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 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 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 11 – Dawson City

Close to 100,000 prospectors set off over the Chilkoot Trail in Dyea/Skagway, Alaska on foot then sailed up the Yukon River to find their wealth in the gold fields surrounding Dawson City, Yukon. With a population of only about 1,900 residents this National Historic Site and UNESCO nominated town has many restored buildings and sites to explore. A few of the places to explore and enjoy a trip back in time are a walking Tour of town, the Palace Grand Theater, the Jack London Museum, Diamond Tooth Gertie’s to join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club by having a shot with an actual toe in it at the Sourdough Saloon in the Downtown Hotel (the toe must touch your lips), see the SS Keno the last steamer to run the Yukon River, discover the areas history at the Dawson City Museum and just outside of town explore the grand old Dredge #4, Discovery Claim National Historic Site and the steamship graveyard.

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First up for a bit of vehicle maintenance, the vehicles needed a complete cleaning with all the mud buildup from the drive yesterday. It took about 30 minutes each to get most of the dirt removed from the outside.

After the cleanup it was over to Dredge #4 to investigate. A guided tour is available to explore the inside of the dredge. An interesting informative tour is provided but it is not inexpensive, although I felt well worth the cost.

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Dredge No. 4 mined gold from 1913 to 1959. This wooden-hulled bucketline sluce dredge  is now located along Bonanza Creek Road about 8 miles (13 k) south of Dawson City along Upper Bonanza Creek road. This the largest wooden-hulled dredge in North America was designated a National Historic Site on 22 September 1997.

Designed by the Marion Steam Shovel Company it was hauled in pieces to Dawson City at a cost of $134,800 for shipping which was then built by the Canadian Klondike Mining Company on site at Claim 112 near Ogilvie Bridge, the current location of the bridge over the river along the Klondike Highway to Dawson City. It moved to its current location along Bonanza Creek by digging a path and filling in the area behind itself in its own pond.

Excavating gravel at 22 buckets per minute with 72 large buckets that processed 18,000 cubic yards (14,000 m3) of material per day. In use from late April or early May until late November each year, and sometimes throughout winter, it captured nine tons of gold during its operation.

Continuing along the dirt road we made a stop at the Discovery Claim National Historic Site where gold was first discovered in the area for a short walk around the displays explaining the mining operations of the area.

Stopping by a small tourist stop with a souvenir shop, old buildings and quite a lot of old mining equipment I explored the old buildings and equipment having a fun time with my camera.

Back in town I dropped the car off at the hotel and wandered the rest of the afternoon and evening around the streets, shops and museums of Dawson City. First up was the Dawson City Visitors Center to look around the exhibits and get an idea for a much needed very late lunch. Leaving there with several ideas I strolled across the street to the NWT Dempster Highway Visitor Center to see what was missed during the previous few days. This would be a good stop if you are going up the Highway after your visit here in Dawson City.

After talking to the very nice informative person working there I continue my wandering to the Triple J Hotel and restaurant for my late lunch. I had the tasty Wild Salmon Burger with a caper aioli and an iced tea. Sitting on the outside porch I enjoyed my meal watching the activity happening on the street it was a very good relaxing meal.

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I sat on the porch on the left for lunch. What a wonderful place to have lunch.

After lunch I continue on to the Dawson City Museum where I explore the exhibits on 2 floors of the old Territorial Administration Building discovering the natural history of the Klondike Gold Fields through exhibits, displays, dioramas and informative shows. You explore the history of Yukon’s First Peoples and early explorers. Experience the Gold Rush through the stampeders and entrepreneurs, and the visionaries. I was fortunate enough to see a live demonstration of a sluce shaker box in action and how gold was recovered from the river and stream beds.

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Walking to the outskirts of town I visit the Robert Service Cabin. Service was a British born poet referred to as the “the Bard of the Yukon”. He was one of the most successful poets of the Twentieth Century. who arrived in the Yukon as a bank clerk turning vivid tales, told to him by veterans of the great gold rush, into classic poems. Robert Service arrived in Dawson City in 1908 continuing  to write about his northern adventures until his departure from Dawson, and the Yukon, in 1912. Sadly the cabin was closed for the day so I couldn’t get a glimpse inside to see how this gentleman lived.

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Just down the street was Jack London Museum and Cabin. This museum and cabin shows the time Jack London spent a year in the Klondike. Trying his hand at mining he still spent most of his time writing stories that would make him a well known author. It again was closed due to the late time I had passed there.

