We set out on our trek north to Alaska on Friday, June 23 and arrived on Wednesday the 28th. We had great weather, experienced only one minor setback, and met some great people.
Our first fuel stop was at Moorhead, Minnesota, which is just across the border from Fargo, North Dakota. When the Coen brothers’ movie Fargo was released, Minnesotans claimed “that doesn’t sound like our accent.” But the young lady at the checkout sounded exactly like a character from the movie.
We left our home in Minneapolis around midday, so only made it to Rugby, North Dakota for our first night of rest. The town’s claim to fame is that it is at the geographical center of North America. Staying at a small campground at the west end of town, we were toasty warm in sleeping bags on an air mattress in the back of our RAV4. Getting out of the car in the morning was bracing, with a breezy 46 degrees.
Saturday’s highlight was a stop at the first Tim Horton’s across the Canada border in Estevan, Saskatchewan. Larre had his first double chocolate doughnut of the trip, and it was just as marvelous as always. There were only three in the case, so he got all three to avoid a shortage on the long road ahead.
We stopped for the night at the Elks Park campground in Vegreville, on the Vermillion River. Settled by Ukranian immigrants, it’s the home of the world’s largest pysanka (Ukranian Easter egg). West of Vegreville the next morning, we saw two elk near the road at Elk Island National Park.
Traveling across Alberta, we saw a cow moose, a dead young moose at the side of the road, more doughnuts in Whitecourt, then two white-tailed deer crossing the road in front of us. In the early afternoon we hit milepost 0 of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. We ended Sunday in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, where we treated ourselves to a night in a motel that came complete with a double rainbow.
The next morning started our climb through mountains, where we began seeing much more wildlife. Just 25 miles down the road we saw a camera shy black bear eating sedge, then 3 miles later we saw a sow and cub close to the road, and a sandhill crane in some tall grass. We took a photo of the view from Steamboat Mountain at marker 534, which is the scene in the header of this page.
A bull and three cow caribou ambled down the other side of the road as we passed, then a ram and ewe stone sheep crossed the road right in front of us. They went to a rise at the side of the road, then turned and posed for pictures. We stretched our legs with a stop along the Toad River, then spotted more caribou near Stone Mountain.
After we passed Muncho Lake, three groups of bison totaled several dozen. We counted 8 calves in one group, guarded by a big bull and mommies. Farther down the road, after we saw a lone bull bison feeding near the side of the road, a young porcupine waddled across in front of us.
After we passed Watson Lake, we saw one moose, one big black bear and one bicyclist. We see one or two bicyclists a day on our summer drives. What a long way to go all alone on a bike in wilderness! There is no cell service through most of the Yukon, except when you are near a town. We stayed Monday night at Squanga Lake campground, where we fell asleep to the sound of loon calls.
Tuesday at 3 p.m. we hit U.S. Customs and entered Alaska. An hour and a half later, we were in Tok and made the obligatory stop to eat at Fast Eddy’s restaurant. It was cool every day on our drive, and the weather here was a beautiful sunny 72 degrees. We drove 17 miles south on the Tok Cutoff and stayed the night at the campground in Eagle Trail state recreation area.
Leaving the campground on Wednesday morning, we rattled a cow moose that had been starting to cross the road. She ambled down the side of the road for a bit, but didn’t like us following behind her so she went back into the woods. We saw a car a bit farther down the road with a smashed front end, likely from a close encounter with one of her relatives. We saw a sign in Palmer that said in the MatSu Valley there have been 337 moose killed on the highway since July 1 of last year.
We changed a soft tire, got it patched at Napa in Palmer, stopped for supplies in Anchorage, and arrived in Seward in the late afternoon. Fuel up in Anchorage if you’re making this trip, because gas is 40 cents per gallon more in Seward.