June 2019 – Driving the Alaska Highway through British Columbia

We left Dawson Creek BC with a map and a copy of the Milepost, which is a must have, if you want to find your way, find campgrounds and learn about the highway along the way There are very few roads on our journey and this book details it mile by mile. It’s a bit of an overkill at times, we don’t really need to know where every trash bin is, but it offers many tidbits that we wouldn’t have otherwise known. We learned that we must be sure to have enough fuel at all times as gas stations are few and far between. Also, to be alert for bumps, dips and potholes and stretches of gravel road.

The Alaska Highway was built in 1942, and was initially built as a response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese threat to Alaska and Pacific shipping lanes. 10,000 US troops were sent into Canada for the construction and they faced hardships due to the harsh weather conditions as well as mosquitoes and black fiy infestations. Many casualties and deaths were reported.

The first 613 miles are in British Columbia, and 577 miles traverse the Yukon.

What we didn’t expect was the Alaska Highway to be mostly 2 lanes and this first stretch was masses of trucks and construction with stretches of dirt road. They are widening this part, so there were plenty of worksites and loggers carting off trees, and it was stop and go for most of our first day.

First stop was the Buckinghorse Campground after 173 miles in 4 hours. We stopped quite early in the day to ensure a spot. We learned quite quickly though that most of the travelers on this route are on a mission to get to Alaska with as few stops as possible, and when they stop they arrive late and leave early. We, on the other hand are in no rush, no particular plans and are taking our time. We prefer to get our driving done in the morning and camp by 2pm.

The following morning we drove over to the cafe across the street before heading out

Our first sign warning of wildlife, even though we were days away from the Yukon. Our Milepost book gives these wildlife warnings every few miles. Traffic was lighter today, in fact we found during much of the drive we were alone on the road.

We are still in the Northern Rockies, and this area is mountainous and heavily forested. Fort Nelson, the first town that we encountered was once a pioneer community of trappers who developed fur trading in the 1920’s

We stopped at Summit Lake in the Stone Mountain Provincial Park. As we pulled in we noticed a car with two ladies stranded on the side of the road, no cell service and the nearest town one hour away in each direction. Fortunately, someone else stopped and offered to drive them to one of the towns, which was their ultimate destination.

A pleasant campground with a view of the lake, bear warnings everywhere, so you tend to be looking over your shoulder at all times.

The Milepost warned of sheep a couple of miles up the road, so we went to take a look, and there they were, at the exact mile marker they were listed at, and this book is 2018 edition

They look like goats but they are actually Doll or Stone Sheep, blending in really well with the landscape. The dominant male was lauding it over the ewes and lambs from his high post.

We left the following morning and drove to Toad River Lodge which is know for its collection of hats which numbers in the thousands

We met another couple also driving a Ventana and towing a Wrangler at our stop for lunch, who we met earlier when we stopped for an ATM at The Toad River Lodge. We had Bison burgers, their specialty

Then we saw the bison just grazing along the road (maybe a relative of our lunch) guilt or no guilt?

A whole herd just “hanging” across the road

We had to go to Liard Hot Springs, not so much that we wanted to, but everyone said we had to, even the darn book. We’re not particularly hot springs fans, too much like having a bath with many people.

We did however, meet a sheep farmer and his wife from New Zealand while we were in there, and a guy we’d met a couple of times along the road, so that made it all worthwhile.

It was quite a social event

These springs are extremely hot and get progressively hotter as you go to the right end, I believe 178 degrees. The custom is to place a rock from the spring at the hottest point to prove you made it. We were too busy socializing to care.

As we drove on we saw spectacular scenery with aspen, spruce and poplar trees. also a black bear and more stone sheep.

After three days and 607 miles we crossed into the Yukon from British Columbia

Our first stop was Watson Lake YT, a little GPS failure, and not quite sure of our destination, we came upon Watson Lake Campground ( sheer luck I think ) and who should show up behind us was Rochelle, who’d we’d met earlier at lunch, and was heading for her sisters baby shower in Whitehorse.

Watson Lake which was also hard to find for some reason.

We walked around the signpost forest in Watson Lake.

The Watson Lake Signpost Forest was started in 1942 by a US Army engineer. Travellers have been adding to it ever since, in fact we met a couple of  families who’d had signs made ready to hang on their way through, but we were unprepared and didn’t have one to contribute.

The signs number more than 85,000 and this site was designated a Yukon Historic Site in 2013

So we have 607 miles on the Alaska Highway under our belt, now for Yukon.

We just filled our 100 gallon diesel guzzling tank and fuel was the highest we’ve paid yet at $4.59 per gallon and at 7-8 mpg that can get expensive, but at least the campgrounds are much cheaper, averaging $15 per night.

Not to worry, this is an experience of a lifetime!

 

 

 

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