Leaving Fairbanks and Alaska with the Colorado Traveling Ducks

We are heading home??  What?? There is so much more to see.   We ducks do not want to go home yet.   Our moms say, don’t worry.   We will stop often on the way home to see different things than last year.   And a few of our favorites that we want to experience again.   OK.  Leaving Chena Hot Springs, our first stop is Salcha, Alaska at The Knotty Shop.

The Knotty Shop.

This is a great store, featuring items made in Alaska.   The name, Knotty Shop, comes from the knots or bumps (burls) on the trees.   Last year we stopped here so you can read more about it in older posts.   This year we purchased some clothing, t-shirts, sweats, and socks.   Also another Ulu knife.   A hand carved wooden basket, jewelry, Alaskan made jam and, of course, ice cream cones.  Lots of time shopping, so we spent the night at Alaska Steakhouse and Motel in Delta Junction, Alaska.

Alaska Steakhouse and Motel in Delta Junction, Alaska

At Delta we officially began driving on the Alaska Highway.

Heading southeast on Alaska Highway toward Canada

Beautiful scenery as we head toward the Canadian Yukon Territory.   We stopped at roadside rest areas often.

Roadside pullout. Great areas for walking and enjoying scenery.

Stopped to appreciate the breathtaking views.   Also, Chloe likes to get out of the car and do a little exploring.   So do the humans.   While driving, as we completed a curve in the road we startled a black bear and he ran down a path into the woods.   He was so cute to watch.   Of course, too fast to get a photo.   We arrived in Tok, Alaska, the last Alaskan town on the Alaska Highway.

Burnt Paw gift shop. Tok, Alaska

Our first stop was the Burnt Paw.   This is a great gift shop, a snack area, motel with cabins, and source of eqipment for dog sleds.

Tok, Alaska. Burnt Paw

Isn’t this a great dog sled at the store entrance?  More shopping.  Souvenirs, gifts and treats for Chloe.   Next stop in Tok was Fast Eddies.

Fast Eddies in Tok, Alaska

We stopped for food and it was delicious.   Since it was Mother’s Day, Fast Eddies was treating mothers to free dessert cupcakes.

Mother’s Day complementary dessert from Fast Eddie

We had Red Velvet and Lemon Meringue cupcakes.   Very tasty and we enjoyed them.   Thanks Fast Eddie!  Continuing toward the Yukon, we crossed the Tanana River a few times.

Tanana River in Alaska

We like this river.   You may remember last June we rode on the Tanana River while on Riverboat Discovery in Fairbanks.  We have arrived in the Yukon.

Enter Canada’s Yukon Territory

We cleared US and Canadian customs.   We stayed in Beaver Creek in the Yukon.   Beaver Creek RV and Motel was our home for the night.  Camping is a very popular way to travel but we prefer to stay in hotels.   At the campground we did enjoy these carved statues of early pioneers.

Historic figures in campground

The Visitor’s Center is across the street.

Yukon Visitor’s Center

The lady there was very friendly.   She even invited Chloe, Soapy Smith Duck’s dog, to come inside.  She likes dogs and told us about her sled dogs.   She told us much about Beaver Creek now and about Beaver Creek in the past.   Very interesting.   She suggested we stop at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church built around quonset hut

Isn’t it a quaint little church?   This church was built around a quonset hut left over from the days of the Alaska Highway construction.   Please take a little time to explore any town you visit.   We always find some interesting and unexpected things.

Still Diving North. Still Daily Snow with the Colorado Traveling Ducks

Yesterday’s snow and icy roads, the worst of the trip has ended.  We arrived at Haines Junction, in the Canadian Yukon.

Haines Junction, Yukon. Love the sign

And yes, you can drive to the Alaskan port city of Haines from here.   But we did not.   We are trying to get to Fairbanks or North Pole, Alaska to hire a new realtor.   Our motel in Haines Junction was very comfortable and had a good bar and restaurant nearby.

