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! 

Banff National Park Oh Boy!

We love the National Parks in the United States. However, our first visit to a Canadian National Park has blown us away!  Banff National Park in Alberta is truly spectacular, and our four days here only scratched the surface. 

We arrived to the Tunnel Mountain II Campground in Banff National Park in a snowstorm and wondered if we’d see any of the beautiful peaks that define the area. But, low hanging clouds and cold air didn’t put a damper on the excitement. 

But within hours, the blue sky began to show through and it was on!!  

Our first hike was from our campground to the hoodoos overlook. Sweeping views of the snow drenched mountains with the Bow River below indicated something special. 

With our traveling companions, Russ and Susan Shoemaker, we braved the cold, and a little snow, to finish the first of several beautiful hikes. 

We headed to Lake Louise on our first full day and were greeted with more snow and low-hanging clouds.

The view was not what we had hoped for but Susan’s photoshop skills allowed us to see what it might have been like had the clouds lifted and the ice on the lake had melted. 

On our third day here we were blessed with spectacular blue skies and a bit warmer weather (if 50 is considered warm). We set out to take on the popular, 1 1/2 mile Johnston Canyon hike.

Though much of the trail was ice-packed which made for slow-going, we made it to the upper falls with ease. The advantage of being here early in the season is smaller crowds. We were happy to have parts of the trail to ourselves which made it even more special. 

Evenings are special too. We’ve been taking turns making dinner and have enjoyed several meals cooked in the Park’s cooking pavilions, around a wood-burning stove. Spending time with Russ and Susan is always fun, as we love to hear about their world travels.

We’ve known them since Susan and I worked together at the City of Phoenix in the early 1990s and being together is always so easy. 

On our final day in Banff we tackled the Tunnel Mountain Summit trail which provided 360-degree, sweeping views of the town of Banff and surrounding area. We could have sat up there and soaked in the views all day. 

We are sad to leave this beautiful area, with it’s many animals, sweeping views, and wonderful people, but we know there’s more spectacularness ahead!