A Travellerspoint blog

July 2017

July 29, 30 - Dawson

Dredge_#4, Cemeteries, City_walk, Convoys

sunny 22 °C

July 29

We were up early and ready to leave Whitehorse behind. We wanted an early start to the day because the r/v park only has two dump stations and the day before there was getting to be a pretty good line up to use them. After getting the glamorous part of camping out of the way (very full grey and black water tanks) we stopped at Starbucks for a road coffee.

Today is the 525 kilometer drive to Dawson City. We've driven this road before and it is pretty tedious, with just a few good stops for scenery along the way. We played a cd of Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee" as we approached Lake Labarge and we quote from the Klondike bard: "and there, on the marge, of Lake Labarge, I cremated Sam McGee".

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We switched back and forth driving on the first half of the trip, where the road is fairly decent and reasonably good time can be made. We gassed up in Carmacks ($1.19 a litre) and headed on. We stopped at the Fox Lake fire memorial and took a walk in the woods to the lookout.
Huge fire that burned for a whole year and finally had to be dug out of the ground in the spring to get it completely out. Lots of mushrooms growing here:

We also stopped at the Montague Road House Historic Site. This was an inn on the road to Dawson:

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We stopped at Five Finger Rapids and had lunch at the lookout. Later we stopped for a break at Moose Lodge, and Jenny posed, using her scared face, with this giant mosquito:

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After the halfway point the road is at best described as rough, with gravel patches, potholes, and, worst of all, dips. The dips bounce the trailer against the hitch pretty violently, so we were slowed to 35 kph in a few places. Not much traffic on the road this year so we felt fine taking our time. This photo gives an idea of the amount of dust in the rough sections:

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We arrived in Dawson almost 9 hours after leaving Whitehorse. We'd booked an R/V park at the south of town and settled in for the night. A thunder shower washed down the trailer for us and the temperature dropped to 8 C overnight, just chilly enough for us to put our heater on in the morning.

We have now seen 18 r-pods on our journey. Across from us is a 2012 173 model, from Quebec...a nice young couple hiking their way around the north.

July 30:

Our day started with a French Toast and bacon breakfast. There are a lot of convoys of Motor homes that come through here in the summer, and monopolize the small ferry across the Yukon River. Today was no exception, and when we got to down town Dawson there were 13 Class A Motorhomes lined up for the ferry. Each ferry run can take only one motor home and 5 or 6 cars, so the ferry line up was at least 3 hours for the very short crossing of the river. The Top of the World Highway is the draw as it allows a loop tour of the Yukon and Alaska without having to backtrack to Whitehorse.

They are on an escorted tour, with guides at the front and and a tail rider at the back of the group to keep stragglers in check. Oh my, we could not travel like that. In their defence, most of the couples on these tours were very much senior, way beyond our years. This 24 unit convoy had formed in Idaho and were on a 60 day round trip that would end when they reached Edmonton in another month. Their motor homes were in the $500,000 and up price range, and most towed a vehicle behind.

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There was also a motorized barge, being loaded with equipment and supplies for one of the many operating placer mines in the area:

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We learned later in the day there is another 24 unit convoy in Dawson. When we lived in Dawson Creek back in 2005 these massive motor homes piloted by very old people were called "coffin dodgers". It is a bit like a seniors care home on wheels.

We walked up to the Robert Service house on Eighth Street. The poet lived here from 1899 to 1912 and wrote his best work while working for the Bank of Commerce, Here I am sitting on the front porch

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Here is the bank where he worked...it still stands today:

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On the way we saw this this fixer upper and thought we should buy it and move here...a bit of work involved:

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There is a whole complex of buildings, build on permafrost, that have been left to nature, just to show the effects of trying to build houses on unstable ground:

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We also wanted to see the local cemeteries, and, after a bit of a search we found them. Some very interesting graves here. The NWMP cemetery is the best kept:

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We drove to the top of the dome for a bird's eye view of the area. The dome is the site of an annual party to celebrate the almost continual sunlight on June 21 each year.

In the afternoon we went to see Dredge #4, the biggest dredge to ever work the Klondike area. It is 12 kilometers out of town along Bonanza Creek. From 1940 until it was sunk in a dam burst in 1959 the dredge worked it's way 12 kilometers along Bonanza Creek, by creating it's own moving lake. The dredge dug in front about 10 feet at a time, extracted the gold from the ground it dredged and then dumped the tailings behind it, always moving forward along the creek bed. Fascinating.

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In a previous visit we did the Diamond Tooth Gertie's visit for the can-can dancers and the casino and decided not to re-visit them this time around.

Gas prices here in Dawson City are quite high. We paid $1.35 per litre here, which is about $5.18 per US gallon. We hear gas prices in Alaska are running about $3,20 a gallon. Down in British Columbia gas is about $1.19 per litre, or just over $4.00 per gallon.

July Summary:

We are now 2 full months into this trip. We have travelled 13,750 kilometers in total. We have been in 8 Canadian Provinces, and 2 Territories. Our average gas consumption for the entire trip is 16.2 liters per 100 kilometers, or about 14.5 miles per gallon. The Honda Pilot is performing well as a tow vehicle, and handles the 3,200 pound load of the R-pod quite easily. In the past 30 days we have been in two great national parks, Grasslands and Wood Buffalo. We have dry camped less than originally planned, and have used r/v parks more than government campgrounds. We plan to change that beginning tonight with a dry camp on the Top of the World Highway.

The road ahead:

August is a big month for us. 11 days in Alaska, and then down the Cassiar Highway to Prince Rupert. We will stop in Steward BC and Hyder, AK on the way south. We'll spend three days on Haida Gwaii, and then head south though the British Columbia interior to the Okanagan Valley. We expect the end the month with a one night stop in Osoyoos, British Columbia before pushing on to the second half of this trip...3 months in the United States.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 08:45 Archived in Canada Tagged dawson gold_mining historical_cemetery dredge_#4 Comments (1)

July 27, 28 - Whitehorse, Yukon

Klondike_Rib_and_Salmon_House, Miles_Canyon,

rain 14 °C

July 27

With my gouty foot on the mend we were able to walk around Whitehorse without me looking like a gimpy old man. Whitehorse is a lovely city of about 28,000, more than half of the entire population of the Yukon. It is a full service town with all the amenities you could imagine.

This building struck our fancy while walking around:

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There are some great historical features to the town, mostly relating to the gold rush history of the area. There is a great paddle wheeler that you can tour...we did that last time we were here, so we took a pass on it this time. There is also Miles Canyon, where the gold stampeders of 1897-99 had to pass a great test by running the canyon and the rapids below. Over 100,000 people passed through this gorge on their way to the gold fields of Dawson City, some 600 kilometers to the north of here.

This Canyon is still dangerous today, as there are no guardrails. The fall is steep and the water is deep and fast moving. Careless people have lost their lives here in recent history, judging by the memorials on the bank by the bridge.

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Jenny needed a haircut and we found an available appointment for Noon, which fit our plans exactly. Once she was done with the haircut, we headed for our favourite eating place in Whitehorse, the Klondike Rib and Salmon House. This iconic restaurant is open for just the summer months each year, but the food is fantastic, and local. Jenny had an elk, cariboo, moose meat burger, and I had halibut and chips. Lunch, including a beer each, and tip, was just over $55.

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Later in the afternoon we took in a local farmer's market, and then took a bit of time off at the R/V park. There is another R-pod just down from us and we had quite the chat with our neighbour, who has had significant troubles with his R-pod, mostly with the electric converter and batteries. He hopes his problems have now been solved, but has had 4 batteries and 4 converters in less than 2 years. Yikes, we hope our trailer does not begin to experience similar issues. So far, ours has been pretty good.

In the evening we visited with Ken Gray, and his partner Amber. Ken is my nephew from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and now lives and works up here in the north. Every summer from 1980 through 1998 we would visit with Ken's parents and Ken, as a youngster, was a font of knowledge about everything outdoors He was always showing me life in the lake by their house and his knowledge of these things was encyclopedic. He also taught me about cutting and making walking sticks, and I have one on this trip that I cut and stripped back almost 30 years ago. It was great to catch up with Ken and Amber.

