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,

8-5-2

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.

8-3-101

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 13 – Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada and onward to Skagway, Alaska

Whitehorse was only about an hour away from the campsite so a relaxing morning sleeping in an extra half hour and a leisurely breakfast awaited.

After packing up we talked to a wonderful couple from Whitehorse who come here to camp, boat and fish on their days off. After talking for probably an hour and a half and getting recommendations for Whitehorse and the afternoon trip  it was on to Whitehorse.

Whitehorse, Yukon has been the capitol city of the Yukon since 1953 and is the northern terminus of the White Pass & Yukon RR from Skagway, Alaska which ferried prospectors to the riverboats plying the Yukon River to the northern goldfields surrounding Dawson in 1900.

Whitehorse’s second boom time was during the construction of the AL-Can Highway in 1942 when many workers converged on this small town. Construction worker population grew form 2,500 to 3,800 with 1,800 tons of materials and equipment being shipped by rail from Skagway each week in 1943.

This, the only city of the Yukon Territories, has a population was 33,897 people per the 20111 census. A pleasant place to visit as it provides all the services of any town or city. Many attractions and good food establishments are here for the visitor to enjoy.

Parking at the Visitor Center downtown it was off to a recommended spot for lunch, Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ. Such a fun atmosphere to enjoy as was the wonderful meal. I will definitely go back there for another meal to try out a different menu item, mine was fantastic and very filling.

8-2-1

Heading back to the Visitor Center to gather some information on the area it was time to visit a real Sternwheeler, the S.S. Klondike that sailed the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

8-2-2

The S.S. Klondike National Historic Site is an old stern-wheeler that once plied the Yukon River carrying passengers, mail and supplies to Dawson City. With only a four and half month shipping season the boats were hauled out of the water on skids in the Whitehorse Ship Yards for the winter months of a frozen Yukon River. This interesting attraction lets you board the ship and on a self guided tour to explore the many areas of its interior at your pace.

Built in 1929 this boat was the largest on the Yukon. Sternwheelers were less vulnerable to paddle damage than the side-wheelers. Built in 1929 an accident sunk her in 1936. Refitted that winter the Klondike went from an ore hauler to carrying passengers and cargo. She carried 300 tons (270 tonnes) of cargo with a draft of only 40 inches (1 meter) and 32 – 1st class passengers.

The lower deck just above water line was for the crews quarters, the cargo, engine room, boilers and with bunks lashed to the sanctions at the aft sleeping accommodations for 2nd class passengers. The next deck held the 1st class cabins, Dining Room for the passengers and a separate one for the crew, Kitchen, Observation Lounge at the front of the ship and the Sun Deck at the stern. Above that was the Boat Deck housing the Officers Cabins. Finally at the very top was the Wheelhouse or “Monkey Island”. Situated well forward and high it gave an unobstructed view for the Master and Pilot to navigate the ship though the dangerous waters.

Next up it was a drive to the outskirts of town to visit Miles Canyon. The canyon is a cross section of volcanic rocks where the Yukon River cuts through a succession of flows south of  Whitehorse. The White Horse Rapids in Miles Canyon provided a significant challenge to the prospectors heading to theDawson City and the gold rush providing the upstream terminus of the Paddle wheelers. The rapids are now tamed by dams along the river.

Finally it was off the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center that explains the Yukon’s history during the Ice Age. Being largely ice-free during this timea local cave provided the oldest evidence of human habitation in North America has been found.

Getting a late start the following attractions were missed but sound fun and interesting making for another visit an enjoyable adventure.

The MacBride Museum houses artifacts and stories of the events and people who settled and built the Yukon.

Waterfront Walkway provides a walking path along the Yukon River connecting several parks along its path.

Yukon transportation Museum is home to the world’s largest weathervane, an old DC-3 and provides exhibits on the transportation used in the far north.

Old Log Church Museum is one of the oldest buildings in the city completed in 1900 and hides stories of the older pioneers of the region.

Yukon’s oldest brewery north of the 60th parallel, the Yukon Brewing Company.

Leaving Whitehorse late in the afternoon the route turned south on the South Klondike Highway to its terminus in Skagway, Alaska. This relatively short 2.5 hour drive of 105 miles (169 k) was a breathtaking day of travel. This 2-lane road of spectacular scenery had many turnouts for viewing vast landscapes and intimate waterfalls. Before the highest point of the road at 3,292 feet (1,003 m) at Whitehorse Pass there is an 11. 5 mile (18.5 k) 11 percent grade of roadway.

Turning west right before entering Skagway along the Dyea Road, Dyea Campsite was the location for the next 3 nights of the journey for 2 full days to explore Skagway, Old Town Dyea and the Chilkoot Trail.

8-2-18

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.

 

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.

7-31-17

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.

7-31-1

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.

7-31-44

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.

7-31-45

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.

7-31-19

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.