Banff National Park
Canada route to Anchorage
Our Alaska trip started as a lot of our trips do--a night in McCall Idaho, and why not? The road up there, mostly along the North Fork of the Payette River, is the kind motorcyclists gravitate to--lots of switchbacks, etc. We have taken this road many times, yet it never gets old.
There are photo opps. along the way (Rainbow bridge is particularly photogenic.) There are plenty of little townships and services every so often. Once in McCall, there is always good food to be had and the scenery of Payette Lake and the national forest by the same name can be part of the ambiance if you choose carefully. We like Ruperts and what has been The Anchor for the past few years. Both have views of the water. Never to be missed is The Pancake House--sharable portions and a year-round Christmas store.
Our second night was in Spokane visiting friends and family. This is always a good reason to go a few miles out of our way. I won’t belabor this since our friends and family are not expecting you!
The ride to Radium Hot Springs was indeed scenic and our overnight stay was graced by wildlife (elk?) in the middle of town. This was mid July and the Indian paintbrush and yarrow make great foregrounds for pictures!
Grand Cache, and our 4th night, is North of Banff and in the same national forest--Jasper. The bustling town at the base of the ski resort, was very alpine-styled and quaint. There were restaurants and shops that looked intriguing. It was hard to rush through here; it seemed we were missing so much!
The long day to get to Dawson Creek included some sightings of Elk and Moose. (Good thing this is singular; I’d hate to have to say Meese!) Here marks the beginning of the Alaska Highway. Yipee! It just gets more and more scenic the further north we go. Truly amazing.
Our route to Fort Nelson was wet and disappointing in that there were no wildlife sightings, but don’t storm clouds do amazing things for pictures!
On, then, to Watson Lake. Things really started to get exciting. We sited a grizzly mom and her cub across a culvert. (I’ve yet to see the GoPro video of this; I’m hoping it’s even better.) We also watched a buffalo scratch his back, in delight, along the road. Also, a lonely black bear. We stayed in an old army barracks and shared bathrooms and swapped stories with other bikers.
Our next several hour day landed us in Whitehorse. This would be a highlight, for sure, of our stretch through Canada. Here we recommend putting your name in and waiting (it’s worth it) at Klondike Rib and Salmon. The food is terrific, the desserts monstrous, and the atmosphere absolutely unique. The restaurant is housed in two of the oldest buildings in the Yukon Capital. On your way out of town, take a few minutes to stop by the S.S. Klondike, a sternwheeler from early 1920’s, that was remarkable in its capacity and ability to navigate the smallish Yukon River. Donation only, as I recall and a fun “lookabout.” (practicing my Maori! Otherwise known to some--me--as New Zealandese!)
After a rather slow day due to construction on the AL-Can, we arrived in Tok. It was a bit cooler, so I resorted to my heated vest some. We had another Grizzly sighting-this one just moseying along on our side of the road and she was in no hurry. We got a good close-up gander at this one as we passed her a few feet away. Afterwards, I made one of those notes to self: Next time keep an eye out for mama who, for all I know, might have been watching from behind a tree! More spectacular landscape and dramatic clouds. And, with that, we’re in Alaska and I’m going to take it up here in another article on Alaska!