Winter road trip, Day 1 – Whitehorse to Muncho Lake

I’m back on the road for 10 days or so, driving from Whitehorse to Calgary and back to see my kids. It’s both faster and cheaper to fly, but when I saw an absolutely incredible weather forecast for at least the first 7 days, driving was the easy choice. Well not actually “easy” – I even tried to find someone who needed a vehicle shuttled one way so I could fly the other and cut the trip down to a week, but that didn’t happen.

So, at 08:00 this morning, under a clear sky and with the temperature sitting at -5°C (23°F), I headed down the Alaska Highway in my all-wheel-drive Cadillac.

Fifty minutes from home, with White Mountain ahead. Sunrise wouldn’t be until 09:51, but the temperature had risen to +1C (34F).

White Mountain on the Alaska Highway
The view ahead at 09:27, along Teslin Lake. There were some crazy swings in temperature – an instant drop from +3 to -10 iced all of my windows up just before reaching Johnson’s Crossing. Windshield washers made the world visible again, but it took a few minutes to get everything cleared.

Winter sunrise on the Alaska Highway
The pastel colours looking back up the highway towards Whitehorse were wonderful.

A winter dawn on the Alaska Highway
The sun coming up over the Dawson Peaks and Teslin Lake.

The sun coming up over the Dawson Peaks and Teslin Lake on the Alaska Highway
The Teslin viewpoint is always a must-stop.

The Teslin viewpoint on the Alaska Highway
Km 1143, 101 km south of Teslin.

Alaska Highway Km 1143
A few places are signed as being high risk for caribou on the highway. This sign is at Km 1016. Although I saw huge numbers of caribou tracks, no animals appeared. A few minutes previously, I went through an area which would turn out to have the lowest temperature of the day, -16C (+3F).

Caribou collision risk on the Alaska Highway
The Church of Our Lady of the Yukon in the village of Upper Liard was built in 1955.

Church of Our Lady of the Yukon, Upper Liard
I made a quick stop for fuel at Watson Lake, and at 1:15 made the final crossing into British Columbia, at Km 964.5 (the highway crosses the BC/Yukon border a total of 7 times).

Welcome to BC on the Alaska Highway
By 1:45 the sun seemed to already be starting to dim, though sunset wasn’t until 3:52.

Winter sunset on the Alaska Highway
Looking up the Liard River from the Cranberry Rapids pullout at Fireside (Km 840).

Looking up the Liard River, Alaska Highway
Road conditions varied as much as the temperature, but by Fireside the wheel wells had a good load of slop.

Snowy Alaska Highway
Usually there are lots of bison along the highway, but I had only seen a few stragglers until coming upon this herd of some 60 animals about 25 kilometers from Liard Hot Springs.

Bison along the Alaska Highway in the winter
A glance in my rear-view mirror as I climbed the Washout Creek hill brought me to a stop to get a few photos of the Liard River valley.

Liard River valley, Alaska Highway

The temperature rocketed from -9C to +6C (from 16F to 43F) in less than 10 minutes halfway between Liard Hot Springs and Muncho Lake. That may be the wildest jump I’ve ever seen.

By 3:30 the sky was getting some great colours.

Winter sunset on the Alaska Highway
Wow! Km 740.

Winter sunset on the Alaska Highway
At 3:45, 7 minutes before sunset, I was at Km 725, a spot that I have many photos of.

Winter sunset on the Alaska Highway
3:50 – I was going to get to my lodging for the night just in time.

Winter sunset on the Alaska Highway
The main Muncho Lake viewpoint, right at 4:00 pm.

Muncho Lake, Alaska Highway
Five minutes later, I reached the Northern Rockies Lodge, having put 686 km on the odometer. It’s one of the nicest lodges on the Alaska Highway, and offers good value in the winter at $129, though having $17 in taxes added to that is an ouch. I thought about staying at Toad River this time, but really do enjoy the experience at this place.

Northern Rockies Lodge, Alaska Highway
My room, #306.

Northern Rockies Lodge, Alaska Highway
The view from my little deck.

Northern Rockies Lodge, Alaska Highway

It’s now 8:30 pm. I had an excellent schnitzel dinner and a couple of beer. As soon as I post this, I’m going to bed – tomorrow is going to be a very long day.




Comments

Winter road trip, Day 1 – Whitehorse to Muncho Lake — 10 Comments

  1. On those roads, even w good snow tires (assuming studs?) how fast do you generally go…?…bare pavement seems to have a heavy icy mix glued to the asphalt. Having driven to Fairbanks a few times from Anchorage in those conditions I was always afraid of too much confidence and speed.

    Were those pretty sky pics HRD or stacked? Do you have night sky times set aside in your schedule this time?

    • I have all wheel drive, and actually don’t use studs – I have huge Toyo Observe GSi5 tires, which have their highest rating for ice traction (they used to be called Toyo Studless). It depends of the specific section of road, but I drive at 80-110 km/h (50-68 mph).

      Three of the photos are HDR images to bring out the detail in the road (2 of them), and forest. The days are so short now that night-shooting time is part of the itinerary – there will be a couple of night star and aurora shots in the next post.

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