Where are we? Canada & Alaska 2013
                          with Claudia & PJ Potgieser

 

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August - September 2013, Hyder Alaska

First a quick update. We have spent 14 days at the viewing platform of Fish Creek and finally we have seen the fishing wolves. And also the Aurora over Salmon Glacier! We have stayed for 25 days and now we are heading north. See more detailed travel journal underneath.

 

 

 

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August 2013, Netherlands

12 August 2013, Rotterdam
Heat wave in Holland: PJ is blowing out the water pipes of the mobile home, replacing it with anti-freeze. We are winterizing the mobile home, sold our car, uprooting plants, pruning trees. No, we are not suffering from a heat stroke…
We have just bought flight tickets, rented out both houses, packing our suitcase and Monday 12 August we are off to Calgary!
Alaska, here we come!!! Our main goal is to photograph the Northern Lights and we also would like to see the fishing wolves in Hyder.

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August 2013 Canada and Alaska

August 12, 2013, Rotterdam
With two too heavy suitcases and five carry-on luggage we arrive at the small Rotterdam Airport. Fortunately there is no problem, everything is just checked in without extra charge. We still have time to have lunch with my father-in-law at the panorama deck and then we fly to London in an hour.
Also there everything runs smoothly and in 9 hours we fly to Calgary. During the landing I suddenly see our RV storage, but unfortunately this time I am not sitting with my camera in my lap  so I cannot take a picture. At 8.30 PM we land, immigration takes only a few minutes and we are brought to our hotel with a hotel shuttle bus. Because we both have slept on the plane, we are wide awake. But after a walk in the fresh air, we are fast asleep at around 11pm.

   

 

Augustus 13, 2013, Hotel in Calgary Canada
At 3 am we are both wide awake. So I make two cups of decaffeinated coffee. I fall back to sleep for a few hours, but PJ stays awake.

At 7 pm we are having breakfast, that isn’t complementary. But it is very tasty!

We take the shuttle back to the airport and from there a 5 minute taxi drive to the RV storage. We are so early that they are not open yet! The camper is very dusty and also this time birds have built a nest and pooped all over. But the engine starts at once! HOORAY !

So we drive straight to the Wal-Mart supermarket and stock up with a lot of groceries. We also go to the Canadian Superstore for more food (including those delicious cinnamon buns with lots of sugar icing). Then a half hour drive to the well-known RV park where we always stay when we are in Calgary. The receptionist even recognize us from last April.

We are worn out by now and take a short nap. Then I clean the camper, try to store all the groceries and empty out all the suitcases, while PJ empties out the water pipes of antifreeze, flush the holding tanks and washes the car. PJ is spent (no wonder: he has been up since 3 am), so after dinner he goes to bed. I try to stay awake for a little while, before the jetlag hits me too.

August 14 , RV park Calgary Canada
At 3.30 am we are both awake. PJ 's makes coffee and I'll stay in bed and fall asleep again. Because the showers at the RV park are coin-operated, expensive, the water lukewarm and the spray too hard, we decide to take shower in the camper. Two years ago, the water heater froze and PJ did not fix it until last winter in Mexico with Bob (and Char). To the dismay of Bob, we did not try out the new hot water boiler, because we always used the campground showers. So seven months later PJ turns water heater on and everything works great. This water heater is so quiet that we regularly check whether it is really heating up the water.

 

After a shower we leave the RV park at 9 am. The route to Hyder goes through Banff, Jasper and Mount Robson National Park. We drive 480 miles that day (a record for us) and see no animals! Now is mid-August not the best time to see animals, but I cannot imagine that I drive 480 miles through Yellowstone and do not see any wildlife.
We spend the night in the parking lot of Wal-Mart in Prince George.

 

 

   
        The boring Yellowhead Highway                    A very long fishing rod                                in Smithers

August 15, 2013 , Prince George, Canada
It is a sunny day and 23°C/73°F. We are so early that the supermarket is not open yet. We do some forgotten groceries at the Wal-Mart and the Canadian Superstore and then continue west on the Yellowhead Highway 16. We frequently see large roadside billboards with pictures of missing girls. This highway is also known as the Highway of Tears, because hitchhiking girls disappear from the earth or murders remain unsolved. Since 1969 there are 18 girls missing or murdered. In Terrace hitchhiking is now officially forbidden.

   

Because we have a late start, that day we only drive 230 miles and stay in Smithers. There's a big sign in the parking lot of the Safeway supermarket that campers can stay for free, and there is wireless Internet. I wish we were this welcome everywhere.

I suddenly get a Facebook warning that tonight there is Northern Lights to see. It is not yet dark and there are many lights in the parking lot. PJ goes to bed and I walk around a bit, hoping to see something green but we're still just a little too far south.

August 16, 2013 , Smithers Canada
When we wake up is 14°C/57°F and it rains a little. We drive further on the Yellowhead Highway 16. We only have to drive 200 miles to Hyder today. In the ancient native Settlement Moricetown we stop for a while to see the Wet'su-wet'en first nation people using the narrow canyon to catch salmon in a special way. They catch the Salmon sticking a net into the wild water. In ten minutes we see them catching five salmon on a row.

 

We go north on the Cassiar Highway 79. The jetlag starts to take its toll and we decided to park the camper along the side of the road and take a nap. Then we take a shower and we are ready to go to Hyder.
Along the way we see the Bear Glacier and find it shocking to see how much this glacier has retreated in thirteen years. The cave has melted and the toe of the glacier does not touch the lake anymore.

 
                2004                              2013

It's already 6.30 in the evening as we enter Hyder. The ghost town is located at a dead end road at the southern tip of Alaska. Since last year, the main road is paved and that is weird to see (even though we had already seen pictures). It looses the charm of this cute village. The second surprise is a police officer in a police car that hands out fines for speeding. It can't get any crazier ! We are in a village with 80 inhabitants .... This cop has come from Ketchican just for a couple of days.

 

We drive straight to the pub Sealaska Inn, where our friend Regina is working in the evenings behind the bar. The reunion is fun. We have looked her up 9 months ago in South Dakota, where she now lives with her husband and daughter Rory . Thirteen years ago we had met her as a 21-year-old park ranger in Fish Creek and spent many hours together. In her spare time she took us hiking to an ice cave, through rain forests teeming with grizzly bears and camping outings overlooking the Salmon Glacier. When PJ turned 39 she baked a cake for him in the shape of a bear and when he turned 40 she showed up in a bear costume. She is just pure fun!

 

 

 

We have a few drinks and try to talk while Regina serves her customers at the bar. Then we drop by at Linda's house (Regina's mom) to see the 2 year old Rory. She runs outside excited (Regina has her completely prepared with videos and pictures of us), but to her own surprise she does not recognize us. But soon we are best buddies with this cutie.

                    
                                                  only 9 months older, but what a different face already!

Northern Lights are out tonight, so we drive from sea level via a dirt road to 3600 feet to camp at the glacier. I am awake half the night, but unfortunately I do not see anything green.

Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights are caused by eruptions on the sun, sending vibrations into the universe. These vibrations collide with the magnetic field of the earth (usually three days after a blast) and that makes the green and red northern lights. So we should know in advance whether there is a chance of Northern Lights through a kind of weather forecast for Auroras, but this is not always accurate.

   
                                                                           The area during better weather

August 17, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
It is foggy when we get up. We drive around a bit to see if we can find a grizzly bear and to see the lay of the land. It is raining as we drive down the mountain again. We park at Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. From a long wooden platform you can safely watch grizzly bears, black bears and wolves here. Fish Creek is located in the most southern point of America's largest National Forest, the Tongass. Spanning 500 miles and encompassing nearly 17 million acres of land, the Tongass  National Forest is the largest protected temperate rainforest in the world. Mild temperatures and an abundance of rain characterize this National Forest. There is an average of 16 feet of rain per year! So we can not complain that it is wet here. We chat with Bob and SueAnn, which we affectionately call our fossil friends, the rangers and the new volunteers. From 10 am to 6 pm we stand on the platform and see ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! That is disappointing. For weeks we have gotten e-mails from Bob, in which he wrote enthusiastically about the wolves action.

   
                 Temperate rainforest                                     With SueAnn                        PJ with his friend Pete Gaiser (cool shades!)

