Saturday, June 13, 2009

18-09 Dawson Creek, British Columbia Canada (Mile marker 0, Alaskan Highway)


Note: I have post more pictures on my Picasa web site. Please see pics at:

Dawson Creek, British Columbia Canada (Mile marker 0, Alaskan Highway)

Fort Nelson, BC

Liard Hot springs Provincial Park

Campground: Grande Cache
Municipal Park. $20 elect. & water. Country style campground in wooded setting. Many sites are on incline. Free wi-fi available though you may need to bring computer to front office area.

Campground: Alahart Motel and Rv. Dawson Creek. $24 per night full hook-up and 50 ch Cable tv, and free wi-fi. Note, this is not the prettiest campsite, but is on edge of town and is convenient location. There are three other campgrounds in the Dawson Creek area that would be much nicer, but not have all the extras.

Campground: West side Rv Park. Fort Nelson. $30.50 per night, Elec. & Water, Cable Tv. Free Wi-fi available. Convenient, right off of the Alaskan Highway. Next door to Ft Nelson Museum.

Campground: Liard Hotsprings Provincial Park. $19 per night, no hookups. Bonus, with campsite, access to hot springs is free.

Well you know it, from my last post I was heading out of Jasper, I went as far as Grande Cache the first day, then headed out for the 200 mile stretch too Dawson Creek. The start of the ALCAN highway, also known as the Alaskan Highway. I am so excited, I was singing along with my MP3 music in the truck. Can you imagine me listening to Willy Nelson singing
“Hello Walls”, and me singing back “hello, hello walls” in various accented voices, some high
some low some a bit squeaky. It even made me crack up laughing out loud.

The road from Grande Cache to Dawson Creek was all curvy and grades going up and down at just about every turn, but overall the road which isn’t on the regular designated route ended up being a short cut and was a pretty decent road. Lots of evergreens and Aspen trees with their lighter new spring growth. The closer I got to Grande Prairie, the half way point on today’s journey, the land started to open up and actually became a prairie, albeit one that has been put to farming use. Though they must have the shortest growing season ever around here. Many farmers were just beginning to plant their hay or grains. Oh and along the route
were a number of natural gas and oil wells dotting the landscape. The natural gas wells with their exhaust pipes flaming yellows and orange, against the blue skies and surrounding forests. When I got to Grande Prairie a really nice sized town, the locals told me that after the recent Oil bust, all the oil workers abandoned the area and theirs a bit of a glut on housing now. However, I did notice a number of places had “help wanted” signs.

Finally a little after noon (later if I hadn’t changed my clocks) (yet another time zone change) I arrived at the town limits of Dawson Creek and immediately was stuck in traffic. My first major road construction and I still had 2 more miles to go before touching the Alaskan Highway. Hope this doesn’t portent tons of major construction along the highway. Wow, and a Wal-mart at the edge of town. Which I later discovered wouldn’t accept my Visa Debit card… hmmm, should have tried it as a credit card, I think it would accept it that way.

History Lesson: Ok, this is your history lesson for the day. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. By March 9 1942 both the US and Canada undertook to build the Alaska Highway as a way to protect the interests of the US and Canada. Alaska had not been declared a state at this point. It took 11,000 military, three of the regiments were of African American heritage. Plus 16,000 US and Canadian civilians! Listen to the sound of cheers from all my fellow civilian Navy employees I used to work with…. <> And in all of 8 months, yes 8 months, 1,528 miles of roadway was built. Including 133 major bridges and 3000 culverts. Cost: 140 million dollars.

And yes, I’ll be heading out on those 1,528 miles of roadway tomorrow as I spend one more day in Dawson Creek preparing for the Big Journey. Oh and just a note, the post in the center of the town marking the beginning of the Alaskan Highway, mile marker “0” is not the actual start. It’s at the visitor center but you get the idea. This IS the start of the highway.

The Alaskan Highway.

Well with the sun coming up so early in the morning, like 5:30 am, I was up and ready to go by about 6:30. With the Highway right at my doorstep, I headed west onto the Alaskan Highway. The first 100+ miles was through some pretty steep grades, from 7% to 10% grades. I’d never gone down a hill with a 10% grade, but with the exhaust brakes and the manual shift mode, the Truck and camper did very well. There were tons of signs for wildlife, and I finally saw a Moose with it’s big rack on it’s head loping across the highway in front of me. His gate was almost poetic in the rhythmic yet clumsy gate. Sorry, I wasn’t able to get a picture of it. The traffic is steady but well spaced this morning, but still, there was no way to pull over and get a pictures.

A short distance on down the road, I saw a Mama Moose come out of the thick forest of Black Spruce, look surprised to see traffic on the highway and quickly turned around and headed back into the forest. Speaking of those Black spruce, those tall evergreens that form a narrow spike with a slight flair at the base are becoming smaller and smaller as I head closer to the Northwest Territory boarder. They also appear to be almost fuzzy in appearance or almost feathery.

A most unique look. I’ll see if I can get a picture for you.

I know it may sound strange, but I’m not used to driving long distances. (I know, I’m traveling from Tucson AZ to Alaska for heavens sake) However, as I may have mentioned, I usually only travel about 150 miles per day, sometimes even less. However, for this leg of the journey, I’ll be traveling between 200 and 250, maybe close to 300 miles per day. I have over 1,500 miles of territory to cover along the Alaskan Highway and much of it, I’m expecting, to be pretty mundane and without much of interest to stop for along the way.