On our trip back to our campground we passed the local Walmart. Amazingly, there were 42 recreational vehicles in their parking lot.

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Today is a day of organizing: our laundry, working on the blog, and planning our next phase. We have now decided to head to Dawson City as our next destination. We'll spend 2 full days there before heading on to the Top of the World Highway and heading into the US through Chicken, Alaska. We'll visit Chena Hot Springs, then head south through Fairbanks, passing through Denali National Park, and then the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage. We plan to spend a few nights on the Kenai and then start our run back towards Canada. We should spend 11 days in Alaska

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 10:37 Archived in Canada Tagged whitehorse Comments (1)

July 22 to July 26 - Alaska Highway Adventures

Tetsa River Services, Cinnamon Buns, Liard Hot Springs, Watson Lake, Gout (Ouch)

sunny 20 °C

We left Dawson Creek before 7:00am. There is an airshow, and a rodeo in Fort St. John this weekend and we wanted to avoid the traffic that will come with that, so an early start was called for.

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Our expectations of a slow moving highway were quickly erased. We pretty well had the highway to ourselves...some truck traffic and oil patch workers heading towards their 7 day a week jobs, but no lumbering motor homes in our way.

We stopped at the Kiskatinaw River Bridge, 24 kilometers froma beautiful curved structure, the only remaining original bridge from the construction of the Highway. The bridge is 531 feet long and very lovely to look at.

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Our run into Fort St. John was uneventful, and we found ourselves at the only Starbucks in the city before 8:00am. Our coffee needs satisfied we headed north, stopping at Kilometer 100 for a photo of the 30 foot tall wooden lumberjack marking Clark Sawmill to the west.

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We continued on with very little traffic to contend with. Mostly we were passed by pick-up trucks, and the occasional semi truck as we headed north, past kilometer 200. We gassed up at Pink Mountain, at kilometer 226. Gas here was $1.30 per liter. We plan to gas up roughly every 200 kilometers or so on this journey. We blew through the 300 and 400 kilometer markers and were in Fort Nelson, at kilometer 454 by just past Noon.

We paused for lunch and headed north, with another full tank of gas. This time gas was $1.14 a liter. Our goal for the day was now the somewhat funky sounding Tetsa River Services and Campground, home of the (reportedly) best cinnamon buns on the planet. There is a small camp ground with 15 amp service, showers, etc. We called it a day travel wise at 3:00pm, after travelling 575 kilometers in total for the day.

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This is the washroom at Tetsa River:

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The road is excellent, very little traffic and we made much better time than the last time we travelled this road northbound, in 2005. Road conditions were excellent for the most part, with some minor construction. Jenny drove two hours in total and attempted to back TaJ into our camp ground spot for the first time. While it was a game effort, she was ultimately unsuccessful.

We saw no wildlife today, but expectations are high for tomorrow as mountain sheep, bison and moose abound in the next phase of our trip.

July 23-24

Tetsa River Services was a pretty cool place to stop, but it rained all night long. The owner told me this was common in her area. She said they got over 50 mm (2 inches) of rain overnight. It was nice to sleep with the patter of rain on the roof. We tested the cinnamon buns at Tetsa River Services and can recommend them to you. Probably in the top 5 I have had in my life.

The road to Liard is wet and winding. It rained almost until we reached the gates of the park:

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Today is our birthday and we plan to spend I, and tomorrow, at Liard River Hot Springs. Our campsite is nice and it is about a 1.5 k walk to the hot springs, along a lovely boardwalk. In all we did the walk out and back 4 times during our stay, so we logged about 12 kilometers of exercise.

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Only one fly in the ointment is my left foot. I am now developing gout. Ouch! I did some damage to it climbing hills in the Northwest Territories, and combined with a less than stellar diet the past two weeks I am now paying the price. I can barely walk by the time we leave Liard, headed for Watson Lake.

Our stay at Liard was lovely, this is truly a worthwhile stop. On our last walk out to the hot springs, we came upon a momma moose and her calf. No camera with us, so no pic.

July 25

On the road into Watson Lake we came across a bear and her two cubs as well as another fine specimen of Bison:

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We boot on into Watson Lake and stay at the Downtown R/V Park. A desolate gravel parking lot greets us on arrival, but the services are good. Price is pretty steep as well; $42.50, with the Good Sam discount. The laundry, washrooms, etc, were impeccable. Here is a view of our site:

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I did manage to get into the local health clinic and get a prescription to deal with my gout. It will take a few days for this to clear up, but so will my diet. I am now vowing to cut my alcohol consumption to one drink per day and to clean up my food intake as well. One bout of gout is plenty.

We did go up to the milepost village in Watson Lake. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger:

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The night was uneventful with the exception of a bar close by the R/V park having a singer, until 2:00am. Country and Western love songs and she done him wrong songs!

July 26:

No pictures for today. It was simply a decently long drive to Whitehorse (450 kilometers) We are now in the Whitehorse Library, getting up to date with the blog and e-mails. We are now 1445 kilometers from Dawson Creek, and will stay here for 2 full days before departing towards Alaska.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 17:45 Archived in Canada Tagged bears bison tetsa_river cinnamon_buns liard_hot_springs watson_lake Comments (2)

July 17 - 21 Grande Prairie AB, Dawson Creek BC

Prepping for the Alaska Highway, visiting old friends in Dawson Creek, meeting new friends in Grande Prairie.

sunny 22 °C

July 17 - 18.

We parked TaJ on the driveway of the aunt and uncle of our good travel buddy, Karmen Reid after a short drive from Fairview.

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Leo and Martha Dawson live on an acreage just outside of Grand Prairie. We needed a day or two in a city with shopping to get a few things before we continue on the road. Leo and Martha were great hosts and had us in for supper on the night of our arrival.

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If you recall from previous posts we have had trouble with our electric hitch jack, and the last failure seemed permanent. The local R/V dealer that carries that brand told us their warranty essentially covered replacement...they would have to ship the defective jack back to the manufacturer in the US, wait two weeks for them to send a replacement, etc. Not going to work for us. So we bought a manual jack for $48 and replaced it ourselves. The defective jack is now cargo in the storage area of our R-pod until we get back to Nova Scotia in December and can get it fixed/replaced at Jerry's R/V, our local dealer.

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After getting the new jack, we stopped at the local Superstore to pick up a few supplies. The only reason we are telling you this is that there is a massive road dip on the road right outside the parking lot. It is almost invisible until the front wheels of our tow vehicle go into it, and right away you know this is not good, and no time to slow down either. We almost bucked TaJ off the hitch. Wham! We actually pulled over and checked things out in the trailer...stuff got bounced all over the place, but no damage. So, if towing in Grande Prairie, watch out for the dip in front of the Superstore.

We had the need to shop for a bit of stuff and Grande Prairie is at city of about 70,000 and has a full line-up of stores. We bought shoes for both of us, and a new Coleman camp stove to replace our 13 year old one, which had seen better days. Ground coffee from Starbucks, and a trip to the liquor store, etc. took up much of our day.

We also took a look at our anode from the water heater. You can see the comparison to a new one. We put the old one back, but that is the wear after 45 days on the road. We'll be checking again in a few weeks to see if we need to replace.

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July 18 - 21

We headed over to Dawson Creek, where we lived back in 2005-06. On the way over we stopped in Beaverlodge for a photo op with the big beaver:

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While we had TaJ still hitched up we did the obligatory picture with the Mile 0 Marker in downtown Dawson Creek.

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Downtown also has some lovely murals of the old days:

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We booked into the Mile-0 Campground for three nights ($36 a night, water and 30amp electric) Decent sites, close to town. Very busy campground this time of year, filling and emptying daily.

It is the 75th anniversary of the highway, which was built in just 7 months by 10,000 US soldiers and a vast number of civilians. This vehicle is one of the few authentic vehicles from that era.

