^^ my personal glove warmer after our heat broke.
Fort Nelson, BC, Canada to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada: 318 miles
Craziest day of the trip by far. Let me start at the beginning. We departed Fort Nelson with high hopes in the Land Rover and headed to Watson Lake in the Yukon. We took in the beautiful views of the Rockies and made a quick stop at Tetsa River Outfitters/campground, known for their famous cinnamon buns! Did I mention the heat in the Rover was broken? Warm cinnamon bun to the rescue!
We finally saw MOOSE! I was so excited. We actually saw five overall, plus a few reindeer, bison, a ferret (we weren't sure if it was a ferret, mink or weasel so we affectionally named him the "ferreminkweasel" - you know, my husband is creative). We saw two huge herds of bison plus a few loners. They were just minding their own business, grazing in a snowstorm and moseying across the road whenever they felt like it.
We had hoped to stop at Liard River Hot Springs ("best stop on the ALCAN" according to The Milepost!), where the water temp is 100° year round. Would have been amazing but night was quickly approaching and we wanted to reach our destination as soon as possible...
...and the Land Rover was getting worse. Shaking, loud knocking noises, a smoking engine. I knew it was coming. We broke down for good about 30 miles outside of our destination of Watson Lake, a very small town in the Yukon Territory. We pulled over on the side of the highway as it was getting darker, still snowing, and temperatures were falling with the night. The car wouldn't start. I couldn't help the tears... it was a scary and helpless feeling to be stranded on the side of the road in the Canadian wilderness with no way to use our cell phones, and no way to walk to the nearest town in the dead of a winter night. The ALCAN is such a desolate highway in these months.
We turned on the hazards and Sam began flagging down help while I waited in the car with the dogs (we had been driving all day with no heat, so the car was not even remotely warm when we broke down).
My brave, strong husband stood outside in the subzero temperatures, looking desperately for any signs of headlights, waving his arms at the few passing cars, trying to get us out of there. It's a sight I will always remember, with tears in my eyes watching his face lit up by the flashing hazard lights. Even though I was scared, I felt safe.
A few cars stopped, a few fellow military families also heading to Fairbanks. They didn't have room for us but said they would call a tow truck. Another guy was traveling southbound but stopped and gave us his flares. Another car stopped and said they would take us but not our dogs (thanks but no thanks?).
Then, thankfully, three for real God-sent miners in three separate trucks stopped for our rescue. Seriously, until those guys stopped, we were bracing ourselves for a cold night of sleeping in the car (I had already bundled up in a sleeping bag). Scott from Vancouver, George from the UK, and Dave refused to leave us out there, saying that we would freeze to death in the forecasted -30° temperatures if we stayed. Scott also said that wolf packs regularly prowl that area. Really? This place is no joke.
Kaia and I rode with Scott while Sam and Luna rode with George. These guys were amazing. Even when we finally arrived in Watson Lake, George went ahead of us into the Big Horn Motel and told the clerk that we needed a pet-friendly room... the kindness of strangers. Oh and we found out at the hotel that there are no tow trucks running in Watson Lake (despite the "24 hour AAA towing" sign that we passed), so consider us extremely grateful that we were picked up tonight. We not only gained a necessary ride from these guys, but also fascinating stories.... the things they have seen; the places they have been! I will never forget it!
We called our families, who were very worried since it was so late back on the east coast and they had no way of getting in touch with us. While Sam was on the phone with AAA, I tried to find some dinner in little ol Watson Lake. The only thing we had eaten today was our $5 cinnamon buns back at Tetsa River, and at the time I debated whether or not $5 for a cinnamon bun was worth it... well, considering the situation we ended up in, I would definitely say it was a good spend. Anyway, everything except a gas station was closed, so for $17.00 I got a bag of chips and three bottled drinks... and that was dinner.
We hated leaving our car on the side of the road but we had no other choice. I only grabbed my purse, laptop, camera, and our small safe. Everything else can wait til tomorrow. I'm so thankful that we were picked up and are safe... could have been much worse.