I visited the North Pole by Barbara Edwards

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I did. I visited the North Pole.

Alaska that is. And I loved the small town located in the far north past Fairbanks.

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Normally my  husband doesn’t like to browse through stores, but I hated to be leaving Fairbanks, knowing we’d be returning south. And he thought the North Pole would make me laugh.IMG_0023

 

 

 

 

Oh it did. the place is a tourist’s delight. The streets are decorated with giant candy canes, the stores are all Christmasy and the restaurant we stopped in for breakfast had IMG_0026murals of winter and Christmas painted on the walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped at the main store and bought Christmas ornaments and talked to Santa.IMG_0025

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey of the Magi is available: http://amzn.com/B00ES5DZEQ

Journey of the Magi excerpt:

“Is that job still open?”

“I need a waitress.” His rich voice woke tingles of awareness that she’d forgotten, or maybe never knew.

“Is that a yes or a no?” she asked impatiently. These unfamiliar feelings were scary and unwelcome. She was too tired to be diplomatic and this job was too important.

“What are you going to do with them?” He jutted his chin toward her children.

“I, I d-d-don’t know,” Noel stammered before she slumped onto the nearest stool. Leaning forward onto her elbows, she looked at her clasped hands. “I didn’t plan that far.”

“Humph!”

Noel watched his long, strong fingers dexterously polish another glass. His wide palms held the heavy restaurant-ware like fine china. He had nice hands, a gentle touch. Instinct murmured he’d be as careful with a woman.

“I guess I should move on. I…”

“Could keep the kids next to the kitchen, there’s a place there. Then if they needed you, you’d be right close.” His deep voice was like an angel’s song.

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Journey of the Magi blurb:

Widow Noel Martin never breaks promises, and she promised her kids they’d have Christmas at her childhood home in Connecticut. But driving across country takes money. Noel is broke when a snowstorm blows them into a tiny Minnesota café owned by a man who can change her mind. She accepts his offer of a job. Despite her attraction to him, she makes it clear she is only temporary help.

Dan Longstreet isn’t adopting any more strays, but he needs a waitress. Dan works so hard to make his café a success, he doesn’t have time for love. Though Noel’s slender blonde beauty stuns him and her two adorable children tug at his heart, he denies how they threaten to change his life.

When tragedy strikes, their new-found love is the first victim. Noel can’t stay and Dan can’t leave. Will their journey be the gift that reunites them?

At the Arctic Circle by Barbara Edwards

Are we going to the Arctic Circle today? Maybe. We’ve checked the weather reports and it is partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms this afternoon.

Dalton Highway
Dalton Highway

It’s a 200 mile drive. Not much distance on a normal day, but the road to Prudhoe Bay is not your normal road.

It’s made for trucks and the winter has damaged it. Heaves, mud, potholes and loose gravel are a few of the hazards. Trucks have the right-of-way always.

And you can’t drive to the Arctic Ocean. It is fenced off. You must take a bus and get security

clearance before you can go. That takes time and we didn’t know, so that part of the trip is out.

So we’ll drive up to the Dalton Highway and see what it looks like from there. How far we get depends on a number of factors.

Alaska Pipeline
Alaska Pipeline

The Alaskan pipeline is right outside town. It’s not like I pictured. It’s a shiny pipe about four feet wide on stilts. It doesn’t look controversial.

The Elliot highway is rough as the ocean. Up and down over frost heaves. The landscape is changing. Scrub pine, birch and alder crowd the road. Fewer and fewer mail boxes. The mountains are rounded but high. Not much traffic right now. I keep feeling like we’ve dropped into another space. It feels empty,  not abandoned, but without human prescence.

There’s mosquitos swarming whenever we slow, but patches of snow remain along the road. And we’re not to the Dalton Highway yet.

Alaska
Alaska

At the Dalton highway, the road is no longer paved. It is a mixture of gravel and clay that sticks to the vehicle with the poer of superglue. It is a mud brown, of course and we are covered with it.

The pipeline runs along the road or vise-versa. I stare at the stunted black spruce and then the 120,000 acre burn that occured two years ago. Cause by lightning, it jumped from place to place. The traffic is almost non-existent. Mostly big rigs and a few tour buses. I’m impressed by the bridge over the Yukon River made of wood. Heck, I’m impressed by the Yukon River. All those stories of prospectors and miners heading North repeat in my mind.

Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle

We stop at Finger Rock for a photo, then proceed.

The 200 miles takes us seven hours. With a posted speed limit of 50mph, we crept along at 35 mph because of the slick mud and potholes. Not a ride for the faint-hearted.

When we reach the Arctic Circle, Bill looks around “Is this it?” he asks. I take a couple photos and laugh.

Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle

There’s nothing but scrub and distant mountains. We debate starting the drive back, but Bill is tired. We are equipped to dry camp. And I don’t want him risking injury.

