Days 55 (Sat Aug 22) through 60 (Thursday August 27) were devoted to a 2 day transit to Hyder AK, 2 days in Hyder and a 2 day transit to Prince George BC for the end of the caravan.
Saturday we were up early for the 200 mile transit to an overnight stop in Iskut BC at Mountain View Campground. After hitching up and making a quick stop at the dump station at Baby Nugget RV in Watson Lake we headed down the AlCan a mile then turned onto YT-37…the Cassiar Highway which heads south. It was a dismal, dreary, rainy day and the road was…well, terrible. It was almost a match for the lousy road down to Valdez AK but not quite. Lots of frost heaves in the tundra/muskeg area, lots of gravel breaks and patched potholes…so we kept speeding up and slowing down. We had one brief stretch coming up from a river crossing…usually there’s a steep down grade down to the bridge then a steep upgrade on the other side…that included a turn marked at 30 kilometers an hour…that’s 20 miles an hour. Added to that…it was gravel that was already wet from the on and off drizzle…and then it started raining pretty hard on the way up and we were mostly on the outside edge of the road overlooking the drop off. Yuk. We also crossed over into British Columbia leaving Yukon behind for the remainder of our trip.
We pulled into Mountain View Campground in Iskut after our 200 mile run…getting in required an almost 180 degree right turn up on the ridge onto a gravel/dirt road that goes pretty steeply downhill into the campground. Luckily there was a nice turnout opposite the entrance to make turing pretty easy and the road was steep but not crazy steep and in pretty good shape otherwise. We downshifted and crept down then quickly pulled into our assigned site 1. Yup…another site that seemed good on initial assignment but on further review was less than fully satisfactory. It was nice pull through but required a pretty sharp right hand turn to get out of the site onto the road and since the dump station was immediately opposite it we had to pull up the hill 30 yards or so to get the trailer straight on the road then back down the hill to get next to the dump station to empty our gray tank…this was needed even though we had dumped Saturday morning since we would be in Hyder with no sewer connection for 3 nights and we decided not to push our tank capacity. However, we did get some periods of decent weather the rest of the afternoon and evening in between rain showers…and Neil was able to hike down to the lake bordering the campground for some nice shots of the late afternoon landscape.
We did get to cross off an item we didn’t think would happen on Friday night before leaving Watson Lake…the forecast was pretty good for an appearance of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis…that’s the multi-colored glowing sheets of light in the sky caused by interaction of solar particles with cold atmospheric molecules in the stratosphere. The best time was forecast for between midnight and 0200 Saturday morning and we had a few volunteers who decided to stay awake and bang on doors if it started. Sure enough…right about 0200 we got the knock and headed out for a viewing. We were able to see the phenomenon but in this particular case it was very faint and was only dim white light with some very slight greenish tinges in a few locations. In addition…instead of being the more typical glowing/moving vertical sheet shapes it was mostly just large blob cloud shaped glow that was brighter than the surrounding night sky but not vividly so. We did have 2 complete arches across the sky but again…dim white only and it really took awhile for your night vision to develop sufficiently to see them at all. We tried a couple of shots but without the tripod none of them came out…so sorry, no pictures of them…but hey, at least we can say we saw them.
So long Yukon Territory.
A few shots we got along the way…it was hard though as we needed (a) something to take a photo of, (b) a place we could pull over and (c) no rain at the moment…this combination of conditions was pretty rare through the day. We usually settled for (a) and (b) and as long as it was only drizzling we got out anyway.
Nice reflections and a dead tree floating in this little pond.
Neil hiked down to the lake…which instead of the quarter mile he thought it would be was more than a mile each way.
Looking back from the site of the photo above towards the campground sites…we’re on the far right in site 1 next to the building.
With another 200 miles to go on lousy roads…we were up again early Sunday morning to hitch, dump, and get on the road. Neil got a couple of shots of the threatening skies over the mountains to our east before we headed out.
We did see a total of 3 black bears on the way…Papa bear ran across the road about an hour out of Iskut and it was a good thing he didn’t run out 5 seconds later as he woulda been a dead bear if he did. Too quick for a photo though. Once we turned off of the Cassiar Highway onto the Stewart/Hyder Highway we spotted a sow and cub just eating berries on the side of the road. Neil got some pictures of the sow but the cub was a little farther behind the rig and another car pulled up behind us preventing us from backing up to get a shot of it. He was a little guy though…probably this year’s cub and only 30 pounds or so. Looked pretty much like any other black bear cub though.
We also stopped by Bear Glacier on the way down the Steward/Hyder road and got a couple nice shots of this glacier which is on a north draining valley about a third of a mile from the road; as well as a nice waterfall down the side of the valley.
