The end was near. Winter finally caught up to us as we turned into the homestretch of our journey, bringing not only the seasonal nostalgia of summertime, but reflections of a grand adventure approaching its conclusion. We seized each final endeavor, knowing that all too soon our time in the north would be up.
Go North Episode 20
The temperature was now regularly below freezing as October was rolling around on the Cassiar Highway. At the southern end we made the turn on to British Columbia Highway 16 that would next take us to Prince George. We were no longer in the remote reaches of the north, and farms and developed areas dotted the landscape here. Shortly after turning west we decided to take a detour through a small group of towns known as the Hazeltons.
These towns are located in the amazingly beautiful Bulkley River Valley that was accented by high peaks. The road out to the towns first crossed the Bulkley River on an amazing one lane suspension bridge 262 feet above the water.
The town of Hazelton is known as the “Totem Capital of the World” with more than 50 authentic totem poles in its vicinity. These artistic structures have many meanings and uses that vary as much as the cultures that craft them, and this area is rich in the native First Nations culture that these totems represent.
Burns Lake & Kager Lake Bike Park
Our next stop was a few hours down the road at the town of Burns Lake, as we had heard this town had great mountain biking. A short way outside town we found the Kager Lake Bike Park and to our surprise they had a newly developed donation-based dry campground right at the trailhead.
We had filled and dumped our tanks back at the Hazeltons Visitor’s Center so we decided to settle in here. While we had used our bikes a lot on this trip, we had not been on any dedicated mountain bike single track, so after tuning up our rides, we hit the trails!
This entire facility turned out to be amazing, with so many well-developed trails and fun structures. While we are not avid bikers, we had a blast riding around here, and found all the locals we came across very friendly and open to having visitors, as this park was built by the local biking community and is maintained by volunteers.
The next morning we awoke to plummeting temperatures. We had planned to do more riding but as we were heading out, the sky opened up with years first real snow!
Snow, Snow, Snow!
Temperatures continued to drop and wet ground turned to ice, making biking no longer possible, so we instead went for a hike and watched the magic of this first snow turn the world around us white.
No one was left in the campground and, as we were in no rush, we decided to stay put for another few days testing out our home on wheels in this excessive cold. Our trial Truma VarioHeat Furnace was running a lot but we were staying comfortably warm.
We were also monitoring our battery install temperature as if the battery temp dropped below 25 degrees we would not be able to charge them until they warmed. Amazingly, even with the temps 20 degrees below freezing, bleed heat from the furnace was keeping our Battle Born Batteries around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
>> Check out our Cold Weather Camping post, plus a live video from the day before our snow day!
Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Center
When temperatures started to warm we decided it was time to move on. We were on our way to Prince George but made one more stop in the town of Vanderhoof along the Nechako River to visit the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Center. Here we learned about the incredible white sturgeon that is Canada’s largest freshwater fish and has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. These fish are critically endangered, as they have failed to continue spawning in the rivers and without help will likely go extinct.
Saving the Nechako White Sturgeon
This center’s mission is to stabilize the fish population through its hatchery, researching reasons for spawning failure in the wild and putting corrections in place to return the sturgeon to a self-sustaining population. The reason for their decline is not fully understood, but it seems to be a combination of dams silting the rivers, pollution, and declining food supply from human activities in the region.
This facility was very modern with impressive water management and automation and our guide gave us an excellent tour.
Things to Do In Prince George, B.C.
From here we headed to the last destination of our trip, Prince George BC. Most of our adventures on this trip had been in the wilds of the north and small towns, but here at the end of our trip we decided to take a few days of full-hookups at Hartway RV Park and have one last “hoorah!” exploring this northerly town we knew almost nothing about.
The Exploration Place
The next few days the weather was going to be all over the place with spells of cold and rain. We took the rainy days to explore the towns indoor activities starting with The Exploration Place. This facility offers many educational science exhibits along with a museum covering the history of the town and the First Nations’ cultures.
