June 20, was our departure day from Stuart Florida. The weather, was hot and humid, good to be leaving behind or so we thought. Driving out of the South Eastern part of the US, doesn’t give a person many options to get to the northwest. For us in south Florida, the first day is consumed driving north. We took Interstate 95 to Fort Pierce, got on the Florida Turnpike to Wildwood, west on Hwy 44 to Crystal River and then Hwy 19 north to Interstate 10, close to Tallahassee. We stopped for the night at Tallahassee RV Resort. This was a comfortable campground, far enough off the interstate so we didn’t get any road noise but it was easy to get back on the next morning.
Once we get to the Tallahassee area we try to get a good briefing of the weather, in the rest of the country. We determined that the middle part of the US was going to continue to have storms and tornadoes for several days so we chose to stay south. Our normal route out of the SE would be to Montgomery, Birmingham, Memphis, Little Rock, to Okie City and north. But the storms kept us on Interstate 10, west bound. In the last 10 or 15 years we have avoided Interstate 10 in Louisiana due to the poor condition of the highway. However this trip the highway was much better, not great, but a major improvement over the last time we drove it.
Drove west through Mobile, and on to Beaux Bridge, Louisiana, where we stayed at Poche’s RV Park and Fish Camp. We had been in fairly heavy rain most of the afternoon, but little wind. Poche’s was located about 6 miles out of town but was a nice place to stay.
The next morning, we headed on NW toward Shreveport, Louisiana, headed for Interstate 20. There was a weather front between us and Dallas but I preferred driving that route, to going through Houston Texas in a heavy rain. We had moderate rain for about an hour and then we were in the clear, as we traveled through Dallas on Interstate 20, which stays south of the major congestion of the city. We stopped for the night at Coffee Creek RV Resort in Santo Texas. Temperatures were running about 100°F most of the afternoon. Fairly new campground, very few trees, beautiful swimming pool and hot tub.
Then west the next morning, to just past Abilene Texas, turned NW to Lubbock TX. Again about 100°F for most of the day, so at Lubbock we decided to head on west to Clovis NM and hopefully find some cooler weather in the New Mexico hill country of the NE part of the state. It continued to get hotter and hotter as we drove through New Mexico, headed for Las Vegas, NM. For several hours the truck’s outside temperature gauge was stuck on 106°F and when we stopped at a rest area, it was like stepping into an oven. Got to the Las Vegas KOA and got a site, plugged in to power and turned on the AC. There were columns of forest fire smoke to the west of Las Vegas so we headed on north into Colorado the next morning.
Made it to Pueblo about noon and turned west on Hwy 50, headed for Montrose Colorado. Bought some groceries at the new Wal Mart in Pueblo West and got diesel fuel in Canon City. We stopped at several rest areas, along the route, to photo the rushing Arkansas River, as it was running full. Some parts of Colorado were reported to have received 300% of their normal snow fall last winter. Made it to Montrose and drove to the Montrose RV Resort where we have spent several months in previous summers. Found it to be renamed as a KOA, which it was many years ago. Same excellent management, clean, everything works, has been expanded since our last visit with them. The owner has added a new section on the back for permanent residents of the park, complete with underground metered propane at the sites.
We spent the one night and then north on Hwy 50 to Grand Junction where we visited an RV dealer that sold Lance Campers, which we have and are using this trip. I needed a part for it and found it there. I will install it when I return to Florida in the fall. At Grand Junction, we joined Interstate 70 and pointed the truck toward the west and Green River Utah.
The landscape to the west of Grand Junction, on Interstate 70 is somewhat arid, to say the least. Seems as though you can see forever when on top of the ridges.
At Green River, we went NW to Helper Utah and on to Spanish Fork and Interstate 15. The Interstate was under major construction for about 40 miles till we got close to Salt Lake City. Traffic in this area is always bad but it was horrible this time through. Lanes closed, concrete dividers too close for comfort, to the side of my camper, etc. Much of the traffic was running well above the speed limit. Will avoid SLC in the future when ever possible. We drove on to Brigham City and checked into the KOA located there. This has to be the worst KOA where we have ever stayed, junky, trash everywhere, strangest utility connections I have ever seen. Never again, but I was too tired of driving to move somewhere else.
