After our amazing experience watching the Aurora Borealis, we continued south to Alaska headed for our final stop in the 49th state, Hyder.
We 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.
It 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.Continue reading →
We made it to Whitehorse in time for Angel’s appointment. She has now been to veterinarians in ten states and one Canadian territory. Yikes! But we were anxious to leave the city to a more remote destination hoping to catch the Northern Lights yet again.
Our destination was a territorial park by Squanga Lake which we had seen on our way north and looked like a pretty setting for watching the Aurora.
Alaska Driving Day 15 Recap
Road Name: Alaska Highway
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Generally good with frost heaves west of Whitehorse
Miles Today: 211
Driving Time: 4:15
Total Miles in Canada: 3090
Total Miles since entering Canada: 5454
We arrived to find the campground almost full, but we got the last campsite that fit our size RV!
Squanga Lake was quite lovely and it was a clear, still day. There was a boat launch that was a nice place to walk Angel to and was also a great spot for photography.
And the forecast was for a stronger Aurora Borealis that night than the previous night. Yay!
Usually, we are on the lookout for the Northern Lights just around midnight. The campground was very forested, so I decided to walk out and take a peek around 11 p.m. And I saw lights beginning to flash across the sky.
Our original plan was to head to Hyder, Alaska after Haines, with a stop in Whitehorse but we made a few changes. We were now chasing the Aurora Borealis. There was a forecast for a strong Aurora on the evening of the day we left Haines.
We had to head out on the Haines Highway once again, since we made quite a detour to see Haines, which was totally worth it. Leaving quirky Haines was definitely bittersweet but driving through the spectacular Haines Highway a second time was certainly not going to be a hardship.
As we left Haines, we drove along the Chilkat River, the other beautiful river in town. So much beautiful nature there.
We were now leaving Alaska once again and crossing back into Canada. Going through customs was quite easy, with just a couple of the standard questions and a wave through. For some reason, it is still always stressful for me.
The weather continued to be cloudy but the views from the Haines Highway were still beautiful. We had a slightly better view of the mountains this time around and the clouds were much prettier.
Some of the peaks that were bare when we drove into Haines were now covered in snow. Winter is coming. Continue reading →
We left the Dempster and headed back to Alaska. Our next to last stop in Alaska was going to be Haines, a town we first visited on our last trip there. On that trip, our cruise stopped in Skagway, but we had our hearts set on seeing eagles, so we took a ferry to Haines, where we rafted on the Chilkat River and saw about 30 eagles. It was quite a memorable experience.
We split the drive to Haines into two days, first traveling on the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse, our third stop there.
On the way, we crossed the mighty Yukon River that was once the travelled by sternwheelers transporting miners and their supplies.
We stopped at the Montague Roadhouse Historic Site. A log cabin ruin that used to be a hotel, bar and restaurant, whose walls are still fairly intact. As I stood inside the structure, I could feel the energy of the stories that have been a part of this place.
And in honor of the old roadhouses, we stopped at a present-day roadhouse, the Moose Creek Roadhouse. It has a gift shop, and a restaurant, and lots of folksy art about the place.Continue reading →
Even for us, it was an ambitious plan. We were going to drive 400 miles roundtrip on a sketchy gravel road, the Dempster Highway, north to the Arctic Circle and back to our campground. The Dempster is the only road in Canada that crosses the Arctic Circle, so it was a chance of a lifetime. I have to admit I had visions of sleeping in the car. But my more rational self figured that we would get back sometime around midnight.
The three of us headed out at 5a.m. with lots of food and water. It was still dark and there was a light fog in the air. As we reached Two Moose Lake, which had quickly become one of our favorite spots, light began to filter through the fog and we were rewarded by one of the most breathtaking sunrises we have ever seen. I actually had hoped to see a moose (or two) at Two Moose Lake but this was even better.
We stayed in Dawson City a couple of extra days waiting for the rain to subside before heading to our next destination, Tombstone Territorial Park in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The road to the park, the Dempster Highway, is a gravel road with a terrible reputation. So ideally we wanted to drive there when the road was dry. But ultimately we decided to move on even though it had rained the previous night and the road was sure to still be wet.
Fortunately, it was only 44 miles on the Dempster Highway to our campground. The road was not as bad as we expected. In fact many times we asked others about it, their answer was “it’s not that bad”. That is because the overall perception is that “the Dempster” is horrible from beginning to end. And that is not true. There are bad sections, very bad sections and the “not that bad” sections with maybe a couple of “hey, pretty good” sections thrown in.
