North to Alaska
The Alaska Highway
(Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska)
  (May 28, 2006 to June 15, 2006)

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second page (if there is one).

Our Alaska adventure started when we left Great Falls, Montana on May 28. As we embarked on this journey we had no idea what was ahead of us. Surely, it wasn't as scary as the early settlers and pioneers who made such journeys, but we still felt a sense of excitement, and maybe even some dread, as we head off by ourselves for a more than 2,000 miles drive through the Canadian wilderness to Alaska. My plan was to write these travelogs as a daily journal and hope they may be helpful for anyone who uses them as a guide for their journey to Alaska. It is, after all, the RVers greatest journey.

All mileages are approximations from mapping software and will not add up to the 1,422 miles of the Alaska Highway. The road has changed over the years. Curves have been straightened and hills have been leveled. In some cases, original mileposts have been kept, but they are historical mile markers and don't reflect the actual mileage. And I'm not one who will always remember to log actual driving miles, so I won't even attempt to start doing that. I did, however, reset one of the trip odometers to zero when we got to Dawson Creek, so I'll post the mileage when we get to the end of the highway in Delta Junction.


There are lots of things you can do to try and protect your rig and toad. We had a rock guard installed a few years ago to protect the fan. We also have a cover for the windshield on the CR-V. For the journey to Alaska, we added a rubber mat under the windshield cover to protect against any large rocks that may hit it. Other than that, we'll roll the dice and do what most of the folks we know who have made the trip - just go and don't worry. Most folks don't do much and don't have any major problems. Others do a lot of preparation and still have problems. Not that there aren't stories about ruined radiators and broken windshields. Of course, if we have some kind of major problem that I could have prevented with some kind of guard, then so be it, and I'll document it in the prologue at the end of our journey.

May 28 - Lethbridge, Alberta (182 miles)

Road Conditions: The road up to the border was I-15 and it was in great shape. The road to Lethbridge was AB 4 and it was also in great shape.

Campground: Wal-Mart

The weather turned cold and wet the last couple of days we were in Great Falls with heavy snow predicted in the mountains and some snow predicted down to 4,000 feet. We were sitting somewhere around 3,500 to 3,800 feet. Although we and the Winckels and Hirths were parting company for a while, we all planned to head to the border together on Sunday, May 28. They were going as far as Lethbridge and we were going on to Calgary. Luckily, we awoke to a cold, but dry, morning and decided to hook up the cars and hit the road. The drive to the border was about 122 miles and our Alaska odyssey began.

Excitement at the border crossing

We had agreed that we would go through the border first given that we had the longer drive up to Calgary. Only one booth was open, but the line was short, only about five cars in front of us. I approached the booth and the border guard asked me four questions:

1).  Where are you from?

2).  How many in your party?

3).  Do you have any alcohol on board?

4).  Do you have any firearms or weapons?

I answered his questions and he said "have a nice day" and waved us through. 

The Winckels were next and got pretty much the same routine.
The excitement started just as Karl was pulling out of the booth and we heard John on the CB say that someone told him he was spewing fluid out of his engine. It turned out to be a roughly two inch slit in a hose coming out of the engine. The Hirths knew it would take them a bit longer to get through because they had to register a shotgun they had on board. The paperwork was all filled out and ready to go. The Canadian guard asked John if he had registered the gun with US Customs. We all saw the sign for U.S. Customs, but there was no place to park a 40' motorhome to go in to the office. The Canadian guard suggested John get his gun registered with U.S. Customs lest he may run into some trouble bringing it back into the U.S. So John pulled his motorhome out and around to the U.S. side. It was there that he looked at the problem with the leaking coolant. It was raining and cold as John got under the rig only to find that he could just barely reach the hose, which was about half way up on the engine. He had some tape called Magic Wrap that forms a solid rubber bond and he managed to tape the slit on the hose. He asked us if we knew how hard it was to wrap tape around a hose with just the fingertips of one hand. It took about two hours to get it fixed and, of course, by now there was a fairly long line getting into Canada. So John pulled into the line and waited until he cleared and then had to take the paperwork for the shotgun into the building.

In the meantime, Karl and I had pulled the rigs across the lanes on the Canadian side into an area where there were some trucks. We didn't know it was supposed to be for trucks who were getting inspected or having paperwork completed. Diane and I decided to hang with Karl and Fran and wait for the Hirths to get across into Canada.  There was nothing we could have done to help other than lend moral support. This was one of those things that happens when and where you don't want it to happen.  Luckily, John did a great job patching the hose and we made it the final hour to the Wal-Mart in Lethbridge where we did some shopping and John got a well deserved meal at Eastside Mario's. I was very impressed with how John handled the problem. We are glad we stayed. It changed our plans a bit, but the great thing about living this lifestyle is the flexibility it offers. I joked with them that now they'll only be nine days behind us instead of ten.

On our way back from dinner we met Roderick and Carmen Leighton who had pulled into the Wal-Mart lot in their fairly new Fleetwood Revolution. They were returning from an extended stay in the U.S. and returning from Tampa to their home in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta (what a cool name for a town). They owned a car dealership in Rocky Mountain House. We chatted for a while and then bid them safe travels.

May 29 - Edmonton, Alberta (323 miles)

Road conditions:
The road to Edmonton was AB 2 and it was a nice four lane, high speed highway.

Campground: Wal-Mart

We filled up at a Tim Horton's north of Calgary and diesel was .899 per liter, which translated to about $3.06 per gallon given the current exchange rate (which changes all the time).

The Hirths and Winckels were only going as far as Calgary to get ready to pick up John and Roberta's daughter and boyfriend who would be spending a week with them in the Canadian Rockies. John had some phone calls to make to find a place to get the hose fixed on his motorhome, so we said good bye and headed out. The Leightons were leaving at the same time and would be traveling north to about half way between Calgary and Edmonton, so we traveled together for several hours, including a stop for fuel and lunch along the way.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the drive was uneventful, or so I thought. We wanted to stop in Edmonton to see the West Edmonton Mall, which is bigger than the Mall of America in Minnesota. We walked the lower level, then got something to eat, then walked the upper level.  We spent about two hours in the mall and that was just walking around, not stopping in stores.  There were two big McDonald's and two Sony stores; two food courts plus scattered food places; two movie theaters, one with an IMAX; a street, Bourbon Street, with lots of restaurants; an ice rink; a large, very nice 18 hole mini golf; a huge water park with a wave pool and lots of slides and a 106' bungee jump; an amusement park; lots of arcades; and more. What an incredible mall.

We thought we would spend the night in the mall parking lot, but there were "no overnight parking" signs in one lot, and we didn't feel comfortable in the lot we parked when we went into the mall. So we moved a bit further north to a Wal-Mart where we felt more at home. It was then that I realized that our drive to Edmonton was not uneventful. We knew the stones were flying as we were driving up as could hear them hit. But we didn't see any chips or cracks, at least not until we got to the Wal-Mart and saw that we had a chip in the passenger side windshield right at the strip separating the two sides. From the chip came a crack that extended about six inches to the right and then about four inches down. This was a bit disheartening because my expectation was that we might come back with chips or a crack, but we hadn't even gotten up to the start of the Alaska Highway. We went four years with not even a chip and now we've had something happen to a windshield every year since 2004, and all out west of the Mississippi. We seem to have bad luck when we are out west.

May 30 - Grande Prairie, Alberta (283 miles)

Road conditions: We took two roads to Grand Prairie. The first road out of the Wal-Mart was CA 16A, which connected us with CA 16. It was a four lane highway and in good shape. We turned off onto AB 43 for the ride to Grand Prairie.
For the most part the road was very good with some spots that narrowed down to two lanes with smooth and rough spots, although not for very long stretches.

Campground: Wal-Mart

We stopped in Valleyview to fuel up at an Esso station we read about. Diesel was $1.039 (about 3.58/gal) and I was about to let the guy start fueling when I noticed a station nearby with a sign that said diesel at .969 (about 3.34/gal), so we went there instead. That saved us about $14 on the fillup. Whew!  Glad we saw that other station.

We had a nice drive from Edmonton today. The weather was beautiful, except for a few rain showers we drove through as we approached Grand Prairie. We probably could have made it to Dawson Creek, which is the start of the Alaska Highway, but decided to stick to our plan to spend the night at a Wal-mart and head into Dawson Creek in the morning. We're hoping to get into a campground that has an RV wash so I can wash the motorhome as it is absolutely filthy right now thanks to the rain and dust.

As usual, there are a few other RVs in the parking lot and we got to chat with two couples who are also heading up to Alaska. They were family and traveling together. We chatted about road conditions and I shared some information I've received from folks already up in Alaska. I printed out a bunch of stuff for them to look over and then we wished them safe travels.

May 31 to June 01 - Dawson Creek, British Columbia (79 miles)

Road conditions: We continued on AB 43 up to the British Columbia border. The road was two lanes and there were many rough spots. However, once we crossed into BC, the road became BC 2 and was smooth asphalt.

Campground: We chose to stay at the Northern Lights RV Park.
It's an okay park, but nothing special. The Newmar caravan stayed there in 2002. The sites were gravel pullthrus with full hookups and 30 amp service. However, they did have three high speed internet connections available 24x7 in a small building. There are other parks in town. Alahart is a Passport America park, but the owner had told me she didn't take reservations because the park is usually pretty full with long time tenants. We didn't even consider it. Tubby's was sort of the same with lots of long time tenants. The book, Travelers Guide to Alaskan Camping, by Mike and Teri Church, said that the Mile 0 park is probably the nicest park in Dawson Creek. We drove through the park and would agree it is the nicest. However, they had only a few full hookup sites. Most sites were just water and electric. So we chose Northern Lights and were happy with our two day stay there.

It was a short drive, so we took our time and decided to "splurge" on an Egg McMuffin breakfast at the McDonald's in the Wal-Mart. We very rarely ever walk into a McDonald's because we stay away from fast food places, so this was a treat. We arrived in Dawson Creek mid morning and got set up in our site at the Northern Lights RV Park. The motorhome was filthy, so I took the time to clean it with the California duster and get the dirt off. It actually looked pretty good once the dirt was off. I decided not to spend the money to wash it given that it was just road dirt. I know I'll definitely have to wash it after we go through the construction zones that lay ahead of us on the Alaska Highway.

We saw a fairly new Wal-Mart in town as we came in and noticed the monument for the Alaska Highway as we went around the traffic circle. The actual Mile Marker 0 is in the middle of an intersection in town. Dawson Creek is known for being the home of Mile Marker 0 and it's motto is "Where the adventure begins". The Alaska Highway was built in nine months in 1942 by some 11,000 American troops, 16,000 civilians from Canada and the United States, and 7,000 pieces of equipment. The highway was born as a result of Canada and the U.S. determining that in order to secure North America there needed to be a way to transport military goods and material from the continental U.S. to Alaska. That meant building a highway some 1,500 miles long through untamed wilderness in Canada and Alaska.

Before the highway construction began, Dawson Creek was a small town with about 600 people. When American troops started to arrive, the town's population grew to over 10,000 people instantly. On November 20, 1942, the "Alcan" Highway was dedicated at mile marker 1061 (known as Soldier's Summit). The road was actually 1,528 miles long. Today the highway is a major draw for people who are adventurous enough to want to drive its distance from Dawson Creek in British Columbia to Delta Junction in Alaska. Due to constant  upgrading and straightening of the highway, it now ends at mile marker 1422 in Delta Junction. The Alaska Highway opened to the public in 1948.

