Mile Marker 0
~Thursday, September 22, 2022~
Day 830 (Travel Day)
Day 94 of Alaska Trip
It’s been quite a while since my last turn at the wheel on a big travel day. And it was about time Jeff got a break from the thousands of miles he’d driven lately. Leaving Peace River, it was a bit strange with the change of scenery, driving through wheat fields and open farmland juxtaposed to the endless glaciers, lakes and deep green forested mountains that we came to know as our summer landscape. Now, we find ourselves in the transition from Summer to a more extended Fall being this far north…….definitely one of the perks of leaving late in the season. Another advantage to leaving late is having the roads all to ourselves since most of the tourists have already left.
The idea was once we got to Dawson Creek, we would play tourist and stay for 1 night, maybe 2. Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite the opposite as we were a bit underwhelmed once we arrived. It just didn’t give us an inviting vibe other than to take care of a few needed errands. I must say it was quite refreshing to see a well-stocked grocery store with FRESH produce and plenty of it (something we were lacking most of the summer in Alaska). It wasn’t a slight difference. It was a BIG difference. I know California spoiled us a lot in that department. Once you’ve been exposed to some of the best produce in America, it’s hard to go another direction. But it’s not just the lack of quality….it’s the pricing. For example, today, we wanted to buy Jose Cuervo tequila…nothing fancy, right? $68 for what costs $21 at a Costco in Cali. We don’t need margaritas THAT badly. Looks like the Bubly seltzer/juice concoction will just have to suffice for our O Be Joyful Hour, at least until we get to Washington.
Oh, but there’s one other BIG reason to stop in Dawson Creek….a photo opportunity next to the Mile Marker 0 sign that marks the start of the Alaska Highway.
A big deal, right? Normally, yes, since many Alaska travelers begin their travels to the Great Frontier via this route from Dawson Creek. Most make it their return route as well. For us, it would be a little anticlimactic since it marks our Alaska adventure soon coming to a close. We chose an unconventional route to experience different roads, paved and unpaved, that would also offer a greater variety of scenery. Had we just taken the Alaska Highway, we wouldn’t have experienced the Cassiar, Richardson & Dalton Highways. Yes, it added more miles, but in the end we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Regardless, it was well worth making a point to get a picture of the 5 of us in front of the famous Alaska Highway landmark…..Jeff, me, Sadie, Billie Jean and Hank.
Highlighting the 1,523 mile Alaska Highway IS a big deal since its construction in 1942 changed the landscape of the Yukon, providing year ‘round access to the rest of Canada. But it also increased transportation routes, improved communication systems and altered settlement patterns. Shockingly, this major artery only took 8 months to complete. From Dawson City, we say goodbye to the Alaska Highway and hello to the Caribou Highway, still part of Highway 97.
As I suspected, returning to towns with more than 1 stop light, and 5 cars is proving to be an adjustment. The town of Port St. John would be our first “big” town since Fairbanks. We noticed a lot of logging trucks and businesses that support the oil industry, being that we’re not too far from the province of Alberta where there is a heavy presence of oil fields.
Arriving in the town of Moberly Lake, B.C., it was mainly for the purposes of staying overnight…our Plan B. This former fur-trading town is now home to over 100 chainsaw wood carvings by various artists that began back in the early 90’s as a tribute to the Alaska Highway’s 50th anniversary (I told you that Alaska Highway is quite a big deal!). There’s even a map one can pick up at the visitor center to tour them all. It would have been nice to stop and investigate, but we had more pressing things to take care of…..like finding a campsite. We were really looking forward to our stay at the highly rated Moberly Provincial Campground until we pulled up to find it closed for the season. What?? Most provincial parks are open until October 1st so we didn't think to check this one. Provincial parks are definitely the way to go……most in Canada are on lakes or in heavily forested areas and only $16-$20/night. You just have to dial in your dump stations and water supply ahead of time. It was then we realized that being this far north, campgrounds shut down a little earlier. We will make sure though, to keep this one on our list as it appeared to be a winner! Since Moberly Lake was our Plan B after deciding not to stay in Dawson Creek, that put us at Plan C. And it was already getting pretty late in the day (trying to avoid driving those wilderness roads at night or even at dusk). Why put ourselves in a position of hitting a moose or caribou or even a deer, if we didn’t have to? We almost settled on an RV park to avoid the longer drive but couldn’t justify spending $45, arriving so late and not taking advantage of all the amenities. So Jeff found us a rest stop area on our handy/reliable Campendium app…..West Pine River Rest Area. Rest stops typically are not a preferred choice but this one came highly rated and couldn’t have asked for a better deal…..FREE! The only catch, it was an additional 75 miles to get there and we’d already been on the road since 11:30 (it was now 6:30). So on went my night time driving glasses, driving at my after dark top speed of 45 mph (speed limit was 60 mph). But let me tell you….it was the right call. With a semi behind me, I had to slightly swerve to avoid hitting a deer that decided to slow down once it got ¾ of the way across the highway. Yep, it dashed right across the front of the truck where had I been going any faster, I would have definitely hit it head on. Mind you, swerving while towing is never a good idea. Completely exhausted (yes, I drove the entire way!) our 400-mile day finally came to an end where I never thought a rest stop campground would be so appealing. And we weren’t alone….maybe 4 other RV’s with a noisy rock quarry behind us and the occasional sound of a semi-truck passing by. We were just grateful to find what we did to tuck in for the night.