We drive a mile north where we spent the night at a quarry. While I am cooking supper, PJ says suddenly: Now, look at this!" A black bear with two cubs is posing on a fallen tree trunk. By the time PJ has the camera ready, they disappeared into the forest to the left. Moments later there is a black bear on its way to our camper and disappears to the right into the forest. We love to camp in a forest full of black bears.

August 18, 2013, Hyder Alaska
Again we rise with rain. Expectantly we are from 6 am until 6 pm at the platform and also this day we see NOTHING! Our English friend Doug who now residences in Kitimat drove 240 miles north to see us, Regina and Rory. Regina has persuaded him not to stay two but three nights.

Regina is working again at the bar, so we look her up again and drink a little too much.

         

August 19, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
A little later than usual (at 8 am) and with a slight headache we are back on the platform  It is rainy weather. Doug is already there and later Regina and Rory come too. Rory grabs PJ's hand excited and takes him for a little walk. Fortunately, she is totally relaxed with us now. We have old fun with each other and new fun with Rory. That little cutie has practiced the moves of the children's song "in the moonlight" that I taught her 9 months ago and she can not get enough of it.

 
                                                       13 years ago                                              still best buddies

 

At the end of the afternoon a grizzly bear suddenly appears. It is 'Jaws', the largest boar in the creek. Ten years ago he only showed up in the twilight and we thought his jaw was broken, so he was nicknamed Jaws. When he later came more during daylight, we could see that not his jaw was broken, but just his lower lip torn. The name stuck. It is an impressive big bear, who stays for ten minutes.

 

August 20, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
From 8.30 to 14.30 on the platform and we see nothing.
Regina has invited us for a fish barbecue at her mother's home . She also has invited a few of our old friends and we spend the evening in the garden by a campfire while Regina is preparing salmon, halibut and garlic bread on the barbecue. There is also a great salad and a delightful dessert. It is a dry sultry evening and we enjoy it very much.


     

 

 
                        Behind Linda's house there is a creek with skunk cabbage, everything looks so beautiful here.

August 21, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
At 6.15 am there is a large boar grizzly bear in the creek, but it is too dark for photos. The grizzly is called Dogbear. Thirteen years ago a woman was walking her dog in the parking lot (strictly forbidden) and she did not realize that a grizzly bear had come out of the creek and had walked into the parking lot. The bear was eying the dog and the ranger grabbed the dog by the neck just in time, so the incident ended well. After that the bear was named Dogbear.

At 8.30 a sow grizzly shows up and we take a a few pictures. The 20 year old bear is named Monica and she is a huge bear. The rest of the day we do not see any bears or wolves.

We make new friends. Steve is a 50 year old Englishman who emigrated with his wife to Vancouver Island six years ago  and is now a full time wildlife photographer (http://stevewphotography.ca/)
Every day we park our tripods next to his and wait and chat all day. Steve is bad with names and accidentally calls me Monica.
"Are you calling me Monica? Is my butt that big?" I bounce back . We have a good laugh about it.
I do not think it is funny anymore when I break through my stool only a few hours later!

 

   

We say goodbye to Doug and agree with Regina to go camping at the glacier later in the afternoon.
We drive up the mountain and it is foggy and drizzling rain. We set up camp, make a fire, eat, sing and toast marshmallows. Rory has the strange habit to call out loud: "Oh look, baby bear". Every time we fall for it and jump out of our chairs. One day it will happen that we ignore her and then there will be a grizzly bear behind us...

   

     

   

August 22, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
We are closed in by the fog. I bake Dutch pancakes with bacon and apple and we wait for little princess to wake up. Rory loves to walk and when she is awake and dressed, we all take turns. Occasionally the fog lifts up and we get a glimpse of the beautiful area where we are camping.

   

   

              

 

We drive to the highest viewing point where 78-year-old Keith Scott, aka Bearman spends the summer selling his books, DVDs and postcards. He has pitched a pup tent at the viewpoint, but he sleeps in his car. I suspect he wants the tourists to feel sorry for him and buy a book. (he was totally sold out early September, so I think it helps) I make hot chocolate for him, but he can not find his cup and gives me a tin can. He is such a lovely teddy bear. In the fog we drive down, which is quite creepy.

The forecast for northern lights is good, so after a day without bears at Fish Creek we drive up and park our camper next to the car of Keith.

I set the alarm and as I look outside at 1 am, it seems like someone has put a spotlight on the glacier. The full moon has just risen and I go outside to take pictures of the glacier. In the north I see a strange elongated arcade white cloud, but I do not see it moving. It is like a white rainbow .

 
 the graphics of the Northern lights                                               Salmon Glacier by moonlight with the star heaven

I crawl back into bed and set the egg timer every half hour. At 2.30 am I look again at that white rainbow in the northern horizon. Is this the beginning of the Northern Lights or am I really just looking at an strange cloud? I keep on staring a bit and then wake up PJ.
"What do you think, is this Northern Lights ?", I ask PJ.
"No, that's a cloud," he replies grumpily.
I take a longer look and suddenly I see that the arc gets thicker and thinner. "Yes, it has begun!" I cry out and jump out of bed. We put on our warm clothes and make the camera ready. And yes, suddenly the white arc turns green and starts to move around. Fantastic!
We wake up Keith and he views the spectacle from his bed in the car.

   

It did not last long, but we stay up till 4am to make sure that it does not come back. PJ wants to drive down right away, so we can be back on the platform in time. Proudly we show our Northern Lights pictures that day, but we do not see any bears. For tonight again Northern Lights are predicted, so PJ drives in the evening up the mountain again. Unfortunately I only see fog when I wake up from the egg timer every half hour. After two hours I give up. I get a bit washed from those restless nights.

August 24, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
Another day without bears. Other years when we were here every three hours a grizzly bear wandered along, every hour we would see a black bear along the creek, we were entertained by a beaver or mink, we could listen to the many sounds that the ravens make, a bald eagle would land in a tree at the blue lagoon and kept an eye on the ducks, herons were wading through the shallow water, kingfishers were diving for small fish, we would see mergansers floating in the creek with ducklings on their backs. And since three years a pack of wolves regularly fish in Fish creek. Since we arrived here, we have seen only three grizzly bears, a handful of black bears and a
blue heron. It's unbelievable how slow it is this year at Fish Creek.

 
                                                there seem to be enough fish in the creek!

In the evening we make a campfire at Linda´s garden. Yes in the rain, because if you let your plans in Hyder depend on good weather, nothing will happen!

      

August 25, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
After yet another day without bears, PJ drives south towards Hyder, parks the camper along the Salmon River and I fix Mexican steak fajitas. While I am cooking, suddenly a black bear with two spring cubs comes along. She notices us, sends her kids into a tree and catches a fish in a shallow creek beside the river. She takes the fish into the forest and soon her cubs join her.

We take the plates on your lap and sit on the couch with the door open, but with the screen door closed. Suddenly PJ shouts: "WOLF!!!" and I see that a wolf pushes his nose against the screen door! Through the large window we see that the wolf runs away from our camper. PJ grabs the camera and jumps out. Meanwhile, the wolf has made an u-turn and is already back at the door. The wolf jumps with four legs in the air and runs 10 yards away, stops and starts a staring contest. This takes so long that PJ has time to turn up the ISO, to change the focus point and to start shooting. The wolf walks away another 5 yards and starts staring again and then disappears from sight into the creek. We are still in shock when the wolf suddenly emerges with a fish in its mouth. It looks like he wants to show off his catch. He disappears from sight and we walk to the waterfront. The wolf is eating his fish just around the corner and sticks out his tongue at us ;). Then he picks up his fish and walks away from us. But not before he poses in various ways with the fish in its beak. How do I look better, this way ... or like this?

   

We admire the wet wolf tracks on the tarmac, including the jump in the air as a rental camper with an Italian  family comes along. Later we hear that Massimiliano said to his wife: "I think that the Dutch have just seen something, did you see that huge grin on her face?"

We download the pictures and they are very grainy, caused by low light, no tripod and a little shaky. But the experience remains great. We drive to Regina's bar to wind down and tell her our adventure.

August 26, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
Today the Fish Counters walk through the creek. They come from Ketchican but are helped by our friends Carl and Flint. They look like real Alaskan men, with their high waders and guns. They count 25,000 Pink salmon and 300 Chum salmon. The latter is very low and the favorite food of grizzly bears. Maybe that is why we see so little bears.

