Up, Up and Down

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
Trip End Sep 22, 2009

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Where I stayed
Westend RV Park

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Monday, August 17, 2009

August 15, 2009 (Friday) – Liard River Hot Springs, BC (165 miles)

Our drive from Watson Lake to Laird Hot Springs was very pleasant.  There were a few small bumps in the road but hardly worth mentioning and the scenic rivers meandering alongside the highway made up for any jolts.  The area was heavily forested and we soon got a whiff of smoke.  Shortly afterwards, we saw signs saying, "Active Fire Area … No Stopping".  Well, that just doesn't apply when you see a herd of buffalo in and alongside the road.  Of course we stopped and so did others.  Tourists are like the papparratzi of Hollywood.  Wendell even opened the door and stood on the running boards, shouting at one in an attempt to get him to turn his head for the camera.  Didn’t work!  Mr. Buffalo just kept grazing.

As we drew nearer our destination, we began to wonder if the provincial park would be open….due to the fire.  We were relieved that it was as the commercial park across the street had already closed for the season.  It sure seems early for some of these places to start closing, but the attendant at our previous park in Watson Lake had told us they were closing next week. 

The Liard River area is spectacular.  In early times, the Kaska First Nations people lived and hunted the area.  Later, trappers and prospectors discovered the hot pools and in 1835, the Hudson Bay Company recorded their presence.  In 1942, during the Alaska Highway construction, the first boardwalk to the pools was built.  In 1957, the park was created to protect the area.  There are two hot pools, Alpha and Beta.  The boardwalk crosses a marsh for about 500 meters to the lower pool, Alpha, which reaches temperatures of 53 degrees Celsius.  The Beta pool averages 42 degrees and is up the hill another 300 meters.  Both are a little smelly, but the hot mineral bathes attract many visitors for both relaxation and therapeutic reasons.

After selecting our site, Wendell drove back to the entrance to pay.  When he returned, he advised me that the next three campsites across the street were barricaded with caution tape and they had a bear trap set up in the center site.  The host told us not to be overly concerned if we hear “grrrs” in the night.  The trap had been baited to attract the bear so they could remove him from the campground.  I’m sure he thought it was a good spot; the grounds were covered with berries.  Many are salmon berries, and some appear to be beauty berries, but there’s one that’s not familiar to me.  It’s large, and dark red; could be a current but I need my friend, Lois, here to identify them.  Lois has lived in Alaska and traveled these parts for 38 years and knows all the flora and fauna.

Today, Wendell got up the courage to travel the boardwalk to the hotpool.  Fortunately, they have a bench about midway and he took a rest on the way up.  Although he said the warm waters were soothing, they were not curative so he stretched out on the bench on the way back. 

Nitchie has discovered that she does not like ravens.  Heck, I don’t blame her; some of them are almost as big as she is.  When she’s trying to snooze outside, they torment her with their loud “caws”.  Between them and the park personnel discharging firearms to deter the bears from coming into the camp, she was wimpering to come inside.  Tonight, we’ll do our best to attract the bear to the trap by grilling some of our Kenai salmon for dinner. 

August 16, 2009 (Sunday) – Fort Nelson, BC (200 miles)

Alas, the bear trap was still empty when we left Liard Hot Springs but we found plenty of wildlife between there and Ft. Nelson.  Almost immediately out of the park, we saw bison.  Further up the road, or I should say….in the road, we found several herds of Big Horn Sheep.  Next, it was moose. It seemed like every time we rounded a curve, there would be at least one to four of those critters blocking the way. The good news is that I have excellent distance vision and Wendell doesn’t drive very fast so we were able to avoid collisions.  That’s good because they sure do a number on the front end of a vehicle. 

I probably should name this blog segment, “Ups and Downs of BC”. We spent the greater part of the drive climbing.  You’d reach the top, coast down a little way and then climb back up again.  The views were terrific, especially when we reached Summit Lake.  At that point, we were no longer looking up and the drive down was pretty quick. 

In Ft. Nelson, we checked into The Westend RV Park and were glad to get a spot in the back of the lot where there are fewer mosquitoes.  We could have parked in front of the office and had good Wi-Fi, but the wide open spaces in back were sunny and dry…and more appealing.  This park, and none of the others in Ft. Nelson, is anything to write home about.  It’s kind of like the expression Wendell and all his pilot friends used to describe Kansas & Nebraska…..”flyover country”.  Ft. Nelson is generally a one-night stop for most travelers along the Alaska Highway.  However, you do need to allow enough time to stop at the combination Visitor Center and Museum.  The founder, Merle Brown, has a definite love for anything mechanical and the museum houses many old cars, trucks, tractors, and just about anything that has an engine.  Thanks to Merle, most of them still run!   He even has a 1908 Buick that he drove from Ft. Nelson to Whitehorse and back in 2008.  He told Wendell his average speed was 25 mph but he’s had it all the way up to 45! 

While Wendell did his touring and yakking with Merle, I made chowder with last night’s leftover salmon.  Then I got my book and Diet Coke and plopped myself in the recliner for a few hours of quiet enjoyment.  After dinner, we’re going to watch another episode of 24.  We just started season six!  Okay, yes, we’re a little behind but we’re catching up.  By the way, I’ve always thought that Keifer Sutherland resembled one of my old high school classmates….and that classmate follows these blogs.  John A., I’m talking about you!  Has anyone else ever noticed the resemblance?

Our next few nights will be spent in a couple of British Columbia’s fine provincial parks….dry camping, again.  We have noticed that one of our batteries may need to be replaced soon.  We’re not able to keep the lights on and the water pump running as long as we used to.  When we get to Seattle, we’ll probably look into replacing the oldest battery.  We don’t object to dry camping at all but we both like to read in bed and as the battery gets weaker, the lights get dimmer, and my eyesight is bad enough as it is.  Beginnings of cataracts….they say.
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