Fort Nelson, British Columbia to Watson Lake, Yukon
513 kms, 8 hours
Today was a feast for the eyes. Mountains, lakes, streams and rivers, magically lit by the low sun and all painted with a thick layer of snow.
"It’s like we’re driving in Narnia," Richard said as we both oohed and aahed over the view. Richard tasked me with watching for wild animals as he drove the snow-packed, slippery roads, to which I enthusiastically agreed.
Richard was the one to spot the first moose and bison. We saw two moose disappearing into the woods first, and then we say two bison, one sleeping and one grazing, by the side of the road. The bison completely ignored me as I fired off a few dozen shots in excitement. As we continued down the road we saw a whole herd of bison and again I ate up a few gigabytes of memory on my CF card. Then we saw more later, one of them on the road. Just as Rich was slowing so I could get a close-up while the bison stared at us balefully, he sped up again, worried it would charge us.
The excitement wore off the seventh or eighth time we saw bison, and we saw their tracks and dropping much more often them that. Bison tracks look a lot like the tracks of a small snow plough, they just use their bulk to shove through the snow and shove push more snow around with their massive heads. Even after the excitement wore off it was still cool to see them on the road, and once we even saw two bison in the process of trying to make a baby bison.
This was the day I felt the most certain we were doing the right thing. I have never thought I would be lucky enough to have a place like this in my backyard. Even when I toured the mountains in Spain and Alaska and other parts of the world, the awe and wonder was tinged with sadness from the knowledge I would probably see it again and it was passing all too quickley. Today was awe and wonder with the knowledge that these mountains would be a day or two’s drive away from home.
As for the Alaska Highway, I did grip the “oh, shit” handles more than once but it was well worth it just for the view. Here are the highlights…
Kilometre 581 - A beautiful white-encrusted covered bridge
Kilometre 591 - Two moose disappearing into the woods
Kilometre 599 - Steep descent with an eight per cent grade
Kilometre 623 - Another beautiful covered bridge
Kilometre 646 - Gas station! Hooray!
Kilometre 429 - First bison sighting, I break out the Canon 5DII and a 70-200mm lens
Kilometre 756 - A heard of bison
Kilometre 759 - More bison
Kilometre 763 - Even more bison
Kilometre 771 - Bison on the road
Kilometre 804 - And yet even more bison, and more bison after this (at this point I stopped recording it)
Kilometre 1016 - We drank our very first Yukon Gold beer at The Dragons Den Motel in Watson Lake where we spent the night (surprisingly, this motel was cheaper than the Super 8 at Fort Nelson, by a lot.) Rich and I debate whether we saw bison or buffalo, I put $5 on buffalo and turned out to be wrong. Bison are only in North America and Buffalo are in Asia and Africa. To be fair to me I had seen buffalo in Africa and they look very similar. Still, I’m out five bucks.