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Bear Sights, Sign Post Forest and Northern Lights!!

July 21,22

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Buckshot Betty Restaurant

We Started from Beaver Creek after breakfast at Buckshot Betty. We were returning from Alaska and moving South towards Vancouver. The distance from Beaver Creek to Whitehorse is roughly 457 kilometres. We knew this patch of road on the Alaska Highway was not in the best condition. There were many patches with lose gravel. We had to move slowly on those patches. We also had several delays due to road construction.

Our first stop was near a spot where we could have a good look at Kluane Lake. It looked beautiful showing the reflection of the distant mountains and the sky in the water.

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Small ducks in the Kluane Lake

We stopped at a few other places, and finally arrived at Whitehorse around 3:00PM.
We have already spent three nights in Whitehorse on our way to Alaska. This time it was only one night. We stayed in the same hotel SKKY. There is a good restaurant near the hotel called Airport Chalet. We had dinner at this restaurant.

Next morning we started our drive towards our next destination Watson Lake. The distance from Whitehorse to Watson Lake is roughly 453 kilometres. We have not seen any big wild animals for some time. We only saw a small ground squirrel at Whitehorse.

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Small ground squirrel on the road

On our way, there was a restaurant called Jake’s Corner. They are famous for their freshly baked Cinnamon Buns. We stopped at this restaurant and bought some cinnamon buns (which are completely drenched in heavy sugar syrup!).

As were driving slowly looking for any photo opportunities we saw a brown bear by the side of the road feeding on small plants. We stopped the car, but the bear ignored us and continued to feed on the plants. I think there were some wild berries on these plants and the bear was eating these berries. Malisha managed to take some photos and also do a video clip showing the bear eating the berries. We will post the video clip later if it is not too big to be uploaded.

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Brown Bear feeding on wild berries

We spent about ten minutes observing the bear till it finally walked into bushes and disappeared. We knew there could be more bears on the road. We were more alert and looking for bears. If you are not looking, and driving at a high speed, you can easily miss the bears. We were lucky again. Within one hour Malisha saw another black bear. This time it took a little time to stop the car and we have already passed the bear. Luckily there were no vehicles on the road and we turned our vehicle and came back to see the bear still waiting and feeding. It was a black bear and Malisha managed to take a few photos. We waited there watching it for some time and suddenly the bear did something we have never seen them doing before. He went near a light post and stood up on its hind paws and rubbed his back against the light pole. Malisha was trying to take photos and also do a video in between. She managed to take a photo of the standing bear and the video caught the last bit of his action.

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Black Bear looking straight at us!

We briefly stopped at the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre. They have a video show and some exhibits to show the history and culture of native Tlingit people, but we had to excuse ourselves and leave the place as we were running out of time.

Near Tlingit Heritage Centre
We arrived at Watson Lake around 4:00PM and it was very sunny and hot. That day, the temperature had gone up to 31C in Watson Lake. The first thing that captured our attention in Watson Lake was the Sign Post Forest. This was started in 1943 by Carl Lindley a soldier who wanted to post his home town post. Others who came from all over the world continued to add their sign posts and now there is a sign post forest.

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Signpost Forest at Watson Lake

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How Signpost Forest started

We checked into a place called A Nice Motel to spend the night. This hotel is behind the gas station and we had to book two rooms as they did not have rooms for three people. The rooms were clean, but when we look at the facilities provided, we paid too much for the rooms. The internet was not working and the hotel telephone in our room was not working and it was extremely hot in a room that had no air conditioning.

There is a Northern Lights Centre in Watson Lake. It is a planetarium where they have daily shows to explain how the Aurora Borealis or better known as Northern Lights occur. Aurora Borealis is normally seen in Alaska in winter time. The show at the planetarium gave a three dimensional view of this spectacular phenomena and explained the reason for its occurrence.

Posted by fernando65 08:09 Comments (2)

To Grande Prairie passing mile zero of Alaska Highway

July 24

Our next destination was Grande Prairie. We have visited Canadian Alps in a previous trip and did not want to go back to those same places. We still wanted to visit Edmonton and visit the famous Edmonton Mall. A stop over at Grande Prairie was the best option. The distance from Fort Nelson to Grande Prairie is 584 kilometres. We knew the road was good and we could cover this distance easily.

We had breakfast at the hotel and left early around 7:00AM. We were still travelling on the Alaska Highway. We knew we had to cover a long distance driving part of the distance on the Alaska Highway. We did not see any wild animals today. We are now on the home stretch getting closer to the end of the trip. We knew Alaska Highway ends in Dawson Creek. We stopped the vehicle and took some photos. The photos show the place where the Alaska Highway ends and shows zero miles.

