British Columbia

Oh, Canada: Part Two

The long, light-filled days of early August found us heading south toward the Lower 48 from Alaska.  Our southward journey would take us through the Yukon, British Columbia and Alberta.

Canadian Border heading south from Alaska

Our plan this time was to follow the Alaskan Highway through Whitehorse, take the Cassiar Highway (in lieu of the entire Alaskan Highway) stopping at a Provincial Park to kayak on our way to Stewart/Hyder and then head east stopping in Smithers continuing on to Alberta to visit Jasper and Banff National Parks.  As we had not completed the Canadian portion of our return trip, we posted earlier about Stewart/Hyder as that is a category all by itself!

The Yukon- with its pristine wilderness and nameless mountains.

Prior to arriving at Whitehorse, the Alaskan Highway took us through Haines Junction, an important stop for travelers for its many services (read fuel!). Haines Junction was established as a mountain village in 1942 as an Army barracks for the U. S. Corps of Engineers while building the Alaskan Highway.  Our Lady of the Way Catholic Mission is a local landmark as it has the distinction of being the most photographed church in the Yukon.  Built in 1943 by Father E. Morriset, the first Catholic priest in the area, Father Morriset converted an old quanset hut remaining from the Army’s construction of the highway, into a uniquely beautiful place of worship.

Our Lady of the Way Catholic Mission

One hundred miles south of Haines Junction found us in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon with its vibrant culture filled history and traditional First Nation Cultural Centre.

Whitehorse Monument overlooking the city

First Nation Cultural Center, Whitehorse, YK

Artist in Residence creating a Totem Pole

John on the banks of the “Great River”, the Yukon

Whitehorse has the distinction of being our first “boondocking” at a Walmart!  There must have been at least 50 rv’s of every size and type the two days we were there. Here is the one that stood out to us as not only being the most unique but having traveled the furthest- it was shipped from Columbia, South America to Houston,TX by its owner and then driven to Whitehorse on their way to explore Canada and Alaska! Previously to this trip, the owner had explored Africa in her RV.

Fellow RV’er with her RV from Columbia, SA

Joy showing how BIG our neighbor’s RV was

Our next stop was Boya Provincial Park on the Cassiar Highway.  Joy got to celebrate her birthday with John kayaking on the stunning, blue lake.

Our View of Boya Lake

Boya Lake Provincial Park at Sunset

Joy enjoying Lake Boya

What a cool way to spend a birthday!

After several fun-filled days at Boya Provincial Park, we wandered to Stewart/Hyder for 3 days about which we have previously blogged. From “Bearville” we stopped over in the charming ski village of Smithers and then traveled on to Jasper and Banff National Parks. Jasper and Banff National Parks are spectacular for their scenery and animals.  Our brief visit only touched the surface.  These Parks are on our “must return” list.  Words cannot describe how exciting it was to be within feet of such wonderful wildlife.

John making friends with an Elk

A Magnificent Elk

Big Horn Sheep surveying his domain

Mountain Goat

Showdown at Jasper National Park: this round goes to the Big Horn Sheep

Big Horn Sheep

“Lake Louise, Banff National Park”

“Lake Louise, Banff National Park”

Celebrating a special Canadian Holiday!

 

 

Categories: Airstream, Alaska, bear viewing, British Columbia, National Park, wildlife, Yukon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bearville aka Stewart-Hyder

