We had to backtrack a bit on the Alaska Highway, which was okay because then we knew where the propane was and I could get some of those butter tarts. At Telsin we picked up a hitchhiker named Andrew who was a native guy with a good sense of humour and a lot of stories. He had driven his daughter’s car for her from Watson Lake to Whitehorse (441Km!) and was hitching back to Lower Post where he lived. He was planning to buy us lunch as a surprise but we usually make our own food and invite any riders so instead he decided to buy us all the butter tarts at Rancheria, but alas, when we arrived there were only two left. I must say that one I ate was fucking good! And we took the generous thought for the deed, and the favour of the ride was well repaid in entertaining stories. We dropped him off right at his house in Lower Post around 5 feeling anecdotally richer for the experience.
Our ambition was to get to Liard River Hotsprings and camp for the night. It turns out it takes Step and me forever to get anywhere, with frequent wildlife and scenic photo-op stops, lunch-making and coffee-quests, and we rolled into the hotsprings 5 minutes before they closed the gates for the night. The ranger assured us several times the hotsprings were open all night, even though we hadn’t indicated any concerns about it. The campgrounds were full but he told us we could stay in the parking lot, which was fine with us. The Boogie Bus is remarkably self-sufficient and we could get by for a few days without even a hookup.
The first thing we did was walk along the boardwalk to check out the hotsprings and they are incredibly beautiful; lush with an exotic tropical feel with is quite an astounding feat for a nature site near the 60th parallel. There are 2 pools, the Really-Hot Alpha Pool and the Not-Quite-as-Hot-but-Deeper Beta Pool. There is also a composting toilet and a hanging garden, which we didn’t check out that evening. Even though it was after 10 it was still broad daylight and there were quite a few people enjoying the springs.
We went back to the Boogie Bus and made dinner out of some dried pasta and bottled sauce. We usually do the dishes outside in bins and it was now Mosquito Hour. To get to the hotsprings you have to walk for a good stretch along boardwalks over marshland and the parking lot is right by this marsh, and the ranger had said the mosquitoes were really bad for this time of year. After being half eaten alive at Boya Lake I had mosquito concerns. I put on a pair of long pants Step had, and tucked them into some socks. Then I put on The MuuMuu (because it seemed like the appropriate garb for the magically tropical hotsprings), and over that I put the mosquito top Lee Andra gave me, then some rubber gloves I always wear when doing dishes. After all this preventative outfitting, the mosquito turn-out was pretty pathetic, I have to say. It just goes to show, terms like “really bad” are completely relative. Boya Lake was our mosquito boot camp and Liard Hotsprings was our leave.
It was after midnight when we made our way back to Beta pool for a dip. Because we were still far north it was still sort of light out but I guess all the other campers were tired from a day of hot soaks because they had all gone to bed. As we walked down the marsh boardwalk we had a surprise wildlife moment. A moose upwind of us was walking on the boardwalk in search of that nutrient dense marsh grass. We were pretty close by the time we realized each other was there. Everyone worries about bears being dangerous, but Step and I know a moose will actually trample you if it feels threatened, and here we had “snuck up” on this one. We stood still looking at the moose and the moose looked at us. People have a tendency to anthropromorphasise animals, but I swear we could see that moose trying to make up it’s mind if he should fight us or not. Finally we continued slowly down the boardwalk, still looking at the moose, and it relaxed when it saw we were moving away. I guess if we had any sense we would have felt scared but actually it was all midnight magical.
Seeing as we had the springs to ourselves of course we skinny dipped. The alpha pool is more exotic but I liked the Beta pool because it’s deeper and not as hot and I could float to where the underwater springs fizzed and bubbled on my back. The alpha pool has different temperature sections so it makes a great spa experience.
The next day I took the camera to get some pictures of the hotsprings but the access to the Beta pool and hanging gardens was closed off. Later while breakfasting at the lodge across the highway, I overheard a park worker say that the whole section of boardwalk had collapsed when they drove the ranging golf cart over it, but the golf cart was going so fast it didn’t fall with it. I dunno…it felt pretty sturdy when we walked on it. I think structures in the northern part of the country take a lot of wear and tear just because of the extreme weather, or maybe the parks don’t get enough money. They fixed it pretty fast, though. We have to go back some day and see those hanging gardens, since I never did get to see them.