Posts Tagged ‘Alcan’

Down, Flannel and a Shovel

As we started out from Dawson Creek, the sky varied between cloudy and sunny, but sun won out until about 101 miles up the Alcan at a place called ‘Won O Won.’  The flurries began to blow sideways until some rested, melted and made the pavement wet.  I began the day’s drive and when we arrived at the top of Pink Mountain, my husband requested a stop at Sasquatch Crossing.  He wanted lunch.  

At Sasquatch Crossing, the blowing snow pelted us as we trudged through muddy puddles into the restaurant.  A few conversations with the folks there revealed that it continued to snow for the next 100 km (60 miles),  but the sun shone in Fort Nelson.  We hoped for this to be true. 

Menu

I had Sasquatch Vegetable Soup, but my husband opted for chicken – even though the menu said Sasquatch tastes like beef!  With warmth in our tummies, we ventured back out into the near whiteout conditions to continue our northern drive to Fort Nelson.   

We either followed the snow or it followed us because at one stop, it was requested that we please bring warmer weather from the south.  It had not been warmer in the south and the snow continued to blow across the road now sticking to the wide and mowed sides.    We looked for bears as we always do knowing they would stick out black if they weren’t littered with snowflakes.

When we arrived at Fort Nelson, it was brrrrrr cold and the sun stood high in the sky.  We decided to spend the night here because we had no idea what the road conditions would be like on Steamboat Hill to Summit Lake Pass.  Hauling 16,000 pounds of our home is not something we wanted to chance on possible black ice and sliding off a mountainside. 

Soon after we set up, the snow began in Fort Nelson. We watched some courageous bundled-up campers make several loops around the campground for exercise.  After a quick supper of tomato soup and grilled cheese, we decided to venture into the cold and walk off the many days of seat butt.  We pulled out our down coats, scarves, gloves and hats that were nicely packed away until next winter.  As we walked around the campground that began filling up with others who didn’t want to make the trip over the mountains, the temperatures dropped and the wind blew harder.  Once back in our trailer, we tucked ourselves into our bed now made with flannel sheets that had been packed away.  We read books until we fell asleep cozy and warm. 

Day One in Fort Nelson

We woke up to several centimeters of snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures (in Celcius).  My husband located  our packed-away shovel and cleared off our steps and a little path to the truck.   Is it really May 3?  Is it really this cold?  He visited a few of the nearest campers with big rigs to learn they were all spending a second night at the Triple G Hideaway Campground in order to avoid the ice and snow in the mountains.   One of the couples, Jim and Carolyn will be camp hosting at Hope, Alaska at Porcupine National Forest Campground!  We met some co-workers for ARM.  (I have to admit that I followed them for a while on the Alcan.  They drove very slowly we and chalked it up to them being from Kansas.  Sorry, Bob and Stacy.   Eventually I was so tired of following them, I pulled over.  Several miles down the road they pulled over in the blizzard conditions, but then continued onto the same campground – really the only open campground around.   Yep, I feel stupid now.) 

I called several places on the road ahead – Northern Rockies Lodge in Mucho Lake, Toad River Lodge in Toad River and the Liard Hot Springs Lodge in Liard, but no one knew the road conditions over the passes!  This isn’t Colorado where there are always updates on the road conditions of the passes.  As we vacillated between staying or taking a chance by leaving,  I could hear my brother’s voice in my head, “You are full-time RV’ers, what’s your hurry?”  Well, we would like to get to Alaska before summer.  He reminded me in a text that we have until the summer solstice on June 19.  

I made pancakes and eggs doused in the last of the syrup given to us by some friends we made last year. Thank you, Brent and Sonya!   My husband went to the nearest place and filled our empty propane tank so we could run our furnace.  He then cleaned the ice and snow from the top of our slides.   He also dropped the warm window curtains I had made for Cherry Creek for the winter, but the bottom velcro had been removed when we sent the trailer to Indiana.  I spent a couple of hours working on  them with the minimal supplies I had so they would shut tightly against the windows.  Now, let the cold wind blow while I sit next to our little fireplace and type on my computer.  

