We have now traveled the Alcan Highway five times and number six is on the horizon. From Anchorage to Dawson Creek, we know all of the places that are open before May 15 and after September 15 which really isn’t much. This year, however, with the fires and our evacuation, we left Alaska 10 days earlier than other years. This allowed us to stay in places that normally aren’t available.
After our adventure to McCarthy, we began our drive toward Tok. Much of the road on our way up had disintegrated into nothing but gravel in some places and others, well, there was no road. The beauty at times makes up for the lack of road, but it is still a drive that we appreciate when it’s over.
We did make one short stop along the Tok Cutoff at Posty’s Station. It is one of the few places that is open year round near the Christochina area. The little store offers some foodstuffs, fuel, Alaska souvenirs and books. The brilliant autumn colors finally broke through the smoke hovering over much of the state.
We stayed the night in Tok where we always stay and in the morning drove toward the Canadian Border. Another place that is always closed is the Tetlin National Wildlife Museum. This time we stopped to enjoy the view and a small hike to see a trapper’s cabin. During the trapping era, trappers would build cabins that would be used by other trappers. In the cold winters these cabins became the lifeline to warmth and food.
Crossing the border into Canada always brings a little anxiety. We are never sure if they will search our trailer or not. One year we brought some firewood hoping to use it before the border, but had not. We had to pile it on top of a 10-foot pile that had been left behind by other travelers. We answered the usual questions: Do we have any firearms? No. Do we have any fire wood? No. Why are you coming into Canada? To get to the U.S. Where is home? South Dakota. How long do you intend to stay in Canada? For as short a time as possible. No, we don’t say that. About 10 days.
Our goal first Canadian stop for this year was the Yukon Provincial Park, Lake Creek Campground. Strangely, it was open the first year back, but closes on September 15. We knew it would be open and we parked in the same spot enjoying the little river and the autumn weather.
From Lake Creek we drove and drove and drove. Our next memorable stop was Haines Junction and the Village Bakery. Our first year up to Alaska, this bakery and coffee shop was open and we decided it would always be a required stop; however, they open May 15 and close September 15 so we have consistently missed their delicious baked goods and drinks. This time we arrived the day before they closed and enjoyed our goodies outside in the sunshine.
We drove to Whitehorse, stopping at the leaf spring place where we spent our anniversary in May. We had them check the leaf springs and with a good report, we continued on our way across the beautiful blue Yukon River Bridge to Johnson’s Crossing. This also has become a required place to stay as they are open year round and are a family-owned campground and restaurant with yummy baked goods! This is also where we found Tezzy, our little hedgehog who travels with us. We have to stop to allow him to remember how he was saved from drowning in a puddle.
Near Teslin is the Tlingit Heritage Center. It is also never open when we travel back and forth, except for this year. We were able to learn about this first nation people whose name mean ‘People of the Tides.’ The tribes are represented by animals: the wolf (land), the frog (water), the raven (air) and beaver (water). There are about 450 Tlingits living in the area and during the summer they hold many different cultural events. We are intrigued by these indigenous people because we have a good friend who has adopted a Tlingit little girl and it’s fun to learn about her tribal heritage.
Our next two stops are always at the grocery store in Watson Lake, the last little town in the Yukon and Liard Hot Springs. Liard Hot Springs is a British Columbian Provincial Park and it is open year round. We always try to make this stop over the Sabbath so we can rest and relax for two days in and out of the hot springs. This year we decided to stay three nights however, we did not make reservations. We were given the option of staying one night and moving to a different site or staying two nights and moving the third night. We opted for the first choice.
We set up our trailer which is always a challenge in this park for several reasons. The first is that they are all back-in sites. Though my husband can back into sites, we prefer not to. Second, their back-in sites don’t allow for much room on the road to turn and many of the sites have ditches on either side of the site pad. We always look for two sites across from each other so we can use the one to pull into and the other to back-in. We have also learned that maybe the best sites are on the curves. As we turn the curve, the site behind because a straight-in back-in. We succeeded to back in every so slowly, but we did it. We changed into our swim suits and trekked back to the hot springs on the board walk and soaked our tired-from-sitting-and-driving bodies.
The next morning we took a walk around the campground to find one of the on-the-curve-sites to be available for two nights. We placed our tag on the post and returned to our site to prepare to move. For whatever reasons, this move from one site to another became another ‘adventure.’ Remember, the word adventure implies danger. First, I have a pre-printed check list that is laminated that I go through whenever we are closing down the trailer. On this particular day, I didn’t really read the list and my husband also did some of the things on the list which caused some confusion. As he was doing his list, he hit his head on the trailer hitch and from there everything spiraled into chaos. We managed to get the trailer packed up and began the short drive around the campground. There was one curve that my husband took wide that after he did it said, “I didn’t need to take that so wide.” Whatever. We made it around the curve with our 42-foot monstrosity. We were now heading down the straight-away for our site. We passed several campers and after passing one, I heard a horn honking. It just kept honking until I said, “I think someone is honking at us!” I looked back by using the rearview mirror and I saw the reason for the horn: We had forgotten to pull in our awning!
