"An Alaskan Adventure" commences in Indiana following a visit with Al's relatives who live there. After negotiating the traffic jams of Chicago, Al and Gayle traveled I-94 across the northern Great Plains visiting Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana along the way. Heading north, they visited Glacier National Park and continued on to tour Yoho, Banff, and Jasper national parks in Canada. Afterwards, Al & Gayle picked up the Alaskan Highway which took them to a realization of Al's dream.
The reminder of the book is about Al & Gayle's travels around the Great Alaskan Triangle, a circuit of 900 miles defined by the cities of Tok, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. While negotiating this triangle, Al and Gayle's primary goals were to find gold in one of the many streams they crossed and to also find a Wooly Mammoth frozen in a glacier. Toward this end, they took side trips to the White Mountains National Recreation Area, Denali National Park, The Top of the World Highway, and the towns of Homer and Chicken.
"An Alaskan Adventure" is not just a book about touring Alaska. Al is an environmentalist and a theme evident throughout the book is that the beauty we find around us is fleeting and that if we, as a species, continue to over-populate our world, what we see and value so highly is sure to go away.
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AN ALASKAN ADVENTURE
A TRAVELOGUE AND ENVIRONMENTAL TREATIS
By ALAN R. ADASCHIK
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Alan R. Adaschik
All rights reserved.
THE NORTHERN PLAINS
Sunday, July 7, writing from LaPorte, Indiana
That's it for relatives for a while. Tomorrow, we leave for Alaska and begin our adventure. We will travel over three-thousand five-hundred miles during the next few weeks just getting there.
Gayle's goal is to pan for gold and find a flake or two. I'm a little more ambitious. I want to find a woolly mammoth frozen in a glacier. I am sure mammoth meat must be very tasty because of how long it has been aged. I can hardly wait to sink my choppers into a five-thousand year old chunk of hindquarter. Talk about a meal that spans the ages.
We also plan to fish for halibut. I didn't know much about this fish before planning our journey and was intrigued to learn that they are a huge flounder. The all time record halibut, caught commercially, weighed over nine-hundred pounds.
Saturday, July 13, writing from Miles City, Montana
Hoping to get through the Chicago area before rush hour, we left La Porte, Indiana on Monday at five in the morning. This was not early enough. It took three hours to travel ninety miles. Talk about over-population! The traffic finally opened up on the other side of town and as planned, we picked up I-94 and headed north for Wisconsin. We decided to take I-94 in lieu of I-90 because it is closer to Canada and I thought that this would be the more scenic route.
Wisconsin is famous for its dairy products. However, it is also a progressive state that led the way to direct primary elections, regulation of public utilities, pensions for teachers, the establishment of kindergartens, minimum-wage laws, and workers' compensation. It was also the first state to abolish the death penalty and has been a leader in the development of farmers' institutes, farm cooperatives, dairy farmers' associations, and cheese-making federations. One of the nation's first hydroelectric plants was built in Wisconsin and it was the first state to adopt the number system for marking highways. It was the first state to pass a law mandating safety belts in all new automobiles bought into the state and Wisconsin played a major role in establishing the Republican Party.
As we drove through Wisconsin picturesque farms and rolling hills dominated the scenery. Monday evening, we stayed at a state park in the town of Hudson, just shy of the Minnesota Border. The park was beautiful and our camp site was about a hundred yards from a lakeside beach. Breaking out our folding bicycles, we followed a trail around the lake and were delighted when we came upon a dam with a fifty-foot waterfall. Two teenage boys were fishing in the pond at the bottom of the dam and it was a nostalgic scene; like something out of Huckleberry Finn.
Tuesday, we woke up to cloudy skies. We crossed the Minnesota border and took the I-694 bypass around Minneapolis/St. Paul, enduring heavy showers as we traveled. We were once again caught in rush hour traffic, but not as bad as Chicago. Minnesota is much the same as Wisconsin; farms and rolling hills. I am sure there are really beautiful places in both these states, but you do not see much from an interstate highway.
