The Alaska Highway – Part Two

After nearly a month on the road, we’ve made it from Arizona to Alaska via the famed Alaska Highway. Our previous post highlighted the first half of our journey, and in this post, we’ll finish the story.

When we last checked in we were in Liard Hot Springs, relaxed and rejuvenated from our soaks. Next we headed west and north to Watson Lake and the famous signpost forest. It was only one night but we packed in as much as we could.

In 1942, during the construction of the Alaska Highway, a homesick soldier added his hometown to the army signpost he was building. People from all over the world have followed the time-honored tradition of adding signs to the “forest” on a daily basis ever since. We even found some from Prescott!

With Russ’s help we posted our sign, which once decorated the front of our RV. Russ and Susan also added their own sign. We’ll give five dollars to anyone who can find our sign among the over 80,000 that now hang in Watson Lake.

The scenery along the highway did not let us down. Even with construction delays, we were kept busy marveling at the snow-capped peaks and vast expanses.

We’ve also been keeping a list of the wildlife we’ve seen and it grows every day. From moose to bears to caribou, the Alaska Highway delivers.

We made a stop in the Yukon Territory’s capital of Whitehorse. In our short time there we explored Miles Canyon and the surrounding trails. Before the Yukon river was dammed, this canyon was a treacherous stretch that prospectors had to brave during their journey to the gold fields in Dawson City.

Today it’s a popular area for hiking, mountain biking, and wintertime cross country skiing. Bob enjoyed his hike, especially when he got to cross the suspension bridge with Steve.

We also poked around downtown Whitehorse, enjoyed lunch at the Klondike Salmon and Rib and found the local brewery. At Yukon Brewing the beer is worth freezin’ for.

Our favorite stop of all along the Alaska Highway was our overnight at Congdon Creek Yukon Government Campground. Set right outside the small town of Destruction Bay, this small campground on Kluane Lake was perfect in every way!

The sunshine and warmer weather allowed us to sit outside all afternoon, enjoy the views, the campfire, and the fresh air. It didn’t hurt that we arrived early enough to snag a waterfront site, which added to our enjoyment.

After braving some pretty rough roads from Destruction Bay to the US border, we could finally say we’d made it to Alaska. We stopped for the obligatory photo at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign and proceeded to Tok, our final stop on this part of the journey.

In Tok we explored a bit, caught up on laundry, cleaned the truck, and bid adieu to our wonderful traveling companions.

Russ and Susan are headed north to Fairbanks while we’re heading south, so our time together has come to a close. It was so fun and reassuring to have travel partners, and these guys are so easy to travel with. We celebrated our accomplishment with a wonderful pizza dinner prepared by Susan. We’re sure gonna miss these guys!

Celebrating a successful journey so far

The Alaska Highway – Part One

Driving the Alaska Highway from its start in Dawson Creek, British Columbia to its termination in Alaska is a bucket list item for many RVers. We’ve had plans to make this epic journey since 2019 when we bought our first camper but the COVID pandemic closed the Canadian border for the last two years. Finally, 2022 was our year! In spite of crazy high diesel prices, we’re doing this!

From Jasper we headed north, stopped in Grande Prairie for provisions (Costco!) and finally made our way to the official start of the highway at Mile 0 in Dawson Creek. The first stop is the big sign that marks to beginning of the journey and a photo stop is required!

We also enjoyed poking around the adjacent museum to learn more about the history of the road.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, it was clear that a military supply road between the lower 48 and Alaska was necessary to defend the United States against the Japanese. The 1,523 mile highway took eight months and 12 days to build at a cost of $140 million. In that short time 11,000 American troops and 16,000 civilian workers built 133 major bridges, 8,000 culverts with over 7,000 pieces of machinery. The speed at which the road was built, considering the rough terrain, is one of our country’s greatest achievements. 

We took our time along the way, traveling less than 200 miles in a day. Some days we stopped at full hook up campgrounds and other days we stopped at no-frills, yet beautiful provincial park campgrounds. At Buckinghorse River Wayside Provincial Park we camped on the banks of the river, so close that the guys could fish right out our back door. They didn’t catch anything but they enjoyed the challenge.

