After having a cinnamon bun and finishing a couple more loads of laundry, we left the Tetsa River Services and Campground at 1PM for the relatively short drive to Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. The drive was spectacular except for the 15 miles of road construction! The scenery around Summit Lake and Muncho Lake was incredible! We also saw several herds of Stone Sheep on the side of the road and three bears eating grass adjacent to the highway. About 20 miles from Liard River Hot Springs, we were stopped by a flag-person and waited for about 15 minutes as traffic was being escorted through the work area. We were second in line behind an 18 or 24 wheeler (big truck). When we started moving, we enter a long section of seal coating of the highway. This is basically a mixture of an emulsion and gravel that is placed on the road. As we drove behind the truck and there was so much dust that you couldn’t see the road in front of you. Gravel and dust were flying everywhere. We were happy to get back on the asphalt road after the construction zone. We pulled into Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park Campground around 4:30 PM and a huge Bison was sitting at the entrance. Dirt, dust and gravel were all over the truck and trailer. We settled into our campsite and set up the Clam and pulled out the generators so we could have steak and baked potatoes. After a very nice dinner, we walked to the Hot Springs for a dip. The facilities were impressive and the hot springs were………hot! The water was so hot that you could hardly go in. It took a while but we made it into the water and had a very nice swim. The facilities are beautiful. There is a long boardwalk across the bough that leads to the hot springs. There are changing rooms and a restroom building adjacent to the large hot springs pool. One side of the pool has a wood deck and concrete steps/handrail for entering the pool. A dam and two rectangular weirs back up the water in the pool area. There is also a wide area to swim on the downstream side of the dam and the bottom is gravel. What an incredible facility!
This was a very eventful day. We left Charlie Lake Provincial Park Campground at 9 AM….a new record for leaving a campsite for us. We had a long drive to our next stop so we wanted to leave early. At around 11:45 AM we pulled into Buckinghorse River Wayside Provincial Park for lunch. We ate in the trailer overlooking the river. We pulled back onto the Alaska Highway after two motorcycle past and headed north. After about 30 minutes of driving we were on a long straight section of the highway, Felicia said, “there is something in the middle of the road”. As we approached, we saw that one of the motorcycles we saw earlier had crashed. The rider was lying on the shoulder of the roadway and the bike was a few hundred feet ahead in the middle of the highway. We were the first ones on the scene and we pulled off the shoulder and put the flashers on. We jumped out of the truck and approached the fallen rider. He was banged up but conscience and basically in great pain. His partner on the other motorcycle said he hit a pothole and crashed. We fortunately had some cellular service and Felicia was able to get through to emergency responders who said they would send an ambulance; however, we were in the middle on nowhere, between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson and it would take over an hour to reach our location. Another vehicle stopped behind us with a German couple. With his help, I was able to get the downed motorcycle out of the roadway while others were assessing the condition of the injured biker. The Germans had an impressive vehicle called a Unimog. They have been travelling throughout North and South America in this beast of a vehicle. Two vehicles headed southbound also stopped. One was a Canadian who works in the local energy industry and lives in Fort Nelson. The other was a 5th Wheel from California that miraculously was driven by a Paramedic (with his family)…..thank god! He assessed the condition of Don, the biker, while I put out traffic control warning signs and flares. Don was from El Segundo, a retired Aerospace Engineer. He likely had a few broken ribs, abrasions on his arms and legs and some head trauma. He was in pretty good shape considering the crash he just took at 60 mph plus. His helmet and leather saved him as they showed the signs of major road rash. The Unimog left and we along with the Canadian and Paramedic directed traffic and attended to the biker while his biking partner, Mike, made some phone calls. Even with our traffic control in place, several vehicles sped through the area. One RV towing a car hit the same potholes as they went by so hard that they pulled over up the road to see if the car that they were towing was still attached. Finally after an hour and fifteen minutes, the ambulance arrived and told everyone to leave the roadway. It was another unique experience along the Alaska Highway that we will not soon forget.
