More Sheep and We Return to the US of A

The sun peaked through and shone on one of the mountains just visible between the tall pines this morning. This would be a great campsite to stay a week and just relax. We used our new Thermacell on the mosquitoes but they really weren’t too bad. I think we have moved south of those pests. Will count my bug bites and confirm later.

Here's a shot of Bob helping an older man up to the glacier. He might not have needed help had he worn real shoes.

Here’s a shot of Bob helping an older man up to the glacier. He might not have needed help had he worn real shoes.

The drive into Radium Hot Springs follows the river downstream until we drove between a narrow cut groove in the mountain and emerged on the other side. The hot springs was on our ‘maybe visit’ list and since we ended up on the west side of the Canadian Rockies we were able to head south through this little town. We took advantage again of the hot springs and decided that a ‘hot springs’ tour across the continent would be pretty fun. This hot springs was set up more like a public pool with warm water and it was not as hot as I expected. We decided we liked the more natural setting of Liard better.100_1640

The town of Radium is known for its resident Dall Sheep herd so we were really looking forward to seeing the sheep wander through town. I was disappointed to read at the visitor center the sheep only hung out in Radium during fall and winter so we decided to head onward without searching them out. However, before leaving town, Bob discovered a do-it-yourself carwash and had decided earlier that the radiator screen thing was plugged with bugs, so we stopped there first. Good thing, too, because just as we pulled out we discovered the whole herd of sheep just sitting in the shade waiting for us. Another great photo op scored!

Just sitting there waiting for us.

Just sitting there waiting for us.

We drove down into a green valley following another river further south and eventually found ourselves back at the US border at a tiny crossing in Montana. The border agent didn’t ask once about our guns. Ha ha…

Field of something yellow in Montana.

Field of something yellow in Montana.

We are near our next stop of Glacier National Park. The darn GPS stopped working completely today. I guess I won’t be selling it to anyone except maybe for scrap metal. Do we need to buy a new one tomorrow or can we get by with our maps?

I’ll let you know how lost we get.

kalispell, mt

The Middle of Nowhere

…or as They Call it: Fort Nelson

One of the stretches of gravel road we encountered. Fortunately, they have been few and far between.

One of the stretches of gravel road we encountered. Fortunately, they have been few and far between.

When we talked to people about our trip they all said one thing: Be sure to stop at Liard Hot Springs. Today was our day. It was a pretty rainy morning but we pressed on until reaching the hot springs. They are part of a Provincial Park and the family day pass was only $10. The hot springs are about a quarter mile from the parking but we walked along a beautiful boardwalk to reach them. The springs form a giant pool with the water much hotter the further ‘up river’ you go. They were so beautiful and so relaxing. Based on the large parking lot and the signs for overflow parking we imagine they often are packed but on this day we only shared the area with fewer than twenty others. What a relaxing break from our drive. It was just as everyone had said. We had hoped to spend the night here but the rain and the many hours left of daylight prodded us on.

Liard Hot Springs. A true gem in the wilderness.

Liard Hot Springs. A true gem in the wilderness.

From Liard to Fort Nelson we drove across the Canadian Rockies. The road was so windy and often narrow that I had to wonder if we had accidentally taken a side road. But what beauty. Our pictures can’t do it all justice.

Just another beautiful lake in the Canadian Rockies.

Just another beautiful lake in the Canadian Rockies.

We ran into a small herd of stone sheep who were trying to get over the guard rail and across the road. My heart was in my throat when Bob fell while trying to get the perfect picture. I could just see him sliding all the way down that stony cliff. I told him his life wasn’t worth a picture, even if it was a cute little baby. He laughed and said I had 100 feet of rope that I could use to rescue him… typical man.

Thinking they are like the sheep, Bob and Rebecca try for the close photo op.

Thinking they are like the sheep, Bob and Rebecca try for the close photo op.

Was it worth it?

Was it worth it?

The hotel we are staying is run by a guy who Bob says reminds him of Mr. Haney (extra points if you know who he is…) But this guy had his fingers in every pot and was always there making sure he got his money for everything.

