Posts Tagged ‘Alcan Highway’

North and South of the Border

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.

Posty’s on Tok Cutoff

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.

Trapper’s Cabin

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.

Burls on Tree

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.

Teslin River at Johnson’s Crossing

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!

Peaceful River Valley

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.

Camping by Peaceful River

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.

Just fit …

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.

Overlander Falls

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.

Cedar Tree
Kinney Lake

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.

Let’s Golf and Camp

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.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing

Can you spell Ptarmigan?

The afternoon in Tok was warm and beautiful and everyone there said it was a great day to to go Chicken. As we drove, however, the rain clouds pushed the light fluffy clouds to somewhere else and we encountered rain. The drive is only 66 miles, but it was a windy and sometimes rough 66 miles. The view to the west would be exquisite on a clear day, but dark clouds hid most of the Alaska Range where Denali resides.

Alaska Range out there somewhere-ish

Chicken is actually on a rough, northern route to Whitehorse over the Top of the World highway. Many of our campers come this way to Alaska in summer, however, the border crossing is closed until the end of May and closes at 8 p.m. Also, Top of the World Highway is very rough, not just somewhat rough and many people have breakdowns and flat tires. Hence, we will not ever go that way for all of those reasons, but since we left our trailer in Tok, we didn’t have worry about such issues.

Winding road … see it way, way out there?

Interesting facts about Chicken found hanging on a bar door!

Chicken is called Chicken because the original settlers, actually gold miners, couldn’t spell Ptarmigan. They wanted to call the town Ptarmigan, because the plentiful local birds filled many a pot in their camps. Ptarmigan were also called CHICKENS and that’s how the town got it’s name. (This is funny because our daughter lives on Ptarmigan so WE have to know how to spell it.)

They have a winter population of 15, summer between 30 and 50. They have no pay phones and no flush toilets. Outhouses are by the gift shop. They close in the winter along with the roads. There are no plows until April. Winter temperatures can be 85 below zero. Mail comes by plane every Tuesday and Thursday, weather permitting. Most of the citizens arrived by truck, some hitch-hiked and others came by plane. They self-entertain, there is no television. Children are home-schooled, cell phones only work before mile 32 and then only if the signal is right. Medical emergencies are medi-vacked to Fairbanks. They don’t have sales tax.

People still goldmine there. They use bull-dozers or suction dredge the river. Some dig holes or pound rocks. Gold-panning is an option as well.

They have black bears, grizzlies, moose, caribou, weasels, snowshoe hares, lynx, wolves and many more. They have lots of birds. Bears walk through the town. Moose are a common sight.

Arriving at Chicken, we were excited to see everything, but EVERYTHING was closed until May 15. And, everything in Chicken means three businesses. We meandered around taking pictures of what we could and then hopped in the truck to drive to the ‘downtown’ where there was a little airfield.

That’s when we encountered MOOSE – a momma and her baby. Our first moose EVER while traveling. Apparently, their facts are right. There were MOOSE! We had even seen a moose run across the road on our way into Chicken, but it was so far away that it could have been a figment of our imagination. Apparently, not according to the facts about Chicken! Now we were seeing real live moose up close and personal. Chicken was worth the trip just for the moose.

On our way back to Tok, we stopped to take pictures of the trees. Several years ago there was a fire that burnt millions of acres and the trees looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book – trunks with a tuft of dead branches on top. One of my pictures was photo-bombed – by a MOOSE!

Once back in Tok, we prepared ourselves for the next day’s journey on the Tok Cutoff and onto Anchorage and our penninsula ‘home.’

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

Alaska or Bust

I believe I finally understand what that slogan means. I had always thought it was silly when I saw people with that written on their car windows in such modern times, but even in modern times, you can BUST on your way to Alaska.

Whitehorse, Yukon

Flat Leaves AGAIN!

Our slogan from when we left Watson Lake might have been Whitehorse or Bust! With flat leaf springs we could only hope to make it to the ‘big city’ or capital of the Yukon without any more springs flattening out. We first stopped at an RV repair place and the woman’s expression when she saw the one spring was: “It’s flat as a pancake, eh?” Eh? Yes. They couldn’t work with us so we called a tire place we used last year (Integra Tire) and they recommended “Tamarac Welding and Springs.” Note: I link places just in case you’re the one with the Alaska or Bust slogan and find yourself needing help.

It was difficult find this place as it was only a small quonset set back off the main road. They were very nice and told us we could park on their lot overnight and they would begin the job of replacing all four leaf springs in the morning. They were going to put 6-leaf springs on instead of the 5-leaf ones that just didn’t hold up. They had to fix U-bolts and nuts as well. What we have learned through this experience is multi-faceted. When you are looking for a trailer, fifth-wheel, whatever, the first thing to consider is the frame and the suspension. Dealers and manufacturers love that we look at floorplans and how nice the inside is, but if the rig can’t carry the weight of even an empty trailer, you will find yourself in the same mess that we did. And, we aren’t the only ones we are learning. Manufacturers also build rigs to the basic of all basic specifications. In other words, they build them CHEAP. The nuts they used on the U-bolts holding everything together are tiny – just like they staple things together inside the rig. Yes, they worry about weight, but a heavier bolt or a few more screws will not add that much more weight. The weight specifications are really ridiculous. We have a 42-foot fifth wheel with lots of storage space underneath and cabinets inside, yet the limitations are low when one considers what they will fill these areas with. So, shop and study before you buy. Do NOT ask dealers anything because they have no clue. I asked one dealer at an RV show about their 42-foot fifth wheel, a different manufacturer than ours, about the two axles and the possibility of the exterior cracking. He said ‘that is impossible.’ I walked away laughing because I knew he was either lying or was that ignorant of what driving these trailers on roads can actually do to the suspension, frames and even interiors.

