Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dawson City, Yukon - Top of the World Highway - Chicken, Alaska

We travelled Top of the World Hwy from Dawson City, Yukon to Chicken, Alaska

We had driven 1550 km, which is almost a thousand miles on dirt roads for our return trip from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, NWT.  We had covered the Dempster Highway and we are now on the road to Alaska.  There are four border crossings into Alaska but two highways which will take you to Alaska from the Yukon, the Alaska Highway and the Top of the World Highway.  We are going to follow the latter one, the road less travelled and visit Chicken, Alaska.

Ferry on Yukon River

We depart from Dawson City, Yukon by ferry crossing the Yukon River.  It is a free and short crossing but takes time due to the size of the ferry, there are not many on here with us when we have our trucks pulling RV’s so it took two crossings to get our group across.
Top of the World Highway view
The Top of the World Highway runs from Dawson City, Yukon to the Alaska border, elevation about 1100 meters (3600 ft.).  It began as an old gold mining pack trail from Dawson City until the 1930’s when it was extended to Alaska and the Taylor Highway.   Top of the World Highway name fits and offers views that go on for miles across the countryside.  The road is a mostly gravel road but once we crossed into Alaska, we drove on a newly paved road for about 10 miles.  What a treat that was!

Caribou of Alaska
At this point of our travels, we had not seen the wildlife we’d expected to see and had not seen any caribou, at all but thanks to a great ‘spotter’ in the group, we finally got our chance.  We watched a herd of them, way up on the mountainside, which made photo taking a challenge but at least we saw some caribou!  It was great to add them to our short list of wildlife sightings!

Prospecting for gold
These incredible views were distracting but if we looked closely, we would see some activity down on the river in the valley.  We saw several small gold prospecting operations on our travels.  They are still digging for gold in Alaska.  The rivers would often have some equipment set up and a small camp nearby.  I doubt these are personal claims with this size of equipment being used but they were nothing very large. 

Chicken, Alaska
The large majority of visitors to Alaska come by air or cruise ships.  A very small amount come by vehicle and even less than that would take the Top of the World Highway but it is well worth the views and experience to take this route.  We were nearing Chicken and there was no lack of signs on this section of road to tell us that.  

Chicken  mascot
We have arrived!  There are a couple of parks for RV’ing but the first one we saw had a welcome look to it and we made our overnight stop there.  We are here at the height of their tourist season, which means there could be a population of more than 30 people.  Winter population is about 15, according to local records.

Downtown Chicken
This is downtown Chicken!  The name Chicken was actually an alternative to Ptarmigan, as that was the chicken-like bird that most of the gold mining original settlers ate and they referred to as ‘chickens’.  They weren’t sure how to spell ptarmigan, so chose to name it Chicken instead.

Chicken Creek Cafe
As one often finds in pubs of small communities, there can be hats or ties or money that is left behind as a marker for one’s visit.  In this pub, although I did not take a real close look, there are several pieces of personal underwear left to hang, as well.  I do believe this might be an idea that Chicken can claim as their own.  It definitely can be a topic of conversation while visiting the pub.

Chicken Liquor Store
This is the smallest liquor store we’ve ever seen but it did have the right supplies.  Chicken closes down in winter as there are no ploughs till April so no road access.  The mail is delivered by plane twice a week, weather permitting.  There is no telephone service, no cell service and no flushing toilets in Chicken.  This Chicken experience will take some people back in time.  It worked perfectly for us, we were here for a good time, not a long time.

We were now moving on, click here for the next adventure.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rancheria Falls - Teslin, Yukon - Alaska Highway

We follow the Alaska Highway from Rancheria Falls to Teslin, Yukon

Scenic Alaska Highway

There were times that we drove for hours on quiet highways with little traffic and nothing but grand views to enjoy.  We would take a break every couple of hours then stop for lunch, often on a pull out that offered a mountain view.  This was a nice warm summer day that was fairly light in smoke from area fires during this busy fire season.
Rancheria Falls
We made a mid-morning stop at the Rancheria Falls Recreation Site, walking along a boardwalk through the boreal or Northern forest, which lies just south of the tree line across Canada.  It takes at least three times longer for a forest to reach maturity in the North so the black and white spruce seen in this area are almost 100 years old but not yet fully mature.

Fishing in the river
We made a lunch stop at a big open space at the side of the road next to this pretty spot on the river.  We didn’t get to have any fresh fish for lunch but the effort was made and enjoyed.  As a BC resident, we had checked the fishing regulations.  A visitor’s Yukon fishing license is required and can be purchased at Visitor Centers.

Nisutlin Bay
We overlooked Taslin Lake as we approached Taslin for a fuel stop and crossed this bridge over Nisutlin Bay.  The delta is a National Wildlife Area, which is designated by the federal government and used to protect important habitat for wildlife.

