Caravan day 7: Fort Nelson, British Columbia to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory

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Bison on the road to Watson Lake

Day 7 was an exciting day, because we planned a relatively short day of driving to Watson Lake. We would finally be in the Yukon Territory!

It was another day of logistics planning for long distances between services. We had purchased an extra Jerry can of gas to ensure the Tundra could make the 150km between services.

Along the way, another tire on the utility trailer blow out. Waaahhhhh!! Greg changed it by the side of the road, and we pulled into a great service stop at Toad River that mounted a new tire, and sold us two spares. Now we were ready! Toad River was a great lunch spot (they even had veggie burgers!), and they are building a new community centre. They had a fun display on the ceiling of baseball caps collected over many years. Within 90 minutes, we were again our way.

Greg changing tire on the Alcan
Greg changing tire on the AlCan

The biggest mishap of the trip happened just up the road. We were truly in the middle of nowhere, on the Alaska Canada highway (AlCan), and the front right tire of the U-Haul blew out. Nicole capably eased the truck onto the shoulder. From behind, Greg was on the radio saying “that’s a blow-out.” But then it got scary: the tire made a puff of smoke when it blew, and then the smoke started billowing. Greg called out on the radio, “fire. Exit the vehicle. Fire.”

Nicole and Brittany exited with all due haste. Greg dove to the back of the Tundra for our fire extinguishers. By the time he was running up to the truck with them, the smoke had stopped and there was no fire. This was a heckuva scary minute, with the truck veering to the shoulder when the tire blew, then billows of smoke. The drivers were incredibly competent, and afterwards everyone was shaken. The incident occurred on a relatively flat stretch of highway with a decent shoulder, but many other sections were steep and narrow.

Scary times -- Our uHaul sucked
Scary times — Our uHaul sucked

We were in the middle of nowhere, around 2 hours from Watson Lake. We set up hazard triangles near the truck and took all our gear with us, squeezing everyone into the Tundra and Subaru. We didn’t know whether or when we would be back at the truck. As a side note, the StinkyPup Spot wasn’t working. We are so thankful that Sarah brought her Garmin inReach MINI as it saved us several times!

805KM of the AlCan
805KM of the AlCan

A half-hour up the road, we stopped at a work camp where a kind fellow let Greg call U-Haul. They said they would dispatch a service provider. We carried on towards Watson Lake, since we knew there was no chance we would be driving the truck further that night.

Then, the snow started. By the time we got to Watson Lake, there were blizzard conditions on the AlCan, and a few centimeters of snow had fallen. We learned the next day that there was many accidents along the highways south and north of Watson Lake, during the first significant snowfall of the season.

When we arrived in the Yukon there was an unmanned COVID-19 checkpoint where each of us had to fill out a form. We were all so tired and had difficulty determining which boxes to check. Nicole called the Yukon Government COVID-19 for guidance.

Upon arrival in Watson Lake, Greg called U-Haul again to find that they had not dispatched a service provider. They were confused about the location: kilometer 805 on highway 97 was not specific enough for them. Luckily we had also taken a snapshot of the geographical coordinates, which proved to be sufficient.

After discussion, U-Haul said they would call a provider first thing in the morning. It was late, and conditions were too poor to expect anyone to drive out to fix the truck. Also, it was not clear whether a tire or rim was available in Watson Lake.

The team settled in for the night in Watson Lake, not knowing how the trip to Whitehorse would be completed.

The hotel we stayed at in Watson Lake was Andrea’s Hotel. Ilana had made reservations weeks ago and was assured that “Yes, sled dogs overnighting in the parking lot was fine.” This turned out not to be true.  After our harrowing experience, we arrived at Andrea’s around 8:30pm and began dropping dogs soon after. Around 9:30pm the hotel customer service person came outside and said there had been a complaint and that we needed to get the dogs to stop barking.  I said they would quiet down when we were done feeding, but the person wanted to talk to me about the noise. I told her the longer I stood and talked to her the longer the dogs would bark, and I explained that I made reservation weeks ago and was assured sled dogs were welcome.  The other problem with Andrea’s was that they put us on the 2nd floor and there was no elevator. This meant we had to carry Myra up and down the stairs because her hind legs were rapidly deteriorating.  The dogs who overnighted in the hotel each night were Spike, Moose, and Floppy, who slept in Ilana and Greg’s room, and Maude and Myra who slept in Sarah and Rosie’s room.

At 5:30am we received a call from the front desk that the dogs were being noisy. I raced down as fast as I could with Moose and Floppy (they needed to pee) and there was no noise. I asked the hotel clerk how long the dogs were barking/howling for and he said a few minutes, but he was instructed to call us if they began making noise. Greg was on his way down with Spike. I gave him Floppy and Moose to take upstairs, took Spike for a pee, and went back up for another couple of hours snoozing.

In the morning, we determined dropping dogs at Andrea’s would not be a good idea. The hotel clerk told us about a park close by– Wye park, so that’s where Sarah, Greg, and Ilana headed.  The rest of the gang chilled out at Andrea’s because we were all still pretty shaken up about the previous day.

Myra and Spike at Wye Park
Myra and Spike at Wye Park
Wye Park, dogs on Tundra
Wye Park, dogs on Tundra
Wye Park -- dogs on trailer
Wye Park — dogs on trailer

After dropping dogs for their breakfast, we headed back to meet the gang at Andreas. We order some delicious breakfast and were on our way.

[This is Post 9 of 11]

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