Sunday, May 15, 2016

Laird Hot Springs to Skakway May 7th to 12th, 2016

Laird Hot Springs to Skakway May 7th to 12th, 2016
Also a side trip to Atlin, BC on the way to Skagway. 


The Alaska Hwy continues to be in good shape. Lots of hills and curves. Some frost heaves to look out for.  Almost all frost heaves are well marked. Since many of the hills are a 5% to 6% grade and some at 8% it makes for slow driving and poor gas mileage. I find the motorhome shifting from 5th gear to 3rd gear sometimes to make it up the hills. Also the tow/haul mode will downshift us to 3rd gear to keep our speed low while going down. With plenty of warning on the downhill portions I slow down quite a bit before heading down the hills. Many times as slow as 40-45mph. If it is really steep I may start the down grade at 35mph. Generally I use the brakes very little, depending on engine braking to keep my speed down. If it is a 9% or 10% grade I'll manually downshift to 3rd gear and if need be downshift to 2nd gear to keep my speed down.

Wildlife from Liard Hot Springs to Watson Lake

We saw a number of wood bison (buffalo), a moose and three bears on our drive from Liard Hot Springs, BC to Watson Lake, YT. 




This guy (gal?) was zeroing in on another dandelion:

One more dandelion gone:

A very young moose:

Aren't I pretty?

Time to move on

Watson Lake

In Watson Lake there is a very nice visitor center. We watched a very informative 18 minute video about the Yukon, Watson Lake and the Alaska Hwy. There is also and nice series of displays in the small museum in the visitor center.

Also this is the home of the Sign Post Forest. There are about 80,000 signs posted next to the visitor center left by visitors from around the world. The sign posts were started by the men building the Alaska Highway, generally pointing to where they were from and the mileage to home.

We spent 2 nights in Watson Lake since Sunday was Mothers Day.  We decided that would be a nice day to sit back and relax. We found a couple of very nice rib eye steaks in the local grocery store and had those for Mothers Day dinner. It was a little cold for grilling so we pan broiled them in the RV.  Also had baked potatoes and sauteed mushrooms.   

The first night in Watson Lake we dry camped at the Tempo gas station RV park for $20. The 2nd night we dry camped at a defunct motel right next to the sign post forest.

Overnight parking spot:

1am Monday. We lost all 12V house power!

About 1am Monday we lost all 12V house power in the RV. (the chassis battery was still good, so we could have started the engine and driven if we needed to) We are dry camping so there is no back up power available. Also since there is no 12V available, I couldn't start the generator.  No water pump to flush the toilet either.  No major problem. Sharon's CPAP is not working w/o the 12v.  It does make it hard for her to sleep w/o the CPAP. I'll start trouble shooting the problem in the morning. I had prepped coffee before we went to bed, so at least we had coffee when we got up.

A little back ground. I installed a Lithium Battery system in the RV in February, along with Solar Panels. 400 amp hours of battery & 650 watts of solar. To protect your rather expensive investment in the lithium batteries, it is best to include a battery monitor system (BMS). This protects the batteries from being over charged or over discharged to the point that the batteries will be ruined.

Being a retired computer technician from the late 1960's to the late 1990's I have some knowledge of electronics. While I purchased the lithium battery components from Starlight Solar in Yuma, AZ, I assembled the system from the parts, so I knew how the system operated.

I got out my tools and multi meter and started trouble shooting. When I gathered as much info as I could, I called Larry at Starlight Solar. Larry was very helpful and said it looked like there was a problem either with the BMS computer or with the sense cable which goes to the battery cells. I removed the sense cable and metered out the wires in the cable. Sure enough one of the wires was open (no continuity from end to end). I found a bad connection on one end and was able to fix it and we are back in operation. Took about 2.5 hours of work to fix the problem. We were able to get on the road by about 9am.

The views are getting even better as we head west from Watson Lake.

Nice view of snow covered mountains:

Just before Teslin, YT there is interesting bridge. The floor of the bridge is steel mesh which can cause your tires to shimmy a little and there is no center stripe. Fun when you meet an oncoming 18 wheeler.

I did wonder if the 5th wheel in front of us was going to move over for the 18 wheeler.  Both of us managed to meet two 18 wheelers on the bridge.  Fun!

The rest of our drive to our overnight parking spot on Little Atlin Lake was uneventful.

Little Atlin Lake is about 4 miles south of Jake's Corner on PH-7.  Right on the lake there is rest area with this great little parking spot. Great view of the lake and snow covered mountains. Unfortunately it was cloudy with a little rain so the view wasn't as nice as it could have been.

Atlin BC.

