Published: July 26th 2010May 10th 2010
10th to 15th May, By Darryl:
DAY 28: Monday 10th May 2010 - NEW HAZELTON
I dug the boys in the ribs at about 9am as they were all still snoring, and they lept out of bed when I told them the fish were rising! After breakfast there was a short time for some last fishing before we had to leave, so I took my breakfast down to the bench seat by the lake and watched the boys casting off the jetty in the sunny clear morning. It was hard for us to leave the cottage here at Lakelse today as we loved it so much. Such a relief to be able to let the boys run wild after all the motels we have been cooped up in. If I can find a spare 6 million bucks I’ll buy the place! Thanks to Micheal and Melinda for all their help, we enjoyed the discussions.
We hit the road around 11:30am and drove straight to New Hazelton, had a look at the motels on offer and booked into the 28Inn which is clean and tidy, but sad to be back to one room and no outdoor access again (just a
gravel carpark). After unpacking the car we drive down to Ksan - the native Indian village in Old Hazelton at about 3:30. Just enough time to look around the gift shop, museum, and the outside of the wooden hoses and totems. We decide to return tomorrow for the guided tour, and maybe buy some native artwork to take back to NZ.
We follow with a walk around the town of Old Hazelton which has the road closed for civil works - bloody Council! The place is pretty quiet but has some nice old buildings and feels almost like you are in a western movie set. Back to the motel for dinner (bacon toasted sammies) and catch up on emails, download photos, search for the next motel booking etc - just the usual evening stuff. Hopefully an earlier night tonight!
DAY 29: Tuesday 11th May 2010 - STEWART
We break camp in record time this morning, away by about 9:45 to get back to Ksan with plenty of time for our tour at 10:30.
Laurel from the front desk and gift shop (who we spoke to yesterday) has lived in the Hazelton area all of her life and
used to go out Salmon fishing with her Dad most weekends as a kid. We talked a lot about her Gitxsan Indian tribe, and the Clan system (Fireweed, Frog, Wolf & Eagle) which was interesting and an education. Our guide for the tour was Janine, who is also from the local Gitxsan community and she showed us through the Cedar Houses. They were filled with artifacts, clothing etc, set up as they would have looked in their day and accompanied by an audio presentation. The smell of Cedar timber and smoke gave the houses a warm and old feeling. In fact almost everything was made of cedar in various forms. They split the timber cleanly into planks for house building and roofing tiles, made dugout canoes, clothing, ropes, mats, hats, masks, fishnets and so on… They also kerf and steam thin planks to make bentwood boxes for storage. We enjoyed the insight into this indigenous culture.
The giftshop had lots of interesting Indian artworks, and we had already picked out a few favourites from the day before. Collecting some authentic native works to take back to NZ was high on our list of priorities, so we bought a Killer
Whale print, a Water Colour print, a Carved Resin bowl, and Animal posters for the boys. We all really enjoyed the visit to Ksan.
The road out of Hazelton (Stewart-Cassier Highway 37) was very quiet. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the temperature rising. Almost too hot for Jeans now! We left the mountains around Hazelton and the landscape flattened with lots more forestry, some derelict sheds, abandoned buildings and old forestry settlements, and even a ghost town at Meziadin.
We spotted a total of 9 Black Bears on this trip! (that’s a total of 16 bears so far) And one stayed around when we drove up close to film, while he munched away on grass and yellow dandelion flowers. We got some great shots and it was exciting seeing them feeding so close up. When we were looking for a nice spot to pull over for a picnic lunch we saw our first bear for the day, so decided to make some distance from him. I then found myself looking over my shoulder from time to time in case there was an uninvited guest of the Bear variety to our roadside lunch!
one time in the middle of nowhere I spotted a nice looking lake which looked worth investigating, and turned out to be a real gem called ‘Bonus Lake’. Down a short secluded road there were picnic tables, a toilet and even a floating jetty into what turned out to be quite a small shallow lake. I spotted a fish, so a quick cast was necessary (sorry Sarah) we all had a few casts each and lots of small fish usually followed the spinner in. I landed two small rainbow Trout of about 1 pound each and released them to grow for another day. The boys loved it, and it would be a great spot to stay camping.
