Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


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"Cold hands, cold feet x 4"  
~ Jim's reminder of how cold he's been (see below)

OK, less whining about the weather today.

Even though it was mostly overcast today and there was some rain, we're both in a better mood tonight because we could see more of the mountainous scenery and we finally saw some big wildlife:

Liard River

Grazing bison a few feet off the road

Today we drove 432 miles on the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse, Yukon to a large pull-off at the  north end of Muncho Lake, British Columbia at KM 712/Historic MP 463.

That sounds like a lot of miles with a big rig on the Alaska Highway but we did it in just nine hours with several stops and some road construction -- the same amount of time it took us yesterday to do 100 fewer miles.

In general, the farther north on the Alaska Highway, the longer it takes to drive a particular distance because the road deteriorates as you get into increasingly remote territory.

Here is today's route. Read these Milepost map sections from the top down:



We weren't sure how far we'd get today. We reached Watson Lake (268 miles) at 2 PM and didn't want to stop that early. We made such good time that we kept going another 174 miles.

We stopped at two different pull-offs to fix lunch and walk the dogs and got diesel at the Tags/Tempo station in Watson Lake for $1.059/liter Canadian.

This is the section of road by Canyon Creek west of Watson Lake that washed out
in June, 2012 and shut down the Alaska Hwy. for an unprecedented five days.

The highway was mostly in great condition -- bumps were almost all well-marked and not terrible -- until we got to the Toad River descent past Liard Hot Springs.

The road through that area was gravel, mud, potholes, and "corduroy" for several miles along the beautiful blue Trout River. They are realigning it and doing a lot of work on the river banks -- must be a problem with flooding.




Still dirt/gravel here, but smoother

We didn't have to wait for the pilot truck there or at a second, shorter work zone earlier in the day but we had to drive very slowly for several miles along the river.

Then there was a 52 Km section of chip sealed pavement with dust (even after rain!) and flying gravel from oncoming traffic before and around Muncho Lake, where we spent the night. We'll have some more of that to drive when we leave in the morning.  

Long view of road with no traffic -- love it!

Traffic was minimal. There were very few passing lanes up hills but no one who wanted to pass had to wait more than a mile to do so.

We saw quite a few RVs going in each direction again today. Some were probably just out for the weekend, not going home in Canada or the Lower 48 from Alaska.


It was cold (low 40s F.) and raining when we left Whitehorse. Overnight low was 41 F. and rain/snow is predicted there for tomorrow!

When Jim got into the truck to leave this morning he told me to write down "cold hands, cold toes x 4" to remind him not to come back up here again. I wouldn't be surprised if he never wants to visit Alaska again, even though we had a good time and better weather for most of this trip than we did in 2012.

I reminded him that the high in Great Falls today and tomorrow will be about 92 F. (then it drops to the low 80s and upper 70s before we get there.) That is probably what motivated him to drive so many miles today -- he's looking forward to some warmer, drier weather!


We had intermittent showers until we got to Liard Hot Springs (i.e., most of the way today). The clouds were higher today, though, so we could see more mountains and farther into the distance.

It was mostly overcast and in the upper 50s F. during the afternoon. We did get some glimpses of the sun along the way but not for long. It was bright enough to charge up our batteries pretty well with the solar panels in transit. We didn't have to use the generator much this evening except to fix supper in the microwave and recharge the batteries before bedtime.

We had no rain in the evening at our overnight rest spot at Muncho Lake, and no wind. 



Elevations ranged from 1500+ to 3200+ feet before and at the Continental Divide. We were mostly above 2,200 feet all day. We drove more east than south today but there was less fall color than yesterday and very few patches of red fireweed stems and leaves.

We passed numerous streams and lakes. Marsh Lake south of Whitehorse and then Teslin Lake are both very long and narrow, with nice views from the road:

Marsh Lake

Teslin Lake, approaching the town of Nisutlin from the west

We crossed the long Nisutlin Bay bridge with no incident. At 1,917 feet, it is the longest water span on the Alaska Hwy.

I've literally had nightmares about that one since we crossed the very wide bay twice in 2012:

The Yukon doesn't seem to spend much on its roads or infrastructure so really long bridges like that make me nervous.

For all we know, however, it may be safer than many bridges across the Mississippi and other large rivers in the Lower 48. The U.S. doesn't spend enough on infrastructure, either.

As we neared the Cassiar Hwy. intersection before Watson Lake the sky was brighter and it wasn't raining. It was tempting to turn south and follow our original plan, but we continued on the Alaska  Hwy. because the weather forecast is much better that way right now. So are road conditions.

Colorful First Nations motif on a building near Nisutlin

We plan to go to Banff-Jasper National Parks and Stewart-Hyder another year, preferably in the fall when the bears are there (the salmon run late August to early September). 

Of course, we said that last time when we didn't go that direction and we haven't done it yet . . .


Until this afternoon we've seen zero big wildlife on the Parks, Richardson, or Alaska highways since we left Denali -- another disappointment.

But in the section of the highway that dips down into British Columbia after Watson Lake, then back up to the Yukon border briefly again, and between the Coal and Smith Rivers in BC, we saw over 100 bison in singles, pairs, and two herds.

We were forewarned with diamond-shaped yellow signs with bison silhouettes and this large electronic sign:

English and French are both official languages in British Columbia;
just English is official in the Yukon and Alberta.

One herd must have had 70-80 bison in it. We stopped at that one in several spots so I could take multiple photos.

The bison were just a few feet off the road, presumably because there was lush green grass nearby for them to graze::




A couple previous times when we've passed through this area we've had to stop for one or more bison in the middle of the roadway. You wouldn't want to hit one of those!

We've also seen stone sheep between Liard Hot Springs and Muncho Lake but didn't see any of those today -- maybe tomorrow as we continue past the lake.


We have nice views from the north end of Muncho Lake and the surrounding mountains -- Terminal Range to the south, Sentinel Range to the north -- at tonight's boondocking site at Historic MP 463:

The large crushed gravel viewpoint is off the road far enough to be quieter than most pull-offs.

Some folks have stopped to read the interpretive panels but no one else has parked to stay overnight. We'd feel safer if someone else was here (in a nice RV) and just hope no Friday night revelers stop by. [None did; it was quiet all night.]

We have another 445 miles to Dawson Creek and the end of the Alaska Hwy. and 1,313 miles total to Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, MT.  We hope to reach Great Falls on Tuesday -- four more long days on the road -- see what the weather is like (too much smoke from wildfires still?), and decide how long to stay there.

The plan for tomorrow is to drive to Charlie Lake just north of Fort St. John, BC and stay at the Rotary Club CG again. It's good to have electricity, water, and WiFi every other day. 

Cody is getting better. He is still wobbly but wants to walk farther and hasn't fallen down today. He was playful tonight when I got on the floor with him; he loves to wiggle around on his back and get massaged along the spine.

Next entryMuncho Lake to Charlie Lake, BC

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil