May 27, 2016

Road Trip Reminiscing

Ultimate Road Trip: Anchorage to Toronto

It's hard to believe that 3 years ago we were just a few days in to the ultimate road trip - a 4000+ mile journey from Anchorage, Alaska home to Toronto, Ontario.

I'm a sucker for a good road trip, and this one definitely tops the list of most memorable. Let's take a drive down memory lane...

Day 1: Anchorage to Tok, Alaska
We left Anchorage around 10:30am, with a planned easy six-hour drive ahead of us to Tok, Alaska, just inside the border.  We had done half the drive before when we travelled to Eureka and on our way home from our Valdez adventure. This time around, we couldn’t have asked for better weather for our way out. 

Day 2: Tok, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon

We picked up the Al-Can Highway in Tok, AK. Although an exhilarating and ultimate road trippin' experience lay ahead of us, one of the toughest days I've ever had was crossing that border and not just because of the fun ordeal we had at Customs.

There was a bench sitting right on the border - you could chose which country you wanted to be in. I kept my composure through most of our goodbyes, but it wasn’t until I was standing half in Alaska and half in Canada that the waterworks started.  For three years, we had called both home.  It’s funny how things change – the temper tantrum I threw at the border just then was very similar to the one I threw that day in Walmart when I found out we were moving to Alaska in the first place. After a quick "let's go" from Steve, we were on our way, back to our home and native land. 

The drive to Whitehorse, Yukon was gorgeous, with many wildlife sightings, including a grizzly and a couple of black bears. We spent the night in Whitehorse, catching up with an old friend.

Day 3: Whitehorse, Yukon to Liard River Hot Springs, British Columbia
After grabbing a quick Tim Horton's coffee to start our day, we continued on our adventure. We had a picnic lunch at Watson Lake, Yukon, spending a few minutes walking through the Sign Post Forest to take in the thousands of other travellers that have been on the same exhilarating adventure as us.

We camped at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park in northern British Columbia, enjoying a much needed soak in the hot springs.

Day 4: Liard River Hot Springs, British Columbia to Grande Prairie, Alberta
After hitting the road for what would end up being a long day, we stopped in Muncho Lake, BC to fill up the tank - a pricey $2/L! When driving the road less travelled, it's important to stop and fill up whenever you can, despite the price, because you never know when the next 'in service' service station will appear. The usual turquoise colours of Muncho Lake were muted by the rain.

We saw wildlife galore - from black and brown bears, to stone sheep, bison, coyote, caribou and more.

We passed the Al-Can Highway Mile 0 sign in Dawson Creek, BC, stopping to only snap a few shots, give a quick high five, and continue on our 4000+ mile journey.

Day 5: Grande Prairie to Jasper, Alberta
The drive from Grand Prairie, AB to Jasper, AB was a fairly uneventful one.  The flatness eventually turned back into the towering mountains we had grown accustomed to. Night number 5 was spent at the Fairmont in Jasper to reward ourselves for making it this far without incident 

Day 6: Jasper to Banff, Alberta
We enjoyed the Fairmont right up until we had to check out in the morning.  We woke up refreshed and ready to continue the second half of our journey home. On our way out of Jasper, we saw elk and black bear galore. 

We drove along the Icefields Parkways, one of the most scenic drives in the world, and is studded with more than 100 glaciers and numerous small lakes, rivers and waterfalls. We stopped at the Columbia Icefield Interpretive Center, to awe over the Athabasca Glacier.  The Columbia Icefield is a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once mantled most of Western Canada's mountains and is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies. At one time the Athabasca Glacier reached the road, however, because of a warming climate, it has retreated almost 1.5 kms, over the past 125 years!

Before arriving in Banff, we made a pitstop at Lake Louise. Of course it was raining. We finally made it Banff and were welcomed with more rain, but a relaxing night catching up with a good friend over some drinks, made the rain not matter.

Day 7-8: Banff to Calgary, Alberta
We spent a few days relaxing in Calgary with family.

Day 9: Calgary, Alberta to Estevan, Saskatchewan

We said goodbye to family and hit the Trans Canada Highway heading East. We welcomed to the prairies of Saskatchewan by rain, and the terrain became as flat as a board. The largest excitement of the day came when we saw this Canadian icon, the television set of 'Corner Gas' while driving through Rouleau, SK. 

Day 10: Estevan, Saskatchewan to Eau Claire, Wisconsin
On day 10 of the road trip we travelled through 1 province and 3 states (Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin) before reaching our destination for the night. It was a long driving day, so before passing out for the night, we indulged in some Wisconsin cheese and beer, and some smoked salmon from our Alaskan friends.

Day 11: Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois
We spent a few days playing tourist in the Windy City, indulging in some craft beer and deep dish pizza and celebrating my 27th birthday a few days early at Shedd Aquarium. It was a hot and humid few days, definitely not the summer weather we were used to in Alaska. 

Day 12: Chicago, Illinois to HOME
4154 miles, 12 days, 7 states, 4 provinces and 1 territory later, we made it HOME.

While this was a trip of a lifetime, it definitely required some pre-planning. If you're feeling adventurous and want to experience it for yourself, I recommend investing in the Milepost. This is the bible of all Alaska/Alberta/BC/Yukon/Northwest Territory road trips and marks every stop, including things to see, gas, lodging, campgrounds, etc.

The Milepost Road Trip Guide

Do you enjoy taking road trips? What's your most memorable road trippin' experience?

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