From Grande Prairie, I made my way to Dawson Creek and “Mile 0” of the Alaska Highway. Crossed the Peace River (again) at Fort St. John, BC and continued towards Fort Nelson for gas. After filling up, the Alaska Highway began in earnest as you enter the Rocky Mountains. The drive is absolutely spectacular! Imagine a Texas FM or RR twisting its way along rivers and through mountains. Amazing! I have no idea what is in front of me, but the drive today was worth the trip by itself.
Lots of wildlife today. Finally saw my first moose (although it was road kill); several more mule deer; a black bear; a whole herd of Stone sheep (on the descent from Stone Mountain no-less); and a bull moose. I’m glad I was following a road sweeper (semi-truck) at the time. I don’t want to find out what kind of damage a moose can do to a car.
I’m staying at a hotel/lodge/cabin/campsite run by a Swiss family in/on Muncho Lake (and yes, the saw my name and wanted to know my family details). This is one of those “picture” lakes and I’ll post pictures tomorrow as I have limited bandwidth tonight. Also, there’s no cell service (and hasn’t been for the last 150 miles). Hopefully, it’ll pick up again at some point tomorrow (at a minimum in Whitehorse tomorrow night) and I’ll be able to make some calls and text again. Kinda weird and nice, at the same time, being without the ability to communicate at will.
Like I said, I have numerous pictures and a few video clips of the drive I’ll put up when I can. So, check back then.
As an aside, anyone making this trip should strongly consider NOT staying in Grande Prairie. The town is pretty much a oil & gas hub that has tripled in size in the last 5 years. Pretty grungy and dingy. Drive on to Dawson Creek which is only another 1.5 hours up the road.
Also, it is light at 5:00am and doesn’t get completely dark until after 11:00pm. So, lots of daylight to drive and drive and drive. You almost need to force yourself to stop after 10 hours (which I am trying to do).
Total Miles: 2,545 (includes driving around Calgary yesterday)
OK, did a really crappy job of taking pictures today, but, here are a couple. The first is a barn/house/? just outside of Red Deer, AB. The second is one of many beautiful railroad trestle bridges across Canada. This one is made entirely of wood!
As for the drive, Calgary is in the middle of plains and farming country. As you get into Edmonton, you start to get into what is technically a boreal forest environment. Not mountainous, just lots and lots of trees and massive rivers. I crossed the Red Deer river at Red Deer; the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton; the Athabasca River (which was huge and originates from the Rockies and feeds the Great Slave Lake) at Whitecourt; and, finally the Peace River just before getting into Grande Prairie. I really wish I could have gotten pictures but there was a lot of large truck traffic and it simply wasn’t safe to pull over.
From Edmonton, I drove Alberta Highway 43 which is also called “Moose Row” for the apparently large number of moose that are seen/killed along the highway every year. Almost the entire stretch is poplar/spruce forest with marshes and bogs everywhere. Unfortunately (maybe fortunately), no moose were to be seen today. The only wildlife I saw was a mule deer doe and numerous ravens and magpies.
Grande Prairie is to the west of the Peace River Valley and is farming/ranching country again. Surprisingly, I saw a herd of cross-bred cattle with horns. Not the Shorthorn breed, but plain old cross-bred cattle of all colors. This is unusual because almost every rancher here has a favorite breed/color and that is all they have. Grande Prairie is also a booming oil town and the smell of sulphur oil is pervasive. Population is about 70,000 due to the oil activity.
Weather is same as Calgary – lows in the lower 50’s and highs in the lower 80’s.
Tomorrow, I’m on to Dawson Creek and the start of the official Alaska Highway and I’ll be spending the night in Muncho Lake, British Columbia (BC) at mile 462 of the Alaska Highway.
Started the day by sleeping in (kinda). I’m a sun-up/sun-down type person and, well, the sun rises around 5:30am and sets around 10:00pm. As for the weather, its a little warm for this time of year, but, that means lows around 50 and highs in the high 70’s/low 80’s. There’s a cool down expected this weekend but I should be in Alaska by then.
Anyway, started the day at the local Cabela’s. Stores are more like what used to be Gander Mountain but with Cabela’s gear. The really cool thing is that the prices are about the same but with the exchange rate I basically got a 30% discount. They are just transitioning to their “summer” gear so they had there spring gear on sale. Needless to say, “spring” is more like our winter, so, I got a couple of nice “winter” shirts. I still can’t get over the friendliness of the people here. One of the staff asked me if I needed help and we ended up talking for an hour about differences between Cabela’s (US) and Cabela’s (Canada) and a lot of other stuff. I also stopped by the gun library and was amazed at the amount of information and helpfulness the lady was able to provide. A totally different experience than you would have in Buda.
I then drove south to Fort Calgary and spent some time in the museum and walking on the trail along the Bow and Elbow Rivers (the fort is built on the confluence). Overall, I am really impressed by the city and its people. So much different than at home.
Here is the confluence of the Bow (muddy water) and the Elbow (blue
Here is a picture of downtown Calgary
Here is a picture of General McCleod (basically the person who founded Calgary) and a chipmunk outside the museum.
