Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Alaska Highway


The Alaska Highway 

We departed Dawson Creek on Friday morning of Memorial Day Weekend.

Our ultimate destination for the day, other than somewhere further north,  was undecided.

Free Range Chickens we are.


I’m using my offline Blog Editor because I don’t know when I will have internet so this allows me to compose the blog as we go,

and upload it all when I have the internet - even if only for a few minutes.  

You might notice a difference - especially in the pictures since they are resized and loaded as is…  no click to enlarge as on my normal posts.

That said - let’s hit the road.

The Alaska Highway (AH) from DC to Fort St John (40mi north) runs thru undulating hills and river valleys.

We roll up and down green hills, covered with stands of White Birch under

Crystal clear sparkling deep blue skies.

It is a relatively populated area (considering where we’ve been and are headed)

Traffic – while by no means heavy – is heavier than we’ve seen recently.

Below is the steep grade down into the Peace River Valley where we will cross the Peace river into Fort St John.

1a Alcan Dawson Creek to Ft Nelson

This stretch of road from DC to Fort Nelson (about 250miles) is the busiest stretch and runs thru Natural Gas Country.

Endless dirt roads run off to the side, many with Spectra Energy signs, and you can often catch a glimpse thru the trees of industrial looking facilities with tall stacks burning off gas.

The scenery is varied from Late Spring at the lower elevations to very early spring at the higher.

In the photo below, we are in early spring, the Rockies loom in the distance, and you can also see a thread of the highway further up.

1b Alcan Dawson Creek to Ft Nelson 

After topping off at the UFD Cardlock in Fort St John we continued north and decided that we wanted to push on.  

The day was young, the weather beautiful, and we had a couple of campgrounds that we wanted to spend time at further down the road. 

Leaving Fort Nelson, the AH curves from a northerly path to a west and Northwest orientation and heads towards the Rockies.   

It is beyond here that you leave civilization behind.    Cell service ends and traffic dwindles. 

We again topped off with 30 gal of diesel in Ft Nelson before heading into the wilderness.  There are plenty of places to fuel up along the way but it’s a lot more expensive

in the remote locations so it’s best to grab it in the larger towns. 

Plus, I like to run on the top half of my tank when possible so I have plenty options when needed. 

You never know when you will arrive at a fuel stop with an almost empty tank to find out that they are out of diesel.


At first we are at lower elevations, and travel thru green forests but as we enter the Rockies we climb higher, late spring once again begins to fade behind us.

2a Alcan Ft Nelson to Summit Lake 

About 75 miles west of Ft Nelson we stop at Tetsa River Services for their famous Cinnamon buns. 

We stopped here last time and were not disappointed and this time is no exception.   Fresh and hot from the oven we take 3 for the road.

 4 Cinamon Buns Tesla River Services

We shared one for desert that night and then saved one each for later.

Our wildlife that we spotted for the day included Bear, Stone Sheep, and Moose.

We did not get a picture of the Moose.


3a Dall Sheep

3b Bear


Stone Mountain Provincial Park

Summit Lake Campground 

Our destination for the night is Stone Mountain Provincial Park. 

It was a 370 mile drive from DC but it was such a pretty drive, and we left so early, that the day went by rather quickly.

5 Summit Lake Campground Stone Mtn Provincial Park BC 

Located at the highest point on the AH (4,250’) we are back in very early spring or even late winter conditions.

The sparse vegetation at this altitude has only the barest of spring buds beginning to appear.  

A cool breeze blows off of the frozen lake but the warm sun and the beautiful location mitigates any chill in the air.

 5a Summit Lake  Stone Mountain Provincial Bark BC

At first, our 3:30pm arrival gives us the place to ourselves and we pick a campsite up on the hill with a commanding view of the lake.

As the day progresses a few more people arrive and by evening there are 4 other RV’s spending the night.

The view from our front window:

5b Summit Lake Campground Stone Mtn Provincial Park BC


Pure Boondocking – no hookups – but that is where the nicest places usually are. 

The lack of services also keeps many people away who want more amenities, so we get to enjoy privacy, peace, and quiet in stunning locales.

5c Summit Lake Campground Stone Mtn Provincial Park BC 

With our solar panels providing all of our power we are able to enjoy these great locations with all the creature comforts, and not need to run the generator.

