Saturday, May 21, 2011

Transcontinental Trek 2011 Day 9: Fort Nelson - Teslin, Yukon

Fort Nelson is about 283 miles from Dawson Creek, the beginning of the Alaska Highway (formerly called the Alcan).  The town was first established in 1805 by the NorthWest Fur Trading Co. and the current site is the fifth location for town.  Sort of a bloody history with massacres, high finance bidding wars, natural disasters, etc forcing the town to be moved repeatedly.  Currently, the town operates around the oil and gas industries, especially, Spectra Energy, the largest natural gas processing plant in North America. We stayed at a nice hotel and had breakfast at 6:30am in the hotel  – Ham & Eggers (kind of yucky, but Dave loved them).  I had a yogurt instead.  I swear, I've eaten so much on this road trip that I think I've gained 10 lbs!  Yuck!

Leaving Fort Nelson, the highway veers west through the northern Canadian Rockies for the next 200 miles.  This is my favorite part of the entire drive. 
A few miles out of town, we saw this black bear walking along the highway and then stopping for a drink at a little stream.
As we entered Stone Mountain Provincial Park, we climbed in elevation until we reached Summit Pass.  This is the highest summit on the Alcan and the lake was still frozen.
Less than a mile down the road, we saw a couple of caribou through the trees.
Coming down from Summit lake, the highway winds through a rocky limestone gorge before descending into the wide and picturesque MacDonald River valley.  As we navigated the sharp turns of the gorge, we came upon two Stone Sheep rams.

How cool is that?!  Stone Sheep are indigenous to the mountains of northern BC and southern Yukon Territory.  These are darker and somewhat slighter than the bighorn sheep in the Rockies. Last August, we saw females and babies here, but no rams. 

Not even a mile further down the gorge, Dave spotted these Bohemian Waxwings sitting in a tree.  He slammed on the breaks, sending gear falling on Bob's head, and turned around to snap this photo!

We stopped at the Toad River Lodge to go potty and stretch our legs.  The lodge is historic and has been in operation since 1950.  It's a cool place with tons of ball caps (over 6800) hanging from the ceiling.  On the way out of town, this Ruffed Grouse walked across the highway.

We finally made it to my favorite place on the Alcan - Muncho Lake.  I just don't understand why Dave refuses to move here with me!  See that little purple speck on the bottom left?  That's me, just soaking in the beauty of this magical place.  Much of the lake was still frozen.

The highway along the lake required considerable rock excavation by the Army in 1942. Horses were used to haul away the rocks. Muncho Lake is known for its deep green and blue waters, and is 7 miles long and 1 mile wide. - elevation 2680 ft. The deepest point is about 730 feet.
It just doesn't get any better than this.

I vote we skip Alaska, and just stay here.
The lake drains the Sentinel Range to the east and the Terminal Range to the west and the mountains surrounding the lake are about 7,000 ft high.

We stopped in at the Double G truck stop, motel, post office, bus station and Environment Canada station and visited with Jack and Lois.  This one cluster of buildings makes up the town of Muncho Lake.

Lois and Jack are two of the hardest working people I have ever met - and boy can they cook!  I got a loaf of Jack's brown bread to bring home with me!

Dave relinquished some control and let Bob drive to Watson Lake.  A few miles outside of town we came upon this family group of Bison.

Then we saw this little guy digging for food.
Carl Lindley, a US Army Soldier in company D, 341st Engineers, working on construction of the Alcan in 1942, started the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake.

Now there are over 70,000 signs hanging in the forest, including our AREI licence plate from last summer!

We pulled into the Yukon Motel in Teslin, Yukon Territory at about 7:30pm.  Grabbed some dinner and birded a little behind our cabin and hit the sack.  Exhausted, and extremely happy!


Karen Glum said...

Beautiful pictures!!!

Anonymous said...

I smiled at your comment about slamming on the brakes for the Waxwings. Only recently has the birding bug bit my husband, but he rarely slams on the brakes for any. You have a lot of wonderful pictures. Will you be posting any more?

Anonymous said...

The Stone's sheep in your picture are rams.