North of 60: Travels up North
Well, I've been searching for photography workshops that I'd like to take in the coming year, but unfortunately none of the ones I really want to do coincide with when I'm free. So I thought that since I'm in B.C. that I might take a trip up North while I'm here (however short that might be).
I have about three weeks at the end of August/beginning of September and was planning on driving by myself in my car (not a four-wheel drive by any means, or a standard, but newish and in good condition) from Kamloops up to Prince George and then doing a loop that would cover route 97 up to Watson Lake and then possibly on to Dawson City (and maybe even into Alaska) and then back down possibly to Skagway back over to Watson Lake and then down Hwy 37 back to Prince George and eventually back home (or the opposite loop). I'm looking at this as a photography-based road trip. I certainly don't mind doing long road trips, and I'm a pretty good driver on rough roads having grown up in (slightly) northern, rural Manitoba. That being said, I have a few questions about the entire endeavour.
First of all, is the overall route too long? I don't mind spending long hours behind the wheel, but I do expect to stop somewhat frequently to get out and photograph what catches my fancy. However, I'm more than open to recommendations about the overall loop, where to stop for a while, and where to just pass on through. As well, how necessary will it be to book ahead in terms of accommodation? I usually stop where I feel like stopping, but I am aware that this is high season for the region.
What can I realistically expect to see at this time of year in terms of both flora and fauna? (and in what areas)
Can I really do a trip a like this in a normal car across the North? I don't plan on doing anything off-road and my impression is that the roads are in fairly good condition (although probably always being repaired as they are back in Manitoba after each hard winter). But I'd like a reality check from those in the know.
At the moment this trip is just in the preliminary stages of planning to see if it's a go/no-go. If it doesn't look feasible there are many other parts of Canada and/or the Pacific Northwest that I'd like to visit, but this is my first choice.
My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus
Sounds like a great trip! I haven't driven further north than Prince George myself, but here's what I'd do if I was you. Buy a CAA membership (probably less than $100). Explain to them where you want to go and they will provide you with maps and what they call a "triptik", essentially a detailed map showing the route you described, complete with known road construction areas, rest stops etc. They can also provide you with camping and accomodation info. all of this is free with your membership, which also includes roadside asistance support in case of a breakdown.
Even by late summer you will still have plenty of daylight to travel in. There will be no end to opportunities to burn of a ton of film. Good Luck!
"While you're out there smashing the state, don't forget to keep a smile on your lips and a song in your heart!"
The advice about CAA is priceless! Do that for sure. Hopefully, Kamloops has a CAA office where you can get face to face planning. CAA also offers discounts on lodging with participating establishments. I have stayed in very pricey places like Banff & Jasper with the CAA discount and saved a ton of money.
I would think that August-early September would be the ideal time to go. So will everyone else. Good news: Plenty of folks passing by to lend a hand. Bad news: Not exactly deserted.
I don't have a map handy so I can't comment on the route or length or anything. I say go for it. Head home when you get tired or run out of film. Since forever, I have always wanted to drive the Cassiar (sp?) Highway north in B.C. It's the westernmost north-south highway in B.C. Is that part of your route?
In BC, CAA is BCAA.
That must be the shortest sentence I've ever written.
The route sounds great. I've only done as far north as Prince George myself.
I wonder if MurrayMinchin has done any of this sort of wandering?
OK, I looked at a map. I think Hwy 16-Hwy 37-Hwy 97 would be a good loop. In that order. Do the really wild part first. If you have time, you could add on the loop down to Jasper and back across the Prince George.
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Never been in the north-west part of the province and I'm jealous! Sounds like a wonderful trip, whichever route you decide upon. It's a great time of year to be in the north.
I'm sure you're the last person that needs this advice (can't resist it ), but watch out for the moose! They're dumber than fenceposts and have no idea that a car might cause them some damage. The fact that they see you doesn't mean they won't wander out in front of the car. At that time of year you might also run into (pun intended) a bull who thinks your car is a competitor for a lady moose's favours!
Anyway, not to worry, but just keep an eye open for them - and the other wild things.
If I had been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better arrangement of the Universe.
Alfonso the Wise, 1221-1284
watch out for the moose! They're dumber than fenceposts and have no idea that a car might cause them some damage
John - that's hiliarious. But in all honesty they would do a lot more damage to my car than I would to them I think! I really hope I can see some moose -- I never have before. Where I'm from we have a lot of deer and elk but one really has to go further north to get into moose country. And of course I'm in caribou country now, but haven't seen any here either. In terms of my name, I used to play football with the guys in high school and my nickname was moose because I pretty strong (it would often take more than one of them to tackle me).
