Day 5 – Into the Yukon Territories

Leaving the Northern Rockies Lodge we continuing traveling on the Alaska Highway heading toward the Yukon Territory.

 

 

Lower Liard Bridge built in 1943 is a 1,143-foot (348 m) long suspension bridge is the last remaining suspension bridge along the Highway.

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is a day use area with some camping. A short hike leads back into the Hot Springs Pool and has been a favorite stop along the highway to soak away those long days of driving. Passing through Liard River Hot Springs there are buffalo all over the road. It was like I was transported to Yellowstone National Park where I was stuck in a Buffalo traffic jamb. The buffalo here stuck to the shoulder of the road not creating a problem for traffic.

 

The Alaska Highway travels east and west for a portion of the route today so you pass into and back out of the Yukon Territory for a few miles until you enter it for good about the 7.5 miles (12 k) before the town of Watson Lake.

 

Next stop was Watson Lake, a town 612 miles (980 km) along the Alaska Highway is best known for the few acres of the offbeat at the Sign Post Forest. Designated in 2013 as a Yukon Historic Site, was started by Carl Lindley by adding a sign at this location pointing to his hometown with the mileage. Other G.I.’s added more signs to the post for their hometowns. started this collection of signs and license plates from all over the world during the construction of the AL-CAN. Numbering about over 80,000 signs travelers are still adding to this collection. Right behind is the Alaska Highway Interpretive Center, which has a video on Yukon history with photos and displays of the construction of the AL-CAN. This was town was important during the construction due to the airport and being one of the major refueling stops of the Northwest Staging Route.

 

Turning north along Canada Highway 4, The Campbell Highway, a 362-mile (5983 km) paved but mostly gravel road will lead to Highway 2.

 

Named after the first white man to explore the Yukon area, John Campbell, this all season road leads from Watson Lake to just north of Carmacks on Klondike Highway (2). This rougher road is shorter in mileage than continuing along to the junction of the Alaskan Highway and the Klondike Highway but it is much slower. Services are few and far between along this highway.

At Ross River, a supply and communications base for prospectors in the area that is now a jumping off point for hunters and canoeists, it was decided to stopper the evening at Lapie River Campground. Setting ups camp we took the short walk down too the river to enjoy the sounds.

 

Day 4 – Onward to Fort Nelson and Beyond

Waking up the next morning there was a light rain dropping on the tent. Packing up quickly and having a quick breakfast we cross the Kiskatinaw Bridge and link back up with the Alaska Highway a little further north from where we left it last night.

Here are some sights that are located along the drive today. Medium to heavy rain meant we continued on praying that it would stop for the evening camping.

H. Maclean Rotary RV Park at Charlie Lake has a memorial for 12 soldiers that drowned in May of 1942 when their pontoon boat sank transporting equipment to the job site on the opposite bank of the river.

The treacherous Suicide Hill was a grade that welcomed travelers with a signpost reading “PREPARE TO MEET THY MAKER”. Guess you had to have a sense of humor if you were traveling up here in the early years. The Highway now bypasses this hill.

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Suicide Hill

Sikanni Chief River Bridge was the first permanent structure completed along the highway. Built by African American army engineers it was destroyed by an arson fire in 1992. Only the original pilings are remaining.

The southern end of the Trutch Mountain Bypass is at Historic Milepost 191. This section of the Highway was bypassed in 1987 with a new road eliminating a steep mountainous winding drive. The original roadbed is a gravel road still in use by gas and oil patch crews.

Fort Nelson 283 miles (454.3 km) north of Dawson Creek is another town offering lodging, services, campgrounds and a few attractions. Originally based on the fur trade, the town was built in 1865 along the Fort Nelson River’s west bank after the second town was destroyed by fire after the local aboriginals killed the 8 inhabitants in 1813. A upward growing population in the 1940’s and 1950’s got the town recognized as an Improvement District in 1957 and finally a village status in 1987. Mile zero to clearing crews of the AL-CAN, this town is where the first clearing crews started work along the AL-CAN as a winter road already existed between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.

Arriving in Fort Nelson it was still raining pretty good so went into the Visitor Center for a break from the drive and to discuss the plans for the night. This is a very nice Visitor Center with a great information desk, a souvenir shop, visitor information brochures, a short movie on the area and a large sitting area for resting. Going onto WiFi it was shown by weather apps that the rain will not subside anytime soon and is scheduled to be pretty heavy at times.

