grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Thursday, July 23, 2015

16-20JUL15 - Various YT & BC, Canada (mostly driving back to wa state)

16JUL, Thursday, was a beautiful drive to Watson Lake, YT - the portion of the drive from Teslin, YT, to Watson Lake we had already driven on the drive to Alaska on the AlCan.  We stayed at same RV park next to Sign Post Forest as before.  After relaxing from the drive we visited the Sign Post Forest to make sure our sign that we hung on 17JUN (see BLOG link) was still there.  Then we went to the Visitor Centre to turn in our Yukon “passports” for our free pin & a chance for a one ounce gold nugget.  We noticed a big RV caravan on the drive, apparently heading to AK; another big caravan pulled into our RV park right after our arrival, also heading to AK.  255 miles driven.

Friday we started heading south thru British Columbia (BC) on the Cassiar Highway (BC 37) – a sealcoated road with lots of curves & 7% grades.  It is certainly drivable by any RV, but you would be hard pressed to maintain the fifty mile/hour speed limit.  A very beautiful drive, but it took five hours of driving to go 220 miles & seemed like eight hours of driving.  The road transits a sparsely populated portion of Canada, where it is not unusual to have more than 100 miles between gas stations.  After parking the RV in Iskut, BC, we headed to the RV park’s restaurant for a late lunch & to use their wifi for a few hours.  221 miles driven.

Saturday morning we continued our scenic drive south on the Cassiar Highway.  Unfortunately about 30% of the scenery has been marred by the clear cutting of trees & installation of new power lines.  We know more energy is needed, & BC is rich in hydro power; just wish it could have been routed w/less impact on the beautiful environment.

Eventually we switched over to Trans Canada 16 into Smithers BC.  After checking into our RV park in Smithers we disconnected the Toad & made a small grocery run.  Note - BC is experiencing record heat.  316 miles driven.

Sunday, 19JUL, we continued our push home on Trans Canada 16 to Prince George, BC.  Another record heat day in BC.  The scenery changes from vast tracts of sparsely populated wilderness, to large farm/ranch areas w/small towns & villages (ie we are back in “civilization”).  We ran across cheap diesel ($1.08/liter) in a small village & stopped hopefully for our last fuel stop in Canada?  Our RV/Toad took up so much room at the pump that we blocked the exit, other customers had to back outJ.  221 miles driven.

Monday was a very long drive (for us) so that we can get back to the house in Sultan, WA, with only a short drive tomorrow.  We left Prince George on BC 97 (aka Cariboo Highway) heading almost due south to the USA/Canada border.

Another beautiful drive along the Fraser River, Thompson River, Camelsfoot Range & Lillooet Range.  After seven hours & 355 miles we parked for the night in Boston Bar, BC.  200 miles left to go!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

13-15JUL15 - Skagway, AK - (via carmacks, yt, & carcross, yt)

Monday, 13JUL, back on the road to Carcross, YT.  We left Dawson City in pretty steady rain, but eventually the rain stopped & the weather (& scenery) were pretty good.  We could have driven straight to Carcross, but it would have made for a long day/drive.  So we found an RV park on the banks of the Yukon River in Carmacks, YT, to overnight.  The community has a very nice boardwalk on the river that we walked a couple of kilometers of.  If we had walked the entire boardwalk, we could have stopped by the Mayor’s office & received an official certificate of our achievementJ

Tuesday was a beautiful drive along the shores of Fox Lake & Lake Laberge (stopping in Whitehorse for diesel) to Carcross, YT (aka Caribou Crossing).  Carcross used to be the mid-point for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad between Skagway, AK, & Whitehorse, YT.  The RR was constructed to get stampeders & supplies to the Klondike gold fields & bring the ore out.  It was completed in 1900 after the Klondike gold rush was fading, but the RR was still needed for passenger & freight service.  Eventually it ceased operations.  But in 1988 it started carrying cruise ship passengers between Skagway & Carcross (400,000/year!).

Unknowingly, we visited downtown Carcross just after the train had discharged a load of cruise ship passengersL  But within one hour they had all jumped on tour buses & were goneJ  Carcross has made one change to their town based on this surges of tourists throughout the day – they have built new small buildings in a central location, called Carcross Commons, adjacent to where the train stops & the buses park.  These buildings are decorated in First Nations’ motifs & house the typical items every tourists wants – Visitor Centre, t-shirt shop, gelato store, jewelry store, art gallery, etc.

Our last sightseeing stops for the day was Caribou Crossing – basic tourist trap; & Carcross Desert (world’s smallest desert) – tongue-in-cheek, but worth a stop & educational.

Wednesday morning it was off in the Toad to Skagway, AK.  We could have driven the RV & camped there, but the road is pretty steep & the number of RV spots in Skagway are limited.  So we decided the 120 mile round trip would be just a day trip in the Toad.  We have been on many scenic drives on this trip thru Canada & Alaska, but the Klondike Highway from Carcross, YT, via British Columbia, to Skagway, AK, was the best one yet!!!

When we got to Skagway we discovered there were four cruise ships in townL  This has the effect of temporarily raising Skagway’s population from 900 to almost 10,000!!!  Things were pretty quiet until about 11AM when thousands & thousands clogged the sidewalks & the streets.

Our first stop was the National Park Service Center for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Alaska.  Back in August of 2009 Dan visited the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Washington, located in Seattle.  Together with related sites in Canada (primarily located in Dawson City, YT; Thirty Mile Heritage River; & Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site) they form the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park.  We immediately went on a Ranger led tour of downtown.  We are not sure of the process but the Park Service acquired dozens of historic buildings in Skagway in the 70s.  Over 20 of those buildings have been restored.  Several are used by the Park Service, & the rest are leased to private businesses.

Skagway, AK, & Dyea (adjacent to Skagway), AK, did not exist before the Klondike Gold Rush.  When word of the gold reached the continental USA, tens of thousands headed to the Yukon.  The cheapest way (remember the USA was in a depression), was to sail from Seattle to what would become Skagway/Dyea; hike to the waters of British Columbia; & raft to what would become Dawson City, YT (building 7000 boats in one year).

So with no plan & totally unexpected, hundreds of vessels disgorged 50,000 stampeders at the new & unplanned towns of Dyea & Skagway.  From there the stampeders were faced with two choices to pack their REQUIRED one ton of supplies into Canada – 1) Chilkoot Pass out of Dyea, or 2) White Pass (aka dead horse trail) out of Skagway.  Each route was a herculean task.  In fact a stampeder said – one is hell, the other is damnation!  Almost 200 stampeders were killed in a Palm Sunday avalanche on the Chilkoot; while 3000 horses died on the White Pass route.  Eventually the White Pass route became the preferred route because of Skagway’s better harbor & better infrastructure.  In fact once the railroad was completed between Skagway & Whitehorse, YT, Dyea became a ghost town; & almost nothing remains today because the lumber was removed for use elsewhere.

After the Ranger led tour, it was walkabout of all the many, many tourist shops on Broadway; before an excellent seafood lunch at Wild Alaska Catch (beating the cruise ship crush by 15 minutes).  Note – the biggest tourist shop, Alaskan Shirt Company, is the first thing seen by the cruise ship passengers.  It has everything a tourist could want.  So for the lazy person (or those pressed for time), one stop & back to the comforts of the ship?

After lunch we caught the NPS movie back at the NPS Visitor Center.  We even witnessed an impromptu cricket game!  Starting to find the throngs of people on Broadway a little stressful, we gassed up the Toad & drove to National Park’s facility at the ghost town of Dyea.

After that it was a beautiful drive back to Carcross, YT, & the RV.  Again, Dan was not hassled by Canadian Customs crossing the border!

NOTE – for some reason Skagway only has sales tax during cruise ship season?

Trivia – what was the first city incorporated in Alaska?  What was the state’s first “first-class” borough in 2008?