Archive for the ‘BC Alaska Road Trip 2011’ Category

Day 32 – To Whistler

Katie was anxious to get up early again, so that we could drive at a more leisurely speed today. So we again woke up at 6am and were on the road by 7:20am.

Lots of great scenery throughout the day, and about the same length of time driving as yesterday. We could have gone all the way to Vancouver along Highway 1, but opted instead to take the more scenic highway 99 to Whistler.

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We were fortunate to have CBC for much of the day. When the radio was silent we switched to our one CD of Fleetwood Mac with a few other assorted songs.

We arrived in Whistler around 5:30pm and are now at my parents cabin. There are no tenants at the moment, so we have the whole place to ourselves, which is nice, especially compared to our normal tent setup.

We cooked our last supper of lentils on the stove indoors and uncorked our last bottle of wine from Alaska. Tomorrow we head the final 100km home!

Day 31 – To 200km from Prince George

I surprised Katie with an early wake up of 6am. I wanted to get our money’s worth and go to the Hot Springs again. I also figured that it would be a great start to the day and that we’d probably have the place to ourselves again. We readied ourselves in record time, broke camp, and headed the 5 minutes to the pool. Just as we were arriving, a small group of seniors was leaving, and we did indeed have the pool to ourselves. We stayed until warm and pleasant and then walked back to the car for breakfast.


From the boardwalk on the way to Alpha Pool at Liard Hot Springs

We began our day’s driving at 8:30am – a great start indeed! Not much to say about the day. We drove about 9h8m, including a lunch break and a 30 minute nap where I forgot to wake Katie up to take over driving. We decided to be super efficient for lunch, by steeping and eating the soup while driving. This brought our lunch of scrambled egg sandwiches and soup down to under 20 minutes.


Enjoying a bowl of soup in the car

We ended up just south of Chetwynd at a provincial park that I don’t recall the name of. We arrived at about 5:30pm, set up camp, ate dinner, and went to bed early – prepared for our day’s driving to Whistler the following day.


Dinner at our last campsite of the trip

Day 30 – Through Whitehorse to Liard Hotsprings

We woke up at 7:30, 30 minutes later than normal because of the hour time change. We had a very efficient morning, taking only an hour from wake up to depart instead of the 2 hours we normally take.

It was 30 minutes to Whitehorse, where we are now. We went through photos, and updated the blog. We’ll now head to Superstore for blueberry muffins and then head the 646km to Liard Hot Springs. We’re sincerely hoping that it will be open when we arrive. It’s 11:30am now. Off we go!


The blueberry muffins were most tasty! We left Whitehorse, and found ourselves being stopped at a police checkpoint just before Watson Lake. They said that they were searching all vehicles and checking driver’s licenses, insurance, and registration. It was a bit of an effort searching through all the repair documents in the car pouch, but we eventually found the insurance. We couldn’t find the registration, but the officer was nice and let us go.


Signpost Forest at Watson Lake

It was a straight drive to Liard Hotsprings during which we encountered much wildlife – black bears and buffalo primarily.


A baby and grown up buffalo grazing beside the highway

When we arrived at Liard Hot Springs around 6pm the lady told us that it would be $10 for day passes for the both of us or $21 for camping which would include the hot springs. We decided to make it our first day paying for accommodation of the trip. She then told us that she only accepted cash, but we only had $10.50 CAD and $2.00 USD. We went across the street, but the rude lady of the restaurant exclaimed that she was not a bank and that we would have to purchase at least $10 worth of product. We didn’t. On going back to the Park entrance, the lady took pity and gave us the “senior’s rate”, which just so happened to be $10.50 CAD. We were most happy.

We put up camp for the first time in the rain in record time. We then drove off to the day use lot and had dinner under sheltered picnic tables. We followed the boardwalk 10 minutes to Alpha Pool, the main pool at the hot springs now since Beta Pool is permanently closed to protect the rare species of snail population.

The Hot Springs were amazing. Katie and I were the only ones in the pool for a good portion of time. The pool is mostly natural, with some wooden benches around the edges, a waterfall, and a staircase to get from one pool to the next. The water gradually went from piping hot to warm the farther away we got from the source. There was a little creek where the water exited, and it was interesting following that for a short distance.


