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Spoiler alert:  we made it!

Start:  Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, Canada

End:  Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Miles:  542 mi

TOTAL TRIP STATS:  3,700 miles / 6 days / avg. ~ 610 miles a day, or 12 hours of driving

Highlights:  Seeing a grizzly bear and two cubs on the road right before the U.S. border … we couldn’t stop because we were in a line of construction.  Those things sure are big!  Arriving back in the U.S. after five days!  Cheap(er) gas prices, with no need for litre and dollar-amount conversion.  Seeing not one but TWO brochures for Chicken, Alaska – and stopping to take a photo of the sign at the start of the highway up to it.  Meeting a couple from Washington and seeing a moose through binoculars.  Crazy wind and mountain views all along the highway to Anchorage.  Driving through a winding mountain pass, with a road sort of tacked onto the side like it would fall off with a little shake.  Stopping to observe a glacial stream (and learning a thing or two about property ownership in Alaska… turns out even on public roads, the land itself is owned to the centerline by the parcel owners…)  Knowing this was finally, finally the last day of driving – and being able to make the push through.  Returning to multi-lane highways between Palmer and Eagle River.  Driving into civilization.  Seeing the big “Anchorage Welcomes You” sign.  Stopping.  Sleeping.  Not driving anymore.

Lowlights:  Road quality, although it actually wasn’t as bad as we had heard.  The roads outside Whitehorse were almost worse, as (unlike most other times we’d driven) it had not been previously raining, so the dust kicked up in all its dusty glory.  Getting to our motel room at 1 AM after unloading all my stuff and realizing there was no way we would get a good night’s sleep on my empty floor.

I haven’t gotten the Google map to work properly since I posted it on Day 2, but in the interim they seem to have updated the route to include that last bit of bad road between Whitehorse and Beaver Creek – before, Google directions would not even register that segment as a passable road! (And to be fair, some of it was pretty bad… full dust and gravel and major potholes).  Here is a link to the overall route map, starting from the Chicago area (and not including the drive from Ithaca to Buffalo to Hilliard to Indiana).  And here is the total route from Ithaca, about 4,500 miles.

Construction dog outside Beaver Creek - it has a jacket!!!

Construction dog outside Beaver Creek - it has a jacket!!!

Welcome to Alaska (I should have gotten a better photo!)

Welcome to Alaska (I should have gotten a better photo!)

Finally, the Alaska portion of the Alaska Highway

Finally, the Alaska portion of the Alaska Highway

Boreal forest and mountains (Wrangell-Elias??)

Boreal forest and mountains (Wrangell-Elias??)

Chicken, Boundary, and Eagle

Chicken, Boundary, and Eagle

Mom observing the moose

Mom observing the moose

Pond along the Highway

Pond along the Highway

Serious mountain situation

Serious mountain situation

There's a glacier in there somewhere

There's a glacier in there somewhere

Brought some of the Alaska Highway with us.  Car needs a wash!

Brought some of the Alaska Highway with us. Car needs a wash!

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