I jumped out of the truck and my husband followed. The awning was pulled so far to the back that the arms appeared to be twisted and/or broken. The gentleman was very reassuring and said he thought it was just pulled. Whatever the situation, it didn’t look good, my husband became bummed and we had to back into another site which is always stressful. Again, the gentleman (an angel from the LORD, I truly believe) said that when we were situated he would come and help us get the awning pulled back on the rod. Another angel stopped by and said he would help too.
After getting our trailer backed in and leveled, these two angels appeared at our trailer. They gave us directions on what they wanted to do. I ended up on the roof helping to thread the awning back into the slot. One man was at the other end pulling while my husband and the other man were working the arms of the awning. They were right! It just needed to be pulled back on; however a couple of screws will need to be replaced. We can still use the awning as it opens and shuts like it should. Halleluyah!
We took a breather and relaxed for the day. Shabbat would begin at sunset and we needed this one badly. We spent the Shabbat soaking in the springs again and as always, meet people from all over the world. This time we met people who live in McCarthy and had a fun time talking with them about tourism and life in that remote village. We also took a trek around the road to see where we ‘caught’ the awning. If my husband had not taken that corner so wide, believe it or not, we would have been able to drive the whole way with the awning out and not hitting anything!
This year we decided to take an alternate route off the Alcan through the Peace River Valley to Chetwynd. This route would cut some time off our travels and we would see new terrain. We were not disappointed. The beauty of this valley surpassed anything we expected. Unfortunately, the whole area will be dammed and all of the fertile land will be drowned. Even the campground we found nestled by the Peaceful River will be under water by the year 2021.
Generally when we head south we like to stay at Jasper National Park in Alberta. This year, however, the large campground in which we could stay was under construction so we made reservations at Mt. Robson National Park. We reserved a pull-thru site for our monstrous trailer so we would have an easy time parking our rig. As we entered the campground and were filling our water tank, some campers came to be awed by our large rig. One man asked where we were camping and I explained we reserved a pull-thru. He explained that though this park had also renovated the sites, the pull-thru were difficult to get into because they built them high and narrow with a table that couldn’t be moved. He told me he had seen several big rigs twist and slide off the site. Great. Well, we tried to pull in, but as he said there wasn’t enough room to make the turn and pull through. So, we backed out and spent quite a long time trying to back into a pull thru site. Fun. Once we were ‘in’, we stayed the way we were situated. No moving until we left. Campers who strolled by with their dogs were astounded that we were even in the space. Thus began our several days at Mt. Robeson.
Our first adventure was to visit the Overlander Falls – a very short hike. When we realized we could have taken a different path to the falls, we returned to the campground and made the longer trek along the river.
Our second-day adventure was a hike to Kinney Lake at the base of Mt. Robeson. I learned that I like markers that give distance in kilometers rather than miles as they pass more quickly! The trail was highly used, but the reflections of the mountains on the lake made our lunch stop quite memorable – along with the young girl who back packed with a little stuffed pig.
We don’t usually do s’mores because I don’t like to smell like smoke (I did that gig all summer) and well, it’s a lot of sugar. However, with the cold and drizzle throughout the days there, we decided to have a fire and melt chocolate on marshmallows and eat them with graham crackers.
We traveled through Jasper and down the Icefields Parkway. Instead of taking the road by Lake Louise, we cut across the mountains in Yoho National Park to head south down the other side. Our destination was through Radium Hot Springs down into the US to McCall, Idaho where we would chill for a week at my sister-in-law’s ranch.
Border crossings are always a little stressful for us. We are just never sure what we will be asked and what the border patrol will require of us. We know that if you fill out the paperwork for taking firearms, your trailer will be searched and searched. Everything will be taken from all storage and then you are responsible for putting everything back. As we live in our trailer, I never want to experience that event because they throw things and break things and lose things. So, we come up to the border crossing back into the US and everything went well until the woman asked if we had fruits and veggies. I had a few, mostly rotten, in my fridge, but that declaration required we pull over and allow a patrolman to look in our trailer. The event lasted an extra 15 minutes and he left everything the way he found it and didn’t take anything. I’m not sure he knew of my fruit and veggie baskets because they sit on one counter that can’t be seen very well. He probably would have taken the zucchini I picked up on a picnic table in the Peaceful River Valley. Apparently, we aren’t ‘allowed’ to even bring fruits and veggies from a grocery store that have stickers on them. We sighed relief as the man was quite nice, the event was quick and we were back again in the USA heading toward McCall.