To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

What a year!  We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.

cartoon529-2Be warned, this is a looooong post.  But we hope you enjoy a quick tour back through this most wonderful year with some of Hector’s favorite images.

Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.

We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).

Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.

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The Okanagan Valley

Okanagan 7We left Fraser Lake and this time really really headed south. We were on route to the Okanagan Valley for the last leg of our trip before crossing the border into the U.S. And as we entered the region, a few vineyards appeared here and there to entice us.

Okanagan 6Okanagan 1Okanagan 3Okanagan 5Okanagan 2The weather was still cloudy with some rain. So Angel got to wear her raincoat which we bought back in Maine on the first year of our walkabout. She really hates it, so we only put it on her when it is raining hard. But she looks so adorable in it!

We were now in a much more developed area of the country, with cattle ranches and farms along the way. Our plan was to break up the drive into two days, so we stopped to spend the night at the Walmart in Prince George.

The next day we drove to the Emerald Bay Campground, one of two campgrounds that are part of the Green Lake Territorial Park.

The campground was a bit of a drive from the main road, and we got a bit confused on the way there, but a nice lady drove up to us and helped us find our way. We always meet nice people in Canada.

Green Lake has a lot of lakeside homes around it, definitely a change from previous areas. And there were cows wandering about.

Fortunately, there was a cattle grate in front of the campground, so there were no cattle in the campground and there were lots of spaces available. This was the end of the season for the area.

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On the Yellowhead Highway

2015-09-13 at 15-27-08Our departure from Hyder and on the Yellowhead Highway was delayed a bit due to the search by Canada customs officials. But we also uncovered something very interesting. The previous night we heard a really loud bang that to me sounded like an avalanche gun. But one of the women at customs informed us that it was actually an earthquake in the fjord. It was a fairly small earthquake but one very close to the surface thus the loud bang.

2015-09-11 at 16-11-59We have heard about a couple of earthquakes while in Alaska, some of which fellow RVers actually felt. Ay, ay, ay. But we had other concerns – our inverter was still not working, and on our way into Hyder, the check engine light had flashed for a couple of brief moments. I wondered if Island Girl was trying to tell us that she was tired and needed a break. As we left Hyder, however, Island Girl seemed ok (except for no inverter).

It was another cloudy day and we went back on the Cassiar heading towards “civilization”, hoping to take care of Island Girl’s issues on the way. And the town most likely to be able to provide the services we needed was Prince George.

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But Prince George was a long way out so we were planning to take a couple of days to get there. Shortly after leaving Stewart we turned on to the Yellowhead Highway, and drove through several First Nation villages that are known for their totem poles: Gitwangak, Kitseguecla and Kispiox.

We just had to stop to look at the totem poles. Many of them were antique totem poles and some were in their original locations. Totem poles originally served as emblems of a family or clan and their kinship system, and symbols of their accomplishments, adventures, stories, rights and perogatives.

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Hyder, Alaska

Hyder 12Our main reason for visiting Hyder, Alaska was to see more bears. There are two salmon runs in Hyder, which is at the head of the Portland Canal, a 90-mile fjord. Salmon come up the ocean to the fjord and up the Salmon River to Fish Creek to spawn. And the bears frequent the creek to feed on the salmon.

Hyder 13Hyder 63The U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manage a viewing platform that was built over the creek, the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area, that allows visitors to watch the bears safely (for both visitors and bears) as the bears feed on the salmon.

We had initially planned to be in Hyder earlier in the season to catch the end of the salmon run but we took our time further north and got there quite late. But we also wanted to visit Hyder to see the Salmon Glacier, the world’s largest road accessible glacier.

Hyder 9Hyder 3We spent the morning walking around Stewart with Angel. It is quite a charming little town, with restored as well as rustic old buildings, and a number of shops and restaurants. The little grocery store there, Harbor Lights, offers great free Wi-Fi which we of course took advantage of.

We walked Angel over a boardwalk that was built over a large wetlands area, a very nice little walk.

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South to Alaska

Cassiar 13After our amazing experience watching the Aurora Borealis, we continued south to Alaska headed for our final stop in the 49th state, Hyder.

Cassiar 3We ventured up Canol Road for a little bit. This road was built in the 1940’s to provide access to oil fields in the Northwest Territory and is supposed to be a beautiful drive over the Lapie Canyon, but is not recommended for RVs. But we did get to check out the interpretive panels and some pretty rusty vehicles that were used in the construction of the road.

Cassiar 6Cassiar 7It was cloudy once again, we were definitely in a rainy period. So although there are picturesque lakes and mountains along the road, the mountains were not always visible due to the clouds.Cassiar 10Cassiar 8Cassiar 12 Continue reading

Day 5 on the Alaska Highway

Road to Watson008Day 5 on the Alaska Highway for us was also our seventh driving day since we entered Canada two weeks ago. It has already been an amazing trip and we were headed for another well-known place, Watson Lake, home of the World Famous Signpost Forest.Road to Watson031

Road to Watson034Day 5 driving recap:

Road Name (s): B.C. Highway 97 to Yukon Highway 1

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Excellent

Miles Today: 135

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1341

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 613

Driving Time: 2:45

Road to Watson001This continues to be a very scenic area of the highway. The Liard River flows alongside the road for a long ways, at times visible, others hidden behind forest. There are also views of wetland areas and tributaries of the river. The forest and the mountains complete the views.Road to Watson020 Continue reading

The Liard Hot Springs

Liard004This was a very short driving day because we planned to stop at Liard River to visit the hot springs. The Liard River Hot Springs are apparently a must stop on the Alaska Highway. And, of course, it was still my birthday week.Liard003

It was pretty chilly the last couple of days at Muncho Lake, so the thought of a soak in some hot springs was quite appealing.

