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Published: August 9th 2018
The Baja 3 – Sun Peaks, BC to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT
A PLAN EVOLVES
We first met, at Gord and Ruth Wiebe's invitation, in the spring of 2017 at Wiebe’s home. Gord had this crazy idea that a small caravan of travel trailers could join them on an 8,000 km, 40-day round-trip journey from Sun Peaks, BC to the Beaufort Sea above the Arctic Circle in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT ;
a location that has just had constructed for the first time in history, an actual road to drive there on, rather than across the ice in the winter months only.
Wiebes had recently purchased a Jayco Jay Flight 195RB Baja Edition
travel trailer, virtually identical to the one that Chris and Joan Wilson had bought the previous year. Wilsons agreed to go along and we were excited to join them as well, but our little T@B trailer would not be up to the task. So before long we also purchased the identical trailer; not only ideal for this trip but also a perfect fit for our every day camping needs. We loved the queen size bed that you could walk down both sides, and the bathroom with separate shower. The Baja edition was
particularly suited to our more adventurous wilderness destination with the larger tires providing more ground clearance, covered bottom, and larger fresh water holding tank. Thus the Jayco Crew, Baja 1, 2 and 3 were born!
Over the coming months, there were many discussions as Gord designed our itinerary and we each outfitted our trailers. Spare propane tanks and solar panels were a must and soon extra spare tires for the cars were added too as we learned more about the perils of the Dempster Highway. Weight distribution bars and anti-sway control helped us feel more confident about road safety and spare fuses, oil and radiator coolant, as well as brake and transmission fluids all gradually filled our storage spaces.
Fridge repairs, bed lift kits installed and re-installed, (some still working and some not) added to our preparations as well as a broken bed or two that needed additional hinges and stronger support. New air compressors, generators, voltage regulators and surge protectors were purchased and installed or stuffed into the rapidly filling storage compartments.
Baskets, bars, hooks and bins were bought here and there to help organize and keep in place our travel supplies including bug repellent, bug
lamps, bug zappers, bug coils, bug screen head gear, bug clothing spray as well as bug repellent clothing.
Levelling pads, stabilizer pads, blocks of wood, gloves, hoses (water and septic), extension cords and grease in various forms and containers all found a place in the storage compartment as well as camp chairs, outdoor carpets, table cloths with weights, clips and straps, tie-down straps, tie-up straps, “Don’t Bump Your Head flags”, and anything else we could imagine possibly finding some need for down the road.
Finally our departure day approached, so clothing and food were stuffed into our trailers while ice coolers, water coolers, electric coolers and lunch coolers were piled into our cars along with camera gear, walkie talkies, satellite phone and a satellite SPOT location emergency broadcaster.
A large group of friends threw a huge Bon Voyage party for us, hosted by Brad and Julie Emond. Everybody brought food; hot food, cold food, main courses and desserts. Julie wrote a song and provided gifts of treats and first aid to send us off with laughter and love and to help us survive the expedition. Michael Faine shared his extensive mosquito research which will surely come in
handy the further north we travel. And Pat and Larry Linton supplied us with scrolls, printed with Things To Do along the Alaska and Dempster highways.. DAY 1 – 468 KM - SUN PEAKS TO 10 MILE PROVINCIAL PARK
8:00AM on July 25, 2018, our journey began, driving north from Sun Peaks on Hwy 5, turning left onto Hwy 24 at Little Fort which took us on several kilometres of climbing up and over the mountains then descending again to turn right onto Hwy 97 on which we would travel for the next week or so. Our first stop was at the very impressive Visitors Centre at 100 Mile House
. This is housed in a beautiful log building with easy RV access and parking. We ate our packed lunches, used their lovely bathrooms and stocked up on maps and brochures.
On the road again after a brief stop, we were slowed intermittently by the perennial Canadian highway construction and maintenance. But with only brief delays we reached our next stop for gas at the Super Save in Quesnel. We decided to keep track of our gas expenses throughout the trip to compare the mileage and performance of each vehicle, all similar
styles with 5,000 lb. towing capacities, but all different makes and years. I am driving a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder SL, the Wilsons are in a 2016 Toyota Highlander LTD, and Wiebes have a 2010 Chevy Traverse LT.
