Day 15: While route planning the night before, we realized we were only a few hours from crossing into the Northwest Territories of Canada. This was a place we had not considered visiting before. We heard that the wildlife was rampant and that the drive alone was an experience! So we chose to “go on a bear hunt” and added it into the day! We continued on the 97 north as planned for about 18 miles, but instead of continuing straight as originally planned, we turned right onto the 77, the Liard Highway, and headed up north to the great unknown!
We only passed about six cars on the entire 80 miles north into the Northwest Territories. And they were right about the wildlife! I think we saw about 20 bears today! They just walked down the middle of the roadways and would dart away when they heard us approaching.
Well, most of them would. The mama bears would sometimes stand guard and watch us to make sure we wouldn’t pursue their cubs as they ran back into the treeline.
And bears weren’t the only animals we saw as we drove. It was quite entertaining! Like a drive through wildlife park without the admission fee!
And then we crossed over from British Columbia and the 77 turned into the 7. There were no services, only a sign with a bunch of bullet holes in it. We were in native Eskimo land.
The first town was Fort Liard, about 25 miles up ahead, but the road pavement ended about 5 miles in, so at that point we turned around. We read that the town was set up as an oil rig worker base camp, and there was just one small cafe there, so not much to see. We were just happy to say our RV had traveled to wild, unknown land!
I cooked up some chicken and pesto quesadillas for lunch on the stove as we watched for wildlife out the windows. It was just one of those funny moments where you appreciate having a traveling stove with you! To be able to have a hot, homemade lunch while you are so far from civilization is just another reason why we love RV travel so much.
We traveled back the 90 miles to the 97 after lunch, enjoying seeing more animals than vehicles with people. And then we were back on the Alaska Highway!
We continued through the day, enjoying temperatures in the 50s and even more rain. The only traffic we encountered were other RVs and trucks towing trailers. We had planned on just driving into the night when we saw signs for homemade cinnamon rolls. That was all it took for us to pull off into the Testa River Lodge!
Since it was 6:30 already and they had RV hookups we decided to stay for the night. We parked and walked the grounds for a bit to stretch our legs.
They are the only place to stay for miles on this route, and completely self contained with a large generator to power the place and their own tiny gas station.
And the cinnamon rolls we had for dinner? So good!
We fell asleep to the sound of huge raindrops steadily falling on the roof of the RV. One of my favorite sounds!
Day 16: It was back on the road this morning! I feel like I am repeating myself daily, but it was another beautiful drive today! Through valleys and streams, with elk, buffalo, and mountain goats out our windows.
We stopped for diesel (WAY expensive because it’s one of the only gas stations for miles!) and lunch at the Northern Rockies Lodge on Muncho Lake. They have a seaplane and do scenic tours of the surrounding mountains from this location.
Lunch was an experience of being out in the middle of nowhere! There were only two items on the menu…a burger and some kind of pork sandwich. Upon ordering the burger, we were informed that they just ran out of buns and their food truck doesn’t come in for a few days, so our burgers would be served with white sandwich bread. Not the best, but we couldn’t blame them. When you are way out here with no grocery stores to run to, what are you gonna do?
After lunch it was just a short drive to our next destination- the Liard Hot Springs. For $10 per family, you could soak all day in the natural hot springs. It is a 10 minute walk on a platform over beautiful marshlands to the springs.
Unlike the Banff Hot Springs, which is more like a public swimming pool, the Liard Hot Springs are very natural. They have a structure with changing rooms and steps down into the water, but all around you are rocks and natural shrubbery. It just looks as if you stumbled upon this warm water wonder while trekking through the forest.
The water felt amazing! Charlotte was hesitant at first, but we eased her in, inch by inch, until she got used to it and then she was ALL smiles and loving it.
After an hour of swimming, we had a leisurely walk back along the platform to the RV. A moose wandered along the marsh, oblivious to all of the people walking by.
We took turns showering while parked in the parking lot to get all of the sulfur off, and then got back on the road.
The road crossed back and forth between British Columbia and the Yukon a few times.
And then we hit the big entrance to the Yukon!
