This is one of several long bridges we crossed
today in British Columbia. At least two of them today had some type of
maintenance work being done.
We had about a ten-minute wait to cross the metal-grated
Peace River bridge west of Taylor, BC. As we were driving slowly behind a pilot
vehicle across the one lane that was open it
was a little disconcerting to see several young workers on
their hands and knees, closely inspecting metal squares in the bridge
decking and spray painting some of them but not others.
I suppose it should
be comforting to know someone was inspecting the bridge that closely but
it just fed into my paranoia about
driving a heavy RV over some of
the very long bridges in remote areas in the Far North, wondering how safe they were.
The rivers up
here can be wild and furious. I've read several accounts of early
wooden structures and later metal ones that have simply washed out
during spring floods or after heavy rains -- like this bridge's
predecessor that had to be replaced due to erosion from the river below.
I'm also more aware
of the power of water after seeing the damage to the Alaska Highway in
June when the road was closed for five days in the Yukon.
Looking out toward the Peace River
The fact that I'm still here to write this entry
indicates we got across every bridge safely on our way to, from, and around Alaska.
My concerns won't stop me from driving up there
again, nor should it deter anyone else.
JUST THE FACTS, M'AM
Today we drove from Triple G Campground in Fort Nelson, BC to
the municipal campground in Hythe, AB, which is west of Grand Prairie.
It took us a little over eight hours and we "lost" an hour
going east from the Pacific into the Mountain time zone.
We also lost about an
hour due to seven or eight road and bridge construction projects and had
additional stops at the Subway in Fort Nelson (Jim's breakfast burrito), a lunch
break, and three fuel stations (got diesel at two of them).
WEATHER: mostly sunny!!! More clouds to the east as we approached Fort
St. John but we had sunshine everywhere today. We really needed some sun
after so much rain, fog, and overcast skies the first four days of our
return trip to the Lower 48.
Blue sky -- what a concept!
This whole section was rainy and/or overcast in June so we were able to see
farther into the distance today. This
isn’t as scenic a section as those we’ve already traveled on the Alaska Hwy.
farther west so we didn’t miss a lot in June. I'm sorry we didn't have
more clear skies through the northern Rockies, Cassiars, and St. Elais
Mountains on our way to and from Alaska this year.
Maybe next time we'll have better luck . . .
We followed the
Alaska Hwy. (BC 97) to Milepost 0 at Dawson Creek, then
what The Milepost calls the the
East Access Route --
BC 2 to the Alberta border, then AB 43 to Hythe, which is about 40 miles
west of Grande Prairie. We went more south than east today.
I broke the map
sections from The Milepost into three sections and marked in
yellow the portion we drove today:
All of this was still two-lane except for some passing lanes and through
the towns of Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, BC.
much more road construction and bridge work today than we expected but
Jim was able to drive about 60 MPH much of the time.
Most of the seven or eight construction zones were one-lane. The longest was a 20-minute wait at
the Sikanni River for several hilly miles behind a pilot vehicle.
Another was ten minutes at the Peace River Bridge, a third seven minutes.
The other stops were shorter but with the slow-downs to stop, the slower speeds through
the work zones, and several very slow uphill climbs afterwards (especially
the long climb
after the Peace River) behind heavy trucks, we lost at least an hour to
TRAFFIC: heavier as we proceeded east, especially the 50 miles between
Dawson Creek, BC and Hythe, AB.
There were many more commercial trucks east of Fort Nelson to Dawson
Creek than anywhere
else on the Alaska Highway, probably because of all the natural gas
production fields and facilities. All the trucks were going faster than
us, except uphill.
Following a pilot vehicle, car, and camper up a
one-lane section of road being paved
We saw more RVs as we got to more urban areas, too. And I again noticed
that many homes in eastern British Columbia and Alberta have some type
of RV parked next to them. That was very apparent on our journey to
Alaska in June.
These folks love to camp!
TERRAIN & VEGETATION: We hit the lowest place on the Alaska Hwy. just east of
Fort Nelson – about 1,000 feet over the Muskwa River. Our high elevation
was about 4,100 feet at Trutch Mountain and 3,600 feet at Pink Mountain.
