We departed Bellingham, Washington, yesterday morning on our way to Alaska! Getting an early start, we headed north through the farmlands of Whatcom County (below, top left) to the border crossing into Canada at Sumas (top right). Once in British Columbia at Abbotsford, we took Highway 1 up the Fraser River valley to Hope where the road crosses that mighty river (bottom left) before ascending the valley further into the Canadian Cascades (bottom right).
Highway 1 is the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH), the world’s longest national road and Canada’s main highway, running nearly 5,000 miles from the country’s Pacific to Atlantic coasts. Heading north out of Washington and Vancouver, most of the local traffic turns off of the TCH at Hope, taking BC5 to Kamloops and from there on into Jasper, a trip we made last year that you can read about elsewhere in this blog.
We stopped briefly at an information center in Hope to see if we could get a provincial map of British Columbia (BC) and of the Yukon. They had neither, but they did have travel guides for two of the three highways we are taking through BC: the Yellowhead Highway; and, the Gold Rush Trail, also known in part as the Cariboo Highway.
The guides we picked up in Hope contained interesting historical info and articles about local sites of interest, but if you ever decide to drive to Alaska, you really only need one guide to get there – The Milepost: Alaska Travel Planner, an annual publication that describes every road, settlement and hazard on the way into and around our 49th state.
[Ironically, there have been no physical mileposts on any of the roads described in The Milepost that we have driven so far, though they would be a great help in navigation. In the Florida Keys, our former home, all directions are given by reference to posted mile markers.]
The Gold Rush Trail follows the old gold miners’ route up the Fraser Valley. Gold was discovered north of Hope in 1857 near the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, bringing tens of thousands of prospectors to the area. We stopped at a pullout on the Thompson River for a picnic lunch and to take a photograph of our RV and “toad” (towed Jeep), our home for the next 10 weeks of this adventure:
We continued north on the Gold Rush Trail past the towns of Lytton, Cache Creek and Williams Lake to our first night’s destination at Quesnel (pronounced “kwa-nell”), where we camped at Robert’s Roost RV Park on Dragon Lake, having made 390 miles in about 7.5 hours of driving. The terrain in this area is somewhat arid, reminiscent of Washington, east of the Cascades:
Enroute, the “low battery” light on the dashboard flickered, a problem we first encountered on our trip to Jasper last year. I thought this had been solved by replacing the chassis batteries in Jasper, but there is apparently something wrong in the wiring. I opened the hatch to take a look…
Oh, yeah, no problem. And there are two more panels elsewhere in the motorhome that are just as complex – resulting in a late start Monday morning because I spent the first couple hours of the day tracing wiring and testing voltages before deciding to get some help. We stopped at the first two RV service shops we passed, but since it’s the beginning of camping season in BC, both of these service shops were booked for the next couple weeks and therefore couldn’t help us and I don’t expect to pass any more RV dealers until we reach Anchorage. Oh, well, I’ve got plenty of time to figure it all out.
Resigned to self-help, we continued north to Prince George, the largest city in this part of the province with about the same population as Bellingham, around 80,000. At Prince George, we turned off the Gold Rush Trail and onto the Yellowhead Highway. This part of British Columbia is mostly low, rolling hills, dotted with farms and pasturelands.
We’ve been lucky with the weather, so far, beautiful blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. We covered another 310 miles in 6 hours of driving today, Monday, and we’re now camped at a municipal campground on the River in Smithers. Tomorrow, we’re heading for Stewart and Hyder on the coast at the edge of the Tongass National Forest to look for Grizzlies and to do a little off-roading in the Jeep.