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North America

Alaska 2/8: Yukon bound

 Typical Tourist Photo

Typical Tourist Photo

I'm no stranger to logging long hours behind the driver's seat. The first day of our trip was set for just under 1000km. I'd been up and down Highway 63 more times than I can count and I had no intentions of drawing the drive out. Some of our friends had offered us a place to stay in Fort St. John (one of the perks of having friends spread throughout Canada) so we made that our target location for day one.

The following day was pretty relaxed. We hardly had passed a measly 400 km before I saw a beautiful little campground right off the side of the highway, nestled beside a lake. We pulled over and set up the tent for the first night of the trip. It was a bit of a gloomy day, but the tent was full of laughter and cuddles. Nothing could bring our spirits down. 

 Summit Lake Campground in Stone Mountain Provincial Park

Summit Lake Campground in Stone Mountain Provincial Park

Budget tip: provincial park campgrounds are always clean, almost always beautiful, and generally more reasonably priced. I highly recommend them over a privately run campground especially if you are tenting. Of course, the downside to this is that more often than not, the toilet is an outhouse and showers are few and far between.

We carried on past the ethereal Muncho Lake and on to Liard Hot Springs. I must say, the fuss about the hot springs is well deserved. The campground was comfortable and the attendants were kind and helpful. The change rooms were quite beautiful and well polished for such a remote location. I absolutely loved that the hot springs weren't over-developed. We weren't fighting crowds, or fussing about parking. The muddy bottom squished softly beneath our toes providing quite a contrast from the cement filled bottoms you find in more touristy destinations. The weather was still a bit gloomy, but luckily for us, that just meant more time in the hot springs.

When we first went to set up camp, the clouds were not holding back and the rain was falling on us at a worrying pace. Our tent fares well in rainstorms but as an added precaution, I decided to pull out our trusty tarp. I'd been tenting lots before that fateful day but for whatever reason had never had to set up a tarp. I think it was one of those tasks that just never managed to get assigned to me since I was probably doing something else. 

If I was to think back, that moment in time would definitely have ranked in the top 10 for frustrating moments from the trip. I struggled with that sly piece of blue plastic and those wiry yellow ropes for a solid 15 minutes while Gaia splashed in the rain before giving up. I took note to practice tying knots when I got home and folded the tarp into the bottom storage of the vehicle, never to be used again. And by folded, I mean that I stuffed it away.

 Liard Hot Springs

Liard Hot Springs

Despite the warnings, nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught of mosquitos at Liard. As a general rule, I try to not use harsh chemicals on myself or Gaia, but there was no holding back here. We looked like quite the pair wandering around with bounce sheets sticking out of our pockets, wafting scents of natural repellants and layers of DEET. At one point, Gaia was so heavily covered in itchy red bumps that I momentarily questioned whether she actually had the chicken pox or if it was just the army of bugs reigning terror on her. Of course, it was the latter.  Despite this, we still managed to enjoy a few days here.  

The next day we carried on down the Alaska Highway. I had never seen bison in the wild before, but they certainly would have been hard to miss on this drive.  Being a total rookie, I was a little worried that if I spooked them they might stampede and crush the vehicle (I think I've seen the Lion King one too many times). Luckily, they were gentle giants. It seemed their only concern was which patch of foliage to munch on.

 Countless amounts of bison on the drive

Countless amounts of bison on the drive

After a few more hours behind the wheel, we finally made it to the Yukon.

Highlights: Liard Hot Springs, Watching the Bison on the Alaskan Highway, Muncho Lake.