Final Week of Our Northern Adventure


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North America » Canada » British Columbia » Sun Peaks
September 3rd 2018
Published: September 6th 2018
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DAY 32 – AUGUST 25 – WHITEHORSE, HI COUNTRY RV PARK

There are 8 washing machines and dryers here so Chris was able to do all of our laundry from the past week last night. Today we drove into Whitehorse to get groceries and various trailer supplies. Finding a Jiffy Lube near the grocery store, I took the opportunity to get an overdue oil change and new air filter; my oil was black and the air filter nearly plugged. As I had been travelling with a spare filter, they installed that one for me.

DAY 33 – 438 KM – WHITEHORSE TO BABY NUGGET RV PARK, WATSON LAKE

After waking to a cold, 3c degree day, we were on the road early in anticipation of a long day. The skies have cleared a bit overnight so we travelled under a mix of sun and cloud. An easy drive on well-paved roads with very little traffic helped us make good time through the day. An early, northern Autumn season was evident as the leaves on the poplars gradually became more yellow and orange as we travelled and the Fireweed along the sides of the road truly looked on fire. The normally pink flowers were nearing the end of their season and changing into several different shades and many of the green leaves were turning red and orange. Although the cloudy skies had returned, the scenery was brilliantly coloured with splashes of reds, oranges and greens against the yellow poplar leaves.

With only a few short stops, we arrived at Baby Nugget RV Park before 3:00PM. The skies finally cleared as we prepared our supper outside and enjoyed a beautiful White Fish together in the warm sunshine.

DAY 34 – 227 KM – WATSON LAKE TO DEASE LAKE (Stewart-Cassiar Highway)

Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar highway , starts just before Watson Lake. It is a well-paved but narrow, single-lane road, twisting between lakes and creeks and up and down the hills. The speed limit of 80km/hr seemed reasonable and we found ourselves travelling with other RVs also heading south after a northern summer vacation.

Within the first couple of kilometres, the forest on both sides of us was completely burned out. It was obvious that this fire(s) was at least a few years old but it was shocking that it continued for over 50 km! At our first rest stop there was a sign with information and diagrams about 3 large fires in the area over the last several years and I was shocked to see that the huge burned out area we had just driven through was the smallest of the three!

This summer has been particularly bad yet again for BC forest fires. At this time, there are nearly 200 active wildfires around the province, many of them in our path going home. We drove under cloudy skies with light rainfall off and on and I silently hoped for much more rain to continue falling. The day darkened as we headed south but not from the clouds, from the forest fire smoke. We turned off the outside vents as the wood smoke smell became quite strong. The spectacular scenery that we were expecting on this route was totally obscured but at least there were no fires near us; yet!

We stopped for a break and lunch at Jade City . This is a family-operated jade mine and a store selling all of their jade jewellery, carvings, and rough stones. The massive inventory and selection of Jade and Rhodonite products was incredible. Apparently, this family operation is the subject of, and stars in, a current reality TV show. DVDs of the past few seasons were available for sale and before entering, there is a sign warning us that filming was often in progress and we would be filmed and possibly on the show unless we told them that we did not want to be. (Un)fortunately, there was no filming in progress during our visit. I learned that 92% of ALL the jade products in the world were mined from this area.

Baja 1 picked up a passenger here; “Frank”, whose camper had broken down nearby a couple of days ago and he was supposed to pick up some parts in Dease Lake where we were going.

We had no other stops after this and arrived before 3:00PM at the Waters Edge Campground, just a few KMs before the community of Dease Lake. This is a privately owned RV park with about 26 non-serviced sites, level and heavily treed, right on Dease Lake. What would normally be a beautiful view across the lake and to the mountain ranges beyond, was mostly obscured in smoke. But the wind was calm and the weather not too cool, so we were able to sit outside for the afternoon and also enjoy our outdoor meal together in the early evening. I tried my luck at fishing but once again, nothing biting.

DAY 35 – 343 KM – DEASE LAKE TO MEZIADIN LAKE PROV PARK

Some time in the middle of the night, a scratching sound woke me up. It seemed to be coming from beneath the trailer, or, possibly inside of the storage space with the fresh water tank! I listened until the scratching stopped and eventually fell asleep again. Surely it was BELOW the trailer, NOT inside the trailer; whatever “IT” was.

Rained off and on all night and still drizzling this morning in single digit temperature. We were packed and on the road by 9:00 AM. The Stewart-Cassiar highway is well-paved but with a lot of rain water sitting on it, we drove slowly for the first part of the day.

The air was smoky at first from the numerous wildfires around the province but the rain soon cleared the air. After a couple of hours on the road we crossed the Arctic Pacific Divide at 822 metres elevation. At this point, all waters on the north side flow to the Arctic Ocean while the waters on the south side flow towards the Pacific. We climbed higher, further on, reaching 1,242 metres elevation at Gnat Summit. At this altitude the trees are sparse, sticking up here and there in the tundra, coloured with red, yellow and brown lichens and leaves of small bushes changing colour in this early autumn.

What is normally a beautiful drive with spectacular views was mostly hidden in low cloud and fog. But as the hours past, the clouds began to clear a bit and the occasional mountain peak with a glacier here and there became visible. As we descended to lower levels, the forest thickened around us with huge spruce and and poplar trees predominant and willow, pine and possibly some alder and aspen scattered around. Here and there the poplar leaves in particular have already turned brilliant yellow, and surrounded by small fields of orange, yellow, red and pink Fireweed, the day seemed brighter even though many clouds remained.

Shortly after 12:30, we pulled into the Bell 2 Lodge to gas up and enjoy a hot restaurant meal. This lodge has been around since the mid-70s but around 1996 they expanded and added cabins and chalets. The small, rustic coffee shop has great coffee and delicious burgers. The lodge is named for the nearby 2nd bridge over the Bell river. The gift shop is primarily winter clothing and I got a great 40 percent off deal on a Marmot puffy coat.

The day began to clear and we enjoyed some rare sunshine as we drove the last 100 km to reach Meziadin Lake Provincial Park . With 66 sites, close to half of them lakeside, this is probably the most well maintained and beautiful provincial campground that I have ever seen. Only about 15 sites have electricity (which we have) and no other services are available. We are booked in here for two nights so we unhooked our trailers so we could head out tomorrow to do some exploring in the area.

This is a fishing lake with Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden, although you can also catch Bull Trout, Coho and Chinook here but you must release them. Fish were jumping so I tried fly-fishing from shore off and on for the rest of the day but was only rewarded with a few bites, nothing landed. Lots of the campers have boats and a few of them headed out fishing after dinner.

We enjoyed our supper together lakeside next to this emerald green lake surrounded by mountains and a glacier in the distance. But the 16c temperature on our arrival soon dropped while the rains returned, sprinkling off and on, so we all turned in early … after I tried some more fishing until dark!

DAY 36 – MEZIADIN LAKE; STEWART, BC; HYDER, ALASKA

I woke up around 2:30 AM to a scratching sound below my bed again. This time I was certain that we had a mouse stowing away in our storage space below the bed. I decided to buy a trap today and deal with it tonight.

Mostly sunny skies this morning as we piled into one car for the 65 km or so drive to Stewart, BC and then 4 km further to Hyder, Alaska . Our objective today is to view some grizzlies eating spawning salmon at the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area just past Hyder.

Stewart has a population under 500 and is situated across from Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Park and at the end of the Portland Canal. It’s a unique little border town with a colourful past shaped by the gold rush, forestry and it’s isolated northern location. We stopped in at the Tourist Info Centre and explored the extensive boardwalks out across the marshy end of the canal behind the tourist info. The boardwalks extend almost out to the logging operations in the end of the fjord, all under a beautiful blue glacier up in the mountains overlooking the town.

Back in the car, we drove the 4 km to Hyder, crossing the border with NO USA border control! Hyder has less than 100 residents and many of the businesses were closed and boarded up although 2 or 3 interesting saloons are still in business and will provide you with a certificate if you are successfully “Hyderized”.

Just past the end of Hyder is the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area. For $5.00 USD (or $6.00 CAD) you can enter and walk on the elevated boardwalks next to the salmon spawning creek. Thousands of huge Chum salmon were in the creek, mostly dead now, having completed spawning. But there were also thousands more Pinks still going strong.

They write on a board what bears have recently been sighted and when. There were no bears around now and it seemed that they appeared mostly early morning then again mid-afternoon, so we decided to head back into Stewart to grab some lunch. Luckily our entry pass was good for the entire day.

Crossing back into Canada, there is a border control to stop at and have your passports checked and your intentions questioned. They let us though and we ended up at the King Edward Hotel eating fish and chips, and chocolate and coconut cream pies. We took our time then got back in the cars and drove the 4km back to Fish Creek.

As there were no bears in sight, I wandered down to the far end of the boardwalk hoping for a big Grizz to wander out into the creek. When I turned around, I saw Chris running towards me flapping her arms wildly to alert me to a grizzly in the creek back at the beginning of the walkway. I could see it now and ran back only to have it disappear into the bush. Apparently it had casually wandered down to the thousands of dead fish and started chomping on one, then headed into the bush. We could still see it off and on as it wandered through the branches, stripping them of berries here and there. I did manage to get one photo when it briefly came partially into the open, then it headed in deeper and settled in for a nap. “How long do bears nap”? I asked the parks guy. “This one has been napping for about 35 minutes each day after he eats some fish.” So we waited and waited and waited some more. After about 75 minutes without this bear, or any others appearing, we headed out.

Successfully crossing through the Canadian border checkpoint once again, we drove back to our campsite at Meziadin Lake for the night, after a brief stop in Stewart to buy mouse traps. We stopped by the side of the road numerous times on the way back as there are about 20 hanging glaciers along the way.

DAY 37 – 265 KM – MEZIADIN LAKE PROV. PARK TO SMITHERS

At 6:25AM precisely, I heard the mouse trap snap loudly just below my head on top of our fresh water tank below the bed. It became clear very quickly that although I had caught a mouse, it was not dead. After 30 minutes or so, all was silent so I decided to leave everything alone until we reached Smithers for the night.

Mixed sun and clouds and a bit of drizzle off and on accompanied us on our way south on hwy 37 this morning, all of us in one car to try one last time to find some grizzlies. Just 2 km from the RV park we came to a small bridge crossing South Hanna Creek and pulled over. We had been advised that this was a good spot to see bears munching on some salmon. As semis and logging trucks thundered by, honking their horns at us, we ignored the “Do Not Walk on the Bridge” signs and ran back and forth across the bridge and side to side on the road, peering over the sides at the hundreds of red coloured salmon spawning below. We realized nervously that we did not even have the protection of an elevated walkway this time but we hung around for about 30 minutes anyway; but alas, no bears.

Back at the RV camp we hitched up and headed out for today’s drive, gradually working our way towards home. We made one stop, at the small First Nations village of Gitanyow , just a little north of Kitwanga, and 15 KMs north of where the Stewart-Cassiar highway ends, where number 37 reaches highway 16. Unfortunately, the interpretive centre was closed but we were able to wander through the many very old totem poles made famous when Emily Carr highlighted them in her paintings in 1928. There was also one small craft table open there with local art and Chris could not resist buying one more pair of moccasin slippers, this time in deer hide and rabbit fur.

Turning left onto Highway 16, we immediately felt that we were back in civilization. There was more traffic around us, homes appeared constantly on either side of the road, and we actually had cell signals much of the time. We reached Smithers around 2:30PM and pulled in to the Glacier View RV Park . This is a nice small RV park with full services, showers and bathrooms. We pulled into side-by-side pull-through campsites and set up quickly so that I could begin to empty my storage compartment and search for the mouse.

The trap in the storage space was empty, but the one that I stupidly placed on top of the fresh water tank without tying it to something, was gone. That meant that the mouse had dragged itself and the trap over the far side of the tank, trapping it between the 40-gallon water tank and the side wall of the trailer. I crawled into the storage compartment and with a flashlight and a cosmetic mirror duct-taped to the end of a broom, I was able to peer over the water tank down into the small space on the back side and see the mouse down there, stuck in the trap. Luckily, I keep a length of metal hangar in the car, just for situations like this. With Chris holding the flashlight, and me holding the broom and duct-taped mirror, I was able to use the coat hangar to hook on to the mouse and trap just enough to drag it around the corner of the tank to see it along the front side. AND IT SAW ME!!!! Yes, it was VERY much alive and frantic, apparently caught in the trap only by one little foot. Now that I had easier access to it, I hooked onto the trap and threw the trap, mouse and hangar out of the open storage hatch and then climbed out after it. Just as I had decided to club it and put it out of its misery, it escaped, running under my trailer and straight for Wilson’s trailer where I lost sight of it. I wonder if they will be hearing scratching in the middle of the night now?

We found a spot around the low-point drain where the caulking around the hose to the water tank had fallen off, leaving a nice mouse doorway available. I filled in the gap with bathtub caulking and hoped that was the last of this problem for now.

I felt better after a long, hot shower and was able to enjoy the beautiful view of the glacier in the mountain overlooking the RV park. We all climbed into our car and headed into Smithers, about 10 km away, to explore the town and find some dinner. We stopped in at the Smithers Brewing Co . craft brewery for some flights (I had cider) and then on to the Riverhouse at the Aspen for dinner. We ate in the bar side which had great atmosphere with old wooden skis, a dog sled hanging overhead, and a big stone fireplace. I had the ribs which weren’t bad but a bit dry as was the vegetables and baked potato; all a bit overcooked actually. Apparently the schnitzel and salmon were delicious.

Back at our trailer while I write this, I am hoping for a peaceful, scratching free night. As for the Wilsons, well we shall see!

DAY 38 – 236 KM – SMITHERS (GLACIER VIEW RV PARK) TO FRASER LAKE (PIPER’S GLEN RESORT)

Initially clear skies provided a nice view of our overlooking glacier. But by the time we were set to leave the park a light sprinkle was falling. Our drive today was under smoky skies regardless of the light rain off and on. Our only stop, other than short rest stops, was in the town of Houston . Known as the Steelhead Fishing Capital and home of the World’s Largest Fly Rod . This exciting item (for me) was located at the Tourist Info Centre, along with a small outdoor market. While Chris bought some supplies in the market, I got a selfie with the giant fly rod.

After this half-way stop, another 100km or so brought us to Piper's Glen RV park for the night, between the towns of Fraser Lake and Fort Fraser. The skies were very smoky with almost no visibility across the lake. Smoke from two nearby fires was blowing our way under strong winds. By early evening we had a few short torrential downpours with winds gusting over 51km/hr. The rain briefly cleared the sky and we could see several fires burning across the lake from us.

DAY 39 – 271 KM – FRASER LAKE TO QUESNEL (ROBERT’S ROOST RV PARK – DRAGON LAKE)

Although it dropped to about 3c overnight, the morning dawned with less smoke and clearer skies. This morning’s online wildfire report indicated a brand new fire started next to the highway last night, about 16 km ahead of us. We packed up quickly and set off, hoping that the highway would not be closed.

Although we had very smoky skies off and on, we did not notice any fire near the reported location. After a short stop for gas and a propane tank fill-up in Quesnel, we arrived at Robert’s Roost RV Park before 1:00PM.

This is a beautiful private park right on Dragon Lake, a world-class fly fishing lake. We were apparently lucky to book the last two spots here as it’s a very busy campground. They have nice washrooms and showers, a small licensed bar/restaurant, lots of grass, playground, various decked seating areas, and of course the lake right here too.

Most of the sites here are full service but our site does not have a sewer connection. I walked around and chose site 21 (nicely treed, full-service, close to lake and bathrooms) for a possible return visit some day in the future.

I loved it so much here that we agreed to pay for an extra night and stay over tomorrow. I called Gold Trail RV in Clinton and they said no problem, we could come a day later. “come with an appetite, we have a barbecue on”. I also booked a canoe rental here for the next day and collected the paddle, life jacket, etc., to have ready for an early morning fishing adventure.

DAY 40 – 271 KM – QUESNEL TO GOLD TRAIL RV PARK (CLINTON)

Poured rain off and on all night and still raining and cold this morning. We decided to leave even though we had paid for another night. The office was still closed so I left the paddle, life jacket, etc., next to the boat house, we packed up quick and headed out.

The day grew a little warmer and sunnier as we travelled south. We stopped at the huge, beautiful tourist info centre in Williams Lake for lunch. I bought a latte and a cappuccino from them which took a ½ hour as it was a new machine and they had some difficulties with it. But the coffee was GREAT so it was worth the wait. Check it out if you are ever driving by here.

We drove into Gold Trail RV campground around 2pm and a very large, gruff guy yelled at me “It’s about time you showed up!”. Joking? Not sure yet. He pointed us to our two sites and said “hope you came hungry, we have a barbecue on.”

The whole place is a little run down and pretty plain. There are two bathrooms with showers that cost $1, honour payment in an envelope near the office before showering. Again, all kind of rundown but everything clean enough and working well. The sites were somewhat level and full service, the weather was warm and sunny so the day was good. The four of us were sitting around enjoying the sun and having a drink when the Baja 2 couple suddenly walked in! They had stayed behind for 3 extra days in Whitehorse but wanted to spend the last night all together so drove a couple of very long days to catch up.

We all headed over to Mike’s Roadkill Grille for dinner and discovered a rather funky, unusual, kind of rundown joint, run by the big, gruff guy; Mike. They have a small buffet with the veggies and a big menu on the wall to choose your meat; beef, pork, chicken, ribs. We almost all chose the ribs as Mike said they were the best in the country. I walked over to look at the buffet selection next to his barbecue and he yelled at me “Get the hell out of my kitchen!”. I said I just wanted to have a look at the selection and he said “I’ll tell you when you can look at it, now get the hell out of here!”. Mike fancies himself a clone of Don Rickles I think, but the humour is mostly missing from his rude and obnoxious behaviour. But, he does kind of grow on you after a while. Mike lives in the Phillipines all winter with his “wife?” Anna, who helps run this place in the summer. She is petite, smiling all the time, very sweet and polite. I guess opposites do attract. She said we could bring in our own liquor so we ran back to collect wine and beer from our trailers.

So, the ribs were very good but I have to say that I found the ribs at Baby Nugget RV Park near Watson Lake, Yukon to be tastier. But I would not dare say that to Mike. His “humour” continued for the evening, with sexist, rude insults. A man with his young daughter dropped in for dinner. Mike showed them the menu and the man said he wanted to see the buffet. Right, even YOU know what’s coming next! Mike simply yelled “NO!”. The man said “Then we’re out of here.” And Mike said “Good riddance!” and calmly went back to his barbecuing.

The restaurant is full of collections of signs, bumper stickers, weird and unique junky paraphernalia and autographs and sayings writing in black felt pen all over the walls. Anna handed us felt pens at the end of our dinner and I signed for the Baja 3 group on a lower wall. Look for it if you ever go there, but, do NOT ask to look at the buffet! And bring cash; no credit cards accepted here for camping, but he did let use plastic for our meals.

Day 41 – 150 KM – CLINTON TO KAMLOOPS

Our last day on the road dawned with no rain, some sun and very little smoke. We were all anxious to get home now so we packed up quickly and hit the road with our wagon masters Gord and Ruth Wiebe leading the way for our last day.

We made one stop, at a viewpoint overlooking Kamloops Lake. Although the skies were pretty smoky here the view was still nice. There are good bathrooms here, lots of info signs and picnic tables, and paths up and down the rocks to get the best views.

The Bajas parted way here as we were all headed to different end points around Kamloops and Sun Peaks. While Baja 2, Gord and Ruth Wiebe, headed directly to Sun Peaks, Baja 1, Chris and Joan Wilson, and Baja 3, us, Roger and Chris Mirka, stopped off at the Kozyklean RV and Car Wash on Versatile Drive in Kamloops. It was pretty busy here with all the RVs returning home from summer vacation and long weekend camping as this was the holiday Monday. It took me over 30 minutes and $33 to get the trailer and car pretty clean. There was still buckets of mud pouring out of my car wheels from the Dempster Highway!

This trip was challenging with the long distances, northern isolation, poor roads, and most of the time a total lack of cellular and wifi in the north, making communication and blogging nearly impossible. We would never have considered such a long adventure into the northern wilderness without the companionship of these two other couples and we will be forever grateful to them. After nearly 6 weeks on the road together, the three couples are still talking and having fun and all got together for Sun Peaks regular Tuesday wine night, the day after returning home.

Each trailer had a couple of small challenges such as a fresh water tank check valve not working, hot water thermostat died, freezer door stays open so frozen foods melt and melted foods freeze, trailer brake controller broke. Oh, and there was that darn mouse too. Our Jayco Jay flight 195RB Baja Edition trailers were up to the challenge and none of these problems posed any great difficulty to us, and all of our spare tires, spare gas, spare oil, filters, etc., etc., were not needed so we are counting our lucky stars as we saw many, many other travellers with numerous serious break-downs and accidents. Any little difficulties were far outweighed by the spectacular scenery, wilderness, wildlife and the many memorable people we met along the way.

For those more interested in the numbers, my 2014 Nissan Pathfinder SL odometer reads a total of 8,608 kilometres travelled, 1,527 litres of gas used at an average cost of $1.54/litre for a total gas cost of $2,350, and a calculated fuel economy of 17.74 litres per 100 km travelled.


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15th September 2018
Chris with a giant, prehistoric beaver at the Beringia Museum

LOL
Love this photo!
15th September 2018
Chris with a giant, prehistoric beaver at the Beringia Museum

Thanks!
When I saw the giant beaver I knew immediately that the shot needed Chris with her arm around it!

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