Scenic route to Alaska: Day 3, Liard Hot Springs to Haines Junction
Okay, I can't believe it's only Day 3 right now. It seriously feels like we've been gone a week. Guess that's the sign of an eventful trip?
After breakfast, we hit the road with the intention of getting to Haines Junction, YT for the night. At this exact moment, I'm not positive on the mileage...but it’s a lot. Probably 9-10 hours away. We have to be strategic about where and for how long we stop. We need to be in Fairbanks for Friday.
Within about 15 minutes, we spotted our first bison. A mother and calf walking together not unlike they would in Elk Island...but no fences here. It was something.
We pull into the Liard River Hot Springs. This was a real gem of a stop. For $5 you can take a dip in the mineral waters ranging in temperature from 36-52 degrees Celsius. It's a product of the Alaska Highway; the original boardwalk accessing the Hot Springs was constructed in 1942 by the U.S. Military. Must've been like heaven after forging a road for 750 km. And indeed it's an oasis for weary travellers today. But only the most heat tolerant can wade to the springs' mouth, where the temperatures feel near boiling.
We pull into the gravel parking lot and immediately a man comes up to me (the passenger) and says, "Don't you know parking lot etiquette?” 'What?' I replied, perplexed, analyzing Dave's park job, which was surprisingly good. "You just drove in here and created a big dust cloud." I stared at him, confused at this odd welcome to the campground, and uttered, "Oh did we?" He said “Yes” and walked away.
"Good morning to you too!" I called. This man was the only unpleasant person we've encountered thus far.
Carrying a GoPro, camera, tripod (Dave carried those), and swim trunks, we made our way down the boardwalk surrounded by marsh towards the lush Hot Springs. There were about a dozen people here. It was definitely nice to see it not flooded with tourists, as I've seen as so many other mineral pools (is this starting to sound like a Trip Advisor review? I've been in the car awhile…). Here we met a few people from Calgary, Saskatchewan, and North Carolina. Most people are definitely confused to see a 'camera crew' in the pool but are pretty cool about it once we explain what we're up to. Larry from North Carolina gave us what was probably our best sound bite: "Man, I'd love to take a dip in here during the dead of winter." Amen. Though it occurred to me Larry may have no idea just how cold it gets here and getting out of the water is a different story.
We continue up the Alcan Highway and see another bison crossing the highway. We park to watch and he gets within about 10 feet of my passenger window. A little further up, 2-3 vehicles are pulled over to snap pictures of an entire herd, probably 40 of them. Very cool.
After that we entered Yukon and of course, Watson Lake. The Sign Post Forest is the main attraction. People come from all around to post a licence plate or a homemade wooden sign here. Albertans have clearly left their marks. Even saw a giant West Edmonton Mall one. The place started with one sign, placed by an injured U.S. soldier Carl Lindley in 1942. He was from Danville, Illinois (sweet name for a town) and posted the mileage to his hometown (2835 miles). Since, the place has grown to house more than 85,000 signs. Lindley came back to visit with his wife in 1992 and made a replica of his original wooden sign (which had long since deteriorated). The sign sits framed in the Forrest's info centre.
That about covers our trip to this point. We're currently trying to make it Haines Junction, about an hour and half past Whitehorse. Oh, and if you're a person who needs a cell phone/internet connection at all times: Never drive this road.