2023CanadaHighlightsLandscapesNord America

Along the lonely Alaska Highway into the spectacular Canadian Rockies

Over the Top Of The World Highway we leave Alaska and reach the Yukon Territories with its outpost Dawson City, the picturesque former gold mining town on the Yukon river. After surviving the adventure of the Dempster Highway (see here) up to the arctic sea, it’s time to return to civilization… at least that’s what we thought 😉. On the adjoining Klondike Highway, which is mostly paved, there is a roadhouse with a small gas station and shop every 100 km… a much higher frequency than on the Dempster. But that was it w/r to civilization, otherwise just forest, forest and forest and from time to time we see the mighty Yukon River which was in the time of the gold rush an important way for transport. The guests of our wedding party some 9 years ago will remember the legendary speech of Oliver’s best man Wolfe… here we find “our personal forest”.

After almost 600 km we reach the town of Whitehorse, which with 30,000 inhabitants is the largest city in the Yukon Territories and at least deserves the description “civilization”: we stock up on our completely depleted food supplies and can finally have the crack in our windshield repaired. Just across from the workshop is an exquisite German bakery where Karin leaves a small fortune 😉. The town is otherwise quite pretty… no comparison to e.g. Anchorage in Alaska… Canadians just do a much better job of creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. Here we also join the famous Alaska Highway again, which takes us 200 km east to the town of Watson Lake (this is the only route that we drive twice on our northern Canada/Alaska round trip). The small settlement is a curiosity and known for its “sign forest”. When the Alaska Highway was being built in 1942, an American soldier hung up the place name sign of his home town because of his homesickness… that was the template for many imitators, so that there are now over 100,000 place and number plates hanging here…many also from Germany.

After a short stop at the Liard Hot Springs (usually we’re not that much into “hot springs”, but these are quite stylishly laid out in beautiful nature), we continue on and on the Alaska Highway. Even us being used to drive many kilometers, we had some respect for the endless distances here in northern Canada: the next 1,000 km on the Alaska Highway seem indeed very long and monotonous to us for the first time on our trip; an exception to this is crossing the Rockies with the beautiful Muncho Lake. Unfortunately, our view is increasingly limited by the countless forest fires that rage here year after year. Fortunately, the Alaska Highway is not closed. Detours here can easily mean a 1,000 km. There are currently over 5,000 forest fires in the area, but almost all are left to their own and life goes on pretty much as usual. The poor inhabitants: in winter it is always cold and dark, in summer it is extremely hazy due to the many fires! When we get to the eastern edge of the Rockies, we also see gas and oil pipelines everywhere which, in addition to the hazy-orange sky, is also not conducive to the overall setting.

All the more we are looking forward to THE highlight of the Canadian Rockies: The Jasper and Banff National Parks as well as the directly adjacent Yoho N.P. We also meet our travel friends Tini and Peter, whom we met last year in Newfoundland and then later in Florida. Shujaa is also very happy as their MAN three-axle vehicle “Mad-Max” is the perfect playmate for him. The next two weeks are just fantastic.

On the one hand the absolutely great landscapes, which make every postcard motif pale in comparison: turquoise blue lakes, white glaciers, thundering waterfalls… and all this combined with excellent weather. Even the haze of the forest fires – our great concern in advance – has disappeared. On the other hand, because we have a very harmonious and extremely entertaining time with Tini and Peter. This is not an automatism especially for us individual travelers in particular: interests, timing and topics of conversation must fit together… and not just for the first days, when you have a lot to talk about anyway, but also for longer!

We do countless hikes, thousands of photos and also use our kayak “Flipper” again: this time on a river using all our equipment. From our dream pitch on the North Saskatchewan River, Karin drives me about 15 km upstream with our quad Shujoo and Flipper (still folded) to a remote launch site. After pumping up Flipper the adventure starts for me, while Karin drives back with Shujoo. In contrast to kayaking on a lake, you have to be much more concentrated here on that river: rapids, forks, sand and gravel banks have to be navigated and the right direction found. At our pitch, which I almost paddle past in the heat of the moment, Karin and the entire reception committee, Tini and Peter, welcome me again. It was so much fun that we repeat the whole procedure again, only this time Peter rides Flipper and I ride Shujoo back. Sometimes we think we have too many “toys” with us, but in situations like this you don’t want to be without any of them!

Despite the peak travel season in one of Canada’s most popular travel destinations, we always find good pitches, even though we haven’t booked anything in advance: either on the “First Come First Serve” pitches in the N.P. or in wild camps just outside the N.P. You can also avoid the flow of tourists quite well by leaving early and walking 1 km away from the parking lot! The exception is the well-known Lake Louise, where the convoy of vehicles is already backed up when approaching the parking lot. We stay there for just five minutes, take a documentary photo and then disappear again straight away. Nobody needs that! And while the lake itself is pretty, it is not better than many of the other lakes we’ve visited so far.

Jasper, Banff and Yoho N.P.: an absolute highlight of our North America trip so far and Canada is becoming our favorite country!

One comment

  1. Greetings,
    I saw your rig off fatty creek rd, would have said Hi but didn’t see anyone around. I live a couple miles up the road. Happy Travels!

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