On Friday morning, Cathy went to work while I went into town to buy a few things to re-stock the RV, then drove 90 km down the Alaska Highway to Squanga Lake Campground at Km 1315.9.
Squanga Lake Campground gets little use by tourists, perhaps because when they’re this close to Whitehorse they continue into town. There are only 16 sites, 4 of which are pull-through. We chose it partially because of the lake, but more so because it’s a great base to explore a bit of the South Canol Road, which was our plan for Saturday.
I had expected that the campground would be busy to the point that all the good sites would be occupied, but when I arrived at about 2:00, I was the only one there.
I pulled into site #9, then walked around the park loop to be sure that it was the best site. Convinced that it was, I registered (the fee is the normal $12 per night, $0 for annual pass holders), got the rig and camp set up, and went for a wander with Monty and Bella.
The road down to the boat launch and dock is very steep, and is signed for 4-wheel-drive vehicles only. There’s unfortunately no beach to enjoy the lake, and the bottom is muddy.
There are some very nice tenting sites on the far side of this parking area. In the left foreground is a house for little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus). In the Yukon, bat houses are painted black and face south to absorb as much warmth as possible from the sun. One bat can eat as many as 1,200 mosquitoes an hour, so they’re great to have around a campground – we saw several more bat houses in the area over the weekend.
The day was very nice (the temperature was about 23°C – 73°F), and when the clouds moved aside, with nobody around for a mile or so and able to hear anyone approaching, I took advantage of the chance to enjoy the sun properly 🙂
Other RVs started to arrive at about 5:00, and by 6:30 when Cathy arrived (she had to work a full day instead of just go to a meeting as we thought), it was a busy place. Only 1 of the campers who arrived wasn’t a Yukoner – a German couple in a rental camper truck.
Sunset on Friday night was stunning – this shot of the final rays was taken at 10:59 pm.
On Saturday, we drove 20 km further east on the Alaska Highway, and started up the South Canol Road. Although the forecast for the entire week ahead was for sunshine, the weather quickly turned bad – in fact very bad, with a massive lightning and rain storm hitting us about half an hour up the road.
We kept going, with the probable turn-around point being the campground at the north end of Quiet Lake, 99 km (62 miles) from the Alaska Highway. The road as far as the campground at the south of the lake, Km 77, was in fairly good condition, at least for a little SUV – we passed a motorhome similar to ours (a Yukoner) that was just crawling along (as I would have been).
Past the first campground, the condition of the road was much poorer. These 2 groves of willows drooping over much of the road (from both sides) changed our minds about bringing the motorhome up as had been the plan even before buying it. I may still do it, with a chainsaw, but it’s a low priority now.
The northern Quiet Lake Campground is on the left. You can see by the tracks that few people continue up the Canol Road.
The campground is rustic, to say the least. One person was camped along the access road, but nobody in a marked site. A small viewpoint a few km south had been packed with RVs set up – it’s a far nicer spot than this.
There were almost a dozen vehicles with boat trailers parked at the very nice boat launch at the campground. That makes me wonder if the boat launch at the main Quiet Lake campground is unusable for some reason – there must be a very good reason to tow a boat further along that road.
We spent quite a while at this lovely spot beside the boat launch. Sunshine, nobody around, great play spot for Monty and Bella – it was absolutely perfect.
Another huge thunderstorm started to approach just after 3:00 pm, and at 3:45 the first boat appeared, I assume to escape it.
Before heading south again, I wanted to see the grader station a few hundred yards further up the Canol Road. There are some great artifacts from the construction of the road, including this dump truck…
…and this section of the pipeline that was the reason the road got built during World War II, at the same time as the Alaska Highway.
I had to go and check out the main Quiet lake Campground on the way back. I’ve always thought that it was poorly designed, as there’s no lake access or even view excerpt at the boat launch.
The carpet of dwarf dogwood and lupine at the campground entrance was lovely.
The feeling on our drive through the campground was that it’s all but abandoned. The Yukon government’s current campground map says that there are 20 sites, but the road to sites 11-17 is barricaded, and has been for some time. The firewood boxes are all but empty, and with one exception, the only people there was a large group that occupied, not campsites, but the boat launch parking lot.
The motorhome we had passed on the way north was the only rig parked in an actual camp site. There are supposed to be 4 pull-through sites, but this was the only one I saw. I wonder now whether the government is going to completely abandon not only the campgrounds, but the Canol Road itself.
Continuing the drive back to our campground, a blocked culvert had caused the day’s heavy rain to flood part of the road.
Some rain had hit Squanga Lake while we were touring, but we had a very nice evening, and cooked a wonderful steak dinner up over the open fire.
The kids had had a busy day, and the Canol, to say the least, isn’t conducive to napping in the back of the car! After our late dinner, they crashed on the sofabed while Molly, who had no doubt been under the covers on the bed all day, stood guard over them 🙂
The wild weather that we had hit through the day continued. At 9:50 pm, I shot this video of the extremely heavy rain. It was accompanied by some impressive lightning and thunder, though it doesn’t show in the video.
Sunday was a very quiet day, just relaxing with the kids. Monty was happy to snuggle up while I sorted photographs. Thick smoke moved in from the huge number of forest fires in Alaska, and mid-afternoon, we left for home.