Down, Flannel and a Shovel

As we started out from Dawson Creek, the sky varied between cloudy and sunny, but sun won out until about 101 miles up the Alcan at a place called Won O Won.  The flurries began to blow sideways until some rested, melted and made the pavement wet.  I began the day’s drive and when we arrived at the top of Pink Mountain, my husband requested to stop at Sasquatch Crossing.  He wanted lunch.

At Sasquatch Crossing, the blowing snow pelted us as we trudged through muddy puddles into the restaurant.  A few conversations with the folks there revealed that it continued to snow for the next 100 km (60 miles),  but the sun shone in Fort Nelson.  We hoped for this to be true as that was our day’s destination.

Menu

I had Sasquatch Vegetable Soup, but my husband opted for chicken – even though the menu said Sasquatch tastes like beef!  With warmth in our tummies, we ventured back out into the near whiteout conditions to continue our northern drive to Fort Nelson.   

We either followed the snow or it followed us because at one stop, it was requested that we please bring warmer weather from the south.  It had not been warmer in the south and the snow continued to blow across the road now sticking to the wide sides.    We looked for bears as we always do knowing they would stick out black if they weren’t covered in snowflakes.  When we arrived at Fort Nelson, it was brrrrrr cold and the sun stood high in the sky and there was no snow.  We decided to spend the night in this place because we had no idea what the road conditions would be like on Steamboat Hill to Summit Lake Pass and Stone Mountain into Muncho Lake.  Hauling 16,000 pounds of our home is not something we wanted to chance on possible black ice and sliding off a mountainside.

Soon after we set up, the snow began in Fort Nelson. We watched some courageous bundled-up campers make several loops around the campground for some exercise.  After our quick supper of tomato soup and grilled cheese, we decided to venture into the cold and walk off the many days of seat butt.  We dug out our down coats, scarves, gloves and hats that were nicely packed away until next winter.  As we walked around the campground that began filling up with others who didn’t want to make the trip over the mountains in the snow, the temperatures dropped and the wind blew harder.  Once back in our trailer, we tucked ourselves into our bed now made with flannel sheets that had also been packed away with books and fell asleep cozy and warm.

We woke up to several centimeters of snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures (in Celcius).  My husband found our shovel and cleared off our steps and a little path to the truck.   Is it really May 3?  Is it really this cold?  He visited a few of the nearest campers with big rigs to learn they were all spending a second night at the Triple G Campground in order to avoid the ice and snow in the mountains.   One of the couples, Jim and Carolyn are actually going to camp host at Hope, Alaska at Porcupine National Forest Campground!  They will work for ARM too.  In essence we just met some co-workers.  (I have to admit that I followed them for a while on the Alcan.  They drove very slowly we and chalked it up to them being from Kansas.  Sorry, Bob and Stacy.   Eventually I was so tired of following them, I pulled over.  Several miles down the road they pulled over in the blizzard conditions, but then continued onto the same campground – really the only campground around.   Yep, I feel stupid now.) 

I called several places on the road ahead – Northern Rockies Lodge in Mucho Lake, Toad River Lodge in Toad River and the Liard Hot Springs Lodge in Liard, but no one knew the road conditions over the passes!  This isn’t Colorado where there are always updates on the conditions of the passes.  As we vacillated between staying or taking a chance on the road and leaving,  I could hear my brother’s voice in my head, “You are full-time RV’ers, what’s your hurry?”  Well, we would like to get to Alaska before summer.  He reminded me in a text that we have until the summer solstice on June 19.  

I made pancakes and eggs doused in the last of the syrup given to us by some friends we made last year. Thank you, Brent and Sonya!   My husband went to the nearest place and filled our empty propane tank.  He then cleaned the ice and snow from our slides.   He also dropped the warm window curtains I had made for Cherry Creek for the winter, but the bottom velcro had been removed when we sent the trailer to Indiana.  I spent a couple of hours sewing them with the minimal supplies I had so they would shut tightly against the windows.  Let the cold wind blow while I sit next to our little fireplace and type on my computer.

In order to get out and do something ‘fun’ we drove to Tim Hortons down the road. It was packed with people! After ordering a coffee and a chai tea, we sat with some workers from the oil and gas industry here. Apparently there’s not much industry left. At one time Fort Nelson was to become a mecca for gas and oil with 10 camps that held 600 men each, but then everyone wants a global economy and people like these men retire early or never receive a raise while they work hard.

