Driving to Alaska Day 7: Yellowhead Highway

Welcome to post 7 of 18 in our Driving to Alaska series. We hope you enjoy the stories from this unforgettable 4,000 mile road trip.

McBride, BC to Hazelton, BC

For whatever reason this was the first campsite of the trip where the presence of bears felt likely.  We were parked at a dirt pullout in a dense forest with a logging road on one side and a loud, rushing river on the other.  When I got up in the middle of the night to pee, I did it with urgency.  The river was so loud I could easily startle a curious bear.  In a matter of seconds I got out of the truck, did my business, and got back in.  In the morning I sang a little song as I walked a quarter of a mile to the rest area that sat at the edge of the highway.

Good morning bears.
Gooooood morning bears.
I’m just passing through, on my way to poo.
Good morning bears.

Safely back at camp, I prepped our snacks for the day’s drive while Mark made everyone breakfast sandwiches.  The sun graced us with its warmth making for a pleasant morning before packing up and getting back on the road. 

Along our route was an ancient cedar forest.  We took the opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy an hour’s long walk beneath towering cedar trees estimated to be somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 years old.  

In Prince George we fueled up and then made a stop at an auto parts shop.  Earlier in the morning, while trying to solve the temperamental ABS light issue, Mark discovered the transmission fluid was leaking.  After weighing our options it was decided to keep topping off the transmission fluid as needed.  With 1,800 miles to go we crossed our fingers and hoped that we’d make it to Talkeetna with no further issues.

Canada’s highway 16 took us through a handful of small towns including Vanderhoof, Smithers, and Houston; Prince George being the largest population center we saw at 74,000 residents.  We saw far more lakes, mountains, and trees than people.  One sign informed us of a 120 mile stretch without gas and left me wondering what our longest stretch of nothingness would be.  The further north we got, the more expansive and less populated the land became.  

By the end of the day we’d covered 416 miles.  A decent push given the fact the we’d only been averaging about 60-65mph with a heavy trailer in tow.  A little after 9pm, feeling more than ready for sleep, we pulled into a campsite alongside the Bulkley river.  As Mark began to position the trailer into place I glanced to my right to see a bear about 50 years away.  Standing on its rear legs, it stared at us curiously and then disappeared into the trees.  I laughed nervously.  I knew we were in their presences but seeing one with my own eyes so close to camp was unsettling.  After telling Cade & Becca, Becca presented the option of another campsite 10 minutes up the road on the edge of a small town.  I appreciated the option but hated being the only one that wanted to leave.  I tried to play it cool but I think my fear was written all over my face and assume that’s why it was decided that we’d go with Option B.  I exhaled slightly and then began to dust off the cobwebs on my little-used knowledge on how to camp safely in bear country, a skill I haven’t had to apply during our winters in Mexico.  

At the edge of the small town of Hazelton was a dirt road with a small pullout just large enough for our two trucks and trailer.  The campsite itself was nothing special but more visibility helped ease my nerves and one majestic snow-capped peak directly behind our camp provided some Canadian ambiance.  It was just peaceful enough to usher us off to sleep before we would get up and see how many more miles we could log tomorrow.

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We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.


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