Attack of the Condiments!

It was impossible to get any work done parked in Fort Nelson. I parked along a side street, but there was a lot of pedestrian traffic of the youth variety and they were very rude and curious. Even though I had the blinds down, kids stopped to knock on the windows and once I heard a boy say “I think the car’s unlocked!” (it wasn’t). So, feeling a tad disgruntled, I rolled out of town.

When I passed in May the turnout that was my destination last night, it was exactly the same as in May of ’09, a nice pullout a good ways from the road with trees offering privacy and noise reduction. Unfortunately, the tree cover was thinned over the summer, but the turnout was still the best choice between Fort Nelson and Dawson Creek. I remember very clearly how hard I looked for a suitable place on my way up the Alaska Highway the first time!

It was just past five by the time I was set up and dinner was foremost on my mind. I opened the fridge to discover that an entire jar of French’s mustard had exploded over every single thing in my fridge. Getting a picture was the last thing on my mind; turmeric stains something awful!!! It took almost an hour and two rolls of paper towels to get the fridge spic and span. I tripled my use of the time by defrosting the fridge and also clearing out older products.

Next came a quiet evening–a nice dinner, a movie, and then to bed early (9) with a book since it was getting chilly and reading in bed under the feather duvet is so much nicer than sitting by a cold window in the study! I thought I would conk out early, but I read until well past 11 (darn that John Grisham!) until my iPod Touch ran out of juice!

I awoke this morning to sleet. When I finally worked up the gumption to get out of bed, I didn’t dawdle since I suspected the weather was going to get worse. I was right–sleet quickly turned to snow, thick flakes that melted when they hit the pavement but otherwise coated the trees and shrubs. The sky was grey and heavy. I debated whether to pull over or push on, and chose the latter since visibility was okay and the roads weren’t slick. I aimed for the Walmart in Fort St John but hit it much too early to stop, so I continued on to the Walmart in Dawson Creek where I am parked for the night.

There was one long muddy stretch that was a bit tough and covered the rig in a viscous layer of sludge, but otherwise the drive from Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek was good. I stopped for lunch about a half hour out of Fort St John to discover that my tube of honey mustard had decided to attempt suicide by jumping out of the door to the bottom of the fridge. The salsa either couldn’t live without the mustard or wanted to make sure it succeeded and jumped after it. The heavy glass jar of salsa landed on top of the tube of mustard with enough force to blow off the cap and squeeze out the contents all over the bottom of my fridge. The jar didn’t break, but the cap flew off and thick chunks of tomato and onion joined the honey mustard. Yum. 🙁

At least, it was only the bottom of the fridge that I had to clean this time… And I might be out of French’s plain mustard and honey dijon, I still have six other kinds of mustard to get me through to the next grocery day. Yes, I had eight kinds of mustard in the fridge. It’s my favourite condiment. 🙂

Coming up to the lunch stop, there were several signs announcing ‘severe grades ahead’, the kinds of signs that are badly needed on the Sea to Sky highway! Shame on BC highways! These ‘severe grades’ were just 8% slopes and I rode them down in D2 with no use of the brakes whatsoever, shaking my head at the two RVers who passed me at the crest of the hill, started down it at full speed, jammed on the brakes at the first turn, and then rode down to the bottom with the brake light on. Last fall’s incident sucked, but I really am glad it happened.

Tonight’s game plan is to research the first phase of my detour. I would like to get to an RV park in the vicinity of Jasper tomorrow (Hinton, perhaps) and then spend two nights there, giving me a full day to explore the town.  It would be a long day (equivalent to Dawson City–Whitehorse) and will take me on a secondary road, Alberta highway 40,  so I want to research this road to make sure it is RV suitable (thank you to Mile by Mile!).  When I debated going through there in ’08, many readers left me some suggestions, so I am also going to consult the notes I made back then.

It’s pretty exciting to be going east tomorrow into Alberta, but I am acutely aware that I am entering the Canadian equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle and I will be on my guard.

Slowing Down

It was a slow, easy drive to Liard Hot Springs last night. I decided to be a tad cheeky, what with a full hookup park next door and dry camping spots available for the exorbitant cost of $21 at the provincial park, and just spend the night in the parking lot across from the park entrance.

Beta Pool was closed because of bear activity, so I had to hang out with a million other people in alpha pool. It wasn’t the most relaxing hot spring experience of my life, so I didn’t soak for long.

It was nice to get back to the rig, shower, and then hunker down for the night. I made a nice dinner, watched a movie, and read.

This morning, nothing short of a natural disaster could have gotten me moving at a speed faster than a crawl. It was the first time in months that I was able to just lie in bed with the cats, read, and know that I had nothing and no one waiting for me. I lingered over coffee and breakfast, then set off around 10:30.

The drive from Liard to Fort Nelson is very technical; lots of tight turns and 7 to 8% grades. It was my first time doing it in that direction and I had a lot of fun. I saw more buffalo and caribou today than in all the sightings I’ve had in my life combined.

I’m going to get some work done, gas up, then head to a turnout I stayed at in the spring of ’09. Tomorrow, I’ll move on to Fort St John or Dawson Creek and then the adventure will begin!













Fort St John to, Uh, Let Me Check the Milepost and Get Back to You About that

Here is where I need to explain why I panicked about the windshield. I think I will seem a little less silly once I’ve shared this story.

A few years ago, en route to Toronto, someone threw a rock at my car from an overpass. The rock bounced off my hood into the windshield and the windshield shattered. There wasn’t a piece bigger than a dime left of it and it was everywhere in the car and in my clothing. I still have scars on my arms from being hit by the flying glass.

So, I believe can be excused for believing that I was in possibly great danger. 🙂

Back to that freezing cold morning in Fort St John, I decided to enjoy the drive to Fort Nelson and not worry about the windshield until I got a second opinion.

The first thing I had to do this morning was get gas. 113.9!!! At least there was service at that price!

It was an easy drive out of FSJ and I pulled over at the 10 Mile Rest area, a little ways out of town, to have breakfast.

Then I drove through a landscape that defies description–it was crimson, golden, azure, ashen, ebony, and verdant all at once. The 400km or so to Fort Nelson ate themselves up as I drank in this country that never ceases to make me weep with awe.

It was only about 1 when I pulled into the Fas Gas in Fort Nelson to top up the tank. I had to call the credit card company to remove a security hold (why do they apologize for those things?!) and then wait for a truck to get out of my way so I could pull out, giving me a break of almost a half hour.

Next stop was the glass place and I was told the same thing as I was in FSJ and by Croft and Les in comments and email–go forth and do the swap in the fall. The Fort Nelson chap was much more helpful, explaining to me how windshields are made, how they crack, and how having a windshield implode on you is practically a once in a lifetime event. That was good enough for me and I decided to push on.

I decided to save myself yet another day and get as close as possible to Liard Hot Springs Wednesday rather than Thursday. Mileage-wise the distance wasn’t much, but I knew there would be serious acrobatics ahead. I’d checked the forecast and knew the mountain passes were clear, something that could have changed overnight. It seemed safer to do a long, slow day when I knew the forecast than to head out without knowing what was ahead.

The mountains creep up on you after Fort Nelson and the stretch to Muncho Lake is truly not for the day dreamer nor the faint of heart. I literally inched my way down some stretches, geared down as low as I could, ignoring the column of vehicles behind me. Even though my heart was pounding, I was relaxed and in control. The sun was shining brightly against the snow and it just seemed like a good day to drive. I felt like a pro as I negotiated all those big grades (the worst was 8% compared to 14% coming into Pemberton!).

The joke of the day was the sign warning drivers of rock falls. They look a lot like the signs warning truckers of upcoming steep grades so every time I saw one in the distance I would slow down and move to D2. Better safe than sorry, but sheesh!

Coming on six, I was through what I believed was the worst and fatigue sneaked up on me. I knew I had less than an hour to go to get to the turnoff just shy of the Springs where I stayed last year, but I still kept my eyes peeled for an equally suitable spot earlier on. I found one that turned out to be much better as it was sheltered and getting so much late day sun that the rig was like an oven, enabling me to delay the turning on of the furnace. It took some work with the Milepost, but I finally determined that I was at the Sawtooth Mountains viewpoint.

By six thirty I had a pizza in the oven, a cold beer in my hand, and the water heater was working hard at ensuring that I got a well deserved shower!

By 8, I’d had a hot shower, eaten half the pizza, talked myself out of a second beer, eaten a piece of good chocolate, and read several chapters of my book (not necessarily in that order). It was still bright daylight out and this reminded me that I’ll soon need to relearn how to live in the sun.

At 9, I set the furnace to about 16 and went to bed with the cats and my book. I read until almost eleven, thrilled that I hadn’t had to turn on the furnace that evening. The furnace did eventually kick on, but much later than it had in Fort St John, and I hadn’t had to heat before going to bed, so I can say for sure that it was no colder than minus four last night. 🙂





climbing up to Summit Lake, the highest point on the Alaska highway

climbing up to Summit Lake, the highest point on the Alaska highway

lots of snow at Summit Lake!

lots of snow at Summit Lake!



approaching the Sawtooth Mountains (I'd call them the Pyramid mountains!)

approaching the Sawtooth Mountains (I’d call them the Pyramid mountains!)

slowing down for caribou

slowing down for caribou

slowing down for caribou

slowing down for caribou


Sawtooth Mountains viewpoint (not a very good viewpoint, btw)

Sawtooth Mountains viewpoint (not a very good viewpoint, btw)


If you’re Canadian, chances are that you’ve made bannock at some point in your life, probably in summer camp or as part of a school outing. I used to make it whenever I camped, but sort of forgot about it as the years went by. I picked up a recipe for this quick bread at the Fort Nelson Museum last week and have had a craving for it since!

This morning, I looked at the multigrain bread I normally have for breakfast and felt mildly queasy. So, I decided to whip up a batch of this bannock for a welcome change of pace. Of course, bannock tastes best cooked over an open fire, or, in a pinch, a cast iron skillet, but this morning’s batch made in a non-stick frying pan was most satisfactory.


(can be halved)

4 cups flour

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 cups water

raisins (optional)


Mix dry ingredients. Add water and mix dough to a drop consistency.

the dough will be very wet

the dough will be very wet

Melt cooking fat or heat oil in a frying pan until hot.

Drop tablespoons of mixture into hot fat.

Fry until brown all over.


Suggested toppings: honey, butter and jam, or, this morning’s sweet treat, real Quebec maple syrup.

The bread is very light and chewy. Unlike my former favourite quick bread, biscuits, bannock is great cold.

You can, of course, adjust the quantity of fat. I’ve been burning a lot of calories these days, so I didn’t go lightly on the olive oil this morning, but normally I wouldn’t use any fat at all in my non-stick skillet. I would also normally do half whole wheat flour, half white, but I was out of whole wheat today.

I didn’t count how many cakes a half recipe made, perhaps a dozen or so. Total time from getting the ingredients out of the pantry to flipping the last cake out of the pan: fewer than fifteen minutes.

I never keep eggs in the house, so these are going to become my alternative to pancakes. They’re so good! With raisins, they can easily be eaten as is. Next time, I’m going to add some nuts, in addition to the raisins, to turn the bannock into a great hiking snack.

Fort Nelson to Just Shy of Liard Hotsprings

Oh, Thursday finally brought what I’d been dreaming of, a land of barren snowy peaks, spruce-covered mountains, frozen lakes, turquoise streams, miles of wilderness between services, and encounters with wildlife.

First stop on Thursday was Fort Nelson. I filled up and then stopped at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. There is not much RV parking at the museum. When entering, do not make the mistake I did and turn right into the paved area. First of all, it is a dump and water fill up station, so you don’t want to block it, and second, there is very little room to turn around. With Miranda and the toad, I literally did not have an inch to spare. Instead, just follow the dirt driveway as it loops around and park where there is space on the side.

The museum is full of wonderful artifacts about Fort Nelson’s history and that of the Alaska highway. The staff is friendly and full of interesting trivia. I particularly enjoyed the tales of the gentleman who maintains the antique cars on display. They all run. One of the cars turn 100 last year so, to celebrate its birthday, he and his wife drove it to Whitehorse and back! Cars today just don’t last! Upon first glance, the museum and grounds seem very ‘junky’, but there is method and order to the chaos. A visit is definitely a ‘must’!

giant crayon at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum

giant crayon at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum

Coming out of Fort Nelson, there is a sign announcing that there are no services for 250km or so. The ‘real’ Alaska Highway begins!

30km from Fort Nelson, I had to make a choice that I had been agonizing over for weeks. I was about 130km from the border of the Northwest Territories. It was very tempting to turn, go to the border, have lunch at the rest stop there (very convenient), come back, and spend the night in Fort Nelson. But most of the road to to Fort Liard, NWT, is gravel and there was a forecast of snow.  So, I knew I’d be encountering mud and potholes and potentially vehicle-damaging conditions. I decided not to make the detour.

I stopped for lunch at Steamboat Mountain (apparently the mountain looks like a Steamboat, but I couldn’t see it). It was very cold and wet up there, but the views were fantastic!

view from Steamboat Mountain rest area

view from Steamboat Mountain rest area

I passed a herd of caribou a short while down the road:

herd of caribou

herd of caribou

I stopped again at Summit Lake, the highest point on the Alaska highway:

Summit Lake

Summit Lake

I continued on past one breathtaking peak after another only to be stopped by the last thing I expected to stop me in the middle of the wilderness:

the wilderness red light district?

the wilderness red light district?

The gal at the Fort Nelson Museum told me that I had to stop and take in the view at Muncho Lake, so I did:

Muncho Lake

Muncho Lake

The lake was frozen, but there was enough thaw near shore for me to realise that Muncho Lake is bright blue-green in summer.  So, this might seem like a picture of any other lake, I have a feeling the ice is hiding a real jewel.

The Alaska Highway follows the curve of the lake, so RVers, be prepared to take things slow and to stay as far right in your lane as possible!

I then began to look for a place to spend the night and was suddenly besieged with the sight of something I had never thought I would see in the wild. Let me add a sidebar here that my favourite movie of all time is ‘Dances With Wolves.’ The main character, Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, is heading out into the frontier to see it before it’s gone and there is one animal he is anxious to see, the mighty ‘tatanka’:

Yes, folks, that's a buffalo. There was a herd of them, but this picture came out best.

Yes, folks, that’s a buffalo. There was a herd of them, but this picture came out best.

Thank you to the folks in the car behind me for stopping and therefore, giving me permission to stop too.

I was seriously running out of steam by this point and it was already 4PM (which surprised me!). I was faced with another decision: continue to Liard Hotsprings and spend the night at the campground there (17$ and no hookups) or stop before the springs (free) and pay the day use fee Friday (5$). I chose the latter, stopping at a gravel turnoff with great views just 9km from the springs.

view from my livingroom on Thursday night

view from my livingroom on Thursday night

I knew that Friday night would have to be on hookups, so it just didn’t make sense budget-wise, to pay for a non-hookup site. Two days is just about as long as I can go on my battery. What about the generator, you say. Well, let’s just say that my genset was working just fine when it was tested in Vancouver and was very useful at the Chasm, but it will no longer start. I really don’t think I’m meant to boondock. 🙁

That downer aside, Thursday was a nice , quiet evening. I had bought a book about the Chilkoot Pass history at the Fort Nelson Museum, so I read until the book was done. It was 9:30 and still bright day light out. Thankfully, the loft area is fairly dark, so I was able to conk out in short order.