Advice from Caribou Lodge cook on viewing wildlife
Pink Mountain seemed like a good place for a beverage on the 400kms between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson, as we headed through B.C. wilderness for the Yukon. Our server/cook was Linda, a one-time Ontario resident who hitchhiked here in the 1970s and became a northerner, working on contract in lodges and camps ever since. Her home is the gold mining ghost town of Stewart near the Alaskan panhandle in the far northeast. But she only lives there a few months a year. “Most cooks come in for a month and go out,” she wipes away a fake tear on her sleeve for those workers. “Me, I’m here all summer.” Referring to us as doll-faces, she told a story warning about wildlife. “This Grandma and Grandpa bought a retirement home in the mountains by the Alberta border. “They were out walking. She wanted to go home. He told her to go ahead. He saw a grizzly bear and wanted a better picture. “Five hours later she phoned conservation. He got his picture. They never saw him again. The grizzly had two cubs.” Even though she lives in a bear corridor “I’ve never seen a grizzly bear. I’d like to — from a distance.” In between the carrot cake and beverage, she mourned the loss of oil and gas jobs in the north. Last year, a number of workers were called in to nearby camps and were so happy to get work. “It was monsoon season, can’t work. They were stuck in camp. No pay if you can’t work. They have bills to pay.” She counsels us to visit Stewart, “Be sure and look at the Fort Liard Hot Springs, might see a moose or bear there.” We will see plenty of wildlife. Forest fires years ago in the area from Fort Liard to the Yukon created ideal range for bear, bison and caribou. She was right. Leaving Muncho Lake the next day, we saw four black bear, three bison, a bison herd and three red fox, and paid nearly $2 a litre for gas at Fort Liard. It was even better viewing on the return. On an ideal wildlife photo hunt, I’d just drive the Muncho Lake - Watson Lake road every day. We never made it to the hot springs, still pretty much as built by U.S. Army engineers in 1942 while making the Alaska Highway.