Alaska Trip Day 5: Teslin, Yukon Territory
Day Distance & Time: 617 Miles; 9 hours 48 Minutes
Overall Trip Distance & Time: 2,924 Miles; 45 hours 33 Minutes
“It’s like driving through a Bob Ross painting,” I told Jason via walkie-talkie as we crested the Yukon Highway 1 near the Liard River today, with “happy” pine trees in the foreground and the looming, snowy peaks in the distance. Today’s scenery has been endless and awe-inspiring. We put in a long day, at 9 hours 48 minutes, but it went by quickly because we were too busy enjoying the surroundings. Best of all? ZERO CELL SERVICE most of the day. Staying unplugged today (until now) was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.
I definitely think we timed this trip perfectly. Springtime is sprouting all over, the roads are free of snow, and yet the peak tourist season isn’t yet underway so we rarely have to deal with a slow-moving RV in our way. For miles upon miles, we had the roads to ourselves today. Every once in awhile a tractor-trailer would come barreling toward us I’d wave just to see if I could get its driver to do the same back. I was in my element.
Jason and I survived our showers in non-clear water at the Buffalo Inn in Pink Mountain, British Columbia this morning. The gal in the restaurant this morning told me I could have a banana for the road, and I wasn’t super hungry so that’s all I cared to have for breakfast. Just 35 miles into our drive, we had a black bear sighting on the left shoulder of the road. I didn’t have time to brake & snap a photo in time, but it was an eye opener and definitely not something I’m accustomed to seeing out in the wild in Arizona!
There was very strong evidence of forest fires in some areas as we made our way up Highway 97. But soon the landscape changed from pine tree forests to a very rocky canyon called Stone Mountain Provincial Park. There were signs warning us to watch for sheep in the road but we didn’t have any sightings (probably because I wasn’t paying close enough attention). We got photos at an abandoned service station in Summit and then continued on toward Muncho Lake about 40 minutes down the road. Even though the clouds had started drizzling on us, it didn’t dampen my spirits because I soon saw the lake itself in all its turquoise glory. The road winds along its edge for about 6 miles before arriving at the log cabin-styled Northern Rockies Lodge which was our next pit stop.
Once again I’ve thrown a kink into my fuel tracking because (for the first time in ownership of my ILX) I don’t know what octane I pumped there. There were only two options: Unleaded and Diesel. I had to go inside the lodge and leave a credit card on file before the attendant would activate the pump. The car took 22 or so liters of fuel and I’m sure I paid a crazy premium price for it, but I didn’t want to risk pressing on to the next stop given I was already down to about ½ tank and I like to travel on the top half whenever possible.
There were only 3 lunch menu selections inside the restaurant at the Northern Rockies Lodge, and each one cost $18. I went with the ham & cheese sandwich and it came with a side salad. The price gave me sticker shock until I read something on the menu that surprised me: Groceries are delivered to Muncho Lake twice a week, by truck, from Edmonton, Alberta (800 miles away). Now I didn’t feel too bad about the $18 sandwich. Dorothy, our server, commented as the rains started coming down more heavily, “It’s liquid sunshine out there.” I liked that.
We passed a few “AVALANCHE AREA” signs – once again something very foreign to a desert dweller like me. I have to imagine this area and its roads area extremely rugged for most of the year. We did get stuck in a few construction-related stops where we had to wait for a pilot vehicle to guide us through, and two of those construction zones were on muddy / gravel roads of about 10 miles in length. Road conditions elsewhere were surprisingly good, aside from the occasional frost heaves (most of which are clearly marked with yellow signs). I love a good roller-coaster highway anyway. Yukon Territory entry sign: 2006 & 2016.
Watson Lake, Yukon Territory’s most famous attraction is its signpost forest. People from all over the world have taken signs of any sort – mostly license plates or the like – to nail to the boards. There are thousands of them. Jason contributed a New Mexico license plate to the cause, and I pinned up a dealership plate from Acura of Tempe, Arizona – just because I thought to grab one when I got my last oil change.
Now came the moment of figuring out how far we wanted to go that night. We weren’t quite spent so I looked at the map and figured we could make it to Teslin (166 miles) in about 2.5 or 3 hours, so I called ahead to the Yukon Lodge and made a reservation for the night. It must have been the Red Bull I picked up in Watson Lake but I somehow got my “second wind” and I was listening to music at max volume, moonroof open, and chair dancing by the time we did get to Teslin. I re-created a 2006 photo near the bridge leading into town (first pic in this post) before we checked in for the night to cabin #16.
One interesting thing I’ve learned about Canada is its special credit card policy. Your card will never leave your sight. If you’re dining out, the wait staff will bring a handheld swiper to your table and print a receipt on the spot. In the States, we give away our card and send it to who-knows-where with the server until they return with a receipt. Here, there’s no chance for funny business so I think it’s a good concept.
With that, here are the rest of today’s pics!
Check that bath water!
I found this drink in BC. “Five Alive,” so it felt fitting to drink it while wearing my “Alive with Five” T-shirt!
Best thing I saw on my phone all day!
Forest fire remains along Hwy 97
The sign at left means “hold on – it’s a rollercoaster of a road coming up.” Frost heaves do a number on these highways.
Nice long, straight stretch.
Waiting for the green light in one of the dirt road / construction stretches.
Bridge crossing. The road surface is metal on these, and it has a tendency to grab your steering wheel and steer it for you.
Entering Stone Mountain
Quick pic at (abandoned) Summit Cafe there.
Pumps are long since out of order, too.
Old “rolly” numbers like an odometer!
Getting out of the cars to enjoy the air and the scenery.
Loved the peaks in the distance.
Same angle in 2006:
Gas pump at Muncho
Northern Rockies Lodge
The $18 ham & cheese
Rain coming down as we departed
Yukon entry comparison: 2006 & 2016
Watson Lake Sign Post Forest
With Jason at the entrance
Is that a butch enough expression?
Now heading out on Yukon Hwy 1 toward Whitehorse
Market in Watson Lake. One-stop shop!
I found an Acura RSX in the Yukon! Wearing snow tires.
Alrighty, time to call it a night! Tomorrow, Alaska at last.