Top of the World: Yukon, Alaska and British Columbia

“Let’s do it!”

Those are three powerful words when uttered by a passionate friend eager for an adventure!

About a year ago I shared a blog on Facebook, about the Alaska Highway, with the comment, “Bucket List!!” I was instantly awestruck by its images of sweeping landscapes, rugged terrain, majestic waterfalls and lonely highways that went off into the horizon. I knew I needed to experience those wild and far-off places myself.

It’s funny how simply communicating an intention can make all the difference in where your path leads. That quick share led to a good friend responding that Alaska was her dream travel destination. Her husband jumped onboard urging her to live the dream. A couple bottles of wine later, we hatched a once-in-a-lifetime, dream-come-true, bucket-list-slashing, epic road trip!

Over the next few weeks, I plan to live each day with the “Wild and Found” spirit I created this blog to represent. I will soak in the wildness, the lonely highways, the changing environment and all the natural gifts that come my way. I will attempt to post every other day, or when wifi permits.

I hope it will bring you a smile, a laugh, a moment of inspiration, a break from your day.

If all goes as planned, here are places you can expect to see some highlights from:

Leg 1: Yukon Territory
WhitehorseDawson City, Top of the World Highway and Delta Junction
Leg 2: Alaska
Valdez,  Anchorage, Whittier and Seward
Leg 3: Alaska
Homer,  Katmai National Park,  TalkeetnaDenali National Park, and Matanuska Glacier
Leg 4: Yukon Territory
Kluane National ParkHaines Junction to Whitehorse
Leg 5: British Columbia (pending fire situation)
Prince George, Quesnel and The Cariboo, Wells Gray Provincial Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park‘s famous Berg Lake Trail

Check in for stories, photos and inspiration here or on Instagram, @wildandfound

Thank you for reading! Here we go!

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead. JRR Tolkien

Whitehorse to Dawson

It’s been a whirlwind couple days of traveling. I spent yesterday in Whitehorse, which I really need to explore a bit more when I come back around in a couple weeks.

The morning started out pretty tough, simply due to fatigue and travel hangover. I looked up the one of their local coffee houses and woke up alongside the SS Klondike and Yukon River. It was the perfect way to start the day.


Getting out on trails and experiencing the environment is at the top of my priority list for this trip.

Miles Canyon came highly recommended by my AirBnB host so that’s what I did. It’s a short drive out of Whitehorse and so beautiful. Yukon River is massive! Photos can’t begin to capture it.


I was surprised and delighted to see so many people out in canoes and kayaks. This walk perked me up and reminded me of where I was.


Lastnight serendipity was at work. I met Karla (@yukonangel) a few months ago on Instagram in Toronto. She is from Whitehorse and luckily was in town, so we hit up Yukon Brewery and went up to a lookout called Haekal Hill.


It took a true off-roading experience to get there (Karla’s poor truck! Yikes!), but the effort paid off!


Yukon’s slogan is “Larger Than Life,” and it doesn’t take long to realize why. The scale of everything seems so much bigger here. I’ve had a handful of “As if this is my life” moments during my travels, and sitting at the top of Haekal Hill is now one of them.


Today I made my way up to Dawson City. I got an early jump on driving with a 5:00am sunrise overlooking the city.


I stopped at Braeburn Lodge, famous for its huge cinnamon buns, and enjoyed a coffee with owner, Steve Watson. He has a reputation online for being a bit grumpy but to me he’s was warm, kind and a joy to chat with.


I was sad to leave but happy to have had the opportunity to hang out without a crowd of tourists.


The drive was stunning in some areas and long in others. A great deal of the highway is marked with signs indicating past forest fires. Beautiful to see how the earth regenerates itself after such grand devastation.


The expansive stretches of tree-lined highway is split up with rest stops and viewing opportunities. I took a short 4km hike to Five Finger Rapids. It was the perfect opportunity to stretch the legs and get outside.


I’m now in Dawson. It’s everything I could have expected from and old mining town.


It’s the final night of the Dawson City Music Festival and the streets are dotted with music lovers young and old.

I can hear the main stage from my bedroom window and I’m looking forward to exploring the area more tomorrow.

I’ll be joining the Sour Toe Cocktail Club and soaking in the history here. The latter won’t be hard, it’s everywhere I go. The dead toe part, that will be another story!

Dawson City

Dawson City was an absolute blast and in many ways I wish I had a day or two more to take it in.

I spent the morning visiting local sites like the Jack London Museum and Robert Service Cabin, as well as took a hike on some of the trails. The rest was spent with a local resident, Laura who showed me where the locals go – like Triple J’s, The Pit, and Bombay Peggie’s.  Had the weather been better we’d talked of getting out in a canoe on the River but it wasn’t in the cards.

As promised, I did become a member of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club.


This was one of the highlights of my Dawson experience. If for no other reason but the fact that it’s such a huge local tradition.


If you don’t know what this club entails, google “Sour Toe Dawson” and you’ll soon understand why all my friends laughed and cringed when I posted the video on Facebook!

Another local tradition is visiting the Midnight Dome for sunset. It’s a beautiful spot overlooking the city.


The sunset really put on a show that night. I must have been driving Laura crazy taking a gazillions photos!


It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Dawson City and set myself up for the Top of The World Highway.

Top of the World Highway

When I booked this trip, I didn’t even know the Top of the World Highway existed. As soon as I did, however, it wasn’t an option not to drive it.

This road is only open for use during the summer due to its elevation and snowfall. Some of it is paved but a lot of it is dirt roads and gravel. While I was excited to drive it, it also gave me absolute anxiety. I toiled over whether to buy extra tires and what I’d do if anything happened on the road. There’s absolutely no cell or satellite service and it’s notorious for being hard on tires and chipping windshields. I took my chances, bought a can of instant inflator and hoped for the best otherwise.

