Day 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.
Day 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
This 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.Continue reading →
This 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.
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.
We 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.
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.
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.Continue reading →
Day 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.Continue reading →
Yesterday 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.
Last 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.
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.
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
The 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.
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.
The others went back into the forest when they saw Island Girl approach.
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.
We 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.
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.
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.
And 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.
Then 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.
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.
Outside 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
We settled in and watched a bright red sun setting in the sky. We know the best is yet to come.
Today we crossed the border into British Columbia and arrived at Dawson Creek, the location of mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. From there, it will be about 1,200 more miles to the border of Alaska but we have reached a milestone that we have been looking forward to for some time.
But before all of that, Hector spent part of the morning vacuuming glass and rocks from the car and making a temporary cover for our now non-existent sunroof. Fortunately, it is a small sunroof. Delivery of a replacement part will take about a week, so we plan to schedule the repair in Anchorage, just over a month from now.
And we are thankful for Grande Prairie, where we found supplies to deal with our broken sunroof. This booming city’s economy is based on canola, cereal grains, fescue, honey, livestock, forestry, and oil and gas. There is a Walmart, a Costco, a Home Deport, several large grocery stores, several car dealerships, a mall and who knows what else. So it is a good spot for provisioning and/or taking care of other business.
After Hector installed our “new sunroof”, we had a short drive to the town of Beaverlodge, a regional center for grain transportation, seed cleaning and seed production. Wheat, barley and oats are the main crops in the area.Continue reading →
We left Cochrane and our friends all too soon. But we have a long drive towards the Alaska Highway and are focused on making good time.
As we continue northward, I thought I would write a bit about our choice of route to Alaska.
There are two main highways across Canada towards Alaska – the Alaska Highway and the Cassiar Highway from the West. The Cassiar ultimately meets up with the Alaska Highway.
There are four main roads leading to those highways. Both the Eastern Access Route through the Alberta plains and the Eastern Mountain Route through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta lead to the Alaska Highway. The Western Access Route through Vancouver to Whistler leads to the Cassiar Highway. And the Central Route through central British Columbia can lead to either the Alaska or the Cassiar Highway. Of course, there are many approaches that you can take from the States and Canada leading to these routes.
Finally, the Marine Highway from British Columbia through the Inside Passage in Alaska is a great alternative. Ferry service provides access to several towns that are only accessible by sea or plane and stops in several towns on mainland Alaska.
Why did we choose the Eastern Access Route through the Alberta plains?
We crossed the border into Canada at Piegan / Cardston, having driven from Glacier National Park in Montana (Piegan is on the Montana side in the Blackfoot Nation, Cardston is on the Alberta side). Our first Canada stop was Cochrane, located on the Northwest of Calgary, where we were planning to meet friends.
In preparation, we ate all of our produce, made sure dog food was in original bags, got our Canadian insurance cards (our regular insurance covers Canada but they provide special cards), got our passports and Angel’s rabies certificate out and took inventory of food and liquor in case of questions.
It was a fairly uneventful crossing. The officer asked these questions:
Was there anything we had with us that we intended to leave in Canada?
Where were we going?
How long did we plan to stay?
Did we have guns, or defensive weapons such as mace or pepper spray?
Did we have liquor on board – how much?
Had we been to Canada before?
We explained that we live in the motorhome and told him we had one and a half cases of wine plus open liquor bottles but were not charged duties. This is the third year we cross the border with liquor – the first we were charged duties – but even paying duties was cheaper than buying liquor in Canada. The other years we were not charged any duties on our liquor although we were well over the small allowance.
I am going to include a few statistics on each post during our journey to Alaska, if there are any other ideas or items of particular interest, let us know.
Road Name: Highway 2 and secondary roads for our last thirty miles across Calgary
Road Type: Smooth two-lane for the first 50 miles (border to Fort McLeod), changing to four-lane divided highway all the way to Calgary.
Total Miles travelled today: 183 from Canadian border: 183
I get stressed out before driving across the border to or from the U.S. in the RV. Not because we have anything to hide, but because of some horror stories I’ve heard about people who presumably also had nothing to hide. So before driving across the Canada/ U.S. border, I always prepare thoroughly. This time I gathered passports, paperwork for the car and RV, Angel’s rabies certificate, and a list of open and unopened liquor.
In the past we’ve crossed with zero produce nor raw meat, but we had a few vegetables left and decided to bring them and declare them. Our sense from various sources of information was that no fruit is allowed whatsoever, but some vegetables might be ok.
I’d also read that dog food wasn’t allowed in or out of the U.S./Canada border. So when we bought some dog food in Canada, I asked the proprietor of the pet food store about that. He said that the important thing was to keep the package to show what the ingredients are and where the food was made. But he didn’t know which specific foods were not allowed.
We crossed the border at a pretty quiet area, Chief Mountain, which is between Watertown National Park and Glacier National Park. The customs officer did in fact ask about produce, raw meats and dog food. We showed him our produce, and he confiscated all of it except for onions, garlic and cilantro. For some reason he even took our rosemary. So maybe he was going to make a fabulous dish with rosemary that night 🙂
Hector handed him the dog food bag. And the officer told us that the two ingredients currently not allowed are goat and lamb. Apparently because those were responsible for an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease years ago. Good to know.
He never asked about liquor nor about the rabies certificate. And he of course asked about guns, which require proper documentation.
So a couple of tips from this border crossing are:
It’s best to avoid taking ANY produce or raw meats across
If you must take dog food across the border, keep all bags or containers
Always be honest when answering questions because if you declare something that’s not allowed they will confiscate it or you might be refused entry, but if you don’t declare something not allowed, you may get fined or worse
And the resource with the most comprehensive information I’ve found to this point is – www.ezbordercrossing.com. This website includes a separate page for every port of entry between Canada and the U.S. And for each port of entry it contains information about border wait times, days when high traffic is anticipated, closures (for example, the Chief Mountain border crossing closes in Winter), telephone numbers and more.
Being better informed relieves some of the stress. And I have to say that every customs officer we’ve encountered these last two years has been extremely courteous. But check with me next summer when we’ll cross the border into and out of the U.S a couple of more times.