Monday, June 28, 2010

Catching up is hard to do.

There you go. I'm still not caught up to where we are tonight. There's a day's travel from Liard Hotsprings to Watson Lake and another from Watson to Teslin to cover, but at least I'm managing to get some photos up.

Tomorrow, Monday, we head from Teslin down to Skagway and reenter the US for a few days. We'll be in Skagway until Friday as we take a trip over to Juneau and another up the pass on the railroad. There's lots to do and I'm sure to have plenty of pictures. Let's also hope that the campground has got some form of wi-fi that is reliable or that there's a good coffee shop nearby that does.

Right now it is approaching midnight and although there's plenty of light outside, I'm pretty much worn out. So later folks...

Road Trip 2010: Days 17
Ft. Nelson to Liard Hot Springs

June 24th

Ft. Nelson to Liard Hotsprings

The route from Ft Nelson to our next stop at Liard Hotsprings would have been gorgeous--if it weren’t for the rain. And we got lots of it. It was overcast and cloudy when it wasn’t raining. The tops of many of the peaks were hidden in the clouds offering only occasional glimpses of their still snowy tops. The valleys were shrouded in clouds too and, when the road went up the hills, we often looked down upon them. So, instead of the sun lighting up the landscape, the clouds and rain gave everything a somber, surreal, and even eerie cast.

Indian Head

We did see some wildlife along the way. Two black bears—one probably a year old and the other at least two or three years of age--were out feeding on the grass on the side of the road and in a large pasture, respectively. Neither presented an opportunity to photograph them and I made no special effort to get one since—hey!—they were just black bears! We’ve got them in the yard both in PA and the Adirondacks. Later in the morning we had a cow moose pose for us along the roadside and that I did slow down and even stop for since I could see nothing behind me for over a mile. Then there was the first Wood Bison and that seemed special but traffic didn’t permit my stopping and Terry’s photo shot through the rainy windshield is anything but clear.

Cow moose.

Wood Bison

Still, the scenery—despite the clouds and rain—was spectacular. The Highway was now running through the Northern Canadian Rockies. Strong rivers (the Testa, McDonald and the Toad Rivers) flow through the valleys and sizable lakes occupy some.

We stopped at the Toad River Lodge for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun and to take in some of the over 7500 hats they have hanging on the ceiling, walls and just about anything that isn’t moving. We even donated a bright orange Audubon hat to the growing collection. (For some reason a member of our party from Kentucky did not care for the bright (Tennessee) orange cap when Terry wore it one day. I can’t imagine why.)

A short distance down the road we came upon Folded Mountain. The cliff face clearly shows the tremendous pressure that folded some of the Rocky Mountains into shape.

Folded Mountain.

Less than 10 miles further on, there’s an area where flash flooding has brought a tremendous amount of sand, gravel ad rock out of the mountains and deposited it in a fan shaped area that encompasses many acres. Called an alluvial fan it stretches out into the Toad River drainage. Across the highway are two small waterfalls that appear only during and/or after a rain. Since it was raining…

Alluvial fan caused by flash flooding.



Munch Lake is only seven miles long and less than one wide, yet it could compete with any Scottish Loch for beauty. The old highway, as laid out in 1942, ran across the top of the cliffs that ran along the shoreline. Many a bulldozer and military vehicle went over the edge and into the 300+ foot deep waters of the lake. Today, the road hugs the shoreline as it twists and turns for the length of the lake. The new road construction has exposed minerals and salts that the Stone Sheep and Caribou find desirable. We did not see any of the sheep, but there were two Caribou (mother and young) feeding atop one of the several alluvial fans (debris fields) that can be found at the mouths of the tributary creeks. Of course, we were unable to get any pictures of them.

Looking north from approximately midway along Munch Lake.

Looking south from approximately midway along Munch Lake.

Looking across the lake from approximately midway along Munch Lake.

A short time later we arrived at our camp site across the street from Liard Hotsprings Provincial Park. The camp grounds had been closed just a week or two ago with little chance of their being open in time for our arrival. A malfunctioning generator (it’s w-a-y out there in the bush) and a leaky water system could have made this a powerless, dry camp. But the young man who is in charge this year made a special effort and got the camp up and running with full services.

Once we were in our spots, most of us went across the road to soak in the natural hot springs. The rain let up just long enough to let us enjoy a good soak in waters that approach boiling where they enter the pools.

You do not want to see any photos of mostly seniors taking the waters.

Trust me on this.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Road Trip 2010: Days 16 Dawson Creek to Ft. Nelson

June 23rd

[Let's travel back in time a few days to last Wednesday morning. That's when we officially began the travel portion of our little trek.]

We rolled out of Dawson Creek early on the morning of Wednesday June 23rd. This caraventure operates on what’s called a shotgun start. Rather than travel enmass, we leave our campgrounds individually during a set time period. If you wish, you can travel with another rig or two, but it is not necessary. Each evening, you’re given a briefing of what there is to see and do along the route coming up. Exactly what you do is up to you. Travel at your own pace. Stop when you feel like it along the way. Just stay on the path and arrive at the next campground around a given time. One of the Good Sam leaders goes out early (hopefully before anyone else) and the other rides drag, sweeping up any sluggards who may fall to far behind or who may have suffered a breakdown along the way.

These first few days it’s been pretty easy traveling. Hey! You’ve only got one road and one direction to follow. From Dawson Creek, BC take BC Highway 97 north. That was it until we reached Yukon and the highway changed its name. Now it’s Highway 1.
Back to Wednesday morning. A short distance out of Dawson Creek, Terry and I took a side road off to the old AlCan Highway where there was an original trestle bridge crossing the Kiskatinaw River just 17 miles from Mile 0 post. The bridge is the only original wooden trestle bridge still in service—and it is curved. Both are unique characteristics in their own way. Oh, and the surface of the bridge is wooden, too.

Wooden trestle bridge over the Kiskatinaw River.

Wooden trestle bridge over the Kiskatinaw River.

Another 17 or so miles up the road, and we rode down the hill into the Peace River Valley and crossed the Peace River at the town of Taylor. Originally one of the two suspension bridges built for the Alaskan Highway spanned the Peace River here, but that bridge collapsed in 1957 after the northern anchor block was undermined by erosion. Today, a truss-type bridge carries traffic across the river. A suspension bridge of sorts is still in use, however. It carries a gas pipeline across the river to the gas purification plant in Taylor.
Bridges over the Peace River

Terry and I were going to stop at Fort St. John and visit the museum, but, doggone it, we were too early. So after a brief spin around town, we headed back up the highway. It was also too early when we got 71 miles up the road to stop at the Shepherd’s Inn for lunch (and too late for breakfast, too) so we kept on rolling.

141 miles into our trip, at Historic Mile 143 we stopped at Pink Mountain for fuel. As you noticed, there’s a difference between the distance from Mile 0 today (141 miles) and the historic value (143). The reason lies in the changes made to the roadway since the Canadians took over maintenance and repair. Sections constructed during 1942-43 that were suitable for quick completion and military usage were deemed unsuitable for long term usage and/or public usage. The grades were too steep or the roads too dangerous or the winter melt and flash flooding just destroyed some sections too frequently and so had to be replaced. With more modern equipment and the ability to work a little more deliberately, many miles may have been shaved off the old highway.

Currently 145.1 miles from Dawson Creek, there is a plaque commemorating Suicide Hill. (Seems like a silly name considering the steep grades to come in the Rocky Mountains. But there you are. In this case they went straight up the bloody hillside instead of across the face in something of a switchback manner.) The plaque is located in a flat plane. There isn’t a hill around. But, way off in the distance is that famed hill where drivers were warned: “Prepare to meet thy maker!” Old photographs show what appears to be a hill with a near 45 degree slope.

