Alaska '98 Trip. Week 1. San Jose, California to Mid BC, Canada

Week 1 Day 1. Friday May 22. San Jose, California to Oregon.

Left home at 525am, 77473 miles on odometer = trip mileage zero. Hook up with Sharon's sister Jeane and husband Wendell (Red) at I-5 rest stop just north of Weed, California. Successfully test our new CB. We talk on Channel 19. Range is about 1 mile. We can trade information without having to stop. Fabulous. "Let's stop at the next rest area for lunch." Stuff like that. See PILEATED WOODPECKER up close in camp, destroying a fallen log like it was balsa. Video and photo.

Day's Best Bird: Pileated Woodpecker

32 new trip birds (Canada Goose, American Crow, Red-Tailed Hawk, Brewer's Blackbird, House Sparrow, American Robin, Red-Winged Blackbird, Northern Harrier, Black-Crowned Night-Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Yellow-billed Magpie, Kingfisher, Turkey Vulture, Rock Dove, Northern Mockingbird, Mallard, Starling, Ring-billed Gull, Barn Swallow, Bullock's Oriole, Pileated Woodpecker, Tree Swallow, Song Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Black-headed Grosbeak, White-breasted Nuthatch, Wood Duck, Spotted Towhee, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Merganser).

Camp: River of the Rogue State Park in southern Oregon. Our Rating: B


Week 1 Day 2. Saturday May 23. Oregon to Washington.

Drizzling most of the day. You can't pump your own gas in Oregon by state law. Enter Washington.

No birds today.

Camp: Olympia Campground (private) near Tumwater, Washington. Rating: B


Week 1 Day 3. Sunday May 24. Oregon to Cache Creek, B.C.

Drizzling and raining all day. Cross into Canada. Encounter a "random" search for weapons and non-declared alcohol. Two men politely examine every cupboard, storage space and drawer of our 23' fifth wheel, plus the new storage box I installed behind the pickup cab, plus the '89 Chevy pickup, plus every container. They ask Jeane & Red if they had any liquor. J&R assume it is a casual question and give a rough estimate without trying too hard. Officers search their motorhome and find a little more alcohol than J&R estimated, tell them they are in big trouble: "You have more alcohol than you declared! We can confiscate your motorhome." After a bit, they say they will let them go this time. Whew. What was that all about?

Drive up to Cache Creek, B.C. which is high desert like Palmdale, California. Originally planned to stay two nights here, but very plain camp and high winds cause us to alter plans and spend only one night.

Wild Animals: few Rocky Mountain sheep

Day's Best Bird: Red-naped Sapsucker

11 new trip birds (Dark-eyed Junco, American Kestrel, Western Meadowlark, Black-billed Magpie, Barrow's Goldeneye, Common Loon, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's race), Wilson's Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Raven, Rednaped Sapsucker), 43 total.

Camp: Cache Creek RV Park. Rating D


Week 1 Day 4. Monday May 25. Side birding trip to Lillooet, B.C.; then Cache Creek, B.C. to Lac la Hache (Hatchet Lake?) Provincial Park, B.C.

Drive to Lillooet, BC, but heavy rains render trip birdless. Return to dry Cache Creek.

Drive to small town near Cache Creek where J&R saw a chukar earlier (dam! they're not even birders). Don't see one, but find classic BANK SWALLOW* holes in sandy bank. See them fly out and back in after we assumed nests were vacant.

Bird refuge of town called 100 Mile House in B.C. Biggest concentration of different species at one spot I can recall seeing. See our first "black" bear, eating dandelions.

Lots of rain after setting up at Lac la Hache. Make an outdoor campfire under protection of fir trees, play Trivial Pursuit. Men against women, but I can't remember who won... Jeane makes chili and cornbread over fire outside. Delicioso. Rains most of the night. Cozy in fifth wheel. Use heater for the first time. I often think about tent camping and even pop-up tent trailer camping in past years - about how miserable it was when it was raining outside. But now I love the rain-on-the-roof sounds.

Wild Animals: 1 black bear eating dandelions

Day's Best Birds: Bank Swallow, Black Tern (breeding plumage), Red-necked Grebe (breeding plumage), 3 pairs of Canada Geese with 3 different size chicks: small, medium and large, nesting Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

1 new lifer (first time ever seen, aka "life bird" aka simply "lifer"), Bank Swallows.

2 first time seen in breeding (best) plumage.

11 new trip birds (Killdeer, Violet-Green Swallow, Redshafted Flicker, Bank Swallow*, Bufflehead, Black Tern, Savannah Sparrow, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Blue-Winged Teal, Ringnecked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Red-Necked Grebe, Sora ('whinny' heard), Marsh Wren, Cliff Swallow, Yellow-Headed Blackbird), 54 total.

Lac la Hache Provincial Park, B.C. Rating B-


Week 1 Day 5. Tuesday May 26. Lac la Hache, B.C. to Burns Lake, B.C. .

Begin seeing lots of beaver lodges, dams and channels. No beavers yet. See "Watch For Moose" signs. "Do you promise?" Central BC is much different from southern BC and Alberta - that is, there aren't any lofty snow-capped peaks. It's more like the rolling hills of Wisconsin or the Missouri Ozarks. We are both surprised. Sharon made banana pudding last night for tonight's dessert. It's gonna be so good.

Arrive at the Burns Lake KOA in the afternoon. The operator says it's the northernmost KOA in the world. Sharon bumps into a woman who had recently resigned her position at Andrew Molera State Park near Carmel, California. She and her husband just sold their home in Monterey, bought a pickup and trailer, and are on the road for 18-24 months, birding and enjoying the outdoors. We trade some birding location spots, and she tells me she had asked at the desk, and they will let us tie into AOL to handle our email! Life is good.