As we approached Stewart some new snowy mountains appeared around us, and we could see the tip of several glaciers, as sheer faces of blue ice high up on the tops. The Bear Glacier was impressive as it extends right down to a murky grey lake near road level. Sarah got a bit fed up with me pulling over all the time to take more photos, but the view was incredible.
We finally arrived in Stewart around 5:30pm, and checked in
to the Ripley Creek Inn. What another fantastic find! This place is made up of at least 3 old historic buildings (one of which used to be a brothel) and they have been renovated beautifully. Our room has its own small deck - which opens to a grassed area outside where the kids played on the boardwalks and tried to catch small fish in the stream. There are also several communal living areas, and the boys setup a monopoly game in the downstairs one. I am writing this from the upstairs lounge on a leather sofa, with wraparound views of the estuary and the snowy mountains. There are also lots of antique and collectable furniture and curiosities which give the place a really cosy feel with lashings of character. There is also the spicy aroma of Cedar timber, and its great to be able to find a quiet nook for some peace, away from the hotel room.
The next incident happened while Sarah was across the road getting pizza for dinner, and I was in the room unpacking. I heard a bloodcurdling scream and thought Kelsey had fallen in the creek, so rushed out - vaulting the handrail off
the deck and running down the boardwalk to find Kelsey being attacked by a rampaging Canada Goose. I grabbed him and pulled him back over the low timber fence while he cried his eyes out. The goose left a mark where he had bitten his arm, and he was very shaken and upset. (I think I put my shoulder out with that leap over the handrail too)
Hopefully he’ll see the funny side, but it might take some time!
The boys enjoy having pizza and chips for dinner, and we watched the Vancouver Canucks get beaten 5-1 unfortunately to bow out of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. This place wins the prize for the most character and probably the nicest décor so far. The town seems to be small and quiet, but a bit quirky with quite a lot of history. The further north we progress, the longer the days become - which catches us out a bit as it often seems a lot earlier.
DAY 30: Wednesday 12th May 2010 - STEWART
Our first month travelling has passed, so we are a third of the way through our trip - which has gone quickly but I feel
we have covered a lot and all is going to plan so far.
Stewart is a curious little town with a very laid back feel to it, and Hyder is even stranger still.
We decided to check out the Salmon Glacier today, so drove around the estuary and crossed the US border into Hyder. The streets here are all loose gravel and a lot of old shops closed down. What is still open has a lot of charm in either a rustic or kitch way!
Heading along the bumpy gravel road we came across the fish creek bear viewing spot, so decided to stop for a wander. Its too early for the Salmon runs, so the bears aren’t in the stream feeding on fish yet, but it’s a nice walk along the boardwalk in the light misty rain.
The road to the glacier gets bumpier, steeper and more potholes, and we pass various old relics of mining days. As we climb into the mountains we look down on a mining operation still working, and witness the scars on the landscape, and the settlement ponds in bright turquoise colours (possibly due to extraction chemicals?). Eventually near the tops
we cross some snow patches which become quite deep and slushy, so we decide to turn back. Soon after an authentic looking guy stops in his blue pickup to have a yarn, and turns out he maintains the road with a sole grader and was inspecting the route to see if a busload could get up here tomorrow.
Back in Hyder we stop at a quirky bus restaurant on the roadside for a late lunch of Halibut and fries (Robin Williams dined there when filming Insomnia?), and the grader guy stopped again to join us for a chat and say he would be clearing the snow early next morning if we wanted to try again. We also visited the world famous Hyder Post Office, so Sarah sent a couple more postcards. Apparently they only do the mail twice a week - if the plane can land!
