The Alaska Highway
For the last few days we have been travelling from Dawson Creek towards Whitehorse and we will make it to Whitehorse tomorrow.
When in Dawson Creek I really couldn’t help thinking of it as Dawson’s Creek and thinking that Dawson, Joey and Pacey should be involved. Dawson Creek is the starting point of the Alaska Highway which stretches 1520 miles to the Alaskan city of Fairbanks (or it did – modern works have shortened it to 1488 miles). It was constructed in 7 months by the US Army with completion in September 1942 and before this there was no land link to Alaska.
This is the start of real wilderness for us in Canada. There are tiny trading posts every 80km or so but apart from that there are only a couple of towns on the route – and these are pretty small. From Dawson Creek the road travels through Fort St.John up to Fort Nelson then through Watson Lake to Whitehorse.
We stopped off in Fort Nelson to go to the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. This had some of the original machinery used in making the Alaska Highway and a whole bunch of other historical stuff from the North. There was also a collection of vintage cars, most still in working condition presided over by Marl Brown.
We have taken four days to drive the Alaska highway through to just past Watson Lake because some of the drive has been stunning and we have run into loads of wildlife.
We have seen bison, stone sheep, bears and even those ever so elusive moose.
We have overnighted at a couple of really lovely places. Firstly Summit Lake which is in the Stone Mountain National Park and is at an altitude of 1286m. This is the highest point on the Alaskan Highway. We took the opportunity to try out our new inflatable kayak and paddled the length of the lake. It worked brilliantly and we are looking forward to getting a lot more use out of this.
In the morning we set out on a trail where we cycled along a maintenance road – stiffly uphill – for a couple of Km’s which got us above the treeline before chaining up the bikes at heading off on the Flower Springs Lake Trail. This was a really beautiful upland hike to a lake just below a Cirque.
After getting back from this – the end being a really enjoyable downhill bike ride – we headed off to Muncho Lake further down the highway where we had lunch. From there we travelled another 60km or so to the Liard River Hotsprings where we spent the night. We had to wait until around 9pm to take a dip though because the day was far to hot to want to go in hot water – by then it had cooled down nicely.
The hotsprings are a natural thermal pool which is a toasty 52 degrees Centigrade. There is a long pool which grades in temperature from the end where the spring is down to the other which is substantially cooler. Right next to the spring was too hot to take but further away it was lovely. To get there you had to walk over a boardwalk over a swamp which is where we saw the moose.
The next morning we got up and had a slow start but drove only 250km stopping off as we went at various viewpoints. This included a short walk to the Smith River Falls to which the path had seen better days and involved a 45 degree muddy slope down.
Towards the end of the day we entered the Yukon – our last province in Canada and found a campsite where we could do some much need laundry. Its not all gorgeous parks on this trip. In fact we have discovered that the more expensive a campsite generally the more horrible it is – the Hotsprings were only CAD 21 whereas we are staying tonight in campsite which is a glorified car park but its CAD 38 – but it has a laundry.