We drove over to the visitor center and art gallery for the obligatory photo in front of the Alaska Highway sign. Then we went into the art gallery to look at the work of some local artists and to view photos of the building of the highway. After that we went to the visitor center to see the one hour movie about the building of the highway. It was very interesting. One can only imagine the harsh conditions those people endured while building the highway. They had to contend with cold and wet; heat; mosquitos, mud; being far from home for months. While we were there we met a delightful couple, Jean-claude and Claudine Mezil, who lived in Dissay, France, a small village south of Paris. They were well traveled and we spoke for a while about different places we all have visited. They said they loved to travel in the United States, and we told them we felt the same about traveling in France. We certainly hope our paths will cross again someday, and we would be sure to contact them the next time we visit France.

At milepost 17.3 there was a turnoff to a loop road that led to the Kiskatinaw River Bridge. The Alaska Highway has been modified over the years and this loop road allowed us to travel a stretch on the old Alaska Highway. The bridge is a curved wooden bridge 531 feet long and is the only original timber bridge built along the highway that is still in use.

Back at the campground we met the neighbors on either side of us: George and Sandy Bickmore, who were fulltimers, and Roger and Judy Hudzinski, who lived in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Diane and I were about ready to go to dinner, so we invited them to go along with us. The Bickmores joined us at Rockwell's (the one near the Alahart Campground). We had a good time chatting and joking with the waitress. When we got back to the campground, we joined Roger and Judy and we all talked about our upcoming drive up the full length of the Alaska Highway, all 1,422 miles. The Hudzinskis were also leaving the next morning, as were we, but the Bickmores were leaving on Saturday. The chances of bumping into each other along the way were high and we all looked forward to those opportunities.

June 02 to June 03 - Fort Nelson, British Columbia (283 miles)

Road conditions:
The highway to Fort Nelson was a two lane road with shoulders. The condition of the road ranged from very smooth to pretty bumpy. Except for the sections that were loose gravel, the highway up to Fort Nelson was like many of the U.S. and state highways we've driven in the lower 48.

Campground: The lady who owned Northern Lights in Dawson Creek suggested we stay at the Westend Campground and RV Park, which was owned by a friend of hers. She said they offer a discount on fuel at a UFA (some kind of farmer's coop). We checked it out with the Church's book and it had a good rating. They had a high speed internet connection available 24x7 in the laundry room.

Fuel: We did get 10 cents a liter discount on our diesel fuel, which came to 1.06 per liter or around $3.65 per gallon.

Our stay in Dawson Creek was over and our preparations for the long journey ahead were as complete as they would be, so we pulled out of the campground on Friday morning and headed north up BC 97, the Alaska Highway. We had no idea what was ahead for the next three months, but we were excited about finally starting up the highway.

The day started out cloudy, but dry and warm. However, that changed about an hour and a half up the road when it started getting cooler and wet. We ended up driving about two thirds of the way in varying levels of rainfall from drizzle to a thunder storm. It's never much fun driving in the rain, but we've been very fortunate. In six years on the road, we have rarely driven in rain, especially heavy rain. We do tend to follow the sun.

The scenery was mostly that of a road going through the wilderness with woods on both sides of the road. When we got to about an hour, or so, from Fort Nelson, we could see mountains in the distance, a hint of things to come.

We thought we would do a few days of partial hookups rather than pay for hookups we didn't need, but the difference between a partial and full hookup site was fifty cents, so we just got the full hookup and Diane decided to wash the linens and some clothes. There really wasn't much to do in Fort Nelson. We did go to the visitor center and the Heritage Museum. The notes we had from former Alaska travelers said there was an interesting, but poor quality, film about the building of the highway. The notes were correct. The film was interesting, but the quality was poor. The small museum had a few interesting items, but was something we could have missed. However, it only cost $2 for seniors.

One of the things we still like to do from time to time is NOTHING, and that's just what we did the rest of the day. Just piddled around with some minor chores and just plain old relaxed.

June 04 - Liard Hot Springs, British Columbia (183 miles)

Road conditions: The road changed dramatically north of Fort Nelson. It started off with a posted speed of 100 kph (about 62 mph), but changed when we started climbing into the mountains. The road was paved with smooth and rough spots, and little or no shoulders in many areas. It widened and improved shortly before reaching Liard Hot Springs when the speed again was posted as 100 kph. Speeds ranged from 50 kph (about 30 mph) to 100 kph.

Campground: The Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park has 53 no hookup sites for $17 per night. When we arrived, the lady told us we could drive around and pick out a site or, if we didn't want to unhook, we could drive to the day use parking lot and park there for the night. We told her we would opt for the day use lot.

Unfortunately, the day started off on a bit of a downer when we noticed we had another stress crack on the driver side windshield. It's in almost, if not exactly, in the spot where we had a stress crack last summer. So now we have two cracked windshields. We know folks who say they won't make the drive to Alaska because they heard they'll be sure to get cracked windshields. Well, both of ours are cracked and have nothing to do with the Alaska Highway. At this point, it doesn't matter if a stone hits the windshields the rest of the way.

It is not possible to drive through mountains that are snow capped and along mountain lakes and not be in awe of the beauty. Almost immediately after turning out of the campground in Fort Nelson and onto the highway we could see what was to come as we could see a range of snow capped mountains in the distance. We eventually got to them and had some long climbs. Along the way we got to drive along Summit Lake and Muncho Lake. We finally started to see some wildlife, but only stone sheep. There were many along the highway with opportunities to get some photos as we slowed down, or stopped, to let them cross the road.