Then up to Idaho Falls, where by this time of the trip, we were tired of the Interstates so decided to go west and check out the Craters of the Moon National Preserve. It is a great place to stop and spend some time. I had never seen any landscape looking like it does here from ancient volcano eruptions. From the Craters, we headed a bit west and then north on Hwy 75 to go through Ketchum Idaho, the last home of one of my literary heroes, Ernest Hemingway, and spent the night at a FS campground in the Sawtooth Mountains, near Stanley Idaho. Temperature was down to 32°F the next morning, a big change from what we experienced in New Mexico. From there it was north to Salmon Idaho, to Missoula Montana and then to Kalispell Montana where we met Pat’s sister Lei and brother in law Rod. We stayed at the Spruce Park Resort on the banks of the Flathead River, very high water.
It was very windy at the Craters Monument, in the below, top, center photo, the round object is my camera lens cover, standing straight out. LOL
After a week in Kalispell, a visit to Glacier Nat’l Park, very little accessible due to road closures. While in Kalispell we stayed at the Spruce Park Campground, in town, very nice place.
Heading west we came to the Kootenai Falls just out of Troy Montana. Troy also has a very fine museum where we spent a couple of hours.
We headed west to Moyie Springs Idaho for a weeks stay at the Two Rivers Canyon RV Park. A great place to kick back and relax. No cell service but WiFi was available at the office.
We had to make a slight detour into the town of Bonner's Ferry to replace a truck tire. The almost new Goodyear on the truck had developed a sidewall separation and wasn't road worthy in my opinion. Found a Les Schwab Tire store and they installed a new one of their brand for me.
We were waiting till after Canada Day, July 1 and the 4th of July in the US, to enter Canada. Crossed into Canada at Kingsport. Couple of general questions, where to? How Long? How much alcohol? Then a discussion of my firearms, of which I had none with me. Something in the computer system makes firearms the only things they want to discuss after their computer pulls me up. I assured the customs official I understood Canadian law regarding the private ownership of hand guns. He even asked me how long it had been since I had a firearm in my truck and my camper. I told him, honestly it had been over a year. We weren’t at the window for more than 10 minutes and were told to proceed and have a good visit in Canada.
From Creston BC we took Hwy 3A north to ride the ferry across Kootenay Bay, about a 30 minute ride. My wife and I both enjoy the BC Ferry system and ride them any chance we get. They are free, run often and provide a safe comfortable ride for vehicles and passengers.
We stopped at the town of Kaslo, BC and spent a few hours. They have a restored steam powered lake boat, the SS Moyie. It is fascinating to me and I spent a few hours going through it, self guided. It is a town well worth a return visit to spend more time. People were in the Kootenay Lake swimming, many old homes, businesses, etc. in town.
We had reservations for two sites at the Nakusp Hot Springs which is located about 12 miles NE of the town of Nakusp. I drove down the main street, before going to the campground, to withdraw $400cnd from a bank ATM. With the Canadian dollar worth more than the US currently, plus the foreign transaction fee and others, when I checked my bank account, the withdrawal, had cost me $419 usd and change. I will do the same when we make the return trip, as I prefer to have some cash for our use.
From Nakusp, it was north on Hwy 23 to ride the Galena Bay Ferry and on to Revelstoke where we picked up Hwy 1.
Then we drove west on Hwy 1, to Shuswap Provincial Park, not an easy place to find. When we pulled up to the registration kiosk, there was a large sign stating “campground full” but my wife noticed there was a small handwritten note taped to it, stating “single and double sites available for one or two nights” So we took a double for the two rigs and got set up. This is a fabulous campground and many people agree, I would say. It is run by a contractor for the Province of BC. Tried to locate a friend of mine, Gary Haupt, who works at the park during the summers but he was off work and not in the park.
