4 Times In 4 Days: Russian Warplanes Buzz U.S. Coast Again

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4 Times In 4 Days: Russian Warplanes Buzz U.S. Coast Again

IL-38

 

WASHINGTON — Russian warplanes were detected flying near the U.S. coast for four straight days this week in what one American defense official called a “strategic messaging.”

Three of the incidents off Alaska’s coast involved TU-95s, which are strategic bombers and missile platforms capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

“This kind of cat-and-mouse stuff has been going on for a while now,” former State Department official Howard Stoffer told CNN.

Stoffer said he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin “is trying to put the U.S. on notice that the Russians are everywhere and are back to expanding the limits of expanding their military power.”

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On April 17, U.S. F-22 fighter jets intercepted two TU-95s 100 miles from Kodiak Island.

On April 18, a U.S. E-3 surveillance plane was scrambled because of another sighting of TU-95s 41 miles off the Alaskan coast.

On April 19, two IL-38 maritime patrol planes were seen.

On April 20, another flight by two TU-95s was reported. It was escorted by U.S. F-22s and Canadian CF-18s

The Russian planes never entered U.S. airspace, but the situation is dangerous because of the possibility of shots or missiles being accidentally fired.

“No one wants to go to war with the Russians, but let me double down on another concept: The Russians really don’t want to go to war with us,” retired Air Force General and former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden told CNN. “They are by far the weaker power.”

The Russian Defense Ministry released a statement saying that “all such missions are carried out in strict compliance with international regulations and with respect to national borders.”

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Russian Bombers Buzzed The U.S. Coast TWICE This Week (Once Within 41 Miles)

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Russian Bombers Buzzed The U.S. Coast Twice This Week (Once Within 41 Miles)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two Russian heavy bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons and cruise missiles flew close to the Alaskan coast not once but twice this week, and a U.S. congressman says it’s part of a message.

The TU-95 “Bear” bombers were intercepted on each occasion – the first time Monday and the second time Tuesday — by U.S. aircraft off the coast of Kodiak Island, Alaska, the Pentagon confirmed. Two U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters intercepted the bombers on Monday, and on Tuesday it was an E-3 surveillance aircraft.

The first intercept was about 100 miles off the coast, the second one about 41 miles away.

“This was a show of force by the Russians to show us that they are still here,” U.S. Rep Adam Kinzinger (R.-Illinois) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

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Kinzinger described the flights as “an attempt to come up as close as they could to our international borders to see what our reaction would be.” The Russians, he said, are “trying to show their teeth.”

Strategic Bomber and Missile Platform

The TU-95 is a four-engine strategic bomber and missile platform. It is the oldest aircraft in the Russian Air Force and has been in service since 1956.

A TU-95 can carry nuclear bombs or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the latter of which are capable of evading radar and antimissile defenses.

A modified TU-95 dropped the largest nuclear bomb ever tested, in 1961 — the so-called Tsar Bomb. During the Cold War, TU-95s often flew patrols with nuclear weapons, much like their American counterpart, the B-52.

There was no radio traffic contact between the bombers and U.S. fighters this week. Instead, the Russians merely flew off.

Russian military forces have been getting more aggressive with their American counterparts lately. The armed spy ship Viktor Leonov was spotted 30 miles off of Groton, Conn., in February.

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Tiny house build in Alaska

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I’ve never been to Alaska, I live in what most would consider a challenging place to live, on an undisclosed mountainside in the high desert of far west Texas… but I have to give props to those who live year round in Alaska, those are some really tough people 🙂

The people have to be tough, and their homes have to be equally as tough, this tiny house is built very to withstand the wilds of Alaska and honestly has most (if not all) of the amenities I would want to have. I thought that having an elevator bed, one that would go up and down would be a great idea, apparently someone else had the same thought and actually did it. This works and works great!

I really love the amount of open space as well as the storage space. Each space has been well thought out and is multi-functional, most components have at least 2 to 3 functions each, I’d say that this tiny home is the pinnacle of all the tiny homes I’ve seen to date.

https://youtu.be/lHjJd4tkvSU

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Homesteading In Alaska’s Wilderness, With No Cell Phones

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Homesteading In Alaska’s Wilderness, With No Cell Phones

Alaska is often called the “Last Frontier,” with an untamed wilderness that is the envy of off-gridders everywhere.

And while most homesteaders only dream of moving to Alaska and “roughing it,” one couple actually did something about it – and they accomplished it prior to cell phones and the Internet.  Back in the early 1980s Bonnie Rose Ward and her husband Samuel moved to a remote location in Alaska where they built a cabin, temporarily lived off of a huge bag of dried beans, and even drank unfiltered lake water.

She wrote a book about her experience, Winds of Skilak, and is this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio.

Bonnie tells us:

  • How they found a large piece of land in a state where the government owns most of the property.
  • How she used library books to teach herself essential off-grid skills.
  • How they battled isolation in a location where they didn’t see other people for months.
  • How they learned to survive off of the land despite facing total darkness for much of the year.

Finally, Bonnie tells us all about a harrowing run-in with a huge bear that could have killed both of them.

Don’t miss this amazing show if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to try and tame Alaska’s rugged landscape!

 

Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

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Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Editor’s note: The writer lives in Alaska.

Choosing the right livestock for your homestead is an important decision. You may know what kinds of animals you want — ducks, chickens, pigs, cattle, etc. — but how do you choose the right breed?

Too often when choosing a specific breed of livestock, the winter hardiness of the animal gets overlooked. When winter rolls around with her cold breath, you want to ensure you have livestock that will require little supplemental heat. Heat is energy, and when you’re already trying to keep your family warm, you don’t want to waste precious energy trying to keep your livestock warm unless it is absolutely necessary.