Searching the road ahead it was determined to try and get a place to stay along Muncho Lake at The Northern Rockies Lodge. This is a nice lodge but a little expensive. Oh well, this might be the last time for a room and shower for awhile and the rain was coming down pretty good.

Asking the information desk on a nice place to have a late lunch it was recommended to try a restaurant just down the street. The Gourmet Girl is a small establishment that serves very good food in a quaint atmosphere.

Veering west for 200 miles (322 km) the Highway enters a dense forested area with distant wilderness vistas of 100 miles (161 km) or more.

Gardner Creek is named for local trapper Archie Gardner who helped recon this part of the AL-CAN. He is remembered in Earl Browns book “Alcan Trailblazers” by Harry Spiegal as “An old trapper….who has lived up here all his life, is the wrangler and is in charge of the string. He wears homemade moose-hide beaded moccasins; Kentucky-jean pants [and] a big beaten slouch hat. A hank of grey hair protrudes from his old hat and half covers his eyes. He sports a half growth of stubby grey whiskers and smokes a crooked, big bowl, sweet smelling pipe…..Archie is 62 years old and even though quite thin and weather beaten, he is as straight as a spruce tree and as nimble as a boy in his teens…..Archie knows this country like a book and I’m sure his knowledge of this terrain is going to be very helpful for our work.”

A required stop along the Highway is Testa River Lodge, Services and Campground for some world famous cinnamon buns. This is a very nice location with small souvenir shop, campground with showers and laundry, and a nice outside covered sitting area to rest.

At Historic Milepost 392 is the highest pass on the highway at 4,250-feet (1,295 m).

Another reroute of the original Highway is at Muncho Lake. The original highway is far above the lake on the mountaintop and required considerable excavation by the crews. It was relocated to a benched terrace right above the lake; hikers and mountain bikers now use the original road.

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Arriving at the nights destination, Northern Rockies Lodge, it is a lovely place. This historic highway lodge is open year round providing accommodations, a full service restaurant, gas, seasonal camping and a flying service.

ALASKAN HIGHWAY (THE AL-CAN)

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A road that was proposed for years became a military necessity due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a road that has been dubbed “a significant feat of time critical engineering and construction” by The American Society of Civil Engineers. In 1995 it was awarded the Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Status” and is a 20th century engineering achievement.

Viewed with by congress as an urgent matte,  it was February 11, 1942 that a Special Committee and President Roosevelt authorized the construction of a joint United States/Canadian effort to build the road north. During it’s construction the Japanese also invaded Attu and Kiska Islands in the Pacific adding to the urgency to protect this state of America and the Pacific shipping lanes.

Even though it was only a dirt/gravel path through the wilderness during the war this historic road was needed as a vital military route to provide supplies, troops and equipment safely to Alaska. An engineering feat to get this 1,390 mile (2,237 km) road completed in such a short amount of time, not just because of it’s length but also for the terrain and environmental restrictions placed by the regions it traversed; then finally that Canada was deeded the access road after the war to gain access into it’s remote northwestern region that was difficult to access at the time.

Construction of the AL/CAN (Alaska-Canadian Highway) officially began on March 9, 1942 with a mobilization of men from the United States. Work along the route was to be provided by American troops and individuals. The Canadian Government provided the right of way through Canada, waived import duties, sales tax, income tax, immigration and provided construction materials along the route. After the war the portion of the highway in Canada was to be turned over to the Canadian Government. America would provide all the manpower and equipment to build this road through the wilderness.

During construction there were numerous rivers to cross. At the time of original construction there were a total of 133 bridges along its route, 64 were more than 100 feet (30.5 m) in length. Pontoon bridges were first constructed to continue work on the road while a timber truss or timber trestle bridge was being constructed. These timber bridges were no match for the winters and the water flows of these untamed waters, so 99 of the 133 bridges were replaced with steel truss bridges, steel I-beam bridges, plate girder bridges, suspension bridges, and reinforced concrete bridges.

More than 10,000 American troops poured into Canada to locate, survey and construct this path north. No formal roads existed north of Dawson Creek, B.C. so the army was instructed to push north from that railhead.

Following winter roads, summer pack trails and winter trap lines a route was surveyed by using local information about the makeup of the topography. With skimpy rations and harsh conditions these individuals completed the road on October 25, 1942 just 8 months and 12 days after the start of construction. Finally opened to the public in 1948 it is one of the iconic adventure road trips for many people.