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On Beautiful Muncho Lake

Muncho041Muncho044We spent the next few days on beautiful Muncho Lake, combining relaxing and enjoying the view with some driving tours, some hiking, some kayaking, and, of course, photography.Muncho043

At 7 ½ miles long, Muncho Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in the Canadian Rockies. The Terminal Range west of the lake is the northernmost section of the Rocky Mountains. These and the mountains east of the lake, the Sentinel Range, climb to 7,000 feet. The views of the lake framed by these mountains are spectacular.Muncho045Muncho016

Since it was raining and we did not see any wildlife during our drive to the lake, we doubled back in the car once it cleared for another opportunity to spot some wildlife. We drove back as far as some spots that are known for wildlife and had much better luck.Muncho002Muncho009 Continue reading

On to Muncho Lake

AK Hwy Day 4010Day 3 on the Alaska Highway is a record for us, four driving days in a row. Although it is not the way we usually prefer to travel, there are a lot of miles to cover. But we plan to slow down at this point as we head on to Muncho Lake.AK Hwy Day 4001 Continue reading

Day 2 on The Alaska Highway

Alcan Day 3 7Yesterday was another driving day, day 2 on the Alaska Highway and our third in a row. We are moving through at a slightly faster pace than we originally planned at this point. It is great to have that flexibility.

Alcan Day 3 1Alcan Day 3 2Last evening, before we stopped at the rest stop for the night, we noticed a sign about construction work down the road. Since our motor home has a rear radiator, we read that it is possible for rocks to get propelled into it causing damage. Hector planned to install a rock screen to shield the radiator and had already purchased mesh wire for the job. So this morning he installed it. And, while he was installing it, it began to rain lightly. But he perservered.Alcan Day 3 3

Tip of the day: Attach wire mesh as a rock screen for rear radiators.

Cut the wire mesh to appropriate size, attach it to chassis or other hard metal brackets using zip ties.Alcan Day 3 4

Today’s driving recap:

Road Name: BC Hwy 97, Alaska Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Relatively smooth.  Occasional gravel breaks or rough patches.

Miles Today: 271

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1068

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 343

Driving Time: 5:30

Alcan Day 3 5Alcan Day 3 12The scenery changed slightly with more forested areas with lots of pine trees and hillier terrain with mountains in the distance. There are some steep grades in this part of the drive, reducing our average speed. We spotted our first bears today, all three were black bears, and black in color as well.Alcan Day 3 14Alcan Day 3 11

The first gave us our closest look, he crossed the road and then walked along the side of the road for quite a while. He had quite a thick, wet, shiny coat, and no doubt had taken a dip in the nearby river. And now he was munching away at some greens.Alcan Day 3 15

Alcan Day 3 13The others went back into the forest when they saw Island Girl approach.Alcan Day 3 9

The morning rain shifted to cloudy conditions with some very pretty clouds, then to a sunny, warm afternoon. I was not expecting it to be this warm, so it was a nice surprise.Alcan Day 3 8Alcan Day 3 6

Alcan Day 3 18We stopped at the Trapper’s Den Wildlife Emporium just before Fort Nelson. The shop sells native crafts, moccasins, mukluks, fur hats, and lots of other stuff.  Alcan Day 3 21Alcan Day 3 19Alcan Day 3 20

They even had camo lingerie (Wilderness Dreams!). It is a small but cute store with a very nice proprietor. She was talking to a couple of other locals in the store, and their accents were very Fargo-esque.Alcan Day 3 16

Next we noticed a Tim Hortons next to the gas station where we filled our tank, so we stopped to eat lunch and use their Wi-Fi.Alcan Day 3 23

Alcan Day 3 22And then continued to the Fort Nelson Visitor Center. Just across the way is the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. The theme of the museum is transportation, and just in front of the entrance there is a monument commemorating the workers who helped build the Alaska Highway.Alcan Day 3 55

Alcan Day 3 56Then you enter the first building and oh boy, there is almost too much stuff at this museum. Pioneer artifacts, taxidermy displays, including an albino moose cow.Alcan Day 3 38

A display of artifacts from the Alaska Highway construction, antique telephones, a small general store display, antique signs, old radios, maps, an antique jukebox and more.

Alcan Day 3 51Alcan Day 3 59Outside there are all kinds of antique trucks and antique heavy equipment used in the building of the Alaska Highway as well as some fabulous vintage cars in a large garage on the property. And lots of license plates and tools.Alcan Day 3 54

Last, but not least, there are several buildings from the era of the Alaskan Highway, mostly there to display more artifacts – a typical house, a church, a log cabin.Alcan Day 3 32

Several young men were around to open the buildings and provide information about the artifacts inside. All for CA$5.

I think it must be tough to be a place “on the way to something else”. And so the people here make a heartfelt effort to provide visitors with the opportunity to connect with some of their history. Good for them.

We left Fort Nelson planning to spend the night at a rest stop about 50 miles away. Everyone we spoke with and everything we read said that this next part of the drive was the prettiest on the Alaska Highway, and there would be lots of wildlife.Alcan Day 3 10

As we left, we encountered some steep climbs and the mountains grew nearer. We climbed to the summit of Steamboat Mountain at 3,500 feet with beautiful views.Alcan Day 3 60

alcanday3065The first rest area we reached had a motor home sitting in the one spot with a view so we continued to the next one. There was a fifth wheel in the next overview but it had a wide area open with views so we stayed there.  A beautiful spot.Alcan Day 3 62

alcanday3066Alcan Day 3 63We settled in and watched a bright red sun setting in the sky. We know the best is yet to come.

~ BrendaAlcan Day 3 64