San Diego to Whistler, BC Canada – Leg One
This year’s big RV road trip is Alaska, and we’re timing it perfectly for the record diesel fuel prices averaging around $6.80 a gallon right now. We’ll see where they end up by the time we hit Canada and Alaska.
If you want to follow along, we’ll be posting regularly. Add your email to the bottom of this page to get notifications of new posts. Each stop will have a heading and photo. Simply click on the heading or photo to see the Google album from that location. Cheers!
We’re meeting Ron and Stacey in Whistler. From Brandon and Dayna’s house in Poway we’ll head up the 395 along the Eastern Sierra until we get to Susanville. From there we’ll start heading West until we hit the coast and go North to Coos Bay, Oregon. After that, we’ll head East to Bend, drink some beer, visit some friends, then head up to Hood River, then Portland for more beer and friends, and finally cross the border to Vancouver and Whistler, BC. That is, if the border guards let us in.
From Whistler “Leg Two” starts and ends in Tok, Alaska. We’re taking the Western access route connecting to the 97 on the way up with no reservations to stay anywhere. Yes, we’re winging it, but then we have homes on wheels, we can sleep out there with the bears. Once we hit Prince George, we’ll split West on the 16 through a lesser traveled highway until we meet up again with the Alaska highway at Watson Lake. From Watson Lake we glide past more bears and moose and roll into Tok. This is our chosen end to Leg One and the start to “Leg Three”.
Leg 3 leaves Tok Alaska on July 1. We’ll stop in Glacier View to walk the Matanuska Glacier, then down to Anchorage where we’ll take a train to Whittier for a boat ride to see some whales and puffins. Homer is after that for Halibut, then back up to Hope on the way to Talkeetna. Salmon on the way??? We’ll see. The kings are catch and release this year, so we won’t be keeping any of that flesh. We have great reservations in Denali, 3 days at Riley and 3 days at Teklanika campground. After that it’s a few days in Fairbanks to finish the Alaska Leg Three.
On the way back, Leg 4, we travel the Alaska highway down through Dawson Creek, then down to Jasper. Again, no reservations until we get to Jasper. We’re taking the Icefield Highway again through Banff, because it’s the most beautiful drive we’ve ever done, and finishing Canada at the Roosville border crossing.
We cross into Montana near Glacier National Park on the 93. Checking out Kalispell and Flathead a bit before we cut over to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and turn South to Moscow to visit our niece and nephew. In Boise we’ll catch up with friends and then drop down through Nevada and Vegas on our way back to San Diego.
The Journey Begins…
Click to see Google Photos of each stop
Our first stop after leaving Poway was Mammoth, CA. It took 6.5 hours to get there and we had smooth sailing that Sunday, all the way up the 395. The weather was perfect, there were snow capped mountains all around, crisp air, and a celebratory beer waiting.
This was Cheryl’s first real bike ride on her new e bike. While I stuck to my old school Trek, mainly to prove myself “fit”, I struggled to keep up. They don’t call it Mammoth Mountain for nothing. The uphill rides were killer around the Lake Mary bike path.
It was a great time of year to visit. Just before Memorial Day there were few visitors. We had the bike paths to ourselves and the brew pub was equally quiet. What a great start!
What a blast from the past this place is. Back in the day, this mining town was hopping and people were making their fortunes digging in the dirt. The town prospered and was quite the place to hang out.
There’s only one place to camp in town, and that’s the RV park within walking distance of the bars, restaurants, and shops. It was a bit tight, but hey, what do you expect being the only game in town? We enjoyed the stop, got some work done, and were able to explore and get our fill.
You know, this wasn’t what we expected, but it was cool anyway. The campsites at the fairgrounds in Susanville are not really maintained or even working well this time of year. The water was still off due to the Winter freeze and the power at each pedestal was hit or miss.
There are probably 50 or so spots, and 49 were empty the night we stayed. We filled the tanks with water and our onboard pump took care of the pressure. Solar and batteries rounded out the power needs, so we had what we needed.
We explored the town, shopped and made dinner at “home”. Next day, we had our meetings and hit the road for Lake Almanor.
We had been to this area before, during the 2020 Social Distancing Tour. We visited Lassen National Park, which is just North of Lake Almanor and Chester, CA. We stayed at North Shore Campground which is a rustic spot in the woods. Great for kicking back, as you can see.
We did some hiking and site seeing but we also toured the burn from last year’s Dixie Fire. Devastation was what we saw. Crazy views of the burn. Some homes and buildings escaped the fire, some didn’t but evidence of the fire was everywhere.
If you get a chance to visit this area, stop in to Waganupa Brewery. Small but unique in brewing style, so different than the typical West Coast IPA’s you find everywhere. We didn’t get to eat at IL Lago across the street, too busy, but the owner at the brewery said it was fantastic. It’s a tight little vacation/retirement community that’s worth the visit.
Red Bluff was a stop over. Just needed to so some shopping before we headed up to the Trinity area for the week. We stayed overnight at Sycamore Grove Campground.
This was a regional campground that catered to either roadkill like us, or those who aimed to spend the max time allowed. It’s not a destination campground, but it does have power and water with some access to the Sacramento River.
Joan and Nancy are friends since 6th grade, fellow RV’ers, and were our neighbors for the week we spent at the Old Lewiston Bridge RV Resort on the Trinity River. One of the benefits to RV travel is getting to meet cool people like these two lifelong friends who still do annual trips together and have traveled all over the Western states in their travel trailer. They seemed to like the whiskey sours and margaritas.
Old Lewiston Bridge RV Resort was just purchased by Ryan in January, ’22 and was full for Memorial Day weekend. It’s fantastic property. There are a number of full timer’s in the park who were all fantastic people. Craig shared a bottle of wine, and Mary made us Gumbo. What a friendly community Lewiston is. We wish them all the best and will return next time we’re in the area.
Lewiston Lake is just below the Trinity Lake dam and is full year round. It’s part of the Central Valley Water Project. If you’re from California, it’s a subject you learn about in high school and read about daily in the news. Water is at the root of all things financial and political in California, not well understood by states that have abundant supplies.
We put in at Old Lewiston Bridge, in Lewiston on the Trinity, and took out at Bucktail Hole about 5 miles down the river. That was a nice paddle made even nicer by Cheryl’s e Bike I used to drop the truck and get back to Lewiston. We did a paddle on Lewiston Lake as well, a fantastically beautiful place.
The drive from Trinity to the West coast was nice and better than expected in terms of road conditions. The truck hauled the 15,000 lbs. nicely through the mountain curves and grades along the Trinity river.
We had reservations at Azalea Glen RV Park, just across the street from what used to be Patrick’s Point, because the sites at Sue-Meg were full. It’s a cool spot with some history and beautiful views.
We learned that Patrick Beegan laid claim to the land and called it Patrick’s Ranch, built a cabin on the point, hence Patrick’s Point. Apparently he killed a young Yurok boy in the 1850’s and rather than go to trial he simply walked out of the hearing and hid out until he was killed some years later. Not a cool dude, so they recently renamed it after the Sue-Meg village where the Yurok lived.
Bullard’s Beach State Park in Bandon Oregon is a really nice park. But if it’s so nice, why didn’t we take a single photo of our campsite or the park itself? Hmmm…. I guess we just forgot. We simply didn’t hang at the park much.
For this stop we were busy exploring the dunes North of us, some of the cool towns like Coos Bay, Bandon, and North Bend. We also stopped by Bandon Dunes Golf Resort to check out the course. It’s a lot like Pebble Beach, gorgeous.
The lighthouse is actually inside of the state park and at the mouth of the Coquille River. We toured that point, then went North to Coos Bay for a stop at 7 Devils Alehouse and North Bend dunes. Lot’s of OHV on the dunes out there.
We only spent one night in Eugene to do some shopping and a few repairs. It was a great campsite and nice location right on the Williamette River. This would have been a great spot to spend a few days fishing and boating. Alas, only so much time to explore.
It was really great to spend a few hours with Bob and Chris. We worked with Bob back in the Call America days in the 1990’s where it was one big family. Lot’s of parties, BBQ’s, and other socializing. Lifelong friends made. Their daughter Amy used to baby sit our kids when we first moved to San Luis Obispo.
They moved to a beautiful place. I’d put Bend in the top 10 of best places to live. The Deschutes River runs right through this old logging town, now turned top tourist destination. Mt. Bachelor is just 45 minutes away and you could hike every day for 5 years and never do the same trail. It’s a very vibrant and active outdoor community.
We visited the Tumalo Falls and Lava River Caves the first day of our visit. The next day we biked miles all over that city. We were able to bike up and down the river, stop for coffee, a beer, and ultimately a bite to eat at Valentine’s Deli; really good sando’s. A must stop is the Water Park on the river where you can do a float, kayak, or just hang and watch the show.
We actually stayed at Expo RV Park on the fairgrounds in Redmond, about 15 miles North of Bend. It was a super clean and updated campground with huge and awesome facilities. It was also the only place in the area with available sites! It was a great stay all around. Now we’re off to Mt. Hood, then Portland and Camas Washington.
After leaving Bend, we traveled North on Hwy 97, then the 26 to Mt. Hood Village. It’s just South of Mt. Hood which is rich with vacation homes and ski resorts. It’s where those from Portlandia go on weekends.
The rain kept our hiking and biking to a minimum, but we did get to visit Hood River and do the laundry. The RV park is huge and boasts just about every amenity you would want. For the full timers, you can rent by the day, week, month, or year; cabins, trailers, RV sites, or park model rentals. It’s part of Thousand Trails network of RV resorts across the country.
As we zigged and zagged the West Coast on our way North to the second leg of our Alaska trip, we listed all the things we wanted to see and do, as well as friends we wanted to catch up with. We had a number of stops to make in Portland so we stayed at the Columbia River RV park. We weren’t too impressed. The place seems to have gone downhill since we last visited in 2014.
Still, we got to visit friends who just bought a house in Camas, WA. Lisa couldn’t make it, but we did get to hang with Bill and his two kids, Lauren and Mason. What a great time we had in downtown Camas. It’s a hidden gem, much like SLO circa 1990’s. In addition to seeing Bill and Lisa’s new home, we also got to visit the Benson downtown for a cocktail and Voodoo for a baker’s dozen.
Next stop is Tsawwassen RV Resort, just South of Vancouver, BC where we meet up with Ron and Stace (bro and sis) for the road North to Alaska.
So, we thought we’d be meeting up with Ron and Stacey in Whistler, BC, but they decided to join us in Tsawwassen, which is just South of Vancouver BC. They spent a couple days in Gig Harbor, then crossed the border about an hour ahead of us. It was great to meet up and begin the second leg of our trip to Alaska. We hadn’t done an RV trip with them since Canada Road Trip 2017.
We spent the first day taking the ferry over to Victoria. It was about a 1.5 hour trip from Tsawwassen Terminal to Swartz Bay. The ride over had us passing the San Juan islands where we could witness a “different kind of living”. Upon arrival, we immediately stopped at the Stonehouse Pub and had lunch and a brew; fantastic.
The next day we ventured into Vancouver where we stopped at Craft Beer Market for lunch, then checked out the shoreline of Stanley Park. We had been there for Brandon’s 30th, so it was cool to revisit the sites. Vancouver is a very fun city.
We got so lucky with the weather after getting to Whistler, BC. While the entire USA was going through a major heat wave, the Pacific Northwest and BC was getting drenched. But, on this particular Monday the skies opened up and allowed a day on the slopes for some downhill mountain biking; a great day it was, and no major wipeouts either.
Our campground had amazing views, great internet access, and a 18 hole disc golf course through the pines. I got my ass kicked by my brother who was 5 under while I clocked in at 4 over par. Ugh. We were off on our journey North, continuing on highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway.
The route I chose to reach the Alaska Hwy went through Whistler. We had visited about 6 years prior to mountain bike for the day. We were in Vancouver for Brandon’s 30th and got to experience the downhill tracks since it was only a 1.5 hour drive from downtown Vancouver. It was a good idea on paper.
In practice, this was a huge mistake. I didn’t know about the 13% grade North of Whistler. It was very hard on the truck. Our rig is 12,500 lbs. dry and we have it loaded at around 15,000 lbs., almost 8 tons. Our tow capacity is 17,000 lbs. so it can handle the weight, but 13% for 7 kilometers was unexpected and a white knuckler.
The photo in the album shows the spot where we stopped and checked our brakes. I had replaced all 4 of the trailer brakes earlier in the year and we had a warning light come on before the ascending, so it was definitely nerve-racking.
All was well until about 200 yards down the grade when our trailer brakes gave out. It wasn’t panic time because I had it in first gear, full exhaust brake, and heading down around 15 mph. My truck brakes were struggling and my speed started to increase. As I was searching for “an out”, trying to stay calm our trailer brakes engaged and locked. Whew! My brother saw the smoke indicating they resumed assisting my truck slow the roll.
We made it down to the valley safely and spent the night at 10 mile lake just North of Quesnel, BC. The next day, I stopped by the auto parts store, picked up some 14 gauge and re-wired the rear axle. Six hundred miles later as I write this in Watson Lake, all is well.
