Oh, Honey, One Pancake Should Do Ya! Day Two on the Alaska Road Trip

We woke up today in Williams Lake, ready to go for Day Two of the Great Alaska Road Trip. Actually, Jane woke up ready to go at 7:30 am, and I was very grouchy when I was awoken too. These are my last weeks before the flail of college sets in, so I’m dreaming of nine hours of sleep a night. That might not be possible between restaurant meals, birding jaunts, photo stops, bathroom breaks, construction slow-downs, and a good hour of blogging before bed, so I gave my mom this advice: “When you wake me up, I’m grumpy ‘cause I’m imagining another two hours of uninterrupted sleep I could’ve had. Just be loud when you get up in the morning, and I’ll imagine I woke up on my own.”

We ate Cheerios, banana, and shelf-stable soy milk for breakfast on a deck overlooking the lake, then spent two hours birding at Scout Island Nature Centre.

American white pelicans at Williams Lake, seen from the deck off our hotel room.

We had a lengthy conversation with this chatty juvenile American crow.

Jane shows off the entrance to Marsh Wren Trail at Scout Island Nature Centre.

A scruffy red-winged black bird.

An American coot provides scale for this long-billed dowitcher.

A pied-billed grebe.

A female canvasback with a flat forehead/bill profile.

A yellow warbler.

A downy woodpecker.

A pair of osprey on their platform nest. The left-hand one is squeaking at us.

Once again we hit the road around 11:30 am, a little behind schedule. Then we stopped a half-hour down Highway 97 at the first diner we came to in McLeese Lake, population 300, for second breakfast (the best meal of the day!)

“Do you think I would need two pancakes, or three?” Jane asked the waitress.

“Oh, honey, one should do ya!” she replied.

Jane could not finish her one, inch-thick, larger-than-plate-sized pancake with butter and syrup. (To her credit, she left only one bit unconsumed.) I happily devoured Salisbury steak (a sort of breakfast hamburger, new to me) with two fried eggs, four pieces of sourdough toast, and potatoes with ketchup. We were entertained by a large family of adult and juvenile barn swallows.

We paused again, half an hour further down Highway 97, at the small city of Quesnel for an iced chai soy latte at Granville Bakery. (We just missed Starbuck's too much to pass up a coffee shop!) Now we were an hour into our nine-hour drive, and it was 1:00 pm. Time to get moving!

Farther into the day, we passed under these massive powerlines and their support structures, dubbed the Graceful Ladies by my mother. Thanks to our omnipotent Milepost, we knew they were carrying electricity south from hydro dams in the Hudson’s Hope Area.
The powerlines.

Next, we stopped at Bijoux Falls Provincial Park for a picnic snack of sweet dates, crackers, and cheese.

Bijoux Falls, a turnoff recommended by the Milepost. I see a red forest elf...

In the Milepost's description of Bijoux Falls, the first sentence is: "Watch for Stellar's jays." This guy showed up within seconds!

A yellow-rumped warbler (aka Butter Butt) hops from branch to branch above the stream.

A random mossy bank next to a rock-bottomed river at a highway turnout.

Can you see the photographer's shadow?

We passed Willow Creek Mine, an open coal mine operated by Walter Energy. It’s one of many on the North East Coal Resource, one of the largest known coal deposits on earth. Another mine in the region, Quintette Mine, was the world’s largest computerized open pit coal mine until it was shut down in 2000. According to the Milepost, plans to reopen the mine depend on demand for steelmaking-quality coal.

I may have needed to trespass a little to get this photo.

From the highway, this enormous, terraced heap of gravel contrasted with the deep-green, forested mountains all around.

Guardians of Coal Mountain.

Dinner was a peaceful picnic at Moberly Lake, followed by a stroll down the rocky shore. We found a fivesome of female common goldeneyes and a duo of red-necked grebes. We were also cussed out at length in squirrel language.

A female common goldeneye on Moberly Lake.
A red-necked grebe.

Jane spots waterfowl as the sun paints the forest gold.

End of day summary:
  • Day of road trip: 2 
  • Start: Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada 
  • Miles traveled: 420 
  • Hours driven: 10 
  • Favorite bird sighting: American white pelican 
  • End: Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada