– Fort Nelson, British Columbia to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory –
Bears. Bears are everywhere around here. This morning, we woke up in Fort Nelson and went for a run at the community trail. At the start of the trail, which runs partially through the woods, there was a sign posted warning about bears, and how to avoid them or get away if you happened to find one. Apparently it is a reasonably common occurence.
Mom came with Mark and I to run, and she was much more concerned about seeing a bear than we were. In fact, when I jogged back to check on her (she was walking this morning), she had a big stick that she was carrying around to protect herself. After Mark told her that the bear would just use her stick as a toothpick after he finished eating her, Mom decided that she wanted to buy some bear spray.
We didn’t see any bears on our run, in case you were worried. In fact, we only ran into two other runners. They had an older dog running along behind them without a leash. Ripley wanted that dog to pay attention to her so badly, but the other dog just ignored her and ran very slowly after her people. It was sweet.
Once we wrapped up our run and got out of the hotel, we headed out on the Alaska Highway. Our drive today took us through the Canadian Rockies, which were quite lovely. The highway snakes through the valleys of two different rivers, so we were driving along next to lovely blue water and in between tall mountains for most of the day.
I think I would call today the day of the animal sightings, because we really hadn’t seen to many before today, but that has since changed. In our previous days of driving, we’ve seen pronghorn, deer, and a few moose.
The first critter we saw along the road caused some controversy. It was scruffy and small-looking, but too big to be a deer. It didn’t have antlers, so we thought it was female. But what was it? A caribou? Or a moose? We were divided. Well, after reviewing the tape (okay, the photos) this evening, the ref ruled that it was, in fact, a very sad-looking moose.
Not long after, we saw a stone goat standing in the road. No, not a mountain goat, a stone goat. The Milepost says that they are pretty common in the area. They like to lick salt out of the sides of the mountains. Our next animal sighting was a little more exciting. We saw a black bear on the side of the road. It was reasonably far away, so we slowed down and snapped a couple of pictures. I don’t want to see one any closer unless it is in a zoo.
Our final animal sighting of the day involved bison. It’s funny, but we saw dozens of signs all day long about bison on the road. Our hotel last night had a sign in the lobby warning about bison and collisions. And yet we hadn’t seen any. We were starting to wonder if they existed. Then finally, we ran across a herd of them, complete with about a dozen fluffy calves. Baby bison are even cuter than baby cows.
Aside from lots of animals, we also saw a bunch of construction. We had been forewarned that Canada’s seasons were Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction, but we still weren’t prepared for the long waits. We probably spent an hour today waiting on pilot cars. It isn’t too bad, though. Dad keeps making friends with the people in the cars around us. He’s a sociable fellow. He gets along with just about everyone.
We took a break from driving at Toad River Lodge, which had a very pretty view back behind the store, several cabins for rent, and a gas station. The gas station’s ceiling was decorated with more than two thousand hats. At the stop, we met a group on a tour bus from Missouri. Sixteen people were on the bus, and they started their drive from Missouri on July 10, like we did. They were all very friendly, and we chatted while everyone came by to pet Ripley. We ran into them two more times in Watson Lake, and it turns out that they are basically taking the same trip we are, although theirs will last 28 days instead of 24. I am betting that they are taking a little longer to get home.
We stopped for lunch at the Liard River Hot Springs area. We had a picnic under a covered pavilion, which was breezy and cool. When we finished eating, the sun had come out, and the weather was actually pleasantly warm as we walked back about a quarter mile to take a look at the hot springs. At the entrance, we saw a sign that once again warned about bears. Mom tested out the water with a hand, but we didn’t go for a dip. We had places to be and other things to see. The hot springs had very clear water and were pretty.
A little while later, we started flirting with the border to the Yukon Territory. We drove in out out of the Yukon briefly, and we stopped to take pictures at two entrances signs. After that, we drove into Watson Lake, our final destination for the day, which is just past the border into the Yukon. We’re here in the Yukon Territory for a couple of days from here on out.
We dropped out things off at our hotel, and we were shocked to discover that it didn’t have air conditioning. I guess that just goes to show that we are Texans through and through. How could anyone live without air conditioning? Regardless, the hotel is nice enough, although it doesn’t serve breakfast, which is a shame.
Watson Lake has a couple of little lakes, which we looked at briefly, and it has an attraction called the Sign Post Forest. The Sign Post Forest is exactly what is sounds like: a park that’s filled with 78,000 signs from all around the world. We visited its visitor center, and then we walked through the forest itself to check out the signs. It’s a neat little attraction. Lots of the signs relate to peoples’ trips to Alaska, and others reference their home towns. We saw signs for Dallas and Stillwater, among others. I know Mark took a picture of a sign from OSU to show to his dad. We had some fun looking around and Mark and I vowed to make a sign of our own and come back someday.
When we were done checking out Watson Lake, we stopped at one of the only restaurants in town and picked up a take out dinner, since the hotel we’re visiting doesn’t allow you to leave pets in the room. My parents had regular hamburgers, and Mark and I had veggie burgers. The food was delicious, which is good, since we are staying here again on the way home. I think this is the only town we are staying in driving both directions.
Tomorrow we drive to Whitehorse, which has a population of 23,000 people. The entire Yukon Territory has a population of 33,000. I still refuse to call it civilization. It’s barely bigger than Gainesville. It’s another easy day, so we should have time to look around the big city of Whitehorse for a while in the evening.
– Trip Total : 3,642 miles –