Leaving the coast, and Alaska behind, we headed across the mountains and towards Whitehorse. The clouds had gone and the beautiful ‘Fall’ colors in conjunction with the blue lakes made the drive an absolute delight.
We restocked at Whitehorse and headed back onto the Alaska Highway.
After a quiet night on the edge of a lake we continued on to the junction with the Canol Highway. This gravel road was built about the same time as the Alaska Highway to transport oil from the Canada’s Northwest Territories to the coast. It’s a very peaceful 5 hour drive through heavily wooded country to the junction of the Campbell Highway which heads east to Watson Lake.
A stop for the night along this road rewarded us with another show of the Northern Lights. It really is an amazing experience to watch the fast moving, swirling lights of the Aurora Borealis as it moves across the sky. The best time to observe the aurora is during the equinox – almost worth coming back for at some time!
Watson Lake is a major intersection and service centre on the Alaska Highway, but it’s claim to fame is the in excess of 88,000 signs that have been stolen from towns, cities and all manner of places across the world and brought here to be displayed. We’re not sure that this is a good thing to promote, however, I suppose you have to be pretty imaginative and unique these days to stand out from the crowd!
South from Watson Lake, the Alaska Highway is a beautifully maintained wide road with even wider, mowed verges, sometimes up to 20 or 30 metres on either side. This makes wildlife viewing easy and quite a number of black bears were playing the game as we passed by.
A must stop on this stretch are the Liard River Hot Springs. Maintained by Canada Parks, a 500 metre boardwalk takes you to a natural rock pool where you can choose your temperature and relax for as long as you like for five bucks!
The rest of the drive to the official, Mile ‘0’ of the Alaska Highway, Dawson Creek, is very pleasant but uneventful except for the occasional road dwelling animal. Minerals in the gravel on the side of the road are very attractive to stone sheep and caribou who appear to be eating rocks but are apparently licking the gravel.
The further south we go, the more gas drilling and exploration is visible each side of the road and hence the more trucks and mining vehicles there are to deal with. We passed through Dawson Creek and stayed in Chetwynd after finding 2 Recreation Parks closed for the winter. This is the first time we have come across places starting to close down now that the tourist season is coming to an end and the winter is not far away. The small town of Chetwynd is famous for its chain saw statues and what started as a small idea has grown over the past nearly 30 odd years into a focus for the town. They currently invite 12 chainsaw carvers from around the world to participate in a competition held in June each year. The quality and complexity of the statues is amazing and their presentation in front of shops and buildings all around town makes a visit worthwhile.
An easy drive the next morning sees us back in Prince George on the Yellowhead highway as we continue our journey west to Prince Rupert and the ferry to Vancouver Island.