This was the leg that had us worried. It was just under 900km, all of it on the Alaskan Highway. There were huge gaps between stops. How would the kids handle that amount of time in the back of the car? How would we handle it? What was the highway going to be like? All these thoughts were in the back of our minds as we departed Fort St. John early in the morning. The morning walk had to be postponed to hit our 6:30 departure. Anyway, all the worry was for naught. This leg would turn out to be my favourite of the trip and the kids loved it.
The drive was like a northern version of African Lion Safari. We will just dive into the wildlife update as it is longer than normal.
- 3 Moose – Paige goes her whole life without seeing moose then sees one in Thunder Bay. And today we stumble across moose three additional times. And these aren’t far off in the forest viewings. We stopped the car for five minutes and watched one feed in a marsh, completely ignoring us.
- 1 Coyote – It was just running down the ditch beside the highway
- 1 Wolf – flatter face than the coyote and much larger
- 20+ Bison – There was an electronic highway sign telling us there were bison on the highway 150+ km further down the road. We rolled our eyes. What were the chances that the update would be even remotely accurate? But a couple of hours later, we see one bison, then ten minutes later two more, and then 15 minutes later an entire herd.
- 1 Grouse – It seemed to be playing chicken with the traffic – it survived but not sure for how long
- 4 Mountain Sheep – crossing the road and Paige had to stop to let them go by
- 1 Grizzly Bear – The previous day we saw a black bear, today it was time for our first grizzly. The kids could see it out the window as it grazed up a hill on the side of the road. It was eating berries and paid us no attention. Isabella suggested it was a brown black bear. But we could see the hump, meaning grizzly.
Paige got to drive again. Whenever Paige gets behind the wheel something happens. So Paigey drives two hours that day but during that time, she gets the only section of the road that isn’t beautifully paved. It was loose gravel that was through a construction zone with some crazy mountain switchbacks to maneuver. Additionally, we came across our first pilot vehicle scenario that we had no idea what to do. A pilot vehicle is a car that escorts a convoy of cars through a construction zone. We drove past the stop and then had to reverse back to wait for our guide. Poor Paigey. As soon as I got behind the wheel, it was clear driving with wide shoulders, regular passing lanes and no goats crossing the road.
In case anyone does this drive, allocate some time for the highlight of the trip, Liard River Hot Springs. Originally, I had wanted to camp the night here but Paigey convinced me we needed a break from camping. So for us, this was just an in-and-out stop. Liard Springs is a hot spring with a campground attached. The campground has an electrified fence around it. To get to the hot springs, you have to go through the electrified fence (feels like Jurassic Park), and then walk 700m on a boardwalk through a bubbling marsh, fighting the worst mosquitoes in Canada. All that effort in order to soak in a spring? It is so worth it. The place should have been 10 times busier than it was and should have cost 20 times more. We paid $10 for the entire family. It felt like something you’d find in northern Europe. Absolutely spectacular. If I had Instagram, I would post all the Instagram-worthy imagery from here. But I don’t have instagram so you will have to take our word for it.
Refreshed from the hot springs, it was easy to cover the next couple of hours to Watson Lake where we stayed at a motel attached to a gas station.
By the Numbers:
- Total Kilometres: 7019km
- Depart: 06:30 (Fort St. John) – Arrive 19:00 (Watson Lake)
- Ice Cream: 1 – bought an ice cream tub at the grocery store and ate it in the motel – this is a new twist to our ice cream eating
- Territories to cross off our list: 1 – Finally made it to the Yukon.
- Admission for a family of four to Liard Hot Springs: $10 (I had to mention it again – I think the postcards cost more)
Ciao for now