There were some long grades down to rivers and back up again but not a
lot of winding mountain roads like yesterday. It was somewhat boring
compared to the last four days in that regard.
The Alaska Hwy. a few miles east of Fort Nelson; you can still see some
mountains in the distance.
Because we went more south than east today there was minimal fall color, even at the higher elevations. Some
aspen, birch, and other deciduous trees and shrubs have turned yellow or orange but not
There are very few red plants along the banks or mountainsides, either, just
fireweeds that have stopped blooming and have white fluff on their red
There were some yellow daisies, purple asters, and white cotton
grass next to the road west of Dawson Creek, the only wildflowers still
blooming that I noticed.
We passed through forested land most of the way to Fort St. John, then
got into more and more agricultural country. That and the increased
urbanization are almost a shock to my system. I commented sardonically
to Jim, “Welcome back to civilization.”
I already miss the
mountains and wilderness.
We saw no wildlife today except birds, quite a contrast to the plethora
of big critters we saw yesterday.
FUEL: we made three stops but got diesel at only two of them.
The first stop was at AFD Petroleum about a mile behind the Triple G Campground
in Fort Nelson. Office staff at Triple G recommended it. AFD is supposed to have
fuel cheaper than the stations in town but the office wasn’t open early enough
for us. So Jim got fuel for $1.519/liter at FasGas in Fort Nelson
on the way out of town.
He also topped the tank at Flying J on the west side of Dawson Creek
($1.309/liter, which sounded good at the time – till we saw it as low as
$1.279/liter in town). There is also a Flying J on the west side of Fort
St. John but we didn’t see the price there.
HYTHE MUNICIPAL CAMPGROUND
We planned to stay overnight at Mile 0 Campground in Dawson Creek, BC
again. It was a nice place to stay in June (despite the rain) and reasonably
priced. However, we got there about 2:30 PM today, which was fairly
early for us to stop, and there was a note on the
door that they’d be out until 3:30. Signs said not to pick a site until
one is assigned.
We decided to continue farther east, possibly as far as Grande Prairie.
By then it was pretty windy and getting more cloudy.
The main reason for staying at the Rotary Campground in Grande Prairie
again would be to ride the most excellent bike trail – but it was
getting too windy for that to be any fun today.
forecast was for winds up to 100 km/hr. in Grande Prairie = about 62 MPH -- not a good idea when you're driving
or camping in an RV.
The next best option along our route was the Hythe Municipal
Campground a few miles into Alberta. This is a nice campground
and surrounding park for a town with fewer than 1,000 residents.
There are 24 gravel RV sites in a grassy loop and a separate
grassy area for tents. Most of the RV sites have electricity but they
don't have water or sewer hookups.
The cost is $20 Canadian; we paid $20 American cash, which should
cover their cost to convert it to loonies.
An old Northern Alberta Railway car has been turned into bathrooms with
Another NAR car is parked at the other end of the loop. There
is potable water and a dump station available.
We can’t get WiFi (free WiFi is advertised) but Jim
got one TV station where we could watch an Edmonton station for news.
I walked Cody around the campground and park twice but it was so windy
and just in the mid-50s F. that we didn’t stay out long either time.
Only two other RVs are here tonight. One with a small child appears to
be here for a while. The second is a retired couple that came in after
us, probably also just for the night. As at the other places where we’ve
stayed overnight this week, I saw some dandelions still in bloom. We're
obviously still in our "Dandelion Time Warp."
we crossed into Alberta we entered the Mountain Time Zone. It got fairly
dark by 9 PM, later than some nights we've been traveling because we're
farther west in this time zone.
We spend a lot of time in the Mountain Time Zone as we travel around the
Lower 48 on our summer and winter trips so we feel more "at home"
now, even though we're still in Canada. We should be back in the USA
again in a couple of days.
Yes, I know Alaska is the USA but it almost felt like a foreign country sometimes!
Next entry: Day 6 on the journey south -- Hythe, AB to Olds, AB
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil