The super straight roads in northern Canada can lull you into a trance. At one point on Highway 1, our GPS told us our next turn was in 95 miles (152 km). Because of the runway-like nature of the road, everyone seemed to drive down the middle of it—and by everyone, we mean the three or four other vehicles we encountered in a 10 hour day of driving.
Driving the Liard Highway from Fort Smith to Fort Nelson, Canada
We turned off the runway like paved highway and onto the all-dirt Liard Highway and began kicking up a cloud of dust you could probably see from space. The dust was so powder fine it got inside the truck through even the smallest gaps. Some days there was more than an inch of dust accumulated on our stuff in the bed after a day of driving, even with the Leer cap on.
In a creative attempt to keep the dust out, we meticulously applied thick, white, self-adhesive weather stripping around all the seals at the back of the bed, tailgate, and cap, which helped, but didn’t solve the problem. Nothing was an effective defense against the mosquitoes at our campsite in Samba Deh Falls Territorial Park, so we made a smoky fire, wolfed down some dinner, and retreated to the relative safety of our tent.
The next morning we left camp in the rain, which made us nervous because everyone we’d spoken to about the Liard said the dirt highways we were traveling on become instantly impassable at the first sign of moisture. This is a part of the world, after all, where tow truck business cards are tucked discretely into visitor center brochures and passed around like the name of a really good dentist.
But the good old Liard Highway held its own as we headed out in a determined drizzle that, thankfully, helped keep the dust down. About 200 miles (321 km) shy of Fort Nelson we caught a glimpse of the Northern Rockies and it hit us how long it had been since we’d seen mountains.
As we left the Northwest Territories and near Fort Nelson in British Columbia we also began to see farms (and people!) again. The entire Northwest Territories has a population of only 42,000, and 20,000 of those are in Yellowknife. Being in the wilderness is fantastic, but emerging from it has its attractions as well.
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