As lovely as it was staying in Fort St John, it was time to head once again north. Just before reaching FSJ, we passed through Dawson Creek which is the start of the Alaskan Highway. We would be following this through Fort Nelson on on to Muncho Lake Provincial Park in Northern BC today.
Our drive started with rolling hills as we headed northwest. Soon we spotted mountains in the far distance. The prairies gave way to Boreal Forest and along the roadside we could see evidence of fires both in the recent and distant past. Certainly a constant reminder of how fragile life was here.
As we drove along we also were introduced to some interesting wildlife that frequented the roadside. First we saw a caribou out on his own, and then later we saw a few long horned sheep by the side of the road. We were ever watchful for wildlife not only for interests sake, but for what they could do to our car should we hit something that large!
The scenery was breathtaking along the way. We took a brief lunch break in Fort Nelson and then back on the road towards Muncho Lake. Today’s drive would take us around 6-7 hours.
When we got to Muncho Lake, we knew there were 2 campgrounds there. The Southern most one called Strawberry Flats and the Northern one called MacDonald. We wanted to camp at McDonald, so we punched through as the sites were first come first serve. When we got to MacDonald, we discovered the campground was full by 4 pm (sad face) although we did do a drive through to confirm. We then headed back south to Strawberry Flats ( about 10 km) and scouted for a good site. There were not many to choose from and we took one that was not lakeside ( about 3 out of 15 here did not have lake access. Oh well, we set up and marvelled at the beauty of the lake!
After a nice dinner of crab cakes and salad, we tucked into the vestibule of our tent to enjoy some bug free scotch and a good read. It had been a long day and we both were ready for bed. We only hoped that the highway ( just tucked behind the campground) would not create too much noise during the night. Tomorrow would be a day of hiking and exploring things around this beautiful lake! Until then!
I woke up at about 5:30 am not having heard a peep from the highway! Having gone to bed at 9:30, I was feeling very refreshed, but just as happy to read in bed a while before Dan was ready to rise.
When I got up, I noticed that a couple of spots across the way were empty (lakeside) and so approached Dan about moving our site across the campground road to a lakeside piece of real estate! It was pretty easy, as we just put what few small things that weren’t in the car already and drive it across the road. Our bed was carried over, and finally we pulled the groundsheet out from under our tent and walked it across the road without taking it down! That certainly would have been a sight to see!!! When the park attendant came by we talked to her about hiking guides and she had some great recommendations. She also told us that there was a lone Bison that had been through the park with it’s herd a little further north. We were to keep a lookout for them as we travelled.
With our new site set up we determined that our efforts were certainly worth it! Our views were amazing…almost didn’t want to leave to explore some hiking as well as the Liard River Hot Springs, but we also knew that it would be waiting for us at the end of our exploring! We started out with a hearty breakfast, and with lunches made we set off!
Our first stop was to the mineral licks viewpoint. A short hike took us to a lookout over the Trout River ( which ran out of the north end of Muncho Lake). These incredible hills were made of “Mineral Flour” a finely crushed stone that had been deposited during the glacial retreat. Because of its soft nature, the river eroded the silt until a valley was formed with these beautiful mineral hillsides guarding the river.
Our next hike was north of the Liard River Hot Springs at a place called Teeter Creek. Another short hike up along side Teeter Creek through lush woods until we came to a waterfall. Here, we saw a couple of families gathered to do some Greling fishing. They were just starting out and we wished them luck in their adventures and turned back along the trail heading to the car. We were no more than 200 m from them when we heard a whoop! Indeed someone had their first catch! I think it was going to be a fresh fish lunch for them if this kept up!
We paused along the way to take some photos, but I must say the mosquitos were bad, and we didn’t stop very long! We did see a campsite in the woods there, but we both agreed, this wouldn’t have been the place for us!
Back on the highway, we headed south towards Liard River Hot Springs. This is a Provincial Park and offers camping as well as the day use for the hot springs. This is also the only park we have entered that has an electric fence surrounding the camping area. Apparently in the past there was quite a bear problem here…Not anymore!
We got our pass, headed into the day use parking and had our lunch at one of the picnic tables there. Then we grabbed our swimsuits and towels and headed to the hot springs. Our walk took us along a long boardwalk through a marshy area often frequented by moose. After about 400-500 m we reached the hot springs. There was a fabulous set up for change areas as well as cubbies for our clothing.
Dan and I entered the hot springs and while there. Were a few people there, there was no where near the crowds that we would have encountered at Banff. The spring was set up so that the first pool. Which was connected to the small tufa mound that was the source of the hot water. There was then a pool downstream separated by a man made waterfall, and a winding creek downstream from there. As you moved from the source, the water became somewhat cooler, so you could pick your temperature so to speak.
One of the challenges is to see if you can take a small stone from the bottom and lay it on the side of the tufa mound. The water coming from the tufa mound itself was just shy of boiling, so so technique was involved to accomplish this. Of course I had to try it! Suffice it to say, I got my stone balanced nicely on the edge!
We luxuriated in the pool for about 30-45 minutes, soaking up the warmth and healing powers of this mineral rich bath. But our lake view campsite called to us, and we were off back down the highway to our home for the night. Along the way home we saw three more long horned sheep! Unfortunately no lonely Bison!
The shore called to us so we gathered our chairs and soaked up the sun with our cocktail in hand. Life is pretty good I must say! Dan built and amazing fire for us (indeed there was no fire ban in the Peace River Region )and so we were able to grilled some smoked sausages for our supper. Later we brought our chairs close to the fire and enjoyed a wee dram a we watched the embers die down. A perfect end to a perfect day! Tomorrow we would have to leave this paradise and drive north to Whitehorse; about an 8 hour drive all in all. With the fire out, and our glasses empty, it was time to get a good night’s sleep. Until tomorrow stay safe.