Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada - Stop 16 on our Trek North to Alaska

Welcome to the Yukon!  Traveling from Laird Hot Springs on Monday morning was a bonanza for bison and bear sightings!  I’m not as excited about bison anymore—unless I finally get one in steak form on my dinner plate!

We were able to get photos of all three bears we saw, two black and one brown!  My favorite was a young, curious cub.  Just like Boo Boo, he was looking for a picnic basket, checking each rig as they stopped to take photos, including ours!


Black Bear 1

Black Bear 2

Black Bear 2

Boo Boo, The Brown Bear Cub

Hey, what you got to eat in there!  I smell meat!  


Boo Boo placing his take out lunch order--I'll have a cat burger, please!

We arrived in Watson Lake by noon on Monday.  We fueled up, replenished our propane, and got settled into the Watson Lake Provincial Campground for another evening of boondocking.  Canada does a FANTASTIC job with its park system—spacious, wooded, private sites.  And the true wilderness experience!

We head out to the Sign Post Forest.  How cool and cheesy, all at the same time!  There's like a gazillion signs of all shapes, sizes, and textures, from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia!  The original sign post was done by a soldier who worked on the Alaskan Highway back in 1942.  Since then, the act of placing signs has gone viral!

I am so excited to hang my sign here!  I selected the top of a post in the center of the amphitheater.  Daddy, Mike, and Claudia helped me while Mom snapped photos of this monumental occasion. 

When you visit, be sure to stand on the bridge and look for me--I’ve left my mark!  Mike/Claudia hung their sign right underneath—a saw brightly painted with pretty flowers and the words “Puerto Rico – Florida”.

 We entered the Visitor Center to get more tourist information and to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi!  We bump into some folks we met in Dawson Creek, and we all share details of our adventures thus far.

The Watson Lake is quite huge, and we saw a float plane take off from there!

Watson Lake--about 9 p.m.

Darkness did not come until nearly midnight.  Can't believe I am still up!   I better get to bed--the sun rises in just a few hours!

Talk to you soon!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Laird Hot Springs - Stop 15 on our Trek North to Alaska

Now here's the rest of the story...

I got up to peek out the windows several times during the night, and it was still snowing—heavily!  The sounds of silence were deafening.  I could hear the trees, so heavily laden with snow, snapping and breaking in the middle of the night. 

I awoke at 5 a.m. on Sunday to Mom and Dad shoveling the snow layer off the 150 foot driveway to get to the main road.  And it was still snowing, with accumulations well over a foot by this time! The snow was so pretty, so pure and glistening glacial blue.  It was like a Currier and Ives Christmas card—but with a Steven King movie twist.  The fact that this place is so remote, with boarded up buildings covered in graffiti, who knows who could be lurking!

By 9:30 a.m., we finished clearing the driveway —of snow, that is.   However, the problem with the mud and huge water-filled holes persists.  With the weight of Big Boomer, we are concerned we will get stuck.  Mom tries to scoop the water out with a bucket, but that will take forever—these holes are nearly a foot deep.  It is now 22 hours into this saga.

Back to flagging down the road crews, who are still clearing the Alcan!  They say the road is now passable, and we should have no problems getting over the summit—except for the “bog” effect we have in front of us.

Dad convinces one grader to come into the driveway to fill the holes with dirt/mud.  The grader’s blade got stuck and actually made the problem worse, breaking a snow barrier that was keeping water from a pond off the road.  You can’t make this stuff up, eh?

After another hour, we hear good news!  Mike/Claudia are able to ascend the mountain!  And, finally, a supervisor from the road crew comes by with his 4 X 4 pickup truck.  He is willing to assist.  It was a bit humbling for Big Boomer to need the additional power of a Dodge Ram to pull him through this mud hole, but we were so grateful to finally escape this ordeal!  We are now back on the AlCan!

The Dodge Ram gets us back on the AlCan

As we continue to ascend the mountain, we saw several vehicles abandoned in snow mounds, including a motorcycle that apparently crashed.  Hope those folks are OK.

We reunite with Mike/Claudia on the other side of the summit!  Praise the Lord!

Ironically, once we crested the summit, there is far less snow, and the roads are all clear!  We all begin to relax again and take in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.  The views are just spectacular.  Pictures just don’t capture the essence of these pristine, untouched lands.  The trees vary in shade—from forest, to emerald, to celery green.

