Yes; new personal first. I've fallen so low I now book 14-15 months in advance.
Struggling to avoid micro-planning things this time, but with that much advance notice, I fear I'm doomed.
Yes; new personal first. I've fallen so low I now book 14-15 months in advance.
Struggling to avoid micro-planning things this time, but with that much advance notice, I fear I'm doomed.
It's a combination thing -- I can certainly understand obtaining reservations far in advance for a special place to stay and still have near-100% unplanned road tripping before and after.
It was on Wednesday, 13th June - an auspicious day! - that my van proudly stepped out on her two new bootees, and headed down the Richardson Hwy. The last time I was on this road was in a tow-truck.
Just six miles down the road flashing lights alerted me to trouble. A moose had just been hit by a vehicle, and was obviously dead. Heartbreaking! Despite all the warnings and the speed limit, some just find it impossible to drive slowly. Wildlife is so unpredictable.
Wildflowers lined the roadway. It was a clear sunny day, and I determined to just put the miles away, and not be tempted to stop for yet more photos. That was, until I got to Big Delta. Another great example of these huge deltas built up by the rivers flowing out of the mountains.
Lunch was at the Delta Junction Visitor Centre - the official northern end of the Alaska Highway. (The Richardson Hwy continues on to Valdez.) The rest of the day I relaxed, and enjoyed my run into Tok, where I spent the night at the Chevron Truck Stop. Like so many truck stops at which I have stayed (and at which I was yet to stay), their fuel was not exactly the cheapest... but hey! it saved me the $38 charged at the RV Park across the road.
Back in the Yukon I tolerated the 'frost heave' road, and made my way to Whitehorse, stopping only around Kluane River which I had had to forego on the journey up. It seemed a good place for lunch. In Whitehorse I went back to the Hi Country RV. There are other RV parks, but, when you are happy with a place, why go elsewhere. Besides, it was only $28, right on the Alaska Hwy and on the right side of town for the next morning.
Left early on Friday, not knowing how long the hold up would be at the breech. There were some horror stories going around, yet others seemed to think it was no big deal. When I got to where the slide had been... I missed it! I do recall seeing something, and when I got to where the road had been washed away, it was so small, I thought it was where the slide was... and that I was yet to see the major breech. It was not till I got to Junction 37 when it became clear just what I had seen. The areas were so small. Sure, there had been a complete wash away of the highway, but it had been completely filled in, and was allowing one lane of traffic to pass over it, while they were building the bailey bridge higher up the side of the mountain. I take it that when that bridge is in place with two lanes of traffic flowing again, they will set about digging out the 'filling' from the breech, and repairing it. That will not be a small job. And it was amazing to see how such a 'small' event could cause so much chaos.
The Watson Lake library is a great place to check email, forum and other internet tasks. It is just that I arrived late, and they close at 5pm. When she left, the lady in charge gave me a ticket for a further two hours of wifi access. It was accessible outside the building, and right there by the front door was a standard power outlet for me to plug in my computer. There was also a milk crate to sit on. (What more would you want. LOL)
It was while parked here that I decided to make some dinner. Even though overnight camping was not allowed, I was able to plug in to the power outlets (used for winter) and make a meal with my sandwich maker. That is not the only time I have found these power outlets very handy. Just south of Contact Creek BC there is a rest area to the west of the highway and another much bigger, more sheltered turnout to the east. I chose to join a camper already settled in the latter.
The section of the Alaska Highway between Watson Lake and Ft Nelson is probably the most prolific with wildlife. It is rare to travel these few hundred kilometres without coming across bear, moose, bison, sheep and more. My computer has many, many photos of these on its harddrive, and yet, one cannot resist taking more photos when one of these magnificent animals is on or by the side of the road. I won't post all of them here. Just some of my favourites. For those who want to see more, check out my album.
A gentle giant.
As I skirted around beautiful Muncho Lake, I spotted this pair of Dall Sheep with a lamb, on the road. I was amused with the curiosity of the lamb.
At this point it is almost impossible to stop, as the road runs along the lake with barely a shoulder. Besides that, all trucks use this road. The road winds around the mountain side making it impossible to see what is coming. Hence, this quick shot out the window.
Alaska Hwy along Muncho Lake
For those who travel in motorhomes, there are some great pull offs for dry camping in this area (no facilities!), most of which are designated wildlife viewing areas.
In 2009, I had stopped for a very late lunch, at a small rustic place not too far south of the Lake... on the eastern side of the highway. I knew roughly where it was. I remembered roughly what it looked like. I could not really describe it, and kept looking. When I got there, I recognised it immediately.