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We had supper with old friends Al & Mary Mottishaw, on both Wednesday at their place, and Thursday evening at the Alcan Smokehouse. It was great to touch base with people we knew back when we lived and worked here.

We also checked in with the Peace Energy Co-op, where Jenny worked for a year. At the time they were working on getting a 34 turbine wind farm on Bear Mountain, just to the west of town. We took a bit of time to wander up there on Friday.

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The rest of our time here was spent taking care of stuff. One of our tires seemed to be consistently 2-3 pound pressure under the others. Turned out there was a very slim finishing nail in it. Got that fixed for $35 and another worry off our minds for the road ahead.

It is a lovely Friday afternoon and we are in the library, doing our blog entry and getting some other stuff up to date. We had a quick visit to the local art gallery, which is in a retired grain elevator, next to the Alaska Highway start point in the roundabout at the center of town.

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The last two icons are the second Mile 0 sign in the roundabout at the center of town and the statue of the surveyor, pointing the route for the Alaska Highway:

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While there we came upon this beauty of a motorhome, driven by Hans and Liesbeth, from Noordwijk in the Netherlands. Lovely people, lovely motor home! Perhaps we will see them when we visit Holland next year. Happy Trails.

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Tomorrow we begin our journey up the Alaska Highway. We have 28 days so our journey will not be fast, but will still be long. We expect about 7,500 kilometers until we come out from the Cassiar Highway at Prince Rupert.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 14:18 Tagged grande_prairie dawson_creek alaska_highway Comments (0)

July 14, 15, 16 - Fort Smith to Fairview, AB

Twin Falls Territorial Park, High Level car wash, Long drive, Fairview R/V Park, Dunvegan

sunny 19 °C

July 14:

We left Fort Smith early, before 8:00am, with the intention of making an overnight stop at the Louise Falls Campground, in the Twin Falls Territorial Park, bout 75 kilometers from the Alberta border, on our way back towards civilization. Not that it was bad, or uncivilized out at Fort Smith. We thoroughly enjoyed our time out here and this will be a high point in this year's journey, and a really big tick mark on the old 'to do before you die" list.

We followed this young lady dog on the road out of Fort Smith. She was a bundle of energy in the back of a pick-up:

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Twin Falls Territorial Park, just south of Enterprise is home to 2 huge waterfalls on the Hay River: the 25 meter drop of Louise Falls and the 32 meter drop of Alexandra Falls. The falls are about 2.5 kilometers apart and there is a lovely trail between the two. We hiked this route shortly after we set up camp for a single night.

The hike was lovely, with Dene interpretative signs along the way. The Dene (local name, means "the people") used this river to get from their winter lodgings in Alberta to their summer homes on the shores of Slave Lake. In order to pass the falls they had to portage their worldly goods 6 kilometers from above Alexandra Falls to a safe spot below Louise Falls. Generally, it took two days and the help of every family member to get past these falls.

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Along the walking route, the territory has installed a spiral staircase installed so people can get down to the base of Louise Falls. 138 steps. We did the climb...it was less difficult than it sounds, but very steep. In all we hiked 5 1/2 kilometers on our afternoon trek.

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Our electric hitch jack has failed for a second time, and this one sounded like permanent failure, with kind of an electric snapping sound inside the mechanism. We will try for a replacement/repair in Grande Prairie when we reach there Monday.

Both Sully and the TaJ are filthy with road dust. They need to be cleaned once we get a bit farther south.

July 15:

Our goal for the day will be Fairview, Alberta. Our Garmin tells us it is a 615 kilometer trek, so we get started early. The highway up here is empty much of the time and we cruise along at 95 kph. For the first hour we see just one transport truck northbound. We make excellent time and find ourselves in High Level, Alberta by 10:30am. We knew there was a wand wash with a big enough bay to accomodate our rig so we got in there and $11 later, both vehicles were acceptably clean once again.