We are a bit early in the season for traveling the ALCAN. We’ve hit all kinds of weather along the way and the rivers and lakes are still frozen in many places. While that put a damper on the fishing and exploring, it just added to the beauty of the area. We’re also at the peak of road repair season.

In Fort Nelson we just happened to cross paths with our friends Christine and Paul who we met at the Tampa RV show earlier this year. They were on their way to visit their daughter in Valdez and we happened to be staying in the same RV park.

We had a fun night and were grateful for our Clam screen room as the mosquitos have begun to make their 2022 appearance.

Tetsa River Lodge has been a popular stop on the ALCAN since the 1940s and we weren’t going to pass up their cinnamon buns. This is a must-do stop on the Alaska Highway.

Driving this remote highway means we’ve had many opportunities to see wildlife. In fact, in one day, from Fort Nelson to Muncho Lake we saw a bear, a bald eagle, at least a half dozen caribou, deer, and a beaver.

Other days we’ve seen more bison than we can count. We didn’t get photos of everything but we’ll keep trying!

Our stop at Muncho Lake was much anticipated. We were a bit disappointed when we arrived to find the turquoise blue lake was still frozen over and the nearby trails were snowed in. We enjoyed one night at the Northern Rockies Lodge in a campsite that overlooked the lake and then moved on.

It worked out, however, as we headed to our next stop, Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, and spent two days luxuriating in the springs, walking the boardwalk, looking for moose, and just chilling out. What an incredible place, high in the Northern Canadian Rockies.

Our journey along the Alaska Highway continues and we’ll post more when we finish the trek and get back into cell service. Most of our stops along this route have been completely off the grid so we’re a little slow to post. There’s more to come!

Jasper is Just Amazing

From Banff we drove the Icefields Parkway through the Columbia Icefields, past the Athabasca Glacier, and spectacular snow-covered mountains. If you don’t like pictures of mountains, streams, and wildlife, you can probably skip this blog.  It’s overload up here and we just loved it!

Our home in Jasper was the newly renovated Whistler Campground in Jasper National Park. While many of the trees have been removed to combat bark beetles, the 360-degree mountain views made up for it. Frequent visits from local elk made it even more beautiful.

Upon our arrival in Jasper we hit up the local laundromat/coffee shop, SnoDome Coffee , one of the best we’ve ever seen. Susan and I followed laundry up with shopping, so Jasper left a positive impression from the beginning. 

Jasper is surrounded by world-class hiking trails, and we set out to explore a few of them. In truth we could stay here for a year and never see it all. Maligne Canyon, however, was a good choice to get us started.

The roughly three mile hike skirts the canyon rim, traveling over five bridges along the way. The narrow canyon has been carved by millions of years of rushing water which creates smooth rock and round potholes that hold spinning whirlpools of water.

Our time in Jasper has been punctuated by abundant wildlife, which is exactly what we were hoping for. We found a large herd of mountain sheep along the side of the road, numerous deer and elk, fox, beaver, and the holy grail: bears!

Steve encountered this mama Grizzly bear and baby while out on a run one morning.

We also came across this mama Black bear and her two cubs eating on the side of the highway. Just incredible!

On a different day we tackled another popular hike, The Valley of Five Lakes. In about three miles we circled five distinctly different lakes, each a different color.

Besides the great exercise, we enjoyed the sunshine and relatively crowd-free trails. Shoulder season is definitely the time to be here!

We also stopped to check out Athabasca Falls, a stop along Icefields Parkway that has been a stop for travelers for centuries. It’s now a well developed site that allows you to get up close to the falls.

We continue to enjoy traveling with the Shoemakers. Our nightly happy hours and dinners are a highlight of each day, a time for us to share our day’s adventures and plan the next.

We are now heading north to the start of the famed Alaska-Canada (ALCAN) highway. The historic road will usher us to the 49th state and we are looking forward to the journey!