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Start:  Muncho Lake, British Columbia, Canada (10AM)

End:  Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, Canada (11PM)

Miles:  602

Our best (most efficient) driving day, I think.  We didn’t do as many miles, but that was due more to the road than us.  Part of what this day feel great was that we were actually on the Alaska Highway by mid-afternoon – felt so much closer to our goal, and really started to realize how far we had already come.  The trip felt a lot more manageable being two days, not six.  And when we reached our stopping point for the night, we knew that the next night would be in my apartment in Anchorage!  (but actually ended up being a motel because it was so late and I had no furniture or anything there).

Highlights:  Seeing a herd of 80-100 wood bison on the ride of the road.  Driving into the Yukon Territory and realizing we’d pay less for gas, and as it turns out would actually have roadside bathrooms (BC doesn’t).  Watson Lake, where we were practically overrun by RVs but saw two Northwest Territory license plates, as well as the Sign Post Forest (it’s worth a look – none of the sites I found about it, including the one above, give sufficient indication of how freaking big this thing is).  Stopping in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, with not one but TWO McDonalds.  Mount Logan (or was it Mount Hubbard?) in the distance.  Kluane Lake and its accompanying park – really, really amazing.  Looked like another world.  Taking a “glamor shot” of the Subaru (covered in highway dust) in front of the mountains and the lake.  The Talbot Arm Motel, where we stopped for the night, with its logo of a grizzled old gold miner or something.  Splitting a bottle of wine to celebrate (early) our trip – “house” wine, Sawmill Creek, from Ontario.

Lowlight:  As always, we put in a lot of hours that day, and didn’t get to stop as often as we might have.  Being in the car for 12 hours a day was also really beginning to wear on me, and probably Mom as well, as if my legs were just stitching themselves to the seats.  We tried to make semi-frequent stops on the side of the road to walk around, to look at the amazing scenery, and because there was really no one on the road, so it would be easy to just stop on the side of the road anyway.  More mosquitoes, though still not as bad as in Regina.

We had one more (extremely long) day of driving left, but we’re almost there!

Wood bison (including many babies!), BC

Wood bison (including many babies!), BC

Yukon Territory welcome sign, Yukon

Yukon Territory welcome sign, Yukon (also note major discrepancy in translation)

 

Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Walking through Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

Walking through Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Northwest Territory plate, Watson Lake, Yukon

Northwest Territory plate, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Alaska Highway, Yukon

Alaska Highway, Yukon

 

Mom at Mile 1000 (1610 km) of the Al-Can Highway

Mom at Mile 1000 (1610 km) of the Al-Can Highway

Coyote at rest stop, Yukon
Coyote at rest stop, Yukon

 

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

 

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

 

Subaru Glamor Shot, Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Subaru Glamor Shot, Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

PS – if you can to go to Kluane Lake, do it.  I would go back.

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The next few posts (Days 4-6, and anything about Seward or Flattop) will be more retrospective, as they happened a couple weeks ago now.  I’m catching up to the end of the trip, then will be more “forward” thinking after that!

Start:  Whitecourt, Alberta, Canada (9AM)

End:  Muncho Lake, British Columbia, Canada (11PM)

Miles:  692

On Day 3 we stopped about 50 miles short of where we should have, in Whitecourt, a small town basically made of motels.  The Alaska Highway motel was not as desirable as I had hoped (that’s what I get for picking based on name alone) but we got on our way and saw what began to be the really awesome part of the drive.  Also of note:  it was still (twi)light around 10:30PM when we stopped at the motel, despite some clouds.  We were clearly pretty far north, and it didn’t really hit us until then.

This might have been my favorite day of the drive, overall – mostly for the evening ride from Fort Nelson to our ending point, the Northern Rockies Lodge along breathtaking Muncho Lake, a long and skinny blue lake stuck among some really tall mountains.  I wish I had gotten a photo of it at night (again, not fully dark out) but the morning ones will have to do.  Also, the Northern Rockies Lodge was basically like staying in that hotel in Twin Peaks – it was a big log cabin, with each of the rooms having log walls (if on exterior walls) and a huge great room/morning dining area with windows overlooking the lake.  NRL is owned by a (Swiss?) couple, and the husband is a bushpilot (flies those small sea planes etc) who will fly guests to lodges and remote places for day tours.  If I had the time and inclination, I would most definitely go back there – driving in and out of it was great.

