As plans for us usually go, we quickly scrapped our idea of touring through Canada on our way to Alaska. We wanted to get to Alaska pronto! So after leaving Glacier National Park behind us, we headed north and started our journey across 2,000 miles of Canada and the Alaska Highway to get to Alaska. The next several days were quite the interesting experience!
Border Patrol and Customs
As soon as we got to the US/Canada border, of course we had to pass through customs. We stopped and they asked us to pull over and come inside for additional screening. Fair enough, we obliged! The additional screening was just some questions, mostly about where we live, where we are heading, and why we are heading there. The agent that questioned us perhaps took her job and herself a little too seriously, but it is what it is! She had a hard time believing that everything we own is in that RV, no storage unit (aside from 2 boxes with our parents), no “home base,” just us, our dogs, and our RV!
After the questioning, they kept our passports and asked us to sit in the waiting room for a few minutes. After about 5 or 10 minutes, they called us back up, gave us our passports and sent us on our way. Easy enough, but I’ll admit that my heart was pounding a bit! I always feel like I did something wrong or said something wrong when they are super stern like that! But, we went on our way no problem.
Wait, We Went Through Alberta?
After crossing the border and staying the night at a truck stop (I know, glamorous) near Calgary, we awoke early the next morning and drove as far as we could. We didn’t have much of a plan for how long we would drive (because you know how our plans usually go), so we just drove. Typically we will drive about 200 miles in a day before settling down for the night, but we were on a mission! With the sun not setting until about 11pm, it was easy to stay awake and drive longer. We ended up driving about 450 miles that day and stayed outside of Grande Prairie for the night. The next day we got up and drove to Dawson Creek, which isn’t far (about 80 miles), where we ran some errands and stocked back up on groceries. They say not to buy groceries before crossing the border because you never know what is not going to be allowed to come into the country, so we were about out of food! And just like that, we were through Alberta in just a day and a half! Whew!
Honestly, I don’t remember much of Alberta. We were on the highway the majority of the time, and it was relatively flat through where we were. I am sure we will go back eventually to Alberta to visit the area more, but it wasn’t in our cards this trip.
Beautiful British Columbia
If there is one place through this drive than I can say we will be back for, it’s BC. We just barely passed through the northeastern tip of the province, but that was enough of a taste to pique our interest! The trees started getting thicker, the rivers turned ice blue, and the landscape began to roll gently before bounding into the Northern Rocky Mountains.
By this point, we were officially on the Alaska Highway! The highway juts up into Yukon Territory ever so slightly before snaking back down into BC. It does this a few times before finally committing northward into Yukon Territory. The drive through British Columbia is beautiful; something I highly recommend!
Into the Great Unknown
Towns and communities are few and far between once you get this far north in Canada, so planning is essential for this route. It’s also very difficult to find cell signal, which was expected but very inconvenient as we were trying to sell a house right at that point (great planning, I know…). We were surprisingly able to get signal a few times and when we needed it, we were also able to stop in at an RV park and get some wifi for the night. That got us through where we needed to be at least (props to our Realtor for hanging in there with us during all of that)!
The first day in Yukon was another day that we decided to drive as far as we could. We were doing great on time and we had nowhere to stop, so we might as well keep going! That day was the most exciting day on our entire drive on the Alaska Highway. Our official count in one day of wildlife spotting was NINE black bears, one beaver, one fox, two ibexes, a moose, an owl, and countless bison! NINE bears! For two nature and wildlife lovers, we were happier than kids in a candy store. We were so excited that we just kept driving and saying ‘if we drive 20 more miles, maybe we’ll see another bear!’ And then we did see another, and the cycle went on and on until we had driven about 500 miles in one day!
After a rest, we headed on to Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory. We were ready to get some more food and get some rest, but Whitehorse had other plans for us.