West to Kamloops, bought some supplies, and then turned north on Hwy 5 to Little Fort BC. I have never seen so many trains in such a small area as in the Kamloops area. Long freight trains going every direction it seems. I counted 12 trains and then quit counting. Would not want to be the person that has to keep them on separate tracks to avoid collisions. From Little Fort (great Subway sandwiches there) we went west to 100 Mile House BC and changed to Hwy 97 north. First plan for the evening was to stay at the Lac La Hache PP but it was raining and very buggy when we pulled in, so then the second plan was to continue on north to Ten Mile Lake PP which we did and got a double site. I was somewhat surprised with the variation in camping costs at the different provincial parks in BC. Also costs at the provincial parks has increased a good amount since our last trip in 2009. Plus now most seem to be run by private contractors and are charging extra to use the sani-dumps with $5 cnd being the most common seen charge.
The next morning we parted company with Pat’s sister and BIL as they needed to head back to Portland Oregon. At Prince George, we took the bypass and then next thing we knew, we were out of town on the west side. We made a stop at the Vanderhoof Co op store to visit their deli section. One of the finest deli markets I have ever been in, anywhere. It always takes me a while to figure out how much I want, as it is all sold by the 100gram. So 500 grams is just about one pound, that is what I order of the meats, salads, etc. If anyone is ever in Vanderhoof, they owe it to themselves to stop at the co op store to resupply. Very good selection of groceries as well. Some quantities are more that what Pat and I want to buy and carry in our camper. Fresh fruits and vegetables, in abundance, are available.
Heading on west on Hwy 16, the day started getting exciting. First a grown black bear ran out on the highway just in front of us before doing a U turn and hitting the ditch. Guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping. Then I noticed in my rear view mirror that my cover over the water heater had come undone and was flapping in the wind. Pulling over onto the shoulder, I can to a very rapid and unexpected haul, with the camper setting at an angle, due to the passenger side tires sinking into the soft soil from all the spring rains. At least 20 vehicles stopped to offer help and one young couple from Vanderhoof, Mark and Tally, spent over an hour with us, called a wrecker out of Burns Lake and were just great. One person that stopped then notified the RCMP office in Vanderhoof, who sent out an officer to check on us and make sure the wrecker had been dispatched. The wrecker arrived, with a very personable and competent operator, and had us back on the road in quick order. All I can say again is, Canadians are just great and still remember what it means to be a good neighbor. Hope I learn from them.
Then after we were back on the road, just part Burns Lake, an adult cow moose, ran out in front of the truck. I locked on the brakes and the moose U turned so a collision was avoided by all. I forget how big an adult moose is, standing between 6 and 7 feet in height. Sure fills the windshield view when they are that close. By the time we reached Houston BC, the Shady Rest RV beckoned us to stay. This was about the 3rd time we have spent the night there and it is one of the finest privately owned RV campgrounds anywhere. If you enjoy beautiful flowers, an immaculately groomed park, clean showers, a reasonable price and a pleasant owner/manager, this is the place to stop.
Kitwanga was our next stop for fuel and headed on west. This was the first time Pat or I can remember going west of Kitwanga on Hwy 16. First town of any size was Terrace BC and then on to Prince Rupert where we stayed at the only campground in town, the Prince Rupert RV Park, located close to the ferry terminal for the AMHS. The church building below, really is not leaning, I just need to straighten up the photo.
We arrived in Prince Rupert a few days earlier than our ferry was scheduled to depart for Skagway. One day we drove out of town and turned south to the old town of Port Edward, where we spent a few hours touring the North Pacific Cannery, which is being restored by Parks Canada. They have a small café there so we had lunch and then returned to PR. Drove down to Seal Cove Seaplane base but not much activity on a Sunday. Next we stopped to resupply groceries at the local Safeway store and then walked across the street to visit the Museum of Northern British Columbia. Very nice museum.
The campground tends to fill up depending on the ferry schedule, so at times reservations would probably be good to have. The campground appears to be full tonight with the AMHS ferry, MV Matanuska, leaving out of here for Skagway tomorrow afternoon. The BC Ferry came in just after the Matanuska arrived.
The ferry ride north to Skagway was impressive as always. Since the last time we did the ferry ride south, from Skagway to Bellingham, this trip north hit different places during the day time. It was about a 6 hour ride to Ketchikan from Prince Rupert, we arrived in Ketchikan just after midnight the first day. Patti and I had seen Ketchikan on the previous trip, we didn’t get up for the docking. I awoke about 4:30 AM, just as we were leaving Ketchikan, dressed and went outside to take a few early morning photos as we headed north toward Wrangell Alaska.
