shetland ponies, with the young ones imitating their elders.

Throughout their history they have been used for transport and carrying heavy loads. They can pull up to twice their weight; most horses can pull less than 30% their weight. In the past when their owners did not have enough food to feed them, they were marked for ownership and set loose to run wild. Nowadays all ponies are chipped for ownership.

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Cake Fridges and Honesty Boxes in Shetland

Honesty boxes have been used in a wide range of situations for many years, in various countries around the globe. Often found in rural areas, it is a way to sell surplus produce such as eggs, vegetables, fruit, meat and more. It relies on the fact that most people behave honestly and, in fact, some show their appreciation by leaving tips and posting reviews.

In 2012 a new twist appeared from Hayfield Croft Produce in Bixter, Shetland called “The Cake Fridge”, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Multiple fridges are stocked daily with handmade cakes and bake goods. There is also a savoury and dessert fridge, a craft and gift area, alongside local seasonal produce and preserves. This has become so successful that in 2019 they opened a lovely tea room on the site, where you can enjoy homemade soup, sandwiches, coffee/tea and cakes. And those of you who are fans of the TV series “Shetland” will know that Jimmy Perez and Tosh stopped there for a snack.

The Original Cake Fridge is at East Burrafirth, Bixter, Mainland Shetland on the Voe to Aith Road.

Many of the Shetland Cake Fridges and Honesty Boxes are decorated in an eye-catching way on the roadside. Some have detailed information on Facebook (FB), so you can know what you might find before you visit.

Marina’s Kitchen Cabinet – Lochside, Papil, Burra, Mainland Shetland

Soap and Sweet near Hillswick, Mainland Shetland

Something Sweet – 106 St. Olaf Street in Lerwick

Yum Yum Cake Fridge – Brae – opposite the Brae Boating Club, Mainland Shetland

The homemade ice cream was delicious with real Cadbury Flake.

Picnic Press – near Levenwick, Mainland Shetland

Le Petit Cafe – Chez Simone – near Skaw on Unst, Shetland

Now we will be on the lookout for similar roadside delicacies everywhere we travel. Let us know what you find too.

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Leadfield – It Was then It Wasn’t

Photograph of Geology in Death Valley National Park

Leadfield was a town, deep in the Grapevine Mountains in Death Valley National Park, that was born and went bust within a 12 month period in 1926. Peviously some copper ore and lead ore deposits had been discovered here, claims had been filed, but the quality of the ore was low and very remote, so nothing happened until 1924.

In 1924 there was increased interest in the lead deposits. Jack Salsberry formed a company called Western Lead Mines, he bought twelve of the claims and staked forty more for himself. Salsberry set two teams to work. One team dug prospect holes in the area and the other made the 20 mile road from Beatty through the Grapevine mountains – today this was a beautiful drive.

In 1926 Charles Julian took control of Western Lead Mine from Salsberry and had great plans for Leadfield. Knowing how to market and improve the value of his stock, he encouraged potential investors to visit Titus Canyon. The road from Beatty had been completed by then so some investors drove in, but most came on the fifteen coach special Southern Pacific train to Ludlow. Then an engine from the Tonopah & Tidewater railway brought them to Beatty where a filet of cars brought them to leadfield.

Having made this journey, they were welcomed by a band and sat down to a great lunch. Within weeks 330,000 shares had been bought in the company. The stock price rose from $1,57 to $3.30.

Leadfield was on the map. In April 1926 the town was mapped out with 1,749 lots in 93 blocks. A local paper, the Leadfield Chronicle started printing. Business startedup and advertised in the Chronicle. A post office opened on 25th June.

However some of the problems started taking effect. The nearest water supply was 2.5 miles away. Charles Julian was being investigated for securities irregularities. For the Western Lead Mine company, there was no lead!

The post office closed on 31st December that year.

There are some remnants of Leadfield’s hey day. This is an historic place, in the middle of nowhere in Death Valley National Park and it shouts to me “Black and White” – see below:

Cabin and Tailings
Mine Entrance and Tailings Leadfield
Exploratory Mine and Tailings
The Post Office
Miner’s Cabin
Mine Camp View

Equipment: Nikon Z 9, Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S, Sony Digital Film, PhotoShop and Nik Plugins, Land Rover Defender for transportation.

#Z9 #NikonLove #MirrorLess #NikonCreators #DeathValleyNationalPark #Leadville #LandRoverDefender

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