Tumbler Ridge

After NWT and a regrouping stop at Ft. Nelson, it’s time for another side trip.  Pat’s turn to read about a place we must go, and that place is Tumbler Ridge.  We’re on the hunt for chainsaw carvings, dinosaur footprints, and waterfalls.  This little detour promises all three!

On The Way

You know we can’t jump right to the good stuff since we have travel tales to tell.  This detour involves roughly 115 miles on the aptly named Tumbler Ridge Loop, but first we have to get there.  Our original part-way stop was Pink Mountain, but the one site available at the one campground was essentially “in the road”.  So much so that we were considering leaving our slides in so they wouldn’t get hit by traffic.  Then we put the wheels in motion again instead.  This driving day was cloudy, so no eclipse action for us.  It was also sad with a dead moose on the side of the road.  Pat usually calls out “stuffed animal” so I don’t get teary-eyed about a dead critter, but this was just too big for that to work.  Aaaand another windshield chip, this time on the driver’s side.  Harumph.

20170068

We were rewarded by a deer in the campground at Charlie Lake Provincial Park outside of Fort St. John.  It was a nice natural setting like we try to find, but sounded like we were at a truck stop most of the time.

This is a very commercial area with lots of oil and gas activity and the trucks to go with it.  My least favorite part of the entire drive so far was this stretch and a bit beyond.  And here’s why….

20170070

We’re following vehicles like this….

And meeting ones like this…  Lots of axles and they are in a hurry.  Gone are the stretches of road where we hardly meet anyone along the way.

Chetwynd

Chetwynd is our next destination on the Tumbler Ridge loop.  We pass through the lovely Peace River Valley.  It is beautiful, but there are steep grades and lots of big work trucks coming and going.  We soldier on, however, because Pat read about the International Chainsaw Carving Competition held in Chetwynd each year and the sculptures they display all over town.  Now this we have got to see!

“On the way” views.

This is the one place where we were turned away.  The Chetwynd campgrounds were all full of oil and gas workers, so what to do.  Well, they don’t camp at the provincial parks since they don’t have full hook-ups.  Since we don’t need that, we back track just a bit to Mobley Lake Provincial Park.

Another pretty spot and Jackson approves.  Ahhh, more grass for back scratching.

But on to the main event – chainsaw carvings.  We were only here overnight, but that gave us time to stroll around town and see the intricate and amazing work done by carvers from all over the world.

DSC00091

The town has truly embraced this competition and touts itself as a “community carved by success”.  The competition is held the second weekend in June each year, and the carvers have 3.5 days to create their masterpieces using a variety of tools including, of course, the chainsaw.

DSC00094

We both really liked Tree Beard from Lord of the Rings even though it wasn’t an award winner.

DSC00087

I couldn’t believe some of the detailed work on these carvings.  They all had a story to tell and were carved front and back with markers to note the carving name and any awards won.

DSC00083

This one is called “Building Character”.

A few other favorites.  The town has over 160 carvings on display, so we ran out of daylight long before we ran out of carvings.

Tumbler Ridge

DSC00096

After our chainsaw carving fix, we set out for the final goal on this route – Tumbler Ridge.  Of course that comes with the road construction price again.  This dandy stretch was over a mile, completely detouring off the main road and at 10mph was still teeth rattling.  This stuff will not be missed!

But, it was worth it when we made it to our Tumbler Ridge campsite.

DSC00103

First real sunset action we’ve had in a while.

DSC00102

And looking the other direction?  The sunset rainbow.

Tumbler Ridge is home to some pretty significant dinosaur bone and track discoveries and they have a nice little discovery center to showcase the finds.  The only two Tyrannosaurus trackways in the world!  I originally thought a dinosaur trackway tour would be in order, but we checked out the track replicas first.  I think a lot of fossil discovery is like interpreting an imaging report.  If you say that’s a bone, organ, baby, etc., I’ll take your word for it, but couldn’t identify it on my own.  Dinosaur tracks and even skin impressions (which they do have here, too) are just the same.  I can see a leaf or even a whole fish fossil for that matter with my untrained eye, but actual tracks?  Not so much.  I remembered this from when we took Ethan looking for dinosaur tracks in Texas.  You have to have a good imagination or be an avid paleontologist.  With that in mind, we enjoyed the museum replicas and focused our time on waterfall hikes.

