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(>Pictures at the bottom!)
Canada really welcomed us with all its freshness and, just as we left the country a few weeks ago, we returned: We had to wipe the snow off the windshield the very first morning.
Nevertheless we dared to drive through the Livingstone Mountains towards the Kananaskis Mountains and further north. Finally we have to cover 2’500 kilometres in about 10 days, so that we arrive punctually on June 2nd in Whitehorse.
The clouds were already low on our descent and a few snowflakes were already dancing on the many meadows, where the cows had to look for their food under a white layer.
The drive through the vast forests was a slippery affair and the softened path once again smeared our car. Due to the winter closure of the Highwood Pass (Kananaskis Mountains) we soon had to turn east and found ourselves in the hustle and bustle of Calgary. Three years ago I was already there once and felt the center as very pleasant; I wanted to show Chantal this absolutely. But the drive through the street canyons was anything but exciting and the constant rain provided special moments. Next time we choose a wide bypass and will love to avoid the chaos.
As soon as we were outside the center, the spit disappeared from the ground. We were already standing in the middle of the farm area again.
Just like the hustle and bustle of the big city, the bad and humid weather had disappeared and pleasant conditions accompanied us on our way to the northwest; hurrah, finally beautiful and warm.
On the Cowboy-Highway we drove further north. The seen landscape as well as the name of our road may tell a lot about a long time ago, where the stagecoaches were still dusting in northern direction and many cowboys were doing their work in the wide open spaces. Today there are probably more oil workers in Alberta than cowboys; the oil business is omnipresent and probably runs like clockwork. Everywhere the black gold is pumped out of the ground, gas is tapped or coal is mined on a large scale. Where there are no natural resources, forest exploitation is the top priority. The forests are harvested like fields with huge machines and oversized trucks drive the tree trunks to the next wood processing factory, which satisfies the worldwide hunger for cellulose and other wood products. The cut forest pieces we felt again and again like gigantic wounds, which one cut into the earth and the again planted young forest is rather a monoculture than a mixed forest. We are not forest specialists, but such monocultures are probably very inviting for any parasite infestation and Canada is at war with all the unpleasant beetles.
After countless hills, where we spotted the first elevations of the Rocky Mountains, and endless forest crossings we reached Grande Prairie, which more than lives up to its name: Endless fields up to the horizon, where the fields are cultivated with heavy equipment.
Once again we didn’t choose the most direct way to get north on the Alaska Highway, but a big loop through the Foothill Mountains, which are already located in British Columbia (BC). At an inconspicuous place called Kelly Lake we left Alberta and it was like a cut on our trip; before still wide fields, now extensive forests, where forestry takes the dominant position.
In BC we fight with different means against possible parasites: Different posters draw attention to this fact, as well as their effects. At the same time, there are posters of a certain wave of protests that draw attention to the widespread use of chemicals.
What is right or wrong, we globetrotters can hardly decide. The possible means sprayed from the airplanes and the protective measures required made us pause for thought; up to two weeks there are restrictions on the feeding of farm animals.
Kilometer after kilometer we roamed these endless forest areas. Again and again we enjoyed the views of the snow covered Rocky’s. Various wild animals near the roads provided further variety. A passing moss – something like a moose, but a bit bigger than the European species – only amazed us, there was not enough time for the camera. But we could sneak up on the black bears by car and watch them grazing peacefully.
From Willston Lake, a giant reservoir that stretches over several valleys, there is a lot of drilling for oil or gas in addition to forestry. When the bark beetle eats away at the wood, we assume that the next source of income is already gushing out of the earth’s interior.
Until Fort St. John we followed the Peace River, where, according to the many protest posters, dams are also planned for further energy use. On the one hand it is a wonderful landscape, which one would like to flood here, on the other hand everyone demands a certain energy security – a dilemma!
From Fort St. John we followed the Alaska Highway like all northbound travellers. Up to Fort Nelson it was only obligatory, a lot of traffic and relatively monotonous. But, as soon as it was possible, we tried to follow the old highway.
Often we found the right way right away and enjoyed the atmosphere on the “Urstasse”, which was built during the Second World War in record time as a connecting road to Alaska. Often we were standing in front of trees, although the way was still marked on our Garmin map. Or, we had to drive over some embankment down to the new tarred road at the sudden end of the way.
From Fort Nelson it was finally over with the boring landscape. We went into the mountains and behind every bend we discovered something new; wide and untouched mountain landscapes, where only our road meandered through. Beside the unique landscape we discovered again and again wild animals in direct road proximity. Whether black bears, Bighorn sheep, or even bisons – everything was there, as if we were driving through the zoo.
Almost unnoticed we crossed the border to the Yukon Territory. Not often do overseas tourists cross this border – it was the first time the customs officer saw a Swiss number! The first place in Yukon, Watson Lake, almost all Alaska tourists with their vans, campers and caravans meet inevitably at the gas station or in the shop. The last bigger place was already several hundred kilometres behind for us and the necessary reserves had to be increased and the tank filled.
We were very good in our route plan and so we informed ourselves immediately in the tourist center about possible alternatives of the onward journey to Whitehorse. From the asphalt band, where all the tourists move northwards, we wanted to get away a little and get to know the loneliness of Yukon.
We received an appropriate tip, and already we turned north off the Alaska Highway. We followed the Robert Campbell Highway through wide forests, countless rivers and lakes, saw the first Caribous and a Grizzly mother with her two young animals.
At Frances Lake we just wanted to have lunch. But the landscape was so overwhelmed that we decided to spend the night there. An almost uncanny silence accompanied us through the night. Besides the howling of wolves at night there was really nothing, even the wind calmed down and the lake was as smooth as glass.
We were already over 300 kilometers on this gravel road on the way, did not cross yet 5 cars, when our jeep in the gradients no more wanted, as we wanted this. Somewhere air blew through the engine room!
We could locate the damage soon. For the repair we were in this lonely landscape on ourselves put. A possible workshop, which might have solved our problem, is probably in Whitehorse.
So we tortured our mobile home further over the gravel road and only on the Canol Road followed the end of our journey. On every gradient the turbo blew the air outside instead of into the engine, and our jeep struggled to get up.
At the shore of the Lapie River we found a suitable place for the repair and the following night. After approximately 2 hours of common work the leaky air hose was tight again. Fortunately we discovered another massive mistake from the last service in the USA: a wrong air filter was installed, which simply did not fulfil its effect! After a lot of handicraft work and a shortening of my insulating mat, the air filter should also do what it should: To remove dirt and dust from the intake air. Hopefully it will work!
The Lapie River lulled us to sleep and the noise of the river drowned out any wolf howls.
The continuation over the Canol-Road, also a relic from the Second World War, was again an advance into a still deserted area and only three cars met us on these 250 kilometers. But it was also a plunge into a great mountain landscape. Sometimes the way followed some river, then steeply up to a crossing or over a steep mountain flank deeper and deeper into the wide valley.
And for our peace of mind; the repair work withstood the stresses and strains and everything worked fine. 🙂
Shortly before Whitehorse we turned south again and followed the Klondike Highway to British Columbia and up to the White-Pass. Today a comfortable road leads through this mountainous landscape. During the gold rush the Klondike-Way over the White-Pass was anything but a pleasure. Where today thousands of tourists – including us – take their cameras out for any kind of shot, about 120 years ago people shamefaced themselves over this pass, hoping to find the great wealth somewhere in Dawson City.
On the way back from the White-Pass we discovered a black bear in the immediate vicinity of the roadside, which did not waver when we passed by. In a certain distance we stopped and noticed that this bear distorted itself amicably a sandwich! As soon as he had eaten this human delicacy, he approached our car at a furious pace, according to the motto: “Please more, it tasted excellent”. Meanwhile several cars were standing at the scene of the action and the bear “turned on” another car before he went out into the distance.
We don’t know who threw this sandwich at the roadside, or even at the bear’s feet. But one thing we know for sure; a fed bear is a dead bear here in Canada!
Via the Klondike-Highway we reached Carcross, where we make every effort to get as much out of the tourist stream as possible. 120 years ago the gold diggers were shamelessly exploited in this place, today it is a little tamer. The place is very inviting and it was a lot of fun to stroll through the old department stores, where you can find new goods and a lot of stuff from the past.
On the same day we reached Whitehorse, where we expect our visit from Switzerland in a few days.
Then the four of us head north into the wide world. We are very happy. 🙂
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