On The Road Again

4 July 2012     7.00 PM      68F    Cloudy

Day 2 dawned bright and early. I guess the good thing about snoozing in the back of your truck is that you are highly unlikely to oversleep. Knowing that many miles still lay ahead, I didn’t waste any time in getting back on the road.

This next stretch is the one that I had been dreading most. Fuelling up in Teslin, I prayed that I wouldn’t be back through the town again for quite a few days – unlike the previous two trips. With gritted teeth for a couple of hundred miles, I could feel myself tense up as I approached Nugget City, then onto Junction 37 and finally, safely, happily, the truck cruised past Watson Lake at the first time of asking. Topping up the fuel tank, I looked forward to the rest of the drive east and (touching wood) a troublefree run.

Not too far outside Watson Lake I saw my first bear of the trip. Actually, not only did I see it, I had to brake sharply to avoid running it over, as it ambled across the Highway.

running black bear
Black Bear crossing the Alaska Highway

The weather could have been nicer, but I guess light rain means you may as well be driving as a lot of the picturesque scenery is masked by the murky cloud cover. I decided to have a late lunch at Toad River. The all in one gas station/diner/souvenir store/post office is well known for its collection of baseball caps stapled to the ceiling. Apparently, the collection now numbers over 8147 – and was started when the locals nailed their neighbor’s hat to the ceiling whilst he was otherwise occupied. I only hope that they took it off his head first.

Over the next few miles I got to see more bears, both black and brown. I was thrilled to see a total of about 5 bears in my whole trip last year. In the next hour, I saw around a dozen bears, mostly just browsing at the side of the road.

A big black bear, out for a stroll.
A brown bear, eating dandelions

Momma bear and 2 of her cubs

It was quite a thrill to see these magnificent creatures but I very wisely took my photographs from inside the truck. Unlike a couple of guys I saw having to hightail it back to their car when one of the bears decided that they were just a little too close to be tolerated. I also got to see the fancy new road sign that has been erected in the last year. Hard to miss this one.

At least you know the hazards ahead.

Just as the sign warned, the Bison were indeed on the Highway, beside the Highway and generally all over the place. Each time I see them, I’m impressed and amazed at their size and seemingly gentle nature. Equally, I’m totally in awe of the fact that they could probably quite easily shift any of the vehicles off the road, if they so desired. There were quite a few hold ups on this section as the bison meandered from side to side. It seems the youngsters have a bit less lane discipline than the grown ups.

Baby Bison

The heavy snow winter we had in Alaska and the Yukon, coupled with heavy rains in the last couple of weeks, has meant that there is a lot of water on the move in the Yukon. This caused the washout of the Alcan in 3 spots and also meant that quite a few of the rivers are at flood levels or close to it. The Upper Liard River had already flooded a wide area, and the Liard River was pretty close to breaching the flood defenses and flowing over the bridge that the Alcan uses to cross it. After crossing the bridge, I drove on a bit and came across a small group of male bison that somehow had managed to find a way across the raging river. Of course, they may simply have walked over the bridge, and as natural a solution as that seems, it also strikes me as cheating a little bit.

Pushing on past the lovely Muncho Lake, pretty as ever, even in the rain.

The green tinged Muncho Lake

Climbing upwards towards Stone Mountain and Summit Lake, the road then drops as it descends towards Fort Nelson. From here on, I consider tempting fate by hurling abuse at my truck, daring it to break down now – on the basis that all of the Ford dealers are in towns that lie on my route and in the direction that I’m travelling. Of course, I’m not that childish, no, really, I’m not,  and I’m also not that stupid either. Fort Nelson disappears behind me and Fort St John beckons.  The many deer that threatened me on this stretch on the  last trip all seem to be on vacation and it is a more relaxed drive, aided by the extended hours of daylight acquired from being 6 weeks closer to the summer solstice.  Dawson Creek was my target and I made it into a motel just before 10.00 PM.

Day 2     Miles  815           Bears Lots    Bison Lots  Bedraggled Little Fox 1

The rest of the drive to Manitoba is unremarkable and involves nothing but lots of miles of dual carriageway, traffic, Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts and a couple of cities. I spent one night in Saskatoon (which I can never say without giggling – having watched the film, “Grown Ups”) and made it to Rossburn without further incident.

Days 3 & 4  Miles 991     Wildlife None