The gap in the trees w-a-y over there is where Suicide Hill is located. I think.

Terry and I had a packed lunch with us so we continued on our way enjoying the scenery along the way as we were finally getting back into forested and hilly terrain after the flat, flat lands of North Dakota, Alberta and southeastern British Columbia.

It's a long and winding (NOT!) road.

At least there's some topography to enjoy!

We finally rolled into our destination campground at Fort Nelson (mile marker 283) around two in the afternoon and, after getting the trailer parked, we moseyed on over to the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum at Historic Mile Marker 300.

The museum has one of the best collections of antique automobiles I’ve seen put together by one person—Marl Brown, founder and curator. It also has a growing collection of local artifacts, buildings and displays representative of the local culture and history. Well, worth the visit.

Two of the many antique vehicles at the museum.

The next day we were off to Liard Hotsprings.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Road Trip 2010: Days 17 & 18
Ft. Nelson to Liard Hot Springs to Watson Lake

Oy vey!

We've been on the road for the last two days and the internet service has been...well, shall we say...spotty at best.

We're currently camped at Watson Lake, Yukon and I've tons of photos to chose from. I hope to get some of them up later...if I can stay/get back on line.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More of Dawson Creek, BC

Near the sign welcoming you to Mile 0 on the Alaska Highway is a rotary (a circle to you from NJ where they were pretty much invented) and in the center of the rotary is a scrap iron sculpture of a surveyor pointing the way to Fairbanks as he begins to lay out the path the highway will follow. Karl Mattson. The iron came from the surrounding farms.

Surveyor laying out the road.

On the northwest corner of the rotary is the visitors' center and adjacent to that is an art gallery in an old grain elevator.

Dawson Creek Art Gallery in the old Alberta Pool grain elevator.

There were "only" a dozen or so paintings Terry and I would have liked to have purchased.

Road Trip 2010: Days 14 & 15
Dawson Creek, BC

Yesterday, we successfully moved camp from down in the valley at the Mile "0" Campground to the Northern Lights Campground which will serve as the jumping off point for our Good Sam Club Caraventure. I can't say much for the shade (there isn't any) but the view is fantastic.

View to the north from Northern Lights Campground

All the rigs are here now and we have had several little happy hours and impromptu meet-and-greets. This morning we all gathered for coffee and donuts and to hear of tomorrow's trip up to Fort Nelson. Information as to how we should proceed and what we should look forward to was sheared by our Wagon Master and his assistants. Then at 10 AM we had a CB radio check to assure that everyone's radio was working properly.

Later this afternoon we will travel as a group aboard a bus down to the center of town to have our picture taken at this site:

"Stepping off point to adventure."

Then we will all go over to the George Dawson Inn for a buffet style dinner.

I'll be real happy to get back on the road. This sitting around town--and spending money--is starting to wear me out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Whenever we go to a museum that details earlier human life and that may contain any clothing and/or stitched work at all, Terry begins to give me impromptu lessons on embroidery, smocking, lace making, and such. Today was no different.

Cutwork and heirloom embroidery.

Redwork (embroidery) done in blue thread.

Sometimes the work even puzzles Terry a bit. She didn't know the name for this type of work--although she recognized it as some form of smocking. She'll find out exactly what type once she is able to go on line again.

Smocking (the woven cloth draped over the headboard).

Early 20th century sewing machines like this one are also of interest to us. The Singer models were quite common and many are still in operating condition today. We have one in our living room that has been refinished and currently serves as a radio/phonograph stand. This one is a little less fancy than ours and the brand, Jones, is a new one to us.

Treadle sewing machine by Jones.

Yeah. Some of this stuff is sinking in to my thick skull. Sad, isn't it?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Road Trip 2010: Day 13
Dawson Creek, BC

This morning Terry and went down to Dawson Creek to take in the sights. There's the visitors' center with all its information and a nice little museum, a walking tour of the city , and...well..that's about it.

The visitor's center is located on the circle in town where Routes 2 and and 97 meet. It contains a museum of life during the building of the Alcan Highway (now known as the Alaskan Highway) and another of the wildlife to e seen along the highway between here and Fairbanks.

There are two plagues pointing the way to Alaska from the parking lot. As well as a statue of a US Army surveyor pointing the way.

Mile 0 Poster in the Visitors' Center parking lot.

After viewing the museums, we crossed the street and headed into town. First we stopped at the CIBC bank to change some US $$ for Canadian then we could look around a little more comfortably with some cash in our pockets.

Mile 0 Marker on 10th Street

In the middle of the intersection in front of the bank, was the Mile 0 Marker. It was from here that the Alcan Highway stretched northwestward to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1942.

The town of Dawson Creek has grown tremendously since the completion and modernization of the Alaskan Highway. Many of the old buildings are gone but the history remains. Plaques on many of the buildings give the history of what has been on that particular site and a provides a flavor of what the downtown must have been like.

One thing that stands out is the number of murals painted on the sides of the buildings in courtyards and small alleyways. These commemorate the cities past and the work on the Alcan Highway.

Mural celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dawson Creek's incorporation as a city.

More of the same.

One of many murals dedicated to the Alcan Highway.

Why more towns do not use murals to display their pride and history I do not know. They really add a great deal to the atmosphere of the town.


At 3 PM we drove back over to the Northern Lights Campground for "Happy Hour"--which turned into more of a "Happy 15 minutes" when a brief shower sent everyone running. That was enough time for us to connect with one other person who was staying at the Mile 0 Campground. She in turn, came over to our trailer and told us about two other couples staying at Mile 0 who invited us over for some wine and snacks. Once there two other couples also showed up. We ended up with 11 people who were going on the caraventure sitting around getting to know one another. Then we called the wagon master and his second in command to come over and join us in what quickly became a bonding session. Even the little bit of rain that dared spritz our little party did not dampen our spirits.

Tomorrow we all move over to Northern Lights for our final information/preparation session.

Road Trip 2010: Days 12 & 13
Dawson Creek, BC

Terry and I are enjoying a couple of days of laid back relaxation here at Dawson Creek as we are in the lull between the end-of-the-beginning and the beginning-of-the-middle.

Yesterday we went over to the Northern Lights Campground (staging area for the Good Sam Club caraventure) and registered with our leaders. We were informed that nearly everyone is in town and most are over at Northern Lights. (We didn't make a reservation early enough to get in to the campground early and so ended up at Mile "0" Campground. Just as well, Mile "0" CG has us parked in a nice shaded slot convenient to the laundry and public showers. I didn't see much shade over at the Northern Lights CG.) Tuesday we'll be moving over to Northern Lights for the final evening/day of pre-trip meetings/briefings.

After a brief talk with the two couples serving as leaders and a few of the other early arrivals, we headed down into town to do some grocery shopping. We lucked out in that there was a Tax Holiday going on and we saved the 12% CST on our purchases. In discussing the various taxes with the clerk (CST, VAT, and soon I think she said the HVT) I said they might soon need to consult with some folks south of the border about procuring some arms for the upcoming revolt. She thought about it and said she was ready to do so now.

Groceries safely stowed away, we returned to Northern Lights for a "Happy Hour" gathering of the trip participants. We got to meet folks from all over the US (although there are some from Florida and California who we either missed, or haven't arrived yet) and even four folks from Australia. Munchies were served but it was a BYOB affair and we didn't. There was also cake and ice cream in honor of Fathers' Day.

After an hour or so of shmoozing, we went back to our trailer for dinner and comparing notes. I also made some adjustments to the bumpout on the trailer. The bolt under the carriage that stops it's progress outward had shifted position from highway jostling and needed to be adjusted to permit the bumpout to move an inch or so further out. Not a difficult job to do at all.

Terry and I will be heading out the door shortly to take a walk about the center of town. There are a few small items we could use but first we'll have to stop at the bank to exchange some US for Canadian. (I didn't change much when we first crossed the border and one campground only taking cash put a sizable dent in that.)

Three o'clock (Pacific Time) there is another "Happy Hour" over at Northern Lights and we'll be going over to meet and talk to our traveling companions.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stitching News!

Terry got all excited over an email she received this morning from a stitching friend. Terry had submitted a sample of her work for judging in the artisan program of the Smocking Arts Guild of America (SAGA). It was returned to her as unsatisfactory after three Masters had looked it over and criticized the way several leaves on a flower stem were stitched.

Today, after resubmitting the corrected work, Terry got the word that she had passed and has moved up the ladder one more rung. She will be honored, along with others who have also moved up, at a special ceremony at SAGA's national convention this fall.

Road Trip 2010: Day 11
Edmonton, AB to Dawson Creek, BC

Today we left the Glowing Embers Campground on the west side of Edmonton and directed the nose of the Tundra toward Dawson Creek. The sky was blue and, after starting out in the mid 50s, the temperature rose to the mid 80s by late this afternoon. Not a drop of rain anywhere along the way.

After approximately 375 miles, we pulled into the Mile "0" Campground on Highway 97 North in Dawson Creek.

We had hoped against luck to get into the Northern Lights Campground on Highway 97 South from which our Good Sam Caraventure will depart on Wednesday, but they were totally booked for the weekend.

The ride up Highway 43 was uneventful. We did pass one deer farm (none were visible in the pens although we spotted a few along the highway) and one elk farm (lots of the big critters lounging in the sun), but there were no moose visible despite some very moosey looking territory. Lots of huge beaver lodges in the ponds along side the road and one very large, very angry looking statue of a beaver in the town of Beaverlodge.

It seemed that half the ride was along a very slight ridge on a very large plateau that afforded miles and miles of views.

The highway itself was, for the most part, a divided four-lane structure. Only when it entered into a larger town did it become undivided. Speed limits were in the 100-110 kph range for much of the way and, although I kept the Tundra's speedometer right around that range (translates to 62 to 67 mph) I was still getting passed like I was parked.

The price of gasoline rose from a low of 97 cents per litre in Edmonton to $1.05 in Dawson Creek. But we did get full service at our last fill up. Yep. Someone pumped my gas and I wasn't in NJ or Oregon. He even washed my windshield!

I can't be sure yet, but the alignment of the trailer's axles may have boosted by mpg. I only ran two tanks of gas through the Tundra today and the ride was anything but flat with lots of ups and downs but the mpg average after each fill-up was between 0.5 and 0.75 mpg higher than the last few fill-ups heading into Edmonton.

[On a side note: Why is it that it takes so long to grind your way up a slope with mpg readings of 4.5 and 5.5 and so short a time to go down the same slope when the readings are 85 and 99 mpg? Your kinetic energy and potential energy are the same either way. No? Must be an awful lot of air resistance and drag on the vehicle.]

Tomorrow we will be go into over to the Northern Lights Campground to register with our wagon master and introduce ourselves to those who are already on hand. Dick (our wagon master) says they will have a cake to celebrate Fathers' Day.

[It is currently 10 PM local--that is Mountain--Time, and the sun has just set. This is going to be tougher than I thought.]

Fort Edmonton Park
in Photos (part 4)

Approaching Fort Edmonton, you can come upon some Cree women baking bannock outside their tepee.

Aboriginal Encampment

Tribesmen would often come to the Fort to trade and bring their entire family with them. They would set up camp outside the walls of the Fort and enter with their furs or other trade items to do business with the Hudson Bay men in the trading post.

The Watchtower

The tallest structure in the Fort Edmonton, it did serve as a lookout post but was more a landmark for folks heading too the fort. This "fort" was hardly a military base for it was run by the Hudson Bay Company. The Company felt the military might be bad for business and pretty much insisted that they be allowed to go it alone. The stockade may have served a defensive purpose if it was needed (a catwalk runs the entire length inside and there are guard boxes on four of the corners) but it was more for show.

The boat shed.

A special boat called a York Boat was designed and built to accommodate the shallow rivers that often became quite turbulent. These boats took the lines of the Viking long ship. They could be constructed at the Fort for use on the Saskatchewan River that ran nearby.

The Rowland House

Enter the main gate and the most imposing structure you see is the Rowland House. Part Inn, part residence (the HBC Factor lived here with his family), part barracks, part administrative offices, the Rowland House served many functions within the Fort.

The watchtower from below.

Several stories high, the legs of the tower were each of one huge timber. A guard house was constructed at the top.

Timber joint on Watchtower

Nails and spikes were pretty scarce articles out west in the early 1800s. Nearly everything would have been held together with wooden pins hammered through tenons. Here you can see some of the intricate wood joinery used to hold the massive timbers together.

#107 arrives at the depot.

We took the steam train back to the future and departed Fort Edmonton.

Fort Edmonton Park
in Photos (part 3)

Stage coaches and horse drawn wagons replace the electric trolley on the 1885 street. People made due with simpler tools and lived a simpler life.

Northwest Mounted Police

The officer stationed here would have a circuit that covered many, many miles. He might be in Edmonton every two weeks or so. The rest of the time he was on the trail riding from outpost to outpost. His biggest concern--in 1885--was assuring that the Cree were staying on the Reserve and not encroaching upon the properties of their neighbors. The Metis Uprising to the southeast sent panic throughout the local populace but nothing ever happened in Edmonton.

The father of the modern day young lady posing with the Constable is a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.

NWMP Outpost, Gun Shed and Jail

This was located behind the Constable's Main Street office. We did not walk down to get a closer look at this impressive structure. They were only allowing 6 youngsters in at a time...and the fools were letting them back out!

Young women out shopping passes the bakery.

"Paper or plastic?" was not the question. If you didn't bring your own basket to market, what ever you purchased was likely to be bundled up in brown paper and tied with a string. The boardwalk obviously kept this young lady's hem free from mud--or worse.

Jewellery Shop

Even in 1885, there was a market for jewellery and Raymer's shop filled the bill. Watch and clock repair were also a staple in the business conducted here.

The Hardware Store

One of the more important sources of building materials and supplies for a growing community in 1885. (The false front began to make its appearance in the mid 1800s. It's obvious that they could serve as the billboard of the day.)

Fort Edmonton Park
in Photos (part 2)

Heading back into 1905, things got a little simpler.

The Bank of Montreal

The branch office of the Bank of Montreal as it appeared in 1905. Notice the false front which makes the building look more imposing. (The lettering on the window announces that the Bank of Montreal has assets worth $14,000,000! Quite a sizable sub in 1905.)

Post Office, Telephone Office and Lawyer's Office

That new fangled telephone made its way into central Alberta early in the 1900s. Notice the wires up on the roof. Each one rang off to one party line. Remember those?

Craftsman house on the 1905 Street.

Plans for homes were available via catalog. Sears even sold kits that included all the plans and lumber necessary to construct a home. Many early 1900 homes have the same styling and they are still just as charming as when they were first erected.

Tent City.

Early in the 1900s Edmonton found itself with a severe housing shortage. Many new arrivals had to live in tents like these--sometimes for months or even a year. Winter could not have been terribly comfortable. Even a sod house would have been more protection against the cold than these thin canvas walls.

Tent City abode.

If the signs are any indicator, there might have been a shortage of females, too.

Turn the corner again and you're strolling down the 1885 Street. ( be continued.)