Published: July 12th 2012July 11th 2012
Here is the view coming thru The Cut and down into the Sikanni Valley
DAY 11: MONDAY, JULY 9: So it officially happened today...we are on the Alaska Highway..I referred to it as The ALCAN, but at it's completion in the 50's Alaskan's did not like that name so it was changed to the Alaska Highway. I'll call it the AH when I write. Our first order of business today was getting our family picture at the famous Mile Marker 0 sign in the center of Dawson Creek. No one was happy to get ripped out of bed to do this but if we took any picture this trip it needed to be this one. When we got there a couple from Germany were there too and they took our picture and we took theirs. They flew in and rented a motorhome and traveled all around Alaska, so I figured if they can do it safely so can we. After a quick dip in Rotary Lake we pulled out at 10:30 am with the mission of getting some serious miles behind us today. The drive from DC to Fort Nelson was uneventful, some crazy steep hills but really good roads, in fact, the kids slept until 1:30. At 2:00 we pulled over at Mile Marker
MacDonald Lake Campground
How beautiful is this sunset view from our campsite. Here it is almost midnight yet still plenty of daylight.
182(MM 182), and made grilled cheeses, stretched our legs and then ventured onward. We made it to Fort Nelson at 4:30 and not five miles out of town had our first wildlife spotting of the day...a black bear and then not much later another one. The drive from FN to Watson Lake is much more mountainous and lots of wildlife to keep an eye out for. This proved true because at MM 369...OUR FIRST CARIBOU. Three to be exact. We all were freaking out and since Aaron actually spotted them on the roadway first, I guess he owes himself the $10. Soon after that a big bull caribou ran across the road, too fast for pictures, but as we passed Hanna and I could see him running up into the woods. The horns on this animal were gigantic, just what you see on The Ploar Express. The only problem with these roads is there is very little place to to pull over so you have to be ready for drive-by pictures. We then hit some terribly long patches of gravel roads, I mean miles and miles of them, and soon found out why many people do not survive without windshield
chips and much worse damage. You have semis flying past on corners and Aaron just cringes every time as the pebbles go flying everywhere. So far so good though. At 8:30 pm we pulled into MacDonald Lake campground, in a city called Muncho Lake, BC. It was another small little government campground with an amazing view. We were thrilled to have our first campfire and s'mores of the trip and again it was daylight at 11:30 pm when we went to bed.
Total Mileage: 447 miles
Alaska Highway Plate Quest: AK, OR, ND, NV, CA, SD, IA, Alberta, lots of BC
People we've met along the way: Germans at Famous Alaska Highway Sign
Wildlife Report: 2 bl. Bear, 6 caribou, lots of sheep
Mile Markers Points of Onterst: MM 34: crazy 10% grade hill. MM 112: The Cut. A spot where the highway wthe built right thru rock, it is notable because there are only a few spots on the highway like this that exist. MM369: CARIBOU
Crazy Cuty Populations: MM101. Wonowan, population 150. MM140. Pink Mountain, population 99. MM437. Muncho Lake, population 29.
DAY 12: TUESDAY, JULY 10: Another big day of
driving today, but our first order of business was to have some fun. Aaron and I had been promising the kids a dip in some natural hot springs and we had to deliver after how great they have been riding this whole trip or they might have taken us out. About a half an hour from Muncho Lake we stopped at Liard Hot Springs. There are two natural hot spring pools ranging in temp from 108-126 degrees and located at a campground. You take a short walk along a boardwalk back into the woods to get to them. It only cost $10 for a family to use them and I think everyone traveling the AH probably stops to soak their tired bodies in them. Wow, is all I can say. They were awesome and beautiful and so VERY hot . The water is crystal clear and it is a rocky natural bottom. You just don't see this kind of stuff everywhere, and better yet get to swim in them. Aaron and Brett were the only ones to venture up to the source of the spring where the water is the hottest. You only needed an hour and you just couldn't
Hanna and her new pet
Can you believe how close we were able to get to these horses...Amazing!
stay in them any longer. What a great thing to do and see. While in the the parking lot we noticed our first license plate from Michigan and it is was a nice couple moving back from Alaska to Ann Arbor. They'd gave us lots of tips and reassured us that a lot of the things we have planned are some of the best to do. Yeah! We are soon finding out the Mosquitos are awful so they gave the kids a mosquito zapper...seriously it zaps them and you can see the smoke. They love it! It was so exciting because not far down the road after we left the hot springs we ran into our first buffalo and the three of them were right on the road. We would see them all throughout the whole day.
Back on the road. We traveled thru a very unique stretch of highway that crossed from British Columbia to The Yukon seven different times before you actually end up in The Yukon. We crossed the first time at 2:30 and we're greeted by a black bear strolling down the road. Then at MM610 there were wild horses on the road. We all
The Sign Post Forest
Brett was all excited to find this sign from Muskegon, but Aaron outdid him with his Montague sign.
got out, and with our previous experience viewing wild horses, kept on the lookout for grizzlies. After crossing the road for a better view we found a baby laying in the grass. When it got up it had obviously been injured because it was limping. Hanna got SO close she really could have reached out and petted it, Aaron and I were so surprised she didn't. Next we hit the town of Watson Lake at 4:00, we ate, got some groceries and took a walk thru The Sign Post Forest. This is a forest made up of over 61,000 signs that travelers have hung up over the years stating who they are and where they are traveling from. It was started by a homesick soldier working on the highway back in the 1940's. Sadly we didn't have a sign, but figure we'll get one in Alaska and hang it up on the way home. We saw many from Michigan, but Aaron had the best find, a sign from Montague.. Can you believe that...out of all the signs he found that one right away.
