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Alaska Trip: Days 2, 3, & 4

When we left Minot on Thursday, we headed north and west, up through Saskatchewan. We didn’t really stop anywhere interesting, except for eating dinner in a small town called Maidstone. We camped near the Alberta border.

Friday morning we started early, before 7 AM. We headed west to Edmonton, then headed north. We drove for many, many hours, before ending in Hay River, Northwest Territories, on the shore of Great Slave Lake. We pulled in just before midnight and met a friend’s family, who fed us lovely lasagna and put us up for the night.

Hay River is just south of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. It is also the end of the rail line. As such, it is a major hub for shipping things north to the many scattered settlements throughout the Canadian Arctic. It’s a busy town of about 3500 people.

Saturday we had a lovely day exploring the town of Hay River. It’s quite a place. Our hosts were kind enough to give us the grand tour of the region. We started with a driving tour of town, ending at the Great Slave Lake. It’s a striking lake, on the scale of Lake Superior. We waded in a bit (Rachel went swimming).

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Afterward, we headed to the fisherman’s wharf for a fish-n-chips lunch. Fresh whitefish is amazingly good.

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After lunch, we headed out of town.

We first headed to a small roadside park, which at first appeared to contain nothing more than a picnic table and a small creek, but on further exploration we found a gorgeous series of waterfalls 30 or 40 feet high.

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We then proceeded to two other parks on the Hay River. We’d been told we’d see waterfalls, but nothing prepared us for the sheer scale of what we saw. This wasn’t just a bit of rapids. This was a BIG river going over a BIG cliff. We watched in awe for a few minutes, before heading out once again.

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From there we headed west to the Mackenzie River. We took a ferry across the river to the town of Providence. As we were driving along the road, we saw some large brown rocks next to the road. On closer inspection, we found that it was a herd of bison who were lazily napping within a few meters of the highway. A mile or so down the road, we found another group in a similar pose. We snapped a few pictures, and they ignored us.

(more photos later)

After exploring Providence a bit, we headed back across the river and drove back to Hay River in time for dinner. It was a wonderful day full of amazing sights. The weather was perfect; clear skies and about 70 degrees, with just enough breeze to keep the bugs away. All of us have commented that we’d love to spend a summer living and working here.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be setting out on the Liard Highway, a 200-mile stretch of gravel through the Liard Valley. We’ve been told that although the road is rough, it’s one of the most beautiful locations in the Territories. We’re hoping to make it all the way through the gravel tomorrow and end in Liard Hot Springs.

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