We arrived in Hyder in pretty much steady rain (oh joy, again) and got set up in site 14 at Camp Run-A-Muck…which isn’t much to look at but then we didn’t come here to Hyder to sit in the campground. The campground sits right off the road and we have a lovely view of the road and the houses across it…luckily we’re almost at the end of the paved road and traffic is pretty minimal. Due to the rain and 3 night stop we did minimal setup…water and electric only with no sewer connection in the site and no other outside preps…the campground was pretty much a mud puddle when we arrived and it didn’t get much better when the rain stopped.
Undeterred though…we had dinner then Neil went off to the local tourist attraction…which is a boardwalk where you can watch the bears feed on spawning salmon. Well, we went down…and sure enough there were plenty of migrating salmon, plenty of seagulls eating on dead salmon and a complete absence of bears. Figures.
A couple of shots of the pond behind the boardwalk…actually the best scenery of the evening.
And a couple gull shots as they flew over the river.
With no luck on bears…he came home and we watched TV until bedtime.
Day 57 (Monday August 24) we slept in until 0700 as we had nowhere special to be. After coffee and breakfast…pro tip, if you ever come to Canada don’t buy Canadian grapefruit, they just ain’t worth bringing home from the store…we decided to try the bear boardwalk again then have lunch before our scheduled trip out to Salmon glacier in the afternoon.
On the way out we spotted some eagles sitting on stumps out in the river. Again though…no bears. However, the weather was a bit nicer and we did get some nice shots of the gulls and a couple of Great Blue Herons hanging out in the pond behind the boardwalk.
Two adult and one immature Bald Eagles.
Great Blue Herons.
Some sort of moss…very similar to Spanish Moss down south…glistening with the overnight rain.
The river…notice all the bears feeding on the salmon. Me neither.
These are female salmon who have already spawned and are guarding their nest from the gulls…at least until they die which won’t be too long now. Good thing that salmon lay 10s of thousands of eggs…the survival rate by the time the hatch, grow, migrate to the ocean, live out the saltwater portion of their lives and then return to their spawning ground is in the low single digits. Supposedly each female and male span with yards of there they were hatched…although how anybody figured that out is anybody’s guess.
Various gull shots in action…mostly they are feeding at this point on eggs that broke loose from the nests and are drifting downstream. Others were feeding on dead salmon on the banks leftover by the bears feeding earlier but that isn’t nearly as interesting a photo.
We gave that up after a half hour or so and headed back for the car…luckily catching a nice flight sequence of one of the Great Blue Herons taking off from the pond.
Another Howard Payne Memorial Dead Tree Photo.
We headed home and Neil made grilled ham and cheese sammies for lunch…the last of our lunchmeat along with some American and Havarti cheese slices…fried up quickly in butter to make them golden brown and delicious. Yum.
At 1300 we met for our pre-carpool meeting…the afternoon’s activity was a drive out to Salmon Glacier. It’s in Canada but you don’t go through customs to get there. Just continue on down the road outside Camp Run-A-Muck away from the Canadian border. After 3 miles or so it turns into gravel and winds through the gold mines and ridges 25 miles out to the glacier. Our friends Greg and Linda went with us in BAT as the road was clearly not car worthy…lots of potholes to contend with; not to mention the drop-offs on the edge most of the way. Going out we were on the inside lane away from the edge…and to tell you the truth coming back downhill we were mostly on the inside (wrong) lane as well except for when passing cars. Neil drove around the potholes as best he could and we just bumped along at 20 mph or so to make sure we stayed well away from the edge. In several places it had to be 1,000 feet or more down to the bottom and almost a vertical drop.
Salmon Glacier…one of the more photogenic ones we’ve seen on our trip. Looking up the main valley where it starts about 8 miles back in the mountains. The main valley dead ends into another valley which runs right and left in this photo. To the right is uphill and there’s just a slight portion of the glacier with the majority taking a 90 degree right turn and heading down the new valley towards the eventual terminal lake.
180 degree pano of the glacier…main valley in center, slight uphill portion to the right and main flow to the left down the intersecting valley
Looking down the valley after the glacier turns and heads towards the terminal lake.
Your intrepid Alaskan/Yukon explorers overlooking the glacier.
Terminal lake of the Salmon Glacier…this is about 6 or 8 miles down from the views above. You can just see the bottom of the glacier on the right…probably about 300-400 feet thick here at least.
Nice waterfall we spotted on the way down.
We returned to the campground about 3 hours after we left…had a nice steak for dinner with onion, mushroom, and wine gravy and some mashed taters along with a cold brew…then TV until bedtime.
Tomorrow we have no firm plans so far…Connie may work a bit if the Internet connectivity cooperates and we may run over to the other side of the border to Stewart to check it out.
