Posts filed under The Ultimate Roadtrip

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.5

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It’s like Alaska on Steroids

DAY 5, 05/25/16: Saskatoon Island Provincial Park to Pocahontas Campground

Before I moved to Alaska a Swedish friend who lives there told me that Alaska is like Northern Sweden on Steroids. Well here we were, our fifth day of driving, and I could never have imagined that the views would get even better than what they had been. At one point I looked out the window and told W, I am saturated, saturated of mountains. I said, I can’t take it any longer as I put down the camera on my lap and just stared at all these magnificent views. If Alaska is like northern Sweden on steroids, Western Canada is like Alaska on Steroids. These two coming days we were going to drive fairly long stretches, but we also wanted to explore the national parks a little bit.

We were on the road before 8 am and I think we started to get tired by now. Day five, on our roadtrip. Last time we showered was at Liard Hotsprings, but that didn’t bother us as much as sitting still in a car. Luckily we were on our way to two incredible national parks in Canada, Jasper and Banff. Our drive was going to be short today (well, everything is relative right?), because we were finally gonna stretch our legs and conquer a mountain! After about 4 hrs of driving through a wide open landscape that slowly took us closer and closer to the mountains we were now entering Jasper National Park. As you enter Jasper the road immediately takes you into the mountains, and the views are just out of this world. I don’t know of any other place like Jasper and Banff. When you cross the Athabascan river, driving south on the Yellowhead Highway the views are just out of this world. I know I keep using the same adjectives, spectacular, incredible, out of this world, but if you have ever been here I am sure you would have a hard time not to overuse all of these describing words too.

Driving through Maligne Canyon

The views of deep forest, lakes and mountains could be seen in all four directions. It was hard to know where to look at times, and I wanted to stop at every pullout, which we of course did not do. We would probably still be there if I could have gotten it my way. But, we were finally going to hike, so I was super excited about that. We drove towards Maligne Lake because that is where the trail head to Bald Hills is located. We passed the Medicine Lake and drove along fire scarred forests and majestic mountains. Bald Hills summit is a 13.2 km out and back hike, that offers spectacular views. Again the weather was sunny now, but there were clouds on the horizon. I really do not know how we always manage to pick a hike where we see absolutely no other people.

Bald Hills Summit Trail

This trail first takes you through the deep forest, crossing streams and slowly going up in elevation. When you are so far up in elevation that mountains and lakes start appear through the gaps between the large trees that surrounds you. Eventually you break out from the forest and step out into the alpine vegetation, because now you are more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

Up above the treeline

Eventually we broke through the treeline and ended up in a field of snow. It was indeed late May, which in the mountains still mean snow. And the mountains, those mountains wherever you turned your eyes. The last part of the trail is fairly steep, and we were walking through some very deep snow. From the top of the Bald Hills summit you have 360 degree panorama views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. From the top you can also see Maligne lake, the lake we could spot through the trees earlier. Of course with the rain constantly haunting us we managed to see a wonderful full rainbow over the mountains.

Of course we had to take a few selfies in the mountains too! On the way down we played around in the snow a bit until we reach the trees and the forest again. We had such a good luck with the weather, but as always the dark clouds were coming towards us, and we got in a hurry to get off the mountains before the rain came.

When we were done with the hike we went and got a camping spot. We didn’t want to drive too far after the hike so we had picked out a campground fairly close to the hiking trail, Pocahontas Campground. We had been worried about finding a spot, since it seemed like there were so many tourists around, well on the road, and not on the hike of course. But when we finally got to the campground, it was completely empty, of course. I immediately realized that we had reach civilization when I saw the soda vending machine by the bathrooms at the campground.

Day 5 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage:

  • Canada: Shell Canada Grande Praire AB. 18.5 miles from Saskatoon Island Provincial Park. Mileage 25 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Petro Canada Jasper AB. 250.8. Mileage 24.49 miles/gallon

  • Total driving on day 5, about 269.3+ 29.9 miles from gas station to Pocahontas Campground (299.2).

