Thursday, August 5, 2010

Leaving Alaska - Dawson City to Toad River, British Columbia

After our drive from Chicken, Alaska we spent the night at the Yukon Government Campground next to the Dawson Ferry. This is a very nice campground, although without hookups, along the Yukon River.

We left the Dawson City area the next day, Sunday August 1st, after taking the infamous George Black Ferry across the river to get onto the Klondike Highway.  We were able to drive right on... no waiting line.

The ferry is provided by the Yukon Government at no cost to travelers. I guess it's cheaper to run the ferry than to build a bridge?  Anyway, it can hold maybe 6 passenger vehicles at a time, or one little Trek motor home and 2 or 3 cars.

The ferry is very basic and has just two crew members: one guy pilots the vessel and the other one directs vehicles on and off, chocks tires, and ties up the ferry.

The crossing takes less than 10 minutes and the landing is a controlled soft crash onto the river bank. If needed, and upon request, the crew will lay down planks so your RV doesn't bottom out on the mud and gravel as you drive off.  It was actually kinda fun!

And so we drove around 330 miles to Whitehorse. Along the way, we decided to stay at the Pioneer RV Park again because it has a dog wash and nice wooded sites up on the ridge. As it turned out, we stayed there for three nights, which gave us quite a bit of time to clean the Trek and take care of some minor maintenance.

That Chicken Dust was everywhere... inside cabinets and drawers, on our clothes the wardrobe, on all the toiletry items inside bathroom cabinets, and so on.  Lynda spent over 8 hours just cleaning the bathroom and shaking out our clothes! I focused on the outside of the Trek, emptying all the basement compartments, wiping down and hosing off gear and equipment.  I cleaned the Trek's air filter and topped up the oil, replaced several bulbs for the running lights, replaced the air filter on the generator, and tightened up the scooter carrier.  And we did several loads of laundry and washed the dogs.  By the time we left Whitehorse, we were pretty worn out but the Trek was livable once again.

Despite all that work, that cursed Chicken Dust would shake down from hidden crevices for days to come.  And we would just wipe it up again, and shake our heads.

We rolled out of the Pioneer RV Park early on Wednesday, August 4th.  We heard the fish were running and so we decided to go back to the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery before making our way to Muncho Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia.  As it turned out, there wasn't much to see at the Hatchery because the fish had just started to trickle through - they had counted only three or four so far. 

So, we got on the road and headed for Muncho Lake Provincial Park, where we hoped to get a campsite at one of the Provincial campgrounds.  About an hour outside of Watson Lake, we entered into a huge area that was filled with heavy smoke from the Stewart-Cassiar Highway fire.  This fire had been burning for several days and was preventing travel to and from Stewart (and Hyder).  Some of our friends from the Caravan group were trying to go back to Hyder but had to wait for this fire to get under control. Anyway, we drove in this heavy smoke for at least 100 miles, way beyond Watson Lake.

Shortly past Watson Lake, we left the Yukon Territory and entered British Columbia. It was only a few miles into British Columbia that we encountered these "free range" horses along the highway... aren't they beautiful? 

And a few more miles down the highway, we saw some bison.  Barley gave them only a glance, but Sydney was beside herself... she had never seen anything like them!

Looking at a map of the route to Muncho Lake, you would think that Highway 97 (a section of the Alaska Highway) is a pretty major roadway... after all, this is the only road that directly connects Watson Lake to Dawson Creek.  Well, this is true for the first 110 miles or so after Watson Lake.  But right around the Liard River Corridor, the highway abruptly changes to a very narrow, two-lane road with lots of ups and downs and sharp curves.  But, despite its shortcomings, Highway 97 along this stretch has a pretty good road surface and the countryside is just gorgeous and so it really was a pleasant drive.

After a while, we entered the Muncho Lake region, an area with surreal landscapes of eroded mountains and glacial carvings... and no lake in sight!  In fact, the area looked almost parched.  But as we went along we finally saw the lake, and it was lovely.  We pulled into a provincial campground that runs along the water in the hope of finding a campsite, but it was full.  And so was the next campground.  We were disappointed because this is a lovely area. If you're lucky enough to get a campsite, you'll be just a few feet from the lake where you can canoe, fish, and otherwise enjoy the gorgeous setting.  But, we were not so fortunate and so we drove on to Toad River Lodge & RV Park, a private campground that would likely have space.

It had been a long driving day, 475 miles, and we were tired when we got to the Toad River park.  Lynda went inside to register and, lo and behold,she comes back out with Jim and Merrill Dick - how nice it was to run into them!  We got settled into our site and then met them in the little restaurant for dinner.

The meal was fine and the company was great, but most of the entertainment came from the young lady who works there.  Here are some things she said to us and other customers - it truly got to be very funny:
"No, no gas.  No diesel either, in case you care.  We might get some in a couple days"
"No, your site isn't supposed to have a sewer hookup.  A lot of them don't - land used to belong to Native people and we can't put in sewer."
"No, the price is the same whether or not you have sewer"
"Oh, did you want sewer?"
"No, we're out of ice cream. Yeah, I know the sign out there says Ice Cream [shrug]"
"Ketchup? No, we're out of ketchup"
"Hey, can he have your ketchup?"
"The cook is on a smoke break... she should be back in about 10 minutes and then I'll put your order in"
"Ice? Oh yeah, you asked for that a while ago didn't you?"
Anyway, we enjoyed running into Jim and Merrill. They actually beat us out of the RV park the next morning after Lynda and I stayed up until around 3 AM checking email and the sky, to see if we could spot the northern lights. No northern lights, but why did we even think we would see them?  Because that reliable young lady in the restaurant told us we would.  Duh!

Click here to see more photos of our drive from Dawson City to Toad River.

We're going to Dawson Creek today, Mile 0 (zero) of the Alaskan Highway - stay tuned!

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