Thanks everyone for the CAA/BCAA advice. I hadn't even thought of them before (I'm a relatively new car owner) but definitely will have to go see them now!
Venchka -- I may just do it in the order you suggest. What I posted was just an example, but it's not like there are many choices in terms of routes anyway; it's really just go one way and down the other, or vice versa. But if for some reason I need to cut the trip short, then I'll have seen the wilder areas at least.
My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus
Sounds like a great trip! Can't help with anything north of Prince George, but if you're dropping south on highway 37 why not hang a right at Kitwanga, travel the Skeena Valley, take the ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy, then see some of Vancouver Island? With that loop you'll see just about every ecosystem BC has to offer except for the Rockies. As another option I think there's a ferry from Skagway to Prince Rupert, then you could drive to Prince George from there.
Just a few ideas for you to kick around...but I should warn you...I'm partial to the north coast, especially the inside passage, the outer coast, and the Skeena River Valley
Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.
As a ten year former resident of Prince George who's done most of what you're thinking of I thought I'd throw my two cents in.
I did the trip by myself about four years ago. I went the first two weeks of August. There was already snow on the Dempster Highway. This may not be normal, but it quickly put a stop to my plans to go up to Dawson City as I didn't have my snow tires on or chains I could use in an emergency. I decided to continue on to Whitehorse and spend more time camping and hiking in Kluane National Park, a truly special place.
I was driving a 2001 Subaru Forester (still do) which is all-wheel-drive. It came in handy a few times as some of the 'highways' way up in northwestern BC were barely passable mud tracks. If it has rained they will be slick and the safety barriers you're used to on highways don't exist. South of Dease Lake and North of Bell II the road is dodgy. I don't know if the province has done anything about it since I went over it, but it was very hairy in parts. There were many kilometres I could barely manage 20km/h because the roads were so rough. Gravel the size of your fist. Yes, that was on Highway 37.
Depending on when you go, be prepared to travel loooong stretches without seeing anyone. That took some getting used to. If it's peak tourist season with lots of folks driving the Alaska Highway, you'll see lots. Like I said, I went the first two weeks of August and more than a few times went hours without seeing another vehicle, particularly on Highway 37. I can't tell you how happy I was to reach Highway 16 at Kitwanga.
Bring as many emergency kits as you can fit. Not only did I have a spare tire, I also had tire patch kits and and air compressor to fill the tires. I'm a forestry guy by training though those days are long behind me, but I was comfortable going over rough roads alone, days out of reach from cell coverage and many hours drive from civilization. It can be both terrifying and liberating. Have a jerry can full of gasoline. Just because a community says they have a gas station doesn't mean they have gas to sell you or will be open when you get there. Have a tool kit that you know how to use. Have food and water. If possible, bring a GPS so you know exactly where you are and/or the SPOT system so you can signal for help if you need to. Make sure your maps are up-to-date and you can read them while driving.
Having said all that though I had no trouble whatsoever. Didn't even pop a tire, something I had done many times before while exploring the backcountry. I never ran out of gas. But, my tires were shredded by the time I got back to PG. Had to replace all four as the sidewalls were sliced. That shouldn't stop you though. It's the almost endless stretches of wilderness BC has that I miss most about the province.
You will see some of the most spectacular landscapes. The drive in to Stewart BC will take your breath away, quite possible the most beautiful and awe-inspiring 50kms I ever travelled. Glaciers you can just about reach out and touch. The Yukon is everything you imagine it will be and more. The people are fantastic. There are wild Buffalo to be seen wandering the highway north of Liard River, BC. Make sure you stop in at the Liard River Hot Springs and camp the night in the provincial park and take a dip, it'll warm your soul. There were wild horses blocking the highway south of Dease Lake on Highway 37. I didn't mind stopping though as the surroundings were almost too much to take.
If you have any questions let me know and I'll do my best to answer them. It was two weeks of my life I will never, ever forget. The Yukon alone will make you cry.
Go. And bring as much film as you can afford.
Last edited by areaeleven; 02-05-2009 at 02:15 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: spelling. argh.
Thank you! I didn't need encouragement. You've given me more than I could want. I must go.