So, May 7, 2019 we woke up early to be out of our trailer so they would work on our leaf springs. May 7 is also our anniversary – 35 years. We were married in a tiny church in a little place called Salina in Boulder County. We were surrounded by only a few friends and some family. I would never have dreamed on that day that I would ever celebrate my anniversary in the Yukon with a trailer parked in a parking lot.

We decided to be tourons in Whitehorse. We walked along the Yukon River, left rack cards for our son-in-law’s fishing company in the Visitor Center, had coffee at Java, a locals coffee shop, and ate lunch at the Burnt Toast Cafe. We returned to find our trailer finished and it was only 1:30 p.m. The owner talked with us a bit about the scale sheets we had and we learned even more about what went wrong with the leaf springs. Needless to say my husband is once again writing to the manufacturer because when we picked it up in Indiana, they neglected to tell us a lot.

With daylight lasting until about 10:30 p.m., we decided to hitch up and drive our regular 6-8 hours. The closer to the border of Alaska, the better. We were done BUSTING! The only bummer was that we really wanted to stop for coffee in Haines Junction at The Village Coffee Shop, but we had just had coffee. So, we pass through town knowing that it would be a long time until we could stop there again because of their ridiculous hours.

Haines Junction

Haines Junction is one of the most beautiful places in the universe – in my opinion. The mountains are majestic and breath-taking. From Haines Junction the Alcan goes through Kulane National Park.

This year the riverbed was so dry that we encountered a dust storm. Yes, a dust storm like we had on the Nebraska plains. We saw some sheep on the hillside and continued on through Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing. We knew that we were soon coming upon a very cool RV park that we had stayed at last fall and were ready to stop for the night. BUT, like everything else, it was closed until May 15. So, we kept on driving until Beaver Creek about 20 miles from the Alaska Border. Two years ago we stayed at this same park, but because the pantry was so poorly made, I spent hours cleaning up the mess from broken shelves. This time we just relaxed and enjoyed the evening by curling up on our respective sofas and reading books. It sure is nice not to have leaf spring worries!

ALASKA!

The next morning we crossed the border! Finally back in the U.S. We met a young woman at the border who took our photo though the sign is NOT the rustic last frontier-ish looking as it used to be. Blue and Yellow? She was heading north to Denali and Fairbanks. She had never heard of the Kenai and we told her she needed to go to Alaska’s playground. She took down lots of information and several days later we had a note at our trailer. She missed us on her way back from Homer!

Our goal for the day was Tok, Alaska. It was only a two-hour drive, but we wanted some time for a side trip to Chicken. We pulled into a wonderful RV Park – Tok Village – and were excited to learn that they not only had water flowing, but had opened their RV wash and we could wash the dirt and mud that had been accumulating since Fort Nelson.

After getting ourselves situated, we filled our truck with fuel and drove to our next adventure of Chicken, Alaska.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

A Poem for the iCan (aka Alcan)

Over the mountains and through the snow

We left Fort Nelson with a long way to go.

Steamboat Hill was quite slushy and then Summit Lake

Though we seemed to drive slow good time we did make.

Steamboat Hill
Summit Lake Pass

Fueled at Toad River, passed Muncho – that means ‘big’

Onto the hot springs Liard, but lunched with our rig.

Toad River
Frozen Muncho Lake
Liard Hot Springs Rest Stop

Caribou and buffalo grazed by the way

Two black bears and a cub chewing grass like hay.

Munching Grass
Momma and Her Cub

In Watson Lake we rested our trailer

Muddy and limping from leaf spring failure.

City RV and Our Filthy Trailer and Truck
What can we say?

In the Sign Forest we read our “Run Forest Run’

Then we enjoyed a walk in the late evening sun.

We’re now in a ‘parking lot’ staying one night,

Tomorrow to Whitehorse to fix the leaves right.

The rain tickles the roof – there is less and less drear

But our destination Alaska is still not so near.

Teslin on Nesutlin Bay

We’ll pass by Teslin, eat cinnamon rolls too

Where Tezzy our passenger was found stuck in mud goo.

Johnson’s Corner Where We Found Tezzy

We’ll cross the river Yukon with the lovely blue bridge

And hope that our stay in the capital is only a smidge.

Yukon River Bridge

In Whitehorse we find a place for repair

We will stay two nights in an exterior bay there.

Exterior Bay in a Parking Lot
Historic Mile Marker 918

Anniversary number 35 on Alaska Nine Eighteen Mile

Who’d a thunk way back then we’d be celebrating in such style!

May 7, 1984

A Gallery of the Sign Forest, Watson Lake

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.