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Wilderness Adventures - Sept., Week One/2009

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' about the Lakesounds just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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16/09/2009 7:23 PM

Some Rain

Our wonderful September weather has gone downhill somewhat but it's still not too bad. Yesterday was a pretty nice day with above normal temperatures, but a cold front moved in from the coast so our temps were a lot cooler today and we saw some rain showers. The rain is a good thing because we do really need it. We're not getting good soakers but at least I'm dragging around hoses less often trying to keep things watered.
Today was the first day in a while that we actually had quite a blustery wind and there were some waves on the lake. There were a lot of boats out on the lake this morning but the wind drove a few in this afternoon. Surprisingly there are still two fishermen out there in personal float tubes even with choppy water so the fishing must be making it all worthwhile.
I don't think our weather is expected to be all that great for the next few days but that's a natural considering the time of year. There's still no bugs so it's nice to be outside regardless of what it's doing. I was just thinking about that this morning after showering. It's so nice now to be able to use moisturizer again and yesterday evening I could actually put on perfume before going to the neighbours' for dinner and a bonfire after without worrying about attracting every mosquito in the country. Andy even goes so far as to refuse to wear under arm deodorant during bug season but I won't go that far. I just try to find nonperfumed products. It's so automatic to not wear or wash with anything scented during the summer months that it's not until fall that you realize what lengths you have to go to avoid the bugs. It would be laughable really, if the mosquitoes weren't such rotten things to deal with at times.
It's cleared off and it's definitely cooling off this evening. Andy has had to start a fire downstairs and right now it's a lot more pleasant there than in my office upstairs. In any case, I have some business to do tonight so I'll keep this short. I'm going to be fairly busy for the next few days so I may not be able to post anything until next week. If I don't, have a great weekend, folks!

14/09/2009 8:45 PM

The Wonder Days

September is one of my favorite months in this country, and there's good reason for it. Saturday was a gorgeous day while yesterday we had mixed sun and cloud. The thermometer made it over 24C or 75F both days but today was a little cooler at around 18C or about 65F. It kept threatening to rain today and we did have a couple of little downpours. We definitely need it. It's still pretty darned dry out there.
The aspens are just starting to turn color now, although there is a ridge on the way to Nimpo covered in big aspen that are presently clothed in a glorious yellow. I don't know why but those trees always turn color a lot sooner than the rest, although there was one aspen along the highway toward Anahim Lake yesterday that was an amazing mixture of reds, oranges and peach. There are spots here and there where the aspen leaves have simply turned brown and I think it's because it's been such a long, dry summer. The previous three out of four summers have been very wet and it could be that some aspens have really grown in that period of time without having to develop a major root system. Then along comes a dry spell and the trees have outgrown their ability to support their size. Of course, that's simply conjecture, on my part.
The same thing appears to have happened with a lot of the willows along the sides of the road. Many have turned brown here but we noticed the same thing all along the Alaska Highway so I'm hoping it's just the hot weather and not some sort of disease.