The little blue building - The Muncho Lake Post Office - with the ladies toilets on the left, gents to the right.
Muncho Lake Post Office
Right next to it is the main building which houses the kitchen, restaurant and convenience store with the bowsers for both unleaded and diesel out the front. It is also the booking office for the motel, a separate building behind the store. And the flagpole. There is parking for at least one, and possibly two trucks, as well as the cars of other patrons. Jack, who has been there for 35 years is (and has been) gonna get a sign up.... one day.
Inside are three tables, one for four and two with two chairs. It was busy! Four of the eight seats were already taken. A trucker and his wife were sipping their coffee while waiting for their sandwiches, and a couple sitting at the table for four were doing likewise. Jack was on the other side of the counter, preparing the meals which had already being ordered.
[You make your own tea or coffee while Jack prepares the food. Coffee is brewing and electric jug at the ready, together with all types of tea, sugar and milk.]
It was lunch time, and the memory of the bowl of soup and bread which I had three years before made my mouth water. I ordered a bowl of soup, made myself a cup of tea and joined Karen and her husband who are from Toad River. They take the magnificent drive through the Muncho Lake Provincial Park each week, to come and see Jack.
There is no shortage of ways to stay entertained while waiting for your meal. The walls of Jack's Place are covered with all sorts of information and posters. Some of my favourites....
I'll go for the criticism anyday
While chatting with Karen, I mentioned that I would have liked to go to Yellowknife, but with the flooding, had no idea if or how the Liard Trail (hwy 7 in NWT) had been affected. I was assured that it had not been. Karen would have heard. Her daughter lives up that way, and if the road was at all impassible, she would have mentioned it. I discussed with Karen the trip to Yellowknife, and the availability of fuel along the way. Sure, she confirmed, there is fuel available at Ft Laird. Just be sure you are there Mon - Fri between 10am and 5pm. It was now early Friday afternoon, and I was nowhere near the turn off to the Liard Highway, let alone Ft Liard. Neither was I prepared to proceed without been able to fuel up at Ft Liard. A couple of nights at Ft Nelson were now on the books.
My soup arrived, and I savoured every mouthful. You don't get soup like that out of a can.
As well as all the other aspects of his business, Jack sells second hand books. $2 each - proceeds to the local school. I found two true crime books I had not read, and added them to my bill. Oh! and as well as that, there is freshly baked bread. I bought a loaf... a huge loaf! Did me for well over a week. Keeping it in the fridge, it kept well to the end.
I cannot remember how much all this cost me, but it was worth much more than I was quoted, and paid accordingly. If you are ever up that way, no matter what time of the day, make sure you stop off at Jack's Place. You won't regret it.
The final run through the Provincial Park and into Ft Nelson was full of moose, bears and sheep. As well, there was a section which went very close to a river, with lots of 'slide' warnings and through a rocky canyon. I did not recognise it, and can't find any photos of it from previous trips. Besides, the rock looked 'freshly' carved. I suspect this is another section of the highway which is being re-routed, levelled and/or straightened.
It was on a turnout here that I met Sean and Terry. One was from Grand Prairie and the other from Calgary. They were making some adjustment, working with tools. They put my antenna for my radio back for me. (In Fairbanks it had been removed by the carwash people, before they realised that my car would not fit through their carwash. They had not put it back.)
Neither had I seen Folded Mountain on previous trips.
At the 3G RV park in Ft Nelson I was parked next to a couple who had a new Dodge Grand Caravan. He had adjusted the base of a bed to fit in the back for their bed. A large cooler was behind the front seats, and all other necessities were stored under the bed. They came from southern Canada, and were on their way to Whitehorse and Dawson City to visit family - grandchildren and great-grandchildren! Only that day they had been presented with another great-grandchild in FL. This was a regular excursion for them.
The better of the two RV parks in Ft Nelson, 3G has great food and fantastic wifi.
Last edited by Lifemagician; 07-06-2012 at 02:57 PM.
Years back, we stayed at each of the 2 RV parks in Ft Nelson. One was on the east side of town, and was like a truck stop with hookups. The other was on the west side of town, and was more in line with an RV park. It had the sites in circles, with the cars and trailers as "spokes" in the wheels. We liked that one better.
Ever since I first watched Ice Road Truckers, I have wanted to visit Yellowknife. The remoteness of it. The end of the road. One way in and same way out! As well, I have a passion for going where many dare not tread.
The Liard Hwy in BC is an excellent sealed two lane road. Deceptively so at the start! It is a busy road. Much of the traffic I met had to do with the construction at bridges. Large trucks, some with oversize loads, speeding in both directions. That is till you get to the BC / NWT border. At this point it becomes a gravel road... a good gravel road. Took it into Ft Liard, and filled up, at the only fuel outlet there is.
