Day 14, Wednesday, 5/2/18
4,077.3 miles
Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada

Before leaving Fort Nelson we topped off on gas. It's been our habit to make sure we always have at least half a tank. There are enough gas stations along the way, though in some spots they're more than 100+ miles apart. It's wilderness up here with no cell signal!

Heading out of Fort Nelson, we continued NW on the ALCAN. The land was fairly flat, prairie, for about 70 miles until we approached Stone Mountain Provincial Park in the Northern Rockies.

Prairie View
Prairie View
Starting the climb

Almost immediately after starting the climb, we rounded a bend and saw a black bear. We were told that the bears had been awake for about a week. Once in Stone Mountain park, we saw a few caribou, a flock of ducks and bison with babies.

Small black bear
Caribou couple?
Les canards
Les bison avec les enfants
Un autre enfant bison

The ALCAN runs to the west through Summit Pass (~4200 feet) in Stone Mountain Park. It's one of two that it uses to get through the Northern Rockies to Alaska, the other being the lower Muncho Pass The road is 2 paved lanes with fairly wide shoulders. There's usually drainage running along the shoulder and an open area keeping the trees back from the road. The trees are predominantly conifers; spruce, pine and other firs. The open area is where most of the wildlife was sighted.

We passed large sections of blackened trees that had been through a fire. Canada's park service uses 'prescribed' fires to manage forest health. We'd occasionally see signs indicating a managed fire area. Not all burned sections were from prescribed fires. Wildfires are a more common danger.

We followed Toad River for a bit heading towards Muncho Lake. Off to the side, we spotted another black bear.

As we passed Muncho Lake Lodge, we were abruptly reminded that we weren't in Kansas anymore. From the lodge, the road runs downhill with a few sharp turns. A large tractor trailer was flipped over, the cab on its side partly in the lake, the double trailer across the road. The driver was unhurt, except perhaps for his pride.

A number of trucks and cars were pulled over to the side, waiting. We stopped and talked to a driver who had a satellite phone in hand, trying to get a tow truck. He told us that it could be 12 hours or more for the road to clear. The nearest tow truck was in Fort Nelson,  300 km away. Fortunately, there was a large front loader in the area and it rolled up as we watched. The overturned truck was carrying a load of plywood, everything from low grade to finish grade now scattered across the road and into the lake. The carpenter in me thought wistfully 'what I could do with all that plywood.' We walked up to a group of truckers discussing the accident. The consensus was that the driver had been going too fast, though there was speculation that the load may not have been tied on correctly. These guys were regular ALCAN drivers bringing goods to and from places like Dawson Creek and Whitehorse.

A mountie showed up about an hour later, did his investigation and the front loader tied on to the trailer and was able to clear a single lane. Not long after, we continued on our way. If we could not have, till the next day, we would have had enough supplies to stay over in the middle of nowhere! Up here, you have to be ready for anything!

Muncho Lake
All that plywood...
The boys, weighing in on the cause of the accident
Liard River
Beyond Muncho Lake, the Alaska Highway follows Liard River almost all the way to Watson Lake, our destination. On the way back we'll hit the Liard hot springs for a little swim. The road winds through the mountains and crosses into the Yukon from BC twice. The 60th N parallel marks the border between BC and the Yukon Territory. We crossed 60 N latitude the first time about 40 miles from Watson Lake. There are approximately 16.3 degrees of latitude between Portland, ME and Watson Lake. Because lines of latitude are parallel, the distance between them is about 69 miles. So at Watson Lake, we'll be about 1100 miles north of Portland.

Before arriving in Watson Lake, we saw more bison grazing along the highway.

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