Days 7-12 Calgary to Alaska

2. cal4This was one of the more beautiful sections of my trip, particularly the Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks. This segment also included the Alaska Highway which officially begins at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and ends at Tok, Alaska.

Day 7 – Thursday, June 7 – Canmore to Jasper

Today’s ride through the Canadian Rockies was awesome. Even the photos can’t capture the grandeur and magnificence of the natural beauty.


The Icefields Parkway threads its way northward through the Parks between mountain ranges for the entire way. Imagine panoramas of snow-capped mountain peaks, waterfalls, full mountain streams, sparkling lakes, and glaciers gliding by continuously for 180 miles. Along the way I saw a black bear, mountain sheep and moose along the road. The scent of pine trees and the brisk mountain air added to the experience.


This mountain rises above the town of Banff, nestled in the valley off to the right. It looks like this huge section has been pushed up over time creating the jagged line visible on the left. I am becoming much more aware of geological events and formations on this trip, and geological time. Even though the mountains seem “rock solid” today, in many cases they are still growing and they are always, always changing.


This lake at the foot of a glacier was partially frozen, creating an almost surreal scene. It was cool here, 52 degrees Fahrenheit with a breeze blowing in.


Lake Louise is a beautiful emerald blue lake nestled in a high mountain valley fed by a melting glacier.


This is the Columbia Icefield. It was considerably larger when I was here with my family in 1958 – the sign in the lower corner shows how far the glacier reached in 1908. The little tiny black speck in the center left of the photo at the edge of the mountain is a small vehicle on tracks. We took one out on the glacier in 1958.

Day 8 – Friday, June 8 – Jasper to Dawson Creek

Today was all riding and no picture taking. I rode west out of Jasper on the Highway 16 to Prince George and north on 97 to Dawson Creek – 500 miles in all. The ride to Prince George was beautiful, much like the day before. The roads were lightly traveled and the sun was out, making for an enjoyable ride. I got to Dawson Creek around 7 pm, found a room, then rode downtown to see milepost “0”, the official start of the Alaska highway.

Day 9 – Saturday, June 9 – Dawson Creek to Ft. Nelson

Today was my first day on the Alcan Highway. It was a day for reminiscing – reliving my trip of 49 years ago with my family.


Here we are in 1958. That’s my older brother Gilbert on the left, younger brother Jerry in the middle, and me in the red shirt on the right. Mom and dad are in the rear. We put 10,000 miles on the ’57 Chevy in five weeks that summer, camping every night. Lunch was always Chef Boy-Ar-Dee spaghetti warmed in the can on top of the engine for an hour before we stopped to eat. As far as I can remember I’ve not had a can of that stuff since!

Wally 1958 1

Milepost “0” in 1958, the official start of the Alaska Highway, known then as the Alcan (Alaska-Canada). The sign said it was 1523 miles to Fairbanks.


Today milepost “0” and downtown Dawson Creek looked remarkably similar. There is a new milepost “0” in a park over where the new highway begins, but I didn’t have any interest in going over to see it.


Just north of Dawson Creek is a section of the original Alcan Highway much the way it was when we drove it in 1958. The road was all gravel then,  and I remember huge clouds of dust stirred up by the semis that barreled down the highway throwing up rocks. Our windshield was cracked from top to bottom in 5 places by flying stones when we got back down to Dawson Creek.


This is the last remaining wooden decked bridge of the original highway, now preserved in Kiskatinaw Provincial Park. It was a bit surreal riding across this bridge today realizing that 49 years ago we drove across this very bridge in on our way north. Much of the original Alcan has been rebuilt and straightened.


When we drove up in 1958 the new suspension bridge across the Peace River built the previous year had collapsed, dropping an entire section into the river. I remember that sight very well, but unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it. We had to take a ferry across back then. Here is the new bridge.


The ride today on the modern Alaska Highway was beautiful. The road was all paved and in very good condition with wide cleared areas on either side. That is good – today on four different occasions deer ran across the highway in front of me, and the wide setback helped me see them. Northern BC is a beautiful place – the photo captures it nicely.

Day 10 – Sunday, June 10 – Ft. Nelson to Watson Lake


The ride north out of Fort Nelson was beautiful. Here we are going north through the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.


I crossed the Yukon border in the afternoon – that’s me on the left at the border in 1958. Today’s sign (right) is a little classier. Not sure about the boy, however…

Day 11 – Monday, June 11 – Watson Lake to Whitehorse


Watson Lake, where I stayed last night, is home of the famous Signpost Forest. This unique roadside ritual began in the 1940’s when travelers would nail up a sign, often a license plate, as a marker of their travels up the Alcan. Today there are more than 40,000 signs.


When we drove up in 1958 dad nailed up a license plate sign that had a big ear of Iowa corn on it. I couldn’t find our sign among the thousands there today, and in truth it would probably be completely rusted and unintelligible today. The license plate in the upper right corner of this photo is from 1957, so I know some of the old ones are still there. It was fun looking anyway…


I feel certain we stayed at this campground near the Rancheria River in 1958. It was memorable then because it was on the fringe of a large forest fire and I can remember seeing the glowing embers at the edge of the campground. Erik Molvar’s “Scenic Driving Alaska and the Yukon” helped me find this.


The mighty Yukon River originates just north of Skagway, and was used by prospectors during the Gold Rush era of the late 1900’s as a route up to Dawson Creek where they would stake their claims. Before getting to the river they had to make an unbelievably arduous trip across the mountains – more on that later when I visit Skagway on the way home.


This portion of the Alcan Highway skirted the northern end of the Cassiar Mountains. I’ll be crossing these mountains and riding down the western side on my way back home when I take the Cassiar Highway. Today was mostly gray, cloudy skies with occasional light rain, and occasional sunshine. As with most days in northern Canada in the summer the temps range from the low 50’s into the upper 60’s.

Day 12 – Tuesday, June 12 – Whitehorse to Tok


Today was mostly riding, again, and little photo taking. The mountain views were incredible, mile after mile. The road was good most of the way, but there were several sections under construction – one that was particularly muddy. I almost dropped the bike. The frost heaves each season make it difficult to keep the road in good shape. Sections of the highway are built over permafrost.