Driving from Calgary to Whitehorse with the new Jeep

The 3-day drive home with our new Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk was much quicker than I prefer, but it’s always an enjoyable trip.

The total distance from my daughter’s home in Airdrie to mine in Whitehorse was 3,101 km (1,927 mi). Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Calgary-Whitehorse driving map
The day-and-a-half with my daughter and her family was wonderful, even with the “wet blanket” of not feeling well. Andrea always seems to be driving somewhere, so there’s always something new to see. This view of the Calgary skyline is just south of Airdrie. With more time and energy, I’d love to spend a day out shooting fields and tractors.

Calgary skyline and hay field

One of our stops was at Rona. I’d seen a Facebook post by a Whitehorse women desperately looking for some special wood stain that she’d run out of and now couldn’t find. It was in stock at the Airdrie Rona, so I offered to pick it up for her.

This trip turned out to be useful to a friend looking to move back to Whitehorse, too. Teresa was in Red Deer, and I was happy to be able to offer her a ride.

I also got a request to transport a puppy from Fort St. John to Whitehorse, but it turned out to be a very big puppy, and there just wasn’t enough room left in the Jeep when I left Red Deer. The woman really didn’t seem to understand how involved transporting a puppy thousands of kilometers is, so that request may have died anyway.

Year after year after year, the number of homes and related services being built around Calgary is shocking. Where do all these people come from? Most of the housing developments are huge – virtually new towns – like this one, Livingston.

New Livingston community north of Calgary
Sometimes, a handful of acres are developed in the middle of a farm. That usually results in huge home, especially when the location is on a hill with a view of the Rockies, as this one is.

Huge new homes on acreage north of Calgary
When I left Airdrie at 09:00 on Monday, the weather forecast sucked, calling for fog with occasional light snow or freezing rain. Yup, that’d be Jeep weather 🙂

Fog and snow in Airdrie, Alberta
Coming into Red Deer at 10:15. I love the Jeep’s navigation system. When you have a turn coming up, a screen showing the turn approach opens right in front of you, where the speedometer normally lives. My Spot is over on the left side, showing Cathy where I am all the time, and Nanook is still travelling with me.

Navigation system on the 2016 Jeep Cherokee
Teresa was ready to go when I reached her place, and we soon had the Jeep loaded and were on our way. Monday was a flat day, in terms of both landscape and weather. This was the approach to Grande Prairie on Highway 43 just after 5:00 pm. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the approach, and got totally confused trying to find the strip of motels I wanted. I’ve been to Grande Prairie a lot, but very seldom via this route. DOH! 🙂

Once I found the right area, I quickly chose the Stanford Hotel for the overnight – a good-looking property with restaurant and lounge. The room was good value at $110.88 including taxes, but the restaurant was a huge disappointment to both Teresa and I. The manager didn’t charge me for the rubber-chicken pasta dish that I ate part of. I called a nephew who lives in Grande Prairie, and he met us at the lounge for a while. It was the perfect place to meet, so the Stanford got 2 out of 3.

Tuesday started off flat as well, but the weather had started to clear by the time we stopped at Dawson Creek just before noon. I stopped in at Tourism to see my long-time friend Joyce for a few minutes, then got one of the shots I try to take with every vehicle I bring north, at Mile 0.

2016 Jeep Cherokee at Alaska Highway Mile 0
Up around Km 180 at 2:20 pm. There was enough gravel on the road that I cringed every time a semi approached, and whenever possible I moved to the right as far as possible. I really wanted Cathy to see her new car without a cracked windshield at least once. There were lots of small rock hits, but as the miles passed, my luck held.

Alaska Highway at about Km 180
We gained an hour as we continued northwest. West of Fort Nelson, I made a short photo-stop at about Km 550, where the Alaska Highway drops down from Steamboat Mountain to the Tetsa River.

Alaska Highway at about Km 550
Summit Lake, at 5:43 pm. The temperature had been fairly consistent all day again, up and down between -2°C and +2°C (28-36F), even after the sun disappeared behind the mountains.

Summit Lake, Alaska Highway
Just past Summit Lake, with the drop into “The Gorge” just ahead, we met this young bull moose and his girlfriend. He didn’t stand his ground for long 🙂

Bull moose on the Alaska Highway

I had made reservations at the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake, but by the time we reached Toad River Lodge I needed some dinner (and eating there is much cheaper than at Muncho).

The dinner stop turned out to be not a very good idea. Cathy and I had seen some comments that the headlights are poor on the Jeep Cherokee, and my summary now is that they’re totally inadequate for Northern driving. There’s a good beam of light down the centreline, but no “ditch light”, which is mandatory here for seeing animals. The short drive from Toad to Muncho was much longer than normal, because I couldn’t safely go much faster than 70 kmh (43 mph). We saw elk twice, but the odds of seeing a lot of wildlife along that stretch is very high.