Wildlife monument
The community of Teslin is not large but offers several opportunities to see history at museums and heritage centers.  The Yukon Motel Lakeshore Resort displays these fairly realistic animals out front but those in the Wildlife Gallery were very real. 

Wildlife Gallery
These incredible animals were on display behind glass in the Wildlife Gallery with settings that included painted and real props.  I do appreciate the calibre of taxidermy this would involve and can enjoy the beauty of these animals from afar.

George Johnston Museum
George Johnston was a fascinating man who with a brownie box camera photographed the life of his Tlingit people and left his collection for us all to see in this museum named after him.  He was a self- taught photographer and developed his photos in a rustic dark room in a cabin.  His photography is displayed in the museum that also has a large collection of Tlingit artifacts.  A great place to visit.

Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre
Just a few kilometres north of town is the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre.  These five traditional Clan poles were carved by local artists and depict the clans of the Teslin Tlingit Council.  While we were there, we enjoyed learning the method used for tanning moose hides from one of the teachers who are passing their skills down to the younger generations.  It is wonderful to see that these old traditions will not be forgotten.
Teslin Lake
Our evening hours were spent walking the sunny beaches of Teslin Lake, right below our campground. We watched the small waves of this large lake while the setting sun slowly ends our day at the little town of Teslin that offers a whole lot of wonderful Native culture.  A great way to end a great day.

Click here to follow us over the Top of the World.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Alaska Highway - Watson Lake, Yukon

Travelling the Alaska Highway to Watson Lake, Yukon

Roadside Bison

One of the expectations of our travels north was the wildlife we would see.  So far, we had seen none so when we came upon the herd of bison on the side of the road, we were ready with the camera to get some photos.  There were two of them lying on the shoulder of the road and more resting or grazing in the grass.  

Relaxing herd of bison

I find it interesting that there technically is a difference between bison and buffalo, even though I have often read they are the same.  The two main buffalo species live only in Asia and Africa so we have bison in North America.  Both terms are used and buffalo is likely the most common.  These were very healthy looking female bison.  We later saw the male many miles down the road waiting for his invitation to mingle.

Liard River

The Liard River is a major river that runs through Yukon, BC and Northwest Territories.  It is 1115 km (693 mi) long and has this one 30 km (19 mi) stretch of rapids called the Grand Canyon of the Liard, which I believe we are seeing here.  We were stopped at this viewpoint when a senior couple from Florida stopped with their motorcycle on their way home from Anchorage….. and we thought we were adventuresome!

Black bear

We saw our first bear on our summer travels.  With the vastness of the country, it seems they don’t have the need to use the highways for their travels so we saw very few of them.

BC Yukon border

We were to see mileposts that were using miles while in the Yukon and Alaska and kilometer posts while on the Canadian portion of the Alaska Highway.  This monument marks the border between BC and the Yukon with the Historic Mile 585 post. 

Welcome to Yukon

This portion of the Alaska Highway will follow the border for a distance but we cross back and forth a couple of times before we are in Yukon to stay so we saw a few of these signs.  The forest fires were still a major force and we drove through a lot of smoke on these days, shown in this photo.

Sign Post Forest

Watson Lake, Yukon, also known as the Gateway to the Yukon is a small town of about 1500 people and has the notoriety of being the home of the Sign Post Forest.  We hadn’t heard of this before so we did not come prepared to put up a sign to mark our visit but there sure have been a lot of others who have.

Thousands of signs

There are several rows of posts with signs of all kinds.  There are license plates from every state and province I am sure, signs of different languages from other countries, family names with dates of their visit and even business signs.   

Baby Nugget RV Park

We stopped at Nugget City to stay in the Baby Nugget RV Park at Mile 650 (Km 1003) on this summer night.  We had warm temps and late daylight hours in this rustic park with power and water to enjoy the comforts of our RV.  ‘City’ may be misleading as it is not that, but it has a gift shop and other services as well as a restaurant called the “Wolf it Down” where we enjoyed a great dinner and visit with the owners.

Click here to follow us on our northern adventure.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Summit Lake – Stone Mountain Provincial Park - Liard Hot Springs, BC

RV travels between Fort Nelson and Liard Hot Springs, BC

Smokey scenery

We had a big fire behind us that had closed Hwy 97 near Fort Nelson, BC but we saw a lot of smoke throughout our travels.  It was a bad fire season, the worst in about 10 years and they were not only in BC but also Alberta and Alaska so we saw plenty of sights like this one.

Northern British Columbia

We had a lot of road ahead of us and so much to see and do on our two month trip to tour the North country.  We were usually not booking RV parks ahead so were not in a hurry to make any particular time of arrival, but tried to pace our day that allowed for sightseeing and stops along the way and to be parked by late afternoon.  The long summer days were certainly an advantage as we had several hours of daylight after arriving for the night.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain is also the home of a Provincial Park.  We could see Stone Mountain from quite a distance and it was definitely a ‘stone’ and aptly named.  It is part of the Northern Rocky Mountains and offers some hiking trails in this area for those who are interested in seeing more up close.  Stone Mountain is 2102 metres (6896 ft).  