We got back underway and discuss how fortunate Don was to survive a bad crash like this in the middle of nowhere. We stopped for fuel in Fort Nelson and continued up the highway. We saw our first bear along side the highway! At about 5:30 PM, we pulled into Tetsa River Services and Campground for a cinnamon bun. Since they had laundry facilities and there were limited campgrounds to the north, we decided to stay for the night. We had a partial hookup of 15-amp power and water and we did a couple loads of laundry. We watch a couple of movies in the Airstream before we went to bed after our eventful day.
We left Crooked River Provincial Park on Bear Lake at 11AM. After about two hours of driving we stopped for lunch at Bijoux Falls. It was nice to sit in trailer and see the falls while lunch. We drove through several small towns including Chetwynd. In Chetwynd, there were impressive chain saw carvings that line the roadway from one end of town to the other. We stopped in Dawson Creek to visit the monument that marks the beginning of the Alaska Highway. The historic downtown area of Dawson Creek is very cool. We pulled into Fort St. John and got fuel and ran into the Walmart for a couple of items. We stopped for the night at Charlie Lake Provincial Park Campground just north of Fort St. John. It was another very nice campground in a secluded wooded area. The Ranger was very friendly and provided information about the Provincial Park campgrounds further north. He made a phone call to his counterpart at Liard River to find out about our campground options for the next day. We made a campfire and had a BBQ salmon and rice for dinner.
We got a late start and continued north on the Cariboo Highway toward Williams Lake and Prince George. Since Prince George is the last large City until we get to Alaska (along the next 1700 miles), we thought it was a good idea to stock up on supplies. We made it to Costco with a few miles to spare before running out of fuel. The Costco had diesel and much to our surprise they also had propane. The Costco fuel island did not take Visa or debt cards so fortunately, we had a cash card to fill the tank with $100 Canadian dollars worth of diesel. Then, we realized that the cash card was US dollars and the pump was Canadian so we wondered if the card converted the USD into Canadian dollars (we didn’t know the balance of the card). We spent the next hour or so shopping in the uncrowded Costco. The cashier rang up our supplies and informed us that they don’t take Visa or debt cards (like the fuel island) so we ran to the ATM for cash. We had barely had enough cash (after putting back one item). Then we packed away our supplies and went to a local grocery store for a few additional items. We left Prince George well stocked and full of fuel(s)! We also learned that a one Canadian dollar coin is called a Loonie and a two dollar coin is called a Toonie. We drove an hour and one-half north to Crooked River Provincial Park on Bear Lake. After driving around the spread out campground (without signage), we found a lakefront site as the sun was sinking in the western sky (cover photo). Since it was only 100 feet to the lake, I (Mark) couldn’t resist launching the kayak. We paddled around the lake as the sun was setting at 10pm.
In the morning, it was a short hike to see Nairn Falls (waterfall). The falls were amazing! We left the campground and headed northeast along the Sea to Sky Highway toward Pemberton. We stopped in Pemberton to dump the holding tanks but we didn’t have any Canadian money so we went to the local bank first. The drive from Pemberton to Lillooet was very beautiful. It was steep and curvy as we passed over the mountains. We crossed several one-lane wood bridges on the route. We stopped for fuel in Lillooet and continued northeast to the Cariboo Highway. We stopped of the evening at Lac La Hache (“Lake of the Ax”) Provincial Park. The Clam went up without incident except the zipper for the door flap came off. The Clam may end up in the garbage before the end of this trip. Mosquitos were everywhere thus the need for the Clam. We played a game of Monopoly National Parks edition before going to bed (Mark won!).