We went to bed feeling refreshed for the following day.

Day 29 – Back to Takhini River Campground

We woke up, ready to do the exact drive we had done over a week ago, but in reverse. We made sure to pack up the tent instead of strewing it across the back seats like we sometimes do, since we would be crossing the Canadian border.

At the Canadian border, the guard was quite thorough. Though we first had to wait while the 2 cars in front of us were stopped for inspection. When we got to the window I actually forgot that I was using my British passport and was initially confused when he was confused about me saying I was a Canadian citizen. He was suspicious when we said we didn’t have any bear spray, but had spent many days hiking in the wilderness. He told us that they were doing “compliance checks” that day for all vehicles crossing the border. We were asked to leave the vehicle. Katie and I chuckled when he said in all seriousness during his inspection, “so… have you camped at all?” It was particularly funny since the entire back seat and trunk were covered in gear – the tent, poles, pegs, stove, pots, sleeping bags, thermarests, tarp, etc.

Soon we were in Canada, back on a few hundred km of particularly terrible highway. Dips, cracks, lurches, gravel. At one section we had to follow a pilot car since their were large construction vehicles slowly fixing up the road.


Shortly after we stopped as a bear grazed beside the road. I woke Katie up from her nap and also took a short video.


We eventually arrived at Takhini River campground – 50 km before Whitehorse and the same campground we had camped at before. Still no fee since the camping season is just beginning. We had white wine for our first time this trip. It was particularly nice having peggable ground.

Day 28 – Back to Porcupine Creek Campsite

We woke up at 7am as usual, and were most happy to have showers. Bill got some coffee brewing, and then we all had breakfast. Our first time not having oatmeal for breakfast in 4 weeks! We had cereal and some excellent toast of cinnamon raison bread that Bill and Mary had picked up from the farmers market in Anchorage a couple days before. They suggested we go to Flat Top (mountain) for views across Anchorage. Soon we were off, along with gifts of cinnamon raison bread, a bunch of grapes, some almonds, and some salmon burgers. A good enhancement to our routine daily diet.


We first went to Flat Top and got some great views of the city. We didn’t actually go up the mountain since the trail was still snowy and we were anxious to get going with the day.

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We then went to Earthquake Park, a memorial to the 1964 earthquake that devastated much of southern Alaska. We went for a stroll through the park, reading the various informational plaques. We then had lunch at a picnic table of the salmon burgers, cooked on the Whisperlite, as well as soup and raison bread.


Soon we were leaving Anchorage, the beginning of our journey back to Vancouver. The first stretch of road was new, as we had taken the indirect Denali Highway on the way in, but we were now taking the direct route back to Whitehorse. The road was quite scenic.


We camped at Porcupine Creek again, and were interested to see that much of the ice had melted since we were last here over a week ago. I refilled our water from a river and where I had before knelt down from shelf ice, the banks were now completely clear and rock covered. A sure sign that winter is ending and summer is coming!


Day 27 – Back to Anchorage

Morning as usual. The tarp and tent were damp from the dew so we left them to air out in the back of the car. We drove to Anchorage, occasionally getting blips of radio. We listened to 20 minutes of the Vinyl Cafe on Katie’s laptop before the battery died.


Camspite at Ptarmigan Ridge


Driving back from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage

We drove through Anchorage to a Walmart to restock with some food supplies. We also managed to get a 5-pack of blank CDs for $4. Far more expensive per unit than 2 years ago, but much better than the $30 pack we had seen in Superstore back in Whitehorse. We’ll have to choose carefully, since our stereo only accepts audio cds and not MP3 cds. That means 80 minutes x 5 cds for the next 5 days of driving.

We used the GPS to locate a park on the way back from Walmart. It told us to take an exit off the highway, which we did. It then navigated us towards what looked like a maximum security border crossing. We were some bewildered, but decided to continue following the directions of the GPS. We stopped and spoke to a strict guard who wanted to know are business, entering the military base. Katie and I were both pretty surprised, just wanting to go to the park. I had to give the guard my drivers license, then make a U-turn, and then exit the complex. We were humored by the incident and headed to the next park the GPS found instead.

