Sunday, June 22, 2008

Alaskan Idyll, Day 4 - Watson Lake, BC

Today dawned cloudy and rainy. Keith regretted that he was too tired to go out and take pictures of the lake last night while the sun was shining, so the following “mood” shot will have to serve.

Muncho Lake, in a Pensive Mood
Today’s drive was not so spectacular, but was still every bit as scenic as yesterday’s ride through the Rockies. North of Muncho Lake the landscape turns to heavily forested rolling hills. At milepost 476.7 the road crosses the Liard River on the highway’s only remaining suspension bridge, made partially of components salvaged from Galloping Gertie. For those who may not know about it, Galloping Gertie was a suspension bridge over the Tacoma Narrows, which collapsed in a high wind shortly after it opened in 1940. One car was on the bridge when it fell. The driver narrowly escaped by running to the end as the bridge went down. His dog and his car were lost in the disaster, which was filmed by an amateur movie photographer.

Liard River Bridge; Legate of Galloping Gertie

Up the road just a piece, at milepost 477, is Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park. Boardwalks lead to the steaming pools, and changing houses are provided for those who wish to bathe in the warm water. Bears have been a problem here in the past, but we have heard of no recent attacks. Being as it rained most of the day, we did not stop at the springs this trip.

There was significantly less construction and frost damage along this stretch of road, as compared to yesterday’s drive through the mountains. A significant stretch seemed almost brand new, with wide shoulders and moderate grades and curves. As we rode along this improved road we spotted Bison at several locations. It is good to know that this tasty species has not gone entirely extinct.

Bison Bison
At large turnout with picnic facilities is located at Mile 550.9. A cairn near the picnic area is dedicated to Surveyors of the Alaska Highway. A short walk from the cairn is a beautiful view of the Liard River.

Liard River Overlook

At mile 567.9 is Historic Milepost 588 on Contact Creek (see yesterday’s post for discussion of the difference between current highway miles and historic miles). The creek is the site where soldiers working southeast from Whitehorse met troops working northwest from Fort Nelson in September 1942, completing the southern section of the Alcan.

Contact Creek Plaque

Past Contact Creek the highway winds west along the BC-Yukon Border, recrossing the borderline 6 times before reaching g the “official” border post at historic milepost 627.

Welcome to the Yukon!

A unique and interesting “signpost forest” is located in the town of Watson Lake YT. The story goes that in 1942 a lonely soldier erected a sign pointing to his hometown in the lower 48. Other soldiers added their signs, and the “forest” grew from there. Tourists are still adding to the forest, which currently numbers over 60,000 signs. Our Wagonmaster added a sign from our current caravan; Keith was pleased to locate the sign which our group erected in 2005.

Watson Lake Signpost Forest
Memento From 2005 WIT Alaska II Caravan

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