678kms to do today to Grand Prairie via Lake Louse, the Columbia Icefields and Jasper, following in our footsteps from 2001. It’s a beautiful morning, crisp and sunny as we pull in to Lake Louise. The glacier at the far end has definitely receded since we were last here! The water look inviting and Jenny could not resist a paddle, even thought it was probably freezing cold.
Along the icefield highway, we were again amazed at how far the glaciers had receded. It was in September when we were here last and the whole place was covered in snow. A very different picture today.
Shots along the Icefield Highway..................................................................................................................................
We saw Elk, and Big Horn Sheep but no bears!!
Big Horn Sheep........................ We looked hard but didn't see any...
Stunning scenery all the way. David and Jenny were travelling with us today at the back of the pack. At least Jenny will get to see more of the scenery travelling at this speed Carried on through Jasper and joined the 40 “The Scenic Route to Alaska” As we got further North, the mountains sloped away to wooded hillsides and poorer road conditions. No people , just acre upon acre of forests and logging trucks.
We were making good time until just 12 kms outside of Grand Prairie we got stuck in the traffic for about 30 minutes – road works! Today we have been approached by several people asking about the vehicle and our trip. One South African on a bus trip wanted to leave the bus and come with us, one Texan who was fascinated by diesel engines who recommended that we visit the Alamo when we are down in Texas and one Canadian in the traffic jam before Grand Prairie, who had all kinds of questions about the vehicle and the trip. Everyone spots the UK registration plate!
After my last fiasco when doing the rally blog, I was relieved when Charlotte told me I could email my draft to her. No fiddling with or losing of memory sticks this time! Our destination today is Fort Nelson in Northern British Columbia. As we have travelled further North, the daylight hours have got longer – last night at 11:15pm it was still light! Foolishly, I thought that this would mean we would start later – leave time today was 08:30! However, we must all still be in rally mode as most people had left well before 08:30 including ourselves. Indeed one of our group must have been affected by the long daylight hours as before we even got underway she had navigated through a door and into a brick wall and that was just on the way from the car park to the lobby! Well done Nikki, I am glad we were not following you today. Having had Jenny and David’s lovely company yesterday, we were on our own at the back of the pack, the usual place for the tortoises!
The route today will take us to the start of the Alaskan Highway at Dawson Creek and north for 583 kms. As we left we could still see the Rocky Mountains in the distance towering over the flat plains around Grand Prairie. The terrain was mostly arable farming and forests that went on for ever and ever. The road cuts through the forests like a giant landing strip in the middle of nowhere and a grid lock here is about three cars together! This time last year we were also heading for the Artic Circle driving North through Sweden and ,aside from the traffic, it all looks very similar.
Giant Gofer!.................... Only Cargills here!. Road or landing strip?......... Coming into BC....
As we passed over the border into British Columbia, and stopped for a break, a young man pulled in behind us – he had spotted the English number plates and wondered what was going on. Very helpful, he recommended some back country trails and camping for us to do when we have left the rally. Later we met a young couple from New Zealand who are travelling the world. They had driven over the Icefield Highway just two weeks ago and it was a complete white out. How lucky have we been with the weather?
There’s a long time to go before harvest here. Within four weeks we have come from harvest finished to corn just peeping through
As we approached mile marker ‘O’ on the Alaskan Highway at Dawson Creek, we heard lots of radio traffic but didn’t see any of the rally. They have all obviously been well ahead of us today, taking advantage of the long straight, empty roads. Another fridge magnet Faye!
The original starting point in town and main street Dawson Creek.............
We took the loop onto the original highway and crossed Kiskatinaw bridge, following in the footsteps of many before us who were heading for the Yukon in search of gold, whisky and dancing girls.
Travelling with Nikki and Paul, we were all on bear watch but saw nothing, not even an elk today. The rally ahead of us must have frightened them off. Others had been luckier and Rick ,Diana, Robin and Charlotte had watched a bear and her cubs feed on dandelions for ten minutes and cruised along beside some elk!
