Tag Archives: Stone Sheep

May 15, 2015 Travel from Grand Prairie to Watson Lake

Wood Bison

Wood Bison

Crossing the Canadian Rockies, Wildlife Galore

Wednesday, May 13 Jasper to Grande Prairie

I left the Whistler CG in Jasper heading for Grand Prairie around 8 AM. Drove north on Route 16,  a nice , wide, smooth, and scenic drive to Hinton, where I got on Route 40. The first 30 miles or so of Route 40 are pretty rough, and narrow, with no shoulders, but then it gets a little smoother, a little wider, and by the time you approach Grande Cache, it is a fairly nice road.

In Grand Prairie, I took the bypass to the Visitors Center and sat in the parking lot for several hours to get 2 posts done, absolute torture, ended up using my IMac because the new PC laptop couldn’t pick up the same weak signal the Imac used. Signal in and out but finally got it done.

Proceeded down the road to the WalMart to overnight. This Walmart store is one of the worst  I have seen. Very poorly stocked and maintained with probably the worst cashier I have ever encountered, barely spoke any English and had just a terrible attitude. Oh well, at least the camping fee was reasonable. I had no problems here overnight and there were enough other RV’s there that I felt pretty safe.

Thursday, May 14

Left the Walmart parking lot at 6 AM and filled up with gas in Grand Prairie. Oil/gas field truck traffic is pretty heavy between Grand Prairie and Fort Nelson. All the roads today were in decent shape, with only 3 major road projects today, and I had no significant delays or problems with any of them. Made it to Fort Nelson, filled up again and decided to continue on, starting the climb across the Rocky Mountains.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Caribou in the Road

Caribou in the Road

Crossing the Rockies on the Alaska Highway

I had my first sighting of Woodland Caribou today when these two darted out from the woods then fled along the side of the road and into the woods when they saw me. These shots were taken on the move, through the windshield because these guys didn’t seem to be too anxious to stop and pose for the photographer, and since they are the first I have ever seen, I had to include these shots!

Wioodland Caribou Fleeing

Wioodland Caribou Fleeing

Stone Sheep Ram

Stone Sheep Ram

Got some decent shots of Stone Sheep near Stone Mountain.

Stone Sheep Salt Lick

Stone Sheep Salt Lick

StoneSheepRamVert

Stone Sheep are a gray colored subspecies of the all white Dall Sheep, found a little farther north in the Yukon and Alaska. Images to come later in the trip, I certainly hope.

Stone Sheep Ewe

Stone Sheep Ewe

Stone Sheep Ram

Stone Sheep Ram

StoneSheepEweSQ

I originally thought they were all Bighorn Sheep, but the Stone and the Dall Sheep are referred to as Thin Horned Sheep, who knew?

Black Bear Grazing

Black Bear Grazing

There were black bears out and about in several spots today, and I stopped to shoot a few of them. Apparently no females, because I have yet to see a black bear with cubs since leaving the Kootenay National Park. And no grizzlies, yet. Stopped for the night 300km short of Watson Lake.

Friday, May 15

No problems with my roadside campsite. Up at 4:30 and cooked up some stroganoff for some fast reheat meals in the days ahead. It is only dark this far north for about 4 or 5 hours now, so I go to sleep while it is still light and when I awaken, it is light enough to go out with the dogs with no need for a flashlight. I remember when I did this trip in 1993 that I had some trouble sleeping  because of the light, not so last night. Got on the road around 7 AM.

Black Bear Grazing

Black Bear Grazing

I encountered several more male black bears this morning, and they are now so numerous, I am able to get picky, and don’t stop for them unless the light is just right, or if they have a variant color,

An Auburn Black Bear

An Auburn Black Bear

like this auburn black bear.

Moose Seeking Salt

Moose Seeking Salt

Young Bull Moose

Young Bull Moose

Two young bull moose ran out in front of me this morning and I stopped and got a couple shots when they returned from the woods and went about licking minerals from the blacktop.