Flat Rock Falls

DSC00098

An easy and short hike took us to Flat Rock Falls.  The rocks are so interesting and the layers are unlike anything else we’ve seen so far.  Flatbed Creek is tumbling over a “resistant layer of sandstone”, says the trail brochure.

Not a huge waterfall, but we found a spot just downstream on the driftwood to sit a spell and take it all in.  We’re trying to do better with that instead of just the hike to – there it is – and then turn around for the immediate hike back.

Kinuseo Falls

This, my friends, is the thing to see if you are ever in this area.  I read about people proclaiming this to be the best sight on their Alaskan adventure (yeah, right), but have to agree it is pretty good.  It rained all night before the drive and of course this is a “where the pavement ends” adventure.  In fact, 48 kilometers of gravel (30ish miles for you non-metric folk) is required to reach Monkman Provincial Park and home of Kinuseo Falls.  So I’m once again doing my laser-like focused drive on the pothole parkway.

DSC00106

This is just the warm-up to the main falls.

DSC00110

Here I am with the real thing, sporting my 4 layers yet again.

 

DSC00109

Kinuseo Falls – upper view point.  The falls measure 197 feet tall, which is just a bit taller than Niagara Falls.  Having been to both, I’d say the surrounding area and volume of water makes Niagara more impressive overall, but this spot is more picturesque.  And the geology is quite unique.

DSC00108

The photo doesn’t do this justice, but get a load of the S-curve in the rock on the cliff above the falls.  Imagine the force required to fold the rock together like that.

View at the very top of the falls, looking downstream, leading up to the falls and then there’s Pat.  I took one shot and joked that he looked like a Star Wars Sith Lord with his black hood and red light-saber-walking-stick.  So he makes it look good for one more photo op.

And Why Baggie Shopping is Hard in Canada

I’ve been promising and now I’ll tell you why.  The metric system, that’s why.  Shopping in general has been interesting with the wide variety of things we do and don’t find.  But who knew baggies would be confounding?  We were in need of 1 quart sized baggies.  You see the problem right?  No quarts or gallons and not even “sandwich” size.  I could at least figure that out.  Even the manufacturer doesn’t convert to metric volume.  Nope, you get 17.7 cm x 18.8 cm or “medium”.  Medium does turn out to be quart, by the way. And gallon is large.

We now turn our attention to kitchen trash bags.  We have a small space as you know and use a small plastic trash can in the kitchen area.  That requires a 3 or 4 gallon bag, depending on what you can find.  Don’t even try to convert that.  We ended up with “roommate” size.  What the heck is roommate size?!  About 4 gallons.

I know I’m way behind, but have Jasper and Banff queued up next so don’t go too far away.  The Canada lovelies continue.  See you on the way!

True North

We’ve been a lot of places this year that could claim “true North” status, but the Northwest Territories of Canada boasts to be the real deal.  When we gave up on the Top of the World highway, the schedule opened up and the 100 miles or so side-trip to get to NWT became possible.  I could say we did it because it was always on the list (not), but really, the big reason was the RV travel map.  Yes, we have the US version and are busily putting the stickers on the states we’ve slept in.  A lot of maps have a Canada portion as well and even the people who claim to have been everywhere NEVER have the Northwest Territories completed.  A challenge I couldn’t resist, and now we have one up on all THOSE people.

Summit Lake

Ah, but there are a few stops to make before we head North.  Several people commented along the way that they thought Muncho Lake was the prettiest place they’d been.

DSC00036

It was lovely with the emerald green water that doesn’t show up in the photo, but we’ve seen tons of pretty lakes by this point.  We were going to camp here, but it was too close to the Hot Springs and just didn’t make sense.  So we (I) set our sights on Summit Lake Provincial Park.  Sounded good from the description and the distance was perfect.