Highlights:  Leaving Alberta finally, although we did get to see some more lovely prairies, the start of the northern woods with its short-ish dense evergreens.  Awesome little rest stop with birches and bear-proof trash containers.  Entering British Columbia and, shortly after, passing through Dawson Creek – MILE ZERO OF THE ALASKA HIGHWAY sign.  Going past a place called Wonowon.  The Fort Nelson hotel and its Tiki lounge/ballroom area.  The drive between Fort Nelson and Muncho Lake.  Really feeling like we’re in the far north.  SEEING MOOSE!!!  AND BLACK BEARS!!!  And one sheep.  Plugging my phone charger into a log (with an electrical outlet).  Muncho Lake, which has a stupid name but is just beautiful.

Lowlights:  Not listening to the Garmin (that somehow knew about a road closure that had just happened that week) and driving west anyway, only to hit an abrupt “Road Closed” sign with a mound of dirt that redirected us onto a gravel farm road and back the way we came.  Apparently, some washouts/flooding nearby.  Hitting a miles-long backup of construction around Taylor/Fort St. John where there was single-lane traffic to get across the end of a mountain pass and major bridge – no detours here, folks.  Paying about $6/gallon ($1.40/litre) because of BC towns’ remote location and high taxes.  Also, worrying about where to get gas and where we were going to stop – luckily, a woman at the front desk of the Fort Nelson Hotel was kind enough to call ahead to what ended up being a super awesome place to stay (see above).

The next day we headed into the Yukon, officially, and ended up with a similarly spectacular (but very different looking) lakeside view on Day 5.  More to come.  For now, some photos.

Nice Rest Stop, Alberta, Canada

Nice Rest Stop, Alberta, Canada

 

Black Bear, Alberta, Canada

Black Bear, Alberta, Canada

Mountains, British Columbia?

Mountains, 8PM, British Columbia?

Moose in the Mist, British Columbia (wish it wasn't so blurry!)

Moose in the Mist, British Columbia, 10PM (wish it wasn't so blurry!)

Mist and Trees and Mountains, 10PM, British Columbia

Mist and Trees and Mountains, 10PM, British Columbia

Northern Rockies Lodge (seaplane dock), Muncho Lake, British Columbia

Northern Rockies Lodge (seaplane dock), Muncho Lake, British Columbia

 

Upstairs hall, Northern Rockies Lodge

Upstairs hall, Northern Rockies Lodge

It’s already (past) bedtime, but I’ll post tomorrow.  For now, some fun stats from the trip:

Miles:  ~ 4,000 from Columbus, OH to Anchorage, AK (and more like 4,500 if you count the Ithaca leg)

Days:  7 (counting the Columbus – Chicago leg)

License Plates (Places):  49

Mom and I counted the states and provinces’ license plates we saw on the way, starting from Chicago.  We got 40 states in all, and 10 (of 13) provinces!

US STATES (in order we saw them)
In US:  IL, IN, WI, MI, NV, NY, OH, IA, MN, ND, ME, PA, OK, WY, TX, OR

AK – first saw on bridge at International Falls – Fort Frances!

In Canada (and Alaska):  FL, NM, NE, AZ, MT, MS, VA, ID, CO, NC, WA, CA, UT, MO, WV, GA, KY, SD, HI, TN, AR, NJ, VT
(Also saw several U.S. Government plates in Anchorage)

Did not see Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina

CANADIAN PROVINCES
MB (Manitoba), ON (Ontario), SK (Saskatchewan), BC (British Columbia), NB (New Brunswick), AB (Alberta), NS (Nova Scotia), QC (Quebec), YT (Yukon Territory), NT (Northwest Territory)

Did not see Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, or Prince Edward Island

Animals:  Mom has the sheet with the final counts, but we saw one or more of:  moose, grizzly bear, black bear, wood bison, domesticated bison, reindeer, mule deer, white-tailed deer, fox, coyote, Arctic hare, blackbird, raven, various other birds, ducks, trumpeter swan, mosquito (ugh), prairie dog, possibly otter, and one sheep.