I have to say though that Alvin and Steve were hilarious to talk with. We covered every topic from the royal family and socialism to motorcylces and great musicians who came from Canada. They kept us laughing with their jokes about three-legged dogs and why natives don’t like snow. Everytime we set out to leave they would say, “Where do you have to go? What do you have to do?” They were right. We hung out at the local coffee shop for several hours!

We returned to our little ‘cabin’ and celebrated the Shabbat by lighting candles and drinking wine. We also decided that because it was Shabbat, we should probably stay in Fort Nelson another night and just rest.

Day two in Fort Nelson.

Though we had hoped the passes would be less icy and snowy, the mountain cams didn’t show better conditions.  Motorhomes and fifth-wheels that came in last evening were iced over and under and said the roads were nearly impassable.  Our neighbors couldn’t even get their step down because it was frozen solid in the upright position.  They were using a hatchet to chip away at the ice!  We went to the office to pay for another night and met a couple who were tent camping their way to Fort Collins from Anchorage.  He is starting engineering school at CSU and she is a bio-engineer on the search for a job.  We told them we began our trek from Fort Collins and the weather will be gorgeous, summer-like.  They ordered some coffee and got back in their Jeep to head south for a new life on the Front Range.  

After a short walk around the campground to rid ourselves of some cabin fever, we decided to go to Tim Horton’s again.  We have been here long enough that we act like the Canadians – sitting in a coffee shop named after an ice hockey player, chatting with the locals and checking the internet.

The buzzing from the missiles from Gaza attacking Israel haven’t stopped for hours – over 500 now.   One article in the Jerusalem Post quoted a Gazan leader, “The resistance from Gaza won’t stop until the occupation is over.”  How ridiculous.  

As we were walking out of Timmies we decided to talk to a man whose truck was ice covered about the conditions on the pass.  He told us it wasn’t bad though waiting until tomorrow would be better for a truck and trailer like ours.  He was heading to Las Vegas, helping his son move to Summerlin from Anchorage.  Okay, now it’s getting weird.  Our daughter lives in Fort Collins and our son just moved to Summerlin!  Apparently, we are supposed to be hanging out here in good ole’ Fort Nelson meeting people moving to where our children live. 

After having a coffee, we had nothing better to do than to check out the local hardware store.  It had everything from toys to kitchen necessities to plumbing and electrical supplies to yard decorations and hummingbird feeders. Really? They have summer here?  Not only did it kill some time, but I found a nice water bottle for taking water with me in the truck.  I believe I mentioned earlier that we bought a Berkey water filter so we could be more ‘green’.  We were reusing the plastic water bottles, but it didn’t seem very hygienic so I bought a stainless steel insulated bottle that actually fits in the drink holder!  Now I have a souvenir from my snow days in Fort Nelson!

Speaking of water, we have also run out in our holding tank.  We didn’t expect to be here as long as we have been and though we try to conserve water, it doesn’t last forever.  We have three options.  The first is to close the trailer up and drive it about 50 yards to the laundry room and fill the tank with their hose.  I don’t like that option because then we have to reset everything again back at our site.  It’s muddy and cold and that is just tedious work.  The second is to fill the water bladder we use in Alaska to haul water when we boondock.  It’s a wonderful option except that it’s very cold outside and there would be no way to drain it so the little water left in it would freeze, crack the bladder and become useless to us in Alaska.  The third option is fill a one-gallon jug with water for flushing the toilet and fill our 2 1/2-gallon jug for doing dishes and conserving it to the best of our ability.  That is the the option we chose.  Our Burkey has been filtering water consistently so we also have nearly 2 gallons of drinking water.

Adventure

While standing in the office waiting to pay for tonight, there were several other campers doing the same.  The word ‘adventure’ kept popping up in the conversations with one woman stating, “This life is always an adventure, eh?”   I decided to look up the word adventure: “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.”  I liked the word ‘hazardous’ in the definition.  Not.

One of our day’s final adventures, which wasn’t too hazardous, was to explore the streets of Fort Nelson off of the main highway.  We drove to the airport and on our way there, several girls were walking along the road and started waving frantically.  We waved back and they cheered!  It must be exciting for them to see a truck from South Dakota? Or is life that boring here?   On the way back from the airport, we were blessed to see this little lady posing just for us by the side of the road.  

Now we’re back at the trailer, doing little projects to help pass the time and get read for our departure tomorrow.  The mountain cam has the road looking a little better and we expect warmer temperatures tomorrow.  The sun burst through the clouds this evening so maybe … maybe we’ll be on the road tomorrow heading toward Toad River.  If not, Day 3 in Fort Nelson.

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