We made it a bit further, to Watson Lake, for the evening. We pulled into the Downtown RV Park. There weren’t a lot of options, but I don’t recommend staying here unless you need the hook ups. It is an overpriced glorified dirt lot with the RVs all parked very close together.
Day 17: The main attraction of Watson Lake is the sign post forest. It was started in the 1940s by a soldier working on the original Alaska Highway who was homesick. He nailed up his hometown sign, and soon all the other workers started adding their hometown signs. Through the years, it has grown and become quite the attraction! Today there are more than 75,000 signs. It was declared a Yukon Historical Site in 2013.
Before our trip, we knew the sign post forest was going to be a major fun stop on the road north. So I had a custom “Cosman Six” sign made that we could proudly hang as a family, and hopefully come back some day and revisit many years from now.
We had a great time just walking up and down the aisles of signs, pointing out ones from our hometown, and reading memorials and declarations of love that people had posted for all of us to read.
After our morning strolling through the sign post forest, we were back on the road, Whitehorse bound! Our first day stop on the way was the Rancheria Falls Recreation site. We had soup and sandwiches for lunch in the parking lot (yes, fortunately the lot to this popular hiking path is big enough for RVs and trailers), and then we put on our heavy winter jackets for a little hike to the falls. It’s a 10 to 15 minute walk on easy paths and platforms to see the two waterfalls.
It was a great break in an otherwise long driving day! It was another 2 1/2 hours up to Whitehorse after our hike. We checked in to the Pioneer RV Park and Campground for a few nights. It’s a decent enough place, with very affordable gas and propane prices and two areas for camping – the full hook up parking lot style for overnighters, as well as the option for more campground style accommodations in the trees. They also have an RV wash station, which was very nice because the road grime on the Alcan sure builds up!
We drove around a bit to get acquainted with Whitehorse and then grilled dinner back at the RV while watching yet another rainstorm blow through. Tomorrow is housekeeping day!
Day 18: We spent the whole day stationed in Whitehorse. It was one of the less glamorous travel days. Adam cleaned the outside of the RV and truck while I cleaned the inside. I did loads of laundry with our washer/dryer combo unit that we had installed in the back closet before we left on the trip. We ran out for a bit to take care of errands. I think one of my husband’s favorite parts of coming to Canada is simply walking through Canadian Tire.
We also did some grocery shopping at the Real Canadian Superstore. We love pointing out all of the country specific items that would can’t find in the US. They love maple!
We hunted everywhere for this artsy metal horse that I had seen in a magazine somewhere along the way, and knew I wanted to use it for our chalkboard photo backdrop. It’s constructed using donated metal scraps from the residents of the Yukon and stands proudly at the fire station located at the top of the hill overlooking the city.
We enjoyed another rainy evening at the RV, with a home cooked dinner and a family movie night (“Lego Batman”).
Day 19: We left Whitehorse this morning, another rainy day upon us. Our goal today was to make it to the border and cross into Alaska! Of all of our driving days on this trip so far, today was by far the most challenging! The road conditions were terrible 60% of our drive. I think we were still early in the season and the road repairs from all the snow damage take quite awhile. There were huge portions of the road missing, where we were driving on dirt and gravel that kicked rocks up everywhere. We were frequently stopped while construction workers directed traffic one way at a time through the open road, following a lead car. It got so bumpy at times that it actually vibrated our washing machine straight out of our closet! Fortunately, when the slide closes in the back bedroom, the bed butts right up to it, so it didn’t hit the ground!
All of the crazy vibrations also did something to the wiring in our dash and knocked out our fuel gauge. Fortunately, we have everything under warranty and knew it would be fixed when we returned home at the end of the trip, but for the remainder of our road life this summer, we would be doing the math and making sure we were keeping track of how much fuel we were using so we didn’t run out. That was fun. But even with all of the road drama, you can’t deny the beauty of this drive. Mountains for days.
The storm even cleared for us and we got some rare and glorious blue skies!
And roadside entertainment in the form of a couple of cute bears who were completely unfazed by all of the traffic passing by!
We made it to Beaver Creek at the Canadian side of the international border and fueled up. From this point forward, we made sure to top off the tank every 500 miles to be safe.