All ferry schedules are on Alaska time, one hour earlier than Pacific time. Since I normally get up at 5 AM, and we had been on Pacific time for several weeks, I was up at 4 AM on Alaska time zone.
The cafeteria served very good food, lots of it, at a reasonable cost IMHO, but I wish they would start serving an hour earlier for the same amount of hours.
Not having been to Prince Rupert before, it was a much bigger shipping port than I had expected. They were loading one large ship after another with coal and grain. They have two separate loading facilities for each commodity, shown below. There is also a large container loading and unloading dock area.
The Matanuska has two viewing lounges, one with straight backed swivel chairs and a forward view, and the other has recliners but only offers views out the side. The cabins are somewhat small, about 8 X 10 ft. plus the bathroom but it is plenty since we only used it for sleeping.
The weather was great on July 13, our second day on the ferry, hardly a cloud in the sky. The water got a bit rough as we had passed through Dixon Entrance before we ducked back behind the islands of the Inland Passage for the remainder of the trip. The MV Matanuska, normally took about 2 hours to off load and reload. First stop after Ketchikan was Wrangell, and then a 4 hour run up to Petersburg.
Since we had been to Ketchikan on our last ferry ride, 2004 from Skagway to Bellingham Washington, we didn't get up when we arrived in Ketchikan. I awoke just as we were leaving, about 4 AM and went out on deck to take a few photos. There is always something to see off the ferry, cruise ships such as the Millennium, other ferrys, such as the Taku, tow boats pulling barges of cargo, logs, etc. Or just watch the scenery on shore go by.
Next came the community of Wrangell. Between Wrangell and Petersburg are Wrangell Narrows and it appears just to have room for the ferry to pass through. It is possible to talk to people on shore as the ferry slows down to go through this passage. Many fishing boats and private cruising boats to be seen as well.
I was not expecting all the activity in the Petersburg area, many new homes, large numbers of shipping containers stacked on shore at fish processing plants, etc. Many tourists got off at Petersburg with their RVs. Petersburg is not known as a tourists destination but as a commercial fishing community. Many of the residents identify themselves as being of Norwegian ancestry
From Petersburg to Juneau is listed as a 9 hour passage on the ferry. The weather remained great, lots of photo opps, with glaciers, mountains, in every direction a person faced. The sunset just before Juneau was spectacular as it set between two mountains. Most of this run goes up what is called the Stevens Passage, a very deep fiord running north – south. Charts in the observation lounge listed the depth of the water at over 1,500 feet in places with the shallowest showing at 500 feet.
About 10:30 PM I was ready for bed so headed to the cabin. When I awoke the next morning, the ferry was moving again. Looking out the window of the cabin, I decided we were somewhere between Juneau and Haines. Going outside with my camera, got some photos of a light house we were passing by on the north side. The sign on the second photo is readable, when the photo is "blown" up and states USLHE (United States Light House E(?)
The stop at Haines was quick, about a hour total before heading on to Skagway.
We arrived in Haines after a 5 hours run and pulled into the State ferry dock. A few vehicles got off and on here, plus a couple of truck trailers were exchanged. Just after 8 AM we pulled out headed for Skagway, an hours run. Along the way, there were lots of sports fishing boats, so the salmon must have been in the Lynn Canal where we were traveling. There were a couple of fast passenger catamarans out on the water as well. One was the Alaska Native owned one out of Skagway. The others must have been tour boats.
There were 3 cruise ships tied up at the dock in Skagway when we arrive about 9:15 AM to end our ferry trip. Our truck was in the aft section of the car deck parking so we were one of the last vehicles to unload. It was a matter of driving to the front of the ship, turning right and going out the large loading door onto the ramp and floating dock, then up the ramp to the parking lot. We drove down main street and it was full of passengers off the cruise ships so we didn’t even stop. It was looking like rain and as we headed up the road, toward Carcross, the rain and fog started. Very few photo opps available this morning. It stopped raining about the time we reached the US Customs station. Standard group of questions, ATF. (alcohol, tobacco and firearms)
Took a swing through Carcross but it looked the same as the last trip for the most part so on to Whitehorse. The Hi Country RV Park had a full hookup available so we got it and then went on down town to resupply with groceries. Had the oil changed in the truck at Envirolube, downtown Whitehorse for $136cnd,, got groceries at Super Foods market, always busy but well stocked, then to the Yukon Brewery for a purchase and back to the campground. It had continued raining all this time we were in town. Temperature was running in the low 50s F. Hi Country was well run, clean and a good place to stay. This is usually our first choice, if space is available, and have stayed here many times over the years.