There have been quite a number of fishing boats out on Nimpo Lake this past weekend. We counted six out there this morning alone, but the fishing has been fabulous so it's no surprise. Every time I look out through the glasses someone seems to be reeling one in. I think that a lot of people, especially part time residents, prefer to come up in the month of September because the weather is generally nice, the nights crisp, there are no bugs, and the fish are about as fat as they're going to get. Now we just need to get our bottoms into a boat and on out there to bring in some fish for the winter. It's just that we've got too many projects and chores on the go at the moment. Soon though... hopefully. We're taking off for a few days coming up so fishing might have to wait until our return.
I've developed a serious case of tomato envy. We visited our neighbours that have another residence down in Ashcroft this summer and they mentioned then that the local farms grow marvelous produce throughout the summer, and that they would be happy to bring up any seasonal vegetables for canning if we wanted some. Of course, who's going to turn down an offer like that? So on our way home from the Yukon, I put a call in to see if they were coming back from Ashcroft and to ask if they could bring me a couple of cases of tomatoes and some peppers so that I could can some salsa. If not, then I would see if I could pick something like that up in Williams Lake. They promised to bring some vegetables up and showed up on my doorstep a few days later with two big boxes of some of the most luscious looking tomatoes I had ever seen as well as some huge peppers. It turns out that they bought the peppers from a farmer's market for me, but not the tomatoes. Those were out of their garden. I couldn't believe it! I've never lived anywhere that you could produce tomatoes like that much less right out of your own backyard. I had to pick a couple of tomatoes out of the greenhouse that had ripened up, and let me tell you, they looked pretty pathetic next to those big Ashcroft monsters!
The only problem with all those beautiful tomatoes is that you have to do something with them. It's taken us a couple of days but we've finally got 12 pints of red pickle, 14 pints of salsa, and 5 quarts of canned tomatoes sitting on the counter. I've got two pots of spaghetti sauce simmering to can tomorrow and then we'll be done. The timing was a little off weather wise. The last thing you want to be doing is canning when it's hot, but it sure pays off in the dead of winter.
We're supposed to see a weather change for a few days, but it's hard to say what kind and for how long. There's a system coming in from the Pacific that may be pushed north along the coast by a high pressure system that's been holding over us for a few days, or we may catch the edge of it and get some rain. That's okay too. I got the lawn mowed today so it can do whatever it wants now. We've got to do something about that thing too. It's so thick and grows so fast that mowing it is like mowing a hayfield and our antique Sears mower has no bag, something that normally wouldn't be necessary, but now we actually have to rake the windrows up on the lawn after mowing, which is getting a little old. I have to admit that for being only one year old, it's an awesome lawn but if this keeps up, we're going to have to buy a couple of goats or horses!
I have business to attend to tomorrow night so I probably won't be writing. I apologize about the sporadic blogs because I know it's a little tough on you folks that like to check for it daily, but with summer coming to a close and my calendar season coming on, sometimes there's just too much to do to be able to write all the time. Of course taking time off here and there to go someplace doesn't help much. So thanks for your patience, folks!

11/09/2009 8:31 PM

The Sunshine Day

Wow, today was just an awesome day! It was clear and sunny and very hot! At least hotter than what we've been used to here and up in the Yukon for the last month. It got up to 22C or 72F in the shade today but was closer to 30C or 90 in the sun, which is where I was working for most of the day. Yesterday was just as nice, even though it wasn't as hot and there was a little more cloud mixed with sun.
I'm glad I didn't get a moose tag this year. I always go for the early season, which is from now to the end of September, and invariably it's too warm, but I get busy with my calendar business and can't hunt later in the fall. In a way it's a good thing though, because I've lots I want to do outside before winter hits and I get stuck on the computer, so I can only hope this weather lasts for awhile.
I had a lot of plants in pots that need to get planted before winter. I held off all summer because it was so hot, but there's no choice now, they'll just have to take the heat because there isn't much time for them to root in before freeze up and the plants simply stop growing. I've been eager to get to the new rock garden all summer but spent most of my time dragging around water hoses instead. That's okay too. There's nothing like anticipation when it comes to gardening and what I don't get done this year I'll get to do next spring.
Sadly, my greenhouse isn't doing too great this year. Since it was my first year, I wasn't too sure how to treat tomato plants, although I was reasonably sure they shouldn't be 8' feet high and one shouldn't need help from someone on the outside of the greenhouse to fetch a tomato through the jungle of greenery. I just found out what you are supposed to do from the friend of our host up in Little Atlin. She has a large greenhouse and showed me what she does with her tomatoes. There was only a single stem that was really thick strung up to the roof and hardly any leaves. She had just picked a large basket of tomatoes off only a small number of plants and the plants were still loaded with more tomatoes not ripe.
When I got home from up north I decided to defoliate my plants to see if that would help. Unfortunately, the situation in the greenhouse had deteriorated. While I have an automatically opening window on the greenhouse, I left the screen window on the door at the other end closed when we left because we were getting frosty nights so the greenhouse wasn't getting as much air circulation. I asked my friend to turn on the irrigation system in the greenhouse every three or four days for a half hour only, and only if it was really hot. Not being familiar with greenhouses, she felt the more you watered them, the better. The greenhouse was nice and wet when I got home, but I discovered it was also very moldy. The more foliage I hacked out, the worse it got. Tomato stems had roots growing out into thin air, moldy leaves hung in strings from the stems, and many stems were rotted away, as were many tomatoes. It certainly wasn't my friend's fault because she doesn't know anything about greenhouses, but it would have been much better if I had left the screen window open to help with circulation.
My neighbour came over a few days before we came home and discovered that what tomatoes she could see were sweating badly in the heat and moisture, so she opened up the screen on the door for a few hours and then came back over to close it in the evening, which is probably the only thing that saved the whole thing from melting into a soggy mess.
I cleaned up the greenhouse as best I could, withheld water as long as possible, and it started drying out fairly well. This heat will help a lot, but I've still got a mold problem. I suspect that once the last of the tomatoes ripen and I clear out the plants, I'm going to have to skim the top layer of soil off and replace it with fresh. I may spray the surface of the soil with bleach or a 35% hydrogen peroxide solution to see if that will kill the mold spores, but I'm not sure what bleach would do to the good microorganisms in soil.
I may be veggie poor but I sure have learned a lot this summer.
Now I know to keep the zucchini out of the greenhouse once it's large enough to transplant outside. It takes up way too much room, the big leaves block too much sunlight, and they hold too much moisture. I only got about four or five zucchini off of four plants and I've got the same problem as I had last year. Lots of male blooms but few female blooms.
I think I'll kick the kol-rabi out as well. I only got about three plants to head out. The rest have just grown huge foliage but haven't developed into anything. The Swiss chard did great at first but then developed spots, which I think may have something to do with the moisture problem, because the chard I have in the neighbour's greenhouse is still perfect. The carrots and onions never did do anything but the ones I kicked outside earlier this summer because I needed the space are beautiful. The ones still inside are just tiny and flop on the ground. The 8' tall tomato plants blocking the sun may have had a lot to do with that.
The asparagus seedlings at the back of the greenhouse that didn't get much moisture are in great shape, but the ones in the front are pretty sorry looking because they got too wet. I'm not too sure what I'm going to do with the cucumbers next year. I lost a lot of the first plants but the second round of seeds did very well. I've gotten a few cucumbers off them but not many. However, all the plants are just loaded with little tiny baby cucumbers right now so who knows, maybe I'll get a whole bunch a little later.
I expected my first year in the greenhouse to be a learning experience, I just didn't expect it to be quite such a disastrous one. The worst thing about it all is that it definitely gives my sister more ammo to tease me about how much she can grow compared to what I grow, and she doesn't use a greenhouse. Then again, she doesn't live in a place with only nine guaranteed frost free days a year and none of them consecutive!
Unless something comes up I probably won't be writing tomorrow. I have some computer work to do for someone in the afternoon and the rest of the time I expect to be outside working in glorious sunshine!
09/09/2009 11:40 AM