Leaving Hyder we had to pass through the Canadian border control and got our passports stamped, then it was back to the Inn. It drizzled most of the day, and it was nice getting back to the warmth of Ripley Creek, so I spent the rest of the day in the upstairs
living room staring out at the view and sorting out financial stuff on the computer. If you are going to be holed up with lousy weather - then this is the place to do it! Looks like the sun should make an appearance again tomorrow.
DAY 31: Thursday 13th May 2010 - DEASE LAKE
What a change to the weather this morning, a beautiful sunny day - all set for the big road trip to Dease lake? WRONG…. Another bloody flat tyre!
So after tracking down someone who fixes tyres in this sleepy hollow, changing the wheel (at least we now have a spare that fits!) packing the car and waiting for the puncture repair - we finally hit the road at 12:00. We have about 400km to travel today, so decide to make some distance before stopping for lunch.
Not far past Meziadin junction we spot our first Bear for the day, and go on to see a record number along this Highway. 11 Bears sighted, which brings our tally to a total of 27. We got some great close-ups and video footage when a couple of Black bears ambled across the road in front of where
we stopped, and didn’t hurry off like most do. One actually turned and started towards us while I was taking a video.
The highlight of the bears today was seeing our first Grizzly. It was massive compared to the Black Bears, but bolted pretty quickly so we didn’t get any pics. There were also two groups of Caribou deer on the tops nearer Dease lake. I photographed two hinds, and the next group include two young stags in velvet.
No “Beware of Moose” signs any more too. (promises, promises - we saw lots of these signs up till now, but still no Moose sightings!) However the locals say that you really don’t want to see a Moose on the road cos by that time it is often too late to stop, and you hit a brick wall.
Well this journey wins the prize for the most remote yet. The traffic is very light, and only about two places along the way where there was any form of civilization. We followed more mountain ranges for most of the way with the Coastal Mountains to the west, and Skeena Mountains to the east. The land includes a lot of forestry,
and large swathes with what looked to be original forest - un logged. Further north and lots more snow along the roadside, as well as lakes still partially iced over. We definitely felt the temperature drop during the course of the day. No cell phone coverage since we left Hazelton, so we are relying on Motel wireless internet now.
One of our stops was at Kinaskan Lake which was set up well with 50 camp sites,toilets, picnic tables and a boat ramp, although there was no one else camping here. Some afternoon tea and a quick cast into the lake, but it was getting cold and time was marching on so its back on the road.
We finally arrive in Dease Lake at about 7:30pm. Its a pretty small settlement so we get to choose from about 3 Motels. By this time we are pretty tired and hungry so we just take the one that’s not on the main road and amble over to Zoras - the only restaurant in town. You can have anything you want here, as long as its Lasagne (beef or vegetable)! We order beef, and get vegetable - but we are glad for
an instant comforting hot meal (even if it was possibly the most expensive yet!)
The motel is pretty basic - it follows the similar style and layout as most of the other uninspiring lodgings, but this one has no laundry (and we badly need to catch up on washing!), no fridge, a piddly shower, no kettle - but the kids are happy cos its got satellite tv.
DAY 32: Friday 14th May 2010 - DEASE LAKE
The boys were keen to get off fishing this morning,and it was another bright sunny day so after breakfast we drove down to the nearby Allan Lake, while Sarah went on a mission to the Laundromat.
Allan lake is small but beautiful, and we followed a trail through the trees around a peninsula. There we spotted lots of felled trees from the work of a busy Beaver or two (although we didn’t see them). Its amazing how they can drop fairly large trees, and somehow drag them down into the water. Further along the track we discovered the lair that all these trees had been sacrificed for - a large mound of sticks and branches in a deep part of the lake
edge, rising to well above water level.