Thankfully, today there were no major problems with the cars, other than a few chipped windscreens here and there and one of the Healeys has a problem with the electrical supply to his overdrive switch. Let’s hope Dr Diesel can get him sorted out tonight.
Not a lot to report today on a road which just seemed to go on for ever. We even had to stop off at Bougie Creek for a sleep, we were nodding along the way – 494kms on the same road.
We had dinner at Dan’s Neighbourhood Pub - bit like the Swan but the beer was better! JC had 10oz local salmon – poached – he wasn’t sure it that was the way it was cooked or how it was caught!
Watson Lake is our destination today and with 518kms to do, we set a record by being amongst the first to leave. I think I detect a certain amount of letharge amongst the group as we near the end of the rally or are they just worried about being caught speeding. I spotted a sign on the roadside “All those who hate speed tickets – raise your right foot” – nice one.
Same road again – navigators instructions to the driver this morning were – leave hotel, turn left and carry on for 518kms – I’m going to sleep! We just keep on following the Alaskan Highway. After around 85kms, the road started to climb into the Northern Rockies. The area either side of the road is pure wilderness. 20 million acres of woodland. It was a bit cloudy – our first so musn’t complain. At the higher points of the road, the cloud was so low, you felt as if you could touch the sky!
Touch the sky....................... Those trees look like they will soon fall off.... More clouds.............
Lots of wildlife today we saw caribou, elk, big horn sheep, four black bears and buffalo.
Bit like the Westwood............... Got a bit too close here............ Elegant caribou eating gravel!!!!
Passed on the hot springs that everyone was heading for and had a lovely picnic by the side of one of the rivers, where there was a sign saying “Caution fish at work” and then onto Snowy River Falls. Finally we reach the Yukon and Watson Lake. As we crossed over latitude 60, we were on a line with Oslo and St Petersburg. We passed our hotel and went on to see Signpost Forest. There are signposts from all over the world. It started when one of the GI’s working on the construction of the Alaskan Highway was homesick and he placed a sign there with the distance to his home town “Danesville”. Since then hundreds of more have been added. We looked hard for some British ones but only found one from Todmorden and one from a Sheffied Regiment. We fixed up a Panama Alaska Rally sign and spent a good hour reading the signs. Loads from Germany!
They are never ending......................................
Our hotel in Watson Lake was “The Belvedere” – conjures up thoughts of a nice old fashioned quality hotel in the UK Old fashioned it certainly was and when we first pulled up in front of the yellow painted building with cabins that had their windows boarded up our hearts sank. It was, however, the best tht Watson Lake had to offer – plenty of Heineken so JC was happy and they had done their best with the food – a buffett I bet they have never had so many people in that place for a long time. Gerry and Corrie were waiting for us as we pulled in with a brown paper bag – the only way you can carry alcohol around in the street. A six pack of Heineken for JC for helping to repair the jag last week. A nice surprise. We will remember them when we drink it along the road somewhere whilst camping.
The Belvedere Hotel............................................................. At least we know how far away we are....
Some of the rally hung around for the “live music” that night but we sneaked off for an early night and despite the light we managed to have a good nights sleep.
A dull rainy start today and the only tea for breakfast was Earl Grey – you would love it here Linda. The decision has been made not to drive the long road on gravel today which means that we have just about 400kms instead of 700+ to Whitehorse and our next stop. Stopped on the way out of Watson Lake to go to the visitors centre and watch a video about the building of the road. Interesting stuff, it was built in 1942 in just nine months by the military after the bombing of Pearl Harbour and we will follow it to Delta Junction. The weather today was a bit of a shock to the system cold, wet and just 9C, especially as I was still wearing shorts! The first wildlife we spotted today was an arctic fox – didn’t see any of the Holderness Hunt chasing him. That’s all we have seen today –the animals must all be hiding from the weather. Only the hardiest on the rally have still got their tops down.
Did we get that close or is it stuffed? JC on the phone to Faye in the rain... Angie and Stuart - the brave ones.....
