Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 16: Muncho Lake, BC to Rancheria, YT

Today was our day to enter the Yukon; several times, actually, because of the way the highway meanders up and down as it heads generally west.

We started with a stop at the Liard Hotsprings. How hot could it really be, I wondered? Since the weather has been cool (it's 11 degrees Celsius in Dawson as I write this), it was hard to imagine actually putting on our bathing suits, but we did it. As I found out, the springs are HOT! I never did manage to get up to the hottest part, where the hot water comes into the pool. Plants grow there that don't grow anywhere else in the Yukon, because the springs keep the air temperate a couple of degrees higher than natural. There are also wacky rock formations called "tufa", where minerals dissolved in the waters solidify when the water bubbles up out of the ground. It was pretty neat, and I was glad we'd stopped, even though it was early in the day and I wanted to get driving.

Our only big town of the day was Watson Lake, just over the border into the Yukon Territory. It's the home of the Signpost Forest; a homesick soldier put up a signpost there once in the 40's giving the mileage to his hometown, and travellers have followed suit ever since. There are apparently more than 60,000 of them now. It's fun to wander around them and spot signs from places we know or have been.

Watson Lake is also home of the Northern Lights Interpretive Centre, which I really wanted to go to; neither Mike nor Will have ever seen the Northern Lights in person, and we're not likely to on this trip with so many hours of daylight. It's a full planetarium, and after a short content-light film on the planets, there was a decent-length presentation on the Northern Lights. It had a little bit of science explaining what causes them, but was mostly video footage of the lights. It's not the same as the real thing, of course, but I think it gave them a bit of a flavour of it. It's one thing I miss about Thunder Bay in the wintertime.

After that it was on to the Rancheria Lodge for the night. I'd been saying ran-CHE-ria, but the locals say ran-che-REE-ah. (It's supposed to be Spanish in origin - can anyone knowledgeable perhaps comment on whether that's how it would properly be pronounced?) We had the campground completely to ourselves, which was not good; we were the only target for the mosquitoes, which found us and drove us crazy. We stayed in the bus with the doors shut, but when Will and I came back from the bathroom, there were hundreds of them sitting on the sides of the bus, just waiting to get in. It took all night to kill them all, and it made us a bit fearful of how many mosquitoes might be lurking ahead in the Yukon (I know you warned us, Autumn!)

Total so far: 5818km.

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