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Alaska Highway starting point showing mile zero

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Showing the entry point to Alaska Highway

Construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 within a short time of 8 months is considered a great achievement. It was constructed during the Second World War. We also realised that we covered the entire length of the Alaska Highway during this trip (the total length of the highway is 2450 kilometres). In Alaska it officially starts at Delta Junction (not Fairbanks) and the other end is in Canada, Dawson Creek.

After Dawson Creek, we drove slowly and stopped in several small towns. We bought some cherries from a fruit stall on the road. They are so fresh and tasted great!

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Fresh Cherries from a fruit stall on the road

The road became better as we got closer to Grande Prairie. Grande Prairie is a big city and the road became a dual carriage highway as we approached the city.

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The Road became a dual carriage highway closer to Grande Prairie.

We booked into the hotel Days Inn at Grande Prairie. The hotel is in an isolated area, not very close to other hotels or shopping centres. It was not a big problem for us as we had the vehicle to go anywhere we wanted. The hotel was good, but not as glamorous as Spring Hill Suite or Holiday Inn Express. We were there for just one night and we were only looking for a place to take a good rest and sleep.

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Days Inn hotel from outside

The city is spread over a big area and we visited one shopping centre just to see what we can find in the shops. In the night we went to an Indian restaurant called Taj Grill and Bar. Trip Advisor had very good ratings for this restaurant and we wanted to taste something different. From the description and the on line menu, we understood it was a North Indian restaurant and serves dishes like Chicken Tikka, Butter Chicken. When we went there, there was a buffet dinner in addition to normal dishes ordering off the menu. We opted to go for the Buffet dinner as it had more variety. The food was ok and reasonably priced. We came back to the hotel after a good dinner.

Posted by fernando65 21:07 Comments (0)

From Grande Prairie to Edmonton and Lethbridge

July 25,26 and 27

We got up early today and had our breakfast in the hotel. It was very similar to the breakfast we had in Holiday Inn Express. We decided to leave early to reach Edmonton as early as possible. Edmonton is a very big city and we have two days in Edmonton.

From Grande Prairie to Edmonton, the road is a dual carriage Highway and allows you to drive at a high speed of 110 km per hour. The Highway is very straight and less scenic. We saw vast fields of canola and other vegetations on the two sides of the highway. Canola fields look like a huge yellow carpet from a distance. We however saw one deer appearing from the woods. I managed to take a photo before it ran away and disappeared in to the distant jungle patch.

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Deer running into the woods

We arrived in Edmonton by 2:00PM and checked into the hotel Hampton Inn and Suites. This is a good hotel with similar facilities to Hilton Hotels. At the reception, we were told that the hotel operates similar to other Hilton hotels. It was a Wednesday and they had a special function in the evening with free drinks for all the guests. We could come down and meet their management if we liked (although we didn’t).

We have booked a big room with two queen beds. The hotel has a swimming pool and serves free breakfast. We selected this hotel mainly because it is very close to the Edmonton Mall. Edmonton Mall is supposed to be the biggest shopping mall in North America and Canada.

I knew these two days were going to be hard. Shopping is not my favourite hobby. I can tolerate it for a few hours - but spending one full day shopping in a huge mall is not an easy task.

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Malisha and Mala in the shopping mall

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Malisha enjoying a ride in the Mall

The Edmonton Mall did not have the very famous department stores that are available in American malls. There were many small shops - some of the shops carrying clothes under popular brand names were not to be seen. The prices were similar to what you get in Australia. We did not see any advantage in buying things that are available in Australia.

We were in Edmonton for two nights. After shopping, we came back to the hotel and relaxed watching the TV. On the third day morning, we left the hotel and drove to our next destination Lethbridge.

We are now slowly moving towards Vancouver. Lethbridge is a small town, about 472 kilometres from Edmonton. On our way to Lethbridge, we stopped at a few small towns. In every small town, we invariably find the popular chain restaurants like McDonald, KFC and Subway. Then there is another popular chain restaurant called Tim Hortons which has become very popular in Canada. I have not seen this restaurant in America. It has more variety to cater to different pallets unlike McDonald and Kentucky. They have sweet things like cinnamon buns and doughnuts. They also have bagels and sandwiches and a variety of other things. First time I had hot coffee, but later I preferred to have an ice coffee from Tim Hortons. We also really enjoyed their jalapeno bagels. We’ve gone there several times just to eat them.

