For the past month or so I have been working way up in Fort Nelson, British Columbia! It has been a great experience so far and I can’t wait to tell you all about it when my contract is complete. I have been working so much while I’ve been here; give me alllll the overtime!! I had one set of three days off in January so I knew it was the perfect time to go up to the Liard River Hot Springs! However, it was THE coldest week of the year and I should have waited until it warmed up- I went anyway. I suffered slightly due to the cold…more on that later!
So, in case you didn’t know, the Alaska Highway is insanely gorgeous. On this particular trip, I only scratched the surface of it. It was amazing spending a few days all by myself and exploring a new place…and a new province!! When I first decided to come up to Fort Nelson for this contract, the biggest attraction shown in the area was definitely the Hot Springs. The four hour drive can be a little daunting, especially in the dead of winter, but I didn’t let that stop me. I drove my truck all the way up here, so I might as well make use of it! I’m so glad I did because it ended up being one of the most hilarious and entertaining experiences of my life. Here are some pictures of the drive up. The drive was absolutely gorgeous- right through the Northern Rockies and Muncho Lake Provincial Park. I saw the sunset over Muncho Lake and a bunch of wildlife. I saw a lynx, a HUGE moose (couldn’t snap a shot safely), a big grey wolf and a TON of buffalo.
I left the first morning and drove straight to the Liard Hot Springs Lodge. I actually had booked rooms in a couple of other places, but a co-worker at the hospital graciously gave me a voucher for two free nights at the Lodge that her grandma won at bingo!! (Another huge reason why Fort Nelson is so amazing- the people are insanely wonderful). It turned out to be a great place to stay for the weekend. It’s kind of like a hostel in a sense. You show up and check into a room and there is a restaurant there as well. I got my own private bathroom and a bed; other rooms are more of a dorm style with shared bathrooms. There is also a common area downstairs with a TV. The food was really good and everyone was very friendly. Most of the guests are just people passing by driving up the Alaska Highway. I saw a lot of Alaska licence plates! It’s a very laid back environment- most likely due to the chill vibes and culture of the Indigenous staff. I really enjoyed it as it added to my relaxing weekend. One important thing to note about this place is that they had plug-ins available out front to plug everyone’s vehicles in! In -40 weather this was crucial and I was really happy to not have to worry about my truck battery dying while up there.
The next morning, I set out around 8:30-9:00 AM to drive up to Watson Lake, Yukon. I was avoiding driving in the dark but because I was so far north, there was only about 5 or 6 hours of sunlight during the day! The sun did not come up until 11:00 AM!! While I was driving, the full moon was right in front of me and it was the coolest thing. It was SO cold. I also saw a lot more bison along the highway! When I got to the British Columbia-Yukon border, I stopped for a bit to take some pictures. I was SO excited! I can’t believe travel nursing has opened up such cool opportunities for me. Sure, I might be in the middle of no where but experiences like this inspire me so much.
My one stop in Watson Lake was to the famous Sign Post Forest that is just on the side of the Alaska Highway! A little bit of history about this place… People from ALL over the world come through here on the way up to Alaska and bring a sign from home to put up. “The tradition began during the Alaska Highway Project in 1942, when U.S. soldier Carl K. Lindley spent time in Watson Lake recovering from an injury. A commanding officer asked him to repair and erect the directional signposts, and while completing the job, he added a sign that indicated the direction and mileage to his hometown of Danville, Illinois. Others followed suit, and the trend caught on.” (quote taken from https://www.yukoninfo.com/watson-lake-signpost-forest/)
There is now over 80,000 signs here!!! It’s such a neat little spot!
This was truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It was -43 degrees Celcius outside so I couldn’t spend that much time outside of the truck. I went outside for about 5 minutes at a time then ran back to the truck to warm up!! I snapped some pictures but sadly couldn’t find a sign from my hometown! If the paths were cleared from snow I would have been able to walk around easier…or if it was warmer I would have busted out my snowshoes which would have been ideal! I wish I would have brought a sign with me. I tried to write my name on one of the posts but my pen froze!! Next time! Maybe you can find your hometown in one of these pictures!?
OK. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The Hot Springs!! I waited until the last morning to go there…maybe because of driving time during the daylight…maybe because I was procrastinating being in a bathing suit in -40!? When you get to the Hot Springs, you have to walk 700 metres from the parking lot to the pools. From April 1 to October 31, there is a $5 day-use fee but when I went, I just drove right in. The steam from the hot spring creates this amazing hoarfrost on the trees which shows how truly frigid it was. This was the first natural hot spring I’ve ever been in…and it’s the largest hot spring in Canada! Right when I got to the water, my phone died from just having it in my pocket. Therefore, all of my photos were snapped with my Go Pro Hero 7! Thankfully I could submerge it under the hot water to keep it at a working temperature!
I was DYING laughing at myself and how dumb I was to do this in this freezing weather. Even thinking about it now makes me laugh. I was the only person here at around 9:30 AM and I could hear rustling in the trees near me. I remembered seeing a sign and photos online that showed moose and bison also enjoying the springs so I got a little spooked that I would have a visitor. The temperature of the water ranges from 42°C to 52°C….a vast difference from the -35°C above the water!!! There are un-heated change rooms there if you need privacy. What I did was I used my spare truck key to keep my truck running while I was soaking…a very pleasant treat waiting for me after the freezing walk back to the parking lot. But because of this, I don’t think I relaxed enough here. I was a bit tense that I was the only one here and left a running truck 700 m away (even though it was locked). I didn’t end up spending much time there, maybe 20 minutes or so. When I got out, I pretty much dried off instantly. All the water evaporated off of my skin and bathing suit instantly. I had fuzzy slippers ready to slip on along with a big sweater, warm sweatpants and a big blanket. I just kept my bathing suit on underneath because I was way too cold to think of anything else. I bundled up as fast as I could, wrapped a scarf around my head then ran back to the truck. The hardest part was trying to get my socks on because my hands were so damn cold. It was so stupid HAHA! It was absolutely incredible to experience it but I am for sure coming back here in warmer weather so that I can actually enjoy it. There are a bunch more pools to explore and I only stayed in the main one.
Even though it was a really great weekend, I wouldn’t recommend coming here when it’s this cold outside. I was VERY lucky that my truck didn’t break down. I was super careful to have it plugged in at all times and to keep it running for at least 30 minutes before driving anywhere. I made sure to have at least a half tank of gas at all times and I used gas line antifreeze in my gas tank. Fuel services are rare along this stretch of highway and if you do find gas for sale, it’s very expensive. I filled up at the Lodge the one morning and it was $1.90 per litre…for reference sake, gas was $1.27/L back in Fort Nelson.
Another thing to be really careful of is the wildlife all over the highway. I avoided driving in the dark because the last thing I needed was to hit a buffalo or a moose. There was barely any traffic along the highway so if something ever did happen, it would probably be awhile before someone drove by to stop and help. I have CAA and On Star in the truck but I don’t know how much good it would do way up here. There is zero cell phone service here. Even at the Lodge, I called the hospital back in Fort Nelson to let them know I arrived safely and I had to use their calling card at a pay phone. They did have great Wi-Fi though!!
All in all, I LOVED this little getaway and I made hilarious memories that I will never forget! Here are a few more pictures of the drive home through Muncho Lake Provincial Park. This big bridge is just South of the Hot Springs and apparently it’s common to see the bison crossing it!!!
I got back to Fort Nelson just as the sun was setting (around 4:30 PM!). I can’t wait to return here this spring when I come back for a THIRD contract! It will be a completely different experience.
Thanks for reading!!