Stopped at the Carcross post office to drop off some mail for the grandsons.
Then back to the Hi Country Campground in Whitehorse after resupplying the truck camper. We did some shopping at Wal Mart in Whitehorse and the parking lot must have had 35 or so RV parked there, some shopping, and some getting ready to spend the night. May be the largest camping spot in town. Bought some items at Canadian Tire next door and then made a grocery stop before heading up the hill to the Hi Country Campground.
July 15 found us headed for Dawson City. While in Whitehorse, we were told there was a music festival going on in Dawson City this weekend so we decided to just take our chances on getting a site at one of the RV parks in town. It rained off and on most of the day, some construction, about 10 miles of gravel just north of Mom’s Sourdough Café, that had a pilot car. The camper was coated in mud by the time we got off the construction area. Overall the road was much better than the last time we had gone to Dawson City in 2004. Some rough spots, some pot holes occasionally but not hard to drive around them for the most part. The closer we got to Dawson, the more frost heaves we encountered, but slowing down took care of them. There was more vehicle traffic this trip than we had seen before, probably because of the music festival. We enjoy the "free" firewood supplied by the Yukon Parks.
Gold Rush Campground in town was our first choice but it was full so we back tracked to the edge of town and got the last spot at the Dawson City RV Park, next door to the Bonanza RV park. (both owned by the same people, I believe) Our site had electric only but that was fine. The shower building was excellent, clean, lots of hot water, and they were coin operated, $2 for a 9 minute shower. The next morning we toured around town for awhile and with the crowd of people in town, we decided to head on over the Top of the World Highway to Tok.
We took a few photos from the far side of the river, after getting off the ferry, George Black. We were the 5th RV in line when we arrived at the ferry landing so we had to wait for the 2nd crossing. The first one took the 4 RVs ahead of us and one pickup. The weather was partly cloudy as we climbed the grade, up from the river as we headed west. On the Canadian side of the Top of the World Hwy, also known as the Sixty Mile Hwy to some, the surface had been all chip and seal at one time but now is about half chip and seal and half gravel. The Canadian road crews take good care of their sections, adding calcium chloride to the gravel which packs down into a hard smooth surface. Down side is that it, being salt, is hard on the paint and any metal, if left on too long.
It was about noon, when we reached the 60 mile mining road turn off and we decided to stop for lunch. Patti had just gotten out of the truck when she told me we had a tire going flat, she could hear it hissing. This was somewhat ironic as this was the first of our last half dozen trips to Alaska, that I hadn’t carried a 12 volt air compressor with us, but it was home this trip. The real problem of having a flat on the truck with the camper on it, is that the camper has to come off to be able to get to the location to lower the spare tire from underneath. All together it was about a 2 ½ hour task to get the tire changed. The spare was low on air pressure as well so we had to drive even slower than normal till we could find someone with compressed air.
It had just started to sprinkle by the time we reach Poker Creek, the US Customs station on the border. Very few questions, claimed their computer system had crashed and was just coming back up as we got there. Tends to be a standard comment as the officer waits for our personal information to be retrieved. He asked the standard firearms questions and sent us on our way. It had obviously rained very heavily on the US side as there were standing pools of water on the road, very muddy, wash boarded, soft spots, etc.
We only had to wait about 45 minutes to get on the ferry to cross the Yukon River headed for the Top of the World Highway.
Stopped at the Boundary Roadhouse and inquired about compressed air. The person there told me he could do that but it would take a while to get set up. This consisted on having to start his portable generator, first putting gasoline in it, then plugging his compressor in and finally was able to get my tire up to the 80 psi I normally carry in them, when loaded. Getting the tire pressure up to normal made Pat and me, both feel better, since we were running without a spare at this time. I asked the owner what I owed him and he though $10 would be OK, so I paid him the $10 and tipped him another $10. It was worth it to me, for him to be open and having the equipment.