As we drew nearer to Whitehorse, the rain stopped and the temperature crept upto 13c – maybe I’ll be able to keep my shorts on after all. No luck I have got too used to the fine sunny weather. Can’t imagine what it is like here in the Winter. Swapped the shorts put on the walking boots and walked about 7kms looking for a fish ladder. Its’ getting to the time of year when the salmon will be swimming upstream to spawn but we didn’t see a thing and then when we got to the ladder the display area was closed. Still we had a good walk – the first real exercise we have had since we started the rally – and fought of the mosquitos!
JC and Nikki............ The fish ladder - no fish!
Great Italian food with Paul and Nikki – even managed to beat the rest of the rally to the good food which has to be a first!
Another wet day. Today the two couples who have rented cars are supposed to return them then Jenny and David will travel with Charlotte and Robin, Colin with go with Stuart in one of the 4x4s and we will have David back again with us for the rest of the rally. We went to pick them up from the airport where they had to drop the cars only to find that Colin and David had somehow succeeded and have now got another car to take them to Anchorage – old piots never give in (Colin) – well done guys!
Today we came off the Alaskan Highway and took the Klondike Highway for Dawson City. As we filled up en route JC went in to pay and the guy next to him had a $300 fuel bill for his RV pulling a trailer with his motorbike on it. Our bill was around $100 and as JC jokingly told the sales girl “don’t give me his bill” the guy replied “it’s fine you can’t take it with you can you, although I have heard they now have banks in Hell!” This is certainly a bikers road, there are hundreds of them, mostly Gold Wings with grey beards riding them, some with trailers and some trikes. At the back of the rally again today after our side trip to the airport, we join a convoy of bikers and I actually get a chance to drive the Toyota. Very different from my little red zoom zoom, but I eventually got used to it with expert instruction from JC who looked a bit pale!
Looks like we got us a convoy........... He's smiling now............. White knuckle ride?............
Hotel Bombay Peggy’s, which was a former house of “ill repute” in the gold rush days. Other entertainment in Dawson,which still has a boardwalk and graded roads, included Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall, the Gaslight Follies and the Sourdough Saloon! At Peggy’s the rooms all have different names – no numbers here – The Purple Room, The Gold Room, The Green Room, The Sweet, The Snug, The Lookout and Lipstick. Lipstick is the most famous with black satin sheets and Paul and Nikki have that one. We were in the Green Room – green and gold with a lovely deep, red and gold bath – almost like being at home.
Around Dawon City......................................................................................................................
Met Andy and Ron in the bar that night, who are doing a flying trip from South Alberta Great to meet you guys, I know you will be reading this and thanks for all of the tips, particularly Spot! Had dinner at the Drunken Goat with the rest of Bombay Peggy rally guests – a small group of eight.
A rest day spent, as usual, washing, doing car things, catching up on emails and updating the website. Whilst JC was out and about he met a girl driving a Mercedes 7.5 tonner around from Scarborough – what a small world it is. Certainly here in Dawson there are lots of travelers, some on bicycles – we met one who had cycled from Montreal, one who had flown up and was cycling back to Texas, motorbikes and other overlanders. Despite the catch up we managed a visit to the local gold mine and saw some of the old equipment and dredger before heading back to town for supper with Paul and Nikki at Antoinettes, a tiny little place with plastic tables and chairs but great food. JC and Paul both had Elk! After dinner we met up with some of the other’s at Diamond Tooth Gerties for the show, good laugh, can can girls and old music hall style and then drifted off to the Sourdough Saloon where some of us became members of Captain Dick’s Sourtoe Cocktail Club. This involved drinking Yukon Jack with a pickled toe in it whilst wearing a sailor’s hat – yes really – you can find out more at www.sourtailcocktailclub.com – we have the certificates to prove it! The evening developed into a good old party and sing song when Roger sat down at the piano and we all sang along, much to the surprise of the other drinkers in the place who gave us all a loud round of applause. Strangest thing was it was very very late when we left and it was still daylight! Sorry no photos – its not that they have been edited out just that I didn’t have a camera with me, except that is to snap Nikki and Paul in Lipstick.