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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)

July 6, 7, 8 - Moose Jaw to Hay River, NWT

2000 kilometers in 3 days, Moose Jaw, Vegreville, Edmonton, Peace River, High Level, and Hay River

sunny 35 °C

July 6

We said goodbye to Moose Jaw, but not before getting TaJ's picture taken with two more roadside icons: The Moose and a Canadian Snowbird. Canada's military precision air team, the Snowbirds, are based here in Moose Jaw. They travel coast-to-coast each year, entertaining at air shows and other events. We've seen them practising in the skies over the city twice this week.
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Next up is the TaJ wash. We got the filth of the road off our beloved R-pod before heading onward. $6 and some scrubbing later and we are on the road.

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We were going to attempt much of the day's drive on secondary roads, but a 22 kilometer long stretch of gravel (road under repair) quickly changed our minds, so on to Highway 16 we went. Highway 16 is the portion of the Trans Canada Highway that heads towards Edmonton. The scenery of the prairies is much the same, whether on the main road or back roads. Saskatchewan is noted for less than good secondary roads. We cruised along the Trans Canada at 95 kph and ratcheted up our destination from Lloydminster to Edmonton, a total of almost 800 kilometers.

On our last night at Peanut Hills we had booked campgrounds in both Hay River (2 nights, July 8, 9 and Fort Smith, 4 nights, July 10, 11, 12, 13) so our destination for Saturday was set. Hay River is 2000 kilometers away from Moose Jaw. Fort Smith is the location of Wood Buffalo National Park, which is our real destination for this leg of the journey. The largest National Park in North America, it is home to a Wood Bison herd of 4,000, plus the nesting place of the whooping crane, as well as Pelicans. The park is the most remote accessible by road in all the country, so this will be a real treat, and a big check mark on the bucket list.

Along the way, we scooted into Vegreville, for a picture with the Pysanka (giant egg). A good friend of mine, Jim Stephenson (hi Jim, he reads the blog) at one time lived in Vegreville.

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We arrived at the Walmart on Stoney Plain Road, in Edmonton about 6:00pm, bought a pre-cooked chicken for supper, as well as sandwiches on the road for a day or two ahead and settled in for the night. Very good stop, very quiet, once the store closed at 11:00pm. There were 14 r/v's in the lot overnight.

July 7

Since we are on a re-positioning run, we planned two consecutive nights in Walmart parking lots. The destination for today is Peace River, another 600 kilometers towards our target destination of Hay River, in the North West Territories. The roads were remarkably good on this run, although we were expecting worsening road conditions.

We stopped briefly in Slave Lake, which we visited last in 2014. The town had been devastated by a wild fire in 2011 and was in the process of rebuilding when we were here. It was great to note that the rebuild is pretty well complete and the only evidence of the fire is the blackened trees on the approaches to town.

We arrived in Peace River about 4:00pm and had the decision to make as to move farther on down the road, or stop for the night early. We opted to stay and do a bit of shopping for necessary supplies. We needed a new anode for our water heater, not that we have pulled the old one to see how much it has deteriorated, but wanted one on hand in case we needed it. Where we are headed there is not likely to be a R/V dealer. We also picked up back up fuses and a second 30/15 adaptor, as a couple of campgrounds will only have 15 amp service

Peace River is a great little town of about 5000 people, with full services.

We tucked TaJ up against a retaining wall in the Walmart parking lot.

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It was hot, about 35 C and we were looking for early shade as the sun goes down. Actually, the sun doesn't set here until almost 10:30pm this time of year, so we weren't gaining much shade. However, later in the evening we would be happy that we chose this spot.

Supper was a salad with left over chicken and we spent the evening reading and planning.

We turned in for the night about 10:30, with only two other r/v's in the lot. At midnight, a massive thunderstorm blew through. Rain and wind for an hour. Our location tucked in by the retaining wall protected us for the worst of the storm. There was a fair bit of wind damage which we saw in the morning as we departed on our final run north.

July 8:

Our last day's run coming up, another 600 kilometers. We headed out at 7:00am and our Garmin said our arrival time should be about 2:30pm.
Once again, the roads were much better than expected. Actually, really good. We stopped for gas and a snack in High Level, another town of about 1500 which has decent services as well. Gas stations up here are about 300 kilometers apart, and the general rule is: Gas up all the time even if you still have more than half a tank. You do not want to see that low gas warning light come on out here, miles from the next town.

There were crops being grown well past High Level, so the prairies really do stretch for thousands of kilometers. Fields fo canola and wheat all over the place. The roads finally settled into infinite boreal forest on both sides of the road. We crossed into the North West Territories about 1:30pm and arrived in Hay River about 2:30pm. We found the town abuzz with an airshow, right at the river mouth and on the beach right next to our campground.

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As we were on the last couple of kilometers before reaching our destination we passed the Hay River Airport. We thought TaJ had been damaged as everything began to shake and rumble. It quickly became apparent that an f-18 fighter, as part of the airshow had just taken off exactly as we passed the end of the runway. Wow, what a rush that was.

We got set up at the campground as the airshow ended. Locals had used the campground roads to park for the airshow, which was taking place not 200 meters from our campsite. As a consequence, the campground roads were packed with air show visitors. They quickly cleared out and by 4:30 we were off into town to get our laundry done. It seems we are going through lots of clothes, but it has been so hot the past week that we are changing clothes often. The last week, every day has been over 30 degrees C, and sunny. Very hot. The nights have settled back to pretty moderate temperatures.

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One unpleasant thing though. In the heat here in Hay River, the horseflies go crazy. More annoying that anything, they swarm to the heat generated by the cars. The front of the cars are awash with the bodies of the ones killed in traffic, and the live ones are eating the remains of their brothers. They don't bite people very often, but when they do, you know you've been bitten!

In the last three days we have travelled 2000 kilometers, and Jenny and I have pretty well equally shared the driving. Jenny is rapidly becoming pretty adept at handling TaJ. She is yet to back her into a campsite but that is coming in the near future. Both TaJ and Sully are doing well and we have settled into a pretty good routine, after almost 40 days on the road. There is still another 140 days to go on this adventure.

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Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 10:45 Archived in Canada Tagged nwt hay_river Comments (1)

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