‘Inductive reasoning is the process of using past experiences to inform our reaction to present and future ones….Thus, experiences become tools in our tool box. The more tools we have, the better we cope with new situations.’
-Peter Jickling, What’s up Yukon.
Heading out of Jasper our route took us west from Alberta and back into BC where we passed by Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 m. After leaving the Rockies we followed the Fraser River into Prince George and from there north to Fort St John (FSJ) and (our) start of the Alaska Highway. We decided before we left we wouldn’t spend too much time exploring central BC, as those experiences will always be close to home for us to enjoy in the future.
Our stop in FSJ was great, as we enjoyed our last known guest bed and home-cooked meal with some friends whom Trevor and Jill met while they were traveling in Indonesia. Chad and Ashley treated us to a hot meal, lots of wine and great conversation as they shared their travel experiences across the globe with us. Our time with them got us fired up about where we might find ourselves in the fall.
The next morning was a little slow leaving FSJ (see previous mention of wine), but by noon we were leisurely heading north on the Alaska Highway. Our destination for the evening was Summit Lake in the northern Rockies, where we found the wind howling all night and the morning pelting us with sideways rain. Our plan to hike a nearby peak was abandoned and we rolled out of the campsite and headed for Liard Hot Springs, where we were eager to warm our toes. We arrived early at the hot springs and decided we should try some ‘Backroads Map Book’ exploring, and set off in search of a trail that looked, what we thought, fairly well marked out. We bushwhacked with the Delica for what turned into approximately 70km, looking for our destination without success. With little fuel left and the evening setting in, we abandoned the search; as I’m sure we will discover again in our journeys, not all adventures and dirt roads end in success. The silver lining of course was that the hot springs were still flowing, and after another tasty camp stove dinner (we’re getting pretty good at them!) we soaked our toes and bodies, leaving the road grime of the past few days behind us.
Travelling the Alaska Highway gives you an idea of how phenomenally huge this province is as hours and hours pass with no sign of civilization (a pretty beautiful thing). A portion of Northern BC equivalent to the size of Ireland has been set aside as the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, a wilderness reserve which has been called the ‘Serengeti of the north’. It was spectacular to drive through, as you were reminded of what the entire province at one point may have looked like; home to one of the largest intact predator prey ecosystems on earth, with few roads, trails or disturbance, the Management Area is a demonstration of collaboration between local First-Nations, Conservationists, Recreation and Resource groups and the Provincial government to work together on any activity that happens within the Reserve. After 400 miles of wilderness, we crossed the border and arrived in the Yukon. Our first stop was at Watson Lake, home of the famous signpost city. As the story goes, when the US Army was building the Alaska Highway, a young homesick private posted a sign in Watson Lake which indicated how far away from his hometown he was. The idea stuck, and today the signpost forest features over 78,000 signs from travelers who have left their hometown mark.
From Watson Lake we enjoyed an easy 400 km drive to Whitehorse where we find ourselves today. Whitehorse is a beautiful town, and thanks to some dear family (that’s you Joyce and Tom!) we were able to treat ourselves to an evening dinner on the town to celebrate Byron’s birthday. On the advice of some good friends who know how to enjoy a good meal before heading out into the wilderness for weeks on end (thanks Brittany and Jeff!), we sampled some awesome Trinidadian food (I never did find out how the owner made it from Trinidad to Whitehorse) and drink. Before we dined we checked in at the local bike shop and found out the skinny on the trails in the area, which we’re about to head out and explore again today. Whitehorse is definitely a fun spot with a lot going on! With 16 hours of daylight we’ve had lots of time to enjoy it all. It feels good to stretch our legs and lungs and get outside, the drive up here was spectacular but we are ready to spend some time exploring the wilderness rather than staring at it through the windshield. In the next week we’ll head north on the Klondike highway to Dawson City and north from there on the Dempster highway to Tombstone Territorial Park.
Until then, Byron and Alison
After a very relaxing weekend in Invermere we headed north on Sunday July 12th, heading east at Radium on Hwy 93 we entered Kootenay National park. The drive to Lake Louise from Radium is never disappointing. We enjoyed the journey looking for wildlife and daydreaming of the next 2 months. Our route in the next couple days will take us from Invermere to Jasper and on to Prince George. Our first night in the van was spent at Wilcox Pass campground just south of the Columbia Icefields Center, at 2000 meters and surrounded by glaciers the cool breezes at the campground were a welcome break.
The first night in the van was no too bad eh, the best part about van living is jumping in and driving away, which is exactly what we did on Monday morning. We did a quick hike on Parker Ridge which offers spectacular views of the Saskatchewan Glacier and the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River.
Meltwater from the Columbia Icefield flows to three different oceans, meltwater on the BC side flows to the Pacific Ocean, the southern half in Alberta drains to the Atlantic and the northern half to the Arctic. The rate of retreat of the ice is very impressive and there is evidence throughout the valley of the extent of the glaciation just 100 years ago.
Leaving the Icefields and heading north to jasper offers more Rocky Mountain beauty. Arriving in Jasper late afternoon we jumped on our bikes for a sample of the local single-track, a quick climb and we were treated to spectaular views and some ripping gold ribbons of dirt back into town for a cold beer.
Today we plan on a longer ride on the bikes and a short drive back to BC, where we plan on spending tomorrow at Mount Robson Park, we’ll check in again when we reach the bright lights of Prince George.
We arrived in Invermere Monday late afternoon and settled in for a week of visiting with family. One of these days soon we’ll have to test out the Delica’s sleeping arrangements that we’ve come up with, but for now we’ve been enjoying the graciousness of friends and family and their spare beds as we ease ourselves into this vagabond lifestyle.
Because we wanted to give our camping gear a dry-run before heading up North (ie: away from anywhere where we might be able to grab something we forgot), we thought we would head out on an overnight hike and invited my Mom to join us. Although Shangri-La has always been on my bucket list, until now it has eluded me. While not an extensive hike or trail, a little bit of glacier travel and a shortage of summer weekends hindered me from ever making the trip.
Located up the Francis Creek watershed West of Brisco, the drive to the trail head takes almost as long as the hike itself. While the main branch of the road is still used for active logging, the 2.5km stretch of road leading off of it to the trail head has seen better days. As one local, whom my Mother spoke with before we left on our adventure put it, we would need a high clearance vehicle that was rather narrow, as one corner of the road had been significantly washed out by the creek that ran over it. He didn’t know if anyone had been in yet this year. Well, the Delica fit the bill and we figured this would be a good way to test out her capabilities, so off we went.
It turns out, the Delica is one hardy beast, and proved she could perform when put to the test. After ‘pin-striping’ her significantly on the drive up (ie: scraping her up as we drove through the alders encroaching the road), we made it up to the trail head. The aforementioned corner was definitely a point of concern on the way up though, and reason for my mother to walk on the way down. As we navigated the turn, I refused to lean out my window to check our clearance to the edge of the road; with the Delica’s front driver-side tire up on the bank on the opposite side of the road, it caused the vehicle to lean precariously towards the vertical drop the creek had so graciously carved out on my side. I feared if I did lean out the window, it would be the straw that broke the camel’s back and we would promptly end our trip in a series of life crushing rolls. My mother’s fortitude was a little stronger than mine though, so with her reassurance that we had room, we made it through and only had elevated heart rates to show for it as we parked the Delica and began our trip.
Shangri-La is a beautiful cluster of small lakes fed by several glaciers that surround the basin in which the lakes are situated. Each one a different shade of blue, the lakes are a stunning spot to spend the night and enjoy the solitude and peace of the alpine environment. After an hour and a half hike up, you cross over Tiger Pass, then traverse down over one of the many glaciers that feed the lakes below. Few crevasses were visible, but we took our time to pick our way down the shoulder of the glacier and kept ourselves spread out until we reached the foot of it below.
We reached the lakes around supper time and were eager to set up camp and get the beers cooling off in the creek (Byron’s such a champ for packing those up). The bugs were fairly feisty so after a tasty pasta dinner we tucked into our tents; Byron and I in one, Winter and my Mom in the other. In the morning, Mom told us that she and Winter spooned all night due to the cool temperatures in the alpine. so now we know; in dire circumstances, the dog will definitely cuddle!
Shangri-La is definitely one to put on your list if you’re ever in the Valley; Byron and I would definitely do it again. Now that we’ve checked over all of our gear and are happy with how it’s performing, we’re that much closer to the Yukon and Alaska and the backpacking adventures that await us there. Four more nights of luxurious real-bed sleeps, and then we’re on the road!
First stop, Lake Country! Our friends Alex and Rick recently added a little girl to their family and they were so kind as to invite us to crash at their place for the weekend so we could catch up and meet little Nira. And what a cutie she is – just look at that smile! We had a great time hanging out at the lake, hiding out in the shade when it got too hot and cooling down again with our feet in the (kiddie) pool at night, all while Nira kept us entertained with smiles, chatter and the occasional pout 🙂
Thanks for having us Rick, Alex and Nira! Next stop, Invermere.
We can do this…..we can do this….we can do this….
And then we did it.
With those four words I convinced myself we could. And then we did. After almost a year of talk, Byron went on an rant one night and motivated me to actually start considering what it would be like if we actually did…quit our jobs. Sell the truck. Leave our house. Leave North Vancouver. Put everything in storage. Buy a Delica. And just go for it.
And then we did it.
We’re hoping to take the rest of the year off (budget dependent) to travel around the Yukon, Alaska, and then who knows from there. Japan to ski for the winter? South East Asia for beaches and cheap traveling? South America for more mountains and adventures? We’re thinking the plan will fall a little more into place once we’ve hit the road and had a chance to fall into this new vagabond life style we’ve adopted. 🙂