It was still raining when we reached Chicken, stopped and visited with the son of an old friend of mine, bought a few T shirts and drove on to Tok. The Taylor Hwy was good in spots, and then sections of it were gravel patched, repeatedly patched with asphalt, and parts were about to fall off the side of the hills. We were flagged down by a couple of bicycle riders, foreign folks, in need of water. Curious as to where they had planned to find water for their ride north toward Chicken. We gave then half a dozen bottles of water and headed on to Tok. We decided to stay somewhere different this trip so went to the Tok RV Wilderness Campground. It is probably the nicest place where we have ever stayed in town. One of the better cared for campgrounds in Alaska, that we know of, and could sure recommend it to others.
The campground recommended Tok RV Services, just a couple of blocks west of the campground, for my tire repair. So we took the rig to the campground car wash, $9, and sprayed about 10 pounds of mud off of it, from the muddy, Top of the World road. The car wash is cold water only, but they furnish buckets, long handled scrub brushes and for the $9 you can wash as long as you wish. Then I took the camper off the truck at our site, which we got for two nights and headed down to the Tok RV Services to get the tire repaired. It was patched and put back on the ground and the spare was placed back under the truck where it rides normally. We were charged $40 and since it took about an hour to get the job done, I thought it was a reasonable charge.
We spent two nights in Tok, taking time to wash the truck, do laundry and then headed on to Fairbanks. The new bridge was finished over the Tanana River and the highway was in good shape to Fairbanks. We got a space at River’s Edge Campground, C16 with full hookups. We were both glad to see that the campground was receiving some needed maintenance. Both bathrooms/showers had be painted and refurbished, pots were planted etc. Called a friend and she was in Anchorage helping her son and his family move to a new house. We agree to meet her in Anchorage and she was going to get in touch with an Anchorage friend also. Had breakfast at Sam’s Sourdough café and it was as good as we remembered it to be. Drove around town but not much had changed. South Cushman street was really depressed looking.
On the way to Fairbanks, we stopped for a couple of hours at the Santa Claus House in North Pole. It is a super nice gift shop run by a long time local family. The same family owned and operated the next door campground, Santa Land RV park but decided to close it this summer. The gift shop tied for first place in my search for the best amaretto flavored fudge on the trip, with the Monarch Crest gift shop on top of Monarch Pass in Colorado. Both make it on site and it is great.
Made it to Fairbanks and checked into the Rivers Edge Campground. Was so good to see all the maintenance work that had been done since our last visit in 2009. (see that trip for photos of the place)
A short visit to Nenana was on order, as this was where we lived for the last 13 years we were in Alaska, prior to moving to western Colorado.
On south, down the Parks highway with several stops, to take photos, eat lunch, etc. Because of the rainy and cool spring and summer, the rose hips (makes great jelly when ripe) and other wild flowers were out in abundance.
Mount McKinley is always an impressive chunk of rock to me, even though my office in Nenana had a picture window in the south wall that framed the mountain, which is visible more often in the winter time. Flying in and out of Nenana several times a week, it was always an awe inspiring site to see, on take offs and landings. Of course, at times the mountain generated it's own weather systems, which could be very nasty for a small plane.
The weather was perfect for the drive down to Palmer where we got a site at the Homestead RV for two nights. Mount McKinley was out for all to see. We took a few photos of it. Stopped at the Wal Mart in Palmer, red in color, to buy some groceries and went to the campground. The WiFi worked for a short time but then went off the air and remained off for the night. The next day we drove down to Anchorage to have lunch with Donnette and Aggie at the Red Robin located at the same place the old Anchorage RV Park was located. We had a good couple of hours visiting with the two friends. Then Patti and I headed back to Palmer and east to Glennallen and spent the night at the Gakona Alaska RV Park at mile 4 of the Tok Cutoff. Nice place down on the Copper River, only electric was available as the full hookups had all been rented to a construction company.
From time to time, the Anchorage RV Campground gets mentioned on the forums. It was the finest place to stay in town but was changed over to a shopping mall a few years back. We met our friends at a Red Robin at the mall. I think we last camped at Anchorage RV, about where the silver truck is parked. LOL The campground was owned by the local Alaska Native Corp and they felt it was in their shareholders best interest to build the mall and get a better return on their land.