Alcan Motel in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, Canada

So we were all happy.   We ordered our dinner and ate in our rooms.   We were exhausted.    Refreshed after a good night’s sleep, driving north, we met a new friend.

Canadian grizzly bear

This Canadian grizzly bear was too busy grazing to pay much attention to us, but we sure admired him.   That bump on his back is typical of grizzly bears, or so says our guidebook.  They can be ferious, but he looks so sweet and hugable.   This partially frozen lake caught our attention.

A winter wonderland

We love to see the winter landscape.   We just don’t love the cold.   Driving past Canadian customs, we have arrived in Alaska, USA.   There are several monuments and signs here.   The Welcome to Alaska.   Looking the other direction, the Welcome to the Yukon, and this friendship bench.

Friendship bench

Canada and the United States have been friends for years, so this bench is a nice place to pause and enjoy the view.   The International Boundary Post shows the actual border, marked by the suveyors.  Before the Alaska Highway, the borders were not so clearly marked.  We quicky cleared US customs and we continued north toward Delta Junction.

Delta Junction, Alaska. Official end of he Alaska Highway

This milepost in Delta Junction marks the official end of the Alaska Highway.  From here there is a main road heading south to Anchorage and Valdez.  Valdez is the end of the Alaska Pipeline, which carries oil from the fields of Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean to Port Valdez on the east side of Prince William Sound.   Here ships wait to carry crude oil into the Pacific Ocean and to various world ports.   Also at Delta Junction, you can drive on the Richardson Highway and go north to Fairbanks.   That is the route we drove.   We were in Delta Junction the first week of May and the Visitor’s Center was not yet open.   Many businesses along our route are only open during the warmer months.   At the Delta Junction Visitor’s Center they have lots of information signs outside.   And this statue of a giant mosquito.   Alaska does have giant mosquitos.   But since the center is not yet open, this mosquito is not yet in its best form.   This photo from last year shows what the mosquito will look like soon.

Mosquitos.

Well, we are only hours away from our next hotel in Fairbanks.

Heading north to Fairbanks, Alaska

Heading down the road, we will reach our Fairbanks destination tonight.

Driving the Alaska Highway with the Colorado Traveling Ducks

Ready to drive the Alaska Highway?   Here, in Delta Junction, Alaska, the Alaska Highway, or Alcan (Alaska Canada Highway) officially ends.

Alaska Canada Highway

But for us, it is just beginning.

Ready to start on Alaska Highway

We bought this blue Jeep from Eider’s dad’s estate near Fairbanks.  Now we are driving it home to Colorado.   Yesterday Eider and I took Soapy and his mom to Santa’s House and then to the Knotty Shop.   This morning our first stop is the Visitor’s Center in Delta Junction.

Welcome Center and gift shop

Those are gold dredge buckets in front of the building, by the flower pots.  This is also a gift shop.   Great wood plaques.

Lots of wood

Outside we saw these giant mosquitos.

Mosquitos.

Again, Alaska has big mosquitos, but thankfully, not this huge.   This is the official start of the Alaska Highway for our trip.

Alaska Highway

Our adventure begins.   Now the highway is paved all the way.   Didn’t used to be paved.   Really hard on tires and windshields then.   We are told there are enough gas stations, but always stop.   The next one might be closed.   Several campgrounds and some motels.  A couple times we quickly stopped as huge Alaskan moose crossed the road.   They were too quick for us to get cameras.  The terrain was hilly with mountains to the south, toward Valdez and the end of the TransAlaskan Pipeline.   Best part was only seeing another vehicle every 15-30 minutes.   So peaceful.  About 200 miles (500 km) from Delta Junction, we reached the Canadian border.   We will enter Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Welcome to Canada’s Yukon Territory

This is the first time for us ducks to visit Canada.   The humans were here before we joined the family.   We are sitting on the Friendship Bench.