The Trip

It's a good thing I've finally got to writing the blog again. It's been so long I've nearly forgotten how to set up the RSS feed for each one. I actually had to think about it this morning instead of being able to do it blindfolded.
Trip Continued:
We saw lots of animals on the side of the road on the way to Watson Lake like Stone sheep, caribou, moose, and even bison. The latter are huge and you sure wouldn't want to hit one with a vehicle. It would be like hitting a cement wall.
The Stone Mountains are one of my favorite parts of the Alaska Highway with wild twisted white mountains rearing up on either side of the highway. But other than the Liard Hot Springs there really wasn't many places to stop and investigate that we hadn't already seen the last couple of times we had been over that highway. One change though was the massive burn from the Smith and Liard Rivers forest fire that started earlier this spring. It had burned down to the highway in many places and that it was huge was evident. However, other than the highway, there wasn't much in the way of structures to protect from the forest fire and I think that Forestry chose to simply let it burn itself out over the course of the summer and let Mother Nature take care of it when it snowed this fall.
Muncho Lake west of the Stone Mountains is also a stunning spot. The emerald green color of the lake seemingly caused by the glacial silt that comes roaring down from the surrounding mountains. We stopped there to take the dogs for a walk through the nearly empty campground at Strawberry Flats before carrying on to Watson Lake.
From Watson Lake you get into a country of wide sweeping rivers and we stopped for a bite to eat at Teslin where we checked out the George Johnson museum the last time we were up that way. That's a stop I would recommend highly to anyone interested in the history of that part of the country and of the building of the Alaska Highway. From there we went on to Whitehorse where we could pick up the replacement part we needed for our fresh water tank as well as a new faucet for the bathroom which had been leaking for several days. We got settled into the High Country RV Park before heading to downtown Whitehorse in search of groceries and other supplies. Prices on the road up tend to be pretty high once you leave Prince George so we tried to make sure we were stocked up until we could get to Whitehorse where prices on most things are lower than they are in Williams Lake. Go figure.
I love that city. It's pretty and lot of well thought out planning has gone into its development that include good, wide highways and roads. Of course sitting on one of the prettiest rivers in the world doesn't hurt its cachet either. It's still a source of amazement to me that the Yukon can be such a stunning blue river at Whitehorse and such a huge, muddy river by the time it reaches Dawson City!
We pulled out of the city the next day after a little more shopping and headed for Caribou Crossing. Spirit Lake is on the way and loads of tour buses pulled in there to take pictures of the fantastic colors of the little lake. When we got to Caribou Crossing, those same tour buses was stacked in ten deep along with others that had come up from Skagway for the day. It was the first time we actually saw a lot of tourists but that usually happens when the cruise ships come in to Skagway and then bring tourists up on buses to Carcross and then Caribou Crossing. Andy wanted to see Michelle Phillips who runs sled dogs in the Yukon Quest. He had gotten to know her through emails and sponsoring her since meeting her in 2007 at Caribou Crossing when friends of ours at Little Atlin Lake introduced us to her. Andy had in turn hooked her up with our Post Mistress and her son at Nimpo Lake who also run sled dogs and they've since gotten dogs from Michelle. The girl at the museum told us that most of the tour buses will have cleared out by 2:30 and Michelle wouldn't be as busy taking tourists out on sled rides after that. So we killed a little time at the smallest desert in the world between Caribou Crossing and Carcross before coming back.
That's a pretty cool place. The sand is as pure as sand gets, with little or nothing growing on it and you could tell the dogs enjoyed the feeling of it under their feet immensely, especially our Lab, who is getting pretty foot sore in her old age. We went back to the Crossing after that and had a great afternoon before going on to Tagish where we stayed overnight. We were just trying to kill time before arriving at our friends' place on Little Atlin because they weren't expecting us until Thursday and we didn't want to intrude on the visit they were having with family that week. Incidentally, Michelle Phillips will be running in the Iditarod this coming winter instead of the Yukon Quest so keep an eye out for her!
We spent a week at Little Atlin waiting for our friends that had gotten married up north to meet up with us before heading back south together. A few days after we arrived we drove back into Whitehorse for a few things and to find a much needed laundromat. We wanted to get the laundry done before going to lunch and since we were told by many that the Edgewater Pub was the place to go, that's where we headed. It's only a great place to go if you're there before 2:00. It was just before two before we got to the restaurant and ordered something to drink. We were handed dinner menus that had only heavy supper fare on it. When we asked for a lunch menu we were told we couldn't have lunch because it was after two (five minutes after I might add) and the cooks had already changed shifts. All we wanted was a burger, salad, or soup and sandwich type of thing. We definitely did not want any of the supper offered on the limited menu! I've cooked in many restaurants and I've never been in one yet where the afternoon shift didn't know how or wasn't willing to make lunch fare. We were teed off, and the waitress very rude, so I handed over five dollars for the Pepsi and iced tea we didn't have and we left. We knew there was a Boston Pizza a few blocks down and we knew exactly what they served. The food was excellent and the service extraordinary but it's sad that we had to eat at a chain restaurant. I usually prefer to sample the food at local restaurants when raveling because you just get more of a feel for the place you're going through. It seems to me that we ate at the Edgewater the last time we were in Whitehorse and weren't any too happy with it then either, and the place's prices are outrageous.
Next time we're up that way, I won't forget.
Andy had brought his tools up to help Jack work on his house, but there wasn't much for me to do. It rained pretty much every day or night that we were there so getting outside wasn't always nice and although there were miles of road to walk up in the bush, I wasn't keen on walking the dogs by myself.
After a few years of walking my dogs, I know them well and it was pretty obvious just watching them that there were bears around. I had noted a wild raspberry patch along our hosts' driveway the first day and figured I would bring a bucket out one day to pick them. They were gone the next day. Andy and I picked wild raspberries near the house and I helped Beryl pick her tame raspberries in the same place one day, and on both occasions I could smell the sour scent of an animal that had gone through. The bush is thick in that country and dripping with raspberries and high bush cranberry. Andy kept trying to convince me that all the dogs were smelling were squirrels. Yeah... right. Darned big squirrels I think! My instincts were finally proven right on the morning we left a week later.
I had been awake since five that morning for some insane reason or other. Andy got up a while later to walk the dogs and as I lay there in the trailer with my head under a pillow I suddenly decided that he should take the bear spray with him. I had just started to tell him that as he headed out the door when the dogs sounded off in the canopy in the back of the truck. Andy went roaring out to keep them from waking up our hosts in the house in time to see a grizzly sow and three cubs mosey down the road past the truck. Yes, the very road we had been walking the dogs on through the same bush they had been doing some serious sniffing in during the past week. I'm thankful now that we had been keeping a pretty close rein on them throughout the week and hadn't let them go deep into the bush as they kept trying to do, or chances are pretty good that at least one dog would have gotten itself torn up if it had gotten in between that sow and her cubs. Of course I had just as much trouble keeping Andy from walking the dogs down the road in the same direction as the sow and cubs had just gone that morning as he was so determined to do. I'm not sure if that was the risk-taking A type personality coming out in him or the alternative, which I won't repeat here, but it was as hard to convince him to go in the other direction as it was to convince the stupid dogs. I was not unhappy that we were pulling out that morning.
We met with our now newly married friends at Jake's Corner and headed for Beaver Post where people that the guys knew from Summerland built a great RV Park, store, restaurant and mechanic's shop. It's a beautiful place but it was as empty as all the other RV Parks we had been to on the way up the Alaska Highway. We had a great run south on the Cassiar Highway once we got past construction at the beginning. From around Kiniskan Lake to the junction of Highway 16 is all new pavement and I would have to recommend that highway over the Alaska Highway by a long shot. Where you deal with miserable seal coat, gravel, crack sealing and constant road construction on the Alaska Highway, the Cassiar Route has brand new pavement. We were surprised to see though that the mudslide that wiped out the road just north of Kiniskan in 2007 and that we just barely snuck through before it closed for a week has only been patched up with one lane for a short distance. But other than that and the short stretch from the junction at Beaver Post where there is road construction, the road is excellent.
We stayed overnight in Prince George before returning home and the city was shrouded in forest fire smoke. It was smoky all the way to Williams Lake and just worsened as we started out west. The huge fire at Lava Canyon near Alexis Creek was between 55 and 60,000 hectares or nearly 150,000 acres burned at the time we went through and winds had carried the smoke to PG. We passed numerous small fire trucks from different communities around BC and finally realized why when we got to Redstone. All of the outer ring buildings there had sprinkler systems on the roofs and we figured that since it was supper time when the red trucks passed us, they were probably told to return to the huge fire camp at Bull Canyon for supper. The trucks were most likely being used to pressurize the sprinkler systems rather than water pumps, either because the water system at Redstone would not support the sprinklers adequately, or regular pumps could not be secured from theft. Smoke was thick nearly all the way out, and then we started encountering smoke from the remainders of forest fires that had burned out here. Surprisingly though, the smoke cleared out by the next day and we haven't seen any at Nimpo since.
Overall it would have been a really nice trip up in to the Yukon except that every time I called down to our neighbour in Nimpo for forest fire updates, she told me what fabulous weather they had been enjoying here. I sure could have gotten a lot of stuff done around here with nice weather had we not gone north. But we did, so there you go.
In Nimpo Lake It has sprinkled off an on all day with a wild wind passing through now and again while apparently it rained hard and long in Anahim Lake today. I've been stuck in the office all day without even an opportunity to go for a walk with the dogs so I suppose the weather didn't really matter. It's supposed to be nice tomorrow which we will be great for everyone that's going out on trail improvement tomorrow. I can't go but I'll try for Sunday. We all went out this past Sunday and it was a terrific day where we accomplished lots.