Summit Lake

We stop for lunch at the Toad River Lodge.  The place was recommended to us because they serve game meat, like elk and bison steak!  I’ve had a hankering for bison or elk steak for quite some time!  I was salivating for two days just thinking about it!  The lodge and restaurant are not what we expect—we are thinking on the scale of what is found at Grand Canyon or Yellowstone.  Instead, we get a little dive.  No problem—just give me some game steak!  We look at the menu--they only have bison burgers.  WHAT!  Where the heck is the game meat!  Worse yet, they will only serve the bison burgers well done.  WHAT!!!  When I said I wanted game meat, I didn’t mean shoe leather!  We were all so disappointed, but so hungry, we would eat a shoe.  $35 Canadian for 2 rubber burgers, 1 onion ring, and 2 cans of soda.  A 0-cheese rating from Rambling RV Rat.  Me thinks this place must have changed owners/management since the folks who recommended it were last here.

The good news is that now we start to see wildlife!  I see a Bullwinkle outside of Muncho Lake!   This bull moose is quite regal, with his stately body and large rack.  But neither of my nimrod parents were able to get me a photo!  Moose ca-ca (my version of bullsh$#--I'm not allowed to use foul language.  We leave that up to my Mom.  LOL).

Next I see a herd of stone sheep!  These are the best photos they could get.  Totally inept!  When I review all the pics they take of wildlife, I see a recurring theme—buns!  Nimrods get just backsides, rumps, and rears!  Where are the faces!  More moose ca-ca!

A few faces among the "buns"!

Now the roads are pretty brutal—potholes, loose gravel, construction zones.  At one point, the bumps were so bad Tabatha was levitating in air!  You may have left your heart in San Francisco, but I just left my lunch outside Muncho Lake!

We finally get to Laird!  And they did not give away our second night's reservation!  How grateful we are to finally arrive safely and relax in the Hot Springs!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Snowbound in the Middle of Nowhere - An "Unscheduled Stop" in our Trek North to Alaska

Stranded in snow!  Our Verizon Canada plan in effect, but we are in the middle of nowhere, so no reception.  Breaker Breaker 1-9!  No response on the CB either.  No one was prepared for this storm, least of all the road crews.  They say they NEVER get snow here this late in the season.  In fact, they have converted all their plow trucks from carrying sand to carrying water for the summer season!

Saturday started out typical for us.  We left the camping area at 7 a.m. to a dreary, rainy day.  We stopped for fuel in Fort Nelson where the rain began to turn to sleet.  No road closures or warnings of bad weather ahead.

We travel approximately 50 miles beyond Fort Nelson and the sleet turns to snow flurries.  Within 10 minutes it changed to a steady, heavy snowfall.  Within another 10 minutes, 3 inches of snow had accumulated.  By this point, we are in a series of inclines and dips, so visibility of what is ahead is minimal.  As we begin a slow ascent, we see a rig about ½ mile in front of us slip sliding all over the place.  They pull over-cannot make the incline.   We made an attempt, but realize we will not be able to climb this mountain without the risk of jackknifing.

Mom (also known as Sanchez the Snow Remover when we lived in our home back in Jersey), got out the snow shovel (she refused to part with it, thank goodness!), raided Tabatha’s stock of kitty litter, and organized our brigade.  But a local fireman in a pickup coming down the mountain said, “don’t bother”—all sorts of vehicles, including motorcycles and RVs, are stuck up the wazoo, all the way to the top of this summit.

Sanchez the Snow Remover Hard at Work


Mom's Kitty Litter Brigade

So we sat on a steep incline on a curve and waited for plows to come by.  You can’t make this stuff up!

2.5 hours later, the first plow comes by.  The vehicles stuck behind us start to follow the plow immediately. They didn’t get too far—now they are stuck in front of us!  Guess we ain’t getting to our Laird camping reservations!

The plow trucks have the bulk of the stranded folks over this incline, but not sure many of them got very far.  Some of them are heading back down the mountain, deciding it best to go back to Fort Nelson since the snow continues to fall heavily, with accumulations of about 6 inches now.

We continue to flag down plow guys and ask for sand to be put down—we cannot gain the proper traction without it.  They all assure us they are coming to do that.  They ask us to be patient.  Another hour goes by, and still we sit.