We decided to do a couple loads of laundry before leaving Seattle. The washing machines at Pleasant Lake RV Park were busy so we drove to a laundromat a few minutes from the campground. As Felicia did the laundry, we packed up the campsite (put the pesky Clam away) and left the RV park. We headed north toward the toward the border on I-5. After a couple hours, we left the USA behind and crossed the border into Canada! The border crossing was uneventful as the border agent checked our passports and asked a few questions about our plans. We took the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Nairn Falls Provincial Park near the ski resort area of Whistler, BC. The drive was beautiful as we drove north of Vancouver along the water. We reached Nairn Falls Provincial Park Campground in the evening a picked out a campsite. Nairn Falls campground was a very nice campground amongst the trees along the swift moving Green River. We took a short hike down to the river before having ice cream in the Airstream.
Happy Birthday, Rachel! Saturday was Rachel’s 14th birthday. We woke up to a strawberry short cake breakfast that we had made at 2 in the morning. We took Denver to a local kennel for the day so we could spend the day in Seattle with Lauren and Megan. We drove about 20 minutes to downtown Seattle to their apartment. From there, we walked to Pike Place Market. Along the way, we got to see the Amazon building where Megan works. Sean wanted to see the original Starbucks! We convince him to have lunch and we sat outside a restaurant and had salmon burgers. After lunch, Sean and Megan stood in line for at least 45 minutes to get into the first Starbuck’s. Sean said it was well worth it! We walked around the Market in the hot afternoon. We headed for the Space Needle mid-afternoon and found that the first available elevator ride to the top was at 5:30. We bought tickets for 6:30-7:00PM and Mark & Felicia drove back to the kennel to get Denver before closing (if we didn’t get him by 5PM, he would be there until Monday at 10AM). We dropped Denver at the trailer and went back to downtown Seattle. We drove to the Space Needle and took the elevators to the top. It was a beautiful clear day and you could see for miles in all directions. Mount Raineer was visible above the downtown Seattle skyline! We left the Space Needle and drove to an Italian restaurant nearby for dinner. The food was fantastic as we celebrated Rachel’s birthday with Lauren and Megan! We said goodbye to Lauren and Megan (we hope to see them on the return trip) and headed back to the RV park.
We got an early start on the day and left Seven Feather’s at 8:45. It was another long day of driving, but the Oregon countryside was beautiful. We stopped at the Airstream dealer that we bought the trailer from, more than a year ago, and picked up some parts and got Subway Sandwiches. When we pulled into Lake Pleasant RV Park at 7PM, it was still very bright outside. This was a very cool campground, and all of the RV sights were within 10 feet of the lake! There were a lot of animals, including ducks, frogs and toads. We were very close to Seattle, WA. We had family who lived in Seattle, so they came over for a steak, potato and asparagus dinner. A lot happed in the time it took to preparing diner. We were going to eat diner outside, but since there was a lot of bugs, we eat under a tent called The Clam. It was very simple to set up the tent… if you read the instructions. We didn’t. It got twisted within the first 5 second of taking it out of the bag, and it took over 2 hours to set up a tent, that could have been set up in 3 minutes. Sean started filming us putting up The Clam and after about an hour and a half, we finally gave up. While all of this was happening, Denver was growing an obsession with the ducks in the lake. He was tied up to the picnic table, and we though that would keep him from chasing the ducks. He saw his opportunity and used all of his strength to pull himself and the Picnic table in to the lake. He didn’t get very far and he only could get partly wet.
We left the Napa Valley around 10am and went up the hill to Lake County. Going up this steep, crooked road is much easier than going down! Today, we saw some nice views of Lake Shasta and Mount Shasta on the way to southern Oregon. We only stopped twice and both times we had challenges. In Corning, we went to a Napa Auto Parts store and picked up a tire plug kit (hopefully we won’t need to use it…but we have it if we do). We wanted to fuel but the two gas stations were not RV friendly so we left and headed north on I-5. As soon as we hit the freeway, Felicia started looking for her phone as she suspected that she left it at the Napa store. Sure enough, Rachel checked (find my phone) and it was a couple miles behind us. We turned around at the next exit and went back and picked up the phone. This time we pulled into the Shell station since there were no vehicles at the fuel island. We fueled up and paid $2.899/gallon for 24 gallons of diesel. We then stopped at the adjacent rest area and had a quick lunch in the trailer.
