Day 13, Tuesday, 5/1/18
3,757.2 miles
Fort Nelson, BC, Canada

We met a fellow traveler at Dawson Creek while having breakfast this morning. Dan is from Willow, Alaska and offers guided fishing trips on the Deshka River. He was headed back to Alaska to open up his business, Lewis Charters. We packed up and armed with Dan's advice about where to stay and what to see, we left for Fort Nelson on the first leg of our trip on the Alaska Highway (ALCAN).

It's a bit early to be travelling the ALCAN. There's still snow on the sides of the roads and nighttime temps can hit freezing and below. We've been staying in inexpensive hotels with kitchenettes (so we can cook our food) on those really cold nights, an indication that our van already needs an upgrade! Still, given that this was a shakedown cruise, the van configuration and accouterments are pretty good. It wasn't long into the trip that we started identifying improvements.

  • More headroom, enough to stand in. 
  • Heat (we reluctantly borrowed an electric heater but even at the low setting it blows the 100 amp circuit breaker attached to the inverter. A small propane heater should do the job)
  • A different configuration for the bed. We have it running from side to side and it's a hair too short for even us short people.
  • More storage. Our departure date arrived before I could finish the cabinets. So no drawers or doors.
I have a new bed arrangement in mind which should give us room for a table and better storage. It will give the van  a more spacious feel.

The ALCAN runs between Dawson Creek, BC and Delta Junction, AK and was built in 1942 to connect the lower US to Alaska through Canada. Open to the public in 1948, it's been steadily improved and is now fully paved with reasonably wide shoulders. It is still a bit scary to drive on, as the big rigs are on this road too.

At this time of year, most of the traffic is commercial trucking. While we saw a few campers and cars, the bulk of the vehicles being tractor trailers. The speed limit is 100 kph (60 mph) slowing down in populated or dangerous areas. There is little to no phone reception here until you get into a town. Its a little intimidating. We were lucky to pass through without incident!

Dawson Creek sits in the Canadian Boreal Plains ecozone. It's a dry and windy prairie. The ALCAN runs through the plain up to and through Fort Nelson. our drive on this stretch of the ALCAN was uneventful. We didn't see any wildlife though the vistas were impressive.

The prairie
Chris, in the middle of nowhere

We arrived at Fort Nelson around 4:30 PM. It's a town experiencing hard times. The locals we spoke too told us that all the lumber and most of the gas industries closed shop and left. One woman told us that there were 200 empty houses in town. That's close to a third of the population.

Truck Rally in Fort Nelson
There was a truck rally that evening in favor of an expansion of the  Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. The pipeline carries crude and other products, with LNG from fracking being one of them. It's a job vs the environment issue. In Fort Nelson, people need jobs and the pipeline is seen as a solution. Apparently, the BC premier John Horgan doesn't want the pipeline, while the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supports its construction. The issue is in court to resolve who has jurisdiction. 

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