  • The grand total of the whole trip: 1702.3 miles

  • Campground: Pocahontas Campground, AB

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.4

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Clouds on the Horizon

DAY 4, 05/24/16: Liard Hotsprings to Saskatoon Island Provincial Park

The rain had once again caught up with us. It had rained a large part of the evening before, and this morning some light rain was mixed with the clouds that continued to hover over us. It had become pretty clear that we were moving in a direction towards more and more people. We had spent our first night in an empty campground in the Yukon Territory. Now, at Liard Hotsprings we were not so alone any longer. The roads here are wide, but there is a lack of traffic and as I mentioned earlier, summer is the season for roadwork.

Surrounded by Mountains

Since the campground was so crowded, we decided to drive for a bit until we had breakfast. We drove south on the Alcan. Passed mountain after mountain, but not really any other cars. There are so much wilderness here, and parks. National Parks and Provincial Parks. Everywhere you looked there were mountains partially covered in clouds. Deep forests and wilderness as far as the eye could see, and then this wide and empty road leading straight through it. If you have ever looked for serenity, this is it.

Muncho Lake Provincial Park

After about an hour we pulled into MacDonald campground right by Muncho Lake. We went to one of the short-term parking spots and and made some breakfast. As we were standing there the clouds parted a bit and we could see some small specks of blue sky behind a rainbow. We had yet another cup of coffee as we prepared for the long day ahead of us.

I rarely drive, but on a roadtrip like this there is no getting out of it. It is especially hard if you are seeing amazing views out the window. And there were plenty of times I instructed W to take some pictures. With mixed results. This also resulted in less photos of course. But the landscape still amazed us. The Rocky Mountains spread out into the west, but the coming hours we were going to move away from these mountains for a little bit. We would get plenty of views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the days ahead. Just like in the US, the Canadian Rocky Mountains are spectacular..

The area south of the Northern Rocky Mountain Provincial Park has more wide open spaces and less mountains. We were still driving on wide roads though, and seeing the regular black bear crossing the road or by the side of the road from time to time.

Saskatoon Island Provincial Park

After 558 miles of driving we arrived at the smallest provincial park we could find, Saskatoon Island Provincial Park. The rain had stopped long time ago and we went for a walk to get some of the free firewood that most of these parks in Canada provide for free. It was late, we could hear other campers talking about the drive they had done so far. They had come from the south, driving north towards Alaska. They still had all of the wilderness and the Yukon ahead of them, and we, we had all of Banff and Jasper ahead of us. We sat by the fire a bit before we too finally went to bed.

Day 4 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage:

  • Canada: Petro Canada Bluebell inn. Fort Nelson, BC, 200.7 miles from Liard Hotsprings. Gas mileage: 24.64 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Blueberry Esso. Mile 101 Alaska highway, Wonowon, BC, 184.1miles. Gas mileage: 26.58 miles/gallon

  • Total driving on day 4, about 384.8 + 173 miles from Wonowon gas station to Saskatoon Island Provincial Park (557.8).

  • The grand total of the whole trip: 1403.1 miles

  • Campground: Saskatoon Island Provincial Park, AB

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.3


The Spell of the Yukon

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will. - Robert Service

DAY 3, 05/23/16: Wolf Creek Campground to Liard River Hot Springs Campground - 408.5 miles

