Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Playing Hooky
Day 5 - June 19
Slept well. Usual breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Over to car wash, doesn't open until 9 but I go early and find the wand bay open. $5 gets most of the mud off the bike, then oil the chain and gas up. Repack under clear sunny skies and off northward 9 am.
10:30 stop at Tetsa River - this time I try one of the much advertised cinnamon buns. It is pretty good! Owner says ~300 people stopped yesterday. That's pretty busy. Saw three bears on way here.
Tetsa River, if you've ever driven the Alaska Highway and didn't notice it, is the small log building with a gas pump and some camp sites at it - but mostly notable for the several miles of road signs as you approach, telling you it's the "best cinnamon buns in the galaxy". Well, this time I decided to try one. [Canon SX130]
pretty good! After this it was on northward towards Stone Mountain Park and Muncho Lake. It starts getting a lot more scenic now.
Roadside ponds, north of Tetsa River. [Rolleiflex 6008i, 50mm distagon]
Grazing moose [Canon SX130]
Clouding up a bit but just high overcast, not threatening rain.
11:30 gas at Rocky Mountain Lodge. They have premium!
Rocky Mountain Lodge isn't even listed on the map - it's a small wooden building, with a 1900-era wrought-iron door latch instead of a door knob; and a couple of small side buildings (which I think may be accommodation for rent) - and two gas pumps. In fact not only was one of them premium gas, but it was ~20 cents/litre cheaper than regular was, just up the road another hour.
Two mountain goats at edge of road about 1 km back but no place to stop and get a photo.
Conditions were more favourable for getting a shot of the caribou just past here, though. [Canon SX130]
1:15 stop for a snack at southern edge of Muncho Lake.
Beautiful day here at the lake. [Rolleiflex 6008i, 50mm Distagon]
1:30, play it safe and get gas (5.6 l @ 1.969!) at Northern Rockies Lodge, Muncho Lake.
(That was regular; I think the premium at Rocky Mtn Lodge, was 1.75!)
More bison just before Liard Hot Springs.
"More bison" is something of an understatement. There were big electric signs at the side of the road warning "bison on road", and they were not kidding. For the next 200 km or so, I think I saw bison - either singly or in groups from a few up to maybe 50 - along the road, every 20 km or so. I went by one really big one, which had made himself a sort of dirt wallow to lie in, on a small grass slope which had to be no more than about 4 metres from the edge of the pavement; and it just lie there, watching the vehicles go by. There were quite a few small calves, too. Here's a few examples [Canon SX130].
I took quite a few more bison photos but by now you're probably getting bored of them.
Into the hot springs 2:15.
Liard Hot Springs is really neat. The spring itself is extremely hot, where it emerges - in an upper pool (which was closed off, I couldn't get there for photos today), and also along a limestone cliff face known as the "hanging garden". This hot spring water cools and mixes with a small cold water creek. The mineral rich water, and the fact it's hot (year round, of course!) results in some pretty amazing plant life, some of it being refugia species from before the last ice age. I'd be interested to know what would be seen in microbial sampling here, too, might be some rather unusual things.
At the Hanging Gardens part, the minerals deposit out to form "tufa", and various heat tolerant mosses and plants grow along the warm, trickling cliff face: [Rolleiflex 6008i]
Lush ferns all around: [Rolleiflex 6008i]
The swimming area is a natural, gravel bottom creek - with a wooden change room structure and stairs built on one side, and then you just wade into the creek. Upstream is hotter, downstream is cooler; today I found I could only bear being in the very bottom section of the creek, where it was just "warmish bath" temperature. It sure felt good!
Upper edge of the creek - nobody there because it's way too hot. [Rolleiflex 6008i]
Photos first! The upper pool is closed off, you can't walk up to it any more but get a few pictures of the "hanging gardens" and lush ferns and lower pool. Then back to bike, drop off camera and get swim trunks. Back at the pool, I find I can only tolerate the coolest end - but it does feel really good. After a half hour's swimming and lolling I get back on the bike feeling refreshed. On through road construction, "gravel patches", and more bear and bison.
At one of the road construction points, they're stopping vehicles to wait for a pilot car. A few vehicles behind me, a semi pulls up to a stop... the driver gets out... and then out comes his cat. Just hops down out of the cab onto the road next to him, and they walk off the side of the road into the grass. Everyone's watching in surprise; the cat seems to take this all as normal though, and just walks along with the driver. Somebody commented, and the driver explained the cat had ridden in the rig since it was a kitten, and just took this sort of roadside wanderabout as normal. [Canon SX130]
Bison it seems every 20 km or so, suddenly, there is one or two at the side of the road. Two seem to have some sort of "dust wallows" they are lying in, half asleep, casually watching the traffic go by. The bears I see bring today's total to 10.
Arrived in the Yukon! [Canon SX130]
Get to Watson Lake just past 6. I see the old 1942 Air Force Lodge, and it would be cool to stay, but $75 when it's nice weather I can't justify. I kind of feel like tenting anyhow. Pull in to the travel info center and ask about tenting - told my only option is the Territorial campground 4 km past town. Well, I don't need anything here so straight onward.
I didn't spend any time in the Signpost Forest - I've seen it before, and sort of expected at this point, that I was going to spend a few days in and around here, and so I'd have time to visit it again then. Well, that was the plan, anyhow.
Into Watson Lake Territorial Campground, 6:40
Go to get water from the pump first. There's a sign, saying boil 2 min prior to potable use. An older guy in a car with Alaska plates pulls up as I'm filling my bottles. He chuckles at the sign. "I know the Canadian government," he says. "If this water actually needed to be boiled, they wouldn't let you be using it at all. I bet it's tested monthly for quality and it's fine!" I suspect he's right, but it strikes me as an unusual comment for someone from another country. I wonder if he thinks his government would similarly err on the side of caution? Regardless of agreeing with him I go ahead and iodinate the water I'm going to drink. Mmmmm iodinated water.....
Set up camp and have a snack and check the bike. Find something I hadn't counted on - my rear tire is getting very low tread. I had checked the tires before leaving and replaced the front, but thought the rear should be good this whole trip. Looks like I misjudged and there's not enough to get me home.
Actually, there's enough to get me - maybe - 1000 km, before it's totally bald. Whitehorse is nearly 500 km away.
Mull on what to do and decide my best bet is get up early and ride to Whitehorse tomorrow. I can get there by noonish and get, or if need be, order a tire. If I have to wait a few days, I could do a side trip - there's enough tire life left for that.
My real worry was, if I got in late on a Thursday, and nobody had an appropriate tire, then the order might no go out until Friday, for delivery maybe Tuesday if I was lucky - effectively stranding me in Whitehorse for several days. Better to get in as early as possible, so any order if needed can be placed Thursday.
Decisions made and mosquitos getting thick - time to have some supper and make an early night, if I want to hit the road by 6 am.
Today's total: 534.1 km