This winter I recently purchased a Jeep after a fun filled rental. Really fun and enjoyable. I know I may regret trading in my fully paid off Honda SUV which would most definitely outlast a Chrysler built Jeep, but it wasn’t even half the fun. Life isn’t about regrets.
It all started with a nice country drive north of Pemberton, BC, which is 100kms north of Whistler and about 200 kilometers from Vancouver. We took the main road past Pemberton which the Lillooet Logging Road branches off of. It was truly a beautiful drive, farmland like Saskatchewan but with glacier capped Rocky Mountains as skyscrapers! A lot of farms in this area seemed to be organic. Rustic farm equipment, old John Deeres and banana seated bicycles left seemingly untouched for the past decades.
After approximately 40 kms past Pemberton, we reached the gate of the Lillooet Logging Road (sorry for the poor quality photos.) Prior to entering, you are warned that after mid November the road isn’t maintained, that there are plenty of grizzly bears and moose and its illegal to shoot either. That the road has potential for life threatening natural catastrophes and there is nobody that can save you as there is no cellphone access or regular patrols. We decided that our Jeep Patriot rental would be a safe bet to get us thru the well maintained road which to our dismay was actively being used by a company servicing the newly built large electrical construction project atop the logging road. So much for total remoteness, but grateful we’d have a fighting chance to be rescued should a natural catastrophe occur.
At the 42.5 kms (each kilometer is marked) we reached a sign that said ” Lilwatatkwa7 trail.” Back on the 26th km marker, I waved down a car and asked if he knew about Keyhole Hot Spring’s proximity. The heavily accented Irish man replied that he was just there and it was at the 42.5 km marker (from the start of the Lillooet Logging Road). We then proceeded, at the 40 km marker there was a check in for the construction project going on ahead of us. This brought me comfort because I had no idea how remote this hot spring was, especially after entering the trail.
I expected this place to be off the road, but it wasn’t. It took at least an hour to hike there, down a very steep non maintained trail and over many rocks, fallen trees, water. Bear prints, wolf prints, dog prints, all very prevalent. We came across two girls at the start who had just returned form the hotspring, both had bells in hand which are used to warn/scare (hopefully) grizzly’s away rather then surprising them. The only indicators were orange and blue tape marker, which will lead you to the campground. After that, there is no marking. We were about to give up at the campground until we came across a few other people who seemed to be regulars, as well as the feisty Pomeranian Pup whom I almost mistake for bear. They showed us the way, before cheerfully dissolving themselves into one of 3 handcrafted basins, handcrafted by local stone masons and cracking Budweiser beers. The water is so hot in the basins that they took a bucket of river cold water and poured it in, to make it tolerable.
Arianne transferred briefly into her swimsuit and took a quick plunge before deciding it was too hot for her. I did not bring my bathing gear and since there were other trekkers, I couldn’t go in wearing my boxer shorts as planned. It was also getting dark and we were quite hungry, had no lights, no proper gear, so we skedaddled back uphill, not before running into another friendly regular and his dog who gave us an idea of another more remote hot spring to look into. Near the end we came across a few girls who traveled all the way from Quebec to see the hotspring! So as remote as Keyhole Hot Spring or Pebble Creek Hot Spring is, we were not the only ones to have discovered it, to our surprise, but fortunate we did.
On our way back I got a flat tire in my Jeep rental. Luckily I said yes to the deductible insurance complementary to my visa card insurance so I was off the hook. Was able to change the tire on a gravel road and be on our way back to Vancouver.
So I just noticed that my credit card was authorized for some 212. As soon as I noticed I called my credit card company to investigate as I couldn’t yet see the purchase on my profile. My first suspicion was that a coffee shop had entered 150 instead of 1.50 when I tapped my card.
No, I wasn’t so lucky. Instead, what I saw was a charge from a car rental company. It seems the recession in Alberta is bad, as the Calgary Police have resorted to nailing people with some high tech speed cameras when you enter into town. Not only do they got the speed, the license plate, but also the type of vehicle I was driving- including the make and model.
“Luckily” there is no demerit points in photo radar tickets since they can’t verify- at this point- who was driving. My record is meticulous with no flaws for over a decade. These speed traps are shameful in areas in which minor cases of speeding have no effect on the safety of others.
Perhaps in the future they will include facial scanners of speeders, too.
So I had a few days off, had my sleep cycle disrupted by a night shift and on the weekend they offer cheap rental cars, as to not put massive kilometers on mine. La Ronge in northern Saskatchewan is a place that I’ve always wanted to visit since moving here. Its a place I read about before I came here some years ago, along the same time one may read about: Flin Flon, Churchill, Buffalo Narrows, Uranium City and other places in the north.
La Ronge caught my attention because of all the forest fires and the blankets of smoke coming south that lasted over a week. After my drive, both Harper and Trudeau visited the town a few days after. On my drive, I was a bit disappointed about the quality of the highway from Regina to La Ronge- they were in far too great of state to be the gateway to Canada’ extreme north. I was wanting and expecting something more primitive, to reflect what I perceived an isolated northern place should be. Being quite tired, I probably didn’t enjoy my mini trip as I should have. Didn’t take much photos and when I got to La Ronge, it was Sunday and everything but a 24 hour gas station (with a pawn shop) called Harry’s Place in Air Ronge was open. Did I mention it had fortified windows and you were to be served out of a tiny manhole? I guess they have some problems with crime up there. I counted at least 4 pawn shops in a city of max. 3,000 residents, one which was nearly the size of the local Giant Tiger.
Basically, what I saw was something between a native settlement, blended in with a modern “touristcentric” town with resort cottages, private hotels/motels and full scale out door recreation (boating, fishing, swimming and even flying). I guess I was hoping for a more rugged place, that prefers to be isolated rather then seeking out to attract city dweller’s investments. When I think of it more, I was ignorant to expect to find a truly remote place and only have to travel 650 kilometers, down a perfectly paved cement highway to get to. If I had more time, I would have continued driving to places like Buffalo Narrows and beyond, basically to the end of the highway. While I haven’t been there, it seems the highway gets better (in a rougher way) passed La Ronge as the remote nature of living in a northern settlement truly kicks in.
For the true extreme, you must continue past La Ronge. Take fly in shuttling. That’s my next big trip, to visit Uranium City and I’m hoping to do it this year.
A few poor quality snapshots I managed to take in my few hours of La Ronge:
YA7OO.com, Back from the Middle-of-Nowhere
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