Even though Alaska is the main event for this trip, we couldn’t help but be taken by the beauty in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. I’m sure some of those sights will rival The Last Frontier state. It is truly a looooong way to Alaska through Canada – thousands of miles worth. We tried to enjoy it as much as possible while making time to AK. We made a few of you (and us) really tired just watching our campground hopping, but it has been so worth it.
Back in British Columbia
We last left you in Hyder, Alaska, and have several stops to share from Part 2 of the Epic Journey. Our first one was in Kinastin Lake, BC at a provincial park. These are much like our state parks, except they typically don’t have any services, so no water, power or sewer connections. Since Pat solved the refrigerator electrical problem, we are good to go for at least a day or two just on our batteries. And short generator bursts for the coffee maker, hair dryer, microwave and vacuum cleaner. I haven’t given up too many comforts as you can tell.
Since we didn’t care about what side of the coach went where for services, we parked nose in to take advantage of the magnificent view of Lake Kinastin. So quiet and so beautiful.
As they say, the journey is as good as the destination and this day was no exception. We saw 9 bears, 1 bobcat, 1 marten, and 1 wolverine. The bobcat stopped and I swear looked me right in the eye. Gorgeous creature right by the road. As for the marten and wolverine, we weren’t sure what we saw until we described them to the camp host. After looking up pictures once we had internet, we’re convinced those were the culprits.
I tried to take some sunset pictures at this stop, but sunset is elusive this far north. At 10pm, I snapped these…
Yes, those are loons and I love their haunting call. They obliged and swam right where I needed them for my dusky shot.
I stood out here freezing just so I could hear the crackle of the neighbor’s fire, call of the loons, and lapping lake water. And nothing else. Now THIS is peaceful.
Drive to Dease Lake
More BC and we are on some interesting rough roads by this point. We had expected that on the Alcan or Alaska/Canada Highway, but not quite yet. No center line, no shoulders in some cases and the pavement is noisy-rough. We knew to slow down for cones on the side of the roads, since those mark the particularly rough spots. And cones with flags in them, beware!
This day adds two caribou to our animal count at Gnat’s Pass. Notice the road in the picture. This is the Cassiar Highway and in some cases isn’t much better than going down a gravel road. A short travel day and a bit of a slow go. We did enjoy the frozen lakes and can’t believe that they still are!
Dease Lake Campground is nothing special, but we are finally in a town with fuel and a grocery store of sorts. We also have some wi-fi provided by the campground since my phone continues to disappoint. I’m hanging out by the garbage cans with our new friends from Vancouver so we can get the wi-fi signal and catch up with the world. The grocery store is an unexpected bonus and we are relieved since we misjudged the amount of dog food left. Fortunately they have big bags so Jackson doesn’t have to forage.
Driving to the Yukon
Today is exciting since are headed to the Yukon Territory. I don’t know anyone who’s actually ever been and it sounds so remote and exotic. After leaving Dease Lake civilization, we have only passed 3 vehicles, one a semi, and we’re about halfway to the Yukon when we spy a garage sale sign. And they have pizza! Seriously, who is going to that garage sale in the true middle of nowhere?
We also learn that Dolly Varden is a fish from our handy Milepost book, and can be caught in the rivers we are passing. The Milepost is a mile-by-mile Alaska travel planner that tells about every route in, out, and around Alaska. And you guessed it, talks about the routes mile by mile. I have a love/hate relationship with this piece of literature. I can’t navigate with it since it goes into nauseating detail about everything. BUT it does give you great peace of mind after miles and miles of nothingness. It also lets you know when you can count on fuel or not and where there are campgrounds and food. I get lost in it, but you really do need it for this journey.
I don’t think it’s possible to pass by Jade City on the way North. This isn’t really a city, but a store selling jade to passersby and offering free coffee and clean restrooms. I’ve read that about 90% of the world’s jade is mined from the Cassiar Mountains in BC right around here. This spot is family-owned and they mine their own jade for the beautiful things they sell. Pat is posing by a huge piece of jade before it is cut and polished. I’m with the Jade City sign and bear. Sign you say? Well, Pat did not get that part in the picture and has been chastised for it. I have a lovely jade ring to show for this lunch stop.
