Day 43: We awoke excited to be in Skagway, and ready to explore more of the surrounding areas! We thought a good way to live like a local would be to travel like a local – by ferry! Many cities on the west side of Alaska are faster to reach by water, so ferry transportation has become a common method of traveling. The waterway is actually called the Alaska Marine Highway and covers 3,500 miles, with routes that go as far south as Bellingham, Washington and as far west as Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. There are 32 terminals throughout Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. It’s even a part of the National Highway System and receives federal highway funding. We chose to do a one day excursion to Haines so we could get out on the water and see another Alaskan city!
Since our boat didn’t depart until 2pm, we first went to the Klondike Visitor Center in Skagway so the kids could pick up some junior ranger booklets. We watched a movie on the Klondike Gold Rush and learned all about the treacherous conditions that people endured in the late 1800’s in hopes of striking it rich in this wild land called Alaska! The movie put Charlotte right to sleep! Guess all this traveling has been wearing her out.
Then we headed down to the harbor to wait for our ferry.
The trip was a 45 minute narrated tour, through a channel between mountains with waterfalls and eagles.
And then Haines came into view, with white colonial style homes on green hills, and snow-capped mountain ranges as a backdrop.
We decided to walk along the waterfront and then up the main street in search of a good place for lunch.
Although we didn’t go inside, Haines is home to the world’s first hammer museum. It features over 1,400 hammers and related tools, ranging from ancient times through the colonial days to the industrial era.
With it being a Sunday and no cruise ships docked in town, we were lucky to find a place that was open for lunch. We walked to the Chilkat Restaurant and Bakery, and when we arrived the signage showed that they were closed for the transition between lunch and dinner (it was about 3pm). We were about to walk away when a nice lady unlocked the door for us and ushered us in. I’m not sure if they were actually open or they just felt sorry for us huddled on the patio in the cold and decided to let us in and feed us, but we were grateful! The kids ordered hot coco to warm up and then we had some delicious Thai food!
We grabbed some desserts from the bakery to eat while we went shopping. There were a few gift shops selling Alaskan made goods and art that were still open on this quiet Sunday, as well as a store selling sporting goods where we were able to pick up some hiking boots and new gloves for the kids.
Just a 10-minute walk from downtown along the waterfront is Fort William H. Seward. This fort was built by the U.S. Army starting in 1902, then purchased by Army veterans in 1947. Today many of the buildings have been converted into cultural centers and bed and breakfasts.
And then it was time to reboard our ferry for the return trip back to Skagway. Chilled from our freezing walk through Haines, we enjoyed the complimentary hot coco and coffee! It has definitely been one of the coldest days we have had so far!
Back in Skagway, we were greeted with the Skagway Fish Company, right on the harbor and decided to have dinner here tonight.
Alaskan King crab legs with rice and grilled veggies that Charlotte kept trying to steal from us!
We walked the quiet, deserted streets of Skagway and took our chalkboard photo before turning in for the night.
Day 44: We were back downtown first thing this morning so the kids could turn their ranger booklets into the visitor center. Today was the complete opposite of yesterday as a cruise ship was docked and the town was filled with people. The kids had an audience while they were sworn in.
We had lunch at Northern Lights Pizzeria, where, strangely enough, we ordered Mexican food. When you are from Arizona, you know good Mexican food, so perhaps ordering it in Alaska wasn’t the best move. It wasn’t bad, just not what we were craving.
We did some more shopping, and took in the busy street scene all around us before deciding it was time to move on. We hit the road, on the only road out of Skagway, the 2 north, out of the United States and into British Columbia. Back through the alien landscape with another impending storm upon us.
And then out of British Columbia and back to the Yukon, toward Whitehorse. When we got to the intersection at the Yukon Highway 1, we turned east and retraced our steps from weeks ago in the direction of Watson Lake, where the sign post forest was. The highway jogs back and forth between the Yukon Territory and British Columbia a few times.
Our oldest daughter Aubrey had been begging me to let her cook a full dinner for us, so we pulled over when evening hit and I taught her my recipe for homemade chicken noodle soup. Warm comfort food was just what we needed with all of this cold July weather!