We took a 55 side trip from Alaska Highway to Atlin. Atlin is very small town which in the 1920 was a very popular tourist town. Now days there isn't a lot here, but a pretty drive and beautiful views of the lake and mountains. There are boating activities as well as mountain biking, hiking and an Arts & Music Festival in July. Lots of winter activities as well. More info at the towns website and Wikipedia.

We spent the night at the Norseman RV Park. This is a bare bones RV park with water and electric, operated the the town of Atlin. There are great views of the lake and the mountains beyond, which makes it a very worthwhile place to stay. Also since we are so early in the season the park office wasn't open yet, so our one nights stay was free. Also the water & electric wasn't on yet. The town has a dump station about 4 miles out of town.

A late afternoon view from the RV Park

In the center of the photo above is a Rock Glacier (at least I am pretty sure it is a rock glacier):

A rock glacier is a glacier made up of rock rubble mixed with ice and snow. It moves much slower than a snow/ice glacier at inches per year. Where as snow/ice glaciers can move at several inches to several feet per day. Link to Wikipedia about rock glaciers

Morning views from the RV Park:

The boat the M. V. Tarahne in the photo above was a luxury cruise ship touring Lake Atlin and ferrying passengers to Atlin in the 1930's.

A quote from a website:

M.V. Tarahne

A particular point of interest is the M.V. Tarahne, an old propeller ship parked at the edge of downtown on the shores of Atlin Lake. The ship was once a luxury liner that cruised around the lake in the 1920s, when Atlin was a popular tourist destination. The boat was put out of commission during the Great Depression in 1936.

Moving on to Skagway

There is some fantastic scenery from Carcross, YT to Skayway, AK. Especially this early in the season with all the snow on the mountains.

Even if you don't take your RV to Skagway you owe it to yourself to at least make it a day trip from Carcross or Whitehorse.

I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Along Tutshi Lake

Bove Island on Tutshi Lake

The next several pictures are from the 15 miles of highway in the high country to the mountain pass to Skagway:






We spent two nights in Skagway. While the history of the town and Klondike gold rush is very interesting, the town is little more than a huge tourist place catering to the cruise ships. There are about 20 jewelry stores along the main street in town. If you are there on a day there are NO cruise ships in town most of the stores close. The restaurants are open so it makes for a nice day to eat out. However the national park activities are minimal on NO cruise ship days. 

We stayed at the city owned Pullen Creek RV Park. While not particularly large rig friendly, good for 35' and under, it is the nicest park in town. A little grass and some trees. It is also about 2 blocks from the museums and the downtown area. None of the RV parks in town get good reviews on We were quite happy with our site.

The morning of the day we left, we drove to Dyea and the start of the Chilkoot trial. A pretty drive along the shores of Lynn Canal (a fiord in other parts of the world). There is a national forest CG in Dyea. We didn't care for the campground. It is buried deep in the trees. There is room for rigs up to about 35'.

The only pictures I took in Skagway was this photo of two cruise ships in port:

Next up, leaving Skagway, Whitehorse, YT and on to Fairbanks.

Link back to the Alaska blog index page.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dawson Creek to Liard Hot Springs. May 1st to 6th, 2016.

Dawson Creek to Liard Hot Springs. May 1st to 6th, 2016.


May 1, 2016, Sunday
After a quiet night at Walmart in Dawson Creek we started our trek up the Alaska Highway. But first we stopped at the Alaska House right at “Mile Post 0” for an excellent video of the building of the AK Hwy and a nice museum display of the highway.

Our first highway stop was at Mile Post (MP) 17.3 to see the Historic Kiskatinaw River Bridge. This is the last remaining original wooden bridge which is still in operation on the AK Hwy.

Diorama of the wooden bridge from the Alaska House in Dawson City:

Picture of the bridge

The highway north of Dawson Creek to our first stop at KM213 is a good 2 lane road. Lots of turns and many ups and downs. Some at 8% and one at 10% for about 300 yards. None of the hills were very long. I guess the longest was about 3 miles. Not very fast driving. It took us 3 hours to go the 213km. We did have three or four, five to 10 minute stops along the way.

Our first night on the AK Hwy was this gravel pit about 213km (132 miles) from Dawson Creek.

We had a very quiet night in the gravel pit. The day started of nice about 50* but as the weather forecast predicted, it turned rainy and progressively cooler. Off and on rain for our drive to Fort Nelson. Nothing exciting along the way. Many hills with 4-6% grades, a couple a little steeper.

We made a quick stop in Fort Nelson to use their free dump station. A really nice, newly built, or reconstructed facility. The dump station looks like it was rebuilt this year or last.

