Day 51 – July 26, 2001 – This was the perfect Model T day! This is the kind of day we planned the tour for, the trip of a lifetime in only one day. We saw two bears. We saw a moose, standing on the road. We saw waterfalls and rushing streams and the beginning of the Canadian Rockies. The sky was blue, the weather was warm, the road was practically empty. It was fantastic! (Word of warning: lots of pictures to follow!)
We left Watson Lake around 8:30 am, heading for Muncho Lake, British Columbia. The Alaska Highway weaves back and forth between Yukon Territory and British Columbia about 7 times and, finally, turns south into British Columbia. We had some pretty dusty road construction for part of the morning and a little bit of rain right after. But, for the most part, the road was dry and paved. You always hear about the Alcan Highway and how rough it is but we have found it to be a fine road and there wasn’t much traffic on it today. We passed by the twisted remains of a huge culvert east of Watson Lake (the largest culvert in the world, built in 1998) that washed out in June, shutting down the Alaska Highway for several days. We went through on a detour but you could see some big lawsuits in the making.
We stopped for lunch at a place called Coal River where Jennifer fixed a delicious lunch of Tuna Helper on the manifold cooker. A important point for those of you who have asked, a manifold cooker won’t work on a modern car. Pasta burns easily so we cooked and ate in the same place, instead of putting it on and letting it cook while we drove. You would be surprised how good Tuna Helper can be when you have a river running beside your table (the runningboards of the cars).
As we drove along after lunch, Ben spotted a bear. This was a black bear (not a grizzly) and she was strolling along eating berries from the bushes along the roadside. We didn’t go check to see if they were wild strawberries like we had seen that morning or something else. Once again, we were surprised at the apparent lack of concern the bear had for us and for the cars. She was cautious and watched us briefly to decide if we were foolish enough to challenge her and then went back to eating. She walked along parallel to the cars from one end to the other. Pretty amazing. Later that same day, Joyce and Ken spotted a grizzly and the Lillekers and the Hardeman girls all got a brief look at it before it dashed off into the woods.
About 30 miles outside of Muncho Lake, there is Liard River Hot Springs Regional Park. Ben remembered stopping there in 1987 so we all went in to check it out. Jennifer, Ginger, and Ross all floated in the very warm water but the rest of us just swatted mosquitoes. I’ve never seen a hot springs before and will be a little better prepared next time we visit one. When our young drivers were properly cooked, we set out for the final part of the drive to Munch Lake. We hadn’t gone too far when we rounded a curve and a young moose was standing in the road. We have seen a few moose but always in the water. Moose have v-e-r-y long legs with knobby knees. He was curious about us but not frightened until a modern car swung out and around him and scared him off the road.
It was in that last 30 miles that the drive opened up and, topping a rise, we could see our first glimpse of the Canadian Rockies. Every curve we rounded, every hill we topped, revealed another wonderful view. By the time we reached Muncho Lake and saw the lovely place we were spending the night, we couldn’t do anything but change our schedule and stay another day. We were scheduled to drive to Ft. Nelson on Friday and stay two nights so we just swapped it around and decided to stay here two nights instead. We won’t be off schedule in the long run and we will spend our free day in a much prettier place.