Teslin > Continental Divide > Watson Lake > Coal River Lodge > Laird Hot Springs
Route: Alaskan Highway
Wildlife Spotted: Moose, bison, bear, porcupine
Drive Quality: 10/10
Road Quality: 8/10
The only sound when we woke was the rustling of the tent in the wind. No rain. We paid for it in cold, this morning our chilliest yet, single digits. We layered our coats over our sweaters, over other sweaters, over long sleeve shirts and thermals. We put hand warmers in our gloves, Carmen tucked one into her shirt. The sky was grey and moody, the thick ceiling moved slowly, wisps of dark grey rolling over the place where the suns should be.
We stopped again at the Continental Divide Gas Station & RV park, this time lingering in the reception area and asking after coffee. The owner is an incredibly genuine human who invited us in to sit by the wood stove out back. Which we did, drinking several cups of coffee, feeling the heat blast into our cores, and lamenting over all things Covid. In other seasons, the Continental Divide is full service. They have a restaurant, small bar (complete with a small stage for a band), and hook-ups. We vowed to come back in another season when the place was fully functional.
We waved goodbye and made the 136k push to Watson Lake, which was a lovely route, curvy and tree lined. Watson Lake has many services, including restaurants and grocery stores. If you’ve made it here by early afternoon, do yourself a favor and skip lunch here. The next stop 2 hours South at Coal River Lodge offers a far more authentic experience, and better food. We grabbed a few groceries then moved on.
Shortly after leaving Watson Lake, you pass back into British Colombia. We loved the Yukon, but crossing this border was like passing from one world into the next. The Yukon is jade, it is deep and layered with a murky, frosted spectrum. Her power sneaks up on you, quiet in her confidence. Unencumbered, she need not be told she is beautiful.
B.C., though, presents herself. She stands tall and shouts. Crossing into her, we saw the sun for first time in two weeks. Everything seemed to glitter. The lakes became alpine blue, the forests diversified. Birch groves shot up between the conifers. The cliffs became rocky, though abundantly green. Tall grasses waved at our passing. Wildlife was once again abundant. Within an hour, we saw porcupine, moose, and bear again.
When we pulled over at Coal River Lodge, drunk on gorgeous views, a large sign warned of bison on the roadway. Sure enough, directly beside it, an entire herd of 60-something bison lounged, wandered, and grazed roadside. We pulled into the gravel parking lot and chatted with the owners, who had lots to say about the area and offered amazing advice. Had we not been crossing our fingers for a dip in the hot springs, we absolutely would have stayed here. The Lodge offers gas, RV hook-ups, camp sites, a motel, and a communal fire pit. It is grassy and well-kept and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The Café inside serves bison burgers ($12.95 at the time!), sandwiches, ice cream, and offers a full espresso bar.
Our final portion was the short push to Laird Hot Springs. Unfortunately, due to Covid, the springs are closed, though camping is available. There is a small lodge across the street, which offers cafeteria-style food, but there are no bars or stores to speak of, so come prepared. We built a fire and had a feast of fish and potatoes, which we picked up in Watson Lake, finally relaxing into ourselves, feeling warm and accomplished.