The border crossing from the USA into Canada on the eastern side of the Glacier NP (USA) went smooth and quick. I did not stop in Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada) hence most of the park facilities were under construction after a forest fire destroyed nearly everything a few years back.
And guess what, Canada welcomed me with blue skies and warm temperatures.
The first night back in Canada I stayed on a small campsite near Coleman, AB. The campsite owner was very helpful to fix my issue with my water canisters. One troll in the USA stole both caps of my Jerry cans when the car was parked in front of Walmart while I was doing my shopping. Fortunately two spray can caps fit like a glove to close the Jerry cans.
Via Calgary to Banff NP, AB
A nice forest gravel road took me from Coleman to the highway #22 and then to #2 on which I traveled to Calgary. The only reason I drove into Calgary was so see a camera store. Both cameras needed a solid clean and I wanted to buy a 2x teleconverter for my tele zoom lens. Both things were quickly done during lunch time so I could continue my travel to Banff NP.
Travels from Calgary to Banff were not too exciting and I reached Banff in the late afternoon. So far I experienced to be the only guest. In Banff were travelers in their white plastic campers almost everywhere and most of the campsites were closed what made the whole situation even worse. In Banff all campers were cramped together on the only open campsite the Tunnel Mountain and campers were lethally camping next to each other, what a nice cozy atmosphere. In addition, my expectation of Banff were a bit different. Everything downtown is quite nice and chic. But people are more occupied to see and to be seen.
Prices in Banff are a bit over the top. As an example on one of the lakes around Banff you can rent a boat for fishing. This experience would pull 16$ for a fishing license and 100$ per hour for the boat rental out of your pocket.
Yoho NP, Kootenay NP, BC
From Banff I traveled into Yoho NP and Kootenay NP located straight next to Banff NP in British Columbia. Although the travel time into both National Parks is only around an hour from Banff there were hardly any tourists. Unfortunately the Canadian authorities had not opened all trails, roads and viewpoints at this point of the season yet. However, what I liked best were the waterfalls where the Kicking Horse River feeds into the Yoho river.
In Yoho NP I stopped next to a waiting train in this little village Fields. To my surprise the train driver came out of his locomotive and greeted “hey dude, I love your vehicle”. I learned that each train unit is about 4km long driven by 4 locomotives with 4000 HP each. To keep an equal tension along the length of the train 2 locomotives pull/push in the front, one in the middle and one at the end of the train. The whole train unit is operated by one driver and one conductor.
In Yoho the trains cross the Rocky Mountains at a 4° slope, which is steep in the train world. One unique feature of this east/west crossing is that trains travel through a tunnel loop dug into the mountain. When the head of the train exits the tunnel then the tail of the train has not even reached the entry of the tunnel.
Icefields Parkway, AB
The Icefields Parkway runs between Lake Louise and Jasper as part of highway #93. It feels as if the highway runs in a valley between two mountain rims all the way to Jasper. The Rockies in this part reach up to 3770m in height. The mountain views, water falls, glaciers and some wildlife are impressive.
As the name Icefield Parkway suggests all of the mountains might be covered with glaciers. This is not the case. The only decent view onto glaciers you will find in the Columbia Icefields, roughly half way on the Parkway. You can drive close to the glacier and walk to the glacier tongue, well, what is left from it. The glacier is retreating and markers indicate how much ice already melted away due to climate change during the last 20 years. This does not stop the park authorities to carry busloads of happily paying guests up the glacier for an ice walk. Costs for the basic package is about 100$.
Interestingly, viewpoints which were next to the highway or a parking lot were always packed with tourists. Viewpoints which needed a walk of about 100m were already too strenuous to reach for most of the bus tourists. You could enjoy a viewpoint on your own when some tracking of at least 1000m was involved. Thankfully there are a lot of those views along the parkway.
I traveled three days on the Icefields Parkway and stayed for the night on small and basic campsites. The campsite at Honeymoon Lake I liked the best. When I reached Jasper first thing was to look for a campground. Apparently there was only one which was open and that one was fully booked. Only an overflow campsite about 15km outside of Jasper was still available.
Yellowhead Highway #16, BC
The next day I got in Jasper my laundry done (fortunately that one had a hot shower as well) and then traveled on the Yellowhead Highway #16 towards Prince George and then further to Davie Lake at highway #97 where I found a nice campsite next to the lake for free.
Alaska Highway #97, BC
Hence there was not much to do at Davie Lake after one night I continued towards Fort St. John where highway #97 is named Alaska Highway. Fort St. John appeared to be an oil & gas town. Quite busy and trucks from service companies all over the place. After my food supplies were stocked-up I continued on the Alaska Highway northwards. What a change in scenery since I had left Jasper. Now #97 meanders around the swamp areas northwards and high pine trees to left and to the right from a trench for the highway. The highway had some truck traffic which transported either goods to the oil & gas sites along the highway or transported wood out of the forests. And it happened how it needed to happen, one truck fired a small stone against my windscreen which broke (second windscreen smash for this year).
