On days 1 through 4 of the Hurleys’ Alaska Adventure we traveled 744 miles from Coutts to Dawson Creek, Alberta, Canada. Our route was Highway 4 north to Lethbridge, Highway 2 to Calgary and Edmonton and 43 west to Dawson Creek. We have Internet, so here goes with our travels so far.
Day 1, Friday, May 21, Coutts – Granum, Alberta, CA
On our first day of the Alaska Adventure 2010 we left Shelby, Montana to make our border crossing at Sweetgrass, just 30 miles north. We were prepared, having done our homework on what we could and couldn’t carry with us in the motorhome and the documentation we would need. There are some horror stories told of experiences of rvers at border crossings, you know. Well, no long lines for us on this day. We pulled up quickly after only two cars in line and presented our passports. There were a few questions, such as, …Do we have any tobacco or alcohol – no….And do we have any firearms – no…Then she said it….Will you please pull to the left in the parking lot and go inside to see the Customs officials. Oh no!! Here we go. Will we be the lucky ones that have everything in our motorhome pulled out of cabinets and drawers and storage? Let’s get it over with, there’s nothing to hide. We go inside and find the correct window for “immigration.” The nice young Canadian man asks how long we will be in Canada?…. When was our last trip to Canada?… Have we been convicted of any crimes? How much money are we carrying? And then he takes our passports and asks us to have a seat. We’re still thinking our belongings are going to be examined, piece by piece. But, no such thing occurred. Piece of cake!
Ten minutes later we were on our way to Alaska on Highway 4 north in Alberta, with our acclaimed “Milepost” book at hand. Soon the kilometer, as opposed to mile, designations were clearing up slightly as the mind made connections with the new measurements. We traveled north 63 miles/101.4 km to Lethbridge and made a stop at the WalMart, planning to use our debit card and ask for cash back in Canadian dollars. Then we’d be prepared with cash for incidentals on the trip. But, this was the first glitch in our plans. We were informed that our particular type of Visa debit card isn’t usable in certain places in Canada. Oh well, after a little lunch, we continued north with an issue we could solve later. The views so far that day were agricultural, sunny landscapes. But as the day went on it became cloudy and an extreme crosswind started developing. Until eventually, the wind caught the left window awning at the wrong angle and it unrolled as we went down the highway. Wasn’t too much fun traveling at this point. So, we located a campground on a small lake and relaxed for the evening, along with the crowds of Canadians beginning their Victoria Day holiday weekend. Day 1: total miles 150. It was a short day, but overall a safe and good start to our trip.
Day 2, Saturday, May 22, Granum, – Whitecourt, Alberta, CA
Although there are beautiful areas of the Canadian Rockies to enjoy, we are choosing this time to make the trip through Alberta on the shortest route possible. The Alaska Highway is calling us. As we moved north on Highway 2, around Edmonton on the bypass, and west on 43, we felt the temperatures dropping and the surroundings changed to the more mountainous, piney and snowy scenes. Following the Milepost book is becoming fun now. I’m checking the mileposts as we progress from the CB (Canadian Border) and then from Edmonton (E) and toward our next point, Dawson Creek (DC). The road signs are somewhat different, but logical and easy to decipher also. The book includes not only mileage information but points of interest. As we passed E 73.7 (118.6 km) DC 289.3 (465.6 km) we saw an unusual site. The C. N. R. Rochfort Bridge trestle is 2,414 feet/736m long and was originally built in 1914. This is the second longest wooden railway trestle in the world, crossing over highway 43 and Paddle River.The photo doesn’t really do it justice since it stretched back further than I could get in the camera. It was something to see.
About 37 miles/ 50 km later we were nearing Whitecourt and had traveled 352 miles. Time to find a home for the night. Our advance research said the Whitecourt WalMart was open to overnight rvers, so we exited the highway to check it out. As we were pulling in for the evening, two coyotes shuffled across the road in front of us. Just out looking for dinner, I guess. We found our location to be quiet and had a congenial parking neighbor from New York. And at the handy store next to WalMart, we discovered our new favorite Canadian beer, O’Kanagan Spring. Jerry chose the Porter and I am loving this Pale Ale. We relaxed and got ready for the next day. Day 2 of the Alaska Adventure brought our total miles traveled in Canada to 492.
Day 3, Sunday, May 23, Whitecourt, Alberta – Dawson Creek, British Columbia
On Day 3 we jumped back on Highway 43 west out of Whitecourt. That is, after solving our debit card issue by using a bank ATM machine instead of one in a restaurant or retail store. It worked like a charm. Back on the road again, we did encounter some snow along the route today, but it didn’t last long. Also today was our first stop for diesel in Canada, 93.9 per liter, computing to about 3.37 a gallon, or thereabouts. At our fuel stop at the Esso in Valleyview, (334.8 km northwest of Edmonton according to The Milepost) we also found a diner for lunch that seemed popular. Here I learned about a Donair, a Canadian sandwich that’s similar to a gyro. Yummy. We continued to see snow lining the roadways, but the roads remained clear and we had no problems. The moose warning signs along the highway began appearing frequently. But regardless of my eagle-eye watch on the forest line, there were no sitings of the live ones yet. Our wildlife viewing for the day included numerous magpies, a juvenile bald eagle, a few llamas, a herd of buffalo and a lone red fox shuffling along beside us. The roads have been relatively smooth so far also. We haven’t encountered any of the heaves that can occur in these northern roadways. That must come as we get further north where the winters are more treacherous.
Day 3 and 252 additional miles northwest in our travels brought us to the official start of the Alaska Highway – Dawson Creek, British Columbia. This is Mile 0. Here in 1942 the United States and Canadian governments started a joint work project, to build a 1400 mile highway that would provide the a means of protection against enemies threatening invasion.
Day 4, Monday, May 24 (Victoria Day in Canada) – Dawson Creek, British Columbia
And so it really begins – The Alaska Highway – 1442 miles from Dawson Creek, B. C. to Delta Junction, Alaska. We couldn’t pass through without taking photos at the Mile 0 post marking the spot where it starts in Dawson Creek. We were also glad we took the time for the visitors center museum and the movie telling the story of the construction of the highway. The movie explains how this project was proof of what can be accomplished with determination. It took 14,000 men and women, two governments and ten months to open the 1400-mile highway. There are tales of the extreme conditions, loss of life and monumental tasks. It is an impressive story.
After taking a look around town and enjoying a great-tasting lunch at Tim Horton’s, we headed out for a drive. We wanted to see a portion of the original highway that has been rerouted when they made improvements over the years. About 17 miles north of Dawson Creek we drove over this historic old curved wooden Kiskatinaw River Bridge. So, here’s another bridge photo. This one is 531 foot/162m long and is the only original timber bridge built along the Alaska Highway that is still in use today. It was a little eerie driving over it, especially since the winter had caused some of the boards to buckle. We made it though.
And, while exploring the nearby Provincial Park I did – almost – make a wildlife siting. Does this scat count?! And from what animal did it come? Bear perhaps? We will investigate……
See you up the Alaska Highway.