The fishing wasn’t too hot, but the weather was. A lot of time was also spent untangling lines from Kelsey and Lachie being a little too eager! Sarah walked down and met up with us for lunch, and we sat and listened to the amazing birdlife. The Woodpeckers were very active and the pecking noise is really cool when the pick a hard/hollow branch. There were lots of other birds, including a massive Eagle that swooped low across the Lake.
No luck fishing there, so we thought we had better check out Dease Lake. It is much larger, and turns out that the bloody ice hasn’t melted yet! Well it was partly clear around the edges, and was interesting playing with the thin ice closer to shore. Where the ice is breaking up is still about 50mm thick, and looks a bit like a transparent crumpet inside. Still no fish, so after the boys play in some snow we head back to the Motel to catch up on a few things.
Costs seem to increase a lot as we head further north. I guess the freight component is higher. Petrol
here is $1.25 compared to the lowest of approx $1.05 in Alberta or Vancouver. Some of the food items here were a bit steep too. Hope the budget holds out!
DAY 33: Saturday 15th May 2010 - WATSON LAKE
Our first Moose sighting! Just after we left Dease Lake I thought it was a Caribou deer standing on the road so pulled over to cruise up slowly. It was surprisingly tall with a longish nose so then I realized it was a Moose, and then another car came by which made it trot alongside it down the road - so I only snapped a photo of its rear end disappearing in the distance.
There wasn’t much more wildlife on the way to Watson lake, except for a pair of Mountain Sheep just past the metropolis of Jade City (the “city” consists of one gem shop and some maintenance yards!). I did spot one Black Bear a way off the road, but there just wasn’t the same lush grass around that we spotted most other bears munching on.
We left Dease Lake feeling a bit indifferent about the place. The hype made it out to be a lakeside,
fishing, wilderness paradise? The people were friendly but very lean on information. There are heaps of derelict and abandoned buildings which leads you to believe its had its day. We even had trouble finding the bloody lake, although the smaller Allan lake was a gem. The motel was clean and tidy but lacking in features, and we still couldn’t get our clothes washed.
The most striking change north of Dease Lake was the road! This is highway 37 we are talking about, and its full of bloody potholes! I had trouble missing them so just gave up and ploughed through the bumps, at times helping out with grading off some high spots with the front of the trusty Dodge! The irony is that this stretch of highway was re-built in late 2009, and now it’s a mess. The road suddenly improved when we crossed the border into the Yukon, where we also got a centerline back and the width almost doubled.
The other notable change as we headed north was in the landscape. The mountains had almost disappeared and most hills only had streaks of snow, however there was still regular chunks of random snow in what was
a pretty dry and dusty land. The trees were also a bit stunted and looked like they needed a good dose of fertilizer. I guess this is how it is going to change as we get closer to the arctic?
Our picnic lunch today was at the Boya Lake Park and campground. It was a picturesque spot and the lake water was incredibly clear with a bright turquoise green tinge. Most other lakes we passed (and there were heaps) were still mostly iced over, so it was a relief to find this one clear, although it didn’t help the fishing! The boys enjoyed casting spinners off the shore for a while to break up the trip though.
Watson Lake is another curious place. It’s a bit larger than Dease Lake and seems to service the trucking industry and maybe the forestry and mining (we passed several mines along the way). There is an interesting Park with a forest of hundreds (thousands?) of old signs, and a Northern Lights Centre which we may pay a visit. A couple of small lakes nearby also hold some fish (so they say!) so will check those out tomorrow. Its also really dry
and dusty here, and most shop frontages are a vast expanse of loose gravel. In one of the shops everything I picked up was covered in a thin layer of dust.
At least its got a Laundromat, so at last we catch up on a big pile of washing and drying and them some food shopping to make the most of the kitchenette at our motel room.
Its always a bit of a lucky dip with booking motels and were a bit concerned when we arrived at the Cedar Park Lodge. It has seen better days and also cleaner days! Anyway, it could be worse, and I’m feeling a bit weary after another days drive so we settle in for a nice dinner by Sarah, as the rain closes in.
There are more photos below