Day 43 - Monday, May 13 - Milepost 4148 - Birdcount 209 - Muncho Lake, BC
(SF's Journal). Bert makes so much noise that I know he wants to get moving. The sky is full of water and dropping it on us in the form of heavy, cold, almost snow rain. We pull out at 6:20 AM and almost immediately we start to climb and the rain turns heavier and whiter. Soon the landscape looks as if it has been dusted with powdered sugar; everything but the road is white. The Milepost is full of quotes like dangerous curve, hairpin turn, slow down turn, road is winding and narrow, steep descent that I dread this leg of the journey even before it starts to snow. Now as the road becomes even narrower and the snow closes in on us, I see a pull off at Steamboat and convince Bert it is a good idea to stop. We pull in and the snow seems to get worse. After more than two hours, and many other travelers passing on through, I decide to walk into the cafe and talk to the people in there. They all seem to think the roads are not bad so we push on. The snow gets worse for the first 15 minutes and then things dry up. Winding curves and steep descents are not as bad as ones we had travelled in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana in and around the Tetons and Yellowstone. We still make our destination at 2:20 PM, with plenty of daylight to bird watch. We are at J&H Wilderness Resort (6.5/7.5/7), a very nice stop in July. However, now the lake is still frozen with only a patch of blue and green showing along the perimeter as the ice tries to melt into water but seems afraid it will get burnt. The original plan was to stay two or three days here but I think overnight will be plenty.
(BF's Journal). The benefits of a 6:20 AM start on the highway are soon canceled when we pull off an hour or so later because Shari thinks the snow storm is too bad for driving. We had just started to climb 7-10 slopes when the world turned white with snow and the road became slushy. We wait inside our cozy motor home parked at a restaurant lot and watch snow fall, a plow pushing it off the road and, eventually, other semis, trucks and RVs passing us by. Shari finally builds up enough courage to let me continue driving. As it turns out, it is a painless, slow-moving stroll through snow covered mountains and blanketed forests. Few other travelers are on the highway and no one lives beside it. White-crowned Sparrows, Robins and, especially, Gray-slated Juncos are abundant along the highway; wave after wave of birds spray up alongside us like the wake on a speedboat as we frighten them by our passage. Again we are surrounded by the eastern edge of the Rockies, but each day the mountains look different, this time more barren of trees except in deep crevices knifed into the bare rock where spruce still survive. We descend into the valley created by the Mackenzie River. Tree coverage changes in this wetter environment from the sea of endless White Spruce populating the mountain sides we saw earlier to white papery Birch not yet leafed out, a few Black Spruce which appear thicker and fuller than their white cousins and a scattering of Lodgepole pines sporting brighter green than the spruce. At higher and drier elevation we pass Trembling Aspen stands. Caribou, bolder than yesterday, still meet us along the highway particularly in and near Stone Mountain Provincial Park. Today we see ten groups totaling 38 caribou, some of which came close enough to our vehicle to force us to slow to a crawl as we carefully passed them. Our campsite tonight lies at the shore of frozen Muncho Lake wedged between towering spruce laden mountains to the west and barren mountains shaped like pyramids jammed edge to edge in the east. Todays catch for my bird list includes two life-list species (American Tree Sparrow and Ruffed Grouse) plus Varied Thrush, which I saw only once before in a lush California forest when I taught at Stanford. Since we started this trip I have added thirteen to my life list. The day darkens later each night. Now at 10 PM it is light enough to read and to watch snow flurries suspended in the cold air.
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