Alaska RV Camping Travelog – Day 5
Mileposts, Signposts, and Whitehorse…Oh My!
We wake up to 40 degrees this morning, and staying in bed seems like a pretty good option since we watched a movie on the VCR last night and were up a bit later. So we sleep in some, and don’t hit the road until 6:30! Now, whether or not this qualifies as “sleeping in” depends on which occupant of the motor home you ask! We do know it’s a good idea not to start out too early looking for a garage or repair shop in this sparsely populated area. The Milepost Magazine is a definite must in this back country and very helpful when trying to locate a place to camp for the night and also as we search out a “town”!
Start Gozer and no power steering at first, but only for a few agonizing seconds as fluid pumps back through the lines from the reservoir. We’re moving right along with just a bit of whining from the steering at low speeds and while turning corners. Away we go!
The Milepost is really getting a work out the past couple days, and we do find that a place that was listed as “Fireside” is nothing of a town, just a historic area that was partially destroyed by fire in the summer of 1982. Many of the historic mileposts have been stolen along the Alaska highway, so keeping an eye on the surroundings and terrain helps us to know basically where we are. That and the odometer! Also since we are traveling quite early in the season, some places aren’t yet reopened from the winter.
We stop at a place called Allen’s Lookout which has a monument cairn dedicated to the surveyors of the Alaska Highway. It also looks like a good place to camp for a night, as there are picnic tables, firepits, outhouse and a dumpster. There have been several buffalo along this route, and they are all along the highway not paying any attention to us at all! The right of ways on either side of the Alcan are cleared of brush and vegetation in most places up to 100 feet off the road right to the forest edge. This affords us lots of views of animals and Brian picks out a black bear just sitting on a hill enjoying the day! It also helps to get the big picture when driving to keep an eye out for wildlife!
At mile 513.9 (Historical Milepost 533) we come upon a wide spot called Coal River Lodge! This place looks like an oasis in the desert to us…..says it has food, gas, diesel, restaurant, Laundromat, RV park, camping, and a staple of the Alaska Highway….Tire Repair! Maybe it has a garage that can help us out! We stop at Coal River and go into the shop to purchase the only two liters of ATF on the shelf. No one is around, but Brian opens the door into the back of the shop and yells “Hello” and a nice fellow named Paul says “Hello” back. We purchase the two containers and inquire about a mechanic. Paul says he can do limited repairs and we explain our problem. He crawls under Gozer, and after a brief examination agrees to work on it.
Coal River is an interesting place! There is no electricity except for generator power. There are two generators, one for daily use and one for a back up or when use exceeds the normal parameters. The cooling system for these generators is nothing more than a huge radiator inside the shop with a big electric fan to move air through it. Good design in Brian’s opinion, as it keeps the shop nice and warm from cooling the generators. There are fuel pumps here but price is quite high at $1.399 per liter, but if you needed fuel you would pay the price! We’ve learned to try and keep our tank pretty full, as you never know where the next fuel stop may be.
Paul has Brian back Gozer up to the shop doors, and Mom and Margie decide to head for the Laundromat, just behind the shop. We also browse through the gift shop, which had some nice looking rolls and pastries, along with small carved wooden Milepost replicas of their milepost out on the Alcan. Lots of tee-shirts and curios and a very friendly young man who told us about the problems they’ve had with people harassing the buffalo. He said there is one with an arrow hanging out of its side a ways down the road! His name is Billy–the buffalo that is!
Brian has time for a bowl of cereal and a nice walk with the dog while our coach is being worked on. Mom and I wrap up the laundry, which is taking a little longer to dry due to the power situation. But generators are the only way to go up here where an electric line is unheard of except for in a place with a substantial human population!
Paul determines that he doesn’t have a pipe to replace our cracked one, but he is able to braze weld ours back together, add a gallon of ATF, and the leak/noise/steering problem are fixed! We are more than grateful to Paul and the Coal River Lodge for saving our vacation!
