Journey to Alaska
Thursday 25th June – Day 1 - 219 miles
Left Birch Bay to make our way to the US 539 north and the Canadian border. Through beautiful farming country, large farm houses and Dutch barns with a mix of arable and diary. In the distance we could see the snowcapped North Cascade mountain range. We crossed the border without incident at a place called Lyndon. There was no US exit post just Canadian Immigration who were very friendly. We were asked what our travel plans were and where we had been and how long we had been in the US and if we were carrying any weapons. We continued on the Trans Canada 1 north-east towards the town of Hope. The countryside in British Columbia was much the same as its US neighbour, rich farming areas with large scale farms but here it seemed to be mainly egg production and fruit. As we got further along Canada 1 we were surrounded by wooded hills, distant mountain peaks and at our side the wide Fraser River. Went through the small town of Hope crossed over to the other side of the river and continued north. The river stayed at our side and was now joined by a single rail track.
Passed through the small town of Yale snuggled in amongst the heavily wooded hills and alongside the river. We saw signs for river rafting. Apparently the town was the beginning of the overland gold rush trail to the British Columbia gold fields. Came out of Yale Tunnel into the Fraser River Canyon, the river was running fast with lots of swirls and eddies – great for rafting. We crossed over the river again on the Alexander Bridge and continued along the winding road north. There were good views of the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific rail tracks across the river.
Just before we got to the small town of Lytton we spotted forest fires on the hills over the river. The weather is warm with a breeze that is no doubt fanning the flames.
After Lytton the steep hillsides became sandy soiled with sparse tree growth and here we picked up the Thompson River.
At Cache Creek we left the Trans-Canada 1 for highway 97 ‘The Gold Rush Trail’. We now came into a dry, arid area where the fields were being irrigated by long irrigation sprays rolling across the fields on wheels.
Mid-afternoon we reached our destination at the Gold Trail R V Park in Clinton. This is a small park within the town limits and just off the 97. We got a nice grassy site to set up on with good views of the heavily forested hills surrounding the town. Originally this small town was a stopping place at the junction of two roads leading to the Cariboo goldfields. As soon as we got out of the RV the mosquitos were on us, we quickly retreated back into the RV to find the mosi spray. After a walk through the village where there were some interesting old buildings dating back to the gold rush days and old sepia photos dotted about, we headed back for dinner at the campsite café, cooked by Micheal the camp host. The small eating area was on a rustic veranda at the entrance to the camp. There were lots of interesting bits and pieces about including an old piano and some pretty hanging baskets.
Friday 26th June – Day 2 428 miles
We got back on the 97 – Cariboo Highway – to continue our journey north. The road was good and our first stop was to get petrol at 100 Mile House. This bustling little town was established originally as a post house on the Cariboo Waggon Road to the goldfields. We struck up a conversation at the gas pumps with a couple of local people called Errol and Jackie. They were asking us about our travels and telling us about the country we can expect to see on the road ahead. The route went past flat wetlands with road side ponds and Lac La Hache town and lake, on past Williams Lake to the Fraser River. We noticed the frequency of logging trucks on the road. We continued north past rivers and lakes and the town of Prince George. The meadows and hedgerows were full of wildflowers of every colour. We followed the Crooked River up to McLeod Lake. Over the Parship River bridge to the Rocky Mountain Trench, the western boundary of the Rocky Mountains. We started a gradual climb to Pine Pass the highest point on the highway with beautiful views of the Rockies. We followed the Pine River towards Chetwynd stopping at Caron Creek RV Park to overnight. We had a warm greeting from Liz the camp host. The park has nice large grassy sites and good restroom, shower and laundry facilities.
There was a trail through the forest over a single track rail line, down to the Pine River. At the rivers edge in the mud we spotted bear tracks. We continued along the trail back across the rail track to the RV park. We liked the rural setting of this camp. We had travelled 427 miles today and were ready for bed.
Saturday 27th June –Day 3 - 328 miles
Glorious sunny morning as we set off towards Chetwynd a busy small town on Highway 97. The town is known for its chainsaw sculptures and there are plenty of examples on show throughout the town. Here we turned left onto Highway 29 north. This route up to the Alaskan Highway was recommended by Liz, hardly any traffic on the road and very wild and scenic. We soon came to the large Moberley Lake which looked delightful and deserted. Further on we saw a dead moose at the side of the road. Over bridge at Peace Canyon Dam and from here the road followed the Peace River on to the small town of Hudson Hope. Just east of Hudson Hope we stopped at a turnout overlooking the Peace River to take some photos. The river was flowing at a gentle pace as we overlooked a vast area with seemingly not another person. It would have been lovely to be on a raft floating down this peaceful river – I can see where it got its name.
Saw a moose standing in a pond drinking, hurray our first live moose. Just over two hours after we got on the road we turned onto the Alaskan Highway for the next stage of our journey. The Alaska Highway is approx. 1,500 miles long and was built in 1942 during World War ll to provide a route through to Alaska across Canada. The next 613 miles will be in British Columbia as we head northwest towards the Yukon. Stopped at a place called Wonowon for petrol. There is camp here of single storey porta cabin type structures for gas patch crews. There is a lot of oil and gas exploration along the highway. When the original road was built this place was called Blueberry Control Station, a military checkpoint operated by the US throughout the war years. The two lane highway is in good condition, there are some steep gradients and bends but also many miles of straight easy driving. The scenery is green with pine forests as far as the eye can see. Further on we noticed patches of dead pine trees. In British Columbia they have an infestation of mountain pine beetle. Apparently the beetles prefer mature lodgepole pine trees over 80 years old and we noted that the new growth trees did not seem to be effected. In the Trutch Mountain area Tony spotted a black bear on the east side of the highway, our first wild bear sighting. Forty five minutes later our second sighting of a black bear on the west side of the road. The bear was smaller this time, sitting in the grass preening itself. We arrived at Fort Nelson late afternoon and headed for the Triple G Hideway campground in the west end of town. After setting up camp we took a walk into town. Before leaving the camp we spotted a familiar RV, it was Peter and Suzan. They were out at the time but we caught up with them later. We had dinner then sat outside and discussed our travels.
