After our month in Nepal we flew back to Vancouver, British Columbia for Ashley’s sister’s wedding in beautiful Kelowna, British Columbia. We followed the wedding up with about a week of fishing and general relaxation up at the family cabin on Quesnel Lake near Likely, British Columbia. After a bit of battery recharge at Quesnel Lake, we decided to spend the last month of our leaves from work exploring the Yukon and Alaska on what would turn out to be a pretty epic road trip. When all was said and done, we put nearly 12,000 km on our Acura RSX (certainly not the most ideal vehicle for a trip up north…).
So from Likely, British Columbia we headed north, making a pit stop in Prince George, BC for a full sized spare tire. Although we didn’t end up using it, a full sized spare could be a lifesaver in the north where the roads are rough and the distance between towns is long. Our first stop of note was Stewart, BC, a tiny mining town which is accessed via the beautiful Glacier Highway (off of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway). In its heyday (early 1900s), Stewart had a population of about 10,000. Today, the population has shrunk to about 500 and Stewart now serves primarily as a small tourist destination, which boasts great saltwater fishing and grizzly bear viewing. Although we didn’t partake in either of those activities, we did partake in another popular local activity – crossing the international border into Hyder, Alaska to get “hyderized” at the local pub. What is getting “hyderized”? Well, simply it involves taking a shot of very strong house-made liquor. Ironically, the pub was closed on the evening that we were in the area, so we had to stop in for lunch before heading out the next day. Obviously this did not prevent us from participating in the “hyderization.”
From Stewart, we continued our trip north on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, stopping to camp for the night in the beautiful Boya Lake Provincial Park. From Boya Lake we crossed into the Yukon only to find ourselves back in British Columbia that same evening in gorgeous Atlin. Often referred to as the “Switzerland of the North,” the only road access into Altin, BC is from the Yukon territory. That road, which was primarily gravel and in some sections quite muddy, certainly tested our front wheel drive sports car!
Like many towns in the north, Atlin experienced a boom when gold was discovered in the area. When the gold rush petered out, Atlin became a somewhat exotic domestic tourist destination – up until 1951 there was no road access into Atlin, so tourists would access the town by paddle wheeler across Atlin Lake. We were not only drawn to Atlin for its beauty and hiking opportunities but also to see the town where Patrick’s father spent the first few years of his life.
Our next destination was Skagway, Alaska which required us to drive back up the gravel / muddy road into the Yukon. The drive from the southern Yukon into Skagway was definitely a beauty, especially under the sunny skies. Once in Skagway, we checked ourselves into a nice B&B and did some exploring. During the big gold rush in the Yukon, Skagway was the most important port where would-be gold rushers would disembark from their boat journey up the inside passage and prepare for the grueling trek to the Yukon. So Skagway boomed during the gold rush as place to stock-up on supplies and partake in a little revelry. It was great to have that first evening in Skagway without all of the cruise ship passengers that flood the town everyday during the high season and we certainly made the most of it by staying out until sunset (and then sunrise which seemed to happen within an hour of each other!).
From Skagway, we took a ferry (or, as they call it in Alaska the “Marine Highway”) over to Haines, Alaska, a sleepy little town right on the coast. We camped two nights outside of Haines and unfortunately we got a lot of rain during our stay. While we did a small coastal walk outside of Haines, we probably ended up spending more time inside the town’s little brew pub. We soon discovered that Alaska has an excellent craft beer scene and it was in Haines that we decided we would try to hit every craft brewery along the way.
After a wet couple of days, we headed back north (and inland) to the Yukon where we found sunnier skies near the Kluane National Park (which is the home of Mt Logan, the tallest mountain in Canada). We camped for two nights in two different territorial parks near Kluane. Staying nearby allowed us to do a great day hike within the National Park between our two nights in the area. Ash was a little nervous with the camping and hiking as the area was well-known for its abundance of grizzly bears. In fact, after our hike we saw two grizzly bears on the road from the safety of our car.
From the Kluane area we spent two days driving east back into Alaska towards Anchorage. One of the absolute highlights along this section of the highway was lunch at Jen’s Thai Food – a food truck in Tok, Alaska serving up some deliciously authentic Thai food. Jen, who might be the only Thai living in Alaska, made such incredible dishes, we ordered extra takeout for that night’s dinner (and then made sure to stop back through Tok a week later for lunch again…). We broke up the two-day drive to Anchorage with some free camping near the massive Matanuska Glacier. All in all it was a great night camping – the rain held off, there were no bugs, we had campfire and Thai food. Once we reached Anchorage the following afternoon, we checked into a cozy B&B and treated ourselves to a shower that was long overdue. In Anchorage, we continued to explore the Alaskan craft beer scene and splurged on a delicious seafood dinner.
Thank you for reading! Part 2 of our northern road trip is coming soon…