2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali AKA Mt. McKinley

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous       2015 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

   NORTH TO ALASKA, DAY 3:
WHITECOURT, AB TO FORT ST. JOHN, BC

TUESDAY, JUNE 2

 
  "Roam abroad in the world, and take thy fill of its enjoyments     
before the day shall come that thou must quit it for good."
 
~ Saadi Shirazi, Medieval poet
 
 
We're trying! We know it will only get harder to take long trips like this one to Alaska as we get older. There are so many other places we want to visit while we're still healthy, too . . .

We feel like we're making more progress on our way to Alaska now that we've crossed into British Columbia. We reached Mile 0 of the famous Alaska Highway this afternoon in Dawson Creek and the scenery just keeps getting better and better as we make our way north and west.

Here's the rundown on today's journey.

ROUTE:  AB 43 through Grande Prairie to the Alberta-British Columbia border, then BC 97through Dawson Creek to Fort St. John

These map sections are from The Milepost's Alaska Highway and East Access Route pages (read them from bottom up/north):

DISTANCE:  305 miles from 8:40 AM Mountain DST to 2:15 PM Pacific DST = about 6:30 hours. It was nice to gain an hour.

We stopped deliberately four times and had two construction waits of 3-8 minutes.

  • a nice rest area and visitor center at eastern edge of Valleyview, AB; Jim played ball with Casey and Cody on this large grassy slope:

  • along the road in Grande Prairie to call the campground where we stayed tonight;
  • a large parking area in Beaverlodge, AB to eat lunch in the camper;

  •  Dawson Creek to clean the windshield -- lots of bugs make it hard to take pictures!

TRAFFIC & ROAD CONDITIONS:  Traffic was very light this morning from Whitecourt to the outskirts of Grande Prairie, then moderate the rest of the way. We were surprised how much traffic there was in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John. It's pretty heavy (and noisy) past our campground at Charlie Lake, too.

AB 43 was rougher east of Grande Prairie than west of it -- wavy pavement and some rough bridges. Some parts of the pavement were much newer and Jim could go 62 MPH; other places he had to slow down to 50 MPH.


Swan Lake, near the AB-BC border; there are several lakes with this name in northwestern Canada.

The highway was all four-lane from Whitecourt to about 20 miles west of Grande Prairie, then two-lane with extra passing lanes up long hills. There is nice new pavement going westbound to the west of Grande Prairie with no lines painted yet.

A few miles from the BC border north were also four-lane. The road is being widened about five miles east from Dawson Creek and it's dusty/muddy and slow with some two-lane traffic.

Another construction zone is about two miles long, on the south side of the Peace River and through the town of Taylor on the north side of the river:

WEATHER & TERRAIN:  Very light rain early morning, then overcast till noon. Sunny all afternoon with temps to 74 F. and windy.

The highway is getting hillier, with some long ups and downs into the numerous river valleys, especially the Smoky River east of Grande Prairie and the Peace River at Taylor:


Bridge over the Smoky River east of Grande Prairie


Looking down into the large Peace River Valley

There is a nice mix of pine/birch/aspen forests and prairie in this section, intermingled with large fields and cattle ranches. Some deciduous trees have new leaves, some have none. There are lots of dandelions but few other wildflowers along the roadsides.  

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

1) Moose signs and metal cut-outs in the shape of moose in several places along the way. Saw one dead moose in a ditch but no live ones.


Two kinds of moose signs . . . but no sign of the moose!

2) Decided not to ride our bikes on the nice path in Grande Prairie and pushed on to Fort St. John today.

3) Missed getting a picture of the elk in a ranch just west of Beaverlodge.

4) It was rainy in June, 2012 when we were in Dawson Creek and the next day on the way to Fort Nelson. Nice to see the place in the sunshine today, although it was so noisy, dusty, and crowded that we were happy to get out of there.

We felt no need to stop this time for the Alaska Hwy. film, Mile 0 marker, museum, art gallery, etc. in Dawson Creek. Been there, done that. Highly recommend those things if it's your first time at Dawson Creek, though. You'll appreciate the current road so much more -- even where it's rough -- if you see what it looked like right before and after it was built in 1942!

OVERNIGHT AT FORT ST. JOHN'S ROTARY RV PARK

The Ross H. MacLean Rotary RV Park is advertised in both The Milepost book and Alaskan Camping by Mike and Terri Church. I remembered seeing it in 2012 and thinking it'd be a nice place to stay because it's near scenic Charlie Lake.

The campground is a few miles north of Fort St. John at MP 51. We called before our arrival to be sure there were some available spaces. About half the sites appear to be occupied by seasonal visitors or people working in the area (lumber, gas, oil, etc.). The rest look like overnight travelers on their way to points north or south.


There is a path to the lake from the campground; a nature preserve is on the left.

We could have gotten a water and electric pull-thru site but those were closely spaced in a large gravel parking lot.

Instead, we chose a long pull-thru site with just electricity (30 amps) but more space and privacy. Jim got fresh water before parking and we'll use the dump station on the way out tomorrow morning. There are large shrubs on our off-door side. Another site is very close to our door side but staggered so the doors don't face each other. No one used it overnight so we had lots of room:

We can get the campground public WiFi OK but no TV stations (they don't have cable and we don't have a satellite dish). Although we have only two Verizon phone signal bars Jim was able to call for reservations at the next RV park tomorrow night in Fort Nelson.

After we got settled in Jim drove five miles back to Fort St. John to get fuel ($1.159/liter CA) and try to find a place to ride his bike. He decided to come back to Charlie Lake to ride. He found a seven-mile out and back route with a big hill (good training for his two long races coming up in Alaska) and nice views of the lake.

CHARLIE LAKE & NATURE PRESERVE

The very best thing for us about staying in this campground overnight was being adjacent to Charlie Lake and a serene wetland area with a trail and lots of birds:

Above and below:  view of the handsome memorial to 12 American soldiers who
drowned in the lake in 1942 while helping construct the Alaska Highway

 

Above and below:  Charlie Lake

 


Mama duck and 13 (!!!) ducklings swimming pretty fast on the lake


The same mom and her ducks in a safe haven under overhanging grasses and dirt on the shoreline


There are several of these "nesting tunnels" in the adjacent wetlands
to offer mallards and other birds safety from predators.


Jim walks the dogs in the soft evening light. This was about 9 PM -- love the long hours of daylight!


Little dam between Charlie and South Charlie lakes

Above and below:  It's nice to have the nature preserve adjacent to the RV park.

 

Above and below:  a red-winged blackbird

I walked the dogs by the lake and through the nature preserve three different times this afternoon and evening and plan to get out again in the morning before we leave.

It was the perfect way to unwind and relax after being on the road.

We had the lake and wetlands pretty much to ourselves mid-afternoon. Later the day-use area, dock, and lake were full of people hanging out, picnicking, and boating. I watched motorboats, canoes, row boats, a kayak, and a sailboat on the lake:

The dogs got to swim in the lake and play with a couple of other Labs.

Everybody went to bed relaxed and happy tonight. We can enthusiastically recommend this RV park to other travelers.

Next entrytrip notes from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson, BC

Happy trails,

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

Previous       Next

2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-