Alaska Day driving day 12 recap:
Road Name: Klondike Highway from Dawson City
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Pretty good
Road Name: The Dempster Highway
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Well-graded gravel road with minimal washboard, but plenty of potholes, very muddy after a rain
Miles Today: 83 (includes a drive back to town from our campground for gas)
Driving Time: 2 hours
Total Miles in Canada: 2217
Total Miles since entering Canada: 4405
The signs are a little scary
After arriving at our campground, we had to clean up our car, the Coquí, which was covered in mud and rocks. Fortunately, we had covered the windshield with a tarp, which helped just a little bit. Our collection of mud-covered rags keeps growing.Continue reading →
As we waited to board the ferry into Dawson City, Hector met the owner of Klondike River Distillery. He distills vodka off the grid, the only such distillery in North America according to him, and infuses each bottle with a bit of gold.
But what was serendipitous was that Dorian’s “day” job is as a ranger at Tombstone National Park, our next destination! So he gave Hector an update on the fall colors. We had been concerned about driving up the Dempster Highway only to find that we were too early but he encouraged us to go and told Hector that the colors were definitely beginning.
This was a great start to our stay in this interesting town. We chose to stay in a Yukon Government Campground just outside of town. We love the Yukon Government Campgrounds, they cost 12CAD, are located in lovely natural settings and offer free firewood.
It is always a bit of a shock to our system to come out of a really natural and wild setting to a town (even a tiny one) full of people, and so staying at this peaceful forested campground just outside of town helped to keep us in balance.
We kicked off our visit by going to the Farmers Market, which was really mostly an arts and crafts market as coincidentally it was the weekend of the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival. We did buy one amazing head of lettuce though.
Dawson is a very artsy town. In addition to the arts festival, it has the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, the Dawson City Arts Society, the Dawson City Music Festival and the Yukon School of Visual Arts.
Their Visitor Center, as almost all Visitor Centers in Canada we have visited, offers excellent Wi-Fi for free as well as tons of information.
As with all of these northern towns, from the tiniest to the largest, flowers are planted everywhere and maintained beautifully until the very last moment that they can possibly survive. Really the flowers are just spectacular.Continue reading →
After our awesome time in Denali National Park, we drove east to the Yukon. We had ambitious plans to see some fall colors and more wildlife before our drive south to the lower 48, crossing borders a couple of more times. So this was a time to move a bit more quickly.
Our next stop was Fairbanks, where we stayed for a couple of days. We had quite a few chores: washing the car and the RV, laundry and groceries as well as an appointment with a veterinarian for follow-up tests and a checkup for Angel.
It rained heavily during our brief stay in Fairbanks and we just did not have energy left to explore, so we did not really see the town. Next time.
Alaska Day driving day 9 recap
Road Name: Parks Highway
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Generally good, expansion joints are bumpy and there are a few frost heaves
Miles Today: 156
Driving Time: 3:30
Total Miles in Alaska: 1913
Total Miles since entering Canada: 3907
Continuing to Tok, we drove through the small towns of Nenana and Delta Junction to check them out.
Nenana is currently best known for its Nenana Ice Classic, a lottery that requires entrants to predict the time, to the closest minute, when they think the winter ice on the Tanana River will break up.
A large striped tripod is placed on the frozen river and connected to a clock and the moment that the tripod moves and stops the clock is the winning time. Last year the pot was about $330,000CAD, serous money! But it is extremely popular so they had 22 winners.
Delta Junction is the official end of the Alaska Highway, so we had to have the obligatory photo there. And I just had to get my photo by two of Alaska’s giant mosquitoes.
Yesterday, on the 23rd day after entering Canada, we arrived in Alaska at last! We made it, what a wonderful milestone.
We are happy on so many levels, not the least of which is that we have our girl Angel with us. We were not so sure she was going to be with us after she had some medical issues last November and again in February. We had some rough times together during the past seven months, but here she is!
Alaska initially greeted us with a warm beautiful day at the Welcome to Alaska sign and we took some fun photos there. We were now on the Alaska Highway 2.
The boundary between Alaska and the Yukon is on the 141st Meridian, first described in an 1825 treaty between England and Russia. The U.S. accepted this provisional boundary in 1867 when it purchased Alaska.
There is a clear cut through the forest as far as the eye can see to designate the boundary, something we first learned about last year. The treaty with Canada states that wherever the border is, it must be visible.
And so it is.
The Alaska Highway from the border to Delta Junction was designated the Purple Heart Trail to honor veterans. I was proud to have traveled on this road and thinking of my dad, a patriot who got a purple heart in World War II.