Heading out of Jasper our route took us west from Alberta and back into BC where we passed by Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 m. After leaving the Rockies we followed the Fraser River into Prince George and from there north to Fort St John (FSJ) and (our) start of the Alaska Highway. We decided before we left we wouldn’t spend too much time exploring central BC, as those experiences will always be close to home for us to enjoy in the future.
Our stop in FSJ was great, as we enjoyed our last known guest bed and home-cooked meal with some friends whom Trevor and Jill met while they were traveling in Indonesia. Chad and Ashley treated us to a hot meal, lots of wine and great conversation as they shared their travel experiences across the globe with us. Our time with them got us fired up about where we might find ourselves in the fall.
The next morning was a little slow leaving FSJ (see previous mention of wine), but by noon we were leisurely heading north on the Alaska Highway. Our destination for the evening was Summit Lake in the northern Rockies, where we found the wind howling all night and the morning pelting us with sideways rain. Our plan to hike a nearby peak was abandoned and we rolled out of the campsite and headed for Liard Hot Springs, where we were eager to warm our toes. We arrived early at the hot springs and decided we should try some ‘Backroads Map Book’ exploring, and set off in search of a trail that looked, what we thought, fairly well marked out. We bushwhacked with the Delica for what turned into approximately 70km, looking for our destination without success. With little fuel left and the evening setting in, we abandoned the search; as I’m sure we will discover again in our journeys, not all adventures and dirt roads end in success. The silver lining of course was that the hot springs were still flowing, and after another tasty camp stove dinner (we’re getting pretty good at them!) we soaked our toes and bodies, leaving the road grime of the past few days behind us.
Travelling the Alaska Highway gives you an idea of how phenomenally huge this province is as hours and hours pass with no sign of civilization (a pretty beautiful thing). A portion of Northern BC equivalent to the size of Ireland has been set aside as the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, a wilderness reserve which has been called the ‘Serengeti of the north’. It was spectacular to drive through, as you were reminded of what the entire province at one point may have looked like; home to one of the largest intact predator prey ecosystems on earth, with few roads, trails or disturbance, the Management Area is a demonstration of collaboration between local First-Nations, Conservationists, Recreation and Resource groups and the Provincial government to work together on any activity that happens within the Reserve. After 400 miles of wilderness, we crossed the border and arrived in the Yukon. Our first stop was at Watson Lake, home of the famous signpost city. As the story goes, when the US Army was building the Alaska Highway, a young homesick private posted a sign in Watson Lake which indicated how far away from his hometown he was. The idea stuck, and today the signpost forest features over 78,000 signs from travelers who have left their hometown mark.
From Watson Lake we enjoyed an easy 400 km drive to Whitehorse where we find ourselves today. Whitehorse is a beautiful town, and thanks to some dear family (that’s you Joyce and Tom!) we were able to treat ourselves to an evening dinner on the town to celebrate Byron’s birthday. On the advice of some good friends who know how to enjoy a good meal before heading out into the wilderness for weeks on end (thanks Brittany and Jeff!), we sampled some awesome Trinidadian food (I never did find out how the owner made it from Trinidad to Whitehorse) and drink. Before we dined we checked in at the local bike shop and found out the skinny on the trails in the area, which we’re about to head out and explore again today. Whitehorse is definitely a fun spot with a lot going on! With 16 hours of daylight we’ve had lots of time to enjoy it all. It feels good to stretch our legs and lungs and get outside, the drive up here was spectacular but we are ready to spend some time exploring the wilderness rather than staring at it through the windshield. In the next week we’ll head north on the Klondike highway to Dawson City and north from there on the Dempster highway to Tombstone Territorial Park.
Until then, Byron and Alison