We also bought cherries, raspberries and blueberries from fruit stalls on the road. This is the Cherry and blueberry season. The berries were very fresh and cheap. There were several places where you can go to the farm and pluck your own cherries for an extremely cheap price (50c per pound!).

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Raspberries looking fresh

We arrived at Lethbridge around 4:00PM and checked into the hotel Holiday inn Express. This is a good hotel like all the other Holiday inn express hotels. But we had booked a luxury family suite in this hotel. The room had two queen beds, a spare sitting area with a sofa bed, and two big TV sets. We were not planning any activities in Lethbridge. Malisha checked the internet and found a very good restaurant called Firestone Grill. We went there hoping we can get a table without a booking. We were surprised to see the place packed with people and there were more people waiting to get a table. We had to wait for about 20 minutes before getting a table. The food was extremely good and well presented.

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Firestone Restaurant from outside

I and Malisha ordered steaks while mala ordered a Paella dish. Paella is a Spanish rice dish and wanted to see how they make it here in Canada. All three dishes were very tasty. We understood why the place is packed with people.

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Mala’s Paella dish

Posted by fernando65 21:46 Comments (2)

End of the Trip - Lethbridge to Trail, Osoyoos and Vancouver

July 28,29,30 & 31

We have now come to the last leg of our adventurous journey. We have just three more places to visit and one more sleep at each place before returning to Sydney.

First stop was Trail. The distance from Lethbridge to Trail is 533 kilometres. We had an early breakfast at the hotel and left Lethbridge early knowing we had to cover a long distance before reaching Trail. There were a few things of interest on our way to Trail.

We were passing huge farms and saw many yellow coloured Canola fields on both sides of the road.

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Yellow Canola fields

Then we passed an area where we could see many wind mills.

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Hundreds of wind Mills

The next point of interest was the place where there was a huge rock slide. This is a small coal mining town called Frank. In 1903, a huge piece of Turtle Mountain broke and fell. It smashed into pieces as it fell and the boulders spread across the valley destroying houses and people. Seventy people died as a result of the slide. There was a coal mine underneath in the area. Nothing happened to the miners who were underground at that time. They managed to tunnel their way to the surface. This is supposed to be the worst human disaster in Canadian history. We stopped here and took some photos.

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Turtle Mountain with the missing piece

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Scattered boulders at the bottom of the mountain

We were driving along and when we reached Sparwood, we saw a board saying they have the Biggest Truck in the world on display. We made a brief stop at this place and saw the huge truck. It was really a giant of a truck. It was 66 feet long, 56 feet tall and when empty weighs 235 tonnes.

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World’s biggest truck on display at Sparwood

We arrived at Trail around 4:00PM. We have booked the hotel Best Western for the night. Best western hotel is the only big hotel in Trail. It is a good hotel with clean big rooms, but they do not provide breakfast.

When we approached Trail, we saw a huge Metal factory on the banks of the Columbia River which flows through the city. The metal factory is an ugly sight ruining the appearance of the town. Unfortunately, it is bringing jobs to the city. Best Western Hotel is mainly patronised by the professionals who visit this metal factory.

For a change we had dinner in a Chinese restaurant called Ace of Taste. Once, we tried Chinese food in Alaska and decided not to try again. We thought we try this place again, because Trip Advisor had very good reviews on this hotel and rated it as the best restaurant in Trail. It was true, the food was really good and they served big portions.

We left Trail next morning and started driving towards our next destination Osoyoos.
Osoyoos is only 232 kilometres from Trail. But the road to Osoyoos is a winding road through mountains and we knew we had to drive slowly.

We saw a few deer while driving to Osoyoos. One deer that was on the side of the road did not run away when we stopped the vehicle. It waited looking at us and flapping its ears and after a few minutes moved closer to the vehicle. We had a feeling that it is used to humans. Malisha managed to take a few photos and also do a short video clip.

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Deer looking at us flapping its ears as if it knew us

The drive to Osoyoos was very scenic. We saw a few more deer, not bears or moose. We were passing several small towns which become ski resorts in winter. The road is almost parallel to the US border and in several places, there were exits to enter USA.

Osoyoos is one if the most beautiful cities in Canada. It is in the Okanagan Valley which is famous for its fruits and wine and known as the wine capitol of Canada. When we approach Osoyoos from the mountains on the Crowsnest highway, we get a spectacular view of the city and the Osoyoos lake.

