Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fort to Fort

Fort St. John to Fort Nelson

Kathy spent the evening obtaining bruises and bumps from the Sundancer as she fought to stop a leak under the kitchen sink and instead made it worse. Our wonderful filtration system is leaking and we now have a small collection of screws, bolts, wood buttons that have shaken loose during our 3,000 + miles over the AlCan highway.  The filtered water system wasn't hooked up when we bought the rig last year and it took two different shops to finally get it in working order.  Now we're thinking that maybe we should have left it disconnected.  Thankfully, Kathy was able to get the in-line filter on our outside hose to stop leaking so we still have filtered water.

Spending a few hours crammed into a small space under the seat put us both in a bad mood and we had our first unhappy night for the most part.  We stayed at the rotary RV park near Lake Charlie and Fort St. John but asked for a pull-thru site which meant no picnic table, no grass, no fire ring and no shade.  We paid $37 Canadian to sleep in a gravel parking lot.

Joy has been fighting daily headaches since leaving Houston and has not been sleeping well.  All of us, including the dogs, were road weary and looking forward to getting to Tok and staying a few months.  We were like that for a couple of days and then must have found a second wind because the weariness has passed and we are rocking and rolling once again.

The roads narrowed with many trucks hauling a variety of loads.  Oilmen and RVs fill most every business parking lot while temporary buildings fill with oilfield workers.  Bad drivers pass and hit their brakes just like anywhere else but we have to say that the drivers in Canada are pretty bad.

During a gas stop at Pink Mountain, Kathy chatted with a solo motorcyclist who was her dad's age.  He was born in 1942, the same year construction of the Alaskan highway began, and said it had always been his dream to ride the highway on a bike.  His 2001 Goldwing was covered in bugs and road grime but he looked happy as a lark with a camera around his neck and his camping gear piled up behind him.  He was from Denver and heading back south to home.  He told Kathy where the roads were particularly bad and where we'd see moose and bear.  He showed her an amazing picture on his phone he'd taken of a grizzly that was just across the street from him.  The photo was amazing! Unfortunately, it would be the only grizzly we'd see on this trip.

Our first moose sighting was near Ft. Nelson and came on a day that was rich in wildlife for us.  We found a grocery store and Joy talked to parking lot dry campers while Kathy shopped.  Two were from Pennsylvania and didn't even realize they could dry camp at nearby Beaver Lake, which is where we were headed.  When Kathy returned from shopping, Joy, who has been desperately hunting for wild berry bushes, showed her the wild raspberry bushes currently in bloom right by the drivers door.  They weren't quite ripe enough yet to pick but Joy was getting closer to claiming her berry catch.  We had dinner at A&W before heading out of town and back to the woods.

Beaver Lake is just 10k north on 77 and was completely mosquito infested.  Road work had the road down to one lane with a flag woman but within just a few minutes we were at the first of only six sites, set up and walking the pups.  We pulled out our mosquito netting hats and used bug spray to walk the dogs.  Kathy sprayed a couple of bandanas with bug spray and put them around the dogs' necks to keep the blood suckers off of them, as well.  Shorts, t-shirts and flip flops were replaced with long pants, long sleeved shirts and shoes so that very little skin was exposed.  When we bought the RV we read about how to get stains off the various fabrics and laughed about the paragraph addressing blood stains on the fabric ceiling.  We're not laughing now and will try the formula as soon as we get to Tok.

We opted for a fire and cleaning the campsite since it looked like the spot had been used for a party session recently.  Kathy took the garbage to the dumpster up the road but couldn't open it by herself because the lid was too heavy. We know, now, that it was bear proof.

We've been experiencing about 19 hours of daylight so it's still light when we go to bed and when we wake up.  We had been putting a blanket over one of the windows in the bedroom but we don't bother with it now.  We are usually tired enough to sleep regardless of how much sun is still out.

On this night, we slept with the bedroom window open and it stayed pretty warm though the night.  At about 4 am, Kathy was awakened by a loud noise under the back of the RV.  She couldn't quite place the noise but knew it was caused by someone or something.  Once away, she heard it again and immediately woke Joy up with, "Someone's messing with the RV!"  We both sat up and listened.  Thankfully it was light out so we could see outside.  Kathy looked out the open bedroom window and there, face to face with her, was a black bear standing on his hind legs peering in.

"It's a bear!  Get the camera!"

Actually, there were two of them snooping around the campsite and the RV.  They tried a couple of times to open the outside storage areas but luckily we had locked the all the night before - something we don't usually do. The camera was in the cab of the RV so Joy took pictures with the cell phone.  Miraculously, the dogs were (or acted) completely clueless - even Frances, the protector against all things evil and not evil.  They both were quiet which meant the bears took their time checking us out.  At one point, one of them stood up and peered into the cab of the RV.  It was an incredible experience and we are so lucky to have had it!

We packed up quickly after breakfast, which was a little scarier since we now knew who our neighbors were.  We hit the road separated, with Joy driving the jeep for the first few miles until we found a turn out to pull over and connect.  The first scheduled stop was just a few miles down the road, the Andrews place, aka Testa River RV Park aka cinnamon roll heaven.  The place was full with an RV caravan and parking was difficult.  We ended up parking in what we thought was a turn around but found out it was blocked.  We can't back up with the Jeep connected so the decision about where to park is never taken lightly.  We weren't too concerned, though, as we knew we could simply disconnect the Jeep and back the RV up, if needed.

Luckily, we took our time inside the shop, enjoying some awesome cinnamon rolls and watching a movie about the construction of the Alaskan highway.  The RV caravan left which opened up plenty of room for us to turn around and get back on the road. Somehow, we ended up behind a big diesel pusher towing a truck who was driving 10-15 mph below speed limit for miles.  It made for some good photo ops for Joy thanks to the slower speeds but after road construction, one lane driving and loose gravel, the slow driver from South Dakota was driving us mad!  He finally pulled over at one of the turnouts - surely after seeing the 1/2 mile of traffic built up behind him.  We actually celebrated his departure from the road not knowing that during our next stop he'd somehow pass us and we would be behind him again. LOL

The winding road through this part of the trip was breath taking.  Around, between, and amongst the great Canadian Rockies and along beautiful Muncho Lake we traveled.  We saw Rocky Mountain sheep that look like old rough coated goats, more black bears playing in the roadside wild flowers, plenty of bison and deer, and even a red fox and large ground hog or beaver (not sure which.)



The rain came again and we drove past it - but when we stopped, just like the diesel pusher from South Dakota, it caught up with us again.  It slightly rinsed the Yukon dust off the RV and Jeep but very little.  That stuff is caked on and will take some serious brushing to get off.

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