We left Anchorage just after lunch and headed east on the Glenn Hwy to Glennallen, stopping for the night at the Gakona RV Park, just east a few miles from Gakona Junction. It was located on the river, with water and electric hookups. All the full hookups had been leased to one of the road construction companies for their crews. Nice spot to stay, quiet, well run, clean and easy in and out.
A bit of construction being done on the Glenn Hwy and had to wait for a pilot car. The cut off hwy had some rough spots here and there, and we got to Tok in just under 3 hours. Stopped at Three Bears for groceries, a liquor store for some gin for my raisins and headed toward the border. Three Bears is a real good place to stock up on any needed food items. (just make sure the items are allowed across the border, check the current regulations. Otherwise you may have to give up the items. )
Patti found some birch bark baskets at the native store in Northway which we bought. Drew the lucky card at the Canadian Customs station and got a full search of the vehicle. Took us about an hour to get through Customs. It looked to be a training day for some young officers was all we could figure. They had at least 15 RVs backed up from the window behind us. They were in no hurry to screen the visitors and made everyone wait for a long time. Soon we were sent on our way. Took some new photos, of Buckshot Betty’s café in Beaver Creek and on south.
The road from the border to Destruction Bay was not bad at all. Best I have seen in many years. There was lots of new chip and seal down so that may have been the answer to what we saw and drove on. Spent the night at the Cottonwood RV, on Kluane Lake. $32 cash for water and 15 amp electric plug. Place was just immaculate as always. The owners have bird houses all over the property which I believe they build as a hobby during the winter, when they are living in Ontario.
Koidern Lodge was closed and boarded up this trip. It is one of the older businesses on the Alaska Hwy.
White River RV Park is open again and good to see as it is a good place to camp IMHO. No longer sells fuel as you can see the pumps are now covered. New owners I do believe.
The Alaska Highway was in the best shape along this stretch, that we have ever seen it in, but lots of miles on new chip and seal pavement had been laid. There were still a few places that it took 5 mph to get through safely but not like it had been in the past. Of course, there will be new problems develop next spring when the underlying permafrost starts to thaw under the road bed. Crossed over the Teslin River bridge and took a couple of photos, of one of my favorite rivers and lakes. Photographed Mukluk Annie's, now closed since 2009 I believe.
The next day found us headed for Haines Junction to Whitehorse and finally to Watson Lake for the night at the Downtown RV Park, a large gravel pad type of place. There isn’t too much to see in the stretch of road traveled so we just motored along. Took some pictures of some of the old roadhouses, Mukluk Annie’s, Swift River and Continental Divide Lodge. Bought diesel in Whitehorse and will need more prior to leaving Watson Lake.
Watson Lake Downtown RV Park is a good stop, gravel parking lot style common to many private ones in the north country. It, like most others, along the Alaska Highway is for sale. A grocery store, which we like, is located just across the street and up a half block or so. The park had good WiFi while we were there, slow when lots of campers were using it, but faster early in the morning or late at night.
There were many bison out along the road side in the area of Coal River Roadhouse, not far from Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. We saw several black bears munching grass along the road as well. Saw my first black bear sow with triplets. Twins are very common but the first I have ever seen with three babies. Stopped at Toad River for lunch. A couple of the formerly closed road houses were open this summer. We stopped to visit with the owners of the Muncho Lake Roadhouse. They told us it was going to be a RV park in the future, no fuel sales as the inventory cost was just too great for them. They had also torn down the old lodge building and put up new restrooms and showers for their campground. Poplars CG was also open but didn’t appear to be selling fuel at that time. Liard Hot Springs Lodge, across the highway from the provincial park, was open, including the café, the fuel pumps and the campground. The hotel rooms didn’t appear to be available at that time.
Many animals, in addition to the mentioned bison, including stone sheep, cariboo (the Canadian spelling of them) etc. When driving in this area, remember, the animals do own the road and may be around any turn in the highway. The heavy trucks also give the bison a 5 mph pass.