When we got to the Lake Shasta area we got a notification that there was traffic ahead and a delay. Then it happened…. traffic stopped and we crawled along for the next 1 ½ hours as I-5 was being repaved and it was reduced to one lane. After we got thorough this LA like traffic jam, we were tired. When we got to Weed, we stopped for a cup of coffee at McDonald’s. It was going to be a quick stop but as we got back into the car, my coffee spilled off the center console and onto the driver and driver’s seat. Once we got that cleaned up, we headed north to Canyonville, Oregon and the Seven Feather’s RV Resort for the night. We arrived around 7:45 after a 395-mile drive. We had a quick snack at the Casino and went to bed. It was a long day of driving!
Calistoga RV Park was quiet…we slept in until 9am! We went to see Grandma in St. Helena and went out for lunch to Gillwoods on Main St. We all had a late breakfast. We went back to Grandma’s apartment and she gave Rachel a beautiful necklace for graduation. We went to a foo-foo pet store in downtown St. Helena called Fideaux to get some items for Denver our black lab. Denver made out! He has a couple of new leashes, harnesses and a rain jacket (since it rains a lot in Alaska). We drove through the campground at Bothe State Park to scout for campsites that fit our trailer for future reference. Back at the trailer, I checked the torque on the trailers lug nuts and the air pressure in the tires in the afternoon heat. Later we got cleaned up and headed back to St. Helena to have dinner with Grandma. We went to The Market Restaurant on Main St. (There is really only one street in St. Helena and everything in town is on it). Our dinner was great….fresh swordfish! We took Grandma home and Toni and Marty were there after their Botchy ball league/dinner. We stopped by Toni and Marty’s house and checked out their new backyard and fire pit. They also gave Rachel beautiful earrings for her graduation! They also gave us a ukulele and a bunch of DVD’s for the road. Marty gave me a few fishing poles for the trip and we headed back to the trailer for the night. It was nice to see family in the Napa Valley!
The trip to Alaska officially started! We pulled out of Playa del Rey at 12:45pm and headed for the I-405. I thought we might never leave. To pack everything we think we need for this 8-week (now 7.5 week) adventure was daunting to say the least. We hoped to leave on Sunday, June 18 but it didn’t happen. Nor did it happen on Monday, June 19. We unloaded everything from our Airstream 30 FB Bunk first and then carefully put our items in their proper places. Oh yeah, there were other things too, like a new cellular boaster antenna mounted on the roof of the Airstream. Mounting was easy, pulling cable not so much. It’s a good thing we started to pack up early… not!
We hit the I-405 and traffic was light. As we headed over the Sepulveda Pass, Felicia said, “I see a ding on the front of the trailer (above the rock guard stainless steel panel)”. How could that be…I have my new Rock Tamer mud flaps on for the first time? We have been towing for the last 1.5 years without mud flaps and now within 20 miles of home we have a nice ding in the aluminum shell. Sean said he didn’t like the mud flaps because they have the “Rock Tamer” logo on the bottom. He said we should have naked girl mud flaps that say, “Keep on Trucking”. I think he was right! I doubt this will be the only ding we get on this trip but it is ironic that it happened within 20 miles of home on the I-405 and not on the Alaskan Highway.
We settled in for the 435-mile ride to Napa Valley to see family. It was hot outside. The temperature was between 110 and 113 degrees all the way through the Central Valley. We pseudo caravanned with a vintage Airstream all the way up the valley. It was a beautiful trailer, about a 25 or 27 foot completed restored with a mirror-like aluminum shell. We cut off the I-5 in Tracy and headed over toward the Bay Area. Noticed a lot of Warrior flags on car windows as we turned north on the I-680. We stopped for diesel and a slice of pizza at Costco in Concord. We made it to the Calistoga Fairgrounds RV Park at 10:15pm. It was dark but we managed to back into our spot without hitting any trees or rocks that guarded each campsite. It was a long few days but we were finally on the road!