DSC00041

How’s this for a prime spot on Summit Lake with hardly anyone else there!  We got our emerald green water and some very interesting hills to go with it.  Sometimes I get lucky with my random picks.

 

DSC00043DSC00044DSC00042

Views from the ridge trail with Lucy & Bitsy enjoying a little solitude below.  This lake, at 4,250 ft, is the highest point on the Alaska Highway, and has great views of Mount St. Paul among other limestone peaks.  Sadly, this was just an overnight stop since we have miles to make if I’m going to get my NWT sticker.  And if you think we’re adventurous, you should have seen the guy camping next to us who donned a wet suit and got on an inflatable paddle board at first light.  Well, I didn’t see him but Pat did.  I sleep past first light whenever possible!

Best Cinnamon Buns In The Universe

This place claims to have them and it’s on our way to the next stop.  The plan was to stop for lunch, but we got ourselves in gear earlier (perhaps inspired by wet suit guy?) and made it by mid-morning.  Gotta say – the cinnamon buns were delicious!  We were going to get them to go, but they were warm and fresh and well, who could resist.  The owner guy, Ben, also does artisan meats.  What pray tell?  For us, that meant a fresh slab of bacon that Ben sliced up for us on the spot.  That and a fresh loaf of bread and we’re ready for French toast one of these days.  And grilled cheeses – with bacon!

DSC00045

Besides cinnamon buns, they also have gifts and of course fuel at the Tetsa River Lodge.  No sniveling indeed.  That’s $1.59 a liter!  Multiply that roughly by 4 to get the price per gallon.  When you need gas, you need gas.  Fortunately we did not.

The rest of the drive was a bit of a mixed bag.  The Muskawa River Valley was beautiful and we’re appreciating the Canadian side of the Rockies.  We are not, however, appreciating the road construction and extreme dust.  They even have signs telling you about the extreme dust, and they aren’t kidding.  At one point we thought there was a fire ahead, but that smoke was really the dust cloud from the trucks in front of us.

Fort Nelson

This stop was back to full service camping at Triple G Campground.  Not a terribly scenic town, but a nice size with amenities.  And when I say amenities you know I mean fast food.  Well at least that’s what we’ve come down to on this trip.  Turns out A&W makes THE best onion rings.  Just to make sure we had them twice.  We also ate at Subway and ordered Domino’s pizza.  We ate the original onion rings at a city park watching the kids frolic in a fantastic splash area.  Yep, still a bit warm (mid-August).

DSC00048

My favorite flower.  Mom and Dad used to grow these in DeLand and I have pictures of some taller than my mom.  Ok, so not a big stretch since we don’t have tall women in the family.  Anyway, the campground had these growing in planters that looked suspiciously like drain pipes cut in half and supported with cinder blocks.  Great way to have portable planters, and they used them to divide the parking lot.

This was also the spot to get road condition intel from the visitor’s center.  You see, once you leave BC, the roads in NWT are gravel, or at least the ones to Fort Liard – our destination.  I think I need to write a book, “Where the Pavement Ends”, to chronicle all our forays down unsurfaced roads.  Some of the best stuff seems to be at the end of those.  The info we gleaned gave two thumbs up to the paved road up to NWT and then the roughly 11 or so more miles of gravel should be ok for Lucy with Bitsy in tow.  Surely no worse than the road construction stretches, right?

Northwest Territories!

And just like that we’re there on the bank of Hay Lake in Fort Liard, NWT.  Well, not exactly, but the road was as promised and truly better than routes we’ve already driven.

My sign montage to prove we were there.

A few views out our front window.  Of course it didn’t look like this initially.  It rained all day and all night when we first arrived.  But the birds loved it and I spent time with the binoculars watching a pair of trumpeter swans and their 6 cygnets.  Yes, baby swans are called cygnets and I had to google that one.

We spent our 28th anniversary here and made our own steak dinner, followed by some amazing French toast on the big day.  Pat makes a mean breakfast.  The rain stopped and we took advantage of it to hike around Hay Lake.  It was quite mushy, muddy and overgrown.  Good thing there are no snakes here.

