After our questionable start on the AK Highway, our trip to Whitehorse, YK (and more A&W WiFi) has been thankfully uneventful. We hoped to make it to Liard River Hot Springs Monday night after the heater repair but we didn’t quite make it as the travel was, well, what one would expect driving north of the 60th parallel in early April.
We made it to Muncho Lake before deciding to call it a night. We found a turnout with a very nice expended plowed area where we could duck back in the trees. The heater fired up fine and kept as warm at roughly 10 deg.
Before we hit Liard River Hot Springs we stopped at a pullout where you can take a short walk to an overlook where the Trout River has carved through the glacial dust to form hoodoo banks where the animals come to lick the salt. Unfortunately, we seem to be a little early as there were not even any tracks to suggest the animals have come up here yet.
We were less than 30 minutes from Liard River Hot Springs so that was our first stop. On a Tuesday morning in early April with an air temp. of 10 deg. we had the place to ourselves for a little while.
The water feeding the springs is quite hot, but it is moderated by snow melting in all around. It was fascinating to feel the difference as the hot water rose to the top and you could feel a major temperature difference between the top and bottom. I would be the water is far more uniform when a bunch of people are splashing around, but then the water is likely not so crystal clear.
There is a second pool below that is slightly cooler and it winds way back up a creek bed, but it is still warm enough to explore.
We spent a couple hours hanging out, not wanting to get out in the cold air. A guy from Fairbanks came along and we chatted about his 6 week ski trip through the lower 48 and about the happenings in Alaska we needed to see. Hopefully we will make it in time for Tailgate, a huge backcountry party on Thompson Pass, and/or Arctic Man, the self-proclaimed opposite of Burning Man, which appears to be a serious motorhead event. One of the events include a ski race where a skier is towed (at speeds up to 86 mph) behind a snowmobile. It looks like we are getting to AK just in time!
Our one disappointment for the drive has been the dearth of animals. Signs everywhere warn of stone sheep, bison, caribou, and moose, but we had seen nothing. Finally, after miles of bison poop along the side of the road, we came on a bison herd.
The guy from Fairbanks suggested we stop in Watson Lake to check out the Sign Forest and it was worth it. The forest had its origin when the road was being built and workers and soldiers posted a sign with the distance to their hometown. Apparently the signpost in Watson Lake is the only original one left and people started adding on with their own signs. The info kiosk says that as of 2004 there were 55,000 signs! We were not prepared to add our own, but if we come back through we will be ready.
Late yesterday evening we finally got lucky and saw two caribou crossing the road, but they went into the trees quickly.
Last night we pulled off to spend the night at the Squanga Lake airstrip – one of the many airstrips used in the early 1940’s by the military to supply Alaska and then to build the AK Highway. Again the heater worked fine, which continues to be important because the highest temperature we have seen for the last two days was 18 deg.
Just before Whitehorse this morning we stopped at Swan Haven Interpretative Center on Marsh Lake – essentially the start of the Yukon River – to see migrating Trumpeter and/or Tundra Swans. For some reason there are only three places with open water and the right conditions this time of year for migrating swans. With the extended cold right now there was only a thin strip of open water far from shore, but with binoculars and a big lens we could see some swans.
Whitehorse looks like a cool place to explore, but other than the inside of this A&W it will have to wait for the next trip as we are back on the road so we can get to Alaska. Only 708 miles to go to Anchorage.