 5d Summit Lake Campground Stone Mtn Provincial Park BC

At this far northern latitude – we have left the dark night skies behind us.

Right now the sun is setting around 10:30 or so (hard to say exactly due to the mountains) and by 430am it’s light.

Around 2am – the darkest part of the night – it’s bright enough out to see clearly.  Like mid twilight perhaps.\ 

I love these long days.  Kate and I have no problem going to bed with it so bright out and we don’t even need to close the blackout shades.

Its kind of like when I was a kid and had to go to bed when it was still light out.  The difference is that now I don’t complain about it.


We took our time leaving Stone Mountain in the morning as we only had about a 90 minute drive to our next destination - a very special place that we had scouted out

last time we passed thru and I made a promise to myself to come back and spend some time.

When we left Stone Mountain the AH immediately begins to descend from the high point with a 9% grade for several miles.

3rd gear with the engine brake on holds us back as we descend and we are able to enjoy the beautiful views as we return back to spring.

 6a Summit Lake to Muncho Lake BC

We cross over one of the many bridges as we follow the rivers snaking our way west thru the Canadian Rockies.   

 6b Summit Lake to Muncho Lake BC

The scenery is varied and again we enjoy our drive thru the beautiful stands of White Birch under another cloudless blue sky.

6c Summit Lake to Muncho Lake BC


We approach our destination for the day – Muncho Lake.  Here the AH is carved into the cliffs which hug the edge of this beautiful turquoise blue lake.

6d Alaska Highway Muncho Lake BC 

Our arrival at our campground however is held up by a group of Stone Sheep that are on the highway.

This area is well known for the Stone Sheep and we saw them along the road around here last trip too.

6e Big Horn Sheep Muncho Lake BC 

As I inched my way thru some became cautious and did what Stone Sheep do when feeling threatened….    They climb.

6f Big Horn Sheep Muncho Lake BC 

It is amazing to watch how sure footed they are on the edge of a seemingly unclimbable cliff.

6f1 Big Horn Sheep Muncho Lake BC 

Muncho Lake Provincial Park

MacDonald Campground


Finally, we arrive!

Our home for the next 3 or 4 nights.

 6g Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground

Set along the shore of beautiful Muncho Lake we get the nicest campsite in this small 15 site campground.

This again is pure boondocking.  No hookups – we are the only Motorhome in here. 

We quickly set up our chairs to take advantage of the view and the peace and quiet.

6h Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground 

The view from our front window is amazing!

6I Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground

I of course need to get wet.

6J Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground

There was ice floating by earlier in the day.

This water is cold! 

Cocktail hour was enjoyed in our private cove 150+ miles from the nearest town.

 6K Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground 

Followed by a long overdue steak dinner and a 375ml 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape. 

 6L Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground

Coming back to Muncho Lake and spending some time here was one of my bucket list items and we’ve been rewarded with not only a great campsite...

but also perfect weather!

Clear blue skies and daytime temps in the mid 70’s and cool nights.  The fishermen here are remarking how “hot” it is.

 It just does not get any better than this…

Does it?


After dinner we each had ½ of our remaining Cinnamon Bun and then watched a Seaplane land right in front of us on the mirror like lake waters.

 6M Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground

What a place!

 6N Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground

MacDonald Campground is located right off of the AH.   The back-in campsites are set off of a long road that runs along

the shoreline with a turn-around at the end so it’s easy to drive in, take a look, and then get back on the AH without needing to un-hook.

You can see the back end of our truck in the distance.

The nearest campsite to us was behind me from where this picture was taken.

6g1 Muncho Lake Provincial Park MacDonald Campground

Liard Hot Springs


Last time that we came this way we had made reservations and spent the night at Liard Hot Springs. 

This time we decided to stay in our beautiful spot at Muncho Lake and day-trip the 40 miles to Liard Hot Springs for the day.


Along the way we passed Bison,

1a Bison 

1B Bison


Stone Sheep

 2a Stone Sheep

And a bear.

2b Bear 

All this on a short 40 minute drive west on the AH!


Liard Hot Springs is a truly special place

Set deep in the forest of Northern British Columbia these hot mineral springs are soothing to the body and soul.

One can only imagine what a treat this must have been for the American Soldiers who were building the AH. 

Soaking those weary bones after a hard day of road building.

3a Liard Hot Springs 

The springs are divided into two pools.

Upstream is the Alpha pool, then a dam separating it from the Bravo pool downstream.

3b Liard Hot Springs 

The Alpha pool is at the source of the spring and is hotter – the Bravo a bit cooler.

In each pool, as you move upstream the water gets warmer so it’s easy to select a temperature that is just perfect for you. 

Sort of like Goldilocks and her Porridge.


This is looking downstream from the Alpha Pool, with the dam separating the two pools in the distance the cooler bravo pool in the far shade.

The bottom of the pools are lined with smooth gravel and easy on the feet.

3c Liard Hot Springs 

The temperature varies from what I would call a warm bath temp all the way up to very hot  (cook an egg?)  as you get up near where its coming out of the earth.

Here Kate and I are soaking in the Bravo Pool.

 3d Liard Hot Springs

The Bravo pool temp is much warmer where the water spills over the dam from the hotter Alpha pool.

3e Liard Hot Springs 


Returning home after a couple hours of soaking we were feeling all loose like Gumby. 

We collapsed into our chairs alongside the lake and just relaxed and enjoyed the gorgeous views.

4a Relaxing Muncho Lake 

4b Relaxing Muncho Lake


For dinner, we enjoyed a pair of Costco Frozen Pollock Burgers on the grill.

Ron taught us how to cook these and our Salmon Burgers.

 5 Costco Pollock Burgers

Throw on the gill frozen, Cook 5 min per side …

Grill a thick slice of Vidalia Onion with them and Voila. 

We put ours on a thin Flatbread and add whatever accompaniments that strike our fancy.

 Low Calorie and delicious


We left Muncho Lake on Tuesday morning and 2 1/2 hrs later stopped in Watson Lake at the Sign Forest to check out our signs from the last trip.

We found ours, plus those of Ron & Maxine - and John & Dave (NGG)

All were in good shape.   Kate & I are thinking of perhaps adding one when we come back this way in the fall.


Sign Forest Watson Lake YT


We are currently spending the night in the Big Creek Yukon Govt Campground about 40 miles west of Watson Lake.

Its on the side of a nice creek and we have a pull thru boondocking spot.

I will probably be able to upload this post when we  stay in Teslin tomorrow as that would be our next opportunity for some cell service.


Till then. 

A note:

Regarding my fuel cards.  I had several emails that we received yesterday in Watson Lake asking about how to get them.

There are numerous types that are part of different networks.

The best card for our use has been the Pacific Pride “Pridelock” card.   I obtained it thru PetroCard - a commercial fuel card vendor.

PacPride has other cards but the pridelock is the only one that works at the Canadian Cardlocks.  Unfortunatley PacPride is discontinuing the pridelock

card on July 1 and I need to find an alternative.   I’’ll let you know what way I go when I do.

To get a card thru PetroCard you need a business with a Fed ID number.  I used my employers business (with their knowledge and permission of course)

I have the invoices emailed to me and debited from my bank account.

You can obtain a PrideAdvantage card thru Pioneer Fuel (google them).   It works at US cardlocks but not Canadian.   They claim that they are in negotiations with

PetroCanada but I am not holding my breath.  Having access to the PetroCanada Superpass Sites has been a huge benefit to me IMO

You do not need a business to obtain a PrideAdvantage card thru Pioneer fuel.

You do pay for the convienience though - so if you are one of those folks who are always looking for the cheapest fuel and saving a few cents per gallon is 

important - than a cardlock card is probably not for you.

I also have a CFN and WEX Card thru PetroCard.   (still need a business to obtain)

Those two cards are on different Canadian networks but they do not have the large footprint of Petro Canada.   They are useful in Southern & Eastern Canada.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jasper AB to Dawson Creek BC.

Jasper National Park Alberta, Canada

Surrounded by the snow capped peaks of the northern Rocky Mountains,
in a mixed forest of Ponderosa Pine,  Aspen, and White Birch,
we spent several wonderful days in Whisters Campground
in Jasper National Park.

Whistlers Campground C-4 Jasper National Park 
There are mixed sites.  Some have full hookups and pull-thru sites.
We had a back in with electric only.
I was surprised however to find it was 50amp.
Usually as you get north 30amp seems to be the norm.

The campground has a wonderful trail running thru the center of the park.
We walked it from end to end several times..