We soon reached our first night’s camping site at 10 Mile Lake Provincial Park
, with fairly level sites along 10 Mile Lake, very nice bathrooms and free showers! Our camp sites will vary over the 40 days between Provincial parks, private campgrounds, and occasional boon-docking in a field. Generally, the Provincial parks have the nicest camp sites, heavily treed, very private, good washrooms and showers. But they do not normally have any services requiring us to fill our fresh water tank and operate with battery and propane. With two 30-pound propane tanks, we can run our fridge and hot water tank for a few weeks. And we have found that we can use lights and even charge up all our various electronics on an inverter and our solar panels still keep our two 6-volt batteries at full power all the time. DAY 2 – 236 KM – TEN MILE PROVINCIAL PARK TO WHISKERS POINT PROVINCIAL PARK
With a shorter drive needed today, we
took our time packing up in the morning and didn’t get back on the road until around 11:00AM. Another warm, sunny day made driving conditions pleasant and we stopped about half way at the Canadian Tire in Prince George to pick up a few extra supplies. After only one night on the road, we were already learning that there were more items needed such as additional garbage bags, extra stabilizer pads, and side view mirror extensions; only Wiebes had one installed before departing and they liked it a lot so we decided to install them too, as did Wilsons.
Back on the road again we soon pulled in to a rest stop for lunch. So far, we are packing lunches for the day and we expect this to be the norm for most of the trip. We reached Whiskers Point Provincial
around 3:30 and were pleased to find we were situated in very nice, private, lakeside campsites on McLeod Lake. I tried some fly fishing, hoping for a trout for supper, but no luck. But with a steak already thawed I wasn’t too disappointed. DAY 3 – 316 KM – WHISKERS POINT PROVINCIAL PARK TO CHARLIE LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK
Our morning routines are gradually becoming quicker and more organized, packing up, disconnecting, taking down and hitching up. In the days ahead, especially if camping for only one short night, I learned to unhitch only if absolutely necessary and to unpack only as much as we truly required. We left Whiskers Point about 11:00AM and stopped for a rest at Peace River Valley
With road work here and there, our progress was a little slow and we reached Chetwynd
at noon. The entire town is decorated with the most incredibly beautiful chainsaw carvings. They have a huge annual competition and the 2018 winners were on display throughout the park area where we stopped to each our packed lunches.
Our next stop was in Dawson Creek
; Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway
. We shot some selfies at the Mile Zero signs then visited the Alaska Highway House
museum. The girl at the front desk took our photo at the Mile Zero sign in the middle of the intersection beside them. Although traffic stopped to allow us this photo opportunity, I imagine it must drive the locals crazy with all the tourists doing this all day long. Back inside the museum we
wandered around the exhibits and old photos and watched a 60-minute PBS documentary on the construction of the Alaska Highway. Part of my motivation for going on this trip came from Dad’s many stories over the years about his work on the highway construction.
When Dad passed away a couple of years ago, we decided to spread his cremation ashes in various places that he expressed happy memories in his stories or where we remembered him best. His Alaska Highway stories were some of the most repeated and we believe it to have been one of his most fond memories and proud accomplishments. Seeing all of the old photos in the museum, I imagined Dad working there under harsh conditions, long grueling hours, in freezing weather. It was hard to understand that this work experience would be a good memory for him, but while watching the documentary film I could easily picture Dad being there and I found myself looking at every face in the film, hoping to spot him. I strongly felt that somewhere along the Alaska Highway I would find the perfect spot to spread some of Dad’s ashes.
From Dawson Creek we drove about another
hour, through Fort St. John, with a stop for gas, then on to Charlie Lake Provincial Park
. This was another nice campsite, very beautiful, full of Poplars and private campsites. We all had dinner on our own then gathered for a while at our campfire before bed. DAY 4 – 368 KM – CHARLIE LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK TO FORT NELSON TRIPLE-G CAMPGROUND
We were on the road earlier today about 9:30AM. We stopped at Buckinghorse River Wayside Prov. Park
camping and picnic ground for lunch then got gas at a strange little setup across the road in the “town” of Buckinghorse River. At $1.529/litre we are noticing for the first time the gradual increase in price as we travel north.
Reaching Fort Nelson about 3:30PM, we stopped at the Save-On Foods store to restock our supplies. Our campground for the night is on the north edge of Fort Nelson at the private Triple-G Hideaway Campground
. Sites are full service pull-thru which is nice, but the sites are full of wasps! After Chris got stung on her big toe I stayed inside for the rest of the day as I tend to swell up like a watermelon when I get stung. All of the
picnic tables here are plastic and falling apart. Also the sewer connections are all bent up or sunk in to the ground so far they are hard to use. The place has certainly seen better days. The campground has a cute, western-themed restaurant but we already had our own steak on the menu. Chris took advantage of the laundry facilities while we ate, then we all went straight to the restaurant after our suppers for chocolate sundaes. Unfortunately, the quality was disappointing as was Gord’s banana cream pie. DAY 5 – 305 KM – FORT NELSON TO LIARD HOT SPRINGS PROVINCIAL PARK
We woke up this morning to find everything in the camp site covered with sap from the trees above. Car, trailer, table and camp stove are all covered with drips of sticky sap. I opened and set up our chairs and within moments they were also covered in sticky spots. OMG a big drop of sap just landed on my keyboard while I am typing this! Do NOT stay here unless you use one of the RV sites out in the open field with no trees. Luckily the park has an RV wash that takes Loonies;
about 2 minutes use for $1 and the sap all washed off pretty easily. We all washed our RV’s then hit the road about 9:30AM.
