After 6 months on the road we find ourselves on the final leg of our winter sojourn.
Crossing the US/Canadian border at Sumas we drive north into British Columbia thus leaving “the lower 48” behind. We have just over 2000 miles to basecamp.
Traveling home to Alaska in early spring can be a lonely trip. There are no tourists on the road, many campgrounds and other facilities are not yet open and traffic is at a minimum especially on the Cassiar Highway.
These factors make for a heightened sense of travel but are the very reasons we enjoy traveling this time of year.
The drive from the Canadian border to Alaska typically takes us 6 to 8 days depending on the forecast and road conditions. Since it is still early spring one can encounter winter weather anytime.
Temperatures can easily be well below freezing at night and camping facilities are few and far between. But we are completely self sufficient and can camp comfortably anywhere.
We decide to drive the Coquihalla Highway instead of taking our usual route through the Frasier River Canyon.
This route takes us up and over a spectacular high altitude pass and through beautiful alpine scenery. We experience blue bird weather and warm conditions as we cross the Coquihalla summit.
The Coquihalla has a long history of extreme winter related driving challenges. The ascent to the summit is very steep, especially from the south after passing through the Great Bear snow shed.
We briefly stop in Kamloops but then drive west to one of our favorite Provincial Campgrounds at Juniper Beach situated along the beautiful Thompson river. The campground is not officially open yet but dry camping is allowed.
The location is quite and peaceful except when freight trains rumble past on both sides of the river, which is about every 30 minutes. Remember we love trains.
After a long drive to Prince George we park in the Treasure Cove Casino RV lot for the night. Re-provisioning in the morning (our last Starbucks for 1500 miles!) we continue west to Kitwanga Junction, the start of Highway 37, the Cassiar Hwy.
This is where our journey leaves civilization behind.
The Cassiar winds through 450 miles of untouched wilderness. It passes through some of the most remote, wild and spectacular scenery in British Columbia. We find cloudy skies but the road is in great condition and there is very little traffic.
The Cassiar runs just east of the coastal range and often weather will move over the crest from the coast. This can make for difficult driving conditions so monitoring the forecast is essential to an enjoyable trip.
We travel about 100 miles north before parking for the night near the cutoff to Hyder Alaska at Meziadin Junction.
We must stop at Bell 2 for fuel the next day, one of BC’s premier heli-sking lodges, since it is the only fuel station for the next 150 miles. We eventually join the Alaska Hwy just north of Watson Lake.
In comparison the Alaska highway is wide, straight and in excellent condition but has far more traffic. Traffic mainly consists of long haul freight trucks and lots of folks pulling U-haul trailers headed north to Alaska to work for the summer.
We spend the next night at Morley River Rec area about 100 miles south of Whitehorse. We camp in the entrance area parking lot since the snow still has yet to be plowed from the campsites.
Reviewing the forecast the next morning, we see there is potential for developing weather within the next few days.
We decide to motor all the way to Tok, Alaska to beat the approaching storm. Every mile that passes as we get closer to home our pace tends to quicken.
North of Destruction Bay the road deteriorates considerably. A few miles south of the Alaskan border we sometimes are driving at less then 30 mph and traversing deep frost heaves.
For over 30 miles we find a heavily washboarded gravel and mud road surface. Nothing has changed since last fall since our southbound trip.
Some drivers pass us at high speed and later we pass them pulled over with flat tires and broken axles. In the rough sections slowing down is the only way to help avoid problems.
After 532 miles we are very glad to finally cross back into Alaska at Beaver Creek. We arrive at our good friends home in Tok late in the evening and join them for dinner at Fast Eddie’s.
Kay Lynn and David are the proud owners of Gretta and Iorek, two beautiful Bernese Mt. Dogs.
Tok has had a mild winter and a warm spring and where normally there would be 2′ of snow on the ground there is none. We crash in their driveway sleeping soundly, we were very tired.
Our final day on the road finds us an easy 320 miles from Base Camp. It feels very familiar to enter Fairbanks after 6 months on the road. We buy our provisions and head south towards Denali. The sun remains in the sky until 10:00 pm now.
Denali is in full view as we enter the Alaska range, we are home.
And so ends another memorable trip to the lower 48 and back. Although it is great to be home we will miss the freedom to wander where we want and when we want. The big dogs will miss running free across the desert and on the beaches.
We will be very busy at basecamp this summer growing vegetables, mowing the lawn, hiking with dogs, doing routine maintenance and BBQing with friends. But at the same time we are already mentally planning and looking forward to our next venture south beginning this coming October.
Our latest video provides a quick glimpse of our recent trip home to Alaska. Be sure to view it in HD, turn up the volume and enjoy!!
We will continue to keep you posted of this summers adventures and activities but for awhile they most likely will be less frequent .
We hope everyone enjoyed following the big dogs adventures this winter. It was great fun keeping everyone updated and we really appreciated all the nice comments and suggestions.
Stay tuned for more….
Keep you posted!
Special Note: Anyone considering the drive to Alaska should not hesitate. If you live in America or Canada it is one of the last great North American road trips that can begin at your doorstep. The adventures you experience along the way will make for great memories for the rest of your life.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain