~Thursday, September 8, 2022~
Day 816 (Travel Day)
Day 80 of Alaska Trip
Just for the record, our numbered days in reference to the “Alaska Trip”, will continue until we arrive in the Lower 48. Even though technically we won’t be fully spending our next 3 weeks in Alaska, Canada encompasses much of the experience. Actually, most of our driving happens in Canada anyway, so it makes sense to include it.
Early on our drive on the AlCan, heading towards Haines Junction, it was nice to get glimpses of the Wrangell St. Elias Mountain Range again. The largest national park in North America, it is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges
in Alaska that we were privy to visit early on in our trip (remember our story about the brutal road to the town of McCarthy)? For much of the drive today, we’d be just in a sliver of Alaska making our way to the Canadian border.
Never had we imagined that the AlCan Highway would be the worst of the trip. We actually thought it would be one of the best. For much of our drive today, it looked like a war zone with its bowling bowl sized craters spread over much of the highway, leaving Jeff on high alert the entire time. If it wasn’t the potholes, it was the frost heaves. At times, he even had to move over to the other side of the 2-lane highway to avoid them completely (good thing the highway was virtually empty). Maybe we should have the government pay for our next alignment! In any case, it made for quite an exhausting drive having to pay attention so intently. For me, it causes complete dread to see what the latest casualties might be inside the trailer, with the only thing being a glass candle holder. We’ve had more things break in the 2 months in Alaska than the last 2 years of the trip.
Passing the U.S. border, we spotted the Yukon Territory sign and just like that, we’re back to kilometers.
About 27 km from that border, we came to the Canadian border patrol crossing, and a time zone change (now we’re an hour later from Alaska time). About 4 cars behind the front, we noticed the Canadian flags at half-staff and the radio announcing the passing of Queen Elizabeth. Our timing was quite something actually. Jeff and I just looked at each other in total shock. Wow!! She sure was a one-of-a-kind woman and can only imagine the great sense of loss Great Britain feels of losing their Queen and for the world, a golden matriarch. 😢🌹She seemed like an unspoken grandmother to me, and a person who could just live forever. She carried herself with dignity, duty, honor and grace. And now, a new era awaits with Prince Charles becoming King. Queen Elizabeth’s memorial service will be one the world watches I’m sure!
Not sure why the line was so delayed at the border crossing, with a line of cars stacked up behind us.
With the 4 cars ahead of us, it took about an hour for our turn with our questioning lasting only about 2 minutes until we were given permission to enter. The most interesting question of the day from our border patrol agent who looked all of 15 years old, was,”Do you have any Cannabis products in your possession?” That was easy, but had we been asked about alcohol, we would have failed miserably. I think filling out the ArriveCAN form ahead of time really helps expedite the process.
After the border crossing, it put us at the most westerly part of Canada in a town called Beaver Creek. It seemed that the highway had immediately improved once we were in Canada. But it wouldn’t last, as we were back in bumps and rolls about 20 minutes later. The potholes were less frequent but the frost heaves were still bad. Though there wasn’t too much improvement with the roads, there was with the weather. Nice to see sunshine.
The Kluane River Overlook was a good spot to stretch the legs, let Sadie have some ball time, and learn about how significant this river is to the wildlife of Alaska, particularly grizzly bears. Evidently, in September, after they’ve sought out their dens for the winter, they return to Kluane to feast on the late run of Chum salmon; sort of their last opportunity to fill up those bellies before their winter hibernation. After feasting for another month or so until the first snow falls, they head for their dens until Spring. Pretty fascinating how they just sleep things out until their food source returns.
Because of the tedious driving today, Jeff wanted to call it quits a little earlier than planned, putting us about 60 miles away from Haines Junction. It was getting late (around 7:30) so it was fine by me. We had several campgrounds on our list to check out…….Kluane Lake Parking area was one. However, there was nowhere to scout out this free, dispersed campsite ahead of time, but from the highway, it seemed a little sketchy getting into it, so we scrapped that idea. Not worth the risk. The rule is, if it’s an undeveloped campground area, always scout it out first before hauling the trailer in. Jeff had spotted another campground sign before Kluane. Much easier access! It turned out it was already on our list. Congdon Creek Government Campground in Destruction Bay, Canada wasn’t free, but still a great deal at $20/night. No hookups, but water access, pit toilets, and again free firewood or should I say fire logs….too big for Jeff’s small ax. Plus, the winds were a little too strong to warrant a fire anyway. The first campground loop was full which surprised us this late in the season, but the second loop had plenty of availability, with most of the sites being pull-thrus! Sold! We didn’t even have to unhitch since we were level in both directions. Intrigued as to why the bears are a common sight here, we found out that just like the Kluane River, the nearby Kluane Creek also holds a lot of spawning salmon this time of year. Definitely not a place to let Sadie roam the forest without being on leash, though we never saw a bear.
Tonight’s dinner was one of those…..what’s left in the fridge kind of nights. In the end, it turned out to be one awesome dinner of pesto pasta with sliced tomatoes and pine nuts, Jeff’s leftover chicken and a Caesar Salad. Not bad, eh? Rehashing our trip and looking forward, we’re both really ready to head “home” to better weather, better roads, and seeing family again. It’s simply time. The full, exhausted days of driving (1,300 miles in 3 days) may have helped stir those feelings.
The moon is near full, but the stars are out. Determined, we’re setting our alarm for 2:00 a.m. to see what we see of those Northern Lights. Come on now!!