We managed to wake up around 6:50 and were on the road just before 8. Not bad for our tear down and packing! We were very lucky that we had no rain overnight, so our worries about packing up a soaking wet tent were abated.
As we drove north through the park (we were only 30km from the Jasper Park border) the skies were overcast, but it seemed the rain had washed some of the ash out of the air and allowed us to see some mountains on our journey north.
We were soon at the north end of the park and on into Jasper to fill up the car. Back on the road again, the skies seemed to be clearing for our drive.
As we drove along we saw a number of caribou as well as a black bear patiently waiting to cross the highway! Couldn’t get my camera up in time unfortunately. But a reminder just how close these animals are in this area.
We made a quick pit stop at Grand Cache and went into the visitor centre. So friendly and helpful! We have a number of incredible trails to explore should we wish to do so on our return. But today, we forged on through this incredibly beautiful part of Alberta on to Grand Prairie. Here the topography once again was much flatter and much like it’s neighbour to the east!
As we drove on through Taylor BC, we could see that the sky was continuing to clear and promised a lovely evening for us in Fort St John.
We soon arrived at the “fort” and found our hotel. The Northern Grand Hotel was going to be our home for the next couple of nights while we got an oil change and had a loose heat shield beside the muffler removed.
Our first order of business was to take long hots showers and bring ourselves back to a state where we felt comfortable bending in public. Once cleaned up, we decided to hit one of the “fort’s” top rated restaurants, an Indian place called the Spice Hut. While the place was a small hole in the wall spot, it served the best homemade Indian food that we have had in years, complete with handmade Naan and Roti made in their own Tandoori Oven! Who knew one could get this here!
We did some orientation on our way back to the hotel then settled in for a relaxing evening, enjoying our king sized bed and crisp clean sheets.
Day 16 Fort St John
After a leisurely wake up, I made us both a morning coffee in the room and then went back to my blog before we headed down to breakfast. We had the luxury of a full breakfast buffet included in our stay!
Our next chores were to divide and conquer. Dan needed to find a place to get our car tended to ( an oil change as well as see to our loose heat shield) and I had the great pleasure of doing the laundry from a week on the road! When I went down to the front desk to inquire about laundromats in town, I was told they had a guest laundry facility on the second floor. What a great set up! Cable tv, new machines, a desk for me to work at my blog with strong wifi…who could ask for anything more? (Other then to have someone else do my laundry !!!)
Dan got back just as the last load was finishing up drying. He managed to get an oil change and found a mechanic that removed the heat shield (confirmed it was safe to drive…I also called my mechanic back home and confirmed the same) and the car is ready to go for another 8,000 km before the next servicing.
Once we got the the laundry upstairs to our room and repacked we headed out for lunch. A walk was in order so we opted to head to a local sushi place and were amazed at the quality!
Over lunch we talked about our plans heading north from here. 5 weeks ago, it was possible to travel to the NWT if we spent 2 weeks in the Yukon first and were double vaccinated. Now, however, they have changed the ruling and no leisure travel with the exception of people heading out with private outfitters is allowed. It looks like we will make it about 4/5ths of the way up the Dempster, but not to Inuvik and onto Tuk. Well we knew we would have to improvise and this gives us more time for hiking in the Yukon. We may even travel the Alaska highway towards Alaska if we have time with the RV as well. The Manderson’s will take picture next year of the Pingos on the Arctic Ocean.
After lunch we walked to a store named “Backcountry“. Not only did they have everything for the northern backcountry, their staff and advisors were exceptional. We were on the hunt for another bear spray canister, and just general advice about hiking in bear country with just the two of us. We happened upon the owner of the store ( unbeknownst to us) and he engaged in about a half hour or more conversation about what was best to take ( bear spray 10 out of 10), how to use it ( he gave us 2 expired cans to practise with) and what to look out for etc. He also recommended a small air horn (easier to use than a loud kazoo like instrument that we saw some hikers with, and less dangerous than bear bangers which could start a fire if not used properly). Feeling better prepared we left with our new equipment in hand and lots of practical knowledge.
Dan and I walked to lunch and then on to the Backcountry store and back. About 4 km or so from the hotel. What we concluded was that Fort St John is not set up as a walking city. Everything is a fair distance apart; there is no real walkable downtown core; and the wind howls like the dickens! Clearly if on a cool August day ( around 20C) and we found it windy, I can just imagine a what it would be like walking around here when its windy and -40C or worse! No wonder everyone seems to drive everywhere here!
We did managed to do a couple of touristy things like pose in front of their I heart FSJ sign, and saw the Prairie Museum.
Once back at the room we started to talk about our trip planning and next steps. It will be hard to leave the comforts of this lovely place!
Since we don’t have to get to the Yukon for the 14 day period before crossing into the NWT, we are going to target Muncho Lake Provincial Park for the next couple of nights. This is a campground very close to the Yukon border and happens to be close to the Liard Hot Springs which a number of people commented on when they heard we were heading north along the Alaska Highway. We’re looking forward to this next adventure before we head up to Whitehorse.
Our afternoon was spent researching our options ( well, dan read and I researched). It will be about a 6-6.5 hour drive to Muncho Lake Campground where the sites are on a first come first serve basis. We’re hoping that an early week check in will get us a nice site… but we’ll see. They do say that the best place in BC to see the Northern Lights is from Muncho Lake…but we are still in summer when it’s a little less likely to see them. Besides, we’d probably have to get up at 2:30-3:30 am to catch them!
After some small provisioning for the next couple of days camping we headed back to the hotel for a delicious dinner! Tonight I had Cod and Shrimp in a red Thai curry sauce…yummy!
By the time we got back to our room, the sun was setting and telling us it was time to ready for our next adventure.
Until next time, we wish you all to stay safe! We’ll be connected once again in 3 days in Whitehorse. See you then!
When your Blog arrives, breakfast sees me pouring over my Atlas trying to find your location and route of this fabulous adventure. I have a Camino brother living in Grand Forks BC, but Canada is of course a huge country and it must be a small place miles away from FSJ as I couldn’t find it! I only hope I shall be able to follow your journey on my Atlas after Whitehorse. It’s sad that you won’t get to Inuvik because of the pandemic, but you will be in real bear territory, so stay safe. Buen Camino.
One of my former staff lives in Fort St. John with her family and she wants us to visit when we get there. Looks like a nice Hotel room. So sorry that you will not be able to make the top end of the Dempster but assuming we will next year I am sure I will have lots of photos to share of the Pingos and other shots too. You will have to teach us about the bear spray as I have never used one before. Do take care!
Will do! I’m sure we’ll be able to lend you our spray as well… not cheap!
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I remember at least two Canadians once teasing me about my bear spray and telling a proper joke. Now I know that I made a 10 out of 10 decision!