Highways of The North

#1


I finally had my long-awaited vacation. I decided to spend it exploring Canada in my favorite way – from the road.
I have been to the Eastern Canada, I have crossed Canada from East to West, I explored Western Canada. Now there was another part of Canada left, that has always attracted me, I have been dreaming about it for many years, I have always been interested to see myself what it is like. It is the North. The Great White North. But in summertime (this time).

I decided to make this trip different from what I have always done. Up to now, I have always thoroughly planned my trips – I leave home in the morning, have lunch here, go visit this, then by this time I go and do this, I make it to my hotel before 8 pm and so on. As a result, there have always been a feeling of a hurry, a stress of following a plan and being worried if anything goes against my arrangements. It was not the case this time.

This time, it was a different trip. Easy Rider style. Just me, the car and the road. I knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see on my way. But no arrangements. No hotels booked, no plans for lunch or any other things to stick to. It is definitely a step out of comport zone. But the step towards freedom. I did not know where I would sleep or what I would eat for lunch. But on the other side, I was free to decide what I wanted to do each single moment. I could stay at some spot that I liked for a whole day, or make a detour to see something interesting. Or I could just drive and drive and drive. No planned kilometers a day to make, no arrangements to stick to.



For some, it could bring more stress than pleasure. It could have been the same for me. But it wasn’t. First, as a wise man once said, “A true peace of mind comes from accepting the worst”. I accepted the fact, that I may have nowhere to sleep at night. But first, I had a good tent with me that I could put anywhere, second, I could sleep in my car just on a side of a road. The next big worry, food. For this, I was carrying two boxes of food that I could cook any time with a good camping gas stove. Two biggest problems solved!

So what is it that I have planned, or what I was aiming at, for this trip? I had several goals for this vacation. First, travel and enjoy some of the most famous scenic roads of Northern Canada that attract people from all over the world. Second, try this new way of travel for me, with no plans and arrangements. Third, I wanted to see Dawson City, the epicenter of Klondike Gold Rush of early 1900s. And finally, I wanted to see how far north I can get. The limit was the Arctic Ocean. Additionally, it was a very special trip. I did it with my dad - a lifelong truck driver, lover of the road. I have not seen him for two years since I moved to Canada, and he has never been to North America.
 
#2


So I was about to go north. But which way to go?

The fastest way is to take Coquhalla Highway up to Kamloops, and then Highway 97 to Prince George. But that was not what I wanted. I wanted to go slow and see places, so I opted for Highway 99, also known as Sea to Sky Highway. It is amazingly spectacular road that twists between Pacific Ocean and mountains. I cannot tell more how I am in love with this road. And I really wanted to show it to my dad.




Day 1. Vancouver – Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park. 620 km.

I wanted to make an early start this time, but as always, tiny last minute stuff kept us in town all morning and we were able to leave only by 10 am.

The weather was not really cooperating, dark clouds and drizzle did not help much to switch my mind from crazy rush at work that I had a day before to relaxed and slow pace of vacation. I have driven Highway 99 before up to Whistler, but after it, it completely changes. It narrows down to a small regional road, first going between farms, then rapidly climbing up a mountain, with very steep hills and sharp corners. No surprise there are almost zero trucks or campers. But still it offers things to see, spectacular lakes and rivers. It goes like that up to Seton Lake and Lillooet.





After Lillooet, the road continues north via grassy highlands and deep canyons. It was raining hard with low dark clouds. I did not expect to see such scenery in Canada. This is how I imagined Scotland!

Going past lonely ranches and first nation settlements we got to Highway 97 intersection, also known as Cariboo Highway.
The next section of the road, Highway 97 up to Prince George follows approximately the route of original Caroboo Wagon Road. It was built in 1860s to carry supplies for miners in gold-rich Cariboo region. It still has many references to that period of its existence. For example, there are municipalities along it that are named “70 Mile House”, “100 Mile House, which refers to original road houses constructed along the Cariboo Wagon Road.

Having traveled it for next couple of hours we pass the town of Quesnel and decided to look for a place to stay overnight.

This is the moment when excitement went over the roof! The decisive moment of my journey. It was either a good experience, or a bad one to ruin the whole idea of traveling this way. So I decided to put excitement aside and started to look for next campgrounds on our way. Luckily, the next campground, just 10 minute drive away was at Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park.

I think that things happen for a reason, and after checking the campground I was happy to discover that I totally loved it! Nice lots in a middle of a forest and next to a nice lake. I was looking forward to spending the night there! That was a good sign for future of me traveling this way. I am not the person to give up after the first failure or difficulty, but first impression is very important.

I must confess that I have never camped or slept in a tent before. I was just from a different part of the world and had a different lifestyle. But our evening went really smooth, we had great dinner and enjoyed fresh air.

First night ever in a tent is often associated with bad sleep. I was not an exception. First it was hard to get asleep, new sounds, smells, and totally new feeling of sleeping exposed. During the night I woke up to the slightest sound, and they were abundant! I did not set up my tent exactly right (first timer!), I was afraid of bears (I had a bear spray under my pillow, just in case) and in addition, it started to rain and wind picked up! I had all the range of new experiences for the night.

Day 2. Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park – Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, via Hyder, Alaska. 920 km.

To my great surprise, I woke up feeling rested. Maybe it is all fresh air. We continued our drive north in the morning, starting the day with a morning coffee with muffins at Timmie’s. We turn west in Prince George and follow Highway 16, the Yellowhead Highway.



The scenery changes rapidly here. Very soon mountains started to appear on horizon, reminding me of a feeling that I had when I have seen the Rockies for the first time, after passing Calgary. We were getting closer and closer to mountains, with excitement growing just as fast. I love mountains and driving through them.

Here was the first of the most anticipated points for the trip. The beginning of the Stewart-Cassair Highway.



First, my feelings were somewhat strange. All the highways I have traveled so far in this trip were quite remote with very little traffic. But here it felt extremely desolated. Sometimes it took over 15 minutes to see other car. Over a hundred kilometers between any signs of civilization, including gas stations. And, obviously, no cell phone coverage. I had some crazy images before my eyes – my car burning in a ditch with hungry bears looking from woods. It was so much unlike everything I have seen before. Also, it was my very first big trip with the Subie, so I just started building my trust.

After about 100 km the car did not explode and bear did not eat me. I relaxed and started enjoying it. After about two hours we reached Meziadin Junction. Here I wanted to make a detour via Alaska to see the Salmon Glacier.

It was 5 pm, and getting late, so we decided to check the Meziadin Lake Provincial Park campground, located just one click from the junction. The campground was awesome. But there was a strong ice-cold northern wind. After staying in the campground for 10 minutes we realized that we were not really enjoying it, and the Salmon Glacier that we wanted to see so much was less than 100 km away!

A short hop there and back, and we would be back by 8 pm (funny people, now I know). So to the glacier we go!

We travel 65 km of spectacular highway 37A, the Glacier Highway, that takes us to Stewart, BC. An old mining town with a population of about 500 people. Here is where is gets really interesting. We wanted to go and see the Salmon Glacier that is located in Canada, but the only road that can take us there, crosses into Alaska, at ghost town of Hyder, then continues through American soil before crossing back into Canada. I can travel into US, but my dad don’t have US visa. I wrote to US border agency before our trip to clarify how it works. I was pleasantly surprised that US don’t have any border security at this point, as the only road goes back into Canada and it is not possible to go anywhere in Alaska from that point, unless you are super outdoor ninja. So to be safe, I reconfirmed with border guards on duty that my dad was allowed to cross into US to see a glacier in Canada. On our side, there is a border crossing, obviously, and our border guards were not surprised with this.



We were not able to reach the viewpoint, as the road was closed due to snow. In June!



This moment I want to, and will remember for a long time. I was at some remote mountain somewhere in a middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature of unbelievable beauty, I have seen other people more then an hour before, I got there all by myself, I drove there with my car! This is definitely worth something. And it was so amazing to see something well beyond the beaten path. Yes, it could be reached with almost any car, but I was thinking about next step, about how many more amazing places there are that you can reach only with 4×4…




We drove back, and upon reaching Stewart, I realized that I did something contrary to the spirit of my trip. I hurried. Hurried to see the glacier and now I was hurrying back to the campground, hoping there will still be spots available. I wanted to spend more time in Stewart, to explore it properly. But, it will be in my to-do list for my next trip to this area!

The way back was full of bears. First, we have stopped at the Bear Glacier, and then we have seen a real bear! A big brown bear was wandering lazily in a middle of a road.




We arrived back to the campground after 10 pm, found a decent spot and went to sleep after a quick supper. I was thinking about how much I have seen already in this trip and how much still lays ahead of us!

Day 3. Mezadin Lake Provincial Park – Tagish, Yukon. 924 km

We kept driving north following the Stewart-Cassair Highway. The traffic was almost non-existent. Most of the vehicles on the road were fellow travelers. I was really pleased to see how Canada and America lives on wheels – people travel on anything, from bicycles to big Harley-Davidsons, from small Mazda 2 loaded up to the roof to big huge motor homes. It proves that when there is a will, there is a way.

And on that day I started to realize why this particular highway attracts people form all over the world. The previous day the drive was not really special, just the road going through remote areas and thick forests. But that has changed – form now on, the road was coming closer and closer to mountains, and becoming more spectacular. It has literally changed after each turn. I was driving through forest, after 20 minutes I have seen snow-covered peaks over my head, another 30 minutes and I see a deep valley stretching up to horizon.


But I had to keep my eyes on the road as well! This is a wild animal territory. You can often see a deer or a fox, or a bear just sitting on a side of a road watching cars go by. After another road curve we there was a really huge bear walking on a side of the road. I slowed down to take a closer look, I just wanted to observe a wild creature in his habitat, from the safety of my car. Mr. Bear crossed the road and a deep ditch on its side and stopped, looking at us. And I was looking at him. But I should have looked at my dad! The next second he grabbed a DSLR, jumped out of a car, and I saw him on a road shoulder, taking pictures of a bear, that is barely 5m away from him! I grabbed a bear spray and ran after him. I was somewhat shocked, and my dad did not convince me it was OK, insisting that the ditch between them was really deep and the bear was not able to cross it fast enough. From that moment, I started giving it a second thought before stopping for a wild animal.



It has been a long drive through wilderness, we were getting hungry and the fuel was running low. You have to watch you fuel closely on this road, as service is next to non-existent. We reached a town of Dease Lake, that has Petro Canada station, great convenience store and a diner. It felt like oasis in a middle of a desert. Or endless northern forests and mountains, in our case.

We pushed forward, landscapes were just as spectacular and just as variable, every half an hour there is something new and totally cool.



Finally, we reached Yukon border. It felt amazing. I have always thought of Yukon as of something really remote and hard to get to. Some remote mystical land from Jack London stories, somewhere where people went pursuing a dream. Some got it, some did not, others died trying. And here I was in Yukon myself, drove there myself. I could not believe it. I was super curious to see what it looks like, this magic ad distant land of Klondike.



But instead of enjoying the scenery we were getting anxious. We did not have any network connection for almost 2 days now. The time to report home that we were OK and bears did not eat us was long overdue. We pushed forward, realizing that we’ve just turned on another world-famous road, the Alaska Highway. After Stewart-Cassair, it felt like a German autobahn after a dirt road in forest. Flat and wide, with scenery totally different again. I am still fascinated by the way provinces and territories in Canada differ in landscape. We were in British Columbia, surrounded by mountains and forests, a few clicks later we are in Yukon, with mountains only on horizon.




We still had no cell coverage and it was getting late. We have seen a small outpost with restaurant. We stooped and went inside to ask for a phone, because I started to suspect that both our phones went crazy. But the lady told me that there was no phone or cell coverage in the area, and never was. At that moment I felt being really so far away from civilized world and all things we are so used to.

We were told that in 2 hours of driving there will be a town where I can call. We pushed forward, getting so anxious to get there. But miles we running slowly. I check GPS – 120 km to go. Eternity later I check again – 110! What?! When we finally got there, the phone came alive, and I started getting all those messages from family who were really worried.



Also, it felt really cold outside and I felt dirty after 2 nights in tent, and decided to look for hotel in Whitehorse that was just a few hours away. To my surprise, all reasonably-priced hotels were sold out. But we were lucky to find an amazing place and hour before Whitehorse, a tiny town of Tagish, and a place was amazing! Nice private territory with wooden cabins next to a river.
 
#3
Day 4. Tagish – Dawson, 634 km.

In the morning, we took our time to drink coffee and start the day slowly. I went to explore the place a little bit.

I really liked this nice quiet place somewhere in Yukon. It felt so calm and quiet and peaceful. But so remote. I was thinking about people who made a choice to call that land home.





We hit the road again and this was the first morning when we have seen clear skies and sunshine. But not for long! Before we reached Whitehorse an hour later, the sky was covered with low dark clouds and it started to rain.




I made a conscious decision to skip Whitehorse this time. It looked like a nice city with lots of things to explore. But the time was limited, I had to set priorities. And the priority was Dawson City, just some 500 km away up the Klondike Highway!

After a few hours of pouring rain, it was finally time to get some sunshine! And how timely that was! After a town of Carmacks the road follows the Yukon river for some time, offering beautiful views of the valley below.




The further we moved north, the more scenery changed. Back in Whitehorse what we have seen more or less resembled some areas in British Columbia. But now it was different. The vegetation was getting more sparse, trees were getting lower and lower, it started to look like real tundra.

About 40 km before Dawson was my most anticipated place of all the journey. The idea behind the trip was to see how far north we could go. We were as far north as you can get on pavement. But if that is not far north enough, the only choice is the famous Dempster Highway. It is a gravel road that stretches for over 700 km to Inuvik, NWT, crossing the arctic circle. The design of the road is unique, it sits on top of gravel berm about about 1.5-2 meters thick. It is needed to prevent permafrost from thawing and swallowing the road. It is known for its harsh conditions, and remoteness. There is only one place where you can get help or fuel along the whole distance.



This is one the three roads in North America I dream to travel the most, and I was very excited to see what it looks like in real life. The plan for the day was to test road conditions, see how fast we could go and get a general feeling of it, before attempting to conquer it the next day. There was a repair crew on the bridge at the road’s very beginning, their first question was how many spare tires did we have, and they told me that the further we go, the worse the road gets. Not really inspiring…

So we started driving it… And here came the biggest disappointment I had in years. I have seen lots of pictures, I read many stories of people traveling this road, there were even guys doing it in a sports car. But reality was much different from internet stories. The road is brutal. I mean it. What it wants is to torture your car and blow to pieces. I grew up in Ukraine, and believe me, I have seen really bad roads in my life. But this one is different, it incredibly harsh for the car. There are no potholes, mud or any off-road. It is even worse in my opinion. The road surface consists of a thick layer of very fine gravel. When you drive on it, wheels send gravel flying, acting almost like a sand blaster. Every second countless rocks hit the bottom of the car, destroying paint, coating, and whatever you have there. The more or less comfortable speed where I did not feel like torturing my car was about 25 km/h. But we had over 700 km to drive like that, one way! It would take forever. And then, the road is actively used by locals and especially by trucks, who deliver cargoes to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. They have no time to think about gravel or other stuff, they have a job to do. As a result, each oncoming truck sends a shower of rocks on your car.

We turned back to the asphalt to assess the situation. 20 km of Dempster driven, comfortable speed was 25 km/h, car bottom was constantly bombarded with rocks, and as a gift from oncoming traffic I got a chip on windshield and two on front bumper. And it was only 20 kilometers. The car is only 2 months old with only 4,000 km on it. What would it look like after over 1,400 km of round trip on a Dempster? No, I am not a Rockefeller guy, I cannot buy a new car after this trip. So Dempster was postponed. Not cancelled. I will drive this road. But now I know what it looks like and I will come prepared. Maybe next year. This is north, harsh and unwelcoming. It does not tolerate underestimation or carelessness.

So our only choice was Dawson City. This is as far as we would go on this trip. As you can imagine, my mood was down and I was not really excited to go anywhere.

