Jul 11, 2014
The day started with a drive to Fort Nelson. The visitors’ center had free wifi so we checked up on email. Afterwards we crossed the highway to visit the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. This is a real hidden gem. I’m sure people pass by because it looks a bit like a junkyard out front. They really lose out on a unique experience. We probably spent two hours there. The “curator” is an 84 yr. old gentleman who has spent his entire life collecting – and what a collection. He started the museum and it is now run by the Fort Nelson Historical Society. There are historical buildings moved on to the grounds and furnished in the era of their construction. The museum itself is a walk down memory lane for boomers and a history lesson for those younger. Many locals have donated items and the cases and aisles are filled with memorabilia. There are several items from the building of the Alaskan Highway, one of the bulldozers sits out front. Tom especially enjoyed the building with the car collection. We had a guide who knew about/helped restore every model and they talked cars for a half hour.
Ready to start north again we stopped for gas. We had a bit of sticker shock as gas was $1.579/L. Wow!
After Fort Nelson the mountains returned and we again saw the beautiful rivers. The roads had been very good up to that point. We hit a spot of construction and drove over gravel for about a mile, dusty, dusty, dusty! After that we could see where they had repaired many potholes.
Our next stop was Liard Hot Springs. We walked down to the springs to dangle our toes in the water. The first touch was a surprise – it was way warmer than bath water (100⁰F)+. Everyone going in had the same reaction - ouch. After dangling for a few minutes the temperature became comfortable. This is a very popular stop on the Alcan.
As we turned out of the park we found traffic stopped for a construction crew. Waited for traffic coming from the other direction then had our turn. We were the 2nd car following a lead car – good thing there was a lead car! The 5 mile drive was like going through a dust storm. There was new gravel on both lanes and the crew was slurry sealing the other lane. We traveled about 7-8 car lengths from the car in front of us to let some of the dust settle. We could not even see the car in front most of the time. There were about 7 cars and 2 motorcycles in our caravan. I don’t know how the ones on cycles survived. It was nasty, much worse than our first dust encounter.
We stopped at the Coal River Lodge, Gas Station, Café and RV Park about 7 PM for gas and supper. This is the only restaurant & gas between Liard Hot Springs and Watson Lake (another 100 miles). We thought this morning was sticker shock – how about $1.779/L – Double Wow! After pumping only a half tank we went into the café to pay and order food. Were greeted by the owner “Are you here to pay for gas or do you want to eat.” Eat – we were hungry. Her reply, “How about roasted chicken and potato salad?” What could we say but yes. Had our meal in 5 minutes and it was pretty good and the price was right. Little did we know she closed at 7 PM. Guess we were lucky she fed us at all.
Tonight’s campsite is again in a forest. We are boondocking at the Whirlpool Canyon Rest Area. Another former Provincial Park that is now free camping. We found this place in the Alaskan Camping book. If you didn’t know where to turn off you would drive right by. There is another couple camping who arrived yesterday. Took the short path down to the river. At one point the river was about 50 feet wider. There are lots of trees washed up at the bend in the river. The exposed former bottom of the river is slate and sharp rocks. A series of rapids in the river bend and an island in the middle of the river make it a quite beautiful spot. Hope to get a picture in the morning. Have to charge the camera battery and iPad tonight.
Our only animal sighting for today was a lone bison relaxing beside the road on our way to the camp.
(Hey, Jace, we liked your story about the fish and the snake. Thanks for sharing with us. Glad you enjoyed camping. Miss you all.)