In this article, I will go over some of the common types of livestock people choose for their homestead and then explore some of the most winter-hardy breeds. For poultry, I will focus on breeds that are typically used for laying, assuming that any poultry kept through the winter will be primarily used as a source of eggs.

Choosing livestock that is appropriate for your geographical area is incredibly important and can save you a lot of time and energy while making your winter preparations.

Ducks

It is hard to find more winter-hardy poultry than ducks. Domestic chickens evolved from tropical regions and by their very nature deal much better with drier and warmer conditions. Ducks and geese, on the other hand, can handle much colder and wetter climates with ease. Another benefit of ducks is that they require a lot less added light to keep them laying. In some areas of the country, you may not have to add supplemental light at all.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Swedish Blue ducks are a winter-hardy bird that are known for both their meat and laying qualities. You can expect about 120-180 eggs a year from them, with males weighing about 8 pounds and females around 7 pounds. They do mature slower than some other breeds of ducks, however. Originating in Germany, they are very winter-hardy and have a calm temperament.

If you are looking for a duck for just egg production, I recommend the Khaki Campbell duck. The Khaki Campbells we have on our Alaskan farm keep laying straight through the winter, and we are still getting good yields from ducks that are over a year and a half old. You can expect 250-325 eggs a year from the Khaki Campbells and, while they are a smaller duck, they are extremely cold hardy. Males top out at about 4.5 pounds and females around 4 pounds. They are very noisy, however, and can be flighty birds.

Another duck you may consider is the Cayuga. They are very cold-hardy, and lay approximately 120-180 eggs a year. Males weigh about 7 pounds and females 6 pounds when mature. Although very loud, they are calm and only go broody occasionally.

Chickens

Chickens are a homestead staple. To have them lay throughout the winter, keep in mind that they will need added light during the darker winter months. Chickens lay best when they have at least 15 to 16 hours of light provided. When the amount of daylight dips below that, either keep a light on in their chicken coop, or set it on a timer to add the extra light needed when the sun goes down. Although you will need added light for chickens, if you choose winter-hardy breeds you may be able to avoid having to add extra heat.

If you live in an extremely cold climate where frostbite can be an issue, you’ll want to choose a laying hen that has a small comb. The Chantecler chicken is an excellent example of a winter ready chicken. Originally bred in Quebec, these chickens are made to handle the extremely cold winters of the Canadian prairie. They have small combs and wattles, making them resistant to frostbite and will lay throughout the cold winter months. They do have trouble in extremely hot weather, however, so if you live in an area with hot summers, these may not be the right chickens for you.

Another breed that we have been very happy with on our farm here in Alaska is the Black Australorp. The hens do have larger combs that could be susceptible if your winters are especially harsh, but they do extremely well in areas that have winter temperatures in the 10-35 degree Fahrenheit range. They are also prolific layers, laying 280 eggs a year or more.

Pigs

Although many homesteaders purchase piglets in the spring, raise them through the summer and then butcher them in the fall when the weather turns colder, there are several reasons you may want to keep pigs through the winter. Maybe you are starting to breed your own piglets for butcher or want to do two rounds of butchering a year instead of just one.

When choosing a breed of pig to carry through the winter months, I’ve found it most beneficial to look to the heritage breeds. Heritage breeds of pigs typically do better on pasture and are hardier for the outdoors. Breeds that are used in confinement operations, like Yorkshire crosses, will invariably be bred to live in conditions that have them inside year-round with an extremely controlled environment. Heritage breeds retain a lot of the characteristics that make them suitable to living outside, and if you choose breeds that originated in climates with colder winters, they should do just fine with minimal shelter provided from you.

After doing a fair bit of research, we finally settled on the Tamworth Hog for our Alaskan farm. One of the oldest heritage breeds found in the U.S., the Tamworth originated out of Ireland, where it was known for its ability to forage and grow on pasture. They have quite a bit more hair than some of your other breeds of pigs and do perfectly well in our winter climate. We know of one breeding operation in Michigan that lets their Tamworth sows give birth in the middle of winter with just a small shelter and straw, no added heat or attention. In addition to being hardy, the Tamworths are also extremely intelligent and very personable. We couldn’t be happier with them.

Although it is always tempting to get whatever livestock may be readily available to you at your local feed store, it is always worth the effort to carefully research and select breeds with climate in mind. The result will be happier animals and a more efficient homestead.

What are your favorite winter-hardy breeds? Share your tips in the section below:

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True North

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With dramatic coastlines, soaring mountains and extravagant wildlife, the ultimate road trip takes RVers into the heart of North America’s Last Frontier

In Alaska Odyssey, Part I, I discussed the first leg of our journey, starting in Prince George, British Columbia, Video-Buttonand traveling about 1,700 miles to Denali National Park and Preserve via the Stewart-Cassiar, Alaska and George Parks highways, with detours up the Klondike and Top of the World highways. Part II follows our route to the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Skagway and back home.

Hooked on Alaska: Of the more than 12,000 rivers in the Last Frontier, none is more popular for fishing than the Kenai.

Hooked on Alaska: Of the more than 12,000 rivers in the Last Frontier, none is more popular for fishing than the Kenai.

Kenai Peninsula

The first 110 miles of the Sterling Highway (Alaska 1) en route to the Kenai Peninsula are about as pretty a drive as you can experience. With water on one side and mountains on the other, and Portage Glacier posing for a portrait, we’re enthralled. We’re headed to Homer, the self-styled Halibut Fishing Capital of the World.

Homer was established in 1895 and has a fun, funky vibe that attracts artists and other creative types. The town is divided in two, with a 4.3-mile spit protruding into Kachemak Bay and a traditional downtown where you go to buy groceries. The spit is where the action is. The restaurants are without pretension, the shops don’t scream “tourist,” and the angler has a multitude of charter-boat choices.