Here we learned that Prince George has been a manufacturing center over the years along with heavy involvement in the lumber industry. The town is proud of its lumber roots and even has a large wooden man statue called “Mr. PG” that welcomes visitors.
Downtown Dining & Breweries
During the rainy days we also explored the downtown, doing a little shopping and sampling the local cuisine. Turns out that Prince George can satisfy pretty much any foodie’s craving – something that we hadn’t had the luxury in indulging in for much of our trip! Like wood-fired pizza at Butella Burning, gourmet Mediterranean food at Cimo’s, and great craft beers at Crossroads Brewing and Trench Brewing.
We toured Crossroads Brewing, which had recently opened in the location of an old car dealership, and enjoyed learning about and tasting these craft beers of the north.
Cottonwood Island Park
When the weather broke we also visited a few parks in the town, such as Cottonwood Island.
Walking through the towering cottonwood trees we kept our eyes out for the carvings we had been told about. It’s a bit of a scavenger hunt to find these unique faces harmlessly carved into the tree’s bark by a local artist named Elmer Gunderson.
Northern Lights Estate Winery
Prince George is located at the confluence of two rivers, the mighty Fraser River which provided transport over the years to the pacific ocean, and the Nechako River which flows from the coastal mountain range.
Across the Nechako River from town, we visited the Northern Lights Estate Winery.
We enjoy trying wines as we travel and this is British Columbia’s most northern winery. Due to the latitude of the winery, all their wines here are fruit based but grown right onsite.
Being so far north grapes don’t do well, but during our tasting, we found many of these fruit wines as desirable as some of our favorite varietals! We left with a few bottles. (Pssst! They also have great food!)
Hiking Teapot Mountain
With the weather improving we took the Visitor Center’s recommendations and went for a few hikes in the area, like up to Teapot Mountain. The hike up this 650-foot volcanic outcropping turned out very steep and was challenging on the wet and icy ground. This is the only tall peak for miles around and the trail rings around the top of the mountain providing 360-degree views!
We also explored another area we had wanted to see on our way north in the spring, which was now closer to our spot in Prince George, the Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park. This is an old-growth forest of western red cedars that happens to be further north and from the coast than any other rainforest in the world.
The unique geography here has allowed these trees to grow for over 1000 years to immense sizes. Boardwalks provided safe easy access, as well as to help protect the forest. Being a rainforest the cold wet weather was expected and gave us a magical feeling walking among these ancient giants.
Canadian Thanksgiving at Huble Homestead
We happened to be in the area during Canada’s Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October and decided to make a visit to the Huble Homestead Historic Site for Thanksgiving festivities.
The living history display gave us the sense of stepping back in time as we were given a tour of the grounds. Built in the early 1900’s this homestead continues to represent the early settlers of the region. Located on the banks of the Fraser River, this location was used as a portage for those looking to travel north by water route as at this location a short 7 mile overland trail got early explorers to the next river that eventually flowed to the arctic ocean.
Although it was cold we enjoyed the festivities, animals, and a Thanksgiving bite to eat. We also enjoyed some old fiddle tunes performed by The Ebbs – featured in the video!
Horseback Riding at El Shaddai Ranch
Our very last adventure was one Cait had been looking forward to all summer. In the past, Cait owned horses, and we had planned to make a horseback ride part of our adventure. Here at the end of our trip, we found the El Shaddai Ranch to go for a ride. After a little bit of instruction, our guide, Sean, helped us mount our horses and we headed off for a sunset trail ride.
The ranch borders public Crown Lands, and Sean took us out in a large windswept field. The soft light of sunset on the cloudy fall day made for a beautiful ride.
The trails were not in great shape due to the wet fall weather. But it was amazing to see how these powerful animals could take us just about anywhere through mud and woods. This gave us an understanding and respect of how early transport through the undeveloped wilds was done.
Driving South – In Earnest
The next we packed up and started driving south in earnest. We switched out of “adventure mode” and into “getting home mode.”
