Vancouver Island to the Arctic Circle

We came into Canada from Friday Harbor, a town called Sydney on Vancouver Island.  The boat rides through the islands via car ferry were an enjoyable part of the journey.  We stayed in Sooke for a night to visit our friend Stacey’s family, and enjoyed a dinner plus breakfast with Alan and Susan.  It was a nice welcome into Canada.  From here we went to Tofino, an awesome surf town on the west  coast.  We loved it!  Stayed four nights there.  The first few nights we stayed in a campground called Crystal Cove.  This spot had a fabulous beach front for playing.  We had camp fires on the beach here, and made s’mores.  We stayed the last night at a spot called Bella Pacifica Campground.  This had spots on the water vs. the other place which were tucked into the woods some.  There was a brewery we loved in Tofino, a roll up door in an old industrial garage, definitely a locals spot, not in the main part of town.

Next we took the most amazing drive to Whistler.  We did a long drive in one day – ten hours including the ferries, we took three car ferries across to the mainland, all with the most incredible inland mountain landscapes.  Seeing mountains shoot up to 8,000 or more feet just from the water with snow capped mountains was incredible.  We drove the sunshine coast which had beautiful farms, and a great organic market to stock up at.  We were feeling antsy to get moving towards Alaska, as we had a lot of land to cover, otherwise we may have spent more time on the Sunshine Coast.

When we got to the mainland we took highway 99 to Whistler.  Holy shit awesomeness!  Only seen mountains that jaw dropping in Switzerland!  WOW!  Then we decided to get a hotel in Whistler and take a break from the road.  We stayed in the village which was filled with lots of restaurants, shops, and bars.  This was our first hotel since Boonville which was over a month ago, and we needed the rest and a nice stretch in a king bed.  So worth it!!

From here we headed up the road to start our long drive up to Alaska.  We took highway 99 to highway 97, an incredibly beautiful drive going north of Whistler.  There were snow capped high mountains surrounding us on all sides, then getting closer to the 97 it started to look more like Tahoe in the summer with less snow as we ventured east.  I think highway 99 might be my favorite road so far.  After Whistler, we drove about 8 hours, then stopped just north of Williams Lake for the night, found a little lake and camped on it for the night.  From here we did another 8 hour day to the junction called the Cassiar Highway where we camped for the night.  The Cassiar is few hours shorter than the Alaskan Highway and the more western route to Alaska, and we thought we would try this route which connects with the Alaskan Highway about half way.

Very glad we choose this route, it was incredible.  On this drive we saw emerald green rivers, and glacier lakes so clear that they looked like Caribbean water, and mountain ranges everywhere they just kept going and going and going. We saw about ten bears and 2 mooses, one crossed right in front of us, but we saw her crossing, and slowed down.  Brian saw a grizzly so big it looked the size of a cow.  We were in the big truck – all good!

We met all sorts of interesting people.  Met a group of 65 year old men riding motorcycles from the tip of Panama all the way up to Alaska, and that was just the start of their adventure, they were doing the whole world by motorcycle.  We met a couple from Portland who were sharing a motorcycle, and riding all the way to the Arctic Circle while camping in a tent.  They sparked that idea in our adventure, we didn’t realize it was just north of Fairbanks until we chatted with them, thought it would be in the ocean or the true north pole.  We met a young guy riding a motorcycle as well, who was going up to Alaska, then planned to do South America, taking one year for his adventures.  We met a man who lived in the Bay Area, who told us he won the Dipsea in 1964, and was a commercial fisherman most of his life.  He traveled solo fishing in Alaska in the summer, and his wife preferred to stay home with the grand kids.  As well we met many retired folks traveling from all over the USA and Canada.

Our last night in Canada, we stayed a night at a hot spring and campground before we entered Alaska.  Then we drove our last long stretch into Alaska, and hit the big state sign!  OMG, we made it!  Took us about 5 days, driving 8 or so hours once we hit the mainland of Canada from Vancouver Island.  We plan to spend more time in Canada on our return trip. Our first night in Alaska we stayed at a hilarious campground in Tok called Sourdough Campground, where you toss Sourdough pancakes into a bucket to win a free breakfast.  The tossing began around 7 p.m. and you met all sorts of people traveling and heard a little bit about them before the toss.  It was classic!  People had traveled from South Carolina, Texas, Florida, California, Washington, Alberta, and Ontario – everyone with a desire to make their way to Alaska.  Tok was the first town after the border about a couple hours in, so lots of people coming in or going back home.  One group said they drank “the sour toe” cocktail in Dawson City, basically a pickled toe in a cocktail.  All sorts of tales on how the toe made it’s way to that bar, we might have to check it out on the way back through.  Kinda gross, and hilarious, you can not swallow the toe, or you will be fined $2500.

Next we rested up in Fairbanks.  It isn’t Alaska’s prettiest city, but it is a base for may great things all within an hour or so.  One day we went to a hot spring and ice museum, where you get an apple martini in an ice glass that melts as you drink it.  Then it is recommended that for good luck you smash it on the ground outside.  We did it while saying “ooooppaa”.

We spent one whole day driving to the Arctic Circle, which is awesome to say we did it, it’ll be as far north as we may ever go, so cool!  Only 1 percent of travelers to Alaska go that far.  This road is very long, and mostly gravel, so you have to be prepared.  There was a restaurant called the Hot Spot about 2 hours from the Arctic Circle with a killer burger, so there was a place for food – phew, we only had beef jerky otherwise.  As well a visitor center, and a restaurant across from the visitor center. I heard there was one hotel out that way too.  The drive was about 9 hours round trip, think I’d recommend staying at the hotel and breaking it into two days if you have the time.  Was a long day!  There were guys on motorcycles doing this adventure as well, super impressive, I thought we were bad ass, but they were way more bad ass then us.

The whole drive rode along side the Alaskan Pipeline that runs north to south through the state of Alaska, so the only other people besides wild tourists in for an adventure going that way were people who work on the pipeline and semi’s taking supplies to and from Purdue Bay where the pipeline comes from.  Not much out there otherwise.  About 2 hours from the circle the vegetation starts to disappear, and trees can no longer survive that far north.  As we returned from the circle, we stopped to fish at a river spot, where locals (young bad ass girls about 10 years old) were riding there four wheels around and dogs were running along side.  Pretty cool, loved it!  We also saw one guy with his RV going out to the Arctic Circle, we left ours in Fairbanks.  We could have made it and camped out there, but would have been a much longer drive with it and a bit of a muddy and rough route to take our Airstream through, glad we didn’t.  Amazing adventures thus far.  Loving it!




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