Minnesota possesses some of the nation's richest farmland which helps establish the state as a leading producer of milk products, corn, hogs, soybeans, and wheat. The state is also rife with scenic beauty and its sparkling lakes and deep pine woods make it a vacation wonderland. Minnesota is blessed with a plethora of game animals and fish that are a major attraction for outdoorsmen from all over the nation. Its numerous lakes and extensive woodlands also are an attraction to campers, canoeists, and hikers.
We drove through Minnesota, crossed into North Dakota and stopped for the night in Jamestown, a town on the James River. We chose Jamestown as a stopping place because their campground included a restaurant on its grounds. Jamestown is famous for its buffalo museum and a three-story tall statue of a buffalo that can be seen from I-94.
Gayle was anxious to see a real buffalo, so we planned on doing so before we left the following day. Unfortunately, the local buffalos were hidden behind a fence and you had to pay to see them. I was offended by this, so to protest, we stole a peek through a hole we found in the fence. Seeing those buffalo as they were saddened me. They once owned the plains, with their herds stretching from horizon to horizon and now they have been reduced to being a cheap tourist attraction behind a restaurant in Jamestown. I had no reservation about leaving this place. Gayle wanted to spend another day there, which illustrates a universal truth of life and RV'ing; men always want to move on and women always want to stop and smell the roses.
On the road again in North Dakota we discovered why the plains are called "great". Finally, we are traveling somewhere visibly different from what we are used to seeing back east. "Rolling hills" does not adequately describe the panoramic vistas that unfolded before us. The hills were immense, with summits three to five miles apart. They were covered in grass, with a tree or two here and there to break up the monotony. Crossing the top of one hill, in the distance, you could see the top of the next; but even more spectacular was the view up and down the valley for several miles in both directions. The feeling of openness was breathtaking. For the first time in my life I know what is meant by wide open spaces and believe me, unless you see the Great Plains, you will never really know the true meaning of this expression.
North Dakota was named after the Sioux Indians who once lived here. The Sioux called themselves Dakota or Lakota, meaning allies or friends. The geographic center of North America lies in North Dakota and is near the town of Rugby in the north central part of the state. The state is almost entirely covered by farms and ranches, with the chief crop being wheat. The state produces most of the nation's flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and barley. In addition to these crops the state also leads in the production of oats, pinto beans, rye, and sugar beets.
Few settlers came to North Dakota before the 1870's because railroads had not yet reached the area. However, this changed in the 1870's and with the advent of railroad transportation, large wheat producing farms developed. The farms were highly profitable and became known as bonanza farms. The success of these farms attracted more settlers and the population of the state exploded by the turn of the century.
Our goal for the day is to reach Medora, twenty-seven miles from the Montana border. We chose this town as a destination because its population is one-hundred souls and we had a choice of two reasonably priced RV parks. At the time, I never imagined the magical place we would find. As we approached Medora, hints of what was to come began to appear. Here and there were increasing numbers of curious piles of dirt; fifty to one-hundred feet high. They looked like huge pimples or termite mounds. Finally, about three miles outside of Medora, someone threw a switch and changed the world; before us stood the Dakota Badlands.
Dumb struck; Gayle and I pulled over to gawk at the magnificent scenery. Recovering, we exited the interstate and drove a short distance to Medora. Medora turned out to be a small and picturesque western town, snuggled between cliffs of multi-colored rock and stone, which were punctuated by small trees and sage brush. There are two levels of land in the area; the top which is flat and level and the bottom which is also flat and level. Separating the two are cliffs which are anything but flat and level.
Main Street, downtown in Medora, North Dakota Medora was founded by the Marquis de Mores and named after his wife. The Marquis was no aristocratic pansy, but instead, one of the biggest ranchers in the area who built his own meat packing plant so he wouldn't have to ship his cattle to Chicago for processing. He was also a good friend of the young Teddy Roosevelt, who until he was thirty, ranched nearby. Teddy had moved to the area as youth for health reasons and it was here that he began the legend that would one day propel him into the White House. Yesterday, Gayle and I toured Theodore Roosevelt National Park by motorcycle. The scenery took our breath away. The park looked like a set from a Hollywood movie. Of special delight, was the herd of buffalo we encountered grazing freely within the park as God intended.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park's most outstanding feature is the scenic badlands along the Little Missouri River. It is here where water and wind have carved deep gullies and steep hills into the landscape. The park also includes a cattle ranch that President Theodore Roosevelt operated when he was in the area. A restored cabin where Teddy Roosevelt once lived is available for visitors to tour.
Teddy Roosevelt was an adventurer who believed in what he called the "strenuous life." He reviled in horseback riding, swimming, hunting, hiking, and boxing. His favorite expression was "bully", which today would translate into, "out-of-sight". Cartoonists had a field day with Roosevelt's rimless glasses, bushy mustache, prominent teeth, and jutting jaw. He was once portrayed as a bear cub and picking up on this, toymakers were soon producing stuffed bears that are still known today as "teddy bears."
Teddy Roosevelt became a national hero during the Spanish-American War in 1898 where he commanded the Rough Riders. This exposure enabled him to win the governorship of New York State and two years later, he became Vice-President. Six months after taking office, President William McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt assumed the Presidency. In 1904, Roosevelt was elected President and being a "trust buster" he tirelessly worked to limit the power of corporations and big business. Toward this end he spearheaded laws to regulate the railroads, protect people from harmful foods and drugs, and conserve the nation's forests and other natural resources.
Teddy Roosevelt was also no slouch in foreign affairs. The center piece of his foreign policy as he put it; was to "speak softly and carry a big stick". In this vein, he expanded the U.S. Navy, started construction of the Panama Canal, and kept European powers out of Latin America. While keeping the world's other imperialistic nations at bay, he also managed to become the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.CHAPTER 2
THE ROAD TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Thursday, July 18, writing from Glacier National Park, Montana
We drove through North Dakota, crossed the border into Montana and headed for the town of Livingston. Our plans now are to visit Glacier National Park. Livingston used to be the home of Calamity Jane and she lived there until she was arrested for disorderly conduct. A picture of her appears in one of their tour books. From her looks, it is easy to see why they called her "Calamity".
As we approached Billings Montana we came upon an interstate exit with a sign announcing that we were approaching Pompy's Tower and being curious, we turned off the interstate. Pompy's tower sits adjacent to the Yellowstone River and is a huge flat-topped rock poking out of the surrounding prairie to height of 127 feet. On July 25, 1806, William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame, with nine men of his party, visited and climbed this rock. One of the men in Clark's party was a Frenchman named Toussant Charbonneau and he had brought his son who was nicknamed Pomp on this historic journey. In deference to Pomp, William Clark named the rock Pompy's Tower.
Before leaving the area, William Clark chiseled his name into the flanks of the tower for posterity and added these words to his journal; "The Indians have made 2 piles of Stone on the top of this Tower. The natives have ingraved on the face of this rock the figures of animals near which I marked my name and the day of the month & year". I took a picture of Clark's inscription but later, accidentally erased it. This was the most memorable photograph I took on this journey and now, for me, the historic inscription is only a memory. Someday, I will return to Pompy's tower and retake that photograph.
Like Mr. Clark, I climbed to the top of Pompy's tower and looked out upon a vista little changed from when he stood there almost two-hundred years ago. But things have changed! When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to make their journey, very few Americans lived west of the Mississippi River. The population of the United States, at the time, was a little over 5 million people. Today, New York City's population is over 10 million people and the population of the entire nation exceeds 286 million. This is an increase of an astounding four-thousand four-hundred forty-eight percent (4,448%) in two-hundred year's time. I wonder if 286 million people are sufficient for this nation or should we allow these numbers to continue to grow so the quality of our lives will increase accordingly? By the way, the world's population presently stands at 6.2 billion people. When William Clark carved his name into Pompy's Tower, there were 1.0 billion people in the world.
Upon passing Billings, Montana, we noticed a bluish haze on the horizon. As we drove closer, the haze began to look like clouds over a mountain range. Driving on, we realized that what we thought were clouds was really snow on the tops of the mountains. Lord, how I love this country, from a hundred and ten degrees in the shade, to snow capped mountains in a three-hour drive.
Scenery wise, the Livingston area is magnificent. We are camped ten miles south of town, about fifty miles north of Yellowstone National Park. On both sides of us, mountains reach to the sky. Grasslands extend up the sides of the mountains and end where evergreen forests begin. A number of homes are built at this transition point. I'll bet the view from their living rooms is spectacular.
Montana is the fourth largest state in the Union, only exceed in land area by Alaska, Texas, and California. Montana's name is derived from the Spanish word meaning "mountainous" and the western part of the state lives up to this description. The mountainous regions are famous for deposits of copper, gold, and silver and because of this bounty, the state is also known as "The Treasure State". On the other hand, the eastern side of the state is endless prairie that reaches as far as the eye can see. These spectacular and unspoiled vistas gave rise to the state also being called "The Big Sky Country". These open plains are home to vast herds of cattle, endless wheat fields, oil wells, and coal mines. Montana is truly a giant land of great contrasts. It is also the state where General George Armstrong Custer made his last stand and where the Nez Perce Indians fought their final battles against the United States Calvary.
This morning I drove into Livingston by motorcycle to buy provisions. As I write, I am sitting on a picnic table at our campsite, typing with my laptop on battery power. Earlier, I attempted to go on line using our cell phone and did so successfully. I caught up on E-Mail and tried to send some pictures. The speed of my connection made this impossible, so I will have to forgo sending pictures until we find a campground with a phone line.
This afternoon, Gayle and I toured the area by motorcycle. We explored dirt roads on both sides of the valley until they dead-ended on the mountain slopes. The bike performed well, but with two people aboard, I had to be careful to not bite off more than I could chew. I did not want to chance a spill with Gayle on board. The scenery was spectacular and we took a lot of pictures. However, seeing the real thing takes your breath away and this can never be captured on film. Oops, I mean by electrons, as is the case with our digital camera.
After leaving Livingston, the road we were on ran through the center of a wide valley, fifteen to twenty miles across. We drove one-hundred seventy-five miles and stopped in the town of Deer Lodge, the second oldest city in Montana. In the 1850s Deer Lodge was a trading and trapping center. The town got its name because of a forty foot high cone which formed over a thermal spring that gave off copious amounts of vapor. From a distance the cone and vapor resembled a smoking Indian lodge. This feature along with all the deer that grazed nearby gave the town its name. In 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in Deer Lodge and the town then became the end of the line for pioneers heading west.
Excerpted from AN ALASKAN ADVENTURE by ALAN R. ADASCHIK. Copyright © 2014 Alan R. Adaschik. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: THE NORTHERN PLAINS, 1,
Chapter 2: THE ROAD TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, 8,
Chapter 3: THE ROAD TO JASPER, 17,
Chapter 4: ON THE ROAD IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, 25,
Chapter 5: THE YUKON, 31,
Chapter 6: TOK TO FAIRBANKS, 41,
Chapter 7: THE WHITE MOUNTAINS ADVENTURE, 49,
Chapter 8: THE ROAD TO DENALI, 56,
Chapter 9: A DENALI ADVENTURE, 62,
Chapter 10: THE ROAD TO ANCHORAGE, 69,
Chapter 11: THE ROAD TO HOMER, 75,
Chapter 12: A HOMER ADVENTURE, 80,
Chapter 13: ENCOUNTER WITH A GLACIER, 87,
Chapter 14: CHICKEN ALASKA, 98,
Chapter 15: THE END OF A DREAM, 104,
Chapter 16: OUR ENVIRONMENT, 105,