Such a thrill to cross the border into the Yukon Territory! They aren’t kidding with the larger than life slogan. Those of you who are Calvin and Hobbes comic strip fans will recognize that I stole the title for this section. Pat is a huge fan and read all the books to Ethan as a child. I couldn’t help but remember this one and the sentiment is so apt for our journey. We feel like kids again and escaping all the grown-up rules! Just so you get the idea, here’s Calvin’s song by author Bill Watterson –
“My tiger friend has got the sled,
And I have packed a snack.
We’re all set for the trip ahead.
We’re never coming back!
We’re abandoning this life we’ve led!
So long, Mom and Pop!
We’re sick of doing what you’ve said,
And now it’s going to stop!
We’re going where it snows all year,
Where life can have real meaning.
A place where we won’t have to hear,
“Your room could stand some cleaning.”
The Yukon is the place for us!
That’s where we want to live.
Up there we’ll get to yell and cuss,
And act real primitive.
We’ll never have to go to school,
Forced into submission,
By monstrous crabby teachers who’ll
Make us learn addition.
We’ll never have to clean a plate
Of veggie glops and goos.
Messily we’ll masticate
Using any fork we choose!
The timber wolves will be our friends.
We’ll stay up late and howl,
At the moon, till nighttime ends,
Before going on the prowl.
Oh, what a life! We cannot wait,
To be in that arctic land,
Where we’ll be masters of our fate,
And lead a life that’s grand!
No more of parental rules!
We’re heading for some snow!
Good riddance to those grown-up ghouls!
We’re leaving! Yukon Ho!”
We’re able to meet up with our new friends Cheryl & David for dinner #2 at this Yukon stop, and we also head over to the Sign Post Forest.
We didn’t think this would be much of a big deal, but it has posts covered with signs from all over the world. Everything from toilet seats to spatulas to actual road signs commemorating their Alaska treks. My mom & dad visited here when they made their journey from Florida to Alaska, but don’t think they put up a sign and neither did we. We did take another couple’s picture to document their new sign.
This little Catholic mission church was literally behind our campsite. We only had to walk around the campground fence to get there and you can even see the campground sign to the right in the picture. I mention this because the two priests were so excited that one of them just got his driver’s license and they were headed to White Horse the next day to get a car. No more bumming rides from parishioners to get to the remote spots in their parish. A great reminder of things we take for granted such as transportation, reliable communication and the ability to get to church, any church.
Teslin Lake Territorial Park
When we were at the provincial park, the camp host offered a piece of advice. If you have the time, stay at Yukon territorial parks. They don’t have services either, but come out to roughly $9 a night for camping. Practically free and just as gorgeous as BC.
The lake was still frozen and the ice chunks were pushed up on the shore. They shifted and moved and sounded like ice cubes chinking in a glass. Or maybe a tiny glass avalanche. Another peaceful spot hearing only the crunch of boots on the rocks and the shifting ice shards.
The rocky shoreline was tough on Jackson’s feet. He seemed to like the snow better, but did a little slipping and sliding.
Other Stuff to Report
So we’re driving along after leaving Watson Lake, and the tire pressure monitoring system sounds the alarm. It’s my job to monitor this when we drive and it tells us pressure and temp on all our tires – Bitsy & Lucy. So far it just alarms when it loses connection with one of the sensors and needs a reset. This time, however, it is crying out for one of Lucy’s duallies and reporting a temp of 298 degrees. That can’t be good I say, and fortunately we were just passing a place to stop. I’m happy to report that it was a false reading and reset after Pat checked all the tires. I’d rather do an extra check if it means we prevent blow-outs.
We enjoy finding humor in the ordinary. The Chinese restaurant in Watson Lake painted their propane tanks. A little whimsy on the roadside. Which do you like better – Cheshire Cat or Yellow Submarine?
And our new shredding method. The real shredder took up too much room, so we gave it away. This low budget method seems to work just fine, although I tend to put too much in at a time and snuff out the fire.
Next up we’ll be in Part 3 of the Epic Journey starting back in Alaska with Skagway. See you on the way!