Spent the night at the Triple G Campground in Fort Nelson, a place with new owners, trying to improve the place.
The farther south, one travels on the Alaska hwy, the more civilized it becomes and is hard to tell it from any other highway. The road in this section is for the most part very good, however there is a rough section on the long hill as you climb out of the Sikianni Chief Lodge area. Real rough pavement, with mixed gravel, etc. but is only for a few miles. We only stopped in Dawson Creek long enough to get fuel, then on to Grande Prairie and south on Hwy 40 to Grande Cache for the night. The town runs a nice campground, with some full hookups available. $30 cdn for the full one we got. Free fire wood is included at that price.
From Grande Cache, we drove on south to the Hinton Junction with Hwy 16 where we turned west to the town of Jasper. Bought diesel and found several more stations selling diesel than in the past. South on the Ice Fields Parkway, toward Banff NP. Absolutely a gorgeous day to sight see in the national parks.
At the Lake Louise junction we headed west to Radium Hot Springs. Drove up the hill to Kootenay NP Campground and got a full hookup site. Great campground and our first time staying at it. It is a very large campground and very popular. Not a cheap place to stay, $47 cdn for the night, with the “fire permit” included but well worth it to us. The permit includes free fire wood so we set around the fire till late, knowing that we were going to have to start making the miles to get home to Florida on the date we wanted to arrive. While Redstreak Campground is very large, as the map below indicates, it is laid out for a lot of privacy. There is a large hot springs pool and spa on the east edge of town but we didn't stop this trip. On previous trips we have stayed several days in the Radium Hot Springs area and used the pool daily.
The next day we crossed into the US at the Roosville crossing. It was back to a few ATF questions (alcohol, tobacco and firearms) which we answered and were sent on our way. Probably took 3 to 5 minutes to make it through Customs, about what we have come to expect over the years.
From here it was to Missoula Montana, Billings Montana, Cheyenne Wyoming, Denver Colorado and east on Interstate 70 to Salina Kansas, south to Stillwater Oklahoma for a family visit, then east on Interstate 40. In Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas,; we were seeing temperatures as high as 111° F on the truck outside thermometer. Forecast was for even higher temperatures later in the week. By the time we reached Memphis, the temperatures were down around 100° F and getting lower as we headed for Birmingham Alabama, then to Montgomery to Dothan and on to Florida.
We stopped one night at the Ivy Cove Campground in Russelville, Arkansas and it deserves special mention IMHO. It was probably in the top 3 campgrounds where we stayed this summer. Clean, nice large individual bathroom ( 8 x 12 ft probably) and reasonable in price. Well worth a stop in that area. We arrived after the office had closed but the night time registration was very well done as shown below.
Just east of Stillwater Oklahoma, a large grass fire was close to the Cimarron Turnpike and I am not sure why they didn't close the highway till they got the fire under control. They had a state trooper parked on the highway but not stopping traffic. With the temperature showing 111° F on our truck's outside temperature gauge, I don't see how the fire fighters weren't have heat strokes, etc.
Trip miles were 11,992 for the round trip, the lowest amount for us in a long time. We were somewhat limited in the time we had to be gone this summer so much less running around in Alaska for us.
Some general information from the trip. We were driving a 2002 Dodge diesel with a 2008 Lance 845 truck camper on it. This rig averaged about ½ mile per gallon less than did the previous Lance 845, a 2001 model) that we took on the three previous trips, 2004, 2006 and 2009. The difference, I believe is this camper is heavier, with options, including a generator and it is taller than the previous camper. Lance raised the cab over to clear the taller new pickup cabs being made today. I feel this camper has more wind resistance than the previous one due to the height.
All figures are rounded off.
11,992 miles for the round trip
14.43 mpg for the trip
831.93 gallons of diesel used
$4.257 per gallon, average cost, Canadian fuel purchases were converted to gallons and US dollars.
$3,541.67 usd spent for fuel
$0.295 fuel cost per mile
AMHS Ferry trip - Prince Rupert to Skagway - one senior - one adult - two berth cabin and a 21 ft. truck and camper.- Total cost of ferry $1,064 usd, + meals.
Pickup camper - $573 usd
One adult passenger - $171 usd
One senior passenger - $142 usd
Cabin - $178 usd