We’ll return tomorrow and spend a few hours removing the mud. Luckily, the campground  has an area to wash the vehicles. We’re not the first to drive out here.

Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle

 

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Finding Fairbanks by Barbara Edwards

Fairbanks, AL
Fairbanks, AL

Heading into Fairbanks. We stopped at the nicest campground. The gift shop had tons of decently priced Alaskan articles and we did buy stuff for the boys.

My daughter, Theresa P.

Fairbanks, AK
Fairbanks, AK

Stark lived in Fairbanks and worked at the hospital.

 

Fairbanks, AK
Fairbanks, AK

The place is among white birches and Alder on the banks of the Sistern River. Beautiful country, although the pine trees are short- look like they grow on the tree-line. Lots of people live here but the houses aren’t visible from the highway. I count mailboxes at each road or drive and there are several at each

I’m feeling a little sad. Fairbanks is not the end of our journey, but it does signal the end of the leg north in Alaska. We are debating the next goal. Up to the Arctic Circle? Dawson? Too many options to choose from it seems.

I didn’t get into the history of Fairbanks. It was on the gold trail and a major stopping point. You’ll have fun looking up the details yourself.

The longer we’re here, the more I like it. Despite the tough winters with 40 degree below zero weather, I wish I’d know about it 20 years ago. I’d have moved here.

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Day at Denali by Barbara Edwards

Denali
Denali

Denali finally. We waited three days for the rain to clear before heading out this morning. It’s going to reach the 70s with a bright sunny sky. Denali is the Indian name for the region. Mt McKinley is 20,230 feet high and growing 34 of an inch each year.

I’m so excited. There is a photo turnoff and I get my first clear view of the mountains ahead. I can’t talk. My mouth is hanging open. Is that the Mountain? If not its huge anyway. Denali is the native Indian name for the region. Mt. McKinley is 20,230 feet high and growing 34 of an inch each year,

 

Denali
Denali

Signs warning of moose crossing the road are frequent. It is low, wet forest along here. Lots of yound birch and aspen.

The drive towards Denali is long. Soon the land belongs to the government. I’m disappointed because we see little wildlife. A few caribous are in the park, but the photos are too distant.

The road into the park is 80 miles long and only the first twenty drivable with a car. A bus must take you on a 12 hour ride back and forth.  Hiking is the only real option to see the interior.

 

Denali
Denali

Bill and I have decided most of the trip has been fun. Some parts boring since neither of us can hike the trails. I have the binoculars for spotting  animals. He’s had two knee replacements and doesn’t take chances. I get out of breath with exertion.

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Impressed by Anchorage by Barbara Edwards

Anchorage AK
Anchorage AK

Somehow I managed to delete my post about leaving Whittier for Anchorage. What can I say—after several towns and many mountains it’s hard to remember details.
I am fascinated by the glaciers that appear along the road to Anchorage. And the surrounding mountains.

 

 

Anchorage, AK
Anchorage, AK

The city is widely spread out and has all the amenities of every other large city. Our campground is on the edge and we can drive around easily. What to do is the question. The weather is lousy. Drizzly and cool, it sucks the warmth from my Florida bones.

 

 

Anchorage
Anchorage, AK
Anchorage, AK

So we’re going to the zoo. I might not get another chance to see much of the local wildlife. I’ve found that a zoo is a great way to judge a city and this one is no exception. The place is beautiful with wide paths winding through trees and low scrub. Each animal looks healthy and well-cared-for even though most of them are here because they were injured in the wild and unable to return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wasilla
Wasilla

We want to see Denali and drive on, stopping in Wasilla. A fairly large town, it has five miles of stores and businesses on the main road. We camp here for three days of rain. No point going on until we can see Mt. Whitney instead of clouds.

 

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A trip glitch by Barbara Edwards

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ImageOn the Kennicott going into Whittier. Its three thirty am and dawn is breaking. I’m always awakened by the light. I look outside at the water. The mountains rise like the ancient gods to terrible heights. Snow and ice glitter in the increasing light.

The voyage on the Kennicott is an adventure for a staid lady like me. This time we found lots of space in the Solarium on the lounge chairs to sleep. Of the 499 passenger capacity, there are about 200 and most took cabins. Image

How did we get here?

On our final leg across, the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system had to reschedule us. To my vast disappointment, we could get a ferry to Gustavus, but no return to Juneau for the Whittier leg. Fly the agent said casually. That is a common method of travel up here, but I really don’t do well in small cabin planes. And what about the dog and trailer. Oh well. I am flexible I assure myself. Then the leg to Sitka got awkward. 2 am boarding didn’t work out with a five day layover.

With Bill poking me, I asked why we couldn’t get on the ship leaving for Whittier right now. The agent gave me a smile, called the crew and said okay, go get on they have space. It meant leaving our lawn chair and water hose at the campground, but we saved ten days of potting around waiting for the next ferry out.

