~Wednesday, June 29, 2022~
Day 745 (Travel Day)
Day 9 of Alaska Trip
I certainly have it easy compared to my hubby when it comes to breaking down camp in mosquito land. With his only defense of a long sleeve shirt and DEET spray (the healthier versions don’t cut it here), poor Jeff had to endure the wrath. Next big city opportunity, we’re definitely purchasing mosquito nets for our heads. We’d get one for Sadie too if she wouldn’t get so freaked out by having anything on her body.
By the time we left our campground around 9:30 a.m., there must have been at least 10 available lakeside campsites….a big turnover day. That just means the next group gets to experience the same awesomeness we did. Enjoy fellow travelers!
About 20 miles from the campground, we noticed the same guy we saw BIKING into the campground the night before, was back at it again. Is this guy biking to Alaska? By the looks of his loaded bike, it sure seems like he’s in for some miles. It sure would have been fun to hear his story. In fact we’re starting to see more cyclists the further north we go. What an experience that would be!! If we cross each other's paths again, we’ll be sure to shake their hand!
At the beginning of our drive today, we noticed the grandiose mountains we were getting used to seeing were becoming more hilly in nature, with shorter/skinnier trees. And the forests are not always pristine and gorgeous. On this stretch of road, you can see the evidence of the 2010 burn.
The forest fire started by lightning and burned more than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) and closed this section of highway for several days. Clearly, the new vegetation and trees are filling in the gaps. The appearance of the rivers is changing too. Most of the rivers before were chocolatey brown and all churned up. Today, they’re a glacial blue color and oh so clear. The HUGE power lines would follow our direction for the next 100 miles between variegated green, dense forests. I wonder if we’ll have an opportunity to spot an Osprey or Eagle’s nest on top of one of them? Aside from the funny looking Canadian flag mounted to a satellite dish next to the highway, we spotted free roaming horses and our first grizzly bear of the trip, noting his short snout, small ears and notorious hump. He was a handsome guy with his nose pointed upward, sniffing his surroundings. Soon after that, we also spotted a red fox being photographed by a curious tourist. Sadly, I don’t have photos to prove it
When it was Jeff’s turn to drive, I was able to get some work done on my laptop, though I nearly gave up with all the gravelly, bumpy roads. It’s so strange to drive for miles without seeing a single soul….no one behind you and no one in front of you. Just you, the scenery and the miles of highway. But it does give you more space to dodge the occasional pothole or frost heave. There were occasional signs noting the Cassiar Highway renovations that they’ve been working on since July of 2019. We read about this major undertaking last night at our campground where that map showed a mostly gravel highway. Now that we’ve driven it, it’s hard to imagine the entire thing used to only be gravel. They’ve accomplished a lot in these 3 years. They hope to have the $119 million dollar project ($154 million Canadian) completed by Fall of 2022.
About 100 miles into our drive, and less than a ¼ tank of gas left, we stopped in a town called Iskut to fill up. Gas prices are not posted along this stretch of highway nor at the pump, forcing you to inquire within. That was our first tearful fill up which cost us $100 for 9 gallons ($2.75/liter or $11.00/gallon). No wonder there are very few cars on the highway!
Later in the day, we took a break from the long drive at the Aeroplane Lake
rest stop…..a beautiful turquoise-colored delight, followed by a brief glance at civilization in the town of Dease Lake. This would be a drive-thru experience only, as we held out another 245 km for cheaper gas on the Alaska Highway.
Towards the end of the Cassiar Highway, we entered the Yukon province and the Alaskan Highway. It was here we made a decision to drive 18 miles out of our way to Watson Lake for
groceries at Watson Lake Super A Food, a free water fill-up at A Nicer Motel (yes, that’s the name of it) and a place to dump (Wye Lake Park) (we also fit in a dog walk for Sadie). We found Watson Lake to have more reasonable gas prices (if you call $9.00/gallon, $2.30/liter reasonable). It does seem to be the going rate. It was there we ran into a fellow traveler from Texas who had just replaced his cracked windshield earlier in the day, only to have it cracked again this afternoon, by a passing semi on the Alaskan Highway. Poor guy!! If it happens to us, we’re just going to live with the cracks until the trip is over. Our last stop was a liquor store for some Jose Cuervo (nothing but the best) to make those deserving ice-cold margaritas after hours!
With 5:00 on the horizon, and a great campsite just down the road, we agreed to put the day to rest in Watson Lake after all. It would give us a longer driving day tomorrow to Carmacks, but felt it was worth it. Run by the Government of Yukon, Watson Lake Campground was a steal at $16/night (U.S.) with bathrooms, roomy sites and free firewood; well, logs actually. Logs too big for our wimpy ax to handle. It would mean foregoing a fire for tonight. By the time we went back to pay our fee, all the sites were taken. Whew….perfect timing. Setup time was minimal since we’re hitting the road again in the morning. This gave us more time to take Sadie for a swim and
us an opportunity to talk to family. Not knowing when our next cell opportunity might be, we need to cash in on those moments when we can.