Day 21 – Liard Hot Springs to Muncho Lake
We are a day or two ahead of schedule, allowing for more time at a destination if we choose. There was some discussion Liard hot springs may have the benefit of our presents for an extra day. However, after our initial dip in the hot springs, another day wasn’t necessary. The hot springs were great, but the smell was hard to take.
The next morning greeted us with clear skies the sun peaking over the distant mountains, the temperature a bit nippy at 0 C. and a layer of frost. Cool, I’d sooner have sunshine and cooler temperatures than rain.
After breakfast, the group gathered for a final dip in the hot springs before leaving for Muncho Lake.
The half kilometer walk through the cold morning air chilled the group. Our pace quickened with anticipation of the warm spring water. Steam enveloped the hot spring pools like a huge outdoor sauna. The water seemed much hotter this morning, probably the contrast with the cold air.
After a twenty minute dip, time to head back to camp and prepare for the next leg of our journey.
After warming our bodies in the hot springs the return to camp was less urgent. The morning sun reflecting off the frost covered swamp plants and steam rising from the cooling spring water made for a striking picture.
We reached the end of the boardwalk and a commotion. A moose grazed at the edge of the swamp. A huge specimen with unusual colored antlers, orange, quite a sight.
The information plaques along the board walk explained that animals are attracted to the mineral rich plants growing in the swamp.
The plaques also noted a rare breed of snail inhabits the swamp, apparently, not found anywhere else on earth. I’m not sure of this conclusion, as Ralph says, “have these researchers searched the entire globe for this tiny snail?”
Another interesting fact, even though this area is situated in the far north and subject to bitterly cold winters, the swamp doesn’t freeze providing a warm oasis in a desert of snow.
Back at camp, we prepared for departure, by 10:30 we were on our way to Muncho Lake. The map indicated a scenic drive through the northern Rocky mountains.
An hour later we were climbing through a high mountain pass bordered by jagged snow-capped peaks.
The northern Rockies are not as high as their southern cousins, but the scenery is equally breathtaking.
The climb into the mountains brought back the fall colors of the Yukon, bright oranges, brilliant reds amidst groves of stunted evergreens. The colorful forest climbed the steep valley walls ending at the tree line, exposing the gray jagged mountains above.
Road construction extended our two-hour drive to Muncho Lake. Sunshine persisted as we drove the high windy Alaska Hwy to Muncho Lake Provincial Park. We drove east directly into the sun, that’s probably why I didn’t see the two moose Lynda spotted in a marsh next to the highway.
The twelve-kilometer long jade-colored lake is post card perfect, nestled in a high mountain valley surrounded by spectacular rugged peaks of folded mountains reflecting dramatically off the glass-smooth lake.
Our early afternoon arrival at McDonald Provincial Campground insured the best camping spots. We’re all BC seniors we pay half price $15. after labor day, one of the perks of being members of the over the hill gang.
The plan was to stay at least two nights depending on the weather and the fishing. The group is due for a rest, the last multi-night stop was Dawson City 4 or 5 days ago. Today the weather is not a problem, sunshine and a warm breeze dominated the afternoon, perfect.
We chose prime spots close to the lake shore, a perfect setting. Once settled, time for a hot dog lunch. After lunch, Henry, Ralph, and I try our luck at fishing.
We hadn’t dropped a line in the water since leaving BC for the Yukon. We were excited at the chance to fish this pristine lake.
The fishing guide indicates Muncho lake is home to lake trout, Arctic grayling, bull trout and white fish. The only fish I’m familiar with is lake trout, they are usually found in deep water below fifty feet. Not sure how to fish the other species.
When fishing a new lake it takes a couple of excursions to determine the resident’s preference.
Muncho Lake is our fourth fishing lake on the trip. Henry, Ralph and I have the routine down. Henry and I remove the traveling cover from the boat, unload Allyson’s kayak, load tackle boxes and rods, check the trolling motor fuel, and load the appropriate clothing and rain gear. While Ralph uncouples his 5th wheel and hitches up the boat for launching.
When checking the small motor I noticed a leak at the rear of the prop. Gear oil is slowly oozing out. Henry and I checked the oil level, its pretty much full. I’ll keep and eye on it.
The weather is unsettled so we brought rain gear on the boat. An advantage of wearing rain gear, besides the obvious rain protection, is warmth, a wind resistant layer.
Before long we’re ready, and Henry, Ralph and I are bouncing across the waves in seek of our prey.
The far shore on the leeward side of a forested peninsula is our first destination. A calm area out of the southeast wind.
The fish finders indicated fish at fifty to eighty feet, probably lake trout. Henry trolled a lead line with an orange colored flat fish, while Ralph experimented with various ensembles. My choice, the down-rigger and a green and red striped apex resembling a rainbow minnow.
The first fishing afternoon was successful, two fish landed. Two fish is better than no fish. Two – 2-pound lake trout were our prize.
We returned to camp to enjoy the warmest afternoon since the first week of our trip, 25 C (77 F). We found our wives lounging on the beach enjoying the sunshine.
A perfect fall afternoon on the shores of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
The wind subsided leaving us with the warmest evening in weeks. A pleasant happy hour around the campfire followed by delicious a Chinese feast created by our lovely brides. Chow mein, sweet and sour pork, and chop suey. You gotta love wilderness camping.
A spectacular warm evening with clouds drifting past a full moon and the moonlight reflecting off Muncho lake. The group sat quiet, mesmerized by natures’ amazing hues of blues and blacks and fifty shades of gray. LOL
Day 22 – Muncho Lake Camping
The next morning and another fishing adventure. Unfortunately, luck was not with us this am, one fish, a white fish, Henry’s catch. Allyson filleted the one pound fish and Ralph cooked it over the lunch time campfire using a sandwich screen with a long handle.
After Allyson filleted the white fish I was surprised when she handed a handful of roe (fish eggs) to Henry which he proceeded to dip in egg and flour and fry over the campfire. He offered everyone a taste, I reluctantly tried. The flavor was fishy and a texture similar to tiny tapioca beads. No need to try that again.
Ralph passed the cooked white fish around, I could tell it wasn’t a hit. This was my first time tasting white fish, a much stronger flavor than trout. The conclusion, dip it in batter fry it in oil and feed it to the dog.
After lunch another fishing opportunity, Ralph opted out this time. Henry and I headed out to try our luck, hoping for better success. My hopes were realized, landing two decent size lake trout on the down-rigger using a watermelon pattern apex.
Henry and I shouldn’t have stayed on the lake so long. After the sun sank behind the mountains the thermometer dropped like a rock when. We headed back to camp at full throttle.
Earlier in the day, a tentative plan for dinner could be a fish fry if enough fish were caught. My catch should seal the deal.
The evening brought our usual routine happy hour around the campfire followed by the much-anticipated fish fry. Allyson cooked the fish while Lois and Lynda prepare the other courses.
While the women prepared dinner the hunter-gatherers and heroes of the wilderness, Ralph, Henry and me, relaxed and enjoyed grog. A perk of bring home the bacon………right?
The next morning, I woke to a dead camper battery. I guess the short drive to Muncho lake didn’t fully charge the battery. The camper lights, water pump, and the satellite radio dragged it down.
I borrowed Ralph’s small 25-watt solar panel. On our previous trip, this small panel was all Ralph needed to recharge his RV batteries. For this trip, he upgraded to a folding 200-watt system.
Without clear skies I had my doubts this small panel would charge my battery enough to last the evening. Sun and clouds were the order of the day.
By evening, to my pleasant surprise, the small panel did the trick charged my battery enough even with intermittent sunshine. Thankfully it would receive a full charge the next day, a full day’s drive to our next destination.
RV Batteries can be very reliable or quite the opposite if not properly maintained. click here to review my article on RV batteries.
The last day’s weather, sunshine, clouds, and the odd shower. Ralph and I erected his screened shelter in case the showers persisted through the evening.
Later that day we found the shelter upside down on the picnic table, one of the legs was slightly bent, note to self, anchor the shelter in the future.
The last day at Muncho proved to be the best fishing. We had the lake figured. Fish deeper and troll faster.
Thank goodness for the down-rigger, the only way to reach the fifty-foot depth while trolling. A large flasher and watermelon pattern apex was perfect.
Ralph and I took turns pulling in fish, a total of 8 between us, although we returned a couple of smaller specimens to their watery home. A fun morning.
We returned to camp for lunch after lunch a firewood run. Ralph made a wood run the previous afternoon while Henry and I fished. The Pickens were good so the three of us ventured out again, who knew when the opportunity would arise for our next load.
At this point in the trip, no campfire is out of the question. Fall is fast approaching, the night air is cold, we need the warmth of the campfire. Spending the evening inside is no fun.
In the north, trees are small, the wood is dense and spiral shaped, probably from the short growing season. We managed a good load of the small diameter wood.
The evening brought another happy hour around the campfire. The next day’s itinerary was the main topic this evening, apparently, our wine cellars are running dry, a stop at the next good sized town was crucial.
Fort Nelson would be the benefit of our tourist buck, noon was our predicted arrival time.
Clouds rolled in after dinner, we feared rain would end our night, luck was with us, it held off. A pleasant evening around the campfire recapping the day’s adventures. Another great day on our Alaska journey.
My next article, the drive through the northern Rockies to Fort Nelson and Bucking Horse River Provincial Park.
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