Alaska Highway

Roadtrip 2017 Alaska/Canada…The Alaska Highway-Day 9

We had spent Saturday night at Tetsa River Provincial campground.  It had been a cold night, just a hint of what was to come.  We took some time Sunday morning, to re-arrange our slide tray and where the boxes went.  With the canopy being wet from dew and frost in the mornings, we needed a different arrangement.  We left the campground and saw a doe and then a cow moose and her calf, but they were too quick and ran into the trees.  We could see them, but too far back to take a picture.

So a bit of history about the Alaska Highway.  Before the United States entered World War II, we were transporting military aircraft to Russia in what was known as a Lend/Lease program.  The aircraft were flown through Canada using landing strips that were evenly spaced.  When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, there was a fear that they would invade Alaska and come from the North to attack the United States.  Pres. Roosevelt, ordered that a road be constructed, connecting the airfields.  10,000 combat engineering troops were sent to Canada and Alaska in March of 1942 to begin construction. Construction was started a full month before Canada gave permission for the road to be constructed on their land.  The road was blazed in 8 months.  An engineering marvel, considering the difficult terrain.  We were excited to use our Milepost book and discover the history of this road.  The road we drove on, was no where near the rough road of even 20 years ago.  It has been re-routed for an easier route, and it is now a two lane route.  The first military vehicles to drive the road could only travel at 15-20 miles per hour and had to make numerous stops for repairs.  We did not encounter any of those conditions.

 

We had beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies landscape.  We stopped at Summit Lake which is the highest point on the Alaska Highway.  Very near there we also saw our first Caribou.  Jim was particularly excited, as we had been told we probably would have to go to Wrigley, NWT to see these and we had been turned around by fog.

 

MacDonald River Canyon is an area named for a Cree Indian who helped in the highway construction.

 

We saw another Caribou, this one had a large set of antlers.  They come down to the road to lick the salt deposits.

 

Originally Fort Nelson was mile 0 of the highway, since a rough winter road already existed between there and Dawson Creek.  Due to this, creeks as well as camps were given mileage names based on their distance from Fort Nelson.

We made a brief stop at Racing River bridge to admire the color of the water.  This bridge has a grated deck…we never tired of driving over these types of bridges.

 

We stopped for gas at Toad River, where they hang hats from the ceiling of the store and cafe.  We also got a very good view of the Sentinel Range.

 

Folded Mountain was an interesting view.

 

More Caribou and an Alluvial fan.  This is the deposits from a flash flood that occurs in the summer months.  Also a nice view of Toad River.

 

The highway follows the shore of Muncho Lake.  Originally, it went on the mountain above the lake, but proved to be dangerous.

 

We stopped at a turnout to read about the Old Highway and watched a couple climb the rope to go see the highway.  The wife kept saying “are you sure we should do this”. The husband kept saying “keep climbing”.  Our thought was how are they going to get down…

 

We wanted to see Stone Sheep, so we stopped at the Stone Sheep trail.  It said to look for them along the cliffs.  We had to walk up the wash, that was covered in rocks.  To control the flow of water, they have used bulldozers to create a type of funnel.

 

We found the stream that flows through the wash.  It was only a trickle and it disappeared into the stream bed before reaching the lake.

 

Unfortunately, no Stone Sheep.  So we walked back down and cooked lunch and watched a float plane take off.

 

Lucky for us, just round the next turn, we finally found the Stone Sheep.

 

Rock flour is ground up pieces of rock that filter into the lake.  It gives it a blue/green color.

 

We saw our first Canadian Rocky buffalo.

 

We stopped at the Liard River Bridge.  This is the only remaining suspension bridge on the Alaska Highway.

 

At the suggestion of our camping neighbors last night we stopped at Liard Hotsprings.  It cost $5.00 Canadian dollars to enter, but it is well worth it.  There is a wooden walkway leading to the springs.  There is a shared changing room.

 

The hot pools were very refreshing and surround by natural beauty.

 

After our refreshing dip at Liard, we grabbed some snacks and headed toward Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.

 

As we continued along BC Hwy 97 aka the Alaska Highway, we stopped to read about one of the airfields in the Lend/Lease program.  The airfields helped determine the route that the US Army would take in blazing the highway.

 

We stopped at Contact Creek.  this is where the soldiers of the 35th Regiment coming from the south and the 340th Regiment coming from the north, met in September 1942, completing the southern part of the highway.

We stopped at the Yukon sign for the obligatory picture.  We were excited to have made it this far, relatively without incident.  We were enjoying the history of the highway.  Our next stop was Watson Lake.  As we were driving down the road, we noticed a big black bug, hanging onto the windshield.  Several minutes go by and Jim proclaims, “73”.  Cindy says, ” what does that mean”. He says proudly, “That is the speed at which the bug could no longer hang on”.  You have to entertain yourself somehow.

We arrived too late to attend a show at the Northern Lights Center, but were hoping that it would be open when we returned this way in a few weeks.  We passed on visiting the Signpost Forest as we would do that when our daughter Jerie was with us on our return trip.  We found a place at the Downtown RV park.  In the US, you can usually find a place to pull over and camp for the night.  We have found that is not possible on the Alaska Highway, that you really need to be in some sort of campground.  We made a quick stop at the grocery store for milk and rolls.  Milk was 6.99 Canadian.  We cooked dinner and then ate in the pickup as it was a bit chilly.  We did find it funny…the campground had a small restaurant and you could not camp in certain spots, do to their take-out service 🙂

Tomorrow, we would camp in White Horse, Yukon Territory….more sights to see, more history to learn.

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