I did hit a few slow downs along the way today, a convoy of 5 industrial trucks carrying some sort of equipment for the oil and gas or other mining operations. The speed limit on the ALCAN highway is 100 Km/h or about 62 miles an hour. Although the occasional truck or camper passes me, I’ve actually passed a number of convoys and trucks myself. Still, all in all, very light traffic particularly if you get an early start Like I did today.

At the campground here in Fort Nelson, I was settled in around 12:30 in the afternoon, having already driven for about 6 hours. Seeing lots of campers arriving in the late afternoon. Most all heading to Alaska. Come to find out, they were directed off the highway, as there is a large forest fire about 220 miles north of hear.

Thought I’d have to stay in Ft Nelson for a couple of days, but with 88 firefighters, 6 helicopters and a sprinkler truck, they were able to get the fire under enough control to re-open the Alaskan Highway, so I’m off again this morning. Now this was surprising to me. I
expected the landscape to pretty much flatten out by now, but nooooo, 7 to 9 degree grades and stunning views of the final northerly most section of the Rockies. The Rockies, bordering Muncho Lake which is touted as being the most beautiful lake in the world and I can’t argue with them. Even though it was overcast, with low clouds and fog hugging the mountains, the Emerald green to the lightest turquoise blues popped out. Difficult to capture on camera as the light kept popping in and out.

What a sight to drive along the eastern edge of this very large Alpine lake. The road was
barely a foot or two above the water line and a shear mountain bordered the other side of the roadway. Small sections of the road were being eaten way by the wave action and I’m sure the ice action during the winter months.

Along the way I was able to stop and get a couple great shots of a moose foraging in a pond near the roadway. The moose was able to hold it’s breath for minutes while digging underwater with it’s head deep into the muck and weeds on the bottom of the pond. What a site to see. Glad I was able to pull over and just watch this huge beast for a while. You know they are one of the largest animals in North America.

A quick stop over at Toad River Post where they have something like 7,000 baseball caps plastered to the ceilings, I had to get a good cup of coffee and what my eyes couldn’t believe, they had Date Bars. Elsa (my Mom) used to make THE best date bars in the world and I discovered that the Toad River Post must have gotten her receipt. I was in heaven. Love the taste of those date bars. Decided to fill up at $1.219 a liter. Yikees, that’s about $4.80 a gallon. $52 for a half a tank of gas.

Oh, and a I saw another black bear walking along the edge of the wide grassy areas next to the forest. I’m sure the British Columbia road crews realized years ago that having a wide open area instead of having the forest right up against the roadway enabled the public to see if wildlife was in the area or near the highway. Gives one just that little extra foresight to be able to slow down and avoid hitting the wildlife. Even saw a couple of Wood Buffalo along the way. Magnificent animals. They must have been re-introduced into the area a number of years back. They’re much larger and darker than the plains buffalo.

Ekk! I hit my first big road construction on the Alaskan highway where the roadway was completely torn up and wouldn’t you know it, it had rained just enough to create Mud. What a mess it made of my Camper. Looked like a great mud pack but I don’t think it helped make my camper look any younger. Kept thinking what a lot of work it was going to be to clean the mess up, but then later on down the road, it rained out for a bit and completely washed the entire mess up. Yippee!

After a good 4 hours of driving I arrived at Liard Hotsprings. (sorry Laird, you almost had a hot springs named after you) After dropping off the camper I was ready to head to the springs. The short rain shower stopped, the sun came out and I headed on down. Compared to all the other hot springs I’ve been to recently, this one is in a natural setting (no swimming pool). Just a long boardwalk leading through a low marshy area into a canopy of trees and large ferns and then the natural hot springs. Nice wooden deck surrounding one side of the springs, with four or five stairs leading down into the springs. Nice gravel bottom, with the hot springs percolating up through the bottom. Too hot, just a walk over and down to the river below and the hot springs becomes a waterfall warming the river with perfect warm swimming water temperature. The smell of sulfur and other minerals wasn’t bad at all and added to the experience.

What a grand way to spend an afternoon and then be able to walk back to my campsite.

Hoping to be able to post this tomorrow when I head into Watson Lake my first town in the Yukon. Later on down the road,,,, there wasn’t much to see in Watson Lake, except the 7,000 thousand signs left by folks. It’s where a lonely Army guy put one of the first signs up, pointing to his home town and giving the distance to get there. Back when they were first building the Alaskan highway. Since then, everyone has been adding their own signs. While I was there, folks were hammering and screwing their special signs to denote they had been there. I took pictures and headed on out.

I traveled 273 miles today and ended up at Dawson Peaks Resort Rv Park. What an enchanting place. Gorgeous campsites nestled in the pines and paper birch and balsam poplar. Lupine and wild roses cover the ground everywhere. The Lake is down the hill, with a dock that gently sways with the lapping of the waves. The aluminum boat bangs against the side of the dock making a clunking and banging sound in rhythm with the waves slapping against the dock. Just sitting on one of the benches is heaven.

PS, saw 4 bears, one brown and the rest were black bears. A couple more moose and that was it for wildlife sightings.

1 comment:

Mikey Bravo said...

This looks like a great trip. I would love to go to a campground like this. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. This looks like my next trip for sure!