We did the scenic drive from Morberly Lake along the Peace River with some pretty steep climbs and descents. Before heading north on the Alcan highway we went into Fort St. John to stock up on supplies (including filling the jerry can with spare fuel). We also stopped at Charlie Lake for the memorial for the 12 men who died trying to take supplies for the Alaska Highway construction across Charlie Lake when it was too rough to be out. A trapper saw their pontoon boat go down and saved 5 of the men. Knowing we’d be too tired to make it all the way to Fort Nelson, we stayed in an RV Park half way enroute. I’ve included here a few of the recent beers I’ve tried, by far the Barkerville Prescription Porter with Chocolate and Chili was my favourite.
On the way to Fort Nelson we could see evidence of the Beaver Creek Forest Fire (a section about 5 kms long) that had actually jumped the highway and closed it down back in July of 2015. In Fort Nelson we went to the visitor centre (since they had fast internet) and they had a very nice gift shop (Sharon resisted buying😉 ). We stayed at the Triple G Hideaway RV Park and we even went out for dinner at the Saloon they had onsite.
The next section of the Alcan highway was by far our favourite so far from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake which is also called the Northern Rockies. This section brought us to the highest elevation of the Alcan Highway and we started to see tons of wildlife. The day started off a bit rainy and unfortunately we got our first window chip of this trip and the signal area at the bottom of the passenger mirror also got broken from a trucker who was going far too quickly on a short gravel section. However we made up for it by stopping in Tetsa River for their famous Cinnamon Buns, yummy!
We decided to stop in Stone Mountain PP at the Summit Lake Campground for the night which was 4,250’ elevation. We got a beautiful campsite right by the lake. We waited a bit to see if the rain would ease off but eventually decided to do the Summit Lakefront Trail. The board indicated it was 3.5 kms but it actually was 5 kms in order to get back to the campsite. The lake water was a gorgeous jade colour and we found a beaver house built around the base of a tree. At the end of the lake we hiked up about 114 m to get to the 4×4 road to return. On the way we met 2 other hikers (a rarity on this trip so far) and they had just seen a Grizzly Bear and it’s 2 cubs. They had been digging along the 4×4 road for food and we saw evidence of that when we reached the road. All we saw on the hike was some loons on the lake.
As expected, the rain turned into snow overnight at this elevation, June 5th, and we woke up to a winter wonderland. As we left the campground though it was wet snow falling so no issues on the steep descent. We stopped to do a hike to the Erosion Pillars and climbed up and around the biggest one.
We continued down the mountains and the snow changed to rain. We crossed over the Toad River and made a stop at the Toad River Lodge to see the collection of hats that number in the thousands!
Even though we didn’t have sunny skies, the drive through the mountains was amazing, especially as we entered Muncho Lake PP. We stopped to see some of the Folded Mountains and some waterfalls. The Rockies were once as high as the Himalaya’s but have eroded significantly. Luckily the sun peaked out for a few minutes just as we saw Muncho Lake for the first time. The colour was truly spectacular!! The lake turns this beautiful Jade colour and there is a slide to explain the reason. We decided to stay at Strawberry Flats Campground with a beautiful lakeside site and a hiking trial close by. Most BC provincial parks are $20 for a non-serviced site. You really have to plan ahead as a lot of the parks don’t have water fill stations so you need to bring all your water with you.
We didn’t drive too far today so we had the afternoon to do some hiking on the Old Alaska Highway trail. You have to cross the alluvial fan, sand, gravel, and boulders, washed down the mountain side from the summer rain flow through the streams, a bit of a challenge to determine where the trail actually was but there were a few hints along the way. It was interesting to see the width of the original highway and we even saw an old barrel left by the road in the woods. Once again, we had the sun on Muncho Lake (12 kms long so one of the largest natural lakes in the Canadian Rockies) providing that brilliant colour.
Joel noticed some Hoodoos when we were at one of the lookouts on the old highway so he wanted to go exploring on our return trip. It was a bit hard on the feet walking on the rocks of the alluvial fan but well worth the seeing the hoodoos or erosion rocks. As a reward for our hiking day we enjoyed a “beverage” by the water in front of our campsite by the lake.
One stop everyone makes on this road is to soak in the Liard Hot Springs in the provincial park. We planned the short drive this day so we’d be at the campground by 11am (checkout time) to ensure we got a camping spot (and not in the overflow parking lot). On the way we did a short hike at The Salt Lick, an area where the animals go because the “rock flour” has all the minerals hoofed animals need. I guess they weren’t hungry as we didn’t see anything.
At Liard Hot Springs we chose our campsite and then did the walk along the boardwalk through the marsh to the hot springs area and in turn to the Hanging Gardens. We took some photos with our smartphones before returning in the afternoon with our underwater camera to get shots in the spring. It was 1.1 kms one way from our campsite to the springs so we got lots of exercise in with a trip in the morning to survey, one in the afternoon for a soak, and a final one after dinner for a night time soak.
We decided to do one final trip to the hot springs before heading out in the morning. We were very lucky to have the pool to ourselves for awhile. We found out after it was because a moose had crossed the boardwalk blocking peoples path to the hot springs😉 We were now squeaky clean from our soak but we did smell a bit like sulphur.
We headed out to what became an amazing day of seeing wildlife. We were hardly out of the PP when we saw 4 bison on the side of the road. We thought that was great until we saw an entire herd of about 14 bison with 3 babies resting (maybe more but we couldn’t see them). Later we saw another bison alone, I guess he was looking for his herd. We saw two black bears and one brown bear, one was very photogenic.
We did a short hike to a waterfall at Tetter Creek. We constantly have our bear bell with us but this time it was used to alert a mother grouse we were nearing her nest. She came out on the path and if you’ve ever had a grouse chase at you, we thought it best not to cross her path. Finally, a baby grouse crossed the path and mom headed off (probably to check on the others). Back on the road Joel was doing some skilled driving trying to miss another mother grouse with at least 20 chicks!! They were a big black spot in the middle of the highway until you got close enough to realize what they were. Hopefully they got safely across. Unfortunately, no pictures since we were going 100 kph at the time!!
Our next adventure was to cross the 60th parallel and then enter the Yukon! Here are a few fun facts about the Yukon:
- Almost 80% of the Yukon is pristine wilderness
- There are 10 times more moose, bears, wolves, caribou, goats, and sheep than people in the Yukon
- Until 1898 the Yukon Territory was called the District of Yukon which was part of the Northwest Territories
- The Yukon Territory was created on June 13, 1898 with the 60th parallel as it’s southern boundary
- In 2003 the name was changed from the Yukon Territory to just Yukon
- It is home to Canada’s highest mountain, Mt. Logan 19,551’
- The famous Klondike gold rush occurred in Dawson City in 1898
We got some photos at the 60th parallel and in turn the Yukon sign before reaching Watson Lake where we went to see the famous Sign Post Forest. The count in September 2018 was 88,186 signs, we didn’t have a sign to add to the collection. We checked into the Downtown RV Park (basically a parking lot) and you got 1 hour each of internet access so we got a small fix in after having been without cell or internet service for several days. Since we were right downtown and it was Friday we went out for dinner for date night and then went to see the planetarium shows at the Northern Lights Centre. The first movie was about how the surface of the sun has plasma explosions that form the Northern Lights. The second movie had video footage of some of the spectacular colours that form in the Northern Lights. Of course since we’re here in the summer we won’t be seeing them on this trip. Lastly check out the price for Chapman Ice Cream in the Watson Lake grocery store!!!!
Our journey has gone well so far and we have completed 5,899 kms. We seem to be travelling very differently than the majority as we go small distances each day and we stop and see as many things as possible and fit in hikes often! Here are some of our latest wildlife sightings:
Moose – 5 Elk – 5 Bison – 34 Bear – 5 Stone Sheep – 2 Grouse – 22 Porcupine – 2 Fox – 1
We did tag team writing this blog so you can guess which sections I wrote versus Sharon and leave us your comments😉