Highway 97 took us through the Fraser River Valley to Cache Creek, where we joined Canada Highway 1. We descended from high plains, through the mountains, through a desert (yes, a desert!). Finally, we drove back into the dense greenery of southwestern BC. All along the way, we resisted the urge to stop and explore. We promised ourselves that we’d return to explore southern BC another time.
We were excited to cross back into the United States and get back on familiar roads. Even though we are nomads, we were curiously surprised how much the pull of home was still very much there.
Back in the Lower 48
Our crossing back into the States went smoothly. Over the next few weeks, we stuck mostly to the interstate through Washington, Oregon, and down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas of California.
We had our last night in the Lance 1172 Truck Camper in Alabama Hills. This was very fitting, as that was where we had our first night in the truck camper. We had come full circle.
Returning to the Fifth Wheel
We were looking forward to returning to our fifth wheel, but it truly meant our journey was over. While this was sad, it also felt amazing to complete the goal we had set out on. We were grateful to return safely home, full to the brim with stories and memories.
>> New to our site and full-time home on wheels? Check out our fifth wheel here
We uncovered the fifth wheel, delighted to find only minor tears in the cover from its use. The paint on the RV had been buffed from the rubbing of the cover in the wind, but otherwise had done its job to protect.
The inside of the RV was cold. We were glad we had winterized the RV and our Truma AquaGo Water Heater before we had left. It smelled of DampRids, which had also done a great job of capturing excess moisture while we were away. It took a couple of weeks of airing out before that smell went away…
The truck needed a little help starting up with the aid of a battery charger. We also made sure all our tires were properly inflated before hitching up and pulling the fifth wheel out of the Lance storage lot. We headed to a nearby campground to properly flush our tanks, charge our batteries, and begin the process of unpacking the truck camper.
The final thing on our list was to remove the wrapping and decals. When we were done, it looked so naked!
We are definitely going to miss the truck camper. It was the ultimate vehicle for this trip; it enabled everything that we had wanted to do and more. We loved the flexibility to go places we couldn’t have gone in the fifth wheel. We also loved how easy it was to drive!
In the fifth wheel, we had more space to spread out, but at the trade-off of more stress to drive and less maneuverability. While this was goodbye to the Go North truck camper, we could definitely see a truck camper in our future.
The End of “Go North”
We spent six months on our trip to the north trying to see as much as we could. In the end, we still wished we could have stayed longer everywhere we went. Reflecting on this trip, we have realized that time was the biggest limiting factor.
With the summer season so short and the area to be explored so vast, we were constantly wishing for more time. We also realized, however, that no matter where you go or how you spend your time, amazing adventures await.
Each journey teaches us something new and helps us develop respect and understanding of places outside what we are used to. We had covered nearly 15,000 miles and completed the biggest journey of our lives thus far.
In the days that followed, we found ourselves lost in our thoughts. As we reflected, we realized that this adventure would have an impact on the rest of our lives.
In Alaska and northern Canada, the wilderness holds dominion over the land, weaving itself into everyday life and waiting for visitors like us to come and see what the world looks like when it is allowed to remain wild. It’s one of the things that continues to lure explorers to go north.
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A Special Thank You to our Supporters
This was a big project, and we couldn’t have done it alone:
Thank you to our friends and families for their love and encouragement, always.
Thank you to our Patrons, who made it possible for us to “cut the cord” to our other side-jobs and businesses and pursue this project full-on in 2019. They also gave us great ideas and support when we needed it behind-the-scenes!
Thank you to our Sponsors, who trusted us to follow our creativity in producing this project and outfitted us with some awesome gear to make this expedition more comfortable, powerful, and easy. Last but most certainly not least, thank you to our viewers!
Without an audience, what would be the point of all of this?
Thank you for your comments, questions, stories, and your precious time. We hope you enjoyed the journey with us, learned something, and were inspired to chase your dream – whatever that may be!
~ Caitlin & Tom
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