Back on the road at 10:00 am and we travel through miles and miles of forest and distant mountain views. The Cassier Mountains are beautiful, but we still think the Rockies are better in our opinion. We do see Billy the buffalo! He’s huge, but he also has an arrow sticking out the side of him, what a shame.
Today’s trip finds us in Watson Lake at the Signpost Forest! This place is a hoot! We considered leaving some evidence of our visit, but after seeing how much time and effort some people have gone through to leave their mark we decided to work on our sign and bring it back during another trip!
The Signpost Forest was begun back in 1942 by a soldier working on the Alcan as a testament to the distance from home and remoteness of the territory. It is now home to over 55,000 signs! It covers an entire city block and has room for expansion. We spent over an hour wandering around and enjoying the creativity of many folks, and seeing many familiar locales that we know from traveling and living in the United States! But the US isn’t the only place people are from, that’s for sure! This is a must see and you’ll get a huge kick out of some of the “artwork”!
We did look for a place to have lunch in town, but nothing was really jumping out at us, so we decided to keep on driving and consulting the Milepost for a possible restaurant further up the road. The place we were looking for we didn’t go far enough to get to, so we ended up eating at what was signed “Greek Food“. Mom and I each had a hamburger, and Brian went for the chicken sandwich, all served with French fries. Our waitress didn’t speak or understand English very well, so we never did get refills on water and Mom’s hamburger didn’t arrive the way she’d ordered it. Overall, the French fries were the best part of our lunch! This was our first experience with eating out on our trip and a precursor of lunches to come….every time we ate out, and no matter what we had, the bill seemed to be right at $30.00! Just another mile down the road we passed the restaurant we’d been looking for…..oh well! Now we’ll know for next time! Lots of good camping spots all along the road, many wide spots and places to get back away from the highway!
We arrived at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and stopped in at the visitor center. They had many displays of First Nations Indians history, native flowers and plants, along with an awesome full size grizzly bear standing guard near the door! Lots to see and do here, and definitely worth the time to stop and take a look since there is more to do here for free than you will have time for!
We set up camp at McKenzie’s RV park, and had a LONG, HOT shower and our first access to the Internet since we crossed the border into Canada! We are still learning about Canadian money, and it’s here that I’m introduced to the terms “Loonies” and Toonies”! Loonies are $1 Canadian coins (with a Loon pictured on the back), and Toonies are $2 Canadian coins(with a bear pictured on the back-it has two distinct metals). Internet access at the public terminals is $2.00 for first 20 minutes, and $1 for each additional 10 minutes! YIKES! But it’s great to have e-mail as we rely heavily on it in the states for communication with family, friends, and for our web site.
A good friend from Kenai has offered us the use of his car while we are there, so we won’t have to rent one. And positive response from DeLorme on the use of their maps on our RV camping web site, so got logged in for lots of good news today!
Brian and I decide to walk to the liquor store since we are getting low on alcohol and who knows where we may see it again! We doubt there is much alcoholism up here as we end up paying $78 for a 15-pack of beer, 750 ml of Kahlua, and 750 ml of wine!
There are RV camping spots available in the trees here or out on the flats and the people in the office are very friendly and helpful. The park also has cable TV and we fall asleep watching the news. The low crime rate and lack of violent acts certainly puts a different spin on things in British Columbia and we find it very refreshing. The media is reporting news that we in the US would call “good news” items, but it’s the regular way of life here…we really like it!
Road Notes: The road from Muncho Lake to Whitehorse had some construction, and we’re sure it needed it We had about 5 miles of gravel road that was soaked with water to keep down the dust. The rest of the road had potholes that were big and deep and I really had to pay attention to the road to keep from hitting them. Good thing there has been very little traffic as numerous time I was weaving quite a bit to miss the hazards. We also saw horses, buffalo and bear along the road and although there are warning signs for Caribou we’ve only seen one so far this trip.
RV Camping Journal – Day 4 – What I Like About Automatic Transmission Fluid.
RV Camping Journal – Day 6 – Kluane Lake and Beyond.