To access it you have to take a short ferry across the Yukon River. It runs 24 hours a day during the summer. I was the only car on mine.

Just past the other side is a campground, also home to a decomposing steamship that’s become a bit of a landmark. You have to walk along the beach to find it. I forgot to take photos on my phone but did make my mark on the beach on the way back to my car.

This drive was absolutely spectacular and completely doable. While sections were certainly dodgy, for the most part it has been maintained or is being developed.


If there is a road less traveled, this is it. For long sections I was the only one on driving it. I was thankful at times for cars, simply for the fact that it’s impossible to capture the scale in photos without them.

For nearly two hours you are driving along the top of the mountain range, around cliff edges and down long winding switchbacks.

You really do have to pay attention at all times and slow down. As soon as you get confident and speed up the road will surprise you.

You cross the Canada/USA border at the top and it honestly came a lot faster than I expected. Poker Creek is the highest border crossing in North America. It was a breeze. Super quick and I was on my way.

The bonus to getting through customs is you start driving on the most beautiful stretch of paved highway ever! After dirt and gravel this was a travelers dream!

It only lasts for about 10km and you awake from the dream to a very rough road for a good 75km. My teeth were clenched and I drove 40km/hr for most of this section. If I was going to get a flat, I suspected it would be here. Here would NOT have been a good place either. At all.

It’s funny how beautiful can become boring so quickly. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that more than on this trip. The fatigue that comes with long drives really influences that.

Coming into Chicken, Alaska, I passed over this bridge, canyon and river. After 200 miles of dirt tree-lined roads, a river was a welcome change!

I was looking forward to arriving in Chicken for multiple reasons. Firstly, it’s name made me laugh, and secondly it was 3/4 of the way to the end. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but it is a fun little spot. “Downtown Chicken” is a gift shop, a bar and a restaurant. There were three tour buses of people buzzing about when I arrived so I didn’t stick around. I did make sure to get some pics of the famous Chicken statue and sign. Both of which were pretty awesome.

Driving from Chicken felt like the homestretch. The closer I got to Tok, the Junction where the road meets the Alaska Highway, the more excited I got.

I stopped for a quick bite to eat at Fast Eddy’s, called home and made my way to Delta Junction. I’d promised a close friend I’d attempt to catch a grayling with his road while in Alaska. Delta Junction is home to the Clearwater River, notorious for grayling, so naturally that was my destination of choice. Upon arriving, I quickly learned there wasn’t a whole lot to Selta Junction.

I’d been told Clearwater River Campground was a good base so I went there hoping a site would be open. Luckily there were multiple!

I was fortunate to discover a beautiful Lodge and restaurant next door after I got settled.  It was a damp night so spending the evening enjoying chats and pints with local was a treat. I told them of my hope to catch a grayling and a wonderful lady, Beth, went out of her way to help me make it happen.


Beth’s friend Kevin, who turned out to be the owner of Clearwater Lodge, met me at 8am the next morning to take me out on the Clearwater!

Kevin was amazing! He took me out on a beautiful boat ride. The river is a bit of an anomaly. It is spring fed, tap-water clear, remains 35 degrees at all times, never freezes over and is perfectly designed to host grayling. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We got ourselves set up in one of Kevin’s favourite spots. I could see the grayling clear as day from the boat. Such a cool and exciting sight. (Google grayling to see their photos. They are gorgeous!).

I almost caught one on my first cast but it didn’t set. Sadly, luck wasn’t on my side for the rest of the morning. They just weren’t interested. It began to rain so we’re tried a bit longer and called it a day.

I feel very fortunate for the experience. That’s the beauty of fishing though. Catching something isn’t guaranteed but the opportunity to spend time in nature and relax is a beautiful thing. Thank you Kevin for the opportunity!

Delta Junction to Valdez

From Delta Junction my goal was to head to Valdez (pronounced Vald-ease).

I’d heard the Richardson Highway was very scenic and it was a straight highway down to Valdez.

While there were large sections of straight plains and tree-lined road, the scenic sections were unbelievable.

I decided to invest in a GoPro before this trip and, while I’m still not using it to its full potential, I’ve been able to capture a great deal of the scenic byways in Alaska.

I was happy to have it along sections of the Richardson Highway because my camera simply can’t capture the scale!

I booked an AirBnB halfway between Valdez and Glennallen, so I checked in there first. It was located perfectly to split up the 5 hour drive.


Anchorage

Whittier and Seward




Homer

Alaska Bear Adventures







4 thoughts on “Top of the World: Yukon, Alaska and British Columbia

  1. Erin it’s so beautiful!!!! You look amazing and look like you’re having an amazing time! Gonna need you to go ahead and bring back 97 of those giant cinnamon buns. Be safe and have a blast! We’ll be following you xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Erin, we’re following and enjoying. The lens seems to be getting a good workout. Got your card today (3532) thanks. Stay safe and keep smiling.

    Like

  3. Thank you again for taking pictures of my brother and I at Exit glacier when we had crossed paths(If you happen to remember us that is?) He lives in Homer and I was visiting him from Michigan, US. Thank you again for the card, it has been fun to see what all you have done while on your journey. What an adventure it seems to have been.

    Best regards,

    Chris

    Like

    1. Hey Chris!! So great to hear from you!! You survived the hike up to the risky section! 😉 thanks for checking the blog. My phone app kept failing so I’m needing to do a proper update on this trip, but it was a great adventure. Feel pretty fortunate to have experienced it. Homer was awesome. Your brother is lucky to live in such a cool place. Wish I could’ve stayed longer!! Would love to keep in touch. If you visit Toronto, be sure to let me know!

      Cheers!
      Erin

      Like

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