Sikanni River Campground wasn’t the choice we would have made normally, but it was a long drive and we just wanted to chill. The campground was 50’s/60’s era and the family who owned it was trying to get it back in shape. It had been closed since 2018.
The river was really high and moving fast. It was raining off and on about the entire time we were there, a whole 18 hours. It was nice to be not driving though. I’m a 3-4 hour drive day kind of guy. We had just finished two nerve racking 6-8 hour days… ugh.
After an overnighter at Sikanni River, we traveled just a couple hours North to stay overnight at Triple G RV park in Fort Nelson. We stayed right next to “this guy” and his awesome wife. Close quarters, but then they had the “Dome of Tranquility”, aka. DOT. Had to be nice so we could hang outside without bug spray.
We only spent one night but we did get there early enough to bike all over that town. The Fort Nelson Heritage Museum was right next to our campground, so that was a must see. It’s an amazing thing to be in the presence of so much stuff that witnessed so much history. We got to tour the house where the Hudson Bay’s general manager’s family lived. They had an inside toilet! Bucket with a seat that the kids were in charge of.
I got to talk with the RV park’s owner a bit. He spends Winter’s in Arizona with his wife. It seemed like those who could afford to travel South for the Winter did so. Those who couldn’t seemed to be much tougher and had much better stories.
What an awesome drive to stop number 19! It was really starting to get remote and very scenic. We stopped at Summit Lake and Muncho Lake along the way. As you can see by the photos, the water was amazing.
Muncho Lake was so fantastic that we decided that we had to stop and spend time there on the way back. Cheryl and Stacey took a walk down to the lake while we filled up the tanks with expensive fuel. There was so much rain just prior to our passing through that all the lakes and rivers were at the high mark or flooding.
As we made our way to Liard Hot Springs, we got to experience some road construction which the locals didn’t pay much attention to. Detours and road closures are a common scene and fact of life up there. Roads just weren’t meant to live a real long life up there.
Fortunately, we got there early enough to get a campsite. They have a provincial park there, walk up only, so we got to stay inside the Hot Springs at the campground. It didn’t have power or water, but we didn’t need that anyway.
After a big breakfast and an easy 3 hour drive from Liard Hot Springs, we arrived at the Downtown RV Park. It was just a lot with hook ups, but it was just across from Wye Lake, which we thought was Watson Lake. We had time to buzz the town on bikes before dinner.
The Sign Post Forest was cool. Ron and Stace chatted up a gal who had driven up from California with her dog. She was on her way to Valdez, AK, never to return to CA. We sensed a troubled split between her and the Cali life given she was pretty happy about posting her CA license plate up in the forest. Thousands of signs, thousands of stories.
The beauty continued on our way from Watson Lake up to Whitehorse. We had crossed into the Yukon the day before, but Whitehorse is really the town that screams, “You’re in Yukon Territory!”
We drank beer at the brewery, ate pizza at The Miner’s Daughter with the locals, tripped around downtown and had way too much fun here. Not sure too much is a thing, but it was a lot of fun exploring the city. It is the quintessential Yukon town.
At this point in the journey, we had two options for our route up to Alaska. We could continue Northwest through Destruction Bay and on into Tok, AK. Or, we could split North into Dawson City, YT and cross the river by ferry, then continue to the small border crossing. We chose Destruction Bay.
Okay, now we’re out there. After Whitehorse, it’s the last of civilization and good roads. We had great roads for about 200 miles taking in the glaciers and views of Kluane National Park. It was a stunning drive. The road wasn’t bad either, spotty in places, but not bad to Destruction Bay, YT.
We stayed at the provincial park where they have free firewood. They like to clean up the surrounding area of fallen trees and what would otherwise be fuel to a forest fire. They leave enough wood at various stations to supply guests, so we took advantage and kept a big fire going. It helped keep the bugs down.
What we found out is that the dirt and gravel roads aren’t the problem with “The Highway”. It’s the teasing and tricking of the “paved” sections that will take you down.
The road from Destruction Bay to Tok is approximately 380km, or say 5 hours. The teasing is the section of pavement that appears to say, “yeah, sure. You can crank it up to 45 mph…” The tricking is the ice heaves, ruts, and potholes that pop up out of nowhere.
The road between Destruction Bay and Tok, AK is where you have to stay alert and be on your game. If not, it will take you down. We heard numerous stories of RV’ers going too fast, hitting a heave and losing their towable, or twisting their frame so bad it ended their trip. Well, we made it through the tundra and traveling over the gauntlet of creative tricks with our rigs in tact.
Next Up: Our Alaska RV travels
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