March 1, 2015

Wrangell to Fairbanks

From the time we unload off of the ferry in Wrangell, we have all day Saturday and Sunday till 4:00pm to get showers, do some laundry, load items into Denali Rose, retrieve items from Denali Rose, service the camper, prepare for the drive to Fairbanks, and put our trailer onto a storage lot. Our next ferry, the Malaspina, was departing Wrangell for Haines at 5:00p on Sunday.

Everything is opened up for air flow, and the prevention of mold and mildew while we are away.
We moved our wagontrain to the Wrangell RV park, and unhitched the trailer while we did errands for the day. This park has a different setup than what most parks have. There aren't any trash containers, you, the camper are required to take out all of your garbage and dispose of it somewhere else. There aren't any outhouses or restrooms either, and that seems weird, as they do have tent sites. I guess their main aim is to have self-contained larger RVers, because they DO have electrical hook-ups.
All leveled up for the night.
One of the items we had trouble with, was servicing the camper. We could dump the black tank at the marina, but since it was only February, we couldn't find potable water anywhere. We still had the drive from Haines to Fairbanks, so we needed to fill the tank. Worse case, we were going to have to fill containers down at the boat, and walk it up the ramp to the camper. I got a brilliant idea...go to the volunteer fire department, and see if they would let us fill up. 

No one was at the fire department, but it is connected to the police station, and the dispatcher was on duty. She was very busy, but as soon as she was free, she asked me what I needed. 

" I know this is a strange request, but we are moving to Wrangell, and we leave tomorrow night for Fairbanks to get the rest of our stuff, and we need to put about 30 gallons of water in our camper to use on the way. Since this is March, we can't find open potable water, and I was wondering if you had a hose bib we could hook up to, and get water."

She looked at me weird, and said she would call the duty officer, and see if he could help. So the Wrangell Police Department comes to the rescue. The officer came, opened up the garage door, and let us hook our hose to their hose bib for fresh water. One note, I didn't see "water assist" in the weekly police blotter, and I was disappointed. 

The service that checks on our boat while we are away, recommended someone to store our trailer. He has a large front yard, and uses it as a paid storage lot for trailers and boats. That's one way to make the place pay for itself. So we drop off the trailer there, next to a large connex container, and head for the ferry terminal. Another note, Bill didn't change the clock inside the truck, and I thought we were running an hour late. He didn't let me know the real time till I asked the Marine Highway employee if the boat was running late. Bill laughed and said 'ha ha, the clock is an hour fast." Whack!

The ferry employee, when he saw my shocked look, said that he wouldn't want to be in Bill's shoes right now. Harumph, uh YEAH!

There is a reason we call it the Alaska Marine Highway, as most of the communities in Southeast Alaska are on islands, and this is the major form of transportation. The Malaspina loaded up with about 4 high school basketball teams, and the boat was full of teenage kids.

This was a non-sleeping lounge, so not as full for the evening.
The sun set shortly after getting onboard the ferry, and it wasn't long until the ferry turned into a channel called the Wrangell Narrows. This is a 22 mile long stretch with over 60 navigational aids to keep you from hitting rocks or going aground. We have done it twice in Denali Rose, but this was my first time in a large vessel, and in the dark of night no less. (cool time lapse video of the MV Matanuska going through the narrows)

I followed along on the active chart we have on the IPad, and stood at the front of the lounge following along with the beacons, lights, buoys, and cans. The ferry always had a spotter standing up front in the bow, and at times turned on huge spotlights to make sure they were seeing correctly. They had to go very slowly through some of it. The large cruise ships don't go to Petersburg, because they can't fit through this passage.

They turn off all of the lights in the lounges at 10:00pm, (except for emergency lights), and everyone has claimed their sleeping spaces to stretch out. It is like one large slumber party. People with camping sleeping mats, blow up mattresses, (full size even), sleeping in between the rows, along the outside walls, in lounge chairs, bench chairs, and creating camping sites. (Really!)

And like all slumber parties, there is always someone who won't be quiet. At about 11:30pm, I decided it was enough, and reminded the young men that there were areas of the boat where people weren't sleeping, and they should go there if they intended to stay awake and talk. Something to be said for having grey hair and a commanding presence, (and parents who have done a fairly good job at instilling some respect), as they said, "Yes Ma'am", and they laid down and went to sleep. We have decided in retrospect, that if/when we do an overnight, we will pay the money to get a stateroom. (small closet room with bunkbeds, and a bathroom).

The next day was sunny, and beautiful, and we really enjoyed the scenery.

Eldred Rock

Notice the glacier to the left.
Approaching the ferry terminal at Haines.

Picturesque Haines
Haines is in a really beautiful area of Alaska, with the jagged mountains, the Lynn Canal, and the Chilkat and Chilkoot rivers. When the sun shines, it is spectacular. Haines has the largest congregations of bald eagles in the world, and they feed from the hot springs fed rivers. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is 18 miles from town. 

Now we are on our final leg of the journey back to Fairbanks. We have to cross into Canada one more time as we drive from Haines to Haines Junction, to the Alaska-Canadian border just past Beaver Creek. Traveling through the Chilkat Pass was another beautiful drive, with blue skies, pure white mountains, and black highway. (Chilkat Pass, elev, 3,510 feet/1,070m, at Milepost H 59 Haines Highway)

This picture was taken through the truck windshield, note the tinting.

Snow just waiting for new trails to be made.

We saw a wolf, caribou, and mountain sheep. There were also many turn-outs for people towing trailers with snow machines.

We took 3 days to drive back to Fairbanks. I'm sure it could be driven in 2, but Bill had begun to not feel well, and he didn't want to have extended driving days. We blame all of the kids on the ferry for passing on the flu and colds we both would come down with.

We got back to our home in Fairbanks in the late afternoon on March 3rd, and between the 4th and the 8th, we got about a foot of snow, and then a week of minus 3 to minus 30 temperatures. Welcome home. 

Neither one of us felt very good at this point, we parked the truck and didn't have the energy to unload much. We left the furnace and the fridge on in the truck, until we could get the perishables into the house. It took us awhile before we could get out and plow the driveway, clean the deck and steps, and carry pellet bags to the house. We joke about how we have been in a disagreement with our lungs about whether they would live inside or outside of our bodies. I think we have finally won the debate.

Bill out with the snow blower.

Looking up our driveway, we are snowed in.

Parked truck, awaiting unloading.

Now that we are feeling better, it is time to get busy, sorting, cleaning, clearing out, selling, and packing. (again)

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