Days 20 and 21 – Jasper National Park, Icefields Parkway ,Banff National Park and home

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.

Icefields Parkway

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

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Weeping Wall showcases the melt-off from the snowfields emerging form fissures in the cliff face emerging as a series of waterfalls.

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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.

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Day 18 – South on Highway 37 on the way to Jasper and Banff

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.

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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

 

 

 

Day 17 – Cassiar Highway and on to Jasper

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.

 

Part 16 – Leaving Skagway

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,

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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.

 

Day 15 – Skagway

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.

Day 14 – Day hike on the Chilkoot Trail

Chilkoot Trail

A 33 mile (53 k) hike along the historic Chilkoot Trail is one of North America’s most fabled treks. The trail crosses the international boundary between the United States and Canada and is co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and the US National Park Service.

When news of a gold strike in the Klondike reached the ears of the world, tens of thousands of hopeful gold seekers arrived where they encountered their first obstacle, the Coast Mountain Range. Following old First Nations trails they found a route through the mountains that is now known as the Chilkoot Trail.

Klondike Supply List

150 lb. bacon, 400 lb. flour, 25 lb. rolled oats, 125 lb. beans, 10 lb. tea, 10 lb. coffee, 25 lb. sugar, 25 lb. dried potatoes, 2 lb. dried onions, 15 lb. salt, 1 lb. pepper, 75 lb. dried fruits, 8 lb. baking powder, 2 lb. soda, 1/2 lb. evaporated milk, 12 oz. compressed soup, 1 can mustard, 1 tin of matches, stove, 1 gold pan, 1 set granite buckets, 1 knife, 1 fork, 1 spoon and 1 plate, 1 frying pan, 1 coffee and teapot, 1 scythe stone, 2 picks, 1 shovel, 1 whipsaw, pack strap, 2 axes, 1 spare axe handle, 6 – 8″ files, 2 taper files, 1 draw knife, 1 brace with bits, 1 jack plane, 1 hammer, 8 lb. of pitch, 200 feet 3/8″ rope, 10’x12′ tent, canvas, 2 oil blankets, 5 yards mosquito netting, 3 heavy underwear, 2 pairs heavy mackinaw trousers, 1 heavy rubber-lined coat, 1 doz. heavy wool socks, 2 heavy overskirts, 2 pairs heavy snag proof rubber boots, 2 pairs shoes, 4 heavy blankets, 4 towels, 2 pairs overalls, 1 suit oil clothing, several changes of summer clothing, and small assortment of medicines.

The list above shows the required equipment and supplies needed by prospectors before they were allowed entry into Canada at the summit of the Chilkoot Pass, 1897–1899. Total weight: 1 ton. This was to provide them with the supplies needed for 1 year of survival in the Yukon. Many round trips were needed to haul this over the trail and past Canadian Customs.

Today, hikers can retrace the rugged trail from Dyea, near Skagway, to the shore of Lake Bennett. The beautiful route  along alpine lakes and century-old gold rush artifacts takes three to five days to complete.

What a wonderful day, the weather was perfect and the trail was in great condition. Starting early from camp the start of the trail was only about a 1/4 mile (0.4 k) jaunt from the campground. The trail starts off with a pretty healthy climb up from the river then just as quickly back down to the river.

This first section really got my lungs working hard even though it was at sea level. The rough ground of rocks and tree limbs made a great workout. I thought if the trail was going to be this rough the rest of the way I’m not going to make it very far.

Well as soon as you pass this short section the trail becomes a nice stroll through the forest. I can not imagine the prospectors back in the day carrying all the equipment noted above with many trips back and forth. I had a small backpack that carried my food and water for the day, camera, and rain jacket. Not all that heavy.

Passing along one section of the trail were some old buildings and equipment with an informational sign. This section of the trail was an old logging road built during the 1940’s. This homestead is the sawmill of Edward A. Hosford who began operation of this mill in 1948 and continued operation until 1956.