If you ever watched “Northern Exposure” on the television, you will have a good idea what Stewart, BC (poputation: 699) and Hyder, AK (population: 100) are like. Located at the head of the Portland Canal on the Alaska-British Columbia border, this twin town offers views of Bear Glacier, Salmon Glacier and the best bear viewing ever at the Fish Creek Wildlife viewing area operated by the U.S. Forest Service . We were able to get a fantastic view of Bear Glacier along Highway 37A; however, due to the dense cloud cover we were not able to see Salmon Glacier from its summit- which, along with the warm welcome by the residents of both towns, gives us added incentive to return!Camp Run-A Muck RV Park was the Silver Manatee’s base camp while staying in Stewart-Hyder and was located only 3 miles from the Wildlife Viewing Area.  Each morning we would get up at 5 a.m. so we would be there for the 6 a.m. opening of the viewing platform.  Along with about 20 other inveterate animal lovers, we stood single file on the platform patiently waiting for the bears.  We were not disappointed.  There in the early morning mist, the Grizzly bears would take their turns feasting on the salmon. One morning we were even treated to viewing two wolves taking their turn fishing.  And, as if to say farewell, a wonderful black bear was on the side of Highway 37-A as we were leaving Stewart-Hyder for Jasper & Banff.

Categories: Airstream, Alaska, British Columbia, travel in the Northwest, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, Canada

“Beautiful British Columbia”

We crossed the border into British Columbia at Sumas, Washington.  Having heard many stories that it could take up to an hour to get through Customs, we were pleasantly surprised that we went through in 15 minutes!  (Note all the cameras in the photo of the US Customs.)

Waiting to sing “Oh, Canada”

Cameras Everywhere

Silver Manatee Waiting in Line

Emory Provincial Park was our first stop and turned out to be our favorite Provincial Park on this leg of our journey. The park was just so welcoming with its lush vegetation and meandering location on the Fraser River.  It was also the beginning of what is known as the Gold Rush Trail in Canada and the site of a major Chinese community during the building of the railroad through British Columbia.

Entrance: Emory Creek Provincial Park BC

Heading north from Emory Provincial Park on Highways 97  & 29 towards the Alaskan Highway,  proved to be a feast for our eyes as the road traversed through some bustling towns, mountains, farmlands and lakes as well as rivers around every bend.  A major attraction was Hells Gate, an abrupt narrowing of  the Fraser River, located immediately downstream from the southern Fraser Canyon. The towering rock walls of the Fraser River plunge toward each other forcing the waters through a passage only 115 ft. wide.  One of the last rivers we crossed before reaching Fort St. John and the Alaskan Highway was the Peace River!

Peace River Valley, BC

Once again, we were amazed by the generosity of the people we have been meeting on our trip.  On one stop near Williams Lake, a fellow RV’er from an island off of Vancouver, BC, knocked on our door and his opening words were, “Welcome to Canada! He presented us with a plate of smoked salmon, lemon slices, cream cheese and crackers!  It was salmon that he had just caught and smoked on his fishing trip further up in Northern BC.

Northern British Columbia & The Yukon: Larger than Life!

Welcome to the Yukon!

Once we began traveling on the Alaskan Highway, an engineering feat of World War II, this sign was our constant companion!

Beware: Rocky Road Ahead!

The closer we got to Alaska, the rougher the road and small red flags were also added as a caution to stay alert. The towns with services, supplies and gas stations became further apart, but the wildlife began appearing along the roadside.  We also became aware of a special type of graffiti- rock art.  Travelers stop along the highway and leave messages created out of river rock!  We could not resist and left a message of our own.

Yukon Graffiti

The 250 miles from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson were mostly moderate in grade and passed through the heart of oil country. The road climbed to the community of Pink Mountain, the highest point on this stretch and then descended to the lowest point- Ft. Nelson, one of the historic Hudson Bay Trading Posts.

Pink Mountain Road House

The next stretch to the Alaskan border traveled through river valleys and low mountain passes and was the most scenic part of the highway with Summit Lake, the highest point and Muncho Lake, the most beautiful with its blue green waters.  Along this portion of the Alcan we saw Black bears, Stone sheep, moose, bison, deer, cariboo and Trumpeter swans. And, not to be overlooked, are the chain saw carvings in Chetwynd and the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake started in 1942 by a homesick GI while working on the Alaskan Highway.

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Categories: Airstream, British Columbia, travel in the Northwest, Uncategorized, wildlife, Yukon | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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