The dog is upset. He’s confined to the camper with six hour potty breaks.

ImageThe voyage lasts thirty-seven hours with a stop in Yakatak to unload people and cargo. A tiny island it makes me feel lonely to look at the shore.

The full day has us out of sight of land with four foot waves rocking the ferry despite the stabilizers. I can’t concentrate on writing and stare at the rough water. I’ve seen several whales, a pod of porpoises, an Orca and seals alongside the ship.

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We disembark in Whittier at six am and the adventure continues. I thought I’d missed the glaciers, but am stunned by the one hovering over the town. ????????????Wow. There are 26 glaciers within a day trip from Whittier.

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Juneau, The Capitol of Alaska by Barbara Edwards

Juneau, AK
Juneau, AK
Juneau, AK
Juneau, AK

 

Reached Juneau for our lay-over for the connection to Whittier. I planned a side-trip to Sitka and one to Gustavus, the site of Glacier Bay National Park to use part of the ten day wait. I really anticipate seeing Glaciers.
Juneau is large, spread along the coast from from the Ferry terminal.
There is a huge tidal area that is a wildlife refuge before we reach downtown. I can see the Tram up the side of the mountain. I hate to admit this one is too high for me. I don’t get seasick, but I do get vertigo from heights. Not my thing. The downtown area has cruise shops as well as the usual local businesses selling local items.
I realize that I am not a city person. The small towns have charmed me with their differences, but the cities seem to be strangely similar.

Juneau, AK
Juneau, AK

We find the campground at the Mendenhall State Park. We can see the Mendenhall Glacier and lake. I’m impressed by the beauty of the formation. The breeze off the ice is cool and the lake is cold from the melting snow and ice. I’m shocked at a group of teen-agers in the water. Yikes. I’m bundled in three layers and still chilled.
Probably why I’m not an Alaskan.

 

Juneau, AK
Juneau, AK

The Marine Highway calls and says to check changes in our schedule. The trip to Gustavus has been rescheduled one day early. Okay. Since we’re like turtles carrying our home with us, it doesn’t matter.
Bill loves to drive and the area is interesting. Juneau is backed by high mountains, fronted by an arm of the sea. Beautiful.
I notice the departure for Sitka is at two am. Not a good time for either of us, so we go back to the terminal.
The people who work for the Alaska Marine Highway are so nice and helpful. He agrees it is a poor time and gets on the computer to check for a better option. Bill and I watch the crew loading the Kennicott, on its way to Whittier,
Now what happened— when they rescheduled our leg to Gustavus, they cancelled the return trip. We can get there but not back to catch our scheduled trip to Whittier. The other trips to Sitka are totally booked. With the Columbia in for repairs, the boats are all rescheduled. With both trips not available, we have ten days to fill in an area famous for hiking, and winter sports. Not my thing either.
I give the agent my evil eye and ask if we can get on the ferry loading now. Bill pokes me in the ribs and says don’t give him a hard time. I shrug. What can it hurt.
The agent calls the loading crew. They agree, “Room for one more. Load now.”
I look at Bill. “So if we stay, we have to pay for ten days camping with not many options for us to tourist around. If we go, we can add on the days to the next leg.”

Juneau, AK
Juneau, AK

So we abandon the two lawn chairs and our water hose at the campsite and get on. He calls the campground to explain.

Aboard the Kennicott
Aboard the Kennicott

Keeno is unhappy. He doesn’t like pooping on the Ferry or being confined to the camper.

 

 

 

 

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Petersburg is a fishing town by Barbara Edwards

Petersburg
Petersburg

Petersburg- At the wharf we watch the container unloaded from the barges. Even boats are piled on the top. It’s the only way to transport goods here.

The town is on a small level bend in the Narrows.

 

 

Its a clean, neat place with lots of flowers and some of the houses painted with colors. Drove to the Beach Park and walked the beach.

The Salmon Fishing derby is going on and lots of boats are in the harbor and on the water.

There are totems and petroglyphs.

Petersburg
Petersburg

I’m not sure why the place seems so different. The houses are mostly small, well-kept and nice. The town has a very neat center with the post office, library, town hall within walking distance. Its 50 plus and the sun is shining.

The weighing station for the 33rd Annual Petersburg Salmon Derby is at the Harbor Master’s dock. In a cooler is the 44.7 pound leader. It’s enormous, but there might be one bigger by the end of the day.

I’m watching the fishermen launch small boats. The marina has more masts than the forest has trees.

Petersburg
Petersburg

We drove the eight blocks to the edge of the town. The fields are covered with stunted trees, not sure why.

Looking for a restaurant to try a local food, but nothing is open. It’s Sunday.

