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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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!