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Edward A. Hosford Sawmill

Finnegan’s Point Campground was the turn around point for me. I enjoyed a nice rest and lunch while a group of 3 female through hikers stopped for a snack /rest and we chatted.

Returning to the trail head was wonderful until I hit the dreaded hike over the hill for the final push. I again rested and snacked at the trail head catching my breath as I contemplated what I should do. From the campsite to Finnegan’s Point campground and back to the trail head was 11.9 miles (19.1 k) and my walking average speed was 3.1 MPH (5 km/hr).

It was only 4 PM and the sun was still to be up for many hours. I had caught my breath and decided to hike the 2 miles (3.2 k) or so to the original abandoned townsite of Dyea.

Arriving at the townsite I walked along paths in the forest that were once the streets of the town. Long abandoned there are not many structures left, only 3 cemeteries and the remains of the wharf remain. Most structures were taken down and moved to the nearby deep water port of Skagway once the Gold Rush had subsided. Interesting fact is that one of the cemeteries holds almost every person that died in an avalanche on the trail and the grave markers all have the same date of death.

An interesting walk but on the road back I noticed my legs were getting a bit heavy. Upon arriving at camp about 7PM I looked at my satellite tracker and noticed I had walked 15.8 miles (25.4 k) that day. Resting for a bit, I then made dinner, had a hot sponge bath at camp and then just put my legs up resting until an early bed time and a very sound nights sleep.

 

Day 12 – Steamboat graveyard and south on the Klondike Highway toward Whitehorse.

It was agreed that we should again reroute due to incoming harsh weather and the ferry strike going on The Marine Highway. The original route was to go across the ferry at Dawson City and follow the Top of the World Highway and the Taylor Highway to Tok, Alaska. Go south along the Alaska Highway along the Haines Highway to Haines, Alaska and take the ferry to Skagway. With the ferry strike it was decided to go south to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada and directly to Skagway, Alaska via the South Klondike Highway.

Waking up early we drove into town and ate breakfast at Belinda’s Restaurant for some good ole pancakes and eggs.

After breakfast we parked along Front Street and walked to the ferry crossing of the Yukon River and crossed to walk to the Sternwheeler Graveyard located past the campground on the west side of the river. Tucked into the trees you will find the wooden remains of seven paddlewheelers. Once the primary mode of transportation in the region, these were abandoned when other transportation options became more popular.

 

Scuttled off the side of the river this graveyard hulking remains of wooden paddlewheel ships are broken and damage hulks that looks as though they were crashed onto shore. Most of the wrecks have collapsed but a few of the ships are still intact enough to explore, and many of the paddlewheels remain thanks to their metal skeletons.

After this interesting exploration of the ships it was time to walk back and head south toward Whitehorse. An interesting trip we are now doing in reverse from a few days ago on the way to The Dempster Highway.

 

Arriving back in Carmaks it was time to stop for gas and pickup a few things at the adjacent store. After shopping it was time for a quick lunch in the parking lot before continuing on to the destination for the night, Lake Leberge.

 

Lake Laberge is a widening of the Yukon River north of Whitrehorse. At 31 miles (50 k) long and from 1.25 to 3 miles (2 to 5 k) wide its water is always very cold, and its weather often harsh and variable. Its English name comes from 1870 commemorating the first French-Canadian to explore the Yukon in 1866, Michel LaBerge. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries winter sternwheelers carrying goods early in the shipping season on Lake Laberge regarded the lake as trouble, as it was one of the last areas of the river to thaw of ice.

 

Entering the campground it was signed as full but we continued around to see if there might be an empty campsite and to see the lake. Luckily a husband and wife were packing up to leave and asked if we wanted the campsite. We said thank you yes and waited 20 minutes as they packed up. What a wonderful camping spot, very close to the lake with a beautiful view from the site. Now for a nice dinner and to sit by the lakeshore and enjoy the scenery with peace and quiet.

 

Sa far this trip has just been outstanding and I suspected it would continue on this way.