2018 June 26 – Fort Simpson, NT to Fort Nelson, BC

This was the look of our day.  From the time we left Fort Simpson at 8 am this morning until just before we arrived in Fort Nelson.It is 62 kilometers (38 1/2 miles) from Fort Simpson to the junction with Highway 7 south.  From there it is 220 km (137 miles) to Fort Liard and 440 km (273 miles) to Fort Nelson.  We had been told the Liard Highway was hard on vehicles but, even though it was a gravel road, we could do 100 km/hr.  There was the occasional rough spot or pothole, but just like driving the Mackenzie Highway yesterday it was a good road.  When we were told last night at dinner that it was going to rain all day we were very worried we would be driving through mud all day.  Not so.  Yea!  Consequently our day was not nearly as long as we had anticipated.  Even with a lunch stop and drive around Fort Liard and some short stops to find a couple of geocaches we arrived in Fort Nelson at 3:20 pm! – several hours sooner than we expected.  And then we found out we were back on BC time and it was 2:20!   There were no waterfalls or gorges or pretty lakes to see today.  What we did see was bison!  And lots of them!

We encountered the first herd at 10:30. They were all standing right in the middle of the road.  We stopped to see if they would move and were changing the camera lenses to our zooms when a car came up behind us, drove past and drove right at the bison.  It slowed down, but didn’t brake.  The bison just ambled out of the way.  Obviously the local folks don’t allow theselves to be slowed down by the big animals.  Unfortunately, the scattering of the herd almost ruined our chance of some good close-up photos.  Fortunately, the bison are so accustomed to vehicles they didn’t go very far. The bison are just finishing shedding their winter coats.  They won’t grow another one for two months. The bison we saw today were very dark, almost black, and despite the fact they were wet, they were darker than the ones we had seen previously.I saw about five calves in the group.Not long after we passed the herd we saw two more bison. With all the rain in the area lately the rivers (and there are many of them) are all flowing very high.  We even passed a couple of men from the highways department investigating a large pond of water that had accumulated beside the road despite a long, deep ditch that had been dug to try move it along.  Then we saw four more bison, one of which had a broken horn.We also saw another bear cub.  It was sitting beside the road as we drove up and by the time we realized it was a cub it was hightailing into the bushes.  The black blob is all I managed to catch with the camera.Twenty km before the turnoff to Fort Liard we encountered our second herd of bison.  With the rain coming down so hard and the dark coats on the bison we couldn’t tell whether they were going ahead of us down the road or coming toward us.  It didn’t take long to realize they were running toward our truck.  Thankfully they veered off onto the grass verge as they went by.  I got a good video of them too.There is one geocache in Fort Simpson and one in Fort Liard.  We didn’t find either of them since both were hidden in the bush – the one at Fort Liard was also on top of a steep hill – and everything was soaking wet and it was still raining.  We parked at the bottom of the hill in Ft. Liard, beside the Liard River, and had some lunch, then headed back to the main highway and carried on. The Liard Highway is not a heavily traveled road.  I kept track of the vehicles that either passed us or that we met and over the entire day before we reached the Alaska Highway 25 km out of Fort Nelson (about 400 km/248 miles.) we saw exactly 12 cars and trucks.  The gravel ended about 10 km from Fort Liard and we were back on pavement the rest of the way.

We passed by far the largest herd of bison a few km south of Fort Liard.                This photos shows about 1/4 of the herd. We crossed the Northwest Territories/BC border about 1 o’clock, and stopped to find a geocache that was hidden in the “Welcome to the Northwest Territories” sign.  John had to do a bit of fancy climbing to get it.

About an hour out of Fort Nelson we got our first glimpse of blue sky.Sadly, it didn’t last.  We had light to heavy rain off and on the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening.  It is supposed to rain again tomorrow.  We are staying in Fort Nelson two nights.  We booked two nights to have a bit of down time after what we expected to be two very long driving days.  They both turned out shorter than expected but we aren’t sad to be having a day ‘off.’And….since we arrived in Fort Nelson so early we were able to find the Service BC office and John got a new driver’s license!  Also we were able to find a Bell store and get our new phones working.  A good day all around, I would say.

After we concluded our business we went looking for the hotel. We had seen a sign as we drove in to Fort Nelson so we headed back to the edge of town looking for it.  No luck. (Turned out to just be an advertising sign and the hotel was back 3 km.)  But just as John turned the truck around to head back into town a black bear stood up in the bushes beside the road.  John stopped the truck and the bear promptly went back onto all fours again and began to industriously eat something in the bushes. We waited for about 20 minutes for him to move into the open but no luck.  So my second photo of a bear today is very similar to my first one.  Darn bears just won’t co-operate!

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