The next morning we headed North and then East on the Alaska Highway to Liard Hotsprings. The last section of the Cassiar was the worst of the entire 700km, however, it was still quite driveable, just a bit bumpy, curvy and lacking any type of shoulder. We crossed into the Yukon just before we got to the junction with the Alaska Highway. The main highlight at the junction was a gas station, and an noticeable improvement in the road surface and width once we hit the Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway is one of those must do drives for anyone who owns an RV. This storied road was developed in the 1940s as a means of connecting Alaska to the end of the rail terminus in Dawson Creek. In addition, the highway connected the airports that Canada had built as part of the Northwest Staging Route, and which followed a great circle route to Asia. The importance of shoring up the North American defence during World War 2 resulted in the road being ploughed through the wilderness at a rate of 8 miles per day. The Americans built the road before Canada had approved construction, and then sold it to the Canadian government to maintain after the war ended. The highway required a lot of upgrading to reach normal highway standards as most of it was built on top of permafrost. Today it is the main route to Alaska, primarily a two lane highway with lane width shoulders.
Once we joined the Alaska highway the traffic volume increased at least 4 fold over what we had seen on the Cassiar Highway. We headed east to Watson Lake, home of the worlds largest forest of signs. A homesick GI in WW2 had put up a sign indicating the distance to his home town from Watson Lake. This started a trend which grew to over 69000 signs today covering a fairly large area by the visitor center in town. Watson Lake is also home to a museum devoted to the Northern Lights which we visited. We also stocked up on food at the local grocery store which had a surprisingly good selection of food.
We were a bit ahead of schedule and decided to take a 400km detour and headed SE to Liard Hot Spring, one of the most famous hot springs in BC. This little detour also made it the most expensive hot spring we had been to with the extra gas and mileage that we had to pay to visit. However, we were not disappointed. The natural setting and very hot waters brought back memories of Japanese hot springs. Peter actually met a former colleague while lounging in one of the pools. Talk about a small world.