I finally realise why Petersburg is different. The town has no

Petersburg
Petersburg

section devoted to cruise ships. It is a working fishing village.

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Wrangell, Alaska is frontier country by Barbara Edwards

On to Wrangell.

House in the Narrows
House in the Narrows

Traveling up the  Narrows we pass a single house on an island mid-stream. The feeling of isolation is overwhelming. What person would spend time so far from everything? I have thought about light-house keepers, but this is different. A home so far from people.

The Narrows slip between rows of mountains. I know they are broken onto individual islans, but it’s hard to find the breaks.

Mountain view in the Narrows
Mountain view in the Narrows

Clouds hover low and sometimes I think its another mountain range, but it disappears. The sun is shining in a spotty manner.I can see it reflectied on the forest in one area and another it looks like it might be raining.

Wrangell
Wrangell

The forest is changing. More exposed rock, fewer trees. Still steep. A tiny strip of exposed beach along the shore.

And tow whales close enough to see but not photograph.

Snow caps the mountains more often than not. The breeze is chill.

We drove aboard in Ketchikan and backed into the front space to leave first. The ship id twenty feet below the dock and we drive up this steep ramp to exit. I’m nervous at heights and this is narrow.

Wrangell is a small place. Of  course I couldn’t find the campground even though I have to maps so I ask directions. The men laugh and say take a left then go down the road. It is easy to find the city camp ground. It’s on a small shelf above the water and the view is breathtaking. Wrangell reminds me of New England fishing villages. I  hope they don’t think that’s an insult since they’re very independent here. It has the boat repairs places, marinas filled with a variety of fishing vessels and the processing plant. The shore is the most noticeable. Broken black shale, boulders and driftwood logs are predominant. It looks like rough walking, but I’ll do some later. This is not a cruise town. The stores cater to the locals with a few for tourists that have real handmade items.

At the visitor’s center I find my local stone. Garnet Ledge is a boat ride across the bay in the national forest. Only kids are allowed to gather the garnets. They use hammers and chisels to pry them from the rock. They are imbedded in micashist, sparkly grey stone almost as pretty as the garnets. They had a variety of sizes but i got one still in the micashist. I’m not going to say what I paid or everyone would take a trip just to get them. The lady at the center recommended a place to grab lunch explaining we should split the plate since the servings are huge. She was right. I spoke to a local at the next table about her research on four generations of Tlinglits and the problems collecting stories from the older generation. I wish her good luck since it’s an important project.

In the evening we’re unwinding. Bill is complaining about the persistent rain and there is a knock at the door. The camper next door, a fisherman, brought us a platter of Dungeness Crab legs. Oh my. What can I say? They were delicious. It would have cost us a lot to get them in a restaurant and we had enough to stuff ourselves. Even Keeno got a couple bites. Fresh from the water, steamed and eaten, the flavor is indescribable. I’ll never have anything as tasty again.

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Ketchikan by Barbara Edwards

IMG_0087Ketchikan, last day. So what’s special? Mostly the people. They’re friendly, helpful and fun to talk with. The waitress told us about the Salmon fishing contest. She’s trying for the woman’s prize of $10,000. I hope she wins its three weekends of competition.

We drove the eitheen miles of road from end to end. Its a diverse area,IMG_0057 fishing, boarge and towing, lumber, the cruise ship dock with its resort bling, and at either end are the local homes. People have water cisterns catching the rain from the roof. Odd in an area with so much water.

It’s raining again today.

Creek Street
Creek Street

We walked on Creek street, the old bordello location until the 1950s. Now it’s a historical area, with a funicular up to the top of the mountain and a hotel.

I’m not disappointed because of the rain. It’s part of the charm. If I wanted sunny days I could go to the Caribbean. This is what I wanted to see. My country. It is the most beautiful on earth, believe me. I know because I’ve pushed foreign tourists out of the way to take my photos. Hehehe

If it weren’t cold, I’d be happier. The clouds hang low over the mountains. Sea planes take off every few minutes from the harbor area and the tourists are staying close to the cruise ships. We board the ferry early in the morning and are planning to park in the Marine Highway terminal overnight. The trip from Bellingham to Ketchikan was 616 miles.

 

IMG_0059 IMG_0090So I want to remember the story about the white black bears. Before reaching Ketchikan is an area with waterfalls, snow and steep forested walls. A local mentioned this is where they found the legendary white bear. Not an albino, but a black bear colored white. A National Geographic story in the 70s told the story and took photos. I have to research it.

Then there are the blue black bears. Another research subject.

I like the Asylum bar yesterday. The owner, from Brooklyn, and his family were so friendly. We stayed for hours. I had too much to drink. They let Keeno inside and he loved halibut nuggets and French fries.

Two whales are spotted near the ship. I can’t see them very well, but they do spout a little then dive with the tail up. What kind? I don’t know, but this is only the beginning.

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