08/09/2009 7:01 PM

Back From The Yukon

I'm a little later updating the blog than I expected to be by at least a week. I mentioned in the last one that I wouldn't be writing until around the first week of September. We did get back from the Yukon last week, but it seems like we've been going steadily playing catch up after being gone for nearly three weeks. I'm sure any of you that take holidays know what that's all about. Although it rained on us a good bit while we were up north, apparently it was hot and sunny here in Nimpo Lake the whole time we were gone, so the first order of business was to get water on as many of my plants as I possibly could because they had about reached their limit in survivability. There hadn't been rain around here for three weeks but of course it promptly rained when we got home and has been spitting off and on ever since. I'm pretty sure the stuff is following us around.
Friends of ours from the Okanagan were determined to get married on top of Keno Mountain in the Yukon this summer. Unfortunately, paperwork prevented them from deciding on going until a few days before they left to go north, with hopes that we could make it up there in time to stand up for them at their wedding. We were keeping an eye out on several of our neighbours' places and we were surrounded by a number of forest fires, so I wasn't keen on leaving here before at least one set of neighbours came in and things had slowed down a bit on the fire front.
We finally decided to leave on the day of my last posting because we had a good weather change, neighbours had arrived to keep an eye on things, and most of the fires that might have been any hazard were in mop up stage. Sadly, we knew we couldn't make it to Keno Mountain in time, but we assured our friends that we would meet them at Little Atlin Lake and travel back south with them.
We had to lay over in Williams Lake until Saturday morning when Andy had to take our truck up to the Auto Glass for a windshield replacement. We were near Alexis Creek when we went over a long patch of crack sealing in the road. Both we and the vehicle in front of us slowed down, but the S.O.B. driving a First Aid truck for the Cariboo Fire Center and coming toward us didn't bother to. He was going so fast that when he kicked up a rock as he passed us, it put a hole in the windshield that penetrated to the inside and peppered the dash with shattered glass. I guess CFC can be happy that they got back at us for all the complaining I did about the unmanned lookout towers in our region this spring. Incidentally, those lookouts definitely paid for themselves this year. They reported lots of fires so the manager of the Cariboo Fire Center is going to have an awkward time explaining why we shouldn't have them in the future should he try to pull the same fast one on us that he did earlier this year.
We got out of Willy's Puddle by noon and boogied on up the Alaska Highway to settle into an RV park at Azouzetta Lake well north of Prince George the first night. Man, that's a pretty spot! We only drove by it the last time and took note of the fabulous mountains and emerald green water but we hit the park at the perfect time to stop this time. While it was only a dry camp, it was also only $15 and was a terrific place to walk the dogs. A little walk down a trail beyond the camp a ways took you to a road that followed a railroad track for ages. No people, traffic, or other dogs, but lots of great smells and places to investigate for our three critters.
For a lot of people going on an RV trip or camping, it may not make much difference to them whether there's much of a place to walk their dog if they have one. The majority of travelers in our experience have only small dogs, (although there are definitely exceptions) and they only walk their dogs a few hundred feet at most. Our three full sized monsters need a whole lot more exercise than that so we try to keep an eye out for campgrounds or Provincial Parks that accommodate that. Trails that take off into the bush are the best. Other campers will rarely go into unfamiliar country so we nearly always have the trails to ourselves, especially early in the morning when Andy religiously takes the dogs for long, long walks in order to kindly let me sleep in later in relative peace. (I'm the nighthawk, remember? And he's the insane pre-dawn person. Hey... it works.) He's usually back before other campers have even gotten up and readied their dogs for a walk.
The next morning we were only about an hour out from Chetwynd and decided to stop there to take pictures of the tremendous chainsaw carvings along the highway there. It's hard to believe that most of these carvings are done from a single log. They're some art form! We were so early in the day we decided that we would not go on to Dawson Creek and stop there with friends that helped us out when our fridge caught on fire four times in 2006 on our way to Alaska and we nearly burned up our travel trailer. (See you guys next time!!) Instead, we decided we would really like to go on a little loop that takes you past the Bennett Dam and where you eventually come back out onto the Alaska Highway north of Fort Saint John. It's a great loop from Chetwynd through Hudson Hope and I would recommend it to anyone that wants a little side trip. It's also shorter.
Through the loop and along the Peace River is some fantastic farmland and just plain beautiful country, but there were signs posted high in the trees showing the regulated level of water if a hydro electric dam was put in that valley between Hudson Hope and Fort St. John. That makes absolutely no sense to me and I had heard here and there that there was some really negative response to the possibility of a dam. Small wonder. It's a breathtaking valley and people live there. Why displace people and destroy good farmland when BC holds a myriad of rivers in isolated regions where absolutely no one lives and the land is worthless for agriculture. Better yet, why not explore the River Run projects which supposedly will not affect hatcheries in any way, there's little disturbance to a river, and no huge dam and destruction of land behind it is necessary? Oh, let me guess. Political and corporate greed. Destroying viable farmland and displacing folks is old hat. Why not explore some alternative ways of producing energy? If we don't have enough energy, perhaps we need to stop selling it south of the border until we've come up with a better solution to the energy shortage.
We headed on up the road to Fort Nelson and both the towns and the highway were shockingly empty. Where before the highway had been buzzing with RV's and other tourist vehicles, as well as trucks hauling oversized loads hither and yon for oil exploration companies, and both towns crowded with vehicles and oil patch workers, now all seemed eerily quiet. The town streets swept bare and clean, huge machinery parked and silent in equipment yards, and weeds growing up in the parking lots in front of some of those office buildings. The highway was just as quiet.
There was a raven playing in the wind in the middle of the highway which decided to take a drop in the air currents right in front of our truck, whereupon we smoked him squarely, and the grill and hood was decorated with a very large, very dead hood ornament until we could get stopped. We were on the side of the highway duct taping our grill, and patching our bug screen when a cop passed us. He was good enough to stop and turn around to see if we were okay, but there weren't that many vehicles besides him that passed us while we were parked. The road is lonely enough now that they must have a policeman patrolling the highway on a steady basis as we saw him later on as well. It makes sense. There's no cell service there and it's a long way to walk to nowhere.
We were getting pretty tired by the time we hit Fort Nelson when we decided to stay in what we had thought to be a pretty dingy RV Park on the northern side of the town the last time we went through. But we weren't about to pass it up this time because past experience had taught us that a lot of road side businesses and parks were closed the last time we went through, and there are not many places to get off the highway north of Fort Nelson until you hit a Provincial Park a couple hours away. The little park actually turned out to be quite nice once you got past the facade and had we not been so darned tired, we would have taken advantage of the dinner they offered there for very little cost.
We were determined to take our time and only go a few miles a day for the next couple of days so that we wouldn't get to Whitehorse and then Little Atlin too quickly, but fate chose to intervene. Highways maintenance had been doing some very half assed seal coating for miles and miles, which slowed us down a lot and was frustrating Andy considerably. You definitely had to keep your eye open for oncoming traffic and adjust your speed accordingly in order to not pass on the loose gravel spots. The last thing we needed was a rock in our brand new windshield and I mentally cringed every time a truck went by in those places. Fortunately, there was little traffic and we arrived in Liard Hot Springs in one piece. Almost.....
We were going to camp there but decided to go see the famed springs first. I'm sorry folks, but I think I must make a very sorry tourist.