Before leaving we were told to always keep the tank full and get gas whenever we saw a pump. This station, the only one we had seen in 50 miles, is one reason people often travel with 5 gallon cans of gas.

This is why some people carry extra fuel on the AlCan.

This is why some people carry extra fuel on the AlCan.

Tomorrow we will drive the last stretch of the Alaska-Canada Highway. We don’t know if we will stay in Dawson Creek or continue on…it depends on the weather, the day, etc., etc.

ft nelson

The Return Begins

Already? Awww…

Yes, it is time to begin our return trip. We’re not traveling the same route—maybe 500 miles of this journey we’ll be on the same road. This leg will take us out of Valdez, up to the junction in Tok and back to Whitehorse. Then we’ll take the actual AlCan highway down to its origination point at Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Following that we will take a side road to Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta, then to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks back in the US. If we arrive on time we’ll drop Bob off in Salt Lake City, because somebody has to work to pay for this trip.

So, here we are in Valdez. At some point in my early childhood and it was after the ’64 earthquake but before the pipeline, our family visited Valdez. I remember the waterfalls and I remember that the town had been wiped out by tidal waves following the earthquake. Even as a young child I was impressed to see that all that remained of the town were street posts with signs and empty cement pads where homes once stood.

On our way out of town this morning we saw a sign marking the original town and visited it. Though much has grown over there were still a few cement pads left with markers explaining what once stood there. Yet another impressive reminder of the strength of the forces of nature and how insignificant man really is in the scope of things.

I was hoping that the waterfalls would be as impressive as I remembered and we weren’t disappointed. Tons of water poured down the side of the mountain, forming its own path and unceasingly pounding on the rocks underneath it.

Bridal Veil Falls just north of Valdez.

Bridal Veil Falls just north of Valdez.

Afterwards we headed up the pass to the summit and came to Worthington Glacier. One of Rebecca’s requests was that she walk on a glacier and this was her chance. Matthew and I wimped out climbing the narrow, rocky goat trail about half way up but Bob and Rebecca made it to the face of the glacier and got see and touch it as close as one can get. I worried they would fall into the river, through a crevasse, or slide underneath the ice…you know… Mom Worries…but they made it safely and have pictures to prove their braveness.north to alaska 024

We continued heading north and for a time paralleled the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. You know, it’s not as big as I imagined. We split off from the pipeline and took the ‘short-cut’ to Tok. I’m not so sure how much shorter it was but it certainly was another remote road. According to the markers this was another gold rich area with the first non-native settlers being prospectors.

Oh say, here’s a crazy observation. Remember I told you about the frost heaves? We found some and Rebecca videotaped a clip for you but we kept noticing that they weren’t as bad as we remembered (the bug splatters are exactly as they occurred in real life). It turns out that these loop-de-loop heaves in the road are a spring occurrence and since the weather had warmed up by our return most of the road had settled back down. So, we were lucky to experience them.

After we crossed back into Canada (without incident this time) we started looking for a place to spend the night. There are very few camping spots which was okay, we could pull off the road and stop, until this:

Well, Hello Mr. Grizzly. No, I don't think I will sleep in a tent right here...

Well, Hello Mr. Grizzly. No, I don’t think I will sleep in a tent right here…

Yes, after a not so friendly greeting by this grizzly we decided the tent was way too thin for us to camp outside a campground so we pushed on until we finally found one at the end of Kluane Lake. The spot seemed perfect, a grassy RV park with bathrooms close, BUT… As we began to unload the truck the mosquitoes formed a dark swarm all around us. In your nose. In your eyes. In your ears. On your arms.

You get the picture. Armchair travelers, be very glad tonight you are sleeping in your bed.

We raced to get the tent up and jumped in to escape. It didn’t matter that our clothes were still in the truck. We had our sleeping bags and nobody wanted to venture out to brush their teeth. That was it for the night.

Tomorrow: Return to Whitehorse and visit some friends.

kluane lake