Today was our first full day driving through Canada. We started at Destruction Bay, Yukon, and we were shooting for Watson Lake, Yukon as our stopping point.
We started driving at 9 AM, and it was a brisk 18℉ (-8°C). The sunrise was beautiful though.
I drove for about 3 hours during the morning. The roads were clear, and the weather was mild for most of the day. It seemed like we were finally going to have an easy, stress-free day.
(Featuring a picture J.T. took and insisted make it on the blog)
J.T. spotted this cute wooden bridge on the side of the road, so we pulled over to stretch our legs and explore. It was a neat piece of history!
Today was actually a day full of bridges. I’m adding these structures to the list of things J.T. does not like driving over, but I think they’re beautiful. They remind me of metal spiderwebs. The rivers here are breathtaking. You can’t help but imagine them carving out the landscape to create the mountains we now look at as invincible.
We made it to Watson Lake around 5:30 PM local time. Per our dad, we checked out the “Sign Forest” before we grabbed something to eat. It was pretty cool.
As we waited for our food, J.T. was, once again, adamant we keep pushing on. A snowstorm was coming up from the south and would soon be coming through the next town, Coal River, and down to Muncho Lake. He figured if we made it to Coal River, we would miss driving in a bunch of snow the next day. My mom said we should stay put because there was a huge bison herd known to be near that road, but that only enticed J.T. more.
Our mom found us an open motel, so we headed south into British Columbia.
By the time we left the Yukon, the sky was completely black. My goal was to never drive at night on this trip, but I was overruled this time.
We kept our eyes peeled in search of wildlife. The reflectors in the ditches played tricks on our minds though. It was nerve-wracking.
Suddenly, J.T. slammed on the breaks and threw the Jeep in reverse. Aiming the headlights into the ditch, he exclaimed, “I saw one!”
Just as we were about to be in position, he shouted, “There’s a semi coming!”
He quickly put us back into drive and accelerated as quickly as he could out of the snow and back onto the road. My nervous laughter filled the air as headlights filled our mirrors.
(This was not very smart on our part. I wouldn’t recommend replicating this.)
We found a random road, pulled off to let the semi pass, and flipped a u-turn. We tried again to line up our headlights to see the lone bison resting in the ditch. Our excitement bubbled over. This was our first wild bison!
I was surprised to see it all by itself, but we figured that meant there were more nearby.
We were right!
Don’t they look kind of creepy at night?
We also passed the occasional elk and fox on the side of the road but we couldn’t get any pictures.
As we continued south, we saw a sign that said Coal River was . . . CLOSED.
There’s no way…
We’ve seen this a lot; small villages on the side of the road either abandoned or closed for the season. But we were two hours from Watson Lake, so turning back wasn’t an option. Yet, we had no idea where the next town would be.
We held onto hope. They had to be opened!
There it was… a cluster of buildings lost in the darkness.
We kept driving. We were hoping we were wrong, but there was absolutely nothing open there. In defeat, we drove back to an opening across from the vacant Coal River, and I messaged my mom and asked if there was anything else that was close by. We went back and forth, trying to figure out what to do. As we waited for her reply, we turned the Jeep off to conserve our fuel.
It was so dark that as soon as J.T. stepped outside and closed the door, he vanished. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face even if you tried.
Clouds covered the stars, and the moon was nowhere to be seen. Creepy is an understatement. I’ve never seen darkness like this before.
As the reality of having to camp out in our car in the abyss set in, I cried. We made it this far; and now, I was about to freeze to death on the side of the Alaska Highway somewhere in British Columbia, Canada.
Finally, our mom messaged us saying she had found us a place to stay near Muncho Lake, but when we looked for it on our map, it appeared to be really far away. She told us that if we could get there by 11 PM, that she could get us a reservation. It was about 9 PM when we left, and it was about an hour away. That should be plenty of time, right?
We drove through winding roads in the darkness. Then, the snow started falling…
We were now in the middle of the snowstorm we were hoping to avoid. The roads became white and slick as we navigated curves and cliffs in the pitch-black darkness. My whole body trembled as we crept along with little visibility.
We’re not gonna make it!
As road conditions worsened, anxiety overwhelmed us, and once again, we contemplated pulling over and sleeping on the side of the road.
“We’ll take turns checking the gas levels,” J.T. said as he white-knuckled the steering wheel.
I checked the map to see if we were approaching Muncho Lake. I urged him to keep pushing forward - surely we could make it.
As we went down a large hill, the glow of lights appeared.
A knot filled my throat as we saw the sign showing there was lodging ahead.
We pulled into the parking lot and tears filled my eyes. As dramatic as it may sound, I genuinely feared for our lives and was beyond thankful to have made it.
It was a little after 10:30 PM when we walked into the lobby of the Northern Rockies Lodge. My mom, being the saint that she is, paid for our rooms since it was out of our price range. She told us that she had called the front desk multiple times and was sure they thought she was crazy.
“I told them that if they don’t let y’all stay there, you would have to camp in the parking lot!”
When we got to our room, I pulled off my boots to reveal my sweat-soaked socks. “Anxious” doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt.
Today, I’m thankful to be sleeping in a bed and not on the side of the road. I’m thankful to be under a roof instead of stranded in the dark.
Today has been the most challenging yet, but tomorrow will be better.