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I think I got a little homesick after having been south for four months for the winter, then arriving home for only one month, and then leaving for our Alaska adventure for another four months. So getting back home, of course, meant lots of maintenance, cleaning and projects.
And there was something else. Our dog loved traveling with us. All the new smells, new places, and people fussing over how handsome he was. And he was! But at home, he was definitely in HIS kingdom. He was able to go outside off leash and check out our large yard, chase bunnies and squirrels, and relax. He also protected us from any service workers and deliveries that came to the house. He loved being near us. He loved the spaciousness and freedom of his home. It was a good place for him to be.
But after two months at home, sadly, it was time to say good bye to each other. We found him in the kitchen one morning, unable to move except for his head. We rushed him to the emergency animal hospital but things were not looking good. He was nearly 14 and had mobility, vision, and hearing problems for some time. But this complication did not look fixable. We had to let him go. It was so very difficult to say good bye. But I know that we gave him the most wonderful life a dog could ever have. I mill miss him dearly! He was my constant companion for 6 1/2 years, sometimes wonderful, other times a challenge, but always my protector and friend. I believe that my rescue dog rescued me!
We were able to have two wonderful holidays with the family at our house. And that gave me great pleasure. And then it became time to run from the crazy Wisconsin winters. And plan more traveling. And in my heart, I can’t wait to have another beautiful dog to spoil in the future. Although, I know that another dog will never ever really be able to replace Coda.
Oma provided her reflections in the last post, but I thought I would add a few notes on other topics.
The roads were not nearly as bad as I expected. Most sections were as good or better than many of the two-lane highways we drive in the lower 48. Some sections required slowing down by 10-15 mph, although traffic was usually light and through sections that had potholes, it was often possible to use both lanes, weave between them and maintain our speed.
The worst paved roads I remember were a short (several mile) stretch of the Tok cut-off in Alaska that required us to slow to around 35 mph for frost heaves and a portion of the Icefields Parkway in southern Canada that had many huge heaves that were more like 5 mph speed bumps.
Gravel/dirt roads are a whole other thing. We mostly avoided them this trip, with the exception of our Dawson Creek to Tok drive (stopping at Chicken) via the Top of the World and Taylor Highways. The Canada portion wasn’t bad, but once we were in Alaska and past the beautiful pavement that runs about ten miles after customs, our average speed was perhaps 25 mph on very rough road. Non-paved roads in northern Canada and Alaska can be highly variable depending on recent weather and recent road work (or lack there-of).
We spent 4 months in a Winnebago View class C motorhome driving from Wisconsin to Fairbanks, Alaska and back with our 80+ lb. dog, and 16 lb. cat. We specifically bought this motorhome to ensure easier travel and yet be roomy enough and comfortable for our large senior dog. He was very unsure in the beginning, but we kept making little changes to make him comfortable and he was so happy to be with us.
We left our campground at Kleanza Creek Provincial Park and headed east. After passing the Cassier Highway, we reached new roads for us again. Prince George was the next large city on our route, and although there were several provincial parks along the way, most were closed due to fires. Once again we had several hours of smoke, although fortunately it was not quite as bad as it was on the Cassier Highway.
From Prince George, we had wanted to leisurely work our way south and east through the Canadian Rockies, but it seemed like most of British Columbia was on fire. (The 2018 fire season was the worst in BC’s recorded history in acres burned, even worse than the historic 2017 fire season.) Besides the prospect of more thick smoke, there were reports of fires close to the highway along some of our planned route. We’d had enough of smoky roads and fires. So we changed our plans and instead headed directly east from Prince George toward Edmonton instead of south through Yoho, Kootenay and Banff National Parks.
Meziadin Lake Provincial Park was our last stop on the Cassier Highway. We headed south about 100 miles to the highway’s end, where it intersects the Yellowhead Highway. (We had been on the Yellowhead Highway from Jasper to Prince George at the beginning of our trip, but that was well east of where we were now.) Our choice was to head east toward home, or head west about 150 miles to the end of the road in Prince Rupert. And the Prince Rupert area was pretty much the only reason to head west. It would be a 300 mile side-trip, since the only land route toward home would be back the way we came.
We left the beautiful Kinaskin Lake Provincial Park campground in hopes to find bears in Hyder, AK. Stewart, BC is a forty mile side-trip off the Cassier Hwy, and the tiny town of Hyder, Alaska is just across the border. There is not even US customs at the border, although there is Canadian customs when you return to Stewart.
We left our Yukon campground and headed south. Soon, we said our goodbyes to both the Alaska Highway and the Yukon Territory. Although we were excited to drive new (to us) roads on the Cassier Highway, I was a little sad to leave the Alaska Highway for the final time this trip after driving 1,500 miles on it up and back.
The Cassier Highway was in good condition, although it was a bit narrower than the Alaska Highway and without shoulders. (The Alaska Highway varies considerably along its length, but as you’ve seen in the pictures, much of it has some shoulder and most of it is as wide as a typical two-line highway in the lower-48.) Traffic initially was a little heavier than I expected, but still lighter than the Alaska Highway. (I was expecting almost no traffic, but we saw other vehicles at least every few minutes, typically.)
The morning after our train ride, we packed up and started our drive out of Skagway. From the road, we had views of the White Pass and Yukon railroad that we had ridden the day before. Our timing was bad and we didn’t get any shots of trains, but it was still interesting to see the route we had taken the day before from a different perspective.
The weather was still heavy overcast with fog at higher elevations, and parts of the landscape looked otherworldly in the fog. We had heard that the scenery entering and leaving Skagway was spectacular, and it was, even in the fog. The terrain is basically tundra (although different looking than the tundra in Denali) with small trees, lots of lakes, and moss-covered rocks. It’s gorgeous. That said, we’d love to see it when it is not so foggy as I am sure it is probably even more spectacular.
There are two ways to get to Skagway from Haines. You either drive back into Canada, along the Alaska Highway for a while, and then back into Alaska (350 miles of driving), or just take a 45 minute ferry ride. The choice was easy for us. We would save both time and money by taking the ferry. And so with heavy hearts, we left the Chilkoot River and the beautiful bears, and headed for the ferry that was to take us to Skagway.
We were instructed to be at the ferry terminal and register about 2 hours before departure time. So we got there and got into our line (there were several).
After the ferry arrived and emptied out all of its passengers and cars, it was time to start reloading the ferry.
We left our campground on the water and headed a few miles away to find a campsite at the Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site. We found a couple that looked like they might be preparing to leave and asked them if they were. Turns out they were planning to switch to a beautiful site across the road that was on the water, just as soon as it became vacant, so we played musical campsites and occupied their old site as soon as they moved.
Despite not being on the water, our campsite was nice. It was close to the campground entrance, which made our walk down to the weir shorter. The price was also not bad for an Alaska state campground at $15/night. (Some of the SRAs were as high as $25/night for dry camping in campgrounds that were not as nice as this one.)