Travel journal USA, Canada & Alaska 2008

by Claudia and PJ Potgieser



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June 2008
Back in our camper after working for a couple of months in the Netherlands. Immediately we went northbound to Yellowstone National Park, because we were already late in the season. But winter had been long and there was still a lot of snow. On June 11th fresh 12 inches of fresh snow fell on the mountain passes and we were stuck for two days in the park between Canyon and Fishing Bridge!


July 2008
4th of July we celebrated with our relatives in West-Yellowstone. A couple of days we played on Lake Hebgen and made action shots of the kids. Because it was too early in the season to go to Alaska, we traveled westbound and plashed around in hot springs in Idaho and Oregon.


August 2008
1 - 15 August: In Hyder, Alaska we always made pictures of fishing grizzly bears in Fish Creek. The salmon count this year was record low, but there were also lots of other things to do in this area. One day we went with some friends to an ice cave in the Salmon glacier. The hike down was strenuous, but worth all the effort. Afterwards we spend the night on a mountain top with view on the glacier.


16 - 23 August: With two other couples we drove from Fairbanks, Alaska, 300 miles north to photograph the migrating caribous and herds of musk ox on the Artic tundra. The fall colors were just gorgeous. It was a very weird sensation to focus on a bull caribou while a bow hunter aimed his arrow at the same animal! Fortunately he missed. The musk ox are protected and for us easier to shoot, this animal is the survivor of the Ice age with long waving hair.


24 - 31 August:
It is easier to see a a grizzly bear in Denali National Park than to see Mount McKinley (the highest mountain of North America), which is covered in clouds 80% of the year. We were lucky and saw both! But we were here especially to see the bull moose, which we saw a lot. The fall colors in Denali were eye-catching.


September 2008
1 – 9 September: We were still traveling with two other couples. After more than two weeks in Denali we were heading for Fairbanks. In Denali you cannot drive your vehicle, you have to be transported by old green school busses.
These – sometimes nine hours trips – weren’t successful, but we were in good company and had a lot of fun. We enjoyed the first 10 miles of the park better, when you can drive yourself and where we saw a lot of moose.


                                                 picture taken by Frank Hooghiemstra

10 – 13 September: We took a detour of 150 miles from the Alaska Highway for a visit to Haines. Along the Chilkoot River we saw 12 different grizzly bears within 24 hours. They hung around the weir Fish & game had built to count the sock-eye salmon. Although it was a lousy fish year here too, they had counted almost 33.000 sock-eyes. We witnessed a scary moment when a Husky dog was threatening a grizzly bear on the beach! It ended all well for grizzly and dog.



14 - 16 September: We followed the Alaska Highway south to Dawson Creek. The trees were in fall colors. Along the road we saw wood bison and caribou. We dipped into the hot river of Liard Hot Springs. It was just as idyllic as eight years ago.


17 - 27 September: Through exiting and rough roads in British Columbia we looked for grizzly bears and found them too. The mushrooms were popping up, the berries were ripe and the leaves started to fall. It was definitely autumn now.





28 - 30 September: We were watching some fishing bears from the road, when we heared behind us: "Hmmmpf" and a grizzly bear stepped out of the bush! PJ grabbed his pepper spray in one hand and his tripod and camera in the other and we started to back up. Unfortunately he had put his full coffee mug on the ground and it was too late for me to go and get it. The bear walked towards the cup and spontaneously started rolling on the ground. Do you think the bear disliked instant coffee?



October 2008
4 -6 October: For a couple of days we were staying in front of Charlotte and Bob’s house in the centre of Kamloops. We have met this couple last year in Mexico. Overnight the temperature had dropped to 32 F and it was a very foggy morning. While I am having a shower in their house, PJ is working on the laptop in the camper. He looked out of the window and saw a black bear walking the pavement!! This was very confusing for a moment.
We were now accused for bringing the cold weather AND the bears to Kamloops… ;-)

In July we were also parked in their street                      Black bear in front of a house (very foggy) 

7 October: Since Hyder people teased me when I was wearing my new camouflage pants which I had bought in an Army dump store, so they are official army camouflage pants! I can imagine that they are laughing, because the pants are spotted in orange, yellow, brown and black. “Where are you hiding for?”, is a frequented asked question. Until we arrived high north in Alaska on the tundra, the comments are silenced. Nobody could see me!  


8 – 12 October: Looking for warmer weather brought us more and more south, but even in Northern California we had freezing nights. We crossed through Washington state and Oregon and were amazed by the snow capped volcanoes that were popping up out of the flat country.  


13 – 18 October: We finally found hot days (90 F) and warm nights in Death Valley, California. We drove 40 miles dirt road, which took us 3 ½ hours. First a pas of almost 2300 meter and then only down down down. We ended up at Saline Valley Hot Springs, an oases in the desert. A pity that this area is also the low flying practice range of the US Air force. Sometimes the jets are flying so low that we are afraid that the windows of the camper will break.  




19 October: We had a quiet and peaceful night at the Bonneville salt flats (Utah). Of course we did not try out the Speedway, where in summer speed records over land are being held. Once we had been stuck for two days on the salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia, the largest salt flats in the world. We don’t want to have that experience again.

                          Bonneville Salt flats (Utah)                                                        Salt flats of Uyuni (Bolivia)

On Monday October 20th three million Brits opened their newspaper and were seeing our bear pictures! Thanks to Doug, our English friend who works at Metro newspaper in London.


October 2008 USA and Netherlands
We flew home to Holland for a quick visit of 18 days. It is always a pleasure to hang out with our family and friends, although it was just short.

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