Friday, July 29, 2011


We have officially driven the entire Alaska Highway, including the Cassiar, Klondike, Top of the World, Taylor, Richardson, Glenn, and Parks Highways. We have logged over 7600 miles since we left home on June 3rd. We still have another 2200 before we get back home.

We're at Northern Lights RV Campground in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. It's a pretty nice place--a little tight between spaces, but well-kept and with nice restroom and laundry facilities. In addition, "full hookups" here includes a sewer connection--something that was pretty rare along the highway.

This was our campsite at Toad River Lodge 2 nights ago. That, too, was a pretty decent place. It was a bit more spaced out than Northern Lights, and has very old, but working, restroom/shower facilities.

This is the beaver pond behind the campground. After dinner, Don and I walked over to see if we could see some moose on the lake. We didn't see moose, but spent about 15 minutes watching a family of 4 beavers and a pair of muskrats collecting sticks and weeds for their homes.

After leaving Toad River yesterday morning we went up and over Steamboat Mountain, where we had great views of the terminus ranges of the Rocky Mountains. I learned that the mountains here are the farthest north the Rocky Mountains extend--that any other mountains north of here are a separate range. So the Rockies extend from northern British Columbia all the way to north-central New Mexico. It was all one cordillera, or mountain-building event that created this massive range.

Our stop last night was at Sikanni River Campground, where Don was able to spend a few hours fishing. The river was running fast, and he was able to catch only one grayling. The Sikanni River has a place in Alaska Highway History--a regiment of African-American soldiers built the first bridge over the river in 1942, taking only 3 days. It lasted longer than any other bridge built on the highway that year.

Knowing we only had 160 miles to drive today, we slept a little later and enjoyed pancakes for breakfast. We made it to Dawson Creek by noon, and are in site #8 at Northern Lights. We relaxed for a few hours this afternoon, and then went to go take a photo of the Mile Zero marker in downtown Dawson Creek. We also spent some time at the Alaska Highway House, a small museum on the corner next to the marker.

We celebrated the completion of the Highway at Tony Roma's--baby back ribs for me and steak for Don. I also enjoyed a strawberry daiquiri--yummy! On our way back to the campground we picked up some donuts from Tim Horton's for tomorrow morning. They look good; this was our first visit to Tim Horton's, and we still haven't tried the coffee!

We decided that we want to go home now. One option that we had been considering was doing some more fishing in British Columbia; another was heading for Montana and fishing on the Gallatin and then going back to Henry's Lake for a few days. But home beckons. So when we get on Highway 2 tomorrow, which will take us through Alberta, we won't get off that road (except to sleep) until we get to San Bernardino. The 2 turns into Interstate 15 when we cross the border into the US. We don't know how far we'll go each day--it depends on the wind and how tired he is or isn't. But we think we'll be home by next Friday. We'll see.

Hooray! We did it!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

7,000 Miles and Still Going

Greetings from Toad River, British Columbia, 398 miles from the end (or the beginning) of the Alaska Highway. That point is in Dawson Creek, and from there we'll still have about 2200 miles to go before we get home.

We had a nice breakfast at Rancheria Lodge this morning. They have some great 12-grain toast and hash browns made from red potatoes, which we enjoyed with our eggs. We were on the road by 8:00, and since this section of the Alaska Highway is in pretty decent condition, we made good time. Between Watson Lake and Liard River, we saw 3 black bears and 4 buffalo. Then when we got into Muncho Lake Provincial Park, we ran into 3 different herds (flocks?) of Stone Sheep. They like to lick the salts on the roads, and have little fear of motorized vehicles. Once you honk at them they'll get out of your way.

We stopped at the Muncho Lake overlook just before a rainstorm hit. You can see it off in the distance.

From Muncho Lake it was a mild uphill drive to a pass separating the Trout River and Toad River watersheds, and then a nice long downhill to the Toad River. We pulled into Toad River Lodge at 2:30, and are enjoying some TV at one of their pull-through campsites. The MLS All-Star Game will be on this evening on TSN (Canada's ESPN), so we're glad we chose to come this far.

Tomorrow: we have no idea! Don's thinking we'll go the 400 miles to Dawson Creek and then stay there 2 nights to "celebrate" our completion of the Alaska Highway. I hope so.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Denali to Tok, Alaska to Kluane Lake and then Rancheria, Yukon

Monday, July 25

We left Denali National Park, on Friday morning, and 915 miles later we are camped along the Rancheria River in the Yukon. It's on a little stretch of the Alaska Highway that runs through the Yukon before and after it dips down into British Columbia.

We made it to Tok, Alaska, on Friday, going through Fairbanks. The highway was in good condition all the way, so we made good time.

The Tanana River is one of the largest rivers in Alaska, and runs alongside the highway east of Fairbanks for a while.

We stopped for the night at Tok Village RV Park, which is a very large campground on the east side of Tok which caters to people driving the Alaska Highway. We were the 6th or 7th to check in, and within 3 hours, the place was nearly full. We did our laundry ($3.50 a load in the washer, and $1.50 for 45 minutes in the dryer.). Dinner was barbecued chicken thighs, cole slaw, and corn. We had cable TV that night, so we watched news and some reruns of Law & Order that we hadn't seen before.

Saturday morning we were up early (5:30) and after a breakfast of egg and bacon burritos, left around 7:00. This time, the road was NOT in good shape. We had heard the stories from many people about how it was under construction and full of frost heaves around Burwash Landing. Here's the scoop: it's that way from Beaver Creek all the way to Destruction Bay. We rocked and rolled and bounced for hours, and welcomed the chance to stop in Destruction Bay so Don could get a fishing license.

16 miles south of Destruction Bay we pulled into Cottonwood Campground, a unique but lovely campground right on Kluane Lake. Kluane Lake is the largest lake in the Yukon, and its waters are a deep royal blue. It's just beautiful. Don knew he wanted to fish there, so we opted to stay for 2 nights. We were given our choice of campsites - one with electricity and water in the interior of the park, or one with electricity only right on the water. Since our fresh water tank was 2/3 full, we opted for the lakeside site.

Looks beautiful, doesn't it?!

Let me tell you about the idiosyncrasies of this campground. First, all the electricity in the park is provided by generator. Therefore, it's 15 amp power. You're given a list when you check in of what 15 amps will and will not run. Then you're shown how to reset the breakers if you happen to pop one. Second, the generators have to go off every day (I'm assuming they need to be refueled and/or cooled and/or switched out), so there's no power at all from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. I can deal with that. Third, since the campground is so close to the Kluane Wildlife Refuge, they have a grizzly bear problem. Or at least, they used to have a bigger problem than the one they have now. They have no trash cans. You are asked to take your trash with you when you leave. Fourth, there's a lot of wind. It doesn't blow all the time, but when it does the waves really crash up against the shoreline. The good thing about a light wind, though, is it keeps the bugs away. They weren't bad here at all.

If you can handle those idiosyncrasies, and we can, then you will love this place. We sure did.

There were some lovely times when we sat out behind the trailer on the shore.

How's this for a place to read?

One more thing about that site--the bathroom in our trailer is in the rear, so it looked out over the lake. We were so close to the water that it appeared as if we were on a cruise ship.

Don did go fishing in the lake several times, and caught a grayling. That's all. But he had a nice time trying (they don't call it catching, just fishing).

This morning we were up again at 5:30, but hit the road a little earlier since I had made a coffee cake the day before. We made it to Whitehorse around 10:15; the highway was in much better condition than the previous day's stretch was. I was completely out of anything green, as well as eggs, so we stopped at the WalMart in Whitehorse. I've shopped at the Supercenter (a Canadian grocery store similar to Food 4 Less back home) and knew it would be extremely crowded, and I knew that the WalMart had ample parking for RVs. I was able to pick up canned peas and green beans, eggs, coffee creamer, bread, and some frozen spinach.

Back on the highway by 11:30, we decided to stop for lunch around 12:30. That was at a rest area just past Jake's Crossing. We reached Teslin around 1:30 or so (I really wasn't paying attention) and I was able to get lettuce and tomatoes at the Nisutlin Trading Post. We looked at the maps and the Milepost book and decided to go on to Rancheria.

Rancheria Lodge is right on the Rancheria River--and since it originates in British Columbia, Don can use his BC fishing license here. It's a pretty rustic place--derelict cars are strewn along the edge of he campground, but there are electric hookups (30 amp), a sani-dump, water fill-up, and clean shower/toilet facility. I can also go over to the lodge to use the WiFi, which is what I'll do in a few minutes.

We took the only electric hookup site on the river. The rest are in the woods a few hundred yards away.

This is the view from our big window. Not bad, huh!

And of course, since this is a good river for Dolly Varden (a kind of fish related to trout) and grayling, Don is out there and will be out there until almost dark.

We'll stay here for 2 nights.
Wednesday: Toad River Lodge and Campground

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Denali Grizzlies

Wednesday, July 20

Along the way to the Eielson Visitor Center we saw 5 different grizzlies. One of them delayed our bus for about half an hour. We caught up to him near the Toklat River crossing as he was ambling along the road. It's park policy to not disturb them by trying to pass or force them off the road, so our bus an another one played leapfrog for a while giving everyone a chance to take photos.

He finally shuffled off to the side of the road, where those of us on the left side of he bus were able to take more pictures.

On the way back from Eielson we saw another down by the river.

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Denali Caribou and a Golden Eagle

Wednesday, July 20

We saw a dozen or so caribou on our bus ride. This one was in the Savage River. Look at the size of that rack!

He stood around for a bit, and then must have really gotten tortured by the bugs. He began to spasm all over, and then took off running up the river. We had seen that a few minutes earlier with a younger caribou who had stopped in the middle of the road. He also twitched and shook all over, and then raced away down the hillside.

One of the last creatures we saw was as we were coming down the mountain near the Polychrome viewpoint. This giant golden eagle was perched on his nest about 50 yards from the road.

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Denali National Park - 2

One of the things we knew we had to do at Denali was take one of the bus rides into the park to see the wildlife and the mountain. We reserved seats on the 9:00 am shuttle to Eielson Visitor Center, which is 66 miles in and has an excellent view of the mountain.

As the bus goes higher in elevation, we pass from the alpine vegetation that is mostly birch and white spruce into the taiga, which is lower bushes and stunted black spruce.

This is what the bus driver called a "safety shot," taken about 15 miles into the park. They say that you get to see the mountain about 30% of the time--the rest of the time it's obscured by clouds. Today it was, so far, clear, though you could see some small clouds being made on the mountain.

At the Savage River ranger station, a park ranger boarded the bus to give us some reminders about not disturbing the wildlife and also to wish us a good trip.

Yet another "safety shot," at about mile 20.

We crossed 5 rivers on our way to the Eielson Visitor Center.

If you look closely, you can see two Dall sheep on these rocks, which were high on a mountain above the Teklanika River rest stop.

Here we're about 3 miles from Eielson. It's now evident that we're going to get to see Denali in all its glory.

This is a glacial valley due east of Eielson.

The sun shone only on Denali. All the mountains around us were under clouds.

This is a pair of moose antlers. Two bull moose were fighting and locked horns. They never did get parted, and died that way. Wow.

These beautiful cookies are at the Toklat River crossing.

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