To lift my spirits, I decided to do what I like doing the most when I visit a new city – get to the highest point possible. In Dawson, it requires zero efforts from your side – you can get there by car. In Dawson City, the highest point is the Midnight Dome Viewpoint. This place is amazing – you can see almost 360 degrees around you, Dawson City lying just below you, and a confluence of mighty Yukon and Klondike Rivers. What is interesting, the water is two rivers has different color, which is easy to see on the pictures.




I was dreaming of seeing Dawson City for many years. First, I read about it in amazing Jack London stories when I was a kid. But is felt more like a fairy tale place. Then I watched many documentaries about this place, read countless Wiki pages throughout years, and finally, I recently watched Klondike mini TV-series, that follows a story of two friends who left New York for Klondike pursuing a dream. After that, there was not a single day when I did not think about Dawson, planning my trip. And here I was, in a fairy tale land.

Even before going into town, I wanted to follow steps of prospectors who came here – we went to the the Bonanza Creek – a small river where the main gold extraction took place, it was an epicenter of Klondike Gold Rush.

And it was not what I expected to see. I expected to see a tiny stream somewhere in woods. Instead, the Bonanza Creek is enormous piles of dirt and rocks, with excavators, trucks, and other equipment scavenging around for gold leftovers. It felt tired. I felt like the stream and nature around it is tired of being turned upside down for the last 120 years.



We turned back after seeing the Dredge No 4, and headed into the city. And I was right calling it a fairy tale land. Almost right. It is rather a wild west town from western movie, lost in time. Cars felt wrong there, I’d rather expect to see John Wayne or Clint Eastwood riding a horse.



And unlike tourist-trap places like Banff or Quebec City, which look old, but don’t feel authentic, Dawson City is real. There are no places decorated to look old, or to create gold rush-era atmosphere. Dawson City is really still that town. No pavement on roads, wooden sidewalks, hotels that have hosted gold prospectors. And it felt like the city is still living in gold rush mode, modern-day prospectors drive around in pick up trucks, hardware store selling gold mining tools. It felt very very real, unlike any historic place I have ever seen before.



We had a great dinner with local beer, checked in the hotel and called it a night… How to say a night… A day-night rather. Here in Dawson City, in June the sun never sets! There was still a lot of light, it did not feel even like twilight. I have never seen a white night in my life, but I always wanted to. +1 dream came true.



Day 5. Dawson City.

Next morning we were just in time for a guided tour of Dawson City (free for Parks Canada pass holders). I strongly recommend it it is really well-animated, with passionate actors and guide. The tour lets you enter historic buildings, such as bank or post office, that are closed for public.

We strolled through the town, until we reached something I really wanted to see in Dawson. As you read before, I grew up reading Jack London stories about the North, and what is special, he actually has been a part of it – he lived in Dawson City for over year, mining for gold! And his cabin still exists, it is preserved in its original state! It is under renovation now, but it was so great to see it myself, to visit small museum, see Jack London’s handwriting.



We spent the rest of the day just waking through city, experiencing its life, vising famous places. Tomorrow we will start driving back.




 
#4
Day 6. Dawson City, YT – Big Creek Government Campground, YT, 907 km.

We left Dawson early morning and headed back. This day we were backtracking the way we arrived – Klondike Highway to Whitehorse, then follow Alaska Highway. But instead of going back to Vancouver the same way, we decided to make a detour via Alberta! We made it almost to the junction with Stewart-Cassiar Highway, the place where we joined the Alaska highway just a few days ago.




After two nights in hotel in Dawson City, I was eager to sleep in a tent again! The Big Creek Government Campground is really amazing – it is located pretty far away from civilization, there is no cell coverage. But in return, you get a chance to sleep in wild forest, listening to river while you are asleep.

Day 7. Big Creek Government Campground, YT – Fort St. John, BC, 955 km.

In the morning we found campground full! It is pretty small and you can easily miss in when you just drive past it, but if you know about it, this is amazing place to stop! My top choice for the next trip!

We pushed east and shortly we arrived to a town of Watson Lake. It is famous for the Signpost Forest. In 1942 U.S. Army was building a highway to Alaska through northern Canada. Private Carl K. Lindley who was homesick erected a sign that showed direction and distance to his home town in Illinois. Few other soldiers joined him. Then it snowballed. Now there are over 100,000 signs left by passing travelers. From now on, it has a small flag of Ukraine!



Shortly afterwards we entered back into British Columbia. Man, how beautiful it is! With every new road I drive, I get more and more convinced that the slogan “Beautiful British Columbia” on car license plates is not just a marketing trick. It is really that beautiful! The Alaska Highway goes through all kinds of terrains here, forests, mountains, lakes.. It is just stunning!





By the lunch time we arrived to Muncho Lake. This is one of the most spectacular places I have seen in my life! The water of amazing greenish-blue color reminds me of Lake Louse in Banff, but this one is much bigger, and way further away from tourist crowds. There are only fellow road trippers, no buses with crowds of tourists. I don’t know if I ever smelled air as clean and fresh as there. I wished we stayed there for a night at some campsite, but it was only around noon and it was freezing cold outside, so we decided to move on. I want to say a separate “Thank You” to the guys who built this section of the road – it follows lake shore closely making it just an unforgettable drive!





The road crosses a mountain range again, and we drove through heavy rain downpour.

This day’s section of the road , from Watson Lake up to Fort Nelson is full of amazing views and unbelievable nature. I really want to drive it again, but much slower – I want to spend several days there, not just one.



After we passed Fort Nelson, BC, the scenery changed completely. The mountains were left behind, and what we have seen is endless flats up to horizon. We were getting tired and decided to start looking for a place to stop for the night. But we were unlucky. This particular section of the road, from Fort Nelson to Fort St John, almost 400 km, is the most tourist-unfriendly area of BC. There are no rest areas, no viewpoints or anything of interest. And no campgrounds! We have seen only two, but they were dirty, muddy. We did not feel like spending any time there so we moved on. This whole area seem to be mostly concerned with extraction of natural gas – we have seen lots and lots of worker’s camps and industry sites. Keep in mind when planning your trip.



Tired and hungry we reached Fort St John by 10 pm. Somehow we managed to book a hotel, and just went to sleep. Everything was closed in town and we were too tired.

Day 8. Fort St. John, BC – Snaring River Campground, Jasper, AB. 593 km.

In the morning we discovered amazing campground on a river shore just 5 minute drive further from our hotel. I was so unhappy, I wish we stayed there. More notes for next trip.

Shortly after leaving fort St John we reached the town of Dawson Creek. This is a very special place. It is a mile zero of Alaska Highway!



After taking mandatory photographs with the sign, we drove to Grand Prairie to Take Alberta Highway 40 that we expected to get us south, to Jasper. And it did. But this is not the road I will want to drive again. There is absolutely nothing interesting, I even did not turn my camera on for the whole day. We were just driving and driving and driving. There were lots of road construction, and in general it felt extremely long. We did less than 600 km in a day and were very tired.



But to our pleasure, we reached Jasper National Park by the evening. There was also a road construction going on, and we were discussing how far should we go and where should we stay for the night. The town of Jasper did not look like a good option, hotels started at around $300 for a single night! Then with a corner of an eye I have seen a sign for a campground, that was some 5 km away from the highway. We decided to go there just to take a look what Jasper campgrounds look like.




It was a great decision! The campgrounds was huge and location was amazing! I was happy to enjoy the evening and spend a night there. The last night of the trip was truly the best.

Day 9. Jasper, AB – Vancouver, BC. 1,033 km.

The main reason why I decided to drive via Alberta, is to drive the Icefields Parkway. And it was totally worth it! If British Columbia is beautiful, than Alberta is stunning! This particular road crosses some of the most beautiful mountains you can find in North America, countless lakes, glaciers. I have seen so many pictures of this road, but in reality, it is even better! It is truly unforgettable experience.




We reahed Columbia Icefield and jumped out for photographs and short walk. It was +2 outside, but I was too excited to notice!






We came back to Vancouver tired but happy at around 10 pm.

Happy End
We traveled around 6,500 km in 8 days plus stayed in Dawson City for the whole day. We have seen some of the most amazing roads in Canada that offer truly unique experience. But most important, I answered a question that I asked myself before this trip – do I like this way of travel, with no planning or arrangements. Yes! Totally! All the inconveniences are compensated in full by that feeling of freedom that it gives you. I thought it existed only in movies like ‘Easy Rider’. But no, I experienced it myself.

What next? I definitely want to experience same feelings as I had on this trip. And now I think I understand why people totally fall in love with the North. It is a place like no other, you need to experience it to fully understand. The life is different up there, even just experiencing it for a week gives unique perspective.

I will be back North, that is for sure. This trip made fall in love with it.
 
#6
Wow. Amazing story, and fantastic pictures. My Wife and I have been working on our plans to head north for over a year now. We will be pointing north next July and heading all the to Tuk in our truck. Driving the Cassiar Hwy is most certainly on our list of must-go places. I can't wait. I've lived in BC my entire life and never traveled further north than Prince George.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
#7
I’ve come across several Subaru owners that did the dirt trip. All said in the end the car was fine. The gravel shower from trucks just about everyone I talk to simply say pull over as far as you can and basically stop to avoid flying gravel damage.

Great trip report!! As a Subaru owner / abuser I can confirm they are really tough vehicles.

How did your tent setup work out? Cot? Curious if you would change anything gear wise if you were to go again?
 
#8
Thank you, Trikebubble! This is amazing trip, I am sure you will like it! To be honest, if I could, I would do the same trip again right now! :)

calicamper, I tried to pull over as far right as I could, but it did not help much, there were still a lot of rocks that hit the car. Also, I did not have any undercoating done, I felt like I was sandblasting the bottom of the car when driving. It just did not feel right. I am still sad that I did not reach Inuvik, I know I will not be satisfied until I drive there :) I am thinking about how can I prepare the car for gravel roads better. Any suggestions?
I really liked tenting experience! I had inflatable mattresses to stay further from the ground, it was great. The only downside is that it was cold. In the morning I was waking up feeling like I was freezing. I would have bought better sleeping bags if I could. But for this trip, I was buying almost every piece of gear I needed, and my budget was not unlimited.
Now I am thinking about trip to Alaska for 2-3 weeks in future, but I would really like to pull a small trailer, a teardrop or T@B maybe, to be more autonomous, and sleep in a warm bed :) Tent is awesome for a couple of nights, but after a week of waking up freezing I was dreaming about something warmer.
 
#10
Awesome trip! I've been on all those roads, most of them twice or more, and never get tired of seeing photos of them (or wanting to go again).
.
But for those who go to the trouble of going all the way to Stewart/Hyder, do NOT make the mistake of passing on driving the 20 miles to Salmon Glacier! (I've done it twice, the first time in a way most of y'all wouldn't understand :D):
.
2618544470049812074Mzfywa_fs.jpg
 
#11
Thanks, Doc McCoy!

stingray1300, I absolutely agree! It might seem like just another glacier (is that possible at all?), but the scenery and remoteness makes it absolutely unbelievable! Great photo btw, since I did not reach this viewpoint, I feel like I must go there again :)
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
#12
The modern cars have pretty impressive undercoatings anything over that wont do much. I’ve seen people place a screen over the front grill to avoid rock damage to the radiator. Air beds do that. You can place a self inflating insulated mat between the air bed and you and that will make a big difference. The cool air under you causes the cold effect.

I carry tire plugs and a pump that connects directly to the battery not the cig lighter socket. Those can blow fuses. Your local tire shop with an appointment will typically teach you how to plug a tire. Often times you can plug them without even removing the tire. A full size spare lashed down on the floor is a good idea for the AK roads. Good quality All season tires on the Subaru do well. Subarus dont spin tires so rarely do you damage a tire from wheel spin which is common on trucks. But big potholes at speed can blow a tire if your not cautious. Debri and sharp rock punctures is where the plugs come in handy which is often the most common flat.
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#14
Great read, looks like you two had a blast. My girlfriend and I just did a semi-similar trip this summer from Boston out to Jasper/Banff across the Trans-Canada Highway, so I'm able to relate to parts of your adventure quite well!

I dont blame you about avoiding the gravel bath. I'd do the same!