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View of the Osoyoos lake and the city from Crowsnest highway

We arrived at Osoyoos earlier than we thought and checked into Holiday Inn Express hotel. Holiday Inn express is basically in the middle of the lake having good views of the lake from any room in the hotel. We have booked a luxury suite with two rooms and a kitchenette. This is a very old hotel and we found they are planning to celebrate their sixtieth anniversary in August. The hotel is maintained very well.

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Part of the hotel and its private beach

There are many wineries in the area. We talked to the hotel staff about wineries and they recommended a good vinery called Silver Sage to visit for wine tasting. We visited this winery and ended up buying four bottles of wine. These wines are so good and literally have a sweet fruity taste. The wine you get in Australia always boasts about fruity flavours – but when we drink it we can’t usually taste these apparent fruits. But these wines you could actually taste all the fruity flavours it stated. They were delicious! The way they present the taste testing process is interesting. They integrate a lot of humour while they proceed to explain the ‘purpose’ of drinking that specific wine. It sounded slightly rehearsed but it was funny.

Security at the airport will not allow us to carry wine bottles in our hand luggage. We have to pack them well in our big bags. I was planning to buy our liquor from the duty free shop at the airport. Now I have to change my plans and check the allowed limit of bottles we can take with us.

We drove to Oliver from Osoyoos, another small town about fifteen kilometres from Osoyoos. The road is full of fruit stalls selling cherries, blueberries, peaches etc. Malisha and Mala were looking for something else. They wanted to buy a big home made blueberry pie. Strangely it was becoming more difficult than we thought. There were all these fruit stalls, but no fruit pies. We found one place and checked with the lady in charge. She normally makes them, but today she had no time to make them. She was very apologetic and told us of another place where we could buy one. We went to that place and found they have stopped making pies. The person who makes pies has left the place. They are looking to hire a person who can make pies. Then Mala remembered that she saw a name board advertising blueberry pies on our way to the winery. She could not remember the name of the place, but she can vaguely remember that it was next to a building with a red roof. We drove back along that road looking for a building with a red roof. She was right. We found the shop and they had one blueberry pie left.

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Yes, finally we found a Blueberry Pie

I think it was worth the trouble. Blueberries are very cheap in this area, so they can afford to fill the whole pie with blue berries. It cost us only $12 for the whole pie. If you make that same pie in Australia, you would need ten punnets of fresh blueberries which will cost you about $50.

Osoyoos is one place where we would like to spend about a week and explore the whole area. Unfortunately we have come to the end of our trip and had to leave and travel to Vancouver.

We left Osoyoos and drove to Burnaby which is a suburb of Vancouver. The distance from Osoyoos to Burnaby is about 400 kilometres. We selected Burnaby, because it is very close to the airport and we can drive to the airport in a very short time and return the vehicle. We checked into Holiday Inn Express in Burnaby. We preferred to book Holiday Inn Express when we could. This hotel happened to be the best location for Mala and Malisha. They found that the second biggest shopping mall in Canada is in the same complex as this hotel. You can walk to the shopping mall Metropolis from the hotel. The hotel gave us three forms to be given to the customer service at the mall. As tourists coming from outside, we were entitled for three gift cards and free train tickets etc. We found this mall to be more upmarket and better than the Edmonton mall.

Initially when we booked the hotel on internet, I booked it for two days July 30 and 31. We have our flight at 11:30PM on July 31. We did not want to check out at the normal checking out time of 11:00AM. At the hotel reception, Mala explained our problem and the person at the reception was very helpful. He changed the booking to one and half days so that we can do a late checkout on July 31 and stay in the hotel till about 6:30PM. That gave the whole day to Mala and Malisha to do their last minute shopping.
We have many other details and photos to add to the blog. It will help future travellers who like to undertake a similar trip to Alaska. We will do this after our return to Sydney depending on the time available.

Sadly our adventure has come to an end. It is sad to leave Canada and Alaska. At the same time, we miss Australia and want to go back and eat some home made (and healthy) food. It is too long to be away. We are going to lose nearly one day due to time difference between Vancouver and Sydney. Sydney is 19 hours ahead of Vancouver and we arrive in Sydney around 8:30AM on August 2.

Visiting Alaska was a unique life time experience. We do not know whether we will be able to do it again. If we do, it will be in early May or Late August when snow starts falling.

It is time to finish this blog and make this our last written entry. After we arrive in Sydney I will upload our favourite photos as another blog post. We thank all our readers who had the patience to read our blog and we invite their comments and suggestions.

Posted by fernando65 13:53 Comments (0)

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