Our experience was significantly influenced by a chance encounter. While having coffee and a nosh on the deck at a local bakery, a chat with our neighbor led to an invitation to their home for dinner and a chance to join them the next day on their boat for a trip to nearby Halibut Cove, a charming landlocked village a few miles across the bay. Cheers, Larry and Petja!

Camping options on the Homer spit are plentiful, and all of them have the benefit of proximity to the bay. Most of the campgrounds are functional and a bit funky, an ambience that fits with the rest of the town. Dry campers have access to two municipal campgrounds perched on the bay. Boondockers will find Homer pretty liberal about where you camp, and you see tents and RVs scattered along the beach.

When the salmon are running, bears can often be seen near the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery, the largest salmon hatchery on Prince William Sound.

When the salmon are running, bears can often be seen near the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery, the largest salmon hatchery on Prince William Sound.

Or you can do as we did the first two nights and camp at the upscale Heritage RV Park and partake of the round-the clock espresso bar. The rest of our stay was spent at the more modest Homer Spit Campground, not for financial reasons but because it fit better with what Homer seemed to demand and was within easy walking distance of most of the places we wanted to visit.

I like unique knives and my wife, Mara, likes jewelry. Homer is a good place to look, as many craftspeople sell their wares here. I noticed that much of what we saw claimed to be made of exotic materials, particularly ivory from the woolly mammoth. Suspecting a scam, I learned that in Alaska ivory from extinct animals is legal to sell. Further research disclosed that ivory and bones were uncovered as by-products of mining and of native people excavating in their traditional home sites, as well as on lands uncovered by retreating glaciers, covered with ice for millennia.

With two people and limited refrigeration, fishing charters were out, so we focused on the educational. Homer’s Pratt Museum and the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center both offer insights into life on the bay.

Located on the south shore of Kachemak Bay, the landlocked village of Seldovia got its name from the Russian word seldevoy, meaning “herring bay.”

Located on the south shore of Kachemak Bay, the landlocked village of Seldovia got its name from the Russian word seldevoy, meaning “herring bay.”

Field-tested tips from locals are always welcome, and Larry and Petja shared these with us. Best conventional seafood dinner: Captain Pattie’s, where they will also cook your fresh-caught fish. Best breakfast: La Baleine Café, with meals for the hearty eater. Best place to drink: Salty Dawg Saloon, with the right mix of locals and visitors so you feel right at home. Best bakery: Two Sisters, downtown.
As promised, Larry and Petja pick us up for the 7-mile voyage to Halibut Cove, founded in 1880. Early this century, it had a population of 1,000 and housed 42 herring salteries where the fish were processed. Today, it is largely a day-trip destination to the island’s lone restaurant, the Saltry. Try the seafood chowder or the seafood combination plate. There are no roads, but hikers can navigate the boardwalks and trails that populate the island. Bird-watching and kayaking are popular pursuits. Halibut Cove is home to one of America’s few floating post offices.

Compared to Halibut Cove, the village of Seldovia is a metropolis. Also reached by boat, it has a road and four restaurants. The road is only 12 miles long and doesn’t connect to other communities on the peninsula, but so what? Like Halibut Cove, it’s best thought of as a day trip or weekend getaway. We walk around its boardwalks and gravel streets in utter quiet; a poet would feel at home here, and a few probably do. We enjoy the Seldovia Village Tribe Museum and the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, perched on a bluff overlooking the town and serving parishioners since 1891.

Alaska-HighwayMap


The Best of Where We Camped


ALASKA

Denali

Denali Grizzly Bear Resort
866-583-2696 | www.denaligrizzlybear.com

Homer

Heritage RV Park
907-226-4500 | www.alaskaheritagervpark.com

Homer Spit Campground
907-235-8206 | www.alaskacampgrounds.net

Seward
Waterfront Park
907-224-4055 | www.cityofseward.us

Tok
Tok RV Village (Good Sam Park)
907-883-5877 | www.tokrv.net

Valdez Area
Blueberry Lake State Recreation Site
907-269-8400 | www.dnr.alaska.gov/parks

Wrangell-St. Elias
Kendesnii Campground
907-822-7401 | www.nps.gov/wrst/planyourvisit

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Dawson Creek
Mile 0 Campground
250-782-2590 | www.mile0park.ca

Muncho Lake
Muncho Lake Provincial Park
250-776-7000 | www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks

Smithers
Riverside Municipal RV Park
and Campground
250-847-1600 | www.tourismsmithers.com

YUKON

Whitehorse
The Caribou RV Park (Good Sam Park)
867-668-2961 | www.caribou-rv-park.com

An interesting side note: Cook Inlet, the waterway that borders Homer and runs along the west side of the peninsula, branches into Turnagain Arm, which has the fourth highest tidal range in the world. Tidal fluctuations in Cook Inlet are not as extreme but can exceed 25 feet. If you are playing or camping on the shoreline, be aware of your circumstances.

Seward beckons, home to Kenai Fjords National Park. To get there from Homer, backtrack north on the Sterling Highway to the intersection with the Seward Highway (Alaska 9) and drive south until it ends. Where Homer is open, Seward is nestled on Resurrection Bay between mountain ranges and has a different feel. It was the original southern terminus of the Iditarod Trail, established in 1910 as a mail route between Seward and Nome, and later made famous by the sled-dog race that bears its name. The southern terminus was later relocated to Anchorage.

Kenai Fjords National Park is mostly water and mountains, and is best explored by boat. The National Park Service works closely with private charter operators who will take you out and entertain you with wildlife and fjord viewing. The 8.2-mile-roundtrip Harding Icefield Trail and shorter hikes to Exit Glacier provide options for people who would rather walk.

Camping here is a pleasure. The municipal Waterfront Park on the outskirts of town has five campground locations. We stay in the Resurrection section, right on the bay, with electric and water hookups.

Valdez

Leaving Seward, we prepare for the drive to Valdez and our last days on the coast before heading inland. To get there, we take the Glenn Highway (a different stretch of Alaska 1) to the junction with the Richardson Highway (Alaska 4), and then south to Valdez.
I have always had this dream of finding the perfect campsite. It would be situated on a quiet, pristine lake. There might be a trout or two splashing about. The area would be beautiful, with nobody else in sight. Would I ever find it? Not until now. Based on a tip, we stop at Blueberry Lake State Recreation Site, 30 miles outside Valdez, and find campsite number 7 vacant. Without a word, we park and self-register. Mara collects wild blueberries to enliven our morning flapjacks, and I catch and release my trout.

The Kennecott copper mine operated from 1911 until 1938 and is now part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

The Kennecott copper mine operated from 1911 until 1938 and is now part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

A couple of days later, entering Valdez, we come upon Dayville Road, leading to the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery. Where there are fish, there are bears, and since the salmon are migrating, we think we might chance upon a hungry one. Sure enough, as we approach the hatchery, mother black bear is teaching her three cubs to fish.

Most of us know the salmon life cycle: born in freshwater, migrate to the sea, and return to spawn and die at their place of birth. At the hatchery, we witness thousands of fish fulfilling their destiny, preyed upon by voracious gulls, a pod of pinnipeds and anglers after an easy catch, a disconcerting sight. One would wish a more dignified end to their lives.

Nestled in the Chugach Mountains and bordered by Prince William Sound, Valdez has been called Alaska’s Little Switzerland. It was established in 1897 as a port of entry for prospectors hoping to strike it rich in the Klondike Gold Rush. From the picturesque harbor, one can board a boat to fish, visit the Columbia Glacier or view wildlife in Prince William Sound. Sea kayak rentals are a thriving business.

Valdez has quite a history. Not only is it the southern terminus of one of the world’s largest crude-oil conduits, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, it was near the epicenter of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake, the second most powerful ever recorded, and the closest city to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the largest in U.S. waters before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. All of this we explore in the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive.

Wrangell-St. Elias

At 13.2 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest in the national park system. Nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States ascend from here. The park has the highest concentration of glaciers in North America, and the only access routes are two horrible gravel roads.

Near Valdez, a bald eagle keeps watch (far left) and a black bear feeds on

A bald eagle keeps watch near Valdez.

Why, you might ask, would we want to visit a huge place with limited vehicle access? Because this is the “real Alaska” — wild, undeveloped and populated by folks who don’t live like the rest of us, and don’t want to. Its millions of acres of land are rarely if ever touched by humans. Hike a few miles off any road, and what you get is pure wilderness.

After backtracking on the Richardson Highway from Valdez, we head east on the Edgerton Highway (Alaska 10). The Edgerton is paved to the village of Chitina (pronounced Chit-na), where it becomes the McCarthy Road. After a few miles, we discover that this drive will vie for the Worst Road in Alaska. We backtrack to a primitive campground and set up for the night. A hand-printed sign near the toilet warns us that fresh grizzly scat has been spotted nearby.

In the morning, I introduce myself to Ranger Earl. Mentioning my experience on the road, I inquire about the condition further on. He notes that the part we drove was the good part. We’re headed to McCarthy, and he advises us of a shuttle service that will take us the 60 miles. Comparing the cost of the shuttle (about $100 per person) with the cost of new tires and a suspension system, we decide to wimp out and take the shuttle. As a bonus, our dog can come, too.

The hamlet of McCarthy and this road exist because of copper, discovered near the Kennicott Glacier. Five miles away, the abandoned mining camp of Kennecott (a misspelling that stuck) operated from 1911 until 1938. McCarthy grew up to house and entertain mine employees, and we intend to see it and the mine.

Our driver is Annika. She and her pal Eva pick us up the next morning at 8 sharp at Kenny Lake RV Park. Our coconspirators are a young couple from San Francisco undertaking a 10-day backpacking trip and three ladies from the Midwest looking for an antidote to cruise ships.

Annika, Eva and another driver who handled the return trip live here but are not native Alaskans; all came to visit and never left. They are intelligent and seemingly happy, a couple of divorces notwithstanding. None have running water or inside plumbing in their homes. They carry water from a stream or village well in 5-gallon buckets. A nice outhouse, or one with multiple seats, is a source of domestic pride, like a Mercedes in the driveway. All are at home with guns and use them to gather food and for protection.

Many RVers have the Alaska Highway on their bucket list. My advice is to empty that bucket as soon as possible.

Eva told us funny bear stories based on the theme of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Here you have a group of people who live in a way that some would consider primitive but do so by choice. You can tell from their body language that they feel sorry for us flatlanders who sacrifice the opportunity to live in this majestic place for creature comforts and material things.

McCarthy (population 50) hasn’t changed much since its mining days: no central water supply, no sewer or electricity, no medical facilities and no school. The now-abandoned mine is owned and managed by the National Park Service. Private concessions offer experiences like ice-climbing.

On a roll, we decide to check out the only other road into the park, the Nabesna Road. From Chitina, we backtrack to the Richardson Highway and take it north to the Tok Cutoff. The village of Slana is the site of another ranger station and the road to the old Nabesna gold mine, now off-limits.

We learn that, of the 42 miles of road, the first 16 are paved and the next 12 are dirt and navigable by medium-size RVs. Twenty-eight miles sounds about right, getting us to our goal of Kendesnii, Wrangell-St. Elias’ only National Park Service campground, with pit toilets and much solitude. The 10 sites are full when we get to the campground, so we set up at a pull-off (this is allowed here) and let a flock of trumpeter swans serenade us. Not bad.

Camping here caused me to reflect on what Alaska travel is about. You will see majestic mountains, and after a while, another one just becomes another one. So it isn’t about viewing mountains or glaciers with names but experiencing the vastness of the place and the people who have chosen to live here.

Connecting Valdez to Fairbanks, the Richardson Highway ribbons around the Chugach Mountains and the Alaska Range.

Connecting Valdez to Fairbanks, the Richardson Highway ribbons around the Chugach Mountains and the Alaska Range.

Skagway

Since we need to pass through White­horse again, we make the 100-mile detour to Skagway. We return to Tok and then head south on the Alaska Highway toward Whitehorse. The road is brutal for 90 miles. We come to the tiny Yukon town of Burwash Landing and marvel at the quality of the exhibits at the Kluane Museum of Natural History.

I call Skagway the Un-Alaska. It was a very important player during the Klondike Gold Rush and by late 1897 had a population of 20,000. The boom led to bust within two years, and soon Skagway’s population was 500, but it survived to fight another day.
Period buildings remain, but the town exists to serve cruise ships — two and sometimes three were in port during our stay. Jewelry stores line both sides of the street and outnumber other types of businesses, even T-shirt shops. One salesman greeted me in a mink coat. Alaska cruises have their place, and the Inside Passage is undeniably beautiful, but Skagway isn’t part of the real Alaska anymore.

Conclusion

One of the reasons many of us go camping is to get away from it all for a time. There is no place in North America and few places in the world where you can do that on this scale on (mostly) roads suitable for RVs.

Our trek started in the San Francisco Bay Area and ended in the same place, 9,500 miles later. More than 5,700 of those miles were in Canada and Alaska, and we spent $2,200 on gas. All in all, a bargain.

This is more a journey than a road trip. It’s not a place to set up cruise control and count the miles from point A to B. You will be motivated to drive as slowly as traffic will allow, gazing to the left, then to the right. Mountains and glaciers announce themselves with some warning; bears, caribou and other critters do not, and you don’t want to miss them.

Every swamp looks like moose habitat. Every white speck on a distant peak may be a mountain goat. Bears will be inspected for the telltale hump that defines a grizzly, somehow more important than a mere black bear. Tiny towns have world-class museums, and you don’t want to miss those, either.

Many RVers have the Alaska Highway on their bucket list. My advice is to empty that bucket as soon as possible.


 

 

America’s Last Frontier

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Hitch up for the ultimate RV road trip along the scenic and historic highway that stretches 1,387 miles through British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska

Less about the destination than the getting there, the Alaska Highway is the quintessential road trip. Travelers pass through Video-Buttontowns and cities, but the real attraction is what there is between them. Years ago, I took a three-week vacation and drove my brand-new Class B motorhome as far as Haines Junction, Yukon, before running out of time. I vowed to return one day and do it right. In July 2015, my wife, Mara, and I set aside two months to do just that. We didn’t reserve anything in advance and didn’t plan our itinerary in detail, preferring to let events dictate what we did and when we did it.

Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Arriving in Prince George, British Columbia, we find our path to the southern terminus of the 1,387-mile Alaska Highway impeded by forest fires. Luckily, there’s an alternative. By combining the east-west Yellowhead and north-south Stewart-Cassiar highways (Trans-Canada 16 and BC 37, respectively), we take a scenic detour around the problem.

Alaska-6Prince George is British Columbia’s fourth largest city and a good place to get provisions and fuel. Heading out of town, civilization falls away quickly, and small villages alternate with mountains and pristine lakes. Provincial and city parks dot the route and are the way to go when backwoods campground ambience trumps amenities. In the village of Smithers, we bed down for the night at Riverside Municipal Campground and feed our electronics some 30-amp juice for the road ahead.

Continuing north, we watch for the turnoff to BC 37A and the town of Stewart. Stewart is nothing special, but the 40-mile drive to it is. Our heads are on a swivel, with glaciers to the left and waterfalls to the right. Persistent rain prevents a detour to nearby Hyder, Alaska, where we had hoped to spot bears fishing for migrating salmon.

Back on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, at pristine Mehan Lake, we share lunch with a retired couple from Australia and a cyclist from New Zealand, as loons serenade in the background.

Alaska-map

Alaska Essentials

Requisite RV-travel resources for northwestern Canada and Alaska

  • Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide
    2016 guidebook with RV-park listings and annually updated ratings
    www.campingworld.com
  • The Milepost
    Mile-by-mile trip guide to the highways of Alaska, British Columbia and Yukon
    www.themilepost.com
  • Travel Alaska
    Official State of Alaska travel website and vacation planner
    www.travelalaska.com


Our next stop is Jade City’s Cassiar Mountain Jade Store, a family business selling its namesake product. The owners claim that more than 90 percent of the world’s jade is mined here.

Alaska Highway

Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was no overland link between the Lower 48 and Alaska, then a U.S. territory. That event changed everything, as a road was deemed a military necessity. With more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers and civilian workers tending to the task, the highway was completed in eight months and 12 days, and was opened to the public in 1948.

Dawson Creek, British Columbia (not to be confused with Dawson City, Yukon), is famous for hosting the start of the Alaska Highway. We take a photograph of the Mile 0 monument and stop at the town’s visitor center, housed in the Railway Station Museum, and the Alaska Highway House, which documents the highway’s construction. Walter Wright Pioneer Village, with buildings and artifacts mostly from the early 1900s, has a special virtue for RVers: the adjacent Mile 0 Campground is the best RV park in the area.

The first 400 miles of the Alaska Highway are relatively ho-hum, with heavy truck traffic, power poles and average scenery. The cities of Fort St. John and Fort Nelson, although historic, are also ordinary.

Muncho Lake (mile 437), known for its deep blue color, is home to Muncho Lake Provincial Park and two of the nicest campgrounds anywhere, MacDonald and Strawberry Flats, with 30 dry sites, pit toilets and a water pump. The closest alternative is Northern Rockies Lodge.

 The closer you get to the Liard River’s thermal springs, the hotter the water.

The closer you get to the Liard River’s thermal springs, the hotter the water.

Next up is Liard River Hot Springs (mile 477). I’m not a hot-soak fanatic, but this one is fun. It’s a natural thermal springs with changing rooms, restrooms, in-pool benches and a gravel floor that’s easy on the feet. My wife claims I’m a better person now.

As we travel north, a herd of bison, probably a hundred strong, trots alongside the road, a couple of young black bears munch on flowers, and two young grizzlies feast on a moose.

Crossing the Yukon border, Watson Lake (mile 612) is one of the most-photographed towns along the Alaska Highway, but not for its dramatic scenery. It was made famous by a homesick American G.I. working on the highway who made a sign noting the mileage to his Illinois hometown. Others followed suit, and we now have the Signpost Forest, with more than 77,000 mementos nailed to any available spot. We spend the night at nearby Baby Nugget RV Park.

In Teslin (mile 776, population 450), we stop at the Northern Wildlife Museum, the Tlingit Heritage Centre and the George Johnston Museum.

The first has outstanding local wildlife dioramas, and the last honors a Tlingit trapper, fur trader and photographer who brought a 1928 Chevrolet to the then-roadless town by paddle-wheeler and built a 3-mile road to drive it on.

Watson Lake, Yukon’s Signpost Forest.

Watson Lake, Yukon’s Signpost Forest.

With camping options limited, we drive to Whitehorse (mile 918) and stay at Caribou RV Park, a Good Sam Park with an ambience and amenities among the best on the trip. Whitehorse, the Yukon capital, is home to two-thirds of the territory’s population. While distinctly modern, the city has a number of attractions that visitors interested in history can appreciate, including the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site and the MacBride Museum of Yukon History.

Dawson City

Just north of Whitehorse, we take our first detour. The 335-mile drive to Dawson City via the Klondike Highway (Yukon 2) justifies a stop in the village of Carmacks. In 1896 George Carmack looked in his gold pan and saw $5 worth of gold when 10 cents was considered a find, and the Klondike Gold Rush was on.

Dawson City was at the center of it all and is now a national historic site. With a population of 30,000 at its peak, the town was a wild and lawless place. Now a popular visitor destination, it has a high concentration of restaurants, bars and theaters. We check out the Dawson City Museum and walk the streets in search of ice cream.

During the Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson City, Yukon, attracted people from all over the world, many unprepared for life in the far north; these structures, built on permafrost, are a testament to their inexperience.

During the Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson City, Yukon, attracted people from all over the world, many unprepared for life in the far north; these structures, built on permafrost, are a testament to their inexperience.

A young Jack London lived here and built a cabin where he stayed in 1897, now a museum. No dilettante, London roamed the trails from town to the gold fields and made observations that helped shape his later life as a writer and adventurer.

Driving to Dawson City comes at a price. The “paved” Klondike Highway has significant stretches of rough gravel, and we get our first exposure to real Alaska driving — rocks, potholes and stretches of washboard.

Rather than returning the way we came, we leave via the Top of the World Highway (Yukon 5), knowing we’ll drive the missed section of the Alaska Highway on the way home. A free ferry ride takes us across the Yukon River, a charming alternative to a bridge, but the charm is short-lived, as we count the hours (five) needed to drive the 90 miles of (mostly) gravel to the end.

The road is pretty but lonely until we reach Chicken, Alaska. The story behind the name is reason enough to visit, however briefly. It seems the original settlers back in the late 1800s wanted to name the new town after their favorite game bird, the ptarmigan. Unable to agree on the spelling, they decided to name the town for the bird it most tasted like. I buy a T-shirt, a good conversation starter.

Chicken leads to Tok, where we use up our quarter collection at the car wash. If you don’t get the mud off now, you’ll need a chisel later. It’s also a good place to buy high-quality First Nations souvenirs. While I look at knives, the saleslady confesses to me that her husband married her for her knives, guns and chainsaw. Welcome to Alaska.

A herd of bison, little ones in tow, heads south near Liard River Hot Springs in British Columbia.

A herd of bison, little ones in tow, heads south near Liard River Hot Springs in British Columbia.

We camp overnight in one of the best campgrounds of the trip, Tok RV Village, a top-rated Good Sam Park.

Delta Junction

With 9 miles to go to Delta Junction, we stock up on smoked elk sausage for nibbling and bison and yak for later at the Delta Meat and Sausage Company.

Delta Junction (actual mile 1,387, historical mile 1,422) marks the official end of the Alaska Highway. We get our picture taken at the end-of-the-road monument and cross the street to the Sullivan Roadhouse, a relocated roadhouse that is now a wonderful museum.

Visiting cities wasn’t high on our to-do list, but there’s a good reason to spend a few hours in Fairbanks, 96 miles from Delta Junction. The highly recommended University of Alaska Museum of the North documents the state’s history from prehistoric times to the present.

En route to Denali National Park, the village of Nenana is home to the 1917 St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, with hand-hewn pews and an altar of moose hide decorated with beadwork, and the Alaska State Railroad Museum and Nenana Cultural Center, with artifacts and high-quality souvenirs.

Only a few minutes’ drive from the Alaska Highway, northern British Columbia’s remarkably blue Muncho Lake has an eponymous provincial park with 30 dry campsites.

Only a few minutes’ drive from the Alaska Highway, northern British Columbia’s remarkably blue Muncho Lake has an eponymous provincial park with 30 dry campsites.

Denali National Park and Preserve

Mount McKinley National Park was established in 1917 and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The 6-million-acre park is 121 miles south of Fairbanks via the George Parks Highway (Alaska 3). At 20,320 feet, Mount Denali (formerly McKinley) eludes 70 percent of the people who come here, as it is often shrouded in clouds.

A single 92-mile road serves the park, but only 14 miles of it are open to private vehicles. To get beyond that, you need to take a bus or a bicycle. We peruse the options and choose the eight-hour-round-trip shuttle to the Eielson Visitor Center. Winding 66 miles into the park, the bus stops well short of Denali’s base but within photographic range. Riders are free to get off at any of several stops and catch a later bus. We see bears, moose, caribou and a lone wolf, and Denali honors us with her presence.

Among the other tour options, an 11-hour shuttle to and from Wonder Lake takes visitors 84 miles into the park and much closer to Denali, and another tour replaces the bus driver with a trained naturalist. Local companies offer additional sightseeing excursions.

More than half of all U.S. parkland is found in Alaska, yet the state’s population hovers around 740,000, the size of a large city in the Lower 48.

Some places have their mansions, but Alaska has the log cabin; this one is near the village of Talkeetna, not far from Denali National Park and Preserve.

Some places have their mansions, but Alaska has the log cabin; this one is near the village of Talkeetna, not far from Denali National Park and Preserve.

Three campgrounds within the park are open to RVs, with some campsites accommodating rigs up to 40 feet. Those with reserved sites at Teklanika River Campground, 29 miles inside the park, are allowed to drive beyond the 14-mile mark. Teklanika requires a minimum three-day stay, but its location provides a better opportunity to view wildlife up close, according to people who camped there.

Private camping options near the entrance are marginal. After seeing all that pristine wilderness, the thought of being jammed together next to a gas station and convenience store doesn’t appeal, so we head 6 miles south to camp at family-owned Denali Grizzly Bear Resort on the Nenana River.

 

  • Part II: In the February 2016 Trailer Life, Peter Lewis travels to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Skagway.

 

Off-Grid Alaska Life At 45 Below

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Winter is the most challenging season for many off-gridders, especially if you live in the interior of Alaska near Fairbanks, where temperatures in recent years have dipped as low as -45 degrees Fahrenheit – and the record is -66.

But that’s the life of off-gridders Danny Whittle and SueJean Heinz, a married couple who have learned how to survive in a frigid environment that can quickly kill if the right precautions aren’t taken. In fact, they once had to survive on stockpiled water when their pipes froze.

They are this week’s guests on Off The Grid Radio, and they share with us amazing stories of survival that you’ve got to hear to believe.

Elsewhere across the U.S., organic farmers are pushing for “GMO-free” zones within counties, whereby organic farmers can grow their crops without fear of contamination from non-traditional crops.

Danny and SueJean tell us:

  • What it’s like to live in an area that sometimes gets 20 hours of daylight – and 20 hours of darkness.
  • How they survived 15 days without running water when their pipes froze, drinking bottled water and melting piles of snow.
  • What they stockpile for food in a location that is one hour from the nearest grocery store and is inhospitable to plants.
  • How they use bales of hay and snow to add much-needed insulation during winter.
  • What their survival plan is in case their primary source of heat fails.

Danny and SueJean also tell us how they survived a treacherous winter trip through the Yukon Territory when their transmission froze. Finally, they share with us the joys of living in Alaska, and what it’s like to see bear, moose, wolves and the Northern Lights right outside their door. If you’re a homesteader, off-gridder or simply someone who enjoys stories of surviving in the “Land of the Midnight Sun,” then this show is for you!

Wrongly In Prison For 18 Years, They Had To Promise NOT To Sue To Get Out

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Wrongly In Prison For 18 Years, They Had To Promise NOT To Sue To Get Out

Image source: KTUU

The price of freedom can be very steep in Alaska. Four innocent men, locked away for nearly two decades, had to sign away their rights to sue prosecutors who had wrongly charged them, in order to get out of prison.

The four were accused of beating 15-year-old John Hartman to death in Fairbanks in 1997, and the case generated much controversy in Alaska because all of them are Native-American.

They remained in prison even though the case against them fell apart in 2014, when a key government witness signed an affidavit saying that police coerced him into blaming the four and that he had made up the story. Two years earlier, a convicted killer had said he had seen someone else – and not the four men – commit the crime.

That was probably enough for a judge to exonerate the “Fairbanks Four,” but both sides knew that it could take more than six months for the legal process to run its course and the men to be freed.

Learn How To Become Invisible In Today’s Surveillance State!

After the case collapsed, prosecutors who had been fighting to keep the men in prison made a deal, Newsweek reported. They would let them walk free instantly if they signed away the right to sue the state for prosecutorial misconduct. One of them was already on parole, meaning he had to sign the deal, too, if his friends were to be released. He did sign it, as did the other three. They were freed in December. Their convictions were vacated.

Story continues below video

“They’d been wrongfully convicted of a crime and had served 18 years, and they just wanted to be out with their families,” Victor Joseph, the president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference – a Native American government — said of the Fairbanks Four. “The state knew that and took advantage of them.”

Legal experts aren’t surprised the men signed the deal.

“If you were in these defendants’ shoes, the pull of getting out of prison is just so strong that you’d be willing to sign just about anything,” Northwestern University Law Professor Steven Drizin told Newsweek.

Said Joseph, “All the cards were in the state’s hands.”

Such deals are rare, Drizin noted.

Some legal experts have called the deal unethical and reprehensible — but it is apparently legal.

The deal for the men got worse when the Alaska Department of Law released a statement saying, “This is not an exoneration. In this settlement, the four defendants agreed they were properly and validly investigated, prosecuted, and convicted.”

One of the men, Marvin Roberts, told Newsweek he tries to look forward, not backwards, in order to avoid growing angry.

“I know what I’ve lost,” Roberts said.

What is your reaction to the deal? Share your thoughts in the section below:

You’re Being Watched: 7 Sneaky Ways The Government Is Tracking Your Every Move. Read More Here.

