Needing a restful Sabbath, we decided to take two days and stay at Liard River Hot Springs.We crossed Summit Pass where it was snowing and then headed down into the Muncho Lake area – “Muncho” meaning ‘large lake’. It truly is beautiful this time of year with all of the frozen rivers and lakes. On our descent, we saw a Stone sheep crossing the road. When I yelled out the window, “Hello, Mr. Sheepy”, he turned his head and gave us a photo op.
Up to the point of arriving at Liard, we had always had a pull-through site for our 42-ft. monster rig. Unfortunately, this campground had none of those. So, for the first time, we had to back into a camping spot. Without too many details, I will only say, it was stressful. My husband, ever the perfectionist, was not satisfied with its inital location and in great need of the hot springs to relax. So, we left the trailer as it was, changed into our swim suits, and headed for the springs.
My husband has always wanted me to see this place, and it truly is a must-see-experience rest stop, as he had been here on his trek to Alaska 40 years earlier. Yes, my husband moved to Anchorage after college and lived there for two years before returning to the Lower 48, Boulder and meeting me. So, for him, this was a milestone in our marriage!
There is a boardwalk trail that crosses a wetland environment where several Canadian geese made their home. There are two hot springs pools with water temperatures ranging from 108-126 degrees; however, the upper spring was closed due to a rogue bear. After relaxing in the hot water, we returned to our trailer and discussed our different alternatives to moving it, turning it, and directions that I have to give. Two tries later, it was situated correctly so we didn’t have to unhitch. Our Sabbath began when we lighted candles and broke the oat wheat slices of bread. I did NOT have time to bake challah!
We met a lot of people at our two visits to the hot springs. A couple from Texas who were heading to Kenai, Alaska, a couple from Brighton, Colorado who were heading to Anchorage, a couple from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory who were heading home and invited us to stop for lunch as we passed through, a couple from Arizona who were going to campground host in Tok, Alaska, a young woman from everywhere who was going to be a tour guide in Skagway, Alaska, and a couple from Steamboat, Colorado who were going to do sled dog tours on a glacier near Juneau. Some of these people, since we were on the same route, we saw numerous times over the next few days.
From Liard, we headed north into the Yukon Territory. Our first stop was at at Contact Creek to buy fuel. The couple who owned the place moved 30 years ago from Florida. We kept on keepin’ on until we took a little break at Watson Lake. Another place my husband wanted me to see: The Sign Post Forest. According to the “The Milepost, the Bible of the North Country,” there are over 100,000 signs in this ‘forest’ from everywhere in the world. It was started by Carl K. Lindley (1919-2002) of Danville, Illinois, a U.S. Army solder who worked on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. Everyone is encouraged to put a signpost there … we’ll have one to add on the way back.
We arrived at Teslin, Yukon Territory and decided to stay for the night. Or, should I say, it was the only place open for miles and miles so we had no choice? The beautiful Nitsutlin Bridge crosses the Teslin River. Teslin has the largest Native Tlingit population in the Yukon Territory and much of the community receives its livelihood from the woodworking crafts: canoes, showshoes, and sleds. Since our little friend, Hope (who lives in Cooper Landing), is Tlingit, I wanted to buy her something special, but the Trading Post and the Heritage Center were both closed until June. It was here at the laundry that I met a sweet young woman who is married to a Tlingit man and we discussed her four-year-old daughter who she will homeschool as well as her own deafness. We had a fun dinner at the restaurant on site with people we met at Liard, and also met Tom and Kate who are from Casper, Wyoming and heading to Homer, Alaska to fix up a condo that Tom bought for ‘the fun of it’. We spent the evening around a campfire throwing sticks to their dogs!
We had decided to get up early and hit the road toward Alaska and the border. I was asleep when I thought my husband was scratching a never-ending itch and I grabbed his hand to stop him from shaking the whole trailer. Well, he was asleep too and the trailer didn’t stop shaking. With our horrific experience with the slashed tires, my next thought was someone was trying to tip over our trailer. It was then my husband said, “This must be an earthquake!” Within seconds after the 30-second or more shaking, our little earthquake apps when off on our phones to say that it had been a 6.2 quake with the epicenter about 70 miles from us. About ½ hour later as my husband made breakfast, he asked what I was doing in the bedroom because the trailer shook again. This time it was a 6.4 aftershock. Thus began my earthquake experiences. Since then, we have experienced a 5.2 in Cooper Landing and learned that being in a vehicle or in a bed are the best places to be. We have both: a bed on wheels.
When I homeschooled my children, they played Yukon Trail on the computer. As we came to the Yukon River, we just had to stop and take photos. It was a beautiful little place except for the trash. Though Canada, unlike the U.S., places trash bins everywhere, no one uses them and beautiful places are defiled with white plastic grocery bags and everything else you can imagine (yes, imagine it). It’s very sad, really, that the world thinks the earth is its trash pit. For such an ‘environmentally friendly’ mentality, this environment has become a large trash dump.
We continued on our trek north through Whitehorse. We were going to meet our new friends for lunch, but with the earthquake that delayed our trip and a little landslide on the main road, we only stopped a short time for fuel. As always, in a city that little event is an adventure. First, I have to check to see if we’ll fit under the overhangs, then I have to see if they even have diesel. This time both were okay, but the diesel was on the opposite side from the fuel tank. As my husband was trying to make a wide turn in the lot to go to the pumps on the other side of the building, a woman just had to push her little car to where she must always pump her gas. What fools people are in the midst of huge rigs!
Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory. It is a very depressed city and many people actually live in their campers in the Walmart parking lot. With our past experience in a Walmart parking lot, we chose not to make that a stopping place and weaved our way through town and back onto the Alcan Highway.
One of the best parts of traveling with an RV or a trailer is that you can stop to have lunch (among other things that one needs to do while in nowhere land) whenever and wherever. As we brought “The Milepost,” we were able to find some interesting pull-offs for stopping. For those who don’t know as I didn’t, “The Milepost” is a large catalog-type magazine published yearly that follows the Mile Markers from Canada’s various routes through Alaska’s various highways. As my husband drives, I watch the Mile Markers (Kilometer markers in Canada) to see if there’s a pullout somewhere or just to figure out where we are and what we’re looking at (after a while all mountain ranges are very similar). It is very detailed and includes speed zones, highway ascents and descents and ‘watch out for moose or caribou’ warnings.
The Canyon River Bridge was one of these unique stops. This bridge was built in 1903 for one of the gold rush strikes on the Alsek River. The bridge survived heavy traffic and floods until the 1920s when it was rebuilt. In 1942, during the construction of the Alaska Highway, it was dismantled and a new bridge was built. The existing pioneer bridge, however, was left in place.
There were and are too many spectacular views to not only photograph but to share with everyone. It would take as long as our trip! This mountain range, the Wrangell – St. Elias Range was breathtaking. The peaks grew larger and more beautiful as we headed toward Haines Junction for a much needed coffee break at The Village Bakery. And, yes, their baked good were … delicious! After a cup of brew, we were back on the road and headed toward Beaver Creek through the Kulane National Reserve via Destruction Bay and the beginning of FROST HEAVES.
Frost heaves range from rolling bumps in the road to serious damaged road with dips and bumps that destroy not just cars and trucks, but the trailers they haul. Thinking that we could actually travel at least 50-60 mph on this trip, over the heaves we averaged only 30-40, and sometimes even that was too fast. We arrived in Beaver Creek to find that the shelves in my pantry had broken, the supports had either fallen out or cracked and I had to remove all of my food from the cabinet. Both handles on the back window of the trailer had broken off, one is an exit window, the other we just couldn’t shut so we had to duct tape both. Our ‘new’ trailer is beginning to look like it’s being held together with black, gray or white tape. Cabinets that had never opened up, opened up and threw my appliances around the trailer. Nothing broke (except our Jerusalem mug), but now every cabinet door has a bungee cord. One last issue was my little vacuum cleaner. It bit the dust so all of the broken spice bottles and their insides …. nothing more to say about that! It was still light hours after we were done fixing things and went to bed. There is daylight until about 10 p.m.