Started the day in Great Falls, MT and made the last 118 miles in the continental US to the border crossing at Sweet Grass, MT/Coutts, AB (Alberta, Canada). The picture below doesn’t do a lot of justice to the area, but basically its all wheat fields as far as you can see.
Next was the border crossing. Not sure if I was supposed to take a picture, but here it is. After a 20 minute wait (the yellow car in front of me didn’t have a license plate and only temporary tags), the border guard asked a few simple questions, reviewed all my documents, handed them back, wished me a good trip, and, off I went.
Next was the province of Alberta, Canada and my first practical exposure to the metric system. Luckily, math is my friend and I know enough to do some simple conversions from metric to US imperial. Speed limits are 110kmh (about 66mph) on the open roads but all of the distances are in kilometers. Fortunately, my GPS stays in miles.
Here are a couple of pictures along the road from the border to Lethbridge, AB – The first major town on the way to Calgary.
Someone had a little fun with the barn windows!
Arrived Calgary without too much trouble and will be here two nights. I was able to find a Toyota dealer with an express lube service and had my truck serviced. Hard to believe that I’ve travelled a little over 2,000 miles and I’m not even halfway there!
This is a picture from the hotel in Sheridan, Wyoming. Pretty little town at the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains.
Didn’t get a picture of the Montana border sign. I was on I-25/90 and didn’t see the exit.
There is so much history along the interstate and one day I’ll come back to see stuff like Custer’s Battleground and Memorial; the Crow Nation Museum; and some other things I can’t remember right now. Stopped for gas in Hardin, MT and ran into a guy from San Antonio headed to Kalispell, MT for the summer. He even knew the general area when I told him where I was from!
In Billings, I decided to leave the interstate and follow US87 north. Again, some great, great scenery and a reminder how much open country exists in the wester U.S.A. Drove through the Bull Mountains and Roundup, MT which, at around 2,000 people, is a pretty big town. Turned west at Grass Range, MT (about 100 people from what I could see) and followed the Lewis & Clark trail through Lewistown, MT and on into Great Falls, MT.
Great Falls is on the Missouri River and is running full due to the snow melt. In fact, I had 92F on the thermometer in my truck and just missed a large, severe thunderstorm that passed just to the east of Great Falls.
Today I saw some new parts of the country. Instead of traveling I-25 the entire way, I took US-287 from Dacono (just west of Fort Lupton) to Laramie, Wyoming and then continued from Laramie on US-287 to Medicine Bow, Wyoming. In Medicine Bow, I turned onto Wyoming State Highway 487 for approximately 80 miles until it
deadends into Wyoming State Highway 220. WSH220 brought me to Casper.
If your interested in big country,
this is a trip for you. US287 from Fort Collins, CO to Laramie, WY hits the “Flat Irons” part of Colorado and, not the Rockies, but to me, just as scenic. The trip to Casper from Laramie traverses very wide open spaces and I was amazed at the grass and the semi-mountainous terrain.
Lots of cattle and very few people, but, every once in a while, you could see a ranch
bunkhouse or central house in the distance. The problem is that, “in the distance” is often 5 to 10 miles away!
Casper is about halfway and where I had no choice but to take I-25 north. Surprisingly, there was VERY little traffic until I got to Buffalo, WY and I-90/25. 40 more miles and I was in Sheridan.
Sheridan is at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains and I managed to find a road that dead-ended into a atv/bike trail. Turned around and then drove through the little town of Big Horn. Had a great meal at the Wyoming Rib & Chop House in downtown and then avoided all the folks in town for the annual horse sale.
Shorter drive today and nothing all that exciting. About the most exciting thing today was trying to find dry ice. Tried three place in Dumas and finally found some in Lamar, CO. All the meat was still frozen solid when I arrived.
The prairie grasslands in southeastern Colorado were in full wildflower bloom but the two large trucks swapping places in front of me made taking a picture not all that important.
Slight change in plans as I am now going to drive to Sheridan, Wyoming tomorrow to make Sunday and Monday easier drives.
About 9 hours today from Fedor, TX to Dumas, TX. I tried to take some video/pictures, but, apparently I should have read the instructions. That, and I’ve done the drive enough times that nothing really stands out anymore.
For those wanting a kinda neat day-trip, TX Highway 36 is a nice drive. I found out there is a Leon River west of Temple (and intersects Hwy 36 numerous times) that forms Lake Belton. Like all limestone bottomed, hill country lakes, its really pretty from the road.
Off to Denver tomorrow for a couple of nights and a rest day.
So, here I am, traveling to Alaska by way of Canada and back home.
Because many of you wanted to follow my journey, I will use this as a way to capture some of the day-to-day events and sights along the way. I will also, if I can figure it out, post short videos of some of the more scenic portions or neat stuff along the road.
No plans, except fishing in Homer (Alaska) and maybe a trip to Deadhorse (look it up). As someone put it, kind of a “walk about” trip.
Alright, if your viewing this you likely are here to see where I’m at or what I’ve done on my trip to Alaska in 2017. Well…I haven’t left yet!
Planning to leave on June 1 and return no later than July 4, I will do my best to update at least every couple of days, but I can’t make any promises. If you know me, I’m not the best at detailing what I’m doing while I’m doing it, so be patient.
I will do my best to post messages, pictures, and short videos (if I can figure out how), but again, no promises.