By Neil Moore,
Metroland Media/Wheelstalk.com -
Leaving Fort St. John at 8:00 a.m. in the dark, our team made excellent time, despite the highway being glazed over by a thin layer of ice over hard-packed snow.
We were no worse for wear after a full day of driving the Sprinter, and were really quite cozy in its warm cabin while speeding past the frost- and snow-covered trees.
Yet, despite the brisk pace we were keeping, I couldn’t help but be a little unnerved by the fully-loaded transport trucks blasting along the highway. I have no doubt these professional drivers are both knowledgeable about the route and comfortable with road conditions, but wondered at their ability to handle the unexpected on this glassy surface. (see photo)
Our morning coffee stop was at Sasquatch Crossing, where I had my photo taken with the exquisitely carved wooden beast, and then on past Fort Nelson where, the scenery began improving as the elevations increased.
This far north, the sun rises a little later than I’m used to (around 8:30 at time of writing) and sets just after 4 p.m. And it never gets very high in the sky, always casting shadows and creating an interplay of light and dark on the mountain faces of the Northern Rockies.
It created a magnificent backdrop for our convoy, and one I can’t possibly capture on camera. But I’ve attached a few photos anyway.
Wildlife too was more abundant, with more moose (alive this time), along with abundant elk and some bison.
We encountered the herd of bison while driving to the Liard River hot springs, about 45 minutes from our Day 2 destination of Muncho Lake (now about 1,300 km from Edmonton).
The hot springs were roughly a ten-minute walk from the parking lot, along a trail that was unlit and mostly unmarked. We had flashlights, however, and it was a welcome sight to see the steam rising from this pond that was otherwise surrounded by ice-covered rocks and plants.
Getting undressed and into the water, where the air temperatures were around -20C, was a challenge. But once in, the warmth was a tonic.
Due to the high sulphur content, the springs smelled rather eggy, as did our group as we returned to the fishing lodge for a late dinner.
Day 3: Spectacular vistas, more bison, a blown tire, and the Signpost Forest on the way to Whitehorse.