Leaving the campsite about 8am it is the final push to Jasper National Park. Stopping behind a long line of cars just minutes from the entry to the park it was discovered that a road closure was in effect from 9am till 11am. Wait it should only be 8:30am, no there was a time change yesterday that proved the undoing of this plan.
IT’S ACTUALLY 9:30
Oh well guess it’s time to climb out of the car and get some stretching done for the morning.
Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
Finally right at 11am the line of cars starts to move and entering the park it is time to stop at the visitors center located in the town of Jasper.
Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest National Park with 4,200 sq. miles (11,000 sq. km) that lies just north and adjacent to Banff National Park. This beautiful Park consisting of glaciers, ice fields, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains was established in 1907 as a forest park and was provided full National Park status in 1930. Part of the Canadian Rocky’s National Park along with neighbor Banff and 2 other Parks it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
The resort town of Jasper is the headquarters for Jasper National Park with it’s Visitors Center. This year round resort is with complete facilities for it’s guests, a quaint walkable downtown featuring restaurants, hotels and shopping with nearby Marmot Basin Ski Resort. The town was quite crowded with other visitors this Friday so finding a parking spot proved a little challenging. Finally getting parked it was a medium length walk to the Visitors Center to get aquatinted with the park. Moving around inside was a little claustrophobic so the goal was quickly accomplished and then it is off into the park.
Rated as one of the top drives in the world, Canadian Highway 93, the Ice Fields Parkway, is a 144-mile (232km) stretch of road winding its way through 2 National Parks with a beautiful landscape rich in history traversing subalpine forests and the Columbia Icefield.
Going south on the Icefields Parkway we come to Athabasca Falls. Flowing from the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca River is the largest river system in Jasper and the 75 foot (23 m) Athabasca Falls. Although not very tall, it’s power comes from the flow of the river and the narrow canyon it traverses making for a spectacular view.
In the park is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains of North America, the Columbia Icefield. It’s 125 sq. mile (325 sq. km) area is in both Banff National park and the adjoining Jasper National Park.
Just past the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefields is a small campsite for tents only. Pulling in there 2 spots available, so here is home for the night.
After getting camp set up it was a short walk along the Parkway to the trail head for a 1.1 mile (1.8 k) moderately strenuous hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. A fabulous walk to the base of the glacier and you can hike right onto it. If you do not feel like walking you can take a bus from the lodge to the glacier where you get onto a Tundra Bus for a drive out onto the glacier.
The next morning it was an early rise and quick breakfast to head south and hopefully get to a few places before the crowds start to gather.
Banff National Park, Alberta Canada
Established in 1885 this is Canada’s oldest national park. Located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park encompasses 2,564 sq miles (6,641 sq km) of forested, alpine terrain consisting of hot springs, glaciers, ice fields, rivers and waterfalls in a subarctic ecosystem.
Bridal Veil Falls
Weeping Wall showcases the melt-off from the snowfields emerging form fissures in the cliff face emerging as a series of waterfalls.
Getting to Lake Louise it was a quick off ramp to see Moraine Lake. Well it was quite overrun with vehicles and people trying to get to the lake for the morning sunrise. It takes 45 minutes to get to the large parking lot which is overrun with cars. If the parking lot is this full the trail to the lake must be just as crowded. Turning around and getting back to the parkway it was discussed and with the final day of the trip being Sunday at Glacier NP along the popular Going to the Sun Highway it was decided to head out of the Banff early and head home as it was only a 10 hour drive. Glacier National Park is relatively close and can be left for another adventure.
Leaving the Icefields Parkway at Castle Junction it was time to head west along Highway 93 to the town of Radium Hot Springs where the highway turns south for the USA Border Crossing. Stopping in Cranbrook I pick up a quick lunch and then it’s off to the border.
It was a 45 minute wait at the border as it was quite crowded. Finally through It’s south on State 95 to Interstate 90, Highway 395 and finally onto Interstate 84 west to the coast and home.
