Watson Lake, YT- 4,993 km/ 3103 mi
I was up around 8:30 this morning, which gave me a solid 5 hours of sleep, about the amount I’ve been averaging each night this trip. A lazy morning in the hotel was much welcome. We took the time to wolf down some free breakfast and Shannon and Hannes took advantage of the waterslide that the hotel offered. By that time I was already showered, and knowing that my days of cleanliness were numbered, the chlorinated pool held little appeal for me, waterslide or no.
We hit the road around 11 am- an incredibly late start for us but necessary after last night’s debacle. Our drive today took us through the northern corner of British Columbia and was by far the most beautiful day of driving we’ve had so far. Route 97 took us through the very tip of Stone Mt. Park, along Toad River and then through Muncho Lake Park and along the eastern edge of Muncho Lake. The road crawled up through the mountains and then wound its way sinuously through the river valley. We saw three moose along Toad River and at least two-dozen bison past Muncho Lake.
Along the way we stopped at Liard Hot Springs. From the pull-off by the road it’s about a 700 m walk along a snow-covered board walk to the springs. The bathhouses, if they can be called such, are wreathed in steam from a hundred paces back. It is a brutal 2 minutes in the wooden changing rooms stripping out of your clothes and then hurriedly walking across the ice covered floors without slipping and falling flat on your face. But as soon as you step into the hot springs every moment of agony is worth it ten times over. The natural spring runs through an aspen and spruce forest and in the late afternoon the sun filters through the tree boughs just enough to catch the rising steam, giving the surrounding air and ethereal glow. Floating there feels other-worldly and I am already convinced that there is no way in hell I am going to be able to get out and force myself to change while soaking wet in -15 degree weather. Slowly the tension and cramped muscles from 5 days of driving slowly drain away. We watch the steam swirl and eddy with each gust of wind, the sunlight dancing off the twisting patterns. Our hair has turned into crowns of icicles as the droplets of steam condense and freeze on the strands of black, brown, and red. An hour slips by unnoticed, then two. It is time to hit the road again and if I thought getting in was difficult, it is nothing compared to getting out. Your feet threaten to freeze to the ice covered floors so you cannot stand in any one place for too long. You must also be careful not to touch anything metal, which of course includes both hands rails and door handles. I have not brought a towel with me (finding it in our over-stuffed car would be next to impossible) so I have to content myself with a quick pat dry using my scarf. However the worst part is neither being cold nor wet but putting on my cold clothes that have been sitting in -15 degree weather while I soaked in the springs. The jeans- stiff and unyielding are the worst. All the other layers quickly absorb the heat my body is radiating. The warmth does not last long, however, and on the walk back to the car I have the queer sensation that my face is at once flushed and freezing. However, by the time we reach the vehicle I am sure it is frozen as the right side of my face is no longer forming words properly as I try to maintain a conversation with Shannon. The combination of heat and cold has utterly worn me out and I am dozing in the back seat before we have gone 2 km down the road.