   

 

There are more and more dead fish in the creek. This is the normal life cycle of salmon. They are born in the creek, hatch, go to the sea and after about four years they come back to spawn and die above their nest. But the smell of rotting fish starts to become quite unbearable.
A lady brings her to young daughters to the creek and looks over the railing. "We are going to leave immediately, this creek is so polluted that the fish are dying", she exclaims.
The ranger tries to explain to her that this is a normal cycle, but the the lady does not listen and leaves.

   
In the evening we drop by Flint's nice house creation and we see a black bear.

August 27, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
Due to the new asphalt road Fish Creek is not overgrown anymore and for a long stretch you are able to see the creek. We hear more and more people say that they have seen a bear or a wolf from the road. We want to give this a try and this morning we stand and wait for hours and hours at a parking lot. Steve and the Italian family join us. At 9.30 suddenly a wolf comes along, but he does not stop to fish anywhere. This was not really what we had in mind, this way we can not take pictures. At 11.30 we drive back to Fish Creek and hear what we have missed: at 9am there was a grizzly for half an hour soaking in the beautiful blue lagoon, with four legs in the air. And at the same time there was a wolf who was fishing for half an hour at the creek !!!!! We are so incredibly pissed off and disappointed. We think we did not deserve this after ten days waiting patiently at the platform. We immediately turn around to blow off steam and go shopping in Stewart.

To get into Stewart which is Canada we have to cross at a real customs border post. This is to prevent the smuggling of cigarettes, liquor and weapons from Alaska. The female immigration officer walks out of the building.
"I recognize that lady, she also worked here five years ago" I say to PJ.
PJ hand over our passports and rumbles his tune: "We are from the Netherlands, the truck is from the USA"
"Yes I know that, I know you guys. You are Claudia and PJ" she says with a big smile.
Our mouths drop open in surprise.
"I have seen pictures of you all week on Regina's Facebook".
We have a good laugh about it.

 

In the evening I cook Indonesian noodles with veggies and chicken and invite Steve for dinner. In retrospect it was not such a good choice because Steve mostly heats up cup-a-noodles during his 'bachelor' work trip. But he finds it very tasty.

Late in the evening we run up the mountain again, because the Northern Lights are already out, but it is not yet dark enough for us. It is busy on the mountain with Keith, a couple of Japanese photographers and another (unknown) couple. We can hardly find a place to park. At 11.30 pm it is dark enough and we see white northern lights dancing across the sky. I try to capture it (often the camera picks up the green), but it is just not strong enough. What a shame.

 

August 28, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
We drive back down in time to say goodbye to Regina and Rory. We had such a nice time with them. The rest of the day we remain faithful to the platform and see again NOTHING! The sun shines all day and it is even warm. We talk with the Italian family; Massimiliano a professional photographer, his wife Paola who speaks good English and their 12 year old son Stefano. Massimilio's has some difficulties with speaking English and he soon learns that if he speaks Italian to PJ, PJ can kind of understand it. They invite us for a salmon spaghetti dinner, which we of course we do not say no to. Steve is also invited. We are back at the spot where we saw the 'Steak Fajita-wolf'. At 8.45 pm the large grizzly bear Monica comes along. For the Italians it is their first grizzly bear and they are touched. And at 9.15 a wolf joins in! It is too dark for photos and the wolf is absolutely not afraid of us. We do not know what to do about it. Is this playfulness or a fearless wolf? The Italians are certainly very excited with the experience. We have to chase the wolf away by throwing pebbles into the water and it leaves a bad taste in our mouth.

         

29 augustus 2013, Hyder Alaska
Another sunny day. Today it is our fossil friend Bob's 75th Birthday. Steve brings Bob's tripod to the end of the platform and I decorate it with yellow party zone tape. We sing Happy Birthday and tell him the bad news: "Bob, we have 'accidentally' dropped your birthday money under the platform, so you have to pick it up yourself". (already for a week a ten dollar bill lies under the platform, probably dropped by a tourist).
Under guidance of a ranger Bob goes under the platform looking for the money. We give him hints from above and point out directions. He also finds a Nikon lens cover which he can use! We have so much fun.

 

This day passes without wolves or bears visit. Steve tells us that the story goes that ravens can 'communicate' with wolves. The Raven tells the wolf where he can find food, the wolf kills the animal and eats it and the raven can eat the leftovers. A win-win situation for both animals. Actually it does not sound so unlikely. And the last two weeks we have not seen nor heard any ravens, while normally there is always one sitting in a tree near the platform and showing off a range of sounds.
The Italians invite us again for the dinner and we are chatting with them till 11 pm.

August 30, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
It is raining today. After a week of waiting for wolves or bears the Italians really have to leave now, otherwise they will not catch their plane. Less than ten minutes after they have left there is suddenly a WOLF in the creek !! It is 10.05 am, pouring rain and the platform is completely deserted. We are at the end of the platform with Steve, Bob and SueAnn and since yesterday (lucky) Jorn, a guy from Belgium and we are shooting pictures in deathly silence as if our lives depend on it. There are also two tourists halfway the platform who are not interested in wolves, they want to see grizzlies, the two volunteers and one ranger are at the beginning of the platform and do not even realize that the wolf is here. The wolf is fishing for 15 minutes and then disappears. We give each other high five's and we all have a big grin on our faces. We all think we have earned it, but what do we feel privileged to see this. We compare how many pictures everyone took. PJ and I took 240 together, Steve 260 and Bob says without blinking his eyes: “500”.

   

"Maybe the wolf will show up at the lagoon" says Bob, who has been here for 55 days so has experience.
I walk with SueAnn to the lagoon and yes from less than ten yards the wolf looks at us. I am without a camera, but inform the rest over a walkie-talkie. PJ comes running with the 600mm, without a tripod, the rest of the clan follows right behind him. The wolf makes a trip around the lagoon through the colorful autumn scenery, poses several times. Too bad I do not have a camera with a smaller lens to take pictures with the scenery, but I do not want to walk back to the end of the platform and miss everything. PJ has too much lens to capture the colorful scenery also. Suddenly I hear the familiar scratching sound of a raven, and when I look up he flies over our heads. The wolf looks up at the raven! I look at Steve and he points his finger up and begins to gloat. Maybe it is really true that ravens communicate with the wolves.

 

Everyone is very happy with this experience. To make the Italians not green with envy I do not post the pictures of the wolf on Facebook until two days later. But now they will read it on my blog how they JUST missed it by ten minutes....

In the afternoon the sun is shining again and also the tourists come back. The rest of the day we see nothing, but that does not matter to us.

In the evening Northern Light is predicted, but we decide to watch it from the dock of Hyder. We ask Steve to join us too and I promise him and PJ to wake them up when it is time. The egg timer goes with me to bed and at 1 am I see familiar white clouds. I dress and go to have a look outside. There is a thick layer of fog over the cold water. Belgia Jorn is also there and we are chatting for a while. Suddenly we see a white pillar going skyward.
"It has begun" I tell Jorn who has never seen this before. I wake up PJ and Steve and we photograph the northern lights which unfortunately is white. Usually the slow shutter speed of the camera picks up the green. On my photos at the back of my camera there is nothing to see, but I can see that Jorn and Steve are picking it up with their cameras. Only later I realize that my lens is completely fogged by the cold mist. That is the problem when you are shooting Northern Lights with more people, you cannot shine your flash light and ruin somebody else's picture.
Still, there are a few pictures that turned out pretty well, there's even reflection in the water and because of the fog, the lights of the village are diluted.

 


August 31, 2013 , Hyder Alaska

Early morning and we are back on the platform. It's raining again, not hard, more what Regina calls a Hyder mist. We have downloaded the pictures of the wolf and because of the rain they are a bit grainy. Good enough for an A4 enlargement, but not bigger. So we still want more wolves. Friend Flint is a weekly tour bus driver and brings a group of Germans to the platform. Grizzly Dogbear decides to make an appearance and goes for a swim. He makes a round through the lagoon and splashes some at the end of the lagoon.

 

At 11 am a wolf shows up from the south end of the creek. No wait, there are THREE wolves! Two adults and a yearling. One of the big ones jumps with a big arch into the creek and immediately catches a huge Chum salmon. We did not even know that they were still Chums in the creek. The smaller one follows his example and starts fishing too. The third stays behind and we now understand why. 'Jaws' , the huge male grizzly is also present. The bear keeps his distance and the third wolf keeps a watchful eye.

   

   

I can point the camera lens only one way, there are German heads everywhere. So I continue to focus my attention at the two wolves. The wolves continue fishing for one hour and we are shooting picture after picture. One of the Germans complains to Bob. The continuous clicking of Bob's camera is ruining his video. I have not seen Bob mad often, but now he almost bursts with rage. "These photographers are waiting for weeks to see this special moment, you should be grateful that you may experience this too," said Bob in between his teeth.
"Oh, In Germany we have plenty wolves, this is nothing special."
I wish we could throw this guy over the railing. What a shame if people do not understand how special this. Flint brings the same group to the Salmon Glacier which lies in the fog, but the clouds break open as soon as they get off the bus. When Flint drives down again, the fog curtain closes again. And in the evening they see a grizzly and a black bear very close. And do you think they are happy? NO, they had expected more from this place.
Late in the evening Flint forgets to close the door of the school bus and a black bear sneaks in, leaves behind a big dump on the steps and crushes all the juice boxes in the back. Do you find it weird that I wished that Flint had left the Germans behind in the bus??

   

September 2013, Alaska, Canada, Alaska

September 1, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
Another long day on the platform. Everyone is still hyper from the wolves show yesterday and we are all very pleased with the results.

In the evening we park in Linda's yard. She has just Skyped with Regina and Rory, so she calls her again for us. And so a little later we are singing the children song "In the moonlight" again for Rory, while she does all the moves.  I must say that Skyping is very nice indeed, but you need to have power and to have a good Internet connection. And for us that is actually rare.

September 2, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
i have the feeling that it is picking up a bit. I take pretty pictures of a heron in an old tree. The Kingfisher poses and catches fish. A sow grizzly walks Fish Creek and takes a swim in the lagoon.

 

 

   

 

September 3, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
At half past eight we have a wolf, which stays half an hour. We say goodbye to Steve. The sun begins to shine and at 2.30pm in the bright sunlight another wolf comes along. We do not want to complain, but it is impossible to take good pictures with so much light and reflection on the water. We now understand better why Bob said that he had not taken very good pictures of the wolves in his first five weeks. It had been sunny the whole summer, until we arrived.

 

September 4, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
This day brings three times a grizzly bear in the morning. The rest of the afternoon it is quiet. We say goodbye to our fossil friends Bob and SueAnn. They have a wedding of a grandson in Florida in about ten days and need to hurry back to Colorado.   

   

September 5, 2013 , Hyder Alaska

PJ is always up early so he can bring the camper at 6 pm in the parking lot of Fish Creek. I stay in bed very lazy till about 7 and then I get ready for a day Fish Creek. Usually I am not before 7.30am at the platform. Today I am ready early (premonition?) and at 6.45am sow grizzly Mira walks through the creek, over the bridge and poses just below the sign Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site.

 

 

 

 

At 7.45am there is wolf who catches 20 to 30 fish! The wolves eat from the Pink salmon only the top of the head. Seemingly they can not digest the rest of the salmon.  This wolf stays till 9am.

   

At 10.30 PJ wanders along the walkway, which is the part that connects the north parking lot to the south parking lot. This walkway also runs along a creek with fish. PJ suddenly sees Mira grizzly lying with four legs in the air in the shallow water! He radios me and asks if I can bring a camera. With a small lens I run the 800 yards in record time and PJ can shoot a few pictures, before she has enough. The rest of the day we see nothing.

 

September 6, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
The day starts with a cool 8°C/46°F and if you stand quietly on the platform, you become very cold. Bob calls these days a 6-layer-day. As at 11am the sun hits the platform, the wood start damping, your lens starts fogging up, in the camper 5-layer ejected winter clothes piles up and the wildlife hides in the cool forest. It heats up to a pleasant 24°C/75°F, but that day we do not see any animals.

   

September 7, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
It is another beautiful six-layer-day, and we see bears nor wolves. At the end of the afternoon a pickup truck with a slide-in camper and a Chilean flag drives into the parking lot. A young couple gets out and sees me sitting in the doorway of the camper. They start a chat and I recommend them to drive up the glacier right now (while it is still sunny), spent the night there and come back in time tomorrow morning. After two sunny days, rain is expected tomorrow and a change in the weather is always good for wildlife. The tall slim girl's name is Claudia. Her long legs begin at her armpits and she has a beautiful smile with even teeth. I suspects that she is a Supermodel, but with her 26 years she is already a lawyer. Cristian (32) is even taller and is a famous Chilean actor and a real macho Latino. We connect immediately. They take my advice to heart and drive up the mountain. Later I read in their blog 
(www.dealaskaapatagonia.com) that they had a horror night on top of the mountain with wind gusts and it took them three hours to drive down starting in the dark.
At the beginning of the evening we see Grizzly Mira walking the road.

 
                                                                                          Sub adult Bald Eagle

September 8, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
It is raining and I decided to be ready very early. The site opens now half an hour later at 6.30am, because it is so dark but I am ready. At 7.45 Mira grizzly walks the creek. It is too dark for pictures, so we stay in the camper until we suddenly hear over the ranger scanner that there is also a wolf in the creek. We grab our camera gear and run to the end of the platform. The wolf and grizzly look at each other and ignore each other. But the grizzly decides that this is not the way it should be, so she takes a sprint and chases the wolf away. She continues her route south and in no time the wolf is back. Meanwhile a large group of tourists from Kitimat has arrived at the platform. We think they had consumed beer for breakfast. They are very noisy, walking back and forth, stamping their feet. Twice PJ is tapped on his head with the comment that he has a nice lens. Are they crazy? They want to see a bear and are not interested in the wolf. "That's what we have at home too." If they only knew that Doug, who also lives in Kitimat, has already seen 26 grizzlies this spring.

Too bad that these people again do not appreciate what they see. The wolf stays for an hour, but most pictures are blurred by the rain, because it was still early and the many movements on the platform. The Chileans have arrived in time to see the wolf, but missed the bear. The rest of the day we see nothing, but have a great time with our new friends.

"Is PJ a name?" asks Claudia.
"It's short for Pieter Jan," I reply.
"Peter Pan, that's a funny name," Claudia makes of it. This is the first time that I hear this and I think it is very funny.

We never expected to be this long in Hyder and are running out of groceries. No more veggies, fresh fruit nor bread. When we drive to town to withdraw money from a Hyder teller machine we see a beaver sitting on the side. We cannot do any shopping in Hyder and we do not want to cross the border to go to Stewart. So we improvise a bit with supper with a 5-layer bean dip with tortilla chips.

 

September 9, 2013 , Hyder Alaska

At 8 am there is a wolf catching 15 life fish and bites in several dead ones.

   

   

The wolf walks almost the whole creek, which is unusual, because they are quite skittish of the platform and usually stay at the south end. It has been deadly quiet a few hours and there are no tourists. Because we still have not done shopping, I ask permission to the park ranger to make pancakes (you are not allowed to cook in the parking lot). I have permission if I also feed the rangers.
The rest of the day we see nothing.
In the evening we camp for the night at the quarry and socialize with the Chileans at a campfire. Claudia wants to learn Dutch words.
"How do you say you love someone?" asks Claudia.
"Ik hou van jou" , I reply.
"Iek gauw van jou, that does not sound very romantic" says Claudia with a sultry voice.

"Well, if you whisper that in my ear with that accent, trust me, that's sounds really romantic", PJ assures her. The Chileans are going to Mexico in December, and we hope to meet them again there. We think that they are a fun couple.

   
A stroll through the forest.         Beautiful flower shaped mushrooms.                     Campfire with Claudia and Cristian

September 10, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
Breakfast is cold pancakes. We see nothing all morning. The Chileans leave and in the afternoon we drive to Hyder to do our laundry and take a shower. We also want to go to Stewart to finally do some grocery shopping. We need to cross the border of Canada again.
I think you must have done something really bad to be exiled to this remote corner of this border post and to have to work as a custom officer. I already get irritated when a young blonde female officer points us to the lane that has a roof which is not high enough for our camper. Why cannot we park in the lane that is especially for campers? She takes in our passports and starts asking all sorts of weird questions about of our visit to Canada last year. She wants to see the paperwork from last years visit. A month ago we arrived in Calgary and received a six months visa from her colleagues from immigration. The only thing we have done in between then and now is spent three weeks in a ghost town in Alaska. Why does this bitch thinks that there is something wrong with our story? She takes our passports into the office and let us wait for ten minutes. Truly an example of a woman in uniform who is apparently frustrated.

In Stewart do a few errands (it's so incredibly expensive here) and check the Northern Lights. Because the magnetic north and south poles of the sun are going to change places at the end of this year (this happens every 11 years) there should be a lot of turbulence in the universe and this causes the Northern Lights. The scientists are puzzled: instead of a Solar Max it is a Solar Minimum Year, there is virtually no Auroras or they are very weak. For the next week nothing is predicted in the Aurora forecast, so we decide it is time to leave Hyder. We have been here a total of 25 days, spent about 250 hours on the platform of Fish Creek. We have photographed seven times a wolf show from the platform and have seen three more times a wolf in other places. We have only seen four different grizzly bears and a handful of black bears. Bears wise it is a meager harvest, but we were here mainly for the fishing wolves and that worked out perfect. We are very content!

We leave quietly and mail a few people to say that we have left. This is ideal for us, because we hate good byes. You will never know if you will ever see your old and new friends back.
It's another beautiful day and we take the Cassiar Highway 37 to the north. Finally, we're on our the road again!

        

We stop at Hannah Creek to admire the bright red Sockeye salmon. On our the way north we see six black bears, one mother with two spring cubs who patiently pose for us. We spend the night along the side of the road.

 

September 11, 2013 , along the Cassiar Highway Canada
PJ is up at 5am, as usual, I nap for a bit longer and we leave at 8am.

The further north we go how more autumn colors we see. Magnificent!

   

   

After a total of 460 miles on the Cassiar Highway we take a left onto the Alaska Highway. The road is less bumpy and the paved shoulders are broad. When we stop for coffee along the side of the road suddenly a car hit his brakes and parks next to us. it is famous nature photographer Don Jones from Montana, who saw our camper and had to turn to say hello to us. He has just come from Alaska and is in a hurry to get home. We chat with him and appreciate it that he stopped. It has been a few years since we last met him in Denali.

 

We spend the night in a vacant lot next to a gas station in Teslin and have fast Internet. We even can watch some Dutch Internet television and I do a quick update on the website with a few wolves pictures. Late at night I look outside and see dancing white clouds low on the horizon. We are a bit fed up with that white northern lights.

September 2013 Canada and Alaska

 
Map of the Cassiar Highway from Hyder to Watson Lake            Where shall we? North the Dempster of south to Haines?

September 12, 2013 , Teslin Canada
After 25 days of Hyder, Alaska, we drove north on the Cassiar Highway and took a left on the Alaska Highway to Haines Junction. In the fairly large city of Whitehorse we finally do - after nearly a month in that expensive Hyder and Stewart – a large amount of groceries and check Internet at McDonalds . The Geophysical Institute (http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast) still has not updated the northern lights forecast, so we do not know whether there will be Aurora's expected for next week. In Whitehorse we have to decide (on map # A) whether we drive 300 miles north to Dawson City and then another 500 miles north on the gravelroad Dempster Highway (B) for caribou and northern lights or that we drive 350 miles southwest to Haines (C) to see grizzly bears. After we checked the weather for both places, we pick Haines because there the next three days the sun will shine. We go searching for a high stool (you know, where Monica with her big butt went through), but we cannot find one. This is irritating because we use that stool to sit behind the laptop at the counter. Now we have to stand all the time.

We drive further on the Alaska Highway. In the village of Haines Junction we stop in front of a hotel, pick up wireless Internet and we check the Northern Lights again. The Geophysical Institute has finally updated the northern prediction and tonight Aurora's are expected! It's not a big storm, but something is better than nothing. The plan is to drive to Haines Alaska, a dead end road of nearly 155 miles. We would like to photograph the Northern at a lake on that route and so we already drive 18 miles south. We had lunch at McDonalds, so I do not have to cook tonight and we still have three hours of daylight.
"It would be nice if we can kill the time with a bear," I say jokingly.


 

To our surprise we see a grizzly bear along the way! We take the time to photograph him and follow him for a while. Then we drive to a parking lot along the lake and wait until it gets dark. But with the darkness the clouds are also coming in.

   

 

So we drive the 18 miles back to Haines Junction, because it was clear there a couple of hours ago. But now it is cloudy there too. We drive further north in search of a cloudless sky and start looking for a lake for the reflection. But of course we cannot find anything in the dark. 30 miles later at 10 pm we finish at a spacious parking, without a beautiful foreground.

"I am going to bed," says PJ who is now exhausted. It is again my job to keep watch. I am going to bed at 10.30 with an almost clear sky and some clouds. Every half hour the egg timer goes off and I look hopefully through the roof hatch. More stars. After four alarm clocks, I sleep straight through an alarm (or forget to set it). PJ wakes me up at 2.30 am.
"Have you checked the aurora?"
I look outside and yes there is a tad of pale green clouds floating through the air.
"Yes, there is Northern Lights," I say enthusiastically.
PJ looks outside and mumbles: "I am not getting out of bed for these fake Aurora’s".
I dress warmly and go outside with the tripod and camera. I shoot the floating clouds and the camera picks up the green. For 75 minutes I am shivering and with icy toes I crawl back into bed. PJ thinks I have been out for only 5 minutes and is very surprised when he sees the result the next morning.

 

 
I painted the camper with a flashlight                                                        During the 30 second exposure a car drove by

"Oh, that is quite nice," he says, "but could you see it with your naked eye?"
"No, not really," I must confess. I can imagine that he calls this fake Aurora’s. We have seen wonderful Northern Lights in 2001 (Churchill) and in 2011 (Alaska and Canada) which lasted for hours with bright green aurora’s that shot through the air as fireworks, so this was only a faint show. I had to look at the screen of the camera if the northern lights were still there!

 
                   a minor storm                                                                     the view when we wake up

September 13, 2013 , along the Alaska Highway Canada
When we wake up in the morning we see our view to the south: the beautiful mountain range of the Kluane National Park with snowy peaks. Too bad this was not the forefront of my Northern Lights pictures. We drive back to Haines Junction and I like to check our Facebook at the same hotel, but the wireless internet is suddenly protected! We know that also tonight Aurora’s are expected (stronger than yesterday) but we choose to photograph the bears in Haines in fair weather. We drive the scenic route of the Haines Highway and see two coyotes crossing the road together.

At 1 pm we arrive at the border of Alaska. Unlike Hyder here is a real border post and we are a little bit nervous. The customs officer is very friendly.
"I see that you need a visa, we will fix that inside".
He print out the white card that entitles us to stay in the USA for 90 days. These 90 days are now counting down immediately, even though we will be back in Canada in a week. Only twenty minutes later we are back on the road and head to Haines. The route runs along the Chilkat River, where in mid -November thousands of Bald Eagles gather. We only see a few. The trees are starting to turn.

 

 

The village of Haines is along a fjord and is cozy with lots of wooden houses, colorful totem poles, fish restaurants and souvenir shops. The sun is shining brightly and that makes everything immediately nicer. After we refueled and finally purchased some wine, whisky and rum (too expensive in Canada) we drive straight to the Chilkoot River which is 10 miles away and where we hope to see grizzly bears. In 2009 we were here for the last time and again we are impressed by the beautiful surroundings: the sun shines, the river is milky turquoise, in the river are huge round boulders covered with green moss, on the other side we see fall colors, huge ferns and hanging moss on the old rainforest trees.
We are a bit surprised of the high water level of the river.
"Can bears fish for salmon is this high river?", we wonder.

But after we drive back and forth a few times we see the first grizzly bear. It is a beautiful long haired blonde bear running through the shallow water on the other side. She entertains us for an hour.

 

 

Only half an hour later, a mother grizzly bear with cub shows up on our side of the river. The water turns out to be not so deep and we see them together fishing for salmon and playing in the water. We doubt whether the young one is a spring cub (and then should be about eight months old) or maybe already a yearling. It is such a cute roly-poly bear. Later we hear that this is indeed a chubby spring cub, born this February. Too bad the sow has ear tags and a radio collar, but that’s why Photoshop exist. This family also stays for about an hour.

 

 

Fifteen minutes later we see a ginger bear across the river. Twilight starts so after a while we give up. We camp along the fjord and enjoy the sunset. I keep an eye on the northern sky, but we are now just a little bit too far south to see the Northern Lights.

 

                               

September 14, 2013 , Haines Chilkoot River Alaska
At the mouth of the Chilkoot River we see about fifty Bald Eagles. PJ photographs a Bald Eagle in a tree screaming loudly to other eagles.

 
 

At the river is a coming and going of bears, from 7.30 am until 4 pm we are almost continuously photographing grizzly bears and eagles. What a beautiful place.
   
PJ is being watched by mother bear, he takes pictures from that site and I see this from the other end

 

 

 

1700 pictures later, we are just winding down when a self-made camper with Dutch license plates approaches us. Dutch Klaas and his girlfriend Else had heard of this place while they were on the road and drove 200 miles back, took the expensive ferry from Skagway to see the bears in Haines. Klaas' life story in a nutshell is that ten years ago - after a successful working life - he wanted to travel, but his wife did not.  Klaas started to travel and his wife is now his ex-wife. He has traveled through Africa for a year and now travels twice a year, for three months and his girlfriend Else accompany him for a month. He is slowly on his way to Patagonia.

Excited I tell them about the beautiful morning that lasted for hours and convince them to just be patient.
"Look, this is a bear path, which a mother bear with cub uses." An hour later the spring cub suddenly stands behind us and the mother comes from the bear path that I had pointed out. What a hoot!
"You see that I have not lied," I say and Else gives me a spontaneous smack on my cheek.
For us there is not enough light (and we have already taken plenty of photos), but we show Else and Klaas the best spots to photograph the bears. They are very grateful and super excited.
" What time are you here tomorrow?" asks Else.
"I think we will be back here at 7.30"

 

        

September 15, 2013 , Haines Chilkoot River Alaska
Another beautiful day, which starts with a beautiful sunrise. We are delighted when we see 'White Claws' back after five years - a 25+ year old female bear - although in bad light. Also this morning, one bear appears after the other and in three hours we see nine different grizzly bears! Compare this with Hyder were we have seen only four different grizzly bears in four weeks.

 

 

The sow with chubby cub walks across the bridge and brings a couple of photographers on the run.

 

 

We do not understand what is keeping Klaas and Else. Three hundred photos later at 10.30 Klaas and Else come wandering in. They have spent the night at a RV park in town and enjoyed a morning of Skyping with the grandchildren. After chatting with us for an hour (without bears) they leave.
I just do not understand this: you have driven many miles extra (and still have to drive 300 miles back to Whitehorse), took the ferry and then you'll settle for just one and a half bear. It could easily have been ten grizzlies. Fifteen minutes later the sow with cub reappears and we pick up our gear and happily go back to work.

                                                             left: Chilkoot Lake

       

 

Of course also this place has its downside. There is also some annoyance. Previously the river was accessible to everyone: fishermen, bears and tourists. Then suddenly a riverside lodge was built and a section of the river was closed off with a rope. Parking, even stopping and certainly walking was forbidden at this section. This part of the river was only available for guests of the lodge. Probably they could not get away with that, because a few years ago suddenly a totem pole was placed there and claimed that this is the holy ground of the Tlingit Indians. 2,000 years ago the Indians held peace talks at 'Deer Rock'. A rope with a sign must keeps the tourists away. Okay, fine, of course we like to respect this. But then this happens: the guests of the lodge are allowed to remove the rope, park their cars on the holy ground and can start photographing the bears up close. Well….let's not waste any more words on this.

   

September 16, 2013 , Haines Chilkoot River Alaska
It is raining when we wake up! We drive along the Chilkoot River, but that does not make sense. We have just spent three wonderful days here, so we do not want to get our expensive camera gear wet. We drive to the village and see if there is message from Dave and Jenny. We know this couple from Colorado for about ten years and with them we went for a month to South Africa in 2009. They had emailed that their camper would get serviced in Anchorage (Alaska) on Friday and after that they would come to Haines. That is about a two day drive, so we had expected them here last night. No message, so we are going to spend a day at a beach side RV park.

We buy 1GB internet for U$6.50 and I work on the website. We have no idea how much GB it costs to upload a website with pictures, but the Internet continues to perform for 24 hours.

"There is a bear on the beach! " PJ shouts and he jumps out of the camper to put the camera on the tripod. By the time he is done, the bear already climbed on the rocks and is posing against the beautiful fjord. It is the cutest teddy bear I have ever seen, with long tuffs of hair out of his ears. The story behind it is sad: in May suddenly two yearling cubs appeared without their mother in the bay. Nobody knew what had happened to the sow. The brothers went foraging for food and one was in so much trouble that he had to be shot. This orphaned bear is surviving now for four months, but without the nutritious mother milk and without being taught ho to make a den no one knows whether he will survive.

 

September 17, 2013 , Haines Oceanside RV Park Alaska
It is still raining. At 10 am we drive to the river, photograph a few bears, but are not really enjoying it in the rain. Still no word from Dave and Jenny. Unfortunately, they are not as quick with e -mail and picking up wireless Internet as we do. PJ wants to leave this place at 4 pm but we agree to stay one more night. In front of the library I make a stir-fried rice dinner, while we pick up internet and then we drive to our familiar place along the fjord to spent the night. And who do you think has passed us in Haines without knowing: Dave and Jenny!

The reunion is again very nice and we chat and drink a glass of wine (or a bottle) until 11.30 pm. Of course we admire their brand new vehicle, a Mercedes Camper. Oh, and why did it took 4 days for them to get here? They had just taken a detour to Valdez. Grrr.

 

18 , 19 and September 20, 2013 , Haines Chilkoot River Alaska
Obviously we will stay for a few more days and go with Dave and Jenny to the river. It's raining again, but not so much that we cannot photograph.

 

 

The area is so stunningly beautiful and every time the bears pick a different background to photograph them. We have a great time with Dave and Jenny, chasing bears, cooking for each other and have happy ‘hour’ every night.

But after five days of rain, we have had it. We want to go back to Hyder to see if the wolves are still there. We convince Dave and Jenny to join us. The same route (1000 miles) in the opposite direction. As the crow flies we are only 300 miles from Hyder, but it takes us 2 1/2 days of driving to get there. We are back in Canada and in only a week the tundra along Haines Highway has suddenly turned into fall colors so we often stop for photos. Too bad it keeps raining.

 

   
                                            Bright res Sockey salmon in a stream                         fesh snow on the mountains

September 21, 2013 , Alaska Highway Canada
More rain and beautiful colors along the Alaska Highway. We are proud that every night we find a nice place to stay.

 
                                                                                                    Snack break under a rainbow

 
                                                                                           Quiet boondocking along a lake

September 22, 2013 , Watson Lake Canada
We turn right on the Cassiar Highway. We hope to see wildlife but everywhere are hunters with four wheelers and other ingenious vehicles on tracks.

 

 

Besides the beautifully colored nature, we see the tail of a red fox, the butts of two black bears and a black (and gray) wolf that cross the road far away from us. We arrive at 6 pm in Stewart and have a quick bite at the restaurant of the King Eddy. Oh yeah, that's why we never eat out ... two burgers with fries later and we have spent €60,-.

23 and September 24, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
Full of expectation we drive to Fish Creek. Unfortunately, there is virtually no fish in the creek, the Coho run has not arrived yet, so then you cannot expect much wildlife. The rangers have long since stopped working, so it's kind of funny to walk where you're not supposed to walk and cook in the parking lot. There are still a few tourists. One brings his dog to the platform. We think that is pushing it.
PJ repairs the rear bumper of the camper after a collision with a gravel pile. And he finally assembles the wooden shoes back on the grill.

   

   

 

 
                 closed for the season (?) in Hyder                                                the only bear we saw....

After a day of waiting we suddenly see a wolf!

 

The wolf walks the entire creek, eats from the dead fish here and there, then crosses the bridge and find a rotten fish on the road, where she starts rolling in! Then she continues, and Jenny and I try to follow her on foot but that's pointless.

 

September 25, 2013 , Hyder Alaska
After another half day at Fish Creek we decide to leave. Dave and Jenny follow us again. It is a beautiful afternoon.

 

The Queen of Cedarvale (a white black bear) has been seen four weeks ago, in the same field where we have seen her in 2009 and 2011 (and Doug saw her again in 2012 ). I have emailed Doug that we will be there at the end of the afternoon and he drives 100 miles to see us for a few hours. Unfortunately, the Kermode bear does not show up this time. After I cooked a meal for Doug, he drives the 100 miles back. Everything for the friendship!

 

                               

September 26, 2013 , Kitwanga Canada
Of course we go back to the field in the morning and we wait for an hour, but also today the Kermode bear does not show up. We continue east on the Yellowhead Highway # 16 to Prince George. An hour before Prince George we stop and Jenny starts talking about pizza. We decide that we should have dinner at Boston Pizza, so PJ puts the restaurant code in the GPS and then a car pulls up next to us.
"Where are you sleeping tonight?" Asks a man.
"Oh, in Prince George".
"I live next to a lake five minutes away, you are more than welcome to spent the night in my yard".
What a nice offer, but we were just looking forward to that pizza and then we have to drive an hour longer tomorrow to Kamloops, so we thank the guy. It is a pity, because we do not get such an invitation often.

The pizza tastes good and it's also our farewell evening with Dave and Jenny. They will continue to Jasper over Hwy 16, we are heading south to Kamloops.

27 , 28 , September 29, 2013, Kamloops, Canada
It is a gloomy rainy day. Approximately every pickup truck that overtakes us, has a bloody moose antler in the back. If they continue to hunt like that, there will be no moose left.
Bob and Charlotte have - since we met them - moved for the third time. Should we be worried that they never send a change of address us? But also this time we find them.

   

For tonight Char has invited her daughter Melissa and fiancé Sean and we have a fun evening.

 

The next night friends Leslie and Jim come over for dinner and Sean comes along again.

   

Sunday we go to Pat and Don, friends we have not seen for 4 years.

   
                                                                                             View from our camper at Bob en Char's driveway

We have a nice weekend Kamloops with our Canadian friends that we all know from Mexico.

September 30, 2013 , Kamloops Canada
It is Monday morning. I am sending the last e-mails, before we go south. We decided to cross the border today into the USA, do some cruising through the state Idaho and then to Yellowstone.

But then suddenly I get an pre Aurora Alert! This morning there has been a huge eruption on the sun, which possible could cause Northern Lights. All very vague and even the scientist disagree as to whether the eruption will have an Aurora impact or that the vibrations will just graze the earth. We decide to go for it anyway and heading north through Canada instead of south to the USA. The Northern Lights will reach Earth on Wednesday night, so we still have three days to get to a place where we are north enough to see it and were we have clear skies (you can compare it to a hurricane at sea where they can predict when it will hit land, but then of course harmless). So we travel from Kamloops as far north to Jasper.

It is busy on Yellowhead Highway # 16, many truckers think our 50 miles p/h is too slow and we are constantly overtaken. Along the way we see Bighorn sheep, a bull moose, black bear and a bull Elk with his harem, but it is too busy on the road to stop. We spent the night in Hinton and check the websites. It is still unclear how strong the Northern Light storm will be. We were planning to drive straight to High River, into the north but the weather forecast there is now cloudy. So our goal is Saskatoon.

October 1, 2013 , Hinton Canada
The second night we have driven 600 miles from Kamloops and are staying in Lloydminster at the parking lot of Walmart. It is drizzling and cold, so we watch a DVD on the laptop.

 

At 9 pm I get on Facebook and see THE Aurora Alert: the northern lights has reached the earth a day early and is already at 'storm level’. And there we are in total overcast in a big city at a parking lot of a supermarket! We are incredible disappointed of course, especially when we later read that the Northern Lights Show was visible 600 miles SOUTH into the USA and lasted for 9 hours! I now wish we had stick to our plan and had driven south….

 

The prediction of Geophysical Institute and what really happened and the chart of October 1st:

 

                                    

October 2, 2013 , Lloydminster Canada
Because such a huge Northern Storm ( Kp 7.6 on the scale, for comparison, our best Northern Lights has never been higher than a 4) often gives some aftershocks (similar to an earthquake) we continue the next day to get out of the cloud cover. We even have to drive past Saskatoon and further south to Regina (in the province of Saskatchewan, which is as flat as the Netherlands). At 3.30 pm we make a quick visit to the Aurora websites and the northern light is already at storm level again, but of course not visible because it is still light.

We drive out of the clouds, park at a dull grain field with an old barn and at 7pm it is dark. A beautiful starry sky, the Milky Way is clearly visible, but no Aurora's. In retrospect we can see that the 'aftershock' lasted from 1 pm to 7 pm. But because we did not have internet, I had set the alarm every twenty minutes and half the night I looked hopeful out of the window. We have driven a total of 1,000 miles and have seen NOTHING.

The only consolation is that if we had gone from Kamloops to Yellowstone National Park we had come to a closed gate. On October 1st, all government agencies in the U.S. temporarily closed because of a disagreement over the state budget between Democrats and Republicans. The previous 'shut down' in 1996 and lasted 22 days, so we might have a lot of waiting to do.

 

October 3, 2013 , Regina Canada
The photos of the Northern Lights begin to come in. As far south as Colorado, Wyoming, and west in Oregon (very rare) and so on. The pictures show a different color northern lights: red instead of green. Another consolation: we do not see pictures of the area where we were, it was cloudy in the whole of Western Canada.
As long as the National Parks in the USA remain closed, we will stay in Canada but first we are going to spent the night at an RV park in Regina.

4 and October 5, 2013, Regina Canada
One night turns into two. We think we have become experts in understanding Space Weather (www.spaceweather.com) and we struggle through terms such as coronal holes, sunspots, solar winds, CME’s, alpha - beta - gamma magnetic fields and magnetic filament eruptions and think we understand from this that there is something to be expected about a week from now.
Luckily these American government people still work! After a few days, our expectations are confirmed by the Geophysical Institute and Thursday, October 10th they expect a 4 on the scale of Aurora, Friday and Saturday a 3. That does not sound much after that 7-storm of October 1st, but that one was initially in the prediction as a 3 , so you never know.

We must now decide where we are going to wait for that Northern Light: in a village that is small enough that it gives no light pollution, but big enough that it has wireless Internet, so we can read latest updates.

6 to 7 October 2013 provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada
Looking for Northern Lights we drive through several Canadian provinces and are scouting for beautiful places. We photograph old barns and cornfields.

 

 

 

 

                       

And a lot of moving houses!

October 8, 2013 , Prince Albert , Canada
Because we still have two nights before that hit of Thursday will come, we stay put for two days at parking lot in the large city of Prince Albert. PJ actually would have liked to drive on to the small town where we want to be on Thursday but I am afraid we do not have Internet there and have no idea what is going on in terms of Northern Lights. So it is Tuesday, 8 pm. I have made a delicious tomato soup with little meatballs, we had cheese fondue and eliminated both half a baguette, drank a glass of red wine and we are relaxing on the couch, watching Internet TV when we suddenly get an aurora alert! The space scientist did not expect something for two days and with only a 20 minutes warning before the show starts, an alert is sent out! So we hop into the truck and start to drive like an idiot out of the big city and looking for a dark spot. But that is very difficult if you do not know the area! Yet we take a few nice pictures of the bright green northern lights dancing through the air in a horizontal path.

 

When the northern lights dies down and more clouds are floating in, we start heading south and try to pick up internet in every village but do not succeed. We end up 50 miles south at 1 am in the big city Saskatoon, pick up Internet and we see that a second storm is coming! So again like crazy we start driving to the north (away from the city lights) and again we are looking for a nice place. Well, the province of Saskatchewan is as flat as the Netherlands, there are almost no trees and we try to find a nice lake or pond for reflection.
When we see a sign 'ferry', we turn right. It appears to be a very narrow river with a big spotlight on the other side. Despite the disturbing light I try to take photos. When I change to trees and the truck the Aurora storm comes to a climax. It is not bright green, but more pale green and white, but it shoots up vertically, is very big and goes dazzling fast through the air. It is hard to describe, because pictures do not show the speed. It's almost nauseating to watch! PJ wants to move to another place and we get into a discussion about where we can stand the best. Imagine: Northern lights everywhere and we arguing!

 

We drive to a dike and shoot a few more pictures, but then the cloud cover is increasing and the aurora show starts to fade.

 

We spend the night in the city of Saskatoon and 3.30 am we are in bed.

The chart of October 8th:

                             

October 9, 2013 , Saskatoon Canada
With a heavy head we get up at 8 am and check the northern prediction. For tonight again we can expect Northern Lights, so we check the weather in the surrounding areas. It looks like we have to drive more than 200 miles to the north to have clear skies tonight. So we head to Meadow Lake. As we drive north I realize that we are now are off the beaten track. Not that we are so far off from civilization - we regularly pass through small villages - but I cannot imagine that there is one tourist that would be interested in this flat landscape with only endless grain fields.

At that moment, a Toyota Landcruiser with a roof tent comes from the opposite lane.... with Dutch license plates! PJ flashes his lights and we wave. The couple waves back, but I do not know if they have seen that we are Dutch too (red wooden shoes on the grill). Both cars do not brakes and I find that unfortunate. I was very curious what these Dutch people were doing here, where they had come from and where they were going.

In the last daylight we find a nice spot near a lake in a Provincial Park. PJ goes to bed at 8.30 and is fast asleep when the Northern Lights start dancing at 11.30. I start shooting immediately and urge PJ to wake up and see the show. It lasts only a short time, but it is fierce. And its reflection in the lake makes it big. These are a few pictures to be proud of.

 

                                

October 10, 2013 , Meadow Lake , Saskatoon Canada
We check Space weather again and also for tonight will be Northern Lights. We cannot stay in Meadow Lake, because here it is cloudy tonight. We check everything in the spacious surroundings and our next stop will be Slave Lake, Alberta, 322 miles of driving.

Here we go again! We drive all day and at the end of the afternoon arrive in Slave Lake and start scouting for a place where we can shoot the Northern Lights tonight. You are probably thinking: Slave Lake will probably have a lake. True, but the lake is huge and the wind is blowing causing waves. It starts getting dark so we park in the parking lot of Staples and pick up Internet. The aurora prediction is suddenly gone. Darn!

11 to 14 October 2013 Slave Lake , Alberta Canada
We have now driven so many miles (2,000), the parks in the USA are still closed, we have a dump station with drinking water that is not yet closed for the winter, Internet, so we decided to wait patiently for the next Aurora. Our patience is put to the test. Four days of beautiful sunny day with a cloudless night sky, but no Northern Lights. But finally the night of 14 to October 15 something is going to happen.

 
          Our campspot for a week                                       Scouting for water, reflection and no light pollution around Slave Lake

Meanwhile we have scouted out several places and have found nice small waters with autumn trees and a place with easy access to the beach of the huge lake.  As soon as the sun sets we drive to the small lakes. It takes a long time before it gets really dark, but we see a white cloud dancing, which turns green very fast. More to the northwest then north, so unfortunately there is a utility pole in our image.

 

After ten minutes it dies down and we drive to another place. There too, we photograph the northern lights, right in the north now.

                                   

The evening continues with driving up and down to the gas station where we can pick up internet and watching the latest news and drive back to the in advance selected places.

When a big storm is announced, we decide to drive to the lake, because we have a wider view. The northern lights climbs high into the sky and appears in the north, but also in the west, east and above us. AMAZING!

 

 

                         

The lake is dead quiet tonight and reflects the northern lights. After twenty minutes it comes to an end. That is the only drawback of this evening, every show was so short. But this time, we were perfectly prepared for anything: we knew the area, knew where it was dark enough, how we could get close to the lake and where we could pick up internet without much driving again.

15 to 17 October 2013 Slave Lake , Alberta Canada
We cannot get enough of it, so we continue to wait patiently a few more days. Unfortunately, nothing happens. But then comes the news that the Republicans and Democrats have come to a compromise and the U.S. Shut Down after 17 days is finally over.
So for us it is time to go south bound. We drove 2,000 miles for the northern lights and we have seen it four times.

A=Kamloops (British Columbia)
B=Lloydminster (Alberta)
    here we missed the BIG Bang of October 1st
C=Regina (Saskatchewan)
D=Swan River (Manitoba)
E=Nipawin (Saskatchewan)
F=Prince Albert (Saskatchewan) First show
G=Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) Second show
H=Meadow Lake (Saskatchewan) Third show
I=Slave Lake (Alberta) Fourth show

 

 

 

Chasing 2,000 miles for Aurora's

to be continued.....

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April - August 2013, Netherlands
3 April 2013, ’s-Gravenzande
Back in Holland we move into our green mobile home. It is sooo cold! Our heater makes overtime. After a month it finally warms up. We have a lease cat who is visiting us every day but eats somewhere else. So I don't have to feel guilty when we are going on the road again in the fall.

   

30 April 2013
Today, on 30 April, the Netherlands will get a new King and Queen. Queen Beatrix will abdicate and the Crown Prince of Orange will ascend the throne as King Willem-Alexander. His Argentine-born wife Princess Maxima will become Queen.
Queen Beatrix, abdicates at the of age 75, having been our Queen for 33 years.
We are in front of the television all day and celebrate with our friends in the evening, of course wearing the proper attire: orange!

   

        

3 May 2013
With my girlfriends Diana en Monique I go to the Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier. This dynamic, multimedia exhibition includes 140 haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs created between the mid-1970s and 2010, along with numerous sketches, archival documents, fashion photographs, and video clips that spotlight Gautier's collaborations with filmmakers, choreographers, and musicians, most notably Madonna.

    

Very intriguing are the mannequins with faces of celebrities and of Gaultier himself. A few of them even talk. This is done using projections which bring the designs to life.

   

7 and 8 May 2013
For the first time in my life we went to the flowering tulip fields! The blooming flowers transformed the landscape into a sea of striking colors. We went for two days on a row. Nature is three weeks behind schedule, so great that we could witness this spectacle too.

   

   

   

                         

   

           

But also in the small forest that borders our mobile home park the wildflowers are blooming. I try to continue my Mexican daily walks here.

   

              

When the weather warms up we have lots of dinners in our back yard with our friends.

 
                                                                                                      Argentina empanadas filled with meat

21 June 2013
Our camper is stored in Calgary so we start to get worried when we see the images of the flooding in Calgary on the Dutch news. 100.000 people are being evacuated. So I e-mail Country Hill Storage and the owner tells me that everything is okay with the storage 9and our camper). Phew!

   

12 Juli 2013
During my daily walk through the forest I discover a field with wild orchids.

   

Lots of food parties, I am really enjoying cooking!

   

 

17 July 2013
Our plan was to fly to Calgary today. We would have plenty of time to drive south to West Yellowstone for the wedding of my second cousin Joshawa and Janae on July 27. After the wedding we would be heading to Alaska!
Two months ago I had found some cheap flight tickets for July 17th, but PJ did not want to book them. "You never know what will happen and how our live will go".
Well, he must have had a premonition, because now we are happy that we do not have bought these flight tickets.

This is what happened...
Half of June the tenants of one house expectantly terminated the lease. The same Polish company is also renting our other house, so it was just a matter of time when they were going to quit the rent at that house too. So we decided to throw them out ourselves. August 1st we have two empty houses!
We have been talking to different brokers for renting out the houses, but nobody is interested. It is just not the right time to start renting, so it does not look hopeful.

We hope to have everything on track again beginning of August (find tenants for the two houses) and then we can book our flight tickets. Just keep your fingers crossed and hopefully we are on the road again in August!

Snow in July?

   

If you are allergic to grass pollen these pictures might freak you out. But it is just poplar fluff. It looks like that it has snowed in the forest.

July 27, 2013 Netherlands (wish we were in West Yellowstone)
Here are some pictures of the wedding of my second cousin Josh and his wife Janae.

   

August 2013, The Netherlands

2 August 2013, Hoek van Holland
A day at the beach.

   

                                             

August 3, 2013 Netherlands
For the third time we went to the floating flower parade. The theme this year was: “Dare to Dream”.

   

 

This was my favorite; the theme” Dare to Dream” turned into a Nightmare. The girl was playing in bed with a rag doll, covered in a quilt blanket of flowers. When she falls asleep the classic toys around her come to life, Zombie style.

 
     The girl falls asleep under a quilt blanket of flouors                                              The Zombie style ragdoll

 
A wind-up cymbal-banging monkey toy. In the background you can see the wooden soldiers. This is the face of a ballerina on a box.

   
                                   

   
           Another nightmare boat                          A boat full of princesses                       Pole dancing on a boat!

   

The daring life of a photographer

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If you want to read about our adventures in Mexico winter 2012-2013 click on this link:
travel journal Mexico 2012  ENG.htm

The link to our road trip through the USA winter 2012: travel journal USA en Canada 2012 ENG.htm