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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

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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)