Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Day 2

After a very restful nights sleep I wake to find an indifferent day ahead of me. Rain is scheduled for the entire week so I’ll be dodging storms as I explore the area.

First up is to head about an hours drive back north to Fort Bragg, CA. There is a coastline park right beside the town I wish to walk before I explore the town itself. It rained on the entire drive north so I’m am expecting get a little wet today but magically the rain stops as I reach Fort Bragg.

Starting at the south end of town I head to the southern section of the Noyo Headlands Park. This stretch of coastline has been off-limits to the public and locked behind lumber mill gates for over a century It has a 5 mile long trail that is easily accessible and part of the California Coastal Trail. The California Coastal Trail will connect the entire coast of California 1,200 miles (1,900 km) from Mexico to Oregon. As of January 2017 the trail is only about 30 percent complete with signage.

At the end of the southern section of the trail is the Noyo Center for Marine Studies Crows Nest building. Closed when I was there the small building appears to have some interesting information inside as I peaked in a window for a look.

Retracing my steps back to my car I drove to the Northern section of the Noyo Headlands. Walking south to investigate the coastline I have noticed there have been some unsuspectedly high wave action due to the storm off the coast in the Pacific. I am staying off the beaches at this time as there have been some rouge waves in the area that have caught unsuspecting individuals unaware of the force of Mother Nature.

Leaving the North Headlands I make the short 1/2 mile drive into town and park to explore the old Main Street to find good place for a late lunch. Such interesting shops in the area. Naturally the typical tourist shops but also some rather nice shops owned by local artists. I stop in a bookstore that specializes in old/used books. I love these places as you never know what treasures you’ll find. And boy, do I find a great book. It was written in 1959 and is titled “The Klondike, The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899” by Pierre Berton. I have ben reading it and quite enjoying the history I’m reliving and learning fresh as it relates to my trip to Dawson City this last October.

Continuing on I spot an interesting place for lunch, Egghead’s. Such a wonderfully small intimate restaurant. I head in and grab a table to review the menu. The Wicked Witch Burger with Spicy Wicked Witch Sauce sounds interesting but ask about its heat index. The kind waitress says it has been rated an 8 out of 10. Oh, too hot for me right now so I decide on the Good Witch Veggie Sandwich with salad. What a delightful choice, I’m not a vegetation by any mens but this was outstanding.

Next stop was a visit to the Noyo Center for Marine Science main building on Main Street. Very nicely laid out with information and exhibits on the local shoreline, animals and coastal environment. I recommend taking some time to explore it’s exhibits.

The next block had the Medocinio Chocolate Company. I must have something sweet to make up for that healthy lunch I had earlier. Some very interesting chocolate flavors are available in this store. I got 3 different chocolates, the first was “Blueberry Hill” a milk chocolate center with blueberries, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with blueberry chocolate decoration. Next was the “Surf’s Up Peanut Butter” a peanut butter center, dipped in milk chocolate with a “peanut” decoration on top. Finally, a spicy one named “Pacific Fire”,  this dark chocolate center had a hint of cayenne pepper and dipped in dark chocolate and decorated with a red pepper which was just outstanding, heat but not a lot.

Well back in the car I have had a full day and I arrive back at my tiny house just as the sun is setting. It had sprinkled rain off and on all day but not enough to get soaked. Resting for the evening I read by the fire as it storms outside enjoying a peaceful night relaxing readying myself for the new day tomorrow.

 

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 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.

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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.