 

Day 3 – To Dawson Creek

It was a short drive to Dawson Creek, B.C. from the campsite.

Along this section of Highway 97 is the Town of Chetwynd with its chainsaw carving project that began as part of the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska (Alcan) highway. Located along the main roadway and at the Visitor Center these carved chainsaw statues are something to admire and are exquisite as you pass through.

Chetwynd_from Google

The Alaskan Highway formally starts in Dawson Creek, BC at Mile Marker 0. The 1,422-mile (2,288.5 km) long formal Alaskan Highway ends in Delta Junction, AK while the unofficial end is in Fairbanks, AK, 1,523 miles (2,451 km) from Dawson Creek, BC.

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Dawson Creek was incorporated as a city in 1958 and is a principal railhead of the British Columbia Railway and the intersection of 4 major highways in the area. Make sure to get your photo at Milepost 0 Cairn, visit the Pioneer Village, Dawson Creek Art Gallery and the Alaska Highway House to name a few of the sites in town. And if you have time visit the Northern Alberta Railways Park.

We saw the Mile Zero Cairn / Sign Post for a photo op, the Surveyor Statue, visited the Alaska Highway House Museum, walked the couple of blocks to see the Official Zero-mile Post a few blocks away and had a nice lunch at Hug a Mug’s Coffee House and Eatery.

It is sad the original, official mile post mark was a part of countless pranks and kidnappings with this new one replacing it in the 1980’s.

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Driving 20 minutes north of town, the stop for the night was at the Kiskatinaw Provincial Park. This campsite is located right next to the curved, wooden Historic Kiskatinaw Bridge. Kiskatinaw means “cutback” in Cree. Constructed in 1942-43 by the US Public Roads Administration it replaced an original 3 span timber trestle. With a 9 degree curve to accommodate the Steep grade change and the need to notch a cliff at the east end. It was one of 133 permanent bridges built to replace the temporary bridges built by the U.S Army. At about 122m (400 foot) long it was the first curved bridge to be constructed in Canada and one of the last in North America to remain.

 

 

Postponement of the adventure to the Great White North

Well plans have totally changed, during the last part of July right before I was to leave on my Northern Adventure. My daughter, my grandson, 13 and granddaughter, 10 were going to move out of the house so I decided to sell my home of 27 years and move north. She really wanted and loved the family home so it was agreed she would buy the home and the transaction was a go without the house ever going on the market.

That changed my plans drastically.

I reviewed my future and decided to move up the relocation to the Pacific Northwest to be by my son, daughter-in-law, 3 YO grandson and the new addition that was due in a couple of weeks. Well, going on this travel adventure and relocating 1,000 miles (1,610 k) away within a couple of months was too much for me to handle. So the Adventure would have to wait a year.

Leaving the beginning of August I traveled north to stay with my son and family while waiting on the new little one to be born. I started looking for homes and exploring the area the day after I arrived.

My daughter-in-laws family wanted to go out with kayaks on Lacamas Lake the next day, so off we went. It was a wonderful morning paddling around on this 3-mile (4.8k) long lake.

 

Next up was a loop walk down to the Columbia River then exploring Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. I will cover this walk in my next post as it deserves it’s own post.

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BarraParade Grounds, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Later in the week I went for a pleasant morning 4-mile (6.4k) walk around Round Lake, a wonderful area with many hiking trails, trees, waterfalls and streams. I went home to relax and in the afternoon started looking at homes in the area.

 

One day out of the blue we visited this wonderful home located in a pocket of pines, I really loved this place and it reminded me of a cabin that I had once owned in Lake Arrowhead, CA. My son and daughter-in-law basically said I should put an offer in right away or they might buy it, LOL. The next day I put my offer in and after a little negotiating it was to be mine.

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A few days later a beautiful baby boy was born.

 

What an exciting and unexpected time I had in those few weeks. Instead of  heading into the great white north after the birth of my grandson, the plans suddenly changed with the selling my home, exploring some beautiful areas, buying a new home and being there for my forth grandchild’s birth.

Well now to make the drive back south and start packing up for the move. That’s going to be a massive amount of work.

Canada / Alaska Adventure in July-August

All right my trip is getting closer and I’m in the final stages of preparation. Vehicle is ready just needs final fluid changes before leaving. Camping gear is waiting. GPS route is set and just the final tweaks and additions are being done.