Friendship Bench

Americans and Canadians are friends.   We see the International Boundary stake, showing the 20 foot (6 meter) path cut by surveyors from 1904 to 1920 along the 141st meridian.

International boundary

And for those entering Alaska, this sign is a must stop.

Welcome to Alaska

Of course, we had to sit under this sign also.  Isn’t this a beautiful lake, and at the international border.

Love the lake near international boundary

We love these views.   Driving another 10 miles, we stop at the official customs station.   The official was very nice and efficient.   We decided to stop in the first Canadian town.   This is Beaver Creek.   Our Alaska travel planner, The Milepost, says Beaver Creek is the most westerly Canadian community.   This is our motel, 1202 Motor Inn.

Our motel 1202 Motor Inn

Soapy and his mom like the room totally dark for sleeping.   That is hard to do with the long summer days.   There are only a few hours of darkness in the summer.   Mom and I like more windows and some light.   Soapy had a room in the front, with no windows.   Mom and I had a room in the back with windows.

Our room

This is actually a trailer attached to the building.   We were all happy.  Looking across the street, we loved these snow covered mountains.

From front of our hotel

After walking around town, then eating dinner, we slept really well.   Tomorrow we will see more of the Canadian Yukon.

The Alaska Pipeline with Zeb and Eider Duck

Today Eider Duck wants to show us the famous Alaska Pipeline.   Remember, Eider lived with his dad in North Pole, Alaska, near Fairbanks.   He knows what the tourists wanted to see.   A few miles north of Fairbanks, at Fox, Alaska, we can see and touch the pipeline.   But first, a little about the famous Alaska Pipeline.  The real name is Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).

Alaska Pipeline Facts

The pipeline was built to transport oil from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, north of Arctic Circle and near the Arctic Ocean, to the ice free port of Valdez.  This was a very big engineering accomplishment in the 1970’s.

Zeb and Eider on the Alaska Pipeline

While this looks like the pipeline is rather low to the round, it isn’t.   Mom could hardly reach this ledge for us to sit.   This pipeline is 800 miles (1300 km) long.  An average of 1.5 million barrels of oil are transported through the pipeline every day.   It takes 11.9 days to reach Valdez.   The oil travels at 3.7 miles per hour (6 kilometers per hour).   There is a constant need to clean the inside of the pipe.

Pigs in the Pipeline

Items, called pigs, are put in the pipeline at Prudhoe Bay, for cleaning and other maintenance reasons.   Let’s look at the original and the current pigs.

Retired Pig and Current Pig

They have made changes since 1977.  The pipeline is elevated to protect the frozen ground.  Oil from the ground enters the pipeline at 120 degrees F (49C).   The oil cools to 111 degrees (44C) while traveling through the pipeline.    Permanently frozen ground is called permafrost.   If this permafrost thaws, the ground becomes unstable.   This is not good.  The pipe is insulated to keep the ground cold and release the heat into the air.   Also, moose, caribou, and reindeer migrate through much of northern Alaska.   These large animals must be able to walk under the pipeline.   An Alaskan moose is often 6 feet tall.   Sometimes the pipeline is underground.

Pipeline emerging from underground

Here we can see the underground pipe breaking through the earth’s surface and continuing above ground.   When the pipeline is above ground, it has a zig zag pattern.   This zig zag layout allows for movement in the line, caused by heat, weather conditions and earthquakes.   This part of the Alaska Pipeline is south of Delta Junction, about 120 miles from Valdez.

Pipeline  Photo from internet free photos.

From the hill, you can see the zig zag pattern of the pipeline, heading toward the mountains.  Before building the pipeline, a 360 mile road from the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay, needed to be built.   This road is used by excellent truck drivers, all year, to carry supplies to the people working in Prudhoe Bay.   The frozen area, north of the Arctic Circle, is difficult for construction.   The frigid winter temperatures, ice, wind, and snow, make living and driving conditions very difficult.   We, the Colorado Traveling Ducks and humans are in awe of those that built, maintain and work in these conditions.