Arriving home at about 10pm I take a quick shower to hose off the few days of grim due to no showers and fall into bed. Unpacking will be for tomorrow, sleep comes quickly as I am home in my bed after 21 days on the road.
Getting up in the morning goes a little slow today. It has been a great adventure but many days dong so many things has left me a little tired. After having breakfast and packing up, it’s time to get on the road. Continuing along Highway 16 there is so much to see along this stretch of road from natures wonders to historic sites. I will be back to visit Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, and many of the Provincial Parks along its route.
Crossing back through British Columbia’s 9th largest city, Prince George, the route continues east for Japer and Banff National Parks along BC Route 16, The Yellowhead Highway. Traffic passing through the city is a little strange on my senses, there have been so many empty stretches of roads that all the traffic is hard to come back to. I remember going through Whitehorse, Yukon with the same feeling. So many people it seemed.
Stopping at the Ancient Rainforest Trail to hike on wooden walkways through an ancient forest located in one of the upper Fraser River Valley’s few remaining antique stands of western red cedar is just jaw dropping. These stands include cedar trees that are 800 – 2,000 years old in an area farther from the ocean than any other temperate rainforest in the world, it feels like being on the west coast, such as Vancouver Island. Huge cedars, all kinds of moss, skunk cabbage, wild flowers, and vibrant green ferns flood your senses. Interpretive signs along the trail explain the forests history, wild life, as well as the plant life.
Along the longer trail you can pass a beautiful 30m (98ft) waterfall named Tree Beard Falls, clusters of colossal cedars known as the Sacred Circle, a cedar called Tree Beard that towers mightily with a display of unusual arms, and then to an especially large based cedar that makes up for it’s lack of height in it’s girth. This last is named Big Tree, being 16 feet (5 m) in diameter it is the largest cedar in the Ancient Forest as it stands in silent vigil beside a fallen comrade.
These resilient inspiring ancient cedars are beautiful in their old age, although broken and falling apart in places, they continue to reproduce and contribute to the ecosystem.
It was the weekend and campgrounds were full in the area. Finally finding a place in the group camping area of Mount Robson Lodge. This open area was in a meadow with picnic tables spread around. It was a little far away from the facilities but very quiet even with all the neighbors around.
The mornings adventure starts with a drive back into Alaska to visit the Salmon Glacier, the fifth largest glacier in Canada and the largest road-accessible glacier in the world. An approximate 16 mile (25.75 k) dirt/gravel road leads to a marvelous overlook for the glacier located just back into Canada. This glacier is one of hundreds within the Boundary Ranges. This natural hazard has Summit Lake located at the north end of the glacier and every year in summer the lake breaks an ice-dam and the water flows under the Salmon Glacier into the Salmon River. This flooding causes the river to rise approximately 4–5 ft (1.2–1.5 m) for several days. This river flows beside the town of Hyder, Alaska and empties into the Portland Bay.
Marveling in the immensity of the glacier it is time to head back through Hyder and Stewart continuing 134 miles (215.5 k) south on highways 37A and 37 to the Gitwangak Battle Hill Historic Site. This fortress utilized a strategic location with several different defensive fortifications: rolling things such as rocks and huge logs covered with spikes down the sides of the slopes of the fortress during raids. The Gitwangak people would drop back to this location during raids on the village. The Battle Hill was never lost during battle. Walking along the trail between the parking lot and the top of the Battle Hill is quite a hike. Stairs lead down into the valley the back up the hill with its commanding views. Right before leaving 2 caretakers of the site pulled up and we discussed the importance of this site to the local First Nations Tribe. All of the people we have met on this journey have been so warm and welcoming.
3 3/4 miles (6k) further down the highway is the Gitwnagak Totem Poles set right in the village. Moved several times due to flooding these are the oldest collection of Totems found in their original village anywhere in British Columbia. These spectacular poles are a sight to see. Luckily a local was walking and the road and spoke with us for about a half hour explaining the poles and the the people in the village. A very memorable experience I will not soon forget.
