Thursday, September 5, 2013

So many  things happened in the past few days. Alaska and the Yukon are now in our rear view mirror (so sad.) We crossed the Continental Divide (and streams now flow in the correct direction.)  Our truck’s odometer rolled over 189,000 miles (WOW.) It was 72 degrees (we were pitiful, three of four truck windows down, bitching about the heat.)  The  thought of returning to 90 degree weather makes me cringe.
The landscape says snow is just around the corner. The hills are splashed in a fall palette of gold, yellow and red. Ponds that were filled with ducks, loons and swans are now empty.  The days have become much shorter, no more land of the midnight sun.  Our drive out of Alaska was cold, but as we have moved south through the Yukon and British Columbia it has warmed up.

We stopped at Watson Lake to check on the sign we put up in the Sign Forest in 2010. It was doing pretty good, but needed a new coat of urethane.  When we stopped there in 2010 there were 68,000 signs. Now there are 75,000. This is such an interesting place to walk through.  It is a must see for anyone driving to Alaska.


Next stop was one of my favorite places – Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. This is one of the best primitive campgrounds we have ever stayed in.  It’s heavily forested and each camp site is large, private and very well maintained.  After several long days on the road, the chance to relax in the hot spring is pure bliss. A short walk through the woods leads you to Alpha Pool where the water temperature ranges between 107°-126°F.  If you want it even cooler then slide into the water below the man made falls.  

If you’re interested in roasting yourself all you have to do is wade towards the natural vent where boiling water from deep in the earth
surfaces. The pool is surrounded by ferns, wildflowers, forest and wildlife. You could not ask for a more beautiful setting. There is also a second pool, but it is now permanently closed to the public due to bear problems.

Last time we were here we ran into neighbors from our home town. This time I met the cousin of the woman who made the native doll I purchased in Inuvik. It was really interesting listening to her talk about her large family in Inuvik.
Then I saw someone I met in Chicken, Alaska!  Linda and I met at the Chicken Saloon while I was talking to Toad, my first Alaskan character. It was so nice to run into Linda again. She is such an interesting and super smart woman. Until recently she had never owned a car. To get from place to place she hitch hiked or rode the rails (hobo style.) She teaches school during the winter. It’s amazing listening to her talk about “her kids.”  I wish every teacher had the passion for teaching that Linda has. She had just come from the Northwest Territories where she had been searching for coral fossils from over 150 million years ago. She also went to see the footprints of a  large fish called Sauripterus that lived 360-380 million years ago and walked on its fins! That's long before dinosaurs even existed! How cool is that?

Between Watson Lake and Liard Springs are a ton of signs warning about Buffalo on the road and they are not kidding. These are Wood Bison and they are much bigger than our Plains Buffalo. Because they salt the roads during the winter the Bison come to lick the leftover salt along the shoulder of the road.

All the Bison we saw on this trip were in small groups. A few cows and calves, a number of bachelor bulls and of course,  big daddy bull (weighing in at 2,000 pounds.) Hunted to the brink of extinction, it’s great to see these magnificent animals making a comeback.

We also saw several young female Caribou along the road. I was surprised to see the Caribou as it’s Elk and Moose hunting season. The woods are crawling with hunters on ATV’s and horseback so most critters with horns are hunkered down praying for hunting season to end.  
The drive on this section of the AlCan Highway is always beautiful. Loads of mountains, aqua blue streams and wildlife like this Black Bear.
Tomorrow we cross back into the US.

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