After dinner, Charlotte passed out in her carseat so we just kept driving. At about midnight, it was getting dark so we stopped in a large dirt pull off in an area called Nugget City, just before our turnoff south. Tomorrow would be new scenery as we take a different route back toward the lower 48.
Day 45: After a fuel up at the J37 junction, we were headed back south! We decided to take the Cassiar Highway home. I wasn’t completely sure until about a month before we left on our trip if this was an acceptable motorhome route. It’s the smaller of the two main highways to Alaska, with the Alcan being the more widely traveled route, and I was worried that there would be low clearance bridges or that the roads would be too winding. After seeing that The Wynns took this route back down through Canada, we decided we would give it a try so we wouldn’t have to retrace the route that we came in on. The highway is more narrow, and at first we were questioning this decision.
It was curvy and slow for the first hour. Then things evened out a bit and we decided to stop and take in some of the recommended sights along the way. When we saw the signs for Boya Lake, we knew we needed some play time!
There was a park with a fun “bowl swing” that the kids all fit on together and the lake was a beautiful, clear aqua!
There were toys in the sand for the kids to play with and canoes on the shore for public use that you could take out on the lake! All the more reason to love British Columbia!
There was no cell signal the majority of the day and little to no services along this route. We were shocked to see it start to get dark around 10:30pm. It changes so quickly!
We fueled up at the turnoff that would take us either to Hyder and Stewart, or continue further south toward Prince George. We decided against the last Alaska town because we wanted to have some extra time in Vancouver. We had a timeline we were now working with. We had family photos scheduled in Oregon in just over a week so we wanted to make sure we were planning our days efficiently so we would have time to see what we wanted to see before we had to be in Canon Beach.
We drove in the dark until about midnight, simply because we had a hard time finding a large enough pull off to safely sleep for the night. We ended up at an oversized rest area that had an 8 hour parking limit.
Day 46: More driving today as we drove the Cassiar Highway all the way until it’s end where it T’s into the 16. We took the 16 east to the “northern hub of British Columbia,” Prince George. What we didn’t know coming in was that there were a total of 200 fires active across British Columbia with 4,000 evacuees registered in Prince George. The university was housing people and the RV parks were even filled up. We managed to find the last space available at a park just outside the city center, but it was a sad situation to witness so many people just sitting and waiting as they were unexpectedly forced from their homes. The smell of the fires were heavy in the air.
We needed to get out of the RV for a bit, so we headed out to dinner at the Crossroads Brewing Company.
Wood fired pizzas and beer samplers were the perfect end to a long stretch of driving!
We managed to sneak in a quick chalkboard photo before it got dark and then we turned in to rest up for another day of driving tomorrow!
Day 47: Today was going to be a simple drive toward Vancouver, but as we started on our way we were quickly alerted by emergency roadside signage that the fires were so bad that they had to completely close the route we were taking – Highway 97. We found a pull off large enough to allow us to turn around and returned to Prince George to take a different, longer, route down. There was a declaration of a provincial state of emergency by the Government of British Columbia, as they stated that “no other fire season has had the breadth of large fires across the province as this one.” It was a very sad thing to witness.
Our day took us through Valemount and Kamloops as we traveled down the 5 south. We found a pretty place for lunch, away from the smoke, and learned a little about inland temperate rainforests.
I didn’t take out my camera much, saddened to see so much damage occurring to such beautiful forests. We found a quiet place to stop for the night and hoped the situation would improve. We spent some family time in the RV, building with LEGOs.
Day 48: The sky seemed to be more clear today as we hit the road. We made it to Vancouver mid afternoon after fighting a reasonable amount of city traffic. We have been to Vancouver once before in our RV and decided to stay in the same park, the Burnaby Caribou RV park. We committed to three days here because there is so much to see and do in this beautiful city! We also had a big milestone to celebrate as our baby girl would be celebrating her 1st birthday while we were here!
I’ve decided to cut this week 7 short and make my next update fully about Vancouver because there is so much to cover! Happy Veteran’s Day and a happy weekend, friends!!
Week 7 map: