FirstAscent » My Journey in Alaska


My welcome in to AK

Well, to finish off this category of actually Getting to Alaska I figured I’d add a little bit of info for my arrival to Alaska and Fairbanks.

I arrived in Fairbanks on Tuesday July 24th, 2012 which puts my total time at 11 days. Originally I thought 10-11 days would be a good amount. In ways it was, but I could have easily taken 2 months and still not got the full experience. There was so much to see and experience and I simply didn’t have the time to do it all. But I still had an excellent time!

Coming through Haines Junction and through the St. Elias Mountains were really beautiful! I feel like I keep saying that but there were just so many neat areas. The water around these mountains were a super teal blue it was crazy! I’d like to come back to this area for some snowboarding some day. The road goes right along them and you could literally start hiking up right from the road for some fun fresh turns.

Now that I’m in Alaska it’s weird to think about. I had been wanting to come here for sooooo long and I’m finally here. Now I just need to see the Aurora Borealis, and that will come shortly once winter, coldness, and darkness hits.

I drive to Anchorage for my first week of work then will be back to Fairbanks for the rest of it.

Excited to see what the new job will be like…

Welcome to AK

Mountain Bike park in Whitehorse, YK

working on my drop-offs, this one was only 3′ or so

After yesterdays 13 hour drive, and some things I needed to take care of, I decided to stay in Whitehorse today instead of continuing on and do more driving tomorrow.

Whitehorse seemed like a pretty neat town and much larger, still small, than all the other towns I’ve been through so far. There were some great small hikes in the area and supposedly a mountain bike park. I checked out the hike first up Grey Mountain and it had some great views of the city. Towards the summit there were some downhill mountain bike trails that I REALLY wanted to check out. However, I had no idea where they went or how easy/hard they were so decided to sadly pass that option up.

I found out they had a mountain bike park about a 15 minutes drive from where I currently was so went to go look at it. I had never been in an actual bike park before; they had jumps, tabletops, teeter totters, planks and logs everywhere, some drop offs ranging from 1-7′ and a pump course. Most of which I had never done before, especially the larger scale stuff.

I started off small and worked my way up. I was the ONLY one there which was cool but also somewhat forced me to not push it as hard. With that being said, I still learned a lot and had a great time.

The rest of the day I’ll just hang out, maybe find another small hike or some bouldering and get ready to drive again tomorrow.

the largest teeter totter I tried that day, SO much fun!

August 2, 2012 - 5:12 AM

Jaime Casal - Hopefully lots more will be next. and definitely balance is needed, you feel like you are just going to tip over haha.

July 30, 2012 - 2:10 AM

Otto A Casal - This is cool Jaime, What’s next… This probably requires a lot of balance; looks like lots of fun.

Cassiar Day 2 and the tree camp

view from the campsite, Bob Quin Lake

New day, still in Hyder. Stayed up a little late last night and was tired so decided I’d stick around the area today and not do much, if any, driving. Packed up camp and headed toward town to make some breakfast and ended up running into the group from last night. They had been in the area (planting trees remember) just in tents for the last 3 months so were taking advantage of having a washing machine near by.

I mentioned I was staying in the area and they invited me to come by their camp, not to mention they supposedly had amazing cooks, so of course I said yes. I was going to meet them later that evening at their camp but when I was crossing the border, back into BC, I noticed one of their trucks was still there… uh oh, that can’t be good. I got through no problem and saw a few of them walking back towards the main part of Stewart. They thought there was a warrant for one of the guys but turned out to be a huge misunderstanding and wasn’t for him at all. Had to have been scary for Steve! He met up with all of us in town a few hours later and we of course all made fun of him and laughed about it 🙂

Since they were heading back to camp I just decided to follow them in and avoid any direction confusion. It was in the direction I was going anyway so I didn’t have to worry about backtracking at all which was a huge plus as well.

