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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Chasing the Aurora Borealis

Kluane Aurora 13Our 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.

Kluane Aurora 4We 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.Kluane Aurora 5

Kluane Aurora 2As we left Haines, we drove along the Chilkat River, the other beautiful river in town. So much beautiful nature there.Kluane Aurora 1

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.Kluane Aurora 8

Kluane Aurora 16Kluane Aurora 6The 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.

Kluane Aurora 10Kluane Aurora 9Some of the peaks that were bare when we drove into Haines were now covered in snow. Winter is coming. Continue reading

Tombstone Territorial Park

tombstone 28We 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.

tombstone 2Fortunately, 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.

tombstone 1tombstone 6Alaska 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

The signs are a little scary

tombstone 7After 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.tombstone 27 Continue reading

Dawson City

Dawson City 8To the yukon 36As 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.

Dawson City 1But 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.

Dawson City 2This 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.Dawson City 4

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.Dawson City 3

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 City 6

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.

Dawson City 5Their Visitor Center, as almost all Visitor Centers in Canada we have visited, offers excellent Wi-Fi for free as well as tons of information.

Dawson City 13Dawson City 12As 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.Dawson City 14 Continue reading

Day 10 on the Alaska Highway

Haines to Cottonwood001We spent part of this day on a hunt for a mouse. Yes, we seem to have another mouse. Yikes! We found a nest and have put out “humane” traps. And we are heading out on day 10 on the Alaska Highway.

Haines to Cottonwood003Haines to Cottonwood010Day 10 driving recap:

Road Name (s): Yukon Highway 1

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Starts out pretty smooth with some dips, bumps and patches.  Overall not bad.

Miles Today: 84

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1838

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 1034

Driving Time: 2:15

Haines to Cottonwood015The above includes an extra 30 miles from our campground back to Haines Junction. The Haines Highway is an excellent road. Back on the Alaska Highway there are more views of the spectacular Kluane Range. Haines to Cottonwood004

Haines to Cottonwood014

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Haines Junction

Haines Junction010The morning was really windy, no chance of taking the kayaks out on Dezadeash Lake. And so we hung out inside the RV in the morning.

Haines Junction007Then we headed for a very short hike out by Kathleen Lake with Angel. It really is quite a beautiful lake, but there are lots of warnings about the wind picking up rather quickly. The hike is just a ½ mile mostly on a boardwalk but you can continue around the lake at the end of the boardwalk.Haines Junction008

Haines Junction005We were hoping to publish a blog post, so we had a plan A and a plan B. Plan A was to stop at the nearby Kathleen Lake Lodge and ask if we could use their WiFi, plan B was to continue another fifteen miles to the Visitor Center in Haines Junction and use theirs.Haines Junction001 Continue reading

Day 9 on the Alaska Highway

To Haines Junction025It was raining when we left Whitehorse on day 9 on the Alaska Highway. Our 9th day driving out of 14 on the Alaska Highway, and our 19th day in Canada.To Haines Junction001

Day 9 driving recap:

Road Name (s): Yukon Highway 1

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: a few frost heaves and patches, becoming more frequent frost heaves just a few miles past Whitehorse, then several long gravel breaks due to road construction, smoothing out a bit just before Haines Junction

Miles Today: 130

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1754

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 985

Driving Time: 3:15

To Haines Junction008To Haines Junction003To Haines Junction010The beginning of the drive was not especially scenic, but of course we are pretty spoiled by now. And we soon had to slow down due to the road conditions. Continue reading

Whitehorse, Yukon

Whitehorse001Whitehorse020This day we had a really short drive into Whitehorse, Yukon so we took it pretty easy in the morning. We really liked the Marsh Lake Yukon Government Campground, although there were quite a few mosquitoes there. Fortunately, we were able to get by with some natural mosquito repellent, and the campfire helped. We have several levels of repellent, from natural to frighteningly chemical.

Whitehorse002Whitehorse003Day 8 driving recap:

Road Name (s): Yukon Highway 1

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Excellent as this was mostly in “suburban” Whitehorse

Miles Today: 31

Miles driven from Canadian border: 1624

Miles on the Alaska Highway: 887.4Whitehorse060Whitehorse088Whitehorse087

Driving Time: :50

Whitehorse is the largest town in these parts. It is both the capital of the Yukon and home to over two thirds of Yukon’s 35k human residents. In the Yukon Territory there are significantly more moose than there are people!

It is a great place to refuel and restock. On the way in, we stopped at Integra Tire, which provides free sani-dump service with a fill-up. We got gas, dumped, got a water fill, a propane fill and a free bag of ice. All in one place, very convenient. But they are a very busy operation so it took quite a while.

Then we headed to Walmart, where we were clearly not the first to think about overnighting.   It was pretty jam packed with RV’s. I honestly have never seen so many in one parking lot.

But we found a good spot and settled in. It is a great location right in town and once again, they had WiFi and it was working pretty well when we arrived in the middle of the afternoon. This Walmart actually has a sign outside indicating where RVs are allowed to park overnight – amazing.

Next stop was the Visitor Center, a beautifully decorated building with lots of great information. There are quite a few museums and other activities in town, and this is the place to get the details on all of them. They also have really good WiFi.

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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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Our first Canada Stop

calgary002calgary003We 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.calgary004

calgary005calgary006calgary007It 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.calgary001

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

Driving Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

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