Whistlers Campground Trail - Jasper National Park
We took a drive to check out some of the local attractions.
Along the way we passed two Elk Cows grazing along the side of the road.

We took a side road - Highway 93a for a different perspective on the area.
The Astoria River on highway 93a was a scenic stop.

Astoria River Jasper National Park
 Our destination was Athabasca Falls.
The Athabasca River originates from the Columbia Icefield, which you might
remember was one of our stops on the Icefield Parkway.

 A short hike from the parking area brings you to the falls, and then
there are trails running all over the area from there.

The shot below is where the falls go over the edge of the 100' drop.

We took a short 1/2 mile hike upstream from the falls to enjoy the changing views.
Athabasca River - Jasper National Park

Returning to the falls, we then took a hike down into the gorge below the falls.

Athabasca Falls Gorge
Below the falls, the river slows down and widens.
From here on it provides wildlife habitat thru the National Park
and beyond as it works its way north - eventually joining the Mackenzie
River and the Arctic Ocean.

Looking back at the falls from below.
You can see the 93a bridge above the gorge

On our morning of departure to Dawson Creek we had a large Elk Cow roaming
about the campground.  You can see that she is shedding her winter coat.

View from the drivers seat as we departed the Whistlers Campground.

Our next destination was Dawson Creek, Brittish Columbia, and mile Zero
of the Alaska Highway.

Our route for the day took us east from Jasper on TC-16
and then North on AB-40 to Grande Prairie, Ab
where we headed east to BC and Dawson Creek. 

AB-40 is a remote and scenic route.
We had a pair of Bull Moose that got spooked and ran alongside of the Bus.
I was too busy slowing down and keeping clear of them to get a picture, but it was amazing
how fast they could run.

Later on the ride we passed a herd of Dall Sheep alongside the road.
I could not stop here so this is the best picture that I could muster.

In Beaverlodge, Alberta we had to stop at the Big Beaver for a photoshoot 
with Kate and the Doodles.

We arrived at the Northern Lights RV Park in Dawson Creek around 3:30 after
about 300 miles or so of road time.

The park is nothing special but Dawson Creek is convenient as the start of the
Alaska Highway and has all the stores that you would need.
Walmart, Safeway etc.

We stayed here 3 nights.

Another view of the park.

We stopped at the Mile Zero sign in Dawson Creek to take our obligatory photo.

The Alaska Highway was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in repsonse to the
bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the fear of an invasion of Alaska.
Prior to this road there was no ground route to Alaska that the US could have used to
move troops in the event of an invasion.

The construction of 1,700 miles was completed in about 7 months thru extremely
difficult territory and and under the harshest of conditions.

Here is a photo of the road under construction.

Before we left Dawson Creek, we drove about 18km north on the Alaska Highway 
to visit the Kiskatinaw Bridge.

Built in 1942, it was constructed to replace the temporary "pioneer bridges' that were hastily
constructed by the US Army during the initial rush construction of the Alaska Highway.

This three-span timber truss bridge has an amazing nine-degree curve – a curve that the engineers designed to accommodate the highway’s steep change in grade on the west end and the need to land at a notch in the cliff on the east end. 

At the time, it was the first wooden curved bridge to be built in Canada.

Constructed with a wooden deck, it is still in use today and we drove the truck 
across where we parked while we visited the structure.

 We drove up to visit the bridge as the bus exceeds the weight limit so we would
not have been able to visit otherwise.
The highway has been re-routed and no longer uses the bridge as part of the
main highway.

Tomorrow we leave Dawson Creek and head back up the Alaska Highway.
We will be heading into areas with limited (and no) internet so our next post will be ??

Unlike last time - our schedule is flexible so I have a number of places along the way
where we might spend more time.

One advantage this trip is the commercial fuel cards that I acquired.
Unlike in the US where there are alot of Truck Stops and RV's can use the truck pumps...
Canada seems to segregate the Commercial and Retail pumps.
The Commercial pumps  which have much more room use special fuel cards.

So rather than having to squeeze into gas stations, these cards allow me to use the 
unattended "cardlock" facilities which are larger and used
by big trucks.   It makes it much easier to fuel the bus and simplifies
fuel planning.

You can see below how much room there is at the Cardlock Facilities.

UFA Cardlock Fort St. John BC

Well its time to go so stay tuned for some great places as we continue northward up
the Alaska Highway.