Alaska Highway - The Alcan

    On day 3 we started to see an increase in the number of cars and RVs on the road. This was also apparent in some of the campgrounds the following days. Many people drive the Alaskan highway, aka the Alcan, every year. Dawson Creek in British Columbia is where the highway officially starts, and it ends at mile 1421 in Delta Junction, Alaska. Back in the day the Alcan was mostly gravel, and of course fewer people actually drove it. W's mom and dad drove part of the Alcan back in the day. They got a flat tire and I think they had to wait almost a full day before someone drove by and could help them. Today the whole road is asphalt, with the exception for all the road construction areas, which as always seem to multiply in the summer time, everywhere. To guide you through the 1421 mile long roadtrip you should use the Milepost aka the road bible as I like to call it. It has every single small town and attraction listed in it, even specifics about anything you could possibly want to know. Information about how long time it takes to go from point A to point B, where the gas stations are or for that matter aren't, the towns you pass through, tourist attractions and information about other highways, ferries and such. Every year the Milepost is published, with updated information. As with any other road in the less developed areas of North America, the cellservice is mostly non existent. If you drive this road you are bound to run into wild animals, grizzlies, blackies, bison, caribou and moose are some of the more frequent ones you can see. We had been driving through amazing parts of Alaska and Canada, and Canada just kept on giving and giving. You drive on Empty roads, with more black bears than what I had ever seen, all along the road. You pass large rivers and small creeks, cross bridges, and you just keep seeing more mountains and deep forests around every corner you turn.

Some of the beautiful views we saw on May 23rd:

We stop at the Signpost Forest

Wolfcreek Campground

    We woke up early at Wolfcreek Campground, the rain had stopped and for once our tent was pretty dry. We were in the outskirts of Whitehorse and had pretty mixed feelings about the campground. Being so close to Whitehorse it draws more people to it, and sometimes not the best people. About 70% of the whole population of YT lives in Whitehorse (a whopping 25,000) which makes it the largest city in the YT. Our goal for today was to drive about 260 miles, until we arrived at the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake. Watson lake is one of the larger towns in YT (well everything is relative, right..), about 1000 people live here which makes it the third largest city in YT. The Signpost Forest itself was created in 1942 by a U.S. soldier recovering from an injury. I can only imagine how boring it must be to be injured at a place like this, in the middle of nowhere. Today more than 77,000 signs can be seen here.

We enter British Columbia and drive towards Liard Hotsprings

    We leave the Yukon and its vast wilderness and lack of humans behind us and enter into British Columbia, BC. It's crazy that we spent more than one day driving through the Yukon, just like Robert Service once said, 

"There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will."

About 4.6 million people live here, quite the contrast to YT's 35,000 people. We drive into the famous Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park with that rain constantly haunting us from behind. I have actually written about Liard Hot Springs in the past, but for a completely different reason. At Liard Hot Springs Provisional park, a well known bear attack took place back in 1997. You are in bear country all through the Alcan, Alaska and most parts of Canada.  The bear attack in 1997 was a random one, which is probably why it is so famous when people talk about bear safety, but you still need to be bear aware. Liard Hot Springs is surrounded by the deep boreal forest, tall black and white spruce, but also lodgepole pine are mixed in with the deciduous vegetation like aspen and birch. We walked on a long boardwalk over these beautiful wetlands, surrounded by the beautiful boreal forest. At the end of the boardwalk we walked into the forest and came out in front of the second largest hotspring in Canada. We swam for a while until those thunderstorms that had been chasing us for days arrived again, and we quickly got out of the water to head back to the parking lot. 

Come Rain Come Shine

    Once the rain stopped we walked back towards the hot springs again and shot some pictures. It was so beautiful there. The sun, the misty air that was created once the sun broke out after the short but heavy thunderstorm, and just nature itself. A typical summer evening was forming, a pretty damp but beautiful one. Later that evening we could go to bed with a smile on our faces, a reminder of how lucky we are to get to see places like this. 

Day 3 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage

  • Canada: Jakes Corner Whitehorse. MP 866 Alaska highway, YT, 55 miles from Wolf Creek Campground. Gas mileage: 21.42 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Rancheria Motel and Cafe. MP 710 Alaska highway Watson lake, YT, 150.5 miles. Gas mileage: 30.967 miles/gallon

  • Canada: Somewhere...171.2 miles. Mileage 25.22 miles/gallon

  • Total driving on day 3, about 276.7 + 31.8 miles from the gas station to Liard Hotsprings Campground (408.5 miles).

  • The grand total of the whole trip: 1018.4 miles

  • Campground: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park