We went to the office to pay for another night and met a couple who were tent camping their way to Fort Collins from Anchorage.  He is starting engineering school at CSU and she is a bio-engineer on the search for a job.  We told them we began our trek from Fort Collins and the weather will be gorgeous, summer-like.  They ordered some coffee and got back in their Jeep to head south for a new life.    

Late in the afternoon, we decided to venture out and go to Tim Hortons for something warm to drink.  We met two men, Steve and Alvin, who had worked in the oil and gas industry before it all disappeared into a Middle Eastern economy.  They were two very hilarious Canadian men and we chatted with them for a few hours about everything from hockey and Tim Horton to motorcycles to socialist politics to jokes about three-legged dogs and how how natives feel about snow to the great musicians of Canada.  Whenever we said we needed to leave, they would ask, “Where do you need to be?  What are you going to do?”  They were right.  So, we hung out.

The buzzing on my phone app from the missiles from Gaza attacking Israel haven’t stopped for hours – over 500 now.   One article in the Jerusalem Post quoted a Gazan leader, “The resistance from Gaza won’t stop until the occupation is over.”  When is Israel going to defend itself?

As we were walking out of Timmies, we decided to talk to a man whose truck was covered in ice about the conditions on the passes.  He told us it wasn’t bad though waiting until tomorrow would be better for a truck and trailer like ours.  He was heading to Las Vegas, helping his son move to Summerlin from Anchorage.  Okay, now it’s getting weird.  Our daughter lives in Fort Collins and our son just moved to Summerlin!  Apparently, we are supposed to be hanging out here in good ole’ Fort Nelson meeting people moving where our children live?

Day Two in Fort Nelson.

Though we had hoped the passes would be less icy and snowy, the mountain cams didn’t show better conditions.  Motorhomes and fifth-wheels that had come in the night before were iced over. Most said the roads were nearly impassable.  Our neighbors couldn’t even get their step down because it was frozen solid in an upright position.  They were using a hatchet to chip away at the ice! 

The Meaning of Adventure

While standing in the office waiting to pay for a second night, there were several other campers doing the same.  The word ‘adventure’ kept popping up in the conversations with one woman stating, “This life is always an adventure, eh?”   I decided to look up the word adventure: “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.”  I liked the word ‘hazardous’ in the definition.  Not. 

After a short walk around the campground to rid ourselves of some cabin fever, we decided to go to Tim Horton’s again.  We have been here long enough that we act like the Canadians – sitting in a coffee shop named after an ice hockey player, chatting with the locals and playing on the internet.  

After having a coffee, we had nothing better to do than to check out the local hardware store.  It had everything from toys to kitchen necessities to plumbing and electrical to yard decorations.  Not only did it kill some time, but I found a nice water bottle for taking with me in the truck.  I believe I already mentioned that we bought a Berkey water filter so we could be more ‘green’.  We were reusing the plastic water bottles, but it didn’t seem very hygienic so I bought a very nice stainless steel insulated bottle that actually fits in the drink holder!  Now I have a souvenir from my snow days in Fort Nelson!  

One of our day’s ‘adventures’ which wasn’t too hazardous was to explore the streets of Fort Nelson off of the main highway.  We drove to the airport and on our way there, several girls were walking along the road and started waving frantically.  We waved back and they cheered!  It must be exciting for them to see a truck from South Dakota? Or is life that boring here?   On the way back from the airport, we were blessed to see this little lady posing just for us by the side of the road.    

Speaking of water, we have also run out in our holding tank.  We didn’t expect to be here as long as we have been and though we try to conserve water, it doesn’t last forever.  We have three options.  The first is to close the trailer up and drive it about 50 yards to the laundry room and fill the tank with one of their hoses.  I don’t like that option because then we have to pack up and unpack.  It’s muddy and cold and is just tedious non-essential work.  The second is to fill the water bladder we use in Alaska to haul water when we boondock.  It’s a wonderful option except that it’s very cold outside and there would be no way to drain it so the little water remaining in it would freeze, crack the bladder and become useless in Alaska.  The third option is to fill a one-gallon jug with water for flushing the toilet and fill our 2-gallon jug for doing dishes.  That is the the option we chose.  Our Burkey has been filtering water consistently so we also have nearly 2 gallons of drinking water.

Now it’s evening and we’re doing little projects to help pass the time and get ready for our departure tomorrow.  The mountain cam has the road looking a little better and we expect warmer temperatures tomorrow.  The sun burst through the clouds a bit today so maybe … we’ll be on the road tomorrow heading toward Toad River, Muncho Lake and Liard.  If not, wait for Day 3 in Fort Nelson. 

©2019 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.

Tezzy’s New Home
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

Alaska!

Sunrise 5:50 a.m., Sunset 9:46 p.m.

We made it back to ‘Merica’!  Our ‘rule of thumb’ is to travel only 6 hours per day, however, today was 14 hours!  We left Teslin with the idea of stopping somewhere near the border at Beaver Creek, but our plan wasn’t God’s plan. 

We stopped at Johnson’s Crossing for a cinnamon roll.  We had read about this place in the Milepost.  What’s the Milepost?

Since 1947, this magazine has been published that gives minute details of the Alaska highway and other adventuresome routes.  It gives historical facts which is why I appear to know so much, mileage from one place to another, names of provincial or state campgrounds, RV parks, where to buy gas or diesel and which wildlife is more prevalent where.  Thus, Johnson’s Crossing to check out a more unique and quaint place to stay on our way back.  Teslin is nice, but it’s more of a truck stop park and we like the feel of the early lodges that have been in service for 70 years.  Yes, the cinnamon roll was delicious and Sandy, the owner was quite friendly.  I even found a novel in Hebrew at the book exchange.  Yes!  I love book exchanges.  I read a lot while we’re in our trailer and so when I finish one book, I look for a book exchange to get another.  I even got my husband reading and that is an amazing feat! 

From Johnson’s Crossing, we continued north toward Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon province.  Last year we went into this grand city to find a Walmart and with our big rig, the congestion was too much so we decided to forego that trip – and the Walmart was small with nothing it in.  A waste of time ….

Yukon River Bridge

One of my favorite spots on the Alcan is the Yukon River Bridge.  I’m not sure why except I love the color of the bridge and the peacefulness around it.  It’s also kind of a milestone of the trip to cross the Yukon River. 

Kluane Mountains

One of our goals to was to stop in Haines Junction for coffee at another quaint place that everyone who travels the Alcan speaks about.  Last year we vowed to return every time we passed through Haines Junction.  Then, last September, it was closed.  Today, it was closed, too.  It doesn’t open until May 1 and today is April 30.  So NO delicious baked goods (already had that cinnamon roll) and no coffee.  The St. Elias mountains at Haines Junction cannot be accurately described, but suffice it to say if I HAD to live in the Yukon Territory, it would be at Haines Junction: they have mountains, coffee, and a health food store.  What else is there?

We decided to continue on towards Beaver Creek.  The road goes through Kluane (kloo-WA-nee) National Park with its mountains, Dall sheep and frozen lake.  From Kluane, begins the dreaded 90 miles of frost heaves through Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing.  On our return trip last year, it seemed as though there was road work from the border through these little towns and so this year the heaves weren’t so destructive to our trailer.  This was the section of road that broke all the shelves in my pantry that needed to be rebuilt once we arrived in Cooper Landing. 

Frost heave sign along the highway

Knowing that all of the provincial campgrounds don’t open until May 11, we started to look for anyplace that may have RV sites.  All of the rest areas in the Yukon have signs that say ‘No Overnight Camping.’  With our rig, it’s difficult to go ‘off road’ so we need something that is less rustic.

We found the Pine Valley Bakery and Creperie to be open so we stopped to check it out.  It is run by a couple from France who moved to the Yukon 10 years ago.  We enjoyed a quiche and crepe, but their RV park was still closed as they had recent snow, fallen trees and no services.  We returned to our truck to drive the rest of the distance to Beaver Creek.  We saw a lynx, some swans and a bald eagle.  In the midst of caribou herds, moose and black bears coming out of hibernation, we saw none of them.  When we arrived in Beaver Creek, their campground was still full of snow.  We had to make the decision whether or not to hang out in their parking lot or drive another 2 hours to Tok, Alaska. With fully bellies and the sun setting at 9:30, we knew we could make the trek and still have daylight. 

ALASKA!  The border crossing was fun.  The patrolmen were quite talkative about life on the border from crazy people to moose to where they buy their food and how grateful they are that the Milepost removed their phone number from the magazine as they had thousands of calls last year from people asking about the weather! 

We continued to head north with views of the Wrangle mountains until we reached TOK, Alaska!  We’re settled in for the night drinking hot chocolate and reading (writing this blog).  Tomorrow we decide whether or not to take a side trip to Valdez – ONLY if there are RV parks open.  Otherwise, it’s on to Anchorage and the Kenai Penninsula!

 

©2018 Tentstake Ministries

 

The Yukon

Sunrise 5:53 a.m., Sunset 9:44 p.m.

Crossing the border from British Columbia into the Yukon takes forever as it winds back and forth until crossing the Morley River.  Our first stop in the Yukon was for fuel at Contact Creek.  This is a small hut-like building that has been around for many years.  The owners moved from Florida and they are a bit ‘strange’ probably because they spend the winters in the middle of nowhere.  The owner told my husband that the temperatures got to -63 degrees this year so they probably get cabin fever.  They have a gift shop that appears to never get new items and everything is dusty, but that’s part of the charm of the surviving businesses on the Alcan.  They do have a book exchange which I used.  And, for those who care, their price of diesel was CHEAPER than anywhere else. 

Why Contact Creek?  When the Alaska Highway was being built, the construction was to be completed quickly.  Workers began from both ends: Fort Nelson and Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon. The point at which they converged was named Contact Creek. 

Backstory on the sign.  I really do not like the movie “Forrest Gump”.  I find it tedious and I don’t like it.  My son, for one of my birthdays, gave me the movie in a ‘box of chocolates’ along with a ‘Run Forrest Run’ license plate.  I have had the plate hanging in our trailer above our door and decided it would be perfect for hanging in the sign forest.  I put our names on it and the year 2018 and now it hangs at Watson Lake.

Between Watson Lake and Teslin, the views of the Cassiar Mountains become spectacular.  As there was a harsher winter and more snow than last year, these mountains are covered in snow.  We stopped at a rest stop for lunch with amazing views surrounding us. 

 

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Teslin, Yukon.  This is the heart of Tlingit country, a native tribe found in the Yukon and Alaska.   The Tlingits have a heritage center here, but it opens in June and closes in September before we pass through again.  Many of the natives still work at the same trades and crafts and it would be quite interesting to visit the center.  Last year when we stayed in Teslin we experienced a 6.4 and 6.2 earthquake that shook our trailer pretty hard.  Today, thus far, we’re the only ones in this park and we chose the first site that has a beautiful view of the Nitsulin Lake.  This year the lake is frozen over.  Perhaps a moose will skate by, who knows. 

For those who pray, keep our truck in prayer.  We are about 125 miles from any service stations.  Our truck needs to start tomorrow so we can head north toward the ‘dreaded’ Whitehorse and find a Ford dealer to deal with the ‘check engine’ light.  After Whitehorse, we will be continuing on toward our favorite place: Haines Junction and their infamous coffee shop. 

©2018 Tentstake Ministries