2 hours later we arrived to their camp at Bob Quin Lake and Wow it was a sweet camp spot and they had a pretty nice setup with all their tents and equipment. All together there was about 30 of them but most had stayed back at camp and didn’t come to Stewart/Hyder.

Today was a very much needed easy relaxing day. Just sat around eating, swimming in the lake, sat around some more, ate some more, and went to sleep. Good end to the day and I plan on doing a lot of driving the next few days. I’d like to get up to Tok, AK which is roughly a 22-24 hour drive. Ready for a good sleep and hit the road again.

p.s. If any of the tree planter group ever see this…thank you and I appreciate everything you all offered, and thank the cooks for some awesome food!

Part of the tree planter group, L to R (david, me, james, anna, jeff, tommy, googs{nickname?}, steve)

July 23, 2012 - 12:25 AM

Susan Karamesines Casal - What a nice time! So cool you found interesting and fun new friends. Glad you finally got rested up too. 🙂

The Cassiar and “border hopping”

standing in front of Bear Glacier. Stewart, BC

I was excited about today’s planned-drive because I’d finally reach the Cassiar Highway. I had been reading a lot about this area and it sounded like it had a lot of beautiful areas and it also had a side access road to Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK which I wanted to spend a few days in.

The Cassiar Highway is definitely my favorite highway thus far. The entire highway you are surrounded by mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers…it’s literally non-stop the WHOLE way. About halfway up the highway is a one way access road to Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK. Two very small towns at the end right next to each other, in the middle of nowhere, two different countries. There are no U.S. customs to enter the U.S but there are Canadian customs to get back in to BC, which you have to do when you head back. Hyder is the very last town with no outlet.

Stewart is supposedly known for “where the bears are” but when I talked to a ranger he said the bear activity was pretty rare right now, for whatever reason, and I didn’t end up seeing a single bear there, a little disappointing.

There is one little store in Stewart with Wi-Fi access and one calling card/Collect ONLY phone in Hyder for public use. So communication of any kind is slim to none. Of course, no cell service either. I checked out all the little shops and walked around just enjoying being surrounded by mountains, Bear Glacier, and Salmon Glacier.

Here is where the night gets really interesting and fun. I went into a local Inn/Restaurant/Bar to grab some fries and a drink and ended up talking with a group that recently came to Hyder that day as well. They were doing some peace work planting trees along the main Cassiar Highway and it was nice to have some people to hang out with in the area. Well, the restaurant closed at 9 so we all had to leave and the rest of the town was well closed by then too. So the rest of the night we all just hung out on a near by dock and the views were amazing. I didn’t have my camera and it’s hard to explain but there were a few layers of misty cloud layers over the water and through the mountains. One of those “you had to see it” kinda things.
Oh, and I can’t forget about Rod, a music professor at Columbus, who joined us as well. Pretty funny guy!

Anyways, it was a crazy fun night in Hyder, AK. They are all from BC and none of them had every been to America before. It was weird to be in “america” and BC and back and forth all day long. They all had rooms at a motel in Hyder and I had my tent setup a few miles down the road, at the end of the night we all went our separate ways.

Great drive, incredible views, fun group of people… good day.

Smithers, BC

View from my tent in Smithers, BC (Kathlyn Glacier)

Today the goal was to get to Smithers, BC. No particular reason, just happened to be a good stopping point distance-wise. Fortunately it ended up being a pretty neat little town and where I setup tent was incredible and had an amazing view of Kathlyn Glacier. There was also a very short approach (maybe 1km) to the bottom of the glacier to see Twin Falls, but when I got there I barely had time to setup my camera before I was literally getting eaten alive by mosquitos. It was bad! So I just took one last glance and headed back down.

The road to/from the glacier is pretty narrow with really soft shoulders. When I was heading down 3 local police officers were heading up and the first one got stuck on the soft shoulders (slid off). I stopped and asked the 3rd car if they needed help and when he rolled down his window he was laughing hysterically lol. Good times.

Nothing too exciting the rest of the evening. it was a good day to relax and try to catch up a little from the last 3 days which were really busy.