2018 Tillamook

Will be leaving Southern California on July 9th heading to Vancouver, WA along Highway 395 for the birth of my 4th grandchild. Leaving Vancouver I will head to Glacier National Park, Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada then start the northern push to Dawson Creek, B.C. and start the drive there at Mile-marker Zero on the Alaskan Highway (Al-Can to us older folks) to Watson Lake, Yukon.

Turning off the Alaskan Highway at Watson Lake I’ll be on Canadian 4, a gravel road, to make my swing to Dawson, Yukon and the Arctic ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. At this, my furthest point north, I start my swing back to Dawson and turn west to continue along the Top of the World Highway to Tok, Alaska.

Leaving Tok I will go south on the Alaskan Highway to Haines Junction and continue to Haines, Alaska along the Haines Highway to ferry across to Skagway and head back to the Alaskan Highway along the South Klondike Highway. I will leave the Alaskan Highway just before Watson Lake and turn south onto Canadian 37, The Cassier Highway, to Prince George, BC. From there I will continue south along Canadian 97 making my way back to the border and return to Vancouver, WA to visit my new grandchild before returning home south along Highway 101.

I have found during research a great resource for the area called, “The Milepost”. this details the Alaskan Highway and side-routes in Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukona nd Northwest Territories. I also picked up a camping guide named “Traveler’s Guide to Alaskan Camping” that includes all the Alaskan Highway and the same side-routes in it’s pages. Although this book was written for RV’s in mind it is good source for me, tent camping, to hit some campgrounds with services such as WIFI, showers, and laundry facilities along the way. It ranges from private, to Provincial Parks, to free camping areas along the roads.

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PLANNING PART 3 – Leaving Dawson for Skagway, AK and home

Lets go on an Adventure

ADVENTURE – An exciting, daring, bold, risky or very unusual experience or undertaking fraught with physical, financial or psychological risks.

Any ideas of what to visit in the areas I am traveling would be appreciated, not all sites are noted somewhere, secret spots abound. And if you share these secret spots with me to enjoy I will not post where they are but will relish in the beauty around me and be grateful you trust me with this shared this information.

 

Leaving Dawson I will ferry across the Yukon River, A major waterway in this area that is the 3rd longest river in the U.S. Heading west along Canadian Highway 9 to the border crossing into Alaska Crossing at a small border station I shall continue along Highway 5, The Taylor Highway, to pass Chicken, AK and finally end at the junction with Highway 2, The Alaskan Highway, to head southeast.

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Crossing back into Canada I will continue then south along Canadian Highway 1 to visit Destruction Bay and Kluane National Park and Reserve.

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Kluane Lake from Google

Not much further I will turn at Haines Junction on Highway 3 toward the city of Haines, AK. I understand Haines Highway is a very scenic drive and is a perfect road to take on my way to the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry to Skagway, AK.

 

I have always enjoyed my time in Skagway with the cruises but have never stayed longer than 6-8 hours. I cannot wait to relax and explore the town after the cruise ships have departed. For 2 nights I will stay in this town to explore the many sites I have been rushed through or not been able to see.

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From this point of the adventure south I have not been lucky in finding many sites to visit. If anyone has driven these roads please let me know about interesting or scenic places along the route.

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After this short respite I will head north up the Klondike Highway back into Canada and again turn east around Carcroos onto Highway 8 to Highway 1 then south on Highway 97. Visiting Salmon Glacier – Granduc Mine then turning off onto Highway 26, I will visit the living history museum of Barkerville.

Barkerville

Barkerville from Google

“Today, the extraordinary town of Barkerville (named in Billy’s honour) still stands as testament to BC’s golden beginnings. With a unique streetscape of 125+ heritage buildings, authentic displays, satellite museums, restaurants, shops and accommodations there is still so much to explore. Declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1924 and a Provincial Heritage Property in 1958, Barkerville is now the largest living-history museum in western North America, where exciting seasonal events and fun-filled daily activities await.” from Barkerville Historic Town website.

Returning back to Highway 97 I will visit some of the Provincial Park’s scattered along this Highway and then turn toward Kamloops, British Columbia to explore Highway 5A, I hear it is one of the areas scenic motorcycle roads.

I will enter back into the United States at Abbotsford and head down Interstate 5 to Vancouver, WA for another stop to visit my son and family before heading back south to Southern California along the Washington, Oregon and California coast, Highway 101.

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There you have it a 45 day long adventure that I am looking forward to.

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