Monday, November 24, 2014

Back Through the Yukon

Beaver Creek, the first town after Canadian customs when you're leaving Alaska, meant a stop at the famous Buckshot Bettie's for lunch.  The toughest part of the AlCan road lie ahead - approximately 60 miles of unpaved, gravel road - a typical Yukon highway. We checked all our options before driving this route as we were not looking forward to driving the RV on anymore Canadian goat trails - we priced the ferry, which was too expensive.  We considered taking the  Top of the World Highway, which is also unpaved and too dangerous.  Taking the AlCan was our only option unless we left the RV behind and that wasn't an option.

Destruction Bay to Kluane Lake and Congdon Creek Provincial Park shook us to the bone but we looked forward to seeing the fabulous views on the largest natural lake in the Yukon. We had camped at Congdon Creek on the way to Alaska and it was one of our favorite stops.  When we stopped for gas a few miles before the park, we spoke with fellow end-of-the-season travelers also heading south. We invited them to Congdon Creek and one truck camper followed us down the road. As we pulled in, we noticed they had added bear boxes and that tent camping was still forbidden.  The park had experienced a large amount of grizzly bear traffic this summer but even though we camped there twice we never saw any evidence of them.

The park was about half full and it rained all night.  It was the darkest night ever!  No outside lights, moon, stars, or aurora borealis.  We couldn't even see our hands in front of our faces.  Our 12 volt system lit up the inside of the RV perfectly and the furnace kept us warm and toasty.  We ran the generator for awhile but our new batteries worked like a charm!  

The next morning, Joy had the coffee pot plugged in, our phones charging and an electric heater on which popped the breaker on the generator.  Kathy found the right switch and got us working again within a few minutes.  We hit the road after a yummy breakfast and headed to Haines Junction.

At the junction, we turned east onto highway 1 and drove the last 80 miles of the Alaskan Highway that we had skipped on the way up by taking the ferry from Skagway.  The route brought us through historic Whitehorse which was still relatively busy, especially with European tourists in their rented RV's.  As we drove around town on the loop, we realized we hadn't missed much and found it somewhat disappointing.

Near Whitehorse, Joy noticed that the AlCan bible, the Milepost, mentioned the Tahini Hot Springs which weren't too far off of our route.  It sounded like a welcome escape from the cold rain we'd been driving in so we took a detour so Joy, who is not a shower lover, could actually enjoy the ultimate bath.  She hadn't been able to soak in a tub since we'd left the lower 48 and "hot springs" is just another term for a really big warm bathtub!  

Kathy walked the dogs and started to read a new book while Joy soaked her cares away.  She hadn't been that relaxed since before the trip started.  Her shoulders loosened and her skin turned silky soft from the minerals.  When she arrived there were only 10 others in the pools but when she left it was after school and young hard bodies in bikinis and skimpy trunks began to fill the pool.  She made her exit quickly.  

Kathy drove hard to make up time and due to the extra miles and constant rain she was pretty grumpy and tired by the time we arrived at the Yukon RV Park.  We had filled up on both gas and LP at the park's gas station on our way to Alaska and also bought a yummy loaf of homemade bread.  Joy remembered to use her 4 cents off a litre coupon that we'd received during the first visit.  The women working in the cafe and store were younger and didn't seem familiar with procedures so we thought that maybe the place had recently been sold to new owners.  We picked a site, got a discount and set up in the light rain.  The park's Wifi only worked in the cafe so after dinner we had desert in the cafe and caught up on Internet stuff.  

In the morning, we tried to buy LP but the employees said the system was broken and obviously didn't know how to work it. LP was a priority as weather reports forecast snow in the days ahead. Sure enough, as we neared Watson Lake, beautiful snowy mountains welcomed us. We ended up driving to town 20 miles out of our way for LP.  Kathy felt rested so we went on to Jade City so Joy could get her mineral fix.  We had hoped to be able to camp there but there was only dry camping in the parking lot and no RV park.  We hoped that an advertised RV park several miles down the road would still be open.  

Joy bought jade earrings and we ate at the restaurant which served the best cheese burgers ever. There were several jade and gold miners at the table next to us and we enjoyed eavesdropping on them as we ate.  They told us the campground we planned to stay at was closed for the season - an occurrence that we were finding more and more of.  We decided to try anyway and, if nothing else, would simply pull over somewhere to sleep.

The drive was beautiful and the quality of the roads improved as we moved further south.  We arrived in Dease Lake andsure enough, the RV park was closed.  We found a long parking lot near businesses closed for the night and dry camped.

Getting up early to leave before the businesses opened meant a quick bowl of oatmeal and wearing yesterday's clothes.  Getting out of a parking lot before business owners noticed us is an important task when dry camping.  The drive south became green again - no snow and some wildflowers still in bloom.  

We turned west and began our decent from 4000' feet to sea level on highway 37A toward Stewart. The grades were 7 to 8%  and we were glad there was no hint of snow on the roads.  Kathy spotted something dark ahead on the side of the road and, sure enough, a big old black bear was in the ditch munching away on roots.  A semi coming from the other direction didn't even disturb him - he'd obviously been through this before.  He looked much older than the other bears we'd seen and took a good look at us before deciding to leave his dinner by walking back into the woods.

We pulled in and set up at our site in the Bear River RV Park in Stewart - excited about cable and hot showers.  As usual, we were disappointed that the cable was weak, the wifi had a 50 mb per day limit and showers were pay showers.  Canada was wearing thin on us and we were eager to get back to the lower 48.


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