After parking the motorhome, we got into our bathing suits and walked to the hot springs. There are two springs, alpha and beta. The closer spring is alpha and is the hotter of the two. We walked up to the beta spring to check it out, but no one was there and the sign said it was up to nine feet deep. So we opted for the alpha spring. Diane and I have never been in a hot spring, so we had no idea what to expect. Well, it was hot. However, once you get used to it, the water was fantastic. It did have a slight sulfur smell, but not at all overpowering. There were lots of other folks in the water, but it wasn't crowded. We had heard you have to get there early to get a site, but I guess it's still early in the season as it wasn't crowded at all when we got there. However, we did see a stream of RVs coming in all evening, all the way up to about 9 p.m. We soaked for almost an hour and then went back to the motorhome.

Back at the motorhome, Diane was sitting outside at a picnic table when a couple, George and Corrie Laidlaw, saw our sign in the front window and asked Diane if the motorhome was hers. She said it was and they told her that they knew who we were and followed our website. They lived in Ontario, Canada, and a few years ago, they googled "Newfoundland" and one of the hits was our Roaming America website. They were planning a trip to Newfoundland and we were happy to hear they used our travelog as one of their references. We chatted for a while as they were on their way to the hot springs. What a pleasant surprise that was. Kind of made our day.

June 05 - Watson Lake, Yukon Territory (131 miles)

Road conditions: Except for a short stretch of loose gravel, the road was fine all the way to Watson Lake.

Campground: We stayed at the Downtown RV Park. As documented in the Church's book, it's just a gravel lot. However, it is walking distance to just about anything you'd want to do in town. We didn't need any hookups, so we dry camped in the back part of the campground. The lady in the office told me they had WiFi available, but only around the building. However, I was able to access the network from the motorhome, although I don't know if it was the park's network or another one in the area.

It was raining when we awoke at Liard Hot Springs which gave us a later start than we had planned, but we weren't in any hurry. We finally hit the road and continued our trek to the north. About an hour into our drive, the rain stopped and we only drove through some intermittent showers. By the time we got to Watson Lake, it was dry, but very cool.

Our goal for Watson Lake was to leave our sign in the Signpost Forest. In 1942, a homesick GI who was working on the Alaska Highway erected a sign pointing to his home in Damville, Illinois. Since then, it has been estimated that more than 42,000 license plates, road and traffic signs, and unique home-made signs have been left on posts in the Signpost Forest. We had a new sign made up by Two Crazy Ladies this past winter when we were in Quartzsite, so we nailed our old wooden sign to one of the posts in the forest for all to see.

While we were walking around the forest, we met Bill and Marilyn Heiden from Surprise, Arizona. We chatted for a while about travels and talked about a trip to Newfoundland they had planned, but didn't get to experience. It's always fun to chat with new folks about travels.

June 06 - Mukluk Annie's (172 miles)

Road conditions: Today we ran into the first construction crews on the highway. First we drove through a short distance of loose gravel on the road and a while later we had to stop and follow a pilot car for a couple of miles where they were fixing the road. It was dry, so there was no mud, but it was very dusty. For the most part, the road was good all the way to Mukluk Annie's.

Campground: Dry camped at Mukluk Annie's

Fuel: We stopped to put some fuel in the motorhome, but decided to not fill up in case the prices may be less in Whitehorse, which is a bigger town. The posted price was 1.089 per liter, but we got a three cent discount, so it came to 1.059 (about 3.65 per gallon).

Today turned out to be quite an adventure, and not one of our best days on the road as fulltimers. After stopping for fuel in Teslin, we continued another few miles to Mukluk Annie's, a place we have long wanted to visit for their salmon bake. As we pulled into the lot, I noticed that the Heidens, who were traveling with three other rigs, were in the lot. It was a wide open gravel and dirt lot that looked like it had soft dirt on top, but packed hard underneath. It appeared solid. It wasn't. As I tried to turn the motorhome, it bogged down in loose dirt. For the first time since we've been on the road, we were stuck. The wheels on the car turned and ended up plowing into the dirt which, in turn, got rocks inside the front wheels. So we unhooked the car to see if I could move the motorhome. No luck.

The owner came over and asked what he could do to help. I told him the first thing he could do was to put up a sign warning people that the dirt was soft and to not drive on it. He did put out eight barrels to block off the area that was soft.   We needed shovels and that took a while to get from the owner of the restaurant. He wanted to pull the motorhome out with a tractor, but I said no way. Back in January at the Newmar Quartzsite rally, a Dutch Star arrived late and in the dark and got stuck in the sand. A bunch of us helped dig him out and he was able to pull out of the ditch. That's what I wanted to do with our motorhome.

We met Ron Anderson and Benny Thome who came over to help. As Benny and I worked to remove both front wheels from the car to clear out the rocks, Diane, Ron, and the daughter of the Mukluk Annie owner worked on digging out the rear wheels on the motorhome.  With the car wheels cleared of rocks, we went over to help finish digging out the motorhome. It took about an hour and a half to get it dug out. Diane and I were very appreciative of the help from the other folks.

I thought that the owner might offer something for the trouble we had on his property, but no offer was forthcoming, so I asked him about comping the meals. He said he couldn't do that. Then I asked about comping one of the meals. He said he couldn't do that either. Then I asked about comping the camping fee, and he said he also couldn't do that. One of the folks we talked to said that the restaurant had a hard time with the help in the 2005 season and almost didn't open this year. That may be true given that The Milepost listed the status of Mukluk Annie's as "unknown".

Other things have changed about the restaurant, as well, since some friends of ours were there in 2000. There used to be no charge to dry camp in the parking area. Now it costs $10. You used to be able to take a free boat ride on the lake if you ate the salmon bake. Now it costs $5 for the boat ride. Plus, the prices of the entrees has gone up, which is to be expected. Personally, I don't understand why the place wouldn't be one of the success stories along the highway. Word of mouth is what made us want to go there and, in the past, it seemed like everyone we spoke to mentioned Mukluk Annie's.

Diane and I have long awaited enjoying the salmon bake at Mukluk Annies, so after we got cleaned up, we went into the restaurant. We usually split meals because we find that many meals are too much food for us. We told the server that we wanted to split the large salmon plate. She said we could do that, but we would have to also order a $10.95 salad plate. We told her we didn't want to do that, so we left and went back into Teslin and had a nice meal in the restaurant at the Yukon Motel and Lakeshore RV Park. A neat place to visit is the Wildlife Gallery (free) next to the motel and rv park. The display of wildlife was fantastic. We still planned to try the blueberry pancakes tomorrow morning at Mukluk Annie's. I'm sure we would not stop there again unless we were with friends who wanted to stop.

The evening was spent visiting with Bill and Marilyn Heiden who we met in Watson Lake, and Benny and Joyce Thome who were some of the folks who helped us get our rig unstuck. They wanted to see some photos of Newfoundland, so we brought our laptop over and hooked it up to Bill's projector. Benny had a memory stick with some photos of their trip to Newfoundland and we looked at some of those. Then Bill showed us some photos of their previous trip to Alaska to show us what was in store for us and make some suggestions as to things to do. It was a very enjoyable evening with new friends.

June 07 to June 09 - Whitehorse, Yukon Territory (134 miles)

Road conditions: The road was pretty good all the way to Whitehorse with just a few bumpy spots and one short delay due to construction on a bridge. 

Campground: We chose to stay at the Pioneer RV Park. I also called High Country, but they charged $5 more per night and both campgrounds had cable TV and offered WiFi. We got a site where the signal was attainable from the motorhome.

Fuel: We knew we needed to fuel up before heading out on Saturday, so we stopped at a few stations to check out diesel prices. Pioneer RV Park sold diesel for 1.079 with a three cent discount, which made it 1.049. Not a bad price. The big truck stop north of town was charging 1.159 for diesel, which was absurd. Just south of the truck stop we found a fuel station with just a kiosk selling diesel for 1.069 with a 2% discount up to 150 liters and a 4% discount for more than 150 liters. That dropped the price down to around 1.026 or about 3.53 per gallon. This should be our last fillup in Canada until we start our journey south.

Breakfast at Mukluk Annie's was okay. We had the blueberry pancakes plus a buffet of eggs, meat, and potatoes. The pancakes were very good, as were the eggs, the meat was ok, but the potatoes were dry. While we were eating, we got to chat with a couple who were on their way home from Alaska. How they got to see much by driving from Tennessee to Alaska and back in about six weeks is beyond me. They warned of very bad roads from Haines Junction to Tok.

The drive was more of driving through the woods with not much else, and we didn't get to see any animals along the way. In the movie that we saw in Dawson Creek about the building of the Alaska Highway someone was quoted as saying the highway was "miles and miles of miles and miles". For long stretches that is very true.

When we arrived in Whitehorse, I drove the car over to the vehicle wash in the campground that has a high pressure washer. A guy who was there washing his Dutch Star told me he thought it was the best campground vehicle wash along the highway. He was also on the way south. He had recently quit his job and was moving from Alaska to "some state" in the lower 48. We chatted about the roads and he also confirmed that the road north of Haines Junction was very bad this year. I'm sure we'll be doing lots of 10-15 mph driving, and that's fine by me. If the travel turns out to be that slow, then we'll go half way to Tok and park it for the night and finish the next day.

Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon and is situated along the banks of the Yukon River. It's name came from the rapids on the river which some said resembled the flowing manes of charging white horses. In 1898, lots of adventurous folks braved the elements to go down the river in search of gold in the Klondike. Today there are more than 23,000 people who live year round in Whitehorse.

Our first stop was the visitor center to get some information and to view the short film suggested in the brochures, "As the Crow Flies". It was a brief look at the Yukon and was well done. Downtown Whitehorse is not very big, so we decided to walk up 2nd Avenue to the City Hall where visitors can get a three day parking permit that allows parking in permit or meter only areas. Nice touch by Whitehorse for its visitors. Then we continued up the avenue taking in the sites until we got to our goal for lunch, a Pizza Hut. After lunch, we continued around the bend to 4th avenue and started back towards Main Street. Along the way there were a couple of stores in which Diane picked up some beading supplies and we did some window shopping. Finally, we got to Main Street and went in some of the shops to browse around.

On the way back to the campground we drove down to see Miles Canyon. The Southern Tutchone called the area Kwanlin, "water running through a narrow place". There was a suspension bridge over the Yukon River and some trails in the area. We walked across the bridge and down to the right to see more of the river. Then we came back to the bridge and walked some of the Yukon River Loop Trail. It was quiet and beautiful down in the canyon.

Friday was a full day in Whitehorse and we started out the day with a Starbucks fix. Yup, they had a stand alone Starbucks with four of the nice sofa chairs. There was also a Wal-Mart next door. We saw it yesterday when we drove into town and there were lots of rigs in the parking lot. There were still a few on Friday morning. We'll park there if our stop in Whitehorse on the way back is for just one night.

The plan was to now go to the dump. Well, actually, it was a landfill. Our neighbors in the park told us they heard it was possible to see lots of bald and golden eagles back in the landfill. Their directions were not very clear as they said it was up off the Klondike Highway. We drove for about five miles and didn't see a dump sign, so we stopped at a gas station. I went in to inquire about a landfill and a very nice guy said he was going that way and would lead us there. The landfill was actually the Whitehorse city landfill on the left side of the road as you head north out of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, not the Klondike Highway. We pulled up to the office and the guy said it would be fine to go see the eagles and directed us to the best spot to view them. There were dozens of them up in the trees. One was sitting on a pile of junk, but it wasn't possible to get a good photo. You really need a super zoom for photos like that.

Our next item on the day's agenda was to ride up Fish Lake Road (at mile marker 1428 km). The paved road turned to dirt and I had no idea how far it would go. I told Diane I would give it at least 10 miles. Well, right at 10 miles the road ended and there was this beautiful lake with snow capped mountains in the distance. The lake was still frozen to within about 30 feet of the shore. We stood there for a while just taking it all in.

Back in Whitehorse we wanted to walk around again and see the log skyscraper. It was a four story log building that is actually inhabited.

Given our late breakfast, it was too early for lunch, so we decided to go to the Beringia Interpretive Center. Beringia was a lost sub-continent that dates back to the last great ice age. It was a region that encompassed eastern Siberia, Alaska, and Yukon and formed a land bridge over which animals and humans migrated. During that ice age the precipitation ended up becoming ice which caused the sea levels to drop more than 400 feet. The drop in sea levels exposed grassy tundra that supported plant and animal life. Of course, the most famous animal from that era was the woolly mammoth, which was the predecessor of the modern Asiatic elephant. The other famous animal was the scimitar cat with its huge serrated upper fangs. It has been estimated that humans migrated into North America from western Beringia at least 24,000 years ago as they followed herds of mammoths and giant bison.

We started off watching the short film about Beringia. One of the folks who worked there asked if we would be interested in learning how to throw the "atlatl", probably a predecessor of the spear and bow and arrow. It wasn't as easy as it looked, but it was fun trying. We then went back into the building to look at the various displays. One of the highlights was a full size cast of the largest woolly mammoth ever recovered. It was huge.

When we first walked around the town a restaurant on Main Street caught our eye, Tokyo Sushi. That whetted our appetite, so we went back there after Beringia for some sushi. Yummy.

There were other things to do in Whitehorse, but we decided we had seen what we wanted to see for now. One of the things we may do on the way south is to go watch the Frantic Follies show at the Westmark Hotel. We thought there may be a chance we'll have hooked up with the Hirths and Winckels by then and it would be fun to do that together. I alerted them to those plans and hoped it would work out. As of the writing of this travelog, I figure they are still about eight days behind us.

June 10 to June 11- Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory (138 miles)

Road conditions: Except for a few spots, the road was pretty good up to Kluane Lake. We encountered a work crew on a bridge that had only one very narrow lane open. South of Haines Junction there was a 5.5 mile stretch of dirt and loose gravel. The road was very rough with some washboard effect in spots. The posted speed was 70 kph (about 40 mph), but I pretty much did that stretch at 35 mph. Then we ran into a 3.5 mile stretch of road just as we were driving along Kluane Lake. However, the base of the road was smooth, so it was just loose gravel. On both of those stretches, a sign was posted about extreme dust conditions.

Campground: A campground that came highly recommended in the area was the Cottonwood RV Park. Our RV friends, the Veachs and the Holders, stayed there in 2000. As they did, we also opted for a dry camping site right on the side of the lake. It was $15 US per night, but she gave it to us for $12 when we said we wouldn't use her showers since we had our own. She also said grizzlies had been known to roam around in the dry camping area every now and then and that we should be careful. Hmmm. You bet. However, we did not see any grizzlies. Just some gophers.

One of the interesting things about campgrounds this far north is that the power is only 20 amps. That's because folks up here have to generate their own power as the power company doesn't provide electricity this far north. That wasn't a problem for us. We wanted to stay back in the area where there was no power and right alongside the lake with a great view of the mountains and the lake.

Fuel: When we were out touring in Whitehorse we scouted out the fuel stations for the best price. Pioneer Park was charging 1.079 with a three cent discount to make it 1.049. We stopped at a Fas Gas station and they were giving back 4% of the fuel purchase for over 150 liters. No problem. We needed at least 200 liters. So we stopped there the morning we left Whitehorse and filled up. The price came to 1.026 per liter or about 3.53 per gallon.

It must have been a warm spring as there was absolutely no snow down at the level of the road, only way up on the mountains. The further north we drove, the more we could see of the Kluane Ranges, a string of mountains that climbed to more than 8,000 feet. The Alaska Highway parallels the Kluane Ranges. We were surrounded by scenery that was truly breathtaking. Kluane Lake was a beautiful aqua color and surrounded by mountains, some of which were snow capped. Some have said it is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. At 154 miles long, it's the largest lake in the Yukon territory. If there is a downside, it's that it tends to be very windy. As a matter of fact, a little town north of the campground is named Destruction Bay because it was twice destroyed by heavy winds. In 1942 when the highway was being built, the area was used as a staging area and for equipment needed for construction. A fierce wind came up and destroyed the camp. The same thing happened in 1952 and they named it Destruction Bay.

There was nothing much to do in the area other than take in the beauty, and that's what we did. We decided to spend a second night boondocking along the lake. We were in no rush and we had the entire summer ahead of us. How can you beat having bacon and eggs while watching the sun reflecting on the lake? We were able to see the Alaska Highway from our site. It was easy to spot a vehicle on the highway because it was under construction in this area and the dust indicated when a vehicle was approaching. There were long periods with no vehicles at all and then short periods with a few RVs and some cars.

With lots of time on our hands for two days, I turned on the two CD players to shuffle the roughly 350 CDs we carry, and we got to do some stuff on the computer; Diane worked on her beading; I looked ahead on the mapping software for places to stop and things to do; we took a couple of walks; enjoyed the music and the scenery; and, since there were no movies around, we got to watch two of the three movies from our favorite movie series - The Lord of the Rings. What a life.

When we arrived yesterday there was a lot of wind that didn't subside until sometime overnight. It was a warm wind, but it was a strong wind. Today there was no wind, but we could see the value of the wind. It keeps the bugs away. Without the wind we were almost prisoners in the rig as there were thousands, or maybe millions, of little bugs flying around and another million sitting all over the motorhome. Trust me, there were that many of them swarming around. We opened the windows to get some air and thousands of bugs landed on the screens. They didn't appear to be biters, just annoying little flying bugs. It kind of made us wish the warm wind would start up again. It would have been nicer to sit outside enjoying the scenery rather than from inside through the windows.

The owners of the Cottonwood RV Park are Mary Anne and Glenn. We got to chat with Mary Anne when we went up to pay for another night. They have had the property since 1968 and the initial campground opened in 1979. That's 27 years. She said it was a labor of love. They come up from Ontario every year for six months to run the campground and she said it would be very hard to give it up.

June 12 to June 14 - Tok, Alaska (233 miles)

Road conditions: White knuckles. Nail biting. Teeth chattering. Those are the words I've read or heard about the highway north of Haines Junction. What follows is my opinion of that part of the highway for our drive up THIS YEAR. And that's all I can comment on. Up to this year, the worst roads we have ever driven on were in Newfoundland where Norm and I thought our rigs were going to go airborne as there were no warnings about bad roads or frost heaves as there were in the Yukon and in Alaska.

White knuckles? No. Nail Biting? I had both of my hands on the steering wheel so I had no chance to bite my nails, but no. Teeth chattering? Well, it depends. If one were to drive the entire section of road at the posted speed of 90 kph (about 55 mph), then they probably rattled some teeth. There were several sections under construction and there were lots of frost heaves, both marked and, unfortunately, unmarked. I never drove faster than 45 mph, but usually around 40 mph, on the good sections of the highway. I always slowed down to 35 mph, and sometimes 25 mph, for marked frost heaves. There were some minor frost heaves that were not a problem, even at around 40-45 miles per hour. However, there was one frost heave that definitely should have been marked. We already had that crack on the driver side windshield I mentioned earlier and the dip down and back up did it in and made the crack much worse. The glass just couldn't handle that kind of dip. Had there not been a crack in the windshield I'm pretty sure the dip would not have caused a crack. I'm also sure that lots of other folks have gotten, and will get, nailed by that frost heave. So, there was no teeth chattering through the frost heaves. We saw several tour buses going south that didn't slow down over the frost heaves. Those buses were really bouncing and I'm sure the passengers were getting quite a ride inside.

In addition to the heaves, there were areas under construction that were dirt and gravel and washboard. These were teeth chattering because they were very bad. It's not possible to slow down enough to not have the entire motorhome shake while going over a road like that. We were down to 10-15 mph and still the motorhome shook. Cabinet doors opened and stuff fell out, and that never happened to us, not even in Newfoundland. Diane's Beanie Babies across the front of the dash have taken just about everything over the years, but they were scattered on the dash. So, yes, some folks might refer to these sections as teeth chattering. It was very rough. Once we got through the border (no problem), the roads continued to improve with less frost heaves (marked) and finally had a great stretch of road into Tok.

We will finish driving the Alaska Highway later this week. There are folks who have, unfortunately, suffered lots of damage to their cars and/or RVs, and others who make the entire trip with no damage at all, not even a chip in the windshields. Maybe it's just luck. There are folks who say they would never travel to Alaska and that is clearly their loss because the views are beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. There are folks who say the Alaska Highway is just like many of the roads in the lower 48. Well, that's not entirely true. What people should say is that much of the highway is like many of the roads in the lower 48, and I have said that earlier in this travelog. Or they can say the highway was no problem in the year that they drove it. I think folks who make a blanket statement and tell other folks that the Alaska Highway is not a problem either:

1. haven't driven the highway THIS YEAR;

2. have a very high threshold for what they consider a rough road;

3. are joking or lying because they don't want folks to know how rough the road can be;

4. are not willing to accept other folks' opinion on the condition of the road.

My opinion matches what I've read from most folks who have driven the road this year, and heard from the three folks we have met who were traveling south and just came over the road and that was that the road was very bad north of Haines Junction. It is, without a doubt, the worst road we have driven on in our six years on the road. That doesn't mean we haven't enjoyed the drive up. It's just a statement about the road.

Campground: We again keyed off of where the Newmar caravan has stopped in the past and chose the Tok RV Village Campground. We paid for three nights with a fourth as an option if our mail didn't arrive. The campground had a variety of sites from no hookups to 50 amp full hookups. We chose a 30 amp full hookup to get caught up on laundry. There was one DSL hookup in the laundry area. However, it was an ether net connection and I don't carry an ether net cable. I went to the office to ask if they had a loaner. The owner, Rose, was there and she said didn't have any because people "walk off with them". I suggested she ask for a deposit and then have one available for folks who don't carry that kind of cable. To her credit, she had one the next day and took me up on the suggestion to ask for a deposit. The lady who was in the office said she thought the owner's grandson made the cable up for her. The DSL connection was not very reliable. It was down for an entire day until the grandson got home from work and could reboot the computer. Then it was okay for the rest of the evening. The connection during the next two days was extremely slow.

RV Village also offered WiFi for a price. The provider of service was Nomad and the price was $8.95 per day, which is totally outrageous. I would never pay that kind of money for a WiFi connection. I still believe campgrounds should offer it for free. Four of the six stops we had along the way provided either WiFi or a DSL connection. The Sourdough Campground in Tok offered free WiFi and that's where we plan to stay on the way out of Alaska.

RV Village had a cable connection at the sites for the four stations they carried.

Fuel: It was great to get to a U.S. fuel stop. We fueled up in Border City where they advertised "the lowest price in Alaska - guaranteed". I have no idea how they guarantee it, but the price sounded good at 3.069 per gallon. In Tok, we found diesel for 3.079 to 3.199.

WE MADE IT!!! At 12:02 pm AT (Alaska Time) we arrived at the "Welcome to Alaska" sign for the obligatory photo. As I described above in the "Road conditions" section, the last stretch of highway wasn't fun, but got through it and now look forward to a summer in Alaska.