Just west is a pedestrian-bicycle trail along the Klondike and Yukon rivers that I followed back to my tent cabin  for the evening. Stopping at the store for a few items I continue to the cabin to shower, due some laundry and relax for the evening. Another travel day in the morning so must rest up.

It was amazing that just before the grocery store I noticed a large European based adventure RV turning into a parking lot. I had to get a closer look and hopefully talk to its drivers. I met a wonderful couple, he from Luxembourg, a small European country surrounded by Belgium, France and Germany and his wife from France. I talked with them for about an hour listening to their adventure so far and where they are going on their long trip.

As a side note, they stopped by my house when I returned from the adventure for dinner and the stayed the night on their trek to Mexico and Central America. I wish them well on their journey.

Days 10 – Returning to Dawson City

Returning south along the Dempster it is decided to continue all the way from Inuvik to Dawson City in one day. The weather has turned bad this day and under a constant sometimes heavy rain it was decided to push on.

Reaching Eagle Plains for the required fuel stop we head over to the small restaurant to pick up a quick bite to eat. A group of travelers from Australia are enjoying their meal and we talk to the for about a half hour before leaving them as they head north.

The closer we got to the Klondike Hwy the weather was changing for the better. We continued on as it was not that far to Dawson City at that point.

Upon reaching the Klondike Hwy, Canada 2, it is time to head west for Dawson City, Yukon Territories.

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It was 7:30 by the time we arrived in Dawson City and being very hungry, stopped at Sourdough Joe’s for a bite to eat. I had a burger with bacon, cheese, chili, an egg and a small salad. DELICIOUS.

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Sourdough Joes Burger

We start the search for a place to spend 2 nights here and decide to splurge on a room. All the places we checked were fully booked but luckily one manager called around to other locations for available rooms. It was discovered an establishment named The White House had 2 tent cabins available for the 2 nights we planned on staying. Driving the short 1/2 mile there we look at the rooms and decide this is the perfect place to wind down after the adventure north we just had. Renting the 2 tent cabins with mine having a queen bed, a single bed, lounge sofa, small dining table and kitchen utensils for heating water for tea/coffee.. This was no ordinary canvas tent accommodation, it was provided with a wooden floor and door, covered porch and a hard translucent roof covering, shared bathroom and shower and a small outdoor kitchen/dining area to prepare food, this was a perfect place to enjoy 2 nights of glamping comfort.

Day 9 – The final push north to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories and the Arctic Ocean.

Named the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway (ITH) the road begins at the end of the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, Northwest Territories and continues for 138 kilometres (86 mi) north towards Tuktoyaktuk, a coastal community on the Arctic Ocean. With its eight bridges this two-lane gravel road was opened on April 29, 2017. The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk ice road closed for the last time and now all vehicle traffic is via the new all-weather road.

Map 4

The idea of an all-season highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk was first brought up in the 1960s. In 1974 the Public Works of Canada completed a survey and technical study of a 140 km (87 mi) route between the towns. The local First Nations people completed their environmental review of the highway in January 2013 and granted their approval. In March 2013 the territorial legislature approved funds for construction of the all-weather highway.

Construction began in January 2014, and was completed with one crew working from Inuvik and a second working from Tuktoyaktuk.  The highway opened on November 15, 2017 and includes eight bridges and 359 culverts.

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Tuktoyaktuk is a hamlet of about 898 people settled in 1928. This natural harbor has been used for centuries by the Inuvialuit as a place to harvest caribou and beluga whales. There are not many tourist facilities in Tuktoyaktuk, a few rooms, a small camping area, grocery store, gas station, visitor center, and food establishments. There are numerous individuals giving tours and lectures on the local culture and landscape. Still finding it’s own with the new influx of visitors due to the new all season highway it is a remote outpost that is a destination you should not miss.

Such a magnificent Highway. The views are stunning that go on forever.

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Video by H. Berge

Entering the town of Tuktoyaktuk it was such a small hamlet.

Finally I dip my feet into the Arctic Ocean, the furthest point north I have been in my life. A life long goal of mine has been to dip my feet into the Arctic Ocean. A goal finally achieved.

An example of the native building is available for viewing and has scheduled tours available from the visitor center. There are 2 structures at the site, one a house without its finish showing how it was constructed and the other a finished structure. To get into the finished structure you must take a scheduled tour.

Tuktoyaktuk is a special place for it has one of the highest concentrations of pingos, with some 1,350 examples.

What is a Pingo? it is a mound of earth covered ice located only in Arctic regions formed by hydrostatic pressure in a permafrost environment.

After eating a great lunch at Grandma’s Kitchen we started our way back to Inuvik and our campsite for the night.