Four more plow guys go by, plowing snow into the areas our snow brigade had cleared out.  Now the “Jersey” in us comes out--after all, another 45 minutes have gone by!  We block the path of the next plow coming down the incline.  We convince him to turn around and plow/drop sand in front of us until we get to flat land, a rest stop, or the abandoned lodge of which we are told, all within just one short mile.  Finally after 5 hours, we are getting to move safely!

Our excitement and relief were short lived, however.  As we turned a curve, the snow plow is no where to be seen, nor is there any more sand on the road!  Where is the freaking sand, eh?  We are stuck again on an inclined curve.

Mike/Claudia fare no better.  They had to disconnect the car and still could not make it up the mountain.

Mom gets out of the truck and starts walking, flagging down a tow truck.  After 8 hours, we are towed to the aforementioned abandoned lodge about a mile away.  But it is a mud pit beneath the snow layer!  We warned the drivers to come check us on Sunday, we will need their services again, I’m sure!

Mike/Claudia get towed downhill since the tow truck could not hook them up from the front, so they are about 2 miles downhill of us at the truck chaining area.  Thank goodness we have walkie talkies so we know we are at least all safe—for now.

After 9 hours, about 8 inches of snow on the ground now,  and only 50 miles under our belts, I feel like I’m on some Survivor show!  And God only knows what tomorrow will bring.

Stay tuned....

Friday, May 27, 2016

Profit River – 14th Stop in our Trek North to Alaska

We headed to an abandoned Provincial Park in Profit River for an overnight stay, our first boondocking point on this trip.

Along the Alaskan Highway, we stopped at Mile Post 21 for some photos at Kiskatinaw Bridge, the only timber bridge of the original Alaskan Highway still in use.  And it is built on a curve!  The main road of the Alaskan Highway was replaced in this area, and a new bridge built to accommodate the weight of increased tourism.  Since Big Boomer was over the legal limit for crossing the original bridge, we backtracked a few miles.

We hit some delays due to lane widening near Taylor and Peace Island Bridge.  We saw a wolf cross through the construction zone, the only wildlife we have seen all day.

We saw some of the devastation of the Fort McMurray fires—you can still smell the smoldering trees.

Well, we are in for a long, rainy night here at Profit Creek.  Speak to you next time from Laird Hot Springs.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada – 13th Stop on our Trek North to Alaska

We left our campground in Jasper at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, receiving farewells from the resident elk bulls and cows.  Leaving at the crack of dawn has its advantages:  lots of deer, sheep, and elk spotted along the roadways.

As we traveled on Highway 40, the vistas changed from snow-capped mountains to tree-covered alpines.

We hit some rain, of course.  We were greeted by sunshine as we got closer to Grand Cache, but experienced some periods of rough roadways, including using a newly-constructed hilly mud pit for passage where a bridge washed out recently.

There is nothing between Grand Cache and Grand Prairie except miles and miles of wilderness, logging trucks, and energy companies.

While stopped in Beaverlodge for Mike/Claudia to refill their motorhome propane tank, I introduced myself to “Beaver”.  No, not Beaver Cleaver, but the mascot of Beaverlodge, Alberta, Canada, erected in 2004 to increase tourism.

Popo and The Beaver

After a long, slow ride, we arrived at Northern Lights Campground in Dawson Creek by 3:30.  They have some pretty good Wi-Fi, so I had a chance to catch up on postings by all my Facebook friends!

Today we completed the #1 Dawson Creek Tourist Task:  Selfies at the Alaskan Highway “Mile 0” Cairns and Posts.  

We stopped at the Alaskan Highway House, where the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce is located, and learned how this magnificent highway plan resulted from the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor.  There were major concerns the Japanese would attack North America via the Aleutian Islands as well.  So F. D. Roosevelt ordered that a highway to Alaska be built, and pronto!  “AlCan” would become a vital component of our World War II defense strategy.

Thousands of Army brothers, Black and White, worked, through trial and error, to undertake what seemed an impossible mission:  build a highway through alpine wilderness in less than one year!  They dealt with a new obstacle at every corner:   subarctic temperatures, swampy bogs (a.k.a. muskegs), mosquito invasions, and permafrost.  Not to mention the isolation, lack of proper hygiene facilities, or inadequate supplies.  But, together these men completed a herculean task and created an engineering marvel!

Thank you, soldiers, for creating the road to lead me to my RV dream vacation!

Boy, that photo shoot really pooped PoPo out!  I'm ready for a good night's sleep!  Pleasant dreams!