Mountains:  Chugach range, Wrangell range, the ones in Kluane National Park, northern Rockies, (from far away) Mt. Hubbard, Mt. Logan (the tallest point in Canada), and the beginning of the Aleutian chain.  Probably others too – very lovely but after a while they all looked the same!

Glaciers:  Portage, Exit Glacier, and a third one I can’t remember the name of north of Anchorage.  Hiked up to Exit, not close enough to touch

Sarah Palin cardboard cutouts:  yes.  These exist.

More to come.

Drove Mom to the airport this evening (Ted Stevens Airport!) and drove back alone in the rain to the apartment.  Lonely at the moment, but the time had to come, and things will be okay.  It’s always weird when you’re really, finally in a new place and it’s up to you to take the next step.  Been there.

The rain clouds that rolled in this afternoon have at least made it like an actual night here!  Kinda nice to see the orange high-pressure sodium lights of city parking lots and streets again.  Probably won’t be quite as nice when that’s most of what you see in the winter.

Catching up on things with this computer, and doesn’t feel like 12:45 but I should get to bed.  Blogging will recommence for seriously this week – starting with Day 4 of our epic trip, and catching up to now.

So many photos to sort through.  Here is one.

Alaska Highway, Yukon

Alaska Highway, Yukon

And here is another (of Anchorage)

Anchorage and Cook Inlet, 10:30PM, from Flattop Trail

Anchorage and Cook Inlet, 10:30PM, from Flattop Trail

Good night!

Greetings readers,

My mom and I arrived safely in Anchorage around midnight (while the sun was still at twilight stage) last night!  The last few days’ drive have been long but AMAZING, and I will be posting photos and summaries retrospectively in the next few days when I have Internet access hooked up.

Summary:  We drove through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory, saw 34 states and 9 provinces’ license plates, and saw the following animals (I have a count of totals elsewhere) – moose, wood bison, regular bison in a pasture, mule deer, arctic hare, coyote, grizzly bear (mama grizzly and two cubs!), black bear, ducks, swans, possibly a loon, a lot of ravens, and fifty billion mosquitoes (that is an accurate count).  We drove through mountain passes, boreal forest, past beautiful lakes with mountains rising right from the shore, and past rivers and glaciers.  We saw the tallest point in Canada (Mt. Logan) and went north of the 60th parallel.  We saw the roadsign pointing to Chicken, Alaska (too far out of our way, but I am TOTALLY going back).  And we took glamor shots of the Subaru in front of mountains, with the wheels covered in dust from the Alaska Highway.  Good times, 3700 miles.

Starting work on Monday!  Excited and overloaded at the same time!

Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park, Yukon

Herd of Wood Bison, British Columbia (before Watson Lake, YT)

Herd of Wood Bison, British Columbia (before Watson Lake, YT)

Start:  Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (10AM)

End:  (hopefully) Valleyview, Alberta, Canada (???)

Miles:  ~ 700

No time for photos, we’re still on the road but might not end up with wi-fi.  Will post more tonight if possible.

Highlights:  West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping center in North America!  Huge.  Haven’t seen bison yet, but did stop at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police training academy and heritage center, and I got a photo with my first moose (turns out it was a stuffed moose in a RCMP uniform).  Entered Alberta this afternoon, looks about the same as SK but beautiful sunny skies and soon, SOON we will see some bison.

Lowlight:  We spent too much time in Regina and will have a late night tonight.  Oh well, there’s always tomorrow and more road to go.

Three more hours to go, and we’re stopping in Valleyview, AB for the night (or somewhere on the way, if we just can’t go any further).  Tomorrow we head into British Columbia, and really begin the wilderness leg of the trip!!!