Turning east on Highway 16, The Yellowhead Highway, we drove for a little over an hour and it was lunch time. Entering the Alpine Themed town of Smithers we decided on eating at the Alpenhorn Bistro. Why not eat in a themed town at a themed restaurant. Good food was had and off for the final drive of the day to the Shady Rest RV Park just outside of Houston, BC, Canada.
This RV park had a location for tents adjacent to the RV park. Showers and Laundry facilities are available and the last shower of the trip was a welcome relief. Camping for most of the trip shower and laundry facilities were a little far between which left for many sponge baths along the way. A nice quiet evening and a quick small dinner ending with a quiet nights sleep was well needed
The Cassiar Highway (BC Route 37) was completed in 1972 to connect the Yellowhead Highway in BC to the Alaska Highway in the Yukon. This 450-mile (742 km) road is a narrow; mostly 2-lane road that traverses some beautiful countryside. There are many side trips throughout it’s length and will be a place I come back to explore.
Left Boya Lake Provincial Park leisurely in the morning . It would just be a road trip day with several stops along the way.
First stop was at Jade City is a roadside community selling Jade products from the nearby mountains. This “spot on the road” and the region around Jade City is rich with a jade precursor called sereninite, greenstone jade look-a-like, and home to 92% of the world’s nephrite jade. As of 2015 ,Jade City’s population was about 30 people. The Cassiar Mountain Jade Store offers free RV parking, free coffee and free wifi and they also sell many jade products made from nearby formations. A reality TV series documented the mining efforts of the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store, and the Bunce family. They mine thehard rock deposits and placer deposits left by glaciers. Claudia Bunce’s father, Steve Simonovic started mining the area in 1985 and the Bunce family has continued mining the area for jade since.
It was an interesting shop with many fine jade collectables inside the shop and some very interesting old vehicles and equipment on the outside. Next to the parking lot was also a large saw they would demonstrate how the rock was cut and processed for later art work.
There are many sites to see along this beautiful road with a few being the Dease River, Dease Lake that provides all visitor services; lodging, dining, grocery store, and fuel, Mount Edziza (a dormant volcano) and the Skeena and Cassiar Mountains, Willow and Rescue Creek Bridges which are 2 narrow wooden plank bridges along the Cassiar Highway, Iskut River overview, and Bell II Crossing, a metal grate bridge over the Bell-Irving River.
Finally reaching Meziadin Junction which is the turnoff for Stewart-Hyder Access Road (Highway 37A) providing access to the towns of Stewart, BC, Canada and Hyder, Alaska. . In the area you can visit the Bear and Salmon Glaciers.
338 miles (544 k) from Boya Lake, the camp for the night was at Bear River RV Park in Stewart, BC, Canada. A full service site with RV and tent areas, restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Laundry was again needed as it had been a few days and this would be the last of these services needed on the adventure. A very quiet place with friendly staff and campers. Stewart is a small town of about 494 individuals located at the head of the Portland Canal in northwest British Columbia. Start is 2 mile (3 k) west of Hyder, Alaska.
Being late in the day it was off to find a nice dinner and it was recommended by a few travelers along the way to stop at a place in Hyder, Alaska named The Bus. The seafood sounded great although it was crowded and being that it was just a husband and wife establishment they were not taking any more orders that day. It was decided to eat at The Glacier Inn that provided good food but the taste buds were really geared up for a meal at The Bus.
If libertarians had an earthly paradise, it would probably be here in Hyder. Separated from American governments and bureaucracies by immense wilderness, Hyder has no property taxes or police, and citizens can carry firearms openly. Yet the village, wedged between two Canadian borders, has long relied on neighboring Stewart, British Columbia, for groceries, electricity and other services.
Heading back into Canada and the campsite, the evening was spent doing laundry showering and reorganizing the vehicle. Tomorrow it will be heading back into Alaska to see the Salmon Glacier and then retracing the route back to make the way south along Highway 37 to Highway 16 , The Yellowhead Highway and to Jasper National Park.
Hard to believe it is only 52 miles (83 km) from Skagway to the Customs house and a return to the Yukon and Canada and only 65 miles (105 km) from Skagway to the turn at Jakes Corner, to head west for the Alaskan Highway and continue the trek home.
It was a long lovely drive along Highway 2 (The Lower Klondike Highway),
Turning northwest at Carcross, Yukon on Highway 8 takes you to Jakes Corner, then it was a turn west along Highway 1 (The Alaskan Highway),
Reaching Highway 37 (The Stewart / Cassiar Highway) it was a southern turn,
And finally to the campsite for the night at Boya Lake Provincial Park, 361 miles from Skagway. The campsites were very small so we had to find 2 campsites for the night. Luckily there were 2 that shared a driveway and they were located right across the drive from the lake.
It was a peaceful evening to rest for the next push to Stewart, British Columbia, Canada / Hyder, Alaska in the morning.
Today was a day to visit the town of Skagway. Even though I have been to this town twice before on cruises I have enjoyed its atmosphere. So sleeping in a little bit and eating a leisurely breakfast I drive into the city that is 20 minutes away. Parking just before going over the Skagway River I walk across the bridge and then follow Alaska Street toward the old Gold Rush Cemetery and Lower Reid Falls. It is surprising the number of individuals in the graveyard and is interesting to walk around and read the gravestones.
Continuing toward the town on State Street I arrive in downtown at the waterfront.
Skagway is a small city in southeast Alaska, with a population of 920 residents as of 2010 that is set along the popular cruise route, the Inside Passage. Due to the cruise industry the small little sleepy town of Skagway has become a major tourist destination. Most of the town is included in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park due to its importance as a port of entry for the miners during the Alaskan Gold Rush in 1897 and is home to many gold-rush-era buildings. This was the way north to the Dawson City gold fields via the White Pass Rail Road or, if you couldn’t afford the passenger fee, the Chilkoot Trail.
This town of about 1,000 people boomed to about 10,000 in a little over a year and maxed out at about 30,000 people during the gold rush. After the rush was over Skagway lost population to 3,117 by 1900 and becomes the first incorporated city in Alaska in that year. Invaded by the U.S. army in 1942, tiny Skagway again became a major port on the supply line of materials for the construction of the Alaskan Highway. Taking over the White Pass Rail Road that was built in 1898, the Army hauled supplies and personnel over the White Horse Pass. With 3,000 troops stationed in Skagway it became a rather large town during the war years. The first Marine Ferry arrived in the early 1960’s thus providing another route for people to get to and from Skagway. Although a vehicle road did not get completed until 1978.
I was surprised at the lack of people on the streets on this visit. The 2 times I have been here before there were 3-4 cruise ships passengers disembarking from the boats and it was a little crowded. This visit there was only 1 cruise ship in port and the streets seemed empty. It was so pleasant to experience the city in this state. I enjoyed walking around town seeing things that I hadn’t had seen in this detail before.
Going into the Visitors center I talked to the ranger and visited the exhibits in a comfortable uncrowded environment.
It was finally lunch time and I decided to eat at Skagway Brewing Company. Having an Alaskan Sandwich of an ale-battered Alaskan Halibut on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and tartar sauce and to wash it down I tried the local Chilkoot Trail IPA. Very filling lunch and also very good. Getting a little tired after the hike the day before I took my time enjoying the ambiance of the upstairs dining room.
It was getting to be mid afternoon and the grocery store will close at 4 so I walked into a newsstand, got a local paper and went to the store to pick up a few food items. Carrying them back for almost 2 miles to the car I drove back to the campsite.
Arriving at camp I walked over to the Chilkoot Trail Outpost to use their showers and get cleaned up before the next stage of the adventure. Walking back to camp I make dinner and sit back to relax and read the newspaper. I ended up walking 7 miles (11.25 k) today and decided to go to bed a little early as it was a travel day to get to the next destination.