After searching and searching for either an RV park with wifi and decent reviews near Whitehorse, we came up empty-handed. For being the capital city as well as the first major town along the Alaska Highway in about 500 miles, you would think there would be decent facilities. You would think wrong, though! We were met with a barrage of poor reviews, awful RV parks, and either no wifi or pay-per-gig wifi that has reviews that say it doesn’t work even after you pay for it. Well, there goes that plan! We had read that the Wal-Mart in Whitehorse allowed overnight RV parking, so we thought we would just go over there, stock up on groceries, and sleep for the night.
Let me step onto my soapbox for one second. RVers who have ever stayed in a Wal-Mart parking lot or any parking lot or truck stop overnight know that there are rules/guidelines/common courtesy. Pull in out of the way, be quiet and courteous, no slides, no jacks, just park and sleep then go. Pretty basic. Apparently at this Wal-Mart, common courtesy goes out the window. We were appalled that not only was the parking lot full of RVs, but the RVs appeared to have fully set up camp! I’m talking grills, camp chairs, awnings out, jacks down, slides out… set up! With little room for customers’ cars to park, I was surprised that this Wal-Mart allowed that to go on. We were embarrassed at that point to be RVers, so we grabbed our groceries quickly and got out of there.
Okay, off my soapbox, we stayed in a rest stop outside of Whitehorse that night and moved on the next day. Whitehorse was disappointing, to say the least.
Our last full stop in Canada was in Destruction Bay. This little “town” of about 40 people is roughly 130 miles from the ALCAN border. There wasn’t much to see or do here, but the RV park had friendly staff and good wifi, so we stayed there! There is a pretty lake and mountains surrounding the town, so it is very scenic. Unfortunately, we were there during some stormy days, so we didn’t get to enjoy it. But we did enjoy a bit of decent wifi to catch up on life!
We Made It!
After seven days of travel through Canada, we finally saw the border of Alaska and Canada! We were so excited to have finally made it to Alaska, and we can’t wait to get to touring around and sharing more adventures!
Border patrol and customs on this side was much easier. We chatted with the agent for a bit while we ate our clementines that we had on board (no citrus was allowed to cross, but she was friendly enough to let us eat it rather than throw them away). Once back in the US, we felt a sigh of relief. We love Canada and definitely will be back out there, but there is something comforting about knowing you are in your own country with cell signal and decent highways.
The Devil’s, er… the Alaska Highway
The Alaska Highway (or ALCAN Highway) is very well known for being a not-so-well maintained road. Stories of broken windshields and blown tires are the norm for travelers who take this route. But, it is also the only way to get to Alaska by land. Honestly, I don’t know who is responsible for maintenance, the United States or Canada or both. Seeing as how it is the only way to get to Alaska and that the vast majority of those who travel that way are going to Alaska, I can see how it wouldn’t be a priority for the Canadian government. But, seriously, will someone let them know that filling in potholes with gravel just compounds the issue?
We were very well aware and prepared for rock damage on this trip. We made it about half way through the Yukon Territory before getting a big fat rock thrown off of a semi into our windshield. And just like that, we need a new windshield on both the RV and the Fiat! Hey, maybe we can get a 2-for-1 deal! Ha!
For anyone thinking about taking this route, be prepared to take it SLOWLY. And even if you do take it slowly, be prepared for rock damage. Before you leave, call your insurance company and see if you can add glass coverage to your RV and/or car. If you are towing a car, cover the windshield and front end of the car to prevent rocks from being thrown by your RV onto the car. Our Fiat already had a crack in the windshield, but it was given two new beautiful cracks to add to it! None of them are bad enough to worry immediately, and since we are going to have to come back down that same road we are not going to fix them until we return to the lower 48. Hey, it is what it is!
Even as bad of a road as this was, the drive down the Alaska Highway was gorgeous and it got us to our ultimate destination of Alaska! We are so happy to be here and are ready to go out and have some adventures! So, instead of typing more, we are going to get out and try to find something to hike or paddle!
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