Day 7 (305 km traveled) - Today we traveled back over the rocky mountains heading West and then North from Fort Nelson to Liard River Hotsprings. The landscape is once again changing quite dramatically as we are leaving the foothills which are lush and green with thick dense forests of mainly deciduous trees (from what I can tell from the highway at least). As we enter the rocky mountain range the road quality is also getting much worse. The road is not constructed like modern highways with their carefully banked corners and gentle slopes. Instead it is more reminiscent of the roadways of earlier eras which follow the landscape with little human interference other than moving of major obstacles. This section of the Rockies is barren and looks like a glacier has only just receded (although I cannot see any from the road).
After a long climb we reach Summit Lake campground in Stone Mountain Provincial park. Unfortunately it is not in our plan to stop here mainly because we did not know about it. It is perched on the top of the mountain pass and nestled in between the rocky peaks. (We have added it to our mental list of places that we would like to re-visit at some point in the future.) After that is Muncho Lake Provincial Park. It is another gem. A long emerald colored lake that looks impossibly cold among the stark gray mountains and scree slopes. (Also added to list.)
This area of British Columbia seems so empty and makes you realize how much of our province in uninhabited and untouched. (Dave's theory is that you could fit any number of european countries in this "empty" space.) Gas prices are also noticeably higher on this leg of the journey. We stopped at the Tetsa River Services to buy some cinnamon buns (advertised in the milepost as the best in the galactic cluster) and the gas price was $1.58/L. Luckily we are still fine for gas and know that there is another station within our gas tank range so we press on. We filled up with gas at a little place called Toad River (between Stone Mountain and Muncho Lake) and gas was $1.38/L. Dave was talking to a fellow coming the other direction who warned us that gas at the service station nearest to Muncho Lake was a whopping $1.80/L. Glad we didn't have to stop there!!
The highway descends a long way into the Liard river valley and we are now out of the Rockies and into the lush green forests which are much more common in the rest of BC. We arrive at Liard River Hotsprings and quickly set up camp so that we can have time for a soak in the springs before dinner. The hotsprings are a 700m walk along a board walk that winds through a tropical marsh. We are above 59 degrees north which is farther North than any of us had been before and the last thing that we would expect to see is large bushy ferns and other more tropical plants! However due to the warming created by the natural hotsprings the plants nearest to the hotsprings are very tropical with large, broad leaves. There are two areas at the pool called alpha pool (the closest to the campground) the lower area is cool enough to take the kids into. After a full week of travel so far this is a welcome respite. Our 20 month old son "O" is particularly excited to be at floating and splashing in the bathwarm water.
The area is also bear territory and the beta pool and the hanging gardens areas are closed due to bear activity. We are familiar with living in bear country and are careful not to leave any food out that might attract them to our campsite.
We enjoy it so much that we make plans to get moving early the next day so we can start our day of travel with a dip in the revitalizing springs. The only downsides are that there are no showers there (and we do not travel with enough water in the trailer for the luxury of showering) and the tropical environment is also much loved by the the pesty mosquitoes.
The smoke from the forest fire near the Alaska hwy and Hwy 37 junction (just inside BC) is starting to be really noticeable now as we are getting a lot closer to the area. In talking to other people at the hotspring we hear that the road has been closed an that people are having long waits to get up through the fire area (following a pilot car).