We were all wiped out from the rough conditions through the day, but as we reached the place we had been working so hard to get to, our moods immediately lifted! We jumped out for photos as we reached the entrance to the United States – Alaska!
We gained an hour crossing time zones into Alaska, which was good for us since we are so thrown off with all the daylight! Having the sun up tricks your brain into thinking it’s not sleepy. So we continued driving, through Tok, to the Moon Lake Recreation Site. We found a beautiful lakeside spot and made dinner. Adam captured some beautiful photos with the drone while teaching Nicholas how to fly it. This is our RV in the center with the white roof.
We ate as we watched the sky start to turn shades of pink – and we realized it was 11:30pm! Our poor kids! It was nearly 1am by the time we went to sleep and there was still a dusky light in the sky. Thank goodness for black out shades!
Day 20: Late nights mean late mornings as we continue to get more thrown off! It was 11am before we were ready to hit the road again today. We traveled west until we reached Delta Junction. This marks the official “end” of the Alaska Highway.
We stopped for lunch at the Buffalo Drive In, an outdoor burger joint where you order at a window and then eat out on the grassy lawn. It was actually 70 degrees and sunny for the first time and we soaked up every ounce of it!
Then we continued on to the North Pole!
We were unsure of what to expect from North Pole, Alaska. Turns out, it’s really just a tourist trap and not as cool as I was hoping it would be. We went to “Santa Claus’ house” and it’s just a big gift shop with a full time Santa there. Avery was scared of him, and Nicholas and Aubrey rolled their eyes, so I guess it would be a fun trip if you have a little one who adores Santa! We did find our travel Christmas ornament here. Our Christmas tree is full of special travel ornaments from all the big destinations we have visited throughout the years. Across the street from the Santa Claus House is the reindeer farm. They had a tour in visiting with them already, but we were able to see them through the gates. I think Avery and Charlotte liked the reindeer much more than Santa.
We left North Pole and everyone settled into their favorite road trip positions. Charlotte was wiped out from the North Pole excitement and fell right to sleep. Avery sat in her bunk and quietly played with her stuffed animals. Katie was happily nestled in her bed up front by our feet (and Riley was tucked back in her favorite hiding spot behind the jumbo box of diapers under the booth). Nicholas was racing cars in Grand Turismo, and our bookworm Aubrey was working hard on her goal to read the entire Harry Potter series during our trip. (She actually achieved this goal – twice!)
It was a short distance to Fairbanks, our destination for the weekend. We stayed at the Riverview RV Park and spent a quiet evening “at home” with tacos and some rest time.
Day 21: Today was a slow day in Fairbanks. Adam took some time catching up with work, while the kids and I did laundry, dishes and all of that fun stuff. By dinner we were itching to get out and explore Fairbanks! The downtown area was being set up for the Midnight Sun Festival the following evening. It’s a large annual block party to celebrate summer solstice, with live music, food trucks, and family activities. We took our chalkboard photos while we were downtown by the Polaris sculpture.
Then we looked for a place to have dinner and we couldn’t have picked a better place than the Shogun Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse. Our server and teppanyaki chef were amazing and so entertaining! They do a “sake mouth catch” (so fun!) and the whole place becomes a party when they celebrate a birthday in the restaurant.
Upon finding out that we were only visiting Alaska, our server asked who had a birthday coming up in our family, and then they surprised us with celebratory music and all the bells and whistles to celebrate Aubrey’s birthday, exactly 2 months early. The lights in the restaurant all went out, a server came out playing a drum, and then our waiter showed up with a birthday sundae and Aubrey got to wear the big birthday head and struggle to blow out her candle with it on! It was very entertaining!
The food was incredible and it was easily one of the best restaurant experiences of our entire trip! Three weeks in, and we weren’t even the slightest bit homesick. Meeting new people, the ever-changing landscape out our windows, and new experiences every day… But most importantly, this uninterrupted time together is something that I don’t take for granted. These are memories that we will treasure throughout our lives and I wouldn’t change a moment of it!
For reference, here is the map of our travels for week 3!