Day 58 (Tuesday August 25) was mostly a rest day for us…we slept in and then had a nice breakfast…then Connie washed her hair and Neil pumped up the tires on the rig and BAT since the weather has cooled off a bit. Once it was dry we headed off to check out the remainder of Hyder as well as Stewart BC.
There isn’t much to see in either of the two towns…Hyder has a population of about 100 with 2 bars, 2 very small general stores and no police. Stewart is a little bigger…maybe 300 people tops but there isn’t much there either. We did fill up BAT with fuel over in Stewart…$1.12 Canadian per liter which works out to $3.41 US per gallon which is pretty decent pricing for up here in the far northland. We then stopped by the Boundary Gift Shop…hey, they had homemade fudge…which strangely enough is located about 50 yards from the border. A quick stop near the Hyder dump yielded several shots of a pretty large black bear then we came on back to the rig. For dinner we headed out to the Glacier Inn Bar and Restaurant…Connie had Halibut Oscar which was excellent and Neil had Halibut Fish and Chips which was ok but not great. We then wandered back down to the Hyder wildlife boardwalk again…hoping for the promised bears but none were to be found…so home we came but did spot an eagle on the way back and got a few shots. Neil went ahead and hitched up BAT to make our departure in the morning a little easier.
A couple of shots of the boat harbor area in Hyder…the port at Stewart (which is Canada’s northernmost ice free port) is in the background of the second shot.
Black bear near the town dump eating berries and fireweed.
Local restaurant…supposed to be the best place to eat in town…locally known as “The Bus”…but it was closed for the season…hence our eating at the Glacier Inn instead.
Bald Eagle spotted on the way back from the bear boardwalk…eating a salmon, looking through the water for something, staring at us, and then flying off. This was the closest one we saw this evening…must have seen two dozen eagles over on the river in total but most were too far away for any decent photos.
Day 59 (Wednesday August 26) was scheduled for a 211 mile transit to Smithers BC for an over night stop. Luckily the weather was nicer and we were able to enjoy the views a little more than on the way out to the Hyder/Stewart area.
After about a 210 mile trip we pulled into the Par 3 RV Park in Smithers BC and got setup in site 18. Our plans for a nice easy afternoon under the awning were dashed by the grinding noise coming from BAT’s front left wheel…so that meant we had to unhitch instead of staying hitched up since it was just overnight. Neil listened to it while Connie drove and figured out it was most likely just gravel from the 25 miles worth of construction stuck in between the rotor and the shield. A relatively easy fix although it did require pulling the wheel off and fishing the gravel out…nice way to kill 2 hours.
Day 60 (Thursday August 27) dawned cool and clear with a bit of fog down in the valleys. We got on the road about 0800 for the last 230 miles of the caravan to Southpark RV in Prince George BC. Once again…the weather cooperated pretty well but we were pretty well scraping the bottom of the barrel for views. The only things we saw were the world’s largest fishing rod
and this cairn that supposedly has a stone in it from a Norman castle in Wales at Tintagel…which is supposedly the birthplace of Arthur who was famous for the Knights of the Round Table and Camelot. Sounds like hokum to me though.
We pulled into the RV park about 1330 and got our back in site 26. We discovered that our power pedestal had an open ground which means that we have to turn off our power management and protection system for the night. So…Neil walked up to the office and asked if they could send the maintenance guy around to fix it…the witch that owns the park said “You’re dreaming” and that we just had to deal with it. He then asked her if he could install our new brake spare parts tomorrow and she said “Hell no. If you want to work on your rig get the hell out and go somewhere else.”
So…that’s what we decided to do. There’s another park…a much nicer looking park by the way…about a half mile away. We ran over there and Carol has an opening which we reserved for tomorrow and she is more than happy to have us fix the brakes while parked there. Our friend Wayne from the caravan is coming over there to give him a hand with the installation.
We headed over to CBS Trailer Parts where Greg had our brake repair spare parts…then on over to Canadian Tire for a couple hardware related things we needed then came back to the campground.
We had our farewell dinner for the caravan tonight…the food was amazingly enough pretty good as was the first night’s dinner 60 days ago. Too bad the intervening meals we had provided weren’t so hot…but that’s the way it goes I guess. We’ve met some folks on the caravan that we count as friends…and some that are just acquaintances I guess. I’ll have a more detailed report with thoughts on Alaska, RV caravans, and related topics later on for ya’.
The rest of the weekend we’re pretty much taking time off to rest from the last 60 days…we’re tired so once the brakes are fixed we’re gonna do laundry and not much else. Monday we head over to Jasper for a week of nothing, hiking, and the Tour of Alberta bike race.