Today we left the Rockies behind. We are still at higher elevations, but no more high, rough peaks and snow on the northern exposures. We passed through the highest peak on the Alaska Highway (Summit Pass – 4250 feet) and the lowest point (Muskwa River – 1000 feet). From Fort Nelson eastward the road is in excellent condition; much of it has been relocated from the original route selected in 1942.
Twice today we encountered road construction typical of what we have found all along the highways this summer. They are completely rebuilding the road bed with large rock then layers of smaller and smaller rock until they finally (usually) add a chip seal coat. While this is all going on, only one lane of traffic is permitted through. So we stop and wait, for as long at 30 minutes, then when it is our turn to go through we have to follow a pilot car. Sometimes this is a very dusty passage, other times water trucks have dispensed water on the road, then it is just a muddy passage.
Fort Nelson was one of the larger cities we have seen in a while (Population: 6000). It had all the amenities we needed – grocery, beer store, town free RV dump, and fuel station. Fort Nelson was a small fur-trading post until the railroad reached it in 1971 and mineral exploration began. Coal was originally king, but lately natural gas provides most of the town’s income. There is an 800-mile pipeline from Fort Nelson to Vancouver.
We stopped for the night at the Buckinghorse River Wayside Provincial Park. Dinner was chicken salad, green salad, and beets.
Buckinghorse River Wayside Provincial Park Review: This is basically a very potholed, very dusty dirt road along the side of a rocky, willow lined river. 31, short back-in sites are lined up along the road – each about 15 feet wide. There is no vegetation between them. Picnic tables, fire rings, pit toilets, and hand-pumped water (boil 10 minutes) are provided. Wood is available from the “park attendant,” but none came by. This is probably one of the worst places we have ever camped. I am surprised that British Columbia calls this a Provincial Park. Walmart parking lots are cleaner and more inviting. There are a couple of campers here who appear to be working in the area and using this as their home base. They have no regard for quiet hours and started up their generators at 5 AM before heading out to work in a cloud of dust at 5:30. One positive: Because it is so dry and dusty (and today windy and hot), there were only a few mosquitoes. Fee: $16, by self-registration.