A Monster Journey

Saturday September 8, 2018 – Monday September 10, 2018 – approx. 1954 km in three days – approx. 10.701 km total

Slowly but steadily, my roadtrip in Western Canada unfortunately comes to an end. There are nine days left until I am going to return my rental car which has served so faithfully in Vancouver city and catch my flight back to Toronto. Until there, almost 3.000 km of distance lie ahead of me… a distance of which I want to cover most of it in the next three days. Actually, I am going to even take a little detour for that: From Whitehorse, I am going to drive down to Jasper in the next three days, not stopping that much for any sights or activities. From there, I am going to explore the Rocky Mountains for about four days since I missed that region completely in the beginning of my roadtrip because of the wildfire smoke situation, and then my plan is to drive the remaining 700 km to Vancouver city in one shot on Saturday September 15.

That said and planned, I started Saturday morning from the Walmart parking lot on the Alaska Highway towards Watson Lake. On the way, I just stopped for the cinamon buns at Jakes Corner. For that there is also not that much to tell about the journey.

In Watson Lake, I stopped by the visitors center to get recent information about my route lying ahead of me. And as always, I got really a lot of information about stops and activities along the way to Fort Nelson. I was also confirmed to definitely stop at the Liard River Hot Springs which I actually planned as my first overnight stop. In Watson Lake, I also took a little rest to recover my forces and driving capabilities.

Then I basically continued without major stops all the way to the Liard River Hot Springs where I used the facilities and enjoyed the relaxing hot water. I also prepared dinner there and then drove on a little bit while searching for a place to stay overnight. I really did not want to pay for the park campground at Liard River Hot Springs which anyways had no facilities except pit toilets.

On the further way, I encountered these guys here a couple of times. I actually had seen them already shortly before reaching Liard River Hot Springs.

(Picture will be added later…)

Finally, I found a really good spot to stay overnight: A forest road which I just followed a couple of meters to be a bit hidden from the Alaska Highway. There I parked my car along the road and after finishing some blog entries directly went to bed.

Unfortunately, I did not sleep that well that night and woke up quite early. But somehow, I did not feel like hitting the road right away and took it quite easy. At around 7:30 am, I got up, prepared breakfast, and got myself ready to go on.

The todays journey took me through the northern tongue of the Rocky Mountains. But unfortunately, it was quite cloudy so I could not really see the mountains that well. Just on the Summit Lake, I saw one snow capped mountain through a whole within the clouds for a couple of seconds. But it was really not for taking any picture.

The road was quite winding on that part of the journey so I was not able to recover the average speed I had driven the day before. With a bit better weather however, the landscape would surely have been really scenic. But with all the clouds and fog, I could unfortunately hardly see anything of the mountains. Hopefully, this will be different down there in Jasper!

At around noon, I arrived at Fort Nelson. There, I took a break writing these lines and filled up my car. Then I hit the road again and drove further towards Taylor which was my today’s chosen destination. The road was now quite boring: Mostly just straight ahead for many kilometers in a row. Then eventually a curve and once again straight ahead for another couple of kilometers. What was interesting was the change of landscape since I had arrived in Fort Nelson. From the mountaineous area, it changed to prairie and farm land. Every once in a while I could see some kind of gas or oil pumping installations where most often a flare was burning. I am not sure if this was actually part of the famous Alaska Pipeline which I read would accompany the Alaska Highway for many kilometers. However, apart from those installations, I did not see any typical pipeline following the highway.

Eventually, I reached Taylor and since I still felt ok with driving, I decided to continue a bit. Dawson Creek would be the next larger town, and it was just a couple of kilometers further down the highway.

Once I reached Dawson Creek, I had enough of driving. Since I had to fill up some food supplies for probably the last time on this roadtrip, I went directly to the Walmart Supercentre and also asked there about staying the night on the parking lot which was accepted. Somehow I felt too lazy for cooking tonight, so I just went to the A&W burger shop nextdoor to the Walmart and finally returned to the parking lot for getting myself set up for the night.

The next day, I continued my drive down to Jasper early in the morning. Since I was somehow back to civilization, I even had cell phone and radio signal for most of the trip. And that gave me the possibility to listen to the local news. What I heard there, gave me a little shock: There was snow expected in the Rocky Mountains on Wednesday! I was a bit concerned about that since I did not know if I had winter tires on my rental car. So I stopped at the visitors center of Grand Prairie where the staff – as always – helped me in a very friendly way: They called my rental car agency for me and I was able to get the information from there that all cars are equipped with All-Season-Tires, so I should be fine. I even got some further information about the remaining part of my trip to Jasper and a recommendation of stopping in Hilton and visit the Beaver Boardwalk.

On my way to Hilton, I unfortunately had a bad experience with the road conditions here in Canada: When an opposing truck passed me, a small stone hit my windshield and caused a significant damage in it. Since I was unsure what to do, I stopped in Grand Cache and called the 24 hours Roadside Assistance. However, they were not really able to help me and advised me to either check with a local police station whether it was safe enough to continue my trip or call my rental car agency in the Calgary airport from where I took the car. I tried the latter but was waiting in line for more than 30 minutes. Thus, I continued my trip and further tried to reach them in parallel. Finally, shortly before reaching Hilton, they answered their phone and told me that I can go on and just had to inform the staff at the rental car location in Vancouver when I return my car about what has happened. So that issue was settled.

In Hilton, I directly went to the Beaver Boardwalk. Unfortunately, it had started to rain in the meantime. Since it was not too bad yet, I hurried to get on the boardwalk and did a loop through the swampland area. I could see the huge beaver dams, but unfortunately all of them were hiding – I mean, I would do the same with the rain if I were a beaver ;-).

When it started to rain more heavily, I quickly returned to my car and continued my drive into Jasper. Shortly after leaving Hilton behind me, the weather cleared up a bit and I was even able to enjoy the scenery along the way into Jasper a bit. I even stopped once to climb a hill and take some pictures. And then on my further way, I had to stop again: There were a lot of cars waiting along the road and people walking around and taking pictures. There were elks around. I stopped too and started taking pictures. After a while watching the elks, two young males even started to fight with each other while another older male was defending his herd of females. It was quite interesting to watch the entire action.

Finally, I reached Jasper and since it was already getting dark, went directly to the Whistlers campground to spend the night there. Wild camping is not permitted in National Parks and I did not want to get into trouble with the park rangers.

(I am currently having problems uploading my pictures. For that they will be added later, so return and check in a couple of days.)