Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Start of 2016 Alaska Trip. Hillsboro, OR to Dawson Creek, BC

Start of 2016 Alaska Trip. Hillsboro, OR to Dawson Creek, BCCreate new post 



April 26, 2016, Tuesday  

After a really nice two and half week visit with Brett, Dawn and our two grandsons, Ehren and Nate in Oregon, we headed for the Canadian border for a several month trip to Alaska.

After a "fun" drive in traffic on I-5 through Portland and Seattle, we stopped for a quiet night at Arlington, WA in the Walmart parking lot.  Actually it was quiet after about 8pm.  In the morning we noted there were a total of 8 RV's parked for the night.

April, 27, 2016, Wednesday
From Arlington, it was an easy drive to the Canadian border.  We made a quick gas stop at the Costco in Bellingham for the last cheap gas before crossing the border.  Only $2.10/gallon.  It is around $4/gallon in Canada.  $1.00/liter, but you do the math for the exact price.  It helps that the exchange rate is about  $1.35 CND to $1 USA.

We crossed the border at Lynden, WA about 20 miles east of Vancover, BC.  We had a quick and I would say an easy crossing, except for the a$$ chewing I got from the customs agent. 

I pulled up to the clearly open lane, big green open sign at the top of lane.  Pulled up slowly so my drivers seat window was at the booth window.  Most all my attention was on being sure I was far enough to the left to miss the orange cone on the right and not have my mirror hit the concrete post on my left.  Once I got to the window I was surprised to see the booth empty.  Instead the agent was right in front of the motorhome.  To me he looked like he was giving me directions on how far forward to move.  Suddenly he hollered STOP.  Apparently there was some sort of stop light or stop sign just before the booth that I was supposed to stop at.  I never saw it, nor did Sharon in the passenger seat.  Anyways I got a good lecture about stop signs, etc, etc.  Even said something about Texas Hwy Patrol would be glad to give me a ticket for my driving. 

I respectfully decided to not say, "get a life dude, I just did what I always do when coming to a toll booth or customs booth, pull forward till I get to the booth window".    Figured that might not be a good idea.

After the chewing out, all he cared about was if we had any kind of gun on board.  You know, with Texas license plates, we must be carrying a weapon  Even asked if we had a concealed carry permit.  No questions about meat, veggies, pets. Just guns.

Oh yea, he asked about liquor.  We had an open bottle of bourbon, and two unopened bottles and declared them.  I figured we would have to pay some sort of duty, but no duty was asked for. 

Total of about 10 minutes to cross the border.

From reading online the lists of what you can bring into Canada from the USA it seems like most meat which is not in the original packaging is not allowed, along with some or most fresh vegetables.  So we had cleaned out our small refrigerator freezer of most all the meat and gave/left it at Brett's house.  So the next stop was at the grocery store for meat and veggies.  Next was a stop at an ATM for Canadian cash money.  We expect to be paying for most things with a credit card, but it is always good to have a fair amount of cash available.  The last stop in Abbotsford, BC was the visitor center for brochures of the towns we will be going through up to the start of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, BC.  

Food pricing in the stores is interesting.  As you know, Canada is on the metric system.  For all produce the signs list the price per pound with the price per kilogram in smaller print.  For the meat everything is in kilogram.  Of course all the packaged goods are in metric sizes.  The cans and boxes are all about the same size as in the us, just labeled in the metric system.  

Tonight's parking spot was about 6 miles from Hope, BC in a large paved parking area at exit 160 on TCH-1, that would be Trans Canadian Highway 1, which goes from Vancouver to the very eastern tip of the island providence of Newfoundland and the Atlantic ocean.  

We were far enough off of the highway that the road noise wasn't noticeable.  

April 28, 2016, Thursday
This is planned to be a relaxed non rushed trip.  So instead of heading directly to the start of the Alaska Highway and hurrying to Alaska, I plan on taking our time and wandering around British Columbia (BC).  

Instead of driving straight up TCH-1 toward Prince George and beyond, I selected a longer and slower route through mountain valleys, passes and smaller towns.  

From Hope we headed east on PH-3 (that would be Provincial Highway 3) to Princeton and then north on PH-5A to a campground on the small lake of Marquart southeast of Merritt.  


It was a very pretty drive. First along PH-3 to from Hope to Princeton along the bottom of a steep sided valley, and then up over a pass peaking out at about 4100' and a sometimes steep drops heading to Princeton.  

From Princeton, going north on PH-5A to Merritt, we followed a valley between ridges probably 200'-400' high with lots of beautiful small lakes. A very pretty drive.

The only picture I took of today's drive was of this rest area and lake in the background.  The lake and hills in the background are typical of the views along the highway.

We ended up spending the night in a small 10 campsite campground on Marquart Lake about 12 miles SW of Merritt. Our campsite had a beautiful view of the lake and the sky beyond.

April 29, 2016, Friday

Weather not so nice this morning.  About 37* and off and on light rain.  We stopped in Merritt and had a nice breakfast at the Home restaurant before getting on the road at about 11am. This made a really late start to our travel day.

From Merritt we followed PH-8 to TCH-1 and along the way found a really nice free campground about 10 miles west of Merritt, N'Kwala BC Recreation area.  The campsites are right on the edge of the Ncola river.  It was way to early to stop for the day, so we moved on.

Pictures of the CG:

We picked up TCH-1 at Spence's Bridge and followed it and PH-97 to Williams Lake.  Not too much to say about the drive. The first 50 miles or so from Spence's bridge was along the Thompson river with hillsides of sagebrush.  There are several pullouts with nice views of the river.  The river is probably 1/4 to 1/2 mile wide and muddy.  The rest of the drive is through rolling hills with some trees until you get to a really long and large lake, Lac La Hache.  Pretty lake, but all the property along the lake sides are private property.  We didn't check to see if there was any public access or public campground.

We were pretty tired when we got to Williams Lake.  We got gas for $0.999/liter and pulled into the Signal Point Casino parking lot for the night. The parking lot is not very level, but we parked along the very back edge of the parking lot and were able to level with our jacks.  Our slide outs extended nicely over the grass.  We had a very nice view of the lake and spent a quiet night there.

April 30, 2016, Saturday

An easy drive from Williams Lake to a pullout over looking Azouzetta lake on PH-97 at GPS 55.3797 -1226128. The pullout is about 26 miles east of the junction of PH-97 and PH-39.

We had a beautiful view of snow covered mountains and a small lake covered with ice.

May 1, 2016, Sunday

A pretty 65 mile drive through the mountains to Chetwynd today.  Chetwynd is the home of the chainsaw sculptures championships each year on the 2nd weekend in June.  Chetwynd keeps many or maybe all of the best art works and displays them around town.  There are about 150 pieces of sculptures scattered around town.

Here are a few examples of the art work:

A bear with it's paw reaching into an eagle's nest and the eagle attacking:

The Huntress:

I wouldn't mind having this bench on my patio:

Sharon with her cowboy buddy:

We stopped for our first time ever at Tim Horton's today here in Chetwynd.  The coffee was very good.  The Italian Supreme Sub we has was mediocre however.  We had hoped to eat in what looked to be a very nice restaurant in town, but there was no handicapped entrance. 

We spent a quiet night in a gravel parking lot at the rear of the IGA grocery store.

Floods and RV'ers stuck in snow storm well after we had passed through the area.

Flood in the Chetwynd and Dawson Creek area in June 15-16, 2016.

The nice 65 mile drive we had from Azouzetta Lake to Chetwynd changed drastically with heavy rains on June 15 & 16.  The road was totally washed out and there was serious flooding in the area. 

This is an aerial view of the road we drove on about 6 weeks earlier.


Arial view of Dawson Creek

Over the last 6 or 7 years I have read lots of comments about not driving through Canada to Alaska early in the season, mainly in April and May.  The accepted time seems to be very late May to June 1st.  

As you can see from the above two pictures, you can have really nasty weather most any time.  

We were fortunate to have great weather.  Not always picture perfect, sunny weather, but no significant rain and no snow.  

RV'ers stuck in snow storm about May 28, 2016

Then there is this blog entry of a couple of RV'ers traveling together, about 3-4 weeks behind us, where they got caught in a snow storm about May 28th and were stuck for a couple of days.    

It also seems they had campground reservations they didn't want to forfeit, so instead of pulling off the highway at the first sign of getting stuck on the road, the continued on until they had to have help, i.e. some one to tow them up a hill.  

Perhaps a lesson to everyone, if you are starting into really nasty weather, pull off the highway in one of the many pulloffs and stop until the weather and roads clear up.  

May 2, 2016, Monday.  

We moved on to Dawson Creek to the start of the Alaska Highway.  The first stop was at the visitor center for a video of the Alaska Hwy and a tour of the small museum there.  It is well worth stopping for an hour or two at the visitor center.

We spent the night in the Walmart parking lot.  It was quiet after about 9pm.  Before that there were tanker trucks going by and always one or two in the parking lot idling for a hour or two before moving on.

Not a particularly exciting first week, but it will get better as we move farther into the wilderness.  

Link back to the Alaska blog index page.

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