Saturday, July 3, 2010

ALASKA DAY FOUR: Cassiar Highway to Teslin, Yukon

View sample of today’s pictures:

Ah…we are entering the bug zone of the North! Mosquitos were definitely present last night, but the windy location kept the worst at bay. I have a few bites on my neck where I think they came in around my sweatshirt hood. Cozy night in tent, although both of us had to get up during the night. The wind died down and this morning the skeeters were definitely worse. Keeps you moving to get the tent folded up quickly.

I drive first today. The mountain scenery is supposed to “pick up” in about 60 miles, and the camera battery needs some time to recharge. If I’m driving I won’t be tempted to take pictures.

We pull out at 6:50 and within the first 30 miles see 3 black bear and one grizzly! Early departures reap wildlife viewings! Thankfully, in MOST places, the road still has a pretty cleared berm so it isn’t too hard to see what’s out there – makes for much easier driving!

The sun is trying to break through the clouds, and we have some big patchges of blue. The road just continues to wind up and down and all around through green forest – both spruce and alder – with mountain ranges spotted with snow all around you. Since the highway goes up the broad valley, the trees block your mountain views much of the time, but you are rewarded often enough to keep the adrenalin pumping!

We stop at Bell 2 around 8 to get some coffee and switch drivers again. A new modern lodge is located here, as the area is blossoming with heliskiing opportunities. Two of the cabins even have sod roofs. Rick thought that was pretty cool.

It is now 9:30, Boston is playing on the computer and we are cruising alone. Back later!

We hit our first section of gravel road for about 4-5 miles as we cross the Stikine River. Steep grade down and then back up. Passed some bikers struggling up the hill, trying to ride on the gravel. It didn’t look like fun! The Stikine was a major route for the development of the Al-Can and the gold rushes that took place in the area.

Just prior to Dease Lake, we pass an information pull-out marking the Pacific-Arctic Divide. Basically, the Tanzilla River we crossed just a few minutes ago, flows into the Stikine and down to Wrangell, Alaska and the Pacific. Dease Lake itself empties to the north as the Dease River flowing into Laird River near Watson Lake.

Into the town of Dease Lake around 10:45. We decide to put $30 in the gas tank as this is the last source before the Al-Can at Watson Lake. Just to be safe. It runs about $4.57 a gallon. Should be the most expensive of the trip. We pick up a package of turkey and a box of crackers and sit in the car and eat the whole package of turkey! We are out of ice, so eat up! Rick has more carrots and I eat more cherries. We are certainly dining on the high hog!

Dease Lake itself extends for about 20 miles northward from the town. Long and narrow like most glacial carved lakes.

The road hasn’t been as high in quality since the gravel stretch. The surface is older, the potholes more abundant, and the frost heaves more frequent! It will be slower driving into Watson Lake if this quality continues.

We pass Boya Provincial Park around 1pm, beginning to make the decision to just head on the additional 5 hours into Whitehorse. We didn’t have stellar camping in Watson Lake, and I don’t really want to fight skeeters for 7 hours just to kill some time. Rick has driven most of the day, so I will take a turn once we join back up with the Al-Can. Road quality has improved somewhat, but the northern sections of Hwy 37 are definitely not the same quality as the lower sections – no center line, no berm lines, and the berm hasn’t been cleared as well of brush. And far more bumps!

I forgot the highlight of our drive since Dease Lake – we saw moose. Appeared to be mother and a calf at one lake, and then shortly afterwards, another mother and calf! A great day for wildlife: 4 bears and 4 moose! And it’s only 1:30!! Back later. Almost time for me to drive.

Later…..We hit the Al-Can around 2:15 and Rick drove for about 10 miles until we found a place to pull over and switch drivers. He had been driving since 8:30 this morning! But I was free then to take pictures along the way. We didn’t stop much, so the actual travel of the Cassiar didn’t take as long as we expected.

So, we head west toward Whitehorse and then Alaska. So nice to be on good highway again, and this section of the Al-Can is outstanding: elevated, with wide berms, and smooth surface. The raised roadbed seems to make it easy to see forever! Soon after I take over driving, we begin to see the snow speckled mountains of the Cassiar range. The highway will cross it at the Continental Divide – we cross it twice today!

I have a picture in my mind of the winding highway on the right, a brown rock ridge to the left and snowy mountains beyond. Rick was busy so we didn’t get any pictures of the 130 miles into Teslin. Ah well. I took enough yesterday. Suffice to say, I had forgotten how pretty the stretch past Swift River was….or maybe it was socked in clouds in 1996, which I think was the case.

We pulled into Teslin around 5:15 and decide to stay. There is a caravan of RVer’s here which makes things exciting, but the tenting area we share with a lone biker – who has a thick accent, but I don’t know from where! The wind is blowing hard which makes setting up the tent a challenge, but at least we haven’t seen any mosquitos! We are camped on grass (the rocky pad last night was less than ideal) next to Teslin Lake. We should be able to hear the trucks roll over the long metal bridge all night long! J

Into the restaurant for a full meal – our one for the day. We’ve even from the box otherwise! I am eating slowly so I can use the computer out of the wind – plus the internet connection is better inside! A good day. Glad we have now done the Stewart-Cassiar highway. Anyone who starts it from the north would doubt their decision, so glad we did it south to north! And very glad we took the day off yesterday to visit Stewart and Hyder!

G’night. Our thanks for safe travels to date.

PS. Note to Luke – I didn’t miss all the cottonwoods. It “snowed” in many places today along the highway! We camped beneath them last night as well.

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