We’ve now been at Starbucks for a few hours and are just about to head to Bill’s house. Tomorrow – the journey back home begins!


We arrived at Bill’s house at 5pm and met his wife Mary. It was very nice talking with them and sharing stories. They were very kind to us and made us the most excellent dinner we’ve had in weeks. They grilled up some steaks, hamburgers, salmon burgers, served along with yams, potato salad, and pasta salad. Delicious!

We also met their daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and grandson, and had yet another recommendation to go to Liard Hot Springs.

We went to sleep very happy, and our first time sleeping in a bed, as opposed to thermarests, for 4 weeks. A most pleasant luxury indeed!

Day 26 – Around Seward

We woke up and got a fire going again. It’s always nice not needing the stove to heat water for breakfast. We were soon out of the cabin and heading towards Russian Falls, 1 mile or so from the cabin. We read the plaques about how natives were allowed to fish 25 salmon per year for subsistence purposes and then headed back to the car.


We drove to Seward and had been thinking about hiking Mt Marathon, but instead went for a walk along the seawall and around town. First, we found a secluded spot from the winds to eat lunch. On my way back to the car, while Katie was filling our water bottles, a flock of 30 or so seagulls surrounded me. I had been covering my head, for fear of being pooed on, and when I looked up I saw the swarm surrounding me, pacing and looking at me. Katie walked back with the water and looked suspicious, she thought that I was up to something. But I was innocent – the seagulls just came to me!


Surrounded by seagulls

We then began our walk

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Before leaving Seward, we decided to give Bill, from Goose Lake park, to see if he was actually okay with us visiting. We were happy that he said yes, and we plan to go around Anchorage and edit photos tomorrow before going over to his and his wife Mary’s house in the afternoon.

We then drove an hour or so out of Seward and stopped at Ptarmigan Campground, still in the Kenai – with a few other campers since the gate was open. Though we were happy to see a “no fee no services” sign posted. (Services referring to running water, a campground manager, and firewood).

Day 25 – To Kenai Peninsula

We woke up to breakfast and coffee as usual. I’ve been wanting to see the Northern Lights for a while, but even when I woke up at 1:30am, the sun hadn’t set. Maybe I’ll try 2:30am one night.

We looked through our book, 50 Hikes in the Kenai Peninsula, and decided to head to Russian Lakes since there was a cabin. We were at the trailhead by noon and had lunch before starting out. Scrambled egg sandwiches as usual. We saw some campground rangers at the parking lot, who advised us that although reservations are normally required for the public use huts, we would probably be able to stay in the hut as long as no one else had booked it out, since much of the Park was still closed.


Russian Lakes Trailhead

We set off, to a beautiful day. We didn’t go far, just an hour and a half or so to the cabin at the lower Russian Lake. We found the lower Russian Lake mostly frozen, with a relatively small portion thawed at the far end. We were amazed when we got to the far end of the lake and the cabin – the best we have seen so far. All the wood inside – the beds, table, and counters – was varnished and the logs of the walls were all uniform and perfectly sealed with caulking. There was a table, a big fireplace, newspaper and kindling, and a wood-shed outside completed with an axe and saw. Katie got to sawing a log too large for the fireplace, while I began chopping. I’m happy when there’s an axe, so we can do our part by not depleting the stock of firewood already there.


Starting a fire in the beautiful cabin


The dock and lower Russian Lake


Barber Cabin

Once we had a fire going, we headed out to see a rowboat, which looked like something from the army. We decided to go for a row, despite the high winds and ice on the lake. It was a fun adventure – we first tried to row through the ice, without any luck, and then decided to row up the lake beside the ice. We moved quite slowly as there was a strong headwind. When we were done rowing, we rowed the boat back to shore. I went to get out of the boat, and as I jumped the boat, along with Katie, zoomed backwards to the lake. It was too late for me save the boat, and Katie was sent off screaming downwind. With a flash of heroism, she turned herself around, grabbed hold of the oars, and rowed herself back upwind to the dock, where I jumped backed in. It was all rather exciting.


Katie rowing

We had a couscous dinner as usual, along with hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Seeing that there was still lots of daylight left, I figured it would be a good idea to go swimming. The fire was roaring for when I returned.

I dove in off the dock, plunging into what I think is the coldest water I’ve ever swam in. I swam towards the ice flow – a flow of large chunks of ice flowing with the wind down the lake. For some reason, I thought I’d be able to swim through this ice, but I soon found out that ice chunks are solid and sharp. I swam back to shore and ran back to the cabin, making sure to wash my feet in a bucket of water before entering the cabin. I was slightly cut up from the ice – a lesson learned!


Diving into the lake at 6pm

We then went to bed, with it far too warm to be anywhere near our sleeping bags – a roaring fire continuing for many hours.

Day 24 – To Anchorage

We headed today to Anchorage. It has been an excellent, sunny day and we got our first views of Denali from the the south. I posed for a picture.


We continued on to Anchorage and lunched at picnic tables in Goose Lake Park. It was somewhat stressful having to navigate the busy streets of Anchorage – we haven’t seen a similar sized city since at least Prince George, but more like Vancouver. The Iphone has been invaluable for navigating and locating Starbucks in cities. When the internet in Starbucks failed, we moved to a McDonalds just down the street, also with free internet.

We are now headed to the Kenai Peninsula for a few days of hiking. We don’t have long left before we’ll have to start returning home to Vancouver! A medical researcher?, Bill, from Kingston offered to let us stay at his place if we liked and gave us his phone number. We’re thinking about taking him up on his offer on our way back from the Kenai. It would be our first and only time not camping in over 3 weeks.


We finished the day by driving to the start of the Kenai peninsula along a beautiful highway by the ocean. It reminds me of the Sea to Sky Highway, connecting Vancouver to Whistler, being right by the ocean with mountains towering above.


We parked off the road at Bertha Creek Camground, closed, and walked beside the road closed sign with our camping gear. It was nice, with a picnic table to eat off of and with us being the only ones there.

Day 23 – Third Day in Denali National Park

After last night, we realized we weren’t having much fun here and decided to leave the park early. We’re more keen on parks with actual trails. It was a very cold morning and it took a long time to warm up. My feet were numb for a while, even after we started hiking. It snowed a decent amount last night, and it was nice to see that the tent and tarp held up.


The pole segments froze shut, so we had to use our mouths to thaw them.


The hike back was incredible compared to the hike in. We followed the river as it meandered back to the highway, with its shores being very nice to walk along. It was bridged for a quarter or so of the distance and water the rest. The bridges were well strong enough to walk on. In fact, the bridges were nicest to walk on, since they were the firmest ice and we didn’t sink in at all. (Even with snowshoes on, we were sinking in lots of places).

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Compared to 7 or so hours total walking in, it took us 3 hours to get out. Our spirits were elevated and I was disappointed we hadn’t found out that route on the way out. We ate lunch by the car – another excellent lunch of soup and scrambled spiced egg sandwiches. We returned the bear box to the backcountry office and headed on our way out of the park.


We stopped about halfway or so to Anchorage, at a rest area/picnic area that also served as an overflow to a closed campground. It was distanced from the highway, so we weren’t bothered by road noise. There was 40-some japanese man bike touring that asked us whether camping there was acceptable, in a heavy japanese accent. We said that it was fine, and after setting up camp individually, we invited him to join us for dinner. I had rigged up the tarp by a picnic table, blocking most of the rather ferocious heat-sucking wind.

The man was bike-touring 2 weeks from Alaska’s southern coast to its northern coast. He said that he had toured 80 countries over the past years on a bike. It was pretty cool talking to him. He was using an MSR Whisperlite International with gasoline. It wasn’t nearly so bad as I thought it would be. His dinner was no more and no less than at least a pound of ground steamed ground beef – a full supermarket styrofoam plate worth.

We had a warm night, away from the wind, camped on solid snow-less ground, in the well-guyed-out tent.