I consider myself very fortunate to live where I do. Canada is a vast and beautiful nation, and British Columbia one of its most varied and awe-inspiring provinces. This Labour Day weekend my husband and I drove our family north, far past the limits of our sadly American atlas (which cuts British Columbia off somewhere past Fort St. John, less than 100km north of home) to mile 463 of the Alaska Highway for a weekend camping adventure.
Our ultimate destination: Liard Hot Springs. I had been there once before, on my eighteenth birthday, which was nineteen years ago. Did I mention that my birthday is in February? Though it was -30C that day (-22F) my parents, siblings and I bathed comfortably in the natural hotsprings, framed by frost-rimed trees. I had never visited the hot springs in summer, and Wade had never been north of Fort Nelson.
The eight-hour drive became much more scenic after leaving the oil & gas fields of Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. The trees thickened, the mountains emerged and the highway wound, nearly empty of traffic. Just the way we like it; tons of scenery and no one to share it with!
I promised myself I wouldn’t take photos through the windshield. Promises like that can’t help but be broken when the scenery is so spectacular around every bend.
We were prepared for rain, but saw little – our camping was chilly; tenting in the north requires lots of layers as even at the end of August, frost is a definite possibility. We were fortunate and it didn’t freeze at night. We pitched our tent on the shores of Muncho Lake, and I went out several times a day to photograph the jade-green waters and moody skies.
The lake makes no claims to warmth; the estimated summer temperature is 10C (50F) but we just had to take a dip anyhow. Brrrr! It was gaspingly cold!
From cold to hot; we achieved our main objective when we arrived at Liard Hotsprings. This beautiful spot is a true gem on the Alaska Highway and it was wonderful to see it in summer. The hot springs have been maintained as naturally as possible. One side of the springs holds the change rooms, stairs and benches for entering the water, and the other three sides are natural, banked by rock and clay, ferns and green plants and trees. The bottom of the springs is pebbled with black & grey and the springs flow into a lower pool of cooler water, and then out a narrow, twisting channel until the water justs trickles away.
The pool was enjoyed by about twenty other people – we overheard conversations with both locals and tourists, and many who, like us, live a few hours’ drive away and were visiting for the weekend.
Though the day was brisk and cool, we were heated through and stayed warm through even after changing and drying off in the unheated change rooms and walking a quarter mile along the boardwalk back to the truck.
I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed our weekend! I took so many photos with future paintings in mind. I spend way too much time thinking, “How would I paint that?” and I can’t wait to start trying to answer that question and painting some of my impressions of beautiful northern British Columbia.
We saw stone sheep, bison and caribou along the edge of the highway.