Fort Nelson to Watson lake 21st June 2008
An easy drive along the Alaska Highway together with plenty of large ‘RVs’ (motor homes). At first the drive was a bit tedious with the exception of a solitary buffalo in a field. This was to be an omen for the day as we later saw plenty of wild buffalo at very close quarters. They are huge and it was a real treat.
Before crossing from British Columbia into Yukon we crossed the highest pass on the highway. Compared to where we have been it was not very high, but at this latitude (59deg) it was high enough to be above the tree line and in Caribou country. We were duly treated to a group of them right by the road, followed by some rock sheep.
In case you are beginning to ask if this is a car rally or a nature trip, I can confirm that we did then drive all of 300m off the road to the car park of the hot springs at Toad Hill where we bathed in water gradually rising to 52 deg C as we swam/waded upstream. Although the increased temperature from the springs encouraged various plants including orchids, we failed to see any toads. It turned out that this was because the place was so called because, in the construction of the highway, everything had to be towed up the hill. Spelling not being one of the locals’ strong points, the name stuck as it is. So there you have it – it is all about roads and vehicles after all.
We are staying at the hotel Belvedere at Watson Lake. As you would imagine from the name it has a nice view over a dirt car park and lots of pick-up trucks. That being what most people around here appreciate looking at. The man responsible for the signposts on the highway set up a distance sign to his home town; just for fun. The habit has caught on and since then people have been coming here with signs and erecting them to the extent that there is now a whole park full of road signs. It also has a Panama to Alaska rally plate.
It is 21st June – the longest day. We are at 60 degrees latitude. It is 10.30pm and the sun is some distance above the horizon. There are only venetian blinds at the window. I hope that we have blackout blinds when we get to Fairbanks in a few days. It is only one degree south of the Arctic Circle.