The banana pudding goes fast, and there is even a little left over for a snack later. Walk down to a lake, with a train track running beside it. See a pair of interesting flickers, but can't quite get an ID. They are nesting in a dead tree hole, high up near the top.

Day's Best Birds: Pair of Bald Eagles making passes at each other in the air, fairly low to the ground. The bottom one would flip upside down just as the upper one passed close overhead, so they would be talon-to-talon for an instant.

2 new trip birds (Bald Eagle, Herring Gull), 56 total.

Burns Lake KOA. Rating B+ (for letting me tie into AOL for email).


Week 1 Day 6. Wednesday May 27. Burns Lake, B.C. to Meziadin Junction, B.C. up the Cassiar Highway.

Sharon and I get up early, go down to the lake again, and quickly ID a hybrid RED/YELLOW-SHAFTED HYBRID NORTHERN FLICKER*, then quickly get a NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH*. Love to get a lifer first thing in the morning. Makes me think I've earned my money for the day already.

We stop for groceries on the way out of town, in a supermarket called Overwaitea. We ask about the strange name. It was originally a company that sold only teas. And they wanted to get across that you get more tea for less money, so they took the name 'overweight' and changed it to 'overwait' then combined it with 'tea' to get, well, you know. Strange name.

Heading on up the Cassiar Highway, we see a black bear running across the road in front of us. These blackies look incredibly fit and healthy.

We are in lumber country, and later we see a machine that is like a tractor, but it holds a humongous weed whacker out in front. Only instead of a weed whacker, it is a portable but enormous saw blade that cuts in a horizontal plane. The operator approaches a tree, grasps it in two places - high and low, then pushs the saw blade attachment right through it. It saws a 12-16" diameter tree in half, and he discards the tree to the ground. It being dry, dust just explodes up out of the tree during this time [Based on later information, this dust may have been pollen]. Then another huge tractor with a giant grapple, like you see in a carnival or movie house, picks the tree up and carts it off.

We arrive at Meziadin (mezz-ee-ADD-n) Junction Provincial Park, choose our sites down by Meziadin Lake and set up. Mosquitoes are awful. They get into our RVs, and are ferocious. On a bird walk, Sharon begins looking for a leafy bush branch to use like a fan around her face, to keep them away. I grab an appropriate-looking branch, pull and pull, but it won't come off. I get out my pocketknife and cut it. Then I do another one, and we bird while fanning our faces to ward off the mozzies.

Later, around the campfire that Red built, I notice a little sharp pain, look at the palm of my right hand, and noticed eight dark red circles. Each is painful when I close my hand, and I take a lot of flack for that. About pulling unknown weeds with my bare hands. Sharon puts an ointment on it and three days later it is fine.

Wild Animals: 1 black bear (2 total for trip)

Day's Best Birds: Northern Waterthrush* (life bird), Hybrid Red Shafted/Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker* (life bird)

8 new trip birds (Hybrid Northern Flicker*, Purple Finch, Western Wood-Pewee, Spotted Sandpiper, Northern Waterthrush*, Blue Jay, Mountain Bluebird, Steller's Jay), 64 total.

2 new lifers (flicker, waterthrush) 3 trip total.

Meziadin Junction Provincial Park. Rating C (B if no mosquitoes)


Week 1 Day 7. Thursday May 28. Day trip to Stewart, B.C. and Hyder, Alaska from base in Meziadin Junction.

When I wake up, Sharon is already up. She says she's gotten almost no sleep last night because the mosquitoes that had gotten into the RV would attack her face - the only part of her sticking out of the blankets. This can't go on.

Leave camp just before 700am for Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska. These two towns are adjacent, and are co-mingled. For example, American Hyder kids go to school in Canada's Stewart schools.

In the fall, when the salmon do their spawning runs up the streams and rivers, they go past a world-famous spot outside of Hyder where you can walk out on a platform, and watch a dozen black and grizzly bears catch fish at the same time. There are so many salmon that the bears don't feel threatened by other bears or by the spectators.

Jeane & Red had inquired and were led to believe that we were guaranteed to see bears feeding at the Hyder bear-watch platform, but it wasn't to be - no bears. An advantage of being a birder is that no-bear situations are much less disappointing.

On the drive in and the drive back out, we see a spectacular aqua-blue glacier near Bear Pass, between Meziadin Junction and Stewart. Get photos and video, of course. And we see another black bear, munching green grass this time, on the drive toward Bear Pass.

When you are in downtown Hyder, you would swear that you are in Cicely, Alaska, of TV's Northern Exposure. It is wonderful. Dirt and gravel streets, one main street, wooden shops, murals on one or two buildings, down-home people, etc.

Back in camp, and later that night, Sharon gets the idea to sleep in my baseball cap-mosquito netting combination. It works. She could hear the little farts buzzing around the net, but they can't get her. Appears she has a chance for a good night's sleep.

Wild Animals: 1 black bear (blacks 3, grizzlies 0).

Day's Best Birds: Varied Thrush, and heard-only Ruffed Grouse* (life bird)

1 new lifer (Ruffed Grouse), 4 trip total.

1 new upgrade (we claimed a female Varied Thrush in San Jose when we first started birding, but we've become a little doubtful we knew what we were doing at that time).

7 new trip birds (Magillivray's Warbler, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Varied Thrush, American Redstart, Western Tanager, Ruffed Grouse*, Pine Siskin), 71 total.

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