I know why gold miners used the word Eureka! I have never been so happy to see a border. The signs in mileage, the money in dollars and cents, and the speed limit is something that is recognizable. It is nice that Canada and the U.S. have a friendly border as it only took seconds to pass through. Suddenly we are in Alaska with the realization that we would soon see our daughter. Going up one steep hill, my husband mentioned that something seemed weird with his gas pedal. When he realized he had forgotten to put on the towing switch thingy, everything worked well. We were really on our way and kinks were being ironed out.
As we traveled our last hours of the Alaska Highway, we honestly couldn’t believe we were nearing the end of a trip that we had not believed we would really do. We stopped for lunch, made a few phone calls about the warranty on the trailer, and took pictures of Mt. Sanford and Mt. Drum from the Tok Cutoff. Mt. Sanford is the second highest peak in Alaska after Denali (16,237 feet), and is a shield volcano. We drove through Glenallen and considered stopping at Tolsona Wilderness Campground, the campground we stayed at two years ago. Unfortunately, it was still closed, so onward we went down the Glen Highway. When we were here before, it was autumn and leaves were changing and water was flowing. Now the mountains were covered in snow and the rivers were iced over. It will be an even different ‘beautiful’ when we return south in September.
Because we needed to do a few things in Anchorage, we decided to stop for the night in Palmer about 42 miles from Anchorage. We once again had some frost heave damage with cabinets that we needed to put band-aids on, but got to bed at a decent time even with the sun shining. We did our normal morning routine – pulling in electric, sewer and water, moving in the slides, removing the stabilizers and locked the door. We were ready to pull out and were overjoyed at only a three hour drive in front of us. I went in front of the truck to guide my husband through and out of the site. I moved my hands in a motion to come forward. He didn’t. I moved them again. He shook his head. I moved them again and he opened the window and said, “I can’t. The truck won’t move.” Though he could move backwards, he could not move forwards.
Seriously? We are only three hours from Cooper Landing! Yes, seriously. Within the hour our truck was being towed to a FORD dealer in Wasilla – you know the place from where Sarah Palin hails. According to Stan, our tow truck driver, before it came into public view, Wasilla was known for Miller Ice Cream and rednecks. As we drove from Palmer to Wasilla, he pointed out the glacier that can be seen from the city and also told us that the large lake at the base of the mountains used to be hay fields before the 1960 earthquake when the land dropped and formed the lake.
Wasilla is also the place from where our F350 hails too. Yes, our lovely truck lived out its first several thousands of miles in Palmer, Alaska and decided it wanted to visit its home. This time, however, unlike our experience in Auburn, California, the mechanics and customer service reps were amazing. When they found it was a sensor, they said if they didn’t have it in stock, they would take it from another truck just to get us on the road. They had us out of there by 4 p.m. We were hitched, did some errands and on the road by 5:30 p.m.
Forty-two miles later seeing the “Welcome to Anchorage” sign was invigorating. Only two more hours left on this journey to Alaska by truck and trailer. Then the wind picked up, REALLY picked up as we went around the Turnagain Arm. It began to rain, pour, rain, pour, and the wind blew harder and harder. Clouds socked in the mountains surrounding us. Somewhere around a bend, there was a rainbow and eventually the sign that told us we were finally on the Kenai Peninsula.
We are staying for the week at Quartz Creek Campground in Cooper Landing until our campground, Cooper Creek, opens up on May 15. The (mis)adventures will continue as we will be boondocking. This means we will be living four months in our trailer with no water hookup, electric or sewer. We will haul water, pump it into the trailer, use a solar generator with a gas back up, and well, wagon a poop hauler to remove our waste to …. But, hey, we’re HERE and we survived the Alcan Highway – until we have to return again to the Lower 48 in September! Would you?
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