24 June 2014 6.00 PM 67F Scattered clouds and sunshine
Day 2 on the road dawns bright and early. A little too early for my liking – I suspect the temperature drop may have had something to do with that. It seemed pretty cold in the truck and true enough, it turned out that I was experiencing my first below zero day in quite a while. My other problem was that it seems in the intervening years between trips, either the back seat of my truck has somehow become narrower or I have got bigger. (Bigger as in taller,before the cacophony of cries abut me indeed being rounder.) I suspect that my ever increasing age and my complaining knees may have just made the situation a little less comfortable than it used to be.
Eventually, I managed to drag myself from the warmth of my sleeping bag and become sufficiently awake to not be a danger to fellow road users. Firing up the truck and heading out onto the Alcan on the second day is always fun. It’s still part adventure, part holiday and despite having done it several times, it’s still a thrill. Running through some truly beautiful and breath-taking scenery, and knowing that there are lots and lots of wild animals around, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see some of them. Each time, I drive this road, I constantly wonder about the mentality of explorers and road builders. The Alcan was built in response to the Japanese invasion of two of the islands in the Aleutian chain during WWII, as prior to the road, the only way into Alaska was by boat or plane and the government of the USA felt it would be sensible to have a road link to be able to move large numbers of troops or equipment, if the need arose. The Canadians, on whose land much of the road was to built agreed on the understanding that the US would bear the cost. As I, and the many other tourists drive over it and complain about the pot holes and frost heaves, I wonder if we ever truly reflect on the effort that went in to carving such an amazing road out of, what was, complete wilderness. The fact that it was also Memorial Day added some degree of poignancy to my musings.
Brief stops in Teslin and Watson Lake for fuel, and confirmation that my bank card hadn’t miraculously healed itself, drained my dwindling stash of cash, but hey ho, onwards in hope and looking forward to the beauty of Muncho Lake. And beautiful it was, the green waters were visible, and yet it was still garnished with a crusting of it’s icy winter mantle, despite the late May warmth.
It’s a pretty drive through Stone Mountain Provincial Park, famed for it’s wildlife who often stubbornly refuse to give up the Highway to oncoming traffic. I managed to avoid confrontation with any of the big sheep who have dented more than one bumper, and caught glimpses of the, just a touch shyer, mountain goats.
I keep saying that one day I’m going to stop and visit the Hot Springs at Liard, but once again, it wasn’t going to be this trip. Of course as well as the Hot Springs, Liard is well known for it’s Bison herd, that roams hundreds of kilometres but always seem to be just lazing around grazing whenever I am around. Except today…………. Just after I crossed the river, the car in front of me suddenly veered off to the side and the reason quickly became apparent. A large bison was running, yes actually running, across the road and thundering down the hill, heading for goodness knows where – but doing it at what was an amazing pace. And just as impressive was the noise, a combination of his panting breaths and the resonating pounding of his hooves as he crossed the tarmac and then galloped down the shoulder of the road. Very, very imposing and an incredibly daunting sight – and that was me hiding in the safety of my 10,000 lb truck.
I would hate to be between a herd of these guys and the place they wanted to be.
Arriving in Fort Nelson, I succeeded in getting cash out of the ATM again, but failed at actually being able to use the bank card to pay for anything. Whilst trying to pay for my fuel, I managed to have a very interesting chat with a Filipina lady about the vagaries of the Canadian immigration system. I was also delighted to discover that Tim Horton’s has opened a branch in Fort Nelson. Oh happy day ! Pushing onwards, with many miles still ahead, I didn’t mind at all having to stop when this guy decided he (or she) was going to cross the road at a leisurely pace just ahead of me.
The stretch of road, between Fort Nelson and Fort St John have always been very fruitful for bear sightings and so it proved again on this trip. My card was again declined in Fort St John, yeah I know, but you have to admire a trier and it rather threw out my plans for staying overnight in Dawson Creek. In the end, I drove as far as Grande Prairie before deciding that I really needed to sleep.
Mileage for the day 997