Wood Bison Moving Out

Wood Bison Moving Out

And the highlight of the morning … Wood Bison! Another animal I had never previously encountered.

Wood Bison Nursery

Wood Bison Nursery

These youngsters can’t be very old, and it was a riot watching them frolic around with each other, and gather up to pester one of the adults, then all return to their respective Moms to suckle. Hard to believe these cute little guys grow to be such awesome giants.

Wood Bison Family

Wood Bison Family

Dad takes a dust bath, while Junior, who can’t be more than a few days old, just makes sure he keeps out of the way.

Wood Bison

Wood Bison

Wood Bison

Wood Bison

Wood Bison

Wood Bison

Wood Bison Heading for the Woods

Wood Bison Heading for the Woods

All along this section of highway, from the hot springs all but into Watson Lake, there are ample signs ( read piles ) of these Wood Bison on the hills along the road, yet I only saw two groups of them. They must be all hiding out in the woods by day, as the group above were heading to do. I would advise being very cautious driving this section of the Alaskan Highway, especially when the light is poor. A collision with one of these giants would not have a happy outcome.

After two long, rewarding, days of driving, I decided on the spur of the moment to stop and stay in the Downtown RV Park in Watson Lake and see if their WiFi was up to the task of allowing me to catch up a bit on blog posts. $40/night Canadian with a Good Sam discount to park in a gravel parking lot with full hookups right in the town of Watson Lake. And I got my blog posts caught up!

Now on to Whitehorse and time to make a decision on whether to take the Top of the Workd Highway to Alaska or stick to the safer Alaska Higway route.

Alaska Trip Road Diary

Starting From the Canadian Border

Route 95 North – Highgate Border Crossing to Radium Hot Springs

Good two lane

Route 93 North – Through Kootenay National Park to Castle Junction intersection with Route 1

Very good two lane with one moderate climb at southern end. Great scenery with possible wildlife sightings, I got a nice black bear and cub shot along this road.

Route 1 Banff to the Icefields Parkway just north of Lake Louise

Very nice 4 lane divided highway with fences and overpasses for wildlife protection, great scenery.

Icefields Parkway, Route 93 North Lake Louise – Jasper

Absolutely incredible scenery with wildlife sightings, I got several black bear shots and some ducks. Roughly 180 miles with the first 20 miles or so a little rough. A couple of long grades, but quite doable for my rig while towing. Two lane all the way with mostly fairly wide shoulders and many, many pullouts. A “ must drive “ highway

Route 16 East – Jasper to Hinton

Two lane very nice highway, no major hills, wide shoulders, nice scenery plus wildlife. I got Bighorn Sheep battling along this road as well as ducks. Many elk along this stretch of road.

Route 40 West – Hinton to Grande Prairie

First 30 miles or so of this two lane road are very rough with narrow shoulders. After that, it improves slightly. Lots of up and downs all along this road, very hilly terrain.

Route 43 West/2 North – Grande Prairie to Dawson Creek

Two lane paved road kind of beaten up with all the heavy oil/gas field trucking, lots of truck traffic.

Route 97 North, The Alaska Highway – Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson

Two lane paved road kind of beaten up with all the heavy oil/gas field trucking, lots of truck traffic.

Route 97 North, The Alaska Highway – Fort Nelson to Watson Lake – “Crossing the Canadian Rockies”

Two lane paved road in pretty good condition overall, all things considered. A few steep grades ( you are crossing the northern terminus of the Rocky Mountains after all ), nothing that presented a problem for my rig though, winding in places and a few narrow sections. The last 100 or so miles into Watson Lake are almost like a main highway, wide shoulders, fairly smooth road surface, really in pretty good shape, but you really have to watch for Bison and Black bears along this stretch. Wonderful scenery and all kinds of wildlife sightings. I truly enjoyed driving this stretch of road over the two days it took to do so.

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