Alaska Highway, Alaska, Yukon and British Columbia

10th - 17th August 2014

We were going about things backwards. The norm is for travellers to head to Alaska on the Alaska Highway, starting at 'Mile 0' in Dawson's Creek, British Columbia.

The fates had conspired against our original plan to do just that, with serious forest fires in the 'Mile 0' area, causing us to select a different route north. Of course, eventually we'd ended up joining the Alaska Highway at a later spot on our route, as basically it was the only road to Alaska!

So we were in Fairbanks, 'Mile 1523' getting ready to face the long trek south. We spent a couple of days exploring the city.

By this point, our farthest north, we had reached a latitude of almost 65 degrees north, a latitude where, in mid summer, night lasted a whole two hours. Even with summer drawing to a close (yes in mid August) it was still daylight at 11.30 at night, most disconcerting when you were trying to get to sleep! Even when the sun did finally disappear, a supermoon coincided with our visit, making it almost as bright as day!

Fairbanks, 11.30 pm


Our first exploration brought us to the city's Pioneer Park. Here old buildings from the city had been brought together to make a historic street within the popular park. Our visit was cut short by a thunderstorm when Christine discovered that the coat she'd packed just in case, was actually a pair of waterproof trousers. We cycled at full tilt back to the shelter of Harvey, just in the nick of time.

We wanted to visit the University of Alaska's Museum of the North the next morning. Not wanting to drive in city traffic, we took to the bikes again. We needn't have worried about city traffic on this peaceful Sunday morning but the bike ride was an easy one in the deserted University Campus.

Museum of the North.

Behind you!

The museum was stunning in every way; its striking architecture and environmentally friendly building materials, its extensive collection of historical artifacts narrating the story of Alaska's indigenous tribes, the 8'6” Grizzly Bear greeting us at the entrance, it's fossilized mammoth tusks,“Blue Babe” the worlds only mummified steppe bison and natural history exhibits about the wildlife currently found in the area.

There was also an impressive art gallery, featuring Alaska artists and we enjoyed a movie about the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, which we were unable to see for ourselves, due to the long daylight hours during our visit.

Blue Babe

Seal Skin Kayaks

Stunning beadwork by local tribes.


Outhouse Art

Sandhill Crane and friends

We decided to continue our city tour by bike. First we tracked down the local Farmers' Market, where we picked up some Fireweed Honey and hand made icecreams.

Next stop was Creamer's Field, a local refuge for birdlife and where we spotted the resident colony of huge Sandhill Cranes. By now we were almost downtown and had to burn off all that icecream, so we finished our tour with a ride through the quiet streets of the city centre.

The Alaska Highway was quite a feat of engineering. No road existed to Alaska until after the attack on Pearl Harbour, when the USA decided it was a top priority to build a land access to the territory. It took 11,000 American troops, including 7 regiments of engineers, 16,000 civilian workers and 7000 pieces of equipment to penetrate the 1523 miles of wilderness. The road through mountains and muskeg, from Dawson's Creek to Fairbanks, was completed in only eight months.

Our first stop was just outside Fairbanks at the town of North Pole. Cashing in on their name, the town was home to “Santa Claus' House”, the largest selection of Christmas decorations on sale, that we had ever seen.

Christmas Overload!

Lunchtime found us at Big Delta, site of a beautifully restored roadhouse. Roadhouses were the only services for travellers in the early days of the highway, offering food, much of which was grown in their own gardens, fuel, shelter and any other services required.

We continued driving and by the end of the day, we were still in Alaska, having covered the first 275 miles of the Highway. We camped once again at the free campground at beautiful Tetlin Wildlife Refuge but didn't spot the large Grizzly which had been seen eating berries in the area.

Big Delta Roadhouse

Feeding the sheep at Big Delta!

Next morning, after filling our gas tank in the US, we were over the border and into Canada, heading across Yukon Territory's rough roads, towards Whitehorse. This time we bypassed the Walmart parking lot where we'd stayed last time with countless other campers and headed to the peaceful Wolf Creek Provincial Campground. Here for only $10 Canadian, we enjoyed tranquility and free firewood. We just had to have a campfire!

Our next stop was at Watson Lake, just before crossing the border in British Columbia. Here in a tradition started by homesick G.I.s from the USA stationed here, passing travellers had added to the “Signpost Forest” at the centre of the town.

Wolf Creek, Whitehorse, Yukon.

Watson Lake, Signpost Forest, Yukon.

Crossing over into British Columbia was like entering a safari park. The highway was crawling with wildlife. Buffalos snoozed by the side of the road, Stone Sheep climbed the high bluffs alongside the road and stopped traffic to cross. We even spotted what we thought was a wolf scooting across the road. On the whole of the trip, BC was the place we'd spotted most wildlife.

By late afternoon we reached Liard Hot Springs and managed to get a campsite in this popular spot. There was nothing for it, the bathing suits came out and we headed to the pools. They weren't kidding when they called them Hot Springs! It was surreal to see the piping hot water just springing up from underground. The alpha pool was so hot we only managed to dip a toe in, instead opting for the beta pool, further downstream and cooler. Still we lounged around in hot bath temperature water. Our tour guide for swimming further downstream and into chillier water in search of the gemstones the riverbed contained was chatty Brenna, a young visitor from Mississippi, who was delighted to show us around.


Liard Hot Springs.

Next day brought another restorative birthday dip in the Hot Springs for Christine the next morning, although she wasn't sporting her birthday suit! We were joined in the pool by a group of Netherlanders, participants in a rally of classic Volvos, busy driving from one end of the American continent to the other, having already driven from Holland to China.

Soon we were on the road again, admittedly with fewer aches and pains and stiff joints!

A mineral lick at Muncho Lake Provincial Park promised sightings of Stone Sheep, however they disappointed us but we enjoyed the short walk and scenery. It didn't matter as plenty of the sheep were spotted later along the highway, stopping the traffic.

Mineral Lick at Muncho Lake P.P.

Volvos on tour!

Guess they have right of way!

Caution was needed on this stretch of the highway where the animals seemed to think they owned the road. We again encountered the phenomenon of a young Caribou running along the road in front of us, in panic, instead of turning off the road. He was lucky Harvey was at the front of the queue he caused and not the impatient truck driver three cars back!

We stopped for the night at Summit Lake, right on a pass in the shadow of Stone Mountain. It was obvious how the mountain got its name. A hike along the lake filled our fridge with wild blueberries.

Another 396 miles the next day brought us to Fort St. John, where we treated Harvey to a service, care of the friendly Phillipinos and Indians running the local Canadian Tire store.

Get off the road Rudolph!

Stone Mountain

Harvey makes it to Mile 0.

Next morning we finally reached our goal, “Mile 0” at Dawson's Creek. We stopped for the obligatory photo of Harvey at the “Mile 0” post and to buy the necessary T-shirts and bumper stickers before leaving the Alaska Highway behind.

The drive through Alberta to the US border at Montana took another two days and we'd passed the 9000 mile mark on our trip before we crossed.

Fascinated to spot a Lancaster Bomber by the side of the road in the town of Nanton, we stopped to check it out and discovered we were at the museum of Canadian Bomber Command. The museum commemorated the 55,000 people of whom 10,000 were Canadian, who had lost their lives in Bomber Command during the Allies Second World War effort.

Finally at the town of Claresholm we enjoyed the luxury of a hot shower, hopefully now we smelled sweet, the Americans would let us back into Montana! After driving over 9,000 miles in seven and a half weeks, we were ready to slow down for a while.

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