Part 2: From SoCal to the Alaska Highway
From Southern California it is 1,910 miles to the start of the Alaska Highway in the middle of British Columbia, Canada. We took 10 days to get to Dawson Creek, BC, and here are some highlights from the past week and a half.
After setting up our RV in our home campground in Valencia, CA, and being joined by Hank’s sister Judy and her husband Allyn, we headed out this morning for our first big leg: 316 miles to Lodi, CA, straight up Interstate 5. But before we left, we enjoyed watching the baby red-shouldered hawks in the tree right above our RV. As many of you know, we love wildlife sightings of any kind, and this was a great way to start our journey.
Highlights along the way—the most water we’ve ever seen in Pyramid Lake (reservoir) and lots of full ponds to support the Central Valley agriculture.
We’ll periodically include photos we’re lovingly calling “Where’s Allyn?” after the children’s series Where’s Waldo? Can you spot Allyn at the gas station in Lodi?
Continuing up I-5 to the Lake Shasta area, we were thrilled to see a full Lake Shasta because of all our rain and snow this winter. After an early dinner at Basshole Brews with friendly waiter Tammy, we worked off those French fries with a hike on the Bailey Cove Loop Trail.
This 3-mile hike gave us continuous views of Lake Shasta, plus lots of beautiful flowers, unusual plants, and a cute lizard.
Driving through the Siskiyou Mountains of Northern California/Southern Oregon was a treat, since Mt. Shasta was clear as a bell and still covered with snow. We enjoyed a relaxing evening in our campground in the middle of Oregon.
A windy and clear day as we continued through the rest of Oregon, enjoying gorgeous views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helen’s, and even Mt. Adams as we drove through Portland.
Once we got settled into our campground in Castle Rock, Washington, we visited the Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center next to Seaquest State Park and enjoyed a refreshing one-mile walk along Silver Lake with great views of Mt. St. Helen’s.
We had planned to spend a whole day exploring Mt. St. Helen’s and the Johnston Ridge Observatory, but there was a landslide that washed out a major bridge leading to the crater, so we went to Plan B.
After our walk with mountain views, we enjoyed beer and dinner at Crosscut Taproom in Castle Rock, followed by a walk from the campground down to the Toutle River. This river was one of the main thoroughfares for the ash, rock, and mud that slid down Mt. St Helen’s during its 1980 eruption. We picked up some “sand” that almost certainly was a result of the explosion.
On this same day, our Arizona group departed and headed to Kanab, Utah, for the night.
Another windy day, but sunny and clear as we headed up I-5 almost to the border with Canada, passing 1000 miles since we left Southern California a few days ago. Since we couldn’t spend a day at Mt. St. Helen’s, instead we opted to spend this night on a farm just a couple of miles from the Canadian border. What a great find—the Oostema Farmstead, a working farm with several RV sites that have full hookups, plus sites for dry camping for Harvest Host members.
After barbecuing some steaks that came from the Oostema Farmstead, we walked through the raspberry fields to find the bald eagles’ nest. Didn’t see the nest, but we watched a bald eagle for quite some time, the first of what we hope will be many sightings on this trip. We capped off the evening with S’mores, celebrating our last night in the U.S. for a while.
Our border crossing at Lynden, WA / Aldergrove, BC was uneventful for us, but slow for Allyn and Judy. They returned to the farmstead to drop off an item they couldn’t take across the border, got to name a newborn calf that had just been delivered (“Loretta” after Loretta Lynn), and we were all on our way through southern British Columbia before noon.
We had a long, windy, and stunning drive up the Fraser River Canyon and the Thompson River Canyon (along Trans-Canada Highway Route 1) before turning on to BC Highway 97 in Cache Creek, and pulling off to camp near the town of Clinton, BC, at a roadside campground with its own lake (Willow Springs Resort).
Our RV drivers, Hank and Allyn, deserved a break after this very long day, so we headed up to 70 Mile House (yes, that’s the name of the town) for a relaxing dinner of Halibut and Chips (and beer!) at Eddy’s Bar & Grill. Meanwhile, our Arizona contingent camped in Idaho and prepared to cross the border into Alberta, Canada, the next day.
Our first day off after 6 days of RV driving! Near Clinton, BC, we visited Historic Hat Creek Ranch, a roadhouse on the historic Cariboo Wagon Road, where travelers would spend the night. The ranch had wonderful demonstrations by a blacksmith and First Nation basketweavers.
Our RV hosts, Dave and Michelle, told us about a secret place to visit, and we followed their directions to end up at Cougar Point in Edge Hills Provincial Park, where we had a sweeping view of the Fraser River Canyon and the mountains above. We also visited Chasm Provincial Park for a peek at another rugged canyon. We capped off the evening with me rowing Hank around Stick Lake!
On the road again, we first stopped at 100 Mile House (part of the historic Cariboo Wagon Road) to view the world’s largest cross-country skis and several bird species at their regional visitor center.
Our drive to Prince George, BC, took us through rolling hills, continuing to follow the Fraser River. We celebrated crossing the halfway mark to Alaska (over 1,591 miles thus far) and our arrival in Prince George with an amazing dinner at Betulla Burning followed by ice cream at Frozen Paddle (it helps to ask the locals where to go 😊).
Another rest day, so we explored Prince George and did some shopping to prepare for the next phase of our trip. The Central BC Railway and Forestry Museum has dozens of train cars, pieces of train equipment, a replica of a train station, and a few forestry pieces as well. The $8 CAD admission price ($7 for seniors) was well worth it, and we enjoyed our hour of roaming.
Next door was the Cottonwood Island Nature Park, right on the Nechako River, which included almost two dozen tree bark carvings by Elmer Gunderson, a local resident and former city employee. We would have explored more of these interesting carvings, but the mosquitoes chased us out of the park!
So we headed for a drive to the top of Connaught Hill Park, which gave us a panoramic view of Prince George and the surrounding area. Prince George has over 75,000 people and is the biggest city in this part of the province, focusing on logging, mining, oil, construction, and of course tourism. We enjoyed our stay at MamaYeh RV Park and will most likely stop here again on our way home.
Our drive today from Prince George to Dawson Creek, BC, wrapped up Phase 1 of our journey—Getting to the Alaska Highway. And what a drive it was! It was our first time (on this trip) driving in the rain, but it was a gentle rain and did not cause us problems. We were thrilled to see a female moose and her calf walk across the road right in front of our RV! And we enjoyed driving through the Hart Range of the Rocky Mountains, which reminded us a lot of the Front Range near Boulder, Colorado, though Pine Pass was only 3,068 feet high, not nearly as high as the Colorado Rockies.
Later in our drive, we entered Chetwynd, which holds its annual Chainsaw Carving Competition every year during the second weekend in June. Though we couldn’t stay to watch the actual carving taking place, we viewed last year’s winners, which are on display on the main road through town. What amazing feats these artists accomplish with a chain saw!
And for the grand finale, we made it to Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, and met up with the other half of our small caravan, Tom, Ron, and June, and their three dogs. Together we visited the Mile 0 arch and took lots of photos to celebrate making it this far and getting ready to embark on Phase 2.
And Ron, June, and Tom treated the rest of us to a wonderful dinner in honor of our first night all together.
So, tomorrow we head out on the Alaska Highway—stay tuned for the next edition of our blog, where we’ll share pictures of that journey. And if you’re still reading, we often include a few of Hank’s amazing insect and flower pictures. These are all from this first leg of the trip from Southern California to Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll continue to join us on our journey To Alaska and Back in 80 Days! Part 3 is next–Driving the Alaska Highway.