Tok is just a small town, but the first place you get to in Alaska with stores, campgrounds, and services. We got to the Tok RV Village Campground and the first order of business was to wash the motorhome and car. They had a two bay outdoor RV pressure wash on a big concrete pad ($11 for the RV; $4.50 for the car). There were four rigs in front of us, so we unhooked some stuff and chatted with some of the folks. They had come in from Dawson City and across the Top of the World Highway. I asked about the road and the guy just shook his head and said it was absolutely horrible for some 50 miles. The four rigs were traveling together and helped each other wash the rigs. They had them done pretty quickly. We, however, took about one and a half hours to get the rig and car washed. Finally, we got them as clean as we could and drove to the site to set up. We were tired, but also hungry, so we walked over to Fast Eddy's and had a nice meal. Then we crashed.

The following morning we went over to checkout the Sourdough Campground and get their all you can eat sourdough pancakes. It was very good and the owner was a real character as he joked with folks while cooking the pancakes. We'll stay here on the way out as our plan is to leave the motorhome in Tok and drive the car to Dawson City for an overnight stay. Sitting next to us was a couple who lived in St. Gallen, Switzerland. We told them we had friends who lived in Wollerau and they knew the town. We enjoyed chatting with them. I also had my laptop with me to test out the WiFi at Sourdough. It was only accessible around the main building, but it was a strong signal.

There wasn't much to do in Tok other than the Visitor Center (very nice, big log building), souvenir shops, and restaurants. I thought I probably should have ordered our mail to go out a bit sooner so it would have been in Tok before we arrived. In any case, we just relaxed for a couple of days before heading to North Pole for the weekend where I was hoping to be able to watch the U.S. Open Golf Championship. We wanted to then go to Fairbanks for a week, but the campgrounds were full or almost full. It's the week of the summer solstice and folks take that very seriously up there with lots of activities, including a midnight baseball game. It turns out we'll spend a week in North Pole and visit Fairbanks from there.

The Visitor Center in Tok was definitely worth a visit if only to see the inside of the beautiful log building. We met a couple from Michigan who really made time in getting to Tok given they left Michigan on June 1 and got to Tok yesterday. That was a lot of driving. We are going to Michigan on the way out and I'm figuring it will be 21 4-hour driving days. It turned out that the couple were fulltimers and also Escapees who spend summers in Michigan and winters at a campground just down the road from where we like to stay in the Orlando area. We had a great chat about the drive up and the modifications they made to their extended cab truck in which they plan to spend the summer in Alaska. They did have a motorhome, but opted to not drive it to Alaska.

We finally got to experience a salmon bake. The Gateway Motel and RV Park in Tok served a salmon bake. We ordered a salmon, halibut, reindeer sausage combo to share and it was delicious. It was also more than enough food for two people. I'm sure I would have had trouble eating an entire meal by myself. And unlike Mukluk Annie's, there was no extra charge to share the meal.

The next day as we were sitting around, I saw an American Tradition pull up right in front of us to get ready to park. When I saw they were pulling a Jeep I knew it was the Heiden party arriving. What a pleasant surprise. We greeted Bill, and then saw Benny and Ron who helped us dig our motorhome out of soft dirt at Mukluk Annie's. It was nice to see them again. They all agreed the road from around Burwash Landing to Beaver Creek was very bad. Bill's opinion of the rest of the highway was different than mine and he didn't think the frost heaves were all that bad. I told him what we thought about the road and the four categories I listed above and he said he was definitely in category #2 - "has a high threshold for what he considers a rough road".

June 15 - Delta Junction, Alaska (108 miles)

Road conditions: Most of the road up to Delta Junction was very good. The posted speed was mostly 65 mph and one could drive much of the road at that speed if desired. However, there were some frost heaves that were marked; one stretch of highway under construction with a pilot car controlling traffic; and several spots with loose gravel, although the base was smooth and those spots were no problem at the posted 35 mph speed limit.

Campground: Boondocked in the Rika's Roadhouse parking lot.

Our mail showed up on time, so we got the motorhome ready to roll and headed out for Delta Junction. We saw the reports of wildfires north of Denali and hoped they would get them under control before we get there next week. Due to the wind, we were able to smell some smoke from those fires.

We saw an ad in The Milepost for Delta Meat and Sausage and knew we had to stop to buy some elk, yak, and buffalo steaks, and some sausage. We'll have some treats over the summer grilling those. Yummy.

Delta Junction is the end of the Alaska Highway. I set my odometer in Dawson Creek and it read 1,370 miles. The mileposts are historic mileposts to represent the 1,422 miles of the original highway. We stopped at the visitor center and then headed up the road to Rika's Roadhouse for the night. The roadhouse is part of the Big Delta State Historical Park and offered a free walking tour of the grounds and buildings. There is a restaurant on the site, as well.

When gold was discovered in the early 20th century in the interior of Alaska a road was needed from Valdez to Fairbanks.  A Col. Richardson was instrumental in upgrading a simple trail into a horse trail in 1908. A day's ride was about 25 miles, so roadhouses sprung up about every 25 miles along the trail. Rika's Roadhouse was built in 1910 by John Hajdukovich at the confluence of the Delta and Tanana rivers. Travelers had to ferry across the river at that point and a small community developed in the area. He sold it in 1923 to Rika Wallen, a Swedish immigrant. She had managed the roadhouse since 1917 and ran it into the late 1940s. She lived there until her death in 1969. We walked around the grounds and stopped in the restaurant to buy a "bear claw" to nibble on for dessert after dinner.

We had completed our drive of the entire Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek to Delta Junction. It was now time to spend the next several weeks touring our 49th state.

To be continued.....

Until next time, safe travels.....

Copyright © 2006, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved

Return to Travelogue Menu