Duhu Lake, BC
After approx. 160km north of Fort St. John I reached Duhu Lake, about 3km off the highway on a gravel road. Again I found a very nice campsite next to a lake. I shared the campground with a family from Chile. The family with three young kids is travelling for almost three years with their old Mercedes 207D with destination Alaska. Well and then there was this Beaver family which was occupied to regulate the water outflow of the lake with their self-built dam.
Liard River Hotsprings, BC
New morning, new day travelling on Highway#97 in rain. Although the day started with plenty of sun shine at around 08:00 the clouds covered everything with a black blanket and it was pouring down. Hence it did not stop raining I travelled until 18:00 when I reached the Liard River Hotsprings. Next to the hotsprings is a campground which was already fully booked. However, just on the other side of the road was an overflow campside where campers a stand next to each other. I took one of the sites just to have a dip in the hotsprings. At night I met a few other overlanders travelling on motorbikes and overland trucks.
Watson Lake, YT
In the morning I had a last bath in the hotsprings and then started the big day, where I crossed the border into the Yukon Territory near Watson Lake.
When you leave the hotspings huge signs warn the travelers that on the next 50km Bisons will roam on the highway. Well that read and coming around the corner four Bighorn Sheep regulated the traffic in both directions. It took about 10min before they moved just a bit to free at least one lane for the traffic. But the traffic sign was not misleading. There were numerous Bison cows with their calves grazing or sunbathing next to the road and a good number of big male Bisons walking on to the road.
Watson Lake has for travelers nothing important to offer apart from grocery stores and gas stations. However, the town is famous for their Signpost Forest. Anyone can nail his license plate or other signs onto wooden posts. By now the thousands of signs form a dense forest. The night I spent on a campground near the lake.
Francis Lake, YT
From Watson Lake I took the Robert Campbell Highway #4, a gravel road. Hence it was fairly sunny I stopped after just 2 hours at the campground of Francis Lake. At lunch time I setup a campfire and later enjoyed doing nothing with a cup of tea and a bag of cookies.
After a short night at Francis Lake I continued my travels early in the morning. At lunch time I made a short detour into the valley of Highway #6 before I continued to Faro on Highway #4. The scenery had not changed since the early morning. Green trees to left and right and almost straight gravel roads with no wildlife to be seen. On a stretch of roughly 500km I have not seen any other car driving in any direction. In Faro the weather changed again. Black low hanging clouds signaled the upcoming thunderstorm. Eventually I made it fairly dry to Carmacks where Highway #4 leads into #2 the Klondike Highway. Right at the junction I occupied one site on the campground. What a luxury, the campground had hot showers.
In Carmacks I had a rough night because fellow campers were talking all night long. After breakfast I hit the road around 09:00 which is rather late for me. Anyway, now I was driving on Highway #2 the Klondike Highway direction North. Enlarge the Klondike Highway follows the Yukon River up to Dawson City. Just after the Steward River crossing I made a sudden change of plan and turned right onto Highway #11 the Silver Trail Highway which leads to Keno an old Gold and Silver mining town. Today Keno City is more or less an open-air museum. Apart from the three quite organized mining museums people tend to put their old junk in front of their houses and declare it as art.
Since I was in Keno I made the short uphill tour to the Signpost. At an altitude of approximately 1500m there was a fantastic 360° view over the surrounding mountains, valleys and lakes.
Going back on #11 to Mayo Lake I had a bit of fortune and was able to see a Lynx, two male Moose and a Porcupine. This was only topped the next day before I rejoined the Klondike Highway. Next to the street was sitting a brown Black Bear mum with three cubs. The little ones were very tiny. However, mum was very relaxed and was only 1.5m away from the car.
Dawson City, YT
At about noon I arrived in Dawson City with the best and warmest weather since I arrived in North America. Quickly a decision was made to go all the way up to Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk) which is a small town in the very North direct at the Beaufort Sea. You can reach Tuk via Inuvik on the Dempster Highway #5 and from there on the Mackenzie Valley Highway #8.
Crossing of the Artic Circle, YT
On the first day I travelled on der Dempster Highway up to the Rock River Campround at km 447. At km 369 I took the rare opportunity at Eagle Plains to top-up my fuel. The km 405 marker was the highlight of the day, the crossing of the Arctic Circle. By mid of June I had now 24h of daylight, therefore I was already suffering from very little sleep.
Tuk and the Artic Ocean, NW
Day 2 of my little expedition started very early. Just after 06:00 I was on the road to drive to Tuk. As the day before the scenery was breathtaking especially with the unique light within the arctic circle. Just before lunch time I had completed two river crossings (Peel River Ferry and Mackenzie River Ferry) and found my way on the Mackenzie Valley Highway #8 to Tuk.
In Tuk quickly the mandatory pictures with the Arctic Ocean sign and the selfie direct at the ocean were taken. The afternoon I spent in Grandma’s Kitchen, a local restaurant, where I met George a local First Nation who shared plenty of stories. Here I met as well two scientists which are measuring the disappearance of the permafrost as a result of the global climate change. The conditions in Tuk are already as severe that authorities are considering to move the whole town onto solid grounds before it sinks in the melting grounds. This first hand experience make you think how much you contribute to the climate change.
Next: Journey back to Dawson City and travels to Alaska