Powerful Alaska Storm to Rival Strongest on Record

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By Renee Duff – AccuWeather

A potent storm that will cross the Aleutian Islands of Alaska this weekend could become the strongest recorded storm to impact the region.

This storm comes a little over a year after ex-Super Typhoon Nuri became the most powerful system on record to cross Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is located in the Aleutian Islands, with a central low pressure of 924 millibars (27.29 inches of Hg).

The intensity of a storm is measured by the central pressure, with lower pressure equating to a stronger system.

Previous to Nuri, the old record stood at 925 millibars (27.32 inches of Hg) at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, from a strong storm that hit on Oct. 25, 1977.

Continue reading at AccuWeather: Powerful Alaska Storm to Rival Strongest on Record

RELATED:
AccuWeather Winter Weather Center
Alaska Interactive Radar
When Will Northwest US Catch a Break From Relentless Storms?

Filed under: News/ Current Events, Weather

Violent Shaking Along The Ring Of Fire Continues A Progression Of Disasters That Began In September

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The Ring Of Fire - Photo from Wikipedia

By Michael Snyder – The Economic Collapse Blog

Have you noticed that seismic activity along the Ring of Fire appears to be dramatically increasing?  According to Volcano Discovery, 39 volcanoes around the world have recently erupted, and 32 of them are associated with the Ring of Fire.  This includes Mt. Popocatepetl which sits only about 50 miles away from Mexico City’s 18 million inhabitants.  If you are not familiar with the Ring of Fire, it is an area roughly shaped like a horseshoe that runs along the outer perimeter of the Pacific Ocean.  Approximately 90 percent of all earthquakes and approximately 75 percent of all volcanic eruptions occur along the Ring of Fire.  Just within the last 24 hours, we have witnessed a 4.4, a 5.4 and a 5.7 earthquake in Alaska, a 6.8 earthquake in Chile and 20 earthquakes in Indonesia of at least magnitude 4.3.  And as you will see below, this violent shaking along the Ring of Fire seems to continue a progression of major disasters that began back during the month of September.

For whatever reason, our planet suddenly seems to be waking up.  Unfortunately, the west coast of the United States is one of the areas where this is being felt the most.  The little city of San Ramon, California is about 45 miles east of San Francisco, and over the past several weeks it has experienced a record-breaking 583 earthquakes

A total of 583 small earthquakes have shaken San Ramon, California, in the last three weeks or so – more than five times the record set 12 years ago, according to the latest US Geological Survey updates.

“It’s the swarm with the largest number of total earthquakes in San Ramon,” said USGS scientist David Schwartz, who is more concerned about the size of quakes than he is the total number of them. Still, the number tops the previous record set in 2003, when 120 earthquakes hit over 31 days, with the largest clocking in at a magnitude of 4.2.

Could this be a prelude to a major seismic event in California?

We shall see what happens.

Meanwhile, records are being shattered in the middle part of the country as well.

For instance, the state of Oklahoma has already set a brand new yearly record for earthquakes

Continue reading at The Economic Collapse Blog: Violent Shaking Along The Ring Of Fire Continues A Progression Of Disasters That Began In September

About the author:

Michael T. Snyder is a graduate of the University of Florida law school and he worked as an attorney in the heart of Washington D.C. for a number of years.

Today, Michael is best known for his work as the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog and The American Dream

Read his new book The Beginning of the End

Filed under: Earthquakes, News/ Current Events, Volcanic Activity

Free Fire Friday (Gun Talk) 31 July 2015

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Host Johnny Kempen broadcasts live from the wilds of Alaska about all things gun related. Call in using +1 (213) 943-3444 when the show is live every Friday at 6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern to ask questions and participate in the show. Call in and participate!

Click widget below to listen.

Check Out Politics Conservative Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Aftermath Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Free Fire Friday (Gun Talk) 24 July 2015

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Host Johnny Kempen broadcasts live from the wilds of Alaska about all things gun related. Call in using +1 (213) 943-3444 when the show is live every Friday at 6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern to ask questions and participate in the show. Call in and participate!

Check Out Politics Conservative Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Aftermath Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Free Fire Friday (Gun Talk) 17 July 2015

Click here to view the original post.

Host Johnny Kempen broadcasts live from the wilds of Alaska about all things gun related. Call in using +1 (213) 943-3444 when the show is live every Friday at 6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern to ask questions and participate in the show. Call in and participate!

Check Out Politics Conservative Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Aftermath Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Free Fire Friday (Gun Talk) 10 July 2015

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Host Johnny Kempen broadcasts live from the wilds of Alaska about all things gun related. Call in using +1 (213) 943-3444 when the show is live every Friday at 6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern to ask questions and participate in the show. Call in and participate!

Click widget below to listen.

Check Out Politics Conservative Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Aftermath Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Free Fire Friday (Gun Talk) 26 June 2015

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Host Johnny Kempen broadcasts live from the wilds of Alaska about all things gun related. Call in using +1 (213) 943-3444 when the show is live every Friday at 6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern to ask questions and participate in the show. Call in and participate!

Check Out Politics Conservative Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Aftermath Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Free Fire Friday (Gun Talk) 19 June 2015

Click here to view the original post.

Host Johnny Kempen broadcasts live from the wilds of Alaska about all things gun related. Call in using +1 (213) 943-3444 when the show is live every Friday at 6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern to ask questions and participate in the show. Call in and participate!

Click widget below to listen.

Check Out Politics Conservative Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Aftermath Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Free Fire Friday (Gun Talk) 12 June 2015

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Johnny is back after a few weeks on the Yukon River! Host Johnny Kempen broadcasts live from the wilds of Alaska about all things gun related. Call in using +1 (213) 943-3444 when the show is live every Friday at 6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern to ask questions and participate in the show. Call in and participate!

Listen below.

Check Out Politics Conservative Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Aftermath Radio on BlogTalkRadio