We spent a full hour at Tim Hortons getting caught up on internet stuff and making some plans for our time in Grand Prairie. We'll be staying two nights with the aunt and uncle of our good travel friend, Karmen Reid, so we got off an e-mail to them for directions to their property, and we scoped out r/v dealers in town to see if we can get our electric hitch fixed on Monday/Tuesday. Grande Prairie has a population of about 75,000 so is a completely full service city. We've shopped there in the past when we lived in Dawson Creek in 2005.

We are also defrosting our fridge on the way south. It has been on continuously since we left home and there is ice build-up, so the small amount of food we had left is in our cooler for the day and a couple of tea towel are in the fridge to pick up the water from the melting ice.

Back on the road again, we switch off driving every 90 minutes and before you know it we arrive in Fairview. This is a town of about 3000 people, 100 kilometers from Grande Prairie. We stop here for the night as we want to tour Dunvegan, a historical park of note just south of here. We will do that tomorrow. We also wanted an r/v park with internet for a night or two as we have planning to do for our upcoming leg to Alaska/Yukon.

Sure enough, this park will do just fine. Small, right in town, with wi-fi. We settle in, turn the fridge back on, get a bit of food and drink from local stores and spend a bit of time finishing the cleaning job we started in High Level. At 7:30pm a massive thunderstorm started. The sky had been getting darker and darker, with the occasional rumble of thunder.

The start was dramatic with wind, rain, thunder and lightning. We were on-line with The Weather Network as the storm progressed and it was intense. They can report lightning strikes in real time and over the course of 30 minutes recorded 67 strikes in the Fairview area. We also got 60 mm (almost 2 inches) of rain in that same time period. Wow, pretty darn intense. The air was cool afterwards and the skies quite promptly cleared.

July 16:

Today is pretty well a day off the road. We have organizational issues with our stuff to take care of and that is on the agenda, as well as getting the blog up to date. Not overly much to go in today's blog entry.

We head out late morning to Dunvegan, a historical site along the Peace River.

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This is a picture to show the foundation and wood work required to hand build structures back in the day:

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If you recall previous posts about the voyageurs, piloting canoes from Ottawa, up the Great Lakes and then through a system of rivers and portages, this was the end of the road. The Hudson Bay Company store at Dunvegan was the end of the line, some 5500 kilometers. We learned here that there were two sets of voyagers. The set from the Ottawa end of the line, as well as from Hudson Bay, left their end laden with goods for sale or exchange with the fur trappers at this end. About 1/2 way they met the voyageurs bringing furs from the vast resources of the northern prairies. At this half way point they exchanged cargoes and returned back from whence they came. It has been interesting to intersect this trade route on our travels. It is the story of Canada's early history.

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This is the factor's house. He was in charge of the Hudson Bay post here in Dunvegan:

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Until 1960 the only way across the Peace River was by ferry boat. This suspension bridge was built, at a cost of the then whopping $5 million. It opened the modern days to this part of Alberta.

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We stopped at a local farm market to buy some produce for a stir-fry tonight, as well as strawberries:

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The Road Ahead:

Over the next 5 days we will be getting prepared to head up the Alaska Highway. We depart Dawson Creek on the morning of July 22. We were originally going to be accompanied by a friend, Debra, and her Trillium trailer. It would have bee her first serious excursion with her little trailer and the route we planned had been based mainly on the fact that she would be driving on her own, so the plan called for little more than 350 kilometers a day. The raging wildfires in the British Columbia interior have forced her to withdraw from the trip. There are numerous road closures on the British Columbia approaches to Dawson Creek with no let up in sight.

Since Debra will not be joining us we will be amending our route somewhat with slightly longer runs and perhaps another destination or two added in. We will still take 28 days to do this leg of the journey, it will just be a bit different from what we had originally planned. It is still going to almost 7,500 kilometers from Dawson Creek until we reach Prince Rupert on August 20.

We have some minor repairs to get out of the way, and some stocking up to do in Grande Prairie. We lived in Dawson Creek in 2005 and we have old friends to visit while we are there. It is likely there will be a summary blog entry of the coming 5 days, but no specific plans are in the works.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:55 Archived in Canada Tagged fairview dunvegan nwt car_wash Comments (2)

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