We walked for ages on a board walk above what I would term swamp, for a long, long ways. Now I'm sure that some biologist could explain to you how precious this particular ecosystem is and I'm sure that more than one visitor to our country, such as some of the south Asians that we passed on the boardwalk, would find this rare and fascinating. But I've seen lots of that kind of swamp before. Try pulling a moose carcass through it without benefit of a nice, dry boardwalk and you'll not look at it so optimistically. To me, a swamp is a swamp is a swamp. I suppose the one benefit of this stuff is that it didn't have alligators in it but it definitely harbored bears. Ah yes.... the famous Liard Hot Springs where a black bear attacked four different people and killed two about the same date in August, twelve years earlier. Maybe that's what flavored my view of the hot springs when we finally arrived at the lower one after clunking along the boardwalk for some time. Unless you plan on swimming in it, there is nothing to set the lower pool apart from any other hot spring, while the walk to the upper pool called the "Hanging Gardens" and which I very much would have liked to see, was blocked off due to a bear in the area. So much for that. We clunked back to the trailer, finding the engineering of the boardwalk of far more interest than the springs and I decided to turn the water pump on in the trailer before we left. It cycled but wouldn't pull up any water.
The famous old lodge at Liard Hot Springs was closed and we couldn't be sure we could find a water hookup nearby. We had planned on staying in a dry camp at the Provincial Park at Liard, but since at the time we figured that there was something wrong with the pump, and it wasn't terribly late in the day, we decided we had better head to Watson Lake. There at least we knew we could get a full service hookup and wouldn't need our pump at all until we could get to Whitehorse and purchase a new one. Eventually we discovered that rocks from the seal coat crack sealing we had gone over had shattered the valve holding water on our fresh water tank and all of our water had leaked out, which is why the pump was cycling but not bringing up water.
Watson Lake was a real eye opener. No tourists!
We arrived at a campground we had stayed at a couple of times before that was usually chalk full. Of the over 130 spaces available that we counted, there was a total of 13 of us that night, and two of those were tenters. We could all scatter out and hardly even see each other. It was creepy. We sure didn't have to worry about the dogs plodding into anyone's camp by accident or annoying anyone on the way to the back trail. There simply wasn't anyone to annoy.
The store at the RV Park is usually so busy that you have to wait for ages to get help but it was shutting down in a couple of days for lack of customers and everything was on half price. There was no one sitting at the counters using the wireless Internet which were usually so full I never did get to use them in the past but sat outside on the ground instead. The two mechanics at the garage next door were pretty lonely and bored looking and were more than happy to pass the time with anyone that stepped through the door.
Watson Lake itself looked like a ghost town when we cruised through the next morning. We pulled up to the sign post forest to look at the front signs and were surprised to see no one else there. Previously, you had to look for a place to park and there were lots of people meandering through all the rows. We were it this time and it seemed kind of sad and lonely around there. But that was the case all the way up the Alaska Highway. Very little traffic and roadside businesses and campgrounds closed all along the highway north. It seemed that businesses that might have struggled through last year's lack of tourists because of astronomic fuel prices just couldn't make it through this year's economic downturn.
Watson Lake also marked the start of the rain that we ended up with for most of the trip, marking its appearance that evening with a roof drumming downpour shortly after we returned from walking the dogs.
I'll quit here and continue the trip later.
Our weather since we got home has been kind of iffy compared to the weather they had while we were gone. It was hot and quite nice for a day or two, then it cooled down significantly and has been mixed cloud and sun with intermittent rain showers. Not enough rain to preclude watering but we've been pretty close to freezing a couple of times and there's been dew, which helps. Last night it dropped to freezing even on the lake but the morning started out beautifully. By this afternoon it had started sprinkling though and I was starting to get pretty wet by the time I got back from walking the dogs.
You'll find August's entries at August Week Two.

The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Pure sand dunes with mountains rearing up behind.
Cow moose running through water.
Stone sheep among rocks along the highway.
Caribou licking salts on the highway.
Wooden carving of Indian woman with bow and hunting animals.
Eagle sits on a carved bear above wooden salmon.
Carved man.
Geologically twisted mountains rear up above a lake.
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