Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Hello from Coal River, B. C.!

Start time: 0730

Start odometer: 9221

Named for a river flowing through the town, Coal River consists of a log cabin with year round residents on the north side of the highway, and the Coal River Lodge and RV park on the south side, where I am spending the night.  I will have a look around in the morning to see if there are more buildings up the road.  There are several unincorporated towns such as this one along the highway, most providing  gas, diesel, and camping.  Less common, but still quite a few, are lodges and motels.  However, in most of these types of towns, there is only one place of lodging, and if there are two, there are a couple of miles between them.  Though I could have driven further to a city, I wanted to try one of these places, and will do so again!  There is no phone, no television, no cel phone access, there are no radio stations in the area, and power is provided by a generator.  You can tell when Donna, the owner, turns on an appliance in the kitchen!  Donna mentioned that they have one phone line linked to a town 35 miles south, and if she wanted a second line, it would cost over $20,000!  This is a nice, quiet place.  I had supper, which was the special, roast beef, potatoes, and creamed corn, a short while after my arrival.  About the radio reception, I did bring a shortwave radio with me, so I spent a little time listening to Radio Taiwan, amongst other stations.  Since there is no phone, I will not be able to upload my page tonight.  Hopefully tomorrow I will have access to a phone.

Today provided many different experiences for me.  First, it was cloudy, with rain beginning as I traveled northwest.  The terrain changed from yesterday as I approached the Rocky Mountains.  Also, the road narrowed, and the condition of the surface worsened.  During this section on the highway, there were many gravel patches which were smooth to drive on, but kicked up a lot of dust.  Also, at several points along the road, I had to stop and wait for a pilot car to get through a construction area.  All this was fine, as it created the atmosphere I expected of the Alaska Highway experience.  Additionally, along the sides of the road, there were several areas encountering mudslides and rockslides, some very severe.  The road crews along the road do a terrific job of keeping debris off the road.

I was driving through rain, seeing the clouds clinging to the mountaintops, and experiencing the mountainous section of the road.  While improvements have been made, there are still many steep grades.  The culmination of the upward travel leads you to Summit Pass, the highest point of the highway, elevation 4250 feet.  Not very high by U. S. Rocky Mountain standards, but in this area, a different kind of beauty to see.  Also, the weather became a factor.  At the pass, it was 36 degrees, there was snow was mixing with the rain, and it was very windy!  I was still in a t-shirt and pair of shorts for my first trip away from the car.  Afterwards, I put a jacket on for more warmth.  Even with the adverse weather conditions, it was a beautiful, peaceful place.

After spending some time in the Summit Pass area, I returned to the road and saw spectacular scenery while driving down the mountain.  The construction of the highway along the mountainside must have been hard work, since much rock had to be blasted to provide a bench for the roadway.  The views in the MacDonald Creek valley were wonderful!  

I stopped around noon for dinner (lunch) at the Toad River Lodge, and fueled up the car.  I fueled up with a Buffalo burger, fries, and a hot chocolate.  This was my first bite of buffalo, and while I found it interesting and unique, I may stick to hamburgers in the future!  It did not taste bad, just different.  The Cafe at the lodge has an interesting habit, and that is to allow you to tack your baseball cap on the ceiling.  There were hats from everywhere and about everything, including one from Philippi, West Virginia!  ( I had a friend from there.)  They posted the total amounts of hats as 5301!  I did not have one with me, but maybe next time.

The menu at the cafe had a sheet of facts and lore about the area, including the hats.  There was also a paragraph about the school in Toad River, which has on average 25 students from Kindergarten to grade 12, and two teachers.  The students travel to school by many means, including ATVs, snowmobiles, horses, and planes.  The furthest student is 50 miles away, and as stated on the paper, if it is so cold that the transportation equipment does not start, they take the day off.  It can get very cold here, with temps 30 - 40 below not unusual.

After lunch I returned to the road, and more gravel patches.  It was also after lunch that I had my first stop for construction.  There were about 12 cars, so I turned off the Camry and relaxed.  About 15 minutes later, I was woken by a motorcycle driving the opposite direction.  The pilot car had come our direction, and the southbound traffic passed by.  As I said, I did not mind these types of delays, since they are to be expected.

Today was a good day for animal sightings.  I saw caribou, stone sheep (from this area,)  and quite a few bison.  Still looking for that grizzly, but from FAR away!

The highway continued around the beautiful Muncho Lake.  It is a deep green and blue 7 mile long, 1 mile wide lake at an elevation of 2680 feet, surrounded my 7000 foot mountains.  The water color is effected by copper oxide leaching into it.  Across the lake is the Terminus Range, and is the northernmost part of the Rocky Mountains.  I stopped several times at overlooks to see the pretty views.

I stopped a few miles down the road to take the Mineral Lick Trail.  This trail leads to a view of the Trout River, with a description about the "soil" content, which happens to be many necessary minerals, and is why so many animals lick the ground. 

My next visit was to the Liard Hot Springs.  The constructions crews building the highway enjoyed this area, as there are two hot spring pools ranging from 102 to 120 degrees.  I can imagine what it must have been for them in the cold of winter.  The rain had stopped for a while, so I decided to take a walk.  The park now has a wooden boardwalk to the pools, and changing rooms for those wishing to go for a soak.  I did not go in, but felt the warm water with my hand.  It felt great, and you only had to get beyond the sulpher smell.  There were several people enjoying themselves in the water.  However, while walking along the path, you could tell which people went in, as they were shivering somewhat during the 5 minute walk returning to the parking area.  There area was quite interesting to see, as the warm waters provided for a distinctive flora and fauna collection.  They had an area called the "Hanging Garden", where moss, among other plant life, were clinging to the side of a mountain where these hot springs flowed.  It was a very interesting area.

As I continued my journey, the rain began again, and it got very windy.  It was a bit difficult to drive, but the dust from vehicles in front of me blew off the side of the road instead of in my path.  This is also the time when I had to avoid 20 bison along and on the road. 

Click on picture for larger image, hit back button to return to this page.

A view of the highway outside of Fort Nelson.  Finding more remoteness now.

The fog and snow atop Summit Pass.

This is a portion of the original road.  The end is blocked with a large pile of dirt.

There is a difficult to see caribou in the center of the picture.

Summit Lake marker.

Some information about building the road in this area.

Summit Lake

I enjoyed this part of the Alaska Highway as it provided wonderful scenery, as well as an example of the work it took to create this road.

This picture was taken in the opposite direction from the previous picture.

A couple of locals along the road.

More amazing scenery!

The bridge over Racing River.

 

At the base of the bridge over Racing River, looking north.  Good fishing for grayling and Dolly Varden.

Toad River Lodge and Restaurant, located at Historical Milepost 422.

The Toad River airstrip.


This is the school for Toad River.


 A panel describing some of the history of Toad River.

Construction!  No surprise, so I took a little rest.

View along the side of the highway.

Heading into a gravel construction patch.

The scenery was pretty beyond the dust.

Another view of the dust kicked up by vehicles traveling through construction.

Another view from the road.

Interesting rock wash.

Panel describing Muncho Lake.

Muncho Lake, which is a spectacular sight to see.  The dust from highway traffic can be seen as the road winds along the lake.

Another view of the lake.

This panel describes the Terminal Range, this area of the northern-most section of the Rocky Mountains.

This panel about Munch Lake is first seen by southward travelers.

One more look at Muncho Lake.

On the Mineral Lick Trail, this was an interesting view of Trout River.

The explanation of the mineral lick.

A look at the mineral lick bluff.

Another view of the Trout River.

Returning to the parking area along the Mineral Lick Trail.

I enjoyed the many mountain views along the highway.

Wonderful scenery was constantly seen.

Stopping for bridge construction.  This river crossed is the Liard River.

A look at the Liard River bridge just crossed from an elevated area next to the road.

Information about the Liard River area.

Walking to the Liard Hot Springs along the provided boardwalk.

One of the two hot spring pool areas, this was called the Alpha Pool.

Another view of the alpha pool.

A picture of the hanging gardens at Liard Hot Springs.

The hanging gardens are located along a bank off the main trail between the alpha and beta pools.  Because of the hot springs, plant life on the bank is very interesting.

This panels describes the tufa on the hanging gardens.

Another view of the hanging gardens.

This is the runoff area from the garden.

A close up of one of the trickles of hot spring water.

Some information about the alpha pool.

The Beta Pool at Liard.

One final shot of the beta pool.

The marsh area along the boardwalk.

Bison along the road.

Tomorrow I will be spending some time in Watson Lake, which means I will be in the Yukon Territory!  Thank you for viewing the page!

 

Routes traveled today: 97

Hotel: Coal River Lodge and RV (Mile 533, Alaska Highway) -

 

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Copyright 2001 Igor N. Nikishin

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