Friday, June 01, 2007


Day 4

Day 4? ( I think). I quickly lose track of time driving all day, every day…

We ended up last night at Liard Hot Springs, about 450 miles from Dawson Creek, which is officially the beginning of the AlCan highway. *officially? who decides these things anyway, and why do we buy into it?*

Notorious for a black bear attack that killed four or five people soaking at the open air pond deep in the woods several years ago, Liard Hot Springs is better known to Alaskan travelers as welcome break from the rigors of a long and grueling drive. The pond is about 100 feet long, 20 feet wide, and three feet deep; primarily fed from a small mountain stream and a thermal spring. The hot spring overflows into the pool, which cools its 53C water to tolerable levels for the dozen or so users. You can control the temperature by how close you wade towards the hot spring itself.

We did consider the risk of another bear attack at the pool, but none have been sighted in the area in years. You can’t live by hiding from life, I guess. We talked about bringing along the cat, so we could throw it at any marauding bear as a diversionary snack, but Y put a stop to that suggestion.

An hour or so of this takes all the tension out of my muscles, it was hard to restart my muscles enough to even walk the quarter mile back out to the campground. No cello that night.

Tonight (Tuesday) we are in Chetwynd, BC, about 75 miles beyond Dawson Creek. There is WiFi, but it is spotty and seems to fade out just when you need it. A long, tiring day. No energy for the cello, again.

We stopped mid-morning for fuel in Fort Nelson and discovered that one of the tires on the tow-car was shredded. All that was left was the rim. Sitting behind the wheel of a massive motorhome pulling a light Saturn way back there behind me, I didn’t feel anything at all. It had to have blown somewhere along the first 200 miles this morning. The rim appears to be salvageable, but I’m going to wait to replace it until we reach Seattle, and just hope the spare holds out.

Yesterday we saw six or seven black bears. Z took this photo from the side window. Today we saw a few more bears, lots of moose, caribou, buffalo, mountain sheep, a marmot, a fox, and most unusual - a wolf. The wolf was casually trotting along the narrow road as if it owned it, completely ignoring us stopped some distance back, mouths agape. It finally sauntered off to the side and disappeared in the brush. Notoriously secretive, in 32 years living in Alaska, I’ve only seen a few wolves, and all were deep inside Denali Park where they are protected.

This highway is long, but it is reasonably well-maintained (once we got past those dang frost heaves), with only light traffic this early in the season. It’s been a few years since we’ve driven this route, but I can tell how much the region has grown. More and more land has been cleared of the aspens, spruce and lodgepole pines, replaced by fenced-in pastures with livestock. Power lines now border much of the roadway. Sadly, hundreds of miles of lodgepole pine forests along the road are dead, attacked by some infestation.

Our first trip on the AlCan was in 1975, during the height of the pipeline construction in Alaska. The 1,500 miles of unpaved road were a mess. It was either a sea of mud or a world of dust, and flying rocks. The heavy flatbed trucks carrying their pipeline construction equipment flew along at top speeds caring little for us poor adventurers in our small cars dragging our overloaded trailers in their wake. Progress was slow and painful. That was the longest week in my life. A second trip in the mid 80s found a lot of the road had been paved, but it still retained all the tight corners and steep grades. Our next trip in 1996 found major upgrades underway. The construction zones were terrible but each time we’d remember the old days and realize it might actually be worth it. Now, the road is mostly paved, straight, wide lanes, and so on, with passing lanes(!) on some of the steeper grades.

More later...

Beautiful post! I love hearing about bears and wolves, etc.
Have fun!
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