The rooms at the Northern Rockies Lodge are a bit spendy ($190.97), but the rooms – and the entire lodge – are very nice. We had the breakfast buffet at the lodge Wednesday morning ($18.50 each plus tax and tip), I took this photo from our room at 08:10, and we were soon on our way again.

Our view at the Northern Rockies Lodge, Muncho Lake
The main Muncho Lake viewpoint, at Historic Milepost 463 of the Alaska Highway (now Km 710.1).

I heard Teresa’s camera clicking a lot, but I only stopped for a few photos – this one at 08:36.

Alaska Highway north of Muncho Lake
I almost drove by these sheep – mostly hidden by the concrete – without even noticing them, but then did a U-turn and came back.

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
There was very little traffic, and after a momentary jaunt onto the highway, the sheep all stayed behind the concrete barrier.

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
These are Stone sheep (or Stone’s sheep), Ovis dalli stonei. I figured that the lamb probably didn’t want a snuggle, but I sure would have been up for it 🙂

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
One final portait after spending 9 minutes with the sheep, and it was time to get moving.

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
A couple of minutes later, we got stopped for a few minutes to wait for a pilot car. Several kilometers of formerly very narrow and winding road in this area is now history. The job of completely tearing up the old road and seeding it is almost finished.

Construction on the Alaska Highway
I stop at Liard Hot Springs less and less often as the years go on. A hot soak might have helped the cold that seemed to be getting worse, but we passed on by anyway – it would be just as likely to make me too tired to reach Whitehorse that night. Just past the hot springs, these bison stopped us a for a couple of minutes. The ones in the middle of the road weren’t moving, so I drove slowly around them.

Bison on the Alaska Highway
Teresa had never seen Smith River Falls, so I made that detour to show her. The road was the roughest I’ve seen it, but it was still worthwhile.

Smith River Falls, Alaska Highway
The hike to the base of the falls is pretty tough since a forest fire burned the network of stairs, but when the weather cooperates, it’s a great hike. I wouldn’t do it on a frosty morning – the very steep slopes would be a challenge!

Smith River Falls, Alaska Highway
The Liard River at 10:15.

The other photo that I pretty much always shoot with the vehicles I bring north – the “Welcome to the Yukon” sign just south of Watson Lake. Teresa took this photo at 11:30.

Swift River Lodge is now gone, one of the many sad stories about Alaska Highway lodges. It was closed in several stages after being unable to comply with new Yukon government regulations. (See this article in the Yukon News)

With the roads gravel-free as we neared Whitehorse, I was really happy that the windshield had made the trip intact. Just before Jake’s Corner, though, a semi spit a rock out of nowhere, and bang! – a little star right in front of the driver 🙁

We reached Whitehorse just after 4:30. I dropped Teresa off in Porter Creek, spent a while at the car wash, and was home at 5:20, anxious for Cathy to get home to see her new ride 🙂 Her Tracker looks pretty old sitting beside it!

Cathy's new Jeep Cherokee, with her old Tracker

When I turned the Jeep off in my driveway, it had a total of 3,112 km on the odometer (1,934 mi). The computer says that from the time I picked it up at the dealer’s, it had gotten fuel mileage of 10.0 liters per 100 kilometers, or 23.5 miles per gallon. That’s a bit lower than I’d expected, but not bad given the mountains and snow/slush/gravel encountered. That was an excellent break-in run, and I’m very pleased with the Jeep except for the headlights as I mentioned. But it’s extremely comfortable despite the hard ride that’s to be expected with a vehicle built to be a good off-road machine, and the various components of the operating systems are all easy to use. During the trip, I ran into everything from freezing rain, fresh snow, deep slush, and rough ice, to rain and even some warm, dry roads. Even in the worst conditions, traction was excellent thanks to the combination of drivetrain and the Firestone Destination A/T tires. Only once, when I hit a stretch of ice (rough, frozen slush) north of Jasper, did I have actually select the drive option “Snow” – at all other times, “Automatic” did the job.

I took the Jeep to New North Glass first thing Thursday, and they were thankfully able to seal the wildshield rock-star really well.

Cathy has only taken it to work once so far, and she loves it – both the look and the drive. So the summary is that 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk was the right choice for us.


Driving from Calgary to Whitehorse with the new Jeep — 4 Comments

  1. Thank God you washed that beautiful vehicle before showing it to Cathy. I had never heard about “stone sheep” and thank you for identifying them. Great pictures Murray, as always.

  2. Hi Murray, I have been away from your blog for awhile, glad to be back and to read your interestsing adventures.