May 27: Liard Hot Springs to Teslin - This morning we found several other travelers had joined us at our rest stop in the Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park overflow parking area. In fact, two young men had pitched their tent next to us. Jerry had coffee with them and learned they were on their way to summer employment on one of the remote Alaska Islands. One had a job and one didn’t. The unemployed one was hoping to find work there also. Just two guys and their car and what they could carry in it, including a guitar. Makes you think, huh?. Who, Why, Where, What? People are interesting.
Then it was time to make the trip west again on Highway 97. We had another crisp, sunny day. In just a few miles we came across a black bear chowing down in a grassy area next to the road. And that’s how the day continued. During our day’s trip, we visited with a mama and her two cubs, a moose and several bison. We’re thinking our wildlife viewing is off to a good start.
On this our seventh day since we crossed into Canada we entered the Yukon Territory. The highway number changed from 97 to 1, but still we’re on the Alaska Highway. Today’s descriptive words for the ongoing scenery are stunning and exceptional. The eyes keep trying to soak it all in.
One truly unique pause today was Watson Lake, the location of the infamous “Sign Post Forest.” This collection of signs left by travelers from all over the world captures you as you notice the thousands of ways people leave their mark. You wouldn’t think that signs tacked to posts would be so mesmerizing. They just are. They are all different. Some give a distance to a person’s hometown, or a feature of their town, or the names of those traveling together, or the year(s) of their trip to Alaska. Each one represents a story – history personified. This all started when a homesick U. S. soldier from Danville, Illinois, working on the Alaska Highway in 1942 left his sign posting how far to his home. On the day we were there the sign count reached 89,734. It just keeps growing. We left ours too.
Later we found a spot on Teslin Lake at a Yukon government campground for the night. The $12.00 fee is reasonable and there were several sites large enough for our motorhome. The 302 miles brings us to 781 of the 1,422 miles of the Alaska Highway, and 1,522 total miles since we left the U.S. So far, the road is in very good condition. We’ve passed up some side-trips along the road so far that may be calling us back in the future.
May 28: Teslin to Kluane Lake – Here we go again. Today’s panoramas I think we’ll call stunning and serene. We saw so many beautiful bodies of water. Examples: Squanga Lake, Teslin River, and Marsh Lake, where Martha Stewart filmed “Martha Stewart Living.” They are all surrounded by spruce or flanked by mountains or rustling along beside us. A brief stop today was in the capital of the Yukon, Whitehorse. We enjoyed getting a close-up look and learning the history of the Douglas DC-3 airplane at the transportation museum. After a long history of service, it was converted to a weathervane that rotates so that it faces into the wind at all times. Interesting site. We’ll have to explore more of the Klondike Gold Rush history in this town at a later date.
Today was the first day that we experienced a few dips in the highway, the beginning of the permafrost problems. Our trip along Highway 1 north in the Yukon became more outstanding as we began to view the Kluane Ice field Ranges. The streams of ice following the cracks in these towering mountains is unbelievable. Then we came to the Kluane Lake. Wow! The minerals in this lake cause the varying shades of blue. And just in time for us to complete a 253-mile day. We found the Congdon Creek Campground right alongside the lake and made it our home the the night, with a generous amount of daylight to enjoy the views. (Especially, since sundown is approximately 11:15 p.m.!)
May 29: Yukon to Alaska - We were out on the road early this morning, anxious to see more of the Yukon, but also looking forward to our first day in Alaska. A mama grizzly bear with her two cubs out foraging for food were an early part of our scenery. And the landscapes were again picturesque.
Our lunch stop was in Beaver Creek, the last little town in the Yukon. Buckshot Bettie’s is a tiny place that you could easily miss if you blinked along the highway. When we arrived there were just two remaining seats in the “dining room.” The food was excellent and we had a nice conversation sharing a table with a couple from the North Pole and a local citizen of First Nation.
Soon thereafter we made a seamless crossing into the United States. Our highway number is 2 now, still the Alaska Highway, now in Alaska. Today’s journey was the most hazardous as far as the road condition. The dips, holes and gravel areas began in the Yukon and continued into Alaska. The Alaskans say that it’s their way of getting visitors to slow down and enjoy the country. The freezing and thawing of the roadbeds in these extreme northern regions has caused the highway to breakup since it was built in 1942. Scientists are at work on how to stop the effects of the permafrost. Meanwhile, caution is advisable. The solution is to slow down. So we did.
As we went further west into Alaska, we started seeing a haze on the horizon, then that smell – our first wildfire was smoking up the view. We stopped at Tok, the town that has the distinction of being the first as travelers come into the state on the Alaska Highway. This tiny town is a popular place for folks to take time to wash the layers of road dirt off of everything. When we examined Ferd and Ole Yeller for any damages from the roadways we found two fog lamps are shattered on the Jeep and we have a new crack in the windshield. Stuff happens. We will work on that later. The Visitors Center here in Tok had helpful information on the wildfire burning north of us. The road is open but there could be delays if the firefighters need to stop traffic. But we will be continuing north to Delta Junction soon to complete our journey on “The Alaska Highway.” See you up the road.