A trip to town yielded a small grocery with some souvenirs.  We apparently got the “tourist” discount since all but one item rang up higher than the price stickers.  Pat just went with it contrary to his normal response.  To be fair, he gives back far more than the overcharges he normally points out.  Too much change?  Back it goes.  Forgot to put something on the bill, please add it on.  In this case, it just seemed like the thing to do.  It goes along with my observation of the area.  Northwest Territories promotes tourism, but this primarily First Nations community doesn’t seem to want that.  We definitely felt the outsider vibe here.

DSC00065

This is probably the best representative view of the Ft. Liard area.  Gravel roads and rolling hills.  Most of the traffic was from gas and oil industry workers and likely why we had cell service the entire time.

We took a drive a little farther along the gravel road to see what we could see.  Surprise – the Liard River ice crossing is closed.  Pretty sure I don’t want to be here when it’s open.  Also crossed the Muskeg River.  This one reminds us of the tannin-colored rivers in Florida, and makes sense since muskeg is a swamp or bog by definition.  Also found a few different varieties of interesting mushrooms on our hike, and saw a black bear crossing the road.  And why did the black bear cross the road, you ask?  To get to the community landfill on the other side.

Only spent two nights here and glad we did.  Everyplace has something interesting and Northwest Territories was no exception.

DSC00133

In fact, they win the prize for most creative license plate.  Can’t have a rectangle like every other state, province or country.  Northwest Territories has a plate shaped like a bear.  Awesome!

Now I just need that Canada camping map so I can proudly apply my sticker.

Next up – another side trip where we’ll tell you what chainsaws, dinosaurs and waterfalls have in common.  And the baggie shopping?  I haven’t forgotten.  That’ll be in there, too.  See you on the way!

Bison Baby!

Finally, animals blocking the roadway!  All we saw when we were planning the Alaska trip were pictures of all kinds of wildlife in the road.  Imagine our disappointment when we had to search long and hard for any wildlife sightings in Alaska.  We gave up on that for the most part, but Canada came to our rescue.  The blog post title gives it away, but yes, we saw Bison in the roadway and had to come to a complete stop.  Yippee!

Teslin

We last left you in Switzerland, or at least as close as we get for now.  Our drive involved the jangle button on low, with minor bumps back into Yukon.  I have recently read that they don’t like the use of THE to precede the name.  But anyhow, when we reach the Alcan, the jangle factor goes up to medium and Jackson is back on his feet.  Poor dog just doesn’t get his rest on bumpy travel days.  After bumping along, we decide to stop at a full-service campground for a change, mainly for electricity and AC to combat the temps in the 80s.  Summer finally caught up with us in earnest.

DSC00002DSC00001

Teslin, YT was a good overnight stop, complete with a bridge.  I do have a fascination with them and we only saw this one briefly on the way to AK.  It also gave us some space for walking.

We’re off the next day and it’s my turn to drive.  Been waaaaay too long and Pat deserves a break.  It turns out to be pretty easy and a straight shot back to Watson Lake where we stayed on the way in.  This stop also requires AC since they were setting records with temps over 90 degrees.  93 to be exact and so very dry.

DSC00003

This time, the place had all kinds of decorations for the tourists.  We were just too early on the way in.  Lots of Yukon flags adorned the street lights and there were country flags from all over.  I chose the American/Canadian one for my photo op.  Due to the extreme heat for this neck of the woods, we decided to hole up and stay one more night since temperatures were supposed to finally break.  It gave us a chance to attend Mass, do laundry, binge read (Pat), and make 22 cards (Judy).  Jackson slept.

Bison, bison, bison!

We’re on our way to the hot springs in British Columbia when we finally get our wildlife-in-the-road moment.

These jumbos did block our path, so we had to come to a complete stop.  I could at least take some better pictures.  A few walked by my window and gave us the evil eye.  The mommas and babies are the roadway blockers at this time of the year since the bulls are in the higher country.  There are huge overhead signs to alert drivers since the Bison get hit frequently.  That is surely guaranteed car damage.

DSC00033

And how about this imposing specimen?  Definitely keeping our distance and zooming in for the shot.  We noticed all the trees on the side of the road have their bark missing about midway up from all the bison rubbing.

Liard River Hot Springs

This is quite the popular spot and the campground was definitely hopping.  Fortunately we got there in time to snag a good shady spot, and it cooled down significantly.  I wasn’t really interested in a hot soak at 90+ degrees.  We’re back in the 60s or lower and that is just about right.

DSC00010

Here’s a shot of the hot springs and people happily soaking away.  You take a long boardwalk over the marshy spots to get here.  We managed to soak in the minerals and warm water on two nights and it’s great for sore muscles.  We now understand the whole hot tub phenomenon, and have added that to our list of must-haves for our stationary spot, wherever that turns out to be.

DSC00012

The source of the hot water percolating out of the rocks.  According to the park info, this is the second largest thermal spring complex in Canada and the flow keeps part of the marsh from freezing in the winter.  It’s even home to a rare species found only in this spot in the entire world.  DSC00015

This little guy is one of the reasons we had to stick to the boardwalk to get to the hot springs.

Not endangered, but interesting nonetheless.  White berries, red berries and the one I liked best.  Looked like a little red dangle earring.

And the flowers.  Zoom in on that delicate white one for the full effect.  Also bees buzzing around ragweed-type flowers, and the purple ones that look like flea bane from my yard growing up.  Mom always like the weeds just as much as the “real” flowers and guess I do, too.

What a fun little visitor’s center!  Genius really.  They can move it around wherever they want and it’s filled with trail maps and brochures all about the surrounding area.

DSC00009

This spot is home to quite a few orchid species due to the warm springs.  We couldn’t go to the hanging gardens to see them though, due to a “problem bear”.  They had signs at the entrance noting the experiment the park is conducting with “noise aversion”.  This consists of the ranger shooting these loud firework-type rounds from a pistol.  A rare sight – a Canadian with a gun on his belt.  On the second evening the bear actually came around.  They shot these rounds several times.  We think the bear is now getting used to the sound since it didn’t seem to frighten him away.  When the ranger with the real rifle showed up, we called an end to our soak.  No way I wanted to see any of that action.

Mineral Salt Lick

One side trip at the springs consisted of another drive with Bitsy down a gravel road.  We’re in search of the mineral salt lick we read about and the mountain goats and sheep that frequent it.

DSC00035

No goats at the lick, but we did see this one on the road.

DSC00023

A few wrong turns led us down a gravel road to this view of the Trout River.  We consult our map and try again.

After a short hike, we are rewarded with the Trout River valley and the cliffs.  Stark white and a site where stone sheep, caribou, a mountain goats frequently visit to get their mineral fix.  They need calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulphur, and sodium for their hoofs, teeth and fur.  These cliffs have it all.

DSC00030

The hike back from the salt lick.

20170034

I am happy to report that the hot springs requires bathing suits and other than that is not overrun with rules.  Of course there is this sign.  Bad combination – dogs and alcohol!  We left both in the motorhome.

Vocabulary Lession

A few things of note when in Canada.  No trash cans, but plenty of litter bins.  We’ve picked right up on that and are happy to use the bins when we find them, which is everywhere.  These are usually bear-proof and we’ve managed to master no less than five different versions of latches.  Some are pretty tricky though and keep out more than the bears.

And don’t be looking for mile markers.  You’re in metric country and those would be distance markers.  I use my knowledge of track & field and distance running races to convert in my head.  5k?  That’d be 3.1 miles.  10k? 6.2 miles.  This is like another language for me and I find myself doing an elaborate mathematical exercise.  We only have 120 kilometers to go?  Well that’d be twelve 10k races.  Not sure that is easier, but it’s what I do.  And 400 meters?  Once around the track to that next turn.

Finally you have to get over having America in the name, because we’re not in America.  North America, yes, but not the US of A.  Thus Canada does not have Native Americans.  Their indigenous population is call First Nations.  We’re getting the hang of it slowly but surely.

Next up – Why buying baggies in Canada is hard, AND our trip to the True North.