Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Alaska Highway.....Bears, Gas Prices, and Water Weight

     Dawson Creek, B.C. marks mile 0, the beginning of the Alaska Highway.  From there it winds North and West to the top of the province into the Yukon Territory and finally up into Alaska.  It is 1229 miles from Dawson Creek to the Alaskan border.  My first impression of this leg of our journey has been "Is British Columbia big or what?"  We are currently in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories which is 918 miles up the Alaska Highway, about 1870 miles north of mom's house in Washington state and somewhere around 4270 miles since our departure from Michigan!  Thank goodness Captain Daddy and Lt. Commander-Navigator Dharma were on the job to keep lookout! 

     The days have been long during this leg of our adventure, mostly due to the many mountain passes and numerous wildlife one negotiates.  What we have seen of the scenery has been spectacular, but sometimes hidden by the low clouds and intermittent rainy days. 
     To date we have seen about (16) black bears, (12) caribou, 2 moose, and several dozen bison.  Barb and I have spent many an hour going through our photos each night, archiving the ones we want to save.  So far I have gotten no decent shots of moose.  We stopped our first night in Fort Nelson as we needed to pick up a few groceries and some gas; deciding to just call it day at the Triple G RV Park.  It was a very nice campground with full services, café, and WiFi for $40.  Dinner by the Mad Chef was an interesting Smoked ham, asparagus, cheese, tomato, and chive frittata. 
     Our next day was MUCH shorter as we planned to only travel about 60 miles to the Tetsa River area.  It was here I made an error in logistical judgment.  I only carry about 1/3 tank of water in the RV when traveling so we can have flush water when we're pulled over if needed.  Since we were only traveling a short distance and knew we would boondock I decided to fill up the water tank prior to departure.   Steamboat Pass came next and the truck did not in the least appreciate the extra towing weight.  I did not notice that the engine temp had risen, but the gauges began to act very twitchy as we overheated.  I pulled over near the top and immediately discovered the problem.  Once I returned the nearly 30 gallons to Mother Nature and let the engine cool down we were once again on our way without incident;  lesson learned.  We boondocked at Tetsa River near the river.  We hoped to be able to get in some serious wildlife photography and it paid off.  We got some very good shots of black bears that frolicked near the river and I was able to hang in the brush long enough to get a very good close up of one. 

     I topped off our evening with a campfire and some Blackberry Glazed Venison Steaks with Spaetzle and Green Beans.  It is worth noting that the following morning we stopped 20 miles down the road at the Tetsa River Services RV Park and Diner and had the most amazing hot buttered cinnamon buns for breakfast (referred to as the Cinnamon Bun Center of the Galactic Cluster) with free hot coffee which made my travel mug very happy upon departure. 

     Our third day was a long drive to Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory.  When the clouds cooperated there was spectacular scenery, especially around Summit Pass and Muncho Lake before leveling off into many miles of forested wilderness arriving once again in civilization.  The lakes at this elevation are still very frozen.  The area is famous for a healthy population of Stone Sheep, but none were to be seen this trip....maybe on the way home?  It was here, however, that we paid a whopping $7.65 for diesel as we were in a remote area.  I should have gassed up either before or after; lesson learned.  Travel through this area is very much up and down, round and round.  Not much opportunity for cruise control here. 

     Watson Lake is the first town encountered in The Yukon Territory.  Relatively small, but we did get some dinner, gas up, and stay at the Downtown RV Park.  They really pack 'em in here, but you get full services, including cable TV and gas discount tickets for $40.  It is also the home of the Famous Sign Post Forest.  This odyssey is a Yukon Historic Monument and has over 75,000 signs from around the world.  Unfortunately, I was unable to procure a Kalkaska Village sign before our departure.  We treated ourselves this evening, dining out at one of the 3 small diners in the village. 
        Our fourth day and 280 more miles put us enroute to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory.  Today's drive was much nicer with cool, yet clear weather.  We crossed the Canadian Rockies Continental Divide spending the day surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges.  This was by far our favorite day of the trip as each turn or rise in the road yielded another beautiful vista!

     My chair in the new truck does have a lumbar control, but no matter because I end up using what I like to call an off-road chiropractor.  10 minutes on a picnic table and I'm a new man ready to take on another couple of hundred miles!

     The population of Whitehorse, YT is approximately 22,000 which is significant because it encompasses about 70% of the population of the entire province.  We boondocked the first night at the WalMart which is very much a popular destination for travelers.  There were 24 RVs in the lot the night we stayed there, but with our extra day's plans desired a shower and a dump station so we sprung the $ our 2nd night at Pioneer RV Park south of town.  Very nice separate, wooded sights on the upper level with full hookups, cable TV, WiFi, laundry that takes quarters or loonies, car/truck/RV/pet wash bays, and even a maintenance shop where you can get minor repairs done, change your own oil or have it done for you. Price for one night...$30.....reasonable.  They also gave us 4 cents off a liter for diesel at 142.9. Considering where it is located, Whitehorse, YT is a fairly cosmopolitan city.  The area is centered around the Yukon River and is loaded with parks, bike & running trails, skate parks, and a dog park. 
     The highlight is the old paddlewheeler "Klondike" on display at the river park.  The downtown area has many eclectic small shops, diners, and cafes as well as larger scale fine dining.  Of course there is always McDonalds, A & W, KFC, and other fast food places.  We were there on a Sunday and not able to visit the Farmers Market or several of the local Inuit and Tlingit Museums and Art Galleries.  We did collect enough groceries to help me reload my kitchen.  Tonight I made Oven Baked "Fried Chicken" with some fresh steamed carrots and sweet taters.
This was posted thanks to McDonalds WiFi  & Pioneer RV Park in Whitehorse, YT
TRIP NOTES:  It is very important to keep your gas tank topped off at all times.  It usually is a long ways between civilization, let alone gas stations. Sometimes you pay the price. (Reference my Muncho Lake fillup above) I found later I was not the only one who made this mistake. I tried to never get below a half tank.  Also to our surprise we discovered that well over half of the other travelers we have met are NOT on their first trip to Alaska.  Most everyone traveling this highway utilizes The Milepost Travel Guide, published yearly by the Alaskan Highway.  It should be noted that each advertisement within this publication is purchased a full year in advance and it is NOT UNCOMMON to find some of these businesses have closed when we traveled through. 

     Planning ahead, paying attention to road signs, and having an alternate plan is crucial.  The roads thus far have ranged from decent to very good, but I hear of stretches coming up from Whitehorse to the border that will challenge the definition. I had my truck oil changed before we left Michigan, but noticed today that my display now reads 29% oil life left.  Going to look into that about Anchorage.  304 miles to the border!



  1. Wow! Wonderful tips and awesome photos:) Stan and I are really enjoying reading your blog together and getting pumped for our own trip to Alaska:)

  2. Thanks for keeping us posted! Looks like this is a very memorable trip for you both!