Summit Lake

It was July and that is usually a busy season for tourists but we really did not see a lot of traffic on these days.  This is Summit Lake and there was a visitor but with nice summer temperatures as they were, we would have expected to see more.  It is a rustic park but has amenities for camping and sits right at the side of the Alaska Highway, very easy access.  Summit Lake sits at the highest point on the Alcan Highway at 1295 metres (4250 ft).

Northern Rocky Mountains

The Northern Rocky Mountains offer some incredible sights as we follow the Alaska Highway that weaves its’ way among the mountains.  Some of the summits in the area are very high but most of them would be behind the sights we are seeing here.  We are basically driving along the northern edge of the Northern Rocky Mountains now.

The Racing River

The Racing River is one of many that we see on our travels.  There are so many rivers and creeks we cross over but this one offers an example of what is called a braided river.  They consist of small channels separated by little islands created by high sediment loads being deposited as the water level varies and travels downstream.  

Slides on the Alaska Highway

We saw a few old slides caused by heavy rain of years gone by.  The worst one was in 1988, I believe this slide is part of that one which cut off the Alaska Highway in three areas.  Another one affected five other areas, which has a very negative affect on transportation for the area as it cut off all traffic for several days.

Tropical Valley at Liard Hot Springs

Our stop for the night was at Liard Hot Springs in the Provincial Park there.  There is a long boardwalk giving us access to the hot springs as it covers a real pretty swampy area.  I wouldn’t usually think of swampy as being pretty, but this one was!  Areas such as this attract birds, reptiles and all kinds that are drawn to the vegetation and insects.  Moose are often seen here, although we saw none, but they like the rich plants in here.

Liard Hot Springs

The Liard Hot Springs is part of the provincial park and offers easy access, although it is a bit of a walk.  We spent some time in the hot springs, which has some little branches that stem off of the main pool and took us into some of the greenery and hotter spots, too.  The facilities are nice and it sits in a very picturesque location.  We did not have to deal with any bugs or mosquitoes on our visit, either.  This was a nice way to end our travels of the day.

Click here to find more.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dawson Creek - Fort Nelson - Alaska Highway

RV'ing the Alaska Highway in Peace River Country of British Columbia

We began our day at the Dawson Creek Historical Site where the Alberta Pool Elevator Ltd houses the Visitor Centre for tourist information and a gift shop as well as a museum operated by the South Peace Historical Society.

March 1942 was when the first US Army Corps of Engineers arrived here to begin construction of the Alaska Highway.  The road was to cover 2450 kilometers (1523 miles) of the northern country from Dawson Creek, BC to Delta Junction, Alaska.  This sign replaced the original one that was knocked down in 1946.

The true beginning of the Alaska Highway is marked by this Mile 0 sign, another replacement in the late ‘50’s, and is situated in downtown Dawson Creek in the center of an intersection.  This small town of 500 at the time the US Army Corp Engineers arrived, soon burst into a town of 10,000 people, many of whom lived in tents in the farmer’s fields.  Today’s population is about 12,000. 

Just north of town there is an Historic Site on the Old Alaska Highway.  This road turns off of Hwy 97, also called the Alaska Highway, and which we followed for a short distance to cross the Kiskatinaw Curved Bridge within the Kiskatinaw Provincial Park.  This bridge was built in 1942-43 and still stands strong.

We had some rain to pass through for part of the morning and as we drove through Fort St. John but we later had sunny periods with overcast skies but no rain and were enjoying the green hills and mountains of the Alaska Highway on our way to Fort Nelson, BC.  The Peace River Country has some beautiful scenery.

After a 6 hour drive from Dawson Creek, we arrived in Fort Nelson with blue skies and sunshine to enjoy.  We stayed on the outskirts of town in the Triple “G” Hideaway RV Park which is at Mile 300 on the Alaska Highway.  The park has a gift shop plus a restaurant pub which makes it convenient for us on these travelling days so we don’t have to cook.

Nearby the RV park is the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum with lots of interesting old pieces from years past that many of us might remember, if willing to admit that.  They also had several taxidermy mounts, which in plain language is stuffed dead animals.  If prepared to see them, I am okay but not too close.

The museum includes several different transportation collections.  There is a car and truck collection that began as a private one and continued to grow once it became part of the museum.  There are pieces of equipment from the building of the Alcan Highway, as well.

This monument at the Museum, pays tribute to those who built the Alaska Highway, also called the Alcan those many years ago.  The rates to see these attractions at the museum is very reasonable, one ticket covers them all.  To see more about the museum, click here.

We now leave Fort Nelson, BC, also known as the gateway to the Northern Rocky Mountains and continue on the Alcan Highway.  It turns out that we were one day ahead of a major forest fire in the area that closed down the Highway for a period of time.

Click here for our next day of travels.


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