To get to Mile Zero, which is in the northeast corner of British Columbia, we had to travel through northwestern Alberta. We chose a route through the city of Edmonton, Alberta’s oil center, and the more remote small town of Whitecourt, whose economy is fueled by logging and the paper industry
With the forecast showing plummeting temperatures and even that four-letter word, snow, we were in denial as we headed out of Whitecourt in the still balmy temperatures we had enjoyed the past 2 days. However, we were quickly brought back to reality. By the time we reached Grande Prairie with 2/3rd of the day’s travel behind us, the rig was covered in snow and the surrounding countryside was white. Locals joked about this weather as being “typical” of what they call the “May Long Weekend” or Victoria Day. “Yeah. We always have this weather every year. That’s why I always wait until the next weekend to go fishing.” Great. By the time we pulled into our campsite at Dawson Creek and used our numbing fingers to connect power, water and sewer, we were chilled to the bone and tired. Exploring could wait until Friday.
After 3 days, we were ready to move on, but glad for the time to get to know the road we would be driving and some of the people living around it.
Over the next few days, we made our way north and west over the Alaska Highway. With some minor exceptions, it was paved and in good shape. It rose and fell over mountains and valleys and crossed numerous rivers. The first grade we descended to the Peace River bridge was one of the steeper ones we would encounter going up to 10%. In general, when we passed the “brake check” rest areas, we knew something steep was ahead. The vistas were beautiful, even when the weather was overcast. We wound through the Canadian Rockies, followed the rivers and lakes, which were natural paths through the wilderness for the original engineers. The road is still being improved. At one point in the Rockies, there were miles that were under construction as they were straightening out the curves into a straight line -- the same process that has been repeated in other areas over the years. Having to stop as the first in line for one stretch, we had a long conversation with the flagman. He was a local who worked on the highway in the summer and painted canvases in the winter.
Having been in the more remote areas of northern British Columbia and southern Yukon for a few days, arriving in Whitehorse was a bit of a shock. The Visitor Center was downtown and the parking so crowded we couldn’t find a spot. We decided to head on to Wal-mart and figure out a plan for the next few days. Even Wal-mart was pretty crowded, but we did manage to find a spot in the designated area. After moving to a campground the next day, we began to explore more of the area. Our first stop was the Visitor Center for some orientation (and another movie, which was also very good). Then we checked out nearby Miles Canyon. A scenic walking trail over a suspension bridge now, it was the scene of some dramatic navigation back in the gold rush days as the stampeders had to navigate the rapids and fast current flowing through this rock canyon before arriving in Whitehorse.
So, how’s the RV holding up to all of this travel? Overall, things are doing fine. We do have one small problem. The heat is no longer working. That makes some of the colder nights when we aren’t plugged in a little bit chilly. We’re still looking into that one. The microwave doesn’t seem to work as anything other than a clock and a storage bin. We can’t coax it to actually cook any food. The outside of the RV has been collecting its share of bugs and dirt, which we’ve managed to clean off with regularity. And then of course, we had to brush the snow off the slide topper to keep it from stretching too much.
With no cell phone service for several weeks, communication with Pat and Fred has been a challenge while underway. We tried using our CB but were having problems getting any distance. Once we switched to our walkie talkies that we use for parking, we were getting further range with less distortion. So that’s our preferred method for now.
We have a few hundred more miles before we make it into Alaska, but we’ve made a lot of progress in the last month and seen some beautiful sites.