Start:  International Falls, Minnesota (9AM)

End:  Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (10PM)

Miles:  626

Highlights:  Beaver dams!  Blue heron!  Prairie dogs which had taken over an empty lot in Portage la Prairie!  So much wildlife, and luckily the only animals we’ve hit (and boy have we hit them) are lots and lots of bugs.  Canada is lovely in western Ontario and pretty uneventful otherwise, although the drive is just interesting enough to not get too monotonous.  Stopped for lunch at Yesterdays Restaurant in Kenora, ON, looked like a small summer-tourism town among the woods and lakes.  We’ve been keeping track of license plates and in addition to various U.S. states, we’ve seen Nova Scotia and New Brunswick!  (The harder-to-find plates when you’re this far west).  If we see Prince Edward Island we’ll automatically win.

Lowlight:  Regina, at least the outer suburby area where our hotel is, has SO. MANY. MOSQUITOES.  We got bitten up just getting things out of the car, ugh!  One of the disadvantages of the prairie.

We have to get on the road so I’m only uploading one photo.  Today we plan to get to and past Edmonton, and ideally to Grande Prairie or Valleyview in northwest Alberta.  Apparently Kate and William (the royals) are also in Alberta these couple days… I’m guessing they were smart enough to fly to their destinations though!

Farmhouse in Whitewood, SK

Farmhouse in Whitewood, SK

Small lake in western Ontario

Small lake in western Ontario

And, the map – I realized the embed link didn’t work so just click on it and zoom in!

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=201480590623565578563.0004a5df2b74730aa1961&ie=UTF8&ll=50.148495,-100.879585&spn=22.972677,66.785301&t=h&output=embed
View Alaska Trip in a larger map

Start:  Highland, Indiana (9 AM)

End:  International Falls, Minnesota (12 AM)

Miles:  ~ 650

Monday:  We set off from Nana’s house yesterday morning and drove north through Chicago, Madison, Eau Claire, rural Wisconsin, Duluth, and rural Minnesota until we stopped just shy of the border in International Falls.

Highlights:  Wisconsin sure has a lot of cheese stores!  We saw a Castle, Haus, Chalet, and several of unspecified type.  Duluth is actually a pretty nice city!  Really cool grain silos, large ships, and other industrial buildings along the port and bridge between Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Saw a redwing blackbird, and after dark a few foxes and deer on the side of the road.  The last leg of the trip was the roughest, in the Boundary Waters national area, which included hard rain and high winds, fireworks going off DURING said rain and winds, fog, deer looking ready to bolt, and most of all the dark woods.  We were going to cross into Canada last night, but we saw the motel sign and just needed to sleep.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin

Bluffs, Wisconsin

Bluffs, Wisconsin

Minnesota Welcomes Us

Minnesota Welcomes Us

Lowlight:  I think my camera lens is broken.  AGAIN.  All these photos are coming out grainy and just wrong.  Will look into this…

Tuesday:  Officially leaving the U.S. today, not to return until reaching the Alaska border.  After crossing into Canada first thing this morning, we’ll be heading northwest to Winnipeg and Regina, stopping in the city or perhaps going a few more miles down the road.

Anchorage or bust!

Below is a map (hopefully this works!) that I’ll be adding to as we go along to track the route.  Notice that according to Google, the area between Whitehorse YT and Tok AK doesn’t really exist.

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=201480590623565578563.0004a5df2b74730aa1961&ie=UTF8&ll=51.524013,-116.50701&spn=22.972677,66.785301&t=h&output=embed
View Alaska Trip in a larger map

Mom and I are leaving for Alaska this morning, by way of Chicago, International Falls, MN and Winnipeg, Canada.  I haven’t gotten my act together to set up a travel blog for our trip, but I’ll try to post some photos and updates here if we have wi-fi service.

I’m also planning to start a new blog – or a new series on this blog – about life in Alaska.  I’ll be publicizing that once I get my Internet connection (i.e. connection to the rest of the world) set up and settle in at work.

Not feeling particularly ready for the trip, but here goes!

View of the mountains (via the Mudflats blog)

View of the mountains (via the Mudflats blog)

Leaving for Chicago this morning, and ending up (eventually) in Alaska next Saturday!  I’m working on figuring out a “blogging from the road” format, so check back for updates and hopefully a (not on the road) moose photo.

Leaving Ithaca with a full car (slightly less full for the next legs of the trip)

Leaving Ithaca with a full car (slightly less full for the next legs of the trip)