Today’s drive had some climbing and took us through some beautiful mountain scenery with healthier forests. So far we have driven through large areas of trees trying to grow in muskeg, easily spotted from the skinny, stunted trees that are all black and twisted tight along the top few feet. Although we are now driving through thick forests of Poplar with some Spruce and Pine, increasingly the mountain peaks are becoming dramatic, bare rock faces. We entered Summit Pass as we became surrounded by majestic, rocky peaks and stopped for a rest at the Summit Lake camping and day use area .
Right alongside the highway, Summit Lake is a small, beautiful, brilliantly aquamarine coloured lake nestled between the mountains. Several other travellers and campers were already parked there, lunching, swimming, or just enjoying the warm, sunny day. When Ruth reminded me that photos back at the Alaska Highway House in Dawson Creek had shown some construction workers taking a dip in this lake, I immediately knew that this was the first location for some of Dad’s ashes.
chose a spot along the shore, away from the bathers and sun-tanners, and poured some of the ashes into the edge of the lake. A thick, milky cloud formed and quickly spread out into an area of a few square metres. I watched the cloud grow then gradually dissipate with the spectacularly colourful lake and beautiful mountains as the backdrop. I think Dad would have liked it there.
Our next stop was at the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake
where we all gassed up then parked to take the short walk through the trees and down to the lake. If anything, Muncho Lake was even more brilliantly coloured than Summit Lake! The lodge has a number of small cabins along the lakeshore and there are also float plan docks and various picnic tables here and there.
We all walked along the lake’s edge, taking in the beautiful scenery, until I found a small point of land poking out into the lake that seemed perfect to spread the last of Dad’s ashes. I waded out from the point into the lake and then let the remainder of Dad’s ashes slowly spill out into the water.
The current carried them away quickly
and they stretched out into a long cloudy area until they slowly disappeared into the lake. As I stood there, I imagined Dad working on the highway, day after long grueling day, and what it must have been like, suddenly coming upon the beauty of Muncho Lake. It must have seemed as though they had built a Highway to Heaven. And so it seemed more than fitting for the last of Dad’s remains to be drifting away across this heavenly view.
A short drive later we came upon a lone Wood Bison
walking along the side of the road. We pulled over to take some photos and Gord assured us that this would be only the first of many sightings. After a total of 1,723 kilometres so far, we arrived at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park
where are we camping for two nights. Although there are no site services here, the camping sites are heavily forested and very well placed with large separation between each other for very good privacy. Once again, we are finding that the provincial park camping is by far the most attractive. With an unusually warm 32c day here, we are looking forward to a little down time
with two nights reserved. The big draw here is the hot springs, reached by a 700 metre long boardwalk through the forest and wetlands from the day use parking area. Ferns and wildflowers all grow along the boardwalk, only possible because of the warm mineral water spilling out across the forest.
The boardwalk ends at a fairly new, wood building which houses change rooms and has decking all along the edge of the hot pool. The pool is divided into two areas, each at least 60 or 70 feet long. There are steps down from the deck into the pool at various points. The hottest water is to the right where the actual hot spring feeds the pool. A few brave souls slowly work their way towards the incoming hot water but very few can withstand it and most turn away before they reach the end.
The pool is dammed mid-way with water spilling over in two small waterfalls into the cooler pool below. The far side is only forest with no walls or other obstacles; they have kept the setting as natural as possible with only the bottom artificially enhanced as it is covered with small, round
river stones for easy walking. We ended the day all together over a campfire at Wiebe’s site, enjoying a few snacks and drinks. DAY 6 – LIARD HOT SPRINGS PROVINCIAL PARK
After a little rain overnight, the new day was a bit cooler. While Chris headed out for a dip in the hot springs, I took off in the car, anxious to try some fly fishing on one of the rivers along the Alaska Highway. I drove back about 30km until I found a nice spot along Trout River. Although the current was very fast with small rapids, there were quiet pools here and there that looked likely to be good fishing spots. The river holds Arctic Grayling, Whitefish and Bull Trout and although I had a little success playing with some fish on the barbless fly, I only landed one small Bull Trout.
After frying up a nice fish lunch when I returned to camp, I enjoyed a soak in the hot springs. The hot side was more to my liking although it was way too hot for me to approach the incoming water end.