Back on the road at 5:30, prime animal viewing time and we were happy to see
a grizzly not long after. Refer to the funny below for more on this story. We also saw a tiny little black bear cub walking all alone along the road eating flowers. Everyone in the truck let out a huge AWWWW as we passed, again unable to get a picture, but this little guy was the size of Abby. Adorable. We hoped his mama was not far away...we all wanted to go back and get him and bring him home. At 8:30 pm we pulled into Morley Creek Recreation Site for the night and it was a very cold 49 degrees. Again we lucked out with the best free place to camp and had the best steak dinner ever. This is funny because Brett has been saying this the last three nights about dinner. I think he is really enjoying just being on the road and having so much fun. It's the Best!
Total Mileage: 309 miles
Plate Quest: OR, MI, MN, FL, Northwest Territories, Yukon
Wildlife Report: 7 black bear, too many buffalo to count, 1 grizzly, 6 wild horses
Funny: when we stopped to get pictures of the grizzly bear Aaron jumped out and
ran to the other side of the road. As fast as you could blink an eye he ran back and jumped in the truck. Right on the other side and out of sight was a black bear. I videoed his reaction and it was hilarious. This is why you listen to the warnings and stay in you vehicles. Funny memories though.
Honorable Mention Funny: We were eating JuJu Fish, basically a generic version of Swedish Fish and Maggie said, "Can I have some more JEWISH FISH?". We laughed about that for a long time.
DAY 13: WEDNESDAY, JULY 11: Made record time getting up and on the road today. By 9:15 am. Big travels today because we were on a mission to finish The AH. Stopped for breakfast in Teslin and made it to a crossroads called Jake's Corner and 12:30. This is where we had to decide...do we go up to Whitehorse and the top of Alaska first or go down to the Skagway/Haines area first. We took a vote and decided to go down. That was my original plan, but you really could do either because one way or another we are going to see it
After 4,000 miles and nearly two weeks of traveling we finally arrived at Alaska.
all. At 1:30 we crossed back in British Columbia and yet another time zone. We are officially 4 hours behind Whitehall now. The landscape on this stretch right before you cross into Alaska is very odd. It is called "moonscape" and it really does resemble the rocky moon. It is caused by the transition zone between treed lower elevations of land meeting true alpine elevations above the tree line. Confused? We also traveled along a water way called Windy Arm. Man was it a beautiful sight with the snowy mountain all along it.
Well, we made it to the big moment...The Canada/US border and after having to leave behind some fresh produce that couldn't make the trip with us...we did it. ALASKA!!!! It was a very breezy and cold 43 degrees while taking our picture at the Alaska sign. I guess that is a warm welcome to visitors in these parts. Also noteworthy, we have officially traveled 4,000 miles. Crazy was that we arrived in Skagway at about 1:30 and were lucky enough to get on the one ferry to Haines by 4:00 and were set up in our Oceanside campsite by 6:00 pm. Aaron and I just looked
at each other and couldn't believe all we had accomplished today. Skagway, AK is a port of call for cruise ships traveling to Alaska, so while we waited to board the ferry we were surrounded by six of them. It was very neat. Now back onto that ferry...Holy Cow was that a nail biter. Aaron did an amazing job driving the 5th wheel onto that. He had to do some crazy forward and backward maneuvering but we made it. He is having some trouble with the hitch and so that made it extra interesting, my heart was in my throat the whole time and you could have heard a pin drop in the backseat...the first time in these whole 4,000 miles. The ride to Haines took and hour and we traveled thru the Lynn Canal. We followed a cruise ship heading out to sea. What another AWESOME sight. Once off, we pulled into the Oceanside RV Park that I was lucky enough to get reservations at while waiting to board the ferry. The campground didn't look like much at first, just 20 campers backed up to a fence, but once in, the view is awesome and the people are crazy friendly. A couple times Hanna asked if they are too friendly. We are the minority here. Most everybody are retired couples and Aaron is like a magnet to these sweet old guys. They just talk his ear off and are trying to help him fix the hitch,etc. The kids LOVE it here and Hanna would be happy to spend the rest of the trip here. We are right on the water and the tide goes in and out every six hours so they are collecting shells and clams and on the big hunt for starfish. After dinner we drove up to Chilkoot Lake to see bears. We saw one neat bear not far from the campground eating along the shore and he was watching stellar sea lions out in the water. YES, I did say stellar sea lions...how cool was that. Maggie spotted them first and they kept bobbing up and down in the water...obviously very aware of the bear. We drove up the road and saw a spot where they count all the salmon swimming down river. A guy actually has to count each one going down. To date there have been around 24,000 which I guess is low because they should be around 60,000. Just a later season they said. On our drive we stopped and talked to a nice local guy who said he had a humpback whale swimming out front a couple days ago. He has also seen killer whales up here too. Hanna freaked and is now on serious mission to be the first to spot a whale. All in all what an incredible day...and we made it...we are in Alaska!!!
Total Mileage: 215 miles, plus a one hour ferry ride that saved us 251 miles of driving
Alaska Plate Quest: AK, GA, ME, CA, MT, CO, BC, Quebec, Manitoba
Wildlife Report: 1 grizzly, several stellar sea lions, several bald eagles,
Funny: I had bought kiwi in Watson Lake and at 11:00pm in Morely Lake Brett wanted to eat the last one, but I told him it was too late and go to bed. Well, sadly I had to surrender the last little kiwi at the border. Brett was sad, mad, etc. Guess I should have just let him eat it.
Honorable Mention Funny: Hanna got a big kick out of the local guy we talked to. When we told him we were out looking for bears, Aaron made comment about having three little kids in the back to feed to them and the guy said the bears only like the big fat guys like the two of them. Hanna chuckled for quite awhile about that. The funny part was Hanna.