2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali AKA Mt. McKinley

 

   
 
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   NORTH TO ALASKA, DAY 5:
FORT NELSON, BC TO WATSON LAKE, YT

THURSDAY, JUNE 4

 
"Leaving Fort Nelson, the highway veers to the west and winds through the northern   
Canadian Rockies for the next 200 miles. In this densely forested region, there are
many scenic vistas, where rivers meander through the wilderness to disappear in
the haze of horizons 100 miles distant. Opportunities for many fine photos are
offered by the beautiful scenery along this part of the highway, and fortunate
travelers occasionally see moose, bears, caribou, and Stone sheep."
 
~ The Milepost, 2015 edition, p. 168
 
 
Oh, my goodness, we couldn't have asked for a better day to drive this gorgeous section of the Alaska Highway! Not only did we get to enjoy all the scenic vistas, we also saw our first large critters along the road.

You know how we feared another rainy, foggy day?

It started out like that at Fort Nelson, just like it did three years ago. Fort Nelson is apparently in a valley that stays fogged in more than areas at higher elevations. This morning we lucked out and got above the clouds in just a few miles:

I've got a lot to say in this entry, accompanied by a bunch of blue-sky photos (I literally took ten times more pictures than yesterday), so let's get started . . .

ROUTE:  All on the Alaska Highway (BC 97 and YT 1)

Here are The Milepost map sections. Read them from bottom up, right to left:

DISTANCE & TIME:  321 miles in 8:30 hours (7:45 AM to 4:15 PM Pacific DST) with seven stops. There are lots of nice distractions on this segment, especially on a pretty day!

1) overlook at first high point of about 3,200 feet elevation; could see fog over Fort Nelson's valley and snowy peaks in the distance:

 
We've learned this lesson before -- just because it's foggy in a valley doesn't mean it is foggy higher up.


And then we kept climbing higher . . .

2)  one-way traffic stop for 3 minutes, then about a 3-mile section of nicely packed dirt road ready to be paved;

3) pull off to get a drink, pee break for everybody, etc.;

4) glacial-blue Summit Lake to take pictures (high point of Alaska Hwy. at 4,2000+ feet):


Scenic (and chilly!) Stone Mountain Provincial Park campground at south end of Summit Lake


It was a real challenge to cut the original roadbed from the rocks back in 1942;
clearing mud and rockslides is still a challenge in the spring and early summer.

5) south end of another larger glacial lake, Muncho Lake, to eat lunch :

 

 

 

6) Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park for a hike (photos on next page);

7) and Allen's Lookout to feed the dogs and look out over the Liard River from the promontory where pirates used to raid boats heading up or down stream:

 

While at the lookout Jim helped a guy in a 42-foot Landmark 5th-wheel grease his bearings after he had trouble with his tires heating up. (A 42-foot trailer is a lot of RV to haul!!)

TRAFFIC & ROAD CONDITIONS:  Traffic was very light all day. Love it!

We expected to see more RVs going our direction since there were so many at Triple G Campground last night but we saw very few going north. We left before most of them this morning.

I'm surprised to see so many RVs going south:


A 5th-wheel heading south; Rocky Mountains in the distance

The highway was generally in very good condition in British Columbia, with more "waves" in the Yukon.

This sign warning of both caribou and wavy pavement was in BC:


It was a little wavy but we didn't see any caribou, unfortunately.

Historically the roadway gets progressively worse the farther north you go in the Yukon, then improves a bit from the Alaska border to Tok.

The only construction was about KM 555 for several miles but the dirt/gravel surface was surprisingly smooth:

The camper and truck got mighty dirty, though. Jim washed them at our campsite this evening.

TERRAIN:  Elevations ranged from about 1,400 feet in fort Nelson to about 4,250 feet at Summit Lake, the highest point on the Alaska Hwy. There were at least two other passes in the 3,200 to 3,500-foot range.

None of the grades were killer for a big rig -- just relentlessly up and down.

Above and below:  There is a long descent from Summit Lake to the MacDonald River Valley

The whole route was a roller coaster, especially before Liard Hot Springs. The road runs close to several major rivers, including the Tetsa, Toad, Trout, and Liard. Some drainages have very wide gravel beds down in the valleys, far below the highway.

The highway lies close to the Toad and Trout rivers for several miles. Both rivers have beautiful blue glacial silt in them:

 

 


Example of an "alluvial fan"

The other rivers appeared clear and lower than they were three years ago while flooded. There are many other stream crossings, wet areas, and lakes in this beautiful section of the highway.


This is either the Racing or MacDonald River where the Alaska Hwy. crosses it.


View of Liard River coming down from Muncho Lake

Above and below:  The Alaska Highway is next to or near the Liard River for over 130 miles.


We drove through two provincial parks -- Stone Mountain, with many exposed granite mountains, and Muncho Lake, which extends along the highway for a lot more miles than just along the lake.  

WEATHER:  Foggy and 50s F. in Fort Nelson when we left this morning. Fortunately, we got out of the fog within a few miles.

As we climbed higher we could see the low layer of clouds in the valley where we started:

We're glad we didn't try to wait it out! It was a beautiful sunny day everywhere else we traveled today, with a high of 68 F. at Watson Lake. I'm so grateful we had great weather in this gorgeous section of the highway.

Continued on the next page -- photos of critters, Liard River Hot Springs, and scenes from Watson Lake (campgrounds, Wye Lake, Sign Post Forest)

Happy trails,

Sue
"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

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