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

Alberta

April 23 – Sunrise 6:15; Sunset 9:39 p.m.

Last year we entered Canada through British Columbia; this year Alberta through Sweetgrass and Coutts.  Unlike last year when we were the only ones at the crossing, we had a waiting line of about 30 minutes (not too bad).  The huge RV in front of us was pulled to the side for a more in-depth inspection – probably because he had firearms.  This was one of the reasons we decided to ship ours north.  We didn’t want to give the border patrol any reason to have to inspect (tear apart) the inside of our ‘home.’  The young woman who took our passports asked my husband where we were heading and he responded, “We’re going to Canada.”  She said, “Well, you made it, you’re here!”  He laughed and corrected himself, “We’re going to Alaska.”

From the border we headed north to Calgary with a short stop in Lethbridge at an EVFree church parking lot for lunch.  We also stopped at a Walmart (our favorite place, not) for some DEF for our truck.  For those who have no clue (and I’m learning), diesel trucks need DEF in their engine or something in order to meet certain codes for diesel engines.  Yeah, I’m very knowledgeable in this area as you can tell.  When DEF gets low, even too low, the engine or transmission will shut down so that eventually, the truck only idles.  Our DEF said it was getting low and as always, my husband put in a 2 ½ gallon container.  The DEF reading continued to say it was LOW and we became concerned – not so low that it would stop the truck, but wondering what was ‘wrong.’  A little search on the internet (cell phones ARE important) said the DEF tank must be full to reset itself though some comments said the reading is sometimes arbitrary to the mood of the truck.  We stopped and put in a second DEF and the reading said FULL.  Yay!  But, we don’t like to travel without DEF so the needed stop at Walmart in Lethbridge only to pay twice the price for DEF as in the states! 

From there we took a route around the south and west of Calgary. For a Sunday, the traffic was crazy and it was nice to get outside of that city and back on smaller roads with less traffic.  We stopped for the night at Bow RiversEdge Campground in Cochran.  It was a sweet little campground and we found a pull-thru and set up for the night.  After a curried chicken dinner, we decided to put on warm clothes and walk the path by Bow River. 

After hours and hours of sitting, the walk in the clear frigid air refreshed our bodies and souls.  There was still ice clinging to the sides of the river and someone camping near us said it was the first day above freezing since winter began.  Until last week, the playground in the campground was covered in feet of snow.  We had been noticing more and more snow along the roads the further north we traveled.  Along with more snow, the day lasts longer.  Sunrise this morning was at 6:15 a.m. and sunset last night was 9:15 p.m.  Yes, it messes with your mind because the sun sets so slowly it seems like it’s 7:30 p.m. forever. 

On the road again heading toward Grand Prairie, Alberta or thereabouts depending on time, distance, moods, and open camping areas.  Because spring is arriving later than usual, RV parks aren’t open and if they are, they have no water.  So, we’re now hauling water which adds weight to the rig.  For those who really want to know, when we traveled from our house in Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming, we had a head wind and got 6 mpg.  Our daily average is 10 mpg.  We weighed the rig and it’s about 13,200 pounds without water. 

We are traveling on a smaller road with non-stop logging rigs that are heading south to Cochran as that is where the saw mill is located.  To the west are the Canadian Rockies topped with marshmallow snow and Jasper National Park.  To the east, the sun beats through the window making me really hot in this shotgun seat!  Snow is melting leaving huge lakes in fields while some smaller ponds of melted snow are still frozen.

 Grey Owl Meadery

New word for the day: meadery –  winery that produces wine with honey. 

Today was a very long day for driving.  The roads in Alberta were bumpier than the frost heaves and our trailer took a beating.  Our bike rack is bending out ready to break, the curtain came loose again in the back where the rear cabinets hang (not a good sign for the cabinet) and for the first time, we have a ding in the flooring that will take time to work its way out.  Because winter has lasted a long time, most campgrounds aren’t even open as they were last year and we’re not willing to stay in Walmart parking lots.  We finally found an open ‘home’ in Grand Prairie at Country Roads RV Park. To date, this is the most expensive place we have stayed and it’s obvious they had four feet of snow only a few days ago.

©2018 Tentstake Ministries

April 20, 2018 – The Journey Begins

This year as we head to Alaska for our second year of campground hosting, a few things are very different. First, we are more seasoned with our fifth-wheel and truck. Though we travel with the ‘big boys’, we are generally more comfortable in and around cities, fueling stations, and rest areas.  We know the height of our trailer, watch for the low clearance bridges and have a plan for fueling stations that have low coverings.  We have more experience setting up and taking down when we stop at a campground.  We have RADIOS that have saved our marriage.  We have exterior routines with the slides, the water, the electric, the sewer, the hitch and the electronic stabilizers that is almost rote.  Inside I have figured out how to use pillows to protect whatever needs protecting and bungee cords hold all cabinet doors together so my Ninja doesn’t Ninja it’s way all over the trailer.   The inside of the trailer has also been ‘improved’ to withstand the bumps and bruises it endures over rough roads in preparation for the frost heaves.  No more cayenne pepper exploding in the pantry!  This year is beginning with a more peaceful and prepared state of mind.

We began our journey from Cheyenne, Wyoming after the trial that acquitted the man who slashed our tires in Quesnel, British Columbia last year.  It was a beautiful and sunny day for travel and we made it to Sheridan, Wyoming almost to the border of Montana.  We had been experiencing freezing temperatures and 68 felt like summer!  We stayed in Peter D’s RV park again – a nice, but simple park that is easily accessible from the interstate.  We love his motto: Peter D’s RV park has Nutritional Value – if you don’t stay here, Pete doesn’t eat!

From Sheridan we took the interstate to Billings and then followed smaller highways to Great Falls, Montana. It was another sunny and warm day for traveling through the beautiful foothills and cowboy country of Montana.   The wind picked up at the end of the day and caused us to stop a little sooner than we really wanted.  We are staying in Dick’s RV park (again). What’s with these guys and the creative names of  their RV parks?  To get to the entrance of this park is a very low clearance ancient railroad track bridge.  Last year, we didn’t think we would make it under with our 13’5″ clearance.  This year we noticed it’s 14′ and we stopped right under the bridge to see how much clearance we really had!  It’s nice to be able to relax again as the past few days my head has been hurting after the tree injury. My husband does all the ‘hard work’ of driving, but sitting shotgun can also be long, tedious and tiring.

We always stop mid-day, generally after 4 hours of driving, for lunch. We pull over wherever we find a rest stop, open the slides and make lunch. It’s nice to have everything so handy, including a bathroom. My brother calls it a $50,000 toilet! Hey, when you have to go, you have to go and sometimes there’s nothing for hundreds of miles – on the Alcan at least.

One of our frustrations is Verizon and cell service. It’s extraordinary that as we travel on major highways that we have spotty service. Aren’t cell phones for emergencies when you are ‘nowhere?’ Okay, we love to use ours to plan our trip as we travel and look up historical facts about places we pass.

Today, for example,  we drove through the Crow Reservation where Custer National Monument is located. It was interesting to read about the Crow nation and see a billboard advertising the Crow language and keeping it alive. We also followed the Nez Pearce trail created by the tribe as an escape route when the US wanted to round them up and put them on a reservation.  We are now by the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark traveled so many moons ago.

Tomorrow our adventure continues as we cross the border into Canada. After last year’s events in British Columbia, we are staying in Alberta as long as possible until we reach Dawson Creek where the Alcan Highway begins. We are planning a LONG day  and hope that the border crossing will go as easily and quickly as last year. If not, I’ll be sharing the adventure of a challenging border crossing!

Then, it’s on toward Calgary, Alberta and Grand Prairie where we celebrated Tashlich last fall in a huge puddle by our trailer.  We have been following some RVers coming down from North Pole, AK on the Alcan. It appears that there will be more snow than we encountered last year.  Hopefully the snow will bring some different perspectives and photo ops to this year’s  journey.

©2018 Tentstake Ministries