Sunday 28th June – Day 4 - 0 miles (rest day)
Day off the road today. Moved site next to Suzan and Peter. Went food shopping with Suzan, there will not be any supermarkets for the next few hundred miles. In the afternoon went to Boston Pizza bar with Suzan and Peter for a few drinks. Had dinner then sat outside chatting. We decided to head north together tomorrow and make for Liard River Hotsprings.
Monday 29th June – Day 5 - 189 miles
Got back on the highway this morning and continued our journey north west. From Fort Nelson the road winds through the northern Rocky Mountains through dense forests and scenic views. Just over an hour after we started we came across road works which delayed us for a while. It meant we were travelling on unpaved road for a while and it was slow going. The highway seems well maintained which can’t be an easy job after the snow and ice of winter have taken their toll. Sandy travels very well, the road can be bumpy in parts but she doesn’t stir from her bed at my feet. We stopped at a turn out to take a photo. There were forests and rivers for hundreds of miles into the distance.
At Stone Mountain Park saw a large female moose on west side of the road, looked at us and trotted back into the forest. There are large stone peaks here and Summit Lake.
Just past the lake we saw a young female moose. We came to the small town of Toad River situated in a picturesque valley with its own airstrip. Followed the turquoise coloured Toad River along the valley and gradually started to climb through forested hills.
Stopped for lunch on a gravel turnoff at the side of a dry river bed, just a small stream flowing. It was so quiet, just the wind blowing through the aspen trees.
Continued on through alpine peeks and valleys in the Muncho Lake Park. Crossed bridge over Trout River and carried on to Lake Muncho. Saw a Cariboo with big antlers at the side of the lake. A beautiful lake, rich emerald green and deep blue in colour. The name means “big lake” in the Kaska language.
Continued on past the Northern Rockies Lodge where there is accommodation and flightseeing tours take off from here. We followed the fast flowing Trout River and descended into the Liard River Valley crossing over the Laird River suspension bridge.
Just down the road is Liard Hotsprings Lodge where we had a RV pitch booked for the night. Peter and Suzan were already there and had reserved our site.
After setting up camp we went across the road to Liard River Hotsprings Park. There is about a quarter mile boardwalk across wetland into the forest where there are ferns and wild flowers and everything looks green and verdant. There are two hot pools, one being hotter than the other, (ranging from 42-52 degrees) in a pretty setting. The sulphur water was clear, relaxing and very pleasant, it was a lovely experience. The pools are open 24 hours.
We spoke to one of the rangers on site when we came out of the pool and he said that this time of year it never gets completely dark. The sun goes down at about 1230 am which is the darkest hour before it starts to get light again. At 1045 pm there were still patches of blue sky.
Tuesday 30th June – Day 6 - 292 miles
Fifteen minutes away from Liard Hotsprings this morning we saw a black bear and a couple of bison foraging on the edge of the forest and managed to get a photo.
Our route followed along the Liard River.
Just past the turn off for Smith River Falls we saw a small herd of Bison with a calf. The calf was having a rest and couldn’t be bothered to get up for the camera.
Continued on past Coal River Lodge which dates back to 1949 and then ten miles further on Fireside Truck stop. We stopped off at Allens”s Lookout for a spectacular view along the Liard River. Ten or so miles down the road we passed a sign to say ‘Welcome to the Yukon’. Came to Contact Creek which was named by the soldiers (one regiment from the north and one from the south) who met here after completing the south section of the Alaska Highway in 1942. A small herd of Bison came running along the grass verge, two or three calves with them. We managed to get a picture of the back runners.
A few miles down the road and we are back into British Columbia – the highway dips back into BC a few times before finally crossing into Yukon. Came across a lone bison lying on the grass verge. He had found a bare patch of ground and was rolling about in the sandy soil. Stopped off at the town of Watson Lake for fuel. Here they have the Watson Lake Signpost Forest where visitors can add a sign to say they were here.
The wildflowers were back in force at the road side on the next stretch of highway, lovely displays of yellow and purple.
Crossed bridge over Lower Rancheria River, from here the road follows the river to the west. Came to stunning views of Cassiar Mountains.
Pulled into a turnout at the edge of the forest for a bolied egg sandwich lunch. We sat outside in the sunshine and had views down the road of miles of forest wilderness. Along the road at rest areas and turnouts there are often what’s called ‘interpretive signs’ with information about the area. Here there was a sign explaining the Continental Divide which divides two of the largest river drainage systems in North America, the Yukon and Mackenzie River watersheds. Water draining west from this point forms the Swift River. The road followed the Swift River, about ten miles further on we came to the Swift River Lodge, just past here there was another sign welcoming us back into British Columbia. We then passed Swan Lake! Just before the Morley River bridge we re-entered the Yukon, the last of several crossings of the BC/YT border. We have now travelled over a thousand miles since the Canadian boarder on day one. Arrived at Teslin Lake late afternoon and the view over the lake and Nisutlin Bay Bridge from the road was a definite photo opportunity so we pulled over into a rest area.
We crossed the bridge and just on the other side was the Yukon Motel and Lakeshore RV Park where we were staying for the night. Peter and Susan had arrived ahead of us and had set up camp. Our campsite was in a good position with views over the lake. We had dinner at the motel and planned our next day’s travel.