I was looking at spending the night in the truck in Watson Lake (really) when I got the fantastic news of an opening at the Air Force Lodge in Watson Lake.
If Fort Nelson was just a widening in the road, Watson Lake barely registers. With a couple of very dicey motels, a small grocery store, and a couple of gas stations, the big draw that makes people stop at Watson Lake is the signpost forest (more on that later).
Another reason might be the Air Force Lodge which is a restored barracks originally built in 1942 out at the Watson Lake Airport for pilots flying in World War II. It was moved to the present location in the late 1940s. It has been renovated (thank goodness), but the essence of barracks life lives on at the lodge.
In the above photo, the old car parked in front is not a prop. There were two old cars being driven by two heavily whiskered older gentlemen – looked like old prospectors – and they were traveling from Maine to Alaska. They were stuck in Watson Lake for a bit as the Model A had a bad water pump and was waiting for one to arrive – by Greyhound bus. They didn’t seem to mind the wait – I think it may have brought back some memories of past barracks experiences.
As you enter the lodge, you are met by Mike, the jovial German who purchased and revitalized the lodge in 1999. Mike actually lives in a double-decker bus that sits adjacent to the lodge and his eyes sparkle when you ask him about living in Watson Lake.
When Mike first arrived in Watson Lake, he says it was 40 below and he fell in love with the place instantly. He closes the lodge in the winter even though he says there are still a fair amount of travelers through the town. Mike said that the stillness of the long winter is perfect for him as he came from a stressful job in Germany and needed to find a place to slow down.
This year, as in most years past, he’s pretty much booked from June through October when he shuts downs. I was lucky to have sent him the reservation request just as someone had cancelled.
Mike says that you have to be a little bit loony to enjoy living as he does. In winter there is no telephone or internet and electricity comes and goes so he keeps several months of provisions in his bus along with a plentiful supply of firewood – just in case.
I awoke refreshed at the lodge and tried to make some reservations at my next stop – Whitehorse, the capitol of the Yukon Territory. Unfortunately, everything was booked so I had to set out with the hopes of finding a cancellation once I reached Whitehorse.
But first, the signpost forest!