Like so many of the places up there, Ft Liard's population is mostly indigenous. It is a small settlement, with a single supermarket and a small collection of other businesses. Most folk seemed to be walking, despite the fact that they had to walk on the road. While I was in the store paying for my fuel, the heavens opened, and I got drenched, just getting back to my car. (Helped to clean the windscreen though.)
From hereon, until one gets to the Mackenzie Hwy (hwy 1) one is officially driving on the Liard Hwy, though it is known locally as the Liard Trail - and marked so on most maps. I should have realised what was ahead when I saw the sign that it was closed to vehicles over 4500lbs. Not that that would have stopped me. It did mean however, no trucks. Just as well, as for the rest of the afternoon, the rain rarely let up. It was mud, slush, gravel and rocky. There was one single track down the middle which most vehicles - both ways - used. A few vehicles came from the opposite direction, including one motor home, and several motor bikes (??).
[As on the Dalton, the road surface of the Trail is spread with calcium to help it bind. This sticks like concrete on vehicles... everywhere, even on top! It was now impossible to see through the rear windows or to open the doors without getting filthy hands. It is not really possible to just hose it off. A bit comes off, but the base of the dirt sticks. It also penetrates the gaps between and around the doors. Everything I had put in the back was covered with it. The sooner you can get this cleaned off, the better... especially underneath the vehicle.]
I kept up a steady pace - 40 mph - for most of the 200 kms, and was glad to see the surface change when I got to the turn off to Ft Simpson. Now I was on a paved road, which in many ways was much worse than the Trail. Lots of sections of loose gravel. Traffic, including trucks, in both directions, causing flying stones. And potholes!! No, it was more like a giant pothole, with a bit of road in between. I was conscious that this is much more wearing on my tyres. Of course, now that I was off the dirt road, the rain had stopped. It was around 8pm when I reached a nice turnout by a lake, just short of the turnoff to Yellowknife. A good place to spend the night.
Tuesday morning I set off early for my run into Yellowknife. It is not that far, but with a ferry, and the huge herds of bison, not really a quick trip. But a magnificent trip I would not have wanted to miss. And all the time I kept thinking, I will be coming back this way.
The bridge over the Mackenzie river is advancing well. It should not be long now, when the ferry (and ice bridge) will no longer be used.
Once over the bridge the road skirts the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. All along this bit of road the bison are everywhere. Absolutely magnificent. I read that the wood bison is the largest of the species, and since this herd is free from the diseases which plague the more southern herds, some of the males, were large indeed.
These two males did not move off the road, but ran ahead of me at quite a pace... until I passed them. There was no way I was going to stop when near them. I swear the large one came to the top of my driver's side window. They would have just toppled my van with a shove.
They are mosquitoes!
There were several large herds with healthy looking young.
One herd were mostly resting and I counted more than a hundred.
How could you rush past all of this.
On one's arrival in Yellowknife there is a Bristol Fighter to greet you. It is also where the route turns off to the airport.
It was not quite lunchtime. A visit to the visitor centre was very worthwhile and set me off for the rest of the day. I tried to find somewhere to clean my car, but to no avail. They were all do it yourself places, and I am not strong enough to manipulate those wands, brushes, etc. with the force of the water behind them. Spent some time looking around Yellowknife. A lovely city of some 20K, with a further population of 20K in outlying communities.
Decided I would camp in one of the camping areas along the Ingraham Trail. I had heard someone talking about it at the visitor centre. The trail runs to where the road ends... the official end of the road. That seemed interesting to check out. Someone said that it is where the ice road truckers who take supplies to the mines up north, start off. I am not sure if this is correct. The road seems very narrow, windy and hilly. But then, those truckers tackle the almost impossible.
The Trail also runs along many lakes, all of which have day visiting areas, fishing piers, and other water activities. The area is heavily populated, and it is almost impossible to get to the lakes, other than through the official turnouts. It is all private property. Lots of it for sale, as well.
I checked out a couple of camp grounds. They were so full and congested, I could not see myself squashing in there. Did not even make enquiries as to what the charges were. Furthermore......
Too much of a good thing.
By now the road had turned to gravel, and although a good road, I turned back. I never thought I would say it, but I just could not face another mile of gravel road. I think the Dalton and the Liard Trail cured me... at least, for the time being.