The skies were clearing to the west so we moved on to Stone Mountain PP and Summit Lake CG.

The scenery improved as we moved west of Fort Nelson.

Summit Lake CG.  Stone Mountain Provincial Park. 

Our campsite at Lake Summit CG was right on the shore of the lake with a fantastic view of the ice covered lake and snow capped mountains beyond. We had bright sun and blue skies with some clouds when we arrived. About 4 pm we had some snow flurries, but the temp was about 46* so nothing was sticking to the ground. The 10-15 mph winds made it feel cooler. The sun was back out by 6pm and the wind laid down to about 5mph by 9pm as the sun was starting to set.

Late afternoon sun view out the window of our RV.

Earlier in the afternoon we had snow blowing by our front window. The white horizontal streaks you see against the dark trees is the snow

Sunsets are really different up at this high latitude. The sun sets very, very slowly. Instead of going more or less straight down below the horizon, it get pretty low in west about 5pm and then slowly moves to the NW over the next 5 or so hours, getting closer and closer to the horizon until it finally goes down. Not sure when the sun actually sets. We go to sleep a little after 9pm, so have not stayed up for a complete sunset yet. Next month sunset is going to be later, after midnight or close to 1am, and we will be even farther north.

Morning views out our window

It was chilly, but not really all that cold in spite of the how cold the lake looks with the ice on it. The early morning temp was only about 29 degrees.

This morning I took a nice hike on the trail which follows the shoreline of Summit land and then switchbacks up the hill side. The trail was slow going and was taking longer than I anticipated so I didn't make up beyond the tree line as I had hoped.

Here is the main reason the trail was slow going. The first ¾ mile along the shore line was very rough.

The following two pictures give the impression the trail is going up hill. It is not. This is level ground, but you are stepping on tree roots and clumps of grass to keep out of one or two foot deep holes.

I had some nice views from the trail:

Looking back at the RV:

Nice view of lake & mountain.

In a couple of places along the trail there were what appeared to be frozen water puddles. Upon closer examination, these were not frozen puddles, but thin sheets of ice over what used to be puddles. There was nothing but air under a 1/32 or 1/16 inch thick sheet of ice. The water evidently  soaked into the ground leaving the ice suspended in the air. 

Sheet of ice with tiny hole poked in center

If you look close you can see there is nothing but air below the ice sheet.

Now for a little potty talk.

Summit Lake CG has the only vault toilets I have see which are all above ground. Usually the vault is below ground level.

The toilets were very cool and airy. While there is a roof over the toilet they are not fully enclosed. The upper sides are completely open, allowing lots of cool (cold?) fresh air in. I'm glad we are in a self contained RV and don't need to use these toilets.

A last view of our campsite at Summit Lake before leaving for Muncho Lake about 65 miles from Summit lake. A nice short drive today. 

A view from the highway on the way to Muncho lake.

Muncho Lake has two BLM campgrounds on the lake shore. Both with campsites where you can park your RV right on the water with great views. We stayed at Strawberry Flats CG where we had this great view:

MacDonald CG has similar views. We drove through the CG but I forgot to take photos.

Link to Muncho Lake Provincial Park website.

In the morning before heading to Liard Hot Springs we drove to the Trout River Mineral Lick (many times it is referenced as a Salt Lick) viewing area. Many animals come to the salt lick to lick the minerals from the ground they need to stay healthy and help grow their antlers or horns.

I was able to view three nice Stone Sheep Rams at the salt lick:

Along the highway we saw a number of Stone Sheep ewe's

This ewe refused to look our way. She just ignored us.

A couple of views of Muncho Lake. The lighting was very poor for taking photos. Sorry.

There is a green cast to the lake, not evident from my pictures because of the lack of sunshine. Here is what causes the lake to look green:

On to Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park for the night. A bit pricey at $26 for just a parking space. Nice fairly private campsites well separated from your neighbors though. 

Only 38 miles from Muncho Lake to Liard Hot Springs.  We are really burning up the highway rushing to Alaska.   

We visited the hot springs where I went in for a short soak. It was a little to warm (hot) for me, so I didn't stay long. Sharon opted to not go in. It would be too difficult for her to climb up and down the stairs into the water. There is a 600 meter boardwalk to get to the spring. There are nice changing rooms and restrooms available at the springs.

Sharon driving her scooter along the board walk

A view of the hot springs. The water at the lower right corner of the photo was very hot, I'm guessing about 110 degrees. It got cooler the farther down you went. There is a lower level pool which is much cooler than the upper level.

Sharon snapped a picture of me in the pool.

Next up is Liard Hot Springs to Fairbanks, AK