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.
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.
stopped deliberately four times and had two construction waits of 3-8
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;
Creek to clean the windshield -- lots of bugs make it hard to take
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
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
Bridge over the Smoky River east of Grande Prairie
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.
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
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:
below: view of the handsome memorial to 12 American soldiers who
the lake in 1942 while helping construct the Alaska Highway
below: Charlie Lake
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
several of these "nesting tunnels" in the adjacent wetlands
mallards and other birds safety from predators.
the dogs in the soft evening light. This was about 9 PM -- love the
long hours of daylight!
between Charlie and South Charlie lakes
below: It's nice to have the nature preserve adjacent to the RV
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 entry: trip notes from Fort
St. John to Fort Nelson, BC
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil