Saturday, August 27, 2011

Planning your trip to Alaska

Alaska is our biggest state. If you don't believe that, just try getting around in it. I lived in Alaska for eight years and, fortunately, had a job which allowed me to see the state while working. I still never saw as much of it as I wanted. I do remember that within a few short months of my arrival in Anchorage in 1971, I'd managed to drive all the state's major highways, from Fairbanks to Homer via Anchorage, and from Anchorage to the border with Canada's Yukon Territory.  I also logged thousands of miles in the air. Flying was something you had to do if you wanted to get into the remote parts of the state, such as Nome, Kotzebue or Barrow.

Planning a trip to Alaska can be a daunting task, especially if you're a first-time visitor who wants to avoid the package tour route. It can be done, but takes a little more planning than say if you're going to Seattle or Miami. But . . . help is available in a new ebook: Alaska Travel Planning Guide: Help for the Independent Traveler. It's crammed with all sorts of tips and gives you an idea of the detailed planning you need to do to make your trip successful.

Alaska Travel Planning Guide is written by Judy Shuler, who I worked with when we were both reporters at the now defunct Anchorage Times back in the 1970s. While I moved back to the Lower 48, she moved from Anchorage to Juneau where she started a successful tour business, Alaska Up Close, which involved  planning detailed, personalized itineraries for Alaska visitors. The book is a summary of things she learned during her 18 years as an Alaska travel planner. I wished I had this guide when I lived there, as I learned quite a bit about my adopted state.

Judy's guide is available as an ebook at the Amazon Kindle Store. The guide contains a wealth of information and will pay for its $2.99 price many times over.

I've reviewed the book in more detail in this article.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Toilet paper thieves?

Toilet paper holder at our campground.
We just got back from a week of camping in the Little Naches of Wenatchee National Forest. It's a popular place with people who ride dirt bikes, quads and 4WD vehicles, called Jeepers in camp lingo.

While my husband's family has been camping in the same spot since the 1960s, I've only been going up there for 10 years.  We used to go on all the three-day weekends every summer, but since we're both retired, we go up for a week at a time now.

The place where we camp has no amenities except for fire pits and a vault toilet. Well, what can you expect for free! One thing about the toilet that has always puzzled me is why the Forest Service padlocks the toilet paper in the bathrooms. Are they that afraid people may steal two rolls of toilet paper? I wouldn't think so as the TP is hardly what you'd describe as Charmin soft.

If someone did want the toilet paper that much, they could always wind it on an empty cardboard roll or maybe unscrew the TP holder and take it. And if someone should be so desperate as to steal the toilet paper, would the Forest Service do a full-scale investigation on these criminals to bring them to justice? I doubt it.

I also considered the possibility they padlock the toilet paper to keep it from unwinding and flying all over the place. Loose sheets of toilet paper on the floor are such a nuisance.

If anyone knows why they padlock the toilet paper, I'd appreciate a comment below. Otherwise, I'll have to wait until the Forest Service comes by the next time we are camping.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Indian monuments

Memorial to Indian fishermen above Ice Harbor Dam.
Last week we took a drive out to Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. It's a place Id never been, even though its only about 20 miles away.

We stopped at the visitor center where we saw steelhead swimming upstream. The visitor center has an interesting display of dam history. Dam personnel give tours a few times a week, so I want to go back sometime and take it. I suspect it will be a little bit like going inside the innards of Grand Coulee Dam, the dam north of us which at one time was the largest in the world.

From the dam, we drove a narrow twisty road to Charbonneau Park, a heavily used campground and day use park. The parking lot was crammed with pick-ups and boat trailers, as people took to the water to keep cool

On the way back, we stopped at a memorial to Indian fishermen which sits on a hill overlooking the dam. One plaque on the monument mentioned all the tribes which had fished for centuries on the Snake before the dam went in. Tribes which fished there included the Umatilla, Yakima, Nez Perce and Colville. I think the sin listed six tribes but, alas, I didn't write them down.

All in all, the trip was worthwhile, educational and fun.