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May 2009

by Murray Lundberg

Page 1: Whitehorse to Calgary
Page 2: Calgary to Whistler
Page 3: Exploring the Whistler Area
Page 4: Whistler to Whitehorse

May 7, 2009: Heading Down the Alaska Highway

I left home at 5:40am and had hoped to reach Fort St. John but got slowed down by seeing about a million animals up close today - bears, moose, caribou, Rocky Mountain sheep, bison, even a bald eagle feeding on a road-killed bison!

This is the parking lot at Rancheria Falls at 9:45am. I had planned to hike into the falls but the snow was too deep.


A black bear along the Liard River at 1:35pm.


Many people researching their drive to the Yukon and Alaska hear about the lack of traffic on the road, but what exactly does that mean? Here’s the actual count of vehicles that I met in a typical hour, recorded today between 11:15 and 12:15 as I was southbound north of Watson Lake (so these vehicles were northbound):

  • private cars, pickups etc: 13
  • RVs of all types: 6
  • Tractor-trailer rigs: 6
  • Other commercial: 2

This is the MacDonald River valley.

I spent the night in a hotel at Mile 300 of the Alaska Highway (Fort Nelson, BC).


Here are some prices seen for regular gas along the Alaska Highway between May 7 and May 9 (going south from Whitehorse):

  • Teslin: 99.9
  • Swift River: 99.9
  • Nugget City: 119.9
  • Junction 37: 106.9
  • Watson Lake: 102.9 (Tags) to 105.9 (PetroCan)
  • Contact Creek: 97.9
  • Tetsa River Lodge: 168.9 (!!!! - winner of my GOUGE OF THE YEAR award :( )
  • Fort Nelson: 109.9
  • Shepherds Inn: 99.9
  • Junction 29 Shell: 102.9
  • Fort St. John: 96.4 after discount (PetroCan
  • Dawson Creek: 97.9
  • Hythe, Alberta: 88.4 - 89.9

For easy conversion of Canadian prices per liter to US prices per gallon, see this site.



May 9, 2009: In the Rockies

I’m in Jasper, about to get ready to leave for Calgary, via the Icefields Parkway. This is a bit of a detour but I haven’t been on the Parkway in over 30 years, so it’s time for a look-see.

Yesterday was a long day and I arrived here exhausted after 13 ½ hours on the road. The weather once I got to Grande Prairie was erratic, with lots of very heavy rain and a short stretch of very heavy snow. The first shot was taken just south of Fort Nelson at 05:07.

Snow on Highway 40 between Grande Prairie and Hinton - it was very heavy, and forced me to slow to 60 kmh (35 mph). Luckily it only covered the road for a couple of miles.

Some of the few minutes of sunshine I saw on Highway 40.

Highway 16 just west of Hinton.

Jasper - a lovely town in a spectacular setting. There are elk all over the place, and they’e quite a nuisance to residents. It’s very dead here - I was the only customer the restaurant I went to had had all night! I’m at the Mount Robson Inn - a very nice place on the main drag downtown.



May 10, 2009: Icefields Parkway - Incredible Mountains

My plan yesterday was to reach my daughter's home in Airdrie (a few miles north of Calgary) by noon, so I was away from the Mount Robson Inn at 5:30am.

The last time I was on the Icefields Parkway was about 1970, so all I really knew about it was that it had great scenery and relatively gentle grades. I’m no stranger to great mountains, but the rocks along this highway are incredibly beautiful and powerful. The next I do this route will be with Cathy and at least 2 days to spend on the 233 km between Jasper and the junction with Highway 1 west of Banff.

A herd of elk was a nice start to the day.

It's actually a good thing that the weather wasn’t great or it would have been extremely difficult to rush through. There were some wonderful glimpses of the possibilities, and lots of “moody mountain” photo ops, though.

Columbia Icefield, with my Outback sitting in front of one of the snowcats that are used to drive tourists across the glacier. I didn’t go into the magnificent Icefield Center but there were already 7 tour buses there.

This wild thunderstorm hit just as I was getting out of the mountains.

Heading east to hit Highway 1A, a very scenic shortcut to Airdrie. This picture was taken 12 minutes after the one of the thunderstorm!

Highway 1A.


I arrived at Andrea’s at noon as planned. During our afternoon wanders we went to a new Bass Pro store a few miles south. I’m sorry that I hadn’t brought my camera - the place is mind-boggling. Have a look at the photos at the store’s site.

Last night, Andrea and I went to a lacrosse game, the first for both of us. It was an NLL Western Division Final between the Calgary Roughnecks and the San Jose Stealth. Calgary pounded San Jose 16-3 (it was 13-0 at the start of the 4th quarter). It's a good sport to watch (as good as hockey), and the performance is very cool - lights, loud music, fans screaming. I'm a looooong way from the Yukon right now.



May 10, 2009: Prairies & Dinosaurs

I couldn't live on the Prairies, but I do enjoy visiting. Boring at first glance perhaps, but particularly if you get off on the back roads, there's a grandness that is very powerful, and there are photo ops everywhere.

We made a quick trip out to Drumheller and back today, with the Royal Tyrrell Museum the focus of our day. Fields are being prepared on all of the farms in this area, and it was interesting to try to figure out what some of the equipment rolling across the fields does.

We stopped at Horseshoe Canyon, and another traveler obliged by taking this photo of us all. My Mom's family is from Hanna, just east of here, and I've been to Horseshoe Canyon a few times since the first visit in about 1955. It feels good to be able to tell my grand-daughters stories like that.

The location of Drumheller has fascinated me since I was a kid. You’re driving across a flat world and all of a sudden a large colourful hole opens up and there's a town at the bottom of it. The town is just around the corner to the left in this photo.

The Tyrrell Museum is a wonderful facility for people of all ages. We spent 2 ½ hours there but an entire day would be needed for a proper look at what's there.

The entire paleontological process is nicely presented, including having the labs visible (though no work was going on while we were there).

In the foreground of the shot below is a display showing how a bone bed is taken apart - the meticulous work involved is fascinating.

There is interactive stuff for kids everywhere, so while mom and dad are looking at what interests them, the kids can be playing with a puzzle mounted on the edge of the display.

Fossils of all sizes are presented, from the T. Rex and woolly mammoth down through sabre-tooth tigers, this little oreodon that died in its sleep, and right down to beetles and plant spores.

Some of the displays such as this night-time attack on a mammoth by two sabre-tooth cats, are very impressive.

Outside the museum there's an extensive network of interpretive trails, but we only did a short one up to an observation area. We then went for a drive, looking for hoodoos but we were unable to find them. We should have thought this day out better (ie there's a map of the Hoodoo Trail online!), as there's a lot to see.

The highway back to Airdrie.



May 11, 2009: A Day in Calgary - Shopping Heaven

Today was a fun day in town. We dropped the girls off at school and went shopping :) There are a whole lot of things that Whitehorse does very well, but although shopping is a world better than it was a decade ago, it's still pretty dismal. On our shopping cruise I got some good photos of downtown Calgary, a particularly attractive city.

The big score of the day was a sweet new street bike for Andrea - an all-black Kawasaki Ninja 250. It's a great starter bike with what appears to be excellent resale value if/when she wants to trade up to a bigger machine.

My score was much smaller - a breadmaker and a pair of living room table lamps. Some of you might wonder why I need to drive 1,500 miles to get things that simple - well, the ones I want just aren’t available in Whitehorse. There’s more shopping to do, but that has to wait until Kelowna where I have more time.


Page 2: Calgary to Whistler