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Into the Yukon

July 29, 2013

Canada – Day 3 driving to Alaska – Saturday, July 20

When I first woke up, it was still so foggy I didn’t want to drive, so I went back to sleep for a little while. Then we got going, and drove a couple hours north to Fort Nelson. I filled up with gas again, and asked about an oil change, and found out no one really does them in town, and most people have it done in Fort St. John – nearly 400 miles away! I’m glad I started looking into this before I really had to. I went into the local IGA and actually found a big salad to put in the cooler for later.

Most of the driving this afternoon was the 500 miles between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake. There was very little civilization between the 2 towns – just wide open space, some mountains and forests, and meadows. I was surprised to see signs cautioning motorists about the buffalo – I had no idea they were this far north. And sure enough, I passed several big herds of them – I like the little cinnamon-colored babies. They don’t pay any attention to traffic of course, and one baby was on the wrong side of the road from its mama, and it made kind of a funny little noise between a grunt and a moo. There were a couple herds of them, and a number of loners miles apart, just laying in the grasses and meadows by the road. At one point, I passed 2 buffalo just kind of plodding along the shoulder, looking like a couple of weary hitch-hikers.

Parts of the Alaska Highway are in pretty rough shape – there is construction work going on in places, and simply signs in other places – when they have warning signs about loose stones, they don’t just mean loose stones, they mean the pavement is totally gone for 10-12 miles. And there would be big patches of pavement missing here and there. I’m sure all the freezing and thawing is tough on any kind of pavement. It rained most of the afternoon, and needless to say, the parts of the road without pavement were a muddy mess, and the van began to look like I’d had some off-road adventures with it. Then the rain would come down so hard that it would clean most of the mud off.

I crossed into the Yukon, and got into Lake Watson in the early evening. There’s a “signpost forest” there – which is made of dozens and dozens of posts holding up street signs and city signs from all over the world. It was kind of fun to walk up and down the rows and see some of the far-flung places that people had brought signs from. It’s funny how something like that gets started – it looks like it’s been around for a long time, and people still add to it.

Even though it was getting later, I was now so far north that it was deceptively light out for the time of day. I wanted to keep driving a little more because it seemed too light to stop. Around 10:00 I got near the town of Teslin, and the rain had temporarily stopped, and I went into the gas station/motel/campground/restaurant to ask about staying in the campground for the night – even though it was a little muddy. She told me I could just park the van out front and stay for free as long as I didn’t block the fuel pumps, but I wanted to be able to set up the air mattress and all, and would have felt funny doing that by the motel porch, so I told her I would prefer to pay for a campsite with a picnic table so I didn’t have to set things in the mud. Once again, I got things set up pretty fast, and they had a nice showerhouse, so I took advantage of that, and it began to rain again. But I really enjoyed falling asleep listening to the rain on the roof of the van, knowing I was warm and dry for the night. But it was very strange to have daylight so late, and I had to cover my eyes to sleep – it never got totally dark.

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