An evening campfire at Wiebe’s again ended our stay at
Liard Hot Springs. DAY 7 – 208 KM – LIARD HOT SPRINGS PROVINCIAL PARK TO BABY NUGGET RV PARK, WATSON LAKE
Our route today kept us alongside the Liard River for much of the day, through the mountains and forests and eventually coming upon a herd of maybe 60 bison on the hillside adjacent to the right side of the road. We only stayed a few minutes as the shoulder was not wide enough to pull off the road completely but we managed to get a few photos.
We stopped at the Yukon border after an hour or so and a young man that also stopped there took a group photo for us. Another hour on the road brought us to the town of Watson Lake and the famous Sign Post Forest
started in 1942. There are now over 72,000 signs there, all erected since Private Carl K. Lindley nailed up the first one in 1942. I was shocked at the several acres of rows of sign posts. Somehow in that huge maze, I managed to find the sign erected 18 years ago by Chris Wilson’s father so we got a photo of it with Wilsons standing below.
We stayed the night just north of Watson Lake at the Baby Nugget RV Park
. It was nice to have water and electric hook ups for a change as well as laundry and a sani-dump station and the pull-through sites were level and easy to park in. There is a small log church on the site, apparently built with logs from a US army officers building from the highway construction time. They also have a nice restaurant and gift shop. DAY 8 – 438 KM – WATSON LAKE TO WHITEHORSE
The Teslin Tglingit Heritage Centre
was our first rest stop today. Five totem poles, representing the five Tglingit tribes lead you along a boardwalk into the front door. Displays of locally made beaded clothing and wooden masks are on display inside the centre but the highlight was the young Tglingit woman demonstrating beadwork and talking about her life there. Outside the centre you can walk down to the lake where traditional boats are still being built and used today. Another Tglingit demonstrator was nearby showing us their traditional methods of smoking Salmon.
We stopped next at Johnson’s Crossing to buy some of their famous cinnamon buns. We were all a
little underwhelmed I think as they seemed quite ordinary and possibly, a day old.
We pulled into Whitehorse in the early afternoon to stay at Hi-Country RV Park
with nicely treed, but very narrow campsites, good bathrooms, showers, laundry room and a coffee shop. We quickly got our sites set up then headed into town for dinner at Klondike Rib & Salmon
. The meals were large and the desserts were GIGANTIC and we all brought some of it home to finish the next day. This is a very popular restaurant that does not take reservations. So we ate early rather than later when we would have had to line up around the block to wait for a table. The décor is very Klondike rustic and the bison steaks and wild Pacific salmon were all excellent. A short walk around town then a stop at the huge Visitor Centre after dinner helped to increase our growing supply of brochures and maps before we headed back to the campground to turn in for the night. DAY 9 – WHITEHORSE
We emptied out our car this morning so we could accommodate all six of us and started our day of sightseeing touring onboard
the S.S. Klondike
, one of the original sternwheelers that powered up and down the Yukon river, bringing supplies to the many towns and camps that sprang up with the gold rush. Everything on the boat is original or authentic, even down to the wood supplies for the steam boilers and boxes of Borden’s Condensed Reindeer Milk!
A short drive out of town along the Yukon River brought us to Miles Canyon
. Sheer cliffs drop down to the turquoise coloured river. Crossing on the suspension bridge takes you to the southern end of the Yukon River Loop Trail. Parts of the path are more difficult with a bit of rock climbing required and a couple of steep, slippery, sandy slopes to deal with. About a half hour hike brings you to a low banked area which used to be the Canyon City
town site. During the Klondike Gold Rush, horse tramways operated here to haul boats and supplies past the treacherous White Horse Rapids and Miles Canyon.
After this invigorating hike, we drove back into Whitehorse for lunch at a funky little sandwich shop then toured the McBride museum
. The buildings are filled with everything you would expect to
see in the gold rush town a couple hundred years ago as well as an impressive taxidermy section of all the local wild life. The highlight for me was seeing the original, authentic cabin of Sam McGee and hearing the young lady working there, recite Robert Service’s poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee.
Our tourist stops ended at Yukon Brewing
where each of the others tried a flight of various crafts brews while I tried a flight of their spirits; NOT a fan, although everybody else enjoyed their beers and bought some to go. DAY 10 – WHITEHORSE
A trip to the grocery store was the priority today to replenish supplies. Chris did the grocery shopping while I hit the Canadian Tire to pick up a spare air filter for the car, as well as some inline water filters and sanitizer pods for our black water tank. We also picked out a few bottles of wine at the liquor store before heading back to camp.
I spent a very frustrating afternoon trying to work on this blog using our campsite wifi, then drove back into Whitehorse to work a couple of hours at Starbucks then another
hour at Tim Horton’s. After all of that I had only uploaded about 1/10 of my photos so I gave up.
We spent the evening at the beautiful golf course frontage home of Gord’s brother Randy and his wife Lisa. We had a fun evening and a great barbecue dinner. I borrowed their wifi and uploaded all the rest of my photos in just a few minutes!
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