Not having found a camp ground to my liking, I headed back out along the Yellowknife Hwy. I recalled ample turnouts there. Chose one of the first I saw... it seemed like a quary though it wasn't fenced or gated. There were some old drums a bit further up, and some rubbish lying around, but I did not go that far. I pulled in by some trees, and, having eaten, made myself comfortable. It was just before I went to bed, I saw a car turn into the same area... and then immediately turn out again, and head back towards town. I thought no more of it, and went to bed.
A short while later a car again turned into the area... and kept going. Past my van, and further into the open area, surrounded by hills, bush and 'quarry walls'. I watched it drive around... adrenalin pumping... I grabbed my backscratcher... a solid wooden stick! I lay there watching it, and was sure that my van was rocking to my heartbeat. Then the headlights vanished. I did not know if they had switched off, or if the path had turned out of my sight. I waited!
Then I heard a noise. As if someone right by my van was banging two 44 gal drums around. And again. And again! I listened carefully to see if I could make out what exactly was out there. I dared not go and see. Soon I realised what it was. This old abandoned quarry was being used by the locals for target practice. I relaxed and went to sleep. When I awoke next morning the backscratcher was still in my hand. LOL
After breakfast a little investigation confirmed what I thought it was. There were empty cartridges everywhere, and many drums with holes all over them. It was obvious that this was a very busy place.
Headed straight for Enterprise, past the Bison Sanctuary, took the ferry over the Mackenzie River, and headed south. No photos. No stops. This was homeward bound.
It was before 2pm when I got to Enterprise, and I figured the municipal offices were as good a place as any to check out what was where. They said I would probably do better at High Level, some three hours down the road, than I would at the one and only motel in town. But I could not face another 3 hours, and decided to stay. Next day in High Level I counted at least 12 hotels/motels along the main drag. I am sure I would have done a lot better than the $99.75 I paid in Enterprise. Still I don't regret the decision I made. I wanted to have a shower, do my hair, and attend to many other things I had not had time for over the preceding few days.
Second day on the homeward run took me to Valleyview, where a local car wash place was able to at least get most of the dirt off the van. Stayed at the Esso Truck Stop. An early start the next day saw me in Medicine Hat by evening, where I stopped at the local Husky Truck Stop. Great places, both of them, with microwave and all, available for use. An early start next morning saw me by the border at Wild Horse around 8am and onto Havre MT... and back to US gas prices.
As I was driving through Havre I saw a Ford dealer. Conscious of the terrain I had traversed, I really needed someone to check out the air filter. Even though it had been changed in Fairbanks, I figured it could be a wise move. This was a Saturday, and service are not open on Saturday. When I mentioned to the guy in Service and Parts, that if there was someone who could undo the clip, I could check it myself. It was really not such a big deal. Finally he decided he would do it. When he removed the air filter, it was at least half full with large dead flies and bees. They were all the ones which failed to spatter on my windscreen.
Happy that everything had been attended to, I settled down on US 2 to Wolf Point. The serenity of the wide open plains, after all the mountain driving I had been doing, was refreshing. It is not the first time I had been on this magnificent highway, and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than the time before. At least, this time it did not rain. Picked up I-94 at Glendive, and spent the night in Dickenson. Sunday was an almost speed run through beautiful ND and MN into St Paul.
Each of these last four days was 500+ miles during which time I was able to easily maintain a speed of 60 - 65 mph (other than construction zones). Neither was I exhausted or sore. My wonderful Ford is now nowhere near as large, nor as heavy as when I picked her up in PA... all those months ago. That is despite the fact that she was still carrying excess weight from the Dalton and the Trail.
In St Paul she needed an oil change, and I asked about where to get her a good bath and makeover. The Ford dealer said that they could do that. I was happy to let them. Six hours, and $200 later, I couldn't recognise her. Everyone talked about how shining and beautiful she looked. They had quoted me 4 hours, but later explained that it took more than two hours to clean just the underneath.
I was not surprised.
Last edited by Southwest Dave; 07-17-2012 at 04:29 PM. Reason: Corrections.
Its been fantastic reading your adventures Lifey. Look forward to more. Thats great service to get her back in top condition for that price. You are certainly game to go where you go by yourself. Good on you. Im guessing you may be back home by now.
Nope, Lifey is still out there. She's filing her posts from the road!
Am still in the US. Been off the road for the best part of a week now, desperately trying to finish this trip report before I leave. It is sweltering hot here... without air con. Life's been trying... very trying! Tomorrow at 13:30 Boston time grandson and I fly out for a week's holiday for him with his Australian cousins, all five of whom will be in Melbourne during the school holidays. Back in Boston late (very late) on the 17th. Will probably hit the road again around the end of that week.
Glad you're enjoying it. Most of the above posts have taken between four and five hours to put together.